On Monday 2nd December the WING Tutored Tasting Group met to Taste slightly off-the-beaten-track wines from Spain. Yvonne presented the wines on her Birthday.

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Here are my notes:

Some early pungency with herbs and some spirit fruit – apricot brandy?! Palate has some soft fruit and a sharper over-ripe mango exotic touch, a drying mineral finish stops the size and softness being too much. Rather rich and a rich price at £25.

This nose is even fatter, creamy with some oak hints and a pronounced salinity. Palate is almost savoury with the saltiness prevalent and a very rich (too rich?) texture. A bit too much for me and I suspect it’s easily to find some good Burgundies at the price that would be better balanced and more enjoyable!

A Grenache-Syrah blend, showing much more Syrah, in a fruit driven – partly carbonic maceration – package. Fruity nose, with a floral hint. Palate is simple and forward fruit with a warm Syrah profile, easy quaffing!

TOMAS CUSINE “GEOL” (Costers del Segre) 2016
Samsó (Carignan) 60%, Merlot 30% and Cabernet Sauvignon 10%.
Some hints of chocolate and cherry fruit. The palate has quite crunchy fruit with red and black berries. Some smoothness and (relative) delicacy for a Carignan, showing again lower cropping, and less fertile soils can bring some character from a “workhorse” grape.

Herby and slightly spirit nose with a black fruit note. The palate shows the same with a big succulent fruit holding up the 14½ % alcohol, in a vaguely Châteauneuf package. Rather enjoyable with enough development to hold interest. Great value around £17

SAN ROMAN (Toro) 2014
This is a Tempranillo with a slightly peppery nose and some red fruit. Firm palate with supple and mouthwatering tannins suggest a variety of dishes. Balanced and poised and enjoyable with a a supple long finish. A lovely climax to the evening, but at £30ish, it needs to be.

A very enjoyable tasting that mounted through the reds in an appealing ascending arc. I loved the last two wines and they were best value and best wine – respectively – for me.

Thanks Yvonne for an interesting tasting and for struggling against a cold to provide our refreshment – on your own Birthday too! Many Happy Returns!

À Bientôt

On Friday 22nd November WING members met for a Blind Tasting Party chez Kim.

Here are my notes:

CAVA BRUT 2014 (Marques del Norte)   –   Welcome Wine
Tell-tale gluey nose with a hint of pear and a slightly oxidised (over-aged?) note. Some apple on the palate with a dough note with a light but short-ish mousse. The wine has typicity and some length but slightly oxidised which re-emphasises the gluey note.

GRÜNER VELTLINER 2017 (Diemersdal)   –   Yvonne
From Durbanville, 25 kms. North-East of Cape town this wine has an immediate nutty nose with soft fruit following. Palate too is soft with spicy note and a fruit juice acidity and some mineral at the finish. Quite supple with a rich balance, more Chardonnay than the Grüner Veltliner it turns out to be. Surprisingly rich but very interesting.

As the name implies this is harvested late and although fermented to 14% is still off-dry. Some fruit on the nose, pungent honey and spiced apple, together with a herby – even fennel note, and tinges of marmalade. Palate has similar notes but is kept fresh by a long acid line. A wine kept interesting by its complexity, showing the ability of the Altesse grape to age.

TBILVINO QVEVRIS 2017 (Kakheti, Georgia)   –   Mike
A buried-amphora (qvevri) “orange” wine made from Rkatsiteli. The nose is very herby with some apple and sherry notes and a rich fruit element. The palate seems dilute by comparison, and is therefore a bit disappointing. Dry, slightly saline and simple.

On to the Reds:

MARANGES “LE BOIS DE CLEMENTINE” 2016 (Chevrot)   –   John
Dark red colour with a cherry and plum fruit note and a hint of farmyard and flowers. Palate has a muted hint of supple tannins with a deep note of plums and some complex secondary flavours – herbs, spice…. Rather rich for a Maranges and a whole notch bigger than the 2010 which was (and remains) subtler and a touch more elegant. This comes over as a mid-sized Côte de Nuits and makes up for that slight missing elegance with increased richness. Lovely!

Inky red with a chocolate and spice nose. Palate has tannin and red fruit and a slight woody twist, but little discernable vanilla. The palate shows a little sweetness from oak but the structure is firm and has a spicy (garam masala?) hint. Impressivly structured and pliant.

CARASCAL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 (Weinert, Argentina)   –   Ann
Dark fruit with a woody (cedar?) note. Palate has a sweeter fruit and a fuller profile than most varietal Cabernet Sauvignon… but very balanced and quite supple even at this – relatively – young age.

PONTE CANAS 2014 (Mouchão)   –   Rob
This is an Alentejo wine made from Touriga Nacional and Franca plus Syrah. It shows a stewed fruit nose with some spice and wood. The palate has powdery black fruit and an olives and herbs counterpoint, plenty of acidity leading to a slightly saline finish. A food wine of character.

ABRAHAM & THE HERETICS PINOTAGE 2012 (Stellenbosch)   –   Sue
This is a Richard Kelly Wine – designed to appeal to non-fans of Pinotage, of which I number myself – I find many examples too big and too earthy. This has a sweet fruit nose indicating a New World wine – with a soft damson flavour. Palate is (only) slightly earthy, and the supple fruit is more on the Pinot side. If Pinotage can be subtle then this is… Rather enjoyable…

IS ARENAS RISERVA 2015 (Sardus Pater)   –   Kim
This is a Carignano del Sulcis DOP from Sardinia, where it grows in the South West corner on sandy soil, mitigating its normal watery vigour. This is classy with some floral notes to add to the slightly redcurrant tinged fruit that low-cropped Carignan can bring. It also has a herby element and darker, more dried fruit. The palate has these flavours too and is quite smooth but still has a slight lean-ness to its structure that maybe needs another year or too. Very classy indeed.

TERREMENT HAUT-MONTRAVEL 2007 (Château Puy-Servain)   –   Dessert Wine
Nose has a floral hint amongst the honey notes. Palate has warm sweetness with a butterscotch, slightly burning sweetness and a long widening orange marmalade finish. Balanced and delightful, though a little sweet for the Tarte au citron, would have perfectly matched a crème brûlée – but hey….

Thanks so much to Kim and everyone present for a wonderful evening, lingering over very good wines. It’s hard to pick top wine … I liked many… in fact only the Georgian Amphora wine disappointed.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 14th November the ICC Group met to taste Wines from the Loire Valley. The tasting focused on the “big names” from up the river and back.

Here are my notes:

CLOS DES MONTYS “V V 1914” MUSCADET 2016   –   12%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun   £16
From its nadir 20 odd years ago Muscadet has upped its game and is achieving some good wines – even a rare 100 pointer. This isn’t at that dizzying height but has an orchard fruit nose, with an (over?) ripe pear flavour, a hint of warm spice, clean acidity and a persistent pithy mineral finish. Dynamic and characterful…
Ratings:        Quality:  15.5/20   Value:  15.5/20

SAVENNIÈRES “LE MOULIN DU GUÉ” 2017 (Domaine des Forges)   –   13½%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun  £17
Notes of honey and honeysuckle, a round warm note with a touch of caramel. Palate has a strong persistent acidity but warm from some (old) oak aging and proceeds to a long peach-stone fruity finish. A lot going on in this wine – purity but also evolution in the glass. The evening’s favourite for a majority (including me)
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  16.5/20

POUILLY-FUMÉ “SILICE” 2017 (Blanchet)   –   13%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun   £17
Some herbal notes on the nose – one could say smoke!? Also this has the usual green SB indicators without the in-your-face gooseberry or (worse) asparagus or redcurrant. The palate is long with a more citrus acidity and mineral bitter and nettle hints. A very good SB!
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  16/20

SANCERRE ROUGE 2017 (Cherrier)   –   13%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun   £17.50
A light coloured Pinot with characteristic red fruit and herbal notes. The palate is light and slightly simple but shows a nice acid line and crunchy cherry fruit. Good simple food Pinot without the depth of good Burgundy,
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14.5/20

CHINON “LES BOIS DE BEAUMONT” 2014 (Rousse)   –   12½%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun   £16.50
One of the two bottles of this was corked so half the group (including me) missed out. However a reliable source provided this note: “A rich nose of black fruits. The palate is crisp, supple and round but without heaviness, some sweet soft fruit  – earthy, silky tannins… light and slightly simple”.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

SAUMUR-CHAMPIGYNY “TRADITION” 2017 (Domaine de la Guilloterie)   –   13½%   –   Stone, Vine & Sun  £13.50
A very typical Cabernet Franc with raspberry, stalkiness and a hint of green pepper.  The palate follows the same flavours with an earthy twist and good length and depth. Very satisfying.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  17/20

A lovely tasting with six varietal wines showing good typicity. The more complex wines: the Savennières and the Saumur-Champigny;  won out for me but the Pouilly showed very well too

À Bientôt

The Loire is a prodigious French river – over 1,000 kilometres long. Entirely within France it by far the longest in the country (The Rhine is longer overall, but 85% is not in France). It rises in the Ardèche where the nearest famous wine areas would be ones we think of as Rhone: St. Peray; Tricastin… It then flows North-North-West towards Orleans for about a third of its length, until it goes through Nevers and passes to the East of Bourges. Only then does it define the Loire Valley Wine Area. This area is in the map below:

This is a large wine region accounting for 7% or 8% of French Wine – behind only Languedoc-Roussillon; Rhone and Bordeaux in production. In fact it is sometimes easier to think of it four distinct regions – as hinted at by the subheadings along the bottom of the map.

It is also a fantastically varied region making wines from at least 5 different world-significant grapes and plenty more besides. It also makes wines from bubbly to dessert, from severely dry to full sweetness and everything between and has some of the best – and underrated – reds! I met an American couple at a Sherry tasting in Jerez last spring and they asked me which French area was good for a wine tour if you wanted to avoid the big name, expensive wine-tourist clichés? The answer was unhesitatingly – The Loire. One could start in Sancerre and work towards Nantes… visiting wineries from the renowned to the weird, chateaux and some great restaurants, and the prices are not prohibitive… Not for nothing have I made my second home here – pretty well in the centre of this map.

There are many unexpected or less well-known grapes in the area: Gamay; Malbec; Pineau d’Aunis; Romarantin… [these were the subject of a post, and a tasting, in May 2017 – so see those for more information] but in this month we’ll concentrate on the big hitters.

Working up river we’ll start in Nantes where the wine star is Muscadet. Made from the Melon-de-Bougogne grape the wine has in the past been (rightly?) subject of derision. However much has improved and serious winemakers are making wines of style and substance. One Decanter taster gave a Muscadet 100 points in a May 2017 tasting – so worth a try!

Proceeding up-river one comes to Anjou – where Chenin Blanc makes wines of searing dryness and of succulent sweetness. Most famously Savennières and Coteaux du Layon (and the star villages Bonnezeaux and Chaume) respectively. We’ll leave aside the Eastern end of Anjou and all of Touraine for now and go to the most Eastern Loire Valley area.

In the Centre (the administrative name for the area – the old name is Berry) wines are made from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Many would argue (myself included) the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world comes from Pouilly or Sancerre on opposite sides of the river, and Sancerre red and Rosé can be delightful…

We’ll travel back down-river now, through Touraine – where most of the unusual or pre-phylloxera grapes can be found – and past Vouvray and Montlouis where every possible style of Chenin Blanc is made including the undervalued demi-sec. We come to the Touraine/Anjou border where there is a golden triangle of wines made from Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc is a lovely grape, much more successful, IMO, than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot at making 100% varietal wines. It is found in the 3 appellations of Chinon and Bourgueil (both Touraine) and Saumur-Champigny (Anjou). The three areas have slightly different reputations: dashing and fruity for Chinon; elegant and structured for Bourgueil (with a more rustic version to the west in the separate appellation of St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil) and softer from Saumur-Champigny.

Saumur also makes some good dry and sweet Chenin – and some very good Crémant.

We’ll follow this tour Muscadet – Savennières – Pouilly-Fumé – Sancerre Rouge – Chinon – Saumur-Champigny in this months Tasting. Notes should be with you in 4 or 5 days.

À Bientôt

Hello again everyone. I was happy to attend (a little unexpectedly) November’s Tutored Tasting when Ann and John treated us to a tasting of wines from the English Winery, Knightor. Knightor is one of five wineries in Cornwall, not to far from the more famous Camel Valley. Knightor are situated on the South coast in the St. Austell area – quite close to the Eden Project. Their vineyards are at Portscatho (to the West) and Seaton (to the East) along the South Cornish Coast.

Ann and John showed two sparklers, a white and three reds… Here are my notes:

This is a blend of Reichensteiner, Huxulrebe, Kerner, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris & Seyval Blanc. In other words mostly Germanic crossings found quite commonly (though I think decreasingly) in English Wine. This is a fizzy wine with some dash – a good mousse, florality and some acidity. A slightly bitter (pithy) – sweet palate and as one might expect rather Germanic – original and pleasurable, but at £27 rather pricey!

