An Italian pick me up

So here we go again with a new year and new wines to try, So what happens just into 2018 ? the dreaded flu bug hits and I’m out of action with everything tasting like I’ve been sucking on a copper pipe and my body feeling like I’ve just been trampled by a heard of Elephants.

So yesterday, after a week or so, even though not a 100% and with no sympathy given and none expected,  I decided  enough’s enough, man flu or not  I dragged myself to my wine rack and reached for my favourite medicine.

I opted for a bottle I’d seen in Morrisons supermarket, this wine intrigued me as it was a grape that was new to me called ‘Nerello Mascalese’ grown mainly in  the Italian Island of Sicily in volcanic soil under the shadow of Mount Etna.

This sounded like just what I needed, a powerhouse of a wine and as it turned out, it fitted the bill perfectly. When pouring it I could almost tell that I would like it, deep purple in colour and a pronounced nose of rich red fruits, a little earth and leather. Funny but my man flu didn’t affect my nose I had none of the stuffy head or blockage so I could still smell the wonderful aromas this was giving off.

Taste wise it was an explosion of rich cherries and  strawberries, slightly floral, with some earthiness, tar and touches of cinnamon, tannins were there and quite noticeable all in all this was like a Primitivo come Burgundy on steroids. Even with my taste buds not fully recovered I could appreciate the flavours, I will revisit when I’m completely recovered but Wow ! this was good.

So a great discovery, never heard of it before but I will definitely be back for more, great stuff !!

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Morrisons £7.50

 

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A few of my 2017 highlights

As another year comes to an end, here are a few of my wine related highlights. Most of the wines are readily available and reasonably priced, I’ve also included links to some of the fabulous tastings and events I’ve attended.

A quick mention for our small wine circle Cuvée Reserve (please click on link and see what we do) for their inspiration, wit and knowledge and thanks Clare (our Administrator) for keeping it running smoothly, also thanks to wine writer Brian Elliot who Midweek Wines website has been a valuable source for discovering some brilliant everyday wines.

In the last year it seems like I’ve been drinking a lot more whites and most of what I tasted have on the whole been pretty decent, sparkling wines have featured a lot more with a real star and one of my hits of the year the Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose (see below for more details).

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Spanish Sherry, let me tell you my trip to Jerez in Spain earlier in the year was a real revelation along with the Great Sherry tasting 2017 event in London. If you want to try something different in 2018, drink more sherry, from bone dry to super sweet it’s become a trendy drink with a lot more younger people suddenly discovering they actually like it and it’s not only for your grandmother.

Lastly the reds, probably what I drink most of and there have been a few exceptional ones this year, so read on to find out my discoveries most of which you can find in the high-street or online and all for under £35 and all worth every penny , so no overpriced and over hyped wines here.

Whites

Jose Periente Sauvignon Blanc  2014          £10 Majestic

Spanish SB, this is more of a cross between French and New Zealand as it has elements of both, darkish straw like colour in the glass with bright fresh citrus fruits on the nose with some tropical passion fruit and a whiff of freshly cut grass.

Taste wise it is more subdued but still with a touch of bright acidic citrus fruits, again a little tropical sweetness and grassiness but finishing quite vegetal with green peppers, maybe even a little fresh pea pods and herbs.

I really enjoyed this and paired with steamed fresh Haddock it was even better. I bought this at Majestic for around £9.99 a little while ago but not sure if they still sell it but if you can find it give it a go you may well be surprised how good it is.

viento-godelloViento de Otono Godello        £8.99 Lidl

Another Spanish beauty.  Very pale straw like colour in the glass with pronounced heady aromas of tropical fruits particularly peaches and pineapples. there was also a whiff of nuttiness about it. In the mouth it was very dry along with a lovely creamy taste, again with peach, pear and baked apples. Still had a fresh bright feel about it and I loved it.

Not sure how long it will be on the shelves for as Lidl do tend to rotate their stock frequently but if there is a store near you and you’ve not tried Godello before give this a whirl, it’s different, as I said it does vary in style but this is utterly delicious. Well done Lidl wine buyers !

 

Chapel Down Bacchus 2015               £13 Waitrose

Rule Britannia ! In the glass it’s a very pale straw like colour with pronounced aromas of grapefruit, lemon, limes and something herbaceous. Once that first sip is taken you’ll be hooked on what tastes like fresh nettles, followed by grapefruit, grass and limes. It’s intense and very sharp. Some say it’s the English equivalent of Sauvignon Blanc and I have to say it has a lot of similar characteristics but with a little more of that bracing acidity.

Fantastically refreshing on a hot summers day, this is a quality wine and loved by my wife who regular readers will know is a staunch Sovee Bee fan, I for one will buy this again.

