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Monday, 31 March 2014

La Grand Barrail Lamarzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2006 - Sainsbury's

A review of La Grand Barrail Lamarzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2006 from Sainsbury's

The sign of a great wine is its ability to age; older wines have a quality that nothing else possesses, and mature Bordeaux is one of the benchmarks.

This is a textbook mature right-bank Bordeaux.

Distinctly brick red tones in the glass with some paleness around the rim; this is approaching full maturity. Aromas of dried red berries and dried red bell pepper with woodsy, mushroomy undergrowth.

Red fruits and cool mint; lithe and mellow yet fresh with good underpinnings and a persistent, well-balanced finish.

Very harmonious and drinking well now - a good example of what mature right-bank Bordeaux is all about.

Really comes into its own with food, and specifically roast beef. Good.

£20.99 from Sainsbury's; provided for review.

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Troplong Mondot 1998

Sainsbury's - website

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port, 2001

A review of Taylor's Vargellas 2001 Vintage port

At just over a decade, this vintage port from Taylor's is still very youthful; only just starting to harmonise and integrate, it feels like it will hit a peak in decades, not years.

There are raisins, prunes and molasses, eucalyptus and some peaty whiskey; the sweetness of brown sugar and candied peel, dark dried fruits, sweet peppery spice and medicinal eucalyptus is cut through with a gentle freshness.

But above all, there is concentration and a dense texture, with an elegant and deft complexity.

Very Good - and will only improve with time.

Complex and assured, it is almost a dessert in its own right - match with petits fours and an espresso at the end of a particularly good meal.

It is also included in The Independent's Top 50 wines.

£30 from Majestic, Waitrose, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason; provided for review.

Other related articles
Taylor's 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Dow's Vintage Port 1975‏
Noval Dinner at Cambridge Hotel du Vin‏
Victoria Moore on port in The Telegraph

Taylor's - website

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Laboure-Roi Cote de Beaune-Villages, 2012 - Waitrose

A classic, entry-level Burgundy from Waitrose, recommended by Anne Jones

The movie never changes. It can't change; but every time you see it, it seems different because you're different.

- 12 Monkeys (1995)

I have historically struggled with Pinot Noir - it's not that I don't find examples I like, I just couldn't quite see what all the fuss was about generally.

Turns out I was looking in the wrong place.

Anne Jones recommended I try this one and I saw the point - it's not the best Pinot I've ever had, just a good entry-level red Burgundy. But, somehow, this time I was ready for its charms.

Sorry Pinot, I've done you a disservice.

Pale translucent red, Burgundian nose of red fruits, farmyard and sweet spice. Fresh red berry and cherry fruits, soft and gentle texture with some persistence on the finish. Very charming - with a hint of wilfulness.

Drink slightly chilled as a sipper in warm weather or match with lighter game.

£12.99 from Waitrose; provided for review.

Other related articles
On Not Loving Pinot Noir
Loeb Burgundy 2011 En Primeur
Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune Villages 2009
Restaurant L'Alembic: Nuits St Georges

Waitrose Wine - website

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Blanc et Rouge Dinner at The Corinthia Hotel, London

A review of a winemaker dinner in the Northall Private Dining Room at the Corinthia Hotel, London, featuring Domaine Nadine Ferrand and Château Faugères

Situated in the very heart of London, close to the River Thames, Corinthia London is the undisputed jewel in our crown ... This grand Victorian building, dating from 1885, has been given new life with fine rooms, stylish suites and imaginative penthouses offering state-of-the-art 21st Century luxury

- Corinthia website

The Corinthia Hotel is launching a season of winemaker dinners; I was invited to the inaugural dinner showcasing wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Overall, the standard - of food, wine, pairing, ambiance, everything- was very good, especially considering that this was a kick-off event; however, I sense the hotel's ambitions go beyond the merely very good and are aimed at being truly memorable. Based on this showing, they are not far off.

Domaine Nadine Ferrand is based in the Maconnais in southern Burgundy and, since 2000, has bottled all its own wines, rather than selling in bulk; the estate has 10ha in five appellations. The domaine was represented by winemaker Nadine Ferrand herself, plus daughter Marine who also works in the business.

Château Faugères is based in Castillon and dates back to 1823; it has been a Grand Cru Classe since 2012 and was represented by Commercial ManagerAntoine Michel. Château De Chambrun (Lalande de Pomerol) and Château Lafaurie Peyraguey (Sauternes) are both under the same ownership.

