Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wente Reliz Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2004

From the cooler Monterey County region - the AVA of Arroyo Seco comes this lovely little Pinot -I was expecting to find something a little overdone - a little too big that had been given too much hang time - yet what I found suprised me and even delighted me. From the Oxford Wine Company ( this Pinot has a lovely clear garnet colour with spicy cherry and hints of tell tale "farmyard" aromas (not a bad thing in a Pinot believe it or not!) and wonderful pepper and sour cherry on the palate. Medium to medium/full bodied with some balancing acidity - my only slight gripe is that I would have perhaps preferred to see a little re acidity to make a wonderful wine long and slender - as it was the finish held together ok, but was within definite reach of becoming flabby. Still delicious though. (83)

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Few from the Archives

It's been a couple of weeks since I last updated (sorry about that - Christmas and all that) and I've been working hard on starting to put together a new website that will archive old tasting notes as well as having far more information on it. In addition I'll be working towards a food matching service where you can fill in an online form and I'll get back to you with a match for the food you are serving, from a retailer you are able to get to at a price you want to pay.

Anyway for now here are some from the archives.

35 South Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (25/12/2003)
Lemon green coloured, with gooseberry and cut grass aromas and crisp dry flavours of tropical fruits. (78)

Missiones de Rengo Carmenere 2002 (14/01/03)
Damson coloured, with a bouquet of tobacco, leather and cloves with smokey, leathery flavours with hints of oak - not bad at all! (79)

Erruzuriz Merlot 2002 (24/1/04)
Lovely complex aromas of blackberry, spice, oak, almonds and almond with cherry, pepper and leather in the mouth - and a smooth velvety finish. (82)

Casablanca Gewurztraminer 2002 Joseba Altuna (3/4/04)
A first taste of Gewurz, and it was actually pretty nice - far less floral than I had been expecting. From a cool area of Chile, a bright lemon coloured offering with fresh grapey aromas and simple lychee flavours. A simple, but elegent wine. (81)

Concha Y Toro Explorer Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (31/07/04)
Pale, lemon green with sweet green apple bouquet and crisp flavours of grapefruit, melon and just a hint of honey. (83)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Brown Brothers Late Harvest Muscat 2003

A sweet muscat from Brown Brothers - but don't confuse this with the unctuous liqueur Muscat that Brown Brothers also make, as opposed to being dark and brooding this is a much lighter affair. Golden hay coloured with a fresh and youthful grapey, melon and granny smiths on the nose followed up by honey, grapes and dried apricots on in the mouth, medium sweet moving towards sweet, with great balancing acidity and a long finish. 82/100

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas as Sainsbury's

Top offers from everyones favourite supermarket.

Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Shiraz£12.49 - £9.49
Wolf Blass Presidents Selection Chardonnay£9.99 - £7.99
Bodegas Muriel Rioja Gran Reserva£9.99 - £6.99
Luganilla Rioja Gran Reserva £11.99 - £7.99
Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage£6.99 - £4.99
Laroche Chablis £8.99 - £6.99
Napa Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon£11.99 - £7.99

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Approaches - Morrisons

With Christmas fast approaching the chains and supermarkets are putting everything in sight on special offer - I'm sure that at some store somewhere Terry Leahy CEO of Tesco is selling his grandmother at a knock down price. And whilst you might not choose to buy your wine at a supermarket for your Christmas drinking there are bargains to be had for drinking the rest of the year. Today we look at what is to be found in Morrisons. I've only listed those wines which I would actually recommend - anything else you try at your own risk!

Montana Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 £5.99 - £4.99
Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora 2005 £5.99 - £4.49
Nuits St Georges Laboure Roi 2004£15.99 - £13.99
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2003£9.99 - £7.99
Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2004£9.99 - £7.99

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tesco Finest Gavi 2005

Amazingly here is a Tesco finest wine that is actually worth buying - I'm really not a fan of some of their other offerings but this one just about hits the mark. Gavi comes from the North West of Italy in Piedment a region that also produces Barolo and Barbaresco and is made from the Cortese grape. Normally you can expect to spend over £10 on it but in this case it's on offer in Tesco with 25% off in the run up to Christmas and comes in at under £5. Now that's what I call a bargain!
A touch of lemon colouring with delicate aromas of cinnamon and apple pie and a dry mineral palate and lemon notes kept beautifully fresh by the high acidity. (82/100)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Waddesdon Pt. 2

The real success story at the wine fair was the wines of Hecht & Bannier, a relatively new negocient house based between Beziers and Montpelier in Bouzigues. The wines on show, Minervois 2004, St Chinian 2003, Faugeres 2003, Coteaux de Languedoc 2003 and Cote du Rousillon 2003 were all uniformly good scoring between 87 & 89 points each - a remarkable achievment.

In fact, I liked the product so much I even asked to work voluntarily for the company as they seek to get into the UK market. As a brand rather than an appelation they are well set to achieve great things in this country and it is my hope that I can be part of that success as I look to start a career in the wine business. Whether I am able to achieve my wish will only be known in time, and whether they are able to break into a competitive market remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Waddesdon Wine Fair Pt. 1

A fair advertised as featuring people from Chateau's Lafite and Mouton presenting their wines ended up being a bit lame on the wine front - I was expecting to taste perhaps Carudes de Lafite and perhaps Le Petit Mouton and instead found people such as Andrew Napier of Chateau Lafite showing wines such as Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.
However the finest wines that I found there, and certainly the most genial host, came from the Languedoc and Francois Bannier, who also unsuprisingly seemed to be doing pretty brisk business through the tills in comparison with the other wines on offer.

Risveltes 1982 Hors d'Age - Fortified fruit cake and sultana in a glass - very drinkable (84)

Waddesdon red Merlot Cote de Duras 2005 - Red fruits and leather/earthiness - not my cup of tea at all (69)

Waddesdon Cote du rhone 2003 - Lovely fruit and spice balance - harvested on 8th August in the hot vintage so not as cooked as some examples can be. A little jammy though (84)

Delicato Family Vineyards, Old Vine Zinfandel, Monterey 2004 - Like blackberry juice - not enogh grip or acidity. (74)

Sainte Colombe 2001 Cotes de Castillon - made by Gerard Perse of Pavie fame - earthy, leathery - nice enough but not special. Would like more for my £10. (84)

Waddesdon Pauillac 2003 - made from young vines at Clerc Milhon and Mouton - these certainly suffered in the hot year the wine is well made but the grapes would perhaps not have been optimum. I suspect this is similar to what a lot of the "special" wines that are released by various people like The Wine Society are from things such as this. (83)

Waddeson New Zealand Pinot Noir, Hawke Bay 2004 - Nice fresh, flavoursome Pinot, with a definite farmyeard nose, restrained cherry flavour and fresh acidity. Much more Burgundy than new world. (86)

Waddesdon New Zealand Quintology, Hwekes Bay 2002 - Dark berry fruits, earthy complexity, but a little short and green. Some definite unripe fruit from one of the 5 varietals at work (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah) (82)

Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc, Chile - 77
Los Vascos Chardonnay, Chile 76
Quinta do Carmo Branco 75
Aussieres VdP D'Oc 72
Com Martinho, Aletejo 2003 - Long and bitter 78

Friday, December 01, 2006

Offers Everywhere

It seems that the supermarkets are entering into something of a wine war, with first Sainsbury's and then Tesco launching into 25% off all wines when you buy 6 promotions. It seems this clever promotion - most people buy at least that many bottles for Christmas - and guess what - if they get 25% off those 6 then that is where they are likely to shop - and buy the rest of their Christmas groceries too - was the brainchild of someone at Sainsbury's who realised a great opportunity to get people to do all their Christmas shopping with them and seems to show a more holistic approach to offers than the departmental offers we are more familiar with.
And when it was launched it clearly had Tesco worried - so much so that they have launched the very same promo as quickly as possible afterwards - giving it the whole TV ad treatment, although despite Tesco launching the promotion and making it instantly live in store promotion has taken time to filter down leaving customer confused.

Watch out too for posters in Sainsburys car parks advertising 2 spirits for £15 rather than the £25 they have instore - if you see the poster then it has to be worth a try at getting the offer should you want any of the spirits on offer.

Other promotions to look out for include £5 off a lot of single malts, Bombay Sapphire and other Christmas booze around the place.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coop Christmas Offers

There are a couple of great offers at Coop right now, which are really well worth taking note of -

Rully BLANC, CLOUX L'OUVRIER 2004£9.99 - £5.99 until Dec. 31 - a lovely white Burgundy - priced well at £10 so at £6 well worth getting some for Christmas.

MERCUREY ROUGE, LES VARENNES 2004£9.99 - £5.99 until Dec. 31 - a red Burgundy that as yet I have to hunt down so I can't personally vouch for it - but the word is that it is pretty good!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wine Personality of the Year

This award, goes for the first time to Jancis Robinson - a serious wine critic who gets it right more often than not - and who has dared to challenge Robert Parker Jr. - I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with Jancis - however I do feel that RP has far too much influence over the price of a wine - his opionion is probably valid - and it may be that he has not sought out to be the most influential wine critic - but somehow he has ended up in a position where what he says is taken as gospel truth with massive implications on the world of wine - and even he must have off days! So not for the argument - I don't know who was right - and probably don't care - but because someone needed to say "hang on a minute - we need to be careful not to decide the price and quality of wine on one persons say so".

