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Vacqueyras 2006

Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2009 Wine Tasting

Vacqueyras 2006

Vacqueyras, one of the Southern Rhone's baby Chateauneuf du Pape wines is starting to compete with Gigondas as the second wine of the area. Now starting to move away from it's rough and rustic image, Vacqueyras is taken more and more seriously by producer and critic alike. Not quite yet on par with Gigondas, the difference in price between the two is stark with top end Vacqueyras wines (like the two reviewed below) available for around £15, you can pay double this figure for a similar high quality Gigondas.

2006 is an interesting vintage for the Southern Rhone, and suffers (or benefits from, depending on whether you sell, grow or drink the wine) from being in between two top class vintages. If you're in the wine industry or a big wine geek you will know about the hype surrounding the Chateauneuf du Pape '07's. No bad thing for CnDP, Gigondas and Vacqueyras wines from 2006 as they now offer exceptional value (something like the '04 Bordeaux principle but really only among the wines from the best producers).

Vacqueyras is usually a wine fairly easy to distinguish with most producers in the area, even those that have moved into heavy bio-dynamie, eager to keep the wine true to its historical roots. Vacqueyras wines have always been dusty, tannic and rugged but as that style falls further out of fashion and with two very prestigious and fashionable neighbours in Cheateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, Vacqueyras has had to pave a new road for itself and the two producers reviewed here today, Montirius and Perrin & Fils are both attempting to do just that but in rather different ways. Although both biodynamic producers, the two wines have been styled to appeal to two very different types of Vacqueyras drinker.

This isn't the first time I've tried the Montirius Vacqueyras 2006 Garrigues this year. The wine appeared in a Berry Bros and Rudd sponsored Twitter Taste Live event and went down a real storm, the wine was fruity, full of cherries and Walls vanilla but here I was three months later and this delightfully complex and expressive Vacqueyras had turned green in a matter of three months. Perhaps a case of bottle evolution, some kind of bottle fault or, if you believe in such things, perhaps it was a "veggie day"*

I gave the Montirius Vacqueyras Garrigues 2006, 91 Points on its last outing in August. Now in late November it appears to have completely changed and my score for it at this drinking window descends also. Remember as you read this review that this wine may just be entering a non drinking phase, the Montirius is a prestigious and fine Vacqueyras wine, in fact consistently one of the best of it's type produced annually.

Montirius Vacqueyras 2006 Garrigues
- BUY (but don't drink today!) - £13.50
Deep ruby red in the glass. 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah the fruit today was hard to tease from the nose however the wine does stay true to the region with dusty earthy notes and a hint of blackberry and over-ripe raspberry. Mid bodied, the wine is green, tannic and austere on the palate with a mid length finish. A good structure but the under ripe taste is baffling. 84 Points

Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras Les Christins 2006
- BUY - £12.65
Ruby red in colour. The wine quickly offers a heady bouquet with knockout Blackberry jelly, vanilla and an interesting sweet note on the nose. On the palate the wine is smooth with fine ingrained tannins and is a very pleasant and well rounded Rhone wine though, if blind, would not have picked this wine as a Vacqueyras. 89 Points

There is a theory that slowly, year on year, wines are becoming more and more alike not simply because the technology of modern wine making is available to everyone and techniques/information is more easily shared but because wine producers are playing for points (critic's) and trying to appeal to an "international" palate (whatever that is). This presents a danger for an AOC like Vacqueyras if you are a purist and want your wines to reflect the nuances of the soil/climate and taste the way they have done for generations. However, if you are a producer in an area as prestigious as the Rhone but as unknown (to the general public) as Vacqueyras, you may be persuaded commercially to produce an every-Rhone wine and appeal to a mass market.

If you know you like Rhone wines and you're not fussy about every bottle being a clean and obvious example of its exact AOC then the Perrin & Fils will suit you better, easy to drink, obvious Rhone though not obvious Vacqueyras with a nice price tag too.
If you want an a true example of Vacqueyras or something to hold onto for a while and see the true potential of Vacqueyras then go for the Montirius.

Where can I buy these wines?
Both these wines are available at Berry Bros and Rudd.

