Monthly Archives: January 2013

Back to school for Burgundy… Grand Cru tasting

The second part of this week’s Burgundy love-in took me to a fabulous tasting of Grand Crus at the West London Wine School. As usual Jimmy had put together a superb array of fine wines as well as an informative, interesting and amusing history lesson on the great wines of the greatest wine region in the world. Seriously, if you do get a chance then check out the fine wine tasting diary (West London Wine School) and book your place; you won’t be disappointed.

The tasting included Chardonnays from Chablis and Corton, while the Pinot Noir selection took us on a tour of Gevrey Chambertain, Morey Saint Denis and Vougeout. You all know by now how much I adore the wines of Burgundy but this was serious stuff, and as you’ll see the scores for the wines reflect this… Nothing under 90 points!

But before the detail, let’s give this tasting some context. Grand Cru wine accounts for a mere 1.4% of total wine production in Burgundy. This is one of the reasons for the often astronomical prices – it’s simple supply and demand. However don’t be fooled into thinking this is the only reason for the prices, because as with most things in life, you get what you pay for… I just wish I could afford to pay for some of these magnificent specimens!

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Its time to gasp at the prices and I only hope my words do justice to my enthusiasm and enjoyment…

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Domaine Pascal Bouchard, Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir, 2006 (Waitrose £29.99)
Lots of stones and mineral on the nose but also plenty of green apple fruit. There is also a delicious savoury element here, reminiscent of almonds, marzipan even. On the tongue its clean, fresh and wonderfully acidic. Tart green apples and lovely minerality. The finish is generous with a touch of bitter almond right at the end. Clean, elegant, fruity, mineral and savoury. Very good. 91 points

Domaine Laroche, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 2004 (Millesima £65)
Much richer aromas than the Vaudesir – intense, creamy and toasty with plenty of red apple and white peach fruit. On the palate its rich and buttery with a good blast of peach. Also a nice hint of spice and a delicious toasty finish. I’d like a bit more fruit and acidity, but still a good wine. 90 points

Maison Nicolas Potel, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2005 (Exel Wines £60)
Oh my this smells amazing. Oakley, floral and delicate, with plenty of white peach and sweet vanilla. In the mouth there is a wonderful streak of acidity – really zesty green apples and wonderful ripe peaches. The oak is beautifully integrated and kisses your tongue, providing a lick of vanilla. This is elegance personified and amazing fruit, oak spice and toast that lingers and lingers and lingers… 94 points

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Domaine Armand Rousseau, Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2000 (Jeraboams £195)
How many times can I say wow?? Wow! There is so much fruity aroma here, with red, even dried cherries and wild strawberries, backed up by a light, savoury meatiness, forest and truffle. There is so much red fruit on the palate, with sour cherry and wild strawberry at the fore, providing amazing acidic freshness, making your mouth water for a very long time. So much fruit, so bright and so, so elegant. More Chambolle than Gevrey but that just suits me fine… Incredible! 97 point

Domaine Ponsot, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 1998 (Fine & Rare £174)
Intense, almost stewed red fruit and lots of meat and leather on the nose. Very earthy, lots of mushroom and bit of a black pepper hit. The earthiness continues onto the palate and is backed up with lots of tannic structure… Then the freshness of the acidy kicks in and the balance in there. Dark cherries and black spice but very smooth at the end… Eventually! Still some time to reach its best I think but still quite superb. 93 points

Domaine Maume, Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru, 1999 (not available in UK, Approx £140)
Lots of roasted meat and wild mushroom aromas – this ally is a brooding beast. Lots of pepper, clove and very dark fruit. This is a full bodied Pinot with lovely whispy tannins. The fruit is redder than the nose suggested but then you get the dark spice and roasted meatiness. Very powerful, very intense, almost brutal. 92 points

