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.
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.
I recently attended another Summer wine Tasting event at my local Majestic store in Ruislip. As always it was a brilliant evening with lots of great wines on show, (Majestic do seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to these showcase tastings).The Whites and Rose’s were the stars and it’s probably the first time I’ve ever left the store having bought a case without a red in sight.
Among the highlights were….
Kumeu River Pinot Gris 2014 (£9.99 on Multi buy) – Fabulous NZ wine with tropical flavours, floral, peppery and slightly herbal. Dry but with a rich texture but not at all cloying, would pair brilliantly with Asian and spicy food. This enjoyed by everyone and a big hit on the night.
Cotes du Rhone Villages 2015 ( £8.99 on Multi Buy) – This was a late decision and was brought out towards the end of the evening but again it went down well with everyone. Lees ageing, rich and complex with peaches and again slightly floral.
Summer is arriving, well I think it is, so Rosé’s start making an appearance and there were two very nice ones out for us notably the M de Minuty Rosé 2105, Cótes de Provence (Grenache, Cinsault and Tibouren) and the Haut Vol Rosé 2014 ( Grenache & Carrignan) (see picture above) both French, both extremely drinkable and highly recommended even though I’m not a big Rosé drinker myself.
Of the four reds two really stood out, although a bit on the expensive side these were the Petalos Bierzo 2014 (£13.99 on Multi Buy) from Northern Spain and the Angels Share Two Hands Shiraz 2014 (£17.99 on Multi Buy) from McClaren Vale Australia.
Thanks again to the guys at Majestic Ruislip for another fantastic evening tasting some pretty decent wines, ended up buying a case of whites and went home happy and content.
Over the last week I have been to two very different but very enjoyable wine tastings, the first was the annual ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting 2016’ and the second was a ‘Cuvée Reserve Tasting Weekend’
Cuvée Reserve is an online wine forum in which I and a group ex Tesco Wine Community members got together to continue the online friendships we had built up over the 3 years or so that TWC had been running.
The ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting’ was a London trade and press show in which I was kindly given an invite to. Cuvée Reserve was a weekend away in Stratford-upon-Avon with a group of 10 friends who all share a passion for wine.
The Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting
Held at the Royal Horticultural halls in London where over a hundred producers were showcasing their wines. A big thank you to Brian Elliott of MidWeek Wines for inviting me on his behalf.
Not knowing a great deal about Portuguese wine what struck me most walking around tasting was the fabulous array of good quality affordable wines a lot of them in the sub £10 bracket.
The whites in particular impressed me especially the delightfully fresh and zingy Alvarinhos and one that stood out was the Muros de Melgaco 2014 Alvarinho from the vineyards on the south-facing hillsides of the Vinho Verde region, high in acidity and aged for 6 months in French oak. Dry, tasting fresh and very elegant, full of tropical fruits and a hint of honey and in a lovely looking bottle. This was probably one of my favourite whites of the day.
Other whites that impressed were the Quinta da Calcada Branco 2014 , Covela Edicao Nacional Avesso Vinho Verde DOC 2014 and the Vale Do Homem Loureiro 2015 all very good examples of fresh and bright wines from the Vinho Verde region.
Most of the reds were powerful beasts hailing from the Douro and Dao regions, a lot of these were dark and brooding high in alcohol and utterly delicious among the highlights was the excellent Quinta do Perdigao Touriga Nacional 2009, showing dark cherries and plums on the nose. Lovely structure. Dark ripe plums to taste and bitter dark chocolate with some spice on the long finish.
Others of note were the Valmonte Reserva Touriga Nacional 2010 and the Sao Matias Reserva Tinto 2011
Amongst the best value wines under £10 was the Opta Range (all around £8) all were fresh & bright tasting, I was quite impressed with their Opta Dao Rose 2015 (not being a big fan of Rose) but this had Raspberries and strawberries in abundance with a nice floral hit perfect for a summer picnic. I gave their Opta Dao Branco 2015 the big thumbs up as well. Most of the range was 13% alcohol.
Special mention for the Fonte do Ouro 2014 made from Encruzado & Arinto again around £8 this a pale green colour a lovely minerality and full of apples, pears and peaches.
