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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.



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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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Chateau Talbot 2003


Last Sunday, Richard and I were invited to taste a fourth growth claret from St Julien in the Medoc. The host, a good friend of mine, wanted to serve it at a wedding and was anxious to know its condition as well as the decanting period. A demanding job for a Sunday afternoon – but someone’s got to do it!

2003 was a ‘year of extremes’ according to Stephen Brooke in The Complete Bordeaux. He specifically mentions hail and excessive heat which challenged the growers and the resultant wines seem forward need drinking earlier than would normally be the case. That’s what the expert says. Would this be the case for the wedding wine?

Yes, was the answer. A brown rimmed, medium intensity red, the wine took some time to open up and even then stayed rather reticent. There was no doubting the quality and sophistication of the wine in its smoothness but this wine reflected its vintage – certainly not one of fruit. It reminded me of very mature cherry or even unripe fig whilst my two fellow tasters proclaimed blackberry. The fruit was difficult to identify because of its shyness. It was long and dry on the finish. It was lovely to have the opportunity to taste a well known Bordeaux wine. Thanks.

For the record, the blend was CS 66%, Merlot 26%, Petit Verdot 5% with C Franc at 3%. Its ABV was 13%

[Richard: I have a memory – nothing more – of buying some Ch. Talbot en primeur in the late 1970. Then, as now, a reliable middle of the road claret with some class. Consequently I enjoyed tasting this wine, especially once it had opened out and typical claret aromas became evident. Definitely needs decanting and then, being rich and savoury it will be a perfect match for roast beef, which I think was the wedding meal.]

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A good Burgundy vintage.


“With one arm and one eye you could make good wine in 2009.”   –    Laurent Ponsot.

Probably not a comment that is entirely PC in our world of the easily offended but I know what he means. Aloxe-Corton is an AOC just north of Beaune, 98% of the production being red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes. It is a village wine, typically described as robust and taking some time to mature.

The slightly brown rim and pale red colour indicated age and lightness whilst the nose had the sweet cherry and farmyard aromas of a typical Burgundy. (It wasn’t New Zealand – I was right!). The nose of good red Burgundy is wonderful and often flatters to deceive. This wine’s palate was soft and sweet in the middle with some delicate tannins and, as Richard opined, “pure and linear”. This most certainly wasn’t robust – but it was nearly a decade into its life. The finish was a little disappointing being slightly raw but it is only a village wine. Perhaps that rusticity of Aloxe Corton translates into the rawness when it ages?

Great to try a Burgundy again, thanks Richard.

[Richard: we’ve blogged this wine before, in late 2015. Two years on the woodiness we noticed then had gone (or perhaps there was bottle variation). On the other hand the finish was more impressive then. Either way a wine with an unmistakeable classy smell, albeit with a slightly disappointing taste.]


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Poivre d’ane 2015


This wine is classified as a Vin de France, the lowest tier of the French classification system. It sits below IGP and AOP, both of which give some indication of the geographical origin of the wine. This tier is applied to simple wines used for everyday drinking.

Poivre d’ane (“donkey pepper”) comes from Herault, the Mediterranean coastal region around Montpellier and Beziers; a hot plain which rises to the Cevennes hills in the north where most of the vineyards are located. The grapes used are Syrah and Grenache which are the permitted grapes. This poses the question as to why it only has the lowest classification – and I can only guess it has something to do with yields, lack of sulphites (less then 50 mg. per litre), defiance or inertia on the part of the makers? Who knows?

Anyway the wine looked good – clear, clean, of medium intensity – and smelt of sour cherries (Italian in style, I thought). There was a purity and cleanliness in the mouth as well as a softness, which also exhibited some gentle tannins and, eventually, some peppery Syrah.

It was exactly as the VdeF classification describes – a simple wine for everyday drinking – but did not have much character or sense of terrroir. Maybe that is the reason for where it sits in the hierarchy.

[Richard: another low/no sulphur from Buon Vino (about £13). Biodynamic with no chemicals used. Clean pure taste. A simple wine I enjoyed.]

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Brettanomyces is a type of yeast and yeast is the little critter that makes wine and beer-making possible. Without yeast we wouldn’t have alcohol, drunk behaviour, taxes, death, a good time, embarrassment, fights, a warm glow – so, in short, yeast is pretty vital. I happened to see the word ‘brett’ on a beer bottle in a specialist shop and thought that’d be good/interesting to taste.

A beer tasting, but like a wine tasting. Winenot? The beer is made in Shepton Mallet by the Wild Beer Company and is named Evolver IPA. It’s eight months old.

The colour is a clear, bright orange-yellow. There is no sediment and a fine mousse. Immediately there is a strong smell of cloves overlaying a hoppy, bitter aroma. There is also an expected, slightly sour smell – all good so far. The palate was short to medium, bitter and rich with a lightness that we described as a little disappointing.

It was interesting to try a beer as we would a wine and the beer stood up to quite deep analysis in that it had some complexity and character. We’ve got another one which we’re going to let develop.

[Richard: wine makers seem to be ambivalent about brett (the usual abbreviation). A little is acceptable but too much gives ‘a whiff of animal sheds with some savoury, cheesy character‘. None of those smells on this beer, fortunately. It just smelt like a well made beer. The brewer suggested it would start to evolve (geddit?) after six months but I didn’t find it much different to most other IPAs and, as Geoff suggests, the taste was rather uninteresting.]

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