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Friday, 14 May 2021

Two Riojas From Baron de Ley

Two Riojas from Spain's Baron de Ley

Rioja comes in both traditional and modern styles; traditional Rioja is aged extensively in oak for complexity and mellowness while the modern approach emphasises aromatics and freshness.

As ever in life, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, plenty of fruit without losing complexity or food-friendliness.

These two wines from Baron de Ley are both very much in the modern style; pure, fresh and clean with generous fruit.

They are well-made and easy-drinking but also complex, sophisticated and adept.

Spain's Barón de Ley is based in Rioja; housed in a centuries-old monastery, where the monks made wine more than 500 years ago, Barón de Ley was founded in 1985 as a ground-breaking project in DOCa Rioja: a vineyard-focused winery inspired by the Médoc châteaux.

The winery owns more than 600 hectares of vineyard in different sub-regions guaranteeing top-quality wines with personality.


Rioja Blanco 2019 

A blend of Viura, Garnacha blanca and the somewhat rare Tempranillo blanco, grown at altitude for freshness.

Modern, fresh crisp and aromatic; white peach, white flowers, lemongrass, citrus and fresh green peppery herbs, white pepper, saline minerality and zesty lime and grapefruit zippiness; creamy brazil nut underpinnings; taut, precise and linear.

Good.

Match with herby chicken, saltimbocca, or cod in a parsley broth.


Rioja Reserva 2016

Varietal Tempranillo fermented in stainless steel for freshness, then aged in oak for complexity and bottle aged for mellowness.

Red fruits, spice and leathery balsamic; ripe yet fresh berry fruits, pepperiness and sweet spices, wild herbs; full and supple, harmonious with rounded, well-integrated tannins, concentrated and long.

Improves with aeration and will age further.

Good.

Match with roast red meat, darker game or roast chicken.

Baron de Ley recommend matching with Riojan potatoes, a pottage of potatoes and chorizo ​​with nuances of bay leaf and chorizo ​​pepper. It also pairs with white meat, mushrooms and mushrooms and vegetable stews.



Fuller details from Baron de Ley's website

Rioja Blanco 2019 

VARIETIES

Viura, Garnacha blanca, Tempranillo blanco

VINEYARD

The vineyards characterise the quality of the grapes for this vintage. Tempranillo Blanco grapes come from our vineyard Finca Carbonera, the highest growing point in the DOCa Rioja, with vineyards ranging from 700-950m (2300- 3100ft.) in elevation.

The natural farming characteristics of high altitude vineyards, including sandy permeable soil together with the Atlantic climatic influence, provide ideal conditions for making fresh white wines with elegant, crisp acidity.

Garnacha Blanca is grown in our estate in Rioja Oriental, Los Almendros, with Mediterranean climate and shallow sandy-limestone soils with calcareous gravel, this variety retains its fresh and fruity character.

Viura is from our Arenzana estate in Rioja Alta, which location provides the perfect conditions to farm Rioja’s most characteristic white variety.

The result is an utterly fresh and balanced wine perfectly rounded thanks to Garnacha’s fruity character.

VINIFICATION

Low temperature maceration and fermentation in temperature-controlled concrete vats preserve the aromatic expression and provide the tension, or long finish, which characterise the white wines of our Technical Director, Pablo Tascón.

ALCOHOL 12,5% vol 

Rioja Reserva 2016

VARIETIES

Tempranillo

VINEYARD

Barón de Ley Reserva is made using Tempranillo grapes from our vineyards in the Rioja Oritental subregion, mainly the estates in Mendavia and Los Almendros in Ausejo. The grapes from this area provide a concentrated, balanced and drinkable character to this wine.

VINIFICATION AND AGEING

Following manual harvest and manual selection, the grapes ferment in our temperature-controlled state-of-the-art stainless steal vats where we search for the ideal balance between extraction and aromatic preservation. After a minimum of 20 months ageing in American-oak casks, this wine finds its plenitude rounding off in the bottle.

ALCOHOL

14.5% vol

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Two Warm-Climate Chardonnays


Two warm-climate Chardonnays at different price points

Easy to grow and make into wine, easy to pronounce and easy to drink in a food-friendly sort of way, Chardonnay has a justifiable claim to being the world's most versatile grape, growing everywhere from chilly English chalk hills to sweltering Australian outback via Chablis, Burgundy and all points in between.

Chardonnay's strength is its relative neutrality which makes it highly versatile; it's the wine world's equivalent of chicken.

It also tolerates and responds to a wide range of growing conditions; in a cool climate, it is lean, citrussy and crisp with high acidity. In warmer climates, it has flavours of honey and tropical fruits.

