On Thursday 15th March the WING group met at the ICC for a Tasting of wines from the Pacific Northwest. We had three whites and three reds; two from Oregon and four from Washington and six different varietals.


These are my notes:

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2015 – 12.5% – ND John – £13.95
This was the first wine of the night, the cheapest and fairly unanimously, the favourite. The wine has a typical Riesling nose of lime and hints of petrol. On the palate it is off dry, with the touch of sweetness balanced by good acidity. Flavours of fresh lime, peach and lychee with hints of elderflower and honeysuckle. Well balanced with good length on the finish.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 17/20

Firesteed Pinot Gris 2014 – 13.5% – Slurp – £15.95
This Pinot Gris has hues of copper-pink in appearance. On the palate, the predominant flavours are white peach and melon with hints of pear. The 13.5% abv is not as integrated as it could be as is in evidence from a slight alcohol burn. The finish falls away fairly quickly. Drinkable but, it was generally agreed, not worth the price tag.
Quality: 14/20          Value: 13/20

L’Ecole No.41 Semillon 2013 – 14.5% – The Good Wine Shop – £19
This Bordeaux blend is in fact 87% Semillon and 13% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine split opinion with some people not too keen. I, on the other hand, liked the wine at the tasting, and liked it even more when I returned to it afterwards, so much so that I think it was my favourite of the night. Some found it lacking in fruit and suspected it could be a bit too old. I found it to be interesting with an appealing range of flavours from pineapple, mango and honey to fig and lanolin with a biscuity, buttery edge coming from the barrel fermentation and lees ageing.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 15/20

A to Z Pinot Noir 2014 – 13.5% – ND John – £16.95
Red fruit and earth on the nose. On the palate there’s lots of red fruit, particularly raspberry and cherry and some herbaceous raspberry leaf. Some earthy minerality, firm tannins and crisp acidity. The wine is balanced, the finish is quite long, but lacking some of the flavour complexity of a more interesting Pinot Noir.
Qualiaty: 15/20          Value: 15/20

Ste Michelle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – 13.5% – Slurp – £16.95
This wine is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Syrah and 1% respectively of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It was aged for 14 months in American and French oak (32% new). It’s from Washington’s largest producer, Ste Michelle Vineyards, who are actually responsible for two-thirds of the commercial wine produced in the state. This wine proved quite popular. Lots of dark black fruit such as black plum and blackcurrant, some liquorice and well-integrated vanilla from the oak ageing. Quite reminiscent of an Old World Cabernet Sauvignon and drinking well.
Quality: 16/20          Value: 16/20

Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah – 13.5% – ND John – £17.50
96% Syrah, 3% Viognier and 1% Grenache. Although more expensive, this wine didn’t prove quite as popular as the Charles Smith Riesling we had at the start of the evening. More New World Shiraz than Old World Syrah. Lots of dark fruit, particularly blackberry and hints of cinnamon, cedar and tobacco. I didn’t really get any of the meatiness that some tasting notes suggested. Very drinkable but perhaps not as complex as you might like for the price.
Quality: 15/20          Value: 14/20


Believe it or not, wine is produced in all 50 US states. Whether it’s made from hybrid grape varieties that most people have never heard of, whether it’s fruit wine, or whether it’s the international varieties that we’re all more familiar with, it’s there in varying amounts, in some form or another from Alaska to Hawaii.

Of course, most of the wine we see over here tends to be of the Californian variety. That’s not surprising if you consider the fact that California accounts for around 90% of all US wine production. If California were a country on its own, it would rank fourth in the world in terms of wine production (as the USA currently does) behind Italy, France and Spain.

In (a not so close) second place behind California comes Washington state which produces about 5% of the national output. Oregon has roughly the same number of wineries as Washington but produces less than a third of the amount of wine that its neighbour does each year. This statistic is indicative of one of the many differences between winemaking in these two neighbouring states, known collectively as the Pacific Northwest.

In the UK, if you’re drinking American wine and it’s not Californian, it’s more than likely that it’s from the Pacific Northwest. Collectively, these two states would certainly class as the next most important wine region after California.

NW map
So, Washington leads the Pacific Northwest in terms of volume of production but Oregon could be said to be ahead when it comes to prestige. This prestige mostly rests on the state’s reputation for Pinot Noir which accounts for about 50% of its total wine production. Winemaking in Oregon actually dates back to the middle of the 1800s, but it was in the 1960s when some Californian winemakers decided to see how Pinot Noir would fare in the cooler climate of California’s northern neighbour. Oregon’s reputation for world class Pinot Noir could be said to date back to 1979 when the Eyrie Vineyards 1975 South Block Reserve Pinot Noir grabbed the attention of the wine world when it started winning accolades in France. Since then Pinot Noir has become Oregon’s signature grape and many of the finest examples continue to draw comparisons with Burgundy.

Oregon’s marginal conditions are well suited to the cultivation of Pinot Noir as the cool climate allows grapes to ripen slowly, retaining their acidity and aromas. Vineyards are mainly found in the north-south valleys between the Coast Range of mountains to the west and the Cascade Range to the east. The most important AVA (American Viticultural Area) is Willamette Valley which follows the Willamette River for 150km from Eugene to Portland. The Willamette Valley AVA contains six sub-AVAs and over three quarters of state plantings. Vineyards are exposed to the influence of the Pacific Ocean and thus the climate could be described as maritime. Winters are mild and summers are generally cool and cloudy. Annual rainfall is high, but it mostly occurs outside the growing season. However, in a late-ripening year, rain at harvest time can cause problems. There can be marked vintage variation in Oregon due to the marginal conditions and unpredictable weather patterns; warm, dry weather and even drought conditions can be followed by cool, wet conditions the following year.

Despite its location just north of Oregon on the Pacific coast, viticulture in Washington state has a markedly different climate. Whereas the vineyards of Oregon are exposed to the maritime airflow from the Pacific, Washington’s vineyards are mostly situated further inland, in the South East of the state and in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. The continental climate sees hot summers with temperatures that can reach 40°C and cold winters where temperatures can drop as low as -26°C. Rainfall is low and the Columbia River and its tributaries, which are important in terms of moderating summer and winter temperatures, are also essential for irrigation water. With plenty of summer sunshine and a wide diurnal range, Washington state can produce expressive wines with intense fruit flavours and crisp acidity.

Unlike Oregon, Washington doesn’t have one signature grape but cultivates a wide range of red and white varieties, used mostly to produce varietal wines. The most widely planted red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah whilst Riesling and Chardonnay are the most prevalent whites. Lots of other grape varieties are also grown and Washington state has a reputation for good Semillon. L’ecole is a particularly renowned producer of the grape; let’s hope the wine lives up to the reputation as we’ll be tasting one on Thursday.

As well as having very different climates, the wine industries of Oregon and Washington are commercially quite different too. As mentioned previously, the two states have a similar number of wineries yet Washington produces over three times as much wine. This is down to the fact that Washington has tended to do things on more of an industrial scale than Oregon. Washington wine production has historically been dominated by one or two very large players whereas Oregon is more known for its artisan winemakers and estate vineyards, many of which are organic.

Most Oregon wineries are relatively small, producing somewhere between 2,500 an 20,000 cases annually. Due to this small-scale production, Oregon wine tends to be quite pricey. Unable to exploit the economies of scale needed to produce cheap wine, the focus in Oregon is on producing high quality rather than low prices. The industry in Washington, on the other hand, has historically been dominated by big corporations that ship grapes from the vineyards in the South East of the state to large wineries outside Seattle to produce wine on a much larger scale. Having said this however, more and more independent winemakers are now operating in Washington, whilst Oregon has seen more outside investment in recent years.

The following infographic is a little out-of-date (2013) but interesting and fairly accurate nonetheless. Both states have increased production in the last five years and Oregon production is now closer to a third of that of Washington (4.2m and 14.8m cases respectively).

On Thursday evening we’ll be tasting two Oregon wines: a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris, which (as can be seen above) is the state’s second most widely planted grape. The other four wines will be two red varietals and two white varietals from Washington state. Find out more tomorrow night.

