Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Stunning New Zealand Pinot Noir

I was looking for a bottle of wine to go with dinner the other night and I came across a little gem that I’d forgotten all about. The wine in question was bought for me as a present a couple of years ago and was a bottle of Villa Maria Marlborough Reserve Pinot Noir 2002. As you’ve probably realised from previous posts I’m a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but I’ve never really tried many of their reds, so now seemed as good an opportunity as ever!
The guys down at Villa Maria have spared no expense in producing this wine; firstly the fruit is all hand harvested, destemmed and crushed in open-top fermenters. While undergoing fermentation it is hand plunged, then after being allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation, it is moved to French Oak barrels to mature for 14 months before being bottled.
On pouring the wine there was quite a bit of anticipation as to what we were going to be drinking, and what we got, had definately been well worth the wait. The colour was a beautifully deep ruby colour, even though it was eight years old, I’d been expecting it to be more tawny than ruby.
On the nose there were these wonderfully pronounced aromas of plums, dark cherries and a touch a spice, predominantly clove. To taste you got all these flavours come through layer after layer with a touch of cocoa to finish it off. Their was a good level of acidity combining with fine silky tannins, creating a beautifully balanced wine with fantastic flavours of fruit and spice.
Is this a wine that I’d recommend, how can I put this, YES. I’ve only seen 2006 and 2007 in the shops lately, but if they’re as good as the 2002, then they are definitely worth buying and cellaring for a couple of years.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Its not just wine, its M&S wine.

The other week I had the pleasure of being invited to M&S’s bi-annual press tasting; they were presenting us 127 wines from across their range, including 14 that were exclusive to their wine direct service. It took several hours of painstaking tasting, which was such hard work! But here’s my favourite 10 (in no particular order) to keep your eye out for;
1.       Cava Prestige Brut, £7.99 and available in all stores.
Produced from the Parellada and Macabeo grapes using the traditional method, it has fresh green fruit flavours and a refreshing level of acidity producing a very well balanced and enjoyable alternative to Champagne.

2.       Darting Estate Durkheimer Michelsberg Riesling 2009, £8.49 available in 300 stores.
This Riesling is produced in the Pfalz region in Germany from 10 year old vines. Producing wonderful flavours of stone fruit, with a slightly floral nose and good level of acidity, making it a well balanced enjoyable off dry wine.

3.       Mâcon Villages 2009, £7.99 available in all stores.
100% Chardonnay and left on it’s lees to add a bit more complexity. It has great green fruit flavours which linger for some time, a slightly buttery rounded texture and just the right amount acidity making it well balanced and excellent value.

4.       Chablis 2008, £9.99 available in all stores.
Again 100% Chardonnay with all the characteristics as the Mâcon Villages above, just that bit more refined and elegant.

5.       Secano Estate Pinot Noir 2009, £7.99 available in 400 stores.
Produced in the Leyda Valley in Chile, the wine is allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels, giving it flavours of juicy red fruit, good levels of Tannin and acidity all combining to make a beautiful wine.

6.       Carignan, El León Vineyard 2006, £9.99 available in 100 stores.
Produced in the Maule Valley, Chile, and although the labels states its Carignan, it is actually a blend of 85% Carignan, 7.5% Carmenère and 7.5% Malbec. Aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, it had flavours of red fruit, blackcurrants with a hint of eucalyptus coming through in the background. Nice fine Tannins and good acidity all go to make this a fantastic wine.

7.       Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2008, £16.99 available in 100 stores.
From the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, 80km southeast of Cape Town, allowed to go through Malolactic fermentation and aged in oak barrels, with flavours of red fruit, nice juicy Tannins and good acidity.

8.       The Gum Shiraz 2008, £11.99 available in 100 stores.
Hailing from the Adelaide hills and matured in oak barrels. This wine had flavours of baked/jammy dark fruits, fine Tannins with good acidity going to produce a wonderful example of Shiraz.

9.       Asti Spumante NV, £7.49 available in all stores.
Made from 100% Moscato in the Piedmont region of North West Italy, I’m not the biggest fan of Asti, but as a friend said to me every wine has its place, and he wasn’t wrong! A sweet sparkling with flavours of tangerines and a low acidity, a great drink to have after a big meal to awaken the tasted buds.

