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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."

Conan the Barbera

conan the barbera wine bottle

Some may feel the name is little more than cheesy. Others take a different track- a touch of much welcomed humour in the swirl of pomposity that comprises the world of wine.

So Conan the Barbera it is; a bottle ordered (from FindWine) simply on its pun-drenched title.

Love the name, love the wine (hate the dirty, tatty look to the label). A damn decent Italian red. A barbera at the richer, robust end of the scale. Still offering a rustic edge, a bright acidic sword-thrust on the finish, something four-legged, gripped between those muscular thighs on the nose; the man's important bits wrapped in an expensive silk cloth.

It is rich, big, rather beefy... oh my; is there a word that implies 'big' enough to encapsulate this bottle? Oh, yeh there is... Conan. More attractive than an Arnold Schwarzenegger incarnation I should add...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Conan The Barbera, 2007, Barbera d'Asti, Piemonte, Italy.

Price: £12.99 from FindWine [More on Adegga / Snooth]

Astride a horse, rides a sweaty Conan, big and muscled, clad in the briefest of silk loin cloths. Alcohol 14.5%.

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

The rear label, mucky design apart, is a blast:

"Well done! You picked it up and hey, you're reading the back label. I like you already, you're my type of person - daring, not too conventional... great.

Now can I ask you a personal question? - do you like big, muscly Italians? If that's a no, well it was nice to know you, if just for a short while (sigh)

But if you DO, then I had a go at creating this energetic, bold, single vineyard Barbera from the hills just above Nizza in NW Italy, just for us.

It is a big, sappy, juicy, very focused, deliciously current in the middle and intriguingly minerally around the edges.

It hasn't been fined, filtered or faffed about with, which means it will throw a sediment - so just keep your teeth together when you get to the very last drop of the very last glass! "

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009

Now liver is one of those dividing dishes - you either love it or can't abide the stuff. Me? I'm firmly in the lover category. One of my favourite food/wine matches is 'Venetian Style' Liver served with Sauvignon Blanc; I'll have to blog about it one day.

But this is a red wine, another dividing food stuff though in being made from Pinotage, but a different style of Pinotage, the original 'coffee and chocolate' pinotage. An experiment which began 9 years ago to discover a style of Pinotage that would appeal to younger drinkers has created a unique style, the launch of which each year involves a vineyard party. Gone are the rustic edges, the off-putting rusty/rubber dimension (not that all Pinotage arrives with these characteristics of course) and in comes a toasted coffee and chocolate led palate, all down to toasting the oak in which the wine is aged apparently. There is a ripeness, a soft drinkability, a depth of sumptuousness that doesn't really overpower the pinotage-ness of it all.

I can't say I really picked up on any overly powerful coffee-style flavours being more entranced by the smokey, dark fruits and pepper notes. It's young so expect more pruney edges to develop with age. It also went superbly with my liver dish!

Last year, while in South Africa, I was lucky enough to pick up a recipe collection by famed South African chef Reuben Riffel (Reuben Cooks, which I don't think is available outside South Africa). Each dish comes with a wine recommendation and it just so happens the Pan-Fried Liver with Colcannon and Brown-Onion and Marsala Gravy was paired with Diemersfontein Pinotage! Result!

For those no-liver indulgers (bet you hate Marmite too!) the wine would be equally good with steak, game, and as Fiona Beckett suggests Moroccan spiced quail. For me though its the liver...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Diemersfontein Pinotage, 2009, Wellington, South Africa

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Jack the Ripper: Robbie Coltrane largeness, blooded fruits, dragon scales(?), broken carriage wheels, but overly smooth and lusting as Johnny Depp, sans Absinthe. No Opium.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Continue reading "Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009" »

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... "

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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Eight Portuguese Wines - A Snapshot of Portugal

wine glasses at the Hotel du Vin Portuguese Wine Tasting

The end of the month sees the wine-blogospheres attention focusing on the Lisbon Wine Bloggers Conference; it's one of those countries I've long hankered to visit. For years the wines have intrigued and delighted. I recall the arrival of a handful of new listings to the shelves of the wine merchants I use to run way, way back, the exploration of those oddly named grapes (the intense, firm Baga, the aromatic, herby, full-bodied Tourgia Nacional, the peachy Bical, the rich, honeyed Fonte Cal et al) and the subsequent enjoyment of those distinctive flavours and food-friendly styles.

If there is one thing that hasn't changed at all over the intervening years it is the dreadful packaging on many of the wines. What sells in suburban Lisbon really doesn't cut it on the shelves of Waitrose, Threshers or the independent. This may go some way in explaining why, despite the critics raving over the wines, Portugal remains on the lower rung of players in the UK wine scene.

A few days ago I plonked my arse down at a 'refresher' tasting hosted by Sarah Ahmed, Portuguese Wine Writer of the year 2009. Really aimed at restaurateurs and merchants the background given on the wines was a little perfunctory but with limited time I guess it was about all that could be imparted without the session becoming a fact-laden, eye-lid dropping, school lesson.

It was an opportunity to sample some great wines, some new, some previously enjoyed and offering an overarching snapshot of the styles available.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta das Arcas Arca Nova, 2008 Vinho Verde, Portugal. Stockist: Waitrose Price: £6.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Pitched as an alternative to Muscadet and Sauvignon - certainly not lacking in the crispness department, ctric, lifted with a floral character,someone mentioned a cucumber character to the nose. A little bit of skin contact adds a little oomph. Alcohol 11%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Falcoaria Branco, 2007, Ribatejo, Portugal.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.64 Peter Osborne Wine [More: Adegga / Snooth]
100% Fernao Pires from old vines. Crisp acidity, fresh, some finesse, white pepper. A single vineyard wine with a 50-50 blend of oak/unoaked with battonage adding layering to the flavour.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta de Chocapalha Red, 2006, Estremadura/Lisboa, Portugal./span>
Price: £9.49 Corney and Barrow [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Superb. Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Tinta Roiz playing a food-friendly palate-tantalsing game. Lots of tannin and marked acidity, thus needs food. Tobacco, licorice characters, dark chocolate and wounderful dark fruits. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta da Bacalhôa Branco, 2007,Terras do Sado, Portugal.
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
A mix of Semillon (50%) with Albarino and Sauvignon (25% each). Lovely weight and delicious flavours combining orange peel, apricot, plump mid-palate. A touch of oak.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Zéfyro Tinto, 2007, Alentejo, Portugal.
Price: £9.49 Waitrose Online Only [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Juicy, inky, long fruity length and great balance. A sweetness to the fruit. A superb little (actually quite big) wine. A mix of varieties - Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Alfrocheiro Preto, Aragonês and Alicante. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta da Pellada, 2006, Dão, Portugal.
Price: £32.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth] Expensive, still too young, but incredibly classy. Big and dense, firm structure with a dusting of cedar adding to the huge complex fruit flavours. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Symington Chryseia, 2006, Douro, Portugal.
Price: £44.50 Fine & Rare Wines [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Another huge wine but wonderful all the same. Lots of tannin, plums, and a wildness to the flavours. Warm, long finish. If you can afford it - buy to keep.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Also tasted was the Quinta de Covela Covela Escolha 2007, Minho (which makes the eighth wine of the tasting session) which was as delicious as when tasted back in September 2008.

A selection of superb reds, even those blessed with premium prices, each certainly worth hunting down but it was the whites that garnered most conversational interest post-tasting. The combination of freshness, pure drinkability and alluring flavours from those all those captivating grape varieties were a delightful surprise - who thought Portugal was merely red wine country? This imminent trip of mine is going to be exceptional.

After the tasting a meal where the Smoked Salmon starter was lovely with a glass of citric-fresh, lightly honeyed, Esporão Reserva Branco, 2008, Alentejo. The Roasted Belly Pork, Flageolet Bean Casserole for mains came with the robust Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2005, Beiras, delicious in its plummy depths. FInally the dessert, an Apricot and Fig Frangipane Tart with clotted cream, was a marvel with Blandy's Late Harvest Malmesy Madeira, 2001.

Continue reading "Eight Portuguese Wines - A Snapshot of Portugal" »

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.

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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Continue reading "Artisan & Vine : London's Best Wine Bar" »

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" »

Ingenuity Blends from Nederburg

Distell Wines at The House of JC Le Roux, South Africa

Distell - the largest producer in South Africa or the largest exporter (it might even be both!) I've asked those really nice people at WOSA for some data to back this up but they are terribly, terribly busy people...

The Distell brands will be familiar - Obikwa, Two Oceans, Fleur du Cap, Nederburg and many more. Can't say many of these will get the wine lover excited however. We plowed through the various ranges dimly aware of the passage of time... I even started doodling as our host tried to inspire interest over a particularily unexciting Chardonnay... but wait that last one was rather good...

Under the Nederburg label two blends in swanky bottles - and you know what; our host didn't really push these, or seem to want to discuss them. I'll put it down to our groups obvious inertia and post-picnic lunch slump; sorry chap I did try and stiffle that yawn...

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nederburg Ingenuity White, 2008, South Africa.

Stockist: SAWinesOnline Price: £15.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Apparently features more varietals than any wine in South Africa (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Rhine Riesling, Verdelho and Nouvelle)

It is led by Sauvignon Blanc (40%) sourced from Groenekloof & Durbanville, offering herbaceous aromas and crisp, minerally green flavours. The next biggest components are Chardonnay (20%) and Viognier (15%) both from Durbanville and super ripe bush vine Chenin Blanc (10%) from Darling. The balance is made up by Semillon (6%), Nouvelle (3%) and Rhine Riesling (3%) & Verdelho.

Eight varieties for eight wine makers. Alcohol 14%.

A marvellous combination of green floral notes, a creamy texture and clean cut acidity. Oak edges and spice. Superb.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nederburg Ingenuity Red, 2006, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany, Italy Stockist: SAWinesOnline Price: £17.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth] Italian varietals here - 45.5% Sangiovese, 45.5% Barbera, 9% Nebbiolo aged in Romanian oak barrels. Rather dry and savoury on the finish; food needed. Quite intense on the palate with plenty of complexity.

