Archives for category: Wine

On Thursday 15th June Richard led the ICC Group in tasting wines from Domaine La Tour Vieille, comprising Apellation Collioure Controlée wines and a Bunyuls. My reports from this tasting were all excellent, both in regard to the quality of wine and about Richard’s presentation. I am very grateful to him for conducting the tasting, and for the notes below:


These are high quality wines and were all ready for drinking now although they will keep for many years. An underlying theme of all the wines was a reflection from their growth area; subtle undertones  of minerality, salinity and garrigue. The balance of fruit and acidity made the wines smooth, elegant and complex . This gave a voluminous quality in the mouth.

Les Canadells 2014    14.5%   (Yapp Bros £17.30   Grower €14.42)
70% grey and white Grenache, 10% Macabeu, 10% Verminto, 10% Rousanne.
Yeast, almonds, mineral, flinty and tropical. Good to drink on its own but will go well with food.

Rosé Des  Roches 2015     14%  (Grower €9.27)
50% black Grenache 50% Syrah
Salty, strawberry, candy floss, tropical, melon strawberry jam, redcurrant. Good on its own or with food.

La Pinede 2014     14.5%    (Grower €12.36   Yapp Bros £16.20)
75% black Grenache  and 25% Mourvedre and Carignan
Nose of leather, rubber, caramel. Taste of brambles (blackberry) cinnamon liquorice, aniseed, black cherry, spicy and tinned tomatoes. Again, good on its own or with typical food of the area.

Puig Oriol 2015      14%    (Grower €14.42   Yapp Bros £17.30)
70% Syrah and 30% black Grenache
Black cherry, spice box, seaweed, chalk, mineral, pencil, cloves, stewed plums, frankincense. Very smooth, rich and velvety without being overbearing.

Puig Ambeille 2014   14.5%    (Grower €14.42)
80% Mourvedre  20% black Grenache
Tobacco nose. Blackberry fruits, herby, spice, rounded and smooth. Forest floor, black cherry and ripe berries. Well balanced.

Banyuls Reserva Vin  Doux Naturel     16.5%     (Yapp Bros. £20.90 Grower €16.48)
90% black Grenache and 10% Carignan.
Plum, prunes, coffee, fig, dried cherry, raisin, toffee, chocolate and sweet spice. Lighter than port but goes well with chocolate, chocolate dishes and with cheese. Lovely sweet taste with lots of flavours again without being too intense.

So – very many thanks to Richard for collecting and showing these wines, I really would have loved to attend. Other tasters have told me of the overall salinity (does that reflect the sea-side location), balance and poise in the wines. This confirms my impressions over time about wines of Roussillon – that the better end is cheaper, fresher and more complex than comparable Languedoc wines, despite (?) being further South. Perhaps the reason is more small artisan growers, or the easier affordability of the wines (meaning we can drink higher up the scale), or the sea… or the good offices of people like Richard who brought us these wines… At any event a great success – thanks again Richard…

À Bientôt…

This month, the ICC Tasting will be of wines from Collioure, in the very capable hands of Richard.

Collioure AC (AOP) is a small wine area in the very South-Eastern corner of Roussillon – and indeed France.  Centred upon the old fishing village of the same name, the area also produces  produces Vin Doux  within the identical geographical boundaries, which is always labelled Banyuls.  Collioure is the name reserved for normal strength, dry wines.

Collioure/Banyuls is a small area, producing about 4% of all wine in the Roussillon area. Similar amounts of each are made, depending on the harvest. Collioure is untypical in that 20% of the planting is white (the average over all Roussillon is 3%!) – so about a third of white Roussillon AOC (now AOP) is from Collioure. Which is interesting now since AOC white was only permitted in Collioure from 2003.


