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ABS Supper Wine Tasting

October 5th Wine Tasting Supper

Thanks Justin for an excellent presentation, and Tony for another fabulous food experience – the Rieslings were wonderful with the Asian Prawn Salad (the dusting of spice just so – not at all overpowering – perfect), the  Ripasso and Amarone sublime with the duck breast (what a delicious Veronese sauce!) and the parmesan potato cake a lovely topping. Biggest surprise for me was how good the Ruins white was with the Suffolk Blue cheese – and the finale while no surprise was the dreamy mix of black Muscat and chocolate (the cocoa rich chocolate was muted with sea salt, giving it a dry/bitter finish which was magnificent with the sweet, intensely concentrated sticky wine). A good group – thanks everyone!

Guest speaker Justin Sims – host Anthony Borges – Chef Tony Bell

Villa Wolf Rose de Pinot Noir, Ernst Loosen, Pfalz, Germany 2011, £9.99

A delightful Rose by Dr Loosen, light and refreshing with small red fruits. Delicate and fruity, with a little light spritz, from Pfalz. Good aperitif.

Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany 2009 £16.99

The “Lay” refers to the blue/grey slate from the area around the village of Bernkastel. Here the soil is heavier and deeper on gentler slopes than its neighbouring vineyards around Wehlen and Graach and has produced an assertive wine with hints of lime and tangerine balanced by grippy acidity. Hugely popular wine among our group.

 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling, Spatlese, Mosel, Germany 2007 £22.99

Aka the spice garden of Urzig, S-S.W facing, steep slopes of weathered, iron-oxide rich red volcanic soil, which gives the wine its spicy character and an intense tropical fruitiness. Sweet and fragrant yet nicely balanced and fresh.

 Vini Fabiano Valpolicella Classic Superiore, Ripasso, Verona, Italy  2009 £19.99

Ripasso refers to the process of adding dried grapes to the fermenting juice, usually up to 30%, the sugars and extracts from the raisin-like grapes adding richness to the finished wine. Being Valpolicella this is predominantly the Corvina grape, with satisfying autumnal characters.

Vini Fabiano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Verona, Italy 2008 £38.99

This is big brother to Ripasso. The first selection (best pickings)  of the same vineyards,  with 100% dried over winter to concentrate the sugars. Rich, powerful and yet elegant red with wonderful soft richness and a fine balance between fruit, acidity and tannins.  Another obvious food partner would be beef.

The Ruins Organic Chardonnay Viognier, Robertson, S. Africa 2012 £9.99

Organic white wine produced by the du Preez family at Bon Cap Estate. Lovely golden hue with lustrous sheen – combines citrus and lime notes from Chardonnay with apricot and honey blossom from the Viognier. Soft, fresh and lingering. Delicious with the cheeses.

The Ruins Organic Syrah Cabernet, Robertson, S. Africa 2010, £9.99

Organic blend of 55% Syrah and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, with brief oak contact to add further texture and complexity. The result: a medium to full bodied wine revealing chunky red berry fruits with hints of white pepper and cinnamon. Delightful.

Stanton & Killeen, Rutherglen Muscat (37.5cl) £14.99

One of Australia`s famous “stickies”, offering layers of intense, sweet flavours which include toffee, marmalade and dates. Delicious with the chocolate – and one for the Christmas pudding!

10% discount for orders received in October , thank you

 

 
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Ata Rangi tasting blog

27th September Ata Rangi Wine Tasting Supper

 Guest speaker Helen Masters, Winemaker – host Anthony Borges

The platters of smoked fish, charcuterie and cheeses made for a banquet, the myriad of smells and flavours creating havoc with our taste buds as we negotiated our way through, tasting each precious wine in turn; and at every step the groans of appreciation around the room became more and more palpable. It was hedonism personified. This was a fabulous tasting by any standard. Helen was fascinating and the wines were terrific. Thank you everyone for your orders. Best match, for me, the Crimson with Epoisses – somehow the wine wasn`t at all overpowered!

Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc 2011, £15.99

Refined aromas and flavours of passion fruit and lemon grass align with hints of gooseberry, honeysuckle, ginger and ruby grapefruit to provide a delicious medley. This wine is all class; rich and finely balanced, with great length on the palate.

Ata Rangi `Lismore` Pinot Gris 2011, £23.99

A tight, fine, elegant style, with very pronounced aromatics; think ripe pears, sherbet and fresh nougat, moving into nutty macadamia and yellow nectarine flavours on the palate.

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2010, £31.99

This wine has lifted aromas of white peach and hints of orange blossom. Underlying notes of fig, honey, brioche and a light touch of the subtly spicy French oak in which the wine was fermented and aged contribute to its complexity. On the palate this wine is silky and concentrated with good levels of acidity and a long lasting flavour.

Ata Rangi Celebre 2008, £26.99

Blueberries and blackcurrants meld with hints of cocoa powder and a note of gamey venison. Spicy, peppery elements open up on the palate while layers of fine, supple tannins provide backbone and texture. A long, smooth finish completes the blend. Grape varieties 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah.

 My star wine:  Crimson

 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2011, £20.99

Crushed rose-petal, light cherry, brambly notes and a hint of red liquorice conspire to create an enchanting, heady fragrance. The silky smooth palate is beautifully balanced; seamless, feminine and very approachable.

 Ata Rangi McCrone Pinot Noir 2008, £35.99

Ata Rangi’s single vineyard Pinot is a rare thing to enjoy. Tiny quantities were made and very little came to the UK. Characteristics include fresh leather, alpine strawberries and black cherries – a complex wine, second only to its more famous Martinborough brother.

 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2010, £43.99

Here we have it: dark cherry melds with lifted red fruit aromas and hints of spice in this exotic Pinot Noir. Floral notes are present too; old-fashioned violets and a touch of rose. This vibrant wine has a sinuous, savoury spine of tannin that spreads out to a long, silky finish. Fabulous. Oh boy…

Bin Ends available: Craighall Chardonnay 2007 (10 bottles), Crimson Pinot Noir 2010 (26 bottles), Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2008 (2 bottles) and 2009 (10 bottles)

 

Martinborough

Wellington is the official name for the large region that occupies the southern section of the North Island. Wairarapa, on the lower eastern side of the region, is Wellington’s only wine district. Martinborough, as well as being a town, is also the oldest and best known wine area within the Wairarapa region. Officially New Zealand’s sixth largest region, Martinborough is small in production terms but makes a large contribution to the country’s reputation for quality winemaking. Climatically, Wairarapa is more aligned to Marlborough than to any of the North Island regions. Sheltered by the Tararua Range, the Wairarapa has a dry, warm climate. It receives between 800 and 1,200 millimetres of rain each year, with western areas wetter than the east. The annual sunshine hours average over 2,000. The summer weather is warm, dry and settled, with maximum daytime temperatures typically ranging between 20 and 28°C, sometimes rising above 30°C. The winters are cool to mild and frosts are common, with maximum winter temperatures typically ranging from 10 to 15°C. Soils here comprise a thin layer of well-drained alluvial soil deposited on what was the original course of the river, as it flowed east to the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

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September 21st Tasting

Guest speaker Jane Macaulay  – host Anthony Borges – Chef Tony Bell

Thanks Jane and Tony, excellent tasting – what a lovely aperitif! I`m sure it will be big this festive season (good choice Janet Borges!) and as for best wine-food matches: the Chardonnay with the buttery salmon fillet starter and the Yealands Pinot Noir with the lamb tie runners up to the Moscato with strawberry sponge which was unbelievably dreamy. The Leyda Pinot, having been in the limelight for weeks during our Chilean promotion, was in this instance upstaged.

Cleto Chiarli, Brut de Noir, Sparkling Rose, Italy (aperitif) £16.99

A little special this sparkling wine and a great price for the quality. Exhibits finesse, pleasant effervescence and intense red fruit characters, mostly red currants.

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2011, S. Africa £13.99

This wine has a wonderfully aromatic nose showing fine mineral notes, hints of herbs, leaves and a touch of gooseberry fruit. The palate is extremely well balanced with classic sauvignon characters of gooseberry and grapefruit and a long, fine, minerally finish. Very stylish and polished.

 Leyda Chardonnay Reserva 2011, Chile £9.99

I discovered this wine on my trip in February and knew right away I wanted to stock it. I liked its purity, a typically cool climate un-oaked, fruit-driven style, it has ripe citrus and semi-tropical hints of kiwi and cherimoya (sort of a cross between papaya and pineapple) and a rich palate expressing varietal and leesy characters.

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Reserve 2011, S. Africa £13.99

Full bodied and well rounded with a complex structure. Bursting with flavours of dried apricots, pineapple and hints of vanilla and honey that last long on the finish. Love it.

Yealands Black Label Gruner Veltliner 2011, New Zealand £13.99

Pale lemon with green hues. Stone fruit, honeysuckle and spice dominate the nose, the palate is rich and textured, showing varietal definition with notes of pepper and spice, and fine acidity providing backbone to the wine. Great to stock a New World Gruner-Veltliner!!

Leyda Pinot Noir Reserva 2011, Chile £11.99

Bright ruby red colour. A fruity nose with strawberries, hints of red cherries and a subtle wild herb notes with a delicate smokiness and tobacco. Refined on the palate, juicy and full of ripe berry flavours, a hint of minerality and refreshing finish.

 Yealands Single Block Pinot Noir Reserva 2011, New Zealand £16.99

Visually the wine is bright with a youthful hue. The nose is brimming with lifted aromas, showing red fruit, earth, and dark cherry spice. The palate is refined with notes of plum fruit, which is complemented by silky tannins, a bright acid core, and a long savoury finish. Wonderful stuff

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008, New Zealand £19.99

Terrific deep crimson colour.  The nose immediately blackberry and black pepper, the palate more complex, again rich blackberry with underlying savoury spices, multi-layered and powerful, ripe round tannins, good acidity, mineral, earthy and tarry characters, like a very good Northern Rhone. A fantastic new addition to our range.

Moscato d`Asti, Moncucco 2009, Italy (50cl) £10.99

Attractive bright golden yellow in the glass, with an intensely aromatic nose of white petals, ripe peaches & lightly spiced pears. Medium bodied with a delicious honeyed richness of concentrated grapey fruit flavours, delicately balanced with cleansing acidity and a youthful, lively petillance that lifts the palate and keeps the wine refreshing.

10% discount for orders received this month, thank you

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July 20th Wine Tasting

Guest speaker Martin Sheen – host Anthony Borges – Catering by Chimneys

Excellent speaker (thanks Martin, really interesting and fun) and first class food and service by Chimneys. Well done Gareth, Alex and Rochelle. The Muscadet made a fabulous aperitif – and was always going to be a hard act to follow. But the Gavi di Gavi with Chimneys tian of oaked smoked salmon and trout was inspired. The two burgundies were arguably text book matches with the tian, but the Gavi shone brightest for me! With the truly exceptional rump of lamb the Dog Point Pinot Noir was superb, the claret (also text book with lamb) not so much of a match this time. The juicy rump simply went best with the soft, juicy red-fruited Pinot. Had it been served with rosemary it might have turned out in favour of the claret, but not this evening. The two big guns of the evening were served with hard cheese – I loved them both, the Bonny Doon a more supple, sensual expression of Chateauneuf, the Vieux Telegraph more complex and explosive – in fact simply dreamy. The sweet was fabulous with a single blue cheese, also explosive, the contrasts of sweet and salt working to great effect. And the deserts, enjoyed unaccompanied, were a masterpiece –  a trio of dark chocolate mousse, Benoffee and gooseberry fool. Well done Chimneys. 

  Muscadet Prestige Saupin, 2011, “leesy”, £10.99

Produced by Mathieu Saupin at his property north east of Nantes. A zippy vibrancy and richness acquired by extended lees ageing. Perfect as an aperitif – and would be perfect with oysters were we in season. We had it with a crisp snack to take away the wine`s natural acidity. Excellent.

 Sarotto Gavi di Gavi, 2010, “mineral-rich”, £11.99

Roberto Sarotto’s Gavi di Gavi comes from his 50 year old Cortese vines lying in the vineyard of Bric Sassi della Maddalena, where the vines are mostly south facing. His wine is fresh and clean with white peach,  stone fruits and a creamy, delicious minerality. It was only following phylloxera here in the late 1800′s that the vineyards were planted with Cortese to take advantage of the ealized seafood nearby.

Bourgogne Tradition, Collovray & Terrier 2010, “ealize”, £13.99

Chardonnay grown in the Maconnais in the picturesque and rolling hills surrounding the Rock of Solutre. This is a very pleasing unoaked wine and eminently quaffable. Winemakers Jean Luc Terrier and Christian Collovray are acknowledged as masters of their profession.

 Bourgogne Chateau de Puligny, 2009, “fine expression”  £24.99

Under the former ownership of Michel Laroche of Chablis fame the park of mature trees in front of the Chateau was torn up and a vineyard planted. It was subsequently sold to Credit Foncier where Etienne de Montille converted to organic and biodynamic practices. The results are clear to see – a very fine, ripe expression of fruit length and quality and showing every vestige of its origins. This is Puligny-Montrachet without the price tag!

 Dog Point Pinot Noir, 2009, “silky red fruits”, £26.99

 Ivan Sutherland and James Healy were vineyard manager and winemaker respectivelyat Cloudy Bay before creating Dog Point, so named because the vineyard used to be a sheep station occupied by  wild dogs. The Pinot spends 18 months in Troncais oak, adding complexity and richness to its silky red fruits.

