Are You Tasting the Pith? - 1st May 05
What better way to spend May Day than with one's knees tucked under a dining table and sharing food and drink with friends? No, I can't think of one either, and so that's how the day was spent. Incidental to this was the road testing of a couple of new wines from the shop.
I find Semillon a hard grape to enjoy. As a single varietal, I think it literally stinks - it reminds me of burning plastic and goats cheese, which I know is a pretty uncommon opinion, but rest assured that it is my own. I've no idea why this should be the case; I like every other grape variety I've tried, but on its own, revolting. However, in a blend, I love the way its complexity (even as I experience it) lifts both the aroma and the palate. So it is with 2003 Yarra Burn Sauvignon Semillon (12% abv), bursting with zesty vitality from the moment the screwcap is twisted. Notes of lime, gooseberry and grassy greenness lift the senses and stimulate the appetite - it is literally mouth-watering, making it a great aperitif. The relatively assertive palate (lime, tropical fruit) means that it can cope well with fairly light foods, such as the seafood salad with dill and mustard dressing that it was fortuitously paired with (use lemon juice rather than vinegar in the dressing to make it much more wine-friendly). A definite hit, and very pleasing to see a wine weighing in at the Hugh Johnson approved strength.
Damn, how do I love Cote-Rotie? The last bottle of this Northern Rhone rarity I shared, a couple of years ago now (thanks Aidan), was produced by M. Bruno Chambeyron, and was unbelievably fine - heady, sumptuous, voluptuous. It made such an impression on me that when I went to France a few months later, I was almost stopping people in the street to ask "Vous connaissez Bruno, monsieur?" - admittedly a long shot in Brittany, but still.
2002 Yarra Burn Shiraz Viognier (13.5% abv) is an interpretation of the Cote-Rotie style, blending red grapes (predominantly syrah, which is shiraz, as any fule kno) with viognier, just as they do in the Rhone. The smooth, spicy shiraz aroma receives a perfumed lift from the viognier, hard to describe precisely, but it has a slightly heady, floral edge to it, particularly in contrast with the robust pepperiness of the shiraz. The palate is smooth, berryish and rich, again with a touch of lightness, and a long finish with a suggestion of floral honey in it. Oddly, the complexity that it gains from the viognier seems to lend it a rioja-like quality, albeit without the oaky notes. Delicious.
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