Le Petit Ballon – Clos de l’ours Rosé Tasting

I was recently introduced to Le Petit Ballon, a French wine subscription service who have amassed over 40,000 customers, making them the number one choice in the country. Since their 2011 launch, this success has seen them expanding in to both Belgium and the UK in 2015 and, in the current age of ‘time-poor’ consumers favouring convenience at every step, monthly subscription boxes are booming.

In the UK wine market things remain fairly uncrowded with perhaps half a dozen players vying for your custom, and so it is a ripe time to be offering a new option.

Le Petit Ballon

The no-commitment service operates at two different price-points to ensure that you stay in control of the types of wines that you’d like to try.  Each monthly package consists of two full (75cl) bottles of wine and a full colour magazine (‘The Gazette’) telling you all you need to know about the wines you will be tasting.  Membership also brings the added benefit of receiving at least 20% off the range of artisan wines offered in their online shop, and this ensures that should you find your dream wine on the scheme, you’ll be able to order further supplies no matter how rare the producer.

The first package on offer is ‘Grape Expectations’ which focuses on showcasing great value wines from artisan producers you won’t find on the high-street.  The second, higher tier is the ‘Age of Raisin’ package, focusing on more prestigious labels.

All of the wines featured in the service have been personally selected by Jean-Michel Deluc, a former Sommelier Chef at The Ritz and a man with many other culinary credits to his name, so is a palate you can trust.

For summer 2016 Le Petit Ballon have just launched a new cache of Rosé wines, and I leapt at the chance to give one a try from producer Clos de l’ours.  Ours translates as ‘bear’ which is a nod to the bear-like qualities of winemaker Michel (who would easily be able to give you a bear hug) and he is also referenced in the name of the blend ‘Grizzly’ (Michel has a big beard!).

Clos de l’ours was founded in 2012 (although the vineyards have been in operation much longer) and whilst they are still in the early years of business they have a clear philosophy of how they want to farm their land.  Respectful of the existing vines being farmed organically since 2000, they continue to use minimal intervention in the wine-making process to allow nature to take its own course.

Le Petit Ballon 2

Clos de l’ours Grizzly Organic Rosé (blend) 2015, Provence, France, 14%, £13.90 (£11.90 to subscribers)

The colour of this wine is a pale-ish pink, conjuring up for me the colour of farmed salmon with hints of onion skin. It looks clear, clean, fresh and inviting, and the slate-grey colour of the label immediately sets off the pale colour of the wine superbly.  The blend is a veritable compendium of the classic southern french red grapes of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre, Carignan and Cinsault, with the addition of the white grape Rolle to finish it off.

The nose was nicely forthcoming and full of various red fruits, but in the main strawberries and redcurrant.  In addition to this there was a discernible dash of lemon citrus and a whiff of smokiness at the tail end.

The first thing I notice on the palate is the wonderful depth that the wine exudes, which is an instant hit of pure fruit and a silky creamy weight.  Once again the red fruits are clean, nicely ripe and balanced with a medium fresh acid that is present, but happy to let the juicy fruits come to the fore.  Once again we are mixing strawberry and redcurrants, with background notes of raspberry and pomegranate.

The finish is long and carried by the creaminess and the smoky salty minerality you always find in a decent Provence Rosé.

Even though this wine is all about showcasing well delivered pure fruit, there’s an inbuilt complexity that makes this absolutely worth the price.  In my search for more words to describe its creamy rich body I kept returning to the glass time and time again and, although I failed to find the words, I was still amply rewarded with a well-realised wine.

I absolutely look forward to trying other wines in the range, and indeed, others offered by Le Petit Ballon.  You can find out more, as well as getting more info on their subscription options by visiting http://www.lepetitballon.com/uk/

With thanks to Clementine Communications and Le Petit Ballon for the bottle used in this tasting.

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Zampa Syrah 2014 – A Taste of India

A friend of mine was over from India recently on a UK visit and happened to ask if there was anything that I’d like to be brought over.  Of course, the first and only thing I thought of was a bottle of wine and, sure enough, he kindly obliged.

What he presented me with was a bottle from Grover Zampa, India’s second most popular brand, just behind market leaders Sula Vineyards.  Producing around 100,000 cases of wine per year, the grapes used for this bottling come from their vineyard holdings in Maharashtra state which is in the centre of India on the western side.  This is a hot-bed of agricultural activity with two thirds of the population employed in farming roles.

