Hambledon Vineyard Tour 2017

Some may say who needs Champagne when we have Sparking wine in this country as good as this, I have sampled a few English wines mostly a tastings and events but it’s not until I tasted these particular bottles (Classic Cuvee & Rose) that I sat up and realised that the Brits actually do make some pretty decent Fizz.

I first tried the Hambledon Classic Cuvee back in January 2016 (and a few times since) and I was so impressed I thought to myself, I must visit the winery sometime soon. Well, it actually took me almost a year and a half but I did finally get around to visiting and let me tell you it was well worth the wait.

I visited with family and friends on the 22nd April 2017 , when we arrived we were personally greeted  by amiable Katrina who is the Wine tour and Education manager, she made us feel really welcome and for the rest of the afternoon was the perfect host and guide with her enthusiasm and wine knowledge and we spent an enjoyable afternoon being shown around the vineyard and wine making facilities, even the sun made an appearance.

Standing by the Chardonnay Vines on the south east slope

The main vineyard incorporates around 100, 000 vines but it was still early in the year and the vines had only just started budding but non the less pretty impressive with its neat immaculate rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines.

Closer view of the Chardonnay Vines with their two canes

After venturing into the vineyard we were shown the cellar and then onto the main part of the winery itself where the wine is actually made and put into bottles

The actual wine making process is explained here From Grape to Glass the Geology Our Terrior, facts about the Vineyard  and the Wine Making Team

After the tour finished we were treated to a tasting of the Hambledon Classic Cuvee and their Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose, both excellent but surprisingly our party all agreed on a slight preference for the Rose.

 

 

Bottles resting on lees in the Cellar
French Oak barrels and stainless steel tanks
Sediment ready for disgorging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hambledon Classic Cuvee

Sat outside in the glorious April sunshine these are my thoughts on both wines.

When poured, this was extremely fizzy with a lively mousse, when it settled the bubbles were very fine and constant. Fairly darkish golden colour with a nose of ripe apples and pears with a hint of biscuit and brioche. On first taste this was taut and refreshingly tart, full of citrus fruits, a little bready but with a lovely creaminess on the finish, which lasted.

 

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Around £27.50

 

Hambledon Classic Cuvee Rose

Don’t really do Rose but I was completely surprised 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.

Everyone in our party enjoyed it and thought it had a elegance about it.

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

Around £35

 

All in all an excellent afternoon in this lovely part of Hampshire and I can guarantee that I will be drinking Hambledon wines again ! 

Majestic Stratford Upon Avon Fine Wine Tasting April 2017

As regular readers will know that I belong to a wine Forum called ‘Cuvée Reserve’ and once a year our group meet up for a weekend of basically, drinking lots of wine. This year we met at Stratford Upon Avon and we thought we would signed up for a ‘Fine Wine Tasting’ at the local Majestic store. An initial fee of £20 per person was paid but that is redeemable on any wine purchases after the event.

Big thanks to our head girl Clare who runs the forum and for organising everything so superbly !

We arrived at 1.30pm on Saturday the 8th April, an early start for drinking I know but we have to make sacrifices sometime. There was a slight confusion with the time as they had us down for 2.00pm which we found out was their mistake but it wasn’t a problem as we spent the time browsing around the store with a glass of Moet & Chandon 2008 Champagne (is there a better way to shop).

A table was laid out in the corner of the store for us as we finally settled down for the tasting first up was the Moet & Chandon again. This was a beautifully balanced single vintage Champagne full of intense apple and lemon fruit, lively mousse with a pronounced bready, nutty and a creamy aftertaste producing a very long, extremely enjoyable finish and loved by everyone. (Top ups were not refused).

Second wine was a Rosé the Miraval 2015 Cotes de Provence bought by Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie in 2009 and made by the Perrin family. Pale pink almost Salmon like colour with a very strange almost peaty aroma although there was a hint of strawberry, it just smelt a bit weird. Taste wise again it was not what we expected there were elements of soft fruit including strawberry, peach and pear. Slightly flowery but with a slightly overpowering herby, earthy flavour which most of us found a bit strange, think my wife and I liked it more than the others, so overall a little bit of a miss.

Third was the impressive Greywackey 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand and made by Cloudy Bay former wine maker Kevin Judd.  From the first sip this was universally applauded by all of us. Superb aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, flowers and damp freshly mowed grass. On first sip it was 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.  Refills all around and the bottle didn’t last long, superb stuff.

