Sunday, 30 May 2010

Biodynamics - a few rambling thoughts

Following on from a big newsletter sent out to my customers and subscribers on Friday, which included news about my new wines from Mas Foulaquier and Domaine de La Marfée, one of my customers emailed me to ask if I could reference any serious evidence for the beneficial practices of biodynamism, especially at harvest time. It took me a while to compose a reply, not least because it was such a tough question to answer, but it did make me think rather deeply about whether there is any real evidence to support what this customer quite rightly referred to as a philosophy. My reply ended up being rather rambling, but I thought it might be interesting to post my thoughts about it here on my blog, if only to see if anyone out there has anything to add.

I'm not a religious man, so I guess I have to "believe" in something(!) Nobody has ever produced a single shred of evidence to prove that "God" exists, but billions of people still choose to believe. Given that I am in the minority, does that make me wrong? Conjecture aside, I do believe that at least some biodynamic principles are plausible, though (since I'm not a scientist or an expert on the philosophy) I couldn't really say which bits. All I can do is offer random thoughts;

The world is a living, breathing thing, and every single living thing on it owes its existence to a big ball of gas 93 million miles away. The tides are governed by a big piece of rock a quarter of a million miles away. The rest of the solar system and the stars beyond may or may not have an influence on our lives (that said, I'm not big on astrology, either). So I guess the universe does, to a greater or lesser extent, have an influence on what happens. What I do know is that we all feel different from one day to the next, for some inexplicable reason. And on some days, it seems like everbody we encounter is having a bad day (or a good one). For instance, on one day, a car journey might be completely uneventful, whilst the next day it seems like everybody who gets behind the wheel is a demon and you just thank your lucky stars(!) that you reach your destination unscathed. So if our own daily lives and our moods are affected by some or other mysterious force, then why not the plants too?

In terms of wine, have you ever noticed how two bottles of the exact same wine, consumed at different times, seem to smell and taste different. One may give us great joy, whilst the other may be merely good. Always assuming that neither of the bottles are corked, oxidised or in any way faulty, how do we explain that? I hear that Tesco always schedule their trade tastings on "fruit" days. If the greatest force in retailing (we won't go into whether that force is good or bad here) plan their tastings based on the biodynamic calendar, then who am I to argue? ;-)

As for the vineyard preparations, I'm not sure I can believe that the burying of cow horns filled with cosmic potions has any great effect, but the biodynamic potions sprayed on the vines is another matter. Until recently, the so-called health experts poured scorn on homeopathy, and yet homeopathic medicine is now freely and openly used in the NHS. So if it works on us, why not on plants and vines?

As for what happens at harvest time, I think every winemaker worth his (or her) salt will harvest at the "optimum" time (i.e. sugar, ph, or whatever other method they go for). Whether or not that happens to be on the appropriate day of the bio calendar, I don't know. I do know that many winemakers choose to rack and/or bottle their wines at certain times of the lunar calendar, so there's nature dictating again.

But as I've said on numerous occasions here on my blog, whatever one thinks about biodynamicism (extreme organics or just plain whacky) it is a philosophy which does tend to go hand-in-hand with a healthy respect for the land and a fastidious approach to winemaking. Even if it is merely extreme organics, then it must be even better (and better for the land, the flora, the fauna and us) than mere organics.

I did say my reply was a bit rambling, and I guess it proves nothing. In fact, there is little evidence (beyond the mere anecdotal) to prove that biodynamism has any scientific basis. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Granted, not all biodynamic growers make great wine (especially some who also indulge in extreme "natural" winemaking) but a far bigger percentage of them do make great wine than those at the other end of the spectrum who take the "easier" route.

As always, I'd be interested to read what others think.

Monday, 24 May 2010

I'm In A Roussillon State Of Mind(!)

I must apologise for this, but I cannot resist posting a note on yet another Roussillon wine, this time a red from Collioure. Faced with so many new wines to taste, I have probably done what anyone would do (be it wine merchant or drinker) in that I have tended to opt first for the ones I think will excite me most. Well, this is the second to last (with only the new vintage of Domaine Treloar Le Secret to go - don't ask me why) and it is a real cracker, worthy of a post of its own.

