Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sainsbury's Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

You may remember that this is on offer in Sainsbury's, and that I've heard on the grapevine that it's suprisingly good - so I bought a bottle to find...
And yes, it is really very good - it makes sense really it's made by Katnook a really good maker, and the fruit is sourced from Coonawarra, rather than one of the mass production areas of Murray Darling and Riverland and compared to a lot of it's rivals it's got a little bit of age - if you look around the budget Australian wines in the supermarket chances are that the majority of them will be 2005 with a smattering of 2006 - in fact I'd go so far as to say that I think this is the best value Cabernet to be had in the UK right now.
A deep purple core, with aromas of blackcurrant, vanilla, oak and a slight minty/eucalyptus with high, but soft and integrated tannins and flavours of blackcurrant and coffee. Acidity is bang on giving the wine lovely balance - I was a little worried by the 14% alcohol, but you know what? This wine carries it off with aplomb - it really is delicious and if you want to spend £6 on a bottle of wine you'd be hard pressed to find anything better - the one thing that bothered me was the back label - "consume in 1 year after purchase" - you what? Cabernet? Drink when less than 4 years old? Are you sure? Now it may be that they expect you to store this upright next to a cooker - in which case storage may not happen - and it does have a synthetic cork so ageing for a long time may not happen - but it might - and it's got to be good for 3 years minimum I'd have thought - this is something that's not going to go away - so it's something I'm going to look at around the place and try and find some answers. Watch this space!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Terroir Languedoc - Follow Up

I e-mailed terroir to talk about the feature and received the following reply -

Thank you so much for writing us up on your blog and for letting me know about it. I am delighted that you chose to write about us and what I have read of your blog is extremely interesting and informative. I am very much looking forward to the launch of your new website later in the year.

If you would like any information on any wines or growers from the Languedoc-Roussillon please do not hesitate to let me know and I look forward to reading the article on St Chinian.

We are in the middle of an overhaul of the website and I do plan to put some mixed cases on there which I agree would be a good idea. We also offer mixed cases at a discount in our quarterly newsletter. If you would like to be added to the mailing list please do let me know.

In terms of the shipping costs which you mentioned, I agree that £11.75 shipping does seem steep and I plan to lower it this year. We do offer free delivery on orders of over 60 bottles as well. We have most of our wines delivered from London City Bond and their charges, even to central London, which is the cheapest, are higher than £11.75 but I think this is something we are going to have subsidise so we can offer cheaper delivery.

Thanks again Tim for the write up and I will be in touch when the new website is launched.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Terroir Languedoc

I stumbled across this merchant quite by accident whilst hunting down a Canet-Valette wine, and so had a good look at their list - and I have to say that their range of St Chinian wines is brilliant. I can;t say what their delivery or service are like - but I can tell you that any merchant stocking Canet-Valette, La Gloire de Mon Pere (Clos Bagatelle) and Domaine Rimbert must have something going for it.

The wines of the Languedoc really are fabulous, and a £20 bottle from a relatively unknown producer like Canet-Valette or Clos Bagatelle, would cost a great deal more if it said Pauillac on the label. Throw in some Mas Champart and you are talking about the very best producers - if you note that Mas de Daumas Gassac is available too, you know that the company are selling only the top quality stuff. Oh yes, if you want to buy top quality and great prices then you need look no further - we all know the wines of the Languedoc are the best value and amongst the most exciting on the planet - but the amount produced makes it very hard to seperate the wheat from the chaff - Terroir France have done that for you. Perhaps the only drawback is the £11.75 delivery charge - which to be honest seems just a little but steep - although I am prepared to be corrected on that!

The range from the rest of the Languedoc is huge, and looks really interesting - I can't claim to be any sort of expert however all the other producing regions are covered - I couldn't find any taster cases, or mixed cases on their website -you can mix your own, with a one bottle minimum (apparently - I haven't confirmed this - but you are able to add one bottle alone to you shopping basket)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Everyone's Blogging

Blogging is getting more and more popular, more people are blogging everyday, and today I note that the Aldi wine buyer has started a wine blog on the Aldi website - it has to be said that from the two entried made so far it's not going to be a blog I'm going to add to my daily reading list - Aldi's wine are indeed exceptionally well priced - and he goes into some detail about what makes a wine more expensive - and that he tries to make every 50p count - but at the end of the day he's talking about £3 wines which aren't the most interesting in the world. If you are interested check out www.aldi.co.uk for the blog.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Domaine La Linquiere St Chinian AOC

Just let me know if you're getting bored of this yet! At some stage I'll get around to writing an article on St Chinian - although to be fair Decanter did do an article last year (May perhaps?) which was a useful starting point for wine exploration - although it doesn't look like the writer was that adventurous in hunting down domaines - more like he visited one or two and then went to the local Maison du Vin and asked to taste some wines for decanter and rated what they gave him!

Tradition 2005Sweet raspberry and plum fruit, no oak, no further complexity – tannins a little rough. The wine was, by common consent – including the winemaker – too young. Drinkable but not much more. 78

Tradition 2004Riper, fuller and more open. Medium bodied with more development and greater depth of flavour and smoothness. Still the same red fruit flavours and very reasonable for less than 6 Euros. 80

Chants des Cigales 200412 months in oak with Syrah dominating. Sweet red fruit, great finesse and charm with freshness and structure backing up the generous forest fruit flavours. 82

Chants des Cigales 2003Oakier and more animal than the younger vintage, more developed, a bigger fuller wine and all the better for it. Still has plenty of structure, and despite the year still has some refreshing acidity whilst being medium/full bodied. Will keep for 3-7 years however 2003’s are drinking better than other recent vintages right now in lots of cases and this is true here – 2002 was a bit of a dud and 2003 is maturing fast. Drink these now and the 2001’s for the next 5 years at least. 84

Still a few more Domaines to cover.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chateau Cazal Viel / Dmne Laurent Miquel

In case anyone is not yet getting bored with St. Chinian tasting notes ad nauseam from me - this is another of the Domaines I visited - again actually two domaines in one - Chateau Cazal-Viel run by the Miquel family for donkey's years and Laurent Miquel - the new proprietor who makes wines other than those that daddy made - and without his continued "interest"Syrah dominates and they obviously are trying to pretend they are in the Northern Rhone , including a 95% Syrah with 5% Viognier blend.

Larent Miquel Syrah 2004Well extracted, good colour and spice and blackcurrent aromas with a touch of raspberry. A little green on the palate.82

Laurent Miquel Cabernet Syrah 2005Fruity nose typical of the varieties, mint, eucalyptus and black fruit. Fresh on the palate, simple - but perhaps a bit too new world in style for me. 85

Laurent Miquel Syrah Nord Sud 2004Warm cloves and cinnamon, a very open style of wine, smooth in style but the palate was not as approachable as the nose suggested. Blackcurrent and raspberry fruit - again a little new world in style but needs 2-3 years. 82

Laurent Miquel Bardou 2003 100% Syrah, 1 year in new oak.Vanilla, forest fruits, cassis, cinnamon and nutmeg - wonderfully complex - a nice wine indeed, but once more it needs 2-5 more years to be at it's best when it'll hit the high 80's. For now 81

Laurent Miquel Larmes des Fees 2001100% Syrah, 2 years in new oak.Blackcurrant, cinnamon and a touch of peppery spice, a lovely smoothness and gentleness without being flabby. A delicate wine of great finesse, rather than a blow your socks off type wine. Far more French that the others! 89

Cazal Viel Vielle Vignes 2004A blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault. Cherry, vanilla and plums with smooth silky styling, cut through with good acidity giving a lovely freshness on the palate. However a little one dimensional in flavour for my liking. 85

Cazal Viel Cuvee des Fees 200195% Syrah, 5% Viognier A Cote Rotie wannabe of a wine.Plummy stone fruit, vanilla and a touch of apricot, I don't like it and instead of Cote Rotie I end up thinking more of Zontes Footstep - avoid this one! I spat this out and didn't bother continuing the tasting as it was last up and didn't want to leave with that taste too strongly in my mouth. 71

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tesco Offers Again!

