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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Gosset Champagne Dinner at Hotel Du Vin Cambridge

Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne and its existence pre-dates even the discovery of the Champagne method for making sparkling wines.

Based in Aÿ, the original vineyards have been broken up and passed on through centuries of inter-generational transfer and Gosset now buys in almost all of its grapes as must from around 200 growers in Champagne.

From its vineyards, it makes a small amount of still Pinot Noir which is used in the rosé fizz and when there is an occasional surplus, sold locally in Epernay and Reims.

A relatively small producer, Gosset makes around 1m bottles per year in total - if that sounds like a lot, as Gosset's Global Export Director, Philippe Manfredini pointed out, total Champagne production is over 300m bottles, so it represents under 0.3%.

The UK is one of Gosset's larger markets and, over a dinner hosted by Cambridge's Hotel du Vin, I sat next to and chatted with Philippe.

Traditionally used for podium celebrations and toasting the happy couple, Champagne is a much more versatile food wine than its purely celebratory reputation might suggest - and Chef Jonathan Dean had matched four courses to different Champagnes from Gosset to highlight its versatility.

We assembled initially in the hotel's cosy library where Gosset's Brut Excellence NV was served from magnums on ice with canapes including seared tuna slices and mozzarella with pesto and tomato.

Crisp and fresh on first pouring, with a little air and warmth, a more food-friendly rasp of cidery, sour-hay tartness emerged on the palate.

With everyone assembled, including food blogger Heidi Sladen who had won her place there through my blog competition, we then moved through to the dining room.

Our starter was a bouchee of sauteed crayfish and sweetbread with julienne of vegetables - essentially a large and rather posh vol-au-vent - matched with the NV Gosset Grande Reserve.

The wine felt fuller and more elegant than the Brut Excellence, and whilst all the individual elements of the bouchee were very good, the pastry-to-filler ratio seemed high and it felt in need of a bit more sauce.

With the exclusion of the first wine, the Brut Excellence, all the Gosset Champagnes are served in old-fashioned "traditional" bottles with no malolactic fermentation.

Next was a take on an Alsatian dish - pork medallion with fresh choucroute and Champagne jus.

Alsace is not far to the east of Champagne and to me there is a certain Central European-tinged family-resemblance between Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy and Jura - one feels it in the cultures, the food and wines, the architecture.

The pork was well-flavoured and perfectly cooked, the choucroute a crisp, slightly tart accompaniment rather than the traditional steaming pile. The highlight of the dish was the delicious jus and some perfectly matched wilted spinach.

The wine to match this dish was the NV Gosset Grand Rose - a pale red in colour, it stood up to the food well and felt well-structured and precise.
With three delicious cheeses from the region, we were served what was for me the best wine of the evening, a 2000 Grand Millesime.

Taut, precise and structured, it really was quite wonderful and went well with the cheeses.

The 2000 is the current vintage in the UK and whilst drinking well now, still has plenty of life left in it - the 2004 will be the next vintage and Philippe explained with a wink that it will repay some cellaring so we should buy two cases and only drink one straight away.

The final course was a Tarte au sucre with Champagne Granite - this came with a local twist, a Biscuit Rose de Reims which is a speciality of Reims, capital of Champagne which I opted to match with a glass of Cognac Fontpinot Grande Champagne XO.

The Cognac is from Frapin which is owned by the same family as Gosset. With rich cooked fruit on the nose and a hint of nail polish, it was refreshing, smooth and long on the palate.

By contrast, Philippe explained, spirits are sterile in the bottle and do not improve with ageing, so having bought a bottle of the Frapin, we should drink it straight away.

The event had proved very popular indeed with tickets sold out well in advance - at the end of the evening, I chatted with a group of people and found they were having a work do there.

I have been to plenty of work dos myself, but never anything quite as smart as a Champagne dinner so I concluded they must either all be high fliers or have a very generous employer.

With that thought, I left to head home whilst they made their way down to the Hotel's quirky and cosy cellar bar to carry on the evening's entertainment.

By contrast, Philippe had told me that, due to a mix-up, he would have to drive over to Hitchin to sleep on someone's floor before flying off to his next global destination.

And as for Heidi, she has written up her take on the evening here, and clearly enjoyed it so much that she also went back a few days later to try out the Le Brunch menu.

Recommended Wine

Of all the Champagnes we tried that evening, my favourite was the Millesime 2000 for its precision and structure; the Brut Excellence and Special Reserve (and the Frapin Cognac) are available in Cambridge from Bacchanalia.

I attended the dinner as a guest of the hotel.


Gosset - website
Hotel du Vin, Cambridge - website, twitter
Bacchanalia - website, twitter

Other related articles

Port and Portuguese Wine dinner at Hotel du Vin
Cognac Frapin
Champagne dinner at Alimentum
More on Champagne generally

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Two More Eastern Mediterranean Wines from Marks & Spencer

Earlier this year, Marks & Spencer launched a new Eastern Mediterranean range of wines - priced at around £10, these sometimes hard-to-pronounce wines from oenologically obscure countries would have to be good to tempt buyers away from more familiar bottles.

I've been reviewing them in pairs and these two whites from the Adriatic are definitely worth seeking out.