Aperitif: canapes paired with Mâcon Blanc, Domaine Nadine Ferrand 2013

Dainty, elegant, delicious and visually wonderful  canapes were served with an equally elegant, fresh, easy-drinking aperitif.

Starter: Pressed Terrine of Rabbit with Foie Gras and Pistachio, aired with Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Nadine Ferrand 2012
Rich and gamey, this was a modern take on traditional Burgundian ingredients - well-flavoured and deliciously indulgent, but light and freshened up with herbs.

Nadine's Pouilly-Fuissé showed sweet spice and muskiness on the nose with citrus, tropical fruits and minerality on the palate. Elegant and long. Good.

It proved a good match, but was just slightly overwhelmed by the richness of the food; something a touch bigger, oakier and older would have been spot-on.

Main: Roast Goosnargh Duck Breast, Braised Chicory, Orange and Walnut Jus paired with Château Faugères St Emilion Grand Cru 2009

The duck breast - meaty, delicious and perfectly cooked - worked brilliantly with the freshness of the wine.

2009 was, according to Antoine, a perfect year in St Emilion and it showed - a complex nose, it was concentrated with cherry fruit, coffee grounds, freshness and substance.

Well-balanced, elegant and assertive, it is a superb food wine drinking well now. And will only improve with age. Very Good.
As to the accompaniments, the bitter chicory and orange-based jus sort-of worked, but also not quite.

Sour cherries are more of a traditional match with duck breast and may well have been a better fit with the food and especially the wine.

Cheese: Selection of British Artisan Cheeses, Celery and Grapes, paired with Château De Chambrun, Lalande de Pomerol, 2009
A case of the whole being less than the sum of the parts here - I have never quite understood the pairing of cheese with young Bordeaux; I know it is considered traditional, but for me it is a gastronomic car-crash.

The cheeses were excellent, if served a littler cooler than ideal, but no single wine could have matched the diverse range we given.

For me, the young, ripe red fruits of the wine clashed with the various sharp, nutty, creamy and tangy flavours from the cheeses.

In its own right, however, the Lalande de Pomerol was simply stunning - with a fresh, savoury, mineral complexity, it was my top wine of the night. Very Good Indeed.

Dessert: Yorkshire Rhubarb and Stem Ginger Fool, paired with Château Lafaurie Peyraguey, Sauternes 2009

Good Sauternes is the most delicate and elegant of dessert wines and this example, a Grand Cru Classe, was superb: buttery roasted peaches and apricots, muskiness, a peachy texture cut through with freshness and the lithe elegance of a ballerina. Very Good.

The dessert itself was also lovely - a poshed-up cheesecake served elegantly with a sharp topping, creamy middle and and crunchy base - but lacked the elegance to match with wine.

Something of a gruffly handsome but well-scrubbed Yorkshireman, it was Sean Bean flirting with Darcy Bussel.

The various minor quibbles aside, the dinner was excellent - a few tweaks on the next run through and it will be an experience to remember.

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Les 110 de Taillevent‏, Paris
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Sunday Lunch at Losehill House‏, Hope
Noval Dinner at Cambridge Hotel du Vin‏

The Corinthia - website
Domaine Nadine Ferrand - website
Château Faugères - website

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Lunch at The Old Bridge, Huntingdon

A review of The Old Bridge, Huntingdon with John Hoskins MW

Huntingdon is more of a meeting point than a destination in its own right - fifteen-odd miles up the the A14 from Cambridge, it is a place to drive past rather than than visit.

This was not always the case; Huntingdon's bridge over the Great Ouse was built around 1332 and until 1975 the Great North Road crossed the bridge, going past the hotel and up the High Street.

As a result, The Old Bridge's origins are as a coaching inn - a feature it shares with The George in Stamford and The Haycock in Wansford.

An hotel, restaurant, bar and most recently wine shop, it sprawls over several conjoined buildings, overlooking the river.

The buildings that make up the hotel were constructed in the 17th century and for many years served as a bank, Veasey, Desborough & Co which merged to form Barclays in 1804; the hotel bar was the banking chamber.

Inside The Old Bridge, each section has a slightly different feel; the atrium is light and airy, if a little dated now, the wine shop has the stripped wooden floors and consciously unpretentious displays of a independent wine merchant whilst the bar area is dark-toned with heavy furniture like a traditional pub.
It is a sign of how much the Cambridge dining scene has developed over the last decade that we have not made the journey up to The Old Bridge quite as frequently in recent years, having long been regulars of the extended Huntsbridge Group of gastropubs around Cambridge.

