"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

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:


15 December 2014

France: ban on naughty wine names?

According to a recent post on punchy French wine business website Vitisphere.com (goes there, in French), more draconian proposals might be on the cards regarding wine labelling in France. A verging-on fascist state health body has suggested, in the name of "public health," that wine names using words like "pleasure" should be banned. While not condoning abusive alcohol consumption, FMW.com was wondering how stupid do politicians think we are? Wine is wine, and it's got booze in it, whatever poetic and/or marketing twist you adorn the bottle with. No doubt health ministers beyond France are watching this 'progress' with great interest too... Ho hum.

11 December 2014

Burgundy: Henri de Villamont, Discover the Origin, Chablis etc.

This triad of Burgundy snippets was picked from three different tastings held in Belfast and Dublin this year, to celebrate the impending migration of all things Burgundy from WineWriting.com over to this site, which will eventually become an all-French wine mecca (if I can be bothered).

Henri de Villamont
This estate winery and broker owns 10 hectares (25 acres) in the Savigny les Beaune area (plots in a few sites from 'village' appellation to Premier and Grand Cru); and they also produce wines from across the entire region from Chablis to Beaujolais, filling out a substantial range covering no less than 45 appellations overall, so the blurb says. Here are three I liked anyway. More @ www.hdv.fr.

2009 Pouilly Fuissé Les Grumes d'Or (Chardonnay) - toasty and buttery nose, attractive nutty savoury development vs still has a hint of fresh acidity underneath, lush finish with lingering nutty flavours.
2011 Meursault Les Clous - hazelnut tones, rich and toasty palate with concentrated buttery mouth-feel vs tight acidity and long finish. Good stuff.
2011 Savigny les Beaune 'Le Village' (monopoly site) - touch of coconut grain with 'volatile' sweet/savoury fruit aromas, relatively rich palate vs still tight and fresh though with structured finish. Nice delicate style, needed a little more time when I tried it.

"Discover the Origin"
This slightly unusual joint-promotional campaign combining a handful of well-known European wine and food regions and produce - Burgundy wines, Port and Douro valley wines, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham - just goes to show there can be harmony among EU member states! Especially when there's money coming from the big Euro pot to support it, presumably. In any case, it sounds like a good idea, although they don't appear to agree any longer since mysteriously the discovertheorigin.co.uk "site is now closed..." (obviously the budget didn't stretch to a sustained online presence). Here are my favourites and comments on a flight (expensive Air France of course) of Burgundy wines presented at a fancy tasting in Belfast, a few months ago now it has to be said. All the whites here are made from Chardonnay and reds from Pinot Noir, in that beautiful simplicity way that Burgundy does so well... Grape variety wise at least: it's just the myriad vineyard sites which are complicated!

