The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2005
26-27 November 2005

Decanter Magazine runs a number of tastings each year: the biggest is the Fine Wine Encounter.  This year it took place, as in previous years, at the Landmark Hotel next to Marylebone Station in London.

There is always a vast number of producers and individual wines to taste: this year three grand rooms in the hotel held 100 producers' stands, each with up to ten wines available for tasting (most had 6 to 8 wines).  Most producers bring their top wines, many unavailable in the UK or unavailable anywhere as they're sold out .  Obviously, it's not possible to taste all the wines on offer.  I tend to base my selection of what to taste based on two main factors: wines I'm particularly interested in and stands that do not have huge crowds around them.

Alongside this huge walk-round tasting are a series of masterclasses, offering in-depth looks at particular growers/producers or themes. I attended the following masterclasses:

Here are brief, unedited notes of the wines I tasted on the walkround tasting.

Domäne Schloss Johannisberg
Rheingau, Germany

2004 Riesling Gelblack Qualitätswein
Quite a sweet nose. Very much off-dry. Quite simple, but palatable. Good.

2004 Riesling Rotlack Kabinett
A decent minerally nose. Decent palate. Good.

2004 Riesling Grünlack Spätlese Trocken
Quite slight on the nose. Vibrant and lively. Good length. More character than the first two. Very Good +

2002 Riesling Grünlack Spätlese
A ripish riesling nose. Nice pure flavours with good depth. A nice gentle sweetness with good fruit. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Riesling Grünlack Spätlese
Good nose. Much less focussed than the 2002 on the palate. Ripe and a touch sweeter. Very Good -

2004 Riesling Grünlack Spätlese
Excellent nose. Much more focussed than the 2003. Quite a lot of sweetness. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Riesling Rosalack Auslese
Quite a slight nose. Very pure flavours. Excellent balance. Doesn't feel as sweet as the 2004 Spätlese. Very Good Indeed.
£60 (shocking!)

2004 Riesling Rosa-Goldlack Beerenauslese, 375ml
AP 015 04. 120 litres of Beerenauslese were made in 2004.
Quite sweet but not at all over the top. Hard not to be won over by this, but if a plain Spätlese is £60, I dread to think how much this is - and however much it is, it's not going to be worth it.

It's a shame all the Johannisberg wines are so aggressively priced.

Grant Burge Wines
Barossa Valley, Australia

2000 Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon
Very pure cabernet fruit on the nose and on the palate. A very attractive wine. Very concentrated. Maybe a touch simple. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 Filsell Shiraz
A smoky, tarrey, chocolatey nose. Very sweet, ripe fruit on the palate. very good balance. Velvety rich-textured palate. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Meshach Shiraz
A wine, Grant Burge says, that he makes to age. (He says to keep the 1995 for another 10-15 years.)
A deep, perfumed coffee-mocha nose with a distinct hint of violets. Rich and very ripe fruit on the palate, yet retaining a good balance.

Domaines Faiveley
Burgundy, France

2004 La Framboisière Mercurey Rouge
Decent nose. Good textured palate. A bit unbalanced. OK

2000 Clos de la Maréchale Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru
Attractive nose. Very tight on the palate. Very Good Indeed.

1998 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 1er Cru
Very fine nose. Lovely palate. Really balanced with layers of flavours. Very Good Indeed +

Charles Joguet
Loire, France

2004 Clos de la Plante Martin Blanc, AC Touraine
Quite Rhoney on the nose with some sweet marzipan. Very rich on the palate. Round and full, apparently with a touch of sweetness. Nice balance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2004 Cuvée Terroir, AC Chinon
Cabernet Franc. Curious nose - hedgerows and furniture polish with some cherry fruit. Rather fine and very elegant on the palate. Light, but with a lovely fragrant character. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Les Petites Roches, AC Chinon
Quite earthy on the nose with a touch of stink. Very thin palate. Very dull. OK.

2003 Cuvée de la Cure, AC Chinon
Single vineyard. Closed nose. Good fruit on the palate. Light and elegant, but not at all exciting. Very Good +.

2003 Les Varennes du Grand Clos, AC Chinon
Red berry fruity nose. Nice character on the palate. Good/Very Good.

2003 Clos du Chêne Vert, AC Chinon
Dull nose with some green notes. Noticeably sweeter than the Les Varennes and the Dioterie on the palate. Good fruit and balance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 Clos de la Dioterie, AC Chinon
Lovely nose with berry fruit, cedar and a hint of vanilla. Very full with nice balance. Good character with layers of fruit on the palate. Very Good Indeed.

Les Domaines Paul Mas
Languedoc, France

2003 Château Paul Mas, AC Côteaux du Languedoc
Lovely nose with attractive round hedgerow fruits. Good concentration but very heavy tannins and quite astringent. Has some good points, but eminently avoidable.  Good (just)

2004 Paul Mas Cabernet Reserve Vignes de Savignac
Cedary cigar-box nose. Good focussed palate. Very Good.

2004 Paul Mas Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Dull, slightly buttery nose. Unbalanced. OK.

2004 Paul Mas Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d'Oc
A rich nose, lacking sauvignon blanc character. Full palate. Not entirely integrated with some unpleasant sour notes.

2004 La Forge Estate Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Nice, ripe tobacco-laden, black fruit nose. A bit light. Slightly too much fresh acidity, but some chocolate hints on the finish balance it a bit. Very Good.

