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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Clotilde Davenne: fromvineyardsdirect.com

Two Burgundies from Clotilde Davenne via From Vineyards Direct

If you like the idea of a bargain, then de-classified wines from new producers can be a really good idea.

After 17 years as winemaker for Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, Clotilde Davenne established her own vineyard, Les Temps Perdus, in 2005 making wines to express the local Jurassic terroir with no oak.

Clotilde Davenne, Bourgogne Blanc 2014, £10.95 (75cl) 13% labelled a Bourgogne Blanc, the grapes are located in the village of Prehy, one of the 20 villages in the Chablis appellation; elegant freshness and minerality with melon fruit and weight on the mid-palate.

Clotilde Davenne Saint-Bris 2014, £10.95 (75cl) 12.5% aromatic lemongrass with zippy lime-marmelade cut through with taut acidity and minerality; linear and precise. Good.

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Friday, 21 October 2016

Dinner With The Wine Society

Dinner at the IPA with The Wine Society

The IPA's annual Finance Committee dinner this year featured wines from The Wine Society, introduced by Jo Locke MW and Ewan Murray.

We started with fizz.

The Society's NV Champagne Brut from Gratien, the base wines is from 2012 and still feels quite young and closed up.

Gratien is one of the few Champagne houses to ferment the base wines in oak for greater richness (the most notable other being Bollinger); three years of lees aging further adds to the complexity.

With starters
Riesling Dragon, Josmeyer 2008 from Alsace, complex and intense with an evolved, dieselly nose, ripe peach fruit and well-structured acidity.

It feels like a big wine, despite no oak and around 11% alcohol, and stood up to the strong flavours of smoked salmon with beetroot, pesto and capers.

Kanokop Estate Paul Sauer, Stellenbosch 2008 a Bordeaux blend described by Jo as New World ripeness with Old World substance and structure - which led to a discussion about a lack of a distinct South African identity.

The brand builders in the room latched onto the idea of South Africa having the most ancient soils as a possible core brand identity.

With plenty of primary bramble and blackcurrant fruit after almost a decade in bottle, this wine proved that South African wines can age to rival all but the top ranks of Bordeaux. The combination of fruit and substance matched perfectly with marinated lamb chops.

Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux, Domaine Huet, 2005 an organic, biodynamic Loire, this proved popular with many who said they do not normally drink stickies.

Floral, fresh and precise, it felt more like the youngest wine of the night than the oldest and clearly has decades ahead of it.

The Society's Exhibition Grande Champagne Cognac a final cherry on top, this Cognac was apricotty with nuts almonds and vanilla; mellow and elegant.
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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2014

The Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2014 tasting

To anyone who loves high-end Bordeaux, the last few years have not been kind - not since the 2010s have we tasted wines from a great year.

2014 is not a great year, but it is one of the better lesser years - if that makes sense.

The wines on show at this UGC tasting were fairly substantial, supple and complex. That they are largely drinking nicely now may be as a result of stylistic decisions in the vineyard or cellar, or simply a reflection of the vintage.

With limited time, I focused on getting round the reds, but I tried one white and, as a final treat, a few of the stickies.

Overall, Margaux and Pomerol showed well - and Barsac.

The two wines scoring a VGI are Lynch-Bages and the sticky Suduiraut.

White - Pessac-Leognan

Domaine de Chevalier complex, aromatic ripe gooseberry and guava; leesy-creamy and substantial. Long and deft. Very Good.


Pape Clement ripe, plump and spicy with dried herbs; supple and long. Very Good.

Smith Haut Lafitte fresh, full, supple; poised and adept with berries, splice and earthiness. Long. Very Good.

St Emilion

Figeac supple, adept, fresh and harmonious. Plump and long with dark cherry fruit, coffee and spice. Very Good.

Troplong Mondot fresh, supple, harmonious and long with bramble fruit, earthiness, green herbs and spices. Very Good.


Beauregard fresh, intense and focused with red and black cherry fruit, spice. Adept and poised. Very Good.

Le Bon Pasteur earthy animal and spice; bramble fruit. Fresh, focused and precise. Very Good.

