"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link below above the cover image." Richard Mark James

28 May 2010

Good Mornington, Peninsula... by tractor

There's a new Oz winery profile on Yabby Lake Vineyard on WineWriting "the site" (click here if that appeals), who are making some great Pinot Noir and Chardy like several others (although often expensive) in this very maritime climate on that sticking-out bit directly south of Melbourne. e.g. Stonier, Kooyong and "best winery name at the last Wine Australia London tasting" winner: Ten Minutes by Tractor. Although logical enough according to the explanation found on their site: "we grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on all three of our home vineyards, each of which are ten minutes by tractor apart." What was that about "does what is says on the label?" Pic: "must be that famous tractor then," pinched from tenminutesbytractor.com.au

25 May 2010

From France, with love

Amidst enormous PR fanfare, and no doubt piles of EU €€€, www.vindefrance.org has been launched to illustrate this new, and admittedly potentially exciting wine "category," to use the lovely marketing-babble. Well, fine, they've tried to make the site kinda fun, young, funky, wine & foody and "accessible"; but could at least have paid for a native speaker to do the English version. Have a look and you'll see what I mean... tant pis, hein!

High as a kite summer rosé

Found this not so long ago for £5 at Tesco (UK): 2009 Storks' Tower Tempranillo/Shiraz rosado from Castilla y Léon in Spain (12.5%) - spirited tasty dryish rosé with lots of nice juicy raspberry and other red fruits, spicy and tangy with crisp vs creamy finish. 83-85
More "wines of the moment" here (takes you to a surprisingly good Moroccan red on my other site).

2010 Wine Blog Awards

The polls are now open for this year's wine blog Oscars / Césars / Baftas. Click here to view the on-line voting form and all the blogs shortlisted in a variety of categories. There certainly are a few good ones walking the red carpet and some I don't know but will check out. Must do a bit of research to find out just how many wine blogs there are out there nowadays. Answers on a virtual postcard please...

23 May 2010

Argentina: Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon

Malbec and Cabernet at a glance: here are my notes and ratings, for your pure pleasure, of twenty diverse reds made from arguably Argentina's forte on the variety front - varietals or blends of the two (or sometimes with a third grape such as Merlot), gleaned from the huge discovery of an Argentina stand at this year's London Wine Fair (May 2010). Interesting to note perhaps, I copied this comment from a tasting report I did on Argentina back in 2004 (one of many pages from the previous incarnation of this site I still think worthwhile restoring when I get a moment): "To reiterate one particular criticism, Argentina's winemakers (OK so not all of them) still appear to be on a learning curve in terms of oak usage..." Apply this to some of my comments below about oak and draw your own conclusions... Snapshots of some of the producers below are here ('wine words' archive).

2007 Norton Privada (MalbecMerlotCabernet Sauvignon) - quite extracted but has richer smokier fruit than their other wines I tried, with spicy dark olive notes too; and the grainy oak texture is more subtle on the finish. 87+
2007 Bodega Dante Robino Gran Dante Malbec - dusty oak on the nose, richer than their others with lively red berry fruit and hints of black olive; grainy coconut oak with solid tannins, shows fair depth although again not sure that oak is adding much...

Bodega Septima
2009 Malbec - nice "inky" cranberry fruit, quite intense with spicy liquorice notes; firm palate with perfumed fruity vs smoky edges, attractive style. 87+
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - quite rich and structured with some vibrant cassis fruit, although less charming than the above in the end.
2008 Septimo Dia Malbec - a touch of oak on the nose vs again lively characterful fruit; hint of spicy grainy oak on the palate yet quite concentrated vs firm and closed up finish. 89
2008 Septimo Dia Cabernet Sauvignon - spicy cedar notes vs pretty intense cassis and black cherry; again has firm and grainy mouth-feel vs fair concentration and oomph. Needs a year to open up a bit. 90+
2008 Gran Reserva (MalbecCabernet SauvignonTannat) - oakier still but pretty concentrated, difficult and inexpressive at the moment but promising...