10.   Darting Estate Scheurebe Beerenauslese 2007, £17.00 available in 125 stores.
From the Pfalz region in Germany, the grapes have been affected with Noble Rot and late harvested. This gives you a wine that has a deep gold/amber colour and is lusciously sweet with layer after layer of flavours of citrus and apples.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Secret Wine

A French PR agency, Clair de Lune, recently organised a competition for wine bloggers, called the Secret Wine, which I have to say was a fantastic piece of publicity. It was open to the first 85 to register and the winner was the first blogger to correctly name the wines we’d been sent. It attracted bloggers from all over Europe and even as far away as New Zealand and Canada.
We all received a package of three wines that had been rebottled, sealed with synthetic green stoppers and labelled with the Secret Wine logo and a random number, so as not to give us any clue as to what the wines were.
After tasting the wines, and getting myself quite confused as to what I thought they were, I went through all my notes from previous tastings to try and give me an idea. Rightly or wrongly I presumed that as the agency was French, so were the wines!
Wine No. 079, had a deep ruby colour with dark fruit/cherry and forest fruit flavours, with a good level of acidity and tannin, reminded me very much of a Bordeaux blend more from the left bank than the right though. My guess was a St Emillion.
Wine No. 390, had a deep ruby/purple colour again with flavours of dark fruit and cedar, giving away the fact that it had been oaked, again a good level of acidity and tannin and a reasonable length of flavour. This time I went for the right bank in Bordeaux and guessed it was a Haut Medoc.
Wine No. 714, had a much lighter ruby colour, very light flavours of red berries and a low level of acidity and tannin, which led me believe it was a Beaujolais, as it was quite a simplistic wine so I went for standard Beaujolais and not a Beaujolais Village.
Having posted my answers on the website, it became very obvious very quickly that I wasn’t right. The interesting thing has been seeing everyone else’s guesses, and the wide ranging answers that everyone has given. Four days in still no one has won, and I dying to find out what they were, can someone please hurry up and guess them correctly!

Friday, 24 September 2010

A South African Sauvignon Blanc

This is the first wine from South Africa that I’ve written about, and again I’m not sure as to why, they do produce some fantastic wines, and they also won Bibendums World Cup of Wine against Italy earlier this year. So I think I should really have covered some of their wines before now!

The wine in question comes from the guys at the Boekenhoutskloof winery in Franschoek, and is their Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2009. The fruit for this wine comes from vineyards in the Malmesbury, Wellington, Robertson and Franschoek regions. They also add about 2% of Semillon to the blend to give it greater complexity and another dimension. The fermentation is maintained at low temperatures to ensure they capture more of the tropical flavours, the wine is also left on it’s lees to add even more complexity.

In the glass, it had an almost water white colour, with aromas of tropical fruit which were not particularly pronounced, but enjoyable. You got these flavours coming through on the palate, where the tropical fruit was predominately that of Pineapples. It had a high and very level of acidity, which really made your mouth water and worked very well with the fruit flavours.

While this, surprisingly due to the high level of acidity was a well balanced wine, it lacked the complexity I expected from the lees ageing and the addition of the Semillon. However it was an enjoyable drink that would go very well creamy Chicken pasta dish.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Another Great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

I know I’ve posted several reviews of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s, but as I’ve already stated, it is one of my favourite wines, and you can never get enough of what of you enjoy. This one is from Villa Maria and is their Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009; the Marlborough region is at the northern most part of the southern island and is where most of the good Sauvignon Blanc hails from.

On pouring this one, you noticed the almost water white colour, I'd say it was along the lines of apple white. It had the classic subtle aromas of gooseberries with some tropical fruit coming through in the back ground and a touch of grapefruit added into the mix. On the palate, again you got the flavours of gooseberries with the grapefruit really starting to come through with some vigour. It also had a good amount of acidity which really made your mouth water, while not being too tart. The other thing you noticed about this wine was that the flavours really lingered around on the palate, combining all these together gave you a really beautifully balanced wine, which was such a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing drink.

