A Geezers Guide to #Brosé

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Alright, it’s probably coming to the end of Brosé season.

Brosé entered the wine lexicon a few years back via the U.S where sales of rosé wine are increasing at an astronomical rate (premium imported rosé is up 41% by volume since 2014 over there). It’s one of those annoyingly catchy hash-tag social media things that’s been propagated through twitter, though the main culprit in this instance seems to be Instagram. Search for #brosé and you’ll be confronted by a host of beautifully filtered images of metrosexual guys enjoying, nay revelling in their mutual sinking of the pink. The trend seems to be gathering pace here in London, though due to our shoddy summer will likely not hit its stride until next year (possibly).

#Brosé

#Brosé

The other day a bloke came into the wine bar/shop that I work in and walked out with a magnum of Triennes rosé, a decent Provencial drop from two Burgundy legends (Jacques Seysses of Dujac & Aubert de Villaine of DRC), fair play, if you’re after something pink that has plenty of pedigree.

He came back later that evening on the hunt for more with a couple of mates in tow, they polished off another couple of bottles of the pink stuff while loudly proclaiming how their various football teams would be dominating the soon to start premiership season. These weren’t pink polo shirt wearing, hoo-rah Henry types either, this was a bunch of lads that had decided to smash out a load of rosé in a wine bar rather than rounds of pints in their local boozer. O the times they are a-changing, indeed they are Bob.

This is no isolated incident and there seems to be a real increase in demand from heterosexual males specifically looking to drink rosé together. I would imagine that this has been spurred on by recent articles from a number of different media outlets.

Quick Rosé 101

There are two main ways to make rosé wine, the first is the most common and is much the same as normal red wine production. Grapes are crushed and then the juice is left in contact with the skins but for a shorter period of time than when making red wine, basically until sufficient colour/anthocyanins have been extracted from the skins of the grapes, giving a colour in between white and red. The other way is by blending finished red wine into finished white wine, this is really only ever practised in the making of Champagne and for some very basic rosé wines that will taste quite different to regular rosé.

Please don't give your 'dogs' rosé....

Please don’t give your ‘dogs’ rosé….

Saignée is a third way of making rosé, a French term meaning ‘bled’, this is more rosé as an afterthought to making a more concentrated red wine than actually trying to make a high quality rosé. The winemaker will run off or bleed a certain amount of free run juice, this will increase the proportion of phenolics & flavour compounds to juice in the wine they are really concentrating on. This way of making rosé is often derided by serious rosé producers as it will make a light coloured wine that consumers often associate with quality that you are unlikely to find in what is produced, it’s basically opportunistic or miserly wine production. I’ve never bothered to do a serious comparative tasting of the differing production methods to see how big the quality differences are but it’s likely that there would be a significant difference as the wine maker isn’t really focusing on making the best possible rosé, just a more concentrated red.

The premier rosé region in the world is Provence (Champagne for sparkling), Taval in the Rhone Valley makes a deeper style and other regions that have a focus are the Loire Valley, Navarra in Spain and increasingly the West coast of North America due to a huge local demand.

Rosé & I

Personally I’ve never been the biggest fan of rosé, the reason for this has little to do with the colour (though I do feel many a rosé wine producer will happily sacrifice their wines character for a more popular, lighter salmon hue). To be honest I don’t blame them, depth of colour is a massive decider when people are buying rosé for some reason, 99% of the time the lighter the better. I can only assume that the reason for this is that many of the world’s best rosé wines come from Provence and are lighter in colour and that people associate darker rosé with cheaper, sweeter styles such as Gallo white Zinfandel.

The main reason I drink very little rosé is that they usually interest for me less than heavier whites or lighter reds. There are plenty of white wines that lean more toward red and lighter red wines that have far more character most rosé (and if you looked at them you might even be tempted to call them rosés). Having said that there are plenty of decent bottles of rosé out there and there’s a time and a place for all styles of wine.

My fondest rosé moment to date has been a bottle of Devaux Rosé Champagne, it was on a first date and we met for a picnic in Regents Park on a warm Summer’s evening as the sun set. I can’t imagine a better wine to have had at that moment in time, it was fresh, delicious and the perfect icebreaker (though I do remember enjoying the second bottle more – Sean Thackrey Pleiades XXII). Anyway, the date ended up lasting three days and we are now happily married with three children (Rose, Sean & Pleiades). Alright, that last bits not true, but it was an awesome date and a wine that I will always regard with fond memories.

Something I learnt many moons ago with wine is that there are always exceptions to the rule and opinions should be lightly held and experimentation welcomed. With this in mind I have gone out of my way to track down and taste (drink) some great bottles of rosé, the below are some of my favourite pink picks and wines worth tracking down regardless of their colour.

Rosé for….Cool Kids

Prevost rose

Jérôme Prévost – La Closerie Fac-simile Extra Brut Rosé

France, Champagne, Montagne de Reims (Pinot Meunier)

Simply put, rosé champagne doesn’t get much cooler, better or harder to find than Prévost’s Fac-simile bottling. The Luke Skywalker to Sellosse’s Obi-Wan, he coaxes lazer sharp wines from his fossil heavy vineyards to the west of Reims. The blend here is dominated by Champagnes often maligned, later ripening Pinot Meunier grape (around 90%), the remainder is made up of Pinot Noir, pinot Gris & Chardonnay. One of only a handful of Champagne producers applying biodynamic practices, he never tops up his barrels so they develop a protective flor of the kind you may find in Jura or Sherry though the oxidised character of these wines are not found here, umami is a descriptor often used. Less than 3000 bottles are produced each vintage so if you ever come across this wine in a shop or on a restaurant list do not hesitate as it will be a rare occurrence. This wine is built for the cellar and will reward extended ageing, 2008 & 2009 are vintages to be sought out though due to labelling laws (he releases his wines too early to be allowed to state a vintage on the label), you will need to check a serial number on the back of the bottle. This code will start with LC and will have the last two digits of the vintage stated.

