Recent wines tasted on CellarTracker

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Virginia Wines for sale in the UK

At last there is a store in the UK (London) selling a good range of Virginia wines, thanks (I believe) to their great quality and the dedication of Chris Parker of New Horizon Wines, you can now buy a selected range of Virginia wines from Whole Foods Market in Kensington, London.

I plan to pick some up next week when I'm in town, they will go down a treat for Christmas dinner this year!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pinot Heaven - 2008 Plunkett Wines Pinot Noir Blackwood Ridge

This is, quite simply an astounding example of its type. Beautiful, delicate ruby red colour (strawberry pink at the rim).

Aroma of ripe fruit, Parma Violets, rich Christmas pud. Initially sweet, delicately spicy, intensely warming and incredibly long flavour that defines top notch New World Pinot Noir. A smoky finish with light tannins.

At 16% abv you have to be careful not to overdo it on this one. Perfect for a summer drinking red, but I would enjoy it equally well sitting by a warm fire in the winter. This would be a perfect accompaniment for summer parties, or for Christmas dinner.


Friday, July 3, 2009

nomnomnom cooking competition

I'm delighted that I was offered the chance (and naturally I volunteered) to help one of the teams competing in the annual nomnomnom cookery competition, entered by pairs of food writers and photographers.

The team that I'm supporting comprises Kai Turner (@kaigani) and Willem van der Horst (@HippoWill), who have an exciting 3-course menu to prepare for 4 people with a budget of £40.

Based on their selected menu I have a few ideas about what to recommend, but will wait until I've agreed it with them (and confirmed some details with the wine suppliers). Watch this space!

The grand final takes place on Sunday 12th July in London. Sadly I won't be able to attend but I have every confidence in "my" team to win!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Virginia Wines in the news

Great piece from CNN about the Virginia (and other US) wines at the London International Wine Fair last month. Very good interview with Chris Parker (New Horizon Wines), a great evangelist for the wines of Virginia:


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Family Tasting - Sunday 7th June 2009

Today I decided to arrange an impromptu family tasting of 3 wines sent to me by Naked Wines to try in my capacity as an Archangel. There were 7 tasters, although my father-in-law only tasted the white as he's not really a wine drinker. The goal was to score each wine on a 1-5 scale, and to estimate the price.

Georg Müller Hattenheimer Schützenhaus 2007 (Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Rheingau, Germany)

A very pleasant wine, tasted lightly chilled. It showed a wonderful fruity aroma, with characteristic Riesling flowery notes. The taste was also surprisingly fruity, one taster mentioned cider, another elderflower. Dry and refreshing, this makes perfect summer drinking, and would fare well with spicy seafood or coronation chicken. It also drinks well on its own. Light in alcohol, although perhaps stronger than expected at 12.5% a/v. Tasting again later I noticed a pleasant petillance to this wine which topped it off very nicely.

This was preferred of the three overall, despite some of the tasters only usually drinking reds. The average score was 3.1/5 (ranging from 2-4) and the desired price just over £6 (ranging from £4-8).

"The Dark Side" Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2005 (Cloof Vineyards, Darling, South Africa)

This was loved and hated in equal measure by the group - depending upon individual tastes. Its nose was variously described as 'cabbage' and 'Christmas pudding', but certainly the aroma was welcoming to me. The flavour was intensely oaky, having been aged in French wood. It would benefit from decanting or aeration prior to drinking. I plan to taste again tomorrow evening to see how it has mellowed.

A strong wine at 14% a/v, and it tastes it too. Despite the oak, the wine was easy, smooth drinking, and very pleasant. The Shiraz character successfully bludgeoned any Cab. Sauvignon character out of the way, although with aging I am sure this imbalance would even out.

This scored an average of 2.75/5 (ranging from 1-4!) with a desired price of £6.25 (range from £5 to £8).

Chateau La Lauzette Declercq 2006 (AC Listrac-Médoc, Médoc, France)

Again there were two distinct camps on this wine (opposite to the South African wine). As expected for a 2006 this was highly tannic and most tasters said it was acidic, although that was a positive point in a couple of cases! Would definitely benefit from decanting and should stay in the bottle for another year or three in this taster's opinion.