Also very good value was the Terra de Lobos range.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (white) Perfumed floral and lots of tropical fruits made from Fernao Pires and Sauvignon Blanc.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Rose) Crisp with strawberries and a Little toastiness, balanced acidity
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Red) Rich tasting, spicy
Big Shout for the Falcoaria 2014 white wine, this was seriously tropical, a little toasty and extremely nice, big 5 stars from me, again around £8.
Didn’t taste a lot of fizz but I must say the Almeida Garrett VEQPRD Beira Interior Brut Natural super Reserva 2010 seriously impressed, very biscuity and toasty and lots of fizzy bubbles, not cold enough but still tasted pretty good. Apparently rated 91 Points by Jamie Goode.
Finally one last white that I found just as I was leaving was the seriously impressive GURU 2014 made from the Rabigato, Viosinho, Codega de Larinho grapes an explosion of orchard fruits with a hebal twist, not particularly cheap at around £15- £20 but for me worth it.
So a brilliant days tasting that left me impressed by the quality and more importantly value for money of these great Portuguese wines.
Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend at Stratford Upon Avon
Pick a place and a time, get ten people who love wine together in one place, get them each to bring a selection of wines and some food and you have got yourself a hell of a weekend and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
We are all ex members of the Tesco Wine Community (TWC) where for three years or so we spent time online talking wine with some of us having met at various activities and events. So when Clare Hearnden who runs ‘Cuvée Reserve forum’ suggested a ‘Wine Tasting Weekend’ in Stratford -Upon-Avon the ten of us jumped at the chance. Clare found us the perfect location and perfect house, within walking distance of Stratford town centre.
The weekend was a real hit with everyone, very informal and friendly with some fantastic wines to drink. For the first night everyone brought along a selection of buffet food and the wines began to flow. The second night Clare kindly cooked a meal and more wine flowed.
All in all a fantastic weekend with good food, good wine and best of all good company, hopefully to be repeated again and again.
Alongside a clutch of Sparklers including Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir from Chile, Prosecco, Cava and Champagne, our white wine selection included:
Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%
All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain. Our full selection comprised:
La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%. A rare opportunity to try this wine.
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%
A weekend away in a small market town in Leicestershire sounds nice, a weekend away in a small market town including a full day wine tasting, now, that sounds like something not to be missed. This is exactly what we did on the weekend of 21st November 2014, my wife and I along with seven other Oenophiles booked into a Hotel in the quaint village of Market Bosworth.
The Hotel we stayed at (Bosworth Hall) is a Grade II listed 17th century mansion located just outside the charming town of Market Bosworth which is set in superb grounds including tennis courts and Croquet lawns, all very English.
We arrived on Friday afternoon but the actual Wine Tasting event was on Saturday, this gave us time to settle and meet up with everyone before our drinking marathon. The tasting was run by ThirtyFifty who specialise in private and corporate wine tastings / wine courses.
Our boozy day was hosted by the amiable pairing of ThirtyFifty’s double act Rob & Robert and ran from around 10.00am right through to 4.30pm. As we walked into the tasting room there was a vast array of bottles all laid out at the front , our tables set out for around 50/60 people had pens, paper tasting notes, general information, water bottles and spittoons (not quite sure what the spittoons were there for ?).
Over the course of the day we were given a lot of information by Rob & Robert , remembered most of it apart from being a little more sketchy towards the end of the afternoon, not sure why !. They used little gimmicks, competitions, even a blind tasting of three wines which we managed to identify two, one of them a Gewurztraminer from New Zealand called Spy Valley (one of the day’s highlights) the other being a Californian Zinfandel, we failed on the third although it was a blend but predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, still as Meatloaf said ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’.
We tasted two very different Chardonnays, ‘a particularly nice French one’ (had to stick that comment in as it struck a chord with one of our French wine lovers) the second Chardonnay was from Argentina but had far too much oak. First red of the day was a lovely Chianti, then the wines just kept coming, Malbec, Ribera del Duero, more Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. We were served a filling lunch accompanied by even more wine an excellent Albarino and a Douro followed by a fresh ginger, Marmalade sweet dessert wine.
The afternoon was more fun and games, good info and a little more wine, even posh Chocolate wine pairing, finishing off with some sparklers, (drinking kind not the fireworks).