Monday, November 20, 2006

Champagne for Christmas

It's that time of year, many of us buy champagne for Christmas, and the stores put a lot of fizz on special offer - so what is out there? Those with the lowest prices I've found (and that are recognisable producers) are highlighted in red

Sainsbury :-
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck*£21.99 - £16.99
Taste the Difference Vintage 2000 Champagne£22.99 - £17.99
Laurent-Perrier£25.99 - £20.99
Lanson Black Label £22.49 - £17.49
Canard-Duchene£19.99 - £14.99
Nicolas Feuillatte£19.99 - £14.99

Piper-Heidsieck NV Brut*£28.98 - £23.98
Laurent-Perrier Brut£25.98 - £20.98
Nicolas Feuillatte£19.99 - £14.99
Moët et Chandon Imperial Vintage Brut 1999£33.94 - £29.94
André Carpentier£19.99 - £9.99
Heidsieck Monopole Rosé£23.99 - £18.99
Jacquart Brut£19.99 - £14.99

Mumm Cordon Rouge Non Vintage*£22.99 - £18.99
Lanson Black Label Brut Non Vintage£22.49 - £18.99
Champagne Trudon Cuvée Tradition NV£18.99 - £13.99
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Non Vintage*£21.99 - £17.99

PIPER HEIDSIECK BRUT CHAMPAGNE NV*£21.99 - £14.66 until Dec. 31

Moët et Chandon NV£23.99 - £18.99
Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label£26.99 - £21.59
Charles de Villers NV £23.99 - £11.99
Jean D'Eperon NV£10.99 - £9.89
Heidsieck Monopole Brut NV£19.99 - £14.99
Heidsieck Monopole Demi-Sec NV£18.99 - £14.24
Heidsieck Monopole Rosé NV£23.99 - £18.99
Nicolas Feuillatte Vintage 2002£25.99 - £12.99
Nicolas Feuillatte NV£19.99 - £14.99
Jacquart Brut Tradition NV* £19.99 - £13.99
Lanson Black Label NV£22.49 - £17.99 (November 13 – December 3 only)
Bollinger NV£29.99 - £26.99 (November 13 – December 3 only)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Wine of the Year 2006

And so my wine of the year, well there were a few contenders, from Margaret River the fantastic Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, from St. Chinian Les Vielles Vignes from Domaine Maurel Fonsalade and Le Vin Maghani from Domaine Canet-Valette. From Bordeaux Chateau La Tour Figeac '98, from Portugal Herdade do Esporao but after much deliberation I decided to go with another Australian Cabernet, this one from Coonawarra made by Holllick and at about £11 the cheapest on the shortlist - which was one reason for choosing it. A wine of this quality, depth, structure, balance and complexity for as little as that is a great achievment - the Esporao certainly came close but the Hollick won out in the end. La Tour Figeac may have been the finest wine I tasted, quite possibly the most delicious - but I can have 2 bottles of the Hollick for the same price and is almost certainly not as widely available.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Winemaker of the Year 2006

My winemaker of the year 2006 goes to, Marc Valette of Domaine Canet-Valette in St. Chinian - a man who literally threw the rule book away, was ridiculed by the established winemakers when he started making wine in the early 1990's for doing things his own way. What he has managed to do however is produce wines of the very finest quality in a small appelation, somewhat off the beaten track. He is a great character, regularly jumping into vats of grapes to press them himself by foot, spraying his crops with what are in essence herbal teas to combat problems that others would reach for the nearest bottle with a heavy duty health warning on. His top dry wine Maghani is magnificent, his lower cuvee "Une et Mille Nuits" is powerful, complex expression of all that St. Chinian should be and his "special" wines made from old, low yielding (15 hl/l) vines such as Ivresses are an experience in themselves. As for "Les Galejades" words cannot express the joy that this brings to the drinker - old, low yielding vines that others would use for making a top cuvee - which he then harvests in December - unorthodoxy is certainly common but the results have turned him from a curiosity in the locality to a man seen as being a true genius.

Mas Champart Clos de la Simonette 2004

A very deep purple colour, with vanilla, spice, raspberry and cherry flavours, wonderful silky smoothness, fresh acidity. A wine of great balance and that will age for the 5-7 years but is truly winderful when served correctly now. Fresher and less powerfuil than some other wines from the same region, it is made to their Champarts own style.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Debut - Xavier Vignon

A wine made from more than one appelation and more than one vintage and crafted by Xavier Vignon (and bought from the Big Red Wine Company) this was tasted in Feb 2005. Deep blood red, cloves, cinnamon, orange and toasty oak aromas - with flavours of dried fruit, liquorice and chocolate on the palate. Very Good.

Ming of the Year

And the first award, at the first ever winepost awards goes to .....

Reserve L'Oriflamme - quite how this ever managed to get to be called Chateauneuf du Pape I'll never know - quite disgusting and more beaujolais than bold. Light bodied, overly accidic, sour, and not at all nice. And I tasted a few bottles to make sure. Quite possibly the nastiest wine I've ever had - that wasn't faulty (and nastier than some that were!)


I've added a few links to the right hand side - a couple of excellent Languedoc estates, a brilliant wine bar in Oxford, and a new wine distributor to me, Sullyvin, who were kind enough to send me a bottle of wine from an appelation in France that I'd never come across the Cotes du Frontonnais. Looking at their website Sullyvin appear to sell an interesting range of wines, certainly the sort of things you can't get elsewhere. I'll be drinking the wine sent through in the next few days or weeks and will report back.
All the links listed across are independent of me, however I do recommend them all. If you would like a link added then please do contact me and I'll see what I can do - (I will however not just add anyone, not will I add people I cannot recommend - equally if I think a link needs removing I will do so if I am no longer able to recommend the individual or company. So for instance SullyVin are linked at present - however if I really hate their wine, the link will be removed, or if I hear that people are having trouble with the company.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Austrlian Harvest likely to be low

Reports coming in from Australia suggest that the next harvest is likely to be significantly depleted due to frost and drought in various grape growing parts, however this is not all bad news - wine production is expected to be 375 million litres lower this year than in an average year - however Australia currently sits on a lake of 900 million litres of excess wine and as such we in the UK will probably not see much difference in the short term. However in Australia small growers already under pressure from low prices may find that this year is one step to far and either leave or be forced from the business. In the long term this may have a beneficial effect on the Australian wine industry as less grapes and less growers may lead to an increased need to vinify well and buy the best grapes - however it could go the other way with the best growers being the ones to suffer. We shall see...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To blog or not to blog

A lot has been written by established wine writers over the past few months on the rise of wine blogs, and the fact that more and more people are doing - most comments have not been complimentory. However in our defence - when on earth did we ask these people to read them, when did we inflict ourselves on them? Do I detect that the odd writer is concerned that if people spend their time reading blogs on the internet, they're less likely to buy their books and the newspapers in which they write?
I know my writing is not up to the standard of the "establishment" the problem is that they assume I'm trying to - when in fact all I'm interested in is writing for my own pleasure and keeping a record of my drinking - far more searchable that a note book! If other people read what I write, well that's great - if they enjoy it - excellent - even better. If they come back that is really great and the best thing is if it's ever useful - but none of these is the reason behind it - as with most blogs the reason is self gratification. If a wine writer wants to take a pop - let them - because bloggers are not competition - unless is means a writer will actually have to work for his money in order to keep things going. Enough said on that - rant over!

Les Mouliniers - AOC St Chinian

Having seen the price of this in the local wine merchant, (25 Euros for the top cuvee) I decided to head out and give this a try - it has to be said that I went on my own and whilst the lady on duty was friendly enough I wouldn't go so far as to put this in one of the top experiences of the holiday - though this might have had something to do with me being on my own!
Starting with the 50% Tradition Rouge 2004 - a simple red fruit wine with hints of aniseed with a slightly closed mouth feel and some fresh acidity. The 70% Syrah, Les Sigillaires 2002 had vanilla notes, a touch of spice and some lovely forest fruit aromas - in the mouth it was .... narrow in the mouth - fine acidity and freshness giving way to a slightly one dimensional wine - with just hints of liquorice on the palate. (Some wines are big fat wines some are narrow and clean - this fits the latter category.)
The final wine tasted was Les Terrasses Grille's 2000 - the top cuvee from the estate again made from 70% Syrah with 50% aged in 1 year old oak and 50% in new oak (French of course!) a deep mahogany coloured wine, complex and open with cassis and pepper aromas. However despite being 6 years old it was still tannic (that'll be Syrah for you then!) but had good fresh acidity, liquorice flavours in abundance with black fruit and oak showing well. My issue with this winery was that I was told the red wines ought to be served at 14 degrees, which given it was seriously hot outside one could kind of understand - however what it meant was that the wines were far too closed and didn't allow their undoubted talents and complexity to shine through - I would really love to taste these again at 18 degrees - and maybe I'd be proven wrong and they'd be fat and flabby - but to my mind unless they work out how best to serve their wines they won't make the big impact they're hoping for. The terroir around the domaine is definately good enough and the winemaking is there so it's a shame they've made a decision and are sticking to it rather than perhaps allowing wines to be tasted at both temperatures in order to either make or break the point. Rant over - - stick with nicer wines!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Year Old

Yes today the Winepost is one year old - one year ago today we posted our first "proper" post - from the Wineshow - one whole year - variations in number of posts per month ranging from quite a few to not very many - from just 100 visitors (August 06) to 493 (April 06) and around 350 this month. I'm amazed that so many people come and look at my ramblings - and even more amazed that some people are return visitors - so tell me what you like, what you don't like and even when I should just shut up!
Towards the end of the year I'll be giving out the winepost awards - everyone else seems to give our awards so why shouldn't I? Categories will include - most minging wine of the year, wine personality of the year, winemaker of the year, wine of the year and good value wine of the year - noone needs to enter - to win all you need to do it have met me or had me drink your wines - winners of all awards (except minging awards) will also have a link to their site placed in the links section - if you make or distribute a wine and think you should win this award then do feel free to contact me!

