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Saturday, 13 August 2022

Banfi La Pettegola 2021 Vermentino

A Vermentino from Tuscany's Banfi Wines via Ocado and independents

Banfi La Pettegola is a fresh and juicy example of a variety that could become a flagship grape for Italy; Vermentino is claimed to be Italy's most fabulous and fashionable wine.

This La Pettegola is an easy-drinking style, an alternative to standard white wine choices, placed somewhere between unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a throwback to Albarino, Gruner Veltliner and Godello.

It is from coastal Tuscany and thrives on sea breezes with poor soils and some altitude. Crafted from the best grapes from Banfi’s Maremma vineyards in Southern Tuscany, the vines are at around 150 metres altitude in well drained, sandstone soils.

The grapes are gently pressed, destemmed and fermented entirely in temperature controlled stainless steel to preserve the fresh, floral and fruity character of the wine. It then spends three months on lees for a more complex texture and finish. 

Also known as ‘Rolle’ in Provence, it is used as a component in the fashionable white and rosé wines of the South of France. High in phenols, it can be made in a fresh, saline style, or with a creamier, richness, depending on how the wine is handled in the cellar.

La Pettegola's name has a double meaning. The coastal seabird that gives its name to this wine is the redshank, ‘la Pettegola’ in Italian. The bird’s chattering call gives a second meaning ‘the gossip’, so it is a wine for gossiping over.

Banfi La Pettegola 2021 (£16, Ocado, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, Penistone Wines

floral, mint and garrigue herbs, pear drops and white pepper; ripe yellow stone fruits, grapefruit, peach kernels, leesy-savoury cashew and Brazil nut; textured full and supple.

Drinks nicely on first pouring and opens up further with some aeration.

Good.

Drink as a summer sipper or match with canapés, seafood, grilled chicken or roasted vegetable salads.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Two Rosés from Tesco

Two Provence rosés from Tesco

Provence is to rosé as Champagne is to fizz; the standard against which all other wines are judged - for better or worse.

As a result, Provence rosés can command a significant price premium, especially if they are celebrity endorsed; however, the good news is that these two are keenly priced, albeit you do pay a little extra for the Studio's star credentials vs the Tesco own-label.

And a note on the power of branding for those who think it is all about the liquid inside the bottle; I offered these around the table in the garden on a sultry summer's eve. "Anyone want want some Brangelina wine?" I asked.

"Ooh, Brangelina wine, yes please, I'll have some of that!" said Mrs CWB, grabbing the bottled and enthusiastically filling up glasses for herself, her sister and the other ladies around the table.

In that context, a tasting note is somewhat redundant here - this is an enjoyable pink from a sun-kissed part of France made by a glamorous Hollywood power ex-couple and that's all you really need to know.

Tesco Finest Provence Rosé (£9)

This elegant and refreshing Provence Rosé is carefully sourced from picturesque vineyards that spend the year basking in the Mediterranean sun. Delicious stone fruit flavours are balanced with notes of fresh strawberries and redcurrants to create this crisp, delicate and dry wine with its signature pale pink colour. Pairs perfectly with seafood and antipasti.

red berry fruits, delicate mint and watermelon; white stone fruits, conference pears and red berries with white pepper, sweet spices and a leesy richness; broad and harmonious with good underpinnings

Drinks nicely on first opening.

A summer sipper, it will match well with picnic foods or cold cuts

Studio by Miraval (£12)

Blend of equal parts Cinsault, Grenache, Tibouren and Rolle (aka Vermentino); all the varieties are vinified by direct pressing.

The Cinsault and Tibouren in Stainless steel vats. The Grenache & Rolle are partially vinified in tulip-shaped concrete vats with a rounded bottom. This ovoid shape gives rise to a natural convection movement that suspends the lees creating the same effect as a batonnage and gives the wine a lot of structure.

very pale, slightly toasty; soft red-berry fruits, citrus and white fruits, white pepper and leesiness with saline minerality; elegant and pure.

Well-made and thoroughly pleasant.

