While Italy, France and Spain continue to lead the world of wine, the newbies on the block, China, India, Brazil, Uruguay, are turning heads. China is already 7th largest wine producer in the world, Brazil the fastest growing. And while India is still tiny, by Jove, it`s producing some very nice wines. We were there a few years ago and one Cabernet-Shiraz blend I stumbled upon might have been a Margaret River. Later I discovered the great French winemaker Michel Rolland had a hand in it. No wonder! It`s oft the way, the flying winemaker who applies his trade in some distant land, working with the locals there, passing on his skills, spreading the love. I recall some thirty years ago travelling to Brazil and Uruguay, to visit the vineyards there. Winemakers from Argentina had been tempted north, and they were beginning to turn things round. These were wine-producing countries in their infancy back then, amazing what has been achieved in three decades. Globalization also lent a hand to the development of emerging wine countries and regions. Old World companies searching New World pastures, bringing with them investment, employment and skills. Climate Change is another lever for change in the world`s wine map, with wineries looking to invest in cool-climate countries and those less affected adversely by extreme temperatures. In the north of the northern hemisphere, for example, England is a prime target for Champagne producers. In the south of the southern hemisphere, Tasmania offers potential respite for vineyard owners in ever hotter South Australia and New South Wales. Brown Brothers started buying up land there in 2010. Changing politics has in the past been another catalyst for wine development: the collapse of communism having given rise to investment and a new lease of life in countries such as Hungary and Chile. Now, the world`s total wine production is falling – Climate Change again – just as UK`s wine production is increasing – and so the world`s wine map continues to turn. Is it just possible in fifty years our world of wines will be turned on its head?
Guest Speaker: Mark Bingley, Master of Wine
(Maison Marques et Domaines)
Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter
A huge thank you to our enthusiastic, distinguished guests. My dish of the night was
The Sardines, see menu below, an excellent match with the delightfully zingy and fresh Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc; and red wine of the evening for value and
drink-ability was, for me, the Saint Esprit Rhone, in magnum. What a wonderful quaffing red this is, unusual for the appellation because it is Syrah not Grenache dominant; Syrah grown on granite in a small northern Ardeche valley, on vineyards south-facing, west of the river Rhone. Grenache nonetheless plays an important supporting role. My second time of drinking this wine, this vintage, in magnum. See tasting note below. This time with the cheeses it revealed blueberry and black cherry, and an amazing freshness. But it would be wrong of me not to mention the outstanding wine of the evening, Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva, Rioja Alta 2014, such amazing depth and complexity, perfect with Dominic`s lamb dish. One for Easter, perhaps?
|Introducing Mark Bingley, Master of Wine, and Louis Roederer, in magnum.|
|Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, France (Magnum) £105.00
A fine Champagne, refreshing and generous, with an underlying, creamy richness.
Clever use of barrel gives a luxurious feel to this pedigree Champagne.
40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier
|Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2018, £14.99
A pure and vibrant, crisp wine with lifted passion fruit, lychee and pink grapefruit aromas. On the palate layers of tropical fruits are punctuated by zesty citrus notes, gooseberry and herbs.
100% Sauvignon Blanc
|Delas Freres Crozes- Hermitage Blanc `Les Launes`, Northern Rhone, France 2016, £23.99
The colour is bright with a golden hue. The nose is expressive, with mainly floral aromas such as hawthorn, lemon verbena, linden, mingled with hints of exotic fruits, such as lychees and mangoes, together with citrus fruit. The palate is fresh and fruity, delightfully seductive.
80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne
|Rapaura Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand 2017, £16.99
Lovely ripe berry and dark cherry fruits combine with attractive smoky and spicy elements. Fleshy, silky mouth feel, expressive, with spicy oak nuances. A lingering, elegant finish.
100% Pinot Noir
|Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva, Rioja Alta, Spain 2014, £26.99
Flavours of ripe plum, red cherry and berries blend with spicy notes of licorice and sweet balsamic. The wine is silky with rounded tannins and refreshing acidity. The long, mineral finish has sweet spice and ripe plum fruit.
84% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo, 9% Graciano, 2% Garnacha
|Delas Freres `Saint Esprit` Cotes du Rhone Rouge, France (Magnum) 2016, £33.99
Deep, plum coloured hue with a classically “Syrah” nose. The wine is full of aromas of violets, liquorice and has a full, rounded palate with delicate tannins.
