Category Archives: posted by Geoff

“Controversial, demanding.”


No, it’s not another Brexit article but those two adjectives are used by Jancis Robinson to describe the Baga grape; the berry used in Niepoort’s Lagar de Baixo’s 2015 wine from Bairrada in Portugal. It’s ABV is a surprising 11.5%, so another light red.

The grape whilst being thick skinned is prone to rot in the humidity of western Portugal so growers have a dilemma – pick early to avoid rot and have highly tannic and acidic wines or pick later and risk rot in the September rain. But there are some great Baga-based wines. It sounds like the girl in the Longfellow poem “When she was good, she was very, very good/but when she was bad, she was horrid.”

This wine was more towards the very good with its fragrant notes of cherry and, for me, rhubarb (gently). It had those higher, acidic smells of freshness but with some depth of maturity that is typical of a big red wine. The dry finish was medium in length, nicely tannic with some cherry sweetness in the mid-palate. It had a fullness of flavour which belied its 11.5% ABV.

So, a skilful bit of wine-making and blending, I guess. It balances fullness and acidity vey well. I wondered if some of the blend had been made using carbonic maceration as rhubarb is the tell-tale smell. Anyway, a lovely wine.

[Richard: from Vin Cognito, slightly more expensive than the Pais. Fascinating wine given the low alcohol – why can’t every wine maker do this? We’ve tasted Baga before – this was better, although I didn’t get the rhubarb.]



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A ‘Onesie’ wine


‘Decadent’ is how one taster described this wine. So does it reflect a state of moral or cultural decline? Or is it, more positively, a wine that is hedonistic, indulgent and voluptuary? It’s fascinating how these terms come to be applied to a drink but I can see the reason for them after tasting Richard’s last offering. Carried round in a decanter, the Wirra Wirra Maclaren Vale RSW Shiraz 2010 was then carried back – minus about two glasses – to accompany a meal.

Shiraz is the most planted grape variety in Maclaren Vale – indeed in Australia – providing a whole range of qualities and quite different to the leaner, peppery offering from its northern Rhone birthplace. It’s very popular in the tastings that I run, possibly because of its alcohol levels, slight sweetness and weight. A true ‘Onesie’ wine. (see below)

Very intense, almost black in colour with a ruby red rim, this smelt of cooked blackberries but with acidity that maintained some freshness. Attractive to smell, that acidity was still present in the taste with the addition of a silky smoothness and structured tannins which kept it dry rather than jammy. There was also a greenness, a herbaceous side to which I was drawn, again preserving its freshness. Not particularly complex, this is a popular drink and it’s easy to understand why.

‘Onesie wine’ was a term used for a bottle of wine drunk in front of a whole day’s TV watching on Christmas Day when you don’t even get out of your nightwear. My God, what’s the world coming to !! Moral decline?

[Richard: from TWS over five years ago at a chunky £30 which makes it overpriced, I think, for what you get. Nevertheless a good wine, well made and if you like the style – which I do less and less – you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Vacuum sealed and finished off 4 days later it was completely the same. I’d rather have a Rhone shiraz at an equivalent price. I’ve never heard the term ‘onesie wine’ before but I’ve got one bottle left and will be sure to drink it in my pyjamas.]


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Prosecco, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Port and Lemon…


There is a legal wrangle between the Italians and Australians over the rights of the name Prosecco. Made famous (infamous) in northern Italy, this slightly sweet spumante has become a symbol of celebration, aided by its very low cost and its availability. It’s become the Bristol Cream sherry drunk in our parents’ generation or, going back even further, my grandma’s Port and Lemonade. (The slight sugary flavour is the constant.)

Alpha Box and Dice, an Australian company, market Zaptung at £17 made from the same grape (since 2008, called Glera) as Prosecco and we tried it on Sunday. The beer-bottle top closure gave it a laddish, socially-equal/ inclusive feel but how did the wine itself do?

Intense yellow in colour with a lively mousse (to get the party going, no doubt), the aromas were of melons and rich lemons. There were observations of orange peel notes but apart from that a distinct lack of fruit. Full-flavoured and dry were my other notes as well as being better tasting than many Proseccos.

The issue, as I see it, is because the grape – whatever you call it – is basically undistinguished – it needs some sweetness to make it attractive, especially as an aperitif. Hence the sugar/peach juice/cocktail mixer as an addition. Then it becomes something marketable. If it didn’t exist there would be something else because nature abhors a vacuum – especially the vacuum at the start of a party.

[Richard: my dislike of Prosecco is based on, primarily, an excess of sugar so I enjoyed drinking this. Not sweet, some complexity but as Geoff says – no fruit. But then, who knows what the Glera grape taste like? Not a party wine, apart from the mousse which was extremely lively, as the photo shows.].

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Dull and duller – part two.


My role in this tasting was making notes on Soave, namely Pieropan’s La Rocca 2010. This is a celebrated producer which we’ve previously blogged and been impressed with and its prices (circa £30 -40) [Richard: I paid £20] reflect its fame. Or, in this case, its notoriety.

The expected appearance of a viscous wine, moving like oil in the glass, with a deep lemon colour was followed by a surprisingly muted nose of sour stone fruits. This could favourably be termed ‘delicate’ or ‘uninteresting’ in its lack of aromatics. The palate was rich with obvious lemon acidity but, unfortunately, little else. A simple wine which would justify a price tag of about a tenner.

