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Tag Archives: wine advice

  • NORTHERN ITALIAN IDYLL

    Italy seduces at every level. The language, the culture, the cuisine, the landscape, the wines. Running over 700km from tip to toe, its multi-faceted, in just about every respect, captivating in its charm and beauty. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country and witness the wide diversity of traditions, food styles, climate, terrains and wines, and it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

    The wines are as diverse as the regions and the climate, from the cool of the northern Alps, to the searing heat of Sicily. Tuscany has long been a favourite holiday haunt, with its magical Castello’s, cypress trees, rolling hills, picture perfect vineyards, and olive groves. Chianti is world famous.

    But so is Barolo. Unlike France, where most people know the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, Italy, with more grape varieties than anywhere else in the world, and a plethora of styles confuses. Names are familiar to many, but locations less so.

    So this month I’m exploring the north west of this intriguing country, and putting a little bit of background to some of the most famous wines from the region. Piedmont, is the land of one of the most prized, evocative, expensive products in the world, white truffles, with their intoxicating scent and flavour, addictive to many; it is also famous for game, mist-covered mornings, spectacular autumns, a region boasting some of the most spectacular cuisine in the country. It’s about as far north west as you can get in Italy, nestled in the foothills (Piedmont means ‘foot of mountain’) of the soaring peaks of the French Alps to the west and north, and bordering the Mediterranean coastline of Liguria, the glittering beautiful Italian Riviera.

    Chianti and Barolo are the most famous Italian wines; the former is produced from the sour cherry and lively plum flavoured Sangiovese grape in Tuscany; the latter from the deep, violet and licorice- scented Nebbiolo, which reigns supreme in Piedmont, the home of Barolo. Nebbiolo is a maverick grape, capable of creating some of the most magnificently dark and brooding wines in the world, but also sulkily turning out thin, harsh, fruitless wines in poor vintages if not treated with skilled hands and craftsmanship. Knowing the right producers is crucial.

    Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2011 is well worth the investment for a wine of concentrated, unique depth and beauty. The 2011 vintage was a forward wine, and the wines will keep for years, but this shows a perfumed, beguiling elegance, redolent of violets and rich dark fruits, ending with a spicy finish. Silky, sensuous, with endless depth and complexity. An absolute classic.

    For a lighter style Barolo, try renowned producer Ascheri Barolo 2013, softer, bright, again with an intoxicating perfume, and more gentle, but perfectly formed structure.

    But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the red wines of Piemonte.  Barbera is the other main red grape of the region, softer, more feminine than the more muscular Nebbiolo.  For a great value, everyday drinking red try Amonte Barbera 2015 – bright, and breezy, with lively plum and cherry fruit, it’s a great midweek pasta wine, or great with a late summer weekend platter of prosciutto.

    For a bright, softer, juicier style, Dolcetto is Piemonte’s other red grape variety, cheeky, lively, more modest, and perfect for those who prefer softer, unoaked styles. Conterno Fantino Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Bastia 2016, is just the ticket, shimmers with bright ruby colour, and seduces with its ripe, juicy, opulent plum and raspberry character, and pure fruit character. Perfect with herb-dusted chicken, and slow roasted pork belly.

    White wines are often overshadowed in this region of red wine kings, with their heady character, but don’t ignore the delightfully elegant, creamy and smooth whites from the region. Ascheri Gavi di Gavi 2016, is squeaky clean, and taut as a finely-tuned violin string.  Oozing style and elegant restraint, it’s a super-cool, nervy dry white from the Cortese grape, produced by Matteo Ascheri, a vinous master craftsman. Creamy, refreshing, and packed with bright lime, grapefruit, pithy lemon and green apple character, it shimmers with zestiness and tang. Polished. Sophisticated. Try this one with all manner of seafood, lemon-infused seabass, and creamy prawn linguine.

    At the other end of the scale, from the Alba area comes the frivolously sweet Asti Spumante, derided over the years, but a much underrated, deliciously frothy, lively fizz. Equally good, Is Moscato d”Asti, in this Case Fontanafredda Moscato D’Asti Moncucco 2016, with its light, fragrant, honeysuckle-infused style – and with only 5.5% alcohol, a great lunchtime or afternoon alfresco drink.

