Michelangelo Wine Awards, making South African wine safe..

gallery_02_largeThis summer I was lucky enough to be invited to be a judge at the 2009 Michelangelo International Wine Awards in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This is the only one of the many South African wine competitions that uses only non-South African judges. The awards were created in 1997 by the very entertaining Lorraine Immelman and are run by her and Sue van Wyk, a Cape Wine Master who is one of the foremost authorities on Pinotage.

I was honoured to be be invited and enjoyed the process very much indeed; we worked hard tasting many hundreds of wines and visited lovely wineries, saw wonderful places and met many fascinating people. Continue reading

Nascetta, naturally

A new grape variety in Barolo!

Perhaps I have a short attention span and crave the new, perhaps I feel that the best and most interesting wines are still out there? Whatever the reason I love stumbling across a new grape variety.

dsc_0043Yesterday I found one from Piedmont that is pretty exciting. Piedmont is by and large famous for red wines, there are good whites that have some fame; Moscato in Asti and Alba, Sauvignon and even some Riesling in Langhe. Langhe though has more success with Chardonnay, particularly unoaked versions in my opinion – they are wonderful with cheese. There is also the Favorita and the Arneis of course, I want to like these grapes as I love the idea of them, but they really leave me cold when I try them.

Of course the most famous dry white wine of the region from indigenous varieties is Gavi and Gavi di Gavi made from the Cortese grape. The flaw with this is that traditionally Gavi was part of Liguria, seemingly it is only in Piedmont for modern political reasons and in truth Gavi as a quality wine only dates back to the 1960s anyway.

So then, what did people in the village of Barolo do in the past when they wanted to drink something that was not red and tannic? Well, it seems that they sipped some Nascetta.

This is a grape variety indigenous to Barolo itself and is seemingly related to the Vermentino. Back in the past growers were less fussy about what grapes they grew, if indeed they knew at all and it is often surprising to a modern consumer how recent the relationship between some Italian regions and their key grape really is. So, before Nebbiolo was considered the only grape to be grown in Barolo it appears that Nascetta shared the hallowed ground.

It has since virtually died out, but was kept alive for experimental reasons by the University of Turin and is currently enjoying something of a very modest renaissance and has been replanted by 6 growers within Barolo. Of course it cannot be called Barolo, so the D.O.C. of Langhe is available to it, but at the moment Nascetta is not a permitted grape, so it is labelled as a Langhe Bianco. I understand that from the 2010 vintage Nascetta is a permitted varietal in the Langhe D.O.C.

I was fortunate enough to get to try the example made by Rivetto, they create some superb Barolos and Barbera, as well as Nebbiolo d’Alba, but it was the Nascetta that captured my imagination yesterday:

matireokRivetto Matirè 2008

Langhe Bianco, 100% Nascetta

The Matirè vineyard was only planted in 2005 and the 2008 is only the second vintage and the first to be exported

The nose is delightfully fragrant and honeyed with mineral notes and wafts of ripe melon.

The aromatics put me in mind of a very good Albariño or even a steely Riesling.

The palate is well structured with good weight and texture, succulent and fleshy white peach characters balanced by lovely fresh acidity. It is very well balanced with the touch of oak just adding richness and complexity rather than obvious oaky characters.

This is a very attractive and expressive wine with a pure minerality on the finish.

I genuinely liked this wine very much indeed and would love to try it with a meal. The whole wine struck me as being somewhat akin to a very fine Godello, but with more minerality and finesse.

89 points.

Available from Ellis of Richmond.

Chilean Syrah to Savour

Attending today’s boutique wine tasting I tried a really exciting Syrah:

Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Syrah 2007
Casablanca Valley

The colour is an enticing and lustrous, opaque blackberry blue-black.

The nose is rich, creamily ripe and fruity with pure cassis and blackberry notes.

The palate is mouth filling and supple showing ripe black fruit, smooth tannins and a delicate dusting of spicy oak and white pepper characters as well as savoury herb nuances.

The finish is long, smooth and deliciously fruit filled while the overall sensation is elegant and fine.

I think this is very good example of Syrah and find it really interesting that a cool area like Casablanca is finding its way with this grape which is relatively new to Chile – 90 points.

Around £12.99 a bottle.

