On Thursday 16th March, in my absence, Kathryn led the Group in an appraisal on Wines of South Australia.

I was in the Loire, drinking Chenin Blanc, at the time – so the notes that follow from what I understand was a very successful tasting, are Kathryn’s own:

From the centre of the Clare Valley, about 15 km South of Clare itself… The vineyard is 400m asl and has light brown earth over limestone. This had some petrol on the nose; lime; good acidity; good value.

This is from 7 or 8 km further North and a little higher (480m asl) than the previous wine. Lots going on; lime and floral notes; some petrol on the nose; develops and changes in the glass; orange notes come in later. The favourite wine of quite a few people…

HEIRLOOM VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY 2015 ADELAIDE HILLS             Waitrose Cellar £19.99*
This is raised (85%) in French oak barriques (30% new) for 12 months, but they claim it’s light, a European-style Chardonnay with stone fruit and melon flavours and gentle oak integration.
Not what we were expecting from an Australian oaked Chardonnay. Actually more like a Chablis. No overt oak flavours. Pale in colour; citrus, apple with mineral notes. Enjoyable!

Barrel matured in medium toasted American oak using 15% new barrels in the blend
The preferred Shiraz of just under half of the group. Some interesting complexity; quite a lot going on in terms of flavour. Some found a bitterness on the end palate. More tannic than the Gnarly Dudes.

TWO HANDS GNARLY DUDES SHIRAZ 2015 BAROSSA VALLEY                        Majestic £17.99
This has the same oaking proportions as the previous wine, and the grower claims “freshly crushed dark berries, and complex notes of black pepper and incense” but that the “tannins are quite gritty…”
We agreed about black fruit flavours, but not about tannins (perhaps they had softened). Very smooth wine. Very drinkable. The slightly more popular Shiraz.

This wine was voted Best [96 points – Outstanding] “New World Cabernet under £40″ in a Decanter tasting last month! This is aged in equal parts of 1-, 2- and 3- year old French Oak barrels. According to Alistair Cooper MW it shows: “blackberries and liquorice… which flow onto a mineral drenched palate with wonderful salinity, mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained tannins. Cool, elegant and effortless”.
A very nice wine. Lots going on in terms of flavour. Cassis, sage, liquorice. Good complexity, good finish. Very good value.  The favourite wine of about a third of the group!

Many thanks to Kathryn for so meticulously planning and delivering this tasting. We hope there will be more…

A reminder that there is less than a week for Members to enter the “200 Post Competition” over on the Members’ Page. It’s just a guess – must be worth trying?

Until soon…

South Australia produces about half of all Australian wine, in addition it typifies the increasing divergence of mass-production and individually crafted wines in the country.

First, though, the basics:

There are 18 Wine Areas in South Australia, although perhaps only 10 are important, for one reason or another. About 60% of S. Australian wine is red and 40% white.

The 18 Wine Areas are grouped into 7 zones, and you will sometimes see generic wine from a zone rather than an individual area. This is only really of significance in the most South-Eastern zone – Limestone Coast, nearly 2% of S. Australian wine bears that generic name.

The larger zones are: Far North; Mt Lofty (N of Adelaide inc Clare); Barossa (inc Eden V); Lower Murray (East around Riverland) ; Fleurieu (S of Adelaide); Limestone Coast  (S-E near the Victoria border, inc 6 specific areas); and (not shown) Peninsulas (either side of Spencer Gulf).

By far the largest area is Riverland, in volume terms, which produces 56% of South Australian wine, although by value it’s below a quarter! And it is Riverland that exemplifies the other distinction in South Australian wine: mass produced wine from high-volume grape growing versus grower crafted wine. In the European Wine World we often have the model of a Grower / Winemaker producing wines from their own grapes, grown for that purpose. This is far from being the only model, but it is a vague indication of the division between artisan and mass-produced offerings. However is South Australia only about 30% of wines are produced by the growers, the rest from grapes-bought-in (often, though not always) for mass produced plonk. This is even more severely the case in Riverland where the grower-made wine proportion falls below 20%.

