Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Oddbins Autumn Tasting (in-store, exclusives)

Hello again! Last Friday, D and I attended our local Oddbins store for an evening tasting of some of their “exclusive” wines. Exclusive in the sense of only Oddbins sell them, rather than super-pricey or exquisite! The format was informal and the staff were great; welcoming, chatty and enthused about (some of) their wines. 6 whites, 8 reds and two sparklers were lined up. We got there quite early with only a few other people mooching around. I was in Blog mode and wanting to suss out some of their other wines for a near-future purchase, so we got down to business, fast.

We were greeted with a glass of lovely Cava (Tore Oria Brut Cava, 7.5/10, £8.99) which really was great. Nice smooth bubbles, a touch of sweetness and plenty of lingering tropical and citrussy fruitiness. This was followed by a glass of Champers! I nearly choked on my first sip of the Ayala Brut Majeur NV (6.5/10, £27.99) due to the very aggressive mousse (bubbles, in other words!) Noticeably less fruit and more minerally complexity than the Cava. Maybe the Cava spoilt my palate, but I didn’t find this amazing.

We moved onto the table of whites. First up was the Romanian Frunza Pinot Grigio 2009 (6/10 and the best value white, £5.99). This was ok, plenty of tropical fruit, had the typical “Fruit-Salad sweets” aroma. Crisp, fresh, easy drinking and good value. Next was a French white from the Languedoc region and a grape I’ve never even heard of (and neither had the staff! LOL.); Picpoul de Pinet Cháteau la Mirande 2008 (6.5/10, £8.99). To me, the Picpoul grape resembled a Gewurztraminer or maybe Viognier-like. Difficult to describe on a first encounter in an unfamiliar environment. Exotic, interesting and tasty. Not bad value but didn’t shine. Next was a Sauvignon/Chardonnay blend from the Loire; Domaine de Léry Cheverny 2009 (7/10, £9.99). This was pretty good, grassy, minerally and with a fair bit of limey fruit thrown in. A fruit-bomb of a Sauvignon followed: Vina Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (7/10. £9.99). Loads of fruit here, grapefruit, lime and zesty tropical hints. Biting acidity. A little overdone maybe? Next was an Australian Semillon, the Hungerford Hill Semillon 2009 from New South Wales (6/10, £9.99 at present). This was very light, and looking at the alcohol confirmed only 9.5%. Fresh, tangy fruit but more like a lunchtime wine for me. Finally, a bizarre but interesting take on Chardonnay from Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Chardonnay 2009 (7.5/10 and the winning white, £16.99) from the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria, Australia. This really was an odd one. Smoked cheese and ham were my first impressions. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. It was like tasting the air on Bonfire Night! Seriously smoky and savoury but that gave way to more fruit and a balanced acidity. Very interesting but not for everyone I’d imagine. It took me a while to make up my mind. A shame it was the most expensive white of the evening.

Anyway, we downed our (meagre) samples and moved swiftly on to the reds. First up was a Burgundy; Domaine des Marechaudes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2007. (7.5/10, £10.99). Unusual for the French to include the grape in the wine name but hey-ho. This was very good – a great balance of fruit, acidity, tannin and sweetness of the red-berry dominated aroma and taste. A good start. This was followed by a pretty dire Italian offering; Gulfi Rossojbleo 2009 (5/10, £12.99) took the worst value trophy. Cedar wood smells dominated, and it wasn’t very fruit-driven apart from an overly acidic sour redcurrant. We moved on, quickly. Next was a French blend of six grapes; Capucine Vin de Pays de l’Aude 2009 (7.5/10 and best value red, £8.49) Carnigan, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Cab Sauv and Alicante! This was very good, like Cháteauneuf du Pape with a plumy, spicy, lingering taste. Great and great value. Next was a Portuguese blend of indigenous grapes, the Ciconia 2009 (5/10, £8.99). A real deep purple this one but sadly lacking in taste; cherry liqueur but with a Gin-like floral bitterness. Not something I’d expect to find in a red. Again, we moved on quickly. Sadly to another duffer. I though the Vin de Pays de Hauterive Les Clos Red 2008 was tainted. Musty cork taste hence no-score. I was going to ask if it was corked but the room had filled up by now. We were jostling for places in the wine queue and glasses were being thrust forwards like microphones at a press conference!  Next up was a Bordeaux blend, Les Tourelles de Sipian 2007 (6/10, £9.99). This one had an odd vegetal smell. Very tannic so needs time to mellow I think. Decent fruitiness though with plums and blackcurrants. D liked it a lot. Me, not so much. Next was a frankly crap Rioja – the Zinio Reserva Rioja 2004 (4/10 and the worst value wine of the night, £14.99). 2004 was a superlative year for Rioja, however, these guys managed to mess it up. Musty, dusty and with a dark-sherry like taste. Over oxidised maybe? Not good at all. Anyway, on to the final wine of the night and we’d both been looking forward to this one after tasting the Chardonnay – it was the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2008 (8.5/10 and the winning red/wine of the night, £16.99) and it was frankly fantastic! Typical Shiraz smells of peppery, spicy berries with blueberry and plum. Complex, many things going on in the glass. Cracking but bloody expensive. Saying that, I’ll definitely be getting one of these to put away for a special occasion when I go to Oddbins in the near future!

