Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
Buy my special guides and supplements: French wine touring & tasting (click there) Amazon e-book or PDF (125 pages) £4.99/$7.25/€6.70 including Cahors, Champagne, Chablis, Languedoc & St-Chinian and Alsace. Other specials (£2.50-£3): Slovenia & Croatia, Cava guide, English Sparkling Wine, Portugal, Argentina (follow links for more info and payment). Pay by card with PayPal: click here for more about 'terms & conditions', card payments and your privacy.

05 February 2016

WES Belfast wine tastings update

Here are the latest dates and details of forthcoming Wine Education Service NI courses and tastings running in Belfast city centre, with an updated PayPal button for card payments at the bottom of the post.

Impossible castle in Slovenia (not where the vineyards are!)

Saturday 27 February 2016 ​10.45am-​2pm​: 'Off the beaten track' ​wine tasting and ​lunch £49 LAST FEW PLACES LEFT!
"Come and explore the less-explored, although just as exciting wine world with this morning tasting of about eight diverse high-quality wines from countries such as Lebanon, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia or Greece and some fine English sparkling wine too. Includes a two-course lunch at the hotel afterwards."

Thursday 31 March 2016 7.00-8.45pm: Wines of Chile tasting £28.95
"​We'll go on a tasting tour up and down Chile's varied wine landscape trying six to eight wines (depending on numbers) from specific regions including popular and lesser-known grape varieties, such as e.g. Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir or Carmenere..."

NEW DATES: 'Essential Wine Tasting' five-week course £125 (£127.50 by card with Paypal)
Thursday evenings (7-8.45pm approx) April 7, 14, 21, 28 and May 5 2016. Half-a-dozen wines tasted each session covering the whole wine world; course manual provided. Full details are on our website: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory

NEW DATE: Thursday 19 May 2016 7-8.45 pm: 'Island wines' tasting £28.95
This 'original' tutored tasting will hop around from one island to another across the world taking in six to eight wines (depending on numbers), travelling from the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Greece...) to where the Indian Ocean meets the South Pacific (Tasmania, New Zealand...), and perhaps somewhere in between as well!

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


Select event:


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 site HEREWine Education Service NI does not sell wine - our informal wine tastings and classes are designed to be purely educational and fun of course; we source high quality representative wine samples from a variety of different retailers.

12 January 2016

Roussillon winery updates

Wild back-lands around Domaine des Soulanes
Photo: Vi Erickson
It might look like I've been neglecting one of my favourite wine corners of southern France, the Roussillon, but I'm working on a whole bunch of updates and new winery profiles from the Roussillon (and just over the Corbières hills in a couple of cases) at the moment. This includes these Domaines: Schistes, Sabbat, Pons Gralet, Soulanes, Terres de Mallyce, Serre Romani, Rombeau, Gilles Trouillier, Tribouley, Balmettes, Sabots d'Hélène, Arcadie, Rivaton, La Toupie, Mas Devèze, Jones and Treloar.
These won't be posted here on my blog though, but will be part of a new e-book I'm hoping to get finished this year covering the whole of French Catalan wine country. Watch this space then (or a different one probably)...

11 January 2016

Is dry January beneficial?

This enlightening article on Decanter.com was written by Dr. Michael Apstein, a bit of wine/alcohol science in plain English: CLICK HERE to read it on their site.


08 January 2016

Wine Education Service: tastings & courses Belfast 2016 update

See below for the latest on forthcoming wine courses and tastings running in Belfast, plus a new evening tasting added to the programme at the end of April and updated PayPal button for card payments at the bottom.
Impossible castle in Slovenia
Saturday 30 January 2016: Spain and Portugal one-day workshop £90
LAST FEW PLACES LEFT!
Including at least a dozen wines tasted with your tutor, two-course lunch at the hotel and course manual - "We'll taste and talk about a selection of quality red, white, rosé and fortified wines highlighting the very different regions, grape varieties and wine styles found across the 'Iberian peninsular'. The spotlight will be on 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 dry whites, serious reds from Dao or the Alentejo and not forgetting the wine 'super-state' of Catalonia, home to some great reds, whites and Cava..." 10.45am to 4.45pm approx.

'Essential Wine Tasting' five-week course 2016 - £125 (£127.50 by card with Paypal)
Thursday evenings (7-8.45pm approx) February 4, 11, 18, 25 and March 3. Half-a-dozen wines tasted each session covering the whole wine world; course manual provided. Full details are on our website:
wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory

Saturday 27 February 2016 ​10.45am-​2pm​: 'Off the beaten track' ​wine tasting and ​lunch £49
ALMOST FULLY BOOKED!
"Come and explore the less-explored, although just as exciting wine world with this morning tasting of about eight diverse high-quality wines from countries such as Lebanon, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia or Greece and some English sparkling wine too. Includes a two-course lunch at the hotel afterwards."

Thursday 31 March 2016 7.00-8.45pm: Wines of Chile tasting £28.95
GETTING BOOKED UP!
"​We'll go on a tasting tour up and down Chile's varied wine landscape trying six to eight wines (depending on numbers) including popular and lesser-known grape varieties, such as e.g. Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir or Carmenere..."

NEW! Thursday 28 April 2016 7-8.45 pm: 'Island wines' tasting £28.95
This 'original' tutored tasting will hop around from one island to another across the world taking in six to eight wines (depending on numbers), travelling from the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Greece...) to where the Indian Ocean meets the South Pacific (Tasmania, New Zealand...), and perhaps somewhere in between as well!

The venue for all these wine events is the Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. More info and online booking on the Wine Education Service site:
Facebook.com/WineEducationServiceNI (you have to sign in to Facebook). Or you can pay by card or your own Paypal account using the PP button below (you don't need an account to do this though). You can change the quantity of tickets on the secure web form:


Select event:


Click here for more about Paypal payments and your privacy. WES terms & conditions apply, which will be sent with your invoice or emailed on request. Wine Education Service NI does not sell wine - our informal wine tastings and classes are designed to be purely educational and fun of course; we source high quality representative wine samples from a variety of different retailers.

07 January 2016

French wine touring & tasting e-book

I've combined, tweaked, edited, added to and reformatted my special French wine and travel supplements into a Kindle e-book, which is now available to buy on AMAZON. This includes three huge reports on the Languedoc and Saint-Chinian, updated Cahors wine touring, independent Champagne wine-growers' mini-guide, 'Chablis on foot' (and more) and Alsace Grand Cru among other things (follow links for more info). Click on the links below to buy the e-book in your country's Amazon store (prices subject to exchange rate variations):

Amazon US ($7.29), Amazon UK (£4.93), France (€6.71), Canada ($9.99), Australia ($9.98), India (₹399), Germany (€6.71), Spain (€6.71), Italy (€6.71), Netherlands (€6.71), Japan (¥879), Brazil (R$24.99) and Mexico ($125.84).

Alternatively, it's also available on offer (compared to buying them individually) for £4.99 (about $7.25 or €7) as a 125-page PDF file with photos using the PayPal button below, by card or your own PP account although you don't need one to buy it. I'll email the PDF to you once payment is received. Click here for more about card payments and general terms & conditions.



01 January 2016

France: 'classic' reds, St-Emilion & Loire Valley...

For want of a better title, or 'some tasty Merlot and Cab Franc' perhaps. Over to those two reds then, both from well-known producers, both different and one of them better value probably because the 'appellation' is less sought-after...

Who'd have thought we'd be invited to Chateau de Chassilier, ay Gessiah?
Pic from josephjan
oueix.com, misquoted Python line from davidpbrown.co.uk.

Château Haut-Sarpe 2012 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (13.5% abv): 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12 months in oak - Quite closed up to start with background cedar-y oak hints and aromatic plum/soy sauce notes, quite lush and concentrated with structured tannins vs rounder mouth-feel too, grip and freshness to finish; pretty serious red needing a few more years to express itself. £20 for 2009: Eton Vintners (England), Fine & Rare Wines also lists a few older vintages. €33 cellar door France - Joseph Janoueix Wines.
Couly-Dutheil 2014 'La Diligence' Chinon (13% abv) - Surprisingly ripe and smoky with earthy rustic edges vs aromatic damson and sweet blueberry/red pepper, fairly supple with a little dry bite and weight; attractive red, went well with a Chinese roast duck dish. £14.95 Perfect Cellar (London), €9.30 cellar door.

England: festive sparkling wine - Henners & Ridgeview

UPDATED 10 January - Ridgeview added below...
Henners Vineyard in East Sussex is already featured in my English Sparkling Wine Guide (click there to buy it for just £3), which I'll be updating soon with their latest vintage releases as well as from Ridgeview and others plus news about vintage 2015 etc. Here's a little New Year's Eve taster in the meantime:
Henners Brut 2010 (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, 3+ years lees-ageing, 10 g/l dosage (residual sugar), 12% abv) - Delicious maturing nose yet aromatic too with yeasty-bread and toasted oat cake notes, still fruity and fresh with lively acidity vs toasty oily richness on its elegant finish. Very tasty. £29.99 Virgin Wines (where I copied the bottle shot from), £154 for six Henners' cellar door.
Note on Henners Brut Reserve 2010 to follow...

Ridgeview Merret Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2011 (100% Chardonnay, 12% abv) - Refreshing aromatic and fruity with very lively acidity and creamy citrus enhanced by delicate toasted ciabatta notes, fine bubbles although that acidity is pretty crisp at the moment; hoping it will probably get a little richer in bottle. Virgin Wines: on offer at £26.96, usually £29.95 as it is at Ridgeview or on their site.

28 December 2015

South Africa: Pinotage revisited (part 2)

From www.welgegund.co.za

There's been an energy-saving spotlight on South African Pinotage on this blog with these two posts penned earlier in the year: South Africa: Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction (September) featuring a 'wow' Pinotage from legendary Kanonkop, and South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz/Syrah (June) including over a dozen tasty Pinotages such as Spice Route, Kaapzicht, Darling Cellars, Boschendal, Brampton and Lutzville.
And so, as all good things sometimes have to come to an end, I'm closing off the year spicily with a couple of gracefully ageing older vintages from "small scale artisan grower-producers," as Russell Wallace put it, general manager of importer and online retailer Exel Wines based in Scotland. These two "premium Pinotage(s)... are the Pinotage that first convinced me that sometimes the grape was worth something!" he quipped. I wouldn't take that too lightly though, since his company lists no less than 57 Pinotage wines (Heinz eat your heart out) including red blends and rosé.
Aaldering is located in the Devon Valley in Stellenbosch, and Russell added "they keep trying to buy back" the 2007 vintage in the limelight below. The 2009 Welgegund comes from this 18th-century property's Wellington farm in the Western Cape, although it looks like they don't make Pinotage any more and Exel claims to have some of the last remaining stock of this vintage. So the 'rarity factor' helps partly explain the quite high prices of these two wines, although you could easily pay that much for comparable quality and maturity from elsewhere in the wine world. And there's a good reader deal now available - see discount codes at the bottom.

2007 Aaldering Pinotage (15% abv) - Still has a fair amount of coconut/vanilla oak on the nose but there's lots more too, liquorice and pepper with complex maturing dried raspberry and blackcurrant fruits, savoury vs minty as well. Powerful mouth-feel with nice and smooth tannins, coco vanilla notes and dried blackberry and spice; turning meaty and punchy but that 15% alc. blends in well to its soft and sweet/savoury texture vs light grip on the finish; concentrated with lingering flavours and power, drinking well but not going to fade away fast. Has none of those dry bitter tannins you can find with older Pinotage, showing fair class and depth with 'thick' but not tannic texture, smoky oak turning to sweet berry fruit and savoury flavours. Next day: 'cheesier' and meatier notes, more like good old Rioja but gutsier. £25.44
2009 Welgegund Pinotage (14% abv) - Complex nose, red pepper blackcurrant and mint/wild herbs with savoury maturing and liquorice tones; concentrated and lush vs crunchier fruit vs dark chocolate and cherry, more of those wild aromatic characters too with oomph and light bitter twist; attractive combo of soft and maturing vs structured and powerful. Good wine. £19.51 sale price.

Exel has set up a couple of reader discounts as follows:
Enter the code WineWriting (click there) to get 5% off across the site (on top of any sale prices and loyalty points with free shipping on 12 bottles or more).
Enter Pinotage for £5 off per bottle of the Welgegund and Aaldering wines only (follow those links).
WineWriting.com & French Med Wine is purely the media for this offer and isn't responsible for order processing etc.