The Prosecco Wines of Bisol

Eleven of us gathered at the Establishment Restaurant in Spring Gardens in Manchester. The theme was Southern Rhône, with allowances for southern France generally.

We had a seven course meal, of a very high standard (details follow), plus coffee and generous petits fours, use of what seemed like several hundred Riedel glasses and the entire output of a small bakery in excellent bread rolls. All for £55 inc service.

It's great being able to say to one of the staff "Can we have another three each of these glasses now please?" and they just say "sure" and bring another 33 Riedels!

Canapés were some home-made grissini, and some olive pastries with a delicious home-made taramasalata.

This was followed by a brilliant scallop dish: two slices of really good scallop and an intensely flavoured langoustine sat on top of a small square of (salt?) cod(?), served with a veal jus and fried, turned cucumber. Yum yum.

Next up was a Ham hock and ox tongue terrine with sauce gribiche and some toasted sourdough. The terrine had a very good balance of flavours, with both the ham and the tongue flavours and textures clearly identifiable; and the gribiche just gave it that little lift. On the side was some sprouting salad stuffs and four or five perfect little, lightly-battered crisp shallot rings. Yum yum.

Then (after another half dozen wines, or so it seemed), came an espresso cup filled with an excellent cappucino of wild mushrooms. This had a lovely, rich, creamy earthiness: very full-flavoured, but not at all overconcentrated - excellent balance again.

A few more wines, and then it was Whole Roasted Baby Poussin with handmade pasta and a sauté of ceps. A whole poussin per person, served off the carcase as two breasts and two legs (which, as there were ladies present, saved any discussion of who was a breast man and who was a leg man). This was serve with a ravioli (slightly thick pasta) filled with, I guessed, smoked chicken and truffle. The chicken was lightly cooked without being underdone: the breast was very moist and juicy; the legs nice and crispy, fully cooked and delicious. All really very accurately seasoned too. The dish could just have done with a little bit more jus/sauce/gravy from the goodness of the meat. The pasta was very fine and perfectly cooked. The ceps were, perhaps a little powerful for a wine dinner, but, heck, who's complaining?

The first dessert was a shot glass of crème de vanille topped with a blueberry compote. Lush!

And then the main dessert: "prune and armagnac soufflé!" (for some reason, the menu included the exclamation mark.) Very good soufflé indeed, with a really good flavour, but also incredibly light.

Petits fours were mini lemon meringue tarts and fab little profiteroles.

We had some wine too.

2000 AC Crémant de Limoux Grande Cuvée, Antech, 12%
A little fizz to get things started.
Biscuity, blackcurrant and blackcurrant leaf nose. Full and really rather yeasty on the palate. Nice acidity. Good depth and character. Very Good Indeed.

1998 Domaine de Clovallon, Les Aurièges, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 12.5% Bottle no 100 (which was curiously satisfying in an inexplicable way).
This is a bottle I got from the Wine Society a few years ago, and all I could remember was that it had a bit of riesling in it. Leon and I guessed (from tasting it) that there was probably some chardonnay in there too. It doesn't have many references on Google at all, but one French website says it's an "Assemblage inédit de Chardonnay, Viognier, ... Riesling, Petit Manseng, Petite Arvine" produced by Catherine and Pierre Roque on a 12 ha estate near Bédarieux.

It's a deepish gold with an oily, buttery, very fragrant nose. Round and full on the attack. This has lots of weight with quite a sweet feel. There's no particular complexity (and I wonder if it might be a bit too old), but it's very attractive, very different and just a touch mental. Quite concentrated on the palate, but without any particular development. Good length. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
Very heavy bottle.

2001 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A young ruby that's just lost its youth. Fabulous nose. Sweet plums with a touch of spirit and some sweet licorice and roast coffee. There's something about the nose that screams grenache to me. There's sweet fruit on the attack, though it feels a bit disjointed on the palate, and has a rather coarse texture. It feels very open initially, but then you get the impression that maybe it's a touch closed and holding back on you. Very even throughout. Very Good.

1999 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A very even ruby. No similarity on the nose to the 2001 whatsoever. The '99 is much more floral with talc notes, though there's also some sweet black fruit behind with hints of crème de mûre. For me, the 1999 has much more balance, and is much more together; and generally much finer with a much better character. Nicely approachable, but with plenty of development ahead of it. Very Good Indeed +

On a vote, we were evenly split: 5 preferred the 2001; 5 preferred the 1999. So that was utterly inconclusive!

1995 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape
An even dark ruby with a hint of youth at the rim. Now this is real Châteauneuf on the nose: complex and very together, with no distinguishing characteristic. Round and open on the attack. Quite concentrated flavours, with lots of black fruit. Huge depth. Very impressive. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.

1998 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 14%
Les Avril premiers Consuls et Trésuriers de Châteauneuf du Pape de 1756 à 1790 says the label, which I didn't know and didn't really need to know.
A rather light colour, looking quite mature.
The restaurant staff clear away all the tainted glasses and replace them (not of that cheapskate rinsing them out with drinking water here)

But, what's this?

