Monday, 23 November 2009

FRESHCASE Part 2/Montegicchi Chianti Classico 4 years on

Montegicchi Chianti Classico - 4 years on
I purchased the 2001 Montegicchi, Chianti Classico Riserva back in October 2006, my tasting notes read:

Deep ruby red in colour with lighter red brick edge. Looks like a top Bordeaux. Dusty in appearance. Rich dark fruits on the nose, blackberries and vanilla. On the palate - smooth, fruity blackberries.

Three years on I'd say there is some black fruit on the nose and palate, but not rich, they're more subtle now. It's really lovely, I think I'll be opening the other 3 bottles in the not too distant future!

FRESHCASE at the end of week one
Still fresh and fruity wine

InterRhone Tasting on a Canal Boat in Edinburgh

I completed the WSET Advanced Cert in Wines & Spirits with the Case Studies Wine School in Edinburgh, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. When I received an invite for an evening hosted by InterRhone organised by the school I signed up immediately.

It was a truly atrocious evening in Edinburgh, driving rain and blowing a gale. Fortunately I only live a five minute walk from Edinburgh Quay where the Case Studies Wine School canal boat is moored.

Linda Field from InterRhone, a resident of the Rhone Valley, took us through the classification system, appellations and terroir. She did a great job of picking out the pertinent facts of the 58 slide show provided by InterRhone, I learnt a lot.

It was a really interesting selection of wines too.

1) Domaine Magalanne Cote du Rhone AC Rouge, 2008
2) Domaine de Beaurenard Rasteau Cote du Rhone Village AC, 2007
3) Domaine la Monardiere Les 2 Monardes AC Vacqueyras Rouge, 2007
4) Terra Ventoux Terres de Truffes AOC Ventoux Rouge, 2007
5) Cave de Tain l'hermitage Fleur de Roc AC St Peray Blanc 2008
6) Domaine de la Pigeade VDN AC Beaumes-de-Venise Blanc 2008

The Cave de Train l'Hermitage Fleur de Roc, a 50/50 Marsanne/Rousanne blend and it's had some oak treatment. Peachy and spicy on the nose and a delicate buttery taste on the nose, a big wine that would be great with food, perhaps with pork in a creamy sauce.

The contrast between the Domaine la Monardiere and the Terra Ventoux was pretty dramatic. The first being savoury, earthy and spicy, the latter being packed with black cherries. My personal preference was the Domaine la Monardiere a great wine for the €11 price tag.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Domaine de la Pigeade lovely honey on the nose with grapy peaches and apricots on the palate, great length too.

Linda Field also offers accommodation and wine courses in the Rhone Valley at Auberge Du Vin

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

WiBF Wine Tasting Event with Great Grog, Edinburgh

I met a member of the WiBF (Women in Banking & Finance) at a recent wine tasting and figured their next event, a wine tasting, sounded my sort of thing. Just to give you an idea, the group is essentially a networking group which connects professionals from every sector of the banking and finance industry in London, Bristol, Edinburgh and Dublin.

Tonight Great Grog are running the tasting and I quote from their website We are an independent Wine Merchant in Edinburgh (Internet/Warehouse/Wholesale/Retail/Wine Bar/Educators), established in the last century (1999!). We peddle the thrifty... to the rare & ultimate drinking experience. We flog grog that we, as practised drinkers, like to glug, at the price we would like to glug it at.

I'm intrigued to see how this is going to work. Networking isn't easy in a standard seated wine tasting event. Great Grog adapt well and adopt a two pronged attack of Matt manning the tables and filling glasses and Simon pacing the floor with a bottle. This works really well and gives everyone the opportunity to try the wine and network/chat at the same time. Both Simon and Matt are also available to answer any questions about the wine and have a really good back ground knowledge of all of the wines on offer.

They've put on a varied selection too. From the Prosecco (becoming a popular choice for a starting point on many tastings) to the full fruity Murray River, South Australia Nebbiolo (nothing like the Italian Nebbiolo's I've tasted).

Prosecco Ca' Bolani Brut, Italy £7.99
Handmade Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2009 £6.99
Kahurangi Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Nelson, NZ 2008 £7.99
Las Corazas Rosado, La Mancha, Spain 2008 £4.65
Juan Gill Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain 2007 £6.75
Trentham 'La Famiglia' Nebbiolo, Murray River, South Australia 2005 £8.85

They're all pretty good, I like the Monastrell, a nice easy drinking wine, balanced with a savoury edge along with red fruits and a different grape from the norm. Generally the favourite amongst the group seems to be the NZ Sauvignon Blanc a great wine for a reasonable price. It's not too vegetal like some NZ Sauvignon Blancs and has nice white fruit flavours too. It's a great atmosphere and a great bunch of people.

I've been to the Great Grog shop but confess I have never attended one of their tastings, something I have to rectify as soon as possible. So many wines, so little time...

Monday, 16 November 2009


After a week of being out and about and a weekend suffering from a stinking cold tonight is the night to crack open the FreshCase wine. For those of you who don't know about FreshCase, it's a different way of transporting and dispensing wine, the key difference being it holds the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine, but the wine stays fresh for 6 weeks.

The instructions are straight forward and easy to follow (no cork screw required) and I'm pouring the wine in no time. The wine is clear and clean on the nose. It's now sitting on the side in the kitchen, let's see how we go over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Highlights of today's surfing

I try and have a 'wine-surf' of an evening, checking out the RSS feeds I've set up and links I've followed from websites I like and newsletters I've signed up to receive by email. I don't get chance to read them all everyday, but I'd like to share with you now and again the highlights of an evenings surfing.

So as I sit with my feet up, mac book perched on my lap, Spooks followed by True blood on the TV and a glass full of 2001 Glorioso Gran Reserva Rioja purchased from Oddbins on my way home from work, here goes.

There's a lot of chatter of Twitter from the US for Thanksgiving preparations and Enobytes followed this theme with quite a nifty little slide show to help guide you through the trials and tribulations of wine and food pairing to make the event as stress free as possible (@enobytes).

A link from the Decanter website led me to the Colchester Wine Company and New Scientist Experience, a short article but I found the scientific overview for each of the wines really interesting, definitely learnt something here.

I also get sent various links from friends and family today Monsieur Vin sent me a link to Fledgling Wine a great way for those of you in San Francisco to combine wine drinking and charity, a rather lovely idea and a great cause too.

A must read for any wine enthusiast comes from the oldest blogger on the block (not in age I hasten to add, but years of service to the blogging world), today the Wine Anaorak introduces me to Chilean cold climate Sauvignon Blanc, now on the hunt to purchase and try...(@jamiegoode)
And as I start to feel sleepy...

The Tasting Note blog were truly desperate to celebrate the 40th birthday of Sesame Street but couldn't find a wine link, so used the Muppets instead, the clip of Steve Martin as the wine waiter is priceless and an excellent note to end the evening's surfing on.
Also realised I'm not following them on Twitter (@thetastingnote) so put that right.

