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    Buying decisions from trend setting trade and The Buyer tastings

    Tasting: Wine
    Santa Tresa Long Read

    How ‘new wave’ wines of Santa Tresa & Cortese are re-discovering Sicily

    Sicily’s renaissance as a wine region has its roots in the mid-1970s when Diego Planeta’s influence started to be felt. In the past 20 years the seeds he sowed have borne fruit, with a massive increase of outside investment in new estates, improved facilities and a passion for maintaining and re-discovering Sicily’s viticultural heritage – just last month 6 new grape varieties being re-discovered. Stefano Girelli is a part of this new wave with his two organic estates Santa Tresa and Cortese producing wines of outstanding quality and value, using local varieties – Catarratto, Grillo, Fiano, Frapatto, Nero Mascalese and Nero d’Avola – and a mix of modern viticulture and ‘old style’ winemaking.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Restless River

    Why the wines of Hemel-en-Aarde’s Restless River are all about timing

    Restless River is one of a growing number of producers in South Africa which has sprung up in the past 20 years – challenging the old order and helping to define the country as a genuine fine wine region and not just a ‘value option’. Six years since discovering the wines at a craft fair in Constantia, and helping set up its import into the UK, our roving editor Roger Jones was re-united with Restless River’s owner and winemaker Craig Wessels. They taste through a number of vintages of Wessels’ wines as well as catch up on some of his winemaking techniques and separate the fact from the fiction – like ‘the one’ about him learning winemaking from a 2-day weekend course.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Blackbook

    Urban winemaker Chris Wilson tests urban winery Blackbook

    Since leaving Plumpton College in 2014 with a degree in oenology, Sergio Verrillo and his wife Lynsey have taken a different path to most winemakers in England and Wales. At their winery Blackbook they make very little sparkling wine and, instead, focus on making still Burgundian wines, along with some ‘weird beardy’ blends. And they do this all in the heart of London. Fresh into urban winemaking himself, wine scribe and fellow Plumpton graduate Chris Wilson put Blackbook’s wines through their paces.

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    Tasting: Wine
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    ‘Best SA red wine’ Orchestra hits right notes in Mentors tasting

    Hot on the heels of her Bordeaux red blend, The Mentors Orchestra 2018, winning the Veritas Vertex award for best South African wine, winemaker Izele van Blerk takes Victor Smart through the entire The Mentors range, with a selection of cheeses to match. The KWV winemaker is allowed a free rein on how she makes the company’s prestige wines and which she picks as the varietal that takes the top premium spot – with this vintage the accolade going to a Petite Sirah of which only 1000 bottles have been made.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Tasmanian Pinot Noir

    Why Tasmanian Pinot Noirs are wines with a real latitude

    As climate change takes its toll on many traditional winemaking areas, so the fresh, natural acidity to be found in the wines of cool climate regions such as Tasmania will become greater prized. Speaking direct from Australia’s island state, Rebecca Duffy from Holm Oak, Jeremy Dineen from Josef Chromy and Peter Caldwell from Dalrymple attempt to define what makes Tasmanian Pinot Noir so unique and demonstrate it through six wines from the 2017 and 2018 harvests.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Barbadillo Long Read

    Manzanilla & beyond with Tim Holt & Bodegas Barbadillo

    Bodegas Barbadillo is one of the founders of the modern sherry business, with important historical claims throughout history. It was the first producer to name a Manzanilla, the first to bottle it, and the first to pioneer ‘en rama’ as a modern sherry category. Jessica Broadbent heard from Barbadillo’s Tim Holt about the real importance of the bodega design, the stories behind five of its sherries plus a remarkable discovery that has led to a new sherry-based vermouth being released that is like a ready-made negroni.

