UK 2015 vine growth report: Two months in

It’s been just over two months now since my vines started their 2015 journey, and so here’s a further entry as to their progress, which will make interesting reading at the end of the season, and also year on year. If you want to remind yourself of the last progress entry, you can find it here.

The warm and sunny weather continues here in Berkshire and, although there was hail on one particular day, it was mercifully short in duration. As you will see from the pictures below, my Chardonnay is coming along nicely and has virtually doubled/tripled in height and a number of new vines have sprouted. Leaf canopies are also well established and growing well. It’s a similar situation for my Cataratto, which is also thriving, despite being in a slightly shadier position.

Month 2 Vines

 (l-r Chardonnay, Ortega, Catarratto)

The same cannot be said for the Ortega which, although it has seen progress, still seems fairly muted in its growth and is currently resembling something like a bush vine rather than one being trained. If it doesn’t speed up its growth in the next few weeks I think I’m going to have to do some digging to find out what its general lifecycle looks like. Being a Germanic variety and used to cool weather I thought it would be enjoying the unseasonal warm spell we are having, but clearly not.

To ensure I give all the vines every chance, I’ve replaced the trellising as promised, in readiness for when the grapes arrive and bring extra weight later in the season. This new trellising, which mimics those used professionally, should allow extra breezes through, hinder pests (my previous lattice trellising would have been easy for them to scale up), and allow sunshine to penetrate all sides of the vines.

As I write, the weather is a glorious 24° centigrade, with more of the same planned for tomorrow. Long may it continue!

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

Trivento winemaker’s dinner

Trivento Dinner Banner

This week I had the pleasure of attending an intimate dinner with German di Cesare, chief winemaker for Trivento, the UK’s best-selling Malbec and one of Argentina’s leading wineries. Based in the foothills of the Andes at extremely high altitudes, Trivento takes its’ name from three winds (Polar, Zonda and Sudesta) that cool the climate and make Mendoza such a distinctive winegrowing region.

German (or Geri as he is known to his friends) joined the company in 2002 and has held several positions ranging from barrel room manager to varietal winemaker, prior to his promotion in 2008 to create their high-end wines. With a chance to chew the fat (literally) with the man in charge, expectations were high!

The setting for the meal was Argentinian restaurant Casa Malevo in London, with my stroll from Marble Arch to Connaught Square taking the bizarre twist of being under heavily armed police. Alas, this wasn’t for my protection, but that of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose house is only a few doors away from the restaurant. From the street, with its’ cosy alfresco tables and green awning, you could tell that this would be an intimate affair, but once inside we were led downstairs to a private dining room only just large enough to contain the 13 attendees around a large central table.

We were warmly greeted by Geri and representatives from Trivento, importers Concha Y Toro, and Tesco who were hosting the night. With our coats barely on to a hanger, we were straight in to a glass (or three) of their Reserve Chardonnay – A fresh citric number, that added yellow melon and tropical notes to its aroma. On the palate, clean fruit, joined by refreshing acidity and a buttery texture due to its time in French oak. It was no surprise when Geri later revealed that it was Trivento policy to make wines of outstanding clarity – to really feel the fruit with every mouthful.

As liberally as the wine, questions flowed to the Trivento team:

  • What sort of rivalry exists with winemakers across the Andes in Chile? (a friendly one, they are in regular contact about many winemaking issues)
  • What’s the view on having so little vintage variation with their wines? (It’s important that customers know what to expect and consistency is an important factor)
  • With Malbec doing so well, what’s next? (Trivento farm approximately 12 grape varieties, with Sauvignon Blanc 2012 about to hit the market, as well as a Syrah, and Cabernet Franc and Mourvédre the next in line)

A menu of 3 courses was served throughout the evening and, whilst there were several options to choose from, I made the following choices based on the gradual step up in the quality and body of the Malbec that would accompany each course.

