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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Dinner With Kleine Zalze - Past, Present and Future

Dinner with Kleine Zalze

Twenty years in is a good point for a period of reflection; a consideration of the past, an assessment of the present and thoughts on the future.

A short history

Winemaking has taken place at Kleine Zalze on a small scale since 1695 but it was in 1996, when Kobus Basson and his family purchased the property, that the modern Kleine Zalze was born. Over the last 20 years Kleine Zalze has built up a reputation as one of the leading family-owned wineries in South Africa and one of the most-awarded wine producers in Stellenbosch.
Over dinner at Medlar of Chelsea, Cellar Master Alistair Rimmer showed:

- past wines that established Kleine Zalze's reputation
- present award-winning wines in the range
- future-facing wines that express the direction of the winery
More than the technical details, I was interested to hear (and taste) the vision and ambition. However, what all the wines showed was an Old-World, elegant sophistication and balance, married with New World fruit and purity of expression.

We started with a Methode Cap Classique NV Brut, a fresh, elegant and citrussy sparkler.

Flight #1 - Chenin
The progression here was clearest; from Old-School substance to a more-modern mineral freshness
Vineyard Selection Chenin 2010 more old-school richness and opulence with a touch of botrytis and some residual sugar
Zalze Reserve Chenin 2015 more-modern style, with fresh tropical citrus
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin 2015 fresher, tauter, more expressive and mineral
Flight #2 - non-Cab reds
These were my favourite wines of the evening and all had a family resemblance, a supple elegance and delicacy
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Pinotage 2014 smokey dark fruit, spice and minerality
Zalze Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier 2014 Rhone-inspired blend with red fruits and wild berries
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Cinsault 2014 violets, lavender and red-berry fruit
Flight #3 - Cab
The Cabs were, unsurprisingly, bigger, fuller and more substantial than the flight #2 wines, as well as more fruit-forward and international in style
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 library stock from Zalze's cellars with lovely, aged Cab characteristics
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ripe dark fruit and adept, well-integrated oak
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 sweet-fruited cherry, blackberry and cedarwood
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Monday, 2 May 2016

Artemovsk KrimSekt Semi Dry - Ukraine

A semi-dry Ukrainian fizz from Artemovsk

KrimSekt is a range of sparkling wines from Ukrainian producer, Artemovsk, which itself dates back to the late 19th century.

This KrimSekt 2010 semi dry is a single-vintage, traditional-method blend of Pinot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Aligote.

Citrussy elderflower and acacia with late-harvest orchard fruits; clean, elegant and fresh with a medium, off-dry finish.

Thoroughly enjoyable; drink as an aperitif or match with chicken liver pate.

Not yet available in the UK; purchased in Ukraine for around €4.

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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Three Languedoc Rosés from Les Vignobles Foncalieu

Three fresh Languedoc rosés from Les Vignobles Foncalieu

Les Vignobles Foncalieu is a Languedoc-based co-operative dating back to 1901. These three rosés combine Provencal elegance and freshness with Languedoc value.

The Griset is an unusual Languedoc Sauvignon Gris rosé (it is rare enough as a varietal white in Bordeaux) with a striped-pyjamas label; the Haut Vol comes in a a very pretty perfume-bottle.

Haut Vol Rosé 50% Grenache Noir, 50% Carignan (£7.99, Majestic) delicate redcurrant fruit, freshness and minerality.

A light aperitif sipper.

Griset Gris de Gris IGP Pays D’Oc 100% Sauvignon Gris (£7.50, Hennings) this has delicate, elegant redcurrant fruit with blossom and passionfruit hints; citrussy grapefruit acidity.

Clean and pure with savoury-leesy underpinnings and a mineral persistence

Drink as an aperitif or match with lighter starters.

Le Versant Rosé 100% Grenache Noir (around £10, independents) a more sophisticated and mineral rosé with redcurrant and grapefruit, fresh linear acidity and smoky flintsmoke.

Clean, pure, fresh and taut.

Match with seafood and shellfish.

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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Premier Cru de Bourgogne: Tasting and Dinner

A BIVB tasting and dinner of 20 2013 Burgundy Premiers Crus from Chablis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault and Rully

It's never a bad tasting when you start with a magnum of Chablis.
Like English common law, Burgundy classifications are arcane and confusing - which is presumably another reason for lawyers to like Burgundy.

But back in the real world, the only thing that really matters is whether the wines are consistently good with enough variation to provide interest rather than disappointment.
On the basis of this tasting, the answer is a resounding yes.

Some general observations:

- the Chablis were really lovely and showing surprisingly well despite their relative youth; all scored a Good

- The Rullys showed more florality, honey and richness; again, all Good

- The Meursaults were more substantial again with greater complexity; all Very Good

I struggled, as I so often do with the reds; my head said the Pinots were technically very good - fruited, supple and elegant - but they did not make my heart beat faster.

