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Sunday, 24 November 2019

Calmel & Joseph, Villa Blanche Malbec 2018

A substantial and dense Malbec from Pays d'Oc's Calmel &Joseph

In a free-association wordplay game, if you say "Malbec", I think "fruit-driven, often blowsy New World wines".

Malbec is, of course, a French grape and its spiritual home is Cahors in the South West. So, approach this wine not so much as a Malbec, and more as Pays d'Oc; it is dense, inky and substantial, a great food wine and not at all Big-and-Blowsy New World in style at all.

Calmel & Joseph, Villa Blanche Malbec black fruits, black olives and black pepper; inky texture, freshness and a dense, muscular core. A serious, substantial, textured wine.

Opens up with aeration and will improve with age.


Match with plain roast meat.

Imported by Daniel Lambert Wines

Friday, 22 November 2019

Taylor's Select Reserve Port - The Co-op

A warming winter fortified wine from The Co-op

If autumn starts with your first Big Spicy Red of the season, then port ushers in Christmas.

Port comes in various guises and this Taylor's Select Reserve is a good example of the most common style for everyday drinking.

It has everything you want from a port; fruit, spice, warmth and sweetness. It's a lot of port for not much money.

Taylor’s Select Reserve Port (£7.00 in E&W, £7.50 in S, from 6 November to 2 January, The Co-op) red, black and sour cherries, eucalyptus and oaky spice with prunes, raisins and liquorice; sweet, warming and supple with very fine, well-integrated tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable and good value.

Sip as a digestif; drink with mince pies or chocolate and cherry torte.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The CWB South-Off

Two Southern-hemisphere wine - a South African White and Aussie Red

At the end of the Australia Blind Tasting Club, we were invited to take a couple of bottles of left-overs. I picked these two pretty much at random; the standard was high and none of the wines was in any way disappointing.

Ghost Corner Semillon 2016, South Africa (Waitrose, £16.99) toasty, citrussy with some florality; fresh zippy lemon-lime, sage and mint, and linear, saline minerality. Clean, pure and elegant.


Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2015, Barossa Valley, Australia (New Generation Wines, £44.70) red fruits and sous bois; floral, fresh and elegant with red-berry fruits and mintiness. Complex, elegant and adept with very fine tannins.

Drinking nicely now and will age.


Saturday, 16 November 2019

Wine Australia - TBC

Blind Tasting with Wine Australia

For me, wine has always been as much a cerebral pleasure as visceral. I still remember sitting in a restaurant on a business trip to Vienna with just a newspaper for company and experiencing my first Wachau Gruener Veltliner. At first sip, I thought it was a good wine and carried on with whatever I was reading. By the end of the second glass, I had put down my paper and instinctively started to assess and interrogate it, to consider and reflect.

It was the start of a journey in which wine would be something not merely to be consumed but more akin to entering a conversation. Of course, there's quaffing plonk and plenty of basic wines that are thoroughly enjoyable but not memorable. These wines have little to say and what they do utter is at best bland small talk.

But beyond this, wine is a more cerebral experience, with tension, contrast, nuance and complexity. Like architecture, it has a structure; like painting it has depth; like sculpture, it has physical form. At this level, wine has a personality, it transcends mere entertainment to become art, conveying emotions and making a statement.

I don't especially enjoy the wine geeks' parlour game of blind tasting, just as I don't enjoy crosswords or accountancy exams; it's too much like the homework after the lesson and wine is after all not my job. But an opportunity on a quiet Monday night to taste a dozen wines blind at The Australia Centre was something different.

The organisers had enough of a sense of fun to make the questions more interesting than merely name the grape and region, and whilst we were invited to identify these, there were also questions about blends vs varietal, spotting the oldest wine in a flight and one ringer, a non-Aussie wine.

Flight #1 whites

I suspected this to be Semillon pretty much from the first sniff; it it has a characteristic toasty, dieselly nose and zippy limey acidity.

Arriving late to the party, the first wine I tried was low in acidity - for a Semillon; with hindsight, it had clearly been out a while. When it was replaced with a fresh bottle at the right temperature, the flavour profile was much more typical and it was an easier spot.

The ringer in the group was a South African Semillon from Ghost Corner, available at Waitrose. Whilst Australian Semillon, especially Hunter Valley, is A Thing, Saffer Semillon is a new one on me.

Flight #2 reds

Pale in the glass, cherry fruited and undergrowthy, I had these down as Pinots from the off. One wine was a brick red colour with dried out rosehip fruit and I concluded it was just past its peak.

More fool me; these were Nebbiolos and Sangiovese blends (yes, Australian Sangiovese - and not even my first encounter with this phenomenon).

Oh, and my "past-peak" wine was a Nebbiolo that was just going through a dumb phase and which, a fellow taster assured me, would open up again in a few more years.

