Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Grower Champagne

Well the party season is upon us and it's time to start thinking about bubbles.  Now there are plenty of cheaper and excellent alternatives, like Prosecco for example, but for many people, tough times or not, bubbles means Champagne.  However, even if you're determined to stick to Champagne for those parties and special occasions, there are still plenty of interesting alternatives to the big and famous brands that account for the vast majority of the sales.  Let's have a look...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Riesling Trocken

The other week I was searching for a bottle of Malvasia delle Lipari for the Italian wine course I'm running, which I tracked down to The Winery in Maida Vale, West London (see here for the post on the Malvasia).  It's a small but perfectly formed emporium, selling interesting wines from small producers that you're unlikely to find elsewhere.

Whilst there, I soon realised that regardless of the fact that I'd come out for a bottle of Italian Passito and even though Italian wine was clearly one of their specialities, their real niche is German Riesling from small independent domaines.  More specifically they had a great line-up of Riesling Trocken.  Riesling what? Well, before looking at the specific wines I took away with me, let's have a quick look at the different styles of German wine...

For a start the whole conversation here is about quality German wine.  We're not talking about supermarket bottom shelf hopelessly cheap branded wine, Liebfraümilch, Blue Nun or Black Tower -  we're talking about superb wine and in particular Riesling.  The same applies to other varieties - Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Silvaner for example - but we'll confine our discussion

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Wonders of Italian Passitos

I'm currently running an Italian wine course that tours the country over six weeks.  Sourcing the wines for the course is a fun task, but for some wines an extremely tricky one.  For things like Chianti and Barolo you're fairly spoiled for choice in the London market, leaving me a different problem of which example to go for.  However, trying to find some of the rarer wines I wanted for the course (that are classic styles within their own regions of Italy, but don't travel much), was considerably harder.  The toughest job of all was getting the passitos I needed, which are wines

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chenin the Versatile

In the summer we spent a week in Touraine, which meant getting to drink plenty of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, the two primary varieties of the Central Loire.  The latter gives good quality and great value wines in the appellations of Chinon, Bourgeuil, Anjou Villages and Saumur Champigny, but we'll save that story for another day.  The real superstar of the region is Chenin Blanc, an almost forgotten variety in the international market, yet one of extremely high intrinsic quality and unsurpassed versatility, being responsible for white wines in almost every

Monday, 12 September 2011

Exploring the Maĉonnais

Welcome back to Hugo's Reserve after the August break.  We spend two weeks in France, the first in Touraine in the Central Loire (that's another story) and the second in the Maĉonnais, in Southern Burgundy.

As you can see from my rather fetching hand-drawn map, when travelling south through Burgundy, the Maĉonnais is the last wine zone you get to (before the vineyards merge seamlessly into Beaujolais).  There's plenty of Maĉon Rouge, usually from Gamay (the same grape variety as Beaujolais) and a fair amount of Bourgogne Rouge, made from Pinot Noir, but overwhelmingly it's white wine country here, with white Burgundy from Chardonnay (as usual), made in a wide range of qualities and price points.

Up to about ten years ago, the Maĉonnais was very much the poor relation of the other Burgundian sub-regions.  In recent years however there have been huge improvements in both vineyard and winery, resulting in the Maĉonnais being the most exciting hunting ground in Burgundy for high quality white wines at a good price. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Calabrian Rarity

Anyone been to Calabria?  It's just about the most remote region of Italy, being the toe of the boot, as my simple but charming hand-designed map shows.  The Apennines run right down the middle of the region, leaving just a strip of low-land either side.  This doesn't leave many places for growing grapes (or anything for that matter) and Calabrian wines are a rarity outside of the region, let alone outside of Italy.

Now they are rare, but some of them are very good indeed.  The best reds are made from the local Gaglioppo (yet another interesting and obscure Italian variety), which by reputation reaches its heights in the small appellation of Cirò.  The other appellation that apparently makes good wines from Gaglioppo is Savuto, but it's so rare you're unlikely to ever see a bottle.  Finally right in the tippy-toe in the town of Bianco they make some superb white wines from

Friday, 29 July 2011

Swiss Oddities

Who has drunk any Swiss wines?  Not many of you I'd bet, apart from my dedicated Swiss readers of course.  Like its Alpine neighbour Austria, Switzerland makes some excellent wines but doesn't have the economies of scale of the larger producing Countries.  This applies to Swiss wine even more so than Austrian wine, the latter being increasingly represented on the UK market, primarily with white wines from their calling card Grüner Veltliner but also increasingly with wines from the their interesting native red varieties Bläufrankisch and St-Laurent.

