Category Archives: posted by Geoff

Ciada, Vigneti Valle Roncati 2010, Fara DOC


This wine is another northern Italian red, part of a mixed case Richard bought a few months back. We blogged the impressive Valtellina recently and now we’ve moved further south, towards Milan, for a Fara DOC. I tried it blind and stabbed at both Pinot Noir and Syrah (its delicate aroma) before fixing on Nebbiola, the grape that dominates (70%) the blend. The other grapes are the waspish Vespolina and Uva Rare. It has spent nearly three years in French oak and a further nine months in bottle before release. This ageing will soften the tannins that can be obtrusive in young Nebbiola.

A distinctive brick colour edged the wine which was of medium intensity red. The nose was very perfumed, delicate, sweet and floral rather than fruity. The tannins were present but didn’t dominate rather giving it some structure, this would be a great food wine. Its lightness belied the 14% ABV. With a long finish that hinted of liquorice, it was a well-made, attractive wine and one worth its £23 price tag (Wine Society).

Two down out of this Italian case and both impressive.

[Richard: this case is turning out to be an interesting buy – although the first bottle tried (Taurasi, Feudi di San Gregorio 2011, not blogged) was ordinary. Still drinking well on day 2. A stylish wine, if a little pricey for what is a an obscure appellation, although production is small and it scored very highly in a Decanter tasting.]


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Antipodean Semillon


Semillon, as I’ve often stated, is one of my favourite wines. But only, and it’s a significant but, if it’s upward of seven years old. When young, it’s dominated by pronounced acidity, rather short and uninteresting. Ageing brings wonderful musky notes and a very subtle richness whilst still maintaining the lime acidity which becomes more balanced with age. Semillon’s ability to mature has me searching good wine merchants’ shelves for older vintages – and there usually are some as it is not a popular grape variety.

Mitchell’s 2007 Watervale Clare Valley Semillon was purchased from Weavers in Nottingham who are now selling the 2009 vintage for £12. According to Mitchell’s web-site, the wines are barrel fermented (the label says from wild yeasts – but not exclusively?) and then left on their lees for 12 months to add creaminess and complexity to the wine.

This wine was a shade shy of gold with still a hint of green (denoting acidity) with the expected medium/low viscosity (13.5%). The nose was aromatic, with key-lime and pie crust – the typical muskiness – smells. The medium-length palate was dry with the lime flavours still present in the balanced acidity.  The second day saw a developing richness but, to be critical, I found it a little shorter and not as complex as expected. Still pretty young but I don’t think it’s going to change much more. It was a lovely glass, nevertheless.

(The other half of this tasting duo is on holiday in Crete; Richard will have lots of interesting grapes to write about on his return)

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Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla en rama


It’s here again. Our favourite sherry style – en rama, but this time a manzanilla rather than a fino. Richard purchased these from Tanners in Shrewsbury but tasting them transports us back to Jerez and the fresh style of wine found there. (To be precise, Manzanilla is from Sanlucar).

An intense lemon yellow in colour, the wine smelt of slightly stewed apples and yeast but there was also a floral quality to the nose, emphasising its delicate, almost fragile nature. That delicacy carried through in the palate which was light, long, lemony and dry with an subtle almond taste. The wonderful flavour was a pleasure.

We shared a glass with some chunks of squid in ink – a great way to spend twenty minutes on a warm Friday evening.

[Richard: from Tanner’s, about £15. Unusual to see manzanilla en rama and I’ve only previously seen it at that retailer. For me not quite as spectacular as fino en rama can be as I felt some of the trademark salinity you expect from manzanilla had gone missing. But still a lovely fragrant drink which needs hot weather, not the incessant rain we are currently experiencing.]

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Flatters to deceive


The Tannat grape is native to south west France where it traditionally produces wines described as ‘rustic’, Madiran probably being the most well-known. It has also received plaudits in Uruguay which seems to produce a softer, fruitier style of wine then France. This wine, however, came from the far north of Greece, hard by the Macedonian border. Utopia 2011, made by Alpha Estate, is 100% Tannat and weighs in at 14% ABV.

The pronounced colour left a ruby stain on the glass when the wine was swirled. Some pigment there then. There was a delightful fresh nose, slightly menthol and blackcurrant, with an underlying smokey and vanilla perfume suggesting barrel- ageing. So far so good.

Richard had the palate description spot on – “hollow” – which was a disappointment after the pleasures of the smell. It was lacking richness and depth and could be described as ordinary red wine. The smell was better then the taste. This seems to have matured quickly, quite the opposite to its French equivalent which is, to be kind, rather austere for at least ten years.

