Monthly Archives: January 2014
Everyone loves an Italian red don’t they? But Italian reds are very popular already so why on earth would Mike from www.pleasebringmemywine.com decide to plump for one in week 4 of #newwinethisweek?
When we scour the supermarket shelves we find plenty of Chianti (made using between 75% and 100% Sangiovese grapes), Nero D’Avola (a grape that is indigenous to Sicilly), and a smattering of Montepulciano from the Abruzzo region (don’t confuse with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano – but that’s for another day!). If you’ve got a few more pennies in your purse, you may even be heading to Piedmont for the wonderful Barolos and Barbarescos made from the ever so aristocratic Nebbiolo…. But look a little harder and there are some bargains to be found in Piedmont…
… One of those Piedmont pleasures is the delightful Barbera, Mike’s excellent selection for week 4.
Most Italian reds often show at their best with food, many of them having a big tannic structure; Barbera is different. This is a grape with delicious and mouth-watering acidity and very gentle tannins. Wines under £10 level are bright, fresh and designed to be drunk young; perky red cherries, raspberries and just a touch of gentle sweet spice; the more expensive versions need up to 5 years to allow their complexity to properly unfold. Look for wines from the sub-regions of Alba (Barbera d’Alba) and Asti (Barbera d’Asti) and you will be very happy winos this week!
The voting will take place on pleasebringmemywine.com again this week – click on the link below to cast your vote.
Here are a few suggestions from me, the only one I’ve tried is the Michele Chiarlo from Wine & The Vine – it is delightful. I’ve already bought my bottle from M&S to celebrate Wine Wednesday!
Villa Taurini Barbera 2012 (Tesco £5.99)
Araldica Barbera D’Asti 2011 (The Wine Society £6.25)
M&S Barbera d’Asti 2011 (M&S £8.49)
Araldica Barbera D’Asti Superiore 2011 (Waitrose £8.99)
Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti 2010 (Wine & the Vine £12.85)
Cheers and enjoy… and don’t forget to vote!
Ouch! It’s a recurring theme when you spend time with Ave and Al (remember this one?). Last night we made our annual pilgrimage to West London for their now legendary Burns’ night soirée; they may be dangerous company but they certainly know how to put on a party – great food, great company, loads of laughs and far too much booze. As well as delicious Macsween haggis, neeps and tatties, the magnificent Mike Dale from Umami delicatessen treats us to a cheese master class; magnificent artisan cheeses to educates and excite our palates.
This year I wanted to bring some interactivity to the evening’s wine, so Al and I ventured out to Majestic in the afternoon to pick out a selection we felt would match up well with the haggis dinner. The objective of the evening was to find the ultimate wine to accompany the mighty haggis. Haggis is a rich and spicy dish so we selected robust wines that could hold their own against the delicious savoury pudding. We ended up with a couple of Grenache-based wines, a Shiraz, Tempranillo, Carmenere and Pinotage. We also chucked in a couple of whites (Albarino and Gruner) just for the sheer hell of it!
The whites were delightful but were snaffled way before the address to the haggis! In fact, when Mike tried the Gruner he gave us an early taster of one of his cheeses – it was a match made in heaven for Gorwydd Caerphilly. The cheese really brought out the citrus notes in the Gruner and the white pepper finish balanced beautifully with the Caerphilly’s acidic bite. The Albarino wasn’t such a hit with the cheese, but was a rather wonderful rendition of this week’s #newwinethisweek:
Domaine Wachau Grüner Veltliner Weingärten Weissenkirchen 2012, Wachau, Austria (Majestic £9.99 or £8.99 when you buy 2)
A classy, well-balanced Gruner with delicious apple and citrus fruit, a delightful streak of acidity and a warm and long white pepper finish. At £8.99 this is a real bargain and was perhaps my favourite wine of the whole evening. 92 points
Martín Códax Albariño 2012, Rías Baixas, Spain (Majestic £12.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2)
There are two Martin Codax Albarino’s available at Majestic, my strong recommendation is to pay the extra £2 for this one as the cheaper option is rather thin and flaccid. This one however, is not. Lots of peach upfront with a good appley acidic backbone. There is a hint of spicyness and very attractive salty-minerality adding to the complexity but what is really wonderful is the rich texture that fills and envelops your whole mouth. Really good stuff. 91 points
Then it was onto the haggis and onto the reds. Al made his address to the haggis, with everyone at the party given a line of the poem to translate… and I had the privilege of making the fist incision:
“His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight”
It was then up to the party-goers to decide on their favourite wine by placing a cork in front of their preferred beverage. As you will see in the write-up, every one of the wines got at least one vote and I have to admit to enjoying every single one of them… a little too much if today’s headache is anything to go by!
