Archive for the ‘Wine Clubs’ Category

Camelot Wine Circle Tasting

Posted on: October 20th, 2008 by Andrew No Comments

Friday night I was at the Camelot Inn in South Cadbury for the first tasting of the eponymous wine circle reconvened by publican Dave Catton who has reinvented this Inn as a comfortable drinking pub with good food. About ten of us settled into the function room come skittle alley to taste a selection of wines from South Africa. Dave had an idea to add a wine or two to his main list and this was a good way to start the selection. Other merchants will bring their wares over the next few months and in this way a good “specials” selection will be built up.

We kicked off with a range of white wines, starting with a simple Sauvignon from Stellenbosch producer Lyngrove and finishing with a barrel fermented Chenin Blanc from Beaumont Estate in the Bot River region of Walker Bay. These proved controversial with a diversity of opinion that only came together on the Sauvignon, which we all liked. Others found the wines were unbalanced or too oaky or too young. After a break for cheese – a mistake as it turned out in my case because the strong local chedder (Montgomery’s) killed my palate for the reds. However we all waded through five red wines dutifully with I think rather more success. Highlight of the evening was Kumkani‘s Triple J Shiraz which was as good as I remembered; long complex and full flavoured. Simonsig‘s Pinotage was also quite well received despite the general view that pinotage was an overrated variety. Value for money award went for Lyngrove’s excellent 03 merlot which managed to be appealing yet dry and quite complex at the same time. A little clarety in style I thought and a good food wine.

The last wine having been despatched the food was brought out. Expertly prepared by Dave’s wife Alex, this was the best bit of the evening for me. I could shut up and sit down and begin to relax and enjoy the food and company.

A full list of the wines tasted and a brief tasting note follows.

White Wines

Lyngrove 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch

Wholly owned by Dutch importer Baasma, Lyngrove is a holiday destination that happens to have a vineyard. Their wines are good value for Stellenbosch. This has crisp crunchy grassy fruit and a bit of weight. Very SA in style slightly let down by 14% alcohol manifesting on the finish. Otherwise good.

Millberg Cellars 2008 Chenin Blanc Franschhoek

A one time cooperative in this distinct corner of Paarl making simple and inexpensive wines from mainly white varieties. This is clean and slighly off dry but a little underwhelming. Probably too young and needs a little time to come together.

Paul Cluver 2005 Gewurztraminer, Elgin, Overberg

This was an interesting take on this aromatic variety; Gewurz is rarely taken on its own merit but like chardonnay and white burgundy is always compared with its Alsatian cousins. This is in a different style, fresh and quite dry albeit with the aromatic signature for which this grape is famous. Very nice but perhaps lacking a bit of punch; it was nevertheles an intriguing aperitivo style.

Rustenberg 2007 Chardonnay

A heavyweight wine from one of the heavyweight Stellenbosch producers. Rustenberg has enormous cachet and its wines rarely disapoint, indeed this wine is often unobtainable as it sells out most years. However I thought it was far too young and despite its screwcap closure will need a few years for the oak and fruit flavours to properly integrate. We all thought it would probably improve but at the moment it is a little unbalanced. I expect that is how it should be but this is definitely a vin de Garde.

Beaumont Estate 2007 Hope Margueritte Chenin Blanc, Bot River.

Another barrel fermented wine, this time from the less usual chenin blanc. A wine that promises more than it delivers in this vintage. The 06 had been better integrated and more complex and fulfilling. There was nothing wrong with it but at this stage it lacked punch. It did start to develop some secondary fruit character in the glass but I suspect that it could do with a few more years in bottle. A nice experiment for someone.

Red Wines

The first was a simple Cinsaut Pinotage blend from the house of Niel Joubert in Paarl. A good medium priced producer making a range of wines from his own and bought in grapes, this is his base level red. Easy drinking and quite full bodied with the rather clove like Pinotage to the fore. OK and good value

Next up was a bit of a revelation, the above mentioned merlot. Tasting as described a little like a claret, this was mature and smooth with quite a lot of body and character. Showing once again what good value Lyngrove is as a producer, this was well under £6 for a bottle at the case rate.

Quality producer award goes to Simonsig, an original Cape Dutch estate owned and run since 1680 by the Malan family and still Making Top notch wines. Their Cabernet Shiraz 05 is everything that similar priced examples from Oz are not. Great vinosity, spicy, long, complex and not overly fruity. Very good and perfect with the lamb that followed.

Simonsig,s second offering of the night was their 04 Pinotage. Here the consensus was that they had made the best of a bad job. Smooth and full bodied they had almost eradicated the overtly bitter flavours associated with this variety and had made a better than good wine. In my view a pity to waste their time but then I dont like pinotage.

Finally, a revelation from Kumkani, the trading name of a group called the company of wine people They are slightly obscure in origin but really know how to make wine at this level. This 04 Shiraz- called “Triple J” because the vineyard is hand harvested bunch by bunch three times to get the best grapes – is made from fruit grown in the Stellenbosch area and is simply delicious – long, ripe, complex and spicy it went down a storm. This is what they need to grow there, not Pinotage!

If you want more info on these wines either click here to go to our sister site and navigate to the wine in question or follow the link (where available) on this blog.

Blackmore Vale Club July 08 “Sauvignons for Summer”

Posted on: October 7th, 2008 by Andrew No Comments

Blackmore Vale Wine Club

Last month when we had some warm weather I talked about the resurgence of Rose. Now that the rain has returned I am focusing on white wine from the Sauvignon variety. This versatile grape has become a firm favourite for lovers of crisp dry white wines, a wine that goes perfectly with seafood yet can be glugged as an aperitif; appreciated on a balmy evening in the garden or drunk with a hearty meal whilst the rain streams down the windows. In some cases it is aromatic enough to be drunk with that killer of white wine – curry.

Whilst it is the pungent, aromatic examples from New Zealand that have redefined the variety in the UK in recent years, it is not New Zealand but Chile that has really pushed sauvignon into the mainstream, with its well-priced, clean and zesty wines; so much so that Chilean Sauvignon is now a must have on most people’s shopping list; cheap and drinkable – a rare combination.

Much as I like wines from Chile it would be rather dull if all we sold were the most popular and so this month my selection includes wines from Europe, with a Vin de Pays from the Loire, the cradle of Sauvignon and a delicious but underrated blend from southern Spain as well as some fine New World offerings that show off this grape’s appealing qualities.

The wines:
Firstly as mentioned above, a Vin de Pays de Val de Loire called TYDY. The name evokes those natty gadgets that you find in Betterware catalogues or in the classifieds at the back of women’s magazines but is actually a contraction of the name of the winemaker Thierry Delauney. Despite its lowly appellation this wine from Loire specialist Joel Delauney has great finesse with crisp fruit and clean balancing acidity on the finish. Classy and typical of sauvignon from this region at half the price of more exalted names. Perfect with shellfish or grilled salmon.

Next up we have a crowd pleaser from the Americas, a wine from Southern Chile made by Bodegas Canata in the Bio Bio valley. Anyone who knows us knows how enthusiastic we are about the wines from that region, especially the sauvignons. This is because the Bio Bio is so far south that its climate is more like Northern France than the lush semi-tropical valleys around Santiago where the bulk of Chile’s wines are grown, giving finesse and aromatic character to the wines. This example, the Camino del Sur, uses fruit from both regions to make an easy drinking wine that can be drunk on its own yet has a little more style and complexity than its simpler northern cousins.

I first tasted the next wine at a wine fair in London last year that showcased a variety of producers from South Africa. This was a delightful, expressive and well priced wine from Stellenbosch producer Lyngrove. I promptly ordered some but was a little disappointed on receipt of the wine to find that they had sent 2006 instead of the 2007 I had tasted. It wasn’t until we started to get complaints that I tasted the wine again: it was awful, thin, acidic and frankly undrinkable. Happily however the 07 is now here and is tasting as well as it did last October. What a difference a year makes! This fruitier style can be appreciated as an aperitif but will partner seafood or even white meat and salad dishes.

Finally, as promised, a delightful wine from our favourite Spanish producer, Bodegas Piqueras – those of you who were paying attention will recognise the name from my last column on Rosés where Juan Pablo and his brother Angel make exemplary wines at their solar powered winery in this dusty southern corner of La Mancha. Their version is blended with a little verdejo, giving some fatness to the grassy sauvignon and making the wine a little broader and more tolerant of differing food types. Nevertheless the classic gooseberry/asparagus characters that denote this variety are well to the fore giving complexity and lifting it well above the average white wine from this region. Very underrated I think and well worth a second or even third look.

Blackmore Vale Wine Club May 08 “Perfect Pinks”

Posted on: October 7th, 2008 by Andrew No Comments

Blackmore Vale Club

Not so long ago, I’m talking maybe 10 years, wine that wasn’t red or white was viewed with some suspicion by the trade in this country, if not by the public at large.I never really understood this anti rosé bias as I spent many years holidaying in France where when the sun came out, so did the rosé, especially the further south one travelled. However, mindful that this business isn’t about merely indulging ones personal whims I had been reluctant to stock much of the wine in case I was landed with loads of it when winter came around.

Things are different now. People have wised up to the delights of all things pink and sales remain strong throughout the year. We now stock nearly a dozen rosés from all over the place and this month I am offering four of them at the BVM club discount.

Also this month I am introducing an occasional series of matching recipes by Mark Hammick of the European Inn and we kick off with a mouthwatering suggestion to partner the Plaisirs de Gris featured below.

So to the wines:

The first is a simple off-dry blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Vistamar in the Central Valley region of Chile. Vistamar make very drinkable, correct wines from the major varieties in an uncomplicated style. This has had some residual sugar left after the fermentation to give it a hint of sweetness but its pleasant fruitiness gives the wine structure which a lot of off-dry wines at this level lack. Chile is rapidly becoming the place to go for reliability and low prices and Vistamar are right up there for quality and value.

Next off, a very different wine: A Syrah Rosado from southern Spain made by the ever resourceful Bonete brothers at Bodegas Piqueras in Almansa. Almansa is a dusty corner of the vast plateau of La Mancha south of Madrid. It is very dry and at 800 m above sea level relatively cool. When I was there last march it was positively bracing even in full sun. As a result the vineyards are free of pests and weeds and the grapes rarely suffer from disease, so good wine can be made without too much resorting to post production technology. That’s not to say that Piqueras isn’t up to date – their new winery is state of the art and Pablo’s winemaking skills are second to none. This version of Syrah is full flavoured and quite dark for a rosé, but nonetheless presenting ripe raspberry and red fruit flavours with a crunchy slightly spicy finish. With its extra heft it will go with meat and fish dishes and of course, Paella.

The Plaisirs de Gris for which Mark has created the delicious recipe below hails from the D’Oc region of France. This appellation covers the whole of Southern France from west of Provence to just east of Toulouse, but this Perlé style using pink grapes to make pink wine (Gris in French for some reason means pink – why?) is a feature of the coastal region around Narbonne. This little gem is made by burgundy specialists Aujoux in a light very fresh dry style, yet with a subtle hint of soft fruit flavours giving it a lift and belying its pale salmon pink colour. It’s also snazzily presented in clear glass and a metallic grey label round the bottom of the bottle – very Parisian café in style! Delicious on its own as well as with feta salad!

Finally and from much further south we have a wine that fits nicely in between all the others in terms of style. This, a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from Millberg Cellars, Franschhoek, South Africa, has a little more weight than either the Plaisirs or the Vistamar, but is a little more delicate than the Spanish wine. Despite its rather hefty 14%, the wine has elegance and charm, with delicate fruit flavours, the alcohol only betraying its presence right at the end in a hint of sweetness. However the balance is good and this wine slips down a treat. Made by the co-operative at the aforementioned Franschhoek a small area in Paarl north east of CapeTown, this is not expensive and is the kind of wine that you can keep in the fridge for when you get thirsty, rather than for putting away for a special occasion.

Mark’s Recipe

First take a glass of plaisir de gris into the garden whilst you pick four sprigs of fresh oregano per person.
Under a hot grill toast one side of a piece of nice granary bread, then rub the uncooked side with a slice of garlic.
On to the uncooked side of toast put a one centimetre thick slice of Woolsery Fiesta Cheese (Greek Feta will do but local is best).
Drizzle this with Fussels rapeseed oil (Olive oil will do as a substitute) and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Next take three thin slices of fresh tomato on top of the cheese and drizzle with oil, salt and pepper.
Put this under the grill until the cheese starts to brown and the tomatoes look cooked.
Put this on your plate and scatter the oregano on and around it.
Pour yourself another glass of cold pink and serve with a fresh mixed leaf salad. You could add some more oregano to the salad to enhance the flavours.


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