Popular Posts

Friday, 15 October 2021

Copper Crew Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2020

A limited-edition Saffer Sauvignon Blanc from Copper Crew

Copper Crew are three guys - all somewhat ginger, hence the name - who have decided to make canned wine A Thing over here.

Two of them are based in the UK with Sam, the winemaker, in South Africa.



I was impressed with their first offerings, a red, white and rosé, not just as canned wine but as wine generally; the red, I thought, noticeably improved when re-sampled it a few months after the initial tasting.

Now they have made a limited edition Sauvignon Blanc on a WIGIG basis, and I think it may just be their best wine yet.

Recognisably a Sauvignon, it is sophisticated and complex in a way that you don't associate with many Sauvignons, let alone canned wines.

It might even be a bit too good for a canned wine, but don't let that put you off.

Wine traditionalists may look down on canned wine, but in the real world, there are many reasons why you might want wine in a can:

- portion size: at 25cl it is suitable for when you don't want to open a full bottle

- environmental impact: cans are much lighter than bottles, so use less energy for transportation

- convenience: you can pop a can in your pocket in a way that you can't do with a bottle

Personally, I like the packaging and the innovation a lot; the wine's not bad either.

Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (£24.99 for 6 cans)

aromatic with exotic fruits; citrussy and fresh and tropical; lemongrass, lime zest and passionfruit. Substantial with leesy complexity and good underpinnings. Very well-made and harmonious.

Good.

Fresh enough to drink as an aperitif, this has the complexity to match with picnic foods such as cold cuts, quiche or dips.

***

Winemaker Sam notes: 

Why is this wine special?

Planted in 2002 on a cool South-Southeast slope, the vines sit at around 300m above sea level. The sandstone soils are farmed with a respect for nature and focus on soil health without using herbicides or inorganic fertilisers. Sunlight exposure in the bunch zone is critical for Sauvignon.

To avoid excessively green-notes and reduce disease pressure in Elgin’s cool, wet growing season, leaves are broken to increase sunlight penetration into the canopy and improve airflow. Sam notes A vibrant cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc.

The palate is fresh and racy, with extended lees contact lending depth and texture. Cape Gooseberry, tropical kiwi and Passionfruit are followed by zesty Lime and a touch of Nettle and there’s a definite minerality here that leads into a chalky finish.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

The CWB Beer vs Wine Curry Off

Does beer or wine go better with curry?

I recently reviewed two Tesco wines with a curry for National Curry Week and was pleasantly surprised at how well they went together.

Gewurz with curry is a go-to much-cited match that I have never been really convinced about, but it worked rather well here.

Red wine and curry is a much tougher ask, in my opinion, but a chilled Carménère was a surprisingly successful match with rogan josh.

A bit of discussion on Twitter about the food and wine combinations led me to the following conclusions:

- curry works best with high acidity, relatively neutral wines with a good mid-palate;

- traditional method fizzes meet all these criteria, so don't be afraid to try Cava and curry; it's generally quite inexpensive, so a more affordable starting point for experimentation than vintage Grand Marque Champagne

- crisp, citrussy and bubbly, Cava is also not dissimilar to a good lager; the traditional match for a curry

- if you want other inexpensive refreshing bubbles with curry, I would advise that you avoid Prosecco; with its shorter fermentation and more floral profile, it does not really stand up to the spicy bitter-umami of Indian foods

- chilling reds enhances the freshness and suppresses the flavours; this works with curry and is most suitable for simply, juicy wines rather than anything too high-end, tannic or complex

- bear in mind that chilled reds become a different wine, albeit chilling does not quite turn them into white wines; they retain a texture that is still red, even if they lose their "red wine" flavours

- you can chill expensive Cali Zinfandel if you want and it will then match with a curry; but why? It is something akin to a Monster Truck - Big, Expensive, Pointless, Blue-Collar Dumb Fun.

Beer and Curry - the curry

For this experiment, we started with poppadoms and sauces; mango and lime chutneys are a complete palate-killer so, unsurprisingly, the beers won out here.

For mains, I made a (version of) coconut and tamarind chicken curry from a Meera Sodha recipe: Coconut and tamarind chicken curry | Meera Sodha

It's similar to a European stew, slightly sweet from the coconut and not too spicy with exotic flavours of ginger and cinnamon.


Beer and Curry - the beers

I tried two traditional "curry beers" from Tesco; unsurprisingly, they both worked well.

