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31 May 2014

Rhône: Domaine Brusset, Cairanne

Laurent Brusset's hillside vineyards are found around the old ring-walled village of Cairanne (about 20 km northwest of Orange, not far from Rasteau) and in the nearby 'Plan de Dieu' area (yes, it does mean something like "God's land"). Laurent has just stormed the 22nd 'Cuvée Alliance des Vignerons' competition with his red 2012 and white 2013 (the first time one winemaker has won both I'm told) picked from wines submitted by the 16 member wineries of the local Winegrowers' Association. Appropriately enough perhaps, without venturing too far into fact-geek territory, since Cairanne is one of the 16 'named' Côtes du Rhône Villages appellations. Laurent says his philosophy is "always trying to keep the wine's fruit." More info: www.domainebrusset.fr

2012 Les Chabriles vieilles vignes red Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne (old vines: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah; 40% of it aged in demi-muids; 14% abv) - aromatic and earthy blackberry, kirsch and cassis with peppery liquorice notes; full-bodied and quite punchy, concentrated and fruity with light touch of 'chalky' tannins and subtle dark chocolate bitter twist; warm and powerful with lovely vibrant dark fruit, spice and grip. Yum. £15 for the 2011, Big Red Wine Co (UK).
2013 Les Travers white (Grenache blanc, Viognier, Roussanne; 30% of it barrel-fermented with lees stirring; 13% abv) - yeast-lees and nutty edges with fresh vs baked pear fruit, subtle power, honeyed and white peach too vs aniseed tones and light coconut grain texture; almond flavours and rounded mouth-feel vs a more 'mineral' touch, lees and coconut tones too on the finish. Perhaps needs a few months in bottle to integrate more, good wine though. £12 for the 2012, Big Red Wine Co.

30 May 2014

Australia & New Zealand: "wines of the mo"

Tried and tested recently at an Aus and NZ themed tasting I held in Belfast, here are my favourite half-dozen worth highlighting that are all widely available as long as you look on these supermarkets' usually a little dustier top shelves... But all good value in their own different ways, especially as a couple of them were on "third-off" type offers too.

Jacob's Creek 2011 Reserve Riesling, Barossa, South Australia (11.5% abv) – you've probably spotted this huge brand's "Reserve" range before (from specific subregions, there's also e.g. a Chardy, Pinot and Shiraz), which generally really are worth a go like this delicate mature yet fairly intense Riesling. It has lots of those characteristic intriguing maturing oily aromas/flavours and some lingering ripe lime zest still. Drinking well now with seafood in a winey/creamy sauce? £9.99 Tesco
More Oz Riesling HERE and HERE.
Villa Maria 2013 Pinot Grigio, East Coast, New Zealand (13.5%) - from memory, this was labelled as Pinot Gris until recently, pointing to a more French Alsace style perhaps (but sensible marketing obviously got the better of them). It's definitely got more character and mouth-weight than your average Italian PG, with nice juicy honey and melon flavours and refreshing vs full finish. Good with not too spicy Indian, Chinese or Thai I reckon. £10 Asda
Yering Station 2011 'Wild Ferment' Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Aus (12%) - one of Sainsbury's superior "Taste the Difference" labels, this was a good result since I wanted to show a more elegant less oaky style of Chardy. Attractive nutty lightly creamy and oatmeal edges, a touch of zing still although again drinking well now, well-balanced with very subtle oak ageing. Value @ £9 considering the price of say Chablis nowadays. 
McWilliam's 2005 Mount Pleasant 'Elizabeth' Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Aus (12%) - a great example of one of those weird and wonderful bottle-aged Semillon styles, and again value @ £8.99 at Tesco, this has almost toasted characters, despite it being kept away from barrels, with lingering complex savoury vs green/stone fruit mix.
Oz Semillon tasting HERE.
Matua 2012 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand (13%) - Matua seems quite big now, but they still turn out a fairly classy Pinot with perfumed cherry/berry fruit, a more savoury side too and just a hint of oak thankfully. With duck? £10.98 Asda
More NZ Pinot HERE.
Xanadu 2011 'Next of Kin' Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Aus (14%) - towards delicious Cab with plenty of ripe blackcurrant/cherry'damson, chunky mouth-feel yet with rounded texture, again subdued oak vs quite concentrated fruit, powerful yet balanced. Value @ £8.50 Sainsbury's.

28 May 2014

Languedoc: Domaine du Lys, Uzès

facebook.com/lesvignesdulys
One of those eternal "Languedoc or Rhone valley?" winery quizzes that can perhaps be answered simply as "both." Olivier Privat and Eileen and Ray Monahan's 30 hectares of vineyards (75 acres) lie in the Gard region, at the very eastern end of the Languedoc before you fall into the River Rhone, around a big-old-stone village called Blauzac not far from probably better-known Uzès (north of Nimes in any case). They have a medium-length list of varieties planted in blocks selected in 2008 (the vines are much older though), as you can see from the taster below, which are fashioned into single varietals and blends monikered as IGP (the new 'vin de pays') Cévennes (the nearby hills have eyes) and IGP Duché d'Uzès. Undergoing conversion to total organics since 2010. More @ www.les-lys.fr.

2011 Aillargues (75% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon blanc) - quite full-bodied and peachy fruited with attractive aromatic and crisper edge.
2010 La Grande Blanc (Chardy, barrel-fermented) - fairly concentrated with light toasted butter notes (or buttered toast if you prefer), rich and oat-y vs steely edges, maturing savoury finish too. Good stuff.
2012 La Petite Syrah (Syrah with some Sauvignon blanc actually) - nice cherry fruity style, easy-going quaffer.
2011 La Grande Rouge ("old-vine" Syrah, fermented/aged in large wooden vats) - minty herby peppery nose with lush dark cherry fruit, nice savoury side too, concentrated yet elegant; good stuff again.
2012 Caillasses (Grenache barrel-aged for a year, 16% abv!) - fair amount of vanilla oak on top vs lots of sweet fruit though, big and chunky finish. Their site offers a classic French food match: "hardly cooked meat."

24 May 2014

English Wine Week: 24 May - 1 June

English Wine Week kicks off today running to 1st June. Why not celebrate in style with my English sparkling wine supplement fizzing over with top sparklers including Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, Knightor and Furleigh. Yours for just £3.50 (full details by clicking on the link above).

More info about what's going on at wineries in England and Wales, tastings, in-store promotions etc. can be found on the EWW website:
www.englishwineproducers.co.uk

22 May 2014

Spain: Rioja 2007 and 2009

According to the 'official' (seemingly rather biased) Rioja vintage ranking chart (goes to the Rioja UK site) - difficult to believe they've had nothing but "good", "very good" or "excellent" vintages since 1985, and 1972 was the last "average" year - 2007 and 2009 were both judged as "muy buena" (very good) and, generally speaking, are drinking well now. Here's my top twenty Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva (= shorter to longer barrel and bottle ageing: the site linked above clarifies this... yawn) and otherwise aged / labelled 2007 and 2009 reds picked from a more-Rioja-than-anyone-could-ever-taste tasting. The former traditional terms for maturation time / 'quality' are best taken as style guidelines, since some producers choose not to follow the 'rules' and don't use this terminology. All of these Riojas are made from mostly Tempranillo (sometimes 100%) with Garnacha (Grenache) and/or Mazuelo (Carignan/Cariñena) and/or Graciano; any variation on this theme has been specified after the wine's name. The vague ££-£££ bands quoted give you an idea of UK price at least.

