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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Talking Big Brands and Independent Merchants

For my regular Flavour spot on Cambridge 105, we alternate Wine of The Month recommendations with a more general chat on aspects of wine. For this programme, I talked with the show's host, Alan Alder, about Big Brands and Cambridge's Independent Merchants:

AA: So, we've talked before about a "taste memory" and you've made the observation that some people just try a wine and simply either like it or don't.

TL: Yes, that's essentially the difference between wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers.

AA: and do you think there's perhaps a third category of people who might perhaps like to drink better wine, but don't want to become wine-geeks.

TL: Yes, I certainly meet a lot of people who like the idea of trying better wines, but perhaps aren't sure where to start.

AA: Do you think these are the sorts of people who out of caution, go for Big Brands at the supermarket and having found something they like, don't go for anything else ?

TL: Well, I think it's rather sad, albeit understandable, if they do, because there's so much more to wine than Big Brands.

We live in a world where reliability and standardisation have brought us huge benefits - my car starts every morning when I put the keys in because it's a mass-produced model.

But wine is rather different - it's an agricultural product, a product of the land. It's not Coca-Cola and, to me, it should not try to be. The great things about Coke, that it's cheap, easily available and always reliable are not what wine should aspire to.

Rather, the interesting thing about wine is that it's always slightly different - from year to year, region to region, and even from vineyard to vineyard.

AA: that sounds like quite a lot to take in; where do you start ?

TL: well, as we discussed previously, there are certain classic styles - Bordeaux, Rioja, Champagne - that we can use as reference points; these should each have a certain typicity, a certain recognisable style.

AA: more of a general "House Style" than a Coke-type standardisation ?

TL: exactly, more of a general family resemblance than a carbon copy, we could say.

AA: that's interesting, because it seems in your mind, the idea of a Big Brand wine goes against everything you find interesting about wine.

TL: I'm afraid it does; these are blended, standardised wines with no sense of place or of individuality. Now, that's not to say they may not be well-enough made as a wine. Taken individually, they might be quite pleasant to drink. But they are clones rather than individuals.

AA: So what if someone wants to try some wines with more of this individuality. Where would they start ?

TL: well, the first place to start is with an acceptance that if you go for a bit more individuality, the wines will taste different. Rather obvious, but if you genuinely want consistency in a wine, supermarket big brands probably are right for you.

But if you want a bit more variety, the best place to go would be one of our local independents in Cambridge: Cambridge Wine Merchants have four branches, Bacchanalia has two, Noel Young is in Trumpington and Joseph Barnes is in Saffron Walden.

Perhaps the best place to start is with something similar to what you normally buy, but costing a bit more - I'm afraid that individuality, subtlety and a sense of place does cost a few more pennies.

AA: Do you think people might be put off by the idea of going to an independent if they've historically always bought at supermarket ?

TL: I think that's understandable; supermarkets aisles are anonymous places where it's easy to browse without anyone potentially exposing your lack of knowledge.

By contrast, a wine merchant will hopefully want to help you and will ask a few questions in order to do so.

AA: What sort of things ?

TL: I suppose it depends how much information you give them to start off with.

The things I'd suggest you'd want to know are:

- budget; how much are you looking to spend. Generalist merchants don't generally have anything below about £6, maybe £8 - so don't go in with a price point of under a fiver in your head. That said, I think it's perfectly acceptable to say "I'm not looking to spend a lot of money and (say) £7 really is my upper limit".

- next is colour: red, white or rose (and also sweet or fizzy, too)

- then we move on to occasion; essentially with food (and if so what), or just casual drinking

AA: so we've narrowed it down quite a lot now and we haven't even begun to talk about countries or grapes.

TL: that's right; at this point you might pretty much have your wine sorted. If your budget is £7 for a wine to have with a roast beef Sunday lunch, a merchant might suggest a basic Rioja, for example.

AA: You mentioned earlier not straying too far from the usual initially.

TL: that's true; if you normally drink Australian wines, for example, I would definitely mention that as these are generally a bit riper and more fruit-forward than European wines.

AA: what about mentioning grape varieties ?

TL: Well to me, the grape reflects its place of origin - and moreover grapes need specific conditions to thrive, so the place generally defines the grapes; Bordeaux is mostly Cabernet Sauvignin and Merlot, Burgundy is Pinot Noir, for example.

AA: that's quite a traditionalist view, isn't it ? Often wines are labelled mainly by grape variety.

TL: That's true, it probably is; the grape has its own character of course and it expresses the character of its origins. So it's a bit of both. Rather like a great line from a film, it becomes hard to separate out the line, from the way the actor that delivers it or the context of the film. So, the grape variety, the sense of place and the way the wine is made are all overlaid and part of the whole.

AA: And what about varieties – are there any general rules we can apply ?

TL: well yes, grapes do have their own character, but often regions express it in a different way – New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon is very different from Loire Sauvignon in France, for example.

So it’s hard to generalise, but certain grapes are more widely-grown and reliable than others – Chardonnay and Sauvignon for whites; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (or Shiraz) for reds.

Chardonnay is a highly-versatile grape and comes in a whole range of styles from steely Chablis, to oaky New World, so don’t expect every Chardonnay to taste the same.

Pinot Noir is perhaps the most mercurial of the classic grapes – and often the most expensive – so whilst it’s many wine lovers favourite, it’s not always the best place to start.

AA: so how would you sum up this discussion ?

TL: I suppose what we are saying is, for any novice enthusiasts out there who want to expand their horizons a little, get to one of the Cambridge independents - Cambridge Wine Merchants, Noel Young, Bacchanalia or Joseph Barnes Wines - and ask for some advice.

But before you go, set a budget, think about the wine drinking occasion and be able to describe what you normally drink - in general terms; New Zealand reds, oaky whites, that sort of thing.

AA: any other advice ?

TL: well a couple of good questions to have up your sleeve are:

- what do you think of this wine ? The merchant should have tried it and have an opinion.
- is this one popular ? Is it a big seller ? Obviously, the more popular a wine is, the more chance there is that it will be something you like.


Cambridge 105 - website, twitter
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/

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hotel Chocolat - The Dark Christmas Collection

I have never been fully convinced by Hotel Chocolat as a high-end retailer; to me, it has always felt like the Laithwaites of chocolate - a mass-market chain with a painted-on image whose products are oversold and rather ordinary.

However, I was prepared to be convinced otherwise when they sent me a Christmas box of chocolates to review; 180gms of chocolates costing £25 - that's over £100 per kilo, so surely they should be quite impressive, no ?

They come as a box of 19 dark chocolates, all but one with fillings.

Armed with a sharp knife, I cut the chocolates up and started sampling.

Sadly, the fillings are, in the main, disappointingly sugary; the chocolate shells, although dark, are also necessarily quite sweet, too. The chocolate itself is very smooth and buttery, but otherwise unexciting with limited aromatics.

Salted Soft Caramel the saltiness contrasts nicely with the intense sugariness of the caramel; some bitter aromatics linger on the finish of the chocolate.

Rum Truffle the filling is sugary and alcoholic. Nothing much else really going on,

Christmas Mess the filling is again sugary, but with pleasant strawberry flavours. The dried strawberry pieces on top are a clever touch and work really well - the meringue pieces are more anonymous.

Christmas Cake the chocolate casing is extremely thin; the filling has a pleasant combination of Christmas fruit and spices with walnuts, raisins, cranberries, cinnamon, orange and nutmeg. Not too sugary, greater complexity and well balanced - the most interesting chocolate here.

Whiskey Toddy the chocolate layer is thicker; the filling is harshly alcoholic and unbalanced.

Clementine Truffle almost no perceptible orange flavour in this; rather, there is plenty of rich, toasty nut praline which is quite nice.

Vanilla Dream the chocolate layer is thick and infused with a simple sweet vanilla aroma. The filling is intensely rich and creamy, it needs something to cut through the heaviness.

Dark Chocolate Tree with 70% dark chocolate, there is still quite a bit of sugariness to this. Again, very smooth texture, but lacks aromas.

Rum and Raisin the sweet raisin fruit and alcohol from the rum feel quite balanced here.

Snowball very sugary, a bit creamy and alcoholic, with a touch of bitterness from the chocolate on the finish. Inoffensive and unmemorable.

The Christmas Box costs £25; provided for review.

Other related articles
Barruzzo Chocolate Masterclass
More Barruzzo Chocolates


Hotel Chocolat - website, Facebook

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Morellino di Scansano "Ventoso" 2011 - Oddbins‏

This Morellino di Scansano from Poggio Argentiera was one of the potential contenders for our second Oddbins Bloggers Case.

Quite why it did not get more attention on the evening I don't know, and the fact that it did not make the final cut should in no way be seen as a comment on its quality - I rather liked it, but had already chosen my own wine and so took home the leftovers to enjoy the rest of the bottle.

To me, traditional Italian reds need a bit of understanding - they are often more about food-friendly acidity and tannins than crowd-pleasing fruit flavour; this wine, however, I find very easy to understand and, whilst it is distinctly a food wine, it is sensible without being overly challenging.

Ruby in the glass, there are red and black cherry aromas on the nose.

The palate shows more red and black cherry fruit, a touch of spice and good acidity; it is long and savoury with perfectly ripe tannins, a soft mouthfilling texture and a firm, persistent finish.

This is, I think, a really lovely, well-made wine and a great starting point for learning about Italian reds.

Match with rich, meaty pasta dishes or roasts such as lamb shoulder with carrots and celery.

£10:50 from Oddbins; provided for review.

Other related articles
Gianpaolo Paglia at Cambridge Food and Wine Society
The Oddbins Bloggers Case
The Second Oddbins Bloggers Case - Huber Riesling


Poggio Argentiera - website, twitter
Oddbins - website, twitter

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Perfect Cellar

Naming your business The Perfect Cellar is a sign of confident ambition, if nothing else.

The tasting I attended, however, was a little more modest with a reasonable, but not overwhelming, turnout and a slightly nervous, first-date feel.

The business has been around in one form or another for a few years now, but has settled on a model of selling well-made, upper-end classical wines from France.

The name Perfect Cellar is apparently intended to denote two ideas - that these wines are all well-made and ready for drinking now, and also that all the classic regions are covered, so you could build a cellar around the range.

I popped along in my lunchtime and was able to sample all 25 wines on show; my detailed notes are below, but in summary the wines are all good to very good, all drinking nicely now and mostly current or recent vintage.

I'm not sure that Perfect Cellar has a particularly strong USP - a well-made, focused range is no mean feat, but is not completely unique either.

But as a source of reliable, interesting wines, I would definitely give them a go - the major points of interest were the one or two older wines which were very impressive.

The Wines

Domaine de Landreau Cremant de Loire Brut "Anthonin Dubreuil" NV (£12.12) Cab Franc / Chenin Blanc good complexity, ripe fruit, good value

Rose D'Anjou 2011 (£9.19) Grolleau / Cab Franc: a good example with yeastiness on the nose, soft berry fruit and muskiness

Ch Latour-Martillac Grand Cru Classe de Graves Pessac-Leognan Blanc 1998 (£33.99) Sauvignon Blanc blend: complex, evolved nose, soft yet complex texture, good acidity and length, mellow and integrated, waxy and herbaceous - lively and vivacious despite its age. Very Good.

Domaine Charly Nicolle Petit Chablis 2011 (£12.99) Chardonnay: ripe, linear, melon and citrus fruit good length

Chablis Vielles Vignes Ancestrum 2010 (£20.45) Chardonnay: more complex nose, more challenging palate with ripe pithy lime zest, savouriness and good persistence

Chablis Mont de Milieu 2011 (£20.45) Chardonnay: aromatic and ripe, lovely texture with ripe lime zest. Good.

Domaine Sophie Cinier Macon Fuisse 2011 (£17.99) Chardonnay: soft and full, ripe melon fruit, good savoury depth with a touch of leesiness; elegant and balanced

Pouilly Fuisse (£29.99) Chardonnay: oaky, complex and toasty, creamy, savoury and leesy, ripe citrus fruit and long palate. Very good.

Domaine Parigot Pere et Fils Meurseult Les Vireuils Dessous 2010 (£32.99) Chardonnay: linear and precise, very structured and poised with toasty yeastiness and pleasantly challenging. Very Good Indeed.

Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St Jean 1er Cru 2010 (£44.99) Chardonnay: ripe white stone fruit, linear acidity, very pure and elegant

Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Clos de la Perriere 2010 (£18.99) Pinot Noir: deep cherry red, sweet red fruit and smokiness on the nose, ripe fruit, earthiness and savouriness on the palate, persistent. Good.

Pommard Clos de la Chaniere 1er Cru 2009 (£36.99) Pinot Noir: dark in the glass, red and black cherry fruit on the palate, smokey toastiness - big and masculine but elegant.

