Ribera del Duero – Pagos del Rey 2011

Autumn Wine Choice 2016 – one to savour!

idshot_540x540With a new contact and friend, resident in Catalonia I am being educated in the fine wines of Spain without being drawn exclusively to the celebrated wines of the Rioja. Availability of some of my favourite wines in this category amongst my regular suppliers in E. Scotland remains a challenge. This said I am not one to be beaten and find that my local supermarket and the ever-reliable Majestic has a fine Ribera!
Ribera del Duero was rewarded the accolade of Wine Region of the Year in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. The vineyards are located in Spain’s northern plateau on the course of the Duero river. Wine has been produced here for over 200 years, however the Denominacion de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero was first awarded in 1982. I must say that I find it particularly encouraging to see that fine wines from these less well-known localities are being imported to the UK so that wine lovers over here can enjoy them.

Wines produced in this region are almost exclusively made from red grapes and they are almost entirely made from the Tempranillo (locally known as Tinto Fino) grape. When choosing Ribera del Duero wines it may be helpful to understand the ageing requirements set out by statute:

Wines labelled Crianza must age two years with 12 months in oak. Reserva wines must be aged at least three years with at least 12 months in oak. The Gran Reserva wines labelled wines must spend five years aging of which 2 years being in oak. My own recommendation is a Reserva from the producer Pagos del Rey and the wine maker is Alberto Viyuela. It is a full-bodied rich wine just as well suited to be drunk on its own or with a meal of perhaps roast lamb or delightful Spanish cured hams. Initial aromas of ripe plum and spice are accompanied by a palate of fruit and light vanilla.

A Summer Wine to Celebrate

Bottega Vinai Trentino – Gewurztraminer DOC

gew0711This is a guaranteed favourite for all those lovers of this exquisite grape more commonly offered from the Alsace or the New World. Having studied in Northern Italy on the shores of Lake Garda, I was able to explore the localities around this part of N. Italy. I had the opportunity to take part in a Wine Festival in Tramin (Termino-Italian) on two occasions, a lot of fun and highly recommended if a taxi is available! It is believed that this famous grape owes its origin to this part of Trentino – Alto Adige and it is a splendid area to explore, within breathing distance of the Dolomites. As you travel by car from the Brenner Pass on an elevated section of the Autostrada you can look down on the intensive cultivation of fruit and vegetables and admire the steep South-facing hillsides of vineyards.

I am particularly attracted to the dry expression of the wines made with this grape in these parts. My supplier in Scotland is Valvona and Crolla and their tasting notes cannot be improved upon, “intense and persistent on the nose, bright straw-yellow with golden hints. On the palate it is elegant and structured with hints of honey, lychee and exotic fruit”. If a little time can be spared to take in the tasting notes as one enjoys this wine I would challenge the reader to try and identify these fruits, a most rewarding experience. I can savour this wine when accompanying it with a well-chosen Bergkase (a firm mountain cheese) local to the Dolomites. A favourite of mine is the outstanding cheese from Sexten (Sesto), a wonderful cheese monger with a fine range of cheeses made from milk produced from the richest of alpine meadows!! What could be finer?

Supplier: www.valvonacrolla.co.uk

Winter Wine Choice 2015

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Torre del Falasco 2012 – DOC

Grapes-growing-in-Valpolicella-regionFollowing an unforgettable period of work experience on the shores of Lake Garda, Italy I became naturally familiar with the local customs, cuisine and wine. Of the latter, I guess the customary choice would be a Bardolino house wine, while a Valpolicella seemed to be a stage higher! The recommended wine belongs to a viticultural zone in the provence of Verona, east of Lake Garda. The hilly agricultural terrain is also home to a famous marble-quarrying industry but is most famous for wine growing. Valpolicella ranks just behind Chianti in total DOC (Demominazione di Origine Controllata) wine production. If I remember correctly, a Ripasso wine was chosen to accompany a rich Pasta dish or sometimes a sweet course and as I taste this wine whilst writing I can see why this choice was made. Quite splendid accompanying my wife Alison’s Genoa Cake!

In the late 20th Century a new style of wine known as Ripasso emerged in this region. It was created by taking the left-over grape skins and seeds from fermented Amarone for the second fermentation. In short, 90% Corvina and 10% Rondinella grapes are harvested from the steeply terraced hillsides and brought to the winery. They are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks where maceration will last for 10 days. A second fermentation takes place on the skins (or “pomace”) of Amarone and the wine will remain in large oak barrels until bottling. What is all this about? The Ripasso process of second fermentation creates a richness that is lifted beyond a traditional Valpolicella Superiore relising a taste of dried cherry and rich plums followed by hints of mocha and dark chocolate. This is a no-nonsense 14% with a full-bodied palate. There is no doubt that the Ripasso method creates an extra raisin and candied peel long finish.