However, we readily accepted an invitation from Old Bridge owner John Hoskins to try a couple of wines from the oenomatic machine with him followed by lunch.

The tasting room is wine-geek heaven - the oenomatic machine dispenses over two dozen wines by the glass in perfect condition.
We started with a 2012 Finca Vinoa Ribeiro, from Galicia in northwest Spain; a blend of mostly Treixadura (the grape dominant in the region) with 8% Godello, Albariño & Loureira, it was pure, precise and appley fresh.

Tasted blind, John suggested, you might at first think Loire Chenin, but the texture is waxier, so you might then go for Gruener. I nodded in sage agreement, reminding myself that John is not only a Master of Wine, but also sets the tasting exam which he describes as being like a wine-tasting crossword.

After a quick tour taking in the kitchens, the large dining room for parties and weddings, hotel bedrooms and the conference rooms, we all sat down to a light lunch in the informal dining area.

My steak-on-ciabatta with fried onions and chips was tasty and satisfying yet refined, whilst Mrs CWB's chicken and avocado with crisps was pronounced equally delicious.

John matched our choices to a surprisingly deft South African Pinotage; with pure dark cherry fruit and good freshness, it was a light, elegant accompaniment.

Both the food and the wines were well-judged and impressive yet unfussy; John explained that he is not interested in Michelin-star flashiness, but sees the food as playing a supporting role to the wines.

This sense of unforced elegence, of a distinct personality but no gimmicks, also extends to the hotel where the rooms all retain the original layout of the building - which occasionally makes for some odd-looking arrangements but allows the building to retain its innate character which adds to the individuality of the place.

It is a distinctly Old School approach - any modern fool with a bit of marketing input can dream up a few talking points, and if you throw enough money at something you can impress with flashiness.

But what The Old Bridge has - what pervades its whole ethos - is a tasteful elegance and classiness; an attention to faultless detail that makes the whole much greater than the sum of its parts.

You won't find the kind of self-conscious funkiness that appeals to Michelin-star trophy-hunters looking for the latest trend in edgy dining; for that, you are better served central Cambridge these days.

Rather, there is a simple, but pervasive, focus on elegance and just getting things right.

Other related articles
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The Old Bridge - website, events
Huntsbridge - website

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two Jura Wines from The Wine Society - And A Book By Wink Lorch

A review of two Jura wines from The Wine Society

It seems I have become a Jura wine fan - I don't know when it happened. Certainly not at first tasting; that brought ... a degree of understanding and some intrigue, but not quite affection or enthsiasm.

A bit like listening to Van Morrison's unstructured masterpiece Astral Weeks, the first encounter can seem strange and disorientating; it is only with time that its charms somehow creep up on you.

I have written elsewhere about how and why Jura wines are different - suffice it to say, they are not in the modern, fruit-forward style.

A few years ago, you would struggle to find Jura wines in the UK - after the First Jura Wine Trade tasting in London in last year, interest and availability are increasing and The Wine Society now has the widest range.

Côte du Jura Tradition, Domaine Berthet-Bondet 2009 (£13.95) Chardonnay / Savagnin blend, barrel-aged for three years, un-topped up to allow air inside and create the conditions for flor to develop. Mid-straw yellow, tangy cidery nose; citrus and sharp apple flesh, savouriness and saline minerality. Long and elegant with a persistent finish. Good.

L'Etoile Vin Jaune, Domaine de Montbourgeau 2006 (£33) 100% Savagnin, aged under flor for six years. Mid-straw yellow, complex tangy, vegetal, cidery nose leading to a full-flavoured, appley savouriness. Long and substantial; very assured and elegant, will age. Very Good.

Jura is a region where wine and gastronomy go hand-in-hand - match these wines with typically hearty Jura food; Bresse chicken, ham or Comté cheese.

For the Jura enthusiast, Wink Lorch has just published a book out on Jura, focusing mainly on the region's wines, but also covering gastronomy and tourism with photos and maps. It is the first book in English on Jura and available from Wink's website winetravelmedia, priced £25.

Other related articles
The Wines of Jura - An Overview
First London Jura Wine Trade Tasting 2013

The Wine Society - website
Jura Wines - website
Wink Lorch - website

Friday, 21 March 2014

Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux - 2013 En Primeur Tasting

A tasting of Grand Cercle de Vins de Bordeaux en primeur 2013s - pictures by kind permission of Colin Hampden-White

- There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible."

- The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."

Annie Hall (1977)

Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux is a new association uniting top chateaux from both the right and the left banks - this was a tasting of over 50 crus en primeur from the 2013 vintage.

2013 in Bordeaux (and much of Europe in fact) was not an easy year - like an off album from an otherwise generally dependable rock band, the words approach with caution spring to mind.

Low harvests due to hail would be bad enough, but cool growing conditions throughout the season mean that quality is not great either.

The optimist's view that, if the wine is not great, at least there isn't too much of it is cold comfort to a vigneron trying to make ends meet.

As to the consumer wondering whether to buy Bordeaux 2013, based on the wines I tasted, there are at least some decent ones - but you'll need to choose carefully.

In general, the whites - both dry and sweet - showed best, whilst the best of the reds have an aromatic freshness.

However, too many reds have too much acidity and tannin without enough fruit. Judicious use of oak can, like the right sort of supportive underwear, make something more of the little that nature gave you and cover up for an intrinsic lack of substance. But what passes muster at first inspection may not be something to fall in love with.

With all of that said, a small number of the reds showed well - most will drink best young whilst still fresh and pert; time will not be kind to them.

Here are the wines I liked:
Dry Whites

Chateau Cote Montpezat, Cuvee Compostelle, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux fresh, aromatic and balanced

Chateau Hostens-Picant, Cuvee des Demoiselles, Sainte-Foy Bordeaux enjoyably fresh and aromatic

Chateau le Sartre, Pessac-Leognan aromatic, fresh and elegant; zingy but with some weightiness

Dry Reds

Chateau Vray Croix de Gay, Pomerol perfumey, plummy and soft with some firmness on the finish - an OK easy-drinker

Chateau La Fleur de Bouard, Lalande de Pomerol complex aromatic nose, sweet ripe fruit, sweet vanilla, firm but not overly grippy, substantial and plump with a balanced finish. Feels like it has some aging potential. Good.

Chateau Siaurac, Lalande de Pomerol perfumey, plummy and soft, ripe and rounded if slight and insubstantial, delicate grip on the finish

Chateau Patache d'Aux, Medoc fruit, sweet vanilla, freshness, firm finish, not too grippy

Chateau Haut-Bacalan, Pessac Leognan ripe redcurrant, sweet vanilla, freshness


Chateau Haut-Bergeron, Sauternes fresh, peachy apricotty, roasted peach and beeswax, precise and elegant. Very Good.

Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes overripe peaches, freshness and sweet warming spice

Recommended Wines
Dry white: Chateau le Sartre
Red: Fleur de Bouard
Sweet: Chateau Haut-Bergeron

Other related articles
Crus Bourgeois 2011 at The Cambridge Tasting
Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux - 2011 tasting
Innovation And Change in Bordeaux
Crus Bourgeois 2010 At The Cambridge Tasting‏

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, 2008

A review of Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2008 Chardonnay - served in Qantas' First Class, apparently

Another day, another chardie.

Western Australia is either the New New World or Oz's answer to the Old World, depending on yor point of view - a wine-making region only since the 1960s, it produces well-structured and restrained wines with a European food-friendly elegance.

Leeuwin Estate, based in WA's coastal Margaret River area is considered one of Australia's best producers of Chardonnay. This Art Series Chardonnay from 2008 is distinctly Burgundian in style - if also in price.

Sandy yellow in the glass, there are aromas of ripe orchard fruit, musky melonskin and some toasty oak. A zippy, zesty palate gives way to a well-integrated peachy creaminess from oak aging and lees-stirring, with a nutty, sweet-spiciniess on the finish.

Precise, deft, complex and long, with over five years' aging, it all feels properly knitted together and harmonious now, but will only improve with further aging.

Very Good.

A big, versatile food wine, match with roast fowl or pork, creamy pasta dishes or meaty white fish.

Available at Majestic in the UK and on Qantas airlines, who were recently awarded 5 Gold medals by Business Traveller, including Best Overall Cellar and Best First Class White.

Provided for review.

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Truly Irresistable Chablis Premier Cru 2011 - The Co-Operative

The Co-op's Truly Irresistable Chablis

Chablis is the coolest, northernmost part of Burgundy, growing only Chardonnay. The grapes for this Chablis are grown on chalk made from pre-historic fossils which impart a smoky elegance.

Sandy yellow in the glass, aromas of citrus and some musky melonskin; ripe citrus, zestiness white stone and orchard fruits with minerality.Good weighty persistence, balance and elegance.

Serve as an aperitif or with light seafood starters.

£14.99 from The Co-op; provided for review.

Other related articles
Two Truly Irresistable wines from the Co-op
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The Co-op - website

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Wine of The Month - March

A wine and a sherry to match a seasonal tapa dish from Cambridge-based ¡Que rico! Tapas - also broadcast with Estefania Led Ramos on Cambridge105

Estefania's suggested tapa is marinated duck with sun-dried tomatoes; my job was to find a sherry and a wine to match.

With soy, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes, there are some strong flavours in this dish - so it needs a fairly robust wine to be able to stand up to it.

Sherry: Sanchez Romate Hermanos, Oloroso Don Jose Reserva Especiale NV, Jerez 18% 75cl £19.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants

This dark oloroso sherry ages oxidatively to give aromas of roasted chestnuts, raisins, salt, earth, caramel and leather; it starts broad and creamy then becomes long and linear with caramel and a juicy finish.

Wine: Bodegas Pittacum, Bierzo 'Tres Obispos' Rosada 2011 £10.99 Joseph Barnes Wines

Something of an unusual beast, this is a rosé made from the Mencia grape in Bierzo, a remote region of northwest Spain; it's a deep raspberry red in colour, with strawberry and raspberry fruit on the nose as well as something a little more unusual that I can only describe as "workshop" - a mix of swarfega, tyres and used engine oil. It's in no way unpleasant and rather intriguing.

On the palate, there is more red berry fruit, good acidity and a persistent, clean finish.

The recipe for the tapa is on Estefania's website.

Other related articles
¡Que rico! Tapas

¡Que rico! Tapas - website
Cambridge Wine Merchants - website
Joseph Barnes Wines - website

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

William Hardy Chardonnay

A European-style Chardonnay from Hardy's

At the end of a tasting of Hardy's Chardonnays, led by my friend Belinda Stone, last year, we were given a bottle of William Hardy Chardonnay 2013 to take home.

It had been my favourite everyday wine of the evening, even if the overall best was the £25 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2008 - still several years off being ready, let alone at a peak.

Priced at a more modest £8.99, this William Hardy Chardonnay is an adept, textbook entry-level European-style Chardonnay.

Sandy yellow with aromas of citrus and melonskin; ripe tropical citrus, freshness, buttery toasty oak and a touch of zestiness with a persistent finish. Very quaffable.

A versatile food wine, match with creamy pasta, roast chicken, coconut curry or meaty white fish.

Available from Tesco, priced at £59.94 for a case of six.

Other related articles
Hardy's Chardies - #AllAboutChardonnay‏
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Hardy's - website, twitter
Tesco wine - website, twitter

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Marks & Spencer New Americas Tasting

A review of Marks and Spencer's New Americas range

Marks and Spencer, which recently celebrated 40 years of wine retailing, has been expanding its oenological range beyond the obvious and expected; this was a chance to try a range of wines from established South American countries Chile and Argentina, plus some wines from Brazil about which I know very little.

M&S's buyer, Emma Dawson, is an MW student and the white wines especially reflected this; technically precise, varietally typically and utterly fault free. If there was little here to make the heart beat faster, there was also nothing to be worried about.

The reds I found a little more varied: the Pinots were excellent with a very clear price-quality correlation, but others I found over-extracted and tannic (I was told they work well with food) and the more ambitious reds (over £30) seemed to have aged prematurely on the nose without the body of the wine following suit - they smelt around 20 years old, but tasted around the five that they were.

This latter point, Emma explained, is to do with the levels of pyrazene in the wine which is caused by exposure to ultra-violet light and occurs in Chile and Argentina (due to altitude) and New Zealand (due to the thinner ozone layer); geek-fact.

Coconova Brut NV, Brazil £8.99 light, easy fizz

Carnival Sparkling Moscato NV, Brazil, £9.99 dead-ringer for a pleasing Italian Moscato, light, fresh, frothy

Fragoso Chardonnay 2013, Argentina, £6.99 ripe, tropical and unoaked, good persistence

Caleidoscope Pinot Grigio Fiano Albarino 2013, Mendoza, £7.99 tropical, floral, aromatic and zesty with a dry clean finish

Dominio del Plata Torrontes 2012, Argentina, £8.99 aromatic and slightly pungent nose, floral and apricotty palate; fresh, weighty and persistent

Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013, Brazil, £8.99 ripe, zippy citrus, clean and mineral with no rough edges

Mestizo Marsanne Viognier 2013, Chile, £9.99 ripe, apricotty and clean with an underlying minerality; a touch flabby

Secano Estate Sauvignon Gris 2012, Chile, £8.99 bizarre pink meat / red chili aromas, ripe tropical fruit, clean with reasonable underpinnings

Tierra Y Hombre Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Chile, £8.49 textbook New World Sauvignon, aromatic gooseberries, cut grass and blackcurrant leaf; ripe, fresh and zippy with mineral persistence

Secano Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Chile, £8.99 another textbook fresh and zippy, aromatic New World Sauvignon

Fragoso Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013, Argentina, £6.99 smokey with ripe soft red berry fruits, fresh linear acidity and minerality

Fragoso Merlot 2013, Argentina, £6.99 textbook Merlot - plummy coffee nose, ripe cherry fruit, soft texture and some firmness on the finish

Tierra Y Hombre Pinot Noir 2013, Chile, £8.49 ripe cherry fruit and vegetal decay, harmonious and cut through with fresh acidity. Lovely, affordable, no-tears Pinot.

Nieto Senetiner Bonarda 2013, Mendoza, £8.99 pure, clean and precise cherry and red berry fruit to cut through rare red meats, Italian-style.

Caleidoscopio Sangiovese Touriga Nacional Caladoc, Argentina, £7.99 perfumey violets and red fruits; cherry, liquorice and spice; soft texture and firm finish. Another Italian-style food red.

Vinalta Malbec 2013, Argentina, £7.99 dark fruits with vanilla and oaky spice, cut through with freshness. Long with a soft texture.

Intenso Teroldego, Brazil, £9.99 dark, whiff of sulphuriness, lots of dark fruits, cool mint and sweet vanilla; fresh acidity, soft tannins and supple texture.

Monteflores Malbec, Argentina, £9.99 red chili and redcurrant aromas, sweet ripe fruit, soft, supple texture, sweet vanilla and spice, good freshness - let down by drying tannins on the finish.

Dominio del Plata Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Argentina, £9.99 pink meat, red chili, vanilla and cool mint, ripe sweet cassis fruit, almost Ribena-esque, spice and liquorice. But those drying tannins on the finish again.

Pintao Reserva Carmenere, Chile, £9.99 textbook Carmenere soy and leather, red and bramble fruits with a hint of white pepper and some cool mint. Freshness and savouriness; well-balanced with firmness on the finish. Very enjoyable.

Los Molles Syrah 2011, Chile, £9.99 red chili, rosehips and red bell pepper, black olives; sweet ripe fruit, spice, good freshness, concentration and firm grip. Drying tannic finish.

Secano Maiten Vineyard Block 1 Pinot Noir, Chile, £12.99 soft, ripe red fruits and decay, supple texture, pleasing and long with good persistence. No rough edges and very enjoyable.

Tobiano Pinot Noir 2011, Chile, £19 intense and concentrated nose of cherry fruit and farmyard, ripe cherry fruit and cool mint, balanced freshness, soft supple texture with a pleasing firmness. Elegant yet assertive and very easy to enjoy. Good.
Lucero Syrah 2011, Chile, £15.99 ripe dark fruits, spiciness and cool mint; freshness and soft supple texture. Concentration and complexity with a pleasing firnmess on the finish. Good.

Santa Rita, Casa Real Reserva Especial 2009, Chile, £34 complex aged dried red chili, red bell pepper and old leather on the nose suggest a much older wine; sweet ripe bramble fruits, sweet vanilla, cool mint with spice and liquorice. Lovely, soft harmonious texture, just slightly drying on the finish. Very Good.

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Single Vineyard, Jorge Miralles, 2009, Argentina, £32 ripe sweet cassis, bramble and vanilla, hints of decay; supple texture, freshness and length. Balanced, well-structured and assertive with a pleasing firmness on the finish. Still young and will benefit from further aging. Very Good.

