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Naked Wines Argentinean Rising Star

nakedwines rising starIt's a non-painful affliction, apart from a certain embarrassment, but I am sure I wasn't the only one suffering from Malbec finger last week. The condition results from an over-indulgence in tasting Argentinean wines, not solely Malbec, but Tannat, Cabernet and so on. The symptoms are simple - red stained fingers and I wasn't even pouring!

The event, held in the Lord's Cricket ground pod was a side show to the annual Argentinean trade tasting, a gathering of loyal customers and faithful wine bloggers, hosted by Naked Wines. They were after a new wine to list and winemaker to support with a guaranteed £50,000 order. There were a lot of wines to taste.

A narrowing of the running list resulted in four wines from our table (there were five or six other tables) being put forward to the second taste off. Interestingly several of our selection plus from another table were from one producer...

One wine really stood out - I even tweeted about it on the day - a blended wine, Dramatis Personae 2010 from Bodegas Argenceres [Adegga / Snooth. Amazing value at, as we later discovered, about £7 and one of the cheapest wines in the room!

It so very nearly made it to the Naked Wines list. Just pipped in a vote off by Oscar Biondolillo's Aguma Reserva Tannat 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]. Looking for another bout of the red stained finger I ordered six bottles as soon as it appeared on the Naked Wines Website, good thing I did it then too as the wine has now sold out.

While I'm not party to the machinations of the buying team I do hope that the other top runners, not only the second placed wineand more wines from the Biondolillo stable make it to Naked Wines too.

Below a few photographs, not mine I should add but taken by the talented Richard Toplis, from the day.

nakedwines argentine tasting

nakedwines argentine tasting

nakedwines argentine tasting

nakedwines argentine tasting

Over 40 Naked customers gathered in London to spend £50,000 of YOUR money. Finding the best unknown winemaker is like finding a needle in a haystack. After 125 wines, 3 rounds, blackened Archangel teeth and puffy red eyes, there could only be ONE winner. It's official, Oscar Biondilillo is the first Naked Wines Rising Star gold medal winner. His winning wine, Aguma Tannat Reserva 2009, is mouth-wateringly monstrous. Silky, powerful and perfumed, it was without doubt the BEST wine in the room."

Codorníu Cathedral of Cava

codorniu OK, so which plonker left his copious, in-depth, beautifully crafted Codorníu Cava tasting notes in a certain Barcelona hotel room? That'll be me then. What this does give though is an excuse not to bore you to death with a ream of tasting notes; however well-crafted and entertaining they would have been.

What I'm left with is another 'amateur' video showing a portion of the cellar train tour and various photographs of the impressive halls and museum that form the Codorníu 'experience'. Famed architect Josep Puig í Cadafalch built the stunning complex; he was an 'exponent of the School of Modernist Architecture' along with Gaudí. The halls at Codorníu are beautifully impressive. The complex is vast, the underground cellars extensive; so huge many passages have road signs, which you might spot in the video clip.

The estate is fully geared up for tourists and, being handily near to Barcelona, receive over 100,000 a year. For just €8 or €6 if pre-booked you get an hour and half tour and a decent tasting of Codorníu cavas. Bargain.

I recall being rather impressed with the tapas-loving Pinot Noir rosé (and the rosé made from Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat, a local grape) and positive comments were made over the Codorníu Gran Plus Ultra Brut Nature (which is a new sparkler about to be released) made with 85% Chardonnay of which 5% has received oak and 15% Pinot Noir. But was it the Codorníu 2007, with a 50/50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay split or the Jaume Codorníu 50% Chardonnay/50% Parellada that stole the show... damn my haste to pack and not miss the breakfast buffet.

Codorníu Cavas are widely available. Check Adegga or Snooth for details. More photographs from Codorníu including some museum exhibits over on SpittoonExtra. Full set from this Spanish trip on flickr.

codorniu interior hall

codorniu rose and tapas

codorniu museum

Scaling Scala Dei

scala dei entranceAs my head smashed into the car roof, a certain MW's foot slammed into my ankle and a national newspaper journalists' elbow connected with my ribs with a force destined to leave substantial bruising.

They have big pot holes do Scale Dei.

I exaggerate, of course, although my head did bang alarmingly into the roof rather more times than was comfortable. The track, dry and dusty despite the previous days rain, rose steeply up to 800 meters above sea level. From the stone walls of the Scala Dei winery, past flat-land vines (a large planting of Cabernet Sauvignon) and the ruins of the 12th century Scala Dei Monastery, up through the lower levels of the Montsant mountain - a seemingly impregnable barrier from below - to the Masdeu vineyard, with stunning views over the Priorat landscape, it was an uncomfortable climb but so worth the bang on the head.

With Ricard Rofes at the wheel, vineyards and points of interest were keenly described. Ricard has been the Head Winemaker at Scala Dei since 2007. We were in the Parc Natural del Montsant where, despite its proximity to Barcelona, we didn't sight a single other person.

A majority of the vines are Garnacha, old vines to a man, scattered in small stony plots, so small you wonder at their productiveness verses cost of collecting. Harvest here must be back breaking. Transport to the winery below must take an age. We climbed higher. A photo op under weed-infested ruins - once homes to vineyard owners, long abandoned - with a touch of thunder echoing from across the valley and then a stop where Ricard pointed out the towns below

Scala Dei, 'Stairway to Heaven', and here we were right at the top.

Red wine accounts for over 90% of the region's production with Garnacha and Cariñena (Carignan) being the mainstays. Hand harvested - you couldn't do anything else - and low yields manifests itself in quite high prices but the quality is there. Scala Dei produces just three wines.

At £12.99 the 'entry level' Scala Dei Negre [Adegga / Snooth] offers a delicious cherry and red currant minerality with a excellent freshness. It's a blend of Garnacha with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards ranging in age from 35 to 60 years, 14.5% alcohol. The 2009 vintage is currently available in the UK from various independent merchants.

Up a tier is the Scala Dei Prior [Adegga / Snooth] "the maximum expression of Priorat wines: all the potential of Garnacha in a structured wine with full aromas" at £17.99. Older vines here (35 to 60 years), with a mix dominated by Garnacha but enfolding Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah into a beautiful wine. Lingering flavours of strawberry, blackberry with an
edge of spice following the most gorgeous floral edged aroma.

Top of the pile rests the £30 Scala Dei Cartoixa [Adegga / Snooth]. Having tasted vintages from 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 the overriding impression is of elegance and power. It has a "presence about it" as one of our party encapsulated this most stunning of wines. The grape mix has changed over the years as Ricard imparts the company philosopy of "changing quantity not quality", as he selects the best parcels and pushes quality ever onwards. The 2008, the latest available vintage has a mix of Garnacha (62%), Cariñena (25%), Cabernet Sauvingon (8%) and Syrah (5%).

Its strange how a return journey seems to take much less time than the outward bound leg. Perhaps the anticipation of sampling the Scala Dei wines or memories of the view and tiny vineyards occupied ones thoughts. I could of course put it down to concussion...

Ricard Rofes, Head Winemaker Scala Dei

scala dei vineyard

Continue reading "Scaling Scala Dei" »

Matching Chapel Down Wines With Asparagus

chapel down wine tasting The White Swan, Fetter Lane, London, not exactly my local but when invited by Cooksister for a Friday night out complete with English bubbly and food, who could resist! The dinner, a celebration of English wines and English asparagus, offered five courses with five wines for a bargain £46 a head. Not insubstantial portions or measly tasting samples of the wines either.

A quick run through of the wines and the food matches. Opening with Charred Norfolk Asparagus, Truffled Ricotta and Watercress - a sublime match with the Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut NV [Adegga / Snooth]. The truffle dimension work gorgeously with the wine, opening out the complexity and adding much to the crisp, apple-led, pure flavours. The Vintage Reserve is a mix of Reichensteiner, Rivaner and Pinot Noir.

The second pairing saw Roast Fillet of plaice, sprue asparagus, samphire and lemon vinaigrette matched with Chapel Down English Rosé 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]. Another melange of obscure grapes here - Schönburger , Rondo, Regent, Dornfelder and Pinot Noir producing a dry rosé with a vibrancy that runs from the colour through to the closing line of the palate. Fresh, summery, cherry edged flavours and an edge of savouriness. Fuller than a Provance rosé and a stellar match with the fish and the delicate sprue asparagus. Lightish in alcohol too at 11.5% making an ideal lunchtime/picnic wine.

Then a red - the Chapel Down Trinity 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] (a mix of Rondo, Pinot Noir and a version of PN, Pinot Noir Precoce) was served with a succulent Rump of Herdwick Lamb, Jersey Royals and Minted Lincolnshire Asparagus. High acidity in the wine - understandable as England is a cool climate - cut through the fat of the lamb beautifully. In conversation notes of coffee, chocolate, pepper, spice and bramble were banded about. A surprising depth of colour too.

chapel down tasting first asparagus course

chapel down wine tasting - second course fillet of plaice

chapel down wine tasting - main course of Herdwick Lamb

A slice of cheese next Tymsboro with white asparagus with rhubarb chutney and buck wheat biscuits. The cheese was nice with the Chapel Down Bacchus Reserve 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] although the sweetness of the chutney clashed somewhat. The wine itself has the most gorgeous aroma; think English hedgerow with elderflower predominating and a distinct edge of exotic passion fruit. Wonderful. A full palate with a similar flavour to the aroma. The acidity is high but a fine alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

Finally, Poached English Strawberries, Muscat and Strawberry Jelly, Honey and Thyme Ice-cream. Not a great match with the delicate and dry Chapel Down Brut Rosé NV [Adegga / Snooth] jarring with the sweetness of the dessert. Individually superb however. The evening was worth attending just for the ice-cream! Stunning.

chapel down wine tasting - the dessert

Ever heard that asparagus is a tricky thing to match with wine? That the flavour dissipates into something metallic or sulphurous and unpleasant? Poppycock. Avoid wines with heavy tannins or lashings of oak - all the wines here are unoaked - add bubbles too for a little decadence.

Chapel Down can be followed on Twitter with the wines purchased online from the English Wine Group website.

Continue reading "Matching Chapel Down Wines With Asparagus" »

In Pictures: More From ARSE4

The full list of the 'official wines' those speed tasted on the three tables is up on Adegga... Each producer was showcasing one wine and had just 4 minutes or so (Chris Unger showing the Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling and Yalumba's The Scribbler went WAY over time!! We put it down to being passionate about his wares rather than just being overly talkative!). For me the highlights were the McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005, the Tahbilk Viognier 2009 and the Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Then, as the food arrived, a flurry of other wines flew around the tables - far too many to keep up with (which is my excuse for not writing them down!). Many had been opened a couple of days from a previous AFFW tasting and were delicious. A comment I made referencing a Yalumba Scribbler 2008 tasted a few weeks ago was so disappointing in comparison to the carefully decanted bottle showcased here; storage possibly to blame but decanting certainly opened it up beautifully. More pictures on Flickr.

arse4 wine tasting - alister purbrick of Tahbilk

arse4 wine tasting - henschke mount edelstone shiraz 2005 decanted

arse4 tasting - phil ryan of McWilliams with Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005

arse4 tasting - tahbilk viognier 2009

arse4 wine tasting - Jim Barry lodge hill riesling  2008

Continue reading "In Pictures: More From ARSE4" »

In Pictures: ARSE4 The People

arse4-poster.jpgThey came like bees to the proverbial pot of locally sourced honey - a selection of the UK's top wine, food and drink bloggers headed to London last Sunday for a wine tasting lunch. Farringdon Station was the meet-up point for, as is my wont, the tasting was a secret. These wonderful people knew nothing of eventual destination, the wines that were to be available or the format of the tasting. What trust! Especially as most have never met me so handing over a tenner for the privilege of meeting someone off the internet was rather a coupe.

With Vinoteca being the venue the lunch was guaranteed to be rather decent add in 12 Australian wine makers and associated wines I think the expectation lived up to the hype. The Wine Makers are all part of the informal grouping of Australia's First Families of Wine. Twitter tags for the day were #arse4 (the 4th of Andrew's Really Secret Tastings) and #affwine (Australia First Familes of Wine).

I should mention that Vinoteca is normally closed on a Sunday; being damn hard to secure a table, such as its popularity; I arranged for a private hire session. Details of the wines and food to follow here though a few photos...

arse4 wine tasting - heather dougherty

arse4 wine tasting - jackie dyer

arse4 wine tasting - jeanne CookSister

arse4 wine tasting - sarah belizaire butler and neil houston

Continue reading "In Pictures: ARSE4 The People" »

ARSE 3: The Wines

linton park cabernet sauvingon 2008

What I should have said was something along the lines of...

"Many thanks everyone for coming along today. As you can see from the list in front of you we are about to be spoiled by a tasting of Linton Park Wines from South Africa. It is my pleasure and delight to introduce the Cellar Master of Linton Park, Hennie Huskisson, who has been bribed royally to come along today and take us through his wines"

My mumbled introduction was more along the lines of "ummm, South African wines... ahh, cough, from Linton Park... South Africa and, um, we have Hennie Huskisson.. over to you..." or somesuch nerves-deflated nonsense. Public speaking just aint by strong point. Still the wines were the stars for this, the third outing, in the ARSE series - Andrew's Really Secret Tasting.

Overall the wines were stunning; as was fitting for the assembled tasters - the pinnicle of the wine and food blogging/writing fraternity - the wines were at the upper echelons of the estates range. As I was diverted with 'organisational issues' my notes were a little light-weight and it was only when relaxing after the highly enjoyable tasting, that I realised just how scrumptious they all were. The reds showed certain stylistic similarities - lovely balanced, weighty palate and pure flavours with a precise New World style fruit but one tempered by an Old World nod towards drinking with food.

One surprise across the tasters was just how delicious the lightly wooded Chardonnay was. I'm as guilty as the next for hunting out the obscure and neglected grape variety from some forgotton backwater but tasting the Linton Park Chardonnay 2009, with its pear, fig and melon flavours, reminds one just why Chardonnay is such a popular wine, especially with an edge of oak.

Of the reds it was the Linton Park Reserve Shiraz 2007 that really impressed. Described as a "brazen New World style Shiraz" it certainly captivated me with a chocolate edged meatiness, plenty of peppery fruit and a lovely mouthfeel. The recommended retail price is perhaps a quid or two above what I'd expect to pay, at £19.99, but heck, what's two quid?? But go to the SAWinesOnline website, the only UK retailer of this range at the moment I believe, and they have it listed at £13.99. Bargain.

While there is no legal definition of 'reserve', at Linton Park they have utilised superior quality fruit to give their 'reserve' range a boost in the quality stakes. There is a noticable step-up in terms of definition, balance and flavour profile between the non-reserve wines and their higher quality range. Which is not to say the non-reserve range is not worthy of attention; in fact I actually perferred the fruitier 'normal' Merlot over the Reserve bottling. Worth trying both.

Jez, the Wine Twit, has also compiled a post on the event. Hopefully others who came along will do the same and give these lovely wines a little publicity.

The Wines with some food suggestions from the estate:

Linton Park Sauvignon Blanc 2008, [Adegga / Snooth]
"Chicken Saltimbocca mothered in parmesan cheese and rolled with mozzarella and prosciutto and backed in white wine"

Linton Park Chardonnay 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]
"spinach salad, toasted almonfs and bits of dried cranberries are tossed together in a bowl and dressed wth a sweet and tangy vinegar and oil dressing full of sesame and poppy seeds. An absolute must is salmon with a creamy dill sauce"

Linton Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 [Adegga / Snooth]
"A delecatbale demi-glace of slowly simmered lamb trimmings, garlic, onions, celery, port, red wine, chicken broth, rosemary and mint"

Linton Park Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 [Adegga / Snooth]
"Roast and any red meat cuts for barbeque"

Linton Park Merlot 2007 [Adegga / Snooth]
"Elegant stuffed veal medaillions made with asparagus and provolne cheese breaded and fried, then slow cooked to a brilliant finish in a mushroom wine sauce"

Linton Park Reserve Merlot 2005 [Adegga / Snooth]
"Beef and lamb roast and game birds"

Linton Park Shiraz 2008 [Adegga / Snooth]
"Roast turkey seasoned with salt and pepper and basted with turkey stock"

Linton Park Reserve Shiraz 2007 [Adegga / Snooth]
"Springbok Carpaccio, duck, oxtail and lamb cuts"

Linton Park Wine tasting

ARSE 3: The People

Hennie Huskisson of Linton ParkI tweeted yesterday that of the 54 photographs I had taken at the Sunday ARSE3 tasting 5 were not actually taken by me, 18 were blurred and 4 were of a building in Reading. I would also have added, if not constrained by the 140 character limit, that 6 were of a cupcake, 3 were of a couple of the girls looking very stern indeed and actually all were blurred to one degree or another. Very disappointing really in having so few images to illustrate the event; I even neglected to snap the obligatory group shot before we began. Rubbish...

Gracing this little post is a photoshoped image (photo to a pencil drawing) in honour of Ailbhe of AilbheTweets who done the previous ARSE tasting well proud with a cartoon immortalising our climb up Coombe Hill. This picture is of Hennie Huskisson who we were damn lucky to lasso into the tasting and for him to showcase his South African wine range, Linton Park.

As is the tradition of these ARSE tastings - ARSE being Andrew's Really Secret Event - the participants were given little information prior to the day; apart from being told to gather at West Brompton tube station for midday. With so little info it is surprising ANYONE would pay me money in advance! But they did despite the inevitable drop outs citing Mothering Sunday guilt, and almost all managed to turn up at the allotted hour.

Just to keep them all guessing they were informed that after a quick stop for a glass of lubricating bubbly we would move on to the venue proper. The delightful Finborough Wine Café has a downstairs cellar that I had hired for the day, which could, just, be construed as a different venue... the bubbly incidentally was the New Zealand Morton Estate Sparkling.

