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Monday, 20 November 2017

South Africa Does Europe

Two good-value South African wines that follow European archetypes; from KWV and Laborie

Champagne and port are oenological standards; great for starting and ending a meal - especially around Christmas time.

Whilst plenty of wine regions make fizz of one sort or another, port-alikes are less common.

These two wines are great value and bear more than a passing resemblance to the styles they imitate; even better, they are significantly cheaper.

Laborie Blanc de Blanc Brut MCC 2010 (£15.95, slurp, independents) delicate mousse, pure and clean with ripe orchard fruits, citrus, biscuity brioche and minerality; elegant, complex and layered. As good as many a Champagne BdB costing several times more. Drinking nicely now and will repay cellaring for several years.

Very Good Value. Good.

Drink as an aperitif or with light starters.

KWV Classic Cape Tawny (£9.00, The Wine Society) red fruits, eucalyptus, spice, toffee and marzipan, orange peel and cooked mixed fruits. Harmonious, rich and warming with an oily texture.

Drink as an after-dinner sipper, with dark chocolate and cherry torte or mince pies.

Good Value.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yealands - Pinots, Tank Samples and Trials

Yealands tasting with Natalie Christensen, Senior Winemaker

Yealands wines tend to have a number of signature features - they are always fresh and pure, well-made and good value for money. Entry-level wines are very pleasant and they become more complex and nuanced as you move up the scale.

Billed as “The Perfection of Pinot Noir”, this tasting focused on Yealands' Pinot Noirs, including 2017 examples showing developmental work with non-irrigation and yeast trials, followed by a first view of some 2017 Sauvignon Blancs.

Natalie started with an introduction to Yealands' terroir, the Awatere Valley: cooler and drier, the vines struggle here - which is a good thing for Pinot Noir. Diurnal temperature variation (hot days, cool nights) provides herbal aromatics, a layered and brooding character plus freshness and minerality.

2017 was a difficult vintage with high winds and a cool season leading to thicker skins and small berries; the resulting wines are high in perfume and colour. 2015 was an exceptional year with everything a winemaker could ask for.

The Regular Pinots
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (£16, Great Western Wines) aromatic with dark fruit and smokey-toastiness; concentrated, mineral and long. Fine tannins with a firm core, soft and supple. Good.

The Crossings Pinot Noir 2015 (£14.50, Fortnums and others) fresh, vibrant, mineral and long; floral and aromatic with lovely berry fruit and fine tannins. Good.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 (£16, Great Western Wines) soft, supple and long; harmonious with ripe berry fruit and freshness. Fine tannins. Very Good.

Yealands Estate Winemaker's Reserve Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (£20, Dulwich Vintners) fuller, more substantial and concentrated; very long, very harmonious. Very Good. 


Off-piste Pinots
Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2016 tank sample using Concerto Yeast floral and apricotty with red-berry fruit; plush, supple texture. Fresh, elegant and long. Good.


Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2017 barrel sample, no irrigation trial at Seaview meaty, spicy and savoury with red fruits; fresh, mineral and long with fine tannins. Deft and delicate. Very Good.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 201 barrel sample redcurrants, lifted apricots, dried herbs and a plush texture; long, fresh, mineral, harmonious and elegant. Good.

Yealands Estate Winemaker's Reserve Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2017 barrel sample savoury, spicy toasty with dark berry fruits, firm grippy tannins; fresh and long, but not yet harmonious. Substantial and concentrated. Very Good.


The Sauvignons
Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£8, Sainsbury's, Co-op) fresh, aromatic, pure and mineral; delicate and elegant. Good Value.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£11.95, Great Western Wine) more substantial core, longer. Good.

Yealands Estate Single Block L5 2017 (£14.75, Great Western Wine) fresh, precise and mineral with crushed oyster shells and sea-spray; citrus, herbal lift and flinty minerality. Very Good.


