Monthly Archives: February 2013

Do the numbers add up?

Ok, it’s time for some true geekiness.

I’ve been updating the tasting notes section on the site into a much easier to navigate format – someday I’ll get around to building a proper database, but I don’t think Cellartracker has too much to worry about for the time being! There are now getting close to 150 tasting notes and it got me thinking about scores, prices and value for money…

… So the spreadsheet came out to play! I only used bottles I have bought from retail outlets in these calculations so the very pricy Burgundies and Clarets from top notch tastings haven’t upped the average price or (in most cases) the scores.

In the first 6 months of the site the average score I have given a wine is 89.3. I thought this would be a touch lower but I think it does demonstrate what great quality wine we are privileged to enjoy in this day and age. The average price was also higher than expected at £19.43, but perhaps not surprising given my Burgundy habit!

Then I got really geeky and looked at red versus white:

Red Wine – average score 89.6, average price £21.38 (naughty Burgundy!)
White Wine – average score 88.9, average price £16.03

And I didn’t stop there, I looked at the averages by country to determine the best value for money regions. I won’t bore you with all of the detail but the winners for me were Aussie Reds at 90.75 with an average price of £12.60, and Italian whites at 89.33 and £11.36.

I hoped I’ve lived up to my name and assure you I will be looking at this closely in the future!

Half Term Hijack – guest blog by The Fish!

Apart from incredible job satisfaction, one of the best things about being a teacher is that you get a whole week off in February. So, when Wine Geek went back to work on Thursday, I headed into London with fellow colleagues and ladies who lunch, Vics and Rochey. This time, our destination was Bubbledogs on Charlotte Street.

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As with many of these fashionable fast food places, Bubbledogs does not take bookings. Luckily, it was only a short wait for a great table and we easily idled away the minutes taking in the cool décor (all exposed brick and blackboards) and eyeing up the menu (not extensive but all very tempting). There was a sticky moment when we were asked to give up our table before we even got it to a family who had arrived shortly after us. Luckily, Vicky doesn’t take any crap from Year 9 or cute French waiters so the family behind us just had to wait a while longer.
As the name implies, Bubbledogs is all about champagne and hot dogs, a fabulous combination. The wine menu features a wide range of fizz, arranged under sub headings such as ‘a lick of chalk and stones’, ‘ripe fruit bowl’ and ‘touch of spice.’ We selected a 100% Chardonnay blanc de blancs from the ‘so fresh, so clean’ section and it certainly lived up to its billing – delicate bubbles and a pure crisp taste. Fortified by fizz, we studied the menu with care and concentration, finally opting for one New York Original (onions and sauerkraut), one Reuben (sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss Cheese) and one BLT (bacon, lettuce and truffle mayo). In the interests of research, we also ordered all three of the sides on offer (tots, sweet potato fries and coleslaw). The food was all delicious; we left one tiny potato tot to be polite.
Having finished the bubbles and the dogs, it felt like a natural progression to cross the road to the stylish Charlotte Street Hotel for a few afternoon cocktails to finish our lovely lunch. Oh, and don’t feel too sorry for Wine Geek; I picked up a Baker Street lamb samosa for him on the way home!

Cornwall #5 – St Enodoc/Nathan Outlaw. Where magic happens

St Enodoc is a wonderful hotel in the seaside village of Rock, across the estuary from Padstow. Its a luxury hotel with first class service and a place where you feel your shoulders melt the moment you step through the front door. But as good as the hotel and the service is, what brought us here was the food. What brought us here was Nathan Outlaw.

The beautiful St Enodoc Hotel

The beautiful St Enodoc Hotel

You probably know Nathan from the TV. He’s the big guy from Cornwall who likes to cook fish. He has two restaurants at The St Enodoc Hotel. The first is Outlaw’s Seafood & Grill, a relaxed but still top notch operation with a well judged a la carte menu, featuring the best of Cornish seafood as well as some delicious meaty options. But the main event is Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Nathan’s flagship, which holds two Michelin stars and offers an eight course tasting menu. On our two night stay we were lucky enough to sample both options. I have referred to the food in the reviews below but obviously focussed more on the wine.

 

Outlaw’s Seafood & Grill

The food here is not bistro or brasserie fayre, it is fine dining. The ingredients are top notch, the combinations are clever, and the presentation and execution is exemplary. I enjoyed (and devoured!) a starter of scallops, bacon, lentils and butternut squash, followed by a delicious main course of sea bass with crab, Porthilly sauce and pickled cucumber. The Fish enjoyed rich and multi-layered fish soup, followed by a lamb shank stuffed with caramelised onions (wow!). We also couldn’t say no to a selection of local cheeses to finish.