See you there,

Brigitte. X

On Monday 5th March Sue and Mike led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Bosman Family Vineyards in South Africa.

Bosman are a certified Fairtrade Grower with 3 vineyard sites amid 430 ha of vineyard land. Vines are in two different areas: at Wellington (about 10 miles North of Paarl) and in Hemel-in-Aarde Valley, 70 miles further South at the top end of Walker Bay.

Sue and Mike showed 6 wines, the first two from Hemel and the last 4 from Wellington.

Here are my notes:

This is a Champagne blend (66:17:17), originally made into still wine accidentally and then continued. The nose is all citric fruit at first, later a sweeter fruit and a yeasty suggestion. Very sharp attack to the palate, hints of pithy bitterness too, then a warmer, softer though still mouth-puckering fruit. Very bubbly-without-bubbles all round! Needs food –  a short pastry nibble with cheesy or oily fish filling?

This has 5 days skin contact to make a gris Gris: a slightly blush colour wine! Slightly smokey and pithy notes with a hint of rose on the nose. Palate has a pithy note too and a lean profile backed by warm peach fruit. Very good acidity from a grape that sometimes lacks it, giving structure and length. A food wine – I liked this a lot!

This is a single-vineyard Wellington Chenin, from 63 year old bush vines; matured in (third-use?) French oak barriques for 6 months. Oak, vanilla, honey and some floral notes stand out on the nose – then some tropical fruits (all very Chardonnay so far) and finally some apple character more indicative of Chenin. Palate has a good citric backbone with balanced core, but it is a big-scaled wine better suited to a big glass. Impressive!

Slightly minty nose, a sweet woody underlay and some red fruit, with a hint of earthiness. Palate has a surprisingly supple fresh red fruit note at first and then a slightly sharp middle and a bitter twist to the grainy finish. A little unintegrated as yet, but quite fresh for a Pinotage.

Black fruit, cedar and some evolved – forest-floor, vegetal, herb – notes. Palate is very succulent: deep dark fruit with a fresh, slightly spiced acidity. The wine is a little hollow in the middle and then has a long, warm and pliant finish. Almost a text-book varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, with all its charm and shortcomings – but not too big and well done!

Efernis is a best-grapes-that-year blend, made only when the fruit warrants it and therefore different in composition each year made. In 2014 it is 30% Pinotage and 14% each of Cabernet, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre – all from Wellington. The nose is aromatic with a herby element and woody notes, a little in the direction of the Pinotage. Palate is surprisingly fresh with soft red fruit and a spicy finish – very pliant but a little bit “International”.

A very interesting tasting typified – by South African standards – by restraint, succulence, and some elegance. Only the Pinotage really showed any of the rubbery/earthy/smoky elements that often intrude on SA wines – and even that, by Pinotage standards, was restrained….

Thanks Sue and Mike for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

The WING group met for a Sock Party at Yvonne’s on Friday 23rd February 2018. A small but select group with a small but select raft of wines…

Here are my notes:

Nutty and bitter citrus-pith nose with a pungent Chardonnay overlay. Palate echoes the pithy grapefruit in its acidity, to support richness, a soft frothy mousse and a warm more Pinot Noir finish.

TERRAVIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 (Marlborough)           Yuan
Pungent, tropical fruit, red currant and a slightly smoky nutty nose. Palate has a warm, slightly smoky, more obvious Sauvignon acidity with a lip smacking, slightly cut-off finish. Green-ness is absent in most respects, and the wine is more Fumé style than NZ. Interesting, due to its age?

GUERILA PINELA 2015 (Vipava Valley, Slovenia)          Ann
This is a new one on me. There are only 50 ha of this grape in Slovenia (and about 70 of what may-or-may-not be the same grape in Friuli). A rather Grüner Veltliner nose: Grapefruit and herbs… Palate has a warm salty, chalky feel with a herby tang and a richer creamy finish. Very unusual – the nose suggest a cooler acidity wine than the palate delivers.

