Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A Trip to the Spar

When you’re in a hurry and the only place you can find to pick up a bottle is the local Spar, you may like me, think that all I’m going to be to get is a bottle a cheap and nasty Pinot Grigio or one of the uninteresting big brands, but don’t panic, all is not lost.

I had the opportunity recently to meet the guys from the Spar and to taste some of there own and exclusive label wines, which I have to say were very impressive and actually great value as well. Here are a few of my favourite;

Spar Chablis; this has aromas of green fruit and citrus, with these coming through on the palate, it has a delightful acidity with a touch of steely/minerality to it as well. Not quite a crisp as many other traditional Chablis, but this helps to make it a bit more approachable and hopefully enjoyable to more people, and great value at £10.99.

Chene St Louis Sancerre; with lovely aromas and flavours of gooseberries and a nice minerality to it, again the acidity is much softer than many of it’s counterparts, this however does not detract from it being a delicious wine, and great value at £10.99.

Valle Vento Barolo; this had a garnet colour to it in the glass, with the aromas and flavours dark fruits, cherries and plums, with a touch of spice coming through from the background. The tannins were fine and silky, the acidity was just enough to complement this, resulting in a great glass of wine and again exceptional value at £14.99.

Les Trois Couronnes Chateauneuf du Pape; this is a blend of 13 of the permitted varieties, including Grenache and Syrah, which all help to create big rich wine with a great depth of flavour. It had aromas and flavours of dark fruit and spice, wonderfully fine/silky tannins and just the right amount of acidity to balance it all out and make it a great glass of wine, all for £15.99.

Ursa Maior Rioja Reserva; a Tempranillo blend, this had lovely mature aromas and flavours of dried fruit, cherries, tobacco and a touch of sweet spice, Vanilla. Lovely silky tannin and a great acidity, I have to say this was perfectly balanced and probably my favourite of the day, and all for £9.99.

I have to say I was rather impressed with there selection of wines, and if I ever needed to grab a bottle or two and I came across a Spar, I wouldn’t have any hesitation in popping in and selecting one from there own range.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Trip to Spain with Tesco

The guys from Tesco Wine very generously sent me one of there Spanish Celebration cases the other week, and for the price I have to say I was rather impressed, the case was 3 reds, 1 white, 1 rose and a sparking (Cava unsurprisingly) made up with 2 of each. The wines were, in no particular order;

2008 Marques de Monistrol Vintage Cava
Made from a blend of Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada, has plenty of citrus flavours and a tart acidity, was drinkable but not my favourite and not one that I would buy.

2006 Vina Albali Gran Reserva Selección Privada 
Produced from 100% Tempranillo and is then aged in American oak for 24 months, which helps this wine develop some amazing characteristics. In the glass it had a wonderfully deep ruby/garnet colour, with very pronounced, yet delicate aromas of sweet spices and leather notes, these came through on the palate with a touch dark fruit to round it out. I have to say I thought this wine was absolutely stunning.

2005 Gran Artizan Gran Reserva Monastrell Syrah
As the name says, this is a blend of Monastrell and Syrah and has spent 18 months in oak, and another couple of years in the cellar before being released. In the glass you got a deep red/purple colour, with aromas of dark fruits and peppery spice, these all came through on the palate. There was also a good amount of acidity and quite a lot of fine tannins. Personally I don’t think it was all quite in balance with everything.

2011 Faustino Rivero Rioja Blanco
I’ve never been the biggest fan of white Rioja, but I have to say I rather impressed with this one. It loads of apples and pears both on the aroma and on the palate, plenty of nice acidity to go with the fruit, helping to make it a very enjoyable drink, definitely a better alternative to Pinot Grigio.

2011 Faustino Rivero Rioja Rosado
This wine has quite a deep (for a rose) raspberry colour, with beautiful aromas of red berries, Strawberries and Cherries, these all came through on the palate, there was also a touch of sweetness, making this an off-dry wine. Again not my favourite style of rose, but was quite an enjoyable drink, and the others all enjoyed it.

2006 Lagunilla Rioja Reserva
This Rioja is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha, which helps to give it great depth and complexity of flavour. In the glass it had a deep ruby colour, with quite pronounced aromas of dark fruits and plums, these all came through on the palate with a touch of spice coming through from the background. Great acidity and lovely fine tannins all go to make a beautifully balanced and complex wine that I definitely enjoyed.