To start I had grilled chorizo on toast, onions and Malbec braised Ox cheeks, paired with the Reserve Malbec. The Ox cheeks were cooked to perfection and simply melted in the mouth, and the chorizo added some spice to the meat combination. The Malbec was the perfect partner, blending with the fine tannin to allow darker fruit to come to the fore. As a point of interest, like the entry-level Reserve Chardonnay, the Reserve Malbec is actually bottled in the UK.

For the main course I had the classic combination of Sirloin Steak paired with the lauded Golden Reserve Malbec 2012 – made at altitudes of 950m in the oldest Argentinian wine appellation Luján de Cuyo from 60-80 year old vines that grow on the alluvial soils of the riverbanks. The long cool growing season and concentration of low yielding old vines gives a wine that clocks in 14.5% abv, and shows a vibrant dark purple in colour. Malbec and steak is a winning combination and these two blended beautifully, with the powerful nose of black and blue fruit being of concentration, not aggression. Incidentally, the wine is called ‘Golden’ to evoke treasure, which this wine definitely is. Treasure and a pleasure!

To finish I had the cheese selection with quince and raisin toast, paired with their top level Eolo Malbec, which is produced on an extremely limited run of just 500 bottles (600 cases). With a price tag of £50 per bottle (if you can find it) it was a great privilege to be able to try a few glasses of this rare wine. The nose was divine with roasted tertiary characters, and the velvet silk, vanilla, and dense rich concentrated black fruit carrying on to the palate. The tannins were gentle and integrated, and when paired with the variety of cheeses, melted away. The length of the wine still persisted as people started to make their excuses, and head for home.

All in all a wonderful night in great company, with generous tastings of fine Argentinian wine, alongside fine Argentinian food. Unforgettable.

Many Thanks go to Trivento & Concha Y Toro for hosting the evening, and to Tesco for providing the opportunity.

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

UK 2015 vine growth report: One month in

As one month has just passed since my vines awoke from their winter slumber, I thought I would give a quick update as to how my 2015 UK growing season is progressing. I’m located in Newbury, Berkshire and so that means I’m just above 51° latitude north, stretching right in to the limits of grape ripening. The UK is well known for the marginal climate and a pre-dispensation for rain, but this year has seen a milder winter in the south where I am. Although many part of the south did see occasional snow in February, we’ve not had any here for the first time in a few years, and I’ve been able to count the frosts so far on one hand. Indeed, late March and the start of April saw some unseasonably warm weather (some days even nudging up to the early twenties in celcius). This no doubt helped along bud break for my vines which I spotted on April the 8th. So, one month in, how are we doing?

Chardonnay            Chardonnay

Ortega           Ortega

Catarratto           Catarratto

As you can see from the above pictures, all are coming along nicely, with numerous buds growing per pruned cane, and good leaf canopies forming. For background, I’m growing three different varieties: Chardonnay, Ortega and Catarratto, meaning I have French, German and Italian vines in operation. In terms of furthest along in growth, that would go to the Chardonnay, but in terms of vigour, the Catarratto has it.  Vines were only planted last year, so we’re still in the bedding down phase in which all produce will be purely for academic and experimental use, but seeing the good start to growth this year means they’ve all settled in nicely. The vine stock was obtained from Denbies vineyard in Surrey, who are amongst the leading UK wine producers, so is from a good home.

The above will hopefully be of interest to those readers outside of the UK, or perhaps even those in the southern hemisphere who want to see how we’re moving along here. It will also serve to remind me in the future how things progress through the 2015 vintage, which looks to be a good one.

p.s – I’m aware that I need to sort my trellising out – it was a quick fix option at the time, and it will be replaced!

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

Wine Epiphany – MWWC#17

mwwc logo

I read earlier in the week that wine blogging is dead.

This is bad news as my wine blog is only 5 months old, but happily, it seems the average time for a wine blog to operate before fatigue sets in can be something like 6 years, so I’ve still got a little way to go. A quick Google, initially to rediscover the article that I had misplaced, filled the page with a slurry of articles all predicting in equality the promising future or the sad demise of the wine blog. Some even offered up an obituary for the medium.

