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Saturday, 23 May 2015


Waterloo port from Fonseca, available at Tanners
"Waterloo - Promise to love you for ever more"
- ABBA, Waterloo (1974)
This "Waterloo" edition reserve port was created to mark Fonseca's 200th anniversary - and that of the battle of Waterloo.
Dark purple, with black cherries, roasted spices and eucalyptus. Sweet yet fresh, with vibrant dark fruit and pepperiness. Fullsome, harmonious and long with a lovely texture.
As much fun as an ABBA fancy-dress party; Good.
Match with dark chocolate or cherry and chocolate torte.
Incredibly good value at £13.50 from Tanners; provided for review.
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Friday, 22 May 2015

Out-of-Bordeaux Dinner

Out of Bordeaux Dinner with Gauchezco, Oldenburg and Connoisseur Estates

In the week of London Wine Fair, Mauricio Vegetti of Gauchezco and Philip Costandius of Oldenburg hosted a dinner to consider what the New World can do with Bordelais grape varieties.

We kicked things off with Gauchezco's 2014 Torrontes - fresh, clean and precise with Torrontes' signature lifted florality, it is modern and crisp.

The wines were in three flights over dinner - the first flight highlighted two very different styles, the second pairing was closer, whilst the two Cab Francs at the end were almost soul mates.
Round One

This was Charlize Theron vs Dita Von Teese, a world-class slender beauty and a curvaceously seductive attention-grabber

Oldenburg Rhodium 2012 right-bank blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec; an Old-World lookalike, with bramble, red berries and coffee. Fresh and peppery with a firm muscularity.

Gauchezco Petit Verdot 2013 dark purple with perfumey oaky spice; fullsome, supple and inky with ripe bramble fruit and smooth tannins
Round Two

Flamboyant Cuban Pete-with-the-Rhumba-Beat vs self-assured beefcake Simon Le Bon

Gauchezco Oro Malbec 2009 ripe dark berries, liquorice and spice; baked, pruney fruit but cut through with freshness; extrovert yet athletic.

He says: chick-chicky-boom

Oldenburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 bold and muscular yet refined; fresh, complex plum, cassis and pencil shavings.

He says: This is Planet Earth!
Round Three

Cab Franc is typified by Winebird Helena Nicklin as an earthy, old-school gent who likes sweeping leaves and gathering redcurrants. These two have a dash more virility about them; more likely to own a two-seater sports car than a cardigan, they might want to be your Sugar Daddy

Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2011 raspberry fruit, freshness and grip

Gauchezco Cabernet Franc / Malbec 2011 fuller, riper and plumper

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Oldenburg Wine Dinner at High Timber

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Private Cellar 10-Year Tasting

Private Cellar's 10-year anniversary tasting at the Portland Gallery

My professional training would have me believe that the real work in running a wine merchant is in the rigorous selection of excellent wines, the technical stuff.
Increasingly, however, I'm inclined to believe the real skill is in the commercialising of a great idea, with buying as something of a commodity, albeit a specialist one.
Perhaps the true business genius lies in a combination of both - an attention to detail matched to a customer-focused approach.
In any event, there is clearly something special about Private Cellar who, despite their rather old school, elitist name were declared top independent wine merchant in the UK by Jancis Robinson and this year celebrate their 10th anniversary.
With an MW buyer, Private Cellar's wines are elegant, technically correct classics - that much comes as standard.
Perhaps their greatest asset is consistency, but not at the expense of excitement - just as I want my car both to start every time I put the key in and also be fun to drive, I've yet to try a disappointing wine from Private Cellar.
With eight wines to try, what struck me above the general quality, typicity and consistency was:

- all the wines were elegant and precise
- the Burgundies had a noble elegance and elusive, Dukedom superiority to fall quietly in love with
- by contrast, the New World wines, all equally good, seemed rather brash and look-at-me, as if they'd donned a flashy suit, Stetson and snakeskin boots
Pouilly Fume Domaine Thibault, Andre Dezat 2013 £15.75 elegant, aromatic, fullsome, creamy and flinty
Chateau Picque Caillou Blanc, Bordeaux 2012 £23.50 fresh and citrussy, lovely texture, subtle yet muscular oaking, deft
Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Laflaive 2009 £39.50 supple and fresh, creamy oatmeal and cashew, long - plenty of life ahead of it
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Freestone Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California 2011 £39.90 New World oak and fruit, more look-at-me
Givrey Chambertin la Brunelle Domaine Joseph Roty 2007, £34.95 soft, supple, deft and elegant; still youthful and assertive
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Freestone Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast California 2011 £39.90 all present and correct, but there's a whiff of New World attention-grabbing brashness about it
La Belle Connivence, Pomerol 2010 £76 pure, fresh, precise, long, focused and mineral; incredibly poised and youthful. Not cheap, though.
Napanook, Dominus Estate, California 2009, £42 lots of everything here - fruit, oak, alcohol; makes its presence felt

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvèdre 2013 - The Co-op‏

A Pays d'Oc Mourvedre from Les Jamelles - from the Co-op
This enjoyably warming and spicy Les Jamelles wine is exclusive to the Co-op; it has typical Languedoc ripe fruit and southern warmth with a deft, balanced complexity.

Dark plummy fruits, garrigue herbs, liquorice and spice. Supple texture, freshness and fine tannins with a mineral streak.
Good; excellent value - match with charcuterie, roast lamb with rosemary and garlic or hearty stews.
It has an IWC silver; provided for review - £7.25 from the Co-op (reduced to £6.25 until May 19th, 2015)
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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Two Aussie Chardies‏

Two elegant, European-style cool-climate Australian Chardonnays - from Dalrymple and Vasse Felix
Say Aussie Chardie and I think of big, blockbuster, oaky "sunshine in a glass"; these two are nowhere near that.
Dalrymple Cave Block Chardonnay 2012 (£22.99) Tasmania is cool-climate central for Australia; pale in the glass, this chardie is zippy and zesty-limey, yet also incredibly pure and rounded underneath it. Precise, focused and concentrated.
Good and will improve with age.
Think Chablis or Sancerre and match with goat's cheese, oysters or shellfish.
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2013 (£21.99) there's oak on the nose, but it's very tastefully done; ripe citrus fruits, fresh acidity, lime flowers and layers of creamy, nutty oatmeal. As deft and assured as David Beckham in a Savile Row suit. Very Good.
A versatile food wine, match with any white meat - roast chicken, pork terrine or mushroom risotto.
Provided for review.
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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Torres Dinner

Dinner with Miguel Torres Maczassek of Torres
Bodegas Torres is a 140 year-old business best-known for its range of mainstream Spanish wines; family owned and with no corporate shareholders or the stock market to answer to the family the company reinvests the vast majority of its profits in development, making long- term decisions.
In Chile, it has formed a co-operative for growers to make a sparkling rosé out of the workhorse grape Pais - with impressive results.
There is also a 20-year project to develop the country's first slate-soil vineyard, where challenges have included netting each bush vine by hand to keep predatory birds away from the grapes.
Miguel's view is that Chile is yet to fulfil its oenological potential and that the future involves moving in a more European direction. Asked about his local heroes, he mentions only his father who went there in the late 1970s and single-handedly modernised the local wine industry.
Back in Spain, they are helping to rediscover forgotten indigenous varieties in Catalunya (36 and counting) and are tapping into the growing success of Albarino with Pazo de Bruxas, a blend of grapes from the Atlantic coast for freshness and inland O Rosal for weight.
The Wines
Miguel Torres, Santa Digna Estelado, Sparkling Pais NV (£12 Fareham Wines, Soho Wine Supplies, Hailsham cellars, Sandhams Wines) fresh, elegant, fruit-led fizz
Torres Pazo de Bruxas Albarino 2013 (£12, mostly on-trade, some online) named after local Celtic witchcraft, fresh, lemony and precise
Miguel Torres Cordillera Chardonnay 2013 (£10.99 Yorkshire Vintners, Thos Peatling, Fareham Wines) New World fruit, subtle oaking and a European sensibility
Torres Salmos (Priorat) 2011 (£18-20, Taurus Wines, Hedonism, Aitken Wines, Waitrose Cellar) ripe, plump and crowd-pleasing, lots of fruit with good structure; a Nigella of a wine
Torres Mas La Plana 2010, Cabernet Sauvignon (£35-40, Slurp.co.uk, Penistone Wines, The Soho Wine Supply, Oxford Wine Co) - a technically correct, fault-free, textbook Cabernet with ripe blackcurrant fruit and fine tannins, but somehow not completely compelling; a bit Ed Miliband
Torres Grans Muralles 2009 (£68.90 in Hedonism) a blend of grapes including the recently-rediscovered Querol (not even included in the Wine Grapes tome); a big, personality of a wine with baked fruit, but complex and sophisticated beneath it; like charismatic ex-investment banker Nigel Farage
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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Centre Loire Wines with EASCA

A tasting of Centre Loire wines with EASCA at Cambridge Wine Merchants

Of the Centre Loire areas, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are pretty much household names; less obvious are Reuilly, Quincy and Menetou Salon whilst Coteaux du Giennois barely registers in any of my wine books.

Northerly and cool-climate, Loire wines are fresh and elegant - the whites are flinty, mineral Sauvignons; the red and rosé, both Pinots, show fresh red fruits.

Centre Loire suggested these wine would match with Chinese food, but their light freshness suggests something more local and European.

2013 Pouilly-Fumé Champalouettes 2013 (£13, Sainsbury) fresh, crisp and aromatic in a modern way, but otherwise lacking much of interest and a little harsh.
Match with shell fish or goat's cheese.
Domaine de Villargeau, Coteau de Giennois (£9.99, M&S) complex and substantial, with ripe orchard fruit, melon and sweet spice - further improves with extended aeration. Good.
Match with mackerel pate or salade nicoise.

Reuilly Cuvée Nathalie 2014 Nathalie Lafond (£11.99, Majestic) Crisp, fresh, precise Sauvignon with gooseberries and lime; good aromatics and minerality.
Match with seafood or goat's cheese.

Etienne de Loury, Sancerre rose 2012 (£17, Oddbins) smoky-spicy with red fruits; fresh and balanced with a leesy-creamy texture. Impressive, but you pay for the Sancerre name and low- yielding, cool-climate vines.
Match with salmon or cold cuts of ham with double Gloucester.

2013 Sancerre Rouge au Bois de l’Épine, Maison Foucher Lebrun (£15, M&S) an attractive Loire Pinot with ripe red fruits and freshness. Elegant and pretty.

Match with duck, wild salmon or tuna sushi.

Other related articles
Matching Loire Wines and Food‏ - with Fiona Beckett
Matching Loire and Sushi with YO!Sushi
EASCA Tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants
Quentin Sadler's review - in which he does actually match them with Chinese food