Thanks all and good night.......zzzzzzzz

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Wine Experience - Italy

It's been another one of those weeks at work, I'm exhausted. Leaving the office at 7pm I head into the city, I'm off to a wine tasting, a last minute decision and one at this point in time I'm beginning to regret. Queen Street is bumper to bumper and my taxi driver opts for sitting in the traffic rather than taking an alternative route, I ask him to take the quicker route and he turns at the next junction, two minutes later I'm there. The Royal Scots Club, Abercromby Place, Edinburgh is housed in an amazing example of Georgian architecture, spread across numerous floors there's a restaurant, meeting rooms and accommodation, all in traditional Scottish style. I make my way through the bar and down two flights of stairs to the Dumbarton Room.
Ian (@thefinewineman on twitter) offers a warm welcome and I take a seat. I instantly spot a bottle of Masi Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese rowed up for us to try, excellent one of my favourites.

It takes to half way down the rather large taste of Prosecco we have first for me to start to wind down and relax.

It's a really good selection of Italian Wine, I like all of the reds:
Masi Bardolino Classico 2008 DOC
Serego Alighieri Pssessioni Rosso 2005 IGT
Itynera Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2008 DOC
Tomaresca Neprica 2007 IGT
Masi Campofiorin Rosse del Veronese 2006 IGT
Tasca d"Almeria Camastra 2005 IGT

The Serego Alighieri a Valpolicello blend with Merlot and aged in cherry oak is quite unlike anything I have tried before, it has lovely black cherry aromas and taste. The Masi Campofiorin (an old favourite of mine that I first tried when living in New Zealand) a wine that seems to have black fruits, red fruits, spices......... every time you take a sniff it seems to change.

The cold meats and cheese provided are just right for making a great combination for the palate.

The well thought out selection of wine underpinned an evening that provided a good grounding about Italy and it's wine regions. Ian's enthusiasm and knowledge of wine also made the evening informative but not too serious.

By the time I left the Royal Scots Club to make my way across the city towards home I was really glad that I went and made a mental note to check out the other events the wine experience have on offer.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

FreshCase arrived today

As a bit of a geek with an interest in innovation when I had the opportunity to check out a new style of packaging I jumped at the chance, FreshCase arrived today.

As a brief introduction to FreshCase, it's a combination of card and plastic packaging that holds the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine. The packaging keeps the wine fresh for up to 6 weeks.

I'll be putting it to the test over the next 6 weeks with regular updates on my blog how things are going.

"Meet Up" Wine Group Edinburgh

After signing up for the group at the weekend I attended the first "Meet Up" this evening. Whighams Wine Cellars in the heart of the city, just off Charlotte Square is probably the most well known wine bar in Edinburgh. With its semi dark nook and cranny seating it's an ideal spot for a wind down after work or a secret assignation.

Tonight Liberty Wines, T.M. Robertson Wine Cellars and Forth Wines showcase a selection of 50 wines.

The restaurant area is set up for the tasting and the crowds scramble forward, tasting glass in hand. Around the tables conversations with numerous people, all of whom seem to be here as part of the "Meet Up", so I'm guessing it's a good turn out. Not surprisingly I meet someone who works for same company as me, but she also works in the same office building and only one floor away, I can probably see her from my there no escape! She's a lovely lady and I get an invite to a Women In Business wine tasting evening - fantastic!

I try numerous wines a Lebanese Chateau Musar, A Mano Bianco from Italy and a Beaumont Mourvedre from South Africa. The Mourvedre is good, but at £30 a bottle a little pricey for what I'm after tonight.

I'm looking to get a few bottles of something white, dry and packed with citrus to fill a gap in the rack and something Monsieur Vin will like too. I plump for the Schloss Vollrads Castle Riesling (Germany), at £12 a bottle and a convenient time for me for delivery. It has the great citrus punch I'm looking for and will go well with the numerous fish dishes we have of an evening.

I also made an impulse buy tonight - A Winter's Tale Amontillado sherry, a great nutty aroma, smooth sweetness on the palate and a lovely warming feel. A great aperitif and winter warmer for the coming winter and festive season. Should have checked the prices on my iPhone before ordering as readily available on the Internet at a cheaper price - you can't win 'em all............

Monday, 2 November 2009

Joining a group of wine lovers Edinburgh

I was having lunch in Henrick's yesterday, a quick club sandwich and pint of Belhaven Best before getting back to the day job - yeh I know - on a Sunday........

Anyway I spotted an advert for The Edinburgh Wine Meet Up group, sounds like my cup of tea/glass of wine.

Off to my first event on Thursday at Whigham's Christmas Wine Fair, with 50 wines to this space...........

Check out the website here

The earth, vine and wine

I've long been a believer that climate change is fact not fiction. I know people have their doubts, but I look at it like this,
if it's not true and we find in the future that temperatures drop again, water levels don't rise and deserts don't appear across the globe, what have we lost? So we've all cut our fuel bills, we drive smaller cars and businesses have spent something extra to run more environmentally friendly buildings. If it's true and environmental catastrophe ensues, well at least I can say I did my bit to try and save the planet for future generations.

At the current rate it won't belong before the UK may have the temperatures to sustain a wine industry to compete with the very best producers (although increased rain may be on the cards too). They certainly seem to be anticipating great wines for the future and taking innovation firmly in hand by using cutting edge technology such as the Oenoview system as detailed in a recent BBC article. The system "analyses the images to determine vine leaf density, soil water content and grape bunch sizes"

So as the UK gears up for great vintages of the future what of the wine regions where the risk of the vineyards becoming arid wastelands? Spanish winemaker Torres are taking it very seriously, even going to the lengths of purchasing land in the Pyrenees "just in case", reducing CO2 emissions and taking the time to talk to environmentalists about the issue. The Guardian article goes into further detail about the man behind the Torres label. I think it makes for interesting reading for wine producers, sellers and consumers alike.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh

It's been a long time since I visited the Hotel Du Vin in Edinburgh. Another summer and festival has passed since my last visit. That's the trouble with living in a city like Edinburgh, too many places, not enough time.

The sommelier I met early in the year is still there and his enthusiasm hasn't wained. I always take his recommendation, he knows I'm interested in widening my palate and loves to share his enthusiasm for all things wine.

Hotel Du Vin also offers a fantastic rib eye steak and I'm looking for a wine to match.

We have the 2004 Languedoc "Les Bastides D" Alquier" Faugeres Grenache/Syrah blend. The Languedoc seems such a varied region I find it hard to know what's good and what's not. I'm glad to say this one is good. A bright ruby red in colour it's got really meaty tannins with plenty of red fruit - raspberry and a smoky smoothness and a punch of black pepper. Really lovely wine that goes well with the steak. I think it would keep for a few more years too.

The Faugeres appellation within the Languedoc in the south west of France has schistous soil and high altitude and gained a good reputation due a number of quality minded wine growers as the Alquier family.

As the nights draw in and the weather starts to turn the Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh is the perfect escape.

The wine doctor also has some further information on this Domaine Alquier

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

What would you bid for - 18,000 to choose from?

