Friday, 29 July 2022
Thursday, 28 July 2022
Sunday, 24 July 2022
Saturday, 23 July 2022
A friend recently asked me for some advice on arranging a wine-tasting; beyond the usual basics, I suggested it might be interesting to have a theme, such as a grape, region or other feature of the wine.
I have done themed tastings around aged Bordeaux, Iberia and the Americas as well as production method wines (i.e. wines whose character derives more from the they they are produced than from grape varieties).
For this line-up, I pulled out one of my own purchases to compare fizzes from France and Spain as well as two different types of sherry.
With a few exceptions, production method wines tend to be from either very cool climates (Champagne or England) or very hot climates (Andalusia, Douro, Madeira).
When asked about my favourite wines, my standard answer is: mature wines, production method wines and cool-climate wines. Essentially, I really like older, cool-climate wines that taste of something more than mere primary fruits.
All of the wines in this line-up are defined by their production method - for the fizz, it is secondary fermentation in bottle on the lees, which provides a food-friendly leesy complexity (as well as the bubbles).
For the sherries, it is the blending across years and growth of flor in the barrel which imparts a tangy dryness; in the case of Manzanilla, the flor character is more evident due to the cooler conditions where it is produced. For Amontillado, the flor is allowed to die away and the wine ages oxidatively acquiring complex roasted flavours of nuts and spices.
We started with the sherries as pretty much the perfect aperitif, matched to simple, tapas-style starters of chorizo, roasted almonds, manchego, olives and bread with home-made mayonnaise.
The fizzes were opened with a continent-hopping main course of chicken Thai green curry.
Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla (£10.99, Waitrose, £9.50 Ocado - also in half-bottles, see footnote)
Made in Sanlucar de Barrameda, using both cooling ocean breezes and cool air current from a bend in the Guadalquivir river to grow the flor to optimum thickness and impart more flavour to the wine, Barbadillo is a family company and one of the great names of sherry.
pungent with pastry shop, camomile, almonds and hazelnuts; fresh and savoury with oatmealy leesiness, saline minerality, white fruits and white pepper; elegant and adept with very good underpinnings.
A versatile food wine, match with Andalusian tapas or any salty foods such as salamis, olives and hard cheese.
Very Rare Amontillado Sherry (£9, marked down to £1,79, 37.5cl, Marks & Spencer)
deep brown, with nuts, coffee, nutmeg, old leather roasted almonds and dried apple, apricot and prunes; charred cedarwood, toasted hazelnuts and exotic citrus peel with fresh acidity. Complex and adept.
Match with roasted almonds or roasted / char-grilled beef.
Champagne is the benchmark style of sparkling wine and it commands a hefty premium for the name; Spain's cava, by contrast, is working hard to match its pricing to the improved quality and cost of production.
Cava Sumarroca Gran Reserva 2017
Good cava is one of the wine world's great bargains; this one is made using the Traditional Method with three years' lees ageing for complexity by a family-owned house .
lemon peel, roasted hazelnuts, white flowers and leesiness; fresh, citrussy and poised with lemons and limes, creamy-nutty leesiness and saline minerality. Harmonious and long, very adept and elegant.
A versatile wines. serve as an aperitif, match with mixed starters or mains such as fish and chips or green Thai curry.
Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne 2013 (£27, The Co-op)
Made only in the best years, Vintage Champagne should be left at least 10 years before opening. On that basis, this one is a little young, but is showing well now and has plenty of life ahead of it.
golden sandy yellow with complex orchard fruits, bruised apple, citrus fruits, melonskin and toasted brioche; dense, concentrated and fresh with a fine mousse, citrussy lemon curd and lime marmalade, orchard fruits with red berries and savoury-leesy oatmeal, creamy brazil nut and saline minerality. Complex and long.
Match with lighter game or seafood-and-pastry such as prawn vol-au-vents or salmon-en-croute.
Half-bottle of the Barbadillo Manzanilla:
- Wine Society £5.95
- Loki Wine Merchants £7.99,
- Banstead Vintners £6.99
- Latitude Wine Merchants £7.50,
- Rannoch Scott £6.19
- Sandham Wines £6.20
- Vintage Cellars £6.50
- Gusto Wines £6.60
- The Whisky Exchange £6.76
- Mumbles Fine Wines £6.95
- Oxford Wine Co £7.25
plus many other good independents.