I have to say I was rather impressed with this case, there were some really good wines and when you actually work out the bottle price, £5.50 each, it works out at excellent value that I'd happily recommend.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Deep Rich Zinfandel from Seghesio in California

As I mentioned in my last post, I did a tasting in New York at the beginning of the year, and the other wine that I really thought that was worth mentioning, was the 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel.

The original vineyards in the Alexander Valley were planted in 1895 with Zinfandel by Eduardo Seghesio, who was an Italian immigrant from Piedmont and had left for America in 1886, where he met his wife Angela. The winery was completed in 1902 and over the coming years they bought further plots of land which they planted with more traditional Italian grapes. Over the years they bought more and more vineyards, including Eduardo’s previous employers,Italian Swiss Colony, which caused them problems through the era of prohibition. Upon prohibition being repealed they opened the doors to the winery and started there comeback, they continued to produce wine under Eduardo’s wife Angela’s stewardship, until her passing in 1958. The winery continued to be run by their son’s, who had until the mid 1970’s moved the business to producing bulk wine, and with much success. Then in 1983, the first wines bottled and sold under the Seghesio brand were produced by fourth generation winemaker Ted Seghesio all from estate grown fruit, today they are part of the Crimson Wine Group.

The Zinfandel grape is a distant relation to Primitivo and one of my favourite varietals, and I have to say this one did not disappoint, with this wine though they also blend in small proportion of Petit Syrah just give it another dimension.

In the glass you got a deep/opaque inky purple colour, with wonderfully pronounced aromas of dark berry fruit and a touch of spice. On the palate these came through in great depth, with flavours of blackberries, blue berries followed by the spice. The tannins were juicy but in balance with the fruit flavours and just enough acidity helped make the length of flavours last for what seemed like forever.

As I’ve already mentioned, Zinfandel is one of my favourite grapes, and this wine certainly did not disappoint, it is most definitely one that would highly recommend and will definitely be making a repeat purchase of.

Friday, 31 August 2012

A Cracking Petit Chablis from Patrick Piuze

For those of you who have read my blog before, will know I’m far more of a fan of the new world than of the old, so I thought I better try and rectify that a little and write about something from France.

Earlier in the year my sister asked me to do a tasting for her and some of her friends from work, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t really have been that much of a problem, but she lives in New York, and it’s a little far to go just to do a tasting. So we came up with a cunning plan (sorry for the Blackadder reference) and did it using the joys of Skype, which actually proved to be quite good, the hardest part was actually finding wines that we could both get in the UK and US, which proved to be harder than you may think.
After several hours of trawling over web pages of stores from New York I managed to find several wines for us, the first was the Dr L Riesling, Seghesio Zinfandel, which you’ll be able to read about in my next post, and the 2010 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis, which is what I want to talk about in this post.

Patrick was originally from Canada, who when 18 met Marc Chapoutier, and sparked his interest in wine making, and helped him to visit wineries in Australia, South Africa and Israel. After going back to Quebec and opening a wine bar, his realised his real passion lay in making wine and he headed of to Burgundy, where he went to work the harvest for Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, after a short course at the Beaune CFPPA, he was entrusted with their Chablis winemaking. After a successful stint with Olivier Leflaive he went to work at La Maison Verget, when after a year he was then offered the position of Cellar Master with Jean-Marc Brocard, until he decided to go it alone and produce wine under his own name, from various Grand and Premier Cru sites around Chablis.

The 2010 Petit Chablis Cuvee Speciale Juliette Anais, I have to say finally showed me that you can get a great French wine without paying stupid amounts for it. In the glass it had a bright pale lemon yellow colour, with stunning, crisp aromas of citrus and slightly delicate floral characteristics coming through. On the palate you got these aromas with a hint of crisp green apples and a real minerality coming through, which was just stunning, it’s starting to make my mouth water just writing about it. To go along with these flavours you got a real nice amount of acidity to cut through the flavours and bring them all together and really balance the wine perfectly.

I have to say this was an absolutely stunning glass of wine, that if you ever come across any of his wines I would highly recommend that you try them. I definitely will, as long with a few more from burgundy. 

