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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Two Wines from Sicily's Candido

Two wines from Sicily's Candido

I came away from the Borsa Vini Italiani 2016 with two bottles for a more-considered review.

Candido is a winery based in Camporeale, a small village outside Palermo in the far west of Sicily; with 20ha of land, grape varieties include Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Key characteristics of the vineyards are high altitude (400m+), and a sheltered inland site.

Both wines are available at Amathus.
Nero d'Avola 2014 (£11.64) sweet, ripe dark cherry, elderberry and plum fruit with liquorice and spice. Fresh and supple.

Utru 2013 (£15.53) oaked blend of Nero d'Avola and Cab; liquorice, cassis, dark fruits and oaky spice. Fresh, complex and adept. Good.

Match both wines with red meat and darker game.

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Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

Friday, 22 January 2016

Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

An Italian tasting organised by the Italian Trade Agency

If Italy was your girlfriend / boyfriend, it would be beautiful, chaotic, slovenly, unpredictable, maddening, charismatic, wonderful, unreliable, occasionally brilliant and frequently exasperating.

Italy is a divisive sort of place - you either love it, hate it or just don't get it.
Hang out with a group of Italians and you will instantly feel effortlessly cooler - Luca has a Piaggio, Salvatore drives a Barchetta - but try and recreate the experience with some Anglo-Saxon friends and it all falls rather flat.

In a room full of Italians showing their wines, I feel like a stodgy dumpling in the presence of platefuls of fluffy gnocchi; they just have more ... vibrancy, effusiveness, stylishness. The men are dapper and neat, the women groomed and sophisticated.
Arriving after a day at work, I try as many of the 500+ wines as I can in the last hour or so of the tasting. I concentrate on the classics, taking a road trip from the north to Sicily via Tuscany, Campania and Puglia.

The wines prove to be well-made and classy - surprisingly reliable for the country that gave us the Alfa Romeo.

Bortolin Angelo Spumanti, Veneto
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry 2015 textbook Prosecco, with ripe fruit and rounded acidity. Very Good.

Lanciola, Toscana
Ricciotto 2013 pale red with cherry fruit and spice; intense and muscular, in the way of a good Pinot. Good.
Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2013 textbook Chianti with cherry fruit and spice; supple yet firm.

Nottola, Toscana
Chianti Colli Senesi 2014 mostly Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel; sweet cherry fruit, fresh
Rosso di Montepulciano 2013 mostly Sangiovese aged for one year in oak; more adept and complex with cherries, game and spice. Good.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva "Il Fattore" 2010 Sangiovese blend aged in large oak barrels; cherry and spices - fresh, precise and deft; vibrant and youthful. Very Good.

Olvi-Le Buche, Toscana
Le Buche 2009 oak-aged Sangiovese-plus-Bordelais blend; cherry-fruited, vibrant and primary with firm tannins
Pugnitello 2010 indigenous, thick-skinned red varietal; dark cherries, freshness and grippy tannins.

Col d'Orcia, Montalcino
Nearco Sant'Antimo 2006 Bordelais / Rhone blend; cherries, spice and coffee grounds. Supple and harmonious. Good.
Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 Sangiovese aged for 3 years in large oak barrels; cherry-fruited, complex and supple. Good.

Torre Quarto, Puglia
Quarto Ducale 2011 ripe and spicy red blend with plump dark-berry fruits, gaminess and freshness; supple and full. Good.
Rosso Del Guiduce 2013 red blend with soft red fruits and sweet spices; fresh, firm and youthful. Good.
Bottacia Still And Organic 2013 darker fruited, fresh and supple. Good.

Ca'des, Campania
Taurasi 2005 rosehips and dried red fruits, spice; soft texture, tannins still grippy
Piedirosso Campi Flegrei 2014 black cherry fruit, gaminess, soft and fresh.

Candido, Sicily
Nero d'Avola 2014 plump dark fruit, spices, freshness
Utru 2013 oaked blend of Nero d'Avola and Cab; more complex with dark fruits and sweet vanilla spice. Good.

