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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Gran Familia Clasica, 2007, Valdepenas

A full-on, oaky Spanish red with a lot of oak, a bit of age and not much else - from Tesco

Expressive berry and spice aromas but rather baked and lacks textural interest; a used-car salesman of a wine, it grabs your attention but can't quite back it up.

Quirkily expressive, but ultimately rather vacuous; more Russell Brand than Jack Sparrow.

Retails for around £10; a better bet for a £10, well-made, Spanish red with plenty of fruit and oak is this Beronia Dos Maderas Crianza 2008‏.

Other related articles
Gran Bombero 2009, Cariñena - Laithwaites

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Paul Mas Languedoc Fizz

Three fizzes from Languedoc producer Paul Mas

If it's a pleasing indulgence to be able to start a meal with a bottle of fizz, to do it three nights in a row with visiting friends seems like the ultimate decadence.

All three of these wines from Paul Mas were very pleasant indeed - crisp, fresh and well-made. They all share something of a family resemblance so you could pick any and not be disappointed.

Prima Perla Cremant de Limoux Rosé Brut ripe redcurrant fruit, toastiness and precise acidity

Prima Perla Cremant de Limoux Brut ripe pear fruit, elegant and fresh

Prima Perla Blanquette de Limoux, blanc de blancs ripe pear and melon fruit with citrus freshness; a good light aperitif

Provided for review.

Other related articles
More Languedoc Fizz
Languedoc fizz from Paul Mas

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Chocolate and Wine Matching with Cocoa Runners / Corney & Barrow

Matching chocolate from Cocoa Runners to wines from Corney & Barrow

Chocolate, it seems, is following wine, cheese, coffee and now beer in becoming a crafted, artisan product for the great parlour game of dinner-party one upmanship.

The latest hipster trend is bean-to-bar production of craft chocolates from all over the world; Cocoa Runners, then, are ahead of the zeitgeist.

They were at a Corney & Barrow Christmas In July event showcasing their chocolates with matching wines.

My rule for chocolate matching is simple - banyuls or whisky and espresso with very dark chocolate.

The first principle of any match is that the wine must be sweeter than the dessert.

Secondly, chocolate is savoury, bitter, fatty and sweet so all these aspects need to be matched even before you start thinking about textures, aromas and so on.

Much as I liked the wines and chocolates separately, I did not find any combination in which the wine was enhanced by the addition of chocolate - invariably, the wines were overpowered with the sole exception of a Vin Santo which had just enough rich, savoury sweetness to stand up to a white chocolate.

This led to a long discussion with Cocoa Runners founder Spencer Hyman about possible better matches - Madeira, port, dark sherries and straw wines all have the potential sweet-savouriness to stand up to chocolate. Islay whiskies might well match with some particularly smokey chocolates that Spencer imports.

There is some fascinating experimentation waiting to happen.

Other related articles
Baruzzo - parts 1 and 2
Another chocolate and wine match failure

Monday, 27 July 2015

On Madeira

After a week of drinking Madeira, I find myself thinking about this sub-tropical island's fortified wine (and wine in general) quite differently.

- it has the Classic Wine qualities of tasting strong, important and characterful

- it evokes a time when a physical presence, measured by both size and character, was the mark of one's importance

- it has a pre-industrial, pre-middle-class, agricultural physicality, with a rocky, untamed, southern-European intensity

- it matches best with the strong, peasanty foods of this sunburnt, windswept Atlantic isle; olives and strong cheeses, tuna steaks and meat skewers

- by comparison, modern-style fruit-forward wines seem lacking and insubstantial; it is a suit of armour next to business casual, Henry VIII vs Steve Jobs, a stallion beside a smartphone.
It is so tied up with its sense of place that I can barely imagine drinking it back in the UK, except on a hot summer's eve with the doors to the garden flung open.

Madeira once occupied the place now held by Champagne - the wine of kings and conquest, of celebrations and ceremonies, it marked victories and launched ships. That world has now largely disappeared and, with it, Madeira's ubiquity.

The Parker-Point chasing of big ripeness and intense concentration appears like a misguided attempt to imbue the essence of fortified wines into table wines.

Other related articles
Terras do Avo
On Sherry's Image
On Champagne's Image

Thanks to MW student Daniela Shelton for the main image, borrowed from her excellent article on Madeira: https://danigongoozler.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/if-you-like-bottled-electricity-you-will-like-madeira-rui-falcao/

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Terras do Avô, Madeira

A table wine from Madeira 's Terras do Avo

One of my principles when travelling is to try whatever is local - when a lunch at the Quinta do Furão offered me the opportunity to try a table wine from Madeira, I had to give it a go.

If Madeira's eponymous fortified wines have fallen into relative obscurity these days, a table wine from this Atlantic holiday isle counts as a leftfield wine from a leftfield region.

I chose the red to go with a traditional Madeiran skewer of beef.

