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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Award-winning Wines From The Co-op

Two gold medal southern hemisphere wines from the Co-op

The Co-op asked me to help celebrate Gold medal wins for two of their wines - it would have been rude not to and I was not disappointed.

They are also both excellent value; European in style, they taste like they could cost twice as much.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Bio Bio Malbec 2014 (£6.99) - Decanter Gold

Big, bold spicy yet classy Chilean red - screwcapped and drinking beautifully.

Made from Argentina's signature Malbec, it is dark purple; dark fruits, complex oaky spice and cigar box; ripe elderberries, bramble fruit and black cherries with roasted spices, freshness and supple tannins.

Poised, balanced and adept. Good.

Match with a juicy steak.

Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2012 (£10.99) - IWC Gold and Best South African Chardonnay Trophy

Sandy yellow, sweet, ripe, pure melon and pineapple fruit with textbook creamy-nutty-oatmeal and a hint of toasty spice from some deft oaking.

Harmonious, balanced and well-integrated. Very Good

A versatile food wine, it will match with roast chicken or pork, risotto or seafood.

The Co-op has been steadily improving its wine range for some time now and this is reflected in the 36 awards received so far this year.

Other related articles
Award-Winning France - Three Wines From The Co-op
Two Gold Medal Wines from The Co-op

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two Summer Pinks

Two summer pinks from Joseph Mellot and Jean-Luc Colombo

Has rosé finally come in from the cold? No longer a tawdry, rather frivolous quaffer, it is these days a serious wine commanding serious prices.

Jean Luc Colombo Les Pins Couchés Rosé 2013 (£11.05, independents) delicate translucent pink, red berry fruit and a hint of spice, sweet watermelon and pure, refreshing acidity. Good.

Match with seafood and grilled Mediterranean foods.

Joseph Mellot Châteaumeillant Rosé 2014, Loire Valley, (£18.75, independents) translucent pomegranate red, delicate red berry fruit, creamy leesiness and lovely acidity. Poised and elegant with good underpinnings. Good.

Match with smoked salmon quiche.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Joseph Barnes Tasting

A tasting of four wines with Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines

If you fancy a set of characterful dinner party wines, you could do a lot worse than serve this selection from Joseph Barnes.

Dedham Vale Vineyards Sparkling Brut 2012 an elegant vintage English fizz from mostly Chardonnay with a bit of Bacchus in the blend; the winery dates back to 1990 and was resurrected from Carters.

Pale straw yellow, it spends two years on the lees - biscuity yet floral and quite aromatic with English hedgerow. Ripe orchard fruits with lemon-and-lime, a leesy creaminess and a fine mousse. At £23.50, it is cheaper than almost any vintage Champagne.

Will improve with age. Serve as an aperitif.

Bodegas Bernabe Navarro "Tragolargo" Monastrell 2013 vibrant, rare, high-altitude organic / biodynamic Spanish red.

Dark purple in the glass, with dark fruit, black pepper and roasted dark spices. A complex and vibrant palate of dark fruit, pepper, bitter green herbs, red chili and sweet spices. Long with pronounced minerality.

One of only 3,000 bottles made, and excellent value at under £10.

Match with roasted leg of lamb with juniper berries.

Domaine Berthoumieu, Madiran Haute Tradition 2011 chewy Tannat blend from south west France.

Dark, opaque - almost black. Dark blackcurranty fruit, roasted spices and floral hints. Supple, but still grippy despite having been decanted much earlier in the day. Under the tightly-knit tannins, there is dark fruit, earthiness and minerality.

£13.50, match with a roast Sunday lunch.

Chateau de Jau Rivesaltes Ambre 2007 unusual fortified, madeirised French VDN sticky.

A blend of mostly Grenache Blanc with some Macabeu, this is part-fermented, fortified, then aged in glass demijohns for two years followed by 12 months in old oak, giving a deliciously complex curiosity in the Mediterranean-island tradition.

Amber-mahogany with floral, grape spirit, roasted nuts and a dark-sherry / Madeira aroma. Sweet and fresh with orange peel, honey, spice and ginger and a satisfying savouriness.

Serve with blue cheese, as a dessert in its own right or as a midday aperitif.

Good and great value at £13.50 for 50cl.

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Joseph Barnes Wines EASCA Tasting

Monday, 15 June 2015

More Languedoc Fizz

Two Château Martinolles Limoux wines from Paul Mas

Champagne is not the only French region to do bubbles; Languedoc's Limoux also does fizz in various guises - Blanquette requires a minimum of 90% Mauzac in the blend, Crémant allows a greater proportion of Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc.

