Beauty and the Beast: an evening of Riesling and Priorato reds
Anthony's at the Piazza, Leeds
1st May 2009

Many thanks to Damian Hosty for organising this event in a superb venue and with an inspired theme.

Congratulations to the kitchen on fine food, perfectly matched to the wines:


What could be better with mid weight riesling than scallops and cauliflower?
Venison with chocolate and red fruit (not that I detected the red fruit in the sauce, rather than than the three whole raspberries on it) is a cracking match with Priorato reds.
Also difficult to think of a better match with sweet rieslings than tarte tatin.

A very intelligent menu, though not exactly Yorkshire portions.  But equally, I didn't leave hungry.

A little something else on the plate, might have made the scallops look a little less lonely. A Jersey Royal each, maybe? Some real cauli? Some more of the elderflower foam would have been very welcome too.  Very nice scallops though, and perfectly cooked.

Again with the venison, just a touch more of the sauce might have been handy. Beautiful venison (loin), nicely cooked. The combination of chocolate and raspberry didn't appeal to Ian, but down our end of the table, it definitely hit the right note. Some pommes purée was served separately, and fortunately they succumbed to sad eyes suggesting that one bowl between two wasn't quite enough. Very, very smooth and runny, but not especially buttery. Maybe they're using some flavourless Spanish butter? 

The tarte tatin was spot on.

Onto the wines:

2002 Riesling Sekt, Kurt Hain
By far the oldest bottle I've had of these superb value (£8?) Sekts via Wilson Logan. Initially, the nose feels quite evolved, but then - rather oddly - it gets younger, displaying fresher notes with greater minerality and a light appley citrus air. Quite a rounded palate. Fairly crisp in the mouth, but with just a touch of sweet apples. Not merely a good Sekt, but a good, enjoyable fizz by any standard. 89/100

2006 Grey Slate Riesling Dry, Dönnhoff, 11.5%
A very minerally nose, followed by a real blast of peaches. Nice. Dry, but not aggressively so. Fairly full on the palate. Neat and clean, though ultimately a bit simple. Not noticeably better than many Finger Lakes, NY rieslings. I don't know the structure of Dönnhoff's range: is this at Gutsriesling level? That feels where it belongs. Good one though. 87/100

2001 Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Auslese, Von Hövel, AP Nr. 3525781-10-02, 7.5%
Rich, smoky, oily nose. Smelling very slightly older than maybe it should. Gorgeous pure Riesling palate. Impeccable balance. Quite dry feeling, especially for an Auslese, on the the finish, seemingly not all from acidity. 91/100

2004 Riesling Heissenberg, AC Alsace, Ostertag, 13.5%
Oaked and BD, apparently.
A heavy, very unusual nose - quite spirity. Smoky-oaky, with some quite green fruit behind. Served blind, I really think I'd be guessing at an oaked NZ sauvignon blanc. If you really struggle, there is a touch of riesling perfume to be found in the nose. Very big palate. This is completely barmy. Take all the essence of riesling, throw it in the skip, and come back with an oaked sauvignon. But for all that, it's a wine that grows on me with time. I don't think I'd want a lot of it, but find the right food for it, and a glass would go down really well. It's riesling Jim, but not as we know it. 86-87/100

2003 Riesling Clos Häuserer, AC Alsace, Zind Humbrecht, 13%
Combine the richness and weight that - for me - characterises the Zind Humbrecht style with the over-ripeness that was such a feture of 2003 in Europe, and what do you get? Well, pretty much the usual ZH style with no obvious 2003 malevolence. This has a big creamy nose with some alcohol evident - raisins and almost leafy blackberry on the nose, along with nice minerality. Very ripe palate. This is sweetish, rich riesling with more apparent alcoholic heat than the 13% on the label might suggest. Very rich, with maybe a slight tendency towards blowsiness? Not at all objectionable though. 87/100

2006 Riesling, White Springs, Finger Lakes, NY, 12%
There are fresh white flowers and petrol on the nose. Quite crowd pleasing on the palate. Some say, perhaps a little unfairly, Riesling by numbers. It's a nice, direct, off-dry riesling. Not especially challenging, but it could hold its head very high among many Mosel Gutsrieslings. It's a bit difficult to find much to say aobut it/describe it though. 87/100

