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!