Château Martinolles Crémant de Limoux Brut a pleasant and easy-going sort of fizz, as unassuming as the girl next door.

N.V. Blanquette de Limoux, Blanc de Blancs, Chateau Martinolles with half a degree less alcohol, this has a bit more attitude - fresher, sharper and more precise.

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Languedoc fizz from Paul Mas

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Red Wine for Beginners - CVNE Rioja Reserva 2010

A Rioja from CVNE, available at Waitrose and Majestic

Which red wine would you serve to someone who normally only drinks whites? A good mature Rioja is, I reckon, a safe bet - lots of ripe fruit and soft tannins; there's nothing not to like.

This one was well-received by a friend who, by her own admission, drinks little more than Pinot Grigio.

Cune Reserva Rioja 2010 (£15.35, Waitrose, Majestic, Wine Rack and independents)

Dark berry fruit and decadent aged aromas; ripe black cherries and elderberry, pepperiness, liquorice and spice, supple texture.

Very harmonious. Muscular yet deft. Good.

Match with slow cooked pork and chorizo stew, or with barbecue foods (weather permitting!).

Other related articles
Four CVNE Wines
Two Aged Riojas From CVNE
The CWB Rioja-Off

Saturday, 13 June 2015

French Whites and British Seasonal Food

Four white wines from Les Grands Chais, available at Waitrose and Majestic

Do French white wines match with British seasonal food? Les Grands Chais teamed up with Asparagus, Jersey Royals and Godminster cheddar cheese from Somerset and asked me to find out.

Cremant de Jura, Cabelier (not currently available in the UK)
Appley fruit, rich fullness and a fine mousse.

With asparagus and new potatoes:
Chateau Cleray Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie, Sauvion, 2013 ( Majestic, £9.99)
Substantial and mineral Muscadet - pale sandy yellow, lime flowers and zest; ripe orchard fruits, leesiness and minerality. Fresh and precise with a honey-waxy texture.

Good and very good value. Also match with crostini starters.

Calvet Reserve, Bordeaux (Waitrose, £8.99)
Clean and pure white Bordeaux - aromatic lemongrass and white pepper; pure, clean minerality with white peach and grapefruit. Adept and assured. Good.

Also match with goat's cheese.

With cheddar:
Chateau de Fesles La Chapelle, Anjou Blanc (Majestic £13.99)
Big, complex Loire - golden sandy yellow, elderflower and fern; rich, ripe orchard fruit, beeswax and freshness backed up with a leesy, oaky sweetness.

Good. Also match with rillettes

Other related articles
Les Grands Chais - part 1, part 2, part 3

Friday, 12 June 2015

Find the next UK Daniel Pontifex Scholarship winner

Wine Australia's Dan Pontifex Scholarship

Wine Australia and The Daniel Pontifex Memorial Trust are searching for those with great potential in hospitality after opening entries for the 2015 Daniel Pontifex Scholarship.

The scholarship recognises the passion and enthusiasm of tomorrow’s leading hospitality professionals, rewarding them with a place on Wine Australia’s trade and press visit to Australia in November.

Daniel Pontifex, whom the scholarship commemorates, was killed in a hit and run car accident during his employment at Kensington Place Restaurant in London. Daniel had previously worked in Adelaide, Australia, with Shaw + Smith’s Michael Hill Smith MW who, along with Daniel’s family, went on to initiate the scholarship in his name in 1998.

Each alternate year a scholarship winner from the UK and Australia respectively are invited to experience the hospitality sector in the contrasting country. This provides them with direct access to influential industry leaders and offers first-hand insights into the international world of wine.

Past winner and 2015 panellist Alessandro Marchesan described his scholarship as “one of the greatest experiences of my life”. “The opportunity to travel around Australia’s best wine regions, to meet and work with the best winemakers and to have some working experiences in some of the best restaurants boosted not only my knowledge but also gave me great confidence to carry on with my career,” he said.

Wine Australia Regional Director Laura Jewell MW said the scholarship was instrumental in providing support to the shining stars of the future. “Enthusiasm and a genuine interest in wine will be more important to the panel than academic background or literary merit,” she said. “We look forward to celebrating Australia’s vibrant wine industry with the lucky winner and helping develop their career with this unique experience.”

