Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bank Holiday Wine-Off

Ok so I’m a little late in writing this one but I’ve been suffering from a migraine since Monday. Today’s the first day I can even look at a computer screen!

First up, thanks to our friends for hosting this and orchestrating the whole thing! The original plan was to bring a couple of wines (maximum spend £25 per bottle) for a head to head taste-off. However, when we got there the aroma of delicious food wafted through the air as we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco. To our surprise, a very well structured evening had been planned out with various courses of food for wine pairing and comparing/contrasting. I’d rustled up a couple of gems from my cellar (read wardrobe) for the occasion.

The Prosecco Ca’ Rosa NV (Oddbins £8.99 here: ) was very good, bready, great bubbles and plenty of acidity on the bright finish. 7/10. The first dishes to be brought out were pan-seared tuna with sweet pepper and chive and hot-smoked salmon with crème fraiche and lemon on a crostini. Accompanied by the rest of the Prosecco and a very minerally "Groovey" Salomon Grüner Veltliner from Austria (Oddbins £8.49 here: ). Its restrained fruit and light structure lent itself very well to the fish course. Hints of apple and pear with a good acidity and smoothness. However, I don’t think it would have shone on its own. 6.5/10. Food was superb.

Next came duck carpaccio (although slightly over-done for our benefit; we’re not fans of raw meat) with duck crackling on a leaf of bok choi, and chilli infused cheese with tomato and basil on a sponge-like base that I’ve never seen before! Two of my wines were up; the 5th growth Chateau Lynch Moussas 2006 (Laithwaites, £16.50, not available from here anymore but try elsewhere), from Pauillac, Bordeaux and a grand-old Rioja Gran Reserva from 1998, the Fortaleza de Imas (I think I only paid £10.49 for it – must have been on offer, Laithwaites, Not available any more :( ). The were up against The Tin Mine 2006 (Oddbins, £10.99, here:), from Stellenbosch South Africa. A blend of Shiraz, Cab Sauv, Merlot and unusually, Primitivo. This had lots of cherry and blackberry but the alcohol was still a little overpowering leaving a burning sensation on the tongue. Another few years in bottle should see this emerge! 6/10. The Bordeaux was typical deep red/mid purple in hue, with cherry, blackcurrant and oak smells. Tannic and almost porty in taste. Lovely but not superb 7/10. The Rioja, in all honesty, I was hoping that it hadn’t gone off, after so much bottle age and not having much luck with Rioja. So what a great surprise it was…Lovely brick red colour with brown tinges, showing its age. Raspberries, strawberries, oak and spice smells and tastes. So full of fruit, not muted at all. Fantastic. Clear winner of the round here, and everyone in agreement. 9/10. Food was lovely.

The next round would be a difficult one. My Trapiche Orellana Single Vineyard Malbec, Mendoza 2007 (Laithwaites, £22, here) would be up against two other wines and have to accompany honey & mustard glazed Lamb with baby onions and red wine sauce, and red Thai Lamb curry in a courgette “bowl”. First up was the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2007 (Oddbins, about £18 but not available any more from here), traditionally an excellent pairing with Lamb. It lived up to tradition – very deep purple with a powerful blackcurrant smell. Lots of blackcurrant fruit and still plenty of tannin. This was surprising as I’m familiar with other Cono Sur offerings, often leaving me less than pleased. However, this one really is a cut-above. Very good 7.5/10. Next up was Edgebaston The Pepper Pot (Oddbins, £12.99 here:), Stellenbosch, 2009, a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat. A very similar deep purple to the Cab Sauv. Lots of pepper, spice, plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. Stood up and punched through the curry with ease, still displaying lots of fruit. This was really, very good. 8/10. Last up was the Trapiche. I was expecting big things from this, especially being a Malbec fan and its price. A nose of cherry and tobacco, maybe hints of leather. A lighter red than most Malbecs, more reserved, more finesse than the teeth-stainers, but to its detriment. Spicy black cherry and blackberries, plenty of tannin but, ultimately, disappointing for £22. The acidity was still a bit harsh. One to put away for a few years and try again, 6.5/10. So a clear winner for this round was the young South African blend, the cheapest of the three at £12.99 and literally blowing the others out of the water. Superb stuff, I have to get some! Food was great.

Finally, the two heavyweights were up. Pitted against each other, dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chocolate with chilli and a selection of cheeses and crackers. First was the Matetic Vineyards “Corralillo” Organic Syrah Reserve 2006 from San Antonio, Chile (Oddbins, £16.99 here:). A very dark purple, almost opaque with ruby at the rim of the glass. A powerful smell of caramel, pepper, nettles, maybe damsons and dark chocolate. Very little fruit on the nose which was surprising as it had massive fruit on the palate. Very complex, lots of flavours to try and pick out, with refreshing acidity. Very nicely done but atypical if you’re used to big Aussie fruit-bomb type Shiraz. Cool climate Syrah is typified here with great fruit but above all complexity. It stood up to the dark chocolate and was great with the saltier or smoked cheeses. Great stuff 8.5/10. The Enamore 2007 Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet, Bonarda (Oddbins, £15.99, here:) followed, with a lovely sweet raisiny smell. Made in the style of Amarone where the grapes are partially dried. Sweet raisins, plums and blackberries on the palate. The elements of alcohol, tannin, sweetness and fruit combined perfectly here into a fitting end to the night (well, almost) and went well with the sweeter cheeses. All in all, a bit too sweet but well done 7/10.

So, after everything had been tasted, there were murmurings of our Rioja being the wine of the night, which I was both surprised and pleased with. However, it was decided to go through them all again in the same order but a bit quicker to see if anything had changed or opened up marvellously. Most wines, we all found, had opened up, over the several hours, and were displaying more fruit characteristics and a bit more nose. However, we were all far too pissed at this point to make proper judgements, so I guess wine of the night remains undecided.

At some point, all the wine had disappeared and someone decided it would be good to move on to Jaeger and Palinka (Hungarian moonshine made from fruits and honey) which was over 60% alcohol by volume! Lovely fruity/honey followed by HOLY SHIT MY MOUTH AND CHEST ARE ON FIRE. It made D sick and made me sick the following morning. Palinka: 3/10.

NOTE TO SELF: Never, EVER, drink it again!

When I can face it, I’ll be drinking some wine again and posting the reviews here!



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