The Spirit of Tuscany Enters The Glass... Now I Must Enter Tuscany!

by Nick Breeze

Part of the joy of drinking wine is the link between what ends up in one’s glass and it’s place of origin. The styles of many wines are protected by law under various systems of control, to preserve the authenticity and ensure that the winemaker doesn’t, in one generational gust of enthusiasm, cause permanent harm to a reputation established over many generations.

But to us drinkers, it is likely a less legal and more cerebral relationship with wine that helps us associate place, taste and pleasure in one sip. By visiting vineyards we see the landscapes, the soils, the climate, the people and cuisine that make up the culture of what enters our glass. If you have ever visited a vineyard, especially one whose wine you have drunk on many occasions, then it is likely that the relationship between you and that wine is cemented until the end of days.

I am saying this as I have just consumed some delicious wines sent from Azienda Agricola Montebelli in Tuscany, a small organic farm that produces wine and olive oil, whilst letting good-living-aficionados stay on the estate and indulge themselves in everything from the great outdoors, to the flamboyant fresh cuisine of the kitchen, in tandem with the delights of the cellared gains of the vineyard.

I have some tasting notes below to share, but most of all, I am also looking forward to visiting Montebello during the grape harvest in a month’s time. Enjoy!

Fabula Bianco

D.O.C. Maremma Toscana

95% sangiovese 5% malvasia

 Montebelli Fabula Bianco Wine Tuscany

The Fabula Bianco 2012 is a pale yellow colour with a fresh nose of summer flowers and fresh cut herbs. It’s nicely balanced and perfect for chicken, mushroom pasta dishes, or to enjoy with punchy bruschetta.

Maremmadiavola I.G.T

Toscana

100% sangiovese

marammadiavola-opt 

Young and fun 100% sangiovese. This wine goes with all the big dishes where red wine is must. It has silky tannins and a comforting blast of cherries, blackcurrants and redcurrants with a good bite to balance with the food. It’s pure Toscana all over!

Fabula 2012

Montereregio Di Massa Marittima D.O.C.

100% sangiovese

 fabula-opt

This is a young wine with rich ruby colour and a potent nose of ripe cherries and red fruits that tickle the imagination. This goes perfectly well with many cured meats, hards cheeses, fresh tomato and garlic drenched beef dishes, to name a few. Leave a glass to enjoy on its own. It's youth will ensure aging potential too so don't in too much of a hurry!

Fabula Riserva 2006

Monteregio Di Massa Marittima

90% sangiovese 10% montepulciano

 fabula-riserva-opt

This is a big wine for big dishes. A very rich and opaque ruby red in colour with overt plums and sweet cherry on the nose. To taste, the tannins are just right, biting into the food but also to hold the wine together for a fuller and enhanced experience of pleasure. More cherry, plum, and hints of thyme. Let this breathe and enjoy in the evening air with baked vegetables, roasted meats and discerning company!

 ____

These wines are all evocative of the great region that we British (and many others nationalities) are so in love with. I look forward to visiting Montebelli in due course, as part of the harvest season tour of Italy that will also include Puglia and Southern France. Visiting the places where the vines are tended, grapes are grown and wine lovingly made, is a special element in the pleasure of wine. Add such visits to your own itinerary to enhance your pleasures!

www.montebelli.com

Short introduction of our produce with in depth view of the Fabula Riserva. Presented by Alessandro Tosi:

by Nick Breeze, Twitter: @NickGBreeze

 

If Rose Be The Wine Of Summer… Drink on!

As the day's chores recede into the background, they are replaced by the yearning for something fresh to pour across the palate. The wine of the season for al fresco drinking has to be rose. Here are a few tips to pour across the threshold:

Les Pins Couches

Jean-Luc Colombo Rose 2013

This is a top tip for wine lovers. If you want refreshing, crisp acidity and subtle but bright red summer fruits, then this is your wine.

Jean-Luc Colombo is the living legend of the Rhone Valley and the vines that make this wine are grown over looking the Mediterranean sea. What more convincing do you need? Get involved!

RRP £9.99,

Retailers: Fresh and Wild, Les Caves du Patron, Luvians, Noble Green Wines, Bacchus et Al, Clifton Cellars, Kingsgate Wines, The Whalley Wine Shop, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Partridges of Sloane Street, Wine Rack, Wimbledon Wine Cellars

Cune Rosado 2012

Cune rose

I love Cune wines so its great that we’re seeing them more often in the UK. This is good value, dry rosado with a hint of strawberry and lots of potential for “one more glass” syndrome. Don’t hold back!

