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)

Bodegas Luis Pérez

My wife and I found this gem of a Bodega in the heart of the Sherry area in Jerez de la Frontera but this time it wasn’t sherry we were tasting but some beautifully made wines including a white made from the plentiful Palomino grape and reds made from the local Tintilla de Rota grape (100%) their prestigious Petit Verdot (100%),  also some blends featuring Petit Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah and last but not least their rather nice Provence style Rosé.

The location was stunning with its rolling hills and white chalky limestone soil with 14 hectares of vineyard and a winery which mixes old and traditional with sleek and modern.

A short introduction taken from their website…..With the purpose if revitalizing the viniculture vocation of the Jerez wine-growing area, that has been producing high-quality wines of different varieties during more than three millenniums, Luis Pérez Rodríguez, professor in Food Technology by the University of Cádiz, awarded with The Gold Medal of Merit in the Oenological Investigation, started a family project in 2002, with the acquisition of a country estate named “Finca Vistahermosa” in the heart of the Jerez vineyards, over the high hill of the “Corchuelo” property. 
The vineyard covers an area of 14 hectares and it is located at the plot of land named “Pago del Corchuelo”, in the heart of the Sherry area, over the hill with the same name. Its altitude offers amazing views over the countryside of Jerez and some areas of the Coast, which allow the _ow of maritime winds, reaching in this way a specific microclimate.
The Grape Varieties (Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon) and their patterns have been strategically chosen. The methods to drive the wine-growing are carried out under an integrated system, which tends to ecological preservation and control of the production, with the minimum but wise human intervention. All this effort is directed to produce high quality Signature Wines (Author Wines).

On a beautifully hot day we took the short taxi journey from our hotel to the winery where on entering the long road from the entrance the car threw up clouds of dust from the sun-baked soil as we wound our way through the rows of vines to the Bodega with excited anticipation.
On arrival we were warmly greeted by our host and guide Roberto and we were surprised to find that it was just the two of us on the tour. Roberto seemed genuinely pleased to see us and started telling us about the history of the vineyard while gently strolling around the gardens and vines for about an hour and a half. His passion was evident as he answered all our questions with enthusiasm and knowledge.

Grape Graveyard

Whilst walking around we came to an area where they discard the  unwanted  grapes etc during harvest and production, let me tell you the smell was intoxicating.

Next Roberto showed us around the actual winery itself, where state of the art equipment along with traditional are used in making their wines. After the tour the best part, tasting some of their wines.

 

 

We were shown to the tasting room where a selection of wines were prepared for us along with some tasty Tapas including a generous selection of local cheeses, Iberico ham and some delicious pork.

The first wine we tasted was El Muelle de Olaso made with 100% Palomino (the sherry grape) the was bright and very fresh, minerally and hardly any acid, flavours of lemon with hints of peach  and very drinkable with a long finish, paired very nicely with some local Goats cheese.

The next two were reds, the first Tintilla made with 100% Tintilla de Rota (also grape native to the sherry region) and virtually identical to Graciano. This was very aromatic full of dark red fruits, prunes and caramelised orange peel. touch of acidity and pronounced tannins, very unusual and very nice.

Now my favourite, 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.

Strangely they served the Rosé last, the Marismilla Tintilla Rosado made with Graciano was a lovely end to the tasting, Aromas of strawberries and peach, tasting of strawberries and cream and very Provence in Style.

All the wines were reasonably priced but they did have a 100% Petit Verdot that we didn’t try, would have loved to but at around €40 a bottle, maybe not ! although we did bring buy a bottle of the El Muelle and the stunning Samaruco which survived the journey home in the suitcase.

This tour was probably the highlight of a fantastic holiday to the Jerez and the Sherry region of Spain, the guys at Luis Perez Bodega made us feel special and I would heartily recommend a visit if you’re in the area, for €15 each it’s money very well spent.

 

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

A week in Jerez and more Sherry !

Following on from my previous post I visited the home of Sherry, Jerez  de La Frontera a beautiful city in Spain’s Andalusia region for a short holiday.