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    Tasting: Wine
    sparkling wine

    Why global sparkling wine is catching up with Champagne

    Greece, Spain, New Zealand and England are just some of the countries that are producing sparkling wines that match, if not beat, the wines from Champagne on quality and undercut them on price every time. That’s the view of wine consultant Robert Mason who highlights seven wines that he believes will work well in the on-trade (when it gets back up to speed). He also investigates the use of bentonite, the artificially reduced yields during 2020, vintage wine release patterns and price and wonders whether status is over-playing its part in the Valée de la Marne.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2007

    How Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2007 delivers

    The Champagnes of Billecart-Salmon have always been a connoisseur’s favourite, but the reputation of one of its top two wines Cuvée Nicolas François was sealed in 1999 when the 1959 vintage was declared to be ‘Champagne of the Millennium’. As if that wasn’t enough the same wine in the 1961 vintage was declared the runner-up! Anne Krebiehl MW talks to CEO Mathieu Roland-Billecart and cellar master Florent Nys about this extraordinary cuvée, why 2007 is such an energetic vintage and, of course, tastes Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2007 with full tasting notes.

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    Tasting
    Classic Method

    What GB hallmark ‘Classic Method’ does for sparkling wine

    English and Welsh sparkling wines that are fermented in bottle now have a new official hallmark, Classic Method. But what does this new initiative from Wine GB mean for the future of our sparkling wines? Will it increase exports, be understood by customers abroad and even be understood by customers on home soils? Justin Keay ponders all of the above while tasting eight top examples of Classic Method – some well known and some new to him – and providing an update on how the 2020 harvest has gone in relation to the previous two vintages.

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    Tasting Tasting: Wine
    loire tasting

    Loire Valley gives producers new to the UK a London showcase  

    Despite all the problems that Covid-19 has created for the usual smooth running of the wine supply chain, there are huge efforts being made by generic and trade bodies to give producers and buyers as much of a chance as possible to still show, taste and select wines. This was typified last week with Business France’s Val de Loire Unlocked session that gave buyers and the press the chance to taste in person a selection of 70 AOC wines from producers looking for distribution in the UK. Geoffrey Dean was there for The Buyer to pick out his highlights.  

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    Tasting: Spirit
    Market Row

    Brixton Distillery Company launches with Market Row Rum

    Set up by former Chivas Brothers’ Laurent Lacassagne and Patrick Venning the Brixton Distillery Company is setting out to capture some of the boutique end of the premium spirits market. Its inaugural release is Market Row Rum which adds botanicals and spices to a Caribbean rum blend – all of which come from nearby Brixton Market. Victor Smart put on his most colourful shirt, adjusted his extensions and turned the Eddy Grant to 11.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Petaluma

    Roger Jones puts new Petaluma Yellow Label vintages to the test

    Petaluma showcased its new Yellow Label releases and a couple of older wines on a recent Zoom tasting and our Australian wine lover and editor at large Roger Jones takes time out of his culinary escapades to rule over these wines. Accolade eschewed the customary miniature sample bottles and instead sent Roger, and other wine experts, full bottles plus one magnum of an aged museum release. Petaluma chief winemaker Mike Mudge led proceedings with his usual banter and the wines themselves were on very fine form.

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    Tasting: Spirit
    Ao

    Suntory’s new Ao spirit comes from 5 global distilleries

    Not one to shirk a challenge, Suntory decided to launch its new world travel retail brand Ao during a global pandemic, when international travel is at an all-time low. The spirit itself was also quite a feat, being a blend of whiskies from the five countries where Suntory owns distilleries – Scotland, Ireland, United States, Canada and Japan – with the concept behind it being a whisky that is all things to all whisky lovers the world over. How could it possibly succeed? Suntory’s Mike Miyamoto, whose brainchild Ao is, explained to Geoffrey Dean the thinking behind the brand which involved an ingenious tasting of different components to illustrate what each country’s whisky brings to the party.

