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Friday, 28 May 2021

Three South African Sparklers

Three traditional method fizzes from South Africa

South Africa has the planet's oldest soils and its winemaking dates back to the 1600s.

As well as the usual table wines, it also makes a traditional method fizz, with in-bottle fermentation; previously known as MCC, it is now called Cap Classique.

2021 is a landmark year for South Africa’s premium sparkling wine producers as they celebrate 50 years. Bottle-fermented and produced using the Methode Champenoise, they compete in quality with the world’s top sparkling wines but don’t carry the price tag. They are hailed as ‘the world’s best value bubbles’, offering the perfect celebratory bottle for those reuniting after time spent apart.

The elegant aperitif

Laborie (KWV) Laborie Blanc de Blancs 2015 (c. £15, Majestic)

Made from just Chardonnay grapes (aka "Blanc de Blancs"), it is a warmer-climate Champagne-alike with more generous flavours; ripe orchard fruits, green apples and pears with citrus and classic biscuity-yeasty nutty brioche.

Good.

Drink as an aperitif.

The food wine

Villiera Tradition Brut NV (£16 - £18 Simply Wines Direct, Handford Wines, Broadway Wines)

Aromatic with green apple and ripe orchard fruits, citrus and toasty brioche; baked apple fruit sprinkled with sugar and sweet spices, gingerbread and creamy-nutty oatmeal. Ripe, weighty and full with some residual sugar but cut through with fresh acidity to a dry finish.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with seafood vol-au-vents or salmon en croute.

The pink one

Pongracz Brut Rosé NV (£15 - £18, Harvey Nichols, Master of Malt, The Champagne Company)

Chardonnay - Pinot Noir rosé blend from Stellenbosch.

Red berries, orchard fruits and citrus with yeasty brioche; full, complex and rounded; elegant, fresh and linear with  bright acidity and saline-minerality.

Good.

Match with mixed starters and buffet food.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

The CWB Burgundian Chardonnay-Off

Two Chardonnays - Burgundy and Western Australia

Easy to grow, easy to vinify, easy to pronounce and easy to drink; Chardonnay is one of the world's most widely grown grapes and arguably the most versatile.

From cool-climate fizz, to oaky sunshine-in-a-glass, it is made into a range of styles; its spiritual home is Burgundy where it makes complex, elegant food-friendly wines with, at most, moderate oaking.

Western Australia has been called the new New World, but has something of an Old World restraint and balance, with sea breezes on two sides. Its Chardonnays are distinctly Burgundian.

Mâcon Uchizy, Mallory & Benjamin Talmard 2019 (£14.85)

At the south of Burgundy, Macon is the George Harrison of the region, often overshadowed by more northerly appellations and therefore proving excellent value compared to the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. 2019 was a great year for wines giving more concentration and intensity.

Floral with acacia and orchard fruits; ripe white stone fruit, ripe and supple yet fresh with sweet spices and savouriness and white pepper on the finish; saline-mineral; full, concentrated and supple;  Lively and adept.

Very Good.

Match with roast white meats, cheese or seafood.

2019 Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay (£14.99–17.99 Majestic, Specialist Cellars, Aus Wines Online)

The natural freshness of Margaret River stands out. Ample sunshine and strong daily sea breezes preserve the vibrant fruit notes and acidity. The fruit for Filius Chardonnay is selected from multiple clones and sites that produce elegant, lighter fruit flavours and it’s this style of fruit from these patches of the vineyard that makes the finesse of this wine harmonious. The result is a fine Chardonnay with a clean bright palate, gently softened texture and delicate balanced creaminess.

Orchard fruits, honeysuckle and and complex toasty-oaky spices; beeswax, pineapple, lemon sherbet and ginger with citrussy freshness and lime marmalade zest plus savoury-buttery-oatmealy leesiness. Ripe yet taut, full yet linear.

Very Good.

Enjoy with or without food. Pair with summer salads, white fish, seafood, creamy pasta and roast chicken. Perfect for summer grazing and al fresco dining.