Here are two distinctly warm-climate Chardonnays that show off the variety's tropical flavour profile.

If you find yourself liking the entry-level South African wine, the Spanish chardie is a good trade-up for more special occasions.

Eagle's Pass Chardonnay, South Africa (£7, Co-op - reduced to £5 until 18/05/21) 

South Africa has the planet's oldest soils and has no problem with ripeness; the challenge is more about maintaining acidity.

This wine comes from the Western Cape area which covers most of the wine-growing area and has the benefit of cooling sea breezes to help maintain freshness.

Honeysuckle, yellow stone fruit and toasty melonskin; rich, full and warming with sweet spices and ripe tropical fruits with some supporting oak.

Easy-drinking and thoroughly pleasant - serve well-chilled to enhance freshness.

An easy bbq / picnic quaffer, the ripeness will stand up to richer dishes, such as creamy curries or popcorn chicken.


Enate Chardonnay 234, Somontano, Spain (£12 - £14, Daniel Lambert, indies)

An area in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Jancis Robinson describes Somontano as "another Spanish wine region worthy of international attention". More specifically, she characterises it as a small and growing region, potentially one of Spain's most exciting, even if much of its produce tends to be fashioned in the image of international classics.

She singles out producer Enate, saying that they make some fine reds and whites from imported grape varieties.

Tasted blind, you'd be forgiven for having no idea where this wine comes from; it has a warm-climate topicality and breadth with a European complexity and elegance. It hints at the perfumed richness of Alsace with the waxiness of the Rhône.

Floral and aromatic with tropical citrus fruits and toasty leesiness; pineapple, melon and passionfruit with fennel, ginger and warming sweet spices; savoury, leesy and waxy with just enough freshness to hold everything together.

Very clean, pure and long.

Good.

Match with rich, Alsace-style dishes such as pork with creamy sauce or mature hard cheeses.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Calmel & Joseph Languedoc Reds from Daniel Lambert


Two Calmel & Joseph reds from Daniel Lambert

I've long been a fan of Languedoc in general and Calmel & Joseph in particular; I've also been impressed with pretty much everything I have tried from Daniel Lambert's range of well-made, technically adept wines that are complex enough to to be serious yet also easy to enjoy.

For years Europe's "wine lake", Languedoc has successfully reinvented itself as a go-ahead region of innovation and quality.

Much like indie or punk rock (in the very broadest sense), Languedoc wines combine stylish innovation with an edgy urgency over something very pleasing indeed.


Languedoc is, then, in the process of becoming a modern classic wine region.

This focus on quality and innovation but without the long-standing heritage is something of an advantage for the buyer; at its simplest, it means lower prices for the same if not better quality when compared to more established regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhône which can charge more of a premium for the name on the label regardless of what is in the bottle.

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019, Pays d’Oc, France (£14, independents) ripe black cherry fruit with raspberry, spice and something slightly herbaceous; fresh and savoury with very fine but persistent tannins. Well-made, precise and elegant.

Improves with some aeration.

Good. Match with tuna tartare or roast duck.

Calmel & Joseph say of their wine: An appealingly cherry red. Aromas of red and black fruit and pomegranate seeds announce a wine of great freshness and superb tension. An impression confirmed in the mouth that opens with fresh summer fruits such as wild cherry and finishes on more spicy, peppery and floral notes. A poised and magnificently balanced wine.


Calmel & Joseph Les Terroirs Vieux Carignan, IGP Côtes du Brian 2019 (£14, independents)

100% Carignan from vines planted in 1890 with a long growing season in 2019.

Ripe red and black cherries, dried blueberries and cinnamon spice with dried green herbs; rich, full and supple with very ripe tannins.

Good.

Match with robust dishes such as wild boar sausages.

Other reviews:

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019

Jancis Robinson.com (18/03/2020) Certified organic. Single vineyard. From their own property. Smells like cherry pie and stick cinnamon. Dry but ripe. Tannins like a comfortable cup of proper builder’s tea. Neither too much nor too little. Touch of green in the flavour (not the texture). Light-bodied, neat, pointed on the finish. Exceptionally good for a Pays d'Oc Pinot. Tamlyn Currin 16.0 / 20

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Two Wines from the Rhône's Vidal-Fleury

 

Two wines from the Rhône's Vidal-Fleury

The region - Rhône

The Rhône is one of France's great rivers. rising in Switzerland and draining into the Mediterranean in the Camargue delta; if its wine have a defining feature, it is that of being substantial.