Domaine Drouhin-Laroze, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, 2004 (Fine & Rare £57.68)
The first bottle was lean and green but not to worry, Jimmy had another in reserve! Smoke, oak and chocolaty aromas, with hints of roasted meat and plenty of black fruit. The fruit on the palate was more redolent of red cherries but masked a bit by lots of oak and lots of tannin. Powerful, structured, but not elegant. Needs more time I think (most of the wines had been open for over 3 hours so maybe a bit unfair as it was drunk as soon as the second bottle was opened). 90 points

Domaine des Lambrays, Clos de Lambrays Grand Cru, 2005 (Goedhuis £138)
This was the wine I was most looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. Sweet cherry nose, with a touch of roasted meat and a heady mix of sweet and black spice. Still lots of tannin and plenty of power here, but the acid is there in abundance providing a beautiful balance. Sweet red fruit is there in the background and I would love to try this wine again in another 10 years. Fruit, tannin, power, everything… You just have to pay… And wait! 96 points

I love Burgundy 2001

Please forgive me this week for I will be indulging in my favourite wine subject. Burgundy.

Just before Christmas I received The Wine Society’s Xmas offers leaflet and included in it was a mixed case of 2001 Burgundy reds, half of them from producers I knew and half from producers I didn’t. All of the bottles are from Premier Cru vineyards stretching throughout the famous Cote D’Or and the thought of drinking these wines with 10 years of bottle age was just too much for me to turn down.

2001 is often referred to as a winemakers vintage. The growing conditions were far from perfect and required lots of work in the vineyard, so although 2001 may fall short of being a first class vintage, there is much to enjoy and they certainly appear to be in their perfect drinking window right now.

Also, to give a truly rounded view of the vintage, I also bought a couple of 2001 whites; you know, just to give you a feel for the total picture!

If you feel like spoiling yourself then look at 2001. The prices are much higher I’m sure than most of you usually pay for a bottle but if you want to know what all of the fuss is about then make the investment; you won’t be disappointed.

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The Whites

Morey-Blanc Meursault 2001 (£29.00 The Wine Society)
Nuts and peaches jump out of the glass and just a hint of smokey oak and butterscotch. This smells its age and smells expensive. The nuttiness is foremost at first taste and then peaches and grapefruit before a lingering finish of beautifully judged and balanced oak that just goes on and on. Its still so fresh. Magic. 93 points

Moret-Nomine 1er Cru Genevrieres, Meursault 2001 (£42.00 The Wine Society)
Mostly gentle oak aromas with some raisin like fruit. It tastes like a fresh cream slice topped with hazelnuts. There’s a hint of pineapple fruit, its lovely medium bodied and the flavour goes on and on. Possibly just passed its best – I’d like to try a 2005 though! Second glass didn’t quite live up to the first. 89 points

The Reds

Comte Armand 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux, Pommard 2001 (£48.00 The Wine Society)
Sometimes you open a wine with such anticipation and are very disappointed. Sometimes it exceeds your expectation. This is incredible. The aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, leather and truffle are truly intoxicating. And then the taste. Those wild strawberries, some black cherry, a lovely black-tar intensity and an amazing damp forest and mushroom complexity. But it isn’t stop there because there is spice. Five spice, because there is a touch of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and some others I can’t quite, fathom. And beautiful silky tannins. I’m in heaven. 96 points

Domaine Hubert de Montille Les Taillepieds 1er Cru, Volnay 2001 (£46.00 The Wine Society)
Oh yes, this is very exciting! Very pale, almost rose look in the glass but the aromas are incredible. Strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, mushroom, truffle and undergrowth. Very sweet fruit on the palate with lively acidity and such freshness. Nicely integrated oak, and dashes of leather and sweet vanilla spice. Warm, long, concentrated and sumptuous. Tannins are prominent but silky. This is my kind of wine and wish I could afford to drink it every night! 96 points

Domaine Hubert de Montille Les Pezerolles 1er Cru, Pommard 2001 (£49.00 The Wine Society)
Very light crimson colour for Pommard but the nose is very interesting indeed. Autumnal with lots of musty leather, sweet spice and sweet red fruit. Raspberries and red currants on the palate with a deep smokey, cigar-like finish. Not super-concentrated but very sweet and refined – I was surprised to find this vineyard is on the Beaune side of Pommard as it is actually very reminiscent of Volnay. Was an excellent accompaniment to the partridge but I do wish I had decanted and given the wine a couple of hours to really open up. Top notch stuff indeed. 92 points

Domaine de la Vougeraie 1er Cru Les Cras Vougeot 2001 (£42.00 The Wine Society)
Slightly cloudy in the glass but very old fashioned on the nose. Cherry and raspberry fruit at first, followed by leather, damp leaves and a lovely hint of warming spice. Palate matches up nicely and the finish is very generous. 91 points

Domaine Fourrier 1er Cru Combe Aux Moines, Gevrey Chambertin 2001 (£39.00 The Wine Society)
Fantastic perfumed aromas of ripe plums and sweet spice. The taste is plums and strawberries with a lovely earthiness and just a hint if vanilla. It’s very light bodied but has very marked tannins, making for a long and chewy finish. Great antidote to he snow outside. 91 points

Vin du Mercredi

My French is bloody awful but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of our tour of the Rhone, Burgundy and Champagne last summer. In actual fact, two of the best tastings we went to (Javilier in Mersault and Pinson in Chablis) were conducted 100% in French, with lots of emphasis on gesticulation and pointing! But what did come out of these enormously enjoyable experiences were two very apt phrases: Vin du Mercredi and vin du Samedi. What a great way of judging the quality of a wine!

In the Twittersphere, #winewednesday is a big thing (@winegeekconfess if you want to follow my 140 character ramblings too) and it has become a big thing in our house also. No wine on a Monday or a Tuesday (unless there’s a very good tasting to attend) doesn’t half make that first sip on a Wednesday evening taste so much better. But you don’t want to open up a Premier Cru Burgundy or a Cru Classe Bordeaux on Wednesday. Well you do, but you know it just isn’t the done thing. So Wine Wednesday, or vin du Mercredi, is about finding some good value deliciousness. Here’s a few to consider:

The Exquisite Collection Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley (£4.99 Aldi)
Pungent Sauvignon aromas of freshly cut grass, gooseberry and also some asparagus. Plenty of crisp and dry acidity and the fruit is nicely restrained and very fresh. Also lots of flinty minerality. Very much like a Petit Sancerre. 85 points

Cape Heights Chenin Blanc 2011, Paarl SA (£5.99 Wine & the Vine)
A fresh, dry Chenin with intense floral and zippy citrus aromas. Lots of tropical fruit and well balanced by crisp acidity. 87 points

Le Bosq Blanc 2010, Vin de Pays France (£6.25 Wine & the Vine)
Sauvignon Blanc has been added to the less familiar Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng, giving this wine a fresh character, with hints of ripe grapefruit and a mouth-watering aftertaste. 88 points

Simply Garnacha 2011, NE Spain (4.49 Tesco)
A cocktail of stewed black fruits and just a hint of spice. On the palate there’s some black currants and maybe even a bit of dried morello cherry. 85 points

Broken Shackle Classic Red 2011, SE Australia (£6.25 Wine & the Vine)
Made from a blend of Shiraz and Merlot, this is a well-flavoured wine with a soft, inviting bouquet of cherry, spice and toasty oak. 86 points

The Exquisite Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Clare Valley (£6.99 Aldi)
This is fantastic! Massively concentrated black currant and menthol on the nose and a huge whack of deep dark fruit, like cassis liqueur, eucalyptus and tobacco on the palate. Could this be the best value red wine anywhere? 91 points

South African delights

Until recently my only experience of South African wine had been with the indigenous Pinotage grape. I recognise the regions of Stellenbosch, Constantia and Walker Bay on a label, but that is about all. Having said that, the DeMorgenzon Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch did make it into my top 3 wines of 2012 so it is definitely due a closer look.