 

Robert Oatley Chardonnay 2015          £9.99 Co Op

I got a mouthful of ripe peaches along with a slight creaminess although still remaining bright and fresh. There was also a mild saline quality which i really liked. The oak was there but not over the top and it just seemed beautifully balanced.

Brilliant with food or equally as good on its own, this was yet another wine I was tempted to give that elusive 9/10 corks but just can’t bring myself to press that last number on my keyboard, so I’m still waiting for that special bottle but this came pretty damn close again.

 

Bellingham Chardonnay 2016          £9 Tesco

South Africa – On first sip this was perhaps a little to chilled and the flavours were more about the sharp citrus fruits even though they were fairly much muted, left to warm up slightly the more secondary notes of peaches and tropical fruits along with some vanillary oak and butter scotch came through giving the wine a better all round and slightly complex taste.

This can be enjoyed with food or equally enjoyed on its own, just remember not to over chill it and you will be rewarded with a brilliant wine unless you happen not to like rich tasting Chardonnay.

 

Greywackey Sauvignon Blanc 2016          £20 Majestic 

From the Marlborough region of New Zealand and made by Cloudy Bay former wine maker Kevin Judd. Tasted this with friends and from the first sip this was universally applauded by all of us. Superb aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, flowers and damp freshly mowed grass. Greeted by a lot of M’mms and everyone thought it was stunning.

Crisp and vibrant, soft acidity with intense flavours of lemongrass, white flowers, gooseberry and herbs with just a hint of subtle oak rounding it off.

 

Sparkling 

Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose          Various around £35

 

Don’t really do Rose but I was completely surprised and blown away by how good this was.
Lovely salmon like colour and heady aromas of fresh red cherries, strawberries and cream. Again lively mousse, with a steady stream of fine bubbles. On first sip I was sold on the intense cherry and cranberry flavour with balanced acidity and creamy finish with a hint of sweetness, lovely stuff.

**One of my wines of the year**  English Fizz at its best

 

 

Graham Beck Brut          £13.50 Waitrose 

South Africa – Darkish golden colour with a lively mousse and pronounced aromas of yeast and nuts with some lemony fruit along with a creamy and long finish. A touch of sweetness added to its appeal and overall it was very Champagney in flavour.

Leaving a lot of Champagne at twice the price floundering in its wake. Highly recommended.

 

Reds

Chateau Haut Balailley 2011          £31 Majestic – when buying mix 6

Stunning French Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux comes at a price for a whopping £31 per single bottle (if bought on Multi buy)  Cherries, Cassis and classic pencil shavings on the nose. Love the taste, complex yet harmonious, blackcurrants, cedarwoood, herbs, notable tannins and really really drinkable on its own.

 

Special wine for a special occasion 

 

 

Hedonist2013The Hedonist Shiraz           £14 Waitrose

In the glass this wine is dark almost inky black, a wine you could dip the tip of a fountain pen in it a write a novel with. If you sniff hard enough there is some dark rich fruit there, mainly blackberries along with dark chocolate, spice and a little vanilla.

First taste this is a fruit powerhouse, juicy acidity, slightly jammy with blackberries, plums and white peppery spice. Sweet but also sour tasting with a woody vanilla flavour and grainy tannins. At 14% this is rich wine and very enjoyable, can cope with robust foods but can be equally drunk on its own.

 

 

CA’ Marrone Rosso 2016          £9 Tesco

When poured this is a medium ruby colour with strong aromas of dark fruits predominantly cherry, plum and blackcurrant, there is also a whiff of dried herbs and some vanilla.

Initially intense sweet and sour dark fruits hit you before the pronounced tannins kick in. Secondary flavours of tobacco, leather and dried herbs arrive filling your mouth with a richness and depth of flavour you get with the Appassimento method.

This is a proper grown up wine and not for the fainthearted but watch out for the 14.5% abv, although it doesn’t feel like it at first but be warned it does creep up on you and be sure to hang on to something or someone before attempting to stand after a glass or two.

Samaruco 2014          £15 online various

This was bought in Spain on a recent visit to Luis Perez Bodega just outside Jerez, it’s the excellent Samaruco made with 40% Petit Verdot 30% Merlot and 30% Syrah. Deep inky black in colour with a nose of dark cherries, vanilla and dark chocolate.

Taste wise, velvety smooth and powerful with noticeable tannins and very chocolatey. Flavour stayed in the mouth long after I swallowed it, this really was excellent, especially with the Iberico ham.

Worth seeking out !

 

I’ve also been to some great tastings and winery visits here are a few links to the better ones…

Hush Heath English Winery

Hambledon English vineyard

Luis Perez Bodega Jerez

Great Sherry Tasting 2017

A week in Jerez

I could have gone on and on but these are just a small selection from some of the great wines I’ve tasted this year and most of them worth spending that little extra, although not to expensive considering what you’re getting, lets hope 2018 is as good if not better.

