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20 July 2015

Douro Valley: Quinta de la Rosa, Pinhão

Quinta de la Rosa (above) is well-known for its Vintage Ports - I bought a half-bottle of their 2009 for €15 when I went there at the end of June by the way - and sublime old Tawnies. They also make red, white and rosé Douro wines, like everybody else in this region nowadays; and I was quite impressed by this tasty dry white quaffed that evening, nicely chilled of course:
2014 Dourosa white - (Codega 50%, Rabigato 20% and other white 'Port' varieties sourced from "nearby vineyards with a higher altitude." 13.3% abv) Aromatic and quite intense, zesty yeast lees and floral aniseed notes, crisp dry and tangy finish. €6
Quinta de la Rosa is a pleasant walk over the river and up the hill from the town of Pinhão (well signposted), like several other 'famous names' based in this area, offering beautiful views across the Douro and up and down the vineyard-lined valley. You can stay there too - more info @

Some other "famous name" photos just for the fun of it:

Port: Pinhão, Douro Valley

Vineyards around Pinhão on a 'steep' theme... Photos by RMJ.

19 July 2015

Port & Douro Valley: Quevedo

I talked to smiley Oscar Quevedo (right) and tasted some of the Quevedo family's Ports in their wine tasting cellar cum shop in Vila Nova de Gaia in late June, which is quietly tucked away behind Ramos Pinto and the other side of the pretty Santa Marinha church from Sandeman's. They have six vineyards totalling about 100 hectares: “Some of them have been in the family for four generations, and some of them were planted by my parents and grandparents," Oscar told me. But Quevedo the company, as it is now, and Port brand don't date back so far as Oscar explained: "Before they changed the law in 1986 – before that you had to have a cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia to be able to export - we made and sold Port to merchants.” So the contemporary Quevedo estate was created after that date with a new winery completed in the Douro Valley in 1991. His sister Claudia is the winemaker there and their father still looks after the vineyards, which are planted with Touriga Franca, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Touriga Nacional and certain white varieties. They also make Douro red and white wines, which I didn't taste this time, and have 25 hectares of olive groves.
Available in the UK from Naked Wines, Borough Wines and Wine Fantastic / Wine Boutique. USA: Flickinger Wines.

Rosé Port (19.5% abv, 83 grams/litre residual sugar) - contains "a fair bit of (the) Sousão (variety) which has very good acidity." Short maceration on skins and fermentation then fortified. Fruity 'winey' nose and palate, not too punchy or sweet with a hint of freshness too. “Sales of this style have really taken off in Germany and Holland," Oscar said. £13.50
2010 Late Bottled Vintage – lovely rich dark fruit vs peppery and punchy, plum and blackberry vs black olive flavours on a firm vs lush backdrop. Very attractive more towards-vintage style. £13.49-£18.99 or £10 half-bottle, US $20.
From vineyards in the Upper Douro "where it's drier giving more concentrated wines," he added. 2010 was a good vintage that some houses 'declared' as a vintage year, although "everybody declared 2011." Unfortunately their excitement is reflected in the prices!
2008 Vintage Quinta Vale d'Agodinho – from their main vineyard near Ferradosa, about 25 ha, located a couple of km from Quinta da Vargellas.
Dense and fruity still with marzipan and plum jam notes, concentrated and lush with sweet vs savoury finish, well balanced. Stylish, very good: still tasting quite young. About £40 or $50.
20 Year Old Tawny – dark mahogany colour, lovely toasted walnut and complex oxidised nutty tones, tangy vs sweet, quite mellow and mature vs long and still alive.
1996 Colheita – these vintage Tawny styles have “really taken off in Denmark and the US,” where it costs about $34 a bottle.
Tastes younger and fruitier than above vs savoury maturing notes, reminds me of old Banyuls, again quite smooth vs still lively, delicate complex finish. £27
40 Year Old Tawny – nuttier pecan nut nose with mature Gruyere type aromas, very intense and concentrated with tangy texture and delicious rich dark vs nutty oxidised flavours on its long finish. Yum.