Who came? An excellent cross section of people- some of the most influential bloggers in the UK and each to the man some of the most interesting people you could ever hope to meet, each one oozing enthusiasm and interest in that most fascinating of subjects: wine. It is they that make these ARSE tastings so much fun.

Half the people at the ARSE3 tasting, Finborough Wine Cafe

Many thanks to Hennie and the girls from Westbury PR for helping make ARSE3 so successful. And to the Finborough Wine Café for allowing us to use their cellar. A follow up post will detail the wines tasted. Photos on flickr.

Casa de Mouraz - A Visit and Tasting

António Ribeiro of Casa de Mouraz

It was the wildness of the landscape that got me. Living, as I do, in the south east corner of a little overpopulated island, its hard to imagine that several corners of Europe, especially at the extremities, are quite as wild and unkempt as the land I was looking at.

Having clambered on top of a rock - a giants marble of granite - the gorse, the tumble of rocks, the quietness, towering conifers, broken only by a clatter of startled birds - this wildness was very immediate. Interspersing the rocks, the scrabble of leafless bushes and the sharp, hard, dry undergrowth are pockets of vineyards, hewn one imagines with herculean strength and brute determination from the enveloping forest. You wonder why?

Wouldn't there be easier pursuits to engage in, in more accessible, more populated areas? But then this isn't my land and I'm not Portuguese.

What I do have though, having stood on that boulder, is a greater understanding of the wine and the people that forged it. You can appreciate why they are so passionate and determined to bring the fruits of their toil to our glasses. What is even more remarkable is that this particular estate - Casa de Mouraz, manages to produce a large range of wines using organic and biodynamic principles and was the first to introduce such practises in the area. They have 13 scattered vineyards some as small as ½ hectare. The largest is 5 hectares. Those in this corner of the Dao have differing aspects and access to the river. New plantings vie with older vineyards harbouring mixed vines approaching 50 years old.

dao vineyard panorama

At the tasting prior to our wilderness scramble (it wasn't that easy getting off that boulder with much dignity!) we sampled wines from across Portugal - from the Vinho Verde, from the Alentejo (the AIR range) and from their new holdings in the Douro. But it was those from the Dao that most impressed.

Just looking at the photos [more on SpittoonExtra], especially the panorama, gives a feel of the landscape. Sipping a glass of one of the estates wines while typing this report brings it all into focus.

The tasting included a stunning tank sample, ie not yet bottled,of the Casa de Mouraz 2010 Encruzado, [Adegga / Snooth] the white grape that the "world has yet to discover". Very precise and pure with a crisp minerality and a lime tart finish. Seafood was mentioned. The local delicacy of squid for example.

The Casa de Mouraz Private Selection 2007 [Adegga / Snooth] wowed all. The blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro comes in with 14% alcohol and a lovely ripe palate, pepper and herb edged fruit and wildness replicating the terrain.

The final wine, Flor de Mouraz 2006 [Adegga / Snooth], is the estates premium blend with just 1000 bottles produced. The blend is similar to the Private Selection but with the addition of TInta Roriz. Touriga Nacional dominates with 80%. This is rich, mineral and spicy with a ripe fruit whole.

After sliding off that boulder I managed an interesting chat with António - basic things such as where is north, the decisions made when aligning the vines, through which we walked, in relation to the sun when planting, discovering snippets such as that they plant the rootstock's first and add the grafts after and what plans for the future...

...lunch was the answer! And as it transpired a marvellous lunch it was too showcasing the Casa de Mouraz wines at their finest. The food, a mixture of 'rustic' local foods, tapas bites and salads was substantial and, being simple and unfussy, delightful. The Encruzado was indeed a delight with squid; the Private Selection Red superb with chunks of roasted kid goat. Sadly the photos of the meal are of poor quality; unlike the wines.

casa de mouraz - the wine range

Quinta do Perdigão - A Visit and Tasting

José PerdigãoWe spilled from the coach; post lunch stupor slipping away in the cold Dão air. Picking at some vines, Touriga Nacional as it transpired, was José Perdigão. We shook hands.

An animated speech followed as we walked through the gate and down the gravel path towards his house. He points out the high density planting of the Touriga, a small parcel of Jaen tucked under a sun-reflecting stone wall, and some vines he thinks are Tinta Roriz but isn't sure...

The estate is small, just 7 hectares. The output though runs to six different wines.

We are diverted away from the yet to be completed house to a single story shack. A horse stands rock still just across a large pond. We are joined by a dog and José's English wife; an artist who designed the abstracts that grace the wines.

A tour of the shack reveals barrels crammed into one corner, stainless steel tanks line another wall, and through the back - mind your head on the wooden beam - the small bottling and labelling line. We wonder at the purpose of two great walls of bottles - permanent or just waiting to be filled? But José is off again extoling the virtues of the French wax top over the inferior local produce. Attention to detail is all...

Back out passing the tanks. I lean on some barrels and take a photo. They contain the rosé apparently and our first sample of Quinta do Perdigão's output.

José gets more animated and passionate as he pours, little snippets of info are given to everyone as he pours out a generous sample. The rosé is first - Quinta do Perdigao Rosé 2009, Dao, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]. Did he really recommend it with roast beef? "the colour of the flowers of the japonica bush" he sighs as my glass is filled. It's a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen and Alfrocheiro, dry, weighty with a vibrancy that is quite entrancing.

I wander around the back of the winery, its messy. Detritus of building work - the main house still isn't completed - jumbled pieces of masonary, walls, trellising wires, plastic sheeting seemingly randomly piled. Totally the opposite of the wines.

A white is being poured - Quinta do Perdigão Reserva 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] and a new grape to me - Encruzado. Research indicates that the impression of superb balance in the wine is intrinsic to the grape; to quote Charles Metcalf in his The Wine and Food Lover's Guide to Portugal "it deserves to be more widely planted". It was lovely and fresh with a melange of "lychees, pear, peach, papaya and honey" to quote José.

Of the following four reds it was the Quinta do Perdigão Reserva 2005 [Adegga / Snooth] quickly followed by the Quinta do Perdigão Touriga Nacional 2008 [Adegga / Snooth] that really excited the palate. The Reserva, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen and Alfrocheiro and a magnificent dousing of oak, gave a really complex taste - tea and violets said one, plum and herbs another. A certain edge of chocolate and violets to be sure but chamomile and bergamot?? Its fine structure should ensure decent aging potential.

The single grape wine was also marvellous - a diva according to José who handed round sticks of chocolate covered bitter orange to accompany. Notes of coffee, chocolate and an edge of sweetness entwine, plus a complexity of blueberry and violets. Someone mentioned tea; but I never drink tea so that passed me by. A lovely elegant wine that had me hankering after a plate of game; despite only consuming a huge rustic lunch just an hour or two before...

wine barrells in Quiinta do Perdigão, Dao, Portugal

the wine line up Quinta do Perdigão

Sampling Vinho Verde in Mesa Restaurante, Porto

wine maker from Quinta SoalheiroA touch tricky to match a dessert dish to a Vinho Verde wine. Next best, seeing as they don't 'do' sweet wines would be a sparkler, but for me the match of Fondant de abóbora com mousse de requeijão e amêndoas tostadas (Fondant Pumpkin Mousse with cream cheese and toasted almonds) with a dry sparkling didn't work at all.

It was the final flourish of a superb food/wine matching meal at Mesa Restaurante in Porto, Portugal. Basically a small, runny pumpkin purée encased in a pastry and served on a bed of 'soured' cream. Using a fork to break the pastry resulted in the unctuous puree flowing like the yolk of a deeply coloured duck egg. Not overly sweet and highly palatable at that hour (it was after midnight by the time our table was served dessert) the scrumptious pud simply didn't work with the dry Espumante Arinto Bruto 2002 from Ameal.

Earlier, much earlier, the canapés had been served with another sparkling wine, also from Ameal. It was further proof, I felt, that Vinho Verde just cannot do sparkling wine. Not that one could say so with the dapper winemaker seated on the adjacent table for this regional showcase dinner.

The tri-variety Quinta de Simaenes 2009 was far more palatable cutting through the (rather over) salty 4th course of Parco preto estufado com grelos à Brás (stewed pork) perfectly. The wine, so clean and precise, with a ripeness of fruit that changed my view of Vinho Verde totally. Prior to this 'revelation' those highly acidic, spritzy, tart but sugar-laden, thin wines were my sum experience.

Going in reverse with this five course extravagance Soalheiro's first vine pressing, Primeiras Vinhas 2009, was another eye-opener. Using a play on the old vines message the first vine comes from vines planted in the 1970's and an absolute stunning showing against Arroz cremoso de bacalhau com espargos verdes e tomate seco (a cod and asparagus risotto with dried tomatoes). Freshness and weight combined beautifully with the dish.


For me the previous course was the standout of the meal. A fatty round of suckling pork and apple topped with a crumbly, cumin laced, black pudding (Entrecosto de leitão com morcels da beira e maçã). The red wine, Casa do Valle Homenagem Reserva Tinto 2009 was overly chilled when initially poured but opened up wonderful as it warmed in the packed restaurant. First reaction? A Loire Cabernet Franc - the acidity, key in cutting through the richness, and the colour headed the similarities. But this is a blend, an experimental homage to the present winemakers father who planted the grapes - Merlot, Touriga Nacional and Vinhão. The latter is rather interesting, it is the main red grape of Vinho Verde (so should have expected to see it at a Vinho Verde session!) but it also red fleshed, one of the few in the wine world, so gives red juice.

The five course Mesa meal began as it ended with a wine from Quinta do Ameal. This still white was much more palatable than the finales sparkler. Quinta do Ameal 2009, is 100% Loueiro and combines, as with all top Vinho Verde's made from the variety, a mix of grapey, apply freshness with citrus crispness and a floral edge. Plus a distinctive minerality. Winemaker Pedro Araújo is firmly committed to organic production methods and has worked diligently with his Loueiro grapes to extract the most aromatic laced juice that he can. The accompanying dish was a delight, lightly dressed crab with mango (Caranguejo Rei do Alasca com manga e misuna).

crab dish at mesa

Even if the meal seemingly lasted forever, the matching of differing styles of wine from Vinho Verde was certainly a eye-opening delight into the modern styles of the regions wines but also demonstrated that the Portuguese, in all manner of ways across their culture in general and in the wine sphere specifically, are using tradition with a modern, forward thinking slant.

[Sorry for the poor photographs - a combination of a long day, poor light and an idiot holding the camera]

Naked Wines Verses Find Wine

Sometimes things just don't work out; events appear to be simply working against you. So it was with the plan to attend a grand taste-off between two of the internet's most dynamic wine retailers - Naked Wines and FindWine. I simply couldn't make it.

Luckily I do have some magical friends I can call on at the last moment to act as stand-ins. The fact that wine was involved was, I trust, immaterial. A guest post then by Jeanne aka cooksister. Photos by her too. (Quite good aren't they?)

"Are you here for the Naked wine tasting?" asked the gentleman at the door. "Steady on, Tiger," I replied, "usually I like to drink a few glasses first before getting to know you better!"

No, don't worry, you haven't accidentally stumbled across some sort of niche wine blog for naturists - I'm talking about the big Naked Wine vs Find Wine taste-off that took place recently in London.

The basic premise of the tasting is as follows:

  • Gather about 40 enthusiastic wine drinkers in a room.

  • Present them with 30 wines spread over three tables.

  • Group the tables according to price (Table 1 - £5.99 and under per bottle; Table 2 - £6-£9.99 per bottle; Table 3 - £10-15 per bottle).

  • Group all the wines into pairs that share a common style.

  • Make the guests taste all the wines blind and choose their favourite out of each pair.

  • Based on the votes, pick a winner in each price range.


naked wines verses findwine taste off 1

We started with Table 3, reasoning that we needed to try the good stuff while our palates were still fresh. Highlights of Table 3 included the 2005 Hamm Riesling Winkler Dachsberg (Rheingau, Germany) with its classic kerosene nose and perfectly balanced dried apricot palate; the surprisingly delicious 2005 Casa Marin Cartagena Pinot Noir (San Antonio Valley, Chile) which was round and surprisingly packed with ripe berry flavours for a pinot noir; and the indulgent 2008 Two Hands Angels Chare Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Australia) which instantly identified itself as a New World wine with its lush, peppery nose and seductive, spicy blackberry palate. All three were definitely worth spending the extra cash on.

From there it was on to Table 2 where the very first white already wowed me. The 2010 Bill Small Sylvia's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, NZ) is the antithesis of everything that used to annoy me about Sauv Blancs, packed as it is with full, rounded gooseberry fruit flavours to counterbalance the green pepperiness that always puts me off. Another lovely white, the buttery 2008 Seifried Winemaker's Collection Barique Fermented Chardonnay (Nelson, NZ) reminded me of just why I love oaked Chardonnays with its rounded citrus favours and luscious mouthfeel. My first reaction when I nosed the NV Chalk Hill Penance (McLaren Vale, Australia) was "hot" - it was undeniably from a hot country and the palate was as densely fruity as a dark berry crumble. Totally gluggable and instantly appealing. But if the Chalk Hill was a case of instant chemistry, the 2007 Santalberto 2007 Toscana (a Sangiovese/Cabernet/Merlot blend from Italy) was case of a slow, smouldering build-up of passion. It is an intriguing blend that defied our guesses at its provenance's far more balanced and subtle wine with its green stemmy notes to balance out the exuberant fruit. Beautiful.

And then it was on to the cheapie table, Table 1. I was mystified but yet attracted to the 2010 Calicata Sauvignon Blanc (Mendoza, Argentina) with its attractive green apply flavours. Among the reds, I liked the lovely Finca La Cruz (Spain), a bargain at under £6 with its raisin flavours, port-like notes and soft tanins. Another totally different winning bargain red was the 2008 The Last Stand Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Australia) that announced its new World provenance with astonishingly dark colour, heady vanilla nose and enough tannin to balance its explosion of dark jammy fruit. But the wine that I fell hardest for at this table was the 2010 Arabella Cabernet Sauvignon (Robertson, South Africa), proving conclusively that your palate always knows the way home. Despite not having a great colour, it was adorable in every other respect with deep raisiny flavours and a medium body. Close your eyes and pretend you are drinking an expensive pinot noir.

naked wines verses findwine taste off

According to the vote tally, the most popular wines of the night on each table were the 2010 Calicata Sauvignon Blanc on Table 1; the NV Bill Small Sylvia Sauvignon Blanc on Table 2; and the 2008 Two Hands Angels Share Reserve Shiraz on Table 3. And the overall vote-winner of the night was Naked Wines - congratulations! And thanks very much for a most enjoyable evening.

And after a glass of purely social sipping on the rather divine Seifried Chardonnay, it was back out into the chilly London night - fully clothed!

ARSE 2: The People

arse 2 relaxing on coombe hill

An odd lot are bloggers. You would assume intelligent but some are disgracefully bad at even making the right railway station let alone getting on the right train! ;-) (My fault apparently that Chiltern Railways switched platforms). The more awake/non-hung-over invitees did make it out to the Chilterns in time for a little light ARSE play - that's Andrews Really Secret Event, number 2 as it happens. And frankly if you don't like the acronym then these little events are not for you.

The first was in the Naval Club in London with Riccardo Prosecco and a bring-a-bottle tasting. ARSE 2 was a picnic on the highest point of the Chilterns with stunning views across the Aylesbury Vale. Not that anyone apart from me and some helpers knew this, nor the weather which, after a glorious week, turned to wind and rain for the first half of the day.

So the plan to walk up the hill worked OK despite getting lost in the woods. That WAS my fault. The late arrivals escaped this pre-tasting exercise and were ferried up by car. (Though this came with a price - carrying the final supplies across the hill to our little tasting area).

For some reason plans for a video shoot were forgotten and I hardly took any still photos at all! Nor did I eat much, or even get to try all the wines! Ooops.

Of the wines we began with a selection supplied by Nick of Bordeaux Undiscovered. Two sparklers, two whites, two rosés and two reds - all bar the latter served blind. Food was next - delicious homemade cakes crafted by Tasha Karalsinggam after a selection of salads, meats and so on from Waitrose Entertaining. There were also three cheeses I picked up from my local deli and two pies from my local butcher (Game and Pork and Leek). All this washed down with a Hardy's Pinot Grigio and a bag-in-box Shiraz-Cabernet.

The final wine selection comprised an Australian red from Waitrose and three whites from Oddbins. (Wine specifics saved for another post).

The ARSE concept - in addition to providing a little mystique in not knowing the format or exact location and a little juvenile play with the acronym ("I kiss you on both cheeks") - is to make wine tastings fun, more social and open them up to non-bloggers/non-wine experts/non-tweeters. So, in addition to my friends (many thanks again for helping out), we were joined by husbands and friends to add to the social mix. I hope all enjoyed the day.

arse2 group shot
Participants list

  1. Ailbhe (Alva) Phelan -
  2. Andrew Barrow -
  3. Andy Thomas -
  4. Denise Medrano -
  5. Dimas Perkasa
  6. Letitia Perkasa
  7. Eben Upton
  8. Giordana Goretti
  9. Jeanne Horak -
  10. Juel Darkely - /
  11. Liz Upton - /
  12. Niamh Shields -
  13. Nick Druiff
  14. Phil Blyth
  15. Siva Karalasinggam
  16. Tara Devon O'Leary
  17. Tasha Karalsinggam

arse2 coombe hill

arse2 cake!

