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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Gin and Tonic - From The Co-op

Co-op own label gin - and tonic

Gin is most definitely trendy again; and in case you missed it, June 11th was World Gin Day.

The Co-op’s award-winning Special Dry London Gin (70cl, £11.99) has notes of juniper, coriander, Angelica and Cubeb Berries. Apparently.

Mix 1 -3 parts gin with 3 parts tonic water for a classic G&T and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Refreshing, sharp with pleasing citrus-quinine bitterness.

Match with spicy pre-meal snacks, such as wasabi peas, cheese-and-jalapeno nachos and crispy wonton rolls.

Alternative #1
Mix with the Co-op’s Loved by us Sparkling Apple and Cucumber Water for a refreshing summer mixer.

Alternative #2

Makes: 1 cocktail

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 shot of Co-op’s London Dry Gin
1 tsp caster sugar (or to taste)

Crushed ice to fill the glass
Fresh mint leaves (optional)

Put the lemon juice and gin into a glass. Stir in the sugar to taste and then fill the glass with crushed ice. Add lemon zest and fresh mint leaves, if using, and serve.

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Hoxton Gin

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Mountain Wines From Kazakhstan - Arba

A trade tasting of Arba wines from Kazakhstan at 67 Pall Mall

Wines must rank alongside Borat as Kazakhstan's unlikeliest exports; what Islam started, the Soviet Union finished off, bit by bit.

Zeinulla Kakimzhakov set out to change all that in the early 2000s with Arba wines based in the Assa Valley at 1,000m altitude in South-Eastern Kazakhstan.

If this is effectively the foothills of the Himalayas, the nearest oenological reference point is perhaps South America - high, dry mountain valleys.

But these high-altitude vines are also cool climate and have massive temperature fluctuations to contend with. From minus 15-30 in the winter, the temperature rises to plus 35-40 in the summer, then halves at night.

With almost no quality wine industry in Kazakhstan to speak of, there is no definable "Kazakh" style to emulate.

Arba's wines must, then, be compared against world styles generally - they have two distinctly Eastern European grapes, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, but the remainder are international varieties in an international style.

What they all have in common is an ambitious elegance, substance, freshness and a well-made quality. With good acidity and ripe, supple tannins these are classic "restaurant wines".

Ainala Arba Gewurztraminer 2013 varietally-correct sweet spice and lychees, but restrained, long, textured and dry.

Very Good.

Sary Arba Rkatsiteli 2013 more-neutral, long and supple, white stone fruit with good underpinnings. An adept and versatile food wine.


AK Arba Kazakh Riesling 2013 aromatic and Mosel-esque nose; peaches and pineapple fruit, zippy acidity, minerality and a touch of sweetness.


Pino Arba Pinot Noir 2013 dark cherries, raspberries, cool mint and spice. Soft, supple and mineral with fine, ripe tannins.


Lagyl Arba Saperavi 2013 dark fruit, spice, cool mint and a touch of earthy-sulphuriness. Fresh, full and supple - think Syrah.


Kyzyl Arba Cab Franc 2013 raspberry leaves, dark berry fruit and spice. Long and adept with supple tannins. Very Good.

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"Wine Grapes" Seminar with Dr José Vouillamoz

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Not Quite Burgundy - Marks & Spencer

Two wines with a Burgundian elegance and influence, if not quite from Burgundy - from M&S

These two wines from M&S are well-made with a Burgundian elegance; one actually is from Burgundy, albeit convention requires Beaujolais be classed separately from "Burgundy proper".

While Sauvignon remains New Zealand's most widely-planted, signature variety, as well as the UK's favourite white grape, the country remains expert at other varieties as well and none is more noble than Chardonnay.

Koha Reserve Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2015 (£13) nectarines and stone fruit, some toasty oak; clean, fresh and adept. Burgundian Chardonnay with Old World elegance and New Zealand crystalline purity.


A versatile food wine - match with white fish, white meat, most vegetable dishes and creamy pasta.

Beaujolais 2014 (£8.50) floral, black and red cherry fruits and some spice; fresh, juicy and adept.

Light enough for a quaffer, with picnic food or roast fowl.

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M&S Beaujolais Nouveau

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Two Co-op Wines For Father's Day

Two Co-op wines for Father's Day

If you are doing a family meal for Dad on Father's Day, these two Co-op wines should keep a general audience very happy indeed - tasty and inexpensive wines to match with a family roast dinner.

