While I was away – tasting in action, in the Loire, nearly 3 weeks ago John and Ann presented the W1NG group with a tasting of six 2013 wines from Bordeaux – one each from 6 well-known appellations: Haut-Médoc; Pauillac; Margaux; Graves; Saint Emilion and Pomerol.

I have had the notes from John for a while but didn’t want to post them when they would be immediately over-taken by the the Balkan scene-setting post. So now there will be a window for 3 or 4 days – here they are:

The wine had been purchased from the Wine Society Bordeaux 2013 en primeur offer and one of the aims of the evening was to try and see how easy it might be to work out not only which were left bank/right bank but also to see if we could work out the appellation itself? This was always likely to be challenging especially as some of the wines were not necessarily typical. 2013 was also a difficult vintage with very problematic weather conditions and a particularly small harvest. Wine for early drinking rather than cellaring, the Wine Society suggested. The Wine Society had also commented that it was producers, rather than communes, that succeeded or failed to make good wine in this vintage and that the en primeur offer recommended those that stood out as the best within the class. A test of the Wine Society as well possibly?

The wines were served blind, the first two together and the last two together. A very basic “crib sheet” was provided which attempted to highlight the differing aromas and flavours that we might expect to find in wines from the different communes and the different grapes. Once each wine, or pair of wines was tasted, the group shared their thoughts and suggested which region the wines might be from. Only following that, was the bottle unveiled. Some of the tasting notes below come from notes made on the night (largely illegible), some from the producer’s notes and some from other available notes.

Clos Floridène, Graves – Cabernet  Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 35%. £15.00.
This was actually on limestone soil rather than gravel based soil as might have been expected. The estate is quite far south in Graves, close to the border with Sauternes. Some blackcurrant and strawberry aromas, mint, liquorice and smokiness. Quite chunky. Not bad for the price. The majority thought this had more characteristics of the right bank.

Château Beaumont, Haut-Medoc – Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 43%, Petit Verdot 2%. £14.30
This was from the Haut-Medoc region in the area to the north of Margaux but south of Saint Julien in reasonably gravelly soils. Some cassis and damson fruit. A little thin on the palate with some bitterness and quite typical of a difficult vintage. Probably the group’s least favourite. The group was split as to whether this was left or right bank.

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, Saint Emilion  – Merlot 75%, Cabernet Franc 24% Cabernet Sauvignon 1%. £21
This estate is actually very close to the border between Saint Emilion and Pomerol and is on a mix of clay and sandstone soils. Quite a fresh palate. Some cassis and liquorice and pencil lead. Quite firm but fine tannins. The group mainly thought this was left bank (Pauillac possibly) and only one person correctly identified this as the Saint Emilion. Well done Mike!

Château Gran-Puy-Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, Pauillac –   Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 20%, Cabernet Franc 5%. £19.30.
This is probably the best known Chateau and is the only producer in the tasting that was included in the 1855 classification (as a 5th growth). We were drinking the estate’s second wine which comes from “a magnificent gravel terroir”. Aromas of red fruits which became more complex when left in the glass for 20 minutes. Quite elegant. Some spice and toastiness on the palate. Soft and round. Generally felt to be a step up on the previous wines. The group were torn between whether this was a Pomerol or a Pauillac but, after consultation of the “crib sheet”, Pauillac won through.

Château Angludet, Margaux – Cabernet Sauvignon 56%,  Merlot 32%, Petit Verdot 12%. £30.
This is from the heart of Margaux and is surrounded by Cru Classé properties. The soil is a mix of gravel and medium sized pebbles with some sand. This had some aromas of both black and red fruits with a little spice. Good structure and smooth tannins. Possibly being drunk a little young but seemed to be opening up and going up a level just as we finished it! The group drunk this together with the Pomerol and we pretty much unanimously agreed that it was the Pomerol.

Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol – Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%. £28.50.
This estate is situated on the slope of the Pomerol plateau. Upper slopes are pure clay, becoming more sandy moving down the slope, and becoming quite gravelly on the lower portions. Some toasted oak on the nose followed quickly by ripe fruit. Juicy with firm tannins and maybe some chocolate and nuts in there. As mentioned above, after much debate (and much wine) we tended towards this being a Margaux.

It is not immediately obvious what we can draw out of this tasting other than it is far easier guessing the provenance of a bottle when one isn’t doing it blind! The fact that it was far from a great vintage certainly did not help. Different producers within a commune can of course produce very different wines, so trying to guess a region from what may have been atypical producers, was never going to prove to be easy, and so it turned out! We tended to feel that we would have been comfortable picking the wines as Bordeaux, but picking left bank against right bank was more difficult than we had imagined it might be, and getting any further than that, on the wines tasted at least, was pretty much impossible.

Hopefully an interesting tasting nonetheless!

Corkmaster adds: “I’m sure this tasting was more revealing than John (modestly) claims. I’m not that surprised that the “Corbin” seemed firmer than expected (the same can be said of other famous Corbyns – perhaps?); or the D’Angludet seemed young (they invariably take time); or the Puy-Lacoste showed well… Though I’m not sure I would have slotted any into the correct appellations, it’s a pity I couldn’t be there…”


À Bientôt


The Balkans, or Balkan peninsula, consists of a number of countries in south-eastern Europe. It is variously defined but is generally said to include the countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, and parts of Greece and Turkey.

For the purposes of our tasting on Thursday evening, it also includes Moldova (mainly because I thought it was a Balkan state when I was sourcing the wine). In fact, I’ve learnt a lot about the countries and geography of south-eastern Europe in my preparation for this tasting, including about the (currently very topical) dispute over the name ‘Macedonia’. Anyway, I won’t go into this now; maybe we can discuss it over our (Greek) Macedonian wine on Thursday evening!


So, on Thursday night we’ll be trying a couple of Croatian wines as well as one wine each from Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and the Northern Greek region of Macedonia. Hence, these are the countries I’ll attempt to give a bit of background on in this blog…

To start with though, a bit of an overview. What do all of these countries have in common? Well, one thing is an extremely long history of wine making, dating back at least 3,000 years in each case. The Croatian island of Hvar lays claim to having the world’s oldest continuously cultivated viticultural site, dating back to the 4th century BC. The beginnings of viticulture in Romania are claimed to date back 4,000 years and there is archaeological evidence that the vine was widely grown in the area now known as Moldova millions of years ago.

Another similarity is the recent improvement in the standard of wine coming out of these countries, as the focus has shifted from producing quantity to a greater focus on quality. In many cases this has come about following the end of the Eastern Bloc and the more recent accession of these countries to the EU, with its funds becoming available to modernise and improve wine making practices.

So, lets look at these wine producing countries individually in a little more detail…


Croatia’s wine industry has seen much success since the country gained independence from the former Yugoslavia. Quite a bit of this success is probably down to the fact that it has become a hugely popular tourist destination with visitors vastly outnumbering residents and creating a big market for the country’s wine.

Croatia lies between 46 and 42° N and has a wide range of climatic influences. There are two very different climates for grape growing in the country: the inland continental climate and coastal Mediterranean climate.

The country grows around 200 different grape varieties, 60 of which are indigenous. Their most widely grown grape is the white Graševina (Welschriesling) which accounts for about 23% of the total vineyard area of Croatia.

On Thursday we will be tasting a red and a white, both from the coastal region of Istria and both varietal wines made from indigenous grape varieties.



In terms of quantity, Romania is the region’s most important wine producer. For a long time it was the fifth largest producer in Europe, but like many other countries in the Balkans, it has more recently sacrificed quantity for a greater focus on quality.

Romania is mountainous and has a climate suited to viticulture. It lies mainly on the same latitude as France but is more continental. Summers are warm but temperatures aren’t often excessive and winter temperatures are moderated by the Black Sea.