In Switzerland, the production is much smaller still than Austria and the wines are even more obscure.  The key region for quality is

Friday, 22 July 2011

Exploring the Wines of the Veneto

In my current Italian wine course we've been taking a tour of the whole boot, starting at the North and slowly working our way down to the South and the Islands over six weeks.  Last week we were looking at the Veneto, so I thought I'd write a primer on the key wines found there...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Visellio Primitivo Salento 2001

Whilst we're on the subject of where varieties emanate from, how about California's own Zinfandel?  Well, a few years ago DNA evidence showed it to be the same variety as Primitivo, which comes from Puglia, the heel of Italy.  That they are one and the same was already suspected as they both make wild tasting, tannic, brash and alcoholic wines, whether in Italy or California.  For completeness we should note that it's also in fact the same variety as Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia, but let's not worry about that for now.

Whatever name it goes by, it's certainly not shy and demurring.  No Pinot Noir this.  It's got loads of

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Château du Cèdre Cahors 2006

Where's Malbec from?  Hmm, good question.  Well these days its new spiritual home is Argentina, where it makes delicious, rich and sensual wines that go extremely well with their signature dish, a fat and bloody steak.  That's become the benchmark Malbec.

But prior to Argentina making this variety its own, it originally came from Bordeaux and South-West France.  In Bordeaux it used to be in the vineyards a lot more than it is now, but it was very troublesome in the vineyard and the role it played in the Bordeaux blend (adding voluptuousness and weight to the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon) has been almost entirely replaced by Merlot.  It's still in some of the satellites of Bordeaux, as they're called, which are the lesser outlying appellations (like Bourg and Blaye) and there's a fair bit over the department border in the Dordogne, where they make Bordeaux lookalikes in Bergerac, often with more Malbec than Merlot.

However, the one area in France where it is the star player rather than a bit-part support act is in the appellation

Monday, 6 June 2011

Jura Delights - Puffeney Arbois Vin de Paille

Tucked in-between Burgundy and Switzerland is the Jura, a fascinating and beautiful wine region that's well worth exploring.  The Jura mountain range is a northern extension of the Alps, separated from the Alps proper by lake Geneva on the Swiss-French border.  The wine region of the same name is in the Western foothills of the range, to the North-West of Geneva.

Being fairly remote, the region has maintained it's own wine traditions and varieties, which take you into an ancient vinous world.  There are five principle varieties of the region; Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (from Burgundy but also cultivated in the Jura for centuries), Trousseau (a bit like a lighter version of Pinot Noir), Poulsard (making light red, pink and orange wines) and their signature white variety, Savignin.  The last three are local varieties not really found outside the region.

The appellation Côtes du Jura covers all of the wine region and contains a couple of other sub-appellations, the most famous of which being Arbois. Both make wines in all colours from any of the main varieties.  What's really interesting though, is that the appellations also make a couple of odd-ball wines - Vin Jaune and Vin de Paille.  Vin Jaune comes from either of the main appellations or from the smaller Château-Chalon, which specialises in this ancient and slightly bizarre style.  It's the Jura's answer to Sherry, with wines aged in barrels for over six years under a thin covering of yeast, called the voile (meaning the veil), which is similar to the flor covering in Sherry.  This gives extremely complex flavours to the wine and as the wine is made in an oxidative way, it is very stable and can last in bottle for donkey's years.

The other speciality wine made in the Jura is Vin de Paille (straw wine), which is sweet wine made from grapes that have been concentrated by drying them on straw mats (though these days they're more likely to be dried hanging up).  Unlike Vin Jaune this isn't unique to the Jura; it's a style used in other areas of France, all over Italy (most famously in Vin Santo for sweet wines and in Amarone for dry red wines), in Germany and Austria (where it's called Stohwein) and indeed anywhere where there are quality conscious producers wanting to have a go.  In the Jura it's made with all three of their unique varieties; Poulsard, Trousseau and Savagnin, along with Chardonnay.  The wine I had the other day was a bottle of 2002 Arbois Vin de Paille from the producer Jacques Puffeney.  It was absolutely superb.  Very complex, rich, dark nutty flavours that just went on and on.  You'd really want it with some Christmas pudding or something else dark and rich that could stand up to it.  Alternatively it makes a lovely digestif, just on it's own instead of a pudding at the end of the meal, which is how we had it.  A real winner.

