Tag Archives: red wine

Horizontal and tasting


The wine trade term ‘horizontal tasting’ is not meant to describe the effects of too much wine drinking rather than the tasting of wines, usually from different growers in a specified area, of the same vintage. Richard and I decided to undertake arguably the most exacting of this tasting by sampling the 2018 Beaujolais Nouveau. It is difficult because the wines are very similar having only been made in 6 – 8 weeks since the harvest. The release date is November 15th each year, this date had been fixed relatively recently in 1985.

The two producers were (A) Pardon et Fils from Majestic WW and (B) Signe Vigneron from Waitrose. Both bottles were very slightly chilled and had just been opened.

Very similar in their dark cherry colours – A slightly darker – and viscosity, their aromas were marginally different. A had a muted raspberry/strawberry bouquet whilst B, although even less fruity, gave off more of a cooked, jammy smell. But we are talking of marginal differences. That position was reversed on the palate where B showed more fruit whilst A was fuller but less fruity. The lighter B was less ‘aggressive’ in the mouth. Both wines showed refreshing tannins. Typical of Nouveau, they were ‘one-note’ wines and benefitted from chilling.

It was a relief to not smell the ‘banana’ notes (coming from yeast 71B, evidently) of recent years. I wouldn’t go so far as the Japanese and bathe in it (they import 7 million bottles of the 25 million produced) but it is interesting to try…and a massive cash boost for the region.

[Richard: I always enjoy a glass or two of BN as winter approaches, although in recent years it has become harder to find stockists – on the 15th Waitrose in Lichfield had only been allocated 12 bottles, albeit with more promised. These two wines were very similar, especially as they developed. My memory is that I’ve had better examples in the past, in 2015, for example. However this isn’t a wine that is meant to carry a great weight of analysis. Enjoy it while it lasts.]





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Humble pie


How many times has this blog criticised Chateauneuf du Pape for being too alcoholic, uninteresting, jammy, one-dimensional etc. etc. well, it’s our turn to eat a large slice of humble pie. Which I wouldn’t mind if the pie is accompanied by Clos des Pape ’08 by Paul and Vincent Avril. This was a very enjoyable blend of GSM (65/10/20%) plus a few other grapes. It wore its 15% well.

08 was not a good year for CdP (rain, hail but some Sept and Oct sun) which possibly accounted for its paleness and early maturing brick rim. There was a subtle perfumed – someone said lavender – quality on the nose but also a savoury farmyard-ripeness which made the experience very complex. The palate had great intensity and length but what was striking was the silk texture and tannic structure. Liquorice also came through in the taste as well as a sweetness, but no jam. It finished dry. This wine still has some years in it, I’d like to try it in 3 to 5 years time. Excellent – thanks, Richard.

[Richard: Yes, no fans of CdP here but this was really good. A top producer of course and expensive – it cost £40 when I bought in in 2012. But it had matured beautifully into a subtle and expressive drink which was very hard to identify as southern Rhone, the usual telltale bullying effect of the Grenache grape being completely tamed and integrated.]

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Pombal do Vesuvio 2015 from Symington



Quinta do Vesuvio is a vineyard high in the Douro valley, a hot area well away from the wetter and colder Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Two of the three grapes in the blend Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela are difficult to grow in cooler, wetter climates but, presumably, they thrive here. The third, Touriga Nacional, is considered to be Portugal’s finest grape, giving tannins, body and fruit flavours to the blend.

This wine of 13.5% ABV was certainly black at its core and stained the glass with its tears. It had lots of freshness from the acidity and the dominant notes were dark fruits though it was difficult to identify a particular one which does happen with blends. There was licquorice and vanilla on the palate along with a pleasing tartness, the finish being long and dry.

This was a well made full flavoured red wine, capable of ageing and certainly a good accompaniment to strong flavoured foods. I’m unsure of the price, so Richard can decide on its VFM

(btw a pombal is the local name for a stone dovecote.)

[Richard: very highly praised in a WS staff tasting, so I bought three (£18.50 each). I thought the first was ordinary but this was much better, being rich savoury and balanced. Slightly overpriced, I would say.]

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It’s a Ghemme.


There are 200 kilometres separating the two northern Italian reds we tasted on Sunday; one wine from Piedmont and the other from the Valtelline, an Alpine valley. They showed quite differently despite both being dominated by the Nebbiolo grape and having undergone a fair amount of ageing in wood and bottle.

