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Falcon Visit to Tenuta San Guido

Last week myself and the sales team flew to Tuscany to visit a few estates, meet with some colleagues, taste plenty of wine (primarily 2008 Brunelli) and, of course, enjoy the local cuisine.

The trip started with driving straight from Pisa airport to Bolgheri to visit and taste at Tenuta San Guido.  After a short tour, we tasted the four wines of the estate.


Le Difese 2010

First vintage was 2002.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese.  Aged 12 months in French and american oak.  Green peppers floral. Light elegant. Soft light pleasant. Floral. Nice.  88 pts.

Guidalberto 2009

60% Cabernet Sauvignon 40% Merlot. First vintage was 2000.  Intended to give more approachable wine.   Bit deeper darker fruit. Syrupy nose. More taught warm fruit ok.  Perfectly we ll made.  89 pts

Sassicaia 2009

Intense sweet vanilla. Purple fruit. Violets. Fresh clean. Soft boiled fruits.  Fine. Classy. Elegance mixed with subte power. Minty eucalyptus.  93 pts

Barrua 2009 (Sardegnia)

Sweet mulberry fruit. Smoky warm herbs. Pepper vine leaves. Creamy. Sherbetty. Ripe but decent freshness. A bit sappy finish. First vintage in 2002.  90 pts

A few facts you may not know about Sassicaia:

  • The Sassicaia estate has 3000 hectares of which only 75 hectares is planted with vines.
  • DOC Bolgheri-Sassicaia can only be planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
  • Only 2% of the Bolgheri DOC is planted with Sangiovese.
  • Le Difese, Guidalberto and Sassicaia all produce roughly the same amount of wine each year –  circa 200 000 bottles per year.




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Domaine La Romanee Conti 2010′s

The end of January and beginning of February is generally a gloomy time of year in mid-winter London.  However, one of the recurring glimmers of bright light is the yearly Corney & Barrow tasting of the new releases of the most exclusive (and most expensive) property in the world -DRC.

I always head up to the event at the suitably posh offices of C&B with an air of excitement especially this year as the 2010 Burgundy is arguably the best vintage of our generation (apologies for the hyperbole although I think many will agree!).

Corton Grand Cru 2010

Immediatelly quite jammy and open on the nose.  It did tighten after a minute or so in the glass showing more purity.  Lightish body with a pleasant rustic edge typical of Cotes de Beaune reds.  90-92

Echezeaux Grand Cru 2010

This is more floral and freshness with notes of red licorice.  More ethereal than the Corton.  Medium weight with tangy red fruits.  Nice warm finish.  92-94

Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2010

This is more closed on the nose with darker fruit and boiled sweets.  More focussed and classy than previous two wines.  More concentrated and hidden fruit on the palate.  fresh, sweet long finish.  95-97

Richebourg Grand Cru 2010

This is a completely different animal to the previous wines.  Much more heady, gamey and earthy on the nose.  The palate is fuller with flavours of stoned fruits.  Concentrated and ripe and very refined.  This brawny number packs a punch and finishes with a warm finish.  94-96

Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2010

The RSV has improved a lot over recent years and this definitely the best they’ve ever made.  It is immediately enticing with a bouquet of aromatic flowers and Provençal herbs.  The palate is vibrant, tangy with undertones of purple fruits.  This just dances on the palate.  Lovely depth and a long fragrant finish.  Utterly charming.  96-98

La Tache Grand Cru 2010

The La Tache is usually my favourite of the range and the 2010 didn’t disappoint.  It is straight out of the blocks with a complex array of stoned fruits, earth and smoke.  Great purity and focus.  Quintessential Pinot Noir on the nose.  Broad, ripe and finely balanced with great precision. Sensual wine that nearly brings a tear to the eye.  97-99

La Romanee Conti Grand Cru 2010

Well, this the flagship and for me, the most awkward of the line-up to taste at this stage.  The nose has great depth and concentration  with a chalky, mineral scented characteristic intertwined with crushed flowers.  It is quite tight and inexpressive on the palate but develops well onto the back palate with a touch of vanilla and spice.  The intensity and power sneaks up on you and it finishes very long.  96-99+



Tasting this array of wines in such a grand vintage is quite a humbling experience.  There is no doubt that from the Grands Echezeaux onwards, these are some of the greatest expressions of Pinot Noir and some of the best wines in the world.  With the wines on the open market ranging £200 per bottle to what I expect will be at least £9,000 per bottle for the RC within a couple of months, these wines are the not so guilty pleasure of the very few.  My favourite was, as always, the La Tache but this time closely followed by the RSV.  Upon leaving the tasting there is always a tinge of sadness that these beauties may never be revisited when they reach full maturation.  Oh well, the one night (actually morning) stand was still worth it.






