Archives for category: Tasting Notes

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

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On Friday 26th January the WING group met for a Sock Party at Ann and John’s. A lovely, and lively evening marked by usually WING bonhomie, great food and (too many?) good wines…

Here are (as usual, decreasingly focused) notes:

RIVA DI FRANCIACORTA BRUT nv          Welcome Wine
Slightly yeasty nose with a citric – quite warm – zing and later some herbal notes. The palate has a very light, but rather persistent mousse with a lemon zest acidity. 90% Chardonnay, in a good aperitif style.

NEW YORK WHITE 2016 (Brotherhood Winery)         Mike
Nutty nose, rather a rich Chardonnay dimension. Palate has a darker – slightly tropical – fruit body with a limey (Riesling?) finish. Very New World blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Seyval Blanc from – reputedly – the oldest US vineyard (1839)!

BACCHUS / SAUVIGNON 2013 (English Wine Project)          Mark  
A rather confectionery nose of pineapple and gooseberry, very NZ Sauvignon style. I found the palate too sweet, saved somewhat by a grainy texture and an acid lift…

MALAGOUZIA 2013 (Thymiopoulos)           Kim
Nose starts quietly then mounts in pungency – slightly washed-out early palate but has a peachy mid palate with a gingery warmth at the end… A little (a year or 2) past it’s best?


VERNACCIA DE SAN GIMIGNANO “RONDOLINO” 2016 (Teruzzi & Puthod)         Rachel
Slightly pear and soda hints on the nose. Palate has a quite rich, warm peach fruit – slightly oily texture but long in the mouth. A good example.

ALBORIÑO 2016 (Colinas de Uruguay)            Yvonne
Hints of caramel (malo-lactic?) on the nose, underneath some floral and citrus elements. Palate has a dashing acidity a warm rich body, rather heavier than a Galician example…

and so onto the reds….

JONGIEUX MONDEUSE (Barlet) 2011            Laurie 
Nose has a bojo character with a warm cherry fruit. Palate has herby, sour cherry fruit note then a plum-skin centre, a slightly herby acid line. Light but well balanced.

VIÑA FALERNIA, PINOT NOIR RESERVA 2015 (Valle de Elqui, Chile)     Anna  
Burnt nut pungency and an evolved colour, later some herby notes appear. The palate has an oaky first note, then red fruits with a slightly spicy vegetal twist. Vaguely Côte Chalonnaise balance.


AEMILIA  2013                 Ann
This wine is a blend of Shiraz, the local Vranec & Petit Verdot. We tasted this 2½ years ago [see June 2015] and thought “needs time – maybe 3 years and might open like a Right Bank Claret”. Well the nose has integrated and become more aromatic but still shows herbs and plum fruit. The palate has evolved too with and plums and spice – but still a little unresolved.

DOLCETTO D’ALBA 2015 (Sandrone)            Yuan
Slightly sweet red fruit nose: cherry and plum in an Italianate package, slight leather tones too. Palate has a strong acid line freshening the red fruit and herb palate. Quite long, fresh and well-balanced. A good Dolcetto

ROTHERGLEN DURIF 2015 (Cambell)          Kathryn    
Very sweet fruit nose with an orange-peel citric twist. Palate has a sweet, rich body with a grainy character that isn’t quite chocolate (yet).

BOURGUEIL VAUMOREAU 2009 (Druet)     John
A very interesting nose, which shows typical Franc notes of green-ness and raspberry but some floral elements – dried aromatic herbs – and a savoury touch. The palate echoes the nose with grainy but supple tannin, but has a lightness I don’t associate with this cuvée every year… Druet’s Grand Mont 2009 is rather bigger and shows that year’s heat… But this is just lovely – and as John, I and many others have followed Druet for over 20 years and 2010 was his last vintage this must be wine-of-the-night.

PRIMITIVO SALENTO IGT 2010 (Masserie di Ugento)     Paul  
Slightly spirity fruit nose – plums and figs. Palate has a big, sharp acidity circling the sweet fruit. Definitely an Italian food wine – lamb ideally?