More specifically this wine comes from the Nashik valley which is India’s largest grape growing area, just north of Mumbai and Pune (where my friend is from), and this bottle was chosen as an example of his local wine.

Nashik Valley is located at 20° latitude and well outside of the usual grape growing comfort zone of 50-30°, meaning winemaking is a definite challenge in the hot and humid conditions.  Aggressive pruning to avoid the monsoon season and plantings at high altitude to take advantage of the cooler night temperatures both help to carve out wines that can balance acidity levels with the ripened fruit flavours.

Wine making in India has seen a lot of investment in recent years and made good strides forward in terms of the quality (a Sauvignon Blanc from the aforementioned Sula Vineyards made headlines when it won a Decanter Silver Medal award in 2011).  Plantings are focused on the main international varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, and back in 2011 this particular wine was one of the handful of Indian wines chosen to be stocked by supermarket Waitrose as part of their ‘World of Wine’ showcase.  As I write, the bottle no longer forms part of their range.

Zampa Syrah

Zampa ‘Hand Crafted’ Syrah, Nashik Valley, India, 2014, 14%, ~£7.00 (N/A UK)

In colour the wine is a dark purple, almost to the point of being opaque.  The colour of the main body has just started to lose the vibrant signs of youth but the rim manages to keep the light hues in sight with a touch of a ruby red visible.

The nose of the wine is incredibly rich, warm and spicy.  In addition to the dark blackberry, plummy stewed fruit, there are clear tertiary characteristics of both wood (this wine clearly states on the bottle that it is oak aged) and, more prominently, diesel.  Overall, the sensation is chunky and one of deep intensity and fills every last part of your nasal cavity.

The diesel/burnt notes continue on the palate and, in addition to the seriously woody notes (which are freshly creosoted panels as opposed to subtle toasting) this wine packs a huge punch before you can even taste any fruit characters.  To see if I could restrain this wayward character I decanted the rest of the wine for 6 hours but, alas, it was still the same.

The woodiness has an immediate drying effect on the palate but, even with a good medium acidity to drive it through, it overtakes any other characteristics and is way too heavy handed for my liking.  There’s a light fine grained tannin with some dark fruit milling about in the background, but overall this is a chewy wine that only hints at the ‘smooth, mellow’ delivery promised on the bottle and is dominated by the woody spices.

Obviously I have no provenance on the bottle (it could well have stood on a hot Indian supermarket shelf for some time), and could not find any recommended drinking window on the web, so I do wonder what a few years in bottle would do for this wine.

As it stands this wine felt too over-oaked and a little too raw with not enough of the grape characteristics coming through, so perhaps it isn’t indicative of the brand/range as a whole.  Aside of a few quick tastings at Vinopolis this comprises my first serious critical appraisement of an Indian wine and I hope it won’t be my last.

Many thanks to Amit for giving me the chance to try a bottle.

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Laithwaites Premiere Tasting – May 2016

Maybe it’s because the sun has finally arrived here in the UK or maybe it is just good labelling, but both the wines supplied as part of the May offering from Laithwaites Premier looked absolutely inviting and ready to drink.  Added to which they are two wines that I’ve never heard of before, let alone tried, so it’s another great opportunity.

Belle Saison

La Belle Saison Sauvignon Blanc 2015, France, 11.5%, £8.99

Unusually for this scheme, this white wine is on the low alcohol side clocking in at just 11.5%, but the price-point is still where you’d expect for a good quality Sauvignon Blanc.  The question is: can it deliver on the palate?

French Sauvignon Blanc traditionally hails from the Loire, but this wine is labelled simply as a ‘Vin de France’ and so no identifiable geographic indication is clearly given.  In fact, this wine hails from various vineyards across the south-west of the country, allowing the winemakers to create a consistent blend.  To me, £8.99 seems a little on the high side for a wine that is sourced from such a wide arena, but at least we can applaud the efforts to craft a typical French Sauvignon Blanc.

From the hands of winemaker Hervé Sabardeil (who also makes Laithwaites favourite Chante-Clair), this wine is bottled under a nice green screw-cap which well accentuates the lemon yellow wine.  The label, as mentioned above, speaks clearly of a summery floral wine, which is exactly what you get.

In the glass, the pale lemon yellow is joined by green tints to the rim.  A good intense nose is filled with the light fresh green fruits of apple and pears along with a touch of honey and peach.  There are also the signature fragrant notes of cut grass to add to the fresh lemon.