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Further notes from Vasse Felix:

All Vasse Felix wines, from vine to bottle, are controlled within the estate. The fruit is chosen from Vasse Felix’s four vineyards where each site is planted with the best suited grape variety and clone to correspond with the unique topography and micro-climates of each block. Virginia Willcock, one of the most awarded winemakers in Australia, adopts a 'hands-off' approach in order to capture the flavours and qualities found in the vineyards. The grapes are harvested, fermented and matured in small, separate parcels before each barrel is graded and blended for the final wine. The land is farmed using traditional and organic (NASAA Organic Certified) and by nurturing the soils, achieve better health and balance and ultimately higher quality fruit.


Further notes from Private Cellar:

With all 30 hectares planted out to Chardonnay, it would be easy to imagine that Mallory and Benjamin Talmard might become a touch habituated to one style of wine but, instead, they celebrate the differences between their crus, which perfectly illustrate the importance of soil. Their Mâcon Uchizy comes from limestone rich soils, giving it immense poise and elegance with a lovely lovely citrus thread running through it. Superb in magnum as well.

Pale gold with an intense, citrus-infused nose and creamily rich palate, this is racy and young and always impresses. A great wine for parties, weddings and events. "The Finest white I have tried this year." A glowing customer review in The Field, following our first Field Wine Club offer. 

Sunday, 23 May 2021

The CWB Bordeaux-Blend-Off

Two Cab-Merlot wines - aka Bordeaux Blends - from France and Australia

Château Tayet, Bordeaux Supérieur 2016
Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet-Merlot, Margaret River 2019

Cabernet-plus-Merlot is the classic Bordeaux blend.

But why blend grape varieties?

For practical reasons, growing two grape varieties make commercial sense for vignerons in a marginal climate like Bordeaux where vintage variation is significant. Grown on stony soils, Cabernet likes the heat, so does well in a hot year; Merlot tolerates heavy clay soils and is an easier ripener for cooler, damper years.

For aesthetic reasons, Cabernet and Merlot blend well together and compliment each other's flavours and tannic profiles.

Completists will note that Bordeaux grows a number of other varieties that are on occasion also blended in, such as Cabernet Franc and Carmenere. Both these wines contain a small amount of a third grape; the Tayet has some Petit Verdot and the Vasse Felix some Malbec.

They are both similarly priced and of similar quality levels, so it really comes down to personal preference.

The Bordeaux is older with more aged complexity, is lower in alcohol and more of a food wine.

The Aussie wine has more ripeness, more fruit and a degree more alcohol; it is ripe enough to drink without food and its fruit flavours will stand up to more robust dishes such as barbecues. 

Château Tayet, Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 (£14.95, Private Cellar)

Tayet has more than a passing resemblance to Margaux as it is just metres from the boundary, with racy red and black fruits, a light tannic bite behind, to a rich, spiced finish, punching way above its weight.  Winemaker for over twenty years, Jean-Michel Garcion believes that all the wines should drink well in youth but have the wherewithal to age, and that each should reflect its location.

Bramble and berry fruit, cigar box and damp earth with roasted spices; ripe plums, cherries and blackberries with graphite, old leather and cedarwood; good acidity and very fine, supple well-integrated tannins.

Very well-made; harmonious and balanced and drinking very nicely now, but will gain further complexity with age.

Very Good; it has a Gold Medal from the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

Match with plain roast red meat - perfect for Sunday lunch.

Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet-Merlot, Margaret River, Western Australia, 2019 (£14.99–17.99 Booths, Specialist Cellars, Aus Wines Online, Winedirect.co.uk)

This wine incorporates fruit from each of the four Vasse Felix vineyards; a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon gives it a dry tannic structure with a generous portion of 42% Merlot making this a succulent wine with approachable tannins. A small amount of Malbec accentuates both varieties.

This vintage was particularly labour intensive as the Marri Blossom, which normally protects the fruit from birds, was non-existent, resulting in the largest netting programme ever seen at Vasse Felix, which resulted in beautiful quality fruit.

Ripe, spicy and blackcurranty with green herbs, dried oregano, sage and lavender, cut through with juicy acidity; full and supple with very fine tannins

Drinks nicely on first opening; the complexity becomes more evident with aeration.

 Very Good.

Match with with red meat - lamb, pork, beef - cooked on a barbecue or as a Sunday roast. 

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Further reviews:

Tayet: 

"A classy Merlot-driven claret, from vineyards just outside the Margaux appellation. It's drinking beautifully at this age, showing savoury leather and cigar box notes plus ripe plum and blackberry. Fresh acidity, supple tannins and cedar oak spice complete the picture."