Leave a Comment
Do you have any examples of bad bottles or dumb periods? I don't know, aside from cork taint, a more disappointing end for a bottle of wine. I was so excited about the Montirius too *sigh*

*There are those that believe the waxing and waining of the moon effects water in the bottle as it effects the tides of the sea and that wines go through periods of fruit/veggie etc depending on the day you open it in a lunar cycle. That's lunar cycle, not loony cycle.

Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Matt Skinner The Juice 2010

Date: Tue, Nov 10, 2009 Wine Tasting

Matt Skinner The Juice 2010

Matt Skinner The Juice 2010 is no ordinary wine book. Matt Skinner has created a new kind of wine handbook that has been sadly missing from the UK shelves and one every avid wine fan (who shops at the supermarket!) should not be without.
How many times have you gone along to the local supermarket or one of the chains (Majestic, Threshers, WineRack etc) and come away with with a right troll of a bottle? "Hit N Miss" aint even close to covering it, right?
Well then, praise be for this book. Matt Skinner The Juice 2010 is this years edition (the 5th) whereby lovable* Aussie wine pro Matt Skinner puts together a detailed list of 100 hot wines, easily sourced in the UK that will save you real pounds in your pocket and put an end to that sinking disappointing feeling you get when you blow a crisp £20 at Sainsburys just to coat your sink with precious red tears.

I've been back in the UK only one year and I can say that I have tried about half of these wines and agree on the most part with most of these picks. You will have heard of most of these producers and probably tried some of these wines too so it's nice to see a degree of familiarity with the producers even if he doesn't always promote the "usual suspects" in terms of varietal. They're all here, Jacobs Creek, Peter Lehmann, Dr Loosen, Cloudy Bay, Wither Hills, Casillero del Diablo but even a few shop's own brands make the list and as these wines are typically under the £10 mark this book has given me plenty of wines to look out for in the run up to Christmas.

Split into 20 categories, Matt has given tips on all kinds of wines, from the top end £20+ wines, through organic wines, food pairing wines, half bottles and lesser known grapes. Matt also supports the home team with a review on Chapel Down's Brut Sparkler but you can't help but wonder about the sheer number of Aussie wines in this book.

As the "Italian Wine Blog" it's great to see Matt's wine of the year is, of course, a little Italian number, the Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico 2007 but aside from this a third of all his recommendations are Australian. It's true to say that some of our lazy UK supermarkets do, at first glance seem to stock 50% Aussie Syrah but this books Aussie slant is a touch too extreme for my tastes.

If you are a frequent wine nut like myself and buying 100+ different bottles a year then I doubt this book is going to teach you anything new. I would recommend this book to people who are just getting into wine or those who buy most of their wines at the supermarkets. My own wine buying habits are firmly online but I can see this book appealing to those new to wine or would make a great Christmas present for a relative who is a casual wine fan.

Matt Skinner The Juice 2010 - £7.99 - Octopus Books - BUY IT HERE

Leave a Comment
If I were writing a Hot 100 wine book I'm sure I could fill 33% of my pages with Italian wines and not simply because I am biased! With which country does your wine bias lie?

Anyone who has read this book, please leave a comment.
* I don't really know if Matt is lovable, it's only hearsay and conjecture.
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore 2004

Date: Tue, Nov 3, 2009 Wine Tasting

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore 2004

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore 2004 is one of the wave of fantastic 2004 Barbaresco wines. Sottimano Barbaresco is rightly lauded in Barberesco circles but still remains under the radar here in the UK mostly because of a very poor distribution. However, in Italy and in the USA Sottimano enjoys a growing reputation with the 2006 range taking that next step up and three of their Barbaresco's holding their heads up with the very best producers and scooping huge scores with Antonio Galloni at the Wine Advocate.

Sottimano produce an array of Barbaresco wines and some of the others, Curra and Fausoni namely, do enjoy some distribution here but it's the Pajore I got to taste last night and I thought would be of most interest to Wine90 readers looking for fine wines at bargain prices.

