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12 March 2016

India - Grover Zampa

You may be tempted to think where don't they grow vines nowadays, but India appears to be shaping up into more than a pleasant surprise on the wine front. Kanwal Grover planted this company's first vineyard in 1992 with the help of certain prominent French wine consultants. Son Kapil expanded their plantings to a substantial 400 acre estate, or 162 hectares; and latest generation daughter Karishma studied oenology and viticulture at the famous University of California Davis.
Nashik in the Maharashtra region, lying north-east and a little inland of Mumbai, is considered the 'wine capital of India' and is where Grover's winery is based; they also own vineyards in another important production area in Karnataka, to the north-east of Bangalore in the Nandi Hills lurking in India's southern half, where grapes are grown at altitude as you probably guessed.
Grover Zampa's UK importer is Character Wines, where I copied the map from. More info on groverzampa.in, or check out this new book - 'the wines of India' by Peter Csizmadia-Honigh.

Grover Zampa Art Collection 2014 Sauvignon blanc – grassy green pepper notes then lively citrus fruits and zesty crisp finish. Good SB style. £10.99
Grover Zampa Art Collection 2014 Viognier – lightly exotic apricot fruit with zesty 'chalky' edges and fairly crisp mouth-feel, attractive easy-going style. £10.99
Grover Zampa VA 2013 Reserve Viognier (barrel-fermented) – richer texture and bigger mouthful, less Viognier character though and rather expensive. £15.99
Grover Zampa Art Collection 2014 Shiraz rosé – juicy 'gummy' palate with fruity ripe red berries, lively and crisp finish; nice dry rosé. £10.99
Grover Zampa Art Collection 2013 Cabernet/Shiraz – very ripe blackberry spice and dark chocolate on the nose (no oak though apparently), fairly punchy mouth-feel yet soft and smoky too with nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit vs light bitter twist on the finish. £10.99
Grover Zampa 2012 La Reserve (Cabernet Sauvignon) – quite spicy and punchy actually with cassis undertones, firmer palate with herby juicy blackcurrant fruit; could go well with lamb curry if not too spicy. £12.99
Grover Zampa VA 2013 Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon/Viognier (oak aged) – spicy too and more structured although less firm with more 'substance', tight long and spicy finish. Could be good when it opens up a bit. £15.99 though.

03 March 2016

Lebanon: Heritage and Ksara


As a timely update to my substantial Lebanese wine and food page HERE, the latest vintages from the two widely exported wineries Château Heritage and Château Ksara are reviewed below. These also both feature in more detail in that archive material: from a trip to Lebanon in 2005 and tasted on other occasions since in 2008 and 2011.

Château Heritage
Run by the latest generation of the Touma family, who set up the present-day winery operation in 1997 - their history of owning vineyards mostly for distilling Arak goes back to the late 19th century though - in Kab-Elias in the high-altitude Bekaa Valley (1000 metres above sea level). They seem to specialise in holding back their top red wines for late release to mature them longer in bottle; and I didn't try their quirky fortified walnut liqueur on this occasion, but follow the Lebanon page link above (and scroll down) if that raises your curiosity (curious being the right word). UK importer = Lebanese Fine Foods & Wines. www.chateauheritage.com

Château Heritage 2008 'Château' (60% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12 months in French oak) - Touches of cedary coconut on the nose mingle with maturing notes and spicy black cherry fruit, quite punchy with a little grip still and attractive sweet/savoury fruit on the finish. Good. £11
Château Heritage 2008 'Family Reserve' (50% Syrah, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12 months in American oak) - More coconut oak on the nose, more concentrated too with grippier mouth-feel; a tad extracted and oaky perhaps but has good depth vs structure. £12
Château Heritage 2012 'Plaisir du Vin' (50% Cabernet + Cinsault/Syrah; 6 months in French oak) - Aromatic cassis and liquorice aromas with a bit of vanilla oak adding sweetness and roundness, fairly soft and drinking nicely now. £6

Château Ksara
You'll see from my previous ramblings and musings about Ksara (follow the HERE link as mentioned above to my Lebanon archive page) that I've been disappointed with their wines in the past, but this time I seem to have been more impressed and liked a few of them in particular when tasting the whole range again. They claim to be "the country's oldest winery" - Jesuits bought the property (pic. top taken from their site) in the mid 19th century and planted more vineyards etc. - and it's been owned by a consortium backed by the Sara family since 1973 overseen by long-standing chairman Zafer Chaoui. www.chateauksara.com

