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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Cognac Tavria, Jatone VS (Жатон)

A Ukrainian brandy from Tavria

Tavria is a Ukrainian cognac producer based in Novaya Kakhovka in the Kherson region near Crimea; it sits on the same 46th parallel as the city of Cognac (France) and is one of Ukraine's largest spirits producers with a history going back to tsarist times.

The name of this three year-old brandy (Жатон in Ukrainian) is a reference to Jan Jatone, one of the original Swiss settlers and founders of the company in the late 19th century.

Cooked mixed fruit, sweet roasted spices and a touch of nail polish. Warming and alcoholic yet fresh.

Match with treacle tart or drink as a digestif.

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  • Brand: Jatone (Жатон)

  • Stren
  • More: http://winestyleonline.com

  • Brand: Jatone (Жатон)

  • Stren
  • More: http://winestyleonline.com

  • Brand: Jatone (Жатон)

  • Stren
  • More: http://winestyleonline.com

    Saturday, 19 December 2015

    #ChristmasJumperDay tasting - Big Reds

    A blind tasting of (mostly) big reds with friends on #christmasjumperday

    After the previous high-acidity fizz tasting, we decided on Big Reds as the theme to our last get-together of the year.

    With a trainee MW in our ranks, our wines donned their Christmas jumpers and we guessed at origins, ages and grapes.

    The wines were provided by G, J and CWB
    D'Arcy Bredfield 2010 (G) scant information on the front label. And no back label at all. Correctly identified by trainee MW as "Champagne-alike, but cooler, possibly England". Elegant English fizz with fine mousse, yeastiness and redcurrant fruit.

    RE Chardonnoir 2013 (J) orange coloured; fresh, elegant and substantial. We were utterly confused by this one. It turned out to be a Chilean blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley. A lovely, intriguing wine - with quite the most pompous back label.

    Henschke Mount Edelstone Keyneton Shiraz 1991 (G) porty-eucalyptussy, big red. This had me immediately thinking of Australia. Overly alcoholic for my palate.

    Another stream of thinking had it down as a Barolo - big, tannic, red with aromas of cherries, tar and roses.

    Viña Real Gran Reserva 2009 (CWB) the age of this Rioja was correctly guessed as "around 5 years". Fresh, adept and and complex, this was very well liked.

    S.C. Pannell Tempranillo / Touriga 2013 (J) truffley aromas, black-cherry fruit and fresh acidity but purple in the glass, this was like Pinot Noir's darker brother. Totally confusing.

    Latching on to whatever details I could, I made a stab at it being New World (very clean, technically very well-made), so New Zealand (pure fruit and fresh acidity). It turned out to be a blend from McLaren Vale and Barossa.

    Plasius Plavac Mali 2008 (G) with rosehip fruit, this was past its peak, but the underpinnings were still sound. We concluded that it was not a mainstream wine and so could be from pretty much anywhere.

    It turned out to be a Plavac Mali (meaning "small blue", a reference to the grapes) from Croatia's Konavosko Vinogorje - roughly, Konovo Wine Hills - with a Decanter Commended.

    Chateau d'Yquem Lur Saluces 1990 (G) with fresh acidity and botrytis, this was confidently placed in Sauternes. However, the fruit was oxidised and it was nowhere near as impressive as it should have been.

    Taylor's First Estate Reserve Port (CWB) I had not bothered to conceal this half-bottle of fresh, fruited ruby port, so we sipped it with warm mince pies and brandy butter to finish off.

    I liked the English fizz and the Tempranillo a lot, but my wine of the night was the complex, fresh, aged Rioja.

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    Tuesday, 15 December 2015

    Circle of Wine Writers At Australia House

    The Circle of Wine Writers' annual Christmas event - this year with Wine Australia

    If any one thing can characterize 2015 for me, it is that I decided finally to understand Australian wine - and fell in love with its cool-climate Burgundian varietals.