Quercus Pinot Bianco, 2011 Goriska Brda, Slovenia

Of all the former Yugoslav-nations, tiny Slovenia sees itself as the least Slavic, preferring the moniker of "Little Austria".

In the north of the country, it shares the same terroir as Austria's Styria, but this wine is from the Adriatic coastal region, not far from Italy (hence the Italianate grape name) with the vineyards cooled by sea breezes.

On the nose, it is citrussy and toasty with slightly floral notes and a touch of spice.

On the palate, there is ripe orchard fruit with rounded acidity; it feels mouthfilling with apples, pears, quince and medlar fruit - a touch of thick-skinned yeastiness and some spice.

Long on the palate and mouthwatering with a persistent rounded finish, it is well-made and balanced.

A versatile food wine, match with roast chicken or pork, hard yellow cheese or creamy mushroom pasta

It's actually rather lovely and proves a favourite not only with the rest of the CWB family, but also of M&S Wine Specialist Trading Support, Elizabeth Kelly

Golden Valley Graševina, Slavonija, Croatia

My memories of working in Croatia in the late '90s are of Italian levels of corruption and inefficiency; the country seemed to be on its knees with little hope of going anywhere any time soon.

With a stagnant, barter-based economy, making good wine seemed a low priority and I decided not to expect much from this beautiful but troubled country.

Fast forward just over a decade and I tasted a Gold Medal-winning Graševina at the IWC Taste of Gold event last year and, what do you know, here's another good one, too.

Herbaceous and aromatic on the nose, there are some ripe tropical notes.

The palate is mouthwatering and rounded with vibrant zesty acidity and tropical fruit; it is long with good savoury depth and a persistent finish.

Again, it feels balanced, well made and very pleasantly drinkable.

Match the aromatic notes with green herbs, such as mozzarella with pesto, white fish with a herby broth or roasted pork or chicken with a rosemary and sage rub.

Recommended wine

Both wines are very pleasant indeed and worth seeking out - for me, the Slovenian Quercus has the slight edge, but don't let that stop you from trying the Graševina as well.


Marks and Spencer - website, twitter

Other related articles

Croatian Graševina tasted at IWC Taste of Gold
More on Slovenian wines generally

Friday, 26 October 2012

Caliterra Tributo "Single Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - Chile

There's little doubt that Phylloxera-free Chile, with some of the New World's most complex and exciting range of terroirs, has the potential to be a great wine-making country.

And yet, and yet ... it often seems to focus overly on making wines for its northern near-neighbour, the USA, with results that are often overly ripe, sweet and primary.

Some say Chile has it just too easy as a winemaking country - maybe so, but a populous, wealthy country on one's doorstep with a fondness for alcoholic grape juice is understandably hard to ignore (especially when one of your Joint Venture partners is Californian behemoth Robert Mondavi).

Over here in Europe, however, we are a bit more interested in texture, restraint and food-friendliness.

This Caliterra Tributo "Single Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Colchagua Valley is a well-made wine technically: a dark purple in the glass, with 5 years' age, there is just the merest hint of paleness around the rim.

On the nose there is dark fruit and spice with a hint of roasted coffee. The palate reeks of ripe cassis and sweet elderberry fruit with mocha chocolateyness, liquorice, a pleasant oakiness and some cigar box.

It is big and mouthfilling, with soft, ripe, well-integrated tannins and good acidity.

Long on the palate, the finish is persistent and firm.

So, technically well-made and quite impressive, but for me, stylistically rather too ripe and overly fruit-driven; a bit too New-World-Me-Too, a smart and potentially rather interesting young lady who sadly chose lipstick and high-heels over her A-levels.

Mrs CWB - as is her wont - summed it up much more succinctly: "easy drinking / no thinking".

So, if you like crowd-pleasing Big New-World Reds with plenty of fruit sweetness and a bit more besides, this could be just your thing.

Not an easy food match, but roast leg of lamb often works well with this sort of primary red.

Interestingly, after a few days, the fruitiness fades a little revealing a more interesting and nuanced liquorice and mintiness, like a well-turned ankle.

Uber-geeks may be interested to know that the wine is from the Quillay Block with 6% Carménère and 3% Petit Verdot in the blend; oaking regime is 14 months in 62% American and 38% French with malolactic fermentation.

£10.99 from slurp and independents; provided for review.


Caliterra - http://caliterra.com/
Slurp - website, twitter

Other related articles:

De Martino - a Chilean winery moving to a more European style of wines
More on Chile generally
More on Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Quinta do Noval Tasting with Christian Seely

The last time I heard Christian Seely speaking, I was fortunate enough to be next to him at a dinner at the Cambridge Hotel du Vin which was hosting an evening's tasting of his ports and table wines from Quinta do Noval.

It was a superb evening for many reasons, but was especially memorable for me as the first time I really felt I understood Portuguese wines.

It was telling that for today's tasting in London, he presented only table wines - whilst port remains 75% of Quinta do Noval's output, the emphasis on Douro table wines has clearly increased somewhat over the past year.

