"Buy my book about the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback or eBook) on Amazon UK HERE or Amazon USA HERE. Or order it direct from me (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap/click on the link over the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

Showing posts sorted by date for query Champagne. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query Champagne. Sort by relevance Show all posts

03 October 2021

Bubbly of the moment: Cava

Frankly, almost always more interesting than Prosecco (unless you pay for some of the top names), here are five Catalan fizz favourites enjoyed in recent times.

Vilarnau Rosé Brut Reserva (12% abv) - Toasty, red-fruity and full-flavoured, this delicious Cava Rosado is based on Garnacha (Grenache) and Pinot Noir.

17 September 2021

France, Roussillon: Domaine of the Bee

Bees like lavender.

This is the first full update on Roussillon wine producers since I published my book on the region (did I mention it already?! Click there for details), focusing on new vintages and releases from wineries featured in the book, and potentially any new-to-me places that would then be slotted into the winery guide sections for a future edition. Domaine of the Bee was tentatively launched in 2004 (some old vines purchased) by Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, wife Amanda and business partner Philippe Sacerdot, with their first 2007 vintage unleashed in 2009, and who are working on the 15th vintage at the moment. You'll find the full story and commentary on their wines over the years in the book. Notes on 2019 vintage reds, 2020 white and rosé and English bubbly are posted below.

06 August 2021

Bubbly and white wines of the moment

Photo from saint-chinian.pro
Château Viranel Intuition blanc 2020 Saint-Chinian Languedoc (60% Grenache blanc, 15% Roussanne, 20% Vermentino, 5% Bourboulenc, 13.5% abv) - This delicious mix of southern French grape varieties undergoes a modest 15% of the blend fermented in barrels (and all the better for it) with the completed wine stored and stirred on the yeast-lees for three months to maximise flavour and texture. Lovely aromatic floral nose with grapey honeysuckle and aniseed tones, lightly lees-y palate with full rounded and oily mouthfeel then fresh and zesty finish, concentrated flavour too. Tasty and classy. €10-€11 France and Belgium, £16.99 Bancroft Wines London, 185 KR Sweden, €12 Germany.

02 June 2020

Lockdown bubbly of the moment

Prestige Cava Rosado & Prestige Cava Brut
At first, I thought this dynamic duo were the usual Marks & Spencer Cavas with flashy new labels and a price rise, but they are additional to the range and definitely noticeably tastier and toastier quality-wise for the £10 price tag. Made by 'Sevisa' in Torrelavit up in the hills to the west/north-west of Barcelona, which is probably Segura Viudas, part of the Freixenet group and well-known for their reliably classy Cavas.

23 December 2019

Posh Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac, Marc de Champagne, Marc de Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Armagnac - Château de Laubade

My modest holiday home. Not.

Château de Laubade is the largest estate in the Armagnac region (lying in deepest south-west France, south of Bordeaux and Bergerac, the main town is Auch) with 105 hectares of vineyards, which they claim allows them not to have to buy in any grapes or spirits from outside of the property. Laubade is considered the centrepiece of the Lesgourgues family business run by Arnaud and Denis Lesgourgues.

16 October 2019

Wine Education Service Belfast wine workshops, tastings and courses winter-spring 2020

You can now book these Wine Education Service NI wine workshops, tastings and courses online, scheduled to run from February to May 2020. All delivered with enthusiasm, insight and a sense of humour by wine tutor and blogger Richard Mark James, and held in Belfast city centre. Also available to buy as gift vouchers. Go to the WES Belfast web page for more details and online booking:
wine-education-service.co.uk/location/wine-tasting-belfast.

22 September 2019

Belgium and Netherlands: Bruges, Gent, Rotterdam, Haarlem; beer and eating...


Besides being one of the most awesome (and alas touristy) old cities in Europe, Bruges is home to three (according to belgium.beertourism.com) tasty breweries as well. The Bourgogne des Flandres brewery backs on to the Dijver river on the south side of the old centre. On the website, their beer is described as a 'red-brown ale' (the English translation obviously), although I remember it being fairly dark but not at all heavy - alcohol content is 5% - with a lovely tangy finish to the richer darker malty side. 