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    Tasting: Spirit
    Gyre & Gimble

    How Gyre & Gimble’s new gins were born out of lockdown

    Three new gins from Norwich-based boutique distiller Gyre & Gimble are genuinely rather strange. But then seeing as they were inspired by the imagination and works of Lewis Carroll, use the look and feel of a craft beer and were conceived and made during the first national Lockdown, that is hardly surprising – one uses sea water as a dilutant while another is infused twice with fresh cherries. But these gins are also rather good as Peter Dean discovered when he tasted a Coastal Gin, Cherry Gin and excellent London Dry with the distillery’s co-creator Craig Allison.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Central & Eastern European

    Discovering the 13 best Central & Eastern European white wines

    Wines from Central & Eastern European countries are starting to get the international recognition they deserve, which is surprising given that some of these regions are the cradle of viticulture. Although countries like Romania, Greece and Moldova produce many excellent wines from international grape varieties it is with indigenous grapes that winemakers in those countries really come into their own – an exciting mix of tradition and innovation. At a recent IWSC tasting these are the 13 Central & Eastern European white wines that really stood out.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Bordeaux 2018

    How UGC tasting shows off the might of Bordeaux 2018 vintage

    No elbows were needed at this year’s annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting in London, and the Leoville Barton didn’t run out – the new tasting environment for the assessment of the Bordeaux 2018 vintage was seated, took five hours with 130 wines tasted. Our man at the tasting, Geoffrey Dean, selects the best wines, appellation by appellation as well as gets the views from 13 of the top châteaux owners on where lies the strengths and weaknesses of Bordeaux 2018.

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    Tasting: Wine
    Vasse Felix Heytesbury

    Why 2018 Vasse Felix Heytesbury was world class at WA tasting

    Six Chardonnays from Western Australia’s Margaret River were presented to the UK press last week in a webinar entitled Margaret River World Class Chardonnay. For Roger Jones, retired Michelin star chef and editor at large for The Buyer, there was only one truly world class Chardonnay on show and that was the 2018 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay which Jones recently awarded a gold star Decanter award to. Jones reviews all six wines as well as details the mystery of the Gingin Chardonnay clone that was solved recently this year. 

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    Tasting: Wine
    BP 3

    Why the new Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2012 is a class act

    At the launch of the new Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2012, Alice Paillard likened 2012 to the classic 2002 vintage, stressing that in 2012 the base wines (strangely) had both higher acidity and maturity. This Champagne is a ‘survivor’ of the weather that spring – the resulting wine ‘compact’ and with long-ageing potential. Anne Krebiehl MW talks to Paillard and is smitten with the wine.

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    Tasting: Wine
    'new Chile' Long Read

    Diversity links Tim Atkin’s 16 best wines from ‘new Chile’

    The wines of ‘new Chile’ demand a fresh look by wine buyers if the 16 best new Chile wines selected by Tim Atkin MW are anything to go by. In a two-part 3-hour tasting review, with 16 winemakers beamed in from around Chile, this superb session showed off the freshness and diversity of the wine styles that have undergone a sea-change here. Gone were the heavy, oaky, rich, sweet wines of yore and in their place were 16 wines with less extraction and reduction, and more of a sense of place. The sessions also showed how far Zoom tastings have come in six months – punctual, technically faultless with the wines showing well. Peter Dean reports.

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    Tasting: Wine
    La Belle Dame 2012

    Why Veuve Clicquot made La Grande Dame 2012 90% Pinot

    With a father from Burgundy new Veuve Clicquot chef de cave Didier Mariotti was clearly at ease talking about the new Pinot Noir-led prestige cuvée La Grande Dame 2012 at its launch yesterday. Even though the wine ‘is not his’ and neither was the decision to increase the amount of Pinot Noir in the mix to 90%, he clearly values the decision, going into some detail with Anne Krebiehl MW about where the fruit is sourced from and why, the use of bitterness on the finish and also how important the shape of the glass is. To emphasise this point LVMH sent out two different glasses with the tasting pack so that Anne could taste the difference.

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    Instataste

    Tasting with pictures View All
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    • La Diablese is an extraordinarily pure Cabernet Franc from old vines, 50-110 years old, grown on North-facing clay-limestone soils in a tiny plot 0.8ha. It is the top cuvée from Château de Coulaine, an historic family-owned property in Chinon. This was the 2015 vintage, bought on recommendation by the splendid independent wine shop in the heart of Saumur. Clean and complex on the palate it has notes of ripe red fruits, tobacco, supported by fine tannins. There is decent structure here from one year in barrel (15% new) but the silkiness and depth of old-vine fruit gives the wine perfect balance. Jean Denys de Bonnaventure and his wife Tatiana have been running Château de Coulaine for the past 3 years, an historic property that traces its roots back to the 15th century, and the first in Chinon to be certified organic in 1994. To serve they suggest pairing the wine
    • A blend of 70% Grillo with Viognier, grown organically in Sicily, with the wine kept on its fine lees. Light greeny gold; attractive nose of yellow stone fruit, flowering herbs; Crisp, fresh medium-weight palate with yellow grapefruit zest and a mineral edge. Remarkably complex and fine quality given the £10.99 price point. It has had a classy label design change since the 2018 vintage and also gone from screw cap to cork.
    • Wonderfully complex and moreish Palo Cortado from a limited 22-cask solera in Jerez de la Frontera. The wine is part of Lustau’s project of releasing small parcels of unblended sherry from Almacenistas – independent sherry artisans who specialise in small batch sherries. Dark amber in colour, the nose is a cornucopia of delights - old wood, almond shell, dark fruits, dried apricots, leather, tobacco, wood polish, sea spray. The palate is velvety and rounded, I get bitter orange marmalade, coffee, spices, black chocolate, saline. The finish is elegant, never-ending, glyceric with a nut skin bitterness. Seriously good.
    • Criollas de Don Graciano, Paso & Paso & co, 2019 Fascinating glimpse into New Wave Argentina that ticks a lot of boxes – a field blend of four ‘re-discovered’ grapes Creole Big (50%), Muscatel Pink (25%), Torrontes Sanjuanino (12%), Pedro Gimenez (13%), made by two men out of college. The grapes are grown in the dry desert area of San Martin, a very productive and commercial end of Mendoza 700m up; fruit is hand picked co-fermented 50% with skins, native yeasts, open top fermenter, 20 days maceration, partial malolactic. No filtering/ sulphur used but the wine is clean as a whistle. To taste: Light straw gold; aromatic nose, fruity and floral; Smoke, honey, passion fruit. It’s intense a bit like a Torrontes or Gewurtz/ Moscato; medium weight, fresh, complex, orange flesh, yellow ripe grapefruit, green pineapple, cashew nuts aftertaste. Very fruity, punchy and vibrant. Unusual but it really works. A
    • Hard to follow 2010, in what was a much warmer year, but this crianza from impeccable provenance does so with ease. Typical of Lopez de Heredia, this crianza is aged in barrel longer than the specification of a gran reserva – three years, in fact, out of a total of nine years ageing. The combination of vintage and ageing leads to a wine with a good deal of ripeness and toasty notes amongst the fruit. Having said that there is still the trademark acidity of the estate keeping everything in check. The wine has an unusually high percentage of Garnacha (25%) in the blend with 65% of Tempranillo, and Mazuelo/Graciano making up the remainder. To drink, the wine is brick red with orange edging, notes of red and black fruits, with an earthiness, rusticity and spiciness (nutmeg). Little hits of fig and leather. Decant and best served with food. Can
    • 2018 vintage of a good example of ‘new wave’ Chile wines. A 85% Malbec, 8% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc blend. Despite this being vinified in 100% new wood this is a fresh, lovely clean style of Malbec, with a mineral core, red and black fruit, lick of vanilla, great length, fine-grained texture, citrus rasp on the finish. Very well balanced with the wood well integrated. Winemaker Juan A Munõz says that his background in making sparkling wines helps with the freshness in his still wines, although the greatness of the 2018 vintage throughout Chile has resulted in the wines having extra freshness. Very good value for money.
    • From one of England’s few biodynamic producers comes this 100% Chardonnay; limpid, with greenish hue; very vigorous mousse settles down into a lively but fine bead; green apple, savoury edge, biscuity; crisp, steely acidity, clean, pure fruit profile (orchard fruit), nice fine texture. Very confident and well made (by Litmus Wines for Albury)
    • An organic Sicilian producer who has been inspired by orange wines and also is attempting to make a traditional Sicilian wine – an eclectic blend of Sicilian grape varieties, (Catarratto, Grillo and Fiano), fermented on skins for two days and then racked to 30/60 and 90 hecolitre Slovenian oak barrels where it’s left on fine lees for almost a year and then further matured in bottle for six months. On the eye it’s shiny gold; the nose is complex and rich with honey, fresh nuts, coconut and orange skin; the palate is medium weight, with a broadness mid-palate and good balance between the structure of the wine and the tangible acidity and burst of lemon zest and orange flesh. Different and immensely enjoyable as an aperitif or paired with vegetables, seafood or white meat. Would be great as part of a by-the-glass wine pairing menu.
    • They may only make a tiny % of  #PinotGris  in  #Marlborough  but when they do it’s well worth it. This is a great example from  @hanzherzog  winery. Amazing gold, amber colour, which is followed up through its full bodied, rich palate. Great on its own but very much a grown up Pinot Gris for the dinner table. From an estate that specialises in offering single varieties behind the NZ norm. It has an equally stunning  #Viognier  too. Available through  @vindependents   @louisevaux   #newzealand   #wine   #winetasting   #sommeliers 
    • 2019 vintage from the North-East Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, this refreshing, zesty dry white uses indigenous Ribolla Gialla grapes, blended with Malvasia and Riesling. On the nose it could be mistaken for a young, fresh Viognier or Gewürztraminer even, and on the palate it has bright, piercing acidity that is fresh, youthful and mineral-driven. The grapes are lightly-pressed, steel fermented and then part-aged in large format Slovenian oak for six months, although that is for textural purposes only – the purity feels unoaked in style. Very light straw-gold; gorgeous, pretty nose of orange skin and white blossom; the palate is light-mid weight with an interesting balance between laser-like purity of fruit and acidity, with a complex, depth of fruit flavours. Elegant, tasty, exciting and packs quite a punch for a 12.5% abv wine. I would consider decanting it for half an hour before serving, either as an aperitif or
    • Fruity and fun rosé that is a delight to drink as an aperitif, although works well with sushi, sashimi and (surprisingly) pizza and other tomato-based dishes. This family-owned and run House has been making rosé since 1840, a blend of 40% Chardonnay (some of the fruit coming from more Southern vineyards) and 30% each of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, vinified as a red wine. The skill they have mastered is to get as little tannins as possible in the red wine, with all the initial vinification done in stainless steel to preserve the freshness and flavours of the fruit. This example has the 2016 vintage as its base, 36 months ageing with 8gms per litre dosage. Palest salmon pink with saffron highlights; lively, fine bead, slowing to a lazy crawl; notes of red summer berries, citrus; the attack is rich and rounded, terrific balance with the acidity showing itself
    • Gérard Bertrand’s super premium rosé from AOP Languedoc Cabrières, that will always be evaluated (intentionally?) alongside its hefty £200 rrp price tag. The fact is that it delivers as much of a grand vin experience as similarly priced wines from wine regions where that is accepted as a price for fine wine – a top white Burgundy for example. Great care has gone into the blend of very old biodynamic-farmed Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier, vinified separately in new French oak for 6-8 months on fine lees with stirring. The wood is not overt but brings weight and a satin-like texture to the wine. On the eye the wine is the palest of peach pink; the nose is complex with notes of white peach, delicate white flowers, summer berries, a hint of wild fennel; the palate is more than the sum of its parts, rich, beautifully poised and
    • This lovely, fresh, saline and maritime  #Albarino  from  @labascula  comes straight from the heart of  #Galicia  and is part of the  #EatSpainDrinkSpain   #SpainFoodNation  promotion running through November featuring best examples of foods, meats, pates, cheeses and wines celebrating the best of what region can produce from  @spanishwinesuk . Great initiative being run by  @angeline_bayly  and  @charlotte .l.hey  @bespokedrinksmedia  with online tasting workshops and more
