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18 July 2014

Bordeaux has moved...

You'll now find everything Bordeaux teleported to French Mediterranean Wine.com, as "it seemed like a good idea (at the time)..." Click on the title links below to these two crammed pages:
Bordeaux 'retrospective': new page with archive features (2003-2001) on Pomerol (Vieux Château Certan, Le Pin, Gazin), Château Falfas & biodynamics and Bordeaux travel 'famous Châteaux spotting'...
"During the meanwhilst," just to prove I'm not entirely stuck in the past, I'm working on a big report on Portuguese wines from the Lisbon area (as well as a spot of decorating...): "watch this space" as they say...

30 May 2014

Australia & New Zealand: "wines of the mo"

Tried and tested recently at an Aus and NZ themed tasting I held in Belfast, here are my favourite half-dozen worth highlighting that are all widely available as long as you look on these supermarkets' usually a little dustier top shelves... But all good value in their own different ways, especially as a couple of them were on "third-off" type offers too.

Jacob's Creek 2011 Reserve Riesling, Barossa, South Australia (11.5% abv) – you've probably spotted this huge brand's "Reserve" range before (from specific subregions, there's also e.g. a Chardy, Pinot and Shiraz), which generally really are worth a go like this delicate mature yet fairly intense Riesling. It has lots of those characteristic intriguing maturing oily aromas/flavours and some lingering ripe lime zest still. Drinking well now with seafood in a winey/creamy sauce? £9.99 Tesco
More Oz Riesling HERE and HERE.
Villa Maria 2013 Pinot Grigio, East Coast, New Zealand (13.5%) - from memory, this was labelled as Pinot Gris until recently, pointing to a more French Alsace style perhaps (but sensible marketing obviously got the better of them). It's definitely got more character and mouth-weight than your average Italian PG, with nice juicy honey and melon flavours and refreshing vs full finish. Good with not too spicy Indian, Chinese or Thai I reckon. £10 Asda
Yering Station 2011 'Wild Ferment' Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Aus (12%) - one of Sainsbury's superior "Taste the Difference" labels, this was a good result since I wanted to show a more elegant less oaky style of Chardy. Attractive nutty lightly creamy and oatmeal edges, a touch of zing still although again drinking well now, well-balanced with very subtle oak ageing. Value @ £9 considering the price of say Chablis nowadays. 
McWilliam's 2005 Mount Pleasant 'Elizabeth' Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Aus (12%) - a great example of one of those weird and wonderful bottle-aged Semillon styles, and again value @ £8.99 at Tesco, this has almost toasted characters, despite it being kept away from barrels, with lingering complex savoury vs green/stone fruit mix.
Oz Semillon tasting HERE.
Matua 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand (13%) - Matua seems quite big now, but they still turn out a fairly classy Pinot with perfumed cherry/berry fruit, a more savoury side too and just a hint of oak thankfully. With duck? £10.98 Asda
More NZ Pinot HERE.
Xanadu 2011 'Next of Kin' Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Aus (14%) - towards delicious Cab with plenty of ripe blackcurrant/cherry'damson, chunky mouth-feel yet with rounded texture, again subdued oak vs quite concentrated fruit, powerful yet balanced. Value @ £8.50 Sainsbury's.

24 May 2014

English Wine Week: 24 May - 1 June

English Wine Week kicks off today running to 1st June. Why not celebrate in style with my English sparkling wine supplement fizzing over with top sparklers including Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, Knightor and Furleigh. Yours for just £2.50 or free if you subscribe to my blogs (full details by clicking on the link above).