**Just before I finish I like to say a really big thank you to anybody who has taken the time to read my ramblings, listen, I’m nowhere near a wine expert and would never consider myself one, I’m just an enthusiastic wine drinker.
Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think, there’s a lot more wines out there to explore, roll on 2018 have a great new year and thanks again !

 

 

Morum Crianza Rioja 2014

Although I have a rack full of Rioja it’s been a while since I reviewed one, so here goes with a bottle I was kindly given about a week ago. It’s a bottle from the online retailer  ‘Naked wines’, briefly it’s a wine club in which it’s members called Angels invest £20 a month in something called their ‘Naked Piggy bank’ this money as well as being used to purchase wine is also used to invest in independent winemakers, there are no membership fees and the money in the piggy bank can be returned if the member decides not to buy.

The wine in question is the Morum Crianza 2014 which being a Crianza had to spend at least 1 year in oak barrels.

When poured my initial thoughts were it looked a little thin, it was light in colour and had fairly muted aromas, even after hovering my nose over the glass for a while it was hard to distinguish any real Rioja like smells. On first sip it was a little sharp, sour tasting but extremely fruity, so I decided to leave it in the glass for a while to see if a little air tamed it a bit.

Going back to it after around an hour, it was better, still full of mouth-watering fruit , mainly strawberries and cherries but still retained that sharpness which to be fair had mellowed a bit. This wine was very fruit forward and didn’t really show much in the way of oaky vanilla, the acidity just took over, think the word I’m looking for is punchy.

I drank half the bottle and left the rest to try on day 2 and I must say there was an improvement, the acidity was much more approachable  and I enjoyed the wine a lot more, I could now taste the sweet vanilla. I would also say this wine is better drunk with food and I enjoyed the second half of the bottle on day 2 much more than on initial opening.

Overall, not the best Crianza I’ve tasted but not the worst, if you are going to drink the whole bottle it needs decanting for a couple of hours and then in my opinion much more drinkable, better still decant after opening pour back in the bottle and drink the next day.

My Rating 6/10 Corks

Naked Wines around £9

 

The trouble with supermarket wine aisles….

Picture the scene, you’ve just turned out of aisle 9 tinned fruit and jams and next comes aisle 10 – wine, you want to buy a nice bottle of something to go along with Sunday lunch, so after negotiating your trolley ungracefully into position, what do you see ? usually there’s about half a dozen or so people staring blankly at the rows of bottles, maybe picking one up reading the back label then putting it in their trolley only to reach back a few seconds later and put it back on the shelf.

Supermarket wine aisles can be daunting to some especially those with little wine knowledge or experience who only want to find a reasonable bottle to drink with their evening meal. To others it’s just somewhere to pick up the cheapest bottle of red or white on offer not really caring where it comes from or what it is.

Quite often I get comments like ‘had a lovely bottle of wine last night’ and when I ask what it was they shrug and say ‘don’t know but it was red’, other comments I’ve had are along the lines ‘think it was Australian or was it French, not really sure but it tasted good’ Now there’s nothing wrong with this attitude they seemed quite happy but what happens if someone generally wants to pick a nice bottle instead of blindly picking the cheapest on the shelf. Many a time I’ve tried to help by suggesting an alternative or just steering them in the right direction, sometimes they’re grateful other times I see them go straight back to their original cheapest option.

This is where supermarkets could try a lot harder to help. All of the stores split their aisles into red, white, rose and sparkling and generally a section of shelving is divided into various countries, now this is where it needs improving. Most supermarkets already have a number rating for wines ranging from dry to sweet but why not in each country section have some basic information about typical grape varieties, maybe a map showing the different wine regions. For some of the popular bestsellers have a little write-up along side the bottles, this is all pretty basic stuff that would make the wine aisles a little more interesting or else you might as well have a row of bottles with blank labels.

Another little gripe of mine is the helpfulness of the assistants in the wine aisles, ok, I know that the person is not a wine expert and probably half the time doesn’t work in that particular aisle but I do expect a better response, as happened the other day to the question have you got anymore South African Chenin Blanc ‘dunno mate, hang on a minute’ then proceeded to look in the Australian section.

Listen I know it’s a supermarket and not a wine merchant/outlet but it’s where a lot of people buy their wines. A little more thought into giving a little more general wine information would definitely add to the supermarket wine buying experience.

Bellingham Homestead series Chardonnay 2016

Always been a big fan of anything Bellingham produce and this excellent Chardonnay  from the Franschhoek Valley in South Africa doesn’t disappoint.

A little bit of trivia I found out is that Bellingham was originally called ‘Bellinchamp’ back in 1693 which means ‘green fields’ kind of cool I thought.

