Saturday, December 29, 2012


I thought I would shout it from the rooftops, because lately the most traffic my blog has had was linked to Champagne. I reckon people are looking for tips for NYE.

Ten green bottles sitting on the wall...

The safest way to go is to choose one of the main Champagne houses: Moet & Chandon, Lanson, Mumm, Piper Heidsieck... or I prefer Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot or Bollinger. You could either go for a Classic Cuvee ("house blend") or Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay grape only). Vintage will be particularly good years where the house has been able to veer away from the Classic Cuvee, so should give a more complex wine with interesting flavours.

However, I suggest English sparkling wine. It's my current preference. If you find Champagne a little too fizzy, Cava a little too yeasty, Prosecco a little too bland, and Sekt too sweet, then this is just right for Goldilocks. The soil in Sussex is very similar to that in Reims, and our cool climate allows us to develop the acidity that makes sparkling wines dance around your mouth. You could try Nyetimber (£25-50), Ridgeview (£20-25), Chapel Down (£20-25) or, from Cornwall, Camel Valley (£20-30). I'll be trying a Christmas gift: Ridgeview Fitzrovia, a sparkling rose that is mostly Chardonnay, look out for my tasting notes! Unfortunately, because English wine is so good, and are winning prestigious awards, they're not much cheaper than Champagne.

So,  where to buy?

  • There is a gorgeous new wine shop in Clapham North called Dvine Cellars which specialises in biodynamic and organic wines, give them a call if you're looking for something special,like their Alfred Gratien NV Brut and please tell them I sent you!
  • Majestic is offering £10 discounts on the main houses, including Moet (£40 > £28), Bollinger (£42 > £32), Veuve (£43 > £30) and Heidsieck (£28 > £19)
  • Berry Bros & Rudd sell all the English wines listed above
  • M&S sells Chapel Down
  • Buy the triple-pack of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, Rose and Blanc de Blancs (£110 > £95) here

Please drink responsibly!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chateau Lanessan Haut-Medoc Delbos 2001

Badger proposed to me when we were in Bergerac, so all Bordeaux are considered special in our house.

This one is from Haut-Medoc, on the Left Bank in Bordeaux. Left bank wines tend to contain more Cabernet Sauvignon,  whereas right bank Bordeaux will contain more Merlot. Other grape varietals included in Bordeaux are Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and occasionally Carmenere.

Cab Sav has high tannin and acidity, medium body, with Black fruit, toast and cedar flavours. Merlot has medium tannin and acidity, high body, and flavours of black/red fruit, chocolate and tobacco. Both together provides a good balance and higher complexity - choose LB or RB depending on what mix you prefer.

Left bank: Medoc, Haut-Medoc (Pauillac, Margaux), Graves (Pessac-Leognan)
Right Bank: St Emillion, Pomerol

Note the grape that has the highest proportion in the wine is named on the bottle first.

Anyway... this is a beautiful Bordeaux, traditional,lots of body, lots of tannin, top class.
Sitting in a Chesterfield chair in a private library, trying on the proprietor's top hat for a laugh.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Which Fleurie?

Fleurie 2009 Jean Poillard Villie-Morgon £29

Challenger wine #1 was a Georges de Boeuf Fleurie. Last night I had a different Fleurie, one that was three times the price. Although the GdB scored highly in our wine challenge (9/10), this one was outstanding, and makes me want to knock a point or two off the GdB. However, this Villie-Morgon is way out of the price range for the wine challenge so is simply non-comparable.

This wine has a much darker colour than I'm used to for a light Fleurie, but the flavour is exactly as is should be. Cherries, cooked plums, hint of pepper, and raspberry. This wine has extraordinary length, best enjoyed slowly. There is also some sediment in the bottle, which is unusual for such a light wine.

Autumn leaves on the porch, stewed plums on the stove and a candle burning in the window.

So how is it different to the GdB, I mean, after all, a Fleurie is a Fleurie? Well to start with the GdB had a kick of alcohol, the producer didn't take enough care to balance the wine. The V-M is very soft and smooth in comparison. Also, the V-M has a much longer length,  a sign of superior quality.