Flight #3 reds

With ruby colour, spice and mintiness, fine tannins and some florality I was thinking Grenache for these and with one exception, they were all varietal Grenaches.

The Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2015 from this flight was perhaps the best wine on show of the evening; and yet, unlike other ambitious Aussie wines I have tasted before, it was not merely a pumped-up, pimped-up version of a standard wine. Rather it was more delicate, subtle and nuanced, something that only fully revealed itself on subsequent assessment.


Australia and Australian wine is clearly on a journey; that much was very obvious. It has done the "sunshine in a glass thing" and it has had the anti-warm-climate / steely white backlash phase; it has done the dumbed-down bulk wine thing and Big-Ass Trophy Wine. It has done the New Old World Burgundian thing and the New New World Western Australia thing.

Where Australia seems most exciting right now is in the sweet spot between everyday quaffers and over-priced, overambitious garagiste / Trophy Wines; wines mostly from independent merchants and mostly priced in the teens. These are wines with elegance and complexity, precision and structure; they show a European sophistication with an antipodean accent.

This is where the future of Australian wine lies, I believe - in business, the middle ground is the always hardest place to be and you can really only compete on price or quality.

A drive for better quality supported by sustainable pricing will benefit both Australian wine, by making it a more profitable sector, and also consumers, by offering a greater choice of well-made, elegant wines. More choice and more competition make everybody's world a more interesting place.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Chateau Purcari Maluri de Prut Feteasca Neagră Rara Neagră 2016

An ambitious Purcari wine from a corner of Eastern Europe via Virgin Wines

Would you pay £15+ for a bottle of Moldovan wine? Have you had a Moldovan wine before? Or even seen one?

This is certainly an off-the-beaten-track wine as far as geography and grape varieties go - anyone had a Feteasca Neagră / Rara Neagră blend before?

I once went through a stage of trying the most obscure wines I could find - partly due to a series of jobs that took me to plenty of small, little-visited countries in central and Eastern Europe.

So, I have something of a fondness for Feteasca Neagră, which is sort of Romania's answer to Syrah - plump, dark-fruited and spicy, even if Rara Neagră is completely new to me.

And checking my notes, I have tried Moldovan wines before - and been impressed. Just not very often.

Oenologically, it helps to think of Moldova as an extension of Romania; as well as linguistic, historic and cultural links between the two countries, many of the same grape varieties are cultivated and the styles (in my limited experience) are similar - clean, pure and fresh, food-friendly wines.

If you want a full deconstruction of the chateau and the wine:

- the chateau is located in the southern part of Moldova near the Black Sea between Odesa (Ukraine) and the Danube Delta (Romania)

- the Prut is a river and the fruit for this wine comes from vineyards on both sides of the river

- Feteasca Neagră and Rara Neagră are both indigenous Moldovan grape varieties

Maluri de Prut Feteasca Neagră and Rara Neagră 2016 (£15.99, Virgin Wines) deep plum, dark cherry and dark berry fruit with oaky spice; complex and fresh, full and supple. Harmonious with very fine, well-integrated tannins. A pleasing sour-cherry rasp develops with air. Very assured and adept.

Drinking nicely now, will improve with age.


Match with red meat.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Blue of The Danube - Wines to Buy

A selection of wines from Wines of Hungary's Blue of The Danube Tasting

Many of the wines shown at the Blue of The Danube are not yet commercially available in the UK. Here are the ones that are.

Varietal: Hungary

Szent Donat Magma Kekfrankos 2018 (£17.99, Novel) fresh and elegant. Good.

Szent Donat Single Vineyard Kekfrankos 2017 (£25.50, Novel) very adept cherries-and-pepper, concentrated and muscular, supple and harmonious. Very Good.

Gilvessy Kekfrankos (£18.95, Davy's) earthiness and cherry fruit, supple and soft with fine tannins. Fresh and vibrant. Good.

Blended: Croatia

Danjanic, Clemente, 2013 (£25, Croatian Fine Wines - M, CS, Teran, Borgonja) dark and inky with black fruits, beetroot, sweet spices and florality; grippy with very fine tannins. Very Good.

Varietal: Romania

Nachbil Blaufrankisch 2017 (£21, Boutinot) aged 2m in amphora, fresh, supple and elegant; textured and grippy with very fine tannins. Somewhat curious - in a good way. Good.

Balla Geza Blaufrankisch Stonewine 2017 (£18.90, Novel) woodsy-earthy nose, fresh, lifted cherry fruit, very fine tannins. Good.

Varietal: Austria

R+G Triebaumer Blaufraenkisch Reserve 2016 (£34.26, Alpine Wines) oaky and concentrated with dark cherry fruit; assertive and grippy with a muscular core. Very Good.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Domaine Gayda Figure Libre Freestyle

Two wines from Languedoc's Domaine Gayda

Freestyler... rock the microphone
Straight from the top of my dome
Freestyler... rock the microphone
Carry on with the freestyler

Freestyler, BomFunk MC's (1999)

Domaine Gayda's classy and elegant wines, with plenty of Languedoc warmth are perfect for that time of year when the days get chillier and the food heartier.

Big and substantial wines need big and substantial - and preferably autumnal - food to match; think pasta with mushrooms and cream or game, such as venison steak.

The philosophy behind Gayda's Figure Libre Freestyle is iconoclastic; turning its back on rules, it favours freedom, a desire to think outside the box and bring together grape varieties that would otherwise never have met in the same bottle.

And on that subject, both wines come in a heavy bottle, which makes the wine taste better (this is a true fact).

Jancis Robinson staffer Tamlyn Currin, makes it wine of the week (27/12/19) and calls it "stunningly good value and scrumptiousness from the Languedoc" in this review.

Figure Libre Freestyle Blanc 2017 southern white blend of Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Marsanne and Roussanne; floral and toasty, citrus, melon and tropical fruits with sweet spices. Saline, full and supple. Deft, waxy and warming. Substantial and will age.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with lighter game or mushroomy pasta.

Figure Libre Freestyle Rouge 2017 GSM+C blend. Dark fruits, dried green minty herbs, woodsy undergrowth and oaky spice; full, supple and warming with fine tannins. Generously but not excessively extracted. Drinking nicely now and will age.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with big, autumnal foods, such as hearty casseroles or venison steak.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Andresen LBV Port

An LBV Port from Andresen via Laithwaite's

LBV is the impatient drinker's vintage port - it is a vintage port, as in being from a single year and not blended across years. However, unlike actual vintage port, LBV (late-bottled vintage) is aged in wood for several years and then bottled as a ready-to-drink port.

Vintage port, by contrast, goes straight into bottle and generally requires years, if not decades, of quiet maturing (and often a lot of decanting to remove sediment) before being ready to drink.

LBV has the plumpness and primary fruit of youth, the richness and sweetness of port and if it is not as complex as a vintage port, it is a step-up from a basic ruby.

I'm generally not a fan of Laithwaite's wines, but I found myself appreciating this; you can probably get better ports for less elsewhere, but there is no reason to avoid this one. It has an IWSC Bronze medal, which roughly translates as "perfectly fine with no rough edges, but nothing really special".

Andresen LBV port 2011 (£16.99, Laithwaite's) sweet, ripe red and black cherry fruit, dark plum and cassis, oaky vanilla spice, eucalytpus and warming alcohol. Full, concentrated and expressive; fresh with very fine tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Drink as a digestif; match with dark chocolate, mince pies or Christmas pudding.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Calvet At London Restaurant Festival Awards

A tasting of Calvet wines at London Restaurant Festival Awards

I had never actually heard of the London Restaurant Festival. Or was aware that it had an awards party. Whoever knew?

Well, Calvet obviously did, as they sponsored it and invited me along to try some of their wines.

Overall, this was very good winemaking from good fruit; fresh, elegant wines, well-made and well-judged with no faults and a deft hand in the cellar.

All the wines scored highly for consistency, but the fizzes particularly stood out as vibrant and compelling. How often do you go to a Bordeaux tasting and get struck by the sparklers?
Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut White 2015 fresh, elegant, chalky saline-mineral with some brioche and autolysis and florality; fine mousse. Vibrant and thoroughly enjoyable.

Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2016 fresh and elegant, more weighty and substantial than the white; fine mousse. Overall, more textured, substantial and measured. Adept and thoroughly enjoyable.

Calvet Reserve Bordeaux Blanc 2018 floral and aromatic, fresh, citrussy with zingy lemongrass and lime fruit; creamy-leesy brazil nut and minerality. Well-made and elegant. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Calvet Reserve de Remparts St Emilion 2018 lifted and aromatic with red and black cherry fruit, liquorice, coffee grounds, oaky spice and some florality. Fresh, harmonious, balanced and long with fine, sinewy tannins. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Two Classy Reds from The Co-op

Two classic reds from The Co-op - Bordeaux and Rioja

As the nights get longer and the days chillier, we move inevitably towards bigger reds.

There are many reasons why you might want something a little classier, something with a few years' age that will impress, be it for a birthday, anniversary, dinner party or just to check out possible Christmas wines in advance.

Whatever your reasons, the Co-op has a Bordeaux and a Rioja that go beyond mere everyday quaffers.

Château Tour Du Pas, St-Georges-St-Emilion 2015 (£15) a right bank Bordeaux from a good year, this is  produced by former winemaker from Château Ausone

CUNE Imperial Rioja Reserva 2015 (£19.75) a great wine from a great producer that drinks nicely when still youthful and only improves with age