"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

25 September 2015

France: 'Champagnes de Vignerons'

Vineyard on 'La Montagne de Reims'
"What's the difference then between Champagnes de Vignerons, wine-growers' Champagnes to coin a slightly clunky English translation, and the 'usual' kind we find around everywhere, i.e. big brands from big houses or own-labels from Champagne co-op wineries..?" Buy my special PDF report/e-magazine HERE including a dozen 'independent' Champagne houses for just £2.50 featuring many bubbly reviews of these tasty producers:
Côte des Bar region: Champagnes de Barfontarc, Jean-Jacques Lamoureux and de Lozey. Côte des Blancs region: Champagnes Paul Goerg, Gimonnet-Gonet and Legret et Fils. Montagne de Reims region: Champagnes Allouchery-Perseval, André Chemin and Pierre Trichet. Vallée de la Marne region: Champagnes Autréau–Lasnot, La Villesenière/Claude Michez and Maurice Delabaye et Fils.

13 August 2015

Muscadet: Guilbaud Frères

Pascal Guilbaud
Pascal Guilbaud and family are the latest in a long line of grape-growers and winemakers to be at the wheel of this eye-opening estate winery, which just goes to show that there's Muscadet and there's Muscadet. They've obviously managed to lift up this well-known (and often rather boring) dry white wine onto a higher dimension, stylistically, as I noted about their 2012 old vine cuvée, like "a mix of good Burgundy and Riesling." Which inevitably translates as their wines being a little dearer, but not by much for this quality. These three tried and tested below are all made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne aka Muscadet to you and me - I get the impression the latter name is perhaps considered an inferior moniker for the variety, especially by producers like the Guilbaud brothers who obviously take it very seriously... The Vintage House in London stock some of their wines priced about £10; also available in Germany and Belgium.

Le Clos du Pont Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2009 - Sourced from a well-exposed sunny spot from a vineyard planted in "clay on schist" with 30 to 40 year-old vines. 2009 enjoyed a particularly hot summer with "selected, very ripe grapes" coming in to the cellar. The fledgling wine spent "several weeks in vat on lees" before fermentation in large oak casks, then aged for more than two years in barrel afterwards (not new oak though), which is unusual for Muscadet - most of it doesn't get any near wood or isn't aged even, made and kept in stainless steel tanks.
Seemed surprisingly youthful for its age, kind of like 'flat' Cava or Champagne with toasty almond, yeasty and appley aromas and flavours, maturing savoury and nutty notes contrasting with that crisp appley side, complex ageing and rounded finish yet still quite steely underneath. Unusual and well tasty. €10.55 cellar door.

Château de la Pingossière 'Vieilles Vignes' Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2012 - From "silica, schist and Gneiss soils" (for all you geologists out there), picking started late in 2012 due to a late winter freeze (causing a fair bit of damage too limiting the final crop) and slow start to summer. This vineyard is found in the Vallet village area on a hilltop, planted with 35 to 45 year-old vines. Yeast-lees stirring was done once a week for the first two months, then ageing on fine lees for 10 months "partly in underground vats and partly in old tuns in the cellar." (It must all be in the geeky detail you might be wondering..?)
Very nice style mix reminiscent of Burgundy vs Riesling, quite concentrated and intense, crisp and 'salty' with 'mineral' celery tones vs more savoury baked apple, long fine fresh finish vs nutty oily texture. Very good. €7 cellar door.

Le Soleil Nantais Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2014 - From "different parcels in silica-clay soils around the village of Mouzillon and schist soils around Vallet." Younger vines aged 20 to 35 years. In 2014, vintage conditions were all going fine up until a rather rainy August, but which was followed by a great September (like just about everywhere). Seven months on the lees in those "underground vats" and stainless tanks.
Refreshing and crisp with nice 'chalky' texture vs ripe apple and melon flavours, again has good depth of character and racy acidity to finish. €6.50 cellar door.

More info: GUILBAUD-MUSCADET.COM

By the way, all Loire Valley words and wines will be moved from WineWriting.com (links to page where it is at the mo) to this blog sooner or later...

29 June 2015

Australia: Tasmania

Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil
downloaded from You Tube.
Australia's island state of Tasmania lies due south of Victoria (there's 450 km of ocean between Melbourne and Devonport on the north coast), and its wine-producing areas are roughly on the same longitude as the northern part of New Zealand's South Island. Vineyards are a relatively recent thing in this wildly beautiful place - present-day production essentially dates from the 1950s at the earliest, although some plots were planted before the mid 19th century. To name just two highly regarded pioneers as examples, Graham Wiltshire established Heemskerk in the 1960s and Dr. Andrew Pirie Piper's Brook Vineyard in 1974. Wine-growers/makers like them and the next generation have shown in a fairly short space of time that Tassie has fast become the cool climate region of Aus (even if on a limited scale and thus wines on the dear side), especially for aromatic white varieties, top Pinot Noir (which now accounts for almost half of varieties planted) and fine fizz too. See winetasmania.com.au and tamarvalleywineroute.com.au for more info.
So here are four well-known Tas wineries and notes on some of their wines, tasted in London and Dublin on different occasions. The AU$ prices are cellar door and £ prices as per stockists mentioned.

