Sunday, 20 November 2011

A List of Vegan and Vegetarian Wines from M&S

As I promised (and been requested for) in my last post about the M&S tasting, here’s a list of the wines that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Suitable for vegetarians

NV Prestige Cava Brut
NV Sparkling Burgundy
NV Oudinot Rose Medium-Dry
NV De Saint Gall Rose
NV  De Saint Gall Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru
2004 De Saint Gall Vintage Prenier Cru Brut
NV TArlant Brut Nature Champagne
1998 Orpale Champagne Grand Cru
2011 Hunter Valley Verdelho
2009 VAsse Felix Semillon
2010 Clocktower Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Summerer Gruner Veltliner Langelois
2010 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
2010 Gavi del Commune di Gavi
2010 Belle Tour Chardonnay
2010 Domaine Mandeville Viognier
2008 Chablis
2007 Chablis Premier Cru Fouchaume
2009 Pernand Vergelesses Les Combottes
2008 Chassagne-Montrachet
2008 Vinalta Gran Reserva Malbec
2007 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Clocktower Pinot Noir
2009 Earth’s End Pinot Noir
2008 Quinta de Fafide
2009 Balcon de la Villa Joven
2004 Valdemadera Grand Reserva
2007 Nero D’Avola di Sicillia
2008 Vilalta Amarone della Valpolicella
2007 Chateau les Ormes
2010 Belle Tour Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Old Vines Grenache Noir
2008 Cuvee Extreme
2008 Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru
2008 Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon (Desert wine)
NV Pale Cream Sherry
NV Rich Cream Sherry

Suitable for Vegans

NV Champagne de Montpervier Blanc de Noir
2010 Tierra y Hombre Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Cascara Limari Valley Chardonnay
2011 Rockridge Sauvignon Blanc
2011 Six Hats Fairtrade Chenin Blanc
2011 Charles Back Stonedance
2011 Journey’s End Honeycomb Chardonnay
2009 The Gum Chardonnay
2010 Seifried Nelson Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Rabi Gruner Veltliner Kamptal
2010 Val do Salnes Albarino
2010 Picpoul de Pinet (one of my favourite wines of the moment)
2010 Les Pierblancs Sauvignon Blanc
2009 Pouilly Fume Mathilde Favray
2010 Petit Chablis
2008 Organic Chablis Jean-Marc Brocard
2010 Macon Villages Uchizy
2009 Rully 1er Cru La Pucelle
2011 Balbi Rose
2011 Burra Brook Rose
2010 Cotes du Rhone Reserve du Boulas Rose
2010 Tierra Y Hombre Pinot Noir
2010 Clear Lake Merlot
2010 Six Hats Fairtrade Shiraz
2009 Journey’s End Beefwood Tree
2010 Hunter Valley Shiraz
2008 Marananga Dam GSM
2006 Marques del Costal Conca de Barbera Costal
2008 Rioja Pago Real
2006 Pena del Inferno
2009 Baglio Rosso Nero d’Avola
2010 Barbera d’Asti DOC
2007 Barbaresco Cascina Morassino
2010 Mauregard Bordeaux
2009 Chateau Le Vieux Pressoir
2008 Chateau Mondorion
2007 L’Etoile de Romanin Les Baux de Provence
2009 Domaine Collonge Crozes Hermitage
2009 Saint Joseph
2010 Beaujolais
2010 Beaujolais Lantignie
2009 Borgogne Pinot Noir
2009 Mercurey
2009 Chorey-les-Beaune
2009 Volnay Domaine Roux
2009 Chambolle Musigny
2009 Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru
1995 Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina, Villa di Monte (Desert wine)
NV Finest Reserve Port
2005 Late Bottled Vintage Port
2007 Vintage Port
NV 10 Year Old Tawny Port

I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the amount of wines that are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, even more so that M&S will tell you, I hope this of use to someone.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Not Just Any Tasting, But An M&S Tasting

Sorry, I know it's not the best picture!

The other week I called in on the Marks and Spencer’s Autumn tasting, and for a change I had a bit of a plan, and that was to avoid the big varietals and appellations, as you can be pretty sure what your going to get from them, and try find something that little bit different.

As usual from these guys, there was nearly a 150 wines on show; these are the ones that caught my eye which wasn’t your usual New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a Burgundian Chardonnay.

2010 Summerer Gruner Veltliner Langelois - produced in the Kamptal region in Austria, this had beautiful floral notes with a hint of lime thrown in to the mix and just a touch of acidity, combining to create a delicious wine, well worth the £9.99 price tag.

2010 Pecorino - this is a grape that has recently been re-discovered by the producers in Abruzzi and has been grown at a high altitude with the cooling Adriatic Sea breezes. This had restrained flavours of Peaches and Honey, with just enough acidity to give it a great balance, again definitely worth the £9.99 price tag.

2008 Vinalta Gran Reserva Malbec - this wine is made using fruit from vines over 60 years old, which helps to give it a real intensity. With an opaque purple colour and flavours of dark cherries and cassis, with a touch of sweet spice, great tannins and acidity combine to create a stunning example of good Malbec can be.

2009 Nerello Mascalese - from the Belice Valley in the south west of Sicily, it had a pale red colour with youthful red fruit flavours and a touch of cocoa coming through from the background, fine tannins and a small amount of acidity go on to create a very enjoyable wine, all for £5.99.

