If you are used to drinking Italian Wine, you probably think most Italian Wine is Red. As a straw poll I asked a (pretty knowledgeable) group of 9 wine enthusiasts to guess how much Italian Wine is White. Guesses clustered around the 30% and 40% mark, and only two put the figure over 50% – the most recent (2016) figure is 54%.

This disparity is accounted for by a number of factors. The most planted white grapes in Italy are the workhorse or blending varieties: Trebbiano Toscana  (Ugni Blanc in France) and Catarratto. These are followed (7th and 8th in the list of total areas planted, with grapes of any colour) by Chardonnay and Glera (Prosecco) used significantly for Sparklers. The highest placed “ordinary” white grape in the list of area planted is  – Pinot Grigio!

So if you ignore all these – and you probably do – that easily wipes out the majority that the white grapes attain (the balance would be something like 56:44 :: red:white), and gives a figure more closely conforming to impression.

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that Italy has some great white wines, and several that are under-rated. So much the better because they usually provide better value.

Here’s a wine map of Italy (produced by Wine Folly) with the important grapes and styles noted for each area. You can pick out white grapes by their yellow bunch icons underneath each Region name.

Wine Folly Exploration Map

After the five white grapes named above the next most important (either through quality or quantity) are the following 15 (in roughly descending order of volume):

Malvasia bianca: A white variety covering  more than 6 sub varieties that occurs throughout Italy.

Moscato: Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in Moscato d’Asti.

Garganega: The main grape variety for Soave, a dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy.

Grillo: Another, rather more interesting, workhorse grape from Sicily.

Vermentino: This is widely planted in Sardinia and also found in Tuscany and Liguria.

Grechetto: The quality grape in better Orvieto.

Cortese: A Piedmont grape which is the base for Gavi, and can produce interesting sweet wines.

Falanghina: A Campania grape from quite a hot area which nevertheless accompanies sea-food well along with two other grapes from the same area – Greco di Tufo and Fiano.

Friulano: A variety also known as Sauvignon Vert or Sauvignonasse, common in Friuli.

Verdicchio: This is famous in the areas of Castelli di Jesi in the Marche region.

Pecorino: Native to Marche and Abruzzo, producing wines have a rich, aromatic character.

Arneis: A variety from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th Century.

Vernaccia: A quality wine famous from San Gimignano in Tuscany, where it is recorded since the 13th Century.

In addition, other important international white varieties are grown including: Sauvignon Blanc; Pinot Bianco; Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau.

I suppose that a real picture of Italian white wine might be gleaned from sampling most of these 15 grapes, but we have to whittle it down to 6. It’s easy to omit the first two, as respectively too generic and already well known. I also felt Fruilano and Verdicchio merit the same respective comments.

I want to omit Vernaccia and Vermentino too, as we tasted them only one year ago. Finally, although I like all the Campanian grapes, showing all 3 might be too much so I’ll omit at least one.

That whittles the choice down to 8 – you’ll have to wait to the Tasting itself for the final selection.

Notes from the tasting will be with you in 4 or 5 days…

Until then….

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On Monday 9th October Anna and Paul led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in tasting Austrian wines from two producers: Wiengut Holzmann from the Weinviertel; and Weingut Ilkerl from Kremstal. These are two famous areas, both North of the Danube in Eastern Austria – the former in the North East Corner, and the latter further West – just before the Wachau if going up-river. The wines were (sort of) in pairs.

Here are my notes:


GRÜNER VELTLINER PRIVAT 2011 (Holzmann)
The Privat is only made in better years. The nose shows some fruit, perhaps apricot, underneath the citric notes, some warm spice too. The nose has a fuller version of the grapefruit and pepper archetype. The palate is similar – showing richness and fruit a little beyond the acidity, but mineral, saline elements on the finish…

GRÜNER VELTLINER KREMSLEITHEN RESERVE DAC 2011 (Ilkerl)
This nose is quieter with warmer, oily hints and white orchard fruit. The palate has some warmer honeyed notes, lower acidity and a bigger finish. The mineral element is more loose-limbed and the expected pepper element mounts later.