30 July 2019

Ballyhackamore Belfast BYO: Rajput and Good Fortune restaurants (with wine tips to match dishes).


Ballyhackamore in east Belfast - known locally as 'Bally-snack' thanks to no shortage of eateries and cafés along this busy stretch of Upper Newtownards Road - is home to at least two recommended restaurants, where you can bring your own wine. The Rajput has become something of an Indian food institution, and I've always found the quality to be very consistent and the service top notch. It has also become one of the dearer Indian restaurants in Belfast, although no more than some fancy places with arty pretensions where you don't get enough food for the money. Whereas, even if the prices have edged up a little at Rajput, you always get good portions of tasty and varied dishes.

07 February 2019

Winter 'wines of the moment'

This long overdue mini-feature (there's no money in a wine blog so that's the unfortunate reality) takes a look at a gaggle of loosely recommended wines, which happened to have been bought, tasted, consumed and enjoyed over the last couple of months or so with a variety of food. There's a mix of themes here, from less obvious retailer offerings to favourite and more obscure grape varieties.

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! 

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).

01 April 2017

South Africa: whites, pink fizz and reds to tantalize...

Here's a random selection of half-a-dozen higher-priced South African palate-tantalizers test-driven in recent times, which all show it's worth paying a little more for this country's wines as the quality and character factor appears to rise quickly in tandem. Without wanting to make generalisations, which is asking for trouble but I'm going to anyway, I think it's also better to buy South African wines bottled at source rather than those bottled in the UK or Germany for instance. While, in principle, bulk-shipping in tankers is a perfectly sound winemaking and distribution practice, given the advanced technology and know-how behind it nowadays; but this sort of wine is probably more processed with, for example, up to the maximum permitted levels of sulphites used to help preserve whites and rosés in particular. No doubt some angry wine business technician will disagree, but this is my experience from actually drinking some of those wines...


The 1812 Overture of South African reds, from kanonkop.co.za
Stellenrust Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch region (13.5% abv) - This famous and long-established winery (vineyards here dating from the late 17th century they say) is pretty good at a variety of Chenin styles. This one's ripe and rounded with exotic honeyed edges vs nice zesty citrus and yeast-lees notes on the finish. Good value for flavour. £7 (on offer)/£8 Sainsbury's.

Cornelia White 2015, Swartland region (Chenin blanc, Roussanne, Verdelho, Viognier; 13% abv) - Made by Adi Badenhorst, who's also a bit of a star for quirky white blends like this: attractive mix of oily texture, peach and apricot fruit with fresher spicier undertones and concentrated too. £10 Marks & Spencer.

Jan & Johan Old Vine Cinsault 2015, Paarl region (14% abv) - Tantalizing mix of lightly wild and perfumed berry fruits with fairly soft mouth-feel yet weight and roundness too. There's still a good deal of old vine Cinsault in parts of South Africa, like in southern France, although much of it has been pulled up. €8.99 Aldi Ireland.

Kanonkop Kadette 2015 Cape Blend, Stellenbosch region (about 50% Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc; 14.5% abv) - This is their 'junior' red blend of these four varieties, which is something of a house specialty, offering lots of flavour and style for the money. Smoky red pepper notes mingle with blackcurrant, dark plum and spicy oak (14 months in French barrels); quite firm and structured still with power and concentration on the finish, nice texture and depth of fruit though. £8 (on offer)/£10 Sainsbury's.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Basket Press Syrah 2014, Stellenbosch region (14% abv) - Bellingham winery seems to be good at this sort of wine (also has 2% Viognier, all barrel-fermented together in open-top casks): touches of oak and solid and dense to start, but reveals lush dark spicy fruit with savoury edges; pretty classy red. £13 Sainsbury's.

