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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wine of the Month - June

And jubilations
I want the world to know I'm happy as can be
"Congratulations" Cliff Richard (1968)

June is a month of multiple celebrations - the Diamond Jubilee, an extra day off work. Plus Wine of the Month is one year old.

And who knows, after the wettest drought on record, the current heatwave might even last over the extended Bank Holiday weekend, so those street parties won't be a wash-out.

So, feeling all jubilatory, our Cambridge-based wine merchants have decided to push the boat out a bit with a patriotic, celebratory theme.

Carter's Sparkling Brut Vintage 2009 - £19.95, Joseph Barnes Wines

You can't get more patriotic and celebratory than English fizz - and this is a superb example by any standards.

Made from a blend of Orion & Chardonnay grapes using the traditional Champenoise method, this is from a 3ha vineyard in Boxted near Colchester, known as Carter's Farm.

Sipped in the garden on a summer's eve, in the glass this is the colour of an early sunset.

On pouring, it foams enthusiastically with a fine mousse - initially light and fresh, after an hour or so, it opens up to show ripe orchard fruits on the palate, a savoury leesiness, food-friendly acidity and a persistent, yeasty finish.

With complexity, finesse, good length and balance, this is a really good bottle of vintage fizz.

Joseph Perrier Brut NV Cuvée Royale NV - £28.95 Cambridge Wine Merchants

Made from a roughly equal blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale is aged for three years in the winery's Roman-era cellars.

It foams enthusiastically on pouring and is bright with a pale golden tint in the glass.

The nose is distinctly fruity, whilst the palate shows ripe orchard fruits and leesiness; there is crisp-apple acidity, aromas of brioche and a fine mousse.

Long on the palate, it has a persistent, savoury finish and has all the balanced, elegant and complex finesse you would expect of a wine that counts at least two British monarchs amongst its supporters.

Andrea Faccio Moscato d'Asti - £6.99 (half bottle) Bacchanalia

Moscato d'Asti is a low alcohol, semi-sweet frizzante with flavours of ripe peach, apricot, galia melon and a touch of sherbert.

If you are having an afternoon tea and need something celebratory to cover all bases (sweetness and fizz) without breaking the bank, this could be your perfect solution.

It comes in a half-bottle, but packs in plenty of ripe-fruit flavour, and is refreshing enough to drink at a garden party.

Denbies Vineyard Select Chalk Ridge Rosé 2011 - £10.99, Noel Young Wines

This English rosé is made with Rondo, Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. Unfortunately at the time of going to press, there were no stocks available for review, but it is due into Noel's shop in time for the bank holiday weekend.

Noel describes it as vivid pink in colour, full of tangy cherry, strawberries and cream. Vibrant and just off-dry making it a great BBQ street party wine.

Recommended Wine

With such a range of styles and prices, there is no overall winner this month - just for great wines for street parties and celebrations. Jubilee-tastic.


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

Image credits - Jubilee Bunting http://www.salcombetrading.co.uk/artisan/weaver/jubilee-bunting-crowns/c-pow0002/

Cake - http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/1-year-old-today.html

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bar Pepito - King's Cross

For almost a decade now, I have passed through King's Cross twice daily; ongoing re-building work to the various tube station entrances has been something of a theme, but in the last few weeks, the make-over of the station itself has revealed new walkways, a plaza with juxtaposed period and modern styling and the opening up of the original glass roof and frontispiece.

All in all, it makes the 90 or so seconds I spend walking across the concourse that little bit more pleasant, but outside the confines of the station, King's Cross is still more of a place you pass through - or depart from - than a destination in its own right.

Turn left out of the station and the side-street to The Guardian's offices leads you past a row of presentable-enough coffee chains but there is little here to make the heart beat faster.

Except, perhaps, for Bar Pepito - a broom cupboard of a sherry bar tucked well away from the inner ring road in a little courtyard.

From the outside, you are most definitely in a soulless part of mid-town London, but stepping across the threashold takes you into a rustic Andalusian bodega.

Much like The End of The World, the infamous Sherry Revival is heralded by believers and mocked by deriders in equal measure, but in practice it is just as elusive and irrelevant as the apocalypse itself.

I first went to Pepito's early last year after seeing the twitter buzz around its launch. After struggling merely to find the website, making a booking proved impossible and it took a visit in person to realise why; with just five up-turned barrels for tables, it only takes around a dozen people sitting on bar stools for the place to feel at capacity and anyone else wishing to join the party needs either to stand or sit outside.

All of this gives Pepito's a lively, edgy feel that is miles away from sherry's stereotypical homeland of vicars and maiden aunts.

Choices for food and drinks are simple and limited but of uniformly good quality - the best of all worlds in my book. The sherries, like the wines, are mostly from Gonzalez Byass and available in all the major styles with generally just a cheaper and more expensive option.

The wine list is well-made, crowd-pleasing, food-friendly modern Spanish and the food is mainly meats and cheeses with sundry other tapas - plus a couple of dessert options.

So far, so textbook; but for me, what makes it special - other than the convenient location for my train home - is the focus, attention to detail and consistent quality of, well ... everything really.

You won't get the foamed vegetables of the now-defunct El Bulli, but there's also no three-year waiting list - and with no reservations, there's also no table-turning either.

It is perhaps the perfect advertisement for sherry - simple, well-prepared food served unpretentiously in a lively atmosphere.

I've made several visits to Pepito's since it opened for post-work catch-ups with friends and we typically start with a bottle of crisp, pungent Tio Pepe fino and a mixed plate of meat and cheese - rather like a rock star who eventually ditches the eye-catching outfits for a cleaner, simpler look, I find keeping things simple, classic and well-made is my preference these days.

With no overt fruit characteristics and an elegant linear acidity, fino or manzanilla sherry perfectly cuts through the richness of salami, cheese and bread dipped in oil.

It is however, very much a food wine and makes no sense on its own except as an aperitif, so avoid the schoolboy error of ordering a second bottle once the food is finished and instead move onto something a little more complex and rounded, either from the list of table wines or one of the darker sherries.

Typically, I make a move back to Cambridge before 9pm, but on one occasion, having missed a train after a night out in central London and an hour to kill before the next one, I wandered over to Pepito's. The bar was still going strong at nigh on midnight and I sat outside on an unseasonably warm evening pleasantly sipping an Apostoles Palo Cortado.

