Monthly Archives: April 2018

Just testing


This claret, purchased some time ago by Richard, is part of a small quantity loosely termed an investment. Not financial, you understand, but more gustatory. So we had to try it, just to see how it’s getting on. And the answer? Very well.

Chateau Sociando-Mallet is a Haut-Medoc property owned by Jean Gautreau and this was his 2009 vintage. 09 and 10 were good years for Bordeaux wines; hot summers with some rain at the right time to swell the grapes. Stephen Brook (The Complete Bordeaux) labels 09 as a “very great vintage”. He describes Soc-Mal’s 09 as “superb” with “imposing tannins but excellent length”.

And us?

The wine had a deep red core with a very slight brick rim which heralded some maturity but still plenty of life. There was the unmistakeable black fruit nose, not too plummy, with that lovely cedar wood aroma. The palate was dry and definitely long but still rich. It was starting to lose its plumpness but there was still plenty of power with a slight tarry quality. We detected slight herbaceous, underripe, notes rather than tannins but this gave it a structure in the mouth. The wine is just – and I mean just – into its drinking window. It can only improve from now on. Classic claret.

The blend is 55 – 40 – 5 of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc and its ABV 13.5%.

[Richard: I bought six from Tesco (£32 a bottle) in 2012 when they suddenly got hold of lots of claret. I bought it because John and I got some en primeur in the eighties when it had a reputation – still maintained – for being of classed growth quality. This is the second bottle tried and a marked improvement on the first, having softened considerably, although it had been decanted for three hours. A very nice drink throughout the evening. I should mention that Geoff got the country, region, sub-region and vintage from the appearance and smell alone.]


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A match made in heaven


No, not Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle but en rama fino sherry, anchovy butter, radishes and marinated anchovies. What a combination! All presented by matchmaker Richard at Sunday evening’s tastings.

The sherry came from the William’s & Humbert dynasty (Williams Coleccion Anadas) via Vin Cognito. It had been bottled just over a year ago and was 15.5% ABV.

Clear old gold colours with that tell-tale floor polish and nutty aroma, this wine promised – and delivered – much future happiness. The dry, long palate was borne on a rich yet citrussy palate and the flor/oxidative notes provided the trademark sherry flavours.

On its own it would have been delicious but when joined together with the food ….. This is a combination to repeat. A meal to set before a king or queen or have I got the wrong brother?

[Richard: The anchovy butter and radishes was inspired by a visit to St John’s Bread and Wine in Spitalfields last weekend. This was a delicious en rama fino, only lacking the powerful aroma you would get in a similar (more expensive) wine from Equipo Navazos. The ‘en rama season’ is now upon us with that from Tio Pepe rumoured to be very good this year. Watch this space.]

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Not from Alsace

This was a riesling from northern Italy. Bright green/yellow, slight struck match – I thought it might be chardonnay –  which faded to be replaced by a recognisable riesling aroma. Initially off dry – which was probably caused by the food we had just eaten – but as the palate cleared the wine was clearly dry with lots of acidity, rather short and simple but a pleasant enough drink which grew on us. Clearly not from Alsace – not enough body – but I only guessed Italy after some prompting, since I’ve never tasted an Italian riesling before.

[Geoff: The Langhe hills in Piedmont give lots of different growing conditions for vineyard owners and the Langhe region DOC has become innovative, importing well known international grape varieties. (This has echoes of the success of the Supertuscans around Bolgheri further south).  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling are now DOC Langhe white wines which can be enjoyed; I wonder how the traditional Italian grape growers view this ‘invasion’. Not particularly complex – but not expensive – this needed food as it started to lose its cleaner mouth flavours after a while. Purchased from Martinez Wines in Ilkley, it is also stocked by The Wine Society].


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There are some things that one does not expect to hear; one of them being Richard saying “I like this” when referring to that popular north-east Italian sparkler Prosecco. But he did say it! Honestly.

Sottoriva Col Fondo Malibran is a low sulphur sparkler made from the Glera grape in the Veneto region. It’s frizzante rather than spumante which is to its benefit. It is crown corked (beer bottle top) and has an ABV of 11%. The sulphites are low and it has undergone a spontaneous refermentation. I am unsure as to whether that is using wild yeasts (more authentic than cultured yeasts) and/or the second fermentation takes place naturally as the weather warms in the spring. The web-site is as unclear on this as was the wine. The cloudiness was very apparent and reminded us of drinking bottle-conditioned beer.

