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Monthly Archives: November 2010

  • Henriot releases 2003 vintage

    from "A vintage for winemakers" was the description of Champagne's 2003 vintage by Bertrand Verduzier, house ambassador for Champagne Henriot. Speaking at the UK launch of the Henriot 2003 vintage, Verduzier defended the decision to release a vintage in a year when most houses held back. Of the major Champagne houses, Moët & Chandon and Bollinger are so far the only others to release 2003 as a vintage. “The philosophy of Henriot with vintages is to show what the vintage is typically about, rather than the style of Henriot,” observed Verduzier, adding: “The category of vintage has shrunk in Champagne during the last 10 years, so we make vintage for fun.” Such was the nature of this notoriously hot vintage that Verduzier noted: “In 2003 the Chardonnay literally boiled on the vine so you didn’t have many choices.” He explained that Henriot balanced the lack of acidity by using Chardonnay from grand cru sites on the Côte des Blancs. Even so, at 4,000kg per hectare, the Henriot Chardonnay yield was three times below its average from the last 10 years, while total production in 2003 was 10 times below average. It is partly this limited quantity of the 2003 which means that the vintage will only be launched in selected markets, and not France. The last Henriot vintage to be released in the UK was the 1998 (gold medal and trophy winner in the major wine competitions), five years ago, which was part of the reason for releasing the 2003 in this market first of all. “It’s an unusual wine, but it’s an unusual vintage,” noted Verduzier, explaining: “It’s nice to do something very specialist for smaller markets like the UK.” Gabriel Savage, The drinks business Here are my notes from the tasting launch at Les Deux Salons: "Mid gold, fine mousse. On the nose notes of apples and a little citrus. The palate is well structured, with classic Henriot form; obviously less acidity than usual but not unbalanced. A great match for the comte cheese we were offered alongside."

  • Humilitat 2008

  • Crasto 1

    the infinity pool at Crasto


    I knew it was going to be a good trip when I found myself standing next to the fastest man in the world at Gatwick Airport. He was in the Virgin Upper Class 'queue'; I was in the Easyjet holding pen. Dressed in jeans and jacket with a Puma pom pom hat and six pieces of matching Puma luggage, Usain Bolt went practically unnoticed. Douglas Blyde and Emily O'Hare, my companions on this trip, professed not to know who he was. Oh well... Miguel Roquette, from the family who own Quinta do Crasto, picked us up from Porto in his brand new 4 x 4. We zoomed up into the Douro, reaching the estate in the fading afternoon light. Despite the November gloom, my first view of the Douro valley didn't disappoint. Ask any winewriter which is the most beautiful wine region in the world, and it's a fair bet the Douro will feature in their top 5. Row upon row of vertiginous terraces hewn from schistous rock tumble down to the meandering river. Hard to believe this otherworldly place is a mere two hours' flight from the UK.
    Miguel Roquette


    Quinta do Crasto (from Castrum meaning defensive position, Latin fans) was established over 300 years ago on a spit of land high above the river. Like most of the great Portuguese estates, its fame was initially gained through Port, but over the past 15 years has built a a strong and ever-growing reputation for table wines. Most are 'field blends', a delightful term which I think means 'we're not exactly sure what's in the vineyard, but it works'. Over dinner in the charming family house where Miguel and his family stay, he opened some older vintages. Douro Red 1998 was showing delicious development, its sinewy structure lending it a claret-like classiness. Vinha Maria Teresa, Crasto's top wine from the same vintage showed what extended oak ageing in top quality French barriques lends to this fabulous, Touriga Nacional-dominated fruit. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the writers was Crasto Branco, a beautifully balanced blend of Roupero, Gouveio and other indigenous white grapes. Refreshing but structured enough to stand up to all manner of white meats (and a locally grown salted almond or two), it stood out as a beacon in the sea of red wines.

  • Biferno Rosso in The Observer


    David Williams has chosen the mighty Biferno Rosso as one of his choices for the Best Christmas Wines in The Observer. He says "A really great price for a mature, comfortingly old-fashioned wine from the somewhat obscure Biferno appellation in Molise in southern Italy. A blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico, this has mellowed beautifully into a smooth, late-evening, fireside red."

  • Unplugged wines

    A fantastic tasting at Boffi's super sleek showrooms yesterday. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever tasted in such elegant surroundings... Piemonte at BoffiThe wines were a wonderful cross section of Piemontese terroir. Fontanafredda led the tasting with (tra l'altro) a vertical of their fabulous Barolo Vigna La Rosa. This went all the way back to 1982 - which was as feted a vintage in Northern Italy as it has most famously been for Bordeaux. Nebbiolo here showed its inherent ageing potential, thanks to a supple tannic backbone which supports the wine throughout its life. Over at E.Pira, Chiara Boschis was showing Dolcetto, Barbera and pairs of her two celebrated Barolo wines, the Via Nuova and Cannubi. Of these two I have always found the Cannubi to be the more sensual, where the other shows more rigidity of structure. But these things are relative! Conterno Fantino's 2006 Sori Ginestra will be a brilliant wine... in about 10 years' time! This is a monster ( I remember Guido Fantino making a particularly graphic arm gesture to describe its power when I tasted it last year). But I have had the pleasure of tasting older vintages and know that even these wines reach silky, dreamy plateaux if you keep them long enough. Parusso's Barolo Bussia was winning many fans, with its chocolatey, velvety richness. Meanwhile Matteo Ascheri was showing a vertical of Viognier! He is never a man to be hamstrung by tradition, and although he happily produces great classical Barolo from his plots in the DOCG, he has also been quietly innovating elsewhere in Piemonte. In his words, he wanted to prove that the region and terroir were capable of making great wines from grapes not found indigenously. So, you take a famous terroir, a known winemaker, and add a new element - Viognier (and indeed Syrah which he also grows successfully) . He calls the idea 'unplugged wine' - familiar elements given a fresh twist. The Viognier Podere di Montelupa is a fabulous drop. 2006 was unctuous, moutfilling but balanced, 2001 nutty, concentrated and devilishly complex. If the '99 was a little dull by comparison, Matteo explained that this early vintage demonstrates that experimenting with untested grape varieties is necessarily a work in progress - you can only change things once per vintage!

  • J Lohr named Winery of the Year

    Our California partners J. Lohr have been named the 2010 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, one of the US's top wine publications. Wine Enthusiast Magazine Editor and Publisher Adam Strum commented on Monday’s announcement, saying, “J. Lohr has been a continual force in the California wine industry for nearly four decades, passionately championing the Central Coast winegrowing regions of Paso Robles and Monterey County, and offering great leadership within the wine industry. In addition, the people at J. Lohr have dedicated themselves to producing high-quality wines, while making significant contributions in the areas of sustainability, education and social responsibility. We are thrilled to acknowledge them as our 2010 American Winery of the Year.” In addition to J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines’ long history in Central Coast winemaking, recent developments have further set the winery apart as an industry leader. As part of its commitment to sustainability, last year J. Lohr unveiled a 3-acre photovoltaic solar tracking system (the largest of its kind in the industry), which provides approximately 85 percent of the annual power used at the J. Lohr Paso Robles Wine Center and Winery. Browse the J Lohr wines here.

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