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03 January 2017

Colheita Port: Cálem, Kopke, Barros, Burmester

Douro Valley vineyards by RMJ
Sogevinus is a sizable brand-owning Port company (they claim to be the number one seller in Portugal) with four famous labels in their portfolio (as tasting-noted below): Cálem, Kopke, Barros and Burmester. They also specialise in the Colheita style, a traditional Vintage Tawny Port (from a single named year and aged for many years in cask depending on house style and philosophy) made in limited quantities that you don't see around so much in export markets. These seven vintages, spanning all four brands and from the youngest 2003 (that's a white Port too) back to 1961, were showcased at an esoteric tasting at this year's London Wine Fair tutored by entertaining wine maverick Joe Wadsack and Sogevinus' Tania B. Oliveira (a while ago now admittedly, but a few months are irrelevant to these ports time-wise...).
Tania told us that these wines were bottled two weeks before the event: "They are usually bottled on demand so are still in cask... Look out for the bottling date on each bottle. Some other houses bottle when they think it's ready." Grape varieties include the usual blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Amarela and others; except the second white wine obviously - rarer still as a Colheita - made from 'traditional Douro varieties' (as much detail as I could find anywhere online), which are all sourced from the various Quintas owned by each company. See www.sogevinus.com for more info.

Cálem 2000 Colheita - Still relatively red/brown/orange in colour, toffee/coffee and dried raspberry notes with caramelised pecan nut edges, sweet and fiery palate initially although still tastes young, complex flavours with lingering sweetness vs more balanced 'cut'; powerful and concentrated, surprisingly fruity lively and well-balanced though, will keep and improve for some years yet. About £32 in the UK - Amathus Drinks.

Kopke 2003 white Colheita - A hot vintage. Volatile 'furniture polish' tones, still surprisingly ester-y actually; more obvious wood texture layered with roast hazelnut and walnut notes, tangy and punchy with attractive mix of subtle vs full-on flavours / sweetness; very nice and different 'white' Port, could age it for longer. £45 approx. - Hayward Bros.

Barros 1996 Colheita - Not much less colour than the 2000, a tad lighter/browner perhaps. A touch more 'volatile' and toffee-ish on the nose although still showing attractive red fruits and petals; relatively soft and mature with sweet pecan nut flavours, less punchy and drinking nicely now. £23-£28 The Drink Shop, Strictly Wine, Wine Man, Wine Therapy, Wine Poole.

Burmester 1989 Colheita - Quite brown/orange with 'Madeira' edges, oxidised caramel and nut notes with a fiery palate rounded by white chocolate and cocoa flavours, fairly sweet despite the alcohol cut; tasty now, gets more complex on the lingering finish. USA: Wineworth Importers (WA).

Barros 1974 Colheita - The year of the Revolution, not declared as a 'Vintage' Port year. This does not look 15 years older than the above! Slightly redder even. Spicy alcohol and walnut on the nose with sweet raisin and aromatic ginger cake flavours, sweet palate with a kick but layered with complex oxidised characters, still very alive; very nice Port. £97-£98 Wine from Portugal, Portugal Vineyards. €91 Portuguese Wines Shop.

Cálem 1961 Colheita - A touch browner and lighter but not much. 'Volatile' with baked nutty and coffee tones, woody even; punchy sweet and concentrated mouth-feel, turning tangier and more complex with sweet dried berries, textured palate too with almost old malt whisky edges; long and tasty finish, still surprisingly 'young' really. £168-£190 Amathus Drinks, Portugal Vineyards.

Kopke 1966 Colheita - Deeper browner colour. Mahogany and dark roast coffee on the nose with caramel, concentrated with nutty coffee flavours, punchy still rounded by nice tangy vs sweet berry fruit, powerful finish adding freshness to the rich backdrop. Wow. £117.50-£130 Hennings Wine, Davy's. US: Wineworth Importers (WA).

26 December 2016

Spain: Cava and Rioja 'of the moment'

Arestel Cava Brut (11.5% abv) - Such a bargain considering this is surprisingly good for the money: there can only be about £1 in it to cover production and everybody's profit, once you take off UK VAT and excise duty! (Who would want to supply Lidl and try actually making money...) Nicely floral and almond-nutty with refreshing aftertaste. £4.49 Lidl.

Heretat El Padruell Cava Brut, Jaume Serra (Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo; 11.5% abv) - A touch yeastier/toastier and 'oilier' yet similarly light and easy-going; nice start and end to Christmas day quaffing. £6 M&S (usually £8).

Marqués del Romeral Rioja Reserva 2010, Bodegas Age (Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo; 13.5% abv) - Lovely 'traditional' style with deft mix of smoky vanilla oak (American and French, for two years) and sweet red berry fruit, turning savoury and more complex on its soft stylish finish. Great pre-Christmas offer price too at £8.50 (usually £13.50 apparently), although it's probably already gone back up to full price. Went well with Guinea fowl for Xmas lunch. Image copied from Marks & Spencer's site.

22 December 2016

France: Bordeaux and Burgundy 'of the moment'

Juicy Merlot @ www.chateausoleil.fr
Château Soleil Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2009 (80% Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% abv): lush, concentrated, powerful yet stylish with plump mouth-feel; alluring smoky vs ripe vs maturing gamey fruit, still quite solid though. Delicious now (roast duck/goose?) but you could leave it for a few more years. €15.99 special offer at Aldi Ireland.
Baron de Rothschild Haut-Médoc 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot; 13.5% abv): decent example of Médoc style with fair depth of blackcurrant/plum fruit and subtle cedar-y oak, has a bit of grip but good fruit underneath. £14 Marks & Spencer.
Domaine Pierre de Préhy (Jean-Marc Brocard) Chablis 2012 (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv): mature and elegant with subtle layers of buttery nutty fruit and a hint of freshness still. Drinking well now. £15 Marks & Spencer.
Cave des Charmilles Moulin-à-Vent 2015 (Gamay, 13.5% abv): good value example of proper 'Beaujolais' but denser with lovely aromatic fruit and a touch of tannin too. £7.99 Lidl.
Domaine Louis Max Mercurey 2014 (Pinot Noir, 13% abv): from the Côte Chalonnaise area further south than the traditional Burgundy 'heartland'. Delicate perfumed Pinot style, soft texture and subtle long finish. Sometimes £15 on offer - usually £18 in Sainsbury's fine wine section.
Sauternes 'Taste the Difference' 2011 (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc; 13.5% abv): the good thing about Sainsbury's premium own-label range is that they tell you who the producer is, Château Guiraud in this case, one of the top Sauternes estates. Plenty of that weird exotic vs spicy botrytis-rot thing going on, very sweet and lush dried apricot flavours with rich oily texture vs fresh acidity riding underneath. Have a small glass instead of pudding (you don't want to ask how much sugar there is in this wine, not added though), or pour a little over some plain ice cream. £11 half-bottle.

10 December 2016

Pinot Noir 'of the moment': Bubbly, Burgundy and Beyond

Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé Brut (12% abv) - Bio Bio Valley, Chile. Stylish and elegant fizz with delicate sweet red berry fruit, enhanced by light yeast-lees tones and fairly crisp finish. £8 on offer at Tesco (usually £10) and other supermarkets.
Matua Pinot Noir 2014 (13% abv) - Marlborough, New Zealand. Reliably good Pinot combining fragrant 'sweet/sour' fruit and subtle oak. £9.98 Asda.
Palataia Pinot Noir Gerd Stepp 2014 (13.5% abv) - Pfalz, Germany. Stylish German red made by a former M&S buyer/winemaker, this oozes elegant Pinot charm with sweet/savoury berry fruits yet fairly weighty rounded mouth-feel and subtle oak. £11 M&S.
Domaine Sainte Rose Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir 2013, Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling (18 months yeast-lees ageing) - Languedoc, France. Attractive and pretty classy style fizz, showing structured and zesty mouth-feel layered with subtle yeast and toasted almond flavours. Like it. £15.99
Paul Mas Cuvée Secrète Pinot Noir, Méthode Traditionnelle NV – Languedoc, France. Red fizz: kinda like red Vinho Verde meets sparkling Shiraz! Different, goes well with cheese. Typical Mas experimenting as usual, and why not, it's the Languedoc after all.
Domaine Louis Max 2014 Mercurey (13% abv) - Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy. Delicate perfumed Pinot style, soft texture and subtle long finish. £15 (usually £18) Sainsbury's.

23 November 2016

Germany: Riesling 'of the moment'

Leitz 2015 Rheingau Riesling trocken (12% abv) - Tasty and classy example of the well-made dry Riesling styles coming out of Germany nowadays (Leitz is particularly good at it): aromatic, zesty, crisp and 'chalky' countered by 'oily' lemon and lime notes. £8 Asda 'rollback' (usually £9.50 - photo copied from Asda's website).

Piles more recommended Rieslings on this blog: HERE (Gerd Stepp, Pfalz), HERE (Chile), HERE and HERE (Alsace), HERE (Charles Smith, Washington State), HERE (Australia), HERE and HERE (Austria), HERE (Germany Grosses Gewächs) and HERE (Tasmania)...

27 October 2016

Intriguing white blends 'of the moment' - Rhone Valley vs Austria!

Matthias Krön and Markus Bach from Groszer Wein, (c) Manfred Klimek

Don't be put off by the retro-flowery-wallpaper label and litre bottle size (something of a 'USP' perhaps to use the marketing babble), the new 2015 Csaterberg 'field blend' (to use the old speak) from quirky Austrian winery Groszer Wein is a delicious mix of appley/cider notes and aromatic greengage layered with ripe creamy nutty 'oxidised' edges, nice yeast-lees intensity, pretty concentrated and textured too with full-bodied (13.5% abv) and nutty almost savoury finish, yet lively and dry with a 'salty' tang. Went well with 'baked salmon in watercress sauce and asparagus' (ho hum, M&S should stock it maybe!).
I'm told Matthias Krön and Markus Bach at Groszer Wein (pic. above) have three hectares of vines here, 'located on the south-east side of the Klein-Csaterberg... a south-west extension of the Eisenberg' (hillside vineyard and now a separate sub-zone) in Austria's Südburgenland region. The blend is created from 30+ year-old Welschriesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, 'macerated for 24 hours,' hence the towards-'orange' colour and style, before pressing then 'fermented with wild yeasts in 500 litre barrels and in stainless steel.' So now you know the full story. It's expensive at £25 in the UK - apparently 'only 3000 bottles have been produced' - but this tasty white has got plenty of flavour and you get a big bottle to share! Available from Newcomer Wines in London. Previous words on Groszer Wein HERE.

Not remotely connected to the above but probably got opened around the same time (and I thought it would make a nice 'theme'), leading southern Rhone Valley estate Domaine Brusset has released their Cairanne blanc 2015 Côtes du Rhône Villages crafted from an equally intriguing blend of white varieties: Grenache Blanche (as they spell it on the back-label, although I thought Grenache is 'masculine' hence we usually say 'blanc'), Viognier and Roussanne, 30% of it fermented in oak with lees-stirring adding zestiness, nutty creaminess and texture without any obvious oaky flavours, surprisingly floral and elegant actually (13% abv); good stuff. About £12-£14 in the UK (Great Western Wine, Big Red Wine Co.); €16.50 Mitchell & Son Dublin; US: Adrian Chalk Selection (NY); Canada: Rogers & Company (Ontario).
Also tried their 2014 'vieilles vignes' Cairanne red, which, although concentrated and structured, was a bit overly firm and lacking charm (probably needs leaving for a couple of years to see what happens...).
Previous words on Domaine Brusset HERE.