RRP £9.49
Retailers: Majestic, Dunedin Wines, Refreshers, Ellies Cellars, Hailsham Cellars, Fountainhall Wines, www.winedirect.co.uk

Joseph Mellot Sancerre Le Rabault Rosé 2013

sancerre - joseph mellot

It’s a little more expensive but Sancerre lovers wont bulk at this price tag. Made from pinot noir, La Rabault Rose is refreshing, peppery and raspberry on the nose with a tasty compote of summer fruits once it rolls across the tongue. Once bottle is never enough so try and do a deal on a case and enjoy the rest of the summer (or week at least!).

RRP £16.99
Retailers: Famous Wines, Eagle Wines, The Leamington Wine Company, Kingsgate Wines.

Nick Breeze
June 2014
@NickGBreeze

 

Louis Jadot Côte de Beaune Villages 2010 - Tasting note

cotes-du-beaune

A tasty benchmark Côte de Beaune Village from a trusted producer. This wine from the Côte d’Or has lovely aromas of cherry and and other forest fruits. To taste it has a good acidic bite which is perfect for classic rustic French servings of cheese and pate. 

Very enjoyable and perfect for dinner parties or charcuteries.

RRP.  £16.75

Stockists:             Majestic, NISA, Constantine Stores, Bacchus Wine, Noble Green Wines, Village Wines (Amersham), Cotswold Vintners, Eagle Wines, Partridges of Sloane Street, www.winedirect.co.uk

Nick Breeze

A Chilean Blend That Puts A Spring In One's Vinous Heel

Errazuriz Blend 2009

Blended wines are always intriguing and if the wine maker is creative with the grapes as Matisse was with his colours, then great things can happen. Chile used to be the cheaper option to buying "old world" wines but that has all changed. Now it is hard not to notice the expertise that goes into the crafting of these delightful presses of the good stuff!

In this instance we have an artisanal wine that is blended 35% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 20% Petit Verdot and 15% Grenache. With some age of 5 years and small production, this is wine to save for a special occasion or to drink with one of your slightly better friends (see the Max Reserva for regular mates drinking). The nose is rich and complex, as you'd expect, with dark fruits and spices that make the mouth water. There is a lot of tannin so this wine could age well if you choose but it is bound to be good drinking all the way down the line.

In the mouth this wine has many facets of fruit and spice. I could name a few but I think you're better off getting a bottle, sitting down and playing the game yourself. The flavours go on and on, with every sip winking at you suggesting another. Really enjoyable!

Errazuriz ‘ The Blend Collection’ Red 2009, RRP £23.99, Waitrose, Hoults, North and South Wines, Harrods, Ellies Cellar, The Whalley Wine Shop, www.winedirect.co.uk

Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Errazuriz Max Reserva Chile cabernet sauvignon

Black currants, cinnamon and chocolate make this a real treat for the flaring nostrils. To taste: rich dark berries, currants; a little spice and cherry. The tannins are soft and easy yet packing enough bite to pair this easily with sizzling meats or even a plate of charcuterie. A very good quality wine from Chile.

At £13.99 I think it is a real bargain, a crowd pleaser for sure.

Available from: Waitrose, NISA, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Partridges, Hailsham Cellars, Ellies Cellar, www.winedirect.co.uk

Nick Breeze
Twitter: @NickGBreeze

Imperial Gran Reserva 2005 - Fine Rioja For Discerning Drinkers

It is Saturday evening, the post nap vitality is seeping back into our spirits following an afternoon of perusing the food stands of Borough Market by London Bridge; all that cheese and other delectables are demanding something moist and equally tasty. Behold the Imperial Gran Reserva, 2005!

Imperial Gran Reserva 2005

This is a fine wine with dark ruby complexion and rich complex aromas of cherry, blackcurrant, spices and vanilla. 2005 was an excellent vintage and the wine could be kept for quite a few years yet, if one chose. We made a small toast to good health and longevity, before letting the wine coat the mouth with lovely ripe fruits and warm spices. 

My tasting partner remarked that it is a wine that makes her feel warm inside. For myself, I started thinking of food again. Roast lamb and potatoes covered in rosemary. That would do it. Or perhaps a plate of cold meats, manchego cheese and some fresh bread? It's a wine to enjoy on one's own or with discerning friends… but definitely a wine that would be hard not to enjoy.

I suggest you pile down to one of the wine retaliers listed below and get at least one bottle to enjoy this Christmas… love it! 

Imperial Gran Reserva 2005 - RRP £26.99

Available from: Waitrose, Majestic, Berry Bros, The Wine Society, D Byrne & Co. 

By Nick Breeze
Twitter: NickGBreeze

Cune Reserva 2009... Rioja That Is Screaming: "Refill!"