An article praising the staying qualities of Soave Classico in The Wine Enthusiast included this observation  “Over time, the aromas become multifaceted and exhibit creamy textures and intense minerality. ” It then went on to specifically mention as “compelling” a 1996 vintage La Rocca. Well, some minerality might have saved this from being just a one-dimensional tasting experience. Interestingly, there are some negative comments on Cellartracker (and some good ones) about this wine. Maybe there is some bottle variation?

[Richard, we’ve previously blogged the 2010 and the 2009. On both occasions we were impressed. When tasting the 2010 four years ago I thought it would be interesting to taste it in 10 years time but this latest bottle suggests that there is no benefit to ageing here. This is rather contrary to received wisdom although, as Geoff says, there are quite a few reviews which suggest the opposite. The 2009 was tasted two years ago and was drinking very well, so this wine was a disappointment, being totally uninteresting and lacking the Alsatian characteristics, like mouthfeel and aroma, previously noted. Could be bottle variation, could be I kept it too long. We’ll never know.]

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The effects of blending


As we had just tasted R’s last bottle of ’02 vintage Gratien I thought it a good idea to taste the Wine Society’s own label NV champagne. This has been  made by Alfred Gratien since 1906. A 113 year trading relationship is long by any standard. How did it measure up to its more illustrious sibling?

The method of vinification is the same i.e. fermentation in oak and ageing in old Chablis oak barrels plus the maintaining of high acidity levels by preventing malo-lactic fermentation. This helps the wine age. What is different is the blend – the vintage has 70% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Noir and 9% Pinot Meunier grapes. The non-vintage WS wine has a higher proportion of red grapes whilst the Chardonnay plays less of an important role. In addition, the cellar ageing is longer for the vintage than the three years for the own label.

The difference is apparent in the smell and taste. The WS wine’s nose is more of orchard fruits that have aged, like a cooked/bruised apple. The WS taste is certainly not as refined as the ’02, probably the result of less Chardonnay, that central core of fresh acidity not as well focussed. The red grapes’ (PN & PM) contribution make it more appealing at a younger age – it’s still a good champagne and considerably cheaper than the ’02.

It certainly seems that price and a good drinking experience are directly linked, in this champagne house at least.

[Richard: we’ve tried this champagne on several – even many –  occasions but it’s never been blogged. One challenge was to identify the blend which seems to be a closely guarded secret, perhaps because it varies from time to time. A magnum under the same label is listed as blend of 45% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir and 27% Pinot Meunier so I think Geoff is right about the relative lack of chardonnay. This is a very reliable drink and reasonably priced – at least at Christmas. However I don’t think it is worth the current asking price £33.]

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Goethe glass, it’s wine time.


Following Rabelais we move onto another European literary figure – Goethe. (This blog is Faust becoming very educational.) The words of  Goethe’s poem “How marvellously does nature shine for me” appear, in German, on the side of the label.

The Zweigelt grape is a 1922 cross between the Blaufrankisch and St Laurent grapes. This was Schmelzer’s offering from Burgenland in east Austria which enjoys a Continental climate thereby assuring good ripening for red grapes whilst still maintaining grippy tannins. At 13% it is light enough to stand a bit of chilling. The colour is a bright, cherry red, purple rimmed with a fragrant nose of cherries and cranberries. There is herbaceous green notes to the aromas as well as an attractive smokiness.

The palate is certainly fresh with high acidity as well as pepper and tannins. Richard thought it a bit raw and it may benefit from a longer decant time but the flavours are certainly big.

I enjoyed this, it is the style I like being rather similar to northern Italian reds. This was from Vin Cognito (now out of stock) but Sainsbury’s now stock a Zweigelt in their ‘Taste the Difference’ range. Both are worth seeking out.

[Richard: this is the fifth Austrian wine blogged and only the second red – the first was a different grape. The customarily verbose and enthusiastic review by Vin Cognito persuaded me it was worth a punt, even thought I have no knowledge of the Zweigelt grape. Very drinkable in a Cabernet Franc sort of way. Quite sappy, peppery and easy to drink.]

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A sophisticated Rabelaisian wine


Rabelais was a French writer of bawdy verse, satires and songs. He was a physician, a monk and a Greek scholar and a Renaissance humanist born at the end of the 15th century. Quite a mixture of styles, then

Rabelais’ home town of Chinon on the Vienne river, is known for red wines made from the Cabernet Franc grape. On the southern side of the Loire, the vineyards of sand and chalk – with a little gravel – traditionally produce wines that are lighter (Rabelaisian?) than those around Bourgueil to the north. However, the winemaker’s influence is paramount and in Domaine Grosbois’ 2017 Gabere from Vin Cognito we found a different style. (the serious side of R?)

The colours of dark purple/red and shy nose (though that did open up) suggested a serious wine, and so it proved on the palate. The trademark herbaceous hint was present but this was a brooding drink which took itself seriously. The tannins, richness and acidity suggested a long life to come, possibly not the common impression that Cab Franc gives. The fruits were black rather than the raspberry reds associated with CF; you could cellar this for quite a few years so we possibly drunk it before its prime time. A high quality wine and deserving its £25 price tag.

[Richard: Geoff had spotted a rave review of this in Decanter so, a few weeks later, when making up a Vin Cognito order I added it to the basket thinking it would make for an interesting Christmas drink. And so it proved. The seller claimed ‘forest fruits and smokey minerals’ which was pretty accurate and it also had a very rich mouth feel which is not encountered in less expensive Chinon. Lots of suggestions it will age well but as a young drink it had energy and precision. Very good. Incidentally, if you have read the previous post about the venerable Palmer and Co (est. 1947) then you should know that the vineyards used for making this wine have been in the same family for 600 years.]



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