White
Domaine Richard et Stéphane Martin 2012 Saint-Véran, Les Rochats (organic, aged in large vats, 13% abv) – attractive creamy nose with white peach fruit, aromatic and lightly buttery almost; quite soft palate with similar taste profile, fairly delicate with yeast-lees edges, has a touch of freshness although is soft and drinking well now. Like sunny Chablis. Good although not great value at £13 in the UK.
Domaine du Colombier 2012 Chablis Premier Cru, Vaucoupin (no oak, 13% abv) – toasty lees notes, a bit of sulphur dioxide (SO2) too; a touch fatter mouth-feel with nutty and creamy flavours vs a hint of steely bite and light yeasty tones, closes up on its tight and slightly awkward finish (when I tried it). Seemed to lack a bit of excitement at first, although it improved in the glass getting more buttery and that SO2/lees side dissipating. £15
Domaine Roux Père et Fils 2012 Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, Les Cortons (aged 18 months in barrel with 25% new oak, 13.5% abv) – toasted grainy notes vs hazelnut and buttered toast aromas, more full-on style on the palate with sweeter fruit and a lot more oak giving grainy vs buttery texture, weightier yet with crisp backdrop; quite chunky ripe and concentrated though to counter that oak, turning finer on the finish in the end with better balance of weight vs bite. £25
Domaine Maillard Père et Fils 2011 Corton Grand Cru (12-18 months barrel-fermented and aged with batonnage (lees stirring), 13% abv) – pretty toasted oaky start, fair punch in the mouth with toasty flavours then subtle hazelnut and lees, turning crisper and tighter on the finish; a little clunky perhaps with that toasted oak vs bitter twist, nice roasted hazelnut notes though and weight vs fairly steely combo; it's concentrated too but doesn't have great balance for this level, a bit over-made. £30
Red
Another wine from Domaine Maillard tasted elsewhere around the same time:
2011 Chorley-les-Beaune - showing subdued oak vs sweet berry vs meatier savoury notes; has a fair bit of grip vs lively yet savoury berry/cherry, concentrated towards rich even with coconut touches, turning firmer, fresher and more subtle on the finish; the tannins are a tad bitter perhaps but this had fair class. £20 DWS
Domaine Jean-Hugues et Ghislaine Goisot 2011 Bourgogne Côte d'Auxerre, La Ronce (open fermenters, 12 months ageing in 30% new oak) – aromatic cherry and redcurrant with wild strawberry/raspberry notes, has a smokier more rustic side too; fresh acidity and a touch of firmness, sweeter vs savoury side vs that fresh bite and bitter twist. Not bad, better with the Parma ham as a contrast, which was delicious, soft and savoury flavoured. £10-£12
Domaine Tupinier Bautista 2012 Mercurey Premier Cru, Le Clos du Roy (30% new oak) – a hint of sweet oak on the nose plus ripe cherry/berry and a smokier side; the oak is quite subtle, touch of bitterness and grip with some fresh bite too vs a bit of weight, turning slightly savoury vs dried red berry flavours; closes up with tighter finish, has good balance and a touch of class. £20
Domaine Brigitte Berthelemot 2010 Beaune Premier Cru, Les Grèves (“older vineyard,” 12 months in oak, 20% new) – maturing savoury side vs subdued oak vs firmer and bigger mouth-feel, more extracted too yet concentrated with nice sweet/savoury fruit, tightens up on the finish. Maybe it's a bit heavy-handed although has more substance and enticing maturing Pinot fruit, and did open up and soften with airing; good, could do better though for £20-£25.
Domaine Jacques Prieur 2009 Corton Grand Cru, Les Bressandes (21 months in cask) – showing a fair lick of toasted vanilla and coconut oak, quite big and extracted yet fairly rich and savoury vs dried red berry fruit with earthy edges; concentrated vs that toasted oak, a bigger mouthful of wine and again it's a little heavy-handed, but certainly has depth and style. c. £100
Palate-cleanser: 14 month matured Parmesan cheese – lovely and tangy and complex flavours, yum.

La Chablisienne: Chablis 'vertical'
Some more golden-hued notes that got temporarily 'filed away', this time from a Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute tasting earlier in the year, focusing on five vintages of one of this impressive co-op winery's top wines. Their Chablis Les Vénérables vieilles vignes comes from old vine Chardonnay vineyards - averaging over 50 years with the youngest at least 40 - and is typically part-aged in cask (about 20% of the wine in two to three year-old barrels). You can read more about La Chablisienne and several other Chablis producers in my three-part Chablis supplement: click here to buy it.

2008 vintage (12.5% abv) - has taken on a touch of colour but not much for its age, developing lovely savoury and buttery notes with yeasty edges vs greener fruit hints, complex nose; creamy vs still very steely palate, maturing oaty flavours vs fairly green apple crispness underneath and hints of celery too, just opening up really and getting richer. Very nice classic 'tight' vintage style that "needed patience," as Robin Kinahan MW put it, "well-balanced despite high acidity..." £18
2009 (12.5% abv) - a tad deeper colour, softer and creamier nose and palate; more developed, fatter and more oxidised, buttery flavours vs just a touch of acidity but it's quite forward and drinking well. 2009 vintage was "very ripe with lower acid, nice now and won't keep." £15
2010 (12.5% abv) - quite deep hues, fairly ripe and exotic nose vs subtle greener side; very concentrated and lush with tasty oat flavours vs crisp and classy finish, fat vs tight and long. "Upfront yet structured, delicious now but will keep," Robin agreed. £19
2011 (12.5% abv) - more closed up, lighter style with nice light buttery vs peachy fruit hints, coming out of its shell with a bit of bite and 'chalky' mouth-feel; attractive although lacks the depth and class, better than I remember though (there are quite a few 2011s reviewed in my special Chablis report). Robin described this vintage as "lower acid... with a late summer..." £15
2012 (12.5% abv) - not much on the aroma front at first, tight and 'mineral' mouth-feel with fresh acidity supported by gently creamy texture and peach / apricot fruit; tightens up on its long finish, concentrated and well balanced, needs 1 to 2 years to open up. "Another cracking vintage," Robin said, "restrained and classic." Thanks to the "long sunny yet cool late summer and early autumn."
Finally, he filled us in a little on vintage 2013, which was "very difficult before and during flowering. It was wet up to vintage then very hot... Not bad but turning a bit ugly... 30% down (in volume): there won't be a sub £10 Chablis soon," Robin concluded.
Plus a couple of young Beaujolais reds worth mentioning...
Cave de Château des Loges 2013 Beaujolais Villages - very aromatic with delicious summer pudding fruits: banana, blackcurrant, black cherry and berries; juicy fruity palate with fair depth vs a light bitter twist, tasty classic style Beaujolais with crunchy vs sweet fruity finish. £8
Cave de Château Chénas 2013 Fleurie 'Coeur de Granit' - similar nose but with richer cassis and more violet aromas; more concentrated and extracted even with lovely ripe vs crunchy fruit, has a hint of grip and fresh acidity too; more serious wine with good depth of fruit, firmer and longer. Lovely. £12

28 November 2014

Côtes du Rhône mini-focus

Here's a Grenache and Syrah infused selection of various and varied southern Rhône Valley producers with some of their worth-mentioning winter-warming reds, which I've stumbled across over the last few months...
 From rasteau.com

Les Vignerons d'Estézargues
A mini-co-op winery formed by 10 growers in and around the village of Estézargues, where their cellar is located, which lies roughly between Avignon and the famous Pont du Gard viaduct (without mentioning the Romans). They favour a 'natural' winemaking approach apparently (who doesn't nowadays). These two cost about £10.95-£13.95 at Roberson's in London (so posh prices then); and the US importer is Jenny & François selections.
Les Galets 2012 Côtes du Rhône (Grenache, Carignan; organic, 13.5% abv) - perfumed nose, quite light texture (although not in alcohol) with tasty berry fruit finish.
Grés Saint-Vincent 2011 Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault; organic, 14% abv) - similar profile perhaps although more concentrated, powerful and elegant too, paradoxically, with a light bitter twist of tannin.

Domaine Saint Etienne
Michel Coullomb's vineyards lie on rolling pebbley terrain around a little place called Montfrin, sitting pretty much smack in the middle of a crow-flies line between Nimes and Avignon (just in the Languedoc technically). Available from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines in the UK (£ price quoted) and Mitchell & Son in Dublin (€).
Perserose 2012 IGP Pays du Gard (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan; 14% abv) - easy-going red, nice sweet liquorice fruit plus a bit of oomph to finish. £7.75
Les Galets 2010 Côtes du Rhône Villages (2/3 Grenache, 1/3 Syrah; 13.5% abv) - attractive Grenache-dominant style showing white pepper and liquorice flavours, fairly concentrated too with balanced soft vs grippy mouth-feel. €17.99 Ireland
Cocagne 2011 Côtes du Rhône (Syrah, Grenache) - hints of toasted choco oak, lots of minty dark cherry fruit though, rich vs firm palate with concentrated finish; nice style. €18.50 cellar door.

Domaine de Mourchon
There's a short-and-sweet profile (scribbled a couple of years ago) of this quite exciting off-the-beaten track estate winery in wild Séguret country, owned by the McKinlay family, and some of their previously tasted vintages HERE. A trio of more recent releases are reviewed for your pleasure below. UK: the Wine Company (Colchester), Big Red Wine Co. (£ prices quoted). Good distribution in the US it seems: the two 'Villages' reds here are about $20+ and $25-$30.
La Source 2012 Côtes du Rhône white (Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc) - charming honeysuckle notes, yeast-lees and peachy fruit; quite rich and tasty with nice crisp touch too. £9.59
Tradition 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) - enticing sweet liquorice and dark berry fruit, hints of spice and dry grip vs fairly soft and tasty finish. £10 (case price) to £13.99 a bottle.
Grande Reserve 2011 Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages (Grenache, Syrah; older vines) - earthier and chunkier, punchy 15.5% alcohol layered with lots of lush dark fruit vs good bite too. Wow. £18.99