So if you are heading through the Jura region, do stop off and pick up some odd looking bottles; you're unlikely to find them anywhere else and it's very rewarding to explore these lesser-known delights.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Pinot Taste Off

Last week I had a great taste-off between three different Pinot Noirs, two from France and one from New Zealand.

The first wine was from Alsace, a region chiefly known for its outstanding white wines from the designated 'noble' varieties Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat.  However, the region also grows one red variety amongst all the white, which is Pinot Noir.  Now to be honest most of these Pinots are very light in colour and a bit thin in flavour -  fine slightly chilled with a simple lunch but nothing to bother sticking in your boot to take home and certainly nothing to challenge Burgundy.  However, the quality has been creeping up in recent years and certain producers are now making a newer style of  Pinots that are nothing like the traditional light lunchtime quaffers; they are generally fairly full, rich and oak aged, often similar in style to ones across the border in Germany.   Some are very good indeed.

The one we tried

Monday, 16 May 2011

Riesling & Co World Tour 2011

Last week saw the London gig of the "Riesling & Co World Tour 2011" - a trade event put on by Wines of Germany to try to generate more interest in German wines and Riesling in particular.

The event started with what was announced as "the wine trade's first ever question time".  It was a bit like Question Time I suppose, with a panel of German Wine experts fielding questions from the audience on their specialist subject.  Whether or not it was the first event of its kind I don't know - I doubt it - but it was a good format that bravely tackled the problems that blight German wines.  A few stats that were announced during the Q&A succinctly highlight what these problems are:

  • The average retail price for a bottle of wine

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Genesis Wines Trade Tasting

Recently I went to the trade tasting for Genesis Wines at the Century Club in Soho.  There were 113 wines set out by region, with with just over half from France.  As well as the classic regions, there were also lots of interesting offerings from better value regions in France, like the South-West and the Languedoc.

There were lots of stand out wines, but I'll just focus on a few that caught my attention...

Starting with the whites, we kicked off with a Muscadet, which comes from the mouth of the Loire on the Atlantic coast of France (as you can see from my rather fetching hand-drawn map).  The name of the wine simply reflects the grape variety it's made from (the variety was originally called Melon de Bourgogne, referring to its roots, but nowadays it's more often referred to simply as Muscadet).  It's quite a light wine (normally just 12%) that should show crisp acidity, simple freshness and a taste of the sea.  A good example is one the great seafood wines of the world - indeed when having a plate of oysters for lunch, Muscadet challenges Chablis and Champagne for the title of best partner.

The top Muscadet usually comes from

Monday, 4 April 2011

Another 15p a Bottle - Time to Trade Up

Last week's budget announced that duty on wine will continue to rise at the 'escalator' rate established by the last government of 2% above the rate of inflation until 2015.  With the retail price index (RPI) currently at 5.5%, that means a whopping 7.5% hike, increasing the duty by 15p a bottle (including VAT) from £2.03 a bottle to £2.18.

This 15p hike follows in the footsteps of similarly large rises each year since 2007, which have taken the duty per bottle from

Friday, 18 March 2011

4,100 B.C. - A Fine Vintage?

A starter for ten: what's the highest mountain in Europe?  Easy, Mont Blanc right?  Wrong!  Actually it's the Russian Mount Elbrus, which is the highest peak of the Greater Caucasus, the lofty range running between the Black and Caspian Seas.  Towering at 5,642m, Elbrus is a full 800m higher than its Western European rival - so why does everyone think Mont Blanc is the highest European peak then?  Good question.  To answer it I need the help of one of my rather attractive hand drawn maps...

[caption id="attachment_976" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="From the Balkans to the Causasus"][/caption]

The border of Europe and Asia has always been a bit of a blur; the Ancient Greeks considered the Greater Caucasus range to mark the border, which would put Elbrus on the frontier, but then in the eighteenth century various European Countries decided to consider the border as the lowlands just above the Caucasus, thus putting the mountain range and Mount Elbrus in Asia.  However, more recent definitions

Friday, 11 March 2011

Grant Burge 2002 'Filsell' Old Vine Shiraz

For reasons of tradition (lots of bad cheap European wine combined with a sudden influx of more reliable Australian wine in the 90s)  many people in the UK have developed the habit of turning to the New World (in particular Australia) for their more everyday wines (thinking of them as cheaper and better value), but reserving the special occasion bottle for something French, 'cos it's posh like.