Decanter Magazine, Weekday Wines, December 2020 edition.

As a vintage, 2016 was 10/10 and this elegant, Merlot-rich beauty is gloriously approachable. Sloshed into a decanter it would pass for something far, far pricier."

Jonathan Ray, The Field, November 2020

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Paul Mas Picpoul de Pinet 2020

A Languedoc Picpoul from Paul Mas

The only thing worse than Lockdown is Lockdown plus Bad Weather. 

All. Year.

From January to late May.

At least last year's summer-long heatwave meant that you could sit in the garden or enjoy going for a walk without having to pile on the layers.

The second year of Lockdown is proving even more of a drag than the first not least because the weather seems permanently stuck in late-winter mode; cold and wet.

But, with under a month until the longest day of the year, the weather must turn good soon, shouldn't it?

If you are still on the Big Reds, there's hope that things will improve and we can move onto summery whites soon.

Picpoul, from Languedoc, is a classic summer sipper that matches well with seafood, such as oysters.

It is light, refreshing and zippy; a southern alternative to Muscadet.

Vignobles Paul Mas Picpoul de Pinet, 2020 (£7.50, Co-op)

Green apple, pear  and white peach with tropical lemon-and-lime fruit, acacia and and hawthorn blossom; herbaceous, mineral and refreshing, mouth-filling green apple; balanced and structured.

Good.

Drink as an aperitif, summer sipper or with seafood. Or take on a picnic.


Midweek Wines' Brian Elliot makes it his runner-up for Best Picpoul in 202: 


Friday, 21 May 2021

Two Provence Rosés

 

Two adept and elegant rosés from Provence - both available at Waitrose

Most places in the world make rosé; but Provence is the benchmark in the same way that Champagne sets the standard for sparkling wines.

Rosé is fast catching up with Champagne as a beautifully-presented aspirational drink that commands something of a premium. Unlike Champagne, rosé does not involve an elaborate production method and is relatively quick to make, so it has been easy to increase production in line with rising demand.

Provence rosés are typically pale and elegant in what has become perhaps the most-emulated style.

Both these wines exemplify all that the UK loves about rosé from Provence in the South of France: delicious, approachable and easy to drink, but with complexity of flavour, refinement and a winemaking pedigree that comes from centuries of winemaking at the highest level.


UP | Ultimate Provence 2020 (£17.99, Waitrose, The Wine Caverns, Kingscote Estate Vineyards retail shops in Bluewater and Lakeside)

A blend of Grenache Noir (30%) Cinsault (30%) Syrah (30%) Rolle (10%) 

Onionskin colour, grapefruit zest, pine and wild Mediterranean herbs on the nose; white stone fruit, pink grapefruit, zesty citrus, melon and ginger with white pepper spice; full, supple and long, concentrated and intense. Very textured

Very Good - 90 Points from Wine Enthusiast.

Drink as a summer sipper or match with roasted meats and classic Mediterranean flavours like Greek Souvlaki or charcuterie.

Château de Berne Or, Cotes de Provence 2020 (Waitrose, £13.49)

Grenache Noir / Cinsault / Syrah blend.

Ripe apricot and white stone fruits with citrus, redcurrants and strawberries; sage-and-rosemary herbal complexity; subtle and elegant

Very Good - 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast.

Drink as an aperitif or match with picnic foods.

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Further information on the wines

Ultimate Provence

Ultimate Provence prides itself in a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere allowing visitors to discover Provence and its wines here in a delightfully original setting.

At Ultimate Provence, the gentle pace of the seasons and vines is an ode to pleasure, fun experiences and enriching encounters. Sporting a casual decor and offering premium service, the Cellar introduces visitors to the vineyard's intensely-aromatic wines in an offbeat atmosphere. It is a temple of well-being, hedonistic pleasures, discovery and enriching encounters.

The Ultimate Provence vineyard spans 100 acres around the town of La Garde Freinet, at the northern foot of Notre Dame des Anges chapel.

