Monthly Archives: April 2014
This week’s #newwinethisweek selection is a bit of a Phoenix from the flames story; back in the mid 1980’s records showed there was only 32 hectares of Viognier planted in the entire world! These days it has become a bit of a dinner party favourite and is grown all over the planet.
We are focussing on France this week… if it goes down well we’ll investigate other regions later on this year. The real heartland of Viognier is in the Northern Rhone, in the appellation of Condrieu, where most of the 32 hectares were planted back in 1985; today there are over 100 hectares planted on the steep, terraced slopes. These wines often show their best after 5 to 10 years in bottle and certainly don’t come cheap.
There is also a very interesting appellation just south of Condrieu called Chateau Grillet. The entire appellations is owned by a single producer and produces only 100% Viognier wines from a tiny 3.8 hectares of planted land, making it one of the smallest appellations in France.
The cheapest Condrieu I could find in the UK supermarkets was £32.25 from the excellent Jean-Luc Colombo in Morrisons, and that is only available by mail order. But fortunately for us, if you head a little further south to the Languedoc there is plenty of good value, quality French Viognier to admire and enjoy.
Viognier produces complex white wines with a full-bodied texture and a heady combination of apricots and peaches, with floral, perfumed notes. I often describe the taste as “awkward” (probably due the low levels of acid) but by the second glass I’ve usually got a smile on my face. The other thing to remember is that you won’t often find a Viognier with less than 13% alcohol.
So why not get yourself a bottle and tell us what you think? Post a review in the comments section and give your French Viognier experience a score out of 10. The #newwinethisweek league table is updated every week at the link below; where will Viognier fit in?
If you do want to taste the cream of the crop then here are a couple of Condrieu options to select from:
If your budget is around £10 then head a little further south:
It’s been a rough couple of weeks and the decision was made that we deserved a bit of a treat just for getting through it, and to celebrate the improving health of a loved one.
This week’s choice for our #newwinethisweek project was Zinfandel from California so there could be no better excuse needed to uncork a bottle from one of the finest producers in the US, Ridge Geyserville 2011. The problem was I didn’t simply want to pop and pour, it needed a bit of breathing time, so I needed to find something suitable for the opening act.
Any of you who regularly read my posts will know that I’m quite fond of a theme when I taste wines, so I was delighted to discover a bottle of California white wine hiding at the back of the fridge. And not just any bottle, but a bottle from one of the most exciting wine producers in the new world, a bottle of Sandhi Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2011. I first discovered Sandhi wines when I attended a tasting event at Roberson last year (link to review here) and have been enjoying them ever since… it didn’t let us down:
Sandhi Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2011 (Roberson £29.95)
The nose has a wonderfully bright and zingy burst of citrus with lemons and grapefruit jumping out of the glass; in the background there is a slight nuttiness and hints of hot toast and butter. On the palate the precise streak of acidity as tight and tense but opens up to reveal the citrus delight and minerality that you usually associate with top-end Chablis. But there is even more at play here with a creamy undertone and a delightful nutty and toasty depth and length. A real classy wine – even better than the bottles I’ve had previously. 93 points
That gave the Zin 90 minutes or so to open up.
Paul Draper, the winemaker at Ridge has now produced 43 vintages at Ridge and is regarded by most as one of the very best in California. The estate shot to fame after a good showing for the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Ridge Monte Bello 1971 at the famous Judgement of Paris and has gone from strength to strength.
Ridge Geyserville 2011 (The Wine Society £29.00)
78% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane, 4% Petite Sirah, 1% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Mataro.
Smells like cherries and blackberries dipped in a silky, smoky chocolate-vanilla sauce – oh so enticing – they say you can’t smell sweetness, but I’m sure I can! A very delicate attack (too harsh a word actually) with ripe and sweet black fruit then layer upon layer of flavour; chocolate, oaky smoke and vanilla, you taste them individually then they mingle together in a very stylish whole. The texture is silky smooth, almost creamy, then the classy tannins take a light grip and the smoky-vanilla finish lingers for 30 seconds. I’m actually a big fan on Zin but the elegance of the Geyserville has raised the bar and my expectation. So enjoyable right now but will get better and better over the next years. 93+ points
I am now even more excited about my trip to California in the summer… bring it on!
California these days is famous for it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinots and Chardonnays; but the grape that really put the state on the world wine map was one they can truly call they’re own – Zinfandel. Thanks to Mike for this week’s selection and be sure to follow his thoughts on the subject on his blog, which will also include this week’s poll:
Although Zin is most widely know for producing blockbuster style red wines, the grape has the ability to produce wines in many different styles; from soft red-berry driven guzzlers to robust and full-bodied humdingers, brimming with ripe fruit and dressed with some of the finest most expensive oak available.