As I said earlier the highlight was the blind tasting Gewurztraminer from Marlborough. The heavily oaked fatty Chardonnay from Argentina and to a lesser degree the sparkling wines were our least favourites.
Overall the day was a fantastic success and we all enjoyed it tremendously and would recommend ThirtyFifty without hesitation.
Why ThirtyFifty ??? – named after the latitudes where the majority of the world’s wine grapes are grown, between 30 degrees and 50 degrees latitude, North and South of the equator.
Big thanks to Clare who arranged this and thanks for providing the pictures from Aimetu’s blog, I was a bit busy drinking, sorry tasting !
Drinking great wine, eating great food, what better way is there to spend your time after a long week of work?
My weekend started with a Friday night Wine Tasting at Majestic Ruislip, showcasing their new range of winter wines along with a impressive selection of cheeses, Saturday was a eating day along with more wine spent at the Good Food & Wine Show at Olympia London, both very good, both putting a sizeable dent in my credit card balance.
Being regular visitors to a lot of Majestic Wine events my friend and I (wife had a prior engagement) were really looking forward to this particular one as it’s usually the biggest of the year. The evening started a 6.00pm and we arrived promptly we were also pretty much the last men standing when we finally left at around 9.00pm. Anyway, we were greeted with a selection of Fizz including Prosecco, Nyetimber Classic Cuvee and a Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, nice start.
Moving on to the whites, there was a Alsace Riesling, Clos St-Jacques 2011, a Muscadet Le Pallet 2009, a Californian Viognier Nettie 2013 and a South African Chardonnay Trebuchet 2013. All were very nice with the lemony off dry Riesling being a lovely start but for me the stand out was the Muscadet which was a partially oaked beauty full of pears with a great minerality.
I was particularly excited about the reds when I spotted an odd looking dumpy bottle on the counter which contained a lesser known Spanish grape called Bobal and a great favourite of mine. The other reds were an Aussie Shiraz the Parcel series 2012 from the Clare Valley, a Cotes du Rhone Jaboulet Parallel, and a Chateau Beau-site St Esteph 2007and a 10 year old Portuguese Tawny Port Warre’s Otima.
Starting with the Bobal (Vox Populi) 2011, which I took upon myself to promote at every occasion. This was a big powerful tannic red but very drinkable despite the weightiness of it and I absolutely loved it. The Chateau Beu – Site Bordeaux was pretty decent and will improve, The Aussie Shiraz was your typical fruity, spicy offering, the Port was very light in colour and had an elegance about it, the Cotes du Rhone was a little disappointing but only because it was up against some good wines. Did I mention how good the Bobal was? Perhaps I did.
As well as trying a selection on the tasting counter in which we both liked the Malbec we finished with a sweety the extremely nice Chateau La Rame 2012.
As usual the guys at Majestic were friendly and knowledgeable making us all feel comfortable with no hard sell although they didn’t need to as all the wines pretty much sold themselves. Another enjoyable evening, roll on the next one !
On Saturday, my son, daughter and their partners along with my wife and I ventured off to our annual day out at the Good Food Show. Billed as bigger and better than ever it certainly lived up to the hype. We went armed with pre paid dining currency, tickets to the Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood show, tickets for the excellent Wine Tube Map Tasting and more tickets for the World of Wines Experience.
With hundreds of stalls all giving out free samples of food a drink you could almost have a three course meal walking around if you planned it correctly. What I must do is tell you all about the first wine tasting we did as a group, it was the brilliant Wine TubeMap hosted by the very amiable Nikki Welch. I won’t go into how the tasting is run it’s better to look at their website http://conviviumwine.com/ but what I will mention is two wines which were the stars for me, the Ampakama Syrah Tannat from Argentina and a New Zealand Riesling.
The other tasting was the ‘Wines of the world Experience’ another new one for the show. This was a brilliant tasting of mostly fine wines in which you wandered around for an hour trying whatever took your fancy. The twist was every few minutes a guest celebrity Wine Expert would grab a microphone and call you over for a brief talk on whatever wine country they were promoting while we drank on, this was really interesting and we tasted some fantastic wines.
We ended the day with a cooking show featuring Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood.
