Regular readers will have picked up that I rather enjoy Indian food, in fact the lack of such cuisine is one of the things on my (rather short) list of what I miss (other than people!) when in France. So I’m naturally interested in how to find wines that go with Spicy food.

Finding wines to go with spicy food.

There is a temptation, when eating spicy – especially Indian – food to be drawn to cool, neutral whites. The idea – I suppose – is to contrast cool with hot to wash the food down. That’s OK, but as a wine lover I want to taste the wine in harness with the food, and – for me – I would as soon drink water as a “neutral” wine.

As with all wine-matching there are a couple of general elements: contrast and complementation – either have the wine frame the food (eg: tannins with a roast meat…) or add another component to the dish (eg: another sweet flavour with dessert), although ideally one can do both. The key issue is that the depth of flavour of the wine should be at-the-same-level as the food.

This is tricky with Indian cuisine – the flavours are both intense and complex, and the heat side of the flavour palate clashes badly with some wine flavours.

The aim of matching depth of flavour leads to thinking of bigger flavoured wines – often red – to hold their own when matched with big flavoured, hot curries. However tannin or spicy elements in red wine usually clash with, rather than complement or contrast, the spice in the food. This leads one to more fruit driven, low tannin, red wines… and another set of problems…

My experience in all this has been sharpened over the last few years by assisting my friend, Amita Sawhney – the proprietor of MemSaab, my favourite Indian Restaurant – compile their wine list.

A new angle on Food/Wine Matching.
Corkmaster and Amita at MemSaab on New Year’s Eve.

We worked on the list originally in 2013 and to renew it in 2017. During this process I have personally tasted well over 200 wines in conjunction with MemSaab food, so it seems timely to discuss my thoughts on the process, and the new wines on the MemSaab list.

General Principles

Not all Indian food is curry (meaning dishes in a strong-flavoured sauce), of course – and MemSaab is far (very far indeed) from a standard curry-house. This Restaurant shows food which builds on the flavour traditions of Indian Cuisine towards a modern fine-dining ethos. In this context a wine list is a crucial factor. So it’s important to design the list around the food, and we have worked hard to choose the wines with the food in mind… (or indeed in mouth!)

There are some elements that help a wine match Indian Cuisine, ideally responding to a key feature of the dish. These are:

  • Crispness (meaning clean and long, but not very steely, acidity)
  • Aromatics (to compliment the food)
  • Creaminess (to counter-point sauce texture)
  • Sweetness (to offset salt, sourness, heat in the food)
  • Fruit (to balance the strength of flavour in the dish)

          +   Absence of strong tannin or spice

If a wine shows the last of these points together with, at least, a couple of the others – it stands a good chance.

My own favourites – applying these principles – are off-dry “old-fashioned” Riesling; not-fully-dry Gewürztraminer and other Alsace wines; similarly aromatic whites with some sweetness; Champagne; better quality Rosés; light fruity reds whose grip is from acidity rather than tannins; big New World “fruit-bombs” (of the sort I would never drink otherwise) with some fresh acidity to go with the out-and-out strongly-sauced curry!

However because of the challenge of the food – sometimes it is not enough to specify types of wine – one has to find specific products that fit the bill.

An example is Syrah. One might think that a spicy, big fruited Syrah/Shiraz would be just the thing for a hot lamb curry, but so many have a salty twist to the tannins that completely clash with chilli flavours…. So it is a matter of finding an individual version that shows the flavours without that element… This is what we have done with many of the wines, especially the reds, listed at MemSaab. Sometimes too, we think we have found the answer only for the supplier to de-list it after a year or so…

Of course the evolution of the wine list has to take into account many factors other than simple wine pleasure. There is the existing list to start from, as well as: customer favourites; saleability; reliability of supply; price…

So after some considerable time trying wines the new list is up and running. You can see it here…  New Wine List


I want to highlight some new additions that I think work really well.

The new Sauvignon Blanc (Founders Block) has enough crispness to frame the food and enough depth of fruit to complement it without tipping – as many SB do – out of balance to one side or the other.

The newly listed Grillo is a surprise. It has some floral aromatics, a level of fruit and freshness to go with the cuisine, a slight hint of sweetness and ginger that matches but doesn’t clash with the food.

