Tag Archives: wine

Innocence of Youth

Taking Pinot Noir to the beach

Have you ever seen wines labelled as ‘Old Vines’, ‘Vieilles Vignes’, ‘Viñas Viejas’? It’s one of those terms that can be used freely on a bottle of wine as no one has yet determined how old vines need to be in order to gain the plaudit. As vines get older they will expand their root system and burrow deep into the soils, which is a good thing. They will also start to regulate themselves better and become more hardy as they do so. With advanced age vines will become less productive, but I suppose that happens to most of us! That drop in production could mean the vine puts the energy into ripening fewer berries, thereby ensuring a more concentrated juice. The term itself is on the rise and is often seen as a badge of quality, but the fact there is no regulation around it makes it more of a marketing term. That said, I have had many wines labelled as ‘Old Vines’ that do show a remarkable concentration and balance.

What really caught my eye was a wine that proudly proclaimed on the label it was produced from ‘Young Vines’. Wow! I’m not sure I would have the courage to admit to that. My slight apprehension was immediately quashed as soon as I tasted the wine, the Seven Springs Pinot Noir from South Africa.

The Pinot Noir vines were only planted in July 2008 in the beautifully named ‘Hemel en Aarde’ Valley (Heaven and Earth), near Hermanus. The vines yielded their first ever vintage in 2011, made by 29 year old Riana van der Merwe and it is simply gorgeous. With the fruit doing all the talking rather than the oak, this was a sheer joy of juiciness. Ripe cherries and strawberries, vibrant in its innocent youth. Not so much an unruly teenager as a well-balanced, vivacious character that already shows complexity well beyond its age and knows its way around a wine glass. Hats off, not just for the wine, but for having the gumption to label it as young vines and making a feature of it. It will be interesting to watch this one over successive vintages and see how it develops into a thirty-something.

Seven Springs is not all about Pinot Noir either. The delicate, apple-scented Sauvignon Blanc is lovely and pure. There are a couple of Chardonnays with the unoaked being my favourite and a sumptuous Syrah, again coming from younger vines and gently oaked in older barrels.

For stockist information, go to the Seven Springs website and they are very active on Facebook and Twitter too. Images used with kind permission by Tim Pearson.

Indiana Jones and the Quest for an Extreme Beverage

Earlier this week I did a brief talk on the history of wine at the Christmas dinner for the Scottish Women in Business. Here is the story I shared. Details of the Greek and Turkish wines we tasted can be found at the bottom of the article.

On a recent trip to Turkey I went in search of the “Source of Wine”. Turkey was playing host to the annual digital wine communications conference (EWBC) and one session in particular gave a unique insight in the journey wine has taken from its first wild roots.

The Roman Empire

Most people’s association with history and wine is likely to be related to the spread of the Roman Empire. And it would be true to say this is a crucial time for the modern, cultivated or domesticated vine. There is plenty of evidence showing the spread of the wine regions with Rome as its starting point. One of the most important natural historians of his time was Pliny the Elder, who became famous for his encyclopaedic work ‘Naturalis Historia’, which included a large section devoted to vines and wines. He was possibly even more famous for the manner of his death in the aftermath of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 and gave his name to what we describe today as a “Plinean eruption”.

The Ancient Greeks

Yet this is not where wine was born. You would have to go quite a bit further back. The Ancient Greeks used wine in ancient ceremonies, often drunk as a grog, mixed with spices, honey and water in some cases seawater. The wine “Retsina” to this day is flavoured with pine resin. The Greeks even had a God of wine, Dionysus, whom the Romans later adopted as Bacchus. The wines from ancient Greece were highly praised by its poets but some of the adulteration of it would suggest they perhaps weren’t so great after all.