A pleasant aroma, notes of cinnamon and caramel. One taster described it as thin in the mouth and having a flavour of boiled eggs. For me it was too raw, and I will taste again tomorrow to see if it improves with some air.

Average score was 2.4/5 (ranging from 1 to 3.5), with a desired price-point of £5.50 (£3 to £6).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Upcoming tastings - Italy and South Africa

I just got word about a couple of tastings in London, both of which I am attending:

Tuesday 9th June - Italian tasting - Lazio region

Tuesday 16th June - South African tasting - South Africa's Hidden Gems

both courtesy of Naked Wines.

Can't wait!

On Wednesday 17th June Naked Wines will be organising a tasting at my workplace in Hammersmith, at the summer barbecue. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun, and they will earn a few more customers.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Porters Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002, New Zealand

Pale garnet in colour, with an aroma reminiscent of spearmint and summer berries. The mouth-feel is light and delicate, lulling the imbiber into a false sense of security before the glorious palate explodes. Cherries, rich chocolate notes and a subtle woodiness, with smooth tannins that have opened out very nicely as the wine has aged. The acidity is gentle, and complements the fruit well. Robust at 13.5% alcohol, but exceedingly well-balanced in my opinion.

This wine is generally described as past its best now, and was apparently drinking well up to 2008. My first taste of it blew me away and I can safely say it's the nicest red I have ever consumed. I was fortunate enough to be given a case that I've been slowly savouring, and decided to open a bottle today to see if it has declined at all. I can honestly say it tastes as good today as it did when I first enjoyed it 18 months or so ago.

A definite 5* wine for me, and any lover of Pinot Noir made in the Burgundy style would probably be happy with it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Virginia Wines at the LIWF

During my altogether far too brief visit to the LIWF I made a point of checking out the wines and winemakers present from Virginia. This was mainly due to my affinity with the area, having been there several times with work; and also on the recommendation of a couple of my friends over there.

When considering wines from the US one immediately thinks of California and perhaps Washington, but the picture is far from complete until you consider what the East Coast has to offer.

I met with Chris Parker, an Englishman who has "gone native" in Virginia and made it his mission to support and evangelise a number of excellent boutique wineries from the region under the banner of New Horizon Wines. Chris graciously took the time to talk me through what these wineries have to offer, and I was very pleasantly surprised by all that I tasted.

Also on the stand that I visited was Luca Paschina, General Manager and Winemaker from the Barboursville Vineyards, making an incredibly diverse range of varietal wines in the style of his native Piedmont; and Patricia Hodson (another expatriate Brit) who co-owns the family-run Veritas Vineyard & Winery, her daughter Emily making some really complex and elegant wines.

The highlight for me was having the opportunity to taste a number of excellent pure Viogniers from Virginia. These all displayed the wonderful, floral character and fruitiness that make this grape so versatile in blends. Virginia seems to have an ideal terroir and climate for Viognier to thrive and these wines demonstrated it admirably:


Rappahannock Cellars Viognier 2007 - Gold Medal winner in the 2008 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Crisply acidic, wonderful fruit character, 14.5% alcohol.

Rappahannock Cellars Chardonnay 2007 - Winner of the Best White Wine in Virginia Governors Cup competition 2009. A joy to the nose (nectar, hay, toast) and to the palate (green apple, vanilla), it compares favourably with the finest Californian or Australian examples. Fermented and aged in French and Virginian oak, this was a triumph.

Barboursville Vineyards Viognier 2007 - Unoaked, highly aromatic floral notes and a glorious fruitful palate and a dry, lingering finish.

Keswick Vineyards Viognier 2007 - A drier example of this varietal than the previous two, with some oakiness, though not overpowering. This wine should continue to improve for a few years.

Keswick Vineyards Verdejo 2007 - A wonderfully crisp, easy drinking wine with an engaging aroma (grass/straw, citrus, kiwi fruit) complex fruit flavours (apple, melon, pears) and a bright, refreshing acidity.


