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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Premier Cru de Bourgogne: Tasting and Dinner

A BIVB tasting and dinner of 20 2013 Burgundy Premiers Crus from Chablis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault and Rully

It's never a bad tasting when you start with a magnum of Chablis.
Like English common law, Burgundy classifications are arcane and confusing - which is presumably another reason for lawyers to like Burgundy.

But back in the real world, the only thing that really matters is whether the wines are consistently good with enough variation to provide interest rather than disappointment.
On the basis of this tasting, the answer is a resounding yes.

Some general observations:

- the Chablis were really lovely and showing surprisingly well despite their relative youth; all scored a Good

- The Rullys showed more florality, honey and richness; again, all Good

- The Meursaults were more substantial again with greater complexity; all Very Good

I struggled, as I so often do with the reds; my head said the Pinots were technically very good - fruited, supple and elegant - but they did not make my heart beat faster.

Fortunately, a Pinotphile MW was on hand to highlight and explain a personal favourite, the Fonteny Givrey-Chambertin. A re-tasting revealed it to be delicate, adept and assured beyond the measure of the others.
But the wine of the night was a magnum of Dom Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Vaulorent 2010 served over dinner.
Other related articles
Domaine Ellevin, Chablis 
Bourgogne Week - Chablis Tasting

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Gonzalez Byass Spain-Off

A Spain-off between Gonzalez Byass brands Beronia and Finca Constancia at Camino Bankside

Bodegas Beronia is a traditional winery based in Rioja while Finca Constancia, based in Toledo, dates back only to 2001.

Patrician Matias Calleja is winemaker for Beronia; fresh-faced Beatriz Paniagua, winemaker at Finca Constancia, is apparently the oldest person at the winery.

I started by trying a wine they had made together, the soon-to-be-released Rueda, before tasting flights of the same grape from each winery.

What emerged, especially from the reds, is a generational difference; Matias' red wines are oak-led, with complex and sophisticated but prominent oaking. By contrast, Beatriz's wines have an up-front vibrant freshness that feels more youthful and contemporary.

I find I can't choose between them - they are both great examples of their style and both excellently made; just very different styles from very different terroirs.
However, their first wine is an oenological duet - a 100% Verdejo, blended from two different wines made by each. Based on a shared vision, it combines early-harvested wine for freshness and late harvested wine for texture with lees aging for full persistence.

Aperitif / vegetable starters:

Beronia Rueda 2015 (£8.99 Ocado, Waitrose - from May) pure, aromatic and fresh, with vibrant citrussy acidity and leesy persistence.

Finca Constancia Parcela 52 Verdejo (£10.32 Cambridge Wine Merchants) stone fruits, fennel and honey aromas; bigger, more complex and old-school than the Rueda.

Matched with spiced aubergine, the less-expressive Finca Constancia stood up to the strong flavours and bitter chili heat while the lighter Rueda was overpowered.

Meat starter:
Graciano is usually added in modest quantities to Rioja as an "improving" variety for its colour, acidity, florality and elegance; the varietal commonalities of these wines were at first more noticeable than the differences from terroir.

As an aside, I would not match a floral red to pork - better would be a big white.

Beronia Graciano (£14.99 Hennings Wine) vibrant, fresh, floral and juicy

Finca Constancia Parcela 12 Graciano (currently only in restaurants) fuller, richer, spicier and more warm-climate


Beronia EE Tempranillo (£11.99 Ocado) instantly recognisable for the complex oaking and tempranillo flavour profile; red fruits, liquorice and lots of sweet-spicy toasty oak with fresh vibrant acidity and a supple texture and fine tannins. As old-school yet vigorous as Edward Fox in a cravat.

Finca Constancia Parcela 23 Tempranillo (£9.75 Cambridge Wine Merchants) vibrant and floral with red fruits, cocoa and mokka and a compelling freshness.


Beronia Reserva (£13.49 Waitrose, Ocado, Oxford Wine Company) more signature toasty oak with sweet spice, caramel and coconut. Supple and flawless.

Finca Constancia Selección ( £10.50 Ocado)  fresh, pure and clean with bramble fuit.

The higher acidity of the Finca Constancia here proves a better match with the sharpness of the goat's cheese.

Other related articles

Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2006
Two Finca Constancia wines

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Grape Pickers Wanted - Bordeaux

Bordeaux's Château la Tulipe, owned by Dutch author and former rock artist Ilja Gort, carries out a ‘vendanges vertes’, a summer harvest, during which some of the grapes are pruned to improve quality.

The year Gort has decided to invite twenty British wine enthusiasts to join him for this important event.

‘It will be an amazing and unforgettable experience’, claims Gort. ‘For the participants it is a unique opportunity to expand their knowledge of wine and become genuine “wine-tigers” whose professional opinions will never fail to impress their fellow wine lovers.’

Nice, but how much does it pay?

Payment, it seems, is only in kind - you get space to pitch a tent or park a campervan, plus food and drink.

