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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... "

On Sauvingon Blanc and Villa Maria's Cellar Selection Sauvignon

villa maria sauvignon blancThere is an issue with Sauvignon Blanc. When it's cheap, it's nasty, rough, acidic and one dimensional. Even modest examples can lack complexity and a layering of flavour that should be there to tamper the inbuilt high acidity. Wine makers can rely on rounding it out with the addition of Semillon of course (i.e. Bordeaux) or call on the terrior providing a level of minerality to supply interest (i.e. Loire). But it is easy to tire of wines that give a little more than an acidity punch lined with gooseberries or a green grassiness. New Zealand has built its reputation on stunning Sauvingons vibrantly punchy with gooseberry and asparagus but even from here you can find wines lacking in body and texture (wines that needs a brave man to drink down the throat rasping juice!).

Last week the good wine folks on twitter indulged with a day of tastings and discussions on Sauvignon Blanc. The tag to read through is #sauvblanc. My plan was to tweet this Villa Maria offering in conjunction with the 'event'; but being run and dominated by Americans it didn't kick off until way past my bedtime and anyway a few friends dragged me out to the pub with the evening ended with a Chinese takeaway and laughing at the ridiculous pap put out by various TV stations of an evening...

I did sample a Sauvignon while out (in our drinking hole of choice, the Old Post Office) and had planned to sample a sauvignon with some goats cheese. The tweets were limited to: #sauvblanc in old Post Office Wallingford Riscal lovely honeyed acidity minerality to fore, quite full so different from a kiwi version

Then #sauvblanc ooooh baked pineapple

And discovering the pre-purchased Pouilly Fume - pont du milieu pouilly fume 08 dosent go with chinese takeaway #sauvblanc

In regards to food matching the classic pairing of Sauvignon is with goats cheese, rather than a mixed plate of Cantonese take-away. Try topping cut rounds of thick walnut bread, topped with goats cheese and walnuts, warmed though in the oven, and served with slices of pear and lambs lettuce. Drizzle the dish with walnut oil. Paired with the Villa Maria Sauvignon this made for a stonkingly good lunch (equally it would be a classy starter).

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Stockist: Majestic and Tesco Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Pushy grapefruit acidity - passion fruit - lime - straw - herbaceous - herby edge - weighty palate - punchy - crisp - mouth watering - green beans - juicy. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

goats cheese with walnut bread and pear salad

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.

Deiss : Premier Cru or Not Premier Cru

wines of marcel deiss, alsaceAlsace has 51 officially designated grand cru plots, it's only a little region but all seem to agree that 51 is a rather large number. Whichever hill side you scramble up or roadside you halt by to snap a picture of Grand Cru Pfersigberg, Schoenenbourg or Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé you have to wonder if they are all as Grand as each other.

And why has Alsace, uniquely, only two rungs on the quality ladder - Gand Cru and 'others'? Why no Premier Cru level? Just imagine the 'negotiations' to down-grade some of the lesser Grand Crus to Premier Cru status! Merdi.

Thing is you can actually find Premier Cru on Alsace wine bottles. From just one, solitary, producer - Deiss.

It is all unofficial and has rankled/upset/annoyed more than one fellow wine producer. Viewed by many as a dangerous maverick Marcel Deiss is certainly unconventional and at times confrontational. But you "have to make a noise to be heard". What you cannot complain about though is the quality of the wines.

Deiss wines come from 27 hectares of vines producing 220 parcels of wine amounting to some 80-100,000 per year bottle production, depending on the harvest. All are biodynamically produced, although that is not used as a marketing proposition on the label. Deiss have been touting the idea of Premier Cru for years and have produced nine - Burlenberg, Gruenspiel and Grasberg for example. Along with the three Grand Cru wines they produced the Premier Cru wines are grouped under 'terrior', leaving 'wines of fruit' and 'wines of time and patience' as the other ranges.

I've been struggling to encapsulate the style and flavours of the Deiss wines, with little printable success. A certain Mr Wood came through on twitter with this sub-140 character gem:

Deiss - like the flavour has passed from soil to palate after being strained through Agent Provocateur

Which I think translates as 'slightly soiled lingerie'!

Grand Cru: each with the magnificent, way over-the-top, labels

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: Found the 2004 at Lea and Sandeman £47.75 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A blend of 13 varieties and needs at least an hour opening to become fully expressive. Crystallised lemon, ginger, honey, creamy exotic fruits, peach and vanilla. A richness in texture and extremely elegant. High residual sugar but a steely backbone gives the impression of less.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Mambourg Grand Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: The 2004 is listed by Lea and Sandeman £53.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A fascinating aroma that really left us stumped to describe - lanolin, meaty, over-ripened bananas, leather. Very complex and intriguing. Minerally texture, depth. Dry with 'single digit residual sugar' Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Grand Cru Schoenenbourg, 2005, Alsace, France.

[More: Adegga / Snooth]
What a contrast to the Mambourg; light but with poise and concentration. Pure orange on the nose. 100% Rielsing. Dry finish but 71g residual sugar, but perceived sweetness is much, much lower. Alcohol 11.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marcel Deiss Engelgaten Premier Cru, 2005, Alsace, France.

Stockist: Lea and Sandeman £26.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A field blend of mostly Riesling (80%) but includes Pinot Gris (15%), Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir. Apparently to get all these different varieties to ripen at the same time you just have to pack them closer together in the vineyard (high density planting). Rich but that distinctive underlining mineral acidity gives the impression of being quite dry. Very long finish. Alcohol 12.5%
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

The Grand Cru wines are very expensive; sadly of the wines available in the UK only the Engelgaten was tasted during the visit. Plenty of others were tried - Burg 2005, Gruenspiel 2002, Schoffweg 2005, Rottenberg 2004...

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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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Prosecco - Two New Versions (Brown Brothers and Bisol)

bisol jeio prosecco roseWe all know Brown Brothers as Australian pioneers of the unusual grape variety - amongst the usual shelves of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet you'll find more esoteric bottlings of Vermentino, Tempranillo, Albarino and Sangiovese all from Brown Brothers.

New to their range is a Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine (made from the grape of the same name). Plantings of this grape in Australia are miniscule. In fact, I wasn't aware there was any Prosecco grow outside of Italy until this sample arrived.

"This is the first release of the Brown Brothers Prosecco. The wine is part of our limited release range and will be available at Cellar Door and restaurants for this first release. The Prosecco is another example of Brown Brothers innovation and experimentation as we bring more and more styles of wine to our portfolio. The Prosecco has a pale gold colour with subtle green hues and a delicate nose displaying citrus, apple and pear characters. These characters follow through to the palate which is fresh and crisp with tight natural acidity from the cool climate fruit. Prosecco is made to drink young while at its light and delicate best."

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Brown Brothers Prosecco, 2008, King Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Available from Christopher Piper Wines £11.13 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Delicate fizz of the first order.. Lovely deep colour and firmer palate than an Italian version. Fresh, bubbly, apple, a litte citrus and flowery. A fine aperitif. Stylish packaging too. Alcohol 12%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Bisol is one of the largest Prosecco producers in Italy; but a producer that retains quality and finesse in its large range. Has it really been two years since I enjoyed the Bisol dinner at l'Ortolan? Some superb Prosecco and Food matches that evening. Just added to the Bisol range is a rosé:

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bisol Jeio Rosé, NV, Veneto, Italy.