Savigny-les-Beaune Les Vergelesses 1er Cru 2008 (£27.99) Pinot Noir: pale, perfumed earthy nose; sweet ripe red berry fruit, soft texture and grippy finish

Mas du Soleilla, La Clape Reserve Blanc, Coteaux de Languedoc 2010 (£26.99) Roussanne / Bourboulenc: waxy, blowsy and fat with ripe melon and sweet spice

Le Petit Mars Coteaux de Languedoc 2011 (£13.99) Grenache / Syrah: spicy and characterful with garrigue herbs, dark fruits and sweet spice. Mouthfilling and soft. Good.

Les Chailles Coteaux de Languedoc 2009 (£18.99) Grenach / Syrah earthy, spicy, musky and truffley. Good complexity. Good.

Les Bartelles Coteaux de Languedoc 2008 (£22.99) Syrah / Grenache inky, brooding and deep, dark fruit and toastiness, velvety texture, complexity. Good.

Clot de L'Amandier Coteax de Languedoc 2009 (£38.99) Syrah / Grenache similar profile to Les Bartelles, but even more accomplished

Ch Lafon la Tuilerie St Emilion Grand Cru 2005 (£35.99) Merlot: complex and mature with good ripe fruit, vanilla and a soft texture. Good.

Ch Chantelune Margaux 2007 (£36.99) Merlot blend: nose of coffee, leather and dark fruit. Good acidity and well-integrated - a good wine from a difficult year. Very Good.

Margaux 2009 (£32.99) Merlot blend: a more youthful version of the 2007.

Ch Haut-Marbuzet St-Estephe 1997 (£43.99) Cab blend: aged brick red; evolved with sweet bramble fruit and great mellowness.

Terre de Lion St Julien 2009 (£27.99) Cab blend: good ripe fruit, well balanced and drinking nicely now - cigar box, mintiness and bramble fruit.

Ch Les Ormes St Julien 2008 (£32.99) Cab blend: again quite textbook profile. Drinking nicely.

Ch Tire Pe La Cote Bordeaux 2009 (£14.99) Merlot blend ripe bramble fruit, good grip. Good value. Good.

Recommended Wines

The Ch Latour-Martillac Grand Cru Classe de Graves Pessac-Leognan Blanc 1998  for its aged complexity.

The Meursault Les Vireuils Dessous 2010 for its structure and precision.

The Ch Chantelune Margaux 2007 for its complexity and balance.

The Ch Haut-Marbuzet St Estephe 1997 for its aged mellowness.

Other related articles
Private Cellar tasting
Justerini & Brooks tasting


The Perfect Cellar - website, twitter

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Huber Riesling Terrassen 2011‏ - Oddbins

I chose an Austrian Gruener for my first white for the Oddbins Bloggers Case; for our second Bloggers Case, my eye was caught by this Huber Riesling, also from Austria. I have been a fan of Markus Huber's wines for many years now - he is based in Traisental just outside Austria's prestigious Wachau region and produces great wines comparable to that region's but without the price tag.

To put it at its most basic, a Huber for around tenner is an absolute bargain.

Sandy yellow in the glass, on the nose there is heather and some white flowers.

On the palate, there is ripe citrus with tropical fruit and mouthfilling acidity, good minerality with some zesty lime and thick-skinned toasty, yeasty complexity developing.

With a really good acidic structure it has a thoughtful, crystal-clear beauty and a long, savoury, persistent finish.

This is a really lovely wine and great value - it typifies what great Austrian Riesling should be like.

Match with almost anything, but especially hearty autumnal food, meaty fish and roast white meats from pork to turkey.

The Second Oddbins Bloggers Case is available here and features more great wines selected by the six of us.

Other related articles
The Oddbins Bloggers Case
Huber at London International Wine Fair
Huber at Annual Tasting of Austrian Wines‏

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Justerini & Brooks Loire and Rhone tasting‏

The name alone, Justerini and Brooks, has an aristocratic ring - even before you get to the Royal Warrant. Established in 1749, it has a whiff of Old School and Old Money, of composure, sophistication and elegance.

Appropriately then, the tasting was in the panelled, high ceiling-ed surrounds of Vintners Hall in the City.

It being on my way home, I was able to drop in briefly before getting the train back to Cambridge.

In general, the wines were .... well, to say good does them a disservice; they were classical, assured and sophisticated, with a somewhat timeless feel. And expensive, too.

Their grandeur embodied the ethos of aristocracy and owed nothing to mere bourgeois aspirations.

These are wines to fall quietly in love with then - they are not attention-grabbing young turks, but graceful debutantes, accomplished hostesses and elegant dowagers

I started with the Loire whites - prices are per case of 12 In Bond.

Francois Cotat, Sancerre Caillotes, 2011 (£200) ripe fruit, soft texture, very good persistence

Vincent Pinard Sancerre Harmonie, 2010 (£220) ripe fruit, soft full texture, zesty pithiness

Lucien Crochet Sancerre, le Chene, 2010 (£210) ripe melon fruit, good aromatics, mouthfilling, precise, good depth and rounded acidity

Domaine De La Taille aux Loups Vouvray, Clos de Venise, 2011 (£190) minerally, poised, pure and focused, with balanced fleshy ripeness

For the Rhone, I concentrated on the north.

Domaine Etienne Pochon, Crozes Hermitage Chateau Curson, 2011 (£130) ripe elderberry fruit, vanilla spice - feels soft and easy drinking even now. Very competent.

Andre Perret Condrieu, Coteau de Chery, 2011 (£300) soft texture, peachy and ripe

St Joseph, Les Grisieres, 2011 (£180) soft, ripe, perfumey and mouthfilling. Balanced and elegant.

Francois Villard Condrieu Le Grand Vallon 2011 (£300) from an east-facing vineyard, this has a complex freshness that I really like; flintsmoke and zestiness on the nose, pure linear acidity, zesty and poised. Very Good.

Cote Rotie, Le Gallet Blanc, 2011 (TBC) good ripe fruit, well balanced, perfectly ripe tannins

Clusel-Roch Condrieu 2011 (£295) ripe tropical fruit acidity and zesty pithiness

Cote Rotie, Petite Feuille (£240) musky, feral nose, dark fruit and muskiness on the palate, long and ripe with a sour-cherry rasp

Rene Rostaing Condrieu La Bonette, 2011 (£395) freshness on the nose, mouthfilling and peachy, good savoury underpinnings with good zesty pithiness

Cote-Rotie Ampodium (£355) sour cherry rasp and long on the palate. Chianti-esque.

Bernard Burgaud Hermitage Le Greal 2011 (£385 for 6) complex with ripe fruit, vanilla sweetness, smokey earthiness and a pleasantly sour rasp. Very Good Indeed.