2009 Darting Estate Scheurebe Eiswein - the Schreurebe grapes are picked once the temperature reaches minus 10 degrees celcius, from vines that are least 15 years old. This wine had a real richness of flavours while also being lusciously sweet with just enough acidity to cut through it, and was absolutely stunning.

I have to admit there are a lot of excellent wines within there range these days, these are only a couple that really caught my eye, I also have to admit my guilty pleasure from the day is there Asti Spumante, which is just full of Tangerines and loads of acidity, but works and is just delicious. I was also impressed with the book we were given as I told which wines were suitable for vegetarians and vegans, not something you see very often, I think I may have to put up a list of them.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Stunning Range of Aged Fino's

Earlier this year, Gonzalez Byass released there limited  edition Fino Sherry, En Rama, which is essentially there Tio Pepe just unfiltered and unfined, with a label out of the archives. Well they’re at it again, with the launch later this year of four aged Fino’s, (one is actually an Amontillado) under the Palmas name; Una, Dos, Tres and Cuatro, and again they’ve bee raiding the artwork archive for the label designs (which look very good).

As with the En Rama, they will be bottled straight from the cask with no filtering, clarification or sterilisation and will only be available through specialist wine merchants and high end restaurants, I was rather lucky the other week that I got to taste, what will hopefully be the final products.

Fino Una Palmas – They will be selecting the best casks from 142 which will still be covered with Flor from the 4th Criadera in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe, where most of the casks are six years old. In the glass this had a very pale gold colour, with quite pronounced aromas of yeast with a hint of nuttiness coming through. This all came through on the palate with a gentle warming sensation from the fortification, all combining to make a beautiful Sherry.

Fino Dos Palmas – These will come from selected barrels from the 2nd Criadera which consists of 150 barrels in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe. Many of the casks will have lost there Flor so careful selection will take place to ensure that they use barrels which still has there layer of Flor, helping to age the Fino, they will be around eight years old and are quite rare. As expected this was just a little richer than the Una, edging more towards the nutty (almond) characteristics than the yeasty ones of the Una, but still delicious.

Fino Tres Palmas - This will come from the 1st Criadera in the Gran Bodega Tio Pepe, and are around 10 years old, they will select barrels which still has a layer of Flor, but due to there age it will be very fine, and as such very rare. This one had a bright deep gold colour and again showed a much richer version of the first two, much more nuts and now with hints of sweet spice coming through and a greater warming sensation from the alcohol, absolutely stunning.

Fino Cuatro Palmas -  This actually isn’t a Fino but an Amontillado coming from barrels aged around 45 years old, and will be selected from six casks called ‘Museo Solera’ in the Bodega La Cuadraba, which as you can probably imagine means there won’t be a lot of this one. This one though had an amber colour as the Flor had disappeared in the cask allowing it to oxidise slightly, but now along with the nutty flavours you much more sweet spice and baked fruit such as apples. It showed much more complexity than the others, and was absolutely stunning, but that is what you expect from this wine.

Probably should have used a white background!
All four of these Sherries were stunning in there own right, and showed greater complexity and depth of flavours as you moved up the range. Would I buy or recommend them, absolutely. If you know anyone who likes a drop of Sherry, but not your Bristol cream or Croft Original, then these will make a great present, or if you like a drop yourself, go on treat yourself, I will be!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Legend Lives On

Earlier in the year I was invited to join in on a world wide toast to celebrate the birthday of the late, great Robert Mondavi, to help me celebrate I’d been sent a bottle of their 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, lucky me.

One of the great American wine making pioneers, Robert Mondavi built his first winery in 1966, which was the first major winery in the Napa valley since prohibition had ended. He was a pioneer of putting the Varietal on the label, not naming them generically, he also turned the around the fortunes of the unpopular varietal, Sauvignon Blanc in the US by naming it Fume Blanc. Another one of his many accolades is that of creating one of America’s greatest wines, Opus One, a joint collaboration with Baron Phillipe de Rothschild which had begun as a chat, on Mondavi’s visit to his vineyards in Bordeaux during 1978.

Although it says it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon on the label, it is actually a blend consisting of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, according to the tasting notes, the website says it is a much more eclectic mix of varietals. The wine is fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel tanks, spending a maturation period of 14 months in oak, of which 20% are new oak.

In the glass you got an opaque inky purple colour, with very pronounced aromas of dark fruits, blackcurrant, plums and cherries with a tiny bit of sweet spice coming through from the background. On the palate you got all the aromas coming through in waves at you, combine this with a good amount of acidity and masses of fine silky tannins, and you got a pretty amazing wine, but that’s what you’d expect when you pay these sorts of prices.

This is a full bodied wine, that at this young stage drinks nicely now but can age for a good few years yet, but really, to get the best from it now, you should really drink it with food. This is a wine that’s definitely worth giving a go if you’re looking to spend a bit a more on nice bottle, but remember it will benefit greatly by being opened a good couple of hours before drinking, and if possible even decanting.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Trip to a Napa Winery on the Silverado Trail

Earlier in the year I got the opportunity to drag the wife to be on a short trip around Napa, would have liked it to be a longer trip, but we did have lot of things planned that we wanted to do, so as you do, I bought several bottles home with me. The first winery we visited was the Black Stallion winery, which is situated on the Silverado Trail, in the Oak Knoll district which is the southern growing region in the Napa valley.