VIÑA VALORIA RIOJA 1982 (!)          Rob
This has an even more spirit laden nose, almost a brandy with red fruit… Palate has red fruit again and a freshening, supple, pliant acidity, hints of woody tones and a slightly gamey hint. Very good, even if appreciation was emparied by the lateness of the hour…

Thanks to everyone for such a lovely evening, and to John and Ann for the hospitality and especially Ann for the great food…

À Bientôt

The idea of this Tasting, as so many good ideas, came to me while re-arranging the wines in my cellar! Specifically, the red Bordeaux section, which – after years of removal of bottles to drink and replacement with later vintages – had descended to uncategorised chaos. I reorganised into vintages – mainly 2000, 01, 04, 05, 06, 09 & 2010… However I had 15 bottles – all 1s or 2s – of 11 different wines remaining from the 1990s. So I thought a Tutored Tasting was in order.

While deciding what to show I spent some time looking at the ratings – at release and after 20 years – of the different vintages.

I ended up choosing to show 3 pairs: 1990, 1996 and 1998. But the variation in vintage ratings was note-worthy. Both Left bank and Right Bank ratings ranged from 1/10 to 9/10, and averaged 6.0 for the Left and 5.5 for the Right Bank. If one compares the 2000s: the range is from 6/10 to 10/10 on both banks (although individual vintages do differ, only by 1 point, between banks), and with an average of 7.6 for both!

I looked further into this, and spent some time thinking about the reasons. In fact the stellar, 9/10 or 10/10 , vintages are not much more common – about once every 5 years. What is different is that good vintages (7/10 or 8/10) are much more common (5 years out of 10 in the 2000s as opposed to only  3 LB and 1 RB in the 1990s) and “bad” vintages get 6 at worst not 1s or 3s or 5s as in the 1990s.

So it looks like there is more consistency now, and much greater ability to make good wines in challenging years. This was once considered the unique ability of only the very top wines – but now seems to have filtered down to quite small and unremarked Châteaux – even below Cru Bourgeois status and to less prestegous appellations…

The reasons for this are complex, partly due to real weather changes although that has posed new questions for winemakers, partly due to technological and scientific advances, but – IMO – mainly down to money.


1982 is often thought of as the start of the latest – globalised, free market fundamentalist – phase of capitalism. The removal of capital controls is the landmark, but there are lots of indicators*. This has led to a steep price rises in that most globalised wine commodity: Bordeaux; and with it an influx of investment; foreign and corporate acquisition and more money spent on production. Initially this made differences in viniculture and later in viticulture: Stephen Brook says “If the 1980s was the decade of innovative viniculture, then 1990s and 2000s were the decades of viticultural improvements” (The Complete Bordeaux – 3rd Edition 2017). The wines of the 1990s only caught the beginning of these changes, they were in full swing right down the wine-chain by the 2000s.

So 1990s marks – to varying extents – the diminishing of the importance of vintage; the chances of finding a quirky family Château making wines above its level; the chances of bargains…

So what of the wines? I chose 1990, 96 and 98. The best all round vintage, the second best LB and the equal best RB.

1990 was originally a 10/10 vintage on both banks, later downgraded to 9/10. The second hottest and second sunniest of the Century to that point, it followed a warm winter and was also the driest year since 1961. There was some fear that vines on well-drained soils would shut down, and this was partially relieved by a little rain in August and a slightly cooler September. Cooler soils, more often with Merlot: Northern Medoc, St. Estephe, Right Bank; had less likelihood of this but low acidity affected some wines. A big vintage too, 30% up from the previous year. Although quite approachable, small berries helped acidity and tannin level and hence long-life. Most wines though have been at “drink up” status since 2010-2012… was this pushing too far???

1996 was an uneven weather year, hot initially then a cool and damp early July, a little rain in August and a cool, but on the left bank – dry, September. A better year for Medoc, especially in the North.

1998 was dull in July and hot in August with some vine stress. Rain in early September refreshed the vines and Merlot and Cab Franc ripened well, with small thick skinned berries. Cabernet Sauvignon struggled to ripen and this is undoubtedly a very good right bank year.

I had planned to show two Medoc (so quite Northerly) Cru Bourgeois for 1990, but the second example: Château Roquegrave was corked.

So – to to better illustrate the quality across the whole area I substituted A St. Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Château Grand Pontet (more than a substitute really!).

For 1996 I showed two Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, and for 1998 two St. Émilion: A Grand Cru and a Grand Cru Classé.

Here are my notes:

Château Carcanieux 1990 Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 45% CS; 44% M; 11% CF.
Quite pale with a definite brown rim. Nose is quite typical with cedar, herbs, a mushroom hint and some plum fruit. The palate is similar with slight over-baked fruit note, still enjoyable but a little tell-tale tightening into astringency at the finish. It goes over after a while in the glass so perhaps a little past its best.