The palate dances between yellow and green fruits, delivering the flesh of green apples and pears and then jumps towards tropical yellow melon.  The varied fruit salad notes continue with both traces of banana and dried pineapple discernible.  Overall this is a zesty, slightly tart, mouth-watering wine.  The medium weight is balanced well against the lip-smacking acids, with the fruits delivering a good long satisfying length.

Refreshing, utterly drinkable without food, and a good example of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc.  What isn’t noticeable, but you can raise a glass to, is the lower alcohol level.  This allows you to feel just that bit better about the next glass, even if the bottle price won’t.

Mulberry Bush

The Mulberry Bush Shiraz Merlot 2015, Robertson, South Africa, 14%, £8.99

I seem to be trying more and more South African wines recently which is probably testament to how much more accessible they have become.  In addition, in my continual bid to stay away from the well beaten track and broaden my horizons, I find myself trying less and less Shiraz and Merlot and so this is something of a homecoming.

This bottle (55% Shiraz, 45% Merlot) comes from third generation winemaker Jacques Bruwer and, with famed wine writer Hugh Johnson extolling the virtues of the Cape for quality and value, we should be in for a treat.

We’re in the south-west of the south-western tip of South Africa here, nestled between the mountain ranges of Langeberg and Riversonderend in the Robertson region.  Long sunny days are tempered with the cool misty nights and coastal breezes rolling in from the Indian Ocean, which allows the grapes to have an elongated hang time throughout the season, and fully ripen to maturity.

In colour this is an inky-dark youthful purple in colour.  On the nose there are dark plummy notes alongside redcurrant, damson and raisin, and the tertiary characters of fruitcake and coffee.  Overall it’s a winter warming scent with sweet spices and varnished wood.

As you would expect from the Syrah and Merlot grapes, the palate of this wine is heavy on the fruitcake and spice characters, alongside further notes of wood and brambles.  There’s redcurrants, black cherry, plums, damson, figs, all providing a well weighted body.  I’d also say, given the name of the wine that there’s some mulberry in there too!

The fruit is full, ripe and crunchy in character, and a medium acid draws the cherry and warmth from the relatively high alcohol (14%) in to the end palate.  Overall this is a smooth and mellow wine, perfect with meats or stews, or even on its own, and it was nice to reacquaint myself with these grape varieties after what has probably been too long.

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Aldi Wine Club 8th Panel Tasting Note #2

The next two bottles from the latest Aldi Wine Club tasting panel arrived recently.  Both were sourced from their ‘Exquisite’ range and with no red this time, we have a white and a rosé to try.

Aldi Albarino

Exquisite Collection Albariño 2015, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12%, £5.99

Well-known within wine loving circles, the region of Rias Baixas and the Albariño grape variety might not be the most familiar of Spanish offerings to the general public, but the good news is that this is another case of the right grape growing in the right place.  Albariño (known as Alvarinho in Portugal) produces distinctive wines and works well in the Atlantic Ocean influenced wetter conditions of the north-western corner of Spain, just north of the Portuguese border.

Bottled under screw-cap, this wine is a nice clean lemon yellow in colour, with a fresh and inviting nose.  There’s a good sprinkling of zesty citrus with heaps of lemon backed up by lime, fresh grass and floral notes, clean green fruit of both apples and pears, and a slight toastiness which rounds out the good full, intense experience.

The palate is led by the fresh lemon citrus and followed by tropical yellow fruit of melon and pineapple along with peach skin and light floral touches.  Even though this wine is absolutely all about the fresh clean fruits (which it has in good measure and pairs well with the steely crisp high acid) I found it slightly lacking in the mid-palate.  This dipped the intensity leaving just the acid and also had a knock on effect to the length, which wasn’t overly long.

All in all, this is an easy enough wine to drink with or without food, but I will have to re-taste before I can recommend or fully evaluate it.  One last thing to add is that if I can’t make a full decision on a wine, I leave the rest of the bottle for a re-taste the next evening.  In this case, it was good enough to be gone in one evening, which does draw conclusions of its own.

Aldi Provence

Exquisite Collection Cótes de Provence Rosé NV, France, 13.5%, £5.99

This wine, like the Albariño above, was picked out by The Telegraph newspaper as a key wine for the summer of 2014, and right from pouring, I can see I’m going to like it.