My recommended wine received a Gold Medal from the International Wine Challenge of 2014 (UK)

Wine Choice Summer 2014

Pecorino – Terre di Chieti


For my wife, Alison and me, a real treat is to go out for a meal to our local Italian restaurant, the award-winning Osteria in North Berwick. To accompany our recent meal we chose a Pecorino wine, a grape we were hitherto unfamiliar with. I was accused of getting confused with the well-known Italian, sheep’s milk cheese! The owner soundly recommended the wine and, following the meal, we both decided that it would remain a firm favourite amongst our many preferred Italian white wines.

Having carried out some research into this grape variety, I was interested to note that it produces rather low yields in the region where it prevails (by comparison with the Trebbiano grape), which rather unsurprisingly makes it less popular among winegrowers. However, because of its ability to ripen early and its complex aromatic “nose”, it has earned a continued presence in the vineyards of the Abbruzzo and Marche regions. My recommendation is chosen with availability in mind and may be purchased from Tesco. There are a number of fine Pecorino wines available from alternative supermarkets and also from the splendid emporium for Italian food and wine, www.valvonacrolla.co.uk,  but I have not yet tasted them.

When tasting a wine I am often surprised or captivated by its colour and this was very much the case with my first experience with the Pecorino grape. Its straw-yellow colour suggested some aging but this was not the case as it was a relatively young wine. The floral bouquet suggests acacia and jasmine while the first taste hints of pear, and citrus flavours. I picked out something less easy to determine with my first tasteing and that may have been a suggestion of licorice. Although I have not yet accompanied this wine with the Pecorino cheese, I am led to believe that this works really well as an accompaniment. I have to say that a match with local seafood was quite special and I would whole-heartedly recommend this combination.

Spring Wine Choice 2014

Soave Classico 2012 Inama DOC

I have to say that this Soave has always been one of my firm favourites, a truly fine wine from this celebrated region of Veneto. This is an area steeped in history, with the Garganega grape, from which this famous wine is made, being first planted here by the Romans. The Inama estate, which I am highlighting was founded in 1960 and is owned by Stefano Inama today. Their Classico wine is grown on some 25 hectares of basaltic lava substrate and the grapes are hand-harvested then fermented in stainless-steel vats with 8 months maturation prior to bottling.

For me, this wine delivers an elegant nose reminiscent of meadow flowers with an exquisite taste of apricots, honey and almonds. It is light-yellow in colour and has a rich texture with an elegant finish – quite superb. I can happily enjoy this wine as an aperitif but would choose to enjoy it with some fine, locally caught and prepared Sea Bass or a flat fish. This is certainly a wine to savour, however it may require some diligent search from a local wine merchant.


Autumn Wine Choice 2013

Terrazas de los Andes, Malbec 2009

Now that we are well into the autumn, I am sure I am not alone in making a notable switch in choice of beverage! A beefy red wine that has been allowed to breathe properly can lift the soul as a relaxing drink, while a serious red grape variety as an accompaniment to a meal is especially rewarding. I have to confess that I am still very much in the learning process with, both wines from Argentina and the Malbec grape. Both can be a memorable experience. I have to say that I was thoroughly spoiled when my daughter presented me with a 2007 Bodegas Salentein Primus Malbec from the Uco Valley in Argentina, this was an experience all right! For a price of around £50, I would regard this wine as a real treat.

The Malbec grape is becoming more widely known due to the superior wines arriving on the shelves of UK supermarkets and wine stores. It originated in France and is also known by the name of Auxerrois in the Cahors region. It is also one of the six grape varieties allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. However, I am highlighting the grape as it is grown in the Mendoza region in Argentina. The grape was first introduced here in the mid-nineteenth century but now it can safely be stated that Malbec is identified with Argentinian wines. As a grape, Malbec is thin-skinned and needs more sun and heat than, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. A Malbec wine can be recognised by its deep colour and intense fruity flavours with a velvety texture, look out for the violet aromas and ripe tannins. The Mendoza region is the leading producer of Malbec in the country with wines produced from high altitudes up to 1500m in the foothills of the Andes.

“rich and ripe with a dense, dark fruit flavours and a gorgeous hint of vanilla”

I would thoroughly recommend this wine as an accompaniment to a “Duchy of Cornwall” Rib-eye steak with brussels sprouts and mashed potato

A Summer Wine Choice 2013

Cabernet d’Anjou, Chateau La Tomaze 2012

With temperatures soaring throughout July we are bound to revert to more typical climes as I write this piece. I cannot remember a period of weather that inflicted so much exhaustive heat on the population of the UK enticing adults to try more white and rose wines. Having worked in Bavaria and been familiar with the marvellous range of German wines, I am astounded never to have encountered their rose wines in the UK. The ones to look out for include, Portuguiser Weissherbst and the Pinot Noir version, called Spatburgunder Weissherbst. They really are the most appetising and satisfying of aperitifs. I am though, happy to recommend this fine rose wine from the Loire Valley.