Set in wild countryside and bordered by a vast evergreen oak forest, the vineyard is characterized by shallow soil, laid on a waterproof subsoil sandstone slab. This excellent terroir is nourished with a natural compost of oak leaves and vine stalks. Set in wild countryside and bordered by a vast evergreen oak forest, the Ultimate Provence vineyard is characterised by shallow soil, laid on a waterproof subsoil sandstone slab.

This excellent terroir is nourished with a natural compost of oak leaves and vine stalks. The plots are marked out with grassy areas. A perfect wine to take to a BBQ and serve with grilled chicken and vegetable skewers. The spice notes will compliment roasted meats and classic Mediterranean flavors like Greek Souvlaki or charcuterie.

UP | Ultimate Provence is a forward-thinking and progressive winery, which makes a range of accessible, flavour-forward wines that benefit from a unique terroir and prime grape-growing conditions. Immediately recognisable from its chic, art-deco bottle, UP Rosé is a blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache and Rolle, with classic Provence rosé notes of red berries in addition to fresh citrus and herbaceous pine.

Known for its commitment to sustainability and its gorgeous location at the edge of the Maures Nature Preserve in Provence, UP | Ultimate Provence is also home to a beautiful and contemporary boutique hotel. With 15 rooms and a full range of apartment-style accommodation, in addition to its bistronomy-style UP Restaurant, cocktail bar, retail space and more, the destination is a paradise for wine lovers looking to get up close and personal with this quintessential Provence winemaker.

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Chateau de Berne

A vineyard that can trace its roots back almost two millennia, Château de Berne has been making classic Provence rosé from its beautiful 1,700-acre grounds for generations. Its flagship wine, Berne Or, is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, an elegant and refined wine with floral notes of freesia and stone-fruit notes, including peach and apricot, on the palate.

Château de Berne encompasses a five-star Relais & Château estate, including a hotel and spa, private villa accommodation, as well as a cocktail bar, Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Jardin de Berne, and a cookery school.

It carries a sustainable ethos in its hospitality operations as well as in its winemaking, sourcing seasonal and local ingredients in its restaurants and farming its grapes organically.

Berne Or is available exclusively from  (Currently on offer in Waitrose at £9.99) Both are sure to be a hit with British drinkers looking for high-quality and characterful wines and to further explore the world of Provence rosé, the perfect partner to sunshine, alfresco eating and good times.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Poshed-Up Crisp White and Big Red

Two wines for a sophisticated lunch, supper or dinner party - Pink Fizz and Classy Red

Crisp White and Big Red is something of a modern staple for Wines to Have with A Meal; something fresh to start with, followed by a full-bodied red to match with a hearty main course.

Plenty of wines will meet this brief and a more-special occasion often demands no more than trading up to a Chablis Cru or a Sancerre for the white followed by a slightly older Rioja / Bordeaux / Rhône for the main.

If, however, you want to go in a different direction, consider a pink fizz and a classy Spanish red - Henriot Rosé NV and Familia Torres Purgatori.

If you want to quietly impress someone - your boss, new neighbours, the in-laws - with your sophistication, knowledge and generosity, you could do much worse than to serve these two wines over a simple but exquisite supper of smoked salmon followed by venison casserole. 

Both these wines have back-stories worth telling once you've moved on to brandy and cigars, but what matters most is what's in the glass.

Starters

Henriot Rosé NV, Champagne (around £55 from Liquorice, North & South Wines (by the case), Loki Wines, Amazon) 

One of Champagne's oldest family-run houses, Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims is vinified as a red wine and is added to Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs with some Pinot Meunier.

Aromatic yeasty brioche, red berries with florality, white pepper and cloves; redcurrant, red cherry and wild strawberry with freshly squeezed lemon, pink grapefruit, mandarin  and candied fruit; linear and textured with a persistent minerality. Intense yet elegant and balanced; linear yet rounded, precise yet generous, very sophisticated.

Very Good.

Match with marinated salmon, crab and pea shoots, chicken Caesar salad or smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar.

Mains

Familia Torres Purgatori, 2017, Costers del Segre, Spain (around £20, independents)

A blend of Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah, aged in French oak (40% new) for up to 18 months.

Red and black cherries with spice, damp soil, oaky spice and violets; plum, dark-berry fruits and sour cherries, scrubby garrigue herbs and grilled flavours with pencil shavings; assertive, very fine and well-integrated tannins; full and supple yet fresh. Concentrated, intense and complex.

