Friday, March 30, 2007

Wirra Wirra Sexton's Acre Shiraz 2004

Deep purple with a narrow rim and an almost black core, deep dark and brooding. Intense blackcurrant fruit, developing white pepper nuances and some lovely coffee, chocolate and vanilla notes on the nose. Quite well integrated tannins on the palate, a wine made for drinking at this relatively young age (though not as young as some given that the 2006 vintage is out!) A lovely smooth silky mouthfeel and some slightly bitter notes of coffee and liquorice finish off to a medium length wine. Pretty good really, not quite up there with the Sainsbury's TTD Cabernet, but that is no shame in itself. (83)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Best Offer you will ever see!

It seems Sainsburys have made a mistake and now is the time to cash in! For just £55 of thereabouts you can currently order online a case of 4 wines of :
Pouilly Fumé 'Les Satins' 2004, France (x3)
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (x3) normal price £15-30
Glenguin 'Stonybroke' Shiraz 2001 (x3)
Ninth Island Pinot Noir 2005 (x3) normal price £9

All for £51.12

Normal price is over £130 and they are offering 25% off - but somewhere along the line they've managed to put another 50% discount on top

The link is HERE

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Site Progress

Well after a lot of false starts and a whole host of initial problems I spoke to my friend Jon who is the man to know when trying to put these sorts of things together, and after a little wait whilst web hosts sorted themselves out the new site is starting to take shape - you can keep an eye on progress over at and have a look at the forum taking shape.

Leave you comments on this post - or e-mail to give your opinions on yet another wine website that doesn't seek to make any money! Oh and should I ever mention SH Jones on the new site then do give me a dig in the ribs - as my future employer I'm trying to remain independent my not mentioning them - although in the future I may sell the odd mixed case selected from their wines on offer if i think it suitable!

Dinner at the Cherwell Boathouse

So Tuesday was my birthday and my lovely wife decided to take me out to a nice eatery for a meal, and knowing that the Cherwell Boathouse has a reputation for it's wine list chose that as the venue. Originally we had been expecting a special offer menu, however the offer had stopped and in the end the main menu looked so good, and relatively inexpensive we decided to go with that instead.
I started with a salad of poached egg and a trio of sausages, followed by mature sirloin in a madeira jus with boulangere potato and wild mushroom and a blood orange tart. Katherine had a quail with parsnip puree and some foam of some sort, followed by confit of duck (she actually ordered "corn-fed chicken" but obviosuly didn't speak clearly enough for the waitress who turned corn fed in confit - however on tasting it she was delighted by the error and finished with sticky toffee pudding, with toffee ice cream and a banana and toffee milk shake.
I drank about half a bottle of 2002 Chateau Tour Du Pas St Georges, which was lovely, retrained claret at a pretty good price.

Now I'm not completely sure, but I reckon they were charging £350 for a bottle of '82 Mouton, which to me in a restaurant seems like brilliant value. ( reveals that Farr Vintners are selling this at £550 a bottle!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What were you thinking Gordon?

So Gordon Brown has predictably decided to increase duty on most alcohol, perhaps the strangest thing though is that he's decided to freeze duty on spirits, whilst increasing duty marginally on beer, wine and sparkling wine. The strangest thing is that he's increased duty on sparkling wine by much more than wine - which is a little curious. You see I totally agree with duty on alcohol, after all alcohol is a drain to society - it costs the NHS money for people with alcohol damaged livers, we have to police town centres every night to cope with binge drinkers - but you see - how many of them are actually drinking wine? And for that matter how many of those that are drinking wine to excess are drinking sparkling wine or champagne? It just doesn't add up!
Problems from alcohol major on beer/cider and spirit based alcopops, at the other end of the spectrum most home based alcoholics have turned to spirits by the time they cost the NHS money. If we put a great wedge of duty on beer and spirits, we pay for the cost to the country of alcohol and at the same time the increase in price will reduce the average binge drinkers intake - so please Gordon wake up and smell the coffee - it isn't an election winner - and perhaps that's why it'll never happen - too many voters drink beer and spirits to allow the most sensible change to take place - and instead he'll hit the minority champagne drinkers - because he can. Gordon you really are a silly boy - tax the on trade, beer at £4 a pint sells far less than at £2.50 a pint and you make as much money, reduce policing costs, NHS costs and have more to spend on paying nurses as much as you should!

Threshers are at it again!

