Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2000

A definate step up from the Crianza this is also a definate step down from the Luganilla Gran Reserva tasted at the same time (see earlier entry). It did all the right things, pressed all the right buttons, however the lower bottle time meant that a bit of the oaky harshness was still evident. Flavour wise there were elements of Strawberry, Cedar and of course Oak and it had similar aromas with coconut (giving away the use of American Barriques rather than French ones) and plum in addition. There were no really harsh tannins, but they were certainly there and all in all it was a medium bodied joy that thankfully came before the Luganilla which would have totally dominated it. Once again serve with Lamb.

Banrock Station Cabernet Shiraz Reserve 2004

This was something of a surprise for me, often Reserve wines from the New World aren't worthy of the name (and it doesn't mean anything anyway) so I wasn't sure what to expect with this, what I got was a deep purple coloured wine with pronounced aromas of blackcurrant, pepper and spice and found a great balance between fruit, acidity and tannin on the palate to give great blackcurrant fruit with just a hint of pepper, spice and oak - all in all at the price paid it was a great bargain and for once a New World Reserve worthy of being so called. A joy!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Luginilla Rioja Gran Reserva 1998

Despite having been told that this was not worth bothering with, I decided to make my own mind up about it anyhow, not being much of a Rioja expert, I argued (to myself) that I should try this then if and when I have something truly terrific I would be able to know the difference. However this was a medium bodied, garnet coloured joy that went a treat with a rare roast lambs leg. Slightly nutty, with aromas of plumbs vanilla, cedar and oak and strangely a slight "meatiness" which was very attractive, and once in the mouth the oak, plums and strawberry flavours were well balanced by the medium tannin levels and the acidity giving it structure - this surprised all of us tasting it how good it was. Some amongst us - don't like oaky wines and were worried by the 36 months in the wine had spent in oak barriques - however it had been done sensibly and the wine allowed to age well before release giving it a softness and a complexity that was delicious. I'd recommend it fully and with £5 off at Sainsbury's at the moment £13.99 down to £7.99) this is well worth exploring. It has also made me decide that once the wine course is up - that's me done with cheaper wines - I want more of this!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2003

Having thoroughly enjoyed two previous Zin's from the Ravenswood winery I was thoroughly looking forward to this one, particularly as I've seen it recommended both by Matt Skinner and in Decanter magazine, however at around £7 a pop I think I'd rather pay the extra one or two pounds and grab a bottle of the Lodi Zinfandel under the same label - a far more polished product. The main issue I have with this is the amount of oak flavour and level of tannin in the wine which suggests that further cellaring is required before it's ready to drink - it's interesting that The Wine Society is currently shipping a 2001 Sonoma County Old Vine Zin from Ravenswood (see December) and Sainsbury's (also November) are selling the 2002 Lodi yet Tesco have come out with this. It is a deep mahogany coloured wine, with pronounced aromas of oak, pepper and tinned cherries and is similarly spicy and fruity flavoured - something which is only spoiled by the overwhelming oak and tannin in the wine. Yes it's the bottom of the range - but once more I have bought "ready to drink" wines and been left feeling that perhaps they would have been better left a while before release.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Banrock Station NV Sparkling Shiraz

What an odd thing - a full bodied, fruity shiraz - only sparkling. Made using the traditional method employed in Champagne amongst other places this is deep purple in colour, and although the wine is still developing, the blackcurrents hit you on the palate - almost like fizzy alcoholic ribena! Seriously though, whilst it is a little odd, and perhaps a little sweet - this is one of those things that everyone ought to try at least once - and for those people who aren't too keen on Champagne or dry sparkling white - this could be your answer. My advice is to give it a go - it's not exactly expensive (around £6.50 a bottle) and I though it was lovely.

Gallo White Zinfandel 2004 Sierra Valley

I don't drink a great deal of Gallo wines (for which I'm often called a wine snob!) however this was a little gem that friends served as an aperatif before a meal - and I have to say that it went down very easily indeed. Clear, Pale and with a colour of smoked salmon you could smell the youthful freshness immdiately in the strawberry fruit. The palate is dry, with just enough acidity to keep it fresh, with light aromatic flavours of strawberry. This is an inexpensive, ready to drink wine that won't set anybodies world on fire, on the other hand it slips down very nicely and I can imagine this on a hot summer's day being very refreshing (and perhaps going down a little too quickly!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

French Up in Arms Again!