The Sangiovese was grown in dryland vineyards in Groenekloof, Darling, the source of some of the country's leading quality grapes, while the Barbera came from the cool-climate area of Durbanville, and the Nebbiolo from the high slopes of Simondium. All the fruit was hand-harvested and hand-sorted at the cellar.

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

There I go again - raving about blended wine!

Continue reading "Ingenuity Blends from Nederburg" »

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box

Rudiger Gretcher

Rudiger Gretcher is a fine fellow. Not only an excellent host during our meal at Reubens but entertaining plus he gave each of us a bottle of the Chocolate Box to take away...

Rudiger is the wine maker at Boekenhoutskloof, a boutique operation at the far end of the Franschoek valley. He first cracked open two Semillons for comparison both from a small vineyard strip and well worth trying if you can get hold of them. The younger, a 2006 I believe, was deliciously fresh and vibrant compared to the elder bottling from the 2003 vintage that had developed plenty of honeyed, waxy complexity that, incidentally, worked beautifully with my tempura starter.

(Photos of the food are on SpittoonExtra).

In the wide ranging discussion - everything from the state of the UK wine trade, through to the importation of bottles and cooks - Rudgier also explained his own thoughts that blends would rise to be the 'spearhead' of South African wines. His current fascination with Southern Rhone/Languedoc styled blends stemmed from a recent in-depth trip though the vineyards of Southern France. Boekenhoutskloof is also well advanced in its plans to embrace bio-dynamic wine making. Rudigier's passion for these ideals had us all convinced that 'everyone' should follow such practices.

Surprising though to find Cabernet Franc also seems to be a champion variety for Boekenhoutskloof - Rudiger was not the last wine maker during the trip to mention this.

Other wines sampled included a mint-edged Syrah (although my fellow tasters didn't really agree with me on the mint aspect so that might be down to the deep fried mint that my main dish - Quail - came garnished with). The style was aging rich but restrained with an edge of peppery chocolate.

The star wine for me was the Chocolate Block - again reaffirming my belief that blends work better than single varieties (talking red wine in general here and not just South African wines, although it holds true here too) - but for a Rhone inspired blend the addition of a little Cabernet Sauvignon was unusual. But it works. The wine a blend including Viognier was a cross over in style taking in the new worlds natural ripeness and the old world's structure.

Pinotage though is not seen by Rudiger as being the standard bearer for South Africa that many think it should be. To paraphrase -you start with poor quality grapes and you end up with poor quality wine. Pinotage vines are often stated as being of poor quality and of poor parentage.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: SA WinesOnline Price: £18.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Syrah 55%, Grenache Noir 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 16%, Cinsault 5%, Viognier 4%. Production just 586 barrels. 14.5% Alcohol.
Served slightly chilled in the warmth of South Africa I also chilled it briefly back in a, significantly cooler, UK to the wines benefit.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Continue reading "Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box" »

Domaine Cristia from Naked Wines

Domaine Cristia Grenache

From one of Naked Wines' free offerings (free apart from postage and duty) Domaine Cristia. The mixed case of six offered three different wines, four bottles of the Domaine Cristia Vin de Pays Grenache 2007 and one bottle each of the Domaine Cristia Cairanne 2007 and Domaine Cristia Gigondas 2007.

All three demonstrated a similarity of style - a house style if you will - forward fruit, crowed-pleasing drinkability and a ripe, up-front fruitiness.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Cristia Vin de Pays Grenache, 2007, Vin de Pays Des Portes de la Méditerranée, Southern Rhône.
Price: £7.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Not an overly complex aroma but a highly attractive palate - upfront sweetness, rounded and smooth with a hint of tannin and a balancing acidity. Good herb, spice and hints enlivens a plumy richness of flavour. Smooth and drinkable enough to slurp without food - it is that richness and sweetness helping it all along but there is enough weight to accompany food. Attractive. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Cristia Cairanne, 2007,Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne, Southern Rhône, France.
Price: £10.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
The least successful of the trio. Pleasant enough and again demonstrating the ranges' sweet-fruited drinkability but lacking a little 'zing' and complexity to make it stand out. Hints of ink, a smidge of ink and plenty of blackberry fruit give the palate weight and some interest. Perhaps a little young still.
A blend of "Shiraz, Grenache & Other Spicy Reds". Alcohol 15%.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Cristia Gigondas, 2007, Rhone, France
Price: £13.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Very similar in style to the Grenache - an inherent, smooth richness that makes for high 'drinkability'. More spice on the flavour but a little lighter in style with a longer lasting flavour. Spicy, leathery touches - another good sign of a perfect roast lamb match. Lovely flavours of red fruits mixed with blackberries, elderberry, a leatheriness, a strawberry edge and a dusting of spice. Alcohol 15%.

Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

There are three other wines available from this Domaine - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2006 (£19.99), Rasteau 2007 (£10.99) and a Vacqueyras 2007 (£10.99). The Naked Wines website actually says little about the domaine, apart from the Chateauneuf gaining a high Parker score. I'd like to know where the domaine is, the size of the estate, if they buy in grapes from other growers and the specific grape composition in each wine. I'll just have to send a question to the wine makers...

Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2007, Rhone, France

Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 and lamb shanks

Another of those pre-release samples I received awhile back; this Chateauneuf-du-Pape, while entirly too young was a delicious joy partnered with roasted Lamb Shanks.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2007, Rhone, France
Stockist: Bibendum (link to 2006 vintage) Price: £26 approx [More on Adegga / Snooth]
The colour of Valerian's blood-soaked Imperial cloak; the aroma of dusty, sun-lashed dark red fruits, subdued, reticent but harbouring hints of greater complexity that will come with age. Tannins as rough as a barbarians beard but the richness and strength of flavour smoothers them initially into a palate as smooth as Celopatras bossom.

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

The 2006 vintage is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre; going further to demonstrate my favourite red blends begin with Grenache...

"Jean-Paul Autard is a classic artisan French vigneron and one who is blessed with the talent to make exceptional wines. Everything Jean-Paul does shows a respect for tradition, terroir and, above all, quality. His 30ha are split half and half between Chateauneuf and some very superior Cotes du Rhone vineyards which lie just over the appellation border. He is without doubt one of the rising stars of the Rhone."

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Reserva 2004

Its a struggle drinking Chianti without food; insufferable punishment on the taste buds in fact. That sharp, acidic, slightly earthy finish is how the wine is supposed to taste but it's a struggle to consume more than a glass. Rasping if you are subjected to a poor quality bottle.

Add food and it's like drinking a different wine.

But, I hear the masses yell, that is what Chianti is designed for - drinking with food. It is like a television without an aerial; you can use it but it just doesn't work very well. You know you are missing out on the bigger picture.

Two bottles of this rather decent Chianti have been consumed over the last few days. A Sunday roast of beef and Yorkshires was fine. Further complexity was revealed in the flavour but there remained something lacking.

What the roast lacked was the sweet acidity of tomatoes to balance. Step forward a superbly thrown together lasagne. Combining mince beef, plenty of fresh parsley, a splash of red and a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes the wine shone like a beacon . The wines refreshing acidity makes it all the more drinkable. (I'm also thinking lamb would have been a better match, over beef, with the wines acidity cutting through the inherent fat beautifully).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva, 2004, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Everywine £257 for 12, Italian Wine Society £15.19 £182.28 for 12 [More on Adegga / Snooth]

A richness of dark cherry fruit leads into a twist of acidic bitterness on the finish. Smooth and robust with hints of leather and mixed herbs. but shines with food. Shown to both Slavonian and French oak barrels which adds complexity. 100% Sangiovese. Alcohol 13%.

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

Continue reading "San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy" »

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.

Fattoira le Sorgenti Respiro Chianti, 2005, Tuscany, Italy

Sorgenti Respiro Chianti

I fondly recall, during my first exploratory steps into wine, becoming very excited in sorting out the various sub-zones of Chianti and believing I could detect the subtle nuances in flavour of a Chianti Colli Senesi over a Chianti Classico or Chianti Rufina. Even pin-pointing the names on a map added a fizzle of excitement when drinking said bottles. Whichever guide book I referenced at the time listed those mysterious terrior-based differences with reverence.

Today I wouldn't have a clue on how to spot a Senesi over a Arentini and, all thse years ago, I'm sure it was all suggestion and imagination rather than a fully-developed palate.

There are seven sub-zones covering Chianti. The heart of the region is Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina lies to the north-east while Chianti Montalbano and four hillside areas are named after near-by cities Colli Fiorentini (Florence), Colli Senesi (Siena), Colli Pisane (Pisa) and Colli Arentini (Arezzo).

This example hails from Colli Fiorentini, a classic blend of Sangiovese with just a splash of the white Trebbiano (2%). The local rules have removed the 'traditional' requirement for a white grape component and allow up to 15% of foreign varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Le Sorgenti Respiro Chianti , 2005, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Cadman Fine Wines [More on UKWOL] Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Upfront tiz mellow and fruity, wood envelopes the rounded pleasantness, then a savoury edge develops with tannins raising and acidity cleansing. A long mellow finish, with an edge of chocolate covered cherries, porcini and something 'autumnal'. Alcohol 13.5%.

Chianti should really be enjoyed with food - the medium-bodied quite acidic wines were created for food. Tomato based dishes are often quoted as ideal matches; my choice would be a rich, slow cooked, Bolognese based pasta dish, as pictured.

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

Continue reading "Fattoira le Sorgenti Respiro Chianti, 2005, Tuscany, Italy" »

Willunga Creek Black Duck Cabernet-Merlot, 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia

Willunga Creek Black Duck

No great wine and food match today - although if you must know it was some locally made fried sausages with mash potato laced with creme fraiche, basil and garlic - all that was required from the wine was a full and rich little number to relax in front of the telly with...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Willunga Creek Black Duck Cabernet-Merlot, 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia.
Stockist: Henley Fine Wines [More on UKWOL] Price: £12 [More on Adegga / Snooth]

The tasting note: vibrant blackberries on the nose with slithers mirrored on the palate but coupled with spice and something plummy. Here and here a hint of dark chocolate too. It is not your lightly sweet, easy-drinking Aussie blend - it has much needed complexity and a more sophisticated mouth-feel. Good length too. Alcohol 14.5%.

