Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Paso Primero - Great Spanish Wine!

Yesterday I met a lovely man called Tom who has a wonderful story and he gave me some incredible wines to taste. Paso Primero are wines that are made with love and care, yet are outstanding value for money.

Tom dropped out of uni and started stacking shelves at Tanners Wine Merchants, who were very supportive and encouraged Tom to study wine making at Plumpton in Sussex. With a wine degree under his belt he set off for New Zealand with his then girlfriend (now wife) Emma to make wine in Hawkes Bay. After a couple of years it was time for a change and they moved to Canada to make wines for Flat Rock in Niagara. After three years suffering through the bitter winters they decided to move home and settle in Shrewsbury, where Tom and Emma are able to juggle caring for their baby boy with making delicious wines at an affordable price in partnership with Batan de Salas in Somontano, 2hrs from Barcelona. Sounds idyllic... but obviously hard work as a breakthrough young wine maker in a crowded market where the big guns have the power. I'm hoping I can help Tom and Emma by featuring their wines at my pop up wine bar in Marlow and spreading the word about their wines. So what about the wines?

Paso Primero is the main wine they produce, a red blend of Merlot (72%), Cabernet Sauvignon (14%) and Tempranillo (14%). The bottle we opened was a little tight on the nose, but that's understandable being the 2016 vintage with only a few months in bottle, give it six months and it'll open right up. On the palate the first hit is the Cab Sav with its tannic bite, then the Merlot floods through softening the mouthfeel, finishing on a Tempranillo lift of red fruits - the strawberry and redcurrant finish makes you crave another sip. Very easy drinking, peppery, smooth, without the burn I would expect to receive from a wine so young and with such high alcohol (14.5%). Selling for a mere £8.50 at Tanners, this is a new favourite!

Paso Prima is Tom's vanity project, the opportunity to choose the grapes that are developing to his tastes, and have a little fun. Paso Prima today is 100% Cab Sav, but the next vintage might be 100% Chardonnay, who knows, a little surprise in wait every year. I think Tom should create a members club so we can get pre-release first dibs on the new Prima each year, and the membership should include an invite for a tour of the winery. I'm in! At only £11.30 at Tanners, this is a special wine. I don't think I've tasted a wine so good for less than £12. I do love a good Cab Sav and this certainly delivers, saliva rushes over the tongue on first sip which fades to reveal velvety tannins coating the roof of the mouth. The heat of the Spanish summer days encourage the grapes to become fat and juicy, and the cooler nights allow them to retain their acidity. Big bam blackcurrant fruit, but with soft edges.

Wonderful story, gorgeous wines, and I wish Tom and Emma the best Primero Paso (first step) into the wine world. You should too, and go buy their wines - or come to my pop up wine bar in Marlow to try Paso Primero. Click here to see if I am currently showcasing these wines.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pop up wine bar FLIGHTS July 2017

Top tips
These are light-bodied white wines that are dry and refreshingly tart. They are best enjoyed young while they still retain their high acidity and bold fruit flavours. Citrus wines have high acidity, which you can detect if you take a sip then nod your head down (with your mouth closed!) and you will feel the saliva rush forward.
Borgo Magredo, Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli, Italy, 2015, 12.5%
Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape from western France, now successfully grown in wine regions all over the world, including Northern Italy in the foothills of the Alps. This straw yellow wine has greenish reflections. It has intense aromas of elderberry, nettle and blueberry, with apple, pear, lime and quince on the palate. Delicate, dry, balanced acidity and good persistence.
Available from Wine Rack, Henley £9.99
You & Me, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2015, 12.5%
Albariño is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the North Atlantic coast of Spain and Vinho Verde in Portgual where it is known as Alvarinho. This wine comes from the Rias Baixas DOC, which is where the finest Albariño wines are made. Pale yellow colour with hints of green. Intensely aromatic on the nose, and structured and oily on the palate. Floral and with apricot, lime and pear flavour characteristics. A lovely finish with a slightly salty tang at the end, where the salty sea air surrounding the vines influences the flavour profile. A great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
Available from Ocado £11.99
Baily & Baily “Folio”, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5%
A racy Riesling with zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry, as is this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not detect the residual sugar. This style is common in Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia. Sweeter wines tend to have lower alcohol, because the fermentation has been stopped before all the sugar has been turned into alcohol.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.49