Palo Cortado is a wine that technically should not exist; intended to be a pale fino, it rebels against its destiny and ages oxidatively.

It is also traditionally the wine-maker's baby and is said to be the wine by which you should judge a sherry house.

The Apostoles is dark and complex with dry roasted nut and antique leather aromas. The addition of a modest amount of raisiny, treacly Pedro Ximinez gives it a rounded feel and it seems less sweet than it actually is.

It was not quite the same as gazing over the shimmering Med in Sanlucar de Barrameda, listening to the strains of flamenco and knowing that the cooling, salty sea air is helping the flor grow more thickly to produce manzanilla, but for a moment, mid-town London was quite a pleasant place wait for a train.

Wines and sherries are generally available by the glass; a plate of meats and cheeses for two plus a couple of bottles of sherry costs around £50.

Other related articles
Hidalgo Sherry Dinner with Cambridge Wine Merchants
Dehesa, Soho
Tio Pepe En Rama
The Great Sherry Tasting

Bar Pepito - website

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Marston's Single Hop Ales

If you want to learn what the various ingredients in beer provide in the way of flavours, it is a good idea to sample them separately in their raw state; I was lucky enough to get to do this a few years ago at a local micro-brewery in Cambridge and came away with a much better understanding of the toasty cereal flavours of malt and the bitter, citrussy flavours imparted by hops.

Different hops have different characteristics and if you can't find a friendly brewery, the next best option is to try a range of beers with different hops.

Step forward Marston's Single Hop Ales - a range of six beers each brewed with a single hop, rather than the (more common) blend.

With the extended heavy rain of the last few months now a seemingly distant memory, I spent some time in the garden over the weekend trying out two of these ales.

Marynka - £1.80, Booths

Made from a Polish hop developed 25 years ago to provide a herbal, berry fruit and floral aroma, this beer commemorates Poland's hosting of Euro 2012 in June.

A deep gold colour, it is malty with lots of hoppy bitterness, floral and grapefruit flavours, complex with caramel and toffee notes, spice.

Sovereign - £1.80, Morrisons

Sovereign is an English hop with floral and mint aromas.

No prizes for guessing that this one is intended as a Jubilee celebration beer, and if National Pride is particularly your thing, it was also brewed on St George's Day.

Golden in the glass, this is malty and floral with grapefruit aromas and pithy hoppy bitterness.


Marston's - http://www.marstons.co.uk/
Booths - http://www.booths.co.uk/
Morrisons - http://www.morrisons.co.uk/

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Co-op Truly Irresistible Jubilation Ale‏

Have we all gone Jubilee-mad ? Or do we just need a good old party to lift our spirits from this recessionary funk ?

I must admit to more than a degree of cynicism about the idea of slapping the word "Jubilee" on any old product and commercialising our heritage: overpriced jam sandwiches in "Union-Flag Bunting" packaging, anyone ?

However, if you must do something Jubilee-related then this limited edition, commemorative Co-op Truly Irresistible Jubilation Ale‏ is hand-brewed in the Forest of Dean and made from Warminster and Bramling Cross hops with malt from the country's oldest malting house.

Golden in the glass, it is a crisp, refreshing and well-made ale with aromas of citrus and grapefruit.

Light enough to drink at a street party, it will also match with food.

Available at the Co-operative for £1.69 until June 12th; provided for review.


The Co-op (food and drink) - http://www.co-operative.coop/food/welcome/

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Organic Jura Wines - Tasting Notes

Last weekend, I went to a tasting hosted by Wink Lorch of organic wines from Jura, a region whose wines I previously knew only by reputation as being "a bit different".

Somewhat contrarian by nature, I have historically sought out the unfashionable, different and unusual in wines as well as other areas in an attempt to be anything other than mainstream. However, even the little that I have read on Jura has been enough to let me know that these are wines to be approached with caution.

An enthusiasm for Riesling and sherry - a sure sign of wine-geekery - is positively mainstream in comparison to liking Jura wines. In musical terms, Jura is the Prog Rock of wine: different, old-fashioned, unfashionable and divisive of opinions.

Also like Prog Rock, Jura wines are unlikely to appeal immediately at first acquaintance and take time to reveal their charms.

Wink, who has a base in eastern France and is a regular visitor to the area, had invited a number of bloggers to try these unusual wines at Adiva restaurant in London's East End, with Riedel tasting glasses provided courtesy of Sensible.

Also there, and likely to tweet or write up their impressions in due course were Arnold Waldstein, Caroline Henry, Ryan Opaz, Gabriella Opaz, Simon Woolf, Heather Dougherty and Nayan Gowda.

I wrote up some thoughts as an overview of Jura, so what follows in this post is my detailed tasting notes, starting with two sparklers.

Note: the word oxidative comes up a lot in these reviews and I use it to describe the impression of the sharp, piercing acidity and brown apple-flesh flavour of the white wines, even if many of the wines are ouillé, or "topped up", meaning that they do not actually age fully oxidatively.


Cremant du Jura Brut Domaine Pignier: made from 100% Chardonnay, this was perhaps the most conventional wine of the evening, light, fresh and crisp, with some floral sweetness and a fine mousse.

Cremant du Jura Domaine de la Pinte: despite its traditional-method fermentation, this had yeast and oxidative notes on the nose and a rasping, sour-cherry acidity on the palate and finish that demands a food accompaniment

Red Wines

In another break with convention, we tasted reds before whites.

Arbois Poulsard Uva l'Arboisiana 2011 Domaine de la Tournelle: rosé coloured and with a combination of sweetness and spice on the nose, this smells like Chinatown on a Saturday night. Light on the palate, it is mainly about the acidity and is a rosé to all extents and purposes. Good length, but not complex.

Arbois Pupillin Ploussard La Chamade 2009 Philippe Bornard: more complex, this has the same mix of fruit sweetness and Chinese spice, reminiscent of a good, light Pinot, some grip on the finish

Trousseau Les Corvees 2010 Domaine de l'Octavin; with settling by gravity and no filtration, this was somewhat cloudy; again, the fruit sweetness and Pinot-esque red berries.

