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Monday, 25 July 2016

#TheRhôneTouch - Art, Food and Wine

Opening night at The Rhône Touch; 21-31 July, 2016 at Platform Theatre Foyer and Bar, Central Saint Martins, Handyside street, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA

Rhone wines' traditional summer event has taken in everything from rugby to punk gigs; this year, we are brought The Rhone Touch, a week-long combination of food, art and Rhone wines at Platform Theatre in the newly-funky riverside area at the back of King's Cross station.
Guided by Douglas Blyde, I tried some of the wines - and a picnic glass.

Whites, a minority in the Rhone, have a distinctive substantial waxiness; the reds in the Southern Rhone are blendss and start with Cotes du Rhone, then CdR Villages, CdR Villages with a specified village and finally simply the village name.
Chateau de Montfaucon, Comtesse Madeleine 2014 (£15) CdR Marsanne blend, ripe and substantial with fresh orchard fruit. Good.

E. Guigal Condrieu Guigal, 2014 (£N/A) fresh, zippy, honeyed, waxy and textured; long and elegant. Good.
Three interesting CdR-level wines; the packaging for the Vidal-Fleury is rather old school while new producer Xavier Vins has a more eye-catching approach.

Reds - CdR
Vidal-Fleury, 2013 (£12) fresh dark berries, supple texture; long and substantial with fine, slightly grippy tannins. Good.

Xavier Vins, 100%, 2012 (£N/A) Grenache blend: concentrated and inky with dark fruit and sweet spice; still tight with some grip. Supple and long. Good.

Xavier Vins, SM, NM (£N/A) Syrah/Grenache: feral with dark fruit, green herbs, spice and freshness, supple. Good.

CdR Villages
Sablet's sandy soils give the village its name, and impart a distinctive character to the wines.

CdRV Sablet Domaine des Pasquiers, 2014 (£15) Grenache blend, feral nose, fresh and juicy, soft and harmonious. More Beaujolais than the Rhone - and long.

CdRV Chusclan Laudun Chusclan Vignerons, Les Genets, 2015 (£N/A) GSM+ blend, supple and fresh with dark fruit and spice; long and substantial. Good.

CdRV Signargues M. Chapoutier, 2014 (£12.50) Grenache/Syrah: warming and spicy, ripe dark berry fruit, spice and freshness, concentrated. Good.

In the northern Rhone, reds are all 100% Syrah.

The North - Crozes-Hermitage
Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, Les Jablets, 2014 (£18) complex red and dark berries and spice, fresh. Very Good.

Vidal-Fleury, 2013 (£19) red and dark berry fruit, spice, freshness, supple and substantial texture. Very Good.

The North - Saint-Joseph
Cave de Tain, Esprit de Granit, 2013 (£N/A) complex spice and berries, minerality supple with fine but assertive tannins. Very Good.

E. Guigal, Saint-Joseph Guigal, 2013 (£N/A) red and dark berries, green herbs; supple, fresh, long and concentrated. Very Good.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Two Bordeaux Rosés

Two Bordeaux Rosés from M&S and Hedonism

Bordeaux is most famous for its high-end reds; in more-affordable territy, its rosés are fresh-yet-full and a good match for food.

These two rosés are quite different in character; the Fleur D'Amelie is expressive, the Clarendelle aristocratic and elegant,

La Fleur D'Amelie Rosé 2015 (£10, M&S) crisp, redcurrant fruit, grapefruit and white-peppery mintiness; lively, linear and mineral.

Clarendelle Bordeaux Rosé 2015 (£13.90, Hedonism) ripe, red berries, stone fruit and leesy mineral; long, substantial and clean. A very classy and adept wine.


Both make good picnic wines or garden sippers - match the Amelie with quiches or barbecue chicken; match the classy Clarendelle with cold cuts.

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Not Just For Picnics

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Two Leftfield Wines

Two characterful wines from New Zealand's Leftfield

These two wines from New Zealand's Leftfield, part of Te Awa, are distinctively packaged, quirkily described and ambitiously priced. 

Left Field Albariño 2015 (£14.05, Wine Rack, Cambridge Wine Merchants and independents) classic kiwi zesty aromatics with lemongrass, peach and pineapple fruit. Fresh, pure and long.


Match with Asia-Pac foods, such as tuna carpaccio with chili and ginger.

