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Monday, 11 September 2017

A South African in France - Lunch with Martin Meinert

Lunch with Grand Mayne's consultant winemaker, Martin Meinert

What do you get if you cross a South African winemaker with a reviving vineyard on the other side of a prestigious demarcation line in France?

Martin Meinert is a South African winemaker who now consults on Domaine du Grand Mayne in south west France's Cotes de Duras, an area popular with British holiday-makers.

It was created out of a derelict farmhouse and abandoned fields in 1985 and run on a partial-ownership model; punters would buy a row or two of vines and then take their dividends in the form of finished product.

The winery has waxed and waned in the intervening period, but founder Andrew Gordon is still involved with the running.

Martin's CV includes experience at top Cape wineries and Lafite Rothschild, as well as Chile, California and Australia, which sets him up perfectly to achieve the winery's vision of making New World style wines in France.
Being just outside the appellation d'origine contrôlée boundary for Bordeaux brings with it a number of opportunities and challenges - recognition is low, but freedom of winemaking is greater and it brings an opportunity for the wines to sell on their own merits rather than as part of "brand Bordeaux".

Overall, the wines were technically very well-made with good fruit - as you might expect from Martin's CV. The entry-level wines were priced ambitiously, but this reflects to an extent the high level of fixed cost in a UK bottle of wine.

The reserves were demonstrably superior and given the price-quality ratio, arguably better value.
Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (c. £10) saline-mineral, fresh and aromatic

Reserve Blanc 2015 judiciously oaked with a good blend of oak, ripe fruit and freshness. Substantial, with good underpinnings. Very deft and accomplished.

Good.

2015 Merlot Cabernet coffee, cherries , spice and freshness

Reserve Rouge 2015 complex oaking, leather and gaminess; red and dark fruits with spices, freshness and hints of florality.

Good.

Moelleux 2012 a blend of S/SB/ChB ripe, roasted peaches, chestnutty beeswax, raisins, spices and cidery acidity. Complex.

Good.

They are available via the winery's website: https://www.domaine-du-grand-mayne.com/uk-shop/wine.htm

Monday, 4 September 2017

Lost In the Supermarket - German Wine

A random-ish selection of German wines - from the supermarket

I'm all lost in the supermarket
- Lost in the Supermarket, The Clash (1979)
On holiday in the southern Black Forest and needing a few wines for the week, I was faced with a wall of different German wines that I had absolutely no knowledge of - I could make sense of grapes, alcohol levels and prices, but nothing more.

So, I did what perhaps most people do in the circumstances and chose based solely on whether I liked the labels.

Actually, that's not quite true - I did reject one Spaetburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) for its 14% alcohol level, suspecting it may prove to be overcooked, and selected instead a 12.5% example.

All were bought in Edeka, a collection of co-operatives making up Germany's largest supermarket chain, in Bad Säckingen and priced at around €5-7, the equivalent of around £12 retail in the UK after allowing for duty, taxes and additional mark-ups.

In short, all of them were very enjoyable indeed - clean and precise, expressive and well-made, generally with a light-freshness. Perfect as sippers, they also matched with out holiday food (think wurst and spätzle with sauerkraut) I could routinely drink wines like this and never get bored.

Wuttemberg Terra S Weissburgunder 2015 floral and citrussy with elderflower, lemongrass, orchard fruits, zippy lime and sweet spices. Fresh, mineral and long (12.5%)

Merdinger Attilafelsen Spaetburgunder, Baden 2015 pale and cherry fruited with oaky, peppery spice; fine, firm tannins. Fresh, deft and elegant. (13%)

Wuttemberg Besigheimer Lemberger, 2016 dark cherry and red berry fruit with raspberry leaf and spice. Fresh, clean and pure; elegant and light.(10.5%)

Oberkircher Riesling Kabinett 2015 aromatic, zippy lime marmalade and kerosene with ripe lemon, pineapple and peach; pleasantly piercing acidity; flinty and mineral with white pepper.

Baden Markgraeflerland Spaetburgunder 2015 (12.5%) red and black cherry fruit, fresh and mineral with good underpinnings and a seasoning of oaky spice. Like Audrey Tatou taking you out for whisky and cigars.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Late Summer Sipping

Two whites for late-summer sipping

As we move into late summer, the evenings get cooler even on a hot day; sitting out in the garden can mean repositioning several times to follow the patch of sun as it sets more quickly than a few weeks earlier.

These two white are light enough for summer drinking, but have a bit more warmth and substance; Les Jamelles produce consistently good wines mixing, as befits their origins, Burgundian elegance with New World fruit and precision; this vintage won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.

Château Toutigeac is new to me, but the increasing quality of white Bordeaux is not; warmer than the Loire and with the ability to blend grape varieties, white Bordeaux shows variety around a theme of freshness and substance.

Les Jamelles Viognier 2016 (£6.99, Co-op) honeysuckle, sweet spices and ripe yellow stone fruit, with a freshness and minerality. Long, warming and adept.

Good.

Bordeaux Blanc Château Toutigeac (£7.99, Bordeaux-Undiscovered) a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon with a dash of Muscadelle, it is fresh, slightly floral and musky with citrus, white and yellow stone fruit, good structure and mineral underpinnings. A beautifully crafted wine.