A Really Secret Tasting

ARSE participants

Some may say that the acronym was distasteful. Some may even go as far to say it was silly, irreverent and juvenile, and me even sillier for keeping it a secret. In fact several subsequently did. And you know what I don't care! I had fun in putting together the tasting, even more fun on twitter playing with 'arse' in various sentences and even more laughs keeping the list of attendees and even the tasting location a secret until we were right on the doorstep.

ARSE of course stands for Andrew's Really Secret Event, a tight gathering of wine and food bloggers and tweeters, rolling into a tapas bar near Kings Cross before heading off on the Piccadilly Line to Green Park.

The tasting venue itself was the Naval Club in Mayfair. I should take a moment to thank the Club hugely for letting us utilise their grandiose bar on a Sunday afternoon.

We were most fortunate to have Riccardo Tomadin in town to showcase a 'new to the UK' range of Prosecco's. The easy drinking Riccardo Prosecco Brut, the finely bubbled, creamy Riccardo Prosecco Extra Dry and the superb Riccardo Prosecco Cartizze. The latters 28g of sugar appearing little sweeter than the Extra Dry's 18g (per litre) making for a fine rendition of the pinnacle of Prosecco production.

When you ask a disparate group to bring along a bottle of something interesting you can be sure of an equally diverse and unique offering. This motley bunch didn't disappoint. We kicked off with a strident Vin Jaune, dividing all into a large 'dislike' group and a few brave-palated 'likers'. A crisp, lip-tingling Manzanilla sherry, limited production, hardly seen, followed before we slid into the white wines. A Croatian Chardonnay anyone? Distinctive, lightly oaked, delicious. A South African Sauvignon Blanc offering its own take on pungency, un-ripened strawberries and gooseberries all with a refreshing zing. And then quickly into the reds...

Those kind fellows at Bibendum had sent over two reds for us to sample - a full bodied Mexican wine, a first encounter for many at the tasting of Mexican vino and a Cotes du Roussillon Villages. The slightly baked, gravelly tannins of the Mexican, complete with vibrant, delicious fruit is a surprise on so many levels not least is the medley of grapes: Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvingon, Barbera and Zinfandel. The Roussillon was equally praised for its balance and ripe flavoursm and dark, brooding fruit. Both highly recommended.

A third red, from Ribera del Duero, more than managed to compete with these two blockbusters with its Spanish credentials rising to the fore. A superb Tempranillo with hints of sweet spice and deep black fruits. A excellant addition to the tasting!

To conclude something 'really interesting'. A red dessert wine from Italy, unavailable in the UK. More rosé in colour and with a lightness of sweetness that had us thinking of dark chocolate or a bowl of raspberries as an accompaniment.

Perhaps those acronym nay-sayers were miffed because they weren't invited? Those that did make it had a ball. How could they not with such a superb, interesting, range of wines!?

A full list of the wines is below complete with links were available. The photo above shows the participants. From left to right we have Riccardo Tomadin, Tara O'Leary [whose report on the tasting is on her Wine Passionista blog), Niamh, Jeanne, Douglas Blyde, Sara Belizaire-Butler, Rupert Taylor and Louis Villard. Thanks all for making the day such fun and playing along with my ARSE.

Continue reading "A Really Secret Tasting" »

Tasting a Falanghina at the London International Wine Fair

tasting falanghina LIWFAs is so often the way in my chaotic life I ordered a bunch of Italian wines, duly sampled and wrote the tasting notes, lost the notes, found them again and then forgot all about them. I put it down to old age myself...

The wines were made by Gerardo Vernazzaro, an Italian from Naples. The wines mostly made from Falanghina, a white variety that I thought delicious and as charming as Gerardo himself. And how do I know he is charming? I've met him!

As myself, CookSister and The Wine Sleuth, scurried around the London International Wine Fair, I spied the distinctively packaged wines on a stand... and there he was Gerardo Vernazzaro himself. He took us through his range, several listed by Naked Wines. A the conclusion Denise the Wine Sleuth took a little video, cooksister holding the camera. I hate to steel her thunder (she does after all still owe me a tenner) but while they were videoing, I too recorded the encounter on my new camera. The video is totally unedited (hey, I was amazed the video came out at all!) but should work.

The wine they are tasting is the Falaghina Strione 2007 listed by Naked Wines (the only UK stockist) for £11.99.

Bibendum's World Cup Of Wine

cape town stadium

Football totally passes me by. Like sport in general simply no interest. But even I couldn't miss that there is something rather largish about to happen down in South Africa (it is this year, right?). I'm guessing the stadium I snapped last year in Cape Town is finished now...

Surprisingly I even recognise the parallels present in the results from Bibendums World Cup of Wine. Having missed the initial play offs I was keen to attend the semi-finals. Each team had two reds and two wines compared against similar bottles from the opposing team. A strident showing from Australia was pitted against a strong South African line up and on the other table the French, fielding a couple of classic styles, was lined up against Italy and being Italy these were rather idiosyncratic wines.

The wines were duly sampled and compared. Quite some discussion resulted. Was this Aussie Chard just a little too oaky? Did the length of the South African Chenin really pull it ahead? The discussions and re-tastings took the place of post match discussions and video replays of near misses and crowd pleasing action. There was a similar amount of spitting too.

Perhaps surprisingly South Africa fought off the strong Australian line-up, particularly the Chenin Blanc (Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, 2009, Robertson) which simply knocked everyone's socks off (well in my group anyway). It was a close run thing between two Pinot Noir's though. Was the sweeter, Aussie-sun lashed fruit of the Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir, 2008 preferable over the more Burgundian, fungi-tipped, Newton Johnson 2009 Pinot Noir from South Africas Walker Bay? A close run thing but price played a part too and pushed South Africa into the lead and winning the match.

A different story over at France v Italy. Were the French a little too complacent and relieing too much on tradition and terroir to see off the Italians stylish showing? The result was a complete trouncing of France and a mammoth victory for Italy. In play two Italian wines really shone and come with a 'must buy' ticket.

On the red bench the Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2005 is a hard sell apparently (why when it is such a delicious wine?) Deep, rich, wonderfully rich, with power and concentration but at the same time offering pure drinakable pleasure. Stylish in that Italian manner with a nod to elegance and food matching potential. Superb. This was the wine I went back too for a post-match slurp.

On the white bench the choice of a Soave, those easily dismissed, lemony, watery wines made fom dull old Trebbiano, was a pleasant surprise. Until the time came to try it. A whiff of weed, citrus pith and a delicious floral edge. Great acidity, lovely weight. A worthy winning player.

I've received comfirmation from Bibendum that June the 2nd is the date set for the Bibendum Wine Cup Finals. Should be a tense and fun game!

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Suavia Monte Carbonare Soave Classico, 2008, Veneto, Italy.

Stockist: Bibendum Price: £15 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Prim and proper, pearl twirling, perfumed aura but note that sexy glint in her eye. Alcohol 13%.

Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, 2005, Veneto, Italy

Stockist: Bibendum Price: £15.76 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Suited, booted tussled haired Italian, country roots, city style. Come to mamma.Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100 [4.5 out of 5]

Three Wines from A A Badenhorst

aa badenhorst screenshot
"Here he goes again - banging on about how grape blends are soooo much more interesting than single varietals... he'll be raving over some South African wines next, I'll bet"

"Yeh, repeating himself again. You wait he'll pick on some wine-maker with 'character' and imply that being a maverick or whatever can only influence the wine in a good way!"

"Better than moaning about a perfume-doused floosy at a tasting out smelling the wines"

"or a cigar-chomping lard-arse hogging the spittoon"

Three quick recommendations sampled at a trade tasting (SITT 2010 held in Vinopolis last February). They are from the A A Badenhorst stable, a project by Adi Badenhorst one of "the Cape's more colourful characters". After a series of vintages at Rustenberg, Adi set up, with a cousin, this new estate building on vineyards and facilities last used in the 1930's. The old vines are unirrigated, farmed and made into wine with as little intervention as possible. Adi was at the tasting, perched on the end of the Swig table, looking hot and tired but mercifully near the open door for some cool air. A wild hair cut, a slight manic gleam to the eye and as you spied his wines he was round the front of the table pouring and enthusing...

Can't say the labelling does anything for me. Bottle pictures from the estates website (which is in need of an update!).

A A Badenhorst Secateurs White, 2009, Swartland, South Africa.
Swig £8.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Complexity in droves. Chenin Blanc forming 14% of the blend. "coming together nicely, will age beautifully" said Adi.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

A A Badenhorst Family White, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £22 [Adegga / Snooth]
Another stunning mix. Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon, Chenin all melding into a delicious intensity. An underlying crispness keeps the rich palate in check. Alcohol 15%
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

A A Badenhorst Secateurs Red, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £9.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Nine varieties in this one. "Slightly left field". A delicious softness, quite firm and rounded.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

"there you see - a character! And a South African too"

"at least he restricted the listed wines to just three. I do find being presented with a long list of wine tasting notes so, so dull. 'Specially on this blog... "

Speed Tasting Sonoma

flowers pinot noirIt was all a bit mad really. Four wine makers, a duo of wines opened in front of them and us given just ten minutes to talk to them. A speed-tasting. It certainly cut the flannel and got them wine makers to get to the point pretty darn quick! I'd compiled a few questions to ask each of them from twitter but once they had marked their cross on the regional map and given a potted history that darn bell forced us on; before I'd had more than a solitary sip of their wines!

The map location I thought important for Sonoma has differing regions - rolling hills here, sea influence here, heavy fog influence due to the San Pablo Bay here or higher temperatures up towards the north. Flowers ranch for example is just a stones throw from the Pacific coast - a dramatic wild location surrounded by virgin forest while Pedroncelli is right up in the wild north where the Dry Creek Valley has temperatures suitable for Zinfandel.

Present were Jim Pedroncelli, Proprietor and Director of Sales and Marketing at Pedroncelli (Adegga / Snooth) with 2007 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Rod Berglund President and Wine Maker at Joseph Swan Vineyards (Adegga / Snooth) with a 2005 Zinfandel and a 2007 Pinot Noir, followed by Jeff Stewart Vice President Winemaker at Buena Vista with a 2007 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir and finally Tom Hinde, President and CEO of Flowers Winery with their 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir.

It is so easy to club all Californian, indeed all American, wines into one. But these examples demonstrated individual aspects modified by the location. Most had a story to tell. The Pedroncelli Zinfandel for example uses vines cloned from the original "mother" vines of which one quarter of acre exist to day and fruit from these 100-year-old vines are included in the blend. It is also a tradition to blend in the fruit from another old plot, the Buchignani vineyard, where vines are 40-50 years old.

I adored the two Flowers offerings. Both exhibited a real 'European' textural quality, but still with a ripe new-worldliness. Shame they have a retail price of £50-£60 a piece.

Due to the time constraint I had to email each of them with a couple of questions after the event; surprisingly two even found the time to reply!

From Tom Hind of Flowers Winery [Adegga / Snooth]:
a) In FIVE words what makes your wines stand out from the crowd?
High natural acidity and balance
b) In FIVE words why us Brits should buy your wines?
The most pure example of California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (ummm, I count ten....)
c) Can you give me a quick titbit about your wines/a wine/the winery ie food matching, historical fact, something new etc etc
We are the western-most vineyard in all of California one mile from the Ocean. Our wines go with a wide range of foods due to their high natural acidity lower alcohols, balance and finesse.

From Jeff Stewart of Buena Vista Carneros [Adegga / Snooth]
a) In FIVE words what makes your wines stand out from the crowd?
Elegance, concentration, sense of place
b) In FIVE words why us Brits should buy your wines?
True expression of California quality
c) Can you give me a quick titbit about your wines/a wine/the winery ie food matching, historical fact, something new etc etc
Buena Vista Carneros is the first premium winery in California, founded in 1857. Today we produce special wines from a special place - our Ramal Vineyard Estate in Carneros, Sonoma County.

The tasting was at Goodman's Restaurant, where a meal after - complete with trademark steak - turned into a jolly, impromptu, wine and food matching event. The Zinfandel's tearing into the 8oz strip loin with gusto and the Chardonnay's matching beautifully with slices of Irish Smoked Salmon.

Denise The Wine Sleuth chatting with Jim Pedroncelli

The Best of the Loire: Le Concours des Ligers

loire salon - 24th Loire Valley Wine FairThe 24th Loire Valley Wine Trade Fair/Salon des Vins de Loire ran over three days (1st - 3rd February 2010) last week. In addition to the great and the good of this oft ignored region offering their ranges to taste the Fair also hosts the Le Concours des Ligers competition. [Tweets from the Fair can be read via the #loiresalon tag]

"This competition is run by the Union des Oenologues de France and the Loire trade bodies. For the past 15 years, it has rewarded the finest Loire Valley Wines. More than 2,000 wines will be tasted by 300-plus professional tasters."

The gold medal winners were arrayed for sampling at the Palais des Ligers - a little side room to you and me - and while there I conducted a little tweeting. Rather than the 'normal' tasting note I endulged in a little creativity. This was inspired by a chat with Miss Bouquet. We both agreed that using traditional words such as acidity, tannin and so forth are an instant eye-glazing moment for the masses; so I decided to not use them.

As an experiment I'm not too sure that these 'work'; do these notes inspire people to try the wines, more so than the traditional mention of body, length, various flavours? Does the 140 character Twitter restriction mean they are fine for that medium but not suitable for 'proper' notes?

With wine in hand and mouth they made perfect sense at the time...

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: stand by for some unusual-for-spittoon tasting notes direct from the #loiresalon

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon just when the marmite tribe are safely tucked up in the cave berry throwing starts Bois Moze Anjou Villages 05 Cuvee Jean Joseph [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Jean Christophe Misandeau Saumur Champigny 07 a slither of liver served on a dusty roof tile, how do they balance it on a pebble? [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Sabler Verts Saumur Champigny 06 Cuvee des Sages The Francs having a gay moment on the blackfruit beanbag [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Chateau de la Bonneliere Chinon Rouge 08 stirring the berry compote with a chard green twig or three [ Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon roche honneur diamant prestige chinon rouge 08 - stoned on strawberries [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Montgilet Coteaux de l'Aubonce Les 3 Schistes 08 single bee honey; poured over peachy peaches; pineapple et tangerine [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Moncontour Nectar de Montcontour Vouvray Doux 05 a teaspoon of pineapple juice sieved through adonis' golden locks [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Gratien Meyer Saumur Brut Rosé - peachy cheecked milk maid frollacking in the hay barn; mind your head on the metal pale! [Adegga / Snooth]

twitterProfilePhoto.pngwine_scribbler: #loiresalon Domaine de la Rouletière Vouvray Moussuex Brut 07 - bread rolling in spring meadowland; the pixie dust! the pixie dust! [Adegga / Snooth]

Pizza Express Leggara Wines

leggara red at pizza expressI'm not the target market for these wines that's for sure. While some may mention the need for a little midriff weight reduction, low calorie wines are not the way forward!

I'm at the pizza Express launch of two Leggara low-alcohol wines; both Italian. The red, a Sangiovese, is from Sicily while the white, a Pinot Bianco, was sourced from up north somewhere (no, not Leeds) but Piedmonte I believe.

Pizza Express gave their wine buyer, Adrian Garforth MW, the brief to create two wines to accompany their low-calorie Leggara pizzas. This range, incidentally, have proved to be hugely popular and are now Pizza Express's 2nd best selling pizzas. Not bad for a low calorie pizza that has a round cut out of the middle filled with a mound of rocket and a tomato!

A small glass of these new wines plus one of the Leggara Pizzas supply just 600 calories. That's 30% fewer calories than a standard pizza; great indeed for a lunch or those watching that midriff more intently than I.

The wines, to repeat, are not aimed at the likes of me (meaning a dedicated wine-person). If you 'go out for a pizza' you don't pick Pizza Express for the wine list (however much Adrian would like you to) but for the quality of the pizza. If you like to drink wine you can - they offer a decent little selection - but for the majority the wine is immaterial, it is simply part of the total ambience.

Pizza Express is right on trend though. Lower alcohol and lower calories are highly placed criteria for many, so offering a crisp white with 9% alcohol or a medium-bodied red with 9.5% alcohol and 1.6 (1.7 for the red) alcohol units per glass is going to resonate with many.

Both wines cost £4.50 for a small glass, £5.90 for a large and £16.55 for a bottle, about standard for a house wine.

The white is fine - picked early to keep the sugar levels down it is of course quite acidic but does have enough weight and flavour in support. The red I thought less of. Little in the way of tannins it lacked a backbone, being too soft and fruity overall for me. It appeared rather sweet too, even with just 4g residual sugar. Interesting, talking to Adrian regarding its development, just by adding 4% Merlot to the Sangiovese "added so much more in terms of flavour". They have made 10,000 cases of the red and 6-7,000 cases of the white.

It's all about "striking the balance" as Adrian put it. A difficult one to pull off I imagine - you have to pick early to lessen the sugars (which turn to alcohol or remain as sweetness) but not so early so as to actually have some flavour and get some colour. There is no de-alcoholising allowed as this harsh process also strips flavour. In addition to keeping the calorie count low you have to watch the price; paying a premium for grapes that are not totally ripe for example. But Pizza Express have pulled it off producing two highly drinkable wines with flavour, but low in alcohol and calories.

There will be a rosé, also made from Sangiovese, currently in development and due for a spring/summer release.

[Flickr hosts a series of photos taken during the wine launch event; you may see me in there making pizza, along with friends Dimas and Natalie. The Wine Sleuth popped in late ;-) ]

Four Reds from the South of France

red wines at the French Association of Independent Growers

What is it with Grenache/Carignan/Syrah blends? Those deep savoury edged, black fruit wonders that make my heart quiver. And why is those from the South of France are simply the best; my favourite style of wine by far? You can pour those expensive clarets down the sink, keep those Burgundian Pinot Noirs in the rack thank you very much; for me a decent bottle from the Languedoc will do me fine. And it has to be the Languedoc, for you just don't find the same concentration and textural qualities from anywhere else. You can add a dash of Mouvèdre in the mix if you like, even better if you have a sun-baked plot of vines planted when rationing was still prevalent in the UK...

