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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Three Easter Wines from Morrison's

Three wines for Easter from Morrisons

With Easter approaching, Morrisons sent me three wines to review; with a classy aperitif, a red and dessert wine, these will see you through a family get-together meal.

To start - fizz

Chapel Down Brut (£21.99) elegant cool-climate English fizz, this is very classy indeed and better value-for-money than certain French rivals. Ripe orchard fruits, fresh citrus and toasty brioche with great structure.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.

M Signature Crozes Hermitage 2012 (£9.99) juicy, spicy red-and-black fruits and a leathery-woodsiness. Light and fresh but also substantial.

Match with an Easter roast lamb with garlic and rosemary.

M Signature Pedro Ximénez (£5.99, 37.5cl) dark, thick and intensely sweet, this is made from sun-dried grapes and then matured in solera for eight years; fragrant with complex roasted figs, nuts, molasses and raisins, it is sweet, strong and fresh.

Match with pecan and treacle tart or pour over vanilla ice-cream.

Other related articles
Two Wines From Morrisons
Tavernello Wines from Morrisons

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Whisky Quarterly Magazine

Whisky Quarterly - the first issue

Whisky quarterly is a new publication edited by writer and photographer Colin Hampden-White.
The glossy magazine aims to reach enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike whilst still providing a good read for those who don't drink whisky.
A few decades ago, virtually all whisky was blended into homogenous brands and there was no interest in the underlying constituent single malts, so a periodical on the subject would have been unthinkable, not to say somewhat pointless and dull.
Today, the first edition covers whiskies from Japan, Tasmania and Texas - and Colin's eye as a photographer means that it is also gorgeous to look at.
There are articles on off-the-beaten track distilleries, plus recommendations of interesting whiskies to look out for, some not generally available.
With its high production values and double-figure price, Whisky Quarterly is clearly aimed at a more affluent market with a certain level of disposable income - and the time / energy to hunt out the rare bottles available only at auction. However, not all the whiskies mentioned are expensive, and the cheapest is just £19.95.
And given that single malts have only recently come into fashion, even the more expensive bottles are arguably much better value than certain trophy wines.
£10, available by subscription only.
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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Joseph Barnes Wines EASCA Tasting

A tasting of organic, biodynamic and natural wines with Joseph Barnes Wines

Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines has an enthusiasm for all things quirky and offbeat, eschewing the classics for organic, biodynamic and natural regional wines.

Here, more than anywhere, you need the guiding hand of an independent merchant with a good palate, but at their best, these wines are vibrant and fresh in a way that more conventional mainstream wines can only dream of.

Casa Belfi, Colfondo Prosecco 2012, Italy (£14.99) sealed with a crown top, it looks like cloudy lemonade; it is actually a natural, unfiltered traditional-method Prosecco. Fresh sharp and lemony, with a fine mousse and linear acidity. Neither a Champagne nor a Prosecco, it is vibrant and vivacious.

Serve as an aperitif.

De Martino Muscat, 2012, Chile (£11.50) Made from the less aromatic and ancient Muscat d'Alexandrie grape grown at an altitude of 800m, this is plump yet fresh with sweet, ripe lemony apple flavour. There is a rich, apricotty Viognier-like character with minerality and freshness.

Match with light starters or roast chicken.

Bodegas Aroa Laia, Navarra 2013, Spain (£11.50) a garnatxa / Garnacha / Grenache, this late-ripening grape is full of ripe fruits with pencil shavings and some woodsy-earthiness. Sweet, ripe vibrant cherry fruit, it is clean, pure, fresh and supple. An easy drinker, it can be lightly chilled in summer.

Match the supple freshness with tuna, barbecue foods or roast chicken.

Chateau de Jau, Muscat de Rivesaltes 2011, France (£11.99, 50cl) made from the aromatic Muscat a Petits Grains and fortified to 16% with grape spirit, this sweet-strong wine, drunk locally as an aperitif, is floral with candied lemon and marzipan, sweet spice and touch of alcoholic bitterness.

Match with lemon torte.

Other related articles
Three Wines From Joseph Barnes
Joseph Barnes Wines Tasting
Joseph Barnes Wines, Saffron Walden

Friday, 20 March 2015

On Meeting Peter Yealands

Peter Yealands of Yealands Wines

This morning I missed the (non) eclipse to meet Peter Yealands - he is very impressive, in an understated way; a man of incredible drive and vision who moves constantly from one project to another.

He does it not to make money, but because "he loves a challenge". Starting at age 14 and now almost 70, he is the serial entrepreneur personified, with endless energy, phenomenal attention to detail matched by a grand vision.

He acknowledges his level of focus must be intimidating for any would-be slackers, yet has one of the happiest workforces in New Zealand as measured by anonymous staff surveys.