More info about what's going on at wineries in England and Wales, tastings, in-store promotions etc. can be found on the EWW website:
www.englishwineproducers.co.uk

22 May 2014

Spain: Rioja 2007 and 2009

According to the 'official' (seemingly rather biased) Rioja vintage ranking chart (goes to the Rioja UK site) - difficult to believe they've had nothing but "good", "very good" or "excellent" vintages since 1985, and 1972 was the last "average" year - 2007 and 2009 were both judged as "muy buena" (very good) and, generally speaking, are drinking well now. Here's my top twenty Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva (= shorter to longer barrel and bottle ageing: the site linked above clarifies this... yawn) and otherwise aged / labelled 2007 and 2009 reds picked from a more-Rioja-than-anyone-could-ever-taste tasting. The former traditional terms for maturation time / 'quality' are best taken as style guidelines, since some producers choose not to follow the 'rules' and don't use this terminology. All of these Riojas are made from mostly Tempranillo (sometimes 100%) with Garnacha (Grenache) and/or Mazuelo (Carignan/Cariñena) and/or Graciano; any variation on this theme has been specified after the wine's name. The vague ££-£££ bands quoted give you an idea of UK price at least.

familiamartinezbujanda.com
Álvarez Alfaro 2009 Crianza (14% abv) - still quite tightly structured with cedary notes/texture vs developing savoury/sweet fruit, a touch of firm tannin vs nice maturing and warming dried fruit finish. £5-£10. Profile on AA and previous vintages HERE (May 2011).
Berberana 2007 Reserva d'Avalos Etiqueta Negra (13.5%) - 'volatile' savoury notes vs ripe and smoky; smooth and warm with nice dried berry fruits, light grip and vanilla spice on the finish. £10-£15 United Wineries
Campo Viejo 2007 Gran Reserva - considering CV is now a massive international brand, they still manage to produce good quality, classic-style Reserva and Gran Reserva barrel-aged Rioja; this one delivers very nicely with smooth maturing fruit and light vanilla edges. Sainsbury's £15.99, £11.99 on offer (one of my Feb. "wines of the mo").
Cantauri 2007 Reserva, Alonso González (13.5%) - ageing meaty nose, quite concentrated and rich sweet/savoury fruit vs fair grip still and a touch of sweet oak; nice depth of character, drinking well now. £10-£15
Castroviejo 2009 Reserva, Pastor Díaz (13.5%) - turning 'volatile' / 'cheesy' with attractive ripe juicy fruit and sweet/savoury edges, quite soft tannins with a little dry bite; nice warm finish with some structure still vs liquorice and damson fruit. £5-£10 (?)
Caudum 2009 Selección Especial, Larraz (14%) - fairly rich and smooth dark cherry and berry fruit vs big and structured yet with soft tannins, nice warm savoury finish; good foodie style, drinking well now but still has a future ahead of it. £10-£15
Finca Egomei 2009 (14 months ageing, 14.5%) - enticing ripe dried fruit with savoury edges, big lush and warming palate with soft tannins and integrated oak texture; nice more 'modern' style. £5-£10
Federico Paternina 2009 Crianza Selección Especial (13%) - smoky, rustic, 'volatile', earthy edges with cedar/coconut tones; nice dark black cherry fruit with a bit of punch and dry bite/grip, rounded though and fairly elegant and balanced style, tasty and drinking well now.
Finca Valpiedra 2007 Reserva (also contains a splash of the Maturana tinta variety, 14% abv) - seductive smoky nose, dark ripe fruit vs sweet spiced oak vs 'volatile' savoury 'cheesy' edges; concentrated and lush with good bite and grip still, a big wine yet nicely layered/textured with lovely rich fruit. £21 Laithwaite's
Hacienda de Susar 2007, Marqués de la Concordia (15% Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; aged 15 months in French oak; 14.5% abv) - leafier / more cedary on the nose, rich and dark vs light coconut grain; the wood's a little forced and awkward, but the wine's concentrated with nice warm fruit finish. +£15 United Wineries
Marqués de Campo Nuble 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - coconut grain edges vs seductive warm dried fruits and developing meaty edges, attractive sweet/savoury finish still with a bit of grip and oomph, nice dry vs sweet texture.
Marqués de la Concordia 2007 Reserva (13.5%) - complex and spicy with savoury vs sweet fruit and oak on the nose and palate, attractive dry vs ripe texture again, seductive and long. Pretty text book trad Reserva style. £10-£15 United Wineries
Navajas 2007 Reserva (14%) - similar to above, a bit fuller perhaps and less developed to start; turning warm and seductive, quite punchy on the finish still with cloves and sweet dried berry fruits, fairly structured for its age as well; nice commercial Reserva style and good value: £5-£10.
Ortubia 2007 Reserva (14%) - baked sweet black cherry fruit with 'cheesy' savoury edges, still firm and concentrated though with seductive spicy fruit and palate weight. Yum.
Peña Aldera 2007 Reserva, Jalón (organic, 14%) - surprisingly tight still on the palate vs smoky maturing edges, sweet dried plum and spice vs power and grip, opening up on its attractive and long savoury finish. Value: £5-£10.
Rioja Bordón 2007 Reserva, Franco Españolas (13.5%) - smoky maturing nose with light coconut hints, sweet/savoury profile, quite rich ripe and warm with subtle grip; nice balance and style. £5-£10
Señorio de Moraza 2007 Reserva (14%) - meaty slightly baked nose with enticing 'cheesy' tones, sweet/savoury fruit, tannins are a little clunky although has nice lingering warmth and mature sweet fruit. £5-£10
Señorio de Olartia 2007 Reserva (13.8%) - mature baked savoury fruit, sweet berry and plum too with a touch of grip still; nice wine although probably peaked. £5-£10
Solabal 2007 (24 months ageing, 14.5%) - sweet oak/fruit combo with coco edges and attractive berry fruit, still structured and pretty punchy (a bit too alcoholic maybe) vs good sweet/savoury fruit finish. £5-£10
Urbina 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - sweet perfumed vs meaty nose, fairly 'light' mouth-feel with almost Pinot Noir type of delicate sweet/savoury character and fresh bite, a touch of grip and subtle fruit to finish. Nice style.