Last Tuesday saw me padding around in Lords Cricket Ground. We (myself and Densie the Wine Sleuth) hit on a little patch of red wines from the Southern reaches of France, all grouped on the Wine & Dine table. These are described as a "showcase of sophisticated wines for accompanying sit-down meals, which are, typically, served at table with food, thus defining a very different experience" (when compared to the Easy Drinking, informal wines for example). Perhaps this is why I enjoy them so much - their superb food-matching credentials

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Haut-Blanville Peyrals, 2007, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
The depth of colour, the superb structure and rounded, deep fruit filled palate immediately attracted. Lovely balance. Herby, liquorice edged flavours. A blend of Syrah (young vines), Grenache and Carignan (very old vines).
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chateau Gléon Selection Combe de Berre, 2006, Vin de Pays Vallée du Paradis, France

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Another Syrah/Grenache/Carignan blend this with the addition of Mouvèdre. The 6th generation of the Montanié family manages the 150 acres estate, one located to the south of Narbonne. This very aromatic wine offers hints of mushroom and woodland undergrowth to the juicy blackcurrant flavours.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Mas Cremat L'Envie, 2007, Cotes du Roussillon, France

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
A beautiful deep violet colour and a lovely aroma full of blackcurrants and blackberries with a deep inky edge on the finish. Excellent structure and balance.

The Estates Tamarius red and Balmettes white are both stocked by The Winey at £7.99 a bottle; the L'Envie is going to be more expensive.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Gardies Le Clos des Vignes Tautavel, 2007, Cotes du Roussillon, France

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
A wine available in the UK! Look to The Wine Society who list this at £14.40 per bottle. It's another Grenache (55%), Syrah (20%), Carignan (15%) and Mourvèdre (10%) blend with the Carignan plucked from old vines about 60-70 years old. For me the star of the tasting (the other wines from the estate are also rather good). Not much to the nose mind but the palate is rich, concentrated, balanced, rounded with superb flavours. Alcohol 14%. The estate plans to be fully organic by 2012.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

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The Wine Society - Brief Notes from a Tasting

wine society

As Heather said as she strolled off to John Lewis to return a broken-handled colander; its all very middle class. With the rows of red Burgundy and Cheateaux bottled Claret plus a rather decent £39 Chassagne-Montrachet it indeed appeared as a rather traditional, staid, middle-class aimed wine offering.

While I imagine a fare number of the Wine Society's customers are more than content with the copious listings of Chateau this and that (as the large number of own-label Bordeaux bottelings and the highlighting of a £99 'Everyday Bordeaux' case at this tasting demonstrates) I have to admit to being stunned by a number of really non-traditional wines (and a couple of excellent more modern styled old-school offerings); all new to the Wine Society list and each unique and gorgeous in their individuality.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Sadie Family Sequillo, 2007, South Africa.

Stockist: Wine Society Price: £15.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A magical blend of principally Chenin Blanc with Marsanne, Roussanne and a touch of Viognier. Creamy edged, full, textural, weighty reminiscent of a Pinot Gris but with more of a crisp finish. Very food friendly. Alcohol 14%
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine La Réméjeanne Les Arbousiers, 2007, Cotes du Rhone, France.

Price: £9.50 Wine Society [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Coffee hints on the finish with integrated, complex, spice-led fruit. Can only be a Shiraz-Grenache blend. Full bodied, warm. Alcohol 15%.
Rémy Klein farms just under 100 acres of vineyard north of Tavel. This part of the Gard is well adapted to making fine and elegant syrah-based wines. This is 40% syrah and 60% grenache, all raised in tank. It is full bodied, richly fruity without any heaviness."
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Tissot Arbois Rouge, 2005, Jura, France.

Price: £18.50 Wine Society [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Trousseau is the same as Portugal's Bastardo variety; interesting palate, plenty of tannins, dry finish a delicious intensity, full-flavoured, cherry. Would love to try this with a simple roast chicken as the Wine Society wine list suggests.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva, 2006, Tuscany, Italy

Price: £16.00 Wine Society [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Sangiovese as its most supreme. An age since I've had such a perfectly structured, ripe, balanced Chianti coupling a softness with copious velvety fruit. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bóhorquez, 2004, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Price: £17.95 Wine Society [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Stinkingly good Iberian red; lashings of cedar-tinged fruit, a complexity provided by a little bottle age and a very stylish long lasting, mouth-feel. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Andrew Peace Felix Australia Sagrantino, 2005, Swan Hill, Australia.

Price: £15.50 Wine Society [More on Adegga / Snooth]
An Italian grape variety given the Australia block-busting treatment. Ripe and powerful with flourishes of blackberry, spice and raspberry. Vibrant. Violet hints. Very interesting combination of texture and flavour. Alcohol 14%.

A fantastically mellow and exotic-tasting red made from the Italian Sagrantino grape. Full-bodied and complex with savoury flavours backed by ripe fruit."
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Founded in 1874, The Wine Society's aim was, and remains, to introduce members to the best of the world's vineyards at a fair price. Holding a share in The Wine Society gives you a lifetime membership with no annual fee and no pressure to buy. The cost of a share is £40.

Many thanks to Ewan and his team for the tasting and texting me the grape details of the Sequillo after the event; most appreciated.

Wines at Bedales Wine Bar, Borough Market

bedales borough market

Not entirely convinced that the first two wines offered were really the showcasing 'wow' bottles that Bedales should have opened. A crisp Vernaccia was perfectly chilled and a good accompaniment to the marvellous platter of food but the red was, well, surprising. And odd.

The foodie and tourist heaven of Borough Market is a great place - lively, ram-shackled, and bustling. As least it is on the true market days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday). On a Wednesday morning the vacuous stares of the camera-clutchers show either realisation they have come on the wrong day or bewilderment over the lack of much happening in this 'must see' destination.

Bedales was one of a handful of places open (a couple of fruit and veg people, Monmouth coffee, Brindisa...). I couldn't decide if Bedales shabbiness was by design or accidental; it certainly fits in with the general air of the market, perhaps more so given the general lack of much happening. One good thing about going on an off-market day is the wide choice of seats!

Bedales doubles as a wine shop (with a hefty concentration on Europe and New Zealand - I didn't spot an Aussie or a Chilean wine at all) and is one of three in a chain (the others being in the city). More than one bottle though is graced with a little Bedales Ladybird sticker which, according to the Bedales blog, denotes a biodynamic wine.

An unplanned chat with the wine-buyer/managing director, Arnaud Compas, just 'passing through' gave a little background to the range - "education by trial", "to entice the non-connoisseur with the unusual", "fall in love with the oddities". In the brief chat you figure he greatly prefers wine tasting and befriending the wine-makers over spreadsheets and signing cheques... even if, in his own words, Bedales is "run like a car-boot sales. wine in - wines out".

interior of Bedales, Borough Market

"Whilst we import much of our produce ourselves, we also maintain an impeccable army of artisan suppliers. We source our charcuterie and artisan cheeses, many of which are unpasteurised, from France's famous 'Rungis Market', the world's largest larder (it in fact covers more land than Monaco). Many of our finest bins come from boutique producers unearthed during globe-trotting research trips. For sapid support, we utilise some of the finest, most dedicated purveyors in the capital including fellow Borough Market traders."

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fattoria di Fugnano Vernaccia di San Gimignano, 2008, Tuscany, Italy.

[More: Adegga / Snooth] £12.99
A cool aperitif and cut through the Bedales food platter beautifully. Crisp, nutty, "with a duty, straw-lined barn edge" as Arnaud put it. Pears and a lovely closing edge of almonds to me.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Clos Les Files Bianco, 2005, Priorat, Spain.

[More: Adegga / Snooth]
A superbly drinkable blend of grenache and maccabeu; again the crispness matching the food with a smoke dimension adding interest to both aroma and finish. Interestingly no alcohol indicated on the label.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marc Barriot Clos de l'Origine, 2004, VdP des Côtes Catalanes , France.

Price: £21.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A fault? Fizz and rather too much of it too but a vigorous shake and some time open reveals the true extent of this bottles deliciousness. Grenache-Syrah blend with a superb, full, dark berry fruit led palate. Firm tannins and an edge of spice. Alcohol 14.5%. Biodynamic. The score is after the fizz dissipates; but rather an odd bottle to open as an example of the range; most would return it as faulty.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

A few more glasses of wine appeared; but what with the chatting, slathering the excellent duck rillet on to bread, and comparing an 'interesting selection of cheeses' with each new wine as it appeared - and simply just relaxing and soaking up the markets atmosphere - I neglected to write anything down. There was an impeccable Swiss Merlot I believe...

5 Bedale Street
Borough Market
London SE1 9AL

Continue reading "Wines at Bedales Wine Bar, Borough Market" »

Artisan & Vine : London's Best Wine Bar

artisan and vine - the lower seating areaYou can't fault her passion, her drive or her enthusiasm. Kathryn, manager of Artisan & Vine, has also a rather good palate - the wine list is superb. 'Natural' is the philosophy - wines made as naturally as possible (if that means biodynamic, organic or made in the old cow trough then that is good enough for Artisan & Vine) or wines that are locally produced.

Our private lunch time tasting - just five wines - lasted way into the afternoon. I can think of worse things than being in good company, drinking a personal selection of stunning wines and regaled with stories on each. If the wine doesn't have a 'story' or Kathryn hasn't detected your 'passion' your wine just isn't going to be listed.

"At artisan&vine our objective is to bring your taste buds as close as possible to the fantastic produce of artisans and vineyards. To do this, all of our 120+ wines are either naturally or locally produced. We think you'll taste the difference this proximity to the grapes brings and we are proud to be London's first wine bar to specialise in local and natural wines.

With around 20 English wines and liqueurs, we think we could have London's longest English drinks list. With the remainder of our wines and liqueurs being all natural or biodynamic (more than only organic) we have one of the longest and most interesting natural wine lists in the capital too."

No English wines at the tasting, although I noted two from my local vineyard, Brightwell, on the shelf.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Casa Coste Piane, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, 2004, Italy.

Price: £29 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Light and playful but appley, citrussy with some weight. Very fine bubbles with a "hazy, natural appearance". Long lasting yeastiness. Alcohol 11%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bret Brothers La Soufrandière Pouilly Vincelles, 2006, Burgundy, France.

Price: £31.10 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A wonderful 100% Chardonnay. Palate has a richness that is quite delicious, barrel fermented, lovely texture, a big wine with elegance and structure. Touch of ripening strawberry to the flavour. Delicious. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Alain Caux,Tir a Blanc, Le Casol de Mailloles, Vin de Table, France.

Price: £35.60 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Unusual in the extreme; a blend of Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu that is so distinctive on the nose that my initial reaction was met with hoots of laughter by those who had already tried it! Extremely 'cider-like', straw, apples, hawthorn, pears. Weighty, Exceptionally long aftertaste. Distinctive and I'm sure will have its detractors but, after initial scepticism, enjoyment ensued to the extent of drinking a glass or two rather than the Pouilly Vinzelles. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Frank Cornelissen Rosso Contadino 5, 2007, Vino da Tavola, Sicily, Italy

Price: £28.10 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Another controversial bottle, but a huge talking point none-the-less. A blend of white and red varieties Carricante, Inzolia, Catarratto, Nerello Mascalese, Alicante,... 100% natural, no added sulphites; non-filtered. With the aroma evolving with every sip it was clear the wine is different (and doesn't hold up well after a day being open). The volcanic soils that give the grape a foothold on the mountainside also supply individuality - a combination of freshness and a Pinot Noir-like lightness that gives sweet rose-hips and darker, mixed fruit jam, gives way to darker, blacker fruit flavours and a tannic structure. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Cuvee 51, Le Clos Perdus, 2007, Corbieres, Languedoc, France

Price: £28.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A wine with character - gorgeous generous, black fruits and tobacco. A wine "that refuses to behave in the mouth". A blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

All prices are 'drink-in' bottle price. All wines are available, cheaper, to 'take-away', there are even plans for a full internet wine shop. Fingers crossed! More photographs of the wine bar are on SpittoonExtra and pictures of some of the wines on flickr. Rob at The Wine Conversation has also written a post on the tasting.

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Brief Notes from a Visit - Beyerskloof

the famous beyerskloof burgerIf you need to know anything about Pinotage the man to talk to is Beyers Truter (if you can't find Peter May, of course). Beyers has done more than anyone to promote and develop South Africa's own unique red grape variety. Beyerskloof is the spiritual home of Pinotage with Beyers, the sixth generation of the family to farm the estate, is often cited as the "King of Pinotage".

Awards drip from the wines. If you have never encountered a drinkable, enjoyable, Pinotage Beyerskloof is the label to turn to.

If you sit in the open-sided deck restaurant, with the Kanonkop hill in the distance (photo on SpittoonExtra) at your feet lies the 'field' a mixed planting of vines that goes into the companies Bordeaux-style Field Blend.

Their pale, peachy, refreshing, sparkling Pinotage Rosé Brut washed down a plate of superb garlic snails beautifully while a selection of older Pinotage's and various Cape Blends vintages, tasted in the cellar with Beyers Truter himself, were very interesting. The latter come in various mixes - the 2006 Synergy comprises 43% Pinotage, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Shiraz and 7% Merlot compared to the 2001 Synergy being 55% Cabernet, 37% Pinotage, 8% Merlot and 14% 'others'. Basically they are still experimenting with these! I didn't enjoy the older vintage, I have to admit, the reductive edge on the nose dominatated but perhaps I'm just more susceptible to those aromas as my tasting partners enthused.

The Field Blends are certainly worthy of trying. They age beautifully too. The 1995, which my notes contradictorily say is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, had a gorgeous perfume, complex with tobacco-edged age. Little stock remains but it is available on the restaurant wine list. The 2001 was luscious with a vailed smoothness from the addition of Merlot. I didn't catch the blend details but the 2006 has 60% Cabernet Sauvignon coupled with 40% Merlot.

According to our host Pinotage works wonderfully in a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Merlot, however, is not a great working partner. No stainless steel tanks for Pinotage either, rather the grapes at Beyerskloof see open, concrete, fermenters, a little temperature control and manual punching of the cape by hand.

While age worthy it is the younger Pinotage single varietals that impressed during the cellar tasting. With ripe, sweetish upfront fruit, good structure and length they have structure and drinkability with the Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage being singularly impressive.

Continue reading "Brief Notes from a Visit - Beyerskloof" »

English Wine Week : Tasting Five English Wines with Cheese

english cheese

The local deli did me proud. Salvador's of Wallingford sourced three stunningly delicious cheeses just for this English Wine Week bloggers meet-up. Each was perfectly ripe and at the perfect temperature; not cheap but near perfect.

Especially good - by itself and with the various wines - was the Godminster Vintage Organic Cheddar. Next to it laid a perfect boxed slab of Cranborne Chase Alderwood (unpasteurised semi-soft rind cows milk cheese from Dorset) with the third being Simon Weaver's Kirkham Farm Organic Cotswold Brie. Coupled with a handful of fresh tomatoes and a salad of local mixed leaves (from Down To Earth) all I forgot was to add a handful of basil I was growing on the window sill...

FoodStories: #aeww back at Andrews now, more English wines and cheeeeese! He also has fabulous windows.

Three of the wines were brought from Festival Wines of Chichester. The Brightwell Sparkling was brought from the vineyard after our tour and tasting while the Balfour Sparkling was a free sample.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Sedlescombe Vineyard, Sedlescombe, East Sussex a blend of Ortega, Faber, Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Siegerebe. £8.19 wine_scribbler: #aeww sedlescombe dry white organic and vegan not much on the nose but nice flavours chalky wine_scribbler: #aeww sharp finish - not greatly liked - made from vegans thewinesleuth: #aeww organic vegan english wine- um, not very interesting Horsmonden - Dry White

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Wine and Charcuterie Matching - Brief Notes from a Tasting

Wine and Charcuterie Tasting

All it needed was our 'lecturer' to lob a stick of chalk at my head and I'd be right back at school. I ended up, as I did at The Misbourne, in the back row, this time stuck between old boy Brett and cheeky-quipping Douglas. Brett found a fascination with the bread... Douglas was, well, being Douglas. I tried desperately to not indulge in their mischief...

We were here for a Circle of Wine Writers Wine and Charcuterie Tasting hosted by Fiona ( at the new Terroirs wine bar in William IV Street, London. The Charcuterie comprising a delicately flavoured Jamon de Teruel from Spain, a nicely textural Duck Rillette, Saucisson Sec from the Pyrenees and a garlic and spice Terrine Terroirs.

Rather than the 'usual suspects' to accompany charcuterie (simple rustic French wines) Fiona picked a more eclectic list of bottles to sample, each calling on the intrinsic flavours of the food (smoky, spicy, garlic). The only thing not offered was a sparkling...