    If you’ve played safe with Italian wines so far, know Barolo and Chianti, but haven’t experimented further, it’s well worth the journey to discover the lesser-known gems.

    By Angela Mount

  • NEW ZEALAND

    Beyond Marlborough Sauvignon

    Since the first commercial wines were released in the 1980s, New Zealand’s pungent, herbaceous, tangy, tropical-fruited style of sauvignon blanc has proven to be a smash hit, now accounting for three-quarters of NZ wine production and around 85% of wine exports - with the most famous and productive region, Marlborough, leading the charge.

    However, New Zealand is 1000 miles long with a latitude equivalent of Bordeaux to southern Spain, a diverse geography and geology (mountains, coast and volcanic plateaus), and a wide selection of grape varieties - so there’s plenty more here to be discovered.

    Central Otago is located in the south of south island. It’s the world’s most southerly wine region, plus New Zealand's highest altitude and most Continental (no vineyard here is more than 80 miles from the sea). Spectacularly beautiful - adorned with dramatic snow-capped mountains and blue lakes, this is also one of the world’s top spots for Pinot Noir, which thrives here. Relatively warm daytimes with high UV levels bestow the grapes with plenty of ripeness and flavour, which is locked in place by cool night temperatures - producing characterful wines full of vibrant ripe fruit flavours, depth and balancing acidity.

    I like the Mohua Pinot Noir 2014 from Peregrine wines, with lovely floral and fruity aromas and a juicy, quite rich, yet smooth palate where cherry and black fruit flavours combine with a savoury edge and a touch of spice - just the ticket for early summer drinking.

    'Central' also produces world-class chardonnay, and Carrick Chardonnay 2015 is a splendid example. Complex, elegant and fine. Deliciously ripe tropical fruit flavours and a lemon-like acidity are complemented by creamy, nutty notes and a lick of spice from fermentation and ageing in French oak. Classy and very much worth the money, it'll keep and develop in bottle over a couple of years, too.

    Around the art-deco Mecca of Napier in north-island is NZ’s oldest and second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay. A relatively large and diverse area, but perhaps best known for its age-worthy red blends made with classic Bordeaux grapes. The Crossroads Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet/Merlot 2011 uses top fruit from the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels sub-region. Yes, it’s big and pretty concentrated - but not heavy. Juicy blackcurrants and plums supported by a toasty complexity from French oak barrels. This would be perfect with roast lamb/beef or a juicy steak.

    The superb Man ‘O’ War Dreadnought Syrah 2013 hails from another large and diverse wine region surrounding NZ’s largest city, Auckland. It’s a warm and relatively humid here, but Dreadnought is produced a short boat ride away from the mainland on the winemaking island of Waiheke, where the climate is drier and the warmth is tempered by the cooling effects of the sea. This stellar Rhone-style syrah had me at first sip. Concentrated and rich, yet elegant, fine and balanced with a mineral touch. The seductive smoky and meaty/savoury characters mingle with blueberries, blackberries and black pepper spice. Awesome and age-worthy - if you can keep your hands off it.

    Tristan is hosting a NZ tasting on 14th June at Great Western Wine - tickets £15: Click here to book now >

    - By Tristan Darby - Bath Magazine -

  • Stylus Vinyl

    April: What's in the box...

    Our friends at Stylus Vinyl, who send out monthly subscription boxes of classic albums on vinyl paired with a great bottle of wine chosen by us, have nailed it once again.

    April sees Stylus’ first live album and champions everything that is great about the rawness of live music. Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison is the perfect example of that rawness. Cash brought the joy of music to the downtrodden, the unwanted of society and turned it into a number one hit.

    To pair with Cash’s slow and deeply melodic voice we have the Trapiche Estacion Bonarda | £11.95. Crushed blueberries and violets take the lead whilst soft vanilla spice, bitter chocolate and sweet liquorice dance in the background. There is depth, complexity and structure to this wine, with soft, supporting tannins, which provide a bold yet velvety structure.

    Both wine and voice have a crooning quality to them, an effortless rhythm that lingers with you long after they are finished. There is a seductive, calming tone to both music and wine, despite the key messages in both.

