Monthly Archives: March 2018

One of your better cavas

Years ago when we visited Spain for holidays there was always a temptation to try cava – mainly because it was so cheap, compared to champagne, at least. So we tried a few and invariably, weren’t impressed. Too sweet, too short, lacking in character, little acidity and with a characteristic ‘hard’ finish. We gave up trying and stocked up on champagne as we made the car journey down through France. But – they weren’t all horrible. Probably the best we tried was that from Juvé & Camps. And here we are, decades later, with a bottle of their ‘Reserva’ from MWW.

I’ve never seen it suggested that sparkling wine be decanted but this wine got markedly better in the glass. Not much mousse, decent nose – I’m sure I detected chardonnay – and, still, that hard finish. But – it got better and after 20 minutes or so was a very decent drink, with some complexity. Miles better than prosecco. As to the chardonnay, the company website doesn’t list it, other websites do, so I was mistaken – although they do grow and use the grape in some of their other cavas.


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Fiano Paone, Cantine del Barone 2015, natural wine


The Campania wine region, situated on Italy’s west coast, close to Naples, is hot but benefits from sea breezes and vineyards at high altitudes thereby cooler. These cooling elements are vital to maintain acidity levels in the wines which keep them fresh. The Fiano grape, a native of Campania, is recognised for its robust qualities as well as its waxy style. The wine we tried on Sunday had both but, rather disappointingly, lacked character.

Clear, hay yellow with very subtle green tinges, the weight was quite evident in its ‘tears’. The aromas were of lemon curd and with subtle ginger spice smells (Richard) but the ensuing taste was an anticlimax. Certainly dry and forthright in taste, there was a hint of almonds but it wasn’t very appealing and didn’t improve either, according to Richard. It just lacked some quality and some memorable flavour.

It’s 100% organic, available from the Buon Vino company at £14.95.

[Richard: low sulphur and organic, as well as natural, only 12% but all that wasn’t a substitute for the lack of character – something often missing, as Geoff remarked, in Italian whites. Not unpleasant and with a slight smokey aroma but, ultimately, not very interesting and thus, overpriced.]



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Another new grape…

Which country has the most indigenous grape varieties? Possibly a question with no definitive answer but Italy must be a possibility. Here’s another new one, from MWW – Albarossa. Apparently a cross between Nebbiolo and Barbera although it didn’t taste anything like the former to me. Anyway, slightly soupy appearance, rather spirity nose with a hint of acetone and red fruit. Fruit – MWW claim cherry which is too specific for me –  also on the palate but a rather simple taste with no development in the mouth and rather short. The sort of wine you find on holiday at a bargain price and drink loads of. For the money (£9 if you buy 6) good value.

[Geoff: As Richard has written, an okay (not oakey) red, easy drinking, crowd pleasing, pasta accompanying, slurping red. A hybrid grape made in 1937; not strictly Nebbiolo.]

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Semplicemente red


One of the delights of our tasting blind – apart from the fun – is the shock element, especially on revealing the wine. Well, the shock came earlier this time, when I actually tasted it. I’d looked and noted colours of red with a tinge of brown (aged – wrong), smelt rich plummy to dark fruits (New World – wrong) and then put lips to glass. It had a fizz – and was deliciously savoury, sweet mid palate, dry finish, slightly tannic and very gluggable. Okay, Lambrusco – wrong.

This was Belloti Rosso Semplicemente red 2015 from Tassarolo, south of Turin, in Piedmont. It’s a blend of Barbera and Dolcetto grapes and has an ABV of 13.5%. It’s another wine from the Buon Vino natural wine suppliers and has that purity that I noticed in the rioja blogged recently (auto-suggestion, perhaps?). Anyway, I am a lover of good Lambrusco, such a great match with pizza and antipasto, so this was right up my strada.

Oh, I nearly forgot the other surprise – it had a beer bottle top!

[Richard: three wines from the Buon Vino selection now tried (one not blogged) and they have all been good. This one was very low sulphur – none added –  and our first ever crown cap as well, something rarely seen on wine but there was a slight frizzante effect to justify it. This soon dissipated in the glass and the wine is not as lively as a Lambrusco. Lots going on in the glass, very drinkable and a wine I’d buy again.]

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Not this time…

Having been pleased with my ability to spot Cabernet Franc I was completely fooled by this, a South African version (Warwick Estate 2013).

Medium intensity in colour, a rich, rather sweet smell – vanilla, Turkish Delight  – which didn’t really carry over into the taste. Quite long and drying on the finish. A pleasant drink but with none of the characteristics you would find in a bottle from the Loire. In particular the ‘green’ grassy note was completely absent.

[Geoff: R. needn’t be too self-critical, this is Cabernet Franc – but not as we know it. My feelings are ambivalent about this wine. On the one hand, it’s a very well-made, polished, complete, rich, full-flavoured mouthful. However, my liking of this grape comes from the fragrant raspberry aromas, the herbaceous, underripe tastes and the edgy tannins – none of which this had. Mind you, CF’s home in the Loire can throw up pretty raw, unpolished wines sometimes and this was way more enjoyable than those. This did exhibit the difference between a New World, warmer climate style and the Old World style. £20.50 from the WS.]

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Organic wine


R. has bought a case of organic i.e. low (or no) sulphur/low intervention wines and, initially rather sceptical, I have enjoyed this offering. It is a widely available, not obscure, wine which has earned some high praise, both in terms of VFM and its quality.

Gran Cerdo 2016 by Gonzalo Grjalba is a red Rioja (ABV 13.5%) which has a delightfully pure taste. The colour is a vibrant ruby red of medium intensity with a slightly purple rim. I smelt sour red fruit and immediately placed it as an Italian red (right continent, at least) but there was also a lingering smokiness. All the aromas were very pronounced. Although not a complex wine, its freshness and purity were delightful, the tannins gave a good structure and a pleasing dryness.

The wine had not seen any wood, only stainless steel and the sulphur dosage was very low. Fermenting wine does produce its own sulphur in small quantities but I assume that little extra is used. I was very impressed with this and it represents very good value.

[Richard: Ange has expressed an interest in low intervention/organic (the terms are not completely synonymous) wines and opinion on the WS Forum was that Buon Vino were the best suppliers. They had a 10% discount on low/no sulphur wines so I picked a selection of well-reviewed (by customers) bottles. This was the cheapest at around £8 and, as Geoff says, it was pretty good. Interesting to taste the Tempranillo grape vinified in a totally different way. Nothing like Rioja but none the worse for that. I forgot to take a photo so that above comes from the seller’s website.]


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Anaemic Bull’s Blood


The Wine Society have recently been promoting Hungarian wines some of which we have tried and blogged. Whilst not being poor wines I have found them a little underwhelming and certainly not living up to the hyperbole generated. This wine was another example.

The grape is Kadarka, eastern European in origin, and a constituent of the (in)famous Bull’s Blood wine. The wine is Gal Tibor (2016) and anything less like bull’s blood it is difficult to imagine. Very pale red with a watery rim, the wine had a really pronounced pure strawberry fruit smell so strong and sweet it could be mistaken for a fruit wine. The palate was dry with some tannins (it needed them) of medium length but very one-dimensional.  The ABV was 11.5%.

To do it justice it may be termed a summer wine but it would be very difficult to find a food match – cold meats possibly. It will be interesting to read the WS members’ opinions of this.

[Richard: I liked this rather more than Geoff did, deceptively savoury given the appearance but there isn’t a lot more to say as the wine is so simple. Lightly chilled on a hot day it would be very appealing, less so in chilly March. About £11, WS.]





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