A pleasant sipper, match with picnic food.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

The Regional Wines of Louis Latour

Four regional Burgundies from Louis Latour

Maison Louis Latour is a family-owned business, one of the most highly regarded in Burgundy. They have been making excellent value wines in a similar style from their vineyards in regional appellations very successfully for many years.

While prices for top Burgundies have increased steadily for many years now, these regional wines are more affordable.

The Ardèche Chardonnay and Bourgogne Gamay have plenty of easy-drinking ripe fruit; the Macon-Lugny and Terrasses Pinot Noir are more classically elegant.

Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2019 (from £12, Ocado, Bon Coeur Fine Wines)

Louis Latour arrived in the Ardèche in the late 1970s, as they looked outside of Burgundy to find alternative sources of high quality, everyday priced Chardonnay. They pioneered the planting of Chardonnay vines here, in what at the time was a relatively unknown area. Attracted by the hillside clay limestone rich soils, a consistent climate, abundant sunshine to perfectly ripen the grapes and a drying Mistral wind eliminating the risk of rot, all proved Ardèche to be the perfect place. Today, they have 350 hectares of vines under contract to local growers.

The grapes for Ardèche Chardonnay are treated as if they were grown in the prestigious vineyards of the Côte d’Or and vinified Latour’s winery in Alba. Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2019 is a fresh and appealing wine with considerable depth of flavour.

stone fruits and florality; orchard fruit, apricots, honeysuckle and sweet, slightly toasty spices; leesy brazil nut and good savoury underpinnings. Adept and harmonious

Good.

Serves as an aperitif; match with poultry, fish, and charcuterie.

Macon-Lugny Les Genievres 2020 (£17.99, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, Hennings Wine, House of Townend, North and South)

Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres, one of Louis Latour's best-selling wines, is from the top vineyards in the Mâconnais region. Mâcon-Lugny was introduced by Louis Latour, with the support of the successful Lugny cooperative, offering a very respectable alternative for a white Burgundy. Lugny is in the most southerly part of the Mâconnais where it borders Beaujolais, on land at 235-380m elevation, with limestone soils and the advantage of warmer days which gives the wine a refreshing, but riper fruit profile.

This is 100% Chardonnay, made without the use of oak, and produced from grapes grown in Les Genièvres vineyard on the northeast side of the village.

stone fruits, melon and honeysuckle; ripe pears, white peaches and melon with creamy-leesy oatmeal and spice; complex, broad and saline; very elegant.

Good.

Perfect with smoked salmon or simple grilled fish but with enough depth to work with a delicious plate of charcuterie or a simple pasta dish.

Louis Latour Bourgogne Gamay 2020 (From £16, Ocado, Majestic, North and South Wines, TheDrinkShop.com)

Bourgogne Gamay became a new regional appellation in 2011, a place that sits between the northern heartland of Burgundy and the sprawling Beaujolais vineyards to the south. Whilst technically part of Burgundy, the lighter, fruitier Gamay used in the wine must come exclusively from the best ‘Cru’ villages of Beaujolais Crus, which are situated on the granite hillsides in Northern Beaujolais. Louis Latour’s approach is to produce a wine which focusses on fruit and freshness with consistent quality, whilst still possessing the attractive characteristics of Burgundy.

On the nose this wine is more immediately fruity than a traditional pinot noir. Its light, crisp juiciness also makes it and a fine chillable red.

red and black cherries, violets and roasted spices; supple and inky with ripe cherry fruit, savouriness; good underpinnings and rounded, very fine tannins.

Good.

Match with charcuterie or grilled / roasted red meats.

Louis Latour Les Terrasses Pinot Noir 2019, (£15 Ocado)

Louis Latour have been growing Pinot Noir in the Var for over 30 years, creating, and producing wonderful reds from clones and rootstock imported from Burgundy. The conditions in the South of France are acceptable for this difficult grape variety with plenty of warm sunny days during the summer months and cooler temperatures at night.