Clichés galore...

Las Piedras Pura Vid & Bodega Calle
2009 Pannunzio GV Malbec - vibrant currant-y fruit with lush smoky edges and spicy too; attractive concentration and depth of fruit vs a touch of tannin grip and oomph. 88+
2009 Pannunzio GV Cabernet Sauvignon - rich and juicy with lovely cassis aromas/flavours; again shows good concentration and style, lush vs firm mouth-feel and well-balanced finish.89-91
2009 Bodega Calle Alberti 154 Malbec - "inky", spicy and intense with cranberry, raspberry and liquorice; delicious fruit and spice vs big firm mouth-feel. Promising. 90+
2009 Bodega Calle Alberti 154 Cabernet Sauvignon - wilder and smokier profile with rich cassis and biscuit tones; solid and powerful finish, also needs a couple of years to open up. 90+

Domaine Vistalba / Fabre Montmayou
2008 Reserva Malbec - shows a bit of coconut oak vs nice peppery black and red fruit profile; smoky richness vs solid dry mouth-feel vs good balance of attractive fruit and oomph; finishing with lingering tobacco, raspberry and liquorice tones/flavours. 87+
2008 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - juicy and ripe cassis aromas/flavours with "inky" intensity; firm structure and power vs touches of chocolate oak underpinned by nice currant fruit.87+
2008 Gran Reserva Malbec - shows more choco oak yet definitely lusher mouth-feel too; very chunky and grippy still with underlying dark spicy fruit. 87-89
2008 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - lovely cassis and dark plum fruit, again big solid palate vs concentrated and structured; promising, needs 1-2 years to open up. 89-91
2007 Grand Vin (MalbecCabernet Sauvignon + 5% Merlot) - pretty coco oaky nose and texture; chunky, dense and concentrated though with a bit of wow on the finish. Not sure about the amount of oak but there's plenty going on underneath, it seems... 90+?

2008 Malbec - a touch baked on the nose; ripe vs vibrant cranberry palate with minty raspberry notes too, has a bit of power and grip but it's quite easy-going. 80+
2007 Solar de Orfila Malbec (14%) - smokier and richer with firm tight palate, not very oaky actually with punchy finish. 85
2007 Cautivo de Orfila Malbec (14.5%) - quite complex, rich and smoky with darker spicier profile; light chocolate oak texture vs dry grip, nice intense and spicy red vs black fruit finish. 86-88

Other archived South American links:
Chile Awards gold & trophy winners (and lots more from Chile too).
More Argentina on the archive page HERE.

22 May 2010

Focus on Portugal: Douro - Alentejo - Algarve...

Focus on Portugal: Douro, Alentejo, Algarve and beyond

Over 50 smouldering Atlantic wines reviewed including a fascinating "Douro masterclass" with its diverse white, red, pink & Port styles... eight featured producers from the Douro, Alentejo and Algarve plus the odd Vinho Verde thrown in too. Best wines: Crasto, Favaios, Graham's, Duorum, Lagos, Outeiro Mouro, São Miguel, Quevedo, Dona Matilde. More detailed Portuguese winery "profiles" are here.

"The Douro from nose to tail..."

A masterclass with Sarah Ahmed at the London Wine Fair May 2010. (That link goes to her website, the Wine Detective: Sarah was 2009 "Portuguese Wine Writer of the Year." Click here for more generic info on the region on the IVDP's site (Port Wine Trade body).

2009 PV Egle white (RabigatoViosinhoCordoga 13.5% alc.) - from vineyards planted at 750m above sea level (2500 feet): aromatic and zesty with floral honeysuckle notes and "chalky" edges; delicate juicy citrus fruit vs quite punchy mouth-feel, oily texture vs fairly crisp and steely with lingering green olive notes. Nice with a bit of character too, although expensive at £10. 83-85
2006 Quinta do Zimbro red (Touriga FrancaTinta BarrocaTinta Roriz (= Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional) - enticing ripe cassis, black cherry and squashed raspberry fruit with perfumed violet tones and toasty chocolate oak in the background; similar red/black fruit cocktail on the palate, punchy and firmly structured with tight finish vs attractive "sweet"/spicy fruit and oak underneath. Seems higher in alcohol than the stated 13%, but there's enough choc textured ripe fruit to carry it. £8.99 87

