This week’s blog features a special guest appearance from one of the world’s greatest humans, my friend Divya. As a wonderful person, and the only woman I’ve met with the same capacity for Malbec as I, she was the perfect choice to accompany me on this tasting.
For my birthday a couple of months ago, I upgraded my wine case to something a little more celebratory – the Napoleon Red case. Unfortunately I have neither the vacuum stoppers nor the willpower to open six bottles of wine and not drink them successively over the next week, so we decided to taste three wines. In honour of a previous lost weekend together in Barcelona, our refined pursuit was accompanied by a Spanish feast of tortilla de patatas, croquetas de jamon, pan con tomate y the mandatory platter of chorizo, jamon and Manchego cheese.
In the interests of keeping things with a modicum of structure, we used the WSET 2 tasting notes structure (although veered a bit from their suggested tasting elements).
Berry Brothers March 2018 Napoleon Red Case
Wine #1: Julien Suvier “Wild Soul”, Gamay 2016 (£18.50 from Roberson Wines)
Firstly, the bottle looks really, really cool. Julien describes himself as an “Artisan Vigneron”, and while that might make you immediately vomit in the direction of your nearest hipster hotspot, try and save your oesophagus to give this a try. Like many varieties from Beaujolais, this meant to be tasted young, although I felt on a second tasting that it definitely benefited from a gentle aeration. The aromas are all raspberries, strawberries and light red fruits. As an appreciator of bolder wines, Divya did not enjoy this one on the first taste. Too acidic, too light, just … not quite right. It was more the surprising acidity than the taste, which I felt lent a freshness to uplift this into something special. After the second taste however, the shock had paled and thoughts turned more into fruitiness – raspberries, blueberries, and violets, with a nice light to medium finish. A good late spring / summer wine, and one that you’d be happy to slightly chill before serving. It was great with the cheese, and (if any had lasted beyond five minutes) would have been good with the pan con tomate too, to match that acidity.
Divya asked for a second glass.
Wine #2: Domaines des Chesnaies, Bourgueil, Val de Loire, Cabernet Franc 2012
This had sat in the decanter for a couple of hours prior to tasting, and boy it needed it. A big step up from the previous wine, as evidenced by the deeper purple colour and appearance of legs on the glass. Much darker fruits awoke when swirling around the glass – plums, cinnamon, and kirsch-y cherries reminiscent of a black forest gateau. The power was evident in the taste too – much more tannic, dark fruits and even tobacco and mushrooms. Something with a lot of umami would really suit this wine, and it would be great in another couple of years. The aftertaste almost reminded me of black dhal (or is that just because I’m craving a trip to Dishoom…?). No, Divya agreed – and subsequently a debate between cardamom and clove took up the next fifteen minutes.
….I think she’s getting the hang of this wine tasting thing.
Wine #3: Elderton, Barossa, Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre 2014
It was a toss up between the New Zealand Pinot Noir and the Elderton for the last wine, the latter of which I have tasted previously. After some deliberation, we decided on the Elderton, given the tasters for the evening were really looking for a wine which could act as a substitute for Argentinian’s premier export (after [insert own football joke here]). I was glad of my choice. The black pepper and cherries on the nose belies the power of this blend. With so much of France left to explore, New World wines have never been a particular go to personally, but this is a head turner. Smooth, ripe tannins, almost meaty on the palate, with a long finish. With the smooth black fruits and spicy kick, this was an autumnal wine (we had the windows open and it was getting chilly – close enough), but Divya thought there was almost a candied peel tang at the end. Obviously, the natural companion would be steak, but whether that’s ostrich or beef is up to you. The croquetas went down pretty well too, despite negotiating a pan full of hot oil after three glasses of wine.
We unilaterally decided that this was our favourite of the three, although was more of a wine to accompany a meal rather than quaff on its own. #1 would serve that purpose perfectly).
And what were we eating…?
For those more interested in the menu, the ham croquetas were courtesy of Felicity Cloake’s unfailing Perfect… series (also in her book Perfect 2), tortilla adapted from BBC Good Food, and Spanish meats and cheese from Waitrose. Plates provided by me.