    A day spent at the ADT event in January had me tasting elegant Pinots, complex Chardies and cool-climate Tasman wines; I followed this up with tastings from Western Australia, Mornington Peninsula and high-altitude Orange.
    Fittingly, then, my final tasting of the year was the CWW event with Wine Australia at Australia House.

    A relatively short evening, it could not compete with the breadth or the depth of earlier events. But it did reiterate and round off a year of discovering Australia - so, no surprises here, just a recitation of key themes.
    - there are plenty of well-made Aussie wines; the best have a European sensibility, a restraint and elegance

    - many, however, are distinctly New World in style; ripe and fruit-forward

    - and more-expensive examples can be little more than beefed-up versions of basic styles; brawny muscle cars rather than athletic-yet-graceful ballerinas

    - in the absence of many Victorian or Tasman wines, Western Australia stood out here as a consistent source of the most complex and elegant wines; stand forward Voyager Estate and Vasse Felix.
    My top wines were:

    Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2014, Eden Valley, SA (£14.99, Oddbins) dieselly-flinty, ripe lime marmalade and minerality

    Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon 2014, Hunter Valley, NSW (£19, Noel Young) supple and harmonious

    Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2014, Margaret River, WA (£16.99, Majestic) fresh, elegant and adept

    Hardy's Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2013, South Australia (Waitrose, Liberty, Majestic, Amazon) sweet, ripe tropical fruit with toasty aromas. Fresh, pure and elegant.

    Pierro Puerto Chardonnay 2013, WA (£39.95, Jereboams) elegant and complex

    Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009, Margaret River, WA (£30, Justerini & Brooks) adept, plump and supple with an old world texture

    Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Coonawarra, SA (£22.99, Ocado) complex, assured and adept in a Bordelais style. Catnip for Bordeaux-lovers.

    Larry Cherubino Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Margaret River, WA (£35, Fillings, Inverarity Morton) plump, ripe dark fruit; inky, supple and fresh

    Foster e Rocco Sangiovese 2012, Heathcoate, VIC (£16.80, seeking distribution) truffles and cherries, supple

    Pikes Wines Pikes Premio Sangiovese 2012, Clare Valley & Polish Hill River, SA (£21, seeking distribution) supple and concentrated, cherry-fruited and peppery; fresh, elegant, grippy
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    Monday, 14 December 2015

    Slovenia's Puklavec and Friends, Waitrose

    Two white wines from Slovenia's Puklavec and Friends from Waitrose

    Just across the border from Austria and with an - admittedly rather short - Adriatic coastline, Slovenia is less Balkan and more Mediterranean / central European than other former Yugoslav countries.

    These two wines from Puklavec and Friends are clean, precise and well-made - the aromatic Sauvignon/Pinot Gris blend is the more familiar in style, while the Furmint has more textural interest.

    Both are available at Waitrose.

    Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio 2015 (£8.96) crisp, fresh and expressively aromatic with a smokiness that hints at greatness. Pure, limpid and precise. 

    Furmint 2013 (£9.99) characteristically almondly and substantial with fresh, juicy pear fruit. Pure and adept.

    Dinner-party fact: Furmint is the Hungarian name for this grape - its Slovenian name is Šipon; it has many more synonyms (a disproportionate number, in fact, given its relative unfamiliarity).

    For me, while both wines are throughly enjoyable, the Furmint is the more interesting, perhaps by virtue of being a little less obvious and expressive.

    However, Richard Saxton apparently prefers the SB/PG; this is a bit like a flashy, cheapskate provincial lawyer preferring the Bull Ring shopping centre to King's College Chapel.

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    Sunday, 13 December 2015

    Three Christmas Wines

    Three wines for Christmas; from Dourthe, Taylors and Croft

    You need a mix of wines at Christmas - some serious, some sweet and some easy-drinking. Here are three to cover most situations.