Much more Rioja on my Spain archive page: www.winewriting.com/spain

15 May 2014

Croatia

New feature on wines from Croatia including these dozen wineries: Roxanich, Geržinić, Laguna, Matošević, Belje, Iločki, Krauthaker, Daruvar, Bodren, Stina, Zlatan, Svirče; and the local varieties Teran, Malvazija, Graševina, Zelenac, Traminac, Plavac Mali, Pošip among others... Plus a few travel tips thrown in too...
"As for the main wine producing regions touched on and tasted here, Istria is that huge peninsular forming the northwestern chunk of Croatia lying to the south of Trieste and the Slovenian border and, at a dreamy distance, facing Venice across the Adriatic to the west and the first of Croatia's many beautiful coastal islands to the east. The Istrian red variety Teran, or Terrano, is actually related to Refosco and is found in Croatia, Italy and Slovenia. One of the principal white grapes grown in this area is Malvazija or 'Istrian' Malvasia, which can be transformed into some pretty good and varied-style white wines..."
READ ON... (goes to "Croatia page".)

Pic. = RMJ in Split old town.

29 April 2014

Chile: Cabernet Sauvignon

In a similar vein to my piece on Cabernet from Argentina (goes there) posted at the end of last year, Merlot, Carmenere and now Syrah and Pinot have perhaps become Chile's most fashionable varietal darlings. But there's still a lot of vinous enjoyment to be had from wines made solely or mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon; and occasionally more than mere enjoyment, as in fact some of Chile's best reds are crafted from Cab or Cab blends. Here's a gratuitous 'top ten' then (actually, "this one goes to 11...") that have come my wine-way in recent-ish times. By the way, when I say cassis as in French for blackcurrant, I'm not trying to be pretentious (aside the simple fact of having two wine blogs, which is a bit pretentious); I simply mean a riper fruit style than typical 'crunchy' blackcurrant, say, more like, well erm, crème de cassis I suppose. In any case, it's just too subjective all this currant vs cherry vs berry jargon...

