Grapevine Archive for April, 2011

One of the many remarkable things about Alsace is the longevity of many of its wines. And to prove the point many growers still have stocks of older vintages, a very few going back a hundred years or more.

Another remarkable thing about Alsace is the time devoted to food in one way or another. And Alsace being at a crossroads in Europe with influences come from many different cultures, gastronomy is particularly varied.

Odile and Jean Meyer from Josmeyer

Anyway, these two remarkable things very happily came together one lunchtime at Josmeyer. The occasion was a thorough tasting of the 2009 vintage which is excellent in Alsace. I was also especially pleased to be with Jean Meyer again as he has had a tough year battling with ill health. There is no one more passionate about food and wine matching than he, and on this occasion Jean produced a master stroke.

The wine came first and was in itself a revelation. Jean had found a few bottles of old gewurztraminer. The vintage was 1982, great in Bordeaux of course but not that special in Alsace. Indeed it was a vintage only famous for the huge size of its crop. So Jean was expecting nothing when he thought he’d open a bottle to see. Of course it turned out rather good, even very good and so he chose it for my visit this year.

But what to serve with a 29 year old gewurz? Often the wisdom in such things is to have the wine on its own, forgiving any faults of old age and admiring its complexity, grace and depth of flavour. Not so chez Josmeyer and instead, and after much thought and a trial or two, Jean decided on a risotto which his wife, Odile prepared to perfection. The gewurztraminer grape produces wines with a lot of flavour, body and relatively low acidity. It copes well with dishes where there is some sweetness as in a risotto. Old cured ham such a Serrano from Spain and aged Parmesan work wonderfully well with old white wines such as good dry oloroso style of sherry, and for the same reason they combined brilliantly with this aged gewurz. Another marriage made in heaven!

1982 gewurztraminer is of course no longer available, but Odile Meyer was quite happy for members to have the recipe for her delicious risotto:

400g de riz Arborio rice
An onion
1.5 litres chicken stock
Really good Serrano ham, such as pata negra and preferably cut not too thinly
Sugar snap peas or mange tout
Carrot, celery and courgette, finely chopped and sautéed in olive oil until soft
A good 100g of fine old Parmesan
A couple of table spoons of crème fraîche
Huile d’olive
Glass of white wine

Finely chop the onion and soften in some olive oil
Add the rice and stir
Add the glass of white wine and then the stock, stir and leave to simmer on a gentle heat for 15 minutes
Add the Ham, coarsely chopped and the vegetables
Continue cooking for 5 minutes
Remove from heat, stir in the crème fraiche and Parmesan and serve.

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By popular demand, we are reintroducing this Prosecco with a cork. Members were quite right to point out that the screwcap version, which we had hoped would be easier to handle, does not keep the delightful freshness of the wine for so long. This is a pity as the quality of the Adami family’s wine, which comes from the heart of the best Prosecco vineyards (unlike so much on the market) is outstanding.

In the short term, we will be cutting the price of our remaining stock under screwcap from £8.95 to £6.50 to clear, and at this price, for quick consumption, we think it’s a snip.

Meanwhile, fresh stock with driven cork in the attractive skittle bottle is on the way. Samples were delicious, and we strongly recommend you give it a try when it arrives in the middle of May. Salute!

Thanks to all members who fed back on the screwcap version. Please keep telling us what you think – good and bad!

Sebastian Payne MW
Chief Wine Buyer

Categories : Italy, Miscellaneous
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Thu 21 Apr 2011

Introducing The Society’s Food & Wine Matcher

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We are pleased to announce a new feature, The Society’s Food & Wine Matcher, which is now live on the website.

Whether you’re planning a dinner party, stuck for a wine to go with a certain dessert or wondering if there’s more to life than tried and tested matches you currently enjoy, this new tool aims to help find enjoyable wine and food pairings to explore.

Simply choose a dish from the menu or type in a keyword to view wines listed currently by The Society which complement your chosen food.