Kingfisher Lager - £2.00/650ml bottle, Tesco

Kingfisher is an Indian lager brewed in the UK, but crucially to the same recipe as the original. It is India's best-selling lager and dates back to 1978.

hoppy and aromatic; crisp, citrussy and expressively hoppy with zippy grapefruit zest and a food-friendly bitter-sweetness.

Matches well with the curry and stands up to the strong flavours - unanimously agreed as the popular favourite.

Good.

Cobra Indian Premium Lager - £2.00/620ml bottle, Tesco

Cobra is brewed in the UK from barley, rice, maize wheat and four varieties of hops; the company was founded in 1989 by Karan Bilimoria who wanted to create a beer with the refreshment of a lager, but with the smoothness of an ale.

malty and savoury with subtle aromatics; rich, smooth and refreshing with an easy-drinking sweetness; very well-made, well-balanced and harmonious if a little neutral and unassuming.

Works well with the curry, but very much in a supporting role; lacks the immediate appeal of the Kingfisher.

Good.

Alternatives and rejects

I tried a couple of other wines I had on the go to see how they went with curry - in general they did not work, so the advice here is: approach with caution.


A lovely wine, but the "red wine" fruit flavours clash with the curry; interestingly, the acidity and tannins work well with the food, so chilled down, it might be a much better match.

Copper Crew Discovers Sauvignon Blanc (around £4 per can)

A WIGIG limited-edition from Copper Crew that I had on the go, this works well with the curry on most, but not quite all fronts. With plenty of acidity and a bit of lees aging, it has the freshness and the savouriness not to be overpowered by the food.

The acidity works well on the front palate and the leesy savouriness carries it through to the back palate; but the mid-palate sweetness and spices of the curry are just too much.

Surprisingly successful with the curry, it also just-about stands up to poppadums and onion salsa. If you drink mainly Sauvignon and must have wine with your curry, this is about as close as it gets.


This had worked well with a savoury rogan josh when chilled, but like the Negly, failed completely with a sweeter, coconut-based curry when at room temperature.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

A Miraculous Wine - Made by Jesus. Bodegas Pirineos Moristel Principio

A rare wine made by Jesus - Bodegas Pirineos Moristel Principio

Have you ever had a wine made by Jesus?

Chances are you may well have done as it's actually not an common name in Spain; many years ago a friend used to pick up the phone and ask for Jesus, then chat to his Spanish colleague whom he then correctly addressed as "hay-SOOS".

This wine has an even more extraordinary story to tell; the grape variety, Moristel, is grown only in Spain's Somontano region in Aragon at the foot of the Pyrenees and is rarely bottled as a varietal wine, making this is one of very few bottlings of 100% Moristel to be found anywhere in the world - just 5,000 bottles produced, from vines averaging 20 years of age.

The Moristel grape was on the brink of extinction before Somontano was granted DO status in 1984. Bodegas Pirineos is responsible for 700 hectares, nearly a quarter of the Somontano DO, of which just 40 hectares is planted to Moristel.

Grape characteristics are red fruits, strawberries and raspberries, to tea, honeysuckle, and aromatic hops. Moristel offers good acidity and relatively high alcohol. It’s a little wild and rustic at first, so give it half an hour to breath for the fruit to really shine through.

The wine is named ‘Principio’ meaning ‘origin’ or ‘source’ denoting a return to one’s roots by working with the local cultivar. Moristel Principio is the very essence of its environment. The grapes ripen in the blazing Spanish sunshine, cooled by the mountain winds, and nourished by the mineral rich sandy loam soils.

Despite these conditions, Moristel can be difficult to grow successfully. It requires a committed, but low-intervention approach, both in the vineyard and the winery.

The wine is fermented with natural yeast and left unwooded, unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur.

Jesus Astrain, the winemaker at Bodega Pirineos, puts the success of this wine down to working the vineyards according to their potential and selecting the ideal grapes, citing the potency of the fruit and its acidity, with carefully selected natural yeasts reinforcing the concept of terroir and the typicity of the area on this unique variety. 

Bodegas Pirineos Moristel Principio, 2019 (£11 - £12, Les Caves de Pyrene)

funky-pungent  aromas; refreshing and vibrant with cranberry, sour cherry and soft red-berry fruits, red plum, pomegranate with ginger and rhubarb; black pepper, ginger and liquorice, vanilla, soft tannins / nutmeg clove and cedar; sappy, minty & herbal. Vibrant, expressive and distinctive.

Good.

Improves with some air; drink young and slightly chilled.

Match its refreshing vibrancy to meaty dishes, especially slow cooked lamb stews, Moroccan tagines or meaty fish, including salmon, tuna, or swordfish.