I know I've said this a lot, but it is a very good wine, as you would expect from the guys at Villa Maria. At around £9 a bottle it's a good buy, better than the Shelter Bay wine I also tasted earlier in the year, not that that was a bad wine at all!

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Fortified Desert Wine

I’ve tasted several Ice Wines on my wine adventures, but I’ve never seen or heard of one that had been fortified, until now. On a recent trip home a friend bought me a bottle of Kittling Ridge Ice Wine & Brandy, which sounded like it could be very interesting.

The first thing I had look into was where did the brandy come from, and unsurprisingly it was Canadian. Produced by Kittling Ridge themselves from grapes grown in Niagara, Ontario, using traditional copper stills and then age the brandy in small oak casks for seven years.

The Ice Wine is made from the Vidal Blanc grape, and as with other Canadian Ice Wine the grapes aren’t harvested till the temperature drops to minus eight degrees Celsius, to ensure most of the water is frozen to leave a very sweet and concentrated grape must. It is then fermented in steel tanks and bottled; it receives no oak ageing in this case.

To blend the two of these together I thought the brandy would have completely over powered the flavours and aromas of the Ice Wine; however I was very pleasantly surprised.

In the glass you had this bright lemony gold colour, which you could almost see the sweetness of the wine due to its viscosity. On the nose you got these wonderfully pronounced aromas of tropical fruit and almonds with floral notes coming through in the background. To taste it was as you could imagine, lusciously sweet that almost coated your mouth with the fruit flavours, then came the warming sensation of the Brandy, which just complimented the Ice Wine superbly. Their was a low level of acidity which cut through the sweetness perfectly making it all faultlessly balanced and an amazing drink, not what I would have expected.

This fortified desert wine, due to the Brandy was not as sweet as Ice Wine, but beautifully blended to extract all the aromas and flavours of each component, without either one over powering the other. Would I recommend this, absolutely, it took an amazing wine and added another completely dimension, without ruining either.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Great Gran Reserva Rioja

Having said in my last post that I don’t drink much Rioja, I’ve had two bottles in quick succession to review, this one being a Gran Reserva, namely Marques de Carano Gran Reserva 2001.

Being a Gran Reserva, it has spent 24 months maturing in new oak barrels and a further 36 months in the bottle before being released. Unlike the last Rioja I reviewed this is a blend of the two most widely planted grapes in the region, Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), this help to give the wine another dimension of flavours.

On pouring the first thing I noticed was that it was tawnier in colour than the last one, but much more opaque. On the nose I got the aromas of red berries again, Raspberries and Red Cherries predominantly, but they were not as pronounced, once you got through the fruit, there were these aromas of Spice, Vanilla, and Cedar which came from the oak. It had a good level of acidity and these wonderfully fine, silky tannins, which helped it to go on to be a wonderfully balanced and complex wine that was a thoroughly enjoyable drink.

Would I recommend this wine, yes I would, if you can still find it, I’ve been having a bit of trouble, but if you do, it would go fantastically with a roast such as lamb, or a rich meaty casserole!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Fantastic 2004 Rioja Reserva

Rioja isn’t a wine I tend to drink very often, and I’m not really sure as to why, since they do produce some fantastic wines at very reasonably prices. Rioja is Spain’s leading wine producing region and can be found in the northwest of the country, the name is derived from the river (Rio) Oja, which is tributary to the Ebro which runs right through the heart of the region.

They produce Red, White and Rose wines under the Rioja DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada), which can be a blend from any of the seven permitted varieties (four red, three white). It is then fermented in large stainless steal tanks and aged in new American or French oak. The time spent maturing in oak will determine how it’s classified, with Crianza and Reserva meaning it must have spent a minimum of twelve months in the barrel, Gran Reserva requiring a minimum of two years. There is another classification which is Joven, meaning the wine is unoaked; these however only apply to the reds.

The most widely planted red varieties are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), with Mazuelo (Carignon) and Graciano which are planted in much smaller quantities. You can use a blend of any of these or just use a single varietal to produce your wine.