The 32 acres site originally housed an equestrian centre, the Silverado Horseman's Centre, hence the name Black Stallion, after several years of construction they opened there doors in 2007, the original indoor track now houses the wine making production, but if you look around closely you can still see remnants of the original horse stalls. At present they only produce in very small case lots, and unfortunately only available through the tasting room and there online store, which they are only able to ship within the US, however, I thought they are definitely worth mentioning in case you get to go to Napa and get the opportunity to visit them.

The two wines that we brought back with us were their 2008 Shiraz which we purchased; they only produce 510 cases of this wine, just to show you how limited there production is, and the 2009 Pinot Grigio from Monterey, which we’d been given.

On pouring the ‘08 Shiraz, it had a deep almost opaque ruby colour, with very pronounced aromas of dark fruit and spice, which was just amazing. On the palate you instantly got the flavours of dark cherries and black currants, then came through the sweet spices of clove cinnamon and a touch of black pepper, after that in the background you could also find the flavours of cocoa and violets coming through. This Shiraz was, if you hadn’t guessed absolutely stunning, it had great complexity and length of flavours that just came at you wave after wave, combined with a touch of acidity to make your mouth water and juicy tannins, the wine maker really had crafted a well balanced and beautifully drinking wine.

For the ‘09 Pinot Grigio, they only produced 610 cases of this particular wine, in the glass it had a pale apple white colour, with delicate aromas of peach, grapefruit and slightly florally characteristics. On the palate it was much more pear and grapefruit, with a hint of honey thrown in, than the peach aromas you got on the nose, with a good amount of acidity it was a well balanced and enjoyable wine, which would be great chilled on a really hot day.

As I’ve already said, these wines are not available in the UK, but if you are heading out to California then I would highly recommend a stop off at the winery, it was beautiful place, with a great winery and some fantastic wines for you to try!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Very Disappointing Bordeaux

I’ve not posted a wine from Bordeaux so far on the blog, so I thought it was about time that I rectified that, unfortunately it’s not as I would have liked it to be. A little while ago I managed to come across one in my local supermarkets fine wine selection, it had been reduced as they were a bin end, which I decided to take full advantage of and bought two bottles, with the view that if I liked it I’d go back and get some more, if they had any left. I have to admit it was a good reduction, they were originally £19.99 and had been reduced to just £4.99, bargain, or so I thought.

The bottles in question were a 2005 Medoc from Chateau Le Lescot, which is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, which I looked forward to tasting. We had some friends round for dinner and I thought this was the ideal opportunity to bring it out.

In the glass it had a deep ruby/garnet colour, which is what I would have expected given its age, on the nose it had quite pronounced aromas of dark fruit, predominantly blackcurrants, so far so good, but that’s where it started to go downhill. On the palate you got the fruit and a good amount of ripe juicy tannins, but it had a searing acidity with it, which just did not go with the rest of the components of the wine, and made it for me an unbalanced wine and a disappointment. I thought it actually may have been slightly oxidised, so i opened the other bottle to see if that was any better, unfortunately it wasn’t. I may have been very unlucky and got two bad bottles, but I doubt it.

This unfortunately is not a wine that I would recommend, the later vintages may be better; I’d like to hope they are, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend or buy this wine myself again without tasting it first.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

TerraVin - A Tasting with Jascots Part 2

Following on from my last post, A Wine Tasting with Jascots, there was one vineyard that I felt deserved a post of their own, TerraVin. Based in Marlboro, New Zealand, which if you’ve ever read my blog before you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of New Zealand wines, I did however nearly miss them, as while I enjoy drinking them I’m always on the look out for something different to write about. These guys however have managed that, and I’m glad that Ben from Jascots insisted that I try them, I also had the pleasure of meeting Mike the winemaker from TerraVin and really get an understanding of what he was trying to create with his wines and the attention to detail he put into them. They had three of there wines on show for us, two Sauvignon Blanc’s and a Pinot Noir.

The first we tried was there 2009 Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc, which was a very typical Marlboro Sauvignon Blanc to be honest, loaded with green fruit aromas and flavours, the tart acidity which you’d expect, but not to over powering, they combined well and produced a well balanced and enjoyable wine, it was exactly what you’d expect.

They also had there 2009 Pinot Noir, which really was quite beautiful, plenty of red fruit on the palate with great integration of oak going to produce a more meaty/smokey flavour to it, great fine tannin and just enough acidity to make your mouth water, the flavours lingered for a long time. This was a stunning example of great Pinot Noir, well balanced and enjoyable, would go brilliantly with something such as bar-b-que’d meat or roast lamb.

For me though, the star of the show was there 2009 Te Ahu, which again was produced from Sauvignon Blanc, not that you’d have known without being told before hand. This wine spends 11 months maturing in oak before spending a little longer in the bottle before release. I know most people say Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t like being oaked, but done well, it can produce an absolutely stunning wine, as with this one. The initial project started with just five rows of vines and has expended row by row over the last couple of years, combine this with low yielding vines you can see how they only produced 250 cases in total.

On the Palate you get some real crisp green fruit flavours, but that’s where its similarities stop with other Sauvignon Blancs, you also get a real creamy/buttery mouth feel, more what you’d expect from an oaked Chardonnay, there was a touch of Vanilla and a little minerality in there as well. It had a tiny amount of acidity, but just enough to cut through the rich mouth feel, combine this and the flavours together and you a wine that the only way I can think to describe it as breathtaking.