The same blend but with Rondo added. The nose is similar but with a more confectionery aspect, the mousse is quite good and the wine has strong acidity but all rather disparate. Less integrated and simpler than the white.

A blend of the Germanic crossings Siegerrebe & Schonburger. The nose is pungent with grapefruit and rose water – in a package rather reminiscent of Gewürztraminer. The palate follows with acidity and slight bitterness of grapefruit and grapefruit peel overlying a richness and some herbal and nutty notes. Quite successful and would be good with the same food as Gewürz. At £19 one might find a cheaper version of the real thing for less – but good.

This is from Regent; Pinot Noir and Rondo.Slightly dilute nose with a frizzy hint. The palate has acidity and a dark body of soft berry fruit and some herbal notes but little tannin and quite simple. This is their cheapest red (at £16) but still seems high priced – not terrible though….

Very Pinot nose of red sweet fruit, a hint of herbs and farmyard – but frizzy again. Pretty berry fruit on the palate, a bit of grip but rather fruit-juicy and simple.

Germolene medicinal notes, some woody and sweet fruit. Palate is excessively sweet, plum crumble – and, again, very simple.

A fascinating tasting which confirms my impression (prejudice?) of English wine – simple reds, interesting white, good bubbly – all with a danger of losing control of sweetness and about 25% too expensive.

I noticed quite by chance that this is the 300th post on the main page of this blog. Coming quite close to the 20th Anniversary of ICC Tastings and my own “decimal-significant” birthday it made me wonder if I should pontificate on this concurrence (what would be the proper collective noun) of milestones?

I can only report on my current thinking about how narrow – or otherwise – one’s wine collection might be if one was only drinking at home, for pleasure. As opposed to running wine classes, exploring areas and always learning… This echoes a post I wrote on 2nd March 2017 about establishing a second cellar in France where that would only serve that first purpose.

These thoughts quickly turn to what is essential in the cellar? How many styles of wine / grape varieties would one have to have? Riesling; Chenin; Chardonnay – certainly! Cabernet Franc; Sangiovese; Pinot Noir… of course… and then??? Nebbiolo; Tempranillo; Sauvignon Blanc; Gewurz; Manseng; Italian Whites; Rhone blends…..  who knows… and then further afield from those 4 countries where all those above are concentrated?

The thing is that no such restrictions are forced on one…

Or as the poet said:

.     Milestones and Millstones
.              sink in sea.
.                Not me!

À Bientôt

Winemaking in Greece dates back thousands of years. However, for a very long time the wine being produced was unexceptional; it is only since the second half of the twentieth century, and in particular since Greece’s entry to the European Union, that the Greek wine industry has seen new investment and innovation and has started producing the great range of quality wine that its climate, terroirs and indigenous grape varieties are capable of.

Many people still look at me with scepticism when I recommend a Greek wine to them, imagining Retsina and other such rustic offerings that they may have experienced on holiday, but there really are some great wines coming out of Greece these days. Hopefully we’ll experience some of them on Thursday evening.

Greece’s vineyards lie between the latitudes of 34 and 42 degrees north. They are not all as hot as their latitude might suggest, however and can have greatly differing mesoclimates. Whilst southern vineyards such as those on Crete can be very hot and dry with irrigation a necessity and harvests taking place as early as July, other vineyards such as those in the northern region of Macedonia can have a much cooler climate, with grapes sometimes failing to ripen fully. Altitude in mountainous areas and proximity to the sea both have a moderating effect on temperatures.


Greece has around 110,000 hectares under vine, with vineyards found in many different mainland areas and on many of the country’s islands. However, only about half of the vineyard area contributes fruit to wine production as table grapes and dried fruit are also important industries in Greece.

Greece has in excess of 300 indigenous grape varieties. They are not all used for wine production and there is still a long way to go in terms of exploiting the potential of this wealth of native varieties, but there are certainly some grapes that are now making a name for Greek wine.

About 70% of Greece’s annual wine production is white. Probably its most famous and currently most successful white grape is Assyrtiko. On its home island of Santorini it is grown on black volcanic soil known as ‘aspa’. To protect the grapes from the island’s strong winds, vines are often trained into basket shapes on the ground. The assyrtiko grown here is renowned for its minerality. Assyrtiko is now grown across Greece and its success has even encouraged plantings abroad.