Barón De Barbón 2004 Reserva is produced by Bodegas Muriel, and the first thing you can take from the label is the term Reserva, which means that it has spent a minimum of 12 months maturing in an oak barrel before being bottled. The back label however states that it has spent up to two years in both American and French oak; all the grapes are hand harvested to ensure the highest quality of fruit and most importantly is produced from 100% Tempranillo.

After opening the bottle I gave the cork a quick smell, as you do, and got the strangest of aromas, Smoky Bacon Crisps! In the glass you got a ruby colour at the centre of the glass with the edges starting to become tawnier, a sign of the ageing this wine has received. On the nose you got some really pronounced aromas of red berries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Red Cherries, with Cedar and Vanilla coming through in the background, which again came from the oak. On the palate you got all of these flavours which lingered in your mouth for ages, along with these you got wonderfully smooth and silky tannins and a good level of acidity. Combining all of these together you got a wonderfully balanced and outstanding wine, showing how a good Rioja can taste, which I would highly recommend to anyone.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Blood Into Wine

Last Wednesday I went to the screening of new film/documentary about two guys who are trying to make wine in Arizona, aptly named Blood into Wine. The guys in question are Maynard James Keenan, owner of Merkin Vineyards and the front man of American rock groups Tool, A Perfect Circle and Pucifer, and Eric Glomski, owner and winemaker at the award winning Page Springs Cellars.

If anyone had mentioned Arizona to me before this, it would have conjured up images of the Grand Canyon, and a very hot and arid landscape. But this is not the case, in the town of Jerome in northern Arizona where these guys are based; they have to deal with every type of weather condition you could think of, from blazing sun to snow and frost. The result of this in the beginning meant they lost vast quantities of vines to frost damage, but their biggest problem has been trying to secure water, something which makes their attempts all the more remarkable.

The film showed clips of Maynard out in the Vineyard planting vines and talking about his passion and interest in trying to make the wine he loves; throughout the film it is littered with references to his music, and interviews from friends and journalists who have followed his career. You also got an insight into the very private man that is Maynard and the motivation to name his wines, such as the Caduceus Judith, which is named after his mother (the vineyard that the wine comes from is where he has scattered his mother’s ashes). You also got to see them at bottle signings, where Maynard (rightly) won’t sign any Tool merchandise, so you get a lot of his fans buying the wine to see him. Like you, it’s not what I would have expected of the average tool fan, but anything that gets more people interested in wine is great by me!

As for Eric, it was great to see his driving passion for making good wine that he likes, though not necessarily what the critics will like. He got a bit more technical, taking about his role in the winery and why they do certain things to help along the process and extract the flavours and colour from the grapes.

The film is littered with humour all the way through, more around Maynard than Eric; one of my favourite scenes is a spoof talk show interview with Maynard, ‘Focus on Interesting Things’. I’m not a film critic and I’m certainly not going to try and be one, but there were definitely several films in one here. The main two revolved around Maynard, rock front man and beginner winemaker, and the other around Eric, the winemaker, and in my opinion, they worked really well together.

Blood into Wine to me comes over as very much trying to appeal to the masses, while not trying to be too technical or alienate Maynard’s fans. There were several odd additions to the film though, the first being the tasting with James Suckling, the former senior editor at The Wine Spectator. Unless you have an interest in wine you’d have no idea who he is, and he contradicted several points made during the film. The other is the tasting with Steve Heimoff, where they try to see if he can tell the difference between their wines and those from California (his area of expertise), and then not tell you which he thought were what.

However, despite those few minor grumbles, the film/documentary was very entertaining and kept my interest the whole way through. Definitely worth going to see when it gets released in September over here if you’ve got an interest in the industry.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Great Full Bodied Classico Chianti

My girlfriend asked me to make a lasagne for her the other week as a friend from work was coming for dinner, being the good boyfriend that I am of course I agreed. While checking what I needed for the lasagne I asked who was coming, as said her name a sense of dread came over me, she’s Italian and I’m cooking lasagne!