[Richard: whenever I’m in Birmingham I try to call in to the Greek shop just outside New Street station. An interesting selection of wine and food and where this bottle was purchased, for around £10. As Geoff says you don’t expect to see Tannat in Greece and this made me want to try it. Alpha wines are always good quality and this is well made, with an enticing nose but the taste is acceptable without being special. An interesting experiment but I think Greek wines are better made with native grapes. Off to Crete shortly and hoping to try a few.]

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Grape cocktail


Le Soula 2010 is a white wine from Cotes Catalanes, the eastern end of the Pyrenees, inland from Perpignan. A hot, dry climate means that white wines can sometimes lack the freshness – and longevity – that acidity brings. The vines for this wine are grown in vineyards 320 – 535 metres high (it’s cooler higher up) and on poor soils so the vines’ roots have to search hard for water; less water content in the berries means lower yields and more flavour.

There is a mix of six different grape varieties in the blend: Macabeo (59%), Sauvignon (18%) and Grenache Blanc (13%) dominate; Chardonnay (6%), Malvoisie (3%) and Vermentino (1%) also play a part. That’s quite a blending operation which, when added to 21 months in oak barrels, shows a fair attention to quality by the producer Gabriel Gauby.

Our notes mention its deep, lemon/gold colour, indicating some ageing, and medium levels of viscosity. The low acidity showed through on the nose where the predominant smell was of bruised apples rather than fresh picked fruit. We could see why, on the nose, it may be (mistakenly) considered oxidised. The gentle acidity showed on the palate which was dry, of medium length and characterised by stone fruit and minerality (Richard). The alcohol was in balance.

This was another good southern French white, our third in recent tastings, which would match strongly flavoured white meats. We had it with tinned octopus pieces,

[Richard: from Waitrose Cellar Online, £28. As Geoff says another classy white from southern France. Ready to drink and it might have been better decanted as it continued to develop over the evening. Interesting that this winemaker can make comparatively (13.5%) low alcohol wines with plenty of flavour, something those in the Rhone claim climate change makes impossible.]



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Syrah Primer


On Monday, R & I attended a WS tasting in Leicester devoted to two grape varieties – Riesling and Syrah. Richard thought that it would be a perfect preparation to prime our palates with a Gimblett Gravels NZ Syrah from Craggy Range. This was Le Sol 2009 and cost £38; I tasted it blind.

The colour was an intense ruby red and it showed some viscosity but not overmuch. The nose, initially an alluring menthol, was dominated by black fruits but, surprisingly, no pepper notes which steered me away from Syrah. The flavour of very ripe cherries was long; it had a great depth with well-integrated tannins and some fresh acidity which lifted the wine. A very enjoyable wine which surprised me with its fuller style – a contrast to the lighter style of NZ Syrah recently tasted.

The age of this wine certainly contributed to our enjoyment unlike the WS Syrahs at the tasting many of which I thought were much too young. They needed decanting to take away some of their raw edges but, credit to the WS for putting on an interesting niche tasting.

[Richard: as you can see from the label I took this out of the rack many times, wondering if it was ready (purchased 2012 from the WS). Finally it was and it proved a useful reference to the wines tasted on Monday – better than all except a 1989, £220 Hermitage. Very well made, classy and easy to drink.]

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The wine from hell


Inferno, the Italian word for hell, is a sub-region of the dramatic Valtellina region in the north of Piedmont, close by the Swiss border. A look on the Internet will reveal just how dramatic this small wine producing region is. Steep slopes (necessitating hand-harvesting), terracing and kilometres of stone walls are the oenological facts of life in this region. Inferno is the warmest part of the Valtellina (hence the name) but the south-facing slopes enjoy a huge diurnal temperature range, giving both ripeness of fruit and delicate acidity levels. The dominant grape (min. 90%) for this DOCG is the Chivanesca, AKA Nebbiolo.

Inferno DOCG, Valtellina Superiore 2013 (13.5%) is an impressive wine. Richard purchased it as part of a mixed Italian case and if the others are as good – and as interesting – as this he should be well-pleased with the WS. (Will he admit it, though?). Very light red in colour with a slight brick rim and a nose slow to develop, it rather underplayed itself at the start. However, the typical Italian cherry-tartness flavour was polished and stylish with very delicate floral notes. What was remarkable was the lack of obtrusive tannins that young Barolos (same grape) have; it was as if a 40 year old Barolo had aged in four years.

A new one for me, I’ve not tasted a Valtellina before. Really interesting, well worth trying – I’m looking forward to the others!

[Richard: I wasn’t quite so keen as Geoff. Certainly an interesting expression of the nebbiolo grape which developed over the evening but I felt the whole thing was rather too delicate, especially at £19.50.]

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