Cantina Giostra Reitano, Sicily
L'Hismael 2014 varietal white from Etna; fresh and light with tropical fruits
Rasocolmo 2011 red blend of mostly indigenous varieties from Messina; light and fresh picnic red with truffleyness and cool mint.
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Poderi Dal Nespoli, Emilia-Romagna
An Italian Wine Evening with Friends

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Poderi Dal Nespoli, Emilia-Romagna

Two wines from Emilia-Romagna's Poderi Dal Nespoli

Ask what northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna has given the modern world, and the answer is not a short one - home to medieval cities, cathedrals and beaches, the region produces a heady blend of:

- supercars (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati)
- pasta (tortellini, lasagne, tagliatelle)
- cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano)
- hams (Parma, mortadella, prosciutto)
- and balsamico di Modena

while the regional capital of Bologna, home to possibly Europe's oldest university, gives its name to the ubiquitous pasta sauce beloved of British children.

This varied and diverse landscape is the legacy of a rich past with, unsurprisingly, Gallic trading influences; Emilia-Romagna's origins are a combination of Gallic, Etruscan and Roman with later monastic and papal influences.

So when Daniela Facciani handed me a couple of local wines to try over coffee at La Bottega, I felt duty bound to match them with some appropriately Italian food.

Poderi dal Nespoli dates back to 1929 and remains a family-run winery; both these wines are distinctly modern - in a good way; pure, expressive and precise, they are somehow more French in style than Italian.

Think of northern Italian wines and what comes to mind is neutral whites and sharp, cherry-fruited reds; however, the Pagadebit (whose name means debt-payer, due to its reliable nature) has a Bordelais Sauvignon feel while the Il Nespoli red is southern-Rhonesque.
Pagadebit (Bombino bianco 90%, Sauvignon blanc 10%) Expressive nose of melon and citrus peel, ripe lemony tropical fruits, sweet spice and grapefruit with minerality. Clean, pure and adept.

Match with seafood, especially white fish in a herb broth.

Il Nespoli (Sangiovese 100%) Fresh ripe dark fruit with sweet oaky vanilla spice and leathery truffleyness; supple, firm texture.


Match with steak, darker game and roasted red meat.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Third Wine - Expression de Margaux

A Bordeaux "third wine" from Private Cellar

Every now and then a wine comes along that is in a different league entirely.

In my case it is often a Bordeaux. Does that say something about Bordeaux or about me? Probably a bit of both.

This Expression de Margaux is a white-labelled third wine - one of a pair offered in limited numbers by Private Cellar late last year.

Second Wines are a relatively common phenomenon - the slightly less-good grapes of the chateaux are bottled and labelled separately from the Grand Vin in order to maintain quality (or exclusivity, depending on your view).

In any event, for cost-plus, rather than trophy pricing, you get a taste of something with a First-Growth pedigree. Over time, some Second Wines have developed a following of their own and a Third Wine is added.

2011 is not a year that suggests a surplus of good-but-not brilliant grapes, so how or why these two third wines came into being is something of a mystery.
What is not in doubt is that this Expression de Margaux is a superb wine and great value. I cannot improve on Nicola's tasting note:

Deep, vibrant red black with a fabulous nose of rich, spiced red fruits, oriental with a hint of cardamom, leading to a soft, supple palate of juicy black fruits, rich and broad, with delicious supple tannins and light acidity behind; classic Margaux velvety fruit, rich and exuberant.

Very Good; drinking nicely now with about half an hour in the decanter, it will continue to improve for some years.

Match with roast red meat - beef or lamb now, something gamier in a few years' time.

The Pauillac apparently needs a few more months to become approachable.

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Rousseau de Sipian 2005 - And a Lesson in Aging
Troplong Mondot 1998
On Wines of a Certain Age‏

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Two More Wines From Your Sommelier

A right-bank Bordeaux and a Champagne from Your Sommelier

I was sufficiently impressed with the first two wines from new offering Your Sommelier to keep the remainder back for appropriate assessment, rather than merely an unthinking mid-week quaff.

Gimonnet-Gonet Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Or (£23.50) ripe orchard fruit and autolytic yeasty brioche; fine mousse with a long, nutty-creamy finish. Fresh, expressive and precise.

Very Good.

Château Saint Valery St Emilion Grand Cru 2010 (£15) plump-yet-fresh black cherry and bramble fruit, pencil shavings and coffee; supple, inky texture with fine tannins. Harmonious and adept - a really lovely wine.

Very Good.

Four wines in, the company has clearly demonstrated they can source good wines and sell them at sensible prices. So, would I buy from them?

My head says I would - and that you should too.

And yet ... the name is terrible, the website isn't particularly engaging and I'm naturally suspicious of the flash-sales model.