Château Grand Pontet 1990 Émilion Grand Cru Classé
This is 15% CS; 70% M; 15% CF.
This is deeper colour with a brick coloured rim. Nose has powdery perfume notes, almost floral darker fruit and a medicinal, something slightly minty, note. This is bigger and the fruit is longer in the palate, richer tannic frame and more to this but a slightly leafy (Cabernet Franc) tinge to the later tannins.

Château Coufran 1996 Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 15% CS; 85% M.
Medium colour with a transparent rim. This has a black fruit and herby nose, quite forward but simple. The tannins are a bit salty and there’s spice showing, so the palate too is simple and pleasing, but although quite succulent this fades quickly, so at the end of its drinking window, but more an instant pleasure wine anyway.

Château Cissac 1996 Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois
This is 70% CS; 22% M; 8% Petit Verdot.
This has a perfumed nose with black fruit and an almost text-book array of minor notes: cedar, forest floor. The palate of this notoriously slow-to-mature Château shows tannins still and some lifting acidity, fresh plums, forest floor again and a classic mid palate… Very enjoyable, still fresh, still asking for food – almost a reference Cru Bourgeois?!

Château La Grace Dieu, Les Minuts 1998 St Émilion Grand Cru
This is 5% CS; 65% M; 30% CF.
This had quite a quiet nose, some damson later and a chocolate grainy, going to liquorice, note. The palate shows the same with a heavier emphasis and some tannins which turn harder towards the finish, an unyielding firmness that’s been there since I first tasted it 15 years ago. It fades a little with time but otherwise isn’t looking its age, and certainly would work better with food.

Château Laniote 1998 St-Émilion Grand Cru Classé
This is 5% CS; 80% M; 15% CF.
This seems a little lighter and the nose has subtle hints of plummy fruit, perfume herby and creamy notes. The palate seems fresh and well balanced with plum fruit, some cranberry and integrated tannins and acidity. A pleasure that would sing with the right dish… My favourite!

All in all are these 20, 22, 28 year old wines holding up? The 1990 wines seemed to be just hanging on; the Cofran 96 too, the Cissac 96 now in-the-groove. The 1998 were very enjoyable and I feel the Grace Dieu’s hardness less to do with age than the wine’s (relative) austerity – the Laniote … I just enjoyed. If you have any wines from these times, I’m assuming they’re well cellared – they’ll be worth sampling now!

À Bientôt

*  [My favourite indicator is the graph of % real income growth for the poorest, middle and richest deciles. Until 1982 the 3 lines had been very close, with generally steady growth, for 40 years (after favouring the poorest for the preceding 40 years). Then they began to diverge, climbing quickly for the richest, still growing but more slowly for the middle – and actually becoming negative for the poorest. This is true with minor variations right across all Western Capitalist Economies, but so far it’s only the UK that thinks (?) the correct response to this real social problem is to vote for a project led by free market extremists whose only criticism of globalisation is there’s not enough of it!]

On Monday 4th December Ralph led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Collio DOC, an area of Fruili (North East Italy) quite close to the Slovenian border. The area is in the Gorizia Hills, which extend over the (geographically arbitrary) border into Slovenia. The general soil type is calcerous marl and sandstone. Production is about 85% White Wines.

The wines were all from the leading producer in the area: BORGO DEL TIGLIO.

The wine-maker Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 when he took control of his family’s vineyards. Low yields, strict vineyard selection and meticulous cellar work result in some of the most powerful, intensely ripe and textural wines in Friuli. Monferrari describes his style as ‘beautiful and kindly’.  Some wines are fermented and aged in 250 ltr barrels.

Here are my notes:

COLLIO BIANCO 2013
This is mostly Friulano with some Riesling and Sauvignon. Slightly (by suggestion?) lime hints on the nose – nutty tinges and some herbs too. Quite complex interweaving of the elements. Palate has a spice warmth, a chalky mouthfeel and a mineral acidity that goes on for a while into a pithy dry finish. Structured, fresh and food-friendly even though big-bodied.

SAUVIGNON 2013
The nose is quiet big, with green fruit – greengage rather than gooseberry – and even a red or white currant hint with a leafy character, again complex. The palate has a creamy texture (from barrel aging?) but restrained within a well-contained, long, warm acid line with a slate mineral finish. Very good SB, bigger than a good Sancerre but with a similar, scaled-up, balance and structure.