 

 Ch Lucas 2008, St Emilion 2008 “soft & spicy” £13.99

  A 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc lying in the St Emilion satellite community of Lussac roughly 45kms east of Bordeaux. It belongs to the Vauthier family who also own Ch Ausone and comprises of 10 hectares. Here in the vineyard eal raisonee is ealized “reasoned fight” in that chemicals and sprays are only used when absolutely necessary. The wine has ripe red fruits with a touch of vanilla and a succulent ripeness from the Merlot on the palate complemented by a crisp firmness from the Cab Franc.

 Cigar Volant 2007, “New World icon wine”, £35.99

This flagship wine comes from Randall Grahm (not a spelling mistake – it is Grahm) and his winery Bonny Doon. Cigare Volant is French for flying saucer and is Randall’s take on a Chateauneuf blend of Grenache Syrah Mourvedre and a dash of Cinsault, whilst at the same time taking a pop at the French as it was in 1953 that the mayor of Chateauneuf had a law passed stating that flying saucers were not permitted to land in the vineyards! Bright cherry, red currant and cranberry fruit combine gloriously with a savoury, gamey spice note. Fabulous New World icon wine!

Chateauneuf Vieux Telegraph 2008, “Old World icon wine”, £53.99

The original Cigar Volant! One of the most renowned, traditional estates of Chateauneuf in the southern Rhone, a 45 hectare estate with an average vine age of 55 years and cared for by the Brunier family who has owned it for the past 100 years. Two thirds of the blend is Grenache with equal amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre and a little Cinsault. The wine was truly memorable – ealizedy unfolding into the most complex layers even as we were drinking it! 

 Tokaji Noble Late Harvest 2008 (37.5cl) “nectar of the gods”, £17.99

This is a modern style late harvest bunches of the Furmint grape variety, about half  affected by noble rot. It is exotically fragrant with honeyed apricot fruit kept in check by a lively acidity. The estate is in the ownership of David and Pablo Alvarez who also own Vega Sicilia arguably Spain’s most famous winery. They bought here when the Hungarian state monopoly was broken up in 1993 having ealized the immense potential of the centuries old Oremus vineyards.

A great job, thanks all 

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Guest speaker Martin Sheen – host Anthony Borges – Catering by Chimneys

Excellent speaker (thanks Martin, really interesting and fun) and first class food and service by Chimneys. Well done Gareth, Alex and Rochelle. The Muscadet made a fabulous aperitif – and was always going to be a hard act to follow. But the Gavi di Gavi with Chimneys tian of oaked smoked salmon and trout was inspired. The two burgundies were argably text book matches with the tian, but the Gavi shone brightest for me! With the truly exceptional rump of lamb the Dog Point Pinot Noir was superb, the claret (also text book with lamb) not so much of a match this time. The juicy rump simply went best with the soft, juicy red-fruited Pinot. Had it been served with rosemary it might have turned out in favour of the claret, but not this evening. The two big guns of the evening were served with hard cheese – I loved them both, the Bonny Doon a more supple, sensual expression of Chateauneuf, the Vieux Telegraph more complex and explosive – in fact simply awsome. The sweet was fabulous with a single blue cheese, also explosive, the contrasts of sweet and salt working to great effect. And the deserts, enjoyed unaccompanied, were a masterpiece –  a trio of dark chocolate mousse, Benoffee and gooseberry fool. Well done Chimneys. 

  Muscadet Prestige Saupin, 2011, “leesy”, £10.99

Produced by Mathieu Saupin at his property north east of Nantes. A zippy vibrancy and richness acquired by extended lees ageing. Perfect as an aperitif – and would be perfect with oysters were we in season. We had it with a crisp snack to take away the wine`s natural acidity. Excellent.

 Sarotto Gavi di Gavi, 2010, “mineral-rich”, £11.99

Roberto Sarotto’s Gavi di Gavi comes from his 50 year old Cortese vines lying in the vineyard of Bric Sassi della Maddalena, where the vines are mostly south facing. His wine is fresh and clean with white peach,  stone fruits and a creamy, delicious minerality. It was only following phylloxera here in the late 1800’s that the vineyards were planted with Cortese to take advantage of the marvellous seafood nearby.

Bourgogne Tradition, Collovray & Terrier 2010, “biscuity”, £13.99

Chardonnay grown in the Maconnais in the picturesque and rolling hills surrounding the Rock of Solutre. This is a very pleasing unoaked wine and eminently quaffable. Winemakers Jean Luc Terrier and Christian Collovray are acknowledged as masters of their profession.

 Bourgogne Chateau de Puligny, 2009, “fine expression”  £24.99

Under the former ownership of Michel Laroche of Chablis fame the park of mature trees in front of the Chateau was torn up and a vineyard planted. It was subsequently sold to Credit Foncier where Etienne de Montille converted to organic and biodynamic practices. The results are clear to see – a very fine, ripe expression of fruit length and quality and showing every vestige of its origins. This is Puligny-Montrachet without the price tag!

 Dog Point Pinot Noir, 2009, “silky red fruits”, £26.99

 Ivan Sutherland and James Healy were vineyard manager and winemaker respectivelyat Cloudy Bay before creating Dog Point, so named because the vineyard used to be a sheep station occupied by  wild dogs. The Pinot spends 18 months in Troncais oak, adding complexity and richness to its silky red fruits.

 

 Ch Lucas 2008, St Emilion 2008 “soft & spicy” £13.99

  A 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc lying in the St Emilion satellite community of Lussac roughly 45kms east of Bordeaux. It belongs to the Vauthier family who also own Ch Ausone and comprises of 10 hectares. Here in the vineyard lutte raisonee is practised “reasoned fight” in that chemicals and sprays are only used when absolutely necessary. The wine has ripe red fruits with a touch of vanilla and a succulent ripeness from the Merlot on the palate complemented by a crisp firmness from the Cab Franc.

 Cigar Volant 2007, “New World icon wine”, £35.99

This flagship wine comes from Randall Grahm (not a spelling mistake – it is Grahm) and his winery Bonny Doon. Cigare Volant is French for flying saucer and is Randall’s take on a Chateauneuf blend of Grenache Syrah Mourvedre and a dash of Cinsault, whilst at the same time taking a pop at the French as it was in 1953 that the mayor of Chateauneuf had a law passed stating that flying saucers were not permitted to land in the vineyards! Bright cherry, red currant and cranberry fruit combine gloriously with a savoury, gamey spice note. Fabulous New World icon wine!

Chateauneuf Vieux Telegraph 2008, “Old World icon wine”, £53.99

The original Cigar Volant! One of the most renowned, traditional estates of Chateauneuf in the southern Rhone, a 45 hectare estate with an average vine age of 55 years and cared for by the Brunier family who has owned it for the past 100 years. Two thirds of the blend is Grenache with equal amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre and a little Cinsault. The wine was truly memorable – glorously unfolding into the most complex layers even as we were drinking it! 