They both improve with a bit of air - especially the Rioja, so dust off the decanter and give them a couple of hours' breathing.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay (£9.99, reduced to £6.99 from June 8 - 21) Ripe melon and pineapple fruit with stone fruits and a creamy nuttiness. Clean, fresh and rounded, very adept.

You could drink this versatile wine all the way through a meal; fresh enough for a quaffer, it will also match with fish starters, roast white meats and even the cheese course.

Muriel Reserva Rioja 2011 (£8.99) Ripe berry fruit with earthy-woodsiness, sweet vanilla and oaky, peppery spice; fresh with a supple texture.

 Match with roast red meat, especially garlic and rosemary lamb; and with the cheese course if you've finish off the Chardie.

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Two Co-op Wines

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Marques et Coop Wine Association Tasting & Lunch

Marques et Coop Wine Association lunch and tasting at Quilon

A tasting of 24 wines – two from each of the 12 “caves-membres” of the Marques et Coop Group in Quilon’s Private Dining Room, followed by lunch.

Marques et Coop, an association of 12 different properties, all ambitious and as yet relatively undiscovered, was set up to promote awareness of the quality and diversity of their wines and represents 4,000 wine growers.

The standard here ws very high; all the wines here scored a Good - and some a Very Good.

Mostly textbook-typical, a few wines did something more unusual or unexpected; the oaked, lees-aged Muscadet, the fresh Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the NV Champagne with base wines no younger than ten years.

If one wine stood out particularly to Jancis Robinson, it was the Astrolabe Cahors Malbec 2014, as yet unbottled. Their sweet wine was rich, honeyed and utterly delicious.
Memoria Vieilles Vignes 2013 Louis Tête - Beaujolais full, plump and expressive. Good.
Les Combes 2013 Louis Tête - Beaujolais-Villages fresh, clean, elegant and well-made. Good.

Les Hauts des Coteaux 2012 - Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge red fruits, spice; fresh and supple. Good
Le Cellier des Princes 2014 - Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge spicy dark fruit; fresh, elegant and supple. Good

Confidences brut 100% PN BdN, base wines from 2005 and older; powerful, fresh, elegant, with depth and complexity. Still very youthful. Very Good.
Confidences rosé brut 2009 rosé with 4% Pinot Blanc in the blend; light with delicate red fruits, fresh and youthful. Good.

Estandon Légende 2012 – Côtes de Provence barrel-fermented, ageworthy Provence rosé; fuller, more complex, textured and evolved. Good.
Solstice d’Estandon 2015 – Côtes de Provence dusty-musky, fresh and elegant, soft red fruits and a touch of cool mint. Good.

Jubilation Le Pallet 2012, Muscadet Sèvre & Maine atypical barrel-fermented, lees-aged Muscadet; fuller, richer, more textured and complex with citrussy freshness. A food wine to match with pork rather than shellfish. Good.
Le Fauteuil Rouge 2012 - Chinon raspberry leaf, tobacco leaf and red berries; elegant, concentrated, toasty and supple. Good.

Rasteau Ico(o)n 2010 complex spice and feral aromas, dark berry fruit with fresh cool mint; supple, warming and spicy. As muscular-yet-deft as Rudolph Nureyev. Very Good.
Rasteau Prestige 2011 peppery-funky-spicy with dark fruit and cool mint; soft and supple. Good.

Toques et Clochers édition limitée 2012, Crémant de Limoux Brut fresh pear and bramley apple fruit; light, elegant persistent and linear. Good.
Toques et Clochers Terroir Haute-Vallée 2014 - Limoux ripe, tropical citrus and melon fruit with some butteryness; elegant. Good.

Lieu-Dit Verdot 2012, Bordeaux 100% Petit Verdot - dark fruit, cool mint and spice; concentrated, long and supple with a grippy finish. Very Good.
Lieu-Dit Ter Pointe 2014 - Côtes de Bourg 100% Malbec - dense and concentrated, ripe, spicy and full with dark fruits; big yet supple with a grippy finish. Very Good.

Aurelius 2012 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru fresh, adept and very long; old-vine concentration, focused elegant and supple-yet-assertive with very fine tannins. Very Good.
Chateau Tour de Yon 2012 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru earthy, fresh and minty, old-vine concentration, supple, elegant, focused and adept. Very Good.

