Sunday, 19 December 2010

Viavino Wine Course Session Two

This Tuesday saw the second session of the Classic French Wine Regions wine tasting and education course I’m running.  The idea is to educate about the world of wine whilst also improving tasting skills.  In the first session we looked at Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, moving on this week

Friday, 10 December 2010

Grande Maison - A Great House in Monbazillac

Whilst in the Dordogne recently, I discovered a couple of domaines that I'm now a huge fan of.  One was Vignobles des Verdots, which I'll look at in another post, and the other was Grande Maison.

Darviot-Perrin Bourgogne Rouge 2007

I'm home alone tonight with some tasty left-over roast beef that I'm eating with a bottle of 2007 Bourgogne Rouge from Domaine Darviot-Perrin.  I'm so glad I popped the cork on this one tonight; it's simple, fresh, very tasty with lovely, crunchy red cherry fruit to the fore.  It's really long and very moreish.  It's a lovely straight-ahead Bourgogne Rouge that wants drinking now so you can enjoy it in its delicious youth before it closes us.  Get some if you can.

Domaine Darviot-Perrin Bourgogne Rouge 2007 - £12.74 from Howard Ripley

Viavino Wine Course Part One

This Tuesday marked the first session of the Classic French Wine Regions wine tasting and education course I'm running.  The idea is to educate about the world of wine whilst also improving tasting skills.  In the first session we looked at

Food and Wine Matching Dinner at Plateau

[caption id="attachment_530" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Plateau Private Dining Room"][/caption]

Recently I had the good fortune to be invited to Plateau Restaurant in Canary Wharf for a fine food and wine dinner.  The event showed off the skills of the acclaimed chef, Allan Pickett, pairing four courses against Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines, all from the same Producer, Henri Bourgeois.  It was an interesting concept, particularly as each course was comparing an old world example against a new, as Henri Bourgeouis are making wines in New Zealand as well as the Loire Valley.  The four courses the wines had to match up against were:

Viavino Wine Appreciation Course

This week heralded the start of a new wine appreciation course I'm running as part of my wine business, Viavino.  The course is a tour of the classic regions of France in six sessions. Each session looks at wines from the region or regions in question and compares them against examples made from the same grape varieties from around the world.

The course breaks down as follows:

Friday, 3 December 2010

Bourgeuil Yannick Amirault

Last night I had a rather good Daube de Boeuf Provençale accompanied by a terrific bottle of 2002 Bourgeuil Grand Clos, from the excellent producer Yannick Amirault.

Bourgeuil and its neighbouring appellation Chinon face each other across the Loire and both make red wines from Cabernet Franc.  The grape is better known as part of the classic Bordeaux blend, which is Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in varying proportions.  However, its other homeland is about 300km north of Bordeaux in the central Loire valley where it makes lighter red wines that are usually drunk young but can also age really well.

This example from Yannick Amirault, although 8 years old, was in great shape.  Still plenty of guts and red brambly fruit but also more developed flavours reminiscent of mushrooms, spice and tobacco.  Long, complex and perfectly delicious with the beef casserole.

The central Loire is good hunting ground for some really interesting reds (the fantastic sweet whites are another story) that are far better value than wines of similar quality from Bordeaux or Burgundy.  Try one out.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Grand Vin Les Verdots 2000

On my recent trip to the Dordogne I found an amazing small Cave cum Deli in the market town of Ribérac. They had loads of older vintages that should have been selling at a premium but were stuck at the same price they would have been when they first came into the shop.  I love finding places like that and needless to say I bought a pile of wine.

Anyway, one of the gems I found there was

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Josmeyer Alsace Pinot Gris 'Fondation 1854' 2002 Vieilles Vignes

Following on from my post a couple of days ago about Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio, I'm delighted to write up the tasting note for a bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris I had the other night with some pre-supper snacks.  This just shows how amazing the variety can be when on the ideal soil, in the perfect climate and in the best of hands...

