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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bouvet Rubis NV - Majestic

A sparkling red Loire from Bouvet-Ladubay, available at Majestic

What to make of an off-dry, NV, traditional-method sparkling red from the Loire?

It's certainly a novel idea. And also a very good one.

If it takes some getting used to initially, by the second or third glass, it all makes sense.

Oddly, my reference point for this Cab Franc fizz is northern Italy, with its red vermouths and Lambrusco.

Fizzy, red and striking, it would make for a more imaginative Valentine's Day wine.

Bouvet Rubis NV Loire, £13.49 (Majestic)  Rasping cherry and wild raspberry fruit, green herbs and spicy-savouriness. Off-dry with a fresh finish.

Match with duck breast or venison steak.

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Wine of the Month - Three Co-op Wines For Valentine's

Three Co-op wines for Valentine's day

Tradition has it that Valentine's wines should be pink and / or fizzy. Some however, may  prefer to defy custom and go with a wine that is more seasonally-appropriate.

The rosé has an award, the Rhône is blended by an MW and the Bollinger is just a class act in its own right.

Bollinger NV Champagne Gift Pack (£34.99 reduced from £44.99 from the 3 February until 23 February inclusive) toasty brioche and fresh orchard fruits with nutty-creamy oatmeal; well structured and persistent. Elegant, substantial and complex. Good.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pic St Loup Rosé 2014 (£6.99) Pale with red berry fruits, freshness and minerality. Elegant, precise and adept. Good.

Les Quatre Seigneurs Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 (£8.99) Red and dark fruits, dried green herbs and spice; big and warming (in a European sort of way) with freshness. Good.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

English Fizz From Virgin Wines

Two English fizzes from Virgin Wines - from Henners and Ridgeview

Well-made, English fizz rivals any other sparkling wine available.

Vintage by default, it is more competitively priced for the quality than its closest rival just across the Channel.

England will never make mainstream, inexpensive, ripe fruit-forward wines - for that, look to the New World and other emerging regions.

But for classy, elegant traditional method fizz, England has come of age.

Ridgeview has long been one of my favourite English wine producers - Henners is a new name to me, but equally impressive.

Ridgeview Merret Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2011 (£29.95) linear and expressive with textbook orchard fruits, fine mousse and leesy biscuity-brioche. Elegant and adept. Very Good.

Henners Brut 2010 (£29.99) a Blanc de Noirs, it is sandy yellow; ripe orchard and white peach fruits, weighty and substantial with a fine mousse and linear acidity. Very Good.

Both are very versatile wines - drink as an aperitif, with light starters or seafood dishes.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Two Wines from Sicily's Candido

Two wines from Sicily's Candido

I came away from the Borsa Vini Italiani 2016 with two bottles for a more-considered review.

Candido is a winery based in Camporeale, a small village outside Palermo in the far west of Sicily; with 20ha of land, grape varieties include Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

Key characteristics of the vineyards are high altitude (400m+), and a sheltered inland site.

Both wines are available at Amathus.
Nero d'Avola 2014 (£11.64) sweet, ripe dark cherry, elderberry and plum fruit with liquorice and spice. Fresh and supple.

Utru 2013 (£15.53) oaked blend of Nero d'Avola and Cab; liquorice, cassis, dark fruits and oaky spice. Fresh, complex and adept. Good.

Match both wines with red meat and darker game.

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Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

Friday, 22 January 2016

Borsa Vini Italiani 2016

An Italian tasting organised by the Italian Trade Agency

If Italy was your girlfriend / boyfriend, it would be beautiful, chaotic, slovenly, unpredictable, maddening, charismatic, wonderful, unreliable, occasionally brilliant and frequently exasperating.

Italy is a divisive sort of place - you either love it, hate it or just don't get it.
Hang out with a group of Italians and you will instantly feel effortlessly cooler - Luca has a Piaggio, Salvatore drives a Barchetta - but try and recreate the experience with some Anglo-Saxon friends and it all falls rather flat.

In a room full of Italians showing their wines, I feel like a stodgy dumpling in the presence of platefuls of fluffy gnocchi; they just have more ... vibrancy, effusiveness, stylishness. The men are dapper and neat, the women groomed and sophisticated.
Arriving after a day at work, I try as many of the 500+ wines as I can in the last hour or so of the tasting. I concentrate on the classics, taking a road trip from the north to Sicily via Tuscany, Campania and Puglia.

The wines prove to be well-made and classy - surprisingly reliable for the country that gave us the Alfa Romeo.

Bortolin Angelo Spumanti, Veneto
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry 2015 textbook Prosecco, with ripe fruit and rounded acidity. Very Good.

Lanciola, Toscana
Ricciotto 2013 pale red with cherry fruit and spice; intense and muscular, in the way of a good Pinot. Good.
Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2013 textbook Chianti with cherry fruit and spice; supple yet firm.

Nottola, Toscana
Chianti Colli Senesi 2014 mostly Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel; sweet cherry fruit, fresh
Rosso di Montepulciano 2013 mostly Sangiovese aged for one year in oak; more adept and complex with cherries, game and spice. Good.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva "Il Fattore" 2010 Sangiovese blend aged in large oak barrels; cherry and spices - fresh, precise and deft; vibrant and youthful. Very Good.

