jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, December 19, 2009

England's best yet?

Could this be the UK's best wine yet produced? I think it's up there. Buy, buy!

Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury 2006 West Sussex, England
61% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir, 12% Pinot Meunier; 12 year old vines on chalky soils; 12% alcohol, 9 g/l dosage. Deep yellow colour. Lovely complex savoury toasty style with nice herby fruit, some citrus notes and good acidity. Real power and precision here. 93/100 (£19.99 Waitrose)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brief Napa reports: Schramsberg

Schramsberg is my second visit. On a spellbindingly crisp, sunny morning I meet with Keith Hock, the winemaker here. Schramsberg reeks of history. When Jack and Jamie Davies brought the property in 1965 it was pretty much abandoned, and they decided to make wine here again. But they made an interesting decision. They saw that the 20 or so wineries in the valley at the time were all making table wines, and to carve out a niche, they decided to focus on sparkling wine.

The first vintage was done at Charles Krug (using Chenin Blanc) which was where the Mondavis were at the time – before Robert had struck out on his own. The Davies decided to replant their property with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and became the first producer in the USA to make traditional method sparkling wine from the classic Champagne varieties.

Now the large hillside property (250 acres with 50 acres of vineyards), doesn't produce grapes for sparkling wines: instead, grapes from 95 different vineyard blocks farmed by 45 different growers are used. 1300 tons were crushed in 2009.

In addition to the sparkling wines, a J Davies Cabernet Sauvignon is also made here.
Keith took me through the cellars where we tried quite a few base wines (as in base for sparkling, not 'base' in the other sense), as well as some stunning reserve wines. A quarter of the wines here are fermented in barrel. 'We like the richness, the mouthfeel and the texture we get from barrels,' says Keith. All barrels are about three years old, or older, and around 60 are brought into the cellar each year. Reserve wines are aged in larger puncheons (500 litres).

The tasting of bottled wines showed that Keith is making some very serious fizz here. Blanc de Blancs 2006 is complex, fresh and lemony, while the Blanc de Noirs 2006 has more fruitiness and purity. J Schram 2001 is the flagship wine, and it's really complex and focused. The Reserve 2001 is a high end Pinot-dominated blend with lively, intense fruit and both the Brut Rose 2006 and the J Schram Rose 2000 are very successful, dry, complex roses. We also tried the Schramsberg 1992 Reserve 'Napa Valley Champagne', which is rich, complex, very fruity and bold. I rated all the wines highly and would be delighted to drink them.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

A world-class Cava from Raventos

Over the last year or so, I've become increasingly interested in the world of Champagne and sparkling wine. I'm an open-minded guy, but at the very top end, I have to confess that almost all my favourite bubbly wines are actually from Champagne. So I was delighted to find this thoroughly delicious Cava. It's world class.

Raventos I Blanc Sant Sadurni D'Anoia Gran Reserva 2003 Cava
Yellow/gold colour. Lovely toasty, complex nose with subtle herby notes, hints of grapefruit and some citrussy fruit. Very refined and complex. The palate is fresh and fruity but has a savoury, complex side with toast and nuts. There's a herby tang on the finish that reminds me this is Cava. Very attractive and sophisticated. 90/100

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Champagne bubbles, take two: on the BBC news

Earlier this evening I did a slot on BBC news on the Champagne story. I was asked to bring some Champagne and glasses in as props. I'd tweeted that I was making the appearance, and a very proactive PR working for Champagne Lanson responded by sending me a couple of bottles to take in.

Unfortunately, strict BBC editorial guidelines meant that they weren't allowed to show the bottle, and after some deliberation it was decided that the presenters weren't allowed to try the fizz on air. Apparently, with all the issues surrounding expenses and the use of public money, the prospect of having presenters drink Champagne on camera was a step too far.

The slot itself was pushed back by some horrible west London traffic and a breaking story, but just before 9 pm we were live. It went really well: it was one of those on camera slots where it's all relaxed and has some energy of its own. I've done a few of these now, and I don't even have a glimmer of nerves, which make the whole experience rather enjoyable. I was sorely tempted to drink the Champagne, though: it just smelt so good.

