Fine Wine Friday at Chez Bruce With Some Iconic Wines…

Well, it’s that time of year when we gather to bid farewell to fine wine friend Keith Prothero before he decamps to the Cape for the summer / UK Winter. I volunteered to organise the lunch finale with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce, Keith’s favourite restaurant in London and below is a little snap shot of the epic wines consumed. All wines were tasted blind before they were revealed.

Wine Advocate reviewer Neal Martin (left) with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce

First up, a vibrant, tantalising Clos des Goisses 1996 Champagne from Philipponnat with a fine leesy biscuit lift and a pronounced, creamy citrus note. Beautiful definition, purity, and a salty briney undertone that melts away into dusty lemon, buttered toast and a crisp, vibrant finish with great structure. A good bottle drinking at its peak. (96/100 GS)



The first flight of five whites started with an impressive Niepoort Coche White Blend 2011, briming with creamy peachy yellow fruits, lovely struck match reduction, ample minerality, woodsmoke, cassis leaf, wet slate, and wonderfully fine depth. I loved the tension and profound, subtle, buttery depth. Truly one of Portugal’s finest still white wines. Malcolm Thwaites, who has just recently visited Dirk Niepoort during harvest, actually called the wine amazingly! (95+/100 GS)


Next up, Keith’s Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 Chardonnay. Initially smokey and seductive, with intense saline notes, lemon and lime cordial richness, huge concentration, this was a complete ringer for an old world Burgundian grand vin. Only after it had sat in the glass for a while, did it finally start to reveal some exotic new world fruit notes. A monumental effort from California and the ultimate ringer capable of fooling even the most talented tasters. (96/100 GS)


The Sandhi was followed by one of the truly great white wines of Burgundy, a superb bottle of J-F Coche Dury Meursault 2013. Wow, tasted blind, this was intensely taught, pin point, and precise showing lime, stoney liquid minerals, crushed limestone tension and focus. Very intense with seamless texture, regal mineral complexity, subtle passion fruit hints and great rigour on the finish. “Wines like this should challenge the senses, not entertain them!” was a very poignant comment from Nigel Platts Martin. (96/100 GS)


At these lunches, we always seem to open our “back up bottles” even when not required, and here again, my Didier Dagueneau Buisson Menard Pouilly Fume 1997 was added to the first flight. An interesting bottle, it had tasters scratching their heads endlessly as the wine unfurled in the glass. Plenty of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and stoney minerality were in evidence. Beautifully exotic with a mercurial dry finish. “A bit of an upstart”… but certainly showed its class in my mind. (93/100 GS)



Just as we were about to move on to the reds, we were treated to another late addition and definite rarity. A fine bottle of Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002. The initial nose was quite lactic, with hints of cottage cheese and cream, yet also full of oyster shell, fennel, pineapple and aniseed. There was a touch of wet dog to the wine combined with great minerality which led many of us to the Loire. But this was classic, elegant, fresh, super fine Grand Cru Chablis at its best and developed wonderfully in the glass. (94/100 GS)



The first three reds revealed a Rhoney theme but with a few twists. First up was Neal Martin’s amazing Jaboulet Cornas 1972 that showed a bouquet of rich brûlée oranges, savoury cured meats, and cherry confit. Rich and textural, this beautifully lifted wine sang a wonderful melody, and while mature, was thoroughly enchanting. So typical of the Northern Rhone, almost all at the table plumped for Hermitage or even perhaps a great vintage of Crozes-Hermitage. La Chapelle was even mentioned. But Cornas it was. I would have expected a little more blood and iron for a Cornas but perhaps the Jaboulet personality was shinning through more than the appellation’s terroir. A real treat. (93+/100 GS)



The wine that followed was younger and required a bit more thought. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2000. Very complex Mourvèdre dominated wine (60%) loaded with black berry and bramble fruits with saddle leather, cured meats, liquorice, tar and sweet earthy black fruit notes. Dense and concentrated, this was a delicious grand vin wine almost certainly drunk too young. Give this classic another decade at least. (96+/100 GS)


