Popular Posts

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Three Wines from KWV

Three wines from South Africa's KWV

After I met with KWV. they sent me three wines to try. 

KWV Classic Collection Grenache Blanc 2015 (£7.55, Nisa) atypically expressive and zesty-pithy aromatic; fresh and citrussy with tropical fruits. Pure, clean and long.

Big Bill Red 2015 (£7.99, Nisa independents) violets and dark fruit with oaky spice. Warming and extracted; supple texture, but lacking mid-palate plumpness.

Mentors Cabernet Franc 2013 (£14.95, Ocado, slurp) complex oaky spice, dark juicy-jammy cherry and raspberry fruit with porty fynbos (aka garrigue herbs) and cool mint; dense and grippy. Long and substantial. Good.

Other related articles

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Fizz Not Champagne

Four bottles of good-value fizz from France- all not from Champagne

I'll be honest, a good Champagne is my favourite type of fizz. With its yeasty-biscuity brioche, savouriness and linear acidity, it is a great amongst all wines, not just those containing bubbles.

However, really good Champagne is not cheap and always carries a premium price to some extent.

So, when you just need a chilled fresh fizz, or if you simply want to try other types of French fizz, here are four examples to consider from Grands Chais de France.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Rosé (Ocado, £11.99) elegant redcurrant fruit; citrssy, leesy and mineral. Good.

Terre de La Baume Crémant de Limoux (not yet available in UK) citrussy, floral, sherbetey and fresh; fine mousse

Arthur Metz Cuvée 1904 (not yet available in UK) fresh, citrussy and elegant with a persistent, mineral backbone 

Crémant de Sauvion (Oxford Wine Company, £13.99) citrussy, fresh and elegant, with a precise, structured Champagne-esque brioche character. Good.

Serve any of these wines as an aperitif, with starters or Boxing Day cold cuts.

Other related articles
Les Grands Chais

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Clotilde Davenne: fromvineyardsdirect.com

Two Burgundies from Clotilde Davenne via From Vineyards Direct

If you like the idea of a bargain, then de-classified wines from new producers can be a really good idea.

After 17 years as winemaker for Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis, Clotilde Davenne established her own vineyard, Les Temps Perdus, in 2005 making wines to express the local Jurassic terroir with no oak.

Clotilde Davenne, Bourgogne Blanc 2014, £10.95 (75cl) 13% labelled a Bourgogne Blanc, the grapes are located in the village of Prehy, one of the 20 villages in the Chablis appellation; elegant freshness and minerality with melon fruit and weight on the mid-palate.

Clotilde Davenne Saint-Bris 2014, £10.95 (75cl) 12.5% aromatic lemongrass with zippy lime-marmelade cut through with taut acidity and minerality; linear and precise. Good.

Other related articles
Hospices de Beaujeu Morgon

Friday, 21 October 2016

Dinner With The Wine Society

Dinner at the IPA with The Wine Society

The IPA's annual Finance Committee dinner this year featured wines from The Wine Society, introduced by Jo Locke MW and Ewan Murray.

We started with fizz.

The Society's NV Champagne Brut from Gratien, the base wines is from 2012 and still feels quite young and closed up.

Gratien is one of the few Champagne houses to ferment the base wines in oak for greater richness (the most notable other being Bollinger); three years of lees aging further adds to the complexity.

With starters
Riesling Dragon, Josmeyer 2008 from Alsace, complex and intense with an evolved, dieselly nose, ripe peach fruit and well-structured acidity.

It feels like a big wine, despite no oak and around 11% alcohol, and stood up to the strong flavours of smoked salmon with beetroot, pesto and capers.

Kanokop Estate Paul Sauer, Stellenbosch 2008 a Bordeaux blend described by Jo as New World ripeness with Old World substance and structure - which led to a discussion about a lack of a distinct South African identity.

The brand builders in the room latched onto the idea of South Africa having the most ancient soils as a possible core brand identity.

With plenty of primary bramble and blackcurrant fruit after almost a decade in bottle, this wine proved that South African wines can age to rival all but the top ranks of Bordeaux. The combination of fruit and substance matched perfectly with marinated lamb chops.

Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux, Domaine Huet, 2005 an organic, biodynamic Loire, this proved popular with many who said they do not normally drink stickies.

Floral, fresh and precise, it felt more like the youngest wine of the night than the oldest and clearly has decades ahead of it.

The Society's Exhibition Grande Champagne Cognac a final cherry on top, this Cognac was apricotty with nuts almonds and vanilla; mellow and elegant.
Other related articles
Dinner With Private Cellar
Lunch with KWV

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2014

The Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2014 tasting

To anyone who loves high-end Bordeaux, the last few years have not been kind - not since the 2010s have we tasted wines from a great year.

2014 is not a great year, but it is one of the better lesser years - if that makes sense.

The wines on show at this UGC tasting were fairly substantial, supple and complex. That they are largely drinking nicely now may be as a result of stylistic decisions in the vineyard or cellar, or simply a reflection of the vintage.

With limited time, I focused on getting round the reds, but I tried one white and, as a final treat, a few of the stickies.

Overall, Margaux and Pomerol showed well - and Barsac.

The two wines scoring a VGI are Lynch-Bages and the sticky Suduiraut.

White - Pessac-Leognan

Domaine de Chevalier complex, aromatic ripe gooseberry and guava; leesy-creamy and substantial. Long and deft. Very Good.


Pape Clement ripe, plump and spicy with dried herbs; supple and long. Very Good.

Smith Haut Lafitte fresh, full, supple; poised and adept with berries, splice and earthiness. Long. Very Good.

St Emilion

Figeac supple, adept, fresh and harmonious. Plump and long with dark cherry fruit, coffee and spice. Very Good.

Troplong Mondot fresh, supple, harmonious and long with bramble fruit, earthiness, green herbs and spices. Very Good.


Beauregard fresh, intense and focused with red and black cherry fruit, spice. Adept and poised. Very Good.

Le Bon Pasteur earthy animal and spice; bramble fruit. Fresh, focused and precise. Very Good.

La Cabanne pure, minty dark fruit. Supple, poised and focused. Good.


Chasse-Spleen lightweight, red-berry fruited; harmonious and well-executed. Good.


Belgrave plump, supple and full; inky pencil shavings, blackcurrant and spice with lovely tannins. Good.

Cantemerle inky pencil shavings, dark fruit, spice; plump and supple. Dense and concentrated. Very Good.


La Tour de By ripe red and dark fruit, spice; fresh and supple. Good.


Angludet complex earthy-coffee-cherries; focused, expressive and full. Supple and harmonious, lovely texture. Very adept. Very Good.

Brane-Cantenac ripe, spice, full, supple and substantial with a fresh core. Very Long. Very Good.

Labegorce red-fruited with green herbs; spicy, full and supple but less substantial. Good.

Marquis de Terme fresh berry fruit and spice; supple, harmonious. Long and plump. Good.


Lynch-Bages dark core, still tightly wound; focused and pure. Substantial. Expressive bramble, minty and spice emerging. Very Good Indeed.

Lynch-Moussas inky pencil shavings, bramble fruit, sweet spice. Supple and harmonious. Expressive with freshness and plumpness. Very Good.

Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande fresh, focused earthy minerality; substantial and long. Very Good.

Saint Estephe

Phelan-Segur fresh, bramble fruited with spice. Supple, pure and harmonious. Adept and long. Good

Sauternes & Barsac

Bastor-Lamontagne fresh overripe peaches. Good.

Climens complex, lightly roasted peaches with freshness; substantial and long. Very Good.

Doisy Daene peaches in butter with spice; lanolin and beeswax. Very Good.

Guiraud fresh, overripe peaches. Good.

Rayne Vigneau ripe, substantial, spiced overripe peaches with lanolin and beeswax. Just not quite as elegant as Suduiraut. Good.

Suduiraut complex roasted peaches in butter with spice; oily, waxy, unctuous nectar. Very adept. Very Good Indeed.

Other related articles
Cru Bourgeois 2014
UGC 2011

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Château Haut Gléon - Corbières

Les Vignobles Foncalieu’s premium Château Haut Gléon range from Corbières

Les Vignobles Foncalieu is a Languedoc-based co-operative dating back to 1901; in 2012, they bought the Château Haut Gléon estate - 35 hectares of vines situated in Paradise valley in Corbières

Foncalieu's wines can be characterised as well-made and classy, crowd-pleasingly enjoyable and well-packaged.