Would I recommend there wines, in one word, absolutely, they show great flavours and characteristics across all the wines they produce, but if you can find a bottle of Te Ahu, don’t hesitate or think about it, just buy it, there will only be 100 cases to reach our shores. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

A Tasting with Jascots Wine Merchants

Last week saw an abundance of tastings happening around London town, and of course I attempted to attend as many as I could humanly possibly attend in one day, I love my wine but I can still only drink so much before it everything blurs into one. My final port of call for the day was the Jascots Wine Merchants tasting in Cavendish Square, I arrived mid afternoon very wet and probably not really in the mood, (I’d been up all night with two very poorly kittens) but I’d been invited and it would have been very rude not to turn up. On arrival I was introduced too Ben who was a member of the Jascots team and would be my guide around the tasting, I have to admit I was great to have someone to go around with and talk about the wines too, and not just make notes on my own.

Despite my initial lack enthusiasm, as we went round I was pleased to find that there was still a lot of wines that really caught my eye, well actually my taste buds, but there was one vineyard that really stood out, TerraVin from New Zealand, who I nearly missed had it not been for Ben insisting that I taste them. They also had Mike Weersing on hand who is their winemaker, after spending a good half an hour talking to Mike and tasting his wines we had to push on, I was so impressed with his wines they deserve a post on there own, which will be coming soon.

Getting back to the rest of the wines on show, there were so many that I could talk about, but here are the five that stood out to me;

2010 Three Choirs ‘Winchcombe Downs’, Gloucestershire – Yes, I  know an English wines starts us off, but this is really a fantastic wine, with loads of green fruit and a touch of white pepper flavours and aromas, a rich and rounded mouth feel and well balanced level of acidity, really enjoyable.

2008 Bolfan Primus Riesling, Croatia – Again a country not really known for producing great wines, but they’ve managed one with this. With plenty of green fruit, citrus and loads of acidity, it really was showing all the classic Riesling traits, as opened up a little you started to get the faint aromas of petrol in the background, which you only tend to get from aged Rieslings, it really was quite stunning.

2010 Maison de la Paix Old Vine Carignan, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France – An entry level wine with lashings of dark fruit, fine tannins and a good amount of acidity all combining to make a well balanced and great drinking wine, one I shall definitely be keeping my out for.

2006 Cellar Cal Pla, Priorat, Spain – A wine that I’ve really only just found and started to enjoy, this is a blend of Garnacha, Carinena and Cab Sauv, producing a wine with a deep ruby/garnet colour and pronounced flavours and aromas of plums, damsons and spice. With these were the perfect amount of tannins and acidity which, when all combined together produced a stunning wine, shame about the bottle label though!

2003 Rocca Rosso, Angelo Rocca & Figli, Puglia, Italy – This had I have to say one of the biggest and  heaviest bottle I’ve seen for a long tine, probably also not the most environmentally friendly, but the wine was delicious. With baked dark fruits, oak and loads of sweet spice, a tiny amount of fine tannins and enough acidity to go with the fruit and spice, all combining to produce a really interesting wine. 

I must say, there were a lot of very good and enjoyable wines on show, a lot more than I’ve written about, these were just a few that really stuck in mind, but don’t forget to keep an eye for my post on the wines from TerraVin, which should be up very soon.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A New Australian Wine Brand from DeBortoli Wines

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of meeting many winemakers from Australia’s great wine making families at the Australia’s First Families of Wine bloggers lunch at Vinoteca, one of which was Leanne DeBortoli, obviously, from DeBortoli wines. Then a couple of weeks ago I received a message from her inviting me to join them for an online tasting for their new BellaRiva range of wines, I have to admit it sound a bit odd doing a tasting online, but thought I could be very interesting. A couple of days before the tasting I received the wine, a bottle of Vermentino/Pinot Grigio, and a bottle of Sangiovese/Merlot accompanied by the obligatory press release.

On the morning of the tasting, as usual I was keeping an eye on Twitter to see what was being said; when I noticed that a few people were talking about the wines already, which got me panicking, had I missed the tasting! So I rushed home, switched the laptop on and signed into ustream, which is the live video streaming site they were using, to find a blank screen saying please wait for the video to begin. Which I thought was a little odd, till I realised that they were doing them at several different times due to the number of people they were hoping to get joining in, then if by magic the screen started to buffer, and up came Leanne and her husband/wine maker Steve Webber.

They went through the idea behind the new brand, BellaRiva and the site they had used to grow the fruit, in the King Valley. The name BellaRiva in Italian means beautiful river bank, which it quite apt as the site sits along 3.5km of King river frontage, after watching a promotional video and listening to the ideas behind the wines, we moved on to tasting them.

We started with the Vermentino/Pinot Grigio blend, in the glass you got a bright straw colour, with nice aromas of pears and apples, you these coming through on the palate as well, with a slight nutty characteristic coming through from the background. There was just enough acidity to go with the fruit, but not too much that it spoilt your enjoyment of the wine. The Vermentino really gave the wine quite a full mouth feel and help to give the Pinot Grigio some real structure, which is something it’s usually lacking, I must say that I actually quite enjoyed this wine; it wasn’t what I had been expecting.

The Sangiovese/Merlot had a deep ruby colour, with plenty of red fruit aromas; these came through in abundance on the palate with a touch of spice thrown in for good measure. There was a small amount of fine tannin and a good level of acidity all combining to make a very enjoyable and easy drinking wine, which is what Steve had said was the aim for this wine.