Domaine du Coulet Cornas Brisse Cailloux, 2011 (£240) herbaceous aromas, complex dark fruit, musky with lots of sour cherry acidity, vanilla sweetness and loooo-ong finish. Very Good Indeed.

Cornas Billes Noires, 2011 (£460) a step-up from the Brisse Cailloux; same profile but even greater complexity, balance and poise. Very Good Indeed - and then some.

Recommended Wines

Loire - the Domaine De La Taille aux Loups Vouvray, Clos de Venise for its poise and minerality

Rhone, white - Francois Villard Condrieu Le Grand Vallon 2011 for its freshness and linearity

Rhone, red - Cornas Billes Noires, 2011 for its mix of intensity, complexity and elegance

Other related articles
En Primeur Rhone at Cambridge Wine Merchants
Rhone Double Header at Twickenham
Cotes du Rhône Village Visan, Louise-Amélie, 2009
Domaine Rablais Touraine - with a Risotto Recipe


Justerini & Brooks - website, twitter

Monday, 19 November 2012

Win An Hotel Chocolat Christmas Box‏

Hotel Chocolat recently sent me a couple of Christmas Boxes to sample and give away as a competition.

The box retails at £25 and includes 19 chocolates with a mixture of centres.

To be in with a chance of winning, just add a comment to this post telling me what would be your perfect Christmas chocolate moment and why; it could be real or imagined, it could relate to the chocolate itself or the circumstances.

Is it the indulgence of eating chocolate for breakfast on Christmas day ? Or is it eating a chocolate that tastes like Christmas pudding ? Did you leave chocolates out for Santa on Christmas eve and found he had eaten them all up on Christmas day ?

Whatever your perfect chocolate moment is, was or could be - just add it as a comment and you could be opening your own Christmas box from Hotel Chocolat in just over a week.

The competition closes at midnight on Sunday November 25th - so don't hang about.


Hotel Chocolat - website, Facebook

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Pierre Chanau Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Blanc 2010 - Auchan

I bought this Pacherenc du Vic Bilh dessert wine at the Auchan hypermarket in Calais on the way back from a holiday in the south of France earlier this year, paying just a few euros for it.

It is produced by Pierre Chanau which seems to supply a good part of Auchan's wine list from all over France (Olivier Legrand of InterRhone informs me that Pierre Chanau is actually Auchan's own label - "Chanau" being an anagram of "Auchan").

Golden in the glass, it has a nose of roasted peaches, honeysuckle and beeswax with hints of botrytis.

More marmaladey roasted buttery peach on the palate, the juicy sweetness cut through with lovely fresh acidity.

Nicely balanced, the only criticism is that it is slightly lacking in complexity and length - the sugars feel a little simple. This, however, is by comparison to the much more expensive dessert wines of somewhere like Austria and, for the price, this is more than adequate.

Match with fruit-based puddings or cheeses.

€7.50 from Auchan.

Lyndsey Chadwick, @Lnc13, recommends this dry Pacherenc du Vic Bilh.

Other related articles
Wine-Buying in France: Calais
Wines From South West France With Anthony Rose
Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Sauternes
Domäne Wachau Beerenauslese Terrassen 2008


Auchan - http://www.auchan.fr/accueil

Monday, 12 November 2012

Ogio Pinot Grigio 2011, Umbria‏, Italy - Tesco

Is Pinot Grigio still on the way up - or the way out. Does anyone care ?

Pleasant enough when well made, that it will fall out of favour is as sure as that it's currently overly-popular as the pub white of choice.

I actually rather like Pinot Grigio in general - when well-made, it has a thrilling acidity and racy minerality; it's just that it lacks the versatility to become a broadly classic or benchmark wine.

This Ogio Pinot Grigio is a pleasant quaffer with ripe orchard and melon fruit - the acidity is pleasantly citrussy and it is a distinctly easy-drinker,.

If it rather lacks depth or complexity, it at least goes down very nicely - nothing not to like here.

Match with the lightest of foods, or those needing a thirst-quenching accompaniment - garlic crostini with olive oil, soft white cheese or grilled plaice.

This bottle was given as a gift; it retails at Tesco for £9.99, apparently - which seems rather steep.

Other related articles
The Spectacular Summer Entertaining Case from Tesco
The Co-operative Premium Marlborough Pinot Grigio 2011, New Zealand


Tesco Wine - website, twitter
Ogio - www.ogiowines.co.uk

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Two Wines from Fine Wines Direct

I was recently sent two wines by Fine Wines Direct UK for review; I'd never heard of them before and there was no information included with the wines - even the back labels revealed precious little, but a bit of Internet research allowed me to add at least prices and some other background information.

Hopefully, the quality of the wines would speak for itself.

Baron de Plain-Point, 2009 VdF (£13.99)‏

Scant information on the label - just the year, the humble VdF tag, 13% alcohol and the location of the producer in Saint Aignan.

A quick check on the website tells me the winery is based in Bordeaux but the wine is a blend of old-vine Gros Manseng from Jurançon plus a selection of Sauvignons grown on the property which is then aged for 12 months on the lees in 600l vats.

It is a straw yellow in the glass; on the nose there is a mix of orchard fruit, quince and medlar, toasty thick-skinned yeastiness and a touch of oakiness.

On the palate, there is sweet ripe, slightly oxidative, apple and pear fruit, good mouthwatering linear acidity, toasty oakiness and savoury depth.

The palate is long and balanced with good persistence on the finish. There is a pleasant cidery rasp to the acidity that cuts through the sweetness of the fruit, almost a sherry tang.

A good food wine that improves with a bit of air; rather old school, which I like.

Match with simple but hearty dishes such as roast pork or chicken pie.

M de Plain-Point, 2006 Bordeaux (£12.49)

A deep cherry red in the glass, on the nose there are complex aromas of mushroomy woodsiness, old leather, bramble fruit and coffee grounds.

On the palate, there is more woodsiness, some cigar box, prune and bramble fruit and good, food friendly acidity.

The tannins are very gentle and quite mellow - the finish is more persistent than grippy and there is a slight rasp to the acidity.

It is very much a food wine - not just in having the acidity and tannins to match to food, but being transformed by the food.

We pair it, rather ambitiously, with tafelspitz - Austrian boiled beef served with salty matchstick chips, apple and horseradish sauce and sour cream with chives. It works; the mellowness of the wine matches the slow-cooked beef whilst the acidity cuts through the sauces with no excess tannins to clash.

Other pairings would include well-cooked dark meats such as slow-roast pheasant or duck or a beef stew.