A small producer on the borders of Nieve and Barbaresco, Sottimano is one of the fastest improving producer in the Piedmont and as such you can still purchase their top cuvee Barbarescos for sub £40 prices and even sub £30 here and there. Father and son team, Andrea and Rino Sottimano create hedonistic, long lived Barbaresco wines that will surprise you with their quality even among the entry level bottles. Perfectionists, Andrea and Rino produce four very distinct Barbaresco wines that will appeal to old school and new school Nebbiolo fans.

The Pajore is a the most elegant and traditional of the four and pleases traditionalists among the Gambero Rosso judges as in excellent vintages the Pajore can scoop the odd Tre Bicchiere award now and then. Those preferring a less aggressive, floral Barbaresco will prefer the Fausoni and it's these two wines that really divide Sottimano fans. If you like big, extracted Nebbiolo then the Curra would be the choice of the typical American palate (how dare I say such a thing!) and lastly the Cotta is a more spicy affair and a great foodies wine.

Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore 2004 - BUY - €39
A dark ruby red verging on purple, no hint of age here. The Pajore explodes on the nose after a good few hours in the decanter the wine was bursting with currant, chocolate, dark cherries, cloves and a real floral note on the end. The Pajore palate is luscious, still exceptionally concentrated and powerful, red fruits dance on your tastebuds for close to a minute on the finish. Far too young but at €39 you don't feel like you shot Bambi, a 6 pack contender; the evolution here will be fascinating. 94 Points

Where can I buy this Wine?
Europeans - Vinpiu - €39
Americans - The Wine Connection - $49
Brits - Vinpiu - £36
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Having some great Twitter wine tips coming my way over the last few days. What wine have you been enjoying these past 7 days?
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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La Brancaia Il Blu 2006

Date: Tue, Oct 27, 2009 Wine Tasting

La Brancaia Il Blu 2006

La Brancaia Il Blu 2006 is one of the best Super Tuscan wines around and with a growing reputation it won't stay on my QPR doozy list for long. The 2006 vintage is sumptuous. A fantastic year for Merlot in Italy, that supple little grape has provided the knock out punch to the other great red of La Brancaia's, Ilatraia. Usually, vintage after vintage these two wines can barely be separated both excellent though with very different flavour profiles. However, this year Il Blu is a baby giraffes neck ahead and with 96 points from Galloni and a Tre Bicchiere award, I had to get hold of this years vintage and see if the wine justified this stonking rating.

Swiss owned La Brancaia are foremostly fine exponents of Chianti Classico, and, like many other Tuscan estates with Chianti holdings, soon turned their attention to the cheaper and Bordeaux-esque Maremma
to begin producing Super Tuscan wines. Still today these wines are wowing the critics. A little out of fashion in the noughties those in the know still swear by the Super Tuscan often rivalling, sometimes surpassing, the quality of Bordeaux and often for a fraction of the price. The interesting thing about Il Blu, a 50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon wine is that it's not actually from Maremma but grown within the Chianti jurisdiction.

The excellent thing about it, is that this wine can still be found for under £40. 96 Point wines at £40 are very few and far between especially from such a famous region. Although I wasn't quite as impressed, to me 96 represents a unique barrier to push through, I happily award this wine 95 Points and a rubber stamped BUY.

As frequent readers of this blog will know, I spent 3 of the last 4 years living in Italy and one of the most beautiful things about it, excluding the people, countryside, food and wine, was the way these 4 qualities were often married. We spent many Friday evenings drinking and eating at the local Agriturismo's, where you ate the produce from the working farms, many of these were not just farms and restaurants but also hotels too. At La Brancaia you can also take a vacation with a stunning location, great food and wine of course, and set yourself right in the heart of a gorgeous Italian wine holiday. Check it out here.

Back to the wine. I popped and poured the La Brancaia Il Blu 2006 on Sunday which, to be honest, was a good 5 years too early. The wines of La Brancaia, apart from the Chianti Classico which is surprisingly accessible young, should all be given at least 5 years in the cellar. Despite this it was very clear to see that this was a very special wine and after some time to breath I can say that, for 2009 so far, this is the best QPR wine of the year. If you love Italian wines you have to seek this out, if you are into Bordeaux you have to seek this out, if you collect wine to sell for profit... you have to seek this out. If an alien were to come down from Mars, point a gun to my head and forced me to choose just one wine to attempt to please his palate...I'd choose this wine.

