Monthly Archives: October 2017

At home with a Rhone


In Crozes-Hermitage, the largest appellation in the northern Rhone, the focus is on Syrah whose vines occupy the best granite terroir. However, the two white grapes, Marsanne and Rousanne, are also grown and blended or produced as the mono-varietal Marsanne. They are relatively easy to spot and this Sunday’s offering was no different.

Domaine Belle’s Les Terres Blanches 2014 (13%), comprised 70% Marsanne with 30% Rousanne, had been aged for 10 months. Interestingly, only 20% of this was new oak, the rest being old oak and stainless steel. I assume that this was to maintain acidity levels which can be an issue for white grapes in the south.

The result was a delicate wine, a very bright, pale straw in colour. An elegant bouquet of stone fruits and blossom with lemon acidity was very attractive. The palate confirmed its refreshing delicacy and lightness. Medium length with a slight yoghurty creaminess, lifted by lemon acidity, the wine was not quite bone dry and would make an ideal – and unusual – aperitif or pair well with fish.

This was a very pleasant, gently attractive white wine.

[Richard: very well made wine with lots to interest the nose and palate. From The WS as part of a mixed white Rhone half case, no longer available so I’m not sure of the price but decent white Rhone is never cheap.]


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Two oldies – no, not us – the wines


The Wine Society had recently made available some 1994 Argentinian Malbecs from Weinart, a traditional producer based in Mendoza.  Richard and I tasted some on Friday evening. The wine had been decanted.

The colour was an intense ruby with a brick-tinged rim and some viscosity. The dominant aromas were plum, vanilla and tertiary notes of licquorice. There was both acidity and a slight spirit smell. The palate was repeat of the above with the addition of spiciness and some alcohol heat.

WS’s claim of complexity was interesting – we must have been missing something. To be fair, the sellers did claim the drinking window to be in 2019 so it might be still too young which may account for the presence of alcohol. In other words the wine may not have ‘settled down’ yet. However, 23 years is a long time and I would have thought that some more interesting notes might be beginning to show.

I’m wary of old red wines that have been ‘unearthed’ by buyers. Some of them taste just what they are – old red wines. Not all wines age graciously – or indeed gain more layers of flavour – we both hope this isn’t one of those.

[Richard: I bought 6 of these, en primeur, on a whim having failed to spot the 15.1% alcohol. The WS say ‘can be drunk soon after bottling’ and also ‘drink from 2019’ which is rather contradictory since the wine must have been bottled about three months ago. As Geoff says, the WS claim ‘remarkable complexity’ which passed me by. Nor can I see that holding it for another 15 months will make much difference. Come back next year…]


Talking of older wines improving – or not, as the case may be – I grabbed two bottles of Cluver Elgin chardonnay 2011 from a basket of discontinued wines at Vin Neuf in Stratford. These were a bargain and had improved.

Very bright, intense, deep lemon in colour, the aromas of lime, sweet melon and pineapple were fabulous. This was New World chardonnay at its best – rich tropical fruits balanced by acidity for the freshness with a little vanilla cream providing the bass notes.

I’ve the other bottle left, I don’t think there’ll be any more. What a pity.

[Richard: quite a while since I’ve tried a non-French chardonnay and this was a good one. Tropical but not too tropical.]

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Classic Claret – Chateau Sénéjac 2011

A nice ruby red tint with medium intensity. Not tasted blind but a big blackcurrant and menthol nose (smelt easily over a heavy cold) made it unmistakeable. As ever the taste was not as rich as you initially think it might be, quite austere, moving towards dry and tannic, with medium length and savouriness. Some improvement in the glass made it a lovely drink, albeit one needing food.

[Geoff – traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef, gravy – sorry, jus – sprouts and roast potatoes demanded a traditional wine. And it was a perfect match. It had just enough black fruit richness, which was enhanced by the natural red meat salts, whilst not being jammy. Good winemakers can make good wines in poor years; this was an example. Great value from the Co-op at about £13.]

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Hárslevelü, anyone?

A white wine, tasted blind. I had no idea where it was from or the grapes, one of which was the above. Quite oily in appearance, clear lemon green. Coconut and lime on the nose and taste, rich but well balanced. However one glass was enough – it needed food. The other grapes were viognier (52%) which normally we would recognise, but not here, semillon (21%), which predominated, hárslevelü, from Hungary, which contribute the lime taste/aroma and sauvignon blanc.

In fact an (untypical) South African wine – not a country we taste very often.

[Geoff: An interesting wine without being memorable. Made to appeal but, after a time, was a little cloying without gaining any complexity. Okay (not oakey)]

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Another week, another blogger…

…gets a sparkling wine wrong. This time it was my turn to confidently assert ‘not champagne’ and be proved wrong. To me, at first, the nose was atypical and the taste rather sweet and lacking complexity. I thought it might be an upmarket prosecco or similar. On the other hand it looked like a champagne with lots of fine, persistent. bubbles and a dark gold colour. A second glass was drier which perhaps says more about my palate than the wine. Enjoyable and easy to drink. Now on sale (M&S) and worth looking out for but I don’t think it is good value at the full retail price.

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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 Vin Cognito (£27). 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.

[Richard: a fascinating wine with lots of complexity both on the nose and in the mouth. Good mouth feel, rich and savoury, quite high toned, lots of acidity with plenty of balancing red fruit. Really interesting and one I’d certainly buy again.]



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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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