Other related articles
40 Years of Wine at Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer Spring Tasting: Italian Reds‏
Two Eastern Mediterranean Wines from Marks and Spencer
Grand Enclos du Chateau de Cerons, Graves, 2006‏ - Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer - website, twitter
Emma Dawson - twitter

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Gonzalez Byass Vintage Sherries

A review of six vintage sherries from Gonzalez Byass at The Connaught

One of the first wine facts I ever learnt about sherry is that it is always non-vintage - a blend of years in a single barrel known as the solera system.

Each year, a little of the wine is bottled and the barrel topped up with younger wine to refresh the blend.

However, sherry has not always been a made in this way - it was originally a vintage wine like any other until, in the 1820s, in response to demands from British importers for greater consistency, sherry makers began blending their wines across barrels and across years.

Nearly two centuries later and the re-emergence of sherry has allowed Gonzalez Byass to release a limited edition set of six vintage sherries from 1994 to 1967.

Like port or Madeira, sherry is a wine defined by its production method - a standardised process does not leave much room for individuality or Romance, and whilst greater consistency may appeal to those with only limited interest or budget, the true afficionado seeks out the rare and superior.

I got to try these dark sherries - four palo cortados, an oloroso and a sweetened amoroso - with winemaker Antonio Flores, Martin Skelton of Gonzalez Byass and Victoria Gonzalez-Gordon at The Connaught Hotel where they are available by the glass.

They are also available to buy in full-sized bottles from Selfridges - prices range from £115 to £240 or £999 for the full set. Only thirty bottles of each have been released.

This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg as there are around 3,000 barrels of older wines potentially available for release.

All the wines showed balance, freshness, elegance and concentration - and were superb.

1994 Palo Cortado amber mahogany, fragrant and aromatic with bitter roasted spices; balanced and deft, concentrated and long.

1989 Oloroso mahogany, fragrant orange blossom; oilier, plumper texture, bitter roasted spices. Long, complex and substantial.

1982 Palo Cortado less fruit, more oxidative and woody aromas, sweet vanilla, tobacco and orange peel. Harmonious, concentrated and long with a firm persistence.

1978 Palo Cortado aromatic with sweet vanilla, aged wood and acetone, bitter roasted spices, concentration and density. Direct and goes on forever.

1975 Palo Cortado rancio, mellow cedar wood, oak and sweet vanilla, soft smooth texture with savoury bitterness developing; finish soft but with some firm persistence. Perhaps at the very edge of its life as an enjoyable wine and starting to become a curiosity.

1967 Amoroso a blend of 85% Palo Cortado with 10% Moscatel and 5% PX; blended in December 2013; darker, almost treacle black, acetone and cedar wood; intensely syrupy sweetness cut through with fresh acidity. Figgy treacle and prunes with sweet vanilla and solid underpinnings. Soft and balanced.

Followed by a light lunch.

Other related articles
Tio Pepe Fino 2013
Tio Pepe Fino 2011

Gonzalez Byass - website
The Connaught - website
Selfridges - website

Friday, 7 March 2014

Domaine de Grand Garant, Fleurie "Les Roches" 2011

A Fleurie from Domaine de Grand Garant, purchased in Auchan in 2012 for around €7

Driving back from a holiday in the south of France in summer 2012, we called in at Auchan Calais to pick up a few bottles of wine and some cheese to bring back with us.

We had stopped over in Burgundy for the first time on the way down, so I was keen to bring back at least one bottle - in the end, it was something from Beaujolais, but the Gold Medal from Paris had caught my eye.

At the time, I had not become a Beaujolais fan; older and wiser, I now regard it as one of the great value regions of the world and the source of some really lovely wines.

Translucent ruby purple, red and black cherry aromas; ripe fruit and a touch of spice with fresh, clean acidity and a supple, harmonious texture. Long and concentrated, lovely balanced finish - a classy and really enjoyable wine. Very Good.

Match with game or stews - in warmer weather, sip slightly chilled in the garden.

Amazing to think that this cost a few pennies more than a fiver - with UK taxes, duties and VAT, it would probably be around £12 over here.

Other related articles
Beaujolais and Beyond
Marks & Spencer - Beaujolais nouveau re-booted‏

Domaine de Grand Garant - website
Auchan - website
Beaujolais Wines - website

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Crus Bourgeois 2011 at The Cambridge Tasting

A tasting of 2011 Crus Bourgeois held at Cambridge Wine Merchants - photos by Jean-Luc Benazet; parts of the tasting were also recorded for broadcast on Cambridge105

2011 was a cool year in Bordeaux, so it is perhaps no surprise to find a high proportion of the early-ripening Merlot in the traditionally Cab-dominated blends of the Medoc.

