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Saturday, 29 February 2020

Top Selection Portfolio Tasting - The Pictures

Pictures from Top Selection's portfolio tasting at Asia House, London

Top Selection have neither a heritage name (someone & someone) nor an edgy, funky name like Rude, Naked or Virgin.

Instead, it is functional and bland. Technically correct yet uninformative and unimaginative.

So you'd be forgiven for assuming the wines are equally … meh.

And you'd be wrong, quite wrong.

From classics, both traditional and modern, to up-and-coming regions and quirky offbeat wines, the quality and range here was uniformly excellent.

Fuller details to follow, but for now, enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Premier of Villa Maria's "Vintage" Documentary

The London premiere of Villa Maria's documentary, Vintage

Making wine is romantic and bucolic, right?

Well, on a good day, it can be; and it can also be a lot of other things as well. New Zealand winery Villa Maria has released a documentary highlighting the incredible highs and heart-breaking lows of making world-class wine.

Billed as essential viewing for wine enthusiasts around the world, it launches on Amazon Prime on 27th February 2020 and explores the challenges, skill and dedication required to bring a wine vintage from grape to bottle.

But don't just take my word for it, Oz Clarke says of Vintage: New Zealand’s vineyards have rarely looked more alluring. The winery processes seem challenging and intriguing and are explained in an easy, lucid style, and the bunch of local Kiwis and foreign drop-ins the director has assembled to talk us through the 40 days from picking the first grape to closing down the final vat, are an engaging crew who tell us really interesting, personal stuff.”

The premiere also afforded a chance to try some of Villa Maria's wines. The standout was the Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2019.

Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2019, £10.26 Ocado citrus, grapefruit and passionfruit with aromatic nettles and herbs; weighty, supple and substantial with smoky spice.


Match with salmon or pork rillettes.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Warner's Rhubarb Gin

A pink gin for Valentine's, from Virgin Wines

Say you need to get a Valentine's present and you're not sure what to get. You want it to be special, classy and meaningful, something you hope the object of your affections might invite you to share. Something that looks both pretty and sophisticated. And, being a discerning sort of person, you are prepared to spend a bit of money.

A bottle of Warner's Rhubarb Gin might be just the thing; it looks and smells better than wilting petrol station forecourt flowers.

Authentically British, it is handcrafted by Warner Edwards from a 200 year old barn; it combines award-winning Harrington gin with rhubarb from Queen Victoria's personal crop, originally grown in the kitchen garden of Buckingham Palace.

It comes in a smart tin and you can add a special message. to your loved one - something along the lines of "Hubba, Hubba", perhaps.

Warner's Rhubarb Gin (Virgin Wines, £40.99) aromatic pink gin, with pepper, cardamom and cinnamon spice, citrus peel, elderflower; sweet and tangy, it is 1/3rd pressed rhubarb juice, giving a sweet and viscous texture.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Solevari Reserve Feteasca Neagra 2017 - Virgin Wines

A crowd-pleasing red from Romania, via Virgin Wines

For many years, I used to travel to Romania on business; I never fell in love with Bucharest, but the wines were something else. Fresh, clean, well-made and elegant, they were everything the Romanian capital is not.

Feteasca Neagra is Romania's signature red grape; it is ripe, full, dark-fruited and spicy, something of an Eastern European Syrah. It goes well with steak, which is also something Romania excels at.

This wine is made by Cramele Recas, an award-winning Romanian winery with UK and Aussie connections. And rather like Transylvania's most famous undead count, it is dark, sleek and crowd-pleasingly charismatic.
Solevari Reserve Feteasca Neagra 2017 (£12.99, Virgin Wines) expressively ripe, plump and spicy with dark fruits and plenty of toasty, vanilla-coconut oak. Fresh, vibrant and juicy with good underpinnings and very fine tannins, this is a sophisticated crowd-pleaser.

Thoroughly enjoyable and drinking nicely now straight out of the (screw-top) bottle with some evolution.

Match with steak.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Heranca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012

An LBV port from Taylor's, exclusive to Virgin Wines

LBV is a vintage port, i.e. made with grapes from a single year, that is aged in wood for several years before release.

This means that it matures more quickly than vintage port and so is ready for earlier drinking; while vintage port can mature for decades, LBV is intended to be ready for drinking on release at between four and six years from the vintage.

This Heranca LBV, however, is eight years from vintage and still very youthful; it benefits from extensive aeration and feels some years off its peak. There's nothing not to like now, it's just there will be more to love if you can hold on to it for a while.

Heranca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012 (£14.99, Virgin Wines) rich, warm and spicy with vine fruits, prunes and figs plus classic porty eucalptus and sweet spice; dense, concentrated and viscose with a firm muscular core.

Improves with aeration and will age further.


Match with chocolate-and-cherry torte or drink as an after-dinner digestif.

It also gets a nod from the Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/food-drink/wine/best-ports-wine-9788055.html

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Schnaitmann Simonroth Lemberger 2016 - Virgin Wines

Lemberger - Germany's take on Central Europe's great red grape from Virgin Wines

They say life's too short for a German wine label; this one is not excessive, but still hardly snappy.

However, there's really just one word you need to know here and it does not even appear anywhere on the bottle; Blaufränkisch.

Blaufränkisch is central Europe's great red grape; dark-skinned and late-ripening, it has cherry and bramble fruit, spice and fine tannins. In cooler climates, it is delicate, elegant and Pinot-esque; in warmer regions it is fuller, with darker berry fruit, deeper colours and a minty Bordelais character.

Blaufränkisch has many names - Frankovka, Frankovka modrá, Franconia, Kékfrankos and Lemberger - and they all generally mean the same thing, Blue Frankish.

Germany already does brilliant Pinot, so great Blaufränkisch should come as no surprise.

Schnaitmann Simonroth Lemberger 2016 (£24.99, Virgin Wines) berry and cherry fruits with peppery spices, pencil shavings and cloves; soft, elegant and harmonious with very fine tannins. Savoury and fresh with a dense, muscular core.

Somewhat closed up on first opening, it improves with aeration, so don't be afraid to decant; will repay some cellaring.


Match with elegant Burgundian food such as escargots, beef bourguinon or Bresse chicken.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Chateau Haut Gleon Rouge 2016 Corbieres France

A sophisticated and well-presented Foncalieu wine from Corbières

Corbières is part of southern France's Languedoc Roussillon; this attractively-packaged Haut Gleon is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.

Despite the Rhône grapes, stylistically, however, it feels more right-bank Bordeaux, with Merlot-esque cherries-and-coffee flavours along with a pure, fresh precision.

Chateau Haut Gleon Rouge 2016 Corbieres (£23.99, Fine Wines Direct, Master of Malt) dark cherries, coffee grounds, woodsiness and spice. Focused and pure with very fine tannins. Fresh and well-structured.

Drinking nicely now and will continue to improve age.


Match with plain roast red meat or darker game..

And if you like the idea of trying the wine in situ, Haut Gleon also does accommodation.