Cune Reserva 2009
I am a big fan of Cune Rioja's; when in Spain, do as Spaniard's do… and Spaniard's drink Cune!  

With a dark ruby complexion and aromas of vanilla and strawberry that open up into more intense red fruits with pleasant spice, this is a wine that urges the mind the dream…

The initial taste is strawberries and vanilla. The oak is subdued and, as it should be, not overpowering. It develops further into more ripe cherries and hints of eucalyptus. Imagine being in rural Spain and walking into a bar for tapas and tinto. That tinto is very likely this wine. It's a benchmark Rioja, produced for pleasure.. richer with more body and complexity than the Cune crianza (that is also lovely). My advice on this one is to roast some red peppers stuffed with pork belly and some Padron peppers cooked in a pan with a little oil, sprinkled with rock salt. [YUM!]

It's a blend of the most pleasing tempranillo (85%), grenache, graciano and mazuelo. The tempranillo gives it that soft round fruitiness, which is perfect for so many dishes or, even just chatting, preferably with a less interesting friend so you can contemplate the wine quietly. Good wine and one to keep revisiting. 

Cune Reserva 2009 

£14.49, Waitrose, Wholefoods Market, D.Byrne & Co

By Nick Breeze
Twitter: NickGBreeze

 

 

 

The Exquisite Collection Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010

Ripasso Valpollicella

I always get excited when I see "Ripasso" on a wine label. It implies intense sensations will follow. Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore from the Exquisite Collection from Aldi is perfect for this cooler time of year when we seek warmth in pleasure from wine and company alike. Deep cheery and plum combined, with smooth tannins from ageing in oak casks, make this wine to add to add to your list.

The Exquisite Collection Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010 (£7.99, 75cl)

 Nick Breeze
@NGBREEZE

 

The Exquisite Collection Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010

Ripasso Valpollicella

I always get excited when I see "Ripasso" on a wine label. It implies intense sensations will follow. Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore from the Exquisite Collection from Aldi is perfect for this cooler time of year when we seek warmth in pleasure from wine and company alike. Deep cheery and plum combined, with smooth tannins from ageing in oak casks, make this wine to add to add to your list.

The Exquisite Collection Valpolicella Ripasso D.O.C. Superiore 2010 (£7.99, 75cl)

 Nick Breeze
@NickGBreeze

 

Casillero Del Diablo New Wine Launch.... The Devil Is In The Collection!

Tasting Chilean Wine:

It was fun to attend the launch of the new wines being offered by Casilero del Diablo, under the banner of ‘The Devil’s Collection’. It’s a very thoughtful positioning of these wines into the overcrowded but very vibrant UK market. I recall a producer in Haro, Rioja, saying “It is the most important market for us. British people drink wine from all over the world; the palate is very diverse and, so, we learn a lot.”

With over 30 million Brit’s drinking wine every month, and rising, there is obviously a supply, demand and quality control issue. Most consumers have traditionally not wanted to spend over £5 on a bottle, caring little for qualities an enthusiast might be seeking. A few years ago I was shocked by the statistic that we in the UK drink more Jacob’s Creek than we do wine from the whole of Bordeaux. The shock lies in the fact that Bordeaux produces more wine than the whole of Australia! The trouble with mass-produced wines is that they have tended score poorly on quality, simply concocted, manufactured wines whose taste reflects how they are made.

casillero-del-diablo-marcelo-papa

It is the opportunity step in and fix this that Casillero del Diablo have spotted. The amount we drink is increasing and the bottom end of the price bracket is also going up. This tells us that people are really “getting into” wine. The consumer will trade up for a better experience, with the hope of tasting something, not only well made but interesting.

As part of the tasting, hosted at the Channel Four headquarters in St James’s, we were led through to a small cinema where, after a few words by the winemaker, Marcelo Papa, we watched the Bondesque extended advert that is being released as part of the promotional campaign. Of course, this is more creative than many other mass market wine promotions, reflecting perfectly the ambition of the Casillero del Diablo brand. However, I couldn't help wondering if the hype and promotion of the wines might be selling us the packaging over substance. The obvious next step was to try it!

Casillero del Diablo - Devil's collection - white

The wines in the ‘Devil’s Collection’ that we tasted were both blended from several varieties. The white was clean and fresh, leading with the bright nose of sauvignon blanc, the body of chardonnnay and the lively bombast nature of the gewurztraminer, giving a little “yum” factor to the tasting. Clean fruity freshness, with mouth watering acidity, followed by the beautiful desire to keep sipping. It’s more complex than many a single grape variety wine. Okay, I thought, that passes muster. It’s good, and I would happily open a bottle to share with friends, anytime. 