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

The Cabernet/Merlot is a great quaffer with barbecued meat excellent with confit (twice cooked) duck, Asian style (star anise orange peel and sake in the brew). We actually had the duck recipe in our restaurant which was called Black Satin Duck, we matched it to the Merlot and Cab/Merlot. Duck and Merlot or Cab/Merlot is an excellent duo.

The Willunga Creek Winemaker.

Fattoira le Sorgenti Scirus, 2003, Tuscany, Italy.

Sorgenti Scirus.jpg

This has to be the best hunk of roast lamb to come out of my oven. Juicy. The perfect level of pinkness in the centre. A most delicious taste. To accompany, a little salad and some chunky chips. For the wine though something classy, something a little special...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fattoira le Sorgenti Scirus, 2003, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Cadman Fine Wines [More on UKWOL] Price: £24.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Textured and smooth, wonderful richness but balanced. A flow of savoury edged fruit - hints of tomatoes laced with chocolate, raspberries, cherries and other fleshy fruits. Very 'Bordeaux' on the nose - hailing from the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (mixed in a 60%/40% blend) thrown in a little oak.

All rather scrummy, full and rich. Perhaps a tad young and missing a little development and complexity and also a tad short on the finish but highly drinkable. Accompanied that delicious lamb dish beautifully. Alcohol 14.5%.

Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Normally only 8000 bottles are produced annually, however the hot summer of 2003 reduced this to a meagre 6000 bottles, where deft handling, skilled winemaking and the benefit of vineyards at 400 metres have ensured that another outstanding wine has been crafted by Paolo Caciorgna and Le Sorgenti.

This months Wine Blogging Wednesday has, as its theme, 'The Letter S'. Sorgenti Scirus I guess qualifies!

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.

Continue reading "Ses'Fikile Wines, South Africa" »

A Dish For Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon

Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon 2005No apologies for featuring another wine from the excellent Howard Park stable; this is their old vine Cabernet Sauvignon from the Great Southern Region of Western Australia. It was an absolute star with this lamb dish although don't go too heavy with mint sauce.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Great Southern, Western Australia
New vintage available soon from Bibendum for £13
They make great play on the 'old vines' description on the rear label. The grapes for this bottle come are sourced from a single estate in Mount Barker (in the Great Southern region) in Western Australia. The vines were planted in 1974 and are therefore 34 years old. Old vines and extra attention in the vineyard results in a higher quality wine, in this case one brimming with wonderful blackberry and bramble flavours laced with a herbal, dark chocolate edge. It is also blessed with a long length and tannins that should see it though for several years. In fact the recommend 5-8 years cellaring. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

It's a touch young at the moment but still a joy to drink. Served with Lamb Baguettes with Fresh Mint Sauce (recipe below) it was a delight. Wareing's sauce is rather sweet and, depending on how much mint you add, quite powerfully flavoured. The sweetness will swamp the wine so use sparingly.

Continue reading "A Dish For Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon" »

Château Tonnelles, 2004, Fronsac, France

Château Les Tonnells 2004More banging on from me about how we should look to the independent merchant for the more interesting wines - small producers, interesting flavours, unknown grapes etc etc but such purchases do not have to be the idiosyncratic, often you just need something decent and mainstream but still retaining that small producer mentality...

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Château Les Tonnelles, 2004, Fronsac, France.
Available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered [more] for £7.99 (normally £11.99) More on: Adegga / Snooth .
Very French (for which read Bordeaux) in style and structure - the aroma has a lovely fruity edge that needs a little teasing (swirl/decant) to really reveal itself - don't forget that aroma offers so much to the overall enjoyment of wine - is that blackcurrant, blackberry, leaves, undergrowth?

The Bordeaux Undiscovered website states that this 'drinks well on it's own' but I disagree - it's a classic French food wine - unless you enjoy hearty tannins - and in that regard is highly recommended with a simple roasted game bird. In this case it is stuffed with herby sausage and served with a potato-parsley-garlic mash and a broad bean puree (the latter left over from the Pappardelle with Broad Beans and Rocket dish).

The wine is 100% Merlot. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Continue reading "Château Tonnelles, 2004, Fronsac, France" »

Sparkling Shiraz and Food

Bundaleer ShirazIt was all the rage a couple of years ago for sparkling red wines to be served with Christmas dinner; no idea if you were allowed to drink them at any other time mind!

The delightful Joanne of Henley Fine Wines popped over the other week, brandishing, as his her want, a couple of bottles of wine - one of which was a sparkling red. The NV Bundaleer Shiraz is one of the prize offering that her small company imports direct.

I really wanted to do this wine justice with its food accompaniment and scoured another new addition - Rick Stein's French Odyssey - for something that would benefit from the bubbles and the red fruit flavours. Step forward Sautéed Lambs Kidneys on Toasted Brioche with Sauvignon Blanc, Mustard and Tarragon!

Champagne/Sparkling WineBundaleer Sparkling Shiraz, NV, Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Available from Henley Fine Wines [more] for £8.50 More on: Adegga / Snooth
While there is a touch of sweetness it just makes this blackberry flavoured wonder all the more drinkable. Nicely balanced with plenty of classy fizz and good balance. Medium bodied. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Sautéed Lambs Kidneys on Toasted Brioche with Sauvignon Blanc, Mustard and Tarragon.
Adapted from Rick Stein's French Odyssey [ £13]
For one
4 sliced lambs kidneys with white cores removed
Knob of unsalted butter
Large glug of Sauvignon Blanc
¼ tablespoon Dijon mustard
Fresh tarragon
Double cream
2 thick slices of brioche toasted

Melt some butter and fry the kidneys over a high heat for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned but still pink in the middle. Remove and keep warm. De-glaze the pan with the wine and reduce. Add the mustard, any free-run juices from the kidneys, chopped tarragon and cream and boil until a nice sauce consistency is reached. Season.

Top the brioche with the kidneys and spoon over the sauce. Garnish with tarragon.

The dish is very rich - all that glorious cream I guess - with the wines bubbles cutting through, leaving the palate refreshed (and hankering for more!). The sweetness of the brioche and the wine matched nicely; I was enjoying the combination so much I failed to notice the tannins. In fact I failed to notice much else until the bottle ran dry!

Domaine de L'Engarran, 2005, VdP d'Oc, France

Domaine de l'Engarran 2005 Vin de Pays d'Oc, FranceNot something you see much of in the South of France is Cabernet Franc - the grape and country of choice for this months Wine Blogging Wednesday. Rare enough to be interesting despite not being totally Cab. Franc; although the major component there is a hearty douse of Grenache with a smidgen of Syrah and Cinsault too.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Domaine de l'Engarran, 2005 Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Off the middle shelf at Oddbins for £7.99.
A weighty palate, tight gravelly tannins and a inky-berry led flavour. A touch of sweet fruit, especially on the finish with an edge of black currants. No hints of the leafiness/herbaceousness often associated with Cabernet Franc, perhaps due to the warmer growing conditions down in the Languedoc, but there is a touch of earthiness, another 'sign' of Cabernet Franc. Opens up nicely with an edge of something akin to roses or spiced rose petals. Alcohol 13%. The actual blend is a mix of 46% Cabernet Franc, 40% Grenache, 11% Syrah & 3% Cinsault.

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

Gracing the label (you might just make out from my photo) is a line drawing of a lion devouring a bunch of grapes. As with the other wines from this estate this label detail is taken from statues and details from the house -

In the shrubbery of the "Allée des Lions" stands a sleek, proud and greedy lioness. This statue enjoying its grapes represents tamed strength (of stone... or wine?) and once again the alliance of wine and heritage in the spirit of Engarran."

Combinations - A Wine for Steak and Mushroom Pie

Caiarossa 2004 Tuscany, Italy and Steak and Mushroom PieTo be honest just about any decent red wine would go with this puff pastry topped Steak and Mushroom Pie. The herby flavours, juicy meat and buttery pastry is food-friendly to the core. Personally I prefer something with a little weight and a tannic back-bone (as opposed to something softer and easy drinking) which edges the wine choice to an old-world bottle.

The recipe is another of African Vanielje's creations. I just couldn't face making my own puff pastry (especially as the ready-made stuff is just so good) but followed the instructions pretty well (apart from serving the peas separately). I do wish I had included some kidneys though; the texture contrast, in addition to more depth and complexity to the flavour, makes for an improved dish I believe. That is not to say this version lacked anything!

The wine eventually selected was Italian.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Caiarossa, 2004, Tuscany, Italy
Available from Berry Brothers for £33
They have packed a massive amount into this bottle - not only the mix of eight grape varieties - but also a heck load of tannin and flavoursome, full, powerful fruit. It benefited from several hours opening (in fact 24 hours!) which then showed so much more on the nose and to the flavour. Delicious, individualistic, complex and very long lasting in flavour. Plentiful tannins mind! Therefore, a food wine. Simply delicious with the Steak and Mushroom pie.

The grape mix is quite amazing too - Merlot (33%), Sangiovese (22%). Its well honed tannic structure is given by the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (18%). There are also small quantities of Petit Verdot (6%), Alicante (3%), Syrah (2%) and Mourvèdre (1%). Alcohol 15%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Immersed in nature and its silence, Caiarossa, situated in the heart of the Val di Cecina, on the Tuscan coast, exists within its own area of unspoiled beauty. A winding, country road, keeps the estate hidden, until the final curve when the winery unexpectedly reveals itself, perched on the side of the hill, surrounded by its fourteen hectares of vineyards.

The location of this estate is part of its attraction, giving the sensation that one is the first to discover the property. Yet, Caiarossa, with its sensations of subtle luxuriousness, has existed since 1998. Prior to this, there was just the old manor house and the red, gravelly soil after which the estate has been named. What exists today has been created from the land, from nature, from the region's history and the adoption of a philosophy that harmoniously combines the forces of earth, grape and man.

The fruits of this labour are two red IGT Tuscan wines, Caiarossa and Pergolaia. Both unconventional blends in which, despite local tradition, Sangiovese does not play the only leading role. Eleven different grape varieties make up this vineyard, each one planted on an appropriate soil, highlighting the complexity of the land.

