Rioja'n' Roll

Beronia 2006 Reserva riojaThere is Rioja and there is RIOJA(!) - the best evokes life correcting pleasures and the worst… (well we'll leave that aside).

This Beronia 06 reserva has everything I love about this region that has become as iconic as Flamenco guitar from the south or Gaudi's architectural manifestations in Barcelona.

The 18 months in French and American oak barrels give it a deep opening aroma of tobacco, leather and liquorice. It's a combination so autumnal that I can't stop sniffing.  But be patient and leave it for a while (or like me, drink this glass and look busy for 20 minutes before returning for more).  On the second round the wine has opened up with the air doing it's job, oxidising the wine, giving it curves in the form of sweetness.  The fruit of cherries and dark berries start coming through.  A complex of integrated flavour make the wine a really well made playmate for pleasure.

Top Tip: Drink alone - chatting is a distraction.

Beronia, Rioja 2006 Reserva

Approx. £9.99 from: Waitrose Wine & Wine direct

Taittinger Brut Prelude NV, Grand Cru

Taittinger Brut Prelude NVThis champagne has 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir.  The chardonnay gives it a wonderful elegance and clean light white fruitiness.  The pinot noir adds a level of complexity that is subtle but effective.  It gives it apple and eldeflower.  This style of champagne is fantastic.  I think so and so do my fellow drinkers here this evening.  Right.. back to the glass'n'fluid!

Majestic, Wine Rack, Harrods, Fortnum & mason
RRP £45

Weekend Wining... Polish The Glassware!

Errazuriz Carmenere 2009It's the weekend so up the ante this evening.  We've got guests staying so I'm opening tonight with a bottle of Taittinger Prelude NV Grand Cru… I'll post the consensus tasting note later!  

Whilst waiting for the mob to return from central London I have opened the Single Vineyard Carmenère 2009.  The nose has attractive aromas of blackcurrant.  I've decanted it into a jug and poured myself a little sipster (or two) to get a gauge for it.  It needs a bit more time to breathe but I have to say the taste is lovely ripe black fruits with a good tannin structure.  I'd love to taste this in a few years when the age would allow for a greater development and integration of flavours.  Yum.. a really nice buy.  It costs £15 from Wimbledon Wine Cellars which is more than I'd spend on a week night but still is not as much as I'd pay in a bar or restaurant so.. what the heck?!

Tip for the night:  Push the boat out on weekends and toast the Titanic (I mean "economy")!

Comparative Tasting: Enjoying The Difference

One of the best ways to discover what styles of wine you prefer is to literally compare different wines side by side.  A comparative tasting can be very informative as well as great fun.  For example, a chardonnay from Chablis and a Chardonnay from Hunter Valley are going to have very different characteristics.  Old world wine regions such as Burgundy set the benchmark for chardonnay and pinot noir but wine makers around the world have to work with different factors that influence the end result.

White wine grown in hotter climates produce more tropical flavours whereas their cooler climate counterparts have a more citrus taste profile.   Everything has an impact from the soil in which they grown, to the height above sea-level or whether the maker uses French, American or steel barrels, or all of them for different periods of time.  Hence, it can be great fun looking for differences between wines that have taken different pathways to get to your table, such as a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc pitched opposite a traditional Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from the Loire.  There are so many opportunities for these tastings.  Chile is a great wine producing country, as is Argentina.  Many of the grapes will appear familiar but their taste will all be individual.  

I also find it interesting to see how our choices are influenced by our emotions or memories from traveling.  Quite often buying that Aussie wine reminds us of a holiday long past, or the Valpolicella that late summer evening we whiled away in the piazza in Verona...

I suggest you draw up a pairing list and get some friends over for an evening of tasting.  No need to spit!

Errazuriz Unoaked Chardonnay 2010 from Chile

Errazuriz unoaked chardonnay 2010My other half has decided to take off to town to do some "retail research" (whatever that means),  thus I am left with a packet of Ryvita, vine tomatoes red onion chopped to pieces and mixed with balsamic goo and olive oil.  It's an opening snack that always leaves me wanting so this evening I've paired it with Errazuriz young unoaked chardonnay from Chile.  It's a 2010 vintage so extremely young, pale green in colour and whiffing of pleasant pear drop sweets.

It's quite a good combo if, like me, you can stand the strength of the raw onion (that can stigmatise a person in company!).  Where the Ryvita and topping doesn't quite fulfil the stomach, the wine steps in and creates a bit of tropical and citrus excitement.

This is a good wine - I'd happily enjoy this with friends and be interested in what they think.  Maybe serve with light salad, chicken or seafood and the like. What I love about Chile is that it is a wine producing nation that stands up to old and new world wine producing nations and says "We offer great wines and great value too!"  They do deliver so don't be afraid of "going Chile" over the many alternatives on offer!

Errazuriz Unoaked Chardonnay, 2010 from Chile
Tesco,, Wine Rack

PS Errazuriz has a diverse range and I'll be tasting a couple of others very shortly!

A Taste Of Italy from Bibendum Wine: Toscana Rosso Villa Lucia 2010

Light Red Wine For Spaghetti BologneseThe tone of seasonal cooking ingredients is certainly getting heavier.  This evening I'm cooking spaghetti Bolognese, a dish that can only be described as incomplete if not served with one of its native wines.

Scouting about online last week I found this tempting prospect of Toscano Rosso from Bibendum, a wine merchant with a very good reputation.  What a great drop!  It is not too heavy but has really enjoyable mouth watering recurrent and cranberry flavours.  Marry that with a spoonful of the Bolognese sauce and the equation is complete.

Pick up a few bottles of this honest Tuscan red and see for yourself!

Toscana Rosso Villa Lucia 2010
Buy a case of 6 online for £38.45 Click Here

Rich, Complex and Delicious: LBV Port

Scanning the wine shelves in supermarkets, it is worth noting the rising degrees of alcohol in the red wines.  We used to expect a red to be around 10-12 % alcohol but these days we can expect to be blasted away from wines sitting comfortably around 14.5% volume.  

At this level, if we are prepared to venture into the world of stronger wines, we should give a special curtsey to our old Portuguese friend, Port (approx. 20%vol. alc.).  The wines made along the banks of the Douro are stronger but not much more than many everyday wines we now consume.  What's more they can be absolutely mind-blowingly delicious!

Approaching Christmas many supermarkets will be offering good deals on Port so venture out to your local and see what's there.  My tip of the day is to buy a bottle of 'Late Bottled Vintage' Port, often labeled as 'LBV'.  This means that it was made in a year when the grape growing conditions were particularly good and the wines were perceived as showing it's best form.  The 'Late bottled' bit means that it was stored for an extended period of time in the barrel and then bottled later.  LBV wines tend to be sold at a reduced prices for normal declared vintage port, yet offer great complexity of flavour, richness and massive "one-more-glass" cognition.  

So go forth… get back into Port!

PS A few "don't do's":

1.  Don't have a small glass and then put the cork back in and save for ten years.  It will go off.  Plan to drink with a short period of opening.

2.  Serve in a proper tulip shaped wine glass like a Chianti glass from Riedel or Schott Zwiesel.  Serving port in tiny shot glasses is a crime and should be punishable.

*Pictured above Graham's LBV 2005 Port - See what's available in your local supermarket!

Good Aussie Chardonnay South Of £5 At M&S

M&S Australian ChardonnayI've noticed these own label wines on the shelves in M&S recently.  The chic minimalist labels tinkered with my mind enough to give this Australian Chardonnay a trial run.  At £4.79 a bottle and Marks & Spencers own name prominent on the front, it seemed a fair gamble.

It's a young wine but with an oaky nose combined with pineapples, apples and something like cream soda.  All in all the aromas are pretty pleasant.  To taste, the wine is fruity, slightly buttery and enjoyable.  The acidity is fairly balanced and I'd happily have another glass.  A good effort and priced under a fiver it is  a good value wine for evening meals of white meats or fish.  

