Saturday, December 31, 2005

Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc 2002

Made by Joseba Altuna in Chile's Casablanca valley I had high hopes for this - despite Sainsbury's discontinuing it! However despite looking the part (straw with a touch of green) and having aromas of gooseberries and apricots, once in the mouth it sadly failed to deliver - it wasn't a bad wine, it just wasn't very good either - it was a touch too tart for my liking and tasted sour which was a great shame - however that is life and sometimes things taste good and sometimes they don't!

Les Traverses 2001 - Paul Jaboulet Aine'

A Cote de Ventoux, which is sometimes a source of good value Cote Du Rhone and at other times a source of cheap rubbish, however this happily falls into the former category - I bought a couple of these a few years ago and the first one I tried then was lovely, and was bought to try and replicate what I'd been drinking on my honeymoon - which thankfully it did! This time round it was a different wine - the colour had moved towards being tawny, and whilst the spice and oak were still present the fruit had transformed into dried fruit and liquorice flavours. Personally I preferred the younger wine, and this might had just been left too long whilst not being stored particularly well!

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 2005

This is currently on offer in Tesco at just £4.99 a bottle - and it's a real bargain at that price - decent quality New Zealand Sauvignon can be pretty pricey and I bought this 10 minutes after buying a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon from the local wine merchants who had a few bottles left - straw coloured with a hint of green in in, it displays youthful aromas of tropical fruits (passion fruit) and gooseberries and has flavours of sweet gooseberries (still dry though) with a hint towards grapefruit, this is high in acidity making it crisp and clean and is surprisingly full bodied. Made by Julia O'Connell from Montana this is a masterpiece at this price - a wine which in 1990 won the Marquee de Goulaine Trophy for best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Comparison with the Cloudy Bay will come when I get around to tasting it!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Unwins goes under!

Unwins the wine merchants, which has been around since 1843 has ceased trading with the loss of 1400 jobs and closure of 350 stores. Whilst part of the blame can be laid at the door of increased competition from the supermarkets, it would be fair to say that all the off license chains and independents that are doing well also suffer from this same competition. The fault lies elsewhere, for the last month my local store has had virtually no wine on the shelves and distribution and cash flow have been cited as part of the reason. How can a chain that has grown so large go so badly, the buyers need to take some of the blame, an inability to differentiate themselves is part of the story - in order to get customers to visit the store rather than go to a supermarket they needed a unique selling point - which from the outside looks like they failed to have. Oddbins sell better, more interesting wines than the supermarkets with staff who know their stuff, Majestic have a similar strategy but by getting cheap premises and having a minimum order of one case have made it work. From my visits to Unwins, the range tended to be small, (something a specialist cannot afford to do), uninspiring, and very ordinary - it appeared they wanted to compete head on with Tesco in a battle they were destined to lose - too many wines in the £5 price point and not enough in the £9 plus bracket.

Back after the Christmas break

Well I'm back after a short break over Christmas, and I'm ashamed to say that I haven't recorded all the wines sampled during the festive season, however I will be adding over time some of the backlog of wines I've tasted over the last year prior to starting this Blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Champagne in a can

Napa aristocrat Niebaum-Coppola has released a Champagne-like wine – in an elegantly decorated pink can.Sofia Mini Blanc de Blanc – named after actress-director Sofia Coppola, daughter of the renowned Godfather director and winery proprietor – blends 70% Pinot Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Muscat Cannelli to create a Champagne-like wine sold in cans, and supplied with a straw. 'It does really well in the summer, particularly with women,' New York-based winery spokeswoman Jennifer Mitchell told With the winter holidays coming, the small 187ml can is also a perfect choice for parties, she said, as it's 'easy to pass around on a tray.' The Washington Post has already noted the success of the canned fizz, particularly among young people across the country, in an article earlier this month. Although the sparkling wine has been on the market for a year, at US$19.99 for four cans (the equivalent of a bottle), as a result of occasional explosions the can will be reissued with a thicker base. 'It has not been a serious problem, but strengthening the can's base will prevent accidents,' Mitchell said.