If you have children and a mortgage, or work in the trade, this will most likely seem like a pretty poor offer.

But the more Romantically free-spirited and optimistic will see in this an opportunity to experience something quite different. On the one hand, an immersion into how wine is made, on the other a complete change from the usual way of life; a sort-of Scout camp / retreat for adults. In a chateau vineyard.

For details see www.tulipe.co.uk/summerharvest

Other related articles
Steve's Grenache

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Two Special-Day Wines

Two wines from Jura's Rolet and Niagara's Pillitteri

A special day calls for special wines.

Somebody recently asked me about my favourite wine - it's impossible to answer, of course, for anyone who loves the sheer variety, but as a concession I explained that wines defined by their production method would be a favourite category.

And so we have two of these.

Rolet Pere et Fils Vin Jaune 1998 tangy and slightly floral with savoury roasted flavours of nuts, spices and apple. Fresh and long.

Very Good.

Pillitteri Estates Kerner Icewine 2012 beeswax and orange blossom, ripe roasted peaches. Fresh, intense and concentrated.

Very Good.

Not only are both defined by how they are made, they are also non-standard bottle sizes - the vin jaune comes in a 62cl clavelin (albeit standard for vin jaune); the ice wine comes a 20cl bottle.

The Pillitteri website notes: our first attempt at making an Icewine from Kerner, which is the offspring of Riesling and Trollinger. Our Kerner grapes were harvested on December 29th at around -10°C to give us maximum concentration.

Both wines were sourced by Wine Director Oscar Malek.

Other related articles
Production Method Wines

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Sud de France Tasting

A tasting of Sud de France wines

The venue tells you something about the ambition.

Holding a tasting at the Ambassador's Residence says that you have arrived; you are no longer an upstart, you are establishment - with all the classiness and elegance that implies.
If we are splitting behavioural economics hairs, it actually says you believe you are there and you wish your audience to believe  the same.
Perception lags behind reality, which itself lags behind ambition. And Languedoc is, rightly, so very ambitious.

In terms of popular interest, Languedoc has vast potential - it is unspoilt, unstuffy rural France, with both history and heritage, easily accessible geographically and linguistically, with ripe-yet-sophisticated wines to boot.

And they are (still) very good value.

If Languedoc is becoming a generic by-word for well-made, inexpensive wines, its more ambitious sub-regions have greater aspirations.

La Clape is a rocky outcrop overlooking the Med whose wines I have been impressed with for some time. By contrast, the tiny appellation of St Saturnin where Virgile Joly is based, was a revelation.
Château de la Négly, La Clape

Ch Négly has been family owned for generations; they make wines both from their own estate on La Clape and from grapes grown in other parts of Languedoc. However, I found their La Clape wines most impressive.

La Côte 2015 GS+C blend; ripe dark fruit, supple texture and spiciness. Good.

La Falaise 2015 GSM blend; dark fruit, spices and an earthy minerality; supple, balanced (despite 15% alcohol) and long. Very Good.

Grands Vins de Pazac, Costieres de Nimes

Established in 1968, this co-op had a stack of medal-winning wines to show.

Le Pigeonnier Costieres de Nimes 2015 (Gold, Orange) Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussane blend; floral and peachy, very fresh with sweet spices. Good.

Veuve Mathilde Costieres de Nimes 2014 (Gold, Paris) Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne blend; waxy and fat with stone fruit and good freshness. Good depth and length, pure and clean. Good.

Le Pigeonnier Costieres de Nimes 2015 (Gold, Orange) Grenache noir, Cinsault, Syrah rosé blend; elegant redcurrant fruit. Pure fresh and clean. Good.

Mas Teranga Cotes du Rhône 2015 (Gold, Nimes) GSM+C blend; mulberry fruit and green herbs with peppery spice. Good.

Domaine Virgile Joly, Saint Saturnin

Organic, hand-harvested wines from the tiny appellation of Saint Saturnin.

Saturne Blanc 2013 Grenache blanc, Roussane blend; fresh, floral and peachy-apricotty. Clean and pure. Good.

Saturne Rosé 2015 Grenache blanc, Syrah, Cinsault rosé blend; fresh and clean redcurrant fruit. Very adept.

Saturne Rouge 2012 GS+C blend; dark fruit with plum and mint, animal and leather with minerality. Very Good.

Virgile Rouge 2010 GC+C blend; dark fruits and cocoa with sweet spice. Supple, youthful and complex. Very Good.

Other related articles
Chateau d'Angles - La Clape, Languedoc
Sud de France Saint Chinian Tasting

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Co-op Local Beers

Three more local beers from the Co-op

Another day, another assessment of some local beers from the Co-op.

Adnam's Ghost Ship (4.5%) malty and refreshing with bitter almond and grapefruit flavours

Greene King Old Crafty Hen (6.5%) like the citrus-hoppy-caramel Old Speckled Hen, but richer, fuller, maltier and sweeter.