So we were well and truly treading a Rhone path, when the next red from Alex Lake had us all a bit fooled. A Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2002 was not to my memory picked out as New World by anyone. Smoky lifted nose with granite dust, aniseed root, and earthy black berries, this was a very compact, focused wine with plenty of tension, crisp acids, and a subtle, restrained, savoury boxwood and pepper corn spice finish. A very smart wine that along with the Mullineux reds, is one of the few new world Syrahs / Shirazes Keith openly admits to drinking! Nice to taste this wine again with more age, but still a long life ahead of it. (95/100 GS)


The next pair of reds charmed some more than others, but as a devout Italian fine wine lover, the next two reds had me weak at the knees, (or was that the previous 10 bottles?). An utterly sublime Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino 1999 was bursting with sweet cherry blossom perfume, savoury earthy notes, saddle leather and wet tobacco, gun smoke, and graphite. Plenty of energy, this really was a superb, seductive hedonistic red full of character. (96+/100 GS)


To partner the Soldera was another real rarity ~ a Valdicava Madonna Del Piano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990. Not a wine you come across very often anymore, this wine had all the archetypal power and prowess Valdicava’s Riserva’s are so famous for, except this one was finally giving an impression that despite being beautifully fresh and vital, it was approaching peek drinkability after 27 years! Dark and smoky, dense and dusty, it was quite saline, tight and precise, with pithy caramelised cherry fruits, grilled herbs, leather, graphite, aniseed and meaty savoury bramble berry depth. Very fine acids and also a touch of VA just to add more lift and complexity. The Riserva can be a hard wine to understand in its youth, or when James Suckling scores them 100 points, like with the 2010. But after tasting a maturing vintage like this, a lot of puzzle pieces fall into place. (96+/100 GS)


At this point, we were all amazed that no Burgundy or Bordeaux had featured in the flights yet! But the next wine broke the drought. A most majestic Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 from St Emilion. This was a real treat and must be one of my favourite vintages of Cheval Blanc. Loaded with black berry fruits, gun powder, briary, and aniseed notes, it was also so vibrant, energetic and packed full of saline cassis, a touch of ink, leafy spice, sandalwood and buttered brown toast. Drinking in the perfect harmonious mid point between youth and maturity. For me, a top right bank Bordeaux ready to drink does not get much better than this. (98/100 GS) 


The last red was possibly another late addition, hence it was not included in the Rhone flight. But in many ways, it received more deserving attention being served in isolation. A contender for wine of the lunch, the Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 from Lucien & Andre Brunel was indeed profound. A solid 100 pointer on the Wine Advocate scale, Robert Parker once described this wine as one of the greatest vintages ever made at the estate. This bottle was deliciously saline, rich, intense and dense but never tipping over to heavy in anyway. Sleek, crystalline, and supremely elegantly textured, this wine is still so youthful, fresh and perfumed, showing its true class. A really profound wine. (98/100 GS)



To accompany a most delicious cheese dessert course, two sublime sweet wines were served. The iconic Mullineux Olerasay No.1 Chenin Blanc NV made from a Solera system. The word that encapsulates this wine is effortless harmony. It is neither too sweet nor too unctuous, merely finely balanced and beautifully intense. A lot of effort goes into making straw wines of this quality, and this blend deserves a big score if for no other reason, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Amazing wine. (98/100 GS)



Before we could cross our T’s and dot our I’s, we were treated to another profound dessert wine ~ the Reinhold Heart Ohligsberger 2010 Mosel Eiswein. After a long afternoon of intense, thought provoking fine wines, nothing could possibly refresh the senses better than a delicious, vibrant glass of rapier fresh Eiswein. Packed full of lemon and lime cordial notes, white peaches, and sweet yellow grapefruit, the acidity balanced the sugar brilliantly and was the perfect ending to a fascinating afternoon of fine wine and of course exceptional Michelin starred food.



Bon voyage Keith, I am sure most of us will still be talking about many of these wines by the time you return in 6 months time. 

