Monday, 29 September 2008

I've moved to

If you're looking for TheWineSleuth and Google has directed you to this page, I've moved to a self hosted site. Here is my new address:

So come and visit me there! Thanks and see you soon!!!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Montes Alpha M '05, Folly '05, and Purple Angel '05

I went to a Montes tasting the other day at the Bluebird Wineshop. Montes is one of the iconic wines of Chile, having been written up extensively in various publications as well as getting rave reviews in the Wine Spectator and winning numerous industry awards. I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Montes started out in 1988 and was one of the few Chilean wineries to focus entirely on import production. 90% of their production was for export and England was one of the first markets to benefit from this policy. Today they produce over 5 million bottles and export to over 92 countries, not bad for only being in business 20 years.

Montes is seeking to make the varietal Syrah the flagship grape of Chile. To this end, they presented their showcase wine, the Montes Folly, so named because the general consensus at the time they planted the vines was that they were crazy to try and produce a premium wine made from Syrah. We sampled the 100% syrah '05 Montes Folly. It opened with a full-on black fruit nose, juicy blackcurrants and blackberries predominating, with a tantalizing earthy minerality lingering in the air. It was fresh and lively, bright black cherries, morello cherries and again that earthy minerality shining through on a nicely balanced, clean, crisp wine. It didn't have the big fruity jamminess that many people associate with new world shiraz. And to differenciate themselves a bit more from the pack, they call the grape syrah (as they do in France) as opposed to shiraz (as they do in the new world i.e., Australia, US, etc).

The wine that everyone knows is the iconic Montes Alpha M. We tasted the '05 M. Composed of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5%petite verdot, this lovely is produced from a single vineyard at low yields and aged for one year in new french oak barrels. It had a deeply fruity, intense nose, blackcurrant leaping out of the glass with new oak aromas surrounding it. Blackcurrants were again evident on the very fruity but not sweet palate owing to the fabulous balance of acidity in the wine. It was also shot through with a loaminess that added complexity and finished with strong chocolate flavours that seemed to last for a very long time. Nice ripe tannins, very smooth and elegant.

The Montes Purple Angel '05 was my favourite because it had such a personality. It just jumped out of the crowd. Was it because it was 90% carmenere (a grape really only used in Chile today) or was it the petite verdot, a variety that is falling out of style as a blending grape even in it's native France. The nose was nothing like the others, starting off with a musky, red pepper, exotic spiciness with violets, paprika and delicate mint notes underpinning the aromatic structure of the wine. Moving the wine around my palate, black fruits, plums and red peppers sprang into action and there was a fabulous spicy finish to it all. This was a fresh and lively wine, rather frisky, up for anything. I loved it! An exquisite delight. A well balanced, lovely example of what can be coaxed out of carmenere given the chance.

Montes has a deservedly iconic reputation and these wines only served to show what can and is being done in Chile today. I can't wait for the next release.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Palate Fatigue

The other day, after yet another tasting, my friend P.J. and I started discussing the pitfalls of the wine trade. I mean it's not all wine and roses. Well, maybe it is but there is such as thing as too much of a good thing. Just as professional chocolate tasters must get tired of yet another exotic chocolate or chocolate combination - we wine professionals need the occasional break, too.

Palate fatigue. We've all heard of it but what is it exactly? I mean, how does your palate get tired? It's not like it's doing a 26 mile marathon or anything like that. Or is it? After about the 26th wine it starts to get tiring for me (time for a snack) and if I've been tasting all day, by the time I get to the last wine, it's hard to make distinctions. There are only so many variations of raspberries, cherries, vanilla, oak, pineapple, green apple, butter or hay (to name a few) that you can detect in one day, not to mention all the delicate nuances and underlying notes and tones of a wine.

Can you hack it is the question. Even if tastings can seem like marathons, they are in no way near as painful as actually having to run one. As a matter of fact, despite my whining about palate fatigue I woudn't give them up for anything. Some people swear by the water crackers that are de riguer at tastings, others rinse with water occasionally, and some people I know have a beer with lunch before tackling the next round. Right now I'd say I'm a middle distance runner. I stick to crackers mostly. Still in training but one of these days I'll be a marathoner!

And what do I drink when I'm not imbibing wine? A perfect Maker's Mark Manhattan on the rocks goes great with steak.