They say: Gorgeous little citrus flowers link arms with melon and peach to dance in the sunshine, always maintaining an air of class. Meanwhile lime lingers in the shadows vying for attention.

Left Field Malbec 2014 (£17.30, independents) dark fruit, pencil savings and inky spice; supple texture, very fresh and juicy. Less Rhone-esque than Bojo-tastic.

 Match with butchers sausages, salamis and bolognese.

They say: Down a dark alleyway the brooding and intense character of blackberry and liquorice meet the heroically proportioned mass if dark chocolate draped in smooth, fine velvet.

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Two Handsome Devils from Esk Valley

Monday, 18 July 2016

Domaine St Jacques, Cotes Du Rhone - 2014

A fresh Grenache-based Rhone from Cellier de Princes

- Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.
James Bond, From Russia With Love (1963)

Rhone wines are more associated with substance than freshness; however, freshness is a key feature of Cellier des Princes' wines, making them a surprisingly good match with fish.

Domaine St Jacques, Cotes Du Rhone, 2014 GSM+C blend; juicy redcurrant and blackcurrant fruit, with blackberries and liquorice. Balanced and fresh with pencil shavings and garrigue.


It has a a Gold medal from Paris.

Match with fish and an Ian Fleming novel - also with beef, from burgers to roast.

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Marques & Co-op tasting
La Princesse

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Back For Good: Petaluma Tasting

A press tasting of Petaluma wines at M Victoria with Bancroft Wines

The old certainty used to be that Old World wines have structure while New World wines are fruit-forward.

There is also now a distinct, third category of wines that show both fruit and structure - wines that are ripe and pleasing, but also have gravitas, presence and deftness.

Petaluma, now back in the UK after a break of four years, is based in the cool region of Adelaide Hills, specifically Piccadilly Valley, the coolest and wettest part of South Australia; their wines are characterised by texture, concentration and a European elegance.
Both fizzes are traditional method from around 60% Pinot and 40% Chardonnay, barrel fermented in old oak with extended lees aging.
Croser Vintage 2012 crisp and fresh, with ripe orchard fruit and soft berries and a yeasty brioche. Good.
Croser Late Disgorged 2003 more complex, with some aged character, ripe red berries, cideryness and toasty-yeasty brioche. Very Good. 
Hanlin Hill Riesling Yellow Label 2015 dieselly nose with citrus fruits and minerality; generous yet fully dry and some toast-and-honey complexity; long and fresh. Good.

Hanlin Hill Riesling Yellow Label 2010 from a very good vintage indeed, complex dieselly aromas, ripe citrus and peach with some aged character. Long, concentrated and mineral, very adept. Very Good.

Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, Yellow Label 2015 toasty-oaky Chardie with ripe citrus and melon; very harmonious and and adept. Good.

Adelaide Hills Tiers Chardonnay 2013 bigger, fuller with more creamy-leesy cashew and brazil nut; textured, concentrated and substantial, very long. Very Good.
Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot, Yellow Label 2002 from a cool vintage three fruit is minty with dried green herbs, dried red fruits and very fine tannins. Fresh, supple, concentrated and textured. Good.

Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot, Yellow Label 2012 blackcurranty, minty, spicy with florality and fruit pastilles. Supple, with fine but assertive tannins. Will repay cellaring. Good.

Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Yellow Label 2014 Rhone-esque lifted, floral Shiraz with dark berry fruits, pepper and spice, and a supple, inky texture. Very Good.

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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Domaine Bassac - Two New Organic Wines

Two organic wines from Languedoc's Domaine Bassac

Based in Cotes de Thongue, Domaine Bassac has two new organic wines; the rosé is full and substantial, the be-whiskered Manpot is a fruity gentleman.

The rosé also has a silver medal from the Challenge Millesime Bio.
Domaine Bassac Rosé 2015 pale pink with delicate red berry fruit and zippy citrus acidity; substantial, complex and very adept.


Drink as an aperitif or match with summery picnic foods.

Le Manpot 2013 stewed red and black plums, cassis, liquorice and spice with a fresh juiciness; fine, supple texture.

Match with roast meat, salamis or sausages.

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Sud de France

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Francois Lurton South America Tasting

Tasting notes for the wines of Francois Lurton from Chile and Argentina

Stylistically, Francois Lurton's wines evoke his bordelais background - they are a blend of new world ripeness with an old world love of structure in general and acidity in particular.

