Upside down wine

The title is apt for two reasons. One, in that it comes from the Antipodes (literally, from the Classic translation of feet the other way up) and secondly because it uses a Medoc/Bordeaux blend but in the opposite proportions. It’s Petit Verdot 47%, Merlot 37% and Cab Sav 16%.

The wine is Plane Turning Right 2013 which Richard bought from Incognito. The high proportion of PV is only made possible by the heat which is needed to ripen this grape of high tannins and high acidity. It is becoming increasingly planted, but always in hotter areas (I had a mono-varietal PV from Spain, via Aldi, about ten days ago). When PV does ripen it has a distinctive violet smell as well as intense colouring.

From the intense, consistent red colour it was just right in its development – no blue or brick colours here. Very fruit-forward – and violet scented – on the nose, there was high acidity and a slight sappiness which could come from either the PV or CS. No wonder it needed the softening Merlot.  The palate was savoury, soft in tannins, very rich and heavy but with a lot of power. It had a medium length. I’d have been interested to see the changes after two hours decanting, which I think it needed.

A lovely wine, needing food. Needless to say, I didn’t spot it but picked the violets and stabbed at Nebbiolo.




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Beer or wine?


I’d seen this in Waitrose and, to be frank, thought what an unfortunate handle. It reminded me more of a low-alcohol beer rather than a wine, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Richard presented the last of the bottle on Sunday and  …… I was rather impressed.

It hails from the Loire, Anjou, and, more precisely the Coteaux de Layon, an area more associated with sweeter wines from the later-harvested Chenin. The grape is the same but picked earlier, maintaining acidity and with the sugars fermented out. I like Chenin in its multiplicity of forms and enjoyed this also.

Made by Domaine Cady from the 2015 vintage, it is organic and costs £16 (£12 on offer) from Waitrose. The colour is deep lemon with some viscosity (the Chenin does develop sugars easily) whilst the nose repeats the lemon acidity with the addition of a chalky note, also reminiscent of the classic Chenin ‘wet wool’. The palate was complex – almonds, acidity, richness with bags of character and the ability to develop in the bottle.

Getting a thumbs up from me, this wine would be great with veal, chicken, river fish or a quality cheese.

[Richard: no thumbs up from me, more a shrug. Too sweet and I didn’t find it as complex as Geoff did. Worth a punt but I wouldn’t buy it again, even on offer which this was.]

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Never knowingly underhyped


Mas de Daumas Gassac is east of Montpellier in the Haute Vallee du Gassac, Herault and achieved fame – or notoriety with local traditionalists – by using Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape more often associated with Bordeaux. Their informative and slick web site could not be accused of hiding its light under a wine bushel, proclaiming the 2005 vintage as having “finesse, it’s friendly and elegant, soft, fruity and mouth-wateringly rounded. Thoroughly enjoyable and seductive … and designed to wine you over with its affability … genuinely great …. truly outstanding!” Wow!

More prosaically, in colour it had a brick rim with an intense red core and medium viscosity. The nose was sweet cassis with tertiary notes of stewed fruits and pleasing acidity. So far, so good. The acidity came through nicely on the palate which was long and dry, with liquorice-like richness. After the nose, the palate was a tad disappointing.

Overall, although a well-made, pleasant wine we found it lacking a little character and any real sense of place. Richard gave the sobriquet ‘a lunchtime Languedoc’ which I though quite apposite (it’s 12.5% ABV).

[Richard: had this one a while – since 2008 (£24, WS), hence the rather tatty appearance. Certainly ready to drink and a wine which, as Geoff suggests, failed to deliver in the mouth what the (very appealing) nose promised. That is quite a common phenomenon when drinking claret, with which this wine is often compared (it’s 63% Cabernet Sauvignon,8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot plus lots of other grapes, mostly not indigenous to the Languedoc either.]

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Stunning wine


I was completely fooled by this wine, proclaiming it to be a high quality vintage champagne. In fact it came from the birthplace of that quintessentially English game of cricket – Hambledon.

We tried their Premier Cuvee, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (58%, 24% 18%) on Sunday. It’s not cheap at £42 but Waitrose Cellar occasionally have offers on their site – if they do, buy some. You’ll see a very fine, persistent mousse, a subtle light gold in colour and beautifully bright.

The taste is bruised apples with a lovely lemon freshness which lifts the slightly vegetative notes. There is great complexity and all suggests vintage champagne. The palate is certainly dry to the point of saltiness, long and quite piercing in its acidity.

This wine is one of those that we taste and remember the significant experience.

[Richard: I got 25% off on one of those periodic Waitrose deals which made the price a just about bearable £32. Let’s hope they do it again before Christmas. An extremely classy English sparkling wine, easily the best I’ve tasted. An ‘old’, vegetative nose – they blend in cuvees from earlier vintages to give an aroma which I’ve only really noticed on vintage champagne. High in acidity but balanced and absolutely delicious.]


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Old grapes


Dafni is a vey old grape variety, its name being inscribed on Bronze Age vessels found on Crete. Its fortunes were revived by the maker of the wine we tried, namely Lyrarakis, in his 37 acres Psarades vineyard. This was the 2016 vintage. Descriptions tend to focus on the wine’s herbal aromas as well as bay and eucalyptus leaf smells.

Light lemon in colour with medium viscosity it certainly had an aromatic nose with a fresh lemon and peppery bouquet. The nose was certainly inviting but, unfortunately, the taste disappointed us. It was short, lacking in intensity with very high acidity. It started to cloy the palate and would have benefitted from some food accompaniment, though Richard said it did improve through the evening.

Much preferred was the Santorini wine made from the Aidani grape by Sigolas (2015). Kept in stainless steel for nine months, this wine had a Viognier-like, herbal and floral quality. Full-flavoured, the wine was quite nutty and would have really suited strong food.

Two more Mediterranean grape varieties: it’s certainly been interesting trying these more obscure grapes.

[Richard, we’ve blogged on Lyrakakis wines before – they specialise in resurrecting forgotten indigenous varieties on Crete. The dafni came from the duty-free at Chania airport, about 12€. More a curiosity than anything else which I didn’t see anywhere else for sale on the island. Despite the small production I see that both M&S and Berry Bros carry stock. Like Geoff I preferred the Aidani which had much more tropical fruit character. This was part of a mixed case of up-market Greek wine from the WS. No longer available, around £20, I’d guess.]

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Mellow yellow


This was meant to be a blind tasting but the foil round the bottle didn’t quite cover the capsule and I recognised ‘Louis Latour yellow’, having bought quite a few similar bottles in the eighties, though none recently.

Quite yellow in the glass as well, not a very typical chardonnay, with a faint nose and a rather sweet taste I’d have had difficulty picking as Burgundian. Slightly too sweet an aftertaste for me, as well. From MWW, around £13.

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Back to Jerez…

Just had a week in a (very hot) Jerez. What follows is some of the more interesting bottles with some minimal tasting notes.

All wines tried were from the local region and all were bought, bar two, from Licores Corredera, an excellent wine shop in the middle of town, with an extensive stock and reasonable prices.

Firstly, sherry and manzanilla.

La Ina remains my favourite of the widely sold sherries, even better with a plate of jamon. €4 for a half bottle in a local tabanco. The ham cost more.

Of the manzanillas we tried, including Solear and La Gitana, I preferred San Leon – just a bit more intense. €3.10 for a half which makes it slightly more expensive than the other two.

A new sherry shop had opened round the corner to our apartment. The stock, including wine, was rather ordinary in range – nowhere near as good as Licores –  but they did sell Urium which I’ve never tried and one which is promoted in the UK. Pretty good and the equal to any other en rama tried in England, like Tio Pepe.


Out for a walk one morning I spotted a ‘despacho des vinos’, (shown below) open in what used to be, as I recall, a Lustau bodega. The old boy in front of me was buying five litres of fino from the barrel, at €2.75 a litre. I went for a half bottle of Bertola for much the same price. Rather ordinary, I’m afraid.

The final sherry tried was the best. This was a Colosia en rama, from El Puerto, another sherry town. Very pure, powerful yet refined and elegant. A pleasure to drink and a bargain at €12.60 for 50cl.

Red wines:

This was another El Puerto wine – the vineyard once belonged to someone called Forlong – and was an assemblage of syrah, merlot and tintilla. A good drink but not especially distinctive, around €8.

The next was highly recommended by the equally recommendable Jerez-Xeres-Sherry blog but I found it uninteresting despite it being Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Tintilla with 11 months in oak (€6.40). Made by Barbadillo who supply many restaurants with their very drinkable white Castillo.

The next was a very interesting wine, made from 100% tintilla de rota, as it happens the subject of one of our early blogs, nearly 5 years ago. This grape is usually blended and, on it’s own, made for a powerful, complex drink. Perhaps a little young (this was the 2014). Best slightly chilled, as are all the reds, €10.

The final red of interest is Cortijo de Jara, tried twice, in the same restaurant, the excellent Riva, near the cathedral. (The white was blogged a couple of years ago).

Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah, very soft and fruity, easy to drink. €13 in the restaurant, so about half that retail.

Next some white wines:

These were both chardonnay but neither was easily identifiable as such. Both very good, clean and crisp with the Barbazul just preferable, having a bit more body and character. (they also make an excellent red). From Licores the Barbazul was €6.60 (€15 in El Almacen, a good tapas bar, as shown) and the Entrechuelos €4.28.

The final white was a lovely wine, Ojo de Gallo made from palomino, the sherry grape. Very rich, stone fruits, hint of bitterness, very elegant, about €8.

I also tried a couple of bottled beers. The first, from Valencia, supposedly made with sea water, was bottle conditioned. Couldn’t detect any sea water. The second (below) was much better, made in Jerez, although I’d have preferred more hop and less malt. About €2.50. Given that a small glass (cana) of Cruzcampo is around €1.10-20 in the bars you can see why craft beer production hasn’t really taken off in southern Spain.

Conclusion: Jerez remains a great place for a holiday (I’ve been about 10 times), especially as Ryan Air didn’t cancel our flights. Lots of interesting wine and food. The town has been through a rough time recently and still has massive debts but there were some signs of a revival. Always good to go back.






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