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Neil Sowerby's October Wine Tips

One of our chief tipplers snuggles up to Lily Bollinger and more

Published on October 18th 2011.

Neil Sowerby's October Wine Tips

MY favourite wine quotation is 50 years old this week. It’s worth repeating: "I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty."

That was Madame Lily Bollinger, quoted in the Daily Mail of 17 October 1961, on the occasion of the launch of the first vintage of Bollinger RD (1952) in London. A sublime soundbite, with which I heartily concur.

I’ve always loved Bolly. A private tour around the Bollinger cellars and vineyards in the heart of Champagne was a birthday treat a few years ago. You could almost sense the ghost of Mme B cycling around the priceless 144 hectares.

Majestic (www.majestic.co.uk) is a good source of Champagne special offers. Bollinger Special Cuvee is currently reduced from £40 to £32 – £30, if you buy six. Delightfully pale gold, the mousse is delicate and persistent. Densely packed apple and pear fruits give way to a creamy, butterscotch finish. They also stock the RD at a daunting £100 a bottle.

You could spend less than that  – £95 a head – to attend the upcoming Bollinger Wine Tasting Dinner at The Lowry Hotel on Friday, October 28. It’s part of a monthly series of events in the private dining room matching a producer’s wine against five courses representing the best of local produce. At some the winemaker will be present.

Numbers are limited to 20 diners, so early booking is recommended. For further details, visit here.

River Bar and Restaurant Manager Huseyin Bozkurt seems to have a predilection for champagne. Ruinart is the featured producer at December’s dinner and Billecart Salmon in January.

More fond memories at Manchester Food and Drink Festival with the presence at the Big Indie Wine Fest of Horwich merchants T Wright Wine (they also supplied the wine for Gordo’s Call My Wine Bluff event).

When I was living in those parts north of Bolton and first discovering wine (it seems like a couple of centuries ago) their shop on Chorley New Road was a boon. Nowadays under the stewardship of the Seymour family it’s going from strength to strength (www.twrightwine.co.uk).

My continuing fetish for Alsace wines was sated by two choice Grand Crus they brought along to the People’s History Museum event. Both were from Schumberger, Alsace’s biggest domaine at 140 hectares. I’ve always found their basic cuvees consistent but unexciting. Their Grand Crus, though, are magnificent. The Wright duo came from the Kitterle vineyard, known as 'Le Brise-Mollets' or 'Calf-Breaker' because of its one in two slopes, necessitating hand-picking and low-yields.

Famille Negrel RoseFamille Negrel Rose

The resulting concentration showed in the Domaine Schlumberger Grand Cru Kitterle Gewurztraminer 2003 (£26.95), which was raided on the lees for eight months. Greeny Lemony colour with green hints, on the nose there was sherbert and rose petals while from the complex palate burnt sugar and marshmallow lingered.

Its stablemate, the Schlumberger Grand Cru Kitterle Riesling 2005 (£24.99) was less approachable, with a decade of improvement ahead, but still expressed the essence of this grape from such a volcanic/sandstone terroir. Candied citrus aromas, then a distinctive combination of minerality and oiliness in the mouth. Bright vivacious stuff, less austere as it evolves in the glass.

The family’s Saering slope, all marl and limestone, is equally vertiginous. It was interesting to contrast the Domaine Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2007 (www.slurp.co.uk £18.95, L’Art du Vin, www.aduv.co.uk, £19.80) with its Kitterle cousin. Again it needs time, its bracing grapefruit acidity is a shock on the palate, but the characteristic petrol on the nose and the underpinning minerality have the promise of great things to come.

Austere often sums up the wines of Léon Beyer, of Eguisheim, the cradle of Alsace wine making. From Sylvaner, very much a workhorse grape compared with Riesling, he has conjured up a spicy, surprisingly full-bodied example for everyday drinking, Léon Beyer, Sylvaner 2010 (£7.95,  www.thewinesociety.com). Its intense fruitiness coupled with refreshing acidity make it a fair bet with lightly spicy dishes.

Gewurztraminer is not a grape usually associated with Chile, but following their success with fellow aromatic varietal viognier, Viña Ventisquero are enthusiastic about their Yali National Reserva Gewurztraminer 2010 (Majestic, £8.49).

It’s a gentle introduction to what can be an overpowering wine style. Floral and gingery aromas give way to a fresh and gingery flavour. What a pity summer, even of the Indian variety is over.

I felt the same about as couple of rosés, also from Majestic, although both are at the serious, food-friendly end of the pink spectrum.

Famille Negrel Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire Rosé 2010 (Majestic, £9.99,) is a special cuvee produced by siblings from the The Negrel family who have have been making wines at the Mas de Cadenet estate in the foothills of the Mont Saint Victoire since 1813.

The wine is a blend of 50 per cent Grenache, 40 per cent Cinsault and 10 per cent Syrah grapes. Pale salmon pink, it offers an elegant surge of summerfruits.

For the same price and with a similar blend, Commanderie de Peyrassol Côtes de Provence Rosé 2010, from an estate dating back to 1256, wraps up its peachy and strawberry fruit in some invigorating acidity. Great aperitif.

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