Overall, I am very impressed by these wines that rather elude easy pigeon-holing - both have the mellowness and complexity of age and, yes, a price tag to match.

So they are wine geeks' wines - subtle, complex and sophisticated. Yet neither has a flashy label or appellation or anything particularly eye-catching to announce their superiority; they would need to be hand sold and recommended by word-of-mouth.

£13 for an aged Vin de France or a humble Bordeaux ? Take my word for it - it will be money well spent.

Other related articles
Rousseau de Sipian 2005
Affordable Right-Bank Bordeaux


Fine Wines Direct - http://finewinesdirectuk.com/

Saturday, 10 November 2012

South West France Wines Christmas Masterclass

Christmas season started earlier this week with The Wine Gang's Christmas lunch and matching wines from South West France at Comptoir Gascon.

A few months ago, I had heard the Gang's Anthony Rose talking through the region, its grapes and terroirs in depth. This time it was Tom Cannavan's turn to match some of their favourite SW France Wines to traditional Christmas dishes as interpreted by sister restaurant Cellar Gascon's Michelin-starred chef.

Tom started with a brief overview of the region in which they key theme was diversity; situated in the bottom-left quarter of France, it covers around 1/6th of the country's land mass and climatic influences are fourfold:

- the Atlantic on the west
- the Pyrenees to the south
- a Continental climate in the middle
- and the Mediterranean to the east

Each broad sub-region has its own set of grapes - some more familiar than others - whose names, Tom explained, are often appropriately descriptive: Fer Servadou has a wild, feral character; Arrufiac is something of a ruffian; Tannat is tannic and Duras has a certain toughness (dur in French)

Key statistics are that roughly 50% of output is PGI (the old VdP), whilst 25% is PDO (formerly AOC) whilst 25% has no geographic indication, meaning it is blended with wines from other regions into Vin de France.

Perhaps surprisingly for such a southerly region, 53% of output is white, 9% rose and just 38% is red - however, one has to bear in mind the cooling Atlantic influence and effect of altitude in the Pyrenees.

For each course, I tried the wines alone initially and then with food.

We started with two wines to match smoked salmon with toast - the toast itself was wafer thin rustic white bread toasted and season with olive oil, whilst the salmon was pink, fat and juicy.

St Mont, Vignoble de Gascogne 2011 (Marks & Spencer, £7.99) a blend of local grapes this was herbaceous, aromatic and zesty on the nose, with ripe citrus fruit and leesiness on the palate. Modern and cool in style, it worked very well as an aperitif but felt overpowered a little by the food.

Le Passe Authentique, Plaimon Producteurs 2010 (Waitrose, £8.99) a similar blend, with an extra year's ageing, older vines and battonage, this had less of the aromatic expression, but more depth and a sense of structural underpinning which proved a better match with the richness of the food.

Next was a Basque pate on Toast which had a meaty rusticity with some spice and sweet peppers; on this occasion, the toast was sweet, buttery brioche.

This was matched to two Cotes de Gascogne wines, where the traditionally workhorse grapes of Colombard and Ugni Blanc dominate.

Domaine de Tariquet, Dernieres Grives 2010 (The Wine Society, £14.99) a varietal Petit Manseng with a rich nose of botrytis and marmalade, this is a lovely wine - sweetness cut through with fresh acidity and very elegant. This matched very well with the sweetness of the brioche.

Domaine de Pellehaut, Ampelomeryx 2010 (independents, £10.49) an equal blend of Ch, SB and the two Mansengs, this is oak fermented and aged for 9m in oak, 30% new. A complex, toasty, zesty nose, slightly sulphurous, good acidity, structure and persistence. The spiciness of the wine and persistence match the pate, the acidity cuts through, but it does not stand up well to the sweet brioche.

For a ballotine of Turkey and Chestnut, we moved to Fronton where the thin-skinned and mildew-prone Negrette dominates - most of the wine here is sold in the bars of nearby Toulouse.

Chateau Plaisance 2011 (Caves de Pyrene and others, £10.49) a rosé from 80% Negrette, 15% Gamay and 5% Syrah; organic and using wild yeasts, this is almost a natural wine. Salmon pink, with a slightly toasty nose; earthy, bone dry and savoury on the palate, great structure and depth, needs food and matches the succulent turkey meat perfectly, but not so well the sweetness of the chestnut.

Ch Montauriol, Mons Aureolus, Vignobles N Gelis 2009 (York Wines, POA) a blend of 50% Negrette, 25% Syrah and 25% Cab, this spends 12m in Allier oak; on the nose there are expressive aromas of sweet vanilla red forest fruit, with more cherry fruit and vanilla on the nose. A little underwhelming on its own, it works really well with the sweetness of the chestnuts and is transformed into a wonderful match.

The main course of roast beef was accompanied by a bread sauce and a red sauce of cranberries, port and kumquats.

These were matched with two hefty reds from Madiran, just south of Bordeaux where reds are mainly Tannat, whose name is taken to refer to its tannic nature which needs either years to soften or a fish tank-like process of micro-oxygenation.

Ch Arricau-Bordes, Plaimont Terroirs et Chateau 2009 (POA) even served decanted, this feels quite youthful. I am not convinced by the effects of micro-oxygenation - the tannins feels artificially softened and not in keeping with the rest of the wine. A bit like botox. A rustic and earthy nose with vanilla spice, sous bois and cigar box. Good acidity, sweet vanilla and bramble fruit with a grippy finish. It works well with the beef and red sauce, but not the bread sauce.

Ch Bouscasse, Veilles Vignes, Vignobles Brumont 2006 (Fortnum & Mason, POA) aged naturally in oak for 16m, this is 100% Tannat. There are the first hints of brick red in the glass, the nose is intense, elegant and herbaceous with muskiness and dark berry fruit. The palate is spicy, herbaceous and complex with good fruit, concentration and intensity. Lovely secondary aromas of woodsiness with grippy, slightly grainy tannins. A very impressive wine and works well with all the food.

It would not be Christmas without a Christmas pudding - and it is a brave choice to try and match to a table wine, rather than an aged brandy. It is even braver to attempt the match to a dry red. The pudding itself was delicious and light, and we all helped ourselves generously to the accompanying cream.

Domaine d'Escausses, Cuvee des Drilles 2011 (Caves de Pyrene, £9.99) with spicy, fruity aromas, fresh acidity and lots of dark elderberry fruit, this matched the character of the pudding and cut through, but lacked the sweetness to be a proper match.