The Toraccia del Piantavigna 2007 is a DOCG Ghemme from Piedmont and is made from two grapes, Nebbiolo and Vespolina (10%). It’s ABV is 14%. It has to be aged for a minimum of 34 months. 18 months min.  in barrel and 6 months min. in bottle which makes me wonder where the other 10 months could be spent. No matter, but if anyone can venture a suggestion ….

It had the typical Nebbiolo colours of brick rim and red core. The nose was a powerful smoky and farmyard mixture (slightly oxidised?) that was certainly attractive and sweetened by a mature cherry fruit smell.  The palate was definitely dry, tannic and again reminiscent of sour cherries. It is difficult to pin down these flavours and smells but I thought it like unripe black fruits, picked just before they’re ready – an amalgam of the sweet and sour. Unlike the older Valtellina, this had some power left and will get finer; Nebbiolo is always worth waiting for. Bags of character and certainly a food wine – game meat would be ideal.

[Richard: from a mixed vintage half case of Torraccia wines (WS). We blogged the 2003 a while ago. I didn’t think this vintage was quite as good but it was still an appealing drink with lots of interesting flavours.]

The older wine was a Valtellina Valgella Balgera 2001 which Geoff picked up in Loki Wines. This was another Nebbiolo, called Chiavennasca in this region. The Valgella subdivision is reputed to produce the most delicate wines in the area but I drink very little Nebbiolo and couldn’t confidently identify it. Nonetheless, a brick red appearance with obvious age on the rim, a clean fruity/floral nose leading to a long, savoury flavoursome dry finish which was slightly less impressive than the nose led you to expect. Quite lean in the mouth in the style of a Rioja and definitely a food wine.

[Geoff: At the risk of sounding like an old fashioned wine critic, the Valtellina was an old Lady of a wine. She has grown old gracefully, become lean, beautifully – but subtly – fragranced, and yet still entertaining. I enjoyed sipping what was left with food and it did not pall. Most of the nebbiolo (especially in Barolo) we drink is sold and consumed way too young; it’s not a big wine but many people think it is. I’m generally not a lover of old red wine but old nebbiolo is one I do enjoy]


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After last week’s googly Geoff served up a nice full toss, namely a Fleurie made by Henry Fessy whose Brouilly was blogged a couple of years ago.

Pale, garnet red but with a mature appearance, obvious Gamay nose, rich and fruity with some grip, a perfect summer red.

[Geoff: Ha, Richard’s cricket analogies are very topical.

This was an impromptu purchase from Waitrose who had it as an introductory offer at about £9.50. I’m a touch cagey about Beaujolais, finding it one-dimensional, but the older vintage attracted me. Fleurie is known as being a long-liver and fuller than some other crus and so it proved.

It was quite rich and the trademark Gamay strawberry notes had developed concentrated, cooked flavours – still strawberry but quite subtle. These tertiary notes reflected the bottle ageing but it still retained freshness. It’s drinking very well just now so, at that price, it is very good value. Worth picking some up, dear reader.]

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No added sulphur


Richard is much more prepared to try different wines than I am. Recent Sunday tastings have involved organic and biodynamic wines from France in particular and this was another of those. Tout Nature Sans Soufre Ajoute (transl. Totally Natural No Added Sulphur) by Xavier and Mathieu Ledogar is a wine from the Languedoc, classed as a Vin de France – the lowest classification. Vintage 2014, it’s a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre and has 14.5% abv.

That’s the intellectual part dealt with – how did it fare sensually?

Opaque (fine sediment) with a slightly purple/red rim, it had a high viscosity and was an intense colour. The nose was pure, with no varietal qualities and very slightly oxidised. Considering it had been opened only the day before – as well as having 14.5% abv. – perhaps the lack of stabilising sulphur means it ages prematurely. Highly tannic and fresh fruit notes of unripe plums and damsons, it had that fresh quality which shone through the oxidised notes. This freshness is the hallmark, to me, of organic wines.

Whether it’s worth the price paid, I’m not so sure.

[Richard: we often talk about wine tasting better on day 2 – this one tasted worse, despite vacuum sealing and storing in the fridge, although there was no change three days on from that. So Geoff didn’t taste it at it’s best. On opening it was fruity, vibrant and quite complex. An enticing wine which Angie really liked. Value is a always problem with natural wines – they are invariably more expensive – this was £20 (Buon Vino) – and, as Geoff suggests, you could do better for the money, although I’m glad I tried it.]



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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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