Cantina di Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2017, Veneto. Following on from the Ripasso last week, the exploration of Veneto reds continues by progressing on to the big daddy of the region; Amarone. The grapes are dried, concentrating the flavours and sugars to make a really intense, velvety beast of a wine. This one is in the modern style with a lower residual sugar that is well integrated into the body of the wine. With a nose akin to vintage port; dried fruits and chocolate, the palate is deliciously smooth, deep and chocolately. Will definitely buy this wine again and is keen to explore more Amarone wines. Waitrose £19.99
Determined to show a wine he doesn’t work with this clubber headed to Waitrose to explore their offering. Sadly he was struck down by aisle panic and came home empty handed, resorting to drinking what was in the fridge. Thankfully the fridge dweller was the inimitable Johann Donabaum Riesling Spitzer Federspiel 2018, Wachau, Austria. This is an absolutely stunning wine; elegant and racy but with beautifully ripe peach and apricot fruit making it perfectly balanced and utterly satisfying. This man is truly one of the shining stars of Austrian wine making. The Wine Library £22.99 for 2019 vintage and exceptional value for such extraordinary quality.
This wine raised the question how long do you keep Riesling? Famously long lived, Riesling comes in many styles from bone try to very sweet. Riesling can be quite shy in its first few years but then begins to hit its stride showing beautiful fruit expression. This gradually develops into a complex mosaic of more evolved flavours including marmalade, nuts, honey, straw and kerosene (better than it sounds!) depending on its origin. The answer is how do you like to drink your wine? The fruitier you like it, the younger you can drink it (3-6 years), the more tertiary flavours you enjoy then exercise some patience and it will be rewarded. Riesling can age quite happily for decades.
From our American contingent there was enough left over from last nights US presidential inauguration celebrations to given them a couple of glasses of Bicci Curbastro Franciacorta 2016, Lombardy, Italy. Franciacorta is a traditional method sparkling wine (made along the same lines as Champagne) from Italy and generally provides excellent quality and reasonable prices. Having visited the producer they are keen supporters of her, and are particularly enjoying this Blanc de Blancs. Not available in the UK. This was followed up with the exceptional Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet ‘Champ Derriere’ 2015, Burgundy. Again this wine was the result of a visit to Burgundy, a notoriously difficult place to ‘pop in and visit a producer’. Having driven around the largely deserted streets they resorted to hunting down any producers avant garde enough to be on facebook and managed to secure an appointment to visit. The winemaker is female, her husband makes jams and the family winery has a charming history. They just loved her style of winemaking; gorgeous, mineral driven wines with excellent ripeness and are keen supporters, despite the inevitable rise of Burgundy prices. Approx 30 euro cellar door (back then!) Today you are looking at about £50 per bottle
Ever on the search for something new to them, today they tried the Sainsbury Taste the Difference Zweigelt 2018 from Austria. Sadly the wine was nothing like the promises made on the back label, on first tasting it was bitter with very little flavour. They put it through the aerator in the hope it might help and it did come round a touch but all in all a very disappointing wine. This is a great shame as Zweigelt usually provides exceptional value for money with delicious juicy, crunchy dark fruit. Sainsbury £9
San Pedro 1865 Selected Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Maipo Valley, Chile. Another wine resulting from the extensive research and tastings of Master of Wine and Chilean expert Tim Atkin. Though sadly not available in the UK, this is a match for any Bordeaux. Rounded with a lovely maturity despite its relative youth, concentrated, vibrant, rich and intense. The Maipo Valley is an excellent region to look for top Cabernet’s and definitely one to expore.
Domaine de la Morderee Lirac 2013, Rhone. This was the wine they had at their wedding (though a different vintage) and as such holds a special place in their heart. Lirac still offers exceptional value especially when compared to its close neighbour Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine is an equal blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache and is the perfect winter wine with blackberries, ripe fruit and a hint of cherry cola. In another 5 or 6 years it will really be at its peak. Fun, approachable, concentrated and rich, it is a rewarding wine to have in your cellar from this well known producer. £35 Lea & Sandeman
Idaia Winery Vidiano 2019, Dafnes, Crete. This quirky little beauty was one of the mixed case from our Greek masterclass last year and a wine I can confidently say no one had tried before. The grape is Vidiano, an indigenous white grape from Crete. The nose showed ripe fruits such as pear and melon with a delicate perfume of sweetpea flowers, but the palate was taut and fresh on entry, rounding out to show concentration and intensity on the finish. Aromatic on the nose it led to a Chablieque palate. Unusual and delicious. £15 Noble Green Wines
Adi Badenhorst family Wines White Blend 2017, Swartland, South Africa. Adi is a winemaker with a huge personality and an inquisitive ‘sod it, lets give it a try’ attitude to winemaking that makes his wines a thrilling roller-coaster to try. This white blend is no exception and at any one time might (or might not!) include the likes of Marsanne, Rousanne, Palomino, Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc…. It is a big food wine at 14% abv, but on the nose and on entry it could be confused for a Gruner Veltliner – spicy white pepper, rich but mineral driven. As it opens it becomes far more Burgundian with granny smith apples and stone fruit. It has freshness throughout and is utterly captivating and incredibly complex. An absolutely stellar wine that again offers great value for such an iconic wine. Hedonism £28
Pieropan Soave Classico 2019, Italy. Soave as a region is a minefield of poor quality, anonymous bulk wine, but if you search out the producers in the ‘Classico’ heartland the soils are volcanic, and in the right hands the wines show an extraordinary, vivacious, mineral driven expression of the Garganega grape. Pieropan are the best known of the premium producers, and this is just their ‘entry’ Soave but it has a lovely pure, mineral driven palate, almost fizzing with energy, a hint of bitter almond gives it tangy excitement to the mid palate before leading onto waxy notes of lime blossom and a lovely wet stone mineral finish. Despite being a lovely fresh aperitif this really comes into its own with food, and as with many whites grown on volcanic soils shows a real affinity with Indian spices. Slurp £14.95