The Graped Crusader

Apr 17

M. Chapoutier Condrieu 2011 

Condrieu is very much Viognier in its poshest frock. But it’s a really posh frock mind and unfortunately the poor old wine drinker ends up paying for it…. In short it’s not a market I’ve had much of a chance to muddle about in.

However, offered a chance to sample this wine recently I, whilst trying to remain calm and composed, jumped at the chance. Really quite high in fact. I’m glad I did as it really is a stunning wine and, with apologies to the tremendous “Drink Me” Branco 2011 by Niepoort, has now become the current holder of my “Best White Wine of the Year” gong. That said, white wine season is fast approaching so it may not be a lengthy stay.

I’ve described a wine as being an “assault on the senses” before but I now wonder if I might have over-exaggerated on that previous occasion as this very much is an assault on the senses. It grabs you from your first sniff and all too soon you’re having to say good bye to the tiny bit of wine you’ve managed to save for your last drop. The nose is floral with a hint of clementine and the clementine note is strong on the palate too with a hint of marshmallow and smoky tones.

I can probably give the wine no higher praise than to say it was so good we actually paused Masterchef twice to talk about the wine. I hope that means as much in Condrieu as it does in Bromsgrove…..

Even better is that this wine has just appeared on www.Vente-Privee.com at a knock down price of £72 for 3 bottles. I can also very heartily recommend the M Chapoutier Saint-Joseph 2011 (£75 for 6 bottles) and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011 (£57 for 3 bottles) which appear in the same sale. These are fantastic wines and very good prices. Fill up quick!….

M. Chapoutier Condrieu 2011 

Condrieu is very much Viognier in its poshest frock. But it’s a really posh frock mind and unfortunately the poor old wine drinker ends up paying for it…. In short it’s not a market I’ve had much of a chance to muddle about in.

However, offered a chance to sample this wine recently I, whilst trying to remain calm and composed, jumped at the chance. Really quite high in fact. I’m glad I did as it really is a stunning wine and, with apologies to the tremendous “Drink Me” Branco 2011 by Niepoort, has now become the current holder of my “Best White Wine of the Year” gong. That said, white wine season is fast approaching so it may not be a lengthy stay.

I’ve described a wine as being an “assault on the senses” before but I now wonder if I might have over-exaggerated on that previous occasion as this very much is an assault on the senses. It grabs you from your first sniff and all too soon you’re having to say good bye to the tiny bit of wine you’ve managed to save for your last drop. The nose is floral with a hint of clementine and the clementine note is strong on the palate too with a hint of marshmallow and smoky tones.

I can probably give the wine no higher praise than to say it was so good we actually paused Masterchef twice to talk about the wine. I hope that means as much in Condrieu as it does in Bromsgrove…..

Even better is that this wine has just appeared on www.Vente-Privee.com at a knock down price of £72 for 3 bottles. I can also very heartily recommend the M Chapoutier Saint-Joseph 2011 (£75 for 6 bottles) and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011 (£57 for 3 bottles) which appear in the same sale. These are fantastic wines and very good prices. Fill up quick!….

Apr 04

Bellingham – The Bernard Series Handpicked Viognier 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa)

I presented a corporate wine tasting earlier in the week and during one of the breaks was asked to recommend a Viognier. Given this is currently on offer in Majestic and I think it’s a very good wine I recommended accordingly.

Having returned home last night I then spotted a bottle in the rack. I must admit, I was in a red wine kind of mood last night but having stuck my neck out and recommended this I suddenly felt duty bound to crack it open and check that my recommendation wasn’t an errant one…. It didn’t take long for me to realise that, thankfully, I’ve recommended a good ‘un. 

As you’d expect it’s an aromatic wine with distinct peach and floral aromas. It tastes like a pear dipped in cream and spices (I’d imagine. I’ve never done that….) whilst the finish is pretty long. It’s a classy wine which shows off very well just why Viognier should be more popular than it seems to be.

Of course, the lady I recommended this to will probably hate it now but I’m pretty sure she’ll be impressed. Bellingham’s line of wines under the “Bernard Series” label (named after Bellingham’s founder Bernard Podlashuk) are all very reliable and this one is no different.

Available currently at a bargain price of £9.99 from Majestic when you buy two bottles. Also available in Sainsbury’s for not much more….