Domaine Rotier, Renaissance 2008 (Vine Trail, £13.25) a varietal Loin de L'Oeil, this was a delicious, amber coloured beeswax and marmalade sticky, with some weightiness from oak-ageing. It had the sweetness and acidity to stand up to the pudding, but was not quite weighty or characterful enough.

I couldn't help wondering whether a sneaky splash of the dry red in the sweet white might do the trick - the rich, dark fruit and spiciness of one with the sweetness of the other.

That actually proved to be the case for almost all the food and wine pairings: between them, the two wines had the expression and body to match, but individually they struggled with the complexity of the dishes - often, the match of sweetness and bitterness with the weightiness of the food.

It is hard to surmise underlying reasons for these near-miss matches - the complexity of the food, limitations of the wines - but it is worth noting that the best match came from the most complex wine, the Bouscasse with the roast beef.

Recommended Wines

All the wines were good, I thought - even if I was again not convinced of the benefits of micro-oxygenation.

My top wines were:

- aperitif: St Mont, Vignoble de Gascogne 2011 for its aromatic freshness
- white: Domaine de Pellehaut, Ampelomeryx 2010 for its complexity
- red: Ch Bouscasse, Veilles Vignes, Vignobles Brumont 2006
- sticky: Domaine de Tariquet, Dernieres Grives 2010

Other related articles
South West France Wine With Anthony Rose
Joseph Barnes Wines (specialises in Languedoc, SW France and northern Spain)
Voyager Estates Dinner and Wine Matching at Vinoteca (next door to Comptoir Gascon)


The Wine Gang - website, twitter
South West France Wines - website
Comptoir Gascon - website

Monday, 5 November 2012

Two Co-op Wines for Christmas

The Co-op, like most retailers, is gearing up for Christmas with special offers and discounts.

Here are two wines that they recommend for your Christmas Dinner and which are currently on special offer.

Charles de Cazanove Brut NV, Champagne (£31.99 reduced to £15.99 until December 4)

Champagne to start is always a good thing and no other fizz makes quite the same statement as Champagne.

This Charles Cazanove Brut NV is a pale golden yellow in the glass and initially quite neutral on the nose.

With air, some more toasty, yeasty aromas emerge and on the palate, there is ripe orchard fruit, good savouriness and persistence on the finish, pleasant mousse.

Pleasant, easy-drinking and well-made, this would work well as either an aperitif, with a light starter or even as a pick-me-up with Boxing Day leftovers.

Ch Le Bonnat, Graves, 2008 (£15.99 reduced to £9.99 until December 4)

A classic roast dinner demands a traditional wine and this red Bordeaux would be a good match for your main course.

Still relatively youthful at four years old, it is a translucent purple in the glass with just a touch of paleness around the rim.

There is spicy oak on the nose whilst the palate is ripe, soft and long with oaky vanilla spice, and some well-integrated grip.

Again, like the fizz, it is a nice easy-drinker.

My only complaint with these two wines would be that, however well made they are, they feel a little safe and lacking in individuality.

However, in a group setting with various branches of the family around the dinner table, that could well prove to be an advantage.


The Co-op - website, twitter

Other related articles

Sainbury's Etienne Dumont Brut NV
Co-op Veuve Monnier NV
Waitrose Dourthe Reserve 2009 Montagne Saint-Emilion

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Private Cellar Annual Tasting

When you have MW Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler buying your wine and name your company Private Cellar, it is only appropriate that you hold your annual tasting in the grandly gilded-and-wood-panelled surrounds of the Queen's Room and Parliament Chamber of the Middle Temple in the legal quarter of the City.

And besides, I've never met a lawyer who did not appreciate good wine.

Arriving early at the tasting, there was room to move around freely, but before long it was a bit like being at a student house party. Except that everyone was rather more smartly dressed.

With 34 wines on show, I decided I could get round all of them if I was quick enough, so my notes are all the briefer as a result.

Overall impressions were that quality is both high and consistent - as one would hope - with a focus on the traditional and modern classics.

The few older wines showed much better than the generally younger ones and the revelation of the evening was some very interesting South African wines from Springfontein.

I was less convinced by the Californian wines (but that is generally the case) and there was even a very good Burgundy for under £30.

The Champagnes were well-made and elegant, but lacked the yeasty rasp of food-friendliness I look for.

A general feature of almost all the whites was excellent acidic structure - rounded, prominent and mouthfilling.

Regional / varietal typicity was high - again as one would expect with an MW buying, which makes note-taking easier.

However, as a WSET Diploma friend once told me, a good rule-of-thumb is the more notes you scribble down, the better the wine; that certainly applies here. Anything especially worthy of note gets an additional Good, Very Good or Very Good Indeed.

Prices generally start at £8 per bottle with most somewhere in the teens.

Muscadet FildeFer, Sauvignon 2011 (£7.95) not sur lie but lemony, pleasant and light

Ugni Blanc / Colombard, Domaine Laguille 2011 (£7.95) herbaceous, crisp and zesty

Les Rafelieres Sauvignon Blanc IGP Val de Loire 2011 (£7.95) nettles and blackcurrant leaves on the nose and palate, flinty and mineral. Good.

Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon, Domaine Laguille, Cotes de Gascon 2010 (£7.95) musky, earthy and juicy - not so convinced by this one.

Merlot Maison Mayol 2009 (£8.25) more interesting, coffee aromas, sweet vanilla spice, red and bramble fruit, grippy

Pavillon du Chateau Beauchene, Cotes du Rhone 2011 (£8.95) earthy, spicy, soft texture, elderberry fruit and mintiness

Chateau de Sours Blanc, Bordeaux 2011 (£11.25) herbaceous and pure, with good acidity; thoughtful and precise.

Chateau de Sours Rouge, Bordeaux 2010 (£11.95) coffee grounds and mintiness, ripe juicy fruit, grippy

Reserve de Sours Sparkling Rose, Bordeaux NV (£13.95) traditional method fizz - crisp, fresh and elegant with soft red fruits; feels young.

Bordeaux Ets Jean-Pierre Moueix 2008 (£9.75) cigar box and pencil shavings, meaty with cool mint and bramble fruit; youthful and grippy (unoaked). Will age / needs decanting.

Chateaux Cap de Haut, Haut Medoc, 2007 (£14.95) lovely tobaccoey nose, good bramble fruit, mintiness, fresh acidity and tannins well-integrated (oaked)

Chateau St Brice Grand Cru St Emilion 2002 (£23.50) complex nose and palate, drinking very nicely now, still lively on the palate but harmonious and balanced. Very Good Indeed.

Chateau Haut Roc Blanquant GC St Emilion 2005 (£23.95) complex and minty; youthful compared to St Brice. Good.