2004 La Forge Estate Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc
Unfiltered. Very attractive nose with warm red fruit. Very precise on the palate. Nicely focussed. Good depth. Somewhat drying tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Paul Mas Marselan
The marselan grape is a grenache-cabernet hybrid.
Round, warm fruity nose - very attractive. Very interesting palate. Unusual flavours. A bit odd initially. Very Good +

2004 Arrogant Frog Ribet Red
Cabernet-merlot (55%:45%) blend, allegedly made by "the humble winemaker" (in reality Domaines Paul Mas). Good fresh, ripe claretty nose. Nice palate. Straightforward and simple, yet very drinkable. Nice spice on the finish. Very Good.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône

2003 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Red
The red Vieux Télégraphe is predominantly grenache-based (65% grenache, 15% mourvèdre, 15% syrah, 5% cinsault and various others), from vines that are on average fifty years old on the stony Plateau de la Crau in the south east of the Châteuneuf appellation, where the villages of Bédarrides, Châteauneuf and Couthézon meet.  The grapes are hand-picked and, after selective destemming and gentle pressing, undergo 15-20 days' traditional fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, before being pressed in a pneumatic press and then undergoing malolactic fermentation.  The resulting wines are aged for the first nine months in concrete tanks, followed by a further 8-12 months in 50-70 hectolitre foudres before bottling without filtration at about 20 months and put on the market at two years.  Very concentrated, slightly closed nose. Massive structure immediately. Lots of tannin, but the fruit fights through. Very Good.

2004 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, White
The VT white is a blend of 40% clairette, 30% grenache blanc, 15% bourboulenc and 15% roussanne from vines with an average age of 35 years, growing on the Plateau de la Crau.  60% is fermented in tanks, 40% in barriques, and it is aged partly in tank, partly in barrique before bottling at 9 months.  This has a full round nose in a more traditional style than the La Roquette. Similarly on the palate, but with a nice cleansing acidity on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2003 La Roquette Châteauneuf-du-Pape Red
The Grenache:Syrah:Mourvèdre (70:20:10) grapes come from vine that are almost 40 years old in 62 acres of vineyards in the stony Plateau du Pielong (50%), various hillsides (30%) and sandy soils in the Pignan district (20%). The wine is aged in concrete tanks for the first nine months, then put into 50-70 hectolitre foudres for a further 8-10 months depending on the vintage.  Charming nose. Lovely palate. Clean and precise with a nice structure. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Clos La Roquette, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The lieu-dit La Roquette as a very sandy topsoil on top of red clay mixed with a friable stone called pierre de Châteauneuf.  This wine is a blend in equal parts of roussanne, bourboulenc, grenache blanc and clairette from vines that are around fifteen years old.  Aged partly in tanks, partly in barriques for seven months before bottling.  Good, aromatic nose. Very good palate. Better balance than most. Has a lovely freshness. Lighter and crisper. Very Good.

2003 Les Pallières, Gigondas Rouge
This Gigondas from Vignobles Brunier is a blend of 80% grenache, 10% syrah, 5% mourvèdre and 5% from vines with an average age of 55 years, growing on northwest facing hillside terraces in the district of Les Pallières in the north of the Gigondas appellation. Very elegant grenache nose. Good fruit with nice structure. Very Good Indeed (just)

Ontario, Canada

2003 Oak Aged Vidal Icewine
A very intense pear nose. Very sweet. Very Good Indeed, but I'm still not over-impressed by Vidal.

2002 Riesling Icewine
The nose is sweet and almost marmaladey. Very sweet on the palate. Good concentration. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Sparkling Icewine
Produced by the Charmat method.  Peachy and fruity - dry fruit - on the nose. Very Good balance. The bubbles really help it by cutting the sweetness and giving it better balance. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

2002 Cabernet Franc Icewine
Strawberry-blackcurrant jam on the nose. Really very sweet. Possibly lacks some purity. Maybe just too easy. Very Good.

Marlborough, New Zealand

2004 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc
Big, very fresh, pea stalk and asparagus nose. Crisp and clean with good depth. Very Good.

2003 Stoneleigh Chardonnay
50% barrel fermented and barrel aged. Round, very fresh nose. Very good on the palate - very attractive. Easy drinking with some interest too. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Stoneleigh Riesling
Very minerally on the nose. A very interesting flavour profile, with a touch of residual sugar evident. Clean, and it has a nice weight to it. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Stoneleigh Rosé
24-hour skin contact. Fantastic stewed strawberry nose. Very round on the attack. Very good palate with great fruit. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir
Spends 10 months in oak. On the nose, the oak is very evident with very little fruit. Very attractive palate. A textbook New Zealand pinot noir. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc
Made from fruit from selected vineyards and left on its lees for six weeks.
Asparagus and gooseberry on the nose. A very nice New Zealand sauvignon blanc indeed. Very Good Indeed +.

2004 Rapaura Series Pinot Gris
Fairly dumb nose. Quite Alsatian in style. Good purity of fruit with interesting flavours building in the mouth, especially towards the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Rapaura Series Pinot Noir
Matured for 12 months in new and old French oak. An attractive nose with not too much oak. Decent enough palate. Very Good.

Seppi Landmann
Alsace, France

2004 Riesling Vallée Noble
A nice light minerally riesling nose with a touch of sweetness. Good palate, with a fair weight to the wine. Decent balance. Very Good+.

2002 Riesling Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé
A very deep riesling nose with honey and slate. Very pure. A distinctly off-dry feel, but with really nice balance. Very Good Indeed.