When faced with the question of Epiphany in wine from the MWWC I’m going to take it at face value – a standout moment of clarity that changed me from that point on. As a long time imbiber, I’m going to have to think way back. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. There’s been so many over so long a time that really only the watersheds from yesteryear still stick out. So sit back, and let me weave you on a tour that rides from 2007 to the present day.

In terms of a standout moment for red wine, I recall the time in 2010 that I found a bottle of Chateau Latour 2001, vaguely reduced at the Berry Bros outlet in Berkshire. Flush from a work bonus I snapped it up and kept it for as long as I could, which in reality was only a further year or two, before I savoured its contents and then deified the cork and empty bottle. I personally got a lot out of the experience; not least tasting the wine, but the full majesty of opening and decanting the bottle, and taking notes. Then tasting and re-tasting. The experience was somewhat marred at a wine dinner some time later in 2012, when I was openly lambasted by a fellow guest for pre-empting the experience, and wasting the opportunity of keeping the bottle cellared for another ten years.

Oops.

Sparkling (or should I clarify, Champagne) is still my alma mater for wine, and I remember at a job interview for a wine role, they asked me for my wine epiphany moment. I took them back to the glamorous location of Gatwick airport and my purchase of the Dom Pérignon 1995. I asked myself how something so priceless could have a price tag. £70 later, I had purchased the un-purchaseable but made a storage faux-pas by standing the bottle in my front room in direct sunlight on a shelf acting as some sort of make-shift shrine to that unique experience. On pouring, the bottle was OK (it was no 1996, let’s face it) but simply part of an experience that, in hindsight, was only available to me and only about 5 million other purchasers of DP 1995.

For whites and Rosé I have no real idea. My first Orange wine experience came last month at Selfridges in London, at my request. It wasn’t notable, and I was glad I had requested a sample as opposed to just blindly paying out for a bottle.

No, I think my real wine epiphany lies elsewhere. Was it when my wife bought me the birthday present of an internet only course for wine? A cheap, non-recognised qualification from an internet course provider that has since gone bust, rendering my qualification void. Whilst a waste of her £36, this did however, spur me on to sign up to the courses provided by the WSET (Wines & Spirits Education Trust) in London and, as an outsider to the trade, self-fund my way through to the Level 4 Diploma. This is probably the one wine moment more than any other that leads me to where I am today, which is looking to inspire others through the popularisation of wine education. And this is also the moment that brings me back to my initial point about wine blogging.

In what is already quite a crowded niche, I set up my site, and launched many a wine opinion on the world. Slowly but surely, my site has been not only building in content, but also building in subscribers, feedback and, inadvertently, the quality of what I write. Importantly, I feel that I have something valuable to say that others will enjoy reading. I try to keep my subject matter as broad as possible. This runs the gamut from what wine I have tried today, to nuggets of wine history, as well as giving hints and tips to those taking wine exams through organisations such as the WSET.

This has led to a good following on Twitter, to tweeting and conversing with many unknown fellow wine lovers around the globe. It is a direct result of this that has led me to contribute to websites such as the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.

My wine epiphany? Well, you’re reading this aren’t you……?!

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

Seeing double

When writing ‘seeing double’ in a wine column it could well be expected that it would be a reference to the effects of over imbibing. Today’s post, however, is looking at the subtle complexities within wine education. When trying to understand any complex subject matter it’s best to have access to clear information, however, the further you look in to something, the cloudier it becomes.