Made by the diminutive and bubbly Laeticia Pietri-Clara, this is her "basic" Collioure. A few years ago, someone asked her what this cuvée of red Collioure was called (at the time, it didn't have a name). So she christened it "Sine Nomine", which is actually Latin for "without a name" - or words to that effect. Laeticia's strongest suits are normally her sweet Banyuls wines (I currently list her wonderful Cuvée Mediterranée 2003) and her dry white Collioure (currently the 2008 vintage). The reds have always been good, if not not remarkable. In fact, she makes at least 2 (and sometimes 3) different dry red cuvées, and the only one that has ever really appealed to me is this one. And I have to say, she has excelled herself with the lovely 2007.

This offers lifted aromas of strawberry and plum, combined with notes of spring flowers, violets and undergrowth. There is also a subtle, yet very definite hint of the sea (Collioure is situated right on the coast, where the Pyrenées tumble into the Mediterranean). And all of these aromas combine beautifully in a wine of considerable elegance. The palate is elegant, too - in fact, very feminine - with the rich red fruit flavours balanced by juicy acidity and tannins as soft as velvet. That maritime influence again has its say - not so much salty as savoury and herby, along with a hint of liquorice and a long, softly spicy finish. This really is a lovely surprise and is very definitely the most elegant of my Roussillon wines - I'm rather thrilled with it, but also a little miffed, because I only bought a handful of cases! A bargain at £12.95.

Food-wise, it would go beautifully with garlic-infused lamb, or a lamb tagine, a roast rib of beef. Dare I say, it would probably be a great match with a full-flavoured fish dish with a fishy/creamy sauce. It also happens to be devilishly drinkable on its own, whilst typing yet another glowing tasting note on yet another fabulous Roussillon wine!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

An amazing 17 year-old Cornish wine

I've tasted a good many English wines over the last few years and, to be honest, the only one that really excited me was a vintage Nyetimber (1999, I think) with a few years of bottle age. Until this week, that is, when one of the Nottingham Wine Circle members produced this amazing little beauty....

Veryan Huxelrebe and Madeleine Angevine Medium Dry 1993 Cornish Table Wine
Yes, you read it correctly, a 1993 English wine. Or Cornish, to be exact - and just in case you miss it on the main label, there's a small sticker which proudly states "Made in Cornwall". For the uninitiated (and that includes me!) the back labels states as follows;

"Huxelrebe was bred in 1927 at the Alzey Research Institute from Gutedal & Courtillier Musque. Madeleine Angevine7672 was introduced into the UK by Barrington Brock in 1957 and probably originated in Siebeldingen."

Well that clears that up, then!

Anyway, what of the wine itself? This being a blind tasting, some people were guessing Germany (possibly Riesling or Muller Thurgau), whereas others were in Alsace (Pinot Gris or Blanc). When those were ruled out, we were all over the place (Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary, etc). It was only by a slow process of elimination that somebody finally suggested England. "Sort of", came the reply. "Cornwall, actually". We guessed wildly at the vintage, but nobody got close to 1993. I have to say that I have tasted many a wine with a far more aristocratic reputation that gave far less enjoyment than this 17 year-old Cornish beauty. The nose was quite complex, with aromas of Cox's Orange Pippin, lime marmalade, kerosene and brioche.The palate was citrus and stone fruit, with a good deal of stoney minerality, almost Riesling-like. Steely dry, but with a depth and richness brought on by years of bottle age - lime marmalade again. It was surprisingly long and complex, and very much alive. Everybody seemed to like it, but I really loved it, so much so that I took the bottle home at the end and enjoyed the last half glass the next day (and it was still lovely). Frankly, this is a wine that I would gladly drink a lot more of - so if anybody reading this happens to have a few bottles lurking in their cellar, please let me know. ;-)  In fact, it was one of the most pleasant wine surprises I can remember, and ranks right up there with the unbelievably good Lohengrin Liebfraumilch 1987 (in a 1 litre bottle) I took to a tasting 4 years ago!

It seems that Wine Circle Secretary David Selby can do no wrong with the amazing selection of wines he brings every week. Usually, they are a lot more "special", but this little gem gave me (and others) much pleasure.