So great food. What about the wine? Well, put simply, it’s brilliant. There are around 40 wines on the list ranging from £20 to £80 a bottle… with all except three Burgundies available by the glass. This is how all restaurant wine lists should be laid out – even half this number by the glass would be great – this is a delight. Over our 3 courses we enjoyed the following wines:

 

Camel Valley Brut 2010 “Kir Cornwall”

Addition of cassis works very well with the fine bubbles of Camel Valley “Cornish” Brut – a perfect aperitif?

Domaine Barillot Pouilly Fume 2011, Loire, France

Deliciously aromatic and discreetly pungent Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry and citrus, great balance.

Domaine de Pouilly Pouilly Fuisse 2008, Burgundy, France

Full bodied and enticing. Peaches, apples and creamy vanilla oak.

Terre de Mistral Cotes du Rhone 2011, Southern Rhone, France

Spicy and full of stewed dark plums – just what you want on a cold evening… Or just as great chilled in the summer I’m sure.

As the list was available all day long we were also able to sample the following wines… It would’ve been rude not to!

The Crossings Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand

Bursting with cherry fruits and just enough spice and savouriness to give it a good level of complexity.

Abadia De San Campio Albariño 2011, Rias Baixas, Spain

Apples, limes and beautiful saltiness… Really should have ordered some oysters to go with it… Oh, we did!

Danieli Soave 2008, Veneto, Italy

Apricot and grapefruit, really nicely balanced with just enough acid.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

4 hours, 8 courses, 10 wines. Wow. I wish all dinners were like this! This is some of the best cooking in the UK, supported by amazing front of house and a brilliant sommelier. The only food choice to make is the full tasting menu or the veggie alternative… So that was easy! The wine is a different matter. Damon, the sommelier, has put together a wonderful list but with eight courses it was impossible to pick out a single or even a couple of bottles to accompany the gastronomic feast. Luckily there was an accompanying wine flight, specially chosen to compliment each dish.

I have a fear of wine flights. I am suspicious that often the choices can be wines that a sommelier hasn’t been able to shift, or just a selection of the wines available by the glass. But not here. This selection was interesting, imaginative and, most importantly of all, delicious.

This is what we ate and what we drank. Sorry if it just looks like gloating!

(Note – I started taking notes but decided to simply enjoy the whole experience, so this is what I can remember!)

Smoked Whiskey Cured Salmon, Kohlrabi, Lime and Horseradish

Ice Cuvée NV, Peller Family Estates, Canada

This sparkler is made in the methode traditionale, where the dosage added is the ice wine. Delightfully fresh, sweet upfront but dry finish. Great with the delicate, clean flavour of the salmon.

Squid, Mint and Coriander

Sol Lucet Koshu 2011, Yamanashi Wine Company, Katsunuma, Japan

How very unexpected. Glacial freshness with hints of mandarin and lime. Very, very dry but just perfect with the cold, minty squid. The winemaker just happened to be dining at the table opposite!

Raw Queenie Scallops, Wild Garlic Tartare Dressing

Pinot Blanc 2008, Rolly Gassmann, Alsace, France

This is the only wine I preferred without the food. Lots of citrus and touch of tropical fruit – very good indeed but slightly fought with the garlic in the dish. The scallops were superb too.

Queenie Scallops, Hazelnuts and Cauliflower

Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2009, Weingut Bercher, Baden, Germany

Equals Pinot Gris! Very rich, with delightful pear aroma/flavour. One of the scallops was deep fried in a batter and was the perfect foil.

 

Lemon Sole, Crispy Oyster and Jerusalem Artichoke

Saint Bris Vieilles Vignes 2010, Les Temps Perdus, Burgundy, France

I have got so bored of Sauvignon but this little number from Burgundy, a small appellation to the North of Chablis, shares that same racy minerality as its more esteemed neighbour. This was a very delicate dish and the bright zing of the wine paired beautifully with this amazing creation.

Cod, Bacon, Cabbage and Curry

Hand-Picked Gewurtztraminer 2011, Skillogalee, Clare Valley, Australia

This was my favourite course, and the match of the night. The curry sauce was simply stunning and I will be on the lookout for this bone dry Gewurtz from the Aussie home of dry Riesling. Not as perfumed as its Alsace counterpart but taut and lip-puckering. Brilliant.

 

Brill, Mussels, Celeriac and Porthilly Sauce

Blauschiefer Spatburgunder 2011, Meyer-Nukel, Ahr, Germany

Ah, red wine and fish! This was a delicious fruity German Pinot Noir with just a touch of warm spice and leather adding interest, complexity and balance. The Porthilly sauce is made from roasted velvet crabs and tarragon, and stood up to the wine impressively.