This might all sound like I’m talking about peering through a glass of badly oxidised wine, but I’m actually talking about the curious double use of many terms, or terms similar enough to confuse the learner. It was whilst looking at a map of Spain last week, or more precisely at Galicia in the Northwest, I did a double-take, spotting that the capital city is named Santiago. Both in and out of the wine world, when you think of a capital city called Santiago you’re more likely to bring Chile to mind. “Fair enough” I hear you say, the Spanish Santiago is unlikely to come up in many wine texts, and so naturally is unlikely to cause confusion. Indeed, many places have the same name as others – here in Berkshire I live not 5 miles away from Hermitage, but I’m nowhere near to the famous French hill known for its top quality Syrah. So well known in fact, that when Syrah was imported in to Australia, they christened the grape variety ‘Hermitage’. Thankfully this confusion (and many others, such as the USA making ‘Burgundy’) were outlawed at the end of the 1980’s when French designation laws protected the name.

Herm2Herm         One Hermitage to another

In terms of other confusing place names there is Rioja. Any wine lover knows (and probably loves) their Spanish Rioja, but there is also another – La Rioja, and that’s in Argentina.

Regions can be a pain too; California has a Central region, but so does Chile. There’s also the Central Vineyards of the Loire. Let’s not forget Coastal regions; South Africa has one of those, and the Californian coast is split in to the North coast, North central coast and South central coast.

I’m reminded of the upset that followed a recent WSET exam when the question ‘write a paragraph about VDP’ came up. Many students naturally assumed that they would be writing about Vin de Pays, the classification for French wines that sits just above Vin de table. Imagine the surprise then when the results came back, which told them they were supposed to be writing about Verband Deutscher Prädikats, a German quality wine classification.

There’s always some initial confusion with Muscadelle / Muscadet / Muscat (I seem to recall a multiple choice question in an early WSET exam I took that looked to pick up on this). Muscadelle being a Bordeaux grape variety, Muscadet being a Loire Valley wine (made from the Melon grape), and Muscat being a widely used grape variety.

My pet peeve ‘double’ has to go to Italy where they have a grape from the Piedmont region called Barbera. The Piedmont region is also home to a wine called Barbaresco, and naturally enough you might assume that the grape makes the similarly titled wine. Not so. The Barbera grape is commonly used to round out blends, and Barbaresco is made from the Nebbiolo grape. Now, it was the Italians that thought that the sparkling wine Prosecco being made from a grape also called Prosecco was so confusing, that the grape variety was officially renamed to Glera. Personally, I think that the Barbera situation is just as confusing!

There’s doubtless many more doubles in the wine world waiting to trip us up. I’d be interested to hear of any that you’ve come across, or have had trouble with in the past.

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

The ‘Lost’ wine region

For some time now I’ve been intrigued by the ‘Kimmeridgian Chain’ – numerous vineyards set within a belt of distinct soil (AKA Terres Blanches), that diagonally cuts its’ way across northern France (see picture below). The belt itself is a by-product of a geological feature known as the Paris basin – plates of land staggering progressively inwards. As part of this sagging process, a defined strata of land became exposed between two layers; an older Jurassic era ridge of crushed marine deposits, comprising a hard limestone top on a chalky marl base (marl is composed of lime-rich clay and silt). The name Kimmeridgian is said to originate from the village of Kimmeridge in Dorset,England where there is a well exposed coastline of similar age and soil composition.

map b

The distinct soil mix brings differing attributes to resulting wines, even those produced in the same wine regions, but not within the belt. In some cases, different grape varieties are used to compliment the soil variation. This being the case, why were these unique vineyards simply swallowed up in to other wine regions? Regions that are many miles away, across land not used for viticulture. Given that the French invented the concept of terroir – that the place is so important to the wines it produces – and that the French have the most delineated wine/land appellation system in the world, why were these areas not grouped together by themselves to form a new region?