The Crossings Reserve Wild Saugnon Blanc 2016 (£15, independents) textured, barrel-fermented, almost Burgundian-meets-white-Bordeaux; toasty-smoky, richer, bigger and more substantial with leesy complexity and minerality. Very Good.

Peter Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£11.95, Waitrose) unique-to-Waitrose blend with white peach flavours; aromatic, fresh and mineral with a firm core. Good.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Two Co-op Wines For Christmas

Two Co-op wines for Christmas

Christmas wines should be a step-up from everyday drinking, and versatile enough to match with Christmas foods.

Start the day with fizz, but when you sit down to eat, you'll need a good food wine plus something rich enough to match with Christmassy treats.

Take a Bordeaux from a good producer in a favourable year plus one of the world's great complex sweet-yet-fresh fortified wines and you can't go wrong.

Serve with a Christmas roast (with pig-in-blankets and sprouts with bacon and chestnuts) followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies.

Château Sénéjac Cru Bourgeois (£16.99 - reduced to £14.99 from 22/11/17 to 12/12/17) red berry and bramble fruits with herbs, spice, earthiness and juicy, fresh acidity; fine, firm tannins and good length. Drinking nicely now and will improve with either age or aeration.

Good.

Duke of Clarence Madeira (£12.99, reduced to £10.99 from 22/11/17 to 12/12/17) caramel, roasted nuts, dates and figs; rich and unctuous yet all held in check by a fresh acidity. Harmonious and mellow.

Good.

Versatile enough for an aperitif, with almost any type of rich cake or pudding or even just as an after-dinner sipper.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Californian Wines under £20

Three Californian Wines under £20

Big, bold and brash yet resolutely crowd-pleasing, California is - oenologically speaking - the flashy and attention-grabbing Hair Metal of wine.


These three Big Wines are - like poodle-haired rockers in leather, studs and make-up - big on brash statement, but also easy-to-enjoy if you like lots of everything and a bit more too, as well as technically well-made and, underneath it all, rather sophisticated.

Chateau Souverain Chardonnay 2014 (£10.99, Waitrose) sweet, ripe melon and poached pear fruit with buttery oatmeal and toasty spice; big, layered and warming yet fresh and harmonious.

Match with heavy, substantial food, such as tarte flambée or pork medallions with cream and mushrooms.

Ironstone Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 (£13.99, Laytons and independents) earthy and woodsy-truffley with dark fruit and peppery spice; sweet, ripe blackberry, red plum and raspberry fruit. Good freshness and an old-vine concentration.

Good.

Match the earthiness with a venison casserole.

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (£17.99, Waitrose) Cab blend from the Alexander Valley; port-like with plums-and-cherries fruit, eucalyptus, oaky spice and fresh damp earth; ripe, juicy and slightly jammy dark berry fruits. Hefty, warming and substantial with a glycerol, almost oily texture and soft, fine-grained tannins.

Good.

A big wine that needs big food to match - smoked duck breast or hare.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Sorgin: A Gin for Wine Lovers

Sorgin: a gin from winemaker Francois Lurton made from Sauvignon Blanc

Francois Lurton is something of a winemaking legend - or at the very least, a prominent name from a legendary family.

His new gin, Sorgin, is made not from grain or potatoes but Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Gascony that might otherwise be distilled and aged into a brandy; to this is added a range of botanicals: grapefruit zest, lemon, violets, gorse, lime-zest and redcurrant buds, with juniper added as a distillate.

For the linguistically curious, Sorgin is a basque name for a witch - but not a witch wearing a basque.

Sorgin delicate and complex nose with aromatic herbs, fruitiness and sandalwood; elegant and long with an oily texture and an harmonious, persistent finish. No rough eges whatsoever.

Very Good.

Drink neat as an aperitif or, as Lurton recommends, garnish with a slice or orange or grapefruit.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Four Christmas Wines From Virgin


Four wines for Christmas from Virgin

A Special Day in the CWB household gave me an opportunity to road test some Christmas wines from Virgin.