It was like going back in time with it’s impressive Cathedral, baroque churches, palm and orange trees adorning quaint cobbled streets and remnants of a thick city wall surrounding the city built by its Moorish occupants in the 11th and 12th centuries. Walk down any street you cannot fail to notice that this city is famous for Sherry there is even a constant alcoholic whiff in the air from the numerous Bodegas housing this very underrated  and utterly delicious fortified wine.

Sherry made from three grapes, the Palamino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez, the former for the drier styles and the last two for the sweeter wines and are made in the so called golden sherry triangle of the cities Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda to the west and El Puerto de Santa Maria to the south all having their own micro climate which contributes to the character of their own local styles.

As you wander around the city, references to sherry are everywhere, from barrel centrepieces in the plazas to bars and restaurants with sherry barrels made into tables and chairs, all the shops have souvenirs and their are numerous signposts to the many bodegas scattered around.

My wife and I visited three Sherry Bodegas and a winery, yes WINE! (which I will post about later) these were Lustau, Gonzalez Byass, (who make the recognisable Tio Pepe) and Tradicion. Just to point out the  actual Bodegas do not make the sherry they are only used to store and age the wines. The one thing that struck me about all the bodegas we visited is how understated the buildings were, most of them tucked down little side streets.

Lustau – As with all the Bodega’s we visited the smell as soon as you entered was heady to say the least. The tour was priced at €25 each but that included some tapas and 12 sherries including a couple of Vermouth’s. The tour itself was very leisurely with no more than 12 people. The guide was very amiable and informative explaining the history of the Bodega and the process of making sherry. The tasting itself was superb, sampling their whole range from dry Fino’s through to the sweetest Pedro Ximénez (Often abbreviated to PX ).

Impressive tasting at Lustau

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gonzales Byass – A little more commercial than the others and they make the most recognisable Fino sherry called Tio Pepe with its well-known bottle logo. A bigger Bodega than the others featuring a short promotional film and train ride through the property. Bigger groups, around 30 or so, felt a little more impersonal but with some interesting stories shared by the guide especially the so-called myth about the drunken mice in which a glass of sherry was placed on the floor with a small ladder to 
discourage the mice chewing on the barrels.

The tasting after was again very commercial situated in a modern tasting room where depending on what you paid you sampled a number of glasses and tapas. We tasted four and got a selection of cheese, ham and potatoes to pair.

Tio Pepe Fino was everywhere in Jerez, served chilled it was the perfect accompaniment to salty tapas and often found for as little as €1 – €2 a glass.

 

 

 

Last of the Bodegas we visited was the prestigious Tradicion – Again tucked away in a side street and this time we sampled  five premier sherries ranging from €55 upwards. These were truly special, some of them over 30 years old.

 

The tasting was conducted in a beautiful rustic courtyard with a covering of vines for shelter. All of the bottles we tasted were special as the price reflected and it was a fitting end to our Bodega tours.

As a final treat the owners allowed us to view their private art collection of some of the finest Spanish painters including the impressive San Fransico de Asis en oracion, Oleo sobre lienzo by ‘El Greco’

Cannot recommend Jerez highly enough, very peaceful, very Spanish, very cheap and very hot and if like me you don’t mind a glass or two of Sherry it’s the perfect holiday.

 

My rating 8.5/10 Corks 

 

Great Sherry Tasting 2017

 

If you think sherry is a  sweet sticky drink kept in your sideboard year after year and only brought out at Christmas for your grandmother to enjoy, served in a thimble size glass, then think again !

Today, it seems everyone is talking about sherry, even attracting a younger consumer, suddenly sherry has become cool and trendy, so read on to find out more about this underrated wine.

A word of warning though sherry is not for everyone and is an acquired taste but it’s definitely worthwhile persevering with and you’ll also find it’s a match for most foods but do remember sherry is also a wine, so throw away the small old fashioned elongated glasses and drink out of a proper wine glass, this way you will fully enjoy the wonderful pungent aromas and fully appreciate the taste

Now to the event itself in which I was lucky enough to be invited courtesy of Brian Elliot’s Mid Week Wines. The venue was the OXO Tower, London by the banks of the Thames.

The moment I walked through the doors the aromas in the function room left you in no doubt you were at a sherry tasting, there was a doughy yeasty smell in the air along with a pungent nuttiness not to mention the strong waft of alcohol.