Within this belt we find:

– The Aube – The southern vineyards of the Champagne region

– Central Vineyards (AKA Sancerre, Pouilly, and several other village sites) – The eastern end of the Loire

– Chablis – The extreme northern part of Burgundy

Parent region has had little effect on the reputations of world famous places such as Sancerre, Pouilly (as in Fumé) and Chablis. This fame though, is largely down to the unique expressions of the crisp white wines produced, and this stems from the unique soil. Chablis sits 75 vine-free miles north of the Cóte de Nuits in Burgundy, and the towns of Sancerre/Pouilly are about the same distance away from the next vines in the Loire. With the Loire valley being over 170 miles in length you will naturally find numerous grape varieties, soil types, and even climatic influences, but Sancerre/Pouilly find themselves planted over to Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Noir as opposed to the main Loire white/red varieties of Chenin Blanc/Cabernet Franc. As the soils along the banks of the river have a greater composition of rock/schist compared to the chain, different varieties thrive. Co-incidentally, Decanter recently ran a feature on the red wines of Sancerre, suggesting they were more Burgundian in style, and unlike any red you would associate with the Loire.

In Chablis, they may use the Burgundian variety of Chardonnay, but they produce a very different style of wine. Chablis is widely respected for its crisp mineral whites full of refreshing acidity, and linear precision. This is streets away from the archetypal Burgundian Chardonnay; a deep brooding body with creamy/buttery textures from subtle oak barrel influence. Again this comes from differing production methods (favouring Stainless steel as opposed to barrel), and the unique terroir – the Chardonnay grape working magnificently on the cold limestone and clay.

It’s a different story when we look at the Aube in southern Champagne, as they haven’t yet managed to find real fame on their own merit. Just over 100 years ago, The Champenois – notorious for protecting their brand – drew up their permitted production zones, and excluded the Aube on the basis that their grapes were of a second standard (they had no Premier or Grand Cru sites). The Government even went as far as passing a bill to that effect but, unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down well with Aube vignerons, and the rioting that followed in 1911 saw a worried government hastily annul the original bill. The Aube were finally officially admitted in to the region in 1927, but their role has simply been to provide the grapes to round out Champagne blends. If the Aube vignerons hadn’t persisted in the uphill battle to be part of a region that was so dismissive of it, could they have pushed harder with their wines, achieving better than just producing grapes suitable to only form part of a blend? Being mainly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both key components of Champagne, but having the clay based soil of the Kimmeridgian chain instead of the deep chalk found elsewhere in Champagne, they’re capable of producing a Pinot more Burgundian in style. A feature late last year by US publication Wine Spectator suggests that wines from the Aube are on the up, but time will tell.

Should these villages have historically clubbed together and formed a mini-region of their own to produce world class Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot and Chardonnay to rival their Burgundian neighbour? Perhaps, due to the fact that quality will always shine through, maybe it hasn’t mattered in which region they sit. It’s interesting to ponder.

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

Prosecco a-go-go

I’ve recently become aware of the Tesco Wine Community – a group of like-minded individuals musing, comparing wines tasted and talking about new wine experiences. Loving a good chat about wine I immediately signed up. Forums on wine are nothing new, but this is one with a difference, and that comes directly from the ‘Wine Enthusiasts’ within Tesco. Every week they run a tasting panel – they choose a particular wine, open a new topic thread, and anyone interested in trying that particular wine can register to get a bottle – Free wine! Well, not quite – In exchange you agree to write up a tasting note on the wine and paste on to the forum and the Tesco website. Seeing the passion that other members have displayed when reviewing previous bottles makes you up your game, and many clearly spend a good deal of time and effort. It still sounds like a good deal… and it is.

The more lively a member you become, you move up ranking levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold). The higher the bracket you are, you may even be lucky enough to be chosen as forum ‘Member of the Month’, and you get a whole case of wine to taste and review! I haven’t quite earned that privilege yet, but I did manage to get on a tasting panel for Motivo Prosecco D.O.C Brut from Italian producer Borgo Molino.   From my regular blogging you will see that I have a love of all things sparkling, be that the classic Champagne, through to my recently tasted Slovenian sparklers, so this tasting seemed like a bottle right up my street. The good news is that there is absolute freedom as to how you conduct your tasting, with no set formats (I personally conducted mine in both ISO approved tasting glasses and standard flute). All levels are welcome on the forum so you don’t need any tutored expertise in tasting, just enthusiasm.

