One of the great joys I have found in writing about wine is that it has provided me with the opportunity to meet so many remarkable people whose passion is both an inspiration and a reminder of why wine is so much more than just “a drink”. A case in point for this was a tasting that I attended last week; I’d received an email from a wine merchant called Dudley Craig Wines inviting me to their tasting following a recommendation from a mutual friend (cheers, Mike!). I hadn’t heard of them before but their wine list looked very interesting and it just so happened to fit neatly between my work and a band rehearsal that I had that evening. I accepted the invitation and was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.
The setting for the tasting was the quintessentially-Mayfair Chesterfield hotel. It had that reassuring, somewhat-old fashioned allure to it, including porters bedecked in top-hats and the plushest of soft furnishings. My colleague and I made our way up to a room on the first floor whereupon we were created by the ebullient Tracie and the somewhat eponymous Richard Dudley Craig, who were both incredibly friendly and welcoming. They had put on a selection of nearly a hundred of their wines and had invited along some of their favourite producers to introduce their own wines. I could instantly tell that we were going to have an interesting evening!
A bit of fizz to start
We started off at the table featuring some champagnes from Champagne Henri Abelé where we tried a number of their offerings. I have said before that I am not a fan of NV champagnes as I don’t think they offer the greatest value (certainly compared to Cavas or English Sparkling at the same price point), however I must say that I found their Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier) was very good, a nice toasty note to it with some freshness and zestiness from the Chardonnay in the blend. At £29.95 a bottle I thought this was decently priced. I was pleased to try a couple of their vintage champagnes too, my favourite was the 2007 Limited Edition ‘Millisime’ which had the same blend as their Brut NV, but had an added layer of elegance and complexity. The nose, in particular, was enchanting. For a vintage champagne of this calibre I thought the £49.95 price tag was, once more, very reasonable.
A trip to the Nahe
When I saw that there was a German producer from one of my favourite regions (the Nahe) I was always going to head over to check it out. The winery in question was Weingut Zwölberich, a family business that has been running since the 18th century and was represented at this tasting by the very charming Harmut Heintz.
Interestingly it wasn’t their Rieslings that I found most interesting. Their 2014 Auxerrois (£17.95/bottle), Auxerrois is a white grape that I’d not tried before and I found made for a very elegant and long wine with some pleasing peach notes. I’ve always had a soft-spot for a Dornfelder and I found that their 2013 Dornfelder (£16.95/bottle) which had a nice acidity to it, giving the wine some nice sour cherry flavours. Their best wine, in my opinion, was their premium wine which is the 2011 Spätburgunder Spätlese (£22.95/bottle). Heintz explained that to make this wine they leave the best grapes on the vine for a further three weeks after the rest of the grapes are harvested in order to allow them to concentrate further. This results in a wine with a pleasing elegance to it.
An unbelievable selection from the Jura
When I looked through the listings before I arrived at the tasting there was one table that I knew I had to visit, that of Cave Jean Broudy from the mythical Jura region of France. The table boasted a wonderful selection of about 15 different wines which highlighted the character and intrigue of this wine region. I enjoyed their 2009 Cotes du Jura Rouge (£16.95/bottle) a blend of Poulssard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir, which had a nice strawberry-like profile to it. The 2011 Cotes du Jura Savagnin (£20.95) was our first foray into this fabled grape and had a saline aroma that I could have sworn was a Fino.
The real reason for visiting this table, however, was always going to be the vin jaunes, the most famous wine from this region. These wines have a longevity and complexity that makes them like no other wine, in my opinion. We started our journey with the 2007 Chateau Chalon (£55.95/bottle) which had an exotic marzipan like aroma that I found very enticing. The 2004 Chateau Chalon (£55.95) was a bit more spicy and had a bit more depth to it.
What really got us going, however, was their 1945 Chateau Chalon. 1945 is a legendary vintage in Europe, not least because of its historical context, but also because the wines produced were so good. This wine was simply sublime, I can honestly say that I have never tried anything like it. It had a certain sweetness to it with an unbelievable profundity and complexity to it. As you would expect the finish lasted and lasted and lasted, evolving all the time. On the list this was down as a “price on enquiry”, but a bit of research has shown that the ’47 is being sold at Hedonism for £615/bottle! Blimey!
The beautiful Roussillon
We finished up the evening with probably the two best value wines of the evening. The 2014 Amistat Blanc (£19.95/bottle) made from a blend of Grenache Blanc and Macabeo, and the 2013 Armistat Rouge (also £19.95/bottle) both had a phenomenal amount of complexity in them for wines at these price points.
This was a very interesting tasting with some wonderful, unusual and memorable wines. It was, as always, a real pleasure to meet the producers – it is so enlightening to hear them talk about all the hard work and dedication that they have to put in to making the wine that we enjoy so much.
I must thank Tracie and Richard for putting on such an excellent tasting.
Note: the prices quoted in this article are based on the price list from Dudley Craig’s retail outlet: Wine Sensations.