Available from Bibendum Wines £10.01. [More: Adegga / Snooth]
As with all decent rosés it is the colour that attracts; here its a firm rose colour with hints of orange. Delicate cherry and rose aromas and flavours and a great mass of refined bubbles. Light, fresh and delicate. Citrusy, a touch of sweetness countering the acidity. New to the UK. Alcohol 11.5%.

The Bisol was designed with food matching in mind; so recommended as an awesome match with shrimp, lobster, seafood in general and salami. For me though a vividly coloured Baked Beetroot Risotto made for a rather scrumptious match.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

UPDATE: Technically the Bisol is not a Prosecco; it is not made from the Prosecco grape but from a mix of Pinot Noir (95%) and Merlot (5%) which accounts for the colour! All the grapes are frm Bisol owned vieayrds and it is made in a similar way.

Italy Abroad recently posted details on Prosecco being bottled in Germany and the various DOCG/DOC labeling rules that now apply; if that is your bent.

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Brief Notes from a Tasting: Vergelegen, South Africa

the gardens at Vergelegen, South Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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" »

Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa

fmc chenin blanc

It's a long, long story but I didn't have that long with the mighty Ken Forrester; as the others drank and ate in the marvellous Salt River Food Market in Cape Town I languished in the N1 City Hospital. Don't ask...

I did make it back for a brief hello and a slurp on the stunning Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc. Ken plonked a delicious Almond Croissant in my hand - which was a stonkingly good match. There is a little residual sugar in the FMC that made it such a superb match with the pastry. I'd also try it with Chinese and other oriental foods; and try it you must for it is excellent.

Sorry for the red colour-cast this is due to the red umbrellas shielding this part of the food hall.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, 2007, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £17.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

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

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

Isabel from the Company of Wine People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa

iona sauvingon blanc

To reach Elgin take the N2 from Cape Town and keep going through the wine lands of Stellenbosch. Compared to the rash of vineyards covering the valleys and hills of Stellenbosch and Franschoek, Elgin has little more than a handful of wineries (with Paul Cluver being perhaps the most well known) in this traditionally apple-growing region. Iona stands alone in the south of Elgin and sadly wasn't on the itinerary of my recent trip.

While flicking through the Reuben's Cooks recipe book a mention of the Iona Sauvignon as an ideal accompaniment to one of the salad dishes - and by the fact that the wine is readily available at Waitrose - led to its purchase.

The salad, (Avocado Salad With Toasted Pine Nuts, Rocket, Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup) a superb starter or with added bread a lighter lunch, is simplicity to prepare. Using the freshest and highest quality ingredients of course, the dish was a most joyous match - about as perfect as you could wish - even if the use of rocket was usurped by pea shoots.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose SAWinesOnline Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A super example of a classy, restrained, refined, Sauvignon Blanc. An edge of fig and peach stones lifts the complex mineral-led palate. Lovely balance- crisply done on the finish married with a weighty feel and nice - not overly assertive - acidity. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

Domaine Saint Ferréol Viognier, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

Saint Ferreol Viognier

Wine merchants exist for one single reason - to flog us wine. Their sales patter can verge on the obscene leaving the feeling that they should be in advertising. Which I guess they are. Laithwaites has whole departments dedicated to producing purple prose for the volumes of leaflets and sales letters they despatch. Oddbins in its distant heyday regularly got me excited with page after wine list page extolling the virtues of this newly discovered wine or that gem of a tiny parcel. Funny but all I remember is that they only offered these 'little' parcels...

For the smaller merchant the excessive use of 'finest vintage ever', 'amazing value' and so on can verge on the desperate. The Flying Corkscrew hawked this Viognier shortly before Christmas as 'fabulous' and resorted to various press quotes to extol its wonderfulness. In this case though, they are correct. It's an absolute star.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Saint Ferréol Viognier, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Stockist: Flying Corkscrew Berry Brothers Price: £11.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Lovely complexity and a richness that is perfectly balanced by the acidity. Nutty with hints of apricots, orange pith, peach blossom and vanilla. Smooth and highly drinkable. Alcohol 12.5%. No flabbiness, no excessive floweriness just excellent poise, balance and flavour. While others have compared this to the best Condrieu Viogniers it doesn't quite have the depth and texture of the great Rhone wines, but as it stands it is a stonker and well worth the eleven quid.

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

Seafood, butter sauces, rosemary and nuts are regularly pushed as ideal partners for Viognier ; so you would expect a dish of Rosemary Seared Scallops With Pancetta, Salad and Hazelnuts to be a sublime match; and it was!

Other foods to try would include crab, chicken, cream sauces, and lightly spiced dishes with cinnamon, cumin or nutmeg.

A Touch of Bordeaux Class - Chateau de Malle, M De Malle, 2005, Bordeaux, France

Chateau de Malle, M. de Malle, Graves

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chateau de Malle M de Malle Graves, 2005, Bordeaux, France.
Stockist: Bordeaux Undiscovered Price: £11.73 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A touch of class here - from the blossom and wax aroma through to the 'tinged with the exotic' palate. A combination of softness, a gentle rounded mouthfeel with a complex wax and citrus burst on the finish. Dry. That citric burst finality comes complete with a hint of herb and a gravelly texture.

The wax references are courtesy of the Semillon component in the wine, the addition of which also tempers the forcefulness of the majority Sauvingon adding a touch of richness along the way. The blend, for those like me fascinated by such wine geekery, is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

Is there also a hint of tarragon in the wine or is that just the mouth-watering aromas eminating from the kitchen? For Bordeaux Undiscovered recommend M de Malle Graves with chicken in a Tarragon Sauce to accompany. Rather than frying chicken breasts a hole poisson, stuffed with fresh tarragon was roasted and served with a sauce of chicken stock, roasting juices and Dijon mustard. A delicious match.

Nick Stephens, MD of Bordeaux Undiscovered, has a great report on the company blog of Chateau de Malle (an actual Chateau dating from the 17th century, more famous perhaps for its Sauternes and Italian style gardens rather than its white wines) in addition to the recipe details.

Alain Voge 'Fleur de Crussol' Saint-Péray, Rhone, France

Voge Saint-Peray

Not something you see much of is Saint-Péray; most of the production is concentrated towards sparkling wines (not that I've come across any Saint-Péray sparkling mind!). My Guide Hachette des vins de France 2008 dismisses the region with little more than a quarter page entry and three producers but does state that it is "one of the best sparkling wines in France"; so something to look out for.

Saint-Péray lies across the river from Valence in the Rhone, if you have been reaching for your wine maps. Marsanne and Roussane being the grape varieties grown. Incidentally Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Book 2009 (Pocket Companion) rates Alain Voge's Fleur de Crussol as "an excellent wine or producer in its category - one especially worth seeking out". Anticipation is therefore high for this.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Alain Voge 'Fleur de Crussol', 2007, Saint-Péray, Rhone, France.
Stockist: Contact Bibendum Price: around £20 [More: Adegga / Snooth ]
Classy and rather refined. Smoothly textured and offering plenty of complexity to the flavour. Minerality obvious on the finish with a long, lingering aftertaste. Flavours of stony fruits, peaches, plenty of Tangerine/ Clementine with citrus pith and white flowers. Delicious. Alcohol 14%.

This is 100% oak-aged Marsanne, the grapes harvested from Voge's oldest vineyard (70+ years). Recommended for up to 10 years aging.

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

Food match: Served with a Salmon and Potato Bake. Sublime - even though this particular sample is a pre-release 'straight from the barrel' sample (hence the hand-written vintage year; they haven't printed the labels yet!). I was so impressed with this and have to ask - what is it going to be like with some age!