If you are even geekier than me about wine and want to know more about Huxelrebe and Madeleine Angevine, here's a couple of links;

Happy reading!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A real taste of spring (or do I mean summer?), plus one more fabulous Rousillon wine

Well, spring seems to have arrived with a vengeance in the UK. The past few days have been warm and generally sunny, but Saturday saw the arrival of positively Mediterranean weather, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 20's celsius. Mr Blue Sky finally showed his face, with literally not a cloud in sight from dawn until dusk. And although my golf was nothing to write home about, I did come home with face and arms several shades redder than when I left. This fine weather may not last (I hear that temperatures will drop again in a few days) but it has certainly made a change to be bathed in warm sunshine, after the somewhat cool weather we have endured in early spring.

Anyway, apologies for writing about yet another Roussillon wine, but the one I opened this evening (there are now just a couple more to go before all of my new wines are written-up) was a cracker.....

Domaine Sol-Payre Imo Pectore 2006 Cotes du Roussillon

Mourvedre, Syrah and old vine Carignan, aged in barrel for 12 months. The nose is spectacularly complex, with aromas of cherry and bramble fruits steeped in eau de vie, allied to notes of cocoa, sandalwood, leather, tobacco and aromatic spices - a lot of descriptors, I know, but trust me, they are all in there. This wine is clearly the product of some beautifully ripe fruit and masterly barrel ageing. The palate is equally classy and complex, with generous, sweet black fruit flavours complemented by tangy sour cherry and orange peel, whilst subtle notes of garrigue herbs and red meat add savouriness. Ripe, velvety tannins and ample acidity complete the package. Restrained power and elegance are the watchwords. In fact, having already written that the 2007 Cuvée Ater (see my entry of Tuesday 11 May) is the best wine of the current crop from Sol-Payré, I must say that this one compares very favourably. The wines of Domaine Sol-Payré have always been reliably lovely, but it is clear that winemaker Jean-Claude Sol is not happy to rest on his laurels. As with the Ater, this one has raised the quality to a new level. Yet another fantastic wine, and a complete and utter bargain at £13.50.

Tomorrow, I shall post a on a rather lovely 17 year-old English wine(!)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Yet more delicious Roussillon wines

Continuing my arduous and brave quest to taste my way through a whole host of new Roussillon wines, here are my thoughts on a couple more, tasted over the last couple of evenings. Neither are profound, but both are testament to what Roussillon is capable of at the "lower" end, when it is doing its own thing and not trying to emulate wines from other regions. This pair are just about as "Roussillon" as you will ever get.

Made from 100% old-vine Muscat A Petit Grains, lightly fortified with grape spirit. If you have ever been lucky enough to enjoy eating fresh muscat grapes (they are often available in French markets and supermarkets in late August) then you won't need me to tell you how delicious they are. And wines don't come much more "grapey" than a fine Muscat de Rivesaltes - and they don't come any better than this little cracker. The nose offers a riot of (you guessed it) grapey aromas, with notes of lime marmalade and clementines. The palate is both mouth-filling and super-fresh, like munching on a handful of grapes, but with an ethereal, marmalade-y richness. The inherent natural acidity and slight pithiness of the Muscat grape are complemented perfectly by just the right amount of fortifying grape spirit. To be honest, I have rarely tasted a bad Muscat de Rivesaltes (with such wonderful raw material, that would be difficult) but some cheaper examples can be a bit too hot for their own good. Not this one, though. - it manages to be both rich and mouth-watering at the same time, whilst the grape spirit adds a refreshing tanginess, rather than heat. Young Muscat de Rivesaltes is never profound, although I've heard tell that if you are brave enough to age it for 10 or 15 years, it can be. But why wait, when it tastes this good at less than 2 years old? It is utterly lovely - and very long, too. In all my years, I've yet to taste a better one. Yummy! A perfect match for patés, foie gras, cheeses of all descriptions, with fresh fruit, or as a delicious aperitif. A bargain at £11.50.

50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 30% Carignan, aged in vat. Medium ruby red colour with a light-ish rim. The nose offers enticing aromas of cherries, stewed plums and raspberries. Notes of herby garrigue and red capsicum, combined with a touch of meatiness, add savoury nuances. The palate is loaded with fresh, juicy red cherry and raspberry fruit flavours, again with some savoury/meaty notes. All of that flavour, combined with a healthy dash of tangy acidity and just the right level of tannin makes for a wine that is deliciously drinkable already. There may even be the merest hint of spritz, which serves only to lift it further above the ordinary. This wine shows just how good Roussillon reds can be at the "lower" end, with an aromatic and flavour profile not a million miles away from really good Cotes du Rhone - but with extra dimensions of freshness and lift. The much-maligned Carignan does more than its fair share to add to the interest and drinkability of this wine. And it actually tastes lovely, even after sampling the delights of the Muscat de Rivesaltes - no mean feat, for a dry red to follow a sweet white! This is yet another winner from one of the most reliable growers on my list. A versatile red wine, to enjoy with roast beef or lamb, roast vegetable dishes, cheese, pasta. £8.95.
Right, dinner calls...........

Monday, 17 May 2010

I hear summer is on the way..... so why is spring still dragging its feet?

Apart from a warm spell in mid-April, UK temperatures this spring have been disappointing, to say the least. And the weather in Spain wasn't particularly kind to us, when we spent a few days there the other week. I've also heard tell that southern France (not just Languedoc and Roussillon, but Provence too) has seen some weird and unseasonal weather this year - much of it cold. So what of climate change (or global warming, as it used to be termed)?

There was an an interesting special edition of Springwatch on the TV this evening, highlighting the potential impact of climate change on the delicate balance of our native flora and fauna. It was a good watch and, to its credit, didn't attempt to paint a picture of total doom and gloom - some species will find their habitats under threat, whilst other species will thrive under the changing conditions. Whatever the truth behind climate change (is it all down to man, or is it as much down to the natural cycle?) we do seem to be experiencing more extremes of weather than we used to. That said, it could be argued that this year has so far been a bit more "normal", in that we had a fairly long, cold winter and have since "enjoyed" a somewhat changeable spring. So much so that my grapevine seems to be way behind in its development, compared with the same stage in the last few years. The buds normally begin to appear in late March and have usually burst by early-to-mid April. Not that I'm in the habit of recording these things too closely, but by now I would have expected the new shoots to be growing vigorously (to the tune of a few inches per week), whereas they are still progressing at a snail's pace. Here's a picture taken yesterday, of a section of the vine I have trained between the kitchen wall and the garage, which gets maximum exposure to whatever sun we might get.....

Not that I'm too worried, since the fruit (usually lots of it) is of little use for anything other than jelly/jam and the vine is really only ornamental. Frankly it is a bit of a pain to look after, since it needs at least 2 or 3 prunings per summer, in order to keep it under control and avoid it pulling the house down! At least other things are starting to grow well, though, as we arrive at what is traditionally my favourite time of year. The Wisteria is just beginning to flower and will soon be in full bloom, whilst the Clematis at the top of the garden seems to climb higher and higher each year up the large tree planted in the school caretaker's garden on the other side of the wall. For just a few brief months each spring, it really is a glorious sight - and a glorious scent, too. Here's another photo of the sight that greets me as I turn onto the drive.....

Anyway, climate change or not, I'm going to be optimistic about this year. Despite the reluctance of the Met Office to make any sort of prediction about the weather for the forthcoming summer (they've got it so badly wrong in recent years, it is hardly surprising) I have a feeling in my water that this summer is finally going to be that barbeque summer that we've all been waiting for. Remember 1976? Cold winter, awful spring, snow in early June? Look what happened after that..........

Just remember, you read it here first. ;-)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Two more Roussillon wines - a full-bodied dry white and a stunning sweet red

Mas de Lavail is a grower whose wines I have been listing for several years now, though my stocks of their wines had dwindled to virtually zero by the middle of last year. But following another visit to the estate in July 2009, together with a stop-by at their stand at Vinisud in February 2010, it was clear to me that the standard of their range of wines just gets better and better. Here are my notes on a couple of them, tasted over the last 2 days.

Very pale gold colour with a water rim. The nose is intensely fragrant, combining grape, apple and stone fruit aromas, with notes of honeysuckle, marmalade, orange blossom, herbs and spices and creamy, smoky oak. It's a very complex nose, for such a young wine. The palate is equally intense and extremely full-bodied, rich and expressive - and equally complex. The flavours are of spiced fruit salad laced with Calvados, with some distinctly herbal notes (think fennel, oregano). There's a healthy lick of acidity, which provides a nice counter to the rich, almost tangy marmalade mid palate and the long, warming finish. You often read that a wine "wears its alcohol well", by way of mitigating a perceived drawback. But this wine wears its 14.5% abv proudly on its sleeve. It isn't a quaffer, it is a food wine (perhaps chicken or pork, or fish with a herby sauce) and is not for the faint-hearted. It is undoubtedly big and rich and packed with flavour, but for all that power, it is curiously elegant and quirky - and very lovely. I think it will be a keeper, too - watch it develop over the next 5 or more years. Shame I only bought a few cases! £14.50.

