#newwinethisweek Week 15 – Chenin Blanc, South Africa

I am so glad that Mike over at http://www.pleasebringmemywine.com has taken over the reigns for the next couple of weeks. Firstly I am enjoying a very relaxing break in Devon, where it seems WiFi is in a thing of mystery (hence I’m a day late with this post!) and secondly he has made an awesome choice for week 15 of #newwinethisweek…

We enjoyed a red New World classic with Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra last week; this week we can look forward to a white new world champion, Chenin Blanc from South Africa:


South Africa

Chenin is rightly associated with the Loire in France but it has also become the signature white grape of South Africa, where it has been grown since the seventeenth century. These days it is the most planted white variety in the country and the grapes produce delicious, great value whites with lots of fruity character and delicious, mouthwatering acidity. Stellenbosch and Paarl are both excellent regions, with Swartland also beginning to up the ante.

I think we’re in for another brilliant week on #newwinethisweek; here are a few recommendations from me:

Finest Chenin Blanc 2012, Swartland (Tesco £7.49)

Taste the Difference Chenin Blanc 2012, Western Cape (Sainsbury’s £8.00)

Morgenhof Chenqin Blanc 2012, Stellenbosch (Waitrose £11.99)

Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2012, Bot River (The Wine Society £16.50)

Jordan Chenin Blanc 2012, Stellenbosch (Wine and the Vine £10.99)


Don’t forget to head on over to Mike’s blog to give South African a Chenin a Blanc a score and a review… Get involved!





Birthday bubbles in Brum

Is there a better pairing than celebration and Champagne? There is one person I know who is a true believer in the combination; that’s my Mum! In fairness, Mum doesn’t need an excuse to open a bottle of fizz providing the day ends in day, but she reached a landmark last weekend so I decided to arrange a landmark tasting in her honour.


Mum & Peter enjoy a bottle in Reims!

Ten of us got together to celebrate the event in Birmingham. It was quite a few years ago that I went to university in the city (I went to Aston; the really good one!) so knowing where to go could’ve been a tough challenge. Luckily for me, I’ve met a lot of great people through writing this blog. One of those is Matt, who I met when I swapped a bottle of Pichon Baron 2006 for a bottle of Penfolds St Henri 2003 as part of his fantastic #wineswap quest. Matt worked at Loki Wine & Tasting Room in the heart of Birmingham for a while and put me in touch with Loki’s main guy, Phil. Good call!


After a few emails we agreed on a series of sparklers that would dazzle and delight. We chose bottles from Italy, England and a couple of French regions, finishing with something very special for a very special lady. The staff at Loki looked after us brilliantly and it was fantastic to see the place so busy and buzzing – I can’t wait to return and try some of the 24 wines available from the enomatic machines. But this visit was all about the bubbles…


Drusian DOCG Prosecco Superiore NV (@ £15)

I often find Prosecco just a little one dimensional – it’s a party wine… and there’s no harm in that at all! The Drusian has lots of Golden delicious, pear and a touch of tropical, sweet fruit. Lovely and lively mousse. 89 points

Moutard Diligent Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé NV (@ £15)

If you’ve been following #newwinethisweek then you’ll know that Cremant is France’s secret pleasure. This offering from Burgundy is made from 70% Pinot and 30% Chardonnay and is simply amazing value for money. Strawberry upfront with a funky rhubarb note and a creamy, yeastyness – like a cream horn with strawberry sauce! 91 points

Camel Valley Brut Pinot Noir Rosé NV (@ £35)

I am always blown away by the beautifully elegant wines from Camel Valley – we really should stand up and shout about them more! This delightful rosé tastes like crushed strawberries and raspberries with in a delicate flaky pastry nest; so light and fresh and truly tastes like a glorious British Summer’s day. 91 points

Ruinart Rosé NV (@ £35)

I’m a huge fan of Ruinart fizz, especially the Blanc de Blanc but this one slightly disappointed (only me it has to be said!). The bottle ageing is more obvious with yeasty brioche notes upfront. It’s a little lacking in fruit for me but the red berries are there, just slightly out of balance. 88 points

Dom Perignon 1999 (@ £125)

This is my first try of Dom Perignon and I want more! So complete – luscious and creamy with apple and lemons, beautifully integrated brioche and beautifully velvety texture. It’s like a baked apple pie and custard and the taste keeps on going. I’ve never experienced a sparkling wine with such balance and it’s fair to say that even in the un-fancied 1999 vintage, DP really shines through. (The DP even got the approval of my critical sister Hayley; “smells like cat pee” she said… certainly didn’t taste like it!) 95 points


It was always going to be a challenge impress a woman who doesn’t travel anywhere without a pair of Champagne flutes in her baggage. I think we did a great job – even Madame Bollinger would approve:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it if I am; Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”




#newwinethisweek Week 14 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra

Terroir is an intriguing, complex and beguiling concept. At its most basic level it can be translated as “a sense of place”; a wine that tastes of where it comes from. There are few conversations about Burgundy without mention of terroir, then there are the differences between Hermitage and Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone; or La Morra and Serralunga in Barolo, to name just a few. The wines from these regions have distinctive styles, aromas and flavours that are instantly recognisable. Wine has been produced and lauded from these regions for centuries; the terroir is “understood”.

And what about the New World? I read many articles where winemakers talk about “getting to know and understand their terroir”, but there is one region who’s wines are unmistakable and truly delicious. That region is Coonawarra in South Australia.

Coonawarra is a sub-region of the Limestone Coast and is synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are produced from this 12km x 2km strip of “terra rossa” soil, whose stunning red appearance is caused by rust formations in the clay, and lies on top of a thick limestone layer. The wines have wonderfully rich and concentrated flavours of blackcurrant with a minty, eucalyptus-fresh finish. They are some of my very favourite red wines and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Here are a few recommendations from me: and don’t forget to look out for more suggestions, from www.pleasebringmemywine, including selections from Spirited Wines, Majestic and the other supermarkets:

Founders Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Coonawarra (Waitrose £11.99) 

M&S Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Coonawarra (M&S £9.99)

Warner’s Corner Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra (The Wine Society £8.50)

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra (The Wine Society £14.95)

Berton Vineyards Cabernet Reserve 2010, Coonawarra (Wine & The Vine £12.45)


I am REALLY looking forward to this week!

I am REALLY looking forward to this week!


Not all of the supermarkets stock wines from Coonawarra itself, but these are excellent wines from the wider Limestone Coast area:

Finest Howcroft Cabernet 2010, Limestone Coast (Tesco £7.49)

Exquisite Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Clare Valley (Aldi £6.99)


And here’s a link to some more suggestions, from www.pleasebringmemywine, including selections from Spirited Wines, Majestic and the other supermarkets:



Now all you have to do is buy a bottle and tell us what you think! All we ask is that you come back here during the week, give your Aussie Cab Sav experience a score out of 10 and leave a tasting note in the comments section.

Where will Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon end up on the #newwinethisweek leaderboard?





Bordeaux 1990 horizontal tasting; a vintage to celebrate

This week has highlighted exactly why I love writing this blog so much; on Monday I was recommending Italian wines under £10 for #newwinethisweek then a few hours later I was tasting £300 bottles from one of the best Bordeaux vintages of the past 30 years…sometimes I’m quite glad I decided to do this thing!

That superb year was 1990. And what a pleasure it was to taste these magnificient wines at another fantastic event at the West London Wine School. I think it was even more enjoyable given the reports coming in from the 2013 tastings, which are full of doom and gloom after what was one of the most challenging growing seasons of recent times. But there were no such problems in 1990. The wines were on top form and, almost 24 years on from the harvest, many of them were just beginning to open up; this is a vintage that truly will reward patience in the long term.


What is particularly amazing about 1990 is that the yields were so high they had to be capped at a staggering 60 hectolitres per hectare (Pontet Canet have just revealed that their 2013 yield was 15hl/l!). Such high yields are often a sign of low concentration and variable quality, however 1990 seemed to deliver the lot…and then some.


July and August were the driest since 1961 as well as being two of the hottest months since records began; then heavy rain came at precisely the right time at the end of August and a relatively cool September resulted in perfect harvest conditions. The wines have a wonderful balance and harmony; ripe fruit, wonderful acidity and perfectly structured and luxurious tannin.Some have suggested 1990 is the best vintage since 1961…the wines on show tonight certainly painted a very positive picture…



Chateau Cantemerle 5eme Cru Classé1990, Haut Medoc (Fine & Rare £50)

Ripe and fragrant fruit, leaning towards strawberry with blackcurrant in the background; there’s a touch of vanilla, a hint of anise and a balsamic note. Very encouraging; I could smell this for quite some time. The acid is bright but the fruit is a bit muddy and verging on dried and shrivelled. There is good minerality and some leather notes but missing tannic structure. The superb aromas don’t quite carry through to the palate; after a fresh attack and decent middle, I’m left with a metallic tang. Hmmm. 90 points


Chateau La Lagune 3eme Cru Classé1990, Haut Medoc (Fine & Rare £80)

A very fresh nose reminiscent of summer pudding with a delightful mixture of red and black fruit; there are violets, a touch of smoked meat, sweet tobacco and cedar. Good weight and plenty of tannic structure, which is beautifully balanced by refreshing acidity. There’s still plenty of blackcurrant fruit, earthy minerality and a pencil shaving finish. Lovely weight and balance; a long and interesting finish and plenty of life ahead of it. My first taste of La Lagune but I will certainly return! 93 points


Chateau Lagrange 3eme Cru Classé1990, Saint Julien (Fine & Rare £110)

The nose is filled with blackcurrant with plenty of smoky spice and an exotic spice box. Intense and concentrated; exotic and opulent; lovely stuff. The texture is rich but there is alack of grip and a lack of acidity…there’s no flavour delivery! Am I missing something here? Is it too early? It’s got me confused; the experts lavished high scores but it’s not doing it for me at all. 88 points


Chateau Leoville Barton 2eme Cru Classe 1990, Saint Julien (Fine & Rare £135)

I love the elegance of Leoville Barton; pure blackcurrant fruit, delightful gravelly minerality, cedar and graphite; delightful in the extreme. Sweet blackcurrant fruit, edging towards crème de cassis. Marvellous balance of fruit, acidity and lush tannins. Wonderful minerality, elegant and exotic spice and graphite. Stylish and luscious, polished without being manhandled; classic and majestic. 94 points


Chateau Calon-Segur 3ene Cru Classé1990, Saint Estephe (Fine & Rare £130)

Intense and broody, dark plums and blackcurrant; intense and concentrated with leather, tobacco, cedar and a dusting of dried herbs. Full bodied and very dry on the attack, before the soft dark fruit and fine acidity cleanses the palate. A sweet and long finish; plush and opulent –will get better. 93 points


Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste 5eme Cru Classé1990, Pauillac (Roberson £205)

Fresh and young with lashings of blackcurrant, blackberry and even a hint of red berries. There’s an understated smokiness, cedar and exotic spice –so luxurious. Wow! Rich and powerful palate with wonderful acidity and delightful grip. Highly concentrated blackcurrant with notes of sweet spice, cedar, expensive leather and graphite. Such supreme power and elegance; structure, fruit, freshness and length. Magnificent. 95 points


Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2eme Cru Classe 1990, Pauillac (Lay & Wheeler £252)

Heaps of blackcurrant and cassis, gentle smoky spice but with an exotic and mysterious depth. This is super concentrated and rich with rich and dense sweet fruit. The tannins are big and luscious but they are perfectly matched with the fresh and vivid acidity. Silky smooth, luscious and intense; still very young but oh so marvellously concentrated and what a finish! 95 points


Chateau L’Evangile 1990, Pomerol (Roberson £310)

We probably should have started with this one but what a way to finish the tasting! You have to get your nose right in there but once the aromas start escaping I’m hypnotised by sweet red strawberries and cherries, with an undertone of blackcurrant –then the balance changes toward black fruit –amazing! There are also vio.et and gravelly notes with smoke, caramel and a hit of balsamic. On the palate it’s soft and fruity with fine tannins; the flavours are highly concentrated and coat my whole mouth –smooth and sexy! So different to Cabernets but just shows how good 1990 was on the right bank too. I love it. 95 points


And for the big Bordeaux fans among you, some links to other tasting write-ups:

Leoville Barton vertical

Pichon Baron vertical

Calon Segur vertical

1995 horizontal

2012 en Primeur

Visit to Lynch Bages & Pichon Baron

Visit to Cantenac Brown & Langoa Barton



#newwinethisweek Week 13 – Falanghina, Campania

Italy flag

I have developed a real soft spot for Italian whites; they seem to have gone slightly out of fashion but I get quite excited when I see a list that includes the likes of Gavi, Verdicchio, Soave, Orvieto and Fiano. Another white Italian grape that has started grabbing my attention recently is Falanghina. The grape variety is grown close to the coast in Campania, on the volcanic soils of Vesuvius, north of Naples; and this is my choice for week 13 of #newwinethisweek.

Campania Map

You can certainly expect a fresh citrus tang from Falanghina and there are notes of apple, pear and a bit of herb and spice in the better examples. In fact, Falanghina is a great all-rounder that certainly won’t break the bank. I read with interest that one of the famous food matches for Falanghina in Italy is Pizza con pera, noci e rucola (pizza with pear, walnuts and rocket), however it goes very well with most pizza, any selection of seafood, and light pasta dishes; or just pop open a bottle in the afternoon and sip it while reading a book (or checking Twitter) in the garden!


You certainly won’t struggle to find a bottle on the supermarket shelves and there are plenty of recommendations under a tenner this week…

Winemakers’ Selection Falanghina del Beneventano 2012, Campania, Italy (Sainsbury’s £6.99)

Tesco Finest* Falanghina 2012, Puglia, Italy (Tesco £6.99)

Triade Fiano/Falanghina/Greco 2012, Campania, Italy (Waitrose £8.99)

Rocca Vecchia Falanghina 2012, Campania, Italy (Co-op £6.49)

Falanghina Beneventano IGT 2012, Campania, Italy (M&S £6.49)

Feudi de San Gregorio Falanghina Albente 2012, Campania, Italy (Wine & The Vine £9.50)

Janare Falanghina del Sannio 2013, Campania, Italy (The Wine Society £6.95)


Now all you have to do is buy a bottle and tell us what you think! All we ask is that you come back here during the week, give your Falanghina experience a score out of 10 and leave a tasting note in the comments section.


Where will Flanaghina end up on the #newwinethisweek leaderboard?


Spring into The Loire

Last week saw the first day of Spring and this weekend the clocks go forward…I hate losing an hour at the weekend, especially the day after a wedding! But Spring is finally here and it’s got me thinking about what wines I should be drinking at this time of rejuvenation, renewal and regrowth… 

There is one region that covers every base for Spring; that region is The Loire Valley.

Having spent an evening in Tours, a few days in Chinon and another few in Sancerre last Summer, it did occur to me that you could live a very satisfied wine life drinking only wines from this picturesque region; there really is something for every occasion. The Loire is rightly famous for its white wines but there are also plenty of delicious reds and rosés to choose from.

The Loire Valley’s wine map can be broken down into 4 sub-regions, and each is highly regarded for making wines using different grapes:


Pays Nantais

Muscadet may be one of the most underrated and misunderstood white wines anywhere in the wine world. For starters, most people think Muscadet is a grape or a place, when in actual fact it is neither! The name Muscadet apparently comes from a description of the wine; “vin qui a un goût musqu”–“wine with a musk-like taste”(it doesn’t!), it is produced in the areas surrounding Nantes and is made from the Melon de Borgogne grape variety.

It is no surprise that a wine made so close to the Atlantic Ocean has savoury, saline characteristics; this works wonderfully in these light, crisp and refreshing wines. For a touch more complexity look out for “sur lie”on the label; here the wine has been aged for a period time on its lees, affording yeasty aromas and flavours. And, last but not least, these wines are always great value.



Moving east we arrive in the exciting region of Anjou-Saumur. It is here that we start to find world-class whites made with Chenin Blanc, fragrant reds made with Cabernet Franc and off-dry rosés made with Grolleau.

The most famous Chenin appellation in the region is Savennieres, where yields are restricted to just 20 hectoliters per hectare to produce wines of enormous concentration and complexity; these wines will provide a huge amount of pleasure but come with a weighty price tag.

While I was in the area last summer I was simply blown away by the quality of the Chenin from Saumur –it was crisp, fresh with lots of fruit and a beautiful touch of honey –and it was so, so cheap…It’s just a shame the locals seems to keep it all for themselves! However, the red wines of Saumur are widely available and offer some of the best value drinking in France. While the wines from the very best producers can age for decades, the majority of the red output is light to medium bodied, with bright red fruit and just a touch of green herb character –very nice served chilled on a warm Spring afternoon.

And don’t forget about the rosés! Generally off-dry, these rosés are made predominantly from Grolleau with small percentages of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay also allowed. Very easy drinking in style, perfect for the first BBQs of the season. I was also fortunate to try a red Grolleau on a recent visit to The Remedy wine bar just off Warren Street –a very individual wine that went perfectly with a plate of cured meats…In fact, that’s exactly how the wine tasted!




The Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc theme continues as we move in-land and we start to feel the presence of Sauvignon Blanc. I’ll probably get lynched for this but the wines of Chinon are very similar to those of Saumur; bright, crisp Chenins; light, fruity Cab Francs (again the best are made to last). This is another great region to go shopping for value and refreshment. And keep an eye out for the marvellous Cremant de Loire; I tasted some amazing sparklers made from both Chenin and Cab Franc –outstanding quality and spectacular value for money.


Then we reach one of my very favourite appellations; Vouvray. Dry, off-dry, sweet (moelleux), sparkling…there is nothing this place cannot do with Chenin Blanc. The winemakers of the region just seem to find myriad ways to balance the naturally high acidity of the Chenin Blanc grape. Apples, honey, nuts; there really is nothing not to like and I can’t think of anything better to bring a smile to my face on a Sunday Spring afternoon than a glass (bottle) of Vouvray Demi-Sec. Maybe my biggest wine regret is not being able to go along to a wine evening recently where a bottle of Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu 1947 was opened and unanimously described by those present as the best wine they have ever tasted. Sulk.

In Touraine we also start to see plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, producing crisp and fresh wines at a very reasonable price. If you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc then the white wines of Touraine may offer some of the best value on the supermarket shelves. Also keep an eye out for the wines of Cheverney, where up to 30% Chardonnay is added to the Sauv Blanc to provide a bit more weight.


Central Vineyards

To many consumers this is the region that represents the Loire; the home of Sauvignon Blanc. The region centres around the world famous towns of Sancerre on the western side of the river and Pouilly sur Loire on the east. It is here we taste and smell the delightful combinations of citrus and gooseberry; and detect the limestone of Sancerre and silex (flint) of Pouilly. My visit to Sancere last year reignited my love for Sauvignon Blanc, having been put off by the recent tropical fruit and green pepper assault on my tastebuds.


Not everything from Sancerre and Pouilly is fantastic –they have become brands in their own right and not everything that comes from the region is worthy of the name. So get to know a couple of producers you like and you’ll be very happy very often. Also look out for the lesser-known appellations of Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Reuill for some great value. Oh, and if like me you’re still craving a glass of Pinot Noir then they do that too…a couple of the Sancerre Rouges, made with Pinot Noir, I sampled in the Henri Bourgeois tasting room last year were very agreeable indeed.


So there we go; The Loire Valley –Spring in a bottle (or in many bottles anyway!)


Links to my Loire posts from Summer 2014:






#newwinethisweek Week 12 – Crémant, France

Mike from www.pleasebringmemywine.com has come up trumps this week as we get our first fizzy selection for #newwinethisweek… Cremant!



Champagne is often regarded as the cream of the sparkling crop… but there are other regions in France making fizz in exactly the same way. This fizz is called Crémant and the winemaking technique is called the Methode Traditional. Crémant is one of France’s best-kept secrets… and it’s also perfect for celebrating Mothers’ Day!

Crémant is a great and, more often than not, cheaper option to Champagne. The sparklers are made all of France and are made from blend of the grapes you associate with the still wines of the area (and usually some Chardonnay). Keep an eye out for:

Crémant d’Alsace (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling)

Crémant de Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Franc,

Crémant de Bourgogne (Aligote, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc)

Crémant du Jura (Chardonnay)

Crémant de Limoux (Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay)

Crémant de Loire (Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc)

Although the Methode Traditional seems like magic, a very complicated process is used to make the wine:

  1. Firstly you have to grow and harvest the healthiest grapes possible (by hand please!)
  2. Once the grapes have been picked, they are fermented, for the first time, as any other wine to create a still base-wine
  3. The wines are then bottled into the bottle that you will eventually buy and yeast is added for a second fermentation – this is left in the bottle for a period of time to give the yeasty, biscuit, pastry notes we all love
  4. In order to get rid of the dead yeasts, the bottles are placed in a riddling table and undergo a process know as remouage so all of the yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle – this used to be done by a guy in the cellar who would turn every bottle a quarter turn every day for 40 days – its now done by machine
  5. The neck of the bottle is then flash frozen and the pressure in the bottle forces the frozen piece to shoot out of the bottle when the cap is removed – this is known as the disgorgement
  6. A final dosage is then added to achieve the right level of sweetness and finally the cork is inserted


So now you know what it is and how it’s made; here’s where you buy it!

Waitrose has really come up trumps on the supermarket front this week – nothing in Tesco but I have included a “Sparkling Burgundy” from M&S… it’s a Crémant in all but name!

Cuvée Royale Crémant de Limoux NV (Waitrose £7.99 was £10.99)

Blason de Bourgogne Rosé Brut Crémant de Bourgogne NV (Waitrose £13.99)

Cave de Lugny, Crémant de Bourgogne NV (Waitrose £13.99)

M&S Chardonnay Sparkling Burgundy NV (M&S £11.99)


The indies understand the quality and value of Crémant so take a look:

Moutard Crémant de Bourgogne NV (Wine & the Vine £15.75)

Dopff Au Moulin Cremant d’Alsace NV (Wine & the Vine £16.85)

J Laurens Crémant de Limoux ‘Les Graimenous’ 2011 (Roberson £14.95)

Domaine Berthet-Bondet Crémant du Jura 2012 (Roberson £17.95)

And as usual, The Wine Society has a whole host of wonderful options:

Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée St Laurent 2010 (The Wine Society £10.50)

The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire NV (The Wine Society £11.50)

Dopff au Moulin Crémant d’Alsace Cuvée Julien NV (The Wine Society £11.95)

Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut NV (The Wine Society £12.50)


Sp get yourself a bottle of your new favourite fizz and head over to Mike’s blog to tell us what you think and give it a score – you can keep track of the #newwinethisweek leaderboard here – #newwinethisweek leaderboard

The week’s poll:



Beyond Burgundy (New World Pinot Noir & Chardonnay)

The famous villages of Burgundy easily roll off the tongue; Puligny, Chassagne, Muersault, Corton and Chablis for Chardonnay, Gevrey, Morey St Denis, Chambolle, Vosne and Nuits for Pinot. These famous villages, so much smaller than you can even imagine, are the source of many of the best wines I have ever drunk.

In my humble opinion there is no greater wine region in the world than Burgundy; but then again, you must know that because I don’t stop banging on about the bloomin place! It’s a magical and mystical place, and it is the spiritual home of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

But over the past 12 months my eyes have been opened; I have spent much of my time investigating (I mean tasting) the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the new world has to offer. I have been massively impressed. USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are now producing top notch stuff that can happily sit on the same table as some of the best wines of Burgundy. Here are a few of the jewels I’ve uncovered in my recent investigations…


A quick note here: these are all winemakers that I feel make quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wines are available from good specialists in the UK and they won’t break the bank (well compared to Burgundy anyway!)


The States is such an exciting place for these varieties right now and first of all I had to make a decision between California and Oregon. I have plumped for California simply because I have drunk more wines from the area and I continue to be blown away by the quality.

My selection is Au Bon Climat, which means “a well exposed vineyard”. Jim Clendenen founded the winery in 1982 and produces wonderful wines from grapes grown in California’s Santa Barbara County. Jim looks to Burgundy for inspiration and tries to replicate the restraint and elegance of the wines from that region. The winery continues to pick up awards and plaudits for its classical style of wines and have become firm favourites in my household.

Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2009 (around £30)

Pure red cherry and red currant fruit on the nose but supported by layers of earth and spice. On the palate there are heaps of Raspberry freshness and acidity, with the depth of ripe cherry, spice and a touch if tattered leather. The texture is magical with gentle grip that dissolves into a smooth long and sensuous conclusion. A fabulous and elegant wine of real class. 94 points

Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay 2011 (around £25)

I’ve looked at this wine a few times on the shelf and haven’t been able to pick it up due to the garishness of the label… But I’m glad I finally did! As the name suggests the nose is massive with a huge hit of butterscotch and oak. On the palate the first impression I get is of liquid Werthers Original – big, bold and beautiful. But I am really surprised by the acidity and the balance. Yes it’s toasty but there is plenty of peach and citrus fruit and the word I’m left with, that I never expected to be anywhere near this wine, is delicate. A very fine wine with lots of charm, weight, balance and length. 93 points


I had a similar dilemma choosing a single region in Oz too! Mornington Peninsula in Victoria produces some wonderfully elegant wines and I have had much pleasure from Tasmania now that the wines are becoming more widely available. But in the end I’ve gone to Western Australia for the amazing purity of the wines, and chose Larry Cherubino, not just for the quality, but also the tremendous value.

What I particularly love about Cherubino, who started his own winery in 2005, is the beautiful purity of his wines. Larry aims to reflect a true sense of place and crafts wines that express the fruit with the optimum precision and clarity. James Halliday, Australia’s most respected wine writer, is a huge fan; in the 2013 Australian Wine Companion, Larry Cherubino Wines became the highest-rating producer in a single year since Halliday first published the review in 1986.

My selections are from Larry’s “entry level” Ad-Hoc wines… I can’t wait to try “The Yard”, “Pedestal”, “Laissez Faire” and “Cherubino” offerings!

Cherubino Ad Hoc Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir 2012 (around £15)

Bright red fruit and cinder toffee with just a hint of spice on the nose. Super fresh acidity upfront, light bodied but lots of sour cherry, red currant and raspberry fruit. A touch of spicy oak and grippy but quality tannins and a long and fresh finish. 92 points

Cherubino Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken Chardonnay 2012 (around £15)

A delightfully rich lees-y nose with plenty of lemon freshness and a touch of white peach too – one of those extremely attractive noses that you can smell for a long, long time. The palate is bursting with flavours of peach, lemon, gentle vanilla spice, and has a super fresh and long finish. Delicious and fresh with just enough oaky interest. 93 points

New Zealand

As much as I enjoy Pinot Noir from Martinborough, the region producing both Pinots and Chards of super quality consistently for me is Otago, and the wines I just can’t help but go back to (even though they are on the pricy side) are those of Felton Road.

Felton Road’s winemaker Blair Walter’s previously worked in Oregon and Burgundy and produces wines of elegance, complexity and exceptional depth. All of the grapes are grown in their own ‘Elms Bannockburn Vineyard’, which has been farmed organically & biodynamically since 2000.

Felton Road Banockburn Chardonnay 2011 (around £30)

Everyone bangs on about the Sauvignon Blanc coming out of New Zealand but for me, Chardonnay is where it’s at. The aromas and flavours of warm toasty oak and leesy-ness hits you straight between the eyes before the waves the waves of sublime tropical fruit come at you; pineapple, honeydew melon and peach are all in evidence. It’s soft and warm and has such a wonderful balance of fruit, acid and oak, with impressive weight and texture. Fabulous. 95 points

Felton Road Banockburn Pinot Noir 2012 (around £40)

Attractive fresh nose of violets and ripe red fruit, but it’s on the palate that the wine really comes to life. Crisp acid with lots of bright but concentrated red berry fruit with a violet undertow and a hint of earthiness. Young and crunchy with a good tannic bite – great with duck at the moment, maybe needs a year or 2two to be fully enjoyed on it’s own. 93+ points

South Africa

To be honest I haven’t tried that much Pinot and Chardonnay from South Africa. I’m a big fan of the traditional Springbok grapes of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, as well as the current explosion of Rhone varieties… and then I came across the wines of Hamilton Russell from Hermanus and was left almost speechless.

Tim Hamilton Russell purchased the farm, one of the most southerly in South Africa, in 1975. The estate is located only 3 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and the cool breezes that come in from the sea make this the coolest region for wine production in South Africa. The wine are made with a majority of expensive new oak in a ‘Grand Cru’ style; although they are built to last they are also extremely attractive in their youth… which is great as I’m not sure how long I can keep the corks in place!

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2012 (around £25)

A fabulous wine – would be very difficult to place this outside of Burgundy – has a real Charlemagne power to it. Huge rich and buttery nose with lashings of peach and a burst of citrus, all wrapped in a blanket of expensive and smoky oak. The palate is fat and buttery with lots of peach, tart apple and just a hint of pineapple, all cloaked in rich caramel, nuts and flaky, butter pastry. The acid is fine and dandy and the finish is long and intense. Lots of concentration and plenty of complexity. 94 points

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2011 (around £25)

Nose filling aromas of rich and full of dark berry fruit with just a hint of roasted meat emerging. Plenty of fresh red fruit and fine acidic backbone on the attack – red cherries, red currants and the first tart raspberries of the season. There is good tannic structure and the smoky oak is in good balance with the fruit. Still young and perhaps has it’s best years ahead of it, but a muscular wine that wouldn’t be out of place alongside a 1er Cru Pommard. 93 points

#newwinethisweek Week 11 – Gamay, Beaujolais

Mike from www.pleasebringmemywine.com has chosen Gamay from Beaujoais as the wine choice for week 11 and I encourage you to read his intro here:



Not so long ago I wrote an article about Beaujolais (it won the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge!) so rather than a re-hash, have a read by following this link:



For years I derided Beaujolais without really giving it a chance – I was guilty of being a wine snob. But that has changed and I know admit that Beaujolais deserves its place at the top table of French wine. To discover (or rediscover) it for yourself, here are a few recommendations to go with Mike’s selections:


Luis Jadot are a Burgundy negotiant with good quality across the range:

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2012 (Tesco £10.99 – if you get there by Tuesday you can get it for £7.99!)


The Fleurie Cru produces some of the more delicate wines in Beaujolais:

Louis Jadot Fleurie Poncereau 2009 (Tesco £14.99)

Bouchard Pere et Fils Fleurie 2010 (Waitrose £11.99)


For a bit more structure try Moulin au Vent:

M&S Moulin au Vent “Petit Chene” 2010 (M&S £12.99)


And if you really want to learn about Beaujolais then pay a visit to the marvellous website of Beaujolais & Beyond and order a mixed case (they also carry a magnificent selection of white Burgundy from Macon)



So pick up a bottle and don’t forget to leave a comment and a score on Mike’s blog site.


Cheers and enjoy!


So much more to Priorat that power

The love affair started in autumn 2012. It was brought to my attention by a sommelier at Gidleigh Park; she was French and when I asked her what she was buying for herself she replied “Priorato”. A couple of months later I found myself in Barcelona for a long weekend and asked the guy behind the bar to recommend a bottle of red to savour and watch the evening unfold; I paid around €40 for a bottle of Somni 2009 and have never looked back.

Priorat is a district in Catalonia, North East Spain that is renowned for it’s powerful red wines. The wines are made from the old, low yielding vines of two kingpin varieties; Garnacha (38% plantings – Grenache in many other regions of the wine world) and Cariñena (25% plantings – Carignan to non-Spanish speakers), which are supplemented with international superstar grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.


The region has a great story to tell. Although there is evidence of viticulture in the region from the 12th century by the monks from the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei, the DO itself was only formally created in 1954. Pre-phylloxera there was around 5,000 hectares under vine in the region; the number had dwindled to under 600 in 1979. But all of this changed in the late 1980s when a group of five growers got together and shared a winery in Gratallops; they became known as the “5 Clos”: Clos Mogador, Clos Dofi (later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l’Obac.

This was the start of a golden age for Priorat that has kept on going and is thriving today. The planted area had expanded to 1,800ha in 2009 (still tiny compared to 123,000 in Rioja or even the 18,000 in Ribera del Duero), when the region became only the second DOC (the highest category in Spain) the other being Rioja.

Three things that grabbed me at a recent tasting of Priorat wines at The West London Wine School:

  1. The consistently high quality across the wines. Although the wines of Priorat come with a hefty-ish price tag, they are very reasonable if you’re comparing to the fancy appellations of France!
  2. I am a Garnacha man first, Cariñena second.
  3. There is so much more to these wines than power alone. Don’t get me wrong, if its grunt you’re looking for you won’t be disappointed, but there is finesses, elegance and supreme balance at work here.

These are wines of real distinction and should enjoy pride of place in any wine cellar… or rack… or shelf… just get some in!

On to the tasting:


Mas d’en Gil “Coma Alta” (Blanca) 2009 (N/A UK £21.49)

70% Garnacha Blanca, 30% Viognier. White wine represents only 4% of Priorat production, from a total of 43 plots. This is an oxidised style of wine that hits you right between the eyes but there is a real richness behind it; bruised apples, a touch of apricot, a hint of nut and even a touch of wild honey. Very dry but with decent acidic backbone – much brighter than I expected on the palate with a real freshness, with flavours of citrus and orange peel. This isn’t my kind of wine but there is good balance at play here – a very well made wine that hides it’s 15% (!) alcohol well. 90 points

Mas d’en Gil “Coma Vella” 2007 (Waitrose £23.49)

35% Garnacha, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cariñena, 10% Syrah. A very powerful blackberry and mineral nose, with layers of dark cherries, dried herbs and old worn leather. The palate is ripe with black cherries and kirsch and then the red fruit shines through. Perhaps a little hot at the beginning, the wine quickly comes around with a delightful balance of acidity and fine tannin. Very good wine with a good long finish – great it’s available in a UK supermarket too – wait until Waitrose run a 25% off deal and buy a couple. 92 points

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2012 (The Wine Society £13.95)

50% Cariñena, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Broody, deep and dark blackcurrant and blueberries – a little stewed and a little on the jammy side. There is a touch of red fruit lingering in the background as well as a hint of dark spice and violet – the Cariñena certainly seems to be shining through. Warm alcohol on the attack and a very grippy tannin structure but the fruit is fairly muted and the spice comes to the fore. Obviously still young but I feel it’s lacking balance and don’t think time will cure it. 87 points

Torres Salmos 2010 (Waitrose £18.49)

50% Cariñena, 30% Garnacha, 20% Syrah. Dark cherries and blackberries with a touch of sweetness – a bit kirsch-like – I like it. Very full bodied with lots of concentration; creamy blackberries, pepper and vanilla spice, with good tannic structure and a very long, slightly sweet finish. I like it a lot but it is made in a very modern, “big” global style – good wine, but doesn’t scream of its place. 92 points


Scala Dei “Cartoixa” 2007 (The Wine Reserve £34.99)

60% Grenache, 25% Cariñena, 10% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Scala Dei means “stairway to heaven” and I’m certainly on my way! Black cherries, plums, rolling tobacco, dried herbs, especially fennel and plenty on black pepper on the very enticing nose. Very fresh attack with cranberry acidity and lashing of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit coming through in wave after wave of flavour. Very complete wine with lovely balance, power yet delightful elegance. 93 points

Scala Dei “Cartoixa” 2006 (Soho Wine Supply £35.00)

45% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 20% Cab Sav, 15% Cariñena. Black cherry upfront then the bright red currants pop their heads up before the violets and leather kick-in – the nose is slightly muted but in a very quietly confident manner. Super concentrated with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit and delicious spikes of spice. This is a big, muscular wine and I love the rough edges – wine made for enjoyment not to get Parker points. This is a wine of character, rustic nature and real grunt… I love it! 94 points

Scala Dei “Cartoixa” 2005 (The Wine House £28.99)

45% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 20% Cab Sav, 15% Cariñena. Very opulent aromas of blackberry and cherry fruit with lots of dried spice and violet – I know that velvet isn’t a smell, but that’s what it smells like to me! On the palate the tannins are extremely fine and there is a sharp (and welcome) acidic bite. The flavours are blackberry and black cherry with leather, roasted meat and smoky spice. Great balance, majestic texture and spicy finish that keep going. Very fine and characterful indeed. 94 points

Clos Mogador 2009 (The Wine Society £41.00)

44% Garnacha, 21% Cariñena, 18% Syrah, 19% Cab Sav, . The first aroma is blackberry, then the red fruit kicks in; cranberry and raspberry. Big and rich on the nose; very polished and modern with plenty of vanilla from the use of very expensive new oak (50% new). Huge concentration of dark fruit up-front and a massive tannic structure; rich, polished, expensive and oh so very modern. Very, very young, very, very rich and hugely powerful. Another excellent wine but it could come from anywhere – is Priorat losing it’s sense of place? I hope not. 93 points

Clos Mogador 1996 (Fine & Rare £78.00)

Garnacha, Syrah, Cab Sav, Cariñena, Pinot Noir (I can’t find the percentages). Plenty of development on the nose worn leather, smoked meat, dried shitake mushrooms. There are still hints of fruit, mainly dried and mostly red. There is still delightful tannin at play but still has the acidic backbone to compensate. The main fruit on the palate is red currant and dried cranberry along with a smoky, earthy finish. Maybe just past it’s best but a very interesting and enjoyable drop. 92 points

Clos Martinet 1996 (N/A UK)

45% Grenache, 20% Cab Sav, 20% Merlot, 10% Cariñena, 5% Syrah. Talk about keeping the best ‘till last! Very fresh, very elegant on the nose with charming red cherry fruit, mineral and vanilla merging delightfully. It still tastes so young; the tannin is delightful and elegant, there’s lots of bright red cherry fruit and lots of earthy mushroom and smoke and delicious minerality. The tasting  title was “Powerful Priorat” but the elegance of this fantastic wine certainly stole the show. 95 points


OK, so Priorat isn’t a cheap option… but £10.99 for Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference won’t break the bank and won’t disappoint either!

Taste the Difference Priorat 2009, Priorat, Spain (Sainsbury’s currently £8.24 was £10.99)

It’s hard to find Priorat under a tenner… Never mind £8.24! But this is fab. Blackberries, black currants and a touch of damson jam, but there’s also a fabulous savoury edge and an earthy minerality.  Refreshing acidity, nicely judged oak and balanced powdery tannin. This is still a young wine and unfortunately none of it will see its prime; but so what, it tastes really good right now. 91 points


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