I cannot verify the quotation, but I understand that “Hotel veranda! Bottle of whisky! Telescope!” was Mark Twain’s recipe for exploring the alps. I can recommend the spirit of the idea, if not the detail. Here is an evening view of the Jungfrau we had from our hotel garden a couple of weeks ago while polishing off a bottle of Rieussec 1985 after dinner.
The wine was oxidised, and I should have immediately spotted it from the colour in the bottle. But I accepted the wine in the hotel restaurant, and in the end I was pleased I did. My wife enjoyed it more than me I think, but I too liked it. I can best describe it as a sort of low alcohol tawny port with marmalade notes. Not Sauternes as we know it, Jim, but still a nice drink. It is amazing how wine faults can give interesting and pleasurable results even if the wine is not as intended. The one big exception to that rule as far as I am concerned is corkiness. The moment I detect, or believe I detect, the smallest amount of TCA in a wine, it is for me undrinkable.
But the big vinous event of the holiday was the discovery that I like Bordeaux after all - if the wine is good enough and nicely mature. Sadly, I also learned that the Bordeaux I really like is now generally well out of my price range. Here are the two wines that turned my head:
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc, 1996
Medium tawny garnet. Intense, smooth and round Claret nose, with some pencil box. Medium acid. Medium low tannin – velvety. Excellent length. Aromatics are led by fruit. Primarily blackcurrant, but also red fruits. But behind the fruit there are plenty of other more savoury and complex notes, all nicely integrated. Undergrowth even perhaps. This is good now, but primary notes are still to the fore, and it might well improve further *****
Château La Mission Haut Brion, Graves, 1985
Medium to deep, beautiful garnet. Intense, soft, complexity that comes with maturity. Great bouquet. Violets, and dark fruit. Medium acid. Medium tannin, but not at all obtrusive. Sweet fruit. The Violets and fruit nicely lift the more subtle and complex notes that dominate. Huge length, with a finish that fires on all cylinders, continuing to show the depth and intensity of the wine when it is in the mouth. For me the I would say the wine is at its peak, but there is absolutely no hurry ****** (The first time my top score has appeared on my blog.)
The other wines we had, all in the hotel restaurant, were considerably more modest. They are all Swiss apart from the Burgundy, which was selected by a Swiss merchant. Here I have given estimated UK retail prices to give you some idea of how the wines compare with more familiar ones.
Grand Vin Vaudois, AOC St Saphorin, Riem Daepp, 2006, £10.50
Medium pale greenish. Intense fresh and clean. Medium low acid. Dry. Wet wool and aniseed. Understated and good despite limited length. Some caramel. Maybe a little over the hill ****
Vins des Chevaliers, Salgesh/Salquenen Valais Suisse, Dôle, AOC Valais, 2009, £11.00
Pale ruby garnet. Intense primary cherry Pinot fruit. Medium acid. Low tannin. Tad hot and thin. Served a little too warm. Good length. Drink now ***
AOC Lavaux, Dézaley, Riem Daepp, 2010, £12.30
Pale greenish tinge. Intense stone fruit. Apricot Low acidity. Dry. Excellent length. Almond finish. Floral. Refreshing despite lack of acidity. Drink now ****
Côte de Nuits Villages, Riem Daepp, 1999, £11.50
Medium pale tawny garnet. Intense soft mature Burgundy. Touch of the farmyard. Caramel. Some vague red fruit. Medium high acid. Medium low tannin. As nose. Excellent length. Drink now. On its way out. Remember I am still at heart a Burgundy man, so *****
I don’t want my blog to become a travel site, but I must say that if you want a comfortable hotel and a summer walking holiday in spectacular alpine scenery I can recommend the Hotel Wengener Hof. I have been a bit coy about the prices we paid for the Bordeaux there. I am sure you are capable of using Google to get market prices, but to see the prices charged by the hotel follow the link from this page. If you are persuaded to try their Bordeaux list, just remember who told you about it and leave some for me the next time I visit.