CHARDONNAY 2013
The nose of this wine is creamy, with butter / caramel hints and a later citrus line. The oak effects are, again, supported by the weight of the wine and the linear acid mineral counterpoint. The balance is so well judged and fine it might be called poised, and reminds me of some better Southern Côtes-de-Beaune whites. This is big but with an extremely long acid line lightening the wine to reveal a soft fruit, warm but mouth-watering finish.

MALVESIA 2013
This is aged in 2nd use oak and has a floral, almost cosmetics nose. Later some herby elements appear. The palate starts off quite softly, then tightens through mounting acidity and a peppery spice note, and then a soft-ish (comparatively) short finish. There is honeyed fruit but this wine seemed the least satisfactory to me, by the high standards set by the others…

FRIULANO 2012
This was in some ways similar to the first wine. More restrained with a nutty and herb start. Palate undulates between a sharp attack, soft peachy fruit, clean acid line and warm saline, slightly bitter finish. Knowing of Friulano’s tendency to flabbiness, it almost seems that this is a good wine-maker fighting to develop structure supporting it, and enjoyable journey but slightly unresolved… maybe it’ll all come together in a few more years?

COLLIO ROSSO RESERVA 2008
This is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pungent first nose, then cedar then black berry fragrance and a higher, perfumed note… Palate has a black fruit line within quite light pointed tannins. There is a woody component that tightens the wine again to show a minty herbal element as it approaches a pithy, bay leaf finish. An adventure that suggest rather restrained and elegant Syrah, more than claret. Another good food wine…

An engaging tasting of engaging wines, all seemed to develop and reveal things within each mouthful – the very epitome of complexity. Although very different the wines all showed dynamism in the way texture, especially, but also acidity and balance developed in the mouth. All are quite big but wore their weight in an elegant package with mineral and acid lines taking one through the journey. A very interesting tasting of which – just – I found the Chardonnay the most involving.

Thanks Ralph for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

Kathryn and Matt (with a special guest appearance by Áine) hosted a lovely Sock Club gathering on Friday 24th November. A very enjoyable evening ensured by our hosts’ hard work, the good company and – of course – the quality of wines…

Here are my notes:

CLASSIC BRUT LIMOUX (Denois)      Welcome Wine
Nose is citrus, a slight herby element and crisp – very Champenois, but missing a tell-tale bready tinge. The palate confirms a mainly Chardonnay feel, a sherbet mousse, clean acidity and hints of warmth, long with a pithy saline finish… a good aperitif bubbly.

FESTIGIA VINA LAGUNA 2015 CROATIAN MALVASIA     Kathryn  
Rather a neutral palate with a vaguely peachy hint. The palate is initial sweet with a warm tinge, the middle washes out before a later opening out with a citrus counterbalance. Rather disappointing…

CHABLIS 2007 (Billaud-Simon)          Paul
Lovely typical citrus nose with a floral tinge… complexity without easily identified elements, showing the integration of age…Palate has the warmth and richness of a good 1er Cru, but is a basic wine (from a very high rank grower – the current vintage is well over £20) – a slatey citrus backbone with a soft fruit undertow. Long succulent and at peak readiness… Lovely!

LYME BAY “SHORELINE”  2015         Sue T
Mandarin, honey and elderflower on the nose, rather pungent. Palate has gooseberry and stone fruit and a chalky texture. The flavours a big, but there is enough acidity to support them. Although the flavours differ somewhat the overall balance has a Sauvignon Blanc nature, and some character. An English wine made from a blend of Bacchus, Pinot Blanc, Seyval Blanc & Reichensteiner sourced and vinified separately.

CONDRIEU (Pichon) 2014            Ann
A nutty warm nose with hints of stone fruit spirit. Palate is warm with a rather grappa bitterness at first, soft fruit then appears and then a long spicy finish. Much more pungent and bigger than the 2013 which we tasted six months ago (see post of April 5th 2017). Time integrates the flavours and makes a rather impressive wine, but not a typical Condrieu – maybe there isn’t such a  thing?!

DRY TOKAJI (Royal Tokaji) 2015            Yvonne
Fresh slightly floral nose, with a slightly bitter spirit note emerging… Palate is full bodied with a warm acidity and yellow fruit flavours with a later smokey hint developing. Worked wonderfully with the smoked salmon canapés…

CHEVERNY (Tessier) 2009     Laurie
This is pale, with a fragrance of red and black berry fruit, and a slightly woody tinge. Palate has the berry fruit, with a soft tannic frame and the slightly mineral finish of  a minor Burgundy but with a little herby twist. This has aged from a tough start to be just right now, pliant and characterful. A barrique aged wine from old vine Pinot (75%) Gamay (20%) and Cabernet Franc.