Christian - a dapper and well-spoken gent with a self-deprecating sense of humour who talked of buying a vineyard before adding that Venture Capitalists were involved because "you need somebody who has some money" - started by recapping his 20-year involvement in Quinta do Noval, eight of which were spent as MD.

He also emphasised Quinta Do Noval's much more terroir-focused approach compared to the other port houses - Quinta do Noval is named after a vineyard, not its founder, and has moved its base away from the traditional port shipping area of Gaia to the Douro itself. It also produces a port, Nacional, from a single vineyard.

He then talked about the extensive replanting of the vineyards that took place during the 1990s after 20 years of gradual decline and that start of making table reds in 1996 with 2004 being the first year he felt the results were acceptable.

There were a number of recurring and inter-related themes to Christian's talk:

- the wines from the Douro have a strong sense of place, they are very vineyard-driven / terroir-driven and could not come from anywhere else

- Quinta do Noval is one of the world's great, iconic vineyards

- Quinta do Noval table wines started as something of an experiment in 1996 and the winery continues to learn and develop

- whilst the Douro is a hot place that is busy re-inventing itself, its wines are distinctly not New World in style

- the focus on table wines allows new wineries to create wines based on smaller vineyards that would just not be possible for port

- the key challenge in making table wines is tannin management; the wines need to be approachable in their youth in order to be sold (they don't yet have the reputation to be sold for laying down). Moreover, if not handled properly, the tannins can be overly prominent and a little rustic, which is not a problem in port with its higher alcohol, sweetness and longer ageing.

My own view of the main marketing challenge that the region faces is simply that people do not yet think of the Douro as a producer of table wines, let alone great ones in a classical, Old-World style. The clumsily-titled Discover the Origin campaign seems to have done little to improve matters and what is really needed is a high-profile celebrity fronting a television documentary series with lots of shots of the Douro's wonderful UNESCO World Heritage scenery in the background.

The tasting started with a vertical of the Cedro do Noval, their main wine intended to be a serious, high-quality Douro red that is both approachable and affordable. This was followed by a vertical of the Quinta do Noval which is made in limited quantities from grapes that would otherwise be made into vintage port with finally what Christian described as a few things he'd done for fun.

Cedro do Noval

This includes an amount of Syrah in the blend (around 30% to 40%) as it does well in the Douro; Cabernet Sauvignon, by contrast, was a disaster, an ugly tourist that produced a vulgar varietal wine in the New World style. The other varieties are varying amounts of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão and Touriga Francesa.

Cedro do Noval 2005 aged paleness around the rim, dark elderberry fruit, herbaceous mint and vanilla, purity of fruit expression and a soft, Syrah texture with perfectly ripe tannins and good, prominent, rounded acidity. Mellow and well-integrated.

Cedro do Noval 2006 this includes 30% TN from Quinta do Noval grapes and felt gently superior as a result; dark fruit, herbaceous aromas and cigar box on the nose. The palate is younger, more lively and grippier. There is a firmer tannic structure but also a velvety texture. Again, soft and harmonious.

Cedro do Noval 2007 a darker purple in the glass, this feels younger and more lively, more grippy.

Cedro do Noval 2008 this showed more prominent herbaceous and liquorice aromas.

Quinta do Noval

These are made from varying blends of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão and Tinta Francesa; the oaking regime has been reduced over the years to make a more delicate wine - Christian explained that TN is a delicate and fine grape variety and not a Big, New World Blockbuster. In hot years, they put the higher-alcohol grapes into the ports and use more of the lower-alcohol grapes for the table wines.

Quinta do Noval 2004 signs of age in the glass - brick red hue and paleness at the rim. Precise aromas of elderberry fruit and mintiness, it feels harmonious, balanced and mellow. Delicate floral / wild rose aromas from the high proportion (70%) of TN and a long palate.

Quinta do Noval 2005 a darker purple in the glass with dark fruit aromas. A soft velvety texture with grippiness, herbaceous minty aromas and spice, dark fruit and good, balanced acidity, grippy finish.

Quinta do Noval 2007 from a more balanced year with cool nights, this is more aromatic on the nose with complex savoury and herbaceous aromas and dark fruit. The palate is vibrantly herbaceous and minty, the tannins feel more ripe, rounded, smooth and full. Texture is soft and mouthfilling with a muscular, firm grip and some vanilla sweetness developing.

Quinta do Noval 2008 there is dark fruit and mintiness on the nose; it feels younger and more lively. Tannins are prominent, but well-balanced - it is grippy now but lovely. There is good acidity and black-cherry fruit with herbaceous, almost medicinal notes. Very precise and harmonious.


Labrador 2009 the first of the "for fun" wines, this is 100% Syrah and is named after the winemaker's dog. There is lots of ripe, dark and black cherry fruit, a lovely soft texture with pleasant grippiness. It feels very classy and well-balanced.

Touriga Nacional
Christian noted that there is some debate in the Douro about whether blends or varietal wines are the way forward; he sees merit on both sides and has made a varietal Touriga Nacional.

The overall impression of this wine for me was a little like comparing a blanc de blancs Champagne to a blend - more delicacy, finesse and precision.

Touriga Nacional 2008 dark purple in the glass, the nose is herbaceous and aromatic with elderberry fruit and floral notes. It has a lively, soft texture and ripe black cherry fruit. It feels very delicate, poised and precise.