I can think of numerous reasons to visit Paris, but an opportunity to buy that special bottle of wine or even bag a bargain, from a selection of 18,000 bottles, where every region of France is represented, seems like a pretty good reason to me.

Tour D' Argent restaurant in the heart of Paris, established as far back as 1582 and with a cellar containing around 450,000 bottles of wine has a sale on.

The history behind this restaurant fascinates me, with its tradition, many famous visitors and numbered ducks it's a fascinating story. If you order a duck it is numbered (the 1,000,000th duck was sold in 2003). For the famous the duck will become a personality in its own right: in the visitors' book of famous ducks, no. 328 was served to King Edward VII in 1890, no. 40,312 to King Alfonso XIII in 1914, no. 53,211 to the Emperor Hiro Hito in 1921, no. 667 998 to Thierry Luron and no. 938,451 to President Mikhail Gorbachev. You can find out more on the restaurant website (flying ducks not to be missed)

The wine cellar survived WWII, the proprietor at the time walled up the majority of the cellar, keeping it hidden from the occupying German army. Now, it's getting over crowded and space is needed giving the public the opportunity to bid on some interesting lots.

I've given myself an imaginary budget of about €2000, this is what I'd buy.

Lot 523 - because I've never tasted anything that old €900-€1000
Lot 164 - because it's one (of my many) favourite areas €550-€600
Lot 1223 - because it seemed like a nice mix €300-€350
Lot 1046 - because it's the vintage I was born in - €60-€80

It will be interesting to see what they actually sell for!

The Independent newspaper provides an insight in to the sale and the lot list is here too.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Another sign of the recession

Whenever my colleague the Queen of Am-dram is under the lights of showbiz a group of us get together to support and cheer her on. This time it's a production of 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' at the usual venue - the Church Hill Theatre in Morningside, Edinburgh.

It's a small group of us tonight, perhaps the first sign of the recession (and redundancies) impacting the significant financial services business in Edinburgh. I'm excited about eating at Peckham's Underground, buy a bottle of wine at retail price from the shop and drink it with your meal, no corkage. But not any more I'm afraid, you can still buy a bottle from the shop, but it's £5 corkage - real shame and perhaps another sign of the recession. A good home made lasagna accompanied with a mediocre Sauvignon Blanc and a nice piece of Salmon accompanied by a mediocre Chenin Blanc, the remaining members of the group opting for Isle of Arran blonde and soft drinks for the drivers.

Then on to the theatre. I'm not sure why most theatres are unable to think about the wine they buy, maybe they think they don't have to if they think people, not being allowed to take a glass in with them, never have more than ten minutes to drink a glass.

Despite this or as a result of this (I'm not sure) the appropriate audience participation was performed (identities disguised to protect the innocent)

The Queen of Am Dram performed brilliantly.

But the wine disappointed.........................

Monday, 26 October 2009

What's on your doorstep

It never ceases to amaze me how some things can be on your door step and you just don't realise it. I dashed back from work tonight to catch the early showing of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. I arrived at the Cameo cinema a few steps from my front door with enough time to enjoy a quick glass of wine. Time's short so I ask for a dry white, not even a glance at the wine list.
Monsieur Vin arrives, whilst waiting for a coffee he spots the wine list and throws it over to me. There's some interesting wines on the list including Dinastia Vivanco Rioja, a wine introduced to me by @thirstforwine.
They call the start of the movie, I enter the auditorium with a mental note to pop back as soon as possible.

As for the film, a fairy tale for adults, the wonderful imaginarium of Terry Gilliam.

Claim to fame note - I once sat next to Terry Gilliam on a Rynair flight to Ancona, Italy.

Tomorrow - off to Pekham's Underground, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh where you can purchase your wine from the shop upstairs at retail prices and you can have it with your dinner downstairs and no corkage!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

A Night of Fizz & Red from Down Under

This time of year I usually start my blog with “it was a cold, windy, rainy night in Edinburgh” but on this occasion, that’s just not true. It’s been an absolutely stunning day in Edinburgh, feeling almost summer in warmth (Scottish summer I hasten to add).
We’re expecting J&J for dinner, they’ve been numerous times before, you may remember J1’s comment I posted on my blog back in September last year when we had a Sauternes with desert.
"It's like drinking apricot juice but boozy with honey"

J1 lived in Spain for a number of years and she loves Rioja (red Rioja) and although she would like to try other wines, she finds the choice overwhelming and has found it difficult to find alternatives she likes. Now, when she’s out buying red wine, she spends 10 minutes looking at the shelves but still ends up picking a Rioja...!

I sent out an SOS on Twitter asking for suggestions of alternatives to Rioja. @thefinewineman suggests a Tempranillo, a safe bet sticking with a Spanish grape. @WineUnearthed comes back with the suggestion of a New World alternative, perhaps a Barossa Valley Shiraz from a good producer, which gives me an idea.

There’s a knock at the door, they’re on time. I open the door and a bottle of red is thrust into my hand, for once it’s not a Rioja! J1 grins and says “I took your advice, so you can blame the guy in the off-licence if it’s awful. He recommended it.”

I’ve picked up a bottle of Lindauer (on offer in Waitrose just now) to go with the crab cake starter, this goes down well, but it’s not red and therefore we can’t compare it to a Rioja. Cava is mentioned once or twice.

We discuss the importance of having a good wine merchant. J1 is a great cook and believes in sourcing the best ingredients for her culinary experiments, using the knowledge of a local butcher or fishmonger to enhance a menu. Buying wine should work in much the same way. Small independent wine merchants are able to offer a more diverse selection of wine, and like the butcher, give background and provenance on the producer, whilst at the same time opening you up to more interesting flavours.

We’ve got neck of lamb stack for the main course in a light fruity jus. I’ve got a bottle produced by @teusnerwine called Joshua (2005) it’s a Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz blend, I’ve been saving it for just this type of occasion.

Although it’s less fruity and more full bodied than a Rioja, J1 likes it. It’s a food wine and a great match for the lamb. The aromas of red current and green pepper give way to more black fruit flavours on the palate, but the black pepper persists through out. I tracked this wine down after coming across @teusnerwine on Twitter. Spotted in Harvey Nichols one Saturday afternoon at £18, but this is probably not the best price on the market.

Over the main course the conversation turns towards how with a bit of practice and help you will learn what you like and what you don’t, what to look for on a label (and what to avoid) and how to be smarter in your wine choice.

There are film and book critics that I agree with and some that I don’t, I view wine critics in much the same way.

J1 doesn’t have the time to invest in gaining expert knowledge about wine, so I suggest she finds a good wine merchant and to give them a chance to learn what she likes, if they’re good they’ll move on to challenge her palate. J1 spends a lot of time on-line so by reading reviews in the press, bloggers online and tweeters alike to share their knowledge and listen to recommendations.

In return the least they can do is provide an honest and independent view on the wines they have tasted/write about.

For you chance to meet UK wine bloggers why not attend The Wine Gang Christmas Fair, November 7th, 2009 at Vinopolis. Check out the blog entry for this too.