Once again Tesco online wine has some really pretty decent offers which are worth pointing out :-

Torres Mas La Plana 6 for £105.60 (save 26.40) is a steal.

Reserve de la Comtesse £81.99 or just £13.67 a bottle for some serious claret.

Guigal Cote Rotie (doesn't say which one) £100 for 6 £79.95 or Guigal St Joesph reduced to just £50.

Clos Bagatelle AOC St Chinian

The latest of my St Chinian TN's to go up - Clos Bagatelle is two Domaines in one - Clos Bagatelle and another whose name I forget - basically speaking there are two major soil types (as well as a few others) Shiste and Clay/Limestone. Clos Bagatelle make wines which try to reflect the terroir on both soil types under two different domaine names.
Cuvee Tradition 2005 (Syrah/Carignan,Grenache)Simple silky red fruits, plummy hints and a little gentle herbaceous character - a very clean wine. 78
Cuvee Camille et Juliette 2004 Rosemary and thyme with red fruits and liquorice, a more open style, but with plenty of structure although the fruit flavours are distinctly lackinmg on the palate. 76
Cuvee Mathieu et Marie 2003Deep plum and dark fruit flavours, a charming wine with rounded fruit character, slips down a little too easily. A bit of a crowd pleaser that won't hurt anyone. 82
Cuvee Vielle D'Autumn 2002Spends 1 year in oak - Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache.Mahogany colour, with lovely herbal, vanilla and blackberry fruits, the wine was just opened and was less open than it might be, but would probably have opened up after an amount of time. Fairly complex and smooth with good structure and acidity. A little less finesse than some and less body than others. 86
La Gloire de Mon Pere 2001 - Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan. 14 months in new oak.Fantastic aromas and a slightly porty, full on style. Vanilla, plums and black cherry fruit flavours, a smooth velvety palate - flavours on the spectrum of a good LBV port, but much lighter, totally dry and good balancing acidity and tannin giving balance to the fruit. A very good wine indeed. 93

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hitlers wine up for sale

Plymouth auction rooms are to auction off a bottle of 1943 'Fuhrerwein' which was given by Hitler to Nazi generals to celebrate his 54th birthday. The wine is in fact a humble "Schwarzer Tafelwein " and was discovered in a garage in France and sold to a buyer from Plymouth. The seller hopes to raise around £500 from the sale of the wine.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sainsbury's Drinks Festival

Once again it's that time of year when Sainsbury's drinks festival tells us that it's now ok to drink again, and for those of us on the wagon since Christmas (well ok, those of YOU on the wagon) it's time to fall off. As in recent years this is all drinks and not just wine, though the wine itself is largely, but unsuprisingly uninspiring stuff - but there are bound to be exceptions!

Look out for - Bouchard Pere et Fils Pinot Noir - Save 25% was £5.99 now £4.49 - remarkable to find a wine from a top Burgundy producer for less than £5 - I'll be honest I haven't tasted it - but for £4.50 it's got to be worth a punt.

I'll be reviewing Sainsbury's Coonawarra Cabernet, Taste the Difference 75cl in the next couple of weeks - Save 25% was £6.99 now £5.24 but rumour has it that this is a truly wonderful Aussie Cabernet at a wonderful price - and with 25% off (blow I only bought mine on Sunday before the offer started!) it even better value. Sainsbury's have been really canny here, they've got a top Coonawarra Cabernet winery, Katnook, to make this for them so the wine making expertise is there and it's not from some tinpot winery. More importantly is that it's from Coonawarra - that means the grapes are from there, which means a quality product - they're not from the Murray-Darling or Riverland huge, vast terroirless, irrigated outback that most cheap Aussie plonk comes from - no in this case they're from probably the finest terroir in Australia for the Cabernet variety and I for one am looking forward to seeing what's up! Keep an eye out for the review later in the month, and if you've tasted it - leave your comments below!