Made on the wetter, northern side of the island from mostly the usual international grapes, with some port grapes thrown in, it has of course no Madeiran typicity, because there is no such thing for table wines.

With pure dark fruit and fresh acidity, it reminds me a little of the juicy, modern-style red wines from another Iberian island - Mallorca. A more mainstream analogy would be a good Beaujolais.
It is an extremely valiant effort, not least considering the challenges of growing grapes on a volcanic, sub-tropical island with no natural flat surfaces.

It proves a very enjoyable wine, cutting through the garlicky, smoky, char-grilled meat and, sitting on the veranda gazing out along the rocky Madeiran coastline, it makes perfect sense.

The sommelier tells me that it is the only Madeiran table wine they feel is good enough to include on their list; a bit of internet research reveals that the winery was started in 2008 as family concern and that this is their entry-level wine - with something more ambitious produced only in great years.

If it is more remarkable for what it is than for what it tastes like, that is not to belittle the quality but to highlight the rarity of a Madeira table wine.

Black cherries, dark plums and cigar box, fresh acidity - very clean, very adept. Good.

Contact details - should you need them
Sociedade Duarte Caldeira e Filhos – Seixal Wines, Lda. Sede: Sitio do Lombinho – Seixal, 9 270 – 125 Porto Moniz Tel: (+351) 965 013 168(Duarte Caldeira) | (+351) 964 008 001 (Sofia Caldeira) Email: seixalwines@gmail.com
Website: www.terrasdoavo.blogspot.com

Other related articles
Randemar Negre Collita 2010, Binissalem Mallorca Denominacio d'Origen
Another Madeiran wine, recommended by Ryan and Gabriella Opaz: https://www.facebook.com/Catavino/photos/ms.c.eJxVy7kNADAIA8CNIowxz~;6LRSlS0J50MMin2lQCLXTwpRyxhMrxXpKmLUlSb10mRBHx.bps.a.10152968502248045.1073741828.6393118044/10152978072143045/?type=1&theater

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Corney & Barrow Christmas Preview

There was a time when I though Corney & Barrow was a bit posh - the double-barrelled name and smart locations gave them a whiff of old-school, moneyed respectability.
These days I think of them more as the England football team of wine merchants - a solid collection of what should be star names that do not quite live up to their billing.
More often a bit disappointing than thrilling, this early tasting of their Christmas range seemed to reiterate that impression - mostly reasonable wines, too many that were not quite good enough and little that was really noteworthy.
Overall, I liked the sweet wines best but found the tannins in the classic reds (I'm looking at you Bordeaux) rather drying and overextracted.
The revelation of the tasting was the English fizz, a Wiston Estate Rose Brut 2011 (£35.95) from West Sussex - toasty, biscuity and pure with assertively chiselled, linear acidity.
If you are planning ahead, here's my recommendation for a mixed Christmas case:
At £7.50, the aromatic, crisp Gascogne House White and ripe, spicy Languedoc House Red are modern, expressive, thoroughly enjoyable quaffers.
Move up a price bracket and the C&B White Burgundy 2013 (£11.50) and C&B Company Reserve Bordeaux 2012 (£12.50) are more-complex, classic food wines.
Finish off with an elegant C&B Sauternes 2010 (£12.25 half-bottle) and either the bright Ruby (£12.25) or adept Tawny (£18.50) ports depending on your budget.
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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Leftfield Wines From Marks & Spencers

Two unfamiliar whites from Marks & Spencer, recommended by Elizabeth Kelly

The nation's favourite underwear provider may seem an odd choice for leftfield wines - M&S is a bastion of all things safe and sensible, surely?

But sometimes it's good to spice things up a bit and try something different - this applies as much in the wine aisle as anywhere else you might care to think of.

Leftfield wines are not so much out-of-fashion-classics or alternatives-to-the-classic, as wines you perhaps didn't even know existed.

These two are both light, fresh and under a tenner, thereby demonstrating that a walk on the wild side need not involve any undue discomfort - for either your palate or your wallet.

Mesta Organic Old Vine Airén+ (£8) one of the world’s most planted (and blandest) white grapes, Spain’s Airén may seem an odd candidate for a leftfield wine but is rarely seen over here. This wine is given a bit of a boost with some gentle oaking and old-vine grapes; fresh pleasant and lemony, it is a perfect aperitif or picnic wine and develops some more complexity with aeration.

Savoie Blanc “Coeur Terroir” 2014 (£9) a blend of Jaquere, Chasselas and Altesse from Savoie, all you need to know is that it’s a pretty yet surprisingly substantial, Alpine floral white with sweet spice and fresh white stone fruit.

Elegant, delicate and focused, it is a lovely sipper or can match with creamy pasta or Alpine cheeses.

While the Airén needs its old-vine/gentle-oaking support, the Savoie is a natural beauty.

