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Friday, 27 May 2016

Not Just Pink Wine - Chateau de Berne

Lunch with Chateau de Berne at Les 110 de Taillevent

Run by former banker and MBA Marc Fischer, Chateau de Berne is a small but luxurious hideaway in Lorgues an hour outside Cannes; its clientele is more discreet than the glitterati and oligarchs who frequent the Cote d'Azur.
The associated winery, Vignobles de Berne, comprises three vineyards, all based in Cotes de Provence; Chateau de Berne, Chateau des Bertrands and Ludovic de Beausejour.

Production is, as you might expect, predominantly rosé, so we started by tasting our way through the range of pinks. All were elegant, adept and very well made.
Over lunch, we tried some of the reds and a white.

The wines are impressive not just for their consistency and variety but also for the distinctive packaging.

Entrée: langoustine ravioli
Chateau de Berne Rosé 2015 fresh, mineral, precise and elegant

Chateau de Berne Blanc 2012 (Semillon / Rolle blend aged for 9m in old oak) elegant, complex and rich food wine. Waxy, floral, leesy and fresh.


Viande: beef tenderloin

Chateau de Berne Rouge 2013 (CS/S/Grenache blend) warming and substantial with ripe fruit, violets and a supple texture.

Chateau de Berne 2012 Grande Cuvée Hubert de Bouard (Syrah/CS blend) dark and inky with complex, gamey aromas. Fresh and supple.

The wines are available at Majestic.

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Les 110 de Taillevent
Provence rosé

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Two Denbies Wines

Two wines from Surrey-based Denbies

English wine has not yet developed a distinctive stylistic genus in the way that Chablis or Chianti stand for something very specific.

However, there are certain things we know about an English wine - it is likely to be white, light and bright. The best English wines have the aromatic purity of New Zealand with the citrussy minerality of German wines.

These two Denbies wines are modern and well-made; the Flint Valley is a light, non-vintage aperitif wine from Germanic varieties Seyval Blanc and Reichensteiner. The more-ambitious Pinot Gris is barrel-fermented and complex.

Flint Valley (£9.49, Waitrose) aromatic and fresh blend of Seyval and with English hedgerow aromas and citrus; light, clean and pure.

Drink as an aperitif.

Pinot Gris (£16, M&S) ripe pear fruit with melon and honeysuckle; sweet oaky spice, leesy complexity, fresh and mineral. Long and adept food-wine.

Match with seafood and creamy pasta.

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Monday, 16 May 2016

Wines for National Barbecue Week

Two barbecue wines from Robert Oatley and Kleine Zalze

National BBQ Week is May 30th - June 5th; here are two modern-yet-sophisticated wines with plenty of fuit and character for both garden sipping and matching with barbecued food.

The saffer white is zesty-zippy, the Aussie red is big and full of ripe fruit; simply open the screwcap, pour and enjoy.

Robert Oatley Hancock & Hancock Shiraz/Grenache 2014 (£14.05 independents) packed with cooked dark plum and red cherries with peppery spice, leather, liquorice and violets; soft and supple.

Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Chenin Blanc 2015 (£9.45, independents) zesty, aromatic and fresh; citrus and pineapple; lemongrass and a touch of pungency. Clean, pure, fresh and expressive - think kiwi Sauvignon rather than the Loire.

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Kleine Zalze Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Happy 90th Birthday Ma'am

The Co-op's MA'AM beer

"It's Ma'am as in ham, not Marm as in palm," says Helena Bonham Carter as The Queen in The King's Speech.

Her Maj is 90 this year and to celebrate, the Co-op has created a beer as British as jam sandwiches, bunting and a rained-out street party.

A light golden ale, it is citrussy, malty and rich with sweet caramel and mixed-fruit flavours.

Match with meat pies, picnic food or toad-in-the-hole.

Adorned with a Union Jack and silhouette of our longest-serving monarch, the label is topped off appropriately with a golden crown.

Happy birthday Ma'am.

£1.99 or three for £5 and available only during May and June 2016; provided for review.

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Foncalieu Dinner at Quilon

Foncalieu dinner at Quilon

In one sense, Languedoc wines are rather like Minor Royalty, high-spirited and charismatic where the classics are more staid.

At this dinner with Foncalieu, I was inclined to think of them more as mellowing, 50-something punks who still show their disdain for the system but have at least come to a working arrangement with it.

Either way, these wines are characterful and playful but with a strong non-conformist streak.

These are not wines with centuries-long pedigrees and hallowed labels that will appeal to lawyers in their Chambers - but nor are they quite priced as such.