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Oh what a night!

A few friends from the trade and I decided to toast the new year with a primarily Piedmont-based dinner at our favourite haunt, Zucca. Proprietor, Sam Harris, joined us for dinner and put on a bespoke spread to die for which included Raw Mackerel and Sicilian Prawns, Lightly seared Tuna with lemon and capers, Roast shoulder of lamb with Spelt amongst many others.  Compliments to the chef Megan who outdid herself on the night.

The Perle 2004 Ferrari kicked off the evening nicely.  This stuff spends 4 years on the lees and is probably the best bubbly in Italy.  It easily outshines many of the Grande Marques Champagnes.  Creamy, fresh with a flavour of almonds.

Then we had two Meursaults from a producer I wasn’t familiar with, Domaine Matrot.  The Meursault Charmes 1er Cru 2008 had slightly more depth and a mineral character whilst the Meursault Perrieres 1er Cru 2008 was richer and more exotic in style.  Both drinking well now although I preferred the Charmes.

The next couple of whites were crackers.  The Puligny Montrachet Folatieres 1er Cru 2005, Leflaive was pure class with a restraint mineral scented nose (very different from the opulent and ready-to-drink bottle I had recently), tight, focused and very long on the palate – an excellent white Burgundy.  The Hattenheimer Plattenburg Spatlese 1989 Auktion wine, Schloss Schonborn was also a real success exhibiting excellent depth of sweet marmalade fruit balanced with zesty acidity.  I’m not always a huge fan of the Rheingau (much prefer the Mosel) but this was very good.

The next two wines were 30 years apart but shared a similar character especially on the palate.  I’ve always said that mature Barbaresco is the closest thing to Burgundian Pinot Noir.  The Barbaresco 1971 Francesco Rinaldi initially had quite a stinky nose which faded slightly to reveal mushrooms and sous-bois but the palate was sublime with warm ripe fruit combined with a graceful elegance.  The Clos de la Roche 2001 Hubert Lignier was much better on the nose than the Barbaresco with an intense Pinot aroma and a surprisingly similar texture and balance to the Barbaresco. Fascinating stuff!

The star of the show came next, Barolo Riserva Speciale 1937 Borgogno. This is my second bottle of the newly nicknamed “Mussolini Wine” due to the slip label reading ‘Vini di Regime’ and both have been brilliant.  The original owner has also enjoyed two perfect bottles so the parcel has a perfect record so far.  Older Borgogno in perfect shape is usually a revelation and this was no exception.  The colour was perfectly healthy and bright.  The nose was expressive and vibrant with hint of rose water and spice.  The palate was silky with very evident fruit still on show considering 1937 was not a vintage to write home about.  An absolute delight.

The next pair had a lot to follow and did well without stealing the show.  From my experience 1964 (along with 1989) are the best vintages in the last 50 years and I wanted to see how two of the best producer would stack up.  The Barolo Riserva 1964, Guiseppe Mascarello was inky with an intense nose of crushed roses and berries.  It was quite sweet and sour on the palate without revealing an expansive richness that I was hoping.  The Barolo Riserva Speciale 1964, Giacosa was more animal and spice in character with a slightly rustic complexion.  Still plenty of ripe fruit although a touch loosely knit.   Not a bad pair (pardon the understatement) but the 1937 remained the best in show.

A delightful glass of Vigna del Volta 2008 Emilia, Malvasia Passito, sent us on our way with memories to relish at least until the next do.


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Wines and Cigars of the Year

It’s been a great and many thanks to all that shared some great bottles, cigars and laughs.

I’ve been very lucky to share some top wines this year but I will remember these for a very long time.