Collioure AOC red is always a blend which must contain at least a 60% of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre with no individual grape permitted to exceed 90% of the total blend. Cinsault and Carignan and allowed to up to a maximum of 30%. Today the AOC white blend must contain a minimum of 70% blend of Grenache blanc and Grenache gris with Macabeo, Malvoisie, Marsanne, Roussanne and Vermentino (Rolle) permitted to round out the remaining portion of the blend – though each of those grape varieties can not individually exceed 15%.


Richard has chosen to show wines based on one of the top 5 producers – if not the best – Domaine La Tour Vieille. They produce 70,00 bottles a year of Banyuls and Collioure, by manual harvesting 10 ha of red and 2.5 ha of white. They practice Lutte Raisonnée viticulture. The grapes are all grown on schist soils and are composed of – Reds: (5%), (15%), (65%), (15%); Whites:  (10%), (10%), (50%), (20%), (10%). So a very typical mix from the area. The grapes range in age from 20 years old (some of the whites) to 70!

All grapes are harvested by hand and nothing is mechanized at all (no tractors) and all wines are fermented traditionally with wild yeasts. They make a white, a Rosé and several Banyuls and late harvest wines, as well as several prestigous Reds….

The white Collioure, “Les Canadells” is vinified in the following way:  the Grenache Gris is pressed immediately after harvest; Grenache Blanc, Macabeo, Vermentino, Roussanne undergo a short skin maceration; then percentage of the wine is fermented in oak barrels with a regular stirring of the lees and bottled 6 months after harvest.

All the Collioure reds undergo pump-overs and all punch-downs are by foot, the wine is bottled 10 to 18 months after fermentation.

A very attractive tasting, I think… I wish I was there but I am actually avoiding the 31°C sun in the Loire….  With Richard’s (and other attendees’) assistance the notes should be with you early next week (although I face a crashingly busy weekend before then)…..

À Bientôt…

On Monday 5th June the WING met for a Tutored Tasting of wines from Dão, led by Ralph.

Dão is quite a small wine area situated pretty well bang in the centre of the Northern half of Portugal – between Douro and Bairrada. It produces 4% or 5% of all Portuguese wine. It is encircled by mountains giving it a sheltered temperate climate, where grapes are mainly grown on sandy soil covering a granite base. Most famously it is known for red wines (80% of the production is red) from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro grapes, and whites from Encruzado. Mainly seen in the UK as cheap, supermarket, generic blends (Dão DOC blends have to have at least 20% Touriga Nacional) the area is capable of very good wine if you can track it down…

For this tasting Ralph chose a highly regarded, modern producer called Quinta de Lemos. This winery is located in the Silgueiros sub-region (1 of 7 in Dão), and is reputed to have a “French feel”….

If you want maps and graphs, and thoughts, about Portuguese wine in general, please refer to the February 15th 2017 post below>>>

All the wines at this tasting were from Quinta de Lemos, and sourced from drinkportuguesewine.co.uk, where they retail around £25 (the Roriz is £50!). At the moment they are all on sale at around £16 ( and the Roriz for £35!), with mixed cases available….

I myself was in France – actually driving to the Loire Valley – on the day of the tasting, so all the information and notes below are courtesy of Ralph and Kim,  thanks to them:


DONA PAULETTE   ENCRUZADO 2012    (13%)  -countries top white grape.
This grape, the country’s top white, has high reputation as ‘burgundy beater’ similarities to chardonnay as shows off wine-making technique. We were looking for complexity and minerality; well integrated acidity; good structure and medium body; and aromas and flavours of resinous plants, eucalyptus and mint with notes of hazelnut and tamarillo. Kim felt his example was pale golden with citrus notes on nose. Limes and minerality + resinous notes seeming more like a Semillon to me (Kim), a bit wet wool. Good length and complexity.  High acid – good food wine. Kim’s favourite on the night.

ALFROCHEIRO 2009   (14.5%)
[This wine achieved 89 Parker (P) points and  92 @ Wine Enthusiast (WE)]. Looking for aromas and flavours of blackcurrant and concentrated black fruits. The ripe and integrated tannins without being green or aggressive. Kim found a brown brick rim., looking older than other reds. Ripe fruit flavours cherries plums and tinned toms (Kim). Sweet fruit and nice acidity. Spicy and warming – high alcohol.  Some dark chocolate.  Good but not elegant or complex.

