Wine merchant Lay & Wheeler have been part of Majestic Wine for a while, and for the first time at this week’s Majestic press tasting some of the Lay & Wheeler portfolio was shown. Here are my notes on some of the wines.
Valdesil Pezas de Portela Godello 2010 Valdeorras, Spain
Textured, rich and powerful with sweet melony fruit and some herbal notes, as well as characters of straw and nuts. Broad and intense, yet still fresh. 93/100 (£25.20 Lay & Wheeler)
Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2011 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Powerful with lovely complexing matchstick/mineral reductive notes, as well as faint hints of cabbage, supporting precise, concentrated pear and citrus fruit. Lively and linear with real complexity. 94/100 (£25 Lay & Wheeler)
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Clos Mosny 2011 Loire, France
Fresh and herby with citrus and apple notes on the nose. The palate shows supple pear and apple fruit with a citrus twist. Lively, showing nice focus and purity, with real character. 92/100 (£19.25 Lay & Wheeler)
La Gerla Rosso di Montalcino 2010 Tuscany, Italy
Elegant, supple and sweet with cherry and berry fruits. Light styled and better for it with lovely purity and elegance. Smooth and pure with fine cherry fruit and mineral notes. 93/100 (£16.20 Lay & Wheeler)
Mauro 2010 Castilla y Leon, Spain
Deep coloured, this is a rich, ripe, dense red wine with notes of cherries and blackberries, and a smooth, supple texture. Lovely mineral undercurrents help keep this fresh and interesting, and not just another big ripe red. Stylish. 93/100 (£28.80 Lay & Wheeler)
Elio Grasso Gavarini Vigna Chiniera Barolo 2006 Piedmont, Italy
This is special: spicy, mineral and slightly tarry on the nose with sweet cherries, plums and some warm herbs. The palate is pure, fresh and structured with finely grained, grippy tannins meshing well with the bright cherry and plum fruit, as well as some herbiness. Serious. 95/100 (£48 Lay & Wheeler)
Here’s a short film shot from my recent visit to the famous Loire village of Sancerre, by chopper. It proved quite an eventful journey: on the way, the door I was sitting next to came open. It looked quite a long way down. The pilot had to land in a field in order for me to close it properly.
Sancerre is quite beautiful, surrounded by vineyards. These are proper vineyard soils, too. Until phylloxera arrived in the late 19th century, this was Pinot Noir country. Now it’s dominated by Sauvignon, with just a bit of Pinot.
I recently got the chance to taste (and drink) Beronia Gran Reserva Rioja from three different decades, spanning four decades in all, which was pretty cool. I’m not the greatest fan of traditional-styled Rioja, but when it’s good, it’s very good, and it can age brilliantly.
These three bottles were all compelling. The 1982 perhaps showing more signs of age than the 1973, but still superb with lovely complexity. The 1973 is ageing beautifully, and still has lots of fruit. The 2005 is just a baby: concentrated, intense, still showing plenty of oak – a little ungainly in its youth, but with a powerful core to support lots of development in bottle.
Rioja is one of those rare wine regions where it’s not really hard to taste good, older bottles, and if you like old wine (not everyone does), then it’s a happy hunting ground.
Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva 1982 Rioja, Spain
Lovely aromatics of bitter plums and sweet cherry fruit, with complex, warm herby notes. The palate is fresh and has high acidity, with flavours of plums, cherries and berries as well as some spicy warmth. Strongly savoury, with some astringency, but also lovely aged complexity. 92/100
Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva 1973 Rioja, Spain
Sweet, warm, spicy and bold with some rich cherry and plum fruit as well as tertiary, evolved aromas. The palate is quite robust with warm, spicy notes and great concentration. Showing amazing purity for such an old wine, and still has tannic grip. Compelling. 94/100
Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 Rioja, Spain
Powerful and sweetly fruited with dense, warm, spicy oak notes as well as ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit. Quite ripe and sweet but with nice dense earth, spicy structure and notes of cedar and vanilla under the rich fruit. Potential for development. 92/100
I feel guilty. In an age of information overload, I blog pretty much every day. I contribute to the vast mass of media output that clogs up peoples’ thinking space. Media creators like me, however, are fighting for attention. So we need to self-promote and push ourselves out front. Unashamed attention grabbers.
I scanned back through my blog today – back as far as last summer. Here are some posts that I think represent what I do, and which I think are worth revisiting.
