"Buy my book on 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

15 September 2005

Destination Champagne by Philippe Boucheron

Frustrated by publishers who couldn't handle the concept of a cross-genre book, Philippe set up his own company 'Wine Destination Publications' to get this recommended Champagne travel guide on the shelves. I agree with his comment that "wine tourism publications (is) a market sector that has... been largely ignored." I guess narrow-minded wine specialist or travel guide publishers thought book retailers wouldn't know where to put it in the shop - under wine, travel or restaurant guides? Anyway, who cares: this is rather useful if you're going on a trip to Champagne. Enthusiasm for and years of experience of the region's wines, historical insights, travelling tips and maps, where to eat and stay; it contains plenty of information without being too long and is good read too. Perhaps a little pricey at £18.99 but at least Philippe will be the main beneficiary (after the bank no doubt), rather than a huge indifferent publishing company. He also has plans to release Destination Bordeaux and others in this series. Available "from all good bookshops," as the flyer says: further info from www.destinationchampagne.com

02 August 2005

Aldi Greek wines

Aldi Greek wines

Could do much better. These wines aren't very recommendable: not terrible but rather average. I've tasted more characterful Greek wines - admittedly more expensive than their £3.99 price tag. The reds are generally over-oaked and a little bitter; the white is probably the best one of the four. Anyway, here goes... tasted August 2005.
Click here for Aldi Posh wines - more like it (page temporarily missing).
2003 Goumenissa red (Xynomavro Negoska 12.5%) - Goumenissa is the region by the way. The 'best' of the 3 reds: still a tad unripe in the background but this is fruitier, rounder, less oaky and more 'winey', even if a bit basic. £3.99 80
2004 Mantina white, Peloponnese (100% Moscophilero 11%) - Pleasant enough aromatic floral v nutty oily fruit, mineral touches and freshness on the off-dry finish. £3.99 80
2003 Naoussa red, Macedonia (Xynomavro 12%) - Spicy cinnamon oak covering, pleasant enough but lacks fruit and body, finishes a little tart as well. £3.99 75
2003 Nemea red, Peloponnese, Nemea valley (Agiorgitiko 12%) - A bit less oaky than the Naoussa showing better depth of fruit and roundness, but still somewhat non-descript. £3.99 77

01 August 2005

Mountain Valley - Montenegro

Mountain Valley - Montenegro

To be brutally honest, the reds in this range go from average to pretty good but the whites are a waste of space, at least the samples I tasted - see my comments in each of the tasting notes. All the wines come from Plantaze's vineyards in the Lake Skadar region, located between the Adriatic coast and surrounding mountains (hence the name no doubt). With a bit of work in the vineyard and winery (and on the pricing), I'm sure we'll be seeing more and better from Montenegro. Tasted August 2005:
2004 Chardonnay - This wasn't good: faulty winemaking or something has left a heavy handed sulphur character; and that bitter finish implies unripe grapes and/or too much skin contact or badly acidified wine. No chance at £5.49. Under 70
2004 K white (11.5%) - Clean towards neutral and, like the Chardy (although not as marked), sulphur dominated with a bitter finish. 75
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5%) - Simple 'Vin de Pays' type showing black cherry / currant fruit, soft-ish palate v dry coating on the finish. OK but at £5.99... 80
2004 Sauvignon Blanc - Not faulty at least, this is just about OK with some floral and citrus characters; but too boring to ask £5.49 for it. 75
2004 Merlot (12%) - Attractive enough Merlot style offering spicy biscuity plum fruit, reasonably fleshy mouthfeel with light bite of tannins. Again not bad but put it up against a Merlot from France or Chile at the same price... 84
2003 V red (Vranac 12.5%) - Similar soupy rustic style to the Vranac but richer and riper, shows quite good depth of fruit although, for me, the finish becomes slightly rough after a while. £7.49 84
2003 Vranac - Not bad at all actually: maturing rustic leather aromas with nice peppery undertones, fairly smooth and ripe finish. £5.49 85

17 July 2005

World Wide Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine goes to...England

RidgeView Merret Bloomsbury 2002 snatched the award in the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2005. This blend of Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is made at the vineyard and winery situated north of Ditchling in Sussex. The estate currently produces between 40 – 50,000 bottles a year, and is a family business set up by Mike and Christine Roberts only in 1994; their son Simon shares the winemaking. RidgeView’s sparkling wines are named after Christopher Merret, who apparently recorded making traditional method sparkling wine in 16th Century London with the Royal Society 30 years before Dom Pérignon in Champagne. Open Monday to Saturday 11am to 4.30pm for sales and tastings, their wines are also stocked by Waitrose, Sunday Times Wine Club, the Wine Society and independent specialists around the country. Further info: tel 01444 241441, ridgeviewestate@aol.com or www.ridgeview.co.uk
Tasting notes of Merret older vintages might be resurrected at some point...

01 July 2005

Portugal: Porto Solene, Douro valley

Porto Solene

These two new ports from Quinta de São Cristóvão look the part with stylish elegant picture label, flat-shouldered 50cl bottle in clear glass and little black coffin box. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture to copy on the internet! Bottled in 2004, the Ruby is aged for around 6-7 years and the Tawny 8-9 years, and both offer pretty good quality and classic styles with lovely youthful fruit (perhaps too so, it needs a couple of years further ageing to integrate the alcohol) in the case of the former and more mature rich nuttiness from the latter. Tasted July 2005:
Ruby Special Reserve NV, Douro valley (20%) - A little fiery and youthful, but this has plenty of lively and quite concentrated plum and blackberry fruit underneath to please, rounded off with light touches of earthy leather and some dry tannin to offset the sweetness. Try with mature hard cheeses (not Stilton or similar blue). 87
Tawny Special Reserve NV, Douro valley (20%) - Serve chilled: seductive roasted pecan nut fruit adds tanginess to the aged molasses sweetness, with 20% alcohol also lending some balance; keep chilled as it gets a bit sickly once warm. 87

Lots more Port & Douro here.

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