From a background perspective, Prosecco is a sparkling wine from northern Italy, and I would suggest, along with Spanish Cava (and maybe English Sparklers) the major competition to Champagne. There are probably three majors factors that will drive a purchase of Prosecco over Champagne (aside of patriotic duty), and these are quality, price and sweetness. Production of sparkling wines the world over run the gamut from wine spending years in bottle undergoing second fermentation and lees ageing, through to wines that undergo carbonation (think fizzy drinks). Thankfully we’re in the former territory here.

DSC_0557

The bottle in question is worthy of note and care has obviously gone in to the design and production. It’s fairly reminiscent to me of Ruinart Champagne, with its squat bottle, gold foil and beige logo, and the embossing on the front of the glass is a nice extra touch. When comparing this bottle of Prosecco to others in my local Tesco, it was a stand-out.  Some still have a light blue foil on the bottle – this to me says sweet wine (think Babycham), and it’s good that this one has erred to more ‘earthy’ colours, which make me think terroir, ergo rustic and well crafted. Of course, these extra touches all count towards the total cost of the bottle.

The next thing to notice is the extremely pale straw yellow of the wine, suggesting subtlety – again very similar to that of a Blanc de Blancs. The wine clocks in at 11% abv as you would expect from a Prosecco, and there’s no visible tears on the glass. A good barometer of the quality within the production methods of sparkling are the size of the bubbles – false carbonation gives a larger bubble. Thankfully, here we have a tiny bubble which in turn gives a subtle spritz of flavour rather than a gaseous overture.

On the nose I get a fresh and zesty lemon citric note, alongside pipped fruit – yellow melon, and green notes – at first this was pear, but it moved along to fleshy green apple. The initial palate is an explosion of froth – light and refreshing – and virtually evaporating in the mouth. Once this dissipates, the first hit is of clean youthful lemon and green fruit. This quickly gives way to a secondary note of something bordering on creamy tropical, stopping short of pineapple, more akin to passion fruit.

The vibrant acidity continues the refreshing notes of fleshy green apple. For such a light bodied wine, it is a compliment that it has such length of palate. Once the initial fruit gives way, I get hints of smoke and a calculated bitterness – something to give some sort of depth to the linear cleanse, and further indicating care in the winery. With the alcohol at a light 11% there are some noticeable touches of sweetness on the palate, but nothing cloying, and I could happily drink this as a refreshing aperitif. I tasted the wine on its own, but paired with food this would be an easy match with starters or hors d’oeuvre.

I really hope that Tesco continue this initiative in showing their commitment to their range, listening to their customers, and fostering a vibrant community. What with their recent well publicised financial troubles, this could be something that easily falls by the way-side as an unnecessary expense, but I really hope it doesn’t.

With thanks to Tesco and Borgo Molino for the bottle used in this tasting.

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

It’s all Greek for me

Last weekend saw Decanter magazine put on their usual March Fine Wine Encounter, but for the first time the event was completely devoted over to wines from the Mediterranean. Looking specifically at these wines threw up quite a few firsts for me and is a well-timed move by Decanter. Merchants and even some supermarkets are already starting to stock or broaden their ranges from countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Turkey, and this in turn means that customers are able to start trying these wines without specifically hunting them out. A quick look at the awards being dished out further paints the picture – In the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards (picked purely as it was the nearest historic Awards catalogue to me as I write) Turkey won only one bronze medal – In the 2014 awards they won over 40 medals. Obviously producers need to be entering their wines in the competition in the first place, and the number of those entered certainly has gone up, but you get the picture.