 Tokaji Noble Late Harvest 2008 (37.5cl) “nectar of the gods”, £17.99

This is a modern style late harvest bunches of the Furmint grape variety, about half  affected by noble rot. It is exotically fragrant with honeyed apricot fruit kept in check by a lively acidity. The estate is in the ownership of David and Pablo Alvarez who also own Vega Sicilia arguably Spain’s most famous winery. They bought here when the Hungarian state monopoly was broken up in 1993 having realised the immense potential of the centuries old Oremus vineyards.

 

 

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Burgundy Tasting blog

Taste of Burgundy

Excellent tasting of burdundy wines, thank you Peter Rowe for guiding us through the evening so skilfully (no broken legs – just a few sore heads in the morning).  And Tony Bell, as always, thanks for your great effort in the kitchen.   Indeed thanks everyone for coming. My favourite wine of the evening was the first in the garden: Macon-Villages Chardonnay Domaine Perraud 2010 – superb ray of sunshine to kick of the evening. The crab tart was a great way to start the meal, though for me the excellent Chablis would have been better with oysters (I know, I know, we`re out of season). My favourite  food combination was the pate board with the amazing value Brouilly – actually not Tony`s – Seasonal Suffolk Pates by Carl Shillingford, a new range available from our fridges in the shop – local, seasonal, excellent.  But Tony`s Coq au Vin with its intense mushroom sauce was amazing with the Gevrey-Chambertin. We really must print Tony`s recipes… we keep getting asked Tony!!!!

Macon-Villages Chardonnay Domaine Perraud 2010 “sunshine in a glass”, 13.99

Good Domaine Macon tastes like this – white flowers, stone fruits, citrus acidity. Not quite Meursault but enough sunshine in the glass you know it`s burgundy right away and you want a second glass!

 Chablis `St Martin` Domaine Laroche 2010, “pebbles in a glass” £16.99

Chablis is nearer to Champagne than Cote d`Or! Its style is pure “pebbles in a glass”, a quality which marries so well with the saline, mineral taste of oysters. Its edgy acidity also slices nicely through smoked fish. This is proper `domaine` Chablis and we love it!

 Rully, Jean-Claude Boisset 2008, “yellow plum”, £19.99

Rully is in the northern commune of the Cote Chalonnaise, south of Cote de Beaune, north of Maconnais” We have been selling this wine successfully for ten years. The 2008 is excellent – typical yellow plum with   floral, butter, lemon and honey notes.

 Meursault “Les Narvaux” 2009 Moret-Nomine, “Devonshire cream” £43.99

Delicious, creamy Meursault, from Cote de Beaune. This is text book, a stylish, powerful Meursault which is pure of fruit, a display of white peach and citrus fruits, yet rich and buttery. Still young, this wine is full of promise, yet even now a fine match with oily flavourful fish.

Puligny-Montrachet, Francois Carillon 2009 “oh boy” [in Magnum]  £90.00

A show stopping Puligny-Montrachet, from further south in Beaune than Meursault, stylistically more bracing. Terrific purity, aromas of citrus fruits and white flowers, on the palate a certain “gout du terroir”, infused with minerals, a note of vanilla and a gorgeous lick of fresh butter, finishing in a steely embrace.

 Brouilly 2010, Chateau de Pieurreux  “bursting with red fruits”, £13.99

Easy to forget Beaujolais is in Burgundy, but the Gamay grape  can be just as rewarding as Pinot, as this fine example shows.   Light and fruity, yet with a certain intensity and floral character, mostly violet, which gives it charm. On the palate black and blue fruits, a savoury note – served with meat pate was delicious!

       Bourgogne “Les Ursulines” Jean-Claude Boisset 2009 “savoury” [in Magnum] £35.00

A wine from old vines in the Cote de Nuits, excellent value, a superb magnum. It has open upfront red fruits, becoming darker on the palate with a certain savoury character and spice  which borders on Gevrey-Chambertin.    

 Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Dominique Gallois 2009 “meaty”, £36.99

Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the most masculine of reds, also Cote Nuits, a meaty style, still vibrant in its youth,  exhibiting first and foremost its dark fruits, with red fruits nonetheless in the mix and a savoury, meaty finish.   

 Chambolle-Musigny, Jean Claude Boisset 2008, “pure”, £43.99

A pure, pure Pinot Noir, mineral and fragrant, on opening a sour note which troubled us, but after decanting and with food, an intense taste experience.  Another Cote Nuits, exuberant mixed black and red fruits, notably cherry and strawberry, with notes of spice and herbs. 

 

 

10% discount for orders received in June, thank you

 

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New World Tasting blog (June 12)

Another fabulous evening at The Wine Centre

 Thank you everyone for a terrific evening of delicious wines, stimulating company and once again excellent food (well done Tony). The Outer Limits aperitif in the garden was for me a winner with the pastry-wrapped asparagus, the Spier Chenin Blanc sublime with the Asian-spiced- lemongrass fish starter, the Heru goose-pimply delicious with the smoked duck and the Carmenere a match in heaven with Tony`s scrummy Mole Poblano de Guajacolote! The secret ingredient chocolate!! Finishing with the cheeses what a trio : Purple Angel, Pangea and Montes Folly. What a night! Thanks again everyone for coming.

Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Chile 2011, “intense, lively”, £15.99

Electric style Sauvignon from the outer limits of possible winemaking in Chile, 9 km from the Pacific Ocean in Aconcagua. The Zapallar vineyard is one of the Montes unique terroir series, “Montes beyond Frontiers”, a new and exciting addition to the Montes family. Intense and lively, passion fruit and lime, rich yet  racy. A fantastic find.

 J. Lohr Chardonnay, California USA, 2011, “toasty”, £15.99

Sourced from Monterey where the grapes slowly develop flavours of green apple, apricot and citrus blossom. Hints of toasty oak and subtle caramel highlight the finish.

Spier Chenin Blanc Private Collection, S. Africa, 2009, “luxurious” £16.99

Old Stellenbosch vines producing low-yield thick-skinned fruit, a great deal of concentration and ageing potential – like a top Vouvray! Apricots, citrus fruits and stewed fruit aromas are followed by a creamy, rich, luxurious palate and a crisp, lasting finish.

Heru Pinot Noir, Ventisquero, Chile,  2009, “seductive red fruits” £24.99

Chile`s best Pinot by chief winemaker Felipe Tosso, this is juicy, fleshy, silky red-fruited Pinot from Casablanca, mostly strawberry and raspberry, with subtle vanilla-coco spice and just a trace of dark mineral. Delicious!

 Grey Single Block Carmenere, Chile 2009, “dark & spicy”, £14.99

Classic Carmenere, dark and spicy, from block no 5 Trinidad Vineyard in the coastal Maipo. Concentrated bunches of ripe grapes produce a silky rich elegant style, excellent for the price we feel, with intense black fruit and fruitcake characters.

       Spier Private Collection Pinotage, S. Africa 2008, “intense, fruity”, £16.99

Coastal vineyard, very Stellenbosch in richness and concentration of fruit, the wine shows inviting, bright aromas of cherry, oak spice and tobacco. The palate is structured with plenty of flesh on the bones. A classic.

