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Friday, 24 November 2017

Worldwide Winter Reds

Two Worldwide Winter Reds - Western Australia's Robert Oatley and a Beajolais from Louis Jadot

From different corners of the world and different grapes, both these two have an atypicity, a difference from the norm.

Beaujolais is best-known as a juicy glugger for early drinking - not a wine to age.

Equally, Western Australia's wines are more considered and European than standard-edition Blockbuster Aussie.

What both these wines also have in common is an elegance and food-friendliness to match with, for example, winter game.

Louis Jadot Château des Jacques Moulin à Vent 2013 (£18.00, Sainsburys and independents) red plum and cherry fruit with some spice and leather; fresh and juicy with tobacco leaf, fine tannins and minerality - drinking nicely now and will comtinue to improve for a few more years.

Good.

Match with darker game, especially duck in cherry sauce - or something mushroomy.

Robert Oatley Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (£13.75, The Co-op, Cambridge Wine Merchants, independents) juicy dark-berry fruit with blackcurrant leaf, pencil shavings and spice; fresh, pure and crystalline with a supple texture and a muscular core.

Drinking nicely now, will gain complexity with age.

Good.

Match the juiciness to a rare steak with plenty of garlic and pepper, be it beef, venison or tuna.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Three Wine Men in Cambridge

Three Wine Men event in Cambridge

The Three Wine Men are - in vintage order - Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin MW and Olly Smith. Their line-up for this event inclued a mixture of producers, retailers and local-to-Cambridge merchants.

I got around as many as I could and noted down my top wines.

Wines of California
"Big and bold" is the hallmark of California - my top wine was the Edna Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (£14.99, Majestic); well-made, typical Pinot with cherries and earthiness, relatively low alcohol (for California).

There were bigger, better and more complex wines on show - if high-alcohol and high prices are your thing, try Carlisle Wines Zinfandel "Papera Ranch 2013" (£39.50, Noel Young).

Bordeaux
By contrast, the Bordeaux wines showed much more Old World structure; I liked all the wines here from the complex dry white Graves (M. de Malle 2013) to the precise, mineral  rosé (M de Mangot 2016).

If you want to experience the improving effects of age on a wine for the price of a current vintage, then try the 2002 Peyrabon from Cambridge Wine Merchants.

Top wine, however, was the complex and deft Sauternes Pineau Du Rey 2012 (£11.99, Laithwaite's).

Villa Maria
New Zealand's Villa Maria have made a name as a reliable producer of well-made wines with New World fruit and kiwi freshness. In their Cellar Selection range, a varietal Sauvignon Gris 2016 (£14.05) and Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (£15.55) both impressed.

But my top wine was the layered, complex, substantial and extremely sophisticated Keltern Chardonnay 2016 (£19.50).

New Zealand
Best wine here was the amazing and somewhat legendary Greywacke Pinot Noir 2014 (£32.99, The Wine Society), a lovely, elegant Burgundian Pinot with cherries and spice.

At the other end of the price scale, Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£8.99, Co-op, Sainsbury's) is a well-made kiwi SB that really overdelivers for the price.

Alpine Wines
I've long wanted to check out Alpine Wines' range; there were two stand-out wines here:

Cicero Pinot Noir Alte Reben 2012, Graubuenden, Switzerland (£26.40) pale, almost rosé-coloured; red-fruits and farmyard, delicate yet with a structured and muscular core.

Heidi Schroeck Suesse Loewen Spaetlese 2012, Burgenland, Austria (£16.80) complex roasted stone fruits, light and incredibly fresh, almost dry on the finish.

Sud de France Top 100
Languedoc is a great source of well-made characterful wines; some sub-regions, such as St Chinian, are now beginning to establish their own local identity.

Cave de Roquebrun, Le Grange des Combes 2015, AOC St Chinian (£10 - £12.49, Majestic) floral, almost like perfumed soap, with crushed red fruits and smoke. Long and supple.