The Romanians themselves are big wine drinkers. They import more than they export and statistics show that they were consuming 6.8 gallons per capita in 2012. This figure does not include vast amounts of black-market wine which is sold in markets and at roadsides, and which is estimated to account for about 50% of all wine consumed.

Just under 60% of Romanian wine is white. Traditionally this was made in a semi-dry or semi-sweet style, but there is now more movement towards drier styles. The two white grapes, Fetească Alba and Fetească Regala, are the country’s most planted, followed by Welschriesling. Merlot is the most widely planted red variety followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Fetească Neagră is gaining vineyard area and Romanian Pinot Noir is popular in some export markets. The Romanian wine we’ll be tasting on Thursday is an off-dry white, made from an indigenous variety. But we will be tasting a Fetească Neagră blend from neighbouring Moldova and there will also be a Romanian Pinot Noir up for grabs for the quiz winner at the end of the night!


Moldova shares many similarities with neighbouring Romania, including a good thirst for wine. Domestic consumption of homemade wines is estimated at 10 gallons per capita, with many households owning their own small vineyards and cellars.

It has an ideal climate and landscape for viticulture and has the biggest density of vineyards in the world, covering 3.8 per cent of its territory and 7 per cent of its arable land, according to official statistics. The industry is very important for the country’s economy, accounting for a significant percentage of GDP, exports and agricultural output.

Moldova has hundreds of vineyards that host wine festivals, including the big estates. These estates, such as Cricova, Purcari and Chateau Vartely, are also known for their extensive wine cellars. More like an underground town, the streets of the famous ‘Cricova’ wine cellar, which are named after grape varieties, exceed 100km in combined length.



Bulgaria has a continental climate with temperature extremes in the summer and winter despite its proximity to the Black Sea.

In the early 1980s, Bulgaria was the fourth biggest exporter of bottled wines worldwide, and a lot of it came to Britain. This export success was largely built on its Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bulgarian wine industry went through a slump from the mid-1980s onwards following Gorbachev’s campaign to curb alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union, which involved uprooting large areas of Bulgarian vineyard. This was followed by the end of communism and free market reforms which had further adverse consequences for the industry. It is only recently, with Bulgaria’s entry to the EU and access to EU funding that things are beginning to turn around.

Bulgaria’s officially declared wine production in 2013 was 1.8 million hl, but as with some of its other Balkan neighbours, there is also a significant black market. In 2013, 35% of Bulgarian wine was sold within Bulgaria. Russia is still the leading export market, followed by Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania.

Red varieties account for about 63% of plantings. Whereas Bulgaria was once famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has now overtaken it to become the country’s most planted variety. Mavrud, Melnik, Pamid and Rubin are all local red varieties used to produce wines of varying quality. In addition to some crosses, which Bulgarian researchers have developed, recent plantings also include Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Bulgaria grows an interesting mix of white grapes including lots of varieties indigenous to the Balkan region. The most widely grown white grape is the Bulgarian pink-skinned Misket Cherven, or Red Misket. Chardonnay is the most popular international variety. We’ll be trying an indigenous white varietal from Bulgaria on Thursday.

Macedonia (Northern Greece)

The Macedonia region of Northern Greece is mostly noted for red wine, particularly from the native Xinomavro grape. Macedonia’s vineyards are the coolest in Greece and its three appellations, Naoussa, Amynteon and Goumenissa are considered to be among the country’s best. Macedonia has a continental climate, but also has the moderating effects of altitude and proximity to the sea. It is a mountainous region with elevations of up to 650m. Summer temperatures do not generally reach the extremes associated with Greece and there is sufficient rainfall for successful viticulture. Many of the vines here have reached very old age in the sandy, phylloxera-free soil and produce some of Greece’s most admired wines. We’ll be tasting a single vineyard varietal Xinomavro from Amynteon on Thursday; let’s hope it lives up to expectation.