I was eating some Tomme and a few slices of Ventricina whilst supping this magnificent wine.  It was so long that I could clearly taste it in my mouth a good two minutes after my last sip.  In fact, a further two minutes past and I could STILL taste it just as strongly as when it was in my mouth.  Wow, that's super long!  Fresh lemon flavours, some complex minerality and decently crisp acidity for a Pinot Gris.  With eight years bottle age it was wonderfully rounded, the honeyed flavours laced with discrete spice; very full and yet still extremely elegant.  Regal!

A truly excellent wine from one of Alsace's leading houses.
Josmeyer Alsace Pinot Gris 'Fondation 1854' 2002 Vieilles Vignes
Bought from the producer in June 2009 for €22.50

Monday, 8 November 2010

Gris or Grigio?

I was asked the other day what the difference is between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio.  A good question.  The Pinot family has quite a few members, principally Pinot NoirPinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, or Pinot Black, Pinot Grey and Pinot White if you will.  In English speaking Countries we generally take the French name for a variety over say the Italian, Spanish or German.  So for example we're more aware of Mourvèdre (fr) than Monastrell (sp), we encounter Grenache (fr) more often than

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Exploring the Dordogne

Hello there and welcome back to Hugo's Reserve following a somewhat long Summer break.   I went to the Dordogne in South-West France for a couple of weeks, which was a real treat to explore, both vinously and gastronomically.  You need to bring your best appetite with you to do it justice mind, as the food is very fat.  Liking to consume large quantities of duck and goose is fairly mandatory, as that's pretty much all you're going to eat.  Fortunately I love both.  Either a Salade de Gésiers

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Morellino di Scansano

Ah, Sangiovese. What a wonderful grape.  With its high acidity, gripping tannins and rasping red cherry fruit it produces wines that positively demand to be drunk with food. For decent quality Chianti coming in at about a tenner, pasta with tomato sauce or some flash-fried pork chops with a squeeze of lemon is the kind of thing we're talking about here.

The heartland of Sangiovese is the Tuscan Hills, where it's the main or only variety in the three best appellations devoted to the grape; Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Unlike most wines from Sangiovese, which are usually medium bodied and relatively light, the wines from these prized appellations can be

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Côte Chalonnaise Taste-Off

Last night we had a taste-off between two red Burgundies from leading producers of the Côte Chalonnaise to go with our first rate Coq-au-Vin.  The wines in question were Domaine François Lumpp's Givry Premier Cru Crausot 2007 and Domaine François Raquillet's Mercurey Premier Cru Les Combins 2006.

François 1's Givry (€18, bought from producer) was immediately very appealing.  Lots of crunchy red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, red cherry) with an unmistakable Pinot Noir elegance, a modicum of well-handled oak and a persistent finish.  Not overly complex, but really lovely. It's quite young, but I'm not convinced it's got anywhere better to go in the future; it's delicious as it is and keeping it would probably compromise the appeal of the fruit.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Picpoul de Pinet

Last night I met a couple of chums in Wright Brothers Oyster bar by Borough Market in London.  They've got a small but reasonable wine list that's well matched to their menu of Oysters every which way and a pile of other seafood dishes.  We had a dozen mixed oysters - four each of English, Irish and French - followed by

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Return of the Gaggia Classic

This morning I'm absurdly happy - my Gaggia Classic coffee machine has just been returned by courier following a much needed service by Philips (who bought Gaggia UK a couple of years ago).

The Gaggia Classic is, err, a classic.  It doesn't have any stupid functions or electronic automatic options or any nonsense like that, it's just a really solid stainless steel chassis that knocks out first rate espresso (there's no x in espresso, you must shoot people who say expresso). Other models come and go with funny designs, colours, special options and all that, but the Classic has seen them all off; it's still made and still the best domestic machine you can get.  It also never changes in price, it costs £300 in the shops or £250 online and it's well worth every penny.  It's the only domestic machine in their range that uses

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Branch out in top years

Here's a basic but invaluable buying tip; for any given region it's worth concentrating on lesser wines in the best vintages, but stick to the known performers in the not so good years.  In the worst years you should simply stay away.

