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.