WanderCurtis Wine

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South Africa: Constantia and Hemel-en-Aarde

Not only does wine making in South Africa go back a very long way but winemaking in the Cape actually has a birthday: 2 February 1659! On that day Jan van Riebeeck recorded in his diary “Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes.’

Sent by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, to establish a staging post to supply ships on their way around the Cape of Good Hope, Van Riebeeck lost no time on the important business of planting vines and making wine.  Apparently was essential to the treatment of sailors with scurvy.  Yet more historical evidence of the health benefits of red wine!


Constantia lays claim to have the oldest vineyards in the southern hemisphere dating from 1685 when Simon van der Stel, the Cape’s first Governor established a farm on the southern slopes of Table Mountain facing False Bay.   False bay is of course a ‘real’ bay, it was just the wrong one from the point of view of sailors returning from India when they realised that they hadn’t quite reached the Cape Bay and still had to round the treacherous Cape of Good Hope.

Vin de Constance has since been revived by Klein Constantia and Groot Constantia also makes a sweet Grand Constance.  However, the comparatively cool climate, elevated altitude and generous rainfall (twice that of London apparently) means that modern Constantia is now home to a wide range of red and white varieties.

Where Van Riebeeck’s relied on enthusiasm Van der Stel brought to bear some viticultural knowledge and his name is firmly stamped on the Cape winelands. Quite literally as he named Stellenbosch town after himself and the imposing back drop of Simonsberg mountain serves as an ever present reminder.  The wines of Constantia attained international acclaim in the late 18th and early 19th C boosted by the war between France and England which made French wine hard to get hold of.  Famously Napoleon’s suffering during his exile on St Helena was greatly eased by a steady supply of Vin de Constance.  The wine at the time is thought to have been sweet and quite possibly fortified. Once there was peace and a trade agreement between England and France the market for Vin de Constance diminished and in the end the vineyards did not survive the onset of Phylloxera.

Groot Constantia

Groot Constantia (pronounce the G as if you are clearing your throat) is the largest part of the Van de Stel’s original farm.  A trust now owns the estate and it is even a National Monument.  The old Cape Dutch style farm house houses a museum which tells the story of the wine farm. Simon van der Stel’s mother was daughter of a freed Indian slave and after him Johannes Colijn, who heralded in the heyday of Vin de Constance in Europe, was also of mixed race.  The exhibition gives a sobering understanding of the part that colonisation and slavery played in the history of the farm and Cape’s wider wine heritage.

An easy drive from Cape Town the history, wine, restaurants and beautiful setting make the estate well worth a visit.

Rose 2022

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc made with minimal grape skin contact. Pale orange pink colour.  Nose of honey dew melon. Nice balance, peachy notes and good freshness.  Easy drinking in the sunshine.

Sauvignon Blanc 2022

Constantia has a reputation for fresh Sauvignon Blanc. Floral nose with elderflower blossom and a touch of grassiness. Again good balance, melon and tropical fruits flavour, fullish body but with freshness.

Chardonnay 2021

Smokey vanilla nose. Lemon, vanilla, spicy wood, full boded mid-level acidity and medium length. Tasty ‘new world’ style.

Gouverneurs Reserve White 2020

A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon partly aged in new oak Barrique.On the nose green pepper, hay, meadow flowers, herbs, tarragon. Fullish body, mid-level acidity, dry herbs, hay, grapefruit pith. Complex with very good length and a lovely citrus persistence.

Lady of Abundance 2018

A red blend of Pinotage, Merlot, Shiraz and Tannat.Mixed macerated red and dark fruit nose. Ripe plum, blackberry, clove and toast favours with soft tannin. Easy drinking.

Merlot 2018

A nose of classic plum and milk chocolate and a whiff of vanilla. Ripe capsicum, red fruit, soft tannins, medium length. Tasty.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Initially mulberry, then a leafy green aroma. Touch of strawberry, dried cranberries. In the mouth more dried fruit, nice chalky tannins, medium body, good acidity. Reasonable length. Give it a year or two and this should round out nicely.

Pinotage 2020

Baked dark plum with ferrous notes and a sprinkle of cake spice. Rounded full body but not flabby, more spicy baked blackberries, finishes with sweet fruit and is quite long.

Shiraz 2019

Plush fine oaky nose, iodine and dried cherry. Good balance and length, dark cherries, hint of blood, good length. Firm tannins sit squarely on the tongue, this should age quite nicely.

Gouverneurs Reserve 2028

A Bordeaux blend. Plums, cedar wood, milk chocolate, nice furniture polish. very Claret like. Mix of red and black fruit, Black Forest Gateaux, great balance and a long savoury finish!  Excellent.

Grand Constance 2017

Made from Muscat d’Frontignan the white Muscat is complemented with a small percentage of red Muscat.

Burnt orange colour. On the nose orange peel, ginger powder, dried apple, cinnamon, cake spices, furniture polish. Lusciously sweet but with enough lift to keep it fresh. A strangely a floral note, rose water or something like that and more dried orange. Very long.


Hemel en Aarde is known for growing Burgundian grapes and is divided into three areas: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, closest to Walker Bay, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley further up the valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge the highest area in terms of altitude.  Each area has different soils and micro-climates.

The received wisdom is that in the lower section clay soils produce broader more structured Pinots, the decomposed granite in the Upper part results in a crunchy, elegant style and due to the altitude and recurrence of some clay the Ridge produces something in between. That said many other wines are also produced here including some crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Rhone blends.

Overall the region’s proximity to Walker Bay, the cold Benguela current as well as the prevailing Southeaster results in a particularly strong cooling maritime influence. Hemel-en-Aarde also has higher than average rainfall.

Hamilton Russell was the first winery in the area, the eponymous owner was looking for land and was attracted by the cooler climate. A risky move back in the 1970s as the vineyards had no quota for wine making under the then restrictive rules and so winemaking was technically illegal. Having planted a wind variety of grapes including Pinot and Chardonnay they eventually restricted wine making to just these two varietals.  The winery has spawned several other neighbouring wineries as successive winemakers have left to set up their own ventures in the valley, these include Buchard Finlayson, Creation and Storm wineries.

The Wine Village, Hermanus.

At the bottom of the valley in the whale watching town of Hermanus is the Wine Village store with is a treasure trove of South African wines and will ship overseas.

Stephen was on the counter and let me taste Hamilton Russell Vineyards’ 2021 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Both from the Valley were beautiful rich, structured, and perfectly balances wines with lashings of fine oak. Immediately pleasurable for such young wines which for me puts them in the New World but with a level of Burgundian understatement.

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards

Newton Johnson is located in Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley located in a beautiful spot with spectacular views.

Resonance 2019

75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% oaked Semillon. Flinty nose, gooseberry, Semillon gives the wine a nice body, good length with a slight toasty finish. Very nice.

Albariño 2021

The first planting of this grape in SA were here at Newton Johnson. Made 20% in old oak barrels. Floral notes with sea breeze, a nice saline note in the mouth, fresh. A bit more breadth than you would find in a Spanish version but no shortage in bracing acidity.