CUNE Rioja Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Majestic £13.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2)
I became a big fan of CUNE wines when I got the chance to taste wines from 6 different decades at the end of 2013 – and this one didn’t disappoint. Still very young and with a long life ahead of it, the wine boasts the strawberry and vanilla lusciousness I always look for in a good Rioja. In amongst the fruit is a touch of leather and just a hint a dark spice, which marries nicely with the sweet vanilla. Tannins are still quite aggressive but just starting to smooth out. The haggis overwhelmed the delicate fruit but a very good wine indeed. 90+ points (6 votes for best wine)
Errazuriz Carmenere 2012, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (Majestic £9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2)
Lovely smooth texture with beautifully integrated tannin, there is a massive whaft of hard green herbs on the nose that really makes this wine stand out. Nice dark plum fruit on the palate, with lots of rosemary and thyme as well as some warm spice and chocolate. I wasn’t 100% sure about this at first but it certainly benefited from the food. 89 points (4 votes)
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2011, Clare Valley, Australia (Majestic £14.99 or £11.98 when you buy 2)
This is an exceptionally well-made wine and was my favourite of the night… although not with the haggis. Blackcurrant and black plum fruit with a delightful eucalyptus and violet supporting cast. Gorgeous mouth-watering acidity and smooth graceful tannin. The finish is long and smoky but struggled to compete with the pepperiness on the haggis. 92 points (2 votes)
Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Rasteau 2010, Rhone, France (Majestic £12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2)
Vacqueyras was my tip for Burns’ Night last year and I’m glad to say this Grenache-based wine from the Southern Rhone was certainly one of the best matches. Lashing of blackberry fruit, dried herbs de Provence and lots of pepper on the finish make this a very delicious wine – it probably needs at least another 12 months to show it’s best but still extremely enjoyable right now. 90+ points (5 votes)
D’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2009 (Majestic £13.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2)
It’s like drinking a whole fruit bowl! Red cherries, blackberries and even a dash of red currant. Then there’s the warm but perfectly integrated black pepper and warm spice, beautifully elegant tannins and long, mellow, fruity finish. This is a quality wine and the extra 12 months in bottle versus the Rasteau made it my best match for the haggis, and received the most votes. I love D’Arenberg wines and this is the first time I have tasted The Custodian… It certainly won’t be the last time. 92 points (7 votes)
Barista Pinotage 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (Majestic £9.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2)
This was the wildcard – Pinotage is a seriously divisive wine and so it proved again! The nose is so ripe, redolent of old elastic bands and mocha… It’s almost enough to not bother going any further, But once you pluck up the courage to take a sip you are rewarded with a hedonistic blend of ripe (even over-ripe) cherries, plums, chocolate and coffee. There is a touch of black spice and a super luxurious texture. I actually really like it and thought it was great with the haggis. But better still, it was the perfect partner to Quickes Ewe’s milk Cheddar, which Mike says tastes of roast lamb! 90 points (1 vote… Mr Michael Dale!)
A huge thanks to Mike at www.pleasebringmemywine.com for choosing this week’s #newwinethisweek and are you guys in for a treat or what? Mike has chosen the fabulous Albariño from Rías Baixas for week 3 and I think it’s going to play a blinder on the back of a 7.7 score (out of 10) for Aussie Riesling and 7.0 for Chilean Carmenere.