Bellingham – The Bernard Series Handpicked Viognier 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa)

I presented a corporate wine tasting earlier in the week and during one of the breaks was asked to recommend a Viognier. Given this is currently on offer in Majestic and I think it’s a very good wine I recommended accordingly.

Having returned home last night I then spotted a bottle in the rack. I must admit, I was in a red wine kind of mood last night but having stuck my neck out and recommended this I suddenly felt duty bound to crack it open and check that my recommendation wasn’t an errant one…. It didn’t take long for me to realise that, thankfully, I’ve recommended a good ‘un.

As you’d expect it’s an aromatic wine with distinct peach and floral aromas. It tastes like a pear dipped in cream and spices (I’d imagine. I’ve never done that….) whilst the finish is pretty long. It’s a classy wine which shows off very well just why Viognier should be more popular than it seems to be.

Of course, the lady I recommended this to will probably hate it now but I’m pretty sure she’ll be impressed. Bellingham’s line of wines under the “Bernard Series” label (named after Bellingham’s founder Bernard Podlashuk) are all very reliable and this one is no different.

Available currently at a bargain price of £9.99 from Majestic when you buy two bottles. Also available in Sainsbury’s for not much more….

Apr 01

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Mar 31

Taste The Difference - Limoux Chardonnay 2012 (Sainsbury’s)

To be fair to Sainsbury’s this is a lovely wine. I’m sometimes guilty of turning my nose up at own label varietal wines which can all too often be bland “tick box” wines. No nose turning needed here though, if anything a second bottle wouldn’t hurt….

The wine is made by the steady pair of hands that is Jéan-Claude Mas of Domaine Paul Mas. 60% of the grapes are barrel fermented and I love the overall creaminess which leads into a toasty apricot infused palate. It’s wonderfully easy drinking and is up there with some of the better Languedoc Chardonnays that I’ve had.

Which of course makes this a good time to announce that until 8 April this wine is 25% down from its usual retail price of £10.99 at a mere £8.24. At that price it needs a no brainer sticker on the bottle….

Taste The Difference - Limoux Chardonnay 2012 (Sainsbury’s)

To be fair to Sainsbury’s this is a lovely wine. I’m sometimes guilty of turning my nose up at own label varietal wines which can all too often be bland “tick box” wines. No nose turning needed here though, if anything a second bottle wouldn’t hurt….

The wine is made by the steady pair of hands that is Jéan-Claude Mas of Domaine Paul Mas. 60% of the grapes are barrel fermented and I love the overall creaminess which leads into a toasty apricot infused palate. It’s wonderfully easy drinking and is up there with some of the better Languedoc Chardonnays that I’ve had.

Which of course makes this a good time to announce that until 8 April this wine is 25% down from its usual retail price of £10.99 at a mere £8.24. At that price it needs a no brainer sticker on the bottle….

Mar 25

Altitude By Duorum 2011 (Douro, Portugal)

It’s a tricky time of year for wine drinking this. Is it spring yet? Is it winter? Do I fancy a hearty red or should I brush off the summer whites and see what’s in stock?

In the end I went in the middle last night with a red which I was hoping would feature some bright fruit notes, wouldn’t be overly heavy and ultimately would be fun to drink. Turns out I nailed it….

This wine is the result of a partnership between two heavy weights of the Portuguese wine industry; José Maria Soares, the genius behind Barca Velha (a particularly posh Portuguese red wine) and oenologist João Portugal Ramos. The wine comes from the Upper Douro close to the Spanish border. The wine itself is a blend of native Portuguese grapes and is aged in barrel for 12 months.

The result of all this is a wine which impressed me more than I necessarily expected it to. Being a Monday I wasn’t expecting a “weekend quality” wine but this might even be worthy of Sunday evening drinking. Such high praise….

The appeal of Portuguese wines shows no sign of slowing down and with examples like this it’s not difficult to see why. I’ve already declared a Portuguese white wine to be the best white I’ve had so far this year (the Drink Me Branco 2011 by Niepoort) and whilst this wine isn’t in danger of taking the same accolade amongst red wines it’s certainly not that far off.

With its initial nose of violets and hints of sour red stewed fruits on the palate this is a super wine deserving of being treated properly and decanted around an hour before serving. The good line of acidity in the wine would make this an absolute belter alongside a rustic red meat based stew.