La Cabanne pure, minty dark fruit. Supple, poised and focused. Good.


Chasse-Spleen lightweight, red-berry fruited; harmonious and well-executed. Good.


Belgrave plump, supple and full; inky pencil shavings, blackcurrant and spice with lovely tannins. Good.

Cantemerle inky pencil shavings, dark fruit, spice; plump and supple. Dense and concentrated. Very Good.


La Tour de By ripe red and dark fruit, spice; fresh and supple. Good.


Angludet complex earthy-coffee-cherries; focused, expressive and full. Supple and harmonious, lovely texture. Very adept. Very Good.

Brane-Cantenac ripe, spice, full, supple and substantial with a fresh core. Very Long. Very Good.

Labegorce red-fruited with green herbs; spicy, full and supple but less substantial. Good.

Marquis de Terme fresh berry fruit and spice; supple, harmonious. Long and plump. Good.


Lynch-Bages dark core, still tightly wound; focused and pure. Substantial. Expressive bramble, minty and spice emerging. Very Good Indeed.

Lynch-Moussas inky pencil shavings, bramble fruit, sweet spice. Supple and harmonious. Expressive with freshness and plumpness. Very Good.

Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande fresh, focused earthy minerality; substantial and long. Very Good.

Saint Estephe

Phelan-Segur fresh, bramble fruited with spice. Supple, pure and harmonious. Adept and long. Good

Sauternes & Barsac

Bastor-Lamontagne fresh overripe peaches. Good.

Climens complex, lightly roasted peaches with freshness; substantial and long. Very Good.

Doisy Daene peaches in butter with spice; lanolin and beeswax. Very Good.

Guiraud fresh, overripe peaches. Good.

Rayne Vigneau ripe, substantial, spiced overripe peaches with lanolin and beeswax. Just not quite as elegant as Suduiraut. Good.

Suduiraut complex roasted peaches in butter with spice; oily, waxy, unctuous nectar. Very adept. Very Good Indeed.

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Château Haut Gléon - Corbières

Les Vignobles Foncalieu’s premium Château Haut Gléon range from Corbières

Les Vignobles Foncalieu is a Languedoc-based co-operative dating back to 1901; in 2012, they bought the Château Haut Gléon estate - 35 hectares of vines situated in Paradise valley in Corbières

Foncalieu's wines can be characterised as well-made and classy, crowd-pleasingly enjoyable and well-packaged.

These two Haut Gléon wines, with their clavelin-style bottles, are more of the same - plus ambition. Both benefit from some aeration and will also repay a few years' cellaring.

Chateau Haut Gléon Blanc 2014 (£19.99, independents) 60% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc;  ripe orchard fruits with yellow flowers and sweet spices; fresh with layers of complex oak.


Match with roast fowl or creamy mushroom dishes.

Chateau Haut Gléon Rouge 2013 (£18.99 independents) 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Carignan; dark fruits, sweet spices and coffee. Fresh, plump and supple with fine, ripe tannins.


Match with roasted red meat.

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Private Cellar - The Goods

Private Cellar Portfolio Tasting at RICS

Another year, another portfolio tasting from Private Cellar; with the wines chosen by MW Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, quality is not in doubt. It is merely a case of style, preference and degree.

Here are the wines that scored a Good - New/Exclusive and Very Good+ will follow:

Arneis, DOC, 2015, Rocche Costamagna, Italy (£12.75) creamy-oatmealy, rounded and peachy

Chateau de Fesles Chenin Blanc La Chapelle, Vielles Vignes, Anjou 2013 (£13.35) curiously delicious old-school lanolin and beeswax; mineral and substantial

Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc, Springfontein, Walker Bay, South Africa 2013 (£14.95) pure, clean and mineral with herby cress

Maranges Vieilles Vignes Domaine Matrot 2012 (£22) raspberry fruited, delicate and elegant
Bourgogne Pressionnier (Gevrey Chambertin) Domaine Jospeh Roty 2012 (19.50) earthy, truffly savoury and mineral 

Ique Malbec, Mendoza, Bodega Enrique Foster 2013 (£10.25) red, black and sour cherries with freshness and spice

