Archives for category: Wine

While the UK Government could not decide if the whole nation was to shoot itself in the head – or merely the stomach, Corkmaster and Kimberley Kabinett took themselves off to a civilised country for the duration – although of course it might not be the duration.. or it might… or not…. FFS!

A group of 9 of the people remaining (no pun intended) attended a Sock Party graciously held by Ann and John. This was rather “off piste” with the white wines following the reds and by all accounts an enjoyable and rather rowdy party. Ann reports: “I for one found it refreshing to move on to whites after food including a palate cleansing lemon sorbet, though it wasn’t a great test as we only had 2 whites and then a bonus dessert wine. Can’t say the hangover was any less, though hopefully the reds got more thoughtful consideration than they usually do?!”

Ann also generously supplied the following notes, and photos from John:


ABEL CHARLOT BRUT NV CHAMPAGNE (Welcome Wine)
50% Chardonnay, 25% e@ Pinot.  There is some reserve wine blended in for extra richness. Found to be punching above its current price. A good mousse, light lemon flavour with  some butteriness and pleasing length which was satisfyingly dry.

VARVAGLIONE,  “12 e mezzo” ORGANIC PRIMITIVO , IGT PUGLIA 2015  (Mike)
Bramble fruit and violets on the nose, powerful but smooth.

PAMUKKALE SARAPEILIK , ANFORA TRIO, AEGEAN REGION, TURKEY 2016   (Yvonne)
Blend of indigenous Turkish grape 40% Kalecik Karasi with 40% Shiraz and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
Honey on the nose, dark cherry coffee low tannin unoaked.

CHÂTEAU LA POINTE, POMEROL, 2013, BORDEAUX, FRANCE  (John)
From wine society en primeur.  Plum and earthiness on the palate with a lovely complexity and length  Merlot 85% Cabernet Franc 15%

CONO SUR,  20 BARRELS LIMITED EDITION PINOT NOIR- 2016. FROM EL TRIANGULO ESTATE,  CASABLANCA VALLEY, CHILE.    (Sue Mc)
Not a typical pinot, had some of the cherry and strawberry but complexity with leather and tobacco. 20 best barrels from the harvest bottled on their own.

CHÂTEAU PRADEAUX BANDOL ROUGE, 2006   (Rob)
95%+ Mourvedre from old vines. Lovely dense  flavour of macerated plums and blackcurrants, ripe tannins.


VENUS  LA UNIVERSAL, DIDO , MONSANT 2015   (Yuan)
Grenache as majority, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah Purchased from cellar door on a weekend in Catalunya, Thanks Yuan. Montsant surrounds Priorat “like a bangle on a wrist” Delicious fruitiness with length.
Per Decanter A blend of Garnatxa with Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, organically grown on decomposed granites near Falset.  The appeal is less primary and less fleshy than for many of its Montsant peers: calm, fine-drawn plant and stony earth scents with an elegant, layered style, though open-textured and accessible.   91

MASTROBERANDINO, LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO ROSSO  2015    (Mark)

100% Piedirosso from Campania, on the slopes of Vesuvius the “tears of Christ on Vesuvius” Jesus’ tears dropping at the foot of Vesuvius  ultimately sparked the miraculous growth of the vines. Piedirosso is the second most planted red after Aglianico. Floral spicy and powerful.

FALERNIA ELKI, PEDRO XIMINEZ 2017, ELQUI VALLEY, CHILE  (Sue T)
2016 vintage given 90 points and Highly Recommended by Decanter  as festive buy.

ONDA NOVA VIOGNIER, 2014, ALGARVE, PORTUGAL    (Ann)
This was purchased following a tasting at this estate owned by Cliff Richard which happened  to be very near our villa. This was surprisingly rich with a taste of peach but sufficiently dry to not be cloying,

DOMAINE  HAAG, GEWURTZTRAMINER GRAND CRU ZINNKOEPFLE, VENDAGES TARDIVES 2008, ALSACE   (Bonus Dessert wine, John)
This was a medium sweet wine not cloying and went quite well with our lemon tart.
Fun story to this one- we were at Carcassonne airport and a slightly panicked man approached us with two bottles of this. He’d been gifted these by his landlady but only had luggage booked for his flight home. We offered to take them off his hands and managed to squash them into our case with 4 other bottles already packed in! We did look for him at East Midlands airport but couldn’t see him as we would have offered to return one!

Ann thanks everyone for coming along, “it was a great night” – and I thank her for providing these notes!

