Wine Tastings held for Lancaster University Summer Programme

29th July 2003 and 5th August 2003

These were two tasting held for students attending Lancaster University's Summer Programme, a residential programme of courses for adults, which in their idiocy Lancaster University closed in 2010. Most of the wines were common to both evenings, but with some changes for the second week. 

Both proved to be interesting evenings.  In the first week there were 29 participants, ranging from people who had never actually drunk wine before to members of their local wine tasting groups. There was one person from France, who was ready to declare the 100 Years War re-open, as there was only one wine from France, and that was from Alsace, which this person regarded as not proper France!!!  The second week was more select, with only 18 attending, several of whom were really quite knowledgeable.  The second group included no French, but instead included a Dane, who was quite bowled over by the English wine (Curious Grape, Bacchus) and wanted to know whether it was exported to Denmark and said she was certainly going to find some to take back with her.

Here's what we had and my notes:

Curious Grape, Bacchus 2001 (Majestic, Tesco, Booths £4.99 - £5.99)
Week 1: Pale straw. Rather elegant nose. Nice floral notes - delicate with a hint of elderflowers. Light and refreshing. Seems to be just off dry but with a good acidity. A touch grapey. Very clean and refreshing. Nice finish though with a certain confectionery note coming through - sherbetty, fondanty. Really rather impressive. Think Catherine Zeta Jones in the Darling Buds of May: a flirty Kent maiden you could easily spend an afternoon sat in the garden with.

Week 2: As week 1.  The fragrant elderflower nose is a real winner.

Sainsbury's Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2001 (Sainsbury £4.29)
Week 1 only.
This was disappointing. I'd had it before, not long after tasting a few Gaiospino Verdicchios dCdJC, and had been rather impressed. Hence its appearance at this tasting. I think one determining factor was that when I bought it before it was on a lower shelf: this time it was on the top shelf next to the dreaded lights and the bottles were distinctly warm. I broke my own rule of never buying wines from the top shelf in Sainsbury's.
The nose wasn't bad - deeper and more rounded than the Bacchus, but flatter and much less fresh. Decent fruit. But distinctly poor.

Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 1985 (Christoffel-Berres) (Majestic £5.99)
Week 1: An attractive gold. Lovely aged Riesling nose. Smoky, petrolly, very minerally. Excellent attack, very attractive and enticing. Full and clean on palate, long on finish. An elegant old girl, though the petticoats are perhaps getting a bit worn.

Week 2: If anything, showing even better this week.  Excellent.  An amazing bargain for an 18-year old wine of this quality.
This week we had it after the La Gitana, which allowed the Gitana to shine better.

Manzanilla La Gitana (Hidalgo) (Majestic, Waitrose etc, £4.99 - £6.15)
Week 1: Very very pale. Very elegant nose, not over-dominated by flor. Light, elegant, refreshing. Actually seems more salty on the palate than the nose. Very good indeed.

Week 2: This week we swapped the order of the Spätlese and the Manzanilla, to the advantage of the sherry.  A very fine drop indeed.  Light and elegant.  Very fresh and refreshing.  Very notably salty on the finish.

Gewurtztraminer 2001 (C.V. de Ribeauvillé) (Majestic £5.99)
Week 1: Classic rose petal nose, though verging on turkish delight hinting at a bit of over-extraction. Good clean, fresh GW. Distinctly spicy and fragrant on palate. Impressive. Very good exemplar of a basic cuvée Alsace GW (and in my view knocks spots off Turckheim's offerings).

Week 2: Completely consistent with week 1.

Durius Tempranillo 2000 (Bodegas Durius, Vino de la Tierra Arribes del Duero) (Majestic, Sainsbury, Thresher Group £4.99 - £7.09)
Week 1: A brand new winery up near the Portuguese border in Fermoselle. Part of the Marques de Grinon clan. Six months in barrique (50:50 US & French oak) - made from tempranillo with a touch of Juan Garcia, a local red grape.
Dark and young. Lovely nose, fruit and oak in harmony. Quite leathery with black fruit. Clean and really quite fresh flavours. Fairly soft tannins. Not particularly complex, but well made. Bit young.
I've just had a slurp of what's been left in the bottle overnight, and it's much better - comes across as a much more serious wine with greater complexity and more interest. I'd have some more (switching to the Johnson scale), but unfortunately Majestic Preston have sold out :-(

Week 2: Decided to keep this in the tasting and paid the exorbitant Sainsbury price.  The first bottle seemed a little under par - at first I put it down to a bit of bottle stink, particularly as it seemed to blow off.  But tasting it against a second bottle (and then a third as I still wasn't quite sure!), I concluded it had a mild case of TCA.  It's going back to Sainsbury.  The other two bottles were double decanted to get a bit of air through it, following its better showing after being open overnight last week.  It showed a light oaking with toasty vanilla on the nose, with good, warm tempranillo black fruit - lost some of its leatheriness.  Excellent attack, round a full.  Develops well.  Fair structure from softish tannins.  VG fruit on palate.  Good finish with fair length.  

Condado de Haza 2000 Tempranillo Crianza, Ribera del Duero (Majestic £8.99)
Week 1: 15 months in US oak. Unfiltered. From the house of Alejandro Fernandez of Pesquera fame.
Much more oak on nose and some clear vanillin notes coming through the plummy brambly nose. Very young on palate. Lots of tannin and possibly a bit weedy. Lots of leather on palate, like sucking a leather belt. Far too young.
Again, I've just had a taste of what remained in the bottle overnight. Wow! what a difference. Much more knitted together now. Quite big, but not aggressive. Really rather elegant light fruity nose. Still quite hefty on the tannins, but definitely much more approachable when a quarter of a bottle has been left with the cork in overnight.

