Popular Posts

Monday, 30 March 2015

Three Decades of Chateau des Jacques

A vertical tasting of Beaujolais' Chateau des Jacques, owned by Louis Jadot, with Guillaume de Castelnau

Beaujolais is a glugging wine for early drinking, right? Juicy and fresh, it is a simple pleasure not intended as a vin de garde.

Not according to Guillaume de Castelnau, winemaker at Chateau des Jacques, based in the cru village of Moulin a Vent, who believes that good cru Beaujolais is the equal of any top Burgundy with the same aging potential.

For Guillaume, the idea of Beaujolais as a young wine is an historical aberration - just as First Growths pull up the image of all Bordeaux, so he believes nouveau has pulled down all Beaujolais, and it's time to reverse that perception.

Good, ageworthy cru Beaujolais starts with life - healthy soils, no fertilisers, organic practices - and requires low yields with extended oak aging.

To test this theory out, we tried a range of Chateau des Jacques wines from Clos de Rochegres dating to the year of Back To The Future - which pretty much sums up Guillaume's winemaking  philosophy.

All the wines were elegant, precise and vibrant; the best were the most balanced - for me, these were the 2009 and 2010.

Old Curiosities

1985 cloudy, no fruit left on nose, tertiary cellar and old books, but ripe red fruits remain on the palate; acidity still fresh and tannins firm.

1997 cloudy, aged nose of woodsy earthiness, but again still vibrant on the palate

21st Century Boys

2004 mushrooms, truffles and fresh earth on the nose, fresh red fruits but lacks plumpness.

2005 ripe fruit and fresh earth, fresh red fruit and tannins still firm; again needs some more plumpness

2008 nose more restrained and a more balanced wine overall, red fruits and earthiness, fresh and firm

My Generation

2009 nose more restrained again, red fruits, cool mint, plump fruit and balanced

2010 red fruits, truffles and cool mint; good balance, supple, fresh and firm

2013 from a cool year, there is rather less of everything here; tannins rather drying on the finish
We also got to sample some of Chateau des Jacques' other wines:

Clos de Loyse (2012) ripe, full, fresh, toasty and substantial
Moulin a Vent (2010) ripe red fruits, floral, soft, supple and fresh
Morgon (2011) truffley with supple red fruits

Other related articles
Chateau de Jacques Clos de Loyse 2009
Jadot Beaujolais Tasting

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Three Easter Wines from Morrison's

Three wines for Easter from Morrisons

With Easter approaching, Morrisons sent me three wines to review; with a classy aperitif, a red and dessert wine, these will see you through a family get-together meal.

To start - fizz

Chapel Down Brut (£21.99) elegant cool-climate English fizz, this is very classy indeed and better value-for-money than certain French rivals. Ripe orchard fruits, fresh citrus and toasty brioche with great structure.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.

M Signature Crozes Hermitage 2012 (£9.99) juicy, spicy red-and-black fruits and a leathery-woodsiness. Light and fresh but also substantial.

Match with an Easter roast lamb with garlic and rosemary.

M Signature Pedro Ximénez (£5.99, 37.5cl) dark, thick and intensely sweet, this is made from sun-dried grapes and then matured in solera for eight years; fragrant with complex roasted figs, nuts, molasses and raisins, it is sweet, strong and fresh.

Match with pecan and treacle tart or pour over vanilla ice-cream.

Other related articles
Two Wines From Morrisons
Tavernello Wines from Morrisons

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Whisky Quarterly Magazine

Whisky Quarterly - the first issue

Whisky quarterly is a new publication edited by writer and photographer Colin Hampden-White.
The glossy magazine aims to reach enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike whilst still providing a good read for those who don't drink whisky.
A few decades ago, virtually all whisky was blended into homogenous brands and there was no interest in the underlying constituent single malts, so a periodical on the subject would have been unthinkable, not to say somewhat pointless and dull.
Today, the first edition covers whiskies from Japan, Tasmania and Texas - and Colin's eye as a photographer means that it is also gorgeous to look at.
There are articles on off-the-beaten track distilleries, plus recommendations of interesting whiskies to look out for, some not generally available.
With its high production values and double-figure price, Whisky Quarterly is clearly aimed at a more affluent market with a certain level of disposable income - and the time / energy to hunt out the rare bottles available only at auction. However, not all the whiskies mentioned are expensive, and the cheapest is just £19.95.
And given that single malts have only recently come into fashion, even the more expensive bottles are arguably much better value than certain trophy wines.
£10, available by subscription only.
Other related articles

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Joseph Barnes Wines EASCA Tasting

A tasting of organic, biodynamic and natural wines with Joseph Barnes Wines

Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines has an enthusiasm for all things quirky and offbeat, eschewing the classics for organic, biodynamic and natural regional wines.

Here, more than anywhere, you need the guiding hand of an independent merchant with a good palate, but at their best, these wines are vibrant and fresh in a way that more conventional mainstream wines can only dream of.

Casa Belfi, Colfondo Prosecco 2012, Italy (£14.99) sealed with a crown top, it looks like cloudy lemonade; it is actually a natural, unfiltered traditional-method Prosecco. Fresh sharp and lemony, with a fine mousse and linear acidity. Neither a Champagne nor a Prosecco, it is vibrant and vivacious.

Serve as an aperitif.

De Martino Muscat, 2012, Chile (£11.50) Made from the less aromatic and ancient Muscat d'Alexandrie grape grown at an altitude of 800m, this is plump yet fresh with sweet, ripe lemony apple flavour. There is a rich, apricotty Viognier-like character with minerality and freshness.

Match with light starters or roast chicken.

Bodegas Aroa Laia, Navarra 2013, Spain (£11.50) a garnatxa / Garnacha / Grenache, this late-ripening grape is full of ripe fruits with pencil shavings and some woodsy-earthiness. Sweet, ripe vibrant cherry fruit, it is clean, pure, fresh and supple. An easy drinker, it can be lightly chilled in summer.

Match the supple freshness with tuna, barbecue foods or roast chicken.

Chateau de Jau, Muscat de Rivesaltes 2011, France (£11.99, 50cl) made from the aromatic Muscat a Petits Grains and fortified to 16% with grape spirit, this sweet-strong wine, drunk locally as an aperitif, is floral with candied lemon and marzipan, sweet spice and touch of alcoholic bitterness.

Match with lemon torte.

Other related articles
Three Wines From Joseph Barnes
Joseph Barnes Wines Tasting
Joseph Barnes Wines, Saffron Walden

Friday, 20 March 2015

On Meeting Peter Yealands

Peter Yealands of Yealands Wines

This morning I missed the (non) eclipse to meet Peter Yealands - he is very impressive, in an understated way; a man of incredible drive and vision who moves constantly from one project to another.

He does it not to make money, but because "he loves a challenge". Starting at age 14 and now almost 70, he is the serial entrepreneur personified, with endless energy, phenomenal attention to detail matched by a grand vision.

He acknowledges his level of focus must be intimidating for any would-be slackers, yet has one of the happiest workforces in New Zealand as measured by anonymous staff surveys.

He is an inspiring entrepreneur - but also something of a maverick whose single-minded pursuit of wherever his restless vision takes him leaves little room for anything or anyone else.
Other related articles
Yealands Estate Tasting and Dinner‏ with Tamra Washington
Four Yealands Wines

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Bulgarian Masterclass

A tasting of Bulgarian wines at the Bulgarian embassy with Stephen Spurrier, Caroline Gilby MW, Richard Bampfield MW
Bulgaria has an oenological (as well as socio-political) history - plenty of it. Perhaps too much.
I won't dwell on it here.
To the question of whether it has a future or what that future might look like, the answer is unclear; it lacks a clarity of purpose, a definition. At the moment.
There is momentum, a direction of travel and important choices lie ahead.
It needs to develop a defining characteristic, a raison d'etre. It needs to stand for something and it needs something to stand for it.
In the words of Stephen Spurrier, there are three key hooks: brands, appellations and varieties - Bulgaria has none of these. Yet.
It is not without good wines - and this tasting showed that there is something to appeal to most people. But ask me to characterise Bulgarian wine and I would struggle, even after today's masterclass.
At best, one would have to say that it is a country in transition, building a food and drink culture and a sophisticated, cosmopolitan middle class to go with it.
With two MWs on the panel and (at least) two in the audience, this was a serious tasting; four flights, fourteen wines, whites, reds, indigenous, international and blends.
Overall, the wines I liked best were Burgundian - a deft Chardonnay, a Pinot/Barolo-esque Gamza, a New World-style Pinot, and an elegant, Swiss-influenced Bordeaux blend.

In general, tannin-management in the reds would be a consistent area to work on, but there was nary a bad wine here, as you might hope with an MW on selecting duties.

A couple of the reds had a cooked or dried fruit character, but it was all held in check by freshness. The one slightly bum note was a rather chunky Cab, included on the basis that they "had to have one".
The revelation of the day was an orange wine - not a style I normally seek out, this was orange wine as a pleasing experience, rather than a style for the sake of it.
My top wines
Ivo Varbanov, Chardonnay 2013, Claire de Lune classic, textbook Burgundian Chardonnay, traditionally produced. Oaking is prominent now, but this will mellow with age.
Native red
Borovitza, Gamza 2013 known also Granny's Gamza, light, elegant and balanced with a juicy pepperiness; both Pinot-esque and Italianate
International red
Villa Yustina, Pinot Noir 2013 dark, black cherry with a fleshiness and a touch more warmth than a Burgundy, but good freshness. The winemaker trained in NZ and this shows an Otago-like influence.
Red blend
Eolis, Merlot/CS/CF 2009 Swiss family history influences, Bulgarian terroir and wine-making passion; boutique hand-crafted wine. Fresh, bright, precise and assured.
Other related articles

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jean-Claude Credoz, Jura

A wine from Jura's Jean-Claude Credoz, based in Chateau-Chalon

Staying at Relais des Abbesses in Chateau-Chalon, we were advised to visit Jean-Claude Credoz's handsome, ivy-covered house and try his wines.
We weren't disappointed; this is one of the wines we bought.

Cotes du Jura Savagnin, 2013 (€12.90) Golden Sandy yellow with a musky, pungent, bramley apple nose. Sharp, cidery, bramley apple fruit, a pungent tang and an oaky-leesy complexity. Very Good.


Other related articles
Jura - A Rough Guide
First London Jura Wine Trade Tasting 2013

Friday, 13 March 2015

Grand Cercle 2014 Primeurs‏

2014 Grand Cercle Primeurs
That 2014 was a better vintage in Bordeaux than the annus horribilis of 2013 can be filed under No sh*t Sherlock. But was it actually any good?

The Grand Cercle press release characterises it as a early developer turned bad pupil who aced the resits - a magnificent vintage miraculously saved.

It depends where you look - if the soil or terroir defines character and provides the underlying potential, vintage dials up or down the intensity and the winemaker brings balance.
If a good year leaves little for the winemaker to do, a bad year is where the real work starts. So a good test of a vintage is the consistency of quality across chateaux and winemakers.
Tasting the 2014 Primeurs, I was looking primarily for balance; other qualities may develop over time, but if balance is lacking at the beginning, it will never come later.
Based on what I tasted at the Grand Cercle, 2014 looks to be a perfectly respectable sort of year with a few wines showing a sensuously plump opulence and freshness with good underpinnings, but not the across-the-board generosity of 2009-2010.
The stand out regions from this tasting were:
- St Emilion Grand Cru Classe and Pomerol on the right bank
- Pauillac, Graves, Pessac-Leognan and St Estephe on the left
There were also a couple of wines that punched above their weight with an impressive showing from Fronsac and Lalande de Pomerol.
The few whites were all good. Stand-out reds are listed below:
Saint-Robert Cuvee "Poncet Deville" pure and fresh with rip cherry fruit, balanced
Fonbadet pure, focused, precise; mineral and fresh
Haut Lagrange plump, soft, velvety - lovely
Clos Vieux Taillefer ripe, fresh, plump, focused
Vray Croix de Gay fresh, precise, long and focused
St Emilion Grand Cru Classe
Fleur Cardinale ripe, soft, velvety and plump; lovely texture
La Marzelle ripe, fresh, plump and balanced; Good structure and underpinnings
Ch de Pressac sweet, ripe, plump fruit, well-balanced
St Estephe
Serilhan sweet ripe fruit, leathery gaminess, drinking very nicely now
There were also a number of outliers that merit a special mention:
Ch Dalem, Fronsac 2014 dark fruit, cool mint, excellent structure, really well made. A revelation.
Ch Siaurac, Lalande de Pomerol 2014 smooth, ripe, full and balanced
Ch Croix Cardinale, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2014 a "little cousin" of the Fleur Cardinale, pure, fresh, precise cherry fruit
Haut-Bacalan, Pessac-Leognan, 2009 the 2014 samples had gone missing in transit, so he found some 2009s to show; pure, fresh, mineral, concentrated and focused
Tour Seran, Haut Medoc 2011 Cru Bourgeois, blended by the best sommelier in the world, apparently; lots of crowd-pleasing flavour going on with good structure and underpinnings

Monday, 9 March 2015

Four Yealands Wines

Four Yealands Wines
Established on 08/08/08, Yealands is an ambitious go-ahead New Zealand winery with an overt sustainability agenda based in the southern Awatere Valley of Marlborough. Peter Yealands' mantra is: think boldly, tread lightly and never say it can't be done.
I've been impressed with their wines previously; they sent me four to review, so I decided to match each to a different course.

