Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 - an interesting year

2017 was certainly a year full of surprises - I would say both Hubby and I could not have ever imaged how it would be and how we are now moving in 2018, life changing for us both in many ways.

It has been a year of great things too - lovely holidays, meeting great friends, fabulous wine events and of course the enjoyment of a 'few' good bottles. Here's a few of my 2017 favourites:

Wishing you all a Happy New Year - let the corks fly in 2018 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Pre Christmas enjoyment

My latest two tastings for Aldi were just perfect for us - a Sauvignon Blanc for me and a Spanish red for Hubby.

It is a real privileged and treat to be chosen to be a member on their Tasting Panels.

The Project Sauvignon Blanc 2017 is from the Western Cape South Africa and is as geography suggests: not as smooth, subtle and sophisticated as the French yet not as hard hitting and full on like the New Zealand.

A lovely pale yellow in the glass with the base having a slightly green hue. It's nose had plenty of tropical fruits, soft and inviting with that recognisable sauvignon gooseberry nose.

A light taste again sitting between Old and New World, plenty of citrus with pineapple overtones; a very enjoyable wine to drink alone or paired with a light chicken dish, great value at £5.99

The Toro Loco Edicion Memoria 2015 is a brand we have enjoyed before, an exclusive wine at just over £10.

Its dark brooding label is a pointer to its blend of Bobal, Tempranillo and Merlot, giving a deep cherry red that is slightly opaque.

A light peppery nose with hints of oak could have initially offered a little more but did develop as the wine rested in our glasses.

Medium bodied with plenty of red fruits, it was easy drinking, which suited my palate me. However as its oak and tannins did develop so I would prefer to drink it straight away before its length had developed.

Staying with Aldi the tasting for this month at Cuvée Reserve is Maynard's Pink Port.

It was my choice this month and I chose it because although I have (and do) enjoyed Tawny and Ruby Port I have not seen Pink Port before and was intrigued, especially at the reasonable price of £7.99.

It has taken a while to find a bottle as not all stores stock but on a recent trip to Nantwich we found it in their store. I'm looking forward to trying this with a mince pie .... or two.

The reviews will be on Cuvée Reserve from 20th, I wonder what we will all discover.

Late summer we had a lovely holiday in the South of France during which we visited Domaine Paul Mas. We have been enjoying his wines for quite a few years so were very pleased to be able to visit their caveau.

There were so many wines we had not seen before including a sparkling Picpoul de Pinet and the label Claude Val with its beautiful artwork.

Cote Mas Frisante had all the fun of Southern France beginning with its label, followed by its lively bubbles in the glass.

It was Picpoul de Pinet with added zest - plenty of citrus with that hint of the sea that makes Picpoul the perfect wine with fish.

Not dry or biscuity like champagne, not sweet like prosecco this bottle of bubbles is perfect to be enjoyed on its own, with seafood or even with some soft French cheese - a definite winner for me - I hope it is available in the UK.

Claude Val's label is very eyecatching depicting the ancient town of Pezenas. This brand of three wines, red, white and rose, is a blend of noble and established grapes but is easy drinking without the complexity of higher priced wines.

Claude Val blanc is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Chenin Blanc, Chasan, Mauzaca and Sauvignon Blanc.

A very pale colour in the glass with a nose of soft white fruit, this wine is so smooth, so easy drinking, it's just lovely.

I can feel a return trip happening as both these Domaine Paul Mas wines are on my to buy again list. I'd love to try these in the garden in the summer as if they were good indoors in the winter I'm presuming they will be even better chilled on a summer's day.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Trio and a selection

My trio were from Aldi as I have been chosen to be a member of their 17th Tasting Panel and our first three tastings arrived earlier this month.

Exquisite Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
This had a lovely pale pear colour with aromas of crisp fruit. I loved its smooth tropical flavour with lime highlights - great with chicken wrapped in bacon. 

A lovely dark red Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre wine with a slight nose of bramble fruits and a touch of spice. 