See you there,

Brigitte. x

Hi everyone. Without me being present there was a Sock Party – kindly hosted by Yvonne  – on Friday September 28th.

I am sure everyone had too good a time, and/or was too busy catching up to supply the Oenological analysis and deathless prose that I normally provide (only kidding), but despite all this Ann has furnished us with a photo and some text about the wines consumed. Those present – or providing the wines – can amplify this with comments if they wish….

Welcome Fizz- Val de Salis, Blanc de Blanc, Pays d’Oc, Lidl
Green apples, sweet, hint of biscuit, more fruit than yeasty.

Sue – Lyarakis Vidiano-Assyrtiko 2017, Crete – Majestic WIGIG
Peachy, good acidity, stone fruit, salinity. Citrus, floral, sweet apple.Lengthy mineral aftertaste. Vidiano is an ancient white wine grape from Crete,Almsot extinct 25 years ago but undergoing revival.

Kathryn – Oliver Zeter Sauvignon Blanc, Pfalz, 2017, Weavers
Grassy, green pepper, some citrus, gooseberry on nose, intense

Ann – Mas Macia Suprem Blanc, Catalunya, 2015,  from French wine people, Matlock
A blend of cava grape Xarel-lo and Garnacha Blanc.Perfumed, florals, stone fruit, saline.

Yuan – Cims de Porrera Vi de Vila Blanc, Priorat,2015 – from winemaker
Garnacha Blanc, Macabeo, Pedro ximinez and Picpoli Blanc grapes

Yvonne – Paul Mas Réserve Languedoc Blanc 2017 – waitrose
Blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Vermentino.

John – Domaine Font de Michelle, Châteauneuf du Pape 2010, Wine Society en primeur
65% Grenache , 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre

Mike – Swartland Limited release Mourvedre 2016, Majestic

Ann “thanks everyone for a fun night and especially to Yvonne for wonderful food and such warm welcome…”

Meanwhile I was in France celebrating my Birthday with duck and a very nice Maranges 2010 (Chevrot)… about halfway through a trip that began in the Loire and took in the Beaujolais, Macon and Chalonnais vineyards in the second week of September. Amazingly, in those places the harvest was under way – and in some cases finished. A week to 10 days early in most cases… even more amazing when you consider how the vines were a similar period behind when the season started in April…

This demonstrates the long hot dry summer after that late start, producing large and problem free crops and the fore-telling of great wine. I wonder, though, if shorter problem-free development is the source of great wine and if the products might be rich, powerful and a bit simple… Who knows, we’ll have to wait for a while yet to see…

À Bientôt

The group met and Anna & Paul’s on Friday 24th August  for an evening of blind Tasting…

Here are my notes:

Subtle nose, with some gluey notes, a frothy mousse and a palate framed by citrus – getting on for grapefruit, some brioche notes and long deep flavour profile. Excellent!

CHABLIS CC “LES PREUSES” 2011 (La Chablisienne)          Laurie  
Rich, slightly oily nose, citric and some softer fruit. The palate has melon fruit, a drying mineral line ending in a slight ginger hint and some subtle signs of oak. Long with a satisfying balance of richness and austerity.

ELARA ALBORIÑO 2017 (Nelson NZ)         Yvonne   
Quite a fruity nose: peach and apricot and a stony twist to stone fruit! Floral hints too. Palate has a very clean profile – freshness, warm acidity and a nutty hint at the finish. A full, but not too rich, Alboriño.

Marzipan, passion fruit, butterscotch – lovely complex nose. Palate is sweet with some warm – almost burning – caramel notes that remind one of butterscotch. This has time to go – but has lovely freshness now – and integration and complexity will ascend for 7 – 10 (?) years. Luscious!

