Grapevine Archive for July, 2012

Ignacio Recabarren

I have just finished a long and fascinating day making blends with a master of assemblage, Concha y Toro?s gifted winemaker Ignacio Recabarren.

The quality and range of wines at Concha?s disposal is unrivalled. This time last year we chose some 3-month-old wines from the 2011 vintage and sent them to barrel. The blend for each wine might consist of about 1-3 wines which are sometimes blended at this early stage if we are very confident of the outcome or, more usually, kept separate. Ignacio?s knowledge of how these wines develop over time is invaluable as its not often that the ones that look lovely now will be as good after a year in barrel.

Today, a year later, we were assessing the 2011 wines after their time in barrel to see how they developed and making a few tweaks to the final blend before the wines are bottled. The Society?s Chilean Merlot 2011 was so delicious we made no changes at all. It’s worth looking out for when we change vintage around March next year. To the Exhibition Merlot 2011 we added 10% of a very fine cabernet to add a cedary top note to the aromas and freshness to the palate. We blended other wines including the Corte Ignacio range.

We then went through the young 2012 reds, selecting wines for our own labels and Corte Ignacio ranges which will now go to barrel until the same time next year when the process is repeated.

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer

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Mon 30 Jul 2012

Dog Point?s Olympian Team

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Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming Ivan and Margaret Sutherland and their son Matthew from New Zealand?s Dog Point.

Ivan Sutherland

As well as wine, Ivan is passionate about rowing, and he has excelled at both: he won a bronze medal in the 1976 Montreal Games and was Rowing Team Manager for New Zealand at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

There are no prizes for guessing why he is in the UK at present. It was especially good of him and his family, therefore, to come to Stevenage and show us the current and future releases from Dog Point?s small but impeccably formed portfolio.

These wines have gained a deserved and enthusiastic worldwide following in a very short space of time, and so I thought these notes would be of interest to Society members.

The Wines:

Sauvignon Blanc, 2011
As a Kiwi sauvignon, the new 2011 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc (available now) manages somehow to conform and rebel at once. Everything you could want from Marlborough sauvignon is here: verdant aromas, intense fruit and shimmering acidity, but all in a restrained and subtle style that would be as well-suited to food as it would an aperitif hour. It is so classic as to be atypical, but most importantly, it?s absolutely delicious, and may well be even better with a further six months in bottle if it can be resisted.

Section 94 (sauvignon blanc), 2010
Fermented and matured in old oak barrels using wild yeasts, this highly complex and individual wine could well be New Zealand?s finest sauvignon. We have already sold out of the 2010, so it would perhaps be impolite to expound upon it too much. Members who were lucky enough to get some however are in for a treat, and there is no hurry to enjoy it: Ivan recommends cellaring the wine, and having been fortunate enough to try a bottle of the 2006 vintage recently (which had opened out beautifully and still had years ahead of it), I can only agree.

Chardonnay, 2010
A very popular wine made in tiny quantities, and the new 2010 (available soon) will certainly not disappoint its fans. I had to double check that this sophisticated chardonnay was 14% alcohol. It has power (a small proportion of new oak is used, along with extensive lees contact), but never to the point of obscuring the purity of the fruit, which is delicious.

Pinot Noir, 2010
The lone red in Dog Point?s range was my personal favourite of the wines tasted, and a ringing endorsement of the quality Marlborough is capable of when it comes to this fickle and ethereal grape. The 2010 (available soon) is a friendly intellectual: it has remarkable complexity, with savoury and vegetal characteristics which by themselves might be reminiscent of many a Burgundy. Above all though, it is such a delight to drink, with intense, red-fruit flavours that are succulent and juicy but not at all jammy or overdone. Society buyer Pierre Mansour thought this was Dog Point?s best pinot to date. Members should start getting excited about this wine?s impending arrival.

As well as being a talented sportsman and winemaker, Ivan is a thoroughly nice man whose passion for wine is unpretentious and infectious. Most wineries serve their guests their own wines and little more: not so, I learn, at Dog Point ? not because they aren?t proud of their fantastic range, but because the team loves to drink and enthuse over wines from all over the world.

Dog Point?s wines take on similar characteristics: they are without airs, comfortable in their own skin and show their class in a less ostentatious way than many of their peers. They are informed by winemaking expertise gained from all over the world, but they are classically and proudly Marlborough. It was a privilege to taste them.

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

Categories : New Zealand
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Fri 27 Jul 2012

Postcard from Chile No.2: Vulcanizacion

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Tyre repair sounds more fun here in Chile, involving a meeting with Vulcan, the Roman blacksmith god of fire and volcanoes!

Toby Morrhall
Society Buyer

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We are happy enough to celebrate our suppliers’ successes in wine competitions, vineyard and cellar. Just occasionally we hear amazing things about their lives outside wine.

I am familiar with the incredible Iron Man challenge after South African winemaker Carl van der Merwe, then of Quoin Rock and now at De Morgenzon in Stellenbosch, put himself through it in 2010. This year we have not just one more but five, all from the Sichel family of Angludet, Argadens and Palmer in Bordeaux (not to mention The Society’s Claret, now in its 20th year with Sichel).