JAEN 2009   (14.5%)
[89 P, 93 WE] Jaen is the same grape as Mencia so we were thinking of structure with red fruits, vegetal and resinous notes. Fresh medium body. Young with long, lingering finale. Kim got a wine that was dense dark red. Very concentrated. Fusty, musty nose (not a fault).  Black berries and dried leaf on nose with some tobacco? Dried fruit and raisin.  Big and soft and not enough grip for my liking. Seems simpler later.

TINTA RORIZ 2009   (14.5%)
[90 P, 93 WE] Tinta Roriz is the Northern Portuguese name for Tempranillo – so expecting a concentrated color with ripe fruit and spices present in the aroma. Complex and spicy body with a good structure and great longevity. In vino veritas: A deep purple hue (not “Smoke on the Water”!)  Bit herby on the nose then smokey bacon. Softer plummy palate. Very smooth modern style. Lower in acid than the previous 2 reds.  I found it bit blousy but quite a few liked it best so far.

TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009   (14.5%)
[92 P, 90 WE] Originally from Dão, this grape is long associated with Duoro for vintage port and latterly big table wines. This is a multiple medal-winning wine, and prefigures a deep ruby colour. Aromas and flavours of ripe blackcurrant and fresh crushed wild berries with notes of Bergamot and Pine. Kim found very inky red. Pungent but less fruit driven. Big and concentrated Savoury and spicey, dates and chocolate later.  High tannins very powerful wine.  The “Bordeaux grape” of Portugal. Favourite red of the night for most.

DONA SANTANA 2009   (14.5%)
This is an indigenous Dão blend of 60% Tourga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Jaen, 10% Alfrocheiro. [90 P, 91 WE]. Another wine with many medals, we were looking for lots of fruit (strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, rhubarb are mentioned in citations) floral notes, full body and tannins
Kim found a purple/ black hue. The blend disguises the individual grape characteristics: slightly stalky nose; big black fruit. Very rich, dry at end of palate. Thought bit bland by comparison with others….

So, a very enjoyable evening according to several of my informants. Thanks so much Ralph for conducting it and the info above – and to Kim, and other contributors, for compiling the notes.

A theme piece on Collioure in about 4 days… until then….

Most wine enthusiasts will be familiar with Alsace Wines. We have explored the area often and become familiar with their main grapes: Riesling; Pinot Gris; Gewürztraminer (of course)… but also Pinot Blanc; Sylvaner; Auxxerois; Muscat and Pinot Noir… Many fewer wine lovers will be as acquainted with Alto Adige, however.

Alto Adige is actually only the northern third of the full Italian region: Trentino-Alto Adige. That itself is the northernmost Italian region, comprising two areas with very different personalities: the Germanic Alto Adige (or Südtirol), which borders and once belonged to Austria, and right below it the more Italian but still very Alpine Trentino. The region’s capital and largest city is Trento, followed closely by the Südtirol provincial capital: Bozen (Bolzano). The breathtaking valley of the Adige River is renowned in the wine world for varietal labeled cool-climate wines, mainly white. It has no DOCGs, eight DOCs and four IGPs.

In fact the full region, Trentino–Alto Adige, is a similar size to Alsace in terms of area under vine and volume of wine production. In 2015, Trentino–Alto Adige produced about 2.5% of Italian Wine (13.7 million cases),  but Alto-Adige has less than a third of the Regions vineyards – mostly small growers unlike large co-operatives and producers further South – and it’s contribution is about 0.7% (3.9 million cases).