26 October 2016

American 'reds of the moment' (North and South)

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 (14.5% abv) - California, USA. Tasty reminder that Zinfandel is indeed a 'black' grape variety for making solid wild-edged red wines (as opposed to crap rosé), this is smoky and chewy with rich sunny fruit. Sainsbury's £10 (occasionally on offer at £8).
Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2014 (14.5% abv) - D.O Buin, Maipo River, Chile. From 'a single vineyard at 500 metres above sea level' in the newly demarcated 'Buin' sub-region, this sexy Syrah spent 16 months in French oak barrels. Quite oaky when first opened - in fact it tasted better two days later - yet lush and concentrated with dark spicy fruit, firm but well-textured tannins. One of Concha y Toro's posh ranges: £9 on offer at Tesco, usually £12.
More Syrah from Chile HERE.
Finca La Celia Pioneer Malbec 2013 (14.5% abv) - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. More serious and more 'savoury' example of the slightly ubiquitous Malbec variety, fairly full-bodied and structured vs attractive maturing fruit. Winemark £9.99.
Another big brand widely available Malbec I've enjoyed recently: Trivento Malbec Reserva 2015. Despite the sometimes misleading 'Reserve' word (which too often just means 'oaky'), this one nicely brings spicy ripe fruit to the fore.

18 October 2016

Merlot pie



I've received many emails over the last couple of weeks with all the usual hyperbole, facts and figures, excitement and/or disappointment about this year's vintage in Europe, and France especially (a very general synopsis would be good but not that much of it). One very long (as is their style but with lots of nice photos too) newsletter did stand out though from Château la Tulipe de la Garde in Bordeaux, containing a tempting-looking recipe for Merlot pie (above, obviously) and several happy harvest workers chomping away. Read the full works and see all the pics here: www.slurp.nu/88/english.html (where I stole the image from).

02 October 2016

Wine Education Service Belfast tastings and courses: revised programme

Saturday 8 October 11am-2pm Italian wine tasting with lunch £50
STILL A FEW PLACES LEFT!
Eight premium Italian wines tasted from around one of the world's most diverse and exciting wine producing nations, from the far north to deep south and the well-known to obscure, followed by your choice of a main course from the hotel's bar menu. Molto bene!

Thursday 24 November 6.45-8.30pm Bordeaux & Burgundy wine tasting £36
Six sumptuous whites and reds savoured from arguably France's two most famous wine regions, showcasing some classy styles of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Soak up the history, chateaux and vineyard names!

Saturday 4 February 2017 10.45am to 4.30pm 'New World' wines one-day workshop £90
Including lunch from the hotel's bar menu, course manual and at least a dozen high-quality classic-style wines tasted and discussed, which will be sourced from across the southern hemisphere wine-producing nations and North America.

Thursday 2 March 2017 6.45-8.30pm Syrah / Shiraz wine tasting £30
Six to eight (depending on numbers) different wines from around the world - France, Australia, Chile, South Africa etc. - all made from the world's most popular red grape variety. So why do the French say Syrah, the Aussies say Shiraz and others say both?!

Classic Grape Varieties five week course £150 (£155 by PayPal) - Thursday evenings 6th April, 13th April, 20th April, 27th April and 4th May 2017 from 6.45-8.30pm.
Your chance to become an expert wine taster! At each session, we'll taste three white and three red wines; each trio of wines will be made from the same grape variety and sourced from leading wine producers worldwide. Varieties covered in each session: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Merlot, Viognier and Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Gris/Grigio and Tempranillo. Comprehensive course material also provided. It's a classic!

The venue for these events is the Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. More info and online booking via the Wine Education Service site (payment by bank transfer or cheque):
Facebook.com/WineEducationServiceNI (sign in to Facebook to view).
Or you can pay by card or your own PayPal account by clicking on the button below (you don't need a PP account to do this though: just click on 'pay as guest'). You can change the quantity of tickets on the secure web form:


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Click here for more about PayPal payments and your privacy. WES terms & conditions apply, which will be emailed with your invoice or can be viewed on this blog HERE. Wine Education Service NI does not sell wine - our wine tastings and classes are designed to be purely educational and informal while focusing on getting more enjoyment out of tasting wine; we source high quality representative samples from a variety of different retailers.