The obverse of this statistic is that about 44% of wine outside Riverland is grower-made, and it is these wines that attract interest from the serious wine enthusiast. They amount to only about a fifth of all South Australian Wines, and these are even more heavily weighted to red – red wines are about 75%.

The other main producing areas are: Langhorne Creek (7.3%); Barossa Valley (6.6%); Padthaway (5.5%); McLaren Vale (5.0%); Coonawarra (4.3%); Adelaide Hills (3.4%); Wrattonbully (2.9%); Clare Valley (2.5%); Limestone Coast – generic (1.8%); Currency Creek (1.2%) and Eden Valley (1.2%). No other area produces more than half of one percent.

As to grapes – on the red side Shiraz (nearly half of all reds) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) dominate all other grapes; well over half of the whites are Chardonnay, and these three grapes make up 68% of all those grown in the state.

However all though every area grows several grapes there are several Area/Variety combinations (usually representing 20%-40% of that area’s production) that are well known, high quality and reaching premium prices.  The most famous of these are Barossa Shiraz;     McLaren Vale Shiraz;      Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon;      Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc;     Clare Valley Riesling and Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. These represent the easily viewed peaks of South Australian wine, but there many hidden gems… We shall see what the fuss is about in a tasting led by Kathryn on 16th March.

I’ll post notes in about a week.

Until then…


On Monday 6th March the WING met to taste Pinot Noir from Australia and New Zealand. Led by Anna and Paul we tried two wines from Otago NZ, two from Mornington Peninsula, a Tasmanian and one from the Adelaide Hills. In practice these were three flights at different price points: £18-£20; £26-£29 and £35-£40. All the wines were sourced from Great Western Wines.

The evening proved pleasurable, illuminating and a little bit surprising. Here are my notes:

Very purple, mainly strong cherry fruit nose with hard-ish hints of spice and herb. Palate is rather sweet with cherry and plummy fruit, some oak and a salty, slightly bitter, minerality and a warm finish. Dense and enjoyable, but with jammy fruit and mineral acid not fully integrated and a bit simple.

KOOYONG MASSALE 2013 (Mornington)
Nose has a pungent start, similar components to the previous wine, but more restrained, integrated and interesting. Raspberry fruit with an acid line and vegetal hints, drier and better integrated with an elegant finish. Good and good value.

Paul surveys the remains of an intriguing tasting!

Farmyard pungency and loganberry fruit nose. Palate is more complicated with a dry structure, grainy tannins and a savoury mineral acid frame, with, slightly simple but contained loganberry fruit. Quite enjoyable and more what I might expect from NZ.

HENSCHKE GILES 2012 (Adelaide Hills)
This has a classic Pinot Noir pale colour and strawberry nose, ethereal floral notes too. Palate is velvety, with spicy warmth throughout and an integrated fruit/acid line and a rounded finish. Very satisfying and enjoyable, I think – although it’s hard to decide – my favourite!

Finally the most expensive flight:

STARGAZER 2014 (Huon Valley, Tasmania)
Initial farmyard, almost acrid, pungency and a then slight minty (though not as sharp as actual mint) inflection, as well as spice and heavier floral hints.  Palate has drier red fruit with balancing acidity, some grainy tannin and hints of spice. Lots going on but perhaps needs a year or two to integrate.

KOOYONG HAVEN 2012 (Mornington)
Initial pungency again and then quite a quiet nose with a crème brûlée hint and dark raspberry. Palate has a saline lead-in and then a big, grainy, herb and spice accented middle, reminiscent of bitter chocolate infused with black raspberry liqueur. Impressive, pleasurable and full but at this (£40) price I think I could track down a Burgundy with more complexity and finesse..

An amazingly interesting tasting which confounded my expectation that the NZ wines would show somehow “cooler” than the Australians. In fact the opposite was the case and even the final, bigger wines showed balance and tension. In fact the “coolest” wine – least alcohol and lightest on its feet – was the Henschke. All the wines were enjoyable and showed quite some variety, a lovely evening…

Thanks so much Paul and Anna

Finally, I note with a surprise that this is the 200th post on this blog. A realization that sneaked up on me only when I made the 199th post a week ago… So I haven’t had much time to concoct a cunning and intricate puzzle for readers as I did when reaching the 100 milestone (it seems) not so long ago.

Apologies for that, however here is a vineyard photograph. If any member can tell me exactly what  Denominación/ Denominação/ Lage/ Denominazione/ Appellation those vines come under the can win a bottle of the wine in question…

Where is this?

Only one guess per person via the comments section to the Members’ page, before 28th March!

Until next time…

As regular readers will know, I’ve recently started an 18 month period when I am spending almost half my time at a rented house in France while I think about a permanent main- or second-home there.

Naturally I need a stock of wine there with enough variety to match meals, lubricate relaxation in the garden, entertain and be at the (limited) disposal of friends using the house when I’m not…

The house is a few miles North of Saumur, so recent vintage Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines – from cheap and (very) cheerful to serious stuff –  are easily available from Saumur and Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil. Rather fabulous dry Rosé is also easy to find at ridiculously low prices. Without much difficulty it’s also possible to get older vintages; and passable Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and bubbly. With a bit of effort one can add other Loire wines: Côt; Pineau d’Aunis; higher status dry and sweet Chenin…

However lovely as all this is, there are times – or dishes – that call for wine from other regions. This leads to the issue of developing a second cellar in the Loire house. Not actually a physical cellar but a couple of racks in an unheated, north-facing workshop, something around the 60 – 70 bottle mark ([I should mention] carefully coded for visitors : green under €10, drink!; yellow caution, higher cost!; red hands off!)

So as visits to other region will be limited in the next year (I am just considering trips to Alsace and Rioja…). That means taking back ready-to-drink wines bought in Italy, Rhône, Germany, Alsace, Burgundy… in previous years…. It seems odd – but really it makes sense…

Part of Corkmaster's Main Cellar in Nottingham

Part of Corkmaster’s Main Cellar in Nottingham

The main issue is cuisine… Firstly, for example, I am a big fan of pizza and Chianti while watching footie on TV. An evolution – no doubt – of pies-and-beer once associated with the terraces before the post-modern, dislocated, post-truth, new twist on alienation effected by free movement of capital… but anyway… A decent but simple Chianti is a must.

Secondly there are roast dinners – Bourgueil does wonderfully for poultry and lamb and a small grower I’ve come across has their better cuvée still available in 2011 vintage – a ripe, early year, doing wonderfully at the moment. So little need for right bank claret, maybe a couple of left bank for darker meat…

Curries:- although I love French cuisine I am not willing to forego Indian entirely, and enjoy cooking it. So accordingly I need to ship Alsace Gewurztraminer and German Riesling to wash it down. The latter of course does equally well watching the sun go down with some olives before an evening meal….

Of course most of more elaborate meals will be eaten in Restaurants, the main delight  à la maison is of course grazing on salads, charcuterie and buffet dishes outside. Local Rosé is a wonderful vin de soif for this, the drier serious style available in vrac, or bag-in-box for equivalent of not-much-more than £2 a bottle.

Of course as the light dies and the food and conversation become more serious so does the wine. Good burgundies – of both colours – are essential, so it’s a matter of taking out some at-their-peak examples… whites from an 2005 Auxey to 2012 Chablis, and 2009 or 2010 reds from Givry, Maranges, Savigny…

For bigger dishes after dusk in hot weather –  the atmosphere leads me to Rhône: 2007 Gigondas and other AC from 2010 will soon be joining the collection.

Meanwhile a load of 2010 Bourgueil will come the other way. It’s a great thing, a cellar…

Which brings me to…..

The Joys of the Cellar #4


On one of my regular rummages round the cellar I came across a little cache of single bottles of 1990s Spanish wines, so I moved them to my drink soon rack… A couple of Riojas performed just as you would expect but the last to be drunk was a Catalayud Garnacha 1995 (Castillo de Maluenda). I couldn’t remember how I came by it and the producer’s Garnacha has – since 1999 – been styled Viñas Viejas – presumably in 1995 the Viñas weren’t quite Viejas enough! Further research shows some vintages have been available via Laithwaites or Booths – though nothing is at the moment… I think it would have been a wine in the £7 or £8 range in the late 1990s, when I suspect it made its way into the cellar!