Touriga Nacional 2009 herbaceous aromatic and lively with good acidity, poise and precision.

Recommended Wines

The standard of all the wines was very good to excellent and I am beginning to love the food-friendliness and elegance of Portuguese reds, whether from native varieties or the international Syrah.

A general trend was for the quality of the wines to improve over the years due to improvements in winemaking but for the older wines to show as more harmonious.

My favourites within each flight were:

Cedro Do Noval 2006 for its soft harmoniousness
Quinta do Noval 2007 for its complexity and vibrancy
The Labrador and Touriga Nacionals were also excellent.


Quinta do Noval - http://www.quintadonoval.com/

Image of Christian Seely reproduced from http://www.agoodnose.com/index.php?action=page&p=christian_seely

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Dourthe Reserve, 2009 - Montagne St Emilion

This Dourthe Reserve 2009 Montagne Saint-Emilion was chosen by the Association of Wine Educators for the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign as an example of an everyday Bordeaux available nationally.

Montagne Saint-Emilion is a satellite region of Saint-Emilion on the right bank - in simple terms, then, this is a step-up from basic Bordeaux but from a lesser region of a great region, so to speak; right bank means Merlot-dominated, and therefore softness, aromas and earlier drinking.

A very enjoyable and surprisingly easy-drinking Bordeaux from a national chain, it does indeed meet the overall GFWCB brief. It's also reasonably typical, so will give you a good idea of the Bordeaux right bank style; there is good fruit, aromas and a soft texture - it ticks all the boxes of what a sensible, drinkable European-style food wine should be.

Match with roast beef or herby butcher's sausages.

£9.99 from Waitrose; provided for review.


Waitrose Wines - website, twitter
Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Dourthe - http://www.dourthe.com/en/

Other related articles:

Troplong Mondot - the best Bordeaux I have ever had
Right Bank Bordeaux tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants
More on Bordeaux generally

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Inder's Kitchen at Cambridge Food and Wine Society

Nick and Inder Bull formed Inder's Kitchen just under two years ago; London professionals with a young family, they moved out of the Big City to somewhere more genteel and, frustrated by the lack of a decent Indian take-away in Cambridge, decided to set up their own.

Now selected as one of just three finalists in this year's BBC Food and Farming awards, their order-takings have suddenly gone through the roof and they are looking at the next stage of development in what Nick described as having been a hard slog so far.

Fortunately for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society, Nick was able to take time out from running the Inder's twitter account and washing up pots and pans to present some of their foods along with wines matched by Jamie Harrison of Noel Young Wines with whom the have already run a number of joint events.

Indian food and wine are not natural bedfellows - whilst aromatic Thai and Vientnamese dishes often work well with well-structured Big Whites such as oaked Chardonnay or Riesling, the traditionally oily, sweet and hot dishes of an Indian take-away are often better suited to beers.

However, things are a little different at Inder's Kitchen and the food, whilst recognisably from a curry house, is made to a much higher standard and is more gastropub than Mill Road.

The challenge with matching these foods to wines, then, is that they need to be big enough to stand up to the food, with high acidity to cut through the richness of the sauces, good aromatics and (for the reds) low tannins in order not to clash with the bitterness of the spices; a touch of residual sugar also helps.

Furnished with a copy of the evening's menu, Jamie picked out a great set of wines that met all the criteria and matched perfectly with the dishes.

The Starters

Lentil cakes with shallots and fresh ginger, served with a tomato chutney - matched with St.Clair Riesling 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand £13.49

Chicken tikka bites served with a mint and coriander chutney - matched with Emiliana Adobe Gewurztraminer 2011, Rapel, Chile £8.19

The Mains

South Indian chicken curry with mustard seeds and curry leaves - matched with Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2011, Barossa, Australia £11.29

Mysoor tomato dal - matched with Planeta 'La Segreta Rosso' 2011, Sicily, Italy £8.75


Coconut and raisin flapjack and gulab jamun - Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2010, Elgin, South Africa £13.95

You can read Heidi Sladen's account of the evening on The Moving Foodie Blog.

Cambridge Food and Wine Society - website, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn
Inder's Kitchen - website, twitter, Facebook
Noel Young Wines - website, twitter, Facebook

Other related articles:

More on the Cambridge Food and Wine Society generally.
More on Noel Young Wines generally.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Beronia Dos Maderas Crianza 2008‏ - Rioja, Spain

Opened at work for an impromptu Wine Club, this Beronia Dos Maderas Crianza 2008 is a Rioja from Gonzalez Byass.

It undergoes two different oaking regimes - French for smoothness and American for spiciness. Apparently.

In the glass it is a deep cherry colour with some paleness around the rim.

On the nose there is dark berry fruit, vanilla spice and liquorice with lots of earthy, truffley-musky aromas.

On the palate, there is ripe dark cherry fruit, lively acidity and good savoury depth with a soft, full and supple texture.

Well-integrated tannins on the finish.

Overall, very pleasant indeed - more of a fun crowd-pleaser than a serious classic.

Match with roast lamb and roasted root vegetables - or a simple plate of salamis with bread and olive oil.