Torrontés is a grape we have considered for a while and this example is very good. It offers aromatics, tropical fruit and a zingy acidity – a package that works with the food in the same way as Gewürztraminer – but with a lighter, fresher approach!

The big red find is the Nero d’Avola. This is supple and succulent with sweet fruit and a crisp cranberry lift that ticks all the boxes… I tried this with both Chicken Tikka and Lamb Saag – perfect.

Of course there are many other brilliant matching wines that continue from the previous list: the Pinot Gris (and a new White Rioja which does a similar job with different flavours); the Shiraz/Viognier; the Sparklers, Sweet Wines and Sherry; the Riojas and Pinot Noirs; and – IMO – the outstanding Provence Rosé…

I could go on – why not go and try for yourself?


À Bientôt





Kim hosted the Festive end-of-year Sock Club gathering on Friday 29th December. A very lively and enjoyable evening marked by some rather nice wines…

Here are my (decreasingly coherent??) notes:

This has a toasty nose with rather nuts & seeds, slightly oily, notes. Palate is citric, with a frothy mousse and a grapefruit tinged finish. It comes from Haro in Rioja rather than the usual Catalonia, and features Viura and Malvesia grapes…

CHABLIS GRAND CRU LES PREUSES 2011 (La Chablisienne)     Laurie   
First nose is caramel with a slight coconut oil tinge and then mounting citrus takes over. The palate shows similar elements – butter caramel shot through with a warm citric acidity. Long and quite rich but with mounting mineral texture shaping the finish. A wine with many of the elements of very good GC Chablis not quite integrated – maybe another 3 years?

A surprising smoke, cinder tinged nose, then some creaminess and only later some honey and apple. The palate is cleaner with apple and honeyed fruit again and a warm but rather sharp acidity, a combination that is typical of this appellation. A food wine of great attraction…

MERSAULT “L’ORMEAU” 2011 (Coche-Bizouard)           John
Vanilla, caramel and a nutty line, with citrus wafting through the nose- complex and lovely! The palate shows a full bodied Burgundy but with a surprisingly steely citric line – long and warming. A well-structured Mersault that has great complexity and supporting acidity. Seemingly nearer peak than the Chablis!

ALBORIÑO RESERVE 2016 (Garzon – Uruguay)            Sue T
The nose shows immediate greengage fruit, and a strong lemon note. Sharp acidity with plump fruit and a slightly oily texture lifted by citrus acidity.

ALTO-ADIGE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2016            Rachel
Nose of grapes, roses and tropical fruit. Palate has a ginger spice note, and a warm hint of bitterness to lift the slightly oily texture. A text-book Gewürz!

NETTIE VIOGNIER (McManis – Central Valley, California) 2016            Yvonne 
Pungent nose, with peach hints and some vegetal hints. The palate follows the nose, with a warm but long acid line that lift the slightly rich peachy fruit. A typically Californian take on this grape, which, IMO, needs a spiced dish to set it off….

A prune nose, with spicy wood notes. The palate has light tannins and sweet black fruit and a liquorice twist. The Quattro Uve in question are Montepulciano, Primitivo, Sangeoves & Negromaro. Made in Abruzzo but with some Puglian grapes. Succulent!

PINARD “CLASSIQUE” – IGP Comté-Tolosan 2014                 Ann
A black fruit nose, converging onto blackberry. The palate has sweet black fruit too, focusing more at the finish. This is a near-Gaillac – made from Duras, Braucol (Fer Servadou), Syrah & Merlot.

CHATEAU GRAND TAYAC (Margaux) 2005            Paul   
Clear old-claret nose (perfume, forest-floor…) with a slight cardamom hint. Palate has a tannic backbone with a sweet fruit and an evolved complexity of non-fruit flavours. This isn’t a monster but balanced and showing some elegance…

RIOJA GRAN RESERVA 2009 (Marqués de Cáceres)          Rob
Oaky nose, with red fruit and a hint of spice. Palate has some spice too but soft red fruit and a woody hint. This is warm, voluptuous and long with the structural elements slightly peripheral… maybe 3 years more would improve this impressive wine?

ORAMA CABERNET/MERLOT (Dionysos – Peloponnese) 2013     Sue Mc
Damson fruit, a soda-ish tone, bay leaf notes and a higher-perfumed zephyr. Palate is sweet black fruit, but a herby line emerges and a sharp finish.

