ANNUAL PROTHERO BLIND CHALLENGE
Establishment Restaurant, Manchester
28th July 2006
Keith Prothero's annual blind tasting challenge, this year in Manchester, with the proceeds going to the Pebbles Charity (www.pebblesproject.co.za). All the wines were, of course, served blind.
2002 Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg Riesling QbA, Georg Breuer, AP Nr. 2 415 3 001 03
A sweetish mature riesling nose with some residual sugar evident. There's also a hint of smoky bacon crisps along with lots of mineraly perfume. An oldish, mature palate. Good balance. Very even round fruit with a hint of spice and a touch of heat on the finish. I think this is early to mid 1980s Hock, but David's pulling me off down an GrüV route.
I was astonished, and a bit concerned, to see this was as young as 2002. It really felt like it had much more age than that. Poor storage maybe? (90 pts.)
2001 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Te Koko, Marlborough, New Zealand
A stinky nose with a bit of asparagus on the finish. Clearly sauvignon blanc, but it has a remarkably creamy palate, presumably from some oak. Is this warm climate sauvignon blanc? Just a bit blowsy, but overall it carries itself well enough, and the oak's well used. (87 pts.)
2002 André Perret St. Joseph
A sweet, perfumed nose, with hints of cheap chain store perfume, rather than Chanel No 5 elegance. Viognier? But it doesn't have the marzipan notes I'd expect. But I'll stick with white Rhône, perhaps a white Châteauneuf. Round, sweet fruit on the palate, and a touch melony. Very open palate, though there's a curious touch of metallic bitterness. (89 pts.)
2003 Le Cigare Blanc, Bonny Doon Vineyard, California, 14.5%
A cheesy, sweaty nose with some reduction. Open palate. Very full, but with no distinction whatsoever. Hard finish. Lacks character, lacks fruit, lacks anything particularly appealing. No idea on what grape/s this might be, even less what it is or where it's from.
Keith reveals that it's 97% roussanne and 3% grenache blanc. Well, if roussanne were a person, it'd be suing the maker of this crap for defamation. Disappointing wine.
Even more disappointing when it's revealed as Bonny Doon Cigare Blanc. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
The best you could say is that it's innocuous and drinkable. (79 pts.)
1990 Château Gruaud Larose, AC St. Julien
A very deep colour, almost black, but not especially young - maybe 10-15 years old? I very much recognise the nose, but can't place it instantly. A bit weedy on the nose with hints of blackcurrant. A delicately balanced palate, but quite a masculine claret. Lovely stuff. I'd guess at St Julien, early to mid '90s, though an even-numbered year, I'd say. (92 pts.)
1996 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707
A younger colour than the preceding wine. The nose is smoky and tobacco-laden with lots of black fruit. Others are talking of cassis, but I'm not getting that and wonder if it's something with lots of cab franc and maybe a bit of merlot. White horses flit across my mind, but it's not that. Open, lovely palate, with ripe fruit, yet also very elegant. A very enjoyable wine. Probably new world rather than old, but I didn't get further than that before it was revealed. (93 pts.)
2001 Ashbourne, Hamilton Russell, W.O. Walker Bay, South Africa, 14%
A dark colour, starting to mature. Smoky, blackberry nose with green minty notes. Ripe and very hot on the palate, with lots of alcohol. Rather green fruit on the palate. I was wondering about a merlot-cab from say 1995, when it was revealed to be a Hamilton Russell Pinotage, though none of us could find any mention of pinotage on the label, nor any trace of classic pinotage in the mouth or nose. This is without a doubt the most enjoyable pinotage I've ever had, and even rather drinkable, but that may be simply because Hamilton Russell have managed to remove all pinotage-like traits from the wine.
18 barrels made, according to the label. (87 pts.)
2001 Quinta do Vale Meão, DOC Douro, 14.5%
A very dark, young colour - young black plum skins. A big, heady nose full of black fruit and minerally talc. A bit strange on the palate. Feels very young. There are lots of black fruits on the palate, but it doesn't seem overripe. A firm tannic structure. A pleasant wine, though it feels a bit international.