À Bientôt

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The ICC group met on Thursday 14 March to taste wines from Spain (but not Rioja). Here are my notes:

spain wine

Mestres, 2011 Visol Gran Reserva Brut Nature. 12%. Gauntley’s, £25.80.
As a Gran Reserva Cava, this wine has spent a minimum of 30 months ageing on its lees and this comes through in its brioche and nutty notes. The mousse is quite subtle, with the bubbles seeming to disappear fairly quickly in the glass but a nice sherbet-like fizz persisting on the palate. Green apple fruit and even a bruised apple quality reminiscent of sherry. A very nice Cava!
Value: 15/20                       Quality: 16/20

Alma Atlántica, 2017 ‘Alba Martin’ Rías Baixas Albariño. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.50
Meaning ‘Atlantic Soul’, Alma Atlántica displays the Atlantic influence with a hint of salinity combined with ripe peach and tropical fruit notes and a touch of fizz. Fresh and clean with juicy acidity and a long mineral finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 16/20

Santiago Ruiz, 2017 ‘O Rosal’ Rías Baixas. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.50
This wine from the Rías Baixas sub-zone, O Rosal, is a blend of native grapes. Albariño plays a central role in the blend but is complemented by the high-quality Loureiro grape which is particularly associated with O Rosal as well as Treixadura and others.  Peach, pear and apple combine on the palate with some floral notes and a touch of spice.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 15/20

Cuatro Pasos, 2016 ‘Black’ Bierzo Mencia. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.90
The Mencia grapes that form this wine come from 80 year-old vines. Living up to its name, this wine is very inky in appearance, disproving the old suggestion that the Mencia grape produces thin, dilute wines. Lots of red fruit, particularly cherry, complemented by vanilla and some spiciness.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 16/20

Finca Villacreces, 2016 Pruno. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.90
This blend of 90% Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino as they call it locally) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ribera Del Duero, has received some rave reviews, including being called ‘the best wine in Spanish history for under $20’ by influential wine critic, Robert Parker. Well, it is pretty good! Black cherry, plum and liquorice combine with subtle oaky spice. Very well balanced with a long, soft finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quallity: 17/20

Cop De Ma Fort, 2014 Priorat. 14%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.80
The name of this wine means ‘lend a hand’ in Catalan and is a nod to both the Catalan tradition of the castellars who climb up on each other’s shoulders to form human pyramids and also to the group of growers who work together to produce the wine. The raised hand on the label represents that of the ‘enxaneta’ at the very top of the human pyramid, raising his or her hand with four fingers extended to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag. This Priorat red is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Carignan (known locally as Samsó) and 20% Syrah. Blackberry and red cherry combine with pencil lead to create a smooth wine with an earthy finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 17/20

A very enjoyable evening’s tasting, proving that Spain has a lot to offer beyond Rioja!

See you soon,
Brigitte. x

Spain has more land under vine than any other country in the world. In terms of the volume of wine produced, most years it comes in third after France and Italy (or Italy and France). The Tempranillo grape is now the country’s most widely planted, having recently overtaken the white grape Airén which is planted at low densities and covers more vineyard area than any other white wine variety in the world.

Just as Spain’s different regions have their own very distinct identities, so do the country’s different wines. From effervescent Cava to complex and diverse Sherry; from the dry, aromatic whites of Galicia to the intense reds of Priorat, there’s something for everyone!

spainish-map-qs-2012-watermark1

Spain’s wine industry has greatly modernised over the last thirty years with the latest technologies arriving in most regions. Spain’s accession to the EU in 1986 led to increased investment in its wine industry and the introduction of irrigation ten years later also brought great benefits, especially in the drought-prone south.

The climate in Spain’s main wine producing regions varies greatly, from a maritime climate with the Atlantic influence in the North-West, to a very continental climate in the centre and a Mediterranean climate along the Eastern coast. Altitude is another factor that affects Spain’s vineyards and their growing conditions. Mountain ranges known as cordilleras divide the country and Spain’s centre is dominated by the plateau knows as the Meseta which ranges in altitude from about 600 to 1000 metres.

It is claimed that Spain is home to over 600 different vine varieties although its vineyards are generally dominated by only a fraction of these. Tempranillo, which has seen a major increase in plantings in the last fifteen years, is now the country’s most commonly planted grape variety; depending on where it is grown, it is referred to by a few different aliases including Tinto Fino and Cencibel. Bobal is the next most widely planted red, followed by Garnacha (Grenache) and Monastrell (Mourvedre). Cabernet Sauvignon is the most important international variety.