Tasting the red, I was interested to see if Marcelo’s description of smoothness and balanced fruit character would ring true. The blend was cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and Carménère. My friend was particularly enthused by the whole idea of what Casillero del Diablo were trying to achieve. Having no particular wine knowledge, or tasting background, I was very intrigued to hear her response to the wine: “Wow, this is very good. I would buy this!”. I had to agree. The nose is not overly jammy like many other wines that line the supermarket shelves. There are desirable aromas of cherry and dark chocolate. The tannins are soft but definitely there with a little bite, making this a pleasant wine to sup on its own, or maybe pair with hamburgers and chips (as we were served as canapés). 

Casillero el Diablo - Devil's Collection - red - tinto

I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised that the character of the winemaker was being carried through to the market-place. Given that The Devil's Collection is projected to be sold on a big scale, it made this an interesting and thought provoking tasting. In the final analysis, it feels like mass market wine drinkers are getting an upgrade!

Nick Breeze
Twitter: @NickGBreeze

 

 

Casillero del Diablo Viognier - A Mouthful Of Chile

What is it with Chile and snappy wines these days? I literally ran up and down the road tracking this bottle, made by well-known Chilean producer, Casillero de Diablo, from the courier, so I am pleased it deserves comment.

casillero-del-diablo-viognier

Viognier has been off the radar for many mainstream drinkers but has lots to offer in the way of refreshing full flavour and affordable quality. I took this bottle to a friends house for a tapas style dinner, where everything from artichokes in olive oil, anchovies in vinegar, to baked cod and chorizo were served. The viognier easily complimented the array of flavours and washed away the oil from the palate leaving it cleansed for the next mouthful. 

One bottle never lasts long if people are enjoying it… needless to say, this one didn't either.

Casillero del Diablo Viognier, £7.99 from many retailers.

Nick Breeze
Twitter: @NickGBreeze

 

 

Sud De France: Southern French Wine Blended From Three Classic Grapes

This blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre is like a coming together of old friends for the purpose light hearted pleasure. And like all true friends, they represent excellent value!

Aldi Exquisite collection sud de france grenache syrah mourvedre

The main fruit character is of bright cherries with subtle tannins, perfect for barbecued red meats in search of a liquid partner. As the summer draws on, this would go equally well with a plate of cured meats or roasted vegetables. It evokes the atmosphere of the mediterranean from where it was made; great for sharing with friends and chatting the night away!

Another fun bottle from Aldi's 'Exquisite Collection' priced tidily at £6.99 a bottle… may as well get a few in!

Aldi: Sud De France - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre

By Nick Breeze

@NickGBreeze

Blossom Hill Wine Review... We All Know's It Not Very Good; Here's Why:

California produces some of the best wines in the world and yet in the UK these branded wines are everywhere. They tend to unimpress. In this clip Christopher Burr, Master of Wine, gives his view of Blossom Hill.

Produced by Nick Breeze for Secret Sommelier 
T
witter: @NickGBreeze

California Dreamin'…. Macon Village s'appealin'

It's Sunday night and its been a long day. I visited the Denbie Vineyard in Surrey, set in the luscious green countryside with vines rolling towards the horizon. The lunch was very well priced with prawn and poached salmon sandwiches for £3.75 coupled with a glass of the Hillside white wine made from imported German grapes. It was a really good match… similar in style to alborino. Sadly the vines looked a little under developed but then the Spring arrived late this year, so maybe there'll be a rapid catch up with a scorching July [sic]!

Macon Village Aldi

The rest of the day has been hard toil at the machine getting various tasks done but as soon as the fish pie started to spread the pleasant baked aromas about the kitchen I sprung from the seat and clasped the Macon Villages chilling in the fridge with both hands. Cashing in on another tip I downloaded Bobby Womack singing California Dreamin' and the ankle swivelling scene is nearly complete!

Made by Henri de Lorgere, this wine would be ideal with cured or baked fish, or white meats. It has citrus flavours that are easy to take, adding a little spark to to any evening… not just a sunday.

It's another good offering from Aldi's 'Exquisite range' that I'm tasting at the moment. Well done Aldi!

At £5.29 a bottle, there's not too much to complain about.

Post Script: I see it has a medal from the International wine Challenge so I'm not the only one appreciating this particular bottle!

Nick Breeze
@NickGBreeze

After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of. 

Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!

 

What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.

 

The Palazzo is located in the centre of Fermo, a small Roman hilltop town with a rich history dating back to antiquity. Flying from abroad, Ancona is the closest airport, 67km north (about an hours drive) along the coast of the Adriatic sea.