As a vineyard, the Rhône divides neatly in to the North (cooler, smaller, more prestigious, more expensive) and the more diverse South.

The North makes red wines from Syrah and whites from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. By contrast, the South produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends.

The Côtes du Rhône appellation covers all of the southern Rhône; the reds are usually dominated by Grenache, whites are more varied.


The history - Vidal-Fleury

Located in the Northern Rhône's Côte-Rôtie, Vidal-Fleury is the oldest continuously operating wine producer in the region.

It was founded by Joseph Vidal in 1781 and visited by Thomas Jefferson, then United States Ambassador to France, in 1787.

In the 1890s, Gustave Vidal married a young lady named Fleury and the estate became Vidal-Fleury. the bride's dowry was invested in replanting the vineyard after the devastating attacks of phylloxera.

In in 1984, with no heir to take on the estate, it was sold to the Guigal family who had a long and close history with Vidal-Fleury, allowing the the business to flourish whilst still operating independently.

The most substantial changes have taken place more recently; anew winery was opened in 2008 and a new winemaker Guy Sarton du Jonchay joined the company to set about reviewing and improving the Vidal-Fleury range.


The grapes - Viognier (white)

Viognier is something of a sun-worshipping hedonist; high in alcohol and low in acidity, it is full-bodied, perfumed and rich. Until relatively recently, Viognier was something of a niche grape - hard to find and expensive to buy - but it is starting to make a home for itself around the world

The Grapes - Grenache (red)

Grenache is a thin-skinned, low acidity / low-tannin red grape that needs warm temperatures to ripen and is most commonly blended with Syrah and Syrah and Mourvèdre - the classic "GSM blend".


Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2019 Vidal Fleury (£12 Majestic) 

A Viognier-dominated blend with some Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc; gown on clay, granitic and sand soil at 150m to 250m.

Rich and peachy-apricotty with acacia, honeysuckle, ginger and tropical citrus fruits; richly almondy and waxy with sweet spices and a herbal-minty edge.

Good.

Drinks nicely on first opening and continues to improve with aeration; serve well-chilled to enhance the freshness.

Match with richer dishes, such as chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, risotto with cream cheese or roast pork.

Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2017 Vidal Fleury (£12 Majestic) 

65% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and some Carignan; grown on a mix of soils including pebbly soils over clay, mostly from the southern Rhône Valley at an altitude of 150m to 250m.

Red and black cherries, bramble fruits and dark berries (elderberries and blueberries) with garrgiugue herbs, spice, mintiness and graphite; some gaminess and aged leather; warming yet fresh, full and supple with very fine tannins

Good.

Drinks nicely on first opening and continues to improve with aeration. Now four years old and will age further.

Match with Lyonnaise sausage or a herby cassoulet with duck confit.


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Two Rathfinny Wines

A brace of English fizzes from Sussex-based Rathfinny

Mark and Sarah Driver, owners of Sussex winery Rathfinney, are not short on vision - as they explain on their website:

Our ambition is that in twenty years’ time you will walk into a bar or restaurant in New York or Beijing and you’ll be asked, “Would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex? I can recommend Rathfinny.”

Based on these two wines, that is not an unreasonable expectation; the quality is in no doubt, so the only challenge that remains is raising awareness.


How it all began - The Rathfinny vision

Mark and Sarah Driver established the Rathfinny wine estate in 2010 on a working arable farm with the express intention of producing some of the world’s finest quality sparkling wines. 

Their vision is about a great deal more than the production of outstanding Sussex sparkling wine. Rathfinny aims to contribute something special to the unique spirit of place in this beautiful part of the South Downs, which has been farmed since medieval times.


Where it all began - The perfect location

The estate is located on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris basin, running from northern France into southern England. This breath-taking south-facing slope in the south downs of Sussex is one of England’s exceptional natural landscapes. The climate, chalk, soil and aspect make it the perfect site for producing world-class sparkling wine.


Once a working arable farm in the South Downs of Sussex, Rathfinny’s first 50 acres of vines were planted in April 2012. All the grapes come from their single-site vineyard of 385,000 vines across 230 acres with plans to increase this to 350 acres eventually.

There are three principal grape varieties; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as well as a small amount of Pinot Gris. The vines are set out on an ideal south-facing slope, just three miles from the English Channel where the unique local micro-climate and the free-draining chalky soils create superb grape-growing conditions.


Classic Cuvee 2017, Sussex (£29.00 at Harvey Nichols during May)

Made from a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, aged for 36 months in the bottle. 