Tamar Ridge - Tamar Valley
Owned by Brown Brothers, their vineyards are located near Launceston in northern Tasmania and the Devil's Corner cellar is on the east coast. UK importer is ABS Wine Agencies, available from Fine Wines Direct UK and Bin Ends at the Bear among others.
2013 Tamar Sauvignon blanc – hints of gooseberry and green pepper vs a fatter riper edge, crisp and juicy with lingering green berry fruit. Au$28, £14.99
2013 Devil's Corner Riesling (from two specific vineyards) – yeasty vs oily nose with light lime fruit, quite intense and 'mineral' with tight vs oily texture; nice style. Au$20, £14.49
2010 Kayena Vineyard Riesling – complex maturing oily notes vs intense 'mineral' palate with long zesty finish, drinking nicely now but will last longer. Yum. £14.99
2011 Tamar Gewurztraminer – quite elegant lychee and rose water style, rounded and mature, drink up now. £11.49
2013 Devil's Corner Pinot Noir ("small amount of barrel ageing") – light and fruity with cherry and herby berry, soft and elegant mouth-feel with a touch of grip and tasty juicy fruit. Au$22, £15.99
2011 Pinot Noir Kayena Vineyard – showing more depth and savoury development, firmer palate yet still silky with fresh structured feel vs attractive sweet/savoury fruit, still quite closed up actually. £15.99

Jansz is a consistently very good bubbly brand made by the traditional or Champagne method, or 'Méthode Tasmanoise' as they call it on their site in typically Aussie two fingers to the French style. The proof is in the pudding as we say...
Jansz Premium Cuvée NV (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay; 2+ years lees ageing in bottle) – Nice toasty touches on the nose, elegant vs yeasty profile with crisp steely bite vs lingering oat biscuit flavours, mouthwatering and tasty finish; good stuff. Au$22.95, £13-£15 Wine Direct, ND John, Hennings.
Jansz Premium Rosé NV (up to 3 years lees ageing) – Similar in some ways, more delicate even with subtle red berry and chocolate cake notes, yeasty vs refreshing crisp finish. Yum. Au$24.95, £14.95 Wine Direct, ND John.
Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2007 (Chardy, Pinot; 4.5 years ageing)  complex nose with toasted oat biscuit, lots of rich yeasty flavours vs again very crisp and well balanced; lovely classy fizz. Au$38.95, £21-£22 Frazier's, Field & Fawcett, Slurp.

Dalrymple Vineyards
This "premium" 12 ha estate is found in the Pipers River region northeast of Launceston, was planted in the early 1990s and is now run by viticulturist / winemaker Peter Caldwell.
2011 Piper's River Estate Chardonnay – complex lees-y oaty and buttery nose, savoury and nutty palate, soft and delicate with nice maturing vs still structured profile, long tasty finish; delicious wine. Au$35, £21-£25 Free Run Juice, Australian Wine Store.

2011 Pinot Noir – perfumed sweet/savoury nose, pure and elegant, lush s/s fruit vs crunchier fresher side, light bite of tannin vs silky maturing Pinot finish. Aus$36, £25 Australian Wine Store, Free Run Juice.

Mega brand Hardy's does also do a selection of high quality limited edition wines - after all they do own some historic vineyards - and their Eileen Hardy label is among them. They're sourcing fruit for the Chardy and Pinot from Tassie...
2012 Hardy's Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir (13.5% abv) - Perfumed and floral with sweet/savoury cherry fruit, quite delicate vs concentrated too, lovely lingering floral Pinot fruit on a silky backdrop. Yum although expensive: €45 in Ireland, UK: £35 Majestic Wine.

24 June 2015

Champagne: Drappier IV 'Quattuor'

As an appetiser to all my Champagne talk fizzing up on a handy new archive page, and a Champagnes de Vignerons special feature (links to it: 'growers' Champagnes, i.e. smaller vineyard owners who make Champers from their own grapes rather than selling them to the big houses) coming out after the summer... Here's a note on a very tasty and unusual (and rather expensive alas) special cuvée made by the perhaps less well-known brand Drappier (outside of France at least).

Drappier's Quattuor IV or 'Blanc de Quatre Blancs' is a blend of four white varieties, 25% of each including three "forgotten" and now replanted grapes Arbane, Petit Meslier and Blanc Vrai in addition to good-old Chardonnay. Their blurb also informs us that "only natural compost" was used in the vineyard, and "minimal added SO2 (the standard wine-making preservative) and unfiltered..." The dégorgement (when sediment is removed after second fermentation and lees ageing for "at least three years" in bottle) took place in January 2014, meaning the wine's had nearly another year and a half maturing gracefully before release.
12% abv: This bubbly shows fair class with its enticingly toasty yeasty nose and honeyed oat biscuit notes, fragrant and fruity too; quite rich baked biscuit and brioche flavours vs fine steely mouth-feel, fresh 'cut' and very dry appley finish (the dosage is only 4.2 g/l residual sugar, about one half to one third of the usual amount for 'Brut' styles); tight crisp and long with delicious complex lingering yeasty tones.
Costs about €60 a bottle in France. The UK agent is Berkmann Wine Cellars in London (where I downloaded the bottle shot from), who told me this Champers is mostly sold in restaurants, such as Les Mirabelles near Salisbury, Burythorpe House Hotel in North Yorks, Lake Road Kitchen in Cumbria, Andaz in London, Midsummer House and Alimentum in Cambridge and The Fat Duck in Berkshire. Approx retail price is £50 e.g. Hedonism wine shop in London. Dublin: €84.95 at The Corkscrew.

26 May 2015

English sparkling wine update

Upperton Vineyard: Andy Rogers surveys the lie of his land

To celebrate English Wine Week (goes to their website) this week, I've (finally) updated my now 20-page ("and counting") mini-guide to English sparkling wines. This includes profiles of 15 exciting English wine estates, vineyards, wineries and brands and notes on their 'Champagne method' fizz ranges. Featuring (three new entries) Upperton, Brightwell and Hattingley Valley, as well as updates on Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, Knightor and Furleigh. Plus a few facts, figures and thoughts on where the English (and Welsh) wine industry is at with the latest on vintage 2014 etc. Available as a PDF mini-mag with pics - buy it by card or your own Paypal account (although you don't need one to do this or subscribe) by clicking HEREClick here to read more about using PayPal, general T&C, your privacy etc.

English Wine Week and wine guide June 2016: the latest version of this guide...
As well as the sparkling wineries above, for the first time I've broadened the reach to take in still whites, rosés and reds (the focus had previously been just on 'traditional method' sparklers). Buy the guide for just £2 or equivalent in your own currency.


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.

10 May 2015

Spain: more "wines of the moment"

Ten worth-sipping Spanish wines that have washed over my palate in recent weeks, just to add a little hola to your mood and liquid to your tortilla...

Okhre Natur Cava Brut Nature organic (12% abv: Xarel.lo, Macabeu, Parellada) - Penedès, Catalonia. One of those nice 'n' dry "unsweetened" Cavas (unlike 'Brut' fizz in general whether Cava, Champagne, Prosecco, Sekt or from New Zealand, where a dosage is added containing some sugar after the yeast deposit is removed) with tasty almost savoury yeasty biscuit vs appley profile, oily and nutty vs crisp and refreshing. Unfortunately, it's now "out of stock" according to Marks & Spencer's site - hopefully not permanently - but cost £8.25 when I bought it for a Spanish-themed wine tasting.
Albariño Adegas Gran Vinum 2013 (12.5% abv) - Rías Baixas, Galicia: £8 Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' or Signature Albariño 2013: £6 Asda. Two similar and characterful dry whites from the same area of cooler northwestern Spain, which remind you a bit of (ripe) Riesling with aromatic and oily notes then peachier fruit yet with refreshing bite too. The bright blue labelled Asda one comes with a screwcap and perhaps has the edge on the JS one, which makes it a good buy for the money.
Simply Garnacha Rosé 2014 Bodegas Borsao (13.5% abv) - Campo de Borja, Aragón. Talking of good buys, for what could be called a "cheap" rosé - £4.69 at Tesco - this delicious simple dry and full-bodied rosado is pretty classic in style, with lots of floral and ripe red fruits and creamy vs crisp mouth-feel. Too easy to quaff considering the alcohol content: crying out for some tasty Serrano ham.
Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Bodegas del Mediterraneo (14.5% abv) – Yecla, Murcia. Brimming with Med flavour, this unoaked full-on red has lots of ripe liquorice vs earthy dark fruit with shades of black olive too, a little grip on the palate but mostly soft and tasty now. £9 Marks & Spencer
Noster Nobilis 2010 La Perla del Priorat, Catalonia (14.5% abv: Garnatxa (Garnacha), Samsó (Carignan), Cabernet sauvignon). This is a fair bargain for £7.98 at Asda, considering many Priorat reds are expensive; lovely mix of savoury maturing fruit, sweet cherry, still structured tannins and smooth lingering finish, background oak adding a little texture too.
Tempranillo Reserva 2009 Pagos del Rey (14% abv) – Ribera del Duero, Castilla y León. Another well-priced example of an often dear red from northern central Spain - £8.99 Tesco 'Finest' label - this was attractive and warming, seemed older than its year's seniority over the Priorat, colour and development wise, more obvious oak perhaps but has some nice smooth savoury fruit. Drink now.
Caudum Selección Especial 2009 Bodegas Larraz - Rioja (14% abv: old vine Tempranillo). I've tasted this seductive red a couple of times before (goes to Larraz winery profile), and it's developing very nicely: rich, extracted, concentrated and structured with light coconut oak on nose and palate; lush, dark and spicy though and still has a hint of freshness and youth about it. Quite serious and classy Rioja. €15 in Spain; Zefino Wines in England might be shipping some in the future I'm told.
Bodegas Muriel Rioja Reserva 2010 (13% abv: Tempranillo, 36 months in total barrel and bottle before release). Something of a regular Co-op favourite, which is £6.99 on offer at the moment, this is relatively light but pretty classic Reserva Rioja style from this reliable winery: oaky and smooth with smoky vs sweet berry fruit and alluring meaty/cheesy maturing tones beginning to show through.
Apostoles Palo Cortado Viejo Aged 30 Years, Gonzalez Byass (20% abv: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez) – Jerez, Andalucía. Quirky complex full-flavoured matured sherry, which is difficult to "categorise" in that (I think) it's a blend of aged Fino/Amontillado (therefore dry) and a splash of wine made from sun-dried 'PX' grapes adding a hint of sweetness, although it tastes reasonably dry and dark roast nutty with tangy lingering flavours... A one-off really, best tried with mature cheeses or pecan pie?! £19-£21 for 37.5cl bottle: selected Tesco stores, TheDrinkShop.com; €23.49 from O'Briens in Ireland.