Rosé for….Orange wine lovers

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Viña Tondonia Roasado Crianza 1993

Spain, Rioja (Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura)

I’ve always been a huge fan of the white wines made by this most traditional of Rioja producers, the reds are good but not quite up there with the whites that they make, if you can ever track down a bottle of their rosé be sure to snap it up. This is the anti-thesis of most rosé wine, released only after extensive ageing in barrel & bottle, the most recent release at the moment is the 2000 which is 60% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo & 10% Viura and the wine spent four and a half years in oak and six years in bottle. Not for everyone this wine will appeal to orange wine lovers, it’s unique and singular.

A gentle yet caressing nose of dried rose petals, dried cranberry and fresh red grapefruit with a touch of smoke, quite meaty with a flighty stone and soil character.

In the mouth this would be hard to gauge, age wise, herbal and still quite fresh, firm, classy with some dried red berry fruit and a slight nutty note. This reminded me more of an orange wine rather than any rose I’ve ever tried and is a great food wine that would work well with everything from charcuterie to more spicy Asian dishes.

91/100pts

Rosé for…. Pinot-philes

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Antica Terra Angelicall 2014

U.S.A – Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola-Amity Hills (Pinot Noir)

Winemaker Maggie Harrison worked at California cult producer Sine Qua Non for almost a decade before heading north to Oregon to start her own project focusing on Pinot Noir. Her wines are awesome and the rosé is no exception, made from Pinot Noir with the same care and attention and in the same way as her top Pinot wines. After about a week of skin contact or until the aromatics are exuberant enough to warrant it, she will syphon off the juice and then ferment with indigenous yeasts in barrel for a year. This is a wine made from an intense passion, it takes the same amount of grapes to make one barrel of her rosé as it does to make four barrels of her (more expensive) Pinot Noir. The wine is not cheap at over £90 a bottle but when you consider that her mentor at Sine Qua Non recently had a single bottle of his 1995 Queen of Hearts rosé sell for over £27,000 it’s not that crazy!

Rosé for….Foodies & the patient.

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Domaine Tempier Rosé 2014

France, Provence, Bandol (Carignan, Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre)

The wines of Domaine Tempier are world renowned and if you’ve not read it I’d strongly recommend searching out a copy of ‘Adventures on the Wine Route’ by American wine importer Kermit Lynch whose strong links with the family have made this an incredibly popular wine in the states, it is arguably one of the greatest rosé wines of Provence and not only incredibly food friendly but built for the cellar and capable of significant bottle ageing.

Wild strawberry with sprigs of thyme, quite tight at this early age but a restrained floral character starts to come to the fore with a bit of air. There is a really attractive, broad palate weight here while still managing to be super fresh with a great acidic cut to the firm red berry fruit and mineral character. Needs a long decant if drunk so long, love to see where this goes with 5-10 years in bottle.

90/100pts

Rosé for…. Sipping on the Yacht darling.

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Chateau Léoube – Secret de Léoube

What do billionaire business men spend their spare change on? Well, wineries in the South of France of course, you can’t let Hollywood celebrity couples have all the fun now can you! Chateau Léoube is owned by Lord Bamford the chairman of JCB who bought the run down 560 hectare estate that currently has 65 hectares planted following organic winemaking practices. Lord Bamford made the savvy decision to employ Romain Ott who is the son of Jean-Jacques Ott of the celebrated Domaine Ott. He grew up in the area and has a great feel for the place and passion for the wines that really comes through when you talk to him. The Secret de Léoube is their premium rosé and they also make olive oil and white & red wines with big aspirations. The bottle is beautifully etched and really is a thing of beauty, the wines not too shabby either with wild strawberry fruit and a glycerol richness that is very appealing.

90/100 points.

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Savage – Follow the line 2014

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I recently tried a wine that I think you may be interested in, it was absolutely delicious.

Savage wines have been causing quite a stir since being released a couple of years ago and for good reason. The man behind them is Duncan Savage who is also the winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards located in Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa.

Duncan Savage

Duncan Savage

Duncan started working for Cape Point after graduating top of his class at Elsenburg Agricultural College in 2002 and has worked vintages in Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina as well as four months in the Loire Valley with Sauvignon legend Didier Dagueneau. This has helped him craft some of South Africa’s most elegant and lauded Sauvignon Blanc in the form of Isliedh, a white Bordeaux blend that won Decanter’s best white blend in the world over £15 in 2013 along with many other accolades.

In 2011 he realised the dream of making wine under his family name, done with the full blessing of Cape Point where he still works. Duncan used his contacts to source fruit from selected maritime and high elevation plots around the Western Cape to make two wines; a white Bordeaux blend (70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon), first vintage 2012 and a red blend (72% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 7% Cinsaut), first vintage 2011. These wines were made in very small quantities, 6000 bottles of the white and only 2,700 bottles of the red, which sold out not long after it arrived in London.

“do as little as possible, as much as you can” Duncan Savage on winemaking.

New vintages of the white & red blends recently arrived on our shores along with two new wines, a Syrah which I have yet to have the privilege of drinking and a Cinsaut heavy blend called Follow the line.

Savage Follow the line 2014

This gets its name from Duncan becoming terribly lost while going to visit a new Cinsaut vineyard that he was interested in, he called the farmer who said “volg net die f*kken foon lyn” which loosely translates to follow the line, which he did and managed to find the place. While only making up a small proportion in the Savage red, Cinsaut is given its time to shine here accounting for 58% of the blend with the remainder made up by equal parts Grenache & Syrah. It’s easy to forget how important the Cinsaut grape has been for South Africa, it was the country’s most important grape variety until the end of the sixties and was only overtaken by Cabernet Sauvignon as the Cape’s most planted grape in 1996. Crossed with Pinot Noir to make Pinotage, it is a grape that often does not get sufficient kudos though this is certainly a wine to remind us all of its joys.

Cinsaut on the vine

Cinsaut on the vine

This is a gorgeously perfumed wine full of smoky red and black cherry fruit along with a rose petal floral note, eminently drinkable and suave palate with precise and very fine tannins and a long finish with spice box character that really does hang around on the taste buds. Though it may not be a wine you could write an essay length tasting note on it is one that is just so wonderfully put together and such a pleasure to drink. I’ll have to try and tuck a bottle or two away to see how they develop though I have the feeling that I’ll struggle keeping them out of a glass!

95/100 points

Duncan’s wines are imported by Swig but due to the limited production of this wine you may need to search it out in top restaurants & independent merchants.

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Wednesday Wine – Vina Gravonia – One of the Best Value White Wines on the Planet!

Vina Gravonia

It’s Wednesday so there might be a small chance that you’ve been pious and not touched a drop of vino since the weekend (well done you if so).

I on the other hand have no such scruples, I work funny hours so spent my Monday tracking down as much great vino possible.
Monday  started by meeting a couple of Marx Brothers loving mates for lunch at the aptly named Duck Soup in Soho, this stream-line spot is more bar than restaurant but if you’re in Soho on your tod or with one or two mates (or a date) it’s a great little lunch or dinner spot.
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Service here matches the wine, natural, honest with no extra bullshit, the beautiful, husky voiced, dusty tanned girl that was looking after us was not backward in coming forward and gave us a good idea of how much funk should be expected on any of the wines we considered.
Starting off with some clean as a whistle, green apple Muscadet we moved on to a sous-voile Chardonnay from the Jura and a couple I’d not come across before.
Decent stuff and did the job, from a number of dishes the clear stand out (especially with the wine) was a plate of perfectly cooked lamb chops with salted lemon and curry leaves, a combo that lingered on the taste buds for hours after.
The other dish I really liked was the cold braised octopus, red wine & peas, cold octopus is a new one on me but really worked, tender and delicious.
Shout to Rory who runs the place and let us sample the ‘In Duck We Trust’ before scooting off, won’t divulge what it was but tasty stuff from the lads at Tutto, give it a go if you visit.

Next stop was a quick glass at The 10 Cases in Covent Garden, I opted for the Viano Cab Sav, great value Cali stuff imported by Roberson.

Then headed back down sowf London and some interesting pints at Craft Beer Co. in Clapham followed by Shobbrook Riesling & Jamsheed Syrah at CellarSW4 (love the place so much I go in on my day off!).

Anyway, let’s us get back to the wine at hand!

R. Lopez de Herdia Vina Gravonia Blanco Crianza 2005
Gravonia
This is a wine that I absolutely adore! With so many amazing wines available it’s rare that I go back and drink the same wine on a regular basis but this is one of them.
In my humble opinion it is one of the best value white wines going, Dvine Cellars sell it for under £20, maybe not cheap but a truly excellent wine for the money, so complex! Now I love this wine but it has an oxidative edge to it that may not be for everyone but to be honest, if you don’t like it it I’ll drink the rest of yours, no quibbles.
Gravonia is made by one of Spain’s most traditional producers, Lopes de Herdia. Based in Haro, Rioja, this wine is made from 100% Viura with an average age of 45 years and an altitude of 340m. The vineyard is called Zaconia and covers 24ha on the banks of the river Ebro just 200m from the bodega. In the past sweet wines have been made from this plot following noble rot, they were known as Sauternia in homage to the sweet wines of Bordeaux.
It’s the nuts, it smells of nuts and stewed apples and almonds & has a liquid mineral core with waxy lemon, golden syrup, Mr. Tom bars (remember them?), also smells of honey, acacia, toffee popcorn & lemon oil. Has a wonderfully fat palate with a chewy nuttiness along with rich lemon rind, peach & apricots (specially the skins), juicy, long and complex finish. Works great with fish (tonight with smoked haddock in a cheddar & chive sauce, butter braised samphire, edamame & butter bean salad with giant couscous n feta). A superb, food friendly wine that would work with a large number of fish dishes as well as chicken, pork and turkey. 93/100pts.
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VNTLPR – Next Gen Juice

vinteloper_sh12_label_grande.pngThe first time I clapped eyes on some Vinteloper bottles I was torn, the styling seemed to attract yet repel me in the same instance. Standing out from the crowd with their colourful, contemporary graphic labels on a white background, I prayed this wasn’t going to be a case of style over substance (a great label doesn’t always translate into a great wine and vice versa). Going in for a closer look I saw the name had been capitalized and abbreviated to VNTLPR, a practice that I thought was confined to EDM DJ’s/artists. Was the wine maker’s identity going to be hidden from us by some sort of glow in the dark Tribal mask à la SBTRKT to add to the intrigue? In my mind I was starting to form a word that now seems to carry more vitriol than wine snob, hipster….

VNTLPR? Nah, though I do like the idea of a masked winemaker....

VNTLPR? Nah, though I do like the idea of a masked winemaker….

Tasting through the wines any ill feeling my preconceptions had conceived fell away like water off a ducks back, I wanted to buy some and learn more about Vinteloper. Luckily he was in London the other night and I got the chance to have dinner with him along with U.K importer Nik Darlington from Red Squirrel Wines at wine-centric restaurant High Timber, trying many of his wines and hearing more about the project from the man himself.

David Bowley a.k.a Vinteloper

David Bowley a.k.a Vinteloper

The name Vinteloper is a mash up of Vin/Vino/Vintner (take your pick) and interloper, a person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong, an intruder, trespasser or invader.