After checking in at reception I grabbed a clean glass and after checking the brochure trying to form a plan which turned out to be less of a plan than I thought I proceeded to taste my way around the drier styles first, these being the Fino’s, Manzanilla’s and Amontillado’s, leaving the thicker sweeter Palo Cortado’s,  Oloroso’s and Creams/PX (Pedro Ximénez) until later. Remember sherry is a fortified wine which means that additional alcohol or wine spirits have been added.

Below is a quick basic summary of the popular styles how I understand them…..

Flor (yeast) layer in Sherry Barrel by Deb Harkness

Fino – Clear, bone dry with aromas of bready dough and almonds, aged in barrels with a covering of yeast on the surface which is referred to as Flor to prevent oxidation, must be served chilled and is great with salty Tapas including olives, nuts and Jamon Serrano. Best drunk young. Typically around 15 -17% abv

Manzanilla – the driest sherry and clear, very similar to Fino (still with layer of Flor) with perhaps a sharper taste and slightly salty, again great with Tapas, nuts and salty dishes. Typically around 15 – 17% abv

Amontillado – Aged under Flor initially then fortified again with alcohol again this time at a higher level (16 -18% abv) which breaks up the Flor allowing for oxidation, creating a darker colour wine with a more pronounced nuttier caramel like flavour although still on the dry side.

Palo Cortado – One of the rarer sherries, starting out as a Fino under a layer of Flor, when the Flor dies off naturally it starts to resemble a Amontillado style then for some unknown reason begins to develop a richer more complex flavour like that of the next darker style, Oloroso. 16-18% abv

Oloroso – No Flor here, still quite dry, darker browny amber gold colour with more pronounced flavours, still nutty with prunes, raisins and butterscotch. 16-18% abv

Pedro Ximénez (PX) / Moscatel – Extremely sweet style,  made with PX grapes that have been dried out in the sun to increase sugar levels. Usually dark brown in colour thick and syrupy and very sweet with flavours of figs, raisins, toffee, chocolate and liquorice. Moscatel is similar, both styles labelled under their grape variety. Normally around 17-17.5% abv.

Sherry cocktail bar with some intriguing mixes

Above is a pretty basic summary of the major types of sherry but I hope it gives you some idea of the different styles. Now on to some of my favourites at the actual tasting, lots of well known producers (Tio Pepe and Harveys) and a some not so well known and looking for a foothold in the UK market.

Brilliant Range from Lustau

I tasted lots of brilliant sherries too many to mention here but a few highlights were the Emilio Lustau stand, for me the best on show, their Fino was, bright and fresh but with a very distinctive  pronounced burnt wood flavour, along with almonds, a saltiness and lemon fruit. Their Manzanilla was equally as good but with a touch of salinity and lovely kick of spice. The Amontillado was excellent with spice, nutmeg, caramel and toffee but still retaining a lovely freshness. The star was the stunning Oloroso with its toffee, butterscotch, caramel and cinnamon flavours.

30 year old Palo Cortado Apostles

 

 

 

Tio Pepe is perhaps one of the more recognisable brands by producer Gonzalez Byass and their Fino which is widely available and keenly priced is a very drinkable  introduction to the delights of dry sherry but undoubtedly the star of their show was the 30 year old Palo Cortado Apostoles and even at £20 for a half bottle in my opinion worth every penny with its buttery, dried peel, toffee flavoured, nutty delight, I even underlined it with the word stunning written underneath.

Another Producer which most people know about is Harveys and again their Palo Cortado was another excellent offering with its sweetish, nutmeg, caramel and coffee flavours for around £26 (50cl).

Nations favourite sherries Masteclass

Lots of others that I could mention and the overall standard of sherries on show were exceptional, to finish off with I signed up for a Masterclass of the nations favourite sherries hosted by Beltran Domecq (President – CRDO Jerez -Xeres – Sherry y Manzanilla Sancular de Barrameda) this included the two styles of sherry the bone dry Fino and Manzanillas and the sweeter styles of medium dry, medium sweet and cream, a very informative class and an enjoyable tasting to finish the day.

If you like very dry wines that pair beautifully with most foods and you are partial to the odd glass of sweeter wines then sherry may well be for you.

So the next time you are offered a glass of sherry try it, you’ll either love it or hate it my guess is that you will love it.