As usual, as well as giving some recommendations for Majestic, Sainsburys and Morrisons, Mike has also written a great article North West Spain, where you will find Rías Baixas, the spiritual home of Albariño, as well as an intro to the grape variety. Here are the links to Mike’s articles and don’t forget the voting will be on www.pleasebringmemywine.com this week!
I have a real soft spot for Albariño and have had many enjoyable bottles over the past few years. You won’t find many examples under £7, what you will find is the quality consistency at all levels of the pricing spectrum is very high. Below are notes from two examples that I enjoyed very much in 2013, one at £7.99 (recommended by Mike), and the other at £14.25. One of the wines would make an ideal mid-week option; the other has bags of character and complexity and would be great for a dinner party.
PS. I don’t know what my answer to the question “Would you choose two of the cheapest or one of the more expensive” would be!
Taste the Difference Albariño 2012, Rías Baixas (Sainsbury’s £7.99)
Very aromatic nose with apples, nectarines and even a hint of white flowers. There’s a rich mouth-feel that is very pleasant with plenty of lively apple freshness, peachy depth and a mineral and salty finish. Not bad at all – a fantastic Wednesday wine! 89 points
Sera da Estrela Albariño 2011, Rías Baixas, Spain (Wine & the Vine £14.25)
There really is nothing to dislike about this wine. Lots of fruity intensity on the nose with apple, peach and even a touch of the tropics. All of the fruit shows its full glory on the palate and it has great body too; a lovely texture. The fruit stays with you for quite some time and the saltiness of quality Albariño is there at the end. Lovely stuff for any occasion. 92 points
Here are a few more options, along with the description taken from each of the respective websites. This week I have included a wine from ever brilliant The Wine Society and I placed my order this afternoon for delivery on Thursday… If you order by tomorrow, chances are you can get it in time for the weekend. You’re going to love Albariño … Don’t forget to vote and tell us what you think!
Taboexa Albariño 2012, Rías Baixas, Spain (Waitrose £10.49)
Layers of peach, floral and honeyed notes mingled with mountain herbs. Delicious with delicate white fish. (Description from http://www.waitrose.com)
Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño 2012, Rías Baixas, Spain (Waitrose £15.99)
Enticing, elegant and mineral fruit style Albariño from old vines. Try this with shellfish. (Description from http://www.waitrose.com)
Tesco Finest Albariño 2011, Rías Baixas, Spain (Tesco £6.99 was £7.99)
The wine has an intense and elegant aroma, with hints of fresh ripe apples, pears, and apricots, as well as nuances of tropical fruit. On the palate it is rich, mellow, rounded and full-bodied, with a rich tropical character and a lingering finish. (Description from http://www.tesco.com)
The Society’s Exhibition Albariño 1012, Rías Baixas (The Wine Society £12.95)
Peachy, pure and rounded with delicious balancing freshness, this fine albariño was made for us be Pazo de Señorans, one of the very top estates in Galicia’s Rías Baixas. The 2012 vintage saw quantities reduced by some 50% here, but the precious crop that made it to the winery benefited from extra intensity and riper fruit, and we are delighted to have secured it exclusively for Wine Society members. (Description from http://www.thewinesociety.com)
I am so pleased that Mike has chosen Albariño from Rías Baixas this week and I like the look of his recommendations. Mine will follow very soon! You are all going to love this one!
When I mentioned to Anthony that this was going to be my first choice of 2014 he seemed pretty happy. And he should be.
The first time I really drank Albariño was on my stag do about 3 months ago in San Sebastian. For anyone who’s never been over to San Sebastian, then change that immediately, it’s absolutely awesome. It’s a small piece of heaven on earth for foodies and wine-o’s alike, and if you like lounging on the beach or surfing too, then you’ll be like a pig in shit!
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The film ‘Sideways’ is brilliant. However, I have one big problem with it and I’m sure lots of other wine geeks feel the same. The character Miles doesn’t like Merlot; actually it’s not just that he doesn’t like it – he hates it. I can understand hatred towards a grape… I feel that way about Pinot Grigio, although that’s another story. But if Miles really detests Merlot then why is it the primary grape in the blend of the most treasured bottle in his collection (Cheval Blanc 1961)??
