Enter the Dragon

changyu-noble-dragonI must admit the last thing I expected to find  sitting on a supermarket shelf  was a bottle of Chinese wine but fair play to Sainsbury’s for taking a chance and introducing us to the ‘Changyu Noble Dragon‘  a blend of Cabernet Gernistcht (aka Carmenere), Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Made by the oldest and most famous winery in China, the ‘Changyu Pioneer Wine Company’ established in the 1930’s and according to Sainsbury’s description one of the best-selling wines around the world.

This was actually picked by a member of our wine group ‘Cuvée Reserve’ as the ‘Wine of the month’ (February selection) a regular feature  in which we all take a turn at selecting an easily available bottle to review up to a value of £10.

So what did we make of it, well, so far mixed reactions, a couple of us thought it was OK and some not really convinced mainly due to the tannins and oak.

So here are my thoughts…. Quite a nice deep red colour with pronounced aromas of fleshy ripe dark fruits mainly blackcurrants and berries along with wood shavings and a whiff of bonfire ash. (although others found it hard to distinguish any fruit they did notice the wood and smoke).

On first sip, the tannins were very prominent and mouth drying before the juicy slightly sweet and sour (sorry for the Chinese analogy) dark fruits burst to life. The oak was also very noticeable with a  smokey woodiness in the background.

A few minus points for being a little too acidic and lacking in any real body and weight but overall I thought it was a good effort and enjoyed it.

I bought this at £8 when it was on the introductory offer, it has since reverted back to £10 which I think is a little steep but would buy again but only when discounted or part of a 25% off 6 bottle promotion.

So the verdict, for novelty value alone it’s worth a try, I was pleasantly surprised and if you haven’t tried Chinese wine before give it a go, it’s not that bad at all !

7corks

My rating 7/10 Corks

Sainsbury’s £10

Aldi hits the spot, again !

Aldi Cabernet Sauvignon

Starting to get a bit of a buzz when walking around Aldi at the moment, especially when I turn down the wine aisle. Ok, it may not be the most tidiest of supermarkets but there is something comforting about seeing those wine bottles still in their boxes, arranged in no particular order with an almost warehouse look about it.

Compared to the manicured wine aisles in most other supermarkets with their suspect half price offers on mass-produced plonk, Aldi is a breath of fresh air and judging by the conversations I’ve had with Aldi customers (mostly in the wine section) there is an enthusiasm for buying wine I’ve not seen in other supermarkets.

Customers don’t just buy a bottle or two, most of them are loading boxes into their trolleys, maybe just maybe it’s due to the fact that most of their wines especially the ones I’ve tasted so far have been pretty damn good !

This latest bottle I opened to accompany a roast lamb dinner continues the trend of not having a wine from Aldi I’ve disliked yet. It’s a beautiful dark purple in the glass with aromas of black currants, forest pine, menthol, herbs and on first sip it just feels comforting, a mouthful of black currants again mixed with a little mocha and dry but not too overpowering tannins along with a mix of eucalyptus, herbs and wood.

Left to breathe for a while everything softened and as the label says it was exquisite and for just over £6 better than most Cabernets at a similar price and better than a lot at double the price.

8corks

 

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Aldi £6.49

 

 

Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001

granfabrica2001Spain 13.5 %

A trip to northern Spain for my next review and the excellent Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001. This is actually the penultimate bottle from a case I bought a couple of years ago and from what I remember with discount it worked out at a ridiculous price of around 4 or £5 a bottle.

A delicious blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carinena is located betweeen the fabulous area of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat and this particular bottle the 2001 is from a great vintage for Spanish wines.

Ideally I would have liked to have decanted this for a couple of hours as I have done with the other bottles but this time I took it along to a friends birthday party and we ended up opening and drinking straight away, (everyone who tasted it gave it a big thumbs up).

When poured it was pretty dark and dense in colour with the aged rusty tinge around the rim. Pretty intense aromas of ripe dark plums, cherries, vanilla spice and smokey ash.

Initially quite sweet tasting, smokiness and vanilla oak dominant, mildly tannic, a little dark fruit action but fairly subdued which left the spices and oak pretty much taking over. It did taste smooth and elegant and I like it a lot, shame I’ve only got one bottle left.

The 2006 is currently on sale at Tesco online at £36 a case of six, it’s ok but not even close to the 2001, unfortunately not sure you’ll find the 2001 anywhere now, real shame !

8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco 2001?  2006 online £6 a bottle

 

Finest Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010

finest stellenboschCS(450 x 600)South Africa 14%

Opened a bottle of this South African Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010, which is one of the fairly new offerings in the latest Tesco Finest limited edition range at £14.99, ok it’s not cheap ( I did manage to get a couple for £9.99 on offer) but it does exude a little bit of class.

After ten or so days of feeling rough over Christmas with a virus drinking nothing but water I was really looking forward to getting back on the wine trail even though my taste buds were still all over the place. We decided to have a second go a Christmas dinner, although this time it was with roast beef not turkey but still with crackers, party hats and the dreaded sprouts.

This was a Bordeaux style red and a pretty serious bottle it looked too, all black and brooding with a understated touch of elegance. When poured this was seriously dark in colour almost inky black, with aromas you could smell at fifty paces. Ripe blackcurrants were dominant but there was a big whiff of meaty almost composty smells as well as burnt rubber, for me a pretty intense and enjoyable experience and I was really looking forward to my first taste.

On first sip there was a big explosion of blackcurrant and liquorice, there was some vanilla, faint mint and dark chocolate. This was fairly tight at first and needed time in the glass to really open up but after a while it turned into a very decent drink and one that will probably improve with age.