Trousseau 2010 Domaine Pignier; on the nose, this was to me distinctly sulphurous with industrial gas-leak. Nayan Gowda disagreed and felt it was merely a touch reductive. On the palate, more sweet, red-berry fruit and some grip on the finish.

I asked Wink about the sweetness of the reds and she explained that they are all fully dry with no residual sugar, explaining the lack of tannin might create the impression of sweetness.

My own theory is that there are complex fruit sugars which are not measured as residual glucose or fructose, but which register as sweetness on the palate.

Arbois A la Capitaine 2009: the last of the reds, noticeably darker, pale but recognisably a red wine; less on the nose, a touch of oxidative and wet dog, more mouthfilling and longer on the palate. This turns out to be 2/3rds Pinot Noir, 1/3rd Poulsard with a few drops of Trousseau. Ironically, the least "Pinot-esque".


Cotes du Jura Chardonnay A la Percenette 2010 Domaine Pignier: zippy, zesty lemon and lime with some rounded fruit sweetness, spitzy and sherberty, a hint of oxidative character, some firm grip on the finish

Arbois Chardonnay La Mailloche Pamina 2010 Domaine Octavin: oxidative nose, with aromas of grated apple flesh left to turn brown, mouthfilling and long, good depth and grippy finish

Arbois Pupillin Melon Le Queue Rouge 2009 Philippe Bornard: strawberry bubble gum on the nose, some oxidative notes, sweet lemon curd and bubble gum on the palate, an easier drinker with less grip on the palate and more ripe fruit sweetness (Queue Rouge is a clone of Chardonnay)

Arbois Chardonnay 2008 Les Corvées sous Curon Domaine de la Tournelle: oxidative hints on the nose and on the palate, rasp of lemon-lime acidity, a touch of sherbert, less sweetness with a grippy finish

Arbois Savagnin Les Nouvelles Comtesse A ... 2011 Domain L'Octavin: oxidative notes on the nose, sherberty, lemony palate with zippy acidity and sweet butteriness, refreshing on the finish

Arbois Fleur de Savagnin 2009 Domaine de la Tournelle: mildly, but persistently sulphurous on the nose, oxidative notes, sweet lemony fruit with rasping acidity, good depth and grip on the finish

Cotes du Jura Savagnin Ouillé Les Chassagnes 2008 Philippe Bornard: ouillé means topped-up, so less oxidative in theory, but this has an oxidative nose, lemony palate and grip

Arbois Cuvée d'Automne, Savagnin / Chardonnay Domaine de la Pinte: highly oxidative on the nose and palate, but the acidity is still fresh, palate developed and complex.

Recommended wines

What I got out of the evening was more of the distinctive "Jura style" than any specific preferences; however, based on my notes, my recommended wines are:

- Fizz: Cremant du Jura Brut Domaine Pignier
- Red: Arbois Pupillin Ploussard La Chamade 2009 Philippe Bornard
- White: Arbois Savagnin Les Nouvelles Comtesse A ... 2011 Domain L'Octavin


Wink Lorch - main blog, Jura blog, twitter

Image credits: Brett Jones, http://www.thewinemaestro.co.uk/

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Two New Zealand Pinots: Felton Road and Ata Rangi

This evening, for a change, a colleague brought along two wines to our semi-regular, after-work Wine Club.

There was no formal review, we just drank a few glasses, but somehow I can't avoid the need to put my thoughts down.

He described them as "a couple of special NZ Pinots that he is very keen on" and we initially opted not to decant, based on my experience that Pinot does not improve with significant airing.

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2010

From the world's most southerly wine region, Central Otago, this Felton Road Pinot is purple in the glass with a typical Pinot nose of cherry fruit, mushrooms and a touch of undergrowth.

So far, so textbook.

The palate again shows red and black cherry fruit, and truffley aromas and whilst it all feels very balanced, accomplished and pleasant, it does not really make my heart beat faster.

It improves with some air, but remains firmly in "good, pleasant, well-made" territory.

I hazard a guess at the price being high teens, maybe low twenties and am taken aback at the actual figure of £33; it's just not that good - to me, at least.

The faults - if they can be called that - are stylistic rather than technical. With 14% alcohol (despite its cool-climate origins), it seems overly fruit driven and a bit lacking in textural interest. Perhaps it's my Old World bias, I've had Burgundies costing under £20 that I've preferred.

It is, however, very well received by Wine Club attendees with no reservations whatsoever.

Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006

Since the first wine improved with some air, we pop this Ata Rangi in the Company Decanter and then sample.

Although the grapes for this are from much further north in Martinborough, it has the same 14% alcohol level.

Sealed hermetically under screwcap, it nonetheless shows signs of age, being a deep brick-red colour throughout.

The nose is again a typical Pinot mix of red berry fruit, cherries and undergrowth, but it is much more complex overall.

The palate has the soft yet mouthfilling texture I look and hope for in a Pinot; it is textbook in both the sense of 1) varietal typicity and 2) no faults, either technical or stylistic.

The palate shows some (rather atypical) eucalyptus notes and there is some sweet vanilla spice, along with more grip and a longer finish.

Overall, it is an altogether better, much more accomplished and interesting wine, by a factor of, very roughly, 50% to 100%. So I am pleasantly surprised to learn that it is only a few pounds more expensive at £39 and based on that metric, it is much the better value of the two - in relative terms.

As to whether it's worth its £40 price tag, I'm not sure I'm completely convinced, but it is again well-received by all at Wine Club.

Personally, I have something of a principled objection to a Pinot with 14% alcohol - it feels rather like turning up at the ball with just a bit too much make-up and cleavage. For sure it gets you noticed, and yes it's theoretically more of what we like, but it's not the classiest of looks; "snog", rather than "marry".

Yes, I'd dance with this wine - I'd even take it on a few dates (albeit, they wouldn't be cheap ones). But I don't think I'd be phoning Mother CWB with instructions to start looking for a new hat.


Felton Road - http://www.feltonroad.com/
Ata Rangi - http://www.atarangi.co.nz/

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Wines of Jura - An Overview

Jura, in Eastern France (not to be confused with the Scottish island of the same name - or indeed any of the other Jura references to be found on wikipedia), is a place of strange grape varieties, unusual wine-making techniques and challenging wines.