I would suggest this is a big mistake and you should turn it upside down!  In the bargain end of drinking, most New World wine at around £6 to £9 is very fruit-forward and not overly interesting for my taste.  Sure it's well made, but in a straight-ahead fruit juice kind of way.  By contrast a lot of wine in that price bracket from Mediterranean places like

Friday, 4 March 2011

Languedoc Roussillon Tasting

Recently I went to a trade and press tasting of Languedoc and Roussillon wines run by Seabright and Seabright, who are importers, wholesalers and retailers for a range of regional French wines.

At the tasting there were flights of wines from eight different vignerons across the region.  There were no poor wines on show and lots of extremely good ones.  I was particularly taken by the wines of a couple of producers; Chateau de la Tuilerie from the Costières de Nîmes and Domaine de Cabrol from the little known appellation of Cabardès.

It's a very interesting appellation is Cabardès. It's one of the youngest in France, being official since just 1999.  It's also the only appellation in the Country that allows red wine to be made from both Altantic grape varieties (allowing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and the much less known Fer) as well as Mediterranean grape varieties (allowing Grenache and Syrah).  So how does this come about and why doesn't it happen more often?  Well, it's mainly about soil and climate.  Let's quickly look at the differences between the two sides of Southern France with the aid of my own rather fetching hand-drawn map...

[caption id="attachment_944" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="Wine Regions of Southern France"][/caption]

The wine regions from the Atlantic side of the South of France (Bordeaux and South-West France) are typified by gravel soil and humid winds coming from the ocean, plus a fair bit of rain.  By contrast the wine regions

Monday, 28 February 2011

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles 2003

We went to the Suffolk coast for a few days over half term, a lovely part of the Country I haven't previously explored.  On the way back we stopped at Aldeburgh, where there are a bunch of fishing huts on the stony beach selling their catches of the day.  Imagine my pleasure when I discovered they had some choice Dover Sole, which I naturally picked up for our supper.

Upon arriving home I decided that to do justice to such a freshly caught and regal fish I should really crack open a fairly heavy-weight white Burgundy.  So that's what I did, saluting the Sole with a bottle of 2003 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles from the producer Morey-Coffinet.  But hang on, I think that calls for

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Four Bottle Mop-Up

Sometimes you've got to have a mop-up.  Having the excellent habit of trying different wines each night means that after a week or so I'm left with about half a dozen open bottles sporting barely half a glass each.  So home alone tonight with my spicy sucuk (Turkish sausage) and lentil stew I had the perfect opportunity to finish off four bottles of open red.

The four dregs were (and in one case are) a 2008 St Laurent (lovely spicy Pinot Noir-ish Austrian variety), a terrific and sappy Bourgogne Rouge, a 2005 Crozes-Hermitage and now finally a Barbera d'Asti that I may or may not finish.  Wow, a really mixed bag making for a slightly odd supper.  However, it's really interesting to have four decent wines in quick succession that are totally different.  Perhaps surprisingly the Bourgogne rouge was the best companion to the meal, but in fact none of them was out of place.  Now my stoppers can get back in the drawer and start working again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chronicon 2006

[caption id="attachment_893" align="alignright" width="251" caption="Montepulciano d'Abruzzo"][/caption]

What kind of place do you normally end up at if you fancy a simple meal when out in town?  If you'd like a basic but decent bottle of wine that's very food friendly and also good value, it's still hard to beat a simple Italian Trattoria.  True, a lot of them are now looking like tired dinosaurs compared to the endless noodle bars and fusion eating spots that are starting to grab the 'simple but decent' market away from them.  However, there are still lots of great family run Italian places around London and they are one of the few types of eatery where the wine is reasonably priced and well matched to the food.  More often than not the lists are all Italian wines and they are normally clustered around £10 to £20 a bottle which is just what you want when keeping it simple.  You can typicially get a bottle of something savoury and satisfying for around £15 which is nigh on impossible in most other places.  So what wines are a good bet on the list of an Italian Trattoria?  Well, there are several candidates depending on exactly what nosh you're going for, but there's one wine that seems to be on every Trattoria list that's often a good choice

Friday, 11 February 2011

Domaine de la Côte Sainte-Epine 2003

The other night I had my last bottle of 2003 Vieilles Vignes Saint-Joseph from Domaine de la Côte Sainte-Epine.  I bought it in bond from the Wine Society a couple of years ago for around £13 after duty and VAT.