Terroir Selection Pinotage, Springfontein, Walker Bay, 2010 (£15.95) truffley-earthy, fruited-and-spiced, ripe-almost-jammy

Bourgogne Blanc, Sorin Coquard, Cote d'Auxerre 2014 (£12.50) adept, fresh and elegant with lime zest

Macon Bussieres, Domaine Gonon 2014 (£12.95) fresh, citrussy with brazil nut creaminess

Prosecco Ca' Bolani NV (£12.95) zippy, citrus and sherbet

Merotto Colbelo Prosecco Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2015 (£18.95) fresh, precise, elegant

Champagne Rose, Legras & Haas NV (£29.75) redcurrant fruit and brioche, fresh and elegant

Chateau Tayet, Bordeaux Superieur 2011 (£13.50) bramble and cool mint with minerality

Ch Tour Baladoz, Grand Cru Saint Emilion, 2008 (£20.95) adept and mellow; evolved nose, cherries and coffee

Joseph PhelpsVineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California (£27.50) full, substantial, creamy and complex
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Friday, 14 October 2016

South Africa's KWV

Lunch with South Africa's KWV

Founded almost a century ago as a wine industry regulator before evolving into a co-op, KWV is now a privately-owned company making wine almost exclusively from bought-in grapes. This change in status allows it to focus more on quality than inclusion, argues winemaker Wim Trutter.

The company does have a few small parcels of land - the remains of a viticultural laboratory - from which it makes micro-cuvees.

My lunch with Wim and Marketing Manager Lisbet Olsen involves no South African wine and no Cape-style braai meat-fest, but a lot of discussion about the challenge of selling South African wine.
Ask me to name a go-to South African wine as a "first one to try" and I would struggle. I have tried and enjoyed many South African wines, but what the country stands for or where to start? That's harder.

I can, by contrast, characterise Burgundy and Chablis, I can tell you what to expect from a Marlborough Sauvignon or a Mornington Peninsula Pinot, but where to start with South Africa? There's no easy answer.

Is it like old-school Australia - warm-climate, fruit-forward "sunshine in a glass"? Or Spain, a source of improving, low-priced good-value wine?

Is it like Champagne - a place where production is separate from growing? Or Madeira, where other crops are raised alongside grapes?

Or all of the above?

I would love South Africa to have greater recognition in the UK, but right now, ask me to say in a few words what it stands for and I struggle.

The Cape's origins are as a refuelling stop-over for merchant ships plying the route from Europe to the East Indies - the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, the heritage of the Cape; there's a great story in there just waiting to be told.

Perhaps the brand value of the country doesn't matter - if you are happy to let the sommelier suggest a wine and you don't mind where it comes from.

But we don't all drink wine in restaurants and we don't all defer the choosing of wine to the waiting staff: we may insist on a Bordeaux or a Napa; we may buy wine in supermarkets or wine merchants where the starting point is country of origin.

Our decision-making architecture may shut off entire countries and regions before we even start if we only want to choose from a range of Old World wines.

So South Africa needs to stand for something clearly understandable and easily graspable.

Complexity and regionally can come later, but right now South Africa needs something as simple as "classy Bordeaux", "spicy Rhone" or "juicy Beaujolais".

Good luck.

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Two Villa Maria Reds

Two Villa Maria reds from the Private Bin range

Villa Maria's wines have a quality, consistency and typical New Zealand freshness; Private Bin is the fruit-led, entry-level range.

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2015 (£13.35, The Co-op, Morrison’s, Asda, independents) earthy, mushroomy nose, with black cherry fruit, raspberries and spice. Very fresh, with fine tannins.

Expressive, interesting and thoroughly pleasant; and decent value for a Pinot.

Villa Maria Private Bin Shiraz 2014 ( £13.35 Wine Rack, independents) pencil shavings, red plum and spice with herbs. Very fresh, almost to the point of tartness.

Lacking substance on the mid-palate, the 2.5g of residual sugar hints at attempts to bulk it up a bit and balance out the acidity.

Match the freshness of these wines to a rare steak.

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