09 February 2015

France: whites of the moment (Chablis, Gewurz, Champers and sweeties).

Shrivelled grapes from www.jurancon-cauhape.com

Chablis 2014 L’Eglantière Jean Durup (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv): surprisingly soft and not too acidic for a Chablis that was probably only bottled recently; it was a bit awkward and closed up to start with, although has attractive citrus fruit on top of its 'mineral' structure, subtle concentration too then tight and crisp on the finish. Needs a few months in bottle to express itself but should be good. €11.75 cellar door, Thorman Hunt & Co. London, $15.99 K&L Wines California. Also available in Germany and the Netherlands...

17 December 2014

WES NI: Belfast wine tastings update

A couple of new dates have been added to next year's Wine Education Service NI calendar; and, as a reminder (they make great gifts too - we can send a voucher!), here's the complete list of scheduled events so far with an updated Paypal button at the bottom:

'Essential Wine Tasting' 5-week course
Wednesday evenings 28 January to 25 February 2015
£125 including course manual, all wines for tasting and tuition.
Booking and details of this course can be found by following the links on this page:
www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast

Wines of France Saturday 'workshop'
January 31
£90 including two-course lunch and course manual.
On this "Tour de France" wine tasting workshop, we'll take you on a guided tour of France's different wine producing regions and taste about a dozen wines, including classics from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone valley, Loire Valley, Alsace and examples from 'the big south' too: Languedoc, Roussillon or Provence.
We'll also talk a little about tasting wine, who makes these wines and how, and what happens in their vineyards and winery that gives them different regional characters (grape varieties, climate, terrain, winemaking); as well as discussing some of the ideas, traditional and modern, that have shaped the French wine world.

'Classic Grape Varieties' tutored tasting
February 26 (Thursday) 7:00 - 9:00 PM
£27.50
Tasting of selected wines made from some of the world's "classic" grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Syrah / Shiraz for reds. We'll taste and talk about three or four pairs of wines, with each pair made from the same variety but coming from two different regions / countries, to compare how climate and winemaking can change the style; or is it the grape that shines through most?!

'New Spain' tutored tasting
March 26 (Thursday) 7:00 - 9:00 PM
£27.50
"We'll taste and talk about classic reds from, for example, Rioja and Ribera del Duero; and also venture into lesser-known territory like (real) Sherry country, Galicia for whites and Catalonia, including some very good Cava no doubt!"

The venue for these events is the Ramada Encore Hotel near St. Anne's Square in the heart of 'the Cathedral quarter', Belfast city centre.
Wine 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.
More info and booking on the WES Belfast webpage HERE.
Or book by debit/credit card or using your Paypal account with the button below - you can change the quantity on the payment page that opens (more about payments HERE):



Select event:


22 November 2014

France: Champagne Dumangin

This quirky independent Champagne house was created and has been run by the Dumangin family since the 1880s. Quirky in that their Champagnes are much drier than most of the big brands and own-labels – the dosage levels (added to all traditional method fizz, except for 'Brut Nature' or 'Zero' styles, as a sweetener essentially) in the five I've reviewed below have from just 2 to 8 grams/litre residual sugar, whereas 10 to 12 or more is the norm for a so-called dry 'Brut'; and each dosage 'liquor' is lovingly “aged in perfumed oak casks,” which I'd never heard of before. The company also still does the 'riddling' by hand apparently - the process where the bottles of Champers undergoing second fermentation in bottle are slowly shaken and tilted upside-down, before the yeast sediment is 'disgorged' – which is generally done by mean machines called 'gyro-palettes' nowadays. More: www.champagne-dumangin.com photo: facebook.com/ChampagneDumangin.


La Cuvée 17 Brut (1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) - Lightly nutty and yeasty notes, elegant and crisp mouth-feel, pretty dry (this was the 'least' dry of the five actually) with subtle tasty finish.
L'Extra-Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – Very dry and mouthwatering with nutty and subtle yeast biscuit flavours, pretty intense and crisp finish but it works well. Like it although probably too dry for some.
Le Vintage 2004 Extra Brut (54% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir) – A touch richer and fuller, more complex flavours, crisp long finish, well balanced; very nice stylish Champers.
Premium Blanc de Blancs 2006 Extra Brut (100% Chardonnay, single vineyard) – Enticing ageing characters vs still intense palate, concentrated and classy; lovely fizz.
Premium Rosé de Saignée 2008 Extra Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – unusual rosé sparkler, cidery notes mixed with understated floral / red fruit flavours.
Available from Yapp Brothers in the UK for £29-£39 per bottle, in Australia and quite widely distributed across the USA.

10 November 2014

Wine Education Service NI: tastings and workshop in Belfast

"Christmas wines" tutored tasting
December 4 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM
£35 including nibbles.
Special "Christmas themed" wine tasting to give you some festive wine tips, including Champagne and other fizz, Port and 'classic' reds and whites, accompanied by a few hot nibbles from the hotel restaurant. We'll also talk a little about who, where and how these wines are made, and what food they might match with best...

Wines of France Saturday 'workshop'
January 31 2015
£90 including two-course lunch and course manual.
On this "Tour de France" wine tasting workshop, we'll take you on a guided tour of France's different wine producing regions and taste about a dozen wines, including classics from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone valley, Loire Valley, Alsace and examples from 'the big south' too: Languedoc, Roussillon or Provence.
We'll also talk a little about tasting wine, who makes these wines and how, and what happens in their vineyards and winery that gives them different regional characters (grape varieties, climate, terrain, winemaking); as well as discussing some of the ideas, traditional and modern, that have shaped the French wine world.

'Classic Grape Varieties' tutored tasting
February 26 2015 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM
£27.50
Tasting of selected wines made from some of the world's "classic" grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Syrah / Shiraz for reds. We'll taste and talk about three or four pairs of wines, with each pair made from the same variety but coming from two different regions / countries, to compare how climate and winemaking can change the style; or is it the grape that shines through most?!

The venue for these events is the Ramada Encore Hotel near St. Anne's Square in the heart of 'the Cathedral quarter', Belfast city centre.
Wine 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.

More info and booking on the WES Belfast webpage HERE.
Or book using the PayPal buttons below (more about payments and subscribing HERE).


Select event:


02 August 2014

Wine tastings and courses in Belfast Oct to Dec 2014

Wine Education Service NI (that's me) evening wine tastings, five-week courses and one-day workshops scheduled from early October to early December in Belfast city centre are as follows:

Wines of Italy Saturday workshop
October 4 from 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Cost: £90 including 2-course lunch
"On our 'Wines of Italy' one-day workshop, we'll take you on a guided tour around several of this varied country's different wine producing regions and taste and talk about a dozen high quality wines. These will include classics from northern Italy, such as Piemonte and Veneto, central Italy such as Tuscany and Umbria, and the deep south e.g. Sicily, Sardinia or Puglia..."

10 March 2014

English sparkling wine supplement

I've put together a 20-page special supplement on English sparkling wines, which is fizzing over with great 'Champagne' lookalikes, and taste-alikes, from a dozen exciting English wine estates, vineyards, wineries and brands featuring Digby, Henners, Hush Heath, Jenkyn Place, Danebury, Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Bolney, Bluebell, Ridgeview, KnightorFurleigh and many more. Plus a few facts, figures and comments on where the English fizz industry is at... Available as a PDF mini-mag - buy it by card or your own Paypal account (although you don't need one to do this or subscribe). Not free2view!


Click here to read more about subscribing, using PayPal and general T&C.

20 February 2014

'Wines of the mo' - Germany, S Africa, Spain, France, Portugal, Argentina

rustenberg.co.za
My favourites - and many of the enthusiastic attendees - from around the globe tasted on a recent Saturday 'wine workshop' I ran in Belfast, which deserve a little more airing:

Germany, Mosel: Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2006

09 December 2013

Champagne & sparkling wines: festive fizz

Cava - Catalunya
Updated 11 December:
Conde de Caralt Rosado (Trepat, Monastrell, Garnacha) - lightly yeasty nose with milk chocolate biscuit edges, ripe red fruity palate with oily texture vs quite crisp and off-dry. DWS (Belfast) £9.25, Cases Wine Warehouse (Galway) €14.95
Enric Nadal (Torrelavit) 2007 Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-lo, 12% abv) - rich toasted yeast and chocolate cake aromas, maturing nutty savoury flavours with still fresh and fizzy contrast, tangy finish with dry bite vs plenty of lush flavours. Yum. £15 / €25 James Nicholson
Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009 (12%) - same trio of Catalan grapes as above, similar in style although a bit less rich and toasty perhaps, nice nutty honeyed flavours and crisp dry finish. Wasn't hugely fizzy, perhaps it didn't enjoy sitting in the warm duty free shop at Alicante airport and the flight home! €13.50
2010 Mas Miralda Rosado Vintage Brut (Monastrell, Trepat, Garnacha and Pinot Noir; 12%) - one of Asda's own label "extra special" range, nice and red fruity with light biscuit touches and frothy off dry finish. £6 on offer.
Loads more Cava HERE (links to intro to my 12-page mini-guide, now available for £2.50 or free to subscribers).

