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Saturday, 31 January 2015

A Greek Odyssey in the Supermarket; Chapter 1 - M&S

Two Greek wines from Marks and Spencer, recommended by Elizabeth Kelly

Greek wines are not mainstream - they are both ancient and modern. But they need not be especially difficult to find; these two classy and distinctive Greek wines are from Marks & Spencer.

atlantis 2013, Cyclades

A classic Assyrtiko from the Argyros estate on the volcanic island of Santorini; hermetically sealed under screwcap, it benefits from extensive aeration.
Sandy yellow, aromatic, slightly pungent lime blossom, citrus and notes of spice; refreshingly zesty, tangy and mineral with old-vine concentration.
Pure and precise, very long. Good.
A versatile food wine, match with strongly-flavoured starters, such as garlic prawns, griddled vegetables or bread and oil with cured meats.

Thymiopoulos Xinomavro, Naoussa, 2012
Prone to being challenging in its youth, this Xinomavro is ripe, fresh and firm. Pale ruby red, with ripe, red-berry fruit, red plums, mushrooms and a hint of spice; firm but supple tannins.

It benefits from some aeration to show its best - plump, intense and elegant. Good.

Match with Burgundian food - ham terrine, pheasant or duck.

Other related articles
Two Wines from Yoleni's

Friday, 30 January 2015

Jadot Beaujolais Tasting

A tasting of four Louis Jadot Beaujolais for EASCA, held at Cambridge Wine Merchants
There was a distinct generational divide at this tasting of Beaujolais - those in their 20s had never tried Beaujolais before or knew of Beaujolais nouveau, whilst those of us who remember a time before the internet and the mobile phone talked of prawn cocktails, power suits and Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé.
Like sherry, Beaujolais has come full circle and is on the way back up again. At its best, it is a fresh, juicy gluggable wine to match with duck, ham terrine or salmon.
Generally, I find entry-level Beaujolais relatively poor value with better bang for your buck from the Crus, even if they cost a few pounds more.
A reliable Burgundy producer (yes, such a thing exists), Jadot prices ambitiously - they are generally solid and rarely disappoint, if less frequently thrilling.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2013 (£10.99) pleasantly cherry fruited, but the tannins and acidity dominate a little. Light and simple. This was deemed a good barbecue wine, but overpriced.
Louis Jadot Moulin a Vent 2010, Chateau de Jacques (£15.99) more interest and better balance, red and black cherry with undergrowth and spice
Louis Jadot Fleurie 2011, Chateau de Jacques (£16.49) more complexity and texture, with violets, spice and leather. Some tannic grip on the finish suggests it will keep another year or so.
Louis Jadot Morgon 2011, Chateau de Jacques (£14.99) the most harmonious, this is at a peak right now and was the popular favourite of the night. Ripe and plump with hedgerow berries and some Burgundian undergrowth.
For me, the Fleurie just edged it as the best wine of the night on a strictly technical assessment, but the Morgon was drinking beautifully.
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Beaujolais and Beyond

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Two Wines from Yoleni's

Two Greek wines from Yoleni's

Yoleni's is a web-based European supplier of Mediterranean foods, oil and wine; they sent me a couple of their wines to review.

Both are very well made and good value.

Avdiros "Domaine Vourvoukeli" Regional Organic Wine of Avdira (Eur 11) A blend of Pamidi / Roditis and Chardonnay; organic. Sandy yellow, delicate aromas of nectarines, apricots and melonskin.
Elegant, pure and precise; clean and concentrated. Ripe, tropical melon fruit, white flowers, leesiness and a hint of spice.Superbly well-made, flawless and beautifully balanced with a lovely tension between ripeness and freshness. Very Good.

A versatile food wine; match with starters, mushrooms or creamy pasta dishes.

"Palivou Estate Nemea" red wine (Eur 12) atypical, ruby red Agiorgitiko from Nemea; fresh red plums, red and black cherries and vanilla spice; fine, harmonious tannins.