The wines are made by ex basketball player David Bowley, he’s a stand up guy, and when he does stand up his athletic frame towers 2 metres above you! His wines and the thinking behind them are about as contemporary as it gets, he’s not looking to conform but rather make wines in his own unique way, embracing experimentation. Tasting through many of his wines, along with some tasty grub (the way wine ought to be consumed) it was clear to see that he was incredibly passionate about his work and came across as a very approachable and down to earth bloke. He’s the ‘Chief Everything Officer’ of Vinteloper, drafting in friends, family and even his customers when needed, but otherwise doing it all himself. This means that the wines will only ever be made in relatively small quantities, current production levels are around 30,000 bottles total for the 14 – 15 wines that he makes.

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A Vinteloper barrel, some say it contains laughs….

Though not certified he applies organic and biodynamic principles to the Vinteloper home vineyard with a real focus on sustainability that is shared by the growers he works with.

886570_10151878808577887_432557685_oGrowing up in the beautiful Adelaide foot hills you can see how David caught the wine bug, being in such close proximity to some of Australia’s greatest wine regions must be hugely seductive. The city of Adelaide has changed a lot in the past decade or so, from a rather pious City of Churches to a place with a vibrant social scene populated by plenty of great bars and live music venues. A catalyst for this change has been the Adelaide Fringe festival which started in 1960 and has now developed into an annual event and Australia’s largest arts festival, attracting 1.59 million people in 2013 and bringing in $64.6 million of expenditure to South Australia.

Stomping the grapes with his Mrs (the talent behind many of his labels).

Stomping the grapes with his Mrs (the talent behind many of his labels).

The fringe festival has also spawned one of David’s most interesting wines, the Vinteloper Urban Winery Project or VUWP. First made in 2012 from 100% Grenache sourced from nearby McLaren Vale, the following two vintages have been blends (#1 & #2) using everything from Aglianico to Graciano. These are wines made by the people, for the people and came about when David realised that instead of missing the fun and games of the fringe festival due to it coinciding with vintage, he might be able to temporarily re-locate to an unused urban space, have a party and get visitors from all over the world to muck in and help make the wine. How fucking cool is that? This wine fomo lead to literally hundreds of people having a hand (or foot) in making the wine, getting to learn a bit about the process while they’re at it.

Lets make wine and party!

Lets make wine and party!

Urban wineries are nothing new (we’ve even got one in London) but this is a great take on the trend and sounds like a whole lot of fun, crack open a few bottles, slap some tunes on and let’s have a party, if you have to work stupidly long hours you may as well have as much fun doing it as possible. Again the end product not only looks good (bottle design here is from street artist Steen Jones) but also tastes great and is incredibly well priced considering its very limited production. The past two vintages (14’/15’) have been blends of Shiraz & Malbec, David feels this works well across the board with all wine drinkers, new and old.

Label design for VUWP #2 by Steen Jones

Label design for VUWP #2 by Steen Jones

We kicked off the evening with some nicely chilled Pinot Gris out in the sunshine overlooking the Thames just across the way from the Tate Modern and Globe Theater. It’s a fun wine made from a blend of two vineyards, one in Wrattonbully, the other in Southern Fleurieu, partial skin contact and some barrel fermentation lend the palate a decent weight, giving the wine some colour and lifted pear notes, a glugger that lets you concentrate on whoever your drinking it with.

Many of the labels are designed by Davids wife Sharon.

Many of the labels are designed by Davids very talented wife Sharon.

Once sat down with our food orders out of the way we got stuck into a pair of Rieslings and a question: Nature or Nurture? David explained that the fruit for the two wines we were drinking came from the same vineyard in Watervale, Clare Valley, and was farmed organically by a guy called Greg Bryksy at an elevation of 440m. The first wine, R1/14 had gone through a long, cool and controlled fermentation and only ever touched stainless steel prior to bottling, the nurture side of the coin. Classic Clare valley Riesling, which I admit is not a style I go mad for due to the smell of it usually leaning more towards vulcanised rubber than any kind of fruit blossom in its youth. Quite linear at this young stage but with vibrant lime and granny smith acidity that shoots through the palate, one for the cellar.

Label for the OR/13 Riesling by Chantal Faux

Label for the OR/13 Riesling by Chantal Faux

The second Riesling was the OR/13 or ODEON which is really left to its own devices at the fermentation stage, wild yeast and old French barrels are the order of the day here with more time in the bottle before release. To my taste this was a far superior take on the raw materials, offering at least twice as much complexity on both the nose and palate. It really was a joy to drink, the citrus fruit had more purity to it along with a mealy, honey’d character on the nose, full weight on the palate though in no way flabby, gental green spice notes carried the finish, top stuff.
I love it when winemakers do stuff like this, it’s fun, educational and a great way of showing consumers how the stylistic approach a winemaker takes effects what ends up in the glass.

vinteloper_pn13_label_grande.pngPinot Noir
David makes two Pinot Noir wines, though in this instance the fruit comes from different sources. The PN/13 is from a vineyard that he farms on Norton Summit located on the Western limits of the Adelaide Hills, separated from Adelaide by only the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges. The vineyard was planted in 1990 and sits 440m above sea level, grapes are squashed by hand and foot then go through a wild yeast fermentation using a third whole bunches followed by 11 months in (33%) new French oak.
This is a punchy pinot, tightly wound and not for the faint hearted! A large part of the character of this wine is down to the vintage conditions which led to poor fruit set, smaller grapes giving lower yields with more tannin and concentration than usual. David has worked a vintage at Domaine Dubois in Burgundy and spent a fair amount of time in the region since so it’s not too hard to figure out why he’s making Pinot and though I’m sure he would usually prefer a bit more elegance he has clearly embraced the vintage character of this wine. Rich cherry fruit with a good layering of herbs and spice and a well framed tannic structure make this best suited to the dinner table and a decent bit of duck or a few years in the cellar.

