"Buy my book about the Roussillon on Amazon UK in paperback or eBook or black & white version, and Amazon USA: paperback or eBook or black & white. OR BUY IT DIRECT FROM ME (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap on the link above the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

15 November 2014

Italy: Nino Franco, Prosecco


This top-notch Prosecco winery isn't far off its 100th birthday and was established by Antonio Franco in Valdobbiadene, right in the beautiful heart of the 'original' production zone marked by often steep hillside vineyards at altitude (hence the snowy shot above), which has recently become a much smaller and more quality-focused sub-zone (Prosecco can be made pretty much anywhere in the Veneto region or virtually the entire northeastern corner of Italy it seems). Nino Franco then expanded the family operation and grandson Primo, who's been in charge for over 30 years, has boosted exports substantially - it shouldn't be too difficult to find their wines in your neck of the woods.
The three tasting-noted below are all made 100% from the Glera variety, the 'old' name for Prosecco which has been re-adopted especially in the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG zone, to make a point of distinction presumably. They're all produced by the 'charmat', 'cuve close' or, less pretty sounding, 'tank' method, where the second fermentation and lees-ageing take place in a sealed vat, then the wine is cleverly bottled under pressure retaining the natural CO2 bubbles. Franco's sparkling wines just go to show that there's Prosecco and there's Prosecco...
These ones are available in the UK/Ireland from JN Wine, Wine Drop and Sommelier's Choice among others starting at £13.50-£14 (€23) up to £25-ish; or Wine.com and many other outlets in the US (from about $18). Photo copied from www.ninofranco.it.

Rustico NV - lively with lightly toasted almond and yeasty biscuit edges, quite intense fruity vs earthy flavours with long crisp vs toasty finish; very nice fizz.
Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano 2013 - more 'vinous' and concentrated, attractive fruity vs baked bread-y mix of flavours with intense bite and length, lingering oat biscuit notes vs fresh and 'salty'; stylish and elegant.
Grave di Stecca 2010 (old steep vineyard, longer lees ageing, only 7 gr/l residual sugar which is pretty dry) - quite rich and toasty with tangy nutty dry mouth-feel, more serious foodie fizz with lovely rounded vs crisp finish.

13 November 2014

Wine Education Service NI: tasting and workshop update

See post on my other site: WineWriting.com: WES NI tastings and workshop in Belfast: "Christmas wines tutored tasting December 4 (Thursday) 7:30 - 9:00 PM £35 including nibbles. Special 'Christmas themed'..."

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:


30 October 2014

Languedoc: Special Supplement 2014

Now available as a 30-page glossy inserted into an even massive-r French wine e-magazine HERE: "a huge roller-coaster of a Languedoc special with sizzling pages" crammed with (occasionally rather critical) commentary, my top wine and value-for-money tips from across the region, winery profiles and latest insights on the Languedoc wine landscape and some of the people behind it (has that sold it for you?)...

Touring Languedoc vineyards in a 2CV: “it's so French.”
Featuring reports, opinions and hundreds of wine reviews from these regions:
Corbières and Boutenac (mostly 2011 to 2013 vintage reds, whites and rosés) - some of my particular favourites include 2 Anes, Lastours, Grand Caumont, Pech Latt, Maylandie, Villemajou, les Palais, Caraguilhes, Vieux Moulin, Montfin, Caves Rocbère, Clos Canos.
Minervois and La Livinière reds & whites (the whites more exciting actually) including Le Cazal, Calmel & Joseph, Sainte Leocadie, Vordy, la Siranière, Gérard Bertrand, Sainte-Eulalie, Pépusque, Villerambert-Julien, La Grave, d'Agel and profile on Château Cabezac.
La Clape whites: Mire l'Etang, Abbaye Monges, d'Anglès, Sarrat de Goundy, Ricardelle with a focus on Capitoul and Mas Soleilla.
Saint Chinian: winery profile Château Viranel plus Borie Vitarèle, Cazal Viel and Saint Cels.
Faugères: plenty to recommend here including Fenouillet, Près Lasses, Onésime, La Liquière, les Fusionels, Lorgeril, Cébène, Capitelles, Saint Antonin.
Crémant de Limoux: Taudou, Antech, Sieur d'Arques, Rosier, J.Laurens all offering class and value. And white & red: Anne Joyeuse, Mouscaillo, Rives Blanques.
Pézenas: one of the most promising new subzones including hot wines from Les Aurelles, Conte des Floris, Pech Rome, Villa Tempora, Belles Eaux, La Grange and profile on Château Condamine Bertrand.
Montpeyroux: d'Aupilhac, Chabanon, Divem.
Grès de Montpellier: Skalli, l'Engarran, Roquemale, Jeanjean, Tissot.
Picpoul de Pinet: Petit Roubié, Félines Jourdan, Lauriers, Vignerons Florensac, Château Pinet, Costières Pomerols.
Pays d'Oc and IGP: Mas Dames, Engelvin, Enfants Sauvages and winery profiles on Domaines Lys, Montrose and la Provenquière.
Plus: La Cité de Carcassonne, classic touristy cliché yet guaranteed to wow. A few words and recommendations for staying, eating and an alternative way of touring the area - yes, it's those much-talked-about convertible 2 CVs again (Vin4 Heures Wine Tours)...