Drinks nicely on first opening; can also be cellared.

Very Good.

Match with roasted, grilled or barbecued red meats or a plate of cheese and cold cuts, especially Ibérico ham.


Notes from the producers:

Henriot

Champagne Henriot, established in 1808, has remained in the same family-ownership for over 200 years and is now run by 8th generation family, Gilles de Larouzière Henriot.

The Champagne comes from one of the oldest family-owned houses in Champagne, enjoying seven generations of uninterrupted ownership since the late 1700s. Champagne Henriot's Rosé Brut is obtained by adding Pinot Noir vinified as a red wine to the assemblage.

Rosé Brut is made up of a majority of Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. More than 15 crus are blended, including the following vilage crus: Avize, Chouilly, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Verzy, Verzenay, Avenay, Vertus, Trépail and Epernay. A small percentage of Pinot Meunier adds a delicate fruit note to the wine. 

As with all their Champagnes, Henriot select grapes from the very best vineyards in Champagne’s Grands Crus and Premier Crus. Each parcel of grapes is fermented separately to capture the individual characteristics of its terroir and village, allowing Henriot’s cellar master, Alice Tétienne, to reproduce the Henriot’s ‘house style’ blend each year.

Henriot Rosé is a blend that showcases the very best Pinot Noir grapes (50%) from the Montagne de Reims, whilst retaining the freshness of Chardonnay (40%) and a small percentage of Pinot Meunier (10%) adding a delicate fruity note.

Henriot Rosé also contains a proportion of precious reserve wines which make up 35% of the blend. Every bottle is left to rest in the cool, calm surrounds of Henriot’s cellars in the centre of Reims, for three years.

Torres

Familia Torres Purgatori was the first ever Torres’ single vineyard wine from the DO Costers del Segre, an area in the Penedès known for its arid lands, extreme climate and harsh conditions. The name of the wine pays homage to the wayward monks of Montserrat Abbey, who as far back as 1770, were sent here, to the Desterrats estate, to carry out their penance and provide food for the Diocese. They soon discovered this inhospitable place was perfect for growing grapes and making wine. Legend has it that enormous barrels of the wine they produced mysteriously disappeared, with some saying that ‘the angels have taken them away to heaven’.

The actual explanation is probably more earth-bound. As it was good enough for the monks to make wine, it posed an attractive proposition for Familia Torres, who acquired the historic 870-hectare L’Aranyó estate in 1999. Torres began the recovery of its wine-producing past, planting the vineyard with Cariñena, Garnacha and Syrah and preserving the centuries-old olive trees.

Thanks to the harshness of these conditions, these typically Mediterranean varieties adapted well to the terroir, contributing to the uniqueness and elegance of Purgatori. Familia Torres 

Stored under the right conditions, Purgatori will keep for 10 years. Patience really does have its rewards. Today there are 200 hectares of organic vineyards, distributed from 330m to 550m altitude at its highest point, of which 50 hectares are used to make Purgatori. 

The intense summer heat, lack of water and limestone soils favour slow ripening of the grapes giving rise to wines of great aromatic intensity. The vines produce some of the lowest yields in Catalonia and are hand harvested at perfect ripeness, often in lots two weeks apart. The grapes are manually processed into separate batches to preserve the integrity of the fruit, each of which adds a different profile and character to the wine.

This is one of Miguel Torres Maczassek’s personal favourite projects as the estate is also an excellent testing ground for ancestral grape varieties that the family has recovered in the last thirty years, not only for winemaking potential, but also to see if they are also resistant to climate change. Among them Querol and Gonfaus have adapted to the extreme climate of the area. A new winery was built in 2018 linking the old farmhouse built by the Benedictine monks, seamlessly blending the modern and old architecture. Stainless steel and custom-built concrete vats, using rocks from the vineyards themselves, are used for vinification. Familia Torres Purgatori 2017 – bringing the past to the present. Heaven can wait.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Two Riojas From Baron de Ley

Two Riojas from Spain's Baron de Ley

Rioja comes in both traditional and modern styles; traditional Rioja is aged extensively in oak for complexity and mellowness while the modern approach emphasises aromatics and freshness.

As ever in life, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, plenty of fruit without losing complexity or food-friendliness.