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Californian Riesling from Hagafen in Napa

Having been introduced to the wines from Hagafen in Napa Valley before by a friend, on my visit to California last year I had to make sure we paid them a visit and call in on their tasting room to sample some of their other delights. I’d been brought back a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc (read my review here) and after going to their website I really wanted to try some of the other varietals they did, the reds were rich and full of flavours and all with great structures, but the one wine that really stood out to me, and the wife to be, was their 2010 Rancho Wieruszowski Vineyard White Riesling.
In the glass it had a bright, pale lemon yellow colour, with very pronounced aromas of stone fruit, peaches, apricots and citrus such as mandarin. On the palate it was off-dry, with all the flavours of stone fruits and mandarins, but it also had a touch of minerality to which all just added to its wonderful complexity. It had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the weetness of the wine perfectly, making it a well balanced wine, with great complexity and that touch of class.
Unfortunately they’re not available in the UK, but if you get the chance to go to Napa Valley, then make sure you pay these guys a visit on the Silverado Trail, but not just for their fantastic wines but also for the views.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A 2001 Rioja Reserva from Coto de Imaz

As you can see from the picture, this bottle had been hanging around in my wine rack for some time, which I have to say is rare for me. Originally it was a present from my wife to be, from a business trip to Spain that she’d been on, and I'd been saving for the right occasion, which just so happened before Christmas.

Produced from the Tempranillo grape in Rioja Alta region by the El Coto de Rioja winery, which was originally founded in 1970, it took them almost 5 years to release their first vintage. According to their website, the winery experienced spectacular growth during the 90's, to become a leading Bodega amongst the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin wines, and in 1997 it became the first Spanish winery group to be listed on the stock exchange.

The wine itself is vinified in stainless steel tanks, with up to 25 days maceration and pumping over to ensure the right balance between fruit and extraction, before spending 16 months in 225 litre new American oak barrels, followed by a further 3 year in bottle before being released.

In the glass it had a deep ruby colour, although at the edge you could see it turning a shade of orange from it’s age, on the nose you intense aromas of red berry fruit, but also spice such as vanilla coming through from the oak and it’s age,

On the palate these all came through beautifully, but with a complexity to them that was amazing, which was helped by the age of the wine, the tannin which fine and silky which just glided over your tongue and a tiny bit of acidity, just to help make your mouth water that little bit. The finish to this wine was just amazing and lingered around for ages, would I recommend this wine, absolutely, it was just delicious and enjoyable, I only wish the wife to be had bought more than one bottle home with her.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Dinner with Kevin Judd from Greywacke

One of the great things of working for an independent wine merchant (The Vineking) is that I get to go to all the events that we organise, such as the a dinner with Kevin Judd at the Dining Room in Reigate. For those of you who don’t know who Kevin is, he’s the winemaker from Greywacke, formerly the founding wine maker from probably New Zealand’s most iconic wine, Cloudy Bay. Kevin produced the first 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay, and introduced the world to the fantastic Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, after leaving Cloudy Bay; Kevin decided he wanted to continue wine making, but now under his own label, Greywacke. He buy’s his fruit from various vineyards around Marlborough, including from his good friends at Dog Point (another one of our favourites) who are the other original founders of Cloudy Bay, they also very kindly let him use their facilities to produce his wines. He did remark that it’s now more affectionately known as the Cloudy Bay retirement home, as many of the original staff from Cloudy Bay now work at Dog Point or with Kevin at Greywacke.

Kevin talking to the room
Listening to Kevin talk about his wines and the wine making process, the most amazing thing was how little intervention he did with them, to put it in his own words, I press the grapes, put the juice into the tanks or barrels depending on which wine he’s making, and leave it to get on and do it’s own thing! This all helps to keep the pure fruit flavours that you find in his wines; another thing was the use of wild yeasts to produce his Wild Sauvignon and his Pinot Noir, which just help to add another dimension to his wines.

Along with the wines we’ve sold in the past, he also bought some of his Chardonnay and Pinot Gris for us to taste, and like his other wines we know so well they didn’t disappoint, unfortunately at present they are only produced in small quantities, but we are hoping to get some of his next vintage of the Chardonnay, but again we only be able to receive a small quantity, so if your interested in them, then make sure you get your orders in early!