The Alto-Adige area is Y-shaped: Valle Iscaro is the right arm,  following the Iscaro river from nearer Austria until it meeets the Adige River near Bolzano. The Adige above Bolzano constitutes the left arm from the Valle Venosta, flowing though Terlano. Below Bolzano, going  due South towards Trento and the “tail” of the Y, fuller versions of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanco Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtraminer are more common.

Terlano focuses more on international varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinots.  Valle Iscaro majors on the Germanic grapes: Riesling; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; and Grüner Veltliner.

Overall white grapes varieties occupy about 60% of Alto Adige’s wine-growing area and are vinified into the best wines. There are 20 varieties common: Pinot Grigio; Gewürtraminer; Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay lead the way, but Sauvignon Blanc; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are also significant in Alto Adige.

So Alto-Adige has many grapes of Germanic origin: Riesling; Gewürztraminer; Sylvaner; Kerner; Müller-Thurgau and Grüner Veltliner. The first three are shared with Alsace too – as are the Pinot Family – so comparison seems attractive.

It may be said that the most obvious comparison: Pinot Gris/Grigio is actually the most complicated. First of all there may be clonal or selectional differences in the grape plantings although they are the same variety. Secondly the “target” style is different: richer complex wines in Alsace and fresher lighter wines in Italy. Finally,  yields are often much higher in Italy resulting in a neutral “quaffing” wine. That’s being generous,  a lot of the Italian version – possibly two thirds – could be called Pinot (e)Gregious, wines that are often thin, inoffensive occupants of the early parts of Restaurant wine lists, where they offer (I would say) characterless wines for people who don’t like wine…

Actually some of the better examples, though of a radically different style, do come from Alto-Adige – and I think the comparison is one we are going to have to try.

So the varieties I have chosen to show in comparison of the two areas end up being the Alsace big three: Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The Alsace wines will act as a style reference to see what we think of Alto Adige versions. I think the next time I approach a tasting focusing on Alsace I’ll make sure basic versions of those three grapes are entirely omitted and concentrate on all the other styles and varieties .

The wines will be in pairs to aid comparison, although it’ll be immediately obvious which is which – not least because the Alsace example will have more age. So only the most similar pair – the Rieslings – will be tasted blind… We’ll see how these – vaguely Germanic – wine areas deal with those grapes.

Notes will follow in 3 or 4 days…

Until then….

On Monday 8th May WING met to taste the Wines of Ampelidæ. Led by John and Ann.

This story starts with the long-time appreciation by several of the group of the Bourgueil wines of Pierre-Jacques Druet from Benais. I first visited the estate in 1995 and regularly, every couple of years until – I think – 2007. Druet’s wines have featured in Nottingham tastings regularly and won some admirers and regular buyers – often en primeur – in the WING group.

Several of us became aware of Ampelidæ about 9 months ago, when we were written to as “fidèles clients des vins de Bourgueil et Chinon de M. PJ Druet…” by the Director of Ampelidæ, Frédéric Brochet.

Ampelidæ had then taken over the equipment and stocks of Druet’s wine business (possibly the vineyards too?) when Pierre-Jacques’ EARL (an agricultural limited responsibility company isolating the wine business assets from the farmer’s personal assets) had become bankrupt. So en primeur Druet wines had transferred (without obligation) to Ampelidæ.

Brochet agreed to honour these en primeur holdings, although not obliged to, providing interested parties also purchased a proportion of Ampelidæ’s own wines. Accordingly several cases of the last Druet wines and some Ampelidæ wines found their way – elaborately and eventually – back to Nottingham. John and Ann decided to show a selection to the group.

Ampelidæ is actually in the Vienne department, about 50 miles South of Bourgueil, and only 15 miles North of Poitiers. The Domaine is the passion of Frédéric Brochet, who became entranced by winemaking at an early age, and in 1995 during the first year of his PhD in “Oenology and Ampelology” started the Domaine based on inherited family vines. His aim is to marry organic and very modern techniques in a little known wine area. To create “contemporary wine … always concerned by the protection of nature and to reach an ideal of purity and intensity.”

Does he pull it off?

