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

16 February 2016

Uruguay: Bodega Garzón

I used Garzón's 2012 Tannat (click there to see my pick of that crop) in a 'wines of South America' themed tasting last year, which did the job well enough; so was pleased to see their name on a table at the 'Emerging Regions' event in London last autumn (which also took the 'wow-est view at a wine tasting trophy' in my book: if you get the chance to go to the Leadenhall Building in the City, take one of the Nasa installed lifts to the top for a rich-person's panorama across the old smoke in all directions).
Back to Bodega Garzón, which is found near a wee place of the same name in the Maldonado region not far from the resort town of Punta del Este on Uruguay's Atlantic coast. Founded by Alejandro Bulgheroni and his wife Bettina in 1999, their vineyards lie on gentle hills up to 200 metres above sea level all around a quirky-looking eco-winery with grass and trees growing out of it. They also planted the star north-western Spanish/Portuguese white variety Albariño (Alvarinho) here in 2008 and 2011 to supplement Sauvignon blanc and Viognier, which has proved to be a good idea I'd say (see my notes below).
Photo above pinched from bodegagarzon.com where you'll find more info on their wines, tourist activities and restaurant, if you're lucky enough to go there some day (Uruguay could become the new Mexico or Brazil, who knows). Garzón is part of the Blends Wine Estates group - their UK agent is Bibemdum PLB, and prices indicated are approx UK retail/on-trade (I think). I'd be surprised then if you couldn't find them in North America and the Far East etc. as well (the Blends' website lists lots of international distributors).

Colinas de Uruguay Albariño 2014 - Juicy and honeyed style, quite rich (for young vines) texture vs crisp and zesty finish. Nice dry white. £5
Bodega Garzón Albariño 2014 (older vines) - Similar style, more 'serious' and yeast-lees character vs very crisp and intense. Good foodie white. £11
Bodega Garzón Viognier 2014 - Quite green and zesty for a Viognier, has attractive apricot fruit edges though on a fatter palate, pretty crisp on the finish. £11
Colinas de Uruguay Tannat 2013 - Very sweet/sour profile with dark liquorice vs bitter chocolate notes, smoky vs crunchy fruit cocktail, fairly soft tannins though. Different. £5
Bodega Garzón Tannat 2013 - Less aromatic to start and more concentrated mouth-feel with similar smoky vs crunchy profile, firm/fresh and structured vs some lush fruit too. All comes together in the end, pretty good. £11-£13

10 February 2016

Chile: Viña Ventisquero & John Duval

One of Australia's most famous and laid-back winemakers, John Duval (below right) has been a consultant at Ventisquero (meaning 'grey glacier') in Chile since the beginning: 2004 vintage for Syrah and Merlot and 2005 for Cabernet and Carmenere (CLICK HERE and scroll down to read my report and notes cobbled together in 2007 featuring these wines). John, who was in London to host a special tasting a few months ago, said he's "worked with Felipe Tosso (winemaker at Ventisquero, left) for many years now... After I left Penfolds in 2002, it was through contacts there that I was invited to Chile..." And the rest is history, as the old cliché goes; he goes over twice a year nowadays "after the vintage in Barossa and in November."

Downloaded from facebook.com/VentisqueroWines

John told us he was "particularly impressed by Apalta (in the Colchagua Valley), it's a very beautiful vineyard site. I particularly loved some of the blocks of Syrah, so we did some work on soils etc. to see why." Ventisquero is part of a large agricultural group that went into the wine industry in the mid 1990s, which lead to new plantings in the late 90s and early 00s followed by "regular additions in different sites," John added. "There's plenty of old vine Carignan in the south too, which we've tried. And one of our Apalta sites, west-facing, was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon but was too hot for it, so we grafted Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre onto it." In the first few years, he described the wine as "juicy and aromatic but lacking structure, so it was bottled and released to market straightaway." This small maturing vineyard now extends to around 3.5 hectares (nearly 9 acres). John described his winemaking philosophy as "not trying to make big fruit bomb wines whether here, in Barossa or Washington State (he's a partner in the Long Shadows venture there)."
The highlight of this tasting was to compare certain recent Ventisquero vintages with a couple of those 2005s mentioned above - at least, that was the plan until Her Maj's customs lost one of them on arrival! But it still meant we had the chance to try one ageing ten year-old Syrah from Apalta at least. More info: www.ventisquero.com.