£9.99 from Ocado; provided for review.

Anthony Rose recommends an earlier vintage of this wine here.


Bodegas Beronia - http://www.beronia.es/
Gonzalez Byass - http://www.gonzalezbyass.com/
Ocado - http://www.ocado.com/

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hotel du Vin Events Season - Autumn and Winter 2012‏

I have been a fan of Cambridge's Hotel du Vin ever since I first took Mrs CWB there for lunch to mark a memorable occasion.

Set in a quaintly refurbished row of terraces houses in the centre of town, it has an effortless, unpretentious sophistication that contrasts with both the chain-outlets that serve our tourist visitors and the more self-conscious Michelin-starred hang-outs.

Sitting opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum, it is Old School and erudite without being imposing.

Last year, General Manager Jacqui Griffiths invited me to attend a number of the Hotel's events as a guest, so I got to sample cigars with a group of transplant surgeons, chat with Axa Millesime's MD Christian Seely about port-making and step inside the wondrous Cheese Van.

This autumn sees a similarly impressive series of events lined up, with a Champagne Dinner on October 25th, a Steak Masterclass with Head Chef Jonathan Dean on November 6th, a Croatian Wine Dinner on 22nd November and plans for a Whiskey Dinner.

One lucky reader of the blog will shortly win a pair of tickets to the Champagne dinner with runners-up getting complimentary glasses of Champagne at the Hotel.

Come November 19th, there is an early bird lunch and dinner offer (3 courses for under £30) that runs until 3rd December and is then followed by the Christmas Anticipation menu from December 4th to 24th.

However, if you really want to do things in style, there is a Christmas Day lunch and a New Year's Eve dinner with a stay-over package.

Take your sweetheart to one of these and you might just find yourselves returning for one of the Wedding Fayres in January and April.

Full details of the events season can be found on the Hotel's website or by contacting them directly.


Hotel du Vin Cambridge - website, twitter

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The CWB Pinot-Off: Burgundy vs Chile

Autumn - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Time for gamey dishes that match superbly with Pinot Noir, that most elusive, fickle and hedonistic of grapes.

Burgundy is Pinot's spiritual home, but other cool-climate regions have a go; one is Chile, where altitude and cooling sea breezes can provide suitable conditions for Pinot.

I compared two Pinots - a Louis Jadot from Burgundy and an Errazuriz from Chile's Casablanca Valley - matched to an autumnal stew with venison from Andrew Northrop.

In very simple terms, all Pinot should be pale and delicately elegant with a soft texture - it's no blockbuster wine. Burgundian Pinot is traditionally truffley, farmyardy and hedonistic whilst the New World (especially New Zealand) is more precise and pretty.

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2010 - £12.99 (Majestic, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

On the nose, there is some farmyardiness and soft red fruit.

The palate shows typically Burgundian aromas of mushroomy forest floor, some spice and lots of raspberry and redcurrant fruit with hints of toasty oak.

The palate is long, savoury and persistent with good depth, fresh acidity and a pleasant finish.

It's a relatively restrained 13.5% alcohol but, for me, has a distinctly ripe sweetness on the palate that is rather too New World and somewhat out of place.

This unnecessary sweetness becomes less noticeable when matched with a slow-cooked casserole of venison with sweet root vegetables with meat from Andrew Northrop Butchers, but to a traditionalist like me, it's not a good thing.

Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009 - £12.75 (Tesco, Wine Rack, Slurp) 

The nose is quite restrained - a touch of redcurrant and toasty oak.

On the palate, there is red berry and cherry fruit, savouriness and lovely acidity; good finish. There's not too much going on here and it's not cheap - but it is well done and nicely balanced with a more-ishly prominent acidity that makes it very food friendly.

Classic and distinctly Old World.

Recommended Wine

Both of these are priced similarly and both do something every different - it's hard to pick a winner and, rather, I would prefer to see the best of both (the truffley aromas of the Errazuriz and the precise acidity of the Jadot) in a single wine.

Thanks should also go to Heidi Sladen and The Red Cow for suggesting gamey matches for these two wines.


Errazuriz - http://www.errazuriz.cl/
Louis Jadot - http://www.louisjadot.com/en/index.php
Andrew Northrop - Facebook, twitter
Majestic - http://www.majestic.co.uk/
Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/
Tesco - http://www.tesco.com/wine/
Wine Rack - http://www.winerack.co.uk/
Slurp - http://www.slurp.co.uk/

Other articles that may be of interest

More on Burgundy
More on Chile
More on Pinot Noir

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Mas des Dames, "La Diva" 2007 - Roberson Wines

The full story of how this bottle of wine from Roberson Wines, apparently intended as a gift from Avneet to some unspecified person, got to me will probably never be fully known.

In short, wrongly and inconsistently addressed, it turned up at work and was eventually passed to me - and with scant information about who the correct intended recipient was, I merely thanked my lucky stars and took it home vowing to give it at least proper right-up in return for my good fortune.

That was quite a while ago now, but we finally got round to opening it up the other night to try, finishing it off the following day with a Sunday lunch of slow-roast free-range chicken rubbed with a mix of chopped sage, rosemary, thyme with olive oil, salt and pepper.

A blend of Syrah, Grenache and the little-seen Alicante from the Languedoc, it is an appropriately autumnal wine.

Dark purple in the glass, there are musky-truffley aromas with dark fruit and oaky vanilla spice.

On the palate, there is more elderberry and black cherry fruit, garrigue herbs, a food-friendly acidity and lovely inky texture.

On the first evening, I find it rather good, but with the roast chicken the following day, it has improved and feels like a perfect match to earthy sage and sweet crispy parsnips roasted in chicken fat.

With greater aeration, it seems to have opened up more, become even more complex and interesting - a final half-glass with the evening meal saw it at a peak. Overall, very good and very enjoyable.

So if your name is Avneet and a gift bottle of wine never reached your intended recipient, know at least that it serendipitously found a good home in Cambridge and was much-appreciated.

£14.95 / £144.00 for 12 (£12.00 each)



Saturday, 6 October 2012

Hallowed Ground Tasting

Hallowed Ground styles itself as an exclusive membership club created by Amelia Jukes and Elodie Cameron championing premium boutique Australian and New Zealand wineries in the UK.

Australia and New Zealand make somewhat curious oenological bedfellows; New Zealand is, to me, the Southern hemisphere's answer to Austria - well-made, cool-climate wines with precision and purity made in low volumes with a focus on increasing quality and pricing.

By contrast, Australia's reputation is often as a volume producer of highly discounted warm-climate supermarket plonk - but with pockets of excellence and a cool-climate backlash going on, it's not an easy place to characterise.

However, there is clearly something of a synergy here as Amelia is also Mrs Matthew Jukes - he of the 100 Best Australian Wines - so presumably she has at least a bit of an inside track there.

I was not able to make the trade event during the day, but Amelia kindly invited me to masquerade as a Punter and come along to evening event as a guest; set in a private members club, the general style of Hallowed Ground's members seems to be smart, chic and aspirational, so I fitted right in.

On the way there, the twitter buzz was all about Te Whara Ra, the Pinots in general and a NV Flamma Sparkling Shiraz, so with limited time, I made a note to try these plus whatever else I could get to.

The NZ style of Pinots here was overwhelmingly in favour of elegance, fruit and prettiness (which I have still to learn to love) rather than my preferred Burgundian earthiness; but with prices generally in the high teens to mid-thirties, these are by no means everyday wines and expectations are raised accordingly.

The overall impression of the wines is one of elegance, balance and precision, European-style food-friendliness and a sense of classic traditions given a modern edge.
Consistency of quality was also very high with virtually all the wines here at least scoring good (1 tick), and many very good (2 ticks) to very good indeed (3 ticks).

New Zealand
Te Whara Ra, Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (£18.20) aromatic and herbaceous in the typical Marlborough style; crisp, deft and really precise. Very Good.

Toru 2011 Gew/Ries/PG (£18.00) mouthwateringly citrus with good minerality; precise and structured. Very Good Indeed.

Pinot Noir 2011 (£31.00) Soft red fruits, savouriness, elegant.

Syrah 2010 (£28.50) chocolatey texture with aromas of Christmas spice and orange peel - beautifully elegant. Very Good.

Surveyor Thomson, Central Otago

Pinot Noir 2009 (£27.60) red soft fruits, smooth texture. Precise and correct.


clos Clare, Clare Valley

Watervale Riesling 2012 (£23.70) ripe citrus and rounded acidity, savouriness rather than minerality, long palate and persistent finish. Good.

Fox Gordon, Adelaide Hills / Barossa Valley

Princess Fiano 2011, Adelaide Hills (£17.60) soft and mouthfilling, long palate. Very Good.

Abby Viognier 2010 (£17.30) lovely soft peachy texture with ripe fruit and hints of hazelnut. Good.

Ocean Eight, Mornington Peninsula

Pinot Noir 2010 (£29.45) pale in the glass, oaky spice on the nose, soft with good fruit on the palate. Well balanced.

The Aylward Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 (£49.85) pale in the glass, toasty nose, soft yet concentrated palate with red fruit and oaky spice. Persistent and long.

Paringa Estate

The Paringa Pinot Noir 2008 (£88.65) amazingly concentrated and mouthfilling, complex and intense. Very Good Indeed.

Lake Breeze, Langhorne Creek

Bullant Merlot Cambernet / Merlot (£16.65) pure fruit, cassis, mint and plum. Good.

Bullant Shiraz 2010 (£16.65) dark fruit, coffee and spice; mouthfilling and dense, good grip. Good.

Bernoota Cabernet / Shiraz 2009 (£23.25) dense and inky with a lovely, muscular texture. Very Good.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (£23.90) blackcurrant fruit and minty pencil shavings; soft, mouthfilling tannins with firm grip. Very Good.

Ulithorne Wines, McLaren Vale

Frux Frugis Shiraz 2008 (£31.30) dense and concentrated dark fruit, elegant and precise.

Paternus Shiraz/Cabernet (£36.84) has more Cab grip, density, muscularity and mintiness. Very Good.

Flamma Sparkling Shiraz NV (£36.80) single-vineyard wine with 10 vintages blended in a solera-system and bottle fermented; a bit bonkers then. Crisp, precise and yeasty with Shiraz weightiness.

Recommended Wines

I seem to have been handing out ticks very liberally at this tasting - that's partly a reflection of the prices here, but quality is also consistently high and I do feel there is a Hallowed Ground "House Style", which I rather like.

In general, the stand-out producers for me were Lake Breeze and Te Whare Ra and whilst there were some impressive price tags (and wines), if I had to pick a single wine that made my night, it was actually the poised, aromatic white blend Toru from Te Whare Ra.


Hallowed Ground - website, twitter

Friday, 5 October 2012

Voyager Estate Dinner At Vinoteca Farringdon‏

After the Masterclass with Voyager Estate Head of Winemaking and Viticulture, Steve James, at Vinoteca Farringdon we assembled journos settled down to dinner with more of the wines.

Voyager Estate is based in Margaret River, Western Australia and produces food-friendly wines in a distinctly European style thanks to the cooling influence of the Southern Ocean.

My general principle at restaurants is to choose something that I would not normally have at home - so I rejected the squash soup and cured meat options in favour of a fish starter.

A plate of salamis was brought round for sampling as a simple amuse bouche and the thin slices were sweet, intense and meaty; we matched this with a glass of Voyager's white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon and Semillon. Crisp, aromatic and precise, it had the body and structure to cut through the meat.

My smoked mackerel salad came as mashed fish with chopped celery and horseradish - the style was a touch rustic (no garnish, just a dollop of salad of the plate) but it was absolutely delicious and my choice of 2009 Chardonnay with its linear acidity, depth of flavour and toastiness proved a perfect match.

My main of partridge came on a bed of creamy celeriac puree with beet and spinach which provided a sweet, earthy contrast. The fowl itself was wonderfully tasty and perfectly cooked, but came whole and proved a little fiddly to eat in polite company.

I matched this with the 2009 Shiraz which, inexplicably, showed much better with the food than during the Masterclass - the dark fruit, pepperiness and good acidity stood up to the earthy-gamey flavours and cut through the creamy puree.

Dessert was creme brulee - the custard perfectly cooked, creamy, sweet and vanillary; the topping even and crunchy if slightly over-brulee-ed in a couple of places.

This is a dish that calls out for a dessert wine - a fresh TBA with the sweetness to match and some botrytis complexity.

Sadly, Steve explained that Voyager Estate does not do a dessert wine as the conditions needed for botrytis (generally, morning mists) do not occur and, left on the vines, the grapes succumb to ordinary rot rather than the noble variety needed.


Vinoteca - website, twitter
Voyager Estate - website, twitter, Facebook

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Adank Pinot Noir Barrique 2010 - Fläsch, Switzerland

It is a general truism of Swiss wine that it is expensive and little seen outside of the country.

A more nuanced view is that around two thirds of the country's vineyards are in western, Francophone Switzerland, with most of the remainder in the Italian-speaking south.

The eastern corner of the country, bordering Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany via Bodensee / Lake Constance is, however, home to around 500ha of vineyards, most of which is Pinot Noir the remainder mainly Chardonnay. To put the size into context, it is comparable with Nuits-St-Georges.

The area styles itself Little Burgundy and is due east from that part of France, albeit at a much greater altitude - just over 500m, which puts it amongst the higher vineyards in Europe.

The region nestles in the foothills of the Swiss Alps - aside from altitude, key quality factors are:

- the soils; mostly a mixture of chalk and slate with some alluvial
- the river Rhine, which provides clay and salinity to the soils
- the southerly autumnal wind which extends the growing season and brings full ripeness to the grapes; grapes are generally picked in mid-late October
- the grapes themselves: the Burgundian Pinot clones are early ripening with small berries, whilst the Swiss clones are more disease resistant

At the Adank winery, based in Fläsch, viticulture is not fully organic as chemical fungicides are occasionally needed, but there is a general "respect for nature" approach with organic fertilisers, hand picking and no heavy machinery.

I met with Patrick Adank whose father planted the vineyard around 35 years ago and who still runs the winery - Patrick is studying oenology at Geisenheim and had come to Cambridge for a short English-language course.

Also there was PhD student and college buyer Davy Kurniawan whom I'd invited along as well.

Patrick explained to us that the winery produces just 35,000 - 40,000 bottles a year, a tiny production, and unsurprisingly even their entry-level wine is not cheap. Sales are mostly to restaurants, regional wine merchants and private customers, with small amounts exported to Austria and Germany.

Most of their wines are red and prices compare reasonably with Pinot from Burgundy and New Zealand (albeit before UK taxes and mark-ups).

The entry-level Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel with around 30% aged in oak and sells for around CHF 19.

The mid-level Pinot Noir Auslese ("selected") is aged 100% in old oak and sells for CHF 25, whilst the flagship Pinot Noir Barrique is barrel fermented, 30% with stems and aged for around 10 months in French oak, 50% new and is CHF 33 (around £20)

Perhaps its my finance background, but I rather like consistency and if getting bitten by the Pinot bug means falling in love with its elusive and unreliable nature, then I am so far (at least partially) immune; my car is a sensible German model and I like the fact that it starts every time I put the keys in - I would never swap it for an Italian supercar that requires frequent calls to the AA.