  • INTRIGUING IBERIANS

    This month is all about the profusion of vinous delights that emerge from the vast and varied Iberian peninsula; from sun-baked plains, to wild and wet mountainous terrain, Spain and Portugal’s wine regions offer up a veritable smorgasbord of styles, colours, and price levels. But you won’t find one mention of Rioja, Cava or Port in this column; these familiar names are already well-established;  instead I want to take you on a Hispanic wine tour outside your comfort zone – trust me.

    Nestled amongst the arid fields between Madrid and Valencia, lies Cuenca, best known, to date, for its sheep farming.  Cue a white wine with, appropriately, a sheep on the label; Oveja blanca Dry Muscat 2015 (was £10.75, now £9.46) is the brainchild of a family wine producer who has brought in the expertise of an internationally renowned Master of Wine and roving winemaker, has thrown the rulebook away and is playing around with new styles. This is dry Muscat, and when it says dry, it really is; floral, fragrant, it smells of pink grapefruit and fresh green table grapes, with a hint of delicate acacia honey. For those who love super-dry wines, don’t be put off by the Muscat name – this is bone dry, with ripe peach fruit and a searingly crisp finish.  I tried this with a Lebanese sweetly-spiced fish dish, and a platter of Middle-eastern mezze with tahini dip – spot on, and fabulous value.

    Skipping over the border to Portugal, let’s head first to the northern region of the Minho.  Now, the words ‘Vinho Verde’ may cause shudders in some readers who remember the old guard of Mateus Rose and insipid sweet Portuguese whites. Track forward three decades, and true, authentic Vinho Verde is making a welcome comeback. Crisp, bone dry, with an edge of spritz, these wines are at their best drunk very young, very fresh, and with the added bonus of being far lighter in alcohol than most dry whites. Quinta da Lixa, Vinho Verde 2015 (was £8.95, now £7.88) sits at a refreshing 10.5% alcohol, and is as fresh as a daisy, with lipsmacking lemon and lime crispness and the crunch of granny smith apples.

    Staying in Portugal, but moving south, the Dao, one of the country’s oldest, most traditional, but now frequently-overlooked regions, lies south of Oporto and the  more famous Douro Valley.  Until recently the red wines had a reputation for being tough and chewy, but now styles are softening, as exemplified by International Wine Challenge Silver medal winner A Descoberta 2013, Casa da Passarella (was £10.50, now £9.24). This gorgeously rich, voluptuous red is enveloping in its irresistible warmth and charm.  Dark, rich and brooding, flavours of ripe blackberries, sweet mulled wine spices, black cherries and dark chocolate, trip across the tongue. I can’t think of anything better with slow-cooked roast lamb and rich game dishes at this time of year.  Portuguese red wines are still often undervalued and underrated – let this one seduce you.

    No wine piece about Spain is complete without including Sherry, one of the most misunderstood and underrated drinks around. Sherry is having a well-deserved revival, especially in tapas bars, after years of being relegated to the drinks cupboards of great aunts and grannies. From Jerez, in the deep south, the land of Flamenco and heat, and close to Seville, this golden wine is totally unique.  There are several styles – Fino and Manzanilla are searingly dry, and simply the best aperitifs on earth, to be drunk icy cold – ideally with a bowl of olives, salted almonds or a  prawn or two.  Best bought in half bottles, to keep it at its freshest,salty, tangy, characterful and unique La Guita Manzanilla NV(was £5.75, now £5.06) is mouth-wateringly crisp – once smitten, never forgotten.

    Luscious, treacly-sweet La Luna PX (was £8.95, now £7.88 for 37.5cl)  is just one other fabulous Sherry, as intensely sweet as the Manzanilla is dry.  If you fancy a spot of wine and chocolate matching, come and try this, amongst other wines of all styles, at an early evening tasting, at the Igloo, Abbey Hotel, where Spencer Hyman, founder of artisan chocolate company Cocoa Runners, and I will be proving the point that these two favourite treats can work extremely well together.  For anyone who loves both wine and chocolate, don’t miss this - Click here to book tickets online

    Salud!