Week 2: Double decanted, with much sloshing between jugs to mimic the effect of being open overnight: did it no end of good at this early stage in its life.
Dark ruby, fading to a youthful purple.  Attractive, very oaky vanillin nose with warm, ripe stewed blackberries and plums, and also a touch of herbaceousness.  Hint of mushrooms too, especially after air's been sloshed into it.  Very smooth, silky attack.  Remarkably elegant.. Nice interesting light structure - much lighter than would expect.  Enormous, quite exceptional length.

Sainsbury's Reserve Selection Pinotage 2001 (Beyerskloof Winery, Stellenbosch) (Sainsbury £5.99, but Beyerskloof seems to crop up elsewhere too, so I guess the same wine is available under different labels, including their own) I wonder if the Majestic Beyerskloof is the same, though a different vintage?
Week 1 only
I included this as a wine that I didn't like, although there is absolutely nothing technically wrong with it.

Quite a floral nose. Fair soft fruit, but the pinotage bitter harshness savages the tongue, particularly after the bottle has been open for an hour or so. I did a quick hands up on who liked brussels sprouts and who didn't like this wine. On this extremely unscientific test, there did seem to be a correlation. Those who couldn't stand sprouts, found nothing objectionable whatsoever in this wine. About 30% didn't express any opinion either way.

Chateau Musar 1997 (Booths, Majestic, Sainsbury, Waitrose £11.49 - £12.49)
Week 1: Looking a touch oxidised, but not reflected on nose or palate. Really interesting nose - leather, cedar, touch of farmyard and bundles of character. Excellent attack - quite light, but then fills well. Quite chewy and rich on middle. Great length. Classic indefinable Musar!

Week 2: Quite pale, remarkably mature looking - even and not quite brickish.  Gorgeous nose.  Very elegant, fine nose with blackcurrant, mint and a certain leatheriness.  Extremely attractive attack.  Very clean and really rather elegant.  Good fruit, light tannins.  Great length, with fruit lingering long after.  Excellent.  

Tokaji Aszú 1993 4 puttonyos (Crown Estates) (D. Byrne, Clitheroe, £14.79, 50cl)
Week 2 only
Honey, marmalade, demerara sugar nose with apricots and orange.  Quite intoxicatingly glorious!  Lovely attack - fresh with nice acidity.  Wonderful, exotic palate.  Lots of really quite tropical fruit and a cross between melted marmalade and liquid barley sugar.  Haunting after with quite a blast of acidity on the finish.

Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Terra Feita 1988 (Majestic, Oddbins £17.99 - £19.99)
Week 1 only
Good enough nose, with fruit and tar. Good flavours with a touch of complexity. Remarkably good on finish, though rather spirity after. Not especially sweet. But overall impression is that it's a bit unexceptional, and rather expensive. For me, it's a cheapened version of an excellent wine. 

Quinta do Noval, Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997 (Noel Young £10.99; €14.00 from Noval's shop in VN de Gaia)
Week 2 only
Very young, almost impenetrable youthful black.  Very deep black fruit on nose with some licorice and chocolate (Green & Black's Maya Gold to be specific, as there's definitely a touch of orange peel in there).  Excellent attack.  Very intense fruit.  Rich and satisfying with quite a lot of character.  Very long.  Maybe a bit spirity on the finish.   Very good indeed, though would definitely improve with a few more years bottle age.

We had a show of hands on each of the wines:

Bacchus fared well, some loving it and being converted to English wine. Nobody disliked it.  Some, including one overseas visitor, would go out and buy it.

The Verdicchio was unequivocally damned. Well done Sainsbury's. Serves you right for the dreadful conditions in which you display it.

Majestic's 18 year old German Riesling split the audience: some loved it to bits, some liked it, and rather liked the idea of being able to find an 18yr old wine for £6, some were less impressed, finding it too minerally and a bit tired.  It was much more universally appreciated in the second week.

Most people thought Hidalgo's La Gitana was great, and said that they could quite easily see themselves having it instead of table wine.  One person in the second week found it rather distasteful.

Ribeauvillé's Gewurztraminer was the real star: they loved it. Only one out of 29 said they hadn't enjoyed it.  Everyone in the second week liked it.

The two tempranillos were not real hits in week 1, the general preference being for the Durius. They are both a bit young, especially the Haza.  In week 2, the Haza was the real hit of the reds - the result I'm sure of the good sloshing and aeration I gave it when double decanting repeatedly.

Musar split them. In the first week, those who liked it were in a small majority, and most people said they really enjoyed the experience of trying it. Most thought they couldn't justify spending £12 on it though.  Again, more universally appreciated in the second week.

The Tokaji wasn't quite the hit it might have been - unfortunately it had warmed up a bit too much by the time we got to it.

Both ports were liked by all.

Excepting the port, the clear winners in week 1 for favourite white and favourite red were the Ribeauvillé Gewurtraminer 2001 and the Musar 1997 and in week 2 the Ribeauvillé Gewurtraminer 2001 and the Condado de Haza 2000.  Favourite wine overall was the Gewurztraminer


Back to Andrew Stevenson's web page

Last updated: 15 December 2005 13:54