Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
Buy my French wine e-magazine (click there - updated Sept 2016) on Amazon for £3.76/$4.99/€4.44/¥512/Ca$6.51/Au$6.62 (or £4 emailed as a PDF) including Languedoc, Cahors, Champagne, Chablis, Alsace. Other special supplements and guides: English wine guide £3.50, Cava guide £3, Slovenia & Croatia, Portugal, Argentina (follow links for more info and payment). Pay by card with PayPal: click here for more about card payments using PayPal, general 'terms & conditions', and your privacy.

21 March 2015

Alsace: Grand Cru tasting by Olivier Humbrecht & Christophe Ehrhart

This latest slightly esoteric feature on Alsace is neatly stored HERE on a sizzling new page dedicated to the Alsace region:

"These are my notes and thoughts on a Circle of Wine Writers' tutored tasting (so forgive the sometimes nerdy detail weaved into the words) earnestly called "Beyond terroir - exploring the influences on Alsace wines." The audience was informed and entertained by two great speakers, who guided us through nearly a dozen ("this one goes up to 11" in fact) mostly delicious top wines: Olivier Humbrecht MW from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and President of the Alsace Grand Cru association, and Christophe Ehrhart from Josmeyer and Vice-President of Alsace Grand Cru..."
My five favourite wines at a glance:
Domaine du Clos Saint Landelin Grand Cru Vorbourg Riesling 2012
Domaine Paul Blanck Grand Cru Schlossberg Riesling 2010
Gustave Lorentz Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Riesling 2008
Josmeyer Grand Cru Brand Pinot Gris 2010
Hugel & Fils Vendange Tardive Gewurztraminer 2007
You can also buy this in-depth feature as a handy PDF supplement including other recent material on Alsace for just £2.50 (about €3.50 or $3.75). READ ON...

Olivier Humbrecht MW, left (from zindhumbrecht.fr)

15 March 2015

Austria: Riesling & Blaufränkisch

This Austrian "mini-focus" kicks off with four random wineries featuring seven tasty dry Rieslings, since it's perhaps too easy to forget there's more to Austria than Grüner Veltliner (which can also be very good for sure - click there for more). But there's often something rather distinctive, intense, stylish about Austria's take on the Riesling variety, especially for a R-addict like me. And I've rounded things off nicely with a look at a slightly quirky Blaufränkisch red from an all-together different corner of Austria called 'Eisenberg' (no connection with a certain ex-chemistry teacher and New Mexico...).

Müller - Kremstal region
The Müller family works 65 hectares of vineyards on slopes around Stift Göttweig and their home/winery in Krustetten (near Paudorf) along the Danube valley, about an hour's drive north-west of Vienna. Importers: Clada in Galway, Ireland (not on their site though); Austrian Wines Direct in Scotland and the Austrian Wine Company in England both list some of their wines. More @ www.weingutmueller.at.
2013 Riesling Neubergen - steely zippy and lees-y palate with oily lime fruit and texture, quite intense with 'mineral' acidity, good extract and 'chalky' finish. Nice Riesling. €8-€9
2013 Riesling Leiten Reserve - more perfumed, oily and yeast lees-y; rounder mouth-feel vs steely bite, more concentrated too with lovely extract vs crisp length. €12.50-€14

Weszeli - Kamptal
Partners Davis Weszeli and Rupert Summerer are based in the fairly famous wine town of Langenlois in the Kamptal region, which lies to the north of Kremstal on the other side of the river. Their variety of vineyard plots includes some top-rated 'Erste Lage' sites, or Premier Cru if you like. Imported by Newcomer Wines in London (£ price below); in the US: Savio Soares Selections (NY) and The Age of Riesling (CA). More @ www.weszeli.at.
2013 Riesling Loiserberg - "the highest vineyard in this area..." Rich and full, oily and honeyed vs 'chalky' 'mineral' touches, lots of flavour and class. €12-€13, £16.90
2011 Riesling Steinmassl Erste Lage - 'yeastier' and creamier style with developing oily and savoury notes vs crisp bite and extract, delicate yet concentrated wine. €29-€32
2011 Riesling Seeberg Erste Lage - again lees-edged complex nose, very concentrated with lime flavours vs oily texture and steely bite. Very tasty, serious Riesling (and price too). €36-€40

Malat - Kremstal
This wine estate and hotel is found in Palt not far from the town of Krems itself a mere stone's throw from the big blue DanubeQuite widely exported including, they claim, The Wine Monger in California (also not on their site though?). www.malat.at 
2012 Riesling Steinbühel Erste Lage - stony hillside vineyard. Lovely developing oily nose, concentrated with lime and greengage fruit vs honeyed notes, perfumed yet savoury too, nice long 'mineral' finish. €16-€18

Huber - Traistental
The Huber family have been winegrowers for over 200 years, and current winery head Markus has continued to carve out a good name for their estate. They're based in Reichersdorf in the Traistental region, which borders Kremstal on its eastern side, where they actually mostly produce Gruner Veltliner but have a good reputation for Riesling too. Markus makes and exports a fairly wide range from good-value funky brands to top single site wines. Importers: Thierry's Wine Services in England, Broadbent Selection in the US (Richmond VA). www.weingut-huber.at
2013 Red Dolomite Riesling - more "commercial" off-dry? style, softer certainly with attractive perfumed flowery fruit and crisp 'chalky' finish.