About 10 years ago, Merlot was my go-to wine. I didn’t know a whole lot about wine then but I knew what I liked, and I liked Merlot. But in all honestly, as I’ve become more interested and enthralled with wine, I have forgotten about Merlot. I’ve become obsessed with the delicacy and charm of Pinot Noir, the power of Cabernet Sauvignon and the earthiness of Grenache. I love the smokiness of Syrah, the silkiness of Barbera and the fragrance of Cabernet Franc. Merlot has become a forgotten entry in my address book, an ignored old friend.
But recently a couple of things happened that made me re-evaluate and renew my relationship with this most juicy and fruity of vinous friends. The first was a sample I tried from my favourite wine merchant, Wine & the Vine. It was from the Curico Valley in Chile and it was fabulous. The wine had such an enticing aroma of dark ripe fruit, entwined with strawberry and then a dash of spice and chocolate. The texture was silky and the fruit was intense and juicy. Merlot was back in the game.
Then I spent a week in Bordeaux. The first half of the week was wonderful on the left bank in the Medoc; big, powerful and muscular wines from big, famous chateaux were the order of the day. Then we moved to the right bank. Three days in St Emilion and the reintegration of Merlot into my life was complete. Merlot is king on the Right Bank and the wines are supple, juicy, fresh and energetic.
Merlot is back on speed-dial and is set to stay there for quite some time. And as for Miles? Well, if my experience of a marvellous Cheval Blanc 1995 is anything to go by, in that scene when he is drinking his treasured bottle with a burger then hopefully he is re-evaluating the merits of Merlot too!
Vina Echeverria Merlot Reserva 2011, Curico Valley, Chile (Wine and the Vine £10.85)
Really enticing nose of dark ripe fruit, plum, almost damson but entwined with some strawberry and then a dash if spice and chocolate. Silky mouthful with lots of intense fruit and a delicious chocolatey finish. Not long but very tasty.90 points
Chateau L’Enclos 2009, Pomerol (En Primeur Ltd £23.30)
79% Merlot, 19% Cab Franc, 2% Malbec
Intense nose of red cherry fruit with an earthy, mushroom undertone. In the mouth its full bodied but soft and has a beautiful balance. Tannins are still prominent but the freshness is there to bring this together beautifully over the next few years. The finish is big and a bit warm at present (kirsch) but give it time. 91++
Chateau Fonplegade 2004, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe (Fine & Rare £24.00)
91% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 2% Cab Sav
Bright cherry and raspberry aromas with a hint of blackcurrant. Then come the animal and leather notes and a delightful waft of truffle. On the palate its smooth and silky, beautifully fresh and enormously concentrated. An excellent wine, the real deal. 92 points
Thank you so much to Zelda, who publishes the magnificent and most original wine blog, The Illustrated Wine, for agreeing to develop a new identity for the #newwinethisweek project. After a series of Twitter conversions and a few email exchanges, she has brilliantly captured everything we are trying to achieve with #newwinethisweek :
Please make the effort to visit Zelda’s site and look through her back-catalogue… It’s genius!
So here is our new identity and will adorn the #newwinethisweek page for the rest of the year – thank you so much!
Mike got married earlier this week but has still found time to give you some more Carmenere recommendations… Thanks buddy!
My only tip here is that I tried the Sainsbury’s wine when I did my Coinstar Challenge post – it didn’t cut the mustard for me!
Cheers & enjoy #newwinethisweek #NWTW
We got off to a good start with Aussie Riesling in week 1 – you lot seemed to have enjoyed it too with an average score of 7.7/10 – lots of voting but more comments and reviews please!
Now it’s time for some serious red action… something big, bold and wintry. And there is one grape that does all of this, wrapped in a velvety texture and just feels right for January… Carménère from Chile.