Local heroes
Cambridge Wine Merchants had an excellent white-label vintage port from 1983, whilst north-of-the-river Thirsty had two deliciously zippy-citrussy Mosel Rieslings on tap, Meierer and Mikeller.

Monday, 20 November 2017

South Africa Does Europe

Two good-value South African wines that follow European archetypes; from KWV and Laborie

Champagne and port are oenological standards; great for starting and ending a meal - especially around Christmas time.

Whilst plenty of wine regions make fizz of one sort or another, port-alikes are less common.

These two wines are great value and bear more than a passing resemblance to the styles they imitate; even better, they are significantly cheaper.

Laborie Blanc de Blanc Brut MCC 2010 (£15.95, slurp, independents) delicate mousse, pure and clean with ripe orchard fruits, citrus, biscuity brioche and minerality; elegant, complex and layered. As good as many a Champagne BdB costing several times more. Drinking nicely now and will repay cellaring for several years.

Very Good Value. Good.

Drink as an aperitif or with light starters.

KWV Classic Cape Tawny (£9.00, The Wine Society) red fruits, eucalyptus, spice, toffee and marzipan, orange peel and cooked mixed fruits. Harmonious, rich and warming with an oily texture.

Drink as an after-dinner sipper, with dark chocolate and cherry torte or mince pies.

Good Value.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yealands - Pinots, Tank Samples and Trials

Yealands tasting with Natalie Christensen, Senior Winemaker

Yealands wines tend to have a number of signature features - they are always fresh and pure, well-made and good value for money. Entry-level wines are very pleasant and they become more complex and nuanced as you move up the scale.

Billed as “The Perfection of Pinot Noir”, this tasting focused on Yealands' Pinot Noirs, including 2017 examples showing developmental work with non-irrigation and yeast trials, followed by a first view of some 2017 Sauvignon Blancs.

Natalie started with an introduction to Yealands' terroir, the Awatere Valley: cooler and drier, the vines struggle here - which is a good thing for Pinot Noir. Diurnal temperature variation (hot days, cool nights) provides herbal aromatics, a layered and brooding character plus freshness and minerality.

2017 was a difficult vintage with high winds and a cool season leading to thicker skins and small berries; the resulting wines are high in perfume and colour. 2015 was an exceptional year with everything a winemaker could ask for.

The Regular Pinots
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (£16, Great Western Wines) aromatic with dark fruit and smokey-toastiness; concentrated, mineral and long. Fine tannins with a firm core, soft and supple. Good.

The Crossings Pinot Noir 2015 (£14.50, Fortnums and others) fresh, vibrant, mineral and long; floral and aromatic with lovely berry fruit and fine tannins. Good.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 (£16, Great Western Wines) soft, supple and long; harmonious with ripe berry fruit and freshness. Fine tannins. Very Good.

Yealands Estate Winemaker's Reserve Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (£20, Dulwich Vintners) fuller, more substantial and concentrated; very long, very harmonious. Very Good. 


Off-piste Pinots
Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2016 tank sample using Concerto Yeast floral and apricotty with red-berry fruit; plush, supple texture. Fresh, elegant and long. Good.


Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2017 barrel sample, no irrigation trial at Seaview meaty, spicy and savoury with red fruits; fresh, mineral and long with fine tannins. Deft and delicate. Very Good.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 201 barrel sample redcurrants, lifted apricots, dried herbs and a plush texture; long, fresh, mineral, harmonious and elegant. Good.

Yealands Estate Winemaker's Reserve Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2017 barrel sample savoury, spicy toasty with dark berry fruits, firm grippy tannins; fresh and long, but not yet harmonious. Substantial and concentrated. Very Good.


The Sauvignons
Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£8, Sainsbury's, Co-op) fresh, aromatic, pure and mineral; delicate and elegant. Good Value.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£11.95, Great Western Wine) more substantial core, longer. Good.

