Saturday, 17 October 2015

A Blast from the Past - 2003 Hardy's Crest Cabernet Sauvignon

The other night we had some friends round for dinner to celebrate their recent engagement, and I'd been conducting a little experiment and this presented me with the perfect opportunity to see how it had turned out, as I knew everyone around the table would appreciate it, if it had worked that is.

When I first got into wine I was working for Sainsbury's as an off licence manager, they paid for me to complete WSET qualifications which was very much appreciated.  The one thing that really got me was how wine would age, and what to look for in young wines that will allow them to age and develop.
You'll have to excuse all the dust on the bottle.
I continued to think about this for some time and enjoying drinking lots of new world wine, when I came across the 2003 Hardy's Crest Cabernet Sauvignon from south eastern Australia, nothing special or fancy about it, half price at £4.99. When I tried it, it had loads of really bright, dark jammy fruit, so much tannin you almost had to chew your way through it. It also had still maintained a good level of acidity to it, and it made me think that these had all the signs of a wine that could and should age well.

So I decided to buy a 6 pack and see what happened, I have to admit I never really looked after them,  they were kept in the wine rack which was usually in the living room, not in a temperature controlled fridge, they moved around all the time, stood up then laid down then stood up again, so not the best of care taken. I preceded to try one every two years, and they just got better and better, so much so that after 6 years when I should have had 3 left left I only had 1, which I was determined to keep till it was at least 10 years old. I actually managed to save it till it was 13 years old, I was a little worried that I may have left it too long, but there was nothing I could do about it now.

On opening the cork was in very good condition, and you could smell any fault with the wine at all. Once poured into the glass it had an orange/brick colour to it, it really had lost it's bright, deep inky purple colour. On the nose it was baked dark fruit, leather, spice and a very slight hint of oxidation, these all came through on the palate integrating together beautifully and combining with the soft an velvety tannins. It was a pretty amazing glass of wine, if I was honest I think I opened it possibly a year or two too late, but it was still stunning and just goes to show that you can find wines that will age without having to spend a fortune!

Friday, 25 September 2015

A True English Gem - Stopham Estate Pinot Gris

I think I'm pretty certain on this, when I say that this is the first English wine to make it on here, which has to say something about it! Based down in Pulborough, East Sussex on the south downs, Stopham Estate is the brainchild Simon Woodhead, who swapped is previous career designing parts for McLaren F1 cars to studying winemaking at Plumpton and then planting his own vineyard in 2007.

They grow several different varieties, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc with a little Bacchus and Auxerrois, to blend with in producing their still whites. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for their sparkling and some Dornfelder which they use to produce their rose. They have also invested heavily in the vineyard using laser tracking to ensure all the vines are spaced equally, to installing all the latest fermentation equipment into the winery and bottling all under inert gases to help preserve the freshness of their wines.

In the glass it had this lovely bright lemon colour to it, with pronounced aromas of sweet stone fruit, peaches and nectarines, with hints of elderflower coming through from the background. On the palate, there is a tiny hint of sweetness, with the delicious flavours of stone fruit, elderflower and citrus, it has a lovely soft acidity that developed a little tartness on the finish, which kind of awakens your palate and makes your mouth water. Combine this with the fruit and floral characters and you end up with an extremely enjoyable glass of wine, even better when it comes from one of our own vineyards!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A Hoppy Brew - Andwell Brewery

I've been drinking a lot of beer recently, not sure how good a thing that is, I'm not very good on beer for some reason, but I came across these guys, Andwells Brewery through work. We'd got their full range in, which include several different style of ales and seasonal ones, but one that really caught mine and a few of the other guys eye's, apart from the very inspired packaging, was the Dry Hopped Pilsner.

Now dry hopping is when the brewer, after the fermentation process and the beer is maturing throws in a handful of dry hops, at Andwells they use the Japanese hop, Sorachi Ace, in doing this they get none of the bitterness from the hops just extra pungent aromas of citrus to the Pilsner;

Andwell Dry Hopped Pilsner

It has an amber/golden colour to it, as well as being slightly cloudy, it has extremely pungent aromas of citrus from the dry hopping process. You then get the lovely bitterness of the Pilsner come through and combine to create an extremely drinkable and delicious beer.