Olvi-Le Buche, Toscana
Le Buche 2009 oak-aged Sangiovese-plus-Bordelais blend; cherry-fruited, vibrant and primary with firm tannins
Pugnitello 2010 indigenous, thick-skinned red varietal; dark cherries, freshness and grippy tannins.

Col d'Orcia, Montalcino
Nearco Sant'Antimo 2006 Bordelais / Rhone blend; cherries, spice and coffee grounds. Supple and harmonious. Good.
Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 Sangiovese aged for 3 years in large oak barrels; cherry-fruited, complex and supple. Good.

Torre Quarto, Puglia
Quarto Ducale 2011 ripe and spicy red blend with plump dark-berry fruits, gaminess and freshness; supple and full. Good.
Rosso Del Guiduce 2013 red blend with soft red fruits and sweet spices; fresh, firm and youthful. Good.
Bottacia Still And Organic 2013 darker fruited, fresh and supple. Good.

Ca'des, Campania
Taurasi 2005 rosehips and dried red fruits, spice; soft texture, tannins still grippy
Piedirosso Campi Flegrei 2014 black cherry fruit, gaminess, soft and fresh.

Candido, Sicily
Nero d'Avola 2014 plump dark fruit, spices, freshness
Utru 2013 oaked blend of Nero d'Avola and Cab; more complex with dark fruits and sweet vanilla spice. Good.

Cantina Giostra Reitano, Sicily
L'Hismael 2014 varietal white from Etna; fresh and light with tropical fruits
Rasocolmo 2011 red blend of mostly indigenous varieties from Messina; light and fresh picnic red with truffleyness and cool mint.
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Poderi Dal Nespoli, Emilia-Romagna
An Italian Wine Evening with Friends

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Poderi Dal Nespoli, Emilia-Romagna

Two wines from Emilia-Romagna's Poderi Dal Nespoli

Ask what northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna has given the modern world, and the answer is not a short one - home to medieval cities, cathedrals and beaches, the region produces a heady blend of:

- supercars (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati)
- pasta (tortellini, lasagne, tagliatelle)
- cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano)
- hams (Parma, mortadella, prosciutto)
- and balsamico di Modena

while the regional capital of Bologna, home to possibly Europe's oldest university, gives its name to the ubiquitous pasta sauce beloved of British children.

This varied and diverse landscape is the legacy of a rich past with, unsurprisingly, Gallic trading influences; Emilia-Romagna's origins are a combination of Gallic, Etruscan and Roman with later monastic and papal influences.

So when Daniela Facciani handed me a couple of local wines to try over coffee at La Bottega, I felt duty bound to match them with some appropriately Italian food.

Poderi dal Nespoli dates back to 1929 and remains a family-run winery; both these wines are distinctly modern - in a good way; pure, expressive and precise, they are somehow more French in style than Italian.

Think of northern Italian wines and what comes to mind is neutral whites and sharp, cherry-fruited reds; however, the Pagadebit (whose name means debt-payer, due to its reliable nature) has a Bordelais Sauvignon feel while the Il Nespoli red is southern-Rhonesque.
Pagadebit (Bombino bianco 90%, Sauvignon blanc 10%) Expressive nose of melon and citrus peel, ripe lemony tropical fruits, sweet spice and grapefruit with minerality. Clean, pure and adept.

Match with seafood, especially white fish in a herb broth.

Il Nespoli (Sangiovese 100%) Fresh ripe dark fruit with sweet oaky vanilla spice and leathery truffleyness; supple, firm texture.


Match with steak, darker game and roasted red meat.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Third Wine - Expression de Margaux

A Bordeaux "third wine" from Private Cellar

Every now and then a wine comes along that is in a different league entirely.

In my case it is often a Bordeaux. Does that say something about Bordeaux or about me? Probably a bit of both.

This Expression de Margaux is a white-labelled third wine - one of a pair offered in limited numbers by Private Cellar late last year.

Second Wines are a relatively common phenomenon - the slightly less-good grapes of the chateaux are bottled and labelled separately from the Grand Vin in order to maintain quality (or exclusivity, depending on your view).

In any event, for cost-plus, rather than trophy pricing, you get a taste of something with a First-Growth pedigree. Over time, some Second Wines have developed a following of their own and a Third Wine is added.

2011 is not a year that suggests a surplus of good-but-not brilliant grapes, so how or why these two third wines came into being is something of a mystery.
What is not in doubt is that this Expression de Margaux is a superb wine and great value. I cannot improve on Nicola's tasting note:

Deep, vibrant red black with a fabulous nose of rich, spiced red fruits, oriental with a hint of cardamom, leading to a soft, supple palate of juicy black fruits, rich and broad, with delicious supple tannins and light acidity behind; classic Margaux velvety fruit, rich and exuberant.

Very Good; drinking nicely now with about half an hour in the decanter, it will continue to improve for some years.

Match with roast red meat - beef or lamb now, something gamier in a few years' time.

The Pauillac apparently needs a few more months to become approachable.

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Rousseau de Sipian 2005 - And a Lesson in Aging
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On Wines of a Certain Age‏