In a subtle and canny way of keeping quality in line with price, this wine isn’t from any particular vintage, but is rather a blend of years (NV meaning ‘Non Vintage’).  In the classic Provence style it is comprised of four different grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and Cinsault) which is the regional speciality both in the southern Rhone and continuing in to the south-east of France.

My initial description of how the wine looked in the glass started with the word ‘luminous’ – it had a clear vibrancy (and I use this word often, so it surpassed even that!) with a colour that blended onion skin and wild salmon.  It was clear that this wine would have depth.

The nose was intense as expected, with fresh strawberries and cream leading the way, followed by the stone fruit of peach and nectarine.  There was a little extra sweetness to the nose that suggested all things confectionary, but it wasn’t overplayed.

On the palate the signature strawberries and cream continued, alongside peach, lemon and watermelon, all giving a good weighted mouthfeel.  The acid was placed lower in the mix and kept the palate refreshing whilst allowing ripe fruits to come to the fore.  The length was good and added smoke and further darker notes.

I’ve never been able to put my finger on the dark notes at the end of some rosé wines and often end up listing them as something like ‘a pleasant bitterness’.  Utilising the internet, apparently they are known as ‘salty minerality’ which comprises black skinned olives, brine, and even meat.  Once aware I could instantly pick out these characteristics.  Being fairly unusual characters in wine this was a good eye-opener for me.

The labelling for this bottle is in-keeping with the rest of the ‘Exquisite’ range (the use of the colour blue to offset the contents, clear good looking scripts and fonts, the winemakers signature etc.), but if I had one negative against this wine it would be the funny shaped bottle.  At best it looks like a novelty, but at worst appears simply as a wine ‘alternative’ or soft drink (Orangina springs to mind).

Overall this wine embodies what it is to be part of the Aldi Wine Club, in that it has allowed me to try a wine that I perhaps would not have picked off the shelf, it has enabled me to learn something new about the world of wine, and it again has me scratching my head as to how Aldi can bring in such quality at such market-friendly prices.

I’ll be picking up more of this when I pop in to get the replacement bottle of Albariño.

With thanks to Aldi UK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Laithwaites Premiere Tasting -April 2016

April may well and truly be over, but I’ve still got the two Laithwaites Premiere bottles to review, so here goes.

Laith Prem April16

First up is the Campanula Pinot Grigio which is actually already something of a best-selling white from Laithwaites, so it is great that it forms part of the Premiere range as these schemes can so often be for pushing wines that aren’t selling well.  Whilst I’m familiar with their (now unavailable) Pinot Noir, I’ve never tried any of their white offerings, so this is a good opportunity.

Another point of interest here is the fact that this wine is from Hungary and not, as you may well initially expect, from the Pinot Grigio stronghold of northern Italy.  There’s a good historical reason for the grape making the journey to Hungary, dating back to when the King of Naples’ daughter married the Hungarian King and he became a great patron of her Italian roots, culture, arts and science.

Named after the bluebells that grew around the vineyards, this wine is produced by winemaker Gábor Laczkó in the northern central village of Etyek, some 50 kilometres from Budapest.  This Pinot Grigio was ‘commended’ at the International Wines & Spirits Challenge 2015.

Laith Campanula

Campanula Pinot Grigio 2014, Dunántúl, Hungary, 12%, £8.49

The wine is a light pale lemon yellow in colour with inviting golden hints to the rim.  The nose is pronounced, strong and intense, with clear green apple flesh, citrus, some cream and a whiff of spice.  The depth of the nose is suggestive of a nicely weighted palate, and this is indeed what you receive.

On the palate the fresh green flesh notes last throughout, and are added to with apple pips and pear.  There’s prominent lemon and lime and a mouth-watering acidity that means the overall sensation is fresh and more-ish.

The end palate is rounded out with a slight woodiness to match the ripe fruit, and the finish is all about the fresh apple and cream texture.

Overall this is a very nice white, and well crafted, but at £8.49 a bottle, it might just be a touch expensive.

Next up is a Spanish red blend from Extremadura, which is towards the south-west of the country, bordering Portugal.  The label tells us that the ‘Silver Route’, of which the wine takes its name, was the principal trade route used by the Roman Empire.  Cutting Spain north to south, the route allowed the Romans to move localised specialities such as wine and the famous iberico hams, to different parts of the country to trade for other materials.

