A while ago, I went to see Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines in Saffron Walden and was very impressed with his range of southern French, Basque and Spanish hand-crafted wines.
At the end of our meeting, he gave me a couple of wines to sample in full and I opened them up at home the other weekend for some guests.
Bodegas Ameztoi, Txakoli di Getaria 2010 – Â£12.25
Very pale yellow in the glass, it smells of brine, seashells and wet stones.
On the palate, it is neutral, clean and fresh with lemony apples-and-pears acidity and gentle minerality.
With little primary fruit, it is all about lovely purity and focus.
It makes a great aperitif or a wine for seafood or tapas.
Lovers of obscure grape varieties will be keen to learn that this is made from Hondarribi Zuri grape (aka Petit Courbu in France).
Cave de Saint-Etienne de Baigorry, Irouleguy Blanc ‘Cuvee ‘Andere d’Ansa’ 2010 – Â£10.99
Aged in oak and made from a blend of 80% Gros Manseng and 20% Petit Manseng this smells curiously of take-away fish and chips, with a saltiness and aromas of malt vinegar, some oakiness, floral aromas and a touch of sour hay.
On the palate, it feels quite old school with buttery-creamy-sweet oak, nutmeg and cinnamon spice, toastiness and some oxidative character.
There are also floral aromas and long, apricotty, lemony acidity with more of the same on the finish.
This is much weightier than the previous wine and would match well with heavier fish dishes, such as smoked haddock or salmon mornay.
Domaine Du Meteore, Les Leonides, FaugÃ¨res 2007 – Â£9.10
On opening, there is an intense nose of dark berries and tarry liquorice with garrigue herbs and hints of roasted dark spices and dark coffee.
Made from a mix of typical southern French varieties, Grenache, Syrah, MourvÃ¨dre and Carignan, in the glass it is a dark cherry colour, but now running to a faded brick red with age.
The palate is juicy with more dark berry fruit, some vanilla sweetness and rounded acidity.
With a few years of bottle age, it has now gained a degree of harmonious mellowness and after a couple of hours in the decanter, the nose has faded a little and palate opened up showing more garrigue herbs, coffee and dark spices with lots of elderberry fruit and a smooth custardy texture and some grip on the finish.
To me it is like a young Mick Jagger – a brash, eclectic in-yer-face mix of things, but behind it all, actually quite sophisticated and respectable.
Food pairing is relatively straightforward – anything that matches the bitter, herbaceous herbiness will go well, so think rosemary and sage.
We found it matched superbly with starters of beetroot with rosemary cream cheese as well as asparagus wrapped in pancetta and a main of herby sausages.
All three are excellent wines and it’s a bit “you pays your money and you takes your choice”. However, taking price into account, the Domaine Du Meteore represents superb value given its price of under a tenner.
Joseph Barnes Wines – http://www.josephbarneswines.com/home.aspx
My earlier review of Joseph Barnes – http://cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com/2011/07/joseph-barnes-wines-saffron-walden.html
Copyright Tom Lewis 2011
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