Yes, once again Threshers are trying to get people through their doors by placing 40% off vouchers around the net, whether they get quite the same reception as last time I'm not sure. What they do mean is that in order to get some really decent value from Threshers you no longer need to buy 3 similiarly priced bottles on their 3 for 2 offer. Buying one bottle has just been expensive there, but when these vouchers come out - anyone can pop in and buy a bottle. This time around the offer excludes champagne, sparkling wine and fortified wines which suggests that Thresher have learned a lesson from last time out when savvy shoppers filled their boots (quite literally) with Champagne. If you want a voucher - keep an eye out on the internet - or alternatively drop me an e-mail to before 5.00pm this evening and I'll happily send one out.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Danie de Wet Chardonnay 2002

From Robertson in South Africa, this is a really good value Chardonnay lying somewhere between a French wine and a big new world style wine, it has both power and elegance. Pale golden coloured, youthful aromas of almond, vanilla and oak with buttery minerality and some refreshing acidity moving to a long finish. This is certainly on the way to an old world style wine, but has a greater level of flavour and richness than you'd find in France. (83/100)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Maple Wine vin D'Erable Jost Winery

Some friends brought back some Maple Wine from Canada, and unlike non grape wines from the UK, which are made from thing such as parsnips and raspberries, Maple has plenty of sugar in it and is ideally suited to making a sweet wine - the question is can anyone make anything any good out of it?

On the evidence of this wine from Novia Scotia is yes, it is quite easily the best non grape wine I've drunk, and a lot better sweet wine than quite a few I've tasted. A lovely golden colour with unmistakeable aromas of honey and maple syrup and a similar palate with some suprising acididty which actually holds the whole thing together. I can see this being poured over ice cream, or pancakes as a winderful alterntive to maple syrup with a bit of booziness thrown in - I'd guess you're unlikely to find any of this in the UK, but if you know someone from Canada or you are going yourself it's one of those things that you really ought to try just once.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Foil Capped Wine Glasses to go on sale

Al Fresco Wines will, this year, launch a range of foil capped full wine glasses aimed at the outdoor eating British public, (thanks to Dr. Vino for the info). The glasses will be called "Tulipa" and will be available in Aussie Shiraz, Chardonnay and a Californian Rose' priced at £3.75 per pair. The idea tried to solve the problem for those of us who have turned up for a picnic only to discover that we've left the corkscrew at home - it remains to be seen whether it's going to be a success or not!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Summertown Wine Cafe

I have to say that this months selection is the best I can remember, ok so there's not one brilliant stand out wine - but the overall standard was high. In fact I'd go so far as to say that pretty much any of the wines on this months list would be perfectly at home on the main superstars list. The thing I love about their monthly selection is that whilst it is only 12 wines - they are generally imaginatively chosen and fit together well. This was a social night out to celebrate my new job (working for a local wine merchant - SH Jones in Banbury) so I didn't take notes, this is based more on memory than anything.
The Clover Hill Sparkling from Tasmania has lovely toasty, yeasty flavours - my one criticism was that the bottle we tasted had been open too long and so it was completely flat - give it some decent fizz it would probably be great, but it fell slightly flat without. (79/100)
Chateau Haut Grelot 2005 is a first example of a 2005 Bordeaux for me - albeit a white blend of Semillon and Sauvignon - and you know what - it really was fabulous, lovely gooseberry and asparagus flavours with some lovely body provided by the Semillon. (85)
The Inama Soave Classico was a fine example of Soave that I got on very well with (83), and the Laroche St Martin Chablis 2005 was fine, if a little unexciting - mineral with some smokey hints there was nothing wrong but it just failed to hit the mark (83).
Rolly Gassman Gewurztraminer 2004 was nice enough - but to be honest I just don't get on with this variety, it seemed well made and was as good an example as I've tasted, and perhaps with spicy food it would stand out but for now not something I'm going back to (80).
The reds were uniformly lovely - I'd have taken any of them home quite happily and we started with a Savigny-Les-Beaune Vielle Vignes 2002 Nicolas Potel which was lovely if a little one dimensional (85), Molino Ausario Barbera 2004 was full and juicy and fantastic (87), Chateau Kefraya 2002 was complex and delicious - my first taste of Lebanon (incredibly I've never got around to Musar or Massaya up to this point!) wonderful black fruits and aromatic spice (88), Casa Silva Coleccione Carmenere 2005 was after the previous wines a little on the simple and unexciting side - a great wine but not of the class of the others (82) Torbreck "Cuvee Juveniles" GSM 2003 is lighter than I expected from the Barossa but is full flavoured and delicious (88), Abadia Retuerta Tempranillo 2003 was a lovely example from just outside the Ribera Del Duero, again not of the class of the other reds on show but good nonetheless (83).
To finish an Australian 10 year old Tawny "Port" from Grant Burge which I have to say was wonderfully delicious - perhaps the nicest example and certainly the easiest drinking example of a tawny that I've had (91)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

