The Grapevine

A blog from the team at Great Western Wine

  • Chester Osborn: the man behind the loud shirts

    Chester Osborn, the flamboyant head of D’Arenberg Wines talks to Angela Mount about his winemaking ethos and his quirkily-named wines.

    Every picture tells a story, every Darenberg wine does too – let’s get the background….

    Tell me about the history of D’Arenberg

    My great-grandfather Joseph Osborn founded the business in 1912.  He had worked as Company Secretary for Thomas Hardy & Sons for 30 years.  At the time he had a stable of prized racehorses, which he sold to buy the vineyards in the McLaren Vale, and the business started from there. He was a lifelong teetotaller, but created a family dynasty.  The first winery was built in 1927; my father d’Arry renamed the business with his mother’s maiden name, and is responsible for the red strip across every label.  I’ve been involved in the business in some way or other all my life, and remember days in the vineyards and the winery from the age of 7.  I studied at Roseworthy, then took up the reins as Chief Winemaker in 1984.

    Your wines all have quirky, memorable names.  How did that start?

    That started in the 80s.  We were the first winery to use the word ‘noble’ for our botrytis wines, and ‘Old Vines’ also. Now the latter is almost a household term, but back then, we were the only ones.  It evolved from there.  The names give the wines individual personalities, and it makes wine consumers more emotionally connected, when there’s a story on the label.  It all adds to the fun.  The Money Spider Roussanne is named because our first crop of Roussanne in 2000 was covered in ‘lucky’ money spiders, so we had to delay a year.  Then there’s the Cenosilicaphobic Cat, a blend of Sagrantino and Cinsault, named after our old cat called Booze, who we noticed liked wine, but wasn’t allowed any – Cenosilicaphobic means fear of an empty glass.  And so it goes on. My latest is ‘The Old Bloke and Three Young Blondes’, a blend of gnarly of Shiraz, and youthful Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne, named after me and my three daughters. There is also the Athazagoraphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault, which is a tough one to pronounce, let alone understand. It means the fear of being forgotten.

    What’s the winemaking philosophy at D’Arenberg?

    Everything is organic and biodynamic;we pride ourselves on our heritage and that of the Mclaren Vale.  We own 500 acres of land, we work on a minimal input vineyard strategy, minimal irrigation, minimal spraying, and absolutely no fertilisation.  We also have very strict rules for the growers from whom we grow grapes.  We are making modern wines, whilst respecting the history and heritage of our estate.  The reds are still foot-trod, and we ferment everything in 5 tonne open fermenters, which were built in 1927.  Everything is basket pressed.  We play around with everything from the grapes in the vineyard to the blending and the names – each wine needs to have a personality and convey our ethos.

    You have 74 different wines, using numerous grape varieties, including a big focus on white Rhone varieties. What prompted that?

    We were the first wine producer to plant Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier back in 1995, when everyone else was simply planting Shiraz.  These are grape varieties that work well in the McLaren Vale, based on the climate and the soils.  We haven’t looked back since. We’re now growing Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro, Aglianico and Sagrantino; I’m hugely excited by these Italian grape varieties.  We’re also developing a new Mencia.

    What’s the next project?

    We’ve just launched that.  As well as being a passionate art lover and collector, I love great food, and I wanted to create the very best dining experience.  We have built the D’Arenberg Cube, a $13million project, with a restaurant situated in the middle of the vineyards, embracing the very best of cuisine and pushing the boundaries.  The idea came to me in 2003. It’s five storeys, glass, and looks like it’s floating over the vineyards, with 360 degree views, a sensory tasting room, a bar, and a 360-degree video room.

    What started your love of colourful shirts?

    My mother put me in a ridiculously colourful shirt when I was five, and it’s kind of stuck from there!

    And what’s your personal philosophy about wine?

    I’m deadly serious about wine whilst it’s in the winemaking process. Once it’s in the bottle, it’s all about fun. I love our wines, I love drinking them, I love telling stories. Everything should be colourful!

  • The Americas – Land of Discovery

    By Angela Mount

    Whilst Christopher Columbus is widely credited for discovering America, as he sailed the Atlantic en route to the Far East, the continent was actually discovered by the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and was named after him – a little known fact to most, but we love to give you these little nuggets of information, to pepper conversations! North and South America form an enormous continent, spanning 9000 miles from the most northern outpost of Greenland and Canada to the most southern tip of the Chilean islands, spanning both hemispheres, and every single climate, from arctic to tropical. Nestled within this massive continent, lie two wine producing swathes of land one in north America, one in south America, both producing a myriad different styles of wine.

    Let me take you on a whistle- stop tour of this fascinating continent from a wine perspective.  Canada is famed for its ice wines, where tiny proportions of frozen grapes are picked in the snow in January, with each tiny drop of concentrated, ultra sweet nectar, contributing to wines of intense concentration and swooningly irresistible lusciousness. Try Peller Icewine Vidal, with its intense honey and caramel tones, lifted by notes of candied orange and lemon peel.

    Moving south west, Columbia state and Washington state are the best known wine regions of north America, their cooler climate suited to the more fragile and temperamental grape types, which need careful nurturing, such as Riesling and Pinot Noir, as well as cool, elegant versions of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Established in 1934, the beautiful estate of  Chateau Sainte Michelle, was the founding winery of Washington State. Their multi- award winning wines shine with class, poise and restraint; a top favourite is Chateau Sainte Michelle Dry Riesling, a drier style than many Rieslings, with deliciously fresh  nectarine and citrus notes, floral aromas and a mouthwatering twist of lime on the finish. Perfect with smoked salmon, and mild thai and Indian dishes.

    Onto the most famous of North America’s wine producing regions, California, which produces wines of the most extreme variation; home of the big, amorphous, bland and sometimes simply awful big brands, from the Central Valley, but also to the carefully crafted, refined, complex and mesmerising wines of Napa Valley, and Sonoma County, to name but two.  The climate is hot here, although benefits from the cooling breezes and cold air wafting in from the San Francisco Bay.  This is where the sun babies of grapes thrive, grapes that like sunshine and heat, as well as the cool of the night, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and America’s ubiquitous grape, Zinfandel. My two choices, amidst a myriad of options are Cannonball Chardonnay, a shimmering golden wine, packed with peach and pineapple aromas and flavours, with a rich, underlying layer of vanilla and subtle toast, yet with incredible freshness. Perfect for roast chicken, baked salmon and the BBQ season.  Another firm favourite of mine is Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel, a red wine of voluptuous softness and depth, with intense flavours of raspberries and spice, with hints of dark chocolate, and a seductive, velvety charm. No harsh edges on this one; try it with steak, spicy curries, duck or simply a chunk of your very best cheddar.

