It’s unusual to go to a wine tasting where it is a red free zone, but that’s what Alistair Stewart of Richard Granger Fine Wines decided for an evening of aromatic white wines, showing a selection of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Gewürztraminer from the old and new world. Given that my partner Sarah pretty much only drinks white wine then this was too good an opportunity to miss, and we signed up for 2 tickets immediately. As usual Alastair was presenting the tasting in the rather cramped surroundings of the shop at West Jesmond Metro station on what happened to be the hottest evening of the (otherwise depressingly abysmal) summer. Usually this equates to a cosy, informal and intimate tasting but this time, without air-conditioning, it meant the temeratures reaching uncomfortable levels, at least until the first chilled wines were poured.
The first wine was served as an aperitif, the Moncellier 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand (14%, £10.98). This was rich and fruity with noticeable Marlborough Sauvignon typicity, a not unpleasant 3 star opening wine and the only Sauvignon of the night, Alastair saying that everyone by now knows what the grape has to offer.
The main part of the night began with the traditional Alsace producer Domaines Schlumberger with the first of three wines from their Princes Abbés range, named for the Benedictine monks which controlled the region for a thousand years and whose Abbotts were named Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The 2006 Les Princes Abbés Riesling, Alsace, France (12.5%. £13.92) had a light citrus nose with a gentle hint of typical Riesling petro-chemical (kerosone/petrol depending on your mood). It was a clean, dry white with some delicate flavour and a citrus finish, a very enjoyable 3+ stars.
We stayed with the same grape but moved to the New World with the Crawford River 2005 Riesling from Victoria, Australia (13.5%. £19.20). This had a strong petro-chem’ nose, quite zingy at the front of the palate with good acidity but also some detectable sweetness. There was a rich, smooth mid-palate and an elegant finish, the grating or roughened tooth enamel confirmed the firm acidity, another 3+ stars.
Finally back to the Old World and the ancestral home of the Riesling grape, Germany’s Mosel Valley and the Dr H. Thanisch, Bernkasteler Badstube 2007 Riesling Spätlese (7.5%, £22.38). This had a subtle nose, not giving much away and just noticeable as Riesling with a faint petro-chem aspect (although possibly served a bit too cool). It was a beautiful wine, sweet (as you’d expect from a 7.5% abv) but with fresh acidity to cut through the sugar, carrying delicate flavours through and into a long, caramel influenced finish, 4 stars.
Back to Australia but a new grape with the Willunga 100 2009 McLaren Vale Viognier, South Australia (14%, £10.38). Made from the free run juice from hand-picked grapes there was a strange, reductive nose which, when it blew off, left a restrained, closed aroma. There was plenty of texture in the glass, an oiliness to the wine (although not thick as such) with a little stonefruit bitterness at the end. Unfortunately there was not much character and it didn’t seem a favourite in the room.
Having exposed us the Viognier it seemed fitting that the next bottle was from the region that rescued the grape from oblivion, with the Domaine Louis Cheze 2008 Pagus Luminus Condrieu (13.5%, £34.20). The most expensive wine of the night this had a rich rounded and smooth nose, complex and very promising. It was full flavoured with underlying stone-fruit but still citrus fresh at the edges with a savoury, salty aspect. It had great complexity and, although the oak component didn’t seem fully integrated, a clear 4 stars.
Back to a more sensible price with the second Schlumberger wine of the night, the 2007 Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris, Alsace, France (13.5%, £14.22). There was a luscious nose, creamy with floral aspects (and possibly a hint of liquorice mentioned by other tasters). This was very good with a rich mouthfeel, slightly sweet, glycerol texture and pleasant dryness, the acidity again given away by enamel erosion on the teeth! With a rich finish this was another 4 star wine.
Representing the New World was the Moncellier Wines 2009 Marlborough Pinot Gris, New Zealand (13.8%, £10.98). New Zealand is fast making a reputation for itself for Pinot Gris and this was from the Wairau Valley on North Island, near Aukland.It had a more muted nose than the Condrieu, still creamy but harder to pick up. It was sweeter but lacked complexity, giving instant gratification but with only simple flavours – a surface deep, 3 star wine.
We finished with Domaines Schlumberger again, the 2007 Les Princes Abbés Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France (12.5%, £18.72). Gewurtztraminer is a polarizing grape, many don’t appreciate it’s rich flavours, often with Lychee, Turkish Delight & Rose petal characteristics. The Schlumberger had a delicate nose, perfume and petals, and a sweet, floral aspect in the mouth with a pleasant freshness. This is a richly aromatic wine but comparatively light bodied wine, very good at 3 stars.
As usual throughout the evening there was a selection of delicious snacks matched to the different wines, one of the things that makes each Richard Granger tasting a delight – now if only they had air-con!