Other related articles
Another Airen - from Cambridge Wine
Leftfield Wines - with friends

Monday, 6 July 2015

Champagne de Castelnau, Limited Release Edition 2015 - And A Competition

Celebrate Le Tour de France with a limited edition Brut Reserve release available from Spirited Wines

Saturday July 4th saw the Grand Depart of the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht  - the finish will not be for another three weeks when the riders arrive in Paris.

Champagne de Castelnau, exclusive Champagne supplier to the tour organisers, are marking this year's race with a impressive limited release Brut Reserve NV.

Aged for longer on the lees than most NVs, it is weighty, complex and concentrated; dark sandy yellow with brioche aromas, a substantial and precise Champagne.

Adept, assured and compelling; Very Good. Match with grilled lemon sole, beurre blanc and courgettes

The wine will be available in Spirited Wine, Nicolas stores and online at £29.99 from the end of June and for the duration of the race (4th July – 26th July).

Castelnau Wine Agencies are also offering the chance to win exclusive tickets to the Paris finish line on the Champs-Elysées - details on www.spiritedwines.co.uk

Other related articles
Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2002

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Water in Mallorca - Tanners Wines

Two Mallorcan wines from Tanners - plus a teutonic guest

I don't want to holiday in the sun
- Holidays in the Sun, The Sex Pistols (1977)

If the water in mah-JOR-cah don' taste like wot it oughta, then get your laughing gear around the wine; it might even refresh the parts other beverages don't reach. And, as anyone who has visited this Balearic island will know, it is really half-German most of the time.

Susana (sempre ...)

These come, like most Mallorcan wines, from the centre of the island around Binissalem. Both are modern, clean and fresh with flavour and character at a reasonable price.

The label features an intriguing panel of black-and-white shots, including one of an athletic young lady in no more than her knickerbockers.

Blanc 2014 (£10.95) blended from the local Prensal Blanc and Chardonnay; citrussy, mineral and saline - fresh and rich; pure and clean.

Very adept and elegant. Good; a very versatile wine, serve as an aperitif, match with light starters or chicken dishes.

Roble 2013 (£10.95) local Manto Negro blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; red and black cherry fruit with a hedonistic woodsy leatheriness. Juicy and fresh; supple, long and saline.

Good; match with duck, tuna steak or a ribeye.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett, Hain, Mosel 2013 (£12.60) expressive-yet-elegant, with ripe yellow fruits, good freshness and concentration.

Good; match with pork-and-herb terrine or tuna tartare.

All three wines are reduced for purchases of 6 or more bottles until July 27th, 2015.

Other related articles
Tanners - part 1, part 2

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Merlot 2013

I'm not quite sure how or when this appeared on the wine rack - I didn't buy it and it wasn't a sample, so a gift is the most likely explanation.

Needing a bottle of wine to take along to a garden party for a general audience, I figured it would suffice - hopefully.

It turned out to be basically OK - as in not actively unpleasant - but decidedly chewy and over-extracted, rather like stewed tea.

The hallmark of Merlot generally is that it smells better than it tastes - it tends to be easy-drinking to the point of dullness. Here, it is as if someone had decided to challenge this stereotype by squeezing the grapes until the pips squeak.

Unfortunately, the end result is less Clark Kent and more Diary of a Wimpy Kid on steroids.

Chile can do good, elegant wines - this is just not one of them.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Gifford's Hall Tasting

A tasting of four wines from Suffolk vineyard Gifford's Hall

Some time ago, I went through an English wine phase - more specifically, an East Anglian wine phase.

One sunny afternoon, we drove into Suffolk for a visit to Gifford's Hall for a tour of the vineyard and some cellar-door purchases.

The wines were, as I remember, typically English: distinctive and modern if relatively expensive. Gifford's Hall no longer vinifies any wines on-site (the grapes are trucked to Gloucestershire for that) and but are once again making wines under their own label with listings in Waitrose and Loch Fyne.

The estate has four different soil types from sandy clay loam over gravel to clay over chalk and, as a result, need to blend across blocks (blocks are vinified separately).
On reacquaintance, the wines are as I remember them; light, pure and clean with an aristocratic elegance.

Rosé 2013 reductive, cool climate, mineral; red fruits will open up more with air. Provencal-style rosé and compares well on price.

Light Oak whole-bunch pressed Reichensteiner from 2014; very pale, lightly oaked; neutral and lemony. Think basic Muscadet or Italian "super-neutral" white.

Bacchus 2014 floral, aromatic English hedgerow with good persistence. Characterful and distinctive, this marks out Bacchus' claim be the poster child for East Anglian wine.

St Edmundsbury 2014 deep red Rondo, floral nose with some sweet spice, cherry-fruited and Beaujolais-esque (and again, compares reasonably on price).

Available via the cellar door and at Waitrose.

Other related articles
English Wine at Circle of Wine Writers
English Wines at IWC Taste of Gold‏