LUSCA IRISH WINE 2014                 John
OK – who knew? Irish wine (FFS): an un-guessable Sock Party Wine. After closing dropped jaw it’s worth noting the cherry and plum spirit nose, very high tarry tannin levels with spice and mouthwatering acidity. This is made in tiny quantities (500 bottles) by Llewellyn’s Orchard in the village of Lusk, 12 miles North of Dublin. The grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dunkelfelder, and Rondo.

BRENNAN TEMPRANILLO (Central Otago) 2015            Brenda 
Red fruit: raspberry and strawberry; with a savoury, slightly herby tint. Palate has a supple acid mineral and soft tannic line supporting bright fruit, the oak recessed under the other flavours – a lovely fresh Tempranillo.

SALICE ROSSO 2014 (Albrizzi)          Mike T
Nose has red fruit, slightly plummy, with sweet oak and a mocha note. Sweet fruit first on the palate, then a supple acidity with hints of rhubarb and blackcurrant, a grippy finish showing some Cabernet character within a big (Zin-ish) Primitivo package…

CHERUBINO “LAISSEZ FAIRE” PINOT NOIR 2013     Matt
Pungent nose – quite Burgundian with sweet fruit bubbling up in this Porongurup (WA) wine. A warm cherry fruit and spice palate with a turn of structure, acidity a little light…

DOMAIN ROAD PINOT NOIR (Central Otago) 2012     Helen
Slightly sweet nose with hints of vanilla and toast. Red fruit with a clean fruit acidity with a herby – almost Vermouth – twist towards the end of the prolonged finish. Balanced and quite typical Otago pinot, good!

INFINITUS RIO NEGRO MERLOT (Fabre Montmayou) 1999     Anna 
Plum nose with a sharper fruit (Mulberry?) spirit note. Palate has some wood and evolved but firm tannins supporting surprisingly firm red fruit, herb elements present too, all reflecting the cool Patagonian origin.

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening, and our hosts for their hospitality.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 16th November the ICC / WING group met for the second tasting of the 2017-18 Season. The theme for the evening was ‘Bordeaux Blends Abroad’. Concentrating solely on red blends, we tasted wines from six different countries, varying terroirs and a range of price points.

DSC_2408

Here are my notes:

CHILE: Primus the Blend 2014  –   14%   –   Wine Society – £11.95
From the Colchagua Valley in Chile, this was the only wine of the evening to feature Carmenere in the blend. Its presence came through in some spicy notes on the finish, but the wine was primarily fruit-driven and dominated by baked black fruit flavours. Quite drinkable with its soft tannins and hint of spice on the finish, but a little one-dimensional. It wasn’t anyone’s favourite wine of the night, but 6 members voted for it as demonstrating best value for money.
Ratings:        Quality:  13/20   Value:  14./20

SOUTH AFRICA: Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014  –   14.5%   –   Waitrose Cellar – £14.99
More restrained with slightly more complex flavours than the Chilean. Hints of cigar box complement the core of dark fruit. Still quite young and would benefit from further bottle ageing to soften the tannins and develop more flavour complexity.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20 

LEBANON: Chateau Ksara 2012  –   13.5%   –   The Wine Society – £16
Tannins dominated a little for me to begin with; would definitely be better with food (rare steak or beef) or in a few years’ time once the tannins have softened. Quite a powerful wine with good length and some more complex flavour combinations coming through on the finish – some spice and herbal notes to complement the rich red and black fruit.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14/20

AUSTRALIA: Moss Wood Amy’s 2015  –   14.5%   –   Waitrose Cellar – £16.49
This wine seemed in better balance than the previous three, with more flavour complexity. The only wine of the evening to feature a significant amount of Malbec in the blend. Made to be approachable in its youth, tannins were not overpowering, but well balanced with the wine’s acidity and alcohol. Fresh black fruit flavours with white pepper, cedar and some floral notes in support made this a very enjoyable wine.
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  17/20

USA: Lauren Ashton Cellars Cuvee Arlette 2013  –   14.6%   –   The Wine Society – £21
A ‘Right Bank’ blend from Washington state, with significantly more Merlot than the evening’s other wines, which was reflected in its softness. Very smooth, featuring flavours of vanilla and sweet spice along with the dark fruit. I found it to be well balanced and very drinkable, and it was the favourite wine of 7 members, but some found the oak influence to lack subtlety.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  14/20

