jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Get thee down to Whole Foods Market: very good wine list and excellent wine bar

I had lunch today at the wine bar in the Whole Foods Market store on High Street Kensington, with their wine buyer Pete Hogarth and PR person Alex Tunney, who'd invited me to come and see what they are up to.

The wine range at Whole Foods is simply brilliant. It's a mix of conventional and natural wines, and is full of interest. In particular, the Italian and regional French ranges are superb, with strength in depth and an array of natural wines that is simply unparalleled in London.

The wines aren't overpriced, although they are not the cheapest, either (some seemed a bit on the expensive side, such as JM Stephan’s Côte Rôtie at £75, but is probably a function of what the wines were purchased for).

Browsing the shelves I found perhaps two dozen wines that I'd have bought on the spot if I'd been shopping. This is unusually good.

The best bit is that the wine bar allows customers to take a wine off the shelf, pay for it at the till, and then drink it at the bar with no extra corkage at all. That is seriously cool. The food options at the bar aren't too extensive, but what there is is very good. We had one each of the tartines (these are open sandwiches with a range of charcuterie and cheese toppings), raclette, a large plate of Italian charcuterie and some generous-sized slabs of Montgomerie Cheddar and cave-aged Gruyere.

These were washed down with three very interesting wines.

Angiolino Maule I Masieri 2008 Garganega del Veneto IGT
12% alcohol. 60% Garganega, 40% Trebbiano, made with some skin contact and with low sulfur dioxide (50 mg/litre). Yellow colour. Lovely bright, minerally, appley fruit here with some gently spicy notes. Quite complex with real personality. After a while in the glass it begins to pick up more complexity, with grapefruit pith and mandarin notes, as well as subtle matchstick complexity. A lovely natural wine. 91/100 (£11.99 Whole Foods Market)

Roagna Langhe Rosso 2001 Piedmont, Italy
13% alcohol. Long skin maceration, aged for years in large Slavonian oak casks, with just a touch of sulfur dioxide at bottling. This wine comes from Barbaresco: it's Roagna's younger vines and those at the bottom of the slope. But it's better than most Barolos or Barbarescos. Wonderfully savoury and elegant with subtly earthy cherry fruit, together with some spicy notes. There's a nice texture: while this is fairly tannic, there's a smoothness and elegance to the palate, with refined, complex spicy, earthy notes under the fruit. Very Burgundian style of Nebbiolo, and drinking beautifully now. 93/100 (£24.99 Whole Foods Market)

Veramar Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2007 Virginia, USA
13.4% alcohol. This is my first Virginian wine, and I'm just so impressed. It's got lovely purity of fruit, and real old world elegance. Clean red berry and cherry fruit nose with some sweetness and no greenness, and just a subtle chalky minerality hinting at the varietal origin. The palate shows lovely focused midweight berry fruits with great purity and balance. It reminds me a little of a Central Otago Pinot Noir, with its lovely stylish, focused fruit. Really delicious and quite serious. 90/100 (£16.99 Whole Foods Market)

Disclosure: I didn't pay for my lunch.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Nebbiolo: what a crazy, wonderful grape

I've decided that I love Nebbiolo. It's so uncommercial, making wines that are pale in colour, brutally tannic, high in acid, complex in flavour, and generally hard to get.

It's also wildly difficult to do well. Especially outside Piedmont. It's like Pinot Noir, in many ways, just more awkward.

But when it's great, it is the sort of wine that is without parallel. I don't know how many truly great examples I've had, but I've had a few really good examples that have convinced me that this is one of the best red varieties out there.

Two that prompted this post:

Rivella Serafino Montestefano Barbaresco 2004 Piedmont, Italy
Complex, earthy, spicy nose leads to a drying palate with intensely savoury, fine spicy notes and some focused red cherry fruit (but not too much). There are some subtle floral notes. A dense, structured wine that's tannic and complex. Nebbiolo at its most awkward best. 92/100 (£36 BBR)

Cascina Fontana Langhe Nebbiolo 2007 Piedmont, Italy
Fresh, bright cherry nose with spicy, earthy, herbal character. The palate is fresh and sappy with nice savoury complexity. Firm but appropriate tannins and good acidity underpin this elegantly expressive Nebbiolo. 89/100 (£20 BBR)

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pelaverga: an obscure but incredible Italian wine

Very excited to try a rather obscure but wonderful Italian red last night. It's from Piedmont, but the grape variety is Pelaverda, which is grown mostly in the commune of Verduno. This is the sort of red wine I just love. Fresh, natural, complex and expressive.

Fratelli Alessandria Pelaverga Verduno 2008 Piedmont, Italy
13.5% alcohol. Light coloured, this red wine has a lively peppery, savoury nose which is quite sappy and fresh. The palate shows open, elegant cherry fruit with vibrant spicy, peppery notes and a savoury finish. It's elegant, complex and refined: just thrilling. 93/100 (£12.95 BBR)

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Incredible Brachetto, and no more excuses for boring wine

You know there's no excuse for boring wine. Most regions in the world are capable of making interesting wine, I reckon. It's just that commercial pressures, lack of imagination, and poor understanding of what is great as opposed to rubbish wine conspire to make interesting wines on the shelves of large retailers quite rare.

I'd prefer to have interesting, inexpensive wines from lesser know grape varieties and less exalted appellations than most regular wines from well known places and the usual small roster of varieties.

Tonight I'm drinking an inexpensive yet unbelievably expressive and aromatic Italian red from the Brachetto grape variety, and it's just gorgeous. It's food friendly, digestible, interesting and life-affirming. How could you not find this interesting and enjoyable? Actually, I can imagine quite a few people stuck in a conventional rut not warming to this wine simply because it is unfamiliar and different. Their loss.

Sottimano Maté 2007 Vino Rosso da Tavola, Piedmont, Italy
From a 1.1 hectare vineyard in Treiso, this is a varietal Brachetto fermented with indigenous yeasts, and it's gorgeous. The nose is extravagantly aromatic with sweet cherry, herb and plum notes that leap out of the glass. The palate is light, fresh and subtly sappy with cherryish fruit together with some earthy, herby notes keeping things savoury. Think grown-up Beaujolais on steroids and you are pretty much there. Just perfect with antipasti, or even for sipping on its own - and it won't object to being chilled lightly before serving. There's a real elegance to this wine that I love. 91/100 (Available in the UK from http://www.lescaves.co.uk/)

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