“THE ISLANDER” SANGIOVESE 2014 (Lurton)          Ann
The Island in question here is Kangaroo Island of the coast of S. Australia, 200km SW of Adelaide. Interesting to see Sangiovese grown here, along with Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Semillon – showing Jacques Lurton’s roots! This is slightly herby on first note with plum aromas breaking through… Palate has a slightly burnt, woody note then spice and then plum fruit, some lifting acidity helps freshen the palate…

THYMIOPOULOUS XINOMAVRO 2013 (Naoussa)           Anna
Nose is cherry fruit, going towards plums with some herbal tones. Big, dark, brooding, tannic – but round with very dark fruit. Obviously hot-climate but maybe a little young.

ERIMO SAN QUIRICO 2013 (Ercolino)         John
This is a, rather superior, Aglianico. Starts with a volatile nose and some sweet red fruit – raspberry? – then herby notes. Palate is sweet, with plum / prune / almond Italian-ish features prominent, but secondary elements: leather, spice… seem only a suggestion thus far – thus lacking a little freshness atm… Needs food.

OSADIA  2015 (Mendoza)     Kim  
Nose of stoney plum fruit and some citrus. Palate is sharp, spicy, with warmth, big tannins and growing cherry notes. Big boned and not-quite integrated, this needs food or time – or both!

SAINT EMILION GC 2014 (Lay & Wheeler)       Rob
This had a slightly stalky / greenish tinged nose – herbs and red fruit. The palate has a slightly laurel-leaf quality and overbalances the fruit v tannin equation in favour of the latter, making the wine seem harsh – undoubtedly too young, by several years…

A great evening of wine and lovely food, especially in my opinion, the crab tarts with the Chablis: a match made in…  Kimmeridgian soil?!?!

I – burdened by the call of duty the following morning – left before the final wine, a “DRY SACK” (Williams & Humbert) made by adding a little PX sherry to a 15 year old Oloroso… sounds fantastic – if anyone present wants to contribute a note I’d appreciate it…. (not as much as the wine, obviously!)

I loved the curve of pleasure of the whites and the first red, for me this overshadowed a little the following reds, which were all marked by more-or-less immaturity, making them seem a touch less enjoyable than the preceding wines… but a great evening nonetheless. Thanks to Anna and Paul for their wonderful hospitality…

A couple of days later, thanks to Kim’s organisational genius, more-or-less (4 more and 1 less, actually), the same group visited the nearest vineyard to Nottingham – the Eglantine vineyard near Bunny. You can see more information about them by clicking here . We had tried a wine of theirs a month ago (you can see the note on 30th July post) and decided to visit…

Veronica Skuriat greeted us on a surprisingly wet and windy day and showed us round the vineyard (briefly) and the winery. A fascinating insight into the life of a small winery with small volume manual or semi-manual machinery to get the grapes to be wine in the bottle.

We tried their bubbly – a fresh and lively fizz with floral nose darker fruit and some savoury notes on the palate giving surprising depth and warmth for such a Northern site.

We also tasted the same white we had a month ago, showing similar flavours to then: nutty, floral – stone fruit with a warm citrus acidity.

However the star of the show – literally – is their dessert wine made from frozen Madeliene Angevine grapes –  called NORTH STAR. It’s luscious and an interesting counterpoint to the Sauternes of two nights earlier, showing Passion fruit going into butterscotch and honey burn with a succulent, almost lime acidity and great length and freshness. Lovely – well worth seeking out, and if you’re passing the area the vineyard is well worth a visit. Thanks to Eglantine for their hospitality, and to Kim for organising the trip!

I’m off to France now so there will be little activity on the site for 6 weeks or so. Perhaps someone will post notes of the next Sock Club and Tutored Tasting (I’m thinking of Brigitte Bordeaux!?). I’ll be tasting in Burgundy and Beaujolais, and drinking in the Loire so I may have something to add – otherwise enjoy the harvest season!

À Bientôt

On Monday 6th August Ralph showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group CINSAULT WINES FROM NATTE VALLEIJ.

