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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wine of the Month - Three Supermarket Wines For Easter

Three easter wines from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Majestic

For Easter get-togethers, you want reliable crowd-pleasers that will appeal to a range of guests and match with set-piece meals like a roast dinner.

These wines have garnered various awards and recommendations from critics (albeit sometimes other vintages), so are a sure-fire set of winners.

Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012 (£11.99, Tesco)

What the producers say: From the Limarí Valley at the edge of the Atacama Desert; a region cooled by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and significant drops in temperature after sunset.

What I say: Toasty-oaky nose with blossom and sweet spice; sweet ripe tropical fruit. Fresh and precise ; mineral, saline and creamy-nutty with just a touch of hedonism. Harmonious and accomplished. Textbook oaky Chardie.

A versatile wine, match with salmon, creamy pasta or roast chicken.

De Bortoli Reserve Petite Sirah 2011 (£8.50, Sainsbury’s)

What the producers say: One of the best lead ups to harvest on record; this is a truly delicious Australian red. This led to fruit with flavour intensity and acid structure not seen for a few years.

What I say: big, mid-level Aussie red full of chocolate, leather, plums and cherries with a cow-lick of sweetly toasty-oaky vanilla spice. Lots of fruit, sunshine and stuffing in here.

Match with roast red meat - lamb with rosemary and garlic or beef with horseradish sauce.

A Sticky End Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Majestic, £15.99 or mix & match 2 bottles to save 33%)

What the producers say: Made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have been allowed extra hang-time on the vine, giving them extra ripeness and promoting the onset of botrytis. Aged for 14 months in French oak.

What I say: golden, Sandy yellow with an intriguing aroma of rubbed sage, seaweed even, mingling with the guava, figs and gooseberry-lime jam. Sweet and syrupy, yet also refreshing - a sort of tropical sweet-sour spiced gingeriness.
Match with fruit-based desserts such as Eton Mess or a fruit tart with Chantilly cream.
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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Agent Orange: Logan's Run

Two elegant wines from Australia's Logan

Australia made a name for itself as a producer of big, fruit-forward, blockbuster gluggers.

So, we all know it can do ripeness and alcohol, but can it do elegance?

Well, yes it can - as I found out at Wine Australia 2015 earlier this year. These two wines from Logan combine the finesse of Old World classics with a New World purity; two wines, two Burgundian grapes and a Burgundian elegance, matched to a high altitude-freshness and a refined sense of restraint.

Logan is based in Orange, one of the highest and coolest wine regions in Australia.

Logan Chardonnay 2011, Orange, NSW, £16.90 (Spirited Wines & Corks Out) Fresh, pure and clean, the grapes are grown at over 950m giving a classy, refined, high-altitude Chardonnay; low alcohol (just 12.5%) and a deft hand in the cellar keep the leesy, oaky richness in an elegant balance with the natural freshness. Adept and assured; Good.

Weemala Pinot Noir 2013, Orange, NSW, £13.52 (Spirited Wines) Dark translucent red; bright, long and fresh with red fruits and minerality, some spice on the finish. Balanced, harmonious and gently assertive. Will age. Very elegant, very enjoyable. Very Good.

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Mornington Peninsula at #ADT2015‏
McGuigan, The Philosophy 2010‏

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Maximum Bob - A 37-Year Retrospective From Robert Parker

"God is an American"
- I'm Afraid of Americans, David Bowie
The big news at the Wine Advocate press conference was the announcement of Neal Martin taking over Bordeaux En Primeur from Robert Parker.
But we also got a key trends retrospective of his 37 years in the business from the man who invented the Parker Points system.
To summarise it all in a single sentence, the globalisation of interest in wine has led to improvements in quality, expansion of production and ever higher prices at the top end, with all that that brings.
#1 quality: quality and reliability have improved across the board, including at the very top, due to the globalised marketplace and increased competition. The industrial approach of old has been replaced by an increased interest in organic and biodynamic practices.
#2 investment: related to #1, wineries have invested to focus on quality and make their wines a true representation of the Terroir, soil and region.
#3 New regions and diversity of styles: the emergence of Spain, Portugal, southern France, Eastern Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America.
#3 wine investment: the top classics are no longer affordable and this is not going away.
#4 wine as a profession: the rise of sommeliers and wine writers is a good thing
#5 social media: more wineries are on Twitter and reaching out to people, it is less elitist but people are still intimidated despite everything
#6 shipping and handling; these have improved, especially in the US with better temperature control in hotter areas
#7 fraud: the "ugliest side" of increased interest in wine, don't buy older vintages as you simply can't prove provenance.
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate Press Conference

A Panel Discussion from Team Wine Advocate
The Robert Parker circus rumbles into town - below a veneer of good ol' boy humility, it is slick and well-choreographed. Since Robert Parker sold a majority stake in The Wine Advocate to Asian investors a couple of years ago, the pressure to broaden their offering and pay for that stake can only have increased.
And so we get an all-American, all-you-can-eat snackathon.
First the team introduce themselves and their areas of expertise - the message here is that Team Wine Advocate is more than just Bob.
Next, Robert Parker gives us a retrospective of the key trends of his 37 years in the business - it is easily-enough done, but insightful nonetheless.
Then we hand over to Lisa Perrotti-Brown to talk about the future; a generation younger than Parker, she seems to have been assigned the task of brand-stretching, so we get lifestyle magazines, tastings and so on.
Finally we get The Announcement, the real news - Neal Martin is taking over as Bordeaux En Primeur reviewer, marking a further step back by Robert Parker from the day to day assessments of wines.
We wrap up with some key but non-core messages; Bob is a great boss, they own the IP in their scores, the importance of scores has been blown out of proportion - by others.
Robert gives us a bit more of his charm, telling us he doesn't really enjoy the limelight, he just loves doing his job, the rest of the panel smiling benignly as he holds forth, centre stage.
A brief Q and A and we're done; the goody bag containing nothing more potent than a bottle of fizzy water from the sponsors.
Robert Parker has never been a hero of mine - too un-English for my tastes, he doesn't quite work here in Europe, and it seems to show.
For all his talk of demystifying wine, the American view of wine is as a status symbol, backed by a touching stateside belief that the more something costs the better it must be.
But I emerge with a more nuanced view of the man who is known best for his eponymous points system and a palate that likes more of everything - and then some.
He is sharp, astute and a deft performer; we see Bob the boss, the businessman and the CEO. I admire him. But, unlike the classy English fizz on arrival, he is still rather too American for me.
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sud de France Saint Chinian Tasting

A tasting of St Chinian wines at Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon

When I think of Languedoc, it is still as a relatively homogenous area; I know there are different sub-regions and terroirs, of course - I have even visited some of them.
But Languedoc still stands as a byword for a broad region of improving quality, increasing sophistication, southern warmth and value for money.
One emerging sub-region that is gaining a profile is St Chinian; tasting the wines at the Maison de la Région Languedoc-Roussillon (yes, there is such a thing) in Cavendish Square, I learnt:
- the whites are good; full, sophisticated, versatile, food-friendly and fresh
- there are ageworthy reds, with complex aromas of old leather and game
- the most impressive producers I came across were Pech Menel and Pradels Quartironi
The wines are all AoP St Chinian unless indicated.
Whites / Rosé
Domaine Belot, Viognier 2014 IGP Oc harmonious and persistent
Domaine Belot Cuvee Vignalet Rosé 2014 fresh and long with ripe red berries
Domaine Pech Menel Poudre Rolle Viognier Chardonnay 2013 IGP Oc floral, aromatic and complex. Good.
Chateau Viranel Viognier 2012 toasty, smokey and full
Chateau Coujan Cuvee Bois Joli 2012 (swig) ripe and tropical-citrussy. Good.
Domaine Coujan Cuvee Rolle IGP Coteaux de Murviel (Linlithglow Wines) fresh and ripe with sweet spice. Good.
Domaine Marion Pla, Cuvee Les Larmes de Jeanne 2014 fresh, ripe and full. Good.
Domaine des Pradels Quartironi Blanc 2013 waxy, citrussy, ripe and tropical - a touch blowsy.
Domaine Marion Pla Cuvee Conviction Intime 2013 floral, violets, lifted dark fruits. An expressive, modern easy-drinker.
Domaine des Pradels Quartironi de Sars Haut Coup de Foudres 2011 complex with dark fruits and spice, mellow and harmonious, soft and supple with a firm finish. Good.
Chateau Quartironi de Sars, Campanil 2008 brick red hints, aged leather, dried red fruits, dried green herbs, cool mint, soft supple and harmonious. Very Good.
Domaine Belot Best of BELOT 2013 complex, with sweet vanilla, lifted ripe fruits, floral violets and spice; harmonious and persistent. Good
Chateau Pech Menel 2011 complex and supple, well integrated, dark fruits and gaminess. Very Good.
Chateau Pech Menel 2007 complex aged nose, aged leather and well-hung game, dark fruits, supple tannins with some firmness. Very Good.
Chateau Coujan Cuvee Gabrielle 2013 lifted dark fruits and spice, fresh and toasty with a grippy finish.
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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Mornington Peninsula at #ADT2015‏

Australia Day Tasting 2015 with Wine Australia

Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is Australia's Cornwall or San Francisco - a breezy coastal haven for retirees, surfer dudes and anyone seeking a chilled-out lifestyle.
To anyone who thinks of Australia as an initial unlikely source of good Pinot Noir and Burgundian Chardonnay, two words: Mornington Peninsula.
Ten Minutes by Tractor
10X Chardonnay 2013 (£20.85) ripe, fresh, Burgundian and accomplished. Good.
10X Pinot Noir 2013 (£23.45) sweet, ripe red fruits; intense and accomplished, supple and persistent. Good.
Chardonnay 2012 (£29.05) leesy, lime-peel, tautness and depth; technically flawless. Very Good.
Pinot Noir 2012 (£32.40) Burgundian nose, fresh and limpid with minerality and cool mint. Very Good.
Wallis Chardonnay 2012 (£38.10) rich, ripe, complex and fullsome.  Compelling and androgynous, a Wallis Simpson of a wine. Very Good Indeed.
McCutcheon Chardonnay 2012 (£38.10) sweet and ripe with a fresh, leesy salinity. Alluring and seductive, a Martine McCutcheon of a wine. Very Good Indeed.
McCutcheon Pinot Noir (£47.15) mineral and peppery, less-prominent fruit. Well-structured and muscular with fine tannins. Very Good Indeed.
Judd Pinot Noir 2012 (£47.15) more-clayey soils, more fruit and plumpness. Ripe red fruits, pepperiness. Harmonious and very accomplished. Very Good Indeed.

Yabby Lake

Red Claw Chardonnay 2014 (£18.95) smoky, toasty, freshly mineral; technically flawless with a cool climate elegance. Very Good.
Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (£35) more complex, nuanced and deft. Very Good Indeed.
Single Block Release, Block 6 Chardonnay 2013 (£55) more saline and mineral, intense and concentrated. Very Good Indeed.
Red Claw Pinot Noir 2013 (£18.95) ripe, fresh Red fruits and Burgundian truffleyness with cool mint; very pure and clean. Deft, elegant and intense. Very Good.
Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 (£39) elusively superior - more complex, nuanced and textured, less fruit-led. Very Good Indeed.
Single Block Release, Block 1 Pinot Noir 2013 (£55) same clone as Block 2, this shows more ripe red fruits but with the same underpinnings. Very Good Indeed.
Single Block Release, Block 2 Pinot Noir (£55) more elegance, freshness and texture, cool and fresh - less fruit-led. Very Good Indeed.
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Monday, 9 February 2015

Wine of the Month: Wines For Valentine's Day

Three Champagnes for Valentine's Day

If you take Valentine's Day seriously, it has to include Champagne for a loved one. Here are three that will make the right statement.

Romantic - Pink Fizz: Lanson Rosé NV (The Co-op)

Yes it's pink and it's got bubbles, but this is serious not frivolous; a redcurrant-infused, orchard-fruited, leesy-biscuity Champagne; pale pink with great structure and a fine mousse.

Drink as an aperitif or match with king prawn vol-au-vents.

Elegant - Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2002 (Spirited Wine)

A vintage Champagne made from only white grapes, this is as elegant and deeply desirable as a middle-aged Bryan Ferry. Fine, delicate and ethereal with citrus fruits, yellow peach and brioche. Assured, adept and complex, it doesn't have to try, it just is.

Match with grilled lemon sole, beurre blanc and courgettes.

Classy - Taittinger Brut Réserve NV (Majestic, Waitrose, Tesco)

A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is a classic Grande Marque Champagne; peach and acacia, fresh citrus, honey and brioche. Long, fresh finish.

Match with smoked salmon.

If you have to ask the price, then you are clearly not entering into the spirit of Valentine's Day, but details are:

Lanson Rosé NV (£37.99, reduced to £27.99 until Feb 27)
Champagne de Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2002 (£40.80)
Taittinger Brut Réserve NV (£37)

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Wine of the Month - February 2013
Wine of the Month - February 2012