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!