Family vineyard Pinot Noir 2020. 13.5%

A blend of several vineyards including Sea dragon and Windandsea each bringing different characteristics to the wine. On the nose red soft fruit, some nice vegetal notes. In the mouth sweet fruit, more herbs, delicious rounded body, good freshness, and a lovely long finish.

Full Stop Rock 2020

79% Syrah and the rest Grenache grown in decomposed rocky granite. The wine is aged in 5% new oak barrels and the rest used for18 months. Blackberry, ripe fruit forward nose. In the mouth ripe sandy, rounded tannins, very approachable now. Long.

Granum 2016.

A blend of 75% Syrah and Mouvedre. Darker colour.  Black fruit, meatiness, oxo cubes on the nose. A nice stoniness, more ripe black fruit and savoury notes. Full bodied developing some earthy notes.

Boekenhoutskloof have also started making a Chardonnay and Pinot under their Cap Maritime label from vineyards in the  valley.  See the full review of this winery posted separately.

Wines of South Africa podcasts

Finaly just a quick shout out for the excellent series of podcasts that Jim Clarke and the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) have made. Packed with regional information, interviews with winemakers and some really interesting historical background these and Jim’s book really are essential further reading. To access the podcasts click on the link below.

WOSA Podcasts

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California Central Coast(2) – Carmel Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands

Route 101 South from San Jose took us through the fertile plains of the Salinas Valley known locally as  the ‘salad Bowl’ of California. We were greeted by fields of endless ripe orange pumpkins, lettuce in pristine rows and the sulphurous aroma of fields of brassicas. Then a turn South on the route 68 and we climbed into the Santa Lucia mountain range. Most of the  tasting rooms are in the small town of Carmel Valley one of the eight sub AVAs of Monterey AVA. In the 1960s A.J Winkler and Maynard Amerine from UC Davis produced the Winkler scale, a classification system describing the climate of wine regions. It characterised Monterey County as comparable to Burgundy. Due to its proximity to the Pacific and Monterey Bay it is blessed with cool days throughout the growing season.

Talbott Vineyards

Wines tasted

Sarah Case Chardonnay 2014

From Sleepy Hollow Vineyard thirteen miles South of Monterey Bay, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Golden colour, very oaky nose, coconut, butter, some stone fruit, brioche butterscotch 90% new French oak barrels. Delicious but this one is for the full oak lovers.

Diamond T Chardonnay 2014  

A vineyard site in SL Highlands closer to the ocean eight miles from Carmel Bay and more cool climate in character. Crisper more mineral and Burgundian some Meyer lemon notes, Crème brûlée finish.

Audrey Chardonnay 2014

From a highly selected parcels of the Diamond T Vineyards deep honeyed colour Creamy buttery oaky.

Sarah Case Pinot Noir 2015

From exceptional parcels in sleepy hollow Vineyard lovely notes of ripe red fruits red cherries strawberries soft tannins long length like a concentrated cherry bonbon

Diamond T Pinot Noir 2014

Cherry plum spice more spice than Sarah case crisp soft tannins.


We dropped in to other tasting rooms and also liked some of the Pinot’s from Bernardus. The Wine House is a good place to go and relax in their gardens and have wines by the glass recommended by their sommelier they also have some interesting bin ends from around California.




I was  impressed with the Pinot’s which showed the high quality which can be obtained from the cooler areas of Central Coast such as Santa Lucia Highlands. The Chardonnays were perhaps over buttery and rich, but I still enjoyed them as the fruit still showed and the quality was obvious.





For evening entertainment we headed to the old Cowboy bar ‘The Running Iron’. The locals were very welcoming and entertaining. Their 805 beer went down well with a six dice game called One Four Twenty Four introduced by Katy and Casey.  When one of the regulars turned up with a version of  Le Nez De Vin with forty aroma essences I was in my element!

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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 2)

Champagne Ayala

Champagne Ayala established its reputation for a dry style of wine when it became popular in the second half of the 19th century amongst the English aristocracy thanks to Edmond Ayala’s younger brother who had settled in London. Mind you at that time residual sugar of 19g per litre was considered dry, a far cry from the zero dosage wines which have between 0 and 3 g/l that are increasingly popular today!

ayala-01The house was bought by family Bollinger in 2005 and they have since rejuvenated the winery and put in place a young and dynamic team to take it forward as a house with its own distinct character. With an annual production of around 700000 bottles this remains a small hands on winery in the heart of Ay. Caroline Latrive is the chef de cave responsible for maintaining the fresh and elegant character of these chardonnay focused wines.

Brut Majeur NV.  A blend of 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir and 20% muenier. Aged for a minimum of two years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. A nice ring of persistent bubbles with a great tactile & invigorating mouthfeel. A reticent nose of lemon and zest.  In the mouth more subtle citrus, biscuit notes and very fresh. A great aperitif to lift the spirits.

Rose Majeur NV A blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir (of which 6% is added red wine) and 10% pinot muenier. Aged for a minimum of three years before disgorgement and with a low dosage of 7g. Presented in a box festooned with pink flowers. Copper salmon in colour. On the nose pink grapefruit a touch of peach. In the mouth fresh and dry some gooseberry & citrus fruit then a slightly salty finish.  This would be great with a meal of sea food.

ayala-03Brut Nature NV. The same blend as the Majeur but with no dosage and about four years aging on the lees. The nose is similar to majeur but with some spice and lovely autolytic notes of fresh bread. In the mouth great freshness hits one with a wash of sea spray then lime. Wow this has a great finish of minerals, bread, lemon peel and is very very long. Fantastic an excellent food wine.

Blanc de Blancs 2008.  A blend of chardonnay from the Cote de Blancs 60% Chouilly (known for its creamy character) & 40% Mesnil sur Oger (known for displaying more exotic fruit notes). It spends 5around 6 years on lees and has only 6g dosage. Served in an extravagant clear glass bottle this wine has a rich & complex nose of baked lemon, scents of roasted nuts, pastry: crème Anglais. In the mouth pineapple, caramel, ripe stone fruit but still delicate with great freshness and persistence. Long finish.

Perle D’Ayala 2005. The blend is 80% chardonnay from Cote de Blancs and 20% pinot noir from Ay which cooled by breezes along the Marne is known for its delicacy. The wine spends 8 years aging on the lees and has 6g dosage. Fine but less pronounced mouse, looks more like a wine. A rich nose of dried hay, pot-pourri and baked lemon, nice tertiary nutty notes. In the mouth spicy notes, baked pastries, lemon, vanilla & chalk, all in a restrained and nicely balanced way. Very complex and long.

None of these wines feel the need to pose or pout for one’s attention but nevertheless they achieve a level of balance, lift and complexity that confidently commands it. Champagne Ayala


Dom Pérignon


Standing high up in the gardens of the Abbaye Hautvillers one looks down on the meeting point of the three most important regions in champagne: the eastern end of the Valley de Marne, the northern tip of the Cotes de Blanc and the final sweep of the Montagne de Reims. Behind are the remains of the monastery where Dom Pérignon himself, the Benedictine monk credited with transforming wine making practices in the region, was cellarer.  One can’t help feel somehow near the epicentre of Champagne.