1999 Riesling Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé Vendange Tardive
Well, I wouldn't guess it was a VT from the nose: quite a fresh, minerally riesling nose. The VT weight is obvious on the palate, though it lacks the balance of the first two. Good.

2000 Tokay Pinot Gris Vallée Noble
A rich nose with lots of tropical fruit. Very nice palate. This is a lovely pinot gris with good weight and really nice balance. Very Good Indeed +.

2002 Tokay Pinot Gris Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé
Really quite sweet. But lovely balance. Very fine indeed. Very Good Indeed +.

1999 Tokay Pinot Gris Vallée Noble Hospices de Strasbourg
A much more focussed nose. More powerful on the palate - almost too much so! The pinot gris flavours are a bit too strong and the bit of oak ageing that this wine has had just serves to muddy it. Good.

2004 Gewurztraminer Vallée Noble
Lots of light rose petals on the nose. Good palate - I was concerned from the nose that it might have been a bit over-extracted, but needn't have worried. This has good balance and no hardness. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé
Lovely lychee and rose perfume. Excellent balance. There's a very light hand evident in the winemaking here. Very Good Indeed +.

Château Beychevelle
Saint Julien, Bordeaux

2002 Château Beychevelle
Rather closed, spicy and hot on the nose. Good firm structure. A very masculine wine. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Château Beychevelle
Earthy, brambly nose with lots of blackcurrant fruit. Very attractive on the attack with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel and nice flavours of fruit and roast meat/coffee. Very fine tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

1994 Château Beychevelle
An even, fairly mature ruby without bricking. Nice perfume on nose. Quite delicate on the palate with good tannic structure. Very Good Indeed.

Château Phélan-Ségur
Saint Estèphe, Bordeaux

1999 Château Phélan-Ségur
Very soft elegant nose. Soft and very elegant on the palate. A very feminine structure. Excellent.

2002 Château Phélan-Ségur
An open, expressive, characterful nose. Good palate. Very nice structure. Quite masculine. Very Good Indeed.

Château Rauzan-Ségla
Margaux, Bordeaux

2001 Château Rauzan-Ségla
63% cabernet sauvignon; 34% merlot; 36% cabernet franc
Rich black fruits and chocolate on the nose. Young on the palate. Decent structure. Lots of tannins on the finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1996 Château Rauzan-Ségla
60% cabernet sauvignon; 40% merlot
An earthy nose with some coffee and blackcurrants. Very attractive. Maturing but with a nice freshness. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Ségla
63% cabernet sauvignon;34% merlot; 3% petit verdot
Truffley nose with sweet blackcurrant fruit. Good palate with nice even flavours. Spicy fresh tannins on the finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1998 Ségla
Attractive cassis nose. Good, smooth palate. Nice structure. Gentle tannins on the finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

Château Suduiraut
Sauternes, Bordeaux

1999 Château Suduiraut
90% semillon; 10% sauvignon blanc
A much deeper, more complex nose than the 2002 Castelnau. Very deep and multilayered on the palate, with waves of lovely richness followed by freshness. There's a very fresh note in there. Very Good Indeed +

2002 Castelnau de Suduiraut
90% semillon; 10% sauvignon blanc. First made in 1992.
A lovely, delicate perfumed nose: very gentle with light orangey honeying. Very impressive with fine, delicate flavours. Sweeter than the 1999 Suduiraut. Very Good Indeed.

2004 "S" de Suduiraut
60% semilllon; 40% sauvignon blanc
A very nice, very fresh, fragrant nose. Very light. Very, very dry. Enormous length. Very Good Indeed.

Château Talbot
St Julien, Bordeaux

1995 Château Talbot
Nice even maturing ruby colour. Delicate cassis nose with hints of hedgerow. Very young on the palate. Nice structure. Very fine tannins. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Château Talbot
A concentrated nose with lots of cassis fruit. Very concentrated, quite sweet fruit on the palate. Soft tannic structure. Almost more approachable than the 1995. Very Good Indeed.

Château Edem
Rhône Valley

2001 Château Edem, Grandes Terres Red, Côtes du Lubéron
Nice light, open fruity nose. Very simple on the palate. Good/Very Good.

2001 Château Edem, Seigneurie du Lubéron Red
The same as the first wine, except this was aged in oak 10-12 months. A gentle, very attractive nose. Very smooth. Significant tannins. Very Good.

2003 Château Edem, Cuvée des Seigneurs Red, Côtes du Ventoux
From south-facing vineyards; predominantly syrah, with some grenache.
Lovely cherry and black fruit perfumed nose. Good, clean palate with lots of character. Very Good.

2003 Château Edem, Cuvée des Seigneurs Red, Côtes du Lubéron
From north-facing vineyards; again mainly syrah, together with some grenache and very old vine carignan.
A much more defined syrah nose. Sweet fruit. Seems a bit simple initially, but after a moment, some layers of flavour open up. Very Good+.

2004 Domaine Edem, Viognier, Vin de Pays des Portes de la Méditerranée
Lovely perfumed nose. Lovely fresh, elegant fruit flavours. Nice balance. Really good fruit character, and very clean. Very fine on the finish. Easy and interesting. Very Good +.

2004 Château Edem, Ventoux Rosé, AC Côtes du Ventoux
60% syrah; 40% grenache noir
A delicate nose. Fragrant, fruity palate. Very well made but fairly simple. Good.

2004 Château Edem, Ventoux White, AC Côtes du Ventoux
A blend of roussanne, clairette and ugni blanc
Fresh, fragrant nose. Very crisp with overtly pear flavours. Very Good Indeed.