Mostly current vintage and bottled under screwcap, the Sauvignon and Pinot Noir benefit especially from extended aeration.
Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 (£10 Co-op, Sainsbury's) SB is now officially the UK's favourite wine grape, some ten years after it became the critics' darling in the backlash against monolithically oaky Chardie. It also remains NZ's signature grape and this example is a multi-award winner.
Clean, pure, textbook mid-market kiwi SB; modern, expressive and aromatic with zippy, pithy tropical fruit; at 12.5% it is a light-ish quaffer and a perfect aperitif (even if to bearded hipster-types, it screams middle-England, late-majority demographic).
Starter - mozzarella, tomatoes and rocket with olive oil.
Yealands Gruener Veltliner, 2014 (£12.95, independents) a full-bodied, versatile food wine, Gruener is perfect for matching with strongly flavoured foods.
Ripe, precise and mineral with a whiff of pepper on the finish, this is elegant, balanced and substantial - later harvesting and a touch of oak adds some nutty, creamy spicy weight. Good.
Fish - plaice fillets, beurre blanc, courgettes
Yealands PGR, 2014 (£13.95, Noel Young, other independents) a blend of Alsatian varieties (Pinot Gris, Gewuerztraminer and Riesling - hence the name), this has a ripe Alsatian spicy-richness to it that matches well with the buttery sauce but also cuts through it. Good.
Main - duck breast strips with spiced red-wine and cherry reduction
Yealands Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2013 (£13.95, independents) The gaminess of the duck and the spicy rich fruit of the jus match perfectly with this clean, pure expressive Pinot.
Elegant and fresh with red fruit and farmyard, it is a harmonious, no-tears textbook Pinot.
Other related articles

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wine of the Month - Three Supermarket Wines For Easter

Three easter wines from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Majestic

For Easter get-togethers, you want reliable crowd-pleasers that will appeal to a range of guests and match with set-piece meals like a roast dinner.

These wines have garnered various awards and recommendations from critics (albeit sometimes other vintages), so are a sure-fire set of winners.

Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012 (£11.99, Tesco)

What the producers say: From the Limarí Valley at the edge of the Atacama Desert; a region cooled by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and significant drops in temperature after sunset.

What I say: Toasty-oaky nose with blossom and sweet spice; sweet ripe tropical fruit. Fresh and precise ; mineral, saline and creamy-nutty with just a touch of hedonism. Harmonious and accomplished. Textbook oaky Chardie.

A versatile wine, match with salmon, creamy pasta or roast chicken.

De Bortoli Reserve Petite Sirah 2011 (£8.50, Sainsbury’s)

What the producers say: One of the best lead ups to harvest on record; this is a truly delicious Australian red. This led to fruit with flavour intensity and acid structure not seen for a few years.

What I say: big, mid-level Aussie red full of chocolate, leather, plums and cherries with a cow-lick of sweetly toasty-oaky vanilla spice. Lots of fruit, sunshine and stuffing in here.

Match with roast red meat - lamb with rosemary and garlic or beef with horseradish sauce.

A Sticky End Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Majestic, £15.99 or mix & match 2 bottles to save 33%)

What the producers say: Made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have been allowed extra hang-time on the vine, giving them extra ripeness and promoting the onset of botrytis. Aged for 14 months in French oak.

What I say: golden, Sandy yellow with an intriguing aroma of rubbed sage, seaweed even, mingling with the guava, figs and gooseberry-lime jam. Sweet and syrupy, yet also refreshing - a sort of tropical sweet-sour spiced gingeriness.
Match with fruit-based desserts such as Eton Mess or a fruit tart with Chantilly cream.
Other related articles

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Agent Orange: Logan's Run

Two elegant wines from Australia's Logan

Australia made a name for itself as a producer of big, fruit-forward, blockbuster gluggers.

So, we all know it can do ripeness and alcohol, but can it do elegance?

Well, yes it can - as I found out at Wine Australia 2015 earlier this year. These two wines from Logan combine the finesse of Old World classics with a New World purity; two wines, two Burgundian grapes and a Burgundian elegance, matched to a high altitude-freshness and a refined sense of restraint.

Logan is based in Orange, one of the highest and coolest wine regions in Australia.

Logan Chardonnay 2011, Orange, NSW, £16.90 (Spirited Wines & Corks Out) Fresh, pure and clean, the grapes are grown at over 950m giving a classy, refined, high-altitude Chardonnay; low alcohol (just 12.5%) and a deft hand in the cellar keep the leesy, oaky richness in an elegant balance with the natural freshness. Adept and assured; Good.

Weemala Pinot Noir 2013, Orange, NSW, £13.52 (Spirited Wines) Dark translucent red; bright, long and fresh with red fruits and minerality, some spice on the finish. Balanced, harmonious and gently assertive. Will age. Very elegant, very enjoyable. Very Good.

Other related articles
Mornington Peninsula at #ADT2015‏
McGuigan, The Philosophy 2010‏