The Last white was an unusual oaked Chardonnay from Italy, the Planeta 2015 with heady aromas of butterscotch, banana and vanilla. On first taste I was initially hit by what tasted like barley sugar along with caramelised banana, there was a creaminess about it and the oak definitely stood out, again this split us although nobody disliked it and I thought it was very good.

With the whites finished next up were the reds starting with a Pinot Noir from Martinborough New Zealand the impressive Escarpment 2014 generally liked by all. Pronounced aromas of soft dark fruits, smokey and earthy. Cherry and plums to the fore with a kick of spice on the palate, earthiness coming through but not intrusive. Nicely balanced wine.

Next up was a big favourite, the Chateau Haut Balailley 2011  but it comes at a price for a whopping £40 per single bottle. 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.  As you can see from the picture we emptied the bottle.

A Gran Reserva Rioja next the Marques de Riscal 2007 this is everything a Rioja should be full of red cherries a little strawberry, leather, incense, oak, candlewax and tobacco. Ten year old wine that went down well with everybody including my wife who doesn’t generally like oakey Riojas, fabulous example of what Spain does well.

This was suppose to be the end of the tasting, but the guys at Majestic (who were very good, amiable and knowledgeable) decided we were enjoying ourselves so much that they opened up another couple of bottle for us to try.

First was another French red the Caronne Ste-Gemme 2011 Haut Medoc and again enjoyed by all, dark ripe blackberries, menthol, tannic, rich and chocolately but this time, I’d have to say, more of a food wine but none the less enjoyable.

Last but not least a black Muscat dessert wine called Elysium 2015 even if you’re not a fan of dessert wines you cannot fail to be impressed with this. smells like Turkish Delight and that rose like flavour carries on in the taste, not overly sweet and a big thumbs up from all around the table.

Thanks to the guys at Majestic for a superb tasting, (one of the better ones I’ve attended) they were very generous letting us drink as much as we wanted and we all went away pretty happy if a little unsteady.

My rating 9/10 Corks (for the whole tasting)

Chardonnay & Greco ??

With the weather this week taking a turn for the better many of us raid the fridge for a nicely chilled bottle of white.

This week I opened two that were very different, one very familiar and the other not so. The first was a French Chardonnay from Morrisons  reduced from £10 to £7 including a very fancy wooden box, the other from Sainsbury’s at £8 an unfamiliar Italian grape called Greco.

Starting with the Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France which at £7 (reduced at time of buying) seemed like a bit of a bargain as most Burgundy comes with a hefty price tag. In the glass it was a darkish golden colour with aromas of lemon, pear melon and apricots. On first sip it seemed maybe a touch too sweet but had a nice rich texture with the apricots and pears to the fore and a nice creamy finish. Sampled this over a couple of days and I must say it was definitely better on day two.

Next the Greco which is a grape from the Campania region of southern Italy and if you haven’t tried it before and you like Sauvignon Blanc this may well be for you. From Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range it was a bright light straw colour, fairly muted aromas but there was some crisp red apples and lemon zest. Taste-wise, bright mouth-watering acidity and very refreshing with a touch of pear and a slight nutty almond aftertaste.

Both were nice and reasonably priced with a slight preference for the classy and bright tasting Greco Di Tufo.

Macon Aze Chardonnay, Morrisons £10 (on offer £7)

My Rating 7/10 Corks

 

Greco Di Tufo, Sainsbury’s £8

My Rating 8/10 Corks 

 

Another winner from the Co-op Saint Chinian 2015

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I belong to a small wine group called ‘Cuvée Reserve’ and every month one member chooses a wine up to a value £10 which is easily available from any high street merchant for us all to review.

It was my turn again this month and I selected a bottle from the Co-op currently one of my favourite high street stores for good quality and reasonably priced wines. The wine is the ‘Hauts de Saint Martin – St Chinian’ a blend of Syrah, Black Grenach, Carignan and Mourvedre.

Firstly, let me say that this probably isn’t for everyone, it’s very dry and tannic but in my opinion it has an elegance that you don’t usually find in a £7 bottle, it’s certainly full of mouth-watering sour dark fruits but with underlying tar, liquorice and spice with a little touch of herbs and not to heavy with an abv of 12.5%

I would suggest decanting this first for at least a couple of hours, I didn’t but found it got even better the more it hung around in the glass, I even kept a little drop back to taste the next day and the tannins had softened and even my wife who doesn’t like tannic wines finished hers and enjoyed it.