For the rest, what shaped Caiarossa was not everyday logic but vision; the desire to create a true oasis in which to live and make wine, the Tuscan dream linking not only beauty and simplicity but also simplicity and value. In 2004 Caiarossa was acquired by Eric Albada Jelgersma, a Dutch entrepreneur with a great passion for wine and also the owner of Château Giscours and Château du Tertre - two Grand Crus classé in Margaux, Bordeaux."

There are currently two Caiarossa wines, both IGT Tuscan reds. This multi-grape wonder is the flagship being a cuvée of the best grapes of the year. The second wine is Pergolaia, and is predominantly Sangiovese, in keeping with the regions' wine-making tradition.

Continue reading "Combinations - A Wine for Steak and Mushroom Pie" »

A Wine for Spring Lamb

martin sarmiento 2004

It's the time of year for lamb; spring lamb and daffodils epitomises Easter for me. Nothing could be better than a few jucy slices of roast lamb accompanied by a decent bottle of red. Cooking lamb simply brings out the strident flavour and maximises the juiciness of the meat, adding a few springs of rosemary too of course. There are plenty of other opportunities through the year to stew it or spice the meat with cumin or coriander; during Spring a simple grill or roast is best.

I tried out two of Vanielje Kitchen's recipes at the weekend - Loin of Free Range lamb grilled with rosemary and garlic coupled with Oven Baked Potato Slices in Garlic and Rosemary Cream. Heavy on the garlic, heavy on the rosemary. Delicious.

For a wine you need something that will cope with the fat of the lamb in addition to the forceful flavours. Many wines would 'fit the bill' a Chianti perhaps, a Claret or even a Rioja. I went for something a little more unusual - a Spanish wine from the Bierzo region.

I travelled through the area last year but don't recall encountering this particular wine, Martin Sarmiento, made by Martin Códax.

Martín Sarmiento was an 18th century Galician monk famed for his studies on botany and agriculture. Part of his signature appears on the label.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Martin Códax Martín Sarmiento, 2004, Bierzo, Spain.
Waitrose £8.99
A tough one on its own. Forcefully flavoured high is acidity and not insubstantial on the tannin front either. As they say 'a food wine'. With the lamb it shines; is gorgeous in fact. The acidity cutting through the richness of the meat and the cream. Coming in with 14% alcohol. The rear label states that 22,000 bottles were produced from this vintage made under the direction of Ignacio de Miguel, winemaker of the year 2006.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Tendral Crianza 2004, Priorato, Spain

Tendral Crianza 2004Red WineWine Tasting Note: Tendral Crianza, 2004, Priorato, Spain.
Available from Tesco for £7.99
Not bad this, not bad at all. Trying it blind it just hollas to you that this comes from Spain. Which is exactly what you want in a wine - regional typicality; even more of a requirement when made from Shiraz. OK, so there is also Grenacha and Mazuelo, in the blend too that imparts that needed Spanishness but Shiraz can be so 'international' that you find wines, although a decent enough drink, that could really come from anywhere. Not so in this example.

A superb mouth-feel and nice structure and, as I often say, is really made for food, but not, as can be the case, because of any excessive tannins or acidity. In this case the combination of balanced tannins and fruit just sing when partnered with food - roast lamb perhaps?

Overall nicely flavoured with plenty of scrummy dark black fruits, savoury hints, raspberry freshness and a dusty Spanish tang. Alcohol 13.5%
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Grown and then vinified at the Cellers Unió state-of-the-art winery in Poboleda under the quality-focused care of Pere Escudé, this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at 25°C, followed by a process of malolactic fermentation. It is then transferred to 300 litre American and French oak casks and spends one year in oak barrels before bottling.

At Besós we pride ourselves on the quality of all our wines. In our view, this is without doubt the best value Priorat wine in the UK market, a fantastic example of this beautiful and expressive region."

Campbells The Barkly Durif, 1997, Rutherglen, Australia

Campbells Barkly Durif 1997

Mine was the very last bottle at Cooden Cellars; how lucky was I! It arrived too late for December's Wine Blogging Wednesday (where I had to slum it with a Mexican Petite Sirah) so it sat in the rack until the Christmas Day meal.

Guys and Gals, it was well worth waiting for - the match with Oven Roasted Partridge was sensational!

The locally shot brace (brought from the covered market in Oxford) was subjected to a Slater recipe (Roast Partridge with juniper and thyme) from a November issue of the Observer Magazine and was served with Brussels Sprouts stir-fried with Chestnuts and Pork Chipolatas and huge amounts of bread sauce. Simply delicious.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Campbells The Barkly Durif, 1997, Rutherglen, Australia.
This vintage purchased from Cooden Cellars [more] for £15.99.
Full-bodied, ripe but with a good structure. Nice tannic backbone supporting the red berry fruit with a complexity of dusty spice, a cherry edge, inky depths and a plummy whole. A long lasting, chocolaty almost port-like finish. The acidity is still lively and balancing. Good length to boot.

Scribblings Rating - 96/100 [4.5 out of 5]

The 2003 seems to be the vintage currently available in the UK and one that is highly recommended for placing in your cellar for 5 plus years. As soon as funds become available I'll be buying!

Durif is an extremely rare variety first propagated by Dr Durif in the Rhone Valley of France in the 1880's. It is now virtually extinct in France. It arrived in Rutherglen in the early 1900's and has become synonymous with the region. Its unique qualities have been recognised by other Australian producers and plantings are increasing throughout Australia.

We have experimented and refined our techniques for handling durif over several decades. In 1992 we introduced The Barkly Durif, the ultimate expression of this variety. Only the very best parcels of fruit from good vintages are used and the resultant wine is carefully aged in a mix of oak barrels, both old and new,
from France, Germany and America."

Wine Tasting Note: Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, 2004, Veneto, Italy

bolla amarone valpolicellaRed WineWine Tasting Note:Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, 2004, Veneto, Italy.
Available from Sainsburys for £16.99
An absolute age since I've sampled, let alone drank, an Amarone - so a joy to receive this last week. Has a gorgeous combination of richness, powerful structure, and ripe raisined fruit but also a dry, food-hugging, savoury finish. Nicely structured, good concentration, warm with crushed raisined fruit. Intense, herb-edged. As a substantial wine it requires substantial food to pair well making it a perfect wine for the winter months.

A blend of Corvina and Corvinone with a little Rondinella. Alcohol 15%. Plenty of potential to age in bottle.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

The process used to make Amarone involves dried grapes and slow fermentation. The cooler climate of Veneto produces lighter, softer red wines to gain extra depth and flavour the grapes are partially dried before the wine making crush. This process gives some real oomph in comparison to a more basic Valpolicella, higher alcohol and a more intense experience over-all.

Six Things About Amarone della Valpolicalla

  1. The word Amarone comes from the Veronese dialect; it means dry.

  2. The definition comes from the comparison with the Recioto, a sweet wine produced in Valpolicella with the same grapes and using the same vinification technique, but leaving a much higher amount of residual sugar.

  3. The grapes used are the same as those in DOC Valpolicella, even if the percentage of Corvina is higher; however, unlike Valpolicella, Amarone is made exclusively from selected grapes grown on dedicated vineyards with the best micro-climate, sun exposure and soil type.

  4. The grapes are picked and then arranged on flat drawers that easily fit into racks (or wooden cases), allowing a good circulation of air. It is very important that they be kept in a dry, cool, well-ventilated room.

  5. In years past, bamboo, straw mats, or trellises were used to dry the grapes. The grapes are cleaned and turned about every 20 days and are constantly inspected during the four-month natural drying period.

  6. This drying period causes a 40% loss of juice, resulting in grapes low in juice but extremely high in sugar and varietal character.

Wine Tasting Note: Bodegas Añadas CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain

Wine Tasting Note CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain Living equidistant between the university city and Reading, as I do, Oxford wins every-time. Reading is something of a culinary dessert. True you have Smelly Alley with a couple of grocers, a fish monger and a butcher, a decent deli down by the Church and a Carluccio's hidden away behind the Court buildings but all this pales in comparison with Oxford's Covered Market.

I went there yesterday. Lunch was a tasty, meat-packed pie from the Pie Minister and an urge for something sweet sedated by a slice of freshly baked flapjack from one of the many delis.In the bag went onions and potatoes from the fruit and veg man and a brace of plump partridges (two pence under a fiver) from M Feller, Son and Daughter. What the market lacks though is an independent wine merchant; one of the few remaining Oddbins opposite acted as a handy substitute. I came away with a funkily packaged Spanish red to accompany said partridges.

The birds were cooked as per a recipe from Slater's Kitchen Diaries with Spanish sausage substituting for the Italian he recommended. (Sausage briskly fried in a pot with a little oil, chopped onions added and softened. Partridges browned in the same pot before the addition of 500ml chicken stock, a splash of the red and a bay leaf. Popped into the oven, covered, for half an hour).

They were served with a simple salad of fresh spinach and toasted walnuts plus homemade wholemeal bread to mop up the sauce. Most satisfying.

Doubly delicious when served with the Oddbins red - CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Añadas CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain.
Oddbins for £8.49.
First reactions - not very 'Spanish', rather new worldy in style. Soft tannins, smooth, full-bodied, oak hardily evident. Black-fruits and damsons. The blend retains a smidgen Spanishness with the Garnacha component. Tasty indeed and certainly worth the asking price. Alcohol a noticeable 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, 2004, Western Australia

Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2004 Red WineWine Tasting Note: Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, 2004, Western Australia. Dripping with gorgeous ripe, peppery, scrummy fruit. Wonderful balance and youthfully delicious with smooth blackberry fruit in abundance, smooth, perfectly balanced and beautifully crafted. I rather like it. Alcohol 13.5%.

Enthusiastic hyperbole aside it is a lovely wine. Still youthful but drinking beautifully. Price? Around £25 I believe.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

This wine was made from low yielding old vine Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes grown in the Great Southern and Margaret River from the outstanding 2004 vintage. It was fermented in small open topped stainless steel tanks. Twice daily aerative pumpovers aided the developement of mature tannin. The wine was matured in 100% new French oak barriques for 20 months producing a wine with the textural complexity that will reward cellaring."

Despite the indications in the photograph you don't actually require a corkscrew. This wine is sealed with a screwcap.