Available for £12.99 at Laithwaites and heartily recommended….

Altitude By Duorum 2011 (Douro, Portugal)

It’s a tricky time of year for wine drinking this. Is it spring yet? Is it winter? Do I fancy a hearty red or should I brush off the summer whites and see what’s in stock?

In the end I went in the middle last night with a red which I was hoping would feature some bright fruit notes, wouldn’t be overly heavy and ultimately would be fun to drink. Turns out I nailed it….

This wine is the result of a partnership between two heavy weights of the Portuguese wine industry; José Maria Soares, the genius behind Barca Velha (a particularly posh Portuguese red wine) and oenologist João Portugal Ramos. The wine comes from the Upper Douro close to the Spanish border. The wine itself is a blend of native Portuguese grapes and is aged in barrel for 12 months.

The result of all this is a wine which impressed me more than I necessarily expected it to. Being a Monday I wasn’t expecting a “weekend quality” wine but this might even be worthy of Sunday evening drinking. Such high praise….

The appeal of Portuguese wines shows no sign of slowing down and with examples like this it’s not difficult to see why. I’ve already declared a Portuguese white wine to be the best white I’ve had so far this year (the Drink Me Branco 2011 by Niepoort) and whilst this wine isn’t in danger of taking the same accolade amongst red wines it’s certainly not that far off.

With its initial nose of violets and hints of sour red stewed fruits on the palate this is a super wine deserving of being treated properly and decanted around an hour before serving. The good line of acidity in the wine would make this an absolute belter alongside a rustic red meat based stew.

Available for £12.99 at Laithwaites and heartily recommended….

Mar 21

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2010 (Bendigo, Central Otago)
I’m having a bit of a Kiwi Pinot renaissance at the moment. I found myself drinking little else a year or so ago and made a conscious effort to avoid it for a bit so as not to become a frankly one dimensional wine drinker and blogger. When I try wines like this though it makes me wonder how I found the restraint to resist….
I first came across Folding Hill when I met owner Tim Kerruish in Worcestershire a few years ago. We’d chatted on Twitter and then realised that his parents lived in a village a few miles from my home. We met up and I had the chance to sample a number of their wines. I’ve remained a fan and keen follower of Folding Hill ever since. Their small parcel premium wines should win more and more fans over the next few years.
Pinot from Central Otago has in my view been flying the Pinot flag for New Zealand (if not the New World) for a while now. Even the most ardent of Burgundy lovers would struggle to argue that some of the wines from the region are not at least as good as Burdundy standard. In my view they’re not just as good but a hell of a lot more fun…… I could drink the wines of Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Mount Difficulty day in day out and never get bored. Folding Hill now sit very comfortably amongst these stellar names. They’ve come a long way in a very short space of time given they only planted their first vines in 2003.
The wine is a lively one with bright cherry notes and a hint of chocolate throughout. Over time in the glass the wine develops a more herbal savoury note and almost meaty tones. It’s a very accomplished wine which drinks as if it has been meticulously produced. In short, it’s an easy wine to love (as Pinot should be).
This wine is available from the Secret Cellar for £20 which for me seems a bit of a bargain. If you’ve had this and loved it look out for Folding Hill’s more exclusive Orchard Block Pinot which is even better!

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2010 (Bendigo, Central Otago)

I’m having a bit of a Kiwi Pinot renaissance at the moment. I found myself drinking little else a year or so ago and made a conscious effort to avoid it for a bit so as not to become a frankly one dimensional wine drinker and blogger. When I try wines like this though it makes me wonder how I found the restraint to resist….

I first came across Folding Hill when I met owner Tim Kerruish in Worcestershire a few years ago. We’d chatted on Twitter and then realised that his parents lived in a village a few miles from my home. We met up and I had the chance to sample a number of their wines. I’ve remained a fan and keen follower of Folding Hill ever since. Their small parcel premium wines should win more and more fans over the next few years.

Pinot from Central Otago has in my view been flying the Pinot flag for New Zealand (if not the New World) for a while now. Even the most ardent of Burgundy lovers would struggle to argue that some of the wines from the region are not at least as good as Burdundy standard. In my view they’re not just as good but a hell of a lot more fun…… I could drink the wines of Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Mount Difficulty day in day out and never get bored. Folding Hill now sit very comfortably amongst these stellar names. They’ve come a long way in a very short space of time given they only planted their first vines in 2003.