Sorry for the red-wine splattered bottle in the photo. It would appear that the shipment suffered a casualty - not one single bottle escaped some damage.

Cellar Cal Pla Mas D'En Compte Blanco, 2006, Priorat, Spain

Pla Mas DEn Compte Blanco

The New Wave Spanish Wine Awards highlighted many a bottle that I wanted to sample. So far however just one has come under my scrutiny - the Mas D'en Compete Blanco and that was a previous vintage to the 2006 harvested winning wine. Who could not be seduced by a tasting note that reads

"Full, rich concentrated and creamy with a succulent tropical nose. Harmonious, powerful, fresh, complex palate overlaid with well-tailored oak and a racy elegance on the finish"?

The 2006 is now listed by Jeroboams, for it was this vintage that one the Best White over £10 award and the accolade of best wine of show. And damn delicious it is too.

They were a bit vague on the grape components that were squeezed into this wine - a little Grenache Blanca perhaps? Bourboulenc? Picpoul? A little Viognier or Muscatel? You could be talking southern France rather than Spain!*

What I do know though is that this is a delicious wine that will be gracing my table this Christmas - the fresh tang on the finish makes this a superb food wine.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Mas D'En Compte Blanco, 2005, Priorat, Spain.
Stockist: Jeroboams Price: £19.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A stunning aroma - aromatic, flora hints, a 'coolness'. The palate, perfectly balanced, offers texture and layers of flavour in abundance. Lemon, white blossom, spice and hints of apricot, orange and vanilla. The acidty adds a little raciness on the finish. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

* The Jeroboams website gives specific details that the shop staff did not - Garnacha Blanca 50%, Picapoll Blanco 20%, Pansa (/Xarel-lo) 15% Macabeo 15%.

Good With Seafood - Bodegas Fariña Malvasia, 2007, Toro, Spain

Bodegas Farina Malvasia 2007, Toro, Spain

A recurring event - a wine that ranks as 'just fine' by itself is raised in ones estimation when coupled with food. This nicely weighty white from Spain is another such example where a succesful match brings added pleasure to a meal.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Fariña Malvasia, 2007, Toro, Spain.
Stockist: dunno [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A light simple nose - a touch of herbs, a smidge of yeast and a layer of lemon. More activity on the palate though with a gentle lemony start giving way to a sherbet, grapefruity palate and a tang of acidity. Pleasant enough and very drinkable but seldom is Malvasia ever going to knock yer socks into a cocked-hat (or something). Unoaked. Alcohol 12.5%.

Its clean, fresh crispness was a joy though with some crispy Calamari rings dunked in mayonnaise. While the squid wasn't the best - it was frozen rather than fresh and certainly not as good as the mammoth sized rings myself and Douglas devoured with passion at a local Italian last week - but the wine worked wonders. When they say 'good with seafood' this partnership is what they have in mind.

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

By way of proving that I don't just make these food and wine matches up, a picture of the very same calamari. And yes, they were cold by the time I had finished taking pictures!


A Not Too Sweet Dessert Wine - Farina Val de Reyas 2005

Farina Val de Reyas 2005Designed as an aperitif the Farina Val de Reyes Vino Semi-Dulce is recommended with foie gras, pates and soft cheeses. Back in May of 2007 a bottle (of the previous vintage, 2004) was matched with delicious results with a Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Anti-Pasti.

A requirement for a wine to accompany Little Windfall Apple Tarts resulted in this being opened as a proper dessert wine.

Dessert  Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fariña Val de Reyes, 2005, Castilla y Leon, Spain
[More: Adegga / Snooth]

The Botrytis effected Moscatel is really evident on the aroma with hints of orange, honey, pear and a heady honeysuckle edge. Is it the botrytis that gives that nice weight to the palate in addition to the sweetness? A good long spicy finish is clean and fresh from the citric acidity. Behind that spice is there a dimension not too dissimilar to that of autumn - well-kept apples, damp leaves, wild mushrooms and all? Alcohol 13%.

It is not a rich, sickly dessert wine being more fresh and lively than many. With the Little Windfall Apple Tarts it was rather scrummy with a lemon dimension matching the tarts lemon curd. With desserts you need the wine to be sweeter than the food; this match worked perfectly.

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

Continue reading "A Not Too Sweet Dessert Wine - Farina Val de Reyas 2005" »

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.

Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

An old envelope, rescued from the recycling, with a few scribbles on the reverse; the initial notes before transfer to the main, missing, tasting note book. So basically a few words on a Pecorino and a reference to the book where the accompanying food recipe was taken. Enough info for a blog post (just) especially as the photo has been lounging in the computers photograph folder for an age...

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino, 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy..
Stockist: Planet of the Grapes Bon Coeur Fine Wines Price: around £10 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Lemons, nectarines, minerals, lime rind, orange pith, fresh, clean and quite full. Summery. Long lasting, dry, interesting, complex. Delicious. Alcohol 13%

A superb match with the Ricotta-stuffed Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (recipe below).

Sadly the notes neglect to mention who supplied this bottle - it was neither of the stockists listed. It might even have been Waitrose.

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

Pecorino, the grape variety, is so named due to the resemblance of the grape bunches to a head of a sheep and has nothing to do with the cheese. Colle dei Venti translates as the Hill of Breeze.

Continue reading "Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy" »

Quinta de Covela Escolha, 2005, Minho, Portugal

Quinta de Covela Escolha 2005 Minho, Portugal

Many will realise, may even respect, my ongoing search for the unusual wine - the striking label, the interesting blend or individual grape, the obscure region...
While the label can't really be described as attractive, stylish perhaps in hip and happening down-town Lisbon circa 1980, the blend is the thing with the Covela 2005. Take a little Chardonnay, pour into a vat of the local Avesso and add 'others' (which the Waitrose website details as Gewürztraminer).

Avesso is a Vinho Verde grape; so one would expect a high level of acidity. The region this comes from, Minho, is also where Vinho Verde originates.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta de Covela Escolha, 2005, Minho, Portugal.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
An upfront crispness, a weighty Chardonnay-led, mid-palate and a minerally 'wet stones' finish. Add the complex flavours of unripened pears, a touch of greenness, a little lemon, a hint of sandpaper and plenty of tropical fruit medley and the result is the delicious Covela. Dry and full. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

The other joy of this wine malarkey is matching these interesting and tasty wines with food. Here I suggest Breast of Chicken with Pancetta and Creamed Leeks - where the wines acidity counters the creamy richness. Chardonnay is very chicken-friendly; just ensure they are free-range and they will get along brilliantly!

Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting

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

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

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

Twitter Tasting - table

Continue reading "Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting" »

La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica, 2006, Marche, Italy

La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2006 Marche Italy

A wine for a damn-decent-if-I-may-say-so seafood risotto. Waitrose have this new(ish) deli range; one item of which is a tub of mixed seafood in a herbed olive oil. Rather tasty I must say. Mixed in with a decently flavoured risotto it makes for a superb meal. An Italian wine to accompany, obviously, and you can't go wrong with this bottle also available from Waitrose.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica, 2006, Marche, Italy.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Wonderful deep golden colour, none of your wishy-washy, thin, bland Italian whites here thank you very much. Not much to the floral aroma but a weighty palate that matches wonderfully with the food. Flavours are laced with a touch of honey, a minerally texture, and plenty of stony fruit that power right through to the herby finish. Refreshingly crisp acidity on the finish. Elegant.
Alcohol 13.5%.