It's simple really

Monday, 19 July 2010

Becker Grand Cru Froehn Riesling 2001

After a roast dinner earlier in the day we only wanted a snack supper last night, which was perfectly accompanied by a bottle of 2001 Alsace Grand Cru Froehn Riesling from Domaine Becker.   Medium dry but with plenty of acidity to balance the sugar, it had a honeyed flavour with some petrol complexity typical of older Riesling.  It was a lovely wine that reminded me of a very enjoyable domaine visit last year, when I bought the wine.

It's an old-fashioned kind of place, Chez Becker, but boasting the desirable combination of high quality with very fair prices.  Furthermore they seem to be always open, they're very

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

La Chablisienne

Wine producers come in three types; negociants, domaines and co-ops. Negociants (merchants) buy grapes and/or wine from growers and then make a finished wine from all the brought in components.  This may or may not include their own grapes if they have any.  Domaines (Estates) are self contained producers; they grow their own grapes and make their own wine from them.  Finally there are co-ops

Josmeyer Les Pierrets Alsace Riesling 2002

Last April I went on an annual buying trip to Burgundy and Alsace for six days or so.  My estate car went almost empty and came back with the axle on the floor.  Alsace in particular is fantastic for visiting producers to taste and buy their wines.  They are almost without exception set up for visits and so long as you try to avoid lunch (around 12 to 2), Saturday afternoons and Sundays, then you should be fine.  For the bigger names it can be worth phoning in advance and checking when they're open for tastings, but to be honest you can nearly always just rock up and get stuck in.  Even if you are only half into wine it makes for a great holiday if you are coming from England and have a decent sized car.  The channel tunnel is very fast (about half an hour) and you come out the other side straight onto the motorway.  If you leave nice and early (get a crossing well before breakfast if you can), you'll be in Alsace by tea-time.

In this last trip I picked up a couple of cases from the highly regarded producer Josmeyer.  They're more expensive than most, but boy are they worth it.  Amongst other wines I got a case of Les Pierrets Riesling 2002.  I had my first bottle this weekend; it was bone dry, intensely mineral and citrus and very long.  A really classy drop.  In the UK you can buy the 2004 vintage from the Wine Society (but you have to be a member) for £19.50.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Patrick Lesec Costières de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007

West of the Rhône delta in the South of France is discovered the appellation Costières de Nîmes, named after the principal town of the region.  Geographically it's a borderland spanning both the Languedoc (to the East) and the Rhône valley, but as far as wine regions go, it's considered part of the Southern Rhône.

The grapes grown there are typical of the region; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre

Monday, 5 July 2010

BYO Premier Grand Gru Classé

Living in London we are spoilt for choice when eating out; there's a plethora of great restaurants selling wonderful food that compares favourably with most cities in the world. However, being an oenophile I'm put off by the gargantuan mark-up that restaurants put on wine in the UK, typically around three times the retail price.  There are exceptions of course, notably

Friday, 2 July 2010

Bruno Clair Marsannay Rosé 2007

With this positively Provencial summer we're having even the most dedicated red or white but not pink man must bow down to a lunchtime bottle of rosé.  However, there's rosé and there's rosé.  I'm not talking a mouthful of revolting bright pink slightly sweet liquid bubblegum, I'm talking about a bottle of Bruno Clair's Marsannay Rosé from Burgundy.  Made from Pinot Noir (a good if risky start) it's got sap and vigour with lashings of that Pinot raspberry fruitiness, but with a dry cleansing austerity to match.  The bottle was bought from the producer last spring for the sum total of €7.80, but Justerini & Broooks will also happily sell you some, but perhaps only by the case.  It was terrific with our home made pizzas at lunch today.

