Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Vinoteca at King's Cross


I don’t usually consider enthusing about a wine bar within the remit of this blog, but there are exceptions to every rule – and one is the new Vinoteca at King's Cross.   I’ve visited the other Vinoteca, in Farringdon, Beak Street, Marble Arch and Chiswick, for tastings, drinks and dinner, and have always enjoyed them, so was curious to see what they have done at Kings Cross.    Another reason possibly for not writing about Vinoteca is the lack of Languedoc wines on their list – they do have a couple, but only a couple, but there are so many other tempting things.   It is always good to drink outside one’s comfort zone from time to time, and Vinoteca’s ever changing wine list by the glass certainly offered plenty of interest and temptation.  So first we checked out a couple of glasses of fizz, their house champagne from Renard Barnier and  the 209 Gran Reserva Cava from Juve y Camps.

A week earlier in the Farringdon Vinoteca, I did enjoy a glass of white Corbières from the coop of Rocbère, but on this occasion it was a delicious Santorini, a sappy mineral Assyrtiko from a new producer Karamalengos that tempted.  The manager at the King's Cross Vinoteca, Gus Gluck has worked a vintage on Santorini, and is particularly enthusiastic about the island’s wines. And then we tried David Ramonteu’s Dada.  David’s father, Henri at Domaine Cauhape was one of the pioneers of the renaissance of Jurançon, and David went off to New Zealand, for a stage, and met a girl, and is currently making wine there.  He has no vineyards, but buys grapes, and for Dada they are an intriguing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier and Gewürztraminer.  Even though Viognier and Gewurztraminer are pretty powerful flavours, neither variety dominated the blend.

Vinoteca is open from 7 a.m on weekdays, and 9 a.m. at the weekend, so it occured to my tasting / drinking buddy that if you were travelling to the Languedoc by train, you could set yourself up for the journey with breakfast, as Vinoteca is very conveniently situated for the Eurostar, and in their small shop, which replicates the wine bar list, you could buy a bottle to go with the picnic lunch that you might enjoy en route.  It is almost tempts me to take the train rather than the plane!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

White wines from the Languedoc do age




We had a bit of a crisis, when we arrived in the Languedoc as we discovered that we were in serious danger of running out of Blanquette de Limoux.  Happily that was  a problem that was easily solved, with a quick email to our friends Caryl and Jan Panman at Rives Blanques to arrange to drop in for a quick purchase.    But Caryl and Jan’s hospitality in the tasting room is such, that a quick drop is never works.  ‘We know you’d like some Blanquette, but you must try the Crémant too to make sure’.   We also wanted some white wine, so we checked out their Mauzac, with some dry honey and that characteristic bitter note of Mauzac.  I have always loved their Chenin Blanc, Dédicace, so we compared the 2012 and the 2011, and then Jan asked if we’d like to try the 2013, which they are not yet selling.  What a silly question.  Of course we would.  And we got to talking about how Chenin Blanc develops in bottle.  The 2011 has filled out beautifully, while the 2012 is still quite fresh and honeyed, and 2013 an awkward adolescent.  

And then Jan disappeared, to return with a dusty bottle of 2002 Dédicace, the Chenin Blanc of their very first vintage.   And what a treat it was.   If you need ammunition to prove that white wines from the Languedoc do age, this was it.   It is well known that Chenin Blanc ages well in the Loire Valley, so why not in Limoux too?     I could almost make a comparison with mature Chablis.  The colour was light golden, with no signs at all of oxidation.  There were notes of mousseron, lightly mushroomy notes on the nose that you also find in mature Chablis and the palate was very elegant with lots of nuances, with dry honey and balancing acidity.  It was a lovely mature glass of wine, on its plateau, but certainly not falling off it.   And extraordinary to think that it was a twelve year old white wine from the Languedoc.   

Friday, 10 April 2015

Villa Dondona with the Solicitors’ Wine Society



I had a fascinating evening the other day at The Solicitors’ Wine Society with Jo Lynch and André Suquet from Villa Dondona in  Montpeyroux.  Jo and André were presenting their wines, and I tagged along to add an extra commentary. 

We kicked off with:

2012 Cuvée Espérel, Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc.   -1100€
I’ve always had a soft spot for this wine, since the first vintage, the 2010, came out top in the Concours des Vins de la Vallée de l’Hérault.  It is a blend, mainly of Vermentino and Grenache Blanc, with a little Marsanne and Roussanne.  It always makes me think of the herbs of the garrigues, the crushed herbs of the Languedoc vineyards, with fennel, thyme and bay. It is delicate and fragrant, but not ethereal, with some fresh acidity and a long finish, and shows just how much the white wines of the Languedoc have improved.

2012 Chemin des Cayrades, IGP Hérault – 9.50€
A pure Carignan vinified by carbonic maceration.  A good deep young colour.  Nicely rustic red berry fruit on the nose, and on the palate ripe, rounded fruit, but with a tannic streak.  Kept in a vat so no wood.  Easy drinking.

Next we compared :

2011 Cuvée Dondona with 2011 Cuvée Oppidum

Cuvée Dondona  (12.00€) is a blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache, kept in vat rather than barrel.  Good colour.  Lovely ripe fruit on nose and palate.  Supple and rounded with a tannic streak.  Very harmonious.  It was drinking beautifully.

Cuvée Oppidum  (21.00€) is a blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah which have been aged in barrel for a year.  Deep colour; a firm nose and on the palate a firm structure, with some vanilla notes from the oak.  Youthful and sturdy, with plenty of ageing potential.

Then 2010 Cuvée Dondona, which was described as a recalcitrant, more reticent vintage, with a much firmer nose, and a more closed palate, with some tannic structure and youthful fruit, and possibly more ageing potential than 2011.

Then we compared two 2008s., which again provided another fascinating comparison.

Cuvée Dondona was beginning to age, with a savoury note on the nose and quite an elegant palate, with a hint of orange.  Medium weight and alongside Cuvée Oppidum, it had less depth.  In contrast Cuvée Oppidum  (23.00€) had evolved beautifully.  It had a deeper colour and quite a structured palate, with a tannic streak but the palate was very harmonious and balanced.  A perfect example of the benefit of subtle oak ageing.

2006 Cuvée Dondona had quite a firm nose, with some maturing leathery notes on the palate, which was quite supple.  I think it had reached its plateau and would not benefit from further ageing.


On the other hand 2005 Cuvée Oppidum still had quite a rich nose, with some oak.  There was quite a savoury note on the palate, with a sturdy streak of tannin and some spicy fruit.  Lots of intriguing nuances, possibly with some further ageing potential, and certainly a splendid example of the ability of the wines of the Languedoc to develop in bottle. 2005 was only Jo and André’s second vintage and they had no idea that it would be so successful.  The solicitors were thrilled.