Both of these wines were very enjoyable, and with the price point of £9.99 are good value, definitely worth giving serious consideration too if your looking for a good drinking wine that everyone would enjoy.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Supermarket Tries Something New

I was sent a press release and two samples from Sainsbury’s the other week, telling me that they had introduced 5 new wines to their Taste the Difference (TTD) range, and that they were the first major supermarket to sell the indigenous grapes, Marzemino and Brachetto. Having read the press release I got quite excited and had a look at the samples I’d been sent, I was surprised (and a little disappointed) to find that I’d been sent the TTD Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi and TTD Barbaresco, not the Marzemino or the Brachetto, but never mind, I still had some interesting wines to taste.

As you do, I went for the white first, which had been billed as an alternative to Pinot Grigio, which for me at this price point, is a great place to start, as there are far too many one dimensional and uninteresting Pinot Grios on the market. Produced in the Marche region of Italy on its Adriatic coast, it’s vinified in stainless steel to help keep its freshness.

On pouring you got a pale straw colour, with the fresh aromas of apples and cut grass, on the palate these all came through, with a good level of acidity making a really refreshing wine. It was an uncomplicated, but very pleasant wine which I have to agree is a good alternative to Pinot Grigio.

Moving onto the Barbaresco, this comes from the Langhe hills in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, produced from the indigenous grape Nebbiolo, which is also used in one of the great wines of Italy, Barolo. For its DOGC status it must be aged for a minimum of two years, with a minimum of 12 months must be in oak.

In the glass it had a deep red colour, not quite as dark as I’d have expected being Barolo’s “baby brother”, it did have quite pronounced aged aromas of red fruit, cherries and currants, after the fruit you got the sweet spice of liquorice. On the palate you got the fruit and spice coming at your taste buds in waves, combined with fine, silky tannins and a reasonable amount of acidity, this was all combined perfectly.

These were two interesting wines, the Verdicchio; fresh, fruity and a great alternative to Pinot Grigio all for £5.99, while the Barbaresco was rich and starting to show real signs of complexity for the princely sum of £9.99.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Sherry with a Hint of a Sea Breeze

Sherry for me has to be one of the greatest wines in the world, but it’s image suffers in this country so badly, when you mention the word Sherry to most people, an image of there grandparents sipping Harvey’s Bristol Cream or Croft Original instantly springs into there mind.  But there is so much more to Sherry than this, it covers a broad range of styles, from the light and pale Fino to the heavy and dark Oloroso’s.

Produced on the southern coast of Spain, in an area referred to as the Sherry triangle, which is made up from the three towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanluca de Barremeda. Palomino grape is the main grape used, they do however occasionally use Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel to sweeten, it is then fortified use a grape spirit (Brandy), but unlike Port, it is added after the fermentation process has completed so it remains a dry wine. They employ a fractional blending system called a Solera, hence why you don’t get a Vintage Sherry, and the ageing process happens in barrels under a layer of yeast, which is known as the Flor. This layer of yeast is extremely important, as its presence denotes the style, apart from being a fortified wine it is also an oxidised one. For the lighter Fino and Manzanilla styles you want a thick layer of Flor so to prevent as much oxygen getting to it as possible. Where as for the darker Amontillado and Oloroso style you want a greater degree of oxidisation, as this give it its colour and nutty flavours.

I’m not the biggest fan of the darker styles of Sherry, but I am of Manzanilla, now just to confuse things even more, Manzanilla and Fino are the same sherry apart from one difference, Manzanilla comes only from Sanluca de Barrameda. Situated on the coast, the cooling sea breezes help to keep the Bodegas cool; it also imparts a slightly salty tang to the wine, which in a blind tasting really helps you tell the difference between Fino and Manzanilla.

La Gitana
is Spain's most popular Manzanilla brand, and should be served well chilled, on the nose, if you close your eyes could almost mistake it’s aromas for a sea breeze. On the palate you got these wonderfully fresh flavours of Greens Apples and Almonds along with a real salty tang and a touch of yeasty/doughy characteristics, you have a good level of acidity which all combines beautifully. The big difference against other whites is you get a real kick from the level of alcohol due to the fortification; you get a real warming sensation in the back of your throat, which just helps to make this wine even more sensational than it already was.

Is this a wine that I would recommend, well I hope from what I've written you could take the guess that the answer is yes, it’s great to drink on its own chilled on a hot day or as an aperitif, which ever way you want to drink it, try it.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Red From The Rhone

This may only be me, but does anyone else ever find that after friends have been round for dinner, there’s always an odd bottle of unopened wine that some one brought round and never got drunk. Well this bottle is one of those!

I knew absolutely nothing about this wine other than what information I could glean from the label, the obvious was then name. La Tour de Marrenon 2010 Reserve, Ventoux, and is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. On close examination of the back label, I found that it had been imported by one of our leading supermarket chains and produced by Marrenon!

AOC Ventoux is a region located in the south east area of the Rhone, where 80% of it’s reported production goes to reds blended from  Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Carignan. With the whites coming from Clairette,Bourboulenc,Grenache Blanc, and Roussane, they also produce some Rose; the style is very much that of light and fruity, the minimum alcohol is 11%, this one came in at 13,5%.

In the glass it had a bright/youthful ruby colour, and quite pronounced aromas of blackcurrant, with black pepper coming through from them background. On the palate, again it had quite pronounced flavours of blackcurrant, with a touch of red currants thrown in to the mix, and then you got the peppery spice. It had quite a large amount of acidity with very little fine tannins, which didn’t really work for me.

