What I’m drinking: current and seasonal excitements

by Charles Lea

In the shops we often find we recommend things we are enjoying ourselves or have tasted recently. My enthusiasms change with the weather, so we are just getting into Rosé time, but I have assumed you already have some MiP and friends to enjoy when the sun comes out (if not, what are you thinking of? Order Rosé now!).

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Two Champagnes: Seasonality rules, so that when in comes to Champagne, the summer makes me reach for the elegance of Blanc de Blancs – in this case either the best ‘session’ Champagne I can think of (served at my own wedding, so you know it has been a long-standing enthusiasm): R&L LEGRAS Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru, or for a glass or two to whet the appetite before dinner, the spine-tinglingly precise LARMANDIER-BERNIER ‘Longitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru.

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One Fino Sherry: The other apéritif in a world of its own is Tio Pepe’s seasonal release of ‘EN RAMA‘ sherry, and it can be drunk in the summer not only with tapas but also with many fish dishes which it complements perfectly: very limited stock.

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One Dry White: I seem to have very little white in this selection, but I have to have a space for Luigi Maffini’s detailed KRATOS, a Fiano from Paestum which manages to be both refreshing and interestingly complex.

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Two Pinot Noirs: Burgundy is brilliant, but seems to disappear as soon as it becomes ready to drink, unless you have been prudent enough to buy en primeur. These are from slightly less likely sources. The first is a delicate, soft wine which can be drunk cool – a German with a typically over-long name – don’t let that put you off: 2011 ESSENHEIM SPÄTBURGUNDER Kalkmergel Weingut Braunewell.

The second is the 2011 vintage of Piero Incisa della Rochetta’s CHACRA Cinquento y Cinco Pinot Noir from the vines planted in 1955 in the Rio Negro Valley in Patagonia, Argentina. Stephen Tanzer, not normally known for hyperbole, wrote of this reminded me of a top Dujac wine. Dense, ripe and spicy but virtually weightless, with outstanding focus” – and gave it 94/100.

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Four Italian Reds: We drink a lot of Italian red in the Lea household – you should give it a try too. First up is Nicóla and Agostino Lenci’s juicy, velvety Sangiovese with raspberry-accented full fruit is a great ‘any time of day, with or without food’ red. ‘HEBA‘ is from the Fattoria de Magliano, an estate created when Agostino sold his shoe-making business to pursue the dream, on rolling hills overlooking the Monte Argentario peninsula. The second is ‘CABURNIO‘, from Tenuta Monteti, which looks at the same peninsula from a little further south. This is a ‘SuperTuscan’ blend unlike any other, with all the main Bordeaux varieties and a touch of Alicante Bouchet, it remains defiantly Italian in style. A lovely combination of generous ripeness and dark sophistication.

Going further south to the Paestum in Campania (south of Naples), to find KLEOS, an Aglianico from Luigi Maffini. Luigi’s White ‘KRATOS’ is mentioned above, but I make no excuse for including this red as well, a wine which really sang at our last tasting, with a very dark fruit character which remains straight and satisfyingly dry on the palate, serious yet easy to understand. Aglianico can be all sorts of styles, and is often impenetrably big of darkly tannic, but this is neither of those – mid-weight and yet concentrated in a shapely, svelte way.

My last Italian is 2011 BRICCOSERRA Cigliuti  another that some purists might pooh-pooh, but which is tasting sensational now. From Barbaresco producers Cigliuti in Piedmont, it is one of those wines one feels a bit guilty for liking as much as this, since it is a ‘bastard’ mix of Barbera and Nebbiolo. This, in an earlier vintage, was the wine that first drew my attention to Cigliuti, and while it can be rather oaky when young, it absorbs it well with a year in bottle. (Claudia’s father Renato started making this in order to experiment when French barriques started to appear in Piemonte in the seventies, although they have never used them for their Barbarescos). This has depth and power and length an a real sense of class.

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Two Rhôney Blends: but neither is from the Rhône. Again both these are favourites and both showed well at our last tasting. Perfect for a really good bit of barbecued meat. ACÚSTIC Vinyes Velles Nobles Bodegas Acústic is Albert Jané’s red from ancient vines in Monsant (the area around Priorat, by Barcelona) and it is a wine of extraordinary depth and sophistication for the modest price, with enough concentration to soak up any little burnt edges in the meat.

The final wine is one of the kings of the Terrasses de Larzac, a bench of land in the Languedoc under the Cévennes mountains and cooled by air descending from the hills at night, which has only recently been given its own appellation in recognition of its wines with a lot more class than those from much of the over-heated land lower down. Frédéric Pourtalié’s DOMAINE DE MONTCALMÈS is the leading example, retaining a freshness of aroma from the 60% Syrah that seems to have more to do with the northern Rhône than Languedoc. “Pourtalie makes beautifully fruit-driven wines that show the warmth of the region, yet stay impressively balanced and fresh” 91-93, The Wine Advocate. This is one for a properly Cordon Bleu bit of outdoor cooking, so pay attention and make sure the food is up to the quality of the wine.

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You can buy a mixed dozen with all of these in for £239.40 delivered – a shade under £20 a bottle on average – and have some real fun trying them all.

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