Wine Tasting Note: Penny's Hill McLaren Vale Footprint Shiraz, 2004, Australia

pennyshill_footprint_shiraz.jpgTwo burgers. A little posh perhaps being Tesco's finest (beef with sun-dried tomatoes), but nothing you could call gourmet. Each is sandwiched between two slices of plain white Warburton's bread.

A couple of salad leaves, two slices of tomato in each, two torn basil leaves and a dollop of Hellmans mayo. Oh, and a slice of cheddar strategically placed in the burger to melt slightly as the top layer of bread is pressed down - forcing a squidge of mayo and a few tomato pips down the side of the sarnie.

I'm outside, enjoying the garden of my childhood home as I house-sit for the parents. This really is the most beautiful part of the Chilterns. The weather is warm, slightly muggy. A wood-pigeon is cooing in the wood and I've just knocked over a glass of the most gorgeous, perfect-accompaniment to a cheap, knocked together burger, you can imagine: Penny's Hill McLaren Vale Footprint Shiraz, 2004. A silky smooth mass of blackberries and blueberries, a little vanilla, a touch of mineral complexity and a ripe, gently tannic finish.

Retails for about £28. Perfect.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine Richaud Cairanne, 2003, Cotes du Rhone Village, France.

I've been trying too hard (or so the discussions between a few fellow wine bloggers on Twitter would have it). Following its 'discovery' here I put a call out to a handful to take up the challenge of providing a wine tasting note in visual form only.

This is exactly what Chateau Petrogasm has been doing since is inception last June; offering wine tasting notes using "colors, sketches, photography, and other visual media". An interesting concept that many of those I contacted embracing the idea with passion. Traditionalists are going to hate it and it does have its limitations, hence my struggle.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine Richaud Cairanne, 2003, COtes du Rhone Villages

Can you really encapsulated all the nuances of colour, aroma, taste and texture in one single image? I'm not convinced you can. One aspect perhaps over all others - but which to single out to encapsulate the 'whole' of something very sensual? My attempt here is trying to show the depth and silky richness of a Cairanne; chocolate, plums, a meaty edge, dark, moody. (An explanation should not have been necessary!) Others have had more success -

CorkDork with a Cigar Box Guitar for a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.
Surf4Wine with a gravel and cold steel rendition of a Chablis.
GrapeJuice has a reclining decadent smoking woman for a Costières de Nîmes.
WineCast goes for a market stall dedecked with fruit for an Albarinho.
Cooksister has peaches in a glass for a Riesling.

Hats off to Chateau Petrogasm for stimulating the debate. Perhaps GrapeJuice sums it up best using one single word - 'irreverant'; maybe that is what the wine blogging arena should be.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Domaine Richaud Cairanne, 2003, Cotes du Rhone Village, France.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Bordeaux Oxygene - Some Recommendations

Bordeaux OxygèneEstablished in late 2005 Bordeaux Oxygène is a dynamic group of young producers and château owners who are determined to inject some passion and excitement into the world of Bordeaux wines.

The group focuses on the marketing and promotion of Bordeaux wines and tries to do things totally differently to the 'established' ways - many of the group inherited their estates from their parents; their youth means they aim to increase their wines appeal to younger wine drinkers.

Sadly no prices or stockists for the wines listed below; you should harass your local wine merchant to source some of these for you. The quality is top notch.

Continue reading "Bordeaux Oxygene - Some Recommendations" »

Wine Tasting Note: Mas de la Seranne, 2003, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.

Mas de la Seranne Antonin et LouisRed WineWine Tasting Note: Mas de la Seranne Antonin et Louis, 2003, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.
Available from Pic Wines for £14.30. [more]
A little duck roasting in the oven, smothered with my runny quince jelly, and this deeply coloured red breathing in the decanter. A fine evening in the offering.

Aroma is rich, slightly savoury and deep with a medley of squished fruits. Enticing. On the palate, an explosion of flavours brushed up against a red berry fruit acidity that slices though the richness of stewed fruits and tobacco. All this laced with a veneer of spices and a rustic earthiness. Alcohol 14%. Syrah (40%), Mourvèdre (27%), Grenache Noir (23%), Carignan (10%).

The duck was served with a curry spice-spiked yoghurt dip and basmati rice studded with almonds. The yoghurt brought out a delicious creamy edge in the wine with the curry spices edge emphasising similar flavours in the wine. An excellent combination.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

This is Seranne’s top cuvée, where Syrah is the dominant grape variety. The wine spends 13 months in oak (40% new, 60% one wine). This wine will definitely benefit from ageing, but is approachable in its youth – decant a couple of hours ahead of drinking, and you will be well rewarded. On the nose, plenty of garrigue spices and nice earthy notes. On the palate this is a smooth blend of dark fruits and spices, with a hint of vanilla and a dash of bitter chocolate on the finish. Delicious!"

Wine Tasting Note: Mas Thélème Exultet, 2003, Pic Saint Loup, France

Sometimes you get a wine and the reaction is so ho-hum that you wonder where the excitement is. the more you spend the greater the disappointment can be. The Pic Saint Loup hill in the depths of the Languedoc has been acclaimed for several years now as one of the highlights of the region - but it is rare to find a wine that seems to match the excellence. This red measures up. Big time. Definitely on my shopping list for more - Pic Saint Loup individuality personified.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Mas Thélème Exultet, 2003, Pic Saint Loup, France.
Available from PIC Wines for £12.25. [more]

The deepest and richest of blackberry-red hues and an explosive aroma - a mass of savoury, balsamic, chocolate and blackfruits. Quite delicious and I haven't even sipped it yet! The palate is wonderfully rich, full and complex - red fruits, chocolate, a savouriness that lifts the sweetness. A refined layer of tannins completes the package. Thélème’s top cuvee is a blend of Syrah and Grenache with a dash of Cinsault, aged for 18 months in French oak.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100


Wine Tasting Note: Domaine Piccinini Cuvee Line et Laetitia, 2003, Minervois, France

Back in October a very pleasurable evening was spent sampling a selection of wines from Pic Wines. My small order, placed on the day, has been sitting in the wine rack for a while now; about time I think to crack a few open... this is the first.

Red WineWine Tasting Note:Domaine Piccinini Cuvee Line et Laetitia, 2003, Minervois La Livinière, France.
Available from Pic Wines for £10.80.
Have to agree with the Pic Wines description of "somewhat austere or masculine", the Mourvèdre component (40%) supplies a haunting bitter fruit edge but this is tempered by a mass of blackcurrant's from the Syrah (40%) and Grenache (20%). Plenty of complexity - hints of tobacco, dark chocolate, coffee perhaps. The Mourvèdre spends a year in new oak whilst the Syrah and Grenache are unoaked. The aroma is wonderful - on opening a burst of blackberries, which mellows in the glass to that earthy/minty/chocolate mass. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Really excels as a wine to accompany food. A slow cooked beef stew flavoured with orange peel, Herbs de Provence, tomato puree, onion and garlic (topped up with red wine and beef stock) worked superbly.

Wine Tasting Note: Ventisquero Pinot Noir, 2004, Casablanca Valley, Chile.

Ventisquero Pinot Noir, 2004Any idea what tulip bulbs smell like? Without going a-digging in the garden me neither, but that was one comment thrown at me as we delved into the gorgeousness that is this Pinot. At a guess the combination of earthiness, slight floral edges, damp soil, and mysterious depths could be what they were aiming at.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Ventisquero Pinot Noir Reserva, 2004, Casablanca Valley, Chile.
Flying Corkscrew £7.49.
Putting aside the wet-earth, planting metaphors, flavours of plums and coffee abound. Stewed raspberries too with a blackberry finish. Lovely balance, mid-weight palate. Soft tannins making it suitable for drinking on its own but it is also versatile enough for food - I saw a note somewhere that mentioned 'smoked salmon, rich chicken casseroles'. Fantastic value at £7.49. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Combinations A Wine To Match A Lamb Stew

I have to agree with Alex on the recipe - what exactly is the point of adding Cranberry Sauce to the gravy? Served separately the flavour of the cranberries shone against the succulence of the lamb but when dissolved into the sauce it became lost.

With no tinned green lentils on the shelf at Waitrose, and I'm buggered if I am going to simmer raw one for hours on end, I substituted Puy Lentils. Despite my loathing of parsnips I did indeed put one in the pot and actually had a couple of bites too. Still the devils vegetable though!

The dish was lovely; the lamb juicy and deliciously tasty and, while I should have reduced the gravy a little to aide its concentration, it went marvellously with the soft red I selected.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas Abadengo, 2003, Vinos de La Tierra Arribes del Duero, Spain.
Available from Oddbins for £7.49.
Juan Garcia, obscure, packed with potential for bigger league stuff - especially with juicy, smooth wines like these blazing the trail. Plenty of fruit, wrapped up in an oaky whole. Touches of spiced blackberries and red currants. Alcohol is quite high at 14.5% and noticeable when sipping as the stew bubbled away. But the palate feel is immensely attractive - soft and juicy before a gentle cascade into that fruit medley and a tannic burst into a long blackcurrant finish.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Continue reading "Combinations A Wine To Match A Lamb Stew" »

PIC Wines Tasting

We arrived late; not conducive to a relaxed tasting especially when everyone else is slurping on the dessert muscat and are well settled into the whole event. Traffic held us up. But forging on we managed to slurp and spit our way through a while gamut of superb wines, even if the notes taken were not hugely in-depth.

Hosted by Pic Wines (for more info on this company see UKWOL) the samples on offer were all from the Languedoc. I was so impressed, by the reds in particular, that I have ordered a mixed case - can't give a better recommendation than that! (Those ordered marked with a *)

So brief notes below, with promise of fuller details on the producers and wines once the order arrives.

White Wine Domaine Piccinini Clos l'Angely, 2004, Minervois, France.*
A blend of Grenache Blanc 60%, Rousanne 30%, Muscat 10% so something interesting and 'different' - very Alsace Pinot Gris-like in its weight and spice, delicious. Spicy, nutty, full.