We had a great night. There’s another, bigger one in November with about 40 wines. I advise you to look out for one near you!


Speak to you soon.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

£40 off Virgin Wines - What I chose...

So, as I said recently, I received a £40-off voucher for Virgin Wines so I thought I'd make the most of it!

Taking my own advice for picking a mixed case (see here:) I thought I'd push the boat out a bit and go for some impressive-sounding bottles. Without the £40-off I'd have probably looked to average about £7.50 a bottle (e.g. some £5 bottles, some £7.50 bottles and some £10 bottles to even it out) coming in at a case price of about £90. The beauty of the £40-off meant I could average £10.83 a bottle but still pay only £7.50 a bottle.

I wanted this case to be about discovery. There's a lot of new ground covered here for D and myself. All prices are before the discount (after discount they work out to be an average bottle price of just £7.57!)

So, here's what I went for...

1. Sparkler – Ridgeview Cuvee Merret Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2006, £18.99. English sparkling wine from Surrey, but made in the traditional method like Champagne. A recent award winner in the Decanter World Wine Awards.

2. Rose – Chateau du Seuil, Bordeaux Rose, 2008, £8.99. A Welsh connection here! This Chateau was bought by a Welsh couple in the 80s and is now run by their daughter and husband. Even has the Welsh dragon on the bottle!

3. The “off the wall” one – The Seventh Row, Petit Verdot, South Africa, 2010, £7.99 I've never had pure Petit Verot before and normally only seen it in Bordeaux blends so I thought this would be a good one to expand the old horizons!

4. Something for the cellar (or wardrobe) – Perez Cruz, Syrah Reserva Limited Edition, 2006, £13.99. A cool-climate Syrah from Maipo Valley in Chile. Cellarable for up to 10 years so drink by 2016. Hopefully this will mature nicely?

5. Old World White #1 – Miudino Albarino, Spain, 2009, £9.49. An Albarino from Rias Baixas. We've tasted one of these before in a tasting. That one was like peach schnapps so I wonder if this one will be the same.

6. Old World White #2 – Chibet Chardonnay, Vin Pays d'Oc, 2006, £6.99. The warmer climate of Southern France should lead to more fruit and less minerality than a Chablis or White Burgundy so this might resemble more New World styles of Chardonnay. We'll see...

7. Old World Red #1 – Vinzelo, VinhoTinto, Douro, DOC, 2008, £6.99. A Portuguese appelation. Red blend of Touriga Nacional and some other indigenous grapes I beleive.

8. Old World Red #2 – San Felice, Chianti Classico, DOCG, 2006, £11.99. A classic food wine. Hailing from Italy's Tuscany region, Chiantis are normally 80 to 100% Sangiovese.

9. New World White #1 – Devil's Peak, Special Edition Chenin Blanc, 2008, £7.99. The Cape region of SA is supposed to do Chenin very well indeed.

10. New World White #2 – Vina Leyda, Single Vineyard Riesling, 2008, £9.99. From Chile's Leyda Valley, a recognised "terroir" now producing great wines with a sense of where they are from. Again, we'll see...

11. New World Red #1 – Beneficio, McLaren Vale, Single Vineyard Shiraz-Viognier, 2008, £16.49. From the outstanding McLaren Vale region of Oz. They produce some amazing Shiraz and the Viognier should give this a "lift".

12. New World Red #2 –Fabre Montmayou, Patagonia Barrel Selection Malbec, 2007, £10.99. I scored this producer's Mendoza Malbec Gran Reserva very highly so I was interested to see what the Patagonia -grown Malbec would be like. Again, a Welsh connection - there are a colony of Welsh speaking folk in Patagonia!

So that's it. After the discount £90.88 spent, £7.57 a bottle! Not bad as there's some expensive bottles in there! I'll review these as we get through them. I'm looking forward to them all so...it won't be long!

Speak to you soon.



Wednesday, 22 September 2010

How to pick your own superb mixed case

Picking your own mixed-12 can be daunting. Where do you start? There’s so much choice. I’ve found myself spending hours pouring over wine lists and websites so I thought I’d try and structure it a bit to make it easier.