2007 Quinta do Crasto Reserva red "Vinhas Velhas" (old vines with up to 30 different Port grape varieties!) - showing quite a lot of aromatic spicy coconut oak (aged 16 months in 60% new barrels, mostly French) vs lively black fruits with dark damsons, liquorice, black cherry; lush juicy mouth-feel with ripe fruit and toasty dark chocolate texture, powerful and weighty with solid yet rounded tannins. Big but controlled, I'd like less oak although there's lots of fruit and it's quite classy in the end. £18 Adnams. 90-92
Croft Pink Port NV (100 grams/litre residual sugar) - boiled sweets and bubble gum in that ester-y chemistry lab kinda way, plus something odd and a tad oxidised even? Lively fruity palate with underlying baked character, very fiery zesty and red fruity. Not sure really: full marks to the Port world for riding the pink zeitgeist, but I was struggling to like this wine being too techno with hard alcohol. With a mixer as an apero perhaps...
1989 Adega de Favaios Moscatel (Moscatel Galego = Muscat à petits grains, 137 g/l RS, 17% alc., bottled in 2009) - lovely golden brown colour, marmalade and cooked apricots and grapes with complex Madeira-like edges; lush sweet flavours with baked maturing tones, barley sugar and marmalade fruit; has a bit of a kick cutting through the sweetness nicely, lots of flavour and delicious intricate lingering nuances. €8.40 ex-cellars. 92+
Andresen 20 year-old white Port (101 g/l RS, 20%) - baked walnuts with Demerara, barley sugar and lightly "cheesy" Madeira-like hints; intense and fiery with toasted almonds, tangier palate than the Moscatel with intriguing flavours and good cut; although in the end the alcohol is too fiery, pity as it's interesting and complex. £25 87(+)
Graham's 20 year-old Tawny (20%) - still reddish colour with browning edges, cooked raspberry nose; attractive lush "sweet/savoury" fruit with fiery kick, mellowing on the finish though with toffee and caramelised red fruits; complex and tasty pecan notes too with softer "sweet/savoury" finish vs lingering oomph. Very good although I remember it being even better?! £3088-90
2007 JP Ramos/JM Soares Franco "Duorum" Vintage Port (mostly a field blend with majority Touriga Nacional Touriga Franca plusTinta Roriz, 20% alc., 100 RS) - stonking colour and nose with rich sweet dark cherries, prunes and liquorice tinged with peppery violet notes and baked/savoury edges; perfumed vs lush dark cherry, punchy alcohol with firm dry tannins although lovely texture too; huge extracted mouthful with lots of liquorice yet a touch of freshness in there too. Wow: peppery finish with good depth, relatively approachable now although really needs 5+ years to express itself better. £35 92+
Plus these two reds discovered on the Douro and Port Wine Institute stand:
2006 Calços do Tanha Douro Reserva (13.5%) - attractive maturing "sweet" cherry fruit with minty touches; rich and juicy, turning more savoury with firm powerful finish yet good fruit too.87-89
2005 Quinta Fonte Nova Gran Reserva - gutsy meaty wine, very big tannins although there's quite a bit going on underneath. Let it lie for a couple more years?