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

100% hand-picked Verdicchio grapes from a great estate in the upper Esino Valley. The difference between Verdicchio grown just a stones roll from Umbria and that grown down near the coast (Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi) is substantial. In the highlands the climate is cooler, the growing season longer and slower. Down by the coast the Adriatic plays a part with harvesting often 10 days earlier than those nearer the Apennines.

Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg

Domaine Clos Des Rochers Pinot Blanc 2006. LuxembourgLike I real clot I've forgotten to mix in the spinach. Having just spent ten minutes washing and dry-frying it there really isn't any excuse (I can hardly claim jet - lag) apart from being an idiot of course. With the pies half way through cooking it's a touch late in trying to add the 'vital' ingredient!

The Spinach and Feta Pies with Toasted Pine Nuts, with the recipe in yesterdays Sunday Times, were selected specifically to accompany this interesting wine I picked up in Waitrose. A Pinot Blanc from Luxembourg of all places.

Unaware that Luxembourg actually produced wine in exportable quantities it is quite a find; hearty back-slaps and raucous cheering for the Waitrose team who tracked it down.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £8.99 [More Adegga / Snooth]
A spritz to the creamy, full-ish, palate. While weighty there is also a delicacy to the fruit and texture. A touch of lime, a smear of pear, a little apple and, on the finish, a subtle nuttiness and a creamy texture. Just a hint of sweetness I think.

In style a cross between Alsace and German; picking the best bits from each! Must be the first wine from Luxembourg I have tried. Very enjoyable it was too - both on its own and with the Spinach and Feta Pies with Toasted Pine Nuts.

Alcohol 12%.

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

Bellingham The Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc, 2007, Coastal Region, South Africa

Bellingham Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc 2007No great debate in selecting a wine to accompany a Lentil and Bean Salad with a Chive Dressing - a Sauvignon Blanc would have been an obvious choice but I fancied something a little different. Thoughts of cress aromas sometimes discovered in Chenin's led the way to this little beaut from South Africa. With the food a great success.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Bellingham The Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc, 2007, Coastal Region, South Africa.
Available from Waitrose for £8.99.
One of the most perfectly balanced and gorgeous Chenin's it has ever been my pleasure to drink. Some lovely complex flavours going on in the full-bodied palate. 'Lavishly refined'. A creamy element combines with spicy, tropical fruit flavours and a long aftertaste. All good Chenin's have the capacity to age, this should do wonders with a little time in bottle. Alcohol 14.5%. (No cress! Very disappointing; but superb with the salad)
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

To his friends and family, he was 'Pod', (Bernard Podlashuk, founder of Bellingham) but to the cape winelands he was the Maverick Winemaker. Never quite satisfied to be just ordinary, he is recognised for his daring version, sheer audacity and unabated drive that helped place South African wine on the map."

The previous vintage of Bellingham The Maverick Chenin Blanc 2006 was placed second in a recent Wine Magazine Chenin Blanc Challenge. Out of 122 wines only 34 went through to the second round and only 6 were chosen as finalists. The 2006 is still listed at Waitrose Wine Online.

Fortnum and Mason Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Martinborough, New Zealand

Fortnum and Mason Sauvignon BlancIt seems an anathema mentioning own-label and Fortnums in the same sentence. You really can't get any more up-market than the famous London department store but like every major perveyour of alcohol they do offer own-label products.

I've yet to get to see the newly revamped, and critically acclaimed, Food Hall. This is where, I assume, the wine department is located and where you pick up a bottle of this beautiful Sauvignon.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Fortnum and Mason Martinborough Sauvigon Blanc, 2007, Martinborough, New Zealand
Available from Fortnum and Mason for £10.50.
Like all own-label wines someone (other than the seller) has to produce it; in this case step forward the talents of Alana Estate. in short this is vibrant, juicy, pure and delicious! There are edges of red peppers (capsicum) to the nose and a streak of minerality running though, the nicely complex, palate. Hints of passion fruit, herbs and un-ripened pears can all be found.

It's a text book New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and worth every posh penny.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Protero Viognier and Chardonnay

Protero Viognier and ChardonnayTwo stonkingly great wines to start the week - both whites and both from the same producer.

I brought six different wines from Cooden Cellars a few weeks before Christmas, these two join the stunning Durif under a 'must buy' heading!

Can't say a lot of effort has gone into the packaging though.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Protero Gumeracha Viognier, 2005, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
£9.99 Very Limited Stocks from Cooden Cellars [more]
Incredible. Real power on the palate - full of flavour but balanced by great acidity, long, long lasting flavour. Intense flavours combining nuts, apricot kernals, pear, a quality oak influence, a lemon twist. A wonderful hazelnut finish. Weight, texture, length and balance - what more do you need?
Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 96/100 [4.5 out of 5]

White WineWine Tasting Note: Protero Gumeracha Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia.
£9.99 Very Limited Stocks from Cooden Cellars [more]
Limey nose, complex with hints of melon. A full-on lime edge to the palate with sherbet, stone fruits and a smidgeon of herbaceousness. Pears too. Good concentration on the palate with a buttery finish. Unoaked. reat length. Alcohol 14.5%
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Protero vineyard lies on a stony ridge to the east of the road between the historic towns of Gumeracha and Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills.

We say historic with some wry irony: while the Silesian refugees settled these towns some time ago, they were a mere one or two billion years after the PROTEROZOIC geological epoch, during which the oldest basement stones of our ridge were formed. From the greatly-weathered remnants of these stones, comes some of our soil.

Proterozoic literally means "former life" or "the life which came first", referring to the fact that during this tumultuous age, which stretched from 570 million years back to 2.6 billion years, the first types of multi-cellular life began to form. In contrast, the famous Kimmeridgean chalks below, say, Chablis, are 60 million years old."

Protero Wines

Two Own Label Wines from the Wine Society

wine society own label White WineWine Tasting Note: The Society's Australian Semillon-Sauvignon-Blanc, 2006, Western Australia. Wine Society Own Label £6.50

I dunno; this was nice enough - perfectly drinkable form one of the top producers in WA it just seemed o lack a little something. Balance, simple rounded flavours, crisp acidity but lacking in a little something. Unoaked and gentle, a pleasant enough drink at a reasonably good price.

This classic blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc has become a speciality of Western Australia, the broad texture of Semillon is perfectly balanced by the zesty tropical fruit of Sauvignon Blanc. Unoaked and full of flavour, this a lovely wine to enjoy with friends."

Produced and bottled by Plantagenet Wines. 12% Alcohol.

Scribblings Rating - 84/100 [3 out of 5]

White WineWine Tasting Note: The Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, New Zealand.
Wine Society Own Label £8.50

This is much more like it - zesty, punchy aromas following through on the palate. Super grassy, herb and gooseberry exuberance that you expect from a decent Marlborough Sauvignon. It compares well with similar wines and hits the right price point too.

Unoaked this wine is aromatic, zesty full of flavour and highly refreshing. A classic partner for fish and chips, Thai-style dishes and goats cheese salads or equally good on its own."

Produced and bottled by Villa Maria Estate, New Zealand. Alcohol 12%

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

Wine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, France

Wine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, FranceAlways amazing how few people consider Alsace when selecting their wines. OK, so they come in those suspiciously Germanic-looking bottles (with all those negative associations) but at least they have the grape variety on the label. Maybe Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are too closely related to the poorer quality (generally) of Pinot Grigio.

This superb Pinot Gris is certainly not a Pinot Grigio!

White WineWine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, France.
Available from Waitrose for £7.99 (£6.64 online).

Weighty - a little sweetness perhaps - but a dry finish. Honeyed with a hint of greenness in the lightly spiced, musky palate. Delicate and stylish. Apple and quince flavours with a nutmeg edge apparent.

Highly recommended with chicken (flambéed with Apple Brandy) served with a rich cream sauce mixed with butter-fried apples, topped with a little grated nutmeg to emphasise the flavour in the wine. Absolutely delicious. With he acidity cutting through the cream, the flavours of spice and apple complimenting each other the whole match worked wonderfully. Even the steamed green beans served with the chicken worked, with a little green complexity appearing.

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

Wine Tasting Note: Laporte Le Bouquet de Laporte Sauvignon 2005, Loire, France

laporte_sauvignon_blanc.jpgwhite wine: laporte le bouquet sauvignon blancLaporte Le Bouquet de Laporte Sauvignon 2005, Loire, France WineRack/Threshers £6.99

Not hugely aromatic, despite the rear labels claim of a 'enticing gooseberry and lime aroma'. The palate though is rather good, with a strawberry complexity to the apple, melon and sweet lime flavours. A dry finish, good long nettley length, medium-weight, good balance and a mineral-edged, if soft, texture.

A perfectly cooked risotto - creamy, delicately flavoured with fresh herbs, a little bite remaining to each individual grain of rice, enlivened with pan-fried leeks and topped with slices of slowly melting Goats Cheese. Sauvignon Blanc and Goat's Cheese: a 'tried and tested' classic combination, confirmed by this sublime food and wine pairing. (A full recipe for the risotto is in the September issue of Delicious magazine).

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

Continue reading "Wine Tasting Note: Laporte Le Bouquet de Laporte Sauvignon 2005, Loire, France" »

Devaux Ultra D Champagne

Devaux_Ultra_D_Champagne.jpgChampagne/Sparkling Wine Wine Tasting Note: Devaux Ultra D Champagne, NV, Champagne, France.
Available from independents and Surf4Wine £43.50.
Is this the 'ultimate food champagne' as the producers claim? Not far from the truth to be honest. It has an intense combination of maturity and freshness. Elegant, complex with a delicate finish. At a recent function I attended it was served with a mix of Canapés: Crostini with Seared Salmon and Pickled Cucumber, Foie Gras Mousse with Peppered Pineapple (delicious) and Feta Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade Filo Parcel.

A superb match to all. I was well impressed!

Surprised at being served North Sea Cod for the main lunch course - I thought it was so endangered it was no longer being eaten - I managed to snaffle another glass of the Devaux to try alongside. The flavours were totally different than with the Canapés, no doubt altered with the wilted Spinach and Mussel Broth served alongside. A different complexity entirely and just as delicious.

Stylishly packaged with a minimum of 5 years bottle ageing. A mix of Pinot Noir (66%) and Chardonnay (34%).

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

Wine Tasting Note: Franz Haas Manna, 2005, Alto Adige, Italy

Franz Haas MannaA wine tasting session to select new additions to a merchants list. The Italian white wine section was looking a little drab, unexciting and neglected. This gorgeous white stood out. Not cheap mind.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Franz Haas Manna, 2005, Alto Adige, Italy.
Around £18 a bottle.
Not sure what the grape varieties are in this - Gewürztraminer for sure, as the nose has a delicious edge of lychees and Turkish Delight. But there is more here - a rounded edge, a touch of oak perhaps? Delicious with weight, concentration, refinement and class.

There could be some Riesling in the blend, maybe something weighty like a Chardonnay. Whatever it all combines into a superbly interesting wine. Alcohol 13.5%.

Franz is notoriously difficult to please when it comes to his own wines. This dissatisfaction manifests itself in levels of angst that wouldn't be out of place in a Russian novel. But it also produces wines of rare purity and balance, such is his desire to grow good grapes and preserve the flavours during winemaking. "

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" »

5 New Zealand Wines You Really Must Try

Five exceptional wines from New Zealand you really must try, and not a single Sauvignon Blanc amongst them!

White WineVinoptima Gewürztraminer, 2003, Gisborne, New Zealand.
An aged gewürz' with a most beguiling aroma and deep, floral, complex palate. Retail around £19.99. Vinoptima (Latin for 'best wines') is a single variety, 8 hectare estate created by Nick Nobilo in Ormond, near Gisborne on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island. The aim is to combine the best of concepts from the old world (terroir) and new world (wine making practises) the vision for Vinoptima is simply to produce world class Gewürztraminer.

White WineVilla Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Gris, 2006, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Refined, spicy, pure delicious Pinot Gris from Villa Maria's premium Single Vineyard range. Retail around £10.99.

White WineGrove Mill Pinot Gris, 2006, Marlborough, New Zealand.
A superbly balanced, smoky, big and rich. Retail around £16. Grove Mill is the world's first CarboNZero certified winery.

White WineEsk Valley Estate Black Label Verdelho, 2006, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
A heady 14% alcohol wine packing a mass of lime-citrus flavours and a toast edge. Retail around £8.99. Winemaker Gordon Russell, has established himself as one of New Zealand's most passionate reflected in the huge number of awards his wines have received in tastings and competitions.

Rosé WineJulicher Rosé, 2006, Martinborough, New Zealand.
A lively and lovely strawberry and currant flavour with a little sweetness offsetting the touch of tannin. Retail around £9.50. Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, just one of five wines available from this small, boutique estate.

Wine Tasting Note: Quinta da Alorna Portal da Águia, 2005, Ribatejo, Portugal

A rummage around the bottom shelves in Oddbins unearthed this little beaut. Forget those crusty old, baked, oxidised, fruitless Portuguese whites of old and embrace this fresh, crisp, plentiful white.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Quinta da Alorna Portal da Águia, 2005, Ribatejo, Portugal.
Oddbins have this for just £4.89.
A steal at this price - local varieties Arinto and Fernão Pires combined into a crisp, lightly herby, peppery-edged white wine with a nice weighty mouth-feel (a touch of sweetness perhaps) and food friendly texture. Citrus and tropical flavours abound with a tweak of spice and grapefruit. The length isn't bad for a wine at this price either. The aromatics of the Fernão Pires come though wonderfully. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

A gorgeously fresh and hefty tuna steak, griddled with a handful of almonds and a dash of sesame oil made a superb accompaniment (served with new potatoes and a pile of fresh spinach).

Quinta da Alorna Portal da Águia

Wine Tasting Note: Danie de Wet Earth and Sky Chardonnay, 2006, Robertson, South Africa

Dinner was Organic Roast Chicken with Oranges and Winter Herbs lifted from the November issue of Delicious served with Baked Onions with Parmesan and Cream (Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries) and Petite Pois. The bird is marinaded for 5 or 6 hours with the juice and skins of four oranges plus rosemary and bay leaves, then roasted in the same juices.

The wine, plucked from the shelf for the sole reason that I hadn't seen it before, was an absolute superb accompaniment. You couldn't ask for a better match or a better wine for the price. Superb. And bugger to those who profess to a dislike of Chardonnay! It might not be trendy but it is not classed as a 'noble grape' for nothing!

White WineWine Tasting Note: Danie de Wet Earth and Sky Chardonnay, 2006, Robertson, South Africa.
Waitrose £8.99.
Rich, yet elegant says the rear label. Who am I to argue! Weighty, with superb concentration and balance, coupled with a citric acidity that just set the taste buds a-tingling. While the flavours matched the orange element in the dish, the acidity cut through the richness of the cream/Parmesan - joyous. Alcohol 14.5%. Unwooded.