Wine Blog Wednesday

After my recent foray into Wine Blog Wednesday last week, the next event has been released - though to be fair I'm not sure exactly whether I'll be partaking or not. Wine Blog Wednesday 31 is a call for the blogging community to "think outside the bottle".

The host for March's event is perhaps unsuprising - boxwines.org, and the full theme is box wines & non-traditional packaging”. For the UK, this could prove something of a challenge, all the wine I've seen in a bix has been cheap and uninspiring wine, which frankly given my current lack of spondoolies means I'm unlikely to spend over £10 on something I'm not terribly keen to have. Having said that, should I walk into a wine shop and see a can or something else that looks interesting and isn't going to cost the earth then I'm game.

Way back in December 2005 I reported on the sparkling wine in a can from Coppola/Niebaum named after the film directors daughter Sophia - avaialable in a 4 pack I'd give that a try without a doubt - it's just a shame I can only find it in the US!

Grapestalk Magazine

The Association of Small Direct Winemerchants (ASDW) periodically publish a magazine online at their website (www.asdw.co.uk). The current winter 2007 issue is now online and includes artciles on Pinotage (the marmite of grapes!), the wines of Jura, and Domaine de Anges. A worthwhile read and totally free here.

The ASDW brings together a whole host of small direct merchants, who more often than not specialise in one particular area of wine, for intance Henry Speer and Champers only does, surprisingly Champagne! I had the chance a couple of years ago at the Henley Wine Fair to meet a couple of the merchants and much of the time was impresses with their offerings - particularly on my second visit when I drank the red wines before I'd had so much white I couldn't tell a Syrah from Gamay!

Labels on the site

As you may have noticed there are now just a few labels attached to posts to help you sort through past tasting notes etc. etc. This is probably going to take a little bit of time so please bear with me, in the meantime I'm also adding more and more sites to the links section as I not only discover more and more sites, but also as I revisit old sites which are now beginning to go through upgrades. One thing I have noticed in the last few days is the large number of people who right now are going about upgrading their blog interface - these are more than often the stallwarts of the wine blogging world who have not only been around for a while but have inspired many of us. Jamie Goode over at Wine Anorak is one who has just made the leap to blogger software.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Couldn't Sleep

Last night I couldn't sleep, and somewhere between Skysports News and BBC1 I stumbled across one of those shopping channels - this being one of those channels which goes along the lines that the more people who buy the more the price drops. Well last night flicking past they were selling some wine - so I checked it out - "Elephant Crossing", Wine of South Africa - never heard of it - but that shouldn't be a surprise - neither had Google!

So what was this foul mix? A blend of Ruby Cabernet and Cinsault (I know sounds aweful already!) Selling from an original price of £54 for 12 (hmm nearly £5 a bottle - sounds a bit steep to me!) to £36.99 for 12 (still overpriced at just over £3 a bottle!) To make matters that bit more interesting they then stuck a further £8 for delivery on top - so now, they're selling the worst of the worst on telly too? Made my blood boil!

Tip Jar

Setting up the new site is beginning to cost me hard cash, in fact to the point where I now don't have any money for wine! Eeek - how scary! So if you appreciate this site, and are looking forward to the new site, perhaps think about donating a few pence to the cause - remember I can't make a profit so no money will actually go in my pocket - but will go towards making the new site as good as it possibly can be. Just hit the donation button and put a few pence down - if you want to that is!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Inexpensive Wines

Ok, so it's all very well drinking wonderful wines that cost the earth, but for most of us mere mortals we simply don't have that amount of money to spend on wine all that often. So, either we cut back and drink one lovely bottle of wine every month or two, or we have to cut the bottle price somehow. The problem of course is that once you get a taste for something really decent - drinking that £5 chilean merlot reduced to £3 somehow doesn't exactly excite - in fact it's almost likely to make you give up the juice! What is there out there for less than £10 that's worth drinking? Over on the Superplonk forum they used to make a speciality of this, but sadly it's all gone quiet and we haven't had much to recommend for a long while - now we're not talking special offers here - we're talking everyday, full retail price - and I'm not expecting a bottle of Cheval Blanc for £7 to appear either (although that would be wonderful) so get your thinking caps on, your taste buds attuned and join me as I try and find wines that are worth drinking again and again for less that £10.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wine Knowledge Game

Test your wine knowledge at this fun, but also quite testing game, challenging you on your knowledge of the 1855 classification, the appelations and classifications of Burgundy, grape varieties and producing regions - leave your scores as comments below.