Picture courtesy of Andwell Brewery
Again through work, they sent me a sample of the normal Pilsner;

Andwell Pilsner

This is a cracking little Pilsner style lager, brewed using English barley with the noble Czech Saaz hop for that classic Pilsner style, with some German Tettnang added to give it a slightly spicy aroma. It was lovely and crisp, with a touch of richness to it, combined with a perfect bitter character to boot, very drinkable cracking little beer.

I have to say I pretty much enjoyed all the beers in there range, but the star for me was definitely the dry hopped Pilsner.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Little Star from North Western Italy - Livon Friulano

Livon are a family run winery situated in the North Eastern part of the Friuli Venezia Guilia region in Northern Italy on the borders with Slovenia and Austria. Dorino Livon purchased his first vineyards in the region in 1964, and has continued to grow the estate over the years, while he has also built a state of the art winery. In 1980 Dorino's two sons Valneo and Tonino joined the company and started to create different ranges from the vineyards that they owned, with some being very small production from a selection of there best sites. They have continued to grow and the family now own another four wineries, two of which Tenuta Roncaldo and Villa Chiopris are also in Friuli, Borgo Salcetino is in Tuscany and Fattoria Col Santo are from Umbria. They grow a wide selection of both Indigenous and International grape varieties, producing an equally as wide range of wines across their entire portfolio.

The wine I want to talk about though is the 2013 Livon Friulano, the Friulano grape is also known as Sauvignon Vert, which many people actually get confused with, and refer to it as Sauvignon Blanc, which despite the similarities in their names, are of no relation.

The grapes are all harvested by hand and then fermented in stainless steel tanks, where they spend a further 5 months before being bottled, spending a little bit more time before being released.

In the glass, the wine had a lovely bright straw colour to it with some delicate greens hints. On the nose it was very aromatic, with some lovely fruit, hints of spice and Almonds. These all came through on the palate, the wine itself had quite a rich mouth feel to it which was perfectly balanced to the acidity, that cut straight through it and stopping it from being too rich and over the top. All the components came together perfectly with this wine, producing something that had a great depth and complexity while maintaining a freshness to it that made it extremely enjoyable.

Friday, 17 July 2015

A Ranch of Many Rabbits - 2011 Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir

New Zealand Pinot's, if you hadn't already guessed produce some of my favourites wines, and these guys are no exception. The Rabbit Ranch are based in Central Otago, where they grow some of the best Pinot Noir grapes in the world (in my opinion) due to it's cool climate and similar terroir to the mighty Burgundy, the home of the Pinot Noir grape.

The vineyards which had been planted at the turn of the 1900's was the last attempt to get rid of all the Rabbits that had taken over the estate. After the second world war, the vineyard had fallen into disrepair, until Warren and Betty McGreagor  decided to replant the vineyard and breath a new life into the estate. Today apparently the Rabbits still run wild throughout the vineyard, in the fields of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc vines that they grow.

The 2011 Pinot Noir has a very pale ruby red colour, with some tiny hints of brick around it's rim, on the nose there is that lovely red berry fruit you expect to get from a NZ Pinot Noir, but then you start getting little hints of spice and smoke, and you start to see a much more complex wine. All of these came through on the palate with the spice and a savoury character dominating the almost sour cherry fruit, which when combined with a lovely refreshing acidity and a tiny amount of very soft tannins, it created a really enjoyable glass of wine. The other really nice thing about this wine, is that it is a red you chill. Put it in the fridge for half an hour or so and as it warms it in your glass it becomes very perfumed and aromatic, and dare I say it, even more enjoyable!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A Visitor from Italy - Jeffrey Chilcott from Marchesi di Gresy

At the beginning of last month I had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey Chilcott, the cellarmaster for Marchesi di Gresy, who are based in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The winery is based in Martinenga, Barbaresco which for me is an area that produce some of Italy's greatest and aromatic wines, predominantly from the red grape Nebbiolo, but have added Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in to there repertoire.

