The relationship between James Bond and Champagne Bollinger is a long-standing one that goes back to the original books by Ian Fleming. Although 007 drinks mainly spirits in new movie No Time To Die, Bollinger has appeared in 15 of the Bond films, a fact that Justin Keay could clearly not get out of his head when he attended the Mentzendorff autumn portfolio tasting. Apart from an overview of the sparkling and the fortified at the event, Keay recommends seven still wines that he thinks will cut the mustard in the on-trade this autumn. Spoiler alert: this feature includes MANY Bond references.
“Sensing I didn’t have All the Time in the World and that tasting more fortified wine could knock the Living Daylights out of me, I took a closer look at Mentzendorff’s still wine range,” writes Keay.
Bollinger is one of the shiniest jewels in Mentzendorff’s crown, so it was a surprise that at its tasting – taking place the week the new Bond movie opened – there was no sign of that special 007 cuvée that’s been advertised just about everywhere. Missing a trick here, surely? (It was presented at the 2020 tasting – Ed)
Shaken but not stirred, I decided this was No Time to Cry, and moved on.
At least they had a La Grande Année flight (2004, 2008, 2012) suggested the brochure. Well, they did but it had all gone by the time I got there by around midday. So I got some Quantum of Solace from the PNVZ 2016, 100% Pinot Noir of course, released this summer after last year saw the widely acclaimed release of the PNVZ 2015 – a great wine Mr Bond – featuring 50% 2016 Pinot, and 50% reserve wines from an earlier vintage. I tried to further console myself with some sips of the B13, 2013, a newly released cool vintage Pinot Noir champagne, 92% Grand Cru grapes, 7 years on the lees.
“Not a great vintage but we made the best of it,” said the Bollinger spokesman.
Well, of course they did – no Oddjob here, just the Leiter touch you might expect from one of world’s best Champagne houses. Nobody Does it Better, after all.
Except maybe Champagne Ayala, my next stop. All three of the wines here – the Brut Majeur, the Blanc de Blancs 2014 (a well deserved gold medal winner this year, showing remarkable verve and character) and La Perle d’Ayala 2012 shone brightly – but it was the last that really impressed; 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 100% Grand Cru, this high expressive, delicate and intense wine had a fine mousse, a delicate gold colour, and lots of character. Showing well. At an All Time High, you might say.
Mentzendorff, which has been shipping since 1858, built its reputation on fine Champagne and fortified wine, especially Port. This tasting did not disappoint on either front with Port represented by the three main brands of the Fladgate Partnership (Taylors, Fonseca and Croft), Sherry by Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana (all tasting great although I was unable to identify the vintages of the base wines, unlike a certain Mr B) and Madeira by the impressive Henriques & Henriques.
Treats from the latter included a quite stunning 50 year old Tinta Negra, a full-on, raisin and tobacco-charged Verdelho from 1981 and a still zesty, almost profound Sercial 1964. Amongst the impressive Taylor’s line up, the 40 year old Tawny was just stunning, showing incredible depth and density with fig, nuts and light caramel combining in a delicious long finish. These wines truly have a Licence to Thrill.
Sensing I didn’t have All the Time in the World and that tasting more fortified wine could knock the Living Daylights out of me, I took a closer look at Mentzendorff’s still wine range. So what stood out?
For Your Eyes Only, here’s seven of the best still wines, so Pay Attention.
Cartuxa sounds like an acronym for yet another evil organisation wanting to make life tough for our friend Bond, but it’s actually one of Portugal’s classiest producers, from the Alentejo just outside Évora, a torchbearer for Portuguese wine for over 200 years. To my knowledge, these wines haven’t been readily available in the UK for some time, so congratulations to Mentzendorff for taking them on. Best known for Portugal’s most expensive wine Pera-Manca Tinto – sadly not on show here but when you find it expect to pay a Positively Shocking £350-400 a bottle although the Branco is £35 or so – Cartuxa also make a great range of less expensive but still excellent wines.
