Return to Kefalonia

After four years, back to the Greek island of Kefalonia, this time to Fiskardo, a pretty (and upmarket) fishing village on the northern coast. Unlike Crete, last year, the wine scene on the island is unexciting and it was not easy to find interesting wines, especially if one had self-imposed restrictions of indigenous grapes and Kefalonian vinification – rules I broke just to get some variety. No wine shops, just a couple of supermarkets with similar stock and pricing. A peculiarity was a lack of medium priced wines. Plenty around €6-8 and €16-20, not much in the middle. This might be explained by the presence of some very posh boats in the harbour. None of the wines were especially interesting but here are a few:

We tried a few wines made from robola, the workhorse white grape on the island – this was probably the best with a rich complexity the grape doesn’t always achieve.

This was the first bottle I bought, misreading the shelf price and thinking it was €8, which would have been good value. Actually it was €14 – not so much. Gentilini Notes 2017 60% agiorgitiko, 40% mavrodaphne, 6m in oak 13%, light, savoury, moreish and lasted well into a second day. Gentilini is the upmarket winemaker on the island – this was one of their cheaper bottles but not stocked at the airport duty free, unfortunately.

We had a wonderful boat trip to Ithaca one evening with a taverna meal at the end of it. This was the local rose, made, I think, from mavrodaphne or a local variant. Very drinkable – even from the smallest wine glasses I have ever encountered –  with a slight bitter note. Sold by the kilo, rather than the litre, at a bargain €4.

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Finally another Gentilini Notes, this one mainly sauvignon blanc with 20% tsaoussi, another grape I’ve never heard of and a Kefelonian speciality. Quite low acidity so a good match for SB. Nice wine with clean flavours, around €12.

Conclusion: lovely people, fabulous weather, good and interesting food – didn’t have a bad meal – just rather dull wines.

 

 

 

 

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Third opinion

A few weeks ago when we were staying in Spitalfields, at the fabulous Town House we had a meal in La Chappelle. Not being able to afford a bottle of Hermitage La Chappelle, from which the restaurant is named (cheapest – the 2005 at £387) we went for a 2014 Faugères, “Les Bancèls”, Domaine de Cébène.

I really enjoyed the wine – 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre – during the meal so bought some from Leon Stolarski, a wine merchant we have mentioned before. This was the 2015, not the 2014. My enthusiasm was infectious and Geoff also had a couple of bottles – see below.

However it wasn’t quite the same. The peppery syrah notes were absent and, although it was a perfectly decent wine, I felt slightly disappointed. The seller claims it will improve on day 2. I’m not so sure. [Edit: it didn’t, although still a very nice drink. I didn’t get the bitterness Geoff tasted.]

[Geoff: Richard’s report and the fact it was a French Syrah meant I was looking forward to this wine. There was quite a difference between the rich, mid-palate which was fruit sweet and the final taste which, to me, was distinctly bitter. So much so I thought it had a fault. It did not improve with more ‘air-time’ so I though it was a characteristic of the area. The second bottle was the same. As R has written it had no peppery Syrah notes either. I wonder if there was either a vintage difference, some manufacturing issue or it was me being very sensitive to this style. Sorry, not for me.]

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The naked truth

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An interesting name for a wine. Radford Dale Nudity 2014, from the Voor-Paardeberg region in South Africa. Why Nudity? Because it hasn’t any added sulphur and just the bare wine, I presume. The grape is Syrah and it has 12% ABV.

To look at it appeared right where it should be, i.e. no brown or purple rim – just red and an intense red at that. There was some viscosity. The aromas were pleasantly complex; fragrant, perfumed and very much cooked strawberries, suggesting some ageing. It had a thin mouth feel with both acidity and tannins. The dominant notes were strawberries (prompting my Grenache guess) and lighter cherries but there was bags of flavour. It had slightly sweet notes which tended to pall after a couple of mouthfuls. For me, it lacked a bit of bottom (nothing to do with its name, you understand) and gravity.

It wasn’t cheap and, although good, I question its VFM.