The food was not especially Christmassy, but if you are looking to create a multi-course sense of occasion with accompanying wines, you could do worse than start with this classy line up of fullsome en rama sherry, vibrant English fizz, structured Italian red and complex Loire sticky.

With canapés; olives and roasted almonds
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana en Rama, NV, Spain (£16.99 - details here) intense, pungent and concentrated en rama Manzanilla sherry; nutty, floral and bone dry with dried apple fruit and a citrussy finish. Long and elegant.

Good - absolutely demands tapas-style food. Drink now.

With starters; asparagus and parma ham gratin
Bolney Bubbly, NV, Sussex (£22.99 - details here) yeasty, nutty brioche and orchard fruits; well-structured and elegant with a fine mousse. Creamy, citrussy and floral.

Good - works as an aperitif, with light starters or mackerel fillets. Will further improve with age.

With main; beef cobbler
Il Cascinone Rive Barbera, 2014, Piedmonte (£15.99 - details here)
black cherries, plums, spice and violets with a dusting of cocoa; very fresh and well-structured and elegant with firm, very fine tannins. Good underpinnings.

Good - needs rich, red-meat dishes.

With dessert; spiced apple and vanilla cake
Domaine Baumard Coteaux du Layon Carte d'Or, 2015, Coteaux du Layon (£11.99, 37.5cl - details here)
floral and savoury complexity; rich, honeyed and waxy-oily with pineapple, overripe melon, sweet lemon and candied orange peel. Very precise, fresh and lively. Utterly delicious and could age for many years.

Very Good - match with a range of lighter desserts such as cakes, pastries and fruit tarts (but not Christmas pudding).

Friday, 3 November 2017

Ribera Del Duero - Tim Atkin's Picks

Tim Atkin's pick of the best wines from Ribera Del Duero

I had found the wines in the main Ribera Del Duero section to be always made from excellent raw materials - freshness, concentration and intensity - but sometimes lacking harmony or balance; as if a more experienced hand in the cellar might have brought about a better result.

Presented separately were 30-odd wines chosen by Master of Wine Tim Atkin.

There was certainly a higher hit rate of approving ticks in my notes here; but without time to try them all, I focused on merchants whose wines have previously impressed.

Here is what I liked best:

Bodegas Dominio de Atauta, Dominio de Atauta 2014 (Boutinot) vegetal, leather and spice with fresh red berry and plum fruit, cool mint. Harmonious, concentrated and fresh. Incredibly adept.Very Good Indeed.

Dominio Del Soto, Crianza 2011 (N/A) complex, vegetal and oaky nose; fresh red and dark berry fruits with vanilla sweetness. Dense and inky with a long, supple texture.Very Good.

Bodegas Aalto, Aalto 2014 (Justerini & Brooks) dark fruit, spice and leather; sweet ripe berries and vanilla. Concentrated, firm, long and fresh.Very Good.

Bodegas Antidoto, La Hormiga de Antidoto 2014 (H2Vin) restrained nose, harmonious and balanced with dark fruit; supple, firm texture; concentrated and long.Very Good.

Bodegas Pingon, Carramimbre Altamimbre 2014 (Amathus) vegetal and farmyardy, focused and fresh with dark fruits and sweet vanilla; firm, structured , fresh and concentrated. Long and supple.Very Good.

Bodegas Hermanos Perez Pascuas, Vina Pedrosa Reserva 2012 (Bancroft) toasty and farmyardy with liquorice, dark fruits, cherries and coffee grounds, sweet vanilla and spice; fresh, vibrant, dense and concentrated.Very Good.

Bodegas Trus, Trus Reserva 2012 (Georges Barbier) vegetal with fresh dark berry and plum fruit, sweet vanilla; concentrated, harmonious, supple and long with fine tannins. Still youthful.Very Good.

Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Valbuena No 5 2012 (FMV) vegetal and dark fruits; fresh, intense and vibrant with juicy berry fruit.Very Good.