Aha. A reserve bottle of 1998 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 14%
A very fragrant, delicate nose: very talcy. Very tight and closed on the palate. Very hot on the finish. Very unimpressive. Good.

And now a brief interlude, fuelled by Leon Stolarski.

2002 Les Vignes de l'Arque, élevé en futs de chêne, Vin de Pays Duché d'Uzes, 13%
50% grenache and 50% syrah; 4 months in oak.
A good, vibrant, fairly young ruby. Very open nose with curious lettuce and celery scents, with just a touch of black fruit. Open and easy on the attack. Warm, with more structure than fruit: this ain't half bad actually. It's much nicer inthe mouth than on the nose, and has a nice elegance. In fact, it's slightly claret-like in its elegance and weediness. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Les Vignes de l'Arque, élevé en futs de chêne, Vin de Pays Duché d'Uzes, 13%
50% grenache and 50% syrah; 4 months in oak again.
Initially, a very cabbagey nose, but that quickly blows off, yielding more black fruit character. There's ripe fruit on the attack. This is a much bigger wine than the 2002. It's already very together, but I'd say it needs another three years or so. Very Good (Indeed).

2004 Les Vignes de l'Arque, élevé en futs de chêne, Vin de Pays Duché d'Uzes
50% grenache and 50% syrah; 4 months in oak again. Bottled in November 2005.
Full-on blackberry nose. Beautiful attack: there is lots and lots of fruit, but it's not at all overripe, and it also has good acidity. Good tannic structure. It has lovely, complex flavours, but above all great fruit. I think this is much superior to the 2002 and the 2001 and am really enjoying it. But I really, really worry that it's not going to last. It's so good now, I'd not want to take the risk and I'd drink up now. Very Good Indeed.

1999 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape , 13.5%
A very clean, Beaucastel nose: plums and tar, but also a curious air of root vegetables, specifically celeriac and carrots. A really lovely nose. Fabulous attack, which carries on throughout. Utterly winning. Very complex and I could linger over this for ages (at least if we didn't have another two more Beaucastels and a load more wines in the starting blocks): almost a vin de contemplation. Lovely balance. Very Good Indeed.

1997 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A very medicinal nose, with sticking plaster notes, that turn into more gamey notes. There's ripe fruit on the palate, though initially it's really quite spirity. Opens up very nicely in the mouth. There's a touch of spicy tannins. Doesn't have the balance of the 1999, though it might just be that it it's in a dormant, shut-down phase. Very Good Indeed.

1992 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This is starting to show its maturity. A lovely round, subtle, plummy, spicy nose, but it doesn't shout Châteauneuf, let alone Beaucastel. Very open on the attack. A touch disjointed and with a lot of acidity. I can't believe that this is anywhere like too old at a mere 13 years old, so maybe it's just going through an awkward teenage phase? Good/Very Good.

2003 Saveur d'Automne Doux, élevé en futs de chêne, Les Vignes de l'Arque, Vin de Pays d'Oc , 15%
100% late harvest viognier.
A really lovely nose: fragrant, sweet marzipan, with a slightly odd confected note, orange zest and plenty of peach. Very rich and concentrated on the palate. The big peach flavours make its seem quite riesling-like. Very Good +

Right, that's the lightweights out of the way. Now the big boys.

2003 Domaine Mas de Lavail Maury Expression, Nicholas Battle, 16%
Quite a simple, plummy nose with quite a lot of spirit. (I think this could have done with decanting a few hours previously.) Very fresh flavoured, plummy, vieille prune flavours. Fairly simple. A touch spirity, especially on the finish. Very young, tight and closed. Some Maury's can be lovely young: I don't think this is one of them; rather this needs time. Very Good+

1959 Rivesaltes, Gérard Bertrand , 16.5%
Bottle No. 1214 if you like that sort of thing.
A lovely nose: sweet prunes and very nutty with burnt caramel and a bit of stink. Remarkably young looking. Sweet, delicate, open attack: very smooth. Lots of pruney, tarry flavours. This tastes like most grenache wines smell! Very Good Indeed.

1945 Rivesaltes Vieil Homme, Pierre Janny, 16%
Bottle No. 42
Brownish appearance, but not an old brown. A sweet, raisined nose with lots of caramel and dried fruits. It's sweet, but not at all over-sweet, with coffee and prunes flavours. This is much better than the last bottle of this I had. Very Good Indeed+.

Finally, once we'd got back:

2001 Domaine Ellul-Ferrières Grande Cuvée, AC Côteaux de Languedoc, 14.5%
70% grenache; 30% mourvèdre
Very round bramble fruit with mourvèdre shit coming through, but really quite tight. Strong fruit and forest flavours with a tar background. Very tight and closed. Grainy tannins. Quite green on the finish. Very Good+?


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Last updated: 03 February 2006