Review: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016

This is an extremely nice, supple, elegant pinot noir from Alsace. I gulped it down alongside some Burgundian escalopes a la Keith Floyd.

Ah, Floyd, lovely Floyd.

I wrote about the lovely Keith Floyd (who, I’m aware, was perhaps not consistently lovely as a man to live with in real life — but, by god, was lovely on camera in his heyday) as an inspiration for restarting this blog. Today’s wine, a fabulous Pinot Noir from Alsace with a ludicrously long name, was an excellent accompaniment to a recipe cribbed from one of the low-fi Floyd clips that the BBC hasn’t yet snatched away from those of us without TV licenses:

I made something akin to the above, but with pork rather than veal. Floyd’s culinary reference point is Burgundy, and the closest I could muster (without straying too far into the costly zone of my wine rack) to Burgundy was a Pinot Noir (same grape, you realise) from elsewhere in France: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016 (The Wine Society, £13.50 — link is to the 2017, as they’re out of stock of 2016 now).

And, Christ, it’s good.

Snatch it to your nose and you’re enveloped in a heady musk of solvents, fruit and sand. To me it smells oh so magenta. Your own pretentious synaesthesiac mileage may vary.

Straight out of the bottle, it still had a certain stalkiness and petulance, but we hoofed it into the decanter and coaxed away its sulkiness. If you’re drinking the 2016 as well, I suggest you do likewise (or else hold onto it for a few more years, you patient, sensible, tedious old fart). It has that blooming, fruited warmth of a bloody good cherry brandy (dry, rich, complex; not some hideous confected crap) but absolutely no sentimentality or flab. There’s a wonderful steely edge of acidity that stirs your tastebuds into action like a riding crop to the arse of a shambling pony.

Then your pony effortlessly breaks into this sinuous, viscous canter of fruit and spice and warm, long, lovely, friendly alcohol.

I love this (amongst other things — so many other things) about Pinot noir: its ability to be both dancingly light and ridiculously powerful. It’s so goddamn honed. A featherweight boxer of a wine.

And it went delightfully with my pork escalopes — thank you for asking: that acid cutting elegantly through the cream and butter. I’m sure Floyd would have approved. And opened a second bottle.

Cellophanity, Putin-pleasuring and Pinot Gris

A significant portion of which is devoted to a spirited ‘crie de coeur’ on the subject of ready meal packaging, and most of the rest of which contemplates distasteful sexual activities practised upon Russian politicians. I’m up-front about this stuff, y’know.

Bottle of Hugel Pinot Gris and some oven ready meal instructions‘Remove cardboard sleeve and peel away plastic film.’

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But, honestly, they may as well have said, ‘Remove cardboard sleeve and give Vladimir Putin a blowjob’, for all the chance I have of accomplishing their instruction with any modicum of ease or pleasure.

I’ve written before about my intense dislike of cellophane that fails grotesquely in its sole goddamn interaction with the customer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write again. I mean, Christ. Collectively, think of the time humanity wastes on attempting to peel off a plastic seal and instead peeling off a ludicrous thread of plastic from around its rim, repeating this process at each of the carton’s four corners, before (defeated, humiliated) grabbing a knife and slashing psychopathically at the bastard cellophane until our collective shirts are spattered with ragu sauce that looks for all the world like blood.

Time that could be put to better use in — oh, I don’t know — curing cancer or eradicating poverty or watching the latest episode of Sherlock.

Oh, that Sherlock. He wears a nice dressing gown, doesn’t he? (Declare an interest? Me? Piss off.)

But don’t just think of the time. Think of the fucking psychological despoliation wreaked by this supposedly peelable cellophane. Whole generations demoralised by their inability efficiently and rapidly to prepare a godforsaken ready meal (the very words themselves a hollow mockery — for this now ungrippably-cellophanated carton in front of me couldn’t be any less ready); to follow even the unglamorous preparatory instruction — mere prelude to the complex matrix of oven types and temperatures, and frozen vs chilled states. When we see growth rates in the developed world stalling and purchases of pre-prepared food rising, do we not pause to consider the relationship between the two?

JUST AS SODDING WELL, THEN, that I have a half-bottle of Hugel Pinot Gris, 2010 (The Wine Society, £6.95) to calm my cellophane-rage. A sluicing of very pleasant-tasting alcohol to numb my brain to the injustices and indignities of the food packaging regime — analogous, one might venture, to an autocrat’s cynical pampering of an emerging middle class with the finite proceeds of a natural gas boom whose days are numbered.

SEE WHAT I DID, THERE? YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED IT, BECAUSE IT WAS QUITE SUBTLE. RE-READ THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH IF YOU’RE NOT SURE.

It’s nice, Hugel Pinot Gris. Of the Wine Society’s praiseworthy array of half bottles (several of which I’ve written about already), it’s one of my favourites. I like the way it lies, deliciously inert (like a coma coated in syrup), in your mouth. The way it rings out with fruit, but leaves your tongue free of that ganky aftertaste of the sugary muck that often gets called ‘fruity’.