Selection of British Cheeses

Ratafia de Champagne, Domaine Dumangin, Champagne, France

Another new discovery and another winner. Much of the character of a tawny port but oh so smooth! Figgy and unctuous – I need some of this every time I have cheese from now on. Even if it’s in a sandwich… Or on a Whopper!

Rhubarb and Custard

Brachetto 2011, ‘Braida’ Giacoma Bologna, Piedmont, Italy

Fun, fizzy, sweet red wine from Italy. And only 5% alcohol so you can drink loads of it! This wasn’t a simple rhubarb and custard, but a vanilla creme brûlée topped with a rhubarb sorbet. Pristine.

 

Bitter Chocolate, Blood Orange and Yoghurt

La Paille Perdue 2005, Julien Labet, Jura, France

Another sticky, figgy number with hints of orange peel that complimented the blood orange and a sumptuous way to finish.

www.enodoc-hotel.co.uk

 

 

Cornwall #4 – Knightor Wines – thank you Twitter

Thanks to Twitter, today I made a brilliant discovery. I tweeted that I was on my way to Cornwall and Paul Howard (@WineAlchemy1) suggested I should try Knightor Winery so I got in touch with the wine maker, James Thomas, via Twitter (@Knightor_wine) and arranged a visit. Paul – thank you so much, it was a revelation!

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James showed us around his very new and very modern winery and talked with great passion about his trade. He was brought up on the Isles of Scilly, where he helped his Dad grow grapes and make wine (apparently his Dad does some “funky stuff” with Seyval!). But James’ love was sailing and the sea, and it wasn’t until he went to Australia on a surfing holiday that he realised that his future was in making wine. And we should count ourselves lucky that he has found his true calling.

What I really enjoyed was listening to James’ philosophy – he wants to get the most out of the grapes he has available to him. James is a big believer in terroir but admits he doesn’t know his terroir yet – 2011 was his first vintage – so he wants to make the best wine possible and show the grapes off to the best of his ability… And what a great job he’s already doing…

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We crossed the courtyard to the very attractive restaurant/bar, where we tasted 2 finished wines from the 2011 vintage, along with a third wine that James will be bottling next week. The plans for Knightor are very exciting and I look forward to savouring a wider range in the future, but there’s already plenty to enjoy:

Knightor Madeleine Angevine 2011 (£12.50)
100% Madeline Angevine
This is a brilliantly bright and fresh wine with a citrusy, salty aroma, as well as the more familiar elderflower note. There is a bright streak of acid which perfectly balances the citrus, especially lime fruit and a wonderful savoury, dry finish, a result of some time on its lees. Oysters sprang to mind when I tasted this but also a sunny afternoon in the garden. This really is one of the best English wines I have tried. Brilliant. 91 points

Knightor Trevannion 2011(£15.00)
Blend of Siergerrebe, Pinot Blanc & Pinot Gris
Siergerrebe is certainly a new one on me! A cross of Gewertztraminer and Madeleine Angevine. This is a very aromatic wine, with aromas of lychees and citrus, with a very Alsatian touch of spice. There is a delicious richness but also racy acidity on the palate, with lots of citrus and a delicious hint of mandarin. Another belter. 90 points

Knightor Pinot Gris 2011 (tank sample)
Whereas the wines above go straight into stainless steel, 50% of this wine has spent some time in oak – secured from Smith Haute Laffite no less! Much richer as a result and very complex. There is pear, apple and grapefruit in the nose which follows onto the palate but there is also a fragrant spicy note and a wonderfully long and dry finish. I can’t wait for this to be released later this year. 91 points

www.knightor.com

Cornwall #3 – Camel Valley Gold

Don’t you dare go to Cornwall without visiting Camel Valley Winery. I mean it, I will hunt you down and demand an excuse, non of which will be sufficient justification for your error. They are producing World class wine, especially in the Sparkling department.

Bob Lindo is an ex-RAF pilot, who bought some vines in the Cornish countryside back in 1989. Over 20 years and countless awards later, Bob’s son Sam is now the winemaker (still with a little help from Bob!), winning UK winemaker of the year in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Take a look at this link to check out all of the awards.

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The set-up is delightful, with a spacious tasting room and shop, serving bottles, glasses and tasting size samples of all the wines on offer. When we arrived this morning there was a huge bonfire at the entrance to the property; Bob told us this was where the evidence of all the recent pruning was being dealt with. We were the only visitors before noon and we worked our way through the sublime selection. I visited Camel Valley about 18 months ago and enjoyed the wines, but this time they were showing even better – I am honestly failing to see any reason to open a bottle of Champagne ever again – and I thought the tasting at Ruinart in Reims was jaw-dropping.