Wine tasting and sales in Vila Nova de Gaia: 77 Rua de Santa Marinha.
To visit the winery and one of their vineyards in the Douro: Quinta Sra. Rosario in S. João da Pesqueira - more info @

Portugal: Port and railway theme

Top: railway bridge in Pinhão, Douro Valley. One down: barrels in Pinhão station for when the loo's closed. Next down: the station as photo'ed by everybody ever. Bottom: Porto São Bento station.

Photos by Richard Mark James.

Profile and notes on Porto Quevedo above this post...

29 June 2015

Australia: Tasmania

Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil
downloaded from You Tube.
Australia's island state of Tasmania lies due south of Victoria (there's 450 km of ocean between Melbourne and Devonport on the north coast), and its wine-producing areas are roughly on the same longitude as the northern part of New Zealand's South Island. Vineyards are a relatively recent thing in this wildly beautiful place - present-day production essentially dates from the 1950s at the earliest, although some plots were planted before the mid 19th century. To name just two highly regarded pioneers as examples, Graham Wiltshire established Heemskerk in the 1960s and Dr. Andrew Pirie Piper's Brook Vineyard in 1974. Wine-growers/makers like them and the next generation have shown in a fairly short space of time that Tassie has fast become the cool climate region of Aus (even if on a limited scale and thus wines on the dear side), especially for aromatic white varieties, top Pinot Noir (which now accounts for almost half of varieties planted) and fine fizz too. See and for more info.
So here are four well-known Tas wineries and notes on some of their wines, tasted in London and Dublin on different occasions. The AU$ prices are cellar door and £ prices as per stockists mentioned.

Tamar Ridge - Tamar Valley
Owned by Brown Brothers, their vineyards are located near Launceston in northern Tasmania and the Devil's Corner cellar is on the east coast. UK importer is ABS Wine Agencies, available from Fine Wines Direct UK and Bin Ends at the Bear among others.
2013 Tamar Sauvignon blanc – hints of gooseberry and green pepper vs a fatter riper edge, crisp and juicy with lingering green berry fruit. Au$28, £14.99
2013 Devil's Corner Riesling (from two specific vineyards) – yeasty vs oily nose with light lime fruit, quite intense and 'mineral' with tight vs oily texture; nice style. Au$20, £14.49
2010 Kayena Vineyard Riesling – complex maturing oily notes vs intense 'mineral' palate with long zesty finish, drinking nicely now but will last longer. Yum. £14.99
2011 Tamar Gewurztraminer – quite elegant lychee and rose water style, rounded and mature, drink up now. £11.49
2013 Devil's Corner Pinot Noir ("small amount of barrel ageing") – light and fruity with cherry and herby berry, soft and elegant mouth-feel with a touch of grip and tasty juicy fruit. Au$22, £15.99
2011 Pinot Noir Kayena Vineyard – showing more depth and savoury development, firmer palate yet still silky with fresh structured feel vs attractive sweet/savoury fruit, still quite closed up actually. £15.99

Jansz is a consistently very good bubbly brand made by the traditional or Champagne method, or 'Méthode Tasmanoise' as they call it on their site in typically Aussie two fingers to the French style. The proof is in the pudding as we say...
Jansz Premium Cuvée NV (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay; 2+ years lees ageing in bottle) – Nice toasty touches on the nose, elegant vs yeasty profile with crisp steely bite vs lingering oat biscuit flavours, mouthwatering and tasty finish; good stuff. Au$22.95, £13-£15 Wine Direct, ND John, Hennings.
Jansz Premium Rosé NV (up to 3 years lees ageing) – Similar in some ways, more delicate even with subtle red berry and chocolate cake notes, yeasty vs refreshing crisp finish. Yum. Au$24.95, £14.95 Wine Direct, ND John.
Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2007 (Chardy, Pinot; 4.5 years ageing)  complex nose with toasted oat biscuit, lots of rich yeasty flavours vs again very crisp and well balanced; lovely classy fizz. Au$38.95, £21-£22 Frazier's, Field & Fawcett, Slurp.