Prestige du Président 2013 – Corse rouge red and black cherry fruit, fresh, supple and minty with low tannins; elegant and adept with some firmness on the finish. Good.
Prestige du Président 2015 – Corse rosé fresh and light with delicate red fruits. Good.

Terra Helvorum 2014 - IGP Ardèche rouge 100% Syrah - floral and  mineral with red fruits; fresh and poised with low tannins; a northern-Italian-style food wine. Good.
Terre d’Églantier Viognier 2014 - IGP Ardèche blanc 100% Viognier, 40% aged in barrel - relatively neutral and citrussy-leesy; again, more of a northern-Italian-style food white. Good.

Astrolabe 2013 Malbec – Cahors rouge cassis, red berries and cool mint; spice, feral notes and dark fruit. Supple and fresh with very fine tannins; well-textured with some firmness on the finish. Very Good.
Astrolabe Vendanges Tardives 2012 - Gaillac honeysuckle, beeswax, butter-roasted peaches and sweet spices. Big-yet-fresh. Very Good.
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Jancis Robinson's review
Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016

Where the New World Meets the Old; Francois Lurton Dinner

A dinner with Francois Lurton to celebrate 20 years in South America

Brash and iconoclastic, ripe and fruit-forward; the New World has energy and chutzpah aplenty.

What it also needs sometimes is a bit more of a European spirit - an elusive, restrained, less-is-more philosophy.

Francois Lurton, of the Bordeaux Lurton dynasty, has vineyards all over the globe, but on this evening opted to show wines from his twenty years in Chile and Argentina.

If Chile were a rock band, it would be Guns n Roses; too much talent squandered.

I'm not sure I know what Argentina stands for - its rock star analogy would have to be the talented-yet-mercurial serial underachiever, Jeff Beck.

Both countries' wines on show here were sophisticated and adept, marrying New World fruit to Old World texture, freshness and complexity.

As a reference point, think more Languedoc than South America.

The Chilean wines were softer, plumper and easier drinking; the Argentinean wines showed more grip and firmness which, says Francois, is a mark of their terroir.

The wines are available from Condor and Roberson.

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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Tellin' Stories: Quinta da Leda Vertical

Quinta da Leda vertical tasting

The Quinta da Leda vineyard in the Douro dates back to just 1979 and has produced dedicated table wines since 1997.

Originally 25ha, it has increased to 160ha of native varieties; winemaker Luis Sottomayor assembled a collection of vintages, each with a story to tell, an event to mark.

The overriding characteristic of all these wines is substance; they are all assertive, intense and concentrated. They are very much food wines.
1997 - where it all began: the first ever vintage, only 7,000 bottles produced
Aged nose with red fruits, rather dried out, sweet spice, supple tannins and fresh acidity, still grippy.

2001 - a new hope: the first vintage at the new winery facility
Earthy, funky-sulphurous nose; ripe red and black cherry fruit, sweet spice, fresh acidity and plump texture.Grippy.

2004 - all grown up now: the first year with fully mature new vines
Earthy nose, ripe cherry and berry fruits, sweet spice; plump, full and supple. Assertive finish.

2007 - the year of me: Luis Sottomayor's first full vintage
Earthy nose, ripe berry fruits, peppery spice, fresh acidity, fine firm tannins, supple and full.

2011 - a declaration: the most recent widely "declared" year for port in the Douro
Understated nose, ripe, soft, supple and full; substantial, long and concentrated with a firm finish.

2013 - modern cool: the current vintage, a cooler year resulting in a lighter, fresher wine
Dark berry fruit and sweet spice, fresh, intense, concentrated and grippy

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Monday, 6 June 2016

Taking It To The Max - Errazuriz Max Reserva

Max Reserva from Chile's Errazuriz

"These go to eleven"
Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap (1984)

The joke in the film is that the band are rubbish; in fact, the music is actually fairly good and the humour comes from the caricature of a loud, throwback, once-energetic now-out-of-date, band going through the same old motions.

So, it's OK to like Spinal Tap but not to take them seriously.

I feel a bit the same about these Errazuriz Max Reserva wines; they are generally well-made and enjoyable, but with all the subtlety of an 80s heavy metal "mockumentary".
Max Reserva Chardonnay 2014 (£15.50, independents) ripe tropical fruits, layers of creamy, oatmealy, toasty oak; as big as a power suit with shoulder pads.