Red fruits, yeasty brioche and autolysis on the nose; ripe redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit with citrus and orchard fruits. Creamy and complex; precise and harmonious, supple yet linear and intense with flawless, complex underpinnings.

Improves with aeration; will age.

Very Good.


Serve as an aperitif or match with fish and chips, grilled prawn linguini or a home-cooked chicken pie.

Rathfinny match this wine with potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, sage and pine nuts in their Flint Barns Dining Room restaurant.


Blanc de Blancs Brut 2017, Sussex

Frothy with citrus-sherbet, white flowers and honeysuckle; orchard fruits, brioche and creamy brazil nut and oatmeal savouriness; precise, linear and structured yet rich and rounded. Concentrated, intense and mineral 

Improves with aeration; will age.

Very Good Indeed.


Drink as an aperitif or match with seafood from oysters to langoustine in butter sauce or twice-baked cheese souffle.


Other reviews of Classic Cuvee


Jamie Goode: This is pure and focussed. It’s all about fruit, with precision and intensity. Zesty, citrussy, with hints of cherries and pear fruit – Jamie Goode, WineAnorak.com

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Slow Cooked Breast of Lamb - And a Pinot Noir


Slow Cooked Breast of Lamb, Pickled Red Onion, Mint Crème Fraiche and Spring Vegetables Created by Le Cordon Bleu, London to enjoy with Louis Latour Les Pierres Dorées Pinot Noir

Serves 4

Slow cooking the breast of lamb makes for a tender texture; here it is marinated and slow cooked in duck fat creating a rich flavour which is complemented the sweet-pickled onions and finished with green spring vegetables and a refreshing minty crème fraiche.

Slow cooked breast of lamb
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
finely chopped rosemary leaves
10 g Maldon sea salt, 
500 g lamb breast off the bone, duck fat to cover (about 1 kg)
150 g flour
2 eggs beaten
500 g Panko breadcrumbs 

Mix garlic, rosemary and Maldon sea salt to combine and rub into the lamb. Leave in fridge for 3 to 6 hours. Wash lamb with cold water to remove the salt mixture and pat dry. Melt duck fat in a pan over a low heat. Place the lamb in a deep oven proof dish and pour over the warm duck fat and cook in oven at 150˚C for 3 hours until soft and tender. Allow lamb to cool before removing from fat. Roll the lamb tightly in clingfilm to make a cylindrical tube shape. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm. Slice the lamb into 8 equal sized disks. Coat lamb in a thin layer of flour, then beaten eggs and finally breadcrumbs. Season and refrigerate until required.

Pickled red onion 
10 g granulated sugar
20 ml red wine vinegar
30 ml water
1 thyme sprig
1 red onion peeled and thinly sliced

Put sugar, vinegar, water and thyme in a pan and bring to a boil. Add onion and continue to boil for another minute. Remove from heat, lid pan and leave to infuse. When cool remove the red onion and discard the liquid.

Mint crème fraiche
50 g mint washed and finely chopped
200 g crème fraiche

Mix mint with crème fraiche and season. Set aside.

Spring vegetables
12 asparagus spears peeled
100g broad beans
100g peas
60g lambs lettuce washed
½ bunch French breakfast radish thinly sliced lengthways
20 g butter

Bring salted water to a boil in a saucepan and cook each vegetable separately so they retain a ‘bite’, around 3 minutes for asparagus, 2 minutes for broad beans and 1 minute for peas. Drain, refresh and set aside. Pod broad beans from their skins. Set aside with lambs lettuce and radish.

To serve: Heat oven to 200˚C. Cook lamb for around 20 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy. Reheat asparagus, peas and broad beans in a pan with butter and a tablespoon of water. Season to taste. On each plate, arrange warm vegetables, with two discs of lamb (per person), and top with radish slices, lambs lettuce and pickled onions. Finish with dots of mint crème fraiche.

Monday, 26 April 2021

The CWB Non-Burgundy French Pinot-Off

Two French Pinots that are not Burgundies

Burgundy will tell you that Pinot Noir is fickle, pale, elegant and expensive.

While all of this is true to a greater or lesser extent, other parts of France will invite you try Pinot's charms more reliably and more affordably.

There was a time when it was only Burgundy's white grape, Chardonnay, that had successfully gone around the world and become everyone's favourite "glass of white".

Now, increasingly, the red Pinot Noir is finding more areas to its liking - even if, being thin-skinned, prone to disease, and liking only cooler climates, it is never an easy grape to grow.

Its thin skin means paler, softer wines and this perhaps explains its popularity; with low colour and tannins, it occupies something of a middle ground between red wines and white in much the same way as other popular styles, such as rosé or kiwi Sauvignon.