Here are my notes:

AMPELIDÆ “Le S” 2014
This is pungent, with toasted nutty elements, this gives way to a gooseberry and redcurrant nose. Very typical and the palate echoes this in a slightly new world intense way… this “faint praise” description is saved by a rather cool clean citric acid line. Correct rather than inspiring IMO.

AMPELIDÆ “Le C” 2014
Citrus and a slightly buttery nose, hints of sweet soft fruits. Palate is very lean, with a saline minerality, melon fruit and a creamy texture growing against a citrus backbone giving good length and some elegant interest.

AMPELIDÆ “PN 1328” 2014
Pinot nose, very fruit driven with herby and mineral accents. Palate is a little thin, sweet fruit but the length is increasingly composed of slightly bitter mineral tones. The least successful wine IMO.

BROCHET CABERNET FRANC “LA FUYE ” 2014
This has very typical green vegetal / pepper nose. Palate has a sweet raspberry edge, good acidity and a green (herby green not youthful green) tint. Slightly grainy supple tannin, quite long and correct and more Champigny than Bourgueil…

AMPELIDÆ “Le K” 2014
This is 75% Cabernet Franc; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Merlot. A smoother nose than the previous wine – darker, black fruit, warmth and a hint of oak. The palate is rich with a quite sharp black fruit that hints in the direction of blackcurrant. The wine is integrated (perhaps helped by breathing) and further advanced than La Fuye, gestures towards an open claret (I had drunk a 2005 Graves [½ CS, ½ M] 2 days before and, although that had layers of complexity that this hadn’t [yet?], the structure and weight were very similar). Quite satisfying.

BROCHET QUARTS-DE-CHAUME 2014
Wow. This has a strong nose of stewed plum and apple, butterscotch caramel notes, mango, a hint of botrytis marmalade. The palate has luscious sweetness but has dashing acidity and immense length – fruit flavours abound in the apricot, apple quince spectrum. Very good but even this speaks of its modernity in being quite forward… Who cares about that – I would go for passion fruit, crème brûlée with this… now!

Overall the wines are all very typical, clean and well made. I found myself thinking many times they were “correct”. Which is praise, in the sense that they were enjoyable, recognisable and faultless – and may certainly be achieving the stated aims of the Domaine. However, the term can carry a slight implicit criticism of lack of character, or in this case not expressing something specific about Vienne wines, and I think that applies in a couple of cases…

I certainly exempt the Quarts from that caveat, by virtue of being better than correct, and – to a less pronounced extent – “Le K”… Other than that I enjoyed the Chardonnay more than the Sauvignon; the La Fuye better than the Pinot. The wines are all around €20 at the cellar door, except for the La Fuye (only €12) and the Quarts (€29)… and strangely enough I’d rate those two exceptions the best value…

Thanks to John and Ann for an extremely interesting tasting.

Until next time…

 

This month’s ICC Wine Tasting will show wines form Uruguay.

Uruguay is a small Wine Country, producing less than a third on one percent of the world’s wine. That still makes it’s production about 30 times that of the UK, about the same as Slovakia & Czech Republic combined, and a bit less than Switzerland.

Main Uruguayan Wine Areas

The country itself is small, the second smallest in South America, and has a mostly maritime climate. It’s soils are clay, loam and limestone – though there is considerable variety as you move away from the coast and up in altitude.

Mostly the wines we see in the UK are Tannat or Tannat blends from Canelones and Maldonado, but that is slowly changing. I even remember sampling a Gewurztraminer some – probably over 10 – years ago.

Wine making has been going on in Uruguay for well over 250 years, but it was the French-Basque immigrant, Don Pascual Harriague who brought Tannat vines to Uruguay in the late 1800’s from France. Tannat proved to be a perfect match for the primarily clay-loam soils and temperate maritime climate of Uruguay, and has been the country’s signature wine ever since.