Pinotage is a bit of a Marmite wine amongst wine drinkers. The grape is actually a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, “bred” by Professor Abraham Izak Perkid at the University of Stellenbosch in 1925. Personally I am a big fan and have never encountered the “ripe banana”, “cheesy” or “metallic” descriptions that often appear in reviews of the wines. I find the wines to be intense and savoury, with low tannins a velvety texture. Where I do draw the line, however, is with “coffee Pinotage”, which really does do what it says on the (coffee) tin. If I never taste one again it will be too soon!

The wine region of South Africa is situated at the South West tip of the country, where the cool current from the Atlantic creates a cooler Mediterranean climate, and perfect conditions for wine growing. Many of the wines you will find on the supermarket shelves are made using international grapes so there really is nothing to be frightened about!

Regions & Grapes

The hub of the South African wine industry is the area centred around Stellenbosch. The region is producing excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and good quality Pinotage on the red front, and Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc on the white side. A bit further north is the region of Paarl, which produces good quality and good value Chenin. The Constantia region is one I always associated with Pinotage so was very surprised to read that Sauvignon Blanc represents a third of the regions vines, followed by Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Swartland is quickly gaining a reputation for quality Syrah (often blended with other Rhone varieties) and Chenin Blanc from old vines. One of the southernmost and coolest regions is Walker Bay, which is starting to produce some very high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (similar to the growing reputation of Tasmania in Australia).

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Here’s some of my tasting notes, which include two excellent whites.

Groot Constantia Pinotage 2010, Constantia (£12.85 Wine & the Vine)
Very dark and brooding colour, with red fruit on the nose and just a touch if earthiness. Quite big bodied with fresh fruit on the palate and a good earthy, chocolatey finish. 87 points

Glenelly Lady May Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Stellenbosch (£20.79 Wine Direct)
Blackcurrant, blackberry fruit, lots of smoky oak aromas and just a touch of minty freshness – very enticing. Good concentration but not huge body, the fruit is upfront and the oak is nicely integrated with a good, strong tannic structure. Nice smoky finish, just cuts off a bit short. 89 points

DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Stellenbosch (£16.75 Wine & the Vine)
The 2010 vintage made my wines of 2012 and the 2011 is even better! Really exciting nose of melon, peaches, nuts, and marzipan. Lovely fresh zing in the mouth, lots of ripe melon fruit and a wonderful nutty, long finish. If you are bored of Sauvignon Blanc and want something a bit more subtle, this is the wine for you. 92 points

Jordan “The Real McCoy” Riesling 2011 (£11.45 Wine & the Vine)
I love Riesling, whether from Alsace, Germany or South Australia. This delivers something from everywhere! Lots of limes and green apple plus a dash of tinned pineapple on the nose. Crisp and fruity and just a bit smokey on the smokey, lots of freshness and just a hint of sweetness. Seriously good and just over a tenner. Brilliant with my Friday night curry! 91 points

Och aye the noo… Burns night is coming!

Burns night is around the corner on 25th January and this weekend we’ll be attending a magnificent Burns party at our good friends, wine lovers and blog readers Ave and Al’s place. What to drink is the obvious question. Whisky is the obvious answer. But here there is a problem. I don’t like Whisky. I’ve tried a dram from here, there and everywhere but just haven’t got a taste for it. I read Iain Banks’ brilliant book “Raw Spirit: the search for the perfect dram” and loved it and wanted to love the product too. But I don’t (which probably isn’t a bad thing as I can’t afford to burn a hole in my other pocket too!) So what should us non-Whisky lovers be putting to our lips instead?

Lets start with a few food and wine pairing basics straight from my WSET text book:

1. Match the flavour intensity of the food and the flavour intensity of the wine

2. Match sweet foods with sweet wines

3. Match acidic food with high-acid wines

4. Avoid combining very savoury foods with high tannin wine

5. Pair “chewy” meat with tannic wine

6. Pair salty foods with sweet wines

7. Pair fatty and oily foods with high-acid wines

8. Match the weight/richness of food and the body of the wine

Haggis is rich and spicy. Red wine will make you all happy as twice as many of you read the French Red Wine article compared to the one on French White! The spiciness takes me straight to the Rhone. The pepper and other spices just feels like a perfect match for Grenache. Not too tannic, lots of fruit and lots of spice. I could’ve gone to Priorat of course, but I’ve harped on enough about that wonderful region last year! Australia and California are also producing some great Grenache blends these days too, but I’ll stick with what I know.

After spending a week in the region last summer I just know its a great choice, I just need to decide which level to go in at. There’s some great Côte du Rhone on the market at very agreeable prices (20% off all Rhone wines at Majestic at the moment) or should I go to the top of the Rhone hierarchy and suggest a Chateauneuf-du-Pape? The problem I find here is that most supermarket C9DPs are too young – I’m not drinking anything after 2007 at the moment. Instead I’m going with Vaqueyras. We spent three days in the wonderful little village and as well as knowing I’ll get value for money it will also bring back some great memories.

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The beauttifil village of Vacqueyras

Unfortunately I can only find one bottle accessible to the masses in Majestic, and one from my mate Jez, so there’s also some recommendations for Gigondas, the next village along.

La Bastide Saint Vincent Vaqueyras 2010 (Majestic £16.24, £12.99 in current deal)

Domaine La Garrigue Vaqueyras 2010 (Wine & the Vine £14.65)

Finest Gigondas 2010 (Tesco £13.49)

Taste the Difference Gigondas 2010 (Tesco £13.49)

But if you want the best then get online at www.winedirect.co.uk where you will find one of my very favourite wines, from an exceptional vintage, with a bit of bottle age:

Domaine Le Couroulu Cuvée Classique Vacqueyras 2007 (Wine Direct £15.75)

Brambles, spice and lavendar, blakberry nose – delicious nose. Massive fruit concentration, Full of Christmas spices, black, almost raisiny friut; you can really taste the heat – perfect for the Winter. Beautiful, silky tannins and great acidity and freshness. More please! Tasted great at 35 degrees, tastes better when it’s sub-zero. 92 points

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On Top Down Under

I’ve written a lot about French wines in the first 3 months of the blog and also had a go at trying to decode Italian wine lists (Navigating Italy). In my looking forward to 2013 post I talked about discovering more about the delights of Australian wine so here is an overview of some of the key Aussie wine regions and the grape varieties to look out for, along with some recommendations. I’ve tried to concentrate on wines that are easily available to everyone.

The great thing about Australian wine is the simple labeling. 99% of the time the label will tell you the name of the producer, the region it is from, and the grape varieties used to make the wine. This is one of the key reasons for the success of Aussie wines, but so too is the quality at the mid to high end of the market. Also, some of the names of the wines are superb!
Aussie wine

South East Australia – a note of caution

The regional identifier of South East Australia (or SE Australia) is a catch-all which covers most of the major wine producing states (except Western Aus). Quite often the grapes used to produce these wines have been deemed not good enough to go into the regionally labeled wines. They will have been bought by a high volume wine maker to produce cheap and cheerful wines, so could be a blend of grapes from 3 or 4 different states. It’s not to say these are poor wines, it’s just they won’t have the complexity or sense of place (terroir) that you will find from location-specific wines. These are the wines you find in the cheap supermarket promotions.

Western Australia

Although WA accounts for a small proportion of Aussie wine (under 5%), the quality is excellent. The vast majority of wines from the region are in the premium category. The Margaret River region is the most famous in the area. The key grapes grown in the area are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay. My pick of the producers is Leeuwin Estate, who’s “Art Series” Chardonnay is regarded as one of the best white wines in the country. Other regions to look out for are Great Southern and Swan Valley.