Airén, the drought resistant white variety that is planted at low density, is still Spain’s most widely planted white grape, accounting for over a quarter of Spanish vineyard area. Also important for their role in Sherry production are the white grapes, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez. Macabeo, which also goes by the name Viura, is common in Rioja and Catalonia and together with the grapes Parallada and Xarel-lo, is also used to produce Cava.

Other white grapes that are contributing to the recent success of Galician wines in particular are, most notably, Albariño and also Loureira, Treixadura and Godello. The red Mencia grape is also producing some good wines in Galicia and Castilla y León.

In terms of quality wine, the majority comes from the northern part of the country, above Madrid. From Galicia in the North-west through to Catalonia in the North-east, this northern band of Spain includes major appellations such as Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat as well as Rioja. We’ll be tasting wines from the first four of these on Thursday evening.

torres_priorat

Only two appellations, Rioja and Priorat have the highest classification for Spanish wines, DOC (or DOQ in Catalan) which stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada. The term Calificada translates as ‘qualified’ or ‘guaranteed’ and implies wine of consistently guaranteed high quality.

Below this is a much larger classification, DO (Denominación de Origen) which includes over 70 appellations. This classification indicates the geographical origin and the style of a wine. To gain the DO title, wines must conform to various rules concerning their production. Each DO has a Consejo Regulador, which controls and enforces its rules and regulations regarding permitted grape varieties, maximum yields, length of ageing and so on. The Consejo Regulador also assesses the wines in order to discern whether or not they deserve the DO or DOC classification.

Wines that don’t qualify for DO or DOC status are known as ‘Vino de la Tierra’ (Wine of the Land’) or more recently, by the European classification IGP. Below this was ‘Vino de Mesa’ (Table Wine), the most basic classification, now more commonly referred to as Wine Without Geographical Indication. Another classification is Vino de Pago, a special category granted to a small number of single estate wines of exceptional quality.

Other terms that you may see on Spanish wine labels refer to the length of time the wine has been aged in barrel and bottle. The terms ‘Crianza’, ‘Reserva’ and ‘Gran Reserva’ all indicate the length of time the wine has spent ageing, with Gran Reserva requiring the longest period. The exact length of time that these terms represent in barrel and bottle differ for Rioja, Ribera del Duero and the rest of Spain.

So, on Thursday evening we will be exploring Spain, beyond Rioja and hopefully discovering that the rest of the country has much to offer in terms of diverse, quality-driven wines.

See you then,

Brigitte. x

The Tutored Tasting group met on Monday 4th of March for a tasting of different Rieslings. I tried to select what I thought would be an interesting range of different expressions of the grape, from Old World and New and from dry to sweet. One thing that was missing was an example with more than five years’ of ageing, which was perhaps a shame.

Here are some notes on the six wines, partly mine, but mostly Laurie’s with Laurie’s accompanying scoring:

bdr

  1. Tinpot Hut, Barker Vineyard Riesling, 2018 – 11% – Brigitte Bordeaux, £17.90

This wine comes from the Marlborough producer, Tinpot Hut. Cool peachy notes but a hint of green acidity reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc; a soda prickle too. Palate is mouth puckeringly sharp with a warm lime acidity and a slightly redcurrant and tropical fruit Sauvignon Blanc hint again – a slightly herby tinge and a hint of sweetness but maybe needs a bit more time in the bottle for all of its elements to become more integrated. Not a typical Riesling, but an interesting Marlborough take on the grape.
13 points

  1. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Eroica, Columbia Valley Riesling, 2016 – 12% – Brigitte, £23.80

This wine, the result of collaboration between Washington state’s founding winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr Loosen, is credited with leading a Riesling renaissance in the USA. This wine is more obviously Riesling on the nose than the previous wine with aromas of confectionery fruit and the palate too is rather sweet with a candied citrus peel quality, some lime and saline minerality.
13.5 points

  1. Dandelion Vineyards, Enchanted Garden of the Eden Valley Riesling, 2016 – 11% – Brigitte Bordeaux, £14.50

A New World Riesling from Eden Valley, an area that along with Clare Valley, has become the Australian home for this grape. Not uncommon in Eden and Clare Valley Riesling, there is fairly pronounced diesel on the nose. and lime on the palate. The palate is very drying, limey and rather hard with a chalky minerality and a bitter pithy quality. Maybe not yet focused – or maybe grapes picked a little early..
13 points

  1. Trimbach, Riesling 2016

This Riesling is from Alsace and the Trimbach family, whose wine-making history dates back to 1626. The nose is very quiet to begin with but opens to hint at floral, citrus and peachy notes. The palate has a citrus line that supports a vaguely peach fruit – seems a bit young and opens with time as a well-balanced and mouth-watering example.
15 points

  1. Weingut Tesch, Queen of Whites, 2016

This Riesling is from the Nahe region of Germany. The nose is rather soda-ish again and palate has a slightly fizzy quality. Off-dry with flavours of green apple and some peach and honey on the palate. Mouth-watering acidity but quite short on the finish.
13.5 points

  1. Paulinshof, Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese, 2014.

This final wine is from arguably the most highly regarded Riesling producing region in the world, the Mosel in Germany. Hints of soon-to-be-diesel, elderflower and citrus. The palate is sweet (4 x as much sugar as any other) against which a citric warm acidity, white-peach fruit and a counterpointing slatey minerality weave an alluring pattern. As often with Mosel wines, the higher sweetness seems to liberate the complexity in the acidity, fruit, mineral.
16 points

Outright favourite of the night was the Paulinshof Spätlese. In second place, the Trimbach.

I also have the Paulinshof ‘Urstuck Riesling Trocken’ in the shop but in the interests of diversity, it didn’t make it to the tasting – perhaps it should have done as an interesting comparison… One to look forward to trying another time!

Thanks all for coming. See you again soon,

Kathryn. x

 

 

A small but very discerning group made their way to darkest Burton Joyce to partake of Yvonne’s hospitality and sample wines, as is our custom.

Here are my notes:


CHAMPAGNE NICOLAS FEUILLATTE VINTAGE BRUT 2000  Welcome Wine
Nicolas Feuillatte is actually a co-op at Chouilly in the Côte des Blancs vineyards. This has a slightly oxidised note and slightly darkened hue, but underneath the sherry hints are some signs of ripe peach. The oxidation seems to have, more than anything else, taken out the acidity which is limited and warm feeling, but leaves a very sweet soft fruit and a short but creamy mousse.

“WHITE ON GREY” MOSHOFILERO 2017 (Mitravelas)          Yvonne   
Slightly peach-tinged citric nose, quite creamy too but with a brackish element. Palate is similar, with a creamy texture, a saline mineral prickle and a vaguely Alsacienne profile: richness and a slightly spicy, smokey hint… Good

SANTENAY BLANC “SAINT-JEAN” 2013 (MARK HAISMA)      Laurie
The wine has 12 months in old oak with fruit from a named parcel just above (north) of Le Haut Village in Santenay (see June 14th 2015 post for an earlier note). Quite an aromatic nose – richer than earlier with a ripe white peach note and some citrus. The palate has a warm minerality and long acidic – grapefruit? – backbone, but a substantial, rich, soft stone-fruit succulence that makes a satisfying, well balanced, and probably at-peak wine. Rather good!

VAU JAUMIER 2015, ST. NICOLAS DE BOURGUEIL (Domaine de la Cotelleraie)           Kim  
I’ve followed this wine for 3 or 4 vintages now, and it’s my favourite SNdB. Quite sharp when young, this now has a herby nose with a bay leaf element, and red fruit with an earthy under-note… very Cabernet Franc. Palate is rich with a lovely supple red-fruit acid, raspberry or redcurrant and a hint of spice at the finish. Still young but much more developed than a year ago and already deeper and more complex than the (pretty good) 2014. Excellent!

“ORFEO” 2010 (Prieure La Chaume – Vix, Vendée)          John  
This is from the Vendée, where the AOC/AOP is Fiefs Vendéens. The department is part of the Loire although the wine areas are 70 miles South or South-West of Muscadet and Anjou respectively. This is 60% Merlot (+35% Cab. Sauvignon & 5% Negrette) which I think is the reason it is an IGP. Nose has very ripe dark fruit – slightly pruney dried fruit character with a cherry spirit hint, all rather Italian-ish! The palate too is rich and earthy with a fruit acid line echoing the nose and some non-fruit leathery hints… I’d guess at Ripasso, certainly not a Loire Merlot!? … but a luscious wine nevertheless!

HERDADE DOS GROUS 2016           Ann
This wine, from Alentejo, is (apparently): Aragonez (35%); Alicante Bouschet (30%); Touriga Nacional (20%) and Syrah (15%) – fermented in lagares and aged in new French oak barriques. One can detect the oak on the nose as both a woody and a creamy hint underneath red and plum fruit. The palate has firmer oak frame and some spicy  tinges under a slightly earthy plum, prune tannic shape.