Hermitage Blanc 1991 Chave

Hermitage Rouge 1990 Chave

Clos de Vougeot 1978 Heritiers Nicolas

Echezeaux 1985 JP Mugneret

Barolo Brunate Riserva della Famiglia 1964 Marcarini

Barbaresco Podere del Pajore 1974 Moresco

Barolo Falletto 1982 Giacosa

Barolo Monfortino 1985 Giacomo Conterno

Perarlo 1988 San Giusto A Rentennano


An my top 3 cigars

Cohiba 1966 Limited Edition (2011)

Upmann Magnum 46 (2011)

Hoyo de Monterey Hoyo des Dieux (2000)


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World Cup Winners

A very generous friend thought we should kick off the new year with a couple of 1966s and I’m never one to refuse any wine that is actually older (if only just) than yours truly.  On arrival, we tucked into a charming half of Thienot Champagne.

My host was very sceptical about the two reds on opening a couple of hours previously.  He decanted out and then straight back into their respective bottles, which I believe is the best way to treat wines of this age to avoid letting them “die in the decanter” exposed to too much air.

The first wine, Ch Mouton Rothschild 1966, did not have a flying start in the glass with a nose of bell peppers and a chemical/mineral edge that was slightly off-putting.  The palate was more impressive with a charming elegance and balance avoiding the hard edges that we expected.  After 20 minutes or so the nose became more classic pencil shavings, bell pepper as well as a stony/dusty minerality.  This ‘a point’ period held for about 20-30 and it was a real treat.  ”I really like this wine” was a recurring thought

The second wine, Ch Latour 1966, was on paper and showing in the glass evidence of being a more serious Claret.  The nose had moved on a lot from its tight, unfriendly mood when the bottle was opened and was showing some nice warm spicy dark fruits.  This soon moved into a charming rich fruitcake character.  The tannins were still evident but some soft with a confident edge.  After another hour or so, the nose became a little Port-like and the palate started to fall apart slightly.

One couldn’t help but think that this was obviously the last (and only time) that England had won the World Cup and it was interesting to find a comparison to the English World Cup squad.  We decided that the Mouton showed the exuberant, edgy character of an Alan Ball whilst the Latour was more akin to a confident and classy footballer such as Bob Charlton.

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A couple of 1982 Barbs

We had an interesting pair of Barbaresco 1982s yesterday.  It’s a vintage that I have come to love over the years and is easily the best vintage of the 1980s after the legendary – and probably the best vintage of our generation- 1989.

The Barbaresco Paje from Produttori del Barbaresco was dark coloured with an open, tar and fruitcake nose and rich and full of fruit on the palate.  At peak but no need to rush as it has at least 5-8 years left in it.  Older vintages of this property continue to amaze me and the relative value of the new releases is incredible.  The best wine cooperative in the world!?

The Barbaresco Gallina from Giacosa was a much lighter coloured wine and more feminine, fragrant with candied fruit and mint.  It was medium bodied and fresh with a lovely length.  Classy stuff and a real treat.


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Tea (actually Barolo) with Mussolini

On a recent trip to Italy, a friend kindly opened a bottle of the oldest Barolo I’ve ever tasted and it was outstanding.  Very much alive with complexity, freshness and sweetness of fruit that belied its age.  In fact, it was in much better shape than many of the 1997s tasted earlier that day.  Tasting it blind one could have easily been convinced that it was from the 1970s.  Older Borgogno can be variable but when well stored they can be sublime.  The 1958 and 1964 are outstanding and a great bottle of 1947 a couple of years back remains one of my top 5 Baroli I’ve tasted.

However, on this occasion the historical footnote was the highlight.  To think that in September 1937, Mussolini visited Germany.  Hitler put on a major display of military power for Mussolini and by the end of the visit, Mussolini became convinced that Germany was the power he should ally with.  He was sure that an alliance with Germany would lead to Italy becoming more powerful throughout Europe.

I’m not saying that we toasted the Third Reich but an interesting piece of wine history nonetheless!


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Barolo 1997 Retrospective

On my recent trip to Piedmont, we lined up 14/15 Baroli from the much lauded (on release) and maligned (recently) 1997 vintage in Piedmont.  The vintage was the first hot vintage vintage since 1990 and winemakers seemed to struggle in keeping freshness and balance in their wines.  The 2003 vintage was much hotter and generally the wines especially from the traditionalists are better than the 1997s.

As feared the wines failed to live up to the initial hype and expectation.  Many of the wines showed a lot of stewed and sometimes burnt characteristics on the nose, hollow and lack of definition on the mid palates and alcoholic, dry finishes.  Having said that there were a couple of very good wines with Pie Rupestris Capellanno and Rocche del Falletto Giacosa leading the way followed by Rocche dei Manzoni and Cavallotto.