Chateau Sainte Eulalie

For one afternoon of our trip we decided to head out of the St. Chinian region and head to La Liviniere in Minervois and after a bit of a journey we arrived and were welcomed by Laurent Coustal, a very genial Frenchman, looking more like a banker that a wine maker (though in truth it is his wife who actually makes the wine) and ushered in - starting with Printemps d'Eulalie 2005 Rose - perhaps the best Rose we tasted on the trip which had delicious red fruit and just a hint of liquorice on the palate - definately a light pink colour rather than the salmon or orange that Rose can creep towards.
By this stage we were beginning to enjoy ourselves, Laurent learning English phrases and us improving our French, and next up was Plaisir d'Eulalie 2004 - the basic chateau red made from 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan and 20% Syrah - red fruits to the fore, relatively simple but incredibly drinkable - especially in a wine that costs about £3.50 - deeply coloured, chewy and some clove and toasty aromas mixed in with rounded blackberries - the nose was a little closed - however subsequent tastings (we bought a case - and got it home in the little Clio!) have shown that this can really open up delightfully.
Up next was the Cuvee Prestige 2003 - around £5 - again plenty of colour and this time a suggestion that the wine will improve for perhaps a couple more years (Laurent thought perhaps 3-4 years m0re) - the vintage giving it extra fullness but also bringing it's drinking forward a couple of years a wine of great balance and structure, yet also with finesse and style and a little gentleness - not a great blockbuster as some of the Carignan dominated wines have been (this is grenache dominated) however spicy vanilla and black fruit flavours are delicious now - I can't wait to be writing on this in a few years time.
Last of all came La Cantilene 2004 - this is a Syrah dominated wine - so far more depth and power than the previous wine with black pepper and vanilla and a touch of rosemary and thyme - however at this stage my notes dried up - I began to panic - Laurent was taking a phone call and I realised - no cash - and I want some of this - no in fact I want a decent amount - much as I had loved the wines of St. Chinian it wasn't that these were better - but they were better value AND Katherine really liked them too! Fortunately despite apperances - there in the corner was a credit card machine - we were saved - so we duly placed our order - tried to pay - only to discover that Laurents daughter was on the internet so he couldn't get a line out! And eventually paid and to our delight were given a small parting present of a bottle of La Cantilene 2002 - a lesser vintage but nonetheless a delightful addition that I shall look forward to immensely!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chants des Cigales 2003 - Domaine La Linquiere

The top wine from Linquieres - a slightly bizarre place in that you go to taste their wines in a small boutique situated away from the actual domaine. The wines in general from this domaine were drinkable, if not all that exciting - by this stage everything was to be judged against Canet-Valette and Maurel Fonsalade who were perhaps the best winemakers we came across. This wine had animal and oak aromas - which initially seemed slightly unpleasan, however the wine itself was fruity and had plenty of structure, red fruit flavours and enough acidity and tannin to suggest that perhaps another few years in the bottle would do this the world of good - either that or the domaine had not let the wine breathe enough before serving it - either way it was good but not that good (E11.90)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dow's LBV 1999 Port

Wow! - Just picked up a couple of these in Somerfield for a massive £2.24 a bottle - surely THE bargain of the year - I can see Port Jelly, duck in port, beef in a port and shallot sauce, port in port, and of course port in a glass all coming up over the next few weeks!

Le Vin Maghani 1995 - Dm Canet-Valette

The older brother - and indeed far more expensive brother (1999,2000 & 2001 all 20Euro's the 1995 40!) this had everything the 2001 has - only so much more - fabulous it if wasn't twice the price of the 2001 it would have been coming home with me as it was it is a distant memory to be savoured. The wine unsurprisingly tasted pretty similar to the 2001 - except that the tannins were softer, there were some dried fruit notes and the wine was so much more complex than the later vintage - worth more than 2001 - yes - worth double - no way!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Le Vin Maghani 2001 - Domaine Canet-Valette

Deeply coloured, 45% Syrah, 45% Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, 3yrs in new oak barrells - Marc gives this wine everything - and it certainly pays off - fantastic levels of concentration brought about by the artisinal way the wine is produced where Marc quite literally gets his feet wet and treads the grapes himself the wine it complex and delicious, spicy, vanilla and chocolate aromas give way to forest fruit flavours balanced by a touch of cinnamon - this is a wine of some depth and is the reason why Marc is a legend in the area and has won prestigious awards (Winemaker of the Year 2003 in the French Sommerliers Guide) not just for his wines but also his winemaking. He doesn't spray chemicals - rather he uses plant tisanes and encourages natural predators to keep unwanted pests at bay - if anyone doubts that great wines can come from St. Chinian then this is the place to start proving them wrong - made in a traditional style, but 100% Valette.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ivresses 2004 - Canet-Valette

Ivresses is a very easy to drink wine made from 90% grenache it's a new wine from Marc Valette (probably the most entertaining wine maker I've ever met - and he speaks far less English that I do French!) this is a new wine from Valette - this is the first vintage and was released just 6 months ago - wonderful red fruits, fresh acidity a certain peppery charachteristic, with just a touch of sweetness perhaps (though it is still very much a dry wine) Very easy to drink - though as Stone, Vine and Sun are selling it at £13 a bottle - I think it is perhaps a little expensive for the wine you get - I'd head for the Une et Mille Nuits over this one every day of the week and sometimes at week-ends too!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Antonyme 2005 - Domaine Canet-Valette

A blend of 50% Cinsault, 50% Mourvedre, a simple wine, without a great deal of complexity, red fruit flavours and fresh acidity. The kind of wine that goes down very easily indeed, no real power - but the best E6,00 wine I've had in a long while!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Une et Mille Nuits 2003 - Domaine Canet-Valette

A really lovely wine that costs just E8,70 this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre which is aged for 3 years, 1/2 in new oak and 1/2 in tanks. The wine itself is complex and smooth - though do be sure as with many other wines of the region to give it plenty of time to breath, I'd be tempted to decant the morning before you want to start drinking. The aromas are of cassis and plums, with some fantatic herbal "garrigue" and vegetative notes. Une et Mille Nuits is dark and seductive, velvety and smooth - my only real complaint about this wine is that it is a style of wine that Katherine is not so fond of, and so when it came down to deciding what to bring home - this was not near the top of the list for that reason alone. I however loved it - so, it may or may not be to your taste - but definately give it a go - Available in the UK from Stone, Vine and Sun of Winchester.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Domaine Rimbert

We had arrived in Berlou and, by this time had visited Terre de Loup and having been recommended and had a brief taste of Mas au Schiste we were keen for more. We followed the signs and all we could find were a few garages and what looked like someones own small building project - still despite this we were not to be put off and got out of the car to see if we could see anyone, or anything around - and sure enough one of the garages looked like it had some wine vats in it and a short while later a French worker passed and told us to wait where he was he would go and find M. Rimbert.
Time came and time went - we were beginning to wonder whether we had fallen foul of a French practical joke when a scruffy looking, young chap turned up asking whether we wanted to taste the wines or not - "Of course!" we cried, so our new best friend opened a garage door and beckoned us in - and sure enough it was a garage, about the size needed for a good sized car - only this was 1/2 full of wine in cases, and on some of the boxes were laid out a few wine glasses and some opened bottles of wine.
We started with "Cousin Oscar 2005" - at 4 Euros a real bargain, simple and fruity - exactly what you would expect from an inexpensive - but nonetheless well made wine. Whilst tasting this it occurred to me that there was no spitoon anywhere to be seen, and as I was driving I was forced to spit right on their doorstep - much to the amusement of our French friend.
"Les Travers de Marceau 2005" (E6,40) was a finer wine - yet still amazingly under £5 UK price - more complex, more fruit, better balanced it was worth the step up in price. However "Le Mas au Schiste 2004" (E10,00) was altogether a finer example, a lovely bouquet of spicey fruit was followed up on the palate with some liquorice and a touch of the "garrigue" - one of the better wines of the holiday and the reason for our trip out to Berlou that day.
M. Rimbert is a real fan of Carignan and not for him the wimpy style produced from Carbonic Maceration, he produces two 100% Carignan cuvee's one, "Le Chant de la Marjolaine 2004" at E7,00 a wonderful surprise and proof that the Carignan grape can mix it with the best to produce wines of character, style and refinement at a very decent price - the same cannot be said for "El Cariginator II", although the Marjolaine was a powerful and full wine, it wasn't a touch on this, this really was powerful, perhaps too powerful, however it is typical of several top cuvee' styles from the region, one could almost mistake it for being fortified such is the depth, the sweetness of fruit (though the wine is dry) - opinions in our party were mixed - several found it too much to bear, whilst I decided that, whilst matching it to food might be almost impossible, it would be lovely in the height of winter by an open fire- however it is also E18,30 and given the difference in price I'd have 2 bottles of the Marjolaine for less money every single day of the week - that is not to say it is a bad wine - rather that the Marjolaine is really rather good and a bit of a personal favourite of mine!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Domaine Navarre