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The wines

The still wines are good, but the real winners are the Sparklers, which are outstanding:

Still Whites

Atlantic Dry 2010 (£11.95)
60% Bacchus, 20% Rheichensteiner, 20% Chardonnay
Ripe, tropical and intense aromas – this isn’t shy. Grapefruit and a hint of honey sweetness and a bit of grip leading to a dry and pleasant finish. 88 points

Bacchus Dry 2011 (£12.95)
100% Bacchus
Ripe tropical fruit aromas with a slight hint of farmyard. Very citrusy and tropical – it kind of reminds me of 5 Alive from when I was a child (I liked 5 Alive!). Dry and taut finish. 87 points

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Sparkling Wines

Camel Valley Brut 2010 (£24.95)
60% Seyval, 20% Reichensteiner, 20% Chardonnay
Elderflower and honey nose – very pretty and enticing. Really elegant with great appley acid and a hint of brioche on the generous and very dry finish. 90 points

Camel Valley Rose Brut 2010 (£26.95)
100% Pinot Noir
Beautiful salmon-pink colour. Fruity strawberry nose – smells like the middle of summer. Berry fruit and beautifully dry; the fruit tingles on your palate for an age – this is what Dom Perignon must have meant when he tasted the stars. 90 points

Annie’s Anniversary 2009 (£24.95)
100% Seyval
A smell of baked apples wrapped in pastry. Creamy, textured and rich. Great hit of citrus then the baked apple fruit cones along, swathed in patisserie. This is a very forward and confident wine with a lot of attitude! 91 points

Chardonnay Brut 2009 (£24.95)
100% Chardonnay
Vanilla and floral nose. Rich and creamy palate with a peachy fruitiness and a pleasant biscuit-lick at the finish. Gentle and elegant, like a kiss. So good but so modest. This is an ethereal wine that gets even better with every sip. A tasting glass simply isn’t enough. 94 points

White Pinot Noir 2010 (£29.95)
100% Pinot Noir
This smells like it should be pink! Wild strawberries jump up your nostrils. It’s like a fine strawberry tart with a buttery pastry casing and a touch of vanilla lifting it further. Pure class. 93 points

Sparkling Red 2010 (£17.95)
100% Rondo
With a colour like that it should come with a health warning! This had part-ey written all over it! It’s grown up sparkling Ribena and its great fun. Bundles of red and black fruit and makes you smile! 88 points

Visit the website and please don’t force me to hunt you down and ask why you didn’t go!

Cornwall #2 – Sunday Best… With a little Rick Rant

Time moves slowly in Padstow; I love it. Everything happens in s-l-o-w motion. You have the time to compute and digest; time to enjoy the little things. I’ve never been a fan of walking – anyone who knows me will tell you I’d rather hear about it in the pub! This morning we went for a stroll along the cliffs and back long the beach. It was spectacular, even with the wind blowing sand and salt into our faces and stinging our eyes. It was fresh and bracing… And do you know what made it better? I felt like I deserved my lunchtime pints of Trelawny ale! There’s nothing quite like sitting in the pub at lunchtime on a Sunday.

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Oh, and a pasty overlooking the harbour is a pretty good feeling too! One of my favourite views in Padstow is these three pasty shops in a row… Magic.

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But we’re here to talk about wine so lets get to the action; lets get back to Bin Two. Here’s a link to their site – it’s a must-do for any visit to Padstow (Bin Two website).

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I was dead-set on a bottle of white wine from the New World and was ready to plunge for a NZ Chardonnay… But The Fish was in French mode so we agreed on a compromise… And what a belter it was!

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Domaine Larue Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Cortons 2008 (Bin Two £24.00)
Apple and savoury buttered crumble with custard spiked with nutmeg and vanilla. Delicious aromas. Buttery, toasty savouriness combines with a beautiful acid steak of apples as well as some tropical fruits. The oak is beautifully judged and integrated through the finish, which is delightful and lingering. This is a massively underrated Burgundy appellation. 92 points

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Our dinner appointment was at St Petroc’s, another Stein establishment. This is a bistro with a really bustly feel and a more meaty menu. Starters of prawns in ouzo, tomato and feta for The Fish, and crab and gruyere tart for me, were excellent. The wines by the glass were also delicious:

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Rick Stein Champagne Blanc de Blancs NV (£8.50/glass)
Biscuity and yeasty with a delightfully creamy texture. A bit of peach and touch of gooseberry but this was all about the patisserie character and was a real knockout. 90 points

Rick Stein’s Spanish White 2011 (£5.75/glass)
Peaches and nectarines, with a bit of pink grapefruit bitterness and honeyed sweetness. Really bright and fresh. Made with Verdejo grapes from Galicia, this is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Simple but delicious. 87 points