The vineyards, at 500 metres above sea level, are a similar altitude to the finest Grand Crus and their southern exposure gives the grapes perfect maturity at the same time as the Grands Crus of Corton.

lifted red berry fruits, spices and mushroomy woodsiness; red and black cherries with savouriness, peppery spice, minty dried herbs and very fine tannins.

Good.

Match with ham or turkey, grilled red meats such as lamb, or salmon.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Jade Vineyard Virtual Tasting with Oz Clarke

China's Jade Vineyard with Oz Clarke of Three Wine Men

If Chinese wines are not yet on your radar, they need to be.

According to Wikipedia, wine has an ancient history in China. These days, long overshadowed by huangjiu ("yellow wine") and the much stronger distilled spirit baijiu, wine consumption has grown dramatically since the economic reforms of the 1980s. Ties with French producers are especially strong and Ningxia wines have received international recognition.

Ningxia's Jade Vineyard is located amongst the eastern foothills of Helan Mountain beside Yinchuan city. At an altitude of 1,180 meters established on a wide spread of virgin land, 15 hectares from an initial 22 hectares were selected to be cultivated as premium vineyards.

These promising fields are vital to the winery's vision of producing top quality wines. Using international standards and the highest environmental requirements, Jade Vineyards' dream is to express the vibrant characteristics of the Chinese countryside, crafting premium Jade Vineyard Chinese wines with international flair.

As one of the rising fine wine regions in China, Ningxia is attracting ever more domestic and international investors and winemakers.

Jade Vineyard, which recently completed its brand-new chateau, is one of the bold new challengers.  The estate produces 70,000 to 80,000 bottles of wine each year which have been enthusiastically received by international critics.

The IWSC gave the 2017 Hyacinth Cabernet Sauvignon 95 points and praised its harmony and “excellent winemaking”; at the IWSC 2020

Jade was awarded the “Wine Discovery 2019” Trophy. 

Jade Vineyard’s owner is Emma Ding and her winemaker is Shuzhen Zhou. 


The wines for this tasting were all international varieties in an international style; like a classic rock tribute act, these wines all clearly showed their influences.

Anyone expecting some "Chinese character" (whatever that may be) in the wines would be been disappointed, but only momentarily as all the wines were well-made from good fruit and technically impressive.

Consistency was high and if there was a family resemblance, it was all about the elegance and harmoniousness. For me the stand-out wines were the first (and only) white, an excellent Burgundy lookalike and the final red, a complex and intense oaked Merlot in the style of a top Right Bank Bordeaux.


Aria White 2019 

Classy Burgundian Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay, 13.9%, 8 months in French barrels

white flowers, honeysuckle, vanilla and sweet spices, custard and pastries, citrus; orchard fruits, melon and tropical citrus, creamy oatmeal, delicately toasted oak, brazil nut, spiciness and saline minerality; harmonious, complex, elegant and long.

Still very youthful.

Very Good.

Hyacinth 2017

Baked, aged Bordeaux blend

70% CS, 30% M, 14.6%; 10 months in SS with oak treatment

bramble fruits, coffee grounds, tomato leaf, old leather and earthiness, aged savoury complexity and oaky spice; harmonious, supple and and savoury with baked plums, soy, cocoa, coffee grounds, oaky spices and minerality; very fine and well-integrated tannins.

In good form, if showing its age.

Good.

Marselan 2020

Fresh, Loire-esque red

14.2%, 10 months in SS with oak treatment

fresh black cherries and blackberries, raspberry leaf, minty sage and spices; fresh, ripe dark berry fruits, toasty-oaky spices and very fine, well-integrated tannins with saline minerality; supple and inky very good underpinnings.

Still fresh and youthful.

Very Good.

Messenger 2017

Mature and Bordeaux-esque

100% CS, 14.2%, 15 months in French oak barrels

baked bramble fruits, cocoa and coffee grounds, oaky spice and earthy mushrooms; sweet, ripe baked bramble fruits, minty eucalyptus, fresh with very fine, harmonious and rounded tannins; savoury with good underpinnings and saline minerality.

