Parcel of Corison 04/08/2016

 Cathy Corison makes one of the most elegant and best-value wines in the Napa Valley.
Stylistically it’s a counterpoint to a pure-bred Pauillac like Lynch-Bages. A balance of blackcurrant fruit with complex secondary development. Eric Asimov put’s it well when he says: “
Corison is among the greatest producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley today. These are fresh wines of great balance and elegance that spoke clearly of their place and vintage, and are remarkably consistent in character through a quarter-century. They possess the capacity to age and become more complex, integrated and eloquent with time. Best of all, they demonstrate plainly that Napa cabernet can speak transparently and persuasively in a pure, restrained voice without artifice or bombast.”

1998 got a hard-time in the American press where single sentence, sometimes single word summaries of vintages seem to be popular. It was a cold year, and consequently wineries that understood how to make wines in a more understated style, did very well indeed. It was not a 1997 that allowed excessive ripeness and extraction.

Cathy Corison describes it thus: “1998 was a growing season that required repeated crop removal in the vineyard to achieve even ripening, rewarding the patient winegrower with a long, cool season that finished on the upswing with a lovely Indian summer. Dark, inky color and concentrated flavors resulted from the shy yields.  Juicy with cherry, berry and plum fruit, the flavors are spicy with cinnamon and cloves, cedar and hints of vanilla.  Gravelly, earthy notes add complexity.  Hints of dried rose petal and violet perfume are beginning to develop in the aromas.  Beautifully structured with a soft and silky texture, the 1998 Corison epitomizes the best of Napa Valley bench-land Cabernet Sauvignon”

The ageing potential was confirmed when the wine got rated universally highly at a 25-year retrospective tasting at the winery. Cathy Corison’s tasting note reads: “Medium red brick.  Very pretty, perfumed, high-toned aromas including bay laurel and tarragon. Cola notes and mineral thread.  Intense, lovely, long. Wow. A current favorite at the winery. Drink or hold” It’s so well-regarded that they sell their library stock at $275 a bottle (and are sold out)

Another tasted, Alder Yarrow of Vinography said: “Dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries and forest floor. In the mouth, cocoa powder, faint, powdery tannins and a supple silky texture carry flavors of cherry, cedar, and rose petals across the palate. Wonderfully earthy, with a deep forest floor quality that lingers through the finish along with a hint of saltiness. Thrumming with vibrant acidity and floral complexity. Gorgeous. 13.6% alcohol”. Score: between 9.5 and 10 Alder Yarrow, Vinography

And as Jamie Goode reckoned: “..the remaining bottles of 1998 are one of the Valley’s great bargains”.

108 x 1998 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – £49 DP per bottle.

Mature Prestige Champagne 26/08/2016

A highly attractive parcel of this unique Champagne, offered greatly under RRP through stock sourced from some privileged French agents. A great Chardonnay-dominated prestige cuvee. The grapes are all drawn from Grand Cru vineyards, largely from Avize and Cramant and the wine has only been produced 10 times in the last 30 years.

50 cases (6) 2000 Lanson Noble Cuvee £26 IB [non gift-box]

 “Quite bright, fine and elegant on the nose. The complexity is subtly delivered, with lime and lemon citrus as the focus on the nose. The palate has lime sorbet flavor, really fine, focused acidity and a great sense of evenness. The duality of power and grace is quite masterfully delivered. Drink now or age for a further five years to catch this at its best.” 94 Points James Suckling 

 “Most Champagnes from the 2000 vintage are now mature, and this wine is no exception. It is soft, rounded with crisp fruits that have integrated with the crumbled-cookie tastes and fragrant acidity. This floral wine has just the edge of mineral texture and is ready to drink.” 93 points Wine Spectator

 “Racy acidity and fine texture frame this smoky version, with roast nut and oyster shell accents to the subtle flavors of buttered brioche, glazed apple and pear, spring blossom and lemon zest.” 91 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Historic Pesquera 29/07/2014

The best wines from Ribera del Duero, like those of Rioja, deliver beautiful complexity with age. The thicker skins and robust structure are perfect for improving in the cellar.