Barboursville Vineyards Octagon 2006
- A proprietary blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, but blended after vinification. The components here marry together very well to produce an engaging, dark garnet wine with an intensely plummy and forest-fruits driven aroma and a full and silky smooth palate. Tannins are described as 'resplendent and graceful', I found them to be a little much for my novice palate, and I am sure this wine will age well for many years.

Rappahannock Cellar Cabernet Franc 2007
- This relatively young and robust blend of 75% Cab Franc and 25% Cab Sauvignon was already drinking well, but will clearly improve a great deal with age. The aroma is jammy and woody and exotic. Quite tannic, followed by wonderful forest fruits and toastiness, and with a very long, indulgent finish.


Veritas Vineyard & Winery Kenmar 2008
- Although I'm not much of a dessert wine drinker, this was definitely a highlight for me. Outstandingly intense, with a rich aroma of honey and flowers. The keen acidity perfectly balances the sweetness of the tropical fruitiness and citrus notes - the word 'mellifluous' was invented for this wine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I was rushing about like a mad thing on Tuesday afternoon at LIWF - really didn't have time to blog/tweet anything, it was pretty overwhelming - that show is HUGE, so much bigger than the last time I went, which must have been 1991 - 18 years ago at Earl's Court, or Olympia, can't remember which.

Highlights for me included meeting all the nice people from Naked Wines , who kindly invited me and a number of other Archangels to help find some new stars for their exciting business. Big thanks to Mark, Remi, Josh, Francesca, Greg and Joe - unfortunately I couldn't be there all day but the short time I was there was great fun and really interesting. Hope to attend all 3 days next year, let's see if this blog takes off.

It was also a great pleasure to meet one of the winemakers supplying NW, Argentina's Patricio Gouguenheim - he was there showing off his new vintages, including a delightful rosé, and his new Malbec. I look forward to buying them within a couple of months!

NW tasked me with finding a good value Cava for NW to sell - my peers spent the morning searching for great boutique wines from France, Italy, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand. I found a couple of interesting suppliers:

Torre Oria, based in Madrid, but selling wines out of Catalunya including some very nice brut and semi-seco blancos and rosados. I particularly enjoyed their Marqués de Requena Brut Rosado, aroma bursting with berry fruits and a slight citrussy tang, beautifully dry with a hint of raspberries. 100% Garnacha, 12% alcohol.

Castell d'Or, a larger, co-operative outfit, specialising in wines from all over Catalunya, with multiple brands from the different areas. Their Cava Cossetania Brut Blanco from the Penedes region was enjoyable and realistically priced.

There were a couple of other Cava suppliers around (other than the big hitters Freixenet and Codorniu) but most seemed to be larger providers of Spanish wines in general, rather than regionally focused smaller outfits.

I then moved on to check out the wines from Virginia, mainly from personal interest having travelled to the area on several occasions with work. I'll post about that separately as there were a number of interesting wines (especially the Viogniers).

Monday, May 11, 2009


I'll be blogging and tweeting from the London International Wine Fair at ExCel tomorrow afternoon - really looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chalk Hill Sidetrack 2005 (McLaren Vale)

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A delicious, deep, smooth and richly warming wine. 60% Shiraz, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol. A rich plum red colour and a pleasant, but not overwhelming bouquet, helped along the way by the Grenache.

The strong varietal flavours are supported by peppermint, chocolate and earthy notes, and it has a beautifully lengthy finish.

This wine is consistent with the excellent standard I've come to expect from Jock Harvey at Chalk Hill Wines, having tasted quite a few of his wines recently. It's aged in a mixture of old and new French Oak.

Winemaker?: Jock Harvey Chalk Hill Wines

Where can I get it?: Naked Wines

How much will it cost?: £12

Score?: ****

More Information: Sidetrack_2005.pdf

Friday, April 24, 2009

London International Wine Fair

I'm very excited to have been invited by Naked Wines to attend the International Wines Fair at London ExCel on 12th May. There will be up to 25,000 wines there to be sampled, and hopefully we'll find a few good candidates for NW to sell.