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Monday, 30 January 2012

Wine of the Month - February

After the January detox and ritual breaking of New Year's resolutions, February brings the Romance of Valentine's Day.

According to Wikipedia, the day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, becoming first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer during the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

However, of far more importance, is how to woo that special person with something appropriately impressive and indulgent, so here are four wines, all suitable for some serious Valentine's wooing.

Best with food - Angas Brut Rosé NV, £9.50 Cambridge Wine Merchants

This is a classy and elegant pink fizz from Australia, using the two main Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Like Champagne, it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, giving a rich, leesy depth of flavour.
 
Salmon pink in the glass, it foams with a fine mousse; there are aromas of red berries and a touch of yeastiness on the nose. The palate is extremely elegant and smooth with a hint of red-berry fruit sweetness, a creamy texture and a fresh acidity.

It finishes dry, crisp and savoury, so will work well as an aperitif or just a Romantic indulgence a deux. However, if you are planning to make an evening of it, it will also match with food such as salmon, meaty white fish or even roast chicken.

Best for sipping - Ameztoi Rubentis, £11.99 Joseph Barnes Wines

This month, we welcome a new-comer to Wine of The Month in the shape of Charles Hardcastle, proprietor of Joseph Barnes wines in the pretty and genteel market town of Saffron Walden, just a short drive south of Cambridge.

This Ameztoi Rubentis is perhaps the most unusual wine here - made from the Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes, it is from Spain's Basque region.

With a petillant spritz, it is pale pink in the glass with aromas of red berries, watermelon and something aromatic.

On the palate, there is also a touch of minerality and just a hint of something bitter - either grapefruit or perhaps quinine, as FringeWine notes - but overall this is a light, easy quaffer with elegant red berries and fresh acidity balanced with a touch of fruit sweetness.

The delicate fruit here will be overpowered by most foods, so plan on sipping this in the most Romantic of circumstances - but if food is required, salmon or tuna sushi would be a good match for the fresh acidity.

Best with something sweet - Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato, £6.99 (37.5 cl) Noel Young Wines

Another wine from Oz in the European style, this Pink Moscato is a dead ringer for an Italian semi-sweet frizzante.

On the nose there are red berries and watermelon whilst the palate shows fresh strawberry fruit, a hint of red fruit gums, a touch of elderflower and a delightful sweetness and fresh acidity; it is almost a grown-up raspberry elderflower lemonade.

With a gentle mousse and a pleasingly balanced finish, this is an elegant and accomplished antipodean wine - think Nicole Kidman rather than Hugo Weaving in Priscilla.

Although light, this wine has enough weight on the palate to match with fruit-based desserts and rather incongruously (perhaps ironically ?), it's sealed with a crown-top.


Best for making a statement - Piera Martellozzo Rosé Cuvéé, £9.99 Bacchanalia


The most immediately noticeable thing about this this Italian Spumante is the shocking pink / fuchsia foil and label, set against a blacked-out bottle.

Beneath lies a pink, charmat-method sparkler which foams enthusiastically on pouring - there are aromas of pink grapefruit and hoppiness, whilst the palate shows redcurrant fruit and sweet pears.

---xxx---

Clearly, with their pink hues, bubbles and even sweetness, none of these wines is intended to be particularly serious - but they all demonstrate that making a romantic and frivolous gesture does not mean having to dumb down on quality; they are all good wines in their own right and make for a gentle return to oenology after the traditional month of abstinence.

And as we are all so loved-up this month, it would be churlish to single out any individual wine as a winner - simply choose the one that best suits your occasion, mood and loved one's preferences.

And don't forget to buy her some flowers, as well - just preferably not from a garage forecourt.

Links

Bacchanalia - http://www.winegod.co.uk/
Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.co.uk/
Joseph Barnes Wines - www.josephbarneswines.com
Noel Young Wines - http://www.nywines.co.uk/

Image Credit: The Art of Wooing - http://rosebud-design.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Sunday Morning in Saffron Walden

Last weekend, I took #2 child on a Boys' Trip out down to the genteel market town of Saffron Walden, which lies just 15 miles or a half-hour's drive south of Cambridge.