Anyway I opened it with a  Turkey and Lentil dish (a variation on a Raymond Blanc Guinea Fowl Recipe) and was again amazed by the beneficial effects that long aging can have.

The nose was slightly claret-y, with evolved secondary flavours of forest floor, mushroom, cedar and red fruit, not the plum, almost tomato, one gets with big young Garnacha, and a sweetness rather than vanilla from long developed oak. The palate was supple and detailed, with bright red fruit coupled with a long line of acidity and enough soft tannin to frame the food. Slightly softer and more open structured but with something of the depth and refreshment of a 20 year old  right bank claret costing £20+ when released – it just shows what 20 years in the cellar can sometimes achieve!

Of now for another rummage….

Until Soon…

Kathryn & Matt hosted a Sock Party for WING members on Friday February 24th. Our first visit to their new house. A small but select group attended, giving us time to savour the wines, which merited that attention…

Here are my notes:

This Chardonnay Sparkler has quite a Champagne-ish nose with just a hint of apple/gluey tones – to suggest another origin – among the bready citrus aromas. The palate had a dashing acidity across a firm mousse with citrus leading into a long fruit-skin bitter hint finish. Classy!

RS7 here refers to the Residual Sugar. The wine is from a cool vineyard at over 600m elevation with deep decomposing granite soils. The range is set 100 km N of the winery in Yarra Valley, Victoria. The grower has an old world attitude having worked with Dirk Niepoort. The wine shows the beginning of restrained diesel on the nose with some nutty hints and a prickle of acidity. There is a hint of sweetness on the palate, but it just frames a long line of acidity and mineral dryness, a restrained peachy middle with a more dried fruit, warm long finish. Very good, and probably – in the spectrum between old and new world styles – nearer the old world!

Another high altitude wine – grown at 300m-500m near Caldaro (Kaltern in German). First notes are grapey with a slightly bitter, grappa hint, a warmer floral hint emerges with time. The palate has freshness and a lightness over a deeper base of oily fruit which turns warm and slightly bitter at the end. A fresh, food-friendly Gewürz, rather supple!
Made from dried Gargenega grapes, this has a floral first note that soon broadens to show deeper pear/peach fruit that grows towards the tropical. The palate has a fine acidity, with a succulent sweet plum fruit with citrus peel and herby accents…

BOLNEY “LINTNER’S RED” 2013            Sue Mc
This Rondo red shows herby and cardamom leafy notes. Palate is very herby – green even – with a laurel leaf quality more imposing than the plum fruit elements – needs food!

A dark wine with light floral elements and later hints of spice and tar. Very Nebbiolo, when you know what it is, and the palate has smoothness  and supple plum fruit inside its tannic frame. This is a northerly site for Nebbiolo and this shows elegance and evolution for a warmish year. Good!

Rich prunes, leathery and grainy nose. Palate with sweet prune fruit, and oily feel and a bitter plum skin twist, building to alcoholic warmth at the finish – a very correct Amarone and great with the pasta salad….

Thanks to Kathryn and Matt – and of course Fintan – for a lovely evening in their new home.The wine selection turned out to be a dominated by Italy, all good – but my favourite was the Gattinara,

Until next time…

On Thursday February 20th the ICC Wine Group met to  look at Portuguese wines.

Here are my Notes:

HENRIQUES AND HENRIQUES 10 YEAR OLD SERCIAL, Madeira DOC – 20 % – Wine Society – £20 (½l)
Just Lovely! Notes of citrus, flowers, blossom, over-ripe peach… Palate has a smoky Madeira base, but dried fruit sweet hints undercut and lengthened by a dashing supple acidity that goes on and on, a wonderful aperitif as it gets the juices flowing: evocative, dashing, sensual and sensational! I think this is my preferred version of Madeira as it’s so versatile and unusual…
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  15/20

