Monday, December 23, 2013

Wines of the Year

Champagne house of the year - Charles Heidsieck
There have been some notable Champagne moments recently, including Salon 1999, Roederer Cristal 2004, Krug Grande Cuvée Richesse (2000 base), Dom Ruinart 1993, Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1995 and Oenothèque Rosé 1993, Pol Roger Chardonnay 1998, Bollinger Grande Année 2004 and Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru Ambonnay, but Charles Heidsieck gets the gong for impeccable quality throughout its range, from the non vintage Brut Réserve to the Blanc des Millénaires 1995. It gets a gong for value, too. 
UK stockists of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve include Haynes Hanson & Clark and Eton Vintners. HH&C also has the vintage 2000. Berry Bros & Rudd and Bordeaux Index have Blanc des Millénaires 1995. is promising a full range, including Blanc des Millénaires 1995, from 24 January.

Chardonnay of the year - Greywacke Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough
Kevin Judd is deservedly renowned for his Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, but deserves at least as many accolades for this complex, concentrated, fine-boned Chardonnay. 
UK stockists include Divine Fine Wines and The Wine Company.

Riesling of the year – Rippon Riesling 1992, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago
21-year-old Riesling of astonishing freshness, length and complexity from a winery famous for its super-sleek, burgundian-style Pinot Noirs. Candied citrus peel, peppermint, honey, vanilla, crème fraiche and wet stones, among other flavours. Also a candidate for mature wine of the year.
No stockists, but Lea & Sandeman has the 2011 vintage in the UK.

Newcomer of the year - Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2012, Tasmania
Almost unnervingly understated at first, but then the intensity and purity of the Chardonnay themselves – and stay. Australia’s answer to Chablis. A debut wine from new owners (Shaw & Smith) of a mature vineyard.
UK stockists include Hedonism Wines.

Mature wine of the year – Torres Mas La Plana 1981, Penedès
The cork was completely saturated and came out reluctantly in two parts – but the wine was in perfect condition: deep, solid colour, showing surprisingly little age at the rim; fragrant, ripe, sweet fruit; mocha and spice; rich, velvety layers around a meaty frame. Cabernet Sauvignon at its long-lived best (tasted 20/12/13). 
UK stockist: Fine & Rare Wines. Roberson has the excellent 2007 if you're thinking longterm.

Young red of the year - Andrea Oberto Barolo Vigneto Albarella 2009, Piedmont 

Whoever said Barolo was a difficult wine? This is ideal for cellaring into the next decade and yet deliciously drinkable now. It may well close up, but for now it's fragrant and fresh, and at the same time deeply sweet, chocolaty and meaty. 
UK stockist: Lea & Sandeman.

English wine of the year - Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009, West Sussex
A Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier blend (55%, 26%, 19%) from an exceptional vintage in England. 
UK stockists include Berry Bros & Rudd, Eton Vintners, Hennings, Jeroboams, Lea & Sandeman and The Wine Society. 

Fortified wine of the year - D’Oliveira Terrantez Madeira 1977  
Wonderfully perfumed – like an old leather handbag filled with lavender sitting on a beeswax-polished floor. Flavours of spicy fruitcake and dark chocolate coated walnuts. Intense and very long with lovely acidity. Medium dry.  
UK stockist: Berry Bros & Rudd.

Vintage of the year – 2010
A bit of a daft category this, but I’ve had so many great 2010s this year and from very different parts of the world. To name three reds: 
Domaine of the Bee Les Genoux 2010, Côtes Catalanes. A field blend of old-vine Grenache Noir, Carignan and Grenache. Perfumed, sweet, supple, majestic, delightfully precise and fresh (despite 15% alcohol). Utterly seductive. 
UK stockist: 
Ornellaia 2010, Bolgheri, Tuscany. A cool, late vintage (the complete opposite of 2009), producing a wine of tremendous clarity, definition and silkiness. The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 4% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  
UK stockists: Armit, Berry Bros & Rudd, Four Walls Wine Co and Hedonism. 
Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010, Pauillac, Bordeaux. A wonderful combination of precision and opulence.
UK stockists include: Fraziers Wine, Roberson and

Tasting of the year  - Quinta do Noval and Nacional vintage ports
A vertical and a horizontal tasting, in London in September, of the same six vintages of Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Nacional – 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2011. I gave my top scores overall (95+/96) to Nacional 1997 and 2011, but my top-scorers among the non-Nacionals were also 1997 and 2011.
UK stockist of Quinta do Noval 1997: Private Cellar.

Retailer of the year – The Wine Society
For the breadth and depth of its range, across-the-board high quality, outstanding service, low prices and transparency in everything. Two examples of the brilliant value: Viña Zorzal Graciano 2011, Navarra, £6.75, and Clavesana Dogliani Dolcetto 2011, Piedmont, £6.95., +44 1438 741177

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Magnums for Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the rest

I was asked by a member of The Wine Gang to recommend some magnums – still whites and reds up to £40 each – for birthdays in December. Such a good idea. Magnums always looks the part and are my favourite size for entertaining (though I don't buy them nearly often enough). They're also a good volume to choose if you're cellaring wines. A shame, then, that more wine merchants don't highlight them in any way on their websites. After trawling through my tasting notes for a couple of hours, I came up with the list below. As it made me want to buy some straightaway for Christmas/Thanksgiving, I thought I'd pass them on. If you're not in the UK, or want to look for other UK stockists, use

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2008, £30

Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay 2011, £25.20

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay, Auckland 2009, £48.30

Duorum Colheita, Douro 2009, £27.50

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2010, £23.60

Domaine du Poujol Podio Alto, Coteaux du Languedoc 2010, £35.90 (a grenache/mourvèdre/syrah/cinsault blend which I haven’t tried, but I've enjoyed all the other wines I've tasted from this estate, so I'd take a chance with my own money on it)

White (the Chablis and the 2 Leflaive burgundies could be kept)
Domaine Jacques Rouzé Quincy Villalin 2012, £26.30

Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre 2012, £31.45

Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis 2012, £30.15 

Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2011, £39.30

Olivier Leflaive Frères Rully 1er Cru Vauvry 2010, £38.10

Olivier Leflaive Frères Auxey-Duresses 2010, £39.20

Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2007, £38.60

Château de Lionne, Graves 2010, £28.70 – not ready, but a good present

Château Cambon La Pelouse, Haut-Medoc 2009, £42.90 – again, will improve

Lea & Sandeman Bordeaux 2009, £19.95

Tenuta Monteti Caburnio, Tuscany 2009, £28.50

Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir, Patagonia 2011, £42.95

Bodega Ruconia Tubal Rioja 2008 (technically a Crianza), £28.95

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hundreds of amazing wines to taste

Just look at these. They're just a handful of the hundreds of terrific wines to taste at The Wine Gang Christmas fairs in November. Just get yourself a ticket  – only £12 if you do it now and use the special discount code TWGWEB40 on  – and get yourself to Bath, London or Edinburgh, or join all three.

Churton, Pinot Noir, Marlborough  (£24.50)
Ruinart,‘R’ De Ruinart Brut Champagne  (£45.00)
Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires Champagne  (£145.00)
Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Cru 'Aux Serpentières' ( £24.95)
Santa Rita, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon  (£39.99)
Majolini, Franciacorta Electo  (£27.50)
Felton Road, Bannockburn Pinot Noir  (£25.00)

Yamatogawa Shuzo "Velvet Mist" Sake  (£58.00)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Roll up for Wine Gang Christmas Fairs 2013

Roll up, roll up for The Wine Gang's three Christmas wine fairs in London, Bath and Edinburgh – even bigger and better than last year. There'll be hundreds of terrific wines to taste, everything from the great and glittering names to the affordable off-the-beaten track discoveries that everyone dreams of finding.
There are masterclasses to die for – I'm matching the fabulous Tokajis from Royal Tokaji to the equally fabulous Rococo chocolates in London and presenting thrillingly original wines from South West France in Edinburgh.
There are free Wine Walks throughout the fairs – tasting tours of exhibitors' tables led by one of the five Gang (Tom, Ant, David, Jane or me).
In London we've got a pop-up shop, so you can not only choose your Christmas wines and presents, you can walk away with them on the day, or place your orders for delivery later.
And the rollcall of exhibitors is better than ever. I can't begin to name them, so visit The Wine Gang's events website to get all the inside info and, even more important, to get your discounted tickets, using the code TWGWEB40. If you hurry, you might even snap up the last few at £12, but I'm not promising anything.
Crucial dates: Bath - 2 November; London - 9 November; Edinburgh - 30 November.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wines for the longest day, 21 June 2013

The idea was that most of these would be perfect wines for lingering over outside this evening, but as it's scarcely crept above 16ºC here in the Lot today, I shan't be hanging around outside for very long tonight. They'll be just as good indoors.   

2012 Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc, Pays d’Oc, France
Ultra-pale, Provence-style rosé made from the pink-berried grenache gris. Strawberries and roses, then red-apple and citrus freshness. Elegant and lots of fun.  13% abv.  88/100
£8.99, The Cave,

2006 Tyrrell’s Winemaker’s Selection Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon, Australia
Could this be one of the best ever vintages of this all-time Australian classic? Bracingly fresh, intensely zesty and lemony, but just starting to show hints of the honey and toast of bottle age. No oak, of course. Give it 10 years. Or 20. 10.5% abv. 94/100
£27.50–£30, The Wine Society, The Halifax Wine Company, and others

2011 Errazuriz Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa ,Chile
From the Manzanar  vineyard, a new vineyard, 12km from the oceanPiercing freshness on the nose, but pretty, rather than pungent aromas – grass, nettles, floral. Gooseberry, herb, lemongrass and delicate saltiness on the palate. Elegant and fine. 13.5% abv. 91/100.
£11.99, Waitrose, and others

2012 Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau River, Marlborough, New Zealand
Intense lemon and elderflower fragrance, but with a spicy, smoky element. Succulent, fresh palate; long and rich, with lemon, spice and mineral flavours. 13% abv. 91/100
£12.49–£12.79, Majestic, Waitrose, and others

2011 Mâcon-Villages, Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard, Bourgogne, France
Creamy, supple and fleshy with lovely freshness and a honeyed, yet effortlessly zesty finish. From hillside vineyards in Chardonnay and Uchizy. 13% abv. Very good value. 88/100
£8.95, The Wine Society

2011 Mâcon aux Bois D'Allier, Domaine Cordier, 2011
Rich and fresh nose, nutty, savoury, crème fraiche flavours with deep, lemony fruit. Tightly packed, textured and rounded, with good acidity. 13.5% abv. 90/100.
£11.95, The Wine Society

2011 Saint-Véran En Creches, Domaine Jacques et Nathalie Saumaize
£11.50 bottle    £138 dozen     
Unoaked for maximum purity. Medium-bodied and gently mouthfilling with real zest. Delicate grassy freshness, peach and apple fruit and a briny, mineral note on the finish. Unoaked for maximum purity. 13% abv. 89/100.
The Wine Society is now out of stock of this (£11.50), but you can add it to your wish list 

2011 Casa Silva Reserva Viognier, Colchagua Valley, Chile
In previous vintages I’ve thought that Casa Silva’s Reserva Viognier has carried too much oak. The smoky, toasty oak is here again, even though only 10% is aged in oak (French) and only for 3 months, but it works, adding a layer of complexity to the intensity of the fruit (citrus, mango, apricot), clarity of the acidity and the alround polish. 14.5% abv. 90/100
£10.10, Addison Wines,, and others