Cave de Rasteau

You'll find previous words on this fairly go-getting co-op HERE (about their sumptuous fortified red Vin Doux Naturel) that basically forms the backbone of the Rasteau village appellation, supplemented by a handful of very good independent estates (some of them are linked below); and HERE as well (note on the 2011 'Tradition'). Here's what I thought of two of their latest vintage releases.
Ortas 'Tradition' 2012 Rasteau (Grenache 70%, Syrah 20%, Mourvèdre 10%, 14.5% abv) - Deceptively fruity and soft at first, turning warmer and more powerful, plenty of tasty blackberry/cherry, damson and liquorice with earthy touches; a hint of dry grip vs sweet ripe fruit, spice and oomph to finish. Drinking nicely now. €7.90 cellar door, £9.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse (Kent, UK), €14.49 O'Brien's (Ireland).
'Prestige' 2010 Rasteau (Grenache 50%, Syrah 35%, Mourvèdre 15% from very stony hillside terraces, small proportion aged in oak; 14.5% abv) - rich ripe and earthy with liquorice and kirsch notes, peppery and minty too; concentrated, powerful, solid and grippy vs lush dark berry fruit with spicy edges; tightens up on the finish, still a bit young although drinking well with the right kind of food, e.g. Chinese roast duck actually. €18.49 O'Brien's, €10 cellar door.



Other Côtes du Rhône stuff elsewhere on this site you might like to glance at:

And there's a bit of 'blurb and bottles' from the northern Rhône as well lying craftily below this post (or click here:) Domaine Belle, Crozes-Hermitage.


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.

Italy: "wines of the moment"

A few late-autumn tips for looking beyond Pinot Grigio and Chianti (ok, there's one of these recommended here as well) on your local (UK) supermarket's Italian wine shelves, either posh own-labels at slightly higher price points (but often considerably less than for a fancy winery brand yet made by big names and of equivalent quality) or bottles you might overlook as they aren't familiar. In no particular order then...

Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2012 (12.5% abv) - Seeing more of this style of light to medium-bodied red around nowadays, made from the obscure and very northern Italian (Alpine almost) grape variety Teroldego. Attractive fruity spicy wine with a bit of character too. Tesco £7.99
Nero d'Avola Sicilia IGT 2011, Corte Ibla 'single estate' (14% abv) - quite serious and full-on, a lovely Sicilian red made from Nero d'Avola with big ripe dark fruit and fairly firm-textured palate too. M&S £12
Lugana DOC 2013, Tenuta Roveglia (variety: Trebbiano di Lugana, 12.5% abv) - I've been through a few vintages of this consistently tasty dry white with a touch of richness yet fresh and crisp too, from vineyards near Lake Garda just in Lombardy on the border with neighbouring Veneto. Asda £7 although now de-listed as I haven't seen it recently? Shame.
Barolo DOCG 2009, Cantine Ascheri Giacomo (Nebbiolo, 14% abv) - You can often pay more than this for Barolo and still be disappointed, this a very good example balancing meatiness and grip with nice maturing fruit. Tesco £14.99
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2011, Cantina Valpantena (Corvina, Rondinella, 15%) - Similar comments on price/quality as above could apply, this very tasty blockbuster red has lush and spicy fruit, balsamic notes and full-on rounded vs grippy tannins. Enjoyable now with rich food, but it will probably get better if left alone for a couple of years. Sainsbury's £16.50
Chianti Riserva DOCG 2010, Piccini (Sangiovese, 13% abv) - Fairly straightforward wine but well-made (Piccini is a reliable producer), attractive and drink-now version of this popular Tuscan red. Asda £7
Grillo Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 (13% abv) - perhaps one of Sicily's most exciting white varieties, Grillo offers exotic ripe vs juicy fruit with body, a hint of honeyed spice and lightly tangy finish. M&S £7
Greco 2013 Sannio DOC, La Guardiense (13.5% abv) - another star southern Italian white grape from the Campania region, Greco also gives you rich fruit and honeysuckle notes with full-bodied mouth-feel then crisper finish. M&S £10
Notte Rossa Primitivo di Manduria DOP 2012, Cantine San Marzano (14% abv) - Primitivo is the same as, or closely related to, California's Zinfandel (yes, it's a black variety) and can produce some of the best reds in Puglia, especially good wineries in the Manduria zone like this delicious smoky vs dark Med red. M&S £10
Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2009 (14% abv) - Aglianico is another slightly obscure grape worth seeking out, and this example from the Basilicata region (in the deep south found between the two regions mentioned above) shows enticing liquorice and wild herb notes. The 2009 is looking a bit old now, so enjoy it this winter: on offer at Sainsbury's for £6.75 (usually £9).
Vermentino 2013 Tuscany (12%) - another new Italian white at Asda, give it a go for its floral character and elegant style; worth £6 on offer, although I wouldn't pay the "full" price (whatever that really is in any supermarket, with their deliberately confusing promotions and pricing policy, allegedly).

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