One of the unfortunate things about Cambridge is that, although very beautiful indeed, it is a rather tiny city, surrounded by rather dull countryside - something I particularly notice having spent my teenage years between the hills of the Peak District and the vibrant, buzzy and cultural hotspot that is central Manchester - so it is easy to become complacent at times about the city's charms.

Most of the surrounding villages and towns near Cambridge are pleasant enough, perhaps even rather nice, but somehow not quite worth the trip out, but there are a small number of exceptions to this (places such as Ely and Bury as well as Saffron Walden) if you are looking for an easy visit somewhere different.

Saffron Walden is actually even smaller than Cambridge so that, whilst a weekend will suffice to see all of Cambridge's best sights, a morning spent wandering around Saffron Walden's market square and surrounding lanes is more than enough.

Like Cambridge, the town has plenty of neat and well-appointed historic buildings to admire, with timbered Tudor houses, old coaching inns and elegant Georgian townhouses. It is also relatively hilly - compared to Cambridge, at least.

More notable sights include the parish church dating from 1250 (but mostly built in the late 1400s / early 1500s) and the castle ruins dating from the 1100s.

However, for me, it is the elegance of the market square and surrounding streets that provide Saffron Walden's charm and a quiet Sunday morning is a good time to appreciate the local architecture (there are 27 Grade II* listed buildings to admire) as the town proved to be almost deserted.

Sadly for us, the town's coffee shops all seemed to be closed as well and we ended up queueing in a clean and pleasant but uninspiring Costa Coffee chain-outlet for rocky road muffin and juice (Young Man) and a latte and a Bakewell slice (me).

It also made a pleasant change from Cambridge that most of the clientele that day seemed to be locals rather than tourists or visitors which made for a more friendly atmosphere.

For wine enthusiasts, Saffron Walden is also home to Adnams and Joseph Barnes (see my review here).

Links

Saffron Walden Tourist Information - http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/
Downloadable Tourist Trail Map - http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/pdf/Saffron-Walden-Town-Trail.pdf

Friday, 27 January 2012

Chateau Baccarat: Oenology range

Yesterday, I took delivery of a pair of "Oenology" wine glasses, courtesy of Baccarat; one for red wine and one for white.

The Baccarat Oenology collection, launched at Maison et Objet in Paris earlier this month, comes to the UK at the end of February, so this is something of a sneak  preview.

Baccarat claims that the glasses are created "with technical specifications that offer a perfect tasting of any wine or champagne", so I plan to test them over the coming days and weeks alongside my other glasses to see if they enhance the wine appreciation experience in any way.

I'll also be assessing what they are like to live with - as well as doing my best not to break them whilst washing up.

My current range of tasting glasses is fairly limited and functional - some Bormioli Roccos, a couple of Riedels, plus some basic flutes for fizz - so these two will certainly be, if nothing else, the smartest glasses in the cupboard.

Prices are £64 for a single glass, £125 for a pair or £360 for six; the range also includes a tumbler and decanter, all pictured above.

Links

Baccarat - http://www.baccarat.com

Friday, 20 January 2012

Vesevo Beneventano Aglianico IGT 2008, Vinopic

Last year, I visited Santiago Navarro of Vinopic to talk about his new venture and in particular his science-based Intrinsic Quotient method of scoring wines.

I had feared an eccentric, iconoclastic, mad-science vision of being able, through scientific analysis, to reduce all the world's wines to no more than a bald score, but the reality was much more reassuring and sensible, with the science side of Vinopic focused on production quality and the overall Vinopic score based as much on a "palate test" by Rosemary George MW as the man-in-a-white-coat Intrinsic Quotient value.

At the time I noted that "the real test is whether their wines are any good and represent value for money at their listed prices", so this is the far-more-important follow-up to my meeting with Santiago - the proof of the pudding, so to speak.

On first opening, this Vesevo Beneventano Aglianico is darkly, inkily purple in the glass; there is a complex nose of sour cherry, elderberries, dark spices and a Burgundian hint of funky earthiness. On the palate it is full and very smooth, with well-integrated tannins and a balanced finish.