I'm not sure I'd say the V-M was worth three times more than the GdB, but I can tell the producer took a lot more care with this wine, and spending more will give him/her the funds to continue making great wines. If you have £30 to spend, go for the V-M rather than three GdB. If you have £10 to spend, the GdB is a good investment.

Fleurie is an appelation of Beaujolais and has quite strict rules, using the Gamay grape, so you'll know what you're getting. A Fleurie is a Fleurie, which is why often the label doesn't tell you much. The variation in quality is reflected in the price.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2001

Badger and I couldn't decide between the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee and the Blanc de Blancs. So we bought both and decided to compare. However, he thought it too extravagant to drink two bottles of bubbles in one sitting, so here are my notes for the Blanc de Blancs.

Absolutely delicious, very appley and lemoney, lots of flavour and colour. A hint of elderflower (I wonder if this has come from the terroir - the english countryside). Its a clean and rewarding bubble. I envisage the moment when you've finished cleaning the kitchen with a fresh citrus smell, no greasy marks and its time to reward yourself. This is the perfect reward.

Blanc de blancs is a term used for Champagne that only uses the Chardonnay grape. It tastes like a Chablis with sparkle. A Cuvee will use a mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the three grape varietals allowed in Champagne.

Nyetimber has an award winning sparkling wine from Sussex that I highly recommend. The down side to it being so good is that it costs as much as Champagne. Friends of mine prefer this as it has less of the oak/butter/nut/vanilla flavours of Champagne,making it lighter, easy to drink and very refreshing. If you prefer Prosecco to Champagne, but would like more intensity, try English bubbles! But don't skimp on price or you'll never return to English.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A new friend...

I have found a really great blog that I will be checking up on and a new wine place to check out at in Clapham North

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Not sure about German red wine? Try it!

Weingut Schoss Sommerhausen 2008 Spatburgunder Trocken 14% Steinbach Deutscher Qualitatswein

I had a lovely Spatburgunder while we were in Wurzburg visiting my German family. This was not particularly complex but made an easy-drinking wine. It had soft tannins, and had red fruit flavours, the plum stands out, as does the black pepper. It made me think of sitting in the bath having used fruity bubble bath.

If you're not sure about German red wine, but would like to try it, I would suggest a Spatburgunder if you like a pinot noir:
"Spatburgunder" means it has been made in the style of a Burgundy, i.e. Pinot Noir.
"Trocken" means it is dry, so you can avoid those sweet wines that are often associated with Germany.
"Qualitatswein" means it comes from one of the top regions, so is generally a good wine, but not as expensive as a "Pradikatswein" which comes from one of the top sub-regions.

Another German wine I recommend is Riesling,especially from Mosel. Again, be sure to look for "Trocken" on the label if you want to avoid the sweeter wines.

Challenger wine #9

Arca Nova Colheita 2011 Vinho Verde 11%

Vinho Verde was a wine that lost me a mark on my WSET exam, as I thought it was a grape varietal from Portugal, but it is a wine region in Portugal. So I had to try it.

Lovely! All is forgiven. It's a refreshing wine with a spritz. It's like a sav blanc spritzer but hasn't lost its flavour from watering it down. It's light and refreshing and finished with a nutty flavour as it passes over your bitter taste buds. I'm very impressed! It's not harsh or acidic even though it is awash with citrus and gooseberry flavour. From a wine called "verde", I was expecting young and harsh, but its not, not at all, at least not this Arca Nova.

I'm imagining myself sitting next to a swimming pool in the 1940s, Great Gatsby style.

We scored this a 3 on likeability and 3 for quality = 6/10, a surprisingly decent score.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Challenger wine #8

Marlborough 2011 Black Cottage Rose

What a delicious and refreshing rose!I normally avoid roses because I find they remind me of pot pourri. I tend to look for much drier roses to avoid that sticky sickly taste. This one, however, is dry, but everso fruity so you could mistakenly think it was off-dry.

Strawberry, vanilla, cherry and almond flavours. Almost like a bakewell tart,  but lighter. visions of candy stripes and old-fashioned sweet stalls.Fresh, vibrant, tasty.

I think that by being made in New Zealand this rose has managed to shed the frumpy moth-ball coat.

We jointly scored it a 3 for quality and 3 for likeability (I gave it a 4 really). In terms of quality, its very hard to find a very good quality rose, especially at the £10 price point. = 6/10