 Purple Angel, Chile, 2009, “sumptuous”, £30.99

Chile`s best Carmenere is a blend of 92% Carmenere and 8% Petit Verdot from Colchagua. Its intense youthful purple colour is typical. Rich, sumptuous spiced-fruit fills the senses.  The palate is seamless, a smooth, velvet, fleshy body of dark fruits, chocolate and wonderful spices.

Pangea, Chile, 2006, “a wine by John Duval”, £32.99

John Duval, once chief winemaker for Penfolds Grange (Australia`s no. 1 wine) is now working his magic with the Syrah grape in Chile. A middle-weight model with a Chile twist, Robert Parker gave it a score of 93/100. Produced in the now famous Apalta vineyard of Colchagua Valley, it has a violet-floral  and blue fruit quality leaning to dark fruits and dark chocolate mid-palate, supple, plush and seamless. Our best selling wine over £25 bottle!

Montes Folly, 2008, “stupendous”, £40.00

100% Syrah grapes grown behind the winery on the upper slopes of Apalta where the soil is of ancient red sandstone and clay. The wine is stupendous with terrific concentration and complexity, of blue berries, black berries, wild herbs and spices. The label by Ralph Steadman, evocative of the wild terrain high on the Apalta.

 

10% discount for orders received in June, thank you

 

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NZ Tasting blog (May 12)

Taste of New Zealand

 Another excellent NZ evening spent with friends of The Wine Centre, thank you everyone and well done again Tony Bell for excellent culinary workmanship  and Peter Rowe for a brave presentation! We had some cracking food-wine matches again, in particular the Riesling with Asian spiced prawn starter. Here are the wines we tasted:

Tin Pot Hut Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011, “aromatic, fresh”, £11.99

The old Tin Pot huts belonged to the sheep herders when Marlborough was better known for its sheep. Produced by Fiona Turner and Matt Thompson this award winning “Savvie” has lifted aromas of blackcurrant, lemongrass and thyme with passionfruit notes. A complex palate of blackcurrant, herbs and mineral. Pleasing, powerful aperitif.

Wild Earth Riesling, Central Otago 2009, “lick of lime”, £15.99

Quintin Quider, deep sea diver and crazy, dare-devil risk-taker, is passionate about wine. He would have to be a little bonkers to attempt wine growing in such extreme conditions. Yet here it is, Wild Earth Riesling, grown in the desert-like outback of southern New Zealand, most southern vineyards in the world, beyond even where tracks go at the end of the now famous Felton Road.

Perfumes of white flowers, red apples and lemon meringue pie are followed by flavours of nectarines, apricots, red apples and lemon, with a streak of finger-lick`n lime.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011, “striking”, £16.99

Kevin Judd was chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay for 25 years before he started his own venture and the birth of Greywacke. Named after the sedimentary rock found in its vineyards, in Rapaura, the wine expresses its high mineral source, a near creamy note amid racy acidities which are almost fierce. It exhibits a refreshing sorbet-like medley of fresh lychee, grapefruit and honeydew with flinty minerality and an infusion of mandarin and lime zest. A lively, invigorating wine; already a legend!

 

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough  2010, “silky” £25.99

The new vintage of Kevin`s wild yeast, barrel –fermented Sauvignon Blanc has been long awaited. The 2009 – impossibly rich, silky and delicious – was a hard act to follow.  Yet the 2010 has delivered in spades. Its texture, of glycerol richness, seems to glide across the palate. Notes of lemon rind and sweet green herbs meld together in a seamless stream… virtuoso performance!

Greywacke Chardonnay, Marlborough 2009 “golden, beautiful”, £29.99

First time tasting (from barrel) a gorgeous buttery bacon butty character. Now different, on the nose, cashew, lemon curd and shortbread, on the palate , layered and ripe-tasting citrus fruits, delicious fleshy layers, still buttery, mineral-rich with dough-like, yeasty notes. Still gorgeous!

Kim Crawford Merlot, Hawkes Bay 2010, “ripe, supple”, £14.99

Kim Crawford`s Merlot is back at the wine centre! I can only wonder as to why we ever let it go. Dark fruits, ripe plums and blackberries, complimented by spice and liquorice, underpinned with a little savoury oak; fine, harmonious, supple, gently mouth filling and delicious.

Crimson Pinot Noir, Martinborough 2010, “vibrant”, £20.99

Ata Rangi`s Clive Paton was a pioneer of winemaking in Martinborough and has recently been bestowed NZ`s highest award for excellence: grand cru status. Here Pinot is endowed with texture as well as fruit. Crimson has a heady fragrance of crushed rose-petal, light cherry, brambly notes and a hint of red liquorice. The palate is seamless, a smooth, feminine body which is nonetheless vibrant.

 

Wild Earth Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2009, “focused”, £24.99

Wild Earth`s Quintin works his magic with low yield, well-crafted Pinot Noir. Dark cherry, liquorice, plum, orange peel and cassis, a complex, intense flavour compound which is well-defined and served up in an elegant, fresh, supple wine. Superb.

Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2010, “succulent”, £32.99

Kevin`s  brilliant Greywacke Pinot  Noir 2010 has got the industry in all of a titter.  Reminiscent of tree-ripened black cherries (they say), its sweet-scented floral perfume is followed by a pure palate of plum, blackberry, cherry and smoky oak, “seasoned with a sprinkle of oregano and cinnamon”. Fragrant, pure and delightful.

 10% discount for orders received in May

 

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April Wines of the Month

 This is the line up we enjoyed at our last supper evening. I thought the Rabbit Ranch matched the fragrance of the fresh salmon-salad starter superbly (incredible aromas/flavours in the salad, by the way, well done Tony), the Dreadnought a terrific match with the spiced beef and the Aria sweet wine, superb with the cheeses! But best most truly memorable wine on the night for me was the Bel Canto! Amazing.

 There`s a wine here for everyone / every occasion.

 Mahi Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2010, “aromatic, fresh”, £12.99

Elegant mouth watering aromatic style, partially barrel-fermented using natural yeast ferments. Characteristics: gooseberries, blackcurrants, herbs, limes, ample acidity, smoke. NB. We had a run on this wine on Saturday and not many bottles left until i buy in again.

Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris, Central Otago 2008, “leaps from the glass!”, £15.99

In the extreme conditions of Central Otago the spiced pear character of Pinot Gris acquires peach and honeysuckle and a fine minerality.

Man O War Valhalla Chardonnay, Waiheke 2009, “golden, beautiful”, £28.99

One of NZ`s best Chardonnays, whole bunch pressed and fermented in French oak barrels, this is gorgeous stuff: golden, like sunshine, complex, savoury and ripe-tasting. A small amount of noble berries are thrown into the mix adding a touch of intriguing apricot marmalade. Love this wine!