Just out: the new Tio Pepe Fino en Rama. Taken straight from the cask, unfiltered, and offering lots of flavour. Wines like this are helping to make Sherry sexy again.
Think of this like supercharged Fino, with lovely complexity and depth of flavour. And while it’s a bit more expensive than most Finos, it’s still underpriced compared with other wines offering this sort of complexity, at around £14 a bottle.
This was bottled on 8 April, and the recommendation is to drink it within three months, because it is a natural, living product.
Tio Pepe Fino En Rama NV
Full yellow colour. Intensely aromatic with a tangy, herby citrussy nose, showing some almond, spice and apple notes. The palate is lively and fresh with lively citrussy, herby, appley, nutty characters. Full and rich yet complex and fresh with a lovely rounded mid-palate. 92/100
I love decanting red wines. And some whites. But I have always struggled with cleaning decanters properly.
My usual technique is to was then in very hot water several times, and then leave them to drain. But they never seem to drain completely, and then some water always seems to condense in them, no matter how hot they are – it never seems to evaporate properly. And I don’t like to leave decanters with a few drops of water in the bottom when I store them.
There’s also the problem of removing red wine stains from them.
I have just discovered two solutions to these problems. The first is solved by a nifty product from Around Wine, called decanter drier crystals. These silica crystals are blue when dry, red when wet. You dry them in the microwave (or conventional oven), then suspend them in the neck of a drained, washed decanter. They absorb the moisture and the decanter dries properly. You can then recharge them in the microwave to use again.
The second problem is solved by using either rice, or BB gun pellets (made from stainless steel, and cheaply available on Ebay). These, with a bit of water, can abrade the most stubborn red wine stains from a decanter.
Both these solutions make me more willing to use decanters for all the wines I serve. A good thing.
I’m on my way home after a just a couple of great days exploring the wines of Israel. So here are my notes on an assorted collection of 16 different wines, which I’ve selected from the larger pool of wines that I tried on my trip.
Château Golan Gesham Red 2005 Golan Heights, Israel This is Grenache with a bit of Syrah. Nice pure cherry fruit aromatics: very pure with some floral notes and fine spiciness. The palate is tight, focused and pure with lovely elegance and fine structure. Bright cherries, bitter plums, good acidity and fine spiciness all work well together to produce an amazing wine. 94/100
Château Golan Syrah 2011 Golan Heights, Israel
Very pure, sweet and fine with floral black cherry fruit nose. Fresh, lively palate with great acidity: really pure and focused with brilliant definition and some grippy tannins. Just brilliant. 94/100
Shvo Chenin Blanc 2010 Upper Galilee, Israel
Gaby Sadan’s vineyard is amazing, and if this is what he can do in the very hot 2010 vintage, I’m looking forward to seeing his 2011s. It shows real Chenin personality, with a hint of mineral reduction and flavours of apples, pears, spice and herbs. There’s a bit of acidic bite, too. 93/100
Shvo Red 2010 Upper Galilee, Israel This is not a GSM, but a BGSM – a Barbera, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend. It’s sweetly aromatic, fine and spicy with supple, elegant berry fruits, and some floral cherry notes. For a ripe year, it’s lovely and quite fresh. 92/100
Dalton Semillon 2012 Western Galilee, Israel This is the first release of this wine, a single vineyard Semillon from the Elkosh vineyard, fermented in older barrels. Very stylish with intergrated oak notes, and flavours of grapefruit, lemons, herbs and wax. This will age beautifully, too. 92/100
Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon Meron Vineyard 2011 Western Galilee, Israel Sweet herbal nose with some eucalyptus notes, and a hint of mint, but the dominant theme is ripe, berryish, blackcurrant fruit. Ripe, supple and sweet on the palate with some chalk and spice characters. Stylish. 92/100
Kishor Vineyard White 2012 Western Galilee, Israel An 80/20 blend of Sauvignon and Viognier, co-fermented, from a 6 hectare vineyard in a valley at 500 m, made by Itay Lahat. Very fresh and aromatic with some pear and peach notes as well as a bit of spice. Lively and textured, with lovely freshness. 92/100
Segals Dovev Rehasim Argaman 2008 Upper Galilee, Israel Made from the Argaman variety, an Israeli cross of Carignan and Sousão, this is an unashamedly big, bold, structured red wine showing dense black fruits, notes of pepper and tar, and real richness. Dense and modern, but not spoofy and overripe. 91/100