Dalrymple Vineyards
This "premium" 12 ha estate is found in the Pipers River region northeast of Launceston, was planted in the early 1990s and is now run by viticulturist / winemaker Peter Caldwell.
2011 Piper's River Estate Chardonnay – complex lees-y oaty and buttery nose, savoury and nutty palate, soft and delicate with nice maturing vs still structured profile, long tasty finish; delicious wine. Au$35, £21-£25 Free Run Juice, Australian Wine Store.

2011 Pinot Noir – perfumed sweet/savoury nose, pure and elegant, lush s/s fruit vs crunchier fresher side, light bite of tannin vs silky maturing Pinot finish. Aus$36, £25 Australian Wine Store, Free Run Juice.

Mega brand Hardy's does also do a selection of high quality limited edition wines - after all they do own some historic vineyards - and their Eileen Hardy label is among them. They're sourcing fruit for the Chardy and Pinot from Tassie...
2012 Hardy's Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir (13.5% abv) - Perfumed and floral with sweet/savoury cherry fruit, quite delicate vs concentrated too, lovely lingering floral Pinot fruit on a silky backdrop. Yum although expensive: €45 in Ireland, UK: £35 Majestic Wine.

23 June 2015

South African Shiraz update: Cloof

Following on from my recent piece on South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz / Syrah, I've added two more tasty Shirazes ("sexy" even...) to this and featured them below as well, which are definitely worth throwing out there into the digital wine sphere (they've been winning a few medals recently too: find out more on their site). Both come from Cloof Wine Estate in the Darling region (about an hour or so north of Cape Town) and are 2012 vintage: 'The Very Sexy' Shiraz and Cloof Shiraz. Click on the highlighted link at the top to read the original post. These reds were both aged for 15 months in barrel with more new oak used for the second one, which is also only made from selected bush vine fruit with much lower yields. UK importer: Berkmann Wine Cellars, Cloof Wines UK; online: SA Wines Online, Wines U Like, All about Wine (£ prices stated). O'Brien's in Ireland (€) and many other international distributors (see site as linked above).

2012 Cloof 'The Very Sexy' Shiraz Darling (14.5% abv) - Attractive style, deep purple black, nice peppery black fruit nose with earthy gamey edges even and a hint of coconut oak, quite punchy and spicy mouth-feel, ripe and rounded with light coco texture vs a tad of dry grip, enticing lingering ripe vs savoury fruit with some freshness too. Next day: more savoury and peppery with roast red pepper tones vs fairly rich dark olive vs blackberry and meaty edges. Drinking nicely now although there's no hurry. R75, £12-£13, €15.49.

2012 Cloof Shiraz Darling (14.5% abv) - Apparently there's more oak on this wine but it doesn't really taste of it apart from a background note/texture. Nice wild herby/minty aromas with dark berry, cassis and cherry and liquorice vs savoury tones too; rounded and powerful with attractive tannins vs sweet fruit, roasted red pepper and meaty undertones, light bitter twist and grip on the finish vs a bit of punch and sweet/savoury flavours. Next day: meatier, mintier and spicier and a tad oakier wierdly (?) with that funky roasted red pepper vs cocoa/mocha notes too, sweet dark fruit vs firm and punchy vs rounded and textured, pretty concentrated as well with that light bitter twist adding a bit of edge. R120, £35?

18 June 2015

Wine Education Service NI summer and autumn events

First of all, a reminder about the next evening tasting at beginning of July in Belfast:

North & South American wines tutored tasting
Thursday 2 July 7-9 pm - £27.50
"A whirlwind mini-tour across the American continent, northern and southern hemisphere, taking in 6 to 8 wines (depending on numbers) from the US, Canada (maybe), Chile, Argentina and any surprises from South America I can lay my hands on!"
Pay by card or with your own Paypal account using the PP button below (you don't need an account to do this though):

Select event:

And now here's the new programme running from late September to late November 2015 - I'll create a Paypal button for these soon; in the meantime you can book online HERE.