    However there are more maverick wines to discover, and new areas of California to explore. J Lohr Wildflower is arguably the epitome of this with winery founder Jerry Lohr, buying land in the lesser- known regions of Monterey County and Paso Robles, and playing around with a mix of grapes until he found the optimum ones for his land. The Wildflower is a soft, juicy red, from the little known Valdiguie grape, light, fruity, and not dissimilar in style to Beaujolais, so for those who like a lighter style of red, this is the one for you. Spilling over with bright and breezy red berry flavours, and a delicious lightness; serve this chilled, to bring out the flavours.  Perfect with an alfresco platter of charcuterie and cheese, slow roast pork, and spicy chicken.

    New York State is now producing wines of increasing quality, but now we head south, across the Equator, to the southern hemisphere.  Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay all now produce some great quality wines, but the stars of the southern hemisphere are undoubtedly Chile and Argentina.

    The two countries could not be more different; Chile, a long, thin strip of land, nestled against the Pacific ocean, spanning over 2500 miles from the arid, desert-like north, to the fjords of the far south of Patagonia, home of dolphins, whales and penguins, whilst neighbouring Argentina , with Mendoza at its vinous heart, boasts everything from mountains, to the broad, flat plains of Las Pampas, home of gauchos and polo players, close to the vibrant city of Buenos Aires. The character of the people differs, as do the styles of wine.

    Whilst a high proportion of Chilean wine is produced in an area centred on Santiago, there are some outposts, which are producing world class wines, in different styles. 470km north of Santiago, lies the Elqui Valley, Chile’s northernmost wine producing region, with vineyards planted on hard rocky soil, often with the odd cactus plant for company.  One of the most famous wineries is Vina Falernia, a wine producer established in 1997 by maverick north Italian winemaker Georgio Flessati, who left the sophistication of his home to blow up rocks in a desert, and help create vineyards, which now produce world class wines, with vineyards rising from 350m, to 2000m, some of the highest vineyards in the world. Georgio makes wine with passion and with natural skill. The Falernia range is broad, but I find myself drawn each time to Vina Falernia Carmenere Reserva, a deep, intense red, made from Chile’s national grape Carmenere , but imbued with a touch of Georgio’s north eastern Italian roots, in a style reminiscent of Amarone with a proportion of the wine made from grapes that have been dried and concentrated to add richness and depth.  This is a huge wine, yet one with an irresistible softness, sensuous and beckoning in its depth and richness; crammed with intense flavours of super-ripe forest fruits, and overlaid with a smattering of warm spice and dark chocolate, it has a boldness; and a sweet core of fruit, which seduces. Plump and voluptuous, its velvety depth entrances. Perfect with BBQs, rich stews and slow-cooked lamb, its also a red to relish simply on its own, with a slab of top notch cheese.

    Moving southwards, and westwards, but still north of Santiago, lies the Leyda Valley, and the premium region of Casablanca, increasingly celebrated for its crisp, edgy whites, and gentle, soft Pinot Noirs – another cool climate area, within just a few miles of the Pacific. Here Vina Leyda creates magic with an arsenal of wines, including Vina Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, with its punchy, green apple and passion fruit verve and freshness, packed with hints of herbs and lime, with a minerally sea salt tang. It also happens to be fabulous value, at a mere £10.50, so if Sauvignon blanc is your thing, but you fancy a change from New Zealand, this is a worthy fridge staple for day to day drinking, especially in Summer. Enjoy on its own, or partner up with the freshest of seafood, pan-fried sea bass, and simple vegetable salads; pretty smart with baked goats cheese salad also.

    On the red perspective, another one for those who don’t like heavier styles of red – Vina Leyda Pinot Noir Las Brisas, a silky soft, enchanting, heavenly red, bright and juicy in style, crammed with lively, sweet  strawberry and raspberry fruit, with captivating aromas, and a gentle elegance of style. Chill this right down in the summer and enjoy on its own, or with a whole variety of dishes; its natural sweet ripeness makes it a perfect match to counter balance the spicy heat of Indian and Asian dishes, whilst it’s also a great red to try with fish, especially meaty fish such as swordfish and monkfish.

    And so to Argentina, one of my very favourite wine-producing countries, which seduced me on the very first of many visits.  A country of passion,  from the steamy tangos of Buenos Aires, to the passion of some of the most engaging winemakers I have ever met; 25 years ago, this country was only just dipping  its toe in the world of international wine,  with a tiny market share.  Fast forward and Argentina’s national grape, Malbec has become an international sensation, with sales rocketing, as more and more wine consumers embrace its full bodied, brooding style.  Today, there are a myriad different styles of Malbec, as winemakers explore, and plant vineyards higher and higher in the mountains nestled beneath the majestic Andes.

    But once again, there is far more to Argentinian wine than Malbec, lesser known, but equally delicious, which need to be discovered. Sticking with reds, branch out towards a slightly softer, velvety soft style, made from the Bonarda, still relatively unknown in the Uk, but the most widely planted red grape in Argentina. Estacion 1833 Bonarda, Trapiche, is a perfect example of this succulent, perfumed style, supple and generous with notes of violets and plump  forest fruits, still full-bodied but in a softer style than Malbec. Enjoy its richness on its own, or with baby lamb chops, spicy beef skewers and beef fajitas. Also worth a try is the peppery spiced Estacion 1833 Cabernet Franc, another delight from Trapiche, Argentina’s largest wine producer. There is a lovely freshness to this wine, which weaves its way through the dark, brooding fruit and spice, warm and inviting with a swirl of milk chocolate through its core, beckoning and sultry in its depth. Barbecued leg of lamb, peppered steak and spicy beef and black bean stir fry would all work well. Both these wines also offer incredible value for money, punching well above their weight in terms of character and depth of flavour.