See below for a selection of mature wines from Alejandro Fernandez, one of the key actors in bringing the wines of the region to international prominence in the 1980’s. Robert Parker thought the wines so powerful yet seductive, he christened the estate ‘the Petrus of Spain’ in 1985. From his early days vinifying his first harvests in a 16th century press, Alejandro modernized and never looked back. He continues to make superlative wines from his sizeable 200 hectare domaine, which as well as being one of the top estates in the world, is truly part of the modern history of Spanish wine.

Included in this offer are some seminal wines from the estate. The 1982 and 1986 Janus were the first two to be released and played a large part in catapulting the estate into the big-time.

Wine Vintage Bottles Size GBP IB
Pesquera Tinto 1990 5 75 £21
Pesquera Reserva Especial 1986 24 75 £31
Pesquera Gran Reserva 1985 13 75 £32
Pesquera Gran Reserva 1989 2 75 £43
Pesquera Janus Reserva Especial 1982 15 75 £50
Pesquera Janus Reserva Especial 1986 37 75 £55
Pesquera Millenium (Magnum) 2002 1 150 £119
Pesquera Reserva (Magnum) 1986 1 75 £40
Pesquera Reserva 1989 22 75 £33
Pesquera Reserva 1991 11 75 £34

Mature Dagueneau 06/07/2014

Much of the discussion about Didier Dagueneau is centred around his ‘wild man of Pouilly’ reputation.

A lot of it is lazy cliché, and a lot of it misses the unique contribution he made to viticultural life in the Loire and in France.

Didier started with nothing and became an international celebrity because he brought an insane level of rigor, love and attention to his vineyard. He was intense and extreme in everything he did but nothing matched his fanatic devotion to his vines. This made him enemies as the region had been complacent for too long, and he was unapologetic about calling a spade a wine, a bad wine, a bad wine. But he reserved devotion to those he felt deserved it, he greatly admired Edmund Vatan, a legendary Sancerre producer, and Henri Jayer, the great vigneron of Burgundy. He thought of Vatan as his godfather, and he worshiped Jayer, they were extremely close, like father and son.

Didier had one worker per hectare, the same ratio as Domaine de la Romaine Conti. That one worker had to spend time in every other aspect of the winery to learn the entire process of making wine. Didier was not an advocate of biodynamie, he was not an advocate of natural wine, he used some sulphur, disliked natural yeast fermentations and did not want to sell his wine because it was organic. He wanted to make the very best wine imaginable by guiding the minerality of his sites into the bottle. He was a strong-willed guide and didn’t suffer detours and dogmas. Dagueneau didn’t have a recipe, all he wanted to do was make great wine and he was prepared to sacrifice everything to get it done. Dagueneau became bigger than the AOC Pouilly-Fumé but he started with nothing and built it all by sheer will. In the early years, Dagueneau didn’t have hot water in his home, but the cellar was well equipped and well maintained.

His 2004’s and 2005’s were two of his greatest vintages before his premature death in 2008, aged just 52. Now, as Jean-Louis Benjamin takes over the reins, these remain rare reminders of the man’s life and are quickly disappearing from the market.

1 c/s 6 – 2004 Silex – £80 / £480 (all dp ex vat & sold as original unsplit cases)

“The 2004 Blanc Fume de Pouilly Silex leads off with an amazing aromatic amalgam of pineapple, lime, grapefruit, passion fruit, peppermint, white currant, chalk dust, and a diverse array of herbs and flowers. Carpeting the palate with more of the same, it also adds hints of resin and rich suggestions of caramelized parsnip. Plush, polished, and remarkably poised, this wine’s luscious richness of fruit somewhat sublimates obvious minerality, but then, arguably certain sorts of effusive fruit and perfume constitute precisely the terroir character of flint soils in the Loire. Certainly this remains transparent, and not without delicacy of citrus and flowers as well as a certain lightness of touch, even as it finishes with ravishing refinement and memorable length” 94 Points eRobertParker