SOALHEIRO ALVARINHO VINHO VERDE DOC 2015 – 12.5 % – Wine Society – £15
Floral notes at first, citrus and then a deeper oily note. The palate is fresh with light acidity but opens into something with under-stated depth, showing nutty and oily character. The acidity lifts the finish to produce a wine that will cope with a variety of starter dishes. This is the second time I’ve found Portuguese Alvarinho outstripping expectations formed by their Galician sister-wines!
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20
LAGAR DE BAIXO BAIRRADA DOC 2012 (Niepoort) – 12.5 % – Bottle Apostle – £22
Nose slow to open but showing fruit: cherry, red berries and prune – and quite an Italian balance. The palate has a slightly earthy introduction, a light tannin backbone and a long – very long – line of acidity taking the wine into mounting fruit-acid – red plums? cherry?. This fruity finish follows a spicy middle palate, which is the other way round to usual and rather satisfying. Very good!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15/20

DOURO RESERVA DOC (QUINTA DE LA ROSA) 2013 – 14 % – Waitrose – £12
Mainly Touriga Nacional, this wine has a heavy nose with a dusty, herby impression. The palate is very dark: prunes, plum skins, currants… with a sweet element just glimpsed behind a dense, earthy, brooding, slightly porty, dark wine, later is becomes slightly softer and grainier. Probably needs 3 or 4 years to calm down its fierceness.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20

TERRA D’ALTER ALFROCHEIRO 2014, Alentejo IGP – 14 % – Weavers – £12
This has a soft nose, with oak showing among bright bramble fruit, some leafy pungency fading slowly. The palate has slightly soft, “pastille” fruit – bramble and cherry, but rather simple and (dare I say it) a bit “New World”.
Ratings:        Quality:  13.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

MOUCHÃO 2010 Alentejo DOC – 14 % – Wine Society – £25
This is 70%+ Alicante Bouschet, a red fleshed grape, and the nose starts with pungent spice (fenugreek?) black berry fruits, and a hint of herbs. The palate has supple savoury tannins and controlled power, expressed in length as much as depth of flavour, opening to show a dark fruit and acid line that develops for ages. The power/savoury/dark fruit/length balance reminds me a little of good Pauillac – although with distinctive Portuguese flavours; and I think it’d improve for 2 or 3 years and stay at peak another 3. Very good!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15/20

I found this a better-than-expected tasting. All wines showed their type well, and their scores pretty well reflected their cost – hence the value numbers are nearly all the same. The Alentejo wines, in particular, showed the contrast in the region so well: an international style from an indigenous grape (the Alfrocheiro is made by a flying winemaker, Peter Bright!) against a traditional style made with modern attention to detail. The latter knocked the spots off the former in my view and is well worth double the money!

Until soon!

When I looked through my archives I was surprised to find that the WING group had not had a dedicated tasting on the precise subject of Portuguese Wines for over 8 years! Of course, Portuguese wines have featured every now and then and we have focused on Port specifically (most recently in April 2015 – see posts of 2nd and 5th April 2015, below:). However it’s quite a while without a general look at the 10th= biggest wine producing country…

Portugal is a bit of an enigma, which isn’t surprising as most of the country was more-or-less feudal under the Salazar dictatorship that was only overthrown in 1974! Many very old indigenous styles and grapes persist – for good or ill – but the sudden growth, “European-isation”, and influx of investment has opened Portugal to development similar to that in a new world country. So it is with wine: Port is complemented by famous and sometimes great wines from Douro, Bairrada, Dao, Setebul…  and they are being supplemented by new world wine-making in Lisboa, Ribatejo and Alentejo. Sometimes this is sensitive development of indigenous grapes, sometimes a new world formula and sometimes a bit of both.

In addition Portugal seems to suffer more severely from a trend that to some extent besets all wine imported in the UK – we tend to get the cheap rubbish and the very top wines, but most of the interesting, good value, upper-middle-budget stuff… they keep at home… wise people. I have tried to use the upcoming Portugal tasting, in part, to look at this price/quality level.