More Douro wine reviews below, as well as notes on a few wineries in the Alentejo and Algarve. Mini-profiles on the producers of these wines are here:

Herdade dos Lagos - Alentejo & Vinho Verde
2006 Tinto (SyrahAragonês (= Tempranillo)) - lovely minty "garrigue" aromas with sweet lavender vs dark cherry too; savoury vs dried fruit palate with a touch of underlining tannin, attractive now actually. 87
2005 Reserva (SyrahAragonês) - herbal and coconut spicy notes vs quite rich black cherry/berry; firmer more solid mouth-feel with peppery edges, fairly powerful with lightly grainy texture then more savoury finish. 88+
2007 Reserva - lush fruit vs grippy texture and a touch of grainy oak; tight and firm finish vs concentrated and ripe, attractive lingering liquorice and pepper flavours. Needs 2-3 more years yet.90+
2007 Syrah - meaty and dark fruity profile, lovely wild Rhone/Barossa style with solid palate vs lush dark fruit; fine tight length too with tasty rich flavours on a firm backdrop. 92+
2006 Syrah Reserva - maturing fruit vs grainy grippy mouth-feel, more subtle concentration and richness even if less "impressive"; followed by firm taut and less up-front finish. 90+
2009 Vinho Verde - very lively gooseberry and other crisp green fruits, nice and refreshing finish. 80-85
2009 Vinho Branco Tejo (VidalArintoChardonnay) - floral "chalky" and lees-y notes on the nose; turns more exotic with banana flavours vs very crisp and mineral bite, different too. 85-87
2009 rosé (Touriga Nacional/Cabernet Sauvignon) - nice creamy vs crunchy red fruits with crisp clean finish. 80-83

Terras d'Alter - Alentejo
2009 Arinto - aromatic and zesty with floral honeysuckle tones; juicy and crisp mouth-feel with quite long mineral finish. 85
2009 Alva (Alvarinho) - rich lees-y and quite exotic to start; gooseberry and lime zesty too vs "fatter" apricot fruit vs exciting crisp juicy finish. 87+
2009 Verdelho - greengage vs honeyed and pineapple notes; again nice crisp steely palate with green vs "sweeter" fruit finish. Attractive style. 85+
2009 Reserva (Viognier) - more buttery and exotic with full-on apricot fruit; full-bodied and rounded vs crisp bite, well made and balanced. 87
2009 Touriga Nacional - liquorice and dark cherry with peppery edges; gorgeous lush fruit with spicy/juicy profile vs a touch of grip and style. 87+
2007 Outeiro do Mouro (Syrah/Petit Verdot) - grainy coconut nuances vs enticing rich chunky fruit; pretty solid mouth-feel dusted with oak, although I like that coating of tannins and fruit vs 14.5% oomph; structured taut finish vs hints of savoury development. 88-90
2009 Tempranillo - very ripe and dark "tar" notes with toasty oak; rather firm and charred on the palate, although it's concentrated underneath and probably has potential (so why all that oak...)

Herdade São Miguel - Alentejo
2008 Atlântico
 red (Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Aragonês) - "sweet" vs smoky berry fruit; nice juicy spicy palate with a bit of grip and ripe berries to finish. £5.99 85
2009 Ciconia (Aragonês, Syrah, Touriga Nacional) - more peppery on the nose, again has attractive lively ripe berry fruit (red and black); more oomph and grip too vs liquorice and pepper length. £6.99 87
2009 Herdade São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada (Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira) - spicy black cherry style showing juicy "sweet" dark fruit with spicy minty edges; structured mouth-feel with grip and power, needs 6-12 months to come together. 87+
2008 Touriga Nacional - touches of cedar and coconut oak vs very firm palate vs liquorice and dark cherry; spicy punchy and solid closing up on the finish, powerful stuff but promising. 88-90
2008 SM dos Descobridores Reserva (Alicante BouschetTouriga Franca) - grippy texture and grainy oak, a bit extracted and difficult to taste although concentrated with lurking fruit; pretty massive mouth-feel then tight finish. Leave it for a couple of years.
2007 Herdade São Miguel Reserva (Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon) - maturing smoky tobacco notes with underlying spicy oak; big firm and punchy palate, coating of dry tannins vs lush dark fruit; wow, even if pretty grippy still. 90+
2006 Private Collection (the top five barrels each vintage) - indeed, it's quite oaky but also has lovely maturing savoury and leather tones; again big tannins and structure with grainy texture, solid concentrated finish; just a bit too much oak for my liking but should age well over the next few years. 89-91