60% Syrah, 10% Grenache
|Delas Freres Domaine des Genets Vacqueyras, Southern Rhone, France 2015, £22.99
The colour is a deep garnet. In its youth the wine reveals black cherry aromas which evolve towards notes of woodland, spices, black olive and mocha. On the palate, this is a warm, heady wine whose texture is well-rounded and silky. The finish is perfectly balanced. 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah
|Ramos Pinto Adriano White Reserva Port, Douro Valley, Portugal, £18.99
Pale gold with an intense and complex aroma of ripe golden fruit, blending tropical aromas with crystallized orange, plus hints of spices. On the palate is full bodied with a mature luscious tone and finishes with a balanced freshness and a long finish.
Codega, Malvasia Fina, Viozinho, Rabigato
|Cuvee Christine Vendanges Tardive Gewurztraminer, Alsace 2007, £50.00
Generous, exotic Turkish Delight aromas, of rose petals, lychee, mango, papaya, passion fruit and blood orange. After a few moments in the glass more aromas are revealed with notes of lemon, apricot, white peach, almond, spices and candied ginger. A very long, perfumed and complex finish.
Salt Grilled Sardines, Portuguese Salad, Herb/Lemon Butter and Sourdough Crouton
Apricot & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Ballantine with Grilled Asparagus and Fine Beans
Roast Cannon of Lamb with Honeyed Baby Parsnips, Celeriac Potato Cake and Rosemary Red Wine Jus
The Wine Centre`s Cheese Platter
Strawberry & Chantilly Cream Crepe Gateaux with Mint Strawberry Coulis
The Wine Centre interview on BBC Radio Essex last night, celebrating local independent businesses. Click on the above link and listen from 2:06 to hear our story.
A retirement party with a theme: South American wines. We included Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Check out the line-up and Dominic`s fusion menu below.
Guest Speaker: Jane Macaulay
Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter
|Montes Aconcagua Valley Brut Sparkling, Chile £18.99
|Amalaya “Green Label” Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina 2018, £12.99
Intense gold in colour, this wine has pronounced aromas of grapefruit and lemon peel. Delicate and silky on the palate with great freshness and crisp acidity on the distinctly mineral finish. The winery is situated in Cafayate, Calchaquí Valley in Salta in the far north of Argentina at nearly 1,828metres above sea level. 85% Torrontes, 15% Riesling
|Bodega Garzon Reserva Albarino, Maldonado, Uruguay 2018
This has floral aomas with touches of jasmine, citrus (grapefruit) and stone fruit (white peach). The palate is fresh, long, smooth and mineral-rich, and its acidity matches with its wide and persistent consistency.
|Bodega Garzón Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Maldonado, Uruguay 2018, £16.99
Delicate pale salmon in colour, this elegant, expressive wine has intense aromas of strawberries and raspberries on the nose. Red cherries dominate the crisp palate which also exhibits distinct mineral notes and a lovely fresh acidity. 100% Pinot Noir
|Montes Outer Limits Pinot Noir, Zapallar Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley/ Colchagua Valley, Chile 2016, £24.99
This elegant Pinot Noir has a very aromatic nose, pronounced notes of ripe cherries, blackcurrants, violets and a hint of mild toast from ageing in French Oak. A smooth palate with round tannins, alongside a fresh fruit character. Vibrant acidity gives the wine a bright and perfumed finish.
100% Pinot Noir
|Bodega Garzón Reserva Tannat, Maldonado, Uruguay 2017
Intense black plum and rhubarb with complex notes of white pepper, tobacco, dark chocolate, black tea leaf and liquorice, The palate is grippy turning to velvet with red meat. Vineyards are on stony ground 11 miles in from the Atlantic coast, surrounded by forest. 100% Tannat.
|Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clásico, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina 2017, £14.99
This Malbec is deep violet-red in colour. The nose displays characteristic notes of red fruits, raspberries and freshly picked plums with white pepper. The palate is fresh, supple and juicy, with soft but structured tannins and a long finish. 100% Malbec
|Montes`Purple Angel` Colchagua Valley, Chile 2015, £48.99
Purple Angel showcases the rich flavours typical of Carménère. The addition of Petit Verdot gives the wine spice, colour, structure and acidity. Deep ruby red in colour, the wine has alluring red and blackberry notes on the nose. The palate is densely concentrated, with spice, chocolate and mocha which lingers on the finish. 92% Carmenère, 8% Petit Verdot
|Montes Curicó Valley Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Chile 2015, £11.99
This sweet wine has a deep, bright-golden colour. Potent, complex nose with clear notes of honey, ripe cherries and sultana raisins all mingled with intriguing chamomile flower aromas. The palate has great volume and an attractive acidity that lingers on the finish. 100% Gewürztraminer
Pork and Pepper, Coconut Thai Curry & Thai Sticky Rice
Fillet of Baked Seabass, Tomato Ratatouille & Charred Courgette & Basil Salsa Verde
Chinese BBQ Glazed Pork Belly, Crispy Crackling, Pickled Carrot and Mooli & Pac Choi
Tarte Au Pommes, Apricot & Honey Glaze, Clotted Cream Ice Cream
My wine buying has recently been very focused on getting the best possible value in difficult times; achieving the best I can for my “buck” so to speak. It isn’t just the devalued pound which has sent costs soaring, it is the significantly smaller volume of wine available to us as well, the downward pressures of supply and demand. In Chablis, for example, some 40% of crops were wiped out by frost last year. Elsewhere drought was the problem, and in far-flung parts of the world it was flooding. Climate change? At any rate costs increased in real terms. My approach to the problem has been to shift my ranges. So, for example, where my burgundy range is concerned, I dropped many of the big name premier and grand cru wines, replacing them with the best of the village wines. Meursault “Sous La Velle” instead of Meursault 1er Cru “Les Charmes”, by example. I have kept some of the expensive high fliers, of course, but they are periphery and aspirational wines, not the focus of the range. I also added burgundy wines from outside the Cote d`Or, from the less known and cheaper Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais regions a little further south. I was able to find a plethora of decent burgundies at sensible prices there. I proved it can be done – real value achieved, despite market pressures and without slashing margins or over-discounting. I have done pretty much the same exercise across the ranges in our shop, providing alternative up-and-coming better value options. The prevailing discount culture in which we compete can make our work challenging, and it would be easy enough to hike prices to discount back again in response, but we choose instead to offer real wines at fair prices and thankfully most people get this. What is key, going forward, is that we remain an attractive proposition, while being profitable and able to re-invest in both the business and the building itself, ensuring we continue to be an asset to the community. Cheers everyone.
Our recent trip to Scotland had many highlights, among them Gleneagles, bagpipes, Scottish dancing, Cream Tea at The Balmoral, and the Edinburgh pubs and restaurants. Perhaps the most memorable was beautiful Loch Lomond surrounded by the Trossachs and their snow-capped bens, glens and forests. And the castles, of course: Stirling was magic – in the bleakness of mid-Winter, Robert the Bruce standing tall, the killing fields below us where the infamous Battle of Bannockburn was fought; with the mist all around images came unbidden of the film `Braveheart` and Mel Gibson`s William Wallace, a monument to Wallace appropriately visible on a hilltop nearby. On another bitter cold day, we walked in lowland moorlands, surrounded by prickly gorse and feathery heather. It was a grey overcast day and colours were muted, but it had a raw, harsh beauty about it, underlined by the biting wind. A local told us to come back in Springtime to see for ourselves the bright yellow bloom of the gorse, or in August, to see the spectacular lilac-purple of the heather: the flower of Scotland. It was there I had my first whisky of the trip, a warming 10 year-old Glengoyn, sweet and spicy. It rekindled an old passion, having not drunk whisky since my last trip to Scotland in my early thirties. I had strayed, giving myself to wine. It took this trip to rediscover days gone by “auld lang syne”. I had always loved the Highland whiskies. My first ever 12 year-old was The Dalmore, silky-rich and luxurious. It is no coincidence I have always stocked it. In equal measure I always recoiled from the salty, iodine-peat of many of the Islay malts, Laphroaig and others. I like the idea of these – the smoke – the terroir of Scotland. Somehow, in Winter, these whiskies appear to reflect this harsh, misty land more than the others. Yet my palate appears unchanged in all these years, except I have a greater appreciation now of some of the lighter, more subtle lowland malts, The Glenkinchie 12 year-old my favourite.
