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Monday, 28 November 2016

Chablis and Rioja - The Re-match

Pairing a Chablis from Laithwaites and a CVNE Rioja. Again

Just to prove that the first successful pairing of Chablis with a starter and a Rioja with a main (plus cheese) was no freak occurrence, I decided on a re-run.

The wines on this occasion were only slightly less ambitious than previously and, in the case of the Rioja, actually drinking better right now.

The Chablis is actually a Petit Chablis - a junior Chablis grown on lesser soils with a more exposed aspect. However it is from genuinely old vines (a non-defined term) aged between 50 and 70 years; a well-executed lesser wine, what it lacks in terroir is compensated by age.

Domaine Dampt Petit Chablis Vielles Vignes 2015 (£13.99, Laithwaites) Orchard fruit, honeysuckle and toastiness; light, fresh and citrussy with good, mineral persistence. Pure, clean and adept.

Serve as a light aperitif.

CVNE Imperial Reserva Rioja 2010 (£24.40, Majestic, Co-op, Waitrose The Wine Society, independents) a hedonistic blend of ripe bramble and mixed berry fruit with spice and aged truffles, leather and gaminess. Fresh, substantial and supple with sweet vanilla spice and fine-yet-firm tannins. Very long and adept.

Very Good.

Serve with roast lamb or manchego.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Three Christmas Wines - Sensible, Classy, Funky

Three wines to keep in stock for Christmas

You never quite know what Christmas is going to throw at you; it's also an opportunity to try something new, just for fun.

So here are three wines to keep in stock - the sensible, the classy and the funky.

Dourthe la Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99 Waitrose) grapefruit and gooseberry fruit with white pepper, zippy citrus and cut-grass aromatics. Light and unpretentious but elegant, precise and deft.

Match with mozzarella and pesto or garlic and herb roulade.

Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port (£12 Tesco, Sainsbury’s) dark cherry fruit, roasted spices, eucalyptus and some mixed fruit; warming, fresh and long with fine-yet-firm tannins. Substantial with a supple, muscular core.

Match with bitter dark chocolate, chocolate and cherry torte or Christmas pudding.

If you want to mix things up, try this Taylor’s Festive Punch:

1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
6cl Taylor’s First Estate
3cl Cognac
Orange and lemon slices and sprinkled ground clove to garnish.
 Serves 1 or multiply for number in the party.

Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer. Serve warm. 

Croft Pink (£10.99 Virgin Wines 50cl) red-berry bubblegum with sweet red cherries, eucalyptus and spice; refreshing and vibrant.

Match with tarte aux cerises or duck breast with spiced cherry sauce; for something more adventurous, try panna cotta or white chocolate mousse.

Festive cocktail
9cl chilled Croft Pink
12cl Champagne or Prosecco
1.5cl Cointreau
2 dashes of bitter

More Croft Pink cocktail recipes here.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Private Cellar - The Very Goods+

Private Cellar Portfolio Tasting at RICS

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes round the moon

Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

Save The Best For Last (Vanessa Williams, 1991)

All the wines on show at the Private Cellar portfolio tasting scored at least a Good - I have written these up earlier, as well as the new and exclusive wines on show.

Here are the very best wines that got a Very Good or Very Good Indeed - note that is generally reflected in the price (especially for the Phelps wines).
Hautes Cotes de Beaune Blanc, Domaine Chevrot 2015 (£19.50) creamy, nutty, oatmealy and full. Very Good

Pouilly Loche aux Barres, Domaine Laurent Cognard 2014 (£20.50) full, ripe and substantial with a zesty zip. Very Good.

Wild Yeast Chardonnay, Springfontein, Walker Bay, South Africa 2012 (£17.95) substantial with Jura-esque tangy flor. Very Good.

Senorio de Bocos Roble, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2014 (£10.25) concentrated and fresh with oaky spice and bramble fruit. Very Good.

Chablis Domaine Watson 2012 (£21.90) substantial and adept with gooseberry and greengage fruit; still youthful. Very Good.

Champagne Tradition, Legras & Haas (£27.95) orchard fruit, brioche, fine mousse. Very Good.

Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Legras & Haas 2008 (£38) complex with brioche and bramley apple fruit. Very Good.
Petit Cantenac, Grand Cru St Emilion 2012 (£23) red and sour cherries with coffee grounds and spice. Fresh and precise. Very Good.

Clos Cantenac Grand Cru St Emilion 2012 (£38.95) animal, leather and oaky spice; adept, supple and complex. Very Good Indeed.

Chateaux Haut Breton Larigaudiere, Margaux 2010 (£29.50) complex and fleshy with earthy minerality, spice, bramble fruit and cool mint. Very Good.

Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California (£39.50) precise and deft with complex oaking. Impressive but in-yer-face. Very Good.

Jospeh Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California (£39.50) earthy truffles, black cherries and lots going on. Very precise. Very Good.

Jospeh Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California (£52.50) minty-blackcurranty and complex with seamless underpinnings. Very Good.

Jospeh Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley, California (£152) ripe fruit, savouriness, very long and adept. Very Good Indeed.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Chablis and Rioja - Matching For Dummies

A Chablis from Laithwaites and a CVNE Rioja

We go together
Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong
Remembered forever
As shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom
Chang chang changitty chang sha-bop
That's the way it should be
Wah-oooh, yeah!

- We Go Together, Grease (1978)

Chablis and Rioja are both food wines and complement each other like Grease's Sandy and Danny; a piercing, crystalline white to start, followed by a mellow, oaky red. What's not to like?

Chablis works as an aperitif or with seafood starters; mature Rioja matches garlic and rosemary lamb, or a cheese course.

It is, in short, a failsafe option; Food-And-Wine-Matching for Dummies.

Robert Nicolle Chablis 2015 (£14.49, Laithwaites) expressive with ripe apple-and-pear fruits, florality and beeswax; leesy and toasty. Hefty and substantial yet fresh.

CVNE Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2008 (£44.75, The Wine Society, Tanners) complex red and black fruits with dried herbs and sweet spices; muscular yet fresh with very fine, firm tannins.
Drinking nicely now and will improve further with age.
Very Good.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Sociando-Mallet Vertical Tasting

Vertical tasting of Sociando-Mallet at 67 Pall Mall with Richard Bampfield MW

Ni classé, ni bourgeois .. Sociando-Mallet tout simplement.
- Sociando-Mallet twitter biog

Neither a classed growth nor even a Cru Bourgeois, Sociando-Mallet is something of an anomaly. Based in the Haut-Medoc just north of St Estephe, it did not exist at the time of the 1855 classification and has opted not to enter the Cru Bourgeois system.
But, as Richard Bampfield notes, the terroir of Sociando-Mallet looks like Cru Classe, but the pricing is definitely in Cru Bourgeois territory - so a bargain for the consumer, then.

Before and during a dinner at 67 Pall Mall, we tasted  a vertical of both the grand vin and La Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet going back to 1998.

Two things struck me about all the wines; quality and consistency. Not only are they excellent in the good years, they are also very well made in the less-good times.

This is no mean feat; in the cooler, damper years of 2011 - 2013, I tasted many over-extracted, unbalanced Grands Crus that had been marred by too heavy a hand in the cellar. By contrast, the wines of Sociando-Mallet achieve a balance and elegance in every year, regardless of the conditions of the vintage.

As Pascale Thiel and Sybile Marquet explained; the harvest date is the key determinant of the character of the wines which are intended to reflect the vintage.
It will be no surprise to learn, then, that the wines I thought best were from the best years - 2010 and 2005, according to Jancis Robinson's "rule of 5".

Demoiselle 2014 bramble, cherry, coffee and spices; balanced, fresh and harmonious with very fine tannins. Very Good.

Demoiselle 2013 leaner and thinner, but still very elegant. Good.

2012 denser, longer and darker-fruited with a more muscular core. Very Good. 

2011 more opened-up and drinking nicely now; a good light claret. Good.

2010 earthy truffleyness, kirsch and black fruit; assured, muscular and dense, but still closed-up. Very long and adept with fine, supple tannins. Will repay aging; leave for 5+ years. Very Good Indeed.

2009 from a warmer year, more alcoholic, fruited and hedonistic; drinking nicely now but without the aging potential of 2010. Very Good.
2008 lots of primary bramble fruit; supple, fresh and elegant. Very Good.

2006 soft, supple and harmonious; lovely mature Bordeaux. Very Good.

2005 truffles, bramble fruit and freshness; classic aged Medoc showing beautifully now, but with further to go; harmonious and supple with lovely, fine tannins. Very Good Indeed.

2001 tarry, fresh, complex and aged, the red-plum fruit slightly drying out. Very Good.

Cuvée Jean Gautreau 1998 a selection of the best barrels of the year evolved and complex with truffles, tarriness, some rosehip and dried bell pepper - classic aged Medoc character. Very Good Indeed.

Other related articles
David Way's assessment
Douglas Blyde's highlights

Monday, 14 November 2016

Sherry Christmas

Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry

On a list of so-out-they're-in things, Cream sherry must be up there with the Milk Tray Man, Old Spice aftershave and vinyl records.

Socio-oneological historians may be intrigued to discover that there were once (lighter) milk sherries and (richer) cream sherries.

Milk sherries were forced to change their name since milk is good for you, so a "milk sherry" implied a misleading health claim. However, as cream is (apparently) an unhealthy indulgence, cream sherries were allowed to remain.