Porto Quevedo - Douro Valley
2008 Oscar's
 Douro red (Touriga NacionalTinta Roriz 14% alc.) - meaty peppery nose with nice dark cassis and cherry flavours; "sweet/savoury" finish with well-textured tannins, a bit baked although shows fair depth of fruit. $6.99
Rosé Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga FrancaSousão) - unusual tobacco notes or something unexpected on the nose!? Again a touch baked (could just be from sitting open for a few hours in a warm exhibition hall) but has rich red fruit palate with oomph and bite; not so sweet in the end and attractive enough style (I'm slowly warming to rosé ports, some of them taste too confected).
1996 Colheita Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga FrancaTinta Roriz,Tinto CãoTinta Barroca; plus 12% "others" which sounds a little mysterious) - reddish brown colour; rich complex "sweet/savoury" profile with a bit of a kick still, sweet palate vs nice bite with dried fruit and oily nutty finish. 90
2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, "others" (20%) - baked leathery dried fruit nose; pretty stonking tannins still layered with lush smoky dried fruits, although quite mature at the same time; a bit clunky perhaps but still attractive. 85+

2007 Vintage Port - baked liquorice tones with sweet, dried prune-y fruit vs peppery dark cherries; big chewy palate with fair oomph, "sweet/savoury" finish vs nice cut; concentrated and meaty with dried fruit and power to finish. Needs more time. 87-90

Quinta Dona Matilde - Douro
2007 Reserva Douro red (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca andTinta Amarela) - smoky, peppery and floral too with enticing cassis vs liquorice notes; grippy vs maturing mouth-feel showing good depth and more savoury finish. 87
2009 Douro white (ArintoViosinhoGouveioRabigato) - flowery honeysuckle vs zesty "chalky" aromas; lightly exotic banana fruit vs crisp and steely, juicy lees-y finish too. 80-84
2007 Quinta Dona Matilde Vintage Port - powerful with prune and leather on the nose and palate, extracted and fiery vs masses of liquorice and black fruits; very firm framework but there's lots going on here, needs a few years to open up. 92+

Adega Vila Real - Douro
2009 Douro white - cheesy vs banana aromas (?!); floral juicy mouth-feel with lightly crisp and mineral finish. 80-83
2009 Douro Reserva white - subtle toasted vanilla notes; again juicy and crisp in the mouth although rounder with tasty mineral finish. 85
2008 Douro Gran Reserva white - very cold to taste, although showing oilier and weightier palate plus a tad more coconut oak spice too; has attractive rounded mouth-feel though with nice fruit and texture, dry and crisp on the finish. 85-87
2009 Douro rosé - lively vs creamy red fruits, crisp bite again vs "sweet" fruit; attractive foodie style. 85
2008 Douro red - enticing perfumed and fruity cassis, liquorice and cherry; soft and juicy with ripe mouth-feel vs a bit of bite. Tasty, attractive and good value at £5 a bottle in the UK (as are the "basic" white and rosé above). 85
2007 Reserva red - hints of chocolate oak layered with dark plum, liquorice and peppery undertones; has fair depth of fruit with lightly cedar-y/toasty texture and flavours, attractive "sweet/savoury" mix on the finish though. 87
2007 Gran Reserva red (vat sample, not bottled) - quite lush and concentrated black fruits vs firm structure, tight and closed up finish; not revealing much at the moment although punchy with lurking fruit, could be promising.

Quinta dos Vales - the Algarve
2009 Marquês dos Vales white - floral orange shades with peaches and a touch of vanilla; juicy palate with vanilla oak touches and lightly bitter twist to finish. 83+
2009 Marquês dos Vales rosé(Castelão) - juicy and crisp with gentle red fruits, pretty dry and refreshing on the finish. €5.31 83+
2007 Grace Vineyard red (CastelãoCabernet Sauvignon,Aragones) - a lot of smoky rubbery oak on the nose, perhaps a touch over-extracted yet there's some nice lush fruit lurking underneath. €12.60
2008 Grace Vineyard Touriga Nacional - rich plum nose with ripe cassis and chocolate oak on top; very firm and punchy with extracted tannins and rubbery oak texture, concentrated though with dark fruit undertones. Pity about the overdone oak... €12.6087+?