Not for the faint-hearted then.

From the outside, at least, Jura seems stuck in an oenological time-warp with its own ways and traditions that owe little to contemporary wine-making.

An oddity with a complex history, Jura is mountainous but not alpine, gives us the word Jurassic and formed part of the Free County of Burgundy (not to be confused with the Duchy of Burgundy).

Its nearest wine-making neighbour remains Burgundy, and it does seem to share some at least superficial characteristics with that region - the reds are pale and light, the whites big and often oaky.

And although you will find some Burgundian grapes here, Jura generally specialises in varieties that are grown nowhere else.

So what is Jura wine like and why is it so challenging ?

Whilst the general rule of thumb for Jura seems to be that everything is at best unfamiliar and more often the exact opposite of what wine-making convention deems usual, here are some specific pointers to what I think makes the wines different, based on a tasting of Jura wines I attended at the weekend.

The tasting was organised by Jura enthusiast and part-time resident, Wink Lorch, and held at Adiva restaurant in London's East End, with Riedel tasting glasses provided courtesy of Sensible.

Grape varieties

The grape varieties grown here are mainly ones you've never heard of; reds are mainly Poulsard and Trousseau, whites are Savagnin, none of which are widely grown anywhere else to my knowledge.

There is some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but even these won't seem familiar due to the next point.


Whilst contemporary wine-making generally looks for as little air contact as possible between pressing the grapes and drinking the wine, in Jura, the wines are made oxidatively - that is, in contact with air - so that the fruit aromas die off and you are left with aromas of brown apple flesh, roasted nuts, old leather and generally something rather sherry-like.


Unusual grape varieties and wine-making techniques result in unusual styles of wine and flavours: the reds are light, delicate and rosé-esque, tasting of allspice and toffee apple and can either be sipped as they are, or matched with white meat such as roast pork.

The whites, by contrast, are bigger and heavier, with no overt fruit but rather, developed, oxidative aromas and a grippy finish that positively demands food to match; whilst the lack of fruit / oxidative style perhaps actually makes them more versatile as food wines.

As a result, in another break with convention, we tasted the reds before the whites.
A full list of my tasting notes will form a separate post for anyone intrigued enough to want to know more.

At this point, suffice it to say that you are unlikely to be convinced by your first bottle of Jura wine - or even by your first day spent in the region. After a few days - or a half-case, depending on where you are based - you may start to understand the wines and from there even begin to develop a fondness for them.
Vin Jaune - Jura's answer to sherry

As for me, I feel that tasting 15 or so wines at once was enough to understand Jura and its key characteristics. And if I have not yet fallen in love with them - and some are certainly more challenging than others - I would happily try them again. Ideally in situ with some local food.

Failing that, I'd drink them on Arnold Waldstein's rooftop terrace in Manhattan where he likes to indulge in the occasional bottle of Jura wine with Rob Tebeau who also knows a thing or two about these strange beauties (see Rob's Jura reviews here).

For Heather Doughty's take on the evening - see here: http://heatherdougherty.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/jura-its-france-jim-but-not-as-we-know.html


Wink Lorch, Jura website - http://allaboutjurawine.wordpress.com/

Twitter hashtag - #jurawineuk

Image credits: Main and other Jura images courtesy of Brett Jones, http://www.thewinemaestro.co.uk/

Friday, 18 May 2012

Two Spanish Wines at Wine Club‏

Albariño / Alvarinho from the western Iberian peninsular is becoming my new favourite stye after a couple of bottles of white Vinho Verde and a tasting of Terras Gauda wines.

So I was rather looking forward to trying these two smartly presented Spanish wines at my now-regular Thursday Wine Club at work.

I was a bit late putting the white into chill, but was able to decant the red before announcements, so it had had a good hour's airing before we got to it.

Fillaboa, Albariño, Rías Baixas, £14.99 M&S and independents
From the off, this proved very popular with everyone at Wine Club.

Served perhaps a degree or two warmer than ideal and with little time to breathe, it is typically golden colour in the glass.

The nose is complex with lemon, mineral, hints of blossom and something else rather elusive until a colleague nails it with the comment "young basil leaves", referring to a herbaceous pepperiness.

On the palate, there is candied lemon peel, peaches and nuts and a toasty yeastiness with good savoury, leesy depth of flavour. It feels rounded and balanced with good acidity and a persistent finish.

If you are expecting a spritzy, young, petillant Vinho Verde style Albarinho, this is a little different - with more leesiness and less sherbert, this is more considered and not so in-yer-face.

Serve as an aperitif or with lighter fish dishes.

It was also well received by Matthew Jukes and is available with a significant discount to the shelf price on the M&S website.

Bodega Emina Pasion, Ribera del Duero 2009, £12.99 Ocado
This Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero has a relatively restrained 13.5% alcohol and just 6 months in oak; deep purple in the glass there are some brick red hints of age.

It has an expressive, perfumed nose of ripe plums vanilla and spice, some mushroomy truffles and something else I recognise from similar  Spanish reds but can't quite place.

On the palate, there is sweet ripe fruit, grippy oak and spice. It is pleasant but not hugely impressive and feels as if it's given all it has got with the nose.

Underwhelming rather than in any way unpleasant, this is deemed mildly disappointing, and overpriced for the quality.


M&S - http://www.marksandspencer.com/
Fillaboa on M&S website - http://www.marksandspencer.com/Fillaboa-Albarino-Rias-Baixas-2010/dp/B007O0O5IC
Ocado - http://www.ocado.com/
Pasion on Ocado website - http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Bodega-Emina-Pasion-Ribera-del-Duero-Spain-2009/64376011

Thursday, 17 May 2012

On Terroir

I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle
Opening line from Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terroir is a little like national character stereotypes - we all know it exists, even if it's considered a bit old-fashioned, if not downright inappropriate, to talk about it openly.

Like character, it's also very difficult to pin down and analyse in detail, however much we find it makes sense as a general, abstract concept.

As a result, it has become somewhat controversial with some people loudly, iconoclastically attacking it as the last vestige of vacuous old-fashioned wine snobbery, pretty much no-one prepared to champion it overtly but a more considered minority (including especially wine-makers and MWs) who find it quietly useful and uncontroversial.