Max Reserva Merlot 2014 (£14.40, independents) the oaky spice rather dominates an otherwise rather insubstantial, if varietally correct, wine; like Woody Allen blinged up as BA Baracus.

Max Reserva Carmenere 2014 (£15.50, independents) again a thwack of toasty oak, but this time the wine can stand up to it. Mouthwatering dark fruit pastilles, liquorice and oaky spice with a supple texture. Lots of alcohol and extraction, warming on the finish.

Match with a Phil Collins CD, some furry dice and Top Gun on video.

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Image credit: http://lparchive.org/Dominions-3-(by-Lilli-et-al)/Update%20264/4-spinaltap-11.jpg

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Three Rosés

Three very different rosés

It does not have to be hot and sunny to drink rosé - but it helps.

These three pinks are all very different in style and budget, but all have relatively similar flavour profiles and will match with prawn or salmon starters.

Or, on a hot enough day, serve as an aperitif in the garden with friends.

Inexpensive, Expressive New World
Cleefs Classic Collection Rosé 2014 (£8.95, independents) aromatic, ripe and plump with soft red fruits and a touch of toasty, mineral pungency; a sophisticated, crowd-pleasing easy-drinker.

Sophisticated and unsual Sancerre pink
Joseph Mellot Sancerre Le Rabault Rosé 2014 (£18.80, independents) ripe soft red fruits, a hint of smokiness and mineral salinity.Very deft and elegant.

Classy and aristocratic pink fizz
Taittinger Nocturne Rosé ‘City Lights’ NV (£60.40, Harrods, Ann et Vin) redcurrant fruit, refreshing citrus and leesy minerality. Fine mousse. Weighty and substantial yet deft and adept.

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Friday, 3 June 2016

English Fizz from Denbies

An English fizz from Denbies, available at Waitrose

When it comes to English wines, fizz is where it's at - English fizz is our nation's truly world-class wine.

This Denbies Greenfields has recently won a Gold Medal at the IWC.

Greenfields (£23.99, Waitrose) traditional-method fizz, from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier with three years on the lees; toasty, leesy orchard fruit, fresh acidity, with citrussy sherbet, minerality and a fine mousse.

Rich and complex, still young; very elegant and adept.

Very Good

Serve as a aperitif or match with seafood starters.

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Loeb 2015 Riesling Primeurs

A tasting of Loeb's 2015 Rieslings - and a couple of museum pieces

2015 was a good year for German Rieslings, with Loeb's press release describing it as exceptional.

On the basis of the wines I tried, I can't disagree - even if it's true that life's too short for a German wine label.

Cuvee Boogie crisp, fresh, precise, floral and mineral. A lovely easy drinker. Good.

Willi Haag
Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spaetlese fresh, vibrant sherbet-ey, zippy and full. Very Good.

Dr H Thanisch-Sofia Thanish
Berncasteler Doctor Kabinett rich, ripe succulent honeysuckle with candied pineapple fruit and sweet spices; long and very adept. Very Good.

Daniel Vollenweider
Wolfergoldgrube Kabinett rich, ripe fresh with complex dried pineapple, minerality and sweet spice. Very Good.
There was also a couple of older wines to show what these young beauties will mature into.

Sybille Kuntz
Dreistern Riesling Gold Kapsel 2003 kerosene nose, rich and honeyed, cry complex and adept. Very Good.
Riesling Scharz 2007 younger, fresher, more floral and spicy. Very Good.
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2012 Loeb Mosel En Primeur Tasting

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Cálem White & Dry Port

Cálem White & Dry Port and Tonic - available at Amathus

I don't often do cocktails  - the best have a complexity and balance, but can be hard to finesse at home or may require an extensive list of mixologist's ingredients.

The recipe for this port and tonic cocktail is not only mercifully simple, but one does not need to be too precise with the quantities.

Served neat, the White and Dry is pale yet full-bodied and rounded with tropical citrus fruit.

The recipe adds an aromatic florality and bitter sweetness that resembles the traditional sweet port and tonic of Oporto.

- 50cl port
- 10cl elderflower cordial
- top up with tonic water
- serve with sliced pink grapefruit

Serve as an aperitif or drink with picnic food on a hot summer's day.

£12.90, provided for review.

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