Made from 100% old vine Grenache, harvested at the peak of maturity, the grapes are given a long maceration, followed by "mutage" (the addition of a small amount of grape brandy) which halts fermentation and retains some of the grape sugars. The colour is densely purple and opaque, with a tiny, vivid pink rim. The nose is all about dark fruits of both the fresh and dried varieties. Bramble and blackcurrants, cherries and prunes steeped in eau de vie mingle with dark chocolate, forest floor and cedar wood. The palate is a riot of intensely sweet, concentrated fruit, combining tangy black cherries, stewed brambles, cassis and prunes, with a hint of Seville orange marmalade. Notes of molasses and dark chocolate add an intense richness, like liquid Christmas cake. And through it all runs an enticing, refreshing streak of acidity. I guess there are some healthy tannins in there somewhere, but the balance and the richness render them almost unnoticeable. This wine is so delicious and so more-ish that I simply cannot fault it. And although it is so lovely now, I can only see it getting better and better for at least a decade, perhaps a lot longer. I took it along to a blind tasting at Nottingham Wine Circle, where it compared more than favourably to the Graham's 1977 Vintage Port that followed. The Port was superb (and so it should be) but the Maury showed magnificently. And at just 16% abv - as opposed to the 20% of the Port - this gently fortified wine provides the sort of balance and freshness that Port can rarely (if ever) attain. Food pairings would include rich puddings (even with chocolate) or fruitcake, raspberry sorbet, cheese, or even as an accompaniment to duck with cherry sauce. And when Christmas comes around, it is the perfect match for mince pies. Better still, just enjoy it on its own.  Vintage Maury is truly one of the world's best and most underrated sweet red wine styles - and this is a truly exceptional example, and a steal at £14.95.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What a difference a day makes

Well, it has been a pretty eventful day. As we all know, some pretty extraordinary things have been going on in the world of UK politics. But wherever my own sympathies may lie, this is predominantly a wine blog, so I'm happy to let them remain (a not particularly well-kept) secret. 

But I can't avoid commenting on the failure of my beloved Nottingham Forest Football Club to reach the Championship play-off final, with what seemed to be a pretty limp second leg, second half capitulation at home to Blackpool. The final aggregate score, after a total of 180 minutes of football was Forest 4 - Blackpool 6. So near, yet so far. A few months ago, Forest looked certain to go on and clinch automatic promotion to the Premiership, but some very poor away form in 2010 put paid to that. The play-offs provided a second chance, but proved a hurdle too far for what is still a very young and essentially inexperienced side. Never mind - after all, it's only a game, and there is always next season. The experience the squad will have gained and the hard lessons they have learned from this campaign will surely stand them in good stead for next season and help them to see it through to the end. Listening to tonights match on the radio, it was nice to hear the Forest fans applauding their team off the pitch at the end and - perhaps more importantly - also applauding the Blackpool team, who clearly deserved the win. Good luck to them in the final.

But let's get back to wine. Having been rather ill over the weekend, I was feeling a bit better by Monday night, so I thought I'd ease myself gently back into the swing by tasting another of my new Roussillon wines. I have to admit that it took me a while to begin to appreciate the charms of this wine. Perhaps it was just that my senses had taken a battering over the previous few days and I wasn't physically able to assess it properly. Or maybe it just needed time (in this case, a full 24 hours) to show its true colours. Whatever the case, what a difference a day made..........

This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, aged for 1 year in oak barrels. It has an almost opaque blood red core, with a narrow light purple rim. The rich, bramble, cherry and plum aromas typical of previous vintages are all present and correct. But it's not just about the fruit - there's a whole lot more going on here, with subtle cedar, leather and tobacco aromas, courtesy of very skilful oak-ageing, along with some enticingly meaty, savoury elements lurking in the background. Many of these elements take some time to emerge (in fact, it really does come into its own on day 2) but they are worth waiting for, because this a truly impressive and considerably complex wine. It oozes class, though in a restrained, almost elegant (rather than overt) way. Not that it lacks power - far from it - but the luscious yet tangy red and black fruit flavours and those savoury elements, combined with fine, chocolatey tannins and just the right level of acidity, all seem to add up to something much more than the sum of its parts. The finish is long and spicy. It is already a delight to drink now, although the fact that it shows so brilliantly on the second day marks it out as a wine that should age and improve superbly, over the next 5 to 8 years, perhaps more. Actually, I detect a subtle shift in style, with this latest vintage - I believe previous vintages have seen some use of American oak barrels, whereas this one seems much more like exclusively French (or at least European) oak. Whatever the answer, this has become my favourite cuvée from Sol-Payré over the years, and this particular vintage may just turn out to be the best one yet. And at £13.50, it is a lot of wine for the money.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Gastric flu - not a pleasant experience