All that aside, this Harvey's Bristol Cream, whilst redolent of 1970s dinner parties, space hoppers and platform boots, is a rich, unctuous sweetie.

Harvey's Bristol Cream (£10, widely available) complex and fragrant nose with roasted spices; raisiny glycerol sweetness, savoury underpinnings and freshness.

Match with mince pies, toffee pecan tart or creme brulee.

And if you are a retro hipster, try these HBC sherry cocktails.

Harveys over orange

50ml Harveys Bristol Cream sherry
Slice of orange
Ice cubes

Pour Harveys Bristol Cream into glass filled with ice.
Garnish with a slice of orange.

Harveys Frosted Apple & Ginger

50ml Harveys Bristol Cream
50ml Apple Juice
Dash of ginger ale
Cinnamon stick
Mint and apple slices to garnish

Fill a glass with ice, Harveys Bristol Cream, apple juice.
Top up with a dash of ginger ale.
Swirl with a cinnamon stick and leave in the glass.
Garnish with a sprig of mint and apple slices.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Three Production-Method Wines from Tesco

Three wines defined by their production method - from Tesco

Asked about my favourite type of wine, the closest I get to a definitive answer is "wines defined by their production method".

It is a somewhat counter-cultural response - there is nothing artisan about a replicable industrial production method - and yet these wines, including sherry, port and Champagne, have an underappreciated classic quality.

When done well, of course.

Most production-method wines are, I suspect, happy accidents, turning underwhelming base materials into something more complex through the addition of a further process.

Serve the Champagne as an aperitif, with light starters or even roast chicken; the sherry will match with roasted almonds and olives or roast beef; drink the port with cherry and chocolate torte.

Champagne Taittinger Brut NV orchard fruit, leesy richness, biscuitiness and fresh citrus acidity with a mineral backbone. Complex, elegant and adept with a fine mousse. Good.

Harvey's Medium Dry Amontillado golden with wood spice and roasted hazelnuts; off-dry with roasted spices.

Graham's 10 Year Tawny Port roasted nuts, raisins and figs with herby-eucalyptus and red fruits. Good.

Other related articles
Production-Method Wines

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Two Cool-Climate Whites

Two cool-climate white wines from northern France

Earlier this year, I did two things - I swapped a load of old boxes for a bottle of Champagne from photographer Jean-Luc Benazet and I bought the remnants of sommelier Oscar Malek's wine collection.

I can't help feeling I got the better side of the bargain in both cases.

What these two wines have in common is that they are made at the margins of where wine production is possible and yet, they have a richness that comes partly through production method and partly through age.

The Loire was born in the year I went to university; the Champagne is NV but has signs of extended cellaring.

Champagne Meteyer NV Cuvee Marine fresh apples-and-pears orchard fruit, yeasty brioche and autolytic flavours; some aged character with a hint of briny oyster shells. Very fine mousse.

Fresh, elegant and deft.

Very Good.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.

Vouvray Moelleux Reserve 1989, Daniel Jarry complex and aged with baked apples, fresh peaches, sweet spices and beeswax, waxy lanolin and old leatherbound books. Long, mellow yet energetic, rich and substantial with a fresh, mineral streak. Feels barely more than off-dry.


Very Good Indeed.

Matches with savoury and sweet foods as well as cheese, but shows its best as an after-dinner sipper.

Other related articles
Somm Guys Have All The Luck
Two Special-Day Wines
On Jean-Luc Benazet

Bo Selecta! The New Douro Finds Its Soho Mojo

The New Douro

A while ago, Portugal was due to be the Next Big Thing; it had the grapes, the terroirs, the heritage. It had reinvented itself and the world was looking for something new.

Then it never happened.

Several years of Portuguese radio silence ensued while kiwi Sauvignon continued its dominance and Spain became our go-to Iberian country for plentiful ripe and fruited wines.

But, like Craig David, Portugal overcame its Bo Selecta! moment and, in an achingly edgy subterranean vinyl shop in Soho, it found its mojo again.
I tried only three producers and all were impressive.

But if I had to recommend just one to look out for, it would be Crasto.
Duas Quintas (Ramos Pinto)

Classic White 2015 toasty and citrussy; fresh, aromatic and mineral. Good.

Reserva White 2015 fuller, leesier and more persistent. Good.

Classic Red 2014 fresh, bramble -fruited, vibrant and supple

Reserva Red 2014 dark berry fruit, spice and pepperiness, fresh and supple with some firmness on the finish. Good.

Reserva Red 1994 rosehips on the nose but fresh red-plum fruit on the palate (volatile acidity, apparently); fresh, supple and long with mellow harmoniousness. Good.