The adman in me would like to see them focus on a distinctive, more emotional, more value-based proposition, rather than the functional website, rational messaging and sales promotion techniques.

The core offering is just fine, it's all about presentation and marketing.

For more on how to balance off short-term revenue needs against long-term value creation, read the IPA's The Long and The Short of It.

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Your Sommelier

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Rousseau de Sipian 2005 - And a Lesson in Aging

A 2005 Bordeaux from Cambridge Wine Merchants

After a recent mature Bordeaux, I was inspired to dig out another of my Rousseau de Sipian collection.

I had bought two cases of this wine back in about 2010 for something under a tenner - an absolute bargain with hindsight - putting one on the storage rack and leaving the other in its original wooden box on the floor.

The last few bottles of those from the rack had rather disappointed - the fruit had gone and they were tired. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the first from the wooden box.

Yet it was completely different - vibrant and engaging, the fruit still lively, the tannins harmonious but still firm with a fresh acidity providing a backbone of definition.

This is a textbook mature Medoc - with plenty of life left in it: ripe bramble fruits mix with secondary aromas of truffles, mushrooms, cigar box and pencil shavings. Plump, harmonious texture with soft-yet-firm tannins.

A really lovely wine drinking very nicely at the moment.

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Saturday, 9 January 2016

2010 Château Moulin Blanc Bordeaux Cuvee Prestige

An inexpensive mature Bordeaux

I don't get to drink mature Bordeaux as often as I would like - I'm not a collector and modern townhouses are not conducive to reliable, cost-effective maturing of wines.

I spotted this 2010 Château Moulin Blanc Bordeaux Cuvee Prestige in Auchan in France on the way back from a summer holiday a few years ago - born into a good year, it has a Gold Medal and worked out at a ridiculously cheap €2.50 per bottle (€10 for two magnums).

So I tucked it away under the stairs for a couple of years; it is pretty much at a peak right now, but will continue to develop.

2010 Château Moulin Blanc Bordeaux Cuvee Prestige Ripe bramble fruits, freshness with a supple texture and harmonious tannins - plenty of stuffing. Adept and balanced, really lovely.

Very Good and ridiculously good value.

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Mature Bordeaux tasting

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Five Riojas From CVNE

Five Riojas from CVNE

I've long been a fan of CVNE's wines - they are never less than well-made.

The first two wines here, from 2014, are elegant but seem to be a little lacking a little in substance, so it comes as no surprise to learn that there were high levels of rainfall at harvest time.

The reds - all balanced and adept - show increasing quality as you move up the scale.

Viña Real Barrel Fermented Blanco 2014 (£11.05, Majestic) elegant apple and white peach fruit with delicate oaky creaminess and spice. Dilute and lacking intensity.

Viña Real Rosado 2014 (£11.60, Wholefoods, Hoults, The Bottleneck) light, delicate and elegant with redcurrant fruit; a little elusive and dilute. 

Viña Real Crianza 2011 (£11.05, Vinopolis, Lea & Sandeman) fresh cherry and red plum fruit, with some spice and tobacco leaf; fine tannins, but slightly lacks plump-suppleness.

Viña Real Reserva 2010 (£18.45; Hailsham Cellars, Clifton Cellars, Planet of the Grapes) red and dark berry fruit, oaky spice, supple texture and balanced freshness. Pure and adept.

Viña Real Gran Reserva 2009 (£28.85, Majestic) complex roasted spices and fresh bramble / berry fruit; supple and well-structured with assertive but fine tannins; fresh, adept and complex.

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Friday, 1 January 2016

Co-op Fairtrade Wines

Three Fairtrade wines from The Co-op

Fairtrade Wines have to stand on their own merits - as the saying goes, convenience makes hypocrites of us all.

These Co-op Fairtrade Wines are thoroughly enjoyable, so you can enjoy doing good.

Pinot Grigio 2014, Argentina toasty white pear fruit, crisp and fresh. Light and insubstantial. Drink as an aperitif - in summer, in the garden.

Chardonnay 2015 Western Cape, South Africa fruit-forward with ripe melon and pineapple fruit with just enough backbone and minerality. Fresh, full and supple.

Drink with creamy pasta, salmon mousse or roast chicken.

Truly Irresistible Malbec 2013, Argentina sweet, ripe dark fruit, freshness and oaky spice; supple, inky texture.

Drink with duck, pepper steak or hearty stews.

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Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvèdre 2013 - The Co-op