    With a family Christmas Dinner

    Pey La Tour Bordeaux Superieur 2009 (in magnum £24.99, Oddbins, Waitrose) from a good year (which Bordeaux has not had for a while), this still feels very youthful. Cassis and ripe bramble fruit with liquorice, pencil shavings and a touch of undergrowth. Fresh, complex and supple. Very harmonious and drinking really nicely now.

    Magnums are the perfect size for ageing wine -  and are so much more indulgent and generous than standard bottles.

    With Christmas Treats

    Taylor's First Estate Reserve Port (£12, 75cl, widely available) ripe dark berry fruits, cassis, eucalyptus, cooked mixed fruit and warming spice; the youthful fruited exuberance contrasts with something more complex - leather and cigarbox, savouriness and mellowness.

    Match with dark chocolate and cherry torte, or sip in front of an old black-and-white film.

    For Easy Sipping

    Croft Pink Port (£14.99, 75cl, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Selfridges) soft, ripe red fruits, some porty-eucalyptus and sweet-strength. Ideal for when you want something straightforward and uncomplicated - or for use in cocktails.

    Drink as a Christmas Day aperitif, a Boxing Day pick-me-up, or keep chilled in the fridge to open when friends come round.

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    Friday, 11 December 2015

    EACASS Tasting At Cambridge Wine Merchants

    A wine tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants Bridge St for EACASS, sponsored by Pure

    Another year, another tasting for a group of student Chartered Accountants at Cambridge Wine Merchants.

    With a budget for around 10 wines, I decided to show a mixture of mainstream styles with a few less obvious grape varieties and countries.

    We started with a fizz on arrival, the elegant Ayala Brut NV.
    The first still white was First Drop Fun in the Sun - its quirky cartoon-strip label prompted a discussion about the behavioural economics of choosing wine (you pick a label that supports your unspoken self perceptions - classic, modern, ornate, jokey etc). A fresh, light, summery picnic-type wine, it was not especially popular; comments suggested it had high acidity which I interpreted as being more about a lack of ripe fruit.

    Certainly the acidity on the next wine, a New Zealand Albarinho, was much higher but this proved very popular, perhaps because its fresh, pungent aromatics were a familiar style.

    We then moved on to a less expressive but rich and food-friendly Italian white; lemony and leesy it would be a perfect match to a bowl of creamy pasta or chicken.

    The final dry white was a Languedoc Roussane - by nature fat and waxy in its native Rhone, this was served a little overchilled and so came across as simple and fresh.

    Fresh and elegant with redcurrant fruit and good underpinnings, the Tavel was a sophisticated rose but did not register particularly well with the audience.

    They were, however, much keener on a Western Australian Pinot Noir from Robert Oatley - if that was an elegant yet lithe ballerina, the Big Spanish Red was an in-yer-face flirty Nigella.

    The red Rhone from Cairenne was a classier, more classical affair, with aged leather, elderberry fruit and peppery spice.

    The final red, a fresh, dark, plummy-eucalyptus Douro red, was essentially an unfortified port.

    Saving the best to last, my final wine of the night was a Loire sweetie - a Coteaux du Layon with flavours of beeswax, sweet spice, baked apples and old leather books, it was truly stunning.

    An informal poll revealed the most popular wines to be the most mainstream and familiar - the crisp aromatic NZ white and the Big Spanish Red.

    My personal favourites were:

    - Caesari
    - Oatley
    - Cairenne
    - Layon
    The wines in detail:

    Ayala ‘Majeur’ Brut NV Champagne
    First Drop 'Fun in the Sun' 2013 Australia
    Te Awa ‘Left Field’ Albarino 2015 New Zealand
    Cesari ‘Cento Filari’ Lugana 2014 Italy
    Dom. des Trinités ‘l'imaginaire’ Roussanne 2014 Languedoc
    Dom. de la Mordoree ‘La Dame Rousse’ Rosé 2014 Rhone
    Robert Oatley Signature Pinot Noir 2013 Australia
    Casal de Paula Tinto 2014 Spain
    Dom. Wilfried Cairanne 2013 Rhone
    Ramos Pinto ‘Duas Quintas’ 2013 Portugal
    Dom. du Landreau Coteaux du Layon Tri de Vendange 2011 Loire

    Monday, 7 December 2015

    Your Sommelier

    Two wines from Your Sommelier

    Your Sommelier is a new offering from two Frenchmen who became disillusioned by the quality of Wine available in the UK and decided to set up their own business.

