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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Merlot 2013

I'm not quite sure how or when this appeared on the wine rack - I didn't buy it and it wasn't a sample, so a gift is the most likely explanation.

Needing a bottle of wine to take along to a garden party for a general audience, I figured it would suffice - hopefully.

It turned out to be basically OK - as in not actively unpleasant - but decidedly chewy and over-extracted, rather like stewed tea.

The hallmark of Merlot generally is that it smells better than it tastes - it tends to be easy-drinking to the point of dullness. Here, it is as if someone had decided to challenge this stereotype by squeezing the grapes until the pips squeak.

Unfortunately, the end result is less Clark Kent and more Diary of a Wimpy Kid on steroids.

Chile can do good, elegant wines - this is just not one of them.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Gifford's Hall Tasting

A tasting of four wines from Suffolk vineyard Gifford's Hall

Some time ago, I went through an English wine phase - more specifically, an East Anglian wine phase.

One sunny afternoon, we drove into Suffolk for a visit to Gifford's Hall for a tour of the vineyard and some cellar-door purchases.

The wines were, as I remember, typically English: distinctive and modern if relatively expensive. Gifford's Hall no longer vinifies any wines on-site (the grapes are trucked to Gloucestershire for that) and but are once again making wines under their own label with listings in Waitrose and Loch Fyne.

The estate has four different soil types from sandy clay loam over gravel to clay over chalk and, as a result, need to blend across blocks (blocks are vinified separately).
On reacquaintance, the wines are as I remember them; light, pure and clean with an aristocratic elegance.

Rosé 2013 reductive, cool climate, mineral; red fruits will open up more with air. Provencal-style rosé and compares well on price.

Light Oak whole-bunch pressed Reichensteiner from 2014; very pale, lightly oaked; neutral and lemony. Think basic Muscadet or Italian "super-neutral" white.

Bacchus 2014 floral, aromatic English hedgerow with good persistence. Characterful and distinctive, this marks out Bacchus' claim be the poster child for East Anglian wine.

St Edmundsbury 2014 deep red Rondo, floral nose with some sweet spice, cherry-fruited and Beaujolais-esque (and again, compares reasonably on price).

Available via the cellar door and at Waitrose.

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English Wine at Circle of Wine Writers
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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Award-winning Wines From The Co-op

Two gold medal southern hemisphere wines from the Co-op

The Co-op asked me to help celebrate Gold medal wins for two of their wines - it would have been rude not to and I was not disappointed.

They are also both excellent value; European in style, they taste like they could cost twice as much.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Bio Bio Malbec 2014 (£6.99) - Decanter Gold

Big, bold spicy yet classy Chilean red - screwcapped and drinking beautifully.

Made from Argentina's signature Malbec, it is dark purple; dark fruits, complex oaky spice and cigar box; ripe elderberries, bramble fruit and black cherries with roasted spices, freshness and supple tannins.

Poised, balanced and adept. Good.

Match with a juicy steak.

Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2012 (£10.99) - IWC Gold and Best South African Chardonnay Trophy

Sandy yellow, sweet, ripe, pure melon and pineapple fruit with textbook creamy-nutty-oatmeal and a hint of toasty spice from some deft oaking.

Harmonious, balanced and well-integrated. Very Good

A versatile food wine, it will match with roast chicken or pork, risotto or seafood.

The Co-op has been steadily improving its wine range for some time now and this is reflected in the 36 awards received so far this year.

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Award-Winning France - Three Wines From The Co-op
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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two Summer Pinks

Two summer pinks from Joseph Mellot and Jean-Luc Colombo

Has rosé finally come in from the cold? No longer a tawdry, rather frivolous quaffer, it is these days a serious wine commanding serious prices.

Jean Luc Colombo Les Pins Couchés Rosé 2013 (£11.05, independents) delicate translucent pink, red berry fruit and a hint of spice, sweet watermelon and pure, refreshing acidity. Good.

