Sunday, May 6, 2018

Bass Phillip New Red Wine Releases

A tasting with winemaker Phillip Jones is always a memorable event. You always come away with something you had not heard before. This time the new insights bordered on the bizarre, but they are worth reporting.

In a discussion of cork versus screw cap (his wines are all under cork), Phillip insisted that there is no air exchange through the cork, but rather that little air bubbles sit in what looks like the smooth surface of the inside of the glass bottle, thereby implying there is no difference in this regard between the two different closures. I must say, the reality does not support this view.

The second, more interesting insight related to a phenomenon he termed 'bunchus erectus'. In a discussion about what distinguished the few rows of his Reserve Pinot Noir from the Premium, he mentioned that a large proportion of the bunches of grapes do not hang down, but grow upright. In his experience, the flavours of each grape are more homogeneous in an upright bunch than in a bunch hanging down, presumably because the sun reaches them more evenly. So there you have it!

Now on to the wines: the 2016 vintage was quite wet, and as a general rule, the fruit is gentle rather than very intense. This is certainly true for the 2016 Bass Phillip Rosé. I loved the 2015, but this wine, while having nice cherry flavours, is actually quite thin (86 points). It is not all that different for the 2016 Gamay, a fruity straight forward wine (88 points). The 2016 Crown Prince Pinot Noir is definitely a step up. The fruit has more depth. The wine is quite soft and fairly easy to drink (91 points). These wines come from the second estate vineyard, which is now 23 years old. No wines were made from the high density vineyard which produces the Issan wine in other years.

The 2016 Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir comes partly from the 23 year old vineyard, and partly from the 39 year old home vineyard. The yields here are extremely low. In this year, the wine has quite a pale colour. The wine is delicate and elegant, but sits on a structure of firm tannins (92 points).

The 2016 Premium and Reserve Pinot Noirs come exclusively from the old home vineyard and are matured in 100% new oak. But the oak is lightly toasted and not noticeable in the tasting. The Premium wine has more depth than the Estate. There is complexity in the flavour with forest undergrowth supporting the red and black cherry fruit. The tannins are silky, and the wine has a long finish. This is already an attractive wine (94 points). The Reserve is more backward, or should I say 'reserved'. It is similar, but with more intensity, a stronger acidity and a very long finish. This will develop into an outstanding Pinot Noir in a few years time (95 points).

Overall, this was a strong showing from a difficult vintage, but if you can still find them, I would go for the 2015s. On another point, the Pemium now costs as much as a 1er cru Burgundy. From what I reviewed a few posts before, I certainly preferred the  2015 Vosne-Romanées to the 2016 Bass Phillip - but we are comparing excellent wines here all the same. 

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