If you think South American wines are no more than cheap-and-cheerful fruit-forward crowd-pleasers, think again.

Hacienda Araucano
Humo Blanco Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (£12.99) barrel-fermented, more textured than expressive; full waxy and rich

Clos de Lolol 2015 (£17.40) SB/Ch textured, rounded and long. Good.

Humo Blanco Cabernet Franc 2015 (£13.99) ripe, supple, deft clean and pure

Clos de Lolol Red 2013 (£17.40) Syrah blend, spicy with grilled notes, soft and supple

Gran Araucano Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (£24) Bordelais-style spice and leather with new world fruit; very clean, pure and precise. Long supple and harmonious. Good.

Alka 2014 (£49.95) Carmenere, complex with pure blueberry fruit and varietal soy and coffee; deft, long and supple with gently assertive tannins. Very Good.


Bodega Piedra Negra

Gran Lurton Blanco 2014 (£16.99) Sauvignon Vert, oak fermented, textured leesy and long. Good.

Gran Lurton Red 2011 (£16.99) CS blend, bramble fruit with grilled, spicy notes; fresh, supple, long and adept. Good.

Gran Malbec 2011 (£22) blowsy yet complex blockbusting 15.8% Malbec; black and sour cherries, spice; long and supple with a warming, grippy finish.

Chacayes 2013 (£49.95) Malbec blend, impressively big spicy, ripe and supple wine with dark fruit and grip. Good - needs further aging.

Dinner - the taste-off

Over our Peruvian dinner, we paired off some museum pieces from both estates' collections.
Clos de Lolol White 2011 vs Gran Lurton Bianco 2007 on the nose, the Lolol appears to be the older and more evolved of the two; the Lurton is in better shape and wears its aged character well.

Gran Araucano Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 vs Gran Lurton 2005 (CS blend) the fruit in both is starting to dry out a little, the Araucano is Medoc-esque with capsicum and tobacco leaf, the Lurton is more Rhone-like with dark fruit, spice and a custardy texture.

Alka 2003 (Carmenere) vs Chacayes 2003 (Malbec blend) the Chacayes is the clear winner here; it shows beautifully, with complex peppery-minty dark bramble fuits and an harmonious structre; Very Good. The Alka feels more evolved and dried out, but the acidity is still fresh and the texture supple.

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Francois Lurton Dinner

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

VIP Wines - Italian Cultural Institute Tasting

A tasting of Italian wines at the Italian Cultural Institute

It is a standard cliche about Italy that the country is beautiful yet unpredictable and chaotic.

Like most cliches, it is a generationalisation that contains more than a grain of truth. My personal cliche about Italy is that you need an inside track, a bit of local knowledge, to see the best of the country.

This Italian VIP tasting showcased five wineries - and met most if not all cliches; it was chaotic with no listing of individual wines, just names of producers on a single sheet.

Yet all the wines I tasted were also thoroughly enjoyable and well made, demonstrating that Italians can navigate their own complexity even where others may not fare so well.
Il Palagio By Sting: www.palagioproducts.com
Vespa Vignaioli by Bruno Vespa: www.vespavignaioli.it
Simonelli Santi by Leonardo Simonelli: www.simonellisanti.com
Cantina Todini by Luisa Todini: www.simonellisanti.com
Bruscia by Bruscia Family: www.brusciavini.it

Vespa Vignaioli
Pink fizz fresh, crisp and delicate
Fiano full and fresh with ripe fruits
Rosso do Vespa rich and intense with prunes and mixed fruit
Simonelli Santi
Antonio soft supple harmonious
Malintoppo cherry fruited with complex spice

Cantina Todini
Grechetto long, fresh, lemony versatile food wine
Nero Della Cervena complex and sophisticated. Very Good.

Il Palagio
Chianti soft, supple light and cherry-fruited
Casino Delle Vie more complex and adept
Sister Moon a further step up

Metodo Classico crisp, fresh, elegant
Famoso floral and full with ripe citrus
Stacciola fresh red fruits, cherries and spice with feral aromas
Passito sweet, complex and fresh with honey and baked apple

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Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

Monday, 4 July 2016

Beyond Sauvignon - Slight Return: three summery wines from Villa Maria

Three summery wines from Villa Maria

Sauvignon Blanc is both the UK's favourite white grape and New Zealand's most widely-planted variety.

