Château Milens 2001 and a Riedel Ultra decanter

Two presents, given to me on separate occasions, which came together on Easter Monday a week or so ago.  The decanter was a present from colleagues on my recent departure from the company – note the engraving 🙂 – while the wine was a present for a significant birthday several years ago.  It seemed fitting that they should be brought together in this way.

In style the Riedel Ultra it is very close to that of a ship’s decanter, which wine drinkers generally seem to regard it as a Good Thing because it exposes a large area of wine surface to air.  I am not convinced about how much difference that makes, but the wide bottom is also good if you want to give the wine a bit of a shake to get more oxygen in.  The neck is comfortable to hold, whether you want to shake, pass around the table, or pour.  Overall, the decanter is very elegant and practical, and a pleasure to use. The only slight awkwardness is that you need to tip it to an alarming angle to get the last drop of wine out, but there is really no escaping that for wide bottomed decanters.

And what of the decanter’s contents?  This was Château Milens, Saint-Émillion Grand Cru, 2001. Wine-Searcher suggests that in the UK it is only available by the case, at around £25 a bottle for vintages going back to the late 90s.  Here’s the tasting note… Medium garnet. Intense, and mature on the nose, but still with some blackcurrant fruit – rather attractive.  Medium acid, and pretty high levels of astringency, though the astringency did not seem obtrusive, especially with the roast lamb we were eating.  Excellent length, with a mature, complex finish.  This is very good now, though a few more years could well be beneficial. As a rule my wife and I would not naturally gravitate towards Bordeaux for red wines, but we both gave this the thumbs-up *****

So thank you everyone for the decanter,  and for the wine. Please let me know if you were responsible for the wine gift, because all I remember (for whatever reason) was finding the bottle after the party.  If you just accidentally left it behind let me know anyway, and I will try to make amends.

Back on the booze

As you may be aware, I have been off alcohol for a while on medical advice. I must admit I did make a few exceptions for particularly attractive tasting opportunities, but last weekend was the first one where my wine drinking was back to normal.  As it happened I managed to find three very enjoyable, though relatively modest wines, to break my fast with.  These are the experiences that really make wine worthwhile for me.

The Talbot was drunk at home with a shoulder of lamb, but the other bottles mentioned below were opened at our local BYO restaurant, Aladdin.  The restaurant was on fine form.  It has expanded to occupy all of the ex-Indian restaurant next door – it moved into the first floor a year or so ago, and has now taken over the ground floor too.  They do not sell alcohol, and so forgo the generous markups usually applied by restaurants, and I don’t think they have increased their prices in the seven years or so I have been going, but clearly they are successful.  Presumably it is because they offer a product that people like, and it always seems to attract a broad range of customers.  But anyway – the wine:


Ryzlink Rýnsk, Víno S Prívlastkem, Pozdní Sber, Polosuché, Tomáš Krist, Oblast Morave, Podoblast Slovácká Obec Milotice Vinícní Trať Šidleny, 2009, 11.5%, members’ price at The Daily Drinker is £11.70. Firstly, I think some translation and explanation is in order.  I shall do my best – corrections welcome.  This is a Riesling produced by Tomáš Krist, in the Oblast Morave region of the Czech Republic.  Confusingly it is not easy to spot the country of origin on the label, but you do see the word Slovácká, which you might think is Slovakia – actually it is a subregion of Oblast Morave.  This wine is a pale watery green.  On the nose I get intense fresh lime and lemon.  It has medium high acidity, and perhaps the merest hint of some residual sugar.  On the palate the aromatics are as on the nose.  The wine is refreshing, but the acidity is not at all searing. In fact it seems to have a creamy note, so I wonder it has perhaps gone through a malolactic fermentation, which I believe would be unusual for a Riesling. Decent length and rather a nice balance.  Probably best to drink now, but I would be interested to see how it ages over the next few years.  Pleasant but simple. ***

Terra d’Alter, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Touriga Nacional, Portugal, 2010, 14.0%, members’ price at The Daily Drinker is £9.00. FWIW, this is an IWC Gold Medal winner. Medium pale purple ruby colour, with an intense, fresh, blackberry and raspberry nose.  Medium high acidity. Intense, but light. Fresh feeling to the wine.  Aromatics as nose. Medium low tannin. Excellent length. Good juicy fruit. Nice bitter finish. Drink now.   I am not sure about the extent to which sulphur was used with this wine, but freshness of the fruit reminds me of some of the best natural wines I have tasted.  Other Touriga Nacional wines I have tasted have been a lot heavier than this one.  ****

Cordier, Chateau Talbot, Saint-Julien, France, 1974.  I bought this recently for a very modest £8.00 from someone who picked it up at auction.  On wine-searcher at the time, I saw it being offered for £60 and £140 by different merchants.  Pale tawny colour.  On the nose and palate, it is has mature red fruit, and attractive gentle warm spicy notes.  Medium acid and medium astgringency, with excellent length.  Despite 1974 being a poor vintage, this was not at all dried out or oxidised.  It might well have been better many years ago, but is still a nice wine that gave me a lot of pleasure, and at £8 it was a bargain.  Not sure I would want to pay anything like £60, but those who appreciate mature wines more than me might see that as a reasonable price. ****

Hotel veranda, bottle of wine

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.