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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Two Reds from South West France - and a Sticky

Two reds and a dessert wine from South West France

If Bordeaux is the aristocracy of wines and Languedoc the minor royalty, these South West wines are landed gentry - complex and sophisticated, what they lack in refinement they more than make up for in terms of personality.

The Reds

Ch Bellevue La Foret, Fronton, 2009 (£15.70 Grapevine Wine Services) 45% Négrette, 40% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark purple; dark fruit, truffley-vegetal damp undergrowth, roasted spices and a touch of sulphurous struck match. Sweet, ripe, cooked dark fruit, sweet spices, toasty oak, vanilla and bitter dark green garrigue herbs. Old-vine concentration.

Fresh acidity that just about manages to hold it all in check and assertive, firm, tannins. Benefits from aeration (better on the second day than on the first) and will age.

Expressive, enjoyable and makes a statement. Good.

Match with rustic, gamey foods, such as venison papardelle.

Domaine d'en Ségur, Cotes du Tarn, 2010 (HBV, £25) 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark purple, bramble fruit, coffee grounds and sweet spices. Sweet vanilla, pepperiness, sweet ripe, slightly cooked plummy fruit and cassis. Good freshness and minerality.

Long, concentrated and focused; a blue-collar Pomerol. Soft, smooth texture, slightly grippy tannins on the finish.

Rather classier and more restrained than the Foret. Good.

Match with rare red meat, such as lamb chops or Chateaubriand.

The Sticky

Folie de Roi, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, 2011 (£13.99, Le Bon Vin) 60% Petit Manseng, 30% Gros Manseng, 10% Petit Courbu

Good entry level sticky - ripe citrus, orange blossom and a touch of beeswax. Intense sweetness of overripe, cooked peaches, tropical citrus sweet spice and beeswax savouriness.

Lacks the deftness and complexity of a really assured sticky, but is priced accordingly.

Enjoyable, quaffable sweetie. Match with lemon torte or blue cheese.

All wines provided for review.

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Pierre Chanau Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Blanc 2010 - Auchan
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Saturday, 16 August 2014

Around The World In A Day - Amathus Knightsbridge

Amathus - as I didn't know - is mostly a wholesale business, one of the UK's main importers, and specialises in spirits as much as wines.

As a sideline, they run a few retail outlets - each with a very different character. Leadenhall Market caters for city types and sells mostly Champagne and classic French reds.

The Soho branch, in adland, does a surprisingly brisk trade in cocktail spirits.

The latest addition is Amathus Knightsbridge which will surely give Harrod's Food Hall just up the road a run for its money.

The shop has been open for three months, but the technicalities of getting a refit sorted meant they have only just had their launch event.

They invited me along.

We started with a Prosecco - off-dry with orchard fruit it was fault-free and pleasant if a little unsophisticated. At over ten pounds, it was at the upper end of the price scale for the quality.

The format of the evening was canapes and a help-yourself to the 20-plus wines and spirits available on the two oenomatic machines.
Overall, the wines were well-made, well-chosen and interesting. Many were priced at the upper end of what I would have expected, but a memorable selection were both impressive and good value.

What I liked most about the arrangement was the option of three price points per wine on the oenomatic machine.

This means that for pocket-money prices, you can taste a small splash of wine to see if you want to take a whole bottle.

It also means that, should you fancy it, for the price of a single bottle, you can try everything on offer on the shop.

So, if you are the sort of person who would take a Vinho Verde over a kiwi Sauvignon, who feels that a £10+ wine can be good value if the quality is great, who would consider taking an oenological tour of all the continents in a single evening to be a major achievement, then the Aladdin's cave that is Amathus Knightsbridge could be just your thing.
The Whites

Koshu (Japan) my first Japanese wine; modern, expressive aromatic nose. Pure and precise. Pleasant but somewhat international in style, rather insubstantial and also expensive at £22.

Louis Sipp Riesling (Alsace) textbook Alsace Riesling, off-dry, musky melonskin, ripe stone fruit and citrus, minerality. Very elegant.

Savigny-Les-Beaune (Burgundy) floral, cidery and mineral. Seems more Jura than Burgundy.

The Reds

Taurasi (Italy) complex, nuanced and sophisticated. A class act. Very Good.

Gordon Estate Syrah (Washington, USA) northern Rhone-esque Syrah, all dark herbs and spices, dark berries, freshness and substance. A revelation. Good.

The Spirits
Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin (Germany) crisp, refreshing and pleasantly bitter.

La Puritita Mezcal (Mexico) smokey-peaty, like an Islay whisky.

Ch De Laubade X.O. (Bas Armagnac) complex, mature and mellow with a sophisticated assertiveness. Very Good Indeed.