The website,, lists many Chardonnay's - just not this one. So new that it is not listed on the Waitrose website either. The acidity is going to keep this wine going for a few years - I recommend buying a few bottles; it's what I have done!
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

A Wine for Wagamama's Chilli Beef Ramen - Combinations #7

Coincidentally just a couple of days after selecting this dish as the basis for Combinations #7 the opportunity arose to eat at Wagamama; of course I selected this dish to see how it is supposed to be. At the time I ordered a large glass of white to accompany - an Australian off-dry blend of Gewürztraminer and Riesling which went beautifully. Full-bodied, powerful of flavour and the sweetness a superb match to the dish. Sadly I forget the producer, but it was probably an on-trade only bottling anyway.

Back home I hoped this Viognier from Australia would make another brilliant match. It didn't - quite. While the body and the vibrant flavours were of a type to balance out the fiery chilli in the food and match the teriyaki and sweet chilli the wine's inherent dryness let the side down; but only just.

White WineDuncan MacGillivray Beau Sea Viognier, 2005, Adelaide Hills, Australia.
Available from Oddbins for £9.99.
A gorgoues Australian take on Viognier. Lime is the basis but there is so much more - tropical fruits and more than a dollop of fresh, crisp apple flavours. It has had a touch of oak but this just adds a touch of creamy complexity rather than denuding the wine of fruit. A single vineyard wine which is listed on the Oddbins website as Longview Viognier. The grapes were sourced from Longview's vineyard at Macclesfield in the Adelaide Hills. Screw-capped. Alcohol 14%.

It is a lovely wine, perfectly balanced and just right with the dish, rather than a perfect match (a touch more sweetness required).
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

MacGillivray Viognier

Wine Tasting Note: Terre de Fumée Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Coteaux du Gennois, Loire, France.

I'm scratching my head desperately trying to recall if I am supposed to be buying a red wine ("Just buy the bloody bottle... it will go fine with the spag-bol") or a white ("Haven't we had enough Sauvignon's this summer?!") and to be honest the selection was a tad disappointing. I'm standing in one of the larger Oddbins and don't know what to buy.

I text Jeanne.. "Is Wine Blogging Wednesday for white Loire or Red?" I ask. The reply is simple and to the point "Loire Whites". Vinography is the host and I'm a day late anyway. My soon to be housemate, he of French origin and prolific swear words (the quotes above are toned down), points out a nicely presented bottle and translates 'Terroir de Silex' as the stone that makes sparkles... I think he means sparks and assume he means flint.. which fits in nicely, if I remember correctly, with the flint and clay soils of the region. But what I hadn't come across before is 'Coteaux de Gennois'. This, the little rear label map helpfully shows, is just north of and on the other side of the river to that most famous of Loire towns, Sancerre.

Wine Tasting Note: Etienne de Loury Terre de Fumée Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Coteaux du Gennois, Loire, France.
Oddbins £8.99
Rich and quite creamy, spiked through with piercingly clean lemon acidity.Crisp, flavoursome, and nicely aromatic with a combination of herbs, flowers and citrus fruits mirrored on the palate. Strawberry leaf flavoured finish. It's good but would have been even better with a seafood or fish dish. It's a 100% Suavignon Blanc and, apart from being a little richer perhaps and less obviously stony, could pass for a might good quality Sancerre. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Alsace Wines From The House Of Leon Beyer.

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

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

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

Continue reading "Alsace Wines From The House Of Leon Beyer." »

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 for Risotto - WBW #21 & IMBB #26 Fabulous Favourites Festival.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #21 and Is My Blog Burning #26 (two of the grand ol' dames of the food blog world) combine this month in a wine and food matching exercise.

I am sure everyone knows how to make a risotto - my particular culinary tour de force. Chicken, decent chicken stock, onion and garlic, plus whatever vegetables are on hand combine with rice to a rich, creamy 'comfort food' dish. Here we have chicken and broad beans; there are a few chopped porcini and sun-dried tomatoes lurking in the mix too.

Wine Tasting Note: Lurton Finca Las Higueras Pinot Gris, 2005, Mendoza, Argentina.

From Waitrose for £4.79.
I was certain I had detailed this wine here in the recent past (a search reveals otherwise). It is one of the few wines that I repeat-purchase. Offering great value it is a versatile food wine that pairs perfectly with a risotto; whether enhanced with a little Parmesan, a splash of cream or one with a citric blast of lemon. Reasonably full and rich the weight, coupled with a gingery bite to the flavour, lifts the palate from the humdrum you often find at this lowly price point to a great mid-week tipple. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Chapel Down Pinot Reserve, 2001, England.

Hell, why not? A bottle of bubbly on a Monday - decadent, crazy even, but certainly fun. Excessive maybe at just under twenty quid a bottle; cracking it open mid-afternoon might just be considered as such too!

Wine Tasting Note: Chapel Down Pinot Reserve Sparkling, 2001, England.
Direct from the English Wine Group for £11.99 per bottle.
The colour of later autumn straw and an aroma of biscuits. From soils rich in chalk, like those in Champagne, it's a traditional method wine verging on the complexity found in decent Champagne. Made from a mix of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc; it is fresh and crisp with flavours of baked apple crumble, just without the sweetness, and slips down a treat. Alcohol 12%. For food trying pairing with a seafood platter or as we had a creamy prawn risotto.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Chapel Down Pinot Reserve

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 Tasting Note: Cecchi Litorale Vermentino, 2004, Tuscany, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Cecchi Litorale Vermentino, 2004, Tuscany, Italy.
Oddbins £7.99.
The colour of sun-splattered wheat followed by a tantalising aroma of candied fruits and white flowers. Medium to full bodied swept clean by crisp acidity. Flavours of tropical fruits abound reminiscent at times of a Viognier in its musky overcoat. Seafood is a natural partner but a simple creamy risotto was a delicious pairing.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

The name comes from the littoral winds that come off the Mediterranean Sea to cool the vineyards. You might wonder why growers bother with Trebbiano and Vernaccia when Vermentino can produce such lovely wines; when did a Trebbiano ever get you excited? Vermentino is widespread in nearby Sardinia and Corsica and across the lower Rhone and Provence going under the name of Rolle.

Framingham Wines, New Zealand.

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

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

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

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

Maven Wines, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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Wine Tasting Note: Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, 2005, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Served on Boxing Day with a starter of Goats Cheese salad made festive with the addition of cranberries and a dressing of clementine juice, cassis and advocado oil. A superb partnership.

Wine Tasting Note: Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, 2005, Marlborough, New Zealand.
From Oddbins for £8.
A superb punchy, green, peppery Sauvignon. I have long loved the Dashwood range from those days long ago when I worked for the Fuller's offie chain. They listed this wine and it just flew off the shelves. Packed with 'green' citrus flavours and a tingly, stony palate. All you could want in a Kiwi Sauvignon. Now resplendent under a funky new label. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100.

Wine Tasting Note: Alpha Domus Unoaked Chardonnay, 2004, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Served at lunch with feta cheese stuffed pitta bread and later a dinner of prawns and homemade ciabatta bread.

Wine Tasting Note: Alpha Domus Unoaked Chardonnay, 2004, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Independents and Delicatessens for around £9.
An intense aroma - a cascade of tropical fruits - opens this gorgeous little number. The palate, fresh, lively and full is unadorned by oak leaving a mineral-edged texture and a rich, ripeness packed to the rafters with pear, melon and apple flavours. Acidity is crisp. Ends with a sherbet/citrus edged finish. Screwcapped. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Alpha Domus is owned by the Harn's, family of Dutch extraction. The wines taken their name from the initials of each member of the family. Domus is Latin for home.

