16 May 2008

Moet's Imported Landscape

I WENT to Il Bottacio again a couple of days ago. It had been radically transformed from Les Caves de Pyrene's 'Real' wine tasting a month ago [HERE]. A gazebo showcasing the wines of Cape Mentelle was surrounded by sand; this required constant brushing back into shape. A privet hedge shrouded a fountained courtyard, mimicking the beauty of Newton (Spring Mountain). Escalating steps, signifying altitude, and cowskin-cubed seats represented Terrazas in Mendoza. A fun idea, and surprising, although little room was left for serious tasters in the already tight space.
Fortunately, I secured a place on the 'Chardonnay around the world' masterclass away from such gimmickry. It was hosted by Robert Mann, lean, confident Chief Winemaker at Cape Mentelle, who comes from an impressive dynasty. My favourites follow.
Cape Mentelle's '06 was expressive, with resolved oak, a hint of rhubarb, but a slightly hollow final note on the nose. The palate was engaging, however: comprehensive, with a hint of gingerbread. The finish was clean, fresh and fine.
Cloudy Bay's '05 had a slight sweetness to the juicy pineapple, tangerine and graphite scented nose. The palate echoed the nose, albeit backed-down by insufficient acidity. Richness forced upon a nervy base. Both wines used the small berried Mendoza clone, ironically uncommon in South America. Robert said this clone "leads to success".
Between those wines, a non-LVMH Chardonnay was uncomfortably inserted: Oliver Leflaive's 1er Cru '05 Puligny Montrachet. Oily, curious, smelling of fungal growth on wet cave wall with a backstory of old wood. A stale wine from an area where grapes "hang too long". Not Burgundy's best ambassador. Robert defended its minerality however, claiming to "always look for inspiration" in a wine.
Finally, Newton's '05 Chardonnay, from Spring Mountain, California. Described as "a pick-up with a V8 engine", it had a smoky nose mingled with plantain and molasses. On the palate, Rubenesque with a surging texture evoking crème brûlée. Sumptuous. This is California's "benchmark opulent style" - far from Robert's stylistic preference.
Ellen, Newton's representative, who spent the day competing in volume with the diuretic fountain in her yew courtyard, described the portfolio as properly proportioned - built like "a female opera singer". In the audience, Decanter's online editor made the point that really built, oakily soupy Chardonnay's (Chard's in the U.S.) were unloved outside of the states. "North America vs. the rest". I thought it was a marvellous rendition, however, and to agree with Ellen, a perfect match for a hog roast. Bring it on.
A duo of blogs worth exploring:
1). Cheese & Biscuits: written by a hungry chap just a year older than me, but with the appetite for both of us, this is unpretentious, informative, current and very funny.
2). Art Review: an engagingly philosophical look at exhibitions in the capital.