Lanson is good stuff. It's very acidic and fresh, because there's no malolactic fermentation. But the aromatics are lovely, and it's fun to find out that the aromatic qualities of Champagne are in part because of these tiny flavour-bearing aerosols that break off from the surface as the bubbles pop.

[Thanks to Warren Edwardes of Wine for Spice for the screen grab.]

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Champagne bubbles in the news

A scientific paper in journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA), published tomorrow morning (embargoed until 8pm today), looks at the nature of the bubbles in Champagne and sparkling wines.

As they rise to the surface, they aerosolize, carrying very fine droplets bearing flavour molecules, which we can then smell. The authors of this paper identified the compounds present in these fine aerosols, showing that they are important in the perception of fizz.

There's a nice BBC news story on this here, which I contributed to.

The actual research paper is:

Gerard Liger-Belair, Clara Cilindre, Regis D. Gougeon, Marianna Lucio, Istvan Gebefugi, Philippe Jeandet, and Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin 2009 Unraveling different chemical fingerprints between a champagne wine and its aerosols. PNAS 106: 16545–16549

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Champagne in crisis? (Updated)

[Note added later: for a thorough review of this issue, including some important corrections to the information here, you should read the comments below, and also this article just posted on Jancis Robinson's website. JG, 10/09.]

There's a great piece in the Guardian about the issues facing Champagne, which quotes both Adam Lechmere and Robert Joseph. The key issues:
  • Champagne sales are down (exports down 45% in the first half of 2009 versus 2008 figures)
  • This year, growers are only going to be allowed to pick about half their grapes, leaving the rest on the vine, in attempt to reduce supply to keep demand high
Effectively, Champagne is a brand, and one of the rules of brand management is that you shouldn't kill your brand by discounting it.

Yet the sorts of market manipulations attempted by the Champenois make me feel uncomfortable.

The horror scenario for Champagne is that consumers should lose the perception they have that Champagne is special and worth a huge premium over other sparkling wine styles. What if consumers decide that it's fizz they want, not Champagne, and they can get fizz that ticks all their boxes from other regions?

With Champagne producers committed to protecting their price points through regulating supply, this creates an opportunity for sparkling wines from other regions.

Would it be so disastrous if Champagne were to win new consumers with £10 supermarket own-label Champagnes, £15 Grand Marques, and more prestige cuvees kicking in at £30? Lower margins but increased volumes might win customers who otherwise would shift to discover other sparkling wine styles.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

To celebrate the Ashes, something uniquely Australian

What to drink to celebrate England's memorable victory over Australia? [Cricket, by the way, for the benefit of those sensible non-sporting types.]

Has to be something uniquely Australian, so I've turned to a sparkling Shiraz. Quite nice it is, too, and fizz is always appropriate for a celebration.

Scarpantoni Black Tempest Sparkling Shiraz NV McLaren Vale, Australia
13.5% alcohol. Deep coloured, this fizzy red has lovely balance, with the fizziness adding bite to the sweet, ripe, chocolatey plum and blackberry fruit. There are also some earthy, spicy notes here, giving a savouriness to what might otherwise be an overly confected style. I reckon this would be quite food friendly, but it's also delicious on its own. Weird but nice: as Sparkling Shiraz goes, this is one of the good ones, and it will age nicely. 89/100 (£15.99 Laithwaites)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Brown Brothers Prosecco

Had to do a bit of a double-take when I saw this one. It's a Prosecco from Australia. Because Prosecco is the grape variety and not the region, I guess there's nothing the Italians can do to stop Aussies using the name!