Clearly modern winemaking owes more to the Romans, but we honour the Ancient Greeks by tasting a modern Greek wine which comes from Drama in the north of mainland Greece bordered by Bulgaria and Turkey. Assyrtiko is regarded as one of Greece’s best indigenous white grape varieties. We’re giving a nod to modern wine with the addition of Sauvignon Blanc. Assyrtiko originated on the island of Santorini and thrives in volcanic soils. It’s ability to withstand high summer temperatures and still retain freshness and is the secret of its success. The grape variety produces a very dry, mineral wine with almost earthy qualities, particularly when grown on the volcanic soils of Santorini. Elsewhere, such as here in Drama it produces a somewhat milder, fruitier style of wine.

So far we’ve traced wine’s first steps back from the Roman Empire down to the Ancient Greeks. But we haven’t even covered half of it. Following the traces from Greece we move 2000 years further down the line to Ancient Egypt. The Pharaohs were great imbibers of wine and even kept detailed records of what they drunk which included many vintage dated, single vineyard wines.

Anatolia

But it doesn’t stop there either. From Egypt our journey moves North-East and into Mesopotamia and ultimately ends up in current day Eastern Turkey, or Anatolia to be more precise, and countries like Georgia and Armenia. It is now believed the earliest known wines originated here. The archeological evidence was found not far from Mount Arrarat, where Noah is said to have landed his ark and planted the first vineyard.

Some of the evidence discovered in 1957 was of a tomb in Gordion, the capital of Phrygia in what is modern day Turkey. Dated to roughly 700-750BC it was named the Midas Tumulus. The hermetically sealed tomb was covered in earth. It proved a spectacular tomb belonging to what some believe is the king of Phrygia, King Midas.

Ancient Ales, Wines and Extreme Beverages

Inside the archaeologists uncovered the remains of a 60-65 year old male, as well as the largest iron age drinking set ever discovered. It consisted of 160 bronze vessels. More recent chemical research by chemist and archaeologist Patrick McGovern, who in the popular vernacular is known as the “Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages”, revealed not only the remains of what turned out to be some funerary feast of barbecued lamb and goat’s meat with lentils, but provided some detailed insight in what was drunk too.

Patrick McGovern: The Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines and Extreme Beverages.
Image credit: Patrick E. McGovern

The identification of tartaric acid points to grapes or grape product. Now this could have just been grape juice, however the juice would more than likely have fermented naturally considering the high ambient temperature and the fact that yeast is naturally present on the grape skins. Beeswax was also found which points towards something along the lines of honey mead. Finally beerstone (Calcium Oxalate) was discovered, a substance which is commonly associated with the production of Barley beer.

These findings led to a bit of experimental archaeology with the help of the Kavaklidere winery. They recreated the drink albeit not in a commercial sense. It was later produced in the US as the “Midas Touch Golden Elixir” and is made using Barley, honey and muscat grapes. Saffron was added as a bitter agent and would have given it a lush golden colour. A drink fit for a King.

Modern Day Turkey

Unadulterated by barley, honey or saffron our second wine comes from Turkey and is made by the same winery, Kavaklidere. Here the indigenous variety Kalecik Karasi is blended with Syrah to make a wine not unlike a French Cotes-du-Rhone. The Kalecik Karasi is named after the Kalecik district close to Ankara although it is now fairly widely grown in Turkey. It can produce a variety of wine styles, from soft, easy drinking to more complex. In character it sits somewhere between Gamay, Dolcetto and Pinot Noir.

Grape Domestication

Much earlier evidence of grape cultivation and winemaking were found in this same area and genetic research, conducted by the Swiss grape geneticist Jose Vouillamoz (one of the authors of the most authoritative book on grapes to date, Wine Grapes), has helped pin down some of the earliest evidence of grape domestication, which is now accepted as having been instrumental in the spread of the beverage. Grape domestication favoured the self-pollinating plant, where in the wild the vast majority of vines would be either male or female, with only the female bearing fruit. The hermaphroditic vine dispensed with this need and made grape growing much more efficient and with fruit readily available the drink was only a short fermentation away.

So can we trace this all the way back to the earliest glass of wine. Unlikely, according to Jose Vouillamoz, as that was probably a simple case of “serendipitous inebriation”.

Two more modern wines.

Wines

We tasted two wines on the night which were kindly supplied by Direct Wines (Laithwaites), the first of the mainstream retailers to add a Turkish wine to their range. They promised me there are more to come very soon!