Graham Beck The Rhona Brut Rosé NV, Méthode Cap Classique, Western Cape (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier; 12.5% abv) - Beck is up there among South Africa's finest fizz makers, this sumptuous Champagne-style rosé bubbly is rich toasty and yeasty with aromatic brioche and red berry notes, intense and stylish with fresh bite balancing it out nicely. Yum. £15 M&S (sometimes £12 on offer).

09 September 2016

French wine tasting & touring e-magazine updated


This substantial 'digital magazine' is an amalgam of pay-to-view supplements and guides originally written for this blog, with 15 pages of exclusive new material added in September 2016. Wine recommendations, winemaker profiles, regional mini-guides, travelling and eating tips, opinions and news from, extensively, the Languedoc with an extra in-depth Saint-Chinian report, and Cahors; plus Alsace (Grands Crus), Chablis wine touring and independent wine-growers' Champagne mini-guide.

03 July 2016

Posh Chardonnay: California, South Africa, Australia

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2014, California (13.5% abv) - This classy wholesome Chardy is "a winemaker’s blend of mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland (a long narrow valley without a river apparently) hand select grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations." (The Banke-Jackson family owns vineyards in Santa Barbara, Monterey, Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties in fact). Each 'lot' is then fermented separately and barrel-aged. Enticing mix of buttery oatmeal aromas and flavours, and not too toasty with it, and sunny citrus/peach fruit, nice full mouth-feel yet reasonably subtle and fresh. Quite dear, although on a level with good white Burgundy especially if you're splashing out for you-know-what day tomorrow: £15.95 Slurp.co.uk.

Grier Family Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay 2010 'Methode Cap Classique'; Stellenbosch, South Africa (12% abv) - This stylish Champagne-esque fizz was treated to no less than 34 months yeast-lees ageing in the bottle and unusually has no added sugar (unlike typical so-called 'Brut' styles) or sulphur dioxide. Still surprisingly youthful at first with frothy, fresh and structured palate; then revealing delicate 'brioche', oatcake and roast hazelnut flavours vs crisp and dry finish. Marks & Spencer £12.

Robert Oatley Vineyards '6285' Chardonnay 2014; Margaret River, Western Australia (13% abv) - Tasty example of that little extra touch of style you can find in Western Oz, this showed a deft mix of ripe juicy fruit, creamy texture and subtle oak spice in the background. Marks & Spencer: again fairly dear at £13 (I bought it on offer though) but you should be reasonably impressed.

04 June 2016

English Wine Week and wine guide

From www.lymebaywinery.co.uk

To mark ‘English Wine Week’ 2016 (to 5th June), I’ve done the second comprehensive update this year to my English wine mini-guide to include a couple of new names on the English wine scene, small and so far quite hush-hush, and a couple of conspicuously missing big names: Exton Park Vineyard (Hampshire), Sixteen Ridges (Worcestershire & Herefordshire), Denbies Wine Estate (Surrey), Lyme Bay Winery (Devon). And, for the first time, broadened the reach to take in ‘still’ whites, rosés and reds (the focus had previously been just on 'traditional method' sparklers).
This latter wine 'offering' used to be dominated by several lesser-known and Germanic sounding grape varieties – and some of them can make good wine e.g. Bacchus, Ortega, Reichensteiner – but, while tasting on the English Wine Producers stand at the recent London Wine Trade fair (along with a lot of other people it has to be said), it became clear that there’s an increasing amount of good quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming our way. Not surprising perhaps, when you read (see guide for details) that these two ‘Champagne’ varieties are now the most planted, especially across southern England for creating traditional method fizz. So it makes absolute sense to offer wine consumers recognisable non-sparkling styles too from very recognisable varieties, particularly as some of these are rather tasty in an English ‘Chablis style’ for Chardonnay and light aromatic ‘Burgundy style’, or not dissimilar to certain 'German style', Pinot Noir reds. The main problem is the usual UK wine production dilemma: relatively small quantities mean prices remain quite high.
I’ve updated some of the existing winery profiles in this guide as well, with new vintage releases and labels which have also been highlighted: e.g. Hattingley Valley (Hampshire), Hush Heath Estate Winery (Kent), Chapel Down Winery (Kent), Furleigh Estate (Dorset). Buy the full-works 20-page PDF magazine for £1.99 using the PayPal button below to pay by card or using your own account (select it in drop-down menu).


Select:

Click HERE for more about card payments, your privacy and terms and conditions. I will email the PDF supplement to you once I receive payment confirmation from PayPal. Enjoy.
More info on English Wine Week: englishwineproducers.co.uk.

24 May 2016

Wine Education Service NI: new dates added in Belfast

The fully updated programme of wine tastings, wine workshops and wine courses scheduled in Belfast from summer 2016 to spring 2017 is (drum roll)...

Friday 1 July 6.45-8.30pm Champagne & sparkling wine tasting £36
We'll sample and compare six top-notch bottles of fizz from around the wine cosmos, including well-known favourites such as Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, alongside a few eye-openers from the Southern Hemisphere like New Zealand, Australia or South Africa... Add some sparkle to your weekend!

10 May 2016

France: 'wines of the moment'

Burgundy

Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier Rully blanc 2013 (13% abv) - I bought a few bottles of this over a year ago (click to see note made on International Chardonnay Day last May); this was the last one and what a revelation. Buttery and almost exotic with light toasty coconut edges, nicely rounded and creamy yet still has some fresh bite too. £10.50 Asda.

Champagne

P. Desroches Brut non-vintage (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, 12%) - Made by the Nicolas Feuillatte winery actually, this stylish well-made crowd-pleaser confirms that Marks & Spencer know what they're doing on the Champers front. Elegant yet toasty/yeasty, eminently drinkable at £14.50 on offer! It supposedly usually costs £29, but I wouldn't pay that for it. Funny how the other multiple grocers, including Tesco who was the worst offender, have stopped doing these so-called (and dishonest) half-price deals (which blatantly aren't), but Marks is still doing it on certain Champers labels anyway. Mustn't grumble ah.
Buy my Champagne e-supplement HERE.

Languedoc

Alain Grignon Carignan Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2013, Pays d'Hérault (12.5%) - Attractive example of the fashion for making varietal reds from old-vine Carignan, this is aromatic and quite soft with fairly intense berry fruit flavours. Dunne's €12.50/€9 on offer in the Republic/about £9-£10 in Belfast? (Most of Dunne's NI stores aren't licensed it appears).
Laurent Miquel Syrah 'special edition' 2014, Pays d'Oc (13%) - Lovely pure peppery black cherry fruit with a light bitter twist of tannin on the palate, plenty of sexy Syrah style but reasonably subtle with it. Dunne's €9 on offer.
Domaine Jones
Fitou 2014 (old vine Carignan, Grenache, Syrah from 15 small plots; 14.5%) - Concentrated (blue)berry fruit with uplifting crunchy vs sweet profile mix, lively spicy and powerful finish. £87-£95 case of 6 (depending on mix).
Blanc Barrique 2010 (Grenache gris, 13.5%) - The follow up vintage to apparently a 'by accident' barrel-aged white, made in limited quantities, this is quite oaky to start yet has delicious nutty oxidised and oily characters and rounded texture, unusual and tasty. £80 for 6.
Château l'Argentier E&F Jourdan Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2014 (old vines) - Lovely aromatic sweet fruit, soft and oily palate although actually pretty concentrated with mature vs fresh finish. £14.99 Red Squirrel Wine.
Château Montfin Saint-Jacques 2014 Corbières blanc (Roussanne, Grenache blanc, organic) - Concentrated and intense dry white, zingy yeast-lees notes vs oily rounded mouth-feel, lovely wine. £90 for 6 Joie de Vin. More Montfin HERE.

More of the latest from the Jones', Argentier, Montfin and lots more besides from the Languedoc to follow as an update to my 'French wine tasting and touring' e-magazine (drawn from extensive tastings at the recent 'Outsiders' tasting in Dublin and at the London Wine Fair)...