It's made by the Charmat method (where the secondary fermentation takes place in tank, rather than in the bottle), and it's very attractive and fruity. Delicious, even. I don't know how much it will retail for - currently this new wine isn't stocked in the UK.
Brown Brothers Prosecco 2008 King Valley, Australian Sparkling Wine
12% alcohol. First release of this new wine. Very attractive, bright and fruity with mandarin, pear and lemon fruit as well as nice acidity. Fizzy and fresh, this is Aussie take on Prosecco is really east to appreciate. It's also very nicely packaged. A hit. 86/100

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

One of England's finest

Drinking one of England's top sparkling wines tonight - it's the Nyetimber Classic Blend 2003, from West Sussex. The nose is a bit lactic (hints of cheese and milk) with very fresh, herby, subtly toasty notes. It's quite serious. The palate is really fresh and has high acidity, but also lovely toasty depth. It's rich and quite Pinot-influenced. Sophisticated and quite dramatic with the combination of richness and almost alarming acidity; I'm convinced by this. 91/100

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on the sparkling wine symposium

I'm probably not the right person to ask about how the first International Sparkling Wine Symposium went. As one of the organizers, I'm too close to it. But I think it went brilliantly, and exceeded our expectations by some distance. Even better, it looks like we broke even, which was a big worry a few weeks ago.

Jim Budd has posted a report with lots of photographs on his blog. It gives a flavour of the event. Overall, the various components of the day pulled together really well.
Massive credit should go to the speakers and sponsors. Tony Jordan came over from Australia just for this event; Tom Stevenson gave the introduction, chaired a panel and ran the options game at the dinner; Dominique Demarville was a star presenting a vin clairs tasting; Michel Salgues was fantastic; Sarah Mowl carried out some great consumer research and presented it really well; Dee Blackstock kindly agreed to sit on the business panel at short notice; and Bob Lindo, Bertrand Robillard, Giles Cossanteli, Arthur O'Connor and John Worontschak all sat on a panel.
The sponsors included Bucher Vaslin, Codorniu, Diam (Mytik), Institute of Champagne, Proven PR, Litmus Wines, Dartington, Barcelos (for the dinner wine). They should be congratulated for getting behind a new venture like this, when many others took a wait and see policy, or even opposed what we were trying to do.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Crazy sparkling red, again

I don't know why, but I seem to have been drawn towards sparkling red wines of late. There's the Afros Vinho Verde Espumante, the M&S Lambrusco, and now this - a sparkling red from the Loire.

Domaine de Montrieux Petillant Naturel Boisson Rouge, Vin de Table NV
Emile Hérédia is the dude behind this remarkable wine - a Gamay from the Loire, made naturally (without the addition of sulfur dioxide), with the fermentation finished in bottle. Sealed with a crown cap, this is a sparkling cherry red-coloured wine that's just a little off dry. It's deliciously more-ish, with flavours of ripe cherries backed up by some subtle spicy, earthy notes, giving it a savoury feel despite the sweetness. It gains complexity with time in the glass - while this is a fun wine, it also repays contemplation, and I really like it. It's the sort of wine you just want (or need) another glass of. Serve chilled. 90/100 (£13.75 Les Caves de Pyrene, Green and Blue)

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Grown-up Lambrusco that rocks

Please try this wine! It's really, really good.

I was wandering home from the Stokes tasting yesterday and popped into Marks & Spencer to pick up some treats for tea. I walked out with a bottle of this, an 'authentic' Lambrusco that Jo Ahearne MW deserves a medal for sourcing, and a box of mezes.

And yesterday evening I drank the said bottle of Lambrusco watching four back-to-back episodes of Gavin & Stacey. Tidy.

Autentico Reggiano Lambrusco NV Vino Frizzante, Italy
Very deep coloured - a bit like an Aussie Sparkling Shiraz in appearance. Sweet, grapey, dark cherry nose that manages to be sweet and savoury at the same time. The palate is vivid with high acidity and powerful dark cherry and bitter plum notes, with a bit of fizziness. Lovely stuff: this has to be good for you? 89/100 (£7.49 Marks & Spencer)

The producer's website is http://www.medici.it/

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Take care opening fizz

There are obvious dangers opening a bottle of sparkling wine (corks ejecting at 60 mph), and less obvious ones. This is the picture of the rim of a bottle I recently opened. As I twisted the cork to loosen it, I felt something sharp dig into the palm of my hand and my index finger. While there was a bit of blood, it could have been much worse than it was. From now on, I'll be checking the rim is intact.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Two high-end Cavas

Cava struggles with a low rent image. Here are two more ambitious examples, one made from the traditional grapes, the other from Chardonnay. I guess the issue here is whether or not you consider Cava to have an identity of its own, or just to be a cheap alternative to Champagne.