Torbreck The Laird Launch Tasting ~ Pitching the New 2012 Release Head to Head with the Highly Acclaimed 2006…

After attending the launch of Torbreck Winery’s new vintage release of their super premium Shiraz Cuvee The Laird, all I could conclude is that perhaps I don’t drink enough of these great wines. Torbreck especially, has long been regarded as one of Australia’s top wineries producing world class wines from dry grown old vines on the north western fringe of the Barossa Valley.


The Laird Cuvee is certainly top of the tree in quality, coming from an old vine Shiraz single vineyard in Marananga. First produced in 2005 and launched to much acclaim, it soon garnered the perfect 100 points from The Wine Advocate. Aged for 3 years in Dominique Laurent barriques, this perfect southeast facing, dry grown, old vine Shiraz vineyard was planted in 1958 on classic western Barossa soils. The resulting small, concentrated berries produced consistently from this site make The Laird Cuvee a wine capable of long-term cellaring. 



Northern Grounds – Altitude 280-450m 

This includes vineyards in the vicinity of Seppeltsfield, Marananga, Stone Well, Greenock, Gomersal, Ebenezer and Kalimna. The renowned Western Ridge runs from the north of Greenock, through Seppeltsfield and pushes into the Central Grounds near Gomersal.


The soils here are predominately red-yellow brown loams over red clay. Shattered ironstones are found in the soils of the Western Ridge and the soils are shallower here than elsewhere. A small section of yellow and white sands is found in the area of Kalimna. Wines from the Western Ridge are full-bodied, rich and concentrated with a deep purple red colour. The texture is round, velvety and firm with strong expressive tannins and aromas of blueberry, chocolate and cocoa powder. 


Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, 15.5 Abv.

The latest release from this Marananga single vineyard is another block buster Shiraz. Rich, opulent and laden with black berry fruits, this wine has a seductive nose of tar, black liquorice, bruleed black fruits, Victoria plum spice, blue berry crumble freshly out the oven and a measured lick of expensive sophisticated oak. The secret of this Vineyard is its ability to produce fruit with great phenolics, excellent pHs and super acid / fruit balance combined with a harmonious structure. Indeed, the concentration of fruit is amazingly intense yet so balanced with complex hints of roasted coffee beans, creme brûlée, espresso, savoury cassis, and blue berry with a most luxuriously opulent, ageless finish. This certainly is a super luxury wine worthy of its premium price. Drink from 2020 to 2045+

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2006, Barossa Valley, 15 Abv.

As if tasting the new release Laird Shiraz 2012 wasn’t special enough, I got to taste it along side the second release 2006 to compare and contrast and to assess this wine’s style 11 years on. The aromatics remain sweetly fruited with an exotic lifted nose of creme brûlée, creme de cassis, blue berries and perfumed black berry spice. There is also an incredibly opulent vein showing tantalising saline cassis, salty liquorice, and a sappy, savoury complexity combined with the most youthful fragrant lift. The palate is soft, supple, opulent and supremely luxurious in feel. The complexity is staggering, the texture and concentration awe inspiring, and the finish impressively long and vibrant. Makes you wonder how much better a wine of this style can get? Whether or not you like Australian wines, or even riper styles of Shiraz, this is a monumental effort. Drink now to 2040+

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Exotic d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2015 McLaren Vale White…

One of my favourite Rhone variety whites is the Chapoutier Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc made from pure Marsanne. This is unusual because with the exception of Condrieu, based on single varietal Viognier, Rhone whites are normally blends creating finished wines that are almost always greater than the sum of their parts. 


Another fine wine in this mould is the Roussanne 2015 from Southern Australia, where the d’Arenberg winery, established in 1912, has been tending vineyards for four generations. Chester Osborn oversees the wine making where Roussanne grapes were gently basket pressed and fermented in stainless steel, finishing at 13.4 Abv. 

The quaint name originates in the vineyards where the harvesting of the first vintage of 2000 was cancelled due to swarms of money spiders that were found in the fruiting bunches. Consequently, they were spared and thus the 2001 represents the maiden vintage instead.