ROTER RIESLING 2012 (Holzmann)
Roter Riesling is a colour mutation of Riesling – rather than another grape. The mutation is caused by the insertion of retrotransposons (small DNA pieces which can move in the genome). According to Jancis, Holzmann is a leading producer of the grape. The wine has a rather herby, slightly resinous hint above more usual sharp Riesling notes, and a peachy fruit hint. The palate has some acidic lift, pomegranate suggestions (Andrew) but lacks the “zing” of a good Riesling, a little dull overall by the highest Riesling standards…

RIESLING KREMSLEITHEN RESERVE DAC 2011 (Ilkerl)
This has a much more normal Riesling profile: an oily, pre-diesel, note then some citric hints and soft fruit. The palate starts with acidity, progresses through a richer middle-palate to a mounting mineral and lip smacking finish…

GRAUBURGUNDER LILIENFELDBERG 2011 (Ilkerl)
Pretty typical nose, smoky hints – soft fruit and a lighter floral perfume. The palate has a balance between elements of residual sugar and acidity that resolves with a soft impression (surely not really Trocken) that would work well with spicy food.

GELBER MUSKATELLER KREMSLEITHEN 2012 (Ilkerl)
Gelber Muskateller is the German name for Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, I think the use of Gelber is used to distinguish it from other variants of Muscat. A lovely grapey nose with floral elements and soft fruit. The palate is quite soft and with sweet fruit but with a warm pithy bitterness acting as balance. This is lighter than the other wines (12% abv) and has a satisfying balance, again suggesting spicy food.

An interesting tasting in which all the wines showed more richness than expected and (the Muskateller excepted) 13½% or 14% abv. It is quite usual to find Grüner Veltliner gaining richness with age, though perhaps not as quickly as the second wine here. Apart from that wine and the Roter Riesling (I have no idea what typicity is here) the wines did show varietal character, and the last 3 wines stand comparison with Alsace examples – albeit from growers towards the richer end of winemaking there. I preferred the Riesling and Grauburgunder marginally, but all were good.

Thank you so much to Paul and Anna.

Finally a note that the previous week, a contingent of 7 WING people attended the annual Call-My-Wine-Bluff dinner at Perkins, organised by Peter Bamford. Our group has won the last couple of years and has had several top 3 finishes but we all failed to do that this year – tripped up by a Sparkler from a variety of grapes showing apple notes that didn’t denote Chenin, or a Tokaji that seemed much too light to be true – but was actually just that! … Nevertheless we had fun and a lovely meal – we’ll be back!

À Bientôt

Hello Again

It’s been a while – over a month since the last post (?), and basically nothing in September.

The main reason is that I’ve been away for pretty well the whole month; on a 2,000 mile road trip to the Loire – Bordeaux – Rioja – Bordeaux – the Loire and home… So I thought I’d kick of the first of 6 posts in October with some thoughts provoked by the trip.

The centre of the holiday was 11 days in Rioja. The first time I’ve spent any time in Spain other than on the Coast (Catalonia – Almeria – Andalusia…), and the first where wine is the main (but far from only) attraction.

I found the area captivating. Geographically –  the terrain varying from lush to arid, and in September at least benefiting from refreshing cool nights due to the altitude, but warm sunshine, and sheltered from rain and wind from the North by the Cantabrian Mountains… Without trying we found ourselves in a couple of significant festivals with crowds celebrating, with much singing, dancing, eating, bull-running and conviviality. Indeed people are very hospitable and seem keen to celebrate for the slightest reason, usually some historical pride of town, region or culture without any sense – so common in the UK – of it being competitive with something else….

Anyway, this is a wine blog so let me say a few things about the wine. These will only be of a very general kind as the ICC WING group will taste Rioja in February. In fact I knew that the Theme of Rioja had been elected (top of the poll, in fact) before I set off, so my aim was to garner wines for that Tasting as well as explore for myself.

Let’s start with a map of the Rioja DOC Wine area:


First of all it would be simple if the Rioja Wine Area was entirely in the La Rioja Autonomous Community. However it’s not the case, first of all only the Northern half of the province is in the Wine DOC area. Also, the Rioja Alavesa sub-region is that part in the Basque Province of Álava and the part of Rioja Baja that lies North of the Ebro is in Navarra. Indeed it seems to me that the boundary of Baja and Alta is pretty arbitrarily drawn just East of Logroño, partly to follow the Navarra / Basque Border north of the Ebro and a similar line south of it. In fact that’s not quite right either, as the border bulges further East again just South of the River to allow the very famous Marqués de Murrieta winery to be in Alta!