The wine we had on tasting were;

2011 Sauvignon Blanc – this just had beautiful green fruit flavours and aromas, with a touch of minerality to go with it, great acidity, producing a beautifully restrained and elegant glass of wine.

2010 Wild Ferment Sauvignon – with a much richer mouth feel, and more complexity than his ordinary Sauvignon, it had a hint of Vanilla and softness to the acidity which just made this wine absolutely stunning.

2009 Chardonnay – again this wine had a real richness to it, with slightly savoury/lanolin aromas, with a touch of citrus on the palate and a creamy texture, combined with a minerality and a long lingering finish that made this wine just amazing.

2010 Pinot Noir – with both some dark and red fruit flavours and aromas in the glass, intermingled with a smoky vanilla oak, soft fine tannin and a great acidity to it, and a length of flavour that just kept on giving, this wine definitely did not disappoint.

Several empty bottles of his Pinot Gris
2010 Pinot Gris – this wine was slightly off dry, but with stone and dried fruit flavours, the perfect amount of acidity, and as with all the others a length of flavour that just kept on giving, it worked very well the raspberry and vanilla in the desert, but was a little challenged by the chocolate.

I have to say, my favourite of the night was his Wild Sauvignon, but we couldn’t find fault with any of range and I’d highly recommend any of his wines for you to try.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Cracking Chilean Carmenere

Last year I took advantage of one of our major supermarkets, buy 6 save 25% offers, and the other week I finally got around to drinking the last bottle that I’d bought, which was a 2008 Yali Three Lagoons Chilean Carmenere from Vina Ventisquero.

Having looked into Vina Ventisquero, I have to say I’m rather impressed by them. Hailing from the Maipo Valley, they have taken great care in how they produce their wine, from using sustainable farming methods in the vineyards to the extensive research they’ve done on the terrior in their vineyards; all this goes a long way towards producing a very enjoyable glass of wine.

In the glass this wine had a dark, opaque cherry colour, with wonderfully pronounced aromas of dark fruit, blackberries and cherries, then in the background you got pepper, vanilla and a touch of smoke coming through. On the palate all of these came at wave after wave, which was just stunning, to go along with this it had just enough silky smooth tannin and acidity to balance perfectly, and a beautifully long lingering finish.

Combine all of these together and you got an extremely well put together glass of wine that was perfectly balanced and extremely enjoyable. Is this a wine that I’d recommend, absolutely, and if this one is anything to go by, I’ll definitely be trying a few more of their wines!

Friday, 20 January 2012

A Stunning Shiraz from South Australia

Having been a fan of new world wines for many years now, I had the pleasure of being introduced to those from Mitolo recently. The winery was founded in South Australia by Frank Mitolo in 1999, then in 2001 he was joined by the legendary winemaker Ben Glaetzer; who managed to scoop Young Wine Maker of the Year on more than one occasion (until he was too old) and numerous other awards along his way.

The fruit for this wine is grown in the Willunga district of the McLaren Vale in South Australia, which is one of their premium growing regions, especially for Shiraz, which accounts for around 50% of total vines planted. The soil structure is that of heavy grey loam over sandstone, which is excellent at retaining water, thus requiring minimal irrigation. The climate is slightly warmer than the average for the region, helping to give the grapes a greater intensity in flavour and juicy ripe tannins, the cool afternoon sea breezes and nights help to extend the ripening period and maintain the acidity levels.

In the glass, it had an opaque crimson/purple colour, with really pronounced aromas of dark fruits, cherries, plums and cassis, with a touch of sweet spice, liquorice, coming through from the background. On the palate you got these wonderfully intense jammy flavours of plums and dark cherries coming through, and then you got the sweet spice which just combined with the intense fruit flavours perfectly. Merge this with just enough acidity to make your mouth water and the juicy, ripe tannins and you got a stunning and well put together glass of wine.

This, I have to say, was not what I was expecting, I expected it to be far more spice than fruit, which is what you tend to expect from an Aussie Shiraz, but this was the exact opposite, and was just absolutely stunning. To go along with all the fruit, it had a great structure as well, making this such an enjoyable wine that I’d highly recommend, especially with the dark nights and colder weather setting in.