Wine Game

Have fun!


Friday, February 09, 2007

2007 American Wine Blog Awards

The finalists in seven categories in the 2007 American Wine Blog Awards were announced today. The Awards, the first of their kind, honor the best in wine blogging. Public voting in the seven categories is now underway at FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog (http://www.fermentation.typepad.com). Voting will close on Friday, February 16.
The finalists in the 2007 American Wine Blog Awards include:

Best Single Subject Blog
LENNDEVOURS: http://www.lenndevours.com/
THE WINE COLLECTOR: http://www.vinfolio.com/thewinecollector
SHIP COMPLIANT BLOG: http://www.shipcompliantblog.com/blog/
RETHINK WINE BLOG: http://blog.inertiabev.com/

Best Winery Blog
STORMHOEK: http://www.stormhoek.com/
CIMA COLLINA CELLAR RAP: http://cimacollina.com/WordPress
DOVER CANYON WINERY BLOG: http://dovercanyon.typepad.com/dover_canyon/
PINOT BLOGGER: http://www.pinotblogger.com/

Best Wine Podcast or VideoBlog
NAPA VALLEY WINE RADIO: http://www.napavalleywineradio.com/
CELLAR RAT: http://www.cellarrat.org/
WINE LIBRARY TV: http://tv.winelibrary.com/
GRAPE RADIO: http://www.graperadio.com/

Best Wine Blog Graphics
VIVI'S WINE JOURNAL: http://www.vivisjournal.com/
LENNDEVOURS: http://www.lenndevours.com
THE GOOD GRAPE: http://www.goodgrape.com/
WINE WAVES: http://www.volunteer.blogs.com/winewaves/

Best Wine Reviewing Blog
WINE WAVES: http://volunteer.blogs.com/
QUAFFABILITY: http://quaffability.com
JAMIE GOODE'S WINE BLOG: http://wineanorak.com/blog/
VINOGRAPHY: http://www.vinography.com

Best Wine Blog Writing
THE POUR: http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/
WINE CAMP BLOG: http://winecamp.squarespace.com/
VINOGRAPHY: http://www.vinography.com
DR. VINO: http://drvino.blogspot.com/

Best Overall Wine Blog
THE GOOD GRAPE: http://www.goodgrape.com/
VINOGRAPHY: http://www.vinography.com
THE POUR: http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/
DR. VINO: http://drvino.blogspot.com/

The American Wine Blog Awards are conducted by Tom Wark, proprietor of “FERMENTATION: The Daily Wine Blog”. Wark instituted the Awards to draw attention to the high caliber of content and ideas being produced on the more than 400 wine blogs that now exist on the Internet.

“Anyone who looks over the Awards finalists will discover there is enormous talent and dedication in the wine blogosphere,” noted Wark. “What we are seeing is a renaissance of the wine writing genre being spurred on by citizen wine writers and the blogging format.”

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

St Hallet Blackwell Shiraz 2002 (WBW)

This is not the very top of the range, but it is still pretty good- sure it's probably not in Grange league - not that I've ever had the chance to try - it is however still pretty blooming good. It may even not be as good as the celebrated Old Block (another on my "to do" list). This fits neatly between the St. Faith entry level Shiraz and the Old Block - a clear step up from the former. This was packed with aromas of vanilla, pepper and blackberry and plums and tasted every bit as good as it smelled. Sometimes wine is nice and sometimes it is really exciting - and this for me was exciting. Ready to drink now, but it would equally last another 5-7 years - the problem being it will be brilliantly nice at every stage - none better than the other - just different - so when to drink it?! (88)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Corkr.com - a new way of wine on the web