2000 Riesling, Vinho Regional de Trás-os-Montes, E. Serpa Pimentel (Quinta da Pacheca), Portugal, 12.5%
Riesling? Portugal? Shome mishtake, shirley?
First off, the nose is very strange. It is Riesling, but odd, with fennel/anise notes and a very slight hint of raisined fruit. With exposure to air, it becomes increasingly sherrified. On the palate, its very, very dry, but not arising from any especially noticeable acidity. Very, very odd. As Damian says, you wouldn't want a full bottle. But it's quite drinkable. You might not kick it out of bed in the morning, but you'd not want it hanging around long after breakfast, and wouldn't be looking for a second date. 83/100
Hardly surprising this wasn't in Jamie Goode's selection of his top 50 Portuguese wines.

2006 Porrera, Celler Cal Pla, DO Priorat, 13.5%
Oxidised nose, but with a real weirdness that doesn't come entirely from oxidation, I think. Definitely a touch of urine on the nose. Lilies nappies is one suggestion. After a while, the oddness blows off a bit, exposing some strong vanilla oak with just a bit of peach fruit. On the palate, it just feels dried out and dry, with a concentrated medicinal note on the finish. This has little to recommend it, at least in this condition. I'd be interested to know what it's meant to be like ... 78/100

2003 Coma Vella, Mas d'en Gil, DO Priorat, 14.5%
Lovely bright red fruits on the nose, nothing especially interesting, but there's a real loveliness there. There's a vin joven feel to this, and none the worse for it. Plush ripe fruit on the palate with a real chocolatey and red fruit edge. This is lovely, easy drinking, and an absolutely perfect match with the venison. I really like this. You don't notice the hefty alcohol at all. 90/100

2006 Les Terrasses, Alvaro Palacios, DO Priorat, 14.5%
Precise black fruits characterise a nose that also manages to be plush and opulent. Unfortunately, the palate nowhere lives up to the promise of the nose. Very disappointing and very ordinary on the palate. Pretty much simple plonk. Blind, you'd probably be in Chile. 84/100

1999 L'Ermita, Alvaro Palacios, DO Priorat, 13.5%
Excellent nose - very elegant black fruits with a bit of tobacco. Lovely palate, with great restraint. A very noble feel. 92/100
This is sublime and, looking at it objectively, this should be WOTN, but for me, the Coma is the wine of the flight.

1998 Prior Terrae, Gran Vi de Guarda, Viticultors del Priorat a la proprietat del mas de Subirà, 14%
Bottle no. 2046 of 6200.
A very nice nose: very good black fruit. Peter's right: there's a slight touch of VA giving it a lovely gamey edge. Rather odd palate. Although it's already over 10 years old, the immediate impression is of significant tannins; then you get some sour cherries and more tannins. It doesn't seem to have to me the fruit to carry the tannins forward, although you do feel it needs 10+ years. Rather strange. By no means a straightforward wine. 86-88/100

1997 Clos de l'Obac, Costers del Siura, DO Priorat, 13.5%
A more concentrated, more international, more stable nose. But again, there's a slight lift. Nicely open palate with lots of almost funky tannins dominating a red fruit character.

1996 Gran Clos de J.M. Fuentes, Vinas Pizarra, DO Priorat, 13.5%
A good black and red fruits nose, with a raspberry lift. Hefty tannins, but in terms of the fruit, it's à point. Needs time? 89/100

1995 Clásico, Masia Barril, DO Priorat
Badly corked.

1996 Ultima Riesling, Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 14% residual sugar, 10.8% abv.
This is, according to the back label, made with frozen grapes. It has a rich, raisiny, caramel nose. Much purer and more riesling-like on the palate than the nose. Very clean and fresh on the palate. A very worthy effort. 89/100

1983 Mülheimer Helenenkloster Riesling Eiswein, Max Ferd. Richter
Hmmm ... this has what you might call a Strakers deep colour (and indeed that's where the two halves were sourced). Unusually caramelly on the nose. Good balance on the palate, and improving with time. This seems above all to me a triumph of the riesling grape over questionable storage. 87?/100
The second bottle was, sadly, corked.

The two ice wines side by side (Elk Cove on the left):


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Last updated: 6 July 2009