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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chateau Laroque 2008, Saint-Emilion - Waitrose

A classy, right-bank Bordeaux from Waitrose

On Bordeaux's right bank, the Merlot dominates; the top appellations here include Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.

This Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe from Waitrose, recommended by Anne Jones, is a classy wine - albeit priced accordingly.

A deep crimson with no signs of aging yet, there are aromas of red fruits, coffee grounds, leather, tobacco and spice.

Fresh acidity, bramble fruit and dried green herbs, savouriness and fine, well-integrated tannins. Good length with a touch of minerality and some firmness on the finish.

Well-structured, dense and concentrated - and still youthful; it has years ahead of it.

Very Good.

Match with red meat, such as steak or venison.

£26.99 from Waitrose - provided for review.

Other related articles
La Grand Barrail Lamarzelle, St Emilion Grand Cru, 2006 - Sainsbury's
Blanc et Rouge Dinner at The Corinthia Hotel, London

Waitrose wine - website, twitter

Monday, 21 April 2014

Fleurie 2013 - Marks & Spencer

A juicy, floral Beaujolais Cru from Marks & Spencer

Fleurie is one of the ten Beaujolais cru villages whose wines epitomize what Beaujolais is all about; silky, fruity and, yes, rather floral wines.

Vibrant black cherry, mulberry and raspberry fruit, with perfumey violets and a hint of gingery spice.

Fresh, lively and supple palate with lots of juicy fruits. Full of lively, youthful exuberance, a light and easy drinker.

Match with duck or picnic food; also, sip slightly chilled on a summer's day.

Other related articles
Marks & Spencer - Beaujolais nouveau re-booted‏
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Beaujolais and Beyond

Marks & Spencer - website, twitter

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Two Red Burgundies from Private Cellar

A review of two red Burgundies from Private Cellar

I have historically struggled with Pinot Noir in general and red Burgundy in particular, never quite seeing the point.

These two wines from Private Cellar, like divas in a flouncy strop, initially underwhelmed and refused to perform before finally, at the very last minute, stepping out to put on a proper show.

Private Cellar's wines are selected by MW Nicola Ardenecke-Butler and both wines were instantly, recognisably classy, elegant and well-made - they just rather lacked something interesting and compelling which only emerged with time and aeration.

We first tried them straight from the bottle - older, more delicate wines do not generally benefit from extensive aeration - but in both cases here, however, they distinctly improved on the second day, even on the third.

Like flouncy divas the world over, they clearly just needed to be treated right to coax out a great performance.

Beaune 1er Cru Les Sceaux, Domaine Anne-Sophie Debavelaere 2009 (£21.96)

Pale red with aromas of soft ripe red fruits; elegant, pretty enough and delicate but somehow unconvincing straight from the bottle. It ticks all the boxes for fruit, balance and freshness - as well as for elegant sophistication - but seems to lack interest on the palate.

We decant it and find it improves, so decide to hold back to see whether it improves with time. The following day there is more going on, more of a compelling savouriness amongst the delicate soft fruit and gentle texture.

It seems to reach a peak and really make sense just as we are eking the last drops out on day three; it retains its earlier slight elegance, but now feels fuller and more savoury, more compelling.

Good to Very Good (by day 3).

Bourgogne Rouge Pressonnier, Domaine Joseph Roty 2008 (£16.00)

Darker in the glass, this has much more personality straight out of the bottle - farmyardy Burgundian nose and more assertive palate, with fresh, vibrant, ripe black cherry fruit and savoury underpinnings.

But, despite its age, it is still not yet fully knitted together; it feels youthful, excitable and unsettled, but at least I have more of a sense of where it's going, so once again we hold back.

The following day, it feels properly harmonious and integrated; the acidity has mellowed and blended in with the fruit and savouriness.

Good to Very Good (on day 2).

Match both wines with gamey foods - duck, game terrine, wild salmon. The Beaune is light enough to serve slightly chilled as a garden sipper on a hot summer's day.

Other related articles
Private Cellar Annual Tasting
Laboure-Roi Cote de Beaune-Villages, 2012 - Waitrose
Loeb Burgundy En Primeur 2011‏
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Private Cellar - website, twitter

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Henri Clerc Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes 2009 - The Co-op

A complex, assured top-notch chardie from The Co-operative

South of Beaune on the Cote de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet is most famous for its ripe, succulent, dry-yet-golden wines.

At five years old, this Henri Clerc is only just reaching maturity - it feels harmonious and well-knitted, but has not yet taken on any aged characteristics.

Mid-straw yellow with ripe tropical citrus, musky melonskin and sweet spice.

Sweet citrus fruit, ripe honeydew melon with fresh linear acidity, sweet, toasty spice. Substantial with a nutty,  oatmealy creaminess, full and long. Vibrant, precise and assured; adept and impressive yet hedonistic and very delicious.

Very Good - will improve further with age.