The Loire Valley is situated near to the city of Angers and enjoys a mild, continental climate. The Cabernet d’Anjou is an appellation specifically reserved for Anjou wines made from the Cabernet grapes, often a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. As you taste this wine you will note an aroma of strawberries and raspberries and possibly roses. It is generally an off-dry wine. I find this to be a more fruit-driven wine than many of the rather bland, modestly priced rose wines on offer in the UK. The Chateau La Tomaze 2012 is a wine not to be overlooked and provides a perfect aperitif on a hot summer’s day. This rose is also adaptable – after all I do live in East Lothian, Scotland – it can be enjoyed with a variety of dishes, such as savoury/sweet or spicy food and quiches. I would recommend serving it chilled.

Availability: Yapp Brothers; www.yapp.co.uk £8.50

One to look out for:

Les Ruettes Sancerre Rose 2012 – a wonderful wine at £12.99 from Marks and Spencer

Spring Wine Choice 2013

Spring – Wine Recommendation

Domaine Pierre De Prehy Chablis 2009

I think it would be useful to give a short description about Chablis wines. From my perspective, as someone who enjoys a vast range of wine, but is learning all the time, the name Chablis stands out as one of the world’s great names. My wife and I were fortunate enough to visit the small town of Chablis in N. Burgundy and enjoy both the countryside and the fine cuisine and wine. Having been brought up in the locality of the Chiltern Hills in my formative years, I shall never forget the chalk-laden hills around Chablis, so similar in landscape to my home country of Berkshire. Whenever I announce that we’re enjoying the Chardonnay grape when drinking a Chablis, my guests seem surprised (or occasionally disappointed) and understandably so for the cool climate of this part of Burgundy produces dryer wines with more acidity and less fruity flavours than those grown in warmer climates. In other words, uncharacteristic of the Chardonnay grape.The characteristic dry notes have so much to do with the terroir in this locality. The wines often have a “flinty” note, unsurprising when you observe the raw chalky nature of the soil type in these parts, so evident to the naked eye from its pale colour. Another notable feature that I find especially appealing is that most basic Chablis is un-oaked and is matured in stainless steel tanks while many Grand Cru (top wines from Chablis) and Premier Cru wines receive some maturation in oak barrels.

The soil type is so significant and is made up of Kimmeridge clay with outcrops of the very same chalk strata that extends from Sancerrre up to the “White Cliffs of Dover”. When visiting Chablis look out for the south-facing slopes of the hills just to the north of the town, for this is where the Grand Crus are grown. The Chardonnay grape variety is believed to be the first to have been planted in Chablis by the Cistercians in the 12th century and from here it spread to the whole of Burgundy. Whilst this is clearly a superb area for the development of vineyards, there have been challenges for the growers with the annual threat of damaging spring frosts. This is most notable as the vines reach the critical bud-break stage of growth.

When it comes to tasting the famous wines of Chablis it is easy to determine the true composition of the fruitiness due to the general absence of oak and winemakers who do choose to use oak in the fermentation or maturation process tend to prefer a more neutral variety that does not impart such a pronounced “nose” of vanilla associated with American oak. Chablis winemakers want to emphasize the terroir of the calcareous soil and cooler climatethat helps to maintain the high acidity. The wine is characterised by a greenish-yellow colour. The green apple-like acidity comes through in the bouquet, but this mellows notable as the wine is aged. If you can display a measure of patience, Grand Crus can age for well over 15 years while Premier Crus for at least 10 years! Needless to say, a significant financial outlay must be considered for the latter wines.

I would like to recommend two quite different Chablis, one a basic Chablis and the other, a Grand Cru from the Vaudesir location.