Château Coutet
Barsac, Bordeaux

1998 Château Coutet
Very pale colour. Very delicate nose. Quite simple flavours at the moment. Too Young. Very Good (+)

1997 Château Coutet
This has much more to it than the 1998. A lovely complex nose. Much more powerful palate with great concentration. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

Chimney Rock
Napa Valley

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Chimney Rock
This has 12% merlot and a touch of petit verdot.
Good, open nose. Very rich on the palate. Very mouthfilling with sweet bitter chocolate fruit. Very Good Indeed +.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Chimney Rock
92% cabernet; 8% petit verdot
The nose is perfumed, though a little closed. Quite sweet fruit. Ripe and rich. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana

Jerez Cortado Hidalgo
A 20 year VOS. Hidalgo are now able to start using the Wellington brand name again, and this will be Wellington-branded in future.
Warm, caramelly nutty nose. Very fine. Very Good Indeed+

Amontillado Viejo Hidalgo, VORS
From a solera established in 1792, and which produces 1000 bottles a year. This particular bottle was bottled in 2003.
A nutty rich nose with a lovely salty tang. Very fine with huge interest. Excellent.
£56 @ BBR

Palo Cortado Viejo Hidalgo, VORS
Again the solera dates back to 1792 and this too was bottled in 2003.
A tangy nose with iodine, citrus peel and nuts. Nearly as stunning as the Amontillado VORS. Excellent.
£65 @ Waitrose, Canary Wharf.

Abadia Retuerta
Sardon del Duero, Spain

2001 Abadia Retuerta Selección Especial
A lovely, rich-textured nose laden with tobacco and black fruits. Ripe rich and round. Very impressive. Very Good Indeed +.

1999 Abadia Retuerta Cuvée Palomar
The nose is smoky, cedar and leathery with some great black fruits. Very rich and smooth with a velvety mouthfeel. Great purity and depth of flavours. Very Good Indeed +.

2002 Abadia Retuerta Pago Negralada
A fairly closed nose. On the palate, this seems to have much more structure, but is far from ready. I reckon this needs at least five years to come round. Very Good now, but will improve.

Champagne Devaux
I was taken through the wines by the winemaker, Michel Parisot.

NV Grande Réserve
70 pinot noir; 30 chardonnay.
Good biscuity nose. Quite full on the palate with a remarkably sharp prickle from the bubbles. Possibly a touch of coarseness. Good+

NV Blanc de Noirs Côte de Bar
A curious, yeasty, slightly bretty nose. Very thin. Poor.

1998 Champagne Devaux
100% chardonnay. A refined, fairly evolved nose. Good palate. Very fine and elegant with excellent balance. Very Good Indeed.

NV Cuvée Rose
A blend of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. The nose is very light. A crisp palate that fills out a little. A decent clean rosé. There's some fruit that appears mainly on the finish with some white pepper. Good.

NV Rosé Intense Côte de Bar
A rosé de saignée with a three-day maceration. Light strawberry fruit on the nose. Good character. Very nice balance. Very Good+

NV D de Devaux La Cuvée
The D de Davaux wines are Champagne Devaux's premium range made from selected parcels of older vines.
The La Cuvée is two thirds pinot noir and one third chardonnay.
Creamy, toasty nose. Quite intense and concentrated with some slight dried apricot flavours. Good complexity. Impressive. Very Good Indeed.

NV D de Devaux Le Rosé
50% pinot noir; 50% chardonnay. A much paler colour than the Rosé Intense. The nose is refined and delicate. Very full flavours, though it has a rough edge that's not to my taste. Good.

1996 D de Devaux
47.5% pinot noir and 52.5% chardonnay, Michel Parisot told me with remarkable accuracy.
A round, almost leesy nose. Immediately complexity on the palate. Really nice depth with good character. Lovely balance. Very Good Indeed.

Beni di Batasiolo

2000 Spumante Metodo Classico
75% Chardonnay, 25% pinot noir.  A clean, lightly fruity nose. Just a fairly simple fizz. OK.

2004 Roero Arneis DOC
Interesting nose - quite dull but with some character. On the palate there's a bit of an oxidised oaky feel. Dull and uninteresting. Poor.

2004 Granée Gavi di Gavi DOCG
A fairly simple, fresh nose. Typically insipid old style Italian white. OK (just)

2004 Sabri Barbera d'Asti DOC
Nice perfumed nose. Pretty straightforward Barbera. Nice clean fruit with good length. Very Good.

2004 Bricco di Vergne Dolcetto d'Alba DOC
An attractive nose with some cherry kernels. Young and unimpressive. OK/Good.

1999 Single Vineyard Cerequio Barolo DOCG
Light black fruit with some pencil shavings on the nose. Seems very young indeed. Huge tannins dominate on the finish and after. Needs some time, but even then it's not going to be great. Good/Very Good.

1999 Single Vineyard la Corda della Briccolina Barolo DOCG
Touch of stink on the nose. Clean with decent elegance. Good.

2004 Bosc dla Rei Moscato d'Asti DOCG
Quite a restrained nose. Good muscat flavours. Not as much character as Bava's Bass Tuba moscato and markedly sweeter.


Roberto Bava took me through his wines.

2000 Alteserre Monferrato DOC Bianco
A blend of chardonnay and cortese. A weird nose - very chalky. Round and fairly simple on the palate. It seems a touch oxidised. Good.

