Sunday, 18 July 2021
Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Sunday, 11 July 2021
Saturday, 10 July 2021
I have always loved dessert wines; I can't quite say why, but I have always had a sweet tooth. Maybe it's my '70s upbringing. Or just a preference for the sweeter things in life.
But it's not mere sweetness; I also like umami (aka "savouriness") and a bit of freshness in the mix, too.
The best dessert wines walk a tightrope of sweet, fresh and savoury - with a touch of complex bitterness added in.
One region, one grape and one phenomenon dominate here: botrytised Semillon from the Bordeaux sub-region of Sauternes. Nobly-rotten grapes are expensive to produce and expensive to vinify, yet relatively inexpensive to buy due to being largely unfashionable.
Sweet wines are Bordeaux's secret wine hiding in plain sight; delicious, fresh and complex, most command nothing like the premium of their illustrious red wine counterparts.
The best sweet wines of Sauternes are a dessert in their own right and need minimal food accompaniment; a Crème brûlée or blue cheese is often the best match.
Elsewhere in South West France, Petit Manseng also makes delicious dessert wines in Jurancon: it is aromatic with high sweetness and high, natural acidity and complex candied fruit, with exotic flavours.
Domaine Cabidos, Petit Manseng Doux, Jurancon 2015 (£9.95, The Wine Society, independents)
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
Tuesday, 6 July 2021
Monday, 5 July 2021
More than halfway through the year and summer has still not yet fully arrived in the UK.
If you dream of rocking up to a friend's for a weekend afternoon of outdoor eating-and-drinking, here are three wines to take with you.
- an Italian pink fizz with style and elegance
- a sophisticated Saffer white
- a fruit-forward, crowd-pleasing, sophisticated easy-drinking Big Red to go with burgers and relish
Solpiantez Spumante Brut Rose Millesimato 2019 (£9.99)
The son of a Tuscan winemaker, Umberto grew up with vines in the blood. His 40-year career in the wine industry has seen him making wine for some of the most famous producers in Italy, as well as specialising in, and lecturing on,
Organic methods of production and, most recently, working as an international consultant to some of the most well known producers in the Veneto, Puglia and beyond. His hallmark is precision, both in terms of varietal expression and balance as well as vineyard typicity.
A blend of Trebbiano, Garganega and Sangiovese.
Delicate red-berry fruits, watermelon, citrus freshness and sea-shell minerality; very textured and linear with a precise, muscular core. Fine mousse and no rough edges.
Good and Good Value
Serve as a crisp aperitif or match with shellfish.
Wildeberg Terroir Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (£16.99)
This wine is made from older vines that cling to Simonsberg in the tiny, mountainous ward of Banhoek within Stellenbosch. Dry grown vines grow thin and weedy on these vertiginous slopes, but produce an excellent crop of grapes. These are then hand-picked, crushed and fermented at the Wildeberg winery. Location, location, location. That is the magic. Difficult soils and a difficult site produce an interesting wine.
Tim Atkin gives this 91pts
Hand-picked and naturally-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, with only 2926 bottles of this vintage made. A wave of rich tropical, leafy notes on the nose sway to a broad palate of tight lime-leaf, bay and silky texture with a super-bright, naturally acid finish. Delicious with brightly-flavoured seafood dishes, Thai salads, citrus dressings or indeed by the glass on its own!
Aromatic, floral and zesty-pungent with lemongrass, grapefruit, white pepper and some quinine bitterness; full and supple with melon, stone fruit and pineapple plus zippy lemon-and-lime and sweet spices; concentrated and long with very good underpinnings.
Black Flag Winemakers Limestone Coast Shiraz Cabernet 2018 (£12.99)
This bespoke ripper is made from premium parcels of Padthaway and Limestone Coast fruit. The oak is present but far from prominent, beautiful and finely tuned ensuring the sweet red fruits, which first poke their heads up in the aromatics, carry through to the front palate and lead seamlessly into the soft, vanilla infused mid palate.
The final element of this wine is the most intriguing: it has a really strong presence yet remains inviting and warm. There are typical varietal flavours of chocolate and malt, which counters the regional hallmarks of mint and fresh herbs, and a lovely crisp tannin profile.
Lifted super-ripe, juicy plums and dark berry fruit with oaky spice, rubbed sage, sous bois and earthy-mushroominess; juicy cassis, vanilla and morello cherries; full and supple with an inky texture, and a slap of cocoa, leather and liquorice.
Match with charred meaty or veggie delights from the barbecue.
Sunday, 4 July 2021
Yalumba Shirazes with winemaker Kevin Glastonbury
Australia's Yalumba is based in the Barossa Valley, an area synonymous with Shiraz.
This deeper dive into Yalumba's Shirazes had a theme of lighter, fresher wines, made with a gentler hand. Where Australia was once "sunshine in a glass", these days it's more about drinkability, elegance, refinement and restraint.
These are all good things, in my view.
The vine and the winemaker
Shiraz is one of the original grapes of Barossa and it has been planted there since the 1840s; everyone in Barossa grows Shiraz and it is the "star and hero" of the region.
Kevin Glastonbury, known as KG, knows the Barossa like the back of his hand. With a winemaking career that started as soon as he finished school, KG had several years of hard work, experimentation and innovation behind him by the time he joined Yalumba in 1999.
A hands-on, get dirty approach has been his key to success as a winemaker. His knowledge of the Barossa helps him understand the environment and innovate as Senior Red Winemaker for Yalumba.
KG also looks after the sourcing and purchasing of oak for the crafting of barrels — a proud tradition at the on-site cooperage.
KG’s blend of passion and expertise has been recognised with numerous accolades, such as becoming a Len Evan tutorial scholar, respected wine judge, and Winestate ‘Winemaker of the Year’.