Domaine Pierre De Prehy Chablis 2009

Notes: “from a single estate with bright, crisp fruit flavours of lemon, grapefruit and apple and a slightly honeyed, yet dry finish. The wine is unoaked” From Jean-Marc Brocard

Availability: Marks and Spencer

Chablis Vaudesir Grand Crus Olivier Leflaive 2010

Notes: “only small quantities are available of this Grand Cru Chablis. Complex and lovely, Vaudesir is rich yet beautifully nervy this year, its underlying croquant offsetting sensuous, white flower aromatics, stone fruit and moreish marzipan flavours. Dry, 13%”

Availability: Exclusive to Corney and Barrow, www.corneyandbarrow.com

Archive Posts

March 2011 – Turkheim Pinot Blanc

April 2011 – Amarone Classico Costasera 2006/2007

May 2011 – Vermentino 2009 Poggio al Tesoro

June 2011 – La Serre Syrah Rose 2009

July 2011 – Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC

August/Sep 2011 – Oyster Bay Malborough Pinot Noir 2009

October/Nov 2011 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vignobles Gonnet  2008

Dec/Jan/Feb Winer Choice – Riesling Kabinett 2007

March/April 2012 – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2009 Cantine Talamonti DOC & 2007 Gran Sasso DOCG

May/June 2012 – Clocktower  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

July/August 2012 – Domaine de Chazalis Merlot ‘Cuvee Richard’ 2009

October/November 2012 – 2010/11  Weissburgunder Trocken (Dry)

Winter 2012/13 – Gran Familia Clasica Valdepenas Reserva 2007

Winter Classical Music 2013

Antonio Vivaldi’s – The Four Seasons

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Surely there will be few lovers of any genre of music who will not recognise and enjoy this composition by one of the great masters of his age. I recall a very active time in my life whilst running my business. It coincided with the advent of Classic FM and its popular music charts aired on a Saturday morning. Nigel Kennedy’s admirable version of the Four Seasons seemed to be forever right up at the top of the charts and why not? This is a happy and pleasing version that must have brought thousands of new listeners to this masterpiece.

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le Quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. He composed the work in 1725 as part of a set of 12 concerti. The first four concertos were designated Le Quattro stagioni, each named after a seson. Each one of the concertos comprises three movements, typically a slow movement between two faster ones. It was in Mantua where Vivaldi composed concerti depicting his experience of life on the land including the most famous, Four Seasons.

He makes a lot of use of “tone painting” in this composition with, for example the unmistakable sound of the bagpipes in the Danza pastorale in Spring and of course the stabbing “secco” chords in the opening movement of Winter depicting the biting cold. Marvellous. Readers will have their favourite season and my personal choice is Winter.

This is Baroque music at its best and to fully appreciate it I must recommend 4 of the finest artists who each perform their own season to perfection:

Stern, Zukerman, Mintz and Perlman perform with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta.

DG 419214-2

Available from www.amazon.co.uk
Archive: Classical Music of the Month

March 2011 – Mozart Symphony No 28 in C major, K.200

April 2011 – Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending

May 2011 – Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor

June 2011 – Franz Lehar, Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)

July 2011 – Rachmaninov, Symphony No. 2 in E minor

August/September 2011 – Krommer Oboe Concerto in F Major op 37 and op 52

October/Nov 2011 – Krommer Oboe Concerto in F Major op 37 and op 52

My Winter Choice 2011- Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (Chorfantasie) for piano, chorus and orchestra in C minor. Op. 80

March/April 2012 – Written by Dr. Helmut Frehse

May/June 2012 – Beethoven Symphony No 6 in F major “Pastoral”

July/August 2012 – Hummel Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 85

October/November – Chopin – Prelude Op 28 No 15 in D Flat, Sostenuto (Raindrop)

Winter Wine Choice 2013

Gran Familia Clasica Valdepenas Reserva 2007

I am very keen to experiment with Spanish red wines and whilst seldom disappointed with an aging Rioja, will tend to gravitate towards an area I am less familiar with. So here I am recommending a fine red wine made with the Tempranillo grape from the Valdepenas region, in the heart of La Mancha.

I love the mellow nature of this wine and was not surprised to read that this traditional grape thrives in the stony vineyards (bodegas) in this region. This wine is full of fruit – a real bonus for me and can happily be enjoyed on its own, as well as with red meat. I was advised to open the bottle for at least an hour to allow it to breathe and how thankful I was for this advice. It really is very easy to enjoy! There is no doubt that the predominant fruit that can be identified on the pallet, is blackberry. A wonderful accompaniment to roast lamb or Roe Deer (if you can obtain it).

View all

March 2011 – Turkheim Pinot Blanc

April 2011 – Amarone Classico Costasera 2006/2007

May 2011 – Vermentino 2009 Poggio al Tesoro

June 2011 – La Serre Syrah Rose 2009

July 2011 – Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC

August/Sep 2011 – Oyster Bay Malborough Pinot Noir 2009

October/Nov 2011 – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vignobles Gonnet  2008

Dec/Jan/Feb Winer Choice – Riesling Kabinett 2007

March/April 2012 – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2009 Cantine Talamonti DOC & 2007 Gran Sasso DOCG

May/June 2012 – Clocktower  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

July/August 2012 – Domaine de Chazalis Merlot ‘Cuvee Richard’ 2009

October/November 2012 – 2010/11  Weissburgunder Trocken (Dry)