We welcome comments from members on this service and how it might be improved. Though it covers a wide range of cuisines from starters to cheeses, vegetarian options and desserts, do also let us know any further food suggestions you may have. Please feel free to e-mail any comments to us.

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Wed 20 Apr 2011

La Fleur-Pétrus – the house wine …

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A bottle of wine priced at c£150 per bottle classified as a house wine??? If you live in the house where the wine is made, as Edouard Moueix does, then all becomes clear!

Last night 114 members came together at London’s Merchant Taylors’ Hall to taste 12 wines from properties owned or associated with Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix. Châteaux Belair (St Emilion), Gazin, La Fleur-Pétrus and Hosanna (all Pomerol) were introduced by Edouard and then tasted. Below are my own scribblings which will hopefully give you an impression of how the wines performed.

Château Belair 2007 – plummy, fruit-gummy fruit in a sappy, oaky envelope. Soft, ripe tannins. Leafy cassis on the finish. Showing great promise.

Château Belair 2005 – blueberry and menthol on the nose. Deep, concentrated plummy fruit with grip and a fresh, austere finish. Still needs time to knit together, but such depth.

Château Belair 2001 – a fresh nose of wood and leaf with a rich plum and redcurrant fruitiness. Great structure, grip and acidity supporting the fresh fruit. Very more-ish. £60 per bottle, max. 6 bottles per member.

Château Gazin 2007 – very primary. Overt oak and yeastiness overlay to the red fruit on the nose. Really grippy and crisp on the palate with the same primary red fruit. Amazing balance, with a mineral edge. Infanticide to drink it now – will reward cellaring.

Château Gazin 2003 – Very tight on the nose, giving nothing away, but what a palate! Silky smooth texture, acidity and tannins in harmony allowing the red fruit to sing. As light as a feather. My joint personal wine of the night, defying the commonly held (often justifiable) views of the overly hot 2003 vintage.

Château Gazin 2001 – grippy, chunky, fleshy, feisty, warming, wholesome. Very pleasing, broad and balanced and absolutely ready to drink now. £65 per bottle

Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2007 – fresh, vibrant, grippy and still very young. Cranberry and Victoria plum surrounding by a wonderful structure and freshness with a gentle oaky finish with more grip. In it for the long haul.

Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2005 – beautifully scented with great depth of plummy flavour, but not wanting to show much more at the moment. Edouard’s least favourite of the evening – he said it’s like a stubborn teenager who sits there sulking not doing what you want him to do! He knows it will come to its senses one day!

Château La Fleur-Pétrus 1995 – beautifully fresh and still youthful, but drinking very well with a delightful sweetness to the fruit and a roundness edged by light grip. Gentle, and all in balance. My other personal wine of the night.

NB – my concentration wavered on the next three due to my having to deal with a couple of allegedly corked bottles (ah the trials and tribulations of an Events Manager!), so the notes are a little stunted, I’m afraid.

Château Hosanna 2007 – tight, balanced, savoury edge. Enormously long finish with fresh red fruit carried along on a wave of acidity.

Château Hosanna 2005 – Slightly bitter edge to the fruit (but attractively so) and great depth and concentration.

Château Hosanna 2003 – More typical of the 2003 to my mind – a little raisined (but again in an attractive manner) and is great for drinking now and over the next 5 years or so (in my humble opinion).

A great tasting, very well received by those present, and topped off by Belair 2001 in magnum over supper. Whatever your own personal house wine, it was enlightening to get such an insight into the house of JP Moueix, and through the dining room window of Edouard in particular.

Ewan Murray
Head of Tastings & Events

Categories : Miscellaneous
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ChampagneSociety Grapevine readers may be interested to hear about a charity Champagne tasting in London next month, organised by and benefiting The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.

The wines have been donated by the Royal Warrant Holding houses, many of whom are among The Society’s suppliers. Guests will also have the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge from the representatives of these houses, who will be present on the day to show their wines.