This 100% late harvest Viura, from very (very) old vines, shows quince and a spicy note. The palate has supple soft fruit acidity but with a lingering sweetness entwining it, rather than being at the fore. Lovely long flavours which cope well with mince pies….  I wonder what this wine would be in 10 years?

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening, and to Kim for her hospitality and food… I think I enjoyed this Sock gathering rather too much. But the run of 2011 whites at the start was a lovely set of wines to delight the most exacting oenophile!   Happy New Year!


As this is the end of the Festive season, I thought I’d just give you a glimpse of the vinous components of Xmas Chez Corkmaster:

“Bookend” halves – Wine Society, £11 ish
Full bottles, all from grower – from left: £9; £11; £15; £13; £19; £15; £15.

This wines all did their job really well with the food. The halves (Hugel Riesling and Pieropan Soave) to wash down light lunches. The Morgan and Gewürztraminer served with Turkey (curried for the latter). The La Fagotière Châteauneuf Blanc (2012) was gratifyingly, and surprisingly, balanced and great with Paté and the Givry 2009 (Ragot) just perfection. The La Fagotière Châteauneuf Rouge (2010) was wonderful with a cider glazed ham, but tasted alone seemed a little young, maybe 2 or 3 years. The same could be said of the St. Emilion GC 2010, Château Cardinal Villemaurine, but it was perfect with roast goose served with a gooseberry stuffing and sprouts flash fried with lardons and chestnuts.  I know some readers may have these wines so I thought I would share….

Coming soon, a post on matching wines and Indian cuisine…

À Bientôt

The image of sherry in the UK market is (or was) very much associated with grandparents and bottles of Harvey’s Bristol Cream that linger in the drinks cabinet from one Christmas to the next. In any news article on the subject of sherry in the UK, it is inevitably referred to as ‘Grandma’s favourite Christmas tipple’ or something similar. This stereotype of the typical sherry drinker isn’t without its basis in fact; research from 2016 by market researcher Wine Intelligence showed that only 10% of 25 – 34-year-olds in the UK drink sherry compared to 34% of over-65s.

Sherry has certainly been undervalued in recent years and sales have been struggling. In 2009, the UK was still the main global market for sherry with 14 million litres sold and this was already after several years of declining sales figures. By 2016, UK sales were down to 10 million litres, falling in line with a global decline and making the UK the second biggest global market for sherry after Spain, where it is mainly drunk in the Andalucia region that it comes from. In Spain the most popular sherries are the dry Fino and Manzanilla styles, often drunk long with soft drinks such as Sprite or 7 Up. In the UK it’s the sweeter cream sherries which far outsell the other types and it’s these sales that have fallen considerably.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association blames falling UK sales on increasing taxation. According to the WSTA, the 53% increase in fortified wine duty since 2007 has added £1 to every bottle of sherry. Brexit and the fall in the value of the pound, both of which will make importing sherry more expensive, are other factors which will put further pressure on sherry sales in the UK.

However, 2017 has brought some good news for the sherry industry in terms of what seems to be the beginnings of a sherry revival in the UK. This revival isn’t being driven by grandparents finally replacing the Bristol Cream in their drinks cabinets, but by a new generation of sherry drinkers, enjoying dry sherries such as Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Amontillado.

There are now a number of trendy sherry bars and tapas restaurants springing up in the UK’s major cities and sherry is becoming quite ‘hipster’. In London, you can follow ‘The London Sherry Trail’, enjoying sherry in a range of bars across the capital.  Sherry has an affinity to tapas but also pairs well with a wide range of foods and also works well in many cocktails, all factors which, along with its growing hipster following, are aiding its UK revival.

International Sherry Week took place in early November in over 25 countries, including the UK. This annual celebration of sherry is now in its fourth year and sees a range of events taking place for sherry-lovers around the world.

The sherry revival is in evidence in off-trade sales as well with Majestic Wines’ recent figures showing a 41% increase in fortified wine sales in the year-to-date and Majestic boss, Rowan Gormley stating that ‘Sherry is making a big comeback’.

So, if you want to be a hipster or just want to enjoy a fantastic, complex and versatile type of wine, what do you need to know about sherry in order to get the right glass or bottle to suit your taste and the occasion?