Greece: Thema Assyrtiko/Sauvignon Blanc – Ktima Pavlidis – Drama 2011 (£11.49)

Turkey: Vinart Kalecik Karasi/Syrah – Kavaklidere – Aegean 2010 (£10.99)

 

 

Food, Fun and Fizz – a stage for artisan producers

Firstly congratulations to all who managed to get themselves a ticket for our sold-out inaugural Tasting Scotland ‘Food, Fun & Fizz’ event in conjunction with Cork and Bottle on Thursday 22nd November in Glasgow. Sorry to everyone else who had their sights set on the best value ticket in town, but who we couldn’t quite squeeze into the Tasting Room at The Good Spirits Co.

We described the event as being the first of what is sure to be a fabulously different wine & dine event. Friends, family or colleagues came together and enjoyed a perfectly executed blend of pop-up tapas restaurant, traditional wine tasting & some gourmet ‘look what’s on your doorstep’ education. We are delighted that the feedback has been resoundingly positive.

We can’t wait to release tickets for the next event! Join us and be amazed at how we can merge a celebration of Burn’s night with Valentine’s Day, on Wednesday 30th January.

We promised a run down on the suppliers from Thursday night’s event so here is the complete list.

The websites provide details on where to buy the products we tasted and others in their range. We hope you will give consideration to these producers when shopping or designing a menu for a special occasion. Farmers markets often give the most direct access to the producer.

 

Fizz: Syn Cuvée Blanc – McLaren Vale, Australia

The Smoked Salmon Taste Trail

Hot and cold cured salmon canapés

Artisan food producer: Rob Gower, Dunkeld Smoked Salmon*

Products tasted: Farmed Smoked Salmon, Gravadlax, Hot Smoked Salmon

www.dunkeldsmokedsalmon.com

 

Artisan food producer: The Scottish Handmade Oatcake Co.,

Products tasted: Perthshire Oatcakes Traditional (Cocktail)

www.perthshireoatcakes.co.uk

Wines

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel – Austria

Raats Unoaked Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The Taste Test

Artisan food producer: Mark Bush, Summer Harvest**, Madderty, Perth

Products tasted: Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, Raspberry / Apple & Walnut / Bramble & Juniper Dressings.

www.summerharvestoils.co.uk

 

Artisan food producer: Tapa Bakehouse, Glasgow

Products tasted: Organic sourdough bread

www.tapabakehouse.com

 

The Rare & Native ‘Irn Bru’ Pig

Pork Rillette

Artisan food producer: Arlene & Thomson McKenzie, Nethergate Larder*, Stewarton

Products tasted: Tamworth Pork Belly

Their butcher shop No 1 Avenue Larder, Stewarton, Ayrshire.

Wines

Luis Cañas Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco, Spain

Luis Cañas Rioja – 5 months barrel maturation, Spain

 

The Smoky Soup of Scotland

Cullen Skink

Artisan food producer: Sourced by Stuart Taylor, Pisces Fishmongers & Poulterers*, Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire

Products tasted: ‘Haddies’ (Smoked Haddock)

Their fish shop 193 Main Street, Rutherglen

Wine

Bodegas Argüeso San Leon Manzanilla, Spain

 

The Game Stew is on!

Venison, Chestnut, Bramble & Juniper Stew

Artisan food producer: Mark Gibson, Edenmill Farm*, Blanefield, Glasgow

Products tasted: Venison Shoulder

www.edenmill.co.uk

Wine

Mathilde – Cotes du Rhone, France

 

Little Miss Muffet’s Dairy Box

Cheese platter

Artisan food producer: Ann Dorward, Dunlop Dairy*, Stewarton

Products tasted: Dunlop (Hard Cow’s Cheese), Bonnet (Hard Goat’s cheese)

www.dunlopdairy.co.uk

Wine

Andrew Quady Starboard Batch 88, California

 

A wee bit of fudge

Artisan food producer: Joyce Brady, The Wee Fudge Company*, Glasgow

Products tasted: White Chocolate & Sicilian Lemon oil, Belgian milk chocolate & Valencian orange oil, Belgian milk chocolate, stem ginger and mixed spice

www.weefudge.co.uk

Wine

Familia Zuccardi Tardía Torrontes, Argentina

 

Vegetarian Dishes

Artisan food producer: Eileen Wilkinson, Petrie Fine Foods, Fenwick, Ayrshire.

