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Monday, 29 February 2016

Crus Bourgeois - the 2012s

2012 Crus Bourgeois from Medoc sub-regions

These lesser-known Medoc sub-regions (Moulis-En-Medoc, Listrac-Medoc) are something of a halfway-house between entry level Medoc / Haut-Medoc and the more famous sub-regions of the classed growths (Margaux, Pauillac et al).

The word "fresh" comes up a lot in my tasting notes for these 2012 Crus Bourgeois - it was a coolish year, and the best wines are juicy, berry-fruited and vibrant.

More burgundian on the whole than bordelais, they need to have been made with a gentle hand with seemingly more Merlot in the blend, giving flavours of coffee, liquorice and fresh cherries more than cassis and cigar box.

They are generally light-ish early drinkers, but the best have some substance and oak, so will take a bit of aging. But in general, you can buy now and drink now whilst waiting for other vintages to come into their own.

You can also match with lighter foods - Bordeaux with vegetable starters? You can with these 2012s.
Caroline, no - oh go on then
Chateau Caroline, Moulis-En-Medoc 2012 fresh berry fruit and sweet spices. Vibrant and inky.
Chateau Lalande, Listrac-Medoc, 2012 expressive with fresh dark fruit, coffee, spices, liquorice and pencil shavings; fine tannins and a supple, muscular texture. Good.
Fat-bottomed girls - this comes in a heavy bottle so must be *really* good, right? Well, actually, it is.
Chateau Baudan, Listrac-Medoc, 2012  ripe blackcurrant, coffee and oaky spice; supple, harmonious and fresh. Good.

Other related articles
The CWB Bordeaux-Off
Crus Bourgeois 2011
Crus Bourgeois 2013

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Lunch With Bruno Paillard

Lunch with Bruno Paillard at Merchants Tavern to launch 2008 Assemblage

Bruno Paillard is an elegant, dapper man with an assured sophistication; tanned, handsome and dressed in a navy blazer with gold buttons, he has an aristocratic, commanding presence.
His wines have much the same qualities - they are precise, classy and self-confident with great attention to detail. They all showed very well on the day and will clearly further improve with aging.
Bruno, who founded his eponymous Champagne house in 1981, came over to London for the day to launch his 2008 vintage, Assemblage, with a lunch and tasting.

Amuse bouche: fresh & deep-fried oysters, pig's head cromesquis
Champagne Bruno Paillard Rosé Premiere Cuvee copper-coloured, with three years on the lees, it is a blend of PN and Ch, disgorged 11 months ago. Fresh, elegant, substantial and deft. Very Good.

Starter: sea bream sashimi, blood orange, fennel and spring onion
Champagne Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee three years on the lees and disgorged 10 months ago. Orchard fruit, creamy oatmeal, brioche and a fine mousse; complex, deft, nuanced and precise. Very Good.

Main: roasted scallops, celeriac, chanterelles and Champagne sauce
Champagne Bruno Paillard Assemblage 2008 by my rule of thumb, the 2008 is a good few years too young for tasting; it is still tightly wound and nervy, barely hinting at what it has the potential to become. This precise, linear quality is reflected in the name of the picture on the label - Energy.
Fresh, vibrant, energetic with nervy acidity; understated and subtle with a compelling complexity. Very Good now - will surely become Very Good Indeed in a few more years.
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The CWB Bordeaux-Off

A Bordeaux tasting with wines from Crus Bourgeois, Private Cellar and Cambridge Wine

This was more accurately a Medoc-off as all the (red) wines were from the Medoc.

We started, however, with a Chablis Premier Cru.


Domaine Ellevin 2012 Chablis Vosgros Premier Cru 2012 ripe orchard fruit, fresh, precise, mineral and just starting to gain some aged character. Very Good.

2012 was a coolish year in Bordeaux and the resulting lighter, fresher wines matched well with vegetable antipasti.

Bernadotte 2012 Haut-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois light, berry-fruited, vibrant, elegant and fresh. Well-made and adept.

Clement Saint-Jean 2012 Medoc Cru Bourgeois more depth and more substantial underpinnings. Good.


2011 was also not a great year, but these third wines matched well to a rich beef casserole.

Expression de Margaux, 2011 Margaux ripe, plump dark berry fruit, spices and supple tannins. Very Good.

Expression de Pauillac, 2011 Pauillac classic Pauillac profile; black fruits, inky, intense palate of beautifully structured black fruit, with mineral / pencil lead. Very Good.


Cheese needs acidity and low tannins, so red wine is not always a great match. However, a mature Bordeaux with secondary aromas and softened tannins worked brilliantly.

Rousseau de Sipian, Medoc 2005 ripe bramble fruits and pencil shavings; plump harmonious, supple. Good.

My wine of the night was the Pauillac - but that's hardly the point. Each of theses red wines costs around the same, mid-teens, but they are all very different from each other. Different ages, different vintages, different availability.

There is no doubt that the white-labelled Expression wines are an absolute bargain, but they are no longer easily available. The same applies to the Rousseau, which has doubled in price since I first bought it.

The Crus Bourgeois, by contrast, are current-vintage, very well made and match well with lighter foods.

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Domaine Ellevin, Chablis
Rousseau de Sipian 2005 - And a Lesson in Aging

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Vilarnau Cava - Limited Edition

Two Vilarnau Cavas with a Gaudi-inspired Trencadis label

Cava is made, like Champagne, by the traditional method but from non-champenois grapes; this gives it the finesse of Champagne but quite a different flavour profile.