 Natte Valleij is situated at the foot of the Simonsberg and it is not a new estate, “it’s just been resting for the last 50 years…” Winemaking ceased there in the 50s, and it was bought by the Milner Family in the late 60s

In 2005 wine was made once again and Winemaker Alexander Milner strives to make wine with minimal interference and pretence, merely guiding “beautiful grapes into character full wines” They pride themselves in keeping things traditional: grapes are picked by hand, bottled by hand, corked by hand…

The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective is a culmination of Alexander’s explorations of The Cape Winelands. Seeking out forgotten patches of old dryland bush vine Cinsault that he felt would offered exceptional quality and interest.

The Estate makes about 800 bottles a year each from 4 parcels:

Simonsberg-Paarl – bush vines planted on decomposed* granite in 1993 face North-West in the lee of the Simonsberg Mountain. They are the youngest in the collective.

Darling  –  bush vines that are most isolated block in the collective. Planted on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember, this block stands very alone. Planted in 1978 (they think) on Malmesbury formation with strong influences of decomposed * granite.

Stellenbosch – bush vines planted in 1974, in the shadows of the Heldeberg Mountain are planted in decomposed* granite and face West towards False Bay, making it the oldest block and the closest to the sea.

Swartland  – bush vines planted in 1986 on decomposed* Malmesbury shale. The vineyard is situated on an eastern facing slope, which catches the early morning sun and a beautiful block to be in at sunrise.

*  The group thought, especially in the light of recent discussions,  that the use of “decomposed” for minerals should be viewed as a metaphor for “smashed up” or “eroded” rather than taken literally.


Ralph showed us 2 vintages: 2016 & 2015; from each area.

Here are my notes:

This is pale, translucent with a subtly perfumed nose, red fruit (I though cranberry) and a hint of farmyard. Palate has a lively fresh, almost citrus acidity, cranberry fruit again and refreshing length with just a hint of spice at the finish.

This is darker and has a smoke nose with herby notes reminiscent of Côte Chalonnais reds… Palate is deeper too, darker flavours and more tannin but a bit simpler and less interesting…

This is similar in colour to the previous wine, with pungent, vegetal aromas. It has a creamy texture and rich body with herby plum fruit and some lifting acidity but a little unintegrated and soft.

This has cream notes on the nose with some spirit-tinged fruit (kirsch?). Palate has a brilliant long line of fruit-acidity and a deeper crunchy loganberry fruit. Just delightful, moreish and involving!

Back to a lighter colour, just deeper than wine 1. Fruit nose with some perfume and herbs. Palate is sweet, jammy summer-fruit with some citric acidity – but very “jelly-juice” simple.  Not to my taste at all…

This is darker – almost purple – with spirit nose of plum and cherry. Palate has earthy tannin but sweet fruit again and a warm – spice and alcohol – quality. Big, unsubtle and definitely more Côtes du Rhône than Burgundy in style.

This is very dark. Strong pungent compost nose, more black than red fruit and spirit again. The palate is blackcurrant pastille with a tannic structure and a lot of spice. A little “cooked” IMO, though more successful than the previous wine…

This is even darker again, with  a more dried-fruit nose and an oily hint. Firm tannins and acidity balancing the big, but less blowsy, prune fruit. Longer and fresher than the previous wine – and successful in a more Gigondas style, the best of the 2015s!

These are very interesting wines, each of well-defined character but ranging from light Burgundian to heavier Southern Rhône in general style. The expressiveness of the grape is a revelation – I don’t think I’ve ever before tasted 100% Cinsault, and even majority-grape examples would be outnumbered by the set here. Vintage too was clearly expressed though the tasting – usually the 2016s being lighter and “prettier”. However the Swartland examples were the reverse – at this, the biggest, end of the spectrum the 2015 showed more elegance and better integration – maybe due to the greater maturity. I liked that wine a lot, and the first (Simonsberg-Paarl  2016) for exactly the opposite reason – light, fresh, fruity, succulent and delightful. However, all-in-all my favourite was a lovely wine with real depth and poise – the Darling 2015.