Tannat is still the most widely grown grape (36%). Other common varieties are Merlot (10%), Chardonnay (7%), Cabernet Sauvignon (6%), Sauvignon Blanc (6%), and Cabernet Franc (4%), but Syrah and Alboriño are new promising developments…

Other than these basic facts I no little of Uruguay wine, and I suspect most readers will be in the same boat. So it’s a pity that I cannot attend the tasting this week – it will be led by the very capable Janine. I look forward to reading – and posting – the notes in a few days.

Until then….

On Monday 3rd April WING met to taste 2013 White Wines from Northern Rhone. Led by Laurie

Northern Rhone Whites is quite an esoteric topic. Only about ½% of all Rhone wine would come in this category. But 2013 is a promising vintage for the whites. The year suffered from a cold spring and early summer starting the season rather late, and even then was quite cool for a long time. Coulure and millerandage reduced yields by about 25% and hail striking some vines caused problems too. The ripening of the grapes was finally produced by a long warm “Indian Summer” through September into October, occurring at a time when the nights are cooler – thereby preserving acidity. Growers were dicing with extracting the last warmth of this period and oncoming rain in mid-October. Those that picked late but before the rain will have good fruit and clean acidity. This avoids the danger for many Rhone whites – North and South – a tendency to become flabby.

We tasted in 3 flights: Viognier/Condrieu; Marsanne/Rousanne blends and pure Marsanne. The wines are in the £19-£37 range, the average around £25! They were all sourced en primeur from The Wine Society – where you may soon find the 2015 versions…

Here are my notes:


CONTOUR DEPONCINS VIOGNIER, DOMAINE VILLARD 2013
Nose is quite quiet at first with peach developing later. The palate has a sharp note that recedes with time and reveals some spice and a slightly bitter note which offsets the growth of fruit. A little clumsy as the initial impression is of (over-aged?) dullness, against a growing peach fruit line indicating under-ageing if anything, a combination (diminishing dullness) that makes me wonder about lack of air (reduction!?)…. A bit off-centre!

CONDRIEU, DOMAINE PICHON 2013
A much more classic Viognier nose, with soft fruit – peach more than apricot – tinged by a green inflection – indeed maybe greengage. The palate has a clean refreshing acid line that lasts through warm fruit to  a creamy finish. Pretty typical, pretty good!

CROZES-HERMITAGE MULE BLANCHE, PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ 2013
This is 50:50 Marsanne/Rousanne, The nose starts slowly but opens to show floral hints, herbs and wood. Palate has a very clean acidity with a green-tinged fruit line. Quite long, refreshing and opening at the finish. A little “international”, but good.

SAINT-PÉRAY LES BIALÈRES, VINS DE VIENNE 2013
This is a darker wine: Marsanne with 20% Rousanne, and a heavier nose: nut oil and slightly apple hints. Oily nuttiness follows on the palate too with a slightly bitter olive tone. This seemed rather the opposite of the previous wine – rather off-fruit development and initially seemed inferior. With time, however, it seemed to gain interest and appeal…

SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC LES ROYES, DOMAINE COURBIS 2013
This is aged for 16 months in mostly new oak and it shows. Furniture polish hints at first, oaky vanilla, herbs and a bit old-fashioned White Rioja stylistically. Palate foregrounds citrus, vanilla and herbs which take us to … a reappearance of the furniture polish…

HERMITAGE BLANC LES MIAUX, FERRATON 2013
Initially quiet nose that opens to show hints of honey and slightly over-ripe soft fruit. Palate is smooth, with understated but clear acidity underpinning a warming floral honey-line, just a hint of soft fruit appearing later. The acid frame becomes even a bit lime and lasts for a long time. Probably the only wine to give an impression of needing more time – maybe a couple of years. Classy and promising.

I thought the wines showed well, and at least gestured at the balancing, required in these types of wine, between depth and freshness. The balance was best brought off – in my view – by the Condrieu (to drink now) and the Hermitage (very satisfying, and with some promise)….

Until next time…

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