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Friday, 10 November 2017

Californian Wines under £20

Three Californian Wines under £20

Big, bold and brash yet resolutely crowd-pleasing, California is - oenologically speaking - the flashy and attention-grabbing Hair Metal of wine.


These three Big Wines are - like poodle-haired rockers in leather, studs and make-up - big on brash statement, but also easy-to-enjoy if you like lots of everything and a bit more too, as well as technically well-made and, underneath it all, rather sophisticated.

Chateau Souverain Chardonnay 2014 (£10.99, Waitrose) sweet, ripe melon and poached pear fruit with buttery oatmeal and toasty spice; big, layered and warming yet fresh and harmonious.

Match with heavy, substantial food, such as tarte flambée or pork medallions with cream and mushrooms.

Ironstone Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 (£13.99, Laytons and independents) earthy and woodsy-truffley with dark fruit and peppery spice; sweet, ripe blackberry, red plum and raspberry fruit. Good freshness and an old-vine concentration.

Good.

Match the earthiness with a venison casserole.

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (£17.99, Waitrose) Cab blend from the Alexander Valley; port-like with plums-and-cherries fruit, eucalyptus, oaky spice and fresh damp earth; ripe, juicy and slightly jammy dark berry fruits. Hefty, warming and substantial with a glycerol, almost oily texture and soft, fine-grained tannins.

Good.

A big wine that needs big food to match - smoked duck breast or hare.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Sorgin: A Gin for Wine Lovers

Sorgin: a gin from winemaker Francois Lurton made from Sauvignon Blanc

Francois Lurton is something of a winemaking legend - or at the very least, a prominent name from a legendary family.

His new gin, Sorgin, is made not from grain or potatoes but Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Gascony that might otherwise be distilled and aged into a brandy; to this is added a range of botanicals: grapefruit zest, lemon, violets, gorse, lime-zest and redcurrant buds, with juniper added as a distillate.

For the linguistically curious, Sorgin is a basque name for a witch - but not a witch wearing a basque.

Sorgin delicate and complex nose with aromatic herbs, fruitiness and sandalwood; elegant and long with an oily texture and an harmonious, persistent finish. No rough eges whatsoever.

Very Good.

Drink neat as an aperitif or, as Lurton recommends, garnish with a slice or orange or grapefruit.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Four Christmas Wines From Virgin


Four wines for Christmas from Virgin

A Special Day in the CWB household gave me an opportunity to road test some Christmas wines from Virgin.

The food was not especially Christmassy, but if you are looking to create a multi-course sense of occasion with accompanying wines, you could do worse than start with this classy line up of fullsome en rama sherry, vibrant English fizz, structured Italian red and complex Loire sticky.

With canapés; olives and roasted almonds
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana en Rama, NV, Spain (£16.99 - details here) intense, pungent and concentrated en rama Manzanilla sherry; nutty, floral and bone dry with dried apple fruit and a citrussy finish. Long and elegant.

Good - absolutely demands tapas-style food. Drink now.

With starters; asparagus and parma ham gratin
Bolney Bubbly, NV, Sussex (£22.99 - details here) yeasty, nutty brioche and orchard fruits; well-structured and elegant with a fine mousse. Creamy, citrussy and floral.

Good - works as an aperitif, with light starters or mackerel fillets. Will further improve with age.

With main; beef cobbler
Il Cascinone Rive Barbera, 2014, Piedmonte (£15.99 - details here)
black cherries, plums, spice and violets with a dusting of cocoa; very fresh and well-structured and elegant with firm, very fine tannins. Good underpinnings.

Good - needs rich, red-meat dishes.

With dessert; spiced apple and vanilla cake
Domaine Baumard Coteaux du Layon Carte d'Or, 2015, Coteaux du Layon (£11.99, 37.5cl - details here)
floral and savoury complexity; rich, honeyed and waxy-oily with pineapple, overripe melon, sweet lemon and candied orange peel. Very precise, fresh and lively. Utterly delicious and could age for many years.

Very Good - match with a range of lighter desserts such as cakes, pastries and fruit tarts (but not Christmas pudding).

Friday, 3 November 2017

Ribera Del Duero - Tim Atkin's Picks

Tim Atkin's pick of the best wines from Ribera Del Duero

I had found the wines in the main Ribera Del Duero section to be always made from excellent raw materials - freshness, concentration and intensity - but sometimes lacking harmony or balance; as if a more experienced hand in the cellar might have brought about a better result.

Presented separately were 30-odd wines chosen by Master of Wine Tim Atkin.

There was certainly a higher hit rate of approving ticks in my notes here; but without time to try them all, I focused on merchants whose wines have previously impressed.

Here is what I liked best:

Bodegas Dominio de Atauta, Dominio de Atauta 2014 (Boutinot) vegetal, leather and spice with fresh red berry and plum fruit, cool mint. Harmonious, concentrated and fresh. Incredibly adept.Very Good Indeed.

Dominio Del Soto, Crianza 2011 (N/A) complex, vegetal and oaky nose; fresh red and dark berry fruits with vanilla sweetness. Dense and inky with a long, supple texture.Very Good.

Bodegas Aalto, Aalto 2014 (Justerini & Brooks) dark fruit, spice and leather; sweet ripe berries and vanilla. Concentrated, firm, long and fresh.Very Good.

Bodegas Antidoto, La Hormiga de Antidoto 2014 (H2Vin) restrained nose, harmonious and balanced with dark fruit; supple, firm texture; concentrated and long.Very Good.

Bodegas Pingon, Carramimbre Altamimbre 2014 (Amathus) vegetal and farmyardy, focused and fresh with dark fruits and sweet vanilla; firm, structured , fresh and concentrated. Long and supple.Very Good.

Bodegas Hermanos Perez Pascuas, Vina Pedrosa Reserva 2012 (Bancroft) toasty and farmyardy with liquorice, dark fruits, cherries and coffee grounds, sweet vanilla and spice; fresh, vibrant, dense and concentrated.Very Good.

Bodegas Trus, Trus Reserva 2012 (Georges Barbier) vegetal with fresh dark berry and plum fruit, sweet vanilla; concentrated, harmonious, supple and long with fine tannins. Still youthful.Very Good.

Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Valbuena No 5 2012 (FMV) vegetal and dark fruits; fresh, intense and vibrant with juicy berry fruit.Very Good.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

La Rosa Bianca - Amaretti From Sardinia

A Sardinian take on amaretti from La Rosa Bianca

This year's annual Real Italian Food and Wine included a section of producers from Sardinia. I had earlier attended a masterclass on the wines of this Mediterranean island and was keen to try out some local foods.

As well as the salamis, cheeses and a semolina-based flatbread (rather like a Sardinian poppadom), there were amaretti from La Rosa Bianca.

Traditionally, amaretti are light Italian biscuits, crisp on the outside and slightly chewy inside, made from almonds and amaretto liqueur, as well as egg white and sugar.

La Rosa Bianca amaretti are slightly different, replacing the liqueur with apricot kernels and adding honey.


The result is softly chewy, more cake than a biscuit, and highly aromatic, with the sweet, nutty marzipan-almond flavour leading to the fresher, more savoury apricot kernel.

Not too sweet, it will match perfectly with a morning espresso or an after-dinner dessert wine, such as a sweet moscato.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Sardinia Hidden Gems Masterclass


A tasting of wines from Sardinia with Peter McCombie MW

200km off the Italian coast and previously ruled by the Spanish and the Savoyards, Sardinia is something of a hidden gem itself; it is one of those places of which the only thing I know about it is that everyone who goes says it is lovely.

I came away from this Masterclass with some appreciation of the complexity and largely non-Italian heritage of the island, but not yet a fully-formed sense of what Sardinia stands for - if anything.
That may be expecting too much - viticulture has not been as important in Sardinia as in Italy proper and the requirement of the wines has historically been no more than the ability to beef up blends from cooler climates.

If Sardinia does not yet have a strong oenological identity, it is definitely moving towards something more defined.

The grapes for many of these wines were mostly non-Italian, sometimes Spanish albeit by another name - Cannonau is Garnacha, for example - increasing the sense of unfamiliarity. A number of the wines, especially the reds, improved with extended aeration on a subsequent tasting, with the tannins softening and the aromas opening up.
The whites

Cantina di Mogoro Il Nuraghe Anastasia 2016 fragrant and floral with white pepper aromatics; good fruit and rounded with a supple texture. 

Tenute Soletta Kyanos Bianco 2015 herbaceous and lemony-herbal, with some fresh Riesling character; fresh and mineral with a honeyed, leesy richness. 

Tenute Olbios 'Lupus in Fabula' 2016 Riesling-esque with yellow stone fruit and minerality; rich-yet-dry.

Tenute Gregu Selenu 2016 expressive honeysuckle with some late-harvest character; ripe stone fruits, rich full and substantial

The reds
Carlo Pili Monica di Sardegna Ipno 2016 fresh, light, and fruity with cherries and berries

Cantina Mulleri "Cenere" 2016 bubblegum and red fruits; fresh, berryish and juicy with substantial old-vine underpinnings. A quaffer - but with class.

Cantina Nuraghe Crabioni Sussinku 2016 tar, spice, pepperiness and bramble with undergrowth; fresh, substantial and oaky with a firm texture.

Tenute L'Ariosa 'Pedrastella' 2014 floral, but still rather closed up; red fruits with sweet vanilla and freshness. Long with a good structure. Rioja-esque.

Cantina Meana Parèda 2015 smokiness, some jamminess yet fresh and firm with good backbone and structure; long and grippy.

Agricola Soi "Lun" 2014 quasi aged-character nose with sweet spice, balsamic and florality; caramelised fruits but with freshness, length and a supple texture.

Cantine di Orgosolo Neale 2015 fragrant with juicy red berry and cherry fruits, fresh and juicy, with fine tannins. Beaujolais-esque.

Tenute Rossini "Rosso Rossini" 2015 meaty and leathery with black fruits and fresh, slightly chunky tannins. Long and firm. Nebbiolo-esque.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Two Yealands Whites

Two single vineyard whites from New Zealand's Yealands

After making a short video on the topic of Yealands, inspired by five of their wines, Yealands sent me a few more bottles to try.

From the entry-level to the very top, all the wines are characterised by a freshness, purity and balance that makes them sophisticated and adept, yet all-too-easy to enjoy.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Gris 2016 aromatic and complex nose with ripe tropical fruits, sweet spices and a rich fatness. Waxy and full, yet fresh and mineral.

Good.

Match the richness with Alsatian food, such as tarte flambée or paté.

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard P.G.R 2016 a blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling; dieselly nose, white stone fruits and ripe pineapple; sweet spices and limey freshness. Well made and easy-drinking.

Match the zippy freshness with soused fish or caesar salad.