Don’t be surprised to see alcohol levels at 15% and above an a Zinfandel label -the grape’s biggest critics complain about the alcohol being “too hot” but I think they just need to man-up and get a steak on the BBQ! But I do have a warning for you all this week… If I hear any murmur of Zinfandel b***h then I will find out where you live, knock on your door and insist on a very serious chat and lifestyle reappraisal!
California has many sub-regions producing fine example of Zin. The area we tend to mostly see on labels in the UK is Lodi, which is home to some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in the US; but good wine is also produced in Sonoma, Napa, Mendecino and further south in Paso Robles.
One of my favourite wine facts is that Zinfandel is exactly the same grape variety as Primitivo from the southern-most parts of Italy – so impress your friends with that when you’re enjoying a bottle of Zin with friends this week!
There are a couple of great deals to take advantage of this week so get yourself down to you local wine seller, pick up a bottle of Zinfandel and tell us what you think.
And what better opportunity will I get to open my bottle of Ridge Geyserville?
I was very happy when a package from Roberson with a new wine to review arrived in the post; Roberson is one of my favourite wine shops in London, has won numerous awards including Decanter London Wine Merchant of the Year, and just happens to be a ten minute walk from my place of work.
So imagine my shock and horror when I opened the package to reveal what looked like the kind of label I associate with a supermarket shelf on Valentine’s Day or Mothers’ Day! The pink label is one I wouldn’t even consider picking up in a supermarket, never mind a top-end wine merchant! But we need to look beyond the nasty neon-pinkness and see what lies within (although I do love the wax closure).
The label may not suggest so, but this is a very serious wine. The wines of Mas Coutelou are made in the village of Puimisson in the Languedoc by winemaker Jeff Coutelou. The estate was one of the earliest to be officially certified as organic in 1987, and these days are renowned for their ‘natural’ wines. The subject of natural wines is hotly debated and for me, this is what good natural winemaking is all about, a wine that simply tastes great and just happens to be made in a ‘natural’ way.
The Classé 2012 is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 20% Carignan and is classified merely as Vin de France. If what you’re after is a wine to awaken and play with all of your senses then pop open a bottle of Classé 2012 and let the fireworks begin…
Mas Coutelou Classé 2012 (Roberson £14.95)
To be fair, I’m not so keen on the smell either! The nose gives off a funky waft of southern French heat; plums and dark cherries, quite jammy, even a touch burnt – certainly smells more alcoholic than the 13.5% on the label.
But hold your horses readers… the first mouthful is absolutely wonderful! Red fruit explodes across the palate; raspberries, redcurrants and cranberries burst with freshness before the underlying notes of plum and blackberry take hold. The generous acidity certainly gets the juices flowing and is delightfully balanced by the fine tannins, which provide a sturdy yet elegant structure. The finish is lingering and satisfying with hints of lavender and dried herbs persisting for what seems like minutes.
A rollercoaster of a wine but one that will certainly get you back for another glass… if you can close your eyes for the label and put a peg on your nose for the smell! 92 points
To order a bottle (or a case!) click here:
I am so glad that Mike over at http://www.pleasebringmemywine.com has taken over the reigns for the next couple of weeks. Firstly I am enjoying a very relaxing break in Devon, where it seems WiFi is in a thing of mystery (hence I’m a day late with this post!) and secondly he has made an awesome choice for week 15 of #newwinethisweek…
We enjoyed a red New World classic with Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra last week; this week we can look forward to a white new world champion, Chenin Blanc from South Africa:
Chenin is rightly associated with the Loire in France but it has also become the signature white grape of South Africa, where it has been grown since the seventeenth century. These days it is the most planted white variety in the country and the grapes produce delicious, great value whites with lots of fruity character and delicious, mouthwatering acidity. Stellenbosch and Paarl are both excellent regions, with Swartland also beginning to up the ante.
I think we’re in for another brilliant week on #newwinethisweek; here are a few recommendations from me:
Don’t forget to head on over to Mike’s blog to give South African a Chenin a Blanc a score and a review… Get involved!
Is there a better pairing than celebration and Champagne? There is one person I know who is a true believer in the combination; that’s my Mum! In fairness, Mum doesn’t need an excuse to open a bottle of fizz providing the day ends in day, but she reached a landmark last weekend so I decided to arrange a landmark tasting in her honour.
Ten of us got together to celebrate the event in Birmingham. It was quite a few years ago that I went to university in the city (I went to Aston; the really good one!) so knowing where to go could’ve been a tough challenge. Luckily for me, I’ve met a lot of great people through writing this blog. One of those is Matt, who I met when I swapped a bottle of Pichon Baron 2006 for a bottle of Penfolds St Henri 2003 as part of his fantastic #wineswap quest. Matt worked at Loki Wine & Tasting Room in the heart of Birmingham for a while and put me in touch with Loki’s main guy, Phil. Good call!