Fresh yet supple and rounded, with an accomplished Pinot-esque lightness and red-fruited elegance. Very Good.

Match with Burgundian food - ham terrine, pheasant or duck.

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Greek Food and Wine
Wines From The Greek Delicatessen
Greek Wine Under Different Lenses

Friday, 23 January 2015

Last Great Malts

Pick up a whisky guide from the decade of my birth and it will confidently tell you that - here in the '70s - all malt whiskies are blends.

Fast forward half a lifetime to the present day and single malts are where it's at.

Why so? Essentially fashion - we now revere individuality, differentiation and artisan craftsmanship, eschewing standardisation and industrial homogeneity.

On the back of this shift in fashion, Dewars are releasing the Last Great Malts series - five single malt whiskies previously used solely for blending.

Aberfeldy has been available as a single malt since the '90s, Aultmore and Craigellachie were launched at the back end of 2014, Brackla and Deveron are planned for launch soon.

These were all lovely whiskies, well made and accomplished, and all quite distinct in character.

Aultmore 12 (£43) light, floral grassy Speyside; expressive. A summery, starter-course of a whisky.

Aultmore 25 (£303) complex and concentrated; more tertiary, woody flavours of roasted nuts and spices.

Craigellachie 13 (£43) more old school and less expressive; its characteristic, slightly sulphurous notes come from the "worm tub" cooling process. Rounded and substantial; clean, elegant, accomplished.

Craigellachie 17 (£80) just a few extra years knits the sweet cooked fruit and spice together more harmoniously

Craigellachie 23 (£337) very mellow, complex and harmonious, lots of woody vanilla sweetness

Aberfeldy 12 (£31) rich fruitcake, roasted nuts and spices, heathery sweetness. Typically Highland - match with a crackling log fire and wing-back chair.

Aberfeldy 21 (£114) deeper, more concentrated and smokey

The best of these whiskies was the Craigellachie with its understated accomplishment - which you choose depends largely on budget; the 23yo is exponentially more expensive than the 13, but the 17 represents the best quality-to-price ratio.
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Whiskies for Burns Night 
A Wee Dram on Burns Night

Monday, 19 January 2015

Chocolates for Wine from Qwerkity

Chocolates for Wine from Qwerkity

I have never really subscribed to the idea that chocolate matches with wine - far better in my view is dark chocolate, espresso and a single malt whisky.
The only exceptions to this are good quality basic ruby port and Banyuls.
These chocolates claim to match with wine and even go so far a to list some very specific-yet-general suggested matches - Merlot for the Ecuador, Dornfelder for the Ghana and most implausibly of all Huxelrebe late harvest for the Java.
The little I know about chocolate goes like this:
- The best is from South America, middling stuff is from Africa and anything from Asia is junk.
- like a good Champagne, decent chocolate needs only a low dosage of added sugar, preferably under 10%.
The golden rule of matching sweet foods and wine is that the wine has to be sweeter than the food.
Unable to find a Gewuerztraminer or Scheurebe late harvest as recommended by the list, I tried them first alone and then with a glass of Rioja. In no cases was the wine enhanced by the chocolate.
Predictably, given the high levels of added sugar (cocoa levels are from 85% to just 34%), these chocolates do not match with dry wines.
Overall, the best are pleasant enough, others middling and the most highly-sugared utterly forgettable.
Ecuador (52% cocoa) - smooth and pleasant but lacks bitterness or complexity; does not improve the wine. This one is supposed to match with Merlot, Pinot Noir and Grenache.
Santa Domingo (71% cocoa) - darker, aromatic and bitter and a little more complex; again, doesn't go well with the Rioja, despite a supposed match with Tempranillo.
Ghana (85% cocoa) - smooth and buttery, largely flavourless. Closest to a match with the wine (as in, does not make it taste actively unpleasant). Supposedly goes with Bordeaux, Malbec, Dornfelder and PX.
Venezuela (43% cocoa) - rich, sweet and creamy, like a superior mass-market chocolate. Makes the wine taste actively unpleasant. I can't see this matching with the recommended Gewurztraminer.
Java (34% cocoa) - sweet, sugary milk chocolate. No flavour, just sweetness. I don't even try the wine with something this sweet. I've never had either of the recommended wines suggested here; Kerner late harvest and Huxelrebe late harvest.
Costa Rica (38% cocoa) - more sweet, sugary milk chocolate. I can't believe this would ever match with the recommended Sauternes.
So, uninspiring chocolates and unsuccessful suggested matches; on the plus side, though, it comes packaged in a nice box.
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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Four CVNE Wines