Also available at:

- Eden Fine Wines (W, Yorkshire)
- Legs Wine (E9)
- The Good Wine Shop (TW11)
- The Good Wine Shop (W4)
- Gnarly Vines (E17)
- Clapton Craft (SE23)
- Clapton Craft (E17)
- Clapton Craft Online Forest Wines (E17)
- R S Wines (Bristol)
- Wolf Wine (Bath)
- Fourteen Drops Online
-  Burgess and Hall (E11)
- Yardarm (E10)

Monday, 11 October 2021

Four Christmas Wines from Tesco

Four wines for Christmas Day from Tesco

I've long believed that Christmas Day is not a time to be experimenting with new or off-beat wines; you want something reliable and familiar and, if budgets allow, a little superior to what you might normally drink.

Moving up too many price brackets can actually be counter-productive; for where you can simply crack open and enjoy younger, fruiter wines as soon as they are poured, more ambitious bottles may need a little longer in bottle or more aeration to show their best.

Get it even slightly wrong and your showpiece wine can seem underwhelming, your guests less-than-wowed; under-aged reds reds can seem lacking in fruit and a little chewy until they have opened up; whites that need a bit of aeration can seem basic and underwhelming.

These four Tesco wines are all a step up from everyday drinking but, importantly, also show very well on first pouring. They continue to improve with some aeration but certainly don't require an extensive aging and decanting regime to become approachable.

So that's one less thing to worry about this year, then.

There's a lot to like with these four bottles - big-name wines that don't cost silly money and are easy to enjoy.

The extra-nice surprises are how inexpensive the Champagne is, the superb wine-making of the Bordeaux and the amazing value of the dessert wine.

On arrival

Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne Brut NV, (£21.00, vegan) 


IWSC 2021 Gold medal winner and IWC Great Value Champion Sparkling.

This multi award-winning Premier Cru Champagne is produced for Tesco by Union Champagne in Avize, from hand-harvested grapes grown in Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte des Blancs, south of Epernay. Aged for 36 months, this extra maturation results in elegant flavours of citrus, green fruits and brioche with a fine mousse.

Perfect as an aperitif or with smoked salmon crostini.

yeasty almondy brioche and bruised apple with delicate florality; citrussy, linear and and mineral with cidery, bruised orchard fruits and a complex, creamy brazil-nut savouriness; fine mousse. Poised, structured and textured.

Very Good and Good Value.


With starters

Tesco Finest Gavi (£8.50, vegetarian) 


IWC 2021 Silver medal winner This dry, elegant wine is made from premium Cortese grapes from the Gavi region in north west Italy. Part of the crop is harvested later, when grapes are riper, lending extra richness and depth to the wine. 

Its juicy white peach and citrus flavours and long smooth finish make it wonderful with food. Serve chilled with oven-baked fish or pasta dishes.

orchard fruits and white peach with delicate florality and a whiff of white pepper; citrussy, sappy and rich with stone fruits, melon some sweet spice and minerality; good underpinnings.

Good.

The Main Event

Tesco Finest Margaux (£22.00)


IWC 2021 Gold medal winner Made for Tesco by the prestigious Château Boyd Cantenac in Bordeaux's iconic Margaux region, using exceptional quality grapes from vines that are an average of 30 years old. It is a bold but well-balanced red that is rich, ripe and vibrant with complex flavours of dark fruits, cherries, spices and oak.

Serve alongside beef or vegetarian wellington.

dark cherries, bramble fruit, morello cherries, plums, spice and some dried green herbs; full, supple and fresh, with plush ripe dark fruits - cherries, plums, cassis, cool mint and a touch of oaky astringency; complex and very long with very fine, perfectly rounded tannins and a savoury, spicy graphite finish.

Very Good.

With Dessert

Tesco Finest Dessert Semillon 11.5% abv, £6.00 (vegetarian) 


IWC 2021 Silver medal winner and IWC 2021 Great Value Sweet Under £12 

This is an award-winning dessert wine from Australia’s De Bortoli family winery.

Made from late-harvested grapes which are left to ripen on the vine until their natural sugars and flavours have grown incredibly rich and intense. The result is a golden hued wine boasting a delicate concentration of citrus, peach and apricot flavours that are simultaneously sumptuous and fresh.

The perfect dessert wine to pair with Christmas pudding or blue cheese.

floral with overripe stone fruits, sweet spice and musky beeswax; sweet and rich with complex buttery roasted peaches and vanilla sugar; fresh, savoury and long.

Good and Good Value.
***

As an alternative to the Semillon, Tesco's Finest Speyside Single Malt Whisky would also be an excellent match with Christmas pudding - or just sip in your favourite armchair with the Bond film or the Queen's Speech.