At its most basic, terroir is an expression of the place where a wine was made.

The New World did much to downplay the notion of terroir with their championing of the concept of varietalism - that is, basically, putting the name of the grape on the label rather than the place.

In general, the Old World (Europe) classifies wine by place of origin (Bordeaux, Chianti and Champagne are places) whilst the New World (everywhere else) uses grape varieties (Carménère, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc).

Over time, the New World has learnt there is a cachet in place names such as Gimblett Gravels or Barossa and has added location-specific indicators, whilst the Old World has learnt that consumers recognise grape varieties more easily and have started adding these details to front labels.

The reason for this is that not all grape varieties ripen at the same time, so all other things being equal, different varieties will flourish to a greater or lesser extent under different conditions.

At a basic level, white-wine grapes generally ripen more easily than red (we are able to produce fizz in the UK but not deep reds); of these, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are particularly late-ripeners, so need a warmer, dryer climate.

Merlot is perhaps the least fussy of the classic red-wine grapes, Pinot likes a cool-climate and Shiraz needs lots of warmth.

So, each grape has different conditions under which it will thrive - this is, in essence, terroir; finding the most suitable grape variety for your intended vineyard. Or, looked at the other way, finding the most suitable vineyard site for your vines.

And just as warm-climate Pinot would be soupy, so cool-climate Shiraz would be underripe.

The whole varietalism argument came about not scientifically, but as a marketing exercise to re-brand the New World; Australian wine could never be called Bordeaux, but teach people the name of the main grapes - Cab and Merlot - then tell them they are the same in your bottle of (cheaper) Aussie wine and hey presto, it's no longer antipodean plonk, but bargain Bordeaux-style with an edgy attitude to boot.

However wine is not (generally) a mass-produced product from standardised raw materials - vines, just like people, are complex things with their own sets of rules about what they do and do not like. With hindsight these can be obvious, but they are not always fully predictable.

Moreover, like people, they also change with age, developing and maturing; a Viognier vine does not start to produce really good fruit until it is around 30 years old, whereas Sauvignon Blanc is less age-sensitive.

So it's no wonder then that it takes time plus an element of trial and error to find the best vineyard sites.
The key, but by no means only, factors for siting a vineyard are (in no particular order):

- exposure to the sun
- temperature
- rainfall
- soil composition

My favourite wines tend to come from places with lots of sun, low-ish temperatures and rainfall and poor-quality soils.

All these factors result in concentrated wines, whilst a related factor, altitude combined with lots of sunlight, gives a longer ripening season and more intensity in the wines - for fresh but mouthfilling whites from high altitude vineyards, look to Greece, Styria, Adelaide Hills and parts of Chile.

Wink Lorch, who first explained the effects of altitude to me, has written a fascinating post on this called Mountain Wines.

More specifically, different soil types can have very noticeable effects on the resulting wines even when grown within the same region.

Case study #1

At last year's LIWF, Kurt Angerer took me through all his wines and the GVs, all grown on slightly different soils, showed significant variations in style; in short, those grown on granite soils were minerally and steely, whilst those from more mixed, loamy soils, were fleshier and more rounded.

Case Study #2

Nearby Domaene Wachau produces a range of wines including occasional dessert wines.

Most Austrian dessert wines are made in Burgenland, around 100km from the Wachau where the weather conditions are very different.

The Wachau is a narrow river valley with steep terraces and cool air-flows, whereas Burgenland on the Pannonian plane is warmed by southerly air currents, has low-lying hills and a shallow lake which produces morning mists.

The end result of all this is that a Domaene Wachau Beerenauslese is much lighter and fresher than a Burgenland example which is rich, full and marmeladey.

The difference between these has almost nothing to do with grape variety - as these are often broadly the same - and everything to do with the different climatic conditions that form part of terroir.

So, used as a nebulous and evasive term to pretend that certain wines, however badly made, are somehow innately superior, terroir is indeed a nonsense.

But used properly, to refer to the unique set of conditions of a particular place, including soil type, aspect and so on, terroir is an expression of the subtle differences between wines made just a short distance apart from each other.

That distance may be a 100km or so, it could be a few kilometres. In some cases it can be just a few metres - vertically, as wines from higher up a hillside slope produce more concentrated wines.

Finding Terroir

You won't get much sense of place in a branded, special-offer supermarket mass-produced wine, but spend a few pounds more with a good wine merchants and you can reasonably expect to get something unique from the wine.

Try a couple of different ones side-by-side from the same grape variety and vintage but different locations and if there is a difference - that's terroir.

As to whether terroir, grape variety or wine-making skill is key, to me the analogy is whether a great line from a film is intrinsically great, is delivered well by the actor or is great in the context of the film as envisioned by the director.

I'll be back.

This article was inspired by a section in The New Rules of Wine claiming that "Terroir Means Nothing".

Image credits: Main image: http://wine.appellationamerica.com/images/appellations/features/Berger-terroir-evaluation.jpg
Terroir wheel from Wine Business: http://www.winebusiness.com/
Terroir: http://www.art-du-terroir.com/terroir.htm

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Wine of The Month - May

April showers bring forth May flowers
English proverb

The weather so far in May has been mixed to say the least with the wettest drought any of us can remember and any occasional sunny days being distinctly chilly.

So, this month's recommended wines from our local independents are an appropriately varied mixture.

La Fornace Gavi 2010 - Joseph Barnes Wines, £10.00
From a small estate Italy's Piedmont, this Gavi is an example of a well-made modern Italian white with a traditionally fashionable-but-overpriced label. Made from the Cortese grape, it initially seems straightforward and lemony with orchard fruit on the palate, but with a bit of time and air, it really opens up and shows a great leesy depth of flavour and balanced acidity with some grapeskin yeastiness.

It's the kind of Italian white that makes me think of wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce with freshly-made yellow egg pasta as an accompaniment; it has the body and depth to stand up to rich, hearty peasant food, but also the acidity to cut through heavy, indulgent sauces.

Lovely, really well-made and balanced.

Orion Wines 'E Solo' Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2010 - Noel Young Wines, £7.99

Staying in Italy, this 'E Solo' from Noel Young proved incredibly popular a few weeks ago at an in-store tasting. Sealed under screwcap, on first opening it seems full of simple ripe, up-front berry fruit.