Errazuriz - Aconcagua Valley
Max Reserva 2010 - smoky and perfumed nose showing ripe cassis, dark cherry/berry and liquorice too; firm textured palate yet nicely balanced with all that fruit as well, attractive style. £10
Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2008 (80% Cabernet Sauvignon + Petit Verdot, Cab Franc & Syrah) - quite a bit of smoky/toasty oak at first vs rich dark berry and liquorice fruit, extracted chunky mouth-feel with chocolate texture vs concentrated, serious wine turning slightly savoury on the finish yet still young and structured too. Expensive but it's their "icon" red: £45.
UK: The Drink Shop, Waitrose, Wine Rack and independent merchants. US: Vintus, NY.

Cono Sur - Maipo Valley
Single Vineyard El Recurso Block 18 2011 - lush cassis fruit, concentrated and chunky with firm and extracted mouth-feel, plenty of nice fruit. Good stuff. Their site matches this slightly chef-y dish with it: Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Onions and Mushroom Quinoa. US: Vineyard Brands.

Cimarosa - Maule Valley

Cuvée Especial 2011 "Winemaker's Selection by Claudio Villouta" (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Syrah; 13.5% abv) - cedar notes vs spicy red pepper vs cassis/damson/black cherry/kirsch; quite powerful with aromatic fruit vs smoky savoury edges, nice mouthful of ripe vs crunchy fruit, a touch of chocolatey texture with grip and structure, the oak is well done though and overall it's well-balanced. Good value. Lidl UK £7.99

Morandé - Maipo Valley
Gran Reserva 2010 (14.5% abv) - complex, lightly 'reductive' even (when I tried it) perfumed cassis on the nose, tasty fruit on the palate with nice grip and subtle oak, tight structured dry finish vs attractive lingering sweet/floral fruit. UK £10 TheDrinkShop.com, US $18.50-$20 Saratoga Wine Exchange, Cedar Green Wine and others.

La Porta - Aconcagua Valley
Reserva 2012 - nice crunchy blackcurrant with darker lusher fruit underneath, has a touch of grip on the palate, subtle and quite tasty wine. UK £6, US $9 Total Wine & More.
Gran Reserva 2011 - shows hints of cedar-y oak on the nose, firmer and more concentrated than the Reserva with dark berry fruit and solid tight finish; softens up a little once it opens up revealing more. $16


Cremaschi Furlotti - Loncomilla Valley (Maule)
Edición Limitada de Familia 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah) - creamy vs perfumed and crunchy berry, again nice fruit (like their single vineyard Cab) vs firm yet supple tannins, spicier and more savoury finish (that's enough contradictions...). Dangerous Wine Group Washington DC $23, Denmark €25.

Carmen - Maipo Valley
Gold Reserve 2009 - attractive cassis/blackcurrant fruit, quite extracted yet concentrated, maturing and turning savoury vs still pretty firm mouth-feel but there's nice lingering fruit. Silly price though: Ace Spirits $48, GetWineOnline $40+tax; £41-£45 TheDrinkShop.com, Corking Wines.

Indomita - Maipo Valley
Gran Reserva 2012 - crunchy vs ripe cassis and lively berry fruit too with sweet herb undertones, firm and chunky vs nice fruity style, has a bit of depth too. £8-£9 Connolly's, Cambridge Wine, Elwood Wines.
Quintus organic 2012 - similar although a touch riper sweeter fruit perhaps, fairly intense dark berry fruit, structured powerful and solid vs attractive dried fruit finish. Good wine. €12-€13 Wijnvoordeel Netherlands, Bourse du Vin Belgium, Weinversand Germany.
Some of the prices and stockists quoted were found on www.wine-searcher.com

