Semillon and Syrah - Dinner at Choice Bar & Restaurant, Manchester
6 November 2009

 The lineup of bottles:

1991 Tyrell's Old Winery Semillon, South Eastern Australia, 11%
Lemon groves on the nose, along with some hay. There's a nice weight on the palate. Very attractive and nicely balanced with good acidity on the finish. 90/100

2005 Mount Horrocks Semillon, Clare Valley, 14%
There's something raw and green on the nose of this. It's also much more buttery on the nose than the Tyrell's. On the palate, it's young and still fairly tight. There's lots of acidity, that's not really feeling particularly integrated. Blimey! Get those burnt match flavours in the mouth after! Woah! Going back to it, there's sulphur on the nose too.
With some time, it improved noticeably, but retaining the massive, searing acidity on the finish. 87/100

2003 L'expatrie Barossa Semillon, The Colonial Estate, 13%
A very elegant nose, with much more poise. Citrus scents, with a touch of vanilla, and a slight hint of wool. Very good palate. Very balanced, with good acidity. Much fresher than the Tyrells. Very nice indeed. 93/100

2000 Ch. Musar Blanc, 12.5%
Pear spirit, honey, vanilla and lots of volatile acidity on the nose. This isn't right, I think. and it does taste slightly corked, underneath some rich creaminess. This has none of the rich, satisfying savoury feel on a previous bottle. Faulty.

1996 De Bortoli Rare Dry Botrytis Semillon, South Eastern Australia, 13.5%
A much deeper colour than the others. Honey, apricots and lemon on the nose. It's rich and full on the palate. It feels like it should be sweet, but it isn't. Nice, complex flavours: some citrus, and maybe even some apricot fruit. But there's a certain bizarreness in the mixed messages it gives you. Very interesting, but it messes with your head. 92/100

2006 Syrah DOC Cortona, Tenimenti Luigi D'Alessandro, 13.5%
A youthful, vibrant nose with soft cherry fruit and a very subtle herbal lift. Young palate with lots of grippy tannin, followed up with a bit of raw alcohol on the finish. Rather green, unripe fruit in the mouth. Dull and unimpressive. Tuscany doesn't instantly make you think of syrah, and this bottle sort of explains why. 83/100

2005 Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée les Amandiers, Domaine du Murinais, 13%
This has an attractive nose - very slightly funky, and with lots of hedgerow fruits. Very nice palate. Very balanced with good poise. This feels to me more elegant than many Crozes. Very good flavours: sweetish fruit and there's a nice savouriness to it. 91/100

1999 Côte Rôtie Cuvée Spéciale La Vonière, Domaine de Vallouit, 13%
There are high tones immediately on the nose. Very powerful high tones. Very scented, reminding me of cheap air freshener. On the palate, there's sweet fruit initially, and lots of viognier fragrance to it. For my taste, it's very high toned to the detriment of much else. It would appeal to Burgundy lovers, but if I want Burgundy, I'd open a bottle of Burgundy, not Côte Rôtie. Others seem to really like this, but I'm left wondering if it's really meant to be like this, and just finding it very hard work. 84/100

1999 Cornas Chaillot, Thierry Allemand, 13%
Woah!!! Good grief. Sweaty armpits with extra cheese! And some furniture polish too.
Fortunately, the palate is as way out. There's sweet fruit, but a nice finesse. This has really good balance and is very fine on the finish, with very good length. 92/100

2007 040°S 177°E Regional Reserve Syrah, Hawkes Bay, Glazebrook Wines, 13%
An interesting nose with a subtle meatiness. Salami maybe, alongside a touch of bisto and chocolate. In the mouth, it's powerful stuff. Very hot. Really rather simple feeling. There's also an odd, treacly feel at the edge of the palate. Not for me. 82/100

1992 Syrah Bien Nacido Reserve, Santa Barbara County, Qupé, 12.5%
Yes, only 12.5% alcohol. An attractive nose: fairly meaty, with some bacon fat and some sweet black and red fruit. Lovely palate, with a lovely texture. It's luscious without being heavy. Mmm ... this is a lovely wine. It has a dusty, arid not-quite-garrique feel that speaks so much of the terroir. Superb wine. 94/100

1996 St Hallet Old Block Shiraz, Barossa, 13.5%

1998 Penfolds St Henri, South Australia, 14%
A rather subtle nose with very gentle black fruits and some herbal, almost medicinal notes. On the palate, there's a silky, caressing mouthfeel. Very precise. Very classy. 92/100

