Tuesday, 27 April 2021
Monday, 26 April 2021
Burgundy will tell you that Pinot Noir is fickle, pale, elegant and expensive.
While all of this is true to a greater or lesser extent, other parts of France will invite you try Pinot's charms more reliably and more affordably.
There was a time when it was only Burgundy's white grape, Chardonnay, that had successfully gone around the world and become everyone's favourite "glass of white".
Now, increasingly, the red Pinot Noir is finding more areas to its liking - even if, being thin-skinned, prone to disease, and liking only cooler climates, it is never an easy grape to grow.
Its thin skin means paler, softer wines and this perhaps explains its popularity; with low colour and tannins, it occupies something of a middle ground between red wines and white in much the same way as other popular styles, such as rosé or kiwi Sauvignon.
Food-friendly yet easy-drinking, approachable in youth but with the potential to age, Pinot seemingly has it all.
These two Pinots are both from non-Burgundy France, and specifically from warmer climates than the Côte-d'Or.
They have more alcohol, colour and depth than many a red Burgundy - and a much lower price tag.
Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019, Pays d’Oc, France (£14) ripe black cherry fruit with raspberry, spice and something slightly herbaceous; fresh and savoury with very fine but persistent tannins. Well-made, precise and elegant.
Improves with some aeration.
Match with tuna tartare or roast duck.
Calmel & Joseph say of their wine: An appealingly cherry red. Aromas of red and black fruit and pomegranate seeds announce a wine of great freshness and superb tension. An impression confirmed in the mouth that opens with fresh summer fruits such as wild cherry and finishes on more spicy, peppery and floral notes. A poised and magnificently balanced wine.
Louis Latour Pinot Noir Les Pierres Dorée (£20-22, Whitebridge Wines, Bakers and Larners of Holt, Mr Wheeler, La Zouch and The Drink Shop.com)
Les Pierres Dorées, (‘golden stones’) is a small sub-region of Beaujolais about 40km north west of Lyon, often referred to as ‘Little Tuscany’ thanks to its steep hills and landscape dotted with golden stone buildings.
The soils here are clay and limestone, very similar to those found in Burgundy. The vineyards are planted at the same altitude as Burgundy, so the grapes can ripen, yet retain their critical, natural acidity. This very specific terroir, coupled with ample sunshine, a warm climate and cool night-time temperatures give the wine its incredible aromatic complexity when vinified with Maison Louis Latour’s signature elegance.
Dark for a Pinot, with a complex, toasty nose of roasted spices and dark fruits; elderberry and dark plum with oaky spice and mint; cassis and cherry fruit; grippy and persistent. Savoury and complex with a full mid-palate.
Improves significantly with aeration and will repay some cellaring.
Match with slow-cooked breast of lamb - recipe here: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: Slow Cooked Breast of Lamb - And a Pinot Noir
Louis Latour says of this wine: The calcareous soil rich in iron oxide which confers him a very particular ochre color, as well as altitude, contribute to produce this surprising wine which associates richness and freshness with a beautiful aromatic complexity. Bright and intense red colour with red-garnet lights.
On the nose, we discover a gourmet blend of flowers, red berries and soft spices. On the palate, it is crunchy, round and ample. The Pinot Noir from the Pierres Dorées terroir off ers a wine with a great freshness, underlined by concentrated black fruits aromas with a superb length.
Vinification notes This region offers beautiful argilo-calcareous soils, the plots selected by Maison Louis Latour form two islands and are situated on the villages of Morancé and Theizé. With a continental moderate climate, vineyards benefit from an ideal period of sunshine but the temperatures are relatively fresh between 280 and 400 meters in altitude. Traditional vinification. 10 to 12 months ageing stainless steel vats and oak barrels
Pro reviews of Les Pierres Dorées:
JancisRobinson.com (2016) - 16 pts Sweet red fruit and a good herby note – great flavour definition here, and it finishes with fragrant floral character. Light and short, but satisfies the Pinot flavour criteria. (RH)
Wine Spectator (2015) - 88 pts Balanced and fresh, with cherry, ground spice and currant notes, this medium-bodied red shows undertones of mineral and herb through the tangy, lightly tannic finish. Drink now through 2020
James Suckling (2016) - 89 pts An attractively light and charming pinot noir with some nice, warm and dry tannins. There is also friendly acidity for this often-tart category. Drink now or in 2019.