A great label though overshadowed by its contents.

A great label though overshadowed by its contents.

The second Pinot we drank was the OPN/12 or Odeon 2012, it was shockingly good juice and another confirmation that Australia is making £ for £ some of the best Pinot Noir on the planet. The fruit for this wine is grown by a guy called Robb Cootes in the centrally located Lenswood area of the Adelaide Hills. Lenswood is one of the youngest townships in the Hills and though the focus is more on farming apples, pears and cherries than grapes, producers like Henschke have brought acclaim to this heartland. The vineyards elevation is slightly higher at 550m, the vines 4 years older but the wine making is similar though 50% whole bunches are used and the wine spends a bit longer in barrel and then bottle. 2012 was a fantastic vintage in these parts and David says that this is the best vineyard that he gets to work with, it’s organically & sustainably farmed and you get the feeling that he wouldn’t hesitate to buy it should it ever come up for sale.
Drinking this wine is a true pleasure and it has a delicacy and layering that even a Burgundian vigneron could not refute, I’m afraid I don’t have any tasting notes for this as I was too wrapped up in its charms but it is a fantastic Pinot. Alas, this beautifully made, artfully packaged (@fauxnonfaux) wine is not available in the U.K and only 42 dozen bottles were made so I doubt it will pass my lips again but if you do come across it don’t hesitate for a second.

The Vinteloper TN/12 Touriga Nacional

The Vinteloper TN/12 Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacional is probably Portugal’s finest red grape variety and one of the main components in the country’s most renowned and long lived wines, Port. Now there’s a time and a place for Port but I much prefer the grape in a dry, unfortified style from either the Dão or Douro regions. It’s a grape variety that is gaining in popularity in Australia and the TN/12 is one of the finest examples I have come across from down under. Coming from fruit grown by Peter & Vicky Widdop in the Langhorne Creek It’s a voluptuous drop with an incredibly attractive nose filled with ripe blue fruit and sweet floral and spice notes on the nose. Creamy rather than rugged tannin in the mouth make this one hell of a seductive wine that can be enjoyed in its own right without the addition of food. Of the Vinteloper wines available in the U.K this would be my top pick.

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The A/13 ADELO

We proceeded to tuck into a number of other bottles over the course of the evening including the A/13 ADELO which is a field blend led by Touriga Nacianal & Shiraz and a rather lovely straight up Shiraz, the SH/12. He also makes a couple of very limited bottlings, long since sold out (Refosco & Moscato anyone?).

Aussie Refosco!?

Aussie Refosco!?

David is one of the most exciting Australian wine makers I have come across in quite a while and I can’t wait to see what sort of wines he makes in the years to come. Adelaide is now a city I’m desperate to visit, surrounded by some of the most innovative, passionate and progressive producers I can think of. This is the new world at its most progressive and experimental, never shying away from the unknown or impossible. Next Generation wines for the modern wine lover, embracing interaction and new ideas.

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Build Your Own – Wine Hipster

HipsterWine hipsters are one of the foodie/drinkie strands of the hipster clan, they are easily discernible by their distinctive dress sense, love of (super) natural wine, extreme beards, wine related tattoos and patronage of  the capitals best bars and wine centric restaurants. The below will not only help you track a real one down and observe it in its natural habitat, it will also explain how to put together the ultimate wine hipster. We will be focusing on the male of the species here as the female is much harder to spot in the wild due to lack of beard.

Give us a kiss x

Give us a kiss x

What do they look like?
There are varying levels of wine hipster but the finest examples will have their hipster cranked up to eleven, exhibiting full on beard action and/or accompanied by a circus strongman style curly mustache.

Too much orange wine?

Too much orange wine can turn your beard orange. FACT.

Headgear can involve everything from a porkpie hat to a beanie you could fit your leg in, often worn half off the head. Haircuts usually involve a shaved back and sides with plenty of growth up top, along with a well defined side parting. There can also be a fair amount of scarf action going on in the colder months, sometimes this can get out of hand. Four wine hipsters died from scarf suffocation in 2014 alone, many blame this on Lenny Kravits

Hipster shirtA check shirt is often part of the mix up, usually accompanied by some form of contrasting braces and even a waistcoat for good measure. Bowties are always a big plus though some of the more refined will go with the buttoned up shirt après tie or similar style granddad collar.

Which ones fake?

Which ones fake?

Visible tattoos also garner extra points, these will often feature a favourite grape variety but be careful, there are many fakes out there, especially when it comes to Riesling. Trousers are likely to be of the skinny persuasion and never quite manage to reach the (usually loud) socks, in extreme cases there will also be a drastically lowered crotch.

Psychedelic Gnome

Psychedelic Gnome

Footwear can show great variation, anything from colorful, often pastel style trainers to crisp brown brogues, even black DM’s are fair game.

Hipster bikeTransportation is usually in the form of a fixie or sit-up and beg bicycle, often plain with highlighted flashes of colour along with some well chosen accessories.

Wheels

Ouch, that looks painful!

Where can I see one in the wild?

East London is your best bet, though they have been known to head into central and even South London of a Saturday to graze and sometimes mate. Head to the following neighborhoods where they are known to roam and you might get lucky;

Dalston, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Broadway market and even as far north as Clapton in deepest, darkest Hackney. To confirm you are observing the real deal and not just any old run of the mill hipster you will need to either sight them with a copy of Noble Rot or stalk them until they enter one of the following shops/bars/restaurants;
East
Brawn, Sager + Wilde, Mission, Newcomer Wines, Noble Fine Liquor, Peg + Patriot, Passione Vino, Verden.
Central
Terroirs, Antidote, Duck Soup, The 10 Cases.
South
40 Maltby Street, Toasted, Bar Tozino, José (or anywhere else Sherry might be served).