Bordeaux Prices tumble

Property prices across Bordeaux are at their lowest on record as the region struggles with the crisis hitting the French wine industry. In what is becoming a buyers market the prices are now 30% less than 2003 with tougher conditions expected in 2006. As a result some smaller producers are going out of business or are being bought up by larger producers. However the best properties and appelations are less effected, although in some cases this is true. This news comes in the same week at 3rd Growth Margaux Chateau Cantenac Brown was sold - the question on everyone's lips now is - how much for?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cantenac Brown Finally Sold

Bordeaux insiders are reporting that 3rd Class Growth Chateau Cantenac Brown has been sold by AXA to an undisclosed individual for an "agreeable" price. The Chateau has been one of the less well performing Cru Classe' and it's terroir has at times been passed off as "not the best in Margaux". We await further news.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zin 2001

WOW! This is fantastic - come December and it's one of the best wines I've bought a bottle of all year! (I've tasted finer, but haven't bought many better bottles) at £12.49 a bottle this is thick and juicy and stood perfectly alongside pan fried duck breast in a cranberry and port jus with dauphinois potatoes. Edging towards garnet in colour with thick luxuriant legs. This is powerful stuff - though thicker and juicier than many, using French oak for 24 months (though only 35% of this is new) has given it roundness and allowed it to truly develop, whilst Joel Peterson has exercised his expertise and used oak as it should be, with care and discretion - not for him too long in new American oak. As Ravenswood claim this is a "No Wimpy Wines" zone, it is deep and dark and needs food that will stand up to it.(
This has flavours of cinnamon, cloves, raspberries and blackberries - it's enough to get you in the Christmas spirit - but I'd strongly advise against anyone wanting to try this with turkey - don't save it for beef or game (or even lamb) then you'll see it at it's best!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Whisky Tasting

It may not be wine; however Andy, a friend, and I went along to our local Sainsbury's to a whisky tasting last night - and I can report that trying to taste 10 whiskies, when there is not spitoon is a decidedly dangerous occupation. Getting enough to taste but not enough to end up paralytic was the toughest part of the evening. We started with a 10 year old Ardbeg - which both of us would usually drink and as expected found a powerful, dry Whisky. We then moved onto a 10y.o Balvenie which I was really looking forward to tasting and had often toyed with the idea of buying - now I'm glad I didn't - this was like very alcoholic desert wine with added honey - it was frankly grotesque and after a sip of it we soon decided that a third glass was needed to pour anything unpalatable into. Bowmore legend came next - this was nice - but perhaps a little to delicate for our liking. Thwe big surprise came next in the form of bog standard 12 y.o. Glenfiddich - now I'm not sure whether it's the amount of advertising or what- but it's the one malt sold everywhere - so something makes you think it won't be very good - but it turned out to be one of the better whiskies on offer - not as powerful as the Ardbeg - but enough to know it was there. 5th up was Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve 12 y.o. a new venture from Glenfiddich who you imagine have lost market share in the last 5 years from increased competition and knowledge from consumers - and this hits the spot very nicely indeed and was one of the discoveries of the evening. Both the Glenlivet 12 y.o. and the Glenmorangie 10 y.o. we thought could use a little more body, there was nothing bad about them but they were a little too gentle and uninteresting. Isle of Jura 10 y.o. again was nothing to write home about, but where I might find myself buying either of the previous two, I don't think I'd venture to buy a bottle of this, on the other hand I wouldn't give it to a raffle if I had a bottle (as I would the Balvenie). Prize for the night for best discovery was 10 year old Yamazaki Japanese single malt - this was lovely (although by this stage it has to be said I'm not sure how well my palate was behaving!) and is something that I may well return to. The nicest whisky of the night, we had saved until last - a 15 y.o. Highland Park which was fantastic - although at £10 a bottle more than the rest of the selection I'd probably plump for something else. Indeed when we then wandered (or staggered) across to Whisky section we ended up buying a bottle of Burgundy Wood Glenmorangie that was on offer rather than something we'd already gone for!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Enzo Boglietti Barbera D'Alba 2003

This is a vibrantly coloured blood red wine with the most amazing aroma of cherries and plums and slight hints of aniseed. The first thing that hits you when you taste this wine is a burst of acidity at the front of your mouth - as you would expect from an Italian wine - this should without doubt be served with either acidic foods - such as a tomato based pasta dish or an oily food where the acidity will cut through the oil. The flavours in this wine of vanilla and plums are very pleasing, although I found that sadly they did not live up to the aromas.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

At one minutes past midnight on the third Thursday in November, all in Beaujolais are awake sending over a million cases of Nouveau off to Paris before it is shipped all the way around the world. This is a strange ritual only seen in this part of France, and by the time it is over, more than 65 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau will have been drunk globally. Locally there are races to see who can be the first to serve this newly made wine, and this sees cars, motorbikes and aircraft employed to get it to it's final destination. Just a few weeks prior to this, grapes were still hanging on their vines and the local vignerons were preparing for harvest.
Georges Duboeuf is the largest producer in Beaujolais and he alone will produce 4 million bottles and works tirelessly to promote it around the world - and it is down to him that this one time local custom has developped into a world wide phenomenon.
Georges Duboeuf says of the 2005 harvest :-

"To give you an impression of this year’s wine, I must first remark on its color. It is without a doubt the finest palette of colors I have seen in a glass of Beaujolais. There is sumptuous beauty within the glass made up of dazzling red with violet highlights, a deep ruby red with hints of garnet. In the Crus there are deep purple reds that are somber, like the blue of night. This is an impressive livery that is sure to enrobe and embellish 2005’s wine. Beyond its impeccable appearance, the 2005 vintage also contains some of the most remarkable aromas. They breathe a refreshing complexity of black currant, blueberry, blackberry, black cherry and kirsch, intermingled with violet, cocoa, coffee, pepper, licorice and warm spices."