The tasting room over the cloisters

Chef de cave Richard Geoffroy’s choice of tasting room; a spectacular thirty metre long hall sitting over the last remaining wing of the monastery’s four sided cloisters, also seems to emphasise the historical significance of the place. However as we tasted & discussed the wines it became clear that far from looking backwards Richard is a forward thinker constantly striving to make new & singular wines. Richard asserts that his wine making is not about style but is all about making the best vintage wines, and yet it is clear to us that they are all undoubtedly Dom Perignon.


Not every year is good enough to produce a vintage but in an unprecedented run Dom Perignon produced consecutive vintages of P1 from 2002 to 2006 and it was fascinating to taste these side by side.  The vintage character is discernible but somehow seen through a ‘Dom Perignon filter’ like a pair of tinted sun glasses that make the sunset richer and more vibrant than it might otherwise be. In some years certain characteristics are more pronounced and in others they recede into the background but they are all always present coming together to make up the whole.

Richard doesn’t believe in artificial scarcity, if there is a good wine to make he will make it, this has meant taking calculated risks in certain vintages and thankfully they have paid off. Otherwise we would be so much poorer without superb wines like the 2003 and 2005.  These really are the epitome of champagnes where bubbles are beside the point.

Prestige cuvees of champagne tend to be expensive and Dom Perignon is reassuringly so.  However if have the opportunity to drink these wines you can be reassured of an extraordinarily special experience.

Also see Dom Perignon P2 ‘does exactly what is says on the tin’ for more details of the three Plenitudes that Richard makes and the thinking behind them.

Our contributing editor Stuart Grostern’s detailed tasting notes follow:

All of the wines had the same pure colour, with very little in visible bubbles served in Spiegelau white burgundy glasses.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2002. Sweet and slightly oxidised nose, green apples, smoke, caramel and a little mango, almost burgundy-like. In the mouth, sweet lemon rind, rich, white burgundy mouthfeel. Very concentrated, sweet, very long. Exquisite.

Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2003. From the earliest harvest to date, August 20th. A hot summer where the vines stopped producing sugars due to water stress while continuing to produce phenolics. Many champenois did not produce a vintage wine, but Richard inspected the ingredients and thought ‘of course!’. Smokey bready autolytic nose, a bit spirity with a hint of windscreen washer in a good and interesting way. Sweet, delicate, a bit of salinity, with a little hint of dessert wine botrytis. Beautiful balance, took me by surprise with its completeness even if it lacked the penetration of other vintages. Wonderful.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2004. Sprightly apple, smoke, spice nose. A zip when the wine hits the palate, followed by sweet baked apple, spices, a concentrated lemon and apple fizz, followed by a lovely saline lingering finish. This is a more linear wine, with such balance, and persistence and a long, long lingering sweet and salty finish. My favourites of the P1 vintages. Sublime.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2005. A warm and wet vintage in which the Pinot noir suffered from botrytis. On the nose, a lemon lime and iodine character. In the mouth, sweet attack in width of limes and spices with a linear concentration and salty character. The flavours narrow and concentrate onto a single point at the front of your tongue, with a hint of bitterness lingering alongside the lemon, lime and saline flavours. Sweet and savoury, so interesting. A great wine.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime 2006. Appley, smokey, iodine nose with something else (something savoury and beguiling), and a hint of red fruit. Good acidic attack of linear lime, slightly baked apples and bready slightly hot finish. Huge concentration that just sits showing the ripe deep fruit, with a never ending length. Amazing wine.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime Rose 2005. Served in a red burgundy glass. Copper pink hue. Some tar, more typical Cote de Beaune Pinot Noir with a hint of cola and liquorice. Fascinating nose. Sweet light red fruit followed by limes with a slightly tannic and dry palate, followed by more lime and peach. Wonderful length with lingering red berries, amazing persistence and balance. So beautiful, but I didn’t spend quite enough time to really get intimate with this wine.

dp-p2Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1998. Disgorged in 2008/9.


Tasting session: Leesy, smokey, iodine and lemon skin nose. Rich red fruit at the start followed by lemons, limes with real concentration. Slightly drying and sweet Chardonnay lingering finish, with a hint of sherbet. Wonderful and so interesting.


Lunch: matched with papaya, scallops and caviar. Blended seamlessly and matched the flavours of the food perfectly, though its character was masked. With roast Turbot with olive oil and saffron risotto, this wine really came alive again, bringing out the sweetness of the fish, acidity cutting the flavours and enhancing the dishes just so well. An amazing and inspired match.


Dom Perignon Brut millesime P2 1996. Smokey iodine and lemon candy aromas. As it opened, some oxidative and bruised apple emerges. Brilliant acidity, with lemon and lime attack, laser like acidity on the tongue followed by a savoury and sweet pastry gush. A bit of red fruit of cherry with savoury moreish after taste. So very, very long, an incredible wine!


Dom Perignon Brut millesime P3 1973. While all of the other wines had almost exactly the same colour, this had a light gold shimmering hue.

Bready and shy, smokey with sweet mango nose. A sweet light mouth, delicate, precise, with savoury finish. The perfect balance of acidity, fruit, body and flavour, with a fine body. An ethereal wine of great character, paired perfectly at lunch with the yellow plum and osmentus ice cream dessert. A phenomenal finish to a magical day.


As I write this review I realise that I forgot to ask Richard perhaps the most important question of the moment: when is the 2008 P1 going to be released?  I can’t wait! Dom Perignon


Champagne Andre Robert


When I made a surprise request for a video interview in the vineyards Claire Robert and her husband Jean-Baptiste were at first charmingly nervous but by the time I had fluffed the introduction on the first take and run out of battery part way through the second, they were their open and  engaging selves again.  clare-jean-baptisteClaire is the 5th generation of wine makers at Champagne Andre Robert taking over from her grandfather Andre who started making his own wines in the 1960s alongside supplying grapes to one of the big name houses.  There was something slightly reverential in the way that Claire and Jean-Baptiste showed us around the family vineyards situated just outside Le Mesnil sur Oger and clearly they realise just what a special in the Cote de Blancs place it is. At the sometime they are obviously excited at possibilities that their new winery, just outside the village, open up for the future.  Claire and Jean-Baptiste have plenty of new ideas too such as commissioning new oak barrels made from the local woods to make Les Mesnil in Le Mesnil barrels. They also plan to start producing a late disgorgement vintage champagne to add to the range.


Reserve Grand Cru  A blend of 2010 & 2009, 100% chardonnay from a selection of plots near the village, 30% made in oak barrels. Then 3 years in bottle on the lees. This wine will soon be renamed Le Gardin de Mesnil.  On the nose lovely lemon,  pineapple & grapefruit. In the mouth great balance, linear crisp & dry with a very long finish.  The wine develops in the glass showing mineral and toasty notes. It has minimal bubbles another real wine. Pure and elegant.

Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2009. 100% chardonnay raised 100% in oak barrels for 7 months, lees stirring and then 6 years in the bottle before disgorgement. A wider creamy nose with butter, nuts, toast & some brioche, complex and accessible. Nice concentrated flavours precise and defined great freshness & balance. Long.


Mesnil Grand Cru vintage 2008. Lovely has an extra intensity to 2009 some floral notes, more patisserie, cake spices, buttery. On palate rich, hedonistic, but with a saline buzz & citrus zing, then the palate moves on to oak influences: toast, sweet nutty flavours. Great balance and a very long finish.  Potential to age a long time. Superb!


Seduction 2008 Still chardonnay lead but with 45% pinot noir from an old parcel of vines dating from 1974. 7g dosage. On the nose ripe apple, some peach and a touch of spice even light pepper. In the mouth chalky mineral notes a hint of cumin, ripe red apple very long.


The wines here are superb and under Claire and Jean-Baptiste’s care the winery and the wines are destined to go from strength to strength. Seek them out and try them. Champagne Andre Robert

Available from Scala Wine

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Champagne where the bubbles are beside the point! (part 1)

Travelling by train from Paris you notice the vineyards lining the Vallee de la Marne long before you arrive at the surprisingly brutalist railway station in Epernay, an early intimation of just how big and diverse the Champagne appellation is.

With three different grape varieties, a vast arrange of vineyards too choose and the ability to add reserve wine from past vintages into the blend the Champenois enjoy more flexibility than almost anywhere else to produce a palatable tipple.  Oh and don’t forget the bubbles, just as carbon dioxide demonstrably improves the flavour of fizzy drinks so does it enhance the taste of most Champagnes.

Synonymous with celebration & the lubricant of a good party it is easy to enjoy & consume Champagne without particularly focusing directly on the wine itself.  Large quantities of Champagne are made for just this purpose but more and more there are Champagne makers whose aim is to produce first and foremost wines which just happen to have a few bubbles.

Champagne where the bubbles are almost beside the point! These are the wines that we have concentrated upon in this series of tasting notes.

 Champagne Geoffroy

Bristling with excitement and tension at the imminent harvest Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, owner and winemaker at Champagne Geoffroy, arrived in dusty boots straight in from the vineyards.  As he showed us around the winery and introduced us to his wines, it was impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm and it was clear that Jean-Baptiste is someone who absolutely loves what he does.

img_7581Although located in Ay almost all vineyards are in Cummieres at the eastern end of the Vallee de Marne and are pinot noir & Pinot Meunier. The plots are all owned by family having been divided up over the generations.

In 2006 Jean Baptiste bought the winery in Ay from a cooperative because an access road at the rear allows grapes at harvest time to be delivered straight into the top floor and then the whole wine making process can be carried out by gravity down through 3 floors and eventually into deep cellars cut into the chalk below.  Jean-Baptiste uses the traditional ‘coquart’ vertical wooden wine press unique to champagne. Each press takes 4 hrs and he operates 2 in rotation he feels maintaining the tradition is important and it works for his wines even if it’s more labour intensive.

Champagne Geoffroy believes that some oxidation is beneficial to the wines and so age approximately 35% for their non-vintage and 100% of the vintage wines in used oak barrels.  They use a large range of barrel sizes including some large Foudre de chene from Austria along with second hand burgundy barriques. They also use old fashioned enamel vats because Jean-Baptiste finds their use results in less reduction than in stainless steel barrels.

Cuvée Expression Brut NV

A blend of 2 vintages 2011 and 2010 (35%), some oak in the reserve wine and 90% black grapes. It spends a minimum of 3 years in bottle on the lees. Very fruity, bruised red apple, soft red fruit, bread, chalk dust,  nice mouthfeel understated fine bubbles, great lift at end nice minerally chalky finish.  Dry, complex and engaging, fresh but welcoming with great balance. This champagne really punches well above its weight.

Cuvée Pureté Brut nature NV

Same blend as the Expression but older vintages 09 & 10 and with zero dosage. Lovely, more savoury flavours, a bit fresher but not sharp or austere at all. Just super dry. One for food.

Cuvée Empreinte Brut 2009

Pinot noir driven blend. Made in 80% oak using a mix of large and small barrels. On the nose red fruit, strawberries and ripe red apple, creamy notes and a lingering aroma of rising bread dough. In the mouth red berries, baked apples with spice, minerals, nuttiness and a long finish ending with a minty note.  Even more complex. Excellent.

Cuvée Volupté Brut 2007

A blend of 80% chardonnay and 10% PN & PM.  Half raised in oak and low dosage that would qualify as an extra brut.

A lovely nose of brioche, a touch of after eight chocolate and lemon zest. In the mouth an interesting chalky character, dry, pastry, some coco powder & more ripe citrus notes with a long finish. A very satisfying wine that remains fresh. img_7578

Cuvée Rosé de Saignée

Deep pink colour. This wine is 100% pinot noir from a single year.  The colour bleeds from the grape skins rather than coming from an added wine which Jean Baptiste feels does not result in a harmonious and integrated wine. A rather subdued subtle nose, hints of soft red fruit. In the mouth red fruit: cherries, strawberries, fruit salad, and a nice chalky slightly sweeter finish. A touch of red wine body with really great balance overall.

Cuvée Blanc de Rose Extra brut 2011.

Gold pink colour. This rose is also made by allowing the colour to bleed from the Pinot noir grapes but is 50:50 Chardonnay and Pinot noir.  The blend is made by mixing the grapes together and then macerating and fermenting them together. Floral on the nose, rose and chalk. In the mouth lemon peel, pink grapefruit, dry with good body and freshness, dried red fruit. Sophisticated.  Really unique, would be great with a ceviche fish starter.

Cuvée Millesime Extra Brut 2005.

This is a blend of about half Chardonnay, 30% PN and the rest pinot meunier. Made in 100% oak and left for a minimum of 8 years on the lees. Jean-Baptiste recommends to decant older vintages as this allows any initial closed oxidative character to blow off. He also says that this wine which is only made in great vintages is better to taste a day or two after opening.

First bottle which had been opened two days previously. Slightly smokey nose, delicate. A silky mouth feel with minimal bubbles. Delicate citrus, cream, slightly saline, very Burgundian, nice nuttiness and subtle oak notes. A long mineral finish.

Second freshly opened bottle. Bit more edge, more freshness, less of the subtlety of the opened version but made up for with greater vitality and intensity. Very long. Really really good!

Jean Baptiste suggests that this wine can be cellared easily for 10 + years and is beginning to keep back 500 bottles of each vintage to age further on the lees before disgorgement.  The first to be released will be the 1999.

Champagne Geoffroy

 Champagne Gosset

The oldest wine house in Champagne founded by Pierre Gosset in 1584 in the days when the wines were still.  The wine is sourced from around 200 growers from 70 villages mostly in the Montagne de Reims and the Cote de Blancs. The freshly pressed juice of each grape type from each village is vinified separately and even the non-vintage champagnes are left to develop in the lees for a minimum of three years.  Finally all the wines are bottled in the distinctive shaped bottle that champagne used to use in the 18th century.

img_7585In 1994 Gosset was bought by the Renaud-Cointreau group and under new management the annual production has doubled to around one million bottles a year. This may sound like a large production operation but isn’t when compared to many of the larger Champagne houses.  The focus here is on making high quality chardonnay led wines and the recent investment has clearly achieved this. With new wine making premises and cellars in Epernay bought in 2009 the house has capacity for further expansion and as we discovered when we tasted the wines this can only be very good news!