Will stand up to a turkey with all the trimmings.

Adnam's Broadside (6.3%) a complex beer with dark fruitcake, aromatic grapefruit hoppiness, bitter-sweet roasted spices, citrus and savouriness. Very Good.

Match with a rich steak and ale pie or a home-made marmalade ham.
These beers are priced at £1.99 each, or 3 for £5 - provided for review.

Other related articles
The Co-op Truly Irresistible Jubilation Ale
Orval - Trappist Abbey and Beer

Friday, 8 April 2016

Les Jamelles - The Co-op

Two classy, inexpensive Les Jamelles wines from the Co-op

Les Jamelles is a range of wines from Languedoc by winemakers Laurent and Catherine Delaunay. Orginally from Burgundy, they worked in California before settling in southern France, which gives some clues to their approach - New World fruit and ripeness with Old World elegance and sophistication.

This Viognier and Syrah are both Rhône varieties transplanted west; both are on offer from from 6 April until 26 April 2016 and both benefit significantly from aeration - don't be afraid to decant for several hours.

Les Jamelles Viognier 2015 (£6.99, reduced to £5.99) ripe orchard and stone fruits, citrus and floral aromas with sweet spice. Substantial yet fresh.

Good value.

Match with starters such as pork terrine or makerel pâté.

Les Jamelles Syrah 2014 (£6.99, reduced to £5.99) lavender, violets and dark berry fruit with herbs, cinnamon and mint. Fresh and supple.

Good value.

Match the herby aromas with rosemary roast chicken or rosemary roast lamb.

Other related articles

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Two Handsome Devils from Esk Valley

Two award-winning wines from Esk Valley

To misquote Smiths frontman Morrissey, there's more to New Zealand than Sauvignon, you know - but not much more.

With 75% of plantings, Sauvignon is truly New Zealand's dominant grape. But it's not the only Handsome Devil you'll find there. These two wines from Esk Valley are both trophy winners.

Verdelho 2015 (£13.25, independents) aromatic and toasty-pungent expressive with tropical citrus and zingy, herbaceous fruit; pure and clean. Very adept.

Very Good.

Match with mozzarella and pesto.

Merlot Rosé 2015 (£12.20, independents) bubblegum and ripe redcurrant and strawberry fruit with a touch of spice. Very clean and adept. Pure, supple and long.


A perfect picnic wine, match with salads cold cuts and quiche.

Other related articles
Esk Valley Riesling
Esk Valley Syrah

Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ed/16/3f/ed163f812a99e00ceb92e2b01fcec325.jpg 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Co-op's Local Beer Range

Three local beers from The Co-op

Technically, Cambridge is in East Anglia; however, it is also not that far from the East Midlands - or even the northern Home Counties.

Our nearest significant local breweries are Greene King in Bury St Edmunds and Adnams on the Suffolk coast, whilst Oakham Ales turns out to be based in Cambridgeshire itself.

Adnam's Explorer (5%) crisp, citrussy and refreshing easy-drinker with wheaty aromas and malty depth.

Match with salmon en croute

Oakham Ales' Citra (4.6%) refreshing malty blond ale with complex pungent grapefruit and lychees. Distinctive and very enjoyable.


Match with chicken-and-leek pie.

Greene King Old Speckled Hen (5%) citrus and hoppy with caramel and butterscotch flavours. Tasty and expressive.


Match with roast chicken and gravy.

These beers are priced at £1.99 each, or 3 for £5 - provided for review.

Other related articles
The Co-op Truly Irresistible Jubilation Ale
Orval - Trappist Abbey and Beer

Friday, 1 April 2016

Three Paul Mas Wines from Languedoc

Three organic wines from Languedoc's Paul Mas

The Arrogant Frog range from Paul Mas is distinctively and quirkily presented; by contrast, with its heavier bottle and cleaner look, the Cuvée Secrete is more conventional and classier.

Arrogant Frog Chardonnay 2014 [Lily Pad White], Pays d'Oc ripe tropical citrus with musky melonskin, warming sweet spices and a clean freshness; substantial and classical warm-climate white.

Adept and thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with roast white meats

Arrogant Frog Ribet Rouge "Rural" 2014, Pays d'Oc fruit-forward with ripe mulberry, blueberry and bramble fruit, sweet spice, low-but-fine tannins and just enough acidity; alcoholic on the finish in a warming sort of way.

A juicy quaffer or match with game and fruit-sauce, such as duck with cherries.

Cuvée Secrete No Added Sulphur, Pays d'Oc M/CF blend; darker and more substantial with coffee, dark fruit, green herbs and pencil shavings; sweet black fruits, plum and garrigue with sweet spices.

Substantial and hefty - impressive in a big-and-muscular sort of way. Good.

Match with game such as quail, boar or venison.

Other related articles
Mas de Tannes, Jean-Claude Mas
Paul Mas Languedoc Fizz