With just a bit of air, though, it becomes more complex and interesting, with typically Italian cherry fruit, but also chocolate and some smokiness and oak.

The palate remains ripe, rounded and balanced and over the course of a few days, the nose develops an interesting Pinot-esque mix of vegetal and sour cherry aromas.

Match with tomato-based meaty pasta dishes.

Weingut Werner Mueller Trabener Wuerzgarten Riesling Hochgewaechs 1997, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer - Cambridge Wine Merchants, £12.25

It's said that life's too short for a German wine label, but to the initiated, they do really tell you everything you need to know about the wine's provenance.

This Riesling from Werner Mueller is from the beautiful Mosel valley - the vineyard is wuerzgarten ("spice garden") in the village of Traben

Starting with the basics, it is a classic Mosel Riesling, with a developed, petrolly nose, pure lemon-lime fruit, and a sweet-sour palate; it is distinctly off-dry, but this is balanced by the high acidity.

Focused, pure and fresh, yet also rounded, balanced and gentle, it is an elegant and superbly well-made wine to fall quietly in love with.

It is light enough to be a garden sipper or match the sweetness and acidity to seafood such as smoked salmon, prawns or sushi. Avoid heavy sauces and don't overchill the wine - an hour in the fridge is plenty.

It is worth noting that this is technically the best wine here; if you are already a wine geek, you won't need me to tell you how good aged Mosel Rieslings are, but if you are new to this sort of thing and wondering what all the fuss is about, this is as good a place as any to start.

If off-dry German wines were not so generally unfashionable, this wine would probably cost at least twice what it actually does.

Diez Siglos 2011 Rueda Verdejo - Bacchanalia, £6.99
Unlike Germany, Spain is super-cool in wine making terms right now and just keeps getting better. Yet its lesser-known regions and grapes still remain a great source of well-made, good value wines.

The Verdejo grape originated in North Africa and was brought to Spain around 1,000 years ago; by contrast Diez Siglos, a group of around 70 small-to-medium producers, was formed in 2010.

Aromatic and minerally on the nose, there are aromas of cut grass with hints of fennel; on the palate, the acidity is poised, rounded and balanced by a touch of ripe sweetness of fleshy stone fruit.

The finish is long, minerally and aromatic - a lovely, well-made wine that is great value. Versatile and food friendly, it will match especially well with goat's cheese or pasta with pesto.

Recommended Wine

Given the uncertainty of the weather this month, it's very hard to know what to recommend for May drinking, but based on what we have had so far, I suggest some rich, comforting autumnal food matched with a bottle of the wonderful Gavi from Joseph Barnes


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

Image credit: http://www.ilankelman.org/floodphotos.html

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Six Rosés For Summer‏

At the time of writing, we have had around a month of continuous rain making this the wettest drought I can remember.

But - at some point and perhaps only briefly - summer must arrive, and so I arranged to review half-a-dozen roses with colleagues.

In an attempt to try them in a vaguely sensible order, we started with the palest and lowest in alcohol and worked through to the darkest and highest in alcohol. Sort of.

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2010, East Coast, New Zealand - £9.99, Tesco, Majestic

Made from mostly Sauvignon Blanc, with Riesling and Chardonnay in there as well, this has just 4% Malbec for colour.

It makes for a curious wine and, although it proves popular with colleagues, I'm really not sure what to make of it - the aromatic, herbaceous Marlborough Sauvignon dominates whilst the Malbec adds a touch of spice.

With 96% white wine grapes, I'm not sure this can really count as a rosé.

Les Pins Couches Rosé 2010, Vin de pays de Méditerranée - £9.25, Ocado

Made by Rhone superstar Jean-Luc Colombo, this is a proper rose, being a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre.

However, it's not all completely textbook, as the wine is aged for a year in mostly-new oak; almost unheard of for a rose.

On the nose, there is subtle red fruit and a hint of garrigue, whilst the palate feels full and rounded, with lovely acidity and good depth of flavour. The finish is persistent with toasty-yeasty aromas.

It feels very well-made and balanced and immediately proves popular with colleagues.

Vina Caliterra Reserva Shiraz Rosé 2011, Colchagua Valley - £8.49, Independents

Made from mostly Shiraz with a dash of Cab, this is the colour of cranberry juice which puts a lot of people off as they associate the colour with sweetness and expect not to like it.

Maybe it's this initial impression, but this one is not as well received as I'd hope, as it is very good indeed. The nose is aromatic and complex, with raspberry and cherry fruit.

The palate is rounded with good depth and a touch of flintsmoke, whilst the finish is persistent and savoury.

It improves with air and re-sampled at the end, has really opened up.

Lourensford River Garden Rosé 2011, Stellenbosch - £7.99, Independents

A blend of roughly equal quantities of Mourvedre and Shiraz, this has aromas of sweet watermelon on the nose.

The palate shows a pleasantly creamy texture, good crisp acidity and a persistent finish that is slightly hot.

Grant Burge gb11 Rosé 2011, South Australia - £8.50, Independents

In the last couple of years, Australia's white have gone all cool-climate and lean in an attempt to move away from the stereotype of ripe, tropical Chardie.

However, no-one seems to have told Grant Burge and this wine, the colour of cranberry juice, is aromatic on the nose, with aromas of toffee apple.

The palate shows simple forest berry fruit with a sherbet-ey spritz and a sweetness on the finish.

This proves to be the least well-liked of the evening with even our resident Aussie mumbling his disappointment.

CUNE Rosado 2011, Rioja - £9.49, Majestic, Independents

Made from 100% Tempranillo, this shows aromas of ripe red berries on the nose.

The palate is mouthfilling with crisp acidity and more red-berry fruit; there is some smokey-toastiness and a touch of minerality. Slightly hot on the finish.

Recommended Wine

Mostly, these were good to very good roses. Being from generally warmer regions, they are crowd-pleasing sippers with (mostly) balanced residual sugar more than crisp, linear picnic wines with some aromatic grapeskin aroma.

The popular favourite was the Colombo which was very good; for me personally, the Caliterra was also excellent.