Would I recommend this wine, it wasn’t really an inspiring wine, there was nothing wrong with it in itself, but it just didn’t set my taste buds alight, if I saw it on the shelf would I buy It, then the answer is no, but if someone did bring it around again I would drink it.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Surprising Pinotage Rose

Pinotage can produce some fantastic wines, but it also produces an awful lot of poor wine, now this isn’t all down to the grape itself, but it’s also down to the winemaking techniques used. Grown in South Africa, where it has become their signature grape, it is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault and was developed in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University.

I’d never seen a Pinotage Rose before, until a friend brought round a bottle of Kumala Eternal, Western Cape, Pinotage Rose 2011, since tasting this one i found several others that are available. I’m not the biggest fan of Kumala Wines having drank some very poor wines from them, many years ago, but in the interest of fairness, I thought I should give it a try!

In the glass you got a bright, strawberry red colour without looking artificial. On the nose you had quite pronounced fruit aromas of Water Melons and Strawberry’s, you got these coming through on the palate with the pronounced Water Melon really hitting your taste buds. Combine these juicy/fruity flavours with a serious amount of acidity, and they work brilliantly! The acidity really makes your mouth water and making it a very refreshing drink; don’t get me wrong, this is most definitely not a great wine, but it is a good one for what it is.

Would i recommend, if your looking for a fruity rose to chill for a hot summer day in the garden then this is definitely worth giving a thought too, great fruit loads of acidity to cut through the fruit, but if your looking for some thing with a bit of complexity and structure, then stay well away from it.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A South Australian Shiraz

We were out last Friday night for a friend’s 30th, and as usual the wine list was passed down the table to me with the instruction to pick something good. I have to admit it was rather a good list which was making the decision all that more difficult, but while I was scanning down the reds I spotted a shiraz from Geoff Merrill, and I remembered tasting one at the imbibros tasting I'd been to recently, which I'd thought was absolutely stunning, so it seemed like a good bet to me.

The wine in question was their 2008 Pimpala Road Shiraz from South Australia, and unfortunately is only available to the UK through the on-trade. Which is always something that annoys me, why must I only be able to drink certain wines in a restaurant and not at home, but I think that’s a topic for discussion at a later date.

Getting back to the wine, it had a deep red/purple colour in the glass, with wonderfully pronounced aromas of blackcurrants and spice. On the palate you got the fruit of blackcurrants and red currants, with the spice coming through as liquorice and a touch of clove, which were far more predominant than the fruit flavours. There was a good level of acidity which just made your mouth water profusely, helping the flavours linger that little bit more, there was a very small amount of very fine tannins which surprisingly combined beautifully and resulted in an outstandingly well balanced wine.

Is this a wine that I’d recommend, if your out for dinner and your lucky enough to find it on the wine list, then it’s definitely worth giving serious consideration, again it’s only a pity you can’t get it to take home to enjoy, If you want to try one of their other wines, give their Jacko’s Blend 2006 from McLaren Vale a go, it was rather delicious. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Stunning Shiraz from Jim Barry Wines

The other night we decided to open a bottle of Jim Barry, The McRae Wood Shiraz 2005. Jim Barry Wines are a member of the Australian First Families of Wine; Jim Barry founded the vineyard in 1959 with his wife Nancy when they purchased their first property on the northern outskirts of Clare, in 1964 they added 70 acres of prime river flats from Duncan McRae Wood in the Armagh area of Clare. In 1977 they added a further 329 acres, with the purchase of the Lodge Hill Property, and in 1986 his sons added the renowned Florita vineyard, which is celebrated for its superb Rieslings.

The fruit for this wine as you may have expected comes from the Duncan McRae Wood vineyards, which were planted with Shiraz vines in 1964, which I have to agree was an inspired choice of location and variety. In producing this wine two thirds will spend 15 months in new American oak, with the other third being in older American oak, before being blended.

On pouring you got an opaque inky/purple colour which is just amazing, on the nose you wonderfully pronounced aromas of Blackcurrants, Raspberries, Liquorice and violets. On the palate you these, with the sweet spice of liquorice and cinnamon being more predominant, to go along with these you also got a hint of cocoa, that just lingered around in the mouth for ages. With these flavours and aromas, you got just enough acidity to make your mouth water, and a large amount of fine, silky tannins that just combined together to create what I can only describe as an absolutely stunning wine.

This wine showed great structure and complexity that while it was drinking great now, will last for a good few years yet refining it further and making smoother and smoother. Is this a wine that I would recommend, most definitely, the only piece of advice I would give is to make sure you let the wine breathe before you start to drink it, to make sure all the flavours come through beautifully.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

A Pair of Spanish Stunners

A little while ago I got sent two bottles of Spanish wine to review for the blog, for some reason, and I’m not quite sure why, but it’s not something I tend to drink very often or know a great deal about, I’ve only reviewed two Rioja's and a Cava for the blog; I haven't even touched on one of my favourite wines, Sherry!

 Vińa Pomal Reserva Rioja, 2005.

The Rioja region is in northern Spain where they are permitted to use Tempranillo, Viura, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo to produce their wines, this one however is 100% Tempranillo. This wine will spend 18 months in American Oak with a further two years in bottle before its release; this is a requirement for the Reserva designation.

On pouring you had a deep ruby/purple colour and pronounced aromas of red cherries and red currents, coming through from the background you got some really nice sweet spice, predominantly liquorice. It had just the right amount of fine tannins with just enough acidity to make you mouth water, combine this with the aromas and favours and you got a well structured wine with an interesting complexity to it.