Wine enthusiasts are always looking for the next thing – I think it’s an inherent part of being interested in wine (it certainly is for me). With prices pushing certain wines out of reach on the one hand and the glut of commercially successful variety wines on the other, the time seems right to delve in to what’s been going on in these hitherto unembraced countries. Hand in hand with this is the education piece – I mentioned the tasting to a worldly-wise family member and their reply was that they didn’t even know wine was made in some of these countries.

There’s also good news for the casual wine drinker and that is, as well as becoming more widely available, the wines are pretty darn good too. It’s easy to forget that these countries having been honing their craft for years, and constitute the oldest places on earth to have been making wine (Old-Old World Wine, if you like). Like anywhere, I’m sure there are still many works-in-progress to be found, but for those shown at the Decanter event I’d be happy to pay the same price as I pay for my regular bottles. I’d certainly get a renewed vigour in sharing them with others to spread the word.

My top takeaways from the day, in no particular order:

  • Moschofilero – a Greek white grape – makes a deliciously peachy and floral Sparkling.  I tasted the Amalia Brut NV from Ktima Tselepos.  I’ll be looking more at this variety.
  • Slovenia are making Sparkling wines (the Slovenian term is Penina), so you may soon be drinking Penina alongside your Cava’s and your Prosecco’s.  The wines tasted on the day were in large part Chardonnay, blended with smaller amounts of Rebula (AKA Ribolla Gialla from Friuli).
  • Rapsani is a small high altitude Greek village making smooth jammy reds.  Having tasted the offerings on the day, I now have the badge to prove I am a #rapsanilover.  Greece showed really well on the day for me, definitely proving that (and I’m sure that they’d agree with me here) some of the uninspiring wines that they were quite famous for, are now a thing of the past.
  • And finally, honourable mention for the lovely chap pouring at the Villa Conchi stand, who admitted to me that they were new to the show circuit and launching a new range of Cava’s.  This was the first stand I went to on the day as I like to start with Sparkling, and I don’t think he had his pour levels quite sorted out.  They were as big as you’d get when buying a glass of wine in a restaurant!  Too good to spit though and a lovely creamy Brut Imperial NV.

Overall, producers seem to have found a good balance of producing wines from indigenous grapes to create their own regional USPs (unique selling points) and the more internationally recognised varieties, so as not to scare off traditionalists. It remains to be seen whether drinkers will take to obscure grape varieties such as Krassato or Kalecik Karasi as they have to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. I was thoroughly happy with the day though – a lot of new avenues to discover and over 20 new grape varieties tasted. Having been to many Decanter events in the past it did feel a little quieter than previous ones focusing on more established regions so, with my above enthusiasm noted, there is definitely more inroads to go to get the masses excited about these wines.

The good news is that they are now clearly on the agenda. For me, I was actually happy this time around with less attendees (the flagship November event can be quite rowdy with thirsty tasters three deep at particular producers!) as it gave more chance to have lengthy chats with the winemakers (whose first language is not necessarily English), and to taste through their whole offerings rather than just picking highlights.

Yamas!

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

Oldies and Goldies

The world of wine moves fast.

Sure, there’s nothing ground-breaking about that statement, but just recently I’ve reached the point where I’ve started re-buying books for my wine library. Books I kind of already own. Even many published as recently as the 1990’s are now only useful when drawing historical companions, or accessing information that gets dropped from newer texts.   Grape varieties mentioned have long since been pulled to the whims of fashion, and locations and even countries not talked about, are now merrily creating great wines.

It was whilst reading a book on the USA, studying up for an article, that I finally took pause for thought. The book was a weighty tome, ‘fully revised’, but authored in the late 1980’s, so wasn’t new, but still within the lifetime of someone yet to reach 30. Whilst delving through a wealth of detailed statistics, it dawned on me that I was, basically, wasting my time. The USA to all intents and purposes went through a wine reboot in the early 1990’s when Phylloxera came back for another crack. Plantings on a compromised rootstock (AxR1) left them susceptible to a new strain of the killer louse, and what came after – the grape varieties, the vine densities, the sites – were now being started from scratch. I’d need to buy a newer book.