The name refers to the cellars, or caves, in which the wine is aged.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva (£11.99 Ocado, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents) a blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, and 15% Xarel·lo;  crisp, citrussy and fresh, with some typical "waxed jacket" aroma that disappears with time

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé (£11.99 Ocado, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents) a blend of 85% Trepat & 15% Pinot Noir; focused and elegant with delicate, fresh red berry flavour.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Lambrusco Secco Reggiano - Marks & Spencer

A Lambrusco from Marks & Spencer

Lambrusco is both the grape variety and the name of the wine - a fizzy, frothy red primarily from Emilia-Romagna; Reggiano specifies the sub-region.

Light and frizzante, Lambrusco is a none-too-serious Italian red to be drunk young.

Lambrusco Secco Reggiano NV (£9.00) sappy and vibrant with black cherry and blueberry fruit; fresh, dry finish.

A fruited palate-cleanser to match with local produce - Parma ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or bread dipped in Modena balsamic.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Bancroft Wines

Bancroft Wines annual portfolio tasting 2016

The sign of a really good wine merchant is that you can pick any wine at random and that it be good one. There was nary a disappointing wine at this Bancroft portfolio tasting.

There were:

- mainstream classics from Champagne, Chablis, Alsace, Barolo and Rioja
- new standard bearers from Ribeira del Duero, Western Australia and Languedoc
- emerging regions including South Africa, the Adriatic and England
- and finally a couple of stickies.

Best value and top patriotic factor
Westwell Pelegrim Extra Brut NV fresh, toasty and mineral with good fruit expression
Top fizz
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Vintage 2004 elegant and complex with citrus, sherbet and aged character; long and precise.
Top Chablis
Billaud-Simon GC Vaudesir 2013 smokey-toasty-citrus, rich ripe and succulent with acacia honey. Substantial, powerful and deftly intense

Best budget Languedoc white
Tradition Blanc, Viranel 2015 aromatic honeysuckle, tropical citrus fruits; fresh, substantial and waxy

Best mid-range Languedoc white
Grand Cuvee Blanc 2013 Hortus smokey-toasty, fresh yet substantial with honeysuckle and ripe tropical citrus; concentrated and deft

Best Spanish producer
Hermanos Perez Pascuas from Ribeira del Duero was a revelation
Reserva 2010 fresh, intense, incredibly vibrant with crunchy fruit, spices and liquorice; concentrated and long.

Perez Pascuas Gran Seleccion 2005 cherries, bramble fruit and game with an intense freshness and linear precision; long with layers and waves of complexity. Incredibly youthful - but you'll need deep pockets
Best Adriatic wines
Opoka SB 2013 smokey-toasty, linear and precise; elegant and fresh with lifted varietal aromatics.
Opoka Merlot 2009 Bordelais-style Merlot. Cherries, coffee grounds and spice in a fresh, intense, powerful mix; complex, long and concentrated. Still youthful.

Best southern hemisphere wine
Block 6 Chardonnay, Hay Shed Hill, WA, 2014 toasty-smokey, saline and mineral; cool-climate elegance with New World purity and expressiveness

Best sticky
Maury 20 Ans d'Age, Mas Amiel complex, intense and mellow roasted peaches and freshness. Long and substantial.

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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bouvet Rubis NV - Majestic

A sparkling red Loire from Bouvet-Ladubay, available at Majestic

What to make of an off-dry, NV, traditional-method sparkling red from the Loire?

It's certainly a novel idea. And also a very good one.

If it takes some getting used to initially, by the second or third glass, it all makes sense.

Oddly, my reference point for this Cab Franc fizz is northern Italy, with its red vermouths and Lambrusco.

Fizzy, red and striking, it would make for a more imaginative Valentine's Day wine.

Bouvet Rubis NV Loire, £13.49 (Majestic)  Rasping cherry and wild raspberry fruit, green herbs and spicy-savouriness. Off-dry with a fresh finish.

Match with duck breast or venison steak.

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Wine of the Month - Three Co-op Wines For Valentine's

Three Co-op wines for Valentine's day

Tradition has it that Valentine's wines should be pink and / or fizzy. Some however, may  prefer to defy custom and go with a wine that is more seasonally-appropriate.

The rosé has an award, the Rhône is blended by an MW and the Bollinger is just a class act in its own right.

Bollinger NV Champagne Gift Pack (£34.99 reduced from £44.99 from the 3 February until 23 February inclusive) toasty brioche and fresh orchard fruits with nutty-creamy oatmeal; well structured and persistent. Elegant, substantial and complex. Good.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pic St Loup Rosé 2014 (£6.99) Pale with red berry fruits, freshness and minerality. Elegant, precise and adept. Good.

Les Quatre Seigneurs Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 (£8.99) Red and dark fruits, dried green herbs and spice; big and warming (in a European sort of way) with freshness. Good.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

English Fizz From Virgin Wines

Two English fizzes from Virgin Wines - from Henners and Ridgeview

Well-made, English fizz rivals any other sparkling wine available.

Vintage by default, it is more competitively priced for the quality than its closest rival just across the Channel.

England will never make mainstream, inexpensive, ripe fruit-forward wines - for that, look to the New World and other emerging regions.

But for classy, elegant traditional method fizz, England has come of age.

Ridgeview has long been one of my favourite English wine producers - Henners is a new name to me, but equally impressive.

Ridgeview Merret Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2011 (£29.95) linear and expressive with textbook orchard fruits, fine mousse and leesy biscuity-brioche. Elegant and adept. Very Good.

Henners Brut 2010 (£29.99) a Blanc de Noirs, it is sandy yellow; ripe orchard and white peach fruits, weighty and substantial with a fine mousse and linear acidity. Very Good.

Both are very versatile wines - drink as an aperitif, with light starters or seafood dishes.

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