RICHARD MARK JAMES' OTHER WINE BLOG

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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), especially for aromatic white varieties, top Pinot Noir (which now accounts for almost half of varieties planted) and fine fizz too. See winetasmania.com.au and tamarvalleywineroute.com.au 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, Bin Ends at the Bear.
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 but dear: €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!"
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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. tindallvineyard.co.nz

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.

Downloaded from www.facebook.com/AnticaMasseriaVenditti
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!"
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South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz / Syrah

darlingcellars.co.za
Traditional vs new South Africa perhaps? Maybe not: I was at least curious to 'revisit' the sometimes unloved Pinotage variety and see how the wines have changed over the past few years. And likewise, although hardly ever unloved, for Syrah or Shiraz (seems to depend on whether the producer feels they're aiming for a French or New World style, or their marketing angle), which is a relative newcomer to South Africa and, going back in time a little, sometimes ended up as rather clunky overblown reds. So, the big "42"? Well, it's not hard to find good wines made from either, or a mix of the two even. Here are 30-odd that did it for me - some of them are pricey though by the way - mostly varietal Pinotage or Shiraz with a few blends of the two or other combos.

2012 Spice Route Pinotage Swartland - smoky nose with coconut edges, lots of spicy fruit and oomph with subtle oak backdrop on the palate, firm mouth-feel but not over-extracted. Good mouthful of flavour although should be for £11.49-£12. Vineyards Direct, SA Wines Online, Lea & Sandeman.
2009 Spice Route Terra de Bron Syrah Swartland - quite concentrated with perfumed sweet berry fruit, turning savoury vs still firm on the finish with attractive ripe fruit. Good Rhone-y style, expensive though: £18-£19. SA Wines Online
2010 Glenelly Syrah Stellenbosch - vibrant and spicy with white pepper tones, punchy and concentrated palate with alluring minty side too, dry yet nicely textured tannins. £12 Tesco.com Wine Direct.
2011 Ernie Els Proprietor's Syrah Helderberg (+5% Viognier) - fairly tightly structured wine, spicy blackberry fruit develops vs again well-done tannins. Still a tad young really with promise. $27-$40 Wine.com, Cape Ardor. £21.75-£22.50 SA Wines Online, Wine Direct.
2010 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah Stellenbosch - fairly rich and concentrated with more coconut oak, quite austere big Northern Rhone style perhaps needing even more time in bottle... £16.69 SA Wines Online, £15.70 (casex12) Wine Down.
2011 Kaapzicht Pinotage Stellenbosch - quite concentrated with peppery cranberry and red pepper notes vs a darker smokier side, tight and firm mouth-feel vs stylish spicy/sweet/savoury combo finish. £14.69 SA Wines Online, Tanners.
2010 Kaapzicht Estate Pinotage (barrel selection) - more obvious oak but it's richer and more concentrated, showing enticing sweet/savoury development, punchy and spicy vs nice lingering maturing fruit. Yum - typically it's their dearest one: £27.99 Virgin Wines.
2013 Darling Cellars Black Granite bush vine Shiraz Coastal Region - spicy minty style with ripe berry fruits, quite soft and juicy vs punchy finish. Attractive now. £8.50 Amazon (case x 3), Wine Down £7.99 (case x 12).
2013 Darling Cellars Chocoholic Pinotage Coastal Region ('Ripasso' style with some dried grapes) - lush and smoky vs peppery and herby, big solid finish layered with chunky sweet fruit. £8.95-£10.99 The Drinks Shop, Great Grog, Oxford Wine Co., Paul Roberts Wines, Tesco.com, Harvey Nichols.
2012 Baker Station Reserve Shiraz Franschhoek Cellars - fairly rich and spicy with light coconut grain, firm 'chalky' tannins plus a bit of weight and roundness, drier on the finish. £7.49-£8.95 Fine Wines Direct, Village Wines, Corks Out, SA Wines Online.
2013 Rib Shack Red 'Extra Smooth' Pinotage/Shiraz Douglas Green - spicy berry and smoked red pepper then juicy and fairly soft palate, nice 'commercial' style. c. $10 widely available in the US; £7.39-£7.99 Amazon (case x 3), SA Wines Online.
2014 Douglas Green Pinotage - spicy smoky roasted red pepper notes mingle with peppery berries, again quite soft and juicy mouth-feel. £6.59 SA Wines Online.
2012 Bellingham Basket Press Syrah Stellenbosch (+ a splash of Viognier) - a touch of coconut grain with spicy berries, quite elegant and tight actually with subtle long finish. £11.60 Amazon (case x 3), £11.79 SA Wines Online.
2012 Boschendal Bush Vine Pinotage Stellenbosch/Darling (25+ year-old vines) - concentrated spicy berry, again tightly structured and quite elegant vs big and punchy, still needs some time in bottle but impressive. About £15.
2013 Brampton Estate Pinotage - spicy berry on the nose with roast red peppers, juicy vs grippy palate, attractive style.
2012 Brampton Estate Shiraz - peppery blackberry notes, then tight and 'chalky' tannins with nice combo of almost crunchy vs sweeter fruit, promising. £10.19 SA Wines Online.
2012 Welgemeend Amadé Grenache Syrah Pinotage Paarl - earthy and peppery, quite restrained and firm on the palate vs nice sweet berry and spice, fairly tightly structured 'Euro' style.
2012 Doolhof Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage Wellington - toasty roasted red pepper plus a smoky darker side, coffee and dark chocolate too, quite soft and silky though with tasty savoury flavours as well. £10+ UK, about $20 in the US.
2010 Major's Hill Pinotage Robertson - smoky roast red pepper and spice vs maturing savoury notes and a touch of coconut grain, fairly full and punchy on its lightly grippy finish. €17-€18 Searsons Wine Merchants, Baggot Street Wines (Dublin). £18.90 Catchpole Cellars.
2013 Lutzville Ebenhaeser Pinotage/Shiraz Oliphants - quite intense and spicy with firm tannins vs vibrant berry fruits and coffee vs roasted red pepper finish.
2012 Lutzville Pinotage François Le Vaillant - touch of coconut spice and grain vs fairly concentrated palate with spicy berry fruits, grippy but nice tannins with attractive savoury vs spicy combo finish. Good.
2014 Lutzville Shiraz - lively blackberry with blackcurrant too, juicy with a touch of grip then nice punchy peppery finish.
2012 Oak Valley Shiraz Elgin - coffee and mocha tones with spicy red peppery edges, lively and juicy palate with structured vs softer mix, smoky 'cooler' style.
2012 Ormonde Chip off the Old Block Shiraz Darling - intense mint/eucalyptus edges vs smoky dark berry fruit, quite concentrated and chunky/grippy vs attractive sweet/savoury fruit on the finish. Good stuff.
2012 Balance Pinotage Western Cape (mostly Swartland) - spicy nose with coffee vs red pepper, lively smoky berry fruit, soft-ish tannins with a little depth and grip to finish.
2010 Somerbosch Shiraz Stellenbosch - maturing savoury vs minty spicy nose, some firmness on the palate still vs nice maturing fruit with spicy berry and coffee tones, drinking well now.
2013 Cavalli Cheval d'Or Black Beauty Shiraz Western Cape - mocha vs roasted red pepper notes, peppery blackberry too with smoky savoury hints then lively finish with light grip. £10 Hard to Find Wines.
2012 Saronsberg Shiraz Tulbagh - coconut oak touches, fairly concentrated though with nice texture, still quite structured with peppery berry finish, needs a few more months/years to round out. £20 Adnams.
2011 Post House Missing Virgin (70% Pinotage 30% Petit Verdot, 15.5% abv) - lush and dark with a touch of oak vs attractive savoury side, chunky firm tannins vs rich and concentrated with gutsy finish for sure. Irony. About $30 in US, Classic Drinks in Ireland.
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?
The two reds above 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.