At around the same time, I managed to pick up the first edition of the leading UK wine magazine Decanter. Although the cover price was a mere 40p, I managed to purchase it for just £4 thanks to a leading online auction site – Inflation aside, that’s less than the cover price of an issue today. For a publication first hitting the shelves in 1975, I was expecting to view the 40-year old content with a mild curiosity. What struck me was that a number of things still remained true to this day. Articles answering the question “How can I drink good Bordeaux without paying too much per bottle”? Wine loving celebrities (in this case, Michael Caine) putting their money in to wine futures. Regional profiles, the latest auction news. Even Hugh Johnson was there! Aside of the current vogue for extensive tasting notes, scoring systems, and good deals for weekday wine drinking (did such a concept exist in the 1970’s?) the spread of articles was very similar to today. Maybe not so much has changed after all?

To tie these two anecdotes together, I’ll move on to the Decanter Book review page – another publication stalwart. Within the titles listed one stood out, mainly as it had a half page and picture devoted to it. The book – ‘The Great Wine Blight’, the subject – Phylloxera. Using my internet purchasing skills again it wasn’t long before a cheaply purchased copy came through the letterbox, and a thoroughly enjoyable read it was too, sparking all sorts of ideas on a future article on Phylloxera. For all the bad that it has done, costing vast sums of monies to prevent and putting smaller growers out of business, surely it must achieved some good things too? Vignerons were no longer tied to the crops that they had, and could potentially turn to fashionable grape varieties. Replanting could also take in some of the newer ideas such as density planting, vine training, and site/aspect location.

It was pleasing to me that a publication from 1975 was still bringing new knowledge and insight to this reader some 40 years later. The final irony is that I have since had to buy a newer book on Phylloxera, as the older one didn’t have the details of the 1990’s invasion. I’d need to buy a newer book.

n.b. An abridged version of this post was published in Decanter magazine in September 2014

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!

It’s all in the detail: Dom Pérignon

It’s tempting to believe that within the vast world known as cyber space, all information exists….somewhere, and it is simply a case of search hard enough and ye shall find. This was certainly the view that I held following the purchase of my first bottle of Dom Pérignon (at an airport shopping outlet, the 1995 if you’re interested). Though I’d never tasted it, I knew the name Dom Pérignon, but little more than it was a mythical, iconic brand – something too good to put a price on. And yet here it was – a bottle for £70 (which seems an absolute steal now). Of course, a major part of the brands’ makeup is the alchemic origins of Champagne, and the myth that makes it a romantic purchase. To know the finer details would spoil the allure and aspiration of drinking the stuff.

And yet I wanted to know.

I wasn’t after top-level or company sensitive things like celebrity endorsements or sales figures (Dom Pérignon is well known to have massive production runs far larger than many other Prestige Cuvées). I was more interested in things like what previous vintages had there been? When they had been declared for release? Historic pricing, label and packaging changes, corking and capsule variations. The details required by a fan. It was these things that the Internet failed me on, and so I set about finding out for myself, in the best way that you can when facing a task such as this – I went out and purchased a LOT of Dom Pérignon.

Was that the cheapest way to do it? Well, no…quite clearly. I did actually write to Moét once requesting information, but what I received back was very rough. I even tried using the AQA service (a UK Mobile Phone based ‘Any Question Answered!’ service, where they will text you the answer to ‘any’ question), but this confirmed what I suspected – they just got their information from the internet (I had already visited and knew well the pages they had farmed the detail from to ‘answer’ my tough questions).

What will follow in the coming weeks/months will be my findings from my tastings – not mere tasting notes (these are widely available from far more experienced palates than myself), but the minutiae details that, thus far as far as I can tell, the internet has not seen fit to publish. So if you wanted to know like I did, stay tuned, and I can save you a lot of money finding out!

Enjoyed this article?  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ and share using the buttons below. Keep looking around my site for more of the same.  Cheers!