2009 Casa Silva Quinta Generación, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Off-puttingly heavy bottle, but very good wine: a selection of the estate’s best sites  and barrels; 57% cabernet sauvignon, 34% carmenère, 6% syrah, 3% petit verdot, with malo and 12 months’ ageing in French oak barrels. Big, concentrated, smoky, toasty and chocolaty, but at the same time very pure and fresh, with fine tannins and  flavours of blackcurrant, eucalyptus, coffee and soy sauce. 14.5% abv.  92/100
rrp £15.95. I haven’t found any stockists of the 2009 yet, so let me know if you sell it (anywhere).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wine of the week, 9 June 2013

More wines will follow, but here's one for now. Rolle, aka vermentino, is such a good grape variety.  
2011 Caves D’Esclans Déesse Astrée, Vin de Pays du Var
Delicately fragrant; fresh pear and apple with a twist of clove; supple and creamy; gentle grapefruit acidity and a touch of salt on the finish. Delicious. 100% rolle. Sacha Lichine is the man behind D’Esclans – both caves and château and its line of famously expensive rosés. Patrick Léon, ex Mouton-Rothschild, oversees the winemaking. 13% abv. 
I haven't been able to track down any stockists yet. Tel: + 33 4 94 60 40 40

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cahors for International Malbec Day, 17 April 2013

There’s one Argentine malbec below (the lovely Colomé), but Cahors is getting star billing because I’ve been out in the region again recently. OK, so I go there a fair bit, but malbec is, after all, Cahors’ gift to the wine world (or south-west France’s gift to be strictly accurate). That said, Cahors has a lot to thank Argentina for. Argentina’s way with malbec inspired the new generation of Cahors producers to believe in their grape variety and their wine and to aspire to quality in a way that their parents, reliant on co-operatives and négociants and dogged by low prices, did not. There are more wines made from 100% malbec than there ever were before, especially at the top end (for marketing purposes wines can be divided into three levels, starting with Tradition and ascending, via Prestige to Special). And, hell, if this new generation of Cahors producers hadn’t seen the success Argentina was having with malbec, they’d still be calling the grape auxerrois, a name which guaranteed maximum confusion, as it belongs to a better-known, unrelated white variety of Alsace.
The young growers at the helm now are much more open-minded, experimental and keen to share their experiences with each other than their parents were. There are producers experimenting with cement eggs and aphorae (Emmanuel Rybinski at Clos Troteligotte has ten 150-litre, thin clay, bung-closed aphorae). There are 100% malbec wines that have have 24 months in new oak and 100% malbec wines that see none. There are biodynamic domaines (eg Fabien Jouves of Mas del Périé). There’s a producer bottling a malbec from his estate as a Vin de France (Fabrice Durou of Château Gaudou – see below) and another making a wine from grapes picked berry by berry and put intact into the barrel so that a carbonic maceration ensues (Germain Croisille of Château Les Croisille). 
And there are white wines. How long before there is a Cahors white appellation? Not as long as you think perhaps. There were always white vines in the vineyards, but now there are wines made from viognier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sémillon and chenin blanc among others. Some are very good indeed, led by Pascal Verhaeghe’s Le Cèdre Blanc, a benchmark, barrel-matured viognier from vines he and his brother planted in 1988. Just outside the appellation borders, soil scientists to the stars, Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, have planted whites as well as malbec. Their first wines are due for release this year…

Highly recommended
2009 Château du Cèdre, Cahors, £15.95, Lea & Sandeman
Perfumed, dense, full and very polished. Exemplary.
2008 Château de Chambert Cahors Malbec, £15.99, Sheldon’s Wine Cellars
The second wine of Chambert. Rich, ripe fruit, firm but glossy tannins. Biodynamically farmed and Cahors’ largest certified organic estate.
2009 Clos Triguedina Le Petit Clos, Cahors, £8.50, The Wine Society
The little wine of Triguedina. Not very little at all. Lots of depth and black fruit savour.
2009 Château Les Croisille, Cahors, £9.99, Marks & Spencer
Depth and substance, blackberry and mineral flavours, and nicely chewy.
2011 Durou Exception Malbec, Vin de France, £6.95, Lea & Sandeman
Succulent, bright, ultra-smooth young malbec from Château Gaudou in Cahors. Great value.
2010 Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta, Argentina, £16.99, Waitrose
From Argentina’s oldest winery and some of the highest vineyards in the world (at 2300–3000m); matured and partly fermented in French oak barrels. Dark, perfumed, seamlessly rich and fresh. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

and one more that I missed off yesterday's post...