A wonderfully deep enquiry into a quite neglected grape – excellent! Thanks so much Ralph

À Bientôt

A little while ago my good friend Matt sent me a link to an article entitled:

“Now wine lovers need to know about geology – or do they?” 

by Alex Maltman, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at  Aberystwyth University, and author of the book “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: The Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (OUP) . You can see the full article by following this link.

The article (and book?) argues that descriptions of, or claims for, wine that link the taste directly to the geology are misleading. For example: “kinds of assertions… (that wine flavour is determined by the ground in which it grows) (do not) indicate how it is that a particular rock brings something to the wine in your glass, and our present scientific understanding makes it difficult to see how this might happen.”


The blurb for the book claims: Maltman points out many of the geological errors, misconceptions and misunderstandings rife in wine literature and descriptions.


So is geology, soil type and structure important to the final wine or not?


While I would never argue against the idea of scientific precision in using scientific terms, I wonder that Professor Maltman isn’t arguing against a view no-one actually holds – however imprecise their language.

When I describe a wine as “showing the chalk on which it grows” I’m not asserting that it has chalk in it, any more than when I say it “has hints of raspberry” that it actually has raspberries in it. I am referring to a regularly repeated experiences whereby wines taste different from different soils – even when the other main variables are the same (grape, vine age, grower, viticultural practices, vinification, maturation…).

Surely the assertion, which may be true, that there are no discernible flavour compounds transferred from the soil to the finished wine (what we might call “chemical influence”) is compatible with the assertion that the soil structure physically influences the root development, the rate of ripening of the grapes, their rate of uptake of water, the heat retention of the ground, the diurnal temperature variations of the vines…. and thereby the flavours present in the grapes before vinification.

It is also true that aspect and altitude of the vineyard will influence the same things, but that doesn’t diminish the argument about soil types. To experienced on-the-site tasters it seems irrefutable that there is a difference. I have over and over again stood in a vineyard or tasting room when a wine made from grapes frown on mostly clay soil is followed by another from soil with more limestone (with very few other factors varying), and can taste a difference. Okay, that could – in isolated examples – be many things, but when that experience is repeated with different grapes and places: Loire Cabernet Franc; Alsace Riesling; Rioja Tempranillo; Right Bank Bordeaux Merlot… and the more-limestone-based wine regularly tastes fresher, with higher acidity, subtler… then one can be forgiven for saying that wines shows it’s limestone roots…

Tempranillo on Agrilo-Calcaire soil at Campo Viejo

There are similar experiences to be had with Agrilo-Calcaire against granite; sand against gravel etc. etc. etc…

Of course it’s only a way of speaking to say a wine tastes “of” limestone, and not literally true – but such a statement is pointing to a truth. The bit of land a wine’s grapes are grown on makes a difference to its flavour!

I’m still a terroir-ist!

Happy drinking…


On Friday 27th July 2018 a – pretty full – W1NG group met to enjoy the prodigious hospitality of Ann and John and taste rather a lot of wine… blind of course….

Here are my notes:

CRÉMANT DE BORDEAUX BRUT (Aldi)         Welcome Wine
This has a sweet peach fruit nose offset by some apple acidity and a little yeastiness. The palate has warm acidity and a quite short but soft moose, palate has a grapefruit tinge. Made from mostly Semillon and some Cabernet Franc (!) this is medium bodied, quite warm fizz with soft peach hints. Definitely an aperitif style.

 VINHO VERDE TAPADA DE VILLAR  2017 (Quinta das Arcas)          Kim  
This is made with 50% Loureiro, 40% Arinto, 10% Trajadura . Nose is fresh, light apple fruit, a hint of spritz and an elderflower hint. Palate is also light, apple skin and citrus pith sharpness, very nice with summer salad.