Rose Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Maitres Vignerons de Saint-Tropez Rosé Carte Noire, 2008, France. Price: £9.99 Nicolas A nice opening shot - and as expected a fine match for the array of foods. Nice berry fruits and a decently long, dry, finish. A 'standard' rosé wine for such fare and I thought a superb foil to the Terrine, although others disagreed.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Assyrtiko Hatzidakis, 2007, Santorini, Greece. Stockist: Caves de Pyrene Waitrose Price: £9.00 Not a wine I would ever have considered, interesting but didn't really work for me lacking a bit of zip and zing. Seafood and shellfish apparently work better. The pepper edge in the saucisson was really emphasised by the wine.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Weingut Christmann Riesling IDIG Grosses Gewaechs, 2007, Pfalz, Germany. Stockist: Charles Taylor Price: £35 Not being a lover of Riesling - heresy I realise - I did enjoy this wine. Very young still but the way I like it; a touch of weighty sweetness, superb fruit but sadly not a wine that worked well with any of the food. Too delicate in flavour I think; but then what do the Germans eat with all their charcuterie?
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chapel Hill Verdelho, 2007, Australia. £9.49 in independents including Planet of the Grapes, Ongar Wines Ltd, Australian Wines Online, Rehills of Jemond, Badmington Wines A zesty citrus and nettle wine; far too forceful with the charcuterie though.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Lambrusco Reggiano Concerto, 2007, Emilia Romagna, Italy. Stockist: Everywine, Harrods, Booths Price: £8-£10 In terms of matching with the food this was the star. A combination of bubbles, a bitter twist to the wine and perfect acidity was great with the rillettes and the (positive) fat of the jamon.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Jean-Luc Matha Cuvee Lairis Marcillac, 2006, Marcillac, France Stockist: Caves de Pyrène Price: £9.99 Not convinced this rustic country wine (from the South West of France) really worked as well as others seemed to think. Remained rustic and overly tannic for me.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon, 2007, Beaujolais, France Price: around £16 a bottle from Caves de Pyrene, I believe there were a couple of markedly different bottles of this being poured; I managed to get some of the 'good' bottle. The lack of tannins and the soft fruit brought out the wonderful sweetness in the jamon particularly. For someone who never drinks Beaujolais this was a revelation; my second choice for the top match.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Isabel Estate Pinot Noir, 2005, New Zealand £18.55 Berry Brothers & Rudd A lovely fruit-forward Pinot that worked with the charcuterie much better than expected. Lovely spicy, sprightly palate that seemed particularly good with the duck rillette (duck plus pinot is always a good choice) and managed the garlic infused Terrine too.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Manzanilla La Gitana Sherry, NV, Spain. £8.49 at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Majestic, Somerfield, Wine Rack, plus independents. Not a fan of Riesling nor Sherry; more howls of derision from my neighbours. Despite being a tapas favourite this wine just trampled over all the food. Far too forceful and strong. The salty component matched the salt in the jamon OK but the delicate flavour was lost. Unsurprisingly this was many peoples preferred choice.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: El Grifo Canari, 1997, Lanzarote, Spain. A cream sherry (or rather sherry-style wine) from Lanzarote. Far too sweet for the charcuterie but a marvellous opportunity to try such a delicious wine. There you go - sherry and delicious in the same sentence!

A learning experience; just much more enjoyable than my (detested) school days. I did miss the juvenile giggling at the cookery teachers hairy legs encased in green tights mind...

Fiona has posted her own take on the session on Matching Food and Wine.

Brief Notes from a Tasting: Vergelegen, South Africa

the gardens at Vergelegen, South Africa

A 300 year history permeates Vergelegen; one of South Africa's most prestigious, reknown and visited wineries in the Cape. The original homestead was built in 1700; originally a barren wilderness it was transformed into a vibrant farm with fruit orchards, orange groves, oak trees, vines, cattle and sheep. Passing through a succession of owners the estate was eventually purchased by Anglo American Farms in 1987. The last 21 years have seen a renaissance.

It is a wonderful spot for visitors; even if you have only a passing interest in wine - there's the oldest oak tree in Africa (a hollow Old English Oak believed to be 300 years old) and gardens aplenty (rose, herb, camellia, fynbos, hydrangea). The homestead is open to visitors and is full of classical Cape Dutch furniture and there are picnic areas too (although you don't bring your own food but buy pre-packed boxes at the estate) and, for posher-nosh, the Lady Philips Restaurant.

We were there for the wines though. A pouring of the Sauvignon Blanc was served alongside fresh oysters - to general acclaim of my compatriots, but not moi as I 'don't do' oysters. But my 'line fish' in the Lady Philips restaurant, later, was beautifully moist and accompanied the lightly oaked Vergelegen Chardonnay 2008 superbly [picture].

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa. [More: Adegga / Snooth] 97% Sauvignon with the remainder being Semillon. Lovely crisp, frim fruit, fresh. Touches of fig, gooseberry and a pleasant leafy-ness (straw, green peppers, peas) Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Chardonnay, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa. [More: Adegga / Snooth] Medium bodied by design, 60% in oak giving a subtle oak-complexity, not too heavy either (medium bodied). Pear, cream, apple flavours; a typical Chardonnay.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa [More on Adegga / Snooth] A single vineyard wine - the 2 hectare vinyard on the lower Schaapenberg. More complexity here with a little lees contact giving a creaminess to the flavour and a more rounded texture. Floral touches enliven the herbaceous palate. Minerals, peach stones and citrus play around too. Beautiful. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Cabernet Reserve, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth] Cabernet dominates here (91%) with Cabernet Franc and Merlot splitting the remainder. Superb berry aroma - very, very Bordeaux-like. Savoury depths, touches of herbs. Firm palate, but smooth until the great burst of tannin led blackfruits hits the tastebuds. The grapes were selected from Vergelegen's Stonepine, Rondekop, Rooiland and Kopland Vineyards. Alcohol 14.5%. Age worthy; a 2004 was also sampled.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Continue reading "Brief Notes from a Tasting: Vergelegen, South Africa" »

Brief Notes from a Tasting: Boschendal, Stellenbosch

boschendal wine tasting

Under the branches of an old, old oak tree a marvellous romp through a range of Boschendal wines. Hosted by Lizelle Gerber, Head White Wine Maker, entertainingly hosted the tasting.

Lizelle was lovely, fielding my inane questions with gusto and a wry smile. She has been with Boschendal since 2005. At the conclusion of the tasting I asked what she would really like to do, experimentally, outside the day to day work. Two things, she replied. "To make a stickie from Weiser Reisling and to play around with White Grenache" She didn't expound on what she would like to make exactly.

Boschendal have split their wines into 5 distinct ranges; in price order they are:

  1. The Pavillion Range with a Shiraz/Cabernet, a Chardonnay/Semillon blend and a Shiraz Rosé. The range is named after the Le Pavillion Gazebo and come priced at around £6.49.
  2. The Favourites Range with the emphasis on easy drinking. Priced at £7.29.
  3. The 1685 Range with the distinctive bottle shape. The bottle first produced in 1985 to celebrate the 300 years of wine making at the estate and is based on an original 1685 bottle. Priced at £8.99.

    White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay-Pinot Noir, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
    [More: Adegga / Snooth]
    A mix of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) resulting in a golden hued, elegant wine packed with red berried fruit flavours, a touch of lees, and gentle oak. Alcohol 13%.
    Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

  4. The Reserve Range of single varietal wines - higher quality grapes reflected in a slightly higher price of around £10.99.

    White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Sauvingon Blanc Reserve, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
    [More: Adegga / Snooth]
    The first vintage released in screwcap. Half the Sauvingon is sourced from Boschendal local grapes, the remainder from the Somerset West area. Minerally, limey, lively style. Flinty, citrus and a great mouth-feel.
    Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

    Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Grand Reserve, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa
    Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
    A Bordeaux-style blend heavy on the Cabernet Franc (Cabernet Franc (70%), Malbec (10%), Shiraz (10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%)), nicely perfumed, with an edge of cassis and raspberry-meatiness.
    Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

    Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boschendal Reserve Collection Shiraz, 2004, Stellebosch, South Africa
    [More on Adegga / Snooth]
    Sourced from low yielding 10 year old vineyard. Full-bodied, Rhone-style - a touch of elegance missed in with the pepper, herb and spice palate. Potential for some aging. Good tannic backbone. Alcohol 14.5%.
    Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

  5. The Cecil John Range named after Cecil John Rhodes a major 19th century player in Boschendal's development. Two wines in this 'site specific' range a Sauvignon Blanc (£12.49) and a Shiraz (£15.99), neither, sadly were opened for us to taste.

Check out the Top Five South African Wine Retailer list for stockists. Photos from Boschendal also on flickr.

Continue reading "Brief Notes from a Tasting: Boschendal, Stellenbosch" »

Newton Johnson Winery, Walker Bay, South Africa

View from Newton Johnson, Walker Bay, South Africa

Even the hazy cloud cover couldn't dampen the thrill of the view. After a gentle meander alongside the Onrust River passing Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson (both top wine producers) we discover Newton Johnson pearched on hillside; its restaurant, Heaven, gives commanding views across the De Bos Damn (pictured), down the Afdaks River Valley and on to distant Mount Horeb and beyond.

Newton Johnson pitches itself at the premium end of quality in a boutique type manner. Plenty of wines opened for us to spit, swirl and sniff starting with a comparison of Sauvignon Blancs. As an aside our host, Bevan Newton Johnson highlighted a cultural difference - the South Africans prefer their Sauvignons younger and more acidic than us Brits, a point evident in the Newton Johnson 2008 Sauvignon Blanc - A quite 'green' acidity being evident despite the addition of a little Semillon "to give firmness and a balance for food". A second Sauvingon, also 2008, with a higher ratio of Semillon (25% against 7% in the first) was racey, firm and despite its youth delicious. Only 180 cases were made of this 'yet to be released' wine; when available in 2-3 months time it should retail for around £10 plus.

Two Chardonnay's next. The Newton Johnson 2007 being the most beautiful of wines. Sourced from high altitude vineyards giving cool mornings and evenings results in some magical fruit. A lively citrus streak, minerality, weight, fig-led flavours with a walnut complexity. A touch of oak too. Superb. The 2008 vintage was elegant but tightly-young with a more oaky complexity evident. Nicely creamy mouthfeel.

To the delight of our female companion - Felicity of Fresh Escapes magazine - the next wine was the Newton Johnson Felicité Rosé, 2008. With a full palate and a lovely clean, fresh, palate this 75% Shiraz/25% Sauvignon Blanc blend comes across as a great food wine.

From a vineyard right under the tasting area the 2008 Newton Johnson Pinot Noir offered plenty of complexity and a tight, focused palate. Let down only by its slightly high price (a little under £20). A second Pinot - better value at under £15 - offered a smoky edge, a touch of restraint and a delicious, juicy finish. The difference between the two? The first comes from clay soils, the second from fruit grown in Elgin on quartz plus a cooler climate during the evenings. A great demonstration of terrior differences you could never hope to find for both wines were distinctively different.

Finally a Rhone-style blend that accompanied a 'bit-too-hearty-for-lunch' Bobotie (declared the national dish of South Africa by the United Nations Women's Organisation in 1954) - the Newton Johnson Shiraz Mourvèdre 2006. A delicious savoury edged, spicey wine with a lovely mouthfeel and, bearing in mind my penchant for blends (and Rhone style blends in particular) my favourite wine on display.

Continue reading "Newton Johnson Winery, Walker Bay, South Africa" »

In The Company of Wine People: brief notes from a tasting

Isabel from the Company of Wine People

The lovely lady in the picture is Isabel, Brand Development Manager for the Company of Wine People who led us through a marvellous tasting on the summit of Bottelaryberg (I think). The Company of Wine People may not be familiar to you; their brands names though you are highly likely to recognise - Arniston Bay, Thandi, Kumkani, Welmoed and Versus.

Now Arniston Bay may well be one of those ubiquitous brands that clog the wine aisles; but actually the wines are not too bad. Look out for the Reserve bottling of the Sauvignon Blanc (fresh, crisp finish, touches of lychee, soft, upfront sweetness) and those offered in innovative pouches.

Sometime ago I received a sample of an Ariston Bay Chenin-Chardonnay in a pouch and, to my annoyance, neglected to write anything about it. It's the packaging that offers the interesting story, but the wine itself was surprisingly drinkable for a mid-week slurp.

Developed at some cost by the Company of Wine People the pouch is a world first in terms of packaging.

The pouch offers an environmentally friendly solution to wine packaging, creating 80% less environmental impact from cradle to grave than the equivalent volume in glass bottles, 90% less waste and takes up less space in a landfill than two glass bottles. It is also 20 times lighter than a wine bottle and preserves the wine for up to a month once opened.

"We have worked hard to create a packaging solution to redefine the boundaries of sustainability in the wine industry and make people think differently about the cradle to grave lifecycle of wine"

They are available in Chenin/Chardonnay and Pinotage Rosé styles from branches of Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons priced at around a tenner for 1.5 litres.

Incidentally the Arniston Bay website offers a little downloadable book detailing recipes for Governer's Trifle, Peri-Peri Chicken Mozambique Style, Tomato and Prawn Bredi, Egg Plant, Date and Cashew Nut Briyani and Chilled Butternut, Orange and Cumin Soup - all designed of course to complement one of their wines.

The Kumkani Range is a step up in price and interest. Kumkani is a word derived from the Xhosa word translated as 'King' - you have to practice the tongue click on word Xhosa; Isabel demonstrated and despite a few half-attempts we all spectacularly failed at replicating. Anyway the Kumkani range comprises single varietals, dual varietals, the Reflections range and award-winning single vineyard wines.

Particularly noteworthy is the stunning Kumkani Sauvignon Blanc Lanner Hill with grapes sourced from a single vineyard - Groenekloof in the Dorking region. A lovely slice of 'green gooseberry' intensity with a mineral, flinty complexity (listed by Majestic £11.99)

Great pleasure and hums of excitement - well you can't say much with a mouthful of wine - greeted the Kumkani VVS 2005. This has stonkingly good complexity and superb balance/intensity coupled with a fascinating aroma from an unusal mix of grapes - Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho. There's a touch of oak in their somewhere too.

"This unique wine is the first white wine blend in South Africa to have Verdelho as a blending component. All the components - 40% Viognier, 40% Verdelho and 20% Sauvignon Blanc - of this wine were fermented separately before blending. The Viognier and Verdelho fermented in 20% first fill, 40% second fill and 40% third fill 300-litre French oak barrels. Kept on fermentation lees for eight months, batonage two times a month. The Sauvignon Blanc component was fermented in stainless steel tanks. No wood treatment on this component, kept on fine lees for eight months."

Our sample was the 2005 vintage, the initial release, so a little age development. Currently the 2007 is available but I'm still waiting details of UK stockists.

The Kumkani Cradle Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, proved to be a damn delicious, serious wine. Hefty tannins, so give it another year or so or bring on the Springbok! Rich and classy. The Kumkani blog suggests pairing with Rump of Beef Cooked Slowly in Red Wine and provides the recipe. As with the equally superb Kumkani Shiraz 2007 I'm lacking details of stockists or prices sadly.

Isabel is a fascinating person; shame we didn't have time to chat longer. Prior to demonstrating her beautiful singing voice (in Xhosan too) she mentioned her work in promoting wine to the rising black middle class. Wealth divisions in South Africa may take many, many years to even out but the progress in just a few years has resulted in greater affluence for many - the 'Black Diamonds'. Isabel is involved in township wine clubs for example... as I said, just one fascinating story I would have liked to explore further...

Continue reading "In The Company of Wine People: brief notes from a tasting" »

Brief notes from a tasting: Kleine Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

An ideal introducton to the wines and foods of South Africa - the award winning Terrior Restaurant in the Kleine Zalze Estate - one of South Africa's top 10 restaurants.

The wine range is split into four - The Family Reserve Range is at the top "produced from the best hand-picked grapes of selected vineyards. Available in limited quantities and only in certain vintages". Next the Vineyard Selection "Quality grapes from premium vineyards, aged inthe best oak barrels to provide wines with flavour, complexty, structure and cellaring potential" followed by the Cellar Selection (such as the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc) "These wines are made to be be more accessible and friut driven. They represent good value, to suit our customers' tastes. This range reflects our motto: "We make wine for people to enjoy". The bottom rung is the Foot of Africa range "named after one of our farms situated at africa's southern tip. These wines are produced from selected grapes from various vineyards in the Western Cape".

Full pictures of the meal are over on SpittoonExtra.

Blown away by the Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, around £15. [More: Adegga / Snooth] A combination of green bean herbaceous flavours and minerality (the latter from West Coast fruit apparently) Clean, fresh, green pepper, not too grassy. Ages well according to our host Ross Sleet. Stonkingly good with the meal's starter - Crumbed Goats Cheese with Figs.

First introduction to the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]
- 30% of the grapes in this have been influenced by botrytis adding depth and complexity. Totally unwooded.

8,000 case production for the Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]. Available to the on-trade in the UK. Barrel fermentation creating a different beast than the Cellar Selection Chenin but similar in style with a fruity, delicious, roundness. A little young still, 2008 vintage.

Interesting wine selection for the Seared Scallops, a choice of lightly chilled Pinotage Cellar Selection over a Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection [no links as unsure on vintages]. The balsamic reduction picked up in the Pinotage but the Pinot worked beautifully too being a little lighter in style with softer tannins. Table split between the two - I'd edge toward the Pinot Noir if only for those seductive tannins.

The estate is having an exciting time with Pinotage experimenting with terrior and vine placements.
Salze Shiraz-Mouvèdre-Viognier blend, 2007, Cellar Selection range, [More: Adegga / Snooth]
with a split of varieties at 65% Shiraz, 20% Mouvèdre and 15% Viognier. Delicious in a robust, characterful way. Designed to be drinkable/accessible. Screw-capped and 14.5%. Available from Waitrose in the UK.

Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. [More: Adegga / Snooth] Lovely concentration, smooth, richly textured, perfectly matching my main course of Springbok. Plentiful tannins but supple and wonderful with the meat. I was so enraptured with the partnership I failed to note any Madeira flavours in the sauce...

kleine zalze barrels

Kleine Zalze
Die Boord
Stellenbosch, 7613, South Africa
PHONE: +27 (21) 880-0717
FAX: +27 (21) 880-0716

Great Iberian Wines From Vinoteca

Bodega Acoustic Acoustic Vinyes Velles

Two lovely people - Ryan and Gabriella - from Catavino, hosted an excellent Iberian wine tasting at Vinoteca, London last Friday. Unusually for me I'm getting some notes down on the site while still fresh in my mind, which, as many will attest has the attention span of a gnat... or the memory capacity of dead mouse...

