25 February 2017
So in the shop today we are celebrating the arrival of The Smoking Loon. I’ve always said the world could do with more Californian wine – big, soft, whack-it-on-the-bbq and glug styles, as well as the more serious and pocket-intensive efforts from Napa and Washington. Today however is the chance to try something slightly less manically priced; if not less manic in demeanour:
2014 Smoking Loon Viognier
£15.99/Bt, £6/glass AND ONLY £12.50/bottle by the case!
A gloriously exuberant apricot, honey and mango fruit salad of a wine, with plenty of upfront desire and crispy end notes. Brash, unashamed and lovely – and stunning stuff!
2014 Smoking Loon Zinfandel £15.99/Bt £6/glass AND ONLY £12.50/bottle by the case!
A classic American softie – shedloads of black raspberries hoicked up by spicy cinnamon and calmed down with a full-on oaking. Just begging for ribeye steak and some caramelized onions!
... was the short-heralded but long-anticipated tasting for Alemany I Corrió or as you and I usually know them – the quite seriously talented winemakers of Principia Mathematica. And as I am writing this little intro before the tasting itself, no, I don’t know yet why this most handsome of Xarel-lo’s is named after Newton’s little scribble. In a spirit of intrepid intellectual discovery I make it my very mission to discover this fact this very eve…..er - and drink some seriously good Spanish wine, obviously!
Twelve hours later….
Right, well – that was a brilliant yet far-too-short tasting. As half of our number ducked out due to the stormy weather which made it a select group for Laurent to talk to. First was a quick chat on how Alemany I Corrió got going and how a Breton winemaker came to be working in Cava country. The answer? He met his wife while working in Burgundy and they eventually decided to settle on her father’s land…. in Penedes. Which wasn’t expected. What was even less expected was to say – the first vintage they produced was literally knocked up in a tank handbuilt by her father. This really epitomised something which Laurent was at pains to point out throughout the whole tasting – this is a very small, family-run operation which produces great wines by intelligence, feeling and downright backbreaking work by the family members, rather than by a corporation of labourers.
And to answer my question above – Laurent names his wines as the mood takes him. Principia Mathematica is named for a mate of his who is a science and maths teacher, who he was presenting an award to, in (quote) “An underground place in Barcelona.” Congratulations – I definitely think having a wine named in your honour is how teachers should be treated! Anyway – onto the wines!
2015 Principia Mathematica £20.99 or 2 for £40
Produced from Xarel-lo grapes originally destined for the cava of the region, this delightfully light and crisp wine manages somehow to wrap itself in the body of a white Burgundy. This isn’t a surprise as both Laurent and Irene spent time training in Dijon. However, no white Burgundy has this sense of effervescent crisp apple-saline body or the effortless charming length of the endnote. This is a stunning lighter wine which should be enjoyed as an aperitif to watching the clouds scudding across a fresh spring day.
2014 2014 Cargol Treu Vi £23.99
From a much older plantation 350m up the slope of the mountainside. The extra length comes from the limestone rocks prevalent under the vineyard, the stones echoing the granny-smith textures of the Xarel-lo perfectly. Long, dense, white stone-fruit with an elegance borne only by the lingering touches of its full-flavour and by virtually no weight at all, this echoes its little brother with its Burgundian hints but really goes off in another direction. The sheer glossiness of the finish on this superb wine enthralled, causing a brief pause round the table. Unlike the Principia Mathematica, Cargol Treu Vi demands something to go with it, the clean acidity as effective a palate-cleanser as I have enjoyed.
2014 Pas Curtei £20.99, 2 for £40, £7.00 a glass
60% Merlot, 20% Carignan and 20% Cabernet. Pas Curtei could be regarded as their most commercial wine – a fine, rich Merlot body with such well-integrated soft tannin that you would swear it had at least five years bottle-ageing. It doesn’t – and only a little time in oak as well. From my notes: “wonderful expressive/explosive mouthfeel, delicate soft plum.” Soft plum? That’s not a phrase I would often use – the best way to describe this would be like sinking into a very soft plum velvet feather cushion. This opulent, powerful and relaxed wine is as near-perfect a low £20 bottle as any on the shelves.
2007 Sot Lefriec £52.99
I approached this wine with some trepidation. Being more than double the price of the other wines, I was expecting to hear a story of a vineyard on a 90 degree slope infested by man-eating mountain goats or a vine so old it had confused Quixote, but after how good the others were I was more or less willing to be led anywhere.
Actually the story was much simpler. This is simply a very, very fine wine. It has a lot more new oak than the other wines (50%) but Laurent was upfront – he prices it at that level because that is what he believes it is worth.
And I more than agree. This knocks the spots off Bordeaux at the same price. Taking it’s cue firmly from the most classic styles of Pomerol, the intense nose of black cherries, cedarwood, is underpinned by a load of fruit, a plump, full-bodied mouthfeel and silky tannins. I would put my cards on the table and say clearly this is one not to be missed!
Overall, this tasting reinforced my love of seeing small, interesting vineyards up close. Laurent was a very interesting speaker – articulate, interesting and detailed. He had that rarest of abilities, that of bringing the understanding of his listeners up closer to his level than talking down to them. An excellent evening!
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