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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Three Bordeaux Wines

Three wines from Bordeaux

Bordeaux is rightly best-known for its ageworthy reds - it does, however, produce the whole range of wines; fizz, white, rosé, red and dessert.

Here are three inexpensive Bordeaux wines that demonstrate the diversity of this region.

Fizz to start
Les Cordeliers Brut, NV, Crémant de Bordeaux Sémillon (Department 33, £12.83) traditional-method fizz with ripe orchard fruits, citrus, white flowers and yeasty, hazelnutty brioche. Elegant and refreshing with a fine mousse.

Good. Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.

Red with main
Château du Seuil, 2015, Graves (Virgin £14.99) classic Bordeaux bramble fruit, liquorice pencil shavings and spice with some aged chractaer of dried herbs and earthiness. Fresh, with fine, firm tannins.

Good. Match with roast red meat or stews.

Sweet to finish
Château Roumieu, 2012, Sauternes (The Co-op, £12.99 half-bottle) apricots, honeysuckle blossom, beeswax and candied lemons; sweet tropical fruits, sherbet, acacia honey, Sicilian lemons and overripe peaches with some musky beeswax. Long, sweet-sour-savoury and complex. Very Good. Match with crème brûlée or lemon torte.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Fairtrade Fortnight Wines From The Co-op

Two wines from the Co-op for Fairtrade Fortnight 2018

This year's Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 26 February to 11 March.

The Co-op has long understood that Fairtrade wines need to stand on their own merits - they should be first and foremost wines that people want to drink and only after that Fairtrade.

These two reds are both thoroughly enjoyable; both have a bit of age and are drinking very nicely now. The Lebanese wine is the more interesting of the two (in all senses).

Co-op Fairtrade Argentina Malbec (£7.49) ripe, dark-berry fruit, spices and violets; plump and supple texture. Fresh and juicy (just 12.5% alcohol) with no rough edges at all.

Match with a juicy steak.

Coteaux Les Cedres Fairtrade Red, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (£11.99) Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo and Arinarnoa blend; baked dark fruits, red cherries and plums with sweet spices. Some aged character of cigar box, woodsiness and leather. Very fine tannins and a fresh, mineral backbone.


Match with roast or barbecued red meats.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2015

A pleasing-yet-sophisticated "cool-climate" Californian Chardie from Waitrose

I don't normally go for big, blowsy oaky Chardonnays - especially from hot places like California. This, however, is a little different.

It is from Russian River in Sonoma and describes itself as "cool-climate" - that is, of course, by Californian standards, so it is still very ripe and fruited with 14% alcohol. However, there is enough complexity and freshness to make this interesting even to a Europhile palate.

Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (£17.99, Waitrose) ripe orchard fruits, honeydew melon and pineapple and creamy, oatmealy leesiness. Lush and rich; very adept and harmonious.


A versatile wine; drink as an aperitif or match with seafood or white meats.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Bancroft Wines - Spring Portfolio Tasting

Bancroft Wines' Spring Portfolio Tasting, held in the Dutch Church

I've long believed that you judge the quality of a wine merchant by their weakest wines, not their best. Pick a couple of bottles at random and if there's nothing bad about them, you're likley to be on to a winner.

Fortunately, all the wines I tried at this Bancroft Spring Portfolio tasting were throroughly enjoyable, many of them very impressive indeed.
Here are my top picks:

Westwell Wines, Kent, England
Recently acquired by new owners, the wines on show came with the purchase, so few details available; the range is wide - white, fizz, pink, dessert and even amphora - and they were all enjoyable and reasonably priced given their origin.
WS Special Cuvee 2014 (£22.45) elegant, pricise and mineral traditional metho fizz; low dosage; leesy with a firm, assertive backbone. Very Good.

Weingut Weszeli, Kamptal, Austria
Another newly-acquired winery, with an excellent range of GV and Riesling.
Gruener Veltliner Kaeferberg OeWT 2013 (£26.10) precise, complex and full gruener; restrained with stone fruit and some creaminess. Substantial, structured and long. Very Good.

Elena Walch, Alto Adige, Italy

Lagrein Riserva Vigna "Catel Ringberg" 2013 (£30.20) fresh and spicy with fine tannins; substantial with dark fruit and earthy truffles. Balanced, harmonious and poised. Still very youthful. Very Good.
Tacchino, Piedmont, Italy
Good range of classic reds, whites and an off-dry fizz.
Rosso di Monferrato, Di Fatto 2013 (£15.50) a blend of four varieties, spicy and darkly fruited with black and sour cherries, freshness and a firm core; long. Good.