I thought I'd got away very lightly with this, having had a bit of stomach trouble a couple of weeks ago. For the best part of a week, my stomach was a bit tender and food was sitting very heavily - I thought perhaps it was the return of an ulcer my doctor had diagnosed a few years back, or (perish the thought) something much worse! Eventually, my little problem subsided and I forgot all about it. About a week ago, my youngest son Daniel went down with a stomach bug, just as we were getting ready for our trip to Spain. TLD then got something very similar whilst we were in Spain and, to cap it all, we arrived home to find older son Alex laid-up with exactly the same thing. Fine, I thought - at least we've all had it now, so it's out of the way. And, of course, my iron constitution meant that I had brushed it off without too much trouble.

Then, at around 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon, my stomach started to feel distinctly, erm, "rumbly". I'll spare you the gory details, which are not fit for a public blog. All I can say is thank heavens for modern sanitation. Very unusually for me, I was in bed by 9 pm - and out of it on numerous occasions through the night, dashing to the bathroom. Dehydration was my biggest worry. I was so thirsty, but was struggling to keep even plain water down. And tea with lemon (my comfort drink of choice, when I'm ill) didn't half taste sour on its way back up! Following one of the longest nights I can remember (you know the sort - you are so tired, but can't stay asleep for more than 10 minutes at a time) I was up at 7 am and contemplating how to get through the rest of the day. Along with the stomach pains, the classic flu symptoms had left me feeling utterly drained and so weak that I could hardly walk up the stairs. By 9 am, I'd had enough, so went back to bed for a few hours and actually managed to get a few hours' sleep. Although I still feel like death warmed-up, at least I'm now managing to keep some fluids down and have even managed to eat a little something. So I guess I'm going to live.

That said, the last thing I feel like doing right now is drinking wine (which of course is what this blog is supposed to be about) but I'm sure I'll be fit as a fiddle in 2 or 3 days and raring to get through the remaining tasting notes for my new wines.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A few days in Spain

We´re in Spain at the moment, spending a few days with my sister Liz and her husband John. They have a lovely house near Denia (roughly halfway between Alicante and Valencia) with impressive views of hills and mountains - and a glimpse of the see if you are tall enough. There´s a lovely pool, too - unfortunately, the weather isn´t hot enough to be bathing, and the pool temperature is down to 14C. That said, it is intermittently sunny and nice enough to be sitting outside.

TLD enjoying some sun by the pool

Following our early morning flight, we arrived in good time for lunch at a restaurant in the nearby village of Rafol d'Almunia. Service was efficient and friendly and the food was simple, tasty and plentiful. First came a selection of starters made from fish and potatoes, with salad, aoli and fresh bread. Mains included braised lamb shanks, several fish dishes, entrecote steak and paella. We all had profiteroles for dessert, followed by excellent coffee. The ladies and I shared bottles of red, white and rose wine, whilst John had a couple of beers. And the cost for that little lot? 38 Euros - not each, but in total! I was flabbergasted. I know Spain is cheaper than France and the UK, but to enjoy a 3-course meal, plus more wine than we could resonably drink over a lunchtime, plus coffee, all for less than 10 Euros each is just amazing. I can see why so many Brits come and live out here, if living is so much cheaper than in the UK.