Marchesi di Gresy is made up of four estates, the estate in Martinenga became the property of the Marchesi di Gresy family in 1797, adding to their property in Monte Aribaldo that they had acquired in 1635. They also have properties in Monferrato, La Serra south of Asti and close to it Monte Colombo. Alberto di Gresy in 1973 decided to stop selling his grapes to other merchants which were used to set the benchmark price in the markets of Alba and start to produce his own wines. Included in the property in Martinenga, is the only Barbaresco Cru Monopole which only Marchesi de Gresy can mention on their labels.

Jeffrey had bought a selection of his wines for us to taste covering the Langhe, Monferrato his Barbaresco Cru and single vineyard, there were two wines that really stood out for me, but here are the others. The 2013 Langhe Sauvignon Blanc had some lovely green fruit flavours with a slightly richer texture from the lees stirring, and the perfect touch of acidity. 2012 Villa Martis Langhe Rosso, this is a blend of 60% Nebbiolo and 40% Barbera with french oak and large neutral oak barrels used. It was delicate and aromatic on the nose with some lovely fruit and a well balanced structure from the tannins and acidity.

The last two I tasted were two wines from the Martinenga Monopole, the 2008 Barbaresco Martinenga, this wine was everything you'd expect it to be and possibly even more. With a very pale red colour and a garnet rim showing signs of it's age, it had some lovely dark fruit, smoke, leather and spice aromas, with them all coming through on the palate giving it a meaty character. It still had plenty of soft and silky tannins with just enough acidity to clean them from your palate, making it a very stunning glass of wine. We then tasted the 2005 Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga, this single vineyard site is the pride of the estate and has been produced since 1978, only in exceptional vintages though. Considering this was three years older than the previous wine, in the glass it looked and smelt richer and with more depth, it had all the characters of the first Barbaresco but you could be mistaken for it to be a lot younger. This again was a stunning glass of wine and you could see what an exceptional wine this vineyard site can produce, this will last for another 10 years without any problem. Both of these wines were exactly as they should be, but they aren't cheap, ranging from £47 - £54 for the 2008 and £69 - £77 for the 2005.

The first of the two that really caught my eye was the;

2012 Langhe Chardonnay,
I'm not usually the biggest fan of oaked Chardonnay, but this one was stunning, produced from fruit grown on the Martinenga, Monte Aribaldo and La Serra estates it had this lovely bright golden colour to it. The wine starts it's fermentation in Stainless Steel tanks for the first couple of days before then being transferred into oak for further fermentation and maturation. This gave the wine a wonderfully rich and creamy texture with hints of baked green apples, nuts and lanolin, the nutty characters really started to shine over the fruit on the palate with a balanced acidity that stopped it from being over the top and making it a very enjoyable glass of wine.

The second was the;

2007 Monferrato Rosso,
This wine is produced from 100% Merlot which is grown on the La Serra and Monte Colombo estates and was not starting to show any signs of it's age yet. It spends around 30 months in French barriques before spending a further 22 months in bottle the wine is also allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. With all this you get a deep red colour with aromas of macerated dark berry fruits with some hints of spice and smoking coming through, lovely fine and silky tannins and just enough acidity to make them all combine perfectly and produce another stunning glass of wine.

It is hard to find a bad wine in what we tasted, the Barbaresco's were, as I had expected them to be, stunning, but when you compared them by price to the other wines, the Langhe Chardonnay (£25 - £29) and the Monferrato Rosso (£16 - £18) were the real stars that shone out for me. I'd like to say a massive thank you to Jeffrey for taking the time to come and show me his wines.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A Red From the South of France - Saint Chinian

I was sent bottle a bottle of the 2013 Cours la Reine Saint Chinian the other week, this is not an appellation that I know much about at all, other than it's from the south of France. It is apparently considered to be the oldest winemaking region within the Languedoc, and is split into two distinct sides, the northern part consists of mainly schist soil while to the south they are much more clay/chalky soil types. Around 70% of the vines grown are Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache, they also grow Carignan, Cinsault and Lledoner Pelut.