Pegasus Bay Bel Canto `Dry Riesling` Waipara 2009 “a noble wine”, £21.99

Late harvest botrytised Riesling in a dry style which is concentrated, powerful and complex. Bright citrus flavours slice through nectarine, peach and tropical fruits. Amazing.

Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2008, “savour and sup”, £18.99

Produced on what used to be a sheep station and the glacial riverbed that flowed through the Cromwell area, this now arid land, with its stony soils and high population of rabbits, produces a fruity-rich style of Pinot Noir with a note of “gun smoke”.

 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara 2008, “richness and texture”, £28.99

One of the most fruity, succulent red-fruited Pinots I tasted in NZ. 18 months in barrel give this wine a silky richness which is divine. Wild cherry and raspberries mingle with roast game, mushroom, black olive and liquorice in a heady rush of savoury and sweet which is heavenly.

Man O War Dreadnought, Waiheke 2008, “Decanter 5 Star Award”, £28.99

Hedonism personified in my book. Love this wine. Its blackberry-blueberry fruit profile is touched with floral, violet fragrance and white pepper. There`s a hint of game too. On the palate it`s layered and textural with a bright vibrancy and hint of spice which is gorgeous!

 Man O War Ironclad, Waiheke 2009, “Decanter 5 Star Award”, £28.99

Superb Bordeaux blend full of sweet ripe fruit, red berries and blackcurrants, with hints of floral perfume, tobacco and cedar. Vibrant palate, rich texture, a powerful structure coated in luxuriant fruit. An engaging wine, will benefit from decanting.

Pegasus Bay Aria Late Picked Riesling 2008, “nectar of the gods”, £22.99

Late harvest botrytised fruit – this time producing a superb “peaches and apricots” sweet wine, one nonetheless with the backbone and citric acidity of Bel Canto. Nectar of the gods is right!

Buy twelve bottles, any mix, for 10% discount, thank you

(free local delivery if required)

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Wine Journal, Chile

21-29 Jan 2012

Official recognition of a job well done – the prize a trip to Chile !!

Only one of us could go – and after much soul searching we decided it should be me! Janet would instead travel to Aldeburgh, Lea to Paris, Merrill to New York: our well-deserved breaks after all the hard work over Christmas.

I was one of five independent merchants to win the coveted prize – our journey together a bonding of kindred spirits. They were  Anita Mannion (Leamington Wine), David Ogden (Corkscrew Wines), Patrick Rohde (Aitken Wines) and John O`Keeffe (Christopher Piper Wines). Accompanying us were our hosts Gail and Alfonso of Wines of Chile.

We flew to Chile`s capital Santiago, British Airways via Brazil. Unfortunately there is no convenient direct flight to Santiago which is a shame because one would serve Chile better as a tourist destination – and it deserves better. The route home incidentally was longer, painfully long, via Argentina and then Spain, one fraught with delays, missed connections and lost baggage – but by this time we were happy bunnies and nothing could dampen our spirits. We had had the time of our lives compliments of Wines of Chile, after all.

First off, lunch at the Central Market: an incredible fish market and restaurant sheltered by a high-ceiling steel structure, apparently designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. We had some of Chile`s fresh  seafood: ceviche, conger eel, abalone, shrimp, Razor clams, scallops and best of all, Anguilla “baby” eels……. washed down by Ay…(don`t remember the name now)  Sauvignon Blanc, an unusual complex style, not entirely to my liking, more like a Viognier blend than the crisp, fresh Sauvignon I recognise as Chilean (the name will come me….or not!).

After lunch we took a tour of the capital, its famous squares, government buildings, art and history museums. Evidence of its recent political history is everywhere.  Santiago, being centre of government, was the focus of regime change from its democratically elected socialist government  to the  military government led by dictator General Augusto Pinochet.  Pinochet is remembered now as a murdering fascist for his coup d`etat  in 1973 and all the killings, of course, but the good he did was to open up Chile`s markets to global trade and his conservative policies largely lived on after him from 1990 through subsequent democratic governments to this day, leading to a now very prosperous and successful Chile – in strictly wine terms there has been a a miracle change for the better which wouldn`t have happened without Pinochet. The point is endlessly argued, academically and theoretically, but socialist expropriation and high level taxation is still blamed for the collapse and inertia of the industry, and the turn round in the industry`s fortunes was post Pinochet.  

The Cimate in brief

Chile is long and narrow, as we know, the Pacific Ocean to its west and the Andes mountain range to its east, separating it from Argentina`s Mendoza. There is no love lost with Argentina it seems, so the Andes is a good natural barrier in more ways than one (our own differences with Argentina are only amplified by the good relationship Britain has with Chile). There`s also the two extremes of north and south: dry desert in the north of Chile and the wet fjords, lakes and glaciers in the south – and, perhaps most important of all, the Coastal range of mountains and their splinters between the ocean and the vineyards. Now add into the mix the cooling Pacific current which originates in the Antarctic and moves up the coast of Chile  – and add wind! The Coastal Range has natural `gaps` through which the air is sucked from the Pacific to cool the vineyards. A warm Mediterranean climate with a breeze, how perfect is that! Now consider those Coastal `splinters`, vineyards on slopes and flats with variable soil compositions (many of them volcanic), variable altitudes, variable distances from the sea (or proximities to the Andes), and variable exposures to the sunshine. And cold nights! Consider all this and it is clear you have a complex, very, very diverse landscape. This, the perfect environment for producing quality wine grapes!   

Next morning, early, we flew out to La Serena in the very north, desert country.

Maycas, Limari

Foggy and moist in the mornings due to the Pacific influence and well fed by cooling moist winds, it is nonetheless important to irrigate in this otherwise desert, low-fertile sandy land. But irrigate they do – and the drip-drip action of irrigation works its magic here, working the minerals gradually which are absorbed by the vines roots producing mineral-rich wines.

Fungus can be a problem in the form of Oidium, but essentially the vines have to work hard and here  they produce healthy, good quality grapes and phenolic maturity. Syrah in cool years have plenty of spice, while warmer seasons produce a more opulent style, grown mostly on its own roots which is typical of Chile generally due to being free of the phylloxera louse.    Not to say  grafting on rootstock is not used at all here or elsewhere – it is, mostly where necessary to assist penetration into hard, rocky ground. We tasted examples of both styles of Syrah and my favourite was the cool-climate.

We also tasted fine turbot with an elegant Chardonnay, a wine-food highlight.

Tamaya, Limari

The Tamaya farm produces citrus fruits, avocados and grapes, their water supply provided by reservoirs in the foothills of the Andes.  The large proportion of clay there assists in retaining the water around Tamaya, and the water assists in leaching out the minerals. It has a calcium–rich substrata, which feeds the vines and provides the grapes with good acidity. The clay itself apparently contributes viscosity to the wines. However, it the long growing season which provides Tamaya wines with their freshness and appeal.

This is copper country – its biggest market apparently China. No surprise there.   