The event will be held at Fishmongers Hall, London Bridge, EC4R 9EL on Tuesday 10th May. Guests may choose from two opportunities to enjoy the tasting: a lunchtime slot from11.30am-2.30pm, and an evening one from 5.30pm-7.30pm.

There will be 25 wines to taste, among them Prestige Cuvées, vintage wines and rosés. Some of the highlights include:

Louis Roederer, Cristal 2004
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1999
Bollinger La Grande Année 2002
Laurent-Perrier 2002

Tickets cost £85 each, which includes the tasting of 25 champagnes, canapés, a flute of non-vintage champagne before departure and entry to a free draw. For more information and how to book, please visit QEST’s website, telephone Claire Anderson 020 7798 1531 or email champagne@qest.org.uk.

Categories : Champagne, Miscellaneous
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Fri 15 Apr 2011

Strong Stuff

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Stories in the media, compounded perhaps by the recent spell of warm, sunny weather, have prompted several enquiries from members concerning high alcohol levels in wine. The following article on the subject may be of interest. It originally appeared earlier this year in the literature that accompanies The Society’s popular subscription service Wine Without Fuss.

Few topics exercise our feedback forums more than the inexorable rise of alcohol levels in table wine. A quarter of a century ago, when most wines scored around the 11.5%–12.5% mark, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, at around 13% by volume, was just about as alcoholic as wine got, pipped very occasionally by the odd Californian.

We are often asked if global warming is responsible. It’s an obvious and tempting suspect and certainly a number of winemakers are not only reflecting upon but actively planning for what happens when the time-honoured varieties at the heart of their appellations begin to show signs of stress in their increasingly warm environments. Some have already begun to do so, notably in Alsace, where premium producer and Master of Wine Olivier Zind-Humbrecht has already raised the alarm for grapes like pinot auxerrois, which are naturally low in acidity. It’s good news for some, though. In the Languedoc, the stock of heat-resistant varieties like carignan, which can be relied upon to remain upstanding when more glamorous vines begin to wilt, has risen dramatically.

Climate change can certainly hasten the ripening process, as English wine-producers have found, with increasing relish, but it is only part of the story. If the Rhône, Australia and the Cape can make perfectly good wines that pack 12.5% or less, higher alcohol levels can not simply be just a matter of heat. Fashion plays a part too. Quite simply, many people like the taste of alcohol, not just for the speed with which it makes the world seem a better place, but for the enhanced sweetness, smoothness and ease of drinking it brings to the palate.

We would also contend (clearly, this is not a short answer!) that some varieties do need to achieve higher alcohol levels to taste as they should. Syrah and mourvèdre, say, and even that most cuddly of grapes, zinfandel can taste green and highly unpleasant because they lack phenolic ripeness, which affects the colour, flavour and tannin compounds found in grape-skins.

This is why, despite concern that the combination of the 250ml goblet and the 14.5% shiraz make a glass of wine an altogether scary experience, we continue to list such wines. To strip a wine of its correct balance – a key feature of all good bottles – would be a travesty. At The Society, we like to keep a similar equilibrium in our Lists and of course, we do sell smaller glasses too.

Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Wed 13 Apr 2011

Better late than never

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The other evening I craved a glass of something tasty to enjoy in the garden with a few nibbles and the glorious April sunshine. But my heart sank when I opened the fridge and saw that the only thing I had on ice was a rosé.

I have a guilty secret. I don’t really like pink wine. It’s not a macho thing; I actually love the colour. Perhaps that’s the problem – anything that looks so tempting and delicious in the bottle surely has to be slick and refreshing, full of mouth-watering summery fruit. But all too often, for me, once you’ve pulled the cork or cracked the cap, it’s a disappointing anti-climax, a wine that’s drab and flabby on the nose and palate. Where’s the complexity and sense of identity that you get from even basic whites and reds?

I realise that I am in the minority here. Rosé is all the rage and I have many friends and colleagues that I enjoy numerous wines with who love pink wines.

Perhaps it’s the indecisiveness that puts me off. I want the fresh, cooling charm of a white but also the depth and fruit of a red. So I compromise and plump for rosé. It’s the Nick Clegg of the wine world.

