Monday, 9 December 2019

Wines to be thankful for with the Theatre of Wine

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that over the last eight years (!) I have been taking a small group of people from my amateur orchestra (the Camden Symphony Orchestra - we're pretty good, you should check us out...) who form the Camden Symphony Orchestra Wine Society and we make a pilgrimage our favourite wine store - the Theatre of Wine in Tufnell Park. Over the last few years we have had some very interesting tasting themes and for our latest tasting, I tried my best to stump the folk at Theatre of Wine by selecting our most esoteric theme yet: wines that celebrate Thanksgiving. Given our tasting was taking place the day after Thanksgiving, I thought it was possible, but I was intrigued to see what they were going to pull out of the hat. Annoyingly (but also thankfully), they put together a really wonderful line-up and somehow managed to give us a thought-provoking series of wines.

The line-up!
We started with a 2017 Marof White (Prekmurje, Slovenia) which had a pretty nose full of peaches and apricots, accompanied by a pleasant lick of butter. On the mouth it was surprisingly weighty without being heavy, as it was offset by bags of acidity. At £15.90/bottle, this represented great value. 
Thanksgiving link: Jason's take here was that this wine was made of a combination of indigenous grape varieties as well as some internationally imported varietals in the blend, which was what Thanksgiving was all about when it was established. Nice!

Next up was one of the wine's of the evening, a 2014 Cornin Pouilly-Fuisse (Burgundy, France) which had a surprisingly quiet nose, but one that danced around a little with life. On the palate though it was decadent and delicious, with tremendous balance between the fresher, fruitier notes and some more buttery, sweet notes. The price tag on this reflected the increased quality, at £34.20/bottle.
Thanksgiving link: Jason stunned us here with the fact that Turkeys take on different shapes depending on where they are reared, which he equated to the properties of Chardonnay which he claimed was the most versatile of all the grapes varieties (I contend that this is Riesling, but I still like the analogy).

We shot across next from France to South Africa next where we had a 2018 Wolf and Woman Chenin Blanc (SA). This bottle featured a rather beautiful label (you can just see it poking out in the image on the left) and is the debut wine from an exciting new producer called Jolandie Fouché. This had a rather delicate nose, featuring pretty stone fruit, with the taste being clean and fresh with a nice, acidic bite to it. At £26/bottle, for me it was a little expensive, but that's probably because this is super small-batch production (only 600 bottles produced). 
Thanksgiving link: This was where we saw the creativity of the team coming to the full fore. Did you know that a version of Thanksgiving was actually a European tradition that was revived by the Americans? Jason explained that this is an example of the "New World" taking an "Old World" tradition and making it their own, just like the South Africans have done with Chenin Blanc! Mind blown...!       

Time to move on to the reds and we started with a classic: 2017 Cline Lodi Zinfandel (California, USA). Had that familiar cherry-cola front to the nose, but with some nice brambly notes to it too. On the palate it was juicy, vibrant and a live, with an interesting herbal twist to it. Brilliant value at £13.50/bottle. 
Thanksgiving link: The facts kept coming here, did you know that whilst people think of Turkeys as being native to the US, they actually aren't? This is exactly the same as Zinfandel, it was thought to be a native wine to the US, but over the last few years vine experts have traced back the origins of Zinfandel through Italy (where it is called Primitivo), to Croatia (where it is called Tribidrag). 

The fine folk at Theatre of Wine like to throw in curve-balls to their tastings and the next wine was a good example of this. A 2016 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy). Jason contends that this kind of wine benefits from a long decant (c. six hours is ideal) but this had only had an hour. It had a pretty nose with violets, blackcurrants and red cherries coming through. On the mouth it was quite savoury with plenty of acidity, I think it would have been interesting to have seen this wine after a couple more hours in the decanter as it needed to soften up.
Thanksgiving link: Jason explained that for the Piedmontese, their wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are an obsession and that many people outside of this do not "get" what they're trying to do, as the winemakers are rigid in producing what they like. This, according to Jason, can be likened to Thanksgiving in the sense that people outside of the United States are a little confused as to what it is about, but to the people of the US it is incredibly important. Interesting!

Next up was a wine that narrowly was awarded best of the night, a 2014 Dureil-Janthial Rully 1er Cru Vauvry (Burgundy, France). As a more mature Pinot it had those lovely notes of kernel and cherry, whilst on the palate it was soft, luscious and opulent. Frankly a steal at £16.90/bottle, I bought two bottles and only didn't buy more out of politeness to the rest of the group!
Thanksgiving link: Controversially Jason said here that Burgundy and Turkey are both over-priced for what you get - although he did that by showing us that there is good value to be found in Burgundy if you stay outside the most vaunted of communes (e.g. Vosne Romanee, Puligny-Montrachet).

We did try next a 2016 Piombaia Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) which was nice and inky on the nose with a rich, robust and forthright palate to it. Jason put this one on the list for no better reason than he wanted to open it - we were very happy that he did! £22.50/bottle. 

Time to move to the sweets and Jason went for a 2007 Barbeito Single Harvest Tinta Negra (Madeira, Portugal). Now I have been REALLY loving Madeira ever since I visited there a couple of years ago (check out this LINK to see what I got upto), so I was delighted to see this on the list - particularly as I visited Barbeito and they were lovely. This had a lovely, delicious orange nose to it with a slightly oxidative element to it. I describe Madeira as kind of a half-way house between Port and Sherry, and this was the perfect example for this. £30.40/bottle. 
Thanksgiving link: Apparently Madeira was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence and was a favourite of the founding fathers!

To finish we had a 2008 Signatory Linkwood Scotch (Scotland, UK). This was a rather pleasant scotch to finish, but lacked a little weight / power for me. £47/bottle.
Thanksgiving link: Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a licenced bartender before he became a politician?!

So there you have it. From the most obtuse theme that we have had, Jason and the team not only managed to show us some excellent wine, they managed to tie them to the Thanksgiving theme and help us all to learn a thing or two. What am I thankful for the this year? The continued existence of fine, independent wine shops and the wonderful friendships that wine can bring people together for.          

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