These two wines from Baron de Ley are both very much in the modern style; pure, fresh and clean with generous fruit.

They are well-made and easy-drinking but also complex, sophisticated and adept.

Spain's Barón de Ley is based in Rioja; housed in a centuries-old monastery, where the monks made wine more than 500 years ago, Barón de Ley was founded in 1985 as a ground-breaking project in DOCa Rioja: a vineyard-focused winery inspired by the Médoc châteaux.

The winery owns more than 600 hectares of vineyard in different sub-regions guaranteeing top-quality wines with personality.


Rioja Blanco 2019 

A blend of Viura, Garnacha blanca and the somewhat rare Tempranillo blanco, grown at altitude for freshness.

Modern, fresh crisp and aromatic; white peach, white flowers, lemongrass, citrus and fresh green peppery herbs, white pepper, saline minerality and zesty lime and grapefruit zippiness; creamy brazil nut underpinnings; taut, precise and linear.

Good.

Match with herby chicken, saltimbocca, or cod in a parsley broth.


Rioja Reserva 2016

Varietal Tempranillo fermented in stainless steel for freshness, then aged in oak for complexity and bottle aged for mellowness.

Red fruits, spice and leathery balsamic; ripe yet fresh berry fruits, pepperiness and sweet spices, wild herbs; full and supple, harmonious with rounded, well-integrated tannins, concentrated and long.

Improves with aeration and will age further.

Good.

Match with roast red meat, darker game or roast chicken.

Baron de Ley recommend matching with Riojan potatoes, a pottage of potatoes and chorizo ​​with nuances of bay leaf and chorizo ​​pepper. It also pairs with white meat, mushrooms and mushrooms and vegetable stews.



Fuller details from Baron de Ley's website

Rioja Blanco 2019 

VARIETIES

Viura, Garnacha blanca, Tempranillo blanco

VINEYARD

The vineyards characterise the quality of the grapes for this vintage. Tempranillo Blanco grapes come from our vineyard Finca Carbonera, the highest growing point in the DOCa Rioja, with vineyards ranging from 700-950m (2300- 3100ft.) in elevation.

The natural farming characteristics of high altitude vineyards, including sandy permeable soil together with the Atlantic climatic influence, provide ideal conditions for making fresh white wines with elegant, crisp acidity.

Garnacha Blanca is grown in our estate in Rioja Oriental, Los Almendros, with Mediterranean climate and shallow sandy-limestone soils with calcareous gravel, this variety retains its fresh and fruity character.

Viura is from our Arenzana estate in Rioja Alta, which location provides the perfect conditions to farm Rioja’s most characteristic white variety.

The result is an utterly fresh and balanced wine perfectly rounded thanks to Garnacha’s fruity character.

VINIFICATION

Low temperature maceration and fermentation in temperature-controlled concrete vats preserve the aromatic expression and provide the tension, or long finish, which characterise the white wines of our Technical Director, Pablo Tascón.

ALCOHOL 12,5% vol 

Rioja Reserva 2016

VARIETIES

Tempranillo

VINEYARD

Barón de Ley Reserva is made using Tempranillo grapes from our vineyards in the Rioja Oritental subregion, mainly the estates in Mendavia and Los Almendros in Ausejo. The grapes from this area provide a concentrated, balanced and drinkable character to this wine.

VINIFICATION AND AGEING

Following manual harvest and manual selection, the grapes ferment in our temperature-controlled state-of-the-art stainless steal vats where we search for the ideal balance between extraction and aromatic preservation. After a minimum of 20 months ageing in American-oak casks, this wine finds its plenitude rounding off in the bottle.

ALCOHOL

14.5% vol

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Two Warm-Climate Chardonnays


Two warm-climate Chardonnays at different price points

Easy to grow and make into wine, easy to pronounce and easy to drink in a food-friendly sort of way, Chardonnay has a justifiable claim to being the world's most versatile grape, growing everywhere from chilly English chalk hills to sweltering Australian outback via Chablis, Burgundy and all points in between.

Chardonnay's strength is its relative neutrality which makes it highly versatile; it's the wine world's equivalent of chicken.

It also tolerates and responds to a wide range of growing conditions; in a cool climate, it is lean, citrussy and crisp with high acidity. In warmer climates, it has flavours of honey and tropical fruits.