Products tasted Vegetable Haggis, Mediterranean Vegetable Loaf

www.ayrshirefoodnetwork.co.uk

 

Wines were supplied by the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop* with exception of the Manzanilla, which came from the Good Spirits Co*.

We’d like to thank the producers and suppliers who part sponsored* or fully sponsored** their relevant inclusion in ‘Food, Fun & Fizz’ – The Inaugural One.

We look forward to seeing you at the next one at the same place on Wednesday 30th January 2013.

Brenda & Pieter.

 

Serendipity and Long Lost Friends

According to Wikipedia, Serendipity means a ‘happy accident’ or ‘pleasant surprise’. I think it’s about being in the right place at the right time or under the right circumstances and good things will come to you. Wine can be a pleasant surprise and I’m sure there are plenty of winemakers who have stories about a wine that turned out to be a happy accident. Prior to visiting Turkey for the EWBC I had already tasted a few Turkish wines and realised they could make some pretty decent stuff. But having been immersed (not quite literally) in the wines of Turkey for a few days the country has proven itself to be a very pleasant surprise.

Fresh air and dry Muscat at Urlice

After a few intense days of workshops, speeches and tasting countless wines, many with unpronounceable names, we were let off our leashes and released into the wilds of Izmir’s countryside. It was refreshing to feel the wind in your hair and the first winery we visited gave me an instant holiday feel. It is a small, but perfectly formed boutique winery and the owners couldn’t have been more welcoming. It’s the kind of place you feel at home immediately. Reha and Bilge Bengisu Öğünlü are a Turkish couple who lived in America for a while before deciding to settle back in Turkey and make wine. Reha’s twitter bio reads “wine, vineyards, guitars, windsurfing, cooking, slowfood, travelling” and he comes across as thoughtful and well-travelled. The kind of guy Billy Connolly would call ‘windswept and interesting’.

Our first taste is of a local version of Muscat. It is fresh, dry and racy and just what we need to wake us up. None of us had much sleep I suspect, as the visit comes hot on the heels of a sumptuous gala dinner and party the previous night. Spittoons are nowhere to be seen so needs must, but it’s no punishment, particularly as the sun is out and we are amongst the vines.

The winery itself is tiny and we cram ourselves in-between the fermentation tanks and into the small barrel cellar. It’s a romantic place, dimly lit, with barely enough room for a dozen or so barrels and lined on either side with bottle bins filled with the maturing wines. I think this is the kind of place most people have in mind when they think about a lifestyle business, a romantic notion of winemaking, away from the stresses and strains of life. The ‘when we win the lottery’ kind of place. The whole production is around 1000 cases with still a little room to grow.

Urlice Reserve Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon

Inside we taste more wines, a range of red wines made from international varieties. Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. Urlice is a member of the ‘Slow Food’ movement and grape growing techniques hark back to ancient times without recourse to chemicals. Reha’s vineyards are not certified organic though. It isn’t about the marketing for him, he sees it more as a way of life rather than a label to stick on a bottle. The wines are actually very accomplished. They certainly aren’t shy. Structured wines with quite a bit of tannin means they show best with some hearty food and they have put on quite a spread for us. I particularly liked their Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah Reserve, which has a wonderful richness to it.

Serendipity has another surprise in store for us. Macit, who is our guide for the day, was meant to take a trip out to Ephesus but was moved onto our outing at the last minute. Fortunately he likes wine so he’s quite happy. When we arrive at Urlice, Macit and Reha look at each other stunned as they recognise each other. They were old friends who lived across from one another in Izmir more than 30 years ago and haven’t seen each other in all that time. It was serendipity that brought them together. Or maybe it was the wine.

#EWBC12 Macit & Reha Urlice Vineyard
Reha and Macit catching up on old times.
Photograph by Winesagasu

 

Getting to the Source

The journey reminded me of my younger days, when catching an overnight train to save on accommodation was a budgetary necessity. After a short and virtually sleepless flight we arrive in Istanbul in what seems like the middle of the night. It may be 5.30am here but at home it is the middle of the night. We pile onto the local bus that takes us right to the water’s edge on the Asian side of the city. After a brief stop for a cup of tea and some toast we venture onto a ferry, we assume will take us across the Bosphorus and into the European part of this sprawling city. Although the weather is more like a dreich summer’s day in Glasgow, the skyline still manages to be beautiful when it finally reveals itself. How incredible must this look when the sun is just coming up.

I am traveling with Richard Ross from Appetise, who developed the Showmappr app and I’m helping him populate the app with the various sessions at the impending conference we’re both attending.

The Appetise Istanbul office

There is still some work to do so after checking into the hotel and breakfast with plenty of coffee we settle into the cosy hotel bar sofas with our laptops to get the job done. Later in the afternoon the rain is still pouring down and although it’s taking away a little of the magic, it doesn’t stop us from exploring the city some more. So far, no wine has passed our lips, that will have to wait until tomorrow evening, in what is the unofficial starting point of the EWBC, the now infamous (so I’ve been told) BYOB dinner. As this is my first EWBC I’m feeling a mix of curiosity and excitement. Excited about meeting so many winelovers, many of which I may have had a chat with on Twitter and sharing some amazing wines and experiences with them. Curious also about the wines of Turkey. Like most people, I don’t necessarily view Turkey as a serious player in the wine market but that is not to say there isn’t some excitement to get here. Part of this morning’s job was getting a bit of background on some of the wineries involved and there is a real appetite to show off how the country can be different. The fact it now has its own generic trade body shows this quest is taken seriously and indigenous grape varieties seem to be what get a lot winemakers out of bed here. I’m hoping to be convinced these can provide something that truly represents the country. The next few days are about exploring the ‘sources’ and I can’t think of a better place to do that than right here in Turkey, a country that goes right back to wine’s source.

 

Changing Face of Australian Wine

When it comes to Australian wine many people will be of the opinion that it’s all much the same. Explosive fruit, a big whack of alcohol and a dollop of oak flavour. And your choice is either white or red. But in the same way that not everyone in Australia is called Sheila or Bruce this would be a wholly unfair stereotyping of the country’s wines.

Thinking back to my first encounter with Australian wines in the late 80s (during tasting classes at the Hotelschool I attended), I remember it was these ‘new world’ wines that were easier to drink and understand than their ‘old world’ counterparts. What I wasn’t prepared for was its chequered history when it comes to wine. Australia’s wine history in my mind dated to the relatively recent export boom that started in the eighties and brought with it a style of wine little seen in Europe until that day. Flavour on steroids and big brands. Regionality wasn’t important, ripe fruit was crucial and could come from anywhere, and oak dominated many of these wines. And I believe that still gives rise to some of the stereotypes that persist today.

The famous Terra Rossa soils in Coonawarra. Image courtesy of Wine Australia.

Attending the ‘A+ Australian Wine – One Day Wine School‘ session allowed me more than a glimpse into what is a fascinating wine country. It was showing off much more variety than I was expecting and shows that regional differences in soil and climate are having a real impact on how the wine tastes. That sense of place, which the French call ‘terroir’ might actually have some bearing on Australia’s wine regions too. It was an eye opener to witness how six Chardonnays from very distinct regions could taste so different. Arguably this had more to do with the varying degrees of oak and the different times at which the grapes were harvested, but climate and soil definitely play their important part here too. Still, it shows a move towards much more diverse styles. Occasionally I even used the words elegant and intricate, not something I had expected.