Domaine Navarre is run and owned by Thierry Navarre on just 13 hectares of land, 100% on the Schiste soils of Roquebrun. He does everything by hand, does not use chemicals, and as far far as possible makes wine in the old fashioned way – what a refreshing change!
His “Vin d'oeillades 2004” is a simple table wine, made for everyday drinking (4 E/btl) and is highlighted by simple red fruit character, and a light refreshing wine – perhaps a red wine drinkers alternative to Rose' wines for a hot Summer BBQ. Laouzil 2004 has a delightful vegetative and fruity nose, showing typical Carignan on Schiste characteristics, with decent structure and acidity – well worth a go at around 6 Euro's if you get the chance. Cuvee' Olivier 2004 is Thierry's top wine, and it shows, this was wonderful, sweet forest fruits, spice and liquorice on the nose, a slightly porty flavour – it's full and powerful, jam packed with fruit, but with acidity and tannin that really hold it all together in a velvety texture – wonderfully made, wonderful to drink – if you see this anywhere – buy it and give it a go – for my money (at 10 Euro) you would be hard pushed to find a better wine – Mas au Schiste excepted!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Domaine des Combes - AOC St Chinian

A small (tiny) producer making wine out of his garage, only one red wine is produced and we tasted 3 different vinages, all of which had their own good points. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of wine offered here, for just about 5 Euros. The 2001 was full and slightly porty in taste, lots of Carignan in the blend, but really well made and delicious, the 2002 was perhaps his best alround wine, managing to balance both fruit and acidity to create a wine of some style and poise at a price that you really can't complain about - I just wish I'd bought more so I could bring some home! The 2003 as the youngest wine, and surprisingly was also the worst wine on offer - I fully expected this to be the biggest, most powerful wine, yet it seemed to me that something somewhere had gone wrong in the harvest the wine was far too green and vegetal - perhaps the grapes were picked too early because of the heat, or perhaps there was a great deal of uneven ripening - the flesh may have become fully ripe - but the pips inside remained green and unripe giving the finished wine some unpleasant aftertastes.
As opposed to the standard St. Chinian branded tasting glasses, the wines here were served in peculiar little glasses, that one could only describe as tiny wine thimbles - perhaps better for a non aromatic spirit rather than a wine tasting - still it just added to the overall feel of a place where a bloke made wine, was good at making wine, but the rest of it he struggled with!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terre de Loup

Terre de Loup
Terre de Loup was a bit of strange one as far as things go, we headed to Berlou to visit Domaine Rimbert and the Caves Cooperative de Berlou, and the Caves de Rieu Berlou. However on arrival in the village, neither of these was apparent – it was only when asking a local where we could find them that it became obvious that the Coop was operating under 3 different names depending on where you looked or who you spoke to! The shop itself was one of the most boutique coop shops we came across and the wines weren't generally too bad – again it was just a case that they really weren't all that exciting either. We started with the “Collection Blanc Viognier 2005” which was exactly what it said on the bottle – a pretty decent French style, warm climate Viognier which managed to keep enough acidity to remain fresh and tangy. Next up was the Arbousier Rouge 2004, a 4 euro wine, which tasted like a 4 Euro wine. It was vegetal, tannic and very dry and had no refinement whatsoever. We then moved onto the multi-award winning, 7,70 Vignes Royales 2000, an earthy, stoney wine lacking any real fruit development, made by Carbonic Maceration – I think that I would have preferred it if it had traditional vinification, greater fruit expression – it was however very typical of a style of wines made on the Schiste terroir. Finally we moved onto the Chateau des Albie'res Cuvee George Darde' which was a very well made wine indeed, the fruit was clearly top class, and the blend, and aging fabulous – but again as happens so often with coops in the Northern region of the appelation, the extensive use of Carbonic maceration just took the edge off the wine for me, when I compare the wines to those of smaller producers – it's the style rather than the quality of wine that I prefer. It also has to be said that we didn't have time to try every single one of the wines available - the range is vast for one operation and there may have been a hidden gem in there that we missed. Give them a go, particularly if you are a fan of the more widely available Caves de Roquebrun wines which are produced in a similar fashion, from similar Terroir.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The wines of AOC St. Chinian

St. Chinian is perhaps one of the lesser known appellations of Southern France, however as I discovered on a recent trip, if the producers in this sun drenched region continue to create wines of the quality that they currently are then it won’t be too long before bargain hunting Brits look here rather than to a pricier region. What they’ll find are some really excellent wines, produced by true artisans with a love and passion for their vines and their terroir, but there are some hurdles to overcome yet.
The first thing anyone should know about the region is that it’s producers are absolutely terroir mad, and this is largely because within the one appellation there are 2 major soil types, to the North of the region Schiste and to the South, clay/limestone and to further complicate this these two terroirs are separated by a seam of sandstone running the length of the appellation. Winemakers on both terroirs will insist that their soil type is the superior, and for the consumer this can add to the confusion – what it means is that there isn’t a single St. Chinian style.
Add in that many of the grape varieties will be unknown to the average punter who will never have heard of Carignan, Cinsault or possible Mourvedre and it’s hardly surprising why todays wine buyer gives St. Chinian a miss.
We started out tour looking at a number of the wines produced from Schiste vineyards in both Roquebrun and Berlou where generally speaking it is the cooperatives that rule the roost with one or two small producers making some excellent wines.
We met Pierre in passing at the La Baume winery, who with a wink and a nod ran off to find a bottle of wine he had opened the previous evening which we simply “had to taste”!, he came back shortly after with a bottle he promised would knock our socks off from Berlou a short drive from where we were staying, “Mas au Schiste” produced by Domaine Rimpert

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The wines of Chateau Maurel Fonsalade

We arrived on a hot afternoon during the harvest, to be met by locked doors and a sign which told us that we needed to ring in advance to book for a tasting, however not to be deterred we rang the bell anyway. A short while later a man, probably in his late fifties came hurrying out of the vineyard nearby looking hot and extremely sweaty.
"Could we have a tasting?"
"Yes of course, please wait here"
At which point he disappeared through a garage door, and we, being the Englishmen we are followed.
After we had been shooed back out of the garage door, he then opened a door right next to the garage door and beckoned us in to a room full of large barrels (500 litre demi-muids which are favoured by many in the region for not adding quite as much to an already dense and tannic wine) with a professional tasting counter at one end.
We had never really planned to be here, we’d set out for Domaine Canet-Valette nearby, drank a great deal of Marc Valette’s wines, got slightly tipsy (except of course Jon our driver for the day) and headed off in search of Borie La Vitarele but found there to be no one home. So here we were, with a man, who told us he used to be a dentist and that we really ought to spit the wine out to be kind to our teeth, tasting wines. Up to this point we’d often stuck to red wines, really as a way to maintain some level of sobriety and keep our taste buds reasonably intact, however M. Fonsalade insisted we try his white "Lyre 2004" and very pleasant it was too, far fresher and crisper than I had feared many whites may be under the baking Med sun. It was a deep yellow colour with floral and honey aromas, balanced out brilliantly with acidity. Next we moved onto his two "Cuvee Tradition" a Rose and a Red, the former a simple salmon coloured little number with raspberry flavours that flirted outrageously on the tongue and a simple red aged in stainless steel vats with red fruits and a touch of wild thyme. So far so good, but nothing to write home about. But this is all about to change – "Now" we are told "For our serious wines!"
"We start with the 8 Euro "Cuvee Frederic" 2003 a wonderful smooth velvety wine with sweet cassis fruit, toasted almonds and just a hint of decadence. "Can we buy your wines in the UK?" We ask at this point as the Renault Clio seems far too small a car at this very moment in time – "Alas no – I cannot compete with wines from Australia – they are all too cheap!" At which point we hear a ten minute monologue on the problems facing French wines in the UK market and St. Chinian wines in particular. M. Fonsalade is a passionate man, and I wanting to empathise with him go into some discussions further on the subject of Australian wines, and terroir and other such complaints that one hears on the subject. It would appear I have found a friend – for we taste his top Cuvee next, simple called "Vielle Vignes" this is a wine at just 12 Euros made from 50 year vines, harvested at around 18hl/h of great depth and complexity – here it is – the Holy Grail of wine – something wonderful, that costs less that £9 a bottle, that frankly will give anything else I’ve ever tasted in that price range a run for it’s money and it’s not available in the UK – if only I was in the wine business! And afterwards M. Fonsalade insists that despite buying just 4 bottles between us we should leave with a bottle of his two cuvees to drink with our meal this evening. We leave, with a firm handshake and knowledge that somehow, somewhere we will return to the region if only to drink the wonderful wines that M. Fonsalade produces!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Prieure St. Andre Rose'

Produced by Michel Claparde, in the most traditional way you can imagine - including small, old fashioned wine presses of the sort more often seen decorated with flowers in many of the villages in the area, this is indeed not bad at all for a Rose, I will confess to not being a particular affionado of such things, but in book Rose wines are meant for easy drinking on a hot day, and this one slips down nicely - it is perhaps a little too bubble-gummy but overall it really isn't too bad at all - although as the first winery we stopped in, if everything had been at this level I would have left the region a sad man - thankfully Michel's top red was very drinkable and other producers were making things even better - we soon beat a hasty retreat and searched out other gems that St. Chinian had to offer.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Les Fiesfs D'Aupenac 2005 Blanc

A lovely white wine from the Roquebrun coop made from the Rousanne grape, the ageing for 9 months in French oak (would they use any other oak?) gives this subtelty and complexity whilst conserving it's fruity edge and balance. Slightly smokey in character, with some toasty and yeasty flavours this was (despite it being a completely different grape variety) somewhat reminiscent of a white Burgundy - my notes simply tell me it was delicious and that it went really well with seafood - E10.20 makes it one of the more expensive whites we tried but still worth every penny.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Seigneur d'Aupenac AOC St. Chinian 2002

One of the top cuvees from the Coop in Roquebrun, this is made from 50% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and 25% Grenache and is aged for 18 months in new French Oak. This is the first wine we tasted that really excited us and gave us hope for finding some excellent wines during our stay. With bright red fruit, freshness and structure from well integrated tannins this is almost silky rather than velvety but whichever it is delicious, as it's recent silver in the Decanter wine awards goes to show (though as with any awards they ought to be taken with a pinch of salt!) Comparing it with the other offerings from the coop, it is perhaps the best balance, offering far more than the cheaper wines, and yet having greater subtlety than the "Baron" whose notes will follow in due course.
This is a wine that will long be etched in the memory more for it's role in our holiday than for the wine itself - however that in itself is a recommendation and at E14.50 (which works out at about £9-10) it is really very good indeed - however my main bugbear is that the coop insist on using Carbonic Masceration in ALL their wines and for me this wine could quite simply do without it!