Food-friendly yet easy-drinking, approachable in youth but with the potential to age, Pinot seemingly has it all.

These two Pinots are both from non-Burgundy France, and specifically from warmer climates than the Côte-d'Or.

They have more alcohol, colour and depth than many a red Burgundy - and a much lower price tag.

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019, Pays d’Oc, France (£14) ripe black cherry fruit with raspberry, spice and something slightly herbaceous; fresh and savoury with very fine but persistent tannins. Well-made, precise and elegant.

Improves with some aeration.

Good.

Match with tuna tartare or roast duck.

Calmel & Joseph say of their wine: An appealingly cherry red. Aromas of red and black fruit and pomegranate seeds announce a wine of great freshness and superb tension. An impression confirmed in the mouth that opens with fresh summer fruits such as wild cherry and finishes on more spicy, peppery and floral notes. A poised and magnificently balanced wine.


Louis Latour Pinot Noir Les Pierres Dorée (£20-22, Whitebridge Wines, Bakers and Larners of Holt, Mr Wheeler, La Zouch and The Drink Shop.com)

Les Pierres Dorées, (‘golden stones’) is a small sub-region of Beaujolais about 40km north west of Lyon, often referred to as ‘Little Tuscany’ thanks to its steep hills and landscape dotted with golden stone buildings.

The soils here are clay and limestone, very similar to those found in Burgundy. The vineyards are planted at the same altitude as Burgundy, so the grapes can ripen, yet retain their critical, natural acidity. This very specific terroir, coupled with ample sunshine, a warm climate and cool night-time temperatures give the wine its incredible aromatic complexity when vinified with Maison Louis Latour’s signature elegance.

Dark for a Pinot, with a complex, toasty nose of roasted spices and dark fruits; elderberry and dark plum with oaky spice and mint; cassis and cherry fruit; grippy and persistent. Savoury and complex with a full mid-palate.

Good.

Improves significantly with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Match with slow-cooked breast of lamb - recipe here: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: Slow Cooked Breast of Lamb - And a Pinot Noir

Louis Latour says of this wine: The calcareous soil rich in iron oxide which confers him a very particular ochre color, as well as altitude, contribute to produce this surprising wine which associates richness and freshness with a beautiful aromatic complexity. Bright and intense red colour with red-garnet lights.

On the nose, we discover a gourmet blend of flowers, red berries and soft spices. On the palate, it is crunchy, round and ample. The Pinot Noir from the Pierres Dorées terroir off ers a wine with a great freshness, underlined by concentrated black fruits aromas with a superb length. 

Vinification notes This region offers beautiful argilo-calcareous soils, the plots selected by Maison Louis Latour form two islands and are situated on the villages of Morancé and Theizé. With a continental moderate climate, vineyards benefit from an ideal period of sunshine but the temperatures are relatively fresh between 280 and 400 meters in altitude. Traditional vinification. 10 to 12 months ageing stainless steel vats and oak barrels  

Pro reviews of  Les Pierres Dorées:

JancisRobinson.com (2016) - 16 pts Sweet red fruit and a good herby note – great flavour definition here, and it finishes with fragrant floral character. Light and short, but satisfies the Pinot flavour criteria. (RH)

Wine Spectator (2015) - 88 pts Balanced and fresh, with cherry, ground spice and currant notes, this medium-bodied red shows undertones of mineral and herb through the tangy, lightly tannic finish. Drink now through 2020

James Suckling (2016) - 89 pts An attractively light and charming pinot noir with some nice, warm and dry tannins. There is also friendly acidity for this often-tart category. Drink now or in 2019. 

Pro reviews of  Le Sentier

Jancis Robinson  (18/03/2020) Certified organic. Single vineyard. From their own property. Smells like cherry pie and stick cinnamon. Dry but ripe. Tannins like a comfortable cup of proper builder’s tea. Neither too much nor too little. Touch of green in the flavour (not the texture). Light-bodied, neat, pointed on the finish. Exceptionally good for a Pays d'Oc Pinot. Tamlyn Currin 16.0 / 20

Jamie Goode: Organically farmed Pinot Noir. Aromatic cherry fruit nose with some cedar and spice notes. The palate is supple and sweetly fruited with plums and berries, a touch of raspberry, and some savoury cedar spice notes. It’s nicely balanced with some savoury grip on the finish. Amazing to have a Pinot Noir this fresh and balanced from a warm climate. Lovely weight, finishing dry and grippy. 91/100 (£14 UK retail)

Highlights: high-end wines from Calmel & Joseph – wineanorak.com