Picking to this plan allows me to get the maximum amount of diversity, not only for the blog, but for myself also. It provides a really good mix of everything and suits (more or less) my drinking habits: the occasional sparkler and rose, while the majority is red or white. In all honesty though, if I wasn’t writing the blog then I would probably add another red or two and take away a white or two. But in the interest of being as fair as I can to all tastes, I’ll keep it even-Stevens. 

Anyway, here’s how it looks:

1. Sparkler – If you’re feeling flush get Champagne or otherwise a sparkling white, rose or even red! Great to celebrate an occasion, a Friday, or whatever you want!
2. Rose – Go on, it’s ok to like it!
3. The “off the wall” one – Something different! A new or whacky grape/region combination. Something you haven’t tried. Expand your horizons!
4. Something for the cellar – (or wardrobe) Get a “nice” bottle, something that will age and has a good few years before the “drink by” date is up. Push the boat out, get something special, put it away for a few years. Will it be worth the wait?
5. Old World White #1 – As it says on the tin. Somewhere in Europe. Can be an old classic or a new discovery. Whatever you want.
6. Old World White #2 – Same as above. Something new or an old favourite? Up to you.
7. Old World Red #1 – A red this time. Somewhere in Europe. Can be an old classic or a new discovery. Whatever you want.
8. Old World Red #2 – Same as above. Something new or an old favourite? Up to you.
9. New World White #1 – As it says on the tin. Something not from Europe!
10. New World White #2 – There’s definitely a pattern developing here…
11. New World Red #1 – and again…and finally
12. New World Red #2 – done!

If you want to focus on discovery then go for things you would not normally go for, or haven’t tried before. One thing to remember though - It’s not rigid. Just a guideline. Feel free to get a case of 12 New World reds if you feel like it, and I can’t absolutely guarantee that I won’t do the same sometime down the line.

If you “know what you like and like what you bloody well know”, then stick to it! Maybe you love Syrah/Shiraz – why not compare France vs. NZ vs. Chile vs. Oz for the reds. The Malbec lovers amongst us could find the best region for Argentinean Malbec (e.g. Mendoza vs. Salta vs. Patagonia). Are there Chablis beaters in the New World? The possibilities are endless. One thing to bear in mind though…

Always be cost conscious and…yes, you’ve got it…frugal! Be on the lookout for value for money. Make the most of introductory offers, money-off coupons, promotional discounts and look at the bin ends. Using these offers can either:
a) allow you to trade-up to a higher quality of bottle but still keep the same price you would have been prepared to pay; for example if you’re prepared to pay £7.50 a bottle on average (£90 per case of 12) but you see a 20% off deal, then that allows you to go for an average bottle price of £9.37! OR, more obviously perhaps…
b) Save you some cash. For example, your £90 case becomes £72 with 20% off - meaning an equivalent bottle price of just £6!

Some merchants offer £20, £40 or even more off your first order meaning massive savings, or indeed, big trade-ups in quality. Often they want to tie you in to buying regular cases off them every few months – but you simply decline (make sure you do or you may have an unwanted case on your doorstep and your wallet will be several quid lighter!).

Anyway, I’m off to scour the Virgin Wines website. I just received a £40-off voucher. I didn’t really fancy their ready-mixed cases, so I’m going to pick my own mixed-12 and follow my own advice…I'll let you know how I got on...

Speak to you soon!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Tesco Delicious Dozen final part...

Welcome to the final part of the Tesco "Delicious Dozen" review. If you're not familiar with the Blog then please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit in the Blog Archive, and read my welcome notice here: 

Ok, so these were again served up blind, without me seeing the bottles. Bit of a disappointing end to the case this...First up the two reds, or so we tried...

Faustino Rivero, Rioja Reserva "Black Label", 2003

Really looking forward to this...13%

The Look: Beautiful brick red with signs of brown showing its age.

The Smell: Urgh. Not good. Musty, dusty, old cardboard. Off.

The Taste: Not good. Musty, dusty, old cardboard. Off.

The Score: Disappointingly off - corked. 1/10 Corked.



The Stonewalker, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, 2009

14%. Again, looking forward to this one, but again...

The Look: A really deep hue of purple.

The Smell: FFS! Off again! Musty cardboard, bad cork.

The Taste: Horrible cork taint.

The Score: Bleurgh.  1/10  Corked.



Lets hope the whites do a bit better...

Jacktone Ranch, Viognier Reserve, California, 2008

A stable mate of the red in the earlier Tesco review. 13.5% alcohol this one.

The Look: Again, a typical pale, mid-yellow.

The Smell: Floral and perfumed, grapefruity.

The Taste: Smooth, but with an almost "bubbly" acidity. Long finish of mellon and grapefruit. Refreshing. Was great with our cod fillets and parsely sauce. Ever so slightly off-balance with the acidity a bit too sharp, but not too distracting.

The Score: This is good, especially for a fiver! 7/10 Recommended.

VFM: at the case price of £5 a bottle it gets an excellent VFM = 1.4, At its regular price of £10 it still gets a respectable VFM =  0.7.


and finally...

The Stonewalker, Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa, 2010

Fresh off the blocks this, being a 2010. Failry light at  12% alcohol.

The Look: Not quite water-white, but a lemony pale yellow.

The Smell: A nice smell of tropical fruit and the characteristic limey, grassy hints of Sauv Blanc.

The Taste: Not quite as good as the smell suggests. Ok flavours of tropical fruits and zesty citrus, but pretty poorly done. Nagging bitterness on the mid and back palate.

The Score: Ok, but no great shakes. Ok, it's only a fiver but I think I'd rather pay another quid or two to get something with better flavour. 5.5/10 

VFM: at the case price of £5 a bottle it gets an excellent VFM = 1.1, At its regular price of £10 it gets a pretty average VFM =  0.55.


So there we have it. A pretty poor end to the Tesco Delicious Dozen case. 3 bottles were corked out of 12. I'm not sure how to get refunds (or even if the do them) from Tesco Wine so I'll have to let this one slide. There were a couple of recommendations and pockets of great stuff, but essentially limited appeal. 


Three corked bottles in 12? I think I'll be avoiding Tesco mixed cases from now on, at least until they get their shit together, but will probably still pop in to the store, or order things online that I know are good, like the excellent Taniwah Sauv Blanc here: and the odd bottle of Maycas del Limari Syrah here:



Semi-blind tasting continues...

So as I've said in  previous posts, I'm trying to develop my blind tasting skills. D serves them up at random, with bottles hidden from view and I have to guess at the 

  • Grape type
  • Country or Region
  • Year
  • Alcohol level

So, here are my notes, transcribed directly from my note book: We'll forget the two corked reds and just show the whites this week....

Wine #1:

Initial nose is intriguing, floral perfumed, maybe Viognier or Gewurz? Medium yellow, pale. 13 to 13.5%. Initial thoughts are Viognier - bubbly acidity, smoothness, melon and grapefruit. Ever so slightly off balance - acidity-wise. Nice with the Cod.

The guess: Viognier, New World - maybe Australia?, 2008, 13.5%

The reveal: Californian Viognier, 2008, 13.5%! Ah, nearly!!! I wouldn't really know how to tell Cali from Oz in a Viognier anyway. NOTE TO SELF: Once you can pick out a grape you need to examine the nuances of each region to identify them. Learn!


Wine #2:

Not water-white but pale lemony yellow. Lovely limey, citrussy, grassy smells. Sauv Blanc? Ok. Tropical and zesty/grassy citrus but not very good. Too bitter. Acidity over cooked. Light one, not much alcohol, 12.5%? Young.

The guess: Cheap Sauv Blanc, not very good vineyard, Chile or South Africa, 2009. 12.5%.

The reveal: Soth African Sauv Blanc! 2010. 12%! Again pretty close. I think I could pick out Sauv Blanc even with a cold now! Still, I have no idea how to pick out the individual regional characteristics apart from maybe France vs. New Zealand. NOTE TO SELF: Need to learn the regional differences. Drink more wine to find out! Yeahssssssssss! :)


So, there's the first two cases finished! Not a bad drinking effort. This coming friday (24th Sept) we have an Oddbins in-store tasting. I will write that up at the first opportunity over the weekend (probably). I've also devised a plan to get the maximum diversity out of picking your own mixed 12 - to try and discover new wines or beat old favourites. Stay tuned for that. Anyway...

Speak to you soon!




Friday, 17 September 2010

Nothing to worry about...

...just claiming my Technorati blog listing token... 7D2S2MFMX95H


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Laithwaites Experts' Choice - final part

Welcome to the final part of the Laithwaites Experts' Choice review. If you're not familiar with the Blog then please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit in the Blog Archive, and read my welcome notice here: 

Ok, so we are down to the final four bottles from this case, all white. Again, these were again served up blind, without me seeing the bottles. First up...

Prospector's, Viognier, Clare Valley, 2009

From winemaker Neil Pike, the grapes for this are grown on the eastern side of the cool-climate Clare Valley of South Australia. 13.5%

The Look: Fairly pale-mid-yellow.

The Smell: Slightly muted, maybe it was served a bit too cold. Maybe apple and citrus hints.

The Taste: Nice acidity, almost giving a bubbly feeling on the tongue. Smooth. Apples, citrus and maybe apricots.

The Score: This is good. Easy drinking and a long refreshing finish. 7/10 Recommended

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gets a good VFM = 0.78, At its regular price of £8.99 it is more or less identical value.


Il Papavero, Pinot Grigio, Sicily, 2009

By winemaker Scipione Giuliani. My experience with this label is a generic sweet red plonk that somehow manages to be Laithwaite's most re-ordered red wine! Let's see if this is better... 13%

The Look: A pale watery lemon yellow.

The Smell: Unmistakeable "fruit salad sweets" smell of Pinot Grigio. Tropical, pineapple.

The Taste: Suprisingly good. Tropical fruit but with that slight bitterness of grapefruit on the mid-palate. Pineapple to finish. Lovely. Good refreshing acidity.

The Score: Good, fruity, easy-drinking, refreshing acidity...well done 7/10 Recommended

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gets a good VFM = 0.78, but at its regular price of £6.99 it still gets a very good VFM =  1.0. one to get on its own or in a cheaper mixed case.


Angove, Gewurztraminer, South Australia, 2009

Normally associated with the Alsace region of france, these folks (descendents of a Cornish doctor who emigrated to Oz in the 1880's and grew grapes as a hobby!) gave it a bash. 12.5 %

The Look: A lovely golden yellow with slightly green tinges.

The Smell: Big whiffs of Lychees, ginger, and lots of flowers and herbs. There's a lot going on in the glass!

The Taste: Not quite as powerful as the smell suggests, but lovely tastes of ginger, grapefruit, herbs, flowers and minerals. Complex falvours, just a bit restrained.

The Score: This was actually my first Gewurz! And I liked it! Will be on the lookout for more. Good stuff here, very enjoyable... 7.5/10 Highly Recommended for the experience!

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gets an pretty good VFM = 0.84, BUT, this is avaialble for £7.49 in single bottle quantities so cheaper, and better value to go for one of those, giving excellent VFM =  1.0. So one to try on it's own or in your own mixed case.


Domaine Mercadier, Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2008

A Chardonnay from the warm southern Languedoc-Roussillon  region. 12.5%

The Look: A plae lemonny yellow.

The Smell: Quite floral. Apricots and honey. Nutty-sweet like almonds maybe?

The Taste: Definite honey. Nectarines, peach, slight minerality and some floral hits. Smooth. Almost like a good white Burgundy. Very slightly "too noticable" on the alcohol front, slight burn. spicy finish.

The Score: This is good. A much better alternative to expensive white Burgundy for those, like ourselves, who are budget conscious. 7/10 Recommended

VFM: Again, this is another one cheaper on its own: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gets a VFM = 0.78, but you can get this on its own for £6.99 it still gets an excellent VFM =  1.0


So, a strong finish for the laithwaites case. All four scoring 7 or more and recommended. Good going. That brings the average score of the case  to 7.79/10 and therefore the overall VFM to 0.87. Not bad at all. I'd advise you all to look into Laithwaites, they're a great bunch with great customer service. This case wasn't too shabby at all so I think we'll be returning here in the not too distant future to seek out even more quality and value.



Semi-blind tasting continues...

So as I've said in  previous posts, I'm trying to develop my blind tasting skills. D serves them up at random, with bottles hidden from view and I have to guess at the 

  • Grape type
  • Country or Region
  • Year
  • Alcohol level

So, here are my notes, transcribed directly from my note book:

Wine #1:

Mid to pale yellow. Quite muted nose, maybe apple and citrus. Nice acidity, almost bubbly feeling. Apply, citrus, apricot? Smooth like Viognier but can't taste any mellon or peach. 13.5%. Young, 08 or 09. Pinot Grigio?

The guess: Pinot Grigio (wild guess), Er, Italy I guess... 2009, 13.5%

The reveal: Australian Viognier, 2009, 13.5%! Oh well, way-off here! I should have listened to myself with the smoothness comment! Silly boy again!. NOTE TO SELF: Remember the smoothness! And Pinot Grigio does not tend to tast like Viognier!


Wine #2:

Palewatery mid yellow. Quite sticky, 13.5% or high residual sugar? Smells like "Fruit salad sweets" and I've smelled this before in wine! Pinot Grigio! Dry, grapefruit, slight bitterness on mid-palate. Pineapple and tropical fruit. Lovely. 2008.

The guess: Italian Pinot Grigio, 2008,  13.5%.

The reveal: Italian Pinot Grigio, 2009, 13%. Oooooh, so close!  NOTE TO SELF: Not too bad!


Wine #3:

Lovely golden yellow. Is that a green tinge? High alcohol? 13.5% Lovely smell of lychees, gingery, herbs and floral notes. Same on the taste, but with a slight bitterness. Minerally. Not as tasty as the smell suggests. Still very good!

The guess: I might be cheating a bit here, but I remembered the case had a Gewurz, and although I've not had one before, I know it's associated with the smell of lychees! Gewurztraminer. Er, anywhere? 2008. 13.5%

The reveal: Australian Gewurztraminer, 2009, 12.5%. Ok so I was off on the alcohol, didn't know where it came from or what year, but I got the grape. NOTE TO SELF: You cheated. 


Wine #4:

Medium yellow with pale lemon hue. Chablis? Smells a bit like Chablis. Apricot, honey, slightly floral, maybe almonds or something nutty-sweet? Taste is honey, melon, nectarine, delicate, floral, subtle minerals, peach. Smooth like Viognier. Spicy finish. White Burgundy maybe? No, no apples or citrus. Chardonnay blend? Old world, I think, but where?

The guess: Ok, wild guess: French Chardonnay blend, 2007, 13%.

The reveal: French pure Chardonnay but from the Languedoc, 2008, 12.5%! Ah damnit, recognised the chardonnay but the warmer region led to more honey/spice and threw me off track. NOTE TO SELF: Almost there, you knew it wasn't chablis and it was Chardonnay but dismissed the other characteristics as a blended grape.

So, there we have it. Next time around, the final part of the Tesco case and then on to some new wines. Woop woop.

Speak to you soon!



Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tesco Delicious Dozen Part 2...(& semi-blind tasting)

Welcome to the second part of the Tesco "Delicious Dozen" review. If you're not familiar with the Blog then please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit in the Blog Archive, and read my welcome notice here: 

Ok, so these were again served up blind, without me seeing the bottles. We had the two whites first this week:

Abbot's Vale Chardonnay-Viognier, Yarra Valley, 2008

Made by Kate Goodman of Punt Road winery in the Yarra Valley. This is cool-climate Victoria (this winery also makes a lovely Punt Road 2005 Shiraz which is maturing nicely now). 13% alcohol.

The Look: A pale, medium yellow

The Smell: Quite restrained, but subtle hints of apple and mellon. D says "water mellon".

The Taste: Wow. The first thing you notice is the texture - like silk, or a glass of cream. So smooth. Oppulent apples, mellon, cream and peaches. Beautiful. Very drinkable

The Score: This really is very good. I'd never have expected a £5 bottle to be so good. 8/10 Highly Recommended.

VFM: at the case price of £5 a bottle it gets an excellent VFM = 1.6, At its regular price of £10 it still gets a pretty good VFM =  0.8. Snap it up while it's still a Fiver! Seriously, get some - I will be getting more...


Domaine Baillard, Chablis, 2008

An AOC Chablis produced by Jean Claude Fromont.12.5% alcohol

The Look: Again a pale medium yellow, lighter than expected.

The Smell: Apples, tropical fruit and maybe a bit toasty.

The Taste: Beatiful, good fresh acidity, lots of fruit with apple, pineapple, tropical fruits but with a steely-dry minerality. A long finish - you can taste this for a ges after swallowing.

The Score: Very well balanced. Very good 7.5/10 Recommended

VFM: at the case price of £5 a bottle it gets an excellent VFM = 1.5, but the true bottle price is £13, giving a modest VFM =  0.58. Definitely one to look for in a mixed case at reduced price, but good nonetheless!

Jacktone Ranch, Petit Sirah, California, 2008

Produced at an old mid-19th century horse breeding farm, who were the first to plant vines in the San Joaquin valley. Petit Sirah is also known as Durif. 14% alcohol.

The Look: A very dark, deep purple turning to violet at the rim.

The Smell: Strong smell of blackcurrants/Cassis with some spice and pepper, maybe some sweetish vanilla.

The Taste: Much the same as the above! Lovely spicy blackcurrants. Alcohol is slightly overdone leaving a burning sensation on the tongue. Not much complexity.

The Score: A decent fruity drop for the price. 6.5/10 

VFM: at the case price of £5 a bottle it gets a very good VFM = 1.3, but I'm not sure what the regular price is as it seems to be out of stock now.


Left Bank, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux AOC, 2007

Modest Bordeaux AOC here, and 2007 was a particularly un-ripe year so not expecting big things...

The Look: To be honest I didn't make a note because...

The Smell: ...Phoo, that's not right. Musty and sour.

The Taste:  Horrible musty, sour, cardboard and mouse pee (or what I imagine that would taste like). Corked.

The Score: Probably one of the worst cork-taints we've had. 1/10 It's a shame, it could have been good but we'll never know.

VFM: Not applicable. I guess we were due a corked wine - they say 1 in 12 bottles are corked or otherwise tainted and we've had a good run lately. Oh well, such is life. If this was the Laithwaites case I'd get a full refund, although with Tesco, I'm not so sure?


Okey doke, so there's part 2 of the tesco case done. Next time around part 3 of the Laithwaites case, the final four whites. There will be one more part to the Tesco case and then we'll be looking for some new cases! We have an Oddbins tasting coming up soon, so if we're impressed we may go there (they offer 20% off mixed cases and your tasting ticket price back). Also, I've received a £40 off Virgin Wines voucher, so I really should take advantage of that in the pursuit of oenological frugality!



Semi-blind tasting continues...

So as I've said in  previous posts, I'm trying to develop my blind tasting skills. D serves them up at random, with bottles hidden from view and I have to guess at the 

  • Grape type
  • Country or Region
  • Year
  • Alcohol level

So, here are my notes, transcribed directly from my note book:

Wine #1:

Pale medium yellow. Sticky. 13.5%? Beautiful texture - like cream! Restrained nose, maybe mellon and apple. oppulent and smooth. Peaches, just off-dry. Chardonnay? Smoothness could be Viognier? Great. Oak aged I think, 2007. White Burgundy, good quality.

The guess: Chardonnay, probably very good quality white Burgundy, 2007, 13.5%

The reveal: Australian Chardonnay-Viognier, 2008, 13%! I picked up the Chardonnay but dismissed the Viognier. Silly boy. NOTE TO SELF: The smoothness comes from Viognier and so does the Mellony flavour. White Burgundy is more of a "pee-like" yellow, for want of a better expression!


Wine #2:

Pale medium yellow again! 13%, not so sticky. Smells of apple, tropical and toasty. Good acidity, fresh, balanced, smooth, steely dry. Minerally. Apples, tropical fruits, pinapple. Long finish. Good Chardonnay? 2008. Yes.

The guess: Chablis. 2008. 13%.

The reveal: Chablis! 2008! 12.5%! Oh God-Damnit, so, so close! NOTE TO SELF: Ok clever-cloggs, so you can pick out Chablis occasionally.


Wine #3:

A very deep dark purple with violet rim. Quite sticky, 14%? Strong blackcurrant/cassis smell. Cab Sauv? Spicy though, spicy like Shiraz! Taste is spicy blackcurrant, pepper. Alcohol is overpowering. Slight burn. This is new world due to power and colour. A bit of oak so maybe 2 year old, 2008? Blackcurrant and oak has to be Cab Sauv? USA?

The guess: USA Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, 14%

The reveal: Bloody Petit-Sirah (i.e. Durif)!. California.2008. Hmmm, thrown by this one! It was too spicy for Cab Sauv but too blackcurranty for Shiraz, although it had the deep colour that could have been either. Label says "Blackcurrant and oak" so got that right but, NOTE TO SELF: Recognise this for the future. You've had Durif before and should know it!


Wine #4:

Uch! Corked! Sour, musty cardboard and mouse piss!

The guess: N/A

The reveal: N/A

So, not too bad on the whites. Bit of a non-event on the reds this time around. Looking forward to the next wines, which will be the remaining four whites from Laithwaites -all blind!

Speak to you soon!



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bank Holiday Wine-Off

Ok so I’m a little late in writing this one but I’ve been suffering from a migraine since Monday. Today’s the first day I can even look at a computer screen!

First up, thanks to our friends for hosting this and orchestrating the whole thing! The original plan was to bring a couple of wines (maximum spend £25 per bottle) for a head to head taste-off. However, when we got there the aroma of delicious food wafted through the air as we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco. To our surprise, a very well structured evening had been planned out with various courses of food for wine pairing and comparing/contrasting. I’d rustled up a couple of gems from my cellar (read wardrobe) for the occasion.

The Prosecco Ca’ Rosa NV (Oddbins £8.99 here: ) was very good, bready, great bubbles and plenty of acidity on the bright finish. 7/10. The first dishes to be brought out were pan-seared tuna with sweet pepper and chive and hot-smoked salmon with crème fraiche and lemon on a crostini. Accompanied by the rest of the Prosecco and a very minerally "Groovey" Salomon Grüner Veltliner from Austria (Oddbins £8.49 here: ). Its restrained fruit and light structure lent itself very well to the fish course. Hints of apple and pear with a good acidity and smoothness. However, I don’t think it would have shone on its own. 6.5/10. Food was superb.

Next came duck carpaccio (although slightly over-done for our benefit; we’re not fans of raw meat) with duck crackling on a leaf of bok choi, and chilli infused cheese with tomato and basil on a sponge-like base that I’ve never seen before! Two of my wines were up; the 5th growth Chateau Lynch Moussas 2006 (Laithwaites, £16.50, not available from here anymore but try elsewhere), from Pauillac, Bordeaux and a grand-old Rioja Gran Reserva from 1998, the Fortaleza de Imas (I think I only paid £10.49 for it – must have been on offer, Laithwaites, Not available any more :( ). The were up against The Tin Mine 2006 (Oddbins, £10.99, here:), from Stellenbosch South Africa. A blend of Shiraz, Cab Sauv, Merlot and unusually, Primitivo. This had lots of cherry and blackberry but the alcohol was still a little overpowering leaving a burning sensation on the tongue. Another few years in bottle should see this emerge! 6/10. The Bordeaux was typical deep red/mid purple in hue, with cherry, blackcurrant and oak smells. Tannic and almost porty in taste. Lovely but not superb 7/10. The Rioja, in all honesty, I was hoping that it hadn’t gone off, after so much bottle age and not having much luck with Rioja. So what a great surprise it was…Lovely brick red colour with brown tinges, showing its age. Raspberries, strawberries, oak and spice smells and tastes. So full of fruit, not muted at all. Fantastic. Clear winner of the round here, and everyone in agreement. 9/10. Food was lovely.

The next round would be a difficult one. My Trapiche Orellana Single Vineyard Malbec, Mendoza 2007 (Laithwaites, £22, here) would be up against two other wines and have to accompany honey & mustard glazed Lamb with baby onions and red wine sauce, and red Thai Lamb curry in a courgette “bowl”. First up was the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley 2007 (Oddbins, about £18 but not available any more from here), traditionally an excellent pairing with Lamb. It lived up to tradition – very deep purple with a powerful blackcurrant smell. Lots of blackcurrant fruit and still plenty of tannin. This was surprising as I’m familiar with other Cono Sur offerings, often leaving me less than pleased. However, this one really is a cut-above. Very good 7.5/10. Next up was Edgebaston The Pepper Pot (Oddbins, £12.99 here:), Stellenbosch, 2009, a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat. A very similar deep purple to the Cab Sauv. Lots of pepper, spice, plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. Stood up and punched through the curry with ease, still displaying lots of fruit. This was really, very good. 8/10. Last up was the Trapiche. I was expecting big things from this, especially being a Malbec fan and its price. A nose of cherry and tobacco, maybe hints of leather. A lighter red than most Malbecs, more reserved, more finesse than the teeth-stainers, but to its detriment. Spicy black cherry and blackberries, plenty of tannin but, ultimately, disappointing for £22. The acidity was still a bit harsh. One to put away for a few years and try again, 6.5/10. So a clear winner for this round was the young South African blend, the cheapest of the three at £12.99 and literally blowing the others out of the water. Superb stuff, I have to get some! Food was great.

Finally, the two heavyweights were up. Pitted against each other, dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chocolate with chilli and a selection of cheeses and crackers. First was the Matetic Vineyards “Corralillo” Organic Syrah Reserve 2006 from San Antonio, Chile (Oddbins, £16.99 here:). A very dark purple, almost opaque with ruby at the rim of the glass. A powerful smell of caramel, pepper, nettles, maybe damsons and dark chocolate. Very little fruit on the nose which was surprising as it had massive fruit on the palate. Very complex, lots of flavours to try and pick out, with refreshing acidity. Very nicely done but atypical if you’re used to big Aussie fruit-bomb type Shiraz. Cool climate Syrah is typified here with great fruit but above all complexity. It stood up to the dark chocolate and was great with the saltier or smoked cheeses. Great stuff 8.5/10. The Enamore 2007 Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet, Bonarda (Oddbins, £15.99, here:) followed, with a lovely sweet raisiny smell. Made in the style of Amarone where the grapes are partially dried. Sweet raisins, plums and blackberries on the palate. The elements of alcohol, tannin, sweetness and fruit combined perfectly here into a fitting end to the night (well, almost) and went well with the sweeter cheeses. All in all, a bit too sweet but well done 7/10.

So, after everything had been tasted, there were murmurings of our Rioja being the wine of the night, which I was both surprised and pleased with. However, it was decided to go through them all again in the same order but a bit quicker to see if anything had changed or opened up marvellously. Most wines, we all found, had opened up, over the several hours, and were displaying more fruit characteristics and a bit more nose. However, we were all far too pissed at this point to make proper judgements, so I guess wine of the night remains undecided.

At some point, all the wine had disappeared and someone decided it would be good to move on to Jaeger and Palinka (Hungarian moonshine made from fruits and honey) which was over 60% alcohol by volume! Lovely fruity/honey followed by HOLY SHIT MY MOUTH AND CHEST ARE ON FIRE. It made D sick and made me sick the following morning. Palinka: 3/10.

NOTE TO SELF: Never, EVER, drink it again!

When I can face it, I’ll be drinking some wine again and posting the reviews here!