You can learn what motivates bloggers to go to the efforts of maintaining a blog, usually for no reward (except appearing at wine tastings) and what their particular passion is. It is an easy way to find some great new sources of wine information to complement your own wine buying research and maybe even new friends to share experiences with.

Perhaps you'll find that special wine for the festive season.

If your a UK wine blogger and would like the chance to be a part of the Wine Gang's Christmas Fair then check out the competition on the Wine Conversation blog

A few suggestion of wine merchants in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Wine Merchants (part of Cambridge Wine Merchants)
30B Raeburn Place
Tel: 0131 343 2347
Twitter: @halwilsonuk

The Great Grog
GREAT GROG Retail Shop
2 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 667 2855

For a good selection of Italian wines:
Valvona & Crolla
19 Elm Row
Edinburgh EH7 4AA
Tel: 0131 556 6066

For a good selection of Californian wines:
Sideways Wine
91 St. Leonards Street
Edinburgh EH8 9Q
Tel: 0131 668 4207

Henderson Wines
109 Comiston Road,
Edinburgh EH10 6AQ
Tel: 0131 447 8580

Monday, 31 August 2009

Madame Vin - Tweeting Up with Rioja

The phenomena of Twitter has some people hooked (Stephen Fry/Philip Schofield) and some people who claim that they do not understand it as a medium, stating the thought of sharing their thoughts and ideas with virtual strangers is just too much.
I think it's a great way for like minded people to connect, to share their experiences, ideas and opinions. I've been Madame Vin since January, but Twitter was created back in 2006.

I spend a lot of time on-line, but not as much as I'd like (the day job interferes somewhat), but I never thought I would go and actually meet people I had met on line. The horror stories of love affairs gone wrong are all too evident in the papers (and on line). My meet up/tweet up, I'm glad to say was a positive experience.

I'd enlisted the support of my Aussie Mate. You'll have come across her in other blog entries, it's also her hands who, on many occasions have held bottles at the appropriate angle for photo taking.

I received the twitter update from @thirstforwine" confirming they would be tasting Rioja at Bond No.9 on The Shore, Leith. A relatively new bar that has an amazing cocktail list and award winning staff to boot.

I'll admit at first it was strange having read numerous 140 characters tweets from @thirstforwine, @thefinewineman and @whiteandred we were now standing in a bar talking about the Dinastia Vivanco Rioja we were tasting.

Tweets were soon being twittered about the evening and I even got chance to wear my Madame Vin T-shirt!

@thirstforwine provided the chance for us try five wines from the Dinastia Vivanco vineyard. All were quality wines, my Aussie Mate particularly liked the rosé (Tempranillo/Garnacha blend) because on the nose it was quite sweet and fruity, but on the palate it surprised you by being more savoury.
The white Rioja was interesting too and provides and excellent,more interesting alternative to many whites on the market at the moment. The adding of Malvasia giving it that extra something.
The Crianza and the Reserva were good examples of Rioja. I've been disappointed with a number of Riojas of late, it's nice to find a couple of good ones. The Crianza being fruity, sharp and rustic easy drinking wine. Followed by the smoother fuller bodied Reserva for special occasions.

And then something very interesting and a blend that truly works
70% Tempranillo
15 % Graciano
10% Garnacha
5% Mazuelo

Red fruit, black fruit, dark toffee (bonfire toffee) and I think this will change and develop over time too.

Only 14,000 bottles produced, I'm hoping some will make it to Edinburgh............

Conclusion - more Tweet Ups needed!

Twitter - sign up and join the fun

To find out more about the wine
For more from the @finewineman
For more from @redandwhite
For more from @thirstforwine
To check out the venue Bond No.9

Savuto Odoardi (Nocera Trinese, Calabria, Italy), Centotre

If there's one place in Edinburgh where you can guarantee a warm welcome then it's Centotre. It was one of the first places I ate out in when I first moved to Edinburgh 3 years ago. It has consistently provided excellent service, food and wine ever since. The interesting and ever changing wine list always makes it very difficult to make my choice. The wine has been carefully sourced based on the love and hard work that goes into producing them.

The Odoardi family have been producing wine for centuries, but it is only recently that they have begun to become an award winning producer. I've had some interesting wines from Southern Italy and it's destination that's high on my "must visit" list. The Odoardi vineyards are near Catanzaro in Calabria (the region that forms the toe of Italy) and are called Nocera Trinese. Here the Odoardi family still prune vines in an alberello pattern, the way they have since the 3rd century BC. Instead of being trellised, the plants are clipped to resemble small trees allowing the grapes to ripen more evenly and to produce more powerful juice.

They also still use the traditional blend of grapes (45% Gaglioppo, 15% Greco Nero, 15% Nerello Cappuccio, 15% Magliocco Canino) and a touch (10%) Sangiovese, but age the wine for two years in large oak casks.

The result is unusual to say the least. A deep/opaque red wine with purple hues, stewed black plums and black pepper. It's not similar to anything I've tried before. Each time I taste it I get something else, even stewed red currents.

Truly delicious.....

To check out Centrotre

Calistoga Central & De Loach Wines (Russian River Valley)

Calistoga is a venue that provides a nice and relaxed atmosphere for a wine tasting, it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of Rose Street/George Street. I'd been looking forward to the De Loach tasting after getting the low down from the vineyard website. The website is extremely well designed and takes you on a detailed tour of the vineyard (link below).
From the De Loach range we tasted:

Chardonnay - Russian River Valley 2007
Pinot Noir - Russian River Valley 2007
Pinot Noir - Green Valley 2005
Zinfandel - California 2006
Forgotten Vines Zinfandel - Sonoma County 2006

Oaked Chardonnay isn't a personal favourite. Although in this one the oak isn't the only thing happening in the glass and I like the ripe white fruit aromas. The 14.5% alcohol is pretty evident on the nose too. It's pretty rounded on the palate and gets a thumbs up from the fans of this type of wine around the table.

There's over £10 difference in price between the two Pinot Noirs (the Green Valley being the pricier of the two). I like them both; the Russian River Valley offers the light red fruit packed option where as the Green Valley offers a spicier, earthier and smooth tannins. It's like moving from a summer lunchtime with friends to a winter's evening with someone special.

The two Zinfandels are worlds apart, the older vines of Sonoma County offering a complex mix of black fruits, tobacco and a long finish, it's crying out for a game meats to try and tame it. The basic Californian Zinfandel is just that, it's a fruity little number that's an easy drinking simple wine.

I would loved to have heard more about the eco friendly/biodynamics approach but the presenter on the night didn't know too much about it, another visit to the website is all that's required though.

Click here to find out more about the wines and the production methods

Click here to discover Calistoga a great place that offers an extensive list of Californian wine in Edinburgh, meals and wine tastings

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Bristol, Banksy and Burgundy

We queued for two and a half hours to enter the Banksy exhibition at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, but it was worth the wait. From sculpture to installations to paintings to drawings, the imagination of Banksy is truly inspirational. The familiar digs at the establishment produce giggles from the crowd as they look at a policeman on a play ground ride and MPs in the house of commons depicted as primates. Outside of the main Banksy exhibition the artist continues to entertain as space ships unexpectedly pop up in Constable like landscapes and a briefcase full of money appears in a glass cases, the notes have Princess Diana's head on them. It's on until 31st August - it's a must see - go now!