    All Spanish and Portuguese wines will have at least 12% off the normal price throughout February, with 20% off case purchases.

    By Angela Mount - Bath Magazine, February 2016

  • Ring the changes this Christmas

    Christmas WineStuck in a wine rut?  Bored with the same old tried and tested?  Dare to be different this Christmas with a selection of wines that will keep you in your comfort zone of style, but may tempt you to try a few new gems.

    At their recent, sell-out Portfolio tasting, Great Western Wine introduced a new add- on –  the wine walks.  Every half hour a group of guests who wanted to explore new wines but needed a bit of direction signed up for a 20 minute wine speed- date; call it personalised wine shopping if you will.  They told me the styles of wine they liked, we went and found something similar, yet completely different to their norm.

    Fascinating; it got guests trying wines that they admitted, they would have ignored otherwise. My point; if you’re not sure, ask advice, and don’t be afraid of branching out, be it from Sauvignon blanc or Malbec.  And the proof?  Guests loved the new wines they were guided towards, and sales indicated that the new discoveries were some of the most popular of the evening.

    Here’s a quick guide for ringing the changes this Christmas including some that you voted favourite of the night at our October tasting

    Estacion 1883 Bonarda, TrapicheIf you like Malbec…. Dare to be different by staying with Argentinian wine, but trying out Argentina’s most widely grown, but lesser-known grape variety, Bonarda.  This proved hugely popular with Malbec-lovers at the Portfolio tasting.  Estacion 1883 Bonarda, Trapiche 2014 ( £11.95). Similarly rich, and sultry, Bonarda is the softer side of Argentinian reds – Packed to the brim with meltingly tender, seductive blackberry fruit, hints of violets and a smooth, spicy finish.  Bold, brazen, and with just as much personality as Malbec, but with a hint of softness. If Malbec is the muscular male lead in an Argentine tango, Bonarda is the feisty, seductive and entrancing female. Oh, and perfect for the festive feast!

    If you like fruity whites … Some of the most popular requests on the tasting night, were to search out fruity whites. Wines that are not overly acidic, dry, but with more richness than many; succulent, full of flavour, great on their own  or with food. Two of the most popular wines on the night were lesser-known, deliciously mouthwatering whites that ticked all the boxes -  Yealands Estate Pinot Gris 2016 ( £12.95) – this is not a New Zealand version of Pinot Grigio, this is a vibrant, dynamic gem of a white, jam-packed with style and flavour – fleshy peach, ginger, nectarine, nutmeg, wild herbs, honeysuckle, with a lipsmackingly crisp finish – you name it, it’s probably got it.  This is one of my top choices for a white with Christmas lunch.  The other , lesser-known discovery of the night takes us back to Argentina Don David Torrontes El Esteco 2016 (£11.50).  What’s Torrontes? it’s Argentina’s white grape equivalent of Malbec, but far less known.  If you like aromatic, spicy, yet citrus-fresh whites, such as Riesling, give this one a try.  Exotic, fragrant,rose and apricot aromas almost trick the senses, and you might expect a sweeter style of wine; but don’t be fooled. This crisply fruity white has attitude, character and a killer finish ( back to my Argentine tango analogy!).  Our wine walk guests loved it – classy, bursting with as much tropical fruit character as could be packed in, and then soaring to a crescendo of  lemon and lime streaked freshness and zestiness on the finish.  Another top white wine match for Christmas – salmon, seafood, goose, turkey.  This one can take them all on.

    Planeta, Cerasuolo di VittoriaIf you like soft, lighter reds -   it’s not always easy to whittle out these styles, although Pinot Noir is the obvious route if you don’t like heavy reds;  quite frankly, I often prefer a more gentle, less assertive red, which isn’t overloaded on the alcohol or tannins front, but has a vibrant, juicy fruitiness, especially at Christmas time, with the overload of rich foodCerasuolo di Vittoria 2014, Planeta (£15.50) is just the ticket. Cerasuolo means cherry, and this is exactly how this wine tastes. From a blend of the Sicilian grapes Nero d’Avola and the lively Frappato, it’s bright, bouncy, and crammed with lively, juicy cherry and strawberry fruit, with a soft, velvety yet fresh flavour, a modest 13% alcohol, and a refreshing edge which will perk up jaded taste buds over the festive season.

    Happy Christmas!

    By Angela Mount

  • Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

    Gerschwin’s iconic ballad epitomises the lazy, hazy days of the summer vibe, regardless of our British weather. Alice Cooper’s more rebellious ‘ School’s out for Summer’ and Madonna’s early disco classic ‘ Holiday’ offer different takes on the musical theme for Summer hols – laid back, upbeat, off-beat…. Diametrically opposed styles… and it’s no different with wine.

    Whatever the mood, there’s a wine to match; whether you’re going abroad or on staycation, there are wines to greet you at the end of the day, or for weekend picnics, and evening bbqs. Personally,for an early evening pick me up, I’m ever more tempted to sink into the increasingly impressive range of on-trend gins that Great Western Wine have just started to stock, but that’s for another blog

    First up, let’s look at wines that work for picnics and alfresco lunches, be it at the beach, by a river, or in the garden – keep it light, keep it fresh.  What you don’t want is rich, oaky Chardonnays, and full-on, meaty reds at this time of day.  Go for crisp, refreshing wines that will keep the mood high.


    Domaine de Brizé Saumur Brut RoséPink Fizz is never more popular than at this time of year, but go off-piste, try something new,yet still get great value for money with a lesser-known gem. Saumur Rosé NV, Domaine Brizé  (£12.95 down to £11.50 throughout August) – far better value than pink Champagne and more interesting than most other pink sparklers – from the Loire valley, deliciously fruity, bursting with ripe strawberry fruit, bone dry, with a citrus squeak, and utterly perfect for Summer – and made on a small family estate by people who nurture what they create.  Stick this bottle in a tub of ice and enjoy the glories of the beautiful Loire valley.


    Quinta da Lixa, Vinho VerdeKeeping it light at lunchtime is important; modern style Vinho Verde is making a big comeback – squeaky clean, bone dry, and mouth-puckeringly fresh, the prettily-labelled Quinta da Lixa Vinho Verde 2015 (£8.95), with its delightfully crisp, green apple and grapefruit zestiness, and teeny touch of spritz, is the epitome of summer. And at a lowly 10.5% alcohol, it’s pretty much perfect for picnics, especially with its screwcap top.  Pack it in the hamper or rucksack in a chilled wine sleeve; for emergency chilling if you’re close to a river, take a length of string, tie the bottle to an overhanging branch and chill it down in the water!  Forget picnic sandwiches, pack up salads of feta, tomato and mint, and chargrilled prawns.


    Château Gassier 'Le Pas du Moine' Côtes De Provence RoseThe delicately pale Cotes de Provence wines are riding the crest of a wave of popularity, and nothing is more spot on for Summer drinking. Award-winning Le Pas du Moine Chateau Gassier 2015 (£13.95) fits the bill, with its delicate, strawberry and citrus flavours, and scents of pomegranates, wild herbs and raspberries. Surprisingly creamy, with lovely depth, you can’t beat it for laid-back, alfresco entertaining, especially with seafood, Tuna Nicoise, olives and tapenade.


    Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria

    For those who love a glass of red at lunchtime, here’s a holiday classic:

    Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Planeta 2014 (£14.05 down to £13.50 in August) –  Bright as a button, cheery, cheeky, and fun-loving, this is my go-to Alfresco lunchtime red – a Sicilian beauty, from the leading winery on the island, the revered Planeta, who have done so much to transform the reputation of Sicilian wines across the world.  Don’t expect dark and brooding, this is a wonderfully light, upbeat, zippy juicy red, bursting with ripe raspberry and red cherry scents, with a deliciously fresh, red berry fruit flavour. Chill it down and then enjoy with platters of charcuterie, Mediterranean salads, and even English style pork pies!

    Happy holidays

    By Angela Mount

  • Demistifying Chablis

    What is Chablis? Is it a brand, is it a region, is it a grape variety?  Everyone’s heard of it, but not everyone knows what it’s all about. And it’s even more confusing, when the already complex French labelling add in various monikers, such as ‘Petit Chablis’, ‘Premier Cru’, ‘Grand Cru’, and a variety of vineyard names.

