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…

Anna and Paul hosted a WING Sock Party on Friday March 31st. I was pleased to see the group again after a sojourn in the Loire, and enjoyed the company, the wines and the food immensely…

Here are my notes:


TOKAJI DOUX SPARKLING WINE (Keurus)       Welcome Wine
Slightly appley, gluey nose. Quite sweet, slightly barley sugar elements on the palate with a little sherbet sharpness lifting the palate. An oddity that makes one think of Muscato a bit – but more depth and warmth. It would be good with a spicy dish or a dried fruit pudding.

CALEIDOSCOPIO 2014         Ann
This has a quiet nose, melon and a hint of peach. Palate has some soft fruit and a slightly citrus acidity holding up the finish. It turns out to be Pinot Grigio (60%) blended with Fiano and Alboriño! Apart from wondering “why these 3 grapes together?”, the last grape, especially, gives this light summer guzzler much more character than most PG.

“NOBLE DRAGON” CHINESE RIESLING 2015 (Changyu)           Sue
Slightly oily nose, with peach and confectionery pear, and later a slightly floral hint. Palate has tropical fruit, a slightly sweet hint and later back to oiliness again. If one had to think of a similar expression of Riesling from a more common source,  I would be looking at California I think….

POUILLY FUMÉ 2013 (Henri Bourgeois)       Anna
Grassy and nettley nose, with growing fruit leaf herbiness…. Clearly Sauvignon Blanc but no gooseberry or asparagus (thankfully?). Palate reflects the nose with warm acidity, more nettles and a smokey hint (that typifies the appellation name) and a long dry finish. Lovely and at perfect maturity…

“PATO FRIO” ANTÃO VAZ 2015             Kim
Nose is actually grapey with some dried fruit hints that lead to apricot. Palate has sweet peach, tending to the tropical, fruit followed by a finish that gains in warmth and bitter minerality, prolonging and varying  the enjoyment. Good!


RIBERA SACRA (Guímaro) 2015      Yvonne
This starts with a very – to me – Cabernet Franc: stalky, raspberry, nose – but turns out to be Mencía. Palate is drying at first but has a spicy twist and a supple finish. Good!

GAMAY NOIR (TE MATA) 2016        Mike 
Another light-ish wine with some similar notes to the previous wine. The palate has some sweetness with the herby extension lifting the finish, making the wine satisfying rather than fading out…

GRAND PRÉBOIS VACQUERAS (Famille Perrin) 2012             Laurie
Plummy nose with hints of spice. Palate has a sweet grainy-ness softening the tannins and spice warming the fruit – plums and prunes – as the wine lingers and opens…

BAROLO (Patrizi) 2012      John
The nose is lovely: sweetish plum fruit and a hint of floral – iris? Palate has blueberry and plum fruit, a grainy line that only reveals as tannin near the finish and some lifting acidity. A well balanced wine that is (very) surprisingly light for a Barolo of this age… I’d have to say untypical for that reason, but very enjoyable…

ODE D’AYDIE MADIRAN 2008        Paul 
An aromatic nose, with floral and herbal components. Palate has cedar, blackcurrant, spice, alcohol, richness and some rather firm tannins. The finish is long with warm spice, wood, and food-directing acidity. A lovely example at good maturity. Very enjoyable, and probably my favourite, although the choice of the last wine as favourite always allows for the suspicion of diminished objectivity… but who cares?

Thanks to Paul and Anna for a very lovely evening and in particular their two perfectly mature wines – which I thought were the twin peaks in a very high range…

This is in… Vacqueras!

Finally, the Vacqueras Grand Prébois 2012, would have been the prize for guessing the Appellation of the vineyard pictured above in the quiz from the 8th March Post. The grapes are clearly red (and in fact Grenache) if you look closely, bottom right of the picture. The vineyard is located just above, East, of the village of Vacqueras. No-one guessed correctly, so that wine came to the Sock Club instead…. There may be a similar quiz in the future?

Until next time…

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

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

KILIKANOON MORT’S BLOCK RIESLING 2014 CLARE VALLEY              EWGA  £16.50
From the centre of the Clare Valley, about 15 km South of Clare itself… The vineyard is 400m asl and has light brown earth over limestone. This had some petrol on the nose; lime; good acidity; good value.

SKILLOGALEE TREVARRICK RIESLING 2012 CLARE VALLEY         Great Western Wine £25.50
This is from 7 or 8 km further North and a little higher (480m asl) than the previous wine. Lots going on; lime and floral notes; some petrol on the nose; develops and changes in the glass; orange notes come in later. The favourite wine of quite a few people…

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


LOU MIRANDA ESTATE LEONE SHIRAZ 2013 BAROSSA VALLEY                    EWGA £15.25
Barrel matured in medium toasted American oak using 15% new barrels in the blend
The preferred Shiraz of just under half of the group. Some interesting complexity; quite a lot going on in terms of flavour. Some found a bitterness on the end palate. More tannic than the Gnarly Dudes.

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

BERTON VINEYARD RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 COONAWARRA    Wineman £13
This wine was voted Best [96 points – Outstanding] “New World Cabernet under £40″ in a Decanter tasting last month! This is aged in equal parts of 1-, 2- and 3- year old French Oak barrels. According to Alistair Cooper MW it shows: “blackberries and liquorice… which flow onto a mineral drenched palate with wonderful salinity, mouthwatering acidity and fine-grained tannins. Cool, elegant and effortless”.
A very nice wine. Lots going on in terms of flavour. Cassis, sage, liquorice. Good complexity, good finish. Very good value.  The favourite wine of about a third of the group!

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

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

Until soon…

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

First, though, the basics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll post notes in about a week.

Until then…

 

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

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

YEALANDS ESTATE WINEMAKER’S RESERVE GIBBSTONE VALLEY 2014 (Otago)
Very purple, mainly strong cherry fruit nose with hard-ish hints of spice and herb. Palate is rather sweet with cherry and plummy fruit, some oak and a salty, slightly bitter, minerality and a warm finish. Dense and enjoyable, but with jammy fruit and mineral acid not fully integrated and a bit simple.

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

Paul surveys the remains of an intriguing tasting!

CARRICK BANNOCKBURN ESTATE 2013 (Otago)
Farmyard pungency and loganberry fruit nose. Palate is more complicated with a dry structure, grainy tannins and a savoury mineral acid frame, with, slightly simple but contained loganberry fruit. Quite enjoyable and more what I might expect from NZ.

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

Finally the most expensive flight:

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

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

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

Thanks so much Paul and Anna

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

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

Where is this?

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

Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

Part of Corkmaster's Main Cellar in Nottingham

Part of Corkmaster’s Main Cellar in Nottingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to…..

The Joys of the Cellar #4

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

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

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

Of now for another rummage….

Until Soon…

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