Even with my taste buds all over the place I still managed to really enjoy this, I will look forward even more now to the second bottle and hopefully really get the full experience of what is a very good Cabernet Sauvignon .

8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco £14.99

Pernod Ricard UK – Winter Wonderland

Always nice to have a bite to eat and a few drinks over a Christmas period even better when the Co-leader in the Wines & Spirits sector worldwide Pernod Ricard asked me if I would like to attend their annual ‘Christmas Media Lunch’, not something I would normally be expected to get an invite for but a couple of weeks ago to my surprise, there it was sitting in my inbox.

At 12.15pm on the 4th December I apprehensively but excitedly made my way out of Gunnersbury station and made the short journey across the road to Chiswick Park Building 12, wondering why a humble amateur wine blogger would be invited to this prestigious event at the new swanky offices of Pernod Ricard UK. -Pernod room(600 x 450)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pernod guests(600 x 450)pernodtasting room(600 x 450)Warmly greeted at the door I was escorted to the floor that had been transformed into a brilliantly white (should have brought my snow goggles) Winter Wonderland. A small crowd had already gathered mostly around the bar, where the bartenders were furiously making all kinds of exotic cocktails made with Pernod Ricard’s vast array of spirits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacob Riesling 1(600 x 450)
Three Reserve Rieslings including the brilliant 2003 on the right

I was given a Rum cocktail drink which on first sip very nice but having realised that my first passion is wine I was quickly whisked off to the Wine tasting room for a pre lunch private tasting ( well, I was the only one in the tasting room at that time as everybody else was still hitting the cocktails) of Jacob’s Creek Rieslings and Cabernet Sauvignons where Anthony Gordon their Knowledgeable and friendly Wine Development Executive took me through some impressive back vintages of both Riesling and Cabernets, the absolute stars for me was the 2003 Reserve Riesling and the 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a lovely start to the afternoon.

Jacobs cab sauv(600 x 450)
Three Cabernet Sauvignon Reserves including my favourite 2002

Lunch was served around 1.30pm and keeping in theme the tables were set with another winter backdrop which was like sitting in the Artic (only a lot warmer) kept looking under the tables expecting penguins to suddenly appear. For starters we were served Sea Bass, main dish of Smoked Venison and a chocolate and Honeycomb dessert. The wines to accompany the superb food was Brancott Estate Sauvignon Gris 2014, Jacob’s Creek Shiraz and a GH Mumm Rose Champagne.  pernod lunchtable(600 x 450)pernodmenu(450 x 600)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During coffee we were treated to a glass of the new Martell Cordon Bleu Extra Old cognac (I was told it would probably retail at £100 +), lovely end to the meal.

All in all this was a very nice way to spend a cold afternoon in December, a big thanks to the guys at Pernod Ricard for the  invite, the warm welcome and the brilliant food and of course wine, capped off by a generous gift of a bottle of Club Havana Rum., to see through the winter nights.

dinnertable pernod(204 x 317)

8.5corks

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

 

 

 

 

 

Chateau KSARA Clos st Alphonse 2010

Ksara lebanon(450 x 600)Lebanon 13%

Hands up everyone who has tasted Lebanese wine?, Mmmm, looking around I don’t see many arms being raised. If you haven’t, then perhaps you should and you may be pleasantly surprised.

My first introduction to wines from the Lebanon was a couple of years ago when I tasted the stunning Bordeaux like Chateau Musar and their second wine, although less stunning still decent Chateau Hochar Pere et Fils from the Bekaa valley region close to Beirut.

Okay, these wines are a little on the pricey side but now there seems to be more and more affordable bottles appearing on the high street shelves from this ancient wine making country.

This particular bottle the ‘Chateau KSARA Clos St Alphonse 2010’ from M&S, is made up of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and is very French in style (Rhone meets Bordeaux).

Smokey, very vegetal in aroma with ripe plums and cherries . Taste wise the first thing that is noticeable is it’s quite tannic, saying that it still has a nice mouthfeel with no harshness, smokey wood, a hint of cloves come through along with tar and slightly bitter dark fruits.

It may not be a Chateau Musar then you’re not paying Musar prices and at around £10 it’s very good value and I enjoyed it immensely.

7.5corksMy Rating 7.5/10 Corks

M&S around £10

Nederburg Winemasters Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

nederburg CS(450 x 600)South Africa 14.5%

Not drank a lot of South African wines lately so I decided to rummage around my bottles to see what I could come up with to pair with my Steak and Chips dinner.

I actually found more than I thought I had and this bottle of Nederburg, made in the Western Cape Region was the first one to hand and being a Cabernet Sauvignon I thought I’d give it a go.
Grabbed my corkscrew before realising it was in fact a screw cap, not a good start !

When poured it was much lighter in colour than I thought it would be with very heady aromas of mainly smokey wood and roasted coffee beans with perhaps a whiff of blackcurrants, this gave me an idea of what this was going to taste like and it pretty much tasted as it smelt.

There was oak and a big hit of black pepper spice, the fruit was predominately blackcurrants with perhaps a little dark cherries. It was however pretty smooth and velvety but the fruit did come a big second to the woodiness, there was also a sweetness which for me was a little too sweet.

Overall though, it did go very well with the Steak and I did enjoy it, I also think a lot of people will like it especially with that sweetness.

Think I bought this whilst on special offer for around £6 usually £8.99. At the lesser price not a bad bottle and it does tempt me to try the others in the Nederburg range.

It is a very drinkable wine but watch out that 14.5% ABV, soon catches up with you

7corks

My rating 7/10 Corks

£8.99 Tesco