    Whilst the country is better known for its reds, Argentina also produces a host of white wines, including the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. But its national white grape, is the fragrant, perfumed Torrontes, a wine still relatively unknown in the UK. Highly scented, it bursts over with aromas of honeysuckle, lychees and rose petals, and drenched with intensely fruity flavours. In the past there was a tendency for Torrontes to be heavy, and lacking in acidity, often with too high sugar levels; however styles have evolved, and Don David El Esteco Torrontes, is a perfect example of this new style, fresh and lively with lime peel zestiness, and racy acidity. Although relatively unknown, it’s a well hidden secret that this style is one of the very best ones with spicy food, such as chilli prawns, goan fish curry, and tandoori chicken.

    From the north to the south of this vast continent, there are jewels of all styles and quality levels to be discovered.  Enjoy!

  • Pretty in Pink

    Summer is upon us, and now is the time to drink pink. Rosé isn’t just for Summer, but this is when it comes into its own. Apéritif, al fresco lunch, spicy oriental food, seafood, salmon, you name it, it works.

    And just like fashion, there’s a shade and style for everyone, with shimmering pink colours, alluring aromas, and summer style flavours from all over the world. Just ensure you buy the freshest possible, and by that I mean the 2017 vintage – rosé is all about lightness and mouth-watering succulence.

    Here are my top tips for drinking pink this Summer…

    We have to start with Côtes de Provence, which has taken the UK by storm in the last couple of years, entrancing with its gossamer-pale peach colour, conjuring up images of sun-drenched Riviera lunches, azure skies and glittering blue seas. Château Sainte Marguerite 2017 (£17.95) is my current favourite, a top-notch pedigree rosé, organic, and carefully made. Gently exuding scents and flavours of wild strawberries and ripe lemons, its elegance and style shine through.

    One bottle of rosé is never enough between friends on a Summer’s day, so why not create the wow factor, with a magnum, in the shape of the beautifully crafted Château Gassier Le Pas du Moine 2017 (£29.50)? Its sleek curves and delicate bone-dry fruitiness are impressive and entrancing. Spot on with tuna nicoise.

    Staying in Europe, but moving to the sun-drenched island of Sicily, I’ve recently tasted the new vintage of Planeta Rosé 2017 (£11.95), whisper-pale and gossamer-light; it’s fabulously fresh, with crisp pomegranate and rosehip flavours tripping across the tongue. Gentle and very pretty. What to pair it with? Prawns, seafood, and platters of antipasti.

    Over in Spain and Portugal, there’s a trio of very different pinks to suit every palate. Ribafreixo Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé 2016 (£10.75) from sun-baked Alentejo, south of Lisbon, is ethereal and silky soft, as the name suggests, with tantalising aromas and flavours of wild strawberries and cream. Over the border, from one of Rioja’s elite producers, Ramon Bilbao Rosado 2017 (£9.95), another hauntingly pale pink, is arguably the best value rosé on shelf today, showing class and pedigree, wafting notes of summer fruits and lemon peel, with an irresistibly fresh yet persistent finish. Enchanting. More perfect pinks for summer al fresco living.

    Ramping up several notches on the colour spectrum is Mas Amor Rosado 2016 (£10.95), with its Barcelona graffiti-inspired label. A far deeper pink in colour, it’s nevertheless still bone dry, but bold, and packed with succulent raspberry fruit. This is a great match for spicy food, so think piri-piri chicken and tandoori prawns.

    The New World is equally clever with rosé, so to tempt you to explore, renowned South African winemaker Ken Forrester has come up with his great value Petit Rosé 2017 (£9.50), peachy pink in colour, with aromas of freshly cut watermelon, and mouth-watering red berry flavours, crisp and super-fresh on the finish. Fast-tracking across the southern hemisphere, New Zealand favourite Yealands Estate Pinot Noir Rosé (£13.95) is creamy in texture, with juicy, raspberry-scented fruit. Both of these would work well with salmon, prawns, or spicy BBQ pork steaks.

    Finally, Summer wouldn’t be Summer without some fizz. There is a raft of Champagne available, from Taittinger Prestige Rosé Brut NV (£45) to grower Champagne Gobillard Brut Rosé NV (£29.50), but to ring the changes why not support our very own rapidly-developing English sparkling wine industry by trying one of my favourites, Hattingley Valley Rosé 2014 (£34.50), from a solar-powered family estate in Hampshire. Sophisticated and supremely elegant, it outshines many Champagnes, with its fine mousse, beguiling red berry aromas and ripe, creamy and refined flavours. One to savour.

    For parties, look no further than Domaine de Brizé, Saumur Brut Rosé NV (£14.50), a remarkable price for this award-winning fizz from the Loire, lively and fresh, with crunchy cranberry and red apple fruit, citrusy and refreshing. You can’t go wrong with this one for large gatherings, and it will make a welcome change from Prosecco.

    The pink season is upon us; experiment, try new styles and enjoy!

    Angela Mount

  • Celebrating Sauvignon Blanc Day

    It’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day, so to celebrate, we’ve picked out the top expressions of this unique, exuberant and intense green-skinned grape in our portfolio.

    Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely planted wine grapes in the world, and because of this it has a wide range of styles and flavours. The name is derived from the French ‘wild’ (sauvage) and ‘white’ (blanc), which is not surprising considering Sauvignon Blanc originated in Bordeaux. These days, however, the grape is championed in New Zealand, a country which owes much of its wine reputation to the varietal. Here, it is a pungently herbaceous style, heady with the tropical fruit smells of a cool, prolonged fermentation, that has amassed a cult following. Of course, the extremely popular variety makes crisp, aromatic wines the world over – in France, its stronghold is the upper Loire, while in the New World, Chile and South Africa are crafting their own unique interpretations.