For main course we shared the Chateaubriand and it really hit the mark, accompanied with an excellent Bordelaise sauce and superb pommes coq D’Or. The wine we chose was a great a compliment too:

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Chateau Bauduc 2009 Bordeaux Supérieur (£27.00)
Lashings of strawberry from the predominant Merlot and a lick of cassis from the Cabernet Sauvignon. All of this was supported by a wonderful kick of pepper and some nicely tuned tannins. A really enjoyable claret. 88 points

The rant

I love Rick Stein. I love his TV shows and I love his books. One of the things I really enjoy is when Rick goes on one of his rants… So Rick, here’s one for you…

The wine list at St Petroc’s is short and well judged. Almost everything is under £30 a bottle and there are delicious choices from France, Spain, Argentina and Australia. But £27 for a bottle for a Guigal Cotes du Rhone I can buy for £7.99 in Majestic? I love this wine, but not at £27! And if I’m going to buy a half bottle (which doesn’t happen that often in all honesty!), I expect to pay half the price… Not £20.90 when a whole bottle costs £27.10! I ask myself why???

Apart from that, it was great!

Cornwall #1 – Bin (Two) dreaming about this

It’s holiday time and the destination is Padstow, Cornwall. There are certainly worse places for a wine and food lover to be cooped up for five days! The agenda is tough but I’m prepared to give it a go:

Saturday – wine at Bin Two, dinner at Rick Stein Fish & Chips, couple of pints
Sunday – lunch, wine at Bin Two, dinner at St Petroc’s, couple of pints
Monday – lunch and tasting at Camel Valley, dinner at Outlaw’s
Tuesday – sod all, dinner at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Wednesday – lunch & tasting at Knightor Winery, home

I’m looking forward to it all and hope you enjoy reading about it… Here’s episode #1!

Bin Two is the most fantastic wine shop/bar in the middle of the almost perfect seaside town that is Padstow. There are a number of interesting wines by the glass as well as a fine selection of Billecart Salmon Champagne, but the real delight here is the vast selection by the bottle, any of which you can buy to take away, or for a corkage charge of £7.50, drink there and then.

I really fancied a fantastic bottle of red to kick off the holiday in style. Amarone, Coonawarra Cabernet, Hermitage… But of course, I reached the Burgundy selection and knew that’s where Saturday afternoon would begin. And what a fine selection there is. I decided on a Beaune 1er Cru from the wonderful Domaine DeMontille (check out the tasting notes!) and was rewarded with a fine bottle to get things started.

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Domaine de Montille 1er Cru Les Sizies 2005, Beaune, Burgundy (Bin Two £45.00)
First stop an obvious choice… But a good one. Cherries and raspberries jump out of the glass, with that gorgeous leathery Burgundian aroma, along with a dash of violet. Good texture with a bit of chew even though the body is very light. Red cherries, Kirsch even, on the pâté with an interesting animal note, and fine, gentle tannins. Good length and got better after 30 minutes. Still a few years left here. 91 points

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Next port of call was Stein’s chippy. I’ve been here a couple of times and really enjoyed it, but today was a new level. To start, me and The Fish had a couple of battered scallops each and my lord were they good! Big, plump and just so sweet… Why can’t you buy these in more chip shops? But the star of the show was my main event. The Fish went for locally caught squid, which was served calamari style, deep fried in breadcrumbs and was truly delicious. But not a patch on my battered bream. It’s not often you can recognise the species of fish in a fine beer batter, but this was like eating a fillet straight from the shores of Portugal. Magnificent! And to accompany, a couple of large glasses of Muscadet:

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Chateau du Cleray Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Reserve 2009 (£8.50 250ml)
Beautiful aromas of grapefruit, pear and sea salt. The fruit and salt comes through on the palate but the yeasty goodness on good Muscadet is missing. I’m a big fan of this very under-appreciated wine, but this just falls a tad short. 86 points

And to finish, a couple of delicious pints of St Austell Tribute and Doom Bar… Then bed and preparation for another tough day!

California dreaming… Or not?

I love tasting wine with winemakers. I love their energy, their enthusiasm and, most of all, their passion. Quite often you get a sense of a winemaker from tasting his or her wine, but also you can be swayed into unwarranted compliments, influenced by the context.

Earlier in the week Roberson put on a very interesting and stimulating tutored tasting (link to upcoming events). The two winemakers presenting their wines were California trailblazers Raj Parr and Jamie Kutch. They are part of a new Californian collective who want the US and the rest of the world to reevaluate Californian wines and to demonstrate how the area can deliver elegance and finesse, as well as brute force and power.