Galway Vintage Shiraz 2018
Yalumba's entry-point Shiraz; lots of easy-drinking fruit with no oak; everything is reigned back here and the vintage character is more apparent - drink as a barbecue red, slightly chilled.
Crunchy red and black fruits fruits, spice and freshness; mulberries, mocha / cocoa and some beetroot; rich, generous and full-flavoured.
Samuel's Collection Barossa Shiraz 2018
This wine has more robust fruit, more spice and is more savoury; it is from a more traditional vintage after a cool year; it is a more complex and generous wine. It includes some fruit from Eden Valley and sees some oak, around 10% new.
Fresh-yet-plus red and black fruits with spice and some eucalyptus; more complex and generous; full and supple with fine tannins.
Hand-Picked Shiraz + Viognier 2016
A classic Rhône blend, this has just 2% Viognier, down from 15% previously for a more subtle influence. All the fruit is from Eden Valley and there is around 20% new oak.
From an exceptional vintage, the wine is at a peak now.
Evolved nose of cherry fruit, sous bois, spice and eucalyptus; dried sour cherries and soft red fruits, with spice and herbal mintiness. Supple with very fine tannins.
The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2018
Still primary and youthful, this needs a few hours in the decanter to become fully harmonious.
Lifted, ripe dark berry and cassis aromas with violets, spice and eucalyptus; concentrated with a full mid-palate; very fine tannins. Generous and elegant.
Saturday, 3 July 2021
Cava's response has been to re-focus on quality and standards with a new hierarchy pyramid, instantly satirised by Fake Booze.
I can't help feeling that Cava's challenge is not so much around its inherent qualityas actually having some kind of identity and emotional connection with potential buyers.
Neither Prosecco, nor Champagne, it uses the Traditional (aka Champagne) Method but with, mostly, indigenous grapes; it is almost defined by what it is not rather than what it is. It needs to stand for something easily understandable.
The wines we tried had around 10 g/l dosage, giving them an easy-drinking generosity, while retaining freshness.
I prefer more dryness, so chilling the wines for longer to increase perceived acidity is the solution for that.
Winemaking in Catalonia dates back to Roman times; the anti-oxidant properties of indigenous grape Xarel-lo preserved it on long sea-and-river journeys to supply the norther parts of the Roman empire.
Unlike much of southern Spain, Catalonia has an almost uninterrupted history of winemaking and in the 1860s, wines were sent north to France to replace production destroyed by phylloxera; Once again, the the wines were able to survive the journey north without fortification.
By the 20th Century the name cava was coined, referencing the caves in which the wine is matured and aged on the lees in bottle.
The new quality pyramid specifies a minimum aging of 9 months for entry-level Cava de Guarda, up to 36 months for Cavas de Paraje Calificado (which must also be from a special plot)
The winemakers - and the wines
Mireia Pujol-Busquets Guillén, Deputy Director of Alta Alella
Mireia is a second generation winemaker from a famliy owned company.
The appellation is very small and very old; just 10km up the coast from Barcelonait benefits from sea breezes. Farming has been organic from the beginning in 1991 and sulphite-free since 2006.
Eva Plazas Torné, Head Winemaker, Vilarnau
Vilarnau is based in Penedès at altitude and surrounded by mountains; the company is owned by Gonzalez-Byass and increasingly uses later-ripening non-native grapes, such as Pinot Noir due to climate change.
Vilarnau Brut Reserva Organic (£10, Ocado and Amazon)
golden sandy yellow, primary orchard fruit and citrus with brioche and buttery shortbread.
Serve as an aperitif or match with pintxos.
Andrea Cerezo, UK e-Commerce and On-Trade Manager, Codorniu
Raventós Codorníu is a large producer with a significant market share; they maintain standards by simply by focusing on quality throughout the production process.
The name of the Anna BdB comes from Anna Codorníu, an ancestor of the company.
Anna Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserva (£13, The Champagne Company, The Fine Wine Co, Taurus Wines, VINVM Ltd, Beviqua Ltd, GP Brands)
70% Chardonnay with Parrellada and Macabeo; golden delicious apple, pear and white peach fruit; creamy-almondy with florality and freshness.
Serve as an aperitif, a summer sipper or with picnic food such as cold cuts, chicken drumsticks or quiche.
To learn more about cava, check out: CAVA ACADEMY
Friday, 2 July 2021
The country is surrounded by water with the Black Sea on one side and the Caspian on the other; to the South is Turkey, to the north Russia.
It is protected from the cold by the Caucasus Mountains; on its eastern side it is warmer and sub-topical, the western side is cooler due to the altitude and the moderating effects of the Black Sea.
Georgia has layers of history and feels like Vienna transported to Asia, in part due to being historically on the Silk Road.
Its wine culture is more reminiscent of France or Italy, a combination of gastronomy, oenology and lifestyle. Orange wines, often made in qvevri, are a big part of this, not least due to their food friendliness.
Georgia's wine culture is at once 8,000 and almost brand new; an independent country since 1991, it has moved away from the heavy-handed, old school styles popular in the former Soviet Union to something more sophisticated, international and European.
Qvevri are to Georgia what coopers are to France; artisan crafted vessels for the making of wine, qvevri are an ancient invention yet offer a solution to numerous challenges that has yet to be bettered.
Hand made from clay, qvevri are lined with beeswax to reduce porosity and provide a reductive environment for wine-making; qvevri are stored in the ground to regulate temperature.
Wines are fermented whole-bunch with natural yeasts; the qvevri is left uncovered with periodic punchdowns.
The size of the quevri also affects the temperature of the fermentation - larger qvevri ferment at a higher temperature due to the higher volume / surface area ratio.
Producing wines in qvevri is very labour-intensive and accounts for only about 10% of Georgian wine output.