“MARQUES CASA CONCHA” SYRAH 2016 (Concha y Toro)         Rob
Quite classic Syrah notes: blackberry, salt and a hint of wood. The palate has a sweet fruit line – more blueberry than blackberry and the slightly spicy tannins close with the oak to form a drying, food-needing finish… which is exactly what we gave it!

A very enjoyable (and wonderfully well-paced with a smaller number) evening of company, wine and food. Thanks for your hospitality Yvonne.

Finally, although she’s much to modest to tell you herself, Kathryn, long time stalwart and now co-leader of the WING group, is featured in the latest Wine Merchant magazine – on the front page and on pp 20-21. If you’re Nottingham-based worth trying the shop / bar “Brigitte Bordeaux”.

À Bientôt

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

Actually, there is no recognised area, or group of countries, classified as the “Eastern Mediterranean” from a Wine perspective. So before planning this tasting I have had to make a decision as to which areas to include. As the tasting theme was actually entitled “Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean” I have had the central focus defined… but what else to include?

First I decided to limit how far West, and North, the term “Eastern Mediterranean” might extend – and as we had a tasting from the neighbouring Balkans earlier I decided on this map:


This basically draws the Western boundary as the Aegean Islands of Greece, but not the mainland or anywhere further West. In wine terms this probably limits us to: Lebanon; Israel; Turkey; Cyprus plus the Aegean Islands (and Crete) from Greece.

Until recently Turkey produced more wine than all the rest of these area put together – nearly 80 million bottles a year… However recent events have halved the amount produced and export has become less significant. I decided to leave aside Turkey and concentrate on Lebanon, backed up by Cyprus, Israel and Santorini.

The Lebanon has become a very fashionable country for wine in recent years. This growth in appreciation largely driven by the massive acclaim for the legendary Chateau Musar, made by the equally famous Gaston Hochar. When I started formally studying wine in the early 1990s there were only 7 wineries in the country, and Musar was the only Lebanese wine one encountered, gaining attention for it’s quality as well as its unique origin. I attended a vertical Musar tasting in 2000, the variation and interest was captivating, although the wines were then around the £10 mark… they are reaching close to £30 now!


Although the Lebanon is steeped in history (records show wine growing there in the Phoenician period and for 2,000 years before), production dwindled to nothing for over 1,200 years until modern wine-making was revived under French, English and Jesuit influence in the 19th Century. Modern Lebanon now has around 50 wineries and produces about 9m bottles. Over 80% is red and the main grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Syrah which alone count for 50% of all the wine, Most other grapes are also French with Carignan leading the also-rans. There are a few indigenous white varieties like Obaideh and Merwah: the ingredients of Chateau Musar’s white! Over half the wines are from grapes grown in the Bekaa Valley where altitude is over 1,000 metres – although the wineries are rather more widespread.

Israel has a similar history of newly revived wine production, and again most of the planting is what we might call French/International – with emphasis on Bordeaux grapes and Syrah. These account for about two thirds of Israeli wine which now amount to about 30m-40m bottles. There is a wider spread of grapes than in the Lebanon and more whites: as you might expect Chardonnay leads the way with Sauvignon Blanc prominent – although Viognier, Semillon and even Gewurztraminer can be found!


While both Israel and Lebanon look to altitude to temper the excessive heat of the general climate our other two sources use maritime influence in addition. While the mainland countries are reviving long dormant old viniculture with French grapes, Cyprus and Santorini are continuing old styles with indigenous grapes.

Cyprus produces about 17 m bottles – so in between Israel and Lebanon. There are many grapes planted, but only 5 take up more than 5% of vines: Xynisteri  (33.3%); Mavro (13.6%); Carignan (7.5%); Shiraz (6.6%) & Cabernet Sauvignon (5.1%). These first two indigenous grapes therefore make up half the planting and the white Xynisteri is the most typical grape to taste!

Santorini is tiny, although its over 4m bottles is a tad more than the whole UK. The island is most famously known for its indigenous white grape varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani. Whites bearing the Island name must be 75% Assyrtiko, and unsurprisingly it accounts for about 80% of plantings. Only fair – therefore – we taste one of those wines…

So is there a distinctive Eastern Mediterranean style? – we shall see, although I’d be surprised. Distinctive Island wines based on old white grapes to suit a fish cuisine on one hand and International red grapes grown at altitude on the other. And are even the two mainland countries – with similar grapes – producing similar styles?

Notes should be with you within the week.

À Bientôt

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