Food Match: Duck, Pigeon or Venison.

Best Wines from this Producer: Consistently excellent within their varietal.
Chianti Classico
Brancia Il Blu

La Brancaia Il Blu 2006
- BUY - £39
Deep dark ruby red edging on purple, the wine sits thick in the glass. On the nose you are taken on a power tour of fruit with cherries, plum and spicy vanilla oak. The wine is full bodied with the aromas carrying through to the attack. The mid palate is powerful and tannic at the moment but still enjoyable with the finish almost endless. Brilliantly structured, the wine hides the alcohol brilliantly and is sure to improve with age. 95 Points

Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans -
Chicago WC - $47.50
Americans -
Divine Golosita Toscane - €40
Brits -
WineDirect - £39

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Which wine would you give to an alien to showcase the best planet earth had to offer?
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Alois Lageder Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Romigberg

Date: Mon, Oct 26, 2009 Wine Tasting

Alois Lageder Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Romigberg

Alois Lageder is one of the major players on the South Tyrol wine map producing a large and varied quantity of quality and affordable wines. In it's fifth generation, the latest Lageder is one of the pioneers in bio dynamic wine making in the region. Lageder, like many producers in the area, buy in grapes from local growers for many of their cheaper, single varietal wines. Most of these wines are fair priced and jolly good examples of the vast variety of grapes able to reach full ripeness in the cool but endlessly sunny Southern Tyrol.

The single vineyard-Lageder produced wines are grown along bio dynamic lines and the entire estate is environmentally adapted to the nth degree with solar panelling propelling the operation.

Alois Lageders Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Romigberg is practically unrivalled in the Southern Tyrol. Although the area is blessed with a ridiculous amount of sunshine hours, Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps not one of the varieties that springs to mind when we envisage the Southern Tyrol because Cabernet Sauvignon likes to bask in the heat to fully ripen. However, it is the exceptional management of the vines here, as well as exhaustive analysis of the grapes that has produced a cool climate Cabernet without the "green".

The Romigberg vineyards are one of the most southerly of the Lageder parcels, several miles south of Bolzano and just north of the town of Termeno. Nestled between lake and mountain, it is little surprise then that this Cabernet Sauvignon has a very real and pronounced vein of minerality. What is a surprise is the luscious fruit, spice and floral notes that the wine offers. Containing just 3% Petit Verdot as an accompanying grape it seems improbable that the PV is driving the fruit.

The Cor Romigberg is the pride of the Lageder brand and spends 20 months in two thirds new french oak followed by a further 8 in bottle before release. The vines are at high density using the Guyot trellising system. In Italy these wines come onto the market around the €30 mark which, comparing to Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignons of this standard is a remarkable bargain. This is a classic cool climate Cabernet so don't imagine that the flavour profile will be anything like a Tuscan or southern Italian Cab.

Recently I had the opportunity to try the '03, a blazing hot vintage throughout Italy that played a part in reducing the usual minerality of the wine and gave further notice to the fruit. The Cor Romigberg is a wine that can benefit from cellaring in more typical vintages, however with the '03 I'm happy to say the wine is drinking beautifully at the end of 2009.

Alois Lageder Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Romigberg 2003
- BUY - £32
The darkest brooding ruby red. The nose is at once cherries, oak inspired spice, cassis and tobacco, a real aroma fans wine. On the palate the wine has strong but not aggressive tannins, it is powerful and the fruit is complimented by a straight minerality that gives this wine it's cool climate Cabernet feel. The finish is long and fruit driven the same as the attack. 90 Points.

Without tasting previous vintages it is hard to know if the Cor Romigberg is never green due to the grape selection process or if this particular vintage was so warm in the Southern Tyrol that this vintage is an anomaly putting it somewhere between a hot and cold climate Cabernet, it is at the very least a delicious wine.

Food Match: Lamb cutlets.