It’s not that there shouldn’t be distinction from the much hotter Baja, with a  more Mediterranean climate to the South East as the Ebro descend to meet the Sea about half way between Barcelona and Valencia and the higher cooler areas. However a distinction based on Mediterranean influence would draw a border much further West near the River and much further East away from it…

Soil types are not helpful in making distinctions either – here’s a soil map:


So the sub-region issue isn’t that important and certainly near the area the sub-regions meet the issue is more to do with soil and wine-making.

Just North-East of Logroño – about 3 miles only – there is a point near the Camino de Santiago where one could (if you could find it – it’s not marked)  stand with a foot in La Rioja (and hence Rioja Alta), one foot in Álava (and hence Rioja Alavesa) and bend down to touch Navarra (and hence Rioja Baja). We were staying only 4 miles from there and were able to visit Wineries in all 3 sub-regions – though those closest to this point sourced their wines from more than just one…

Two or three things struck me:

  • The first was indeed soil, particularly the Agrilo-Calcaire found also in Bordeaux, Loire etc. This seemed to be the most highly prized sites – with carefully maintained older vines; vines used for single vineyard or restricted source wines (still uncommon – though growing in Rioja); and for more serious white plantings of Viura.
  • Secondly the red wines can contain Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan) and Garnacha. We tend to think of Rioja as a Tempranillo wine with some minority blending partners – a bit like Chianti and Sangiovese… But that’s not accurate at all. There are no rules about how much of each grape can be in a Rioja. So it’s possible to have 100% Graciano, 100% Mazuelo or 100% Garnacha! Indeed these seem not too difficult to find as growers move more to site-based wines…
  • Finally although there is still beautiful production of Reservas and Gran Reservas, there is a tendency to produce what I can only call super-Reservas – wines that don’t fit entirely into that classic hierarchy… Some growers are vinifying their better fruit in special Cuvées and using exclusively French (often Allier) oak for the time thought appropriate for the wine rather than the time set by the Gran Reserva (or even the Reserva) rules. The result is more elegant and more structured – and more Bordeaux-profiled – wine. This certainly has a place, but I for one still enjoy the depth and voluptuousness of well-made classic Rioja, retaining a warmth, depth and sense of place.

I won’t go any further now, we’ll look out for these trends and discuss other issues next February…

Finally a return to the Loire – swapping the richness of so many of the reds for the leaner lighter style of Cabernet Franc was a lovely contrast. One day I thought I’d cook a curry – having missed spicy food since I left England.

As my Birthday was coming in a day or two I opened a 2008 Schaetzel Kaefferkopf Alsace Gewurztraminer Grand Cru to accompany the food. It was transcendentally wonderful! It had the rose petal scents and exotic fruit one expects – but subtle and tending more to passion fruit than lychees and evolving a warm honey hint. The palate had a complex set of fruit and mature elements but had a clean acidity that delighted and worked with the food. Amazing length and pleasure – without doubt the wine of the Holiday! It’s such a pity that these wines can no longer be had from Schaetzel, who has thrown in his name with Marc Rinaldi and the “KIRRENBOURG PROJECT”.

If anyone knows what’s happening to the Kaefferkopf wines that Schaetzel used to exploit– please let me know!

À Bientôt

Carrie and Laurie hosted a WING Sock Party on Friday August 25th, with nearly a full company of Sock Club regulars. A very enjoyable evening ensued – with some notable wines….

So here indeed are those notable notes:

LA GITANA MANZANILLA SHERRY       Welcome Wine
The text book Manzanilla – salty , sea spray, mineral and herby nose. A supple and lightly drying sherry building to a warm finish for a long time – Perfect with olives, to start proceedings!

BADEN RIESLING ALTE REBEN SPÄTLESE TROCKEN 2011 (Alde Gott)       Paul
A slightly spicy and oily (pre-diesel?) nose revealing hints of elderflower and quince later. Palate has ginger hints and dazzling acidity building to an oily rich finish. Very good and promising further development!