Ring Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2097, Margaret River (Tesco £10.99)
Plantagenet The Lioness Pinot Noir, Great Southern (Tesco £12.99)
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2010, Margaret River (Majestic £13.99)


South Australia

Could be called the wine state of Australia. When we come to looking at the names of the sub-regions I’m sure you will recognise many of the famous names from bottles you have drunk. When you see the names Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale, the grape that immediately screams out at you is Shiraz. Look out for Barossa wines from Peter Lehmann, king of the valley. These areas have very hot and dry summers and produce blockbuster red wines, which are rich, chocolaty and spicy. Yum! For Cabarnet Sauvignon, look no further than Coonawarra. The wines have lovely blackcurrant and eucalyptus characteristics and are a brilliant accompaniment to rare red meat.

And don’t forget the white wines. Some of my favourites come from the Clare and Eden Valleys, especially the precise citrus-led bone-dry Rieslings, which can be stunning.

D’Arenberg One Hundred for Four Shiraz, McLaren Vale (The Wine Society £7.50)
Jacobs’s Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Adelaide Hills (Sainsburys £9.99)
Tim Adams Riesling 2006, Clare Valley (Tesco £10.49)
Peter Lehmann BVS Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley (Majestic £12.49)
Walter Clappis The Hedonist Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale (Waitrose £12.99)

Victoria

The coolest of the mainland states in Australia, so the emphasis is more on cooler climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Yarra Valley region is a great place to start for both of these grape varieties. For wine connoisseurs head for the Mornington Peninsular, where winemakers are starting to make quite a noise with their high quality output. Giles, an ex-colleague of mine who spent some time in the area, has pointed me in the direction of “Main Ridge Half Acre” – Giles, I’ve found a source and got some on order! www.houseoftownend.com

And for something completely different, head towards Rutherglen and their luscious dessert wines made using Muscat – a very wine that works as well with fruit-based desserts as it does with chocolate.

Brown Brothers Late Harvest Muscat 2010, Rutherglen (Majestic £8.49)
Billi Billi Shiraz 2008, Grampians (The Wine Society £8.50)
De Bortoli DB Reserve Pinot Noir, Victoria (Majestic £9.99)
Willing Participant Chardonnay 2010, Yarra Valley (Waitrose £12.99)

New South Wales

Home of the Hunter Valley, the most northerly and tropical of Australia’s wine producing regions. The Shiraz is from the region is often described as softer and spicier than those from further south, and are generally thought to age very well. For white wine, the region is famous for Semillon, although many of the other regions are beginning to produce more and more of these grassy, citrusy wines. A region I keep reading about (well I definitely notice it!) is the superbly named Tumbarumba – I’m on the look out for some Chardonnay from he as the write-ups get better and better.

Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, Hunter Valley (Tesco £9.29)
Taste the Difference Semillon 2010, Hunter Valley (Sainsburys £9.99)
Robert Oatley Finisterre Chardonnay 2011, Mudgee (The Wine Society £16.00)

Tasmania

The cool climate of Tasmania provides new opportunities for Aussie wines and the primary grape growing in the state is Pinot Noir. The island is producing nuanced and delicate wines from this notoriously difficult grape and I look forward to discovering more. White wine development is also very exciting, with precise and fruit driven Rieslings, as well as a growing reputation for Pinot Gris, in the style of the Mosel – very exciting.

For special occasions

The very best Australian wines are up there with the very best in the world. If you really want to push the boat out and try something really special, here’s a premium list to choose from.