After a spate of actions in Southern France, French winemakers have once again been taking action against "injustice". In this case they dumped a load of manure in the doorway of a Bordeaux wine dealer to protest at the price he was paying for barrells of ordinary Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superieur AOC. The winemakers in the area want to charge a minimum price of 1000 Euros, however this "scoundrel" paid just 700 Euros per barrell. The trouble with this is that the winemakers seem to imagine that just because they need 1000 Euro to make a profit, that is what they should be paid - regardless of the quality of the substance or indeed what demand there is. One wonders whether they have caught onto the law of supply and demand, and whether as a result we'll see less wine produced, from lower yields with more effort going into making a superior product that can sell for more money - we shall see!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

This is great house wine - for chance from £5 you get a smooth Cabernet, with blackcurrent, mint and oak flavours that is never going to upset anyone. Against it is the high alcohol content and the fact that many places are selling the 2003 still which a year further developped will go a long way as the tannins in this are still a little on the rough side (partly through the use of American rather than French barrels I imagine) and could use some time to smooth out - when they do that, then this will be one of the best wines at this price point from anywhere in the world, but for now it is merlely acceptable, and you shouldn't have to leave wine you but for £5 on the shelf before it reaches it's peak - the supermarkets are selling so much "plonk" thesedays that they are champing at the bit for the next vintage to replenish their shelves when a little ageing would work wonders!

Casa Girelli Canaletto Primitivo 2002

This is from Puglia in Southern Italy and is made from a grape that we know better as Zinfandel - only this is the Italian (and original) incarnation of the fruit - indeed it was only in the last few years that it was confirmed to be an identical species - where before they were known only to be closely related. This wine has aromas of sultanas and hazlenuts and smells luxurious - but partner it well with food as the red berry and medium/full bodied wine has a kick of acidity that you might expect from an Italian wine - it went fantastically with a pasta bolognese due to the acidity of the tomatoes. To all intents and purposes this was very recognisable as the fruit that produces the big Zin in California but with greater refinement and higher acidity from grapes given less "hang time" than is currently fashionable in the US. Would I drink it again - certainly - with the right food match - and at around £5 a bottle it's a bargain - available from Somerfield of all places!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bodega Xalo'

On a recent trip to the Costa Blanca in Spain, I was pleased to see vines growing everywhere(where a villa or pool was not!) and to read that there were some highly regarded producers in the region. I must say I was a little surprised, but was more than willing to give it a go - even though it must be said the vineyards visible from the road did not look to be in the best condition.
After some research, it appeared the nearest place that would meet our needs was Xalo, which had several bodegas including a well thought of cooperative. So off we set in our two hire cars to find it - and after a few adventures on the way came to the pretty village of Xalo'. However on following signs to parking, and to the centre of town we found nothing - except a few closed shops (it was still siesta time!). So on we trudged in the increasing heat - until we chanced apon someone who could only be English from the colour of him - who gave us directions to "this amazing place" with "fantastic wines" - we eventually found our destination to be greeted by huge tanks with hoses running off them and the chance to sample the different wines on offer.
Locals and tourists alike were happily filling up great numbers of plastic containers with wine (priced at about 1 Euro a litre) - however if I've ever tasted a rougher wine than this - then I don't remember it - every single one seemed to get worse and worse - if this was award wining wines then I didn't want to see the competition!
I did however chance a bottle (more expensive at 4 Euros) and found that it was perhaps a little rustic, and certainly very vegetal with some red berry flavours, but it wasn't altogether bad - I don't think I hurry back to buy it again - but were I offered it I probably wouldn't turn it down either. My advice - don't expect wines from unknown regions to be up to much - the're probably unknown because they aren't that good!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

WSET Advanced Course

So I've taken the plunge and decided to do the WSET advanced course (www.wset.co.uk) and the course materials have now arrived. Instead of taking a set course through the WSET school or one of the many other study centres around the UK, I'm studying at home by myself - so I just have to be disciplined to make it happen! The course is assesed through a written paper and a blind tasting - which is what I'm most concerned about - I'm pretty sure I can learn to taste however how I describe the wine may not be in line with the systematic approach of the WSET. The issue is, what I call ruby will they call garnet - what is the line between full bodied and medium full bodied wines? The learning itself should be ok, it's the subjectiveness of the tasting that worries me slightly - but I guess I won't know until I take the exam and get the results!
One of the real hardships is having to to taste 84 different wines and spirits - more details of these as I taste!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chateau Gontey St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000

I bought this a few years ago from Majestic (£14.99) and on the advice of Malcolm Gluck left it for a couple of years before opening it - and initially I thought that it hadn't been worth it - the wine initially tasted vegetal and rotten, however once it started to open up the deeply coloured wine gave off aromas of leather coffee and plums and became sumptuous, the finish lengthened to a glorious point -the only trouble I had was that I'd chosen to share the single bottle I had 5 ways which didn't leave that much to go around! Still I think everyone enjoyed it.