Best Wines from this Producer: Consistently excellent within their varietal.
Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Romigberg
Sauvignon Lehenhof
Chardonnay Lowengang
Pinot Grigio Benefizium Porer
Pinot Nero Krafuss

Where can I buy this Wine?
Europeans - Superiore.de - €36
Americans - SS Wines - $26.99
Brits - Superiore.de - £32

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Favourite Cabernet Sauvignon growing regions and favourite producer?
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2010

Date: Fri, Oct 23, 2009 Wine Tasting

Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2010

Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2010 was popped under my door this week and is the 33rd edition of one of the UK's most popular yearly wine guides. The guide is packed with everything you need to know about producers, grape varieties, the best vintages, when the wines are ready for consumption etc and is a really great guide to food accompaniments. However, unless you have particularly thin and freakishly long "pockets" you can't really call this a pocket guide. You can call it a handbag or manbag sized wine book but I doubt the people at Mitchell Beazley are going to change the name on account of me. We could petition them?

So who is Hugh Johnson?
If there is a wine enthusiast who hasn't heard of Hugh Johnson and doesn't have just one of his books I would be amazed. Hugh is behind several wine bibles including this yearly pocket wine book and the World Atlas of Wine (with Ja-Ro*) and Hugh Johnson's Wine Companion.
What sets this guide apart from other Pocket Guides is Hugh himself. From reading the foreword you get a real sense of Hugh's priorities and his devotion to wine including his deep and understandable concern about the EUs interference with our time honoured passion. Having myself spent some time talking to producers in the Rhone last year it's true that in France, as well as the rest of Europe, the attempts by the government to install a kind of prohibition are causing widespread concern for drinkers and producers alike.
Hugh has also given us, in this edition, a little something extra. A list of the best wines he has tried in the last 12 months. Of course, we all have our own palates and our taste buds may not run along Hugh's line or our pockets as deep, but the wines he has chosen are at least indicative of a wine performing to excellence within it's varietal and for wine enthusiasts whose tastes are broad these tips will be much appreciated.
The real winning formula behind this book is not simply Hugh's information and experience but the ease of use. Starting with easy to read vintage tables and progressing to a concise description of grape varieties, the best section is, in my humble opinion, the food matching guide. I have found with many pocket guides that this vital information is completely omitted, however in this book you can look up any number of meals and food types and be presented with several options for accompanying wines, including different cheese and vegetarian plates. There is but one problem with this, Hugh. It's the wrong way around. As a wine-o, I have countless bottles of wine lying around and want to know what food I should be buying for my wines, not which wines I should be buying for my food! For dinner parties my first thought is "which of my wines is at it's peak right now", then I will build a meal around it. Wine first, food second!
As an Italian wine enthusiast, this guide, like all general wine guides, isn't bursting with Italian-centric information. It covers the usual suspects in both grape variety and producers and only covers the vintages of the Piedmont and Tuscany so hard cheese to anyone in love with Amarone (which FYI, is a perfect wine/cheese combo) for that kind of information you have to buy the Gambero Rosso guides. This book tells me, Sarah Newton, nothing I don't already know about Italian wine but as I do drink wines from around the world it would be the first book I went to if I had a quick question about what to match with my Côte-Rôtie this weekend.
Even if you have the '09 guide, you should need to upgrade, you have a vintage report and the listings of the last drinkable year, but also every year the book covers new wine making areas in more detail. I may be among the few, but actually I do want to know if Romania and China are producing better wines!
This book is perfect for the serious wine drinker, but when you kick it up a notch to "geek" it doesn't cover everything but that's why it's called a pocket guide and of all the pocket guides around - the smart money's on Hugh. Just swap around the food matching and add vintage guides to Sicily and the Veneto to the 2011 book please Mr Johnson.
Where can I buy this Book?
A family run business - Amazon.com - £6.59
*Ja-Ro - Jancis Robinson
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2007

Date: Thu, Oct 22, 2009 Wine Tasting

Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2007

Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2007 is a real surprise. The gorgeous house of Fontanafredda has spent the last 10 years rapidly improving their entire range, their once iffy reputation now soundly banished. However, Barbera Briccotondo 2007 is not only excellent for Fontanafredda, it is an excellent Barbera in it's own right.