£4.79 Australian Chardonnay
Winemaker: Joel Veenhuizen
Marks & Spencers

Taittinger Reserve Brut Champagne NV

We very much enjoyed this non-vintage dry champagne from Taittinger.  It is blended from 40% chardonnay,as well as pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes.  The chardonnay always lends finesse and charm whilst the blend brings in echos of white fruits such as apple and pear but the more pronounced toastiness and biscuity flavours make this an ever stylish and desirable champagne with a great spritely finish

A fine wine to share with friends.

Available from Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Majestic, Wine Rack, etc.

Blended Spanish Wines That Are Great Fun

I have just opened a chardonnay and alborino blended wine made by Raimat. Spain has recently overtaken Italy as the worlds largest wine exporter, so I expect you've noticed an ever increasing number of Spanish wines on the retailing shelves.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Many modern wines coming out of Spain represent good quality at great value prices.  This Raimat Albadia trio of wines are just that.  I have opened the chardonnay and albino blended white wine and added a little to my chorizo and peppers dish as well a little more to my glass.  The wine is zestily refreshing, has a good fruit balance and acidity that I really like.

Alborino is the white wine grape sensation of Riax Baixas in Galicia.  It seems unusual to see it blended with chardonnay near Barcelona and pitched out to us wanting slurpers.  That said, it is packaged as a brand in an attractive modern style, thus it looks good and tastes good.  It's a party wine, a night in wine, a chatting about your friends friends wine.  

Raimat Abadia Blanc de Blancs 2010  

Price approx.  £7.49

Wine Rack,  Oddbins

Post Script: Last night I had the Raimat Abadia Cabernet Sauvignon-Tempranillo 2007 - two brilliant grape varieties  - the wine was smooth and enjoyable.  It was good value fruity fun wine that I'd happily pick up again.  My friend, a good wine taster, also held up the glass between sentences and remarked that he liked it.

The Rose is in the fridge! If you've tasted any of these then let me know your thoughts.



What? The Barcelona Supper Club by Codorníu

Where? L’atelier des Chefs, 19 Wigmore Street, London W1U 1PH (

When? Wednesday 16th November 2011

Duration: Approximately 3 hours (7-10pm)

Ticket price: £40 per person

Event Overview:

On 16th November, Spain’s award-winning cava producer, Codorníu, is hosting a Barcelona Supper Club at L’atelier des Chefs – an interactive evening celebrating the best of Barcelona food and cava, with three culinary masterclasses in one supper club experience.

The Barcelona Supper Club by Codorníu offers the ultimate in Spanish indulgence. Enjoy the art of jamón carving with expert jamón carver Chuse Valvor of Tozino, a hands-on cookery class with Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking, and a Fizzness School cava masterclass by Codorníu, before sitting down to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour… all in one action-packed supper club evening.

A ticketed event, the evening will incorporate a traditional jamón carving class hosted by Chuse. You will learn how to choose the correct knife, position the jamón on a ‘jamonero’, make the first cut, carve wafer thin slices, and even blend the different layers of succulent jamón. You will walk away with an understanding of the different cuts of jamón; the Maza, Babilla, Codillo and Punta, their impact on aroma, texture and flavour and, of course, a first lesson in how to expertly carve.

You’ll also have the chance to cook up an authentic, seasonal Catalan dish with Rachel McCormack, founder of Catalan Cooking classes and supper clubs, who specialises in authentic Catalan dishes that are easy to recreate at home.

The “Fizzness School”, hosted by Codorníu, is a cava tasting where you can learn how to pair sparkling wines with delicious food. You’ll complement your kitchen creations with authentic cava and then sit down to dine in true Barcelona style and enjoy your three course meal.

Places are limited, so if you want to join in on the action and be one of the Barcelona Club’s exclusive supper guests, book your place via the Codorníu website

For more information visit or check out our Facebook page

Does Your Tipple's Carbon Footprint Matter?