These two Haut Gléon wines, with their clavelin-style bottles, are more of the same - plus ambition. Both benefit from some aeration and will also repay a few years' cellaring.

Chateau Haut Gléon Blanc 2014 (£19.99, independents) 60% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc;  ripe orchard fruits with yellow flowers and sweet spices; fresh with layers of complex oak.


Match with roast fowl or creamy mushroom dishes.

Chateau Haut Gléon Rouge 2013 (£18.99 independents) 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Carignan; dark fruits, sweet spices and coffee. Fresh, plump and supple with fine, ripe tannins.


Match with roasted red meat.

Other related articles
Foncalieu at Quilon
Foncalieu Roses

Private Cellar - The Goods

Private Cellar Portfolio Tasting at RICS

Another year, another portfolio tasting from Private Cellar; with the wines chosen by MW Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler, quality is not in doubt. It is merely a case of style, preference and degree.

Here are the wines that scored a Good - New/Exclusive and Very Good+ will follow:

Arneis, DOC, 2015, Rocche Costamagna, Italy (£12.75) creamy-oatmealy, rounded and peachy

Chateau de Fesles Chenin Blanc La Chapelle, Vielles Vignes, Anjou 2013 (£13.35) curiously delicious old-school lanolin and beeswax; mineral and substantial

Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc, Springfontein, Walker Bay, South Africa 2013 (£14.95) pure, clean and mineral with herby cress

Maranges Vieilles Vignes Domaine Matrot 2012 (£22) raspberry fruited, delicate and elegant
Bourgogne Pressionnier (Gevrey Chambertin) Domaine Jospeh Roty 2012 (19.50) earthy, truffly savoury and mineral 

Ique Malbec, Mendoza, Bodega Enrique Foster 2013 (£10.25) red, black and sour cherries with freshness and spice

Terroir Selection Pinotage, Springfontein, Walker Bay, 2010 (£15.95) truffley-earthy, fruited-and-spiced, ripe-almost-jammy

Bourgogne Blanc, Sorin Coquard, Cote d'Auxerre 2014 (£12.50) adept, fresh and elegant with lime zest

Macon Bussieres, Domaine Gonon 2014 (£12.95) fresh, citrussy with brazil nut creaminess

Prosecco Ca' Bolani NV (£12.95) zippy, citrus and sherbet

Merotto Colbelo Prosecco Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2015 (£18.95) fresh, precise, elegant

Champagne Rose, Legras & Haas NV (£29.75) redcurrant fruit and brioche, fresh and elegant

Chateau Tayet, Bordeaux Superieur 2011 (£13.50) bramble and cool mint with minerality

Ch Tour Baladoz, Grand Cru Saint Emilion, 2008 (£20.95) adept and mellow; evolved nose, cherries and coffee

Joseph PhelpsVineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California (£27.50) full, substantial, creamy and complex
Other related articles
Private Cellar 10 years 

Friday, 14 October 2016

South Africa's KWV

Lunch with South Africa's KWV

Founded almost a century ago as a wine industry regulator before evolving into a co-op, KWV is now a privately-owned company making wine almost exclusively from bought-in grapes. This change in status allows it to focus more on quality than inclusion, argues winemaker Wim Trutter.

The company does have a few small parcels of land - the remains of a viticultural laboratory - from which it makes micro-cuvees.

My lunch with Wim and Marketing Manager Lisbet Olsen involves no South African wine and no Cape-style braai meat-fest, but a lot of discussion about the challenge of selling South African wine.
Ask me to name a go-to South African wine as a "first one to try" and I would struggle. I have tried and enjoyed many South African wines, but what the country stands for or where to start? That's harder.

I can, by contrast, characterise Burgundy and Chablis, I can tell you what to expect from a Marlborough Sauvignon or a Mornington Peninsula Pinot, but where to start with South Africa? There's no easy answer.

Is it like old-school Australia - warm-climate, fruit-forward "sunshine in a glass"? Or Spain, a source of improving, low-priced good-value wine?

Is it like Champagne - a place where production is separate from growing? Or Madeira, where other crops are raised alongside grapes?

Or all of the above?

I would love South Africa to have greater recognition in the UK, but right now, ask me to say in a few words what it stands for and I struggle.

The Cape's origins are as a refuelling stop-over for merchant ships plying the route from Europe to the East Indies - the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, the heritage of the Cape; there's a great story in there just waiting to be told.