Fontanafredda is one the Piedmont's, and indeed one of Italy's, most famous wine producers. With a huge range of wines, Fontanafredda have been producing vino for over 100 years but their land has been used for wine production for much longer. One of the most beautiful estates in the world, Fontanafredda is a favourite on the wine tourism trail.

Bought from the Italian royal family by my bank, Monte dei Paschi Monte dei Paschi di Siena, this is one of the most professional outfits in the Piedmont with some of the best winemakers in Italy. This combination of money and skill turned Fontanafredda into one of the jewels in the Langhe crown. Historically and aesthetically perhaps Italys most fascinating estate.
As an Italian Wine Blogger I've come into contact with Fontanafredda many many times having sampled their Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Langhe and Gavi on numerous occasions. Their Barbera though stands out in terms of QPR. This wine is reliably now, vintage after vintage, a great bargain. Retailing for as little as £8-9 in many areas this really is a rock steady Barbera as well as a great example of the varietal.
Food Match: Pizza, Mushroom Risotto.
Best Wines from this Producer: Consistently excellent within their varietal.
Barolo Vigna La Rosa
Barolo Vigna Lazzarito
Barbaresco Coste Rubin
Barbera Briccotondo
Barbera d'Alba Papagena
Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba
Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2007 - BUY - £9
A thick, deep purple in the glass, the aromas from this wine took no time attacking my nose with gorgeous dark chocolate and sweet cherry. Mid bodied and with high acidity the wine is smooth and fruity with a supple engaging finish. Nothing complex here but simply delicious and typical Barbera. 87 Points - a perfect food wine.
Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans - Superiore - €8
Americans - Zachys - $10
Brits - Croque en Bouche - £9
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Fontanafredda is available everywhere so I'm sure some of you have had the pleasure of a Fontanafredda wine. Share your experiences of this or any recent Barbera tastings. :)
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Chateau Haut-Bages Averous Pauillac 2001

Date: Tue, Oct 20, 2009 Wine Tasting

Chateau Haut-Bages Averous Pauillac 2001

Since 1978 (2 years before I landed) the famous Chateau Lynch-Bages has been producing "Averous" as the second label of the property rolling out 10,000 cases annually. As a second label it gives the consumer a chance to sample a prestigious Cinquièmes Cru wine without breaking the bank. However, even with the second label (and sometimes third label) sharing a close location to the Cru class property and benefiting from the input of their famous winemakers these wines seldom live up to their lauded fathers names.
Not so with Averous, in certain vintages holding a red hot flaming candle to Lynch-Bages and certainly the 2001 vintage has all the class, colour, texture and nose you'd want from top class Pauillac.
In the case of the Chateau Haut-Bages Averous 2001, currently selling with Virgin Wines at £27 we have a wine from a very good Claret vintage at less than half the price of the Lynch-Bages and at a great point in its drinking curve.

Chateau Lynch-Bages itself is, due to the failings of the 1855 system, a 5th growth property but it's an undisputed fact in wine circles that this classification falls well short of the châteaux obvious pedigree.

So what should you expect of a wine from Pauillac? For those who don't know Pauillac is an area within Bordeaux famous for producing top quality claret. Home to three of the five Bordeaux first growths Mouton-Rothschild, Latour and Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac is considered the jewel in Bordeaux's red crown. Even within the appellation itself there is a great variance in the wine quality with "Pauillac" alone on the label no assurance of quality but certainly an assurance of price.
Just north of St Julien (whom frequent readers will know is my favourite area of Bordeaux) the best wines of Pauillac are in many ways similar to those of St Julien but true examples will carry clear notes of cigar-box, blackcurrent and pencil shavings. I'm sure the reader is aware of the prices currently attached to a 2001 first growth, but in case you haven't checked for a while or noticed the miserable fall of our pound then please have a brown paper bag ready before moving onto the next paragraph.