Tasting Note: Now this is an exotic, aromatic beast. The nose unfurls in layers of perfume and fruit. Rich crunchy yellow peaches, stem ginger, toasted almonds, tangerine citrus pastille fruits, green honeydew melon and seductive honey suckle fragrance. The palate is rich, unctuous, fleshy and voluptuous but with a very contrary, nervy vein of acidity. It thoroughly tantalises the senses. The concentration is profound but is so beautifully balanced with pithy marzipan spice, caramelised green figs, and a long sweet – sour finish. A wine with real presence and interest at a great price. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Profound Dry Australian Riesling at its Very Best ~ Clos Clare Riesling 2015, Watervale, 12.5 Abv.

Who can remember the late 1990s or early 2000s when Riesling meant fruity QbA classifications like Kabinett, Spatlese etc from Germany and sales were perpetually waning as the market cemented its love affair with dry (fruity) Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc?


I remember visiting Weingut Donnhoff in the Nahe in 2002 and tasting all the fruity wines as well as one or two trocken (dry) styles. When I asked Helmut why he did not export the dry styles to the UK, he replied that only Germany wanted them and the UK only drank the fruity styles. I then proceeded to place the first large order of dry wines Donnhoff had ever exported to the UK. 


More importantly, what allowed this to transpire, was the sudden interest and demand among new, educated consumers, inspired by dry Australian Riesling styles from Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Margaret River primarily. Germany stood up, took note, and have never looked back. Anecdotally, I’d say dry styles and dry Grosses Gewachs out sell the fruity styles in the premium categories. So Germany owe Australia a free lunch.


Few dry Aussie Rieslings typify this revolution in quality more than Tom and Sam Barry’s Clos Clare Winery in Watervale. Adjoining the famous Pewsey Vale “Florita” vineyard, these 45 year old dry grown vines were harvested on the 17th of February in 2015, chilled for 24 hours, and then whole bunch pressed before fermentation. Having recently tasted a vertical back to 2000, I can honestly say that dry Aussie Riesling doesn’t get any better. 


Tasting Note: This young Riesling has the pristine clarity of a crisp Spring morning. Pale straw and lime yellow. The nose is ultra cool and pure with subtle notes of lime cordial, crunchy white peaches, fresh lemon grass, limestone minerality and dusty mandarine citrus. So pure and seductive. The palate is every bit as vibrant, laden with lime peel, lemon Bon Bon boiled sweets, wet chalk, green apple peel and subtle mixed dried Thyme herbs and lime pastille length. Crystalline and mineral, this fresh zippy Riesling sucks you into its tractor beam and does not release you until the bottle is finished. A classic, fresh, bone dry Clare Valley version that shows dry Aussie Riesling at its very best. Keep or drink over 10 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Old dogs don’t need new tricks…

I can’t claim to drink massive amounts of Australian wine. Why would I when there is so much exciting, well priced South African kit on the market in the UK.

But when I do drink an Aussie bottle, 9 out of 10 times it will be a cooler climate expression from Victoria, Adelaide Hills, or WA (Western Australia). Today was a Margaret River kind of day!

David Hohnen is an old dog of the Aussie wine trade and practically invented winemaking in Margaret River and half of New Zealand with the creation of the Cape Mentelle brand in Oz and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. Today his focus is firmly on his McHenry Hohnen estate wines.


Never one for frivolous chatter or too much smiling, David is a lovely, deep, mysterious kind of character who makes tantalisingly fresh wines with a real purity and a sense of place. His top end estate wines ooze class and Margaret River typicity. 

David’s Tiger Country 2010 is a fantastic blend of Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Graciano and shows beautiful aromas of black forest fruits, dark chocolate liqueurs and spicy berries. The palate is restrained and multi-layered with a real mineral presence of crushed gravel and graphite and finishes in a harmonic medley of black fruits, chalky tannins and fine balancing acidity.  (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

I always love catching up with David in London as invariably the banter eventually drifts in multiple, exotic directions. Today was no different… working in New Zealand, the Isabel Estate, gun auctions, and hunting in the creeks of Margaret River. Classic!