Saturday, 9 October 2021

How Do You Feel About This Picture?


A picture I got tagged in on Twitter

How do you feel about a picture of a scantily-clad young woman reaching for a bottle of wine, being shared on Twitter?

I won't reproduce it here for reasons that I hope will become obvious, but she is wearing a revealing backless, sleeveless strappy dress with a very short skirt and is shot from a rear 3/4 angle, reaching for a high shelf.

There is a lot we don't know about the picture and so much is context dependent.

The main question is who took the picture and for what purpose?

It certainly looks posed, rather than spontaneous, suggesting that both the photographer and the subject knew what they were doing.

We do not know who initiated it - whether the young woman wanted a photo of herself in a new outfit she'd just bought, the photographer asked a friend who willingly helped out or if it was a commissioned shot.

Context is important because it tells us who is in control and who is being exploited.

What is not in doubt in this picture is that the young woman is being objectified; she is shot from behind, a Peeping-Tom angle, so we cannot see her face.

Is she grinning to herself, in on the joke? Or grimacing, as the camera metaphorically prods and pokes at her like a piece of meat?

One potential set of circumstances is perfectly fine: the young woman knew what she was doing, initiated it and was content to pose for an objectified picture of herself.

Another potential set is more troubling: a commissioned shot, demanding a male-gaze view, a naïve young woman uncomfortable but pressured to go along with it, regretting it afterwards.

Staged or spontaneous, the angle of the picture implies that the young woman does not know she is being observed and this, I think, is the most troubling aspect of the image; we are being invited to leer furtively at bare, young flesh. 

It was shared on twitter between a bunch of guys in the same way that a group of teenage schoolboys might pass around a raunchy picture in class when sir is not looking.

The difference with twitter is that it is a public forum; it's the equivalent of standing up in front of the class and saying "Hey, whadda you all thing of this hottie?"

Reactions were, predictably, divided - initial whooping and hollering, one or two calling it out, the trolls wading in, the post going viral and opinions becoming more polarised and more forcefully expressed as the whirlwind gathers momentum.

It's a pattern we see too often on social media; it's what underpins and drives the whole ecosystem. Something attention-grabbing and divisive, followed by reactions on both sides and then the inevitable in-fighting before everyone, exhausted from the scrap, moves on to the next outrage.

It's tiring just to be a bystander, let alone in the middle of it.

I won't be muting anyone in the thread just yet; I allow most people to be rude to me a couple of times before I mute them and everyone needs to be allowed to make a couple of mistakes in the heat of the moment without serious repercussions.

I'll happily discuss controversial or taboo topics like business, growth and profits with anyone on wine twitter as long as we are debating the issue and not making ad hominem attacks.

But, guys - and I do mean guys - for the sake everyone on the platform, please think before you post this kind of stuff and before you wade in with outrage.

It's what the algorithm wants you to do, so don't get sucked into feeding the machine.

And, please, let's make sure everyone feels respected.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Chateau La Negly, La Clape, Languedoc - The Co-op

A red blend from Languedoc's La Negly based in La Clape - at The Co-op

Stop sniggering at the back.

La Clape is a nature park just outside Narbonne overlooking the Mediterranean; a harsh, dry, rocky hillside covered in garrigue scrub, it covers the 10 miles from Narbonne to the Mediterranean and rises to over 200m.

An AOC since 2015, La Clape is one of the sunniest places in France but is cooled by sea breezes; this gives the wines a ripeness and a freshness. 

Unsurprisingly given the conditions, the vast majority of the wine produced here is red; the area traces a history back to Roman times and is now home to 25 estates and three co-operatives.

Chateau La Negly La Clape, Languedoc, 2019 (£12, The Co-op)

A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Syrah, it comes in a handsome, heavy bottle.

While Languedoc wines are fairly common in the UK, wines from the sub-region of La Clape are little seen, so this is a somewhat unusual find.

lifted floral nose of lavender, violets and aromatic dried herbs with plum and cherry fruit; juicy black and red fruits, wild strawberries and a hint of gaminess, some spice and gentle, very fine tannins; very well-made and harmonious with good length.

A little closed up at first, improves with extensive aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Good.

A fresh and versatile wine; match with bread-meat-cheese starters, any roast fowl or red meat such as peppered roast beef.

*****

Further details from La Clape's website:


 A CLASSIFIED ENVIRONMENT

Characterized by small, winding, steep-sided, marly valleys ending abruptly in cliffs on the Mediterranean side, the landscape of La Clape is in stark contrast to the surrounding plains. It has been a state-classified site since 1973, for its outstanding natural beauty and its exceptional fauna and flora. 