(Speaking of which — fuck. When you’re pretty much living off wine from TWS and Waitrose, you sometimes forget just how goddamn withering a bad white wine can be. I was in a pub, the other week, and forgot myself to the degree that I actually ordered a glass of white wine — somehow extrapolating from the fact that most wine I drink is quite nice a kind of rule that all wine I choose to drink will therefore be nice. A rule whose inherent fallacy was pitilessly exposed by said pub and its vinous offering.)

Hmm. Somewhere between talking about presidential fellatio and rotten pub wine, I was doing a kind of wine review, there, wasn’t I? Christ alive. Sorry about that. We’ve dispensed, haven’t we, you and I?, with any kind of flimsy, cellophane-esque pretence that you’re here for in-depth or nuanced alcoholic commentary. The commentary of an alcoholic, maybe. But not alcoholic commentary. So let’s leave it at this. Hugel Pinot Gris. Easy to open (if you have a corkscrew). Doesn’t cause you to flail around with a kitchen knife. And definitely tastes better than my ready meal.

Not to mention Putin.

A fresh, thunderstorm-clearing Alsace Riesling

… is a wine for rooftop terraces and golden sunshine

A half bottle of Trimbach Riesling, with distinctive bright yellow label, sits on a tabletop

Fresh!

This is like walking outside into air just cleared by a spring thunderstorm (pavements still wet) after a day in a stodgy, stuffy office. It is delicious. Sharp (grapefruit sharp; stiletto sharp), with a flavour that rings out like a clean-struck bell.

A wine for rooftop terraces; a wine for golden sunshine.

Delicious.

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Grape Riesling
Region Alsace
ABV 13%
Price £6.25 for a half-bottle from The Wine Society; £10.95 for a full bottle.

Alsace Pinot Noir, Kuentz-Bas Collection 2005 review

… will help you avoid meting out acts of equine violence should you be confronted with the prospect of a Pinot Noir Twitter shindig

Closeup of this Alsace Pinot Noir's label: gold and brown, with a simple crest and typographic focus

Way back — way, way back — there was some kind of pinot noir ‘event’ on Twitter. ‘Let’s all drink pinot noir,’ the governing philosophy of said event seemed to be, ‘and pretend that doing so has some kind of higher purpose or conceptual justification.’

Well, Old Parn doesn’t necessarily need conceptual justification to wrench the cork from a bottle of PN. But one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, does one? (Or, in the words of Young Parn, many years ago, one doesn’t knock a gift horse in the mouth. Which would be even more churlish.)

Anyhow. Conceptually justified to the max, I took out the above-depicted half bottle of Kuentz-Bas. And rather fine it was, too: poised and sharp, cialis online to buy fruited and taut. Its colour was pale, russet-tinged. Once it’d been out in the glass a while, it really bloomed and softened. Relaxed.

(A little like that gift horse did, once it realised I wasn’t about to crack it a swift uppercut to the jaw.)

Verdict

Supple and smooth, with a tiny gruff stemminess at the back of it. Beautiful to hold in your gob. Light, effervescent.

It is an absolute avalanche of joy to be able to buy a wine like this in a half bottle. Thank you, once again, Wine Society; thank you. And thank you, Pinot Noir Day. Or whatever your name was.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Alsace
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 13%
Price £7.50 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

Cave de Beblenheim, Grafenreben Riesling review

… will lower you into the most blissful vat of acid a secret agent could wish for

A bottle of Alsace Riesling from Cave de Beblenheim: simple label, two-colour print with crest

Sometimes you need acid. Perhaps it’s because you’ve just captured that irritatingly smooth secret agent who’s trying to foil your plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD — and you’ve decided that the most risk-free and tax-efficient option is to lower him slowly into a seething vat of corrosive liquid. I mean, what could go wrong?

Or perhaps it’s because you’re a foreign chap called Beblenheim (in which case — could I just say? — you’re already well-equipped to be a fuck-on awesome supervillain) and you want to make a damn fine Riesling*.

Yes. Acid.

Because this wine is candied, fruited, plump. Both literally and metaphorically golden, it’s a shimmering fat jewel of flavour. Fruit and flowers. A heady brew that’s almost indecently aromatic.

And this is where the acid comes in. Not like Bond crashing vengefully through reinforced glass; no, like Bond deftly insinuating himself into the bed of a sultry maiden.

Its suave acidity is absolutely the key to this wine. A suave acidity that checks (without obscuring) those floral excesses with a razor cut of clean, bracing sharpness. Leave it lingering in your mouth for as long as you like, revelling in the luxuriant texture, the steadfast refusal to descend into banal sugar. And when you swallow, the flavours slip away without a belch, without a rasp, without a jolt.

Verdict

This, my chums, is what they mean when they say ‘balance’. A perfect alignment of classicist austerity and romantic ebullience. Reason and emotion.

A balanced wine (like a balanced person) doesn’t start off great yet gradually begin to irritate; no, it’s consistently good company for your gob. Meaning the last swig is just as beguiling as the first.

So, yeah. Old Parn has been beguiled by Beblenheim. Let’s just hope it’s not some kind of sophisticated honeytrap.

Rating ★★★★ (4 stars)
ABV 12%
Price £8.82 from Waitrose Wine
* Okay, okay, so there may not actually be a bloke called Beblenheim, as this seems to be a cooperative winery. But indulge me, won’t you?

Leon Beyer Pinot Gris 2008, Alsace review

… is a mightily exotic gobful — an olfactory rollercoaster

A bottle of Leon Beyer Pinot Gris. The label is adorned with cursive script and a line drawing of a chateau. In the background, out of focus flowers and greenery

Turkish delight. Bubblegum. Nectarine. Rhubarb. Pepper. Cream. Lavender. Honey. More cream.

Well, hot darn. Ain’t that an olfactory rollercoaster, and no mistakin’?

So, yup, this is another virtuosically aromatic Alsatian.

Compared to others of its ilk, this one’s on the acidic side of things, meaning it’s less smooth, less limpid, less pacific than some. It’s got quite a crisp old bite to it. Also (which is less welcome) it’s just a touch over-the-top — that ol’ belch of alcohol hits you if you keep it in the gob too long.

And I’m no fan of that alchbelch.

Verdict

But, mmm, yeah, it’s pretty nice otherwise. And as my initial salvo of flavours might imply, it’s a fairly exotic gobful. So exotic, in fact, that I decided to photograph it in front of some delightfully out-of-focus springtime flowers.

With a bit more refinement, it’d be a four-star. Anyhow, serve it up to people who complain that Alsace wines are ‘too sweet’.

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £13.50 from The Wine Society (no longer available, link is to the 2005 vintage)

Muscat Tradition, Hugel, 2008 Review

… An insecure Alsatian that needs to see a canine psychologist — but has the sweetest breath you could wish for

Closeup of the label of this Alsace Muscat. Bright, bright yellow label, with bold red and black type and crest

If I say this wine smells very Alsatian, I trust you won’t think I’m talking about dogs.

No. If there’s a dog that smells like this, that critter can breathe in my face any time. It’s floral, perfumed, with soft, ripe tropical fruit overtones.

If you drink wine from Alsace (and, Christ knows, you should) you’ll most likely be guzzling Gewurtztraminer — a grape variety for which the region is renowned. Yeah, and so it should be.

This, though, is a wine made from another grape: Muscat.

From a whiff at it, though, you’d be pardoned for taking it for its more celebrated sibling. Get it in your gob and the similarity to Alsace Gewurtztraminer remains, with that trademark aromatic richness, that stillness — but this has a greater degree of crispness. You’re greeted by a definite citrus bite, and left with a lingering marmalade bitterness. The effect is of a dryer, less indulgently swooning wine than your average Gewurtztraminer.

Though (let’s be clear) this Muscat still swoons a fair old bit.

Verdict

This is a clear, clean, light wine. It’s rather pure. Transparent, you might say. It’s less grapey than I’d expected (Muscat being pretty much the only variety known for producing wines that actually taste of the fruit they’re made of).

Very creditable and pleasant, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a little insecure in its own identity, y’know. Like it’s trying to out-gewurtz a gewurtztraminer (a task at which it can only fail), rather than playing to its own strengths.

In other words, an Alsatian that — despite its delightful breath — could do with being taken to see a (canine) psychologist.

Rating ★★★
ABV 12%
Price £10.95 from The Wine Society, £14.25 from BBR (for the 2009).

Cave de Turckheim Gewürztraminer 2009, Alsace

…lingers, lulls, sedates

“COURAGE!” he said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And, like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

That’s Tennyson to kick us off, retelling an episode of The Odyssey in which Odysseus and his sailors discover a land of placid ‘Lotos-Eaters’. These islanders do the company no harm, but instead feed them their delicious, soporific fruits — sapping the sailors of their resolve to leave and continue their quest.

Well. If Lord Alfred’s ‘mild-eyed melancholy’ islanders had been drinking wine, I’ll warrant they’d’ve gone for Cave de Turckheim’s Gewürztraminer.

It’s heavy-yet-light, floral, perfumed. The scent is sweet; muskily grapey, buy finasteride online 5mg heady. Each mouthful lies heavy on the tongue.

Slow. Still. Smooth.

Lazily it lingers in the mouth, unhurried, drowsy. There’s a subtle, appealing bitterness in there — which further enhances the wine’s narcotic character, as well as providing balance to the blossomy aromatics. Unfortunately, it’s a touch too alcoholly, meaning that there’s a slight rough note amidst its swooning diminuendo.

And after a glass or so, what first seemed winsome acquires a slightly desultory air. A vague, lethargic emptiness.

But I don’t complain particularly vociferously.

I’m just too — tired.

Verdict

With a little more balance, this would be a very good wine. As it is, it’s interesting (especially in view of its languorousness), but becomes a little repetitive and empty. Only a little, mind you. And for the price, I’d say it’s a pretty good specimen.

Rating ?????
ABV 13%
Price £8.25 from Waitrose, £8.99 from Majestic, £7.95 from The Wine Society