After a few emails we agreed on a series of sparklers that would dazzle and delight. We chose bottles from Italy, England and a couple of French regions, finishing with something very special for a very special lady. The staff at Loki looked after us brilliantly and it was fantastic to see the place so busy and buzzing – I can’t wait to return and try some of the 24 wines available from the enomatic machines. But this visit was all about the bubbles…
Drusian DOCG Prosecco Superiore NV (@ £15)
I often find Prosecco just a little one dimensional – it’s a party wine… and there’s no harm in that at all! The Drusian has lots of Golden delicious, pear and a touch of tropical, sweet fruit. Lovely and lively mousse. 89 points
Moutard Diligent Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé NV (@ £15)
If you’ve been following #newwinethisweek then you’ll know that Cremant is France’s secret pleasure. This offering from Burgundy is made from 70% Pinot and 30% Chardonnay and is simply amazing value for money. Strawberry upfront with a funky rhubarb note and a creamy, yeastyness – like a cream horn with strawberry sauce! 91 points
Camel Valley Brut Pinot Noir Rosé NV (@ £35)
I am always blown away by the beautifully elegant wines from Camel Valley – we really should stand up and shout about them more! This delightful rosé tastes like crushed strawberries and raspberries with in a delicate flaky pastry nest; so light and fresh and truly tastes like a glorious British Summer’s day. 91 points
Ruinart Rosé NV (@ £35)
I’m a huge fan of Ruinart fizz, especially the Blanc de Blanc but this one slightly disappointed (only me it has to be said!). The bottle ageing is more obvious with yeasty brioche notes upfront. It’s a little lacking in fruit for me but the red berries are there, just slightly out of balance. 88 points
Dom Perignon 1999 (@ £125)
This is my first try of Dom Perignon and I want more! So complete – luscious and creamy with apple and lemons, beautifully integrated brioche and beautifully velvety texture. It’s like a baked apple pie and custard and the taste keeps on going. I’ve never experienced a sparkling wine with such balance and it’s fair to say that even in the un-fancied 1999 vintage, DP really shines through. (The DP even got the approval of my critical sister Hayley; “smells like cat pee” she said… certainly didn’t taste like it!) 95 points
It was always going to be a challenge impress a woman who doesn’t travel anywhere without a pair of Champagne flutes in her baggage. I think we did a great job – even Madame Bollinger would approve:
“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it if I am; Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
Terroir is an intriguing, complex and beguiling concept. At its most basic level it can be translated as “a sense of place”; a wine that tastes of where it comes from. There are few conversations about Burgundy without mention of terroir, then there are the differences between Hermitage and Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone; or La Morra and Serralunga in Barolo, to name just a few. The wines from these regions have distinctive styles, aromas and flavours that are instantly recognisable. Wine has been produced and lauded from these regions for centuries; the terroir is “understood”.
And what about the New World? I read many articles where winemakers talk about “getting to know and understand their terroir”, but there is one region who’s wines are unmistakable and truly delicious. That region is Coonawarra in South Australia.
Coonawarra is a sub-region of the Limestone Coast and is synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are produced from this 12km x 2km strip of “terra rossa” soil, whose stunning red appearance is caused by rust formations in the clay, and lies on top of a thick limestone layer. The wines have wonderfully rich and concentrated flavours of blackcurrant with a minty, eucalyptus-fresh finish. They are some of my very favourite red wines and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Here are a few recommendations from me: and don’t forget to look out for more suggestions, from www.pleasebringmemywine, including selections from Spirited Wines, Majestic and the other supermarkets:
Not all of the supermarkets stock wines from Coonawarra itself, but these are excellent wines from the wider Limestone Coast area:
Finest Howcroft Cabernet 2010, Limestone Coast (Tesco £7.49)
And here’s a link to some more suggestions, from www.pleasebringmemywine, including selections from Spirited Wines, Majestic and the other supermarkets:
Now all you have to do is buy a bottle and tell us what you think! All we ask is that you come back here during the week, give your Aussie Cab Sav experience a score out of 10 and leave a tasting note in the comments section.
Where will Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon end up on the #newwinethisweek leaderboard?
This week has highlighted exactly why I love writing this blog so much; on Monday I was recommending Italian wines under £10 for #newwinethisweek then a few hours later I was tasting £300 bottles from one of the best Bordeaux vintages of the past 30 years…sometimes I’m quite glad I decided to do this thing!
That superb year was 1990. And what a pleasure it was to taste these magnificient wines at another fantastic event at the West London Wine School. I think it was even more enjoyable given the reports coming in from the 2013 tastings, which are full of doom and gloom after what was one of the most challenging growing seasons of recent times. But there were no such problems in 1990. The wines were on top form and, almost 24 years on from the harvest, many of them were just beginning to open up; this is a vintage that truly will reward patience in the long term.