    The New Zealand Quartet

    Yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc 

    With lashings of passion fruit, this is the Pornstar Martini of the Sauvignon Blanc line up. The grapes for this wine are picked from two parcels of fruit from Yealands’ Seaview Vineyard, where Sauvignon Blanc vines are grown on New Zealand’s most coastal vineyard. The vineyard is exposed to some of the toughest growing conditions in Marlborough: high sunshine and wind, cool nights and low rainfall which produces a smaller, thicker-skinned berry with intense fruit flavours. This wine is a blend of fruit from two different blocks on the property – one warmer, sheltered inland block and a coastal block. The wine brings together in harmony the diverse spectrums of the blocks; the warmer site contributing the expressive aromatics and the cooler site giving the mineral backbone and length.

    The occasion: This wine is a true crowd-pleaser, and will find fans wherever it goes. Take a bottle to your next party, and you’ll be laughing.

     


    Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, Peregrine Wines

    This is an exuberant little number, just like the bird it’s named after. An elegant expression of the world-renowned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, its grapes are sourced from three premier Wairau Valley sub-regions, bringing distinct and consistent characteristic to every vintage. This is everything you’d want from a Sauvignon Blanc: passion fruit, mango and fresh cut lime aromas combine with fresh picked summer herbs and citrus notes.

    The occasion: Grab a rug, pick up some cheese, pack the basket, and bring this delightful wine along for a lazy weekend picnic.

    Man O’ War Estate Sauvignon Blanc

    Clinging to the rolling hills and cliffs of New Zealand’s Waiheke Island, each and every Man O’ War vine is carefully tended and harvested by hand. Fusing classic Old World techniques with innovative New World ideas, this wine is an exuberant expression of some of the classic New Zealand grassy herbaceous styles; fresh herbs, green capsicum, nettles and gooseberry on the nose, with some of the riper tropical fruits expressed on the palate. It conveys the volcanic influence in the soil through its minerality and elevated acidity, which is well balanced with texture from the barrel influence and ripe fruit tannins extracted from the skins in the cloudy ferments.

    The occasion: Impress the in-laws with the Kiwis’ finest take on a white Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc.


    Urlar Organic Sauvignon Blanc

    This distinctive New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has everything you want in bags – and is incredibly pretty to boot. Proudly family-owned, Urlar Estate produces outstanding single vineyard wines using organic and biodynamic principles. Urlar is a Gaelic word that means ‘The Earth,’ and in their wines the team is committed to bringing an abundance of life back to the ancient soils so we can discover the purity of flavour inherent in the land. This wine packs a punch with zesty gooseberry, pepper and lime flavours, with just a hint of passion fruit.

    The occasion: Drink this with the hipster in your life.

    The contenders

    Domaine Laporte Sancerre Blanc Les Grandmontains 

    New to the portfolio this year is a suite of svelte, saline Sancerres from Domaine Laporte, one of the most highly-respected estates in the Loire Valley. Les Grandmontains is characterised by delicate aromas of ripe fruit, fine, tight acidity and remarkable balance. A pleasantly surprising earthy edge gives the Sauvignon Blanc a funky character, which is lifted by the freshness and crisp texture. In the mouth the wine has a round, velvety and silky structure and a long, elegant finish.

    The occasion: This is not just any wine for any goat’s cheese. Laporte’s Sancerre is perfect poised to be enjoyed with a wheel of Crottin de Chavignol, the most celebrated goat’s cheese from the Loire Valley.

     


    Thelema Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc

    Our relationship with Thelema is rooted in history, stretching way back to the early days of Enotria. Over the years we’ve developed a special affinity for their wines which are crafted in line with a philosophy of benign neglect, including minimal fining and filtration. Thelema's cool climate Elgin vineyards are the perfect home for this classic Loire grape variety. The wine is light gold in colour with youthful flashes of lime green, while the nose has aromas of bell peppers and fresh crushed herbs. On the palate the wine is dry with a mouth-watering streak of minerals, with a layer of grassy gooseberry flavours that merge sublimely with a limey, crisp finish. Elegant and lengthy, this wine offers some lovely drinking at a very reasonable price.

    The occasion: Embrace South Africa’s beach-savvy lifestyle with this bright Sauvignon Blanc – the perfect surfer fuel, and ideal for a day at the beach.

     

    Colterenzio Sauvignon Blanc La Foa

    The hamlet of Schreckbichl (Colterenzio in Italian) is situated amid cool, vine-covered rolling hills to the south of Bolzano. Sourced exclusively from the single estate 'La Foa,' near Girlan, this exceptional wine is reminiscent of a fine white Bordeaux from Pessac-Léognan. Delicate yet complex scents of pink grapefruit, elderflower and honeydew melon lead to a palate that is at once crisp, fresh and satisfyingly creamy in texture. Beautifully refined, lingering finish.

    The occasion: Art lovers rejoice. Delicate and complex, the wine is adorned with an elegant label, rich in colour and texture. Once the wine has been polished off, the bottle will make a fantastic addition to any budding art collector’s gallery.


    Viña Leyda La Garuma Sauvignon Blanc 

    Casablanca Valley might represent Chile’s first intrepid steps into cool-climate production, but it’s Leyda that took a series of determined, confident strides. Just 14km from the vast Pacific Ocean, the Sauvignon Blanc here expresses a crispness, minerality and fine-boned structure not found elsewhere in Chile’s viticultural paradise. Benefitting from sea breezes and limestone and granite soil, La Garuma oozes class and style, and is sharp, citric and herbal, with a saline finish and marked acidity. On the nose, ripe gooseberry and grapefruit combine with fresh green lime and hints of green peppers, pea shoots and asparagus.

    The occasion: This Chilean take on the wild white is your answer to Summer sundowners around the campfire.

  • Malbec Moment

    There’s no question about it, Malbec is enjoying its time in the sun. But what is it exactly that makes this grape so loved?

    Utter the word Malbec, and Argentina immediately comes to mind. And rightly so, too. It’s the South American nation’s most popular varietal in volume and value sales, and in the last 10 years alone, Argentinian Malbec plantings have nearly doubled. There are just a handful of places around the world that produce Malbec, and Argentina is miles ahead of the pack.

    Here in the UK, we love Argentina’s full-bodied, versatile red grape. Indeed, more than half of the country’s exports shipped across the Atlantic Ocean destined for our shores are Malbec. Of the punchy grape, UK wine commentator, Olly Smith, says “Malbec is thought of as the Giant Haystacks of the wine world – burly, hefty and packing a punch. But while it can be as flavoursome as licking a blackberry the size of the Moon, Malbec is also a wine grape capable of delivering an intriguing range of aromas, from violet fragrance to gamey spice".