White WineAimery Sieur d'Arques Haute Vallée, 2002, Limoux, France.
Chardonnay all the way here; nice enough but didn't really 'tickle my fancy'. Oaky with a nutty/bitter twist on the finish.

red wineMas Domergue Font d'Armand, 2003, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.
The first of the reds and a great opener. A blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache. Smooth, great depth to the fruit.

red wineDomaine des Crès Richards Les Hauts de Millési, 2004, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.
Described by another taster as an 'old' style French red - meaning much drier in fruit and heavier on the tannins, good aroma though. Would be good with food.

red wineDomaine Piccinini Line et Laetitia, 2003, Minervois, France.*
A blend of Syrah (40%), Grenache (20%) Mouvedre (40%) another addition to the 'buy list'. Rounded, smooth, blackcurrants, concentrated but balanced.

red wineMas Bruguiere La Grenadière, 2004, Pic St Loup, France.*
More Syrah here (60%) than the last wine, Mourvedre 20% and Grenache 20% making up the remainder. Beautiful aroma, deep, complex, mirrored on the palate. Superb, long lasting, delicious flavours.

red wineDomaine Piccinini Teralbo Ouest, 2001, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.*
Syrah 70%, Carignan 20%, Cinsault 10%. Soft and smooth, "gorgeous", silky. Length not quite as impressive as the previous wine and the finish is drier but no less impressive for that.

red wineMas Thélème Exultet, 2003, Pic St Loup, France. *
Syrah 60%, Grenache 30%, Cinsault 10%. Powerful, rounded, lick of licorice and herbs, plentiful tannins on the rich finish.

red wineAntonin et Louis, 2003, Mas de la Seranne, France.*
Syrah 40%, Mourvedre 27%, Grenache 23%. Violets adds to the complexity of the deep fruit nose. Another big wine and again smooth, rich and concentrated.

dessert wineChâteau de la Peyrade Sol Invictus, 2005, Muscat, France.
'Something I would drink while ironing' said the lady to my left. Indeed the sweetness makes this highly drinkable, super pure-Muscat aroma but at a shade under a tenner is it really something you would knock back while flattening shirt-cuffs?

Wine Tasting Note: Cape Heights Limited Release Tinta Barroca 2005, Western Cape, South Africa

Cape Heights Tinta BarrocaWine Tasting Note: Cape Heights Limited Release Tinta Barroca, 2005, Western Cape, South Africa.
Currently on offer at Waitrose £4.66
Combining an obscure grape variety – the Portuguese Tinta Barroca – with pure smooth drinkability is guaranteed a high ranking. Rich berry fruit with hints of dark chocolate with a spice edge. Smooth tannins, red berry finish all basically making his an absolute steal at the offer price of £4.66. 14.5% alcohol Screw cap. Full bodied.

Tinta Barroca is used in the production of port and some still, red wines from Portugal’s Douro valley. Nice to see something a little different coming from South Africa. Serve with a grilled steak; delicious.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Montpezat Les Enclos, 2004, Languedoc, France

Wine Tasting Note: Montpezat Les Enclos, 2004, Languedoc, France.
Available from Oddbins £7.99.
Throwing Syrah (30%) into a vat of Merlot (70%) makes for an unusual blend, especially from France. But that is the joy of Vin de Pays. My hastily scribbled notes - I was grilling lamb steaks at the time - repeated deep, rich and complex several times. Full-bodied, complex flavours of raspberries and blackberries hoisted above the average with a touch of vanilla oak and a strong tannic background. Alcohol 13.5%. It's a good wine, people, certainly worth trying with some hunky meat dish - sausages, steaks, autumn stews or as with us, lamb.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Pizzorno Merlot/Tannat, Canelon Chico, Uruguay.

A heavy weight bottle... price just under six quid... Tannat on the label... Oh, from Uruguay.. small, family owned vineyard.. nice... lets try that then. What do I know about Uruguay? Precious little to be honest and even less about the state of the wine industry there. They have no hills apparently.

Wine Tasting Note: Pizzorno Merlot/Tannat,, 2004, Canelon Chico, Uruguay.
Available from Waitrose for £6.64 online.
Tannat hails from the South West of France, and is best described as having a 'sturdy profile' but here, it is blended with Merlot which softens this very nicely. A big, rich mouthful, soft but full of flavour - ripe berry, hints of cassis, herbs and a hint of sweetness. Tannins - soft, underpinning a big, generous palate. Recommended with hearty stews or game; although we drank it solo and marvelled how it broadened and opened over the course of the evening. A blend of Merlot, Tannat and a 'dash of Cabernet Sauvignon'. Alcohol 13%. Really enjoyable.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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.

Continue reading "Top 100 Vin De Pays Tasting" »

Wine Tasting Notes: Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2002, Tuscany, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2002, Tuscany, Italy.
Unknown Stockists. Price on Italian website is E17.60 (£12.20 approx).
A food wine - marked tannins and forceful acidity that makes for harsh drinking on its own but changes with a food accompniment. A good complexity to the aroma - fruit, herbs and something sunbaked and earthy. Made from Sangiovese although, in this case, a local clone known as Prugnolo Gentile.

As a food match this was recommended with Arista alla Fiorentina (Florentine Roast Pork) which is is a popular Tuscan dish, often served cold, although I had it warm from the oven. The pork is studded with chopped garlic and rosemary, doused with olive oil and, interestingly, has a few cloves stuck in the flanks. Before roasting several hours marinading is recommended. The wine was a superb match with the tannins and marked acidity disappearing and a more rounded whole present. A little pricey if it is £12 a bottle but that's Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for you! Alcohol 13%
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Salcheto Nobile di Montepulciano

Continue reading "Wine Tasting Notes: Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2002, Tuscany, Italy." »

Wine Tasting Note:Woodlands Cabernet-Merlot, 2004, Western Australia. is offering an opening special with a generous 10% off all orders plus free delivery. This would include this rather classy Cab-Merlot and the 'also worth buying' Shepherd's Hut Shiraz sampled a few days ago that retails for a rather good £11.

Wine Tasting Note: Woodlands Cabernet Merlot, 2004, Margaret River, Western Australia.
Travelling Grapes £13.
Silverside of beef cooked in a red wine gravy and topped with golden shortcrust pastry - a posh way of saying a meat pie. But it's a decent meat pie; requiring little bar a decent red for a glorious meal. Stroll on in Woodlands with their medley of lush blackberries and redcurrant acidity. Woodlands is a small 10 hectare property in Western Australia. Family run the estate produces small quantities of wine that only reach the UK via the endeavours of such importers such as Travelling Grapes. Fine powdery tannins finish the brambly whole with a flourish of juicy, red currant and rosehip acidity.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 14% Malbec. Would be nice if they had these details on the label...

Woodlands Cabernet Merlot

Wine Tasting Note: Shepherd's Hut Shiraz, 2003, Western Australia.

Wine Tasting Note: Shepherd's Hut Porongurup Shiraz, 2003, Western Australia.
Available from Travelling Grapes, price TBC.
With a mass of blackberry fruit and plenty of soft tannins this medium-bodied wine from Western Australia is a delight. Pepper and spice notes enliven the palate and finish with a plummy, light oaked flourish. Alcohol 14%. Fusion food is recommended here - try a traditional Shepherd's Pie with the mince spiked with a selection of Indian spices; the match was lovely.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100


The vineyard, sited in the eastern foothills of the Porongurup Ranges in the Great Southern region of Western Australia was established in 1996 . Back in the 1850's there were four stone huts that were used by shepherds who were tending their flocks in the regions lush pastures. One of these old, now dilapidated, huts was on estate property. It was rebuilt overlooking the vines and is used by the family when working in the vineyard. It is apparently built from the original a honey-coloured Mt Barker stone and has sweeping views to the Porongurup and Stirling Ranges.

Wine Tasting Note: Joubert-Tradauw Syrah, 2004, Klein Karoo, South Africa.

I dive into Oddbins as the splatter of rain develops a into a head-stinging hail storm. It is not going to pass quickly. With half a mind on pal Jeanne holidaying in her native South Africa I browse over the stacks of discounted bubbly and head to the SA shelves. Little inspires at the lower levels then, as I dismiss the idea of actually buying, an unprepossessing bottle rattles in a thunder-claps aftermath. A curse from outside as a market trader struggles with a sagging red tarpaulin, still bravely protecting the tat below as it bows under the weight of collected water and ice. I exchange a tenner and hover in the doorway as hail turns to rain and convince myself that another purchase was necessary; the excuse of Wine Blogging Wednesday about the best available. Head bowed against the rain, I crunch through the market homeward, wondering if Nigel Slater has anything in his diaries remotely South African.

Joubert-Tradauw Syrah.

Wine Tasting Note: Joubert-Tradauw Syrah, 2004, Klein Karoo, South Africa.
Available from Oddbins for £9.99
The deepest plum colour you can imagine; black almost, with a smidge of cherry around the rim. It's young, deep and powerfully intense. Takes a while to open - something ripe, rich and blackberryish emerges but indicates, again, a youth in sulking reticence. The palate impresses. Ripe, full, rich, offering spice amongst the black fruits and manages to tuck a sprig of rosemary in there too. Fine gravel tannins, mineral mouth-feel and lingering fruit keep the finish interesting. It's good, very good, and has plenty of potential to develop over the next few years. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Wine Blogging Wednesday reaches its 19th round hosted by Wine Expression. The theme is Rhone grapes either from the region itself or from elsewhere across the globe.

Iconic Australia - Australia Day Tasting.

The scrum around the Iconic Australia tasting table was not the most conducive to serious sampling and note writing; being interrupted by some ol' fart comparing this bottle with last years vintage, that bottle with what so-and-so made four years ago and such-like didn't help either. God, I hate that sort of conversation. I don't bloody remember if I even sampled half the wines last year let alone have the memory capacity of a Cray in comparing them. I leave such malarkey to the Bordeaux and Burgundy specialists; for the finest of wines not for sub-tenner bottles.

Not that there was much laid out in this corner for under fifteen pounds mind, for these are the upper echelons of Australia - their icon wines.

Continue reading "Iconic Australia - Australia Day Tasting." »

Wine Blogging Wednesday #18: Wine Shops.

The UK is blessed with a plethora of specialist wine merchants. At the last count, before UKWinesOnline was closed, the listings counted nearly 400. These range from the internet only merchants covering individual product areas (such as Champagne) or more likely countries (Spain, regional France and Italy are popular) through to general wine shops with an on-line presence and on to supermarkets and the national wine chains. A vast majority are happy to deliver nationwide thus offering a simply massive range of wines, beers and spirits to us all. Something many American residents will look upon with envy.

