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.