In Pursuit of Balance (web link) “seeks to promote dialogue around the meaning and relevance of balance in California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay”. To an extent the wines presented are definitely on their way to accomplishing this. However, I did find some of the Pinots a shade underwhelming and in need of some of that power that the grape can deliver, in order to really achieve the balance the wine makers are searching for.

The wines were served in two flights, starting with Raj’s wines as he was presenting both Chardonnays and Pinots. I really wanted to love the wines as much as I loved the stories that supported them, but only one of the flights really shone for me… And at a price.

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Flight #1 – Sandhi Wines

Focussing on selected vineyards from the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, Raj is in love with the Chardonnay grape and what it can offer. The three Chards on show were really delicious and delivered a lovely balance of fruit and salty/savoury. These wines are produced in a minuscule scale (70 cases of the Bentrock!), hence the hefty price tag, but there is much to enjoy here. The Pinots also delivered bright fruit and energy and if they were half the price I would love to add a few to the cellar.

Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2011 (£26.95)
Peachy, nutty and toasty with plenty of citrus fruit and a hint of grapefruit. This wine is surprisingly light bodied, as the nose suggested an all together bigger wine. The acid is fantastically refreshing and delivers loads of citrus fruit and buttered toast on the finish. This is a lively, energetic and a “happy” wine. I was just left thinking how much more Chablis or Macon I could get for my money. 91 points

Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay 2010 (£44.95)
Very toasty and smoky nose with plenty of citrus on the nose. Fuller in body, actually very rich and round, but still with that lively, citrus-driven mouthwatering acidity. You could really taste the salt from the ocean in this wine, but I found the finish a little short and underwhelming on the finish. 90 points

Bentrock Chardonnay 2010 (£69.95)
Wine of the night by some distance. Tropical aromas, especially mango along with a lovely touch of brioche. Quite a nervy palate of lemon and lemon balm, with a surprisingly grippy, almost tannic structure. Salty again but with a delicious tension between the salinity and the fruit. Delicious savoury and long finish. 94 points

Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2010 (£44.95)
Very ripe red cherry and menthol on the nose and very juice straight-line cherry and raspberry on the palate. Young and tannic, slightly hiding some of that delicious fruit at the moment, delivering lots of grip and again that salty finish. Good freshness and acid but just a bit short at the end. 89 points

Evening Land Tempest Pinot Noir 2010 (£69.95)
Deeper and darker cherry aromas here, with even a touch of blackcurrant and a hint if menthol and spice. Deeper and richer body than the Sanford and lots of energy – the fruit really does dance all over your tongue. With menthol and some anise on the finish – this will just get better with a few years in bottle. 91 points

Flight #2 – Kutch Wines

Jamie is an ex Wall Street trader who followed his dream out west. He is all about Pinot and really wants to show how elegance and balanced can be delivered in California. Obviously a huge fan of Burgundy, Jamie is an experimenter, which is quite a tough task when you don’t have a great deal of grapes to play with! He hasn’t reached where he wants to be yet but he will get there… And soon.

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2009 (£38.95)
As with most of Jamie’s wines I found myself having to work very hard to get a lot of fruit on the nose. There are ripe red fruits here but they’re just not very forthcoming. Along with the hidden fruit there is menthol and spice but there is also a resounding warmth of alcohol. There is tension here but not quite the balance. 86 points

Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (£42.95)
Again I struggled to get a great deal on the nose here. There is some very pretty red fruit on the palate and a hint of leather and savoury notes. Again there is just too much alcohol showing through at the end. 85 points

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010 (£38.95)
This is much more interesting with sweet red cherry, some mushroom and some roasted meat, even gamey notes. More weight and power here and the fruit is far more concentrated. Lots of grippy tannin but this is one I would like to try again in a year or two. 90+ points

McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir 2019 (£44.95)
Very light in the glass and again just a hint of ripe red fruit. There are fine tannins providing some nice structure behind the cherry fruit, black spice and a certain amount of animal, and an elegant sweetness at the end. 89 points

Falstaff Pinot Noir 2009 (£41.95)
Ripe red fruit on the nose he along with a bit of spice, anise and menthol. Very austere and tight on the palate but the fruit is in the hiding somewhere. Certainly more oak in use here which certainly adds to the enjoyment. Another one that needs another year or two. 90 points

I would like to say a massive thank you to Raj and Jamie for sharing their passion with us and also to Roberson for putting on such an interesting and thought provoking evening.

Riesling from the ashes

A couple of things happened this week that reminded me it was time to write an article about possibly the most noble and definitely the most misunderstood white grape in the world of wine; Riesling.

The first of my “Riesling moments” was a tweet by Jimmy from West London Wine School informing me about an upcoming JJ Prum tasting (link to event), the second was a visit to my favourite wine shop, Wine and the Vine in Battlers Green, where Jez had a number of Rieslings on his tasting table.