This bottle is a blend of Syrah and Grenache and has lovely ruby/purple colour in the glass, on the nose it loads of red fruit with some hints of peppery spice coming through gently from the background. On the palate, the fruit came through as juicy dark berries with the spice coming through as pepper and clove. The tannins were soft, juicy and elegant, combined with just a touch of acidity that produced a really well balanced and extremely enjoyable wine.

The big question though is, would I recommend this wine? Yes I would absolutely, it's was lovely to drink on it's own and will go with food perfectly, and when it's priced at £9.95 a bottle, how can you go wrong!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Carema from Produttori del Carema

Over the last few months I've been learning about and tasting a lot wines from Italy, who have to produce the broadest range of wines than anywhere else, which is hardly surprising when you think about the fact that they have over a 1,000 indigenous grape varieties.

I've always found Italian wines a little difficult, the reds always tend to have a slightly sour edge to them, which without food can make them difficult to really appreciate, but there was one that really stuck in my mind. That was the 2011 Carema Classico from Produttori del Carema, this is a cooperative that was formed in the 1960's by a handful of producers, to today where they now have 81 producers working together to produce this fantastic from 100% Nebbiolo

Carema, the region in Northern Italy which gives it's name to this wine, is located 60 miles north of Turin in the Piemonte region, which is probably better for producing Barolo and Barbaresco also from the Nebbiolo grape.

They ferment the wine in 100% stainless steel vats, leaving the skins in contact with the wine for around 12 days, once complete they then age the wine for 2 years in Oak and then for a further year in bottle.When you pour this wine into your glass the first thing that strikes you is it's very pale ruby red colour, which is starting to develop hints of brick around it's edge. On the nose you get hit by a barrage of spice, nutmeg and cinnamon, then red berries that have been preserved in alcohol, These all come through in your mouth, with the red berries being very obviously sour cherry, with just a little more elegance and subtlety than i'd seen so far, but you also had some Raspberry coming through as well. Combine this with the spice and the plentiful silky tannins and all  the components come together and produce an absolutely stunning wine that rivals anything for twice it's price from Barolo and Barbaresco for me.

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Trip To The Not So Distant Past - Burgundy 2013 Part 2

In part one I looked at the whites, so I guess we should have a look at the red's. These were much more of a mixed bag, the entry wines had loads of red berry fruit with plenty of fine tannins, these will settle down in a few months and leave you with a very enjoyable glass of wine but not particularly complex.

The mid range again had red berry fruit but much more tannins with hints of spice and smoke coming through, the winemakers of obviously over compensated with lots of oak for the lack of depth from the fruit, again these will take some time to integrate. Some winemakers had done a better job than others so I'd definitely recommend you take care when making your purchases to avoid d


Moving on to the Premier (1er) and Grand cru wines, these showed great depth of flavour, with good use of oak to help add complexity you got some really interesting wines. These however, were not cheap or had been produced in any great quantity, they will also require a couple of years for everything to integrate and the tannins to soften out, which should leave you with some stunning wines, if you can get your hands on any of them.

There were two producers who really stood out for me, they were Domaine Henri Gouge and Domaine Hudelot-Noellat;

Domaine Henri Gouge

Now under stewardship of Gregory Gouge, who took over in 2007 coinciding with the completion of the new state of the art cuverie, this domaine has gone from strength to strength in recent years. There has been a concerted effort to produce more elegant tannins which results in more aromatics in the wines.

His Nuits-St-Georges had some lovely red red fruit combined with some spice and a touch of smoke, it had a touch of acidity with plenty of soft and silky tannins. This over the next couple of years is going to age beautifully. I then moved onto the 1er Cru Clos des Porrets St Georges and the 1er Cru Les Pruliers, these each moved up a notch respectively as you would expect, they showed great depth of flavour and complexity with this lovely perfumed character them, they are not cheap but they were stunning and will only get better with age.

