One of the must-go-to tastings of the year is Cliff Roberson’s annual press tasting.
Last week was no exception, but rather than writing some laboured, plodding review going around all 150 wines, I took pictures of the ones that really interested me. There was some seriously Cool for Cats kit. Starting with this…
Françis Egly is famously quiet and a man of few words, but he clearly does his shouting through the medium of booze. This, here, is a truly grand wine. There was a vintage and a rosé cuvée available for tasting too, but this was the one for me. Talking of grand, it’s nearly all Grand Cru fruit, apart from a necessary little smidge of Pinot Meunier of the very best Premier Cru plots in Vrigny. It is extraordinary stuff, and fiercely deserves its superstar reputation. It may well be the best NV wine in Champagne, and I’m sure there are those who would agree with me. Weirdly it takes on the same, ‘don’t mess with me, legs-akimbo, move and I’ll shoot’ stance as Krug in a way. It certainly mimics the freshness, tightness and poise. It is its owner in a bottle in some ways. One character that all truly great artisanal wines have is the notion that if it’s not your cup of tea, it is actually your fault. This is like that. Unwaivering in its self-belief, with a perfectly-cut French plaid sports jacket and steel underpants. If you get Champagne, and you like pure, but extremely powerful Pinot-driven wines, then this will be the best £50 you ever spent.
Well, I remember tweeting about Domaine Didier Daguenau wines this time last year. The great genius, and almost irrefutably the finest craftsman of Sauvignon Blanc in the world, died in 2008 in a microlite accident. Rather morbidly his pre-death wines now fetch more money, as if he was a deceased painter. I suppose he is in some way, but his wines, in his absence, continue to show exceptional poise, pant-wettingly tight acid structures, and a paradoxical texture of silk. The concentration of the ’08s was incredible, and the wines had so much vigour, so much chi, that they were almost undrinkable on release, whereas the warmer, more generous conditions of the 2009 vintage have given us something different. If I want laser-tight, hi-res precision and perfect shut-lines, then François Cotat’s Mont Damnés Sancerre is, in my mind, the finest unoaked Sauvignon in the world. If you want a wine that is utterly unconventional, impossibly-nuanced, and dripping with wave upon waive of nectarine and apricot bliss, then maybe you should try this. Everyone should. Just once. If you don’t mind shelling out £61 for a Pouilly Fumé. Of course you do.
I rather like the 07 White Burgundies. In the same way I find it attractive in some women when they hardly ever smile. Just smoulder. 2007 smoulders. When the smile eventually comes, it’s so fantastic that you can’t suppress your own, no matter how hard you try. This is also Meursault, and I have often found myself struggling with Meursault, because they are so worthy. I find a lot of Meursault, especially in big warm vintages, a bit too laboured and worthy. That’s rather a sweeping statement I know, but I’ve recently discovered that I tight Meursault in high acid vintages. When I was remembering this wine in the tasting, I actually thought it was a Chablis. For me, that’s a good thing. This all seashells, crisp green apples, unripe mangoes and wet wet chalk up the wazoo. I’m not particularly familiar with this domaine, but having tasted this old-vine beauty, I intend to get friendlier with it. £33.
Here we are back to one of my favourite hobbies, namely telling everyone that 2003 Burgundies are often way better than they get credit for, while Bordeaux 2003 is largely a load of old shit. I remember my father telling me how delicious and ageworthy 1976 burgundies were. All I remember of 1976 was being sick in the Homers County Primary School class sink with heat stroke. Ah, the glamour of Windsor…. Now 2003 is very similiar on paper to 1976, which is one of the reasons why I’m so interested. A bit of an experiment. Some of them are defying earlier concerns that they would evolve fast then die. This wine is youthful and a pure delight. My dear friend Nick Dymoke Marr opened an other-worldy bottle of Arnoux Echezeaux 2002 at Christmas. It still had way way to go, but this chap is drinking beeeooooutifully. Good for a further 5 to 10 years, it was silkier than most Nuits that I’ve had. 40 quid. So I wonder whether 1976 did age as well as dad said. Mmmm….
Shit! As luck would have it…… Ta da!
(Apparently Roberson have bought a fair slice of this.)
I just couldn’t believe it. It’s not some strange curio that’s a bit knackered but you could see what it had been, like some sort of weird Audrey-Hepburn-meets-the-Golden-Girls Brundlefly. It is, and remains, unbelievably fresh. Bright red with a little bit of brick-rim evolution, but come on, I was six when this was made. Silky smooth, fluffy and balanced like Volnay should be, with enough acidity and a moreish Burgundian bite. Sure. It’s not one for the cellar but boy this is a bargain. Whack this in your mates’ blind-tastings and watch them squirm. £66. Yes that’s right. £66.
Julian Sounier knows what he is doing, doesn’t he? Predictably, they are all delicious. If I had to pick one, the Morgon 2009. However, rather less predictably,….
…here is a Régnié that I liked. Since turning Cru Classé in 1988, I’ve often wondered the hell why. I can usually find stellar Beaujolais-Villages that rips most Régnié to shreds, Julian Sounier’s for one. However this block of 80 year old Gamay from the ridge along the fabled Côte du Py is a differen proposition. It’s made by Charly Thevenet, the son of the legendary Morgon producer Jean Paul Thevenet, and he worked for the legendary natural producer Marcel Lapierre for years as an apprentice winemaker. Can’t go wrong really, and he didn’t. Bright, precise and granitic with classic 2010 flair. Gorgeous and a true bargain, even at £19.
And finally. Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Why is it that usually I only like this stuff in the vintages that everybody else avoids? I leerved 2004 Ch9dPape and this wine is bang on. It’s à point, fragrant, supersmooth, with just a slight ripple of dry pumice stones strewn on the path. Just before this wine there was a ripsnorter of a 2010 Côtes du Rhône from Usseglio too. Ladies and Gentlemen, it there’s one exciting vintage in the Southern Rhone, it’s 2010. Delicious as it was, for £16.95, why have an egg when you can have the whole chicken? The 2004 Châteuneuf is a gorgeous, hardly comprehensible £25.
There were lots and lots more wines that I could have waxed on about, like the astonishing Californian Chardonnay 2009 from Ramey, but I’ve said enough.
Oh, and there was a mini-vertical of Chateau d’Yquem.
Where were you?