2014 Grey Glacier GCM - 55% Garnacha, 22.5% Cariñena, 22.5% Mataro (Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre) from La Roblería Vineyard, Apalta, Colchagua Valley. Aged in used French oak barrels for six months, 14.5% abv. Light cherry colour with aromatic cherry and violet notes, fresh and fruity with vibrant acidity and weight too, sweet berry and cherry fruit lingers with soft-ish texture and oomph. Attractive and fairly easy going but a bit dear (although no more than Chateauneuf-du-Pape say): £13.50 buygreatwine.co.uk and slurp.co.uk, £73 for six finewinecompany.co.uk.
2011 Grey Glacier Carmenere - 100% Carmenere from Trinidad Vineyard in the Maipo Valley, which is "more southerly and more sea influenced, and seems well suited to Carmenere," John thinks it would suit parts of Australia too. 2011 was a "quite cool vintage," and picking is often done in late May here. Fermented and aged in barrel for 12 months (30% new oak), 13.5% abv. Showing a hint of age on its colour, perfumed herby and spicy red pepper notes with light touch of chocolate oak; reasonably concentrated and complex, fairly soft and mature too with a little remaining grip tinged with roast red pepper and soy sauce flavours, attractive texture with light grain, sweet/savoury fruit finish yet still fresh and well balanced. Pretty good. £13.50-£14.50 Noble Green, Davy's, slurp.co.uk; £73-£77 for six Excel Wines and finewinecompany.co.uk.
2011 Enclave Cabernet Sauvignon - 87% Cab Sauv with 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Carmenere and 3% Cabernet Franc from the Pirque region in Maipo, including "some fruit from Maipo Alto planted at 750 and 1000 metres altitude to get the style we wanted; and older vines too." 18 months in 50% new French oak, 13.7% abv. Looks a tad older, leafy blackcurrant/cassis tones vs savoury maturing aromas, shows good concentration and power vs an elegant touch, subtle oak texture and sweet/savoury fruit; still firm and structured yet ageing nicely with that attractively quirky mix of herby vs sweeter fruit, quite long and fine. Expensive though: £45 slurp, six for £272 finewinecompany.
2011 Vertice - 53% Carmenere and 47% Syrah from La Roblería where "the top blocks are selected," up to 470 m above sea level. 20 months in French oak, 40% new; 14.5% abv. Aromatic and quite rich with coconut, red pepper and darker black cherry, powerful yet pretty concentrated, still quite tight and firm-structured vs enticing savoury meaty flavours, grainy and grippy mouth-feel vs some freshness and weight, again nice mix of herby vs sweeter fruit, powerful yet well-balanced finish. Showing well now although should keep nicely for a few years. £23.95 Davy's.
2011 Pangea Syrah - from a hillside vineyard in La Roblería; 22 months in 50% new French oak barrels, not fined or filtered, 14.5% abv. Darker colour, rich yet savoury with black cherry and liquorice, tasty mouthful of lush fruit, rounding oomph and still a little freshness too, and the oak is surprisingly subtle; concentrated, still fairly firm with nice grainy texture vs sweet/savoury fruit flavours vs weight and length. Very tasty Syrah with its own character. £28.95 Davy's.
2005 Pangea Syrahfrom a hillside vineyard in La Roblería; 20 months in 60% new French oak barrels, 14.5% abv. Distinctly browning colour yet still deep/dark and intense, nice ageing meaty nose with savoury vs liquorice profile, still fairly grippy mouth-feel although the wine's drinking well now, powerful sweet-fruited vs meaty finish; a bigger mouthful in some ways, attractive mature style with lingering dark/meaty flavours, although a little clunkier than the 2011 with drier tannins.
2013 Grey Glacier Chardonnay - Casablanca Valley. Barrel-fermented in French oak with lees-stirring then 30% aged in new oak and the rest used barrels for 12 months; 13.5% abv. Lovely ripe citrus vs oaty and buttery on the nose, subtle oak with creamy lees characters and sweet juicy fruit vs fresh bite still, attractive sweet/savoury notes on the finish. Delicious classy Chardy. £13.50 slurp and Davy's.
UK agent Bibendum PLB.

05 February 2016

WES Belfast wine tastings update

Here are the latest dates and details of forthcoming Wine Education Service NI courses and tastings running in Belfast city centre, with an updated PayPal button for card payments at the bottom of the post.

Impossible castle in Slovenia (not where the vineyards are!)

Saturday 27 February 2016 ​10.45am-​2pm​: 'Off the beaten track' ​wine tasting and ​lunch £49 LAST FEW PLACES LEFT!
"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 fine 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) from specific regions including popular and lesser-known grape varieties, such as e.g. Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir or Carmenere..."

NEW DATES: 'Essential Wine Tasting' five-week course £125 (£127.50 by card with Paypal)
Thursday evenings (7-8.45pm approx) April 7, 14, 21, 28 and May 5 2016. 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

NEW DATE: Thursday 19 May 2016 7-8.45 pm: 'Island wines' tasting £28.95
This 'original' tutored tasting will hop around from one island to another across the world taking in six to eight wines (depending on numbers), travelling from the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Greece...) to where the Indian Ocean meets the South Pacific (Tasmania, New Zealand...), and perhaps somewhere in between as well!

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 (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 and your privacy. WES terms & conditions apply, which will be emailed with your invoice or can be viewed on this site HEREWine 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.