It was a bit surprising to see on the reveal that it was from the Douro and a port blend, as it didn't really have much Douro character.
65% touriga nacional; 25% touriga francesa, 5% tinto roriz and 5% tinta barocca. (88 pts.)
1993 Château Cheval Blanc, AC St. Émilion Grand Cru, 12.5%
A fairly mature garnet. Quite a fresh black fruit, blackcurrant nose. Sweet pure fruit flavours in the mouth, with ripe fruit evident. Very pleasant and easy drinking. Lovely stuff. I completely missed this, wondering if it was an Australian cabernet or cabernet blend from the early 1990s. Only 12.5% abv, which is nice. (92 pts.)
1994 Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Chopin-Groffier, 13%
A nice mature colour. this nose is very interesting and a touch high toned, with some darkfruit. I guess syrah from the northern Rhône and from the early 1980s. Full, spicy and open on the palate, with grippy tannins on the finish. Even after it's revealed, I'd still be thinking more in terms of northern Rhône, not Burgundy. Very strange. (91 pts.)
1995 Solaia, Marchese Antinori, IGT Toscana - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT, 13% (80% cabernet, 20% sangiovese)
A young, very dark purple. Very perfumed black fruit. Very tannic. Quite pure, direct fruit. Seems Italian, and Keith confirms that. I don't really like it, so guess at Barbaresco, mid 90's, let's say Gaja Barbaresco 1995. Wrong on everything but the year! This is Antinori's Cab dominated Solaia. (89 pts.)
1994 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, Early Release, Marqués de Murrieta, Rioja , 13%
A high toned nose with red fruits and a hint of citrus, which has me rushing off towards Musar. Fresh and clean on the palate. A touch spicy. Rather good. Musar '95, I wonder? No, it's not Musar we're told. Then it must be Spain and the high tones would make me think of Vega Sicilia, but it doesn't really feel like that or even like Ribera at all, which leaves Rioja, and I'm sticking with mid '90s.
Revealed as Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 1994 Early Release. I'm not convinced by these early release Ygays ... (90 pts.)
1962 Château La Mission Haut-Brion, AC Pessac-Léognan
A mature colour. Very cedary, very old nose, that's hugely attractive. This is proper stuff! Old and fully mature on the palate, but still very much alive. Very clean, very gentle old fruit. Very soft tannins, but they're still there. This is delicious and my clear WOTN. (96 pts.)
2003 Giaconda Warner Vineyard, Shiraz
A deep, very dark purple appearance. Deep, very young blackberry fruit. Ozzie Shiraz? Very direct, very pure fruit on the attack. Very big tannins. Gosh, this is very, very young. Far too young. Very sweet syrah fruit. Rather hot on the finish. This may well be destined to sort itself out and improve in the future, but it's not for me as it stands now. (84 pts.)
1997 Côte-Rôtie La Mordorée, M. Chapoutier , 12.8%
The nose is leathery, with raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a touch metallic. There is sweet black fruit on the palate. Ripe fruit. There is no particular varietal character and no particular terroir character. Nothing in particular to identify it all. A decent wine, but very unexceptional. Chapoutier should be ashamed of this. (84 pts.)
1998 Paolo Scavino Barolo, 14.5%
A maturing dark ruby. Meaty, sweaty and leathery on the nose. Very complex palate: ripe fruit, but with really good structure. A very fine wine indeed, with a lovely elegance. (92 pts.)
2003 de Trafford Chenin Blanc Straw Wine, W.O. Stellenbosch, 14%
Mid to deep gold. Lots of botrytis on the nose and very citrussy. Sweet, luscious, yet overall it just seems rather simple.
202 g/l RS according to the label. (89 pts.)