Tabali, Limari

The colluvial mixture of clay, silt, sand and calcium-rich limestone is also good for growing Chardonnay, and Tabali prove the point well. Indeed their range of wines is a demonstration of elegance and achievement in difficult growing conditions.   

Return Flight/overnight Santiago

 –

Vina Mar, Casablanca

Vina Mar, a member of the second largest wine group in Chile (VSPT) is a public limited company on the Chilean stock exchange. While the group as an entity is very corporate, proud and eco-friendly, its wineries are individual and left to their own devises, simultaneously enjoying a high level of investment. The best of both worlds it would seem.

Here in Casablanca it is largely cool and windy white wine country, known for its Sauvignons and Chardonnays.

Leyda, Leyda

Very much copper mining territory, it should be noted here that Chile produces a third of the world`s copper market and is by far the greatest export. Arguably it is rather too dependent on copper and subject to market fluctuation and economic decline when copper prices are low. Agricultural products and especially fruits are a distant second, followed by salmon from the fjords south of chile and wine exports fourth.

Incidentally, avocado is a big Chilean export, as is artichoke (both delicious and used regularly in salads here, ideal with Sauvignons).

Here there is a granite substrata with a clay topsoil – and due to its proximity to the sea it  is cooler and more windy even than Casablanca which is higher and further inland. These are some of Chile`s best fresh white wines, the sort, frankly, I enjoy most. These lowland, coastal, largely south-facing vineyards achieve ripeness over typically long growing seasons. Sauvignons  are the classic green, zesty style ideal for aperitif, and the Chardonnays flavourful with a mineral edge and delicious lick of citrus fruits. The Pinot Noirs were also fresh and vibrant. We enjoyed the wines with a fantastic seafood lunch by the vineyards. These were some of my very favourite wines on the trip, this being the only winery in Chile with its own regional denomination. I hope to be bringing some to Great Horkesley soon.

Interestingly, at the tasting we used Stolze glasses to taste even the white wines, more akin to our Riedel Pinot Noir glasses. I usually use mine for reds only, but I might well think again. It was lovely swishing my Sauvignons and Chardonnays around the full bowl-shaped glass and the aromas were wondrous.

Chocolan, Maipo

Winemaker Maria del Pilar Gonzales together with her daughter Guillermo Aida Toro were  our most delightful hosts for supper at Chocolan, my favourite their Petit Verdot-Syrah Rose which we have stocked for years and enjoyed there by the vineyards as an aperitif.

Overnight Santiago

Valdivieso, Maipo

Here, in Curico Valley, is where they started sparkling wine and it`s still probably the best place to source it. They practice both the Charmat and Champagne method, using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 

Haras de Pirque, Maipo

This  winery in the shape of a horse shoe which raises both horses and vines with equal passion. We were introduced to the most beautiful stallion, a young racing horse in his prime.  Actually, the winery was beautiful too – and even the people at this winery were beautiful! Made me feel very middle-age +. The Equus range of wines were bright and approachable, the Haras de Pirque purposeful , complex and characterful (as the name suggests), the Albis, flagship  joint venture wine with Antinori from Italy, stunning.     

Altair, Cachapoal

This fine winery, part of the VSPT group, is stand alone in every other sense. Its own natural amphitheatre of vineyards, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines are raised in volcanic colluvial and alluvial soils, with limestone and plenty of stones.  We discussed the merits of vines raised on alluvial versus colluvial soils,  alluvial being ancient river deposits while colluvial is the rock debris accumulated at the base of slopes through the action of rainwater or gravity. Alluvial has produced the red-fruited Cabernet of Clos du Fous by example, while the Cabernets of Altair, colluvial, are darker with more cassis. It`s all location, location!  Altair also has its own  stand alone viticulteur – a shepherd who cares for his sheep (his vines): Rene is a man who is passionate about what he does (in his own inimitable way!) and he likes to speak very much of terroir!! A funny man – he had me in stitches – reminded me of a dear Venezuelan friend of mine (so laid back he was practically horizontal). And his wines were great. At £50+ a pop these wines would be a hard sell, but boy they are good: Cabernet dominant blends they have fresh bright fruits, superb concentration and great purity.

Overnight  Colchagua

Montes, Colchagua

Montes in perfect harmony with nature has a flow of water directed into it, entirely symbolic and aesthetic I think, though I wouldn`t be surprised if it generated energy. Certainly most of the wineries I have visited so far would choose natural energy sources wherever practicable, either air, water or sunshine. Green is New Zealand`s colour but Chile wants a part of it. Indeed, there is much about NZ which is Chile – its wild, diverse beauty, its clean, cool air, volcanic soils, geysers and hot springs, its good wines! Chile is simply a little behind the kiwi`s (their socialist past), and now they are learning from the kiwi`s and everyone else and in a decade, if they play their cards right….. well, they can achieve great things. Meantime, they are not doing so badly! Montes Chardonnay which we have stocked a while is fresh, yet tropical and creamy. At £13.99 a steal. However, the Montes Folly Syrah, which we also stock at £36.99 is the gem here. Its label design by Ralph Steadman is striking on the shelf – and the wine joyous, blue berries, black berries, spice… we visited the vineyard and noted its deep, red sandstone and clay soils, the tiny blue berries. I was shown how they remove the upper bunch from any one cane to stimulate concentration in the one remaining bunch, such is their commitment to quality here. I had to pinch myself to check I wasn`t dreaming. I really am awake and in this place of my dreams! 

On the flats were Carmenere, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, more fertile land providing easily everything these vines could want for full, phenolic maturation. The Carmenere`s – Chile`s near indigenous grape (not so – the vine is originally from Bordeaux) but yes so, in the same way Argentina now owns Malbec. This grape more than any other is unique to Chile. And it is the most controversial and difficult of all grapes: the one with tendencies toward greenness; the erratic one; the Pinotage of Chile; the one which doesn`t quite fit a marketable niche: Carmenere with Curry? Carmenere with roasted red meats? Carmenere with meat pies?   `With walnuts? (Chile is a huge producer of walnuts). It has dark fruits and it`s spicy – at best very good indeed, at worst horrible. For me, the best are the elegant Carmeneres and the Carmenere blends. Montes Purple Angel is excellent – 92% Carmenere, 8% Petit Verdot.  Apparently the trick to eliminate the greenness is removal of the leaves, to reduce the pirazine in the grapes; but just as important is to pick before being over-ripe. Indeed, better a tad of greenness from early picking, having removed the excess green by summer pruning the leaves.

We also tasted the new Outer Limits wines – their Sauvignon Blanc vines planted just 8km from the sea and deliciously zesty and fresh – one of my favourite Sauvignons on the trip.