Probably more a food wine, although I enjoyed it on its own as well and definitely worth checking out. I will certainly be buying more.

**NB: There was a slight problem with sourcing this bottle as not every Co op store had it in stock ( there does seem to be quite an inconsistent availability across all Co op stores, especially wine), so some of our group couldn’t get it which was a real shame because it’s a wine worth trying.

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Co op £6.99

 

Kuhlmann-Plate Riesling 2015

Having a Chinese takeaway? not sure what wine to drink with it, why not try a Riesling and this Kuhlmann- Plate from the Alsace region of France may well fit the bill.

Now I’m not a great lover of Chinese food although my wife is, so I do give in now and then and I do like to have a nice bottle of something with it normally Riesling so I always have a bottle in the fridge on stand by.

This particular bottle I first tasted at my local Majestic store and seemed to be going down well with most who were trying it, so I bought a couple to try at home.

First let me say that this bottle is not going to blow anyone away its just a nice French Alsace which is perfect for the multitude of flavours associated with any Asian dish, in my opinion it’s not worth spending too much on an expensive Riesling for a Friday night take away but this bottle just seemed to do the job well.

Well chilled , this was a pale golden colour in the glass with aromas of nectarines, lemons and peaches. On first sip it was bright and acidic but with a slightly sweet finish, green apples, lemons and peaches to the fore with a honeyed edge.

This is a very enjoyable Riesling on its own, or in this case with a Chinese take way and it did cope with all the different sweet, spicy and sour flavours thrown at it admirably.

Why don’t I like Chinese food? well, in most cases it gives me a bit of a headache or head rush and no it’s not the wine. So maybe its a bit unfair to say I don’t like it maybe it just doesn’t like me.

The wine I would recommend as a no fuss reasonably priced Riesling and I enjoyed it.

My Rating 7.5 / 10 Corks

Majestic around £8.99

La Moneda Pinot Noir Reserva 2015

Been hearing lots of good things about the ‘La Moneda’ range of wines at Asda in the past few months so I thought it was about time I tried them especially as they were on special offer at £4.50.

Popped into my local store specifically looking for the highly rated and award winning ‘La Moneda Malbec’ unfortunately the Pinot Noir was the only one available at the time.

Generally Pinot Noir around this price point is a little bit hit or miss but I must say this particular bottle was more on the hit side. First of all the bottle looks good with its brushed metal like label (the Malbec and Merlot look exactly the same).

In the glass the wine is fairly translucent with aromas of fresh strawberries and cherries with a whiff of something more rural. On first sip I wasn’t entirely sold as there was a slight bitterness to the finish. There was initially, that strawberry, cherry and raspberry flavour bursting with a lovely mouth-watering acidity followed by a more farmyardy earthiness. There were some pronounced tannins but too intrusive.

Overall, I did enjoy this and it was only let down by the slight sour (bitter) finish, which did improve after a a little time in the glass but for £4.50 it’s hard to criticise too harshly.

I will be back  to Asda for the Merlot and I’m looking forward to trying the Malbec to see if it lives up to the hype.

My Rating 7/10 Corks

Asda £5.98 (on offer for £4.50)

 

 

Encantado Shiraz 2013

encantado-shirazIf you want a value for money Shiraz that’s as good as anything Australia has to offer (in my opinion) for a similar price then this Encantado Reserva may be the answer. This is a lovely example of a full flavoured juicy, woody treat of a wine that will probably evolve over time into something even better.

I do like Chilean Syrah / Shiraz but I must warn it may not be for everyone, this bottle in particular is fairly intense and somewhat complex and my wife and daughter found it a little too full on and tannic.

On the nose there was plenty of ripe fruits including black cherries, a whiff of chocolate and peppery spice. Taste-wise, again this was initially sweet & sour dark cherries, a generous helping of oak, tannins and a kick of white pepper to finish.

As I said earlier this needs a little time to settle and would probably benefit from some extra bottle ageing but I still enjoyed it now especially with food and would definitely recommend it without hesitation even for £9.99 ( I got mine when on offer for around £7, which was even better value).

Just make sure you open it early, give it some air and you will be rewarded with an impressive Shiraz.

8corks

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Waitrose £9.99