Episode 27 – 30th September 2020
I have completely ignored my ‘one wine under a tenner and one wine over’ rule this week as there are two sparkling wines launching imminently and so I must seize this opportunity to give them both a shout. You could say that this week is a one-off featuring one wine under £100 and one over. It is also rather amusing that both of these wines are 100% Chardonnay and both see some oak!
NV Ridgeview, Limited Edition, Oak Reserve Brut, England (£75.00, from 5th October, www.ridgeview.co.uk).
At the time of writing this wine is under a press embargo (which I will discreetly break) until 5th October. As the 5th is a Monday and I could not bear to publish my thoughts a full two days late, in my Wednesday Wines feature, so I have sneaked this write-up into this week’s WW feature instead. I hope Ridgeview forgives me. This wine goes on sale on the 5th and only 2500 bottles were produced so I expect it will move fast. Ridgeview is the only stockist at present, but I imagine there will be a queue around the block from merchants who want a few cases to satiate the vinous urges of their most prized customers.
I was lucky to taste this wine a few weeks ago and I must admit that I have thought of it often since then, not least because it is so much finer than every bottle of Champagne I have tasted during this period apart from the one following this very write-up.
Made from 100% Chardonnay and coming from the home vineyard, planted in 1995, parcels were selected from three vintages and they were all aged in oak. I spoke to winemaker Simon Roberts the day after I first tasted this wine and he explained the Oak Reserve philosophy to me neatly. He said that he wanted to ‘stick to their house style, but one step away’. I love this. It is nothing like any other wine in the impressive Ridgeview portfolio but it is indeed very much Ridgeview in style! This wine is a very clever sleight of hand.
The skill here is the wide variety of Radoux oak used to caress the terrific Chardonnay fruit. Medium toast, heavy toast, toasted ends, 3-year-old Burgundy and 5-year-old Loire barrels were all employed to bring innate complexity to the completed wine. The base wine comes from the 2017 vintage, so this is a sprightly wine, and the theme is lemony and touched by brioche tones, but there is nothing oaky or woody about this wine. It is bright white, lifted and energetic on the nose and palate and the oak shines through with faint smoky, nutty, pie crust hints. Perhaps the label promises an overly oaky wine, given the label’s barrel-like midriff, but it is the subtlety and poise which is surprising and so delightful in Oak Reserve. I cannot recommend it enough because this is one of the most carefully assembled, barrel-influenced wines made in the UK to date. 18.5/20 (now – 2030)
2008 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France (approx. £154.00, from the finest merchants & wine brokers).
This is a superb Comtes and it harks back to a bygone era of discreet poise and innate perfection. Unlike so many other prestige cuvée Champagnes these days which are often uncomfortably weighty, robust and mouth-coating, you can taste the cold winter and cool summer in this wine. This is a rare Champagne which seems not to have been touched by climate change. In addition, you can taste the chalky soils of the five famous Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs from whence the grapes came – Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger. There is the merest whisper of oak here and it serves to soothe some of the raspier edges in this dynamic Chardonnay cocktail. Most of all, when you drink Comtes you want to it to taste noble and thoroughly worthy of its label. This 2008 release is the epitome of the Comtes style and I adore it. You might also want to realise some sense of value for money when you buy this wine given that it wears a hefty price tag. Well, I can tell you that I think it stacks up in this department, too. I believe that this is one of the most exciting Taittinger releases for years and while it will last for 20 years or more, I was struck by the extraordinary balance which this wine already shows. This is a true wine highlight in a very dreary year for the wine trade, so thank you Taittinger for bringing a degree of levity to proceedings. 19/20 (now – 2040)