Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A bit of Italian for dinner

 Remole by Frescobaldi

What to have with dinner tonight is the perennial question. You could go with the old tried and true Aussie something or other or cheap new world red or white but what about Italy? I went to an Italian tasting not long ago and they are coming up in leaps and bounds. So, the other day, when I was staring at the wall of wine in the shop, I gravitated toward Italy and picked up this little number from Tuscany.

Remole is a blend of sangiovese with a touch of cabernet to give it a bit of colour and heft. On pouring, it gave off aromas of cherry and red berry fruits, very clear, ruby red in colour. On pouring it down my throat, more of that cherry goodness with a mix of juicy strawberry, ripe cherry, a blackcurrant backdrop and a hint of brambly pepper with a dark chocolate finish. Delicious. We had BBQ chicken, spicy couscous and hummous with this and it was a perfect palate cleanser between each bite. Fresh and fruity just begging me to take another bite, which is what any good food wine should do.  

Wine Stats:
Year: 2006
Alcohol: 12.5% 
Region: IGT Tuscany
Varietal(s): blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon
Retail price: £6.99
In a nutshell: fruity red for dinner

Wine tryvertising

Isn't this a great idea! I was on and stumbled across this on their forum. "Tryvertising" is the new catchphrase making the rounds in marketing land. Wine and tryvertising were made for each other. As a matter of fact, I think you could say that wine came up with the idea first, with cellar door tastings, etc. It just didn't have the catchy name. 

A company by the name of Wineside is offering...

 "...both sweet and classic wines in patented, flat base glass tubes with screwtops carefully engineered to protect the wines flavour....Wineside's collection represents a range of appellations and producers...tubes are available individually or by the box...which can be chosen to provide an introduction to a variety, year or region."

So far, the product is only available in France, natch, but I think this would be a great way to introduce people to wines that they would normally not consider. One to keep an eye on. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

South Africa - not yet

Being from sunny California, I never really understood the Beatles' song, "Here comes the sun" until I moved to England. Now I get it. The sun came out today and it definitely put a spring in my step. Out on the golf course today, I thought, life's not so bad now, is it? 

I can't say the same for S. African wine. I really try hard to like them but they still have a long way to go as far as I'm concerned. I was reading a review in a magazine the other day and I couldn't agree more: rubbery, green, and with a certain "pong" (whatever that means). What it means to me is green, stalky and extremely aggressive. 

We featured 4 wines for a tasting in my shop on Saturday and here are my thoughts. Sticking your nose in a glass of S. African red is like being punched in the face with a plastic glove and not one of those thin surgical gloves but one of those big honking yellow ones you use to do the dishes. The merlot tasted like overcooked prunes and the pinotage, while marginally more palatable still tasted like overcooked berry jam. Too much oak, too much jammy fruit, not enough balance. I sampled the pinotage throughout the day and by closing time, I pronounced, "It's growing on me." My colleague replied, "Stop trying to make yourself like it, you don't." He was right. 

The whites didn't fare much better. The chardonnay- overoaked to the nth degree, desperately searching for fruit, again out of balance. Dry chenin blanc is one variety that seems to be finding a place in S.Africa but it still has a way to go. The chenin blanc started out with a lovely banana and guava nose which carried onto the palate but then it just evaporated. One customer observed that there wasn't much there and I'd have to agree with her. These wines were mid-priced but even on the high end, you'd be hard pressed to find a wine that you'd want to take home. 

The South African wine industy is still struggling to find it's feet. They have a great climate, warm and sunny, but they've planted willy-nilly with barely a thought for how the grapes will do in said location. No one has yet found the magic combination of grape and terroir. Until they do, I think that S. Africa will be stuck with those rubbery, aggressive wines for a long time. 

Friday, 18 April 2008

Wines of Portugal Tasting - reds

Another cold, rainy day. Sometimes, I think, "wouldn't it be nice to live somewhere warm and sunny, like Portugal?" Then I could enjoy their vinous offerings all the time. 

Last time I wrote about my fav whites from the Portugese wine tasting, now I'm doing the reds. Touriga Nacional, Baga, Jaen, Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Trincadeiro, Aragonez, Castalao and a smattering of international varieties were all there along with other lesser known Portuguese varieties. 

I did the reds after the whites, as you do, and even thought I was being a very conscientious spitter, my notes are not as comprehensive. Casa Santos Lima, producer of the aforementioned Quinta de Bons Ventos also did a soft and fruity red from the Alenquer DOC - Quinta das Setencostas, a blend primarily of Castelao, Camarate, Tinta Miuda and Preto Martinho.

Luis Pato had some impressive Bagas on tasting. The baga has a bit more structure and tannin then Touriga Nacional. Luis' Vinha Barrosa 200 ws clean and fresh, bright eyed and bushy tailed with lively underlying fruit. Ayeshe, my colleague who was tasting with me, loved it. The Vinhas Velhas 2005 was another big wine with lots of  morello cherry, black cherry and plenty of tannins to give it backbone.  I scribbled black forest gateau somewhere on my notes but maybe I was getting a bit caught up in the tasting. Baga gives wines that were built to last. These are not wines that will go gently into that good night. 

Herdade Paco do Conde from Alentejo DOC was another producer that I really liked. I think I was more bowled over by their slick brochures at first but the wines definitely passed the taste test. The Paco do Conde 2006 is a real winner. A blend of Aragones, Cab, Trincadeira and Alicante, I like meaty, savory wines and this one hit all the right notes. A bit of autumnal woodiness along with a big, smoky bacon nose hits you first and then onto the palate. More of that smokiness with a hint of toast and some lovely dark cherry and red fruits coming thru before ending again with a hit of toast. I took this one to the shop the  next day and Sarah, my colleague thinks we should try and get it listed because at it's price point (around £5) you'd be hard pressed to find anything better. Pedro gave me a few bottles to take home so over the next couple of days, I'll be tasting them. 

Quinto de Cotto had a couple of Douro reds made up primarily of Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz. What is different about their wines is that they are aged in Portuguese oak only, no French or American oak allowed. Rosa, from the winery, said that this brought out the true nature of Portuguese wines. Well, their wines definitely  had something about them. The first, a 2005 had a pleasing minerality to the nose with hints of toast, plenty of smooth tannins and red fruit on the palate. The second, Cotto Grande Escolha 2001 was a powerhouse of wine, very perfumed with floral notes of violet and heaps of dark berry fruit on the palate. This wine was still very youthful with good body and tannins to die for. Another wine built to last. 

There were so many others but I'm getting tired so I think I'll stop my ravings now. All I can say is, don't overlook the great wines coming from Portugal nowadays. They really are great value and well made. Until next time....

Wines of Portugal -whites - London tasting

I've finally discovered Portuguese wines and what a find!! Forget all those outdated images of sickly sweet Mateus or thin and watery whites, the stuff coming out of Portugal now is the real deal. 

Being in the trade and poorly paid, I'm always on the lookout for trade tastings. One of our biggest sellers at the moment is a Portuguese red, Quinta de Bons Ventos. It's a light, easy going red. I thought, if this is the tip of the iceberg, I should get on down to Lord's  Cricket Ground and check'em out. 

I think one of the hardest things about Portuguese wines is just learning to pronounce the names of the grapes. When the Portuguese say them, the worlds just roll off their tongues. When I try and say them it's as if the sounds are in a mad, incomprehensible stampede to get out of my mouth. Forget about trying to learn French pronunciation, I need to practice my Portuguese. 

On to the wines. There were so many but here are the ones that stood out for me. 

The first wine we tried was an Alvarinho, Via Latina 2006. It's from the Vinho Verde DOC. I had no idea that vinho verde was a DOC (obviously I didn't pay much attention to Portugal when I was studying for the WSET Advanced), I thought it only meant young wine in Portuguese. This particular example was fresh and zippy with plenty of apple and peach on the nose and palater with a nice bit of citrus at the end. In fact, most of the whites were in this similar vein. One Alvarinho that was a bit different was made by producer, Quinta de Melgaco, Castrus de Melgaco, 2006. 100% Alvarinho but matured in oak for 2 months. "Two times used oak," as the producer so helpfully informed us. The oak was not overpowering but gave a very subtle hint of spiciness on the nose, with vanilla and baked apple on the palate. A fab wine to drink on it's own or maybe with a soft, creamy cheese. 

Quintas de Melgaco had one other wine up their sleeve, a fortified white - not white port, mind you, more like a sherry. It was a bit difficult to get the right information since the producer didn't speak much English. The wine is called Carcavelos and it was amazing. Similar to rich old oloroso but not. Deep amber in color with a honeyed, nutty nose and more of the same on the palate with a bit of bitter almond thrown in for good measure and just the right balance of sweetness and acidity. The finish was the longest, nuttiest finish that seemed to go on forever. 
Everytime I thought the wine was done with me, another wave of fresh nuttiness would wash over my palate. Stunning. It retails for 100 euros at the cellar door so I didn't even bother to ask for the price over here. 

Another interesting white was a white from Beiras made from the varietal, Maria Gomes. What is it with those Iberians and naming their grapes after people. First Pedro Ximenez and now Maria. But anyway, Luis Pato made this particular, still wine and it was lovely. Grapey on the nose but dry with good acidity. It's most outstanding feature was the grapeyness of it, reminded me of Moscat. There were also quite a few white blends on show but they tended to be a rather neutral lot, not quite Pinot Grigio but getting close (sorry P.G. but you do have that reputation and I don't mean that in a positive light.) There were some good blends but nothing that really knocked my socks off. This was quite a show with a lot of producers so I'll write about the reds next time. Til then....Den