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04 November 2018

Germany: Saale-Unstrut region (and more).


The Saale-Unstrut wine area lies in eastern Germany roughly between Leipzig and Erfurt along the banks of those two eponymous rivers: most of the vineyards are actually in the state of Saxony. Production here is small compared to Germany's other wine regions with less than 800 hectares of vines, often on steep terraced hillsides around towns such as Naumburg, Freyburg (see photos left and below) and Laucha.

14 October 2018

Belfast wine tastings and courses autumn 2018 to spring 2019

Updated November 2018:
The Wine Education Service NI (that's me) program of wine tasting courses starting this autumn is (drum roll)...
Saturday 2 February 2019 - France and Italy workshop.
Saturday 30 March 2019 - Grape to Glass workshop.
Thursday evenings 25 April to 23 May 2019 inclusive - Essential Wine Tasting five-week course.

31 July 2018

Madeira: Henriques & Henriques and D'Oliveiras


Henriques & Henriques wine cellar is found just up the hill in the touristy fishing village of Câmara de Lobos a few kilometres to the west of Funchal, which is one of the main grape-growing areas on the island. These mostly small blocks of vineyard are strung along dangerous terraces lying above miniature banana plantations and steep market gardens, and offer a spectacularly dramatic backdrop to the town whether approaching from the coastal path to the east or staggeringly winding and elevated cliff-edged roads to the west as you descend into its vast awesome natural amphitheatre.

11 July 2018

Portugal: 'wines of the moment' (and restaurant tips in Funchal).

Or Portuguese 'holiday wines of the moment' since these recommendable bottles were sampled and enjoyed recently on the wonderful island of Madeira (a separate piece on two Madeira cellars is here), enhanced by a few eating-out tips where some of them were discovered. These are all convincing examples of just how happening Portugal now is on several different levels: well-made flavoursome wines, across the red white and rosé spectrum, fantastic diversity including many excellent (although sometimes difficult to get your tongue around pronunciation-wise) indigenous grape varieties and, to crown off the clichés, often good value too! 

07 June 2018

France, Roussillon: white wines

This is one of a handful of mini-features on the 'French Catalan' region of the Roussillon - the Eastern Pyrenees is the official département name (Perpignan, Rivesaltes, Maury, Collioure, Banyuls-sur-mer, erm... the bit in the middle (called Les Aspres) and way out west/south-west to Font Romeu and skiing country...) - which are divided into simple 'best whites' and 'best reds' type hit lists (with a hint of commentary to set the scene), gleaned from a succinct tour and extensive tastings in situ last month in addition to a couple of trips last year.

01 May 2018

Sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot: Italy, Australia, South Africa, France

A tad lengthy and random perhaps for a post title, especially since there's no Champagne included here; but this does feature an eclectic pick of contemporary 'traditional method' fizz (as in made the same way) based on those celebrity varieties. Just goes to show, in the unlikely event that you hadn't noticed, how well these grapes and the necessary know-how have exported in the right place and hands. It's also no surprise then to discover that some of the big Champagne brands invested in other places some time ago in fact - for instance, Moët et Chandon established sparkling production wineries in Argentina back in, unbelievably, 1959, Australia in 1986 and, the most recent India in 2014 among other countries (California, Brazil, China).

07 April 2018

Grenache / Garnacha: Australia, France (Roussillon), Spain (Catalonia).

Wine Australia says that Grenache 'was the most widely planted variety,' but the amount of Grenache crushed in Aus in 2012 was sadly one-fifth of the quantity harvested in 1979. Meaning somewhere along the line, Australian winemakers fell out of love with the grape, combined with the drop in demand for traditional fortified 'Port styles' based on the variety, which must have been removed in favour of Shiraz, for example among others, and/or very old vines died and weren't replaced. The Australians also claim they have 'some of the oldest vine varietals in the world, red and white,' in South Australia essentially where a successful quarantine policy has kept out the vine-destroying phylloxera louse, including cherished senior-citizen Grenache in the McLaren Vale.

19 February 2018

15 February 2018

Hungary: Tokay (and Slovakia), Hárslevelű, Furmint, Pinot Noir...

Why not start with Hungary's (and Slovakia) most famous wine creation, sweet Tokay, by launching into a couple of recommended ones tried or bought last late summer while on holiday. I finally opened the Royal Tokaji 'blue label' below recently (apparently called 'red label' in the States, as you would), which was savoured on a Saturday wine workshop event I just ran in Belfast and hence was the prompt for this overdue blog post.

Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2013 (Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat; 11% abv, sugar 156 g/l, total acidity 7.9 g/l) - Delicious alluring classic style with lashings of honey, sultanas, marmalade, dried apricot, quince... Mesmerizing opulence and quirky spice, lush sweet and richly textured with beautiful underlying fresh acidity holding it together effortlessly. Drinking nicely now (try with blue cheese or plain ice cream and nuts say) but will definitely develop over many years in bottle. Full price was €25 at Budapest airport, although it was on offer at the time equating to about £15 for a 50cl bottle. Majestic Wine in the UK sells it for £24/£21.60 depending on quantity; and some Waitrose stores stock a handy 25cl size for £12.99. 

05 February 2018

Cabernet & Merlot: France, Chile, Australia.


Updated February 2018
I've added a few more Cab-Mer, Mer-Cab (Sauvignon/Franc) or straight Cab Sauvs that are worth the typing and fit the theme; the first one in particular is very well-priced:
Château Tanunda 2016 'Basket Press' Barossa Cabernet-Merlot (15% abv) - This sumptuous blockbuster red, one of Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' label range, is made by one of South Australia's most famous and elderly wine estates (as opposed to Monty Python's similar-sounding Chateau Chunder which was destined for 'laying down and avoiding...'), and is packed with cassis, ripe damson and liquorice flavours but is multi-layered and 'meaty' too. Lots of taste for £10. 

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