The winner of the 2015 scholarship will be selected by a panel of the UK’s leading wine professionals including Laura Jewell MW; Liberty Wines’ Managing Director, David Gleave MW; restaurateur Rowley Leigh and past winner and Zuma-Roka-Oblix Group Sommelier and Wine Buyer Alessandro Marchesan.

The winner will receive funding towards travel, insurance, accommodation and expenses.

To enter, applicants are invited to submit a short essay (500-750 words) explaining why they believe they are a suitable candidate, together with an abridged biography.

Applicants are expected to have a strong interest in wine and may work in any area of hospitality. Interviews will be held in mid-August in London.

Submissions should be made by email to laura.jewell@wineaustralia.com by Friday 31 July, 2015.

Other related articles
Australia Day Tasting

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Go West - Vasse Felix

Two wines from Western Australia's Vasse Felix recommeneded by Alex Layton of Negociants UK

Western Australia is the new New World - a remote corner of a hot continent, its winemaking history dates back only to the 1960s.

Vasse Felix was the first vineyard and winery to be established in Margaret River and produces some really lovely European-style wines, including these two Bordelais examples.

Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 (£13.99) a quietly sophisticated white Bordeaux blend, this has an aristocratic, European sense of composure. Some oak and aromatics on the nose; pure clean elegant citrus and tropical fruits, waxiness, minerality and leesiness. Good texture and underpinnings.


Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (£22.99) Medoc-esque Cab; dark purple, dark fruit, pencil shavings and rubbed green herbs with an earthy minerality. Tightly-wound fine tannins and a firm finish; needs aeration and will improve with age.

Good to Very Good with more age.

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Voyager Estate

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Languedoc fizz from Paul Mas

Languedoc fizz from Paul Mas

Prosecco shortage be damned - there is plenty of pleasing, inexpensive fizz out there. It won't necessarily give a good Champagne anything to worry about, but that's not the point - it need only be crisp, fizzy, well-chilled and celebratory.

Côté Mas Piquepoul Frisant Picpoul / piquepoul is the "lip-stinging" crisp white from the Mediterranean coast, best drunk as a holiday wine for a few euros. This sparker is exactly what you would expect from a fizzy version - it has a sharp citrus freshness and a modern versatility. Nothing not to like here. Serve as an aperitif.

Astelia Crémant de Limoux this is a more complex and textured wine, more substantial and interesting all round. Bigger and richer, it will match with starters such as red onion and goat's cheese tart.

The only minor quibble is price - at £9.75 the Picpoul is at the upper end of a sensible range, but £25 for the Crémant seems excessive - almost as if it's designed to be sold on deep discount.

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Striking French! Paul Mas

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Cool-Climate Australia at Waitrose

Four cool-climate Australian wines from Waitrose, recommended by Anne Jones

If you thought Australian wine was all fruit-bombs and dubious half-price bulk-wine offers, then try these sensibly-priced European-style, cool-climate examples from Waitrose.

See Saw Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (£9.49) thrilling Hunter Valley white; aromatic, zesty-limey white Bordeaux blend with piercing, linear acidity. Long, fresh and precise.


Plantagenet Samson Sauv Blanc/Sem 2012 (£9.99) waxy white Bordeaux blend; hedgerow and melon aromas; pure, clean citrus freshness, waxy honey and minerality.


Rolf Binder ‘Highness’ Riesling 2013 Eden Valley, S Australia (£10.99) Made by Noel Young's partner-in-wine, Rolf Binder, this is a ripe, Germanic style Riesling with New World attention to detail. As brawny and expressive as Paul Hogan in lederhosen.

Classic dieselly nose, ripe pear and citrus fruit, minerality and pure, linear acidity.


Stonier Pinot Noir 2013 Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (£14.99) Burgundian Pinot from Mornington Crescent Peninsula; pale cherry red, cherries, mushrooms and woodsiness with oaky roasted spices; fresh cherry fruit, supple texture and fine tannins with some firmness on the finish. Fresh, pure and precise.


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Friday, 5 June 2015

Leftism: Leftfield Wines

A writer, a collector and student decide to try some leftfield wines.

No it's not the opening line to a joke, it was the premise for an evening of wine tasting to help @winemarathon prepare for her first-year MW blind tasting.

A generation ago, classic wines styles were few in number and relatively consistent, making blind tasting a much easier prospect than it is today.

The MW exam recognises this by awarding marks more for methodology than for the final guess - the task is not so much to identify the wine precisely, but to identify what the key features of what is in the glass reveal about what it could be and what it is not.