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve
Very elegant pink champagne with lovely fruit purity combined with richness and suppleness of texture. Pale orangey salmon colour; spicy, red berry and wild strawberry aromas and flavours and touches of straw, nuts and honey. 12.5%. Very good with dressed crab – not the easiest thing to find a wine for.
£48.95, Royal Mile Whiskies

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A round-up of highly recommended wines from recent tastings, trips and samples, 16 March 2013

2008 Josmeyer Le Fromenteau Pinot Gris, Alsace, France
If I was marooned on a desert island with only this to drink, I wouldn’t complain. Elegant, expressive, terrific definition, with rich, smoky, floral, peach and pepper notes; textured and long. 13.5% abv. Just in case you’re ever wondering what to drink with laverbread, this does the job very well – coping with the savoury, salty, almost fishy taste and the smooth texture. Even better with proscuitto. 
£20.05, Haynes Hanson & Clark.

2012 Tinpot Hut Turner Vineyard Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand
Light-bodied, dazzlingly fresh and intensely flavoured with lime juice fruit and a whisper of minerality. Sweetness – 16g/l residual sugar – perfectly off-set by acidity, so the overall effect is just off-dry. 10% abv. Enough intensity and acidity to take on lots of salady things.
£12.99 RannochScott Wines

2012 Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Great value, medium weight NZ Sauvignon made from Jane Hunter’s own vineyards. Really zesty, lemon grass and nettle flavours with a tangy, saline edge. 13% abv.
£7.25, The Wine Society

2012 Viñas del Vero Coleccion Gewürztraminer, Pago El Enebro, Somontano, Spain
Textbook gewurz from Spain’s Pyrenean foothills – vividly aromatic with rose petal, lychee and sweet orange flavours balanced by fresh, bright acidity. 13% abv. The 2011 is still tasting good if you don’t want to wait until April.
£9.99/£7.99, in Majestic from April 2 (£7.99 is the 2 or more price)

2012 Viñas del Vero La Miranda de Secastilla Garnacha Blanca, Somontano, Spain
Couldn’t be more different from the gewurz above. Fresh, smoky and mineral on the nose; full, rounded palate with intense lime and quince fruit, a hint of mango and smoked paprika, then a long, fresh, minerally finish. 14% abv.
£12.50, Jeroboams

2011 Volpetto Sangiovese, Toscana, Italy
Modern Tuscan red that would be overpriced at £11.99, the price from which Ocado says it’s reduced, but well worth the current £6. Medium-bodied, round and juicy with spicy, smoky and meaty notes, a little toasted vanilla and a twist of tartness to the ripe cherry fruit. 12.5% abv.
£5.99, Ocado

2008 Château Argadens Bordeaux Supérieur, France.
The authentic graphite and cedar flavours of Bordeaux with supple, well rounded blackcurrant-cum-blueberry fruit; medium-bodied, dry, fresh. 13% abv.
£8.95, The Wine Society

2010 Duorum Colheita, Douro, Portugal
Still showing some youthful tannin, but already very drinkable with ripe, fresh blackberry and blueberry fruit, savoury black pepper notes and a subtle oak backdrop. A typical Douro blend of touriga nacional, touriga franca and tinta roriz. 13.5% abv.
£11.40, Tanners 

2010 Shaw & Smith Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Michael Hill-Smith says that the 2010 is the best pinot he and his cousin have produced to date (I can believe it) but that the 2012 is better. I can't wait. The 2010 has an exotic, perfumy nose and a pure and pretty palate with floral, cherry and raspberry fruit and delicate, spicy coffee and smoky bacon notes. 
£26.95, Slurp