2006 St Emilion Classification

Every 10 years the classification of wine in St. Emilion changes, unlike the Medoc who maintain the 1855 classification.

2006 St. Emilion Classification

Château Ausone
Château Cheval Blanc

Château Angélus
Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse)
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot
Château Belair
Château Canon
Château Figeac
Château La Gaffelière
Château Magdelaine
Château Pavie
Château Pavie-Macquin
Château Troplong-Mondot
Château Trottevieille Clos Fourtet


Château Balestard la Tonnelle
Château Bellefont-Belcier
Château Bergat
Château Berliquet
Château Cadet Piola
Château Canon la Gaffelière
Château Cap de Mourlin
Château Chauvin
Château Corbin
Château Corbin Michotte
Château Dassault
Château Destieux
Château Fleur-Cardinale
Château Fonplégade
Château Fonroque
Château Franc Mayne
Château Grand Corbin
Château Grand Corbin Despagne
Château Grand Mayne
Château Grand Pontet
Château Haut Corbin
Château Haut Sarpe
Château L’Arrosée
Château La Clotte
Château La Couspaude
Château La Dominique
Château La Serre
Château La Tour Figeac
Château Laniote
Château Larcis Ducasse
Château Larmande
Château Laroque
Château Laroze
Château Le Prieuré
Château Les Grandes Murailles
Château Matras
Château Monbousquet
Château Moulin du Cadet
Château Pavie-Decesse
Château Ripeau
Château Saint-Georges-Côte-Pavie
Château Soutard
Clos de l’Oratoire
Clos des Jacobins
Clos Saint-Martin
Couvent des Jacobins

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Holiday Adventures 1 - in and around Roquebrun

Having arrived after a long 12 hour drive from Calais (we left Canterbury at 4.30am and eventually opened the door to the house in Roquebrun at 8.15 ish) Sunday was a slow day where we expected everything to be closed and no thoughts of wine tasting even entered our minds - that was until Sunday afternoon when I got itchy feet to explore the village a little and discovered that both Domaine St. Andre' and the local coop were open for tastings. We started at Domaine St. Andre' and I really thought I was going to be drinking Rose all week, but after making a sharp exit we headed for the Caves de Roquebrun coop where we were both delighted and surprised to find some really excellent offerings and the first of very many friendly welcomes.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I'm Back!

After an enforced break over the Summer, caused by technical problems and a trip to the Languedoc I am now back in blighty and will be giving you the lowdown on the St. Chinian Appellation, a french vine grower called Antoine and his dog Titus. More will follow towards the end of the week - after which I hope I'll be updating regularly again (I'm off to Cardiff for a few days so will once more be away from a computer)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chateau Baron Pichon Longueville 1997

A Lovely well made wine, though perhaps not as great as I was expecting - which will be down to the Vintage more than anything (and perhaps also my storage conditions - need to watch that!) It was nonetheless a delightful wine with flavours of blackcurrant, leather and oak and was perhaps overshadowed by drinking it alongside a good Australian Cabernet which was much fuller and heavier leaving my palate somewhat over-run when it came to this more subtle offering. It still however is worthy of being classed in the good-excellent range and is an aweful lot better than most things you'll find me reviewing on here - but having held onto it for a while I guess I was always going to be a little disapointed having built it up in my own mind. But if you measure a wine on whether you'd spend money on it again then this must be good because I would - which doesn't happen all that often! There are also some pleasing aromas of bbq sauce and vanilla to entice you - but at £30 a bottle it's a lot of money for a wine I'm not gushing over - but that again is probably down to expectations!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Black River Merlot 2004, Romania

A real surprise package for me, I totally expected to hate this and throw the test of the bottle away, but as it was, it was terrible. Don't get me wrong, this is no Petrus and won't win any awards - this is just like thin, alcoholic Strawberry jam with a few hints of redcurrant jelly - personally I'd drink it lightly chilled at a BBQ as it just lacked any class. Not horrid, but not a wine I'll go and buy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Louis Jadot Meusault 2000

Initially served too cold this was pretty uninspiring, tasting a little bit of smokey lemon juice, however when allowed to warm a couple of degrees (to a proper serving temperature) out came the wonderful aromatic flavours that were previously hidden, bringing extra depth and complexity to the wine - gone was my intention to leave the rest of the bottle alone to whoever happened to come across it and down the hatch it went! Suddenly it developed a lovely richness and creaminess hitherto unshown whilst still retaining the freshness that the citrus acidity brought to the party - tropical fruit New World Chardonnay this is not! With time nutty aromas show themselves more and more and whilst this turned out pretty good - it did tell me that I need to drink a lot more decent white wines in order to learn to really appreciate them in the same way that I go mad for a red wine - maybe that's just me being British but I'd rather spend £25 on a bottle of red than on white (of course I'm also much more likely to spend £5 on a red than a white.)The lovely golden colour of the wine shows it is developping a little age - but I would think it probably ought to continue to age for a while longer yet - and would probably be all the better for it!

Roc de Cambes 1998

Life can't be too bad when you have two vintages of Roc de Cambes within a couple of weeks of each other. This 1998 is 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc which have been fermented in cement tanks and then aged in 50% new French oak for a period of between 15 and 18 months until just ready (we are not told exactly how long they've given it - my guess would be closer to 18.) Cote de Bourg doesn't have the same prestige as many of the other appelations in Bordeaux, yet it produces some excellent wines - and the lowly appelation name means that the price is kept down. Roc is the finest wine from the region - yet it is still around £25 a bottle in the UK - for a good vintage - a fraction of what you might pay for a St. Emilion or a Pomerol. This was lovely and fruity with red berries and a touch a spice - warmed wonderfully with added complexity of cigar box and pencil shavings (sounds odd I know - but not only did I get that - it worked really well in a wine!) I'm not sure it goes onto my must have list - but then that is a pretty exclusive list right now (Tour Figeac & Hollick are the only ones to make it in a long while - for two different reasons) and I would buy a bottle Ch. Tour Figeac over a bottle of this - but then if I only ever drank the same thing life would be very dull indeed and this is rather good - and I am judging it against some serious competition - compare it for instance with a '97 Pichon Baron at a similar price and the Roc wins hands down - is it because I'm a Merlot man - no - the '98 Roc (and indeed the '96) are better wines. Double decant 4 hours before opening the really open it up and release the redcurrant and spice notes.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Herdade do Esporao Reserve 2003

I've had very few Portuguese wines (other than Port) but on the whole the ones I've has have been excellent - the watch word from what I've been told though is care - as with many places for every good bottle there are several of complete rubbish. I am however happy to report that this is in fact excellent - so much so that it's one of those that I've had during a tasting that is going to become one of my personal family favourites - it's kind of New World in style, but old world in flavour is you get my drift. It's very fruit led, yet beautifully complex and it's easy to spot the use of indigenous grape varities a mile away - the wine tastes porty - and is everything I would hope for in a Portuguese wine yet it contains a good portion of Cabernet Sauvignon which adds finesse and complexity without turning the wine into something rather international and bland. It comes from the Aletanjo region - which again at this stage in my life is a complete unknown to me - yet on this showing I'll be looking out for more! It is very powerful - but you kind of get that with European wines from the 2003 vintage when August temperatures on the Med were in the 40's and people were dying fast enough from the heat in Paris to call a state of Emergency!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Roc de Cambes 1996

Roc de Cambes is as good as Cote de Bourg gets, and this is pretty blooming good - a premium wine in every sense of the word. From the left bank of Bordeaux this was supple and soft yet complex with excellent balance, finesse and aromas to die for. There are times when you sniff a wine and you know you are in for a treat and this was one of them. My only issue was that I'd been through 12 other wines first (in short measures, jettisoning several of them on the way!) meant that perhaps my palate was not quite up to appreciating the finer notes of the wine - just after a huge Argentinian Bonarda and a wapping South African Cabernet based blend. However despite all that - this was without a shadow of a doubt the stand out wine of the evening and well worth the money spent on it and at £25 a bottle a decent price for decent claret. (

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Domaine de Thalabert 2000 (Jaboulet)

This is a Crozes Hermitage, and was once considered one of the very best examples of it's kind from the Northern Rhone - sadly I have read reports of it's demise and on this tasting I have to concur. To me, expecting a full, rich Syrah and finding instead a watery dull wine was a huge disapointment. Sure the pepper you'd expect was there, as was some of the fruit flavour - just not very much - Jaboulet can do much better and I think needs to if this wine is going to keep selling - customers will not be fooled for long into thinking this is the real deal. At best this was medium bodied, with a short length, too much acid and not enough fruit - an unbalanced wine with high pretentions. If you are tempted, then by all means give it a go - it may just have been this year - my advice would be to get hold of a 2003 and see what that holds and only then move into cooler years.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Castillo San Lorenzo Gran Reserva 1988