Yealands Estate Single Block L5 2017 (£14.75, Great Western Wine) fresh, precise and mineral with crushed oyster shells and sea-spray; citrus, herbal lift and flinty minerality. Very Good.


The Crossings Reserve Wild Saugnon Blanc 2016 (£15, independents) textured, barrel-fermented, almost Burgundian-meets-white-Bordeaux; toasty-smoky, richer, bigger and more substantial with leesy complexity and minerality. Very Good.

Peter Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£11.95, Waitrose) unique-to-Waitrose blend with white peach flavours; aromatic, fresh and mineral with a firm core. Good.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Two Co-op Wines For Christmas

Two Co-op wines for Christmas

Christmas wines should be a step-up from everyday drinking, and versatile enough to match with Christmas foods.

Start the day with fizz, but when you sit down to eat, you'll need a good food wine plus something rich enough to match with Christmassy treats.

Take a Bordeaux from a good producer in a favourable year plus one of the world's great complex sweet-yet-fresh fortified wines and you can't go wrong.

Serve with a Christmas roast (with pig-in-blankets and sprouts with bacon and chestnuts) followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies.

Château Sénéjac Cru Bourgeois (£16.99 - reduced to £14.99 from 22/11/17 to 12/12/17) red berry and bramble fruits with herbs, spice, earthiness and juicy, fresh acidity; fine, firm tannins and good length. Drinking nicely now and will improve with either age or aeration.

Good.

Duke of Clarence Madeira (£12.99, reduced to £10.99 from 22/11/17 to 12/12/17) caramel, roasted nuts, dates and figs; rich and unctuous yet all held in check by a fresh acidity. Harmonious and mellow.

Good.

Versatile enough for an aperitif, with almost any type of rich cake or pudding or even just as an after-dinner sipper.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Californian Wines under £20

Three Californian Wines under £20

Big, bold and brash yet resolutely crowd-pleasing, California is - oenologically speaking - the flashy and attention-grabbing Hair Metal of wine.


These three Big Wines are - like poodle-haired rockers in leather, studs and make-up - big on brash statement, but also easy-to-enjoy if you like lots of everything and a bit more too, as well as technically well-made and, underneath it all, rather sophisticated.

Chateau Souverain Chardonnay 2014 (£10.99, Waitrose) sweet, ripe melon and poached pear fruit with buttery oatmeal and toasty spice; big, layered and warming yet fresh and harmonious.

Match with heavy, substantial food, such as tarte flambée or pork medallions with cream and mushrooms.

Ironstone Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 (£13.99, Laytons and independents) earthy and woodsy-truffley with dark fruit and peppery spice; sweet, ripe blackberry, red plum and raspberry fruit. Good freshness and an old-vine concentration.

Good.

Match the earthiness with a venison casserole.

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (£17.99, Waitrose) Cab blend from the Alexander Valley; port-like with plums-and-cherries fruit, eucalyptus, oaky spice and fresh damp earth; ripe, juicy and slightly jammy dark berry fruits. Hefty, warming and substantial with a glycerol, almost oily texture and soft, fine-grained tannins.

Good.

A big wine that needs big food to match - smoked duck breast or hare.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Sorgin: A Gin for Wine Lovers

Sorgin: a gin from winemaker Francois Lurton made from Sauvignon Blanc

Francois Lurton is something of a winemaking legend - or at the very least, a prominent name from a legendary family.

His new gin, Sorgin, is made not from grain or potatoes but Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Gascony that might otherwise be distilled and aged into a brandy; to this is added a range of botanicals: grapefruit zest, lemon, violets, gorse, lime-zest and redcurrant buds, with juniper added as a distillate.

For the linguistically curious, Sorgin is a basque name for a witch - but not a witch wearing a basque.

Sorgin delicate and complex nose with aromatic herbs, fruitiness and sandalwood; elegant and long with an oily texture and an harmonious, persistent finish. No rough eges whatsoever.

Very Good.

Drink neat as an aperitif or, as Lurton recommends, garnish with a slice or orange or grapefruit.