Bom Retiro Vintage Port 2014 ripe and full, with brambly eucalyptus. Drinking nicely now, but probably won't age beyond 10-15 years. Good.
Quinta Do Crasto

Crasto White 2015 fresh, aromatic, citrussy and textured; supple and adept. Good.

Crasto Superior White 2015 fuller and richer. Good.

Crasto Red 2014 fresh, clean, berry-fruited and supple. Good.

Crasto Superior Red 2014 richer, spicier, fuller and more complex. Good.

Crasto Superior Syrah 2014 Rhone-esque dark fruit, spice, red and black peppercorns with supple freshness. Good.

Crasto Reserva Old Vines 2013 plump, full, complex and textured with dark fruit and spice. Very Good.

Crasto LBV 2011 eucalyptus and dark cherry fruit. Good.

Crasto Colheita 1997 harmonious, mellow, supple and complex. Very Good.
Quinta Vale D. Maria

Douro White 2015 fresh, citrus, sweet spices and nicely integrated oak. Good.

VVV Valleys Douro Red 2014 very fresh, dark fruited, minty and vibrant; easy-drinking.

Douro Red 2014 fresh and berry-fruited with vanilla and sweet spices; supple with some firmness on the finish. Good.

Vinha Da Francisca Douro Red 2014 fresh, mineral and minty with dark-berry fruit. Supple. Good.

Vinha Do Rio Douro Red 2014 complex but still closed-up with old-vine concentration; black cherry and dark berry fruit with spice and freshness. Supple, substantial and harmonious. Very Good.

CV Curriculum Vitae Douro Red 2014 fresh, dark berries and black cherries; elegant with an athletic, muscular core; fine, supple tannins. Good.

Vintage Port 2014 youthful and exuberant; lots of alcohol, fruit, spice and substance. Full of stuffing and still far too young. Very Good.

Other related articles
Noval Dinner at Cambridge Hotel du Vin
Quinta do Noval Tasting with Christian Seely

Monday, 7 November 2016

Groszer Wein, Csaterberg

Groszer Wein Csaterberg, an Austrian wine

Csaterberg is a hill - two hills to be exact, in southern Burgenland, a low-lying region of Austrian on the Pannonian plain near the Hungarian border.

If you need more of a back-story to this wine, it is a blend of Welschriesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grown on slate and freshwater opal then fermented in a mixture of oak and stainless steel.
For me, however, it is characteristically Austrian and reminds me of how I first fell in love with the wines of this country; full-yet-fresh; pure, clean and adept; it is at once both characterful and elegantly complex.

Rather like the Austrians themselves.

Groszer Wein, Csaterberg 2015, Südburgenland toasty with ripe citrus; fresh pineapple and melon fruit with sweet spice and a mineral backbone. Full, pure and long.

Very Good.

A versatile food wine, match with roast fowl, creamy pasta or cheeses.

The wine is imported into the UK by Newcomer Wines.

Other related articles
Two Austrian Wines via From Vineyards Direct

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Private Cellar - The News and Exclusives

The new and exclusive wines from Private Cellar's Annual Portfolio tasting at RICS

Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blancs 2011 (£39.95) zippy, fresh, elegant and leesy. Adept. Very Good.

Marmora Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, 2015, Italy (£9.90) floral, fresh, full. Good.

Cantosan Verdejo Vinas Viejas Yllera, DO Rueda Spain 2015 (£11.95) aromatic lemongrass, ripe-yet-fresh. Good

Summerhouse Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2015 (£12.75) pungent, aromatic and tropical. Good.

Marmora Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Italy 2015 (£9.90) fresh, vibrant and berry-fruited. Good.

Barbera d'Alba, Rocche Costamagna, Italy, 2015 (£13.25) red plums and spice. Good.

Merotto Colbelo Prosecco Extra Dry Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2015 (£18.95) fresh, precise, elegant. Good.
Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "Cuvee Les Sillons", Legras & Haas 2012 (£66) taut and precise, still young with green apple and pear fruit, brioche and oaky-buttery underpinnings. Good now to Very Good over time.
Ch Les Vieux Ormes, Lalande de Pomerol 2012 (£20.45) fresh, precise, mineral; cherries and coffee. Adept. Very Good.

Ch Chantalouette, Pomerol 2012 (£26.50) fresh, pure, focused, cherries-and-coffee, adept and complex. Very Good.
Othello, Dominus Estate, Napa Valley, California 2012 (£31.95) a David Hasselhoff of a wine; complex but jammy and crowd-pleasing. A grudging Very Good.

Vidda Tørr Gin, Norway, NV (£41.95) flavoured with 12 foraged botanicals (how artisan) and no citrus; deft, elegant and complex. Very Good.