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Are You Tasting the Pith? - 28th November 04

St. Aubin 1er Cru "Murgers de Dents de Chien" 2002

Bought through Laithwaites Fine Wine service, I have to admit that I was a little nervous at making this purchase. In my (fairly limited) experience of Laithwaites, they can be a bit hit and miss - or rather, hit and not-quite-a-hit; the wines never miss, they just don't impress as much as they might. However, the internet is a wonderful tool, and a few minutes research made me realise that this was probably a pretty good buy, from a good part of Burgundy (a bit less fashionable than its neighbours, Montrachets Puligny- and Chassagne), in a really good year. What the heck.

Although I made the purchase 9 months ago, the wine only just arrived. Not quite buying en primeur, but not far off it. Now, I have a deep love and admiration for the wines of Burgundy, particularly the white wines. A customer in the shop this week was looking for Bordeaux, only to be disappointed; we just don't stock it. Now, this might seem odd, but our demographic just doesn't demand it beyond the 6 generic claret level. It was a pleasure to trot out the "too expensive, too overpriced and too complicated" line, which, as a good neighbourhood offie specialising in beer, is something that I think we can get away with. Besides, I love the linear relationship that Burgundian wines have with their terroir, less mediated by blending, oaking or the feudal system of estate ownership than their Bordelais brethren. But hey, did you come hear for a lesson in the socio-economic vagaries of French winemaking, or to read about me drinking (fairly) fine wine? Thought so...

So, given that the bottle appeals to the eye and makes me want to drink it (it does), what of the wine itself? I have to say, in a rather irritatingly smug manner, that the wine is everything that I wanted it to be, and perhaps a little more. The nose is fairly full, hints of fruit (ripe apple, melon) and a touch of vanilla oak (not too much), but fairly restrained. On the palate, there isn't the huge burst of tropical fruit fruit flavours that characterise a majority Wine These Days, but rather a fairly restrained mineral flatness, with the fruit slowly developing in the finish, giving a long, persistent finish (zesty citrus, ripe fruit and a little oak giving both a soft edge to the finish, and a hint of tannic graininess on the gums). I'm starting to recognise this as a characteristic of quality wine (and I'm sure its written down somewhere, but I didn't know) that the fruit is much more restrained, shining through in the finish (see my impression of Condrieu from last Christmas). As my ever-perceptive partner pointed out, "it makes you mouth feel like it's really doing something". Indeed.

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