Malagousia is a white grape that was pretty much unheard of before being rediscovered less than 30 years ago by Evangelos Gerovassiliou; it is now being used by many Greek producers across the country to create full bodied, aromatic wines.

Other important indigenous white grapes include the Cretan grape, Vidiano and Cephalonia’s Robola. We’ll be tasting wines made from all of these grapes on Thursday, either as varietal wines or as part of a blend.

Among many indigenous red varieties, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are two of the best known on export markets. We’ll by trying a varietal Xinomavro from its home in Naoussa, Macedonia as well as a Goumenissa wine which is a Macedonian blend of Xinomavro and Negoska. We’ll also be tasting a Cretan Liatiko.

In addition to this wealth of native varieties, about 15% of Greek vineyards are planted with international varieties. French varieties are particularly popular amongst Greek wine drinkers, who account for about 95% of Greek wine consumption, but the appellation system is very much in favour of championing indigenous varieties, making a higher classification more difficult to obtain if the focus is not on Greek grapes. Often international varieties are blended with native grapes, but as our tasting is ‘Greek Indigenous Grapes’ we’ll be sticking entirely to native varieties.

See you there!

Brigitte. x

On Monday 7th October Rob treated the group to six classic red Bordeaux. Serving blind in 3 pairs, Rob challenged us to guess from which Bordeaux bank they originated and which of each pair was the older. This proved more difficult that it sounded, I think for everyone – although I personally found the former question much easier than the latter, or to more exact – a proximate question of which wines were Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon dominated? Part of the reason – I’m sure – for inaccurate guesses was the distraction offered by the pleasure of the wines…
Here are my notes:

CHÂTEAU BATAILLEY Pauillac, 5ème Cru, 2009 
Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) 70%; Merlot (M) 25%; Cabernet Franc (CF) 3%; Petit Verdot (PV) 2%.
Nose of dark fruit and a slightly smoky wood hint, a faint floral (lily?) hint too with some pungency. The palate is quite grippy with damson fruit prominent, a little grainy… satisfying in a heavy sort of way.

CHÂTEAU HAUT BAGES AVEROUS Pauillac Cru Bougeois, 2005
CS75%; M17%; CF6%; PV2%.
More restrained but typical claret nose, sharper fruit and some cedary herbs.and a lighter touch. Palate is sweeter and more supple than the previous wine with a lighter feel supplied by the fresher acidity. Very balanced and pleasurable.

The wines were not that far apart, the first wine slightly “muddier” and a browner rim (falsely) leads one to the think it’s older…

LE GRAND CHAI  Montagne St. Emillion, 2015
M / CF – probably about 70:30.
Sweet nose, with red fruit and an earthy hint. Palate is sweet plum fruit with a long acid line. Easy quaffing – which probably implies maturity or simplicity…

CHÂTEAU LAROQUE St. Emillion Grand Cru Classé, 2010
M87%; CF11%; CS2%.
This has a heavier, darker nose with crunchy darker fruit. Palate is firmer with much deeper flavours and a chocolate hint, quite rich with a spicy element… not quite integrated yet but very nice…

This pair clearly have a Merlot imprint, and the not-quite-ready depth of the second wine is a function of its quality and the excellence of the year, not of relative youth….

CHÂTEAU CAMBON LA PELOUSE Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2005
M52%; CS44%; PV4%.
Fragrant red fruit with some floral hints. Palate is soft and sweet but with a drying underlying structure, which frames the fruit well. Very well balanced with a plum finish. Classy though – it turns out – quite soft for the appellation.

HORTEVIE St. Julien Cru Bourgeois 2009
CS70%; M25%; PV5%.
This is more forest floor and mushrooms on the nose, and a darker overall impression. The palate is drying with a harder edge. Slightly lighter bodied and very different fruit/tannin balance. A little hard – is that youth or vintage or appellation?

This was a hard pair to resolve, if anything I thought the first was Merlot  and the second Cabernet Sauvignon ((in fact they were – but not from different side of the rivers), but the former wine certainly seemed more evolved.

A very enjoyable tasting showing many aspects of classic claret. In the end, for me the tasting spoke more of the vintages than the areas. The 2005s (2 & 5) were lovely: ready, enticing and complex. The 2010 was a lovely wine but a little young IMO. The 2009s (1 & 6) quite big, a little “hot” and unresolved maybe, very enjoyable but probably not in line to attain the elegance involved in the other 2 vintages.

Thanks Rob  for a generous and interesting tasting.

À Bientôt

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