For day to day drinking I tend to frequent my local Oddbins and Waitrose supermarket. But for Wine Blogging Wednesday I wanted to try somewhere new; although it is supposed to be your favourite wine shop I selected a totally new establishment.

Continue reading "Wine Blogging Wednesday #18: Wine Shops." »

Wine Tasting Note: Alejandro Fernández El Vínculo Crianza, 2002, La Mancha, Spain

La Mancha, the sprawling plateau south of Madrid, is not re-known for high quality; it's main claim being the largest wine-growing region both in Spain and the world. This producer though is highlighted in the 'bible' for Spanish wines (the Peñín Guide) as being "undeniably the best" from the region. The packaging doesn't do this particular bottle any favours though, giving a rather cheap and tacky feel.

Wine Tasting Note: Alejandro Fernández El Vínculo Crianza, 2002, La Mancha, Spain.
Available from Oddbins for £13.29.
I'm thinking dusty plains, hot simmering horizons and insects buzzing through the gentle slopes of low-lying vineyards as the ancient windmills creak in a gentle breeze... A scent of wild berries, strawberries and more than a dusting of spice open this deep cherry coloured wine. The palate follows with a rich and mellow feel, dusty tannins hide in a rich and jam flavoured wine with mellowed complexity and a long toasty finish. Delicious. 100% Tempranillo. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

This was served with a steak and chorizo stew (Part One / Part Two) as detailed on Slashfood. Although the spice of the chorizo dampened the wines flavours a tad it was an lovely combination. Equally manchego and other cheeses, as detailed on the producers website, would be a fine match.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine de Lavabre Rouge, 2001, Pic Saint-Loup, France.

The side road eluded us; travelling east across the Languedoc aiming for the Pic Saint-Loup hill. Basically we missed it and ended up in the Southern Rhone. It was a year or two back now and I do regret the missed opportunity. We were under pressure to travel up the Rhone Valley and conquer other more renown hills though.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine de Lavabre Rouge, 2001, Pic Saint-Loup, Languedoc, France.
Flying Corkscrew £9.99.
Just the right balance of fruit and elder complexity. A marvellous richness of deep fruits with an edge of meaty, spicy, raspberry and red currant juiciness. Smooth with a level of tannin that is about spot-on. Age has provided a little sediment. An unoaked mix of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Alcohol 13.5%.

This is the lower ranking wine in the domaines range. Next up is Les Demoiselles, which sees some oak ageing while the flagship is Château Lavabre which sees time in a mix of new and used oak.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

UPDATE: The Chateau Lavabre, the flagship wine of this estate, is available from Surf4Wine for, at the time of writing, £11.50.

Wine Tasting Note: Graham's Malvedos Port, 1995, Portugal.

Graham's Malvedos 1995
Another single quinta (vineyard) port and one from the producers top vineyard. While 1995 was not declared as a vintage year the grapes from the Malvedos vineyard were deemed good enough to go into this wine. And grief people, what a wine!

Wine Tasting Note: Graham's Malvedos Port, 1995, Portugal.
Available for £30 a bottle.
Dense, dense colour. Not a huge amount to the nose but I am trying this after a few days after the bottle was opened so it may have lost a little, but the palate is simply stunning. The balance between the richness, the sweetness, the deliciousness of the fruit and the tannic backbone, the structure and the complex prune and spice flavours is superb. Opulent and rich. Like the other single quinta ports I have recently reviewed this will throw a heavy deposit and will need decanting. What a great way to start the year.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100

The south facing vineyard is one of the top estates along the River Douro. It's 68 hectares are planted with a mix of Touriga Francea, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and Tinta Amarela.

Wine Tasting Note: Dashwood Pinot Noir, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.

This months Wine Blogging Wednesday has had New Zealand Reds designated as the theme by Cork Dork. Damn fine theme. I seldom purchase Kiwi Reds; they tend towards the expensive end of the price range and thoughts of the green, undeveloped wines of the past still pervade. Dashwood is the 'second wine' from the Vavasour stable, a small producer in the Awatere Valley. Get out the duck here people with those little pancake things only Chinese takeaways seem to get right. A mighty fine red counterpart to the Dashwood Sauvignon.

Wine Tasting Note Dashwood Pinot Noir, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Available from Oddbins for £9.99.
Oh now this is gorgeous - unscrewing the cap the aroma of red berries just bursts from the bottle. There is more to the nose than simple berries though - it has a delicious complexity coupling those berries with plums, currants and a touch of 'earth'. The palate is ripe, juicily so, and rich in a medium-bodied style. Soft. Good length. Distinct apple edge to the those red berries. Alcohol 14%. Screwcap.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Fox Gordon Eight Uncles Shiraz, 2003, Barossa Valley, Australia.

Fox Gordon Eight Uncles Shiraz
While the main course was rendered inedible by my over-enthusiastic reheating the wine flowed copiously and helped wash the burnt flavours from the mouth. This deep and plush red was a star. You can read all on the culinary disaster at Slashfood.

Wine Tasting Note: Fox Gordon Eight Uncles Shiraz, 2003, Barossa Valley, Australia.
Purchased at Oddbins for £12.49.
A lovely drop, rich full and gently spicy. The grapes are sourced from three individual vineyards combining into a mulberry, plums and spice wonder. Full-bodied and balanced. The second vintage release of this label with 900 cases made. Alcohol 14.5%. The previous vintage, 2002, was my entry for Wine Blogging Wednesday back in November 2004.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Enclave des Papes Rouge, 2004, Coteaux de Tricastin, Rhone, France.

Something deep, rich and warming required tonight; an accompaniment to lightly spiced tortilla things that Rob plans to rustle up later tonight. Loose change extracted from various pockets produced the grand sum of £5.90 - hence the purchase of this Southern Rhone red.

Wine Tasting Note: Enclave des Papes Rouge, 2004, Coteaux de Tricastin, Rhône, France.
Plucked from a shelf at Oddbins for £5.79.
An unoaked blend of Grenache (65%), Syrah (30%) and Carignan (5%); the nose is chocolatey and curranty, the palate ripe and bursting with raspberry and spice flavours. Peppery. It may be sometime before the tortillas... a slither of unpasteurised cheese (Beaufout 'springy, buttery and golden with caramel undertones and a full, lasting flavour') mellowed out those rustic tannins and emphasised the raspberry flavours very nicely. Alcohol at 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Wine Blogging Wednesday 16 - Judge A Bottle By Its Cover.

What should I select? One of those 'funky' labels with bright colours and cartoonish graphics or something more sedate, classy and refined. The gold on yesterday's bottle label didn't translate to anything decent liquid-wise so taking a different angle a more understated label, something simple but refined, caught the eye. For this months Wine Blogging Wednesday Derrick has selected wine labels as the theme under the title Judge A Book By Its Cover.

Wine Tasting Note: Matahiwi Pinot Noir, 2004, Wairarapa, New Zealand.
From Oddbins for £8.99
Light in colour, nose full of black cherry yoghurt aromas with just a suspicion of earthy richness - young. With more swirling more primary fruit and less of that earthiness. Not hugely complex but attractive. Rich, young, up-front fruit, a delicious richness. Plenty of acidity. A touch of smoke on the finish. Alcohol 13.5%. This would be delicious with a lamb dish; the acidity cutting through the fat. A cream dish would also work - the cream and Parmesan smothered baked onions and a few little sausages went superbly.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

As detailed on the producers website this is the first vintage from this specific vineyard. The Matahiwi Estate spans 74-hectares in the Opaki region of Waiarapa where it is one of the largest family owned wineries.

There is a flickr group for this round of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

Wine with Beef Stew.

Beef stew or beef casserole - is there a difference? It matters little. We cracked open two wines to accompany beef slow-cooked in stock and red wine, tomato and onions plus chopped carrots, mixed herbs, a few porcini mushrooms and a dash of Beneden sauce. The whole house was filled with the most delicious, mouth-watering aromas as the stew bubbled gently on the hob for a few hours. It was worth the wait. And the two wines? Both delicious with the meal and distinctly different too.

Maurel Verdeau Minervois.
Wine Tasting Note: Maison Maurel Vedeau Le Minervois, 2003, Minervois, France.
Waitrose normally £5.99 now 20% off at £4.79.
A mix of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault - a typical southern French blend. Gravelly tannins, chalky almost, perhaps mirroring the chalk terraces of the Montagne Noire. Peppery aroma, a little disappointing, more action on the palate. Like the slow cooked stew here the flavours are all mellow and melded together. Deep black fruits, a twist of juicy acidity and those gravelly tannins complete an excellently priced wine. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Domaine du Fraïsse Label
Wine Tasting Note: Domaine du Fraïsse Fleur de Cuveè, 2001, Faugères, France.
Handfords £7.99.
No details of the exact composition here but Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are the usual blending suspects. A gorgeous aroma with a floral edge, more intense than the Minervois, a touch of herbs and an inky edge too. A richer, fuller palate, juicy, licorice nuances adds to the full flavours. This is lovely.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Boekenhoustskloof The Wolftrap, 2004, Franschhoek, South Africa.

Wine Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap, 2004, Franschhoek, South Africa.
Oddbins £6.49.
Well this is rather gorgeous - rich, warming in a new world style and pack with sumptuous flavours backed up with red fruit acidity, soft tannins and a almost smoky, leathery finish. What it doesn't have is that rusty, dry pencil edge that can typify Pinotage or other South African reds. Sweet fruit up-front and a medley of deep berry flavours.

They have packed a lot into the heavy weight and stylish bottle - Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Pinotage (46%), Syrah (6% and Cinsault (8%). Each variety was fermented separately before blending followed by eight months aging in French oak. It is drinking beautifully and will shine with good beef dishes. Alcohol 14.4%. Screwcapped.

The label pays tribute to the early settlers at Boekenhoutskloof who set up wolf traps - up to today not a single wolf has ever been seen in the valley.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

UPDATE: I just noticed that the rear of the neck collar on this wine detailed the grapes; its a new blend apparently with Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot and Ruby Cabernet.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #15 - Small Production Wines.

