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Summer Break

This is just a quick post to point out that now summer has arrived (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) I will be taking my break from Winedoctor updates. I’m off to Vouvray (where, so I’m told, they make wine) for a few weeks. I have a couple of visits lined up, and of course I will be making a few more appointments once I set my feet on the ground.

Although I won’t be making any formal Winedoctor updates over the next three weeks, I may make a blog post or two (maybe), or perhaps a few Twitter posts (more likely), but on the whole I will be focusing on visiting, tasting (reports on my return), imbibing and relaxing. With the latter in mind, I might take a boat down the Cher one day; here’s hoping for a sunset like the one below, taken one evening last October.

The Cher, at sunset, October 2013

When I come back it will be full steam ahead with my reports – there is plenty more to come on Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé (new profiles on Château de Tracy, de Ladoucette, Masson-Blondelet, Tinel-Blondelet and more), and a huge number of updates and new profiles in Nantais, Anjou and Saumur (Jérémie Mourat, Fosse Seche & Nicolas Reau, to name just three of many). And obviously, I might have a few new words on Vouvray to publish. As for Bordeaux, to follow my recent Bordeaux 2004 report I have new mini-reports on 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 coming up, as well as some château and visit reports to publish.

Thereafter, it won’t be long before I get on to the autumn Bordeaux tastings, on the 2010 and 2012 vintages. Of course I will visit Bordeaux to taste the 2010s in bottle, but I will also be there to lead an open trip to Yquem, Haut-Brion, Pichon-Baron, Troplong-Mondot and the like. There are just a couple of places left now, so if you’re interested in coming along, check out this blog post.

Happy drinking to all, thanks for reading, and huge thanks to all my subscribers – Chris.

Another from Minna Vineyard

After a recent look at the 2009 Minna Vineyard Red, this week I decided to check in on the Minna Vineyard White, in the 2010 vintage.

Whereas I have reasonably strong opinions on how the wines of the Loire should taste (at the same time remaining open-minded and enjoying a variety of styles), I don’t have such a strong feel for the France’s most southerly vineyards. So, to my mind, anything goes, especially when you look to unfamiliar regions such as the Bouches du Rhône where, in this case at least, the varieties used are Vermentino (which sounds Italian, but it is perhaps better known locally as Rolle, a grape long-established on Corsica and in the Var region of Provence), together with Roussanne and Marsanne (perhaps rather more familiar, especially to Rhône-o-philes).

Minna Vineyard White 2010

This particular wine is made from low yields, just 29 hl/ha, vinified in small 15-hectolitre stainless steel cuves, each variety fermented separately by indigenous yeasts. The malolactic fermentation is not inhibited, and the élevage is mostly in steel, with just 30% going into barriques, on the lees, for aging with bâtonnage. The wine was bottled in July 2012.

The 2010 Minna Vineyard White has a pale, lemon-straw hue in the glass, and an appealing and interesting nose, full of chalky minerals, lemon-sherbet tones, with little tinges of tropical fruit behind it, cut with a leafy, peach-skin bite. I think the Vermentino is showing through here quite strongly, and in terms of style and aroma I find it vaguely reminiscent of some of the high-quality Portuguese whites I have tasted over the last few years, with all their lemony fruit and perfumed, chalky minerality. The palate is cool and reserved, yet broad and fleshy, with plenty of tension and a cool, grippy fruit substance. A long pithy finish completes the picture. There is a nice minerally cut here. This has a really reserved, introverted, slightly leafy style, and provides some good drinking. 15/20 (July 2014)

Exploring Sherry #2: Leonor

Back to Sherry now, and the world of Palo Cortado. As proper Sherry buffs (i.e. not me) know, the palo cortado style traditionally originates with wayward behaviour in a fino solera. With fino, the wine in each barrel has a coating of flor, the layer of yeast that protects the wine from oxidation (and yet, confusing to my palate, laces it with acetaldehyde, adding an aroma that is otherwise a firm feature of oxidation, while the wine remains pale, pure and fresh).

In the occasional barrel the flor would die before its time, exposing the wine to oxygen, and thereby altering how it aged. In this case the cellar master (could you use the word almacenista here? …. probably) would remove the barrel bearing its palo, a downward mark indicating it belonged to the fino solera. This would then be crossed (or cortado) with a second mark to identify the barrel, which is now palo cortado.

Gonzalez Byass Leonor

These days I suspect the production of palo cortado is left less to chance than the traditional description above. It is a very popular style (well, I adore it, anyway) and it seems fairly widely available, often at a good price. As with many sherries I drink, even fino, I find the wine is never at its best on the first day; a day or two open seems to bring it all together with a greater sense of harmony. This was certainly the case here.

The palo cortado style is rather vaguely described as half-amontillado (wines which age protected by flor, initially at least) and half-oloroso (wines which age without flor, i.e. oxidatively). I find it often has a very elegant, poised precision which can be missing from other styles, yet it has the same haunting scent complexity. This bottle, the latest in my Sherry adventures, is a fairly recently-introduced wine from Gonzalez Byass, a palo cortado aged (on average, it will be a blend of different wines) at least twelve years.

The wine, christened Leonor, has a very fine, convincing, toasty hue, with a golden rim. The aromatics seem fairly full on at first, as if they are all jostling for attention, but after some air – by which I really mean a few days of stoppered rest – this really comes together to show a much greater sense of harmony. The nose is one of baked earth, dried citrus zest, white raisins and pepper, with a fine, nutty seam underneath. The palate now feels polished, certainly harmonious, textured with a supple substance, and a dry and complex middle. Importantly, there is great energy to it, with evident zip on the finish. This is long and punchy, and just lovely to drink. 16.5/20 (July 2014)