It's unusual for Wine90 to cover Bordeaux, but so impressed was I with this £27 2001 Chateau Haut-Bages Averous from the normally woefully dire range at Virgin Wines that I felt the need to tell any Virgin members that finally they have a top quality Bordeaux to buy for their subscription. Premier Cru Class Pauillac from Lafite in the 2001 vintage will set you back £365 a bottle. If I had the choice between 12 bottles of the Averous and 1 bottle of Lafite I would certainly choose Lafite but I'm a terrible snob. The smart money would be on Averous.

Chateau Haut-Bages Averous Pauillac 2001 - BUY - £27
Still somewhat dark in colour though a clear orange hue to the rim. On the nose this wine sings pure Pauillac and is as delightful a wine nose as I've had wafted my way in the last 6 months. Blackberries, cedar and super ripe. On the palate the wine was still quite tannic but firm with fruit continuing to a very full and fair length finish. A mid bodied wine that needs only 15 minutes out of the bottle. 89 Points

I haven't seen another wine writer rate this wine so highly so I'm out on a limb here but you gotta call 'em as you see 'em and I think the 2001 is reaching a peak. I highly recommend, any Brits (or anyone in fact!) reading this blog to please go out and try this wine and if you're not blown away, well, I'll send you a copy of Hugh Johnson's new book which the good people at Mitchell Beazley have sent me to review next week. So until next time, take care of yourself... and each other.

Where can I buy this Wine?
Europeans - Getraenkewelt-Weiser - €27.75
Americans - Sherry-Lehmann - $39.95
Brits - Virgin Wines - £27

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Recommend a wine for me to review! It's more fun when we get to interact! As long as it's available in the UK I'll try it. Any other comments about the blog or about this wine greatly received!
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Le Due Terre Pinot Nero

Date: Tue, Sep 1, 2009 Wine Tasting

Le Due Terre Pinot Nero

I get into everything late. My timepiece is a calculator Casio, I have to personally inject ink into my printer cartridges, I pay for things with cash! This very morning facebook apps told me I am not suited to life in the norties and should travel back in time to the 1920's. Whilst I would love to be a jazz loving, flappy gangster (or gangster's moll i suppose :( ) there is that small problem of prohibition. Faced with such an ugly concept I'd be forced to make my own wine, naturally, (actually naturally, natural wines) and that is what Le Due Terre do. Ok they are not forced into this by stringent alcohol laws but I just wanted to talk about my Facebook quiz result. Everybody say SEGWAY.

When it comes to Le Due Terre's Pinot Nero I am late on two counts. Firstly, I tried this particular wine once already two years ago and secondly
because everybody is talking about natural wines these days and so I have strapped myself to the bandwagon. They say; because there are no pesticides or added artificial wotnots (yeasts, sulphites etc) these wines are better for your health. I say; the real reason us wino's love natural wines is because we can drink them all night and wake up hangover free. Maybe some people are drinking these wines for health reasons but I am pretty sure they are liars. So, onto the wine.

When we talk about "natural" wines we are dealing with a very tricky concept. Since there are no universal laws about the processes that make a "natural" wine you need to know, more than ever, a little bit about the producer before making your natural wine purchase. In theory these wines will have been virtually untouched from grape to bottle and will be like wines from "the days of olde". Wines falling under this category should not have added sugars or unnatural yeasts, no sulphites, no filtration and the grapes should be picked by hand. Each vineyard has its own processes and at Le Due Terre, a tiny little producer of just 20,000 bottles per year in the town of Prepotto in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy, just 3 miles from the Slovenian border, Flavio & Silvana Basilicata are passionate about their winemaking approach being "hands off".

Le Due Terre are 100% committed to showing the expression of the two soils (le due terre). The winemaking process here involves selecting only the very best grapes that are crushed and the must racked into small wood. Fermentation comes from native yeasts and eventually the wine settles and there is no need for filtration. Taking extra time in the vineyards tending to the vines and carefully selecting the grapes means less work in the cellar! All this labour and low yields come at an expense to the consumer and the wines of Le Due Terre are not cheap instead they are plain excellent and for those who like to whip out something a bit special at dinner parties the wines of Le Due Terre are sure to please even the most fussy palate. For such a small outfit they have a nice varied selection of wines too including the Pinot Nero, a Merlot, a Rosso Sacrisassi ( a blend of Schioppettino and Refosco which I haven't tried but sounds very interesting) and a Bianco Sacrisassi.