Blanc de Blanc Brut. NV.

Chardonnay sourced 2/3 from the Cote de Blanc and 1/3 from the south east corner of le Montagne de Reims. Dosage 9g. A lovely peanut brittle nose with chalky notes. Vigorous mouse. Nice ripe lemon peels some flinty notes, and tasty leesy notes.

Grand Rose NV

Gosset’s biggest seller at 12% of the production. A 50:50 blend of Pinot Noir and chardonnay with 8% Pimg_7598N red wine. Salmon pink, peach colour with tiny bubbles. Chalkiness on nose, a bit reticent with a touch of soft red fruit & lemon zest.Similar flavours on the palate, chalky with soft red fruit a hint of cumin.  This would be a great pair with Asian food.

Grande Reserve Brut NV

Aged 4 years on lees and with about 20% reserve wines often from 3 different vintages in the blend. The wine is Pinot dominant with 40% Pinot Noir, 20% pinot meunier & 40% chardonnay all from premier cru villages. Rich bright gold colour.  A tight nose of honey, smoke, nuts. Concentrated, rich & intense, on the palette with cooked lemon, pastry, and a great structure. Very long. Put this one in the cellar for a year or two and it will uncoil beautifully.

Grand Milleseme Brut 2006.

The blend is 55%PN & 45% chardonnay with a dosage of 6g. Richer darker gold colour. On the nose fragrant Manuka honey, roasted nuts, biscuit then crystallised orange & lemon a touch of dark chocolate, really complex. Lovely ripe grapefruit, nuts, biscuit a compelling luscious sweet zesty finish. Very long.

Celebris Vintage 2002 Extra Brut.

The blend 52% chardonnay & 48% Pinot noir. Aged 10 years on the lees before disgorgement. A struck match nose over ripe mango, roasted nuts, and with floral notes. Very sophisticated delicate palate of exotic fruits, mango, lemon and cheesecake, really elegant long & complex a superb wine!

15 Ans de Cave a Minima’ Brut

A limited edition late disgorgement release originally cellared in 1999 60:40 chardonnay pinot noir with 7g dosage. Even more golden in colour tiny bubbles. On the nose honey, biscuit, dried fruits a nice touch of oxidation and maturity. On the palate lemon tart, honey, baked fruit, spice fuller body, complex and very long. A wine for those that enjoy maturity & sophistication.

 Champagne Leclerc Briant

For someone in charge of the complete the rebirth of Champagne house Leclerc Briant Frédéric Zeimett looks pretty calm and collected.  In fact he is clearly enjoying the opportunity of creating something new and unique.

Three years ago when he bought the biodynamic winery with American investors Frédéric embarked upon an ambitious program to rebuild the winery which is now nearing completion.  With a keen eye for aesthetics the new winery brings stylimg_0176e and function together with state of the art equipment. Rows of double stacked stainless steel tanks flank each side of the chapel like fermentation room with tall slot windows at each end adding to the effect.

Along with the modern Coquart press we noticed interesting egg shaped terracotta casks and Frédéric explained that he has brought in leading biodynamic wine consultant & ‘wine whisperer’ Hervé Jestin with an open brief to explore and push the boundaries of biodynamic winemaking.  Hervé is experimenting with different the energy that different materials such and terracotta, wood and even glass give to the wine.

This is where the intriguing mix of sophisticated style and esoteric biodynamic ideas that Frédéric calls Bio-chic starts to become evident.

Frédéric elaborates upon his concept of Bio-Chic.

Leclerc Briant. Brut Reserve.

All from 2013, 40% pinot noir 40% pinot meunier and 20% chardonnay with 4g dosage.Served in burgundy glasses at 11 to 13 degrees. Only bottled in June/ July 2014, 30% of the wine having been raised in barrels then disgorged 2 years later. The wine is only bottled so late because it is a biodynamic principle to wait until the next years flowers arrive on vine. Minimal bubbles. On the nose fruity & chalky with a slightly dusty spicy cumin note. In the mouth very dry, lime with pink grapefruit a fresh saline thread lingers in mouth. Lovely!

Blanc de Meuniers Chamery 1er cru

Served blind a sample bottle of a 100% pinot meunier champagne harvested 2013. 100% raised in wooden barrels for 9 months with zero dosage. Unfortunately we failed to identify this as 100% pinot meunier from Vale de Marne! On the nose leesy with a touch of spice nice cumin. In the mouth dry, fresh lime, grapefruit, chalky and a bit spicy.  Frédéric mused whether the final wine would benefit from the addition of some dosage or remain zero?  Interesting as it was and not austere but my feeling was that more fruit might manifest itself with a lift in sweetness.

La Croisette from the single vineyard range.

100% chardonnay all from the 2013 vintage and all vinified and aged in old Sauternes barrels, zero dosage. A spicy nose, lemon peel and a little hint of marmalade perhaps from the barrels.On palate more citrus, spicy notes minimal bubbles and a nice subtle toastiness. Long.

Champagne Leclerc Briant

Champagne Corbon

Agnes Corbon almost single headedly runs this gem of a winery in the heart of Avize on the Cote de Blancs.  Lovingly producing just 10,000 bottles a year Agnes believes in long aging on the lees and minimal intervention. Since Claude Corbon started the tradition 40 years ago the house has always made a vintage wine every year.   Agnes explains her wine making approach in the video below.

Absolument Brut.

Approximately 50% chardonnay and 25% PN & 25% PM zero dosage. Base wine 2010 bottled in 2011 disgorged after about 4 years on the lees in June 2015. Minimal bubbles. Red berries on the nose, lemon rind, white flowers, chalky nuts & a hint of cumin. Dry but not austere, complex buttery, nutty and long.

img_7647Brut d’autrefois

Solera style perpetual blend with 50% new wine added each vintage into a large 30 hectolitre oak foudre. Bottled in 2008. The blend is 80 to 85% chardonnay and about 15% pinot noir although moving towards 100%. The blend was started by Agnes’ father in about 1982. Quite mind boggling but resulting in a wine of lovely complexity with ripe fruit: apples, & lemon, dried fruit, spices & toasted nuts.  In the mouth, honey & hazel nuts with a nice sweetness. Very long. Again minimal bubbles. An extraordinary wine!

Champagne Chardonnay vintage 2005.

100% chardonnay aged 10 years on the lees with 6g dosage. To keep the wine fresh no malolactic fermentation is allowed and the wine is made in 100% stainless steel barrels. On the nose a whiff of smoke, candy fruit & pear drop. In the mouth intense baked lemon a touch of honey& some slightly resinous notes great balance and lift.

These wines somehow reflect the both the location and the winemakers patient approach quirky yet captivating!  Well worth seeking out.

Champagne Corbon

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Nigel Greening of Felton Road in conversation

Ahead of our Felton Road tasting at Season Kitchen earlier this week owner and producer Nigel Greening shared his story and thoughts on past and current vintages.

Nigel recounts how he went from wine enthusiast to owner and producer of some of the worlds finest wines.