VIÑA ALEMEIRA ALBARIÑO 2016       Carrie
The wine has a peachy fruit nose, a herby dimension and some flowery freshness. Citric acidity on the palate, becoming more saline and then the return of the fruit and a long fresh finish, good…

CUNE BARREL FERMENTED RIOJA BLANCO 2016       Yvonne
This is a 100% Viura white Rioja, with a woody and stewed apple nose, hints later of sweeter more exotic fruit, Palate has slightly balsamic acidity with a smoothed out malic fruit tone. The wine even shows some tannic elements over against that exotic hint as it appears again…

OLIFANTSBERG BLANC (SA) 2015       Sue
This is from Breedekloof about 25 miles East of Paarl, from Chardonnay, Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Chenin… Big warm flavours of flowers and peach on the nose with a supporting sharp note… Palate is rich and warm with a warm acidity keeping up the weight – a white Southern Rhone balance…

À FLEUR DE PEAU (CLOS DE GRAVILLAS) 2016       Ann
A very grapey nose, with caramel, mandarin, mealy and saline notes… Palate is completely dry and has high refreshing acidity supporting echoes of all the flavours on the nose reappearing as the wine opens. Amazingly complex and evocative, this is soooo…. unexpected. Fab!

BADEN GEWURZTRAMINER SPÄTLESE TROCKEN 2012 (Alde Gott)       Anna
Very big nose of roses and lychees… Palate has some sweetness but high pliant acidity supporting the (demi-sec level?) sweetness. Very well balanced and evolved with saline hints and slight ginger holding the wine in balance and away from any blowsiness. Lovely…

MUSSBACH SPÄTBURGUNDER ROSÉ (Müller-Cattoir) 2015        Kim
Dried raspberry and herbal nose. Palate has refreshing acidity and a food-friendly balance. Vinous characters – a quite serious Rosé

ALSACE PINOIT NOIR “LA LIMITE” (Lorentz) 2009        John
Dark for an Alsace PN, with a light leafy nose turning more herby and then vegetal. Supple acidity and herby red fruit with a mineral twist. Rather good and channeling a warmer more Chalon style… Good

CHÂTEAU MONGRAVEY MARGAUX CRU BOURGEOIS 2008         Laurie
A rather text book claret nose: blackberry first then cedar and vegetal notes. Palate has soft blackcurrant fruit with drying but soft tannic support and a clean mouth-watering acidity, some Margaux-like subtlety… just right now I think…

VACQUERAS 2012 (Domaine de la Curnière)        Rob
Smokey nose with some, slightly diluted, blackberry scents. Palate has a brackish Syrah note and a warm acid line with some spice lasting to a leathery finish. Quite poised but a little old for the Grenache and a little young for the Syrah???

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening.

Until next time…

On Monday 7th August Rob treated the WING Tutored Tasting Group to some samples of 2005 Red Bordeaux. We broached some wines from this celebrated vintage just over two years ago (see post of June 19th 2015 for report and an outline of the vintage), but felt then the wines weren’t ready. So an opportunity to review the vintage again, in the form of wines scoring 87-89 points, seemed timely…


Here are my notes:

CHÂTEAU LA GARDE (Pessac-Leognan)     [Merlot 62%, Cab Sauv 31%, Cab Franc 5%, Petit Verdot 2%]
Pungent, aromatic herbs on the nose red fruit and grainy later. Palate is full with strong tannins, an acidic line and red fruit rather recessed… Several unintegrated components – showing the wine to be young still (?!)…

CHÂTEAU CAMBON LE PELOUSE (Haut-Medoc) [M60 CS34 CF5 PV1]
A more developed nose of damsons, red currant and a toasted wood hint… Well evolved but with a fresh fruit acid line and some depth. Tannins are fine, giving a pleasurable “open” structured wine – a little simple by the highest standards

CHÂTEAU FONRÉAUD (Listrac-Medoc) [M43 CS53 PV4]
Pungent nose with a vegetal base. Palate has a firm structure, with “hot” tannins and a strong but simple black fruit acidity, all giving length length and warmth. Still young by this tasting needing 3(?) more years integration ….

CHÂTEAU HAUT-BAGES AVEROUS (Pauillac) [M17 CS75 CF6 PV2]
This seemed the most evolved wine, surprising as it has the highest level of Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose of forest floor, herb and lighter floral perfumes more evident than the heavier stewed blackberry fruit. Palate has that fruit again but wrapped with a dark berry fruit acid, supple tanins and a consistent long grip… Rather good and making me want to eat – I think my favourite!