2003 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz, South Australia, 14%
A much more concentrated nose than the St Henri, with bacon-y, gamey, black fruit. A really luscious mouthfeel: velvety and rich initially, giving way to fruit, giving way to a very firm tannic structure on the finish. Very big after. Huge length, though quite medicinal and numbing, like the effect of oil of cloves at the dentist's. 90/100

2000 Ledge Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, Chain of Ponds, 13.5%
Herbes de provence and dried rosemary dominate the nose, along with some lamb fat. There's lots of dried herbal character on the palate too, along with a certain meatiness. In fact, this is quite simply roast lamb in a glass! A very interesting wine, at least in the context of these other syrahs/shirazes. It might be a bit odd on its own in isolation though. 90/100

2000 Stonewell Barossa Shiraz, Peter Lehmann, 14.5%
A very sweet, very jammy, rather simple nose: sweet plummy fruit with some chocolate. On the palate, it's sweet and jammy with parkeresque fruit gobbiness. Good if you like this sort of thing, but it left me feeling unrewarded. 87/100

2001 Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz, 13.5%
A refined nose - really rather minerally; fairly sweet; slightly lifted; slightly confected. A much nicer palate than the nose. Elegant fruit and very poised. Good stuff. 91/100

2007 Two Hands Angels Share Shiraz, McLaren Vale, 15.5%
An interesting nose with really quite subtle black fruits, bacon fat and dried herbs. In the mouth, this is large rather than big. Muscular and well toned, rather than big and flabby - remarkably so given the high alcohol content, which it carries (and hides) extraordinarily well. Very good balance. I like this more than I thought I was going to. 90/100

2002 Semillon Late Harvest, DO Cachapoal Valley, El Toqui or if you read the other front label 2002 Semillon Late Harvest, Las Casas del Toqui, Cachapoal Valley, 11.5%, 375ml
Some wines have front and back labels on the bottles; this has two different front labels.
A dull, rther dried out, nothing-y nose. Musky and foxy with just a hint of TCA? On the palate, you can see some fresh, reasonably elegant fruit, but it is corked. My second time with this wine in this vintage: the first wasn't corked, but it was very dull.

2006 Ch. Ramon Cuvée Eglantine, AC Monbazillac, 12.5%
Stonkingly badly corked.

1996 Ch. de Cérons, AC Cérons, 13.5%, 375ml
A soft gentle nose, revealing delicate, fresh and gentle botrytis. Fairly simple, balanced palate. Reasonably straightforward. Very honest and almost rustic. 88/100

One of the worst rates of corked wines that I can remember at one of these events.


An impressively good stab at getting accents right on the menu is noteworthy.

On the whole, I thought this was good, but for our purposes too many dishes had an element that wasn't wine-friendly. If we can persuade them to leave out/replace all the vinegary elements (balsamic with bread, picallili with paté and pickled red cabbage with the venison) next time, that'd be good. Some potatoes or other starch with the pork and venison main courses would have been good.

Good, hot bread came with a balsamic dressing, unsalted butter, a paprika(?) butter and chicken liver paté. When I first saw the menu, I thought serving chicken liver paté with bread was a bit of a gimmicky affectation, but I was wrong. Nice idea, and nice, very soft paté.

the crab dish
The Crab Crème. Served hot, this was very nice with just enough cayenne to give it a kick without overpowering the crab, nor the wines.

goats cheese dish
Goat's cheese and olive starter.

venison dish
Venison with Pumpkin & red cabbage.  The least successful of the dishes I had/saw. Like others' pork, the venison was barely lukewarm. There seemed to have been an issue in getting it all out at the same time while still warm enough. Hotter plates would have helped, as would some sauce. Looking at this photo, it looks an incomplete dish on the plate.
Of course, the focus on the wines can often mean the food's gone cold before everyone gets round to eating it ...

A nice cheese selection, in good condition was followed by

Trio of mini desserts weren't really that mini. Crème brûlée was good, though perhaps just a tad too liquid. Lemon tart was a little overpowered by the raspberry coulis, but was good. The parkin with spiced apples divided opinion, but I enjoyed it. Not a sticky parkin, but served warm, with a nice crust on one edge that indicated that it hadn't been microwaved (as did its lightness).

Back to home page

Last updated: 14 January 2010