The million dollar question: the secret of Felton Road’s success:

Nigel’s thoughts on the 2014 vintage:

Built for the long haul some of Nigel’s favourite older vintages:

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Saint Clair Pioneer Block Pinot Noir 2012 Marlborough , New Zealand


St Clair PinotThis delightful Pinot is a no brainer for our wine of the month and a fitting celebration for May day.

Made from small parcels of outstanding fruit from the fittingly named Doctor’s Creek Vineyard , Block 14.

Medium Ruby, pronounced aromas of red summer fruits with much more complex notes of game, wet fur,earth,  toast and a wonderfully perfumed floral note with warm spices including nutmeg textured by a buttery nose and texture.

Develops more complexity after an hour or so with a savoury meatiness which would complement new season lamb but this is such a fine wine it would go with almost anything .

I’ll be popping down today to get a case .


Available £22 or £17 for 2 at http://www.majestic.co.uk

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New Zealand Wine Annual Tasting 2015

A tricky tasting with many wines appearing closed, a root day or are New Zealand’s maturing vines beginning to produce wines that behave just as capriciously in their youth as the best of the old world?

New Zealand undoubtedly produces some of the worlds premium wines and what makes this all the more extraordinary is that it does so from relatively young vines and in the context of a fair bit of climatic variation from year to year. At a tasting 18 months ago to celebrate 10 years of Craggy Range Te Muna pinot noir Steve Smith MW was confident that after a decade the vines were beginning to show their full character. So in theory the wines should just get better and better, no pressure then!

With 474 wines from 103 producers on show and only an hour and a half window I therefore thought the best thing to do was focus on a few old favourites to see how they were developing and what the current vintages are like.

Felton Road Central Otago

Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2013.
Crisp citrus, ripe pear, lovely texture, this wine has substance but also great freshness & good length. Delicious & great value. (No oak but aged in old barrels to soften and round it out).

Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn 2013.
A captivating succession of citrus, lemon & lime, stoney mineral notes, a whiff of white flowers and just a hint of bakery and toast. Great complexity and length, at whole lot of wine for the price. (Again more Chablis than Cote d’Or with only 8% new wood).

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2013.
My notes read: ‘OMG this is fantastic!’ so it was pretty good. Again citrus, ripe green apples, a good lick of minerals, very intense at this stage with great balance and long lingering finish. Thrilling and with plenty of ageing potential. Grand Cru in terms of quality, Nigel Greening founder of Felton Road believes that whilst NZ pinots are already internationally recognised the Chardonnays are now ready to sit at the top table too.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn 2013.
This wine strikes a great balance between forward tasty ripe fruit and a nice vegital backbone, finishing with lashings of spice and wood. Reliably delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2013.
True to this vineyard’s character this wine is spicy, seductive and forward. Ripe red fruits, cake spices and a lush mouth feel, nice long finish. I always wonder how this will age, having started out so delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2013.
Again the consistent character of this vineyard comes through, quite distinct from the Cornish Point, although the clones and vinification are exactly the same. More compact with great balance, clean fruit, perfume with a nice savoury core and great length. Fantastic. One to tuck away for a few years and great value when compared with premier cru Burgundy.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2013.
A lovely delicate balance of confected strawberry, cinnamon spice, real depth and complexity & great freshness and length.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2013.
This has an earthy, meaty nose with ripe black cherry, intense and primary, fuller bodied with a caressing mouth feel and just enough freshness to lift the very long finish. Amazing.

Craggy Range

Craggy Range Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. 2014
A great fresh gooseberry driven SB with a touch of elderflower and cracking acidity.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough.

This has more substance, stone fruit and a nice creaminess, but still all the crisp freshness that you would hope for, very satisfying.

Craggy Range Chardonnay Kidnappers Vineyard. Hawke’s Bay 2012.
Vibrant ripe citrus, touch of honey and a lovely saline whiff of the sea shore. Great balance and freshness, the tiny touch of oak very subtle.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2012.
This seemed a little closed down and I have noticed that although they start open and inviting MZ some PNs seem to close down and become more reticent after a couple of years. Red fruit and a vegital base, good balance and nice finish. This is normally a real crowd pleaser with pure fruit and a heady floral perfume as evidenced by our 10 year tasting finishing with the 2011 two years ago.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Aroha Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2011.
A selection from the finest parcels with some whole bunch fermentation. Quite primal with earthy, vegital with black cherries wood and smoke, you can almost taste the stalk tannin which may need a bit of time to fully integrate. Again quite closed but with plenty of substance.

Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Black and white pepper, tight black fruit, quite austere at the moment , medium body with good balance, will hopefully fill out with time.

Craggy Range ‘ Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Again quite closed overall but clearly an intense wine with a deep core of black fruit, black pepper and toast. Great balance and long length.

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Gorgeous polished nose, perfumed wood polish, ripe blackberries, medium body, fine tannins, silky mouth feel and good length. Delicious.


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Burgundy en primeur 2013 Berry Brothers & Rudd Tasting

En primeur season is upon us again. BBR host one of the most comprehensive Burgundy tastings which I recently attended with wine brother & Burg aficionado Stuart Grostern.  Stuart’s palate & knowledge of the region is fine & deep so we are delighted to share his detailed tasting notes here as contributing editor. Burgundy Harvest

Tasting notes from the Burgundy 2013 en primeur hosted by Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), held at One Great George last week Tuesday Jan 13th.

Quite a range of wines on taste, and I arrived early enough to partake in many of the grand cru reds. In summary, the tasting really turned out to be very pleasant, maybe it was a fruit day in the biodynamic calendar, or maybe these wines are just tasting great at this stage. Either way, the vintage is very beautiful and characteristic of place.

For the reds, wines showed beautiful perfume that took you quite immediately to their places of origin. Tannins were fine, with great acidity, ripe fruits, few green flavours and little over extraction. Most of the wines were mid to lighter weight in the villages and premier crus, and concentration is good in places. The Grand Crus showed even more character but in line with expectation, were a little more closed and less forthcoming.

In white, more powerful ripe and concentrated wines have been made, and they felt more like 2010 whereas reds reminded me more of 2007 but with greater fruit. Everything I tasted in white had ripe fruit, strong acidity and varying degrees of concentration that became more pronounced the better the site. On the whole, the whites take this vintage over the reds for depth, concentration and probably relative ageability (meaning the whites will age longer for whites than the reds) but for pure charm and for medium term drinkability, the reds are lovely and many will reward 5 years in cellar. Vosne and Chambolle are the standout appelations in the Cote de Nuits for me. DSC00980

My one complaint is prices but then again, this was not a big vintage. However, despite a strengthening GBP against the Euro, prices are up in the premier and grand cru wines. Villages wines are on par if slightly down year on year. You have to wonder why you would want to buy this vintage in any quantity at the premiers and GC levels given average landed price to consumers for minimum 6 bottles is £50-£70 per bottle for premiers and anything from £80 upwards for GCs?

Here’s the list of wines tasted on the night (42 in total). Generally, my ratings describe nose in first sentence, followed by taste starting with fruit, acidity, tannins, balance, and length. I have arranged by appellation below, (generally) north to south for white, and south to north for reds. Ratings are Good (G), Very Good (VG), Very Very Good (VVG) and Excellent (E) – not very scientific but reflect the overall experience of each from a small tasting pour (with a couple of exceptions where I poured myself). Tasting conducted over the course of 2.5 hours.


Dominique Lafon, Bourgogne Blanc Smoky, not showing a lot of fruit. Nothing special. G  

Jean-Phillippe Fichet, Bourgogne Blance Vielles Vignes Heard a lot of people talking about Fichet wines well before I got there. I found out why. Smoky, lemony nose. Super concentrated fruit with honey and mineral notes. Great concentration and depth. VVG

Sylvain Loichet, Ladoix, Les Grechons 1er Cru Apple and mandarin nose, unusual. Good lemon fruit attack and big acidity, medium concentration. VG

Dominique Lafon, Meursault Smoky, sweet lemon nose. Medium weight, good intensity of lemony fruit and high acidity. Very persistent. VG

Jean-Yves Devevey, Meursault Les Vireuils Chalky sweet lemon nose. Sweet fruit, mid weight. Good concentration balanced by acidity. Good length. VG

Bouchard Pere et fils Meursault Les Perrieres 1er cru Green apple, but otherwise closed nose. Intense lemon and mineral with great acidity, concentrated sweet fruit and finish, just hinting about what’s underneath. Very impressive. E     (I bought 6)

Jean-Phillippe Fichet, Meursault Les Gruyaches Super smoky nose, a little unyielding. Very tight, great acidity, very concentrated but hard to taste. Very very long. Wow but not very pleasurable. On feeling, this is VVG.

Jean-Phillippe Fichet Meursault Les Tessons Sulfuric and woody and mineral nose, very intense, a bit gluey and quite typical from the many times I’ve tasted Tessons from other makers. Reassuring. Super concentrated fruit, ripe apples, mineral with a very very long finish. Very impressive. E  

Michel Bouzereau &fils Meursault Les Perrieres 1er cru Lovely nose, light yet concentrated. Acidity very apparent, good concentration but not intense. Very balanced. VG

Patrick Javillier Meursault Les Tillets Subdued nose of lemon and apples. Good acidity and intensity, very nice balance. Good depth and concentration with mineral finish. VVG

Patrick Javillier Meursault Tete de Murger Closed nose, unyielding. Concentrated full mouthful with puckering level of acidity, hints of honey. A full plush, silky wine, very balanced and very long. E

Antoine Jobard Meursault Les Poruzots 1er Cru Big smoky charred nose with lifted white flowers. Very tart acidity dominated at this stage so impossible to taste. VG or better?

Jean-Yves Devevey, Chassagne Montrachet Richer fatter fruit nose, lemon and honey. Tart lemon, high acidity but not very sweet and a little hot. Lingering finish. G

Jean-Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet le Cailleret 1er cru Pretty white flowers and stone fruit, vanilla and light passion fruit nose. Great fruit concentration, mandarin, apply. Really long. VVG

Chateau de Puligny Montrachet Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru Sweet lemon, pure mineral and whiteflower nose. Intense linear lemon fruit, concentrated, great acidity and balance, great elegance. E

Domaine de Montille Puligny Montrachet Les Caillerets 1er cru Lemony fruity nose with mineral. Very intense, tart apple and lemon, mineral and very concentrated. VVG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos Blanc de Vougeot 1er cr An unusual offering which I’ve tried in the past, a white from the Cote de Nuits made from very old vines. Sweet fruit, lemon and mineral nose. Wonderful concentrated fruit, very deep but also achieving great balance and a lightness. VVG


Comte Armand, Volnay Intense floral nose, reminiscent of Barolo including roses and violets. Wonderful balance, mid weight with dark fruit character and good length. VVG

Domaine de Montille, Volnay Taillepieds 1er cru Repressed fruit, cinnamon and pepper nose. Slightly harsh tannins masking fruit. Hard to taste. Not sure.

Benjamin Leroux Volnay Clos de la Cave des Ducs 1er cru Interesting nose, definitely Volnay perfume with Pommard fruit and some animal essence. Mid weight palate, black fruit, taut acidity and good concentration. Good length. VG  

Comte Armand, Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1er cru Dark fruit nose, violets, animal. Strong dark fruit intensity but quite closed. Dryish tannins but good intensity and concentration accompanying the tannins. Long. VVG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Nuits St Georges Clos de Thorey 1er cru Animal, strawberries, spices, vanilla, slightly confected. Lovely lifted fresh sweet cherry fruit, not overly complex but good balance and length. VG JF

Mugnier, Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale 1er cru Strong black liquorice and vanilla nose. Dark fruit showing, slightly overripe, or maybe overextracted. Tannins rough. Very concentrated. OK but not to my taste at this stage.

Domaine Jean Grivot Nuits St Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru Lovely perfumed nose of strawberry and roses. Very tannic, slightly harsh but then softened. Good core of fruit, with a medium finish. VG

Domaine AF Gros Vosne Romanee Aux Reas Great perfume, very Vosne with tea, rose, and spices. Very characteristic. Sweet lifted fruit. Mid weight. Lovely and complex already. Beautiful. VVG

Domaine AF Gros Vosne Romanee Maizieres Darker fruit here, savoury, with tea, almost bloody. Tart dark cherry fruit. Good persistence with tannins in check. Very long. E

Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Vosne Romanee Les Rouges 1er cru Ripe dark fruit, a little jammy and spice nose. Dark, tart but ripe fruit. Refined tannins. Super concentrated, nice persistence and medium length. VG

Domaine Lamarche Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes 1er cru Slight cola, spice, vivid cherry nose. Sweet fruit, vanilla, with intense acidity and very tough tannins. Very intense wine with sour cherry dominant. A lot there. Good length. VVG

Domaine Lamarche Echezeaux grand cru Majestic nose of dark fruit, perfumed roses and plums, tending to black currant. Dark fruit with high acidity, tannins already integrated. Growing intensity in this wine, very balanced with excellent concentration. VVG

Maison Roche de Bellene, Echezeaux grand cru Concentrated grape juice nose, perfumed blackberry and darker alcoholic fruit in abundance. Very balanced, fruit overwhelming acidity but mid palate a little hollow. Medium bodied and length. VG

Domaine Lamarche La Grand Rue grand cru Beguiling nose, super perfumed, the essence of beauty and elegance defined. Very ripe fruit (too ripe?) with blackcurrants and dark cherry. Great balance. Very long and persistent. Very special. E

Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot grand cru Dark fruit nose with animal scents. Cherry fruit, with a good core of concentrated materials, quite deep with a long finish. VG

Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot grand cru Very sulfuric nose, with dark cherry and kirsch nose. Sweet brambly fruit but quite closed. Some banana too. Dryish tannins with a darker fruit finish. Good length. VG

Domaine AF Gros Chambolle Musigny Quite dark for a Chambolle. Sulfur and sweet confected strawberry nose, a lovely perfume. Sweet ripe lifted fruit. Very balanced. VVG  

Domaine Michele and Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny Les Cras 1er cru Beautiful floral nose, light strawberry essence. Sweet cherry, good persistence without heaviness leaving a slight bitter aftertaste. Lovely overall and quite complex. VVG  

Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny Exotic nose with spices and perfume. Slightly sour cherry, Asian spice, some peel character, light ethereal body with a medium finish. VVG  

Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle Musigny Les Baudes 1er cru Initial hint of horseradish (I’ve experienced this in her 2004 Chatelots), strawberry but not giving away much. Sweet strawberry fruit with raspberry. Intensely fresh with beaming acidity and integrated tannins. Quite intense wine. VVG  

Louis Boillot Gevrey Chambertin Assembled from 7 different parcels with average vine age of 60 years. Lovely dark cherry aromas, fresh and perfumed. Sweet cherry, almost lavish with very refined tannins, good acidity and balance. VVG

Louis Boillot Gevrey Chambertin Les Evocelles Dark and meaty with sandalwood nose. Cherry fruit, tart acidity, giving the cherry a sour edge. Bracing acidity, tannins good, a real mouthful. VG

 Dujac Fils & Pere Gevrey Chambertin Red cherry and cinnamon, with sandalwood nose. Cherry fruit, but woody. Mid weight with good concentration and medium length. G  

Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Gevrey Chambertin Mes Favorites Lovely mid cherry and strawberry with great perfumed rich nose. Great nose. Fantastic balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. Quite closed but very good persistence into back of throat indicating there is a lot of matter here. Very good length. E  

Benjamin Leroux Gevrey Chamertin Les Champeaux Very perfumed for a Gevrey. Quite closed but dark fruit and grapey character. Tannins ripe and mid weight as well as concentration. Is this Gevrey? G

Stuart posts on the Wine Spectator forum as BirDungy

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Best Pinot Noir of New Zealand – Suze restaurant, Mayfair

35 people attended this seated tasting in Mayfair. A great evening showing the best pinots in New Zealand based on Matthew Dukes 5-star pinot rating table. Nicola Greening of Felton Road presented Calvert and Cornish Point, Mike Herrick was over from New Zealand presenting Pipeclay and the Estate from Mount Difficulty and Abbie Moulton of Liberty wines showed Ata Rangi.

Venue Suze restaurant in Mayfair is owned by passionate, wine-loving Kiwis. Matching canapés were served with the wines.

Welcome wines:

  • Kumeu River Estate, 2007, Chardonnay, Auckland New Zealand.

This is a firm favourite of the WanderCurtis duo since I hit upon the 2006 vintage. At about £15 a bottle it is not strictly every day drinking but so reliably delicious and morish that it is hard to resist reaching for it after a long day at the office. The 2007 is fresh with wood and citrus notes on the nose. It is quite tight to begin with and really benefits from decanting for an hour or two. It is even better the next day if there is any left. The oak softens and leaves a very nicely balanced and persistent wine which sustains the interest.  Available from The Wine Society £16, Farr Vintners and Swig. (The Wine Society Exhibition NZ Chardonnay is produced by Kumeu River and is almost as good at £12.50).

  • Kumeu River Coddington Vineyard, 2007, Chardonnay, Auckland New Zealand.

Kumeu produce a number of single vineyard chardonnays which, when tasted side by side, show an impressive variety of styles from the taught and steely Hunting Hill to the complex and creamy Mates vineyard. The Coddington is at the luscious, buttery and toasty end of the spectrum. Again although there is again smoky wood on the nose to begin with. This wears off and is replaced by citrus and biscuit, on the palette creamy and buttery but balanced with mineral tones. Complex and delicious. Available from The Wine Society for£18, Farr Vintners £20.

Round 1:  Felton Road, Central Otago. (introduced by Nicola)

  • Felton Road, Calvert  Pinot Noir 2010.

On the nose tight with cherries and red fruits to begin with, on the palette again very closed and delicate however ten minutes in the glass brings a revelation. On the nose a huge range of spice, chocolate, liquorice scents rolling one after another and on the palette it broadens out and gains weight and complexity. Obviously very young, but a tremendous wine. Available from http://www.uncorked.co.uk £36.95.

  • Felton Road, Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2010.

On the nose more open, spicy and voluptuous and immediately approachable than the Calvert. The Cornish Point also develops in the glass, a savoury and tasty wine. Also needs time. Available from http://www.uncorked.co.uk £36.95.

Round 2: Martinborough Ata Rangi wines (introduced by Abbie)

  • Ata Rangi, Martinborough Pinot Noir, 2009.

On the nose tight and a bit closed, cherries and a bit of smoke on the palette. Very young with plenty of acid and some tannin, a big wine but in its infancy.  In this primal state, a bit hard to judge and rather unfair in comparison to the forward Te Terra. Available from Bordeaux Index for £372 per case or £31 per bottle.

  • Martinborough Vineyard, Te Terra 2010.

On the nose, fruity and spicy, on the palette plums, savoury notes, tasty and quaffable and ready to drink already. Available from Majestic at £12.99 for 2+ bottles.

Round 3: Mount Difficulty, Central Otago
(introduced by Michael Herrick of Mount Difficulty and Helena Westcombe of Ellis of Richmond)

  • Mount Difficulty Estate, 2008.

On the nose delicate fruit, volatile floral scents, still quite compact, a nice mix of freshness, fruit and some savoury notes in the mouth. The Central Otago wines seem to be a bit crisper and more tightly wound than the two Martinborough wines tasted so far. The Estate blended from six different vineyards slowly evolves in the glass and sustains one’s interest seemingly confirming Mike’s recommendation to keep 6-7 years. Available from Waitrose for£23.74. and http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk for £19.95.

  • Mount Difficulty Pipe Clay Terrace, 2007.

A single vineyard wine only made good years, this is a darker, bigger wine, with a nice complex nose of earth, dark fruit and spicy tobacco notes, more fruit core and earthy flavours on the palette with some obvious tannin.  Also wine follow as it ages. Available from http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk for £40.45.

Round 4:

  • Ata Rangi, McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2008.

Rather closed nose, red fruit, and floral scents, crisp acidity and tight structure in the mouth, overall bright fruit opening up a bit in time with some savoury flavours. Compact and long couldn’t be more of a contrast to the Henri Gouges Burgundy! Available from http://www.harrogatefinewinecompany.com for £44.99.

  • Henri Gouges, Nuits St Georges, Villages 2008, Burgundy.

The nose dominated by dirty, savoury scents, nappies, lamb chops, compost etc.  In the mouth these notes again, but underscored by ripe fruits. This wine elicited differing opinions and was a huge contrast with the NZ pinots. Available: Justerini & Brooks £330/case. 2009 vintage http://www.lhkfinewines.com en primueur £240/case In Bond.


The New Zealand wines lived up to their reputation of offering clean crisp bright fruit and minerals. However it was great to see that a number promise to develop and offer that much sought after pinot noir experience of fragrant fruit contrasting with barnyard characteristics. Mike Herrick described this nicely as a walk through his grandmother’s rose garden with the scent of the flowers mingled with that of the compost and earth below.

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Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2010

If you like pinot this is for you. Ripe, summer pudding, strawberries and raspberries, then earthy, wet fur, fantastic New Zealand pinot, single vineyard Martinborough. The full selection will be shown at Fredericks at our September Craggy Range tasting – one for the diary.