Pro reviews of Le Sentier
Jancis Robinson (18/03/2020) Certified organic. Single vineyard. From their own property. Smells like cherry pie and stick cinnamon. Dry but ripe. Tannins like a comfortable cup of proper builder’s tea. Neither too much nor too little. Touch of green in the flavour (not the texture). Light-bodied, neat, pointed on the finish. Exceptionally good for a Pays d'Oc Pinot. Tamlyn Currin 16.0 / 20
Jamie Goode: Organically farmed Pinot Noir. Aromatic cherry fruit nose with some cedar and spice notes. The palate is supple and sweetly fruited with plums and berries, a touch of raspberry, and some savoury cedar spice notes. It’s nicely balanced with some savoury grip on the finish. Amazing to have a Pinot Noir this fresh and balanced from a warm climate. Lovely weight, finishing dry and grippy. 91/100 (£14 UK retail)
Tuesday, 13 April 2021
For Part #1 see here.
When you start to take more than a casual interest in wine, one of the first questions is often: how do I find good wines?
Masters of Wine have some of the best-trained palates in the world, so are a reliable guide to what is considered good in wine.
You don't have to agree with them, of course - preferences are highly personal. But it's a good idea to learn the rules before you can break the rules.
These three wines from Vineyard Productions all have something of a house style or family resemblance; beyond being merely well-made and adept, they have a food-friendly mid-palate savouriness from extended lees aging.
This is not, I'm told, a Vineyard Productions identikit approach, but rather just one of tools in founder Liam Steevenson's toolkit.
Liam grew up in the wine trade and was the youngest person to qualify as a Master of Wine; with an ambition to make wine but no actual vineyards, he set up a series of partnerships with various winemakers to make small amounts of wine using their grapes.
The plan was to start with very small quantities and deliver a proof of principle; if the wine worked and sold well, he would then seek to make it in larger quantities the following year. He now makes wines all over the world from Languedoc to New Zealand via Portugal, Spain and even India.
He also stocks
Céu na Terra Alvarinho 2019 (around £17)
Expressive Alvarinho from the inland part of Portugal's Vinho Verde area, this is closer in style to a kiwi Sauvignon blanc; fuller bodied with some skin contact for gentle tannins and lees aging for depth, it is fresh and zippy.
It is made by Quinta de Santiago just inside the Portuguese border from grapes grown on clay (for fruit) with a mixture of Atlantic climate (for freshness) and some continental influence (for ripeness).
Aromatic and complex nose with zesty tropical fruits, lemon curd and brioche; full, supple and refreshing with lemongrass, lime marmalade and savoury, saline minerality.
Drinks nicely on first pouring but can be aged for several years.
Fresh enough for an aperitif, it will match with white meat and herbs: pork terrine, monkfish in broth or Moules marinière
Fincher & Co. The Dividing Line Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 (around £20)
Hand picked, straight to barrel feral ferment and left until November - then a blend selection is taken place and prepped for bottling in February
The wines shows quite dramatic funk and citrus notes with underlying exotic fruits and floral tones.
The extended time on natural lees give the wine an unexpected texture as well as a deliciously nutty character. A full bodied style of Sauvignon Blanc with a dried herbal edge, vibrant acidity and a long, persistent finish
Match with grilled fish especially squid or swordfish. Dishes with herbs and greens - salmon with dill, for instance, but great with recipes that contain basil, coriander, rocket and especially mint. Salads with goats cheese and feta, asparagus, avocado or grilled red peppers, fresh tomato salads or salads with fennel, mango or papaya
El Garbi Blanco Terra Alta 2019 (around £24)
Grenache blanc from high sites in north eastern Spain near the Mediterranean coast.
Rich and textured with apricot, golden apple and sweet spice; toasted brioche, fennel and aniseed with a long lingering finish; full and supple.
Pairs with a diverse range of food flavours, particularly suited to richly spiced dishes especially those containing cumin. Try with chicken satay, Chinese 5-spice sea bass, tempura shrimp, lobster, Moroccan tagine, roasted pork shoulder or creamy cheeses.
Monday, 12 April 2021
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Both these whites from Daniel Lambert are somewhat unusual in their own way and carry a certain amount of bragging rights if you like off-the-beaten track bottles.
That said, you could also just enjoy them for being inherently good wines as well.
Fabien Murail Le Clos des Chaumes, Fiefs Vendeens Blanc, 2020
Fiefs Vendeens is the region - a small zone in Vendee close to the west coast of France south of Nantes. Mareuil is the sub-region, some 20 miles inland from the coast.