Top tips
There are so many countries where grapes are grown and wine is made, and its fun every once in a while to explore a new grape or new region. Here are three regions that are making their mark on the wine world right now, Greece, Slovenia, and Uruguay. I first tried the Pizzorno at The Sampler in Islington and the Hatzidakis at a private wine tasting with Xavier Rousset MS, both in 2013. Luckily wines from more unusual countries are becoming more widely available and increasingly so in supermarkets. All three wines in this flight are available from Waitrose.
Puklavec & Friends, Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio, Slovenia, 2016, 12%
Slovenia is home to pure, zingy white varietals and a few up and coming reds. This dry white wine is from a family owned winery in Eastern Slovenia where grapes are handpicked. The wine is lively with aromas of passion fruit, lemon zest and red apple. A refreshing blend of two well-known grape varieties from a region that is not yet fully on the wine map.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £7.99
Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko, Santorini Greece, 2016, 13.5%
The idyllic Greek island of Santorini has been a source of top quality white wine for years. Santorini's volcanic soil adds acidity to the full flavoured Assyrtiko grape, which has been balanced here with Aidani and Athiri grapes which add softness and complexity to the palate. The vines are gown in a circular fashion to create baskets that protect the grapes from the fierce wind and heat on the island. A full-bodied white with jasmine, grapefruit, and pineapple, with great texture.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £13.99
Pizzorno, Merlot / Tannat, Uruguay, 2015, 13.5%
Tannat is Uruguay's flagship grape, which has high tannins and full body. Tannat is also grown in Madiran in South-West France, and is one of my favourite wines, but can be pretty pricey. The Tannat in this wine is softened by Merlot to deliver an affordable well-balanced juicy wine. Raspberry, plums and chocolate on the palate.
 Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.99

Top tips
Chile is a cool climate region well known for Bordeaux blends (namely Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and its native Carmenère. Chile is a good place to look for good value wines for the varietals above, but also for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which are building reputation here. The wines in this flight come from Central Valley, which is a large farming area, and produces some fantastic red wines at lower price points.
Cono Sur “Bicicleta”, Pinot Noir, Chile, 2016, 13%
This wine is the UKs best selling Pinot Noir, which you will understand when you taste the rich notes of cherry, blackberries and ripe plums. This wine is named after the vineyard workers who travel around the vineyards by bicycle tending the vines using natural methods. And for those of you who worry about air miles, this company is Carbon Neutral.
Available from Sainsburys, High Wycombe £7.00
Santa Rita, Merlot, Reserva, Central Valley, Chile, 2016, 13%
Santa Rita is the biggest wine producer in Chile and they have partnered with The National Gallery to support the arts, which is why the label is a J.M.W. Turner. Deep red, with plum and sweet spice. Rich and smooth with velvety tannins. A sumptuous, affordable Merlot. If you're having a party this wine will be a great crowd pleaser.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £9.99
Carmen, Carmenère, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, 2014, 14%
Chile's signature Carmenère grape variety, thought to be lost from its native France, was discovered among Carmen's vineyards. It was previously thought to be Merlot and only in 1994 did DNA research confirm Carmenère's true identity. Black plum and vanilla, soft and velvety, with good length. The term Gran Reserva indicates it has been aged in oak, resulting in cedar and tobacco notes.
Available from Ocado £14.99

Top tips
South Africa is a hot climate region known for full bodied reds and rich whites. Pinotage is a native red varietal, with very high tannins that stand up to the heat. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are other common red varietals grown in this region. South Africa is branching out with other grape varieties, including Malbec, but if you're going to go off piste I'd recommend you stick to producers you know and love.
Mulberry Bush, Shiraz / Merlot, Robertson, South Africa, 2015, 14%
This is what I like to call a telly wine - soft, easy drinking; you don't have to think too much about it, and a pretty price. This wine celebrates the mulberry flavours typical of Shiraz and Merlot from Robertson in South Africa. A cacophony of mulberries, plums and figs, with a smooth finish, this wine is much softer than the mainstream tannic reds coming out of South Africa.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £8.99
Charles Back, Malbec, Paarl, South Africa, 2014, 14%
Malbec was originally known as Cot and grown in South-West France, but the winter of 1956 killed most of the vines, and is now grown prolifically in South America. Mendoza in Argentina has established a name for itself, and other new world countries including South Africa are following suit. The name Charles Back is synonymous with quality, and he is an expert in matching vines to specific soil types. This is a bold and spicy Malbec, with a deep plum red colour, aromas of blackberry and violets, and impressively smooth tannins.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £11.99
Fairview, Pinotage, Paarl, South Africa, 2016, 14%
Pinotage is the most planted red grape in South Africa. It is a pretty unique varietal (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, although the result is quite different to both parents), and if not made with care can taste like tar or nail polish. Look for producers you know (like this one from Charles Back), or go to a store where you can try before you buy. One trick is to look for descriptions of both red and black fruit flavours which would suggest a more balanced wine. Ripe plum, clove and a fresh finish.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £9.49

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com