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Coonawarra (The Wine Society £18.00)
Kooyong Beurrot Pinot Gris 2010, Mornington Peninsular (The Wine Society £18.00)
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2009, Margaret River (The Wine Society £23.00)
Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2010, Mornington Peninsular (The Wine Society £23.00)
D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale (Majestic £27.00)
Sandalford Estate Cabenet Sauvignon 2007, Margaret River (The Wine Society £29.00)
Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsular (Majestic £35.00)
Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2008, Margaret River (Majestic £55.00)

Burgundy 2011 En Primeur… A taste of things to come

En primeur is the process which allows consumers to buy wines early while a vintage is still in a barrel. One of the benefits to us is the opportunity to purchase the wines at a discounted price, before thy are bottled (although this is by no means guaranteed). Another benefit of the process is to secure an allocation of a wine only available in small quantities – only a barrel or two of some top wines are produced in Burgundy owing to the massive fragmentation of some vineyards. The benefit to the producer is improved cash flow and an opportunity to market their wines and encourage new consumers to savour their vinous delights.

But there is a downside… Most of these wines will need another 5 years or more before they are ready to drink!

This week is the en primeur kick off for the 2011 vintage, so these wines have been developing since the grapes were picked in September 2011. Many of the wines will be bottled in February, however some of the very best Grand Crus may spend many more months in their oak barrels to develop even more complexity.

2011 appears to be a good, if not great year. Elegance seems to be the buzzword, with light and fruity wines. The view from the experts are that the wines will be great for early drinking so that’s good news in my book.

So off I went to the Lay & Wheeler Burgundy 2011 En Primeur tasting:

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– 33 wine makers
– 98 Wines (37 whites and 61 reds)
– 2 hours to do it!

I managed 21 whites and 25 reds… And I know this sounds ridiculous but it was really hard work! The reason it was such hard work was because I found it so difficult to judge these young wines, many of which won’t be at their best for another 10 years. To give scores to any of these wines would be impossible for me, and made me realise how much I have to learn. Also, 40-plus wines is a heck of a lot to get through and I did feel my palate getting tired! Some wine experts will do 3 of these tastings for 3 or 4 consecutive days, scoring each and every wine they taste – that to me is miraculous and I genuinely raise my glass (of water!) to them.

For me, the winner on the night was the Chardonnay. This is a very floral vintage but with lots of pure fruit aromas and flavours. I get the impression that the wines will be very approachable in their youth as there is plenty if crispness and decent acidity, although I would like just a touch more. The disappointment for me was Meursault, which just didn’t have the precision and purity of Chassagne Montrachet or Chablis. My pick would be Chassagne and I may put my name down for a couple of cases.

The redsI found really difficult to pinpoint. Being so young, the wines are still very tannic and you have to look beyond that to find the fruit – I suppose its a bit like buying a house and trying not to notice the floral yellow wallpaper! The Côte de Beaune reds I found a little uninspiring, lacking a bit in acidity and freshness. Having said that, my favourite red of the night was the De Montille Clos du Roi, from Corton (one of their Volnays was my wine of the year in 2012). The wines from the Côte de Nuits, however, seemed to have more depth and are built to last. The other thing that was also consistent was the quality progression from Village to Premier Cru to Grand Cru wines.

But the last word has to go to Chassagne… My choice of last wine on the night was the Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Criots-Montrachet Grand Cru… I just wish I had a spare £540 for a case of 6!

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Shopping at Aldi… I like it

I’ve only been to Aldi on a couple of occasions and on both times it was to take photos of in store displays for work. My parents and in-laws are always extolling the virtues of the discount supermarket and Which voted Aldi the best supermarket in the UK for 2012. Mum served up an Aldi roast duck over Xmas which was absolutely delicious so The Fish and I decided it was time for a visit.

We picked up a duck and the much advertised 4-bird roast for the freezer as well as plenty of cleaning products and lots of other stuff we hadn’t realised we needed. Then at the end of the shop we came to the wine section. I have read good things about the Aldi wine range but never really considered buying as we never go there. So why not give it a go I thought. The most expensive bottle is £12.99 for Champagne, the most expensive still wine was £6.99. I selected 6 bottles, 3 white and 3 red for a grand total of £34.94… Less than I often pay for a bottle!