This being a wine blog, I can´t write without commenting on the wines we had. The white was Vino de La Tierra de Castilla Viñapeña Airen. I know Airen has a bad reputation as the most widely-planted white variety in Spain (possibly the world), but it was actually OK - fruity, lemony, herbaceous and refreshing. In fact, quite Sauvignonesque. The red was Vino de La Tierra de Castilla Viñapeña Tempranillo, which was full of cherry and raspberry fruit, with nice acidity and soft tannins - simple, but very typical of the grape variety. The rose (sorry, but I can't work out how to do an acute accent on this European keyboard) was Bodegas Ayusc Rosado Abadia del Reble. Potent, very slightly oxidative, with aromas and flavours of baked redcurrants and apples. It was curiously enjoyable. In fact, I may never again blog on 3 more un-profound wines, but they hit the spot at this time, and in this place. Sometimes, simple is all you really need.

TLD, John and Liz

Today, we went for a couple of beers at a seaside cafe just up the coast from Denia, followed by a gentle stroll and a quick visit to the shops. I'm typing this inbetween goes at Scrabble, which is doing my concentration no good at all - and I hate losing!

The weather forecast says temperatures in the low-to-mid 20's tomorrow, so we may get to use the pool after all.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Some new Roussillon wines

I'm still busy writing tasting notes on lots of new Roussillon wines, before (hopefully) getting an email newsletter out to all of my customers and subscribers next weekend. Not before time, I might add, since I have yet to publicise the last lot of new wines from La Marfée and Mas Foulaquier, never mind these latest wines. I must do better! Meanwhile, here's some notes on 3 wines I've been tasting this week.

A lovely transluscent ruby/blood red core, fading gently to a wide rim. The nose has complex aromas of poached bramble and strawberry, garrigue herbs and orange peel, leather and older oak (i.e. with a suggestion of cedar, rather than vanillin). Lurking in the background, there are some meaty, savoury notes, along with a hint of red capsicum, giving the wine an almost (dare I say it) Bordeaux-like profile(!) The savouriness on the palate, though, is maritime Roussillon through and through - after all, Elne, where this wine is grown, is barely 10km from the sea, and those sea mists can often reach this far inland. But there's plenty of fruit, toowith more in the way of red fruit than black (notably cherry and redcurrant) which combine beautifully with the savoury elements. Soft tannins and decent acidity make for a typical (of this cuvée) complete the package, in a wine that has a deliciously sweet and sour quality. It is very drinkable now, but undoubtedly has the structure to evolve nicely over the next 3 to 5 years. A classy wine. £10.99.

50% Grenache Gris, 30% Macabeu, 20% Carignan Blanc, fermented and aged for a year in oak barrels. A medium-hued, shiny gold colour, with pale orange glints. This is a considerably complex mix of tree fruits, citrus, minerals and creamy/toasty oak. It is hard to pick out the individual fruits, but there is a suggestion of apple, peach and orange zest, with a real hint of nuttiness. Although clearly made in a very slightly oxidative style (think old-style Rioja) it really is super-fresh and clean as a whistle. The palate is nutty and rich, with those complex fruit flavours combining beautifully with the oak, with just a hint of oak tannin. There is a refreshing streak of citrus and apple acidity and subtle hints of spice, reminiscent of apple pie spiked with cinnamon and cloves. Although quite rich, it is never more than medium-to-full bodied, with a long, spicy finish. It is a joy to drink now, but I also feel it has genuine ageing potential, over the next 5 or even 10 years. It is a cracker, and even better than the excellent 2007. An absolute steal at £12.50.

80% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Grenache, aged for 24 months in oak barrels. An almost opaque, deep purple colour with a tiny rim. The nose has masses of bramble fruits and blueberries, with toasty oak. There is a lot of other stuff going on in the background, too - polished leather, exotic spices, coffee and chocolate and an attractive hint of orange peel. It sounds full-on, and it is, but it is classy, with a certain amont of elegance. The palate is crammed full of fresh, vibrant fruit, with intense, juicy acidity and a rasp of mouth-puckering but fine-grained tannin. As the nose suggests, it is rich and spicy, but all the while suggesting elegance and restrained power, rather than being a bruiser - it caresses the taste buds, rather than assaulting them. It is very long, too, with a mouth-watering sweet and sour finish. Having said that, this is a wine that really demands time in bottle. It has considerable structure, but the oak is quite dominant at present, and will take a few years to really integrate. Nevertheless, it is a very fine wine, and those with the patience to age it for 10 or even 15 years will be richly rewarded. £14.50.

Now I'm off to visit my sister in Spain for a few days. Depending on Internet access, I'll try and post some thoughts in a couple of days - but I hear the weather is going to be lovely, so it may be difficult to drag myself away from the pool!