After a long day on my feet I head back to my hotel, the Hotel Du Vin. I've stayed in a number of this particular chain and haven't been let down yet and I'm pleased to say Bristol continued the excellent service and nice environment I've come to expect.

I arranged to meet up with the Sommelier to share his passion for all things wine and his views on how the current recession is effecting the wine list. Stefan Gorda is originally from Poland, but spent a number of years living in France, before making the move to the UK. Stefan explained that the cellar is a fully functional commercial cellar and although some cellaring wine is stored off site, the wine here is to be sold in the bistro/bar and to be enjoyed by the Hotel Du Vin customers.

The selection of wines available is smaller of late due to the recession. It's becoming harder to continue to keep less popular wines on the list. Which is a shame for those of us who are looking to widen our palates and I, like so many others rely on establishments such as the Hotel Du Vin to provide something a little bit more interesting than the norm.

Stefan has a definite passion for many French wines and has a personal interest in small vineyards that are producing excellent quality wine where the terroir and the people behind the wine can almost be tasted. Although it was extremely difficult challenge Stefan chose Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru as his favourite in the Hotel Du Vin cellar at Bristol, although I think it is one amongst many favourites.

The ambiance of the bistro at Bristol is very similar to others I have tried, relaxed with excellent food, wine and service. Monsieur Vin enjoyed a great steak and fries. I had superb lamb noissets with potato and pea mash and minted jus. All good quality ingrediants and cooked to perfection.

As for the wine we wanted something simple to accompany it and on a tight budget I went for the Jean Claude Rateau burgundy. Not complex, a straight forward smooth wine, a perfect end to a great day.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Marrakech Mist

As the heat and dust of the day subsides a little we stroll through the area close the Bahia Palace in Marrakech. The streets and squares are still crowded with families of people and cats alike. The entrance to the Kosy Bar is in a small square surrounded by entrances to shops selling lanterns, rugs and jewellery. Spread across three floors we make our way up the stone floors to the roof terrace. A system of ornate pipes circles the terrace and twists above the seating areas. A gentle cool mist is sprayed above cooling the air, providing respite from the heat. I haven’t tried the local wine yet, under the white wine section I spot a Coteaux d’ Atlas, Morocco, AOC for 3900 Dirham (approx. £30). On serving we find it’s an oaked Chardonnay produced by Château ROSLANE. There’s a strong smell of incense in the air that is mixed in with the aroma of the wine but there are floral notes and vanilla. The acidity is medium/high. As the bottle warms a slight metallic after taste is noticeable but all in all it’s pretty good.

A few notes about Moroccan wine/ Château ROSLANE

In October 1998 order of the Ministry of Agriculture that the first controlled Appellation of Morocco was created. The area includes the districts of Sidi-Slimane, Mjat and Boufekrane, a region known for producing great wines since the Roman Empire. It is within this area that the best soils have benefited from a classification in CRU, another first in the history of Moroccan viticulture.
The Vineyards
The cradle of the greatest civilizations, the Mediterranean basin has always been a land of predilection for vineyards. Thanks to its temperate climate, generous sun and naturally rich soils, Morocco, and in particular the Meknes region is its natural extension.
Les Celliers de Meknès estates cover nearly 2000 hectares of vineyards divided among four of Morocco's most prestigious designations : AOG Guerrouane, AOG Beni M'tir, AOG Berkane and the country's only AOC, Les Coteaux de l'Atlas whose best parcels have been graded as "1st Cru".
The climate of the Middle Atlas in the foothills on which our estates are situated, the elevation ranging from 580 to 700 meters, the moderate rainfall and generous sunshine all provide our vineyards with an exceptional site unrivalled in Morocco.

A little bit of California in Edinburgh………

Edinburgh Princes Street is closed due to tram works. The shops are open but to negotiate crossing the roads in the vicinity of Princes Street is to be blunt, a real pain. In Shandwick Place you can see where you need to be, it just takes 10 minutes to work out how to get there through bollards, barriers and fencing. Once on Princes Street you have to take long detours up the side streets to get from one end to the other. Needless to say after an afternoon’s unsuccessful and infuriating trip to the shops I found myself on Rose Street. I’ve been following updates on Twitter from Calistoga, Edinburgh for a little while now. I remember their new venture Calistoga Central is somewhere off this very street. With the help of my trust iphone I’m able to find its location and using the same device I’m able to make contact with my Aussie mate, who is not far away and as normal a willing accomplice to in my quest.

Despite the warm and sunny afternoon the small courtyard at the back is in shade, but we decide to give it a try anyway.

The wine list is an impressive list of Californian wines, it’s difficult to choose. We decide on the Dancing Coyote, (Clarksburg) 2006, Verdelho. I haven’t had a Verdelho for sometime. Yellow/green in colour, it’s clear and fresh. Subtle on the nose, white fruits and a little floral too. On the palate honeydew melon and tropical fruits present.

After awhile we move inside, we are the only ones in the bar. The walls are adorned with images of Californian wine areas, Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Bonny Doon vineyard posters. I try and twitter but discover I’m in a dead zone.

As we are leaving a group of ladies arrive for a wine tasting in the restaurant next door.

It’s early days yet but with a great wine list and a great pricing policy I think that Calistoga Central will soon be as popular as the original Calistoga near the Meadows.

A Walk Through Bordeaux - Au revoir Arno

Nestled in the usual spot in the bowels of George Street my Aussie mate and I are joined for the first time by the Snake Charmer and the Southern Cellarman. We’re here with Arno who shares with us a selection of delights from Bordeaux.

Chateau Roquetaillade Graves, 2007 £9.50

Chateau Tour Prignac, Haut Medoc 2005 £14.95
Chateau Potensac Medoc 2004 £17.50
Chateau La Croix Bonis, Saint Estephe 2002 £15.95
Chateau Olivier Graves 1999 £30.00

Chateau Loubens, Sainte Croix du Mont 1989 £29.50

Some interesting wines, but for me, based on value for money as well as taste the Chateau La Croix Bonis, Saint Estephe 2002 came out on top. A lovely aroma of burnt wood, prunes and spices followed up with being nicely balanced on the palate. Dried black fruits, tannic with plenty of life still left in it.

The Chateau Loubens, Sainte Croix du Mont 1989 was a huge hit with everyone. Full bodied with fresh acidity coupled with orange marmalade, delightful.

This was the last tasting to be shared with Arno and I will him all the best as he heads home to for awhile to work in a vineyard.

Thanks Arno for sharing some great wines with us!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Rioja and the Blues

It's Friday, it's been a long stressful week. You can feel that spring is in the air in Edinburgh. Large white fluffy clouds scoot along a blue sky back ground. I'm watching old footage of Son house play the Death Letter Blues. The music is melancholy his voice is deep and earthy, his heart and soul going into the rifts played on his ancient guitar. Son House is an extraordinary perform of the delta blues.