Prosecco - northeast Italy
La Jara organic rosé (grape variety = Glera, 10.5%) - attractively light and delicate, fruity rosé fizz with nice frothy lively mouth-feel and sweet vs crunchy red fruits, fairly crisp and medium-dry. Swig Wine £10.95 (9.95 if you buy 6).
Col de l'Utia 2012 Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, Spumante Extra Dry (Prosecco grape, 11.5%) - similarly light and refreshing, has background yeasty biscuit notes and light almond and apple flavours, crisp and off-dry finish. Not massively exciting but a good example of elegant easy-drinking Prosecco. Naked Wines £10.99 (Angel's price: see here for more about that).

South Africa
Cape Fairtrade Sparkling Brut Rosé 2009 Du Toitskloof (12.5%) - good value with lots of flavour for the money: quite toasty with chocolate and aromatic ripe red fruits, rounded and easy-going vs fresh bite, nice style. The Co-operative £7.99


From facebook.com/DigbyFineEnglish
England - Sussex, Kent, Hampshire
Although made at this winery in West Sussex, the fruit is sourced from selected growers across southeastern England (not unlike how most Champagne houses operate) by winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Watch out for my in-depth supplement on English sparkling wines, including a fuller profile on Digby.
Digby Fine English 2009 Vintage Rosé Brut, Wiston Estate Winery (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay; 12% abv) - Delicious mix of ripe strawberry/raspberry vs toasty and chocolate biscuit, lush rounded and fruity vs fresh acid structure, showing depth and class. Yum. £38-£40 from their on-line shop or at Selfridges, Vagabond Wines and Wine Pantry; which is fairly dear, obviously, but no more so than other similar quality English rosé sparklers or rosé Champers for that matter.
Digby 2009 Reserve Brut (two-thirds Chardonnay + the two Pinots; 12%) - Elegant mix of citrus vs buttery fruit vs yeasty oat biscuit flavours vs crisp and refreshing, quite tight and structured still with nice fruit and light toast. A tad drier and crisper than the rosé with apple and citrus vs yeasty notes, good stuff again with a touch of class, more vintage Champagne like. £31.49

Champagne - France
Louis Chaurey NV Brut (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier; 12%) - tried this last year (goes there) on a similar "half price" deal at Marks & Spencer, and it's just as good this year too. Pretty classic non-vintage Champers with nice fizz, a bit of creamy body vs crisp refreshing bite vs yeasty oat cake flavours, quite long. Good for £16, I wouldn't pay £32 though.
Franck Bonville Prestige Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs Brut (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv) - Made from 100% Chardy grapes from top-rated vineyards in the village of Avize; shows some real class with lovely creamy buttery fruit, delicate mouthwatering length, nice depth of flavour, rounded and toasted oat-y vs structured and quite serious food-demanding style. Marks & Spencer: £28 at the moment, usually £39.

Australia
McGuigan Black Label Premium Release Sparkling Shiraz (13.5%) - Just for fun and oddity factor, sparkling reds like this take a bit of getting used too (some won't), with lots of spicy ripe berry fruit, tannin and alcohol; has a more refreshing side though with ripe dark fruity finish. Try with chocolate desserts or mature cheeses. Wine World / Wine Flair £9.89

I've added / might add more good fizz to this post before the end of December. In the meantime, here are some links to even more fizzy posts HERE.

27 November 2013

Languedoc: Jean-Louis Denois, Roquetaillade

I posted comments and info back in April about Jean-Louis Denois' "no added sulphite" wines from his northern Roussillon vineyards HERE, including a little background on the man, how these wines came about and what attracted him to the St-Paul and Caudiès de Fenouillet area. I've since added a few new notes to that profile too on other wines sourced from these Agly valley plots, such as two vintages of his smart Saint Louis Syrah. This time, the spotlight focuses in on some of the sparkling, white and red wines that have helped build his south-of-France reputation, which come from his elevated 'Upper Aude valley' vineyards in the lost villages of Roquetaillade (called la Borde-Longue) and Magrie (la Métairie d’Alon) lying within the Limoux appellation (he doesn't label all of them as that though for various reasons). This is where Jean-Louis' Languedoc 'adventure' began, as the story goes...
Born into a long-established Champagne family, Jean Louis studied winemaking and business, then went to work for Boschendal in South Africa making 'Cap Classique' fizz. He also travelled around Australia, New Zealand and the US to take in what else was going on in the wider wine world. When he returned to France, he created a sparkling wine brand sourced from just outside the Champagne area that was big in the USA apparently. He bought his first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in Limoux country in the late 1980s, followed by planting Champagne clones of Pinot in the early 90s to make fine sparkling wines. This expanding estate was to become the now relatively famous Domaine de l'Aigle, which was sold to Antonin Rodet and now belongs to the Gérard Bertrand group. This cooler spot, with some vineyards lying at over 300 metres above sea level, was also considered a good place for making later ripening finer styles of Cabernet (both) and Merlot; and are part of a total of "57 parcels," as Jean Louis describes his patchwork estate, including the aforementioned Roussillon sites. More @ www.jldenois.com.