Wine Carbon FootprintThe UK is one of the most diverse of wine drinking nations on Earth. Visit any wine retailer and see wines on offer from many of the far flung corners of the world.  By contrast, many wine producing countries rarely buy anything other than domestic produce. EG You are unlikely to see wines from California in a supermarket in Madrid, Paris or Rome.  Yet in the UK we represent all these markets and more.

With that in mind, do we as consumers question the differences between one bottle of wine and another in terms of its polluting trail in getting to our shelves?  As a huge fan of wines from all over the world I don't want to stigmatise a wine by location but surely it must bare thinking about whilst in the isles of the supermarket.  British wine must certainly have a far less imposing carbon footprint than, say,a wine from South Africa or Napa Valley, just as a sweet wine from Bordeaux must have a lesser footprint than an alternative from Samos in the Dodecanese in Greece.

We all have different reasons for selecting certain bottles and they're not always related to wine quality.  A good example is one I heard recently from a friend who buys Hunter Valley wines where possible because it evokes memories of great times had visiting the region.  The question of taste or any other factor was secondary.  However, a question starting to crop up in wine conversations is:  should our wine buying choices be influenced by environmental factors such as import distances or the thickness of the glass on the bottle (Thicker glass bottles seeming more ostentatious with no benefit to the wine)?

It's food for thought and I'd be interested to know if consumers do think along these lines.  For myself, I feel obliged to buy something from New Zealand this evening to be as non-partisan as possible.  Tasting note to follow!

Erial 2008, Ribera Del Duero

Ribero Del duero 2007Spain is producing so much decent wine these days that Rioja has a lot to compete with (to say nothing for the rest of the world!).  One region that is famous for producing some of the best red wines in Spain is Ribera Del Duero.  Many of the better wines from here literally make ones mouth water at the mere mention.

After a trip down to Portobello Market this morning, dropping into Garcia's to pick up some ham, cheese, Padron peppers and other delights, we meandered back up (stopping for a Bratwurst) stopping at Jeroboams wine shop.  The staff here are very helpful and when that it is the case, it is always wise to ask for tips.  In this case the young guy in the shop pointed out the Erial 2008 and I departed with one bottle, a bottle of Pedro Ximenez Triana, Hidalgo and a bottle of Pazo San Mauro, 2010 from Alborino.

Having decanted the Erial and putting out some fleshy cured jamon with aged Manchego cheese, I can honestly say I have a snack made in heaven.  The wine is bursting with intense fruit: cherries, blackcurrant and black forest gateau.  It is quite young but still it has a wonderful balance of freshness, tannin and acidity.  It goes perfectly with the ham and cheese.  The aged Manchego in particular is a perfect pairing.

Alas, the rest of the bottle must wait for this evening.  The sherry is to be poured over the vanilla ice-cream and the Alborino will open with seafood empanada.

I bought all these wines from Jeroboams but look out for these regions in supermarkets and wine shops.  Albarino is from the Rias Baixas (Pronounced Ree-ass bye-shass) and the Pedro Ximenez is from southern Spain around Jerez - often referred to as just PX - and is the sweetest of sherries that you can buy.

Salut y buenas noches!

M&S Macon Village Is Worth A Look

2010 Macon Village M&SM&S Macon Village, 2010 (Winemaker: George Brichon)

I've been frying some king prawns in olive oil, garlic, fresh parsley, olive oil, paprika.  Now that it is sizzling gleefully at me it is time to pour the early evening drop. With shellfish like this I can't think of anything better than a lemony chardonnay with good tight acidity.  There is something fantastic about the combination of flavours and the lingering finish of the wine on the breath as satiety arrives.

Tasting this particular Macon Village, a good benchmark white Burgundy village, the citrus fruit factor is very good.  The lemony zest is all there.  The acidity is pleasant as well, making the sides of my mouth water and demonstrating that the wine has a good structure as it leads pleasantly through to the finish.  I seldom expect white Burgundy to offer too much pleasure for under ten pounds but this is doing the job.  

The wine is good to drink, well priced and has all the good things I'd expect from a Burgundian chardonnay.  Well done George & M&S!

13% ABV from M&S

Link to online: Click here

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