Lapostolle, Colchagua

We visited the Clos Apalta winery – and first the eponymous name brought back fond memories of Pangea, the Syrah by Vina Ventisquero which i have so enjoyed on several occasions also produced in Apalta: the wine by winemaker John Duval. “Apalta” that small area of vineyard in Colchagua with the biggest reputation for fine wine.  My only regret on this trip: not visiting Vina Ventisquero (the winery which also produces another favourite of mine, Heru Pinot Noir). We enjoyed a fabulous lunch here and terrific wines, but for me the stand out was the cellar: so many state-of-the-art wineries in Chile but this one stratospheric; the architecture wondrous. The winery built into the hill and the clever use of rock and iron and wood and air and water and sunshine.

Emiliana, Colchagua

Many of the Chilean wineries we found to be green and generally more eco-friendly than not, but this one surpassed all in its organic and biodynamic practices. They have the animals for dung and compost, the vegetation to attract insects in the vineyards, use of natural yeasts only, minimal use of sulphur during winemaking, the cows horns … stop there! This was my first opportunity to witness biodynamic farming, and I arrived a sceptic. We were shown the quartz stone ground to powder and put in the cow horns, for burial in the vineyards. We witnessed the gut -sacks of manure hung in the vineyard for exposure to the sun before being buried to return energy (or something) to the earth. We were taken to the sacred place where their manures matured – pots of vegetation treated like treasures, produced from a variety of vegetation and goodness knows what – I didn`t like to ask. And we were told about pruning according to the moon cycles so as not to waste the sap and the whole process was explained clearly and passionately and it seemed just a little weird….. but the wines were good by jove, some of them very good, fresh and elegant. I am reminded of M. Chapoutier in the Rhone and Albert Mann in Alsace who also practice biodynamic viticulture: who also produce fine wines. Is there something in it, after all? Perhaps now I am less of a sceptic – if not quite a believer – agnostic maybe? 

Eraazuriz, Aconcagua

A thoroughbred of a winery and another beauty with striking architecture and no expense spared. Here the subject of agronomic engineering came up! Yes, stimulating stuff. Really though it is an interesting fact that many Chilean winemakers have backgrounds in engineering – perhaps signifying the need to build new vineyards and the mindset required to do so. Arguably, as a direct result of the socialists grip on wine production (as a means of stemming consumption 1930-Pinochet), many of the vineyards are new in Chile. They are selected for their micro-climate and specific soils to suit individual grape varieties – and it is largely an ongoing craft, requiring ongoing evaluation. If an own-rooted grape variety proves not to perform in a particular place, the grafting onto it of another variety is done, or simply new clones are tested.  Chile is young still, with huge potential. As it happens this vineyard, by the state-of-the-art Eraazuriz winery, is not so young – some 50 years. Indeed, here in Aconcagua near the mountains they have been making good Cabernets and Syrahs for some considerable time – certainly the wines of Eraazuriz impressed me.    

Clos de Fous, Aconagua (our most southern destination!)

We stock the low-sulphur burgundy-style Clos de Fous Chardonnay, their principle wine, the first wine we tasted that late afternoon by the Pinot Noir vineyard… it was noticeably chilly, an indicator of the cooler climes down south here, but the company was warm and the wines delicious. Francois Massoc the winemaker and Albert Cussen “his boss” were a humorous double act, though I imagine they both get to play the straight guy when it comes to business. These are daredevils who have pushed the boundaries to produce quality fruit where few would dare before. And it has clearly paid off.

The Pinot Noir has been closely planted on what are dunes of clay and alluvial sandstone over granite – a method of electronic soil-mapping was used to determine the layers for planting purposes. Now  3 years old vines, closely planted in the burgundy way, we can expect great things, I`m sure.

We tasted a very nice cool-climate Cabernet as well, red-fruited, crunchy, a far cry from the usual Chilean dark jammy fruits and one to look out for.

Over lunch we discussed the requirement for patience in the fermentation process (as you do!). Apparently the carbonic acid (co2) in the fermenting juice excludes the need for use of much sulphur in their wines, especially good news for our sulphur sensitive customers. In particular they spoke of the need to wait for as long as it takes for the secondary malo-lactic fermentation to finish its cycle – one time taking almost three years! Apparently it can`t be hurried or cut short because of an unwanted manifestation of out-of-balance vanilla aromas.  Only with white wines can it sometimes be desirable to stop malo-lactic fermentation all together, to preserve the crisp malic acidity, a factor in the style of the finished wine.  Perhaps  it`s best not to labour on such matters – better  to simply enjoy the fruits of other peoples labour!

Lunch was overlooking the vineyards from one of five mud-built huts which these talented guys have built themselves: no ordinary tin-pot huts but luxurious wattle and daub thatched-roof mud huts with all the trimmings and vineyard dunes all around them in the most beautiful setting possible….  thank you gentlemen for your company and warm hospitality!

 Coastal visit: 2 hrs splashing around in the waves, careful not to be dragged under the tectonic plate by the strong currents there, followed by a few cool beers while we dried off! NB. Kunstmann Amber Beer, not bad at all!

Our final soiree in the Bellavista quarter of Santiago, a good night out!

Overnight Santiago

Shopping excursion (sore head)

Flight to Buenos Aires / Madrid / Home

Overall Viewpoint

It seemed to me there are some ordinary and fantastic wines in Chile – and a good deal between. The ordinary whites are bland and the ordinary reds a little “muddy” – perhaps it`s the rough tannins, a certain greenness, or the lack of varietal definition or both. I`m not just referring to the wineries we visited – indeed most didn`t fall into the category – but wines we tasted in Santiago and those I have tasted at home. The category tends to be cheap (though not all are) and it occurs to me that Chile should either raise their game and avoid the mass market all together, or try to produce more definition in their bulk wines – with softer, juicier tannins.  In time with older vines this might well happen naturally. I would say don`t be afraid of the sweet notes when it comes to these wines. Ideally give them a name to separate them from the more premium wines: the equivalent of Vin de Pays or even Table Wine.

In the mid-price category Chile comes into its own, and this is the category with arguable most potential, especially when you consider most of the vines are still fairly young. Indeed, in an ideal world these wines, already very much on the right course in qualitative terms, would not increase too sharply too quickly in price terms. The industry relies on its exports and the world is in an economic downturn. Better to assume the position of strong middle ground and market share, below New Zealand, offering great value for money.  In this category my own view would be to focus on regional identity and in particular bright fruits and varietal definition suitable to location. Avoid the muddy mouth feel and green notes in reds, promote the clean fresh characters of whites. Carry on knocking out the clean, fresh Sauvignons – and please, please don`t stop working on Chardonnay and Syrah. As for Carmenere – personally I would forget it as a single variety unless you have something very special there. Instead, use it as a blending wine. Certainly, avoid at all costs over-ripening, over extraction, too much alcohol!

In the super premium category I think there is less need for price sensitivity – and many of the top wineries are bang on course for great wines. We tasted quite a few reds from £25-£75 per bottle, fantastic wines which would see off quite a few old world wines in the category I would bet. Even Carmenere!! Upward and onward and bravo Chile!

With thanks to Wines of Chile and all the great wineries we visited for their superb and generous hospitality. We had a fabulous time – and love your beautiful country.

 Anthony Borges