This is from Madeleine Angevine and has a pungent vegetal nose with savoury – mushroom or even meaty – hints, fruit appears later. Palate has a grapefruit acidity with a slight bitter orange, even Physalis (Cape Gooseberry) fruit notes. Very evolved and warm wine, not the usual sub-Sauvignon-Blanc package one tastes from English renditions of the grape. Very interesting!

MONTILLA-MORILES “FRESQUITO2017 (Vino Nuevo De Tinaja)           Yvonne
This is made from Pedro Ximénez (PX), and although a white table wine still has pronounced sherry hints, some soda-ish woody qualities and lots of nuts! Similar notes on the palate: nuts and salty flavours with some sweet suppleness underneath. Very unusual and very good.

Lovely fresh Riesling nose, elderflower, peach and a warm sharpness. Palate has a wonderful lively persistent acidity balancing a lip-smacking sweetness. Perfect for a hot weather tasting, more-ish and refreshing, with great depth of flavour in a light package.

“FIDES” GRENACHE BLANC 2015 (Bosman)           Sue T
Pungent nose with green plum skin notes. Very sharp acidity with bitter, slightly green and saline mineral hints. This is skin-macerated for 20 days, a process qualifying it to be “orange wine”,  but the startling acidity, especially for Grenache Blanc, makes me think the hand-harvested grapes must have had high acidity in the first place.

PASSERINA 2017 (Citra)         Ann
This is made (in Abruzzo) from the Passerina  grape, which is more widely planted in Marche. Quite a recessed nose, with some peach and citrus emerging. Palate has warm acidity, medium body and a peach infused, quite long, finish.

So… on to the reds:

This is very Bordeaux-ish. Nose has some dark fruit and cedar hints. Palate is similarly restrained, dark fruit but quite firm and a slightly grainy tannic structure.  None of the gummy or woody notes Barossa sometimes serves up – a balanced, subtle Aus. Cabernet (yes, really!)

VOLNAY 2011 (Monnier)     John
This has a perfumed, almost floral nose with subtle red fruit hints emerging. Palate has supple acidity, a warm tannic hint and soft red fruit, but the velvet-glove of the fruit hides a harder structure. Very good village Volnay.

 BAROLO RISERVA 2004 (Monsparone)       Laurie
I haven’t drunk this for 2 or 3 years and it has definitely rounded out its rather hard, lean shape in that time. Very typical earthy and floral nose (tar and roses?!). Palate is medium weight, firm and quite rich but livened by a dark fruit freshness and long acid line. Combines savoury power and some elegance, would be great with food, I rather fancy rack of lamb!

SAUMUR CHAMPIGNY “HOSPICE DE SAUMUR”  2011 (Clos Cristal)     Paul
Pungent nose – almost damp dishcloth / sweaty socks… but some other flavours – earth, red fruit – appear. Palate has dark bery fruit, maybe loganberry, and an earthy tannic backbone – long and rich for SC, but very pleasurable.

BANDOL 2011 (La Bastide Blanche)       Rob
This is a classic Bandol with 70% Mourvedre; 20% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. It shows a big, pruney and slightly oily nose, with some spice. Palate shows the same things, with herbal hints and a slightly bitter twist too. Full long and enjoyable.

This comes from the Languedoc, near Pezenas, and shows a variety usual encountered in small – almost “seasoning” – quantities in the Medoc. This has a plum and sharper fruit (redcurrant?) nose with some herbal undertones. Palate is round, alcohol-warm, with a big Southern-Rhone profile, but a touch of non-fruit flavours and some length and suppleness….

At this point – “head preservation programme Σ2” kicked in and I took myself home – leaving the hard core to sample:

courtesy of our hosts. Whilst a shame to miss such a wine – and be unable to offer a note – I’m sure the company enjoyed it (maybe they will contribute such a note?) but I was able to achieve some things the next day…

A great evening of wine and lovely food and … well ,,, more wine!! Thanks to Ann and John for their wonderful hospitality…

À Bientôt

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