I needed to pull out all the stops for this, so I went down the shop and bought all the best quality ingredients I needed and raided my wine rack for what I could find. Fortunately for me I had a bottle of Don Tommaso Chianti Classico 2006, which couldn’t have been any better.

On opening I obviously needed to taste the wine to check that it was ok for what I was cooking. On pouring, it had a beautifully opaque ruby colour, with wonderfully pronounced aromas of blackberries and plums and a touch of smokiness coming through. Now to taste, you got all those flavours of the fruit and the smokiness which had come from the 18 months of oak ageing it had received, but you also still got these very robust tannins which you almost had to chew your way through.

There was a lot to this wine, and you could see the complexity in flavours and what it was going to become, which was its problem, it needed several more years of ageing before it would be really ready to enjoy fully.

Would I recommend this wine, yes I would, but probably worth buying a few bottles and putting them away for several years to enjoy them fully, but if you’d want to drink it now, serve it with something that would be able to stand up to it such as a roast or a steak.

Friday, 25 June 2010

An Oaky Chardonnay from Sonoma California

I was sent a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2006 the other week to review. According to the press release that came with the wine, it has gained a loyal following with sommeliers and restaurateurs alike in America, and is now available on these shores from Waitrose and Ocado.

The grapes used to make this wine come from all of their sites across the Russian River and Sonoma Valleys in California, this helps to create a more balanced and complex wine. Fermentation takes place in oak barrels and it is allowed to complete Malolactic (MLF) fermentation as well; this is where the tart malic acid is converted into the softer lactic acid, giving it a more rounded and buttery feel. The care and attention given to the wine making process has resulted in it winning a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2009.

On pouring the wine you got a bright, lemony gold colour, while on the nose it had aromas of citrus, green fruit and cedar with a touch of ginger coming through in the background. To taste you got the same flavours as the aromas, classic of Chardonnay, green apple and citrus, you got really pronounced flavours of cedar which comes from the oak ageing. Unfortunately you didn’t get the usual butter feel as I would have expected, as it had gone through the MLF process, the only way you could tell was the very low level of acidity. There was a good length of flavours in your mouth, which all went on to produce a very well balanced wine.

This wine for me was too oaky in flavour for my taste, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that it is a very good wine. The only disappointing fact was that I was expecting a more creamy/buttery feel to the wine due to the MLF, but if you didn’t know it had gone through that process you wouldn’t have been disappointed.

If you like your whites oaky then this is definitely one to go for, if you don’t then stay well away from it.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Little Piece of Australian Heaven

I’ve never been the biggest fan of fortified wines, except for the odd glass of Manzanilla sherry; luckily for me though I was bought a bottle of Morris Rutherglen Liquor Muscat as a Christmas present last year. I’ve only had the opportunity to taste this wine on two previous occasions, the first being in my Fortified exam for my WSET diploma, the other at a wine tasting I hosted in New Jersey last year.

It hails from around the towns of Rutherglen and Glenrowan, in the hot, North West corner of the state of Victoria, and is produced using the Muscat Blanc Ā Petit Grains, which also goes under the guise of Brown Muscat in Australia. The grapes are left to semi-raisin on the vine before being pressed; it is then partially fermented with grape spirit being added to fortify it, before being subjected to an unusual wood ageing process. This ageing process is a cross between that employed by Sherry (Solera) and Madeira (Estufagem) under a hot tin roof.

Several years ago the producers joined forces to produce four tiers of quality, with Rutherglen Muscat at the bottom, followed by Classic then Grand, with Rare being the top classification. This is a voluntary and self regulated system, with each style getting richer and more complex as you go.

On pouring the wine the first thing you notice is its dark amber colour; on the nose you get pronounced aromas of dried fruit and grape spirit. On the palate it’s lusciously sweet, coating the inside of your mouth with the flavours of dried fruit and you get a warming sensation from the fortified level of alcohol. It’s almost like drinking Christmas cake that’s been soaked in brandy for months; the sweetness of the wine is balanced perfectly by the acidity, making it a stunning desert wine.

As an entry level Liquor Muscat this is an excellent wine that I really enjoyed and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a different kind of desert wine.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

New Jersey Wine Tasting

For my birthday my girlfriend took me to New York to visit my sister and experience the thrills of the Big Apple. And yes, before you say it, I know I’m a very lucky man. Whilst there, we were invited to a wine tasting, with me as the knowledgeable expert....

On arriving, we found Jackie the host for the day had really thrown the boat out and organised food too, which was absolutely amazing. The dishes that had been prepared included crab wontons with a mango salsa, Moroccan chicken with a crème fresh and horse radish dip, coconut shrimp and hush puppies with maple butter. I have absolutely no idea what the last ones actually are, but wow! They were amazing! I could go on about the food for a lot longer, as it was so delicious, but, back to the task in hand – the wine.

We started with an old vs. new world comparison: Roger Champault Sancerre vs. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Unsurprisingly the Cloudy Bay won hands down, showing a refinement and complexity of flavours that was unmatched; even by the other New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s we tasted later on, Cottesbrook and The Crossing.
We then moved on to the reds; starting with Bordeaux tasting wines from Chateau Aney (Haut Medoc), Chateau Bel Air (Lussac St Emillion) and Chateau Dubrand (Premiers Cotes de Blaye), all had the aromas and flavours of Blackcurrants, Cherries and Brambles as you’d expect from this region.

And so, on to Italy, and an Amarone della Valpolicella, which was just absolutely fantastic. Flavours of baked fruit and plums, juicy ripe tannins and just the right level of acidity, made the wine beautifully balanced.

Our next stop was Chile, with Anakena Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This had flavours of black and red currants, ripe tannins and a good acidity producing an excellent wine, all for $10 (£7).

Having made a stop in South America, we moved further north to California, where we compared two 2005 Cabernet Sauvignons. The first came from Baldacci, which had flavours of dark berries and cedar, with a touch of spice coming through in the back ground and juicy ripe tannins. The wine tasted wonderful; however, it would have been even better with another three to four years ageing. The wine from Provenance had all the flavours of the Baldacci, as you would expect with both being from the same region and grape. Yet, the Provenance won more people round, with a bit more complexity of flavours, and a touch of cocoa coming through with the spice.

Having gone round the world tasting these fantastic wines, we had one style left to sample: The fortified. We started with Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) 2003 Port; a good example of LBV, with Dark Cherry, Black fruit and herby notes coming through on the nose. Next we moved over to Spain, tasting the Lustau Dry Amontillado, Los Arcos Sherry, which had aromas and flavours of almonds and dried fruit. The only word to describe this was: Beautiful. Final stop of the day was Australia with its Rutherglen Muscat from Chambers Rosewood Vineyards. This lusciously sweet wine had flavours of almonds, dried fruit, marmalade and honey which were just out of this world.

Finally I’d like to say big thank you to everyone who was there and made us feel very welcome, with birthday cake and gifts, particularly the lovely Jackie for organising everything and opening her home to us all! It was a great, unforgettable day. Get ready for this year ladies!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

London International Wine Fair 2010

This week saw the wine world descend on London for the biggest trade show of the year, the London International Wine Fair. As usual producers from all over the world came to show off the latest releases from their cellars, along with packaging manufacturers and distribution companies. The biggest difference this year was the size of the show, which was remarkably smaller than in previous years, an obvious effect of the global recession. The biggest omission from this years show had to be Constellation, who own brands such as Ravenswood, Mondavi, Inniskillen and Nobilo. Notably, many of the smaller producers shared stand space, instead of spending money to have their own.

We started the day by sampling five fantastic wines, from what must have been the smallest producer there, Terre Di San Rocco. It only produces 40,000 bottles a year, but wow it was good – so watch out for a post on those. Next, we stopped to listen to Adolfo Hurtado the chief wine maker from Cono Sur in Chile, talk about its organic wines. The guys from Brown Brothers, who produce some fantastic, if not a little off beat wines, were also there, showing off its full range. This included its lusciously sweet Patricia Noble Riesling. It had amazing flavours of stone fruit, honey, marmalade and citrus; all balanced with a mouth watering acidity. This is definitely one I’ll be adding to my wine rack!