As with all the other bottles I had in the case, I approached it with some trepidation.  Why you may well ask?  How scary can a bottle of wine be?  Well, it's got a beautiful core of fruit with decent structure, balance, concentration and length - all good.  However, the hallmark Syrah minty-lift is so powerful on this wine that I blink and almost cough each time I sniff it.  No exaggeration.

It is a lovely wine, but to be honest I'm not sure I'll buy it again as the mint/menthol character is just too strong in this example for me.  Oh well!  Still, it means I can now carry on with my case of 2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Crozes-Hermitage instead (also a 100% Syrah from the Northern Rhône), which is delicious and drinking perfectly.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How much Brett before it's a fault?

[caption id="attachment_856" align="alignright" width="207" caption="The Sweaty Little Beast Brettanomyces"]

There are a few common faults in wine; the most frequently encountered is wine that's corked (discussed separately), but amongst other faults there is also wine that's prematurely oxidised, wine that's showing too much volatile acidity (or VA)  and what we want to discuss today, wine that is infected by the naturally occurring yeast Brettanomyces, better known as Brett.  So how would you recognise a wine that is infected by Brett and how did it happen?

Well, how it happened is easy enough to answer.  The Brett yeast

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Fitou l'Exception 2003

The area known as the Midi curves round Mediterranean France (including the wine regions Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence) and accounts for a third of all French wine.  The majority is in Languedoc, the work horse of French wine, with hills, valleys and (not so good for wine) plains all covered in vines.  There are all sorts of varieties planted there without the homogeneity of the classic regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, Alsace or the Rhône.  There's a lot of Carignan, which is a pretty poor variety, unless it's a really old bush vine with

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wine Appreciation Courses

As you may have seen from a few of the recent posts, as well as wine writing I also run a wine appreciation course and host wine events.  The most recent course I've been running looks at the classic wine regions of France, comparing wines from each region with examples made from the same varieties but from around the world.

The course is split into six sessions, each one covering either white or red wines from one regions.  More info on the course can be found here.

Testimonials of the course are found in the comments below...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wine Appreciation Course Session Six

This Tuesday saw the sixth and final session of the first 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 fifth session we looked at the white grapes Alsace focusing on Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. This time round we looked at the key black varieties of the Rhône Valley.  In the Northern Rhône the one black grape used is Syrah, whereas in the South there are a whole troop of varieties (up to 13 in the appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape) but we focused our attention on the main three; Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, often known collectively as GSM.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Chianti Classico 2006 Taste-off

[caption id="attachment_802" align="alignleft" width="280" caption="Principal Wines of Greater Chianti"][/caption]

I love Chianti Classico.  It's made from the most quintessential of all Italian grapes, Sangiovese, normally with a dash of the local grape Canaiolo blended in.  Basically though, it's all about Sangiovese.  It's quite a lean variety, with slightly bitter cherry fruit flavours accompanied by really crisp acidity and rasping tannins that require food.  It's very savoury and once you're into a bottle it always seems to get better as your dinner goes on.  Don't try and drink it on its own though; not full and generous in the fruit department and with unforgiving tannins it needs meat.  Wine bar soft fruit juice this ain't.  There are two different bottlings of Chianti Classico - there are the Riservas, which are aged longer in oak, being richer, more tannic and needing more

Monday, 31 January 2011

Krutzler Blaufrankisch 2007

Blaufränkisch anyone?  Yes please I say; it's yet another interesting grape variety offering an alternative tipple to the usual suspects.  It's indigenous to Austria and rarely ventures abroad; making fresh, fruity, slighly spicy wines in its homeland that aren't generally for long ageing but are often scrumptious.

The one I had the other day was a 2007 from the producer Krutzler and was right on the money (which was about a tenner from the Wine Society).  Served on the cool side for a red (straight from the cellar) it was very moreish with a pizza, showing crisp acidity, bright fruit flavours and a lovely light spicy lift.  It was a good example of some of the really interesting vinous things going on in Austria these days.  This one is no longer available but I'd recommend seeing if you can find another Blaufränkisch at your local merchant and giving it a go.

