Archives for category: ICC TASTING

On Thursday 18th July the ICC Group met to compare Wines from Victoria and Burgundy – both white (Chardonnay) and red (Pinot Noir). This tasting partly followed an eye-opening tasting of Antipodean Pinot (see post of March 8th 2017) a couple of years ago, and the Jancis Robinson quotation cited in the Theme post last week. Both of these showed Australia can make wines in cooler climates from Burgundy grapes very well – but how well?

For each grape 3 wines were served blind one each from the Yarra Valley, Gippsland (both in Victoria) and Mercurey, (in the Côte Chalonnaise). The wines are all around £20 in UK. I chose the same wineries for both red and white wines.

Hoddles Creek Estate, established in 1997, is located in the Upper Yarra, which is higher, cooler and more marginal than the lower Yarra, The Estate is planted with 10ha of Pinot Noir (five clones), 6 ha of chardonnay, Being in a marginal climate, requires extensive canopy management. Over the last decade it has been focusing on minimal chemical use in the vineyard, and claim they are starting to see the benefits of health soils and vines with more balanced wines. It works the vineyards for low yields (below 33 hl/ha).

Wickham Road is a 8 hectare vineyard planted solely to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is cool, free draining and the vines are 17 years old. During the winter months, sheep are used to reduce the reliance on chemical control for weeds and grasses. The resulting wines require no acidification or fining.

Domaine Pillot is a family wine business over 150 years old in Mellecey a village in the Mercurey commune. The domaine has 17 hectares throughout the appellation and practice La lutte raisonnée (a sort of minimum intervention) in the vineyard. Appropriately the wines have a reputation for lightness and delicacy.


The serving order was random – so the following notes follow the order in which the wines were served (before their identity was know). First, the Chardonnays:

WICKHAM ROAD 2017   Gippsland, Victoria   –  12.8%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly nutty nose. Palate has fresh acidity with pithy note – seeming to tighten with time. There is orchard fruit, bright but slightly soft. Acidity persists and eventually becomes the main character.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20

MERCUREY 2016 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
This has a more citric and lighter nose, some oak giving a creamy texture building to a slightly bitter mineral end. The fruit line is hidden in the acidity making the wine develop more in the glass than the other example. Less striking but more subtle???
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016  Yarra Valley,Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £22
Nutty notes again, with a palate more restrained and lighter than the first wine, but clearly in the same style. Balanced, long and correct – very well made…
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best white (9 votes) followed by the Mercurey (7) and the Gippsland (6)

Secondly the Pinots:

MERCUREY 1er Cru “En Sazenay” 2015 (Pillot) Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy  –  13%  –  3D – £21
Light and bright colour with a herb and plum nose. Quiet but insistent palate with soft red fruit (hints of cherry) a line of warm acidity and subtle grip with a spice note accentuating a very Pinot character. Very good and my favourite…
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  16/20

HODDLES CREEK 2016 Yarra Valley, Victoria  –  13.2%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £23
Darker with a herbal nose, red fruit too and again on the palate with a slightly bitter bay leaf twist to the acidity. To my taste a good but slightly one-dimensional red.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

WICKHAM ROAD 2017 Gippsland, Victoria  –  13%  –  Stone, Vine & Sun  – £19
Slightly brownish colour and a quiet nose, fruity palate but little else. This had little vinous quality and as a consequence I would probably avoid it!
Ratings:        Quality:  12.5/20   Value:  11.5/20

The popular vote had the Yarra Valley wine as best red (10 votes) followed by the Mercurey (8) and the Gippsland (5). Though, funnily enough, no supporters of the Gippsland red followed through to choosing it a best wine overall – despite two-thirds of those present choosing a red. Clearly those that liked the last red are white wine drinkers!!??

Wine-of-the-night voting went (in serving order) 1 – 2 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 0

So the Yarra Valley estate won the night overall (as well as the separate white and red votes) with 13 supporters, the Mercurey 9 and the Gippsland 1.
For me the whites very much closer, although I can’t help thinking – for the price – a decent Chablis (or maybe a Pernand-Vergelesses) might beat them all. I thought the Yarra Pinot surprisingly good but lacking just a little subtlety and complexity compared to the Burgundy. The Gippsland red showed the worst qualities of New World Pinot, IMO although their white was much better. My scores have Mercurey leading 32 to 31 for the Yarra, with Gippsland trailing in with 27.

An interesting tasting – I was impressed by the Yarra – though not enough to seek Victorian wines out, especially considering one can get £20-in-UK wines in Burgundy itself at around the €13 mark… must go there again soon…

À Bientôt

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Owing to a prolonged period in France (see also my reply to Brigitte’s last post.) I have to combine the notes for the July Tutored Tasting and the Theme Briefing for the ICC Tasting later this week… Both are a little less comprehensive than I’d like and I have to extend my thanks to Anna and Paul that the first exists at all…

Firstly: on July 1st, Anna and Paul led the Group in a tutored tasting of Grüner Veltliner (or Gru-V as it’s – to give it it’s rather… well… groovy – name). The tasting contrasted examples from its home in Austria with those from the New World. Secondly we are, later this week, going to taste some celebrated Chardonnay and Pinot from Victoria, Australia against examples from Mercurey in Burgundy. The post sets the scene for that tasting – the Tasting Notes of which will be with you in about a week.

So first the Notes from the Grüner Veltliner Tutored Tasting:

Grüner Veltliner is the most popular grape variety in Austria, occupying about one-third of the country’s vineyards. Much of the wine is simple and designed to be drunk young in the “Heurige” inns around Vienna, but the better examples have a distinctive character, often described as spicy, peppery, steely or herby. In the last decade or so, the Grüner Veltliner grape has been introduced to the New World, so the point of this tasting was to compare three Austrian examples with three offerings from the Southern Hemisphere.

The Austrian wines come from three side-valleys of the Danube, located just to the east of the famous Wachau region – the Traisental, Kamptal and Kremstal. These areas and the Wachau itself are generally regarded as producing the highest quality Gru-V wines.


DOMAINE HUBER, TRAISENTAL, 2017 (Ocado £10.79)
Very pale, nose sweetish. Zingy, fresh and minerally. Enjoyable but a bit light and simple.

WEINGUT BRUNDLMAYER RIED BERG VOGELSANG, KAMPTAL, 2016 (Ocado £18)
The word ‘Ried’ means vineyard, or ‘cru’.  Darker yellow, oily honeyed nose. Rich texture with plenty of fruit (pears?) and mineral character.

TURK KREMSER WEINBERG, 2016 (Worth Bros £16.50)
Zingy, peppery and minerally, with plenty of acidity and a long finish. Probably the most typical and distinctive of the three.

DIEMERSDAL ESTATE, DURBANVILLE, SOUTH AFRICA, 2015 (Majestic £10)
This is an old wine estate, near Capetown, but they have only been producing GV since 2013. The wine is matured on the lees for 6 months after fermentation.  Rich and citrusy nose. Palate has a limy acidity with distinctive spice and pepper of the grape variety.

WAIMEA ESTATES, NELSON, NEW ZEALAND, 2017 (Majestic £11)
Sweet fruity nose. Palate rather dull, soft, tinned fruit, lacking the character of the grape.

HAHNDORF HILL WHITE MISCHIEF, ADELAIDE HILLS, AUSTRALIA, 2015 (Worth Bros £18)
Hahndorf Hill have been producing GV since 2010 and make four different types of wine from it. This one is described as their fruit-driven style. Slightly oily nose. Good acidity, nice balance, tropical fruit and spice and a long finish.

Overall, an interesting tasting with four excellent wines, and the New World wines showing well against the Austrians. My thanks to Anna & Paul for sourcing the wine and the information, conducting the Tasting and supplying the notes….

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On now to a Scene-Setting Note about the upcoming ICC Tasting Theme: Victoria v Burgundy. This will compare 2 examples each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Victoria, Australia with one of each from Burgundy.

My interest in this Theme, which I started to prepare nearly a year ago, was piqued by a quotation from Jancis Robinson: “…some of the finest, and certainly most technically dependable, Chardonnays in the world come from Victoria...”.

Victoria certainly has a cooler climate than most of Australia, especially around Melbourne and the South-East of the state. This is evidenced by the fact that a grape that certainly needs a cool-climate more than most – Pinot Noir – finds a home there.

For both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, comparison with Burgundy will always be a background to tasting. So why not actually compare them? So this month we will taste 2 Chardonnay and 2 Pinot Noir from Victoria against a similar price example from Côte Chalonnais, Burgundy.

Chardonnay from Burgundy is one of the iconic wines of the world, but in fact Australia produces over twice as much. It was the first grape that drove Australia to world recognition, famously (or infamously) producing cheap, rich, exotic fruit and vanilla examples. You can still get Chardonnay like that from Australia, but less oaked, leaner and subtler versions are to be had .. hence Jancis’ opinion above.

Victorian Chardonnay is between 3% – 4% of all Australian Chardonnay. There is about half as much Chardonnay coming from Victoria as from the Cote d’Or – so something like only 7% or 8% of the total white Burgundy produced. (For information: White Burgundy is about half Côte Mâconnais & Côte Chalonnais, a third Chablis and a sixth Cote d’Or).

We’ll taste examples from Yarra Valley and Gippsland – both East of Melbourne – against a top Mercurey. Victorian Chardonnay has a reputation for “normal” alcohol levels (making it “restrained” for Australia?), plenty of fruit and texture but balancing acidity and some subtlety. Mercurey is also known for textured whites, but with a mineral line and freshness, somewhere between Chablis and Côte d’Or in style… All the example are around £20.


Over on the red side the tables are turned, Australian Pinot Noir is restricted to the (relatively) cooler fringes of the country, places like Tasmania, Southern Western Australia and Victoria. Therefore Australian production is about half as much as Burgundy. Victoria produces about 20% of that (though a little less than the total amount of Chardonnay it produces), nearly half of it from Yarra Valley. So Victoria yields the equivalent of about a tenth of red Burgundy’s volume (Red Burgundy is about two-thirds Cote d’Or; one-third Chalonnais & Mâconnais, mostly the former).

We’ll try exactly the same growers’ Pinot Noir offerings. We’d expect the Victorian examples to be, again, at normal alcohol levels, showing fruit and texture with a more “old world” structure and savoury, herbs or spice notes. So too with Mercurey – stylistically lighter than Cote d’Or, and often showing mineral or herby flavours. Again, all the examples are around £20 in the UK.

I hope the comparison is illuminating.

Two sets of Notes for the price of one this month – A Tutored Tasting and an ICC Tasting I led on New Zealand…

A group of 11 W1NG members met at the Brigitte Bordeaux Wine Emporium on Bank holiday Monday, 6th May, for a Southern Rhone 2011,
Châteauneuf du Pape v Gigondas tasting. This was a wine society case purchased en primeur in September 2015.


1-Domaine du Cayron  Gigondas 14%  £18
78% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 6% Cinsault and 2% Mourvèdre
This had a powerful nose with nice volatile acidity. The palate was light with some liquorice notes. There was sour cherry and soft tannins. One of the group said this was their favourite and four would buy it.

2- The Society Châteauneuf du Pape £17.50 (Vignobles Mayard)
65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre
Nice acidity, more serious nose than last one, richer, non fruit flavours of liquorice and garrigue, thyme and rosemary.

3- Domaine Raspil-Ay Gigondas 15% £19
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah 5% Mourvèdre
This was very soft but with good acidity. Plummy fruit. Some port qualities.

4- Chateau Mont Redon Châteauneuf du Pape 15%  £20
60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre and others
Sweet orange peel, light fruit and a little spicy, vegetal, quite simple. The group’s least favourite overall.

5- Domaine La Bouissiere   Gigondas  15%  £19
70% Grenache 25% Syrah 5% Mourvedre
A little medicinal on the nose, mineral, tarragon, liquorice, not mainstream, more complex. Good. Two of the group’s favourite.

6- Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 14.5%  £36
65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre 5% Cinsault
Restrained style, good balance and good acidity. lighter than expected. Quite a closed nose, lots of red fruit flavours and very long. 8 of the group said this was their favourite but were not all convinced it was worth the extra money.

An  interesting tasting. Overall the Gigondas were maybe a little more rustic, less powerful  and simpler than the Chateauneuf du Pape’s but they stood up very well and in some instances were better. Thanks to Matt and Kathryn for opening Brigitte Bordeaux for us.

Plus Corkmaster’s thanks to John and Ann for sourcing the wines, conducting the Tasting and the above notes.