Great sherry tasting 2017

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

 

 

 

Robert Oatley Chardonnay 2015

With the weather picking up again (at last!), it was time to break out the whites again this time a classy Robert Oatley,  Aussie Chardonnay from Margaret River.

Chardonnay still seems to get a bad press ( not with me I hasten to add) with a lot of bad overly oaked  and flabby offerings but if you get a good one there’s nothing better and having picked this bottle up from my local Co op store for £9.99  I must say it was worth every penny. Usually I’m on the hunt for offers and deals but this bottle is one of the few I’d happily pay full price for again and if it’s ever on offer I will probably be clearing the shelf.

So what’s it like, well, as you may have gathered I liked this a lot, in the glass it’s a very light straw colour with pronounced aromas of Peach, pear and apples with a hint of wood.

Taste wise is where this really shines, 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.

Heaven knows what a 10/10 will taste like, if I ever get there but the 9/10 is getting closer, roll on the next wine.

My rating 8.5/10 corks 

Co op £9.99

 

Les Hauts Castelmaure Corbieres 2009

Rummaging through my wines I came across this Corbieres which I must have bought a few years ago and forgot about so, I thought it’s about time I opened it.

Corbieres, not a wine I drink a lot of but when I do I always enjoy it and this bottle was no different. I think I bought it at Majestic maybe six or seven years ago, can’t remember how much it cost, maybe around £8-£9.

For those that don’t know Corbieres is a fairly rustic wine which most times tends to get a raw deal. Usually a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah and you can just imagine drinking this with a hunk of bread and some cheese, which I can say from experience pairs very well.

When I first poured in the glass it showed a slightly rusty colour from a little ageing with very pronounced aromas of ripe dark fruits, smoke and peat. Taste wise again ripe dark fruits namely black plums, vanilla and very earthy with a smokiness about it. A little on the sweet side but not overly but still retaining a brightness of fruit.

Really do like Corbieres,  I must make a mental note to drink more of it, a good honest enjoyable bottle.

My Rating 7.5/10 Corks

Various around £9

Hush Heath Estate English winery

Following my recent visit to Hambledon winery in Hampshire I set off for another enjoyable day at another English winery this time in sunny Staplehurst, Kent (Garden of England) and the serene and immaculately manicured Hush Heath Estate famous for its Balfour sparkling wines especially the award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé

The welcome courtyard

Set in 400 acres of vineyards, orchards and woodland this really was a lovely way to spend a few hours strolling around the grounds, visiting the winery and best of all actually tasting the wines.

The tour of the orchard and vineyards lasted about an hour and a half before finishing with a look around their state of the art wine making facilities, unfortunately I couldn’t take any photographs.

During the stroll our guide showed us the orchard where they grow a variety of apples which make their various ciders and apple juice followed by their equally impressive vineyard where they grow the typical Champagne grapes  which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for their sparklers.

The tour was informative as well as being very enjoyable and the weather was perfect if a little hot but what impressed me most was how beautifully kept the Estate was, it really was immaculate.

After the tour we assembled in their tasting tent for a sample of two Sparkling wines, one still red and last but not least the cider.

In the tasting tent

Balfour Brut Rosé 

First up was their flagship award-winning Rosé………. This was given a big thumbs up by all who tasted it. Lovely pale salmon colour with a lively stream of fine bubbles. Aromas of Strawberries, plums and vanilla with a  Crisp, refreshing and long finish.

Balfour Leslie’s Reserve

Next was my favourite, named after the producers wife from selected Cuvées.  As I have said before who needs Champagne when English sparkling wine tastes as good as this. With a minimum of at least 12 months Lees ageing this was fresh light and had a fruity sweetness about it. Again universally enjoyed by everyone.

Hush Heath Pinot Noir

Only tasted one of the still wines  which was a Pinot Noir, very fruit forward and light full of cherries and raspberries with a slight herbal kick. Not enough depth for me but it has won awards and I would quite happily drink it, maybe it needed to be  chilled slightly to taste it at its best.

There was also some of the Jake’s Orchard sparkling ciders to try namely Nettle and Strawberry & blackcurrant, if you’re a fan of cider these were very good.

The Sparkling wines were definitely the stars and they were very proud of them and rightly so even if they were a little on the expensive side.