The Extremadura region has deep red soils, and the Tempranillo (70%) and Syrah (30%) used for this bottling are from old vines based in Badajoz, just south of Merida.  From the combination of using the naturally spicy Syrah grape, a hot Spanish climate, and the intensity that comes from the concentrated lower yields of older vines, I’m expecting this to be a punchy wine.

Laith Silver Route

The Silver Route 2014 Tempranillo/Syrah Blend, Extremadura VdT, Spain, 14.5%, £8.99

The bottle looks great with the silver design setting off the dark colour of the wine superbly.  The kaleidoscope label is carried across to the top of the screw-cap which is a nice touch and shows a good bit of thought and care for the overall design.

In colour this a nice deep youthful purple colour, and the strong ripe fruity nose greets you well before your nose reaches the glass.  This is still a youthful intense, slightly confectionate black fruit-forward wine, with warmth and spice, and a definite nod towards currant fruit puddings.

For all that you detect on the nose, the palate is surprisingly not over-powering and has a medium weight, but it is crammed full of flavour.  Initially it is rich and spicy with dark fruit cake notes alongside bitter dark cocoa, and coffee.  You also get the hit of the ripe black fruits as well as a little light grainy (chalky) tannin.

A fresh medium acid keeps this gliding across the palate, but the overall sensation is quite moody and dark, with the fruit playing second fiddle to the more complex secondary notes such as the cake and cocoa.  This is the character of the wine, more than the complexity, but this is still an enjoyable easy drink.

The length is medium and really makes the most of the chocolate.  I like this one for the price and it gets an overall thumbs up.

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Laithwaites Premiere Wines – February 2016

Time for another Laithwaites Premiere tasting now, and for February we’ve been selected a South African Sauvignon Blanc and a Portuguese Red blend.  Both of these wines are new to me, so the scheme continues to offer up a low price way of trying new wines.

Laith Prem Feb16

Farmhouse Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Breedekloof WO, South Africa – 13.5%, £9.99

Another top price offering for the Premiere wines (they generally cap at £10), and an interesting one to receive, coming as it did with a case of my current favourite New World Sauvignon Blanc (which, for the record, was a former discovery via the Premiere scheme!).

Made by award winning estate Spier, this wine hails from the world famous Stellenbosch region of South Africa, which gives a clue as to the full body and ripe fruits one can expect from such a bottle.

Visually the wine is a nice clear pale lemon in colour, and on the palate there are the usual Sauvignon Blanc character traits of a green grassiness, gooseberries, passion fruit and bell pepper.  The body is mid-weight and adds cream as well as yellow pepper, dried tropical fruit, and a hefty dose of lime juice.  The acidity keeps the pace moving and, whilst refreshing, the wine for me fails to make the huge impression I expect of a New World SB.

The wine has ripe fruits and gives a decent length so perhaps I need to try it again with food, or perhaps not so close to the Chilean SB I bought it with (at the same price-point), which for me is a world class example of how to treat the grape in a New World climate.  In summary, a perfectly good weekday wine, but not top of my list for this grape at this price-point.

Stones & Bones (Red Blend) 2013, Lisboa VR, Portugal – 14%, £8.99

Not for any particular reason it has been a while since I’ve had anything from Portugal.  Loving Spanish reds as much as I do, this country tends to get pushed to the side (pun intended!).

This wine gets its name from the landscape from whence it hails, which is scattered with ancient boulders and fossils.  Winemaker Diogo Sepúlveda has previously worked in both Pomerol and Barossa, and so brings a wealth of talent, capable of bringing richness to this blend of Touriga Nacional (40%), Syrah (30%), Tinta Roriz (20%) and Alicante (10%).

The colour is a nice clear youthful purple, and the nose is at once full of ripe black fruits and brambles, as well as touches of milk chocolate and vanilla.  From the richness and depth of the nose alone you can get a sense of the warmth that will come from the alcohol (14%), as well as the touches of sweet well ripened grapes.

The palate is voluptuous, well rounded, and as full as the nose suggested.  The fruits continue to be led by black cherries and berries, joined by the spices and chocolate (erring towards dark chocolate now).  Tannins are light, and there is a lush lean refreshing acid running throughout.  This keeps the overall sensation nice and clean, even though I could describe the overall weight of the wine as ‘chewy’.  The length of the wine is substantial and somewhere over medium plus.

The literature says that the wine is best enjoyed by 2021 and I can well believe it.  My own notes describe this wine as having a palate that you can almost tell is on the cusp of something greater.  There is a complexity just waiting to burst out and, as pleasant as this is to drink right now, it will be really interesting to try this again in a few years time.  A well-made wine and a good find.

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Taste of London / Les Dauphins

Les Dauph3

The Taste of London event draws to a close this weekend, bringing the curtain down on the spectacular array of food and drinks from both artisan producers and premium brands.  The setting was the magnificent manicured surroundings of Regents Park, and the sun was fully shining on the 200+ exhibitors.  Some of the finest food establishments in London were represented including those of celebrity chefs Theo Randall and Marcus Wareing, who were happily milling around with attendees answering any questions and posing for photos.  I desperately wanted to try Marcus’ Salted Caramel soft serve honeycomb ice cream, but ran out of time, and thus my foodie highlight remained a dish from the restaurant chain MEATliquor.  Specialising in American style meat dishes, I tried their ‘Dead Hippie Slider’, and the meat was sooooo juicy. It’s clear that the chain is appropriately named.

There were also numerous cooking demonstrations from world renowned chefs, and I attended the session led by Andrea Zagatti, sampling his delicious air dried duck and white asparagus dish.  The WSET were also on hand in ‘The Mr Vine Wine Theatre’ to run masterclasses, led by wine expert Jane Parkinson, on wine tasting and wine-food matching.

Les Dauph2

Alongside multiple beers and ciders, the world of wine was very well represented, from the traditional French (Laurent Perrier) to the less-seen Thai (Monsoon Valley).  It was also great to see representation from English wine producers such as Chapel Down and Digby showing their wares.

With that said, I was attending courtesy of Les Dauphins, a French wine producer from the sun drenched vineyards of the southern Rhóne who, in my opinion have one of the most striking wine labels on the market, which really evokes a traditional France.  The team were happy to let me taste through the full range that they were showing on the day which comprised of their Reserve White, Reserve Red, Cótes du Rhóne Villages Grande Réserve Red, and the Vinsobres Red.  My favourite was the Villages Grande Réserve, which was full of flavour, yet easy to drink on its own.  The Vinsobres, although clearly more complex, had a firmer tannin and needed to be paired with food (I’m sure there is an irony in me saying this, tasting it on its own at a huge food and wine event).

After being (easily) coaxed in to recording a short promotional video for them (which is due to appear online anytime now – I will post a link to it when available), I was the proud owner of a goody bag, including a poster of the fabulous label artwork but, more importantly, a couple of bottles of wine to take home.  Without further ado, here’s my verdicts:

Les Dauph1

Les Dauphins Cótes du Rhóne Reserve White 2014 – 12.5% abv – RRP £7.99

White wine definitely comes second to red wine in the southern Rhóne and so it’s always good to taste one.  This is a blend of Grenache (65%), Marsanne (15%), Clairette (10%) and Viognier (10%), and the grapes are picked at night or in the early morning to preserve their freshness.  The resulting wine is matured on its lees for 2-6 months, and the back label describes it as a “white with attitude”.

The colour of the wine is a straw lemon, with hints of green and gold. The nose is a full intense and expressive mix of green and yellow fruit – pear and grapefruit to start, moving on to ripe yellow melon, peach and dried pineapple.

On the palate you receive a deliciously weighted body, comprised of dense tasting fruits.  The green fruit continues, twinned with lovely zesty lemon citrus.  The acidity is medium and well balanced, and the oil and butter tones all add to the luscious weight of the wine.  This, in turn, aids the medium-plus length which is carried by the fruit and citrus.  A pleasure to try and reassuringly distinct in this price bracket.

Les Dauphins Cótes du Rhóne Red 2014 – 13% abv – RRP £7.99

A traditional Rhóne grape mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (respectively 70%, 25% and 5% of the blend), the bunches are totally destalked, go through regular pumping-over to aid extraction, and are then matured in concrete tanks.

The colour is a youthful vibrant purple.  On the palate, a refreshing acidity guides you towards youthful ripe dark black fruits of both cherry and currants, and touches of plum.  Tannins are evident, but fine grained and well structured, and the medium weight is rounded out with perceptible spice and pepper.  All in all, this smooth wine gives you a deep dark warmth and leaves a medium-plus length behind it.  A good quality wine in this price range.

With thanks to Les Dauphins for providing both the wines and entrance to ‘Taste Of London’.  All reviews are conducted impartially.

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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.

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