LA PURCELLE DE ROMORANTIN 2015 (Marionnet)          Laurie
From direct cuttings from a vineyard planted in the first half of the 19th Century, from an interesting Domaine in the Solonge [see post of 20 September 2016]. Nose is very restrained with a lightly floral aroma. On the palate, it has a drying, slightly chalky strong citric acidity with soft fruit richness and a hint of passion-fruit, and a mineral edge. This puts the wine in balance and it becomes more interesting with time in the glass. I like this a lot and it probably will improve for another couple of years

Recessed nose with some floral and citrus notes and later (when warmer) an orchard fruit hint. Palate shows a honeyed warmth with peach fruit and a warm lasting acidity. A classy SA Chenin.

HUNKY DORY “THE TANGLE” 2016 (Marlborough)          Kathryn
An “Alsacien” blend of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, with about 10% Riesling. Hints of peach, and a grape – Muscat-ish – note, some soda, followed by floral notes. The palate is not bone dry and has warmth, some smokey hints with peach, and more tropical fruit notes. The Gewurz. Seems a little less obvious than previous vintages of this, but still quite a big NZ take on Alsace field blends…

CÔTE RÔTIE 2011 (Burgaud)          John
A dark broody nose, with dark fruit and a fresh note with some woody herbs. The palate is noticeably creamy without too obvious oak, a big mulberry fruit, a slightly green herb element and a tannic backbone. Well balanced (for a Syrah!?) now and very food-friendly, I imagine it might improve for a year or two but very, very good.

AMNESIA 2013 (Alentejo)          Kim
This is Aragonez, Cabernet and Syrah and shows a pungent, oily nose with a sweet note. Palate is rich with a slightly dried fruit quality – long with an earthy finish.

PENFOLDS BIN 28 KALIMNA SHIRAZ 2014 (not pictured)          Rob
For many years the “reference” Aussie Shiraz, this is a little less in-your-face than many, maybe due to age? It’s still very big though with smoky, spicy blackberry fruit. Tannic, peppery and a slightly chocolate grainy-ness, and – as always – that rather drying saltiness of Barossa Shiraz.

Thanks to everyone for a lovely evening, and to Yvonne for the hospitality.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 15th February the WING group met at the ICC for a Tasting of wines from Rioja. This theme came out top in the Group’s voting for what to cover this season. I wonder if this is – at least partly – down to the knowledge I was holidaying there last summer, and would personally source the wines. This of course renders a set of wines averaging over £20 at UK prices much more affordable. The prices, and value for money scores, are for the UK (if possible).

Here are my notes:

VIÑA GRAVONIA CRIANZA BLANCO 2006 (R López de Heredia)    –   12½%   –   UK £21 Oldbridge wines
This is from the height of the Alta near Haro, and is 100% Viura aged for 4 years in oak and 6 in bottle. A very sherry like nose, showing stewed apple, nutty and some pungent vegetal elements, a slight honeyed tinge… Palate has all this with sherry salty dryness and an undertow of passion fruit (aged Chenin?) honeyed richness. This has a sharp acidity contracting the palate at the end, a little more than the 2004 tasted in March 2015 (see below). A small sample remained which I tried as an aperitif the next day, before a good Soave. The acidity had slackened a little and the palate more rounded – so it may be a little young? The more interesting observation is that ignoring the sherry overlay, how similar the structure was to the Soave – with acidity and peachy fruit common to both! A very unusual style which radically divided opinions. But for me a great example of a nearly-lost style.
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

OLARRA CERRO AÑON MAZUELO 2105        –    14%   –   n/a UK, about £16
This is from Mazuelo (Carignan) grapes from near the Alta/Baja border, and I suspect the fruit comes from both. It has 6 months in American oak, it has the redcurrant aroma common to low-cropped Carignan, with some oak in an identifiable Rioja weight. The palate has some acidity and is round, pliant but a bit simple.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

OLARRA CERRO AÑON GRACIANO 2014   –   13½%   –   n/a UK, about £16
This fruit for this is from Alta and Alava and has 14 months in French and American oak. This has a more complex nose – floral elements, some woody acidity and a spice hint. Powerful palate, with warm tannin but with lighter cherry fruit and a long line of flavour. The wine suggest a little of Mourvedre to me, power but subtlety and light aromatics… good!
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

MAYOR DE ONDARRE RESERVA 2013   –   13½%    –    £24 Hallgarten
This (92 point rated) Reserva is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Mazuelo. It has 20 months in American and French oak and then 18 months in bottle before release. Bright sharp fruit nose – cherry? – with a woody but not vanilla hint, Palate has sweet and sour plum fruit with a mocha grainy creaminess, a lifting acid frame leading to long slightly spicy finish– quite lip-smacking and food friendly.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

CAMPO VIEJO DOMINIO 2015   –   13½%   –    £23 Ricard
This is 90% Tempranillo with 5% each of Graciano and Mazuelo. It comes from 5 or 6 Alta plots – vinified separately with 11 months in all French (Troncais and Bertranges) oak. This is a lovely wine, with a subtle but complex nose – suggestions of  non-fruit and savoury notes – leather came to my mind but others thought of liquorice. There is dark fruit, maybe blackberry and well-contolled oak. The palate echoes the nose but with great refreshment, structure and length. A lovely wine with a Bordeaux-ish inflection to Rioja flavours. Very good – but is it a bit International?
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

COTO DE IMAZ GRAN RESERVA 2011   –   14%   –    £22 Liberty
This is 90% Tempranillo (mostly from Alta with 10% from Alava) and 10% Alava Graciano from near the winery in Oyon, on Agrilo-Calcaire soil. Voluptuous open nose with herbs, floral notes and blackberries. The palate is very recognisable GR Rioja showing everything from the nose with warmth and a chocolate-grainy body, very sensual – in contrast to the more cerebral Dominio. Lovely!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20

A tasting showing good range of styles, grapes and oak use in Rioja. The Gravonia is very much an acquired taste I think, but I had it pretty close for top wine with the Dominio and the Coto de Imaz. If I had to pick one – I would find it difficult. I am tempted by the white for its sheer unorthodoxy, but in the end that counted against it – it is a great wine but only useful in a narrow set of  situations. The Dominio was the most popular for the group, is beautifully crafted and will be better in 2 or 3 years I think – but does it express Rioja specifically? So in the end my wine-of-the-night is the Gran Reserva.

À Bientôt

Rioja is perhaps the most famous wine region of Spain. It produces over 400 million bottles every year – but that’s only (!) about 8% of all Spanish wine. It is mostly red (88% in 2016, usually 1 or 2 % lower) with some Rosé (5%) and White (7%).

The Red is made in four quality levels, from the highest: Gran Reserva; Reserva; Crianza; Generic. This [Wine Folly] graphic shows the rules, with the % of Red wine made at each level:



Gran Res’va 3

Reserva 19

Crianza 42

Generic 36


The Signature red grape is Tempranillo which accounts for about 80% of red plantings – followed by Garnacha (7%) and Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) about 2% each. White is almost as focused on one grape: Viura (which is 73%) with only one other white grape Tempranillo Blanco (10%) taking up more than 5%.

Rioja exports a lot of its wine – around 37%, a little more of the red and only 27% of the white. By far the biggest destination for that wine is the UK which takes in almost precisely a third of those exports – so nearly an eighth of all Rioja, twice as much as the next biggest importing country, Germany! So the British Rioja market should be a good sample of the styles, quality levels and innovations in Rioja.

The Rioja DO Wine region of Spain straddles the Ebro River for some 100 kms as it flows South East towards the Mediterranean. It is – mostly – in the central, Northern province of similar name: La Rioja. Not entirely though – roughly half – the Southern half – of La Rioja is mountainous and makes no wine at all, and some of the North bank areas are in Álava (which is Basque and accounts for about a quarter of all Rioja) or Navarra (about 5%).