Mentzendorff was showing the Colheita Tinto 2017 and Branco 2019 DOC, both tasting at their prime, the former a typical Alentejo blend of Alicante Bouschet, Trincedeira and Aragonez with lots of dark berry fruit, tobacco and spice supported by firm tannins and zingy acidity, the latter a perfect mix of Antao Vaz and Arinto, with the rich peach/apricot character of the former complemented by the steeliness and firm definition of the Arinto.
Mentzendorff was also showing the Cartuxa Tinto Vinho de Talha 2017, organic grapes fermented in amphora and its white/orange counterpart, the Cartuxa Branco Vinho de Curtimenta 2016, made with a variety of typical Alentejo varieties which ferment with extended skin contact to create this orange wine. These are really classy, elegant wines with great ageing potential (like the above Colheitas). All recommended.
If memory serves, Agent 006 in Goldeneye, played by Sean Bean, came to a sticky end; disloyal and too tricksy by half. Not so my choice here – Tenuta Fertuna’s Vermentino DOC Maremma Toscana 2019 is a delight from fresh start to long finish, with lots of fruit and firm acidity and surprising weight too, in a wine likely to gain more complexity with age. Classic stuff, and further proof that Tuscan Vermentino is increasingly a category to take seriously.
From Bussia with Love? Definitely. Much of the Ceretto range from Piedmont was on show here, and as you might expect, the Barolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba Bernadina 2018 were on cracking form. For my money though the revelation here was the Blange Langhe Arneis DOC 2020, amazingly fresh and vibrant, with pear, spice and warm marzipan supporting the palate. A great white, almost suitable for Blofeld’s famous shark pool in Thunderball.
Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance 2017 – I remember first tasting this naturally sweet wine many years ago, after a tour around Klein Constantia and sitting back and being amazed at just how delicious a wine could actually be. I feel much the same way today. This is the wine beloved by early US Presidents (back when they were competent) and by Napoleon when in exile on St Helena. It went out of production, to be revived again – in all its glory – by Klein Constantia in 1986, using the same Muscat de Frontignan grapes picked in the same nearby mountains from where it was made before. Jane Austen wrote in Sense and Sensibility that this wine can help mend a broken heart – which makes this perfect for our troubled times. Truly, The World is Not Enough for a wine this perfect and ethereal.
akitu. Another Bond acronym? Nope, a great Kiwi producer based in Central Otago, so focused on great Pinot – in Maori, ‘akitu’ means summit or peak. And all the Pinots here were at the top of their game: the A2 2018 made from single vineyard grapes, very juicy and forward showing red and dark berry fruit, and the more serious, older vine A1 2018, 25% of the grapes for which also benefit from time in French oak. My favourite here though was the quirky, playful Pinot Noir Blanc 2020, very moreish, showing lots of fruit and lively acidity. Close your eyes and this could easily be a high quality but regular Central Otago Pinot – which is a compliment.
Hambledon Première Cuvée. This exalted Hampshire producer’s range was on fine form – the Classic Cuvée and the Classic Cuvée Rosé – but it was the top blend which really impressed. Made with grapes mainly from 2014 and topped up with reserve wines from earlier vintages this blend of 67% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunièr and 11% Pinot Noir really showed Hambledon has got the Midas Touch with its wines. Indeed, such is the steely precision and acidity of this cuvée, maybe even the Spider’s Touch? Anyhow, I’m sure Goldfinger would approve.
And it’s back to Cartuxa for my last wine. Geno is a new entry level brand created by Mentzendorff in cooperation with the Alentejo producer in an exclusive for the UK market, and what a joy the 2020 white in particular is. Claire Scott-Gall, director of European wines at Mentzendorff says the wine label recalls old Alentejo traditions with Geno a typical young local farmer with a hat and red scarf. “We are really excited to be able to offer our customers the Geno brand, which demonstrates excellent value and typicity from a very renowned historical winery, with a concept that draws on the rich cultural heritage of the Alentejo region,” she says.
A lively unoaked blend of Arinto and Antao Caz, this is great fun, good value and perfect on its own or with food.
Or dare I say, with a screening of the new Bond movie.
Prices, including in Bond, available from Mentzendorff direct.
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