Monday, 29 July 2013

A Gin for Every Occasion

For a change a thought I'd write about something other than wine and write about one of my other favourite drinks, Gin. Over the last couple of years Gin has seen a massive resurgence and become very popular either in the classic G&T, or in cocktails. Whichever way you choose to drink it, for me it has to be one of the greatest spirits. Today there are hundreds of different Gin brands, and several different styles such as the classic London Dry, Plymouth and the sweeter Old Tom version.
Fifty Pounds

This I have to say is probably my favourite London Dry Gin. It gets it's name from the levy the government put on Gin producers with the 1736 Gin Act. It is uses a very old recipe which dates back to the time of the Gin Act itself; and unlike a lot of gin is made in a batch process distillation: before they start the next, they finish this one off.

With this Gin you get a well crafted drink with all the botanicals integrating perfectly. Flavours of citrus, spice and a good hit of juniper (which however doesn't overpower) are balanced by a warming, not burning sensation from the alcohol. It's the combination of all of these which makes for me Fifty Pounds the best London Dry gin.

 Portabello Road
Picture Courtesy of
 Portabello Road Gin

Originally produced at the award winning Portabello Star by Jake Burger, it is also the home of the Ginstitute, where you can actually go and learn about and create your own Gin, for all Gin lovers definitely worth booking a session.

On the palate this Gin gives you plenty of Juniper and a fresh citrus characteristic with a gentle warming peppery spice coming through in the background which combines with all the other botanicals beautifully and makes a great drink, even just on it's own with some ice.

The Botanist

Made up in Scotland on the island of Islay by the Bruichladdich distillery, and is completely unique in its flavours. To make this very unique Gin they use the nine classic botanicals you find in Gin and they then use another 22 that are wild and native to Islay. They are then slowly distilled in their aptly named "ugly betty" lomond pot still for 17 hours, giving you this amazing and wonderfully aromatic and complex Gin.This Gin gives Juniper, spice, citrus, menthol and bouquets of summer flowers, there is a lot going on in this Gin, as with the Fifty Pounds you get a warming sensation on the back palate which works beautifully with the spice and botanicals in the Gin, helping to make this quite a unique and wonderful Gin.

Ransom Old Tom

Unfortunately this one is not available in the UK at present, but a friend of
mine bought a bottle over from the US and I just had to mention it. This Gin is made over in Sheridan, Oregon, founded in 1997 by Tad Seestedt, it started life producing Grappa, eau d'vie and Brandy, in 1998 they starting making wine, then in 2007 they added a whiskey and the gin to their repertoire. 
The real interesting thing about this gin, apart from it being a sweeter old tom style, is that it's also aged in old Pinot Noir casks for three to six months, this gives it an amber hue. You get the traditional botanicals in this gin, juniper, coriander, with hints of citrus peel combining with the sweeter edge of the gin perfectly, but then very delicately in the background you can find a touch of red berry fruit. This gin is great just over ice or with a really good tonic water.

Tonic Water

Tonic Water, I cannot say how important it is to make sure you get a decent one, the best that I've found is the one from Fentimans, this as far a I can tell is the only one that is also naturally brewed. 

The aromatics in the tonic help to bring out the botanicals in the gin, making it even more than enjoyable, the rose lemonade also works really well!

Friday, 19 July 2013

A Gem from the South of France

Domaine Gayda (in the background)
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Domaine Gayda, they're based down in the Languedoc about 20km away from Carcassonne. Founded 10 years ago by Tim Ford and Anthony Record, on what was originally a sunflower farm. Having no established vines to use, they purchased some older vineyard plots from across the region giving them access to vines up to 80 years old.

Vineyards in La Liviniere
Today the whole estate is farmed and certified organically and they are also starting to grow other plants and crops to encourage biodiversity.

They have very comprehensive range from their entry level single varietal t'Air d'Oc and blended Flying Solo range, through the varietal Ceppage range ending with the fantastic Chemin de Moscou. I have to say the quality from start to finish is magnificent and i can't recommend any of there wines highly enough, but the one i really want to talk about is the Chemin de Moscou.

This wine gets its name from the road that leads up to the vineyards, and is produced using fruit from La Livinière, Latour de France, Calce, St Martin de Fenouillèdes, Tautavel & Brugairolles vineyard plots, which have some of the oldest vines that they own. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache with a small amount of Cinsault added just for good measure, all are vinified seperately before being blended.

