Chile in Helensburgh

Off to a formal tasting for a very knowledgeable group, in the grand surroundings of the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club.

It became apparent early on that they were really quite traditional in their tastes, falling into two camps, Classic French and Beefy Oz, with only one kindly soul declaring themselves in favour of the Terra Andina Carmenère Rosé, which is a shame, for it is a lovely wine really, refreshingly sharp, water-light, and showing the traditional strawbs-n-cream flavours.

The other Carmenère of the evening was from the De Martino Legado range, and red of hue rather than pink. It is such a Chilean wine, with an attractive green herb streak running under the sweet fruit and cedary woodiness. This was the leader in the Classic French camp.

The Beefy Oz brigade were made happy by the pouring of the Peñalolen Cabernet, from Quebrada de Macúl, which this year seems softer than previously, as if 2007, bruited by the Chileans as a perfect Cabernet year, was perhaps too kind to the Peñalolen grapes. Does it make sense to talk about a languid Cabernet?

Both groups enjoyed the Ocio Pinot Noir, the cream of the quintessence of Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Casablanca. The Beefy squad because of the sheer concentration to be found in the wine, and the Francophiles because it is clearly a classy, complex wine, well worth storing for the next ten years. And I enjoyed it because it has that shiny, expensive-marine-varnish aroma. A rare perfume, but always worth seeking out, oh yeah.


Another New Year,..

...another World of Wine. With a very enthusiastic group of tasters this time, and the relaxed surroundings of McPhabbs (comfy chairs already) really helps.

Tonight's star turn was the Ribbonwood Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand - everybody liked it. A soft, medium bodied wine with a nicely rounded array of cherryish fruit flavours and an interesting to and fro between savoury and sweet. There's a hint of smoke, which makes the sweetness resemble bacon, as well as occasional touches of vegetal stinkiness.

It is made by Framingham, a winery whose first vintage dates to 1994. You can find it in your local Oddbins, and is, I think, really rather good (-4).


The Best of 2009

After discovering, last time, that my memory of the year's best wines didn't quite match up to how I had scored them, I cast my net a little wider, paid less attention to scores, and came up with a list of about sixty wines from nine hundred tasting notes.

It is a fairly diverse selection, weighted towards France and Australia (the Oddbins bias, I suppose). So, passing by the Domaine d'Ardhuy Clos de Langres '05 and the Hiru 3 Racimos Rioja '03, fondly smiling at the memory of the Sizeranne '99, and pausing to be amazed once again by the flavours in the Dr Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Rechbächel R Riesling '90, here are my top two for 2009.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut 1999. If I were a rich man I would drink champagne every day, and if I were still richer then I would drink vintage L-P. It has the intensity of flavour, the lightness of touch, the delicate rasping mousse so reminiscent of a gentle cat's tongue, and the sheer blooming deliciousness that, all taken together, discreetly scream, “Drink me. Here. Now”.

I was tipped off about my other choice, the Innocenti Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2004, by a chap who, if he were a rich man, would drink classed growth claret every day (Mouton, if I recall correctly), with occasional forays into vino like this one, for indeed it is very claret-like. It has structure without being harshly tannic; there is complexity, with layers of flavour weaving back and forth; there is a strong fresh-earth-and-mushroom aroma; but best of all, it has the delicate dark floral top note I often see in, yes indeedy, classed growth clarets. Actually no, best of all is the price - only eighteen pounds in your local Oddbins. Assuming, of course, they haven't hidden it all away for themselves...