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Wines of the Week

Monday 4th March 2013 - By David Moore

Loess Rueda DO

Loess RuedaThis is a recently established small high quality bodega producing wines from both the Rueda and Ribera del Duero appellations. The wines all show great promise, not least this excellent newly released Rueda from 2012. Crisp, mineral and with a really striking, piercing citrus and green fruit intensity, the wine is everything you look for in an un-wooded Rueda. The juice is given a short cold soak for a few hours with pressing and fermentation following at a cool rather than cold 16 degrees C and then a brief period on its fine lees.

Three other wines are also made here. There is a marginally pricier Rueda Collection, which comes from older vines, the vineyard first planted in 1936. The wine is barrel-fermented and aged with regular lees stirring and bottling is in July after the harvest. In Ribera del Duero again an appellation label as well as a Collection wine are produced. The regular bottling is in a more obviously fruit driven style, the Collection seeing over two years in barrel. Traditional ageing classifications are avoided and French rather than American oak used for ageing. A mix of 225 litre and 500 litres vessels are used which helps reduce the influence of some of the leaner wood tannins found in other examples in the DO.   

2012 Rueda – 88/100 – price guide £10-12/$17-20 (locally a little less).  

Balvinar Cigales DO


Álvaro Camarero and Javier Fernández have rapidly established this boutique bodega as one of the best names to look for in the small Cigales DO, just to the west of Ribera del Duero. This is the only wine made here and in small quantities, barely more than 4,000 bottles a year and only in better vintages. It is a thoroughly modern red, full of rich, sumptuous dark berry fruit and made from 100% Tempranillo (known locally as Tinta Fina).

The fruit is all hand harvested from old vines planted in four separate vineyards outside the small town of Cubillas de Santa Marta. After fermentation, the wine goes through 100 % malolactic fermentation in barrel and ageing is for 16 months in a mix of French, American and Hungarian oak. It would be best to allow a further 12 months of cellaring.

2007 Cigales – 90/100 – price guide £25-30/$45-60 (locally a little less).

Some fine Sherry to be found in Surrey

Friday 28th December 2012 - By David Moore

Essentially Wine offer a wide and interesting range of wines across their list. Not least among these are some very good and characterful Sherries. The bodegas you will find listed include Herederos de Argüeso, Sánchez Romate, Gutiérrez Colosia and Valdespino, all notable for producing bespoke, fine quality examples and good value at all levels.

Most of the Sherry styles are featured in the range including both dry and sweet wines.  Some fine Finos and Manzanillas are offered. A Fino is aged under a naturally developing flor yeast giving a salty, citrus character to the wine. It will be fortified to 15% and generally no more to protect the flor cover. Manzanilla, coming from Sanlúcar de Barrameda rather than Jerez, is very similar but often has a lighter more pronounced saline character, likely to be more to do with the local yeast strain than the very near proximity of the Atlantic. Among the highlights are the Argüeso Las Medallas Manzanilla and the impressively complex Deliciosa Manzanilla and iconic Inocente Fino from Valdespino.

From Gutiérrez Colosia comes the well-priced Puerto Fino. The cellars are located very close to the riverside in El Puerto de Santa Maria and it is this proximity which helps provide the humidity to produce an intense flor yeast quality in the wines. Colosia provide some of the best examples of the region at all quality and price levels.

An Amontillado is aged for much longer under the flor than a Fino or Manzanilla and takes on a richer, nutty aroma but retains its underlying salty flavour and character. As the yeast dies the wine will be fortified to around 17.5% to protect it from oxidation. For some, very dry Amontillado can be almost austere. The Valdespino Contrabandista has just a slightly sweet edge provided by the blending in of a little Pedro Ximénez from a separate Solera. Valdespino is a marvellous, old-fashioned Sherry producer, with an impressive holding of old Soleras, providing some of the best examples to be found in Jerez.

A rarer style is Palo Cortado, which is initially aged like an Amontillado but the flor yeast dies earlier. The resulting wines tend to be a halfway house between an Amontillado and an Oloroso because of their developing, although controlled, oxidative qualities. The Viejisimo Palo Cortado from Gutiérrez Colosia offers a nutty richness with an underlying citrusy structure. Naturally highest in alcohol of the sherry styles is Oloroso, which is immediately fortified to between 18% and 20% before ageing without any influence of flor. The best are very dry, rich and characterful. They need not be expensive, the Tio Toto from the Valdespino firm’s entry-level label of Sherry styles is nutty, dry and displays a rich texture. If you want to experience something really special then the Sacristia Oloroso from Sánchez Romate is by no means cheap but it is one of the vinous gems of Jerez, through natural concentration and evaporation reaching 20% alcohol.

Commercially, most medium or sweeter styles of Sherry are made by adding grape-must or concentrate to a dry base wine. The best though, particularly the Dulce styles, are mainly crafted from Pedro Ximénez or PX as well as Moscatel and originate from wines vinified from dried grapes. Among the Essentially Wine sweet Sherry highlights are the rich, round and subtly raisiny PX from Gutiérrez Colosia and PX El Candado from Valdespino. A Sacristia PX is also available, although understandably in very small volumes.

The wines in this article are all stocked by Essentially Wines of Chipstead in Surrey. They also have a branch in Richmond. As well as their excellent Sherries the firm also stock a comprehensive selection of characterful wines from around the world and a very full range of wine accessories. See their website – for more information.

