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Friday, 23 October 2015

Two Madeiras In Madeira

Two Madeiras - from Blandy's and D'Oliveiras

On holiday in Madeira, we decided to try the local stuff. Miles is a brand owned by the Blandy empire; D'Oliveiras specialises in buying up old stocks but releases the wines in its own name.

Miles Seco (around €6) a brand now owned by Blandy's; golden sandy yellow, fragrant; classic cooked Madeira aromas and freshness, spirit slightly dominates. A pleasant entry-level Madeira.

D'Oliveiras Medium Dry (around €8) mahogany topaz, fragrant and complex, intense roasted nuts and spices with sweet-freshness. Long and assertive. Very Good.

Match with roasted almonds, olives, bread with olive oil and cheese. Preferably with a sunset view over Funchal from Palheiro Estate.
Other related articles
Madeira - a guide
Madeira Tasting At Blandy's Wine Lodge
D'Oliveiras - The Tasting

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Judging St Chinian Wines for Decanter

Judging St Chinian Wines for Decanter

The Set Up

St Chinian, just north of Beziers in Languedoc, is a region of two halves - divided by a river, it has different elevations, soil types and grapes.

If the wines are recognisably Languedoc - the best are warm-climate vins de terroir - I might struggle to verbalize in a meaningful way what differentiates them from those of neighbouring appellations.

The Branding Issue

Languedoc now has a brand value - you may perceive it as an awareness, as standing for something, as having a reputation, but it has value.

Its sub-regions do not yet have this, but St Chinian is aiming to get there.

Marketing theory tells us the key to creating a brand is consistency of product quality - it may be utter standardisation, as in the case of Coca-Cola, or a generally recognised standard, as in the case of the German automotive or British fashion industries.

In the case of St Chinian - if not winemaking in general - strict consistency is inimical to the nature of the liquid in the bottle, so the aim has to be greater awareness of an overall level of superior quality.
The Judging - rules

For this judging we were given three vintages of each wine and asked to score them with a view to finding one or two really top vins virtuoses by the end. The consistency rule was clear - a single "off" vintage would rule out a wine however good the other two were.

The judging process was both simple and complicated - a score in the bottom right-had corner for all three wines, yet a multitude of assessments and tick-boxes to get there.

The Judging - process

In the case of our first wine, we all agreed that it was technically correct and well-made, it just lacked anything to make it stand out. Once we had landed on an absolute score (15.5), all subsequent wines were then calibrated as better than / worse than.

With an MW leading the discussion plus two winemakers, two writers and a Decanter rep, there was little risk of groupthink.
In practice, there was only one wine where I differed from the consensus - and that was based purely on personal preferences.

Our scores ranged from 12 for an overextracted clumsy beast to 17s for an "Arnie" (pumped-up and substantial but smart with it) and my personal favourite, an elegant beauty with ripe fruit and supple tannins.

Other related articles
Sud de France Saint Chinian Tasting
Six St Chinian Wines

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Two Italian Reds From The Co-op

Two Italian reds from The Co-op

Italian wines can be as chaotic and individual as Italian driving - and not great value either. However, these two from the Co-op are not only typical of their style, but also well-made and sensibly-priced.

Novare Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 (£9.99) a blend of corvina and rondinella, matured in French oak with second fermentation in Amarone barrels. Sweet ripe red berries with ripasso richness.

Match with game, such as duck in cherry sauce.

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2012 (£9.99)  bright cherry and plum fruit with fresh acidity and firm tannins; harmonious, with some aged character.

Match with beef dishes, such as steak or roast rib.

Other related articles
Truly Irresistible - Two Wines from The Co-op

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Oldenburg - The Long And Short of It

Dinner with owners of Oldenburg Vineyards South Africa, Adrian and Vanessa Vanderspuy and a Private Viewing of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2015

Adrian Vanderspuy's day-job involves investment decisions where fractions of a second are the difference between profit and loss.

For the rest of the time, his ownership of a winery considers time on a glacial scale.
Oldenburg Wines is a mere decade-plus old - the wines are world-class, but prices have not yet attained the premium of Bordeaux or Burgundy.

That time may be several generations hence, but Adrian does not have a detailed plan of how to get there - he just wants to make the best wine he can and believes that there is something special about his particular part of South Africa.
Tasting his wines, it is hard to disagree - yes, they have a New World ripeness, but they also have an Old World focus and concentration.

The oldest wine, a 2009 Cab Franc, has an aged complexity, even if cannot hide its young-vine origins and rather lacks concentration.
The newer wines have all the presence and intensity of young bucks, but have not yet matured into the poised and assured yet lively Grandaddys they will one day be.

Adrian is famously not a fan of Sauvignon - which right now seems a bold decision. But his target is not the under-a-tenner world of supermarket special offers.