This months theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday is limited production wines; wines where there are fewer than 250 cases made. A difficult theme as selected by Gastronomie-SF; difficult in that some research is needed to find production figures. 250 cases is not very much wine at all. This one comes in way over sadly, at 20,300 bottles or 1690 cases but I didn't know this until I had already selected the wine!

Wine Tasting Note: Bodegas Contino Viña del Olivo Reserva, 2000, Rioja, Spain.
Waitrose £45.
A lovely nose with a porty, spirity edged overlaying an elegant savoury-tomato aroma. A traditional Riojan spicy palate with suer balance. Herby, leathery complexity, plenty of tannin and a long very moreish finish. Alcohol 13.5%. A blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano aged in a mix of French, Hungarian and American oak. In 1974, CVNE established Contino, a separate estate with its own vineyards in Laserna to produce one of the first single vineyard, chateau bottled wines in Rioja. Contino makes only one wine, a reserva in good vintages and a crianza in lesser ones.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Incidently the crest at the top of the label shows Saint Gregory, founder of the Benedictine monastic order and the patron saint of vine growers.

Saint Gregory from the Contino label

Wine Tasting Note: Bertie Syrah, 2002, Minervois, France.

Wine Tasting Note: Bertie Syrah, 2002, Minervois, France.
Available from Oddbins for £6.99.
This delicious red hails from one of three Southern French properties owned by Englishman Robert 'Bertie' Eden; his most famous label being Comte Cathare (see the Orangutan wine). Bertie and his team employ biodynamic practices at their three properties.

This medium to full-bodied wine has a marvellous texture and gravelly tannins. Plenty of peppery black fruit flavours and a good lasting length. I am going to have to buy another bottle if only to try it with 'bruschetta topped with diced black pudding and apple sauce' as recommended on the Oddbins website.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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."

Continue reading "South Africa Mega Tasting - Wine Recommendations." »

Wine Tasting Note: Clos Montels Rouge, 2004, Vin de Table, France.

>Wine Tasting Note: Clos Montels Rouge, 2004, Vin de Table, France.
Not too sure where you can buy this from, the price and, as it is a Vin de Table, there is no indication of where it is from exactly. But even though it has a lowly designation it is actually a jolly decent drop. Very plummy colour, nose offers a little inky, peppery fruit while the palate is full-bodied with a nice layer of tannin. Deep, squishy blackfruits mingle with spice and ink flavours while the finish is juicy and ripe. All in all rather good for a basic table wine! Alcohol 13.5%. A blend of 46% Syrah and 54% Carignan.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Wine Tasting Note: Riolite Scaranto Rosso, 1999, Veneto, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Riolite Scaranto Rosso, 1999, Colli Euganei, Veneto, Italy.
Available from Oddbins for £7.99. (A small parcel available off-line only).
Colli Euganei is a small region near Padua... This is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but it is not in the Bordeaux style (as I have seen written on other websites). More fruit, more Italian style, a certain robustness. Yes, it is made with Bordeaux grapes but the style is very different. Fruit upfront, tannins and dryness in the middle (food required) then a big tannic-led finish. Succulent and flavoursome. Lovely. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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.

Continue reading "Rioja In Retail Tasting." »

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.

Continue reading "Mitchelton Wines Australia." »

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.

Continue reading "Spy Valley Wines, New Zealand." »

Wine Tasting Note: Barra Estate Vineyards Zinfandel, 2003, Mendocino, California.

Wine Tasting Note: Barra Estate Vineyards Zinfandel, 2003, Mendocino, California.
Fresh and Wild £8.99 Vintage Roots £7.95
Made from organically grown grapes. A full aroma of black fruits, spices and baked-cake nuances. A big - huge - palate of coffee-edge ripe black fruits. Tannins are finely grained while the alcohol seems higher than the 13.5% mentioned on the label. Red fruits and coffee on the lingering finish. Juicy acidity keeps the sweet fruit in check.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine de Grand Selve Rouge, 2002, VDP Saint Sardos, France.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine de Grand Selve Rouge, 2002, Vin de Pays de Saint Sardos, France.
The aroma can only be called complex - fleeting hints of dark undergrowth, violets, licorice and a hint of reductive properties. Flavours are more fruity but with an earthy edge to the lavender and bitter chocolate finish. The acidity lends a rustic edge, dominating as it does the mid-palate. Food is required for this full-bodied wine. This is an interesting blend of Syrah 50%, Cabernet Franc 30% and Tannat 20%. Alcohol 12.5%. Worth tracking down.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

This particular cuv�e was first bottled in 1995. The grapes are sourced from land that held the original vineyards of the area, owned by the Grand Selve Abbey, which is pictured on the label.

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.

Continue reading "Wines from Matetic Vineyards, Chile." »

Wine Tasting Note: Dioniso Ruiz Ijalba, 2002, Rioja, Spain.

One of the more interesting wines available in the Rioja In Retail tasting. Not only is it made from organically grown grapes and comes from a very rare variety, it also tastes rather lovely; which is always a boon in a wine.

Wine Tasting Note: Dioniso Ruiz Ijalba, 2002, Rioja, Spain.
Available from Vintage Roots for £13.95.
This is made from Maturana Tinta, a native grape, rescued from oblivion by the estate. Only 20 vines remain according to the bottle label. The wine is delightful with an intense aroma of spicy red fruits. The palate has a complex array of flavours - chocolate and plums mainly with a delicious balsamic sweetness. Perhaps lacking a tad in the mid-palate (nothing a spot of food wouldn't negate) this comes in with 13.5% alcohol.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Clos Triguedina Black Wine, Cahors, France.

A bizarre location for a South West France tasting today - a side crypt in a 14th Century Church near Smithfield Market. Cramped and dusty but an interesting range of wines and a superb buffet. One wine that stood out was this 'black wine'. The Triguedina estate has revived a production method that died out in the 19th century. A portion of the Malbec grapes are dried out in ovens for a day before fermentation. The resultant colour is very deep, hence the name.

Wine Tasting Note: Clos Triguedina The New Black Wine, 2001, Cahors, France.
Only 4,000 bottles of this interesting wine were produced. Deep and concentrated palate, tannins aplenty but supported by plenty of mulberry and plum fruit. Quite complex with hints of dried prunes, stewed fruits with a red berry acidic streak. The wine is produced totally from 100 year old Malbec vines (aka Auxerrois).
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Wine Tasting Note: Dourthe Barrel Select St Emilion, 2003, Bordeaux, France.

Wine Tasting Note: Dourthe Barrel Select St Emilion, 2003, Bordeaux, France.
Available from Waitrose for £9.99.
Cedar and red fruits dominate the nose. Well structured with balanced acidity and tannins which leave a lovely lick around the gums. Hints of spice, tobacco and coffee on the palate leading into a firmly flavoured finish. This is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another wine crying out for a nice steak or lamb.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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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TN: Vinedos del Contino Graciano, 2001, Rioja, Spain

Wine Tasting Note: Vinedos del Contino Graciano, 2001, Rioja, Spain
Great Northern Wine Company, £40.
This is 100% Graciano which is seldom seen as a single varietal due to small vineyard area and the requirement for a warm climate. The wine has seen 14 months ageing in a mix of French and Hungarian oak. Production is small at 3,000 bottles. Another wine sampled at the April Penin tasting.

Located in the Rioja Alavesa region, the Contino estate maintains 62 acres planted with Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano vines. In 1974 the estate produced Rioja's first single vineyard estate bottled wine. 1994 saw the initial vintage of a single varietal Graciano; there are now 62 hectares planted with this variety.

Wild fruit flavours abound, intense and concentrated with plenty of tannin to see this through several years. Delicious.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

TN: Marotti Campi Rubico, 2002, Marche, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Marotti Campi Rubico Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, 2002, Marche, Italy.
Available from Oddbins for £7.99.
Lacrima is the grape variety one that is only grown on the hills north of Jesi in the Marche region of Italy. It produces a strangely scented wine - not unpleasant, just uniquely different and even more pronounced the following day. Notes of roses and blackberries with a unpinning of tar on both the nose and palate. The wine is dry, approachable with a good level of tannin making it more suitable for food than drinking on its own. Very distinctive.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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TN: Bodegas Penalba Lopez Torremilanos Gran Reserva, 1996, Ribera del Duero, Spain.

Wine Tasting Note: Bodegas Penalba Lopez Torremilanos Gran Reserva, 1996, Ribera del Duero, Spain.
Available from Decanter Wines for £16.50.
Magical - a mouthfilling layer of soft, sweet fruits that are mellowing into a savoury plum while. There is an edge of tomato richness to the aroma with complexity that comes from age. Needs an hour or two open to really develop. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

The website, from Spanish specialists Decanter Wines, is excellent with plenty of detail on each of there wines. They show that this wine made from Tinto del Pais (aka Tempranillo) was aged for 30 months in French oak barrels. They recommend it with grilled or roast meat dishes, rich game or other powerful flavours and also mention some breathing is required.

TN: Xavier Vignon Debut, NV, Vin de Table, France.

Wine Tasting Note: Xavier Vignon Debut, NV, Vin de Table, France.
Available from Big Red Wine Company for £7.50.
As the BRW company website states 'Don't be fooled by the vin de table status into thinking this is a lowly wine'. Although rules halt the mention of the composition on the label this is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Merlot, Caladoc, Marselan. This is a georgous wine. Excellent aroma, superbly balanced palate - packed with complex flavours. Hearty tannins but so very drinkable and delicious.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

TN: Mount Tauch Les Quatre, 2003, Fitou, France.

Mount Tauch Les Quatre Fitou bottleWine Tasting Note: Mount Tauch Les Quatre, 2003, Fitou, France.
Available from Waitrose for £8.99.
Now this is gorgeous - smooth and so easy to drink but substantial, rich with inky/herby depths. With a layer of tannin to contain the fruit this well-structured wine is delicious with a humble steak through to more elaborate meaty fare or even a barbecue. Classy packaging emphasises the quality.

Mount Tauch is a cooperative winery in the depths of the Languedoc. Four (Les Quatre) of the best vineyards around Tuchan have been selected to form this wine. Fifty year old vines have provided the Carignan, Grenache and Syrah for this 'seductive, stylish red'. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

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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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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