Friday, November 21, 2008

Majestic Christmas Tasting

Thurs 13 Nov 2008

Back in June the Leeds Majestic closed after a fire. It's now re-opened (in time for Christmas!) and on Thursday night we went along for an 'exclusive tasting evening', showcasing some wines from the Winter range.

We weren't sure what to expect so set our expectations low. On arrival we were greeted with a glass of bubbly and a wine tasting card which listed the wines available for tasting with plenty of space for notes. Even though I'd brought along my tasting notebook and pen I was impressed.

There were ten wines on tasting, and very generous measures were being poured. As you'd expect, the staff were up to speed on what they were pouring so there was plenty of opportunity to learn about the wines. I was interested to see that people were asking lots of questions and I wasn't the only one taking notes!

After the sparkling, we tasted four whites and five reds. You can find the full list and read my full tasting notes here, but for now I'll mention just the standout wines.

To start with, the Langlois Crémant de Loire that we started with punched well about its £12 price tag (£7.99 if you buy two or more). It has an interesting, complex nose and drank well. It doesn't appear to hold its mousse that well though - the wine had obviously been poured prior to the tasting starting and the bubbles were rather thin on the ground by the time we got to it. Still, I doubt that would be a problem if you're opening a bottle in a social setting ...

On the still whites, both Andy and I agreed that we weren't overly fussed by either of the Chardonnays. We were split on the two Sauvignon Blancs we tasted: I preferred the Paul Mas (France) while Andy preferred the Lanner Hill (South Africa). While I did think that the Lanner Hill was the better wine in most respects it lacked the excellent structural acidity of the French wine. The Lanner Hill did have an aggressively asparagus nose so it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

On the reds we were in agreement. The star of the show for us was the Marco Porello Barbera d'Alba. At £8 a bottle it looks like a bit of a bargain. The nose was rich cherries and stewed rhubarb - and the cherries carried through to the palate. Good structure and a nice long, slightly bitter (and that's bitter in a good way) finish.

Runner up was the Premier Vin du Château de Pitray - a Côtes de Castillon Bordeaux. A typical blackcurranty Bordeaux nose with enough vegetal character on both nose and palate to lead me to guess there was some Cabernet Franc in the bottle. It turns out I was right: the wine's a Merlot Cab Franc blend from this new appellation.

Probably the most disappointing wine was the Roaring Meg Pinot Noir from New Zealand's Central Otago region. At £17.49 a bottle I want to be impressed and I just wasn't. To be totally fair to this wine - it was the 7th wine we tasted and we tasted it after the Barbera.

We left the tasting feeling that the hour or so we'd spent in Majestic was a massive improvement in experience over the time we'd spent in Vinopolis a few weeks ago. There were interesting wines on offer and plenty of opportunity to learn. My only criticism is that I would have liked a few more spittoons - I only spotted one, which meant I ended up drinking rather than spitting!
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6 Comments:

Blogger winesleuth said...

What a shame the NZ pinot was a bust but don't give up on them! If you want any recommendations, please feel free to drop me a line! ps. The Vinopolis tastings are not the best if you know anything about wine.

11:33 am  
Anonymous Alastair Bathgate said...

Hoorah - it has re-opened at last! It's my local branch and in recent months I frequently turned off the A58M only to do an apologetic and abject U-Turn.

10:14 pm  
Anonymous mr_gimlet said...

Roaring Meg is Mt Difficulty's second label, I just got back in early October from a bit of a pinot tour of the new vintages. It's good, but not that good, especially if you have to drag it half way across the world.

Thirteen quid would seem a much better price point but even then it's in competent burgundy territory for you UK chaps.

9:28 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Don't worry, winesleuth, I won't be giving up on NZ pinots (or, indeed, any type of pinot!) any time soon!!! Thanks to Mr Gimlet's comment, I'd quite like to try the Mt Difficulty! ;)

The price of pinot in the UK is an interesting (and, perhaps, contentious) point that a few of us were discussing the other evening. I am starting to feel that, below £20 a bottle, the quality (particularly for Burgundies) can be really variable. And I also think the 'bang for your buck' is considerably less than it is for other wines - particularly at lower price points. Just sounds like I should be doing some more focussed pinot drinking! ;)

And yes, Alastair - reopened in time for Christmas (funny about that!).

1:00 pm  
Anonymous mr_gimlet said...

We were having the same discussion about pinot at dinner as well over here in Australia. My comemnts are obviously in an Australian context.

First, pinot is trendy. There's a move away from Aus-style shiraz into lighter wines and for most people that's pinot. In my home, it's sangiovese, dolcetto etc but not to most Aussies.

Second, pinot is hard work. Yields for most pinot producers are much lower than other grapes, it doesn't take well to irrigation and it requires a lot of manpower to turn into the finished wine.

I think these simple economics of cost of production mean that pinot will be expensive: regardless of how good it actually is. So buyer beware I suppose.

6:30 am  
Blogger Alex said...

Aside from being trendy (in the UK) - all true, Mr Gimlet!

Not sure about what's the on-trend thing to drink here in the UK though!

Drinkers of Burgundy (probably the most commonly spotted Pinot Noir here) have to negotiate the quagmire that is the land ownership issue. Knowing the vineyards isn't enough - you need to know producers & negociants before you make your choice ... buyer be especially wary!

9:27 pm  

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