 

Ten days later, after my excursion to Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (see two posts ago…) it was my turn to lead a tasting of
New Zealand Wine: North Island v South Island. A tasting that had been near the top of the poll for Themes this year.
I decided to show three pairs of wines, all sourced from The New Zealand House of Wine. The wines were served blind and I tried to encourage expression of  simple preference before trying to guess which was which.

Here are my notes:

The first pair were a Marlborough and a Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, each about £12.

WINE A had a nettle nose with some exotic fruit, later a hint of something in the Asparagus direction (I think of this as a fault). The palate had gooseberry and hgh acidity, grapefruit and a little green.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20       

WINE B was darker but with slightly more restrained nose, the acidity was warmer giving a richer impression but more pliant and citric. Some chalky minerality at the end. Although a slightly bigger package it seemed more balanced and complex and therefore less boring.
Ratings:        Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  16/20

 

It turns out Wine A was from the South Island – 

KIM CRAWFORD 2017 (Marlborough)       

Wine B was from the North Island –

TRINITY HILL WHITE LABEL 2016 (Hawkes Bay)

 

 

We then moved on to two Pinot Noir  each for about £17 – one each from Otago and Martinborough

Wine C had some farmyard and a herbal hint, with soft, even mashed red fruit. The palate had a slightly bitter “squeezed pip” quality and the whole package seemed soft and a bit grainy to me.
Ratings:    Voting: 10 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14/20   Value:  14/20       

Wine D had more fragrant fruit, slightly sweet but less over-ripe. The palate had a crunchier sharper fruit and some clean tannic structure, darker fruit and a herbacious tinged tannic finish. Again a cleaner, better balanced more effortless package.
Ratings:    Voting: 18 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20       

 

It turns out Wine C was from the South Island – 

CARRICK UNRAVELLED 2017 (Otago)

Wine D was from the North Island –

PALLISER ESTATE 2016  (Martinborough)

 

 

 

The final pair were two £19 Syrah, again from Marlborough and Hawkes Bay:

Wine E had a nose of slightly pithy olive and black fruit. The palate was grainy but supple and structured with a black fruit acidity and a tinge of salinity. Quite a persuasive Syrah
Ratings:    Voting: 16 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  15/20   Value:  14/20   

Wine F had a much quieter nose with a palate of sweeter fruit, hints of blueberry and some soft tannins. A passable wine, with the lack of Syrah character a double-edged thing IMHO. However a simpler, slightly overdone wine.
Ratings:    Voting: 9 preferred this wine.       My scores:    Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20       

 

It turns out Wine E was from North Island –

TRINITY HILL GIMBLETT GRAVELS 2015 (Hawkes Bay)

and Wine F from the South Island –

SERESIN ESTATE 2016 (Marlborough)      

 

 

So an interesting result. The majority preferred the North Island Wine of each pair – with a combined score of 50 to 29! I concurred with those preferences, strongly, and surprisingly so in the case of the Pinot Noir, of which the Martinborough was my favourite of the night. I also noted that of the first two pairs – the North Island Wine had lower alcohol and wore it’s heat and richness more lightly. The final wine was less clear to me – I find Syrah a bit grainy at the best of times – but the South Island wines all seemed a bit muddy, maybe over-extracted and somehow trying-too-hard… Of course this is a small sample, easily explained by individual grower or terroir factors.. However a bit of a surprise – and something to think about with future NZ sampling.

À Bientôt

New Zealand produces about 400m bottles a year – almost exactly 1% of the world’s wine, a figure that puts it 15th or 16th, depending on year. Just for reference that’s about a fifth of Australia (which is usually 6th), and 1/16th or 1/17th  of France or Italy which are  1st and 2nd . Or looking at it the other way: 750 times as much as the UK…

A quick look at any general wine map of New Zealand might make one think it was made up of two fairly balanced Islands.


However the whole picture is unbalanced by one dominant area – Marlborough. Marlborough makes about 77% of all New Zealand Wine.

The next area in terms of wine volume produced is Hawkes Bay with a little over 10%; then Gisborne (a bit over 3%) both in the North Island. Canterbury/Waipara and Central Otago/Waitaki (a bit under 3% each) and Nelson (2.2%) are on South Island. Only then do we return to the North where Wairarapa is a touch over 1% and all the Northern areas (Northland, Auckland… down to Bay of Plenty) only contributes ¼%!

About 80% of the vineyard area and 85% of wine produced is in the South Island.

To illustrate – if you bought (a generous, bonus) representative case of New Zealand with 14 bottles in it – 11 would be from Marlborough; 2 from the North Island and 1 from the somewhere else in the South Island!

Just to give you a breakdown of Grapes – although less relevant to the upcoming tasting – that picture is almost as unbalanced. Here the distorting factor is Sauvignon Blanc. In very round figures – about 60% of all New Zealand Wine is Sauvignon Blanc; the rest pretty evenly divided between other whites and all reds.

Taking these two factors together – just over half (53.4%) of all NZ wine is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc!

What concerns us most this month though is the differences between the Islands, and the grape growing and stylistic differences between them. Of course there are much subtler and more complex distinction to be made for specific grapes in specific locations – but there is one obvious general thing to note.

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere and accordingly the North Island is generally hotter. This is simple and not surprisingly the South Island concentrates on whites (and Pinot Noir) whereas there is more even spread of varieties and wider plantings of reds in the North.

Here is a table showing how the percentages of grape varieties’ grown vary between the 2 Islands:

All NZ South Island North Island
Sauvignon Blanc 61 68 18
Chardonnay 9 4 24
Aromatic Whites* 9 8 13
Pinot Noir 15 16 11
Syrah 1 <1 6
“Bordeaux” Reds** 4 <1 22
[*Aromatic Whites= Pinot Gris; Riesling; Gewurz.; Viognier…   –   **Bordeaux Reds = Merlot; Cab. Sauvignon; Cab. Franc; Malbec…]

 

So, if you want to compare similar wines from the two Islands there are two obvious choices: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. A third comparison is quite tricky. Bordeaux blends are hard to come by from the South, and anyway two different blends may have very different components. Something similar is true of “Aromatic Whites”, the exact wine style will vary enormously from one region and sub region to another, the only viable candidate might be Pinot Gris, and I personally haven’t found NZ examples very successful…

Knowing the group’s love of reds I came down on the side of Syrah. An up and coming variety in some Southern areas, and reasonably established and successful in the North.

So our wines for comparison will be

Marlborough v Hawkes Bay for Sauvignon Blanc;
Central Otago v Martinborough (a sub-region of Wairarapa) for Pinot Noir;
and Marlborough v Hawkes Bay again for Syrah.

What might we expect?

The Sauvignon Blanc Pair:
Marlborough – Pungently aromatic, vividly pure fruit, herbaceous and exotically tropical, plus mineral depths…
Hawkes Bay – Rich, tree fruit-laden wines, underpinned by bright acidity, with complexity and body…

The Pinot Noir Pair:
Central Otago -Fragrant, lush fruit underpinned by taut structure, silky texture and true intensity. There are marked differences in sub-regional styles. Our example is from Bannockburn  one of the warmest, driest sites in the region. Harvest can be up to a month ahead of other sub-regions, and the wines produced are highly distinctive and complex.
Martinborough -The region’s flagship red; richly flavoured and warm with a savoury undercurrent whilst retaining perfumed varietal character, Wairarapa Pinots offer texture and depth. Our example is from Martinborough, the most southerly Wairarapa sub-region, which boasts free-draining soils and a cool, dry climate and soil profile similar to that of Burgundy.

The Syrah Pair:
Marlborough – A boutique quantity of Syrah here, almost at the experimental stage. This is from a hectare planted on relatively warm clay soil in the East side of Marlborough, where the wines have a reputation for fruit intensity.
Hawkes Bay – An exciting variety showing great distinction, gaining strength as sites and clones are refined. Wines are perfumed, elegant with ripe fruit, supple tannins and lingering spice.

We’ll see if these are fair assessments.

À Bientôt

The W1ng group met at the ICC on Thursday 18th April to explore the theme of ‘Dinner Party Wines’. Here are my rather belated notes on the evening and the wines.

