Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Best 10 under £10 at Jeroboams Summer Tasting

Jeroboams fine wine merchant invited me to their summer tasting and unfortunately I was double-booked so didn't have much time. I set myself the task of tasting only the wines under £10 and finding the best ones.


Cote Mas Piquepoul Frisant, Paul Mas, Vin de France 2013 £8.50 - this was a lively sparkling with stone fruit flavours and minerality. It lacked some of the autolytic flavours (toast, yeast etc.) from Champagne, but I have to say a sparkling from France that's not Champagne tends to be awfully good value.


Excellens Blanco, marques de caceres, Rioja 2013 £7.50 - a white Rioja is often overlooked and hence often good value. This was exceptional, my favourite white on the night, with tropical fruit flavours and a lovely minerality.

Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2013 £8.95 - Everything you should expect.

Quincy, Domaine Andre Pigeat, Loire 2013 £9.95 - Pretty good value from the Loire (buying from vineyards next to premium ones such as Sancerre often gets you a good deal). Lovely Qumquat flavour.


Villa Wolf Rose, Pinot Noir, Ernst Loosen Pfalz, Germany 2012 £8.95 - Delicious peach and lemon sherbert flavours, light with a little residual sugar, like eating a fruit salad.


Les Tannes Syrah, Tradition, IGP Pays D'Oc, Paul Mas 2012 £6.95 - this was my favourite red, it had fantastic structure, its organic, you can taste violets, and I would consider it to be a touch arrogant (well Jancis Robinson likes it too, so why shouldn't it be?).

Rosso Maniero, IGT Colli della Toscana Centrale, Fattoria Casaloste, Italy 2010 £10.95 - OK I've gone over £10 for this one, but its worth it, its very heavy, savoury, with umami flavours, wondering if it has Mafia connections with the punch it pulls!

Fleurie, Domaine de Sermezy, Patrice Chevrier, Beaujolais 2011 £9.95 - light and delicious, plenty of red fruits bursting on the palate, exactly what you expect from a Fleurie.

Raza Reserva Malbec, Famatina Valley, Vinas Riojanas 2012 £7.95 - Most people I know will love a Malbec when they're having steak in a restaurant, but never at home. For this price, its time to get Malbec on your dinner table! This has had 12 months in oak, but is still quite young, so could age a bit to allow those leathery flavours to develop.

St Nicholas de Bourgueil, Les VII Arpents, Foucher-Lebrun, Loire £8.50 - this is fresh yet smokey, and perhaps a little young, but in six months' time you'll be licking your lips to get a taste of this.

10 at £10, bargain! I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised, these wines are really something. Although Jeroboams are known for their fine wines, I think you'd be pleased to have them as your wine merchant, even if your budget is £10 a bottle. They will be able to tailor to your tastes, learn over time what style of wine you prefer, and I'm sure they'd be happy to serve your needs even with a limited budget, although you'll have to forgive them for up-selling occasionally I'm sure. Same goes for other merchants. It might be daunting at first, but you certainly get better value wines than from a supermarket. Plus you'll be getting wines from the more obscure producers and brands. Only downside really is you don't get to browse and choose (my favourite thing to do, although I know others hate that task), and you have to buy by the case (which shouldn't be a problem if you drink as much wine as I do, but might be if you're on a weekly budget).

The Sampler Blind Tasting

I was disappointed with the blind tasting at The Sampler in South Kensington London last week. It was a divine idea, and I was really looking forward to testing myself in the run up to my WSET Advanced exam.

Find out about other tastings at The Sampler here

It was very good value for the wines they had chosen, and organisation of the tasting was fantastic, but the execution left a lot to be desired. I don't blame The Sampler per se, I blame the knob know-all who turned up and ruined the evening for the rest of us. Unfortunately the lady who was running it didn't have enough gravitas to put him in his place and coach the rest of us back out of our shells.

Sitting down at three tables, a bit too spaciously to talk to the others around our table, we were given two glasses of sparkling wine to start with, a piece of paper to write our notes, and a tasting guide. Great, I'll start my process of elimination to figure out what I've got...
1. Many fast small bubbles, light gold colour, pronounced aroma with biscuit flavour, high acidity, so traditional method...
2. Slow small few bubbles, light lemon colour, low intensity aroma, citrus fruits, so tank method...

I hadn't got to whether I thought it was Cremant or Champagne, Prosecco or a NZ sparkling, when the lady asked us: "So does anyone have anything to say about these two wines looking at the tasting notes, perhaps a comment on how they think it was made?" Immediately followed by the gentleman to my left shouting "On the left is La Chapelle and the right is that Spanish sparkling you have". The lady tried to lead him away into talking more about how he got to those answers and what that meant about how the wines were made, but he only cared if he got it right, so she replied politely "no, and no". I thought that might shut him up, but unfortunately not.

The next three we were told are the same location, same year, but different quality. I got to as much as it might be a pinot noir, but a cold one, was it Burgundy or Oregon, and the same gentleman (perhaps I shall stop calling him a "gentleman") yelled "It's Gevrey-Chambertin isn't it? 2011 isn't it?" And indeed it was. *Sigh*

I think this left the rest of us unwilling to participate in this game. I think even the lady hosting the tasting couldn't be bothered any more. I had only got to smelling the next two wines (both of which smelled delicious) which differed by age as the clue, when we were told it was Rioja Paternina Conde de los Andes Gran Reserva 1994 vs 2001. To be honest, if we're going to compare ages of two wines, I think one of them should be recent - you couldn't distinguish the colour between these wines because they were both old.

The final pair I immediately said to my friend "Bordeaux" then we both drank it. No tasting, no comparing notes, no discussing the merits of different producers (the comparative measure between the two), no calculating left- or right-bank, Medoc vs Pauillac. All excitement in the exercise was lost. no-one cared, except the knob to my left. A women on my table was still very enthusiastic, especially once she saw what the prices of the wines had been (average of £37, the cheapest being the Prosecco at £11 and the most expensive the Leoville Barton at £80).

I vowed not to return to a Sampler tasting, because I was worried if I went back and encountered this type of experience again it would sadden me. It's not fair on people who want to have fun with wine, to enjoy wine, to learn about how method, quality, age, and producers affect the taste of the wine. The Sampler is encouraging for all levels of wine experience, but if they can't control the few to protect the masses, I'd rather go somewhere else. Having said that, I can't stay away - they have a tasting coming up which will showcase The Scholium Project, a very innovative concept for the wine world, and I must go. Maybe I'll see you there, but please don't be a knob.

Read about the Scholium project here