I'd shot some of my best leftfield bolts a few weeks earlier with a Cremant de Jura fizz and a vin jaune, but a quick rummage in the samples box turned up an unusual, if entry-level, Coté Mas sparkling Picpoul to which I added a more ambitious Astelia Crémant de Limoux.

Light and citrussy, the Picpoul was a perfect aperitif; the Cremant was weighty enough to match with a starter of caramelized red onion and goats cheese tart. If they weren't the most sophisticated or obscure of wines, it lent a sense of decadence to start with not one but two different fizzes.

From here we moved on to three reds, decanted and concealed, RHCP-style, with socks and played "guess the wine".

#1 smelt aged and complex, like a classic mature Medoc; with high acidity and tannins, it was still not fully harmonious and the nose seemed older than the palate. It turned out to be a 1997 Cab from Argentina.

#2 had more ripe, primary fruit and lower acidity; a classy easy-drinker it was a Clos de Gat 2004 Bordeaux blend from the Judean Hills; the best Israeli wine I have ever had - if that's any sort of accolade.

#3 had the dark fruit, spiciness, inky texture and pencil shavings of a Rhone. Like the Cab, however, something was not quite right - an exotic, heady ripeness and Arab-bazaar spices. It was a Moroccan Syrah.

The trainee MW's choices proved to technically superior wines but lacked the offbeat quirkiness of the previous three - this affirmed a nagging reservation I have long harboured about formal wine qualifications. That said, both were relatively young and neither had been decanted and I felt were not quite showing their best.

#1 a Coonawarra Merlot led to a discussion on how to spot Merlot; for me, the hallmarks are coffee grounds and cherries, smells better than it tastes.

#2 Fox Creek Cabernet from McLaren Vale; I rarely get excited about varietal Cab, especially from the New World. Too often it seems that the blackcurranty fruit masks anything more interesting and nuanced underneath. With a couple of hours in the decanter, this might have shown better, but straight out of the bottle it was uptight and starchy.

#3 served with a dessert of roasted peaches in amaretto, this hit the spot. Ripe peaches, beeswax, honey and fresh acidity, I didn't care where it was from, I just wanted more of this nectar. It was a Torres late-harvest Riesling from Chile.

There was a final cherry on top, a 2008 Viña Alicia Malbec Brote Negro - my notes for the last red simply read; ripe and plump, dark fruit, good texture.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Two Men and Three Ladies - Lunch with 10 Minutes By Tractor‏

Lunch with Martin Spedding and Jeremy Magyar of 10 Minutes By Tractor
Europe does terroir, the New World does varietalism, right?
As Martin Spedding of 10 Minutes By Tractor observes with a chuckle, terroir is something the French think does not exist outside of France. He also makes the point that Australia has 2,500 wineries and only about 20 from Mornington Peninsula export to the UK. 
It's as if the only French wine we knew in this country were generic vin de pays and we have yet to discover Bordeaux, Burgundy et al.
10 Minutes By Tractor is based in maritime Mornington Peninsula, which has "proper seasons" and a distinctly Burgundian climate, producing refined elegant Pinots and Chardonnays from 23-year old vines.
As if to prove that the New World can do terroir, in 2013 10X produced three Chardonnays from the same vine clones using identical regimes where the only differences are vineyard location, soil and aspect (i.e. terroir); all the soils are volcanic and high-altitude with hand-picked grapes and wild yeasts.

Judd - west-facing with afternoon suns; poised and toned like an athlete.

Chardonnay 2013 lean and tense, with a slender, elegant textured minerality.

Pinot 2014 ripe red fruits; focused and supple with an accomplished intensity

Wallis - lower-altitude and north-facing, but actually cooler due to airflows from the Southern Ocean; attractive and sophisticated yet muscular and slightly androgynous.

Chardonnay 2013 fresher and leaner
Pinot 2014 fresh, precise and linear with textural precision and firmness

McCutcheon - east-facing, the morning sun dominates here giving softly curvaceous and sensuous wines.

Chardonnay 2013 riper, plumper, fuller and more seductive
Over lunch, we also got to try a fizz - one of just two bottles brought to the UK, it is a traditional vintage Blanc de Blancs with 40 months' lees aging. Sharp, linear and precise with appley fruit, it feels barely ready to drink.
Coolart Road Pinot Noir 2013 whole-bunch pressed, meaty, more closed up but with a supple texture and extremely fine tannins; more textuer than fruit expression initially, but opens up in the glass with aeration, so will repay cellaring.

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Mornington Peninsula at #ADT2015