2013 Chardonnay - Nutty and oaky touches enhanced by sweet citrus fruit and some freshness still too, drinking now. Nice Chardy but expensive at nearly £14 (unless that's a restaurant list price?).
2014 Gris de Gris rosé - Zingy and lively redcurrant and berry fruit, gets creamier on the palate vs zesty finish. Attractive mouthful and style. £9
2013 Le Prieuré red (Carignan, Cab Sauv, Mourvedre) - Ripe and 'resin-y' vs spicy / herby nose, firm fresh and structured mouth-feel vs a lusher side with perfumed fruit. Nice red. £8.15
2013 Reserve du Couvent red (Cab Sauv, Syrah, Cabernet Franc) - Leafy / cedary with cassis and black cherry, pretty firm palate vs powerful and concentrated. A tad 'extracted' but has good depth of fruit. £9
2012 Clos St Alphonse red (Syrah, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc) - Aromatic cassis and dark cherry with maturing savoury edges, 'crunchier' fruit and quite firm on the palate at first but finishing with a lusher softer texture, quite powerful and long too. Marks & Spencer does a good own-label version of this for £10.
2012 Cuvée IIIeme Millenaire (Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah) - Cedar and red pepper hints vs lush dark olive and cherry, better tannins and concentrated with enticing sweet/savoury fruit finish. Good. £24
2010 Le Souverain (50-50 Cab Franc-Arinarnoa (Petit Verdot/Merlot crossing apparently)) - Cedar and red pepper notes again, pretty dense extracted and firm mouth-feel with smoky oak but it's very concentrated; still surprisingly young although it is quite firm and oaky. £37


16 February 2016

Uruguay: Bodega Garzón


I used Garzón's 2012 Tannat (click there to see my pick of that crop) in a 'wines of South America' themed tasting last year, which did the job well enough; so was pleased to see their name on a table at the 'Emerging Regions' event in London last autumn (which also took the 'wow-est view at a wine tasting trophy' in my book: if you get the chance to go to the Leadenhall Building in the City, take one of the Nasa installed lifts to the top for a rich-person's panorama across the old smoke in all directions).
Back to Bodega Garzón, which is found near a wee place of the same name in the Maldonado region not far from the resort town of Punta del Este on Uruguay's Atlantic coast. Founded by Alejandro Bulgheroni and his wife Bettina in 1999, their vineyards lie on gentle hills up to 200 metres above sea level all around a quirky-looking eco-winery with grass and trees growing out of it. They also planted the star north-western Spanish/Portuguese white variety Albariño (Alvarinho) here in 2008 and 2011 to supplement Sauvignon blanc and Viognier, which has proved to be a good idea I'd say (see my notes below).
Photo above pinched from bodegagarzon.com where you'll find more info on their wines, tourist activities and restaurant, if you're lucky enough to go there some day (Uruguay could become the new Mexico or Brazil, who knows). Garzón is part of the Blends Wine Estates group - their UK agent is Bibemdum PLB, and prices indicated are approx UK retail/on-trade (I think). I'd be surprised then if you couldn't find them in North America and the Far East etc. as well (the Blends' website lists lots of international distributors).

Colinas de Uruguay Albariño 2014 - Juicy and honeyed style, quite rich (for young vines) texture vs crisp and zesty finish. Nice dry white. £5
Bodega Garzón Albariño 2014 (older vines) - Similar style, more 'serious' and yeast-lees character vs very crisp and intense. Good foodie white. £11
Bodega Garzón Viognier 2014 - Quite green and zesty for a Viognier, has attractive apricot fruit edges though on a fatter palate, pretty crisp on the finish. £11
Colinas de Uruguay Tannat 2013 - Very sweet/sour profile with dark liquorice vs bitter chocolate notes, smoky vs crunchy fruit cocktail, fairly soft tannins though. Different. £5
Bodega Garzón Tannat 2013 - Less aromatic to start and more concentrated mouth-feel with similar smoky vs crunchy profile, firm/fresh and structured vs some lush fruit too. All comes together in the end, pretty good. £11-£13

10 February 2016

Chile: Viña Ventisquero & John Duval

Downloaded from facebook.com/VentisqueroWines
One of Australia's most famous and laid-back winemakers, John Duval (below right) has been a consultant at Ventisquero (meaning 'grey glacier') in Chile since the beginning: 2004 vintage for Syrah and Merlot and 2005 for Cabernet and Carmenere (CLICK HERE and scroll down to read my report and notes cobbled together in 2007 featuring these wines). John, who was in London to host a special tasting a few months ago, said he's "worked with Felipe Tosso (winemaker at Ventisquero) for many years now... After I left Penfolds in 2002, it was through contacts there that I was invited to Chile." And the rest is history, as the old cliché goes; he goes over twice a year nowadays "after the vintage in Barossa and in November."

05 February 2016

WES Belfast wine tastings update

Here are the latest dates and details of forthcoming Wine Education Service NI courses and tastings running in Belfast city centre, with an updated PayPal button for card payments at the bottom of the post.

Impossible castle in Slovenia
(not where the vineyards are!)

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