Good and good value.

This wine also features in the Everyday Bordeaux offering.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Lancaster Bomber Ale

Marston's Lancaster Bomber Ale

A relative received a year's supply of beer for taking part in an event - not a bad result.

His first delivery was several cases of Marston's Lancaster Bomber ale; it proved a little devisive with other members of the family, so he asked me to sample it and give an opinion.

I was only too happy to oblige.

A multi-award winning, classic English ale, it is chestnut in colour with a lovely full-bodied flavour, enriched with a wonderful late hop character - so says the website and it's hard to disagree with any of that.

Darker, richer and weightier than a lager, it is still mid-weight at 4.4% alcohol and with just a balancing sweetness.

Lancaster Bomber Amber-chestnut, with complex biscuity floral aromas; rich, full-flavoured and hoppy with fruitcake flavours. Clean, balanced and refreshing.

Good.

Match with pubby dishes, like steak and ale pie or roast beef.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Tour de Belfort - Malbec Grand Vin 2011

An aged bottle of Tour de Belfort's Grand Vin

I've been a fan of Eugene Lismonde's Tour de Belfort wines since I first tried them - they are superbly well made, with a combination of elegance, complexity and southern warmth.

The Grands Vins have always struck me as way too young to drink and, although I had been drawing out a case, the time had come to try the last one.

At six years old, it is still youthful and the only signs of age are that it does not require extensive aeration even to start opening up.

Youthful, primary and really only just ready for drinking now, it still has years ahead of it. And 2011 was not even a particularly good year in France.

Tour de Belfort Malbec Grand Vin 2011 dark plum, elderberry and black cherry fruit with pencil shavings, spice and freshness; inky and supple with excellent underpinnings and absolutely no rough edges - this is wine-making of the highest order. Youthful, vibrant and energetic.

Very Good.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

High Tea At The Maid's Head Norwich

Presidential high tea at The Maid's Head Hotel, Norwich

On a site dating back almost 1,000 years, the Maid's Head hotel has played host to Queen Elizabeth I, The Black Prince and Catherine of Aragon.

Lo-frills accommodation this is not.
I chose it as the venue for my Presidential high tea before our ICAEW East Anglia annual dinner for a number of reasons, least of which were the convenience and the fact that the owner is also a fellow Chartered Accountant.
The building has a real sense of history and character; it is full of great stories which David Chaplin told as we drank fizz from Tour de Belfort, made by his father-on-law and attacked the finger buffet of sandwiches and cakes before we moved on to the cathedral.

 

Norwich Cathedral, which overlooks the hotel, is an 800-year-old building with a behavioural, rather than commercial purpose, was the venue for my final address as President of Chartered Accountants East Anglia - details here.

For more about The Maid's Head Hotel, see: http://maidsheadhotel.co.uk/

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tesco Christmas in July

A tasting of Tesco Christmas wines - in July

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
- Save The Best For Last, Vanessa Williams

What could be more Christmassy than a steaming hot day in July?

Fortunately, to set the Christmas scene, Tesco had arranged a walk through a (slightly disorientating) magical winterland.

The general impression of most of these wines was pleasant enough, perhaps a little underwhelming - which is no mean feat for a large supermarket at this price range.

However, a range of under-the-table Italians plus a couple of dessert wines at the end proved worthy of searching out.

Fizz

A Blanquette de Limoux and, new to me, a Pignoletto; both fresh, elegant and pleasant.
Whites

With a Maconnais Burgundy, an Aussie chardie from Yarra and a d'Arenberg white blend (zippy Sauvignon and Riesling with waxy Marsanne and Rousanne), these were again all pleasant, with the New World wines being perhaps the more accomplished.
Reds

Again, a broad range of styles from a light, cherryish Burgundy from Mercurey, an harmonious cherry-and-spice Aussie Pinot from Yarra, a fuller Ripasso, a more-summery bbq d'Arenberg GSM blend.
The Italian Job

Of more interest was a trio of Italian wines, all at £9 before seasonal offers, that held together more convincingly:

Tesco Finest Greco Beneventano ripe orchard and melon fruit; fresh with some richness and length.

Tesco Finest Falanghina fresh and citrussy with orchard fruit and good length

Tesco Finest Aglianico smokey prunes, some gaminess, dark chocolate and mocha, spice; harmonious and balanced with some firmness
The stickies

However, the cherry on top was two ridiculously good value dessert wines that should not be saved for Christmas.
Tesco finest* Dessert Sémillon 37.5cl (£6) made by de Bortoli, this warm-climate sticky has roasted peaches,beeswax, roasted spices, savouriness and extensive botrytis. A really impressive, complex and classy full-on dessert wine at an amazing price.

Good.

Match with treacle tart, mince pies and blue cheese.

Tesco finest* 10 Year Old Tawny Port 75cl (£12) from the excellent Symington family, this has everything a tawny should; cherries, eucalyptus and freshness. Complex and substantial.

Good.

Christmas pudding in a glass, match with mince pies, Christmas pudding or hard yellow cheese.