He is an inspiring entrepreneur - but also something of a maverick whose single-minded pursuit of wherever his restless vision takes him leaves little room for anything or anyone else.
Other related articles
Yealands Estate Tasting and Dinner‏ with Tamra Washington
Four Yealands Wines

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Bulgarian Masterclass

A tasting of Bulgarian wines at the Bulgarian embassy with Stephen Spurrier, Caroline Gilby MW, Richard Bampfield MW
Bulgaria has an oenological (as well as socio-political) history - plenty of it. Perhaps too much.
I won't dwell on it here.
To the question of whether it has a future or what that future might look like, the answer is unclear; it lacks a clarity of purpose, a definition. At the moment.
There is momentum, a direction of travel and important choices lie ahead.
It needs to develop a defining characteristic, a raison d'etre. It needs to stand for something and it needs something to stand for it.
In the words of Stephen Spurrier, there are three key hooks: brands, appellations and varieties - Bulgaria has none of these. Yet.
It is not without good wines - and this tasting showed that there is something to appeal to most people. But ask me to characterise Bulgarian wine and I would struggle, even after today's masterclass.
At best, one would have to say that it is a country in transition, building a food and drink culture and a sophisticated, cosmopolitan middle class to go with it.
With two MWs on the panel and (at least) two in the audience, this was a serious tasting; four flights, fourteen wines, whites, reds, indigenous, international and blends.
Overall, the wines I liked best were Burgundian - a deft Chardonnay, a Pinot/Barolo-esque Gamza, a New World-style Pinot, and an elegant, Swiss-influenced Bordeaux blend.

In general, tannin-management in the reds would be a consistent area to work on, but there was nary a bad wine here, as you might hope with an MW on selecting duties.

A couple of the reds had a cooked or dried fruit character, but it was all held in check by freshness. The one slightly bum note was a rather chunky Cab, included on the basis that they "had to have one".
The revelation of the day was an orange wine - not a style I normally seek out, this was orange wine as a pleasing experience, rather than a style for the sake of it.
My top wines
Ivo Varbanov, Chardonnay 2013, Claire de Lune classic, textbook Burgundian Chardonnay, traditionally produced. Oaking is prominent now, but this will mellow with age.
Native red
Borovitza, Gamza 2013 known also Granny's Gamza, light, elegant and balanced with a juicy pepperiness; both Pinot-esque and Italianate
International red
Villa Yustina, Pinot Noir 2013 dark, black cherry with a fleshiness and a touch more warmth than a Burgundy, but good freshness. The winemaker trained in NZ and this shows an Otago-like influence.
Red blend
Eolis, Merlot/CS/CF 2009 Swiss family history influences, Bulgarian terroir and wine-making passion; boutique hand-crafted wine. Fresh, bright, precise and assured.
Other related articles

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jean-Claude Credoz, Jura

A wine from Jura's Jean-Claude Credoz, based in Chateau-Chalon

Staying at Relais des Abbesses in Chateau-Chalon, we were advised to visit Jean-Claude Credoz's handsome, ivy-covered house and try his wines.
We weren't disappointed; this is one of the wines we bought.

Cotes du Jura Savagnin, 2013 (€12.90) Golden Sandy yellow with a musky, pungent, bramley apple nose. Sharp, cidery, bramley apple fruit, a pungent tang and an oaky-leesy complexity. Very Good.


Other related articles
Jura - A Rough Guide
First London Jura Wine Trade Tasting 2013

Friday, 13 March 2015

Grand Cercle 2014 Primeurs‏

2014 Grand Cercle Primeurs
That 2014 was a better vintage in Bordeaux than the annus horribilis of 2013 can be filed under No sh*t Sherlock. But was it actually any good?

The Grand Cercle press release characterises it as a early developer turned bad pupil who aced the resits - a magnificent vintage miraculously saved.

It depends where you look - if the soil or terroir defines character and provides the underlying potential, vintage dials up or down the intensity and the winemaker brings balance.
If a good year leaves little for the winemaker to do, a bad year is where the real work starts. So a good test of a vintage is the consistency of quality across chateaux and winemakers.
Tasting the 2014 Primeurs, I was looking primarily for balance; other qualities may develop over time, but if balance is lacking at the beginning, it will never come later.
Based on what I tasted at the Grand Cercle, 2014 looks to be a perfectly respectable sort of year with a few wines showing a sensuously plump opulence and freshness with good underpinnings, but not the across-the-board generosity of 2009-2010.
The stand out regions from this tasting were:
- St Emilion Grand Cru Classe and Pomerol on the right bank
- Pauillac, Graves, Pessac-Leognan and St Estephe on the left
There were also a couple of wines that punched above their weight with an impressive showing from Fronsac and Lalande de Pomerol.
The few whites were all good. Stand-out reds are listed below:
Saint-Robert Cuvee "Poncet Deville" pure and fresh with rip cherry fruit, balanced
Fonbadet pure, focused, precise; mineral and fresh
Haut Lagrange plump, soft, velvety - lovely
Clos Vieux Taillefer ripe, fresh, plump, focused
Vray Croix de Gay fresh, precise, long and focused
St Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Fleur Cardinale ripe, soft, velvety and plump; lovely texture
La Marzelle ripe, fresh, plump and balanced; Good structure and underpinnings
Ch de Pressac sweet, ripe, plump fruit, well-balanced
St Estephe
Serilhan sweet ripe fruit, leathery gaminess, drinking very nicely now
There were also a number of outliers that merit a special mention:
Ch Dalem, Fronsac 2014 dark fruit, cool mint, excellent structure, really well made. A revelation.
Ch Siaurac, Lalande de Pomerol 2014 smooth, ripe, full and balanced
Ch Croix Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014 a "little cousin" of the Fleur Cardinale, pure, fresh, precise cherry fruit
Haut-Bacalan, Pessac-Leognan, 2009 the 2014 samples had gone missing in transit, so he found some 2009s to show; pure, fresh, mineral, concentrated and focused
Tour Seran, Haut Medoc 2011 Cru Bourgeois, blended by the best sommelier in the world, apparently; lots of crowd-pleasing flavour going on with good structure and underpinnings