Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for October, 2011

2011 Port – yet another vintage of the century?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

At the end of last week’s Symington family single quinta port seminar in London on Thursday, Johnny and Paul Symington brought out three tank samples of the 2011 harvest. They call it ‘a most sensational harvest’.

The crop was small and very concentrated, but on the 21 August 18mm of rain softened the skins. The sample from the Qunita do Bomfim had staggering depth of fruit – intense ripe black cherry; Cavadinha was more perfumed and a little fresher – a huge wine, whereas Malvedos, more closed was intensely spicy.

Such notes are only the roughest of indications – the wines are too young to assess properly, but they are surely hugely promising and as Paul said, ‘You’d have to be a damn idiot not to make a great wine this year.’

I’ll report on the tasting proper in The Journal on 4 November.

Combebelle – back soon!

Friday, October 14th, 2011

One of  many sad consequencies of the demise of Oddbins was that many UK wine lovers were deprived of a handy supply of Chateau de Combebelle, Catherine Wallace’s wonderful, biodynamic St Chinian. I visisted Catherine yesterday and was able to taste wine from the 2010 and 2009 harvests as well as from earlier vintages, including 2007 – which has been snapped up (hallelujah!) by Waitrose Direct and Ocado. Keep an eye open for it and the don’t hesitate. A blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache its is, like all  Catherine’s wines, wonderfully perfumed and marked by deliciously crunchy black fruit flavours. Let’s hope that Waitrose move quickly to secure the 2008 and later vintages too. The 2008 is more concentrated than 07 with particularly juicy acidity; the 09 is incredibly rich, silky and seductive, with elegant, fine tannins; the 10 is chunkier and more structured, with chocolaty black cherry fruit – a great wine worth waiting for.  Catherine hopes that they show signs that she’s improving as a wine maker. They do – but the bar was already set high.

Posh Languedoc

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

I’m in Languedoc for a few days. One of my reasons for being here is to research a couple of articles. Yesterday I homed in on the sub-region of Terraces du Larzac which encompasses the villages of Montpeyroux and Saint Saturnin, whose wines have enjoyed and deserved an international reputation for a generation. And they are even better today. The main characteristic of the region is a steeper than usual diurnal range which gives the wine finesse, fresher acidity and more complex aromas than in other parts of the south. But they are expensive!! The latest edition of the Hachette Guide (2012) lists several whose wines fall in the €23 to 30 bracket and many more between €15-23. It’s almost as steep as the sections on the Côte d’Or. Some of the wines undoubtedly merit their exalted prices, others don’t. It’s not worth naming them as they don’t make it to the shelves of UK shops and it’s not hard to see why. The gap between the good and the very good in Languedoc is real enough, but the price differential is getting out of hand.