The tesco finest Rioja covers my palate with spicy red fruits, logan berries, raspberry and red plum. It's Woody and earthy too. The tannins are smooth and mouth coating and it has great length. It's pretty well balanced all round.

My senses envelope my surroundings and I feel the stresses of the week evaporate in a swirl of music and liquid comfort.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

An Evening in Leith

Skippers For Dinner

After leaving the Vintners Room it's a short walk to Skippers. It's a small restaurant with a busy feel. We are greeted with a smile and shown to our table. I opt for Red Mullet as a starter and Swordfish Steak in a Parmesan crust as main course. The Muscadet Sur Lie is a nice partner for seafood.

On the wine list is one from La Sablette, Marcel Martin, 2007. It's light fresh lemony with some minerality. It's a food wine rather than drinking it on it's own. But the for the price and the occasion it fits just nicely.

An Evening in Leith

First stop - Vintners Rooms Leith
I had heard about the Vintners Rooms when I first arrived in Edinburgh and have read about it since but, have never had the opportunity to visit. Tucked away beneath one of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's numerous Edinburgh venues it is housed in an old wine merchant's auction room in the Vaults warehouse, a beautiful historic building.

The wine list is extensive with some unusual options from less than £20 per bottle through to the higher end of people's budget. We hop onto one of the high bar stools, joining the people sitting around the impressive zinc bar. The patterned carpets on white walls give it a slightly Moroccan feel. There's a large fireplace at the far end which would certainly be inviting on a winter's night. Background music is played softly, soothing tunes to relax to.

The wine list
There's lots of older vintages on offer. Under Italy, Piemonte Number 345 states:
"Barolo, older vintages available, please ask!" starting price £95.00.

There's a very good selection of half bottles at the back of the list
No. 382 - Chardonnay, McLaren Vale, Tyrells, Pkolbin, Hunter Valley, 2002

The new world is certainly in the minority but it's good to see a Martinborough NZ being represented.

There are many delights on the wine list but we have a table booked at Skippers so by the glass it is.

I opt for - Chenin Blanc, Porter, Mill Station, Swartland, South Africa - pale yellow in colour and served at just the right temperature (not too cold). White fruits, peach & pear. Mouth watering acidity with an added lemony touch on the palate.

My companion opts for - Pinot Biancom Kellerel, Terlan, Alto Adige - pale yellow, quite neutral on the nose as expected and clean and fresh on the palate, length falls a little short.

Next time we'll stay for dinner to sample the dinner menu and a bottle of something interesting, but tonight we have a table booked at Skippers fish restaurant around the corner.

If your looking for a venue for that special occasion, that's elegant, traditional and away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, then the Vintners Rooms will fit the bill perfectly.

Pouilly Fume, Prestige des Fines Caillottes, 2006

Although the sun shines the chilled wind rushes down westerly facing streets. It rips the delicate pink and white petals from the spring blossom trees in St Cuthbert's church yard. The homeless man I regularly see on Lothian Road struggles to keep his many rucksacks in check. His matted long beard and hair is lifted and tossed by the invisible force of nature.
An enormous digital screen has been erected in Festival Square. The 24 hour feed from the BBC glaring out the news on a massive scale. It's also to watch sports events on the balmy summer evenings. At each junction cars, pedestrians and cyclists fight for right way. Serious glares are cast at those that venture forward out of turn.
Someone has cleaned the graffiti off the main door of my building, another blank canvas for the street artist, I wonder how long it will stay clean for this time. As I pass along the corridors up to the third floor I hear snippets from my neighbours lives, television, radios, laughter and conversation.
Inside the flat the heating has come on reflecting the chill outside even though we're well in to May now. Monsieur Vin is sitting at his desk in the study, deep in his world of creativity and plotting.
"What's for dinner?" I ask.
"Gnocchi, with a creamy tomato sauce."
I make my way to back of the walk in wardrobe and scan the bottles on offer. I settle on the Pouilly Fume, a birthday present from my boss.

It's pale straw yellow, the glass is covered in tiny bubbles, some legs too. Aromas of white fruits and apricot, a little savoury but not as much as some NZ Sauvignon Blanc's.
Dry, medium/full bodied, it's well balanced and has great length.

A great wine that I could have with or without food.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Sharpham Vineyard Visit

The River Dart is a tidal river that meanders from the moors down to the sea. Above a section of the river, 2 miles of south of Totnes, Sharpham's vineyards are nestled in a sunny spot on red shillet soil that slopes down to the river's edge.
I took the blue route on the "Trek & Taste" tour through the Madeleine Angevine vines, skirting the edge of the Dornfelder, Pinot Noir and Phoenix vines.
The path then takes you along the river and back up through the picnic area to the Winery and Vineyard shop.

Here I was greeted by Laura Armstrong & Lawrence Baulch in the tasting room. I paid the £4.95 charge for tasting, knowing that I had only hand luggage on the flight home with no space for extra items such as bottles of wine. This gave me the opportunity to try all of their wines.

It was the first time I have tried the Madeleine Angevine and I was pleasantly surprised. It's a clear pale yellow to look at and clean on the nose. It's dry, acidic and youthful. Easy drinking with white fruits and surprisingly good length. I think this would appeal to many people and would go well with local seafood especially crab.
Sharpham also offer a barrel fermented (new oak) Madeleine Angevine that is a more complex wine that would go well with stronger flavoured food such as Thai.

The Dornfelder & Rondo blend creates a deep garnet in colour, good tannin and black fruits and only 10.5%abv.

Sharpham has a sister vineyard Beenleigh Manor where Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grown under plastic. I'm pleasently surprised by the Beeleigh red (70% Cabernet Sauvignon/30% Merlot). The wine is well balanced with smooth tannins, there's plenty of fruit too.

Sharpham have also produced a good sparkling wine in England. Made in the traditional method (from Pinot Noir/Pinot Blanc) it's elegant with citrus flavours on the palate.

After a look at the creamery, where cheese is fully hand-produced from their own Jersey cow's milk and free of GM ingredients I have lunch at the Vineyard Cafe outside in the sunshine.

I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Devon.

You can follow the events at Sharpham by becoming a fan of Laura's page on facebook called:
Sharpham Wine & Cheese

You can read more about Sharpham at

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Le Di-Vin, Working Through The Wine List - #1

Rosacker, Cave Vinicole De Hunawhir, Grand Cru, Alsace, Riesling 2007

Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, the park at its centre the site for the annual Book Festival in August is usually a quiet spot the rest of the year. This spring once again the many crocuses carpet the edges and the grass has recovered from the rigours of winter and has become a vibrant green once again. But with Princes Street closed every Lothian bus that services the west of the city now takes a detour around the square giving many more people the opportunity to admire the small piece of green surrounded by Robert Adam's (who died before its completion) crowning glory, and the epitome of what Robert Burns called 'the heavenly Hanoverianism' of Edinburgh's New Town with its classic edifices, handsome squares and spacious thoroughfares. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was born at No. 16, Lister at No.9 and Earl Haig at No.34.
Just a stone's throw way is an establishment I've mentioned before (see posting Le di Vin 18/06/08) in my ramblings which I'm pleased to say has become a favourite place to escape to. There are so many wines I would like to try on the wine list I've decided that this entry is the first one of the Le Di-Vin, Working Through The Wine List. A series of tastings, each with a snippet of what can be found in the vicinity of this fine, well run establishment.

