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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Pure Chablis - The Tour

Photos from a tour of the Chablis vineyards organised by the BIVB and run by oenologist-turned-tour-guide Eric Szablowski of Au Coeur du Vin

We are chauffeured by Eric in a vintage 2CV

Looking down the slope: kimmeridgian soils - for Chablis
Looking up: portlandian - for Petit Chablis

The change-over of soil types is very pronounced, and marked by a track

A view of the Grand Cru vineyards across the valley

Eric at the wheel as we descend

The tasting room

The kimmeridgian rock samples - with fossil shells

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Pascal Bouchard Chablis Grand Cru 2010 - Waitrose
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Two Reds from South West France - and a Sticky

Two reds and a dessert wine from South West France

If Bordeaux is the aristocracy of wines and Languedoc the minor royalty, these South West wines are landed gentry - complex and sophisticated, what they lack in refinement they more than make up for in terms of personality.

The Reds

Ch Bellevue La Foret, Fronton, 2009 (£15.70 Grapevine Wine Services) 45% Négrette, 40% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark purple; dark fruit, truffley-vegetal damp undergrowth, roasted spices and a touch of sulphurous struck match. Sweet, ripe, cooked dark fruit, sweet spices, toasty oak, vanilla and bitter dark green garrigue herbs. Old-vine concentration.

Fresh acidity that just about manages to hold it all in check and assertive, firm, tannins. Benefits from aeration (better on the second day than on the first) and will age.

Expressive, enjoyable and makes a statement. Good.

Match with rustic, gamey foods, such as venison papardelle.

Domaine d'en Ségur, Cotes du Tarn, 2010 (HBV, £25) 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark purple, bramble fruit, coffee grounds and sweet spices. Sweet vanilla, pepperiness, sweet ripe, slightly cooked plummy fruit and cassis. Good freshness and minerality.

Long, concentrated and focused; a blue-collar Pomerol. Soft, smooth texture, slightly grippy tannins on the finish.

Rather classier and more restrained than the Foret. Good.

Match with rare red meat, such as lamb chops or Chateaubriand.

The Sticky

Folie de Roi, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, 2011 (£13.99, Le Bon Vin) 60% Petit Manseng, 30% Gros Manseng, 10% Petit Courbu

Good entry level sticky - ripe citrus, orange blossom and a touch of beeswax. Intense sweetness of overripe, cooked peaches, tropical citrus sweet spice and beeswax savouriness.

Lacks the deftness and complexity of a really assured sticky, but is priced accordingly.

Enjoyable, quaffable sweetie. Match with lemon torte or blue cheese.

All wines provided for review.

Other related articles
Pierre Chanau Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Blanc 2010 - Auchan
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Saturday, 16 August 2014

Around The World In A Day - Amathus Knightsbridge

Amathus - as I didn't know - is mostly a wholesale business, one of the UK's main importers, and specialises in spirits as much as wines.

As a sideline, they run a few retail outlets - each with a very different character. Leadenhall Market caters for city types and sells mostly Champagne and classic French reds.

The Soho branch, in adland, does a surprisingly brisk trade in cocktail spirits.

The latest addition is Amathus Knightsbridge which will surely give Harrod's Food Hall just up the road a run for its money.

The shop has been open for three months, but the technicalities of getting a refit sorted meant they have only just had their launch event.

They invited me along.

We started with a Prosecco - off-dry with orchard fruit it was fault-free and pleasant if a little unsophisticated. At over ten pounds, it was at the upper end of the price scale for the quality.

The format of the evening was canapes and a help-yourself to the 20-plus wines and spirits available on the two oenomatic machines.
Overall, the wines were well-made, well-chosen and interesting. Many were priced at the upper end of what I would have expected, but a memorable selection were both impressive and good value.

What I liked most about the arrangement was the option of three price points per wine on the oenomatic machine.

This means that for pocket-money prices, you can taste a small splash of wine to see if you want to take a whole bottle.