It's mouth is plump with sour cherries, the bramble fruit, a hint of herbiness and a peppery spice. Good body with a lengthy finish, very slight tannin that adds to its depth. 
This was very creamy with a kick of whisky. I enjoyed it neat, over ice, in my coffee but my favourite was as the topping for my Baby Guinness cocktail. 

My selection was for our end of year wine tasting at Scouts - these events are so popular. Over the 4 years I've been doing them we've certainly developed our palates and wine preferences. 

This time I took advantage of Tesco's 25% off 6 bottles of wine and purchased all twelve in store. I don't have many tasting notes for these as most are wines we've had before so I didn't note anything down. 

Wine tasting selection 
Louis Delaunay Champagne - plenty of bubbles, not too dry, hint of yeast and very very moreish - a great start to any occassion. 

Quirky Bird Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Muscat - a favourite of the groups, light, refreshing, middle range, easy drinking with good depth of flavour.

Quirky Bird Shiraz, Mouvedre, Viognier  - full of fruit, blackberries, smooth in it's texture and finish, a touch of spice making this a very drinkable wine.

Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc - full nose of kiwi, melon and lime, great citrusy crispness with a long finish, a great sauvignon blanc that everyone enjoyed. 

Torres Sangre de Toro - a Spanish wine with slight tannin, plenty of blackberries, hints of pepper and a touch of vanilla, light with good length

Tesco finest Pecorino - crisp refreshing citrus wine, perfect at the end of our buffet as it refreshed our palates  

Bellingham Chardonnay - a lovely smooth wine with vanilla notes, plenty of peaches and white stone fruit, a full flavoured wine with a lengthy finish

Louis Jadot Macon Villages - a silky wine in the glass, full of colour, clean and fresh with apples and pears,  good with goats cheese

Bellingham Pinotage - great dark colour, full of fruit, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, a good hit of oak with subtle tannins

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz - berry delight with added chocolate, one of my favourite red wines, perfect level of spice, good weight and finish 

Ca'Mone Appessimento deep red in colour, light nose of fruit with pepper and leather, full of cherries, some tannin, leather and smokiness

Concho y Toro Late Harvest - our dessert wine was rich and syrupy, plenty of apricots and nectarines with honey highlights, perfect with our profiterole pud

Our pud this time was Lidl's Croquembouche, 60 profiteroles in all, 40 plain and 20 chocolate. 

The box included everything needed: an easy to assemble silver card tower, caramel, chocolate and nutty topping. 

It certainly made a centre piece and was perfect with our dessert wine.

Another great evening with good wine, good food and great friends. I wonder what wines we'll be discovering at our 2018 tastings.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Love Wine Festival 2017

Saturday saw us venture into Birmingham for the Love Wine Festival at The Burlington Hotel. It was an adventure too as I still need my wheelchair for distances and my crutches for short walking. I managed the wine tasting afternoon with just one crutch - priority was having a hand free for holding my glass - and standing on one leg to help keep the weight off my left ankle. It was not always easy but with the help of my Hubby and friends I made it and we had a great day.

This was our first Love Wine Festival but it will not be our last - a fantastic day, great value too with tickets at £20. The venue was a large room in the hotel, great facilities, plenty of space and not over ticketed so many opportunities to stand and chat to the wine experts.

Unfortunately my balancing skills are limited, one crutch and a wine glass was my limit, so no tasting notes or photos. Love Wine Festival have kindly allowed me to use their images and I'm hoping my memory will stand up to recalling a few of the many wines we tasted.

I did however pick up quite a few really good leaflets and since the weekend I have enjoyed sitting on the sofa having a good read - with a cup of coffee but dreaming of wine.

Great collection of leaflets - lots of interesting facts and details 

Before the specific details here are all the exhibitors details (hyperlinked for you to discover more) 

             101 Wine FAQS     The Champagne Collection    Langley Distillery/Palmers Gin             

Biddenden Vineyards         Georgian Wine Club      Ridgeview Wine Estate

     Go Brazil Wines        Pol RogerLidl UK 

                Rude Wines Ltd                 

       Anderson & Hill         

     The Wine Society      
              Raisin Social Ltd                

Pol Roger
One of my favourite champagne houses, although to be honest we don't have it very often especially rosé but their Pol Roger Brut Rosé champagne was delicious. Great bubbles, quite dry for a rosé which is probably why I enjoyed it. Their blanc de blanc was also superb - both a little pricey but for a very special occasion worth the extra.