Saturday 26 September: Spain and Portugal one-day workshop £90
"We'll taste and talk about a dozen or so red, white, rosé and fortified wines selected to highlight the very different regions, grape varieties and wine styles found across the 'Iberian peninsular'. This will include well-known 'classics' such as Rioja, Port​/Douro Valley and (real) Sherry​; but throwing in a few surprises too like Galici​a and Vinho Verde for whites, serious reds from Dao or the Alentejo and not forgetting the wine 'super-state' of Catalonia, home of some great reds, whites and Cava..." Includes two-course lunch at the hotel.

​​Thursday 29 October​ 7-9 pm​: ​​France vs ​​the 'New World' classic grape varieties tutored tasting £28.95
​"​We'll compare three or four pairs of well-known grape varieties from different regions of France ​with​ certain Southern Hemisphere countries, 'classic' styles of say Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah/Shiraz, Malbec... (two of each). Which is 'better', or are they just different?!"​

​​Saturday 14 November ​11 am-​2 pm​: "off the beaten track" ​wine tasting and ​lunch £49
"Come and explore the lesser-known, although certainly not less exciting, wine world with this morning tasting of about eight diverse high-quality wines from countries such as Lebanon, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and fine English sparkling wine too. Includes a two-course lunch at the hotel afterwards."

​​Thursday 26 November 7-9 pm: Italian wines​ £28.95
​"​At​ ​this wines of Italy ​evening tasting​, we'll take you on a guided tour around several of this very​ varied country's wine producing regions ​by​ tast​ing and talk​ing about ​a carefully selected range of​ excellent red and white​ wines. These will include classics from northern Italy, such as Piemonte and Veneto, central Italy such as Tuscany and Umbria, and the deep south e.g. Sicily, ​Campania,​ Puglia..."

07 June 2015

New Zealand: Tindall Vineyard, Marlborough

Based in Blenheim in deepest Marlborough wine country, I'm told this family estate is named after Henry Tindall, "grandfather of brothers Clyde and Nigel Sowman," who are now in charge working with well-known winemaker John Forrest. They've created three pretty stylish classic varietals, even if on the dearer side, which are produced by "certified organic grape-growing." UK importer is Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies: available from Smithfield Wine, Hannibal Brown, Rannoch Scott, Dorset Wine, Field & Fawcett, Darcy Wine, Slurp, Steep Hill Wines, Ministry of Drinks, Harrison's Vintners, Cork & Bottle, Christopher Piper, Wine Lines... (the average £ prices quoted). Apparently also available in Ireland, and in the Netherlands from Tamis Wijnen.

Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - lively and pure ripe gooseberry fruit on nose and palate, intense and crisp mouth-feel with nice long finish; classic NZ SB style. £11-£13
Chardonnay 2010 (barrel-fermented, 20% new oak) - enticing maturing fruit with oaty buttery aromas / flavours, elegant balanced style with tasty finish, drinking nicely now. £11-£13
Pinot Noir 2009 - lovely maturing sweet/savoury Pinot nose, soft and silky mouth-feel with subtle concentration and weight vs tasty complex and delicate finish. £17-£19

04 June 2015

Italy: Campania

Is Campania one of Italy's most exciting wine areas? It surrounds the region's capital Naples and spreads up and down the coast and inland, where the best-known vineyards lie on steep hillsides; as well as on the Vesuvius foothills and on the coast and islands of Capri and Ischia. Although it's a very southern region, Campania plays host to several excellent white varieties such as Falanghina, Fiano, Greco and the even more obscure/rare Coda di Volpe. On the red front, there's a fair amount of the sometimes star Aglianico grape planted, although I did find some of these a tad firm and extracted even after a few years ageing. The wineries tasted and reviewed in this post are found in the neighbouring subzone appellations of Sannio, Greco di Tufo and Taburno. € prices quoted are cellar door.