The highlight of the day, for me, was meeting Ronald Hocher from Chateau Musar in the Lebanon. We spent some time discussing how foolish we thought a leading supermarket had been for delisting his, and many other wines. We also went through a selection of vintages of its Chateaux Musar White and Red, with Ronald revealing that they have vintages going back over 50 years for both wines, which is just amazing.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. It’s great fun getting to see what wines were coming through in the next few months, and meeting some great wine makers! I’ve already booked it in my diary for next year!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Bibendum World Cup of Wine Semi Finals

Last Thursday I went along to the Bibendum World Cup of Wine semi finals, which saw France take on Italy, and South Africa compete with Australia. Each round featured two whites and two reds from each country, with some strong competition to see who would make it to the final next month!

First up was Australia versus South Africa – starting with the white selection. Australia kicked off with a strong showing, turning out a Deakin Estate Artisan Blend Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio and a Stonier Chardonnay. However, it faced some serious competition from the South Africans, who showed up in force, with a fantastic Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc and Springfield Estate Wild Yeast Chardonnay on offer. At half time in this match, it had proved all too easy for the South Africans, who were on their way to a clear victory, with a two-nil lead, thanks to the wonderful complexity of the fruit flavours and the refreshing acidity on both of their wines.

Second half and we’re on to the reds. Australia fielded a Marchard & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir and d’Arenberg Stump Jump GSM, against the South African Newton Johnson Pinot Noir and SAAM Heldersig Shiraz/Viognier. The Pinot’s provided much more of a competition, tying for points, with the Shiraz/Viognier beating the GSM, thanks to its beautifully balanced flavours and tannins. Final score: Three-nil to South Africa. We have our first finalist.

So, we’re on our next match of the evening, and this is the one we were all waiting for – the battle of the old world legends, France versus Italy. The excitement in the air was palpable as the first half wines were unveiled. France decided to opt for a Chablis 1er Cru, from Cote de Lechet, Domaine Jean Defaix, and a Viognier de l’Hospitalet from Gerard Bertrand, whilst Italy turned up with a Soave Classico Monte Carbonare Suavia and an Alois Lageder Gewurtztraminer. It was pretty close throughout, with the Chablis and Soave really battling it out, before the Soave managed to break free, scoring the first goal of the match; one-nil Italy. With everything on the line, it was tense, but a surprise take down of the Viognier by the Gewurtztraminer, gave Italy the edge at half time, with a two-nil lead.

And so, after a short interval, we’re on to the last half. The reds. From France we had a Ventoux Rouge, Terre de Truffes, TerraVentoux and a Chateau Lalande Borie, St Julien, while Italy served up a Col di Sasso Banfi Cab Sav/Sangiovese, and a Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis. It was tough, but for me the Banfi beat the Ventoux, with its youthful fruit and spice. Sadly, the group disagreed; France regained some pride; score: Two-one, Italy. Onto the final pairing. Most people would agree that this was no contest – the Chateau Lalande Borie should have beaten the Valpolicella hands down. But, we were in for another surprise, the Valpolicella put up a strong fight, and won. Three-one Italy! We have our two finalists - South Africa vs Italy!

The stars of the evening for me were the Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, a stunning example of how good Chenin Blanc can be, although we all agreed it would benefit from a couple more years aging, but still, it was fantastic now. Secondly, the Valpolicella ClassicoSuperiore ‘Ripasso’ Seccal, Nicolis, apparently this is a difficult wine to sell, personally can’t imagine why!

Finally, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone at Bibendum for organising such a great evening! I’m really looking forward to the final next month!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The King of Zin Does it Again

At the 2008 London International Wine Fair, I got the chance to meet Joel Petterson who’s more affectionately known as the “King of Zin”, and is the wine maker behind the great wines from the Ravenswood winery in California. Unfortunately and I’m not quite sure why, I didn’t taste any of his wines that day, so I’d been looking for an excuse too, not that I ever need one!