Four wines from Spain's CVNE, aka Cune (coo-nay)

CVNE consists of three wineries; CVNE, Viña Real and Contino. They sent me four wines to showcase their different styles. However, if anything, what stands out is the family resemblance; plush, velvety wines with good fruit and a supple texture.

All are well made but I find myself rather preferring the more restrained, classic, food-friendly style of the Imperial - at the other end of the spectrum, the Contino proves to be a lovely quaffer if a little over-exuberant.

With ripe fruit and supple tannins, all are drinking nicely now and will only improve with further aging.

Imperial Reserva 2009 dark cherry fruit and leather, peppery spice and some cool mint. Fresh with excellent, substantial underpinnings and a firm assertiveness. Very Good Indeed.

£20.49 from Co-op, Majestic, Wine Rack, BBR, Wine Rack, Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Luvians, Fortnums, Cambridge Wine Merchants

Cune Reserva 2009 soft and supple, with good bramble fruit and spice, it is a little understated at the moment; I feel much more interesting wine will emerge in a couple of years as the secondary aromas develop. Good.

£14.99 from Waitrose, Majestic, Fresh & Wild (Camden), Wine Rack, Eynsham Cellars, Wimbledon, Hailsham Cellars, Village Wines (Amersham), Richard Dawes Fine Wine

Contino Reserva 2008 lifted sweet ripe red and black fruits, sweet vanilla and fine tannins. Expressive and modern with lots of primary fruit. Good.

£19.99 from Tesco, BBR, Moreno Wines, Oxford Wine, Cheers, Harrods

Viña Real Reserva 2009 red and dark berry fruits with oaky spice; velvety, plush and luxuriant. Good.

£17.99 from Berry Bros & Rudd, Wimbledon, Partridges, DeFINE food and Wine, Tanners Wines.

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Two Aged Riojas From CVNE
Viña Real Gran Reserva 2005‏
The CWB Rioja-Off

Friday, 16 January 2015

Bourgogne Week - Chablis Tasting

A BIVB tasting of Chablis at 28-50 Maddox St as part of Bourgogne Week
Chablis produces a very particular style of wine - cool-climate, white and nervy; if this is not your thing, look elsewhere.
Within this generalisation, there are, of course, nuances and gradations, but what I took away from a tasting of Petits, Right-bankers and Left-bankers with a Grand Cru thrown in was this:
- the profile of a Chablis, whilst not completely immutable, is fairly set; white, crisp, mineral and so on
- the differences, then, are all about quality
- a Petit Chablis, however good, is liquid in a glass
- at the other hand extreme, Grands Crus have a transcending depth, texture and substance; they are complex, honeyed and nutty
- somewhere in the middle, the best Premiers Crus (despite the name, the second rank of wines) have an elegant purity and freshness
The lightest Chablis, Petit Chablis, is a refreshing aperitif; the fullest, most complex Grands Crus, aged to maturity, are succulent food wines that can easily overpower a light starter.
Being a classic wine that is difficult to produce, Chablis is not cheap - but as is so often the case, this means the value is better at the top end than the bottom.
The stand-out wines for me were:
Domaine Sainte Claire, 2013, Jean-Marc Brocard pure, elegant, well-structured and balanced. Good.
Chablis Premier Cru
Montmains 2012, Domaine Guy Robin old-vine richness with a full, leesy minerality. Very Good.
Chablis Grand Cru
Domaine Laroche, Reserve de l'Obedience, Les Blanchots 2009 complex, leesy and substantial; honeyed and nutty. Very Good Indeed.
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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sip Like The Stars - Win Three BAFTA Wines

Who's up for winning three bottles of wine?