Riesling has so much going for it. It is such a versatile grape, from bone dry to super sweet. You can match Riesling with almost any food; white meat, a wide variety of seafood, and its great with spicy food. The grape is also grown in many different parts of the world, revealing lots about its place of origin, its terroir. Just listing some of the aroma and flavour characteristics of Riesling makes my mouth salivate… Citrus, tropical, floral, mineral. And what about the development of petrol aromas when Riesling is aged? It might not sound like fun, but it really adds depth and complexity to an already fascinating wine.

So where in the wine world do you go for Riesling?

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Germany

Riesling originated in the Rhine region of Germany and is the most planted variety in the country. The real home of Riesling is found on the beautiful steep, south facing slopes of the Mosel Valley, overlooking the stunning chocolate-box villages below. German wine is still suffering from the awful Hock and Liebfraumilch that filled supermarket shelves in the 80’s but please, forget all you know, go back with an open mind and you will not be disappointed.

The following designations will help you determine the level of sweetness in the wines. Also the word “Trocken” on the label means dry.

For dry/medium style:

Kabinett – light in body with high acidity and a touch of sweetness

Spatlese – means late harvest, often fuller in body and medium sweet

Auslese – more body and more tropical flavours. Increasing number of dry wines at this level

Sweet wines:

Beerenauslese – individually selelected, over-ripe grapes

Trockenbeerenauslese – even more concentrated, more sweet, and more expensive!

Eiswein – picked when frozen to concentrate the juice even more. Worth reading about as this is a remarkable process

Weegmuller Riesling Trocken 2009, Pfalz (Wine and the Vine £13.99)

Delightful nose of lemon, limes and passion fruit with a wonderful slaty minerality. On the palate the fruit hits you and there is a delicious balance of acidity and sweet fruit. Then comes a nervy steeliness and lots of slate mineral, leading to wonderful dry and long finish. Great balance, beautiful wine. 91 points

Alsace, France

These wines tend to be mostly very dry with lots of mouth-watering acidity. Often quite rich and big-bodied, they can offer some if the best drinking experience you will encounter. Lots of these wines are very expensive and made to last, however there are some fantastic wines at the £10 level that are fruity, cleansing and simply wonderfully delicious.

Dopff Au Moulin Riesling 2010, Alsace (Wine and the Vine £12.85)

Stylish with lovely straight-line citrus aromas. Very tight palate of apple and limes, with medium body and just a whisper of spice. Lovely clean and bright finish, simple and delicious. 89 points

Australia & New Zealand

Australian Rieslings are noted for their citrus fruit flavours and a great balance of freshness and acidity. The bone-dry Rieslings of the Eden and Clare valleys in South Australia offer some remarkably consistent and enjoyable wines and are my pick to go along with spicy food. Western Australia are also producing some great examples of lime-drenched wines with a touch of sweetness, which is just perfect for a summer afternoon in the garden.

Riesling has flourished in the relatively cool climate of New Zealand, particularly in the Marlborough area (it produces more than just Sauvignon Blanc!). New Zealand Rieslings are generally very light bodied, extremely refreshing, and often have a lovely off-dry finish. Personally I would rather pay £10 for an expressive NZ Riesling than another run if the mill Sauvignon Blanc.

Knappstein Watervale Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, South Australia (The Wine Society £19.00)

Beautiful hint of orange and marzipan aromas with just an ounce of petroleum, developed in the bottle. On the palate the freshness is wonderful and massive concentrated citrus fruit, especially limes. A bone dry but long and elegant finish. New world Riesling at its best and most elegant. 92 points

St Clair Riesling 2010, Marlborough, NZ (Wine and the Vine £12.85)

Lots of bright citrus fruit and even a hint of orange/marmalade jumping out of the glass. The flavours of the fruit translate into the mouth and this is a very pleasant and very refreshing glass of wine, with a wonderfully balanced and mineral finish. A fun and bright wine to drink by itself or to accompany a spicy meal. 89 points

And here’s a coupe of other examples of Rieslings I have tasted recently from Spain and South Africa.

Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling 2011, Stellenbosch, SA (Wine and the Vine £11.45)

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, lots of freshness and just a hint of sweetness. Seriously good and just over a tenner. Brilliant with my Friday night curry! 90 points

Torres Waltroud Riesling 2011, Penedes, Spain (N/A in UK)

I chose this to accompany a lunch of seafood tapas on a recent visit to Barcelona 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)

So give Riesling a try… You won’t be disappointed.

Bancroft Wines portfolio tasting

Earlier this week, The Fish and I attended a tasting at the very grand and glamorous Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. The tasting was organised by Bancroft Wines, a London wine merchant, to show off their entire portfolio. The event was also a chance to try the latest Burgundy vintage as well as to show off the latest offering from the Rhone (both 2011).