Carmenere is Chile’s secret weapon; although it’s origins are in Bordeaux. Phylloxera spelt the end of Carmenere in Europe; the grape didn’t take well to grafting when phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks were introduced. It is a grape that needs lots of sun to fully ripen but boy is it worth waiting for… and in Chile it is the superstar grape and one you are going to love. I’ll be drinking mine with something very meaty that has been cooked long and slow; I picked up a wonderful piece of mutton breast at the market yesterday so that’s a possibility… or a boeuf bourguignon… or cassoulet… you get the picture!
But it’s time for you to discover this all for yourself. All I ask is that you buy a bottle, drink a bottle, then come back here, tell us all what you think and give it a score out of ten.
So less talking, here are a few suggestions from the supermarkets and a couple of indepedents:
Waitrose Reserva Carmenere 2011 (Waitrose £5.99 was £7.99)
Tesco Finest Carmenere 2012 (Tesco £7.99)
Vina Von Siebenthal Carmenere 2011 (Roberson £16.95)
Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition 2009 (Wine & the Vine £14.95)
(This was one of my favourite wines of 2013)
Mike from www.pleasebringmemywine.com is getting married at the weekend – good luck buddy! – but he has promised to provide some of his own recommendation later in the week, so look out for them.
My 2014 tasting season kicked off with the first leg of an Alsace double-header at the West London Wine School. This session was all about the traditional wines of the region and included bottles from the famous domains of Trimbach, Josmeyer and Schlumberger – and there were some great wines on show. Next week’s tasting is about “modern” Alsace… but there will plenty of time to discuss that at a later date.
Alsace is a revelation in many ways. It is a wonderful region, with interesting and aromatic grape varieties. The key grapes here are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc… and it will say that on the label. It is also one of the most beautiful regions of France, with it’s chocolate box villages and wonderful rich and gutsy food; I haven’t visited the area but certainly look forward to a trip in the not too distant future.
The wines are immediately recognisable on the shelf in their tall, thin, Germanic bottles and I hope you grow to love them like I have. These are wines of character, depth and individuality. It has a small production compared to other French regions, with around 15,000 hectares under vine (compared to 120,000 in Bordeaux, 75,000 in the Loire and 30,000 in Burgundy) and there is a very high level of consistency in the quality of the output. Of the planted area, around 78% is classified as AOC Alsace wines, 4% for AOC Alsace Grand Cru (only Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat – tiny production – can be labeled Grand Cru) and 18% for AOC Crémant d’Alsace (the sparkling wine of the area).
Our tasting took in all of the key grapes and styles and certainly improved as the session progressed. I was a little disappointed by the Trimbach wines as I have enjoyed many a good bottle in the past, but the bottles from Josmeyer and Schlumberger more than made up for it:
Bestheim Prestige Cremant d’Alsace NV (N/A UK @ £16.00)
Since my introduction to Cremant on my first visit to Burgundy a couple of years ago I have become more and more impressed by these regional sparklers (a Cremant de Loire made my wines of 2013). This one is made from 100% Pinot Blanc grapes and was a lovely way to start the tasting. There were very few bubbles in the glass but the nose had a good blast of citrus, a hint of melon and the faintest hint yeastiness (although it did intensify given a bit of time). On the palate the wine is fresh with a good citrus hit but there is also a touch of astringency – a touch too much pith perhaps. Overall a fun and light bubbly that was very enjoyable. 88 points
Trimbach Reserve Pinot Blanc 2009 (The Wine Society £9.50)
The wine is actually a blend of 80% Pinot Auxerrois and 20% Pinot Blanc (and I said it was an easy region to understand) but let’s not dwell on it. There is plenty of citrus and a touch of melon on the nose but I also picked up a hint of almond, marzipan even. On the palate it was a bit muted upfront but then the acidity kicks in and gets the juices flowing with lashings of citrus and apple fruit. The wine is very fresh and easy drinking – one for the summer sun, for sure. 88 points
Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2007 (The Wine Society £35.00)
