Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
Buy my French wine touring & tasting (click there) e-book on Amazon for £4.95/$6.99/€6.19/¥760/Ca$8.96/Au$9.05 (or as a PDF magazine) 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.

24 May 2016

Wine Education Service NI: new dates added in Belfast

Here's the fully updated programme of wine tastings, wine workshops and wine courses scheduled in Belfast from summer 2016 to spring 2017.

Friday 1 July 6.45-8.30pm Champagne & sparkling wine tasting £36
We'll sample and compare six top-notch bottles of fizz from around the wine cosmos, including well-known favourites such as Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, alongside a few eye-openers from the Southern Hemisphere like New Zealand, Australia or South Africa... Add some sparkle to your weekend!

Classic Grape Varieties five week course £150 (£155 by PayPal) - Thursdays 6th October, 13th October, 20th October, 27th October and 3rd November 2016 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!

Saturday 8 October 11am-2pm Italian wine tasting with lunch £50
Six to eight (depending on numbers) premium Italian wines tasted from around one of the world's most diverse and exciting wine producing nations, 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 red wines from around the world - France, Australia, Chile, South Africa... - 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?!

Essential Wine Tasting five week course £125 (£129 by PayPal) - Thursday evenings 6th April, 13th April, 20th April, 27th April and 4th May 2017 from 6.45-8.30pm.
Six wines tasted each session covering the world's great wine regions and winemaking styles as well as some lesser-known examples. We'll also talk about tasting and ageing wine, how the different types of wine are made and what goes on in the vineyard as we go along, as well as many other general topics. Course manual included. Full details can be found on the WES site HERE.

The venue for these 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 by clicking on 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 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.

10 May 2016

France: 'wines of the moment'

Burgundy

Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier Rully blanc 2013 (13% abv) - I bought a few bottles of this over a year ago (click to see note made on International Chardonnay Day last May); this was the last one and what a revelation. Buttery and almost exotic with light toasty coconut edges, nicely rounded and creamy yet still has some fresh bite too. £10.50 Asda.

Champagne

P. Desroches Brut non-vintage (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, 12%) - Made by the Nicolas Feuillatte winery actually, this stylish well-made crowd-pleaser confirms that Marks & Spencer know what they're doing on the Champers front. Elegant yet toasty/yeasty, eminently drinkable at £14.50 on offer! It supposedly usually costs £29, but I wouldn't pay that for it. Funny how the other multiple grocers, including Tesco who was the worst offender, have stopped doing these so-called (and dishonest) half-price deals (which blatantly aren't), but Marks is still doing it on certain Champers labels anyway. Mustn't grumble ah.
Buy my Champagne e-supplement HERE.

Languedoc

Alain Grignon Carignan Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2013, Pays d'Hérault (12.5%) - Attractive example of the fashion for making varietal reds from old-vine Carignan, this is aromatic and quite soft with fairly intense berry fruit flavours. Dunne's €12.50/€9 on offer in the Republic/about £9-£10 in Belfast? (Most of Dunne's NI stores aren't licensed it appears).
Laurent Miquel Syrah 'special edition' 2014, Pays d'Oc (13%) - Lovely pure peppery black cherry fruit with a light bitter twist of tannin on the palate, plenty of sexy Syrah style but reasonably subtle with it. Dunne's €9 on offer.
Domaine Jones
Fitou 2014 (old vine Carignan, Grenache, Syrah from 15 small plots; 14.5%) - Concentrated (blue)berry fruit with uplifting crunchy vs sweet profile mix, lively spicy and powerful finish. £87-£95 case of 6 (depending on mix).
Blanc Barrique 2010 (Grenache gris, 13.5%) - The follow up vintage to apparently a 'by accident' barrel-aged white, made in limited quantities, this is quite oaky to start yet has delicious nutty oxidised and oily characters and rounded texture, unusual and tasty. £80 for 6.
Château l'Argentier E&F Jourdan Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2014 (old vines) - Lovely aromatic sweet fruit, soft and oily palate although actually pretty concentrated with mature vs fresh finish. £14.99 Red Squirrel Wine.
Château Montfin Saint-Jacques 2014 Corbières blanc (Roussanne, Grenache blanc, organic) - Concentrated and intense dry white, zingy yeast-lees notes vs oily rounded mouth-feel, lovely wine. £90 for 6 Joie de Vin. More Montfin HERE.

More of the latest from the Jones', Argentier, Montfin and lots more besides from the Languedoc to follow as an update to my 'French wine tasting and touring' e-magazine (drawn from extensive tastings at the recent 'Outsiders' tasting in Dublin and at the London Wine Fair)...

Bordeaux and the South-West

Château Lassègue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% abv) - This posh chateau is found lurking among some of the Saint-Emilion region's best vineyard sites, and is part of the Jackson Family Wines' group, "a collection of premium wineries owned privately by Barbara Banke and the Jackson family," the blurb says, probably better known for their West Coast US wines. Still dense and quite oaky for a ten year-old red, although with distinct brownish hints to its otherwise dark colour, it shows a classy mix of lush plummy fruit, maturing meaty notes and spicy nicely textured oak/tannin combo to finish. c. £25 a bottle - £152 for a case of 6 from closcru.com.
Domaine de la Maletie Monbazillac 2013 (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, 12.5%) - Bargain Sauternes replacement made in the same way but in Monbazillac on the Dordogne River in the Bergerac region. Delicious exotic apricot marmalade nose with spicy 'volatile' edges, lush and sweet but with nicely balanced freshness and lighter touch. £7.99 Lidl.
Combel la Serre 'Pur Fruit de Causse' 2014 Cahors (Malbec, 12.5%) - Alluring fruity 'funky' nose, very Malbec berry and spice style though with light bite and grip. £13.99 Red Squirrel Wine. Update on CLS to follow, and lots more Cahors HERE.

Alsace

JP Muller 2012 Riesling Engelberg Grand Cru (12.5%) - Pretty classy dry white at this price: classic developing Riesling nose with aromatic oily 'mineral' notes, similar maturing palate profile yet still quite concentrated with some fresh bite and elegant finish. €12.99/€9.99 on offer Lidl (Ireland).

08 May 2016

'Off the beaten track' wines of the moment

Henners Brut Reserve 2010 - East Sussex, England (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir; 12% abv) - Classy fizz: buy my English sparkling wine guide to find out more (which will be updated soon-ish following extensive tasting in London recently: fizz and still wines including a couple of new English vineyard names). £34.99 Virgin Wines, c. £180 for 6 Henners online shop.

Golden Valley Graševina 2014 Vlado Krauthaker - Slavonija, Croatia (13% abv) - Unusual aromatic dry white made from the sometimes rather dull Graševina variety, aka Welsch Riesling / Italico / Laski Rizling, with attractive mix of sweet peach and sultana vs fresh apple notes. £9 Marks & Spencer.

Tbilvino Qvevris 2013 - Kakheti, Georgia (grape = Rkatsiteli, 12.5% abv) - Way more unusual still, this traditional style amphora-aged white has towards orange/brown colour, wild exotic fruit and nutty straw-like notes, with rounded savoury finish. Plenty of quirky flavours for the money: £9 M&S.

Pisano 'Cisplatino' Tannat 2014 - Progreso, Uruguay (13% abv) - Nice fruity spicy version of the sometimes tough-edged Tannat variety with lightly oaked backdrop. £9 Marks & Spencer.

Château Ksara Clos St Alphonse 2012 - Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% abv) - Enticing maturing red with liquorice notes and meaty edges with a little lingering dry grip on the finish. £10 Marks & Spencer.

Palataia Pinot Noir Gerd Stepp 2014 - Pfalz, Germany (13.5% abv) - 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. £10.50

Trius Vidal Ice Wine 2014 - Niagara Peninsula, Canada (variety = Vidal, 11% abv) - Sublime super-sweetie made from frozen grapes with a fresh light touch, despite its lush sweet dried apricot and grapefruit marmalade palate. Aldi Ireland €19.99 on offer, half-bottle.

24 April 2016

Spain: 'wines of the moment'

Catalonia
Vintage Cava 2011 Brut Nature Jaume Serra (Xarel.lo, Parellada, Macabeu, Chardonnay, 11.5% abv) - Attractive drink-now and dry version ('nature' here means zero added dosage) of the popular favourite, with oily roundness and a touch of style. Tesco 'finest' £7.
Marqués del Norte Vintage Cava Brut 2013 (11.5% abv) - Asda has been knocking out this own-label fizz at a ludicrous bargain £4! Also made by the Jaume Serra winery, less developed and fresher than above although more off-dry.
Frares Priorat 2014 (Garnacha, Carinena, 15% abv) - Tasty example of this often very expensive Catalan red from the hills behind Tarragona, full-on spicy liquorice with oomph and plenty of lush fruit. Marks & Spencer £13

Montilla – Moriles
Fresquito PX 2014 Perez Barquero (Pedro Ximenez, 14% abv) - Deliciously different dry white with the lively yeasty almond edges reminiscent of Fino Sherry, but a touch 'lighter' in style (despite that quite high alcohol). Marks & Spencer £9, on offer at £42 for 6 bottles online (late April).

Rioja
Marqués de Valido Reserva 2010 Bodegas Muriel (Tempranillo, 13% abv) - Always reliable Co-Op own-brand Rioja, not the greatest Reserva style around but has plenty of maturing charm and smoky smoothness for the price. £8.99
Perez Burton Tempranillo 2013 Telmo Rodriguez (14%) - A touch classier and more concentrated version from this well-known consultant winemaker. M & S £11.50.

Yecla - Murcia
Tapa Roja old vines Monastrell 2014 Bodegas del Mediterraneo (14.5% abv) - Same delicious unoaked style as the previous vintage featured on this blog a year ago (click there), layered with earthy dark fruit and black olive flavours. M & S £9/£7 on offer (late April).

Jerez/Sanlúcar de Barrameda - Andalusia
12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Emilio Lustau (Palomino Fino, 20% abv) - Labelled as 'medium dry', but I think its inherent characteristic richness makes it taste less dry than it actually probably is. Towards stunning aged sherry for a bargain price, rich and baked walnut-y with complex lingering flavours. Sainsbury's 'taste the difference' £8 50cl.
La Gitana Manzanilla Bodegas Hidalgo (Palomino Fino, 15% abv) - Classic style dry and lively sherry with roasted salted almond notes and tangy finish. 50cl £8 Sainsbury's/widely available.

14 April 2016

Languedoc: Domaines Paul Mas, organic frog

UPDATE TO FOLLOW

You can't knock Domaines Paul Mas' boss Jean-Claude Mas for coming up with something new every year (at least) to taste and write about. His Arrogant Frog range appears to be doing well in export markets with a sense of humour - and the wines are mostly good too - which has now been boosted by a couple of organic labels too. Mas says this is part of an overall strategy, perhaps since buying the 30-hectare Mas des Tannes organic vineyard in Montagnac in the central Languedoc, across the road from their head office, winery and showcase restaurant/wine shop, which "has always been managed without any synthetic chemical products," the press blurb claims. Inspired by the 2015 vintage and "the outstanding quality of the fruit we picked... This year, we have been experimenting with low SO2 fermentation techniques and the results are convincing: the cuvées without sulphur taste far better than those to which sulphur has been used throughout the fermentation and they continue to develop in intensity,” Jean-Claude exuded.
So, I recently sampled five Mas wines positioned in this increasingly fashionable camp - whether they're worth the extra money for being organic or without added sulphites is another argument I suppose, one which will be decided by his regular wine punters. But this progressive winery is obviously trying to 'do the right thing' in terms of the environment and health. These were my favourites then...

Arrogant Frog Organic Chardonnay 2014 - 100% Chardonnay sourced from Limoux in the western Languedoc (vineyards farmed organically for 10 years), 20% of it fermented and aged for 3 months in American oak barrels, 13.5% abv. Tasty Chardy style, well made with subtle oak and yeast-lees notes complementing juicy vs sunny peachy fruit. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Arrogant Frog Organic Ribet Rouge 'Rural' 2014 - 55% Cabernet Sauvignon / 45% Merlot, 25% of the blend aged for 3 months in new oak, 13.5% abv. Nice enough soft red, a bit too easy for the money though just because it's organic. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Cuvée Secrète 2014 Merlot / Cabernet Franc - organic with no added sulphites, no oak, 14% abv. Quite serious red, chunky and concentrated with savoury/meaty edges, firm and spicy palate with cooked damson vs soy sauce flavours. Good stuff. £9.75 Vintage Roots.
Mas des Tannes Réserve Rouge 2014 - organic 55% Cabernet Sauvignon / 35% Grenache / 10% Mourvèdre, 6 months in French and American oak, 14% abv. Probably the best of these reds, richer spice and sweet berry fruit combo, structured yet rounded mouth-feel with good depth. Should improve over the next year or so. £12.95 Soho Wine Supply.

More about Jean-Claude Mas and his wines on this blog:

13 April 2016

New wine tasting events in Belfast

First of all, a quick reminder of the next tasting coming up in May:
Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil
downloaded from You Tube.

Thursday 19 May 6.45-8.30pm
'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 here's the new programme of events so far for the summer, autumn and winter 2016-2017:

Friday 1 July 6.45-8.30pm - Sparkling wine tasting £36
We'll sample and compare six top-notch bottles of fizz from around the wine cosmos, including well-known favourites such as Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, alongside a few eye-openers from the Southern Hemisphere like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or Chile...

Saturday 8 October 11am-2pm - Italian wine tasting with lunch £50
Six to eight (depending on numbers) premium Italian wines tasted from around one of the world's most diverse and exciting wine producing nations, followed by your choice of a main course from the hotel's bar menu.

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 classic styles of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - more details to follow.

Saturday 4 February 2017 10.45am to 4.30pm - New World wines one-day workshop £90 Including lunch, course manual and at least a dozen wines tasted from across the Southern Hemisphere and North America. More details to follow.

The venue for 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 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 enjoyment out of tasting wine; we source high quality representative wine samples from a variety of different retailers.

03 April 2016

2016 Wine Blog Awards


Submissions now being taken for 2016 awards

Feel free to nominate this blog WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine in as many categories as you see fit before 15 April. Merci.
Follow this link: wineblogawards.org
Or via this post on my Google+ page: plus.google.com.

22 March 2016

English wine guide updated

The latest vintages - the delicious exuberant 2010 and finely 'structured' 2011 - of 'Champagne style' (they won't like me saying that, I can hear expensive-suited lawyers in Reims dictating a letter as I write...) sparkling wines from Henners Vineyard and Ridgeview Winery, both in East Sussex, have been added to my 15-page English Sparkling Wine PDF supplement, as well as some news on the 2015 harvest, burgeoning vineyard plantings and fizz production figures and other useful tit-bits of info. Buy it for £3 (about 4.25 US dollars or €uro 3.80) using the PayPal button below to pay by card or using your own account.

Henners 2010 Reserve and happy tasters in the background.




Click HERE for more about card payments, your privacy and terms and conditions. I will email the PDF supplement to you once I receive payment confirmation from PayPal. Enjoy.