CHÂTEAU CARTEAU CÔTES DAUGAY (St. Emillon) [M65 CS5 CF30 ]
The nose is slightly dusty with notes of plum fruit, some woody tones and a herby hint. Smooth on the palate, soft berry fruit with spicy hints – there is  a leafy note and warm tannin, a little grainy leading to the typical “chocolate” impression. Rather good but not quite soaring.

CHÂTEAU DE CARLES (Fronsac) [M90 CF5 Mal5]
The nose is dark fruit, with a vegetal line. Smooth on the palate, with sweet blackberry fruit supported by good acidity and herby hints again. The tannins seem a little simple and not quite mature. Quite good balance but not quite integrated or expressive… yet?

Another interesting tasting with most (but not all) wines showing signs of maturity and pleasure, but at least two needing a few more years. The star, IMO showing the potential evolution of the vintage, being the Pauillac. A few of those in the cellar would be a good thing…

Thank you for showing the wine, and for your generosity, Rob.

Until soon…

A long hiatus after the July ICC tasting as I was in France, so a double post: a belated note on that tasting with the Sock Club notes.

First: JULY ICC TASTING – “UNUSUAL LOIRE WINES”

On Thursday 20th July 2017 the ICC group met for the last time this season, to taste unusual wines sourced from the Loire. In fact all the wines come from the Coteaux du Loir or from the Eastern Touraine, and generally fall in the hand-crafted, old-vine, organic or even Biodynamic, artisan category. They were all sourced from the grower and paid for in Euros. Most are unavailable in the UK. If you want an idea of how much they might cost if they were, I’d suggest you multiply the Euro cost by 1.6 to get the UK £ sterling value… Soooo… over £150 worth of wine for the season sign-off….


Here are my notes:

VINEFERA SAUVIGNON 2015 (Marionnet – Domaine de la Charmoise)   –   13%   –   Grower €15
The nose is quite quiet for an SB, indeed there is only restrained floral and herbal notes rather than big grassy and gooseberry greenness. The fruit is more in the white peach direction and expands in the middle palate, the acidity is slightly cooler than most SB, more in the Sancerre style – clean and refreshing, longer and supporting a richer wine… Later grapefruit elements come out more. Good, and not obvious what grape it is, based on usual SB indicators.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

LA PURCELLE DE ROMORANTIN 2015 (Marionnet – Domaine de la Charmoise)   –   13½%   – Grower €17
From direct cuttings from a vineyard planted in the first half of the 19th Century. Nose is very restrained with a lightly floral nose. On the palate, it has a drying, slightly chalky strong citric acidity that is reminiscent of Chablis and gives the wine freshness, the fruit is more Chenin-like though – with soft fruit richness and a hint of passion-fruit, and a mineral edge. I liked this more than most, I think, and if I had to choose between this and the SB, I think this just shades it by a small fraction…
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

“LA ROSÉE” 2015 (Mérieau)   –   12%   –   Grower €8
An encouraging onion-skin tone, with a slightly spicy nose, the palate has very strong acidity which has a herbal twist and a spicy finish. Food-friendly but a really a quaffing-with-summer-lunch Rosé.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20

COTEAUX DU LOIR “ELIZARI” 2015 (Les Maisons Rouges)   –   13%   –   Grower €25
A translucent light colour, like an Alsace Pinot Noir. The nose has floral notes, pepper, growing herbal hints, and sweet red fruit, strawberry(?) element, the herbs have an aromatic quality in the fennel/menthol direction, but with less pungency… Chervil? The palate  is structured with warm acidity and that deep herbal quality, but sweet plum fruit waves through the structure. Very long and complex, different elements take the foreground on each approach over an hour or so. A star! A rarity that stands up as a fine wine on its own merits.
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  16/20

“LES CEPAGES OUBLIES” 2015 (Marionnet – Domaine de la Charmoise)   –   12½%   –   Grower €14
Very dark indeed. A hint of carbonic maceration, growing with time but still only in the background. With sweet black fruits on both the nose and palate, it is like a black-fruit counterpoint to good (Morgon level) red-fruit, Cru Beaujolais. Without some of the structure of good Bojo – a very unusual wine that lacks a little acid structure
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20