familiamartinezbujanda.com
Álvarez Alfaro 2009 Crianza (14% abv) - still quite tightly structured with cedary notes/texture vs developing savoury/sweet fruit, a touch of firm tannin vs nice maturing and warming dried fruit finish. £5-£10. Profile on AA and previous vintages HERE (May 2011).
Berberana 2007 Reserva d'Avalos Etiqueta Negra (13.5%) - 'volatile' savoury notes vs ripe and smoky; smooth and warm with nice dried berry fruits, light grip and vanilla spice on the finish. £10-£15 United Wineries
Campo Viejo 2007 Gran Reserva - considering CV is now a massive international brand, they still manage to produce good quality, classic-style Reserva and Gran Reserva barrel-aged Rioja; this one delivers very nicely with smooth maturing fruit and light vanilla edges. Sainsbury's £15.99, £11.99 on offer (one of my Feb. "wines of the mo").
Cantauri 2007 Reserva, Alonso González (13.5%) - ageing meaty nose, quite concentrated and rich sweet/savoury fruit vs fair grip still and a touch of sweet oak; nice depth of character, drinking well now. £10-£15
Castroviejo 2009 Reserva, Pastor Díaz (13.5%) - turning 'volatile' / 'cheesy' with attractive ripe juicy fruit and sweet/savoury edges, quite soft tannins with a little dry bite; nice warm finish with some structure still vs liquorice and damson fruit. £5-£10 (?)
Caudum 2009 Selección Especial, Larraz (14%) - fairly rich and smooth dark cherry and berry fruit vs big and structured yet with soft tannins, nice warm savoury finish; good foodie style, drinking well now but still has a future ahead of it. £10-£15
Finca Egomei 2009 (14 months ageing, 14.5%) - enticing ripe dried fruit with savoury edges, big lush and warming palate with soft tannins and integrated oak texture; nice more 'modern' style. £5-£10
Federico Paternina 2009 Crianza Selección Especial (13%) - smoky, rustic, 'volatile', earthy edges with cedar/coconut tones; nice dark black cherry fruit with a bit of punch and dry bite/grip, rounded though and fairly elegant and balanced style, tasty and drinking well now.
Finca Valpiedra 2007 Reserva (also contains a splash of the Maturana tinta variety, 14% abv) - seductive smoky nose, dark ripe fruit vs sweet spiced oak vs 'volatile' savoury 'cheesy' edges; concentrated and lush with good bite and grip still, a big wine yet nicely layered/textured with lovely rich fruit. £21 Laithwaite's
Hacienda de Susar 2007, Marqués de la Concordia (15% Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; aged 15 months in French oak; 14.5% abv) - leafier / more cedary on the nose, rich and dark vs light coconut grain; the wood's a little forced and awkward, but the wine's concentrated with nice warm fruit finish. +£15 United Wineries
Marqués de Campo Nuble 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - coconut grain edges vs seductive warm dried fruits and developing meaty edges, attractive sweet/savoury finish still with a bit of grip and oomph, nice dry vs sweet texture.
Marqués de la Concordia 2007 Reserva (13.5%) - complex and spicy with savoury vs sweet fruit and oak on the nose and palate, attractive dry vs ripe texture again, seductive and long. Pretty text book trad Reserva style. £10-£15 United Wineries
Navajas 2007 Reserva (14%) - similar to above, a bit fuller perhaps and less developed to start; turning warm and seductive, quite punchy on the finish still with cloves and sweet dried berry fruits, fairly structured for its age as well; nice commercial Reserva style and good value: £5-£10.
Ortubia 2007 Reserva (14%) - baked sweet black cherry fruit with 'cheesy' savoury edges, still firm and concentrated though with seductive spicy fruit and palate weight. Yum.
Peña Aldera 2007 Reserva, Jalón (organic, 14%) - surprisingly tight still on the palate vs smoky maturing edges, sweet dried plum and spice vs power and grip, opening up on its attractive and long savoury finish. Value: £5-£10.
Rioja Bordón 2007 Reserva, Franco Españolas (13.5%) - smoky maturing nose with light coconut hints, sweet/savoury profile, quite rich ripe and warm with subtle grip; nice balance and style. £5-£10
Señorio de Moraza 2007 Reserva (14%) - meaty slightly baked nose with enticing 'cheesy' tones, sweet/savoury fruit, tannins are a little clunky although has nice lingering warmth and mature sweet fruit. £5-£10
Señorio de Olartia 2007 Reserva (13.8%) - mature baked savoury fruit, sweet berry and plum too with a touch of grip still; nice wine although probably peaked. £5-£10
Solabal 2007 (24 months ageing, 14.5%) - sweet oak/fruit combo with coco edges and attractive berry fruit, still structured and pretty punchy (a bit too alcoholic maybe) vs good sweet/savoury fruit finish. £5-£10
Urbina 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - sweet perfumed vs meaty nose, fairly 'light' mouth-feel with almost Pinot Noir type of delicate sweet/savoury character and fresh bite, a touch of grip and subtle fruit to finish. Nice style.

Much more Rioja on my Spain archive page: www.winewriting.com/spain

19 May 2014

Bordeaux: 2010

There's been more than enough verbal and written hot air generated about how great a vintage 2010 was/is in Bordeaux and how the top wines were blatantly priced for millionaire investors only. So I'm not going to add a single word more on the subject... Except to say here's a resurrected mini-retrospective of two dozen very tasty 2010 Grands Crus reds sampled in London last year, rather at random across a few well- and not-so-well-known appellations and properties.
Updated 28 May - new wine added at end.

From www.facebook.com/Chateau-de-France-Pessac-Leognan
Pessac-Léognan

Domaine de Chevalier – cedar, red pepper and 'inky' notes vs vibrant plum, cassis and cherry; quite soft tannins on a warming palate (13.5% abv), tasty now actually with nice fruit and light bitter twist on the finish.
Château de Fieuzal – richer and smokier with more coconut/cedar oak, quite concentrated and firm yet rounded too, nice sweet cassis vs light oak texture, a bit of weight too with good balance and style.
Château de France – quite opulent plummy and black cherry fruit vs cedar/coco edges, more extracted and firmer vs that vibrant fruit, structured vs rounded finish; quite seductive.
Château Malartic-Lagravière – smoky dark fruit with cassis and cherry and a vanilla coating, dry bitter chocolate bite but it's quite elegant and balanced with subtle concentration.

Saint-Émilion

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot – quite oaky vs attractive lively damson fruit, dry yet silky tannins, nice underlying depth and elegance although again a touch chocolatey at first.
Château Figeac – herby plummy cassis notes, light bitter twist of dry tannin vs again attractive sweeter berry fruit underneath.
Château Franc Mayne – cedary coconut tones vs fairly lush black cherry and plum, nicer tannins with dry vs silky texture, good depth of fruit vs chocolatey finish with bite.
Château La Couspaude – quite smoky and ripe, fairly concentrated and chunky, firm vs sweet oak and fruit; nice style, should blossom.
Château La Tour Figeac – quite complex, ripe berry with herby edges; fairly lush and silky vs dry grip, nice texture with chocolatey touches vs lovely fruit. Yum.

Listrac-Médoc

Château Clarke – leafy berry touches, more 'claret' like, subtle depth of berry and cassis fruit, firm yet attractive tannins; not so in-your-face, elegant Médoc style.
Château Fourcas Hosten – plummier and richer, more chocolate/coconut too but has tasty ripe dark fruit with cedary undertones, firm and structured vs rounded tannins; quite concentrated, balanced in the end, good wine.

Margaux

Château Angludet – rich cassis and black cherry, quite concentrated and firm vs an elegant touch, sweet fruit vs subtle oak texture. Good stuff.
Château Cantenac Brown – perfumed with cedar/vanilla notes and berry fruits, firm palate in a leaner style, quite good in that way.
Château Labégorce – nice dry vs ripe texture, structured vs sweet berry with tight long finish, bitter twist vs rounded; closes up, should be good.
Château Lascombes – chocolate and coconut oak vs fairly lush fruit, extracted and concentrated vs ripe berry and cassis, pretty solid mouth-feel with herby/cedary tones vs lovely fruit, quite big too yet well-balanced; very nice wine.
Château Marquis de Terme – enticing sweet berry, cassis and cherry vs cedary edges; soft tannins and quite elegant vs nice intense berry fruit and dusting of cedary oak; good.

Saint-Julien

Château Léoville Barton – leafy cedary tones vs coconut/vanilla vs quite rich cherry and cassis, dry vs sweet texture, freshness vs power, very nice balance and style. Yum.
Château Léoville Poyferré – 'inkier' and smokier vs attractive sweet cherry and blackcurrant, firm vs silky texture; again stylish and balanced, very nice wine.

Pauillac

Château Grand-Puy Ducasse – leafy cedary tones vs cherry and berry, structured in a leaner firmer style, freshness vs power; perhaps not as 'generous' as some of the others.
Château Pichon-Longueville – quite tight and firm vs ripe almost dried cassis, structured and powerful with tight cedary grain, nice fruit vs grip vs weight too.
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – ripe cherry fruit with floral and cedar/coco notes, grippy tight mouth-feel vs nice sweet cassis fruit and fine dry tannins. Yum.

Pomerol

Château Petit-Village – quite lush and seductive vs firm and cedary, nice texture with grip and oomph; fairly big style yet still tight and structured.

Saint-Estèphe

Château de Pez – fair amount of chocolate oak, rich extracted and firm but it works, attractive tannins in the end, powerful but balanced with nice depth of ripe fruit.
Château Lafon-Rochet – again quite a bit of oak vs lush and extracted, ripe almost dark fruit vs cedary texture, grip and punch vs concentrated and ripe. Chunky and tasty, like the yellow wedding cake chateau...

Lots more Bordeaux stuff HERE.

UPDATED 28 May. Not a 'Grand Cru' Bordeaux but an equally good 2010 and considerably more affordable too:
Chateau Le Bonnat Jeansotte Graves (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% abv) - a new one I think from Marks & Spencer at £12.99: pretty "classic" Merlot dominated style although riper and fleshier vs quite firm / structured still with underlying cedar oak hints, fairly concentrated and classy for the price (still not exactly inexpensive though for sure).

Bordeaux: 2010

This post has been moved here for 'technical reasons' (apologies for sending you around in circles)...

From www.facebook.com/Chateau-de-France-Pessac-Leognan


15 May 2014

Croatia

New feature on wines from Croatia including these dozen wineries: Roxanich, Geržinić, Laguna, Matošević, Belje, Iločki, Krauthaker, Daruvar, Bodren, Stina, Zlatan, Svirče; and the local varieties Teran, Malvazija, Graševina, Zelenac, Traminac, Plavac Mali, Pošip among others... Plus a few travel tips thrown in too...
"As for the main wine producing regions touched on and tasted here, Istria is that huge peninsular forming the northwestern chunk of Croatia lying to the south of Trieste and the Slovenian border and, at a dreamy distance, facing Venice across the Adriatic to the west and the first of Croatia's many beautiful coastal islands to the east. The Istrian red variety Teran, or Terrano, is actually related to Refosco and is found in Croatia, Italy and Slovenia. One of the principal white grapes grown in this area is Malvazija or 'Istrian' Malvasia, which can be transformed into some pretty good and varied-style white wines..."
READ ON... (goes to "Croatia page".)

Pic. = RMJ in Split old town.

08 May 2014

Roussillon: Mas Amiel update

There are already several words about Mas Amiel on this blog (searches for everything) and their wide range of wines, so I won't add too many more... But MA has launched a series of single block reds called 'Terres Rares' including 'Towards the North' tasting-noted below, which, apart from this vineyard's "does what it says on the label" exposure, comes from a two hectare "parcel" called La Devèze. In particular, plots of "old-vine black Grenache and Syrah (about 8% of the latter) on schist soil with sandstone, blueish limestone and clay," apparently. Anyway, what I liked especially about this red is, unlike some of Amiel's other non-Vin Doux Naturel wines (fortified sweet reds) made a little too Bordeaux-y, it isn't smothered in flashy new oak and really lets the pure Grenache fruit and some kind of intense wild French Mediterranean thing shine through.

Vers le Nord Maury sec 2012 (Grenache, Syrah; 14% abv) - delicious ripe yet floral Grenache nose with dark berries, kirsch, liquorice, pepper and almost wild thyme/pine too; lush concentrated and structured with lovely supple vs 'chalky' tannins, powerful and spicy with nice bite; closes up on its youthful fruit finish, needs some time to open up. Quite classy red. Amiel's wines are listed in the UK and Ireland by e.g. The Perfect Cellar, Lea & Sandeman and Bubble Brothers, although none of them sell this one yet as it's new, as I said. €19.50 cellar door.

And these were (re)tasted recently in London as a reminder of how tasty their 'traditional' Maurys are, made in two very different styles (the link at the top takes you to more info about VDN winemaking). Although they do also remind us, along with the "dry" Maury above, that Amiel's wines are expensive; there's no other way of saying it!

Maury Vintage 2008 (Grenache, 16% abv) - smoky tobacco and developing savoury tones vs sweet blackberry and spice, still young vs maturing meaty side, quite elegant actually for a fortified red. £29.99
Maury 15 Ans d'Age (blend of ages averaging at least 15 years, or something like that; Grenache, Macabeu, Carignan, 16% abv) - "red Madeira" style, complex with cooked red fruits and tangy nutty flavours, long and intricate finish; lovely VDN. £49.99

07 May 2014

Rhone: Rasteau and Loire: Quarts de Chaume

Or a couple of gratuitous red versus white "sweeties of the moment," which have nothing in common whatsoever but are both worth sipping and talking about. Let's start in the southern Rhone Valley with a 'port-style' speciality made by the co-op winery Cave de Rasteau, who are celebrating 70 years of the Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel (VDN, fortified sweet wine) appellation. To mark this, they've repackaged the bottles with a retro label (makes you think of those cute old French booze posters you still see around, occasionally, very much from the "drink this and live to 100" era of advertising, which is now considered on a par with terrorism in France), and you can get it as a gift pack in a nice tin cannister too (€19.50 cellar door). As for how it's made - the red at least, there's also a "golden" presumably 'tawny' style - crushed whole berries of old-vine Grenache are fermented on the skins with hand-plunging, then it's fortified and left to steep for longer before pressing and ageing in vats and large tuns. It has 16.5% abv and 90 g/l of natural residual sugar.
Rasteau rouge VDN - alluring nose/flavours of dried black fruits, kirsch, prune, stewed plum and liquorice with smoky tobacco edges; more savoury and meaty on the finish vs sweet baked fruits vs dark chocolate twist, some firm tannin and nice spicy oomph. Try with mature or blue cheeses, dark chocolate and choc nut desserts; or what about a fairly spicy lamb curry too?! Hercules Wines (UK) £10.95; O'Briens Ireland do the posher 'Signature' vintage red VDN for €19.49.

More Cave de Rasteau wines here: Rhône "reds of the moment" featuring their 2011 Ortas Tradition 'regular' red (posted July 13).
And another estate in Rasteau featured on this blog: Domaine Coteaux des Travers (posted June 12).

Also sweet - much sweeter probably - but 'lighter' too with only 11% abv, this classic luscious Chenin blanc from the Loire Valley is made from botrytis affected and/or shrivelled grapes ("depending on the vintage," as it says on their site) picked by hand passing through the vineyard three or four times. Try with fruit tarts (especially peach or apricot), a variety of cheeses (goats, blue, mature, soft, ewes...) or just pour a little over vanilla ice cream. It kept surprisingly well for two or three weeks in the fridge actually.
Domaine des Forges Quarts de Chaume 2007 - complex and everlasting nose of spiced honey, quince jam, dried apricot, sultanas etc. Lusciously sweet palate yet has nice fresh acidity underneath still and a certain lightness of touch, despite the intense honeyed fruit and long flavours/finish. James Nicholson sale price of about £14.50, usually twice that I think.