1999 Piano Alta Barbera d'Asti DOC Superiore
From vines grown on sandy soils.
A perfumed, fresh sawdust and strawberry nose. This is a nice clean Barbera. Very impressive. Very Good Indeed.

1997 Stradivario Barbera d'Asti DOC Superiore
Stradivario is produced from vines grown on the calcareous soils of the single vineyard “Gura” in Cocconato and was one of the very first Barberas to be aged in French oak bariques.
Gorgeous nose. This has lost the slight stink that young barbera can sometimes have. Lots of delicate violet scents. Excellent palate. Very elegant. Restrained fruit, together with some floral flavours. Nice spicy notes on the finish. Excellent.

2002 Libera Barbera d'Asti DOC
Roberto Bava calls this his "Baby Barbera". A stinky nose with light, fresh fruit. Light and fairly straightforward. Very Good.

2000 Barolo Contrabasso di Castiglione Falletto DOCG
Sweet cherry fruit on the nose with pencil shavings. Gorgeous palate. Very impressive. Full and round with great character and elegance. Excellent.

2003 Vigneti de Cadodo DOC Monferrato
This is a young vine nebbiolo from 50km outside the Barolo area.
Gorgeous perfumed nose. Good, interesting character. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Bass Tuba Moscato d'Asti
Lovely, very elegant muscat nose. Very fresh and clean. Lovely floral character. Excellent.

Castello Banfi

2004 Castello Banfi Sant' Angelo
(pinot grigio).
Quite a delicate, fragrant pinot gris nose. Light, floral character. Very elegant. Nice pinot gis character, but also nicely understated. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Castello Banfi Centine
This has spent two months in oak.
A young, very open nose that's almost Beaujolais-like with its hints of bubblegum. Fresh, young and attractive on the palate. This has a bit of style. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino
100% sangiovese, aged in wood for a year, partly in large foudres, partly in 350 litre barrels.
A fairly closed nose. Very attractive attack. Lots of elegant restrained fruit on the palate. Good structure. Quite fine on the finish with some tannic structure. Very Good Indeed.

2000 Castello Banfi, Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Selezione
Single vineyard Brunello.
Elegant perfumed nose. Very solid on the palate. Quite hard work. Lots of concentration and lots of tannin. Good.

2001 Castello Banfi, Summus
40% sangiovese, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 20% syrah; aged 16-18 months in small oak casks.
Sweet black fruit and sweet oak on the nose. Quite concentrated and with nice character. Deep and round, through fairly open. A touch international, but there's still some clearly Italian character in there. Very Good +

2004 Vigna Regali Brachetto d'Acqui Rosa Regale
A light strawberry nose. Very delicate, vaguely muscatty flavours with a gentle sweetness. Very attractive.

Fattoria Nittardi

2002 Casanuova di Nittarda, Chianti Classico
95% sangiovese. Clean, fresh, proper nose. Quite light and fresh on the palate. Nice elegance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2000 Nittardi, chianti Classico Riserva
Very attractive nose with sweet black fruit and a touch of tobacco. Good balance of fruit and structure on the palate. All nicely in control. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Nectar Dei, IGT Maremma Toscana
2003 was the first vintage of this super-Tuscan effort which includes 40% shiraz and 205 merlot. 5,000 bottles were produced. A closed nose. Decent palate, but very tight and closed. Good.


2001 Bruzzico Toscano Rosso IGT
80% cabernet sauvignon; 20% sangiovese
Lovely pencil shavings on the nose, together with lots of elegant, ripe cherry fruit with violets. Very good, direct fruit flavours but with lots of layers. Impressive. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOCG
Attractive nose, though a little rubbery. Good, elegant palate. Nice, light, easy-drinking style. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2004 Malenchini Toscana Rosso IGT
100% sangiovese. Diletta Malenchini told me that this is designed for easy drinking. On the nose, I find it really quite nutty. This is a lovely easy-drinking sangiovese. Very interesting. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Malenchini Toscana Bianco IGT
A blend of 50% trebbiano and 50% chardonnay.  This has a bright, characterful nose. Full and quite rich on the palate. Seems like it's had plenty of oak. Very Good +

1998 Vinsanto del Chianti Colli Fiorentini DOC
An orange caramel colour. Intensely powerful nose that's quite raisiny and feeling a bit oxidised. Very caramelly and full on the palate. But nothing to it. Pretty awful. Poor.

Badia a Coltibuono

2003 Badia a Coltibuono, Chianti Classico DOCG
90 sangiovese, 10% caniaolo (the canaiolo adds softness to the wine)
2003 is the first certified organic vintage from Badia a Coltibuono.
This has a delicate perfumed nose. Very precise, clean palate. Hefty tannins - too hefty for now. This needs 18 months to become approachable. Very Good.

2000 Badia a Coltibuono, Chianti Classico DOCG 2000
Quite an intense nose. Precise elegant palate with nice balance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2000 Sangioveto IGT
Quite a deep nose with good fruit and a hint of tobacco. Quite an interesting wine on the palate with lots of depth. Big tannic structure. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Chianti Classico RS DOCG
100% sangiovese. Not a terribly elegant nose - a bit muddy with a hint of brett. Good palate, but not exceptional. Good/Very Good.

2003 Cancelli, IGT Rosso Toscano
70% sangiovese; 30% syrah
Nice deep black fruit on the nose with some vanilla. Very, very smooth on the palate with sweet round fruit. Good balance. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Cetamura, Chianti DOCG
90% sangiovese. Very elegant nose. Light and balanced on the attack, which carries through onto the palate. Very Good Indeed.