So, I am perhaps not the best judge of Pinot, but in any case, here are my thoughts.

Adank Fläscher Pinot Noir Barrique 2010

In the glass, bright yet quite dark for a Pinot, which I attribute to the effects of altitude.

On the nose, there is pleasant oak, toasty spice and mushroominess.

The palate shows lots of pure fruit expression - plum and raspberry. It feels clean, precise and elegant. The texture is soft with a long palate.

The finish is gentle and pleasant - overall, extremely elegant and balanced.

Definitely not Burgundian - no truffley earthiness here. Rather, as Davy observed, the style here is more New Zealand, and specifically Central Otago - technically well-made with good fruit expression.

Here's Davy's review of the wine - and I do like his description of it as pretty: http://vinoremus.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/weingut-hansruedi-adank.html


Adank - http://www.adank-weine.ch/

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wine of The Month - October

In a recent post, Will Lowe says that the start of autumn is marked by one's first opening of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape .

I think this is spot-on and as the evenings get darker, the weather more blustery and the leaves russet and golden, the idea of a wine with more southern warmth and spice becomes ever more appealing.

This month we have two classics and one curve ball from our Cambridge merchants; interestingly, they all come from within a fairly narrow north-south band: two from the Rhône in southern France and one from Rioja in northern Spain.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2011, Noel Young Wines £11.35

The most northerly of our wines this month, this is 100% Syrah from the classic Rhône region.

Dark purple in the glass, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose, some spice. The palate shows lots of ripe, sweet black cherry fruit, soft yet mouthfilling texture.

Good fruit expression, acidity and savouriness. Lovely balance, elegance and finesse. Lovely finish with a touch of spiced prune or baked fig - very accomplished and showing well despite its youth.

Mas de Libian, Vin de Petanque 2011, Vin de France, Joseph Barnes Wines £10

Our next French wine is a whole lot funkier - unfilitered and unfined, this needs to be allowed to settle for a few minutes before serving.

Labelled as a humble Vin de France, it comes from the Ardeche in the southern Rhône and is mostly Grenache with some Syrah in the blend.

A dark ruby garnet in the glass, there is some elderberry and black cherry on the nose. The palate shows pure, quite primary, black cherry fruit on first opening with a prominent, almost Italian-style acidity - with aeration it all rounds out a little more into elderberry and prune.

Good savoury depth, clean acidity and lovely balance with soft tannins and a persistent finish.

Rioja Navajas Crianza 2008, Cambridge Wine Merchants £9.50

(reduced to £7.12 during October)

Rioja, from northern Spain, is another classic and a staple of autumnal evenings.

This 2008 Crianza from Cambridge Wine Merchants spends over 12 months in American oak and has a textbook "Rioja nose" of sweet vanilla with cedar, woodsiness, spice and cherry fruit.

A deep cherry red in colour, it is not quite as bright and youthful as the other two youngsters and shows a slight paleness around the rim.

On the palate, there is more sweet vanilla and mellow oakiness, with cherry fruit and meatiness. The texture is soft, supple and mellow. Long on the palate, a touch of pepperiness and eucalyptus develops.

Good, savoury and well-balanced finish, held together by well-integrated tannins. This is a very classy - as well as classic - wine and a textbook example both of what a Rioja should be, but also of the harmonious mellowness that comes with a bit of age.

And if Rioja is your thing, Cambridge Wine Merchants will be having wine and tapas tastings every weekend, masterclasses and some fine dining menus with restaurants.

All three wines have a distinctly autumnal, warming feel to them matched a European elegance and food-friendliness.

Match with stews such as beef and root vegetables or chicken, tomato and rosemary.

Recommended Wine

All three are very lovely wines and improve with a bit of air - however, my personal favourite here is the classy, elegant and complete Côtes du Rhône from St Cosme.


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

Monday, 1 October 2012

Park Lane Champagne

The name Park Lane Champagne evokes an upmarket image with its connotations of the London street that skirts one side of Hyde Park populated by expensive hotels and dealerships for luxury supercars.

The reality is that the company actually specialises in personalised gifts and sporting tie-ins, and they sent me a bottle of their entry-level gift wine for review.

This Le Ruisselet Chardonnay costs £13:50 and comes from VdP L'Aude.

It is actually a blend of Chardonnay and the obscure Chasan grape which even my friend Rob Tebeau who writes about obscure grapes on his FringeWine blog had never heard of.

There's no oak and it weighs in at a light 12.5%.

Neutral on the nose, the palate shows some good fresh, citrus acidity; it's pleasant and versatile - drinkable and inoffensive, there is nothing to get overly excited about here, but then again nothing wrong with it either.

To me it feels like a £5 wine that has been bought to a very tight budget, albeit by someone who knows their stuff.

What's there is good and there's nothing bad about it - it's just rather basic and unexciting.

The same money spent at a good merchant could get you a really interesting bottle of wine, so buy this for someone who will appreciate the personalisation - mine came with the header to my blog on the label, which was a nice touch, I thought.

£13:50; provided for review.


Park Lane Champagne - http://www.parklanechampagne.co.uk/