26 May 2015

English sparkling wine update

Upperton Vineyard: Andy Rogers surveys the lie of his land
To celebrate English Wine Week (goes to their website) this week, I've (finally) updated my now 14-page ("and counting") mini-guide to English sparkling wines. This includes profiles of 15 exciting English wine estates, vineyards, wineries and brands and notes on their 'Champagne method' fizz ranges. Featuring (three new entries) Upperton, Brightwell and Hattingley Valley, as well as updates on Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, Knightor and Furleigh. Plus a few facts, figures and thoughts on where the English (and Welsh) wine industry is at with the latest on vintage 2014 etc. Available as a PDF mini-mag with pics emailed to you for just £2.50 (about €3.50 or less than $4) - buy it by card or your own Paypal account (although you don't need one to do this or subscribe).

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10 May 2015

Spain: more "wines of the moment"

Ten worth-sipping Spanish wines that have washed over my palate in recent weeks, just to add a little hola to your mood and liquid to your tortilla...

Okhre Natur Cava Brut Nature organic (12% abv: Xarel.lo, Macabeu, Parellada) - Penedès, Catalonia. One of those nice 'n' dry "unsweetened" Cavas (unlike 'Brut' fizz in general whether Cava, Champagne, Prosecco, Sekt or from New Zealand, where a dosage is added containing some sugar after the yeast deposit is removed) with tasty almost savoury yeasty biscuit vs appley profile, oily and nutty vs crisp and refreshing. Unfortunately, it's now "out of stock" according to Marks & Spencer's site - hopefully not permanently - but cost £8.25 when I bought it for a Spanish-themed wine tasting.
Albariño Adegas Gran Vinum 2013 (12.5% abv) - Rías Baixas, Galicia: £8 Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' or Signature Albariño 2013: £6 Asda. Two similar and characterful dry whites from the same area of cooler northwestern Spain, which remind you a bit of (ripe) Riesling with aromatic and oily notes then peachier fruit yet with refreshing bite too. The bright blue labelled Asda one comes with a screwcap and perhaps has the edge on the JS one, which makes it a good buy for the money.
Simply Garnacha Rosé 2014 Bodegas Borsao (13.5% abv) - Campo de Borja, Aragón. Talking of good buys, for what could be called a "cheap" rosé - £4.69 at Tesco - this delicious simple dry and full-bodied rosado is pretty classic in style, with lots of floral and ripe red fruits and creamy vs crisp mouth-feel. Too easy to quaff considering the alcohol content: crying out for some tasty Serrano ham.
Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Bodegas del Mediterraneo (14.5% abv) – Yecla, Murcia. Brimming with Med flavour, this unoaked full-on red has lots of ripe liquorice vs earthy dark fruit with shades of black olive too, a little grip on the palate but mostly soft and tasty now. £9 Marks & Spencer
Noster Nobilis 2010 La Perla del Priorat, Catalonia (14.5% abv: Garnatxa (Garnacha), Samsó (Carignan), Cabernet sauvignon). This is a fair bargain for £7.98 at Asda, considering many Priorat reds are expensive; lovely mix of savoury maturing fruit, sweet cherry, still structured tannins and smooth lingering finish, background oak adding a little texture too.
Tempranillo Reserva 2009 Pagos del Rey (14% abv) – Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León. Another well-priced example of an often dear red from northern central Spain - £8.99 Tesco 'Finest' label - this was attractive and warming, seemed older than its year's seniority over the Priorat, colour and development wise, more obvious oak perhaps but has some nice smooth savoury fruit. Drink now.
Caudum Selección Especial 2009 Bodegas Larraz - Rioja (14% abv: old vine Tempranillo). I've tasted this seductive red a couple of times before (goes to Larraz winery profile), and it's developing very nicely: rich, extracted, concentrated and structured with light coconut oak on nose and palate; lush, dark and spicy though and still has a hint of freshness and youth about it. Quite serious and classy Rioja. €15 in Spain; Zefino Wines in England might be shipping some in the future I'm told.
Bodegas Muriel Rioja Reserva 2010 (13% abv: Tempranillo, 36 months in total barrel and bottle before release). Something of a regular Co-op favourite, which is £6.99 on offer at the moment, this is relatively light but pretty classic Reserva Rioja style from this reliable winery: oaky and smooth with smoky vs sweet berry fruit and alluring meaty/cheesy maturing tones beginning to show through.
Apostoles Palo Cortado Viejo Aged 30 Years, Gonzalez Byass (20% abv: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez) – Jerez, Andalucía. Quirky complex full-flavoured matured sherry, which is difficult to "categorise" in that (I think) it's a blend of aged Fino/Amontillado (therefore dry) and a splash of wine made from sun-dried 'PX' grapes adding a hint of sweetness, although it tastes reasonably dry and dark roast nutty with tangy lingering flavours... A one-off really, best tried with mature cheeses or pecan pie?! £19-£21 for 37.5cl bottle: selected Tesco stores, TheDrinkShop.com; €23.49 from O'Briens in Ireland.

05 May 2015

Wine tastings & workshops May-June Belfast

NEW! 'Wines with cheese' tutored tasting
Thursday May 28   7 - 8.30 pm - £27.50
"Is there a perfect cheese wine? Depends on which cheese and what wine, probably... We'll taste and talk about half-a-dozen different wine styles - sparkling, red, dry white, rosé, sweet and fortified - picked from around the world, and attempt to pair them up with a small selection of Irish cheeses..."

'New World Wines' Saturday workshop
6 June 2015 - £90 including 2-course lunch
"What do we mean by 'New World' wines? We'll spend the day tasting and talking about a dozen or so classic styles, red white and rosé, mostly from wine producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa; as well as choice examples from North America... Showing that 'New World' is, apart from its patronising colonial tone, just as much about attitude perhaps as it is about location and climate. And then what about certain New World producers in cooler regions, who are deliberately trying to make more 'European' wine styles?! The day will be nicely broken up by lunch at the hotel..."

More info and online booking:
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