Generally the whites disappointed. There were eight whites available, four each from Spain and Portugal and most were either over priced or just plain unexciting. Or a combination of both. A shame really as several wines from the SITT tasting (Specialist Importers Trade Tasting) the Wednesday prior offered some really exciting whites from Portugal in particular.

Fourteen reds were opened for the crowd. Apart from one (where a lively debate ensued where I thought it lacking but my tasing partners disagreed) my fellow tasters/bloggers (Andrew Chapman and Denise Medrano) were in agreement on the quality. The best being...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodega Castaño Monastrell, 2007, Yecla, Spain.
Price: £6.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A crowd pleaser being full, soft, flavoursome with sweet ripe fruit. Deep black-fruits, leather complexity, inky finish. Monastrell is Mourvèdre. Good value.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Acoustic Vinyes Velles, 2006, Montsant, Cataluna, Spain
Price: £14.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A little expensive perhaps (the victim of the poor pound!) but a delicious, stylish wine. Montsant is a small region lapping around Priorat (had to look that up on an excellent map available at the tasting) that most seemed unfamiliar with. A super blend of Garnacha and Carinena from 15 - 35 year old vines.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Telmo Rodriguez Gabo do Xil, 2006, Galicia, Spain.
Price: £8.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A producer that all should be familiar with; seldom offering a disappointing wine. This 100% Mencia has an excellent nose, balance and a delicacy and poise that we pinpointed to violets. Ripe strawberries adds to the complexity of flavour.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: A & J-L Gomes Azamor, 2005, Alentejo, Portugal
Price: £7.85 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A blend - which always seems to work better than single varietals from Portugal - of 40% Syrah, 40% Touriga Franca and 20% Merlot. Great fruity aroma, still fresh despite a few years of age. Lovely, soft, plummy palate with good structure and acidity. Some elegance.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta do Centro Pedra Basta, 2006, Alentejo, Portugal.
Price: £12.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A blend of Tridadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouchet and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe fruit with savoury touches to the aroma, excellent balanced palate a little sweetness to the fruit. Notes ended with a scrawled 'I like this a lot!'.

Continue reading "Great Iberian Wines From Vinoteca" »

Twitter Taste Live at Bibendum's Tasting

A blast! After a day's tasting and a hugely enjoyable lunch at the Bluebird the Twitter Taste Live session was viewed as a fabulous success.

Bibendum have grasped the social media by the short and curlies as tasters across the country joined in a large group of novice and more expert wine tasters to twitter over three wines.

I've pinched the video above from documentally - who was highly entertaining host for the event.

Thanks also to The Wine Conversation for organising it all; his thoughts on the event (including the same video) are on his wesite but the basics are 300 tweets in the 45 or so minutes which overtook tweets on Obama for a short time. Next time how about streaming the tweets to a large screen display in the main tasting hall for more exposure?

One issue I discovered was that entering my tasting notes via a mobile is limiting as it is impossible to view direct replies or responed to others questions and tweets, thus limiting the 'conversation'.

The three wines tasted were:

  1. Delicato Old Vine Zinfandel 2006
  2. Dinastia Vivanco Crianaza Rioja 2005
  3. Laurenz V Friendly Gruner Veltliner 2007

An interesting selection that introduced many to Gruner Veltliner for the first time.The Delicato was well received for its easy drinking, rich, quality while the Rioja, with its savoury, tomato quality stood out for many as the star.

Brief Notes from a Jeroboams Tasting

Jeroboams website screen-shot

Jeroboams is one of those little merchants that makes the UK wine scene so unique and dynamic - an independent, thriving, individual company. More than a front-room French wine importer though as the London-based company operates stores in Belgravia, Hampstead, Holland Park, St. John's Wood and other upmarket areas of London and also own Mr Christian's Delicatessen and whisky specialist Milroy's of Soho. By the locations you should realise they are not the place for a £3.99 bottle of Sangiovese to wash down a Friday night pizza; although the website does offer an under £12 section:

"Although we have an extensive range of the world's finest wines, I am very proud of the amount of outstanding wines we stock under twelve pounds. It was tough work deciding what to leave out as the quality of wine at this price range has come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, as standards continue to improve every year. This is great news for an independent wine retailer like Jeroboams as it means we can offer a more varied portfolio and be confident of the quality of the wines."

It was in the depths under Milroy's in Soho that myself and man-about-town Mr Blyde wandered for a wine tasting back in October. I should apologise for the briefer-than-usual tasting notes; the palate was fading somewhat after a morning food and wine tasting across town - and the effects of alcohol shouldn't be ignored either.

Manging to slurp and sniff twenty of the 66 wines open, the following received more than a VG in the margins of the tasting note booklet. [Another Jeroboam's wine that is highly recommended is the Cellar Cal Pla Mas D'En Compte Blanco]

Continue reading "Brief Notes from a Jeroboams Tasting" »

Tesco Drinks Awards Winners

Flying Dog Pale Ale

I sneaked a look under the blank covering, guiltily, just to see which my favourite beer from the tasting was. I took a clandestine snap with the mobile too (as pictured). Assigned a table with several other tasters - brewers quality control managers, beer critics, pub-magazine writers - a highly enjoyable time was had tasting (not spitting, you don't spit beer) and rating various beers blind for the 2009 Tesco Drinks Awards.

Tesco organises this event every year giving the winners a guaranteed listing in national and regional Tesco stores for a minimum of 12 months.

The Tesco Drink Awards are designed to champion regionality and small producers, giving them a route to market and wider exposure to the UK consumer.

Now I think the bottle pictured is Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale brewed by the Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland, America. As you can read in the press release below this won the Best Bitter and Ale category - which must have been the table I slurped around - so it would appear my fellow judges were as impressed as I was!

Coming to a Tesco near you then, Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale.

Wine and Food Matching - Ideas From A Recent Tasting

Food Matching at the Fells Tasting

Given the synergy between food and wine I have long wondered at the lack of 'combinations' at tastings. While the industry thrives on gourmet meals (to which I receive far too few invites!) tailoring, usually, a single producers wines to each dish these events are exclusive and limiting in the number of participants.

Of course wine tastings offering dozens if not hundreds of wines are hard enough, and expensive to mount, operations without worrying about food samples. Back in October though the wonderful people at Fells hosted a tasting with various wines matched with food.

"This is a tasting with a difference. Not only does it offer you the opportunity to taste award winning wines from our portfolio of family owned producers but, for the first time, we have matched a selection of our wines to a range of delicious canapés to demonstrate the breadth and versatility of our range".

I met up with Douglas and duly sampled said food and wine matches (expect the oysters... I can't 'do' oysters). Of the 200 or so wines available to taste the following were offered with a food match (I'm sure Douglas has blogged about this tasting too, but I can't find the post to link to direct).

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: E Guigal St Joseph Blanc, 2006, Rhone, France
Price: £12.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A 95% Marsanne, 5% Rousanne blend matched with chèvre, dressed radicchio, walnut croutons, ripe pear and toasted walnuts. A lovely wine restrained richness, almond, hazelnut and lime nose but the goats cheese was a little too strong for the wine, deadeneing it somewhat. But the radicchio and walnuts worked beautifully.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition, 2005, Alsace, France
Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A 100% Pinot Gris and a super match with the canapé - Butter Chicken with coriander on a tiny poppadom - the butter really balancing the wine and the coriander bringing freshness adding to the lovely long-lasting taste.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Mouton Cadet Reserve Graves Rouge, 2006, Bordeaux, France
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
An on-trade only wine with an easy drinking style, but it didn't match with the Chargrilled Rosemary-Marinated Lamb fillet, served pink, with babaganoush to dip. OK with the lamb but the dip killed the wine. The dish however was superb with the Rothschild Escudo Rojo, 2006 ( a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 27% Carmenere, 7% Syrah).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Torres Salmos, 2006, Priorat, Spain
Price: £11.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Matched with Cochinillo Asado - organic roast suckling pig stuffed with juniper and rosemary with wild rocket and a Cox's Apple Sauce - this blend of Spanish and international varieties (Garnacha Tinta, Syrah, Cariñena and Cabernet Sauvignon) was a deliciously superb match hiting every spot.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, Mendocino Valley, 2006, California
Price: £11.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A lovely wine - big, fruity, slightly sweet with a nice crunchy berry finish went well with the Confit of Duck with Cranberry Relish on a Polenta Croute. Teh wine is a blend of 85.45 Zinfandel, 7.2% Petit Syrah, 3.7% Merlot, 2.7% Syrah and 1% Grenache. High alcohol at 15.5%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Tyrrell's Winemaker's Selection VAT 1 Semillon, 2002, Australia
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Not often a fan of Australian Semillon disliking the waxy/herbyness but this particular version sings beautifully with food. In this case Bite-Sized Salmon, Smoked Haddock and Cod Tartlets.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chakana Malbec, 2007, Argentina
Price: £5.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A simple, basic wine with an upfront richness but came across as good with the food - bite-sized beef empanadas.

Many thanks to Fells for providing such an interesting tasting. While some of the matches didn't quite work the effort in providing such an interesting array of canapés was well worth the trouble. While the Argentine Malbec was a rather disappointing end to the wine and food matches the rest of the tasting awaited - hell, they had a Room of Discovery and Room of Excellence left to explore.

[Tastings are not that suited to taking photographs, this snap, via the mobile phone, is out of focus but shows the Hugel Pinot Gris and the Butter Chicken with coriander on a tiny poppadom.]

Notes from a Laithwaites Tasting

A few wine notes from Laithwaites

Not something you read about much are the wines of Laithwaites, despite being one of the largest wine retailers in the UK. They offer wines under the laithwaites brand, The Sunday Times Wine Club, Direct Wines and the Nectar Wine Club amongst others. They delivered a mammoth 56 million bottles of wine across the UK during the last 12 months.

A little tasting a few weeks back (I'm falling behind with my note writing!), in the high Victorian Gothic splendours of Oxford Town Hall (such a welcome change from having to trundle all the way to the metropolis), offered a just under 30 wines from the companies range.

A vast majority of the wines offered are own label - just a smattering from well known names (Cloudy Bay, Royal Tokaji, Hunters for example) appear on their list. The company owns a Chateau in Bordeaux where many staff are sent to learn the intercacies of wine making. Visiting a vineyard and winery is an amazing experience and really brings home the connection between land and final product.

Shame then that the Laithwaite Sauvignon Blanc (£7.89) from this estate, Chateau La Clarière was one of the worst wines available at the tasting. Perhaps they should send me a bottle to try for the girls running the tasting were hugely enthused by it and their experiences of visiting the estate, but my notes read slightly over extracted, harsh nose, sharp acidic finish.

But other drinks were more palatable:

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Alessandro Gallici Prosecco Brut, NV, Vino Spumante, Italy.
Price: £8.89 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Gentle nose, vibrant fizz (like you were expecting something else?), frothy, fun. Tranch of peachy, appley, fruit. Good price. Alcohol 11.5%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Royal Tokaji Dry Furmint, 2006, Hungary.
Price: £10.69 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
An unusual wine with which to tempt the masses; I imagine trying is the best way to sell this (there was a wine club tasting, with the same wines as offered to me occurring simultaneously in an adjacent room) . No nose but an interesting array of flavours on the palate - clean, minerally, citrus, slightly honeyed, apricoty.

Rose Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Rocky Rombola Rosé, 2008, New South Wales, Australia
Price: £6.29 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Delicious looking colour, vibrant. Very Aussie in style, ripe fruit, full, good price. A freshness and vibrancy (that were lacking in a couple of other rosés at the tasting). Along with the fruitiness there is a nice, sharp berry edge on the finish. Alcohol 13%. £6.29.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Gran Valle de Niebla Pinot Noir, 2007, Rapel, Chile
Price: £9.15 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
From the reliable Cono Sur stable. Easy drinking, soft, but over-priced. Alcohol 13.5%.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Stony Creek Tarrango Shiraz, 2006, Big Rivers, Fleurieu & Gundagai, Australia
Price: £7.39 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
An interesting blend (70% Tarrango, 30% Shiraz) Light and fruity almost pinot in style. Tarrango on the nose, Syrah on the finish. Offers a juicy softness. Alcohol 13%. £7.39.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Tenca Tree Shiraz , 2007, Central Valley, Chile
Price: £6.29 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Deep,almost opaque in colour. Good blackberry spiced nose and decent spicy finish. Commercial,soft but nice expression. Alcohol 13%.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: San Floriano Ripasso, 2005, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Italy
Price: £11.39 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
The best red of the tasting - lovely palate, and rich, expressive nose. Plenty of tannins, concentration and ripe, stewed fruit. Good length. Alcohol 13.5%.

Cider Review/Tasting NoteCider Tasting Note: Cidre Artisanal Le Brun Brut, NV, Cidre de Bretagne, France
Price: £4.29
Not really a cider fan but this is rather nice - not 'dirty; as some ciders can be on the nose, not to alcoholic either (which is the normal region I dislike cider). Alcohol 5.5%. Sweetish fruit, dry finish £4.29.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Miranda Golden Botrytis, NV, Riverina, Australia
Price: £11.15 half bottle [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A mix of Riverina Semillon and King Valley Riesling. Fresh, treacle and orange syrup nose. Rich, full, sweet, mouth-filling, ripe and good complexity for the price. Alcohol 10%.

Many years ago I was interviewed for a job at Laithwaites essentially writing the (prodigiously large and frequent) mailing material; much to their loss I didn't get the job!

Brief Notes from the Top 100 Vins de Pays 2008

2008 Top 100 Vin de Pays Wines

Brief notes scribbled at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair in Excel of the Top 100 Vins de Pays 2008.

Of the 1,214 samples submitted to the competition tasting there were 520 red wines, 518 white and 176 rosé. Of these wines 14 trophies were awarded to six white wines, one rosé and seven reds.

"So how did the Top 100 pan out this year? As you'd expect, Vin de Pays d'Oc had the largest number in the winners' enclosure, with exactly half the wines selected - although statistically speaking, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne had a better hit rate (15 wines out of 95 entries). "
"The judges were impressed by the diversity and overall quality of the top 100, and most were surprised by what the much criticised 2007 vintage had produced. Most of them singled out rosés as the area of greatest improvement. The Merlots were also a lot better than last year, although several judges felt it was the red blends that really stood out."

From my tasting of the top 100 (not all of the 100 were tried, I should mention) it was the red blends that stood out for me. Stockist information and links are included but most wines are now out of stock; you might be able to secure stocks of follow on vintages.

White Wines

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine de la Coche, 2007, VdP du Val de Loire
[More: Adegga / Snooth]
Winner Sauvignon Blanc Trophy. 100% Sauvignon Blanc grown in Retz south of Nantes. 12% Alcohol. Grassy, green aromas. Very pure, gravelly, palate complex hints of orange. Alcohol 12%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Rive Haute Sauvignon, 2007, VdP des Côtes de Gascogne
Stockist: Adnams Price: £8.49 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
£8.49 Adnams. Rounder than the previous (south, warmer climes) good, long length. Alcohol 11.5%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: M&S Grenache Blanc, 2007, VdP d'Oc
Stockist: Marks and Spencer Price: £5.49 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Grenache Blanc Trophy and Best Wine of Show
Grenache Blanc grown around Carcassonne. Delicious stone-led palate, zesty, lemony, floral hints. A little oak aging adding complexity. 12.5% Alcohol.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine le Roc Anges Les Vieilles Vignes, 2006, VdP des Pyrénées-Orientales
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyréne Price: £11.85 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A blend of Grenache Gris (80%) and Macabeu (20%). Crisp, toasty flavours, orange and lime rind. Excellent length. Alcohol 14%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vignoble Guillaume Chardonnay Collection Réservée, 2004, VdP de Franche-Comté.
[More: Adegga / Snooth]
Chardonnay Trophy Winner. Chardonnay from 28 year-old vines. Honeyed, buttery, peachy palate. Unfiltered. Alcohol 13%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine L'Hortus Grande Cuvée Blanc, 2006, VdP du Val de Montferrand
Stockist: Les Caves de Pyréne Price: £12.40 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A mix of Chardonnay (80%), Viognier (15%) and Roussanne (5%). Crisp but rounded, full of flavour and great length. Alcohol 13.5%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Producteurs Vignoble de Gascogne Fleur de Givre Florenbelle, 2007, VdP des Côtes de Gascogne
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]. - Gros Manseng Trophy Winner
£6.99 Late harvested. Lingering, cleanly fresh, exotic was one word overheard as a description. Alcohol 11.5%.

Red Wines

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Py Merlot, 2007, VdP d'Oc
Price: £5.49 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
- Merlot Trophy Winner
From a 32ha at the foot of Mont Alaric in the Corbières region. Deeply coloured with a open, straw and blackcurrant and leaves led nose, creamy, rounded, good structure, good price.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Paul Mas La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, VdP d'Oc
Price: £7.49 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
- Cabernet Sauvignon Trophy Winner
Heavy weight bottle, full, rich, lashings of raspberry and blueberry. Great length. Alcohol 13.5%.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Camplazens Syrah, 2007, VdP d'Oc
Stockist: Majestic Price: £6.49 [More on Adegga / Snooth] - Syrah Trophy Winner
Deep, deep, colour, wonderful bacon edge aroma, violets and similar on a gorgeous palate. Plenty of cassis laced with inky fruit. Super. Alcohol 13%.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Familongue, Le Carignan de Familongue, 2007, VdP du Mont
Price: £5.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth] - Carignan Trophy Winner
Excellent packaging. 100% Carignan from 50-60 year old vines. Juicy. Not as heavy as the colour would suggest, deeply flavoured.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Camplazens Marselan, 2007, VdP d'Oc
Stockist: Majestic Price: £6.49 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
£6.49 Majestic. Very deeply coloured, nice lifted aromas and a rather tasty, curranty, palate.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine de La Jasse Vieilles Vignes, 2006, VdP d'Oc
Stockist: ay and Wheeler Price: £9.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Red brick in colour but a lovely balanced palate and lingering flavours.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Phillippe Nusswitz Miratus, 2005, VdP d'Oc
[More on Adegga / Snooth] - Best Red Wine of Show
Striking packaging. Blend of Syrah (60%), Grenache (20%) and Mourvèdre (20%) vines are grown in the foothills of the Cevennes between the Languedoc and the Rhône. Wonderful nose, gorgeous palate, complex but not heavy. Sadly no details of stockists or price.

Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting

A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours - delving through recipes from books and magazines with the aim of matching 5 dishes to 5 different wines. These were all white wines from the Hugel stable in Alsace ready for the Twitter Tasting organised in America but stretching across to these shores and down to France with Etienne Hugel himself participating.

With each course to be as simple as possible a couple of matches were easy: with the Gewürztraminer a foie gras (with toast and a little fig chutney) and with the Pinot Blanc an Alsace speciality (or the closest we could locate) an onion tart. I read somewhere that coconut macaroons were a sensational match to sweet Gewürztraminers, so that was the final dish sorted which left a course for the mixed grape blend and another for a top-notch Riesling. The host, Rob, insisted on a pork dish and I came up with Pork Medallions with Mustard Mash with Apple and a Cider Reduction. A triumphant match as it transpired. Scallops from Borough Market formed the opening course; which I was unexpectedly asked to cook!

A few shavings of fresh ginger, a little garlic, slithers of a mild, fresh red chilli and a sprinkling of dried coriander were added to the pan before the scallops turned rubbery. A splosh of white wine and a pinch of pepper, a quick shake of the pan and a squeeze of lemon and then out to the expectant guests. To be honest I thought I had overdone the spice but nods all round seemed to indicate a success!

Twitter Tasting - table

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Ginger Beer Taste Test

ginger beer taste test

A fun idea we thought - a taste test of a non-alcoholic drink style. Duly armed with 5 lightly chilled Ginger Beers and six willing and thirsty volunteers the follow we did deduce!

Each ginger beer was tasted blind and ranked out of 5, with 0 being undrinkable and 5 being damn tasty. The average scores are detailed below with the products listed in taste order. The tasters, who incidentally were of a wide span of ages (from early teens to 'getting on a bit'), were encouraged to write a few words some of which are quoted.

Ginger Beer 1 - Whole Earth Sparkling Organic Ginger (can) Score 3.6
"lacks body/light", "fizzy, long after-taste", "subtle taste, pale in colour" "my favourite"

Ginger Beer 2 - Fentimans Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 2.6
"odd smell" "really strong taste of ginger", "ginger kick", "strong after-taste"

Ginger Beer 3 - Bunderberg Diet Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 1.6
"lemon like smell", "cloudy, very lemony", "too much lemon", "a ginger kick on the finish but why so lemony?"

Ginger Beer 4 - Belvoir Fruit Farms Organic Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 0.8
"smells horrid", "dirty water smell", "unpleasant", "chemicals, burning aftertaste", "yuck!"

Ginger Beer 5 - Old Jamacia Ginger Beer (can) Score 3.4
"Best, if slightly sweet", "quite nice", "very sweet, very pleasant, syrupy"

Prior to organising this tasting I had tried the Belvoir Fruit Farms version; and was astounded at just how terrible the drink was - a smell of dirty washing up water, and an unbelievably bad, dirty, taste made worse by the ginger kick that is suddenly sprung on you. So bad, so undrinkable yet sold at a premium at various delis. I actually thought I had an off bottle but it would seem not.

Personally either of the two canned products I would be happy to drink as they are over ice. The strong ginger kick in the Fentimans would be my choice for a cocktail mix, as in some of the Pimms cocktails.

With thanks to the various members of the extended Barrow-clan for conducting the tasting.

Ses'Fikile Wines, South Africa

Sesfikile Ladies

Ses'fikile Wines is owned and controlled by empowered women, three pioneering ex-school teachers actually, in one of the largest black townships, Khayelitsha, in the Western Cape.

Although they don't own their own vineyards the wines are made in conjunction with the winemakers from the Flagstone winery.

Showing a distinct 'estate' character and an over-riding style, the wines come highly recommended. The style encapsulates a new-world level of sweet upfront fruit married with old-world structure - exactly what one should expect from a decent South African wine.

Ses'fikile 'we have arrived'. These three words are built on a foundation of personal and communal struggle, yet they also look forward positively, with the hope of a better tomorrow. Most importantly the words sparkle with a sense of adventure. This is a pioneering exploration of new South African opportunity in one of our most glamorous and exciting industries."

Other wines from Ses'Fikile are listed by Marks and Spencers.

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Food and Wine Matching at The FrontLine

FrontLine wine tasting Luckily my diary for last Saturday was empty¹; so the invite for a meal at the FrontLine Restaurant was taken up with gusto. The evening was advertised as a 'Special evening with Malcolm Gluck and John Taylor'; a food and wine matching event to all intense and purposes. Malcolm Gluck is the wine buyer for the Front Line restaurant.

While Malcolm Gluck was obviously there, entertaining us with a great evening-long impression of a drunken Worzel Gummidge, I never did find out who John Taylor was.

I did run into the Cooksister, whose skillful hand with the compact camera provided the images here and had an all too brief chat with Fraser Lewry who writes over at BlogJam and is eating his way through the alphabet over on the Guardian's Word of Mouth (where you can also find me occasionally).

We also had the pleasure - which impressed the rest on our table no end - to be interviewed by the delightful Chris. We were forewarned that "Chris is keen to record a radio feature on food bloggers for BBC Radio 5 Live" and to "come equipped with wit". This I think we did with gusto but perhaps I should mention (if on the off-chance I actually make it through the cutting to the broadcast) that it was quite late in the evening; and the wine had been quite free flowing.

The meal:

Aperitif: Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, France - Grassy with a touch of Lychee and a nice softness. Enjoyable.

Starter: Cock-a-Leekie Soup served with Voyager Estate Margaret River Semillon, 1998, Australia. A revelation and really a sublime match. Normally I dislike waxy aged Semillon, and the grape can be dull without age, but when matched with the soup a real harmonious combination resulted.

Main Course: Boiled Beef with a pearl Barley and carrot Broth, Parsley and Beetroot Dumplings accompanied by Fairview Estate Agostinelli Barbera, 2006, South Africa. A couple on our table didn't enjoy this at all. I can see why but I found it very interesting. It is big, ripe, perhaps a little over-extracted but with good structure and acidity. It cut through the rather mouth-clogging, unusual, dumplings wonderfully. Not totally convinced it was a good match with the salty beef. Interesting grape variety though with high alcohol.

Cheeses: I forget the cheeses - something from Ireland, a Lancashire and a Stilton I think. The wine, a Segna Le Roc des Domaine Anges Cotes du Roussillon, 2006, was not good. A heavily accentuated 'feral' aroma (I think I used the word 'shit' during the BBC interview). Underneath this though was an interesting wine full of dark fruits. I found it undrinkable.

Dessert: A Bread and Butter Pudding matched with a Don PX Toro Albala Dulce de Pasas Montilla-Morales, 2004, Spain. The pud was very flavoursome, which we put down to a layer of Quince jam. It was a typical English pudding, big and filling. It failed to match the wine which, while excellent in its own right, was extremely big and rich. The sweetness was enough to be a dessert in its own right. I would have served it with some simple biscuits or matched something lighter and less sweet with the Bread and Butter Pud.

¹ - for which read 'rubbish social life'

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Two Wines From San Lorenzo

morellino de scansano

A delightful evening spent with The Cooksister delving into some foodie delights courtesy of Italian-deli site San Lorenzo.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Fattoria Mantellassi Morellino de Scansano, 2006, Tuscany, Italy.
Available from San Lorenzo for £9.73.

A super burst of ripe, almost sweet, fruit initially with plenty of cherry and blackcurrant flavours. Perfectly drinkable but could do with a little more age to come together - being open a-while helped in opening out the palate adding hints of spice and vanilla to a really nice wine.

Mostly Sangiovese plumped up with a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvaisa Nero and Canaiolo Nero. Alcohol 13.5%. The cheese pictured I believe is Bitto that worked rather nicely with both the Chianti and the Scansano.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Fattoria di Luiano Chianti Classico 2005, Chianti, Italy.
Available from San Lorenzo for £10.83.

A spirited acidity marks this out as typically Chianti - a wine that proved its worth in matching the various Italian cheeses available on the night. Vibrant and crisp finish with a nice lingering flavour. Red fruits and cherries to the fore here with an edge of rusticity giving character.

Alcohol 13%. Mostly Sangiovese with a small amount of Canaiolo.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

In general Morellino di Scansano is less acidic than Chianti and, coming from a warmer area, are broader and with more sweet fruit. This is born out by comparing these two wines - the acidity in the Chianti was much more marked with the fruit being fleshier and riper in the Morellino. Both are great although my preference is for the Morellino (that riper fruit was a winner) if only on price.

Prosecco and Food

L'OrtolanNow of course you don't have Michelin starred food at home - or maybe you do and it's just me that has to slum it - but these fine-wine/meet the winemaker dinners are a superb opportunity to sample high quality cuisine and enjoy some innovative wine and food matching combinations at the same time.

They do have relevance on a more everyday level in that the matches can be 'replicated' at home with more humble fare. At the very least they can provide indications of the versatility of the wines in question as I discovered at a Bisol Prosecco dinner held at L'Ortolan in Berkshire the other week.

The menu is detailed below. The wine and various notes were scribbled at the time on the back of the napkin. Sadly no images of any of the beautifully presented dishes are available.

One of the most interesting and 'extreme' matches was the combination of roasted pork with a Prosecco. The Cartizze bottling, with its hint of sweetness, would not have been my initial choice of wine to accompany such a dish, but the Roasted Loin and Braised Shoulder of Suckling Pig had an inherent sweetness and made for a sublime match with the wine. The apple butter sauce and sage gnocchi, served alongside, picked up similar flavour components in the wine. A heavenly match.

Bisol Dinner, L'Ortolan, 23rd March 2007

  • Chefs Appetiser
    no wine with this frothy chicken soup. Really, really good.

  • Ballottine of Organic Salmon, Herb Creme Fraiche, Purple Potato Mousse and Horseradish Relish

    with Bisol 'Garnei' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2004
    The horseradish was a revelation. So accustom am I to the shop brought generic jars that the flavour here was astounding - fresh, vibrant with a burst of heat on the finish but not at all over-powering or burning. The Prosecco was in perfect balance with the food, refreshing the palate after the horseradish and complimenting the salmon superbly. It would seem that there are more options to matching wine with fish than Sauvignon Blanc!

  • Bisol Cartizze Label
    Foie Gras and pan d'Epices 'sandwich' with Quince Jelly

    served with Bisol 'Duca di Dolle' Passito
    The Duca di Dolle is the sweet wine in the Bisol line-up. (A substitue for Sauternes, the usual partner for Foie Gras). Consternation from some unadventurous quarters of a dessert wine served before the 'main course' but, for me, a perfect partner to the smooth and 'meltingly lovely' foie gras. Slicing through the 'sandwich' revealing a little smoked bacon adding further complexity to the flavour. These myriad tastes lifted the wine, imparting an astounding spicy, ginger edge. It all added to the gorgeousness of the whole.

  • Roast Monkfish, Homemade Linguine, Mussel and Mild Curry Cream

    Bisol 'Molera' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2006 - a still wine.
    The richness of the previous course did effect the flavour of this still wine; unless you cleansed the palate with a glass or two of water the sweetness of the Passito would make any still, dry wine taste a little flat. To me this is the least inspiring of the Bisol line-up but it worked very nicely with the perfectly cooked Monkfish, with its Sauvignon Blanc-like crispness, but it lacks a little 'something'.

  • Roasted Loin and Braised Shoulder of Suckling Pig, Sage Gnocchi, Apple Bitter Sauce, Roasting Juices
    with Bisol 'Cartizze' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2005
    An unusual pairing - a meat dish with a Prosecco. Even the Italians on our table were at pains to state that this is not a typical Italian combination. But it worked stunningly well - the sweetness of the pork was simply superb with the wines touch of residual sugar. The apple puree matching with similar flavours in the wine. A surprising but welcome pairing.

  • Pre-Dessert

    A rhubarb compote with a ginger and champagne cream topped with a rhubarb ice. Wonderous.

  • Lemon Possett, White Chocolate Mousse, Meringues and Lemon Zest Confit
    with Bisol 'Crede' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, 2005
    The least successful match of the evening. The wine was too dry and too delicate in flavour to match the sweetness of the dish and the vibrant lemon flavours. Was this a case of 'oh, we have one more wine to squeeze in'? The Bisol Duca di Dolle Passito, the sweet wine from the Foie Gras course was a hugely superior match. The dish though was 'divine'. The Crede is a lovely wine by itself but just a little too dry for this dessert.

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Howard Park Wines at Hotel Du Vin

The Wines of Howard Park, AustraliaTo my right is Michael Kerrigan winemaker for Howard Park and on my left sits Henri Chapon, something very important in the Du Vin hotel chain. I polish off the last of the aperitif – Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2005 – as the first course arrives.

Du Vin hosts regular wine making dinners across the estate this, covering the wines of Western Australia’s Howard Park wines, just happened to be in their Henley branch – built in part of the old Brakspear Brewery.

Being seated next to the winemaker was a coup; had a great chat about his aims for the estate, his constraints (more terroir based than anything) , his passions (a white wine lover) and his hates (don’t mention Pinot Gris!), screw-caps verses cork (“who cares? The debate is over”) and future plans (“Nebbiolo and Tempranillo; but it takes an age to get cuttings into WA”). And it’s nice to get his views on each wine as they were poured.

Howard Park is the premium range; the more familiar Madfish Bay comes from the same people. Grapes are sourced from two distinct regions that of Margaret River south of Perth in Western Australia and the lesser known Mount Barker down on the south coasts aptly named Great Southern region. While the soils are similar – for those who relish in such things it is a mix of gravely loams and loamy sands – the climate between the two are where the variations arise. While Margaret River is maritime influenced by the warm currents from the Indian Ocean, Mount Barker is cooler taking its influences from the cooler waters to the south.

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ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition 2006.

Not to everyone's taste is Pinotage - South Africa's own unique red grape variety. I wasn't a fan for a long time hating that distinctive rusty nail edge that pervaded so many wines. But quality, that many put down to the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage competition for which many producers crave, has improved over the years.

I was invited for a second year to the Top 10 Pinotage London tasting last month. The tasting, followed by a rather nice lunch, was attended by several of the winning winemakers no doubt in town for the London Wine Fair in addition to this tasting.

Wines listed below with more details on the day at Wine Sediments

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Alsace Wines From The House Of Leon Beyer.

Leon Beyer
An invite to join fellow bloggers at the London-based Wine and Dine Society Alsace tasting is not one I could ignore; eight wines from the house of Leon Beyer in Alsace on the 9th floor of a hotel tucked behind Victoria Railway Station. What I didn't realise is that the society is actually an off-shoot of Benson Fine Wines, but you wouldn't know this from the tasting - no pressure to buy or any mention of it at all to be honest. None of the tasting wines are actually listed for sale on the Benson website, which may explain the lack of sales patter.

Cost for the evening was £30; great value considering the cost of some of the wines available. The food was a little basic (bread, a little salad and two slices of savoury tart) and didn't really measure up to the 'dine' portion of the name and certainly doesn't compare to the spread offered by Ultimate Wines at their similarly styled tastings.

Brief notes to each of the wines are below but for those who find ready such notes a touch dull... don't bother with the Pinot Noir (why do they continue with Pinot Noir at all in Alsace?), the Riesling Cuvee des Comtes d'Eguisheim is drinking superbly but has years of promise ahead, while the Pinot Gris 2000 Cuvee des Comtes d'Eguisheim and the Gewurztraminer Cuvee Comtes d'Eguisheim 2000 display the house style (a touch of austerity) to the palate and aroma beautifully and are heartily recommended. Finally the sweeter wines - Vendages Tardive and Selection de Grains Nobles - while stunningly delicious are seriously expensive. If you can afford them, then great. If you are poor like me then....

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Top 100 Vin De Pays Tasting

The great and the good of the UK wine world (and no that doesn't include me) tasted a few wines earlier in the year and came up with the Top 100 Vin de Pays. More than a few wines actually; more like over 1,000. As last year the winning wines were available for tasting at the London Wine and Spirits Fair last week. Reflecting the poor quality harvest in 2004 the 16 judges chose not to award trophies for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Viognier. As the white wines were mostly from the 2005 vintage they showed better.

For me it was the whites, especially from the more obscure varietal end, that excited. A stunningly delicious Rousanne from Domaine Sainte Rose stood out (Charles Simpson, owner of Sainte Rose is third from the right in the photo) as did the Rolle (aka Vermentino) from Domaine des Lauriers. Both offer a great array of complex and interesting flavours; really I can't recommend them more highly.

For the reds a Cabernet Franc (Carnaval) and a blend of Cabernet and Syrah (Mas des Bressades) led the pack. The former is a little expensive at around fifteen quid but worth a punt if you are feeling generous but both were eclipsed by the superb La Crois Cascaillou that hit the spot with its blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

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Framingham Wines, New Zealand.