Portugal nearly doubled production towards the end of the last century, overtaking  Greece, Hungary and Romania. It produces about 2½% – 3% of the world’s wine, vying with Germany and Russia for 10th, 11th and 12th  places in the wine-production league [different years see these countries in different orders, but they are all a way behind Chile in 9th and all produce double the output of Romania in 13th]. Port accounts for about 15% of the vines, and table wine is about 70% red.

Although the real jewel in Portugal’s crown is Port,  given that we have tasted these wines relatively recently we’ll concentrate on other wines in this tasting.

Historically I picture the Portugal Wine Regions a bit  like the map here – The 8 regions mentioned above together with  the great Island of Madeira, plus another offshore area – Açores (Azores); plus Trasosmontes; Tavora Varosa; Beira Interior and Algarve:

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Vinho Verde is a wine area as well as the name of its most notorious product: the sharp, light, slightly spritzy white. Sometimes, and lately often called Minho, the area also grows the Alvarinho grape, famous as Alboriño just over the border in Galicia, with some success.

The Douro (Port) area, where big reds from the Port grape varieties are used. These especially feature Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) for table wines. As you might imagine from the Port connection, these are often tannic wines with the characteristic rich earthy note found in so much Portuguese wine. Often one can detect port-ish nuances too. Whites from higher altitudes are making an appearance too.

Dao: 40-80 kms to the South, with a similar, but slightly lighter style. Touriga Nacional is the best grape and Dao wines must include at least 20%. The pliant, sweet fruit and herby qualities of the Jaen grape (called Mencia in Galicia), and Pinot-ish character of Alfrocheiro soften the wines.

To the east of all this is the little seen Beira region.

Bairrada lying to the west, Atlantic, side of Dao. The area uses the Baga grape, which reminds me – at least – of Sangiovese. Unusually for Portugal, this grape is often vinified on its own, or with some Touriga Nacional. Pure examples show the sour cherry and fruitcake spectrum one is used to in Chianti, but again with that typical earthy twist.

Lisboa, (Riba)tejo and Setebul are near the City of Lisbon – lying to the North, East  and South respectively. Sub divided into smaller regions these areas produce more light gluggable styles and more white wine than the other areas (where red is usually over 70%).

Alentejo: a large area centred about 100km South East of Lisbon, extending East to the Spanish border. This is a hot, modern wine area often basing red wines on Aragonez (another synonym for Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira. This area behaves a bit like a new World area – with a hot climate and modern methods. Although Cabernet, Chardonnay and especially Syrah are creeping in, the old grapes – mercifully – are still in the majority.

More recently some of the areas have been slightly renamed and re-organised – here’s a more up-to-date and detailed map – showing sub-regions, wine types and/or main grapes for each region!


Portuguese wine is dominated by indigenous grape varieties – someone actually counted 248 in production a few years ago. There is also quite a lot of regional specificity – grapes predominantly found only in one or two regions. There is no big national grape variety: Castelão is the most widely planted variety with 7½ % of vineyard area. Unless you count Tempranillo (known as Tinta Roriz in the North and Aragones in the South), which is equal* second most widely planted at 7%, the most common International variety is Cabernet Sauvignon (with about 1% of vines). There are so many grapes used and so much blending that perhaps place, Regionality, is more important than grapes.

*Fernão Pires a high-yielding aromatic white, has roughly equal vineyard area, but probably more wine


The proportions of production by each region in 2015 are shown in the graph below. DOC wine is the highest category (like AC in France). In this graph Port is included in the Douro figures…

This graph tells us a lot – firstly the four areas at the top of the chart  do not contribute significantly to total production or (especially) in DOC production (<3%) . Even if you include the generally prolific regions of Lisboa and Tejo plus Beira the DOC figure only goes up to about 7%. However the high figures of IGP production in Lisboa and Alentejo show an interesting change in production – the growth of newer styles and untypical grapes that haven’t yet set quality standards – especially in Alentejo.

For this tasting we will skip Port as I’ve said, and I’ve tried to track down bottles at that rare – in the UK – upper-middle price/quality level. So we’ll sample: Madeira; a classy wine from Minho; a (rare in UK) high quality Bairrada; a Duoro and take a look at quality and modernity in  Alentejo wines…

Notes will appear in 4 or 5 days.

Until then….

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