Domaine de la Borde-Longue (Roquetaillade) – 'Haute Vallée de l'Aude'
2011 La Bourdette Cabernet Franc (13.5%) - nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit, berries with 'soy sauce' tones; dry and firm vs rounded too with a touch more obvious oak than the Syrah say. 2nd day – that oak has blended into the wine better, ripe rounded texture vs structured and 'fresh' tannins, well balanced and quite elegant with a little weight and light coconut grain. Also needs a bit longer to open up.
2010 La Bourdette Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5%) - enticing dark cassis and cherry with earthy liquorice notes vs maturing savoury vs coco oak edges, lovely concentrated fruit with light coco vs dark choc texture, sweet vs savoury too with a fair kick and dry vs supple tannins. Long balanced and quite elegant / classy despite that alcohol, tightens up with a touch of freshness, light dry bite and lingering dark liquorice vs savoury fruit. Lovely wine, drinking well now although should improve a little more. €12
2008 Reserve Merlot - a bit oaky to start (surprising after 5 years) although has nice smooth tannins, quite rich plum and chocolate flavours, dry vs rounded profile; was even okay with a Chinese pork dish. Turns more savoury after being open, showing liquorice and a wilder earthy fruit side, nice tannin texture and depth of fruit vs chocolate oak edges; more 'volatile' and oxidised after two days open (not surprisingly).

2006 Pinot Noir brut Vin Mousseux de Qualité élaboré en Méthode Traditionnelle' (12%). Intricate toasted nut and Fino notes on the nose, baked oats straw and honey vs floral red fruity mix, chocolate and bread tones too; rich toasty nutty and yeasty flavours, concentrated with fine tight acid structure still, fresh and dry vs all those lingering complex aged flavours, delicious and classy. Maturing vs still young, will keep longer yet it's lovely now; tastes like Vintage Bolly.
JLD Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut (50-50, aged 2+ years on the lees, 'disgorged' Oct. 2012, 12.5% abv) - lovely elegant mousse and yeasty biscuit nose, rich vs elegant mouth-feel, tasty oat biscuit and toasty nutty flavours vs subtle crisp dry finish with mouthwatering bite. Yum, very elegant and drinkable. €11
Chardonnay Extra Brut - very fizzy, less toasty and dry maybe than the Pinot Chardy, fruitier and more honeyed with delicate biscuit honeysuckle and nutty tones; nice fruit with light yeast notes, quite crisp and delicate with a bit of roundness and 'sweet/savoury' oat flavours. €10

2009 Grande Cuvée Limoux rouge (65% Merlot + both Cabernets & Malbec, 14% abv) - chocolate and coconut tones vs maturing savoury fruit, prune liquorice and leather vs sweet berry and cassis. Quite lush with ripe dark fruit vs cedar notes, concentrated and powerful yet showing fairly fine balance, rounded chocolate texture vs dry bitter twist and a hint of freshness, ripe and maturing vs still lively and structured. Drinking well now - good with venison steak - but will keep too as it's quite big and firm still vs 'sweet' and rounded. 2nd day - a touch more rustic and savoury/meaty, oak is more integrated with nice ripe dark berry fruit, full-on yet rounded, good bite yet developing. €10
2010 Grande Cuvée Limoux blanc (Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, 12.8% abv) - quite oaky vs nice nutty and aniseed notes, rounded vs fresh with medium body, oily honeyed side vs crisper white peach and citrus vs nutty toasty oaty flavours. A few hours open: gets oilier and nuttier with appley crispness still vs ripe and rounded. €10
2010 Sainte Marie Limoux (single site Chardonnay, 400m altitude) - toastier and richer than the Grande Cuvée, coconut honey and oatmeal with light grainy texture vs nutty and rounded, quite concentrated with a little bite and exotic ripe fruit (pineapple, peach) vs dusty coconut oak and fairly big mouthful. Quite coconut oaky but has rich honeyed fruit and lees-y buttery depth with nutty development. €15

2012 Les Oliviers white Sud de France (blend of mostly Chardonnay plus a little Muscat from the Fenouillèdes and some Chenin from Roquetaillade; 11.8%, organic) - nice aromatic nose, floral and grapey vs peach and citrus, dry crisp and elegant palate with attractive simple tasty fruit and zesty 'chalky' finish. €7
More of his wines from the northern Roussillon HERE.