I struggle to see how any of the wines will improve although the better few will survive for a good 5-10 years and some are well passed it. Therefore, if you have any of these wines get drinking.

I realise that my notes are quite harsh but sadly fair in my opinion especially considering the number of excellent wines from the neighbouring 1996, 1998 and 1999 vintages.


1. Barbaresco Rabaja Giacosa

Murky oxidated. Minty stewed. Dry. Fading. bad bottle.



2. Barolo Brunate Marcarini

Fresh mint. Bitter chocolate leafy. Dryish tannins hollow mid palate bitter. Short bitter.



3. Barolo Cerequio R Voerzio

Truffle chocolate. Slightly burnt. Dried prunes. Decent sweetness and balance. Ok.



4. Barolo Rocche Brovia

Faint floral mint. Clumsy. Dry. Fading fruit.



5. Barolo G Mascarello

Sous bois, balsamic and Parmesan notes.  Slightly lean and hot on finish but not at all unpleasant.



6. Barolo Monprivato G Monprivato

Dried figs. Some dried fruit on mid palate. Slightly dry finish. Ok



7. Barolo Capella di Santo Stefano Rocche dei Manzoni

Ripe but clean nose of fresh figs. Floral perfume.  Big attack of sweet fruit and a warm finish.  Very good



8. Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra Clerico

Nose of tobacco and alcohol. Tar. Burnt. Very dry.  Mouth coating tannins. Horrible.



9. Barolo La Villa Seghesio

Rosemary. Eucalyptus mid weight fruit.  Shortish finish but not bad.



10. Barolo Piue Rupestris Cappellano

Fresh Provence herbs.  Lovely breadth of fruit, coffee. Nice freshness. Good length. Excellent and easily the best wine on show.



11. Barolo Vigna Rionda Luigi Pira

Chocolate and stewed cherries. Tar. Very dry tannins and high alcohol coming through.  Hot finish.



12. Barolo Vigna Rionda Massolino.

Matches(sulphur) Wet socks. Green vegetal character.  Hot and dry.  bad bottle?



13. Barolo Cascina Francia G Conterno

Big fruit. Ripe cherries in brandy.  Broad, clumsy but tasty and some balance. Not bad. Funky.



14. Barolo Rocche dl Falletto  Giacosa

Eucalyptus and roses on nose.  Fresh with a tangy sweetness.  Very elegant and charming.



In the evening with dinner we also had the Barolo Vigna San Giuseppe Ris 1997 Cavallotto which showed nicely, quite fresh, some rustic tannins.  I’d give it a 91.

I also has a couple of 1997s from Mauro Molino recently, the basic Barolo which was light and pleasant and needs drinking (87) and the Vigna Gancia, which had lovely, ripe, minty fruit and nice freshness (91).

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Birthday Celebrations

Last Thursday we headed from the depths of South to the heights of North London for a good friend’s birthday. After getting acquainted with the most flirtatious cat I’d ever met we got stuck into a delicious, creamy and racy bottle of Salon 1997. I’ve not had much of this wine in the past but this was very impressive.

The two white Burgundies that followed couldn’t have been more different. The Chevalier Montrachet 2007 Sauzet was a baby with a steely disposition that would have intimidated Maggie Thatcher in her prime. Very tight, firm, crisp with a bright future.

The Puligny Folatieres 2005 Leflaive. Had a much deeper colour with nutty, toasty, creamy fruit. Quite broad and drinking nicely now. Should keep a few more years but not too long.

To toast the birthday boy and remind him of his years, we opened a couple of 1975s. Firstly we had a Brunello Poggio alle Mura from Banfi. Great looking bottle with a perfect level and colour. The initial nose of burnt rubber and diesel was slightly off putting but once that settled down it had a decent texture and was reasonably charming. Drink these up if you have any.

We then opened a Barolo Bussia di Monforte Red Label 1975 from Giacosa. The wine is a little un knit and a tad rustic. Once again the bottle is in great shape and it showed some good mature Nebbiolo fruit and freshness but the weakness of the vintage is evident. A decent effort but not worthy of a red label.  Drink up.

We finished with a tasty Contrada Chiappemacine 2009 from Passopisciaro and a zesty Vin Santo 2004 Vignamaggio.

Many thanks to our hosts Will and Fran(and the cat) for their hospitality.

