Category Archives: General
At last my friends, summer is here. Take a moment. Drink in the sunshine. The Ashes is in full tilt and England have just scraped a first test win. Schools are getting ready for their end of year shutdown – The Fish is very happy about this! Holidays are front of mind. We haven’t had a Spring to speak of; its as if it went from 10C to 28C in one foul swoop. But summer has arrived when many of us had given up all hope!
I lit my first BBQ of the year on Saturday and enjoyed a wonderful NZ Riesling and a magnificent white Burgundy from the underrated appellation of Saint Aubin with my chicken and lamb tikka kebabs. Today the matches were out again and the dish of choice is paella with squid and chorizo. My thoughts went straight to Albariño or Verdejo to continue the Spanish theme, but a visit to Jez at Wine & the Vine changed my mind with a tasting of a delicious Vermentino from Australia (I wouldn’t have gone near it had the Aussies won the first test!) and… big pause…. A Pinot Grigio Rose! Those of you who read the blog regularly will know that I have little time for Pinot G and rarely write about rosé; but the summer has done funny things to me! It’s fantastic!
Berton Vineyards Metal Label Vermentino 2012, SE Australia (Wine & the Vine £10.25)
This really is the taste and smell of summer. Like a bowl of citrus with some tropical cousins and a touch if apple peel. Lovely zing if acidity and just the lightest hint of sweetness. Was a perfect partner to the paella. 90 points
Clos de Nouys Vouvray Demi Sec 2011, Loire, France (Waitrose £10.99)
Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Really rich flavours of ripe peaches, hint of apricot and lively acidity combine beautifully with the sweetness to provide a refreshing and balanced mouthful that makes the sun seem that little bit warmer. 90 point
Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2012, Portugal (Waitrose £7.49)
Currently £5.99 with 25% off. Portuguese wine used to be the sort of stuff you drank on holiday and would never consider drinking at home… How times have changed! Lots of lemon, lime and apple skin fruit and massively refreshing. It’s not complex but its deliciously refreshing and a real fun wine with that hint of spritz. 89 points
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2009, Waipara, NZ (Roberson £17.95)
Ok so this isn’t cheap and I’ve written about is before, but its bloody brilliant! Intense lime and pineapple freshness – like crushed pineapple chunks. With that bit if age theres also that wonderful whiff of petroleum that is so delicious in aged Riesling. Lovely off-dry finish in the style of a German Spatlese, and very, very long. One if my very favourites. 93 points
Sera da Estrela Albarino 2011, Rias Baixas, Spain (Wine & the Vine £14.25)
There really is nothing to dislike about this wine. From Galicia in North West Spain comes heaps of fruity intensity on the nose with apple, peach and even a touch of the tropics. All of the fruit is there in your mouth too and its quite full bodied too; a lovely texture. The fruit stays with you for quite one time and the saltiness of quality Albariño is there at the end. Lovely stuff for any occasion. 92 points
Michele Chiarlo Dolcetto d’Asti 2010, Piedmont, Italy (Wine & the Vine £11.55)
You don’t have to pay a fortune for a red wine from Piedmont! Youthful aromas and palate of young red cherries and Victoria plums. Wonderful acidity and just enough tannin to provide a super balance. 90 points
E Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2009, Southern Rhone, France (Majestic £11.99, £8.99 when you buy 2)
Black cherry and dark plums with a beautiful waft of herbs de Provence on the nose – quite a bit of anise. This follows though onto the palate, where the spice and fennel comes first, followed by very black cherries and really grippy tannins. This is robust and delicious. 89 points
Domaine de Noblaie Chinon 2011, Loire, France (The Wine Society £8.95
Chinon reds are 100% Cabernet Franc and are delicious chilled when young. Bright red currant and sweet cherry nose with a deliciously fragrant whiff of green, fresh herbs. Bright and crunchy red berries, good acidity and a delightfully tangy finish. Totally ace for the price! 89 points
Sharpham Whole Berry Rosé 2011 (www.sharpham.com £13.95)
I may have to reconsider my views on Rosé. UK fizz certainly has a great reputation these days but this is a belter too. The wine is made by lightly pressing whole bunches of Dornfelder grapes and the outcome is particularly fine. Loads of strawberry fruit but it reminded me of a fine dessert containing rhubarb poached in a sugar syrup with some lightly poached meringues. It really is wonderful stuff, perfect for a party in the back garden. 89 points
Sacchetto Pinot Grigio Blush delle Venezie 2012, Veneto, Italy (Wine & the Vine £8.45)
It’s made from Pinot Grigio. It’s a Rosé. And I think its great! Imagine a basket if delicate summer fruits; strawberries, raspberries and sweet cherries. It’s all here with just enough acid and a lovely dry finish. Sunday on the patio sorted! 89 points
Domaine Larue Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Cortons 2008 (Bin Two £24.00)
Apple and savoury buttered crumble with custard spiked with butterscotch and vanilla. Delicious aromas. Buttery, toasty savouriness combines with a beautiful acid steak of apples as well as some tropical fruits. The oak is beautifully judged and integrated through the finish, which is delightful and lingering. This is a massively underrated Burgundy appellation. 92 points
Many of the guys are wine lovers, are interested in learning more about wine and also love their food. So what better than the suggestion of a BBQ where we cooked up a number of different cuts of beef, and some wines to see what goes together the best? Whatever could go wrong?
Arriving at 5.30 on Friday and deciding to do the steak & wine on Saturday
Lots of brilliant British beer on Friday followed by a trip to the onsite “Club”
Then playing cards until 4AM
Finding a pub to watch the Lions on Saturday morning
The Lions winning
Ending up with 13 bottles of wine
Not being afraid to drink them
Well apart from that nothing could go wrong!
Despite all of the above we still approached our task systematically and with aplomb. The steaks were cooked up (half way through the wine!) and we scored each of the wines out of 10 to come up with a favourite. I scored the wines on the 100 point scale also so I could add them into the tasting notes. Below are all of the wines in the order they were tasted with a bit of analysis at the end.
Chateau des Trois Tour 2010, Bordeaux (around £10)
I was very impressed with the red fruit concentration, big body and nice oak integration. A deliciously easy drinking wine that bats well above it’s price tag. 89 points (team score 8/10)
Chateau Segonzac Cru Bourgeois 2009, Bordeaux (Waitrose £9.99)
Lots of ripe red fruit from an opulent vintage but really that was about it. The oak is overdone and there isn’t much balance. May soften a touch in a year or two but I’m not prepared to find out! 85 points (6/10)
Chateau Le Baronnet 2010, Bordeaux (Al didn’t know where it came from!)
None of us were too bothered when Al didn’t know where it came from as it was stewed, jammy fruit with no hint of elegance. You can probably pick it up in a 3 for £10 deal. 79 points (4/10)
Errazuriz Merlot 2011, Chile (Majestic £9.99)
This wasn’t my cup of tea – it is big and bold but it’s overdone with sickly fruit and sickly oak. There is 15% Carmenere in the blend). A couple of the guys really liked it’s smooth texture and upfront fruit (but you know what they’d had to drink before!). 83 points (6/10)
Otra Vida Winemakers Selection Malbec 2012, Argentina (Asda £5.48)
I’m not a big Malbec fan and was pleasantly surprised by this wine. There’s some real texture and only a hint of the rubberiness I dislike so much. Lots of juicy dark fruit and good length too… Shame about the really cheap looking label! 87 points (7/10)
Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition 2009, Maipo, Chile (Wine & the Vine £14.95)
This is a real jump in class to anything we’ve had yet – really classy stuff. Heaps of dark plumy fruit with hints of chocolate, liquorice and a slight herbaciousness. There are waves and waves of aromas and flavours and it seems to last forever. Really top notch stuff – best wine of the tasting. 93 points (9/10)
Linaje Garcia Joven 2010, Ribera del Duero, Spain (Wine & the Vine £11.25)
100% unoaked Tempranillo and very fresh. There lots of red fruit and just a touch of bramble – its a delicate and gently wine but has a very dry finish. This most certainly needed a forkful of steak. 87 points (7/10)
Castillo San Lorenzo Rioja 2007, Spain (Tesco £12.49)
Nice red fruit and warm spice on the nose. Deeper, riper fruit on the palate with subtle vanilla oak. A little drying on the finish and no great length but does have the Rioja strawberries and cream. Decent. 87 points (7/10)
St Hallett Waitrose Barossa Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley, South Aus (Waitrose £10.99)
This is a very classy wine at a very decent price. Lots of blackcurrant fruit, lovely brambly edge and smooth smokey, chocolate finish. I’ve drunk plenty of more expensive Aussie Shiraz that doesn’t come close to this. I bought this when it was 25% at £8.24 – I’l buy a case at that price next time. 91 points (9/10)
Brancott Estate Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Hawke’s Bay, NZ (Tesco £6.99)
Back to a Bordeaux blend but just tastes a bit stewed and industrial to me. Brancott make some very god wines but unfortunately this isn’t one of them. Overripe red fruit but very smooth – not offensive; I’d just rather pay an extra £4 for the St Hallett! 85 points (6/10)
Puccini Chianti Riserva 2009, Tuscany, Italy (Costco £7.49)
Lovely cherry fruit and hint of earthy spice and leather. This is a deliciously smooth Chianti with real elegance. It’s getting late in the afternoon by now but I think this could be the bargain of the selection! 89 points (7/10)
Firemark Syrah/Malbec 2012, Argentina (Tesco £5.99)
Another very decent value wine. There’s lots of dark, black fruit with plenty of plums and black cherry, but it’s smooth and spicy too. Not bad for £6 and very good with what was left of the steak! 88 points (7/10)
Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2009, Sonoma, California (Costco £8.49)
A good one to round things off. Bursting with concentrated sweet blueberries, plums and spic; it’s very bright and fruity with a soft and smooth texture. Nice acidity and smoky spices that linger. 90 points (9/10)
I looked at the scores we all gave and realized I’m a right tight-arse when it comes to scoring wines! My average score was about 6 and the rest of the team were between 7 and 8. Having said that, we mostly agreed that the best wines on show were the Carmenera, Barosa Shiraz and the Lodi Zin. All great fun at the end of the day… Except it wasn’t the end and we had to go back to the club…. AAARRGGHHH!!!!!
Food and eating out is a great passion of mine but this is a blog about wine, and very rarely do I write restaurant reviews unless there is a very good reason. My experience this last weekend offered not one good reason, but two superb ones:
An exquisitely chosen and well priced wine list
The cooking of a real superstar chef
The Walnut Tree just outside Abergavenny is a culinary legend, which was run by Franco Taruschio for over 35 years, until he sold up in 2000. It became known as one of the best restaurants in Wales during that time and its wonderful to see it back where it belongs after some difficult times (anyone remember seeing it on the awful Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in 2004??).
The restaurant is now run by the brilliant Shaun Hill, who since taking over the reins in 2008 has won the restaurant a Michelin star and was awarded UK restaurant of the year in 2009. Shaun has worked in some fantastic kitchens but rose to fame at Gidleigh Park, where he even appeared in one of Keith Floyd’s brilliant TV programmes! However it was The Merchant House in Ludlow where he gained huge critical acclaim, cooking single handedly every night for 24 lucky diners… It’s my biggest culinary regret that I never got to eat there.
But no point in regretting the past, at least we can all now enjoy Shaun’s cooking at the wonderful Walnut Tree. Recently Shaun appeared on Simon Hopkinson’ excellent cookery programme where his food was described as “simple”. His response was brilliant:
“It takes 6 chefs 10 to 12 hours a day to make it this simple.”
The biggest difficulty here is choosing what to have as everything on the menu sounds amazing. Luckily the four of us all went for different options – was dining with The Fish and the in-laws – the event was Den’s birthday. For starters we had Steak Tartare and chips, Quail with grapes, sweetbreads with sour kraut, and a salad of courgettes and sugar snap peas. It was all delicious and really got the tastebuds going.
Main courses included skate with pancetta and broad beans, suckling pork with morcilla and empanada, sea bass with mussels in a spicy broth, and skirt steak with Provençal tomato. Everything was cooked to perfection and the combination of ingredients and flavours were spectacular. I also have to give a special mention the dauphine potatoes that came with the beef – they were like potato doughnuts and possibly the best carbohydrate side dish of all time!
There wasn’t really room for dessert… But we didn’t let that stop us. Chocolate and raspberry torte, strawberry pavlova, gooseberry jelly crumble, and chocolate and pear tart. What’s not to like? Well nothing actually, it was all tip-top and we were just left smiling and shaking our heads at the skill of the kitchen. Everything was sublime. And the real beauty is there is no pretence whatsoever. The staff are delightfully friendly yet unobtrusive, there are no smears and foams on the plate; everything is just as it should be. Brilliant food in a wonderful environment.
Oh, and there was the wine too!
The last time I wrote about a restaurant wine list it was to praise the amazing value of the list Ye Olde Bull’s Head in Beaumaris… Well it seems that Wales is the place for excellent value wine as The Walnut Tree also boasts a wonderful selection at very agreeable prices. The list is also organised in an extremely logical format:
Essential wines – varietal wines that everyone will recognise
Core wines – exciting newer stuff and shining stars that are good value
Classic wines – plenty of famous wines at nit so famous prices
There’s a lovely piece on their website talking about how wine service in restaurants can be quite elaborate, but their approach is straightforward; offer you a taste to check the condition, pour a small glass for each diner and then leave it up to you. Wonderfully simple and exactly what most diners crave, I know I hate it when waiters are constantly topping up glasses.
I wanted a bottle of white and a bottle of red and I like to go for one from the old world and one from the new. I’m a bit more experimental with my white wines but its probably no surprise that I selected a Riesling from New Zealand and a red Burgundy. But i could’ve gone for any number of combinations as the selection is beautifully considered and put together. Mark-ups are around 100% up on retail prices which I consider to be very fair, especially when so many places in London are upwards of 300%.
Here’s what we enjoyed:
Spy Valley Riesling 2011, Marlborough, NZ (£34.00)
If I didn’t know I would’ve thought this wine came from Western Australia – it shares that wonderful pithy lime character which just gets the mouth watering. There’s just a hint of the tropics in the background and a bone dry, almost chalky finish. An excellent wine for the starter courses or maybe just as an aperitif. 92 points
Domaine Marechal Pommard 2009, Burgundy (£64.00)
Delightfully delicate and silky for a Pommard. Having said that there is plenty of leather and animal hiding beneath the delicious red currant and wild strawberry fruit. I love these Pinots from the Côte de Beaune and this is another cracker – I will certainly be on the lookout for more Marechal offerings. 93 points
This is the second of a 2-part exploration of the wonderful wines of New Zealand. Click here for the first part – Introduction to New Zealand.
I’ve attended a fair few fine wine tastings recently which have mostly included fancy wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. It’s nice when you receive news of a high quality New World event and after the success of a recent California tasting at Roberson I was very much looking forward to their Fine Wines of New Zealand evening. In fact I ain’t the only one looking forward as The Fish decided this one took her fancy too!
As I’ve written in the previous New Zealand post I am beginning to appreciate these wines from the bottom of the globe. I’m even getting a taste back for Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs, however it’s the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rieslings that have really excited me and I was delighted that this tasting focused on a selection of grape varieties and styles.
Marc, who spent a number of years both travelling and working in the New Zealand wine trade, took us through a detailed and entertaining introduction to the wines of New Zealand before leading the tasting of 10 wines (In fact there were 11 wines as we received a glass of Cloudy Bay Pelourus fizz to get things going!)
What impressed me most about the wines were the consistent quality across the board. It has certainly encouraged me to keep exploring these exciting wines from this passionate, wine loving country. We tasted the wines in pairs of the same variety, starting with the wine that kicked New Zealand into the wine limelight:
Cloudy Bay Pelourus NV, Marlborough (£24.95)
Predominately Chardonnay blend and made using the method traditionale, this fizz is very fragrant with lots of delicate, crisp apple aromas which are backed up by a nutty, yeasty complexity from its time on lees. Lovely creamy texture with lively acidity and a good length finish. 90 points
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough (£21.95)
This is actually a very nice wine, just priced about a tenner too high! Bright and fresh aromas of gooseberry and green pepper and a vibrant palate with subtle flavours backing up the smell as well as some delicious passion fruit at the end. Searing acidity and bone dry. Very good indeed. 91 points
Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough (£28.95)
I’m a big fan of oaked Chardonnay and I also liked to toasty aromas of the Te Koko… But not the flavour. The oak masks any if the bright Sauvignon flavours and just feels heavy handed with an almost honeyed finish with very little balance. 88 points
Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2010, Central Otago (£49.95)
This was my favourite wine of the tasting. The aromas and flavours of warm oak hits you straight between the eyes at first but then ones the waves of sublime tropical fruit. Pineapple, honeydew melon and peach. It’s soft and warm and has such a wonderful balance of fruit, acid and oak, with impressive weight and texture. Fabulous. 95 points
Pyramid Valley Lions Tooth Chardonnay 2010, Canterbury (£49.95)
Crystal clear fruit of passion fruit and pineapple. The oak is more subtle than that of Felton Road and manifests itself as sweet brioche. Much lighter weight on the palate and mouth watering acidity. A very pure, even glacial wine with a delightful and long finish. 93 points
Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago (£50.00)
Red currant and wild strawberry armies and just a hint of slate/minerality. Delightful and elegant red fruit upfront and lively acidity but there’s a hole in the middle and the end is just flat. A real shame as it promised so much. 88 points
Dry River Pinot Noir 2008, Martinborough (£69.95)
This is much more like it! A huge nose of morello cherries, floral/violets and oh so meaty and savoury. Full bodied and huge concentration on the palate, so smooth and silky, such elegant red fruit, a touch of spice. and beautiful balance. A superb modern Pinot Noir. 94 points
Man o’ War Dreadnaught 2009, Waiheke Island (£36.95)
100% Syrah. Smoky cherries, meaty and very savoury nose… Very Northern Rhone! There’s a blast of black fruit, smokiness and just a touch if eucalyptus on the palate. This wine has wonderful roughy edges and is a wine full of personality. Deliciously rustic. 92 points
Craggy Range Le Sol 2010, Hawkes Bay (£63.95)
Another 100% Syrah. Probably my most disappointing wine of the night. There’s smokiness and plenty if dark fruit but its too stewed for my liking, a bit sickly-sweet. There’s dark fruit and spice and a lovely silky texture but its not to my liking. 89 points
Te Mata Coleraine 2009, Hawkes Bay (£49.95)
Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Delicious nose of blackcurrant, cassis, minerality and a touch in menthol/eucalyptus. There’s lots of tannin from deliciously expensive oak, blackcurrant and sour cherry fruit and lots of earthy minerality. This is an extremely polished and well made wine that would it comfortably with a top quality wine from St Julien. 94 points
Stonyridge Larose 2009, Waiheke Island (£97.95)
Voted best wine of the night by the majority… But not me! Bordeaux blend of CabernetSauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot. Lots of black then red fruit in the nose with hints if vanilla and coconut from American oak – almost Rioja-like. Plenty if grip on the palate and beautifully smooth. Needs a bit of time I think, with the oak still overwhelming the delicious fruit. 92+ points
This is the first of a 2-part exploration of the wonderful wines of New Zealand. Click here for the second part – Fine Wines of New Zealand at Roberson
It wasn’t quite the first vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc in 1985 that leapfrogged NZ into the top tier of wine producing countries, but by 1986 a legend was born. This is the emblem wine of NZ and there are plenty of fans of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in the UK and the world over. Its pungent aromas of gooseberries, elderflower, tropical fruit and searing acidity are almost instantly recognisable but NZ has so much more to offer the wine loving world. In 1960 there were less than 1,000 acres of vines in NZ, fast forward to 2006 and that figure was in excess of 54,000. Given the amount of NZ wine on the market these days its remarkable that only 0.3% of the World’s wine output.
For the record, Cloudy Bay Vineyards was bought by luxury giants Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy in 2003 and many believe it has lacked character since then. Also champion winemaker Kevin Judd left in 2009 to start Greywacke; that’s where I would choose to spend my money!
I started writing this post as I was looking forward to a tasting of some quality NZ wines at Roberson so it was done for my own education as much as yours! Here’s a quick tour of New Zealand’s wine regions.
Going from top to bottom; on the North Island we have the regions of Northland, Auckland (look out for wines from the Kumeu River sub-region), Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Gisborne (the most eastern wine region in the world!). These are the warmest of NZ’s vine growing areas producing mainly red wines made with Bordeaux varieties but also some lovely zesty and balanced Chardonnay.
Next comes Hawke’s Bay. Hawke’s Bay is NZ’s oldest wine producing area and second only to Marlborough in terms of wine production. Much of the wine produced is Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but recently it has acquired a reputation for producing quality Rhone varieties, Syrah and Viognier. A number of internationally renowned wineries including Te Mata Estate, Craggy Range and Kim Crawford are based in the region.
The Wellington/Wairarapa wine-growing region is one of New Zealand’s smallest, with several sub-regions, which include Gladstone, Martinborough, Masterton and Opaki. Martinborough is the most recognisable name in the region, which is a small wine village located at the foot of New Zealand’s North Island, and is fast becoming my favourite region for Pinot Noir.
Now its time to move across to the South Island, where the names and regions are perhaps more famous and recognised across the wine world. We start off in the North-East in the small region of Nelson, where the focus is on aromatic white wines such as Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and of course Sauvignon Blanc. Possibly the most recognisable name in the region is Neudorf, who produce wines using all of the stated white varieties as well as one fine Pinot Noir.
Then we reach the NZ heartbeat of Marlborough, with almost half of the country’s vinous output coming from the region. The star attraction in Marlborough is without doubt Sauvignon Blanc, however don’t forget to give the Pinot Noir a go too. Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 50% of the region’s plantings, which suit the warm days and cold nights, which lead to those tropical and herbaceous flavours and aromas.
Further south we reach the Canterbury region – large in size but small in wine production. One of my very favourite producers, Pegasus Bay, is based here and I dare you not to fall head over heels in love with their Riesling! Finally we reach the south eastern tip of the South Island and home to some of the best Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, Otago. Some people (photographers especially) also believe Otago to be the most beautiful wine area in the world. Almost two thirds of planting at given over to Pinot Noir, the remainder split evenly between Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. A couple of names to look out for here are Mount Difficulty and Felton Road, as well as my favourite Surveyor Thomson.
So there’s a quick fly through of the wine regions on NZ and here are a few of my favourite wines:
Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough, NZ (Wine & the Vine £16.35)
Peach, apple and honey aromas with a lovely toastiness. Good body and weight with yeasty, bready and honey notes and peachy later on. It tastes like a spicy, oven-baked peach, covered in luscious double cream, topped with nuts! Very much in the Fuisse mould of a big mouth-filling and delicious Chardonnay. 93 points
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2009, Waipara, NZ (Roberson £17.95)
Ok so this isn’t cheap but its bloody brilliant! I first came across this wine at The Providores restaurant in Marylebone and now I can buy it at Roberson, just around the corner from work! Intense lime and pineapple freshness – like crushed pineapple chunks. Lovely off-dry finish and very, very long. One if my very favourites. 93 points
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, NZ (The Wine Society £12.50)
This is so subtle compared to so many other NZ Sauv Blancs. Lots of green pepper, balanced with grapefruit, lime and black currant. There is real tension here – thus a really electrifying wine with masses of acid but the balance is simply superb. Couple with that a length of flavour I have never before witnessed in Sauvignon; I really love it. And at £12.50 I think I’ll have a case please! 92 points
Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, NZ (The Wine Society £16.00)
From Kevin Judd, king of NZ Sauvignon Blanc – this has everything you all love about NZ Sauvignon but with real grace and restraint. Green pepper, elderflower and passion fruit, but just so subtle and gentle. A real touch of class and elegance. Lovely. 93 points
Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir 2009, Central Otago (Swig £23.75)
Beautiful fresh red currant aromas supported with spicy, thyme and herbal notes. Very fresh and beautifully elegant red currants, cherries and raspberries and a beautiful, long and savoury finish. 93 points
Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2012, Martinborough (Waitrose £13.99)
Very delicate and pretty nose of sweet, ripe cherries, violets and just a hint of black spice. Very fresh with lovely acidity. The first taste is violets and spice and a cooling freshness, the there’s some red fruit and a pleasant, lingering finish. Kind of backwards but very tasty. Nice smooth tannins give nice structure too. 90 points
This really could have been so bad. I could’ve been awful. Elitist, snobby, stuffy, grotesque. Hedonism Wines is none of this . It’s inspiring, its exciting, its fresh, its fun. It’s an art gallery for wine geeks. I can’t believe its taken me this long to go – it certainly won’t be long before I go back.
What Hedonism have done so well is realising that 1% of their clientele will deliver the money and the other 99% can enjoy themselves without the fear of being patronised or spoken to in a condescending manner. The staff are brilliant. They will spend as much time with you as you want with no pressure put on to buy anything. Nothing is out of bounds – if you want to see and hear all about the Penfolds Grange vertical containing every vintage since 1951, not a problem. If you are interested in German Riesling, brilliant, they’ll talk you through what’s good and why, then discuss top and bottom end recommendations… If you want. They will deliver your wine to you for free the same day anywhere in London, whether its a case of DRC at £12,000 or a bottle of Napa Cabernet for £20 (the are 500 wines under £30).
They should really provide a floor guide like you get in the great museums of Europe, with all of the must see installations. Penfolds Grange, tick. D’Yquem wall, tick. Big bottles, tick. Mouton Rosthchild vertical, tick. It’s not a huge place but you will not want to leave anything out. Oh and don’t miss the Sine Qua Non room – I’d never heard of them before but the stunning display is worth the visit alone.
Then there’s the tasting table. There are 48 wines to taste from the Enomatic sampling machines. Get yourself a card, load it up with some cash and away you go. All of the wines are dispensed in 25ml tasting measures, which start from around £1 for a Slovenian Sauvignon or Douro table wine, all the way up to £30 (ish) for a taste of Cheval Blanc 2006 or a 100-point Chareau d’Yquem 2001. The glasses are Riedel of course and the staff are on hand to make recommendations or you can just design your own flight. We tried some delicious Aussie Riesling, the Slovenian Sauvignon, a Gewurtz from Alsace and a Leflaive Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet 2005 – superb. On reds we tried an excellent Napa blend and then the Pomerol and St Emilion offerings from Secret des Grands Chefs – a recent venture designed to take on the first growths. And the 2009s certainly show great potential.
I loved my first visit to Hedonism and can’t wait to return. I’d like to say a huge thanks to Roland who was the most amazing host and provided so much insight and so much passion… And also recommended a fine German Riesling which I took away as a suitable souvenir… Well I had to!
I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past couple of months reading various opinions on the latest Bordeaux vintage, receiving emails about the quality and release prices of said wines, and generally thinking so what? I’m not into investment wine; I buy wine to drink and enjoy now. I have a few prized bottles that I picked up in The Rhone and Burgundy last year that require a few years and I’m prepared to wait for them, but that’s as far as my long term plans stretch. However when I saw a competition on Jancis Robinson’s website to win tickets for the forthcoming Bibendum tasting I though why not give it a go… And a couple of weeks later I was delighted to receive a congratulatory email to say I’d won a pair!
This was the 8th Bibendum Bordeaux tasting and took place in the wonderful surroundings of Lord’s cricket ground – I was at the test match at Lord’s a few weeks ago and didn’t expect to be back quite so soon! This is the biggest Bordeaux tasting event in the UK and is open to us mere consumers as well as those in the trade. What I particularly like about the event is a) the opportunity to meet some of the winemakers and b) each Chateau is asked to bring a second vintage if their choice to taste alongside the latest release.
With over 70 Chateaux present this was certainly the place to explore the 2012 vintage. The nursery pavilion at Lord’s is a wonderful space and the room is laid out in a series of long tables, with each of the appellations grouped together. Its a great way of establishing the winners of the vintage. Overall I found that the 2012s showed lots of fruit – plenty of blackcurrant and cassis, but perhaps lacking concentration and maybe a tad green, particularly on the Left Bank. The Right Bank appellations of Pomerol and St Emilion certainly shone but I was also impressed with Margaux and the ever consistent St Julien. But the real winner for me were the whites of Pessac – I’m new to white Bordeaux but I’m looking forward to giving these wines a fair amount of attention when I visit the region in July.
Chateau Calon Segur, St Estephe (£250)
Delicious mix of black fruit, violets and minerality. Very fresh with lively acidity. The second wine Calon showed was 2007 which I didn’t enjoy and was nowhere near the quality I tasted at a recent vertical tasting.
Chateau Batailley, Pauillac (£245)
Lots if fruit and freshness with good concentration. Also really enjoyed the 2007 on show. Good value for sure.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac (£700)
Very elegant by Pauillac standards, reminiscent of summer pudding. Definitely a better wine than Comtese de Lalande in 2012.
Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien (£490)
Super concentrated, polished, with delightful minerality and spicy back notes. I think this will be a cracker in 10 years time. Langoa Barton was another good wine with bags of fruit front and centre.
Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux (£285)
I wrote down “best so far” after tasting this – delightfully elegant, yet muscular and beautifully structured. Lots of cassis but just a hint of red fruit too.
Chateau Gazin, Pomerol (£440)
Lovely mixture of red and black fruit, soft almost buttery texture with lashings of acid.
Chateau la Conseillante, Pomerol (£650)
Powerful and concentrated, fantastic texture and very pure fruit – delightful (the 2010 was spectacular but so is the price at £1,600 per case in bond)
Chateau Rouget, Pomerol (£265)
A fine and delicate wine, simple but delightful. The 2004 was also delicious and just about ready to drink now.
Chateau Le Prieure, St Emilion (£225)
Fruity, fragrant, concentration and very charming.
Chateau Figeac, St Emilion (£525)
Took me a while to get my head around this one as it was almost backward. Not a lot on the initial attack but a wonderful elegant finish. Lots going for it and I’m looking forward to my visit in the summer.
Chateau Troplong Mondot, St Emilion (£595)
Pure Ribena and cassis – possibly the most fruit forward of all the reds I tasted – I was amazed there is only 8% of Cabernet in the blend (90% Merlot)
Chateau de Fieuzal Blanc, Pessac-Leognan
Plenty of cuts, even tropical fruit with deliciously integrated oak. Delightfully refreshing after all those reds! 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Pessac-Leognan
Pure class with lots of fruit combines with a spicy and exotic finish.
I will happily pay for a ticket to next year’s event!
Back in February a few of us held our first “bring a course and wine to match”. The host cooks the main course and the other two couples bring the starter and dessert. Round 1 was held at Dave & Karen’s place (toast lamb), me and The Fish took the starter (duck rillettes), while Joel & Laura took the pud (choc, nut & salted caramel tart).
Round 2 was at chez Wine Geek and I’ve been thinking about what to cook for the four months since the first event! I decided that I was going to serve Riesling as a surprise with the main course so went for dirty pulled pork rolls – a great match. But there was a problem. It appears that my Riesling preaching has been too effective. Dave and Joel both came armed with the noble grape so I was forced into a late wine change! Anyway, more of that later.
Clos de Nouys Vouvray Demi-Sec 2011, Loire, France (Waitrose £8.99)
Really rich flavours of ripe peaches, hint of apricot and lively acidity combine beautifully with the sweetness to provide a refreshing and balanced mouthful that makes the sun seem that little bit warmer. 90 points
When everyone had arrived we decided to pop some bubbles and what better option than the finest the UK has to offer?
Camel Valley Chardonnay Brut 2009, Cornwall, UK (Camel Valley £24.95)
Floral and elegant nose – really quite delightful. The palate is creamy with a peachy fruitiness and a pleasant biscuit-lick at the finish. This really is my favourite glass of fizz available under £30. 94 points
Joel created a delightful starter of potted crab & prawns with an egg, caper, lemon & parsley salad, served with 2 different rye breads. And boy did it taste great and set one hell if a standard. The first wine as a delicious Riesling from Western Australia and then we had a red wine from his & Laura’s recent holiday in Sardinia.
Plantagenet Riesling 2011, Mount Barker, Wastern Australia (Whole Foods £14.99)
The label says lemon but this is pure lime juice. It’s so fresh and pure, almost glacial in texture and bone dry, mouth puckeringly so! But then the acidity kicks in and the labour goes on and on and on. I could drink this with a straw, quite magnificent and incredible value for money. 92 points
Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2009, Sardinia (Sardinian supermarket! €9.00)
We had the Wine Grapes book out to confirm that Cannonau is indeed Grenache. The wine is brambly and fruity and has good acidity. There is a ouch if tannin its not really giving a great deal of structure. Easy drinking and may well benefit from bring served chilled. 87 points
As I said earlier I went for pulled pork with a magnificent piece of pork shoulder from the Ginger Pig (thanks fir carrying the 3 kilos home Fish!). I served the pork with homemade brioche rolls, potato wedges, a carrot, cabbage & apple slaw and BBQ sauce. It seemed to go down pretty well! As we’d had a Riesling already I opted for a South African Chenin and a Pinot Noir from Wester Oz.
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Stellenbosch (Wine and the Vine £16.75)
I loved the 2010 but this is even better. Nose of melon, peaches and nuts. Lovely zing in the mouth, lots of ripe melon and a wonderful nutty, long finish. The wine just coats yiur mouth and has real body. This is very sophisticated, complex and quite stunning. 93 points
Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir 2004, Morninton Peninsula (House of Townend £29.99)
What a glorious aroma if sweet cherries, raspberries and wild strawberries, supported with a delightful earthiness, minerality and damp leaves. Juicy cherry juice on the palate with lovely earthy back notes. The alcohol is a little bit warm and maybe just putting the wine slightly out of balance but its very, very good. 92 points (docked a couple for that warmth)
To pudding! And what a pudding it was! Dave has been worrying about this one for months, changing his mind daily or the past fortnight but what he produced was a feat of genius baking. The most delicious raspberry Bakewell tart, with perfect icing and everything! To accompany the tart Dave brought us a Tokaji and a German Riesling (on what influence!)… That we didn’t get around to drinking!
5 Puttonyas Tokaji Aszu 2001 (M&S £19.99)
Slightly pinkish colour and a delightfully honeyed nose with fragrant sweet and dried fruit providing some real elegance. Beautiful apricot and citrus on the palate but its the mouthfilling richness, spiky acidity and delicate balance of the honey sweetness that really marks this out fir quality. So good. 92 points
For those of us who could face it, The Fish had popped into Le Fromagarie when she picked up the pig and provided us with a plate if Brie de Melun (if you have only tried de Meux then search it out), Montgomery Cheddar and a delicious French blue cheese that she forgot the name of! At the first dinner in Feb I took a Burgundy Grand Cru that disappointed (Clos de Vougeot anyone??) so I though we’d finish this dinner with a classed growth Bordeaux… But again it didn’t live up to its billing – and I thought Barton was such a safe bet!
Chateau Langoa Barton 1999 (Wine and the Vine £51.85)
The last time I had this it was delightful but just not quite delivering the concentration I was hoping for – this time it was even more frustrating. Black currant and cassis with some herbs give the wine a lovely nose. The palate promises so much but just falls off so quickly. You get the initial cassis hit but then its gone. A bit thin and a bit green. Disappointing. 87 points
Some brilliant food, a variety of wine (quality and style!) and wonderful company. I’m already planning my dessert for round 3!
I’ve been to some first class tastings recently featuring magnificent wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux in particular. This latest one was a little bit different – not about famous names with ridiculous price tags! Chenin Blanc is a magnificent grape, capable of producing a wide array of wine styles and we tasted wines from the grape’s two heartlands. In the red corner we had the New World contender of South Africa, in the blue corner, representing the Old World, The Loire Valley.
Jimmy Smith, Managing Director & Head Tutor of the West London Wine School loves Chenin. Earlier this year he and Matt Wickstead (who runs “The Cellars” wine storage facility where these tastings are held) went on a tour of the Loire and came back as excited as school kids with tales of magnificence. Jimmy is very keen to tell the world about Chenin and this was the first in a series of events in which they will do just that.
In the blog and the newsletter I often recommend Chenin Blanc as a (superior?) alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. It’s no surprise that they come from the same grape “family”, both being siblings of Savignin. Chenin has huge amounts if acidity but is balanced with delightful tropical fruit, citrus and honey. This tasting cemented my view that if I had £10 to spend on a bottle I know I’ll get far more enjoyment and interest from a Chenin.
All in all we tasted 9 wines, 5 from France and 4 from South Africa but I have written my notes in 3 sections. It starts with four wines of SA followed by the first three Loire wines, all from the Vouvray region. Then there’s the two wines from Savinieres… I’ll get to them later. My preference over the course of the evening was for the wines of Vouvray, which is handy as we’re heading out there in the summer! What you will see throughout the notes is the fantastic value for money that Chenin can offer – you can get one heck of a wine for around £15.
Chenin is the most grown grape variety in a South Africa (@19,000 hectares), with most of it turned into a dry style of wine. What was very apparent in this tasting though is the variety of different styles being produced, from very simple, easy drinking to big, bold and complex. One of my favourite wines of 2012 was the DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin and I’ll be searching out a few more over the next months. I just think its a real shame that so many South African winemakers are turning to fashionable Rhone varieties when Chenin has so much to offer.
Kleine Zalze Old Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, Western Cape 2012 (Waitrose £7.99)
Melon and a touch of green apple on the nose – after a bit of time it opened up to reveal some citrus notes also. Honeydew melon and limes on the palate with a touch of honey. Light bodied and very easy drinking – almost like a NZ Sauvignon without the cat pee! Was voted best value wine if the night (not mine!). 87 points
Botanica Chenin Blanc, Citrusdal 2010 (The Wine Society £14.95)
Very honeyed nose, combined with tropical fruit – I’m expecting a bit of sweetness on the palate… But it’s bone dry. Very fresh, searing acid and lots of mango and guava fruit with a charming herbaceous edge. There’s a nice balance of fruit and acidity, but maybe a bit shy on the finish. 88 points
Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River (The Wine Society £16.00)
This has delightful aromas of baked apples and flakey, sweet pastry, with lovely tropical fruit too. Lovely texture that coats your mouth and a delicious balance of mango, passion fruit and lime. A very nice wine with good concentration and nice level of complexity. 91 points
The Winery Radford Dale Renaissance Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2010 (The Wine Society £16.00)
This has huge aromas jumping out of the glass – toasty, with overripe melon and even some caramel. Big concentration and complexity and massive body and texture. Creamy and appley, less acidity than the preceding wines but very good indeed. So different to the Beaumont, yet just as enjoyable. 91 points
Loire Valley – Vouvray
The Loire in North West France is the heart of Chenin Blanc, and the village of Vouvray is perhaps the most famous of all. In this area you will find sec (dry), Demi-sec (off-dry/medium), Moelleaux (sweet), and some very easy drinking sparklers too. There is only half the vineyard area of South Africa (9,800 hectares) but the quality is very high. It’s fair to say that you do get what you pay for… But expect the complexity and concentration in a £20 wine that you would expect to pay double for from Burgundy or Bordeaux. Note all if theLoire wines are from biodynamic vineyards.
Domaine Vincent Careme Spring Sec, Vouvray 2010 (The Wine Society £9.95)
Honeyed nose with baked, even dried fruit. Some fig, spice and just a hint if oxidisation. Stewed apples on the palate, almost savoury note. It reminds me a bit if scrumpy cider with a sprightly acidity… I like it. The almost over developed nose might put a few off but for under £10 the complexity is quite amazing. 90 points
Domaine Huet Haut Lieu Sec Vouvray 2005 (The Wine Society £14.95)
Gorgeous nose of honey, nuts and baked apples, then comes the citrus burst and our first hint of minerality. Nit a big bodied wine, almost glacial in texture and massive acidity with apple skins and lime citrus. So pure and elegant but beautifully balanced and super length. My best value wine of the night. 92 points
Domaine Vincent Careme Le Peu Morier Demi-Sec Vouvray (The Wine Society £18.00)
Our first real sweetness of the night. Oh there’s so much fruit character on the nose – mango, orange, almost marmalade. Beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity – it reminds me of a tin of pineapple chunks. I love this style if wine and I especially love the balance and complexity of this one. Pure summer in a glass. My and the overall best wine if the night. 93 points
Loire – Savennieres
It’s times like this where I realise how much I have to learn! The wines are mostly dry, often produced in a powerful style. These wines are made to age and are very difficult to approach in their youth…. As I found out. There was an oxidised element to the wines, which is to be expected of the region and the alcohol is big. Both of the wines were decanted over 24 hours earlier to give the wines a chance to open up – at tastings in the Loire they put the date when the wines were opened, often weeks in advance! Because this is a totally new style to me, which I found difficult to get my head around, I have not scored these wines but given you the view of more seasoned observers.