"The taste of the 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau lives up to the standards set by its color and aroma. The palate gives the impression of intense concentration. This is a warm wine, bold and fleshy. It is harmonious, voluptuous and seductive. It is the sort of wine to help you rediscover the aromatic palate. The succulent fruits are held together by supple tannins that create the lavish expression of a high class wine. This is the mark of a formidable vintage that will be discussed for years to come. "

Having never tasted any Nouveau I decided that the time had come to take the plunge and managed to pick up a bottle for £4.99 from Waitrose (they had about 3 bottles left) In appearance the wine was a great deal deeper than I expected, definitely red and pink colours rather than purples but with a slight mauve tinge. The nose was clean and youthful as you would expect with the pear drop aroma you would expect from a product of carbonic masceration and some banana and strawberry aromas - so quite where Georges gets his fruit garden of aromas from I'm not sure. On the palate the wine is dry with little or no tannin but plenty of acidity giving it some structure. Very light bodied you could almost mistake this for a white wine if blindfolded - and certainly a Rose' as delicate strawberry comes through. All in all - what's the fuss about - to be honest I'm not really sure - the wine is certainly drinkable but beyond that, it's a little bit dull and ,for me, lacks the WOW factor. Would I buy it again - probably but only to be part of Nouveau phenomenon, if it weren't for that I'd leave it well alone.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

French Winemakers go on the rampage - Again!!

In the early hours of Wednesday morning (8 December) members of the FNSEA union (Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles) and its regional arm the FDSEA arrived at the Bordeaux trade body's HQ near the Place de Quinconces and - using breezeblocks and mortar - built a wall across the main doors, blocking them entirely. The action is a continuation of the long-running protest against falling prices of barrels. Last month the unions put forward a plan to withhold AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlé) certificates from producers who do not sell their barrels for the minimum price of €1,000.

Argentina to Open UK Wine Office

Argentina will open a dedicated wine office in the UK before the end of next year. The country currently accounts for just 1.5% of the UK market, whilst it is the 5th largest producer in the world. The country traditionally sees some growth on the back of discounting and good vintages but fails to maintain momentum and slips back to their starting point. This move is seen as essential in opening up a more cohesive attack on the UK market.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Red Wine Offers

Across the supermarkets the big brands are on offer, Asda have Jacob's Creek Shiraz-Cabernet at £3.98 a bottle, Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz £3.98, Wold Blass President's Cab Sauv £7.98, and a whole range of wine at £3.72 a bottle or 3 for £10 including 35 South and Banrock Station.
At Co-OP Peter Lehmann Wildcard Reserve Shiraz 2004£7.99 - £3.99, Spain: Muriel Rioja Gran Reserva 1996£9.99 - £5.99. Oddbins have 20% off one bottle of many wines, 25% off 3 and 30% off 6. Morrisons : Gran Eneldo Rioja Reserva 1998£7.99 - £4.99, Hardy's Stamp Shiraz-Cabernet 2003£5.79 - £3.99, Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2003*£7.99 – £5.99, Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz 2002£6.99 - £4.89. Sainsburys : Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz 2003*£6.99 - £4.99, Era Costana Rioja Reserva 1999£8.99 - £4.99Faustino I, Rioja Gran Reserva 1995*£13.99 - £11.99, Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz 2004*£6.49 - £3.99, Wolf Blass President's Selection Shiraz 2000£11.99 - £8.99, Tesco : Offers this week are all a little dull, they don't cut prices by more than than their competitors and they seem only to have the big brands on offer or their own brand wines. Waitrose : Côte de Beaune-Villages 2000 Louis Jadot £9.99 - £7.99, Barolo 2000/01 Terre da Vino£12.99 - £9.99, Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2003 Marlborough£14.99 - £11.99

Christies and Langtons to offer joint online auctions

Christies and Australian auction house Langtons are to team up over online wine auctions, using technology Langtons have developped. A date has been set for next may when an auction will be jointly held in Hong Kong and via the web. Both parties have previously worked together on a small scale however this is the first time they have worked on something of this scale.