On a Saturday evening I join my Aussie mate and my Canadian Mountie mate for gossip, giggles and putting the world to rights. For this we choose a wine that offers something more than the usual dry white wines. Although we didn't solve all the problems of the world that night, that's fine, there's always next time.

Tasting notes
Very pale, almost clear edge. Citrus fruits and peaches. All aromas quite subtle on the nose. Savoury notes too. Blast of citrus on the palate, balanced mouth watering acidity.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sunday Roast and Alsace Gewurztraminer, Jean Becker, 2006 - Organic

The Union Canal begins not far from our front door and it has become a favourite spot for an afternoon stroll. Today there's a mildness in the air that we haven't felt for some time so take the opportunity to take in some fresh air. The tow path is alive with joggers, cyclists and walkers. The Union Canal is one of two Lowland canals in Scotland. After four years' construction it opened in 1822 and was known as the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal. The name reflected the role of the canal, linking Edinburgh with the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk and so providing a through route between Scotland's two major cities. You can still make your way from Edinburgh to Glasgow along the canal, something Monsieur Vin did last summer, on two wheels rather than two legs, in preparation for a charity bike ride.
Along this section of the canal there are rowers, boat trips and dining cruises. Towering tenement housing appears periodically on either side, interspersed with sports fields holding Sunday league football matches. As I duck under one of the many bridges, negotiating the wet cobbles, a bank of bright fresh daffodils come in to view. Four enormous swans leave the water, slowly, wings beating hard take to the air expertly avoiding the low bridge.
The dusk starts to fall as I am reminded that winter's grip still hasn't let go of the world just yet. The temperature drops slightly and I'm glad to be welcomed by the warmth of home. The smell of roast chicken fills the flat as Monsieur Vin puts the finishing touches to a traditional Sunday dinner. The rich fruity gravy inspires me to choose a Gewurztraminer to accompany the meal.
It's an organic one from Jean Becker purchased from Oddbins (for around £10). I don't think I have been let down by an Alsace wine and this still holds true after tasting this one. It's pale, lemon/green in colour. It's intense on the nose with youthful floral, lychees and honeysuckle. It's balanced on the palate with tropical fruit characteristics - pineapple and mango. A good example of an Alsace Gewurztraminer.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Hunter & Hawke - LA FUZELLE Sancerre, La Campagne Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc

A blue light spreads across the arched stone doorway of Hawke and Hunter, Edinburgh. Inside the iron staircase coils the centre of the building connecting the various rooms. Winding corridors take you the secret garden where patrons can relax by the heaters in winter and the open air in summer.
Upstairs on the first floor is the main bar. The bar itself forms a square in the centre of the room, we are greeted by the bar man. The wine list offers a varied choice to suit all budgets. We're in a white, dry crisp kind of mood so choose the La Fuzelle Sancerre. To the right of the bar the rooms are dark with black flock wallpaper and subdued lighting from lamps and candles. Outside the lights and traffic of the city seem some how out of place. Settled on high backed chairs by the fire, the flicker of the candle dances in the reflection of our mirrored square table as the bar tender delivers our wine.
Aromas of green apples fill my nose. On the palate this becomes a mix of crisp green apples, sharp lemon and lime. Medium bodied with good mouth watering acidity it's really rather pleasing.
We decide to stay and have dinner. The dining room is on the ground floor and is dominated by the fire place. Two alcove dining areas provide space for larger groups. The large copper light fittings add a modern touch to the ancient building. La Campagne Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2006 is recommended by Emma our waitress and it's a good match for the pheasant chosen by my Aussie mate and my venison. Lovely spices, coriander and blue berries with some red fruit.

During the meal a staff member takes to the piano and entertains us with a Norah Jones number too! All in all, a great venue with great staff/service that doesn't charge you the earth for the privilege.

We'll be back I'm sure.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Argentina - La Riojana, Famatina Valley, Shiraz, 2008

Winter seems to have been a long old haul and it doesn't feel like it's over just yet. We've been relatively lucky up here in Edinburgh with just a couple of coverings of the white stuff. Temperatures however have been as cold as a polar bears den and the heating has been on more and more. There's nothing better than a spicy Shiraz to keep jack frost away from your door.

The local Scotmid has a number of wines in stock but I seem to find it increasingly difficult to find something to get my taste buds tingling. Wanting to get home and settle on the sofa in front of the fire I go for the Fair Trade option. I love the idea of Fair Trade/Organic/Natural wines, but expect the quality too. The knowledge that the region will benefit from the production/sale of the wine is certainly a positive and for around £5 a bottle the price is very competitive.

La Riojana one of the largest co-operatives in Argentina can be found in the Famatina Valley.

The back label gives a full ingredients list from Grapes (Shiraz) to listing yeast nutrients and Oak staves. It also describes powerful blackberry and oak aroma. I do get blackberry notes but some red plum too. The aroma oak is there from the oak staves and some very subtle spicyness. On the palate the fruits do persist with a slight bitterness. It's quite tannic with medium length.
It's an acceptable wine, designed to be drunk young and to accompany a mid-week evening wind down.

You can find out more about fair trade at:

Extract - Guardian newspaper - 2006
"In September 2006 the Co-op launched a project with a second Fairtrade wine cooperative in Argentina, introducing four wines from the La Riojana wine co-operative, which is based in Chilecito, a remote town based in the Famatina Valley in Argentina.
La Riojana received Fairtrade accreditation in May of this year. As part of the accreditation, the growers will receive a social premium from the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO), which the Co-op is adding to. It means that for every case of wine sold, additional money will go back to the co-operative which will fund a unique project.
The project will help a community of workers in the village of Tilimuqui. 97 people live in this area, and presently there is no regular water supply to the houses. The social premium will be spent on renovating an old water supply with the addition of a well and pump so that each household will have access to regular, clean water."
The Famatina Valley Region is situated in the north west of the Province of La Rioja, in Argentina. It is a vast region which includes two areas: the West, nearer to the Andes, known as the Bermejo Valley and the East which is called Antinaco-Los Colorados Valley.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Terra Di Vulcano, Bisceglia 2007

I settle in the comfortable chairs in the bar of the newly opened Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh. I must confess I was a little excited when I heard the hotel chain was going to open a place in my home city and even more so when I found out that it was going to be located only a 12 minute walk from my front door.
It's lovely and warm in the new bar and the vibrancy of the bistro below makes for an excellent atmosphere. I've stayed at the Hotel Du Vin in Winchester and Glasgow and eaten at numerous others, the staff have been fantastic, Edinburgh is no exception.
After a warm welcome the sommelier recommends the Southern Italy Falanghina.

It's pale golden in colour and has floral and savoury notes on the nose, it's interesting and fresh, there are apples too. It's dry on the palate and the apple is more prominent with vegetal undertones.