    The first two wines I tried were both classically elegant and impressively adept - more so than their choice of moniker.

    Domaine Tour Saint-Michel Chateauneuf de Pape, 2013 (£23) fresh dark and red plum fruit, pepperiness and graphite with a supple, inky texture. Very adept and elegant.

    Very Good.

    Match with pepper steak or roast beef.

    Hubert Bochard Pouilly-Fume 2013 (£13) ripe white peach and apricot fruit with aromatic lemongrass and citrus peel and saline, pebbly mineralogy.

    Very adept, very elegant.


    Drink as an aperitif, match with light starters or mains such as monkfish in herb broth.

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    Sunday, 6 December 2015

    Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2004

    A vintage fizz from Bruno Paillard

    Champagne house Bruno Paillard was founded as recently as 1981 by the eponymous M. Paillard who still runs the company.

    This vintage Blanc de Blancs is made only from Chardonnay grapes from a single year.

    Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2004 Florality, orchard fruits, almonds and toasty leesiness with aged beeswax and dried apple; rich, creamy and fresh. Elegant and complex.

    Very Good.

    Match with shellfish or white fish.

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    Saturday, 5 December 2015

    Muga Rioja Tasting

    Different vintages of Bodegas Muga's range of wines

    Bodegas Muga was founded in 1932 in Rioja and is now run by 3rd generation descendants. The winery owns 250ha of land in the foothills of the Montes Obarenes in Rioja Alta and buys in grapes from a further 150ha.

    This open-pour tasting covered a number of ranges and vintages.

    Muga Reserva

    Muga's entry-level range, current vintages retail in the mid-teens.

    1970, 1976 tawny-port colour with old leather and rosehip fruit. Tannins fully resolved, acidity still fresh. In good shape for its age, but mainly a museum-piece curiosity.

    1999, 2005, 2010, 2011 more ripe, plump fruit, cool mint and still some grip. Stand-out wine was the 2011 for its vibrancy; £15.75 BBR and Majestic.

    Muga Reserva Seleccion Especial

    1996, 1998, 2005, 2009, 2010 vibrant, intense and concentrated wines with inky dark fruit and suppleness. Stand-out wine was the 2009, decanted from double magnum for its intensity and muscular core.

    Drinking nicely now, the 2010 is £20 from The Wine Society and Majestic.

    Prado Enea Gran Reserva
    Made from grapes grown at the highest altitudes, up to 600m - and only in the best years.

    1989, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006 intensity, concentration and fine tannins; complex, lively and adept.

    All vintages here were equally impressive; the 2006 is available for around £30 from The Wine Society, Majestic and Waitrose.

    Torre Muga

    A family disagreement over future winemaking direction led to one of the sons creating Torre Muga, a more 'modern' style of wine.

    2003, 2009, 2010, 2011 pumped-up, heavily-extracted, over-oaked, overpriced and over here. I got bored of these by 2009 and couldn't face the more-recent vintages.

    If you must have something a bit flash and in-yer-face, you'll find it in BBR and Majestic for around £50.

    Made using old-vine grapes from the best sites, this is Muga's flagship wine - and priced accordingly.

    2005, 2009, 2010 fresh, pure, intense and blackcurranty with fine tannins and a tightly-wound core.

    2009 and 2010 are available at BBR something over £100.

    The non-reds

    Muga White Barrel Fermented 2014 aromatic, fresh and substantial; around £11 from BBR and Majestic

    Muga Rosado 2014 elegant redcurrant fruit, pure and substantial; around £11 from Waitrose and Majestic.

