A tutored tasting of a selection of fine and rare wines currently on the market was held by the Harrogate Medical Wine Society on Wednesday 25 September at the Masonic Hall on Station Avenue (HG1 5NE) in Harrogate. The tasting started at 7pm with a glass of Vinho Verde and was followed by an optional two course supper (£15). Tasting tickets cost £15.
Seventeen Members and a guest came to the Masonic Hall. The room looked elegant and had a cosy, club-like ambience. There were white cloths on the tables, which were already laid for supper.
I was keen to show that Fine Wine is not only Claret and Burgundy. There are many little known gems that seldom cross our path but are well worth seeking out.
Dirk Niepoort’s Docil is a new, refreshing and pleasing take on Vinho Verde. The Santorini is aromatic and full flavoured. I have been drinking both wines over the warmer summer months with glee. The Alvarinho from Melgaco is intensely perfumed and rich. Pazo Senorans at eight years shows how well expertly made Albarino can age. It took time to open up in the glass, but then, showed all its glory. I remember drinking it and being amazed during that memorable evening at Lavinia in Madrid last spring. The Chardonnay from Isole e Olena is absolute magic! Its rich, honeyed flavours surprised me – I have never tasted Chardonnay from Chiantishire of this quality ever before. Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay is crisp and elegant. Too young now, but it develop, I am sure, into a stunner. Dog Point Pinot was the only red. It is good without being great and after all that came before, was thin and insipid and bit of a let down.
They were expensive wines but they were good wines and cost should never be a distraction. Gold is always gold irrespective of cost!
Afterwards, fifteen stayed to supper. Adam Vear’s cooking is excellent, the service pleasing and the delicious pork tenderloin on a bed of mash was washed down with Kendall-Jackson Reserve Pinot Noir.
The spare Docil, Santorini and Isole e Olena were snapped up and an order for another case of Docil was placed.
Many thought it was a good evening.
1. Docil Vinho Verde 2012, Niepoort. (£9.95)
A floral, fragrant Portuguese classic in the hands of one of the country’s leading winemakers is a mouthwatering proposition. This is Dirk Niepoort’s refreshing, modern take on vinho verde
2. Hatzidakis Santorini 2012. (£9.95)
Wonderfully full-flavoured dry white with a long seam of ripe acidity at its heart that gives it vitality. Assyrtiko vines, trained low like a birds nest to conserve moisture and proted them from the wind, are a Santorini speciality and Haridamos Hatzidakis, who cultivates organically, probably makes it better than anyone else. 13.5%
Haridimos Hatzidakis, originally from Crete, now lives and makes wine in a highly individual way on the volcanic island of Santorini (Thera). He used to be winemaker for the major wine merchant Boutari. Since 1996 he has made wine on his own from his own grapes and using bought in fruit. He also leases four hectares of land that belong the monks of Patmos and elsewhere to a local nunnery of the prophet Elijah. His own vines are cultivated organically without irrigation, the humidity from sea breezes providing enough moisture with the vines trained close to the ground in unique bird’s nest shape.
His main wine (7,000 dozen a year) is his Santorini white which must be 90% asyrtiko with a bit of aidani. He has a tiny cave winery just outside Pyrgos, the highest village in Santorini, and a larger underground cellar, carved from the tufa, under vineyards where he also makes a number of eccentric red wines such as Mavrotragano, Bullseye (Voudomato) and Vin Santo.
The September issue of Decanter Magazine features a panel tasting of assyrtiko, the indigenous white grape of Greece’s Santorini. Of the 57 examples tasted blind by the judges, only this wine achieved the top rating of ‘outstanding’. The wine has a delightful nose, with aromas of white flowers and citrus, and a full aromatic palate with a long, lingering finish. It is also versatile and partners all manner of seafood (including oily fish such as salmon), cheese, chicken, pork and tomato and asparagus dishes. The Decanter judges praised its ‘mouthwatering freshness’, ‘clean and punchy minerality’, ‘full-throttle palate’ and ‘huge intensity of tropical fruit.’