Regis Causa - Douro
2009 Douro
 white - aromatic floral Muscat-y even with mineral edges; nice crisp bite and juicy lees notes vs fruity finish. 85+
2007 Douro red (Touriga Franca, Touriga NacionalTinta Roriz) - attractive ripe vs herby red/black fruit nose with minty edges; meatier palate, tasty fruit vs solid finish. 87+
2007 Grande Reserve (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca) - toasty oak and grippy tannins to the fore, nice sweet fruit though vs chunky oaky finish. Not sure, needs to open up maybe...

21 May 2010

Eastern Slovenia: "taking on New Zealand"

Yet another catchy-titled tutored tasting from the London Wine Fair (May 2010), this time by Caroline Gilby MW who's an authority on Eastern European wines (as well as being rather good at running marathons for charity). This one featured wines from eastern Slovenia, which threw up several lively and/or unusual aromatic white wines. Slovenia has perhaps grabbed a bit of attention for certain intense styles of "macerated" and "natural-winemaking" whites sourced from those elevated vineyards in the west, which border the Trieste area of northwest Italy and trendy wine regions such as Collio. The climate there is very different to the east, with milder sea-influenced weather; the east has a much more continental climate, influenced by the Austrian Alps to the west and north and the landmass of Hungary to the east bringing hot summers and very cold winters. However, I did try a couple of wines from western Slovenia afterwards along with a few more Rieslings - Renski or Rhine or "true" Riesling as opposed to Laški Rizling (although there are now some good wines being made from this variety too: I won't go on about Lutomer or whatever it was/is here!) - coming mostly from the east. Because: 1. it seems promising and 2. well, if you've read anything on this site before, you'll know I'm slightly Riesling addictive....

Colour code: Producer wine/place name grape variety

Bajnof Žametna Penina sparkling rosé NV (made from Cviček base wine, which is a blend of red and white grapes: Žametna črninaModra Frankinja (=Blaufränkisch), Kraljevina and Laški Rizling (=Welschriesling or Riesling Italico))
Cherry colour, quite perfumed with morello cherry, other red fruits and violets; lightly toasted almond and fruit cake notes, very lively acidity vs a touch of sweetness and roundness. Interesting and attractive fizz, not to everyone's taste though! Žametna means "velvety," by the way.
2007 Joannes Protner Riesling (12.5% alc.) - lightly peachy vs mineral, oily and "chalky" tones; quite pure fruit turning oily vs steely edges and crisp acidity, very dry appley finish; quite elegant and long too. 87
2008 Joannes Protner Riesling - a bit reductive and awkward on the nose; rounder palate (has about 6g/l residual sugar) vs again showing nice pure Riesling style with "chalky" texture vs lime fruit, very crisp yet off-dry finish. 87+
2006 Joannes Protner Riesling - attractive oily developing nose; dried raisin-y flavours vs very crisp and intense mineral profile, maturing "petrol-y" fruit finish. 88+
2009 Marof Bodonci Laški Rizling (13.5%) - gummy zingy and aromatic with gooseberry, floral and subtle lees notes; nice lively zesty palate in that modern winemaking style, crisp and juicy with "chalky" mineral vs more rounded and weighty finish.85+

2009 Marof Renski Rizling (11.5%, 21 g/l residual sugar) - floral, citrus and gummy aromas; medium-dry style showing sweeter side vs crisp and mineral finish. 80+
2008 Valcl Šipon (= Furmint) - complex nose with greengage / kiwi vs richer honeyed and oily notes; perfumed in the mouth vs creamy buttery and hazelnut, refreshing "cut" and quite concentrated too; very unusual with attractive fresh vs textured finish. 89+
2009 Vino Valdhuber Sauvignon Blanc (12.5%) - quite restrained citrus and gooseberry style showing juicy lees-y edges and fresh bite; more Loire than NZ perhaps with nice crisp pure finish. 85+
2008 Vino Kupljen Sirius Chardonnay Jeruzalem-Svetinje (12.5%) - enticing yet subtle peachy notes with light spicy oak vs underlying vibrant citrus fruit; well-balanced mix of all those flavours/textures carries through, well made with again that underlining crisp bite vs rounded buttery and coconut edges. 87