2004 Vigna Vinera, IGT Salento Bianco
Sauvignon blanc; fermented in new French barriques.
A rich, leesy nose. Quite powerful on the palate with good richness. But not very Italian. Very Good.

2003 Primitivo, IGT Salento
A very attractive, fruity nose. Very fruity on the palate, but not at all overblown. Lots of interesting flavours. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Salice Salentino Rosso DOC
95% negramaro; 5% black malvasia
A deep, perfumed, elegant nose. Lovely balance on the palate, though with a curious flavour profile. Not a wine for me, but Very Good Indeed.

2000 Cappello di Prete, IGT Salento Rosso
A rich nose with some woody cinammon-like spice that isn't cinammon. Decent palate. Good depth of flavours, but they don't really appeal to me. Very Good +.

2003 Immensum, IGT Salento Rosso
70% negroamaro; 30% cabernet sauvignon. Good nose with nice character, though remarkably dominated by cabernet blackcurrants. Very intense flavours. Very concentrated. Doesn't really carry itself very well. A bit unbalanced. Good/Very Good.

1998 Duca D'Aragona, IGT Salento Rosso
80% Negroamaro; 20% Montepulciano from a single vineyard.  A lovely, elegant, restrained nose. Soft cherry and blackberry fruit with some cedar. Very concentrated on the palate. Very wide and expansive with a leathery mouthfeel. Some tannins towards the finish, but they disappear on the finish. Very long. Very Good Indeed.


2004 Planeta Chardonnay
Fermented in barriques and then aged 10 months in Alliers oak barriques.
A big, oaky chardonnay. Very full. Doesn't have the style of the 1999. Good/Very Good.

2003 Planeta Merlot, 14%
Aged for 12 months in Alliers oak. Very blueberry nose with lots of vanilla. Impressive, but deep down it's only a basic merlot. Very Good.

2003 Planeta Santa Cecilia, 14.5%
A fairly closed nose with just a bit of chocolate prunes. Rich and round with lots of sweet alcohol. Very Good.

2004 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, 13%
40% frappato; 60% nero d'avola.
A very fruity nose with lots of stewed strawberries and cherries. Lovely style and character on the palate. Full, with a nice sour cherry flavour. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Planeta Cometa, 14.5%
Very good nose - almondy and buttery with scents of grapefruit peel. Good character. Very balanced. Fresh and clean, but with real body. Very Good Indeed.

Grandes Vinhos - J Portugal Ramos Vinhos
Alentejo, Ribatejo, Beiras - Portugal

2004 Trincadeira, Vinho Regional Alentejano, João Portugal Ramos
Ripe dark fruits on the nose. Good rich palate. Lots of interesting flavours. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Tinta Caiada, Vinho Regional Alentejano, João Portugal Ramos
Good nose. Interesting flavours. Not as good as the Trincadeira. Very Good +

2004 Vila Santa, Vinho Regional Alentejano
A blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon, partly foot-trodden in lagares, partly fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, following a long post-fermentation maceration, before being aged for nine months in American and French oak.  Quite chocolatey on the nose. Velvety smooth with a lovely Portuguese fruit style. Great balance. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Quinta da Viçosa Touriga Nacional-Merlot
Single vineyard. A bit closed on the nose. Far too young, though there's lots of spicy character. Good.

2000 Marqués de Borba Reserva
Very deep black fruit on the nose. Quite a bit more powerful on the palate. Deep and full. Soft tannic structure. Good finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 Marqués de Borba Reserva
Lovely nose. Open and fresh on the palate with good fruit. Nice balance. Doesn't have the complexity and interest of some of Portugal Ramos' wines. Very Good.

2003 Conde de Vimioso Reserva, Ribatejo
Deep nose. Ripe and very tannic on the palate. OK.

2003 Quinta de Foz de Arouce, Vinhas Velhas de Santa Maria, Beiras
Concentrated, if rather slight nose. Very deep and heavily textured on the palate. Lots of ripe black fruit, chocolatey with a pruney finish. Very Good Indeed.

Adriano Ramos Pinto
Douro, Portugal

The Duas Quintas wines come from two quintas in the Douro: the Quinta de Ervamoira in the heart of the Douro, on schist soil at low altitude and the Quinta dos Bons Ares, set on granite soil and at a higher altitude.

2003 Duas Quintas, Tinto Douro
This wine is a blend of Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It has a lovely porty nose. Lovely palate - nice, easy drinking with lots of Douro typicity. Lots of character. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Duas Quintas Tinto Reserva Douro
The Reserva is blended mainly from Touriga Nacional grapes, with a small proportion of Tinta Barrocca.  After malolactic fermentation, the wine spends six months in new oak before a further two years maturing in bottle. 
Chocolatey perfumed nose. Very full palate with bags of character. Very good structure. Good restraint. Very Good Indeed.

2000 Duas Quintas Tinto Reserva Douro
The reservas spend ten months in French oak. Very complex nose with a bit of oak evident. Nice depth on the palate. Very good balance. Lots more structure than the first two, but it doesn't entirely benefit from it. Very Good.

