The Caves De Pyrene tasting I described in my post last time was certainly the highlight of my wine drinking month, not because it had better wines than the ones I usually open but because of the variety and new wines which I was able to taste there. However, the rest of the month had its moments too and I share them with you here.
I read Oz Clarke’s book ‘English Wine’ with interest, there were some fascinating facts about the rapid expansion of the UK wine growing scene, production rising from just over a million bottles per annum to 15 million in a decade for example. I was also taken aback by the dominance of the Champagne grapes in England, I had expected more of the German varieties and grapes such as Bacchus (which I believe is the English USP) but sparkling wine dominates and so Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the three most planted grapes. I enjoyed the book though felt it was a little biased. That said there are some exciting wines now in the UK, producers such as Ancre Hill, Westwell, Davenport would be my personal favourites.
It was definitely a month in which white wines starred for me, maybe the unusually warm and sunny weather led me that way. Jurancon’s Domaine Montesquiou is a firm favourite of mine but their Vin Libre 2020 was a new wine for me, their first venture into natural wine. Made with the traditional Petit and Gros Manseng grapes and (I think) a little Courbu the wine was delicious with clean, zingy freshness and a persistent flavour of pear and apple. If I had to select one French region for good value white wine it would be Jurancon and Montesquiou would be my preferred producer. This new addition to their range is very welcome to me. By contrast I have always struggled to really appreciate Chablis, though I recognise that is heresy to many who laud it widely, including many whose opinions I rate highly. I find a lot of Chablis lacking in character, probably because I do not drink the higher priced wines from top sites. However, I really did like The Wine Society’s Exhibition Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2019. There was more depth in flavour, texture and I picked up that stony, dry ‘minerality’ which is the Chablis hallmark. I need to investigate the top end of Chablis, it is many years since I did.
Niepoort in Portugal is a producer I respect enormously for fortified and still wines and I regularly buy the simple Drink Me white and red wines in 1 litre bottles, designed for simple enjoyment. The red was the one I enjoyed most this month, made from organic Baga grapes in the Bairrada region producing light, red fruit flavours like a good simple Beaujolais in style. A drink me and enjoy bottle, well named.
Favourite wine of the month though was one of Jeff Coutelou’s, yes I am biased but on a lovely, warm sunny afternoon in my sister’s garden OW 2019 was a treat. Bright orange in colour this is made from skin contact Muscat D’ Alexandrie grapes. I tend to think that orange wines (OW of course) made from more aromatic varieties can be the most interesting, the aromatics still offer interest but are more controlled by the skin contact. There were clean, dry spicy, tea notes with a citrus-like finish and characteristic texture. It was in cracking form.
Finally, I bought a range of wines from Marks And Spencer, their ‘Found’ range in which they offer wines from around the world made from grapes which are unusual to most supermarket wine buyers. As this is one of my main interests in the world of wine I thought I should explore this range a little as it is one I applaud even if the wines are conventional in nature. I shall report back on my findings next time. This is a them which other supermarkets are also exploring and will also be the theme for a charity wine tasting I have been invited to lead in May here in NW Durham. No doubt I shall report on that too. The year is starting to open up and I look forward to getting back to Puimisson in coming months too.