[Richard: yes, £18 (TWS) and not really worth it. A decent wine with some interesting nuances, which drunk very easily – amazing how much difference a reduction in alcohol from, say, 14% to 12% makes. However if you very looking forward to some typical syrah tastes and flavours, I’m afraid they’d been stripped away and the result was a bit Emperor’s new clothes, a phrase used on TWS website, where it has three bad reviews.]

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Most tasted?

We’ve tried a lot of cabernet franc recently so when Geoff poured a glass of something very red – stain the glass red – with a rather green, sappy taste I was pretty sure what we were drinking. Yes, that grape again – but not from the Loire, I was sure, but New World. After that I was stumped. The wine had a rather tarry, smokey taste with some fruit, not unpleasant but not classic CF. in fact – from Chile and a combination never before tasted. And never again I think since we both preferred the way the grape is vinified in France.

[Geoff: Okay, no more CF for a while. Promise.The wine was okay but had transgressed the boundaries of a Loire CF and had lost some of particular style. It became another beefy, fruity, slightly tannic red wine.

It’s interesting that we become (or is it just me) fixated on a style of wine and see any variation on that style as an aberration. For me, the home of CF is the Loire and I like the wine it produces; though not all of it, by any means. I suppose this is what happens when Chardonnay lovers compare all wines to white Burgundies and make it difficult for new styles to establish themselves.]

 

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Boxed wine.

Wine in a box (BiB or bag in a box) has always been popular in France – the co-ops sell their own wine in them, as well as bottles and Calais Carrefour lists 34 different ones. This hasn’t stopped French farmers overturning lorries carrying imported Spanish BiBs but that’s another story. As is the attempt by some sherry producers to market fino in boxes – not allowed as against the regulations.

Anyway, in Waitrose last week I saw a display of a dozen or so wine boxes. I went for When in Rome’s Nero D’Avola at £20.99 (£5 off). Actually from Sicily. The box holds 2.25 litres or three bottles. We’ve tried this one before and it’s a favourite of Angie’s. Bright red, very young and fresh, uncomplicated, easy to drink but with a bit of character. At £7 a bottle good value as well.

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Warm climate – chilled wine.

 

 

Pinot Noir is a grape more suited to a cooler environment; it was a surprise, therefore,  to see one from the village of Magrie in Limoux near the French Pyrenees. This was the 2015 Solaire, Domaine de la Metairie d’Alon from a 25 hectare site of steep, limestone (loved by PN) slopes. It was also organic and hand-harvested and weighed in at 14% ABV. All this was gleaned from the very informative back-label, which included a small map. Provenance is all, so it seems.

It had the expected light colour, medium viscosity and a distinct purple rim. The nose had fruit-forward cherry and raspberry aromas which carried through into the palate. Of medium weight, it had a long, dry finish which at first seemed slightly bitter, but this faded. The lack of tannins – PN is a thin-skinned grape – made my tasting sample seem unstructured, which, when added to a spicy, jammy- fruit quality was not particularly attractive. However, I do acknowledge a personal preference for more leanness is reds. My response changed when I chilled it slightly and drank it with a steak and bistro salad; I enjoyed it much more and it was an excellent accompaniment.

This was a pleasant wine and needed chilling. It was also interesting to try a warmer climate Pinot Noir which, on reflection, was more in the New Zealand style.

 

 

 

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You need the bad…

I was walking with friends at the weekend, around Bradfield, west of Sheffield and then in the city centre. We had some great beer from, among others, Bradfield, Thornbridge and Kelham Island. But one beer was poor. This was a pint of Sam Smith’s Old Brewery bitter at the Traveller’s Rest in Oughtibridge, served much too cold via an electric pump which gave it a one-dimensional taste, although it didn’t improve as it warmed up. A shame as the pub has an interesting, unspoilt, interior. At, least, being Sam Smiths, it was very cheap and, as someone remarked, you need the poor to appreciate the special.

Anyway, on to the wine which was another chardonnay (Hill-Smith, 2015, reduced from £12 to £9 at Waitrose), as last week. It wasn’t bad – not as poor as the beer – but it was nowhere near as good as the Ocean Eight, which was twice the price, admittedly. Decent burgundian nose in a cold climate style, lemony, but way too acidic for me with the three years bottle age having had no effect, that I could taste. It made me realise how good the wine last week was.

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