Ramos Pinto Quinta de Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port
A nutty, dried fruit nose. Quite sweet on the attack. Very attractive. Clean and balanced throughout. Very Good Indeed+

Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20 Year Old Tawny Port
This was the favourite of winemaker Teresa who was taking me through the wines, but whose last name I didn't catch. Not my favourite though.
Stale Dundee cake nose. Fairly light with lots of dried fruit and nuts on the palate. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

Ramos Pinto 30 Year Old Tawny Port
Very nutty nose. Huge elegance on the palate, with fabulous restraint. Orangey, caramel and dried fruit. Vaguely coconut spice on finish. Very Good Indeed +.

Ramos Pinto, Collector Reserve Ruby Port
Splendid nose - remarkably nutty with very dried prunes and tobacco. Nicely balanced on the palate. Not too sweet. Really Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1998 Ramos Pinto, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Unfiltered. Very perfumed nose with almost a hint of furniture polish behind violets. There's a scent in here that reminds me of something, but it's not just furniture polish, and it's really annoying me that I can't place it. Good palate with a lot of structure. Very Good Indeed.

1983 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port
A similar nose to the LBV - just fuller: elegant, floral licorice with a touch of polish. Quite sweet and developed. Rather elegant. A bit hot on the finish. Very Good Indeed -.

2003 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port
Lovely floral nose - it almost has some gewurztraminer characteristics! Really good palate. Very floral, delicate style. Good structure. This is going to be ready to start drinking pretty soon - give it two years only for it to start to come into its drinking window.

1990 Louis Roederer Champagne
Very fine indeed. Good, round, full flavours with massive elegance. Excellent.

Château Capion

2002 Domaine Capion Apollonia
A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne (60:30:10)
Nice perfumed nose with butteriness behind. Rich, creamy palate. Nice flavours. Very Good.

2001 Domaine Capion Le Sorbier
60% chardonnay; 40% viognier, part of which has been matured in oak.
A rather duller nose. Good, smooth palate. Round and even, but a bit simple. Doesn't really do it for me. OK.

2000 Domaine Capion Fiona
Syrah, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, grenache.
An elegant, nicely perfumed nose. Good balance on the attack. Nice round and open flavours. There's a touch of astringency on the finish with tannins, but it works well. Very Good +.

2000 Domaine Capion Adrianus
70% Syrah; 30% Grenache.
A decent nose, though not giving away any particular characteristics. A bit unbalanced on the palate - I can almost taste the two grapes separately. Soft tannins on the finish. OK.

2001 Domaine Capion Le Juge
95% syrah; 30% grenache.
Very good black fruits syrah nose. Very young, with loads of tannins throughout. Good length. Good/Very Good.

2004 Domaine Capion Rosé
Oranges and strawberries on the nose. Decent attack. Good balance. Nothing special. OK/Good.

Clos du Val
Napa Valley

2003 Pinot Noir Carneros, Clos du Val
A very perfumed nose - really open with raspberry fruit behind. Very pleasant attack indeed. A nice roundness with some of that fragrance coming through on the palate too. Not over-complex, but Very Good Indeed.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Clos du Val
Blackurrant, mint and cough mixture on the nose. Lovely, open ripe fruit attack with some depth immediately obvious. Layers of flavours. Grippy tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed +/Excellent.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Vineyard, Stags Leap District, Clos du Val
Made from grapes from post-phylloxera vines. There's a slightly higher proportion of cabernet franc in this than the previous wine. Very elegant, restrained nose with hints of mint and blackcurrant. Good, fairly concentrated fruit. Seems simpler than the straight 2001 Cab. Very Good Indeed.

1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Clos du Val
Very concentrated nose. Very deep fruity attack, but very restrained on the palate. Lovely balance. Very Good Indeed ++

1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Clos du Val
Made before phylloxera struck. Sawdust, tobacco and chocolate on the nose. Really nice and open. Excellent structure and balance. Restrained and elegant. Grippy tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

Bodegas Lan

2000 Lan Crianza
100% tempranillo. Attractive, open nose. Light and fragrant on the palate. Good character. No great complexity. Attractive and easy. Very Good.

1998 Lan Reserva
Sweet oaky nose with muddy overtones. Sweet ripe fruit attack. Clean and open. Very Good.

1998 Viña Lanciano, Bodegas Lan
Sweet black plums and prunes on the nose. Very concentrated. Lots of fruit. Very international and lacking satisfaction. Good.

2002 Lan Edición Limitada
18,000 bottles produced. Made from very old vines. Powerful, very deep, very concentrated nose. Very ripe, concentrated fruit on the palate, but everything is utterly overwhelmed by incredibly savage tannins, which on the finish become like licking freshly surformed oak barrels. Horrible. Good/Very Good??

2001 Bodegas Lan Culmen Reserva
Made only in selected years - the next vintage to be released will be the 2004.
Prunes in a cigar box nose. Big ripe fruit. Bit simple really, without as much concentration as the Limited Edition. Again horribly over-tannic and palate ripping. Good (ish)

Abruzzo, Italy

2001 Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Rosso DOC
To be released mid 2006. Made from old vines from a single vineyard; aged for six months in large foudres and then eighteen months in French oak barriques. A very young, dark, dark ruby colour and very glass-coating. Ripe black fruits, tobacco and leather on the nose. Very concentrated attack. Incredible depth and power. Significant tannins dominate the finish. Seems remarkably young - I'd guess at a 2004 wine with six months in bottle. Very Good.

2001 Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Low yields. 15 months in French barriques. Clean, expressive nose with good depth. Complex palate. Good fruit. Excellent structure - and not just a tannic structure. Some real backbone of flavour. Very Good Indeed +.

2003 Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Very gentle nose giving little away. Light and simple on the palate. Good balance. Easy drinking. Even flavours throughout. Nice and easy. Very Good +.