The wine is a lively one with bright cherry notes and a hint of chocolate throughout. Over time in the glass the wine develops a more herbal savoury note and almost meaty tones. It’s a very accomplished wine which drinks as if it has been meticulously produced. In short, it’s an easy wine to love (as Pinot should be).

This wine is available from the Secret Cellar for £20 which for me seems a bit of a bargain. If you’ve had this and loved it look out for Folding Hill’s more exclusive Orchard Block Pinot which is even better!

Mar 12

Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Champagne

There’s nothing quite like spending 5 hours clearing out your garage to make you decide that you really do deserve a few glasses of fizz. That said, I’d probably have had a nice wine tonight anyway but at least I feel slightly more righteous this way. Plus the garage really is bloody tidy now…. So, onwards….

This is a budget friendly Champagne (if there is such a thing) coming in at £21.99 though it is occasionally on offer. At that price it does rather neatly show the issue that English Sparkling Wine has right now. Not enough people know about them and a good deal of them are more expensive than this. As a result it’s very easy for the Sainsbury’s shopper to pop a few of these in their basket rather than a mystery fizz…. Why would they do otherwise?

To be fair, the people that do take this home will more than likely be glad that they did. It does exactly what a Blanc de Noirs should do in that it’s quite creamy and jam packed full of red fruit notes. It’s very moreish too. 

So, well done to Sainsbury’s. A classy offering indeed….

Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Champagne

There’s nothing quite like spending 5 hours clearing out your garage to make you decide that you really do deserve a few glasses of fizz. That said, I’d probably have had a nice wine tonight anyway but at least I feel slightly more righteous this way. Plus the garage really is bloody tidy now…. So, onwards….

This is a budget friendly Champagne (if there is such a thing) coming in at £21.99 though it is occasionally on offer. At that price it does rather neatly show the issue that English Sparkling Wine has right now. Not enough people know about them and a good deal of them are more expensive than this. As a result it’s very easy for the Sainsbury’s shopper to pop a few of these in their basket rather than a mystery fizz…. Why would they do otherwise?

To be fair, the people that do take this home will more than likely be glad that they did. It does exactly what a Blanc de Noirs should do in that it’s quite creamy and jam packed full of red fruit notes. It’s very moreish too.

So, well done to Sainsbury’s. A classy offering indeed….

Mar 04

"Drink Me" Branco 2011 - Niepoort (Douro, Portugal)

I’ve had quite a few wines recently which have been just “nice”. You know the sort; perfectly drinkable yet instantly forgettable. To be honest it doesn’t make for particularly good blogging fodder. Even the greatest wordsmith in the World would struggle to do much with “yeh, it’s quite nice I suppose, what was it called again?”.

And then I had my first sip of this. Wow. What a wine. I’ll admit, it caught me totally off guard. I was expecting a pleasant glugger but what I got was something altogether better. The nose is fairly melon and apple dominated whilst the palate ends on a lovely toffee apple note, but nicer than the actual toffee apple taste. God, where’s that World class wordsmith to help explain that?… There’s a smooth creaminess to the wine, reminiscent of a quality white Burgundy. The slight smokiness on the palate brings everything together very well.

Having taken the time to look the wine up I noticed that Jancis Robinson no less was also particularly impressed with this wine, labelling it as the stand out wine from a day long tasting of Portuguese wines. High praise indeed.

The wine is made up of a blend of the usual white port grapes being (in no particular order) Côdega de Larinho, Rabigato, Gouveio, Dona Branca, Viosinho etc. In short it’s a bit of a “field blend” lovingly treated in the winery by Portuguese wine legend Dirk Niepoort and made into something altogether most impressive. 

So good in fact is the wine that I’ve not even mentioned the incredibly eccentric label. It certainly catches the eye. You just don’t get enough synchronised swimmers on wine labels….

Hands down this is by far the best white wine I’ve had this year. Granted it’s early days but Niepoort would be advised to clear a space on their awards shelf for potentially the least significant award they’ll ever win. This is going to take some beating…

Available from SH Jones for £13.99 and worth every penny and then some.

"Drink Me" Branco 2011 - Niepoort (Douro, Portugal)

I’ve had quite a few wines recently which have been just “nice”. You know the sort; perfectly drinkable yet instantly forgettable. To be honest it doesn’t make for particularly good blogging fodder. Even the greatest wordsmith in the World would struggle to do much with “yeh, it’s quite nice I suppose, what was it called again?”.