Wednesday, 20 July 2022
Monday, 11 July 2022
Friday, 8 July 2022
Calvet - and the Calvet Kitchen experience
If you know Calvet's wines, it is probably for their range of easy-drinking and inexpensive Bordeaux. And if you don't, you probably should, as they are the largest French wine brand in the UK and the UK is Calvet's largest market.
But Calvet turns out to be a lot more than just Bordeaux; established over 200 years ago, the company makes wine in almost all of France's major regions.
Calvet Kitchen is a food-and-wine matching initiative to pair regional French dishes with Calvet wines; which is, after all, when French wine is all about.
With 64 winemakers in 7 regions, Calvet is a diverse business and yet all the wines here had a family resemblance that reflects Calvet's aims - an elegance and easy-drinking freshness with plenty of food-friendly mid-palate.
These wines all drink well on first pouring, but also open with aeration and have the body and complexity to stand up to food.
Loire-based winemaker Pierre-Jean Sauvion explained his approach:
- quality of fruit
- balance of fruit and freshness
- food-friendly salinity
The wines were all of broadly similar quality and, the Chablis aside, price, so preferences come down largely to personal taste.
Of the whites, I enjoyed the Chablis most, but given the price difference, the Muscadet makes a good value alternative.
Of the other colours, the CdRV was the most substantial and interesting.
The Calvet Kitchen playlist archive is here:
Calvet Muscadet 2020, abv 12%, (£5.95-7 Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op)
Grown on warmer sandy soils, resulting in more ripeness in the wine.
minty and floral with tropical fruit; fresh, rounded and saline with pear and white stone fruits
Match with seafood and freshwater fish.
Calvet Haut Poitou 2021, abv 11.5%, (£10.99 Waitrose)
Thursday, 7 July 2022
Wednesday, 6 July 2022
Chile has always possessed great potential, but it hasn't always produced great wines. Historically, it churned out too much heavy-handed plonk that had an eye on American mass market rather than budget-conscious European palates - over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over here.
These two wines show what Chile is capable of at UK supermarket prices.
The Carménère is Chile's signature red grape variety; long mistaken for Merlot, it was rediscovered only in 1994. Its flavour profile, unsurprisingly, is similar to Merlot, but somehow darker and artier with more soy, coffee and dark chocolate.
The Malbec is another Bordeaux grape that has found a home in South America, but is more associated with Argentina on the other side of the Andes.
A notes on the labels
I've long argued the the role of a wine label is to make a promise to the purchaser that the liquid in the bottle keeps. See here for more on this:
Of the wines bottles here, the Bio Bio Malbec has the more elegant and interesting label, IMHO, but don't let the Carménère label put you off; it's much more adept and sophisticated than the somewhat garish artwork on the bottle might lead you to believe.
Co-op Irresistible Carménère (£7)
From the Maipo Valley, it was awarded a Gold and Value medal at the Decanter awards, with the judges observing:
“A deliciously peppery style and a lot of wine for the price! There are attractive varietal aromas: roasted red pepper, soy, rich cassis, and a hint of mint. The palate is dense, with firm-ish tannins, yet rounded and showing a lovely freshness. Impressive”.
soy, iodine and red meat with pencil shavings and dark-berry fruits; juicy dark berries, cherries and peppery vanilla spice; fresh, full and supple with gentle rounded tannins. Well-made with good underpinnings.
Benefits from some aeration.
Good and Good Value.
Match with a plate of salami or a pizza.
Bio Bio Malbec (£8)
Won Silver at the Decanter wine awards, with judges commenting:
“Plum and blueberry with some ginger, cedar, and dried herbs. Good concentration of fruit, some floral freshness.”
dark, black fruits, violets, spice, pencil shavings and liquorice; fresh, supple and savoury. Plump and inky yet focused with fine, rounded tannins. Well-made, accomplished and harmonious.
Good and Good Value.
Match with roast lamb or rare steak; for a meat-free option, match with griddled courgette and aubergine drizzled with balsamic vinegar.