Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
The beauty of being a member of a wine tasting club is the ability to taste wines that you would not otherwise tend to buy. An opportunity to dip the toe in the waters, before deciding to take the plunge wallet wise.
Claret is a case in point for me. I should really drink more of it, but I don’t drink enough of it to get to the point where I can buy with confidence.
As most clarets are far from cheap and some are ridiculously expensive, it is not something you tend to want to splash the cash on until you have sufficient knowledge or a guiding hand. All a bit of a Catch 22 situation.
This is where your indie wine merchants and wine tasting clubs come in.
A good indie wine merchant (such as the Bottleshops and Viader Vintners here in Cardiff) will steer you in the right direction and to something at the right price point. Even in Bordeaux there is value to be had if you are canny and know where to look.
The second way to get to know claret (and wines from other areas) is to join a wine tasting club. These offer the chance not only to taste wines you wouldn’t otherwise, but also to discuss them with others. It never ceases to amaze me as to the wealth of cumulated knowledge (to which, I fear, I add very little) at the two wine clubs (the Jeroboam Club in Bristol and the Mystere Wine Club in Cardiff) I attend.
I missed a 1989 claret tasting at the Jeroboam Club tutored by Matthew Hemming MV so when I saw a tasting of 2009 clarets a month later at the Mystere Wine Club I jumped at the chance to get better acquainted with some Bordeaux wines.
The 2009 claret vintage was described by many, at the time of release, as outstanding. The (predominately Parker driven – isn’t it always) hype has somewhat died down, but it is still regarded as a very fine vintage with both the left and right banks wines scoring very highly.
My usual oblique post title relates to the so called (forty) niners from the Californian gold rush. A case here of “Is there liquid gold in them thar bottles”?
So how are these 09 wines fairing 10 years on?
From a very well respected chateau in the Moulis (left bank),
this wine was deep garnet in colour.
It was quite tart cherry on the nose with woody (cedar) notes. There was blackberry, with a pleasing touch of liquorice, on the palate.
Nothing to dislike about this wine, but lacking (perhaps) the wow factor (second lowest scoring wine of the night).
Price: £39.95 from Viader Wines.
From Pessac Leognan (left bank), this wine had a nice deep colour (looked younger than the Chasse Spleen), with a quite an opulent nose of blackcurrant and cedar. Initially quite smooth on the palate, with red fruit and herbs yet relatively restrained. Tannins still quite evident – lots to like here and lots of life left in this (one to keep I think).
Price: £39.45 from Viader Wines.
Clos Puy Arnaud
This Cotes de Castillon wine (right bank), had a strange nose with a touch of funk and rubberiness – quite possibly a fault with this wine.
After I got past the rubberiness (tricky to be honest) there was an underlying meatiness (bovril) on the nose. Oddly sweet on the palate with a suggestion made at the tasting that it may have been subject to chapalisation (very odd if so, especially in this vintage – I would be very surprised if the case).
Not much of interest on the palate, with some stewed fruit and a touch of vanilla. The overt sweetness seemed to unbalance this wine.
Overall it disappointed me and the rest the room (only wine not to score on the night). Those that had tasted this wine and vintage before said it was not a fair reflection of this wine. Seems we just got unlucky with this bottle (it happens).
Price: £35 from Viader Wines.
Ch. La Tour Carnet
Young looking (Haut Medoc- left bank) wine, with red fruits, cassis, cedar and toasted spice on the nose. On the palate there was plum, spice and a floral note (violets) on the finish. Some complex woody notes and dry tannins also evident, this was a wine with a good grip and big broad shoulders.
Nice balance to this wine and (to me) a step up in class from first three wines.
My second favourite wine of the night.
Price: £39.95 from Vinorium.
Ch. Phelan Segur
Very dark colour from this St. Estèphe (left bank) wine, with rick black coffee and dark chocolate (as well as hedgerow fruits) on the nose. Comments included a touch of “Lucky Strike” smokiness (seriously specific that one and a sign, perhaps, of someone’s misspent youth – it wasn’t made by me as I was more a Camel man in my misspent youth 😁).
On the palate there was spice and plenty of fruit. I would described it as a juicy wine. Scored overall second on the night (18 points) – it was my third place wine
Price: £51.95 from James Nicholson Wines.
Ch. Pichon Longueville Reserve de la Comtesse
Great nose from this second wine of Château Pichon Lalande (Pauillac – left bank), with cedar, pencil shavings, dark fruits (blackcurrant and cassis) and a distinct earthiness. Ripe, cassis infused, dark fruits on the palate with a long, lovely finish.
Majority of the room loved it (me included), with it being the clear winner of the wine of the night, but there were a couple of dissenting voices. Is it worth the money – nigh on double the price of the La Tour Carnet – though? Hmmm not sure personally.
Price: £74.95 from Mumbles Fine Wines.
Quite an initial meaty nose from this Moulis (left bank) wine, with a touch of herbal (basil) which gave way to black fruits. On the palate it was a bit austere and lacking in finese. Split the room with some thinking it a touch oxidised and hot, whereas others very much liked it. Most (including me – I thought it was OK) viewed it as a drop in class from the previous 3 wines.
Price: £39 from Tanner Wine Merchant.
This final wine (another St. Estephe – left bank) had blackberry, sweet spice and graphite on the nose and sweet fruit (blueberry) on the palate. The Petit Verdot in the blend, to me, came through quite distinctly. Nice but not quite as good as wines 4, 5 and 6 (scored 4th on night).
Price: £44.34 from Christoper Piper Wines.
Great tasting, as is always the case with the Mystere Wine club, with some really good wines on show that are not (mostly) at break the bank prices. I often bypass Bordeaux as unaffordable, but after this tasting will pay more attention.
My top three on the night were
The room was of a similar opinion, but had the Phelan Segur 2nd and the La Tour Garnet 3rd.
Best value wine on the night (for me) was the Ch. La Tour Garnet – great wine for under £40. Taking price into account this is the one I would most probably look to buy (may also look at the Carbonnieux)
Whilst these wines are certainly not cheap I think they are fair value (certainly as against the big boys of Bordeaux, with a Ch. Haut Brion 2009 going for a mere £941.34 a bottle and a 12 litre bottle of Chateau Margaux 2009 on sale at £122,000😱) and are well worth a look if you want to celebrate. Not a bad option, a decent claret, with your Christmas Turkey or beef.
Still plenty of life in these wines, so whilst already drinking well they will certainly keep.
If you are looking for afforable good Bordeaux, have a chat with Gilbert at Viader Vintners or you local indie wine merchant (Bottle Shops in Cardiff and Penarth, Mumbles Fine Wines in Swansea and Chester wines in Abergavenny to name a few). They will see you right.
A fasinating tasting and a bargain at the £35 price in terms of trying wines of this quality.
If you are interested in joining the Mystere Wine Club (new members always welcome) tastings are on the first Wednesday of each month and there is a try before you buy option where you can come as a guest and just pay for the tasting (you can then formally joins – with a membership fee payable so best value to be had by joining at the start of the year – should you so wish). Drop me a DM or email (details on blog “about” page) if you are interested and I can pass on your details/you can come as my guest to try before you buy!
The clubs 2020 tasting schedule is below:
Looks a pretty interest line up.