    According to Wines of Argentina, Malbec leads the field when it comes to attracting millennials – there’s no question it’s a grape in the zeitgeist at the minute. In recent years, Argentina has taken the UK wine market by storm, and in the process they’ve become the envy of other wine-producing countries.

    In light of this, we’re delighted to house some of the world’s leading producers of wines born from the sun-worshipping grape – Trapiche and El Esteco.

    Trapiche demonstrates precision winemaking at unbeatable price-points, showcasing Malbec at its best, whilst El Esteco, and its oxygen-starved altitudes reveals super-premium blockbusters.

    Our pick of the bunch 

    El Esteco Cuma Organic Malbec, Salta

    Made with organically grown grapes, this savoury red wine is a thrilling mix of dark, brooding fruit and fragrant, punchy spice. Cuma organic is a project born in 2005 with the objective to develop an agriculture and winemaking activity in harmony with the environment and the culture. Meaning pure and clean in the language of El Esteco's Aymará ancestors, Cuma expresses a commitment to continue with the legacy of the regions old Indian inhabitants and to preserve the environment for the next generations. Both practices in the vineyards and the winery have followed strictly certified organic processes, allowing the grape tp express itself in the most genuine way.

    Humberto Canale Estate Malbec, Patagonia

    Humberto Canale's Malbec shows off a very refined style, both in the nose and in the mouth. Its careful oak cask ageing gives the wine an ultimate dimension that turns it into an irresistible one. A full bodied wine, with complex structure and surprising notes of red berries, eucalyptus, spice and black pepper. After a year in the bottle, it becomes more unctuous in character, intense and concentrated. This is the ultimate wine to pair with Agentina’s emblematic “asado” (barbeque). It also shows off its style paired with all types of pastas and dishes with rich sauces.
    Trapiche Perfiles 

    Perfiles is an exciting and innovative project spearheaded by Trapiche's chief winemaker Daniel Pi’s, which truly explores the impact that a specific soil type can have on the final wine. The team has crafted two Malbecs – Perfiles Textura Fina and Perfiles Calcareo – to showcase the differences between vines grown on fine textured soils, rich in clay and silt (Textura), versus those grown on calcareous soils (Calcareo). These are wines that know it's what's beneath the surface that counts. Trapiche Perfiles profile Argentina’s diversity and elegance while stimulating the senses.
    El Esteco Don David Malbec, Salta

    David Michel was the key driver in the winery’s history. He was a pioneer in planting quality vines in the high altitude vineyards of the Calchaqui Valley, convinced this remote and exquisite region had the potential to deliver unique wines. This wine pays tribute to their founder's legacy. A medium-full bodied wine with notes of cooked plums, prunes and violets. Well balanced with soft tannins and notes of red fruits and hints of chocolate.

  • Perfect Pairings this Easter

    Be it a plethora of chocolate eggs, or a plate stashed high with fragrant spring lamb, wine writer Angela Mount has just the right selection of wines to make your Easter special…

    With slightly less fanfare than Christmas, Easter has easily become the second most important wine-buying occasion of the year. I love Easter. It’s an important family event, but has a more relaxed feel, with far less of the pressure of the Christmas period. It’s all about children, chocolate and relaxation.

    However, there’s still planning to be done, and this year, as I write, we have the added uncertainty of whether we will be enjoying the first weak rays of spring sunshine, or being battered by ‘mini beast of the East stage 3’. Whether you’re welcoming guests or whipping up a lavish Easter Sunday brunch, fizz is always a good place to start. Champagne and high-quality Prosecco are the safe bets, but why not step out of the comfort zone, and celebrate our own English heritage, with one of the many English sparkling wines that are currently flying the flag and staking their claim as world-quality sparkling wine, frequently beating Champagne in blind tasting competitions. Made in the same way, and with the same grape blend as Champagne, these English fizzes are true superstars.

    It doesn’t get much better than a treasured gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, so tuck into a few bottles of Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée NV (£29.50) the prized owner of this accolade, made at an eco-friendly winery in nearby Hampshire, with its golden hue, mellow, baked apple and cream character and rich, biscuity, lingering depth. Or pop over to Devon to try Lyme Bay, Blanc de Noirs 2014 (£26.50); fresh and lively, packed with pomegranate and red berry fruit, with hints of green apple - exuberant in its freshness and the perfect apéritif.

    For white wines, look for versatile whites that can ease their way through the Easter feast. Smoked salmon is a classic starter, so pick smooth whites which can sashay smoothly through the feast, especially if turkey is on the menu. My instinct here is to head for a smooth, elegant Chardonnay with creamy warmth, but bright, crisp fruit and verve. It doesn’t get more classic than Chablis, with its cool elegance, purity of flavour and edge of steely splendour; always a thoroughbred A lister.

    Pick either Chablis Defaix 2016 (£17.95), or Chablis Louis Michel 2015 (£18.95), for vibrant, crisp, stylish, and complex offerings with poise and depth, which are bound to please.  Time to splash out? Then opt for the simply outstanding Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2015 (£30.00); tasting more like a top Grand Cru, its top-notch balance of rich, creamy depth and steely finesse sets it apart with charismatic polish and sheer class

    Sticking with the Burgundian theme, slightly further south, and imbued with ripe, russet apple and toasted hazelnut allure, is the stunningly excellent value Domaine Paquet Macon-Fuissé 2017, an absolute steal at £15.50. For less classic, but equally bodacious chardonnay, head to the southern hemisphere; for those of you who still recoil from Chardonnay, due to the heyday of the over oaked Aussie brands, please give this much-loved grape variety another try, it’s a whole different ball game now, with pure, exotic fruit and citrus-driven styles abounding, with peach, pear, and creaminess to the fore. Australia’s Are You Game? Chardonnay 2015 (£12.95), and New Zealand’s Carrick Chardonnay 2015 (£16.95) are testament to this, infused with a delightful clarity of fruit and fresh vibrancy.