Goudhurst Boutique Inn
My wife and stayed at ‘The Goudhurst Inn’ a few miles away, this boutique pub owned by Hush Heath was the perfect retreat after a hard days wine touring. The pub featured most of the wines we tasted and we enjoyed another couple of glasses of the excellent Balfour Leslie’s Reserve with a very nice dinner.

 

Chapel Down Bacchus 2015

For anyone who hasn’t tasted the delights of English wine, why not? This Bacchus from Chapel Down winery nestled in the Kent countryside is an absolute beauty, especially for those of you who are Sauvignon Blanc fans.

The only downside I can see to any English vino is the price, most of it tends to be pretty expensive and the CD Bacchus is no exception coming in at anywhere between £10-£14 but unlike some wines I’d be pretty happy to pay full price for this quality. This particular bottle I bought for £9.99 (discounted from Waitrose) which is about the cheapest I’ve seen it, so far.

So what’s it like? well, pretty decent is my view, with its understated plain black label but it kind of works and definitely makes it stand out on the shelf and cries out quality which I must say, it is.

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 and when it’s on offer, it’s a tenners worth well spent.

My Rating 8.5/10 Corks

£9.99 ( on offer) Waitrose  usually around £13

Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2016

Been a while since I actually reviewed a bottle here, not that I haven’t been drinking any, far from it but after tasting this Chardo (again another daughter abbreviation along with Sovee bee that I must stop saying) I thought I must share my thoughts on this very good Chilean Chardonnay.

Always enjoyed wines from Luis Felipe Edwards and this is up there with the better ones I’ve tasted although it may well be a little intense and slightly over the top for some.

When poured, this was quite a deep golden colour with pronounced aromas of butterscotch, vanilla, tropical fruits and nuts.

After the first mouthful, what is evident straight away is the creaminess and buttery almost fatty flavours along with a touch of vanillary (not sure if that’s a proper word) oak but quickly followed up by peach, pear, apricots, caramel and almonds.

For £7.99 this is a steal and a wine I very much enjoyed, although, as I mentioned earlier, it may not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like buttery Chardo ( Damn it, sorry !! ) but for me this comes highly recommended 👍

My rating 8/10 Corks

Majestic £7.99 (multi buy)

Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana

Home of Cricket & wine from a plastic cup

Sorry for the late post, been on holiday but just before we went away our daughter kindly treated us to tickets to watch the one day Cricket international England v Ireland on 7th May at Lords (the home of cricket).

Lords being the only ground that allows you to bring in food and drink, we went armed with a picnic and of course a couple of bottles of wine. Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast,  so a coat and warm  top was the order of the day but that didn’t spoil what turned out to be a brilliant day.

Nestled in the cooler bag amongst the Chicken Pasta and nibbles were the wines in question, a Brancott Estate 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (Selected by my wife whose a big Brancott Estate fan) and a French Syrah Les Vieilles Vignes Maris 2015  which I bought from Waitrose on offer for around £8.

Now Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a wine we always have a stock of and generally everyone in our family really enjoy it. I personally think it’s an excellent everyday Sovee especially for the price and has wonderful aromas of freshly cut grass and fruit salad with the bright flavours of kiwi fruit and crisp green apples perfect for a nice warm sunny day. Unfortunately, at times our side of the ground was in shade and most of us were in jumpers and coats but in contrast the  other side was in bright sunshine and the crowd were all in t-shirts and sunglasses but that’s the British weather for you. It still didn’t spoil our enjoyment  of the game or the wine, even if it was out of a plastic cup.

Now the French Syrah was a bit of a beast but hugely enjoyable none the less and one I would have no hesitation in buying again. Full of rich dark plums, touch of acidity and powerful tannins, there was also a fair lashing of earthiness and spice, this really was a rustic wine with a touch of class.

Oh yeah, the cricket game was pretty good as well with Ireland making a game of it for a while but England’s class showed through in the end and won fairly comfortably  but not without a fight and the odd scare. All in all a fabulous day out good entertainment, good food and good wine.

Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015

My rating 7/10 Corks

Widely available around £7-£8

Les Vieilles Vignes Maris  Syrah 2015

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Normally £10.99 on offer at time for £8

 

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

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