Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

Blind Tasting chez Keith & Clare

April 2020. A sequence of excellent wines, all in perfect condition, was recently tasted by me and other oenophiles at the home of my friends Keith and Clare. Here are my impressions.


A 2006 Riesling Smaragd from Hirsch, Austria, had a delightful scent of spring flowers with a suggestion of gooseberry which led into a gently succulent flavour of slatey minerality. A slight sweetness initially suggested Germany, but it also exhibited a degree of dryness more reminiscent of Alsace (but without that special Alsatian herbyness). Once those two places had been eliminated it simply had to be from Austria, the only other place able to capture that special delicacy inherent in Riesling when on just the right soil.


A second white (which proved to be a 2005 Riesling Trocken from Burklin Wolf in Pfalz) was clearly from a more southerly, sunnier, part of Germany, given its dryness and not inconsiderable body and weight. At first it seemed faintly maderized but that aspect vanished quickly. All the same, it at first struck me as more like a Pinot Gris because of its roundness and volume, and even exhibited the kind of slight bitterness often found in that variety. A very good food wine with a special earthiness and hints of magnesium on the finish.


The 2004 Charmes Chambertin from Rousseau had a very evolved look and I thought at first it was about 30 years old. It had an ethereal scent of plum jam, orange peel, and rose petals, with a suggestion of strawberry too. It gained in body in the glass, growing rounder and fuller and, in the end, showed true Pinot Noir finesse, not to mention that unique Rousseau subtlety. Though from a light vintage, it had a light but firm structure that was characteristically Côte de Nuits.


The 2000 Cornas from Jaboulet was unmistakeably Syrah but I went initially for Côte-Rôtie. Then I caught that special incisiveness of Cornas – a growth that can show a unique kind of delicacy, its power (100% Syrah) notwithstanding. A hint of blackcurrant leaf on the nose, a touch of cherry on the mid-palate. Also from a light vintage, it showed well on the night but was clearly not for long keeping.


The 1999 Taurasi Radici from Mastroberardino was a terrific wine and, with its slightly savage attack, displayed tremendous force and personality. It smelled like a meld of dried fig, prunes, black fruits, and truffle, and – despite its power – also showed a bracing freshness. Unmistakeably Italian, it’s a wine with a great future.


The 1996 Léoville Barton was instantly recognizable as a St Julien, though it almost had the force of a Pauillac. But St. Julien subtlety prevailed. Plum jam and blackberry dominated on the palate and the aftertaste was very long. A wine of true distinction, with that subtle hint of ozone so typical of top Médocs.


The 1993 Grange Hermitage was another superb wine – and reconizable as an Aussie of the sort capable of achieving finesse over time. Its round, fresh aroma made me think of roast chestnuts, fig jam, molasses, smoke, and coffee beans. There was a feeling of contained power – like a pat from the paw of a big dog whose claws, luckily, are retracted!


The 1990 Hermitage La Chapelle was a giant of a wine, clearly capable of continuing to evolve for several more decades. It had the volume of a vintage port but without the sweetness, and great depth of flavour. Wonderful to drink on the night but sure to grow more and more impressive as the years – or decades – roll by.


The 89 Vouvray Demi Sec from Clos Naudin was a first-rate accompaniment to the dessert (an excellent cake) at meal’s end.


I sent these notes to Keith who replied as follows:


“Thank you for your comments. I thought you might like to know how [the wines] developed in the decanters. The Cornas went rather flat and acidic after 24 hours but both the Léoville and the Grange were superb after 48 hours,both growing more elegant in structure.


But it took three days for the Taurasi Riserva to show its fully evolved character. It has a long future. Unfortunately no Rousseau or ’90 Hermitage La Chapelle was left at the end of the evening so they couldn’t be re-tasted.


© Frank Ward 2020


%d bloggers like this: