Recent wines tasted on CellarTracker

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Wines

Well, that time of year is approaching (fast!), so I have been putting a lot of thought into what would be nice to have on the table to accompany Christmas dinner. Last year we enjoyed a wonderful bottle of Veritas Petit Verdot Monticello 2007 from Virginia, a really classy wine, just perfect for the occasion.

Veritas Petit Verdot Monticello 2007
Various stickies were available to go with the pudding and the cheese and biscuits. I think I plumped for a glass of Madeira (Malmsey), and this year will be no exception!

So what to enjoy for 2010? I've given it a lot of thought, and chosen what I hope is a nice selection - something for everyone to enjoy, whatever their preference.

For an aperitif I think most people appreciate a glass of fizz before lunch, if you haven't already enjoyed a glass or two (with or without added OJ) during the morning! This year I would love to have some English sparkling wine, and will plump for a bottle or two of Chapel Down NV Reserve, available from a range of good wine retailers (e.g. Waitrose, £16.99).

If you opt for white wine this year, either to go with a starter or just to drink with the bird I would thoroughly recommend a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or South Africa. I've got a few bottles of Small and Small 2010 Marlborough SB from NZ (Naked Wines, £10.99 (£7.33 for cashback customers)) - it's a wonderfully complex and fruity example of this varietal, not too sharp and grassy like SBs can be, it's well-balanced, crisp and shouldn't overpower the meat. This is Bill and Claudia Small's first vintage bottling their own wine, and I think it's a triumph!

For red I think I'll choose a lighter wine this year, and as I'm a big fan of this grape in general I am going with Pinot Noir, again from New Zealand. I love to try as many PNs as possible from different parts of the world, and I'm always impressed by the delicate character that the New Zealand climate and terroir elucidates from the grape. I'm going to try Grasshopper Rock, 2008 from the Earnsclough Estate, Alexandra, Central Otago. This is a gold medal winning wine, recommended by Tim Atkin. Unfortunately it's sold out now at Naked Wines, but was selling for £17.49 a bottle - not cheap, but it's Christmas, so it's worth spending a little more isn't it?

Anyway - since it's out of stock, a delicious alternative (and a bargain too!) would be a Chilean PN, from Constanza Schwaderer and Felipe Garcia. Their Kimbao (named after their pet labrador) 2010 Pinot Noir is delicious, well-rounded and perfect for Christmas dinner. It's just £10.99 (£7.33 for cashback customers) from Naked Wines.

To accompany your Christmas pud, or whatever you choose to have after the main event, you need something special to wash it all down, and this year I've put aside a couple of bottles (375ml) of Seifried "Sweet Agnes" Riesling (2009) from Nelson, New Zealand. It's absolutely gorgeous, just like the wonderful woman it is named after. Agnes Seifried is the co-founder of the Seifried estate and I was privileged enough to meet her at the London International Wine Fair back in May, in fact she poured me a glass of this golden nectar. This wine is widely available in the UK (Waitrose, Naked Wines, and the various Direct Wines brands all sell it) and you can pick it up from £13.29 a bottle (case purchase from Waitrose Wine Direct).

Finally, if you fancy something a little stronger, and warming as you conk out in a comfortable armchair (certainly part of my plan!), why not try a glass or two of Madeira? I'm planning to savour a bottle of Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Malmsey (widely available, from around £16.99). You can find 15 or 20 year old versions of the same, but be prepared to pay quite a bit more.

I hope you've enjoyed this little selection of wines to enjoy over the festive season. Last year was all about Virginia for me, this year I suppose it's mostly about New Zealand. Whatever you decide to drink this year, please enjoy responsibly (i.e. lose the car keys!) and above all have a wonderful time with friends and/or family. Compliments of the season, and many thanks for reading.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Seven Springs' Sauvignon Blanc getting great reviews

I was really excited to get an email from wine chum and aspiring boutique winery owner Tim Pearson, who was equally (probably much more actually!) to have received a fantastic review for his newly bottled Seven Springs Sauvignon Blanc from Two Wine Brothers, a great US wine blog.

You can read the review here, along with an earlier interview that they did with Tim.

Tim, Vaughan, Riana and all of the team, you should be justly proud of what you've clearly achieved with this first vintage, and here's to many, many more!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Berrys' Wine World Cup

Just signed up my fantasy team for the Berry Bros & Rudd Wine World Cup! This is a competition with a twist, namely that you can only select 1 player from each team, and only "notable" wine-producing nations are included. Surprisingly this doesn't include Brazil, whose wines I enjoyed very much at the LIWF back in May.

You can see my team here: My Wine World Cup Team

Hope to see you on the site - the top prize from BBR? A case of wine valued at over £1700!!!

You must sign up today in order for your scores to start counting from the beginning. Good luck!

Friday, May 21, 2010

London International Wine Fair, Day 1 - with Naked Wines

I once again had the privilege (in my capacity as an "Archangel") this week of being invited by Naked Wines to join them at the LIWF and help find some exciting new winemakers for the site.

After an early start to travel from Bristol to the ExCel exhibition centre in London's Docklands, I joined a motley crew of Archangels, along with the Naked buying team assembled at the Fox Inn, adjacent to ExCel, for coffee and pastries. We were then briefed on our mission. A group of around 20 loyal customers were divided into teams with a brief to seek out the best wines and winemakers currently seeking UK representation from France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.

Having opted to join the Aus/NZ group, we set off to find "our" winemakers, to taste all of their offerings and decide which we felt were most suitable for the Naked stable. That is to say they had to be unrepresented, prepared to offer exclusivity for some of their wines, and they had to be smaller, boutique wineries. Needless to say the wines also had to be great, and to represent good value.

In return Naked Wines were looking to get their wines listed and available for sale from the site (pre-orders) the very next day! An awesome proposition, which has never been done before in the UK, and one which certainly generated a lot of interest with the winemakers and the wine media.

We tasted some fantastic wines during the morning, and many of them could have made it, my only regret was that we had to choose one winemaker to represent both Australia and New Zealand as a group, and there were a couple of extremely good NZ wineries that I have asked Naked Wines to follow up on (Matahiwi Estates' Alexia and Mt Hector wines from Wairarapa, near Martinborough, and Osawa Wines' Flying Mouton label from Hawke's Bay). All of these wines were good, but the stand-outs were Flying Mouton Sauvignon Blanc and Reserve, and the Mt Hector Pinot Noir, which was exceptionally good value.

We assembled again for a light lunch back at the Fox, and then the groups had to reach a consensus on what were the preferred wines from their region. Then we had to go and taste all 11 of the favoured wines before selecting an overall winner that would be listed on the site for sale the next day.

Once the final round of tastings had been done, we met at the "Access Zone", where most of the social networking seminars and events were taking place at LIWF to feed back our findings and also to decide which wine was to be our champion of champions.

LIWF 2010

As the film posted below shows, we had the opportunity to introduce the three final winemakers (although Peter Logan was otherwise engaged so couldn't make it), we all retasted their wines and had a show of hands for the one to be listed. Rowan Gormley (Naked Wines Founder and MD) was clearly impressed with all three wineries and all five wines, so Naked Wines will be listing the lot!

Naked Wine Consumer Selection from ryan and gabriella opaz on Vimeo.

So...the final five were:

Logan Wines - Orange/Mudgee, NSW, Australia - Weemala Gewürtztraminer, a fruit-driven, pale golden wine with a beautiful passionfruit aroma, well-balanced tropical fruit flavours and florality, and a lingering citrus finish - a real highlight even for those who don't usually favour white wines.

Logan Wines - Orange/Mudgee, NSW, Australia - Logan Shiraz, deep bright red in colour, with an intense, peppery, plum/berry aroma and warm, berry fruit flavour with hints of beefiness, with a lengthy peppery finish.

Lagar de Bezana - Cachapoal Valley, Chile - Aluvion Gran Reserva, deep red, blackberries, plums, smokey, chocolate and toffee notes, with an exceptionally velvety mouthfeel and light tannins - delicious!

Bodega Campos de Dulcinea - Toledo, Spain - Campos de Dulcinea Tempranillo Syrah blend, beautiful cherry red colour, incredible sweetness and smoothness on the palate and packed with fruit, a really bright young wine perfect for easy summer drinking.

Bodega Campos de Dulcinea - Toledo, Spain - Campos de Dulcinea Crianza. A big, bold and intense wine, with 12 months in French and American oak. Full-flavoured and fruity, with a deep garnet colour and avery long finish - awesome!

After all that hard work, we were kindly invited back to the Fox for a few beers. All in all it was a wonderful day, and a pleasure to be working with people who are so passionate and enthusiastic about what they are doing to revolutionise the UK wine market.

LIWF 2010 with Naked Wines

Naked Wine Consumer Selection from ryan and gabriella opaz on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LIWF 2010

I'm excited that I'm now planning my 2nd visit to the London International Wine Fair in London's ExCel Centre. Last time I was only able to make it for an afternoon. This year I am going up for 2 full days (18th and 19th May) and I am really thrilled!

On Tuesday 18th I will be there helping out Naked Wines with sourcing new suppliers of fine boutique wines that can be sold through their highly successful online sales model, which is revolutionising the online wine trade.

On Wednesday 19th I hope to meet up with Tim Pearson of 7Springs Vineyard (Hermanus, South Africa) to see what his new wines are all about, as well as to attend some tastings and meet a few people from 2009.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Naked Wines hijacks airline pricing model for wine industry!

Regular readers will know that I'm a huge fan of Naked Wines, the UK online farmer's market for wine. After soliciting a good deal of feedback from loyal customers (Angels and Archangels) who frequent the site, Naked Wines have just today relaunched their site, along with a very exciting new initiative (more on that later).

A small band of regular customers were invited to a special preview of the new site a week or so ago, and the feedback was very positive. Having checked out the new site this morning, I was delighted to see that many of the bugs and minor irritations that customers had identified with the old site over the past 15 months or so since Naked launched, have now been ironed out.

Naked Wines' new look site

Some of the new features are as follows:

  • Angels (i.e. sponsoring individual winemakers) and Cashback are now one, called Angels
  • There is a new "naked me" section with personalised recommendations
  • A "to do " list has been introduced, which details essential stuff to do, such as taking advantages of offers that are expiring shortly.
  • Tastings are £10 a ticket, which goes into the organiser's account, so you, as a customer can set up a tasting to showcase NW's wines, for which those attending will pay. The idea is that you then use the money to purchase the wine. Cool idea!

The best new feature (in this writer's opinion anyway) is that NW have launched a new service inviting UK wine drinkers to buy wines in the UK for less than they cost at the cellar door.

"Between 40-70% of the price customers pay for wine (exc. taxes) is dead money... the cost of selling, financing, picking it up, putting it down again, packaging, storage, risk, wastage," explains Naked Wines Founder, Rowan Gormley.

"From next week, our customers will be able to eliminate this 40-70%, by booking their wines in advance, just like an airline seat. In addition to the cost savings, this model will also mean an explosion in consumer choice - and a risk-free new route to market for producers.

If you look at Australia, for example, only 1/3 of producers currently export their wines to the UK. The barriers to entry are formidable - with hundreds of upfront costs, and no guarantee of making any money.

It's a gamble that most winemakers cannot afford to take - but by inviting winemakers to sell their wines BEFORE they incur any cost, Naked Wines is removing this barrier."

The new service, which includes wines from the Barossa Valley, Marlborough and South Africa, coincides with the website re-launch, featuring new ratings and recommendation functionality.

To find out more about the new service, called Advance bookings, visit

US readers - sharing some great discounts from various online wine retailers through

Hi folks

I've come across a new coupon site called Dealslip, who are offering a range of discounts across various online wine retailers in the US. If you're looking for a new place to buy your wines online, or perhaps just a special deal for Easter or Mother's Day, you are bound to find something to interest you.

Dealslip are offering wine discounts from Zagat Wine, Wall Street Journal Wine, Wine Access and Wired for Wine, to name just a few of the online wine sellers who are participating, so please check them out. They have free coupon codes that can save you 15% and get you free shipping on a whole bunch of different wine shops. You may see an ad banner or two for Dealslip on this blog, as I am running ads for them (in addition to this short advertorial) through my advertising partner PALATE PRESS: The Online Wine Magazine

So, to all my Stateside readers, enjoy browsing and I hope you manage to pick up a great bargain in time for the Easter bunny. Happy Easter!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Calling all winemakers!

If you are a small winemaker without a current distribution deal in the UK then the good people at Naked Wines may be able to help you get up and running!

Naked Wines are pledging £5 million to help new winemakers break into the UK (with them naturally!). You can read more about it here on their Facebook page:

Good luck!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brother, can you spare a bottle for Haiti?

Damon Winter/The New York Times

The good folks at Brother, can you spare a bottle and Palate Press have joined forces with a number of generous winemakers and other wine trade contacts to create numerous auctions, the proceeds of which will go to the American Red Cross to help support the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti.

Please follow the link to Palate Press (or the advertisement at top right) to donate wine or participate in the auctions, or follow the link directly to the American Red Cross if you would prefer to make a direct donation.

In the UK you may prefer to go directly tothe Disasters Emergency Committee.

We all know how awful the situation is in Haiti - a nation already struggling with extreme poverty now faced with a natural disaster the like of which it has never faced. Please give whatever you can.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vinturi red wine aerator - great little gadget

I read up about this clever item before adding it to my wishlist at this Christmas. Fortunately my parents dutifully bought it for me as a gift and I had the chance to test it out over the holidays. It really does make a difference to a red wine, although I think the effect is more obvious with heavier, or more tannic wines that are robust enough for aging.

It opens up the aroma and softens any rough tannins from younger wines just enough, thereby avoiding  any need to decant. I suppose it could be used to open up a whole bottle as you decant it, but so far I've only used it to pour by the glass.

On opening the wine, just pour it into the glass through the Vinturi aerator and it will bubble and gurgle amusingly, all the while introducing just the right amount of air to the wine via a clever capillary action, which takes advantage of the Venturi effect and Bernoulli's Principle, something I recall learning all about at university when I studied fluid dynamics!

At £35.40 from (current price as at 6th January 2010) this is an ideal gift for a loved one who enjoys red wine - it really saves having to wait for a good quality wine to aerate!

I am sure there are detractors who will consider this sort of device is an improper way to treat good wine - my message to them: don't knock it until you've tried it!