More wines from the 25th Anniversary New Zealand Wine Tasting at Lords, these from Framingham Wines in Marlborough. The company name is taken from the village of Framingham, Norfolk in the UK. This small village was the ancestral home of the Company’s founder, Rex Brooke-Taylor. The first wine made under the Framingham label, a Riesling, was released in 1994. The vineyards however date back to the early 1980’s where Rex Brooke-Taylor first started planting the river bed soils of the Estate just outside Renwick. Varietals from Framingham cover Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. I managed to try three whites at the tasting.

Wine Tasting Note Framingham Dry Riesling, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Approximately £11.
The only Riesling sampled at the tasting that displayed that elusive and haunting kerosene aroma. Lime and a mineral, steely edge to the palate. Finishes in a long, dry finish. Held more interests and complexity than many other punchy, lime dominated Rieslings.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

Wine Tasting Note: Framingham Pinot Gris, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Approximately £11.
A delicious weighty rendition. Pears, apples and a hint of citrus, an Alsace-like touch of spice and musk. Excellent balanced. Rounded and a small level of sweetness on the finish.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Wine Tasting Note Framingham Gewürztraminer, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Around £11.
Not an overly flowery nose but layers of ginger and spice play on the nose. A distinct touch of sweetness which adds to the rich texture. Apricot and lychee. Lovely weight and a delicious chocolatly finish. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Maven Wines, New Zealand

I was bowled over with the Maven Wine range - from the superb packaging through to the flavours of the wines themselves. Based in the rapaura area of Marlborough this is the first vintage made under the guiding hand of the unique Mike Just - he of the eye-patch, Plantagenet descent and suit of armour. These notes were taken at the 25th Anniversary New Zealand Wine Tasting at Lords

Wine Tasting Note Maven Wines Chardonnay, 2005, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Approximately £10.
Here the grapes are purchased from other growers and average 20 years. Just a smidgen of oak influence here with 10% in new oak and 10% in old. Certainly fruit-driven with the oak underpinning the whole. Citrus and orange flavours enliven the palate.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Maven Wines Sauvignon Blanc, 2005, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Approximately £10.
Six different blocks output are blended into this. The vines are still young at just three years old, but with selection and post-fermentation blending produce a tight, crisp but lively wine perhaps lacking a touch in complexity (young vines) - still bright, crisp, vivacious.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

I was lucky to sample the yet to be released oak aged Chardonnay. While they have engaged in battonage and full oak treatment the balance was spot on. Hard to fully pronounce on a wine that isnt going to be released for six months but it seemed damn good to me!

Wine Tasting Note Maven Wines Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Around £10.
I love a good Pinot Gris here we have a good weight, broad delicious flavours and good balance. Nice golden hue to the colour and a goodly amount of pear and honey aromas. Peach and honeyed-apple with a sprinkling of spice, coupled with a good creamy texture, provide the interest in a broad, full palate. All this squeezed from the seven year old vines.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100

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New Zealand Wine Tasting.

Just been reading through last Tuesday's scribbled notes; some stunningly good Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminers kick off the list. I concentrated on whites for the simple reason that I ran out of time before I got to try the reds. Had a welcome diversion from the 'best of' tables with an introduction to Mike Just a winemaker who took the 25th Anniversary New Zealand Wine Tasting as an opportunity to launch his own range (Clayridge Vineyards) to the UK. He is also winemaker for Maven Wines and Auntsfield Estate which I also had the pleasure of slurping, spitting and scribbling my way through.

It was the Maven range that really stood out - the packaging is superb, each wine in the range labeled with vibrant photographs of local huts, barns or bridges in an over-saturated, blurred style. Sadly the website is down otherwise I would direct you to look before I write-up the notes; I will have to scan the images in. The stuff inside the bottles wasn't bad either!

Mike's passion for his job and his wines was very evident. He has a great story to tell, not only does he sport an eye-patch, loves donning a full suit of armour and waving around a sword but he has plans to build a medieval house on the edge of his estate. He also claims to be descended from Edward III one of the Plantagenet's.

South Africa Mega Tasting - Wine Recommendations.

The biggest South African tasting in the UK ever I believe. A mass of producers from every region offering wine in all the permutations you can think of. Confronted by the huge number of producers and wines I stuck to the generic tasting tables - those covering the Platters Guide Top Ten, Chenin Blanc and stickies.

"The cap's wine-growing regions are influenced by the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The beneficial maritime conditions this creates, like regular coastal fog and cooling sea breezes, combine with a mild Mediterranean climate, distinctive and varied topography, diverse soils and adequate sunshine. These influences are also the story of wine. Each resulting mesoclimate produces a wine that is different from any other wine. And every quality winemaker is looking to make wine which reflects a unique sense of place."

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Rioja In Retail Tasting.

I am falling behind in writing up all the tastings I have been to recently. This small tasting, dedicated to just one region and with the wines readily available on the high street was a joy. Split between two rooms one area covered the supermarkets and the larger retailers, while the other offered wines from the smaller independent. It was with this group that I spent most of my time.

I have excluded the old style leathery, dried fruit Riojas for more fruit driven wines. Six wines here with a seventh covered a while ago. The Dioniso Ruiz Ijalba, (2002, Rioja, Spain) was a joy made all the more special by being made from an extremely rare variety.

The Independent has coverage of this tasting written by Anthony Rose as does the Observer Magazine written by Tim Atkin.

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Mitchelton Wines Australia.

"Mitchelton is situated on the banks of the Goulburn River in the heart of Central Victoria. Thirty five years of meticulous attention to viticulture and winemaking have shaped an intimate knowledge of our vineyard. The unique climate and soils of this vineyard are the essence of the flavour, balance and texture of our wines."

I seem to be having a fling with the Antipodes at the moment. One minute New Zealand, next Australia. This estate was founded in 1973 and has the prominent tower making the winery one of Australia's most architecturally fascinating. The tower rises 55m above the cellar door giving an "inspiring view of the vineyards set on the meander of the pristine Goulburn River". The wines ain't bad either. All are available from Bibendum.

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Spy Valley Wines, New Zealand.

I ask you, just how excited am I by these wines? I have been harping on about them enough recently but was holding off posting full tasting notes due to Wine Blogging Wednesday. Why would this make a difference? I hear you mumble; 'cause the theme this month is New World Pinot Noir and there just happens to be one in the range. And its a goodie.

The Spy Valley estate did not get off to a great start. Back in 1992 Bryan Johnson (a wealthy Wellington stockbroker - aren't they all!) planted 200 acres on the edge of Marlborough, New Zealand. But was forced to replant almost immediately as phylloxera swept through the vineyard. Proving that wine-making is all about experimentation depending on local conditions - it is after-all farming and thus dependent on so many variables - the first two vintages were cropped too high. "We reduced our cropping levels in 2002, and then started to get very serious about quality in 2003."

From then the estate prospered and now covers 365 acres and has to buy in Sauvignon Blanc grapes to cope with demand. In 2004 the winery made 58,000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and another 18,000 cases of other varietals.

In the UK the wines are available from Bibendum and several independents (a couple of which I have listed). Surprisingly for a boutique producer, they are not excessively priced.

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Wines from Matetic Vineyards, Chile.

The second 'discovery' at the Explore Chile Tasting was the range of wines presented by Matetic Vineyards. It was the packaging that caught my eye; good shelf presence as they say.

The vineyards are planted in the San Antonio region. This has a cool climate being 18km from the Pacific. The estate has 60 hectares under vine, all of which were planted in 1999. The grapes are grown organically. There are two ranges the Corralillo and the EQ (equilibrio/equilibrium).

Notes taken at Explore Chile Trade Tasting September 2005.

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Wines From Casa Marin, Chile.

Vina Casa Marin is located just 4 km from the sea in the San Antonio Valley Region, making it the closest vineyard in Chile to the Pacific Ocean. The unique climatic exposure and wide variety of soils found here give birth to a unique viticultural terrior modified, as it is, by the cooling breezes from the Ocean.

"We allow nature to tell us when the time is right for picking. Our aim is to let the wine reflect the terrior where it comes from and delight us with its aromas and textures." Maria Luz Marin, winemaker.

Notes taken at Explore Chile Trade Tasting September 2005.

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The Mountain Valley Range.

A range of wines, just launched, aiming to encapsulate a more international flavour and create a wine 'brand'.

I wasn't expecting much from these to be honest. Another range of cheap Eastern European wines with 'rustic' and 'requires food' appearing in the less than positive tasting notes. Well I was surprised. The reds were every bit as drinkable and 'international' in style as you could hope. You might not try them and immediately think 'Montenegro' but then what would but in terms of quality and drinkability they certainly held their own. The whites were less successful. I thought the Sauvignon Blanc might be suffering from some poor wine-making while the Chardonnay, well, just wasn't that great.

At the time of writing there are no listed UK stockist of these wines. But they are going to be served at Fifpro World X1 player Awards a 'mega-do' with 1500 guests.

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Ultimate Wines Dessert Wine Tasting June 2005.

The tastings held in Marlow and London by Ultimate Wines are becoming a regular fixture on the wine tasting circuit. The last tasting I managed to get to covered Dessert Wines. With a varied and eclectic range to taste and match with various foods it was a superb tasting.

Would you believe Guacamole was the surprise hit of the evening? I think it must be the inherent fat in the dish - acting similar to that in cheese, with the acidity cutting through the richness. You really should try it once!

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Domaine Zind Humbrecht Circle of Wine Writers Tasting.

Olivier HumbrechtDomaine Zind Humbrecht Circle of Wine Writers Tasting 14th June 2005
Kettners Restaurant, Soho, London.

Zind Humbrecht - perhaps one of the top producers in Alsace produces a host of differing wines all under biodynamic principles. A superb tasting hosted by the Circle of Wine Writers had Olivier Humbrecht MW (France's only live in French MW) discussing these wines, his drive for quality and the vineyard experiments he has overseen to propel his wines to the upper echelons of excellence.

Humbrechts have been producing wines in Alsace since 1620, although the present domaine was only created in 1959 when Leonard Humbrecht married Genevi�ve Zind, thereby uniting the two families` vineyards. Today it is unquestionably one of the star estates, producing rich and expressive wines that reflect their individual sites and terroirs.

The domaine has 40 hectares of vineyards with vines in 4 Grands Crus areas - Rangen, Goldert, Hengst and Brand. Production is generally 130,000-140,000 bottles a year.

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The Bulgarian Five.

Five wines from Bulgaria as supplied by Churchill Wines a new company concentrating on the importation of quality wines.

Unfortunately, as happens occasionally, the strawberry coloured rose had a little cork taint so I have not reviewed that specific bottle. The other five wines were fine and demonstrated just how individual and distinctive wines from Bulgaria can be.

There is a excellent site dedicated to the wines of Bulgaria that gives details of the fascinating history of the country and a few of the other producers.
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Pic Wines Tasting

PIC Wines screenshot
PIC Wines screenshot
The plan was to scoot up to London for an hour or two at the PIC Wines tasting before a jaunt down the Northern Line to join Planet of the Grapes for their first public tasting. Sadly the, slightly chaotic, PIC tasting went on too long - I had to give the excellent array of wines full attention after all - so I ran out of time and didn't make the second session. Sorry to the Planet-people; hopefully next time.

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Three Tasting Notes - Vin de Pays Trophy Winners.

Of the 12 wines awarded Trophies in the Vins de Pays Top 100 for 2005 three really stood out. Two were 'first tastes' for me - the competitions Best White of Show was one, the Pinot Noir champion was the other. The third wine, a Cabernet Franc, I have raved about several times but this is a new vintage, and only the second from the estate.

Miquel Viognier, Best White of Show & Viognier Trophy
Miquel Viognier
Wine Tasting Note: Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier, 2004, VdP d'Oc, France.
Retail Price 6.99.
A full on rush of nutty apricots leaps from the glass while a weighty palate, fresh and crisp, reveals sherbet and a dash of spice. Superb. Alcohol 13.5%. Production of 84,000 bottles.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100

Laurent Miquel
"Obviously we are delighted with the result and proud to have five wines featured in the Top 100. We are specialists in Viognier and now have 25ha in production. The wine proves that low yields and careful oak aging with top-quality Viogner fruit can give really interesting and exciting results."

Guillaume Pinot Noir Pinot Noir Trophy
Guillaume Pinot Noir
Wine Tasting Note: Guillaume Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes, 2003, VdP de Franche-Comte, France. Available from Ballantynes of Cowbridge 11.49.
"Bloody Good!" exclaimed John. How right he is. Superb, huge drinkability, lovely fruit on the palate supported by generous tannins. Big and characterful. Alcohol 12.5%. Production of 14,800 bottles.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Xavier Guillaume
"The standard of this competition was already high last year, when we were selected as part of the Top 100, and is even more so this year. So I am over the moon to have won this trophy. there's a real interest in France to use this competition to show just how high the quality of VIns de Pays can be."

Les Tois Poules, Cabernet Franc Trophy
Les 3 Poules Cabernet Franc
Wine Tasting Note: Baronnie de Bourgade Les 3 Poules Cabernet Franc, 2004, VdP des Cotes du Thongue, France.
Retail price around 5.
I am delighted that my friends down at 3 Poules have been awarded a trophy for this wine. More weight and depth than a Loire Cab. Franc this has great character, super depth and a fruit led spiciness that demonstrates its southern French origins. Alcohol 13.5%. Production of 4,500 bottles.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100

Ruth Parker de Latude
"We are really DELIGHTED to have won this pize! Especially as this is only our second harvest, this really is very encouraging. For us it's like scaling Mount Everest."

The full list of Vin De Pays Trophy Winners was reported here last April.

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Wines from Quinta de Chocapalha.

Chocapalha Estate
Chocapalha Estate
I have just discovered a superb array of wines from a Portugese Estate. Purely by chance we stumbled upon the Chocapalha estate at the London Wine Fair yesterday where the delightful Alice and Sandra Tavares da Silva took us through their small range.

Sandra, the daughter of Alice, is the wine maker both here and at Quinta Vale D. Maria. Chocapalha is 50 hectare estate, purchased and replanted in the late 1980s with the first commercial vintage released in 2000. Small production here with 30-35,000 cases annually. The red varieties are hand-selected and foot-trodden separately in stone lagares before fermentation at low temperatures.

Only Corney and Barrow currently stock these wines in the UK. They also list wines from Quinta Vale d. Maria. Out comes my credit card

Quinta de Chocapalha Vinho Branco, 2004, Estramadura, Portugal.
Corney & Barrow 8.87.
A delicious crisp blend of Chardonnay (60%), Vitel (10%) and barrel-aged Arinto (30%). Minerally, fresh, long lasting flavours, upfront fruit. Delicious. Only let down by being a touch expensive. Production of just 3,000 cases.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, Estramadura, Portugal.
Corney & Barrow 8.99.
I believe this is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Very international in design (while still retaining the individualistic Estate-style) with immediate sweet, blackberry fruit before the intense complexity bursts over the palate trailing plenty of tannin in its wake. Production amounts to just 6,000 bottles.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Vinho Tinto, 2002, Estramadura, Portugal.
Corney & Barrow 7.64.
This is a superb blend of Touriga Naional, Tinta Roriz and Alicante Bouschet. A stunning array of complex flavours, concentrated, rich. Still quite tannic, drinkable now but with several years to go. Excellent.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Quinta de Chocapalha, Chocapalha, 2001, Estramadura, Portugal.
Corney & Barrow 12.98.
The estates flagship wine utilising their highest quality grapes. A blend of 60% Touriga Naional and 40% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). Excellent. Chocolate spice nose with spicy black fruit flavours. Rich, concentrated, a touch of oak, not over-bearing, depth and complexity in droves. Excellent long lasting flavours.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100

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Five Spanish Rosés.

Enate Rosado Label
Enate Rosado Label
Slurping across the Rosado table at the 16th Annual Wines From Spain Trade Fair unearthed these five rosés. After Rioja Spain always means to me 'rosé' They are all worth sampling although as you can see I was most impressed by two, one from Penedès, the other from Navarra. They have just the right combination of wonderful fresh flavour, full summer fun, plus a little dash of seriousness that really captured the essance of Spanish rosado.

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Ultimate Wines Austrian Tasting.

Austria has to be one of the most under-represented countries on the nations shelves. Oddbins lists just one. Tescos search facility found a German Riesling(!) while the Wine Cellar and Sainsbury's list none at all. Very disappointing.

The wines of Austria are of world class quality encompassing, not only the sweet wines and Rieslings most of us are aware of, but also a collection of unique varieties and individual expressions of more well known grapes. To purchase any of these however it is to the independent sector you must turn.

With timely coincidence Ultimate Wine Company announced their latest evening tasting was to be a fascinating collection of... wait for it... Austrian wines!

We began with a quaint little Rotgipfler as an aperitif. Rotgipfler is one of those local grapes - that makes nicely weighty, dry wines that remind me of a Pinot Gris somewhat with its subtle spiciness. The Biegler Rotgipfler Brindlbach 2003 was very pleasant (very enjoyable in fact) but a touch pricey at £9.99 a bottle. As before the wines below were tasted in various groups, first by themselves and then with a delicious array of cheeses, cold meats, breads and the like; the majority were Austrian specialities just to retain that authentic flavour to the whole enterprise.

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Ultimate Wine Company Italian Wine Tasting - 14 wines reviewed.

Another superb array of wines put on by the Ultimate Wine Company on the 19th March. None of these wines will disappoint - individualism, character and food-friendly drinkability combine in a range of wines expressing the great diversity that Italy has to offer. The evening began with a superb aperitif - Campodelsole Pagadebit di Romagna, 2003. No details of price unfortunately but the grape and wine name - Pagadebit literally means 'pays the bills' - set the session off on a humourous tone. The grape is also known as Bombino Bianco and was a new one to me.

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