Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
Buy my French wine touring & tasting (click there) e-book on Amazon (or 125 page PDF) £4.99/$7.25/€6.70 including Cahors, Champagne, Chablis, Languedoc & St-Chinian and Alsace. Other special supplements and guides (£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.

10 February 2016

Chile: Viña Ventisquero & John Duval

One of Australia's most famous and laid-back winemakers, John Duval (below right) has been a consultant at Ventisquero (meaning 'grey glacier') in Chile since the beginning: 2004 vintage for Syrah and Merlot and 2005 for Cabernet and Carmenere (CLICK HERE and scroll down to read my report and notes cobbled together in 2007 featuring these wines). John, who was in London to host a special tasting a few months ago, said he's "worked with Felipe Tosso (winemaker at Ventisquero, left) for many years now... After I left Penfolds in 2002, it was through contacts there that I was invited to Chile..." And the rest is history, as the old cliché goes; he goes over twice a year nowadays "after the vintage in Barossa and in November."

Downloaded from facebook.com/VentisqueroWines

John told us he was "particularly impressed by Apalta (in the Colchagua Valley), it's a very beautiful vineyard site. I particularly loved some of the blocks of Syrah, so we did some work on soils etc. to see why." Ventisquero is part of a large agricultural group that went into the wine industry in the mid 1990s, which lead to new plantings in the late 90s and early 00s followed by "regular additions in different sites," John added. "There's plenty of old vine Carignan in the south too, which we've tried. And one of our Apalta sites, west-facing, was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon but was too hot for it, so we grafted Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre onto it." In the first few years, he described the wine as "juicy and aromatic but lacking structure, so it was bottled and released to market straightaway." This small maturing vineyard now extends to around 3.5 hectares (nearly 9 acres). John described his winemaking philosophy as "not trying to make big fruit bomb wines whether here, in Barossa or Washington State (he's a partner in the Long Shadows venture there)."
The highlight of this tasting was to compare certain recent Ventisquero vintages with a couple of those 2005s mentioned above - at least, that was the plan until Her Maj's customs lost one of them on arrival! But it still meant we had the chance to try one ageing ten year-old Syrah from Apalta at least. More info: www.ventisquero.com.

2014 Grey Glacier GCM - 55% Garnacha, 22.5% Cariñena, 22.5% Mataro (Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) from La Roblería Vineyard, Apalta, Colchagua Valley. Aged in used French oak barrels for six months, 14.5% abv. Light cherry colour with aromatic cherry and violet notes, fresh and fruity with vibrant acidity and weight too, sweet berry and cherry fruit lingers with soft-ish texture and oomph. Attractive and fairly easy going but a bit dear (although no more than Chateauneuf-du-Pape say): £13.50 buygreatwine.co.uk and slurp.co.uk, £73 for six finewinecompany.co.uk.
2011 Grey Glacier Carmenere - 100% Carmenere from Trinidad Vineyard in the Maipo Valley, which is "more southerly and more sea influenced, and seems well suited to Carmenere," John thinks it would suit parts of Australia too. 2011 was a "quite cool vintage," and picking is often done in late May here. Fermented and aged in barrel for 12 months (30% new oak), 13.5% abv. Showing a hint of age on its colour, perfumed herby and spicy red pepper notes with light touch of chocolate oak; reasonably concentrated and complex, fairly soft and mature too with a little remaining grip tinged with roast red pepper and soy sauce flavours, attractive texture with light grain, sweet/savoury fruit finish yet still fresh and well balanced. Pretty good. £13.50-£14.50 Noble Green, Davy's, slurp.co.uk; £73-£77 for six Excel Wines and finewinecompany.co.uk.
2011 Enclave Cabernet Sauvignon - 87% Cab Sauv with 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Carmenere and 3% Cabernet Franc from the Pirque region in Maipo, including "some fruit from Maipo Alto planted at 750 and 1000 metres altitude to get the style we wanted; and older vines too." 18 months in 50% new French oak, 13.7% abv. Looks a tad older, leafy blackcurrant/cassis tones vs savoury maturing aromas, shows good concentration and power vs an elegant touch, subtle oak texture and sweet/savoury fruit; still firm and structured yet ageing nicely with that attractively quirky mix of herby vs sweeter fruit, quite long and fine. Expensive though: £45 slurp, six for £272 finewinecompany.
2011 Vertice - 53% Carmenere and 47% Syrah from La Roblería where "the top blocks are selected," up to 470 m above sea level. 20 months in French oak, 40% new; 14.5% abv. Aromatic and quite rich with coconut, red pepper and darker black cherry, powerful yet pretty concentrated, still quite tight and firm-structured vs enticing savoury meaty flavours, grainy and grippy mouth-feel vs some freshness and weight, again nice mix of herby vs sweeter fruit, powerful yet well-balanced finish. Showing well now although should keep nicely for a few years. £23.95 Davy's.
2011 Pangea Syrah - from a hillside vineyard in La Roblería; 22 months in 50% new French oak barrels, not fined or filtered, 14.5% abv. Darker colour, rich yet savoury with black cherry and liquorice, tasty mouthful of lush fruit, rounding oomph and still a little freshness too, and the oak is surprisingly subtle; concentrated, still fairly firm with nice grainy texture vs sweet/savoury fruit flavours vs weight and length. Very tasty Syrah with its own character. £28.95 Davy's.
2005 Pangea Syrahfrom a hillside vineyard in La Roblería; 20 months in 60% new French oak barrels, 14.5% abv. Distinctly browning colour yet still deep/dark and intense, nice ageing meaty nose with savoury vs liquorice profile, still fairly grippy mouth-feel although the wine's drinking well now, powerful sweet-fruited vs meaty finish; a bigger mouthful in some ways, attractive mature style with lingering dark/meaty flavours, although a little clunkier than the 2011 with drier tannins.
2013 Grey Glacier Chardonnay - Casablanca Valley. Barrel-fermented in French oak with lees-stirring then 30% aged in new oak and the rest used barrels for 12 months; 13.5% abv. Lovely ripe citrus vs oaty and buttery on the nose, subtle oak with creamy lees characters and sweet juicy fruit vs fresh bite still, attractive sweet/savoury notes on the finish. Delicious classy Chardy. £13.50 slurp and Davy's.
UK agent Bibendum PLB.

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.