I bought this wine having been amazed to see a 1988 vintage Gran Reserva in my local Tesco store, and priced at £15 it was really looking like being much of a muchness as far as Rioja goes, however despite the length of time it had spent in American oak, this was completely delicious, the years in storage having clearly brought out the very best in it. For £15 it was beautifully complex and balanced with wonderful cherry and strawberry flavours - I can't praise the Tesco buyers too much for this one - for an huge company who need to buy big it is nice to see, that although this comes from a big winery, they've managed to stay true to Rioja in what they've produced. Let's get one thing clear - this is never going to win any awards, but served with (undercooked) rack of lamb on a hot Summer's day it was wonderful - the age helping to damp it down a little - just the thing for a day like that! It was nice to see a wine made with Graciano and Mazuelo rather than Garnacha too, a great many of the producer's in Rioja are turning to Garnacha to make a more "international" style of wine but personally I think that it also affects the quality of the wine - the traditional varieties may not be such high quality grapes - but when blended with Tempranillo my opinion is that they work much better. So at for £15 you can get a wine which will probably impress and wow your friends - assuming of course they're not massive wine buffs themselves - or a wine which fits somewhere between that very special occasion and an every day wine. Check it out - you might just like it!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Society's Exhibition St. Aubin 2003 Prudhon

A really light and fruity Burgundy and certainly the bet I've seen for £8 - it may lack the intensity of some of the big names, but as a summer drink I'd be hard pressed to fault it - immediately pleasing it's full of raspberry, cherry and gamey characters on the nose and a mouth full of red fruit notes, balanced beautifully with a touch of acidity and a little tannin (a really little tannin!) Completely ideal for Summer drinking - the delicateness of the wine means I might not serve it at a BBQ, but as a red alternative to go go with a cool salad it would be lovely.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

I'm normally a little skeptical about Californian Cabernet, a lot of what I've been given in the past has been either bland and uninteresting or totally over cooked - and I've often seen it as just poor value. This however breaks the mould somewhat - I tried it having read reviews in Decanter magazine ( and picked up a bottle in Sainsbury's ( if you really need that much help!) for about £7 which I didn't think was too bad. As you'd expect from a Californian Cabernet it's a full flavoured fruit fest - but it also manages to get in there with some lovely complexity, cassis fruit with touches of leather and mint give it balance and somehow a little finesse. On the palate the aromas develop beautifully with the addition of a little oakyness which adds to the power. Drink this with beef, and probably only beef (unless you are a fan of horse!!) and the rarer the better - but it will reward you and is good enough to last another 5 years if you can wait that long!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Johann Mullner Gruner Veltliner 2004 Sandgrube

For the uninitiated (as I was prior to this bottle) Gruner Veltliner is the indigenous white grape variety of Austria that has been taking the wine world by storm fo the past year or so (they've been making it for years so one suspects that those in the know have been keeping it a bit of a secret for a while) however finding good examples that are inexpensive is a complete minefield - expect to pay around £10 a bottle most places as it is seen as something of a premium variety - however when I saw one at just over £5 a bottle at the wine society ( I decided to go for it, acknowledging that this might not be the best example, it might not be the best made, but trusting the wine society it would at least tell me whether I was going to buy more of the stuff without spending too much. And the truth is I was more surprised than I thought I would be, I liked the wine more than I thought I would and it seemed to me that all the fuss was actually worth something - Gruner is Great! Drunk young it has wonderful tropical and citrus notes (pink grapefruit) with just a hint of nutmeg which makes it more interesting, it's medium bodied, full flavoured and delicious - I was truly wowed - and by a £5 bottle of wine - how often does that happen! To my mind it has somehow managed to fill the gap between Sauvignon and Chardonnay that fans of both will go for and yet the style is essentially Germanic creating something totally unique and yet totally wonderful and a real crowd pleaser that pretty much any white wine drinker is going to go for! Quite simply put - get out there and get Grunered!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sancerre La Reine Blanche 2004

Lovely Sancerre, bought from The Wine Society ( full of gooseberry and grassy flavours and not too minerally or flinty like some Sancerre can be - there was also a touch of marzipan on the nose - not bad at all whilst not setting my world on fire. I must apologise if I'm not particularly expressive today - it's been a bad week and it's got a bit worse and I feel like packing the whole thing in today so it's hardly surprising if my blog isn't up to much!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Witney Wine Fair Pt.6

And so it ends with some lovely sweet wines - which with exception of the white port (which I'm not a big fan of anyway) I'd seriously consider having in the house for the next opportunity to drink! Starting with Margan Botrytis Semillon 2005 from Australia, this ticks every necessary box, brilliantly sweet, superb fruit flavours, and enough acidity to balance them out as well as the typical botrytis flavours - well made and quite lovely and all for £10.99 a half bottle. Brown Brothers Moscato 2005 was a surprise for me, basically this is like slightly alcoholic Shloer at just 5% alcohol I'd call this a breakfast wine if ever there was one - and with the Summer apon us and "hopefully" some sunny afternoons ahead then this is ideal to drink, sweet, fruity, refreshing and not so alcoholic that the sun/wine combination will leave you indoors by 5 o'clock with a steaming headache! Woodstock Botrytis Sweet White 2003 was perhaps not as good at the Margan, but it is just £7.99 a price at which one could drink 4 bottles for every 3 of the Margan I'd be hard pressed to make a choice - given I don't drink a great deal of stickies I'd probably stick with the Margan but only just, both are very worthy wines and it might be a fool who tried to tell other people to buy one not the other without finding out what people like in the first place.
Worthy of mention are the few spirits I tried, Snow Queen Vodka from Kazakstan (£27.99 - expensive but very very goood, Connemara Peated Single Malt (£23.95) from Ireland I thought (at the end of the evening!) was really very nice indeed but top honours go to the first gin I've actually liked - Martin Miller's Gin is aparently made with water from glaciers - though I don't think that was what made is so nice - rather it was probably down to using less Juniper than many brand for a more delicate flavour - but at £22.95 it isn't the cheapesst gin out there!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Witney Wine Fair Pt 5

Given that this is turning into something of a anthology, I'll try and keep this a little bit briefer this time and worry about the wine and leave the chat alone! (although there I go!) Palandri Solora Shiraz 2003 is a good honest Aussie Shiraz, at a very decent price (£5.75) and for my money beats most of the competition in that price range that you'll find in the supermarkets. One range up Palandri Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 was perhaps not in the class of a Hollick from Coonawarra or a Cape Mentelle but again at £7.35 it was really very decent. All too often at the £4-£10 mark wines on offer fail to live up to much having not had enough care taken over them in the vineyard and winery, but this seemed to me to be made with decent fruit with great care in the winery - though at this price it is understandable that they have not taken the grapes as far as they would go. Trentham Estate Petit Verdot 2003 was an object lesson for me in why the French add a bit to some of their Bordeaux blends, for my taste it was far too full on, but a little dash here and there in another wine would certainly add that little "Je ne sais quoi". Two Portuguese offerings Dao Quinta dos Roques 2003 and Montinho Sao Miguel 2004 skipped delightfully across the palate and reinforced my view that I really need to be drinking more Portuguese wines to discover what is really out there.
By this stage my palate was really suffering, so you'll have to forgive me that my notes became less expressive as I gave I up trying to discern little touches of this or that in a wine with a mouth capable of telling me whether something was nice or not and not a great deal more! However the remaining stand out wines Woodstock Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Woodstock "Stocks" Shiraz 2001, and Hess Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (California) were lovely wines that I could drink any day of the week, if funds allowed. The Woodstock Cabernet at £10.99 I thought represented excellent value for money.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Witney Wine Fair Pt.4

And so to the reds... I have to say that generally speaking the standard was high - some in my party were wowed by just a few - but then if you taste a £25 blockbuster wine and compare it to something at £8 the contest is perhaps unfair - value has a large role to play and certainly I found myself surprised by the price of many of the wines I tasted expecting them to be more expensive. And so I came first to the L'Orangerie de Pennautier Rouge, VdP D'Oc 2004 a soft slightly rustic wine by really not bad at all and for £5 a bottle you can buy a lot worse and a lot less interesting than this. Chateau de Montmirail 2003, Gigondas is full and rich and almost Australian tasting coming from an extremely hot Summer - I spent some time in the region and visited Gigondas and the area around it was frequently over 40C and didn't get less that 30C for the two weeks I was there until gone 10 in the evening. This resulted in the vines producing small grapes with very little water content which in turn produced a concentrated must which gives these exceptionally rich wines. Opinion was split from those who really liked this to others who complained it was cooked - for my mind if "terroir" includes climate then I want to see differences in wines from one vintage to another and if I found a watery washed out 2003 I'd be very disapointed - instead I want to see concentrated fruit flavours, soft tannins and probably a wine that won't age for as long as some vintages but which is highly drinkable from the word go - and this is just that - if you like Aussie Rhone blends or if you are a fan Southern Rhone wines this is the sort of thing you ought to be giving to friends to drink with a nice red meat or even over the Summer home made burgers, cooked slightly rare on the Bar-be-qe. Of the other wines from France, I have to confess I was a little disapointed - by the time I reached many of them my palate was begining to feel the strain and it is perhaps a little unsurprising that many of them tasted flat as I was probably 20 wines in before I got to them, had tasted some "Big" wines and so could not appreciate the subtleties - Chateau Tour de By should have been a lot better than it was though I thought the Chateau Mayne d'Imbert from Graves was a very good wine indeed - I wasn't sure I wanted to pay £12 for the privilege.
I was however quite taken by the Barocco Primitivo 2003 from Puglia, I'm finding more and more really good Italian wines, however often the nice ones can be a little pricey, but at £7 a bottle this represents excellent value, and was deep, dark and fruity as you would hope it would be. The wines of Puglia are coming around and this is the second I've had recently, both of which have been really good and excellenty priced - and ideal wine for an Summers evening with lamb chops! The Marteletti Barolo 2001 was for me just too light and watery to get the real depth I'd hoped for, Barolo should be full bodied and full flavoured and for me this might be very well priced at £15, but it fell short of the mark - I think I'd rather pay more and get more.

