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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Cognac "Bolgrad" 4 Stars

A brandy from Ukraine

Brought over from Ukraine by a friend, this is an entry-level but thoroughly-pleasant four year-old brandy.

A dark walnut colour, warming, fiery and youthful with dried fruit and sweet vanilla with woody-oaky spices; a touch of nail polish.
Drink as a digestif, with mature cheeses, fruit crumble or dark bitter chocolate.

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Main image - tweet by @CanadaNato

Friday, 20 November 2015

Grahams Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 - The Co-op

A Late Bottled Vintage Graham's port from the Co-op

This LBV port from the Co-op is ripe, vibrant and complex; it has a classic port nose of ripe plum fruit, eucalyptus, liquorice and freshly-picked mint, leading to ripe sweetness, peppery tannins,  minerality and balanced acidity. Very adept. And good value.

Very Good.

The bold flavours match best with chocolate and cherry torte or brie with grapes; or drink as a dessert in its own right.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

And The Winner Is ...

Announcing the winner of Wine Australia's Daniel Pontifex Scholarship

A while ago, I put up a post about Wine Australia's Daniel Pontifex scholarship and thought little more about it other than to note that quite a few people had read it so some may be inspired to apply.

It turns out that the winner is a friend and Cambridge local - albeit an interloper from the New World; Quinby Frey, Events and Tasting Manager at Cambridge Wine Merchants.

Quin spent a week in South Australia and has now joined nine industry guests who are travelling with Wine Australia, culminating in Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape festival.

The Daniel Pontifex Scholarship, run in conjunction with Wine Australia and The Daniel Pontifex Memorial Trust, supports up-and-coming hospitality professionals by providing them with an educative visit to Australia’s vineyards.

As a long-term fan of Australian wine, Quinby says the wine and hospitality industry in the UK needs a greater appreciation of the varieties within Australia. ‘One message that I shall be keen to take back with me will be to encourage people to try some of the newer styles and varieties,’ she says.

Judge Laura Jewell MW noted that of the record number of applicants, and a short-list of half a dozen, Quinby’s submission stood out. ‘Quinby impressed the judges with her enthusiasm and inspirational desire to share her knowledge of wine,’ she says. ‘In her education role with Cambridge Wine Merchants she will be able to use the experiences gained during her visit to the regions of Australia to great effect.’

And for those that didn't make it this time, there is always next year.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

Domäne Wachau - The Tasting

A tasting at Domäne Wachau with Kerstin Klamm

A return visit to Vienna after more than a decade away reveals little change in the appearance of the city; it still feels like a village - albeit, an extremely grand one - with South Eastern Europe as its back yard.

The cathedrals, palaces and coffee houses of the First District welcome the same melting pot of visitors speaking obscure languages - I make out Hungarian and Yugoslav peppered with a little Italian and the occasional American accent.

Like so much in Vienna, however, the changes are below the surface and if the city still plies a lucrative trade in packaging and selling its imperial past to former vassals and new upstarts, the city's own residents demand something edgier and more progressive.

Seeking respite from a surfeit of imperial heritage, we take a trip up the Wachau to Dürnstein where we meet Winemaker Heinz Frischengruber and Export Manager Kerstin Klamm of Domäne Wachau.

We start with a tour of the vineyards where grapes are still on the vine, followed by the bottling line, Kellerschlossl and cellars.

Up in the tasting room, between calls to a client in London about an impending restaurant opening night, Kerstin opens a range of bottles for us to try in pairs.

Light wines

Terrassen Steinfeder 2015 a blend of GV, M-T, FV the lightest of the Wachau styles; fresh, light, mineral, peppery and elegant

Neuburger 2015 not without reason is the neutral Neuburger an obscure grape; this wine has been developed with the Sommeliers Association specifically for the Vienna restaurant scene. Fresh and citrussy with orchard fruits and some leesy richness, it has wood fermentation and maturation to help round out its innate blandness (aka "versatility").

2014 GVs

2014 was a cool year and the wines are correspondingly high in acidity, but also elegant.
Achtleiten Smaragd light and pure but concentrated; mineral.

Kellerberg Smaragd from the hill behind the Kellerschlossl, which we can see through the window of the tasting room, this is the warmer end of the Wachau. The wine is fruitier, riper and fuller.

2014 Rieslings

Austrian Riesling was my first love - it is like no other and is fundamentally different from Germany, Alsace or Clare Valley.

Achtleiten Smaragd pure, fresh and concentrated with the gingery alpine herbs of local soft drink Almdudler.

Loibenberg Smaragd from a warmer site with more peachy, apricotty fruit.

Two unusual wines

Roter Traminer 2014 Reserve Setzberg a local synonym for Gewurztraminer, this is fresh, elegant and mineral; a terroir-led wine showing more Wachau typicity than varietal character.

Riesling Amphora 2013 de-stemmed grapes left for 6m in amphora, then pressed and vinified in stainless steel for 3-4 months before bottling. Slightly sulphurous nose, spicy-peppery and mineral with high acidity, white tannins and good structural underpinnings.

Two reds

I have always preferred Austria's whites to its reds which are mostly grown in the warmer part of the country near the Hungarian border, but I couldn't resist the chance to try these.

Zweigelt 2013 dark fruit and grippy tannins, slightly stalky.

Pinot Noir 2012 the first vintage since 2009; elegant with black cherry fruit and fine tannins.

