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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Emily Ponsonby: A Portrait Of The Artist

Emily Ponsonby's Breakfast Exhibition - The Taster at Partridges

Next to winemaking, being an artist is perhaps the coolest, hardest way to make a living, putting self-actualization ahead of lower-hierarchy needs like food as Romantic legends would have us believe.

Reviving a now extinct, centuries-old tradition, Emily Ponsonby paints not on canvas but on beeswax.
To the untutored eye, this would not be the first thing you notice about her paintings. But somebody with knowledge of these things would perceive a depth and texture to the pictures that is achieved not by the paint itself.

For me, her pictures have a tenderness, a relaxed intimacy, the sense of a moment shared; it comes as little to surprise to learn that the subjects are friends and family.

I ask which is her favourite and she obliges me by adopting the slouched pose of her half-sleeping brother.

Emily's paintings will be adorning the walls of Partridge's throughout October before her first solo exhibition in May 2017.

Refreshments for the event were provided courtesy of Taittinger, Errazuriz and Mr Trotter's.

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Colin Hampden-White Exhibition

Monday, 26 September 2016

Cru Bourgeois 2014 - The Tasting Notes

Detailed tasting notes from the 2014 Cru Bourgeois tasting

What most struck me about these 2014s was the consistency of quality, with plenty of fruit and substance after the light, thin wines of 2012 and 2013.

But not all wines are created equal, so here are my notes from the wines that I tasted; organisers Phillips-Hill helpfully suggested a few wines to try - a mixture of newly-accepted chateaux and general "good uns".
Some are plumper and fuller than others, some more open and suited to immediate drinking; of the more prestigeous appellations, the Margaux showed very nicely, while the Pauillacs were still closed up and difficult to assess.

My top wine of the tasting was from Margaux, the Haut Breton Larigaudiere (£28.50, Private Cellar).

Begadan earthy, spicy, animal; fresh, precise and firm with berry fruit and pepperiness. Good.

La France Delhomme inky and substantial with dark fruit and mint. Good.

La Grave more closed up and grippy, but supple and long with fresh berry fruit and pepperiness.

Balac soft, supple with cool mint and dark fruit. Fresh and firm.

Bonneau soft, supple and harmonious, gently assertive and fresh; drinking very nicely now. Good.

Charmail (£20, TWS, F&M, BBR) fresh, inky, dark berry fruit; harmonious and supple with cool mint.

De Gironville earthy and animal with fresh, blackcurranty spicy dark fruit; harmonious and supple.

Du Taillan plumper, fuller and more confidently assertive. Dark berries, cool mint and spice. Long and substantial. Very Good.

Vieux Moulin soft, minty, fresh and grippy

Anthonic supple, plump and harmonious. More closed-up.

Deyrem Valentin pencil shavings, supple and harmonious, plump balanced and fresh. Very Good.

La Fortune cool mint, inky pencil shavings and berry fruit with spice and freshness; supple, harmonious, balanced and long. Very Good.

Haut Breton Larigaudiere (£28.50, Private Cellar) spicy, earthy, animal with dark fruit and plump harmonious. Lovely tannins and very adept. Very Good.

All these wines were closed up but with a dense core and correspondingly difficult to assess; at least a Good right now with the potential for Very Good to Very Good Indeed with age.

La Fleur Peyrabon lovely texture, but closed-up with a dense core.

Fontbadet closed-up with cool mint and dark fruit.

Plantey spice, dark fruit and cool mint

Le Boscq pepperines and fruit, with cool mint; plump and supple, long and harmonious. Good.

Lafitte-Carcasset (£20-30, F&R) fruit, spice and animal; fresh and supple; harmonious, precise and focused. Good.

Other related articles
Cru Bourgeois 2014 - the overview
Crus Bourgeois 2013s

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Zhan-Zhak Gold V.S. Konyak

Zhan-Zhak, or Жан-Жак, Gold V.S. (0,5) brandy from Ukraine

Zhan-Zhak is the brand name; there is a range of konyaks of various ages; this is aged for three years

Cooked mixed fruit, fresh with aromatic sandalwood and sweet roasted nutty spices; warming and long with a smooth, harmonious.

Match with dark chocolate and an espresso.

Available, in Ukraine, from alcoshop.com.ua.

