Wednesday Wines – Episode 57

Episode 57 – 28th April 2021

Two terrific ‘rosés’ and a host of Californian superstars!

2020 Folc, English Rosé, Kent, England (£14.99, www.drinkfolc.com,  www.thebottleneck.co.uk, www.sweetspice.world).

I tasted this wine some months ago and I remember that Elisha Rai mentioned to me at the time that it would go live on the 30th April, so I am hoping this is still the case and that is why I am highlighting it today!  I am sure that her and Tom’s website at least will be listing it, so be sure to order some on Friday!  Made from 53% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier, 8% Chardonnay, 6% Bacchus, 6% Reichensteiner, 3% Schönburger and 1% Dornfelder this is one of the most delicate and tender English rosés I have tasted.  Smooth and refreshing with the merest hints of rosehips and strawberry hulls, this is a tangy, herbal creation which a magical touch.  I love the bottle shape and design, too, and I wish this dynamic team the very best of luck with this delicious venture. 17.5/20

2008 Billecart-Salmon, Elisabeth Salmon Brut Rosé, Champagne, France (RRP £165.00, www.goedhuis.com, www.hedonism.co.uk, www.thefinestbubble.com, www.jeroboams.co.uk, www.harrods.com – apparently Harrods has the exclusive on magnums but, as usual, they are not listed on the website).

Created in 1988 as a tribute to Elisabeth Salmon, one of the House’s founders, this is the latest release and it has already benefitted from a remarkable ten years on its lees, because my sample was disgorged in October 2020.  Made from 76% Grands Crus and 24% Premiers Crus, 55% Pinot Noir comes from Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Mareuil-sur-Äy and Äy and 45% Chardonnay comes from Chouilly, Cramant and Mesnil-sur-Oger.  9% red wine was added from Valofroy, a parcel of particularly old vines (60+ years old in 2008) situated high up on the hill above the winery in Mareuil.  And 17% of the wine was vinified at low temperature in oak barrels which are, on average, 15 years old.  The dosage is 7g/L.  For the very first time, Elisabeth is available in magnums.

I enjoyed an energetic tasting with Mathieu Roland-Billecart and he explained that this 2008 vintage seems like it has stolen the finest parts of each of the 1996 (tension), 2002 (layers of flavour) and the 2007 (refinement) and rolled them all into one wine!  In a way, this is a fabulous analogy, but there is more to this vintage than meets the eye.  The freshness and acidity here are both spectacular.  These notes underpin the refined flavour with jolts of electricity which gather to form bolts of lightning.  This is a young wine and yet the tenderness of the fruit is perfectly counterpointed by the shocking youthfulness on the finish.  I cannot believe that 13 years have passed in the blink of an eye and so this means that 2008 Elisabeth might well be one of the slowest to age and longest-lived wines under this label to date.  Having said this, the fruit is already magnificent.  Mathieu asked me if I was familiar with the great French dessert clafoutis!  At once a cherry clafoutis aroma arose from the glass, with faint notes of ginger blossom, saffron and white pepper.  This is a crystalline and yet kaleidoscopic wine with fractals of flavour which splinter and shiver on the palate.  It is high-tensile at the same time as being fragile and demure.  It is everything Elisabeth would have wanted in her namesake wine.  19+/20 (Drink now – 2050)

A Baker’s Dozen of Californian Beauties

I blind-tasted a huge number of top-end Californian wines the other day across a vast range of styles and prices and these wines came out on top.  Happy hunting!

The prices and stockists below have been checked by the lovely people at the California Wine HQ in London.

WHITE

2018 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles (£26.99, www.vinvm.co.ukwww.9vines.winewww.vinoteca.co.uk). 

Rather creamy and tropical and pretty long, too, this is a quirky style of white but the white Rhône theme is well executed and the acidity is refreshing and toothsome.  This is great value for money, too.  18/20

2018 Kutch Wines, Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains (£58.00, reduced to £42.95, www.robersonwine.com). 

This is an odd one out!  With abrasive acidity and a super-refreshing feel, this is a shockingly lip-smacking wine and one which really leaves an impression on the palate.  18+/20

2017 Patz & Hall, Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River Valley (£52.50, reduced to £47.25 each by the case, www.greatwine.co.uk). 

For a fairly powerful style, there is rather nice balance here and while the oak is certainly present I am very happy with the way in which is works with the fruit.  18/20

2018 Mayacamas, Chardonnay, Napa Valley (£58.00, www.robersonwine.com). 

Lifted, tangy and rather enticing, there is lovely fruit here and more acid crunch than I find on most Californian Chardonnays.   With lovely texture and length, too, this is a very smart wine.  18+/20

2017 Racines, Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara £490 per 6 bottles, (£81.67 per bottle), www.winesourcestore.com). 

This was one of the finest Chardonnays of the line-up with superb purity and ripeness.  The oak is perfectly integrated, too.  18.5/20

RED

2018 Pessimist by DAOU, DAOU Family Estates, Paso Robles (£25.99, www.harrods.com www.uk.cruworldwine.com, www.thevineking.com, www.secretbottleshop.co.uk, www.barriquefinewines.com, www.liquoricewine.co.uk, www.stonewines.com).  

Made from 62% Petite Sirah, 20% Zinfandel, 16% Syrah and 2% Lagrein, this is a crazy cocktail and there is far too much coffee, chocolate and char, but it is downright fascinating at the same time.  Hugely dark and spicy, completely over the top but a lot of fun, too.  18/20

2018 Jolie-Laide, Syrah, North Coast (£42.00, www.robersonwine.com). 

Rather meaty, iodine-y and Northern Rhône-y, too, this is a fascinating Syrah with a great future ahead of it and it is terrific value for this flavour! 18.5+/20

2018 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County (£56.25, reduced to £50.50 each by the case www.leaandsandeman.co.uk). 

Lovely and really complex, with multi-layers and stunning juiciness, this is still young but it is a great Geyserville.  18+/20

2017 Duckhorn Vineyards, Merlot, Napa Valley (£57.00, www.frazierswine.co.uk). 

Really lovely and very mellow on the nose, this is a polished and extremely classy wine and while the palate is elaborate and sophisticated the finish is fit and feisty, pointing to a decent future.  Superb!  18.5+/20

2018 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (£74.68, www.fourcorners.wine).

Very nice nose, great mulberry fruit and stunning purity, this is an extremely polished wine and one made from the highest quality ingredient.  18.5+/20

2016 Chimney Rock, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (£88.99, www.handford.net). 

Rich and full, in a Super-Tuscan manner, with good power and density and a lovely Cabernet core, this is a fabulous wine and the tannins and acidity are spot on, too.  18.5+/20

2018 Barnett Vineyards, Rattlesnake Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (£173.68, www.fourcorners.wine).

With even more focus and length than the estate Cabernet, this was the wine of the line-up.  It is magnificent in every way and it has an epic future ahead of it. 19+/20

SWEET

2017 Cline Family Cellars, Late Harvest Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County (£17.99 – £19.00, half bottle, www.dbyrne-finewines.co.uk, www.butlers-winecellar.co.uk, www.woodwinters.com). 

Ridiculously sweet and absolutely fascinating, this is a bonkers Cali-Port-style with a red-fruited core and a delicious, super-long flavour.  18/20

Scores – I have attached my scores out of 20 for each wine.  If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine that is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.   A ‘?’ means that I am unsure about an element within the wine – this will be explained in my note.