Lueria Rosso 2011 Upper Galilee, Israel A blend with a high proportion of Barbera and Sangiovese, this actually tastes quite Italian. It’s very fresh with some raspberry and bitter plum notes, as well as herbs, tar and some spicy bite. Satisfying stuff. 90/100
Galil Mountain Viognier 2011 Galilee, Israel A forward, bold expression of Viognier, but it really works. Ripe spicy pear and peach fruit with appealing aromatics and a rounded texture. Ripe and exotic, yet still fresh. 90/100
Ortal Merlot 2010 Golan Heights, Israel
Very classic Merlot, showing lovely intensity and structure: I reckon it will age well for 15 years. 60% new oak shows a little, but is well integrated, and there’s a lovely dense, spicy structural core to the ripe yet restrained, concentrated fruit. 93/100
Carmel Appellation Cabernet Franc 2009 Judean Hills, Israel Fresh and varietally true with ripe, slightly green (in a nice way), chalky, gravelly berry fruits. Good texture and freshness, and a bit of tannic grip. Nice wine. 90/100
Yarden Malbec 2010 Golan Heights, Israel Yarden is the top brand from Golan Heights, one of Israel’s big 3 wine producers, and this Malbec is impressive. Very nice floral, open, fresh berry fruits nose leads to an admirably pure, silky, fresh palate showing lovely definition. 91/100
Yarden Katzin 2008 Golan Heights, Israel A Cabernet/Merlot blend. Spicy, tarry, gravelly black fruits nose. The palate is sweet, supple and nicely textured with some savoury, gravelly, mineral notes. Stylish effort. 93/100
Tzora Vineyards Neve Ilan 2011 Judean Hills, Israel This is a Chardonnay, no malolactic fermentation. Lively, bright and focused. Precise with lovely minerality, some pithy notes and great precision and acidity. A lovely tight style. 92/100
Tzora Vineyards Misty Hills 2010 Judean Hills, Israel
A single-plot wine that blends 55% Cabernet Sauvignon with 45% Syrah. Lovely bright berry and blackcurrant fruit with some gravel and spice notes. Very fine and quite long with some supple, attractive green notes. 92/100
It was hosted by Keith Prothero at the wonderful La Trompette in Chiswick. Keith (astonishingly generously) provided the wines, which we tasted blind, and then drank sighted. Here are my notes and some pictures of the wonderful food.
Dagueneau Silex Pouilly-Fumé 2007
Loire, France Very fine, precise and taut, and initially not really screaming Sauvignon Blanc. This is very fine with mineral depth and subtle green notes. Amazing purity and focus, and after a while some characteristic gooseberry notes emerge. 95/100
R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia 1981 Rioja, Spain
Amazing depth here: deep yellow colour. Mineral with good acidity and bold, complex notes of wax, herbs and toast. Intense, fine and expressive. 94/100
First course: grilled Orkney scallops with cauliflower purée, seaweed butter and morels
Ramonet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet 2006 Burgundy, France A really good 2006, this is stylish and smooth-textured with a faint hint of matchstick minerality and supple, pure, slightly sweet, fine expressive fruit, and a hint of toast. Beautiful weight. 95/100
Pierre Morey Bâtard-Montrachet 2000 Burgundy, France Hint of apricot on the nose, which shows a bit of development. Toast, mineral and matchstick notes complement a palate showing pear, mineral and spice notes. Lovely powerful wine, albeit a little more avanced than many would expect. 94/100
Next course: roast breast of creedy duck with crushed swede, turnip tops, pearl barley and roasting juices
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 1980 Burgundy, France
Very fine, mineral and spicy, with some tar notes and quite a bit of evolution. There’s some warm spiciness here, as well as cherry and plum fruit still hanging on in there. 92/100
Joseph Drouhin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 1978 Burgundy, France Very sweetly fruited, fine and expressive, and with plenty of life left in it, even at 35. Nervous, fine cherry and plum fruit with a spicy elegance. A beautiful old Burgundy. 96/100
Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques Vieille Vignes 1999 Burgundy, France
So youthful, it’s just a baby. Lovely supple cherry and plum fruit with finesse and some assertive floral aromas complementing the sweet, supple fruit. Youthful, vibrant, expressive and fine. 96/100
Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques 1999 Burgundy, France Quite reductive, with a noticeable matchstick character on the nose. Tight, mineral and spicy with youthful cherry fruit and some nice precision. Fresh and lovely, and worth cellaring for another decade to let the reduction die down. 94/100
Next course: slow roast short rib and ribeye of beef, smoked bone marrow, scorched onions and field mushroom
Château Haut-Brion 1990 Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux France An amazing wine: sweetly fruited, elegant and fine with such pure, delicately poised cherry fruit and yet also showing richness of texture. Subtle hints of gravel and tar. Fine and expressive, and quite brilliant. 98/100
Chateau Musar 1991 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon Aromatic, sweet and rich, with complex, lively textured berry fruits and tertiary notes of herbs, spices and stewed plums. It’s a classic Musar with added refinement. Thoroughly delicious. 93/100
Château Latour 1978 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France Fresh, fine and elegant with gravel and chalk notes as well as fine, fresh blackcurrant fruit. Tastes so youthful! Sweetly fruited palate with pure blackcurrant and cherry fruit as well as some complexity from 35 years of ageing gracefully. 97/100
Domaine Bruno Clair Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 2007 Burgundy, France Fine, fresh cherry fruit with a bit of spice and really seductive plummy notes, as well as a bit of tannic grip. Pure and focused. 92/100
Château Figeac 1990 St. Émilion, Bordeaux, France Structured, fine and fresh with a bit of grip. A mineral, fine, expressive wine showing herbs, spice and a bit of tar. Nice warmth and complexity. 94/100
Château La Conseillante 1989 Pomerol, Bordeaux, France Fresh and fine with some spice and a hint of earth. Finely grained tannins underly the finely grained red cherry and plum fruit. Really expressive, supple and fine. 95/100
Château Coutet 1971 Barsac, Bordeaux, France Intense, rich and ripe, concentrated and viscous, with sweet honey and spices as well as melon and apricot notes. Remarkable sweet wine. 95/100
Until yesterday, my experience of Israel’s wines was pretty limited. But yesterday I spent a day in northern Israel’s wine country, visiting producers and learning a lot.
This was followed by a dinner in Akko, at Uri Buri restaurant, with some winemakers. It was a remarkable day.
Today I pay for yesterday’s fun by having to present two talks at a wine conference in Rosh Pinna. TWO! One on sustainability, the second on authentic wine. My poor audience. I’m snatching a few moments sitting outside at a café next to the conference venue to do a quick blog.
I started by visiting Gaby Sadan whose winery is called Shvo: he’s got some great vineyards, farmed sustainably with no herbicides and no fertilizers, with proper soils, and he’s making really great wines.
Then I was off to Dalton, which is a slightly bigger scale project, but which is also turning out very interesting wines, with the highlights being a remarkable Semillon, a brilliant Syrah and a fresh, elegant Cabernet, all first crop from a rather special new vineyard.
Golan Heights is one of Israel’s largest producers, but there were some pretty good wines in their upmarket Yarden range. I had a good tasting there, as well as an overview of wine in northern Israel, where altitude plays a key factor.
Then Chateau Golan, a boutique winery with the talented Uri Hetz at the helm. Uri is making stunning Grenache and Syrah here. The labels are very old-fashioned, but the wines are spot on. Some real elegance and precision here.
Then a number of winemakers joined together for dinner. There were some lovely wines on show. It’s just great to come here and make loads of discoveries. That’s what keeps this job so interesting. I’m always learning, discovering and meeting great people. Now to dig out my powerpoint presentations…
Here is the abstract of a talk I am doing in Spain next month, on the impact of the Internet on wine communication. It is aimed at wineries. I wrote it on my phone on the way to the airport, where I am now blogging via my phone. It takes a while. It means I write less, which could be a good thing.
The Internet has changed the way we communicate. First of all came websites and bulletin boards, then blogs, then social media. This has happened over a short space of time. Initially the preserve of geeks, Internet communication has now become mainstream.
Teenagers live their life on Facebook; twitter comments are now quoted in the news everyday. In the past the media was under the control of publishers who acted as gatekeepers. Now everyone can play.
The style of communication has changed, too: it is no longer top-down, but horizontal – a conversation.
Wineries are now faced with amazing opportunities to join in this conversation. They can have a relationship with people who drink their wines, and also with the press. They can tell their own story. Here I discuss the various social media tools and the ways in which wineries can make the best use of them.