Situated in the Narbonne regional natural park, it has also been recognized as a Natura 2000 site by the European Union for its natural habitats and remarkable species, a Sensitive Natural Space by the Aude department and is partly owned by the Coastal Conservatory.

In addition to exceptional environmental challenges, here vines act as natural firebreaks and certain parts of the vineyard have been especially planted with this in mind, as part of a concerted effort. A 

CONDUCIVE CLIMATE

The La Clape massif benefits from a harsh, dry climate. The sun and wind together beat down and sweep across the bare rocks. If it is one of the sunniest places in France (up to 3000 hours of sunshine a year) it is due to the thirteen different winds that sweep across it and chase the clouds away. 

Occasionally Mediterranean storms hit, as violent as they are rare and La Clape becomes a tropical isle. A network of ravines forms and the pines and reeds are bent over by the force of the elements. The vines are strengthened by this triple effect: the rain waters and cleans them, the wind dries and airs them and the sun nourishes them and swells the grapes with sugar. The harshness of the climate ensures a high-quality wine-producing area.

AGRO-ECOLOGICAL INITIATIVES

With the support of the Narbonne Regional Natural Park, several agro-environmental initiatives have been taken in the AOC La Clape vineyard. The wine-makers signed the Natura 2000 charter, thus undertaking to sustain the environment and maintain the wealth of natural habitats that characterize the massif.

The program imposes such measures as reducing the use of phytosanitary products. Some estates even practice agro-pastoralism, which is set to develop more widely in the coming years. Since 2015, a herd of 400 sheep nibble the grass between the vines during the 4 months of winter, thus naturally enriching the soil.

Furthermore, research and training programs will be increased in order to encourage responsible agriculture. More than a quarter of the estates are practicing organic agriculture or are in the process of converting.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Tesco Wines For National Curry Week

Two Tesco wines for National Curry Week

I've never quite subscribed to the idea that wine works with curry; at least in the sense of the fiery, heavy, oily dishes you typically find in any local curry house.

For this, you need beer - or even a versatile whisky.

But not all curries are inimical to wine and, in my somewhat limited curry repertoire, rogan josh comes closest to being a European-type dish - albeit with some distinctly Asian flavours in the mix.

With paprika and sour cream, rogan josh somewhat resembles a style of Hungarian stew. But on top of this, there is ginger, cumin and cinnamon to gently remind you that not in Europe anymore.

With National Curry Week approaching, (from 4th – 10th October 2021), I matched two Tesco wines to my signature "wine-friendly" curry.

And, in another departure from the norm, I chilled the red as well as the white.

The rogan josh recipe is here: How to make Rogan Josh, recipe by MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

De Colmar Gewurztraminer (£9)

Hillsides facing South / South East, on a steep slope with an altitude of 270m to 360m; temperature-controlled fermentation for aromatics, aged on fine lees for weight.

Arthur Metz is the leading player in the vineyards of Alsace and the main producer of the sparkling wine Crémant d'Alsace. 

floral, musky-perfumed and exotic with honeysuckle, sweet spices and lychees; rich and waxy with ripe pineapple and mango, ripe yellow stone fruits, beeswax and spices; good savoury underpinnings.

Thoroughly pleasant and works well with the curry.

Match with spicy exotic dishes, prawns, chicken curry or strong cheeses.

Tesco Finest Puemo Carménère, Valle de Cachapoal, Wine of Chile, 2019 (£8)

Producer by ever-reliable Concha y Toro and sealed under screwcap, the grapes are from the Peumo vineyards in the Cachapoal Valley, 130km south of Santiago and 170m above sea level.

The valley stretches along the Cachapoal River, in terraced hills of the Cordillera de la Costa. Temperate microclimate, it has very warm autumns and springs, giving a good fruit set early on and allowing for a late harvest with long hang time. 

Hand and machine harvesting, gently de-stemmed, crushed and fermented for 8 days followed by aging  in oak for 10 months. 

Concha y Toro was founded in 1883 and produces premium, expressive and innovative wines that convey the spirit of the new world.

chilled and served with the curry, it is darkly-fruited, focused and refreshing; it stands up to and cuts through the richness.

at standard serving temperature, the details become more apparent: dark-fruited and floral with baked dark-berries; full and supple with moderate extraction; dark plum, cocoa and wild herbs with rounded, gentle tannins.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Match with grilled meats and strong hard cheeses at room temperature, spicy dishes when chilled.