Domaine Savary, Chablis
Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2015 (£36.70) rich, complex and floral-honeyed; fresh, with orchard fruit. Still very youthful. Very Good.

Domaine Ratte, Jura
Excellent biodynamic wines from Jura with a distinctive flavour.
"Nature" Savignan 2016 (£25.30) complex nose with struck-match and musky, cidery sharpness; fresh and piercing, yet rich and rounded; long, substantial and complex with good underpinnings. Very Good.
Valdaya, Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Valdaya Mirum 2015 (£31.80) very fresh and harmonious with dark fruit, spice  and very fine tannins. Elegant, substantial and precise. Very Good Indeed.

Hermanos Perez Pascuas, Vina Pedros, Ribera Del Duero, Spain
From the entry-level mid-teens to the top cuvee with a trophy price-tag, these were all excellent wines. Choosing here is really just a case of selecting a budget and taking your pick; it would be easy to single out the £200+ wine as the best, as indeed it was. However, in the real world, there is better value around £20.
Vina Pedrosa Crianza 2014 (£21.50) bramble fruit, spice, earthy truffleyness; harmonious, supple and complex with freshness and substance. Very Good.

Es Fangar, Pla I Levant, Mallorca
Mallorcan wines are not that often seen over here, but are worth seeking out.
N'Amarat, 2011 (£35.75) fresh, spicy and complex with dark-berry fruits and gamey truffleyness; elegant and supple. Very Good.

Bodega Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, Argentina
South America is all too often in thrall to the bigger-is-better style of wines that do well further north. The more interesting winemakers, however, are following a more European-style approach.
Icono Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (£63.20) fresh, vibrant and substantial with a muscular core; dense, energetic and concentrated. Still very youthful. Very Good Indeed.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Who run the world? Girls!

Two wines by women winemakers for International Women's Day

Who run the world? Girls!
- "Run the World (Girls)", Beyoncé (2011)

March 8th is International Women's Day - there are worse things you could do than raise a toast to the women behind with these two excellent wines:

CVNE Imperial Reserva 2012 (£26.00, Majestic Wine, Wine Rack, Coop, Waitrose, Tesco) a top-notch Rioja with a bit of age that is still very youthful. Plums and cherry fruit with dried green herbs, leather, peppery spice and cigarbox. Good freshness, minerality, very fine tannins and a firm, muscular core.

Very good; drinking nicely now and will continue to improve for many years.

Match with red meat, especially game.

Winemaker Maria Larrea says of beginning a career in wine: it is important to surround yourself with a good work team, observe the vineyard, study about other viticultural areas of the world. In short, always learn, enjoy work and always try to make the best wine.

Her most memorable moment so far: Undoubtedly, the award we received with Imperial Gran Reserva vintage 2004 as the best wine in the world for the Wine Spectator. It really was a prize for the long history of Imperial, more than 100 years as a wine of great quality.

Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuissé 2016, (£33.40, independents) a complex, youthful white Burgundy; citrus, stone fruit and acacia flowers, with creamy oatmeal, honey, sweet spices and nuts. Fresh, rounded and very adept with excellent underpinnings.

Good and will further improve age.

Match with meaty white fish, creamy cheeses or risotto.

Audrey Braccini winemaker at Domaine Ferret says of the most memorable moment in her career: when I started working in Fuissé ten years ago, the welcome from the other producers was a little bit cold… and this continued for some years after. You can imagine my joy when some of them came to me and said, with kindness in their eyes, ‘good job, great wines, it is a good thing you came!’.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Taittinger For Valentine's

Two celebratory wines for Valentine's from Taittinger

If you want to make a statement on Valentine's day, fizz is a good start; high-quality pink Champagne will show that you really know what you are doing.

Here are two from Taittinger.

Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé (£50.60 Waitrose, Asda, Wine Rack, Majestic, John Lewis, independents) delicate nose with some brioche leading to delicate ripe red-berry fruit; fresh and mineral with a fine mousse. Very elegant.


Drink as an aperitif or match with light seafood.

Taittinger Nocturne Rosé ‘City Lights’ NV (£54.50 Harrods, independents) fresh and substantial, with a fine mousse and the weightiness of a generous dosage; dry and balanced with orchard fruits, citrus and delicate raspberry. Refined and easy-drinking.


Drink as a sipper throughout the evening, or match with soused salmon or prawns.