They have all the colourful vibrancy of a gobby attention-seeker, but they also have the charm and credibility to front an ad for consumer product - be it car insurance or English butter.
Appropriately, then, the wines were matched not to traditional dishes, but to vibrant, spiced indian food and I was impressed on a number of levels by the range:

- the consistently good quality; all the wines were technically well made and interesting, not easily achieved with over 1,000 growers in the co-operative

- the breadth of the range of wines, by colour, variety and sophistication

- the more unusual and unexpected varieties generally showed best, especially an Albarinho and a Roussanne / Grenache Blanc blend

- the attention to detail extends to the packaging, with lots of distinctive bottle shape

The following indies stock Foncalieu's wines:

- Thirsty Cambridge
- Hennings
- Le Bon Vin
- Secret Cellar
- Wine Cellar Club
- Majestic

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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Two Co-op Wines

Two Co-op wines

We should reasonably expect the Co-op's Truly Irresistible wines to be above- average; the Fairtrade Wines also need to stand on their own merits.

The TI Chenin impresses straight out of the bottle in an easy-drinking, ripe-but-fresh sort of way, but works better as a quaffer than as a food wine.

By contrast, the Fairtrade Carmenere is initially a little underwhelming, with lots of prominent tannins and acidity. But, by day three and with some food, it finally settles down into something much more harmonious.

Co-op Truly Irresistible Chenin Blanc 2015, South Africa ripe orchard fruit, pineapple and honeyed apple; substantial, fresh and long.

Match with roast pork or chicken.

Co-op Fairtrade Carmenere 2014, Chile dark fruit, spice and coffee; plenty of acid and tannin initially, so needs food - like roast beef or sausages.

Or give it some air.

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Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Week at Langdale Estate - Anyone Interested?

Update2/06/16 - now both halves sold

Update - June 9/10/11 now taken, rest of the week still available.

This is a wine blog, not a community notice board.

However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Mrs CWB and I find ourselves needing to get rid of a week's holiday in a 6-person lodge in the Lake District this summer and prepared to do it at mates rates for anyone we know or their friends.

Set in a 35-acre woodland estate in the Southern Lake District just outside Chapel Stile, it has views of the Langdale Pikes with plenty of walking and pub-lunch opportunities, plus pool and spa facilities on-site.

Langdale website: http://www.langdale.co.uk/index.html

Key details are:

- week commencing Saturday July 9th

- 7 nights

- 4pm check-in, 10am check-out

- sleeps 6

- 2 bedrooms (double with en suite, twin) and pull-down bed in lounge / kitchen / dining area

- Backs onto a stream with balcony and private area

- Set in a self-contained estate

- Access to hotel, pool & spa facilities

- 5 mins’ walk to Chapel Stile, 15 mins’ drive from Ambleside

- Postcode is LA22 9JD

Some pictures to whet your appetite - I'm afraid to say, it really is as lovely as it looks.
If you are interested or want more info, contact me via DM or twitter: @CambWineBlogger

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Virginia Uncorked

Virginia Wines tasting and dinner

It is now around five years since I first got to know Virginia's wines - at the time, I feared I was late to the party, but it seems I was actually an early arrival.

Virginia wines still do not have a high profile in this country; think of US wine and California first springs to mind, followed by those cooler states further up the West Coast.

As Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe pointed out, the US is the size of Europe, so to equate all US wine a single state would be like thinking all European wine comes from just one region.
To summarise Virginia for the uninitiated, these East Coast wines are elegant and deft with a European food-friendly sensibility - and sometimes a European longevity. Priced more to compete with US wines and classic European regions than low-cost NewWorld, they may not always offer great value for money for UK bargain hunters.

On this tasting, the stand-out winery was Barboursville, represented by Luca Paschina who makes beautifully crafted wines for long-aging.

Pre-dinner tasting
Trump BdB 2009 (available at Trump Golf Resorts) 100% Chardonnay, this was sadly lacking in the comedy value one might hope for in a wine made by Donald Trump. Pleasantly inoffensive and elegant, it was a light, citrussy sparkler. And it didn't even smell "off".

Barboursville Viognier 2013 (£20, Zonin) apricotty, fresh and adept, with more of the palate weight of a Condrieu

Veritas Viognier 2015 (£19, New Horizon Wines) floral, apricotty, fresh

Boxwood Topiary 2014 (£28, New Horizon Wines) Bordelais blend, this is soft, supple and fresh, but still feels a little closed up
Starters - beetroot-cured salmon

Barboursville Chardonnay 2014 deft, fresh Burgundian chardie, with gentle oaking. Very Good.
Boxwood Rose 2015 delicate and fresh, minerally rose

Mains - lamb rump
Barboursville Octagon 2012 substantial, concentrated and fresh Bordelais blend. Good.
Boxwood Topiary 2010 right-bank style Bordelais blend; the most evolved wine of the three
Veritas Petit Verdot 2010 from a Bordeaux bit-player to a starring role; plump and soft with rich, dark fruit and spice.