Match with roast fowl, meaty white fish or creamy pasta with mushrooms.

£24 from The Co-op; provided for review.

Other related articles
Pascal Bouchard Chablis Grand Cru 2010 - Waitrose
Pouilly-Fuissé "Quintessence" 2011, Domaine Sangouard-Guyot
Loeb Burgundy En Primeur 2011‏

The Co-op - twitter, website

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Mateus Expressions 2013

A review of the new Mateus Expressions range from Portugal

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
- Avril Lavigne, Complicated

Many years ago, my 19 year-old self wanted to impress a girl at my northern university, so I cooked her a meal and bought a bottle of wine.

It was a Mateus in that nicely shaped bottle, as I figured that after we'd drunk the wine, it would look good with a candle in it and some wax dripped down the side - a schtick beloved of Italian restaurants of the time and a look I wanted to copy.

I don't think I've ever had a bottle of Mateus in the two-and-a-half decades since and in some ways I'm slightly disappointed that the new Mateus Expressions range comes in high-shouldered Bordeaux bottles with a contemporary sort of label.

The wines themselves - three rosés and a white - are equally modern and pleasing, each a blend of native and international grapes.

Fresh, clean and fruit-forward, there's nothing to be afraid of here - these are light, modern, uncomplicated easy-drinkers.

The range is priced at £7.99 and the descriptions - dry, delicate, fresh, fruity - are a reliable guide to the style.

Overall, a lot less complicated than my teenage relationships; the girl and I went out for a few weeks at the end of which the relationship did not so much implode as spontaneously combust. These have a more pleasant, less dramatic finish.

With their screw-cap tops and easy style, they are ideal summer sippers or picnic wines.

Widely available and priced at £7.99; provided for review.

Other related articles
Six Rosés For Summer‏
Spanish Rosé from Gonzalez Byass‏

Mateus - website

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Vega Sicilia Dinner with Cambridge University Wine Society

Cambridge University Wine Society's annual dinner this year was a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Vega Sicilia with owner Pablo Alvarez and winemaker Xavier Ausás.

Vega Sicilia is located in Spain's Ribera del Duero; growing mainly Tempranillo, its wines are consistently rated as not only the best in Spain, but indeed among the very best in the world - as well as among the most difficult to acquire. Production of the flagship wine, Unico, is fewer than 7,000 cases per year.

The dinner was also attended by Serena Sutcliffe MW and was organised by the Society's President, David Beall.

We started in the Back Paddock of St John's College with a Pol Roger blanc de blancs 2002 - fresh, poised and elegant.
The college dates to 1511; founded by the last will and testament of lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, the dining hall features a C16th hammerbeam roof and linen-fold panelling.
We started with a dry furmint from Vega Sicilia's Oremus estate in Hungary.

I have been a fan of Hungarian wines for many years, but it came as a revelation to many there - perhaps accustomed to more-traditional college-wine fare from better-known and more obvious classic regions.

In any case, it matched perfectly with the starter of salmon fillet, jamon iberico and charred courgette.
A flight of the second-tier Alion wines was impressive:
But the star of the night was a vertical of Unico - the flagship wine of Spain's flagship winery; the 1994 was mature and complex, reminiscent of an aged Médoc.

However, the 2004 was quite different - a incredible blast of pure, intense, concentrated, freshly-squeezed black cherry and sour cherry that belied its decade of age.

Winery owner Pablo Alvarez addresses the group:
We finish with an Oremus Tokaji 5 puttonyos:
It matches well with dessert:
Finally, CUWS President David Beall wraps up, thanks the speakers and sings - whilst wearing his military uniform (form an orderly queue ladies.)

An incredible evening, I attended as a guest of CUWS.

Other related articles
A Most Particular Taste: Haut-Brion 350 Years Celebration Dinner (CUWS 2013 annual dinner)

CUWS - website
Vega Sicilia - website

Monday, 7 April 2014

2009 Château Laville Sauternes - WineTrust100

A dessert wine from WineTrust100

Bordeaux's reputation rests mainly on its red wines - but it produces some stunning dessert wines that impress more for their finesse and elegance than by sheer full-on sweetness and intensity.

The best Sauternes have a lithe deftness that few other dessert wines can match.

Deep golden with blossom, musky baked peaches in butter and sweet marzipan.

Rich, waxy and concentrated with tropical, heather-honey sweetness, cut through with citrussy freshness; long and savoury, bitter-almond underpinnings. Almost limoncello-like.


Match with lemon tart, crème brûlée or mature Cheddar.

Technical details
85% Semillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Muscadelle.

Chateau Laville has 14 hectares of vineyard in Sauternes, in the commune of Preignac, on gravel soils underpinned with limestone. The best plots are used to make the Grand Vin of Laville. The vines are approximately 35 years old.

£17 (half-bottle) from WineTrust100; provided for review.

Other related articles
Taste The Difference Sauternes, 2005 - Sainsbury's

WineTrust100 - website