ITALY: Fattoria di Magliano Poggio Bestiale 2012  –   14%   –   Lea and Sandeman – £27.50
This Super Tuscan was my favourite wine of the evening. A well-structured wine with aromatic black fruit and hints of liquorice on the nose. The fruit flavours and hints of spice developed on the palate which also showed a lovely slightly smoky mineral character.
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  15/20

Overall, an interesting range of wines, showing the diversity of the red Bordeaux blend in its different manifestations around the world. The flavour complexity and balance of the Italian wine made it my favourite as well as that of the group. The Washington ‘Right Bank’ blend was the second most popular amongst the group, though, like the Lebanese wine, it did seem to split opinion. In terms of ‘value for money’ the Moss Wood Amy’s Blend from Margaret River came out on top.

Bye for now,
Brigitte

On Monday 6th November the WING Tutored Tasting Group were shown a selection of wines made by La Planeta, a famous producer from Sicily led by Ann.

The family started planting grapes at their property in Menfi (towards the Western end of the South coast of Sicily) in 1985. Their aim was to explore varieties beyond, the then ubiquitous, Sicilian plonk with a sustainable and high quality approach.

They have now widened their holding to four other sites in Sicily – the first two in the late 1990s, the second pair 5 or 6 years ago:
Vittoria (towards the Eastern end of the South Coast);
Noto (towards the Southern end of the East Coast);
Etna (in the centre of the Eastern Coast);
Capo Milazzo (towards the Eastern end of the North Coast).

Each of these sites has its own winery, planned for low impact on the environment and proximity to the vines. They now have getting towards 400 ha under vine – embracing 15 or 16 grapes, almost equally local and international, planted in the most appropriate sites. All this produces a high number of carefully crafted wines – something in the high 20s!

Ann showed 6 wines covering all 5 areas. They were all sourced from Great Western Wines, where they retail, usually, in the £15 – £25 range.


Here are my notes:

ETNA BIANCO 2016 (ETNA DOC)
This is from the local Carricante grape, there are only 200 or 300 hectares in production, half in Sicily The wine shows restrained aromas of citrus with hints of peach and a slightly nutty note. The palate has high apple acidity, with some warmth – a little reminiscent of Chenin, and a slightly bitter minerality. Later the wine gains warmth and seems food friendly.

COMETA 2016 (MENFI DOC)
This is 100% Fiano with a clean nose, revealing elements of herbs, citrus and later an aroma suggesting tree blossom. Palate has more warmth and body than the nose suggests, with a clean supporting integrated acidity, orchard fruits and pleasing length.

CHARDONNAY 2016 (MENFI DOC)
This has a very woody first note with yeasty, bready elements than caramel and honey. Later this quietens down a little. The palate is creamy, with an over-ripe apple hint, and some honey. Although there is quite a lot of acidity and mineral behind all this, at first it does not seem enough to counterpoint the weight of all these big flavours. Later the balance seems better with the mineral especially coming through, producing an impressive but more balanced wine. Perhaps this needs 2 or 3 years in the cellar?

CERASUOLO DI VITTORIA 2015 (from Vittoria)
Quite pale, with some perfume: herbs and fruit skins – cherries mainly. Palate is light and slight Beaujolais-ish with strawberry, cherry compote and fruity acid elements, ending quite sweetly.

SANTA CECILIA 2013 (NOTO DOC)
This is a darker wine with many heavier notes – red plums and slightly cooked elements… Palate has a grainy tannin start but then a supple, slightly spirity fruit with a good acid line that has a citrus peel, even balsamic character. Ripe, pliant and refreshing, and quite long.

MAMERTINO 2015 (from Capo Milazzo)
This has a similar nose, with more non-fruit (leather?) character developing. Although younger this seems more integrated than the previous wine, even though the components are very similar: fruit acid, ripeness, tannins. The fruit / acid / tannin balance is more serious and more consistent – a very good wine!

An extremely interesting tasting, showing well made wines from mostly Sicilian grapes at a high quality level (plus a couple we’re more familiar with: Chardonnay and Fiano). All the wines showed well, I thought, although the Chardonnay could do with some time… The last two Nero d’Avola based wines were the stars for me, although the first two whites – the Carricante for novelty and the Fiano for quality – were very good too. Basically – all good!

Thank you so much,  Ann.

À Bientôt

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