It feels rather more restrained that I had expected for a Southern Italian wine, with more emphasis on texture and mouthfeel than up-front fruit. Mrs CWB summarised in her usual, succinct way: "It feels more French", she said, and part of the answer for this lies in the altitude of 450m - 550m at which the grapes are grown, giving a more temperate-climate feel.

The wine opens up quite gradually over the course of dinner - even with the assistance of a decanter - but sampled the following day, the big, outgoing personality you would expect to see is more in evidence with lots of ripe, dark berry fruit and spice.

By day 3, the nose is showing elderberry, blueberry, spice and chocolate - on the palate there is is more dark berry fruit, red plus, sweet vanilla spice and a touch of cool mintiness.

It is supremely well-balanced and feels elegant, with crowd-pleasing touches. The tannins are fine-grained, ripe and really well-integrated, giving a gentle but firm grip on the finish.

It is truly a food wine in the sense that, served with food, it reveals aromas not apparent when sampled alone, but also because of the wonderfully rounded, food-friendly acidity.

Match with dark meats such as beef or lamb, or darker game with a spiced sauce.

So, I liked the wine a lot, but how much of this is due to Santiago's initial sourcing, the Intrinsic Quotient it scores or to Rosemary George's assessment I simply don't know - or can't say at this stage - but I suspect that the Intrinsic Quotient covers the "build quality" aspect whilst Rosemary's assessment is "enjoyment".

Its Vinopic score is 99 from Roger Corder and 17.5 from Rosmary George MW; the overall score is 92 and it has a Decanter silver medal.

Sadly, the 2008 vintage of wine is now sold out whilst the 2009 was not considered sufficiently impressive and is not stocked - the 2010 will be assessed on release.

Provided for review.

Links

Vinopic - http://www.vinopic.com/

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux ?

I have recently been reviewing my way through a number of wines being promoted as part of the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign, aimed at promoting mid-priced, easily-available wines typical of Bordeaux.

The wines were selected by the Association of Wine Educators and full details can be found on the GFWCB website.

Bordeaux, perhaps the single most famous wine-growing region in the world, was my first love when it comes to wine and I have been a fan of Bordeaux wines at various levels for many years.

In the early years, trips to France allowed me to stock on good, basic Bordeaux in French supermarkets where quality is good and prices low - more recently, with less foreign travel, I have tended to rely on our excellent independent wine merchants in Cambridge, so I have little experience of what the national retailers have to offer for Bordeaux.

And based on the selections sent to me for review, it is not that inspiring - the two best wines, I thought, came from The Wine Society (a Chateau Bourjaud Premieres Cotes de Blaye and a Perponcher Reserve Bordeaux Blanc), whilst the offerings from Direct Wines, who supply Laithwaites and Avery's, were rather disappointing.

And so I draw a number of general conclusions:

- spending more money is not necessarily a guarantee of a better wine; the (more expensive) bottles from Direct Wines wines were not as enjoyable as the (cheaper) bottles from The Wine Society;

- trust the palate; whilst the sample size is hardly scientific, to me there is a definite indication of which retailers have a good palate and which do not. Given a choice between being able to specify only one of region, grape variety and retailer, I would opt to choose the retailer on every occasion

- the distinction between liking a wine and not can be very slight and is way beyond the sophistication of a wine app; of two similarly-priced, similar style white Bordeaux I reviewed, I found one much more preferable to the other and I do not believe that any wine app would be able to predict my preference.

The first (a Dourthe Grande Cuvee) was expressive and fresh, but felt slightly clumsily made, whilst the second (the Perponcher Reserve) was poised, precise, balanced and elegant - do wine apps go into that level of detail ?

I would be fascinated to know what Vinopic's objective, scientific assessments of wine would make of these two very similar wines and whether there would be a distinct difference in the scores they achieve.

As for the GFWCB Bordeaux campaign itself, I am left unsure what to make of it.

The use of Dom Joly to present a short video about Bordeaux brings a fresh and unstuffy approach, as well as a new audience. It also has some nice visuals of the Bordeaux region itself.