    No wonder many people get confused. The labelling isn’t easy to work out, and the prices go from great value to soaring off the radar; and there isn’t one style. There’s fresh, citrusy, tangy Chablis; there’s the rich, buttery, creamy style; and there’s the downright nasty and green style.

    Because Chablis is so well-known, many wine drinkers assume they know what it’s all about, and don’t like to ask, for fear of looking silly.  I’m sure there will be many reading this piece who know the ins and outs, but equally, many who don’t.  So here’s the simple guide to deciphering Chablis.

    First of all, let’s deal with one of the most frequently-voiced misconceptions about Chablis.  Ask any audience which styles of white wine they like, and there will inevitably be more than a smattering of ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’.  However, ask the same group if they like Chablis, and they will nod and approve.

    Fact number one – Chablis is produced 100% from the Chardonnay grape. A lot of damage was done to the reputation of Chardonnay by the influx of cheap, over-oaked Australian Chardonnays 15 years ago, and the grape has unfortunately become stereotyped to far too many.  But Chardonnay is a marvellous grape; capable of creating some of the most sublime wines in the world.  It is the ONLY grape variety allowed for Chablis, and indeed all white Burgundies, from the most humble, to the stellar reaches of some of the most prized, and coveted white wines in the world.

    Fact number two – Chardonnay doesn’t have to be oaky, and full of super-ripe pineapple fruit flavours.  Chardonnay can be nervy, highly-strung, poised and haughty, with an aristocratic, steely, restraint, and thoroughbred structure – if well made.  Chardonnay is a very friendly, adaptable grape, which adapts to its environment, and in Chablis the move is increasingly towards totally unoaked wines.

    Chablis is a region; it’s the most northern area of Burgundy, in fact separated by about 100km (to the north) from the rest of Burgundy.  In geographical terms, it’s only 4 degrees south in latitude from London, even less from the Kent and Sussex coast.  So it gets cold; very cold.  The grapes keep their freshness and their acidity, and couldn’t be more worlds apart than their Australian counterparts, who bask in the hot sunshine and yield up voluptuous, tropical styles of wine.  These weather conditions can however be risky business; harsh spring frosts can devastate vineyards and decimate the crop for the year.

    This in itself, is where danger can lie; there are still many producers, keen to hop on the Chablis bandwagon, who are making thin, green, acidic wines from grapes that haven’t ripened properly.  So it’s important to know what you’re buying and from where. There are a couple of incredible co-operatives in the region, where small growers bring their grapes; there are also the big well known Burgundy houses, who buy up the grapes and make the wines their own.  There are also some fabulous growers, who are committed to making their own wine from the grapes that they cultivate and nurture. These are family businesses, which have been passed down from generation to generation, and are the lifeblood of Chablis.

    What are the styles of Chablis, and what on earth does the complicated labelling mean?  French wine law demands wines to be labelled by region, and within this by sub-region – a vinous equivalent of the Russian Babushka nesting dolls, which fit neatly inside each other, becoming increasingly smaller.  It’s the same with Chablis!

    Domaine Bernard Defaix ChablisThere are four tiers of Chablis.  Let’s start with the core Chablis – an area, spiralling out from the town of Chablis.  Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2015 is a cracking example of lovingly-crafted, well made Chablis, produced under the watchful eyes of two brothers, who manage the family firm.  With not a whiff of oak in sight, it manages to  combine racy lemon and green apple freshness, with a bold, ripe, creaminess of ripe orchard fruits. Elegant, poised, and balanced, good Chablis works well with creamy fish pie; the freshest of oysters, and langoustines; and is also a dead cert and posh choice for fish and chips.

    Domaine Louis Michel, Petit ChablisPetit Chablis is the simplest, and most lowly of the Chablis denominations – but actually, for those in the know, frequently some of the best value Chablis out there. It’s viewed as the least prestigious of the Chablis tiers, because of the less favourable locations of the vineyard sites, but these days, wine makers are turning out some deliciously fresh  lemon and lime-tangy dry whites, at cracking prices. Domaine Louis Michel Petit Chablis 2015 is a classic example; this family business, running since 1850, switched to modern, unoaked styles about 25 years ago. The Petit Chablis is refreshing, and lively, full of crunchy apple, and lemon zest character, and a zingy, steely finish.  These styles work well with all manner of seafood, chargrilled prawns, crab salad, sashimi or a bowl of steaming mussels.

    Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Les VaillonsMoving up the scale, wines labelled Chablis Premier Cru are a step up. The complicated French laws mean that wines from 89 different vineyards, deemed to produce higher quality wines can be called Premier Cru.  Some of these Premier Cru names are well known, such as Montmains and Vaudevey.  Domaine Defaix Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014 is one such example – a ripe, buttery style of Chablis, with real personality and finesse; plump, supple, yet still with that characteristic steely edge.

    Domaine Louis Michel, Chablis Premier Cru ForêtsLesser known, but equally impressive is Domaine Louis Michel Premier Cru ‘Forets’ 2012, which recently won a gold medal at the prestigious Sommelier Wine Awards in London – rich in texture, yet mouth-wateringly dry, it has elegance, and a cool, steely edge , overlaying deliciously creamy baked apple fruit.

    Premier Crus Chablis are perfect with richer styles of food, and classics would include salmon with hollandaise, pan-fried scallops, and simply cooked sole or sea bass in a butter sauce.  They’ve also got enough weight to handle herb-roasted chicken, and a great match for the local soft cheese Chaource, as well as brie and camembert.

    Finally, at the top of the tree sits the majestic Grands Crus; wines produced from only 7 vineyards, deemed to be the pinnacle of excellence, due to location, topography, soil type and more.  Don’t be surprised if you see lots of grands crus from different producers.  They may be individual vineyards, but within these, there are lots of small plots and different owners (yet more complications of French Burgundian law).

    These wines have finesse, elegance, poise, and a lingering and beguiling complexity.  These are wines to keep, and their structure will have been enhanced by careful use of oak.  If you’re a fan of top Chablis, buy a case or two, try one bottle, and then pop the rest away and try a couple once a year, as they evolve, and go on the journey with them.  Domaine Louis Michel Grand Cru Les Grenouilles 2013 is imperial in its style, verve and freshness, with deep, brooding layers of intense minerally flavours, and a piercing edge to balance the depth of character.  An absolute classic.  Domaine Defaix Grand Cru Bougros 2012 is equally stylish, with entrancing aromas of toasted hazelnuts and baked apples, and a simply gorgeous, aristocratic elegance and depth, with richness, but without ever losing the classic Chablis steely edge.  Wines to be treated with the respect they deserve.

    What to drink with them?  Bring out the very best you can – Lobster; the creamiest of langoustines, juicy scallops, rich chicken dishes, or the very best of soft-rind cheeses.

    Chablis – complex, complicated, but in a class of its own.

     By Angela Mount

     

     

     

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

     Man O' War Gravestone Sauvignon Semillon 2012

    Man O' War Gravestone Sauvignon Semillon

    Taking it’s name from the fluted basalt boulders that solemnly surround our volcanic hilltop vineyards, Gravestone is bequeathed upon the finest blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon we are blessed with each vintage.

    Intense aromatics of guava, gooseberry, nettles and black currants dominate with undertones of lychee and chalk dust. The palate is fresh and vibrant with high natural acidity balanced by weight, texture and a long persistent finish.

    Was £19.50
    Now £17.16 

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles
    Prices are valid until 26.04.16

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro Reserva, Old Vines 2013

    Alan's Wine of the Week

    Hugely intense and lifted aromas of spice, black forest fruits, combined with fresh ripe plum. A rich full and round palate of great power and balance, dense and textured with berry fruit characters, with integrated oak tannins and great length.

    Was £19.95
    Now £17.56 

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles
    Prices are valid until 29.02.16

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Lezcano Lacalle Maudes 2012

    Lezcano Lacalle Maudes 2012

    The wine is a deep cherry colour with prominent legs. The nose bursts full of black fruit, currants and blackberries with a spicy toasty edge. The palate is round and long with firm, silky tannins.

    Was £12.50
    Now £11.00 

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles
    Prices are valid until 29.02.16

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