1995 Sämling 88 Trockenbeerenauslese, Helmut Lang, Neusiedlersee, Austria , 8.5%
A deep gold colour. Lovely nose with apricots and overripe peach. Very intense palate with real purity and lovely apricot fruit. My guess is that this is Austrian and scheurebe, and it must be either eiswein or TBA, and if any of that's right, it's probably from one of the small producers doing wacky things around Illmitz and the Neusiedlersee. Could be Kracher, though I think the bottle shape is wrong. Very yummy and markedly more complex and interesting than the de Trafford Straw Wine. Only 8.5% abv too, we find out post-reveal. (94 pts.)
1999 Meerlust Rubicon, W.O. Stellenbosch, 13%
A slightly stinky nose with some drains and some VA. Decent palate. A bit high toned, but the high tones don't for me redeem what just seems to be a dull Bordeaux blend that's slightly clumsy. Though, to be entirely fair, it is probably suffering by coming after the two sweeties. (83 pts.)
2001 Domaine A Pinot Noir, HP & R Althaus, Tasmania, 15%
This wasn't blind. 3290 bottles produced, bottled unfiltered.
A gorgeous, earthy green pepper and bovril nose with sweet, perfumed dried fruit. Very perfumed palate. Very overdone. Very unpleasant. Nasty. (76 pts.)
2000 Samos Anthemis, vin de liqueur, Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos , 15%
(My wine, so I knew what it was).
This is a Samos muscat vin doux, aged for five years in French oak. The barrels are not full, alloweing a degree of oxidation to take place.
A palish yellow teak colour with greenish tinges. Raisined, grapey nose, feeling slightly maderised. Sweet and very fruity on the palate. Excellent structure. Not oversweet by any means. This has the elegance of an old Madeira, but with a lovely freshness. This was a sample from the producer at the LIWSF: wine-searcher says it's under a tenner from most stockists: I think I want to buy some of this.(95 pts.)
2002 Malbec "Q", Familia Zuccardi, Mendoza, Argentina
(This wasn't blind)
Tobacco and old leather on the nose. A lovely rich palate: spicy with ripe fruit. Lovely balance. Very Good Indeed. (92 pts.)
Establishment was very good again. The semi-private circular room at the centre (known to all as Stonehenge) makes a great venue, and the one large table works well. Lots of room for bottles and decanters. Thanks are due to Gary Lewis at Establishment for making this possible for us on a busy Friday night.
The food was very much on form, with the excellent breads arriving throughout the meal to facilitate mopping up.
The appetiser was a slice of a small chicken and chicken liver terrine Looked a bit dull on the plate, but, with a tiny bit of additional salt, it delivered in the mouth.
The starter was an utterly delicious Tartare of hand dived scallops, chilled English pea velouté, Oscietra caviar, peashoots and black truffle This was a superb dish, the finely chopped scallops, mixed with the caviar and formed into a small pattie in the centre of the bowl, topped with black truffle and peashoots (probably the only tiny leaves worth eating). I was uncertain about how well the pea velouté would go with the scallops at first (these days, cauliflower is the chefs' veg of choice with scallops), but the freshness and sweetness of the peas worked really well with the scallop tartare.
It, and the resulting conversation at our end of the table also inspired me to do steak tartare the next night. Steak Tartare is a great dish, though mine wasn't quite as nice as one I had in Bordeaux last year at Le Café Bordelais.
The main course was a Slow roasted best end of lamb, this came with some beautifully cooked liver, some crispy fried sweetbreads, and a goats cheese canneloni. Jolly good meat.
A plate of, I think five, really good cheeses followed, including one of Mrs Kirkham's Lancashires, some reblochon and some stilton.
Dessert was a lovely coconut ice cream with mixed berry fruits in one bowl, and a half-frozen, half-jellied fruit terrine on an accompanying glass plate. The terrine included some citrus and some other fruits and some banana in the middle. I think, for me, the banana dominated a bit too much and gave it all a slightly odd, confected flavour. I didn't like the terrine at all, and I think quite a few others didn't. Stephen Pickles did, however, like it and I think ended up with four or five portions to wash the milk thistle down!
£60 for all that including service and corkage and use of Stonehenge, represented very good value, I thought.
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Last updated: 31 July 2006