It also means that, should you fancy it, for the price of a single bottle, you can try everything on offer on the shop.

So, if you are the sort of person who would take a Vinho Verde over a kiwi Sauvignon, who feels that a £10+ wine can be good value if the quality is great, who would consider taking an oenological tour of all the continents in a single evening to be a major achievement, then the Aladdin's cave that is Amathus Knightsbridge could be just your thing.
The Whites

Koshu (Japan) my first Japanese wine; modern, expressive aromatic nose. Pure and precise. Pleasant but somewhat international in style, rather insubstantial and also expensive at £22.

Louis Sipp Riesling (Alsace) textbook Alsace Riesling, off-dry, musky melonskin, ripe stone fruit and citrus, minerality. Very elegant.

Savigny-Les-Beaune (Burgundy) floral, cidery and mineral. Seems more Jura than Burgundy.

The Reds

Taurasi (Italy) complex, nuanced and sophisticated. A class act. Very Good.

Gordon Estate Syrah (Washington, USA) northern Rhone-esque Syrah, all dark herbs and spices, dark berries, freshness and substance. A revelation. Good.

The Spirits
Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin (Germany) crisp, refreshing and pleasantly bitter.

La Puritita Mezcal (Mexico) smokey-peaty, like an Islay whisky.

Ch De Labaude X.O. (Bas Armagnac) complex, mature and mellow with a sophisticated assertiveness. Very Good Indeed.

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Private Cellar Tasting
Lunch at The Old Bridge, Huntingdon

Friday, 15 August 2014

Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2001

A mature Louis Latour white Burgundy

A colleague who "doesn't like wine" won a bottle of 2001 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Crand Cru in a raffle and having no interest in it at all, gave it to me.

As I was opening a couple of other bottles one evening after work, I decided to throw this into the mix, curious to see what reaction it would get from a group of self-confessed novices.

Overall, they liked it and weren't put off by its old school style or lack of fruit - especially given that we put it up against three young, modern-style wines.

Deep golden colour, the nose is oaky and oxidative with a sherry-esque tang; the fruit is mostly faded now and the aromas are more of roasted almonds and old leather.

The palate is still focused, with fresh, ripe citrus and orchard fruit, the weightiness of the oak and minerality.

Slightly past its peak, but with an intriguing sense of presence - a wine to respect, admire and appreciate.

Match with white meat, such as a ham or rabbit terrine.

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Ried Loibenberg Loibner Riesling 2003 Smaragd, Knoll - Wachau, Austria‏
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The Third Cambridge Tasting - Dinner at The Gonville‏

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Nemiroff Horilka

Nemiroff horilka from Ukraine

Horilka is a neutral Ukrainian base spirit similar to vodka - etymologically, vodka is a diminutive of the slavic word for water (in the same way that whisky comes from "uisge beatha" - water of life), whereas horilka is a reference to "burning" or distillation.

Distinct from vodka or whisky, there are traditions of flavouring horilka with berries, honey or chilies. These Nemoriff horilkas are flavoured with various additions; the base spirit is well-made and the flavours add further interest.

Original bitter, spirity nose but quite smooth, warming and relatively easy for a strong spirit, warming finish; neutral but pleasant.

Birch adds a pleasant, floral birch aroma to the nose with a sweetness on the palate and pleasantly sappy finish; subtle, elegant and well-balanced. Good.

Honey pepper pale golden colour, more neutral nose; compared to Original, less perceptibly bitter, rather than actively sweet, on the palate with a gentle but persistent warming pepperiness developing. Good.

Rye Honey almost clearless, with just a hint of pale sandy yellow; the honey adds an elusive hint of savoury beeswax and sweetness on the palate, the finish is warming and spirity.

Cranberry liqueur pale bright red, smells a little confected; sweet cranberry flavour, again a little confected but nicely balanced and a pleasant-enough sipper.
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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Three Wines from Jean-Luc Columbo

Three wines from Jean-Luc Colombo

Rhône wines are typically red and substantial - that makes two of these wines quite unusual.