And then I had my first sip of this. Wow. What a wine. I’ll admit, it caught me totally off guard. I was expecting a pleasant glugger but what I got was something altogether better. The nose is fairly melon and apple dominated whilst the palate ends on a lovely toffee apple note, but nicer than the actual toffee apple taste. God, where’s that World class wordsmith to help explain that?… There’s a smooth creaminess to the wine, reminiscent of a quality white Burgundy. The slight smokiness on the palate brings everything together very well.

Having taken the time to look the wine up I noticed that Jancis Robinson no less was also particularly impressed with this wine, labelling it as the stand out wine from a day long tasting of Portuguese wines. High praise indeed.

The wine is made up of a blend of the usual white port grapes being (in no particular order) Côdega de Larinho, Rabigato, Gouveio, Dona Branca, Viosinho etc. In short it’s a bit of a “field blend” lovingly treated in the winery by Portuguese wine legend Dirk Niepoort and made into something altogether most impressive.

So good in fact is the wine that I’ve not even mentioned the incredibly eccentric label. It certainly catches the eye. You just don’t get enough synchronised swimmers on wine labels….

Hands down this is by far the best white wine I’ve had this year. Granted it’s early days but Niepoort would be advised to clear a space on their awards shelf for potentially the least significant award they’ll ever win. This is going to take some beating…

Available from SH Jones for £13.99 and worth every penny and then some.

Feb 21

Richard Kershaw - Richard’s Cape South Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (South Africa)

Naked Wines’ policy of enabling high profile winemakers to start making wines for themselves and not an employer seems to be going well. One of their latest “signings” is former Mulderbosch winemaker and Master of Wine Richard Kershaw. On paper it’s a wise move from Naked, and you know what? It tastes pretty decent in the glass too….

This is the first of Richard’s wines made for Naked that I’ve tried but the signs are good. It’s a lively, zippy little number with appealing acidity and citrus / elderflower notes. There’s a slight hint of blackcurrant leaf too and, despite being an SA Sauv Blanc it actually reminded me of some of the Saint Clair Sauv Blancs with its slight tropical element.

All in all an interesting, and crucially, easy drinking wine. The wife put it well, “this is nice, buy more of this”. Best not to argue I suppose….

Available from Naked Wines for £9.49 for Angel customers.

Richard Kershaw - Richard’s Cape South Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (South Africa)

Naked Wines’ policy of enabling high profile winemakers to start making wines for themselves and not an employer seems to be going well. One of their latest “signings” is former Mulderbosch winemaker and Master of Wine Richard Kershaw. On paper it’s a wise move from Naked, and you know what? It tastes pretty decent in the glass too….

This is the first of Richard’s wines made for Naked that I’ve tried but the signs are good. It’s a lively, zippy little number with appealing acidity and citrus / elderflower notes. There’s a slight hint of blackcurrant leaf too and, despite being an SA Sauv Blanc it actually reminded me of some of the Saint Clair Sauv Blancs with its slight tropical element.

All in all an interesting, and crucially, easy drinking wine. The wife put it well, “this is nice, buy more of this”. Best not to argue I suppose….

Available from Naked Wines for £9.49 for Angel customers.

Feb 17

Dandelion Vineyards - Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale 2011 (McLaren Vale, Australia)

I wonder how many other people were drinking Shiraz blended with Riesling on Saturday night. Not many I’d hazard a guess. It’s fair to say it’s an unusual blend but there’s nothing wrong with that.

I first really came across Dandelion Vineyards at a tasting years ago when I got to chat to Zar Brookes (one of the owners and married to winemaker Elena) about DV and their philosophy. Fun and quality seemed to be the key words.  When I asked Zar why they’d added Riesling to Shiraz in this blend he simply said “why not”. He then left the tasting to go and get his haircut quickly. Again, “why not”?….

My wife expressly asked for a fun winter red on Saturday and once I’d spotted this in the rack it became a simple choice, mainly as that’s exactly what this wine is in my view. I’ve enjoyed a few DV wines in the past but this was the first time since the tasting that I’d tried the Lion’s Tooth.