I don't think there is a wine producing country quite like Italy. The vast number of varieties, production methods and terroir coupled with an imagination and creative flair result in a new experience every time I try a new Italian wine.

Falanghina is an ancient variety that can be found in Southern Italy. I've tried a number of Southern Italian wines and have found varying degrees of quality, but I think this one is certainly towards the top end of the scale.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Rocky Gully, Frankland River, 2007 Riesling

After a day of travelling the tube and visits to Cambden Town, St Pancras Champagne Bar and an exhibition at the British Library I'm ready for dinner. It's a short walk from the Hoxton Urban Lodge across the east end of London to the new venture The Boundary. It's a hotel, restaurant and Art base that opened at the beginning of January 2009.
We are warmly welcomed on the ground floor and ushered in to the lift up to the restaurant. Coats, scarves and hats are collected by friendly staff and we are taken to our table. The long open kitchen stretches the length of the dining room, you can see it all, from the prep and cooking to the cleaning up at the end. Above our heads the ceiling depicts the constellations, the pattern of the Great Bear stands out as pin pricks of light.
We are seated side by side in a booth at a kidney shaped table. The menu has fantastic variety and the wine list is huge. The sommelier arrives after I've had a few minutes to peruse the pages and pages of wine available. I'm homing in on a Riesling and he suggests the Rocky Gully as I'm looking for something on the drier side, or may be it's because he is Australian.
I'm not surprised that it is a screw cap and he still offers me a quick taste.
It's pale, almost clear but medium bodied. On the nose I pick up the classic citrus, grapefruit and peach with a floral edge.
It's dry on the palate, fresh lemon and acidity and little salty (in a good way).

It's great and in an establishment where most wines have a lower margin so there are a lot of wines are below £35 it's pretty good value for money. Designed to be drubk young it's definitely on my recommended list.

Chateau Moulin De Castillon, Cru Bourgeois, 2003

I find Bordeaux confusing at the best of times and the classification of Chateau Moulin De Castillon is no exception. Back in 2003 Chateau Moulin de Castillon was one of 77 chateaux that had their Cru Bourgeois declassified after a panel claimed they had failed to meet the necessary requirements. This decision was over turned by a judge after the panel's method of judging was deemed to be unfair, to say the least. Since then further classification changes to avoid confusion with Castillon down in the south of France have happened too. I won't bore you with the details.....
I bought a couple of bottles after a tasting at Edinburgh Wine Merchants in September 2006. My notes from this time were:
Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, deep inky red/purple in colour. Aromas of woody dark fruits such as black currents. High tannins, astringent and has good length.
Not much has changed over the last couple of years except the astringency perhaps isn't as apparent and I'd add dark chocolate to the mix. It's quite savoury so think it's probably at it's peak just now.
I love this mix and for £8.00 s bottle I wish I had bought more!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Europe's Longest Champagne Bar - St Pancras Station - London

When ever I head south to London I always expect it to be warmer than Edinburgh, this has not been the case some visits. My most recent visit followed this pattern. There was a bitterly cold wind that day when we decided to drop into St Pancras and to the "heated" bar seats at the longest champagne bar in Europe. I had an image in my head that the actual bar itself would be long, this is incorrect, it is the seating area that stretches the length of St Pancras, it's quite impressive, as long as you don't mind the not so subtle smell of diesel. Monsieur Vin and I climbed on to a bar stool each and could almost feel heat from the small overhead electric heater.
With a decent number of champagnes on the list by the bottle it would have been tempting, had it been warmer, to while away the afternoon but we decided a glass would suffice just now. I chose the Tattinger Brut (£12.20), described as "sweet citrus fruit with a bright lifting acidity." Pale golden yellow with small lively bubbles the description fitted wine, dry, elegant and thoroughly enjoyable.
Monsieur Vin isn't a huge fan of Champagne but not wanting to feel left out tried the Phillipponnat Royal Reserve (£9.50), the bubbles filtered into a central stream and a more subtle fizz and more subtle aromas this too was an enjoyable drink.
We enjoyed watching people come and go, the lady who ordered 2 bottles of champagne and 22 glasses, the couple who asked if they served beer and the many people who just stopped and stared not venturing too close.
All in all an enjoyable experience and I think the vote goes to the Tattinger. As for the venue itself, definitely worth a visit but maybe wait until the spring....

Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi, 2007

It was one of those days at work when I feel I've worked hard but achieve nothing. On the leaving the office feeling exhausted and just a little dispondent the heavens opened and I realised I had no umbrella or hat. The first three buses home were too full to pick me up, after some time I'm able to board a bus at last and sit in traffic before the 15 minute trek up Lothian Road toward Toll Cross and home. At the corner of my street Monseiur Vin calls, he's fogotton a vital ingrediant for tonight's dinner, would I be so kind as to pop to the local Scotmid, I'd be delighted of course.
The shop is busy, the queue stretches back, I join the end. As we shuffle forward I'm adjacent to the wine fridge my eyes wander over the ready chilled whites, I wipe away a rain drop that has slid down my nose and dangles on the end. In amongst the Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios I spot Vedicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi, that's not something you see everyday I ponder. £3.75 a bottle?
The cashier packs my bag, carefully loading my impulse buy too.
Accompanied by spaghetti with fresh tomato and garlic with a sprinkle of sea salt we try my bargain buy.
It's golden yellow in colour but pale. It's not powerful on the nose but there are definate citrus notes. It has a slightly effevescent feel on the palate and an extra burst of lime and a little grapefruit. It needs the food but all in all for the price and a mid week relaxer it's pretty acceptable to me.

To find out more about the area visit
I visited this area many years ago before I had such an interest in learning more about wine. Whilst there we were give a bottle of sparkling deep red wine as a gift, something I'm on the look out for to try again.

Hyland, Penley Estate, Coonawarra, Shiraz, 2002

Aussie Mate & Tiger T arrive on my doorstep, slightly out of breath after the 3 storey climb up the old tenement stairway. Hats, scarves and various layers are removed and a naturally chilled bottle is proffered from Tiger T.
The smell of roast lamb and potatoes permeates the air as Monsieur Vin prepares our Sunday dinner. Marlowe rests a comforting paw on Tiger T's knee, he must know she's feeling a little down right now or maybe he's hedging his bets on who might be first to offer a wee morsel from their plate.
Glasses filled we gather around our small dining room table and toast the chef as is the custom in the Vin household.
I take in the aromas of the Shiraz, my senses take in the powerful blackberries laid out on a gentle smoky oakiness. The chatter and laughter increases as relax into the occasion. My palate enjoys the continued intensity of black fruit flavours and the candle light sparkles off the deep red liquid. The rich dark gravy and dark meat compliments the wine is perfect the rich full bodied wine. Oaky tannins linger in the mouth, this wine has pretty good length.

All in all a rather lovely Sunday afternoon.

I'm impressed with the Penley Estate website, it has good detailed descriptions of all the wines and I'll certainly be on the look out for other wines from the Penley Estate.