The overall strategy feels right - Bordeaux is a food wine and the region's fame cannot continue to rest solely on its most famous First Growth reds given the volume of other, mid-range, everyday wines of all hues produced there.

However, the execution feels somewhat unconvincing - the visuals are not only bland, they positively blend into the background, whilst the idea of the food-wine link idea is not obvious and easily overlooked.

The slogan is technically correct, but clumsily worded and quite a mouthful.

The suggested food pairings do not seem to fall into neat buckets and are rather eccentric - pizza, lobster, chorizo, turkey, cheese and roast are not obvious food-matching groupings to me at least. And what if you have roast turkey with chorizo ?

Moreover, the seven reasons why Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux, even if all correct and true, feel more like a focus-group tick list than a reason to go out and buy the wines:
 
- Bordeaux has centuries of experience in producing food-friendly wine
- Bordeaux’s diversity of styles complements every type of food
- Bordeaux’s restrained style works with food not against it
- Bordeaux wines reflect the individual skill of the winemaker
- Bordeaux wines are not mass produced
- Bordeaux wines are not high in alcohol
- Bordeaux wine are for all occasions
 
And how many of these are unique to Bordeaux ?
 
Overall, then, at an executional level, the campaign feels workmanlike and functional, not vibrant and exciting. It is ironic, given that terroir is a uniquely French word and concept, that the campaign gives little sense of Bordeaux as a place - the vineyards, the old towns, the rivers - and that the first thing you come across on the website is a link to a pizza recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Yes, you need some kind of celebrity endorsement and yes, Jamie is this century's most famous food businessman (for reasons that completely escape me), but really, has it come to this ? Can the PR agency in charge of delivering this campaign think of nothing more novel or imaginative than attempting to shoe-horn the wines of Bordeaux into the UK's love of Jamie Oliver and pizza ?

By contrast, the boldest move - the Dom Joly video - is the most interesting and inspired.

Overall, it feels like the key elements are all in place - a focus on the more everyday wines of Bordeaux, an awareness campaign that Bordeaux is not just posh reds for wine snobs and crass billionaires, the link between food and wine.

However, I think there are much better ways to promote Bordeaux that could include food and tourism presented in a more aspirational way and showcasing the history, geography and terroir of the region as well as the UNESCO World heritage status of Bordeaux iself.

As for me, I'll continue buying great wines from Bordeaux - just from my local independent wine merchants who all have a really good palate.

For more information on buying good, inexpensive Bordeaux in France, see Wine Buying In France; Calais.

For more on two of the best Bordeaux I have had and reviewed here, see this Tim Atkin-recommended Rousseau de Sipian 2005 from Cambridge Wine Merchants and a rather more expensive magnum of Troplong Mondot 1998.

For those in Cambridge, or prepared to order via the phone or internet, I am putting together a list of the Bordeaux recommendations of the Cambridge independent wine merchants - check back in a while and it will be here.

Bacchanalia recommend '05s, Lezongars (GVDB) & Lestage-Simon (Haut-Medoc). For boat pushing duties Haut-Marbuzet.

Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines in Saffron Walden recommends Chateau la Claymore 2006, Lussac Saint-Emilion (£16.99 before discounts).

Santiago Navarro of Vinopic recommends Chateau Toulouze Graves de Vayre Bordeaux 2006 (£12.99).

Hamish Wakes-Miller of  www.bellawinetours.com suggests the following from Adnams as affordable (under £15), interesting and good quality: Chateau du Pin 2009, Jouanin 2009, Thebot 2008 and Chateau Falfas 2008.

Links

Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

Friday, 13 January 2012

Château Bel Air, Perponcher Reserve, Bordeaux Blanc 2010 - The Wine Society

This Perponcher Reserve Bordeaux Blanc 2010 from The Wine Society has been chosen by the Association of Wine Educators and is being promoted by the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign as an example of an easily-available, mid-range, typical Bordeaux wine.

There is very limited information on the bottle - just the legal requirements, really - but that actually doesn't matter, because for its price, this is a very good wine indeed; a well-made, elegant, easy-drinking food wine.

Greeny-gold in the glass, the nose is herbaceous, mineral and clean - on the palate it feels fresh, crisp and poised with crystal-clear acidity, underpinned by good but not intrusive minerality.

There is some ripe, tropical sweetness that gives a rounded feel, whilst the finish is long and balanced, showing more fragrant and herbaceous notes, good acidity and minerality - this is a well-made, balanced and elegant little gem of a wine.

Poised, delicious and very more-ish, it will match well with mozzarella drizzled with pesto, or meaty white fish in a herby broth.

£8.50 from The Wine Society; provided for review.

Links

The Wine Society - http://www.thewinesociety.com/
Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

Monday, 9 January 2012

Dourthe La Grande Cuvee, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010, Bordeaux

The Sauvignon Blanc grape originated in Bordeaux where it is often blended with Sémillon to produce something fuller, heavier and waxier. This Dourthe Grande Cuvee is, however, 100% Savignon Blanc and in style is perhaps halfway between the steely smokiness of a Loire Savignon and a ripe, tropical Marlborough example.

On opening, the nose is typically aromatic, with lots of zingy gooseberries, cut grass, nettles and blackcurrant leaves.

The herbaceous aromas continue on the palate which also shows crisp, mouthfilling acidity whilst, underpinning it all, is a persistent minerality that increasingly develops on the mid-palate and stays around on the finish. It feels quite weighty, but balanced with a food-friendly crispness.

So full marks then for varietal expression, clean, up-front herbaceousness and minerality - this is a wine that wants to be noticed, but still goes about it with an old-world degree of restraint and balance.

I find, however, that the gain in expression is a loss for finesse - there's plenty of up-front appeal to like here, but it just doesn't feel particularly elegant or well-made. It apparently has an IWSC Bronze and a Decanter Bronze - which feels about right: OK, but not special.

It was chosen by the Association of Wine Educators, and is being promoted by the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign as an example of an easily-available, mid-range, typical Bordeaux wine.

Match with creamy cheeses (such as goat's), white fish with herbs or even herby chicken.

£7.99 from Waitrose, Ocado and Majestic; provided for review.

Links

Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Dourthe - http://www.dourthe.com/
Waitrose - http://www.waitrosewine.com/
Ocado - https://www.ocado.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bordeaux Rosé 2010, Marks & Spencer

Whilst at the upper end, Bordeaux's reputation rests on its First Growth red wines and a few sweet whites, at the more day-to-day level, the dry whites and, yes, even rosés are well-made and worthy of investigation.

This Marks & Spencer Bordeaux rosé, selected by the Association of Wine Educators, is being promoted by the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign as an example of an easily-available, mid-range, typical Bordeaux wine.

A blend of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 55% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, it is a pale salmon pink in the glass and shows strawberry and redcurrant fruit with a touch of minerally toastiness on the nose.

On the palate, there is more redcurrant fruit, a refreshing and food-friendly acidity that feels softly rounded, with a good savoury depth of flavour and more toasty minerality on the finish.

The wine is produced by Maison Sichel and being dry, with good acidity and medium-bodied, would be a perfect picnic wine or summer aperitif - as a food wine, it is quite versatile and will stand up to a range of foods such as salmon, quiche and white meats such as plain-roast chicken and ham.

£6.99 from Marks and Spencer; provided for review

Links

Marks & Spencer - http://www.marksandspencer.com/
Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Maison Sichel - http://www.sichel.fr/

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Chateau Negrit 2008, Montagne Saint-Emilion, Avery's

This Avery's Chateau Negrit 2008 Montagne Saint-Emilion is one of six Avery's Bordeaux wines chosen by the Association of Wine Educators for the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign, based on the following criteria:

- readily available
- priced between £5 - £20
- representative of Bordeaux

Montagne Saint-Emilion is a satellite of the right-bank Saint-Emilion appellation where the Merlot dominates, typically producing softer wines with more perfume and less-chewy tannins than those from Cabernet Sauvignon which is to be found mainly in left-bank blends.

The wine is actually produced by Ballande & Meneret and supplied to Avery's by Direct Wines, aka the online direct sales behemoth Laithwaites.

In the glass, it is dark purple with aromas of bramble fruit, dark spice and a touch of earthiness. The palate shows more dark berry fruit and plums with secondary aromas of coffee grounds and dark spice.

There is plenty of juicy acidity and the tannins are soft, becoming grippy and slightly drying on the finish.

Overall, not a bad quaffing wine, but not as impressive as I would hope given the price tag of well over a tenner, and I'd really like to see more complexity and structure here.

£12.99 from Avery's; provided for review.

Links

Ballande &Meneret - http://www.ballande-meneret.com/
Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Avery's - http://www.averys.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Le Grand Chai, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2009, Laithwaites


This Laithwaites Le Grand Chai 2009 is being promoted by the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign as one of their recommended Bordeaux wines to showcase the best and highlight how they go with food; the wines were selected by the Association of Wine Educators based on the following criteria:

- readily available
- priced between £5 - £20
- representative of Bordeaux

Now, the AWE features some fairly heavyweight wine professionals, its Chairman is an MW (Richard Bampfield) and it has a quote from Jancis Robinson on its website, so clearly the reviewers know their stuff.

And whilst First Growth Bordeaux sells for eye-watering amounts of money to Asian billionaires who then typically drink it several decades too young mixed with Coke, at around £10 you can start to get some of the texture and finesse of a great red Bordeaux - and decent whites cost even less.

Sadly, I was underwhelmed with this wine and I think the problem perhaps lies in the first requirement of being readily available - this seems to mean generally "stocked by a major national retailer", as all the usual suspects are there.

And whilst some supermarkets do a reasonable job of sourcing good wines at fair prices, the reality is that, at around a tenner, better wines are generally to be found at independents rather than supermarkets.

The major exception to this, perhaps, is the presence of The Wine Society about whom one hears only good things and which also manages to have a national presence (to be fair, Majestic, Waitrose and M&S also have above-average reputations as national wine retailers).

Now you can't build an effective national awareness campaign around Britain's highly-fragmented independent wine merchant network, so that really does leave only the nationwide players such as the big supermarkets and a couple of dominant online retailers.

But that also means, I firmly believe, that you will struggle to showcase the best of what Bordeaux has to offer if you limit yourself to businesses that only deal in tens of thousands of pallets as a minimum order - for a major retailer, volume and pricing have to come first before any considerations of quality can be entertained.

That's not a criticism, merely an observation of the world they operate in given their size.

Of course, some retailers are better at sourcing good wines than others but one that has historically disappointed me, albeit perhaps now taking steps to sort out its act, is Laithwaites - as this article by Jamie Goode from June 2010 suggests, http://www.wineanorak.com/laithwaites.htm.

As to the wine itself, it is rather pale in the glass and, in short, is a pleasant-enough quaffer with nothing to dislike but little of interest to any wine enthusiast.

There is red plum fruit on the nose, rounded acidity and slightly drying tannins on the finish - that's about it; no structure, no complexity, no development on the palate, no real length. Nothing to let you know what a good Bordeaux should be like or why it is worth getting to know and fall in love with this region.

Overall, then, there is nothing to offend the casual drinker here - most people I imagine would merely find it rather underwhelming, overpriced and not as enjoyable as, say, an equivalent-priced New World red, reinforcing the view that Bordeaux is overrated and overpriced which is precisely what the GFWCB campaign is trying to overcome.

This is sad, because good Bordeaux is a great food wine and does not need to cost a huge amount of money; £10 - £15 spent with a good local independent plus a bit of guidance thrown in for free should get you something quite interesting and impressive.

I just feel rather disappointed that, despite all the money spent on the GFWCB campaign, they were not able to come up with any better wines than this for the campaign. It feels a bit like watching one's child not really trying properly in the sports day egg-and-spoon race; you know they can do better and should be up there with the leaders, but languishes at the back in full view of other parents showing themself up in public.

Come on, Bordeaux, I know you can do much better than this ! Please try a bit harder.

£10.99 from Laithwaites; provided for review.

Links

Good Food Wood Choose Bordeaux - http://goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

Monday, 2 January 2012

Errazuriz Carménère Single Vineyard 2009, Chile

Long mistaken for Merlot, Carménère was only rediscovered in Chile in 1994. The vines for this Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carménère were planted in 1992, so the identity of the vines was not even correctly known when the vineyard was established.