The Picpoul, which is more associated with Languedoc than the Rhône, is new to the UK, whilst the ‘Abeilles’ ("bees") are new vintages and come with a donation for every bottle sold to the British Beekeepers’ Association.

Picpoul de Pinet, Les Girelles 2013 (£9.99)

Aromatic white flowers on the nose; fresh, ripe citrussy palate with mineral underpinnings, just a hint of varietal seashells - well-made and well-balanced in a modern, crowd-pleasing style.

Very enjoyable.

Serve as an aperitif or match with light seafood starters.

Stockists: Oddbins, Lay & Wheeler, Field and Fawcett, The Halifax Wine Company, The Leamington Wine Company, Dunedin Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Famous Wines, Bacchus Wines, Islington Wine

Les Abeilles Blanc 2013 (£9.99)

A blend of Clairette and Rousanne - honeysuckle, citrus, sweet spice and hints of incense on the nose; waxy-yet-fresh on the palate with orchard fruits.

Another well-made easy-drinker - a little more old-school in style.

Match with white meat, such as ham hock terrine.

Stockists: Define Food and Wine, Le Mouton Rouge, Dalling & Co wines, Trinas Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Tivoli, Taylors Fine Wines, Aiken Wines, Partridges, DP Vintners, The Butlers Cellar

Les Abeilles Rouge 2012 (£9.99)

GSM blend with juicy plums and dark berry fruit with some spiciness - low tannins make it another uncomplicated easy-drinker.

On first pouring, even with a decanter, the texture feels a little light and insubstantial, but it gains in presence with time. Well-balanced and feels like it has more to offer given time.

Match the juicy dark fruits with burgers and barbecue food or salamis.

Stockists: Tivoli, The Bottleneck, DeFINE food and Wine, Sunninghill Wine Merchants, North and South, The Butlers Cellar, Fountainhall Wines, Bacchus et Al

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Prince Golitsyn's Seventh Heaven Masandra - Ukraine

Masandra, on the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, is home to Ukraine's oldest winery. Crimea is the Black Sea's answer to Provence - a mountainous, coastal sub-tropical region best known as a smart, leisurely holiday destination.

The history of the Masandra winery dates back to tsarist times - it was established in order to provide wine for the tsar's Summer Palace near Yalta. Tunnels were built in 1894 deep into the mountainside with a constant temperature of around 13C-14C for storing ancient wines in perfect condition.

Masandra wines are typically fortified stickies in the Mediterreanean style of sherry, Madeira, port, Marsala and Greek Samos nectars.

Syome Nebo Knyazya Golitsyna ("Prince Golitsyn's Seventh Heaven") Masandra fortified, aged for two years, 16% alcohol, 18% sugar - a blend of White Kokur, White Muscat and Muscat Rose.

Dark golden and amber. Complex nose of oxidative dark sherry, spirit, madeira and floral Muscat. Intense floral sweetness, cooked mix fruit, butterscotch and glycerol, cut through with freshness, underpinned by a persistent roasted-chestnut savouriness.

Very enjoyable, characterful and harmonious sweet-strong blend - Good.

Serve as a dessert by itself or match with turkey and chestnut stuffing or treacle tart.

For the curious, the label features an image of the Masandra Palace Museum of tsar Alexander III.

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Artyomovsk - Sparkling Wines from Ukraine
Ararat 5 Years Brandy
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Kicking The Kremlin

Discover Ukraine on Masandra: http://discover-ukraine.info/places/crimea/yalta/1090
Ukraine.com on Masandra: http://www.ukraine.com/blog/yaltas-exquisite-massandra-winery
Masandra by Tom Cannavan: http://www.wine-pages.com/features/massandr.htm

Palace image credit: http://ua-travelling.com/en/article/massandra-winery-crimea