Here’s Charlie Sichel’s account of their event, which included brothers Ben, David and Jamie, and Jamie’s wife Florise. Generous readers can still donate to the worthy cause for which he competed by following the link to his sponsorship page.

An astonishing achievement for Bordeaux’s honorary Team GB!

Joanna Locke MW
Society Buyer for Bordeaux & South Africa

Challenge Roth Germany, Ironman distance, 8th July 2012. A 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run. An amazing day, an incredible event?

I decided to raise money for KidsCan Children?s Cancer Research Centre which specifically supports research into new and improved treatments for children with cancer. Scientists are looking for treatments which are less damaging to the bodies of children and young adults. They aim to reduce both short and long term side effects whilst retaining the effectiveness of many current treatments. 1 in 500 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK this year. Tragically, 30% of these children will not survive. Through groundbreaking research, KidsCan is striving to reduce that figure.

I was happy with the swim part, and completed the 3.8km in 1h06 which is slow but I decided to do it on ?energy saving mode? as the day ahead was going to be long? very long!

The bike went very well in 5h41 but the moment I got off it to start the run my back began to ache terribly so I walked the first 3km of the marathon in 40 minutes. I managed to trot between the 3rd and 4th and the pain disappeared, and I completed the marathon in 4h48. This was slow – I could have knocked a good half hour off that if it wasn?t for back problems?.

Anyway, done now and I am really happy. No aches or pains, just a tiny blister on my right foot other than that all was perfect? the Germans even managed to organise perfect weather conditions!

We all finished, in order of appearance:
Ben in 11h30.
Me in 11h45.
Florise in 12h55.
Jamie in 13h15.
David in 13h15.

Charlie Sichel

Tue 24 Jul 2012

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La Migoua vineyard at Domaine Tempier

The story of modern Bandol is inextricably linked to Domaine Tempier. As with so many vineyards of France, phylloexera had been devastating and when growers came to replant, their choice of grape varieties were based on economic needs rather than on quality. But then came a new star, Lucien Peyraud who married a Tempier and as a wedding gift was not only given the family estate to run but also some precious pre-phylloxera Bandol to taste. The effect must have been amazing and Lucien would for the rest of his life, devote his energies to Bandol, creating the appellation around the mourvèdre grape that had been unwisely abandoned.

The finest expression of Bandol is undoubtedly red but the rosé is vitally important too, providing a delicious, food-friendly wine with an ability to refresh the palate like none other.

The 2011 Tempier Rosé is delicious: a fine vintage, maybe a touch fuller than the 2010.

And so to the railway.

The TGV, undoubtedly one of the greatest rail projects of all time, very effectively links Paris to the Midi, but only as far as Marseille. It was always intended that a line would be built to Nice. A glance at the map shows just how difficult this is likely to be and for the moment plans will bring the line straight across the vineyard of Bandol. The growers have been there before. One of Lucien Peuraud?s last missions was to stop the motorway. Then he failed but times have changed and the building costs are likely to be huge. And the state coffers are a little empty?

Hopefully Mr Hollande?s favourite tipple is Bandol.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society buyer

Mon 23 Jul 2012

Postcard from Chile No.1: Pais

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I tasted my second ever pais yesterday. Pais, also known as Mission in northern America, was the grape brought to Chile by the conquistadores in the 16th century. Apparently the Spanish stopped over in the Canary Islands en route for America and took cuttings of the local grape lista negro.

There are many thousands of hectares of the grape owned by very small grapegrowers who have perhaps a hectare or two. Much is grown in quite arid conditions near the coast around Maule and in the Itata valley where it survives in areas of rainfall of 300mm a year (most vines need about 600-700mm) thanks to its very deep roots which can plunge 5 or 6 metres to find the water table. There are lots of old vines of 60-plus years old and in the photo this parcel of vines have plants of 100-150 years of age.

Pais was popular amongst growers as it is resistant to most diseases and yields well, but, particularly when the crop is very high, colour is quite low and tannins can be quite hard. It was only made for the domestic market, and mostly sold in bulk.

Torres have made a pink sparkling wine from it and have also this year made a wine by carbonic maceration which extracts flavour and minimises the tannin and it was quite delicious, light in colour, yes, but lovely intense nose of tinned strawberries, like a light-bodied pinot noir with some maturity, with a fresh and fruity palate.

They are weighing up whether to bottle it and how to price it. It may be about £7.50. Are there any takers out there?

Toby Morrhall
Society buyer

Categories : Chile
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Fri 20 Jul 2012

Sweet Wine. Rotten Name. In Stock.

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Society members celebrating the wines and fashion sense of d'Arenbeg's charismatic winemaker Chester Osborn (right) in May of this year.

Last August I asked Grapevine readers for their thoughts regarding a delicious sweet wine made by the brilliant (and delightfully eccentric) d?Arenberg winery in Australia. The contents of the bottle were so good that I had to buy it, but the name, The Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana, quite understandably caused some debate.