15 March 2014

USA: New York State Riesling

Claiming to be "America's oldest winery," established in 1839, and "home to the largest underground wine cellar in the country," Brotherhood Winery (link to their site) is obviously full of superlatives. I did like these two subtle Rieslings though (tasted last year and neglected up until now); they also make Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot and a whole host of other curiously named/labelled bottles, some of which will make certain European producers' hair stand on end. You'll find them in Washingtonville in the Hudson Valley, a good trek directly north of New York City.
Brotherhood 2011 Hudson Valley dry Riesling - aromatic floral vs oily notes, delicate lime fruit with developing nutty oily flavours vs 'chalky' edges. Good. $9.99
Brotherhood 2011 Premium Selection Riesling - medium 'Mosel' style, 'chalky' and zesty with underlining sweet citrus fruit. Attractive. $9.99

From www.drfrankwines.com
Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the States from the Ukraine in the early 1950s armed with a PhD in viticulture and, after doing some research, came to the conclusion that "the lack of proper rootstock, not the cold climate, was the reason for the failure of Vitis Vinifera (European) vines in the Finger Lakes region." He founded the winery there in 1962 planting Riesling and other aromatic varieties, and his work has been followed on by son Willy and now grandson Frederick. It's located in Hammondsport, upstate on the Lakes to the west of Ithaca.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Finger Lakes dry Riesling - aromatic zesty and limey with lively crisp and 'chalky' mouth-feel, intense and concentrated. Lovely. $14.99

Nestling by the wee town of Lodi lying between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, northwest of Ithaca, Boundary Breaks only grows (overseen by vineyard manager Kees Stapel) and makes Riesling, four different ones in fact. "Why?" as it says on their site: "Because we only want to do one thing, very, very well." Like their style, especially since the vines were only planted in 2008 and the results already look quite impressive. Apparently the "breaks" are dramatic mini gorges caused by glaciers found at either end of the vineyard; the landscape around here certainly looks stunning from the nice photos on boundarybreaks.com.
Boundary Breaks 2011 Finger Lakes Riesling - developing oily and honeyed notes with lime too, perfumed vs fairly rich style with nice bite and refreshing finish. Good stuff.

Lamoreaux winery is a neighbour of BB above found "on the eastern hillsides of Seneca Lake," although they've been around for "three generations." This family business was founded by manager-winemaker Mark Wagner and is co-owned by Josh Wig. They have over 100 acres (40 ha) of vineyards in 20 different blocks planted with a mix of white and red varieties. More @ lamoreauxwine.com.
Lamoreaux Landing 2012 Red Oak Vineyard Finger Lakes Riesling - more delicate style and a tad sweeter, oily vs citrus combo leads to a zingy more closed up finish. $19.99

You'll find this curiously named winery in Hector a little to the south of the two vineyards mentioned above, just west of the Finger Lakes National Forest. Red Newt sounds pretty geared up for visitors and groups too, as there's a bistro, coffee bar, tasting room and shop. They make quite a wide range of Rieslings including a few single site wines. Check it out @ rednewt.com.
Red Newt Cellars 2011 Sawmill Creek Riesling - lifted lime aromas vs oily undertones, steely 'chalky' palate vs attractive sweeter oily side, nice style and balance mixing maturing yet lively characters.
Red Newt Cellars 2011 Lahoma Vineyard Riesling - lovely linseed oil vs lime combo, a tad riper and fuller with complex developing flavours vs crisp backdrop. Very good. $20

Another proud Riesling specialist (they do five), Fox Run's winemaker is Australian Peter Bell who's been at the winery since 1995 and says this is what brought him to the region. As their site (links) enthuses: "Riesling is king in the Finger Lakes. This noble grape is the most widely planted Vinifera variety with nearly 1000 acres in production and almost every winery produces at least one Riesling brand. The microclimate conditions and the slate soils that are so special to the Finger Lakes are exactly what make Riesling thrive here." FR lies to the northeast of Penn Yan on the other side of Lake Seneca.
Fox Run 2012 Finger Lakes Riesling - a touch of SO2 on the nose when I tasted it, zesty and 'chalky' with yeasty undertones, delicate and closed up; quite intense, fine and crisp though needing a little time to open up and settle down. $13.99?