The wine has a really luscious nature,
It coats your mouth with lovely multi-layered Black Forest gateau flavours. It’s a very giving wine with a long finish yet it’s by no means overdone. Everything is in harmony. The Riesling only accounts for 5% and a cynic could question whether it adds anything, but hey, why the hell not eh?…

This wine has a few years ahead of it in my view. Available from Slurp for £10.95.

Dandelion Vineyards - Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale 2011 (McLaren Vale, Australia)

I wonder how many other people were drinking Shiraz blended with Riesling on Saturday night. Not many I’d hazard a guess. It’s fair to say it’s an unusual blend but there’s nothing wrong with that.

I first really came across Dandelion Vineyards at a tasting years ago when I got to chat to Zar Brookes (one of the owners and married to winemaker Elena) about DV and their philosophy. Fun and quality seemed to be the key words. When I asked Zar why they’d added Riesling to Shiraz in this blend he simply said “why not”. He then left the tasting to go and get his haircut quickly. Again, “why not”?….

My wife expressly asked for a fun winter red on Saturday and once I’d spotted this in the rack it became a simple choice, mainly as that’s exactly what this wine is in my view. I’ve enjoyed a few DV wines in the past but this was the first time since the tasting that I’d tried the Lion’s Tooth.

The wine has a really luscious nature,
It coats your mouth with lovely multi-layered Black Forest gateau flavours. It’s a very giving wine with a long finish yet it’s by no means overdone. Everything is in harmony. The Riesling only accounts for 5% and a cynic could question whether it adds anything, but hey, why the hell not eh?…

This wine has a few years ahead of it in my view. Available from Slurp for £10.95.

Feb 12

Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV (Champagne, France)
Everything I say about this wine could be entirely biased and unreliable. How’s that for an entry to a wine review?…
The reason for my honesty is that this was the first bottle of wine myself and the wife have shared undisturbed since the birth of our son 14 weeks ago. As a result it was such a wonderful experience that it could probably have tasted like something made by Gallo and it would still have received a good review….
In all seriousness though, this was a lovely wine. And that’s coming from me who can’t seem to shake the feeling that anything pink and wine based is to be treated with severe suspicion. The red fruit notes with a slight brioche hint appealed and the slightly creamy texture worked a treat. It’s a splendid fizz which tastes even better when the baby monitor is as quiet as a mouse. Despite being a relatively recent addition to the Veuve Clicquot stable it looks like this is here to stay.
Even better though is that for a limited time this wine can be purchased in a range of rather swanky looking gift boxes from various department stores and fine wine retailers. Surely that’s got to be better than getting home to your loved one on Friday night with some limp Texaco Garage flowers and a discounter Dairylea Dunker……

Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV (Champagne, France)

Everything I say about this wine could be entirely biased and unreliable. How’s that for an entry to a wine review?…

The reason for my honesty is that this was the first bottle of wine myself and the wife have shared undisturbed since the birth of our son 14 weeks ago. As a result it was such a wonderful experience that it could probably have tasted like something made by Gallo and it would still have received a good review….

In all seriousness though, this was a lovely wine. And that’s coming from me who can’t seem to shake the feeling that anything pink and wine based is to be treated with severe suspicion. The red fruit notes with a slight brioche hint appealed and the slightly creamy texture worked a treat. It’s a splendid fizz which tastes even better when the baby monitor is as quiet as a mouse. Despite being a relatively recent addition to the Veuve Clicquot stable it looks like this is here to stay.

Even better though is that for a limited time this wine can be purchased in a range of rather swanky looking gift boxes from various department stores and fine wine retailers. Surely that’s got to be better than getting home to your loved one on Friday night with some limp Texaco Garage flowers and a discounter Dairylea Dunker……