I reviewed this wine back-to-back with two other reds from Errazuriz (see here for the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon reviews) with some help from family and it was immediately picked out as the best of the three.

It is, as it happens, the most expensive of the three wines, but I didn't make a point of telling people the prices and I think what appealed was the superior, slightly inky texture that the other two wines do not have.

With the rediscovery of Carménère still only a relatively recent phenomenon, Chile is still somewhat finding its way with the grape and trying to establish what it should be like, but in simple terms I rather like to think of it as Merlot's older, more artsy brother, for whilst it shares Merlot's soft, plummy fruit, it also has a darker, more elusive edge of coffee, soy, dark chocolate and dark spice.

Purple in the glass, the nose is complex yet elusive with dark berry fruits, vanilla spice a touch of earthiness and hints of sour cherry and coffee grounds.

On the palate, there is sour-cherries-and-cream, ripe red plums, dark chocolate, tobacco, peppery spice, pencil shavings and a vanilla sweetness. The acidity is bright, juicy and rounded, whilst the texture feels densely inky, mouthfilling and smooth.

It feels perfumed and warming, whilst the finish shows aromas of plum fruit and more of the dark, spicy elements.

My only slight reservation is that, as with the two other wines, the tannins on the finish are slightly drying rather than grippy and there is a residual hint of hot alcohol - with the emphasis on ripe, cooked fruit and the high level of alcohol (14.5%), it feels more designed for the up-front American market than classical European palates.

With good tannins and acidity, it will match well with red meat dishes, such as roast beef or with spicy, well-flavoured sausages.

£15.25 from Stone, Vine & Sun, Harrods, Hicks & Don, Bacchus et Al, Matthew Clark; provided for review.

Links

Errazuriz- http://www.errazuriz.com/errazuriz/
Stone, Vine & Sun - http://www.stonevine.co.uk/
Harrods - www.harrods.com
Hicks & Don - http://www.hicksanddon.co.uk/
Bacchus et Al - http://www.bacchusetal.co.uk/
Matthew Clark - www.matthewclark.co.uk

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

When I reviewed this Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 back-to-back with two other Errazuriz reds with the help of some family, it was generally deemed the least impressive of the three - and at the time I was inclined to agree.

It seemed to show lots of ripe primary blackcurranty fruit and prominent tannins - but not much else - and felt simplistic yet uncohesive.

Of course, Cab is something of a tough old beast and at two years can still be very youthful, so perhaps it's no surprise that it did not show so well straight out of the bottle as the inherently much softer Merlot and Carménère.

And with a couple of days' airing in the bottle, it started to turn into something more rounded and balanced, hitting a peak around a week later.

The nose is complex, the initial blackcurrant having died down to leave red plum fruit, dark berries, dark pepper and sweet spice aromas of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

On the palate there is ripe cassis and elderberry fruit, sweet dark spices, sweet vanilla, fine tannins and bright, juicy acidity; it feels slightly cooked and warming.

As with the Merlot previously, there is plenty of fruit perfume on the finish and the tannins feel more drying than grippy, a sign that this wine - with its emphasis on ripeness rather than texture - is aimed more at a US market than a European one.

Match with typical Cab food such as plain roast beef or steak to enhance the peppery spiciness of this wine and give it at least a good couple of hours' airing in the decanter to show its best.

Trainspotters may be interested to learn that the wine is actually a blend with 15% Cab Franc.

£11.50 from Waitrose, slurp.co.uk, Wine Rack, Hailsham Cellars, Matthew Clarke, wine-studio.co.uk; provided for review.

Links

Errazuriz - http://www.errazuriz.com/errazuriz/
Waitrose - http://www.waitrosewine.com/
slurp.co.uk - http://www.slurp.co.uk/
Wine Rack - http://www.winerack.co.uk/
Hailsham Cellars - http://www.hailshamcellars.com/
Matthew Clark - http://www.matthewclark.co.uk/
http://www.wine-studio.co.uk/