Sassicaia, Pelago, and Port
Had the group over last night for a dinner tasting that was centred
around two pairs of wines tasted blind.
We started with some thyme gougeres and duck breast and foie gras with
a couple of bottles of a Loire bubble:
Ch. de Mosny Montlouis sur Loire – the older version of this NV wine
was maybe 4 years old. The nose picked up a tad in complexity but the
wine lost in freshness.
The current version seemed to have some residual sugar (not a lot)
better fruit on palate and was the more pleasant wine. Moral – not
worth aging in the hopes of development.
The next course was made with about the last chanterelles available
here. Simmered for about an hour and a half in a couple of litres of
cream and then topped off with some sage and dry sherry, the dish is
rich but has been proven to work with both young and old wines.
1979 Sassicaia – I have always liked this wine a lot, but had figured
that it was now in decline, so I opened shortly before serving it,
just in case it tanked too quickly. There was a slight mintiness in
the nose, and some VA at the outset but that seemed to abate fairly
quickly. The wine was understated to begin with but seemed to pick up
steam with air in the glass, adding some cedar to the fruit nose and
seeming to fill out a bit (it was initially a tad lean on palate).
There was still some soft tannin and good acidity levels. No one
guessed that it was Italian right off, and they had to work their way
in to the property once that was revealed. This surprised me and
showed better than the last time I’d opened it. One more bottle in the
cellar to go. If you’ve got this, I wouldn’t wait (my cellar is very
good and others may age faster), but it showed a surprising amount of
charm over maybe an hour in the glass.
1982 Sassicaia – my last bottle of this, I think. It has always shown
well and this was no exception. Darker colour, more interesting dark
fruit based nose with some vanilla, very good balance, a tasty wine
with excellent length. Not a big rush on this, although it won’t get
any better with further age.
The next course was a long simmered lamb, onion and apricot stew with
tons of spice and heat that only abated after a couple of hours
cooking, served alongside a kabocha squash puree with lots of ginger
1994 Umani Ronchi Pelago – I went back to Italy for the second pair as
well. This wine was first created in this vintage in Mrache as an IGT
that was 50% cabernet, 40% montepulciano and 10% merlot. Modern deep
blue label and snazzy logos aside, this bottle showed very well
indeed, with quite a dark colour, a nice dark chocolate hint in the
otherwise cassis and blueberry nose. There was still a fair bit of
soft tannin, and good length. The nose developed over time, adding wet
stone and an herbal/floral element after awhile. I liked this one a
1995 Umani Ronchi Pelago – a very different wine was hidings out in
this bottle. The nose was a bit musty, and lacked the blueberry and
the chocolate. The middle was similar in weight but considerably
riper and that wasn’t an improvement as it failed to show the
exemplary balance of the 94. the finish was shorter and I thought
there was a bit of raisin at the end. Not a bad wine, but not one that
could show well against the 1994.
I staged a cheese-off – a comparative tasting of Stilton (pasteurized
as is now standard) and Stitchelton, a rogue product made the old way
as an unpasteurized cheese, but not able to be called Stilton because
of that. The unanimous verdict was in favour of the Stichelton. While
the Stilton was more blue and a heavier smell and more veining, the
Stitchelton was creamier and more subtle with nutty almost sweetness
at the end. Worked with pear and walnuts.
1987 Cockburn’s Quinta do Tua – In vintages not generally declared,
the single quinta wines are often vinified and bottled alone, without
blending. Cockburns has Tua and Canais (and two others I’ve never seen
as single quinta bottlings), and you don’t often see them as they
never seem to get wide marketing exposure. I bought this on release
after an initial tasting that impressed me, and this was the first
bottle I’ve opened – I haven’t seen much in the way of notes on this
one, so took a chance. Cocoa and red fruit in the slightly hot nose,
and cocoa in the mouth, also a bit of heat there, but very smooth,
quite long in the finish. Hard to believe the vintage as this presents
like a very decent Port of a normal declared vintage. I’d say this
was still on the way up. Good showing. Opened and decanted about 5