Scala Dei Cartoixa Priorat, 2005.

Priorat is situated in North East Spain, and covers an area of around 19,783h, of which around 5,000h are under vine, compared with a region such as Rioja which has around 49,776h. This gives you an idea of how small a region it is, all the vines are planted on terraced slopes between 100 – 700m above sea level. They are permitted to use Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Peluda, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in the blend, with yields much lower than is actually permitted.

In the glass it was a much deeper ruby than the Rioja, with pronounced aromas of dark fruit, cherries and plums and loaded with the sweet spice of cinnamon, their was also a touch of minerality coming through from the back ground. You got all of these on the palate coming at you wave after wave; it had wonderfully juicy tannins and great acidity helping to let the flavours linger in your mouth for a long time. This was a stunningly well balanced and complex wine that I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to taste.

Both of these wines were beautiful with great flavours and structure that if you get the opportunity to try them, then I’d definitely recommend them, but my favourite was hands down the Priorat, as it was for the friends I had round to enjoy them, it was just absolutely stunning.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Summer Tasting with Imbibros

The other week a friend sent me a message saying that his local wine merchants were having their summer tasting evening, and did I fancy joining him. So I jumped on a train and headed on down to a town called Godalming, which is just south of Guildford and then on to Imbibros Wine Merchants to see what they had to offer, and if there was anything that was just that little bit special.

When we got their, we found the tasting was in full flow and very busy, always a good start in my eyes, so we collected our glasses and made a start on the task in front of us. On show were 77 wines and 8 spirits from all over the wine growing world. There were some fantastic wines and unfortunately a couple that really were not very good, there was even one that was a tribute to the legendary Pink Floyd, which was of course a Rosé. 

Here are my top 5 from the evening and in no particular order;

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough – Loaded with green fruit, predominantly Gooseberries and combined with the perfect amount of Acidity that just made your mouth water profusely, creating an absolutely stunning wine and a classic example of the great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, £15.50 a bottle.

Painted Wolf Penny Viognier 2009, Swartland – Really pronounced stone fruit with a hint of vanilla coming through from the background, combined again with just enough acidity that made your mouth water and cut through the fruit perfectly, a beautiful wine for £13.95.

Living Rock Cinsault/Ruby Cabernet 2009, Western Cape – Full of red fruit, cherries and red currants, perfectly combined with the tannins and acidity, creating a surprisingly well structured and enjoyable wine, all for £5.95, you can’t go wrong really with that.

Geoff Merrill Jacko’s Blend Shiraz 2006, McLaren Vale – With pronounced flavours of red berries and spice coming through, it was perfectly integrated with the oak and full of fine, silky tannins, and just the right amount of acidity, a stunning wine, as it should be for £16.50.

Four Vines Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel 2008, California – Full of juicy dark fruit and spice, again combined perfectly with the fine, silky tannins and acidity, creating an enjoyable wine, and a great example of Zinfandel at £15.95 a bottle.

It was a great evening, and there were many more fantastic wines that we tasted, these are just a couple that really caught my eye, if you’re interested in purchasing any of them, they are all available online from Imbibros.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Stunning Pinot Noir form Central Otago

If you’ve ever read my blog before you may have noticed that I’m a big fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; however they do produce some fantastic wines from a lot more than just Sauvignon Blanc. Its cooler climate helps it grow some of the harder varietals, the ‘terrible enfant’, Pinot Noir, and with some great success.

 A family member had made a business trip to New Zealand and bought back some wine they tasted on a wine tour, very graciously they gave me a bottle of Chard Farm, Finla Mor Pinot Noir 2008. It had been stuck at the bottom of my wine rack gathering dust for some time when we decided to open it the other night.

Chard Farm was established in 1987 by Rob and Greg Hay, Rob had spent three years in Germany learning wine making, before heading back to New Zealand to look for land that emulated the great ‘terriors’ of Europe; Burgundy and Alsace. They found this in Central Otago, at the southern end of the south island, making it the most southerly, wine producing region. The climate is that of cold winters, and hot, dry summers, perfect for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.

This Pinot Noir had a pale ruby colour, with great fruit aromas of red cherries and raspberries, with a hint a sweet spice, Vanilla and Cinnamon coming through from the back ground. That’s exactly what you got in your mouth when you tasted it, first the fruit, then from the background you got the sweet spice which just combined beautifully. With a reasonable amount of acidity, that cut through the fruit perfectly, making your mouth water and helping to let the flavours linger for that little bit longer. With barely any tannin left, this was again absolutely perfect; I have to admit I was stunned by just how enjoyable this was to drink.

If you hadn’t of guessed, yes this is a wine that I’d definitely recommend, it's available in the UK from Must Wines Ltd and New Generation Wines Ltd, but that doesn’t stop you from looking out for other Central Otago Pinot Noir’s, hopefully they’ll be as enjoyable as this one.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc from A Great Napa Vineyard

Earlier in the year I was given a bottle Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2010, by a friend who had just returned from a trip to San Francisco. The vineyard and tasting room is situated on the Silverado Trail, one mile south of the renowned Stags Leap District; they also have two vineyards on the eastern benchland of Napa. Founded by Irit and Ernie Weir in 1979, with the aim of this is to produce high quality fine wines and according to Jewish dietary laws, producing wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah (Shiraz), Riesling and Zinfandel in small lots, which results in a total production of only 8,000 cases.