In practice, this means a maritime climate with a bit more warmth than, say, Muscadet country but the freshness of the Atlantic. It also allows for a wider range of grape varieties; Chenin Blanc (minimum of 50 percent), Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, plus Melon de Bourgogne (the Muscadet grape) and Grolleau Gris
The region was officially created only in 1984, but winemaking here dates back to Roman times and covers red, white and rosé wines.
Winemaker Fabien Murail uses a blend of 60% chenin blanc and 40% chardonnay for this Le Clos des Chaumes.
Floral with honeysuckle and white flowers; yellow stone fruits, ripe orchard fruits and fresh, citrussy pineapple; full and supple with a saline minerality.
A versatile food wine, match with richer dishes such as roast pork or monkfish in beurre blanc.
This would also be a great wine wine to serve blind and see if anyone can guess the blend or region.
Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Penchant 2019
I have been a fan of Calmel & Joseph's Languedoc wines for some time now and it was their Malbec that first led me to importer Daniel Lambert.
Calmel & Joseph is a "maison de négoce" specializing in Languedoc-Roussillon wines from across the region. Over the years, they have built close personal relationships with a large number of growers from all appellations. Convinced of the extraordinary potential of this region, oenologist, Laurent Calmel along with Jerome Joseph work together on the vinification, blending and ageing of wines with the common purpose of demonstrating the little known yet unique quality of these Mediterranean terroirs
Sunday, 4 April 2021
Thursday, 1 April 2021
I don't generally do politics here; I leave that for conversations around the watercooler or over the dinner table.
But it is impossible to talk about Daniel Lambert Wines without mentioning the eponymous owner's recent campaign to raise awareness of the additional red tape faced by wine importers since Brexit.
Like science, The Virus and Marcus Rashford, Daniel Lambert can be credited with pretty much single-handedly forcing the UK government into one of its regular U-turns. In his case it involved an obscure but costly and pointless bureaucratic document called the Vi-1.
Take away the technical details and you can read this as just another example of the lie that was Brexit coming to light. Or you can see one man's struggle on behalf of an entire sector for common sense and pragmatism to prevail over simplistic, jingoistic state-sponsored gaslightling.
Opinionated and not afraid to speak truth to power, Daniel is a man after my own heart.
He also sells some superb wines.
I know this because he imports a Calmel and Joseph Languedoc Malbec that I liked a lot.
I discovered that that wine was not merely a fluke when I subsequently tasted my way round his portfolio in London, just prior to lockdown.
As I noted at the time, there was nothing I didn't like; all the wines were at least Good, and many were much better than that (David Kermode's take is here).
After a twitter exchange, Daniel sent me a selection of his wines to try. I started with a Spanish Chardonnay and an Austrian red.
Enate Chardonnay 234, Somontano, Spain
An area in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Jancis Robinson describes Somontano as "another Spanish wine region worthy of international attention". More specifically, she characterises it as a small and growing region, potentially one of Spain's most exciting, even if much of its produce tends to be fashioned in the image of international classics. She singles out producer Enate, saying that they make some fine reds and whites from imported grape varieties.
Tasted blind, you'd be forgiven for having no idea where this wine comes from; it has a warm-climate topicality and breadth with a European complexity and elegance. It hints at the perfumed richness of Alsace with the waxiness of the Rhône.
Floral and aromatic with tropical citrus fruits and toasty leesiness; pineapple, melon and passionfruit with fennel, ginger and warming sweet spices; savoury, leesy and waxy with just enough freshness to hold everything together. Very clean, pure and long.
Match with rich, Alsace-style dishes such as pork with creamy sauce or mature hard cheeses.
Weingut Pfaffl Plum St Laurent, Lower Austria
Austrian whites were my first love, but I am a more recent convert to the country's reds. Where the whites are austere and structured, the reds are generally delicate and juicy. Think Chablis vs Beaujolais.
St Laurent is a signature Austrian red grape along with the more well-known Blaufraenkisch; while both grapes are Pinot-esque, this St Laurent is more Gamay than Burgundian.
Dark purple with cherry and custard aromas; juicy and spicy with black cherries and dark-plummy fruit, pencil shavings, inkiness and spice with some florality; juicy and fresh with a gentle firmness and good savoury underpinnings.
Fresh and versatile, an easy quaffer or picnic wine with the freshness for tuna tartare, mixed anti-pasti or roast chicken.