Negroamaro from the Salento Peninsular

The other day I was praising the excellent 2001 Felline Primativo di Manduria that comes from the Salento Peninsular.  That wine is 100% Primativo, which is a great variety, but not responsible for most wines from those parts.  So whilst on the subject of lovely wines from heel of Italy I thought I should talk about the most common red variety from down there, Negroamaro, a local grape variety that's not really found anywhere else.

The wines it's responsible for are from a few towns right down in the bottom of the peninsular, notably Salice Salentino and Copertino, with the Negroamaro typically blended with about 20% Malvasia Nera.  These are probably the most typical of all Southern Italian reds, with slightly bitter black cherry fruit flavours, a big personality and a rasping acidity from the Negroamaro, softened slightly by the easier going Malvasia Nera.  These wines are generally great value although there are some premium and super-premium examples around.  They're really worth trying and make a great midweek red to have with your pasta, especially if dressed with a tomato sauce.  Most supermarkets will have at least one example, typically for around £5 to £8 tops.

Last week I had my penultimate bottle of 2004 Copertino Eloquenzia from the excellent producer Masseria Monaci.  Fortunately I've got a case of the 2006 for when the 2004 runs out.  Both were excellent years across Italy with Puglia being no exception.  I've had the wine many times both in the Salento Peninsular and also here at home in London, costing around £6.50 from the Wine Society.  It's a lovely, sappy, refreshing and slightly bitter wine sold with a decent amount of bottle age; the 2006 is spot-on now.  It's a terrific everyday wine that's perfect with a slightly spicy rich pasta sauce.  Yum.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A Primitivo Delight

Last weekend we had a bottle of Felline Primitivo di Manduria 2001, which is a tre bicchieri wine (the top accolade from Gambero Rosso, the definitive Italian wine guide).  I bought it when on a six month tour of Italy in 2003, from a wine shop in Lecce, a beautiful university town right down in the Salento Peninsular, the heel of Italy.

We had it with a rich, red wine octopus casserole.  Not a dish from Puglia I grant you but from Campania, also in the South of Italy and with exactly the right richness and character to accompany the wine.

Primitivo is so named not because it's primative and wild (although it is) but because it ripens early.  It's from Puglia and was recently shown to be genetically equavalent to Zinfandel, the more famous variety that has made its home in California.  The clones are quite different however and they are still considered separate varieties in California.  Like Zin it's a powerful variety that can make extremely alcoholic wines that can be too heavy and wild if not careful.  However, in the right hands and from old vines in a good site Primitivo can make superb wine that needs many years bottle age to lose its ferocity and melt into a harmonious whole.

At 10 years old this bottle from the producer Felline was just perfect, still full of strong black fruit flavour but also showing tobacco, liquorice, undergrowth and a wealth of other secondary flavours.  With a great sense of place it was clearly Southern Italian but also highly complex, very well integrated, extremely long and without doubt a great wine.  What a shame I only had one.

Well done to Felline indeed.

Viavino Wine Course Session Five

This Tuesday saw the penultimate 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 fourth session we looked at the red grapes of the central Loire (Cabernet Franc) and Bordeaux (Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot and Malbec).  This time round we looked at

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Chateau d'Aydie 2004

The South-West of France has a patchwork of interesting appellations making a whole variety of wines from Monbazillac and Saussignac to Cahors, Gaillac, Jurançon and Irouléguy to name but half a dozen.  Today though we're going to look at Madiran, which is found halfway between Toulouse and the Atlantic coast, getting close to the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Viavino Wine Course Session Four

This Tuesday saw the fourth 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 third session we looked at the white grapes of the central Loire (Chenin Blanc) and Bordeaux (Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle).  This time round we looked at the red varieties of the same regions, which are

£500 a Glass

Andrew Lloyd Webber has just sold a large part of his wine cellar (746 lots) for a tidy £3.5M, which isn't bad.   This included a case of Petrus 1982 for over £48,000, which I make to be £4,000 a bottle.  Now come on, I know 1982 was one of the greatest ever vintages in Bordeaux and Petrus is one of the greatest wines of Bordeaux and indeed the world, but I think I would have stopped bidding a bit earlier.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Viavino Wine Course Session Three

Last Tuesday saw the third 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 second session we looked at the red grapes of Beaujolais (Gamay) and Burgundy (Pinot Noir).  This time round we looked at wines from

Friday, 21 January 2011

Christmas Wines

Hello there and a very belated Happy New Year from Hugo's Reserve.  I hope you had a cheery Christmas and New Year and most importantly had a fine array of wines to accompany your Christmas dinner.  We did!...