Perhaps the brand value of the country doesn't matter - if you are happy to let the sommelier suggest a wine and you don't mind where it comes from.

But we don't all drink wine in restaurants and we don't all defer the choosing of wine to the waiting staff: we may insist on a Bordeaux or a Napa; we may buy wine in supermarkets or wine merchants where the starting point is country of origin.

Our decision-making architecture may shut off entire countries and regions before we even start if we only want to choose from a range of Old World wines.

So South Africa needs to stand for something clearly understandable and easily graspable.

Complexity and regionally can come later, but right now South Africa needs something as simple as "classy Bordeaux", "spicy Rhone" or "juicy Beaujolais".

Good luck.

Other related articles
Chenin Blanc Style Council
Oldenburg - The Long And Short of It

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Two Villa Maria Reds

Two Villa Maria reds from the Private Bin range

Villa Maria's wines have a quality, consistency and typical New Zealand freshness; Private Bin is the fruit-led, entry-level range.

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2015 (£13.35, The Co-op, Morrison’s, Asda, independents) earthy, mushroomy nose, with black cherry fruit, raspberries and spice. Very fresh, with fine tannins.

Expressive, interesting and thoroughly pleasant; and decent value for a Pinot.

Villa Maria Private Bin Shiraz 2014 ( £13.35 Wine Rack, independents) pencil shavings, red plum and spice with herbs. Very fresh, almost to the point of tartness.

Lacking substance on the mid-palate, the 2.5g of residual sugar hints at attempts to bulk it up a bit and balance out the acidity.

Match the freshness of these wines to a rare steak.

Other related articles
Villa Maria Pinot Noir

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Muskat Ihrystyy - Ukrainian Fizz

Muskat Ihrystyy from Kyivskyy Zavod Shampanskykh Vyn

This Ukrainian wine label reveals a lot of information - to those with the relevant linguistic skills.

It is a White Muskat fizz from the "Kyiv Factory of Sparkling Wines"; you must remember that the name dates from an earlier era when this part of the world was less enamoured of the concept of rural, artisan undertakings and when urban industrialisation was everything.

The wine was bottled a little over two years ago, but on pouring reveals itself to be already partly oxidised - topaz in colour with a cidery-yet-aromatic nose, it is almost as if someone accidentally tipped a bottle of vin jaune in the barrel.

This cannot be what was intended but the end result, however unusual, is not at all unpleasant - albeit, you probably have to be the open-minded sort of person who has tried both inexpensive Ukrainian fizz and vin jaune to appreciate the combination.

The acidity is fresh and citrussy, with cidery sharpness and florality; the residual sweetness is perceptible, but balanced off by the acidity.
Sealed with a cheap, hollow plastic stopper, it is clearly intended for imediate drinking, and has aged very quickly indeed.

But do rather I like it, in a happy accident sort-of-way.

Other related articles
Odessa Brut White Sparkling Wine
Oreanda Brut NV - Ukraine
Prince Golitsyn's Seventh Heaven Masandra

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Cognac Frapin and Tapas

Cognac Frapin dinner at Social Wine and Tapas

Like port, sherry or Madeira, Cognac is a production-method drink that warrants a larger audience.

Oak-aged like whisky, it has a grape-based complexity, starting life as a sharp wine made (generally) from Ugni Blanc before two distillations and at least two years' aging in oak.
It is best suited to starters and desserts, so works brilliantly with tapas - and surprisingly well as a cocktail ingredient.
Cognac is, let it not be forgotten, a place in France - just north of Bordeaux. The best, the Grandes Champagnes, come from grapes grown in chalk around Segonzac and are aged extensively in humid cellars, resulting in a dark, intense, wood-spiced spirit mellowed with age.

Lesser soils or dryer cellars result in a less-substantial spirit.

Quality standards set a minimum age for the youngest spirit in the blend and are, in increasing order, VS, VSOP and XO.
In the case of Frapin, a family-owned company dating back 20 generations to the 1200s, attention to detail means prices at the bottom are high while lack of international recognition means the best (relative) bargains are to be had at the top end.

A note on tasting: serve at room temperature in a straight-sided glass and swirl only very gently. Nosing just above the glass, to the side and the centre will highlight the varying aromas in the spirit. 
Pear cocktail ginger-beery with zippy, aromatic lime. Lovely.

