First Taste September 2009 Week 1

Pato Vernaccia Macon

Luis Pato Maria Gomes Espumante Bruto 2008, Beiras, Portugal (£12 Raymond Reynolds, Corks of Cotham, Duncan Murray, Lewis & Cooper)
Gentle, slightly gingery style, with yeasty bite taking the starring role and baked peach fruit hovering in the background. More in the earthy Cava mould than a Champagne-alike, not as good as Pato’s fizzy reds, but still a nice drop. B

Simone Santini Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tenuta le Calcinaie 2008, Tuscany, Italy(£99 per 12 DP ex VAT Goedhuis)
According to the good folk at Goedhuis, Simone Santini bears more than a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp. Can’t vouch for that, but his 2008 Vernaccia is a bit of a star, albeit more in the sensitive Edwards Scissorhands style rather than the loiquid embodiment of Jack Sparrow. This is tender minerally wine, with light apple and blossom finesse and a slightly savoury/salty tang. S-

Domaine Marcel Couturier Mâcon-Loché 2007, Burgundy, France (£105 per 12 DP ex VAT Goedhuis)
Lovely label, lovely wine. Think apple crumble and strawberry Mivvi lollies pepped up with nutty yeasty complexity and with minerally grip to the finish, already very tasty, but still with plenty of life ahead of it. B+

Morocco Caldas

Domaine Mayole Cabernet/Syrah 2007, Beni M’Tir, Morocco (£9.95 Waitrose, currently discounted to £5.95)
There’s a slightly dry, charmless green edge, which feels like the product of poor oak. Shame, as while the fruit is a touch overripe, with a raisinny edge to its plummy berry profile, it feels like it would have benefited from better élevage. C+

Alves de Sousa Caldas White Port (£14.99 Top Selection)
Must admit that while white port taste fabulous served with tonic, ice and lemon after a hot day in the Douro, it’s seldom quite the same back in blighty. This version from Alves de Sousa is as good as it gets though. This is more in the vein of a VDN from southern France, with barley sugar, marmalade and quince edges, and a perfumed/herbal edge almost like fennel or quinine. It would be a crime to add tonic to this – try it chilled with dark chocolate puddings. S


Five Riojas

But they’re all white – are they all right?

Canas Muga White Campillo

Luis Cañas Fermentado en Barrica 2008 (£6.99 Sainsbury’s, Wines of the World)
Clean, quite simple style, certainly has freshness and some peachy citrus fruit, plus a hint of oak spice, but it’s just a bit too clean and simple. B(-)

Muga Barrel Fermented 2008 (£8.00 Majestic)
More honey and cream here than the Luis Cañas, also more lemony acidity and freshness. Again, there’s that peachy edge, but the structure here is better, the oak more subtle, and it feels like its best is still to come. B+

Campillo Blanco 2007 (£7.99 Portland Wine Cellars, Icon Wholesaler Ltd, Classic Wines Direct)
You’re now allowed to use Chardonnay in White Rioja, and 5% of it has made it into this blend. It’s a year older than the previous two but hasn’t spent quite as long in oak. I’m struggling to find much beyond a rather stolid structure and easy-going fruit. Inoffensive, in need of joie de vivre. C+

Allende Capellania

Finca Allende Rioja Blanco 2006 (£18.90 Berry Bros & Rudd, Bacchanalia)
Spice and honey, much more oak impact – and all the better for it. Maybe could use a little more acidity, but the creamy, mellow citrus and tinned pear flavours shine through. Rich, rounded and quite full-bodied, this is a bit obvious but it’s tasty stuff. S-

Capellania Blanco Reserva 2004 (£13.99 Harvey Nichols, Quaff, Imbibros, The Sampler, Partridges)
Quite a sea change from the Allende, but none the worse for that. This is aging superbly, with the fruit still very much alive but now joined by more interesting briny/mineral notes. Still fresh as it enters early middle age, and looking good for several years to come. S(+)


A trio from Sticky Wines (

Three terrific wines – just wish the web site would give you somw sort of indication of how to get hold of them…

Oloroso Moscatel PX

González Palacios Lebrija Old Oloroso (£11.95 per half bottle)
Wonderfully searing style, has the rich, rounded raisin, citrus peel and iodine, never mind 30 months in barrel, this has had 30 years! That scalp-itching intensity, yes it has a few warts but isn’t that true of anyone over a certain age? A very happy wine, and one with which I’m very happy. Fom a region (Lebrija) which, while supplying grapes to sherry producers in Jerez and Sanlucar for years, has only been able to include its name on bottle labels since last February. S(+)

Bodegas Malaga Virgen Moscatel Reserva de Familia (£12.95/50cl)
Terrific treacle toffee and cold tea style, reminiscent of Rutherlgen Tokay or whatever the bureaucrats would have us call it today. Yes, it’s syrupy and rich, and it’s hard to believe it’s only 14.5% alcohol. However, it’s deep and satisfying, and never descends into bimbo-dom, the liquid equivalent of a late-night hug from Fiona Bruce. S+

Bodegas Navarro 5 years Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles (£11.95 50 cl)
Like having cream AND custard on sticky toffee pudding, PX can sometimes be just too much of a good thing. Here, the oily sticky treacle toffee intensity is just about on the right side of overindulgence but as ever with PX, I wonder whether it’s an exercise in what is possible rather than what is desirable. For me, the best use of Montilla PX is to sweeten Oloroso sherry. Indeed, I’d be interested to find out which sherry bodegas sweeten their olorosos with PX that doesn’t come from Montilla. S(-)


And finally…


Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese 1996, Mosel, Germany
Looking for a glass of something to lubricate my cooking exploits, I found this on the rack – just what I was looking for, graceful, not as demanding as maybe some of the top estates’ 1996s, but offering heaps of pleasure. There’s an almost Sauvignon Blanc like citrus/elderflower tang, sugar syrupy flavours, but with their sweetness reined in by tangy acidity, and with lacy mineral notes and just a touch of petrol on the finish. Not sure if it will get much better, but fighting fit today. You’ll struggle to find it today, but Berry Bros has some younger vintages from Merkelbach. S(-)

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3 thoughts on “First Taste September 2009 Week 1

  • Warren Edwardes

    “For me, the best use of Montilla PX is to sweeten Oloroso sherry. Indeed, I’d be interested to find out which sherry bodegas sweeten their olorosos with PX that doesn’t come from Montilla.”

    You cannot be serious Simon. “Sweetened Oloroso” !!!!

    At a bodega in Montilla last year I pulled a face when I tried their Oloroso.

    Yukk I silently said.

    OK they got some out of the barrel.

    Amazing stuff.

    The winemaker said that if you like sweet Oloroso make your own by adding PX to Oloroso to taste.

    Oh and what makes you think that sweetened mass market Oloroso is sweetened with PX rather than sun dried Moscatel?

    Sun dried (pasas = raisins) Moscatel is great and simply in your face but much cheaper.

  • Warren Edwardes

    Yes Matusalem, a Cream Sherry (but not so labelled) being a PX sweetened Oloroso, does have its passionate followers and indeed sales. But it came as a shock to me not knowing what to expect when I first tasted it at the London Wine Fair a few years ago given the passionate fans.

    I like bone dry Manzanillas and Olorosos. And sweet PXs. But for a cream or pale cream effect I’ll mix my own.

    I did just that recently comparing a Matusalem with a hand mix at a friend’s place recently. Great smile on his face when he saw the difference. Try it.

    But maybe I will grow to like Cream Sherry as I do with red sparkling Shiraz after the initial shock.