Two sweet wines

GV Vin Doux Natural 2014 just three barrels of this experimental fortified GV exist. Harmoniously sweet, strong and fresh. Pure and elegant, a white-port-alike.

BA Terrassen 2014 just 7% alcohol, rich intense and fresh with baked apple fruit and sweet spices. Fresher than Burgenland stickies, this rivals many a Sauternes.
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Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Fizz Tasting With Friends

A tasting of various fizzes with friends from First Intuition, Cambridge Champagne Company and a trainee MW - including two wines from Italy's Cuvage

Years ago, I felt I could take or leave Champagne - these days, I find entry level fizz remains no more than wine with bubbles, but good Champagnes (and, by extension, traditional method Champagne-alikes) have a complexity and sophistication that makes them world class.

The aim of this tasting was to compare and contrast fizzes of different origins, grapes, climates and production methods.
Quartet, Anderson Valley Brut, Roederer Estate (California, USA) - traditional method approach and grapes, but lacking in elegance. Not so much a muscle car as a clumsy and wonky Ford Edsel.

Vilarnau Brut Nature Vintage (Cava, Spain) citrussy and fresh with cava's textbook "waxed jacket" finish

Cuvage Rosé Brut NV Metodo Classico (Acqui Terme, Italy) not visibly a rosé, but actually a classic Champagne mushroom colour; ripe, rounded and very adept. Very Good.

Cuvage Blanc de Blancs NV Metodo Classico (Acqui Terme, Italy) toasty-leesy with ripe orchard fruit, white flowers and some aged honey-nutty character. Very Good.

Dominique Boulard Reserve NV (Champagne) - ripe orchard fruit and citrus; textbook NV Champagne. Good.

Dominique Boulard rosé NV (Champagne) red berry fruit and linear acidity. A little closed up and not as complex as the NV

Dominique Boulard Brut Grand Cru Mailly NV (Champagne) opulent and complex with toasty leesiness and ripe orchard fruits. Very Good.

Volpi Moscato Frizzante NV (Piemonte, Italy) a reliable semi-sweet frizzante, with sherberty citrus, elderflower and gentle fizz. Context is all, however, and on this occasion it was utterly outclassed by its peers.

After all those high-acidity wines, we finished off with ... another high-acidity wine, albeit rounded out with vast amounts of residual sweetness; a D'Oliveiras Madeira
Bual 10 years dark brown with complex roasted nuts, raisins and figs and a refreshing acidity. Very balanced. Very Good.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

Jadot Burgundy 2014 En Primeur - and an Oregon PN

A tasting of Jadot's 2014 En Primeur Burgundies - and an Oregon Pinot Noir

I know Louis Jadot as a reliable producer of safe, sensible Burgundies; I was not aware of the extent to which they also produce some very high-end wines from the region.

However, what really piqued my interest was the opportunity to try one of their Pinots from Oregon.

Oregon is the US's Mornington Peninsula or Tasmania - a cool-climate region that is attracting a new wave of winemakers (mostly from down the coast in California) keen to explore its potential for more European-style wines.
Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 generous nose with lots of fruit and varietal aromas; ripe, plump fruit on the palate with good underpinnings, suppleness, freshness and persistence. Drinking nicely now, but the firm tannins mean it will age. Good.

Darker and more fruit-forward, a purist may find it lacks the chiselled elusiveness of the Burgundies of what Jancis describes as an "expressive and transparent" vintage.

Like many New World wines on the way up, it is perhaps better described as an elevated version of an entry-level wine, rather than a basic version of a top wine.

I compared it against some similarly priced Burgundies.

Givrey-Chambertin Petite Chapelle plenty of tannin, but pretty and well-structured

Corton Pougets Grand Cru ripe red fruits with complex, persistent underpinnings

Morey-Saint-Denis Clos Les Ormes red berries and spices, well-structured and drinking nicely now
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Thursday, 12 November 2015

On (Re-)Branding and Positioning

A case study on the subject of re-branding and repositioning from the IPA - image from instachaaz

Talking to George Sandeman about his aspirations for port as a more versatile drink than just something at Christmas in a gift box with cheese, I was reminded that there is no shortage of wines (often, but not exclusively old-school) trying to reposition themselves - for various reasons.

Think of sherry, Madeira, Provence, Austria and, yes, port. And that's before you get on to craft beers and gin.

And don't get me started on German Riesling.

For classic wines, especially the food-friendly ones, the solution is pretty standard; improve quality (well done, sherry and Austria), get somms and the off-trade interested and then focus on improving pricing by hand-selling high-end examples to knowledgeable buyers by influencing the influencers.

I mentioned this in passing to a colleague who works in communications for the advertising industry and she drew my attention to an IPA case study.

It shows how a beverage (Ovaltine) moved from being second (of two) in its specific niche (the malted sleep aid market) to gain a slice of a much bigger category (the £1.65bn daytime hot drink market).

Perhaps there's something in here for all those great-but-under-appreciated wines to learn.

Faced with a category in steep decline, Ovaltine needed to recruit younger drinkers and enter a new market space.

Using a six-month sponsorship of ITV3 daytime and various creative solutions, Ovaltine established itself in a different occasion and grew rapidly as a consequence.

It has been estimated the campaign will generate up to £1.12m of additional gross profit in the long term, resulting in a ROMI of 5:1.

Download the paper from the IPA here:


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