Fortunately, a Pinotphile MW was on hand to highlight and explain a personal favourite, the Fonteny Givrey-Chambertin. A re-tasting revealed it to be delicate, adept and assured beyond the measure of the others.
But the wine of the night was a magnum of Dom Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Vaulorent 2010 served over dinner.
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Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Gonzalez Byass Spain-Off

A Spain-off between Gonzalez Byass brands Beronia and Finca Constancia at Camino Bankside

Bodegas Beronia is a traditional winery based in Rioja while Finca Constancia, based in Toledo, dates back only to 2001.

Patrician Matias Calleja is winemaker for Beronia; fresh-faced Beatriz Paniagua, winemaker at Finca Constancia, is apparently the oldest person at the winery.

I started by trying a wine they had made together, the soon-to-be-released Rueda, before tasting flights of the same grape from each winery.

What emerged, especially from the reds, is a generational difference; Matias' red wines are oak-led, with complex and sophisticated but prominent oaking. By contrast, Beatriz's wines have an up-front vibrant freshness that feels more youthful and contemporary.

I find I can't choose between them - they are both great examples of their style and both excellently made; just very different styles from very different terroirs.
However, their first wine is an oenological duet - a 100% Verdejo, blended from two different wines made by each. Based on a shared vision, it combines early-harvested wine for freshness and late harvested wine for texture with lees aging for full persistence.

Aperitif / vegetable starters:

Beronia Rueda 2015 (£8.99 Ocado, Waitrose - from May) pure, aromatic and fresh, with vibrant citrussy acidity and leesy persistence.

Finca Constancia Parcela 52 Verdejo (£10.32 Cambridge Wine Merchants) stone fruits, fennel and honey aromas; bigger, more complex and old-school than the Rueda.

Matched with spiced aubergine, the less-expressive Finca Constancia stood up to the strong flavours and bitter chili heat while the lighter Rueda was overpowered.

Meat starter:
Graciano is usually added in modest quantities to Rioja as an "improving" variety for its colour, acidity, florality and elegance; the varietal commonalities of these wines were at first more noticeable than the differences from terroir.

As an aside, I would not match a floral red to pork - better would be a big white.

Beronia Graciano (£14.99 Hennings Wine) vibrant, fresh, floral and juicy

Finca Constancia Parcela 12 Graciano (currently only in restaurants) fuller, richer, spicier and more warm-climate


Beronia EE Tempranillo (£11.99 Ocado) instantly recognisable for the complex oaking and tempranillo flavour profile; red fruits, liquorice and lots of sweet-spicy toasty oak with fresh vibrant acidity and a supple texture and fine tannins. As old-school yet vigorous as Edward Fox in a cravat.

Finca Constancia Parcela 23 Tempranillo (£9.75 Cambridge Wine Merchants) vibrant and floral with red fruits, cocoa and mokka and a compelling freshness.


Beronia Reserva (£13.49 Waitrose, Ocado, Oxford Wine Company) more signature toasty oak with sweet spice, caramel and coconut. Supple and flawless.

Finca Constancia Selección ( £10.50 Ocado)  fresh, pure and clean with bramble fuit.

The higher acidity of the Finca Constancia here proves a better match with the sharpness of the goat's cheese.

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Grape Pickers Wanted - Bordeaux

Bordeaux's Château la Tulipe, owned by Dutch author and former rock artist Ilja Gort, carries out a ‘vendanges vertes’, a summer harvest, during which some of the grapes are pruned to improve quality.

The year Gort has decided to invite twenty British wine enthusiasts to join him for this important event.

‘It will be an amazing and unforgettable experience’, claims Gort. ‘For the participants it is a unique opportunity to expand their knowledge of wine and become genuine “wine-tigers” whose professional opinions will never fail to impress their fellow wine lovers.’

Nice, but how much does it pay?

Payment, it seems, is only in kind - you get space to pitch a tent or park a campervan, plus food and drink.

If you have children and a mortgage, or work in the trade, this will most likely seem like a pretty poor offer.

But the more Romantically free-spirited and optimistic will see in this an opportunity to experience something quite different. On the one hand, an immersion into how wine is made, on the other a complete change from the usual way of life; a sort-of Scout camp / retreat for adults. In a chateau vineyard.

For details see www.tulipe.co.uk/summerharvest

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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Two Special-Day Wines

Two wines from Jura's Rolet and Niagara's Pillitteri

A special day calls for special wines.

Somebody recently asked me about my favourite wine - it's impossible to answer, of course, for anyone who loves the sheer variety, but as a concession I explained that wines defined by their production method would be a favourite category.

And so we have two of these.

Rolet Pere et Fils Vin Jaune 1998 tangy and slightly floral with savoury roasted flavours of nuts, spices and apple. Fresh and long.

Very Good.

Pillitteri Estates Kerner Icewine 2012 beeswax and orange blossom, ripe roasted peaches. Fresh, intense and concentrated.

Very Good.

Not only are both defined by how they are made, they are also non-standard bottle sizes - the vin jaune comes in a 62cl clavelin (albeit standard for vin jaune); the ice wine comes a 20cl bottle.

The Pillitteri website notes: our first attempt at making an Icewine from Kerner, which is the offspring of Riesling and Trollinger. Our Kerner grapes were harvested on December 29th at around -10°C to give us maximum concentration.

Both wines were sourced by Wine Director Oscar Malek.

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