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Ten Recent Wines

Some notes on ten wines tasted recently, everything from Champagne through to Port. I will also file these notes on the Winedoctor profile pages where appropriate.

Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave 2004 Brut Réserve NV: Based largely on the 2003 vintage. A lemon gold hue in the glass, and a moderate-to-fat bead. On the nose this has certainly evolved, showing some caramel and biscuit tones with a richer brioche background and a good layer of fruit too, with a gently dried character. More harmony on the palate than I sensed last time, less fat, still rich but composed and in balance; there is a good seam of lemony acidity and a fresh mousse, but a rather grippy, sappy edge to the texture of the wine. Definite development here, more harmony, and plenty of fresh character, with notes of thyme and sherbet. And despite the base vintage being 2003, plenty of bitter grip at its core, and a long, sappy, bitter finish. A good wine, and one that has certainly gone in the right direction. 16.5/20 (January 2012)

Lanson Gold Label Brut 1998: As with previous bottles, pale straw and a very fine bead. It seems more evolved than I expected, starting off with an open, soft, expressive caramelly and coffee character. There’s a little nut praline behind it, but what I don’t find – perhaps surprisingly for Lanson – is much in the way of freshness or definition. A similar character on the palate, soft and caramelly substance, but there is also a brighter acid backbone here than the nose suggests. It just all seems a little disparate today, present but not correct I suppose. Long, sappy, sour fruit finish. It’s this latter element that suggests most of all that this needs more time. 17/20 (January 2012)

Vincent Pinard Sancerre Rosé 2009: A good salmon-pink hue in the glass, with a faint orange tinge in the background. The nose is very clean and fresh, with a stony reserve that brings to mind delicate red summer fruits rubbed against white pebbles, with slightly fatter, if rather leafy-herby elements, coming in later. The palate has a good and very dry substance, remaining very well defined, with lots of vigour and punch through the middle, with some creamy red fruit favours coming out from behind the lively structure. This is substantial, with an appealing, minerally depth to it in the finish. Attractive wine. Alcohol 14%. 16/20 (January 2012)

Couly-Dutheil Chinon Clos de l’Echo 1997: Only a few subtle tones of maturity on inspection, and still plenty of red pigment here. Initially quite bright, then showing more density on the nose, with a fresh violet tone overlaid on a more gamey, autumnal, meaty character. Also a little vegetal streak at first, although not as green as I recall from previous bottles. Instead I find darker, denser fruit, although nothing rich or creamy, it has a crunchy, acid-bound black fruit character, and also a little celeriac does come through here from time to time. There is some substance too, although it yields to a sappy, lightly astringent finish. Rather more reminiscent of my last bottle rather than the first. Good though. 16/20 (January 2012)

Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2009: From the hands of the late Marcel Lapierre, this wine has a dark yet vibrant character in the glass, the aromatics possess brilliant fruit, fresh and beautifully poised on the edge of ripeness. There are hints of blackcurrants and a raspberry tartness, intense and concentrated but not sweet or creamy. It has a perfumed, floral, crunchy-skin style which lends it a wonderful vibrancy. There is some super savoury-edged fruit, an intense backbone of vibrant acids, and overall a supple, lively, vigorous and vibrant midpalate leading into a linear, crunchy finish. Super stuff. 16.5/20 (January 2012)

Caiarossa (Toscana IGT) 2007: The blend this vintage is Cabernet Franc (25%), Merlot (25%), Sangiovese (16%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (14%). Small quantities of Petit Verdot (8%), Syrah (6%) and Alicante (7%) make up the balance. Dark and dense matt hue. The nose combines a lovely freshness, redolent of just-ripe red cherries and cranberries with the richer tones of oak, suggested by aromas of smoky-smouldering charcoal and caramel. A rich and polished texture on the palate, ripe and with sweet fruit, although with a heavy oak influence over the top, all spiky tannins and charcoaly caramel. The finish is filled to the brim with oaky grip. This needs a good few years in the cellar for this wine to fully integrate, but it holds promise, which I particularly find in the freshness of the underlying fruit. Good. 16.5/20 (January 2012)

Léon Beyer Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2000: A rich golden hue in the glass, a little deeper in colour than I expected. The nose takes a little while, an hour or so in fact, to fully open up. When it has done so there are fairly classic aromas here suggestive of the variety in question, notes of bacon and baked tropical fruits, with orange zest and a bitter orange pith. There is an appealing , polished, white fruit character to it, but it never really assumes the intensity or focus that I would really have liked to have seen. There is a rather relaxed style, showing good substance in the mouth, with some grip and body, but it carries a slightly sense of fat softness too. The acidity is on the low side, a varietal issue, and this doesn’t help the composition of the wine, which lacks real vigour as a result. Grippy, rich, long, mildly interesting, but ultimately lacking true definition. 14.5/20 (January 2012)

Domaine de la Rectorie Banyuls Cuvée Leon Parcé 2001: A richer hue than I recalled from my most recent tastings, but looking back at older notes I see it seems pretty consistent. There is undoubtedly a little twist of Brett seasoning the aromatics here, as there is a sweet intensity of fruit and a savoury character too, but it comes with tobacco and a telling gamey edge. It is very rich though, sweet and structured, and although this gamey character comes though on the palate it plays second fiddle to the very polished, cigar-tinged fruit, which dominates, remaining very grippy and rich right into the finish. Absolutely delicious wine, and one that knocks spots off the two subsequent bottles of Port. 17/20 (January 2012)

Croft Late Bottled Vintage Port 2004: A dark, richly coloured wine. The nose possesses sweet fruit in a very clean and expressive style, with black and a touch of blue fruit, smoky-smouldering embers too. There is not a hint of spirit to it, and it has an admirable brightness and freshness despite the depth off aroma. On the palate it shows a great texture, rich and sweet, with moderate tannins but also bright acidity and although the alcohol comes through here it seems wholesome and in keeping with the sweet, plush, ultimately simple but nevertheless very welcoming fruit layer. I find some more savoury elements in the finish, the only suggestion of a deeper complexity. All the same this is a really lovely composition; it is not an intrinsically great wine but one that has been very well put together, it offers great value, and is a real step up from the wines of the Croft of old. 16/20 (January 2012)

Delaforce Vintage Port 1985: The cork here behaved just as it did with my last bottle a few years ago, crumbling into a myriad pieces. Port tongs would have been the better option. In the glass this wine has really faded, and these last two bottles don’t reflect the potential I saw in one bottle many years ago. At the centre it has a tawny-toasty hue, with very little red pigment, and there is a wide and watery rim. The nose is gently spicy and aromatic, with soft sandalwood, baked figgy fruit, leather, earthiness and a little spirit. Attractive sweetness at the start, and this is maintained through the midpalate, but around that there swirls some firm alcohol. There is a pretty layer of leafy-earthy fruit as suggested by the more savoury aromatic tones, but the wine is still showing the bones of its structure underneath. With three data points now it is pretty clear that this wine is heading downhill and unlike some 1985s, which are still going strong, I would advise drinking this sooner rather than later. 16/20 (January 2012)