Wine International and IWC under review

Following the sale of Wine International magazine to William Reed Publishing; the magazine will cease in it's current format, and will instead merge with sister publication Wine and Spirit International, to form a new trade only magazine, Wine and Spirit. It will be edited by the current editor of Off License news and the information I have is that Charles Metcalfe and Robert Joseph, the figureheads at Wine International are still under discussion though it is unlikely that they will continue as associate editors.
The International Wine Challenge is also part of the discussions taking place and the current plan is to offer a "Challenge Package" to include spirits and beers. What is ceretain is that the magazine will be completely re-vamped and be unrecognisable from the current offering. The new magazine will be solely aimed at the UK trade with no space dedicated to the trade in other countries. We await to see whether the IWC will continue to hold such gravitas in the UK and world markets.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Offers Offers Everywhere! - Whites

Wiht the festive season, so come all manner of offers from retailers to entice you to pick them for your Christmas tipples. Waitrose has Puilly Fume' Arnoud de Lasalle 2004 reduced from £10.99 to £6.99, Chablis Blaison de Bourgongne 2004 at £6.99 from £10.49 and Puilly Fuisse' - Bouchard Aine' et Fils 2004 at £7.99 from £11.99 . Tesco have Wolf Blass President's Selection Chadonnay 2003 (£7.99 from £9.99) and along with Waitrose have the Yellow Label Chardonnay reduced (Tesco £5.49 , Waitrose £5.61). Sainsbury's the prize for most tempting offer with IWC Golod Medal Winning Lous Jadot Meursault 2002 "Pretty pale straw gold. Very complex nose, with golden apple, roast almond and mineral aromas. The palate is crammed with tangy lemon fruit, its supple, silky texture a complement to the rich, opulent flesh. A sensational wine drinking very well now. IWC 2005" reduced from £18.99 to £14.99. Almost all the chains have put the big brands on offer, so it will be no surprise to see Jacoob's Creek, Wolf Blass, Hardy's, Kendermann's and Kumala on offer at several of them, often across the entire range.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Champagne!

This Christmas many of us will celebrate with a nice glass of something fizzy, and the supermarkets have gone all out to win us over with offers. Tesco lead the way with Andre Carpentier NV Brut at a staggering £9.99 until December 6th. Asda have their offer on until January 8th at £9.98 a bottle for a bottle of Hubert Laurent NV Brut, whilst Morrisons go for Jean D'eperon Brut NV at the sub £10 mark. Other offers worthy of mention include Canard Duchene 2000 Brut down £15 to £14.99 at Majestic. around the stores Nicolas Feuilette NV Brut is heavily discounted, with £14.99 being the best price I found at both Majestic and Morrisons. Other brands to keep an eye out for are Lanson NV Black Label (16.79 in Somerfield from December 21 to January 3rd) and Piper Heidiseck NV Brut (£13.99 until 1st January in Coop)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Graham's 1975 Vintage Port

1975 was declared a vintage and although not one of the very best it is still very good indeed. And Graham's made probably the best port in this particular vintage. I was fortunate enough to have 6 bottles bought for me before I could walk (or certainly soon after!) and have bottles now remaining. Age has given it an amazing tawny colour with a great deal of sediment - the flavours are intense sweet flavours of dried fruits, particularly sultanas and dried figs. It has a bouquet like liquid Christmas cake. There is definately nothing harsh in this and it is absolutely ready to drink now, in fact if you have any bottles of this anywhere (and I still do!) then this Christmas and thereabouts is probably the time to go about drinking this before it really starts to go downhill. It may last a few more years, but let's be honest - I'm not sure I'm willing to take the chance having waited 30 years to see what it ends up like!

French Winemakers Get Violent

A group of balaclava wearing French winemakers attacked the Montpellier offices of Onivins, France's wine trade body, smashing up computer equipment and injuring three members of staff. In another attack in Sete further South, an export depot was attcked, including wine storage tanks, allowing 100,000 litres of wine to spill onto the tarmac. No group has claimed responsibility for this, although the militant disaffected wine producers group CRAV have carried out attacks this year including a dynamite attack on the La Baume winery in the Languedoc.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Goosecross Cellars Launch Podcasting

the Napa Valley Based Goosecross Cellars have launched Napa Valley Wine Radio, covering wine education, appreciation and entertainment as a podcasting service. This is the first such service, clearly aimed at the ipod generation. Working as a subscription service the MVWR offers a "personal experience" describing aromas and flavours and making food pairing suggestions. More info at

French Getting themselves in a spin

News that the French health ministry is planning to label all wines with a health warning has unsuprisingly gone down badly with producers, there are already plans for labels to be added warning pregnant woman of the dangers of drinking alcohol, and these plans take the same theme further to labels similar to those seen on cigarette packets. Roland Feredj of the Bordeaux Wine Trade Council said "You are trying to create an atmosphere of fear. But a policy of fear and bans does not work."