I have three bottles of wine, as served at the upcoming BAFTA awards, to give away thanks to Champagne Taittinger and Villa Maria.

To enter, just add as a comment to this post your best, most theatrical, real-life moment ever.

It could be your Cool Hand Luke poker face as you negotiated a big sales deal, the Jedi Mind Tricks you used to get the job of your dreams or just saying "fuh-fuh-fuh" to the waiter who served you liver and beans.

Give me your best story by Friday Jan 30th and the winner should get their wines in time for the awards ceremony - unless, of course, they get accidentally sent back 30 years in time to make sure their high-school parents get it together.

The details

The EE British Academy Film Awards ceremony will be taking place on Sunday 8th February and to celebrate, Champagne Taittinger and Villa Maria invite you to sip like the stars!

As the official Champagne and Wine and Partners to BAFTA, Champagne Taittinger and Villa Maria wines from New Zealand are delighted to offer you the chance to win a bottle of Taittinger Brut Réserve NV, a bottle of Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, as served to the glittering guests at the Awards. 

Adding extra sparkle to the awards, Taittinger is the only leading Champagne house to remain owned and actively managed by the family named on the label. Taittinger is widely available. www.taittinger.com

Villa Maria has been New Zealand’s most awarded winery for over 30 years and remains proudly family-owned. Villa Maria wines are widely available in all good retailers. Visit www.villamaria.co.nz

The dull stuff

Terms & Conditions:  Entrants must be 18 or over. Entrants must provide a mainland UK address and telephone number for delivery. Visit www.bafta.org for more information. 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Grand Selection Tokaji Késői Arany, 2013

Another night, another goody-bag wine.
This sweet Tokaji was my take-home wine after the recent Circle of Wine Writers' Christmas event.
Pale sandy yellow, it is lightly floral with tropical fruit and a touch of sweet spice. Sweet, ripe tropical citrus fruits, cut through with a refreshing acidity. Light, but very elegant.
Match with fruit tarts or foie gras.
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Saturday, 3 January 2015

Château la Martinette Rosé 2013

An elegant Provence rose from Chateau La Martinette

If I had just stepped out of my two-seater open-top sports car somewhere in the south of France, adjusted my sunglasses and sauntered to a bar overlooking the shimmering Med, a glass of this rosé is probably what I would order.

Light, fresh and elegant, it is sophisticated, nonchalant coolness personified - pale in the glass, fresh and citrusy with a touch of leesiness, it doesn't try too hard.

Neither overly complex or demanding, it is a relaxed, hedonistic Dickie Greenleaf of a wine.

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Not Just For Summer Picnics - Provence Rosé

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Catena Zapata; Angelica Zapata Alta Cabernet Franc Mendoza - 2010

A wonderful Cab Franc from Laura Catena
Like last night's The Philosophy, this Angelica Zapata 2010 was a gift from the IWSC after a dinner with outgoing President Laura Catena and the incoming Neil McGuigan.
Two very different personalities, continents and winemaking styles.
But I so much prefer this wine to the Philosophy; it has a European sensibility with just a hint of New World ripeness.
Dark purple in the glass, ripe red and black cherry fruit, complex spices, a touch of leather and substantial underpinnings cut through with freshness. Concentrated, intense, pure, ripe and fresh.
Is it distinctly Argentinean? It certainly has a high altitude intensity and freshness.
The New World fruit is immediately noticeable but never tips over into being baked or stewed; Rhone-esque ripeness, Loire-esque freshness.
Very Good.
Match with the sweetness of roast chicken, parsnips, carrots and cranberry sauce.
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