What was really motivating about the evening was the presence of the winemakers themselves to present the wines they are obviously so proud of. It was great to see winemakers from France, Spain, Germany and Italy standing side by side, along with representatives from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

There really were prices to suit all pockets on display and some of the sub-£10 offerings were outstanding wines in their own right. Obviously the more expensive wines were fantastic too, but it was so refreshing to see such wide range, from so many countries at so many price points.

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It’s so hard to pick out my favourites… But don’t worry I have! The whites from Sancerre and New Zealand Rieslings struck a chord (The Fish was all over the Gewertztraminer, but a bit overwhelming for me!) and it was the reds of Rioja and Languedoc that shone through. But for value I have to go for Sicily – a red and a white of real class for under £8.

We did also try the latest vintages from Burgundy and The Rhone but again I found it so difficult to judge these youngsters… However I think I found the bargain of the vintage from an old favourite from Meursault; the ever wonderful Patrick Javillier.

So here’s my top picks as well as a link to the Bancroft Wines website. Enjoy!

The Whites

Domaine Vincent Pinard Sancerre Cuvée Nuance 2011 (£22.40)
Lots of minerality and beautifully racy – so much more elegance from these Sauvignon Blancs than so many of their NZ counterparts.

Domaine Vincent Pinard Sancerre Harmonie 2010 (£29.95)
Almost Burgundian nose and layers of soft tropical fruit and lots of finesse. A real winner.

Andre Kienztler Riesling Reserve 2009, Alsace (£17.50)
Bone dry slate and lashings of lime. A real stunner.

Domaine Christophe Cordier Bourgogne Blanc 2011 (£13.50)
Big and rich and creamy. This really punches well above its weight.

Domaine Christophe Cordier Pouilly Fuisse Vieilles Vignes 2011 (£26.00)
Another huge white Chardonnay that builds and builds, layer upon layer. Wowsers!

Cottarato Parva Res 2012, Sicily (£7.25)
Beautiful pears and anise – a bit like a poached pear dessert – great for quaffing, especially if the sun ever shines again! Absolute steal at this price.

Wild South Riesling 2010, Marlborough, NZ (£11.95)
Like tinned pineapple with just a hint of residual sugar – one to pair with spicy food.

Domaine Rewa Riesling 2011, Central Otago, NZ (£20.45)
Lots of crunchy fruit, a lovely whiff of petrol and just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Great aperitif.

My bargain of the 2011 Burgundy offer is also a white:

Patrick Javillier Bourgogne Cuvée des Forgets 2011 (£125 for 12 in bond)
We visited Patrick at his domaine in Meursault last summer, bring back a few of the 2009 vintage of this wine… This could be even better. Meursault in all but name!

The Reds

Chateau Fontenil Rolland Collection 2005, Fronsac, Bordeaux (£33.95)
Exceptional claret from the much underrated Fronsac appellation. Big red fruits and earthy, cedar flavours build and build. Quality.

Bergerie de l’Hortus Rouge, Coteaux du Languedoc 2011 (£11.95)
This could come from the Northern Rhone – spice and bacon fat (really!) and very, very smooth.

De l’Hortus Grande Cuvée Rouge, Coteaux du Longuedoc 2010 (£19.50)
Sophisticated, fruity and spicy. Very grown up stuff this.

Chateau de la Negly Rouge La Côte, Coteaux du Longuedoc 2009 (£11.25)
Really bright and fresh, like a liquid summer pudding.

Nero D’Avola Parva Res 2012, Sicily (£7.25)
Hiw do they make such good wine at this price? The perfect accompaniment to a Margarita pizza. Exceptional value.

Silvano Bolmida Barolo Bussia 2008, Piedmont (£29.95)
It seems older than 2008 and very approachable fir a young Barolo. I’d love to drink this in 5 years time.

Bodegas Altanza Lealtanza Crianza 2009, Rioja (£10.70)
Strawberries and creamy vanilla – very easy drinking and a bargain.

Bodegas Altanza Lealtanza Gran Reserva 2005 (£24.05)
The nose was a bit off putting but the flavour is intense and immense. Deep strawberry fruit and beautifully integrated sweet oak.

Hay Shed Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Margaret River WA (£17.95)
Heaps of blackcurrant fruit, mint and eucalyptus. I really am falling for Aussie Cabernets.

Bodegas Luigi Bosca Gala 1 2009, Mendoza, Argentina (£21.00)
Blend of Malbec, Petit Verdit and Tannat delivers a huge wine of depth and complexity. A steak is needed with it mind. A big one!

www.bancroftwines.com

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