WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

13 October 2017

Riesling: Australia, Chile, Germany, California

Gary Mills from jamsheed.com.au
It's been a while since this blog subjected viewers to an unbridled Riesling-fest - those who are that way included might like to click here for lots of Riesling-tinged links. So here's my pick of five £10+ bottles that effortlessly exude the variety's class and charm while all being subtly different, which were made in various regions of Australia, Chile, Germany and California respectively.

Jamsheed Le Blanc Plonk Riesling 2015 Upper Goulburn Valley Victoria - Made from old vine Riesling with natural ferment in large old tuns and left on the yeast-lees for eight months. Ripe oily and lees-tinged with quite rich peach fruit and wilder 'real cider' notes, concentrated mouth-feel and full of character. £17 Indigo Wines, London (follow the link under the photo to find out the importer in your country, his wines are well distributed around the world).
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2016 Clare Valley South Australia - Jeffrey Grosset's famous high-altitude Riesling, sourced from the eponymous hillside vineyard at 500 metres above sea level which I'm told is now organic, has also got fairly expensive nowadays. Lively 'chalky' style with attractive citrus and white peach, pretty intense and structured palate although not as austere as expected given its age and memories of previous vintages. Serious Riesling although it has been more exciting for the money? £32.99 Liberty Wines, London and Dublin.

Cono Sur Reserva Riesling Especial 2016 Bio Bio region (13% abv) - I've tried this lovely Riesling from the southern end of Chile's main wine-growing zones (although the north-south spread has been getting further apart over the years...) over a few previous vintages (the link in the top paragraph shows where), and it seems to be getting better. Nicely mixes up trademark Riesling delicacy with oily perfumed lime notes and fairly rounded yet fresh mouth-feel. Good with Indian vegetable dishes (Bombay spuds, veggie rice etc.), smoked salmon. £10.50 Tesco - £3 off at the moment too.

Gerd Stepp Riesling Trocken 2015 Pfalz (12.5% abv) - Stepp really has mastered making this kind of 'modern' dry German Riesling style, which comes from the warmer Pfalz region (the Palatinate in old fashioned English) - he also does a couple of delicious wines for M&S (again follow that link at the top) - producing a riper fruitier fuller wine yet with hallmark racy 'chalky' palate too. £17.99/£12.99 Naked Wines.

Richard Bruno Riesling 2015 Santa Lucia Highlands Monterey County - Not a region I'd heard of before - it's an AVA (American Viticultural Area) lying inland from the central coast - but obviously suits the Riesling variety well. Lots of aromatic citrus and peach with lightly oily edges and refreshing elegant finish.  £12.99/£9.49 Naked Wines.


05 October 2017

Spain, Catalonia: posh Cava

In light of recent independence-aspiring events in the region, there will probably be as many who are unhappy as are happy with the post title above placing Spain and Catalonia together on one line separated by nothing more than a simple comma. That's enough topical politics on WineWriting.com, which will remain neutral except to say that there really are some delicious examples of the classic Catalan fizz out there offering great value for money, especially if you pay a little more for better bottles such as Vintage or Brut Nature styles. Here are three worth talking about that have been sampled and enjoyed recently by RMJ and the tasting team (= willing partner), all of them with a refreshing 11.5% abv.

Mas Sardana Cava Brut Nature, Franck Massard - 50% Xarel.lo, 25% Macabeu, 25% Parellada; +12 months ageing on the lees, less than 2 gr/l residual sugar. Very tasty crisp and dry style (no added sugar in the dosage) with floral citrus nose vs hazelnut and toasted brioche notes. Naked Wines £13.49/£9.99, Great Western Wine £13.50, Wines Direct £13.49, the Fine Wine Company £76.89 x 6.

Freixenet 2015 Vintage Especial Cava Brut - Same varieties as above, this is supposedly made from a special selection of high altitude grown grapes. Subtle yeasty toasty aromas mix with ripe citrus and peach, fresh and lively finish. Serious bargain: £7.49 B&M Belfast.

Marques del Norte 2015 Vintage Cava Brut, Jaume Serra - Same grapes. A touch more aromatic and apply than the above, delicate and satisfying with light yeasty tones. Asda £7.48 / £6 on offer.

By the way, Tesco's and Mark's own-label non-vintage Cavas are both good value too, particularly Tesco's yellow label Cava Brut for £5.55 (also produced by Jaume Serra).
MUCH MORE POSH CAVA IN MY MINI-GUIDE HERE.

02 October 2017

Wine Education Service Belfast wine tasting courses 2017-2018


Updated December 2017.

Saturday 3 February 2018 - 'Grape to Glass' one-day workshop £90

Including lunch from the hotel's bar menu with wine, a comprehensive course manual and at least a dozen high-quality classic wines sampled and talked about in a relaxed atmosphere. This general introductory Saturday wine tasting workshop will feature 12 or more classic styles from around the world's best-known wine regions and grape varieties that exemplify where they are grown and how they are made. More info can be found on the WES site HERE. Runs 10.45 to 16.45 approx with lunch break.

Thursday 8 March 2018'International grape varieties' evening wine tasting £32.50

We'll pick three or four (depending on numbers) pairs of varietal wines made from popular grape varieties, each pair being the same variety but sourced from different wine regions. For example, comparing Sauvignon Blanc from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, Aussie Shiraz vs French Syrah, German Riesling up against a surprising rival or two Pinot Noirs from contrasting vineyards. Runs 18.45 to 20.30 approx.

Essential Wine Tasting five-week course £125 (£129 by PayPal)
Thursday evenings April 5, 12, 19, 26 and 3 May 2018 from 6.45-8.30pm.

Six great wines tasted each session covering the world's famous wine regions, grape varieties and winemaking styles, as well as some lesser-known examples. We'll also talk about tasting, enjoying and keeping wine, how different types of wine are made and how climate and what goes on in the vineyard shape them as we go along each week, in addition to 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 via the Wine Education Service site (payment by bank transfer or cheque): Wine-Education-Service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast
Or log on to Facebook to view my page: Facebook.com/WineEducationServiceNI
Or you can pay by card or your own PayPal account by clicking on the button below (you don't need a PP account to do this though: just click on 'pay as guest'). You can change the quantity of tickets on the secure web form:


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Click here for more about PayPal payments and your privacy. WES terms and 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.