Witney Wine Fair Part 3

Just a short section today on the sparkling wines, I deliberately didn't taste the Cloudy Bay Pelorous on offer having drunk it previously, which left Bollinger Special Cuvee NV Champagne, which to my mind tasted certainly better than the other NV Champagnes I've tasted and was more on a par with the vintage offerings I've had, a wine with beautifully creamy bubbles with a yeasty, biscuity finesse that stood out - a memorable drink and I think pretty reasonable at £31 a bottle. The other Champagne I tasted was Gosset Grande Millesime 1999, 56% Chardonnay and 44% Pinot Noir this excelled in balance, poise and refinement with gentle elements of dried fruits and toast giving it a taste in an altogether different class at £44.95 this is far from cheap but if I had that money to spend on wine then this might well be up there. It's not a marque that I had heard of previously, despite Champagne being one of the wine regions I have visited, but it has certainly left it's mark and is one I will look out for in the future. Next up - the reds!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Witney Wine Fair Part 2

Sorry to those of you who want bigger chunks - I'll try and make this a bit longer - Next up was Palandri Estate Riesling 2005 an almost totally water white wine with lychee and floral flavour characteristics - you can see the extra coolness from the Margaret River region of Australia in this compared to some Aussie offerings at £7.35 (remember all these wines are available from the Oxford Wine Company ( - no I don't work for them - I just like what they do!)
I was disappointed by the Meursault Les Gryaches 2002 - Jean Philippe Fichet at £34.95 a bottle somehow I was hoping for something a bit more - instead I got a wine which tasted just too smokey and not at all buttery as you would expect - my friends even likened it to a packet of Frazzles which tells you something! I know that the Oxford Wine team like this one - and it may be that this was an off bottle or indeed my glass may not have been as clean as it might have been! That was probably one of the biggest disapointments for me in the evening, however the next was certainly a highlight. Montagny 1er Cru, Chateau de la Saule, Alain Roy 2004 has lovely mineral and fruit flavours, totally typical of the style and a real winner and at £11.99 a real steal - totally different in style to a Meursault in that it's unoaked but for my money I would have three bottles of this to one of the Meursault every day of the week! (Although before anyone points it out 3 bottles every day of the week would probably mean I spent most of my life in a perpetually drunken state!) I know Robert Parker rates this one (though whether that is good or bad who is to say!) but it was universally aclaimed by my group as was the Pouilly Fuisse' Domaine Rene' Perraton 2002 who loved the understated oakyness and slight smoke that rolled out of this - a well made wine , drinking very nicely right about now (in fact to have a glass by my side as right this would be lovely!). Finally for the whites a fabulous find and well done to TOWC for finding this - a really lovely white portuguese wine Encruzado, Quinta dos Roques 2004 was for me a seminal moment - this blew away what I thought about Poruguese whites as fat, over cooked, over alcoholic on the palate and best left well alone - however as The Oxford Wine Company say on their site this is "Stunning" totally different to anything else I've had but I really liked it and for £9.99 I really couldn't fault it. It's fresh and lean with herby and cirtus notes and a real delight to discover - I've had some outstanding reds before, but this was the very first decent white I've had - noting that my experience in this is somewhat limited. Next up the fizzy wines!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Witney Wine Fair Part 1

Every year the Oxford Wine Company ( host a wine fair, and this year 20 of their suppliers came armed with up to 5 wines (or spirits) each - to 96 in total. Obviously I couldn't taste all of these totally reliably - my palate ha a nasty habit of starting to lose the ability to dicern much after only so many wines - so I stuck to trying to find some interesting wines and some real bargains - Albarino Do Fifinanes 2004 (Spain) was worthy of mention as a lovely tropical, melon, minerally white wine, full bodied and bursting with flavour - drink now with monkfish, chicken or pork. (£12.99). Less expensive was Pinot Blanc Reserve Cave de Hunawihr 2004 (Alsace) A very pale, youthful wine with very green flavours of grass cuttings and Granny Smiths and just a touch of marzipan - delightful at only £6.49. Less good was the very ordinary and really rather disapointing L'Orangerie de Pannautier Chardonnay 2005 from the Languedoc - I prefer my Chardonnay to come from a cooler climate - like Burgundy or New Zealand (£6.49)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Le Paradou CdR Village Jaboulet 2003

This Cote du Rhone Villages is from Beaumes de Venise, which sources tell me will shortly be elevated from "Villages AOC" to it's own AOC level, putting it at Cru level alongside Gigondas, Vaqueras and indeed Chateauneuf du Pape. On this showing it's it certainly capable of producing some excellent wines - although this being the 2003 vintage (an extremely hot year with temperatures regularly over 40C (104F) - we visited during this heatwave and measured temperatures at up to 46C (115F) - which is really too hot for making wines - and the vines were certainly getting plenty of stress! As a result many wines from this vintage taste a little too cooked and have more of a feeling of Southern Australia than the Rhone with shedloads of jammy fruit and not a lot of finesse - however Jaboulet seems to have harvested well and this has plenty of tannin to give it backbone - so much so that although I've 13 bottles left, I won't be touching another one for a while to give it more time to settle and develop into something altogether smoother. There were however some lovely signs of red fruit and pepper coming through and a long finish - I'm certainly looking forward to opening a bottle once a year to see how it's developing and then getting stuck in when I think it's reached it's peak (provided of course that isn't in 13 years time!!). Made of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah this will probably reach it's peak in around 2010 or thereabouts - though the forwardness of the 2003 vintage might mean this comes sooner. Worth a try now though, but give it plenty of time in a decanter before drinking it - ideally the day before! (Available for £9.99 from

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gerard Bertrand Classic Fitou 2002

Some of you may have read my review of the white Villemajou Blanc which was given to me by the lovely people at Explore Wine ( and having had it, I then saw for £5 in ASDA ( this little beauty. Bertrand for the uninitiated used to be a rugby international, before becoming a wine maker and is trying to build a brand to rival the names of Guigal, Chapoutier and Jaboulet from the Rhone, in his own back yard - the Languedoc. This wine is mahogany coloured and gives of aromas of cherries, raspberries, almonds and hints of spice and on the palate it's a fairly robust wine - as you'd expect from a Fitou, but really pretty drinkable considering. Erring towards being full bodied, it doesn't quite make it, but the lovely complexity of leather, strawberry and plum flavours draw out to a long finish. I don't think I would bother to age this it all, it's ready for drinking right now, and if you like this sort of thing this is well worth checking out - and if you shop regularly in Asda, then I reckon it's bound to be on special offer sooner or later! Give it a whirl!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Villa Pani Frascati 2004

I drank this as part of the "required" drinks for the WSET qualification I'm heading towards - slowly - and I'll be totally honest - I'm not sure drinking it was worth it. With sour/bitter flavours of lemon it certainly doesn't stand alone to be drunk with anything except perhaps fish in creamy sauce - which might do it some favours but being brutal there are some fantastic wines out there - this isn't one of them so avoid it. If you must punish yourself - then you can buy this from Thresher ( but I can't see why you would. Try something less unpleasant instead - a glass of sand perhaps!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

Fantastic - this is everything an Aussie Cabernet should be, deep ruby coloured, aromas of blackcurrant, chocolate and mint and developing the extra complexity of leather in your mouth - this is wonderful, as often is the case with Cabernet, it will be even more wondeful given a bit further aging, but even now it is wonderful - if you try this give it a good few hours in a decanter first, and better still double decanter it to get as much air exposure as you can to really open it up - then you'll have something really lovely on your hands. Decanter magazine gave this 5* and I can't really fault them on this showing. I'd love to try it again in say 8-10 years to see how it had developed because there is just a touch of tightness to it and the tannins can be a little over zealous if you're not eating it with food. Available from (£19.99) (£26.50) (

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2002

Another wine tasted at the Moet Hennessy tasting organised by the Oxford Wine Company ( this was one of my favourite reds of the evening - this was very decent Shiraz for around £13 a bottle. Very complex it gave of strong aromas of pepper, blackberry plums and oak. This is definately a hefty wine, aged for 18 months in oak, a mixture of both French and American of which 30% is new - and the wine can certainly take it. Cape Mentelle themselves give this vintage the highest rating of any (5* - and yes they do rate their others as low as 1* (1997)) .
As you would expect from a Shiraz, this is full bodied and slightly purple in colour, with high levels of tannin (though these are softening off nicely) and it is high in alcohol and very full flavoured with oak, pepper, blackcurrant flavours - this is great now but would certainly keep for a while yet! Buy from , or have it with a meal at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. Other vintages available elsewhere. (

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Coudy Bay Chardonnay 2003

Another wine from the famous Cloudy Bay stable. this is the less well known, and less in demand Chardonnay. Drunk older than the Sauvignon this is pretty decent stuff - I've certainly drunk a lot of much worse Chardonnay's in my time (not that it would be difficult). This is full bodied and has aromas of honey, tropical fruits and almonds and buttery flavours of tropical fruits and just a touch of minerality to give it some balance and finess. Certainly a step up from many New World Chardonnays and perhaps another one for the ABC crowd to give a whirl. Yet despite all that - it doesn't have me really excited, I don't feel as if I've been reunited with a long lost friend, nor do I feel like I've met someone who will be a lifelong friend - rather I've met a pleasant person on a train who I'd speak to again, but would not go out of my way to see! Available from

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

This was another stunning Aussie Cabernet - this time from the cooler Margaret River region - this was a 2003 vintage as was really very good indeed and at under £10 a bottle was a complete bargain from Tesco ( This exudes power ful aromas of blackcurrant, spice and leather - there are plenty of soft tannins to go around and I reckon you could leave this in a cool dark place and come back to it in 10 years and find yourself with something exceptional that you've forgotten about in the back of your cellar or garage. But... at the price it is why bother keeping it when youcan just drink it! The cassis fruit is complemented by eucalyptus giving it added complexity and a deliciousness more associated with wines that are £5 more expensive - this is a definite must try for any Cabernet lover and reminded me somewhat of the Cabernet from Cape Mentelle I tasted recently (more on that later though!) So for now this goes down as one of my best buy Cabernet's of the year so far and I reckon it'll still be in the running come the end of the year.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve 1999

More Champagne - Bliss! I tasted this alongside the '99 Moet and found it to be even better still - Pinot Noir dominates the blend in this Champagne style and it's a style I find most agreeable - this is certainly one of the better Champagnes I've managed to taste (though to be fair that's not a great deal at the moment - but we're working on it!). It takes me back to my visit to the Veuve Caves in Rheims a few years back - well worth a visit should you happen to be in the area - many of the great Champagne houses will charge you to go and visit - but not Veuve and you get to taste Champagne for free too! (Where I tasted a lovely '95 vintage)
- and should you happen to be in Epernay - then whilst Moet has all the grandeur and a fantastic tour - it costs a fair bit from what I can remember - pop a few doors along and go into the Esterlin house where you'll be sat down in exquisite surroundings - waited on hand and foot and giving a lesson in Champagne tasting all for the cost of asking - not that many darked their doors and their cellars (Caves) are off site but well worth it. Anyway - back to the Champagne in question! It's full bodied and flvaoursome with some biscuity and melon flavours long on the finish with wonderful creamy bubbles which dance across your tongue and waft aromas of melon, almond and dried fruits. So lovely that I went back for a second glass despite it being a "sophisticated" tasting! Available from Planet Wine ( ShJones ( and plenty of other places.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Zonte's Footstep Shiraz Viognier 2004

This is on the face of it an interesting combination, a mixture of the spicey and powerful black grape, Shiraz with a touch of fruity white Viognier added to give it extra complexity and it certainly does that. This wine has won awards all over the place, and is the same mix as found in many Cote Rotie wines from the Northern Rhone (and which sell for a seriously hefty price). In a wine this comes across as a little strange as there is a definate git of spicey black fruit from the word go, but as the wine develops in your mouth a soft apricot flavour starts to come through. Now I'm not a fan of apricots so for me this was where it started to go wrong, however just how this can win so many awards and be favoured by so many is something of a mystery - still it's not going to be to everyones taste - and certainly not mine - go out and buy something less digusting instead!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Blason de Bourgogne Montagny 2003

At full price this works out at about £12 a bottle - and at tht price it's quite steep and you'll find plenty of alternatives at better prices - however at just £5.49 on offer in Somerfield at the moment this is something of a bargain. A full bodied yet subtle Chardonnay it's buttery and crisp at the same time, has aromas of apricots, almonds and toast and cirtus flavours. It's a long wine that keeps giving pleasure long after you've swallowed and is a lovely golden colour that you might expect from quality Chardonnay. Finest Burgundy this may not be, but lovely it is all the same and a great introduction to the delights that Burgundy can offer without having to shell out over £15 a bottle. At this price this is seriously competing with mass branded Australian and Californian wines and knocks socks off a great deal of Macon at a similar price bracket. If you like Chardonnay (and are prepared to admit to it!) then this is very pleasing and gives you some added refinement that will rarely be seen in a New World wine at this kind of price. At £12 leave it alone but at £5.49 (or £5.99 in Tesco) then this is well worth it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2003

Kiwi Pinot can be one of my favourite things, sadly it can also be one of the most disappointing things as well - one one hand there are some fantastic offerings out there like Mount Rosa and Shaky Bridge, but there are also some fairly placid wines that taste as if they were diluted with water before bottling, a bottle of Forrest Estates Pinot comes to mind when I think of that! Well this is Cloudy Bay and I expected great things, and to some extent it delivered. This was a solid first offering without being spectacular and I would judge that perhaps it was just a little too young right now, but that the overt acidity would have calmed down a little in a year or so. This bears many of the characteristics of a good new world Pinot - aromas and flavours of cherries, little in the way of tannin, but plenty of acidity to balance that out and stop it being squash! But I couldn't help marking this down as a "good first attempt - but must try harder" certainly it wasn't up to the standard one is led to expect from Cloudy Bay - not that I've drunk the Sauvignon as yet - there is a bottle of that in the wine rack waiting for some friends to come round before they depart for the wilds of Devon - but the reputation is such that I expected a much fuller wine than this. Time will tell if it turns out to work, or whether it will trade on the reputation of the Sauvignon.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Comments Comments Comments ...

In the last month over 300 different people have visited my blog... so thank you for coming - please do come back (though don't expect an update every day because I'm extra busy at work right now!) but sadly noone has left me any comments! Do you like what you see - is the site useful? Let me know and then at least I can pretend I have friends.

Moet et Chandon Vintage Brut Imperial 1999

Just in case you were concerned that I've started drinking far too much Champagne for my own good (or rather the good of the bank balance), I had probably half a glass of this - and jolly nice it was too. In a blend that is almost certainly Chardonnay dominated, with lesser amounts of both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier this is - as you would expect from a vintage bubbly from a top champagne house - very decent indeed. It's crisp yet surprisingly full bodied with a lovely long finish and some yeast, biscuity flavours that complement the overall appley flavours very well giving it significant complexity which is very pleasing in the mouth.

The Bubbles lend a creaminess to the wine that tell you that this is indeed top class fizz and if it's served to you - then get in there before it's all gone! This is truly lovely.

Available from Fine & Rare wines ( & other outlets for about £35-40.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Semillon 2005

From Margaret River, this is a Bordeaux style blend of white grapes and comes from one of the most temperate regions in Australia, whose temperature is regulated by the Indian Ocean and the cooling breeze associated with it (a maritime climate). This is a pale wine, with aromas of grapefruit and gosseberry with a slight honeyed character and has a slightly smokey flavour of citrus fruits. It's pretty good stuff, though personally I'd be more inclined to spend the same sort of cash and buy something perhaps a little fresher - it just seemed to lack that special zing, something that made me go wow, I want this again. It's one of those that I'd probably drink again, but I'd probably not spend my own money on it! Available from a host of retailers across the country, including and for around £10.50 a bottle.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hollick Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Wow! I was really impressed by this - fantastic Aussie Cabernet from Coonawarra. 2002 was the first vintage of this wine to be produced due to the excellent vintage conditions (up 'til then blends had been produced at this price point) - and what a good job they did it too! The vines producing this wine were planted in 1975 so they are starting to be fantastic. The wine itself is a bright ruby red, blasckcurrent and mint aromas and flavours of cassis and mint on a long finish. This is full bodied and excellent value for money at around £12-£13 a bottle - if more people tried stuff like this then Jacob's Creek could find themselves losing a significant amount of market share! Whilst great now - give it up to 10 years in the cellar and the firm tannins will soften out further - but I can't see myself waiting that long if there's only one bottle in the wine rack! I bought mine from S.H.Jones in Bicester ( but the 2003 is also available from .

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV Brut

This is really not at all bad - I think on reflection that I'm still more likely to buy a Champagne rather than this in the future - but it's really not at all bad. It's made in the traditional method, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and is aged for at least 2 years prior to release yet it still comes across as fresh and zesty, with a lovely appley charm, slightly less acid than perhaps a Champagne might have but overall it was delightful. It was however not in the same league as Champagne - top of the Championship certainly but no Premier League contender. What it lacks is that little "Je ne sais crois", the complexity and development that the French deliver - but at roughly half the price of a Moet NV you may find you want to consider it - if you like your sparkling stuff - and can't afford to drink it that often this makes a splendid alternative to Cava. Drink as an aperatif or as part of a celebration.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV

Ahh Champagne - simply delicious - this is all you'd expect from a Moet NV, small, creamy bubbles, bone dry with aromas of melon and tropical fruit which are matched on the palate - this is clearly a higher percentage of Chardonnay than anything else and is delicate yet full bodied and would go down well at any event, whether it's Henley, a Polo match or a wedding this is champers for sharing!

Rocca Alata Amarone della Valpolicella 2001

This is my first taste of Amarone, and it was certainly at the cheaper end of the scale at a penny under £10 from Tesco, however despite the reasonable price this was really not bad at all - not that I'm an expert, however it did everything that one would expect from an Italian Red, pronounced aromas of cherries and almonds lead into a soft, dry wine with plenty of acidity and a sour cherry flavour which may sound grotesque but marry it to a tomato based sauce, or something with loads of olive oil and you have a winner. Amarone is made by drying grapes on mats in barns in order to reduce the amount of water in them so that when pressed the flavours produced are more concentrated and the juice has a higher sugar level - and so a higher degree of alcohol can be produced. This won't be the last Amarone I drink although unfortunately many others are discovering it right about now too! On the other hand production has doubled over the last 5 years - which means quality is bound to have slipped as people try to make a superior wine out of inferior grapes in order to cash in on the new found popularity. My advice is to check what other people have drunk or what is recommended by other people first!