Bourgogne Blanc Sorin Coquard (Cote d'Auxerre) 2010 (£11.45) lemony and toasty with sweet, creamy leesiness. Good.

Chablis, Limblin & Fils 2011 (£13.95) precise, rounded, zesty / pithy, great acidity and persistence. Good.

Macon Villages, Domaine de Bel Air 2009 (£11.95) Soft creamy texture, good fruit, nicely balanced.

Villa Serra, Caunes-Minervois 2010 (£12.50) juicy and spicy with cool mint; grippy finish.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Sceaux, Anne-Sophie Debavelaere 2009 (£20.75) red fruits, soft texture, nicely balanced and savoury

Gevrey Chambertin, Domaine Lucien Boillot 2009 (£29.62) fuller, softer, more complex; mouthfilling and elegant with ripe fruit and pleasant grip on the finish. Good.

Champagne Chauvet Brut Blanc de Noir NV (£23.50) gently pressed, this has weightiness without varietal Pinot character - crisp, elegant and light.

Champagne Chauvet Brut Reserve NV (£24.95) with a year more in bottle, this has more on the nose and feels more balanced.

Champagne Chauvet Rose NV (£24.95) crisp, fresh and persistent, it feels elegant and light.

Soave Gregoris, Antonio Fattori 2011 (£8.95) lemony with grapefruit and zest; crisp, precise acidity and rounded mouthfeel

Chianti Classico, Il Molino di Grace 2006 (£15.75) meaty, cherry fruit and spice, sweet vanilla; juicy and grippy, feeling harmonious but still youthful. Good - and good value for a wine of this pedigree and age.

Dolcetto d'Alba Rubis, Rocche Costamagna 2010 (£13.95) Ripe plummy fruit, soft texture, lots of grip.

Barolo Rocche Annunziata, Rocche Costamagna 2007 (£23.88) complex nose, cherry and liquorice, mintiness, long on the palate with good acidity and grip

McNaught & Walker Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2010 (£15.95) 7% new oak, unusual lychee aromas on the nose and palate; tropical fruit, precise acidity and mintiness

Terroir Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Springfontein 2010 (£13.95) made by a German in South Africa, these are more European in style - good acidity, leesy, full and creamy, persistent; technically impressive. Good.

Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc, Springfontein 2010 (£13.95) barrel-fermented with batonage; full and creamy on the palate with herby cress notes and good acidity

Terroir Selection Pinotage, Springfontein 2007 (£13.95) coffee grounds and ripe dark berry fruit, sweet vanilla and mocha

Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2010 (£165 for 6 IB) creamy, toasty with tropical melon fruit and ripe, sweet vanilla - feels simple and underwhelming

Joseph Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2009 (£165 for 6 IB) Burgundian nose, sweet red fruit on the palate; technically good, spoilt by too much sweet ripeness

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (£170 for 6 IB) sweet ripe Big Red; it's perfectly OK.

Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley 2009 (£595 for 6 IB) sweet ripe fruit, complexity and spice, good muscular grip. Good. Just not good value.

Recommended Wines

My top wine of the night was the 2002 Saint Brice - a really lovely claret that is drinking beautifully now, but still has plenty of life left in it.

Chatting to Private Cellar director Laura Taylor at the end, she commented on how many people had also picked that as a favourite.

She also added that it will not be made any more as the domaine has been merged with another, so this is the last we shall see of it - sadly.

My ideal mixed case from Private Cellar, then, would also include:

- Les Rafelieres Sauvignon Blanc IGP Val de Loire 2011
- Chateau Haut Roc Blanquant GC St Emilion 2005
- Bourgogne Blanc Sorin Coquard (Cote d'Auxerre) 2010
- Chablis, Limblin & Fils 2011
- Gevrey Chambertin, Domaine Lucien Boillot 2009
- Chianti Classico, I'll Molino di Grace 2006
- Terroir Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Springfontein 2010


Private Cellar - website, twitter, Facebook

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Lawyers, Accounts and Wisdom
Troplong Mondot 1998

Friday, 2 November 2012

A Perfect Lunchtime - Fischer's Baslow Hall

There comes a time in every parent's life when you finally get to leave the kids with their grandparents for an extended period and have some time being adults again, rather than merely parents.

Last weekend, the start of half-term, we made the familiar drive up to my childhood home in Cheshire to make the drop-off.

Our route from Cambridge invariably takes us through the Peak District and, having made my adoptive home in a very flat part of the world, I always appreciate the change in scenery.

An earlier tweet to local Michelin-starred chef Mark Poynton of Alimentum had put me in touch with Darren Goodwin of Losehill House who was fully booked with a series of weddings, but recommended we try Fischer's Baslow Hall.

Set just back from the main A61 from Chesterfield to Buxton, I have lost count of the number of times I must have passed the place without it registering as potentially somewhere to visit - there is merely a slightly lurid green and turquoise sign by the road and a drive that leads up a hill, with no sight of the hotel and restaurant from the road.

We set off from my parents' Cheshire village mid-morning and followed a scenic and hilly route that took us through Pott Shrigley, up the Brickworks with its Victorian post box and along a winding route to Buxton.

From there, we headed down to the genteel surrounds of Ashford in the Water and skirted Chatsworth Estate before arriving at Fischer's in Baslow, sitting at the foot of the dramatic cliffs of Froggat Edge.

Opting for a Tio Pepe fino on arrival, choosing the Taste of Britain tasting menu was, for me, a no-brainer and Mrs CWB allowed herself to be persuaded, so the only decision left to be made was the wine.

I asked for a recommendation from the half bottles and we were advised that a Sancerre 2009 Lucien Crochet that I had already spotted would work best with most of the courses.

Built from Derbyshire stone, the feel of the interior of Fischer's is traditional and Old School with a touch of formality - I rather like it; it has none of the self-conscious knowing irony and painted-on quirkiness of the metropolitan style - even if perhaps, with hindsight, we were a little under-dressed in our designer casual.

The first course was a simple, classic consomme that belied the tone of the rest of the meal - a thimbleful of perfectly clear and delicious soup, the only touches were a garnish of finely chopped chives and two cheese gnocchi.

What remained consistent across the rest of the meal was the superb quality of everything and the sensible portion sizes that left us full but able to finish everything.

From here on, there were six courses of beautifully presented, dainty-yet-complex dishes that took traditional European ideas and blended them with some Pacific Rim influences to give intense flavours, varied textures and unexpected matches.

The Taste of Britain theme of the meal was perhaps the least convincing element - yes, there's nasturtium from Baslow Hall Gardens, hand-picked Cornish crab and wild Scottish venison, but it felt like it might have been better described as a quick trip around the world.