Codorniu Reina Ma Cristina 2006 Cava, Spain
Distinctly Cava in style, with a herby, lemony, fruity nose. The palate is crisp, herby and tangy with some citrussy notes and a distinctive citrus/grapefruit pith character. Not trying to be Champagne, this is a serious, quite complex expression of Cava. 90/100 (£17.99 Majestic)

Parxet Titiana Chardonnay NV Cava, Spain
What happens when you ditch the traditional Cava grape varieties and use Champagne? This. It has a broad, toasty, slightly nutty nose with rich fruit and notes of apple, pear and peach. The palate is warm, fruity and nutt with a smooth, sophisticated character. Very stylish and broad, and like a ripe, rich expression of Champagne, yet a little softer. 90/100 (£10.99 Moreno)

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two impressive English fizzes

English fizz is hot at the moment. Well, not literally, of course - it's just another way of saying that there's currently a lot of interest in English sparkling wines. The English wine industry as a whole is turning rapidly from being a curiosity/novelty industry ('I didn't know they made wine in England') to being taken more seriously, and the increasingly convincing sparkling wines made here are one of the reasons for this. Here are two impressive fizzes from Chapel Down, which is the main brand of The English Wines group, a thoroughly professional outfit with a broad portfolio of wines.

The question many people will be asking is, 'Are they as good as Champagne?' It's a complex question to answer (what does 'as good as' mean? Which Champagne?), but I'll try. The Vintage Reserve Brut has real finesse and purity, but also a little more fruity character than most Champagnes, perhaps reflecting the contribution of the non-Champagne grape varieties. The Pinot Reserve is much more Champagne like and is one of the best English fizzes I've yet tasted. It's sharper and fresher than many Champagnes. This will be even more interesting in a year or two.

Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut NV English Sparkling Wine
A blend of Rivaner, Reichensteiner and Pinot Noir. Very fresh, bright nose is citrussy and pure with subtle herbiness. The palate is bright, lemony and quite fruity with lovely focus and purity. Tight with high acidity. A serious effort. 88/100 (£16.99)
Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2002 English Sparkling Wine
A blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Aromatic nose is full with notes of ripe apples, toast and subtle nutty and herby notes. This is pure and quite sophisticated. The palate is citrussy and intense with good acidity and lots of flavour. There's some Pinot richness here, but overall the impression is one of focus and brightness. A serious effort with lovely purity, and justifying the price-tag. 91/100 (£24.99)

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Monday, September 01, 2008

a (sort of) pink English fizz that's really good

Today has been quite a difficult one. I drove older son down to his new school (160 miles away), which he starts tomorrow. He's beginning as a boarder, at age 12, which must be incredibly difficult for him. Also, any parent reading can probably share a sense of how difficult it is to leave your child in someone else's care like this. But it's not a decision we came to lightly, and it's one that he participated in. He's an incredibly talented, able chap with a very bright future ahead of him, but had things carried on the way they were at home, then the future would have been much less bright. It seems a bit absurd and flippant to document this major change in a paragraph on a blog post, but I feel it needs to be mentioned, and it's either a paragraph or a whole book.

Back to the safe territory of wine, and more specifically a rather good sparkling rose from England that's the equal of a good rose Champagne.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Sparkling Rose NV, England
Made by Chapel Down, this is really delicious. A very pale salmon pink colour, it's only just a rose. The nose is super-sophisticated with tight herby, citrussy notes as well as a hint of strawberry. The palate is dry and complex, with a hint of fruity richness offsettin the high acidity really nicely. There's none of the overt herbiness that is the besetting sin of so many English wines, and all the flavours work in tandem to create a stylish whole. Pretty serious effort - shame about the rather naff packaging. 90/100 (£17.99 Sainsbury's)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fizz again, but of a different kind

I've been drinking a lot of fizz, recently, what with various celebrations and general self-indulgence and the like.