I was very impressed with another blanc de blanc I tasted, at The Champagne Collection. This was a beautiful crisp clear champagne - Cuchet Caz Blanc de Blancs. 

Joie de Vin
Joie de Vin was a great stand to visit, in fact I could have stood there longer as it was a haven of french wines. Beautiful Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, gorgeous Chenonceaux (my favourite Loire chateau) Blanc and a wonderful La Croix Boyd de Cantenac Margaux, a fine selection from my favourite country.

The Wine Society
A few Christmas' ago our grown up children bought us membership of the Wine Society. We have enjoyed a few of their tasting events, visited their shop in France (unfortunately it's now closed) and visited Domaine Jaume who produce their Cotes du Rhone.

It was lovely to meet and chat with their team and of course taste some superb wines. I was very taken with their wine from Greece, my only previous Greek wine being on honeymoon over 28 years ago and a very cheap bottle of Retsina bought here in the UK. Thymiopoulos Naoussa Jeunes Vignes was a medium bodied red wine with slight tannins - a lovely surprise.

I also enjoyed Chateau Vartely Feteasca Regala, a refreshing white from Moldova, and Faleos Nevados Torrontes from Argentina.

There were so many new wines at this tasting, new both in their country of origin and/or the grape variety. It again highlights that our experience of wine is controlled by the wine available to purchase here in the UK or our adventures when holidaying abroad. I really appreciated the opportunity to try so many new wines and was particularly enjoyed with a wine from Georgia.

The Georgian Wine Club had six wines, three reds and three whites. I was quite taken with Badagon Kakhetian Noble, a white wine made from Rkatsiteli the leading white grape variety grown in Georgia. I cannot tell you what the nose was like or the taste, not because I cannot remember but because it was like no other wine I have tried - really really good.

Halewood Wines
Another new wine for me to try was from Romania - Hyperion Fetesasca Neagra, a lovely smooth red. I have no idea if it is the same grape as the white wine from Moldova - I think I need to look into these wines a bit more.

Loki is based in the centre of Birmingham so was geographically the nearest supplier to the tasting, and having a double stand was also one of the biggest. As well as a few of their white and red wines I also tried their three fortified wines: Sanderman LBV, Sanderman 10 year Tawny Port, both from Portugal, and Chambers Rosewood Ruthergien Muscat from Australia. All three were rich, smooth, just what you'd expect from a fortifies wine, a hard choice but I liked the Tawny Port best.

You can see in the above photo the great 'Love Wine' tote bag we were all given as we entered the tasting room. Perfect for collecting all my brochures it also contained a very neat waiter's friend, and a bubble wrap pouch to put our Riedel wine glass in for taking home - thank you Love Wine, it's those little thoughtful extras that made the day extra special.

Go Brazil
Brazil is another new wine country to me - we've had wine from other South America countries but I don't think from Brazil. Their two bubbly sparkling wines, Campos de Cima Extra Brut and Amadeu Brut Rose (both made in the traditional method) were both delicious, I'd love a glass of these on a summer's day in the garden. I enjoy malbec wine from Argentina and Chile so was keen to try the Sanjo Nubio Malbec from Brazil, and I'm so glad I did, it was unusually light for a malbec and so full of fruit, delicious.

ODC Drinks
Cotswold Distillery and Langley Distillery/Palmers Gin had whisky and gin at their stands and ODC Drinks had fruit cider. Not something I usually drink as I find it quite sweet but ODC's Pomegranate Panache was very drinkable, fruity, not overly sweet with a good finish; quite moreish too!