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Private Cellar Tasting
Lunch at The Old Bridge, Huntingdon

Friday, 15 August 2014

Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2001

A mature Louis Latour white Burgundy

A colleague who "doesn't like wine" won a bottle of 2001 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Crand Cru in a raffle and having no interest in it at all, gave it to me.

As I was opening a couple of other bottles one evening after work, I decided to throw this into the mix, curious to see what reaction it would get from a group of self-confessed novices.

Overall, they liked it and weren't put off by its old school style or lack of fruit - especially given that we put it up against three young, modern-style wines.

Deep golden colour, the nose is oaky and oxidative with a sherry-esque tang; the fruit is mostly faded now and the aromas are more of roasted almonds and old leather.

The palate is still focused, with fresh, ripe citrus and orchard fruit, the weightiness of the oak and minerality.

Slightly past its peak, but with an intriguing sense of presence - a wine to respect, admire and appreciate.

Match with white meat, such as a ham or rabbit terrine.

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Nemiroff Horilka

Nemiroff horilka from Ukraine

Horilka is a neutral Ukrainian base spirit similar to vodka - etymologically, vodka is a diminutive of the slavic word for water (in the same way that whisky comes from "uisge beatha" - water of life), whereas horilka is a reference to "burning" or distillation.

Distinct from vodka or whisky, there are traditions of flavouring horilka with berries, honey or chilies. These Nemoriff horilkas are flavoured with various additions; the base spirit is well-made and the flavours add further interest.

Original bitter, spirity nose but quite smooth, warming and relatively easy for a strong spirit, warming finish; neutral but pleasant.

Birch adds a pleasant, floral birch aroma to the nose with a sweetness on the palate and pleasantly sappy finish; subtle, elegant and well-balanced. Good.

Honey pepper pale golden colour, more neutral nose; compared to Original, less perceptibly bitter, rather than actively sweet, on the palate with a gentle but persistent warming pepperiness developing. Good.

Rye Honey almost clearless, with just a hint of pale sandy yellow; the honey adds an elusive hint of savoury beeswax and sweetness on the palate, the finish is warming and spirity.

Cranberry liqueur pale bright red, smells a little confected; sweet cranberry flavour, again a little confected but nicely balanced and a pleasant-enough sipper.
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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Three Wines from Jean-Luc Columbo

Three wines from Jean-Luc Colombo

Rhône wines are typically red and substantial - that makes two of these wines quite unusual.

The Picpoul, which is more associated with Languedoc than the Rhône, is new to the UK, whilst the ‘Abeilles’ ("bees") are new vintages and come with a donation for every bottle sold to the British Beekeepers’ Association.

Picpoul de Pinet, Les Girelles 2013 (£9.99)

Aromatic white flowers on the nose; fresh, ripe citrussy palate with mineral underpinnings, just a hint of varietal seashells - well-made and well-balanced in a modern, crowd-pleasing style.

Very enjoyable.

Serve as an aperitif or match with light seafood starters.

Stockists: Oddbins, Lay & Wheeler, Field and Fawcett, The Halifax Wine Company, The Leamington Wine Company, Dunedin Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Famous Wines, Bacchus Wines, Islington Wine

Les Abeilles Blanc 2013 (£9.99)

A blend of Clairette and Rousanne - honeysuckle, citrus, sweet spice and hints of incense on the nose; waxy-yet-fresh on the palate with orchard fruits.

Another well-made easy-drinker - a little more old-school in style.

Match with white meat, such as ham hock terrine.

Stockists: Define Food and Wine, Le Mouton Rouge, Dalling & Co wines, Trinas Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Tivoli, Taylors Fine Wines, Aiken Wines, Partridges, DP Vintners, The Butlers Cellar

Les Abeilles Rouge 2012 (£9.99)

GSM blend with juicy plums and dark berry fruit with some spiciness - low tannins make it another uncomplicated easy-drinker.

On first pouring, even with a decanter, the texture feels a little light and insubstantial, but it gains in presence with time. Well-balanced and feels like it has more to offer given time.

Match the juicy dark fruits with burgers and barbecue food or salamis.

Stockists: Tivoli, The Bottleneck, DeFINE food and Wine, Sunninghill Wine Merchants, North and South, The Butlers Cellar, Fountainhall Wines, Bacchus et Al

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Prince Golitsyn's Seventh Heaven Masandra - Ukraine

Masandra, on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, is home to Ukraine's oldest winery. Crimea is the Black Sea's answer to Provence - a mountainous, coastal sub-tropical region best known as a smart, leisurely holiday destination.