Feb 07

Billecart-Salmon - Extra Brut Champagne (Champagne, France)
I recently reviewed the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs from Billecart-Salmon and in doing so remarked that, so far as I saw it, they were one of the Champagne houses who tend to fly under the radar to an extent. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks this as various people got in touch to say how much they like Billecart-Salmon for that very reason. Whilst that certainly appeals to me, I mainly like them because their wines are frankly brilliant (and a little bit because they seem a little mysterious unlike the bigger more visible marques).
I was offered a chance to sample the Extra Brut (something I’ve recently had recommended to me a few times) so, not wishing to miss out on another taste of superb Champagne happily accepted. It’s a chore I know….
This is Billecart-Salmon’s first attempt at a zero dosage Champagne (i.e. no sugar is added to the wine after disgorging). Obviously they’ve nailed it. The blend of grapes stands at 45% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% of Chardonnay. I was surprised at how rich the wine is giving the lack of dosage action. There’s a definite brioche note on the nose and a slight hint of honey on the palate.
The main impression (as with the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs) is one of elegance. This is a classy wine and drinks as a classy wine should. At a retail price of around £40-45 this may be more expensive than the non-vintage entry point but it does also make more of an impact. 
Arriving at a dinner party clutching a bottle of this would mark you out as someone of distinction. Plus you can then regale your dining companions with some quality banter about Champage dosage or indeed the lack thereof in this case. They’ll never invite you back but still…..
I heartily recommend this as something perfect for a special occasion. Available from numerous retailers including Champagne Direct who seem to come in cheapest at £39.95.

Billecart-Salmon - Extra Brut Champagne (Champagne, France)

I recently reviewed the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs from Billecart-Salmon and in doing so remarked that, so far as I saw it, they were one of the Champagne houses who tend to fly under the radar to an extent. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks this as various people got in touch to say how much they like Billecart-Salmon for that very reason. Whilst that certainly appeals to me, I mainly like them because their wines are frankly brilliant (and a little bit because they seem a little mysterious unlike the bigger more visible marques).

I was offered a chance to sample the Extra Brut (something I’ve recently had recommended to me a few times) so, not wishing to miss out on another taste of superb Champagne happily accepted. It’s a chore I know….

This is Billecart-Salmon’s first attempt at a zero dosage Champagne (i.e. no sugar is added to the wine after disgorging). Obviously they’ve nailed it. The blend of grapes stands at 45% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% of Chardonnay. I was surprised at how rich the wine is giving the lack of dosage action. There’s a definite brioche note on the nose and a slight hint of honey on the palate.

The main impression (as with the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs) is one of elegance. This is a classy wine and drinks as a classy wine should. At a retail price of around £40-45 this may be more expensive than the non-vintage entry point but it does also make more of an impact.

Arriving at a dinner party clutching a bottle of this would mark you out as someone of distinction. Plus you can then regale your dining companions with some quality banter about Champage dosage or indeed the lack thereof in this case. They’ll never invite you back but still…..

I heartily recommend this as something perfect for a special occasion. Available from numerous retailers including Champagne Direct who seem to come in cheapest at £39.95.

Jan 29

Yalumba - Old Bush Vine Grenache 2012 (Barossa Valley, Australia)
If you’re into your austere, classical red wines then to be honest you might as well stop reading this now. There’s nothing here for you….!
Grenache is definitely under appreciated amongst the wine drinkers that I know well. It’s known for being a good blending partner, giving Shiraz/Syrah for example a good fruity kick. I suspect when people are enjoying their Rhone wines they’re probably enjoying Grenache without even knowing it thanks to the intracies of French wine labelling. It does seem though that people are reluctant to plump for a wine when Grenache is very clearly the solo performer.
It’s a shame really as in the right hands Grenache is a wonderfully comforting red wine. This is a very good example being instantly good fun and enormously drinkable. The stewed red fruit flavours leap out of the glass and there’s a slight herbal note to it as well. It’s not especially complex but, as I’ve said before, you don’t always want that.
Break out of your comfort zone and give this a go. Currently on offer in Co-Op stores for £9.99 (a pound cheaper than usual)….

Yalumba - Old Bush Vine Grenache 2012 (Barossa Valley, Australia)

If you’re into your austere, classical red wines then to be honest you might as well stop reading this now. There’s nothing here for you….!

Grenache is definitely under appreciated amongst the wine drinkers that I know well. It’s known for being a good blending partner, giving Shiraz/Syrah for example a good fruity kick. I suspect when people are enjoying their Rhone wines they’re probably enjoying Grenache without even knowing it thanks to the intracies of French wine labelling. It does seem though that people are reluctant to plump for a wine when Grenache is very clearly the solo performer.

It’s a shame really as in the right hands Grenache is a wonderfully comforting red wine. This is a very good example being instantly good fun and enormously drinkable. The stewed red fruit flavours leap out of the glass and there’s a slight herbal note to it as well. It’s not especially complex but, as I’ve said before, you don’t always want that.

