Monthly Archives: October 2016

Flaccianello della Pieve 2009


Fontodi, the makers of this wine, are situated in the heart of the Chianti Classico area. This is intriguing as the usual black cockerel seal does not appear on the bottle and the wine is an IGT Colli Toscano Centrale rather than a Chianti DOC. I have searched, rather obsessively, for a reason but have decided to ‘let it go’ and concentrate on the wine itself. If anyone can enlighten, please do so.

[Richard: apparently when Flaccianello was first bottled 100% Sangiovese was not allowed by the Chianti Classico rules. Now it is but Fontodi have stuck with the same labelling. Also the CC rules do not allow large (over 6l.) bottles which Fontodi sometimes produce for Flaccianello.]

Pure Sangiovese, weighing in at 14.5% ABV, this is a big wine and one I, smelling blind, identified as a Rioja and then Claret. There was little with which to identify the typical tart cherry, lighter and fruity style of Chianti. That’s my excuse, anyway.

The deep black, intense colour, framed by a slightly brick coloured rim, preceded a spirity, vegetal and distinctly meaty nose. Tasting revealed a distinct tannic structure suggesting immaturity with fruit flavours of plums and damsons that went on for some time in the mouth. This was a wine with plenty of life left in it, drinking well now but probably improving for another 10 years. Richard says he has more of this high-quality IGT wine. It’s certainly worth waiting for.

[Richard: I bought 6 bottles (£39 each) four years ago and have been dying to open one ever since. By chance I saw a mention – by the fruit stashed Jane MacQuitty –  of a later vintage in The Times which she suggested was ready to drink. So I got this one down from the cupboard. Glad I did. Yes, lots of life left but very drinkable now. Pure, elegant, refined and a real ‘super Tuscan’. However not your typical sangiovese.]


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Wonderful discovery


Full marks to Marks and Spencer! Currently their wine range is the most imaginative on the High Street: there are no branded wines repeated ad nauseam; they haven’t got dozens of Proseccos; and their shelves create interest at all price levels. And they stock en rama sherry, which I’ve never seen outside of a specialist wine merchant – and rarely there. We tasted their 50cl Lustau offering (£10) with the Byass’ Tio Pepe en rama from the Wine Society. The Lustao was freshly opened whilst the TP had been opened a week; both were nicely chilled

Briefly, en rama, is fino wine that has undergone minimal filtering and fining, and has all the attributes of a young wine. Light in alcohol (circa 15% ABV) it is very refreshing whilst maintaining the oxidative notes of the sherry style.

As expected, both wines were bright but pale lemon in colour. On the nose, the Lustau had more lemon zest notes than the TP, probably due its freshness, but the latter still had the lovely acidity of the light sherry. Richard found the Lustau more direct and pungent in flavour but the thought the TP was “very, very long” and developed slight apple flavours in the mouth. We are talking very marginal differences here; both wines were excellent and, with the accompanying octopus in oil and smoked mussels, we were transported back to the wonderful bars in Jerez.

We really recommend the Lustau en rama. If you’re not a member of the WS it’s the best opportunity to get some wonderful wine easily and at a low price.

[Richard: both lovely wines with the TP holding up well despite the exposure to air. My sherry drinking has dropped off a bit recently, especially since Equipo Navazos got so expensive but this was a terrific reintroduction. At £15 (bottle size equivalent) the Lustau is good value as well. I doubt however if all M&S branches will stock it – ours came from New Oscott which is a specialist food store. Not on the M&S website either.]

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Reserve de la Comtesse 2004


This is the second wine of Pichon Longueville Baron, a 2nd growth Medoc from just south of the village of Paulliac on the left bank of the Gironde estuary. 2004 weather conditions of a wet August saved by a dry September and October produced wines of reasonable but not superb quality. The notes below are our impressions.

Colour: Intensity, very deep, tawny rim.

Nose: Slight menthol, black fruits, savoury, some muted acidity, intense, developing.

Flavours: dry, medium acidity, medium + tannins and mouth feel, pronounced black plum fruits, long finish.

This is ready for drinking but will develop more subtlety as it ages. Good, but yet to reach its best.

My more general opinion would be that of surprise at its body which was quite rustic rather than lean. I associate claret with a more refined style than this wine is showing; my first impressions were that it was southern French. The blend is 58% CS, 36% Merlot and 6% CF. I think it would benefit from more time to let the subtler flavours come through.

Still a very enjoyable wine, though. Thanks, Richard.

[Richard: the last, and probably the most expensive – around £28 –  of a of a mixed claret case from TWS. Very enjoyable drink which really needed red meat rather than the baked potato potato and cheese we drank it with.]

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Soave and sofisticato


The wine regions of north-east Italy have earned a reputation for high-volume, modestly priced wines for easy drinking. However, when we do take the trouble to search, pay a bit more (and not much more) there are some really interesting, characterful offerings. These are usually confined to the ‘classico’ (original) areas of the DOCs. Sunday night’s wine was one of those. I tasted it blind and, helped by a little confusion over location, I was struggling to place it.

The Pieropan ‘La Rocca’ 2009 (13% ABV) was a well-made, well-developed and well-appreciated Soave. Pieropan have justifiably earned a reputation for top quality wines that remind us what good Soave can taste like. Its grape ratio was 85% Gargenaga with 15% Trebbiano di Soave.

Intense yellow/gold in colour with beautiful clarity, the wine indicated some age as did its aromas of developed stone fruits and muted acidity. The acidity showed more on the palate, which had a heavy mouth feel and a long finish. The flavours were again stone fruits, especially peach, but it also had a pleasant finish of almonds which again indicated its well-developed state. The wine was beautifully balanced, well-made and worth taking time over. It would match fuller flavoured white meats, fish and cheeses.

[Richard: from TWS, £19. We blogged the 2010 nearly two years ago. I can’t recall why I saved the earlier wine although it must have been received opinion on ageing potential. Last time I remarked on similarities with Alsace – mouthfeel and body especially – and they are apparent here. Lovely wine which Angie polished off with great relish. One bottle left]





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“…. that’s Amarone”


Valpolicella Amarone has a quite a fan base. On the wine courses I run it is often mentioned as a favourite red wine and is bracketed with Argentinian Malbec, Australian Shiraz and Zinfandel as a ‘go to’ red for many people. However, I have to admit that these wines are not the first ones I think of for my favourite tipple. But, should I be wary of over-generalising in my thinking of them all as big, highly alcoholic and slightly sweet. Sunday was a chance to critically taste an Amarone, something I’d not consciously done before. Will I be tempted away from my preference for lighter Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Cabernet Francs?

Domini Veneti Vigneti de Jago 2004 Amarone della Valpolicella – to give it its grand title – is made from  Corvina grape berries that have been dried, fermented slowly and the resulting wine kept in oak. The results are below.

The colour was intense with a slight brick red rim and had an opaque quality (sediment haze?). The aromas were deep, rather menthol/herbal but with a pleasing, uplifting acidity which prevented it from appearing overly stewed. The primary fruit flavours were damsons. The taste was certainly dry and long with a weighty mouthfeel, all the characteristics one would expect from the style. There was an alluring complexity of bramble fruits and tar but, for me, it lacked the freshness that I like in lighter styles.  “A lot going on” was our summing up of this wine.

Would I buy one? Probably not, but I can see its attraction, especially to accompany some big flavoured food and cheese. As Dean Martin crooned “When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine – that’s Amarone”. It probably was.

[Richard, this was a (generous) Christmas present, I think from Laithwaites, where it is now sold out. Like Geoff, not a wine I’d normally buy, although it was much better than expected and is clearly a well made example of the style. I’ve still got most of the bottle left, under a vacuum seal, to retry at the weekend.

Ten days on, I’d had a couple of small glasses but couldn’t see myself finishing the bottle so it went into a pork/beef ragu – recipe from Rachel Roddy’s excellent book on Roman cooking. Delicious.]

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Off-licence wine



I’m an occasional beer drinker – a couple of pints a week and a bottle or two at home. One of my favourites is Thornbridge, although you rarely see their beer on draught. (Jaipur last week in the Duke of York, Lichfield was an exception). However we are fortunate to have a very good off-licence in Sutton – Michaels – who always have a decent selection of Thornbridge (and other) bottled beers. While I study them Geoff looks at the wine and last week found the above, at £7.99. Served blind it was, from the aroma, unmistakably claret with lots of vanilla and blackcurrant. Quite thin, rather dilute, in the mouth although it filled out after a few minutes in the glass. Like a lot of minor clarets I’ve tried the aroma promised something the taste could not quite deliver. Nevertheless a very decent drink for the money.



I don’t suppose that Majestic would appreciate being called an off-licence, although they meet the definition. They were the source of the second wine. I got as far as French chardonnay – lemony colour and smell, some struck match aroma –  but was surprised to learn it was a Chablis since it was richer than I expect from that region. Plenty of focussed intensity on the palate and another good value wine.

[Geoff: tried the wine 48 hours later (after vacuuming it). It certainly was a rich style of Chablis and one, if I’d tasted it blind, would have suggested its home was much further south, even into the Maconnais. Lovely drop of full flavoured Chardonnay. As Richard said, great value if you like that style.]

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A real wine article


Does objective analysis of sensory experiences enhance enjoyment? Is your pleasure at watching a Shakespearean play/listening to jazz/enjoying food enhanced when you know how the sensory effects have been created through language/instruments/cooking techniques? As Richard put succinctly put it, I am having to build an objective framework on a subjective experience. Which assumes that tasting is a subjective experience. So the philosophy of aesthetics goes on and on and on and ……

Carmin de Puemo 2007 was subjected to our new rigour on Friday night leading to the ultimate valuation of a very good wine which can be drunk now but will age. How did we arrive at this conclusion? Well …

A deeply intense garnet colour with pronounced tears. Pronounced aromas of baked red and black plums with some kirsch and mint. The maturation smells were savoury, meaty and tobacco-like. On the nose the wine had developed. The palate was dry, with high acidity and alcohol and pronounced flavour intensity. Tannins were low whilst the mouth feel was quite full-bodied. (Is everyone still awake?) The flavour characteristics were similar to the aromas with the addition of a jammy quality. The finish was medium-long.

There you are – I almost sound like a  wine writer. You can wake up now. Or did you move onto another article?

Oh, by the way, this was the Carmenere grape plus others. Quite unusual, as I associate it with lighter, fruity reds.

[Richard: Geoff is taking a wine exam…Anyway, for reasons I can’t remember I thought it was a good idea to spend a lot of money on a Chilean Carmenere, a region, and grape,  of which I know little. This wine is positioned as ‘high end’ – heavy, chunky bottle, designer label – and, on reflection I wonder if is priced to hit a certain market rather than for any intrinsic value. On the other hand TWS buyers must have thought it was worth selling (it is now sold out) and over-valued wines are contrary – I hope – to TWS ethos. I can’t add much to what Geoff has said except to report that is was much the same on day 2, the 14.7% alcohol doubtless helping. We tried it with some pork rillettes on toast, which were a good match. Very good but I’d never buy another bottle.]

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