La Cuvee Mythique 2003

OK, so every once in a while a wine comes along that you see in the shops and think - well that looks interesting but it costs far too little money to be any good - fotunately I'd been given the heads up by someone over on the wine pages forum ( that this was definately worth a try - and given it's from the Languedoc, and has a blend of grapes I really like I took the (oh so expensive!!) plunge. Costing just £3.49 - that's right £3.49 - what can you get for that these days - well for that money you can buy this and... that's about it - so what's it like?
The colour is promisingly full, purple with a deep core, the aroma is stunning - if you're going to mark a wines aroma I'd give this 88-91 it really is that lovely - brambles, leather spice, plums a touch of thyme or rosemary in a wine that is beginning to show it's true potential. The palate is, to be fair a little disapointing after the nose - but remember this cost £3.49 it isn't going to be as good as a Lafite or a Latour (although to be fair I have had a 1st growth that have been worse than this). The flavours are still good and interesting, good tannin levels and a nice acidity with flavours of plum, brambles and bitter chocolate - it really is exceptional value for money and my recommendation to take to someone elses house, open it as a treasured bottle and see what they say! My guess is that a significant portion of them will give it the thumbs up and decide it's a lot more expensive than it really is - but I could be wrong there's no accounting for taste!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ernest Gallo Dies

Nearly 14 years after younger brother Julio died, Ernest Gallo died on March 6th. Despite what you may think about the vast majority of wine that came out of the Gallo factory over the last however long, it is they who turned a post prohibition America onto wine. Ernest took control of sales and marketing whilst Julio took control of winemaking.

From the Gallo website "Ernest was among the pioneers of wine advertising on television, and he launched many memorable wine advertising campaigns. Ernest and Julio were first in the U.S. wine industry to establish their own national sales force; first to introduce brand management and modern merchandising to the wine industry; first in breakthrough quality initiatives such as long-term grower contracts for varietal grapes and major grape research programs; first to establish a truly significant foreign sales and marketing force to export California wines overseas; and pioneers in bringing new products to store shelves. Also, they were pivotal in establishing Sonoma County as one of the premier wine growing regions in the world."

"The son of Italian immigrants, Ernest was born March 18, 1909, in Jackson, California, about 90 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada foothills. His parents, Giuseppe (Joe) and Assunta (Susie), ran a boardinghouse for immigrant miners. It was not an easy life. After moving several times, in the early 1920s Joe bought a small farm in Modesto, California, about 70 miles east of San Francisco. Ernest and Julio, who was one year his junior, were required to come home directly from school to work in the fields, and they worked all weekend as well. It was here, in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, that the family’s grapes were harvested and loaded on rail cars for shipment to Chicago for sale to home winemakers, a small market dominated by immigrant communities in the big cities of the East and Midwest.
By age 17, Ernest was already displaying his talent for salesmanship, traveling by himself to Chicago, where he was able to sell his family’s grapes and hold his own against older and wiser men. The experience instilled in him an independent, self-assertive nature and a fierce work ethic that remained with Ernest throughout his life.
For a brief time the family business prospered, but the Depression brought renewed hardship. In 1933, both parents died deeply in debt. Determined to pay off his father’s debts and seeing an opportunity with the impending end of Prohibition, Ernest decided to start the Gallo winery. He asked his brother Julio to join him. Julio was “the one person I knew who was willing to work as hard and as long as I did,” he explained in the brothers’ 1994 autobiography, “Ernest & Julio: Our Story.”
The Gallo brothers pursued a dream few could ever envision. Their starting capital was limited to less than $6,000, with $5,000 of that borrowed from Ernest’s mother-in-law. In the first few years after Repeal in 1933, hundreds of companies were entering the wine business – more than 800 in California alone, some of them with extensive pre-Prohibition experience and access to millions of dollars.
The brothers began without knowing how to make wine commercially. Ernest and Julio learned by reading old, pre-Prohibition pamphlets put out by the University of California and retrieved from the basement of the Modesto Public Library.
At the age of 24, however, Ernest had confidence in his and his brother’s ability and stated “we could do anything anyone else could do – not because I was brilliant or well educated, but because I was willing to devote as much time and effort as was necessary, regardless of the sacrifice.”
The sacrifice was often great. During the company’s infancy, the Gallo brothers often worked around the clock, sometimes 36 hours straight. In the first year, the winery produced 177,847 gallons of wine and earned its first profit. It became routine to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Although he cut back in recent years, Ernest remained active in the business on a daily basis until his death.
“There are few stories that match up to that of my father, Julio, and my uncle, Ernest,” said Bob Gallo, Julio’s son. “They built this company on a very clear set of principles that we still follow today: hard work; respect for the land; respect for the wine industry; respect for the employees; respect for the grower; respect for the family; and respect for our competition. Not only did they start a company 70 years ago, they also established a culture that thrives today.”
Over the 1940s and 1950s, Ernest introduced modern techniques of merchandising and brand management to the wine industry, including such techniques as a dedicated sales force, point-of-sale displays, outdoor billboards and later television advertising. Between 1948 and 1955 alone, the winery’s sales nearly quadrupled, from four million gallons a year to 14 million.
The company also grew through vertical integration. E. & J. Gallo Winery continued to acquire vineyards, expanded its wineries, storage and distribution facilities, and built its own glass plant. It also established the Gallo Research Laboratory, which became a distinguished center of research on all facets of wine production. These strategic additions helped the company achieve its primary mission – to provide consumers with consistently high-quality wine at the best possible price.
“While I am deeply saddened by the death of my Uncle Ernest, I am grateful for the many wonderful memories I have of growing up with my father, Julio, and my uncle,” said Susann Coleman, Julio’s daughter. “They led amazing lives and they were great examples of what you can achieve through hard work and dedication. To me, the greatest lesson they taught us was the importance of family.”
Ernest sought to maximize every opportunity life provided him. He also appreciated the role good fortune played in his and Julio’s success. They started their business at the right time; they had each other as brothers; they married two wonderful wives, Amelia and Aileen; they had children and grandchildren, many of whom joined the family business; and they were able to find and attract some of the most talented and dedicated employees in the United States.
Over the course of his lifetime, Ernest was recognized with many awards and honors. Among them were the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award, and the American Society of Enologists’ Merit Award.
Ernest worked hard on behalf of his industry, and he served on many industry marketing boards and trade organizations, including the board of the Wine Institute. He was chairman of the Wine Institute from 1957-1959. Ernest also founded the Maynard A. Amerine Endowed Chair in Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis, which was the first endowed chair in the University’s Department of Viticulture and Enology. "