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See bottom of post for notes on their wines
Cantina Fontana delle Selve 2013 Falanghina, Sannio DOC - exotic peach and banana notes, quite soft and juicy vs underlying 'chalky' acidity.
Cantine Iannella 2013 Greco di Tufo DOCG - lively lemon apricot and yellow flower aromas, subtle yeasty edges and zesty texture, nice fresh vs weighty finish.

Vigne di Malies - Sannio DOC
Opalus 2013 Falanghina - quite rich and characterful, zesty and juicy vs fatter banana fruit, good wine.
Fojano 2013 Fiano - zesty and intense with floral notes and 'chalky' texture, juicy and delicate then weightier on its very nice finish.
Callida 2013 Coda di Volpe - zesty and 'chalky', tighter structured white with long intense finish.
Aedo 2013 Greco - more exotic perhaps and zestier, quite intense too with tasty complex finish.

Cantina del Taburno
Falanghina 2013 Sannio - lighter style perhaps, still nice and zesty / 'chalky' with long mouthwatering finish. €7.30
Greco 2013 - delicate and 'chalky' with floral celery tones vs juicy pear and ripe peach, crisp and tight on the finish. €7.50
Fidelis 2010 Aglianico del Taburno DOC - lively berry and cherry fruit vs firm structure, nice sweeter and perfumed fruit finish with liquorice notes vs that dry grip. €7.30
Bue Apis 2008 (100+ year-old Aglianico) - dark and smoky with peppery liquorice vs savoury aromas/flavours, still fairly solid structured palate vs lush dark and spicy fruit. Pretty serious red, needs food and a substantial bank account... €45.

La Fortezza
Falanghina 2013 Taburno DOC - quite concentrated peach and banana fruit vs zesty crisp mouth-feel, very nice. €7.50
Fiano 2013 Taburno DOC - similarly concentrated, a little richer and more exotic with rounder palate then zesty long finish. €8
Greco 2013 Taburno DOC - again quite rich vs intense, oily vs nutty palate with tasty long finish. €8

Cantina di Solopaca
Falanghina Frizzante Beneventano IGP (aged 1 month on the lees) - attractive style light fizz with floral notes and 'chalky' crisp bite.
Falanghina del Sannio 2013 - quite 'mineral' / 'chalky' texture with crisp delicate length.
Falanghina Spumante Brut, Sannio DOP (10 months on lees in tank) - a touch yeastier, fairly light and delicate too with refreshing frothy finish.
Fiano 2013 - nutty and intense with tight and crisp mouth-feel, lots of interesting flavours on the finish.
Intenso Moscato Dolce (5.5% abv) - lovely fresh Muscat aromas vs yeastier side, light and easy-drinking, nice sweet fizz.
Solopaca Rosso Classico 2011 Sannio DOP (60% Sangiovese 40% Aglianico, 18 months in barrel) - enticing smoky dark fruit nose with dried cherry and liquorice, firm and fresh mouth-feel vs savoury maturing notes and cooked berries, drinking well now.
Aglianico 2011 Sannio DOP - more structured and grippier vs ripe damson and kirsch flavours, fairly firm and tight still but drinking well enough now.

Masseria Venditti
2013 Assenza Barbetta Sannio DOC (Barbera, organic, no added sulphites) - shows lots of enticing vibrant berry cherry and cassis fruit vs lightly grippy texture, fairly intense actually with peppery liquorice on a long finish; very good.
2009 Marraioli Aglianico Sannio DOC (organic, no oak) - smoky & leather tones with liquorice and meaty edges, attractive firm vs sweet texture, very nice smoky finish; concentrated and tasty red.

02 June 2015

WES NI: North & South America tasting 2 July

The next Wine Education Service NI event in Belfast is:

North & South American wines tutored tasting
Thursday 2 July 7-9 pm - £27.50
"A whirlwind mini-tour across the American continent, northern and southern hemisphere, taking in 6 to 8 wines (depending on numbers) from the US, Canada (maybe), Chile, Argentina and any surprises from South America I can lay my hands on!"
Pay by card or with your own Paypal account using the PP button below (you don't need an account to do this though):

Select event: