Monthly Archives: October 2012

Cava tasting at Freixenet

It’s time to enjoy Cava

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The beautiful Freixent premises in Sant Sadurni

Me and The Fish visited Freixenet winery on Monday 29th October 2012. A 40 minute train journey from the centre of Barcelona was well worth it, and the cost of €6 each for the tour was an absolute steal. There are a couple of daily tours in English and we were lucky enough that there were only 8 of us on the tour so it felt vey personal.

Freixenet is big business, with over 100 million bottles maturing on site at any one time! The company was started in 1861 and is still run by one of the original families.

The tour begins with a short video introducing Freixenet and their wines, and took place in a cool little cinema. The tour then ambles through the whole process of making the Cavas with lots of information about grapes and process, delivered by a very friendly Spanish lady with brilliant English and a great sense of humour. What I actually loved was the fact that it never felt like a marketing speech (anyone visited Veuve Cliquot in Reims??). The tour really is all about the product and not the brand. Part of the tour is a mini train ride around the production and storage areas and really does add a nice touch. 45 minutes for the whole thing and a great deal of quality information is shared.

After the tour we were taken to a tasting room, a bit like an airport departure lounge but cosy enough nevertheless. As part of the admission fee you get a full glass of Cordon Negro Reserve Brut. You’ve probably seen these black bottles on the shelves of your local supermarket. I have to say it went down very well and we asked if it was possible to try some other Cavas. This is where the place came into its own. We were given a menu with 11 Cavas, priced between €1,75 and €5,10 a glass… A full 125ml glass! Brilliant I thought, and so glad we took the train! To accompany the wines there is also a small selection of cold tapas dishes available, including a fantastic platter for about €16, superb value considering the quality of the jamon on the plate.

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Cava and tapas. Beautiful!

We enjoyed a cracking couple of hours working our way through 7 Cavas and demolishing the jamon, butifarra blanco and manchego. If you get the chance please go. the wines are excellent, the staff are brilliant and it will certainly make you reconsider Cava as a sparkling option. Oh and by the way, the tour (2 people), tasting and tapas came to a grand total of €55!

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The full list by the glass

Below are my tasting notes on the wines we drank. I’ve used winesearcher.com to try and find stockists and prices in the UK, but as you’ll see this proved quite difficult, with only the Cordon Negro available!

Cordon Negro Reserva Brut

A blend of the local Parellada, Macabeu and Xarel-lo grapes, aged for 18-24 months in chestnut barrels. Apple skins and lemon on the nose. Vey dry with a lovely lemon-sherbet finish. Not complex but far more refreshing that I’d expected. 85 points. (£9.49 all major supermarkets)

Brut Barroco

Same blend as the Cordon Negro but with a higher percentage of Xarel-lo, apparently for a better balanced wine, aged for 30-36 months. Granny Smiths in a glass. Unfortunately the alcohol felt unbalanced and overtook the fruit, leaving an astringent and very dry finish. Bit disappointing this one, 82 points. (Can’t find a UK retailer)

Trepat

Made using 100% Trepat black grapes, aged for 30-40 months. This is more like it! Slight blush colour if you look hard enough, wild strawberries on the nose and palette with a gorgeous acidic streak running though. Long and delicious. Yes please! 90 points. (Can’t find a UK retailer)

Elyssia Rose

100% Pinot Noir, aged for 10 months only. Lovely pink redish-pink colour. Very fragrant, red fruits and cherries. Rally fresh taste and lovely balance. Simple and fruity, a great party wine. 88 points. (Can’t find a UK retailer)

Reserva Real

We’re back to the local Parellada, Macabeu and Xarel-lo blend, but this time it’s the first pressing, aged for over 30 months. This is a serious wine. It’s yeasty and bready, super complex and oh so long. It’s is what I expect from a good vintage champers – and I reckon would do very well in a blind tasting. Best wine of the flight for me by some distance. 93 points. (Can’t find a UK retailer – gutted!)

Casa Sala Brut Nature

Now we’re into the stuff they keep for themselves! Made using a blend of Xarel-lo and Parelloda, aged for 30-40 months. This is super dry but very complex. Not so much breadiness as the Real but certainly complex. I got quite a bit of dried fruit, maybe even figs coming through on the taste, which has a very long finish. Good wine but I’ll stick with the Real. 89 points.

Malvasia

100% Malvasia, aged for 9 years. Is this a Cava or a sherry?? Wow, this is interesting. This wine must be made for Xmas. Spices, figs, raisins and a lovely sweetness but with a slightly dry finish. This really is great and I am gutted they don’t export this little beauty. Would be a great match for foie gras. 91 points.

Barcelona. The good, the bad and the bubbly!

Now my knowledge of Spanish wine certainly isn’t great. I know my Rioja from my Ribera, understand the difference between a Crianza and a Gran Reserva, and love the refreshing whites from the the north of the country, particularly Verdejo and Abarinho. But what about Barcelona, and what about Penedes?

The white wines by the glass are simple affairs, reminiscent of the slightly round white wines from the Rhone; pleasant but lacking that streak of acidity to really give them a lift, especially when drunk with some of the marvellous seafood pinchos. What I was really surprised and delighted by are the number of varieties grown in the area, and the quality of the wines produced using the more commonly known grapes.

For lunch on our first day we sat down at a very good seafood tapas restaurant, Mariscco in Placa Reial. Looking through the wine list, what caught my eye was a Penedes DO Riesling (Torres Waltroud 2011) so I went with my instinct and what a good choice it turned out to be. At first taste I thought it may be a touch off-dry, but this was simply the juiciness of limes and pineapple chunks coming through. The finish was actually bone dry and rather reminiscent of a wine from the Clare Valley – a very modern and enjoyable wine (89 points). The seafood was outstanding. Percebes, langoustine, clams, cuttlefish, followed by some beautiful veal fillet.

Mariscco restaurant in Placa Reial

We also enjoyed some simple but refreshing Basque white wine in a couple of the great pinchos bars; nothing to write home about with too much conviction but perfect for this most superb method of informal dining.

The best seafood dish ever??

The second memorable white was the exceptional Jean Leon Chardonnay 2009. Only 12,000 bottles produced in the vintage and ours was bottle number 9,554. The wine had beautifully integrated oak, which surprised me when i found it had spent 9 months in new French oak. The nose was a pleasant apple and pear combo, with the fruit coming through in the taste, swathed in a rich vanilla cream. Once we took the wine out of the ice bucket we were able to enjoy it at its full and charming best (91 points). What I haven’t mentioned is Can Majo, the superb restaurant where we enjoyed this wine in Barcelonta, overlooking the sea. The Majo paella was maybe the best seafood dish I have ever eaten and I implore you to go if you ever find yourself in the vicinity.

So what about the reds? Well this is the only “bad” I can write about. And the main reason is the lack of local red available by the glass. Rioja – tick, Ribera – tick. But very little of the local stuff. The couple of places we did find with Penedes, or if we were very lucky, Priorat, on the list by the glass were fantastic! The Garnacha is spicy, yet silky, concentrated and inky. It was just such a shame that there was so little around!

La Vinya del Senyor – a great wine bar in Placa Santa Maria

On our last evening we went to the superb wine bar in Placa Santa Maria, called La Vinya del Senyor. OK, we went the day before and enjoyed a lovely glass of Cava and Ribera, but the list was excellent so we decided to head back for a bottle of Priorat. And boy was it worth it. We asked the waiter for some inspiration and he pointed us in the direction of the Somni 2009. Wow! Spicy, smokey, brambly, black currant and blackberry nose. Lovely cassis flavour, reminiscent of a great black currant sorbet. Warm, concentrated, complex and long, like a black fruit duvet! This was perfect for a chilly evening in Barca (by their standards), and one I will be tracking down for Xmas (94 points).

The star of the show – Somni 2009, Priorat DOCQ

So that just leaves the bubbles. To be quite frank, I’ve never met a Cava I’ve really got along with… Until this weekend. I’ve always found Cava lacking the acidic backbone I so enjoy in champagne and English fizz. But this weekend I found the Cava zing and it was certainly worth waiting for. We enjoyed a lovely Titianna Brut Nutural (extra dry) at the aforementioned La Vinya del Senyor, but the real magic came when we visited Freixenet, one of the biggest Cava producers in Catalunya. I’m going to write a separate piece about the tour and tasting at Freixenet as it is definitely something I would recommend to anyone visiting the Barcelona area, and anyone who feels they don’t quite “get” Cava.

A taste of things to come

Overall, Barcelona is a wonderful city and brilliant place for a city break. The food is simply outstanding, the culture is magnificent and the people are welcoming. As a matter of fact, I can’t wait I go back!

The good.

I have fallen in love with pinchos – the most social way of eating I have ever come across. As for the wine, well the brooding, fruity reds of Priorat certainly get the gold medal but the whites made from the more internationally recognised grapes are also excellent and I look forward to finding some for my collection.

The bad.

There isn’t any really. The biggest bugbear was the lack of local wine by the glass and the omnipresence of Rioja and Ribero. In fairness that really isn’t too much of a chore but I think the locals should be proud of their wine and encourage more of us tourists to give it a go.

The bubbly.

Well I’m a Cava convert. The cheap stuff we buy in supermarket in the UK really doesn’t do this drink any justice. There is so much choice and there are some really complex wines out there – you just have to search them out and have a bit of patience. I will write up my notes from the Freixenet tasting in the next day or so to try and give a bit more depth to the subject.

Gracias!

Drink along with Floyd!

Someone just posted a tweet about Keith Floyd… And it got me thinking…

Do you remember the first time you saw Keith Floyd on TV? I remember seeing him when I was at school and just thought, what a mad bastard! A the time I had no interest in food whatsoever, probably too busy working out whether Biactol or Clearasil was he best cure for acne.

It wasn’t until I got to university and started watching Ready, Steady, Cook every day that I got into food. Now I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I was red tomatoes and my flatmate Rob was green peppers. Best of 5 every week, loser bought the first pint… It got very competitive. Anyway I started watching any food programme as I got the bug and saw a programme called Floyd on France. The mad fool was cooking a piperade, being watched by a disgusted looking French lady… And I was hooked.

I’ve seen most of his shows now, although most, sadly, still aren’t available of DVD. When I got into wine I started watching Floyd Uncorked on UK Travel and I fell in love with the man again. What a great introduction to a great subject and what a guy to front it. He and Jonathan Pedley MW in a different wine region of France every week, discussing, arguing, drinking, but more importantly, making wine accessible to us naive mortals.

Floyd Uncorked became a great go-to Xmas present. Buy the book, the DVD and a few bottles to drink along with Floyd! Savigny Le Baune and Chablis in episode 1, Vouvray and Pouilly Fume episode 2. Give it a try… Your friends and family will love you forever and also start to share your interest in wine.

On our recent trip to France we spent the morning in Avignon before heading out to Chateuneuf. I wasn’t that taken by the place but was like a giddy child when we found the Hotel D’Europe… The bar where Keith spent so many of his days entertaining the locals and tourists alike.

Anyway, I want to remember the real Floyd, not the one we saw in that tragic Channel 4 documentary which aired the day after he died. So I recently re-read his autobiography, Shaken not Stirred, as well as the wonderful book by his long time suffering director David Pritchard, Shooting the Cook. Please do the same and remember what a true entertainer the great man was.

Drink along with Floyd… The greatest Xmas present of all time!

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Hotel D’Europe in Avignon. Where the king held court.

Full episode guide:

1. Burgundy – Chablis & Savigny les Beane
2. Loire – Pouilly Fume & Vouvray
3. Rhone – Cotes du Rhone Villages & Crozes Hermitage
4. Bordeaux – Medoc & Sauternes
5. Alsace – Riesling & Gewürztraminer
6. Languedoc – Viognier & Minervois
7. Provence – Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence rose & Luberon
8. Champagne – Champagne!

 

To score or not to score? That is the question

This is a real head-hurter for me. I am by nature a geek. I love stats, I love numbers, I love spreadsheets and I love rankings. When I first subscribed to Decanter I set up a spreadsheet of all of the supermarket wines that were reviewed, including the scores, and sent it to friends so they always had a reference (if they wanted!) when they went shopping. But what if they didn’t like a wine rated 19/20? What if they started shopping by scores alone. How boring would that be? How much would they miss out on?

When I score a wine I try to be as objective as possible and take into account the quality of the wine making etc, but if I don’t like it can I still give it 18.5/20? When I’m scoring a wine at home it’s to decide whether I want to have it again so I probably wouldn’t give it that high score, but now I’ve decided to share my thoughts I suppose I’ll have to try harder.

As I’ve said, I’m a geek so yes, I will score wines. As honestly as I possibly can.

But the matter doesn’t end there. What scoring system should I use? In my first post I went for the 20 point system. If its good enough for Jancis, it’s good enough for me I thought. However, in recent months Decanter have gone to the 100 point scale. Most of the websites and blogs I follow (see the “My Wine Links” page) use the 100 point system. The wine world loves Parker and his 100 point wines. But it’s not really a 100 point score is it? You get 50 points just for turning up… Well we do love a trier don’t we! But it’s a nice round number so I think I’m going to go with the trendy kids and go cental… Sorry couldn’t help that one. 100 point scores have now been added!

The Wine Gang give a great overview about how this works so I’m going with them:

14.0 = 80
14 + = 81
14.5 = 82
15.0 = 83
15 + = 84
15.5 = 85
15.5 + = 86
16.0 = 87
16.5 = 88
16.5 + = 89
17.0 = 90
17 + = 91
17.5 = 92
18.0 = 93
18 + = 94
18.5 = 95
18.5 + = 96
19.0 = 97
19 + = 98
19.5 = 99
20.0 = 100

But please remember that wine is a very subjective and wonderfully personal pastime, so use scores as a guide only. Only you know what 100 really means.

USA vs. France… Again?

OK, it may not be original but a recent visit to Gidleigh Park was the inspiration behind this latest France vs. USA tasting. We were very fortunate to have been invited to the wedding of our good friends back in September (thanks Richard & Max!); a lovely service in Worcester, followed by a weekend at the outrageously wonderful Gidleigh Park hotel. We enjoyed Michael Caines’ stunning signature menu on the Friday evening, along with a very well judged accompanying wine flight. The standout dish and wine combo was the Cornish duckling with cabbage, smoked bacon, roast garlic and a spiced jus, paired with a 2009 Bergström Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Now I am a Burgundy man through and through… But this wine really tickled my fancy, so much so that I asked the sommelier who their supplier was. It turned out to be from Roberson on High Street Kensington, recent winners of the 2012 Decanter London Wine Merchant of the Year award. So online i went and found the listing and realised that I work 5 minutes away from the London outlet and never realised it! What an excuse for a lunchtime visit.

The truly magical Gidleigh Park

Roberson is a great shop and I know I will spending much more time at their premises over the next few months, but Bergstrom I was after and Bergstrom I did find. Unfortunately they didn’t have the Cumberland Reserve in stock, however the did have the Shea Vineyard 2010. The Cumberland Reserve is a wine made from a combination of grapes from 3 different vineyards, Shea being one of them (Bergstrom and Lancelotti are the other two). Being a single vineyard wine, the Shea was a tad more expensive but what the hell I thought! It was then pointed out to me that they also stocked a Bergstrom Chardonnay that came highly recommend. Well what else could I do? “Add it to the bill, please”, and away I walked.

This weekend we had a family get together at the in-laws in Worcester, with my parents and sister joining us from Anglesey. A perfect opportunity to try the wines out and maybe test their suitability for this years Xmas wine list. But why not make it a bit more interesting and pit the newly purchased Bergstroms against some decent tipples from Burgundy? So I picked out a couple of bottles from the rack and away we went. The tasting proved to be very interesting and great fun. Burgundy came out on top 2-0, although as you will read from the notes below, the Bergstroms could definitely do with at least another year in bottle. Also it wasn’t 100% cut and dried, with the Chardonnay battle causing the biggest debate…

Bergstrom Old Stones Chardonnay 2010

Lovely deep, inviting gold colour, nose of white flowers, with a good citrus blast and a hint the tropics (lychee maybe?). The wine has good body but the fruit is still hiding, trying to get out. The principle take away is minerally, wet stones with a hint of apple skin on the mid palette. This will only get better and may well make the list for Xmas 2013. 16.5/20, 88pts, £25.95 www.robersonwine.com

Domaine Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Blanc, Cuvée des Forgets 2010

We visited the domaine in the heart of Meursault back in July this year and enjoyed a wonderful tasting in the very cool and vey small cellar. This was the first wine we tried and although only a Bourgogne Blanc it was as good, if not better, than many of the Cote De Beaune village wines I’ve tasted recently. The wine is deep gold with a very clean nose of white peach and a hint of cobnuts. The flavour follows on from the nose as well as delivering a lovely hit of minerality and just a hint of buttered toast. Bourgogne Blanc on the label but this is another one that will keep getting better and at this price why not keep a case in the cellar? 17/20, 90pts, £18.95 www.corneyandbarrow.com (I bought mine direct after the tasting at Javillier but will be on the phone to C&B very soon!)

Final Chardonnay score 3-3… With my vote counting double (!!), a close contest just going the way of Burgundy.

Bergstrom Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010

Lovely crimson colour and very fruit forward nose. Cherries and red currants with a blast of musty leather. These Oregon Pinots really do offer secondary and tertiary smells very early in their lives. The palette is still very closed with only a hint of the fruit and some violets coming through, not quite in harmony… Yet! This will be fantastic given a couple more years in bottle – think I’ll have a look for some 2008/9. 16.5/20, 88pts, £37.95 www.robersonwine.com

Domaine Pierre Naigeon Haute Cotes de Nuits 2007

This is a bit of a go to wine with very good structure and flavour for the price. A hint of brick on the rim and a nose which offers sweet morello cherries and a whiff of smokeyness. Light bodied and the fruit from the nose is there in the mouth, along with that lovely damp forrest floor vibe. Not a wine of length but certainly one of charm. 16.5+/20, 89pts, £18.65 www.wineandthevine.co.uk

Final Pinot Noir score 5-1 to Burgundy (sorry Peter!). 2010 vs 2007 was what tipped the balance.

The verdict

A very enjoyable tasting session and some very good wines. If you’re looking for good Pinot and Chardonnay from outside of Burgundy I would certainly set my sights on Bergstrom and I will be on the look out for some 2008 and 2009s. The wine that sparked the tasting was the 2009 Cumberland Pinot Noir so winesearcher.com here I come!

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Email poscard #4 – the end of the vine!

Chablis

We stopped in Chablis for a lunch and a tasting on our way to Reims. Chablis really is a very quiet and sleepy village but we had a great tasting at Domaine Pinson and met a winemaker who really loves what he does. We tried the village Cbalis, 4 Premier Crus from the north, east south and west of the appellation, and a superb Grand Cru (Le Clos) that won’t be opened for a few years yet!

The amazing family behind Domaine Pinson

Reims

So Reims is the capital of Champagne and is certainly built on bubbles! Its a cool city with loads of great bars and bistros with a real fun feel about it. In, fact lunch was so much fun we actually missed our chance of a visit to Tattainger! Never mind! We soldiered on to Veuve Cliquot and talk about branding and marketing!! Everything was yellow (I think it’s orange!) and the people working there weren’t all picked for their maths skills! However it was an interesting visit and the deep caves (they own 26km of them!) are very impressive. Unfortunately only a glass of yellow (orange!) label at the end.

The visit to Ruinart the next day was much more about the wine and there were only 6 of us on the tour. One of the oldest champagne houses and they have the deepest caves (crayeres as they are known). The tour was great fun but the tasting was even better. A glass each of non vintage and vintage Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) and Rose (2002 vintage for BdB and 1998 for Rose). This is without doubt my new favourite bubbly tipple… And on offer at Majestic for £30 (reduced from £50) until August 20th!

The tasting at Ruinart

And now we’re home. 1,600 miles travelled, 14 producers visited, over 100 wines tasted (plus the bottles with meals and glasses consumed in bars!). The highs have been trying wines i never thought i would get the chance ever to drink (‘Ermitge, Clos du Beze, the Cortons) but more than that has been talking to the producers who love what they do are so passionate about their work. It has been an absolutely amazing experience and hope you’ve had some fun following our travels. We look forward to sharing some of the stories, pictures and wine with you soon.

Email postcard #3 – Cote de Beaune

We left you last time as we were about to leave the Rhone and journey into the wondrous world of Burgundy… And what a treat it’s been so far!!

We headed off on the 2.5 hour drive a bit upset to be leaving the wonderful views of Hermitage and the spicy reds… But that was soon forgotten when we got to Meursault, home of some of the finest white Burgundies. A bit of lunch and glass of Meursault to line the stomachs then off to a tasting. We eneded up at Domaine Patrick Javillier near the centre of the village and what a great decision it proved to be. From a simple but elegant Bourgogne Blanc through some wonderful village Meursault and finishing off with a couple of amazing Premier Crus (no Grand Crus in Meursault for some ridiculous reason!) Beautiful aromas of honey and buttered toast, great mouth-filling flavours of the same the same plus a lovely citrus streak of acidity… I’m in Heavan and the Rhone is forgotten! A few more bottles for the boot then off to Beaune, wine capital of Burgundy (that should be the World!).

The beautiful village of Meursault

Out to a great bar/brassiere with 20 or so wines by the glass… We tried most! My fav was a Beaune Premier Cru, Fish opted for the Morey Saint Denis… We were both winners! On Saturday we had our best tasting experience yet. Maison Drouhin is one of the oldest growers/negotiants in Beaune and we had booked a cellar tour and tasting. There were 3 acres of underground cellars beneath the city of Beaune that we walked through them with great commentary from our host Jacquie. Really ingesting and very different to anything we have done so far. But he best as still to come as we got to the cellar tasting room and saw the 9 wines set up for our tasting… OMG as the kids say these days:

Whites.

  • Saint Veran Blanc – simple but delicious
  • Chablis Premier Cru – pure mineral and fizzing acidity!
  • Meursault Premier Cru – I love this stuff!
  • Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc – great wine, great story
  • Chassange-Montrachet Premier Cru – wow!

Reds

  • Chorey Les Beaune – charming and delightful
  • Chambolle Musigny – and I thought Volnay was my favourite wine!!
  • Beaune Clos des Mouches – best Beaune I’ve ever tasted
  • Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru – never thought I’d get the chance!

This obviously worked out to quite an expensive takeaway order… These are for the upstairs collection (invented on this tour!).

Tasting at Drouhin

We got our feet dirty in the famous vineyards of Corton and Vosne Romanee (Le Richbourg to be precise) on the way to our next post. We’re now sitting in our new home for 3 days overlooking the Clos du Vougeot and getting ready to dig into the powerful reds of the Cotes de Nuits (doubt we’ll get a chance to try the Clos de Beze again though!).

Drink well kiddies and I’ll be back with more when we reach Champagne on Wednesday evening (via Chablis of course!)

Emal postcard #2 – Northern Rhone

Greetings from the Northern Rhone!

Arrived in Tain H’Ermitage yesterday to the most amazing view of the might hill of Hermitage.

The mighty hill of Hermitage, overlooking the Rhone

Went to a tasting at M Chapoutier yesterday. Getting a bit bored of the slightly “round” whites in the Rhone now… Can’t wait for some acidity when we reach Chablis! However we were treated to a 2007 Le Meal Ermitage Blanc – that was a blockbuster but at €200 a pop a bit out of our league!! The reds though were superb. Favorites were the very easy drinking 2010 Crozes Hermitage and an especially good Hermitage 2009. It was so good I asked about the 2007 and he opened a bottle for us! Good luck if you’re invited to dinner when one of those gets opened!!

Went out for dinner overlooking the Rhone last night – good food but pretty crappy service! So another tasting today at Delas. One hell of a walk in this heat but certainly worth it. Similar types of wines to Chapoutier but some new favourites. First off was a St Joseph 2009, second was a Cornas 2007 – actually one of my favourite wines so far. We were also treated to some more single vineyard Hermitage and a top Cote Rotie – again at €100+ a bottle thanks but no thanks!

Tomorrow we’re off to Burgundy. Quick stop in the Macon for some value then on to Meusault for some grown up white Burgundy. Then we arrive in Beaune for a couple of days where the great Pinot Noir gets some exploration… Can’t bloody wait!

Looking forward to catching up soon and sharing some of the bounty!

Email postcard #1

I have decided to publish the email postcards that started this whole thing rolling. It was a way of letting our friends and family know what we were up to and they seemed to enjoy it… I hope you do to! We travelled through the Rhone, Burgundy and Champagne in July/August this year.

Email postcard #1

We are having an awesome time on our French wine adventure and still only 2 days in! Sunday was a heck of a trek – left the house at 4AM and arrived in Vacqueyras at 6PM!!

Vacqueyras is a great little village and we visited 3 amazing wine makers yesterday. Domaine Couroulu has been praised by Parker as one of the best value wine in the whole of France and the guy we met there was great. We tasted 6 wines, the highlight being a 2006 Vacqueyras Villes Vignes. The second tasting wasn’t as friendly but wine was good (Domaine Montmirail) and the third, Domaine Montvac, was run by an incredible lady who reminded us of our good friend Max!

Went o Avignon this morning and for me the most impressive bit was finding The Hotel D’Europe… Floyd’s old hangout! We then went for lunch in Chateuneuf de Pape and had a brilliant tasting at Ogier. Thy are part of a group that produce wines all over France but we just concentrated on the Chateauneuf. The Blanc 2011 tasted very Burgundian and very good, the reds were incredible – we did a horizontal tasting from 2009 to highlight the differences in their vineyards, which was incredible, then we were blown away by some 2000 and 2003 from their #1 cuvée.

We move up to the Northern Rhone tomorrow, staying in Tain Ermitage so will update you on how things are coming on. Currently 33 bottles to the good!!

Welcome to my wine blog

Richebourg Grand Cru, Burgundy

Hi and thanks for showing an interest in my words. Me and my wife (The Fish – not because she drinks like one!) love wine and I spend most of the time when I’m not sleeping or working either talking about, reading about, or most importantly, drinking wine. I have my favourites, which I will write more about, but am always prepared to try and learn new things. I love reading other people’s views on wine and I hope you will enjoy and appreciate mine.

I’ve enjoyed drinking wine for a fair few years but really got into it seriously and passionately a couple of years ago. I used to spend time perusing the shelves in the supermarkets but then I started reading more about wine and looking for new places to buy this magic in a bottle. I discovered Majestic and a whole bunch (sorry!) of new grapes and wine regions and then I came across an independent wine merchant, who totally blew the whole subject wide open.

I met Jez at Wine and the Vine a few years ago now after walking into his showroom at Battlers Green farm in Radlett. I thought I would choose a couple of bottles for the weekend and didn’t realise the minimum quantity was 12 in a mixed case. Me and The Fish had a chat and decided why not, let’s give it a go. We told Jez that we liked Chianti and Rioja (dont we all at first!) and were fans of Riesling and Gewurtztraminer so he pulled a few off the shelf to get things going. We then tasted some of the wines he had open for sampling and we blown away by the white grapes of Verdejo and Torrontes… This was all new to me and I loved it! So that’s how it started. I promise I will write more about Jez and his shop over the next few months.

The second big event for me was when The Fish asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year. I thought about a case of wine, then I thought, how about spending a bit more and having 2 special bottles? This was the biggest mistake I ever made financially because now I have a very expensive habit! Those two wines were a Nicolas Rossignol Volnay 1er Cru En Chevret, and a Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Cuvée Jadis. The Volnay was a magical experience and remains my favourite wine commune, the Sancerre demonstrated how subtle and interesting Sauvignon Blanc can be, and its not always about in your face tropical fruit and harsh acidity.

I took my WSET level 2 examination earlier this year and will be doing the level 3 course next year and just love to keep learning. In February this year we drove to Beanue for 3 days and set up a personal tasting with Nicolas Rossignol of the ethereal Volnay fame, amongst others. It was an incredible three days and on the way home we started planning our 2 week summer holiday. And so the planning began… Rhone, Burgundy, Champagne. And what a two weeks it was. While we were on the trip I wrote a series of email postcards to our friends and family and they all said how much they enjoyed reading about our wine adventure. A couple of them even suggested I should write a blog… So here I am. The next post will be a re-hash of those e-cards. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts.

Thanks for reading.

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