I've also heard of this stuff called "water" with dinner....

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Miguel Merino Riojas '99 and '01, Unnum '02

the town of Briones, Spain

I know it seems like I will never stop talking about the EWBC but we really packed a lot into the 2 1/2 days we were in Rioja. I can only imagine what the US Winebloggers Conference is going to be like in Sonoma, CA - which I will be flying back to the West Coast to attend in Oct.

The last day of the conference was devoted to visiting wineries, Marques de Risquel - which I will blog about later, Bodegas Bilbainas - where we had our last lunch, and Miguel Merino Bodegas, a small winery smack in the middle of Briones.

winery courtyard

Briones is a quaintly medieval town set up on a hilltop. Historically, the grapes from the area were sent to wineries in Haro to be used in the best reserva wines. Miguel Merino, along with a few other boutique wineries, decided to set up shop here and take advantage of the excellent viticultural conditions surrounding the town. Although the winery is one of the youngest and smallest in Rioja, what it lacks in size it more then makes up for in quality.

Miguel himself is quite a character. He regaled us with a story about his sorting table - of all things! During the harvest the workers use a mechanical sorting table to pick out the best grapes as they pass by. There are baskets at the feet of the workers, one on each side, where they throw out the grapes deemed unworthy. One basket is called "purgatory" and the other "hell". The "purgatory" grapes get made into wine for family and friends. The "hell" grapes get picked up by a local farmer each day who feeds them to his cows. Miguel says the cows are known locally for being particulary disagreeable, breaking out of their enclosures and causing general havoc, but he doesn't think it has anything to do with his "hell" grapes.

We sampled 3 of his wines, the '99 Gran Reserva, '01 Reserva and the Unum '02 which his son makes. The '99 Gran Reserva (96% tempranillo, 4% graciano) was from a hard year and Miguel had to work quite hard to coax a good wine out of the harvest but he managed to produce a well made, nicely balanced wine. Softly perfumed with aromas of plum, cherry, toast and spice while the palate was again a nice balance of tannins and fruit with a lovely, long blend of plums, red cherry, toast, and tobacco on the palate. Even though it was almost 10 years old, it still had plenty of raciness about it with bouncing acidity keeping it from flagging down the homestretch, so to speak.

The '01 Reserva (95%tempranillo, 5%graciano)was my favourite of the 3. Ruby red in colour with pleasing aromas of sweet spice, oak and a savoury quality detectable underneath it all. A medium bodied wine with not quite round tannins (maybe oval?)that still had a bit of kick to them. I found plenty of cherry, red fruits, tobacco, sweet spice (I'm thinking maybe even allspice) and a warm toastiness to palate. Lipsmackinly good. I bought a couple of bottles to take home and had one the other night with dinner. Let me tell you, this is a wine that definitely loves to travel, no worries there.

The last one, the '02 Unnum is a wine made by Miguel's son. Made from 100% tempranillo, this wine was a bit different in character to the previous two. An oaky, toasty, almost toffee-ish nose with cooked black fruits in the background. The palate had mouthcoating tannins but was elegantly structured with a long black fruit finish. A big wine that needs a big steak to go along with it.

I found Miguel and his wines made for an engaging visit and hope to visit them again sometime in the near future. Miguel's wines are not that easy to find in the UK but they are available from online retailer

homemade spitton

Friday, 19 September 2008

Chianti Classico '05

Chianti. Cheap and cheerful, comes in a wicker covered bottle, which, when empty, make handy candle holders. Well, that might be the old image of Chianti, and you can probably still buy that type of wine, but last weekend we had a tasting of Chianti Classico at the shop to dispel those hoary old myths and a bit of food and wine pairing with Italian salami and mature English cheddar.

Chianti is the name of the region in Italy where the wine is from, not the name of the grape. The Italians like to confuse us as much as the French when it comes to naming their wines. There are two types of Chianti, Chianti and Chianti Classico (click here for more info). Chianti Classico is the oldest region, located in the heart of Tuscany. Chianti is made up of primarily the varietal sangiovese with the local varieties canaiolo and colorino also used in the blend. Up to 20% can be added in Chianti Classico and 25% in Chianti. There are all sorts of rules and regulations governing the production and making of Chianti (click here if you're really interested) but I'm going to focus on the three we had on Saturday.

First up was a Chianti, for a bit of compare and contrast, the '06 Veduta, a blend of sangiovese and canaiolo, spending 3 months in large oak barrels, produced by the Casa Girelli, one of Italy's largest privately owned wineries who produce 95% of their wine for the overseas market. This was an easy, approachable red, a simple, uncomplicated, red fruit nose followed by bright cherry and lively tannins on the palate. It had a short, slightly green finish. A good guzzler to go with a cheesy Saturday nite pizza.

Then we moved onto the Classicos. What a world of difference. Everyone who tried the Veduta liked it until they tried the Classico. Piave di Spaltenna '05 was the first classico. The vineyards are situated in the heart of the oldest district in Chianti, Gaiole and it's 100% Sangiovese. This wine was matured in oak and aged for 6 months in bottle before release. A deep, intense garnet colour, the nose was an enticing display of sandalwood, spice, and oak with fruity cherry at first in the background and then moving onto the forefront after a bit of time. The palate was bursting with ripe cherry, hints of spice and well rounded tannins. A velvety concoction rolling around my tongue with a long, cherry-chocolate finish. It was a good match for the salami, marrying well with the spiciness of the meat and cleansing the palate leaving a lovely cherry finish. A real keeper but the best was most definitely the last, in my opinion.

The Chianti Classico Il Tarroco '05, what a powerhouse of a wine. A perfect example of how complex and exciting Chianti can be, this is a blend of 90% sangiovese and 10% canaiolo and was aged in small oak barrels for a year. The nose on this one was as big as any Roman honker. Minty, spicy and a lovely woodiness at first, followed by loads of ripe black cherry and blackcurrant exploding out of the glass. Swishing it around my palate, I found plenty more black cherry, sweet spice and toasty goodness. It was clean and crisp with great length and an excellent bitter chocolate finish. The salami complemented the wine perfectly, highlighting the cherry. The finish was reminiscent of those alcohol filled chocolate covered cherries. And the cheese brought out the spiciness of the wine. Good stuff!

Chianti is definitely a food wine. It just works so much better when it has a foil to play off of, really showing it's complexity and versatility. After this tasting, I'm inviting it to my dinner table more often.

Chianti Veduta - £5.49
Piave di Spaltenna - £10.49
Il Tarocco - £11.49
All available from Oddbins

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Cuban Cigars and Delamain Cognac at the Bluebird

When Penny from the Bluebird wineshop told me she was hosting a cigar and cognac tasting, I was excited, a bit hesitant but also very curious to attend a cigar and cognac tasting because I'd never been to one. Although I love a good Cuban (cigar or otherwise), cognac has a rather fusty old image in my mind and I didn't really fancy sitting around all evening with grandfatherly figures discussing the merits of cognac. But it turned out to be a smartly casual affair with plenty of mingling and good conversation.

The event was presented by Amanda Laden from Delamain Cognac and Simon Chase the cigar expert from Hunters & Frankau. H&F also brought along the head of production for the Cohiba Cigar factory in Cuba, Eduardo Diaz, to demonstrate the fine art of cigar rolling. Eduardo spent most of the evening rolling cigars. I spoke to him afterwards and he told me that he's here for 2 months doing demonstrations for H&F. I was curious about the tobacco leaves he was using and asked him if he had brought them with him. He told me that the unrolled leaves are imported by H&F for him to use specifically to make cigars during these demonstrations.

We were treated to 3 XO or higher cognacs (XO signifiying that the cognac was aged for at least 6 years. No need to worry here as the youngest cognac was 25 years old) and 1 Hoya de Monterrey Especial cigar. Even though Eduardo was from Cohiba, we were smoking Hoyas because the big boss, Terence Conran -who was attending the tasting, prefers Hoya. Since there is an indoor smoking ban here in England, the tasting was held in the patio of the Bluebird. It was very nicely set up with small tables scattered about (adding to the informal atmosphere) and outdoor heaters nearby, although they weren't needed because it was a balmy evening and the rain had miraculously stopped.

We enjoyed champagne and canapes while we were watching Eduardo roll cigars before the tasting started. Amanda then began by explaining a bit of the Delamain history. Briefly, the house was founded in 1759 in the town of Jarnac, in Charente. Today it's now run by the 7th generation of the family, so they know a thing or two about Cognac. While we were sipping the cognac, Simon took the stage and explained the art of cigar rolling and smoking.

The 25 year old Pale & Dry XO was the youngest, the grapes being a blend of 100% Grande Champagne first growth - I know what you're thinking but Cognac is not from the Champagne region, Cognac country is situated south of Bordeaux. The Pale & Dry was matured in well seasoned Limousin French oak casks. I don't know a lot about Cognac, previously I considered it akin to firewater but this example was smooth, clean and elegant. It had a inviting fruity nose with undertones of caramel and toffee. Amanda said that there's no need to heat the glass as some people do, just sit back and enjoy. By this time we had lit our cigars and Simon invited us to take a puff and then a sip. It was fantastic. The cigar brought out the fruitiness of the cognac. Wonderful!

We then moved onto the 55 year old Cognac, the Vesper, again, a 100% Grande Champagne blend like the Pale & Dry but aged much longer. This one, to me, was the best, most complex of the three. The nose was quite floral at first, then layers of fruit, spice,toffee and vanilla followed by a light smokiness on the finish (and this was before I started puffing away). The palate followed through very nicely on the same themes. All the cognacs slipped effortlessly down with nary a backward glance and there was no burning sensation, just a nice warm feeling. The cigar certainly brought out a mocha finish to the cognac. I was definitely beginning to like the combo of cognac and cigars.

The last was Reserve de la Famille, made from 100% Grande Champagne grapes. It's not, unusually for a cognac, a blend, and it comes from a single vineyard and single cask. It's aged in the barrel until it has benefited from maximum aging. The minimum age of the cognac was 60 years. Previously it was produced only for the Delamain family and friends but is now available to the general public. I found it exceptionally soft and refined, very subtle with sweet spice, toffee and cinnamon. I was reminded of freshly baked apple pie as I sipped this one.

After the tasting, platters of charcuterie and cheese appeared and we were invited to eat and pair the cognac with the food. I paired the Vesper with a spicy sausage on offer and it went fantastically well, the cognac agreeing nicely with the black pepper of the sausage. I found it also went well with cheese and left an amazing dark chocolate finish. Delicious.

All in all a wonderful evening. I'm certainly glad that my curiosity lead me to this tasting. You know what they say, "Curiosity killed the cat....but satisfaction brought her back." Words I live by....

All the cognacs are available from the Bluebird Wineshop
All prices approximate
Pale & Dry XO - £75
Vesper - £95
Reserve de la Famille - £200

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Anakena '06 S. Blanc and Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon

I'd like to thank the academy...(me and the Tempus Two)

So, continuing on with my dinner with Ana and Nigel. By now, we were done with the food and moved onto a straightforward Chilean sauvignon blanc because somebody had brought it and we couldn't really leave it there all by itself in the bag, now, could we?

The Anakena 06 Sauvignon Blanc from the San Antonio Valley was a typical offering from that part of the world. Tropical fruit nose, a slight grassy-ness mingled with asparagus and the aromas of stewed gooseberries. On the palate, loads of starfruit and pineapple with notes of bell peppers and a softness in the mouth that you just don't get from those sometimes bracing NZ sauvignon blancs. It was much more subtle with a pleasingly long lemon-lime finish. We thought it would go down well with seafood like fresh oysters or poached salmon.

But that wasn't the end, nooooo, somebody (ok, me) had the bright idea of popping next door while Ana, the voice of reason, was in the ladies room (this is where The Wine Rack comes into play) for a dessert wine to finish off a wonderful vinous evening. I didn't have high hopes but The Wine Rack has a much better selection then the old Threshers it replaced. And, lo and behold, they had a Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon dessert wine from the Hunter Valley. Nigel gave us a bit of history on the winery since he had visited it last year. The winery is owned by Lisa McGuigan, one of the few Australian wineries conceived and run by a woman. The Tempus Two winery is famous for their annual concert season where big names such as Elton John and Rod Stewart perform for the entertainment of the grapes (and the 10,000 people in the winery amphitheater paying big bucks to hear them sing). They're also known for their unusually shaped bottles, an example of which is at the top of this blog.

El Dorado is what I would call this wine if I was naming it - a ripe, warm, bright, golden hue. A swirl of honey, marmalade, orange peel, aged pineapple and a whiff of white grapes tempted our olfactory nodes. Now it was the tastebuds turn - dates upfront then dried apricots and honey coming thru finishing off in a crescendo of orange marmalade and raisins trailing off into a lingering finish. It was rich but clean and fruity, full bodied with excellent acidity to get us ready for the next wave. Mouthwatering!

The staff saw that we were enjoying our wines so much that they gave us all a shot of plum wine as we tottered off into the night. I think I'll be visiting them again soon. And the food was good, too!

Tempus Two - £10.99, The Wine Rack
Anakena '06 S. Blanc - sample wine

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ch Minvielle 06 White Bordeux and 07 Gerard Metz Gewurz

By last Wednesday, I'd sufficiently recovered from the EWBC in Rioja to face a bottle or 3 again. Now it was time for some white wine. A new Korean joint, Cah Chi, has just opened up in my neighborhood and the best thing about it is that it's BYOB, something of a rarity in London and the corkage fee is a very reasonable.

I'd arranged to meet my friends, Ana and Nigel (both of whom are involved in the wine trade) for dinner. Conveniently enough, there are two off-licences nearby, The Wine Rack (ex-Threshers) next door (which would come in handy later in the evening) and across the street, a local independent, Wines of the World. I've popped into their shop in the past and they always have a rather eclectic, exciting selection to choose from, as well as dispensing great advice.

We started off with a white Bordeaux, Chateau Minvielle '06.

A classic bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, this was a crisp little number with a lovely citrusy, white flower nose. We all agreed that it was medium-bodied and slightly waxy on the palate (due to the semillon) with citrus flavours dominating the palate along with hints of white pepper and a refreshing lemon peel finish. An excellent way to begin the evening while we were perusing the menu.

Since we were having spicy Korean food, I'd chosen an '07 Alsatian gewurztraminer from

Gerard Metz, a small producer located in the heart of Alsace on the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mtns. This wine had the typically spicy nose associated with gewurz - chinese five spice prominently displayed with elderflower and a touch of honey and grapey-ness hanging around the edges. It was not too complex, fresh but medium-bodied. White flowers, jasmine, dried apricots and maple syrup were all competing for attention in my mouth. Once we started eating the spicy Korean BBQ, the tastes of rose petals and white peaches really jumped onto our tongues. They served watermelon as a dessert and the gewurz seemed to make the watermelon really sing while the rose petals once again came to the forefront.

That wasn't the last wine we had, just the last one with food. More tomorrow....

Both wines came from Wines of the World in Earlsfield.
Gerard Metz - £10.99
Ch. Minvielle - £6.99

Monday, 8 September 2008

A visit to Dinastia Vivanco with the EWBC

The town of Briones overlooking the vineyard

The second day of the EWBC was held at the Dinastia Vivanco winery in Briones, Rioja. Dinastia Vivanco was founded in 1915 but despite that, they have a state of the art facility, opened by the King of Spain in 2006. More importantly, they have an awesome museum of wine. You'll have to visit the museum website to see the inside as no pictures were allowed but here are some photos from the outside collection.

examples from the outside collection

The museum was the dream of Pedro Vivanco, the father of the current winemakers and owners of the vineyard. Pedro spent a good part of his life collecting everything connected to the vine. From ancient jugs to giant 18th century screwpresses, one of the largest corkscrew collections in the world (over 3,000 at last count) as well as decanters and an impressive collection of wine related art. There are even a couple of Picasso lithographs in the collection. There is also an ampelographic ( the study of grape varieties) collection on the grounds of the vineyard showcasing over 222 different varieties, including both foreign and spanish grapes.

The collection is divided into sections, each devoted to a particular aspect of the wine world. There are some excellent video presentations of the Riojan seasons in the vineyard, barrel making, glass blowing and even wine fermenting. I would highly recommend this museum if you're in the Rioja region, it's definitely a must see.

Upcoming Bluebird Cigar and Cognac Tasting

The Bluebird Wineshop in Chelsea had become one of my favourites because of their great winetastings and Penny Johns, the manager has come up with a great list of tastings for the Autumn.

This Wednesday, Sept 10th, she is hosting a Fine Cognac and Cigar tasting in the courtyard of the Bluebird Restaurant. Amanda Laden from Delamain Cognac will be on hand to conduct a blind tasting of 3 premier cognacs along with Dan Pink from Hunters and Frankau, cigar importers, who will talk us through the cigars. Dan is also bringing along a cigar roller for a brief demonstration. It should be a fun and informative evening. Tickets are still available click here for more information. I love a good Cuban cigar, I got a nice box of Montecristos in duty-free last weekend coming back from Spain, so I can't wait for this tasting. 

The following week, Finca Sophenia of Argentina will be giving a tasting of their range on Friday, 19th of Sept. Monday, 22nd Sept. sees the Vidal Winery, located in Marlborough, NZ on hand and the very next day, 23 Sept. Cillar de Cillos from Ribera del Duero, Spain, will be tasting through their latest offerings and may even have a few surprise vintages to taste. For more information visit Penny, either in person - if you're here in London, or at the Bluebird wineshop website. 

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Hitting the tapas bars of Logroño at the EWBC

jamon iberico

After the EWBC Winebloggers Invitational on Friday nite, we had to get something in our stomachs so off we went to dinner in the old part of Logroño. All the meals in Spain start with jamon iberico (spanish ham), at least that's what we got at the start of every meal, including breakfast.

After a neverending parade of food, all of which were tapas (or appetizers), we still hadn't had enough to eat and drink so we went for a walk down the Calle Laurel, a raucaus little alleyway lined with tapas bars. Here's just a random sample of the bars and streetlife:

pulling pints, just as cheerful there as they are here

more jamon, this time diluted by bread

now there's a sensible table for drinks

bloggers on the streets of Logroño - Justin, Giampiero and Gabriella

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

EWBC '08 Bloggers Invitational-the wines

More from the EWBC '08, this time it's the Winebloggers Invitational and, to see me interviewed, check out the following link from VinusTV (click here) who were on hand to interview all us bloggers.

It was great fun to see what the other bloggers brought for us to try. There were wines from as far away as Canada (a rather intriguing attempt at producing cabernet sauvignon in that northern climate). The Spanish wine giant, Codorniu was one of the main sponsors of the conference and brought plenty of Cava as well as their new range of still table red and white wines for the first nights' event. I've tried them all before in London (see July 08 post) but that didn't stop me from trying them all again to see if they were just as good as I remembered them. They were!

I'm partial to sweeties and Thomas Lippert from winzerblog based in Germany (which is unfortunately for me, written in German) brought not only dry rieslings but also an icewine, which he produces. I spoke to him later about his icewine and he told me that they are only produced in exceptional vintages and that they usually have to pick on Christmas or New Year's Eve - such is the hardships of an icewine producer. His wine however, is definitely worth the effort. He brought along a 2001 icewine which was unctuous and sweet, like candy while at the same time with enough acidity to keep it well balanced. I love icewine and this one only reinforced my opinion.

Another sweetie was the Bodega Tintoralba Dulce, a red dessert wine. I was a bit surprised when I poured it as I thought it was going to be a white wine but any doubts were dispelled once I tried it. It was a delicious, red nectar, not cloying but nicely well balanced with plenty of boysenberry and raspberry in the mix. The wine is produced from over-ripened Garnacha Tintorera, a spanish variety which produces wines that are thick and deeply coloured. The grapes undergo carbonic maceration to preserve their delicate flavours and aromas. It was served chilled and reminded me of the red dessert wines from Rasteau in the Rhone valley.

The Portuguese were also well represented with some mouthwatering dry red wine on display.

Jose Eduardo J Silva, the Cortes de Cima winery blogger, brought two excellent examples of their wines, their Incognito '05 and their Touriga Nacional '05.

According to the website,the Incognito got it's name because back in the day, when they first started making and bottling syrah, it was still considered an "illegal" varietal in Alentejo. They couldn't call it syrah, hence the name, "Incognito." Well, this wine shouldn't stay hidden anymore. It was a fabulous full bodied example with plenty of dark fruits and a solid tannic structure to hang it's hat on. It was drinking well now but another year or two wouldn't hurt it.

The Touriga Nacional '05 was a bit softer and much more aromatic with lots of dark berries, black cherry and hints of toasty oak. Lots of soft tannins which made it go down nice and smooth and plenty of fruit without being overbearing or jammy. A definite crowd pleaser.

Andre Ribeirinho from brought along some interesting Portuguese wines from Herdade do Portocarro. Of the three he brought, I enjoyed the Cavulo Maluco '05 the most. The Cavulo, was a fruity blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Nacional and Petit Verdot. It had an upfront oaky nose with black fruits and exotic spicy notes shining through. There was plenty of black cherry and ripe black fruits on the palate and it's definitely not for wimps being quite full bodied and tannic with notes of sweet spice and vanilla. It was a powerhouse of a wine while subtle at the same time, not over-oaked or over-extracted, but a very enjoyable wine to drink.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

EWBC '08 and the Chapel Down '07 English Rosé

Rioja vineyard

On the plane back to England from the EWBC I was exhausted!! But what a weekend! I met loads of really great people, drank plenty of fabulous (and interesting) wines, visited some fantastic wineries, met the winemakers, had my eyes open to the possibilities out there regarding the web via the both the roundtable discussions and informal ones and generally had a blast. There was so much going on, I barely had time to catch my breath. But who'd want to stop with all the excitement surrounding us? The conference was extremely well organized and planned. It was such an exhilarating and febrile atmosphere to be a part of that I can't wait to attend the next one and I'm already planning on attending the USA conference in October.

(Gabriella getting an appreciative smack from Ricard!)

I have to give a HUGE thanks to the organizers, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of Catavino and Robert Mcintosh of The Wine Conversation. And, a big shout out to Robert for his ability to get all us bloggers moving on time and in the right direction. I think I overheard him comparing us bloggers to herding cats but cats are much easier to direct!

The first night was the winebloggers invitational,whereby we each had to bring a wine that represented our area of interest or expertise. I had chosen an english rosé (made from the germanic variety, dornfelder) from the Chapel Down winery based in Kent, southeast England. What a reaction! That rosé definitely raised a few eyebrows and looks of disbelief. People had heard of English wines but those Continentals were rather dubious as to the quality of the wine. I found out later that not many had ever actually had the opportunity to try English wine before the conference.

Luckily, it passed with flying colours! I had tried it before I left so I knew that it wasn't bad but everyone else was surprised at the quality. I got quite a few positive comments from the others. So, score one for English wines! I think it convinced a fair amount of people that England is capable of producing quality table wines.

In case your wondering, here are my tasting notes for the Chapel Down English Rosé 2007:

A clear, pale, smoked salmon coloured wine. Upon pouring, the fresh summer smells of England seem to rise up from the glass. It reminded me of a summer's day after a sudden downpour in the park, you know, the clean scent of the air that follows a sudden rainstorm while your picnicking in the park (as so often occurs here) and after you've just run to the car and thrown everything in the backseat! Wet grass, a bit herby, red cherry and something akin to strawberries after they've been sitting in sugar and have gone all syrupy were some of the aromas that I detected.

It was however, quite dry and crisp. Plenty of fruit on the palate, strawberry tart with plenty of zippiness to keep it from becoming sluggish. There was also a hint of dill on the back of it and an apricot-like finish, which was quite long. I think this is a really great food wine, something to have with grilled salmon and boiled new potatoes tossed with dill. We had it with a hunk of mature english cheddar and bread and it was scrumpdiliumptious!

Thanks to Penny at the Bluebird Wine shop for recommending that one.

retail £11
alc., a light and lovely 11%

Notes from the European Winebloggers Conference 08

The following are some of my notes from the European Winebloggers Conference 2008 (EWBC) in Rioja.

Flying over the Bay of Biscay this morning, looking down onto the green craggy hills of the sun-drenched Spanish coast was a bit of a surprise. Over the years, I've visited Spain many times but always the southern coast of Spain or Madrid, both of which are more reminiscent of semi-arid deserts with their scrub covered brown rolling hills and plains rather then the lush carpet of green I was currently flying over. I had to remind myself why I was on that plane. I was here for the European Winebloggers Conference 2008 (EWBC) taking place in Rioja that weekend. I hoped that it was going to be a fun and informative weekend and seeing as copious amounts of Riojan wine were going to be available, I knew that it would at least be an opportunity to sharpen my Rioja tasting skills.

I wasn't really sure what to expect but the organizers, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz from the Catavino blog and Robert McIntosh of The WineConversation blog, have a full schedule planned for us and plenty of Riojan wine on hand for us to sample. Not to mention the winebloggers invitational, where we all get to bring our own wines to share. I'm full of anticipation while I wait at the Bilbao Airport for my ride to Logrono in Rioja.