The 2012 harvest in Minervois - Château St Jacques d’Albas

Monday 24th December 2012 - By David Moore

Château St Jacques d’AlbasOur second 2012 harvest report is from Minervois in the south-west of the Languedoc region. Unlike the Côtes du Roussillon to the south, there appear to have been more challenging conditions here. Richard Osborne, the Australian wine-making consultant to Château St Jacques d’Albas has described the vintage as the most difficult he has experienced in his 22 years in France. Our thanks go to Graham Nutter at St Jacques d’Albas for highlighting some of the challenges of the growing season.

The trend for the year here was set with a late budding in early April followed by irregular flowering in June and consequent reduction in fruit. Cool early summer temperatures presented difficulties with sugar accumulation and humid conditions meant a higher risk of fungal disease than normal for the area. The year was saved by warm sunny weather in August which carried on into early September.

Fruit for the white and rosé was harvested in early September. However the need for for full physiological (flavour) ripeness, in particular in the Syrah and Carignan in the top reds, necessitated a brave wait until early October to complete the harvest and achieve fruit with concentration, balance as well as potential complexity. Among the other challenges of the year, lower than average summer rainfall had ensured vines that were water stressed during the final stages of ripening.

Graham feels that the domaine snatched victory from potential disappointment and is very pleased with, in particular, his Syrah as well as the Carignan. Extreme care though has been exercised in the winery with the fruit and in particular the tricky Grenache. Maintaining temperatures during vinification and minimizing pump overs should achieve balance without aggressive tannins. While great wine is unquestionably made in the vineyard, craftsmanship and skill remain necessities in the cellar.

A final thought from Graham Nutter raises some interesting questions about the state of the climate in recent years, “We have to say that recent years’ weather has become more variable and which adds unexpected complications to both harvesting and work in the cellar. A reflection of more complex global weather patterns? Let’s hope that 2013 brings us a little more “normality”.

Chateau St Jacques d’Albas make a small range of well-crafted wines under the IGP d’Oc classification as well as more structured and impressive Minervois reds. A comprehensive domaine profile will be included in the upcoming Le Midi Vin in the Spring.  Further details can be found on their website

The 2012 Vintage in the Côtes du Roussillon

Saturday 1st December 2012 - By David Moore

This is the first of a small series of articles over the next couple of months in which we will bring you reactions from winegrowers and producers to the 2012 harvest in southern France and across Spain. My thanks to Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar, proprietors of Domaine Treloar, for their observations about the year in the Côtes du Roussillon, which is south of Côtes du Roussillon-Villages and Rivesaltes but nevertheless a source of some excellent wines.

These are Jonathan Hesfords observations which make for some interesting reading:

“We had cool, wet weather over flowering, which led to poor fruit-set and therefore low yields in the Grenache and Carignan varieties but others were OK, around normal yields for me of 26hl/ha.
The August heat-wave made up for a cooler June and the grapes ripened nicely into September which had great weather, making it easy to choose the right picking day. The state of health of the grapes was probably the best I’ve ever had. This year I made a conscious decision to reduce the amount of time pumping over to lower the tannin extraction on the reds. I’ve also given up using enzymes completely and done more wild ferments.
The wines have all turned out really well. I would say the stars at the moment are the One Block Muscat, the Syrah and the old-vine Syrah/Carignan whole bunch co-ferment on stems, of which there will be around 1200 bottles. I chose to switch to larger format barrels for these two reds, using 450lt French oak barrels from Rousseau, which has been by favourite tonnellerie for several years.
I had assumed that this fine harvest applied to the whole of the Languedoc-Roussillon. My neighbours in the Aspres all agreed on low yields and great quality. However, I met a producer in Maury yesterday who tends to harvest late and he said it was his worst vintage. They had hail at flowering, resulting in vines with no grapes at all and then the late season rains damaged and diluted the crop that was available. Which only goes to show how diverse the Roussillon is. The problem is that wine journalists focus on Maury and the Agly valley and use that as the yardstick to measure the whole Roussillon.”

Domaine -  is a small 10 ha domaine in the southern Roussillon a short distance north of the Spanish border. Jonathan Hesfords training and background in New Zealand has helped he and his wife Rachel in making a small range of classy, polished reds, whites and a rosé. The rich and concentrated flagship Tahi is a selection of their best parcels and barrels of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Motus is mainly Mourvèdre while Le Secret is a stylish, black pepper scented blend dominated by Syrah. More immediately approachable are Three Peaks (Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre), the One Block Grenache and the unoaked Le Ciel Vide. As well as a dry, aromatic Muscat, One Block, a Muscat de Rivesaltes is also made as well as a richly textured, mineral scented second dry white La Terre Promise blended from Macabeu, Grenache Gris and the rare Carignan Blanc. A full profile of the domaine will be included in early 2013 in Le Midi Vin.    

Our Blogs

Thursday 10th May 2012 - By David Moore

So we have written you a brief synopsis of our two blog to wet your appetite...

Wine blog

This is where we will bring you all wine related news for the site. We plan to feature special pieces on individual wine producers who may be under the radar but offer quality and value. Over the next couple of months there will be an article on the Land of Hope winery, a wine trust set up to help with education by the Winery of Good Hope, a profile of the remarkable old vine Garnarcha reds produced by the Garnacha de Gredos group of small wineries based in Toledo, Madrid and Avila plus other features.

Wine travel blog

This will be where you will find wine travel news.  We are planning to feature some wine spa’s and places to stay where you can chill out and enjoy the local wine.

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