Villa Maria, one of the most reliable kiwi producers, has three summery wines that go beyond Sauvignon and back.

First up is a Lighter Sauvignon, a fresh sipper with lower alcohol levels; then a Germanic-style Riesling. Finally, an unusual varietal Sauvignon Gris.

Villa Maria Private Bin Lighter Sauvignon Blanc 2015, £11.30 (independents) a good, enjoyable lighter wine for sipping in the garden or lunchtime drinking. Has the hallmark Villa Maria quality feel and is not compromised by its lower alcohol status.

A light sipper.

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2015, £10.55 (Waitrose, Majestic, Wine Rack, Booths and independents) expressive, fresh and crisp with dieselly aromas, nectarine and peach fruit; bitter lime zest, pineapple citrus and pebbly minerality. Germanic-style.

Match with smoked salmon or barbecued prawns with chilli and garlic.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Gris 2015, £14.95 (The Co-op, independents) pungent, citrussy and intensely aromatic with expressive passionfruit, lychee and guava leading to dried herbs, lemon zest and a persistent minerality.

Match with strongly flavoured foods such as tuna carpaccio with chilli and ginger.

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Sunday, 3 July 2016

La Princesse IGP Vaucluse 2015 - Cellier Des Princes

A distinctively presented rosé from Cellier des Princes

La Princesse is a new rosé from Rhône-based Cellier des Princes, whose wines I first tried at a Marques et Co-op tasting; there are many things to like about it, not least the funky thermo-senstive label which changes appearance once it reaches the ideal serving temperature of 12C.

The juice in the bottle is not bad either - it has a silver medal from Orange - and it is priced well below the level of an equivalent Provence rosé.

La Princesse IGP Vaucluse 2015 very pale pink, with fresh berry fruit, citrus and tarragon-fennel herbs; persistent finish.


A summer sipper, or match with langoustines, caramelised red-onion and goat's cheese tart or grilled sole.

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Marques et Co-op tasting

Saturday, 2 July 2016

An Epic Lunch At Quilon - In Pictures

Lunch with Marques et Coop Wine Association

Quilon, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant on the borders of Victoria and St James', was the venue for a tasting of Marques et Coop wines, followed by a epic lunch with eight courses matched to 12 of the wines.

It was my second visit to Quilon in a month, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of the place - the ambience is aristocratically restrained - no Shoreditch-style funky textured surfaces or hipster beards here.

As befits its St James' location, just round the corner from Parliament, it feels not so much ironic old school as genuinely old school - yet modern in concept; twenty-first century juxtaposition without the knowing irony. A joke without a punchline.

The food is refined Indian, well-executed; but excellent as it is, the fusion of European elegance and Indian spiciness somehow does not quite fully convince.
Nor do the foods always work brilliantly with wines; I can't help feeling small portions of craft beers would be a better match for the spices and heat of the foods.

The one revelation was Beaujolais with cottage cheese and soya chunks, which not only worked brilliantly, but also outperformed what I expected to the better match, an oaked Muscadet.

The tasting

The introductions
Chef at work
The lunch
See my tasting notes here.

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Foncalieu at Quilon

Friday, 1 July 2016

Coquille d'Oc (aka Cocky Dog)

Three wines from Domaine Sainte Rose in Languedoc, available at Waitrose

It's hardly new news that Languedoc is a great source of well-made, characterful and good value wines.

Domaine Sainte Rose is a family owned and run boutique winery near Servian just outside Beziers.

Owners Charles and Ruth Simpson believe in making beautifully crafted wine in the old world using new world methods.

I tried three of their wines; all are classy, adept and thoroughly enjoyable. And good value, too.

Domaine de Sainte Rose Coquille d’Oc Blanc 2014 - IGP Pays d'Oc 40% Chardonnay, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier, 5% Muscat, £7.49

Aromatic and floral with citrus and stone fruit; rich, fat and aromatic; leesy and mineral. Multi-faceted and adept

Domaine de Sainte Rose Coquille d’Oc Rosé 2015 - IGP Pays d'Oc 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Merlot, 10% Grenache, £7.49

Watermelon and soft red fruits; substantial, mineral and precise.

Domaine de Sainte Rose Barrel Selection Roussanne 2013 - IGP Pays d'Oc 100% Roussanne, £11.99

Toasty-oaky with sweet spices and waxy-fat floral citrus fruits, creamy-nutty. Complex.

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