12 November 2013

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

WineWriting.com Richard Mark James' wine blog: Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast: "Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting..." CLICK ABOVE to view details on my other blog. Will probably include a fine sparkling Limoux...

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

From www.champagne.fr
Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting evening, rolling out and upwards on Tuesday December 3 (7 to 9 pm) at the Ramada Encore in Belfast City Centre. Your fizzed up host RMJ will take you on "...a fizzy world tour through France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (something different and better than usual though...), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere e.g. Australia, New Zealand, and ending up in England..." (you'll be surprised if you haven't tried top English fizz). Tickets are just £30 per person and can be booked via the link on this page: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast, where you'll also find the detailed program for the first half of next year. Or pay by PayPal using the button below (and for other tastings next year too). And if you're a regular user of Local Wine Events.com, you can get in touch with me from this page: www.localwineevents.com.


Select tasting:


Next year's scheduled WES NI courses and events include: Essential Wine Tasting five-week course and Grape to Glass one-day workshop (Feb 2014), Tour de France tasting (March), Wines of Italy Sat. workshop (April), Aus & New Zealand tasting (May) and Syrah/Shiraz tasting (June). More info: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.

13 August 2013

Pink Port and Amarone: a couple of "headbangers of the moment"

I don't usually recommend wines based purely on alcohol content - and I'm not really going to this time either - yet the alcohol is an intrinsic part of these two totally different wines (but 'still only' 19.5% and 16% abv respectively, so we're not talking schnapps/eau de vie here). Besides, a Sun-style headline doesn't do any harm every now and then, and helps bring a 'little theme' nicely together...
So, over to Croft Pink Port then: I first tried it over five years ago when just launched, in Barcelona of all places (links to feature on the 2008 Wine & Climate Change conference; not sure what this wine has to do with that, but maybe Croft was a sponsor...); and again in 2010 in the line-up of a special Douro Valley 'masterclass' tasting (links to post about this). If you can be bothered clicking on that, you'll see that I was trying to like it but was "... struggling... too techno... boiled sweets and bubble gum in that ester-y chemistry lab kinda way..." Well, I've sampled it again a few times recently, on its own and with different things; and I think I was being a bit mean before. I doubt the wine's changed much, if at all, winemaking or style-wise, so I must have. It was still a touch ester-y and 'nouveau' at first, but got more interesting in an ultra-fruity sweet rosé way with intriguing earthy kirsch aromas/flavours, nice zing and kick too (without being overpowering) to counteract the quite high residual sugar. Serve well chilled as a summer dessert or milk chocolate wine, or with/on fresh red berry fruits. Or a few sips with salty crisps or peanuts is also strangely quite nice... And Croft is keen on promoting it in trendy bars as a cocktail base: check out croftpink.com for some ideas, there are quite a few. I like the look of simply mixing it with Champagne, especially their 'Decadent' recipe including Pink Port, Champers, tea, lemon juice and "Absinthe soaked sugar lump." Mind you, I'd dispense with the sugar though! Anyway, in the UK, it's £11.99 for 75cl at the Co-Op, selected branches of Majestic and Selfridges, which might sound a tad dear, but this would do you for a week or so kept in the fridge and poured half a glass a go.
Back to the Amarone red finally, obviously no similarity whatsoever as a wine; though, as I said, with 16% (natural rather than added like Port) abv, it certainly 'packs a punch'. This one's full title is Tenuta Pule 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and is new to Lidl's 'wine cellar' range (£19.99 UK). The raised alcohol content comes from the grapes being dried out before fermentation, which concentrates the sugar in them while water evaporates; then they make it like a regular dry red wine (with cask ageing in this case). So, you get plenty of rich earthy cherry and damson flavours with balsamic and toasted almond (!) touches, big powerful and rounded mouth-feel with lush dark berry and spice fruit vs attractive meaty leather edges; turns gamier and more savoury after opening for a day or two, yet still retains that nice wild kirsch fruit. Went well with South African style chunky sausage (a version of Boerewors made by my local butcher with beef pork and coriander) and a slightly wacky spiced red cabbage risotto I made up as I went along!

17 July 2013

Wine Education Service NI autumn/winter program

The next wave of wine tastings and courses scheduled from late September to April next year in Belfast city centre (and run by RMJ) are as follows:
Essential Wine Tasting course - £125 for 5 sessions. Tuesdays 7 to 9 pm from 24 September 2013 to 22 October and 4/02/14 - 4/03/14. More info on this five evening course here:

Wine Education Service NI autumn/winter program

The next wave of wine tastings and courses scheduled from late September to April next year in Belfast city centre (and run by RMJ) are as follows:
Essential Wine Tasting course - £125 for 5 sessions Tuesdays 7 to 9 pm from 24 September 2013 to 22 October and 4/02/14 - 4/03/14. More info on this five evening course here:

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