Firstly, a bit of background: the word ‘Sherry’ is the English version of ‘Jerez’, which refers to the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia, where the drink comes from. Dry sherries are made from the Palomino grape which produces a fairly neutral base wine. This is suited to sherry as the wine’s character comes from the winemaking and maturation techniques that it undergoes, rather than from the grapes themselves. Sherry is famous for its solera system of fractional blending and ageing, a process which sees wine being transferred between barrels as it ages.  This ageing can be biological or oxidative, leading to the creation of a range of different styles of sherry from pale, bone-dry Finos and Manzanillas to darker, richer Olorosos to lusciously sweet Pedro Ximenez sherries, made from grapes of the same name. And of course, there are also cream sherries which contain no dairy whatsoever but are actually sweetened sherries, made by either blending dry and sweet or by sweetening dry styles with Rectified Concentrated Grape Must.

As a brief explanation, Finos and Manzanillas are dry sherries which have been biologically aged. This means that they have aged under a layer of yeast known as the ‘veil of flor’ from which they derive much of their character. They tend to be pale lemon in colour and feature flavours such as almonds, apples, herbs, hay or fresh dough. Manzanillas are made in exactly the same way as Finos but derive their unique character from the particular climate of the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda where they are matured.

Oloroso sherries age oxidatively rather than biologically, without the veil of flor. The wine’s exposure to oxygen as it ages means that its colour is much deeper than that of a Fino and its flavours are oxidative flavours such as leather, toffee and walnut.

Amontillados start out as Finos and undergo a period of biological ageing under the veil of flor, but then lose the flor in order to undergo a further period of oxidative ageing, hence their character lies somewhere in between that of a Fino and an Oloroso.

There are other styles of sherry too, including naturally sweet sherries such as PX; blended sherries such as Cream, Pale Cream and Medium sherries as well as variations on the different dry styles. I’ve just had a glass of ‘Antique Fino’ which has been aged for longer than a classic Fino. It’s slightly deeper in colour, fuller bodied and features more nutty flavours. Delicious!

It does look like the image of sherry in the UK might finally be changing. If the trend for younger consumers drinking drier sherries gains momentum and it becomes seen as a drink for hipsters rather than grandmas, it could well become the next ‘gin’ or ‘craft beer’ of the UK drinks market.

Remember, you (possibly) heard it here first! Sherry Christmas Everyone!

On December 14th the WING ICC Group held its Annual Xmas Blind Tasting Competition. Six Wines were served blind, and each accompanied by three explanations of what they were; one each from Kathryn, Kim and Carrie.









The explanations were of three real wines – all available in the UK – however two were Bluff, one was True. The rest of the group had to guess which was true. After 6 rounds the person with most correct guesses won a (Xmas compliant) bottle!

The first Round was Unusual European Sparklers.
The Wine showed quite a recessed nose, citrus hints emerge but no “yeasty” notes. Palate has a slightly “gluey” note, some sweeter fruit elements and an light apple-tinged mousse… But was it:

  • Austrian Sekt from Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling;
  • Blanquette de Limoux (100% Mauzac);
  • Fruili Brut from Collio – mostly (92%) Ribolla Gialla?


I’ve no idea how one would guess this –  darker than one would expect from Mauzac or GV, but the apple notes could have come from all three…

My Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  14.5/20


The Second Round was Alpine Whites
A light fruity nose with some floral elements. A grainy, surprisingly full bodied palate, with a pepper hint that turns to a mineral finish … But was it:

  • Rousette de Savoie;
  • An Alto-Adige blend from Terlano;
  • Fendant from Valais in Switzerland?


Again quite difficult, but I think the body and low acidity in the wine might have been the clue.

My Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14/20


The Third Round was Alpine Reds
Light in colour, herby nose with cherry fruit. Herbs and red fruit on the palate too, quite short but some acidity and mineral giving some structure… But was it:

  • A Mondeuse from Savoie;
  • A Schiava from Alto-Adige near Bolzano;
  • A Garamet-Garanoir blend from Vaud, Switzerland?


I think the hardest of all to guess, partly because all three are rare, and the structure is quite good. I would have guessed the Mondeuse, I think…

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15.5/20


The fourth Round was Italian Grapes on the Pacific Coast
Pungent nose at first, then spicy elements kick in. Palate has richness and drying tannins and a woody element. Quite a fresh fruit lift at the finish which is food demanding… But was it:

  • Zinfandel from Lodi, California;
  • Sangiovese from Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
  • Nebbiolo from Baja California, Mexico?


This had the scale of a Zin, but heavier tannins – so that might direct one towards Nebbiolo?

My Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20


The fifth round was Reds from South-West France
Slightly fruit-cake aromas, then fresher red fruit hints. The palate has even more (but slightly rounder) tannin than the previous wine, and later a supple red fruit comes through. There is a fresh herby acid line right to the end, and with food the tannins recede and supple red fruit emerges. My favourite red … But was it:

  • Gaillac – mainly Syrah and Braucol (Fer Servadou)
  • Irouléguy – a Basque wine made from Tannat and Cabernet Franc
  • Cahors – mainly Malbec?


The tannin levels, though not harsh, point towards Tannat, I think, so perhaps the easiest to guess.

My Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15.5/20


The final Round was Dessert Wine
Complex nose, with peach, honey, passion fruit and quince. Some lightness on the palate and the same set of flavours are not overwhelmed by Noble Rot. A lip-smacking acidity adds a fine quality to this luscious wine … But was it:

  • Hunter Valley partly botrytised Semillon;
  • Jurançon, late-harvested Petit Mansang;
  • Sweet Chenin Blanc from Savennières, Loire?


This surely has too much complexity for even a good Australian, little botrytis and the passion fruit might suggest Loire but the lightness of touch and the quince hints surely suggest Jurançon!

My Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  15/20

Overall a tricky, certainly the most difficult so far, tasting. However the wines we actually tasted all showed quite well and the bluffs constituted an  interesting set of wines. The excellent prize was won outright by Catherine, with 4 correct! Congratulations and a bottle of 1986 Vintage PX DO Montilla-Moriles Gran Reserva (Alaba) to her!









This will be the last post before Seasonal Festivities begin, so it only remains to wish très bonnes fêtes de fin d’année to all my readers!

À Bientôt

On Monday 4th December Ralph led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Collio DOC, an area of Fruili (North East Italy) quite close to the Slovenian border. The area is in the Gorizia Hills, which extend over the (geographically arbitrary) border into Slovenia. The general soil type is calcerous marl and sandstone. Production is about 85% White Wines.

The wines were all from the leading producer in the area: BORGO DEL TIGLIO.

The wine-maker Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 when he took control of his family’s vineyards. Low yields, strict vineyard selection and meticulous cellar work result in some of the most powerful, intensely ripe and textural wines in Friuli. Monferrari describes his style as ‘beautiful and kindly’.  Some wines are fermented and aged in 250 ltr barrels.

Here are my notes:

This is mostly Friulano with some Riesling and Sauvignon. Slightly (by suggestion?) lime hints on the nose – nutty tinges and some herbs too. Quite complex interweaving of the elements. Palate has a spice warmth, a chalky mouthfeel and a mineral acidity that goes on for a while into a pithy dry finish. Structured, fresh and food-friendly even though big-bodied.

The nose is quiet big, with green fruit – greengage rather than gooseberry – and even a red or white currant hint with a leafy character, again complex. The palate has a creamy texture (from barrel aging?) but restrained within a well-contained, long, warm acid line with a slate mineral finish. Very good SB, bigger than a good Sancerre but with a similar, scaled-up, balance and structure.

The nose of this wine is creamy, with butter / caramel hints and a later citrus line. The oak effects are, again, supported by the weight of the wine and the linear acid mineral counterpoint. The balance is so well judged and fine it might be called poised, and reminds me of some better Southern Côtes-de-Beaune whites. This is big but with an extremely long acid line lightening the wine to reveal a soft fruit, warm but mouth-watering finish.

This is aged in 2nd use oak and has a floral, almost cosmetics nose. Later some herby elements appear. The palate starts off quite softly, then tightens through mounting acidity and a peppery spice note, and then a soft-ish (comparatively) short finish. There is honeyed fruit but this wine seemed the least satisfactory to me, by the high standards set by the others…

This was in some ways similar to the first wine. More restrained with a nutty and herb start. Palate undulates between a sharp attack, soft peachy fruit, clean acid line and warm saline, slightly bitter finish. Knowing of Friulano’s tendency to flabbiness, it almost seems that this is a good wine-maker fighting to develop structure supporting it, and enjoyable journey but slightly unresolved… maybe it’ll all come together in a few more years?

