Lea & Sandeman Wine Tastings - January 2013

I recently attended two wine tastings courtesy of Lea & Sandeman. The ‘2011 Burgundy Tasting’ featured some top quality wines from this famous French region. ‘The Great Southern Tasting’ offered an eclectic and fascinating mix of wine styles with some excellent value-for-money choices. Here are a few highlights…

The 2011 Burgundy vintage has been well covered in the wine press already, so I’ve picked out just a few wines out of the many I enjoyed. Firstly, Domaine Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Chatenière’ is a beautiful example of a white Burgundy. Made from 100% Chardonnay, the nose is aromatic with citrus notes and shows finesse, while the palate demonstrates hints of stonefruit and lemon with buttery notes softening the minerality and slight saltiness on the finish. At £267 for a case of 12, this is a decent price for an elegant wine of this type.

One of the featured producers at this tasting was Domaine Nicolas Rossignol, based in Volnay, who showcased 12 highly contrasting Pinot Noirs despite the proximity of vineyards. Expression of terroir fully underpins their winemaking philosophy and three wines caught my eye, or should that be my nose and tongue?!? The Beaune 1er Cru Reversées is velvety smooth with dark berry notes, a hint of spice and superb balance. The Volnay 1er Cru Roncerets exhibits dark fruit aromas and a palate of forest fruits with powerful tannins and a slightly chalky finish. This will benefit from several years’ ageing to develop in complexity and to become more harmonious, but the signs of a very good wine are already there. Lastly, the Pommard 1er Cru Chapponières has an aromatic nose with red fruit characteristics carrying through to the palate. Earthy notes and a hint of saltiness on the finish are balanced by elegant and relatively smooth tannins.

Lea & Sandeman’s ‘Great Southern Tasting’ featured wines from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and South Africa. Because of the huge variety of styles, I’ve picked out several wines. Starting off with some great value and interesting whites, Terra d’Alter Branco Reserva 2011 from the Alto Alentejo region of Southern Portugal is bursting with stonefruit and citrus intensity. The rich mouthfeel is given further complexity due to the wine being kept on its lees for six months until bottling. This is an elegant wine with an interesting blend of handpicked viognier, arinto and verdelho grapes and at £10.95 a bottle, this represents excellent value for money.

Godello has been one of my favourite white grape varieties for many years now and I always look forward to tasting wines made from it. The 2010 Almalarga Barrica Adega Pena das Donas is aged in “barricas”, the oak adding richness and weight to the fruit intensity. Aromatic, full, creamy and elegant with hints of tropical fruit and minerality, this is an absolute delight and one of the best examples of this grape variety I have tasted. In complete contrast, but also sublimely elegant, is the 2010 Lirac Cuvée de la Reine des Bois Blanc Domaine de la Mordorée, a mouthful to say and a delight in the mouth, courtesy of the white southern Rhone blend of seven grape varieties used. This wine is aromatic on the nose with notes of pear, apricot and peach, while rich and dry on the palate with hints of baked apple and a refreshing bitterness on the long finish. It will go well with many fish dishes and apéritifs now, but should age elegantly over the next few years.

One winery stood out for me as a producer of really interesting, flavoursome, high quality wines from old vines - Bodegas Acústic, from the young DO of Montsant in Tarragona, northern Spain. Their 2011 Acústic Blanc is a dry, elegant wine with a floral aroma and a palate of pear and tropical fruits. The 2010 Acústic Vinyes Velles Nobles is a power-packed aromatic 14.5% ABV red with notes of cherries, plums and chocolate on the palate and a long finish - a perfect match for a hearty lamb casserole. However, the pick of the bunch for me was their 2009 Braó Vinyes Velles Nobles. The nose is intense with red and black fruits and an overlay of spice. The palate continues the rich fruit and spice characteristics with a hint of sweetness on the very long finish and ripe, but not overpowering tannins. A beautiful wine from a clearly talented winemaker and a bodega to look out for in the future.

There were many other reds worthy of mention, including the elegant 2008 Marco Abella Priorat Mas Mallola with cherry fruit and tobacco spice intensity; the juicy 2009 Fiefs de Lagrange du Saint Julien with notes of blackberries, cherries, well-integrated tannins and leathery overtones; and the complex and deliciously smooth 2001 Château Barde Haut Grand Cru Saint Emilion with its red fruit characteristics, accompanied by hints of liquorice, vanilla and savoury notes on the palate. However, I wanted to end with two contrasting and delightfully satisfying 2009 Right Bank wines. The Château Perron Lalande de Pomerol exhibits red and black fruit aromas with smooth spice notes from the oak ageing. The palate is similarly rich with notes of ripe blackberries and soft tannins lending some finesse and complexity. Moving south to its more distinguished neighbouring region, Château Toulifaut Pomerol is a fruit-driven and gloriously elegant wine. The nose has deep notes of plums, cherries and vanilla, while the palate is characterised by a rich plum depth of flavour with subtle cedarwood spice and an elegant finish.

Many thanks to Lea & Sandeman for this opportunity. These two tastings demonstrate the huge variety in wine styles and expressions of terroir among adjoining regions and neighbouring vineyards. Whether through use of modern or traditional winemaking techniques, young or old vines, single varietals or complex blends, wine will always be a beguiling drink and I look forward to trying some of these interesting examples again.

This article was featured on Lea & Sandeman’s website.