Noble Rot: A wonderful magazine but hard to hide.

Noble Rot: A wonderful magazine (& not just for wine hipsters) but hard to hide.

If you are unable to find a wine hipster at one of these spots just sit down and order a glass of something, you’re probably in one of the capitals best wine spots and I’m sure they’ll be one along soon, they have rather good taste (in wine).

RAWTo view this species en masse all you need to do is buy a ticket to RAW the artisan wine fair, held once a year at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, you will not be disappointed, it’s really something to behold!

What you need to build your own wine hipster

Mondavi Specks

Wine peepers

Woodzee Robert Mondavi Recycled oak wine barrel shades £120

Luuuke, I am your father

Luuuke, I am your father

Hair and beard trim at Rocket Barbers £23

Jura Dickie Bow. No, you're a Dickie Bow

Jura Dickie Bow. No, you’re a Dickie Bow

Philippe Bornard Bow tie £20.48

Nightmare on Shacklewell Lane

Nightmare on Shacklewell Lane

Check Shirt £15
Some charity shop off Brick Lane

Pant suspenders? Braces mate.

Pant suspenders? Braces mate.

Braces £25

Hipster socksPlaid turn up trouser £150

Colourful knit socks £20

Watch your creps don't get TCA

Watch your creps don’t get TCA

Nike Air Max 90 Cork Special edition Trainers £180

Maybe not such a good idea....

Maybe not such a good idea….

Assorted wine related tattoos £50-£2000

To stock up your wine hipsters cellar, concentrate on small artisanal producers working in an organic and or biodynamic fashion in the following regions;
France; Beaujolais, Loire, Jura, Savoie.
Italy; Friuli Venezia Giulia, Etna, Sicily.
Slovenia; Brda, Istria.
Georgia; Kakheti.
Greece; Pella
Hungary; Sopron
Austria; Burgenland, Kärnten, Südsteiermark

The only glasses allowed to be used are these ones from Chef & Sommelier (don’t ask me why).

Chef and somm glassSo there you go, you should be able to cobble together a decent wine hipster for just over £600 quid (cellar not included). Happy hunting!

DISCLAIMER – I have nothing personal against hipsters, people with beards/tatt’s/braces/bowties etc. In fact I find them fascinating to observe. No hipsters were hurt in the making of this article which was written to lampoon (love that word) and in jest, if you have been offended I’m sincerely sorry.

NOT x

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R. López de Herdia – Viña Tondonia

Photo 27-06-2006 14 19 46R.López de Herdia are one of Spain’s greatest, most traditional bodegas, founded in 1877 they were one of the first three bodegas in Rioja, following Murrieta (1852) and Riscal (1858). Still family owned and now run by the fourth generation, they have produced wine in the same way for well over a hundred years and remain a stylistic bastion for Rioja’s wines.

Photo 08-04-2015 18 46 47Though I have tasted the wines of R. López de Herdia (or Tondonia as many people refer to them) on many occasions in the past, this was the first time I’d been able to compare a cross section of their wines over a number of decades and the first time I’d laid my lips on their very rare and sought after rosé.

Photo 22-02-2005 17 49 32

Icewine? No, it’s the Tondonia vineyard, winter 2005

I won’t go into detail on the bodegas history, vineyards or wine making in this post, they have a great website that covers this and I plan on visiting the estate later this year so will report back after that. Here I’ll offer you my thoughts and some background on the wines that we drank.

First off the bat, and I don’t know how shocking this is but…. The white wines smashed it and dominated this tasting, clearly over shadowing the reds with a greater complexity and interest (for me at least) than the reds. Though due to the oxidative character these whites may not offer mass appeal, if you are a fan of oxidised wines such as those from Jura or Sherry then you will love these wines.

Whites

Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 05Viña Gravonia Crianza 2004
(Viura) £18.95 Swig
Great nose showing lemon oil, fresh linen, honey poured on walnuts and vanilla yoghurt with passion fruit then with a bit of time in the glass you also get smoky peach and fresh pine needle, waxy and complex.
Has a lovely texture in the mouth, creamy but with lift, in no way flabby. Great mid palate with snappy lemon fruit and a richness on the finish.
92/100pts
Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 13Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 1996
(Viura, Malvasia) £29.99 Wine Bear
Wonderfully rich and creamy nose with a more opulent tropical character than the Gravonia, ripe Brie rind, caramel and lemon curd.
Great balance on the palate with a fine line of acidity cutting through the rich mouthfeel with a clean finish showing lemon sherbet and mango.
94/100pts
Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 21Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva 1987
(Viura, Malvasia) £59.49 Baron Wines
Unique nose that is dominated by lime blossom and green coffee bean, oak flake and tea leaf and a meaty note that is somewhere between white pudding and duck liver paté, bay leaves and bergamot.
Again there is a great balance in the mouth with lightly oxidised stone fruit, rounded though rather linear.
91/100pts
Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 29Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva 1976
(Viura, Malvasia) £136 Dudley-Jones Fine Wines
On the nose there is a great complexity of nuttiness, walnut husk, smoky wood notes along with a bruised orchard fruit and Seville orange marmalade character.
Palate hides the age of this wine well with a sprightly acidity, punchy apple skin and lemon pith, still very fresh.
95/100pts

Rosé

Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 40Viña Tondonia Roasado Crianza 1993
(Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura) N/A
A gentle yet caressing nose of dried rose petals, dried cranberry and fresh red grapefruit with a touch of smoke, quite meaty with a flighty stone and soil character.
In the mouth this would be hard to gauge, age wise, herbal and still quite fresh, firm, classy with some dried red berry fruit and a slight nutty note. This reminded me more of an orange wine rather than any rose I’ve ever tried and is a great food wine that would work well with everything from charcuterie to more spicy dishes.
91/100pts

Reds

Photo 08-04-2015 18 47 48Viña cubillo Crianza 2005
(Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano) £17.49 Wine Bear
Classy red fruit on the nose with sweet redcurrant and rich strawberry, suave,upfront and attractive fruit though rather straight laced.
In the mouth it is well rounded with grippy ripe tannin and firm red fruit, strawberry dominated finish.
88/100pts
Photo 08-04-2015 18 48 00Viña Bosconia Tinto Crianza 1990
(Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano) £N/A in U.K
This wine comes from the El Bosque vineyard located 1km from the winery at an elevation of 465m, the 15ha plot is planted on a mix of clay and limestone soils to 11ha Tempranillo, 2ha Garnacha, 1ha Mazuelo and 1ha Graciano. The Burgundy style bottle is from a wine called ‘Rioja Cepa Borgoña’ that they used to make with a high percentage of Pinot Noir.

I found the wine to be rather attractive straight out the bottle though it seemed to fade pretty quickly with time in glass. The nose showed dried flowers, hoisin and balsamic notes along with dried blackberry, blackcurrant, subtle autumnal notes and hint of smoky BBQ sauce.
Though not would you call fresh there was enough lift on the palate making this soft and very approachable with smoky plum, blackcurrant and dried blueberry.
90/100pts
Photo 08-04-2015 18 48 09Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva 1985
(Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano) £128.59 Fine & Rare
Expressive nose of dehydrated strawberry, autumn leaves with plenty of weight and oomph, mushroom, truffle, blueberry, wet tobacco leaf and an oregano lead herbaceous-nous.
In the mouth there is a sweetness to the dried, well endowed red berry fruit which seems quite youthful with a sharp acidic twist to the redcurrant and cranberry led finish which is fresh and dry.
93/100pts

Photo 08-04-2015 18 48 17Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva 1976
(Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano) £335 Fine + Rare
The nose here, though more evolved is even plusher than the 85’ showing notes of beef jerky, Bovril and well worn saddle leather.
In the mouth this is rather thin and spindly but has great palate intensity with charred black fruit, hoi-sin and BBQ character, a muddy old gent with a long tertiary finish.
91/100pts

Wines tasted on Wednesday 8th April 2015 at The West London Wine School

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Rioja – Keeping it Real

Photo 10-05-2015 17 33 53Rioja is on a roll at the moment, in 2014 over 36 million liters of the stuff were exported into Britain, we now account for up to a third of all Rioja exports and Spain could overtake France as the nation’s favorite wine producer within the next few years. But with the quantity is also great quality, in 2013 Decanter Magazine made Faustino 1 Gran Reserva 2001 its wine of the year scoring it 97/100 points, not bad for a wine that is widely available and comes in at under £20.

FaustinoAcross the pond, Wine Spectator’s wine of the year for 2013 was also a Rioja, the Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 2004, this was the first time a Spanish wine has been given that honor. Last year both white and red Rioja made it onto Decanter’s Top 50 wines for 2014 and the region is in fine form. This all sounds like the perfect excuse to pull some Spanish corks and look at a couple of the region’s best bodegas. In this post we’ll take a look at one of Rioja’s most important producers, CVNE and in particular their Viña Real wines. A recent tasting proved how beautifully these wines can age, managing to retain their soft red fruit well into their dotage.

Imperial

Real History

Viña Real was launched in 1920 by the incredibly sexy sounding C.V.N.E or Compañía Vinícola de del Norte de España (Wine Company of Northern Spain)which, due to a spelling mistake many years ago has become known as Cune (‘coo-nay’) with many of their bottling’s bearing that name. I suppose it rolls off the tongue a little easier than ‘cee-vee-en-ee’ or ‘coov-nee’ so happy days.

CuneOther top bottles in their 12 strong stable include Imperial, whose 2004 Gran Reserva was Wine Spectator’s wine of the year in 2013 and the more recent Real De Asúa which is 100% Tempranillo and made in much smaller quantities than the Imperial in a more international style, both have Bordeaux style bottles with high shoulders. Contino is another of their wineries but considered more of a separate entity with Cune based in Haro, Contino in Laserna and Viña Real in Laguardia.

Vina Real MapInitially called Castillo San Mateo, the name changed to Viña Real or Royal Vineyard at some point in the 20’s but was not properly registered until the 40’s so its unclear what the first vintage was. It takes its name from the Camino Real or ‘Royal Way’ in Elciego, an initial vineyard source of fruit for the wine. The greatest vintage is 1954, the Reserva Especial is rated by many as one of the top 10 Rioja wines ever made. Other top vintages include 34’55’58’64’82’94’95’01’04 & 05’. If possible steer clear of 53’65’71 & ’72.

Winery

Vina Real’s new winery (or maybe not….)

Cune have always tried to maintain a classic style while experimenting with the latest wine making technology, as a company they are leading innovators not only in Spain but globally. In 2004 a state of the art winery was built, designed by Bordeaux-based architect Philippe Mazieres it looks a bit like Jabba the Hutts palace in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi or as though someone has berried a rather large barrel.

Real cellatGrapes are handpicked with half coming from their own vineyards located close to the winery, they have automatic hoppers that gently process the bunches before going through another hand selection. They do the first fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats then malolactic fermentation in a 50/50 split mix of French & American Oak.

Real Wines
There are six wines in the Real stable;

  • • Barrel fermented white, 100% Viura
    • Roasado, usually 85% Viura and 15% Tempranillo
    • Crianza Plata (‘Silver’), usually 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, Graciano & Mazuela aged 13-14 months in French & American oak.
    • Reserva Oro (‘Gold’)same blend/winemaking as the Crianza but aged up 24 months then cellared for at least a year before sale.
    • Gran Reserva is usually 95% Tempranillo 5% Graciano coming from their best plots in Alavesa and aged in a mixture of French & American oak for at least 2 years, followed by at least another three in bottle.
    • Pagos de Viña Real 100% Tempranillo from old vines around the winery, fermentation and aging in 100% new French oak (2001 first vintage)

All the wines go into Burgundy style bottles and the grapes for the Reserva and Gran Reserva wines now come almost exclusively from the Alavesa sub region though in the past up to a third came from Alta.

'Back in line 66'

‘Back in line 66’

Real Old

The below wines were a special consignment that was offered by the Wine Society, the wines had been purchased from a restaurant in Spain and had been properly cellar’d over the years so even the older wines in half bottles really were in pretty decent shape.

Photo 08-05-2015 12 56 04Reserva Especial 1959 £39 (£35 half bottle)
Vintage Rating:Very Good
A complex nose encompassing hoi-sin sauce, a light balsamic note, burnt molasses, mushroom, decaying bark, burnt orange peel, old cigar box, reminds me in a way of Madeira.
In the mouth there is still some acidity with the ghost of some light, delicate barely there red berry fruit, rather subtle length that you could easily overlook.
90pts

Photo 08-05-2015 12 57 24Reserva Especial 1964 (£39 half bottle)
Vintage Rating:Excellent
The quality of the vintage really comes through with a sweetness and floral smoky note, top quality ground coffee, a sweet, meaty note, this really does belie its age and evolves beautifully in the glass
In the mouth there is still a dusting of tannin and dry red berry fruit is more present though there is little complexity or length.
92pts

Photo 08-05-2015 12 58 19Reserva Especial 1966 (£65)
Vintage Rating:Standard
On the nose this has a dominance of PX style fruit, sweet sticky liquorice and touches of iodine.
In the mouth this is rather dried out and the tannins just drop straight off the front palate there is some fruit with a dry, blackcurrant edge, touch bitter and dilute, drinkable and interesting (bit of an odd ball this)but going nowhere.
87pts

Photo 08-05-2015 12 59 12Gran Reserva 1970 (£79)
Vintage Rating:Very Good
A rather interesting perfume with background notes of blackberry but some lovely intricacy, wood spice, truffle, really rather beautiful stuff!
In the mouth this has a delicate, silky front palate with some tannic grip unfurling throughout the length, good acidity, quite taught with a bitter spice and berry finish.
93pts

Photo 08-05-2015 13 00 41Gran Reserva 1976 (£79)
Vintage Rating:Good
Starting to see more sweeter fruited notes and even faint touches of vanilla, complex red berry fruits, damson, fantastic purity.
In the mouth this really is a complete wine with balance across the palate, great acidity and balance with healthy re berry fruit that has only a touch of bitterness to it. This was a great wine but I found the structure more appealing on the 70′.
92pts

Photo 08-05-2015 13 03 29Reserva 1981 (£45)
Vintage Rating:Very Good
On the nose there is good complexity but in a Brett style so saddle leather, dried violets, but also some sweet, fleshy red and black fruit, high toned, gorgeous but may not appeal to all.
In the mouth there is a fullness of balanced fruit, soft, very approachable tannin, a nice line of acidity running through and notes of cola spice and blackcurrant fruit.
93pts

Photo 08-05-2015 13 01 58Reserva 1982 (£45)
Vintage Rating:Excellent
The 82′ has more lift and freshness, lacking the Brett notes of the 81′ the fruit is more expressive here and has a wonderful sweetness to it and is very compact with dark fruit, coffee, intense but elegant.
In the mouth there is more grip than the 81′ but balance, full tannins with a touch of sweetness, a complete wine with a classy length. Seems that it may have more gas in the tank than the 81′
94+pts

Photo 08-05-2015 13 04 29Gran Reserva 1991 (£40)
Vintage Rating:Very good
A very different character coming through here with much more compact, intense but still beautifully perfumed and laden with rich coffee notes.
Silky in the mouth but lacking in intensity, more of a subtlety to the fruit, low key, maybe less ipact than the nose would suggest.
90pts

Photo 08-05-2015 13 05 20Reserva 1995 (£35)
Vintage Rating:Excellent
This really is a very refined wine with intricate spice that is nicely woven in with the fruit, which is ripe and full.
In the mouth the tannins are soft and flesh out towards the end of the palate and has a lively acidity that really carries through the broody, dark fruit.
92pts

Gran Reserva 2005 (£22.26)
Vintage Rating: Excellent
A nose that is full of voluptuous, deep, dark, damson fruit, sweet black olive notes intermingle with freshly baked blueberry pie. In the mouth this has full on black fruits, full but soft tannin. A new style Rioja with plenty of polish, bags of fruit and enough grip and acidity to give it a long life.
92pts

Photo 10-05-2015 17 14 01Pagos de Vina Real 2002 (£45)
This 100% Tempranillo Pagos (similar to clos in France or single vineyard) smells of blueberry pie, damson, dark chocolate, melted liquorice then on to more meaty, peppery notes. The palate is silky smooth and is well balanced, big smooth elegant dark fruit. This wine is a pleasure to drink and shows the Tempranillo grape in a polished, international style.
93pts

Conclusion

This really was a great tasting with nearly all the wines showing very well and managing to retain plenty of interest after all these years. Generally I found that aged Rioja often manages to retain fruit better than many Bordeaux reds of a similar age. In short, if you like your wines with decent bottle age, Rioja is where it’s at! How modern bottling’s hold up with similar age, only time will tell but I’d certainly be excited to try a bottle of Pago in 20 years time. Prices noted are what was charged by The Wine Society, some bottles are available, Fine + Rare have the 81‘ & 68′. Hedonism have some 1949.

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