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Never before drunk.

This was served blind and, on the nose – rather vegetative – I thought it might be mature champagne. It smelt ‘old’. There was certainly a fine and persistent mousse. The taste was rich with some acidity, almost a demi-sec which is not a style I’m fond of. Nevertheless very drinkable. My second guess was French but not champagne. Way out as you can see from the slightly blurred picture. This is only our second Tasmanian wine after an Aldi chardonnay in 2015.

[Geoff: Whenever I spot a sparkling wine which has the equivalent price to Prosecco I buy it. Whilst I appreciate the quality of some of that Italian fizz, I find it hard to find distinguishing traits between the wines. They could have all come from the same (very large) tank. My ignorance, perhaps?

What I liked about this was its richness; I didn’t find it a demi-sec rather a full flavoured sparkler. Claire found it too acidic, it was very appley, but needed it to balance the full flavour. Good value at about £10, from M & S]

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2 x 2009

Friends round for a meal last night and, by coincidence, we tried two red wines from the 2009 vintage.

Muga is one of my favourite Riojas and this (Muga Seleccion Especial 2009) didn’t disappoint. Mature with ‘old school’ Rioja characteristics, like tar and leather with a lean savouriness. Very good and seemingly much better than the 2004 Selection Especial blogged earlier in the year.

The other wine was a claret, the Ch. Sociando Mallet 2009. Many years ago when I bought claret en primeur this was one of the standout purchases, reckoned to be of fourth or fifth growth quality at a lower price – ‘the Latour of the Northern Medoc’. Now it’s much more expensive but I found (in 2012) a half case at Tesco online for about £32 a bottle. This was decanted, unlike the Muga. As expected this was not quite mature (Rioja tends to be released only when mature) but was still very drinkable, despite the owner wanting to make a long-lived wine. Firm, weighty, minerally,  still some tannin and just as unmistakeably Bordeaux as the Muga was Rioja.

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Red retaste

A few years ago Geoff and I attended a wine tasting in Lichfield arranged by Worth brothers, the Lichfield wine merchant, mentioned here. We weren’t much impressed with the wines but did like a Corbieres – Chateau D’Aussières. The blog mentions a 2007 but this was a 2008. I bought it in 2011. Not sure of the price as the WS records don’t go back that far. Not sure also as to why I hung on to this for so long since we thought the 2007 was very drinkable two years ago. Anyway a mature spicy red with lots of forward fruit flavour but not much excitement or complexity, despite it being a GSM blend plus carignan.

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Full English


Over the last few years I’ve tried most of the big names in English sparkling wine – Chapel Down (quite often), Ridgeview, Three Choirs, Camel Valley – but never Nyetimber. This was remedied yesterday when we tried a bottle of the non-vintage. A powerful mousse led into an equally powerful aroma which was no different from any well made champagne. The full, rich taste had plenty of depth and length – this is not really an aperitif champagne – although it is certainly elegant. All three champagne grapes are used but the proportions are not revealed. Probably the best English sparking wine yet. This was a present but I think it came from Waitrose.


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Deutz Classic Brut Champagne

Many years ago I purchased three bottles of vintage Deutz, I think it was the ’95. They sat in John’s cellar for a while and eventually got drunk. In my memory it was one of the best champagnes I’ve ever had.

Thus I was pleased to see a bottle of the non-vintage in a mixed half dozen of ‘name champagnes’ offered by the WS at Christmas, especially as a small producer like Deutz is hard to find. Champagne growers often offer ‘assistance’ in December so I paid £147 for the six bottles, which is around £25 each. It is now selling at £38 which indicates the depth of the discount.

This was a lovely drink, an attractive mousse, well balanced (one third each chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot menuier), refined – lots of reserve wine, apparently, quite light. A great aperitif and a wine I’d buy next December, if available. However I think it is a little overpriced at £38.

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Chasin’ the Dragon

We tried this a couple of days before a trip to Amsterdam (no Dutch wine seen), on the same evening as the Chinese wine, but I regret I can’t find the notes I took.

Anyway a red made by a renown gin producer. We’ve tried a few ‘amphorae’ wines before but this one made no claims, as far as could see, to be ‘natural’. I’ve been to the Luberon many times and – although I guessed southern French – this seemed to me to be rather attenuated for a wine from that region. indeed their (overly dramatic) website describes the nose as ‘subtle’. Grenache/Syrah but I didn’t’t get much sense of the latter.

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Grower champagne

It’s easy to think that grower champagne is a recent phenomenon – only in the last few years have the Wine Society been offering it in mixed cases – but I can recall driving through France thirty years ago, armed with an explanation of the bottle codes, looking for interesting bottles in hypermarkets not made by the big names. Then it was more hit and miss – and, as I recall, there weren’t many labelled RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) which is the code for grower producers – those that farm the vines and make their own wine, rather than selling the grapes on to a co-op or a grande marque. Part of the problem is volume with supermarkets looking for more bottles than most growers can produce. Even now English supermarkets sell hardly any grower champagne. Another issue is that some of the growers, like Agrapart, have become very popular and sell out.

This is all prompted by the purchase of some grower champagne from the WS, just before Christmas when champagne prices are always keen. We’ve blogged on one of these, now out of stock which illustrates the supply problem. Actually all of them have been very good, albeit in different styles. For example last night we tried the Laherte which is very unusual in the Pinot Meunier predominates (60%) in the blend, resulting in a rich, full-flavoured drink. Laherte also make a champagne using all seven allowable grape varieties which sounds interesting.

[Edit: just checked the bottle and the Laherte is actually an NM – Nêgociant-Manipulant, which usually describes bigger champagne houses who buy in some or all or their grapes. However the WS website gives the impression that Laherte only use grapes from their own vineyards. A mystery.]

[Further edit (email from TWS): the reason that the company is registered as a Negociant-Manipulant is due to the nature of the landholdings in the family and is a bureaucratic requirement.  It seems that the members of the family, the brothers and their mother, each own a portion of the vines and the company Laherte Frères ‘purchases’ the grapes from the family members and therefore have to register as a producer who doesn’t own all its own vines.  Apparently, if they were registering today they would be able to name themselves as SR (societé de récoltant), but that designation didn’t exist when they registered.]


Previously we opened the Benoit Lahaye which was 90% Pinot Noir and had a strong fresh acidity and was better on day 2.

Given the choice I will always prefer champagne (English and French versions) over cava, prosecco, sparkling wine and so on. If you agree then grower champagnes provide quality and style and at a cheaper price than that charged by the grande marques.

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