Tesco - http://www.tescowine.com/
Majestic - http://www.majestic.co.uk/
Ocado - http://www.ocado.com/

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Terras Gauda‏

Terras Gauda, based in Spain's Galicia, recently sent me a set of wines for review (along with some reds from sister winery Pittacum), so we decided to invite some friends round and work our way through them along with a plate of salamis, cheeses, olives and bread from local deli, Limoncello.

Galicia, being geographically due north of Portugal and sharing many common grape varieties, climatic conditions and styles, is perhaps best thought of in terms of its Iberian neighbour rather than of Spain - certainly for the whites which are more Vinho Verde than Big Spanish White.

Galicia has five Denominación de Origen (DO) appellations: Monterrei, Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Valdeorras. Prices, where given, were quoted in USD and whilst it is possible to do a simple currency conversion, we concluded that a typical UK selling price would be around half the number of dollars (i.e. so $20 = £10).

I opened all the wines in the morning, leaving them with corks out but not decanted; despite the season, it was a chilly day in Cambridge, so the whites I placed upright in the fridge for just an hour-and-a-half before serving.

La Mar 2010, Rias Baxas (no suggested price)

Deep gold colour in the glass, it looks oaked but is not.

Made from Caino Branco, it is floral and sweet with some spice on the nose.

The palate adds a honeyed touch and good depth - there is some residual sugar, balanced by high acidity.

Persistent finish with a final note of something hot, ureic or even slightly harsh at the very end.

We felt that, with the price and unusual style, this would not be an easy-selling wine and would need to be hand sold in an independent or restaurant.

Match with spiced, creamy dishes such as potatoes dauphinoise, fennel risotto or prawns in a creamy sauce.

Abadia De San Campio 2010, Rias Baxas, $20

Made from 100% Albarinho, it is pale gold in the glass; the nose is aromatic and herbaceous with green apples and pear drops.

The palate is lemony with ripe pineapple acidity. With good savoury depth, this was well liked and deemed a solid crowd pleaser. Has numerous medals.

O Rosal 2010 Rias Baxas 2010, $24

The flagship wine of Terras Gauda, it is made from a blend of mostly Albarino, with some Loureira and Caino Blanco.

Golden in the glass, it is more complex than the previous wines with apple fruit and white flowers on the nose with hints of ripe peach.

On the palate, there is a touch of petillance, and it feels more poised, precise and mouthfilling. With a precise, balanced finish, it is complex and accomplished.

Pittacum Barrica 2007, Bierzo, $24

From 100% Mencia, the wine spends eight months in French and American oak.

On the nose, there is lots of oaky vanilla spice, ripe bramble fruit and violets.

The palate itself is a little disappointing after all this - with simple sweet raspberry fruit and more sweet vanilla and toffee on the finish.

It's well enough made and feels mouthfiling, but with high alcohol and sweetness, it's perhaps more of a wine for the US market.

After a small sample each, we wondered whether this would be better with some more air, so I poured it into the decanter - but no-one later felt inclined to go back to it.

We wonder whether the poor showing is just the innate limitation of the grape variety, so I tweet @FringeWine and ask his opinion - he replies "Not a huge fan. Wrote about some a few months back. People tell me it reminds them of cab franc...never really saw that".

Quinta Sardonia 2007, Castilla y Leon (no price indication)

This unusual wine is made from a real mix of grape varieties - 52% Tinto Fino, 26% Cab Sauv, 9% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cab Franc and 2% Malbec.

Made biodynamically and with spontaneous fermentation from wild yeasts, it is aged for 16 months in 50/50 old and new French oak.

On the nose, there is a potent mix of iodine / sulfur / rubber inner tube along with the bramble fruit and sweet vanilla spice.

On the palate it is ripe and rounded with sweet dark berry fruit and vanilla; reasonably long, the finish is grippy, even when re-sampled after a couple of days.

Pittacum Aurea 2007, Bierzo, $52

Made from 100%, single estate Mencia, this is a much more complex wine, with a nose of iodine, plum and cherry fruit, something vegetal and a touch of spice.

The palate shows ripe, dark berry fruit and vanillary dark roasted spice; with juicy acidity and soft integrated tannins, it is complex and long on the palate with a persistent finish.

Immediately after the two ripe, sweet reds before, this wine did not show so well and seemed a little underwhelming.

However, when re-sampled alone, the complexity was much more evident and I don't think our earlier feeling that the grape might be inherently simplistic was right.

I also note that I rated an organic Spanish Mencia a while ago - here.

Recommended wine

We did not score the wines, but as the picture shows, we drank more of some than of others and the true test of a wine is which one you go back to after sampling them all.

With 12.5% alcohol, all the whites were light, fresh and suitable for early drinking. By contrast, the reds were much bigger beasts with high levels of alcohol, sweetness and oak.

The sweetness of the Bierzo and lack of interest on the palate ruled it out for us, but may make it more popular on the American market.

The La Mar, Quinta Sardonia and Abadia were well-liked, but overall favourites were the Pittacum Aurea and the O Rosal.

All wines provided for review - a plate of meat, cheese, olives and bread for four from Limoncello costs around £15.

La Mar is also reviewed by Wine Passionista, Tara O'Leary, here.

Here is what WineRambler has to say about these wines, here.

Finally Jamie Goode's take, here.


Terras Gauda - http://www.terrasgauda.com/
Pittacum - http://www.pittacum.com/

Monday, 7 May 2012

Lawyers, Accountants and Wisdom‏

There seems to be a strong tendency for those who practise in the legal profession to have an appreciation of good wines and I have long wondered why this is the case when my own profession, Chartered Accountancy, does not typically produce wine writers or enthusiasts to anything like the same degree.

I got the answer to the first part of the question from Marc Allen of unwined.tv, himself a trainee lawyer, who explained that lawyers enjoy being the centre of attention and like to fashion a cohesive, persuasive argument from a series of disparate facts.

I mentioned this assessment to a colleague who dryly noted that lawyers and journalists are cut from much the same cloth, before noting that they enjoy very different pay rates, however.

A linguist by education, I am perhaps not a typical accountant and am not overly interested in the technical side of accountancy - rather, I look for the story that the numbers are telling me and from there establish what is working well and what needs to be done differently.

However, having worked in finance for almost two decades, certain habits and ways of thinking have become deeply ingrained.