Priced mostly in double figures, his wines are aimed more at those will appreciate the suppleness of a judiciously oaked Chardonnay, the freshness of a Chenin and the complexity of a Merlot blend regardless of whether they are fashionable or not.

We got to try the wines with a four-course dinner by Tom Aikens after the viewing.

Chardonnay 2012 deft, assured and poised
Cabernet Franc 2009 aged complexity and elegance, lacks concentration
Rhodium 2013 intense, dense and structured
Syrah 2012 Supple, assured and darkly beautiful
Other related articles
Oldenburg Wine Dinner at High Timber

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Love Wine

Love Wine festival at Birmingham Hotel du Vin on November 7th - and a discount code

Love wine? Who doesn't?

Love Wine? LOVE WINE!

Saturday, 7th November, 2015, at the gorgeous

Hotel du Vin in the heart of Birmingham's city

centre .  


Over 30 exhibitors will be showing wines from all over

the world, with a supporting cast of wine-friendly

snacks and wine accessories.  Well over 200+ wines

will be available for tasting and it will be a perfect

opportunity to taste, buy and maybe cross off a few

Christmas presents.


Don't we?! We have a special kind of LOVE-IN for you, 30
minute masterclasses, giving you the opportunity to learn about
 and taste a variety of different wine styles and countries.  Don't
miss LOVE WINE's very own Master of Wine, Richard
Bampfield, in action!


We are delighted to have two of the country’s best-known wine
pundits: Joe Wadsack, a familiar face from BBC2’s Food and
Drink series, and Helen McGinn, aka The Knackered Mother
from ITV1's Alan Titchmarsh Show.
Wine Walking with you at various times in the day,  we are sure,
with their fun and informal style,  you will very much enjoy
taking a walk on the wine side!

Helen and Joe will also be around to talk to throughout the day
to answer all those wine questions you've always wanted to ask!                    
Tickets start at £16.50 (early group booking) including a
Riedel wine glass and goody bag to take home (RRP £13)

Use discount code LW10 for 10% off full price ticket!

us @lovewine_fest.co.uk for 24hr discount code

If you want to make the most of your day, Hotel du Vin Bistro
are offering all our WINE LOVERS a FREE £10 voucher
per table to spend on their extensive wine list over the weekend.  
Booking recommended - please quote 'LOVE WINE'.
Official LOVE WINE Sponsor

Official LOVE WINE Charity Partner

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Blue Öyster Cult - Bordeaux Blanc and Oysters

A Bordeaux blanc from Ch Penin to match with oysters

"Oyster boys are swimming for me"
The Subhuman, Blue Öyster Cult (1974)

With more than half of all of the oysters in France coming from Arcachon, Bordeaux Blanc and oysters are an obvious natural pairing.

Here in Britain, our oysters come from all over (including Essex, Kent, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, the west of Scotland and Ireland) with each region producing a different flavour.

The native oyster season continues as long as there’s an r in the month; in London, check out oyster bars Wright Brothers in Borough Market, Hix Oyster and Chop House in Smithfield and The Mothershuckers and the Lobster Pot pop-ups.

Chateau Penin Bordeaux Blanc, 2012 (£11.95; H2Vin, Adnams) Supple, harmonious and aromatic, with ripe orchard fruit and leesy oak.

Drinking nicely now, it will further improve with age. Good.

Other related articles
Château Reynon Bordeaux Blanc, 2010

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Blandy's Wine Lodge Tour

A Tour of Blandy's Wine Lodge

If you should find yourself in downtown Funchal with an hour or so to spare, check out the Blandy's Wine Lodge Tour; we visited as guest of Chris Blandy after meeting him for lunch.

The sprawling Blandy's empire is run by 6th and 7th generations of the family; the tour gives a history of the people as well as the Madeira process and the wines themselves.

The tour takes place in the wine lodge itself - so it is both a museum and a workplace.

Barrels of Madeira ageing
 Neutral Brazilian silverwood barrel
Memorabilia - company records
A letter from Winston Churchill
Rare Bottles

The tasting
Other related articles

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

BIY - Brew It Yourself

A new book by The Two Thirsty Gardeners

You don't actually need a beard (hipster or non-ironic) to buy Brew It Yourself. But a sprinkling of New Age stubble, like that on the eponymous thirsty gardeners, will certainly help.

The book is arranged into sections starting with The Basics before moving on to the tricky areas of wine and mead.

I have had various flirtations with home brewing and, unless you find natural wines a bit too crowd-pleasing and mainstream, it is generally easiest to stick with cocktails and liqueurs with an occasional foray into beers.

The novice, then, should start at the back of the book with Glogg, a Swedish mulled wine that uses ingredients you are likely to have lying around and requires a preparation time of minutes rather than weeks

Likewise, the egg nog recipe is equally straightforward and Christmassy.