Bordeaux and the South-West

Château Lassègue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% abv) - This posh chateau is found lurking among some of the Saint-Emilion region's best vineyard sites, and is part of the Jackson Family Wines' group, "a collection of premium wineries owned privately by Barbara Banke and the Jackson family," the blurb says, probably better known for their West Coast US wines. Still dense and quite oaky for a ten year-old red, although with distinct brownish hints to its otherwise dark colour, it shows a classy mix of lush plummy fruit, maturing meaty notes and spicy nicely textured oak/tannin combo to finish. c. £25 a bottle - £152 for a case of 6 from closcru.com.
Domaine de la Maletie Monbazillac 2013 (Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, 12.5%) - Bargain Sauternes replacement made in the same way but in Monbazillac on the Dordogne River in the Bergerac region. Delicious exotic apricot marmalade nose with spicy 'volatile' edges, lush and sweet but with nicely balanced freshness and lighter touch. £7.99 Lidl.
Combel la Serre 'Pur Fruit de Causse' 2014 Cahors (Malbec, 12.5%) - Alluring fruity 'funky' nose, very Malbec berry and spice style though with light bite and grip. £13.99 Red Squirrel Wine. Update on CLS to follow, and lots more Cahors HERE.

Alsace

JP Muller 2012 Riesling Engelberg Grand Cru (12.5%) - Pretty classy dry white at this price: classic developing Riesling nose with aromatic oily 'mineral' notes, similar maturing palate profile yet still quite concentrated with some fresh bite and elegant finish. €12.99/€9.99 on offer Lidl (Ireland).

13 April 2016

New wine tasting events in Belfast

First of all, a quick reminder of the next tasting coming up in May:

Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil
downloaded from You Tube.

Thursday 19 May 6.45-8.30pm
'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...).

22 March 2016

English wine guide updated

The latest vintages - the delicious exuberant 2010 and finely 'structured' 2011 - of 'Champagne style' (they won't like me saying that, I can hear expensive-suited lawyers in Reims dictating a letter as I write...) sparkling wines from Henners Vineyard and Ridgeview Winery, both in East Sussex, have been added to my 15-page English Sparkling Wine PDF supplement, as well as some news on the 2015 harvest, burgeoning vineyard plantings and fizz production figures and other useful tit-bits of info. Buy it using the PayPal button below to pay by card or using your own account.

Henners 2010 Reserve and happy tasters in the background.



Click HERE for more about card payments, your privacy and terms and conditions. I will email the PDF supplement to you once I receive payment confirmation from PayPal. Enjoy.

07 January 2016

French wine touring & tasting e-book

UPDATED Sept. 2016 - see link at bottom.
I've combined, tweaked, edited, added to and reformatted my special French wine and travel supplements into a Kindle e-book, which is now available to buy on AMAZON. This includes three huge reports on the Languedoc and Saint-Chinian, updated Cahors wine touring, independent Champagne wine-growers' mini-guide, 'Chablis on foot' (and more) and Alsace Grand Cru among other things (follow links for more info). Click on the links below to buy the e-book in your country's Amazon store (prices subject to exchange rate variations):
Amazon US ($6.50), Amazon UK (£4.95), France (€5.89), Canada ($8.43), Australia ($8.58), India (₹399), Germany (€5.89), Spain (€5.89), Italy (€5.89), Netherlands (€5.89), Japan (¥682), Brazil (R$21.32) and Mexico ($120.93).
Alternatively, it's also available on offer (compared to buying them individually) for £4.99 (about $6.50 or €6) as a 125-page PDF file with photos using the PayPal button below, by card or your own PP account although you don't need one to buy it.

THIS E-MAGAZINE WAS UPDATED IN SEPTEMBER 2016: CLICK HERE TO BUY THE LATEST VERSION (Amazon Kindle or PDF: US$5.99 / £4.50 / €5.37)...

'RED'

'Red is for wine, blood, revolution, colour... A time-warped slice of mystery, history, fantasy, crime, art, cinema and love...' Buy the e-book or paperback novel on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Click here to view the RED blog!