Here are two distinctly warm-climate Chardonnays that show off the variety's tropical flavour profile.

If you find yourself liking the entry-level South African wine, the Spanish chardie is a good trade-up for more special occasions.

Eagle's Pass Chardonnay, South Africa (£7, Co-op - reduced to £5 until 18/05/21) 

South Africa has the planet's oldest soils and has no problem with ripeness; the challenge is more about maintaining acidity.

This wine comes from the Western Cape area which covers most of the wine-growing area and has the benefit of cooling sea breezes to help maintain freshness.

Honeysuckle, yellow stone fruit and toasty melonskin; rich, full and warming with sweet spices and ripe tropical fruits with some supporting oak.

Easy-drinking and thoroughly pleasant - serve well-chilled to enhance freshness.

An easy bbq / picnic quaffer, the ripeness will stand up to richer dishes, such as creamy curries or popcorn chicken.


Enate Chardonnay 234, Somontano, Spain (£12 - £14, Daniel Lambert, indies)

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.

Good.

Match with rich, Alsace-style dishes such as pork with creamy sauce or mature hard cheeses.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Calmel & Joseph Languedoc Reds from Daniel Lambert


Two Calmel & Joseph reds from Daniel Lambert

I've long been a fan of Languedoc in general and Calmel & Joseph in particular; I've also been impressed with pretty much everything I have tried from Daniel Lambert's range of well-made, technically adept wines that are complex enough to to be serious yet also easy to enjoy.

For years Europe's "wine lake", Languedoc has successfully reinvented itself as a go-ahead region of innovation and quality.

Much like indie or punk rock (in the very broadest sense), Languedoc wines combine stylish innovation with an edgy urgency over something very pleasing indeed.


Languedoc is, then, in the process of becoming a modern classic wine region.

This focus on quality and innovation but without the long-standing heritage is something of an advantage for the buyer; at its simplest, it means lower prices for the same if not better quality when compared to more established regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhône which can charge more of a premium for the name on the label regardless of what is in the bottle.

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019, Pays d’Oc, France (£14, independents) 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.

Good. 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.


Calmel & Joseph Les Terroirs Vieux Carignan, IGP Côtes du Brian 2019 (£14, independents)

100% Carignan from vines planted in 1890 with a long growing season in 2019.

Ripe red and black cherries, dried blueberries and cinnamon spice with dried green herbs; rich, full and supple with very ripe tannins.

Good.

Match with robust dishes such as wild boar sausages.

Other reviews:

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019

Jancis Robinson.com (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

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Two Wines from the Rhône's Vidal-Fleury

 

Two wines from the Rhône's Vidal-Fleury

The region - Rhône

The Rhône is one of France's great rivers. rising in Switzerland and draining into the Mediterranean in the Camargue delta; if its wine have a defining feature, it is that of being substantial.

As a vineyard, the Rhône divides neatly in to the North (cooler, smaller, more prestigious, more expensive) and the more diverse South.

The North makes red wines from Syrah and whites from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. By contrast, the South produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends.

The Côtes du Rhône appellation covers all of the southern Rhône; the reds are usually dominated by Grenache, whites are more varied.


The history - Vidal-Fleury

Located in the Northern Rhône's Côte-Rôtie, Vidal-Fleury is the oldest continuously operating wine producer in the region.

It was founded by Joseph Vidal in 1781 and visited by Thomas Jefferson, then United States Ambassador to France, in 1787.

In the 1890s, Gustave Vidal married a young lady named Fleury and the estate became Vidal-Fleury. the bride's dowry was invested in replanting the vineyard after the devastating attacks of phylloxera.

In in 1984, with no heir to take on the estate, it was sold to the Guigal family who had a long and close history with Vidal-Fleury, allowing the the business to flourish whilst still operating independently.

The most substantial changes have taken place more recently; anew winery was opened in 2008 and a new winemaker Guy Sarton du Jonchay joined the company to set about reviewing and improving the Vidal-Fleury range.


The grapes - Viognier (white)

Viognier is something of a sun-worshipping hedonist; high in alcohol and low in acidity, it is full-bodied, perfumed and rich. Until relatively recently, Viognier was something of a niche grape - hard to find and expensive to buy - but it is starting to make a home for itself around the world

The Grapes - Grenache (red)

Grenache is a thin-skinned, low acidity / low-tannin red grape that needs warm temperatures to ripen and is most commonly blended with Syrah and Syrah and Mourvèdre - the classic "GSM blend".


Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2019 Vidal Fleury (£12 Majestic) 

A Viognier-dominated blend with some Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc; gown on clay, granitic and sand soil at 150m to 250m.

Rich and peachy-apricotty with acacia, honeysuckle, ginger and tropical citrus fruits; richly almondy and waxy with sweet spices and a herbal-minty edge.

Good.

Drinks nicely on first opening and continues to improve with aeration; serve well-chilled to enhance the freshness.

Match with richer dishes, such as chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, risotto with cream cheese or roast pork.

Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2017 Vidal Fleury (£12 Majestic) 

65% Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and some Carignan; grown on a mix of soils including pebbly soils over clay, mostly from the southern Rhône Valley at an altitude of 150m to 250m.

Red and black cherries, bramble fruits and dark berries (elderberries and blueberries) with garrgiugue herbs, spice, mintiness and graphite; some gaminess and aged leather; warming yet fresh, full and supple with very fine tannins

Good.

Drinks nicely on first opening and continues to improve with aeration. Now four years old and will age further.

Match with Lyonnaise sausage or a herby cassoulet with duck confit.


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Two Rathfinny Wines

A brace of English fizzes from Sussex-based Rathfinny

Mark and Sarah Driver, owners of Sussex winery Rathfinney, are not short on vision - as they explain on their website:

Our ambition is that in twenty years’ time you will walk into a bar or restaurant in New York or Beijing and you’ll be asked, “Would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex? I can recommend Rathfinny.”

Based on these two wines, that is not an unreasonable expectation; the quality is in no doubt, so the only challenge that remains is raising awareness.


How it all began - The Rathfinny vision

Mark and Sarah Driver established the Rathfinny wine estate in 2010 on a working arable farm with the express intention of producing some of the world’s finest quality sparkling wines. 

Their vision is about a great deal more than the production of outstanding Sussex sparkling wine. Rathfinny aims to contribute something special to the unique spirit of place in this beautiful part of the South Downs, which has been farmed since medieval times.


Where it all began - The perfect location

The estate is located on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris basin, running from northern France into southern England. This breath-taking south-facing slope in the south downs of Sussex is one of England’s exceptional natural landscapes. The climate, chalk, soil and aspect make it the perfect site for producing world-class sparkling wine.


Once a working arable farm in the South Downs of Sussex, Rathfinny’s first 50 acres of vines were planted in April 2012. All the grapes come from their single-site vineyard of 385,000 vines across 230 acres with plans to increase this to 350 acres eventually.

There are three principal grape varieties; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as well as a small amount of Pinot Gris. The vines are set out on an ideal south-facing slope, just three miles from the English Channel where the unique local micro-climate and the free-draining chalky soils create superb grape-growing conditions.


Classic Cuvee 2017, Sussex (£29.00 at Harvey Nichols during May)

Made from a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, aged for 36 months in the bottle. 

Red fruits, yeasty brioche and autolysis on the nose; ripe redcurrant and wild strawberry fruit with citrus and orchard fruits. Creamy and complex; precise and harmonious, supple yet linear and intense with flawless, complex underpinnings.

Improves with aeration; will age.

Very Good.


Serve as an aperitif or match with fish and chips, grilled prawn linguini or a home-cooked chicken pie.

Rathfinny match this wine with potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, sage and pine nuts in their Flint Barns Dining Room restaurant.


Blanc de Blancs Brut 2017, Sussex

Frothy with citrus-sherbet, white flowers and honeysuckle; orchard fruits, brioche and creamy brazil nut and oatmeal savouriness; precise, linear and structured yet rich and rounded. Concentrated, intense and mineral 

Improves with aeration; will age.

Very Good Indeed.


Drink as an aperitif or match with seafood from oysters to langoustine in butter sauce or twice-baked cheese souffle.


Other reviews of Classic Cuvee


Jamie Goode: This is pure and focussed. It’s all about fruit, with precision and intensity. Zesty, citrussy, with hints of cherries and pear fruit – Jamie Goode, WineAnorak.com