I opened a bottle of Ravenswood Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel 2006 (Adegga) the other day, for myself and friend to enjoy as she’s a huge fan of Californian Zinfandel. Now despite saying Zinfandel on the label it is actually a blend of Zinfandel (76%) and Petite Syrah (24%) which just helps to give it a greater depth and complexity of flavour.

It had an opaque purple colour with pronounced aromas of Plums, Blueberries and a touch of spice from the oak ageing in the background. You got all these aromas coming through on the palate, where the spicy notes revealed themselves as Vanilla and Liquorice, you also got a touch of cocoa just to add to the mix. All these flavours, with the good levels of acidity and juicy tannins went on to produce a fantastic and beautifully balanced wine which is definitely worth more than the £8 price tag it has at the moment.

If you like your red to have plenty of flavour and body then you can’t go wrong with this wine, which can be enjoyed equally on its own or with food. It definitely goes into my top ten 10!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A delightful Riesling from the Mosel

When you mention German wines to most people, they instinctively think of Hock and Liebfraumilch, which is a shame really, as they produce some fantastic wines from the Riesling grape, such as the Dr L Riesling 2008, from the Loosen bros.

The grapes used to produce this wine come from the Mosel valley, near to the village of Bernkastel where the soil is predominately composed of slate. Because of this the root eating phylloxera louse can’t survive in these conditions and the vines remain on their own root stock instead of being grafted on to a phylloxera resistant one.

Many of the vines they have on their estate are well over 120 years old, with the average age being 70, this means the vines are far less vigorous producing lower yields of better quality fruit, and more expensive wines. Unfortunately the grapes from these vines aren’t used to make this wine, as they use purchased grapes from other local growers in the area, but it does produce an excellent wine.

In the glass the wine has a very pale lemony green colour, with reasonably pronounced aromas of stone fruit and citrus. On tasting you get the impression that the wine is sweeter than it actually is due to fruit flavours. The wine is actually more an off-dry style than a med. sweet wine, with fantastic flavours of peaches and nectarines with a touch of citrus coming through as an after taste. Combine these with the low levels of acidity and alcohol and you get a beautifully balanced, refreshing wine which goes down perfectly with a Thai curry.

So what do I think of this wine, for an entry level Riesling it is absolutely outstanding, especially at around the £7 price mark you can’t go wrong.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A Classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

I was in my local Sainsbury’s recently, when I spotted that they had Shelter Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2009 on a half price offer, at only £4.99, and me being me couldn’t resist in buying a bottle or two to enjoy at home.

As you may have realised from previous posts I’m a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to get it on my blog. Coming from the Marlboro region at the northern end of the southern island, this wine showed why we all love this wine so much.

On pouring into the glass you get these wonderfully pronounced aromas of gooseberries and, I hate to say it, damp nettles (thank you Jilly Goolden)! On tasting, these aromas come through with great intensity and lasted on your palate for some time, with a good level of acidity this wine went on to be delightfully balanced and thoroughly enjoyable wine.

This is a classic example of how good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can, and should be. Would I recommend it, of course, even if it wasn’t on a half price offer, but that just goes to show how such good value it was. If you can still find any left at that price grab it while you can, I doubt there’s much left though!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Maverick Twins Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006

Firstly apologises for the lack of posts recently, work commitments have meant that I haven’t had much time of late to do any writing, but I’m back now.

So, moving on.... Firstly, I wanted to talk about Maverick Twins Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006, which was featured in Oz Clarke’s top 10 wines to try in 2009.
Though it says Shiraz on the bottle, this only makes up 93% of the wine; with Cabernet Sauvignon making up the other seven.

The wine had a deep, opaque purple colour, with pronounced developing aromas of plums and dark cherries, with spicy aromas of black pepper and liquorice. All of these aromas came through on the palate giving the wine a wonderful depth of flavour. Combined with the juicy ripe tannins and good acidity, it blended to produce a beautifully balanced and complex wine.

Perfect for a dinner party, match it with a roast or lasagne as I did and you’ll look like the perfect host!

If you ever find this wine on the wine list, or on your local merchant’s shelf, then grab a bottle while you can. This is an absolutely stunning wine I would highly recommend, and I can see how it made it to Oz Clarke’s No3 red to drink!