2004 Villa Gemma Colline Teatine Bianco IGT
85% trebbiano. Fuller nose than the 04 Masciarelli Trebbiano, with more wood showing through. Good clean balance on the palate, but a bit simple. Good/Very Good.

2004 Masciarelli Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC
A fresh, aromatic fruity nose. Nice, fresh fruit. Clean and relatively simple. Easy drinking. Very even. Very Good.

2003 Marina Cvetic, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC
100% trebbiano from 30-40 year old, low-yielding vines; the wine spends two years in French oak.
Sweet nose with more than a bit of vanilla. Very full on the palate. Rich and has quite a sweet feel to it, though without being sweet. Very complex and concentrated. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Marina Cvetic, Chardonnay IGT Colline Teatine Bianco
From 60 year old vines, the wine is matured for two years in French oak.
Buttery, oaky nose. Good attack - very smooth and rich. Very concentrated, oaky Chardonnay flavours. Very Good/Very Good Indeed. But not an Abruzzo wine!

Campania, Italy

2000 Taurasi CampoRe DOCG
Single vineyard, 100% Aglianico.
Smoky, leathery nose with some farmyard. Very smooth and soothing to the palate, almost caressing the mouth. Nice character with good depth. Very concentrated. Very impressive. Excellent.

2002 Il Principio, Aglianico d'Irpinia IGT
From vines that are too young for a DOCG wine.
Lovely nose with orange zest, minerally talc and sweet, ripe, black fruit. Very good palate. Layers of flavours. Initially there's fruit, then more structure and more vegetal notes. Soft tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Aglianico d'Irpinia IGT
Simple, fresh, fruity nose. It's a barbecue wine, says Lucio Mastroberardino, the winemaker. Fresh and fruity with easy, light, clean tannins. Real flavour and character on the finish - lovely rich chocolate-dipped cherry flavours. Very Good +.

2004 Fiano d'Avellino Terre di Dora DOCG
10% barrel fermented. I don't like the nose on this one: it's a bit stinky hiding some floral creamy notes. Bit dull overall. OK.

2004 Loggia della Serra Greco di Tufa DOCG
From a single vineyard, 600m above sea level. Low temperature fermentation followed by six weeks on its lees.
Creamy nose with some leesy character evident. Nice, clean and with good rich flavours and great balance. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco DOC
Creamy marzipan nose. Light, fresh and very attractive on the palate. Creamy, well textured wine with very attractive flavours. Nice length. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC
Spends a year in French oak barrels. Lovely nose - really elegant, perfumed black fruit. Gorgeous attack. Lots of ripe fruit but with a really elegant restraint. Develops really interesting flavours in the mouth. Grainy tannins towards and on the finish and after. Very Good Indeed.

2004 Falanghina Campania IGT
Quite a deep nose with crisp nutty aromas. Quite straightforward on the palate. Good, clean flavours. Decent length. Very Good +.

Calabria, Italy

2004 Cirò Bianco, DOC, 12.5%
100% Greco Bianco; stainless steel throughout the vinification process: no wood.
Lovely delicate perfume. Nice style and elegance on the palate. Very impressive. Excellent.

2004 Critone Bianco, IGT Val di Neto Bianco , 13%
90% chardonnay; 10% sauvignon blanc; stainless steel throughout the vinification process, with a few months of bottle ageing before going to market.
Absolutely what you'd expect if you thought of a southern Italian chardonnay with a touch of sauvignon. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2004 Cirò Rosato DOC, 13%
100% gaglioppo, vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel, wtih soft pressing of the grapes and brief must-bleeding and 12 hours' maceration.  Aged in stainless steel, with a few months bottle ageing before release.
Round, fresh, fruity nose. Good fruit on the palate. Nice balance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

2003 Cirò Rosso DOC, 13%
100% gaglioppo, vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel, with a brief maceration.
Sweet cherry fruit on the nose. Quite a pure fruit on the palate. Really good tannic structure yet without overwhelming the wine's character. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Duca San Felice Riserva DOC Cirò, 13.5%
100% gaglioppo.  This undergoes a 15-day maceration; again entirely stainless steel vinification and maturation.
Cherry and almonds on the nose. Good, clean attack with precise fruit flavours. Widens out nicely. Good character. Interesting stuff. Very Good Indeed.

2000 Gravello, IGT Rosso Val di Neto, 13.5%
40% cabernet sauvignon; 60% gaglioppo, harvested in early October.  Vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel before 12 months ageing in Alliers oak barrels and six months in bottle.
Richly perfumed nose. Dense palate. Very solid black fruit flavours with fairly gentle tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Magno Megonio, IGT Rosso Val di Neto, 13.5%
100% Magliocco, harvested early October. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel with a 15-day maceration before ageing 16 months in Alliers oak barrels and six months in bottle.
Big nose with a character of its own. Richly textured and velvety on the attack. Great power and concentration. Excellent length. Very Good Indeed +

2003 Le Passule, Vino Passito IGT Val di Neto, 14.5%
100% mantonico.  The grapes are dried for about two weeks and then fermented in Alliers oak barrels with a 20-day maceration.  The wine is then aged for a further ten months in Alliers oak, followed by six months bottle ageing before release.
Orangey, almost honey-muscat nose. Unfortunately, this is a pretty ordinary sweet wine. I'm not really getting much character from the grape. Good.

© Andrew Stevenson


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Last updated: 29 May 2006 14:59