Having tucked into the breads - slices of brown, treacle-flavoured loaf and white pesto and tomato rolls, we were brought a tempura of partridge breast - the soft tender meat wrapped first in seaweed and then in crispy batter.

And if this were not complicated enough, it was also served with toasted nuts and grains and a pine-nut puree - in lesser hands this would have been a quirky idea that didn't quite work, but this was executed perfectly and felt seamless.

The wine also worked superbly  - mouthfilling and flinty, with prominent acidity, it cut through the food and felt like part of the meal.

The roast pumpkin mousse was served in three cylinders made from pumpkin flesh, with Berkswell custard and grated truffle with a sticky Pedro Ximenez sauce.

A crab and bloody Mary cannelloni was served with a savoury ice-cream, freshened up by lime and lemongrass snow.

Again, what could have descended into ostentatious cheffiness and over-complexity worked perfectly in practice as a result of deft execution.

The main was a saddle of venison - two neat little cubes of perfectly tender meat, seared on the outside and still pink in the middle that had even the well-done-loving Mrs CWB cooing with delight - and came with suitably charred aubergine puree and Norfolk cucumbers.

Pre-dessert was a white chocolate mousse with a refreshing lemon verbena sorbet, whilst the dessert itself of chocolate tree trunk with orange and chocolate mousse, lime and dark chocolate sorbet was declared by Mrs CWB to be "very rich".

This led me to observe that it really needed a brandy and an espresso to go with it, which earned me a look that said "You're driving - don't even think about it".

Instead, we made the short, steep drive up to Froggat and, hand-in-hand, strolled along the Edge where the clouds parted and the sun came out giving us a breathtaking view over the rugged, north Derbyshire countryside.

A perfect moment at the end of a wonderful lunch.

The Taste of Britain menu is available from Monday to Friday and costs £50 per person, or £90 with matching wines for those not driving.


Fischer's Baslow Hall - website, twitter

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The Box Tree, Ilkley, at 50 - written for Jancis Robinson's site
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Dinner at Alimentum
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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Wine of the Month - November (And a Wine to Drink Out)

On the cusp of autumn and winter, November is a month for warming spicy reds, maybe still with a bit of autumnal mellow fruitfulness.

Bright days after clear nights bring misty mornings with a watery sun hanging low in the sky, golden russet hues and the season for gamey dishes.

This month we have a good range of reds to cover all seasonal eventualities, plus a wine for drinking out with a brilliant food match.

Turi Pinot Noir, Chile, 2009, Bacchanalia (£7.99)

Originally from Burgundy, Pinot has made a second home for itself in Chile - this Turi Pinot Noir from the Central Valley which benefits from cooling sea breezes that favour the development of Pinot.

It is distinctly Burgundian on the nose with vegetal aromas, truffleyness and soft red fruits; there are more ripe juicy red fruits on the palate with savoury spiciness and mushroomy, farmyardy aromas.

The texture is soft and delicate - it feels elegant and pretty with a balanced, gentle finish.

Match with salmon, mushroomy pasta or lighter game dishes.

Rosso Del Palazzone VR, Cambridge Wine Merchants (£12.99)

From an estate in Montalcino, this non-vintage wine (a blend of several years) is made from the Sangiovese grape, known locally as Brunello.

It is reddish in the glass showing signs of age. On the nose there is red fruit and woodsy undergrowth.

The palate shows good ripe cherry and red fruit, aromas of undergrowth and some liquorice and spice; the acidity feels juicy and mouthwatering, soft, harmonious tannins and a savoury, persistent finish.

It feels very accomplished and well-made indeed, with the mellowness of a few years' age.

Jancis Robinson also rates this wine and made an earlier version her wine of the week, describing it as a baby Brunello di Montalcino at a fraction of the price ... with a hint of the warmth of this corner of south-eastern Tuscany - much lusher than the average Chianti - but without any excesses of oak or alcohol.

Chateaux Ollieux Romanis, 'Lo Petit Fantet d'Hyppolite' 2011, Joseph Barnes Wines (£10)

In France, Carignan is traditionally a southern workhorse grape, but old-vine examples can produce great results.

From Corbieres, this Carignan (mixed with a splash of Grenache and Syrah) is a deep cherry red in the glass. On the nose, there are aromas of cherry fruit and hints of green herbs, muskiness and spice.

The palate is warming and spicy with ripe, slightly cooked, damson and red and black cherry fruit, some aromatic notes, savouriness and a softly mouthfilling texture.

The acidity is juicy yet rounded and there is some gentle grip on the finish.

A very enjoyable easy-drinker with good acidity, match with hearty spiced dishes, such as darker game, salamis and herby sausages

Legaris Ribera del Duero 'Roble', Noel Young Wines (£9.99)

From Spain's Ribera del Duero, this young crianza (just three months in oak) is made from 100% tempranillo; dark inky purple in the glass, on the nose there is lots of dark berry fruit and oaky spice.

The palate is ripe with brambly fruit, sweet vanilla, full with soft tannins and juicy acidity with a peppery grippiness developing.

It feels quite up-front and youthful, but with air, some more secondary, truffley aromas develop.

Match with roast lamb or a beef stew.

Marichal Reserve Collection Tannat Canelones, 2011, Uruguay - Hotel du Vin (£6 / 125ml, £7.95 / 175ml)

This unusual Uruguayan red is made by boutique winery Marichal from hand-harvested Tannat; originally from France, Tannat is now Uruguay's most prominent grape.

A deep cherry red in the glass, there are aromas of dark berry fruit and spice on the nose.

The palate is soft-yet-full with ripe dark fruit, gentle tannins and good acidity; there is some complex dark chocolateyness, hints of liquorice and Christmassy spice with a persistent, savoury finish.

An elegant food wine, the hotel recommends matching this with their Monkfish Grand-mere, garnished with pearl onions, pancetta and wild mushrooms.

Recommended Wine

These are, as ever, all very good wines.

The most unusual is the Uruguayan Tannat from Hotel du Vin which is definitely worth trying for the dinner-party bragging rights alone.

But my recommended wine this month is the Turi Pinot Noir - a well-made, New World Burgundian-style Pinot with good balance and a soft texture for well under a tenner is quite special indeed.


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/
Hotel du Vin - http://www.hotelduvin.com/

Other related articles

More Wines of the Month
A sweet red Uruguayan Tannat at Hotel du Vin

Main image credit: http://thepetersoncollector.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/jims-notesmusings-from-pete-bog-1.html