Tasting six 2011 Crus Bourgeois with a group of friends, we concluded that the wines that are drinking best now are have the highest proportion of  Merlot - but won't improve with further ageing.

The wines with more stuffing and complexity, by contrast, will benefit from a few more years' cellaring.

In general, the 2011s show lower alcohol, less fruit and more freshness - a gentle touch was needed in the cellar to bring out the best of this vintage and a couple of the wines were deemed somewhat heavy-handed.

For Drinking Now

Chateau Les Anguilleys, Medoc (N/A) translucent purple, bramble fruit and oak; ripe fruit, cool mintiness and grippy tannins - persistent finish.

Chateau Doyac, Haut-Medoc (£12, Fine and Rare, Paris Bronze) translucent purple, bramble fruit and cigar box, ripe fruit, capsicum and sweet vanilla. Fresh acidity, good texture and persistent finish.

For Cellaring

Chateau Croix du Trale, Haut-Medoc (N/A) bright purple; vanilla, cassis, red fruits and cigar box; sweet ripe fruit, cool mintiness, pencil shavings, fresh acidity, good structure and finish. Good density and concentration.

Chateau Lacour Jacquet, Haut-Medoc (N/A) Dark translucent purple, complex nose of bramble fruits, oakiness and undergrowth; sweet vanilla and cool mint, bramble fruit and savouriness. Balanced, harmonious and long. Perfectly ripe tannins on the finish. Plump yet well-structured and as firmly assertive as a Swedish massueuse.

Other related articles
Crus Bourgeois 2011 Panel Discussion
Crus Bourgeois 2010 at The Cambridge Tasting

Crus Bourgeois - website, twitter
Cambridge Wine Merchants - website, twitter
Jean-Luc Benazet - website, twitter
Cambridge105 - website, twitter

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Crus Bourgeois 2011

A review of six 2011 Crus Bourgeois Bordeaux

Crus Bourgeois are the affordable middle rung of Bordeaux wines - the solid middle ground of good, well-balanced and well-textured claret from the Medoc.

With prices for classed growths often commanding silly money, these are affordable-yet-serious wines for the classic enthusiast.

These wines from 2011 all show a well-balanced freshness with good structure. The best add to this a Nigella-esque plumply curvaceous flirtatiousness with a focused assertivess.

2011 was not an easy year in Bordeaux - cool and wet with hail is no-one's idea of a good vintage, but as the wines below demonstrate, it was by no means a complete wash-out. Cooler temperatures bring a refreshing and assertive focus to the best wines.

Chateau Dillon, Haut-Medoc (N/A) translucent purple, complex nose of bramble fruit, coffee, cigar box and oaky spices; sweet vanilla, cool mint and fresh acidity. Soft, Merlot-based texture with a grippy firmness on the finish.

Chateau Le Pey, Medoc (£12, www.loveyourwine.co.uk) bright translucent purple, plummy tobacco, fresh bramble fruit, good acidity, good grip and firmness; some grippy tannins on the finish.

Chateau Croix du Trale, Haut-Medoc (N/A) bright purple; vanilla, cassis, red fruits and cigar box; sweet ripe fruit, cool mintiness, pencil shavings, fresh acidity, good structure and finish. Good density and concentration. Good.

Chateau Lacour Jacquet, Haut-Medoc (N/A) Dark translucent purple, complex nose of bramble fruits, oakiness and undergrowth; sweet vanilla and cool mint, bramble fruit and savouriness. Balanced, harmonious and long. Perfectly ripe tannins on the finish. Plump yet well-structured and as firmly assertive as a Swedish massueuse. Very Good.

Chateau Les Anguilleys, Medoc (N/A) translucent purple, bramble fruit and oak; ripe fruit, cool mintiness and grippy tannins - persistent finish.

Chateau Doyac, Haut-Medoc (£12, Fine and Rare, Paris Bronze) translucent purple, bramble fruit and cigar box, ripe fruit, capsicum and sweet vanilla. Fresh acidity, good texture and persistent finish.

Wines provided for review.

Other related articles
Crus Bourgeois 2010 At The Cambridge Tasting‏
Crus Bourgeois 2011‏
Crus Bourgeois at the International Wine Challenge 30th Anniversary Ball

Crus Bourgeois - website, twitter