This is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pungent first nose, then cedar then black berry fragrance and a higher, perfumed note… Palate has a black fruit line within quite light pointed tannins. There is a woody component that tightens the wine again to show a minty herbal element as it approaches a pithy, bay leaf finish. An adventure that suggest rather restrained and elegant Syrah, more than claret. Another good food wine…

An engaging tasting of engaging wines, all seemed to develop and reveal things within each mouthful – the very epitome of complexity. Although very different the wines all showed dynamism in the way texture, especially, but also acidity and balance developed in the mouth. All are quite big but wore their weight in an elegant package with mineral and acid lines taking one through the journey. A very interesting tasting of which – just – I found the Chardonnay the most involving.

Thanks Ralph for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

Kathryn and Matt (with a special guest appearance by Áine) hosted a lovely Sock Club gathering on Friday 24th November. A very enjoyable evening ensured by our hosts’ hard work, the good company and – of course – the quality of wines…

Here are my notes:

CLASSIC BRUT LIMOUX (Denois)      Welcome Wine
Nose is citrus, a slight herby element and crisp – very Champenois, but missing a tell-tale bready tinge. The palate confirms a mainly Chardonnay feel, a sherbet mousse, clean acidity and hints of warmth, long with a pithy saline finish… a good aperitif bubbly.

Rather a neutral palate with a vaguely peachy hint. The palate is initial sweet with a warm tinge, the middle washes out before a later opening out with a citrus counterbalance. Rather disappointing…

CHABLIS 2007 (Billaud-Simon)          Paul
Lovely typical citrus nose with a floral tinge… complexity without easily identified elements, showing the integration of age…Palate has the warmth and richness of a good 1er Cru, but is a basic wine (from a very high rank grower – the current vintage is well over £20) – a slatey citrus backbone with a soft fruit undertow. Long succulent and at peak readiness… Lovely!

LYME BAY “SHORELINE”  2015         Sue T
Mandarin, honey and elderflower on the nose, rather pungent. Palate has gooseberry and stone fruit and a chalky texture. The flavours a big, but there is enough acidity to support them. Although the flavours differ somewhat the overall balance has a Sauvignon Blanc nature, and some character. An English wine made from a blend of Bacchus, Pinot Blanc, Seyval Blanc & Reichensteiner sourced and vinified separately.

CONDRIEU (Pichon) 2014            Ann
A nutty warm nose with hints of stone fruit spirit. Palate is warm with a rather grappa bitterness at first, soft fruit then appears and then a long spicy finish. Much more pungent and bigger than the 2013 which we tasted six months ago (see post of April 5th 2017). Time integrates the flavours and makes a rather impressive wine, but not a typical Condrieu – maybe there isn’t such a  thing?!

DRY TOKAJI (Royal Tokaji) 2015            Yvonne
Fresh slightly floral nose, with a slightly bitter spirit note emerging… Palate is full bodied with a warm acidity and yellow fruit flavours with a later smokey hint developing. Worked wonderfully with the smoked salmon canapés…

CHEVERNY (Tessier) 2009     Laurie
This is pale, with a fragrance of red and black berry fruit, and a slightly woody tinge. Palate has the berry fruit, with a soft tannic frame and the slightly mineral finish of  a minor Burgundy but with a little herby twist. This has aged from a tough start to be just right now, pliant and characterful. A barrique aged wine from old vine Pinot (75%) Gamay (20%) and Cabernet Franc.

LUSCA IRISH WINE 2014                 John
OK – who knew? Irish wine (FFS): an un-guessable Sock Party Wine. After closing dropped jaw it’s worth noting the cherry and plum spirit nose, very high tarry tannin levels with spice and mouthwatering acidity. This is made in tiny quantities (500 bottles) by Llewellyn’s Orchard in the village of Lusk, 12 miles North of Dublin. The grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dunkelfelder, and Rondo.

BRENNAN TEMPRANILLO (Central Otago) 2015            Brenda 
Red fruit: raspberry and strawberry; with a savoury, slightly herby tint. Palate has a supple acid mineral and soft tannic line supporting bright fruit, the oak recessed under the other flavours – a lovely fresh Tempranillo.