The history of the Masandra winery dates back to tsarist times - it was established in order to provide wine for the tsar's Summer Palace near Yalta. Tunnels were built in 1894 deep into the mountainside with a constant temperature of around 13C-14C for storing ancient wines in perfect condition.

Masandra wines are typically fortified stickies in the Mediterreanean style of sherry, Madeira, port, Marsala and Greek Samos nectars.

Syome Nebo Knyazya Golitsyna ("Prince Golitsyn's Seventh Heaven") Masandra fortified, aged for two years, 16% alcohol, 18% sugar - a blend of White Kokur, White Muscat and Muscat Rose.

Dark golden and amber. Complex nose of oxidative dark sherry, spirit, madeira and floral Muscat. Intense floral sweetness, cooked mix fruit, butterscotch and glycerol, cut through with freshness, underpinned by a persistent roasted-chestnut savouriness.

Very enjoyable, characterful and harmonious sweet-strong blend - Good.

Serve as a dessert by itself or match with turkey and chestnut stuffing or treacle tart.

For the curious, the label features an image of the Masandra Palace Museum of tsar Alexander III.

Other related articles
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Discover Ukraine on Masandra: http://discover-ukraine.info/places/crimea/yalta/1090
Ukraine.com on Masandra: http://www.ukraine.com/blog/yaltas-exquisite-massandra-winery
Masandra by Tom Cannavan: http://www.wine-pages.com/features/massandr.htm

Palace image credit: http://ua-travelling.com/en/article/massandra-winery-crimea

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Two Wines from South West France

Two South West France wines from The Wine Society and Les Caves de Pyrene

France's South West regions is one of the country's few remaining oenological frontiers - a diverse up-and-coming region of unfamiliar grape varieties and individual, characterful wines.

Les Vignes Retrouvées, Saint Mont, 2012 (£7.95, Les Caves de Pyrène / The Wine Society) 70% Gros Manseng, 20% Petit Courbu, 10% Arrufiac

Vibrant, aromatic, zesty and pungent; ripe grapefruit with quinine bitterness and flintsmoke minerality. Long and persistent. Very enjoyable. Good.

Serve as an aperitif, or with Mediterranean starters such as mozzarella with pesto and bread with olive oil.

Domaine du Cros, Lo Sang del Païs, 2013 (£10.99, Les Caves de Pyrène) 100% Fer Servadou

Ripe red and black cherries, violets, pencil shavings and dried herbs. Fresh and juicy with some spiciness and something feral; very fine tannins. Beaujolais-esque.

Pure, poised and long. Good.

Match with gamey dishes, such as duck, wild salmon or tuna carpaccio.

Wines provided for review.

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Two Picnic Wines From South West France

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Port

A complex, vibrant organic Fonseca port from Waitrose

Fonseca is a pioneer of organic viticulture in Portugal's Douro Valley. Part of Quinta do Panascal in the Távora Valley was converted to organic viticulture in 1992 and today its vineyards at Quinta de Santo Antonio are entirely certified for organic production.

Terra Prima was created in 2002 when Fonseca was able to source grape spirit made from certified organically farmed grapes.

Dark fruits and eucalyptus with damp undergrowth.

Sweet, ripe, mouthwatering cassis and cooked cherries with figgy fruitcake, eucalyptus, tobaccoey cigar box and sweet spices. All finished off with a lick of toasty oak.

Long, savoury and well-integrated.

Pure, vibrant and poised - very accomplished. Very Good.

A dessert in its own right - or match with chocolate and black cherry torte.

£17.50 from Waitrose; provided for review

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Friday, 8 August 2014

An Italian Wine Evening with Friends

A tasting of Italian wines with some oenophile friends - including two Rocche Costamagna wines from Private Cellar

All these wines were excellent - from the entry-level aperitif to the aged complexity of the Ornellaia; we matched them with some appropriate Italian food - wild boar stew with chestnuts, griddled aubergine bake with tomato and cheese sauce, peas with shallots and parma ham, baked vegetables with tomatoes and dill.

Ca' Bolani Frizzante Prosecco NV elegant entry-level semi-sparkler; crisp orchard fruits, pleasant mousse, easy-drinker

Cervaro Della Salla 2005, Umbria IGT, Antinori complex oaky Chardonnay / Grechetto blend with ripe tropical fruit, freshness and body. Long finish; the oak dominates a little, still feels young.

Dolcetto d’Alba Rubis, Rocche Costamagna, 2010, Piedmont poised juicy black cherry with some spiciness; a little closed up now but, like a shy party guest, should open out with time

Barbera d’Alba Superiore Rocche delle Rocche, 2010, Piedmont ripe red and black fruits with some toasty oak; lovely texture, drinking very nicely now.

Alpha Zeta A, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, 2005 a big, ripe but not blowsy wine with lots of everything - ripe dark cherries, fruit cake, vanilla and coffee; starting to gain some aged, mellow character, but feels still youthful

1999 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 'Ornellaia' Bolgheri Superiore, Toscana wonderful aged, complex gamey Bordeaux-blend super Tuscan drinking beautifully now; dark fruits, spice, cigar box and chocolate-espresso with a lovely texture - very accomplished and only just mature.

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2009, Sangiovese, Toscana red and black berry fruit with violets, wild herbs, liquorice and some earthy leather

Other related articles
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Private Cellar - website
Rocche Costamagna - website

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Two Picnic Wines From South West France

South West France, the hinterland between Bordeaux and Languedoc, is - oenologically - a vibrant, buzzy up-and-coming region that is busy reinventing itself.
Varied terroirs and indigenous grape varieties mean there is plenty to explore here, but a good place to start is with these two crisp picnic wines.

Both are well-made and modern with a southern ripeness cut through with a zesty freshness; they work equally as sippers or with picnic food - mozzarella and olive oil, quiche, cold cuts and cheese.

Esprit de Labastide, Gaillac, La Perle 2013 (£5.95, The Wine Society) - 50% Loin de l’œil, 30% Mauzac, 20% Sauvignon blanc

Golden sandy yellow, a touch of spritz, aromas of stone fruit and sweet spice; sweet ripe stone fruit, good freshness with zesty lime and green herbs.

Persistent, limey, mineral finish.

A great aperitif or match with light starters.

Domaine Chiroulet, Java rose, Cotes de Gascogne (Marc Fine Wines / Drinks of France / Deliciously French) 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon

Juicy ripe red fruits, hints of fresh green herbs, flintsmoke, minerality, freshness and lime zest - persistent, minerally finish.

A perfect picnic wine.

Both wines provided for review.

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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Three More Tanners' Wines

Three more wines from Tanners

Tanners is an impressive, established-but-contemporary independent wine merchant based in Shrewsbury; this is the second part of my review of six of their wines (the first is here).

Santorini Dry White, Hatzidakis 2013 (£13.20) mineral-yet-peachy Greek white.

Sandy yellow, orchard fruits on the rose; sweet, ripe cooked peaches, but dry, fresh and mineral. A touch of salinity; long, mineral finish. Good.

A versatile food wine, it has the body and acidity to stand up to a range of strongly-flavoured foods such as pasta, roast pork or salamis and hard cheese.

Tanners Douro Red 2012 (£8.20) Douro reds are like a toned-down port without the sweetness.

This blend of indigenous grapes is a vibrant ruby purple with aromas of dark fruits and oaky spice. Juicy black cherry, elderberry and blueberry fruit with mocha, tobacco, eucalyptus, vanilla and sweet spices.

Fine, well-integrated tannins, a touch of muscularity and a gentle firmness on the finish.


Match with duck, roast lamb with rosemary or wild salmon in a pesto-breadcrumb crust.

Renato Fenocchio Barbaresco 2010 (£28.95) a complex Italian Nebbiolo - this seductive-yet-ballsy grape is the Ladyboy of wines, according to The Winebird.

Pale red hue with brick red hints; complex dried red fruits and green herbs with cool mint, undergrowth, tar and roasted spices.

More dried berry fruits, bell pepper and herbs with undergrowth, freshness and muscularity. Long, savoury, harmonious and mellow. Firm, slightly drying tannins on the finish - drinking very nicely with food.

To my francophile palate, this combines the seductive red fruits and perfume of a Pinot with the muscularity and gaminess of an aged Medoc.

Match with slow-roasted rib of beef or pigeon stewed in red wine, shallots, mushrooms and rosemary.

Very Good.

Overall conclusions
I'm as impressed by these three as I was by the first - all good wines sensibly priced for the quality.

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Louis Jadot Poncereau 2011, Fleurie

A Beaujolais from Louis Jadot

Fleurie is, in keeping with its name, the most floral of the Beaujolais Crus.

This oaked Fleurie from Louis Jadot, however, is a little different from the norm - bigger, more substantial and less flowery.

Deep ruby-cherry red, aromas of red fruits, meatiness, undergrowth, spice with some floral notes.

Focused, juicy red and black cherry fruit, violets, damsons and roasted oaky spices. Atypically substantial for a Beaujolais - in a good way.

Savoury and long with some sweet vanilla and pepperiness on the finish; grippy, slightly stalky, tannins the only minor quibble.

Match with salamis, meaty stews, duck or roast lamb.

£14.99 from Tesco and independents; provided for review.

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