Other infusions, liqueurs and cocktails are more versatile and simple enough to give the confidence to move onto something more ambitious.

Beers and ciders require more kit, attention and patience but the end results can be a pleasing source of reliable quaffing - a good alternative to a six-pack from the supermarket.
Lager, IPA and wheat beer are all here along with off-the-beaten track beers like honey ale, Viking ale and liquorice stout.

If you want to go all Good Life, there is parsnip wine (extra authenticity if grown on your own allotment), oak leaf, rhubarb and fragrant fig.
And don't forget your chunky-knit jumper.

Other related articles
Food DIY
Sediment - The Hardback

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Dinner With Private Cellar

A dinner and tasting with Private Cellar's Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler

For a dinner at work, I gave Private Cellar a menu and a budget, then asked them to suggest some wines.

Not only were all the wines amazing, they even brought their buyer, Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, along to provide a masterclass.

On arrival

Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2010 a genuine Champagne alternative, rather than a wine for patriots. Nicola was impressed by one attendee spotting a high level of dosage (10 g/l) to counteract the high acidity.

With starter - scallops

Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese, JJ Prüm 2009 a stunning Mosel Riesling drinking beautifully now; racy, off-dry, rich and concentrated with some aged character. The popular favourite.

With main - Angus beef fillet, red wine jus

Gran Reserva 904, La Rioja Alta 2005 an incredibly long and concentrated Rioja, but amazingly still too young and grippy. Technically my top wine of the evening, but needs another decade in bottle

With dessert - Almond & orange polenta cake, Roasted plums, Crème fraiche

Château Rayne Vigneau Sauternes 2007 deft, rich, botrytised sticky with roasted peach and orange peel flavours

Other related articles
Private Cellar 10-Year Tasting

Monday, 5 October 2015

Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese, 2011, Waitrose

A rich Italian red from Waitrose

Italian wines can sometimes be like Italian driving to the outsider - chaotic and hard to understand. This Masi Campofiorin, however, is as pleasing and enjoyable as sitting behind the wheel of a Fiat 500.

Waitrose describe this wine as "first made in 1964 and Veneto's answer to a 'Super Tuscan'; full-bodied with a soft tannin structure, cherry and plum flavours with hints of cinnamon, cocoa, tobacco and vanilla on the long finish. Exceptional value."

It is a blend of three grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The wine is made using the appassimento method of re-fermentation using partially-dried grapes for extra richness.

Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese, 2011, Waitrose

Pure cherry and red plum fruit with sweet spices, cool mint and some aged complexity. Rich concentration, pure and fresh.


Match with beef ragu.

£12.99 from Waitrose.

Other related articles
Italian Wines from Marks and Spencer

And here's was Vino Views has to say about it: Rosso del Veronese : Masi Campofiorin Rosso 2017 : Vinoviews

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Big Fortified Tasting

Three fortified wines from Marks & Spencer and Waitrose

Defined by their production methods, these fortified wines have flavours that are not of fruit, but something more nutty, roasted and tangy.

Dry Old Amontillado Sherry (£7.49, 35cl M&S) fragrant, tangy and savoury with roasted nuts, spices and freshness. Good and excellent value.

Fresh enough to drink as an aperitif with roasted almonds, or match with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Blandy's Sercial 10-Year-Old Madeira (£19.49, 50cl, Waitrose) the driest of the four Madeira styles, amber mahogany, fragrant with roasted nuts, spices and fruitcake. Sweet-savoury and fresh. Good.

Drink as an aperitif with olives and roasted almonds.

5 Year Old Finest Medium Rich Madeira (£13, 50cl M&S) Rich deep treacly brown; figs, roasted nuts and butterscotch-caramel with an intense freshness. Pleasing entry level sweet Madeira.

Drink as an after dinner dessert or match with Christmas pudding.

Other related articles
Sherry Institute: Cadiz Wine Dinner - Almadraba Tuna and Jerez Wines‏
Madeira - A Guide

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Stars of The Loire

Stars of the Loire dinner and tasting at New Street Wine Shop and Grill

Think of the Loire and what most easily comes to mind are inexpensive Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc.

Beyond these, of course, the Loire does fizz, red and sweet wines, as well as rosé - all with a characteristic lightness and freshness.

Anyone looking for alternatives to big, ripe pantechnicons that retain a pretty fruit elegance could do a lot worse than look at the Loire's alluringly fresh and versatile, food-friendly wines.