Match with seafood and grilled Mediterranean foods.

Joseph Mellot Châteaumeillant Rosé 2014, Loire Valley, (£18.75, independents) translucent pomegranate red, delicate red berry fruit, creamy leesiness and lovely acidity. Poised and elegant with good underpinnings. Good.

Match with smoked salmon quiche.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Joseph Barnes Tasting

A tasting of four wines with Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines

If you fancy a set of characterful dinner party wines, you could do a lot worse than serve this selection from Joseph Barnes.

Dedham Vale Vineyards Sparkling Brut 2012 an elegant vintage English fizz from mostly Chardonnay with a bit of Bacchus in the blend; the winery dates back to 1990 and was resurrected from Carters.

Pale straw yellow, it spends two years on the lees - biscuity yet floral and quite aromatic with English hedgerow. Ripe orchard fruits with lemon-and-lime, a leesy creaminess and a fine mousse. At £23.50, it is cheaper than almost any vintage Champagne.

Will improve with age. Serve as an aperitif.

Bodegas Bernabe Navarro "Tragolargo" Monastrell 2013 vibrant, rare, high-altitude organic / biodynamic Spanish red.

Dark purple in the glass, with dark fruit, black pepper and roasted dark spices. A complex and vibrant palate of dark fruit, pepper, bitter green herbs, red chili and sweet spices. Long with pronounced minerality.

One of only 3,000 bottles made, and excellent value at under £10.

Match with roasted leg of lamb with juniper berries.

Domaine Berthoumieu, Madiran Haute Tradition 2011 chewy Tannat blend from south west France.

Dark, opaque - almost black. Dark blackcurranty fruit, roasted spices and floral hints. Supple, but still grippy despite having been decanted much earlier in the day. Under the tightly-knit tannins, there is dark fruit, earthiness and minerality.

£13.50, match with a roast Sunday lunch.

Chateau de Jau Rivesaltes Ambre 2007 unusual fortified, madeirised French VDN sticky.

A blend of mostly Grenache Blanc with some Macabeu, this is part-fermented, fortified, then aged in glass demijohns for two years followed by 12 months in old oak, giving a deliciously complex curiosity in the Mediterranean-island tradition.

Amber-mahogany with floral, grape spirit, roasted nuts and a dark-sherry / Madeira aroma. Sweet and fresh with orange peel, honey, spice and ginger and a satisfying savouriness.

Serve with blue cheese, as a dessert in its own right or as a midday aperitif.

Good and great value at £13.50 for 50cl.

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Monday, 15 June 2015

More Languedoc Fizz

Two Château Martinolles Limoux wines from Paul Mas

Champagne is not the only French region to do bubbles; Languedoc's Limoux also does fizz in various guises - Blanquette requires a minimum of 90% Mauzac in the blend, Crémant allows a greater proportion of Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.

Château Martinolles Crémant de Limoux Brut a pleasant and easy-going sort of fizz, as unassuming as the girl next door.

N.V. Blanquette de Limoux, Blanc de Blancs, Chateau Martinolles with half a degree less alcohol, this has a bit more attitude - fresher, sharper and more precise.

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Languedoc fizz from Paul Mas

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Red Wine for Beginners - CVNE Rioja Reserva 2010

A Rioja from CVNE, available at Waitrose and Majestic

Which red wine would you serve to someone who normally only drinks whites? A good mature Rioja is, I reckon, a safe bet - lots of ripe fruit and soft tannins; there's nothing not to like.

This one was well-received by a friend who, by her own admission, drinks little more than Pinot Grigio.

Cune Reserva Rioja 2010 (£15.35, Waitrose, Majestic, Wine Rack and independents)

Dark berry fruit and decadent aged aromas; ripe black cherries and elderberry, pepperiness, liquorice and spice, supple texture.

Very harmonious. Muscular yet deft. Good.

Match with slow cooked pork and chorizo stew, or with barbecue foods (weather permitting!).

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