Posted from my Iphone at the Boutique Wineries Tasting.

Excellent white from the Loire

Whilst browsing in Majestic for some wines for a tasting, I spotted this wine from the Loire Valley A.C. of Cheverny and could not resist trying it as unusually for the region most of the white wines from here are blends:

Cheverny map

05345_pDomaine du Salvard Cheverny Le Vieux Clos 2007

A.C. Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

The aromas are fresh, grassy, appley and appealing with hints of flintiness and smoke together with green apples and the merest suggestion of creamy yoghurt.

This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (85%), giving freshness, and Chardonnay (15%) which seems to add a roundness and soft texture to the wine rather than an obvious flavour. This makes for an attractively crisp wine that has good acidity that is softened and balanced by the mouth-feel.

The flavours are of sugarsnap peas, grass, citrus, herbs and blackcurrant with little touches of honey and cream. The finish is clean, crisp and very long, I wish I had some goats cheese to try it with.

All in all this is a very well balanced wine that is most enjoyable and leaves you knowing that you have enjoyed something classy and elegant – 88 points.

£7.99 (£7.49 if you buy 2 bottles) a bottle from Majestic Wine Warehouse

I have tried precious few Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay blends over the years, but on thinking about it I always seem to find that it works,  be it an everyday version – I have happy memories of the one made by Errazuriz in Chile and one from South Africa whose name I can no longer remember – or something more classic like this excellent example.

Great Value Dry Rosé

Unusually for me I was in an Aldi the other day. I could not resist browsing the wine range just to see what they had and when I spied a rosé from Utiel-Requena in Valencia I was quite interested.

This Spanish rosé is made from 100% Bobal grapes and only cost £3.99 – so I bought a bottle.

vinadecana roseViña Decana Rosado 2008

D.O. Utiel-Requena

12% vol

100% Bobal

£3.99 from Aldi

The colour is very attractive, deep red cherry with a lovely brightness.

The nose is fresh and clean with touches of ripe cherry and tinned strawberry.

The palate is dry, crisp and refreshing with no sweetness at all, just little flourishes of ripe red fruit. The acidity and relatively low alcohol (12%) make the wine well balanced and it has a vibrant red cherry finish.

This is a good basic wine, very enjoyable and pulls off something very few rosés on this market seem to manage, balancing weight and acidity. You can find rosés with good acidity that seem to have no weight, or rosés that have loads of weight with no acidity or freshness – which is important to me. This is the best balanced cheap rosé that I have tried in a long time.

This wine has good weight and good acidity, it would be lovely with some charcuterie or a nice salad – 85 points.

More Exciting Wines from Chile

At the recent Wines of Chile Annual Trade Tasting I had the chance to try a good selection of the range of wines from Matetic Vineyards.


I wrote recently about some of the exciting wines from Viña Leyda who are based in the Leyda Valley, a part of Chile’s San Antonio Valley. Well, Matetic are also based in a part of the San Antonio Valley – the San Rosario Valley. Continue reading

A Little Joy from Chile – Viña Leyda in the Leyda Valley

The other day I attended this years Wines of Chile Annual Trade Tasting, there were so many wines that I had decided not to try everything, but to concentrate on the newer regions and less familiar wines; this policy brought me to Viña Leyda. I have tasted some of their wines before and often use their second label wines, Secano Estate – available from Marks & Spencer, at tastings and in my classes. However, I was now given the chance to try a wide range of the wines that they produce and I was greatly impressed.

As you might imagine the estate is in the Leyda Valley, a sub-region of the San Antonio Valley that has enjoyed Denomination de Origin status since 2002.

Chile Map Leyda

Continue reading

Wines of Chile

The other day I attended the Wines of Chile Annual Trade Tasting and I was very impressed by many of the wines on show. There were far too many just to taste them all, so I decided to concentrate on the newer areas that are only just beginning to make their presence felt on the UK market. Continue reading

Nothing but the best?

I was thinking about top end wine the other day and these thoughts sort of flitted across my mind…


It is very easy to want the best and to insist on the best if, unlike me,  you can easily afford it, but what is the best?

Is the best what fashion dictates? What your peers say it is? What the price would suggest or what your own senses tell you? Continue reading