SALICE ROSSO 2014 (Albrizzi)          Mike T
Nose has red fruit, slightly plummy, with sweet oak and a mocha note. Sweet fruit first on the palate, then a supple acidity with hints of rhubarb and blackcurrant, a grippy finish showing some Cabernet character within a big (Zin-ish) Primitivo package…

Pungent nose – quite Burgundian with sweet fruit bubbling up in this Porongurup (WA) wine. A warm cherry fruit and spice palate with a turn of structure, acidity a little light…

DOMAIN ROAD PINOT NOIR (Central Otago) 2012     Helen
Slightly sweet nose with hints of vanilla and toast. Red fruit with a clean fruit acidity with a herby – almost Vermouth – twist towards the end of the prolonged finish. Balanced and quite typical Otago pinot, good!

INFINITUS RIO NEGRO MERLOT (Fabre Montmayou) 1999     Anna 
Plum nose with a sharper fruit (Mulberry?) spirit note. Palate has some wood and evolved but firm tannins supporting surprisingly firm red fruit, herb elements present too, all reflecting the cool Patagonian origin.

Thanks to everyone for such a convivial evening, and our hosts for their hospitality.

À Bientôt

On Thursday 16th November the ICC / WING group met for the second tasting of the 2017-18 Season. The theme for the evening was ‘Bordeaux Blends Abroad’. Concentrating solely on red blends, we tasted wines from six different countries, varying terroirs and a range of price points.


Here are my notes:

CHILE: Primus the Blend 2014  –   14%   –   Wine Society – £11.95
From the Colchagua Valley in Chile, this was the only wine of the evening to feature Carmenere in the blend. Its presence came through in some spicy notes on the finish, but the wine was primarily fruit-driven and dominated by baked black fruit flavours. Quite drinkable with its soft tannins and hint of spice on the finish, but a little one-dimensional. It wasn’t anyone’s favourite wine of the night, but 6 members voted for it as demonstrating best value for money.
Ratings:        Quality:  13/20   Value:  14./20

SOUTH AFRICA: Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014  –   14.5%   –   Waitrose Cellar – £14.99
More restrained with slightly more complex flavours than the Chilean. Hints of cigar box complement the core of dark fruit. Still quite young and would benefit from further bottle ageing to soften the tannins and develop more flavour complexity.
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20 

LEBANON: Chateau Ksara 2012  –   13.5%   –   The Wine Society – £16
Tannins dominated a little for me to begin with; would definitely be better with food (rare steak or beef) or in a few years’ time once the tannins have softened. Quite a powerful wine with good length and some more complex flavour combinations coming through on the finish – some spice and herbal notes to complement the rich red and black fruit.
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14/20

AUSTRALIA: Moss Wood Amy’s 2015  –   14.5%   –   Waitrose Cellar – £16.49
This wine seemed in better balance than the previous three, with more flavour complexity. The only wine of the evening to feature a significant amount of Malbec in the blend. Made to be approachable in its youth, tannins were not overpowering, but well balanced with the wine’s acidity and alcohol. Fresh black fruit flavours with white pepper, cedar and some floral notes in support made this a very enjoyable wine.
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  17/20

USA: Lauren Ashton Cellars Cuvee Arlette 2013  –   14.6%   –   The Wine Society – £21
A ‘Right Bank’ blend from Washington state, with significantly more Merlot than the evening’s other wines, which was reflected in its softness. Very smooth, featuring flavours of vanilla and sweet spice along with the dark fruit. I found it to be well balanced and very drinkable, and it was the favourite wine of 7 members, but some found the oak influence to lack subtlety.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  14/20

ITALY: Fattoria di Magliano Poggio Bestiale 2012  –   14%   –   Lea and Sandeman – £27.50
This Super Tuscan was my favourite wine of the evening. A well-structured wine with aromatic black fruit and hints of liquorice on the nose. The fruit flavours and hints of spice developed on the palate which also showed a lovely slightly smoky mineral character.
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  15/20

Overall, an interesting range of wines, showing the diversity of the red Bordeaux blend in its different manifestations around the world. The flavour complexity and balance of the Italian wine made it my favourite as well as that of the group. The Washington ‘Right Bank’ blend was the second most popular amongst the group, though, like the Lebanese wine, it did seem to split opinion. In terms of ‘value for money’ the Moss Wood Amy’s Blend from Margaret River came out on top.

Bye for now,

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