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Caves S. João 2016 Reserva Brut. 12.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.45
A really great aperitif wine from Barraida in Portugal. Made using the traditional method, this wine is a blend of Bical, Chardonnay, Maria Gomes and Arinto. Aromas of citrus, pineapple and peach. On the palate, as well as the fruit, it has some lovely biscuit and brioche notes.  A fresh and creamy attack and a beautiful acidity that gives it structure and persistence. On its own, this was the favourite wine of 4 group members on the night. Paired with a smoked salmon canape on Irish soda bread with crème fraiche and chives, it was the favourite pairing of 6 people.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

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Lustau NV Manzanilla Papirusa. 15%. Brigitte Bordeaux £20.50
A light and dry Manzanilla which paired very well with gazpacho and anchovy stuffed olives. Almond, apple and a slight salinity. Some tanginess and herbal notes too. The sherry was the favourite wine of two of the group, whilst the gazpacho pairing was favoured by 3 people.
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 15/20

Trimbach 2016 Pinot Blanc. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.95
A lovely medium bodied wine with citrus, stone fruit and a hint of apple on the palate. Well balanced with good acidity. Paired very well with a cheddar and caramelised onion quiche. The wine had 3 votes for wine of the night; the food and wine got 5 votes for best pairing.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Domaine Du Vissoux, Chermette, 2017 Brouilly. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £19.50
Pronounced cherry and redcurrant with some herbal notes. Very smooth and well rounded. Paired perfectly with charcuterie. The wine was the most popular of the evening with 11 votes and its pairing with Milano salami, coppa and beef chorizo was the most popular pairing with 8 votes.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 16/20

Chateau La Sabatiere 2015 Monbazillac. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.50
Rich honey and marmarlade with dried fruit and caramel. Very well balanced: like drinking nectar! A very good, less expensive alternative to Sauternes. Paired with a crème caramel. The wine was popular with 5 votes for favourite of the night; the pairing had no votes.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Barao De Vilar 10 Year Old White Port. 19.5% Brigitte Bordeaux £18.70 for 50cl.
Lively acidity and great freshness with pronounced flavours of nuts, dried fruit, orange peel and caramel. On its own it didn’t get any votes for wine of the night, but its pairing with hard goat’s cheese was favourite with 3 members of the group.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 16/20

A really interesting evening with some great wines and pairings. Interestingly, only 2 people in the group voted for the same wine as that of their favourite pairing.
See you next time,
Brigitte. x

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We all love a good dinner party: convivial company, several delicious food courses and of course, the wine. But when thinking about what food to serve up and what wine to go with it, are there really rules that must be obeyed? Is it a social faux pas to serve oysters with anything other than blanc de blancs champagne or premier cru Chablis? Must the roast lamb be paired with a good Pauillac or St-Julien? And is serving the stilton with anything other than Vintage Port likely to cause quiet outrage amongst your guests?

Well, not according to Tim Hanni MW, who has recently dismissed the concept of food and wine pairing as ‘bullshit’. Speaking at the International Sauvignon Blanc celebration in Marlborough at the end of January, Hanni said “A perfect wine pairing doesn’t exist. We’re doing a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it. We need to start a campaign to stop wine and food pairing as we’ve created a lot of bullshit around the idea… We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?”

When Hanni’s comments were reported in an article in The Drinks Business, they unsurprisingly provoked many responses and much debate on the subject. Another Master of Wine, David Bird, agreed with Hanni’s comments, stating ‘it’s all about personal taste. I am doing some lectures for a sommeliers’ association and they spend hours on this subject, as if there is only one possible right combination. They were shocked when I told them I drink Sancerre with roast lamb! It’s perfect!’

Some of those responding to Hanni’s comments disagreed, whilst others agreed to a certain extent, but to me, the sensible standpoint seems to be that whilst tastes are, of course, subjective, and there may be some people who like nothing better than to wash down their fish and chips with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, there do exist some food and wine combinations that are generally found to complement one another well and make the experience of both the food and the wine more enjoyable. There are undoubtedly also combinations that are less successful. Whilst I wouldn’t object at all to quaffing a Sancerre with my roast lamb, I’d personally try to finish my glass (or two) before making a start on my sticky toffee pudding dessert.

So whilst I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules that always need to be adhered to or that there is only one possible perfect wine match for any dish, there is certainly some advice that can be followed to help you find wines and foods that have a good chance of complementing each other on the palates of the majority of your dinner party guests.

As a starting point, the website ‘Wine Folly’ provides these 9 handy tips:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food.
  4. Red wines pair best with bold flavoured meats (e.g. red meat).
  5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
  6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
  7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
  8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
  9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.