So far we have tasted 3 of the wines and I can assure you we will be going back. Obviously I bought the most expensive wine at £6.99, however I think it may be the best value red wine available in the UK. (I will update the tasting notes as more bottles are drunk)

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White wines

Henri De Lorgere Macon Villages 2011, Burgundy (Aldi £4.99)
Very pale straw colour, lots of citrus and nectarine, even some tropical fruit aromas. Big hit of acidity and lime; very fresh, very simple, very young. For the price this is great stuff and would happily have a bottle in the fridge just waiting to be drunk after a bad day at work. 87 points

The Exquisite Collection Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Loire (Aldi £4.99)
Had those very pungent Sauvignon aromas of freshly cut grass, gooseberry and also some asparagus. On the palate there is lots of crisp and dry acidity and the fruits is nicely restrained and very fresh. Also lots of flinty minerality. This is very nice and doesn’t have the astringency of lots of the New Zealand Sauvignons on the market. Touraine is only about 100km west of Sancerre and this wine is very much like a Petit Sancerre. 85 points

The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2012, South Australia (£5.99)
Very tropical aromas of melon, mango and even passion fruit. Not what I was expecting at all. You may even think thus is a Sauvignon it’s that tropical on the palate too. Not much body but very refreshing. Thus would be an excellent BBQ wine with some chicken. 86 points

Red wines

The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, South Australia (£6.99)
Umm, I’m not sure where to go with this. It’s fantastic! Massively concentrated black currant and menthol on the nose and a huge whack of deep dark fruit, like cassis liqueur, eucalyptus and tobacco on the palate. Wow. Could this be the best value red wine anywhere? 91 points

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The Exquisite Selection Uco Valley Malbec 2011, Argentina (Aldi £5.99)
Really enjoyable aromas of black cherry, blueberries, violets and that expected rubber note, like a hit squash ball. Fruit carries onto the palate with a bit if spice and maybe a touch too much rubber, but excellent value nevertheless. 88 points

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2006, Spain (Aldi £5.99)
Bright ruby red in the glass and aromas of strawberries and red cherries and a hint of vanilla. Red fruit one palate and some eucalyptus – a bit Bordeaux maybe? Finish is a bit short and lacks depth and concentration. Can’t complain at this price though. 85 points

If that was on interest here’s a link to a more recent article, published in May 2014

5 wine tips for 2013

While everyone is busy making and breaking New Year resolutions, lets just be honest with ourselves and admit we aren’t going to give up the booze for long! So here are my five ways to help you enjoy wine more (or more wine??) in 2013:

Find a local wine merchant

I have written plenty about my local wine merchant and the benefits of getting to know yours. Go and find one close to you, tell him/her what you like, give them feedback on their recommendations and build the relationship.

Buy a good book

Wine is a very complex but very interesting subject where a grasp of the basics can really help your enjoyment. There are a number of excellent books that can help your drinking enjoyment by explaining how to taste and what to look for. Here’s a couple of recommendations:

Essential Wine Tasting (Michael Schuster)
Get Started – Wine Appreciation (David Williams)

Read a wine magazine

Pick up a copy if Decanter magazine next time you’re at the supermarket. Have a read through and use the web to look up anything you don’t understand. Read one of the tasting articles and buy a bottle or two from the recommendations. Do you agree with what they’ve written? Does it now make more sense?

Drink less, spend more

Rather than three bottles on a Friday night, spend a bit more on one. If you usually pay £5 for a bottle, spend £10. Buy the same variety as you usually would and see if there is a difference. Savour don’t gulp… You might to pleasantly surprised.

Keep reading my blog!

This should be number one really! Please let me know if there is anything specific you would like me to rite about. I will try and write two articles a week but please leave comments and feedback as I really do value your opinions. I promise to spend more time in 2013 writing about easily accessible and affordable bottles.

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