The Syrah is aged in new oak barrels for nine months, while the Grenache and Cinsault are put into 2nd and 3rd fill barrels for nine months, they will then blend the best barrels of each varietal before it spends a further 12 months in the same barrels.

The Chemin de Moscou is a big rich glass of wine, it has a wonderfully opaque inky/purple colour, with pronounced aromas of dark fruit, pepper, cinnamon with a hint of violets coming through from the back ground. On the palate you all of the aromas coming through with an added touch of minerality, which is just amazing, the tannins are big but not out of balance and there is just enough acidity to get your mouth watering and helping to make the flavours linger for ages.

I have to say this is just a magnificent glass of wine, and is testament to the wine making skills of Vincent, if you spot a bottle in your local wine merchant i would definately say to grab a bottle and give it go, especially when your having a barbeque.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A Californian Legend

I was lucky enough recently to get the opportunity to try a bottle of the 1997 Stag's Leap SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, just to confuse people, there are two producers using the name Stags Leap, they are Stags' Leap Winery and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Notice the different use of the apostrophe in the Stag's and that one uses Winery and the other uses Wine Cellars in the name, the winery I'm referring to in this is the latter of the two.

Founded in 1970 by Nathan Fay, on the Silverado Trail just as the renaissance for wine production in Napa was really starting to bloom, prohibition had reduced the number of wineries to less than 20 at this point from a peak of 140+. The winery was really brought to prominence in the controversial 1976 Paris tasting, where English wine Critic Steven Spurrier, who at the time owned a wine merchant and wine school in Paris. Curious to see how the new pretenders from America stood up to similar varietals from First and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies, he organised a blind wine tasting as part of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris. The French tasters were chosen from professionals within the french wine industry all with impeccable professional credentials.

Once all the wines had been tasted, the 9 judges added up there scores to see which wine had won, but to there horror, the unthinkable had happened, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon (the first vintage to be produced with grapes from vines that were a mere three years old) was judged to be the best, beating Bordeaux first growths such as Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion, thus propelling Stag's Leap Wine Cellars into Stardom, the Californian Chardonnay also beat the best that Burgundy could throw at it!

The SLV vineyard was originally planted in 1970 as Stag's Leap Vineyards, hence the name! Where the vines that produced the winning 1973 vintage, now produce fruit with a much greater depth of flavour, and since 1986 have been farmed in a sustainable way, using cover crops, meticulous canopy management and other natural pests to help minimise intervention as much possible.

In the glass, you got a deep red colour, with the edges starting to show an orangery/garnet colour highlighting it's age. The wine still had quite pronounced fruit aromas of cassis and plum, with some peppery spice coming through from the background, on the palate these all came through but with chocolate and leather notes added to it, combine this with a very silky texture as the tannins had mellowed in it's age, there was so much depth of flavour and complexity from the oak, fruit and it's age, which just made it an absolutely stunning drink, and i can see why it won the infamous 1976 tasting.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Cracking Pinot Noir from Etude in Carneros

Last year I was sent a present from a friend in New Jersey who I’ve done tasting for in the past, unfortunately I don’t get to go over there every time, I have do them over Skype, which is always fun, anyway I digress. The bottle they sent me was a 2006 Deer Camp Carneros Pinot Noir, from the Etude winery in Napa valley.

Founded 25 years ago by Tony Soter, as what he describes as a philosophical state of mind, which is now a state of the art wine making facility. Now in the hands of current winemaker Jon Priest and viticulturist Franci Ashton in their pursuit of oenological perfection.

The Deer Camp Pinot Noir was their first single vineyard designated Pinot Noir, from vineyards situated in the northwest corner of the Carneros appellation, western facing and feature well drained, rocky, Kidd Stony Loam soils. The Deer Camp name comes from an old deer camp structure that stands at the base of the vineyard.

In the glass this wine had a deep, dark cherry colour, with wonderful intense aromas of dark fruit, Cherries and Blueberries, while on the palate you get all the fruit and a touch of savoury herbs, Bay leaves. To go with this you get very fine, elegant tannins which add a silky texture to the wine, a great acidity to balance all this and the length of flavour that keeps going on and on, making an incredibly well-crafted wine.

For me this was an amazing wine, which I can’t recommend highly enough, and I have to say for me rivals anything that is produced in Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s homeland.