    Spring lamb is the classic Easter showstopper, so smooth, silky, medium-bodied reds are the order of the day. Lamb has a natural sweetness, cooked simply with a dusting of rosemary, or stuffed with herbs or dried fruit and spices. There are many options here. Rioja is an absolute classic, with Ramón Bilbao Vinedos de las Alturas 2014 (£13.95), one of the best deals around, its warm, dark berry and sweet vanilla edge oozing irresistible softness and charm – dangerously moreish, and will see you through the day. The sweet violet and black pepper spice style of Rhône wines are another good option, with Domaine de la Janasse Côtes du Rhône 2016 (£12.50) a vibrant, fresh style delivering way beyond its status. Think Châteauneuf at Côtes du Rhône prices. The charismatic Ken Forrester’s wildly spiced and richly warm Renegade Shiraz Grenache 2013 (£11.95) would be another great value option.

    Or rock the boat a little and head to Argentina; now world-famous for Malbec in the wine world, there is far more to discover from here. Sticking with the softer, velvety styles, I can’t recommend enough a current favourite, Trapiche Estación 1883 Bonarda 2015 (£11.95), Argentina’s wallflower. Mellow, sumptuous and fragrant, it has a naturally sweet, blackberry and dark chocolate core; elegant, balanced and perfumed.

    And so on to the star of the show… chocolate. From slowly savouring the most luxurious, truffle-filled, dark chocolate designer egg and revisiting the comfort of much-loved household names, to stealing a couple of the kiddies’ mini eggs, let’s face it, we all love chocolate, in one guise or another. Matching chocolate with wine engenders much debate and is highly polarising. But it can work. And does. The obvious choice is a sweet, unctuous, luxuriant dessert wine, such as the supremely stylish Italian Anselmi I Capitelli 2015 (£18.50 for 37.5cl); sleek and sophisticated in its charm, wafting notes of dried apricots, candied orange and honeycomb, yet with a refreshing edge. For pure indulgence of an intoxicating nature, sink into a glass of Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat (£31.00); dark toffee in colour, heady with the sticky richness of caramel, molasses, melted chocolate and dried raisins. You won’t need much of this, but it will take the indulgence of chocolate to a whole new level. But then again, it is ridiculously irresistible.

    Not into sweet wine, but love chocolate? Falernia Carménère Reserva 2015 (£13.95) should be the go-to red wine; think Amarone in style, with rich, brooding, black fruit, and a smattering of bitter chocolate and spice – seductively velvety, perfect with dark chocolate, and would double up nicely as a perfect red for slow roast lamb if we are still in the throes of arctic winter.

    Easter sorted! Enjoy.

    Angela Mount

  • Discover Ascheri – One Of The Jewels Of Piemonte

    By Angela Mount

    Most people who enjoy red wine have heard of Barolo.  However, I would hazard a guess that far fewer know where the wine comes from. They may also have heard of Gavi, but again, with little idea of where it orginates.  Great Western Wine are great at hosting events which combine superb wines, fantastic food, yet imbued with the opportunity for guests to learn, and the recent evening at the Abbey hotel was no exception..

    Ascheri is a family wine producer, now run by the ebullient Matteo, a larger than life personality, and the 6th generation of the family,  who delights in sharing his stories and his passion about his wines and his region.  Set up in 1880, the vineyards and winery in set in the small town of Bra, situated about 50 km south east of Turin.  Piemonte is the region, situated in north west Italy. Piemonte literally means ‘ at the foot of the mountains’ as the area is nestled between the French alps, and the Apennines.  It’s a land of great beauty, rugged on its northern slopes, softer and fertile further south.

    It’s also a land renowned for its food, home of the unique, exotic, perfumed white Alba truffle, and is a mecca for inveterate foodies in October, as they either join the hunt for these beauties, or enjoy the heady richness of the dishes created, showcasing this gem.  It’s a land where game is prized, wild mushrooms grow rife, and where Autumn is revered for the delivery of all this richness of produce.

    It also produces some of Italy’s very best red wines, from Barolo to Barbaresco, maverick, brooding, temperamental.  Matteo, passionate about his heritage and home region compares Piemonte to Burgundy; the region works with wines made from one varietal only, although in Piemonte’s case the grapes for which they are famous are grown solely on their home territory,and the region is peppered with small family producers.

    Matteo is intense in his love of his home region “We need to produce wines that are different and recognisable; the wines need to express terroir and their provenance”. It’s also all about wine to go with food.

    This comment, set the scene perfectly for the four course feast that was to follow. Ascheri’s Gavi di Gavi2016, was the appropriate aperitif, with its fresh, pure character of pears and ripe lemons, subtle and creamy. Made from the Cortese grape, fresh and lively; this was followed by Langhe Arneis 2016, Arneis being another regional white variery,  and spot on with a little amuse-bouche of softly sweet aubergine, topped with a slice of tangy local taleggio cheese and enhanced by the sweetest and intense of confit tomatoes.

    The Abbey’s executive chef Rupert Taylor then served a delicate starter of chicken agnolotti, plump little pillows of saffron pasta filled with thyme and lemon-scented chicken mousseline, served with crayfish, and shavings of black truffle. Piemonte is justly famous for its red wines, with the majestic, violet and licorice-scented Nebbiolo, reigning supreme. However Piemonte nurtures a number of other varietals, with the far lighter, bright Dolcetto at the other end of the spectrum. Ascheri Dolcetto d’Alba 2016 was an inspired choice for the gentleness of the dish; meaning ‘little sweet one’ in Italian, Dolcetto is a pretty, red cherry- stashed red, which trips over the tongue with charm; Lively, and approachable, it’s a delicious glass of fruit-driven wine, with zero oak, and simple, yet gently structured tannins to support. Perfect for red wine drinkers who prefers theirs light and fresh.  Next up ., a lighter interpretation of the grape, with its pale garnet colour. Aged for only one year, it has a smokey depth, yet a velvety lightness of touch, fruit-driven with a floral edge and hints of cinnamon , clove and black cherries to the fore. Rich and full, yet surprisingly light and fresh, it was another winner.