As we discussed the merits of some of the better known regions it became apparent that variety is to be expected with around 2300 wineries across 64 diverse regions. But in relative terms Australia is a very young wine country. Its early wine years were spent on the production of fortified wines, much of which found a market in Britain in the 30’s. Production only shifted to light wines in the 50’s and 60’s with increased immigration and modern winery technology, such as temperature controlled fermentation and more efficient transport systems. This ultimately fuelled the Australian wine boom in the 80’s and what we now describe as the democratisation of wine by the supermarkets. Accepting this is a coming of age for the industry, more recently we see the new generation being increasingly inquisitive. Many make wine in different continents and are keen to experiment and find a regional voice. Research and development are now instrumental in determining which grapes grow well in which regions. The point is even raised that the best vineyards in Australia may not even have been planted yet. I think that’s a very exciting notion and shows a country full of promise. Yet, it may take a little longer to convince the average wine consumer that Australian wine is more than just big flavours and big brands.

 

Cork and Bottle Live@29Studios

Thursday October 4th I was fortunate enough to host a wine and cheese tasting at 29Studios in Glasgow. About 35 cheese and wine lovers had gathered to work out which wines and cheeses they liked best. The fire was on, the glasses were full, the cheese plates were showing their best and not a drop was left at the end of the night.

I’ll do a full blog post on the various wines and cheeses we tasted next week, but for the moment I wanted to post this video of the event, produced by the team at 29Studios.

I also want to thank Brenda Anderson from Tasting Scotland for co-hosting the event and Ann Dorward from Dunlop Dairy and David Prow from Cross Stobs Bottle Shop for their generosity in supplying the tasters.

Hope you enjoy the video. If you were there on the night, let me know how you found it!

Running Fuel

Back in February, coming out of a long winter I was feeling decidedly unfit and despite the fact I last ran about 25 years ago, I felt I had to take it up again and get some fresh air. Then I met Kelly Mason and the core team of the 5×50 Challenge (http://5×50.co.uk/challenger/pieter-rosenthal) and started running with them every Wednesday lunchtime. It didn’t take too long to get bitten by the bug and now I’m more than halfway on a 50-day challenge running at least 5k a day.

It’s a great feeling even though my legs have been in various states of protest. Going out there every single day, regardless of how busy work is, or the increasingly inclement weather. The sense of achievement is helping me keep perspective through what are tough times for everyone right now and it helps to keep me sane. This is not just a physical challenge but as much a mental one. How’s that for a metaphor for life?

Clearly my love affair with wine continues undiminished, I have a big heart so there is room. And there is no way I would give up wine for any challenge, but I do feel that I’ve earned myself an extra nice bottle after the punishing schedule I’m imposing on myself. That’s my excuse anyway. Encouraged by the core team, Kelly Mason and Mark Houston in particular, I’m now imposing a punishing tasting schedule as well, with a multitude of bottles of wine priced around a tenner. One of those great value price points where you can get some seriously interesting wines that bring fantastic drinking pleasure. This could well become the ‘wine 5×50′ or 5 great bottles for £50. I’ll share my first one here and now, but expect more updates over the weeks to come of other wines that will have the honour of joining the challenge.

The Mas des Amours from the Coteaux du Languedoc in Southern France had an outing or two recently, among which was a tasting at Curlers Rest in Glasgow’s Byers Road in September and back in August at the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop, which stocks the wine. Both times the gasps of enjoyment were almost too much to bear, earning it a place as my first wine in the challenge. Unfortunately the sumptuous dark berry fruit doesn’t count towards your five a day but it’s a smooth talker that soothes my tired legs any day.

It is available from the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop for £9.95 : http://crossstobswine.co.uk/red-wine/375-mas-des-amours-coteaux-du-languedoc.html

Where does your wine come from?

How do you decide what wine to buy? The answer to this will quite likely involve price, particularly if it has the word ‘half’ before it. Perhaps you buy because the label has an animal/flower/tree/chateau (cross out where applicable) on it and for some it’s the favourite country or grape variety that matters most. Would PDO be in this list somewhere? The European Union’s ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ was created to protect the heritage of food and drink. Things like Parma ham fall in this category, as do Stilton cheese and Stornoway Black Pudding for example.