Somehow or other I discovered this site a while back, and I've been watching it with interest. A relatively new venture (they only launched in October 2006) I was initially reluctant to recommend them to anyone - it wasn't that they didn't appear to have good wines on offer - it was just that as a brand new venture they modus operandi could well change, and indeed that has been the case - and to the benefit of their customers.
The initial offering was an interesting concept, everyday they offered one wine for sale, when it was gone it was gone and you could buy between one and three bottles, paying around £4 for delivery. Interestingly it had me hooked, checking every single day I could get near a computer to see what the offering was for the day, and sadly missing out on their "bottle of plonk" days when instead of a new wine, you paid £6 to get a bottle of something they had left over - you never knew what but it was likely to be good and worth a great deal more.
I don't know if they intended to change the way they worked once they got more people to visit their site, and whether this initial phase was just a marketing tool or not, but what I do know is that right now you can pay a flat rate of £5.99 on delivery (others charge for orders less than £x often as much as £15) and can order anything from a single bottle.

You see, they understand that a lot of us want to buy a fine wine, but we may not want a whole case of something we've never tasted, just because Robert Parker tells us it's really good. But equally if you wanted to order cases then that would be fine too.

And you know what, their wine list may be relatively short, but it is very interesting, well priced and most importantly for their offering, always changing. New wines are added all the time, and for geeks like me, they've made it easy to see which are the new ones.

Prices too are competitive, and occasionally exceptional, last week for instance a 1981 Grand Puy Ducasse was selling at half price for around £14 a bottle - that's £14 for a 25 year old classed growth claret. Similarly the list currently shows a 1971 Lafite for change from £100, which whilst I don't know a great deal about the prices these things should fetch seems to me to be wonderful value.

They have also sourced a great range of Canadian wines, and icewines in particular, I can't pass judgement on the wines themselves, but the point is that they've got a range and won't cost the earth to try a bottle - and you only need to try one!

The range is interesting and eclectic, the prices don't seem outrageous, and the minimum order is one bottle with a flat delivery charge - what a wonderful site - we need people like this to be in the wine business - and I for one hope they make a great success of it - they certainly deserve to. I should add by the way, that I have no affiliation to Corkr.com or their owners.

Check them out at www.corkr.com

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tesco wins the online offers this week

A little while ago Sainsbury's had some fantastic offers online, and now it's the turn of Tesco - and some of these really do have the WOW factor! Remember that the prices I've quoted are almost always for 6 bottles.

Luxury Occasions Mixed Case - This mixed case contains one bottle of each of the following: Lagunilla Gran Reserva Rioja, Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Dows Master Blend Late Bottle Vintage port, Tesco Finest Fino sherry, Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky (NB - 70Cl BOTTLE) and Moet & Chandon Brut Non-Vintage Champagne reduced from £81.74 to £62 - a bargain in anyones books.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Vintage Brut - £28.44

Penfolds Premium Mixed Case - £150 from £200 - Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2000 and Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2001. Some truly sublime wines, from the maker of the best of the lot - these are a 3 different price points up to over £40 a bottle retail for the RWT - these are wines to really show off with.

Lagunilla Rioja Gran Reserva 1999 - £45 (save £30) - nice enough Rioja often the same sort of price for one in Sainsbury's but good value nonetheless.

St. Hallett Premium mixed case - £75 from £100 - containing 3 each of Blackwell Shiraz and the legendary old block Shiraz - these retail at £13 and £22 each per bottle normally - making this a real steal - outstanding value!

Some great wines - oh and just for your amusement - it seems that the local Tesco (remembering I live in Tescotown) thinks that red wines ought to be sold chilled like their white wines - no I'm not talking something like a Brown Brothers Tarrango or even a light Beaujolais - this was an Italian Merlot (La Gioiosa) and a Minervois - neither of which want to be anywhere near the fridge - I didn't like to say anything - but amazingly it looked to me as if someone had bought at least one of them (5 bottles left on the shelf) oh and if you need to ask - no I don't have a real life and yes it does matter!