All in all a good day out my wife enjoyed the food part and I had to put up with tasting wine all day, still we all have to make the odd sacrifice sometimes.
Home of the oldest University in the English speaking world, a town ethnically diverse, bustling with tourists, home to the TV detectives Morse and Lewis and a town where a group of us spent a brilliant weekend at Wolfson, the largest graduate college in Oxford.
Why were we there? Was it for some seminar on humanities, social or natural sciences or something more close to our hearts? Yes, you guessed it, wine !
My wife Agnes and I, along with some of our wine buddies who are members of the Tesco Wine Community Ed (PV), Clive (CliveC ) & Julie, Steve (Saunderss) & Steph were kindly invited to a weekend of wine tasting organised by Clare (Aimetu) a fellow blogger and Community member along with her husband Nick- http://aimetus.blogspot.co.uk/ and finally our host and co-organiser Jackie (jackieang), another Community member who is involved with the college Wine Society.
We arrived Saturday morning. Although some of us have met before, it was great to finally meet the others that we’ve only talked to virtually online. We were all put up in comfortable guest rooms on campus overlooking the river Cherwell.
Once settled we were taken to the conference/meeting rooms reserved for us which was to be our tasting headquarters, where glasses, decanters etc were all laid out. As well as wine, all of us brought a selection of food which included Pates, meats, biscuits etc and this was all set up ready for the afternoon. Before the wine started to flow our host Jackie escorted us into town for a quick mini tour and lunch.
After a whistle stop tour and a bite to eat we all assembled back at the tasting room.
Once back and to get proceedings underway a magnum of ‘Lanson White Label NV Champagne’ -35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier, courtesy of Helen McGinn aka Knackered Mother who kindly donated the bottle to the cause and brought along by Steve & Steph to toast our get together. This was a great start, the Champagne was a pale straw like colour, fruity nose with a stream of fine bubbles, slightly on the sweet side tasting of fresh pears and a noticeable minerality.
Before we had finished our glasses of bubbly a special guest arrived, again arranged by Clare, Ben Smith, the head of Communications for Concha Y Toro Uk (CyT UK) brought along 6 bottles from South American and California to talk about and more importantly taste. The wines were….
Casillero del Diablo – 2012Devil’s Collection white 13%, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Gerwurz. £8.99 Cono Sur – 2013 20 Barrels Sauv Blanc 12.8% £13.99 Bonterra Chardonnay Organic 13.5% £11.50 Cono Sur Bicicleta 2013 Pinot Noir 13.8% £6.99 Trivento Reserve Malbec 2012 14% £8.99 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 14.5% £15.99
Around the table all of us seem to enjoy most if not all these, especially the Cono Sur 20 Barrels but by far the most impressive was the Trivento Golden Reserve which brought a collective approval.
After a very good and informative talk and tasting by the amiable Ben, who very kindly left the bottles behind for us to finish, we proceeded to the next part of the tasting, which involved us tasting a white and red selected from our own collections that we brought along.
We all presented our wines individually including a little information on each bottle. Whilst we sat around sipping and discussing, the noise level and atmosphere in the room increased as everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.
We tasted a fantastic and varied selection of very good wines including French Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, German Mosel Riesling, Spanish Godello, Australian Semillon, New Zealand Pinot, French Margaux, French Cabernet Franc, Italian Barbaresco, Australian Yalumba Shiraz and a Spanish blend including the lesser known Mando grape.
As the early evening approached we decided it was time for dinner and we all went to a local Chinese and had a fantastic meal booked and recommended by our host Jackie.
After we returned to the tasting room full and weary we sat around chatting again and drinking some more wine, many of which had improved after been left opened for a while. As bed time approached we tidied the room, grabbed some leftover bottles and retired to our guest rooms to finish them off.
Next Morning after a brilliant day and evening we headed off to do different things, some of the guys went to an nearby brewery for a tour, some went home, Agnes and I stayed in Oxford for lunch and a stroll around the centre.
Would we do it again? a resounding yes from all of us echoed around the spires of Oxford
NB :As an extra surprise Tesco supplied us with a Finest mixed party case including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec and Shiraz, this was a very kind gesture by the guys behind the Tesco Wine Community and was much appreciated, big thanks to Charlotte Stebbings (Digital Marketing Executive.)