Here’s a map:

You will see that Rioja is split into 3 sub-regions: Alta; Baja and Álavesa. The Álavesa sub region conforms to the administrative boundary  of Álava, and North of the river the Baja boundary conforms to Navarra’s. South of the River the Baja /Alta border follows the same general line just East of Logroño, with a few deviations to allow influential wineries (Marqués de Murrieta…) to be in Alta!

In general Baja is warmer, lower and better suited to Garnacha and maybe Mazuelo, as the Mediterranean influence moves up the Ebro. The Alta (and Álavesa) are higher (400-500m is typical), cooler and better suited to Tempranillo, Viura and Graciano. However the distinction seems pretty arbitrary near the actual borders and soil types and wine-making are much more important – here’s a soil map:

In the past the categories of red Rioja stood for clear stylistic divisions. Generic was plonk – Crianza was lightly oak-affected and showed strong tannin and acidity – Reserva was rounded, still woody but with a voluptuous fruit and Gran Reserva was getting towards an oxidative and secondary-, or tertiary-, flavoured style. Although Reservas had to have at least 1 year in oak, 2 or more was common – and GRs typically had 3 -5 years, and often the same again in bottle.

Now there is a trend to less oak, and fresher (modern!?) styles… The Wine Society categorises the wine styles thus:

Traditional: fragrant, silky and delicate wines from long ageing in cask (usually American oak) and bottle. These are mostly ready to drink on release.  Bodegas La Rioja Alta are an example of traditional style .
Modern-classical: younger, rounder wines that retain the delicious character of Rioja through cask ageing (often a mix of American and French oak) with the structure to develop in bottle. Bodegas Muga and CVNE,  fall into this category.
Modern: richer, velvety wines aged for less time in newer (usually) French oak, which are released earlier and mostly need keeping.


In fact I think the wine forms a wide spectrum and these three headings are but reference points. But it is true that there is a trend to more site-specific wines. Some growers are vinifying their better grapes from better sites in special Cuvées and using exclusively French (Tronçais or Allier…) oak for the time thought appropriate for the wine rather than the time set by the Gran Reserva (or even the Reserva) rules. The result is more elegant and more structured (and more Bordeaux-profiled) wine – a sort of super-Reserva!

Part of this is indeed soil (and more generally terroir), particularly the Agrilo-Calcaire found also in Bordeaux, Loire etc. This seems to be the soil in the most highly prized sites: for Tempranillo and Graciano; for carefully maintained older vines; vines used for single vineyard or restricted source wines (still a minority– though becoming more common in Rioja); and for more serious white plantings of Viura.

Another factor is grape variety. Red Rioja can contain Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan) and Garnacha. We tend to think of Rioja as a Tempranillo wine with some minority blending partners – a bit like Chianti and Sangiovese… But that’s not accurate at all. There are no rules about how much of each grape can be in a Rioja. So it’s possible to have 100% Graciano, 100% Mazuelo or 100% Garnacha! Indeed these seem not too difficult to find as growers move more to site-based wines, and single vineyard Graciano is a style to watch for…

I confess I am interested to see the outcome of these stylistic changes, and hope they don’t end up entirely “Internationalising” a lovely distinctive wine style. There is room for development of course, but there are still many beautiful examples of  Reservas and Gran Reservas, and I for one still enjoy the depth and voluptuousness of well-made classic Rioja, retaining a warmth, richness and sense of place.

Meanwhile the picture is very varied and flexible, for a while yet it will be a bit like Burgundy: it’s quite hard to know what you’re going to get! – so find a producer (or 3 or 4…) you like and follow them…

Very old Álavesa Viura Vines

For this month’s tasting we’ll start with a very old fashioned white (a very rare style nowadays!) – aged for 4 years in barrel and 6 in bottle.

Then we’ll try a couple of varietals – Mazuelo and Graciano; and a more classic Reserva and Gran Reserva, sandwiching a “modern-classic” “super-Reserva” highly rated wine.

Graciano Vines at Coto de Imaz, Oyon, Álava

I hope the tasting illuminates some of the issues discussed here. Anyway, notes on the tasting will be posted in 6 or 7 days, a little later than usual.