On pouring the wine you got a bright but very pale Apple green colour, with quite pronounced aromas of citrus, grapefruit and lime, I then got a tiny hint of stone fruit in the background. On the palate, the favours came across as the aromas, grapefruit, lime and again that tiny hint of stone fruit. Which were just fantastic, along with this it had just the right amount of acidity to go with the fruit favours and make your mouth water.

I have to admit, if I hadn't know it was a Sauvignon Blanc, embarrassingly I have to say I could have mistaken it for a Riesling. It was an excellently balanced wine that was very refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable to drink. If you can get hold of a bottle then I'd definately recommend it, with the added bonus that it's Kosher, just in case you needed it to be!

Having realised that I had got very out of touch with whites, I felt I needed to re-associate my self with some of the great white grapes. I was fortunate enough to spending a week’s holiday in San Francisco, and took the opportunity to hire a car and drive up to Napa with the plan to taste as many whites as I could. Having tasted this Sauvignon Blanc we headed first of all to Hagafen’s tasting room, and really started to understand the difference between this and their Rieslings, and they were fantastic, so much so, I bought a bottle of their White Riesling, Rancho Wieruszowski Vineyard 2010, looking forward to reviewing it soon!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sunday Lunch with Australia's First Families of Wine

The other weekend saw the latest instalment in Andrew’s (Spittoon) series of secret tastings known as ARSE (Andrew’s Really Secret Event, just in case thought I was being rude)as usual we were thrown a few clues, and a couple of red herrings, as to the location and theme for this one. Our only piece of real fact had been that we were to meet outside Farringdon station in central London for just after 12, with note pads and tweeting devices!

On route to the venue we were all trying to figure out where we were going, St Johns was fully booked we’d been told, and Vinoteca was closed on Sundays, we were all rather confused, which I have to say for me isn’t difficult. We arrived at our destination, now even more confused than ever, it in fact was Vinoteca, who had very kindly agreed to open and cook Sunday lunch for us and Australia’s First Families of Wine.

Australia’s First Families of Wine are 12 of the most prestigious and oldest family owned vineyards in Australia, they are McWilliam’s; Tyrrell’s; Howard Park; Tahbilk; Brown Brothers; De Bortoli; d’Arenberg; Jim Barry; Henschke; Yalumba; Wakefield and Campbells, I have to admit it was a real honour and pleasure to be in the same room with so many of Australia’s great wine makers.

After the initial meet and greet, it was time to get on the with task in hand and start tasting the wines they had brought with them;

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 – Loaded full of aromas and flavours of citrus, with a hint of toasty/nutty characteristics starting to develop. There was a touch of minerality coming through from the background and a great level of acidity; producing a wonderfully complex wine.

Tyrrell’s Winemaker Selection Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2003 – As with the Semillon above full of citrus flavours, with toasty characteristics starting to develop and just the right balance of acidity, which again produced a stunningly beautiful wine.

Howards Park Riesling 2009 – With pronounced aromas of citrus with a touch of minerality coming through afterwards, great levels of acidity, with the fruit giving you what you think is a touch of sweetness the wine is completely bone dry. I have to say a stunning example of Riesling.

Tahbilk Viognier 2009 – This had floral and stone fruit aromas, with a touch of citrus thrown into the mix, again it was completely bone dry and perfectly balanced acidity, a fantastically refreshing drink.

Brown Brothers Banksdale Chardonnay 2008 – This had great flavours of stone fruit with a hint of vanilla, from the 5 months of maturation in oak it receives, beautifully balanced with the acidity. Exactly what you’d expect from a limited release Brown Brothers wine.

De Bortoli Estate Chardonnay 2008 – Quite pronounced flavours of citrus with a touch of stone fruit in the background, you got a very rich creamy mouth feel to the wine from the Malolactic fermentation that has occurred. There’s a great level of acidity that cuts through this to give you a stunningly beautiful wine that’s starting to show great complexity.

d’Arenderg Money Spider Roussanne 2009 – Great stone fruit flavours with a touch of minerality coming through from the background, it had quite a rich, oily mouth feel which the high level of acidity cut through perfectly.

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling 2008 – As you’d expect from Riesling it had loads of stone fruit and citrus flavours with a great minerality coming through, again perfect level of acidity which just made your water.

Henschke Mount Edlestone Shiraz 2005 – This delivered full on jammy dark fruit with some almost medicinal characteristics coming through, a good level of acidity with beautifully fine tannins combine to make a great wine.

Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 -  This had blackcurrant fruit with a touch of spice and smokey characteristics from the oak ageing, again just the right amount of acidity and fine tannins combine to create a great structured and complex wine.

Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – Really pronounced cherry flavours with some medicinal characteristics coming through to combine with fine tannins and just enough acidity, you got a stunning wine.

Campbells Bobbie Burns Durif 2006 -  This gave you loads of dark berry fruit and spice with a hint of oak/cedar coming through, really fine tannins and just enough acidity gave this wine great structure and made it very interesting.

After we’d gone through all the wines and had a chat with each of the wine makers, we were served a stunning lunch of salt baked celeriac, roast lamb and a pear and almond tart which was served with a glass of Campbells Muscat Topaque which just went so perfectly together.

I have to say it was a fantastic day, and a big thanks to Andrew for organising the event, Vinoteca for allowing us to use their venue and cooking us a great lunch, and of course to Australia’s First Families of Wine for taking the time to come over and show us their great wines.