1 c/s 6 2004 Buisson Renard – £85 / £510 

 “Gorgeous, with acacia and honeysuckle flower aromas followed by green almond, grapefruit, lime and straw notes that cascade over one another on the finish, where a hint of macadamia nut lingers. Wonderful precision and balance.” 95 Points Wine Spectator

2 c/s 6 2005 Silex – £109 / £654

 “Tightly wound, with a lot in reserve, this has a piercing minerality that leads the way for floral, lemon verbena, lime, salted butter and thyme notes. Very long on the finish and very precise” 96 Points Wine Spectator

2 c/s 6 2005 Blanc de Fume – £70 / £420

“The 2005 Blanc Fume de Pouilly Pur Sang smells alluringly of lime, ripe honeydew melon, and lily-of-the-valley. Palpably dense and chalky, it is nevertheless far more generous today than Dageuneau’s “Renard” bottling, offering a Margarita-like salt-tinged lime and lusciously ripe melon fruit personality underlain by persistent, diverse, and subtle mineral suggestions, and finishing with a length and poise that do not in any obvious way betray Dagueneau’s use of new wood” 92 Points eRobertParker

1 c/s 6 2005 Pur Sang – £75 / £450

Clos Rougeard 05/06/2014

It’s not just the wines from Clos Rougeard that are difficult to find…

Some years ago, a colleague and I were in the Loire valley, on a rainy day in the village of Chace, one of those French villages where there is almost no sign of life most of the time, and even less so on a rainy Monday morning. We were looking for the driveway to Clos Rougeard. We thought we knew the street it was on. Up and down we went, peering through gates and over hedges to see any confirmation we had the right place.We found nothing. We drove back around. We looked for people to ask. The one person we found had no idea and didn’t care. We had a loose appointment but no working phone number and no more information.

So, with nothing further to go on, and a pressing appointment, we got back in the car and drove off. Nothing else to do.

It’s a tale that suits the mythical nature of this Domaine, of which Charles Joguet, the great winemaker of Chinon, once said: “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellar.”* I think the major characteristic of the house, for both reds and white, is the sheer purity of the fruit. There is a wonderfully seamless, smooth, edge to the Cabernet Franc; you feel you are tasting the unalloyed purity of the variety. The underlying structure is so refined it is hard to see directly. The fruits are precisely delineated, with great purity of line, supported by a very fine underlying granular texture, with a sheen on the surface. Hints of stone and tobacco show on the finish. All the cuvées offer an unmistakable impression of pure Cabernet Franc. There’s a smooth generosity to the wine that in terms of comparisons with Bordeaux might be regarded as more right bank than left bank. The reds are by far the best known, but the white is also very fine: concentrated, mineral, and savory.

If the estate was more intent on promotion and less on their craft, prices would likely be akin to Musigny and top Bordeaux. Instead, they prefer the path of contemporaries like Nicolas Joly and Grange des Pères, flying under the radar while making incredibly underappreciated wine.

Vintage Wine Quantity DP Bt.
2007 Clos Rougeard ‘Les Poyeaux’ 5 £95
2008 Clos Rougeard ‘Les Poyeaux’ 3 £95
2006 Clos Rougeard 2 £63
2008 Clos Rougeard 4 £63
2008 Clos Rougeard ‘Breze’ (Chenin) 2 £86
2009 Clos Rougeard 12 £62

Struggle & Triumph 04/03/2014

The story of Cornas is one of struggle and triumph.

In the 1950’s, less than 200 locals remained in the town as the young were drawn away towards big cities, to newly-industralised industries that offered more compensation than the pittance they were being payed to cultivate the vines perched on the back-breaking hills that ascended behind their small dwellings.  So, come harvest time, the old men that tended the vines sold off their production to negociants like Jaboulet, Chapoutier and Guigal and saw it drive off in the back of big trucks. There wasn’t much of a market for the wines, and money was tight.

But, slowly and carefully, inspired by Auguste Clape and Noel Verset, vignerons started bottling their own wine, more out of pride then economic advantage.

