Now, I have previously written and lavished praise on D. Byrne & Co, Clitheroe’s very finest. Whilst there, like a child in a candy shop, I just had to take something away as a souvenir.
And there, for old time’s sake, I stumbled on a bottle of 2009 Nine Popes from Charles Melton and, found wonting for his sparkling Shiraz, I took home a bottle of Majella Sparkling Shiraz. The last one is an oddity, a big and bold, juicy bucket of a wine, sparkling in its freshness and sealed with a crown cap. Yep, those no nonsense Australians wouldn’t even concede a drip to tradition with a champagne cork.
But what to drink it with? It’s kind of weird with an apéritif, and kind of weirder still drinking sparkling red wine with roast beef. So it really should have been Midsummer Pudding, that glorious English dessert which baffles the French but, in my small experience, tickles their tastebuds…
Alas, midsummer is long past and the leaves are turning brown whilst the crown cap remains uncracked. And as I may, Inch’ Allah, be heading home in a couple of weeks, it will go there too, baggage class, to await its destiny. I am at a loss though, because surely a sparkling red, served cool, needs something fresh and cool to accompany it. It may be even to late for Blackberry crumble, and that frankly just doesn’t seem to fit. So any suggestions, or a post-card or an email are welcome.
I note their website suggests bacon and eggs. Oh, those fun loving Aussies…
Not so the Nine Popes 2009. My father has rather taken to cheering me up, in my hospital digs, by bringing in wine and food for impromptu parties of a weekend. I think, as a surgeon, he regards it as alternative therapy. And it does help the time go by.
So rather than empty his cellar, I asked him to bring in the Nine Popes, Charles Melton’s hommage to the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape and a Rhone replica of long standing fame. Its name is allegedly a mistranslation of Chateauneuf du Pape, deliberate or otherwise; and it is rather delicious.
Australian wines seem suddenly to have become rather intimidating. Many top producers have oft been accused of producing “show wines”, technically brilliant but perhaps emotionally flawed. People have gone off, high alcohol, high octane reds in favour of something deemed a little more nuanced, and so Australian wine has had a cataclysmic fall from grace.
I think my own problem is I don’t drink enough good ones. because, as Nine Popes shows, if you are prepared to pay out a little cash that brut, or even brute, power can be contained within a calming shell and structure. 2009 Nine Popes does have a powerful, evocative and endearing nose of deep red and black fruit. There is certainly no lack of colour and the texture of the wine is pleasantly velvety (not unlike the velvet of a young Volnay as it happens).
There is power there, but no jamminess and no surmaturité; the structure is fine and firm, but its tannins are soft and itegrated. Compared to some it would be called medium bodied, but it’s certainly full bodied enough for me. I thought at just four it might have been just a little bit young, but in retrospect I think it’s just about right.
I am also more than curious about the long term effect of screw caps. It always seems a little odd to be twisting the cap of a twenty seven quid bottle of wine, and I have always understood a rather organic relationship between cork and wine. A screwcap’s intrinsic value seems to be its hermetic power, preserving and protecting a wine but also perhaps curtailing its long term cellar-ability. However, I fear I am badly wrong on this point.
I note that none of Penfolds’ top bottlings have screw-cap closures. Perhaps they know something too.
2009 GSM Nine Popes, Charles Melton, Barossa Valley
£26.50, D. Byrne & Co., Clitheroe, Lancashire