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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2015

A pleasing-yet-sophisticated "cool-climate" Californian Chardie from Waitrose

I don't normally go for big, blowsy oaky Chardonnays - especially from hot places like California. This, however, is a little different.

It is from Russian River in Sonoma and describes itself as "cool-climate" - that is, of course, by Californian standards, so it is still very ripe and fruited with 14% alcohol. However, there is enough complexity and freshness to make this interesting even to a Europhile palate.

Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (£17.99, Waitrose) ripe orchard fruits, honeydew melon and pineapple and creamy, oatmealy leesiness. Lush and rich; very adept and harmonious.

Good.

A versatile wine; drink as an aperitif or match with seafood or white meats.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Bancroft Wines - Spring Portfolio Tasting

Bancroft Wines' Spring Portfolio Tasting, held in the Dutch Church

I've long believed that you judge the quality of a wine merchant by their weakest wines, not their best. Pick a couple of bottles at random and if there's nothing bad about them, you're likley to be on to a winner.

Fortunately, all the wines I tried at this Bancroft Spring Portfolio tasting were throroughly enjoyable, many of them very impressive indeed.
Here are my top picks:

Westwell Wines, Kent, England
Recently acquired by new owners, the wines on show came with the purchase, so few details available; the range is wide - white, fizz, pink, dessert and even amphora - and they were all enjoyable and reasonably priced given their origin.
WS Special Cuvee 2014 (£22.45) elegant, pricise and mineral traditional metho fizz; low dosage; leesy with a firm, assertive backbone. Very Good.

Weingut Weszeli, Kamptal, Austria
Another newly-acquired winery, with an excellent range of GV and Riesling.
Gruener Veltliner Kaeferberg OeWT 2013 (£26.10) precise, complex and full gruener; restrained with stone fruit and some creaminess. Substantial, structured and long. Very Good.

Elena Walch, Alto Adige, Italy

Lagrein Riserva Vigna "Catel Ringberg" 2013 (£30.20) fresh and spicy with fine tannins; substantial with dark fruit and earthy truffles. Balanced, harmonious and poised. Still very youthful. Very Good.
Tacchino, Piedmont, Italy
Good range of classic reds, whites and an off-dry fizz.
Rosso di Monferrato, Di Fatto 2013 (£15.50) a blend of four varieties, spicy and darkly fruited with black and sour cherries, freshness and a firm core; long. Good.

Domaine Savary, Chablis
Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2015 (£36.70) rich, complex and floral-honeyed; fresh, with orchard fruit. Still very youthful. Very Good.

Domaine Ratte, Jura
Excellent biodynamic wines from Jura with a distinctive flavour.
"Nature" Savignan 2016 (£25.30) complex nose with struck-match and musky, cidery sharpness; fresh and piercing, yet rich and rounded; long, substantial and complex with good underpinnings. Very Good.
Valdaya, Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Valdaya Mirum 2015 (£31.80) very fresh and harmonious with dark fruit, spice  and very fine tannins. Elegant, substantial and precise. Very Good Indeed.

Hermanos Perez Pascuas, Vina Pedros, Ribera Del Duero, Spain
From the entry-level mid-teens to the top cuvee with a trophy price-tag, these were all excellent wines. Choosing here is really just a case of selecting a budget and taking your pick; it would be easy to single out the £200+ wine as the best, as indeed it was. However, in the real world, there is better value around £20.
Vina Pedrosa Crianza 2014 (£21.50) bramble fruit, spice, earthy truffleyness; harmonious, supple and complex with freshness and substance. Very Good.

Es Fangar, Pla I Levant, Mallorca
Mallorcan wines are not that often seen over here, but are worth seeking out.
N'Amarat, 2011 (£35.75) fresh, spicy and complex with dark-berry fruits and gamey truffleyness; elegant and supple. Very Good.

Bodega Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, Argentina
South America is all too often in thrall to the bigger-is-better style of wines that do well further north. The more interesting winemakers, however, are following a more European-style approach.
Icono Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (£63.20) fresh, vibrant and substantial with a muscular core; dense, energetic and concentrated. Still very youthful. Very Good Indeed.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Who run the world? Girls!

Two wines by women winemakers for International Women's Day

Who run the world? Girls!
- "Run the World (Girls)", Beyoncé (2011)

March 8th is International Women's Day - there are worse things you could do than raise a toast to the women behind with these two excellent wines:


CVNE Imperial Reserva 2012 (£26.00, Majestic Wine, Wine Rack, Coop, Waitrose, Tesco) a top-notch Rioja with a bit of age that is still very youthful. Plums and cherry fruit with dried green herbs, leather, peppery spice and cigarbox. Good freshness, minerality, very fine tannins and a firm, muscular core.

Very good; drinking nicely now and will continue to improve for many years.

Match with red meat, especially game.

Winemaker Maria Larrea says of beginning a career in wine: it is important to surround yourself with a good work team, observe the vineyard, study about other viticultural areas of the world. In short, always learn, enjoy work and always try to make the best wine.

Her most memorable moment so far: Undoubtedly, the award we received with Imperial Gran Reserva vintage 2004 as the best wine in the world for the Wine Spectator. It really was a prize for the long history of Imperial, more than 100 years as a wine of great quality.

Domaine Ferret Pouilly Fuissé 2016, (£33.40, independents) a complex, youthful white Burgundy; citrus, stone fruit and acacia flowers, with creamy oatmeal, honey, sweet spices and nuts. Fresh, rounded and very adept with excellent underpinnings.

Good and will further improve age.