    • I love it when a case you bought years ago turns into such a ‘find’. This is my 3rd bottle and it is just drinking so perfectly now with a 10-15 years ‘left in the tank’ I reckon. It’s been described like ‘Darth Vader in slippers’ and the wine treads to perfection that delicate balance between broody, undertow of black fruits, liquorice and fresh, light-footed elegant tannins. It is just SO fresh – that mark of a truly great wine – that can only come from its unique mix of three distinct terroirs, slate, granite and alluvial soil and the expert vinification. Unbelievably youthful given this is 15 years old. To look at the wine is black, opaque with ox blood edging; the nose is intense, black fruits, liquorice, cured meat, garrigue, balsamic, iodine; medium-full bodied, structured and complex, with that freshness just holding it all together. Bewilderingly good.
    • Amontillado Olvidado, Sanchez Romate 1/5 This stunning sherry is called ‘Forgotten Amontillado’ (Olvidado means forgotten) by Romate because it was only recently discovered in 1000 litre casks in the estate’s 235 year old cellars. It’s a mature dry style of Amontillado that is so deep, complex and serious, it’s like leafing through an old book. On the eye it is mahogany, the aromas are intoxicating – walnut shells, antique furniture, sea air, putty – the palate is intense and tangy with nuts, old oak, tobacco leaf and earthy notes, ending on a long, salty finish. Even though there has been little intervention, the wine is clear, clean, pure, fresh and ever so slightly moreish!
    • Sometimes referred to as the ‘Barolo of the South’ this is a 100% Aglianico from Campania, that is rich, intense but has an elegance quite unlike most Aglianico I have tried. The wine is aged in French barriques for 18 months, then aged in bottle for another 18 months before release, which is where the finesse and roundness on the palate is coming from. Deep, opaque purple; attractive fruity and floral nose, fruits of the forest, cranberry with hints of liquorice and vanilla pod, black pepper, anise; on the palate the wine is intense, complex with lovely mix of wild, red and black fruit, balsamic, liquorice; the mouthfeel is quite tense, precise, fine but slightly austere tannins, medium-weight, dry. Very impressive, long finish. Can be drunk solus but with pasta and risotto, or wild boar salami as a starter would be perfect.
    • Well this makes a refreshing change. Beautifully crafted premium  #cordials  from  @jeffreystonic  that taste as good as they sound. Lovely viscous liquid crammed with ingredients such as: Sicilian Lemon and spices; Indian tonic syrup; Oriental lime; and yarrow, rose hip and elderflower. No artificial sweeteners or flavours were either used or harmed in making them. Highly recommended with ice and big splash of sparkling water...may have to try with something harder later in the week  #lowno   #noalcohol  . #alcoholfree   #drinkingwell 
    • Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2007 Clarity is the first thing that strikes on the nose: a bell-like purity that seems to carry ripe, creamy but tart apple flesh. More air then reveals barley sugar with caramelised lemon overtones and hints of wet chalk. That sense of exquisite clarity also features on the palate where absolute freshness strikes a high note, a bright peal of soaring lemon that is anchored in gorgeously creamy almond Viennoiserie and profound chalk. It is that absolute freshness, that chalky depth and superfine mousse that define this wine. Unbending structure, uncompromising freshness, absolute depth. Wow. (AK)
    • I really like the policy of releasing this Bordeaux blend when it is ready to start drinking, as this 2015 from the low-cropping 51 year old Evans Vineyard-sourced wine is. Dark cherry on the eye; the nose has wafts of that distinctive blackcurrant pastille, earthy Coonawarra fruit; the palate is medium to full bodied, structured with a light touch, a fresh openness with soft, sandy fine-grained tannins, black fruits dominate with an undercurrent of savoury oak. The wine has spent 20 months in oak (60% new), gone through malolactic fermentation, racked and returned five times and lightly fined on running to bottle. Very tidy.
    • Winemaker Stéphane Robert makes such expressive wines in his railway tunnel-converted winery on the West bank of the Rhône. This is his top white blend, 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne which is nicely into its drinking window. White flowers on the nose, honeydew melon, honey, a touch of anise; the mouthfeel is rich and round but fresh with structure and acidity keeping it all in check. The fruit verges on the tropical but it’s not OTT, being finely judged, balanced with a delicately spiced finish. At £28 this is a steal for this quality