So what’s it like? well,  to start with I thought it was a nice looking bottle, when poured it’s a bright golden straw like colour. Stick your nose in the glass and you get lots of citrus aromas with some ripe peach in the background also a hint of caramel, butterscotch and vanilla.

On first sip this was perhaps a little to chilled and the flavours were more about the sharp citrus fruits even though they were fairly much muted, left to warm up slightly the more secondary notes of peaches and tropical fruits along with some vanillary oak and butter scotch came through giving the wine a better all round and slightly complex taste.

As I said earlier, Bellingham can do no wrong with me and this Chardonnay is very good as are all their other wines I’ve tasted.

This can be enjoyed with food or equally enjoyed on its own, just remember not to over chill it and you will be rewarded with a brilliant wine unless you happen not to like rich tasting Chardonnay.

My rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco  around £8-£9

 

M&S Wine Tasting November 2017

On the 8th November 2017 my wife and I were kindly invited to a M&S Sparks wine event in store at our local Watford Branch.

Was it worth the 50 minute walk into the town centre ? it most certainly was ! although we did get picked up by our daughter, just as well as we were carrying the six bottles we ended up buying.

Hertfordshire Wine School Educator David Rough

The event started at 6.30pm and was held in the M&S café. We were the first to arrive and after being greeted by the manager and his staff for the evening we settled at our table for the tasting to begin.

Hosting the event was David Rough from Hertfordshire Wine School, who as well as being amiable and knowledgeable he had a calm control over proceedings.

First up was a French Crement sparkling wine Le Caves De Hautes Cotes Cremant De Bourgogne Made in the traditional Champagne method, this was from the Burgundy region and unfortunately left our table a little underwhelmed. It had lively bubbles and initially had a reasonable flavour of stone fruits and a hint of something floral but the main problem was the finish, the taste just disappeared too quickly. 4/10

Second up was another French offering this time a Bergerac from South West France, Mayne de Beauregard  much more to my liking but again not chilled. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon, this was crisp and bright with bags of tropical fruit flavours, the Semillon adding a bit of weight and texture. 7/10

The last white ‘Le Alte’ was a bonus being a grape I’ve never tried ‘Friulano‘ from north eastern Italy, this was definitely one of the favourites around our table, again tropical fruits with a creamy texture and a very long aftertaste, very different and very nice. 8/10

Now on to the reds starting in Australia from the Coonawarra region, this Cabernet Sauvignon split our table but I must say I really thought it was good. Imaginatively named ‘Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon’  this was a full on fruit forward wine with the classic wood shavings, also blackcurrants, dark cherries and casis, with a hint of rich chocolate and menthol, I thought this was very elegant. 8/10

Now for the star of the evening a Appassimento Rosso from the Puglia region of Italy, the Rocca Pagliara I seem to be tasting a lot Appassimento at the moment, not that I’m complaining and this was as good as if not better than recent tastings. This was a powerful wine, intense and full of flavour, very raisiny, blackberries, plums, leather, tobacco were all there along with a herbal kick and pronounced tannins. Very good 8.5/10.

Lastly we were treated to a Ruby style Port, which everyone seemed to enjoy rich with dark fruit and very christmas cakey. I’m not a big port fan but it was nice enough. 7/10

This was our first M&S wine event and hopefully not our last as this was a wonderful evening with some pretty decent wines, thanks a lot to the staff who poured the drinks and brought out the food, they were all very charming, friendly and very generous.

At the end of the evening most people stayed behind to take advantage of the 25% off 6 bottle deal as we did and we all went home happy if a little unsteady.

My Rating 8/10 Corks

 

 

 

Ca’ Marrone Rosso 2016

Is there a better bargain out there in the high street than this Italian stallion of a wine ? especially when on discount, currently £6.50 at Tesco and if you add in the regular 25% off 6 bottles promotion this is astonishing value.

The bottle in question is the CA’ Marrone Rosso from Puglia region of southern Italy made in the Appassimento method which is the Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavours.

So what’s it like ? Firstly, this is a great looking if slightly heavy bottle. When poured this is a medium ruby colour with strong aromas of dark fruits predominantly cherry, plum and blackcurrant, there is also a whiff of dried herbs and some vanilla.

On first sip you can tell this is a powerhouse, initially intense sweet and sour dark fruits hit you before the pronounced tannins kick in. Secondary flavours of tobacco, leather and dried herbs arrive filling your mouth with a richness and depth of flavour you get with the Appassimento method.

This is a proper grown up wine and not for the fainthearted but watch out for the 14.5% abv,  although it doesn’t feel like it at first but be warned  it does creep up on you and be sure to hang on to something or someone  before attempting to stand after a glass or two.

As you may have gathered, I liked this a lot, ok, maybe not for everyone but if you find it for £6.50 it’s worth a go, top stuff !

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Tesco £9 (look out for offers £6.50 atm)