Domaine du Closel Clos du Papillon Savennieres 2007 (Fine & Rare £25.70)
Nutty, figgy, oxidised nose. Lots of spice, plenty of ginger and Xmas aromas. Dry and hot on the palate with lots of concentration – I’m struggling to find the fruit. Jancis gives it 17.5/20
Nicolas Joly Coulee de Serrant Savennieres 2005 (Fine & Rare £65.00)
Nutty, spicy almost sherry-like aromas with a touch of petrol and maybe some quince jelly. Big and huge alcohol in the mouth and very toasty. Again I’m struggling to find the fruit – provably 10 years too early! 91.5 point average on Cellartracker
The night before
I had to start writing this post the night before the event as I’m so bloody excited! I’ve always loved Xmas and I still get very excited on Xmas eve. This evening feels like Xmas Eve. Tomorrow I get to try a wine from the Domaine de la Romanee Conti for the first time! A few weeks ago I got an email from Roberson with their latest raft of excellent tasting events… And this one stood out like a beacon. The wines of Vosne Romanee: The Pearl of the Côte. Even before I saw the lineup I knew I was going. When I got to the bottom of the list and read DRC Echezeaux 2000 I was certain!
I walked through the vineyards of Vosne last year and it was ethereal, almost spiritual (there’s me enjoying the moment in the famous Richebourg Grand Cru). I’ve tasted some excellent wines from the appellation but the three letters DRC bring tears of excitement to any wine lover, especially one who is a total Burgundy nut. The domaine is widely considered among the world’s greatest wine producers, and DRC bottles are among the world’s most expensive. Echezeaux is the domaine’s “entry level” wine… By that I mean when DRC put on a tasting, Echezeaux is the first wine to be tasted. The cheapest bottle I can find on winesearcher.com is £696, and less than 1,500 12 bottle cases are produced each year.
As I said, I’m excited… Only one more sleep!
The main event
The tasting events at Roberson are always excellent affairs. There is plenty of bread, cheese and charcuterie in the middle of the table and Mark is an excellent host. What I hadn’t realised was the enormity of Mark’s love of all things Burgundy… It is his passion. And boy does it show! We were talked through the history of Vosne in interesting and entertaining detail, and then it was onto the wine.
Sitting in glass number 10 was the main event. I tried to ignore it. I couldn’t. I stuck my nose in… Let’s just say I was now even more excited. But first, there were another 9 wines to get through. Did I really manage it make it sound like such a chore?!
“Vosne-Romanee is the greatest Pinot Noir village on earth.” (Clive Coates MW)
Sylvain Chathiard Vosne-Romanee 2009 (£74.95)
The best of the Village wines by some distance. Lots of sweet red fruit with a hint of earthiness, some sweet spice and leather on the nose. Very young but with a lovely silky texture, good complexity and very pretty indeed. Personally I would like a bit more acid but this one has a good few years ahead of it. 92 points
Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee 2007 (£84.95)
More developed on the nose with some developing animal aromas supporting the red fruit. The fruit is a bit stewed and on the taste but there’s good acidity and a lovely spicy finish. Decent, but should be far better at this price. 90 points
Hudolet-Noellat Vosne-Romanee 2096 (£39.95)
There’s plenty to smell here with lots of red fruit and a very fragrant waft of violets – reminiscent of childhood sweets. Still very closed and the tannin is hiding the fruit. There’s some exotic spice but the wine is very disjointed and unbalanced. I’m not sure any amount if time is going to right this one. 85 points
Regis Forey Vosne-Romanee 2005 (£44.95)
A great vintage but a poor wine. Very dumb on the nose but there’s not much hiding. Not worth any more words. 78 points
The second flight of wines took us up to Premier Cru level and here the jump in quality was obvious. As they say, you pays your money and make your choice…
Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Aux Reignots” 2007 (£150.00)
Elegant and classy aromas of deep red fruit, almost red currant with delightfully exotic spices. On the palate the wine is silky smooth and has a delicious acidity. This is a wine of real class with magnificent balance and great length. 95 points
Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Aux Brulees” 2006 (£95.95)
Very strange aromas… And not in a good way! It’s exotic and but the spices are out if tune and the palate is sappy and green – it tastes of pine. I’m not a fan at all and personally think its a disgrace to this great village! 75 points
JJ Confuron Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Beaux-Monts” 2002 (£96.00)
Some darker fruit aromas here and some delicious exotic, middle-eastern spice. There’s also earthy evolution providing real complexity. On the palate the fruit is sweeter and reminiscent of dried raspberries and the spice is beautifully elegant and balanced. Lovely weight on the palate and this is a wine that is sweet, balanced and in beautiful harmony. Delightful. 94 points
Confuron-Cotetidot Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Suchots” 1990 (£129.95)
I just love the smell of aged Burgundy! 1990 was a fine vintage and this is certainly a fine wine. There is still an aroma of red fruit but there’s a classic and sophisticated smell of old leather and smoke. On the palate there is a backbone of sweet fruit and gentle spice, but its the forest floor and leather notes which come to the fore. Real quality and still plenty of bright acidity. Classy. 94 points
Confuron-Cotetidot Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Suchots” 2007 (£70.00)
So how does a younger vintage of the last wine match up? Well I actually struggled to find too much in common! This is all about the smell of Xmas with aromas of satsuma, ginger and spice. On the palate its quite butch upfront but then seems to dissolve into an elegant tangerine and cranberry finish. Atypical of Vosne but still interesting and attractive. Needs time but could be something quite special. 93+
And finally the time had come. Time to break my DRC virginity. Would it match my expectations??????
Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux Grand Cru 2000 (£755.00)
I have never smelt anything quite like this… I have no benchmark! It’s so sweet, so spicy and so complex. There is so much going on but everything just fits together like a perfect jigsaw. It starts with raspberries and wild strawberries, then there’s black cherries. It just comes at you in wave after wave of beauty. The spices are many; cloves, vanilla and nutmeg. Theres a delicious herbaceous nature of thyme, the acid is perfectly pitched, the tannins are so silky they seem to clean your tongue. The real magic is the balance of masterful concentration and silky elegance. I think the magic ingredient is, well magic! Utterly sublime. The best wine I’ve ever tasted. Wow. I need a lie down. 98 points