Groszer Wein - Eisenberg
Eisenberg ('iron mountain') is a slightly mystical elevated hill lying in the far south-eastern corner of Austria in the southern Burgenland, right on the Hungarian border, not too far away from Slovenia and apparently closer to Croatia than Vienna (its most northerly point at least). This spot forms the backbone of a fairly new appellation area, which has been built around the red Blaufränkisch variety. Owned and run by Markus Bach and Mathias Krön, who launched themselves into this "winemaking adventure out of madness and love of wine," roughly translating from their site, the Groszer Wein ("great wine" or "big" or "tall" wine perhaps?!) winery has 16 hectares dotted with old vines on hillside sites around Eisenberg. Imported by Newcomer Wines in London and quite widely available around the rest of Europe. USA: The Wine Monger (CA), although couldn't find the wines on their site. More info @ www.groszerwein.at.

2012 Blaufränkisch Vom Riegl (13.5% abv) - meaning "from the hill" in local dialect. Surprisingly balsamic and 'volatile'/wild-edged on the nose with light cider notes in that 'natural'-styled way, ripe plum and liquorice too with resin and herbal minty tones, rich and quite peppery/earthy with subtle coconut vs herby dark berry fruit; fairly concentrated rounded and powerful yet has fresh acidity adding bite against that nice sweet fruit. Surprisingly "Mediterranean" yet with lively Austrian acidity, touch of grip too vs Italian-esque dried fruit characters. I liked it more the second day it was open actually, attractive unusual red but quite dear (like most good Austrian wine is): €19.90 / £22.90 in the UK, although you do get a big litre bottle for that!

12 March 2015

WES Belfast update: wine tastings...

Details just posted on my other blog: WineWriting.com (follow this link), including a new evening event: Organic & 'natural' wines tutored tasting on Thursday April 30th...

WES Belfast update: wine tastings, courses and workshops

RMJ snorting Chardonnay
@ the Ramada Encore
LAST FEW PLACES'New Spain' tutored tasting
Thursday 26 March 7 to 9 pm - £27.50
"We'll taste and talk about classic reds from, for example, Rioja and Ribeira del Duero and also venture into lesser-known territory like (real) Sherry country, Galicia for whites and Catalonia, including some very good Cava no doubt!"

NEW! Organic & 'natural' wines tutored tasting
Thursday April 30, 7-9 pm - £27.50
"What exactly is organic wine - wine made without 'chemicals' or is that just a myth? And what's the difference between organic, biodynamic and 'natural' wine? And does it mean it's better? We'll explore these ideas while tasting and talking about a selection of organic wine styles picked from around the world..."

Essential Wine Tasting 5-week course - £125 for 5 sessions
New dates: Thursday evenings 14/05/15 to 11/06/15.

'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: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast, or get in touch with me via the contact form on the right.
You can also pay by card using Paypal (you don't need a Paypal account to do this) - select the tasting below and click on the button, which takes you to PP's secure payment page (you can amend quantity of tickets there too).


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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.

04 March 2015

Slovenia: wine & travel

Church on Lake Bled
"Slovenia isn't a large country, to state the obvious perhaps, and is one the most forested and mountainous states in Europe (relative to surface area), so not surprisingly there are only about 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of vines planted. Wine production is dominated by three-quarters of whites reflecting the country's geography, location and climate; and most of the often steep hillside vineyards lie on or close to its borders with four surrounding winemaking nations: Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, Italy to the west and Croatia to the south, roughly speaking. Logically then, many of Slovenia's wineries are found not too far away from the country's handsome, friendly and very walkable capital city Ljubljana (watch your spelling!), which is found in the middle more or less. There's plenty of history and beautiful architecture and countryside just made for exploring elsewhere too, and I've included a few, slightly cliched perhaps (e.g. Lake Bled above) but nevertheless must-do sightseeing places to go to, contemplate and eat in..."
Featuring these wineries: Marof, Joannes Protner, Bajnof, Ščurek, Bregar, Reja, Peršolja, Hlebec, Černe, Marjan Simčič and Goriška Brda Cellar. Plus touring and eating tips from the awesomely impossible Predjama Castle and über-busy yet stunning Lake Bled, to serene historic Base 20 and charming Ljubljana old town...
I've created a special 13-page PDF supplement including this new feature on Slovenia with a few of my photos, plus a previous wine and travel report on Croatia which is also stored HERE. Buy the PDF report emailed to you for just £2.50 (less than $4 or €3.50) with a debit/credit card or your own Paypal account (but you don't need one). Click on the "does what it says" button: