Those of you who have followed my wine adventures for a little while will know that every so often (and not nearly often enough, may I say…) I organise a wine tasting session for the somewhat grandly titled Camden Symphony Orchestra Wine Society. I say "grandly titled", as the name is a deliberate subterfuge designed to give an element of credibility and refinement to a rag-tag bunch of wastrels who agree with Primal Scream that “we just wanna get loaded; and we wanna have a good time”.
Once more for this tasting we found ourselves at my favourite wine shop, Theatre of Wine in Tufnell Park. We were fortunate to be reunited with Jason for this tasting as he knows how to deal with situations such as one member of the group turning up with a bottle of Jameson, which he was sipping on in between wine flights – not something you’d see recommended in the WSET handbook for optimal wine tasting. In his defence, it was St Patrick’s Day on the day of the tasting, I’m sure he doesn’t always drink whiskey in between his glasses of wine...
The brief for the evening I had set for Jason was to do a tasting that contrasted Old World traditions versus New World upstarts; which he delivered in the imaginatively titled tasting session: “Paradigms and Parvenus”. Whilst we reacquainted ourselves with the surroundings (and I dealt with the fact that I had completely cocked up the number of people who were attending…) we started with a 2015 Paolini Lance Grillo (Italy). On the nose this was a pleasant wine, if a little one-dimensional; it featured notes of lemon and had a slightly waxy-characteristic. On tasting it had bright flavours of lemon, tinged with side notes of green apple, pink grapefruit and a smattering of pineapple on the mid-palate. A decent wine (7.0/10.0) and a bargain at £10.90/bottle.
From then on we were tasting wines in pairs, matching up the Old World wine against the New World wine. In this way we were able to compare and contrast the wines against each other and look for the variation between them.
Our New World Chardonnay came from Chile and was a 2014 Clos des Fous "Locura I" (Alto Cachapoal, Chile). It featured no oak on it at all and came from a vineyard with particularly high altitude. On the nose it had a rather unpleasant (for me) eggy, sulphuric note to it with little fruit evident. However, on the mouth it was surprisingly bright and fresh with a light pear flavour that was very enjoyable. Once you got past the nose, it was an enjoyable wine (7.0/10.0); £14.50/bottle.
We contrasted this against a 2009 Guillaume Collection (Franche-Comte, France). This wine had certainly seen oak and was a fair bit older; on the nose it was rich and exotic with beautiful butterscotch notes. On tasting it was full of buttery deliciousness that reminded me of brioche, which was followed by mango fruit later on. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine (8.0/10.0); £29.00/bottle. This was as much, however, of a reminder a how variable and flexible the Chardonnay grape is, as much as it was a contrast between Old and New World wines.
For the roses, Jason played with the brief a little. Rather than going Old World vs New World, he focussed on showing the difference between winemakers who make rose in a “white wine” style, as opposed to those who make it in a “red wine” style (as you can see from the photograph to the right ->). For the white wine style of rose, we were presented with a 2015 Rimauresq (Provence, France) which was light and delicate on the nose (ie: didn’t smell of anything in particular) and when tasted had grapefruit notes, which I found a trifle dull (6.5/10.0); £12.80/bottle.
On the red wine style we had a 2014 Oikonomoy Liatiko (Crete, Greece) which had a bizarre nose which was well described by one of the group as having “the funk of an old red wine that had gone bad”. On tasting, however, I really enjoyed this; it had more tannic presence and, as a result, had more structure. The dominant flavours that came through were redcurrant and red cherries. I also felt that there was almost a sherry-like oxidative profile to the wine – probably due to the unfiltered nature of the wine. I certainly preferred this wine to the previous, although I think you will be able to have guessed that! (7.5/10.0); £17.90/bottle.
For the first of our two reds we started off by looking at Rhone-style blends. Our first in this duo was a wine from one of my favourite producers, a 2014 Liberator “The Francophile” (Stellenbosch, South Africa). On the nose this had very pleasing aromas of blueberry, blackcurrant and a sprig of hawthorn. On tasting it had a lovely blackcurrant juiciness to it, with just a wisp of smokiness too. This was a fantastically enjoyable wine (7.5/10.0) and a steal at the price, £9.80/bottle.
To contrast we had a 2015 Betton Espiegle (Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone; France), which had a somewhat quiet nose featuring classy notes of red cherry and a bit of plum. On tasting it featured noticeably more body than the previous wine, whilst still having considerable acidity to balance it all out. There was an extra complexity to this wine of a slightly gamey taste (reminded me a little bit of smokey bacon). This was a good wine (8.0/10.0), but more expensive at £16.90/bottle – making the parvenu a much better value wine in my book.
The last of our pairs focussed on the holy grail of wine making, those light, ethereal, almost spiritual, aromatic red wines. We started with an offering from another of my favourite producers, a 2013 Au Bon Climat Santa Maria Pinot Noir (Sonoma County, USA). Interestingly this wine has been made specifically to recreate the Burgundian-style of Pinot – hence the name. The nose had characteristic sour cherry presence, with touches of eucalyptus and truffle underlining its elegance. The taste was delightful and sensuous, light and energetic, with bags of red fruit flavours, predominantly strawberry. A lovely wine (8.5/10.0); I think good value at £25.90/bottle.
This was contrasted with a 2015 Brezza Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont, Italy). Jason described this as being typically Italian in that it represented a “slightly sterner approach to wine”. On the nose it was a little quieter, but the taste was something very interesting – the presence of tannins was very noticeable, it also featured some very powerful black cherry notes. This, like a lot of Italian wines, is really a food wine and needs something to match against it. A classical wine, if not as enjoyable as the last wine from a hedonistic perspective (8.0/10.0); £19.90/bottle.
As ever with the Theatre of Wine, this was an interesting and thought-provoking tasting. I feel that we all learnt something about the breadth and complexity of the wine world, and (hopefully) found some new passions as well as rekindling some old flames.
Thanks to Jason and the team for hosting us. We will be back soon!
Note: all prices quoted above are based on list prices from Theatre of Wine.