Latest report now available (July 2015): LANGUEDOC SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT 2015

06 October 2014

Beer: Harviestoun, Scotland

A warmly welcome trip down memory lane lightened my weary path after a long day's (wine) tasting at the not-so-long-ago London Wine Fair (yes, there was beer there too). Back in another life in the hazy mid 80s, when I was president of the St. Andrews Uni Real Ale Society (without long hair or beard I hasten to add: more in the floppy fringed goth style actually), we organised a wee day trip to a small unheard-of independent (sorry, touchy word at the mo in a Scottish context) start-up 'brewery' lost somewhere in the hills near Dollar, Clackmannanshire. Not easy to find, and when we did, we weren't sure we were there, as it was just a shack in the middle of nowhere from memory. Harviestoun was dreamt up, set up and improvised together by Ken Brooker in 1983, who moved into his first 'proper' brewing premises three years later. Our group was so impressed with the tasty ale we sampled there that some serious lobbying was in order back in St. Andrews, resulting in one (the only?) of their brews being given a slot in the, at the time, fairly new student union bar.
Anyway, looking at their website, how times and things have changed (two lots of brew houses, a lot more people working for them, from one real ale to a whole range of cask, keg and bottled beers, and a sort-of couple of ownership switches later...). To the better, it would appear from this obviously innovative brewery's point of view and their now international customers.
So, there I was cruising past a series of crowded small tables among the show's "niche importer/retailer/producer" tasting area looking for something refreshing to finish the day's 'work' with; and I suddenly saw the Harviestoun Brewery name, garnished with a stack of unfamiliar-looking bottles, prompting the aforementioned vivid flashback. Well done guys, keep up the good work. 'Ola Dubh 18' bottle shot downloaded from www.harviestoun.com where you'll find tuns (ho ho) more info.

Schiehallion Craft Lager (4.8% abv) - refreshing crisp and citrus-y style, quite intense and tasty finish. Equivalent to about £1.88 per 500 ml bottle (you can buy different case sizes of their beers online - I've given an indicative bottle price here).
Broken Dial Amber Ale (4.5% abv) - pungent hoppy and yeasty nose with malty edges, sweeter palate but still nice and crisp, tight and tasty finish. £1.42 330 ml
Old Engine Oil Black Ale (6% abv) - dark and malty with chocolate and coffee notes vs nice bitter twist and bite; lovely Porter style. £1.58 330 ml
Ola Dubh 18 (aged in 18 year-old Highland Park barrels, 8% abv) - complex aromatic whisky-tinged nose, rich and dark palate with smoother stronger finish; very unusual, amazing beer. £6 330 ml

02 October 2014

Languedoc: Château Cabezac, Minervois


This charming swanky 75 hectare estate hidden away outside the wee village of Bize-Minervois (between Capestang and Homps on the region's northern edge with the bottom tip of the Saint-Chinian appellation, if you get what I mean: or look at a map...) was bought by Gontran Dondain in 1997, who must have invested a good deal of time and wonga into restoring the property and vineyards. The newest developments are on-site apartments and spa complex to complement their hotel and seasonal restaurant (open May to end Sept). What self-respecting poshly renovated château in the Languedoc doesn't have this nowadays!
Some good wines being made here but their “top” reds are quite pricey, although 2009 wasn't perhaps the best vintage to judge them on (hot and dry, many of them are now looking a bit clunky and out of balance with austere tannins), so I look forward to tasting some more recent vintages in the future. More info @ www.chateaucabezac.com where I pinched the handsome photo from.

2013 Cuvée Alice white (Maccabeu, Vermentino, Roussanne, Grenache blanc; 14% abv) – touches of honey/banana and yeast-lees vs a crisp 'mineral' side, juicy and refreshing with some roundness too. €7.30 cellar door / £8.77 UK.
2012 Rosé (Syrah, Grenache; 13.5%) - nice red fruity vs creamy style, a hint of rounded mouth-feel vs crisper finish. €7.30 / £8.77
2011 La Tradition red (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; 14.5%) - attractive sweet fruit with perfumed floral tones, crunchy berries vs riper liquorice etc. with powerful weighty finish. Nice style. £8.77
2009 Carinu (Carignan; 15%) - maturing savoury and smoky vs a tarter herbier side, power vs bite on the palate, still quite tannic with lingering meaty development; those tannins are a bit too “09” but it's an interesting red I suppose. €12.80 / £11.48
2009 Cuvée Arthur (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache; 14.5%) - fairly oaky smoky and extracted with structured powerful mouth-feel, that oak lingers a little combined with oomph, savoury fruit and a bitter twist of tannin. One for sipping gently around the round table no doubt. €17.10 / £15.11
2009 Grande Cuvée Belvèze (Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache; 14.5%) - again showing plenty of dark chocolate oak with grippy punchy palate, better sweet fruit coming through vs similar bitter twist of tannins. €27.80 / £21.51

This is a preview snippet from my forthcoming 2014 Languedoc report - coming soon, honest!

'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!