    The big guns turned out in force for the main course, a luxurious and perfectly delivered roe deer Wellington, with Bolognese, cavolo nero and crones. This sumptuous slice of perfection looked spectacular, the roe deer cooked rare, gleaming with its rich, red colour, cutting as softly as butter, and meltingly tender. Encased in a duxelle of mushrooms and rich madeira, and encased in a perfectly cooked pastry crust, topped with sesame seeds, it was a dish for kings.  Served with a juniper-infused Bolognese sauce, crunchy cavolo nero and tangy, nutty little crones ( similar to a tiny version of Jerusalem artichoke), it was impressive.

    As were the wines, in no uncertain terms.  To match this majestic dish, the king of Piemonte wines, Barolo was rolled out, in two forms.  Firstly Ascheri Barolo 2013, soft, silky and elegant, redolent of violets, truffles, smoke and prunes. Deep, yet silky and elegant, it offered elegance and a softness of style, with an inherent sweetness of character, which picked up the natural sweetness of the roe deer. Ascheri Barolo Cru 2013, is produced from a single vineyard, and only in the very best of vintages. Still a baby, with many years to mature, it nevertheless showed its promise, with the intensity of its charisma and complexity. Darkly rich, full of concentrated power it showed a glimpse of its potential, still chewy, but with a beautiful intensity, and the promise of things to come.

    Rupert Taylor is building somewhat of a reputation for the innovative style and quality of his desserts. For this occasion he put together a tangy mascarpone mousse, with a tart edge, to balance the sweet intensity of a baked chocolate mousse, sitting atop, with a crisp layer of baked honey with cocoa nibs to separate, a scoop of dark chocolate sorbet, and a caramelised honey shard. What wine to serve? Sometimes richness goes with richness of dish, at other times, contrast is the better option, which it proved here.  Matteo served a gently sweet, fragrant and refreshing Moscato d’Asti 2017, a frothy, delightful glass of gently sparkling loveliness, smelling of freshly crushed table grapes and lemon peel, deliciously fragrant, light, a perfect foil to the intensity of the dish.

    If you enjoy good Barolo, take time to delve into the richness of Piemonte a little more. It’s well worth the journey of discovery.

  • The Magic of Planeta

    Sicily is a seductive island, rich and diverse in terms of culture, cuisine, history and landscape. Separated from the toe of Italy by a mere 3 km at its most eastern point, from the western extreme, the tip of Tunisia is only 150 km away. On the eastern coast lies Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano.

    Planeta is arguably Sicily’s most famous, and leading wine producer, set up in 1985, and responsible for pioneering the development of high quality wine on the island, initially with established international varieties, but now championing local grapes, such as Nero d’Avola and Grillo.

    Sicily is a land of hidden surprises, and that includes wine, so when Great Western Wine announced a special wine dinner hosted by one of the family owners, Alessio Planeta, in conjunction with the Abbey Hotel, tickets sold out fast. Guests were treated to eight of Planeta’s wines, each matched carefully to a well curated menu by the Allium’s executive chef Rupert Taylor.

    We were greeted with a glass of Brut Metodo Classico NV, a vibrant, pinpoint pure and deliciously crisp fizz, mouth-tingling with its green apple, zingy lemon, and razor sharp freshness, served with a selection of Italian-inspired canapes.

    With two wines per course, we were in for a treat, and were not disappointed. To begin, Rupert Taylor and his team delivered the prettiest of dishes in the form of an autumnal starter of tender butternut squash,topped with a slice of tangy taleggio cheese, served with a smooth as silk mushroom puree, rosemary infusion, and enhanced by Planeta’s very own extra virgin olive oil, grown on their estate.

    Planeta Alastro 2016 was the first white wine served, named after a little yellow flower, grown around the vineyards. Fresh and delicate, it had evocative scents of orange blossom and ripe lemon peel, with its crisp citrus freshness tempered by a gentle creaminess, which married well and enhanced the richness of the dish. This was followed by my favourite white, Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2016, with a fascinating story. Planeta now have plots of vineyards on the mineral-rich black soils of Mount Etna, creeping higher and higher up the mountain, to a height of 800m. Sicily has a wealth of native grape varieties, that are now coming to recognition. Carricante is the key protagonist here, with a dollop of Riesling to add some aromatics and texture. It’s a stunning wine, bright and fresh, with depth, intensity and an exotic twist. Floral notes beguile, followed by a vibrant, ripe, bold flavour – think ripe Sicilian peaches and oranges, notes of citrus, with a hint of acacia honey.

    Next up an intriguing dish showcasing Chef Taylor’s sense of innovation; keeping with the Sicilian theme, a dish of squid tagliatelle, tender, but al dente, in fine, lissom strips, topped with intensely rich, sweet yet earthy wild mushrooms, silky, melting, yet textured, spiced up with a lashing of horseradish which added kick to the dish. The mushrooms were the dominant characteristic and need a soft, fruity, juicy red. We had two.

    Firstly Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2015, a lively, exuberant lifted cherry red, as the name suggests. Lively, yet silky soft, and packed with bright red fruits, citrus and herb character, it had a playful character, and enchanting lightness which offered a perfect foil to the richness of the dish. Secondly Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2014, another offering from the black soils of Etna, deep, brooding and sultry, with dark fruits, warm spice and a velvety finish, yet still sublimely soft.

    Image may contain: people sitting, table, outdoor, food and nature

    Staying firmly with the Italian theme, the centre piece on the menu was a rump of lamb, glisteningly pink, meltingly tender, with a salty, tangy black olive crust, wilted cavolo nero and a punchy salsa verde. This is where the red wine stars of the Planeta portfolio came into their own, and shimmered brightly. Santa Cecilia 2013, one of Planeta’s flagship wines, from the ripe, and generous Nero d”Avola grape. With dark, brooding blackberry, spice, fennel and bitter chocolate nuances, and hints of violets, its innate depth, complexity, and seductive smoothness brought out the sweetness of the lamb, and the tanginess of the olive and salsa verde. This wine is from the region of Noto, whereas for the second match took us back to Etna with Mamertino 2015, a recently rediscovered region, with intensity of plump cherry and plum fruit, bright and bold, but with a welcome freshness of touch, and a lively minerality derived from the volcanic soils. Savoury, and deep, it presented a different foil for the myriad flavours of the dish.