Break out of your comfort zone and give this a go. Currently on offer in Co-Op stores for £9.99 (a pound cheaper than usual)….

Jan 23

McManis Family Vineyards - Petite Sirah 2011 (California) - £9.99 from The Wine Society
There’s nothing wrong with simple things. Take my Sister for example. She’s not a bad person just because she asked if February 15th is the extra day in February during a Leap Year. Similarly a simple approach in a wine can sometimes be just what you want.
This, for me at least, is a straight up winter midweek wine and a jolly good one at that. It has unabashed notes of dark berries and chocolate and is perfect for sitting on the sofa unwinding after a day at work. Deeply complex wines are wonderful when you have the time and the inclination to admire and appreciate them. Sometimes however an honest, pure and straightforward easy drinking wine is just the ticket.
Whilst on paper it is a muscular Californian red it does have good poise and balance too. It’s not big and flavoursome for the sake of it. It’s not that often you get to enjoy a California red for under £10 in the UK, particularly when it’s as tasty as this. Another very good wine from The Wine Society for under a tenner…

McManis Family Vineyards - Petite Sirah 2011 (California) - £9.99 from The Wine Society

There’s nothing wrong with simple things. Take my Sister for example. She’s not a bad person just because she asked if February 15th is the extra day in February during a Leap Year. Similarly a simple approach in a wine can sometimes be just what you want.

This, for me at least, is a straight up winter midweek wine and a jolly good one at that. It has unabashed notes of dark berries and chocolate and is perfect for sitting on the sofa unwinding after a day at work. Deeply complex wines are wonderful when you have the time and the inclination to admire and appreciate them. Sometimes however an honest, pure and straightforward easy drinking wine is just the ticket.

Whilst on paper it is a muscular Californian red it does have good poise and balance too. It’s not big and flavoursome for the sake of it. It’s not that often you get to enjoy a California red for under £10 in the UK, particularly when it’s as tasty as this. Another very good wine from The Wine Society for under a tenner…

Jan 17

Saronsberg Viognier 2010 (Tulbagh, South Africa)

We didn’t manage to make it to the reportedly picturesque Tulbagh region whilst on honeymoon in South Africa a while ago which is a shame, as recently I’ve had a run of awesome wines from the area.

This, as you’ve probably guessed, is another from star winemaker Dewaldt Heyns at Saronsberg. Not that my praise of this wine is going to do much for its reputation given it’s already won a gold medal in the IWC 2012, a gold Michelangelo medal in 2011 and a place in the 2012 list of the Top 100 Wines from South Africa. Heady praise indeed….

Instantly this wine makes a good impression with a full onslaught of smoky peach and apricot flavours hitting your palate. The slightly oily texture works well too. It feels like a posh wine right away. I’d love to tell you I paired this with a perfect food match but we just polished it off sat on the sofa. It seemed right at home….

At only £13.99 from Adnams online this feels like a bit of a snip. It’s drinking beautifully at the minute but I would happily recommend leaving it for another few years. If you’ve got too much money in your pocket this is also available in Selfridges for £16.99. I’ve not had a better South African Viognier to be honest…. If I’d only had a few more that sentence would really mean something!

Saronsberg Viognier 2010 (Tulbagh, South Africa)

We didn’t manage to make it to the reportedly picturesque Tulbagh region whilst on honeymoon in South Africa a while ago which is a shame, as recently I’ve had a run of awesome wines from the area.

This, as you’ve probably guessed, is another from star winemaker Dewaldt Heyns at Saronsberg. Not that my praise of this wine is going to do much for its reputation given it’s already won a gold medal in the IWC 2012, a gold Michelangelo medal in 2011 and a place in the 2012 list of the Top 100 Wines from South Africa. Heady praise indeed….

Instantly this wine makes a good impression with a full onslaught of smoky peach and apricot flavours hitting your palate. The slightly oily texture works well too. It feels like a posh wine right away. I’d love to tell you I paired this with a perfect food match but we just polished it off sat on the sofa. It seemed right at home….

At only £13.99 from Adnams online this feels like a bit of a snip. It’s drinking beautifully at the minute but I would happily recommend leaving it for another few years. If you’ve got too much money in your pocket this is also available in Selfridges for £16.99. I’ve not had a better South African Viognier to be honest…. If I’d only had a few more that sentence would really mean something!