Or so I thought…

‘Let’s give it a whirl’ offered my Panglossian better half pouring me a glass of the chilled rosé. And it was absolutely, lip-smackingly delicious.

A temptingly bright pink in colour and the nose actually delivered what the appearance promised: rich gloriously fresh fruit like sniffing a punnet of strawberries. The palate too had all those lovely fruity flavours, but, importantly, good acidity too. Such flavour. Such freshness. I was converted.

The wine? It was Château Bel Air, Bordeaux Rosé, 2009. It is made by the brilliant Despagne team at their estate in Entre-Deux-Mers. The secret to the fresh palate is that the grapes (all cabernet sauvignon) are picked just before they get too ripe and lose their freshness.

If you were cynical about the charms of going pink, then give it a go. It cured me.

Categories : Bordeaux
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The Wine Gang consists of five of the UK’s most respected wine critics, namely (from left to right below):  Tom Cannavan, Jane Parkinson (formerly of this parish!), Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon and David Williams. To learn more or to subscribe to their excellent wine review website, click on the link above.

Last month they attended our biannual press tasting of new wines to our list, and below are the top 10 highest scoring wines they tasted.

“Once again, The Wine Society cements its reputation as a retailer capable of finding interesting, good quality and diverse (both in flavour and price) wines. ”

Sancerre, Le Chêne Marchand, 2008 (Thierry Merlin-Cherrier)

A pointed and alert, aromatic and white pepper-spiced Sancerre from Chêne Marchand, a well-respected vineyard in Sancerre. Crisp, tight and grassy on the palate with searing acidity and a long zesty finish. 90/100 £16.50

Franschhoek Vineyards Semillon, 2009 (Franschhoek Cellar)

A delightfully surprising Semillon from South Africa, not a country hugely known for this variety. A fine bouquet of nettles with a hint of mint, and on the palate a honey and nutty flavours all knit together beautifully giving it a nice round texture as well as freshness. 90/100 £6.95

Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc, Domaine Rollin, 2008

This represents the generic white Burgundy territory admirably. A handsome wine that’s bright, waxy and creamy with a hint of smoked cheese on the nose. More smokiness on the palate with good texture, weight, just finishing a little shy on the finish for the price, though. 89/100 £18.00

Vigo Etna Rosso, 2008 (Romeo del Castello)

A surprising treat of a wine from the Sicilian slopes of Mount Etna. A delicious blend of native grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio, this has a seductive beautiful ripe, dense, pure cherry nose, coated in elegant tannins and a long, leathery finish. Both an interesting and fantastic wine. 92/100 £22.00

Undurraga TH Maule Carignan, 2009

Inky, dark purple hue with a pure blackcurrant compot intensity on the nose from the Terroir Hunter (T.H.) range which searches out very specific planting spots. The dense palate is rich with blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. A pretty serious showing for Chile’s Carignan’s potential. A blockbuster heavy bottle, though. 91/100 £11.50

Sum, 2007 (Torreguaceto)

Bring back the nearly extinct Susummaniello grape if this is how it performs! A surprising charmer of a wine, this has a sticky black-bean-coated Chinese duck dish aroma that turns exotic and aromatic, full of spice and star anise. Fresh acidity and easy tannins support the savoury, smoky and spicy palate. 91/100 £9.95

The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, 2004 (Rauzan-Ségla)

Big on leathery, developed aromas, this 2004 has now opened up to a wonderfully seductive and fragrant charm, showing figs and dates but also a hint of blackberry. Fresh acidity with a fleshy, meaty palate character and fine tannins. 90/100 £20.00

Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc, 2007

Bright plum aromas that seem youthful for its age. This has a good, firm texture with a creamy edge, solid tannins and savoury, herbal palate. A surprising and very welcome lesson in how South Africa can challenge the Loire on good, fresh Cabernet Franc wines. 89/100 £13.95

Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Viejisimo

The Palomino grape shows its true worth here with this exciting and delicious exclusive bottling from the Society. Coming from an Almacenista that specialises in Palo Cortado Sherries, this is elegant with saltiness and a fine nutty backbone. 92/100 £20.00 (37.5cl)

Romate Maribel Amontillado

A steal of a Sherry thanks to its nutty, toasty, marmalade glory. Dry and bold on the palate with those nutty, salty layers combining beautifully. 90/100 £7.50

Wed 13 Apr 2011

Yesterday to Moro

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Telmo Rodriguez

One of the best restaurant atmospheres in London can be found at Moro in Exmouth Market where chef-proprietors Sam and Sam Clark have been cooking their own take on southern Spanish food since 1997. 80 members were privileged to dine at Moro in the company of one of Spain’s most passionate and innovative wine producers Telmo Rodriguez.

Six wines from Galicia, Rioja, Ribeira del Duero and Malaga each had a story that was communicated in a fascinating and entertaining way by Telmo – if you want to know all about the Duke of Wellington, muscat and massaging ladies in Malaga, then Telmo is your man!

The wines are all made from grapes grown on bush vines, rather than trellised vines, with minimum intervention with nature – all are cultivated along biodynamic lines.

We started with Gaba do Xil Godello 2010 from Valdeorras. While Rias Baixas’s albariño is grabbing the headlines in Galicia, we see godello from neighbouring Valdeorras as an exciting alternative to white Burgundy. This wine has just been bottled and will be appearing in our List in July. Elegant, ever so slightly creamy, zesty and with a crisp acidity, it was the perfect match with cuttlefish and baby broad beans in a mint dressing.

Next was Mountain Blanco Moscatel 2009 from Malaga, a dry white muscat whose crispness and grapey fragrance offset the scallops with crispy capers, smoked paprika and shaved fennel very well indeed.

Two wines were selected to accompany the slow-roasted lamb with new season’s garlic and mashed potatoes. Pegaso 2005 is 100% garnacha from the small village of Cebreros in Castilla y Leon. This version is grown in slatey soil (Telmo does a granitic version too from the other side of the village) and the freshness given by the 3,000 ft high vineyards, coupled with the natural rich spiciness of the garnacha grape and the concentration coming from low yields, was a great accompaniment to the softly spicy lamb. (This was my personal wine of the night.)

Lanzaga Rioja 2007 is made in the traditional way in large 1,500 litre foudres rather than the more current barricas maturation. This lets the fruit do the talking rather than the oak,  and it was refreshing to drink a Rioja where the taste buds were not being bombarded by overly-rich vanillins and tannins, but rather being caressed by gentle red and black fruits.

Of the two wines the Lanzaga had the more immediate appeal, but going back to the Pegaso in the glass an hour or so later the tannins had softened to reveal a previously concealed complexity of dark fruits and sweet spices.

Matallana 2005 (the 2004 is currently listed),  a big bruiser of a wine, came alongside the delicious ewes’ cheeses and its broodiness was attenuated by the lifted sweetness of the cheeses. Again, a wine that needed time to even start showing a hint of its true colours, but balanced absolutely perfectly. It’s a wine for the long-term – Telmo says 30, 40 or even 50 years!

The beautiful  yoghurt cake with pistachios and pomegranate was beautifully rounded off by MR 2008 from Malaga – the baby version of Molino Real, Telmo’s sweet, fresh, lemony, grapey and oh-so-not-cloying dessert wine from vineyards over 2,000 feet up.

A memorable evening indeed – it was the third time we have been to Moro, and we would go again to Moro tomorrow if we could .

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Tue 12 Apr 2011

South African Blog de blog

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At The Society we pride ourselves on our relationships with our suppliers. Some provide exclusive parcels of wines for us – others come to the UK specifically to pour wines for and talk to members at bespoke tastings & events.

In this instance we have a digital offering – Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Estate in Stellenbosch has a Society-specific video blog for members concerning the new vintage of Warwick Trilogy. Click on the picture to reveal all

Categories : South Africa
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