Wine Tasting Note: Springbank Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand.

This is a wine about which I can tell you little. The website listed on the label ( doesn't work, a google search reveals nothing and the Handfords website is totally lacking in details too. Still its a rather scrummy wine worthy of trying.

Wine Tasting Note: Springbank Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Available from Handfords £6.99.
Punchy in a typical green-pepper, Marlborough style. Medium bodied, plenty of grass and passionfruit mingled in with that grassy/greenness. The acidity is not too rasping; overall the wine is fresh, crisp and tangy. Good length. Pity about the lack of info and the uninspiring label. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Le Celtique Pinot Gris, 2004, VdP des Marches de Bretagne, France.

When you go into a shop, profer a question to an assistant, who then disappears into the storeroom to elicit help from the branch manager, do you really expect to hear snorts or derision from the recesses? No, I think is the answer. They are renowned for their arrogance are Oddbins staff. I certainly wasn't going to argue with them over whether the company listed a Pinot Gris from the Loire or over the local rules 'prohibiting' the planting of this specific grape outside of Alsace... I flicked though their latest catalogue and with triumphant pointy finger, highlighted the listing of this wine.

Apparently the branch managers father is a huge fan; which beggars the question why he professed not to know of any such creation. He was, however, efficient in tracking down some stock and ordering a few bottles for me and rang my mobile when they were in.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Le Celtique Pinot Gris, 2004, Vin de Pays des Marches de Bretagne, Loire, France.

Stockist: Oddbins Price: £5.49
Despite some research I have failed to locate the boundaries of this VdP area. I have a feeling it is the Nantes region, it's the Loire regardless. The wine itself has disappeared from the Oddbins website - hence the manager having to transfer the wine in from another branch. I seem to recall that there was a portion of another grape in here - Chasselas perhaps. Regardless of its components it is a mighty fine wine. Crisp acidity, it is after-all the cool climate Loire we are taking about here, but still retaining the weight and peach/pear/apple qualities of Pinot Gris. The rear label suggests serving this as an aperitif - with a few nibbles it shines. Bruschetta with a few crushed olives mixed with olive oil and herbs de Provence it was delicious. Alcohol 12.5%. It is true that Pinot Gris isn't exactly widespread in the Loire so for interest alone this scores highly.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Tamerici Sauvignon, 2002, Salento, Italy.

Six wines I have sampled today; and they were all pants. Apart from one. Over-doing it at a Hallowe'en shindig last night didn't help; tequila rosé and me do not mix. But with six mixed provenance bottles sitting on the counter-top I was still uninspired and frankly disappointed. This white isn't too bad actually, certainly lifted itself above its drossy neighbours.

Wine Tasting Note: Piana del Sole Tamerici Sauvignon Blanc, 2002, Salento, Italy.
Oddbins £5.49.
I thought this region of Italy (Puglia/Apulia - the heel of the boot) was red wine country; so a white - from a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia - peaked my fancy immediately. The area has a reputation for rustic (rough and ready), cheap wines usually shipped off for bottling elsewhere but there is a widespread regeneration occurring across the region utilising traditional varieties such as Primitivo, Uva di Troia and Malvasia Nera. This Sauvignon is, of course, not a native grape but it is blended with 15% Malvasia Bianco (the white version of the Nera). The aroma is faintly yeasty which is echoed on the palate. But there is more to taste - minerally, unripe apples and an edge of lime skins. Its crisp and, as the oddbins site says, nervy. Left over chicken is waiting to be thrown into a risotto with a handful of carrots and some herbs. This should be the perfect accompaniment.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Rex-Goliath Pinot Grigio, 2004, California.

Wine Tasting Note: Rex-Goliath Pinot Grigio, 2004, California.
£7.99 Threshers
Another in the Goliath range - again over-priced if buying a single bottle but fine if you take advantage of the buy two get a third free deal running across the Threshers estate. A cross between an Italian Pinot Grigio and an Alsace version. More weight than an Italian, nicely rounded (hint of sweetness?), good peachy, apple flavours, touches of herbs and apricots. Not outstanding but I liked it. It certainly washed down several pitta bread stuffed with grilled chicken, feta cheese, rocket and fresh herbs beautifully. Really nice in fact. Making me hungry just thinking about it. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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: Heartland Viognier/Pinot Gris, 2005, Langhorne Creek, South Australia.

Wine Tasting Note: Heartland Viognier/Pinot Gris, 2005, Langhorne Creek, South Australia.
From Oddbins for £8.99.
Now this looks interesting thinks I - a Viognier/Pinot Gris blend from Oz. Minimalist label... ummm.. Ben Glaetzer wine maker... gotta be good. A blend of 75% Viognier and 25% Pinot Gris. 13.5% alcohol. The aroma is yeasty with just a hint of the floral touches expected from Viognier. The palate is weighty and quite crisp and lively. Not what I was expecting at all. Dry too, no hint of sweetness. Peach stones and citrus to the fore. Crisp limey finish. It grew on me actually - the palate becoming quite layered and interesting with every passing sip. I probably over-chilled it as I am prone to do.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Mitchelton Wines Australia.

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

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

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Wine Tasting Note: Margrain Pinot Gris, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Wine Tasting Note: Margrain Pinot Gris, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Available from Oddbins for £9.99.
This is just bursting with orange-tinged, peachy ripeness. The nose is quiet (as PG usually is) while the palate offers a full, orange-tinged peachy ripeness. A touch of smoke and apple peel, comes with a food-friendly texture. Full but dry. Soft and approachable. Alcohol 13.5%. This was delicious served with a chicken and vegetable risotto; a staple dish in Gladstone Terrace. I am not too sure that the rear labels recommendation that the wine is drunk 'between 2005 and 2010 and beyond' will hold up. It is very good drinking now; so why wait?
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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." »

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." »

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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Wine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Western Cape, South Africa.

Wine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Western Cape, South Africa.
Listed by Sainsbury's for £7.99.
This wine was selected to accompany a recipe from Nigel Slater's new book as detailed in the latest Observer Food Monthly; the dish is the Courgette and Lancashire cheese crumble. The food was rather a good match for a fine, mineral-boned Sauvignon such as this one. The green-grassiness complemented the courgettes in the dish; the crisp acidity cut through the cheese. Elderberry and green peppers add to the complexity. Alcohol 13%. More at the Vergelegen Website.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

TN: Fillaboa Seleccion Finca Monte Alto, 2002, Rias Baixas, Spain.

Wine Tasting Note: Fillaboa Seleccion Finca Monte Alto, 2002, Rias Baixas, Spain.
Available from Lay and Wheeler for £15.95.
Back in April I was invited to attend a Spanish wine tasting hosted by Jose Penin. Who he? One of the top Spanish wine critics repsonsible for the annual Penin Guide to the Wines of Spain. His tasting highligted his Top Ten in terms of style, typicality and value.

The tasting was hurried and my notes are a little confused. For this wine I have A combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling on the nose - a green grassy edge. Palate showing a little bottle age, very good length with the intensity of aroma showing great complexity with some age. Strawberry edge to the flavour. 100% single-vineyard Albarino. Production is 220,000 bottles.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

This is a variety I would like to see grown in a New World setting; perhaps, though, the Atlantic climate of Galacia in which this unique grape thrives, with its high rainfall and hot temperatures when sunny, is not replicated elsewhere.