There was a lovely green tinge to the golden juice and the nose was like a lazer beam of citrus and crisp green apples. There was also a hint of plastic (will evolve into classic petrol aromas) and plenty of wet slate minerality –very clean indeed. On the palate the wine is bone dry with a big clout of acidity – it is pure and fresh but I’m struggling to find the fruit or minerality that was promised by the smell. The wine is still very close and a few years off reaching it’s true potential. 90+ points
Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2006 (Majestic £32.00)
So much more development than the 2007 – ripe peaches as well as citrus on the nose and a good dose of honey sweetness too – smells very rich and round. The richness follow through onto the palate – the fruit is apples and the acidity is far more restrained than the 2007 with just a touch of oxidative notes. The wine is wide open but there is a lack of balance – the alcohol, although only 13%, really shouts loudest. 86 points
Josmeyer Les Perrieres Riesling 2008 (Drinkshop.com £25.12)
And just when I was starting to get dis-heartened along comes this beauty. Honey tinged apples, delicious ripe peaches, a touch of the tropics and a clean slateiness really gets the senses aroused. On the palate there is a landslide of fruit with peaches, citrus and green apples, all held together with precise acidity, a touch of white flowers and a hint of petrol on the very fine and long finish. This Riesling really delivers with a delightful balance of fruit and acidity, and a long, fine and seductive finish. Fabulous. 93 points
Josmeyer “H” Pinot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 2011 (Drinkshop.com £21.54)
Although this comes from a Grand Cru vineyard it cannot be labelled as such (only Riesling, Gewurtz, Pinot Blanc and Muscat are eligible). The nose is rich and honeyed with some floral notes hitting your nostrils before the peaches – like sweet tinned peaches – come along. A bit astringent on the attack but a nice streak of acidity and peachy fruit, along with a hint of nut and ginger bring it all together. Very rich and round, lots of complex but the warm alcohol sticks out a little too much for the whole thing to knit together perfectly. 89 points
Sclumberger Les Princes Abbes Pinot Noir 2011 (N/A UK @ £12.00)
How about a red wine, just to shake things up? It’s not a world beater but this is a very elegant and fresh Pinot with a bright, translucent colour in the glass – like a deep rose. The nose is all about red fruit – cherries and strawberries, very light and fragrant with just a touch of earthy leather. The palate is all about the same fruit – very delicate with just a touch of smoke. Simple, bright and fresh – very easy drinking, bright and enjoyable. 87 points
Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2008 (Fortnum & Mason £22.50)
I bloody love this wine. Crisp green apples – almost sherbet like, with a very mineral backbone and the first hints of petrol development. The wine is so clean and pure on the entry before the peach, apple and acidity kicks in – this is pure, almost glacial in it’s elegance. The finish is delightfully long and everything comes together in beautiful balance – I think this is a bargain at £22.50 and I am making a trip for Fortnums very soon. 94 points
Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kitterle 2007 (Fortnum & Mason £32.50)
Is this really the same grape that makes that dull and dismal Pinot Grigio monstrosities that the supermarket shelves are filled with? Believe it or not it is! Beautifully golden in the glass, the nose elegantly unfolds peaches, nectarines, tropical fruit, honey-drenched pastry… no, it’s caramelised crème brulee. The first thing that hits the tongue is the rich honey, then the acid glides across your palate, with beautiful peaches and nectarines, then some smoky backnotes. The overall impression is of a peach & nut pastry dessert that just goes on and on with delightful elegance. Splendid. 95 points
Schlumberger Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Kitterle 2006 (Fortnum & Mason £27.44)
Aromatic, exotic and floral. The classic aromas of Turkish delight, pink roses and lychees are there in spades, along with a touch of honey and nut – this is textbook Gewürz. The attack is sweet but nicely balanced by the richness – the flavours are floral, tropical fruit with a hint of sweet spice and candied nuts. This is one of the most balanced and complete gewürztraminers I have come across. 92 points
Now you’ve got these recommendations from pleasbringmemywine.com there are no excuses not to join in now!
Mike’s suggestions for Majestic, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s to go with my tips from M&S, Tesco and Wine & The Vine.
Cheers, enjoy and spread the #newwinethisweek word!