Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for March, 2011

Drappier Champagne

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Drappier is one of my favourite champagne houses. Everything they do is so precisely judged and of such high quality. I visited the cellars at Urville today on a bright, typical spring day in southern Champagne. It was great to see André (Papa Pinot) in great good spirits and Michel too – both hard at work, André in the office, Michel counting bottles in the cellar. Michel’s efficient and attentive assistant Samuel looked  after me and my clients with charm and kindness.

I was grateful for an opportunity to catch up on the range. Here are my notes.

Brut Nature Sans Soufre, 100% Pinot Noir – a blend of 2005/6 and 7 aged in stainless steel.Quite a deep copper; a full, but slightly cidery nose with great richness underneath. Clean and fresh on the palate, showing much less oxidative character and surprisingly rich fruit.

Quattuor IV, a blend of 25% each of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier, same blend of vintages as the previous wine. Dosed aroun 9 g/l. A remarkable Blance de Blancs – white peach and barely ripe pineapple fruit with spice and a citrus freshness in the mouth. Light and elegant.

Carte d’Or NV (currently also 2005/6/7). The benchmark wine of the house is as good as ever – fresh and toasty, with clean, bright, juicy, black fruit flavours (90% Pinot Noir).

Brut Rosé NV (100% Pinot Noir) – 100% saignée.  A blend of 2006/7/8. A vibrant but quite delicate pink, with a lovely creamy aroma of red fruits – strawberry and raspberry. The slightly higher dosage is immediately apparent, but this fruity, easy-drinking wine is very appealing.

Millésime Exception 2004 (60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay), aged partly in oak (pièces and more especially, foudres), then 5 years sur lattes.      A fine brioche nose with hints of red fruits and then a long, rich taste, slightly biscuity and markedly mineral. (£36.99 at Oddbins)

Grande Sendrée 2004 (55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay). A much richer, more complex wine – and also rather more oxidative in an attractively buttery way. Powerful, fine and long, it has great structure and a slightly phenolic finish. Already easy to enjoy, but well-equipped for the long haul. (£44.99 at Oddbins)

Carte d’Or, Vintage 1995 – from a magnum , disgorged in  May 2007. A very remarkably wine from a vintage too often overshadowed by 1996. It is very complex, with aromas of confit lemon and pineapple and then rich, soft and lingering in the mouth with considerable salty minerality, and an inherent elegance and simply – in short, it has sheer style and is still remarkably youthful. It’s such a shame I was driving and had to spit it out!














David Ginola’s rather fine wine

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I know that it is hard for almost any new wine to find its way onto the shelves of UK shops – the competition is fierce, but I’m surprised that no-one has yet snapped up Coste Brulade by David Ginola – a very superior Provençal rosé. The 2009 vintage was well made with a lovely depth of cherry, rhubarb and peach fruit, dusted quite subtly with white pepper. The 2010 is better still and though even more prettily pale, lacks nothing in concentration of fruit flavour: this time strawberry and peach. It has crisper acidity than the 09, but at this early stage in its development seems less mineral.

The wine is made at a well-run co-op in the Var. It has benefited from investment by David Ginola – his money has been used to buy new equipment. David is keen to help blend the wine that bears his name and the Coste Brulade team respect his palate and judgement. The packaging is understated and stylish. It would fly from the shelves here on Tyneside.

Abadal – Picapoll and other delights

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The region of Pla des Bages in the hills west of Barcelona produces grapes for the Cava industry. Very good table wines are made by the largest bodega in the DO, Masies d’Avinyó, under a number of brand names, especially Abadal. Some of these are now being imported to the UK by the excellent Ilkley-based Martinez Wine, whose director Jonathan Cocker first tasted them while on holiday in the region last year and made contact with the winery.

Jonathan brought Abadal’s French, Montpellier-trained chief winemaker Laurent Collio to Newcastle to show six of his wines, partnered by a succession of tasty tapas at Spanish restaurant El Torero.

I never find it too easy to judge wines accurately when it’s late in the evening and I’m a bit tired – and in competition with a riot of (rather good) food smells, but I was impressed by the range and by Laurent himself and thought it would be a shame not to jot down a few notes. I apologise if my tasting notes may be a bit below par.

We tasted two dry whites. The first Abadal Blanc 2010 (rrp £8.76) is an easy-drinking blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Picapoll. It works well in a fairly light, fruity way – with suggestions of grapefruit and peach and then a slightly mineral finish. The second white is a pure Picapoll 2010 (£9.49) and is very good indeed: citrus fruit, pear and a hint of jasmine-like perfume combine with a strongly mineral, lingering finish. It is unoaked, from fifty year-old vines.

Abadal own around twenty hectares of Picapoll out of a total of around 150 hectares. Laurent insists that it is not the Picpoul of Languedoc, but a distinct variety, particular to Spanish Catalonia of which only forty hectares remain. There is, he says, also a black-skinned clone. He has crafted a super-cuvée, also unoaked from the best parcels and sometimes including a little old-vines Maccabeo, sold as ‘Nuat.’ Jonathan has tasted it and waxes suitably lyrical. I would love to taste it.

The red wines, though all very good indeed, are a little less remarkable if only because they rely on international varieties, planted in the mid-1980s when such things were all the rage in Catalonia thanks to the high-profile success of Miguel Torres and others with Cabernet and friends. The high altitude of the vineyards, up to 600 metres is the key to their freshness and focus.

A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Tempranillo 20099 (price not available), given just four months ageing in oak, is soft and savoury with stalky, plummy fruit and a hint of tomato and burnt raspberry jam.

Abadal 5 Merlot 2006 (£13.99) is made from five different clones, gleaned from Bordeaux, Italy and California. Their vegetative cycle varies by up ten days. Laurent says that the Bordeaux clones are best. The wine is aged in oak, 25% new – roughly 80% French and 20% American, though they also use Slovenian and Hungarian oak. It’s big, deep and rich with the aroma of roasted coffee, then sweetly ripe tannins and more acidity than I had expected.

Abadal 3.9 Reserva 2007 (£16.99) is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Syrah, aged fourteen months in 85% new oak. The malo is done in cask. Big, spicy and chocolaty with layers of black fruit, it’s rich, soft (surprisingly so) and savoury. The oak is well integrated.

Abadal Selecció 2006 (£23.99) is a blend of 40% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Syrah, aged in 100% new French oak for sixteen months. Deep and still young, it has a silky texture with lots of spicy black fruit. It seems fresher and more focussed than the 3.9 Reserva, though is still quite savoury.

Laurent is also experimenting with the local black-skinned Sumoll and believes it to be very promising. And if I heard him right, he’s also excited by a variety called Mando – completely new to me. The significant point, however, is that local varieties may have a lot to offer as the Picapoll clearly shows.