What impressed me most from this tasting was the consistency of quality, but it was also interesting to see some more ambitious wines on show.
Cremant de Loire, Domain Penet, Chateau de la Presle NV (D&D, Gerrard Steele £13.50) fresh, elegant orchard fruit

Vouvray Francois Chidane Les Argiles 2014 (D&D, Majestic, £25) linear, precise, mineral

Savennieres Domaine des Baumard, Clos du Papillon 2007 (D&D, £32) complex, waxy, substantial

Saumur Champigny, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Terres Chaudes 2013 (D&D, Excel, £19.80) fresh, berry-fruited, elegant

Coteaux du Layon, Philippe Delesvaux, Selection de Grains Nobles 2014 (D&D, F&R, £18.60, 50cl) complex, rich, honeycombed
Match the lighter (and less expensive) whites with seafood, the more structured examples with ham hock terrine or crab.
Reds will stand up to a rare steak.
Sweet wines need a simple classic: Eton mess or creme brulee.

The wines are all available at D&D: http://www.danddwineshop.com/

Stars of the Loire

The Stars of the Loire festival, which runs from 21 September to 25 October, will see Loire Valley Wines as the guests of honour at a range of D&D London restaurants across the capital. Throughout the five week festival, over a dozen top restaurants and three wine shops across the D&D group will be offering a variety of different Stars of the Loire events.

There will also be a number of pop-up events and tastings including special dinners hosted by BBC Saturday Kitchen’s Jane Parkinson; Channel 4’s Four Rooms art dealer Wendy Meakin; and Daily Telegraph wine correspondent Victoria Moore.

Further information about the Stars of the Loire festival can be found on at http://www.danddwine.com/campaigns-and-partnerships/loirestars/.

Other related articles
Matching Loire Wines and Food‏ - with Fiona Beckett
Loire Masterclass at Berry's

Friday, 2 October 2015

Crus Bourgeois 2013

A tasting of the newly released Crus Bourgeois 2013 with Frédérique de Lamothe

Frédérique de Lamothe has two priorities for the revived Cru Bourgeois; improved quality for the wines and greater awareness by consumers.

Quality is a simple, controllable matter - in theory at least.

Awareness is the more open-ended challenge. But Cru Bourgeois is focusing on influencing the key influencers in key markets - that means wine writers, buyers, educators and sommeliers in the UK and US. And occasional top university wine societies as well.

It is no understatement to say that 2013 was not the easiest of years in Bordeaux - cold and wet with hail, it was merely the worst in a series of increasingly difficult vintages.

Good winemakers understand that balance is key and you can't put in what God left out; the best wines from 2013 have a light, almost Burgundian freshness and will be early drinkers, even if they are still quite chewy now.

Quick facts

- Crus Bourgeois wines are from the Medoc and are selected by blind tasting two years after the harvest.

- There are currently 251 chateaux with Cru Bourgeois status, around a quarter of the total.

- They are generally priced from £10 to £25.

The wines I tried and liked were (in alphabetical order):
Ch Bournac
Ch La Branne (Walkers)
Ch Les Grands Chenes
Ch Preuillac (Freixenet)

Ch Barreyres (Sainsbury's)
Ch Beaumont (Wine Society)
Ch Belle-Vue (Millesma)
Ch Bernadotte
Ch Cissac (Wine Society, Averys)
Ch du Retout

Ch La Garricq (F&R, Lea and Sandman)

Ch Paveil de Luze (Corney & Barrow, Goedhuis)

Ch la Fleur Peyrabon (F&R, Millesma)
Ch Fontbadet

Ch le Boscq (Thienot)

Other related articles
Crus Bourgeois 2010 At The Cambridge Tasting
Crus Bourgeois Panel Discussion
Crus Bourgeois 2011 at The Cambridge Tasting

Thursday, 1 October 2015

D'Oliveiras - The Tasting

A tasting of D'Oliveiras wines with Luis D'Oliveiras

From my interview with Luis D'Oliveiras, I established that he is a focused, intense individual with a self-assured presence and an Old School attention to detail.

I find much the same character in his wines.


10 years fresh, aromatic and complex with roasted bitter spices; long and intense

1989 darker mahogany, more complex and especially mellow; intense

1981 fragrant, soft, mellow and balanced with balsamic and tobacco

1969 fragrant, plump and mellow

1937 dark golden, soft and plump but with a muscular core as the intensity develops; roasted bitter spices, complex caramel and butterscotch; fresh with a long finish of roasted spices

Medium Dry

10 years rich fruitcake, sweetness, freshness

1994 Verdelho more mellow and complex

1985 Verdelho raisiny, complex roasted spices; mellow with lively acidity 

Terrantez 1971 near-extinct grape variety, less aromatic and more elegant, medium dry 

Bual 1968 his best seller over 40 years; very dark with golden hints; rich fruitcake, intense roasted nuts and spices. Complex

Bastardo 1927 blackish, medium sweet, complex roasted spices, fragrant, long and intense. This is absolutely bottled electricity; vibrant and athletic, it dances on the tongue.