It is, quite literally, a rotten name: an asexual spore that causes the phenomenon known as ?noble rot? (latterly known as botrytis cinera), named after the German botanist who first discovered the spore, Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Fuckel. Noble rot dehydrates the grapes on the vine, concentrating the sugars and making the great sweet wines of Sauternes, Tokaji and elsewhere.

I was delighted with readers? responses, which were often as witty as they were thoughtful. Most importantly, there was an overwhelming degree of support for us listing the wine.

This has been taken on board: though the first batch was so small that it sold out in a matter of days, I am delighted to announce that a new shipment has arrived for members to purchase.

We were able to get hold of this latest consignment after a large merchant cancelled their order on account of the name. With our members? enthusiastic comments in my mind, I therefore stepped in and bought all we could get hold of. This still isn?t much ? it?s very rare ? so anyone who would like some is advised to order quickly.

The wine uses the classic Sauternes blend of semillon (77%) and sauvignon blanc (23%), grown in McLaren and Adelaide Hills. It is beautifully made, fragrant and luscious, but also refreshing, and would make a fine partner to fruit-based desserts. D?Arenberg?s winemaker Chester Osborn can be seen here enjoying it with a passionfruit soufflé and explaining more about it:

Pierre Mansour
Society buyer

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Thu 19 Jul 2012

Le Week-end des Grands Crus, Bordeaux

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Last month Emma Howat of The Society’s tastings team and I accompanied a group of 42 Society members, friends and partners to the seventh Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux’s ‘Le Week-end des Grands Crus.’

A programme of events was arranged with Society members in mind, hence our choice of old friends Domaine de Chevalier and Château Angludet for dinner and lunch respectively.

Our visit kicked off with the highly professionally organised tasting of Grands Crus in one of the refurbished warehouses on the historic quay. An amazing event which involved hundreds of people from all over the world tasting wines from more than 100 properties – an extraordinary opportunity for any Bordeaux enthusiast, not least as the one common vintage was 2009.

Tasting in Hangar 14

Several producers were surprised to recognise members of the trade, as this is a proudly (and growing) international consumer event, which I would highly recommend. You don’t need The Wine Society to participate either – keep an eye on the UGCB website for details of next year’s event (already scheduled for 18th & 19th May 2013), and others.

Going independently I guess means you can’t guarantee which property will turn out to be your host, but Bordeaux works very hard at all this so you cannot go far wrong. On our visit, Olivier Bernard treated us not only to his own Domaine de Chevalier blanc and rouge 2002, but cleverly continued the 2002 vintage theme with the help of his guests Philippe Blanc of Château Beychevelle (who spoiled us with Beychevelle in double magnums), Comte Stephan von Neipperg of Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, and Xavier Planty of Château Guiraud.

Sunshine at Angludet

The wines – and food – were delicious; the company was charming. Sunday lunch at Angludet was a far less formal affair in the delightful company of Charles Sichel, who walked and talked us through the cellars before a quick tasting of their excellent 2011 and 2010 vintages, and a lively lunch, when, judging by the mounting noise levels, members seemed very much to enjoy the Château Argadens Blanc 2011, Château d’Angludet 1995 and 1988, and Château d’Orignac, Pineau des Charentes.

Even the weather was kind to us, as you can see in the photos supplied by Society member Richard Rix, who was happy for us to share them more widely.

Joanna Locke MW
Society buyer

Wed 18 Jul 2012

Bring Your Own?

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Joanna Simon, who has one of the best palates among wine writers, giving sound advice regularly to Home and Garden readers and elsewhere, gave me the glad news that The Crooked Well in Camberwell lets you bring your own bottle on Monday nights.

This excellent pub and restaurant has been a delightful stop when we visit our son-in-law, daughter and small child because the food is delicious and the wines well-chosen and available by the glass, half-carafe or bottle. Both they and Joanna live conveniently close. The Monday ?BoB? night would be another excuse to go.

This set me thinking that members might write in with the names of their favourite restaurants that offer this service.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

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Hermitage La Chapelle

Under threat - the iconic chapel sans 60-foot TV mast

It?s July 14th, time for revolution and barricades!!

That is pretty well what may happen on Hermitage in the next few days should plans to erect a television mast goes ahead.

And it?s not just any mast. What is being proposed is a 60 foot structure to be raised on top of the hill, just behind Jaboulet?s iconic ‘Chapelle’. Planning permission had been given but without anyone knowing. Not even Michel Chapoutier, president of the Hermitage Appellation knew nor Caroline Frey of Paul Jaboulet Aîné and owner of the Chapel. So the battle lines are being drawn and petitions are being signed.

There are any number of hills around that could accommodate a TV aerial. Hermitage is unique, producing two of the world?s greatest wines, one red, one white. The hill is of outstanding beauty with more tourists visiting and using the fabulous path that now leads all the way to the top. Building this mast would spoil the landscape. There isn?t another Hermitage in the world and everything possible should be done to protect it.

Members can e-mail Caroline directly at