Sheldrake Point has 44 acres (18 ha) planted on the west shore of Cayuga Lake just east of Ovid, and they have a second tasting room in Hector too. As well as a regular (reviewed below, I think...) and Reserve Riesling, the winery also produces late harvest and ice wine versions; these Rieslings are modelled on the Alsace style according to their site. More info @ www.sheldrakepoint.com.
Sheldrake Point 2011 Finger Lakes Riesling - maturing oily notes, quite concentrated with 'chalky' and crisp vs perfumed profile, nice intense lively vs maturing mix. $16

10 March 2014

English sparkling wine supplement

I've put together a 10-page special supplement on English sparkling wines, which is fizzing over with great 'Champagne' lookalikes, and taste-alikes, from a dozen exciting English wine estates, vineyards, wineries and brands featuring Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, Knightor and Furleigh. Plus a few facts, figures and comments on where the English fizz industry is at... Available as a PDF mini-mag emailed to you for just £2.50 (about €3 or $4) - buy it with Paypal. Not free2view!





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20 February 2014

"Wines of the mo" - Germany, S Africa, Spain, France, Portugal, Argentina

rustenberg.co.za
My favourites - and many of the enthusiastic attendees - from around the globe tasted on a recent Saturday 'wine workshop' I ran in Belfast, which deserve a little more airing:

Germany, Mosel: Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2006 - lovely example of delicate yet characterful mature Riesling with all that intricate oily 'kerosene' thing going on, rounded medium-dry palate with a touch of lingering fresh acidity underneath still, elegant long finish. Plenty of complex flavour for an unoaked white wine with 10.5% abv. James Nicholson list price about £14 I think (now sold out), although I got it in their sale for less than a tenner.

South Africa, Stellenbosch: Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2009 (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec) - very attractive traditional style SA red blend with power and weight (14.5% abv), smoky with dark berry fruit richness, still structured and chunky with nice tannins though, lovely depth, concentration and balance. Will keep longer but enjoy it now with hearty winter food. James Nicholson list price £12.50, about 30% off in their sale.

Spain, Rioja: Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (mostly Tempranillo) - considering CV is now a massive international brand, they still manage to produce good quality, classic style Reserva and Gran Reserva barrel-aged Rioja styles, this delivers very nicely with smooth maturing fruit and light vanilla edges. Sainsbury's £15.99, £11.99 on offer.

France, Champagne: Oudinot Brut Vintage 2005 - one of Marks & Spencer's long-standing co-op Champers labels, this is a fine example of a longer aged, vintage blanc de blancs style (100% Chardonnay); nice toasty yeasty richness, elegant poise and balance, crisp vs rounded and very tasty. Fair class. £30

Portugal, Douro Valley: Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008 (20% abv) - I remember those jokey TV ads for Cockburn's going back a couple of decades (at least?) now probably, which kind of summed it up as good old reliable Port but not much more. Well, this was a pleasant surprise and a delicious style of LBV with plenty of rich black plum and spice, dense tannins vs alcohol vs subdued sweetness in the end and alluring smoky tobacco notes. "Nice." Good value too: Sainsbury's £12

Plus a forgotten about but still worth mentioning red from Argentina, tasted a couple of months ago:
Argentina, Valle de Uco, Mendoza: Melisa Malbec 2012 (13.5% abv) - nice aromatic violet and herby spicy elderberry nose with underlying darker black cherry and savoury notes, peppery crunchy cran/elderberry fruit vs riper cassis and cherry, quite soft tannins and a bit of oomph, sweet liquorice vs white peppery and wild herby, a bit of weight and grip vs fresh bite. Naked Wines £8.49 - apparently £10,000 of the money earned helped fund a study scholarship for winemaker Patricio Gougenheim's employees' children.