2009 Kupljen Renski Rizling (12.5%) - restrained tight style with attractive crisp limey fruit; juicy lees vs mineral texture with steely dry finish, good extract and purity with fair class too. 87+
2008 Kupljen Renski Rizling - oilier maturing nose with lightly "burnt" notes; quite lush texture actually with nice developing fruit vs citrus bite and steely mineral length. 88
2008 Kupljen Classic Renski Rizling (residual sugar and acidity are the same at about 6-7g/l and 12% alc.) - more exotic with pineapple notes vs limey and zingy; crisp and fresh mouth-feel vs rounded and off-dry, attractive style. 85+
2007 Kupljen "sweet Auslese" Renski Rizling (9.5%) - honeyed and exotic with lightly spicy notes; lush mouthful of rich raisin fruit vs racy acidity cutting through it, closes up on the finish. Needs 5-10 years to develop. 90
2008 Steyer Gewurztraminer (Alsace and Austrian clones apparently, 13%) - full-on lychee nose with pure clean and expressive floral / rose water tones; juicy and off-dry with a hint of sweetness vs refreshing acidity, very attractive style. 85+

2008 Steyer Renski Rizling - lightly peachy and floral fruit vs "phenolic/chalky" zesty texture; tight zingy and crisp length with lime flavours. Needs a couple of years to open up. 87
2007 Marjan Simčič Sauvignon Blanc - more golden in colour than any of the above dry wines, rich yeast-lees vs aromatic green fruit; quite fat and creamy with subtle toasted texture vs a bit of oomph and bite. Different for sure, not for all but good though. 87+Distributors for Simčič wines: H&H Bancroft Wines in London; US: Trilussa Wine Company CA and Dark Stars imports NYC.

Photos by (top) Joco Znidarsic copied from matkurja.com/projects/wine, where you'll find lots of fascinating generic info on Slovenian wine, and (bottom) vino-kupljen.com.

19 May 2010

Nero d'Avola vs Malbec...

That deliberately cryptic title is just meant to provoke an emotional response rather than an academic one, and gives you an idea of what some of us have been up to today at the London wine trade fair. Spent a couple of fun hours on the Sicilian stand tasting various whites - the Grillo variety in particular pulled my chain e.g. from Casa di Grazia - followed by a run of tasty reds from star Sicilian grape Nero d'Avola e.g. Brugnano. Then on to Argentina for a stint of tasting Malbecs and Cabernets from half a dozen wineries: a couple of favs, off the top of my head, were probably Pannunzio and Septima. Full report on both of these to follow, along with wines from Portugal and Slovenia...

16 May 2010

Languedoc: Sainte Cécile du Parc, Pézenas

Updated March 2013

Stéphane Mouton and Christine Mouton Bertoli created this "new" estate in 2005, which is found between Pézenas and the little village of Caux. "Inverted commas" as the vineyards aren't new - well, some of them were in fact replanted between 2006-2010 (including a 3.5 ha/8.5 acre plot of Cabernet Franc surprisingly perhaps), but there are records of vines on this old estate going back over a century apparently - although the groovy winery is. The 2011 vintage was the first to be made in situ, and before this they'd been using the local Pézenas co-op winery, who used to buy the grapes before Stéphane and Christine bought the property. They took an environmentally (and worker) friendly approach from the beginning, and 2013 will be their first certified organic vintage. Jérome Dubrun overseas the work in the vineyards and winemaking. More @ saintececileduparc.com.

I tried the 2009 vintage of two of their Coteaux du Languedoc reds at last year's London International Wine Fair:
Notes d'Orphée (Syrah and old Cinsault; half the wine spent 12 months in large casks) - ripe spicy and minty nose, rich dark cherry with smoky edges; firm vs rounded palate, has a fair 'kick' at 14.5% alc. but has plenty of sweet vs savoury & tobacco fruit on top. Good value (€4.50 ex-cellar meaning the export price presumably).
Sonatina (Syrah and old Cinsault; aged for 12 months in newer smaller barrels) - similar nose/flavours, more aromatic perhaps with lush and spicy profile, powerful solid palate yet has greater depth of fruit to handle it, again shows attractive savoury & tobacco vs liquorice notes on its still firm and tight finish. Needs a little more time to open up. €6.50 ex-cellar.

And tasted these wines with Christine at the 2010 show:
2008 Notes Pures Vin de Pays d'Oc (Sauvignon Blanc) - nice lively gooseberry and citrus notes/flavours vs 'fatter' lees-y side, rounded vs crisp finish. 85
2009 Notes Frivoles rosé (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carignan) - gentle red fruits vs creamier flavours, crisp and crunchy finish with zingy blast. 85
2007 Notes d'Orphée Coteaux du Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache) - lovely aromatic dark cherry and liquorice profile with wild herb edges; spicy/white-pepper tones layered with dark liquorice and 'tar', delicious wine and very 2007 with it. 89+
2007 Sonatina Coteaux du Languedoc - winey and a tad volatile or something on the nose (it might have just been bottled)? Rich dark palate vs firm and peppery, solid grippy texture with underlying minty notes vs black fruits. Interesting stuff in the end, still young for a 2007. 88-90

02 May 2010

Béziers: Knight in shining armour @ the refinery

Béziers might still have a slight reputation as the rough-diamond of the Languedoc, but there's certainly more and more happening here on the food and drink front. The smart and curiously named wine bar Le Chameau Ivre ("the steaming camel," in the Irish sense that is), found smack in the city centre on Place Jean Jaures, appears to be getting a bit of a following for its lively Languedoc and Roussillon wine selection and colourful lunchtime tasting menu.
And the other night, I had a good meal at La Raffinerie restaurant, on the edge of town not far from the station alongside the Midi canal (Avenue Joseph Lazare: www.la-raffinerie.com), which used to be a sulphur refinery and retains some of its chunky industrial paraphernalia (huge grindstones and metal cogs). My succulent duck "tournedos" was very nicely accompanied by 1998 Croix la Chevaliere, the first vintage of nearby Mas de la Chevaliere's top red blend which is owned by Laroche / Jeanjean / Advini (thanks again Renaud Laroche, son of Michel of Chablis, for digging that out of the cupboard). At first, we thought lovely and complex although should be drunk now; but after a bit of airing actually got more delicious with its intense tasty savoury palate. The restaurant does two courses for €22 or three for €28, so pretty good value I guess.

Knight in shining armour @ the refinery

Béziers might still have a slight reputation as the rough-diamond of the Languedoc, but there's certainly more and more happening here on the food and drink front. The smart and curiously named wine bar Le Chameau Ivre ("the steaming camel," in the Irish sense that is), found smack in the city centre on Place Jean Jaures, appears to be getting a bit of a following for its lively Languedoc and Roussillon wine selection and colourful lunchtime tasting menu.
And the other night, I had a good meal at La Raffinerie restaurant, on the edge of town not far from the station alongside the Midi canal (Avenue Joseph Lazare: www.la-raffinerie.com), which used to be a sulphur refinery and retains some of its chunky industrial paraphernalia (huge grindstones and metal cogs). My succulent duck "tournedos" was very nicely accompanied by 1998 Croix la Chevaliere, the first vintage of nearby Mas de la Chevaliere's top red blend which is owned by Laroche / Jeanjean / Advini (thanks again Renaud Laroche, son of Michel of Chablis, for digging that out of the cupboard). At first, we thought lovely and complex although should be drunk now; but after a bit of airing actually got more delicious with its intense tasty savoury palate. The restaurant does two courses for €22 or three for €28, so pretty good value I guess.


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