Wine and food go so well together but which wine with which food. With so many new wines on show it came as no surprise to find new foods too - Eat Spain Drink Spain had some very tasty snacks including dried, roasted broad beans!

Anderson and Hill are a delicatessen in the centre of Birmingham; they had a variety of cheeses. to taste.

 I love blue cheese and noticed a new name - Perl Las. 

It's a Welsh blue cheese and so delicious we bought some home with us ....... 

.... along with a Red Wine and Draycott Blue Salami from Somerset Charcuterie.

Our delicious cheese and salami
Speaking of food, Mireille Reuling of The Real Wine Gum makes the most amazing sweets - as the name suggests 'real wine gums'. As soon as these gems are in your mouth the wine flavour is there, the smooth sweets fill your mouth with delicious wine flavours - the chardonnay gum was my favourite - such a great concept, adult sweets at their best.

The Real Wine Gem
Thanks again to Love Wine for letting me use their photos - as well as the exhibitors I have mentioned with each photo there are a few other highlights I have from our afternoon of tasting:

Vidal Canadian Icewine - Lidl

Domaine Vinsmoselle Auxerrois (Luxembourg) - Hard to Find Wines

Ferrari-Carano Tre Terre Chardonnay - California Wines

Pouilly Fuisse 'Tradition' (France) - Nickolls and Perks

So many superb wines, so tempting but impossible to buy all, however we did treat ourselves to a bottle of KWV Wine's Classic Collection Tawny from South Africa. I am looking forward to enjoying this as the winter night's get longer.

What a super day at The Burlington Hotel - Love Wine's next tasting is in 
Guildford on 24th March 2018 - we'll be there !!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Aldi 17th Tasting Panel

I have been chosen to be one of the tasters for Aldi Wine Club's 17th Tasting Panel.I have been on their wine review panels before and chosen to make and review some cocktails. These are the links to my previous tastings:

The 17th Tastings consist of 6 wines and a liqueur to be tasted between now and January. The rules of being a panelist are to review the wines on Aldi's web site and tweet on Twitter about each wine.  

Today I received my first three tastings - thank you Aldi.

The notes below are from Aldi: 

Complex aromas of white stone fruits and blackcurrant leaf give way to flavours of lime-drizzled nectarine and an intriguingly soft texture, with a long and thoughtful finish.

Food Matching: Aperitif, or summer salads and seafood
Taste: Crisp and zingy

Dense and concentrated with a nose of scrubland herbs and a plump, warm spiciness. Its ripe black and red cherry flavours are embellished by juicy blackberries and red berry fruits.

Food Matching: Ideal with roast beef, roast lamb and chocolate cake

Taste: Rich and supple

Treat yourself to this beautifully rich, smooth and creamy Irish Cream Liqueur - a blend of spirit and indulgent fresh dairy cream.

Taste: Smooth and creamy

I'll be trying these over the next few weeks, maybe with friends to see what their taste findings are. Thanks again Aldi, I'll be tweeting soon. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Minster Lovell

On our way hone from Witney Hubby and I stopped at Minster Lovell, an ancient village originally named Minstre and was part of Bampton in 1086. Lovell is the name of the landowning family and was added to the village name in the 13th Century. It's very picturesque village with Cotswold stone and thatched roofed houses.

Minster Lovell
Minster Lovell church
Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote is a 15th century Oxfordshire manor house that lies beside the River Windrush. Now in ruins this English Heritage site was once owned by one of the richest men in England - it is still an impressive sight.

Minster Lovell Hall - this was the chapel which had two floors
The original entrance path
Minster Lovell Hall 
Standing in the chapel doorway
Minster Lovell Dovecote
It's a beautiful place, such a shame it isn't survive. It's setting is quite calm and tranquil with the river bubbling by. English Heritage have preserved what is left and it's now freely enjoyed by dog walkers, ramblers and tourists - I loved our visit to this great historical building.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Spanish wine & English beer

What a superb weekend - Witney is a Cotswold town west of Oxford, full of history but for us, most importantly, the home of Wychwood Brewery, a place we have visited many times but a first for our friends.

But before our beer day we had an evening of Spanish wine thanks to Majestic Wine. As with all Majestic shops Witney is stacked with wine, however it has one feature that impressed us all and made a perfect wine tasting bar ..... a glass topped well.

Glass topped well
A bit of history
Spanish wine is not my favourite, especially red but I am always open to persuasion, especially when offered a glass of Cava as the first tasting.

Juve Y Camps Reserve De La Familia - lots of initial lively bubbles in this Cava which calmed as the wine settled in the glass. This is apparently a favourite with the Spanish Royals. It had plenty of white fruitiness and citrus flavour with hints of honey giving a very slight sweetness on the finish.

MO Monastrell 2013/14 is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha. This young wine has had some time in oak giving soft tannins. In the mouth it gives plenty of bramble and cherries with a balsamic high note giving a very light spice.

Pétalos Bierzo 2015 is a deep crimson red wine full of blackcurrants. A deep nose giving the wine a mature expectation which is met in the mouth with smooth tannins and spice.

Papa Luna 2014 is a wine I have previously enjoyed. It is a softer wine in its tannins, full of raspberries and cherries. It has high notes of white pepper and hints of vanilla on the finish. A blend of Garnacha, Mazuelo, Monastrell, Syrah and Carignan this was my preferred wine of the tasting.

Definition Rioja Reserva 2010 is a typical Rioja, full of fruit, vanilla, leather and oak. A smokey nose and heavy tannins portrayed it's 20 months in oak barrels.

I really struggle with Rioja wine, I love the smell and can drink them if ice cold but the heavy tannins, visions of old leather chairs in a cigar smoke filled library is just too much for me. I enjoy other oaked wines so had thought it was the Tempranillo grape I disliked but after tasting our final wine I don't think it is.

Cillar De Silos, Torresilo 2015 is a superbly smooth Tempranillo wine. Its 16-18 months in oak gives a smokiness but with light tannin that adds to its richness. Not surprisingly this was the most expensive wine of the evening retailing at £29.99.

Our Spanish tasting at Majestic Wine Witney
A superb way to spend a Friday evening - thank you 

Saturday was beer day, as mentioned Hubby and I have visited Wychwood Brewery before. It always amazes us how they produce so much Hobgoblin and all the other beers in their range (as well as Brakspear) in a relatively small brewery.

The tour lasts 2 hours with a superb visit around the actual brewery. The equipment is amazing, smaller than I imagine. There's a chance too to try some of the raw ingredients that go into brewing, although some are far more palatable in the beer.

It's history is amazing too, The Taproom is in the oldest part with an old mash drum set in the floor!

Taproom bar

After the tour we returned to the Taproom to sample some of Wychwood finest brews.

Our first beer was Fire Catcher, a golden beer with a little bit of spice to give that subtle fire finish. Arrowaine our next, a darker beer with toffee notes.

Dunkel Fester is Wychwood's hommage to the spooky season. I look forward to this dark beer which is available in Aldi during October.

IPA Hobgoblin is a new beer launch just a few weeks ago. Served well chilled this light golden beer had a lovely citrusy hop flavour.

King Goblin is a rich heavy beer, the strongest in our tasting at 6.6%. Black Wych, our final tasting, is my favourite from Wychwood. It was a beer no longer brewed but is now back thanks to public vote (mine included). The dark porter was a superb way to conclude our tasting.

Fire Catcher - Arrowaine - Dunkel Fester
IPA Hobgoblin - King Goblin - Dark Wych

It is always a treat to visit the home of Hobgoblin, we had a superb afternoon - thank you Wychwood Brewery

Friday, 13 October 2017

St Maurice - Visan

Last year we had a private tasting with Cellier de Dauphins, such a treat. We really enjoyed the St Maurice (you can read about it in my dedicated page). This named village is next to Visan so it was a must to visit their caveau.

And a great caveau it was too with so much choice, some of my favourites came from here including the delicious Bastidon. We enjoyed this at home with rib eye steak - you can read Hubby's review on Cuvée Reserve

Domaine la Fontaine du Loup is a Grenache, Syrah, Carignan wine full of dark fruits as expected in all Cote du Rhone wines. I seem to remember it being a smoother wine as regards tannins with a warm finish but as it is still resting in our rack I will review it some time in the future.

The Co-operative Cotes du Rhone red and table white were, although a blend of grapes from various vineyards, very very good wines and instead of buying bottles we decided to again venture into box world. Both boxes were 5 litres and at around 12 euros per box they were a purchase not to be missed.

Domaine du Bastidon & Domaine la Fontaine du Loup
Cotes du Rhone rouge & Cotes du Rhone blanc
Our friends who run the bar in Visan recommended Diamont Noir from Cellier des Templiers in Richerenches - who are we to miss the chance to visit another caveau. This village, just north west of Visan, is full of Templar history and is also famous for truffles.

It was no surprise that Diamont Noir was a super wine, Grignan d'Adamer is an appellation we know well. This region of France's wine growing benefits from a mild winter, winded by the Mistral and summer hot and dry, punctuated by storms regulating rainfall, all of which produces amazing grapes which in turn produce superb wines.
Celliers de Templiers

Diamont Noir is predominanetly Syrah with a small percentage of Grenache, full of blackcurrants and dark cherries with the peppery spice from the Syrah grape.

Very smooth the mouth with subtle tannin and a good length to it's finish, it was easy to see why our friends recommended this.

1136 Commanderie was our other wine purchase from Cellier des Templiers, again a Syrah Grenache wine but different in flavour as along with blackcurrants and spices there was a delicate note of balsamic. It's nose was quite earthy with woody and truffle notes.

1136 was the year the Templars arrived in Richerenches and built their church which is the centre of this historic village.

As we arrived the local wine growers were queuing up in their tractors with wagons full of grapes waiting to weigh their produce. It was a superb sight seeing how a co-operative really works, many producers sharing their grapes resulting in great wine.

Arriving with this years yield 
Wine related, our other purchase at Cellier de Templiers was something I have wanted most of my life - a car I would just love to own but as I don't really want divorce papers to arrive in the post I have resisted the urge to have one ..... however now I do, my very own 2CV. It is now parked in our lounge with a very special passenger - a bottle of Sancerre !!

My dream car !!
Our final caveau visit was in Visan, literally across the road from our hotel. It was lovely to be recognised as soon as we entered the bright and airy boutique, even nicer that they could remind us of last year's purchases.

We do still have a couple of bottles from Cave de Visan in the garage so decided to try something new - bio. We saw many organic wines this year on our travels, it seems to be something the french wine growers are keen to promote. I would imagine most growers are and have been organic any as the french have always been 'rustic' and 'au nature' in their lifestyles so for many growers it may be a case of shouting about something they have taken for granted.

Vin Bio Cotes du Rhone Rouge is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Carignan. This was the final wine we tasted at our degustation and immediately noticed how smooth it was compared to the other, very nice, Visan wines. Still full of fruit and spice, as expected from this region but it really was softer in the mouth.

Vin Bio
Our favourite Visan wines

Of course it would have been rude not to bring home some more Visan wine and our favourite from last year Les Murieres, I'm not quite sure how we manged to get all our purchases from our two weeks home, especially as this year we had my wheelchair too but our garage certainly knows we managed somehow.

We had a superb time in France this year, as you can see from my last four posts we discovered some amazing wine as well as visiting many places. It was especially nice this year to meet up with my school exchange friend Viviane and her husband Michel, we last saw them in 2002 on our way to our holiday in Abbaye des Monges.

2002 - with Viviane's family
2002 - Viviane's mum and my Dad are sadly no longer with us 
2017 - playing petanque 
Our holiday was made extra special by the warm welcome from Angelo and Cathy at Caffe de Siecle in Visan - we had such fun, chatting away in a mixture of languages - the time passed far too quickly, especially on our evening bbq.

An evening with friends
Trés trés merci a toutes nos amis - á bientot !!