What is particularly amazing about 1990 is that the yields were so high they had to be capped at a staggering 60 hectolitres per hectare (Pontet Canet have just revealed that their 2013 yield was 15hl/l!). Such high yields are often a sign of low concentration and variable quality, however 1990 seemed to deliver the lot…and then some.
July and August were the driest since 1961 as well as being two of the hottest months since records began; then heavy rain came at precisely the right time at the end of August and a relatively cool September resulted in perfect harvest conditions. The wines have a wonderful balance and harmony; ripe fruit, wonderful acidity and perfectly structured and luxurious tannin.Some have suggested 1990 is the best vintage since 1961…the wines on show tonight certainly painted a very positive picture…
Chateau Cantemerle 5eme Cru Classé1990, Haut Medoc (Fine & Rare £50)
Ripe and fragrant fruit, leaning towards strawberry with blackcurrant in the background; there’s a touch of vanilla, a hint of anise and a balsamic note. Very encouraging; I could smell this for quite some time. The acid is bright but the fruit is a bit muddy and verging on dried and shrivelled. There is good minerality and some leather notes but missing tannic structure. The superb aromas don’t quite carry through to the palate; after a fresh attack and decent middle, I’m left with a metallic tang. Hmmm. 90 points
Chateau La Lagune 3eme Cru Classé1990, Haut Medoc (Fine & Rare £80)
A very fresh nose reminiscent of summer pudding with a delightful mixture of red and black fruit; there are violets, a touch of smoked meat, sweet tobacco and cedar. Good weight and plenty of tannic structure, which is beautifully balanced by refreshing acidity. There’s still plenty of blackcurrant fruit, earthy minerality and a pencil shaving finish. Lovely weight and balance; a long and interesting finish and plenty of life ahead of it. My first taste of La Lagune but I will certainly return! 93 points
Chateau Lagrange 3eme Cru Classé1990, Saint Julien (Fine & Rare £110)
The nose is filled with blackcurrant with plenty of smoky spice and an exotic spice box. Intense and concentrated; exotic and opulent; lovely stuff. The texture is rich but there is alack of grip and a lack of acidity…there’s no flavour delivery! Am I missing something here? Is it too early? It’s got me confused; the experts lavished high scores but it’s not doing it for me at all. 88 points
Chateau Leoville Barton 2eme Cru Classe 1990, Saint Julien (Fine & Rare £135)
I love the elegance of Leoville Barton; pure blackcurrant fruit, delightful gravelly minerality, cedar and graphite; delightful in the extreme. Sweet blackcurrant fruit, edging towards crème de cassis. Marvellous balance of fruit, acidity and lush tannins. Wonderful minerality, elegant and exotic spice and graphite. Stylish and luscious, polished without being manhandled; classic and majestic. 94 points
Chateau Calon-Segur 3ene Cru Classé1990, Saint Estephe (Fine & Rare £130)
Intense and broody, dark plums and blackcurrant; intense and concentrated with leather, tobacco, cedar and a dusting of dried herbs. Full bodied and very dry on the attack, before the soft dark fruit and fine acidity cleanses the palate. A sweet and long finish; plush and opulent –will get better. 93 points
Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste 5eme Cru Classé1990, Pauillac (Roberson £205)
Fresh and young with lashings of blackcurrant, blackberry and even a hint of red berries. There’s an understated smokiness, cedar and exotic spice –so luxurious. Wow! Rich and powerful palate with wonderful acidity and delightful grip. Highly concentrated blackcurrant with notes of sweet spice, cedar, expensive leather and graphite. Such supreme power and elegance; structure, fruit, freshness and length. Magnificent. 95 points
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2eme Cru Classe 1990, Pauillac (Lay & Wheeler £252)
Heaps of blackcurrant and cassis, gentle smoky spice but with an exotic and mysterious depth. This is super concentrated and rich with rich and dense sweet fruit. The tannins are big and luscious but they are perfectly matched with the fresh and vivid acidity. Silky smooth, luscious and intense; still very young but oh so marvellously concentrated and what a finish! 95 points
Chateau L’Evangile 1990, Pomerol (Roberson £310)
We probably should have started with this one but what a way to finish the tasting! You have to get your nose right in there but once the aromas start escaping I’m hypnotised by sweet red strawberries and cherries, with an undertone of blackcurrant –then the balance changes toward black fruit –amazing! There are also vio.et and gravelly notes with smoke, caramel and a hit of balsamic. On the palate it’s soft and fruity with fine tannins; the flavours are highly concentrated and coat my whole mouth –smooth and sexy! So different to Cabernets but just shows how good 1990 was on the right bank too. I love it. 95 points
And for the big Bordeaux fans among you, some links to other tasting write-ups: