Monthly Archives: September 2017

Does anyone listen to wine critics?

Every paper and most magazines these days have a wine column. The critics (misnamed because they never actually criticise, unlike, say film critics) recommend a range of wines, usually on some feeble premise. I saw ‘wines for autumn’ the other day. It’s rare that I find these columns of any use. Firstly the wines recommended are not ones I want to buy and, more importantly they aren’t easy to get hold of. It could be a recommendation for a supermarket you don’t shop at or an independent wine merchant who wants a £100 minimum spend and charges for delivery.

One exception is Janice Robinson and her staff who I’ve always found worth reading. They recently reviewed a lot of wines from Vin Cognito. We’ve tasted wines from this supplier before and the wines are invariably interesting. So I took a punt on a few of which this is the first: Cortezada Fedellos do Couto, Ribeira Sacra, 2015, £20.

This was a lovely wine, smokey and peppery, well integrated tannin, lots of fruit, very fresh, very long. 100% pure Mencia – not a grape we’ve ever mentioned before, nor have we ever tasted a wine from Ribeira Sacra, a small region in Galicia. A real find and I wish I’d bought more.




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Some more vintage port

Steve was round for a meal last night and I know he likes port so I went back to my case of 2007 half bottles and picked a couple for us to try. We previously tried two different bottle from the case a couple of years ago.

This time I went for Warre’s and Graham’s which are reckoned to be superior houses to those tried – Smith Woodhouse and Gould Campbell –  in 2015. In addition the extra 2 years maturation has helped a lot as these were both very nice. Fresh, well integrated, lots of fruit, savoury and long. We both marginally preferred the Warre’s.

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Gran Reserva

We’re off to Jerez soon so this seemed to be a good time to open a Spanish classic, the 2001 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial from Murrieta (WS £34 in 2010, no longer available – a good price, given that more recent vintages are around £80). Single vineyard, nearly all Tempranillo with some Mazuelo to add acidity which it certainly has, 2.5 years in oak, then three in barrel before release. The bottle had a heavy deposit of sediment at the shoulder which didn’t appear in the glass. A typically thin, silky, elegant Rioja, very fine, pure and long. More fruit and less tar than is usual, very complex. A delight to drink.

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Kissing frogs.


New Zealand Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz and Argentinian Malbec – the phrases trip blithely off the tongue as easily as the wines slip around it.  They have all become big money-making New World regions, eclipsing the original regions of the grape, France. Commercially successful, they are all the standards against which other wines made from those grapes are judged. Hats off to the New World, then, in having succeeded in shifting the wine-drinking public’s reference points.

We tried an Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza on Sunday night, Francois Lurton’s Piedra Negra 2008. I find Malbec falls into two categories, the largest category being that of the big, alcoholic, tannic, dry, heavyweight. The wine style with which someone delights in finishing the bottle at the end of a meal (including the pudding). There is a finer, and smaller, style, however. A style showing lighter red fruits, higher acidity and of gentler persuasions. And  you can find them, but you have to kiss a few frogs to get there.

Lurton’s belonged to the former group. An intense red colour showing high viscosity with tertiary smells of coffee and a slightly burnt nose. Tannic, wanting of fruit and seemingly underdeveloped, this might be better in another five years but I doubt it. It will get older and less refined, I think.

So, not for me, sorry. It was frog – not a handsome prince.

[Richard: Geoff and I had been looking at some WS member reviews and saw one on a red Cahors which was rather uncomplimentary – ‘just another red wine’ – which, in turn,  made us realise we don’t drink much malbec. In Winchester a few days later I visited Wine Utopia and saw that they had a bottle of an upmarket Argentinian malbec which I thought would make an interesting tasting. Actually, not so much, because firstly, neither of have much idea what malbec should taste like, even allowing for the different styles Geoff mentions. And secondly, it was really ‘just another red wine’, albeit well made, without much to distinguish it. Interestingly both the malbec and the red in the previous post were the same price (£27.99). The reduction on the Hermitage made it decent value, not so the Piedra Negra.]


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Red retaste

I tasted this blind and guessed Rhone after wrongly thinking it was a claret. My defence: no characteristic Syrah/Rhone indicators like pepper. When we first tasted this in May we were rather more complimentary. Nothing wrong with the wine, decent fruit, medium length, well balanced – just a bit dull. And, as before, overpriced at £28.

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Burgundian sherry


If you are fond of fino and also like white burgundy try and find some Fino de Jerez En Rama, made by Lustau and sold by M&S (£10 for 50cl). On opening the nose is pure fino but as the wine warms up it takes on a distinct Burgundian ‘struck match’ aroma although the taste remains typically  fino. The back label says that the wine is bottled ‘straight from the butt without any additional treatment’ and claims ‘balsamic aromas’. I didn’t identify any of those and the usual cause of ‘le matchstick’, as the French call it, is added sulphur dioxide. A mystery as this is not an aroma I’ve ever detected before on sherry. Chapeau to Geoff for first noticing this.

[Geoff: I’d texted Richard to describe its quite remarkable taste. Mine wasn’t quite chilled but cold enough and, as I said in the text, tasted blind I’d have sworn it was a Burgundy. Anyway, one day on, I was looking forward to another glass with some cheese but the wine had gone off. It had a strong smell of rubber and quite unpleasant. I had not ‘vacuumed’ it, thinking, as a sherry, it would be stable enough. But no. If Richard picked up on the SO2 smell, I wonder if its there because the wine is inherently unstable. I’ve had en rama many times before and it can sit quite happily in the fridge door. Mmmm]

[Richard: I’ve just retried my bottle after 24h and the matchstick nose is still there, albeit fainter. The taste is as before. The mystery deepens.]

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Cold evening – big red wine

Geoff indisposed tonight so here goes.

Unseasonably cold weather means a sturdy red wine(s). I bought six of the Secastilla Somontano 2005 in 2011. Somontano is a small region, inland at the foothills of the Pyrenees, close to the French border. From Ocado, at £15 a bottle. This is the last one. Opened last night for a drink with some neighbours prior to a party. Only one tried it – a Rioja fan – and he liked it. I thought it was better than any of the previous five but, at best, it was just a big red wine. Decent garnacha taste, without any Chateauneuf style brutishness but lacking a bit of character. Not much nose, a fair bit of sediment. Fairly priced but I’d rather have a £15 Rioja.


Also tasted was a CdP I found in the wine rack and one I’d forgotten about. Same grape – grenache – so an interesting comparison. Opened 24h when tasted. This was a Bosquet des Papes 2009 cuveé tradition. No idea where it came from, or how much. A blend of 75% Grenache with the rest mostly Syrah and Mourvedre and small amounts of Counoise, Cinsault and Vaccarese. The latter is a very rare grape (0.15% of the appellation). Do they just chuck these grapes in to make up the quantity, I wonder? Anyway, I didn’t get a sense of the other grapes with grenache predominating, especially on the taste. I’ve blogged about my antipathy to CdP too often and this wine didn’t convert me. Tasty, but not savoury, one-dimensional and a bit dull. On balance I preferred the Secastilla, as being a more harmonious drink.


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