At a peak.

Very Good.

Aria Reserve 2015

Medoc-alike

100% CS, 14.2%, 80% aged in new French barrels for 14 months

primary blackcurrants, black cherries and black olives with grilled notes, toasty spices and dried green herbs; fresh bramble fruits, savoury-leesy earthy mushrooms and old leather; inky, custardy texture, adept and harmonious with fine, rounded tannins and good underpinnings.

Ready for drinking but not yet at a peak.

Very Good.

Jiangshan Single Merlot 2019

Right-bank lookalike

100% Merlot, 18 months aging in French barrels

complex and savoury with oaky spice, raspberries, blackberries and black cherries, woodsy undergrowth and sous bois; plush, inky, dense, concentrated and fresh with dark cherry fruit, cool mint and a custardy texture; very fine, harmonious tannins.

Still primary and youthful.

Very Good.

***

Further reviews:

Friday, 29 July 2022

Two Provence Rosés

Two rosés from Provence

Sun is in the forecast and what better way to take your summer days to the next level than with a glass of inimitable Vins de Provence rosé?

Whether you’re enjoying an al-fresco lunch in the garden with friends, hosting a sophisticated dinner party, or celebrating a special occasion with loved ones, a bottle of refreshing Vins de Provence rosé is sure to make summer moments even more perfect.

Crisp and elegant, and always presented in a chic bottle, these premium rosés are the epitome of class and the true taste of style. Delicious as an apéritif or alongside a variety of cuisines, ranging from fragrant Asian curries to simple grilled seafood, a sip of Vins de Provence rosé will bring that little bit of Provençal warmth and sea breeze to wherever you are. 

Try a wine from each of the three beautiful appellations – Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence – to experience all the variety and sophistication that Vins de Provence has to offer.

Château Saint Maur Cru Classé, Saint M, Côtes de Provence, 2021 (£14.48, Vinatis)

Saint M from Château Saint Maur is elegant and refined, with peach, raspberry and gooseberry aromas. A well-balanced rosé, from vines that have been grown in clay limestone soil.

red fruits, florality and white pepper; saline and broad with red fruits, melon, orchard fruits, some zippy lime and brazil nut creaminess; complex and savoury.

Good.

Match with salmon tartare or fresh Greek salad


Domaine de Valdition, Vallon des Anges, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, 2021 (£12.93, Vinatis)

Located in the Alpilles area, this winery covers 240 hectares of breath-taking countryside. From these organic vines comes a stunning pale rosé, which is highly complex and has plenty of minerality. 

delicate red fruits, grapefruit and hints of fennel; saline with white stone fruits, melon and lime; broad and textured.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Serve as an apéritif, or match with sushi, marinated fish or prawn skewers.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Two Vasse Felix Wines at Tesco

A Rhône-style red and Bordeaux-blend white from Western Australia's Vasse Felix at Tesco

There are many things that make Vasse Felix a special place; these two wines, Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz and Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, owe it all to the incredible environment and climate of Margaret River, family ownership, treasured heritage, and priceless vineyards.

Dating from 1967, Vasse Felix is the founding wine estate of the Margaret River region in the furthermost southwestern corner of Australia. The secret to the region’s distinct wines is down to its Mediterranean climate, warm dry summers and a maritime influence from the massive ocean which borders Margaret River on three sides and brings a cool sea breeze which preserves the fruit flavours and aromas.

Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz and Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc are made from fruit grown in Vasse Felix’s four Margaret River vineyards, then vinified and bottled within the modern, state-of-the-art winery, overlooking Wilyabrup Brook.

With summer comes lighter, crisper whites and Margaret River’s classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is a great wine for this time of year.

Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2021, (£12, Tesco)

Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, introduced in 1987, is zesty, fresh and crisp and could easily become an everyday favourite.

Made with organically grown fruit and fermented with organic and wild yeasts, from Vasse Felix vineyards which are now certified organic.

restrained nose of passionfruit, gooseberries and tropical citrus with some florality and white pepper; fresh and supple with ripe stone fruits, melon, pineapple, candied lemon peel and sherbet; waxy and broad; very elegant and harmonious.

Drinks nicely on first pouring; opens up with some aeration.

Good.

Fresh enough for an aperitif and a versatile food wine. Match with lemony roast chicken, hot smoked salmon, pork rillettes or a green Thai curry.

Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz 2020 (£12, Tesco)

First made in 1990, it is now one of the most popular red wines for all occasions in Australia. It’s known for its delicate and sophisticated fruit-forward style and is the epitome of modern elegance.

Wild fermented, this modern, medium bodied wine is deep and true to its unique environment; there is also a drop of Malbec in the blend.

black fruits, dried green herbs and violets; juicy ripe blackberries, blueberries and black cherries with oaky vanilla spice, an inky texture and some leathery-earthy savouriness; supple, ripe and well-integrated tannins; fresh and long with very good underpinnings.

Drinks nicely on first opening with plenty of fruit to the fore; becomes more interestingly savoury and harmonious with aeration. Will repay some cellaring.

Good.

Match with grilled lamb chops and harissa.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Wines from Crete - the Overview

Wines of Crete - the overview

If asked, I would have, until recently, confidently asserted that Crete is not a wine-producing island. And I would have been completely wrong; it actually makes a wide range of excellent wines from mostly indigenous grapes.

In my defence, I think I was once told about the no-local-wines-in-Crete by someone who had been there on holiday, but clearly he was not paying attention.

Crete's winemaking history dates back around four thousand years, with the Phoenicians and the Egyptians trading wine on the island; later, the Ottomans suppressed wine-making under their rule and the modern Cretan wine industry dates from only the 1990s.

With four PGI areas spanning the entire island and up to 35 native grape varieties, Crete has a complex and diverse oenological culture. All these factors makes it difficult to pinpoint a particular "Cretan" wine style or characteristic.


In practice, the common features of Cretan wines are:

- its indigenous grapes, many of the whites thick-skinned
- the warm (not hot), dry climate
- late ripening with freshness maintained, due in part to diurnal variation from the cooling effect of the White Mountains
- the effects of elevation, from sea level up to 2.5km on the island

Historically, many of the grapes were blended into sweet wines, so Crete itself is having to rediscover the character and potential of its grapes; after experimenting with more easily recognisable international grapes, Crete is now focusing on its indigenous varieties.

A snapshot of Crete

50% of Crete is at an elevation of more than 500m; it is the oldest inhabited part of Europe and most rivers flow only after rainfall. There is snow on the mountains from November to May and this provides most of the water needed for agriculture (including 30 million olive trees).

Phylloxera arrived on the island only in the 1970s and many of the vines are still on original rootstocks.

Cretan wine production is still highly fragmented; there are around 50 significant producers on the island, with no single dominant player and only a few small co-ops.


Crete in context

Once an ancient civilisation, now just a small sub-region of an obscure country, oenologically-speaking; how to understand and approach Cretan wines?

With 4 PGIs and around 35 native varieties, there is no immediately obvious jumping-off point, such as Robola for Kefalonia or Assyrtiko for Santorini.

Rather, it make more sense to think of Crete as somewhere like France's Languedoc, as Christos Ioannou suggests, describing it as one of the most exciting wine regions in Greece; an ancient warm, dry and sunny wine region with varied terroirs and indigenous grapes, yet newly-revived and still discovering its full potential.

So don't expect to find a Cretan equivalent of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Barossa Shiraz; there are no local takes on international styles. 

You will find whites, rosés, amber wines and reds; they will be well-made and very elegant; the styles and flavour profiles with be both familiar-enough and yet at the same time subtly different, like a tune you think you've heard before yet can't quite place.

The names of the grapes will most probably be completely unfamiliar, so until you know your Vidiano from your Thrapsani, you will likely need a quick chat with the sommelier or a decent tasting note to establish how it will best work with food.

Full tasting notes of 8 wines to follow.