Tuesday, 30 August 2011

New from South America

My brother was in Cornwall this weekend and this was a good opportunity to try out three recent arrivals from South America. He normally goes for deep, rich reds from Southern Italy and Spain, so this was an interesting departure from his comfort zone, but also a bit of a departure from the 'normal' South American wines as the three we tried were all made with European grape varieties.

Chocalan Cabernet Franc Reserve 2009 - Cabernet Franc, important player in Right Bank Clarets and the single most important red grape variery in the Anjou Touraine area covering Saumur, Bourgeuil and Chinon. Well, this is a BIG wine! High on alcohol at 14.5 % and quite weighty in the mouth. This is a delicious wine that needs a sturdy meat course to soak up the tannic strength and evident alcohol.

Many of the wine making dynasties in Argentina were founded by Italian immigrants in the early part of the 20th Century. The original Pulenta winery was sold in 1997, but the grandsons of the founder built their own winery in 2001 to continue the family tradition of winemaking. They are based in the Alto Agrelo, the higher section of the Mendoza region. The La Flor wines are designed for immediate enjoyment, being bottled and released after only 3 months in oak. The result is a surprisingly fresh and youthful tasting wine which has a light tannic structure and a level of acidity not usually associated with Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the firm favourite in our group on Saturday night!

Across the Andes into Chile, specifically the Casablanca Valley, the principle cool climate region in the country. Up in the hills of the coastal zone the vines benefit from cooling winds and mists that allow the grapes to rest. The terroir of granitic and clay soils with this cooling air creates intense, fresh and elegant wines. In my opinion this makes these wines more approachable earlier in their lives as they are not designed for longevity in the same way as the great Burgundian Pinot Noirs are. The Vista Hermosa wines are produced as part of a collection designed to showcase the high quality of these Chilean products, and boy, do they deliver! Light and delicate with small floral hints and gentle enough to drink, as we did, as an aperitif  and alongside a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad before a hearty dinner of roast beef! The gentle acidity worked well with cheese and tomato combo!

All in all we were pretty impressed by all three of these wines for different reasons. They are all available in the shop at around the £9 - £11 price range, and well worth the extra money!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Southern Italian Beauties

Mike had a family holiday in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast at the end of July where the sun shone (on most days) and the air was full of the scents of citrus trees and herbs. What a lovely spot sat overlooking the Bay of Naples with the opposite skyline dominated by Vesuvius.
The two principal wines sold in every restaurant are the two most local grape varieties of Falanghina (white) and Aglianico (red). Still comparatively unknown in the UK, they are becoming more fashionable as customers become more adventurous and move away from their comfort zones.
We have been shipping one of each of these from the district of Beneventano, found a few miles behind Vesuvius, under the Epicuro label.
The Falanghina is fresh and clean with hints of green apple fruit and blossom and an interesting underlying mineral touch. Retail price is £7.99
The Aglianico, a late ripening grape variety, has blackberry acidity which is well tamed and deep cherry and plum fruit flavours with some minerality from the rich volcanic soils of the area. Retail price is £8.75

As a footnote we also tried wines from some notable producers in Campania namely Fuedi di San Gregorio whose Fiano di Avellino is hauntingly floral and delicate, and a  DOC Taurasi (Aglianico) from Mastroberadino which is well worth looking out for as well.

While in Sorrento we stayed in the modern Hotel Plaza right in the middle of town. No need for a car as local buses and trains do a great job around the Amalfi coast. Modern rooms, great roof terrace for daytime snacks, small infinity pool. Fantastic breakfast buffet!

Friday, 19 August 2011

One new wine in this week has –  hit the ground running – straight into the shop and on special offer to get stock moving – Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine Michaud (£7.99 or 3 for £20) is a super example of Loire Valley Sauvignon  - edgy and flinty for the traditionalist but with enough gooseberry plumpness to satisfy the modernist. Also relatively new are two very classy wines from Mas d’Auzieres which nestles under the Pic Saint Loup in the Coteaux du Languedoc. The delightful Irene Tolleret makes wines of poise and charm  - a serious, supple red and a splendidly vivid rosé, appropriately named Rires et Sourires (laughter and smiles).

Another wine that caught my attention this week is the stout, juicy and now beautifully mature Toro “Gravedad” 2006. We tend to buy the better non-Rioja Spanish reds in big chunks usually over-enthused after a long tasting! The results are stacks of slow moving wines which tend to get forgotten about. With quality reds, cash flow aside, this doesn’t matter and the result is nice little parcels of perfectly mature wine – a rare commodity. One day, we in this country might actually cotton on to the fact that there is a lot to red Spain other than Rioja but in the meantime it might be worth your while checking out as well our Finca la Estacada 12 meses en barrica 2006, Abadia la Arroyada Ribera del Duero 2007 and  Calzadilla Crianza, La Mancha 2002.