‘This is a remarkable white … powerfully aromatic and has fabulous flavours of peach, pear, citrus and herbs. – Jamie Goode, The Daily Express
‘Wonderful combination of citrus and mineral with quite a broad, ripe palate structure but no shortage of acidity. Really attention-grabbing. – Jancis Robinson MW, jancisrobinson.com
‘Haridimos Hatzidakis … has brought the intense, minerallic, sharp-edged wines of this tiny island to the rest of the world’s attention.’ – Victoria Moore, The Daily Telegraph
3. Soalheiro Alvarinho 2012 (£14.95)
Soalheiro is based in the sub region of Monçao e Melgaço which is a good distance from the Atlantic and gets less of the downpours so frequent in the Vinho Verde region. It is owned by oenologist António Cerdeira, whose work experience includes a stint in Burgundy. Mature vines, low yields and expert winemaking are evident here in the purity of fruit on the nose, the minerality and elegance on the palate, and the length and satisfying complexity of the finish. The wines also have a proven track record for ageing well in bottle. 12.5%
4. Pazo Senorans Seleccion de Anada Albarino, Rias Baixas 2005 (£32)
There’s a strong case for drinking albariño young and fresh but Pazo de Señorans’ winemaker Anna Quintela was always convinced there was more to the Galician grape. Three years on the lees and more in bottle have made this ‘gran reserva’ from the estate’s plot a Decanter magazine five-star pick. Breezy charm has given way to rich, almost Burgundian flavours, taking the grape from simple seafood into serious sauce territory.
Set near Vilanoviña, in the lush, green hinterland of Spain’s extreme north-west coast, Pazo de Señoráns (the de does not appear on the label) dates fom the 16th century. It was bought in 1979 by the Bueno family, who retain the pazo (the word is a Galician variant of palacio, but refers more to a manorial country estate than a palace) as an upscale party venue while running their wine business from modern premises across the way.
The denominación is Rías Baixas, named after the low, estuarine stretch of coast that separates it from the Atlantic ocean. There are no rollers or breakers here, but the cool, wet Atlantic climate is highly conducive to the ripening of the aromatic albariño grape with its peachy, mineral character. The grape is, by all accounts, genuinely indigenous, but its rise to prominence is recent and explosive, spearheading a long-overdue white wine renaissance not only for Galicia but for Spain as a whole. The albariňo phenomenon began with the advent of stainless steel technology, and is sustained by the rigour of the denominación. Granted in 1980, it is one of Spain’s most strict, awarded (or not) to individual producers on a vintage-by-vintage basis.
This small estate, founded in 1989, produced its first vintage in 1990 and quickly won a reputation for consistently high quality. The winemaker, Ana Quintela has been with the company for twenty years, overseeing production of some 350,000 bottles, 15% of which come from the property’s own vines, supplemented by fruit from around 200 small contract growers. These are strictly controlled, down to the date of picking, and vinified not separately but like with like. The wines are tank-fermented and held for around 2 years before bottling. No oak is used other than for the barrique-aged Sol de Señorans, named after Soledad, first grandchild of founder Marisol Bueno. As well as the regular bottling, the estate produces Selección de Añada, a special cuvée from the winery’s oldest plot, 3.5ha of 35-year old vines adjoining the winery, set in a bedrock of deep granite.This spends 35 months in tank, and is aged for a further year and a half in bottle, in the manner of a gran reserva, and hits its prime at ten years. Finally, two spirits are produced from the grape residues, a clear, white 42% marc, and a golden Aguardiente con Hierbas at 37.5%, infused with anis, sweet and bitter chamomile, coriander and orange peel. 13%
But the main business of this estate is its regular albariño bottlings, exquisite, clean-cut examples of their type which need neither oak nor lengthy ageing to enhance their appeal.
5. Isole e Olena Chardonnay Collezione De Marchi 2011 (£27)
Tuscany is best known for its reds, but this white is outstanding and too good to miss. Paolo de Marchi has been making chardonnay at Isole for over 25 years and has really upped the standard in terms of coaxing finesse and texture froim his grapes in the best Côte d’Or manner. His vineyard was planted in 1989 from five Burgundian clones. A lovely full buttery chardonnay with fresh fragrant tail to the flavour. 14%
Isole e Olena are two tiny hamlets whose vineyards, tended by sharecroppers for an absent landlord until the 1950s, were bought by the Piedmontese de Marchi family. The de Marchis planted new specialised vineyards and the estate has long been run with care, originality and flair by Paolo de Marchi, who has always been at the forefront in improving the quality of his vineyard by careful mixed clone selection, closer planting and training. Above all he wishes his sangiovese wines to be a pure expression of the grape and of its location on the western edge of Chianti Classico. More recently he and his son Luca have revitalised old family vineyards in northern Piedmont at Lessona.
6. Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2010, Nelson (£39)
‘Spellbinding, meditative chardonnay,’ wrote one taster. The nose is sublime, the palate fresh and the finish mind-bogglingly complex. This was still a bit too young to be a champion, but we could not resist including it here for the forward-thinking, especially as only 550 cases were made. 13.5%
Tim and Judy Finn planted their first vines in 1978 on slopes overlooking the Moutere Valley at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. They called their fledgling business Neudorf after the name of a tiny nearby hamlet established by German settlers in 1842. Judy freely admits that what the couple lacked in expertise or knowledge at the time they made up for with “youth, self-belief and friends.” Initially the Finns had to plant many grape varieties to see which were best suited to the soils on their land, as so little was known about viticulture at the time in New Zealand. However it was not long before Neudorf started to earn a high reputation for concentrated, minerally Moutere chardonnay with complex fruit characters. Other grape varieties are now grown with great success here including rich and herbal sauvignon blanc; pure, limey riesling, aromatic and full-bodied pinot gris and dense, complex pinot noir. In the vineyards a combination of high plant density and low production gives the fruit concentration and palate length for which Neudorf wines have become known. Some wines are completely sourced from local Moutere-grown fruit whilst some other examples come from further afield in Nelson. True to the ‘back to the land’ movement of the 1960s which sparked their interest in owning vines in the first place, the Finns were notable founder members of the New Zealand Sustainable Viticulture Group. Environmentally friendly practices at Neudorf include replenishing organic soil matter, sustaining micro-organisms and composting all winery wastes. Tim and Judy firmly believe in a natural approach without undue intervention stating. “We admire wines that have poise and finesse, wines that speak more of place than of winemaker.”
Although the Finns have come a long way since their early days they are quick to admit that “…making wine is constantly scary and stimulating. We survive on hard work, high hopes and a dollop of common-sense and cunning.” They are always happy to welcome visitors to their Cellar Door which is open throughout the year. They also sell Neudorf sheep and cows cheese and, although there is no on-site restaurant, the gardens make a lovely spot for a picnic.
7. Dog Point Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough (£23.50)
This amazingly fragrant, pure and plummy pinot with glorious length may just go down as Dog Point’s finest to date. 14%
Marlborough’s Dog Point is a partnership between viticulturalist Ivan Sutherland and winemaker James Healy, both formerly of Cloudy Bay. After leaving Cloudy Bay the pair began making wine from fruit sourced from Sutherland’s own vineyards in the Wairau Valley. Abundant sunshine, low rainfall and cool autumn nights here make for a long grape growing season, enabling the slow evolution of a rich array of vibrant fruit flavours.
Dog Point produces a small but high-quality portfolio of four incredibly exciting wines. Their sauvignon blanc is beautifully elegant and fine-tasting with a stunning perfume. Section 94 is, unusually for Marlborough, a barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc which undergoes extended lees contact in older barrels. We regard it as New Zealand’s most distinctive sauvignon – the name comes from a specific plot known as section 94 on an early survey map of the area. The impressive chardonnay too sees some oak and is broad-flavoured yet restrained. Pinot noir is highly perfumed and stylish with a silky palate.
Grapes are hand-picked and winemaking is as natural as possible with only indigenous yeasts being used. The intention here is to remain a hands-on, boutique operation making regionally distinctive and vineyard-expressive wines.
Pork tenderloin with an apricot stuffing and a rosemary and brandy sauce
Raspberry & Hazelnut Pavlova
(Wine and notes are from The Wine Society)
- Grape of the Month: Albariño (uncorkedatlanta.com)
- Discovering the best of Vinho Verde wines (Photos) (examiner.com)