TN: Mermoud Sauvignon Blanc, 2002, Geneva, Switzerland.

Wine Tasting Note: Mermoud Sauvignon Blanc de Lully, 2002, Geneva, Switzerland.
From Nick Dobson Wines £11.95.
A little obscure - I mean just how many Swiss wines to you see let alone drink? This is probably only available (in the UK) from Nick Dobson, a specialist in Swiss, Austrian and Beaujolais wines. It is a little expensive but you have to allow that for exclusivity and uniqueness. The wine itself is a fine steely-boned Sauvignon. A floral, lemon, pear aroma with grapefruits and a green edge overlay a soft palate; one that bursts with a pure grassy-sherbet flavour and an excellent richness. Characterful and a real find.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

TN: Carlyle Wines Late Harvest Riesling, 2000, Victoria, Australia.

Wine Tasting Note; Carlyle Wine Late Harvest Riesling, 2000, Victoria, Australia.
Available from Bonhote Foster for £6.99 half bottle.
Gloriously intense aroma with a wonderful inviting lemon freshness. Packed to the cork with stunning lemon meringue pie flavoours and lovely balance. Long, long length. Alcohol 11%. Being a sucker for a stickie I rate this highly.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Blogging Wednesday 12: Drink Local, Real Local.

Runnington Hill bottleI cant think of a nicer wine than the one I have just drunk with my lunch. Maybe its the combination of sun and alcohol? But then the wine only rates a lowly 10.5%.

With the wood pigeons cooing from the roof top, the bell from St.Mary's chiming the hour and a gentle breeze rustling the wild flower bed and releasing the perfume from the last of the sweet-peas - and a glass of this English wine to accompany a light lunch of cheese, bread and tomatoes I am content and happy to be an Englishman.

That, or a bumptious old fart waffling on about nothing.

Now that the wine has been open a while a more complex nose has emerged - gone are the waxy lemon aromas, replaced with something more interesting, unique and evasive; due no doubt to the extended bottle age, this being from the 2001 vintage. The palate too, while light, very crisp from the high acidity, has a more honeyed edge to the flavour - its quite complex for this style of wine and offers a surprisingly good length too. It is a style of wine that not everyone will enjoy - thinking here how different it would appear during the depths of winter - but at the height of an English summer that sees the sun re-emerging from a depressingly long hiatus, its great.

Wine Tasting Note: Hendred Vineyard Runnington Hill, 2001, Oxfordshire. England.
From Local Tastes £5.99.
This is a blend of Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc from a small vineyard in the Vale of the White Horse. Hendred vineyard was established in 1972 with the grapes for this blend planted in 1991. A crisp, almost Sauvignon nose - with grassy hints and lemon rind. Distinctively light to medium bodied with a honeyed richness initially. Then a mineral, quite intense lemon edge emerges. A touch of spritz too. Fresh, crisp with high acidity.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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Ultimate Wines Dessert Wine Tasting June 2005.

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

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

Continue reading "Ultimate Wines Dessert Wine Tasting June 2005." »

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Circle of Wine Writers Tasting.

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

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

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

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

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TN: Borie de Maurel Nature! Rosé, NV, Vin de Table, France.

Borie de Maurel Nature! labelrose WineWine Tasting Note: Borie de Maurel Nature! Rosé, NV, Vin de Table, France.
Oddbins £6.79
A deep colour - almost a light red really. Gently fruity nose - not much too it. Plenty on the palate though with weight, a lick of tannin and a lasting cherry-stone flavour. Hints of chocolate enliven the finish. It's a lowly vin de table with a AC price tag. But its good! Nice weight, good length, good for drinking on its own but enough fruity depths for all types of food. Buy some!
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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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Spring Salad and Sauvignon Blanc.

Spring Salad
Spring Salad
It seemed rather apt making a fresh green salad on what has been the hotest Spring day since... well, the last hotest Spring day. But this is no ordinary Salad, oh no!

Forget your iceberg and your cucumber - get out some runner beans, a trimmed and sliced leek, stir fry both with some salad onions (I found some little white things in Waitrose) and some asparagus tips for about five minutes. Arrange these delightfully on a round of puff pasty (or, as the pictures demonstrate, totally smothered so you can not actually see the pastry) and top with a lightly boiled egg or two. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper. Top with a little red pesto stirred into mayonnaise.

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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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TN: Matahiwi Estate Waiarapa Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Wairarapa, New Zealand.

Matahiwi Estate Waiarapa Sauvingon Blanc
Matahiwi Sauvignon Bottle
Wine Tasting Note: Matahiwi Estate Waiarapa Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Wairarapa, New Zealand.
Available from Oddbins 7.49.
I thought this Sauvignon Blanc tasted at last Saturdays blog-meet was so good it justified an entry of its own. (And show this wine to those who only subscribe to the RSS tasting note feed). For a shade under eight quid you get a pungency to the aroma and one that edges towards the capsicum edge of the spectrum green, grassy and fresh. The flavours are a delicious amalgam of pear, apple and pineapple plus a herby angle, underpinned with a steely, crisp, citrus acidity. As can be read in the meal posting this wine accompanied asparagus and a garlicky pesto-mozzarella spread superbly. 12% alcohol. Screwcapped.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

The 75 hectare Matahiwi Estate is one of the largest family owned vineyards in Wairarapa, which in itself is the fourth largest wine growing region in New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc occupies a third of the plantings with Pinot Noir making up the rest. Interestingly the company website states that, while they are trailing different clones of Sauvignon Blanc, they feel that we can have more influence on the flavour with the way we grow the grapes as opposed to which clone they are.

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TN: Bodegas Fariña Colegiata Young Rosé, 2003, Toro, Spain.

The premier wine blog-happening moves to Becks and Posh this month who have selected rosé as the theme. Perfect timing as such wines are generally associated with the Spring and Summer and eating outside; although the weather here in South O is less than conducive for alfresco dining at the moment. Over the last couple of years sales of rosé have increased substantially in the UK. In 2004 sales were up almost a third on 2003 and the trend is continuing with most of the major retailers increasing their ranges.

Steering clear of the sugar drenched concoctions from certain New World circles I decided to head to Spain for my entry. I posted tasting notes on Five Spanish Rosés earlier in the month, this is the sixth wine.

Farina Colegiata Young Rosé bottle and label
Fariña Colegiata Rosé
Wine Tasting Note: Bodegas Fariña Colegiata Young Rosé, 2003, Toro, Spain.
Available from Decanter Wines for £6.50.
Bodega Fari - a is the largest family owned estate in Toro with a great reputation for the 'explosive aromas' (Robert Parker) in their wines. This is 100% Tinta de Torro (aka Tempranillo) wines that is unsullied by any oak thus retaining its vibrant, fresh, colour, aroma and taste. Inviting deep, cherry colour. Ripe strawberry and cream aromas with cherry and citrus adding complexity on the palate. Dry. 12.5% alcohol.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100
"Refreshing fruity flavours, this wine is best served chilled at around 9-12�C. Drink this wine in the next 12-18 months to enjoy it at its best. Lovely on its own, but goes well with salads and baked salmon and trout."

The Bodegas Fari�a website is available in English, Spanish and Dutch.

Farina bottle photos
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Five Spanish Rosés.

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

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Ultimate Wines Austrian Tasting.

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

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

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

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

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Ultimate Wine Company Italian Wine Tasting - 14 wines reviewed.

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

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