À Bientôt

The idea of this tasting came to me when I realised I could use it to kill two birds with one stone! With my theory and tasting exams on fortified wines for the WSET Diploma fast approaching, who better to help me prepare than the Tutored Tasting group?

I wanted to select an interesting and varied range of fortified wines for the group to taste, including some that I was yet to taste examples of myself.


Here are my notes:

Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Palo Cortado Sherry – Majestic – £17.99

After an initial discussion of what exactly constitutes a Palo Cortado Sherry and the mystery which surrounds it, we tasted this example from Majestic’s own range of sherries. It’s produced by Cayetano del Pino, an Almacenista that specialises in Palo Cortado. To look at, it’s a bright, clear golden colour, and more similar in appearance to an Amontillado than an Oloroso. It’s more similar to an Amontillado on the nose too. It has a complex range of aromas from citrus peel to resin to dried fruits and nuts. On the palate, although it’s dry, you do get a suggestion of sweetness, along with some smokiness and salinity. The flavours are those of fresh, zesty orange peel, hazlenuts and a touch of burnt caramel along with that hint of saltiness. Very enjoyable!

Barbeito Rainwater Madeira – Weaver’s – £15.99 (50ml)

This particular style of Madeira is a blend of 80% Tinta Negra and 20% Verdelho. Tinta Negra is the most widely planted grape on the island of Madeira, but generally considered to be of inferior quality to the island’s four noble white grape varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia (Malmsey). This wine didn’t have the same complexity on the nose or palate as the Palo Cortado. The nose was quite simple with aromas of honey and some dried fruit. It was sweeter than expected on the palate (it is labelled ‘Medium Dry’) with flavours of honey, caramel and a slight nuttiness. Very drinkable as an aperitif, but probably didn’t benefit from coming immediately after the Palo Cortado.

Krohn Lagrima White Port – ND John – £12.95

Lagrima is the sweetest style of White Port and this wine is certainly sweet. Having been aged in wood for eight years, this wine is amber in colour and quite dark for a White Port. Some citrus and honey and a hint of nuttiness, but lacking the flavour intensity or complexity to balance the high levels of alcohol and sweetness.

Krohn Colheita 2001 – ND John – £18.95

Colheita is a Portuguese word meaning ‘crop’ or ‘harvest’. Colheita Port therefore, is effectively a vintage dated Tawny Port. By law, Colheitas should be matured in wooden casks for at least seven years, although they are often aged for much longer. Wiese and Krohn are apparently ‘famous for their elegant tawny Colheitas’. This one is from 2001 and was bottled in 2013. In appearance, it looks quite red – more ruby than tawny. On the nose and the palate it has quite a lot of red fruit, complementing the more typical tawny flavours of dried fig, walnut and chocolate. A well balanced and very enjoyable wine.

Domaine Pietri-Geraud Banyuls 2009 – Leon Stolarski – £19.99

This Banyuls is made from 90% Grenache and 10% Carignan and is only 16% abv. I wouldn’t have identified ‘tinned tomatoes’ myself on the nose, but once somebody else did, it’s quite unmistakable. There are also aromas of plum along with dried fruits and toffee. Lots of flavour intensity on the palate, good acidity and a long warm finish. A lovely wine!

Pfeiffer Rutherglen Muscat –  Weaver’s – £16.95 (50ml)

This is a straight Rutherglen Muscat as opposed to the other three categories: Classic, Grand and Rare. The average age of this wine is only about four or five years so it is quite youthful and fresh but still has complexity and some concentrated flavours. This particular example is quite light with a lovely complex nose: floral and grapey with herb and citrus peel notes. The palate is rich but not too thick and the sweetness is in balance with the wine’s light, fresh character.

Wines 1,4,5 and 6 all had votes for favourite wine of the evening. 1, 4 and 6 were popular, amongst other things, for their untypical lightness and subtlety, whereas wine 5 is an excellent example of its type. My personal favourites, for their complexity and balance were 1 and 6.

Thank you to everyone for assisting me in my revision!

See you soon,

Brigitte. x

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