Memories of Lisbon

Who's been to Lisbon?  Having been for the first time a few years ago, I must say it now vies to be my favourite European City, which is saying something.  The centre of town is all walkable, the cafes and bars are great and of course the custard tarts are non-pareil.  There's a lovely atmosphere and plenty of good nosh and wine to keep you busy.  My favourite shop has to be

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Flat Peaches

Has anyone seen these flat peaches?  They're all the rage apparently!  I'm lucky enough to live 100 yards from Green Lanes in North London, which has a swath of Turkish food markets staying open all hours and supplying lots of lovely and ripe fruit.  Supermarkets 'perfectly ripe fruit' aren't at all and their fruit 'for ripening at home' often never does.  Peaches are wonderful and sexy things but they are often hard or a bit lacking in flavour and can be very disappointing.  These ones I bought yesterday though are terrific; perfectly ripe with a slightly firm yet very juicy flesh and bursting with flavour.  Apparently they originally hail from China, but relatively recently made it into Europe's orchards and are now swarming all over France.  They are known as the flat peach, the Paraguayos, the Saturn Peach or the Donut Peach.  Go find one!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Weather for Riesling Kabinett

What lovely weather we're having!  So what to drink as an aperitif on a balmy evening whilst waiting for supper?  Perhaps a nice crisp Chablis or maybe a glass of Fino, but if you want a light drink without much alcohol that's very refreshing, you'd be hard pushed to beat a glass of Kabinett Riesling.  

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Cune Rioja Reserva 2004

Finally last night, after the Riesling and prawns followed by the Claret and chops, we had a bottle of Cune Rioja Reserva 2004.  This had so many things going for it; I think the standard bottling (as opposed to a prestige cuve) Reserva is the benchmark for Rioja Producers and Cune are a straight-ahead classic producer and 2004 was a terrific vintage.  Coming up to six years old it's just about old enough if decanted for a bit and it didn't disappoint.  What a lovely thing a decent bottle of reserva is!  It had just what you would expect; the sweet cedar smell from the American oak, lashings of Tempranillo fruit, some decent developing complexity, good length and a refreshing finish.  I find a good quality but not over-the-top Rioja makes a great partner for hard cheese and as such, I often use it as the second red of the evening.  This one is drinking well now but will probably improve for another year or so and stay at its best for several years after that.  I'm glad I have a case.

Puygueraud Côtes de Francs 2003

After the Albert Mann Riesling with spicy prawns (see previous post) last night, we had a bottle of Puygueraud Côtes de Francs 2003, which came from the Wine Society.  Heat wave or not, what a lovely year for early-drinking sound quality claret.  All the recent 2003s I've had have been delicious and I would recommend getting hold of the lesser Bordeaux appellations of that year for immediate drinking.  Last night's Puygueraud was coming along nicely, with the classic blackcurrant and cassis smells and flavours you would expect, but overlaid with some developing complexity and a lick of well-handled oak.  Plenty of stuffing and quite yummy with our BBQ'd lamb chops.  Mmm.

Albert Mann 1997 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg

Last night I had my last bottle of the above, which was a great advert for the longevity of Riesling.  Not a particularly good vintage and not a super-heavyweight producer (though very decent), but at over 12 years old the wine was still delicious.  OK, it could have been drunk a couple of years ago, but it still had the classic aged-Riesling smell of petrol and honey, with the palette being crisp, classy, somewhat complex and the perfect foil for my BBQ'd prawns marinaded in ginger, garlic, lime and chilli.  Yum.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Monte Aribaldo Dolcetto d’Alba 2007

Tonight I’m home alone guarding the kids and a pizza delivery seemed in order.  But what to drink?  The only bottle open is a Cairanne 2006 that a friend brought round. A good year in the Southern Rhone and the wine isn't bad at all, but not a pizza wine to be sure.  It would be more at home with a stew.   So I nipped down the cellar and grabbed a bottle of Dolcetto d’Alba 2007 from Monte Aribaldo, via Waitrose.  Fresh, fruity, sappy, very juicy and extremely food friendly, it’s simple but lovely.  A perfect and honest match for the spot-on ham and mushroom pizza from Firezza, who have a wood-fired oven.  Yum.