Tonight it is time for a rather different style of fizz: the red variety. One of Australia's specialities (or quirks, depending on how you look at it) is Sparkling Shiraz. I don't know who it was who initially thought it might be a smart idea to make a fizzy red, but their offbeat inspiration took off (to a degree), such that most big Aussie companies have one in their portfolio.

The one I'm drinking tonight is from Jacob's Creek, but big brand aside, it's a really good one. If you've never tried Sparkling red wine, this one would be a good place to start.

Jacob's Creek Sparkling Shiraz NV South Eastern Australia
Visually this is gorgeous, with the bubbles foaming up a beautiful pink colour over the dark red black core of the wine. This wine shows lovely pure, sweet plum and blackcurrant fruit with a nice dark, meaty edge to it. It finishes with a nice spritzy tang from the bubbles. There's a bit of sweetness here which adds to the texture, making it feel quite weighty. It's very ripe, but the alcohol is quite low at 12.5%. A very interesting, unique style of wine: it's perhaps just a little too sweet to serve with most foods, although with its low tannin and sweetness it works pretty well with cheese. 89/100 (£8.49 Sainsbury's)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Champagne and sparkling wine

Continuing my semi-obsession with bubbles at the moment, I opened two fizzes side-by-side this evening. It felt a little decadent, because like it or not it is hard to get away from the image of bubbly wine and celebration, celebrity and conspicuous consumption. Two very different bottles, though, and this wasn't intended to be a straight shootout.

First: Champagne Mumm de Cramant NV Grand Cru Brut Chardonnay. There's a bright, fresh, perfumed, almost salty quality to the nose. It's tight, savoury and shows lemony freshness alongside some denser herby, toasty notes. The palate is bright, fresh and savoury with complex toasty, honeyed, herby depth. There's precision here, as you'd expect from a Blanc de Blancs, but there's also some midpalate depth and savoury weight. All in, it's a really lovely fizz. Bottled with 8 g/l dosage and a lower pressure (4.5 atmospheres versus the usual 6, which makes it less fizzy). Very good/excellent 93/100

Second: Deakin Estate Brut NV, Australia. Sealed with a crown cap, this is an attractively packaged fizz showing bright, delicate lemony fruit and nice acidity. A very fresh, almost transparent style of sparkling wine. It's not the most complex example of its genre, but at this price it's a great value all-purpose fizz. Very good 84/100 (£6.99 Oddbins, 6 for the price of 5)

Aside: crown caps are great for sparkling wines, but they aren't hermetic seals. The seal between the rim of the bottle and the cap is what determines the oxygen transmission properties, and this case it is some sort of plastic material, which allows oxygen diffusion. So for this sort of fizz it's fine; I'd be cautious about cellaring crown capped bottles for any length of time, though.

In the Mumm picture the corner is turned down: apparently, in days gone by the wine was delivered unlabelled, and the turned-down corner of the business card indicated personal delivery. Although made since 1882, this cuvee wasn't released commercially until 1960.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas greetings, dear readers. After a few days' abstinence, I felt up to some wine today. Just a little, and nothing terribly excessive. We began with the two wines I bought on Thursday for research purposes. Domain Chandon ZD 2002 is a delightful Aussie fizz with good complexity and a very dry finish. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is a very good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but you are certainly paying a premium for the label: I could easily find seven or eight NZ Sauvignons that are its equal, and which are much cheaper. Finally, a Bandol: Lafran Veyrolles Longue Garde, which is now entering is earthy, evolved phase. Nice in a very savoury style.

The Goode family Christmas day has been a very successful one. This has not always been the case, I should add! Just the four of us, plus various animals. Lots of present unwrapping, a nice lunch, a walk, some telly, some family games, and for everyone else an early night. I have to stay up to see to the hound, but I'm hoping to find my bed soon. Merry Christmas.

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