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Percarlo Tasting, November 5th 2012, Zucca

We took advantage of the fact that our favourite London restaurant, Zucca, was closed on a Monday to hold a tasting of 14 vintages of a popular Super Tuscan.  We had accumulated magnums of most vintages with two vintages represent by two 75cl bottles.

Percarlo is a 100% estate-grown Sangiovese-based wine from the esteemed estate of San Giusto a Rentennano which is based in the southernmost part of the Chianti Classico region.  It is made from grapes especially selected bunch per bunch with a low yield if 1kg of grapes per vine and then aged for 22-24 months in French oak barriques.

We welcomed everyone with a glass of Ayala Brut Zero which had a few year of bottle age and was delicious and creamy.

The First Flight: 1988 (2x75cl), 1990 (mag), 1993 (2x75cl)

The first vintage of Percalo was the 1983 which only yielded 1000 bottles and there were no wine made in 1984 and small quantities in 1985 to 1987.  Therefore, 1988 was probably the first significant commercial vintage.  The bottle on our side of the room boasted a chalky, mineral-scented nose with hints of chocolate and tobacco.  The tannins were slightly dusty but finely balanced with a searing freshness.  It was full of character and teroir – fascinating.  This was a favourite of many (including myself) although some people (primarily sitting on the other table from myself) seemed to get a cheesy/unclean character to the wine and signs that fruit was fading.  This certainly wasn’t the case with our bottle and a good start to proceedings. Drink up from bottle although a recent magnum showed more youth and could be kept.  96 pts

The magnum of 1990 was in superb shape and came straight out of the blocks with ripe, sweet perfume.  More voluptuous than the 1988 with flavour of figs on the finish.  Very good and still time to go on this one.  96 pts

The two bottles of 1993 made a good showing as well although a touch outclassed by the first two wines.  Good sweet stone fruit on the nose and very slightly vegetal.  A touch dilute on the mid palate but quite funky flavours and charming character.  Again this divided the room but generally enjoyed and most people agreed it was a fun wine with an interesting personality.  92 pts

The Second Flight: 1994, 1995, 1996 – all from magnum

The 1994 showed weakness of this vintage.  The coulour showed some brick colour on the rim and it was fairly simple cherry and rose petal fruit.  Lightweight and a touch hollow on the mid palate but clean and pleasant.  Not bad but just not very exciting was the general concensus.

The 1995 caused quite a bit of debate.  The nose was less concentrated and more mineral and a touch green.  On the palate there were comments of “pearshaped” and “angry” wine.  It was angular with edgy tannins and signs that it was lacking the fruit in the mid palate to smooth out.  Some people thought it might come around but I can’t see it.  89 pts

1996 – sadly corked

The Third Flight: 1997, 1998, 1999 – all from magnum

I had the 1997 out of bottle a couple of months back and it once again showed its pedigree.  It is a heady, full throttle, Rhone-like wine.  It is sweet with velvety tannins and a warm finish.  Delicious!  96 pts

The 1998 was one of the surprises of the day from a cool vintage.  It had fresh aromatic cassis fruit on the nose.  Medium bodied with tangy fruit, elegant and lovely balance.  94 pts

The 1999 showed a definite shift in style with the arrival of consultant Attilio Pagli.  The previously elegant and pure wines seemed to have moved on to a more international, flashy, “point-aspiring style”.  There is no denying that the 1999 is a tasty offering but perhaps lacking teroir and character of previous vintages.  Some people thought the wines came across as more Cabernet than Sangiovese.  94 pts

The Fourth Flight: 2001, 2004, 2006 – all from magnum

The 2001 continued the style of the 1999 with charming, forward candied fruit.  Nice balance although not as substantial as the 1999.   92 pts

The 2004 had a strange, funky, nose of meat and lychees.  The wine is sweet and mid to full bodied.  This came across a touch clumsy but not bad.   91 pts

2006 was intensely sweet on the nose with a nose reminiscent of caramel.  Full bodied with good freshness and firm tannins and great depth of fruit.  Impressive.  95 pts

The Final Flight: 2007 and 2008

The 2007 had a darker, denser element to the fruit almost like tar.  It was a hotter year than 2006 and 2008 and this shows in the slighter harsher tannins.   93 pts

The 2008 was a great way to finish and probably the best wine since the new wave which started in 1999.  Much finer and purer with a nose of fresh cut flowers.  The minerality is back from the earlier vintages.  Bravo!  95+ pts



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