It occurs to me that my approach to wine assessment is very similar to how I take financial decisions - when I review a wine, I methodically work through the various elements - nose, palate, finish, structure and texture - in effect carrying out a wine audit, reviewing all the mass of information and checking all the details before coming to a conclusion.

As a result, my tasting notes have perhaps something of a standard, predictable structure which may or may not be a good thing.

Jamie Goode posted an article recently about the poor quality of tasting notes; the reason the standard is so low is presumably because consumers in general do not care enough to make it an issue - it's not newsworthy enough for journalists to pick up on and it hardly affects people's decisions on buying, so no amount of journalistic hand-wringing will change this.

Improving the quality and reliability of tasting notes would mean moving to a more standardised approach with better but duller, less quirky results - a bit like the mass production of cars.

In another article, Robert McIntosh put forward the idea of some people being Hard Drives and others being Processors.

His basic thesis is that Hard Drives collect information encyclopaedically, whilst Processors are more interested in drawing useful conclusions from the information they come across.

I think he is getting at the difference between data, knowledge and wisdom.

If data is knowing the mean temperatures, average sunlight hours and picking dates in Bordeaux, knowledge is knowing that 2000 and 2005 were great vintages, whilst wisdom is perhaps knowing that the price of First Growth Bordeaux is overinflated due to "the China Effect" and Second Growths can achieve almost the same levels of greatness as a First Growth at a fraction of the price.

Years ago, before wine blogs, google and Wikipedia, data and knowledge were scarce resources and there was a value in just knowing large amounts of information.

These days, that sort of information is available in previously unimaginable quantities with just a few taps of an iPhone.

As a result, the value of unprocessed data has declined for the mass audience whilst the value of wisdom - including the ability to cut through vast swathes of information and get to the nub of an issue - has increased.

What Robert calls Hard Drives are people who accumulate data and information; Processors are people who are interested in wisdom.

Discussing this with him online, Robert's own analogy was his Baccalaureate studies in history - whilst A-level students learned facts, he was required to make use of information to fashion arguments in a way that I also did for my various literature exams in Greek, Latin, French and Russian.

And that sort-of brings us back to the earlier points: oenological criticism is not that different conceptually from any other form of criticism - be it Germaine Greer on literature or Jeremy Clarkson on the new M3 - and the ability to be a good critic and to write a sensible tasting note requires the same skills as are taught in English literature A-level - or were in the late 1980s at least.

Lawyers and accountants are not that different in their roles - both involve the ability to analyse large amounts of information methodically and form opinions.

Not that different from wine writing, then, either.

Other related articles

Juel Mahoney's Wine Riot
Richard Quest on Financial Crises
On Personal Branding
On the Value of Blogging


Jamie Goode's article - http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/uncategorized/why-are-tasting-notes-so-bad-can-anything-be-done

Robert McIntosh's article - http://wineconversation.com/the-tools-for-wine-tasting-success/

Image Credit: http://www.systems-thinking.org/dikw/dikw.htm

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Villa Maria Pinot Noir

If New Zealand's Villa Maria is the John Lewis of wine, always dependable and well-made in a middle-class, slightly expensive sort of way, and Pinot Noir is the Alfa Romeo of grapes, capable of greatness and disappointment in equal measure, what then to make of a pair of Villa Maria Pinots ?

For some, good, reliable Pinot is not only a contradiction in terms, but almost an abomination, as there is an unwritten rule that good Pinot should be hedonistic and elusive.

Perhaps I have been insufficiently bitten by the infamous "Pinot bug", but I find the search for great Pinot a bit too much like hard work.

Either way, anyone unsure and wanting to know what all the fuss is about with Pinot could do a lot worse than check out these two.

For my regular after-work Wine Club, I had two different wines which I put into decanters and encouraged people to try blind and decide which they preferred.

As it turned out, everyone preferred the more expensive example, even if they were less capable of correctly identifying them.

Villa Maria Marlborough Pinot Noir Private Bin 2011, £11.99 from Budgens

Pale in the glass, it has a typically varietal nose with cherry fruit, mushroomy aromas and a touch of spice.

The palate shows red and black cherry fruit, juicy acidity, some spice, good savoury depth and balance.

Good, well-made example of an entry-level Pinot.

Villa Maria Marlborough Pinot Noir Reserve 2009, £18.99 from Tesco

With a half degree more alcohol and noticeably darker in the glass, there are some brick red hints of age.

The nose is again varietally typical with cherry fruit and undergrowth, with some vanilla spice, but more complex and intense than the previous wine.

On the palate, it feels bigger and fuller, with ripe cherry fruit, undergrowth, vanilla and roasted dark spice.

It is more rounded and bigger, with a soft mouthfilling texture, savoury depth and a long palate.

Overall, it is balanced, harmonious and integrated with a good finish.


Well-made, typical and reliably enjoyable, these are certainly both good Pinots. But are they great ? I'm not entirely sure.

And there's the rub - reliability and greatness rarely go hand-in-hand; especially in the case of Pinot.

Then again, I've had more expensive Pinots that I've been less impressed with, but that probably says more about Pinot as a grape than it does about these particular wines.

And I can't help wondering if searching for great Pinot is rather like owning an Alfa Romeo - a potential source of great kudos and dinner-party stories, but actually rather tedious in practice.

If you are new-ish to wine, want to try out a Pinot and don't mind spending £10 - £20 on a bottle, this could be just what you are looking for, but it leads me to wonder whether reliable Pinot can be seen as A Good Thing or not ?

For it is in Pinot's nature to be unreliable - sometimes great, more often disappointing - and a reliable Pinot is perhaps like an Alfa Romeo that starts every time you put the keys in. If I wanted that, I'd buy a BMW instead - it would be reliable, it would be good, but it wouldn't be an Alfa.

Unable to resolve this inherent contradiction, I put the question to perhaps the one person I know placed to answer authoritatively as she is both a Marketing Director and a WSET Diploma student; she mulled for a few moments and then said "Villa Maria is not a large winery, New Zealand does not make much wine, so to produce reliable Pinot is no mean feat - yes, it's A Good Thing".

Both wines provided for review.


Villa Maria - http://www.villamaria.co.nz/
Image credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GraduateDuetto.jpg