    The two Conde de Haro cavas (Brut 2012 and rose NV) were good enough, but essentially "wine with bubbles".
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    Friday, 4 December 2015

    Two Rhône Wines

    Two Rhône wines from Asda and M&S

    An enjoyable spicy entry-level red, plus an unusual oaked white.

    Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 (ASDA, £6.00) dark fruit and warming oaky spice, juicy and food friendly. Thoroughly enjoyable entry-level Rhône. Good value.

    Match with roast red meat.

    Reserve du Boulas, Laudun, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 (Marks and Spencer, £9.00) unusual white Rhône;  ripe orchard fruits and sweet spice with some toasty oak with a warm-climate smile. Rounded, balanced and adept. Good.

    Match with meaty white fish, chicken, pork and pasta with cream and mushrooms.

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    Thursday, 3 December 2015

    Barbadillo PX NV

    A rich Pedro Ximénez from Barbadillo

    Known as PX, Pedro Ximénez is typically used in small doses to sweeten dark sherries by balancing out the roasted-nuts-and-spices bitterness that develop with age.

    In its purest form, PX is incredibly gloopy and sweet, so needs plenty of fresh acidity to retain balance. It works well with Christmassy treats, such as mince pies or Christmas pudding as there is little it won't stand up to.

    Barbadillo Pedro Xímenez PX as rich, dark and treacly as Christmas pudding; raisins and figs with a slug of fiery Christmas spirit.

    A bit rich on its own, so pour over vanilla ice-cream or match with the sweetest of Christmas food.

    Barbadillo Pedro Xímenez PX, £13.49 per 75cl bottle; available from independents, including Cambridge Wine Merchants.

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    Wednesday, 2 December 2015

    Four New Zealand Wines From Negociants

    A brace of wines each from New Zealand's Nautilus Estate and Two Paddocks

    Away from generic pungent Marlborough Sauvignon, here are some more-ambitious wines from New Zealand.

    Nautilus Estate Grüner Veltliner 2013 (£17.99) Nautilus' fourth GV vintage; the vines are starting to get some maturity, showing wonderful varietal character; pure, linear and concentrated - a textbook GV.

    Citrus peel, green herbs and lentil, white pepper spice and a pebbly minerality. Very elegant and precise.

    Very Good.

    Nautilus Estate Cuvée Marlborough NV (£21.99) one of NZ's leading sparkling wines; traditional method, aged on less for over 3 years, made from Pinot & Chardonnay; an IWC regional trophy winner this year)

    Expressive ripe orchard fruit, citrussy freshness, a fine mousse and a leesy-yeasty Champagne-esque autolytic brioche character.


    Two Paddocks Picnic Riesling 2014 £17-18 off-dry in style, Central Otago boutique winery owned by actor Sam Neill.

    Classic Riesling nose of kerosine and diesel; stone fruit and gingery spice with lime cordial, pineapple and a persistent minerality. Clean, pure and very adept.

    Very Good.

    Two Paddocks Picnic Pinot Noir 2013 £24 entry level range from Two Paddocks - blended from fruit sourced from Sam's vineyards in the three sub regions of Central Otago.

    Bright, red-berry fruit, a whiff of farmyard and some savoury oak. Fresh, elegant and supple.


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    Tuesday, 1 December 2015

    Kleine Zalze Sauvignon Blanc 2015

    A Sauvignon from South Africa's Kleine Zalze

    Sauvignon is officially the UK's favourite white grape - this 2015 saffer shows all the expressive aromatics that middle England has come to expect of the variety, but with a sophisticated edge.

    2015 Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Section (£9.90, independents) aromatic cut grass and nettles, a whiff of pungency and ripe, tropical fruit. So far, so textbook well-made New World Sauvignon. Additional interest is provided by the structural complexity, minerally underpinnings and sheer quality of the fruit.


    Match with roast pork, monkfish in herb broth or tuna carpaccio.

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