They also produce a white Nuits-St-Georges, the 1er Cru La Perriere which is produced from a mutated Pinot Noir vine that was discovered by Henri before the war, this had some lovely fruit to it with hints of vanilla and a full, rich mouthfeel. I would definitely recommend you try this if you ever get the opportunity it was stunning and will develop over the coming years into an amazing wine.

Domaine Hudelot-Noellat

This was the first time I'd had the chance to taste the wines from this Domaine, Charles Van Canneyt has consistently produced great wines vintage after vintage resulting in them being one of the most sought after domaines, which unfortunately reflects very much in the price of his wines.

He produces a Vosne-Romanee, Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaumonts, Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Murgers and a Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru. When you pour these wines the first thing you notice is how pale they are, however lacking in colour they may be they certainly are not lacking in flavour, depth and complexity. These wines all have lovely red berry fruit with smoke and spice intertwined in there, a touch of acidity and plenty of beautifully silky tannins, they also have a savoury/meaty character to them which works magnificently. They truly are magnificent wines, which over the coming decade are going to age beautifully

Friday, 9 January 2015

A Trip To The Not So Distant Past - Burgundy 2013 Part 1

I've been involved with Burgundy En Primeur campaigns for the last couple of years now, and have seen the difficulties the vignerons and wine makers have had to face, with poor harvests due to some absolutely devastating weather conditions. With the tiny harvest of 2012 I spoke to several vignerons with regard to 2013 to see what their expectations were, and many said that they were concerned that while the harvest was again going to be small due the hail storms, the large deluge of rain they had had, meant they were also very concerned for the quality, as the grapes were fat with water. Not many people were expecting 2013 to deliver much if anything at all, many were expecting to be putting the vast majority of their fruit into making their most basic village wines, not their Premier or Grand Cru wines.

So for the first tasting of 2015 I headed into central London and dropped into Flint Wines 2013 Burgundy En Primeur tasting at Il Bottaccio, this is the first opportunity that most of the UK trade and press have had to taste these wines, so I was really looking forward to seeing what they had managed to produce from the 2013 vintage.

The whites were difficult, many of the entry wines had plenty of green apple fruit but not much else flavour wise, they did have a real steely minerality to them that made them very austere, most had quite a soft acidity which helped to soften out the minerality a little, but not much. In the middle you had a lot of good wine with a little more depth of fruit, the wines that had spent some time in oak were starting show small signs of development and complexity in them, but their was nothing that really bowled you over, of course many of them need a little more time before they will fulfil their potential, but from what I tasted this is going to a small window and I don't think you'd be particularly bowled over by them.

Moving on to the Premier and Grand Cru wines, these were pleasantly surprising, there was some lovely green fruit that was starting to signs of development and going towards more baked than fresh in character. The oak was starting to integrate beautifully with one or two showing a real toasty side, with this you also got hints of the sweet spice Vanilla, combine these with a bountiful but soft acidity, due to the Malolactic fermentation they had gone through, and you were starting to see the signs of where these wines were going.

There was one producer who really stood out for me on the whites, and that was Domaine Ballot-Millot, this is a family estate based just outside the village of Meursault,they were showing 4 wines, a Bourgogne Blanc, a single vineyard and two Premier Cru Meursault. It was these three Meursault's that really stood out from the rest for me. The 'Les Narvaux' had a lovely yellow/gold colour to it, with some lovely fruit to it that was starting to head towards baked, it had a lovely minerality to it with hints of vanilla coming through very gently and a wonderfully soft acidity just brought it all together. The two Premier Cru, 'Charmes' and 'Perrieres' both really took this up a notch with much greater depth and richness, while they were lovely today they are only going to get better and better with age, for me there wasn't much between these, but I did prefer the 'Charmes' though.

Red's to follow next week....