Monday, March 05, 2007

Waitrose Burgundy 2005 En Primeur

I was very interested to receive a well put together brochure with this months Decanter, from Waitrose offering Burgundy 2005's EP. It's a very well put together brochure, so Waitrose must make some decent money from their offerings otherwise they wouldn't spend the money creating a lovely brochure which then goes out to how ever many thousands of people. The wines too are a good looking selection, now I'm really not a Burgundy drinker - don't get me wrong I'd love to be, but put quite simply I wouldn't really know where to start - I guess that comes as you get a wine merchant you know and trust recommending Burgundy to you, but as it stands with each vineyard in different hands, unless I'm going to buy Domaine de la Romanee Conti (DRC) (which I'm not - I don't have that kind of budget!) who is a good producer and who is not, and who is good in which years? Equally should I look for wines from Vosne or Gevrey, and bearing in mind that I doubt I'll ever have the money for a Grand Cru Richebourg from a great producer, what is there that is good value?
The Waitrose lists starts with a very modestly priced Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Fougeray de Beauclair at just £27.50 for 6 bottles, and has wines all the way up to a Richebourg Grand Cru Gros for £650 per 6. Now it seems to me that for a complete novice the £27.50 asking price is well worth it on the "at that price it's worth a try" philosophy, and there are certainly other things there to keep you interested at most price points. Even more tellingly the list is actually not being run by Waitrose at all, but rather by Lay and Wheeler, a well respected merchant based in Suffolk who ought to know what they're doing - as does Susan McCraith MW who put the list together for Waitrose, so would I buy from them - of course - even I, with my very small amount of expendible income can afford £30 for 6 bottle of Burgundy and the higher you go up the price bracket the more appealing it seems to be.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Abadal Reserva 2001

Visiting friends in Devon, they opened this bottle from Totnes Wine Company, it comes from Spain from the little known region of Pla de Bages DO. A deep purple colour, with a developing nose of vanilla, coconut, redcurrant and raspberries with lovely savory cedar flavours, mixed with some great red fruit flavours. If I'm being critical - which lets face it I have to be, I'd say that it's not ready for drinking just yet - as with almost every wine drunk in the world, it's being drunk too soon if you let this get too close to your gums and cheeks the puckering of the tannins is really quite off putting - but if you just let it go down it is quite delightful. But, give it somewhere between 2-5 or even 7 years and you'd start to have something really rather nice on your hands.