Today, the area is on a roll and there is serious pressure on prices – remember, the entire appellation of Cornas is smaller than the vineyards of Lafite and wine drinkers are quickly rediscovering the ‘heart and soul’ of an appellation that has such a phenomenal classical tradition, often obscured by high-scoring modernists. In my mind, no region or style is going to look so cheap in years to come as the best traditional wines of Cornas do right now. With time, these wines take on so much in the way of secondary earthy, spice, pepper and raw power, nothing really comes close. I’m always scouring the market and private cellars for older vintages but, they never last long. Simply, people who buy these wines tend to drink them.

3 to buy:

 Auguste Clape:

Clape is a singular legend in Cornas.  The 86-year-old Auguste now has his son Pierre-Marie and grandson Olivier seamlessly taking over from him and the wines have probably never been better. The vineyards are older and they’ve benefitted from the addition of century-old Petite Syrah vines purchased from Noël Verset. No-one in France has a more impressive palette of crus with which to work than does Clape. The paucity of older vintages on the market is testament to how well these wines are prized. John Livingstone-Learmonth puts it well when when he says:  “There should be a stone to Auguste Clape in the northern Rhône. A stone would suit more than a statue – it would be more fundamental and less pretentious. The legend on it should read something like ‘Wisdom, Integrity and Humanity.’ For this is an exceptional person.”

Alain Voge:

“One of the leading estates in Cornas, Alain Voge, with more and more assistance from Alberic Mazoyer (formerly at Chapoutier), produces some of the most impressive, concentrated and rich wines of the appellation. Owning 17 acres in Cornas, spread across 12 different plots, up to three Cornas’ are made in any given vintage. The first cuvee is the Les Chailles, which comes from vines planted in the mid-1980s. Aged 18 months in neutral oak, it is the most forward and approachable of the releases. The old vine Vieilles Vignes cuvee sees more time in oak (some of which can be new) and comes from vines averaging 30 to 90 years in age. As a whole, vinification here is semi-modern, with plenty of destemming, and while the wines shows gorgeous polish and purity, they never lose their Cornas soul. These wines need to be on every reader’s short list” Robert Parker

Thierry Allemand:

For lovers of classic Cornas, Clape and Verset are the giants. But if any man towers above all others for his quest for absolute purity of expression, it is Thierry Allemand. I’ve met many winemakers and the wine I se most on their racks and sitting as empty reminders of nights past, is Thierry Allemand’s Cornas. He has a particular following in Burgundy where the purity of his Syrah has a real kindred affinity with Grand Cru Pinot Noir. Thierry now enters his fourth decade of winemaking, Yet, he did not come from a winemaking family. In 1982, while still a teenager, he approached Robert Michel’s father Joseph—one of the great old-school Cornas vignerons—who gave him “not only a job but the passion for wine. I joined him in May 1981, and he died in 1985, but he set me on my way” – (NB, Allemand also inherited some of Verset’s vineyards on his death.)  His hunt for transparency has also led him to extremely low use of sulfur for purity of fruit and finesse, and extended aging on the lees without racking. The results are Cornas that combine classic aromas and flavors with unheard-of definition and elegance. Allemand divides his production between two legendary cuvées—the structured, mineral Reynards and the classic, gutsy, slow-to-mature Chaillot.

Prices all match or under-cut UK market (+ many of these wines are very hard to find.)

Btls Vintage Wine IB bt. RP Status
12 2005 Cornas Clape £72 92 Now
60 2007 Cornas VV Alain Voge £29 91-93 4 Wks
12 2007 Cornas Clape £59 92 Now
24 2008 Cornas Clape (A great success for the vintage) £42 Now
60 2008 Cornas VV Alain Voge £22 89 4 Wks
12 2009 Cornas VV Alain Voge £44 94+ 4 Wks
12 2010 Cornas Chailles Alain Voge £36 95 4 Wks
3 2010 Cornas VV Alain Voge (Magnum) £210 99 4 Wks
6 2010 Cornas Clape £135 100 Now
60 2011 Cornas Chailles Alain Voge £23 94 4 Wks
60 2011 Cornas VV Alain Voge £33 95 4 Wks
24 2011 Cornas Chailles Thierry Allemand £62 NR 4 Wks
24 2011 Cornas Reynards Thierry Allemand £77 NR 4 Wks



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