“GUEULE DU BOA” 2011 (Mérieau)   –   12½%   –   Grower €18
A briar fruit nose, with a hint of warm citrus. The palate has sweet briar fruit and suppleness that is supported by a long line of fruit acidity. This gives balance and holds the wine, initially between Argentinian fruit and Cahors structure, at least as far as freshness and acidity go. In time, though still between the styles, it seems to drift a little towards the Argentinian style. Would be great with a dryish Lamb curry dish.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15/20

Overall an interesting range of wines to put alongside the famous names of the Loire. The Loir wine from Les Maisons Rouges, was the stand-out for the majority present and it’s a fabulous wine. They produce a little brother – “Garance” from only (!?) 19 – 55 year old vines, while the Elizari vines are from 55 to 100+. They make a brilliant Jasnieres too… I will return there, and also to Domaine de la Charmoise, whose whites I enjoyed immensely.

The Loire is really a very diverse wine region… It makes you want to live there…

So – on to the JULY WING SOCK PARTY hosted by Yvonne on Friday July 28th: a lovely evening with good company, wine and food….

Here are my notes:


TE HUA BRUT CUVÉE (Gisbourne, NZ)         Welcome Wine
A NZ Bubbly from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscat. Floral hints, a slightly gluey note and some honey. The palate has a slightly pithy – especially at the finish – citrus quality, and a herby hint.

LEEUWIN ESTATE ART SERIES RIESLING 2010       Laurie
Very Riesling nose, lime juice and a hint of Diesel… Palate has a citrus acidity – warm but clean – but the soft fruit drops out a little in the middle before the acidity re-asserts itself. Not as good as the 2007 we tried in May 2016…

MADELEINE ANGEVINE 2013 (English Wine Project)       Sue Mc
Pungent nose, very grassy and even gooseberry reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. Palate has a warm acidity and the fruit is pear with lemon hints.

CÔTES DE THAU “CUVÉE FLORENCE” 2016 (La Baume)        Mike
This is a Piquepoul / Sauvignon Blanc blend! Nose has a slightly smoky hint, then citrus and peachy fruit. Palate has some residual sugar but firm underlying acidity, which has the respective focused and warm lines of the component grapes not quite integrated…

CLAIRETTE DU LANGUEDOC 2015 (Paul Mas)       Ann
Fragrant nose of flowers, pear and sweet melon. The palate echoes the nose with a citrus and citrus peel sharpness. A warm-climate wine which hints at the exotic – maybe young?

TYRELL’S HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2016         Anna
Pungent: floral and grapefruit with an exotic hint. Very strong acidity with a bitter twist supporting a mealy texture…. The wine has a depth that makes me think it has a long way to go…

FERRANDIÈRE PRESTIGE BLANC RESERVE 2015           Yvonne
This is another Paul Mas property from East of Carcassone, between Minervois and Corbieres. The grapes are oak-aged Viognier, Sauvignon and some Chardonnay. Hints of cinnamon on the nose then citrus, floral notes and a deeper fruit note – perhaps the separate elements of the blend, not quite integrated. The palate has over-ripe peach, ginger and apricots….

MOULIN-A-VENT “LES CHAMPS DU COUR” (Domaine du Moulin d’Eole) 2013         Kim
Sweet red fruit nose, some baking spice and soft citrus (orange?) – slight note of carbonic maceration. Palate is smooth with spicy elements, and a structured finish. Very good Beaujolais, at peak!

SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY “LA CRIOIX DU CHAINTRE” (Fillatreau) 2013         Rob
Floral elements, spice and a herbal hint. Raspberry fruit and the tell-tale herbal acid line… very good example of S-C.

QUARTER ACRE HAWKES BAY SYRAH 2015        John
A resinous / Bay Leaf note over a black fruit aroma. Palate has spice, warm acidity with a black fruit with black olive tinge. A textbook New World Syrah, does the use of the name  Syrah rather than Shiraz tell of a target style nearer the Rhone than some big Aus Shiraz? I think so, and it’s probably over half way there…

CONDE D’ERVIDEIRA (Alentejo) 2013       Paul
A blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and a little Cabernet Sauvingon. This shows a floral first nose, then a lighter cherry flavour. Cherry fruit follows on the palate with an earthy dimension and mouth-watering structure. Very successful and typical…

“VOX POPULI” BOBAL 2014       Sue T
From Utiel-Requena near Valencia, this dark wine has a slightly cheesy nose then dark fruit with smoke and floral overtones… Palate has high acidity, and a light fruit centre – but is a big wine with a drying sharp finish.

Thanks so much to Yvonne for a very lovely evening, hospitality and refreshments…

Until next time…

We all know the basic wine overview of the Loire… It’s divided into 4 big areas, each with their distinctive grapes and famous names. Going from West to East these are: Nantais (Muscadet from the Melon de Bourgogne grape); Anjou (Chenin Blanc); Touraine (more Chenin and Cabernet Franc); Centre (Sauvignon Blanc and some Pinot Noir). This gives a mental picture that can be represented a bit like this:


All well and good, and in fact a pretty accurate general picture. However, the four areas aren’t really of equal size. Just looking at West-East extension – Nantais is nearly 60 miles, Anjou only 45 miles, Torraine over 70 miles, and then a 20 mile gap to the 50 mile wide Centre. Production is uneven too: Nantais produces a bit over 10%; Anjou nearly 40%; although the geographically largest, Touraine only yields about 20%; and Centre nearly 30%.

Here’s a much more accurate topographically correct map:
All the above notwithstanding, the naive generalisation isn’t too far off. Only the small areas of the Vendée are not covered in the West. In Anjou you will find bits of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grolleau, and Gamay here and there (Gamay actually appears across Touraine too). The East only real exception is the deceptive Pouilly-sur-Loire (not Fumé) area which makes wines from Chasselas!

The real variations to the general picture are within the Touraine area.

You can find all sorts of grapes here but there are three main departures, which form the basis of this month’s tasting:

  • In the North: the often neglected areas of Coteaux du Loir and (less significantly) Coteaux du Vendômois
  • In the North-East: the odd areas of Cour-Cheverny and Cheverny and the Solonge area in general
  • The increasing presence of Malbec – under its original name Côt – especially as you go East along the Cher River. Côt actually arrived here from its original home in Quercy at the time of the renaissance, before going to Cahors and thence to Argentina…

Firstly the relatively little known area lying along Le Loir river about 25 miles due North of Tours. [Le Loir actually flows West, pretty well parallel to La Loire, for another 50 miles from here before joining the Sarthe just North of Angers.]
This area (sometimes referred to as North Touraine) is actually composed of three wine areas: Coteaux du Loir (CdL), Jasnières and Coteaux du Vendômois. You can read more by scrolling down to the post of January 24 2017…
Jasnières is an enclave within the general CdL area, capable of rather good Chenin Blanc – fierce acidity with a rich counterpoint. However the area’s oddity is the Pineau d’Aunis grape, a spicy, herby grape which must form 60% of the reds. Sometimes it’s 100% – and we’ll see what that’s like…

The area in the extreme NE of Touraine is the second source of strange wines. The story goes back to the renaissance ascent of the Château at Chambord – as a hunting home for Francois I in the early 16th Century. Many grapes, from Bourgogne and elsewhere, were planted there, nearby in the Solonge area and at Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny. The unusual white grape Romarantin is the main grape in the appellation of Cour-Cheverny… While Cheverny white is mainly Sauvignon Blanc, and red is a Pinot Noir / Gamay blend (recalling Bourgogne Passetoutgrains). Many grapes find their way into the Rosé from here and the surrounding area including Pineau d’Aunis again.
However other varieties also made their way to Chambord and despite being lost to phylloxera in their home some have survived. A couple moved from there to be in the Solonge winery of Henri Marionnet, Domaine de la Charmoise (you can read more about this winery by scrolling down to the September 20 2016 post).
As well as un-grafted Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Gamay and Côt, they have direct line descendants of the Chambord plantings of Romarantin and the otherwise extinct, Teinturier (red flesh), grape: Gamay de Bouze.

Finally – the eastern Touraine has an increasing preponderance of Côt. We’ll try an example from the Cher area, together with a Pineau d’Aunis Rosé sourced from the same grower..

Until soon…

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