So, light lemon, slightly green to look at with a gentle mousse. The smell was citrussy, delicate and not sugary like many Proseccos. The taste was definitely dry, of medium length and with an edge of bitterness which gave it a structured finish. Not a complex wine but its authenticity was there to taste. A very interesting wine, especially for us wine geeks. Not one for a mass-market.

[Richard, from Buon Vino, about £16. Prosecco in name only, which is why I liked it.]




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Very pale raspberry – could be a dark rosé in other parts of France – and transparent. Pure, delicate nose – feminine as some (male) wine critics would say, with a pretty rose petals aroma. The taste did not really say ‘pinot’ to me, despite it being obvious that it was such. Very drinkable and moreish.

We’ve both been members of TWS for some years but we rarely buy wines from their’ Exhibition’ (own label) series. Not sure why but this was a good advertisement. Unfortunately it’s no longer available and it seems that TWS no longer offer any red burgundy in the Exhibition range.

[Geoff: St Aubin is a village at the southern end of the Cote de Beaune; the area is more renowned for its white wines such as Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne. Such is the demand for Burgundy that these once less popular communes’ red wines have now become sources of reasonably priced wines. I use ‘reasonably’ with some irony. This wine was more ‘pretty’ than firm and earthy but nonetheless attractive to drink. I drank it later with chicken salad; its delicacy was an ideal accompaniment. The usual Pinot characteristics seemed to apply i.e. wonderful nose preceding a good taste.]

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Another Sunday, another old wine


Following on from the 2003 claret tasting last weekend I’ve regressed another ten years to 1993. I’ve also moved south to the Languedoc region and the St Chinian AC in particular. St Chinian wines, widely available in the UK, can be a notch up in quality from the standard blends from the Languedoc and show more specific terroir-based character. They tend to be blends of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache in varying proportions but not exclusively so.

I tasted this wine on Sunday evening whilst away in Yorkshire; it had been sitting my host’s wine-rack for some time. Sir de Roc Brun 1993 seems to be a well-known wine from the area if the web-site is anything to go by. We opened and tasted in quick succession on account of the possible fragility of the wine.

Brown-rimmed (unsurprisingly) but with a clear, light red core, the wine was obviously in good condition. The nose was distinctly red fruits but had a remarkable freshness for a wine a quarter of a century old. The palate had lost a lot of overt fruit but there was still the hint of sweet cherry. Definitely dry with some gentle tannins holding everything together, the wine was still fresh tasting and stood up rather well to roast lamb.

St Chinian would come to mind as a wine to be drunk younger rather than aged. It was wonderful to experience the freshness of a wine speaking to us from a generation ago. Thank you to my hosts Chris and Julie.

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If you visit Spain and are interested in the drink culture it soon becomes evident that the Spaniards drink a lot of red vermouth (vermut), usually with ice and lemon. Some bars have a font or small barrel for dispensing and there are a number of brands you never see in the UK. A recent trend, at least in Jerez, has been the appearance of up-market vermouth. And vermouth is very common in Italy with some of their rarer brands becoming available here. For example Waitrose sell Cocchi Vermouth di Torino at £18 for a 50cl bottle which I would think is a hard sell, at least in Lichfield.

I tried three, first at room temperature, then with ice. This was a rather artificial tasting since drinking neat vermouth is, in this country, unusual with most red vermouth going into cocktails, most notably the Negroni.

Vermut Lustau: Lustau are a sherry producer in Jerez and I think this has a sherry base with added botanicals. Brown colour, rich herby nose, initially sweet but finishing dry. Sold by Waitrose, £13, 50cl. My favourite.

Carpano Antica Formula: made in Milan with a wine base with other ingredients using a ‘secret formula’. Similar in colour to the Lustau but with a shier nose and a drier finish, despite sugar being listed as an ingredient. This was sold by Waitrose but no longer with the last bottles being knocked down. Ocado still have it at £12 for a half bottle.

Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino: made in the Piedmont, wine base with added botanicals and matured in oak. Light red – could have been a wine – dried herbs, especially thyme, on the nose and in the mouth, less complex than the other two but the most bitter. No discernible oak. It was sold by Waitrose (£11, 75cl) but also seems to have vanished.

All three were less impressive with ice as the taste was softened and diluted. Better to chill the bottles and/or the glass.

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