Match with meaty white fish, creamy cheeses or risotto.

Audrey Braccini winemaker at Domaine Ferret says of the most memorable moment in her career: when I started working in Fuissé ten years ago, the welcome from the other producers was a little bit cold… and this continued for some years after. You can imagine my joy when some of them came to me and said, with kindness in their eyes, ‘good job, great wines, it is a good thing you came!’.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Taittinger For Valentine's

Two celebratory wines for Valentine's from Taittinger

If you want to make a statement on Valentine's day, fizz is a good start; high-quality pink Champagne will show that you really know what you are doing.

Here are two from Taittinger.

Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé (£50.60 Waitrose, Asda, Wine Rack, Majestic, John Lewis, independents) delicate nose with some brioche leading to delicate ripe red-berry fruit; fresh and mineral with a fine mousse. Very elegant.

Good.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light seafood.

Taittinger Nocturne Rosé ‘City Lights’ NV (£54.50 Harrods, independents) fresh and substantial, with a fine mousse and the weightiness of a generous dosage; dry and balanced with orchard fruits, citrus and delicate raspberry. Refined and easy-drinking.

Good.

Drink as a sipper throughout the evening, or match with soused salmon or prawns.

Friday, 26 January 2018

An Australia Day Chardonnay From The Co-op

An Aussie Chardonnay for Australia Day from The Co-op

January 26th is Australia Day, so how better to mark it than with a Truly Irresistible Aussie Chardonnay?

Decades ago, Australia shook up the wine world with its bottles of sunshine-in-a-glass; in the inevitable backlash that followed, we all went for zingy kiwi Sauvignon and Australian wines became lean and skinny.

This chardie treads a deft path with plenty of ripe fruit, but also enough zip and not too much oak; an Aussie chardie that has shed the flab and buffed up.

Co-op Irresistible Australian Chardonnay, £6.99 (Australia) ripe peach and stone-fruit with fresh citrus, minerality and some toasty-oaky leesiness and creamy-nuttiness. Deft and adept, very enjoyable and well-made.

Good and Good Value.

Fresh enough for an aperitif, match with starters or roasted white meats.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

#ADT2018 - Top 50 Australian Wines

The Top 50 Wines from 2018's Australia Day tasting

With over 1,000 wines on show from this continent-sized country, there was no chance of tasting my way round anything more than a small sample, so I checked out the Top 50 Wines.

With prices ranging from £10 - £30+, these were all well-made, sophisticated wines with no rough edges and a European sense of balance and restraint; the fruit and cleanliness were definitely New World, but were matched to a compelling Old World freshness and complexity.
My "best of the best":

Croser NV, Adelaide Hills (£17, Fine Wine Partners) traditional-method fizz; fresh and elegant, with florality, orchard fruits and a creamy texture. Good.

Domaine Naturaliste SB / Semillon Sauvage 2014, Margaret River (£25, Hayward Bros) flintsmoke and toastiness with stone fruits and leesy oakiness. Very Good.

Giant Steps Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley (£19.99, Liberty) smoky and zesty with stone fruits and a nutty, full-bodied texture. Very deft and harmonious. Very Good.
Paringa Estate Peninsula Pinot Noir 2016, Morington Peninsula (£26.99, Hallgarten Druitt) sweet and earthy with black cherries and spice; savoury and long.Very Good.

Salena Estate Twisted Sticks Organic CS, 2015 (£11.45, Riverland) fresh and blackcurranty with rounded tannins; Good and Good Value.

Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Vineyard CS, 2013, Margaret River (£29.95, Laytons) rich and refined with excellent structure. Very Good.

Petaluma Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Coonawarra (£38, Fine Wine Partners) red and black fruits with spices and florality. Complex, long and textured. Very Good.

Cullen Mangan Vineyard Merlot Malbec Petit Verdot 2016, Margaret River (£24.99, Liberty Wines) fresh, savoury, earthy with dark fruits, supple texture and a grippy finish. Very Good.

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery 2014 Margaret River (£17.99, Hayward Bros) fresh and peppery with black fruits. Good.
Robert Oatley Finisterre Syrah 2013, Great Southern (£23.50, Hatch Mansfield) dark fruits and spice; fresh, mineral and earthy. Very Good.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2016 (£24.99, Liberty) ripe. rich fruit; complex and approachable with fine tannins. Very Good.

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2015, Adelaide Hills (£29.99, Liberty) black fruits, olives and savouriness; supple, elegant and Rhonesque. Very Good.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Three Wines From Sud De France Top 100

Three wines from Sud de France Top 100

Wines from southern France combine warmth and ripeness with balance and freshness - perfect for wintry months, then.

Henri de Richemer Sauvignon, 2016, IGP Côtes de Thau (£6 - £7.99, Bijou Bottles) warmer-climate substantial Sauvignon; aromatic with ripe orchard and peach fruit, freshness and minerality. Clean and fresh.

Match with mixed starters.

Paul Mas Vinus, Malbec 2016, IGP Pays d'Oc (£6 - £7.99, Morrison's) Malbec and Cab Franc blend; prune and elderberry fruit, spice and earthiness with raspberry-leafiness; fresh and supple with fine, persistent tannins.

Good and good value.

Match with darker game.

Les Hauts de Saint Martin 2016, Saint-Chinian 2016 (£6.99, The Co-op) GSM+C blend; dried garrigue herbs, woodsy-eartiness, mixed berry fruit and warming spices; fresh, supple and adept.

Good and good value.

Match with roasted red meats, hearty stews and chorizo.