    Onto the finale, and a mini masterpiece by Taylor simply named ‘Goats curd mousse, blackberries, apples, oats and sorrel’. Pretty as a picture, it combined a gently wobbling, but perfectly set creamy mascarpone mousse, enhanced by the rich brambly flavours of dollops of blackberry sauce, balanced by the lively contrast of tangy green apple sorbet, with added texture from the sweet oat tuile. What to serve? Planeta’s luxurious dessert wine Passito di Noto 2016, sweet yet delicate and subtle, with a remarkable lightness. Made from intensely sweet grapes, which have been dried for four days, it charms with its cornucopia of candied lemon zest, apricot and raisin flavours yet with a cheeky citrus lift on the finish.

    Planeta have always been a favourite producer of mine and I have watched them pioneer and evolve the magic of Sicilian wine over the years. This evening did not disappoint.

    By Angela Mount

  • Christmas Cocktail Recipes

    Brandy Alexander

    • 50ml Remy Martin VSOP
    • 25ml Mozart Chocolate Cream Original
    • 25ml Double cream
    • Dusting of chocolate powder

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Add all ingredients except chocolate powder into a cocktail tin & fill with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass & garnish with a dusting of chocolate powder.

     

    Cinnamon Spiced Old Fashioned

    • 50ml Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Whisky, The Classic Laddie
    • 15ml Monin Cinnamon Sirop 70cl
    • 2 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Pour the whiskey & the cinnamon syrup into an Old-Fashioned glass. Now add two dashes of bitters & ice. Stir until combined. Zest orange peel, over the drink & drop it in with a cinnamon stick for garnish.

     

    Winter Negroni

    • 25ml Pink Pepper Gin
    • 25ml Campari
    • 25ml Regal Rogue Bold Red Vermouth
    • Orange slice with cloves and a slice of ginger

    Method

    Serves: 1 serving

    Pour all ingredients in to a double rocks over ice and stir slowly, add garnish and serve.

  • MIDDLE EASTERN MAGIC

    The magic of food is like fashion; ever changing, ever evolving, exploring new territories, and rediscovering old classics. Food goes hand in hand with wine, a symbiotic relationship. It’s no different from how spices, herbs, flavours combine, enhance, fuse, attract, and partner.

    There’s a lot of debate about wine and food pairing – whether it works, whether it’s important, whether we wine people get a bit over - obsessed with the whole subject. But it’s all about playing with flavours, styles, and enhancing the whole experience of enjoying food and drink, in a far more relaxed manner than simply wine tasting.

    I’ve always loved the challenge of matching just the right wine, with the right dish, and it’s only when you try it, that you find out how tastes and flavours can blend or clash so dramatically. Having matched up recipes from pretty much everywhere around the globe, the latest one has been a new one for me, since we are working with Iranian cookery school teacher Simi Rezzai - Ghassemi.

    Unlike the more heated, feisty flavours of Tunisia, Morocco, India and the Far East, there is a wondrous delicacy, subtlety, and sweet gentleness about Iranian food, and Simi’s cooking. Showcasing some classic dishes from her homeland, we’ve already had a little practice session to pair up the wines. I’ve given up protesting that my job is tough, since no one ever believes me, but this was genuinely a fun learning curve for me.

    To tantalise and tempt, here’s a teaser, and some suggestions for those of you who want to explore ideas at home.  The main rule is to keep the wines fragrant, aromatic, juicy, pretty, and evocative, just like the style of the food. Avoid the heaviness of oak in both whites and reds, and as I learnt, gentle, fruity dry roses are also great.

    Having said that Simi put me straight to the challenge, with a traditional broth called ‘Osh’, bursting with the heady fragrances of coriander, chives and parsley. I’ve always struggled with drinking wine with soup, it just doesn’t seem to work. But a punchy, lip-smacking, tangy small glass of Fino or Manzanilla sherry does the trick. The popularity of sherry is running high again, so join the revolution. Try La Guita Manzanilla, from the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, with its blazingly white houses, cobbled streets and seafront tapas bars, where the seafood is about as fresh as it gets. My idea of heaven. Crisp, tangy, with a nutty, salty bite, and searingly dry, it sends a tingle down the spine with its intensity.

    Another dish that Simi has created is ‘Kookoo’ a type of Iranian frittata, using more herbs, but also turmeric and walnuts, with the addition of punchy, crunchy barbaries, which bring both sweetness and lemony freshness. Wherever I can, I like to bring in wines from the region, and as Lebanon isn’t a million miles away, I’ve paired this with the zesty fresh, yet alluringly exotic Ixsir Altitudes White, a crisp, citrusy, white, from the Sauvignon and Semillon, enhanced by a dollop of perfumed Viognier and Muscat. Similarly any aromatic, fragrant white, with an off-dry edge would work.

    The beauty of Iranian food, like so much in Mediterranean and also Asian cultures, is the aspect of sharing; it’s all about families and friends. Beautifully fragrant rice, delicate saffron and lemon-infused chicken, the most gorgeously pretty of seasonal salads, packed with herbs and embellished with edible flowers, and a little accompaniment of yoghurt with thyme and rose petals. I’ve always loved dry rose wines with Middle Eastern food, in fact with most gently, and more intensely spiced foods. Most dry fruity pinks will work, you need bolder, fleshier New World style for hot dishes, but with the exquisitely tender style of Persian food, lighter, crisp European wines work to.  For this colourful, elegant feast, I’ve picked Chivite Las Fincas 2016, in its stylishly curvy bottle, gossamer pale, and exuding scents and flavours of ripe strawberries and cranberries, fruity, yet characterful, with a lingering citrus finish.

    Red wines also work, but they need to be soft, juicy, and velvety, with a lightness of touch. The softness of Pinot Noir works, as does the juicy style of Garnacha, but again, with the opportunity to staying close to Iranian roots, I’ve gone for a smooth, lighter style of  red from neighbouring Turkey, K of Kapadokia 2012, full of gentle, velvety plum and spice character, with a softness of touch. Turkish wines are getting a lot of attention in the wine world these days, and there are some real gems to be discovered, from one of the countries with the oldest heritage of wine production.

    By Angela Mount

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