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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.

26 December 2015

Pinot Noir: 'luv' wine

Lord Byron by Richard Westall
from englishhistory.net
That's the Valentinesque PR angle that came with the bottle of Byron Pinot tasted-noted below, with an obvious nod to a certain hedonistic early-19th century poet; but it's true there's something seductive about good Pinot Noir. "Oh Mr. Byron, don't be such a big girl's blouse." *

Byron Pinot Noir 2013 Santa Barbara County, California - Aged for eight months in French oak, although it doesn't taste of it (phew: I hate oaky Pinot Noir). Quite delicate floral cherry/berry nose with balsamic edges, subtle silky palate with very Pinot sweet/savoury fruit characters, supple and drinking well now with a touch of rounding weight (13.5% abv) and fresh bite too. £14.95 from Slurp (UK).
Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 New Zealand (13.5% abv) - Soft and sweet-fruited texture with ripe aromatic berries and savoury hints, a little fresh bite and weight on the otherwise silky finish. Quite good value Pinot: £8.48 Asda 'Extra Special' range.
Domaine Levert 2011 Mercurey, Burgundy (13% abv) - Pretty decent example of not-so-dear (although hardly a bargain) mature French Pinot, with attractive smoky 'cheesy' edges and sweet/savoury finish. Marks & Spencer £15.

Other sexy Pinots I've talked about recently (follow the links):
Secano Estate Pinot rosé Leyda Valley, Chile (Nov 2015).
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Pinots from Victoria, Aus (Oct 2015 - scroll down a bit) and Eileen Hardy, Dalrymple Vineyards and Tamar Ridge from Tasmania (June).
Paul Cluver Selection Pinot Noir and 'Ferricrete' from Elgin, South Africa (Sept & April 2015)
Fürst Pinot Noir Centgrafenberg Franken, Germany (Aug 2015)
Tindall Vineyard - Marlborough New Zealand (June 2015).

* Name that 80s/90s Brit comedy series?

23 December 2015

Grenache reds: Rhône and Roussillon, Rasteau and Amiel

Here's a diverse trio of 'black' Grenache (as the French call the variety) based winter warmers from the southern Rhône Valley and northern Roussillon, which are new releases or vintages from Cave de Rasteau and Mas Amiel (links to some previous words on and recommendations from those two wineries).


Wild boar lurking outside Mas Amiel's shop
Photo by Vi Erickson

2014 Rasteau Tradition (70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and old-vine Carignan) - Actually quite soft and fruity with wild herb/peppery edges, chunky and rich mouth-feel with light bite to finish; a bit too quaffable for a 14% abv red, so food is advised! Cellar door €8.30. Hercules Wine Warehouse in England used to stock these wines, but there were none on their site when I looked. O'Briens off licences in Ireland.
2011 Rasteau Prestige (50 year-old vines: 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; part of the wine spent one year in oak, 14.5% abv) - Lush spicy black fruits with liquorice and wild herb/mint hints, big and rounded palate yet quite structured still although drinking well too. Yum, delicious hearty red. Cellar door €10.30. O'Briens.
2009 Mas Amiel Origine (sourced from three schist-y hillside plots: Grenache from a spot called Cabirou planted in 1914, Carignan from La Devèze planted in 1952 and young Syrah from the same vineyard; the latter two varieties were aged 14 months in large tuns, not fined or filtered; 14.5% abv) - Maturing meaty and leather edges layered with liquorice and sweet black cherry/berry, complex earthy wild herb notes as well; lush and full-on with savoury vs dark ripe and spicy fruit, punchy and grippy still yet rounded and maturing, dense and concentrated too with lingering liquorice and light bitter twist on the finish. Serious wine and serious price inevitably: cellar door €26.50, The Perfect Cellar (London) £30.

03 December 2015

Italy: Bottega Prosecco


Or perhaps 'all that glitters is not gold' (read on)... The Bottega winery is found in Bibano di Godega in the Veneto region, a crow-flight to the north of Venice and not far from the pretty town of Conegliano in the (otherwise rather vast) Prosecco zone's epicentre, where there's also a long tradition of making grappa (northern Italy's speciality grape-based spirit that often manages to combine finesse and head-banger). The cellars are housed in the expansive and handsomely renovated 19th century farm-buildings pictured above, and are stalked by 10 hectares of vineyards (25 acres) according to their blurb. The Bottega brand now encompasses additional wines from almost neighbouring Valpolicella and Montalcino in Tuscany following 'recent acquisitions'.
It isn't a small-scale operation either producing '10 million bottles' of fizz, meaning they must buy in grapes as well otherwise the 'math' doesn't add up? Bottega Gold Prosecco, which as you might have guessed comes dressed in a glitzy 24-carat bottle, is obviously an unashamedly gimmicky bit of celeb marketing; but you could see the appeal of having this sitting on your table in a trendy bar or Italian restaurant, and the wine itself is quite attractive although a couple of others in the range (without the Goldfinger touch) are better. Catalyst Brands is the UK agent where these bubblies retail for around £20-£25 a bottle, so they're pretty dear although there are a few festive offers flying around online retail sites at the moment. These Proseccos also come in all sorts of sizes from minis to massive, from jazzy to sober looking... More @ www.bottegagold.com.

Vino Biologico Prosecco DOC 'Extra Dry' ('Quality Aromatic Sparkling Wine', organic, 11% abv) - Elderflower citrus and almond tones, attractively frothy with crisp-ish 'chalky' mouth-feel vs off- to medium-dry finish. Nice fizz although could do with just a little more character.
Fundum 'unfiltered' Prosecco Frizzante Treviso (crown cap, 11% abv) - Cloudy 'real cider' / 'Weizenbier' / 'ginger beer' reminiscent style with flowery grapey nose and yeasty backdrop, fairly dry with lingering yeasty biscuit flavours and crisp elegant finish. Tasty and different.
Il Vino dei Poeti Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut 2014 - Richer toastier and more 'serious' than the others and 'winier' too, quite dry and crisp with toasted nut and savoury biscuit flavours. Good.
Il Vino dei Poeti Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2014 'Extra Dry' (Varieties: Glera 85%, Glera Lunga 10%, Perera 5%; 11.5% abv) - Honeyed, almond biscuit and floral aromas, a touch of crisp bite and some depth of character on the palate; pity though it's not that dry (despite the confusing terminology used for sparkling wines) as those appealing complex flavours end up a tad sweeter and blander on the finish (there's about 17 grams/litre residual sugar in their 'Extra Dry').
Bottega Gold Brut Prosecco DOC Treviso - Enticingly frothy light and elegant, quite good with light floral almond and subtle yeast notes, crisp and refreshing style. Attractive and quaffable even if not exactly super exciting.

01 December 2015

WES NI wine tastings & courses in Belfast 2016

Vineyards overlooking Pinhao, Douro Valley
Saturday 30 January 2016: Spain and Portugal one-day workshop £90
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
"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
"​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..."

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. 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.