The growth of farmers’ markets, delis and specialist retailers such as Wholefoods has resulted in a surge of interest in locally produced food and drink. We see a massive rise in sales of craft beers, produced by an ever-growing band of microbreweries, but when it comes to wine most of us stick to well-known brands where provenance is of no importance. Price and grape variety is. Part of the issue is that most wine consumers see wine as a natural product anyway. It’s made from fresh grapes so what more do I need to know? The wine trade isn’t really helping matters either. The sheer number of grape varieties, styles and regions lead to confusion over what a wine will actually taste like, leaving most consumers playing it safe and opting for what they know, rather than looking towards their more adventurous sides.

The creation of the PDO is not going to resolve this but it at least attempts to protect producers from imitations that could destroy a good name. What is good wine is subjective. Only you can decide whether you like a wine or not, but I like Susy Atkins’ advice in this video, made for ‘Discover the Origin‘, about exploring the wine world by region. Sticking to smaller producers and finding out where the wine actually comes from. This moves you away from mass-produced wine that delivers only on price. Many of us already do it with beer, so why not take the plunge and discover something new in the world of wine. There are plenty of great stories to uncover.

Fine Wine and a Wee Bit of Fudge

In a constant quest to find new wines that will go down well with the wine loving enthusiasts I hosted a tasting at the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop in Barrhead, just outside Glasgow. And it was a very good run too as most of the wines were worthy of being included in the ever growing selection.
We kicked off proceedings with the Caruso and Minini, Terre di Giumara Inzolia. I had meant to use the Grecanico instead as I think it is a perfect wine to replace the omnipresent Pinot Grigios. I hadn’t tried the Inzolia before but it was equally good and the refreshing citrus flavours are perfect for what little summer we may have left. Next up it was a trade off between the Clos Henri – Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. It was either this one or its cheaper sibling the Petit Clos. We went for the big one and it proved a massive hit. The estate is owned by French wine domain Henri Bourgeois and they have deliberately moved to make a less aromatic and tropical version of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. There is a ripeness of fruit that gives away its new world characteristic with with a distinct old world elegance and charm. Is this as close as Marlborough gets to Sancerre? Judging by the reaction it was worth its £18 price tag.
For a mid-summer tasting we had to take the opportunity to bring in a new rose too. The Carteron Cuvee Elegance Cotes de Provence is a gorgeous dusty pink. A dry rose with a beautiful red fruit character that is light and elegant. Don’t expect a sweet, jammy new world pink here, but a wonderfully refreshing clean rose that would make a lovely match to a tuna nicoise salad
A wine that has proven consistently popular is the Familia Pacheco Roble, Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah-Monastrell from Spanish wine region Jumilla, just inland from Alicante. Known for its main grape variety Monastrell (Mourvedre) the blend of three varieties gives a wine that is modern in style. Lots of dark fruit and a bit of spiciness from the oak this drinks much easier than you would think at first. And that’s the danger, it’s dangerously good. Our quest continues with the Domaine de Moulines Merlot, Vin de Pays de l’Herault. The Cabernet Sauvignon from the same estate has been a hit for a while so it was time to put the Merlot through its paces. There is a distinct plum and sweet spice flavour here that should work well with things like casseroles or beef stew. Maybe one to stock up on for the winter.

Finally there is a red wine from the same region, Mas des Amours, Côteaux du Languedoc. Predominantly from the Grenache grape this is a very generous red with lots of dark fruits. Black cherry and blackberry come to mind and something called garrigue, which is the scent of the Languedoc region and is best described as a combination of lavender and provencal herbs.
Smooth and lively this wine took me completely by surprise with its great character and would make a perfect match to roast lamb.
As a bonus we had lined up a sweet wine, the Zuccardi Torrontes Tardio a late harvest wine from Argentina. Fortunately Joyce Brady from the Wee Fudge Company didn’t take too much persuading to come along and bring some of her amazing fudge that we could taste alongside the wine. The Raspberry and white chocolate fudge in particular made for a spectacular combination judged by the reaction of the assembled tasters. A wonderful sugar rush to finish the evening on
.