Dessert - vanilla custard
Veritas Petit Manseng 2013 light, delicate and very fresh with floral peachiness and toasty beeswax-honeysuckle. Good.

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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Dinner With Kleine Zalze - Past, Present and Future

Dinner with Kleine Zalze

Twenty years in is a good point for a period of reflection; a consideration of the past, an assessment of the present and thoughts on the future.

A short history

Winemaking has taken place at Kleine Zalze on a small scale since 1695 but it was in 1996, when Kobus Basson and his family purchased the property, that the modern Kleine Zalze was born. Over the last 20 years Kleine Zalze has built up a reputation as one of the leading family-owned wineries in South Africa and one of the most-awarded wine producers in Stellenbosch.
Over dinner at Medlar of Chelsea, Cellar Master Alistair Rimmer showed:

- past wines that established Kleine Zalze's reputation
- present award-winning wines in the range
- future-facing wines that express the direction of the winery
More than the technical details, I was interested to hear (and taste) the vision and ambition. However, what all the wines showed was an Old-World, elegant sophistication and balance, married with New World fruit and purity of expression.

We started with a Methode Cap Classique NV Brut, a fresh, elegant and citrussy sparkler.

Flight #1 - Chenin
The progression here was clearest; from Old-School substance to a more-modern mineral freshness
Vineyard Selection Chenin 2010 more old-school richness and opulence with a touch of botrytis and some residual sugar
Zalze Reserve Chenin 2015 more-modern style, with fresh tropical citrus
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin 2015 fresher, tauter, more expressive and mineral
Flight #2 - non-Cab reds
These were my favourite wines of the evening and all had a family resemblance, a supple elegance and delicacy
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Pinotage 2014 smokey dark fruit, spice and minerality
Zalze Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier 2014 Rhone-inspired blend with red fruits and wild berries
Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Cinsault 2014 violets, lavender and red-berry fruit
Flight #3 - Cab
The Cabs were, unsurprisingly, bigger, fuller and more substantial than the flight #2 wines, as well as more fruit-forward and international in style
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 library stock from Zalze's cellars with lovely, aged Cab characteristics
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ripe dark fruit and adept, well-integrated oak
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 sweet-fruited cherry, blackberry and cedarwood
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Monday, 2 May 2016

Artemovsk KrimSekt Semi Dry - Ukraine

A semi-dry Ukrainian fizz from Artemovsk

KrimSekt is a range of sparkling wines from Ukrainian producer, Artemovsk, which itself dates back to the late 19th century.

This KrimSekt 2010 semi dry is a single-vintage, traditional-method blend of Pinot, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Aligote.

Citrussy elderflower and acacia with late-harvest orchard fruits; clean, elegant and fresh with a medium, off-dry finish.

Thoroughly enjoyable; drink as an aperitif or match with chicken liver pate.

Not yet available in the UK; purchased in Ukraine for around €4.

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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Three Languedoc Rosés from Les Vignobles Foncalieu

Three fresh Languedoc rosés from Les Vignobles Foncalieu

Les Vignobles Foncalieu is a Languedoc-based co-operative dating back to 1901. These three rosés combine Provencal elegance and freshness with Languedoc value.

The Griset is an unusual Languedoc Sauvignon Gris rosé (it is rare enough as a varietal white in Bordeaux) with a striped-pyjamas label; the Haut Vol comes in a a very pretty perfume-bottle.

Haut Vol Rosé 50% Grenache Noir, 50% Carignan (£7.99, Majestic) delicate redcurrant fruit, freshness and minerality.

A light aperitif sipper.

Griset Gris de Gris IGP Pays D’Oc 100% Sauvignon Gris (£7.50, Hennings) this has delicate, elegant redcurrant fruit with blossom and passionfruit hints; citrussy grapefruit acidity.

Clean and pure with savoury-leesy underpinnings and a mineral persistence

Drink as an aperitif or match with lighter starters.

Le Versant Rosé 100% Grenache Noir (around £10, independents) a more sophisticated and mineral rosé with redcurrant and grapefruit, fresh linear acidity and smoky flintsmoke.

Clean, pure, fresh and taut.

Match with seafood and shellfish.

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Provence rosé