VSOP aromatic roasted spices and woody aromas; viscose with harmonious freshness and florality. Very Good.

Frozen VSOP the oiliness and vanilla notes dominate when chillled. Good for a summer's day.

VSOP matches with salty and creamy foods, and worked well with ham and cheese croquetas, jamon iberico, oil and bread and hard yellow cheese.

Further ageing into an XO gives it earthier, woodier aromas that match with mushrooms and game. 
VIP XO from a humid cellar, it is big, wood-spicy and aromatic. Very Good.

XO Fontpinot aged in a drier cellar, essentially the same wine at birth, it matures into a more delicate, slender and mineral finished product. Like the daughter who went to a Swiss finishing school instead of somewhere in the north of England. Very Good.

Millesime 1991 vintage Cognac is a rare beast; this 20yo has a willowy, slender elegance, like it hung out with royalty at Uni then came back home and wowed us all. Sophisticated and complex, yet assured, graceful and elegant. Very Good.

Frapin One Cocktail an harmonious blend of Frapin with orange peel, chocolate bitters and elderflower.
The bitter-sweet cocktail is overpowered by our creme brulee, but the 1991 works brilliantly with it. 
Multimillesime a blend of three vintages, 1986, 1998 and 1991, it has been voted the best Cognac in the world. Complex, adept and harmonious. Very Good Indeed.

Other related articles
Cognac Frapin
Gosset Champagne Dinner at Hotel Du Vin Cambridge

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Visit To Flassan, Vaucluse

A week in Flassan, Vaucluse

Jancis Robinson once summed up Provence aptly as a dusty, lavender-scented corner of France.

At the foot of Mont Ventoux, Flassan is geographically in Provence, even if oenologically in the Rhone.

If you live in the South East of England, the Channel Tunnel is only a couple of hours away, meaning that, with an early start, you can be in Calais for breakfast and Burgundy for a civilised stop-over by mid-afternoon.

A further day's driving - or continuing until late evening if you keep the stops brief - will get you to Provence with its a combination of guaranteed hot weather, rural location, hills and lots of wine-making.

Needing a family-friendly, one-week summer break, we rented a cottage in Flassan, Les Hirondelles, with a heated pool and table tennis in the back garden, plus football / basketball opposite and a tennis court nearby.

Flassan is no more than a village, just a few hundred ochre-coloured houses set around a small but neat central square with hills on one side and vineyards on the other.

The village shop is a source of freshly-baked bread and a few essentials, but a better stop for basics is the Carrefour in Bedouin or Intermarche in Sarrians if you are coming via the A7.


Of the two must-sees in the area, one is in full sight from Flassan itself - Mont Ventoux. The highest mountain in this part of France and a mecca for cyclists who do not so much disdain cars as not quite understand why they seem to be there, the views are spectacular.
Equally picture-postcard stunning are the Gorges de la Nesque, a winding road that hugs a dramatic hillside with plenty of view points. Start, if you can at the lower end in Villes-sur-Auzon and the drive becomes ever more dramatic as you climb before descending tothe medieval village of Monieux which is worth a stop-and-stroll.


A walk into and around Flassan takes no more than a few minutes; but head up the road from the town square and keep walking along the footpath that it leads to and there are view points along the D217, as well as plenty of vineyards to stroll through of an evening.


Good, inexpensive wine is plentiful in this part of France - €5 or €6 will get you a Gold Medal bottle of something local of pretty much any colour.
If you want to visit a winery, your options are almost overwhelming, with offers of caves-degustation-vente popping up on almost every country road.

If you have time for just one visit, I recommend local co-op Cellier Des Princes just off the A7 south of Orange in Courthezon whose wines are notable for their consistency and freshness.


To the south, Avignon was the home of the papacy for seven decades in the fourteenth century and has a bridge celebrated in song.

Even older is the Roman amphitheatre in Orange - the best preserved in the west and an easy half-day visit on the return journey if you a re breaking the drive up into a couple of days.
Other related articles
Cellier Des Princes Cellier Des Princes: Chateauneuf du Pape
Afternoon Tea With the MW Students
Domaine St Jacques, Cotes Du Rhone - 2014
La Princesse IGP Vaucluse 2015