My life has unquestionably been enriched as a result of my passion for wine and my life`s work in the wine trade, yet the one stain on this tapestry, on the drinks industry itself, is the disease we call alcoholism. It is an affliction I have not suffered personally, but one I have witnessed close to – so I know something of the misery it can cause. We, in the trade, take the matter very seriously. The Portman Group, founded in 1989 by the industry`s key players to promote responsible drinking, continues to do a fantastic job. As a licence holder I am committed to following the group`s code of practice and to doing my utmost to prevent underage drinking, drink-driving and alcohol abuse. Every licence holder in the country has this charge. Yet the scourge of alcoholism is persistent. Any one of us can succumb when we are vulnerable, and some are innately more susceptible to addiction than others. Still others may simply get caught unawares, regularly drinking too much without realising the implications until they are bitten. And excessive drinking can happen as a result of loneliness, unhappiness and even pain. Unfortunately, whatever brings them to the addiction, inevitably the person with a serious alcohol problem becomes a bore, a burden, and a cost, to family, friends and society. Drinking heavily may well bring the afflicted some solace, but eventually the addiction is enslaving, and he or she is variously ebullient, loud, confused, defiant, angry, regretful, emotional, resentful, unhappy. We try to reason with them, but that is to assume they are rational. Alcoholics can rarely stop drinking of their own volition. In fact, what is required is professional help. If you are worried about your own or someone else`s drinking, you can call this free national helpline in complete confidence: Tel: 0300 123 1110. Alternatively, there are support groups in most towns, including support groups for affected family and friends. After all, they are victims of alcoholism too, by proxy. Details of support groups are available on the NHS alcohol support website.
Our special thanks to Peter Rowe, Dominic Carter and last but not least, our delightful, enthusiastic guests! A wonderful Burns night without a haggis or whisky on the menu, with nonetheless due respect given to the great man, and a fun time had by everyone. Cheers all!
Guest Speaker: Peter Rowe Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Dominic Carter
|Devaux D. Rosé Champagne, France, £55.00
The most delicate of the Devaux Rosé Champagnes (aged 5 years) with the Chardonnay contributing a firm, elegant freshness to the palate. Fresh red fruit aromas from the Pinot Noir, grown on the slopes of the Côte des Bars, combine with a hint of hazelnut complexity which was encouraged by extended ageing on the lees when in bottle. 53% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay
|Château de Fontenille, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux, France 2016, £15.99
Light gold in colour. The nose is complex and pure, with aromas of citrus fruit and white peaches. Full-bodied, with fresh acidity, the palate is well balanced. The lingering finish has a pleasant pepperiness to it. 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Gris, 20% Semillon, 20% Muscadelle
|Cave de Hunawihr Gewurztraminer Réserve, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France 2016, £17.99
A pale, straw yellow colour. The nose is very complex with very delicate aromas of lychee, mango and particularly rose. Full-bodied, this off-dry wine has a refreshing acidity with roses lingering on the long finish. 100% Gewürztraminer
|Dominique Morel Fleurie, Beaujolais, France 2016, £19.99
This wine is full of expressive Gamay characteristics with elegant violet, iris and red fruit aromas and a palate bursting with velvety tannins. An elegant wine with a long finish, from old Gamay vines. Pre-fermentation maceration of whole bunches was followed by semi-carbonic maceration (70% whole bunch, 30% destemmed grapes). 100% Gamay
|San Polo Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 2016, £24.99
The Rosso has a bright and glossy ruby red colour. On the nose, it has aromas of fresh berries, Morello cherry and blackberries that are complemented by a hint of vanilla spice. This is a fragrant, intense wine with smooth, finely-balanced tannins and a persistent, aromatic finish. 100% Sangiovese
|San Polo Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy 2013, £56.99
In the glass, this Brunello has an intense ruby red colour with garnet hues. The typical aromas of violets and small red berries are followed by hints of vanilla, cedar and coffee. On the palate, it is full-bodied and warm with a densely-woven texture and robust tannins, while the finish is persistent and rounded.
|Spice Route `Chakalaka`, Swartland, S. Africa 2015, £18.99
A deep ruby red colour. Aromas of clove and subtle white pepper followed by plum with hints of elegant spice. A luscious and rich palate followed by smooth, integrated oak and well-balanced tannins. 46% Syrah/Shiraz, 15% Carignano/Carignan, 13% Mourvedre, 10% Tannat, 8% Petite Sirah, 8% Grenache/Garnacha
|Poggio al Tesoro `Il Seggio` Bolgheri, Italy 2015, £28.99
Intense ruby red in colour with aromas of fresh crunchy red berries enriched with mineral and spicy notes. The red fruit follows onto the palate which is medium bodied with elegant silky tannins and a lively clean finish. ‘Seggio’ is the name of the creek that runs through Bolgheri – its course is represented on the label.40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot.
|Dandelion Vineyards `Legacy of Australia` Barossa Valley Pedro Ximénez, Australia £19.99
Deep amber/ochre fading to a rusty orange hue. Extraordinary nose of crème brulée, citurs peel, maple syrup, almonds, figs and raisins. Sweet and rich on the palate with vibrant acidity and flavours of candied fruit, citrus, apricot, dried figs and toffee. 100% Pedro Ximénez
Sesame, Soy and Ginger Marinated Salmon Skewers with an Asian Cucumber & Radish Salad
Sicilian Olive Stuffed Sardines on a Bed of Roast Fennel, Parsley, Lemon and Pine Nuts
Confit Duck Leg with Minted Fine Beans & Lardons, Dark Plum & Shallot Sauce and Grilled Honey Peach
Apricot and Almond Baked Cheesecake with Amaretto Caramel Sauce
“Alcohol-Free” is a relatively new category of drink within the “Soft Drinks” category – this being, traditionally, drinks without alcohol, such as cola, lemonade, ginger beer and so on. The Americans call these Pop & Soda, being mostly sweet and fizzy, for consumption primarily by children. The emerging sub-category (the “Alcohol-Free”) include, by the way, the less than 0.5% abv, encompassing wine, punch, elderflower, spirits, cider and beer. These, many of them new to market, have been designed for drinking by adults as alternatives to alcoholic drinks; they are also often, but by no means always, drier alternatives to the Pop & Soda types. These dry varieties, usually red and white still wines (aka, of the grape) usefully go better with food, and they are equally in-trend for being relatively low in sugar. Torres Natureo red, white and rosé are good examples. Braes o Gowrie Elderflower sparkling is a popular alternative, produced at Cairn O`Mohr Winery in Scotland, using elder blossoms. Then there are fruit-farmers, such as Belvoir, who produce decent alcoholic- free punches, made with a variety of juices and spring water. Their “Shiraz without the hangover” is a mix of blackcurrant, white grape, elderberry, flavour extracts and 11% Shiraz red grape! It`s hardly wine, but it`s more grown up than Pop and Belvoir recommend it with steak, no less! Seedlip is the spirit brand we stock, a distilled non-alcoholic botanical drink served with Fever Tree mixers. For the youngsters there`s Sweden`s Kopparberg alcohol-free cider, targeting the one-third of all 18-34 year olds who don`t drink alcohol. Finally, there`s alcohol-free beer. These have been produced by brewers in the mirror-image of their leading brands. So, for example, Beck`s Blue 0.05% abv alongside Beck`s 4.8%, and most recently Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% abv joining regular Ghost Ship 4.5% on the shelf, an excellent likeness and very popular with our customers. Truly the nominated driver has never had it so good. And with the growing numbers who are curbing their alcohol intake the Alcohol-Free category has never been better placed.
The new year is time to reflect. We look back at the highs and lows of the previous year, and we look forward. With the world as it is, it is easy enough to despair, and our personal challenges can be even more unsettling. A lot of people are especially worried about Brexit. There has been much said in the media about our economy crashing and an uncertain future, and people are naturally worried. The politicians contradict each other and it`s frankly hard to know the difference between news and propaganda (“fake news”). Somewhere in all of this we take sides, be that left, right, in, out, Remainer and Brexiteer. We adopt a position and defend it rigorously, choosing to listen to our side`s point of view while ignoring the counter argument. Well, in 2019 perhaps we should all just calm down. Truth is none of us can be sure what`s the best for our country; so just maybe we should all try to be a little less sure of ourselves. Let`s bring the heat out of the debate and talk sensibly, can we? Would it really be so awful to stay locked in close to the EU? On the other hand, is it just possible that an outward looking and wholly independent United Kingdom can make for a better Britain? And if we can`t agree, can we not agree to disagree? We are, after all, supposed to be a tolerant people, are we not? Despite the cold and worrying times, January is the birth of a new calendar year, and time, if we can, to be optimistic and seek opportunity. Join the gym, possibly; get fit and meet new people. Plan the summer holiday. A new job, perhaps. Brexit or no Brexit let`s try to be positive, can we please? One last thought – and this is a wine column after all – let ALL OF US drink better wine. BETTER, and, LESS. Because a little fine wine is good for you, and it will make you feel better. Happy new year, everyone.