There’s clearly a lot to think about in terms of trying to create successful pairings but I do agree with Tim Hanni that we shouldn’t be too prescriptive or get too bogged down in searching for the perfect match. A lot of fun can be had in creating interesting food and wine combinations which hopefully enhance the experience of consuming both, but one person’s ‘match made in heaven’ isn’t necessarily another’s.

Puligny-Montrachet and Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle, anyone?

See you tomorrow,

Brigitte. x

On Thursday 14th February the ICC group met for a Tasting of wines from Lebanon, backed up with other E. Med. offerings from Cyprus, Santorini and Israel. The question relating to this tasting is if we can discern anything specifically Eastern Mediterranean about the wines.

Here are my notes:


“PETRITIS” (KYPEROUNDA WINERY, CYPRUS) 2017   –   13½ %   –   TheDrinkShop £13
This wine, 100% Xynisteri, has and slightly oaked nose – with melon fruit and a vaguely Chardonnay weight. The palate has sweet fruit – Galia melon and the same structure as a richer Chardonnay too, some acidity but the sweetish balance offset more by a gravelly minerality and some spice… a little plump IMO.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

THALASSITIS (GAIA, SANTORINI) 2017   –   13 %   –   TheDrinkShop  £18
Citrus nose with a light salty impression. Palate is clean and refreshing and a line of grapefruit acidity and hints of a sour peach… rather food friendly with a saline minerality…
Ratings:        Quality:  15.5/20   Value:  15/20

MASSAYA BEKAA VALLEY ROSÉ 2017   –   13½ %   –   Tanners  £16
This is the onion skin pink of a good Provencal Rosé, and it resembles it in many ways, being 100% Cinsault!  This has a genuine hint of strawberry fruit (rather than a suggested metaphor) and lovely fruit acidity and some mineral… very balanced and very enjoyable!
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20

MASSAYA “LE COLOMBIER” BEKAA VALLEY 2017   –   14½ %   –   Tanners  £15
Hints of mint / eucalyptus / menthol on the nose and a warm dark fruit. Palate is rich with a chocolate texture, some spice and mineral supporting a plum – prune fruit… developing herby notes later in a rather Southern Rhone style (Syrah, Cinsault and Grenache make up 85% of the assemblage, together with Tempranillo!) and rather a good version!
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  16/20

CLOS DE GAT HAR’EL JUDEAN HILLS SYRAH 2013   –   14½ %   –   Tanners  £21
Big blackberry, salty, prune notes. Palate has a sweet fruit, some woody notes and alcohol burn in a rather Californian big Shiraz style. The fruit resolution is slightly sweet with salty counterpoint making the overall impression a bit cloying and “heavy” – that said the wine’s lack of development makes it seem somehow insubstantial.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  13.5/20

CHÂTEAU MUSAR (HOCHAR, BEKAA VALLEY) 2010   –   13½ %   –   Tanners  £29
This was a very hot dry year and Musar lost about half of its Cabernet to drying out. So the mix is about equally Cinsault, Carignan and Cabernet with – especially the last – contributing dried berries. The result is amazing with hints of oily Amarone-style bitter cherry, some prune and some savoury notes in a sprity package. The palate is balanced by lovely supple acidity with some Italianate leather hints, very ripe plum fruit and some spice. One would probably guess at a, very good, Amarone – but this has a slightly wild complexity. Just fabulous and worth the money IMO…. I wish I’d bought more
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  15.5/20

A very interesting tasting, with the Lebanese wines all out-shining the other examples – making them look a little simple or clumsy or both.

To the original question – is there anything specifically E. Mediterranean-ish about the wines – the answer is an unsurprising No!
The Island wines were rather specific and might well work with very specific food. I, at least, can imagine drinking the Santorini well-chilled while eating grilled sardines on a beach… The Israeli wine was big and very… well… New World in style, whereas the Lebanese wines were decidedly old world: two French and the Musar (very memorably) rather Italian.
Musar is a phenomenon!  I have probably tasted 15 or so vintages over the last 20 years and they are always different: different blends; different styles but always good, a sign of a great winemaker. I have to say, though, that this 2010 was the most impressive of all – an early contender for wine-of-the-year. Mmmmmmm

À Bientôt

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