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

EASCA Dinner With Private Cellar

EASCA Dinner at Trinity Hall with Private Cellar

A Friday evening saw me heading, in black tie, with Mrs CWB to Trinity Hall to host a dinner with wines from Private Cellar.
Set in a Cambridge college, there was something of an educational theme to the dinner, with the wines introduced by MW Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, a collection for the Centre for Computing History and speakers who touched on the need to keep learning to stay ahead of the bots.
With a fizz on arrival, a Champagne-style BdN from Chablis, Private Cellar had expertly matched the wines our dinner: a toasty, peachy Albariño with fish rilettes, a spicy, expressive Chateauneuf-alike with quail-and-black-pudding wellington and a complex, barrel-aged Sauternes-alike from Sainte Croix du Mont to complement dessert.

Three of the wines were alternatives to classics that would be priced significantly higher if they were able to carry a more illustrious name; the Albariño, something of an outlier, is not a classic wine, but was simply delicious.
All the wines were excellent and well-judged; for me, the complex sticky was wine of the night with the approachable and characterful Rhône a close second (and also the popular favourite).

Nicola has written more-detailed tasting notes for each wine:

Crémant de Bourgogne P100 Blanc de Noirs, Simonnet Febvre NV Despite being made from the same grape varieties, on the same soils and with the same climate as their near neighbours in Champagne, Crémant producers in Chablis cannot ask the same price for their wines, which makes them the go-to fizz for the canny drinker. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, Simonnet Febvre’s is deliciously creamy and rich with a lovely biscuity finish, and mighty tricky to discern from the real thing.

Albariño Robalino, Señorio de Rubios, Orixe Rías Baixas 2015 Albariño is one and the same as Portugal’s Vinho Verde grape, but the wines it makes in each country couldn’t be more different. Señorio de Rubios is the product of a group of small growers looking for a way to minimise their costs whilst making the best wines they can – so like a co-operative except it is private rather than state-led. Gorgeously fresh peachy fruit on the nose, floral too, with a hint of sherbet and lime flowers on the palate, really refreshing and truly delicious.

Château Beauchêne Premier Terroir, Côtes du Rhône 2014 The 2012 vintage was served at dinner but we drank the last few bottles that night! This is the follow-on vintage. Château Beauchêne’s Premier Terroir sits on premium Châteauneuf vineyards but without the name (thanks to some moving of the AOC goal posts) and, as such, it can be relied on to produce premium wines year after year. 2014 was a cooler vintage than many a recent one, but a late harvest allowed the fruit to develop a fabulous spectrum of flavours. Deeply coloured with a nose of gorgeous blackberry fruit, spiced and rich, with lovely ripe tannins behind the fresh fruit on the palate, this is a real star of a wine which will evolve over several years.

Château des Mailles, Sainte Croix du Mont 2010 Clustered around the Garonne river south of Bordeaux you find a huddle of sweet wine appellations, the best known being Sauternes and Barsac. Directly across the river from Barsac is Sainte Croix du Mont, producing deliciously ripe, plump sweet dessert wines, perhaps without the gravitas of Sauternes but at hugely attractive prices. Château des Mailles is rich and sweet, floral on the nose with a hint of orange zest, lovely and leafy with the trademark touch of noble rot on the palate. Superb.
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Dinner With Private Cellar
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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Cru Bourgeois 2014 - The Overview

A tasting of the new 2014 Crus Bourgeois

After a run of increasingly disappointing years, Bordeaux is back in 2014. And, in an age of standardisation, let it not be forgotten that variability is what makes wine great - and great wine.

The wines at this 2014 Cru Bourgeois tasting all show a consistency of underpinnings, fruit and balance.

Professionals will doubtless argue over the merits of this vs that wine, too much grip here, a lack of plumpness there, but the overall imression is that 2014 represents a return to form. It's Elvis in '68,  Ali vs Frazier.

So, 2014 Cru Bourgeois is OK to buy - with no caveats about early drinking or picking the right producer.

In general, across the board, you can buy a Cru Bourgeois 2014 confident that it should be not just alright but rather pleasant indeed.

Stephen Spurrier in Decanter calls it "the best of the lesser vintages" and "a joy to drink"; that pretty much sums it up.
Detailed tasting notes to follow.

Other related articles
Crus Bourgeois 2013s

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Two Austrian Wines via From Vineyards Direct

Two Austrian wines via From Vineyards Direct

Austrian wines were my first love and for a number of years I drank little else; since my regular visits to Austria ceased, I have not tasted Austrian wines as often as I would like.

A small country which is four-fifths mountainous, Austria is not a volume producer; yet with many varied terroirs, it produces all the major styles of wine.

If I were to introduce someone to Austrian wine over dinner, I would start with a Gruener Veltliner, Austria's "green"-tasting signature grape - all celery, puy lentils and white pepper - then finish with a rich and honeyed dessert wine from Burgenland.

Esterhazy Estoras Gruner Veltliner 2015 - £10.95 pure, precise citrussy white peach, with some characteristic green apple, white pepper and celery. Minerally, deft and elegant.


A versatile food wine, match with fish starters, creamy pasta or roast white meat.

Esterházy Beerenauslese 2012 – 37.5cl - £14.95 amber-mahogany with aromas of white flowers, beeswax, roasted sweet spices and overroasted peaches. Full, oily substantial and intensely sweet with just enough freshness to keep it all in check.

Match with strong, creamy cheeses or sticky toffee pudding.

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Hospices de Beaujeu Morgon - From Vineyards Direct

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Burgundy - A short Guide

A brief guide to visiting Burgundy

If you are on  driving holiday in France starting from Calais, there is a reasonable chance you will need a stop-over somewhere in Burgundy.

Here, then, is a guide to how you might spend a few hours' free time plus a night in the area.

Towns and cities

The main population centres in Burgundy are Dijon and Beaune; one famed for its mustard and being the seat of the Dukes of Burgundy, the other for the roof of its Hospice.

Dijon is the larger and more impressive, but both are worth a visit with their beautiful old towns.


A drive from Dijon to Beaune along the D974 is journey through an oneological pantheon with village after village, clos after clos, of great names - Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée.


Away from the city-centre bustle of the two great cities that book-end this part of Burgundy, the wine villages make for beautiful, relaxing places to stay.

In Nuits-Saint-Georges, stay at the Hostellerie St Vincent, which has an excellent restaurant, L'Alembic in the vaulted cellar, the name a reference to an alembic pot still in one corner.

In Gevrey-Chambertin, stay at the Hotel Arts et Terroirs, a former coaching house; with no restaurant, you can make the short walk into Gevrey-Chambertin to eat at Chez Guy (alternatively, Rotisserie du Chambertin).


Both hotels overlook the vineyards and are on the edge of their respective villages, so are perfect for an evening stroll.

If you have time - and you should make it - spend at least half a day in Dijon (Owl Trail, Ducal Palace) and Beaune (Musee de l'Hotel-Dieu and the city centre generally).

For wine-related activities, and Beaune is akin to a giant wine museum, there are plenty of famous and not-so-famous names throughout Burgundy, including Louis Jadot at 62 Route de Savigny, Beaune.

Further afield but still within Burgundy, there is Chablis, the Maconnais and Beaujolais.

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Restaurant L'Alembic: Nuits St Georges
Chablis: A Guide

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Cellier Des Princes - The Final Instalment

Two final wines from Cellier Des Princes

I have been impressed with all the Cellier Des Princes wines I have tried - all have been well-made and as a minimum thoroughly enjoyable. So full marks for consistency.

The wines have also been mostly atypical of the Rhône, being distinctly fresh and more red-fruited than dark-berried.

Of the last two, the Cotes du Rhone is something of a return to more-typical Rhonesque form; it has a Gold medal from Paris 2015. The Gigondas, a GSM blend, has the freshness of the rest of the range.

La Couronne Du Prince, CdR 2013 ripe, juicy dark berry and plum fruit, spice and earthiness; fresh, long and substantial with fine, perfectly ripe tannins.


Match with roast lamb.

Gigondas, 2014 fresh red fruits and complex spices with inky pencil shavings. Lond substantial and supple.


Other related articles
Cellier Des Princes: Chateauneuf du Pape
Afternoon Tea With the MW Students
Domaine St Jacques, Cotes Du Rhone - 2014
La Princesse IGP Vaucluse 2015

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Rioja - All White Now

Two white - yes, white - Riojas from CVNE

Like Beaujolais and Bordeaux, we tend to think of Rioja as predominantly, perhaps solely, a red wine - with white Rioja at best something of a minor sideline.

Most white Rioja that one comes across these days is fresh, modern and inexpensive - but more serious versions do exist.

And CVNE have something at each end of the scale; from the fresh CVNE Blanco to the complex and age-worthy Contino Blanco, both are fresh and versatile, with the Contino a serious alternative to an oaked white Burgundy.

Cune Barrel Fermented Blanco 2015 (£9.80, Waitrose, Wine Rack, Tanners Wines, independents) ripe, fresh orchard fruit and galia melon; pure with long saline minerality. Elegant, substantial and deft.

Contino Blanco 2014 (£25.45, Waitrose, independents) precise, elegant orchard fruit with complex toasty oak; a single-vineyard wine with old-vine substance. Will age.

Jancis Robinson was also impressed with both these wines (earlier vintages) - see here.

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Rioja - but not as we know it