I've tasted their Pinot Nero on two occasions and both times have been blown away by the sheer drinkability of this wine even when young. I've been lucky enough to have tried the 2001 and 2005 vintages, both have been excellent.

Le Due Terre Pinot Nero 2005 - BUY - €30
Garnet red with floral notes on the nose, lots of strawberry present and a slight butter biscuit whiff on the end. Smooth, mid bodied with a gentle mouth feel and well balanced tannins. Good effort. 90 Points

Le Due Terre Pinot Nero 2001 - BUY - £105 (in magnum)
Garnet red with orange hues, the nose is a spicy display with some earth and gamey notes. The wine is perfect for drinking today with silky tannins and a lush mouthfeel that connotes a wine in its prime. The long, soft finish is as good as any Italian Pinot I've tasted. Unabashedly - 94 Points

Where can I buy this wine? - The 2005 Pinot Nero - (the 2001 is available at Decorum Vintners)
Europeans - Peck - €30
Americans - Morrell - $63
Brits - Everywine - £26

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Which decade do you think you are best suited to? Or something about wine. You know, whatever. :D

Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba 2007

Date: Sun, Aug 23, 2009 Wine Tasting

Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba 2007

Rightio, back to work then. No video today as some cheeky beggar has nicked off with my camera for the weekend. Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba 2007 was flown directly to WINE90 Towers by the folks at Berry Bros & Rudd along with a few other choice Italians wines. I suppose they hoped I would review them and publish my musings here.

As I'd rather not fall foul of the queens own wine merchant I suppose it's only cricket* to uphold my part of this bargain, especially as I'
m crossing my fingers they will foot the wine bill for my 30th Birthday party this coming January.

Where the heck have you been!? Why aren't you publishing my comments!? Why don't you reply to me on twitter? You don't bring me flowers or sing me love songs anymore!

The rumours that I've been perfecting my golf swing, playing Wrath of the Lich King or sunning myself on the Isle of Elba are only true in part. If you had a window into WINE90 Towers you would see my GV stylee noticeboard over my left shoulder stating clearly "90 days to go" and with no explanation of what this deadline may be for. You're just going to have to trust me! ;)

Now, onto the wine! Poor Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba 2007 deserves our full attention so let us be serious.

Frequent readers of the blog will know my love for all things Piedmont from the mighty Nebbiolo to the hardy ruddy cheeked Barbera to the lively, bright, future-futures starlette, my beloved little Dolcetto. There are many Dolcetto reviews here from "bigger" name Piedmont producers, Roberto Voerzio (you're still my favourite)
, Bruno Giacosa, Enrico e Marziano Abbona, Cavallotto and more yet I had never tried a Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba so I was buzzing with excitement when the BBR man arrived, doffing his cap then skipping back to his van. This did make a pleasant change from the finger from Fed Ex and the Up-yers of UPS but while service is important, I digress.

Now, before the review, I have to say that this, more than any of the producers above or any Dolcetto wines I've tasted needs a good hour or two to breathe. I pop and pour as much as the next wino but I was fearing to award my BBR freebie Dolcetto a heartbreaking 70+ and risk my party being completely cancelled but thankfully, all this wine needs to turn from "um" to "oooooh" is about 60 minutes. So, when you do rush out and buy this wine online on my say-so give it a quick taste, decant it and marvel at what a difference an hour makes to this little number.

This is what our man Giovanni Rosso looks like. Cool as a cucumber.

Giovanni Rosso Dolcetto d'Alba 2007
- BUY - £11.85
Sits a deep ruby red while offering typically perfumed Dolcetto aromas and heavy on the dark cherries and blackberries. Fine, silky tannins complete a balanced, structured wine of full body with a strong finish that holds the dark fruit note to the last but sadly a touch green and bitter at the end too which lost the wine a couple of points for my palate. Still a very good Dolcetto. To be tried. 87 Points

There are better producers of Dolcetto out there, at least, more suited to my palate. If you've never tried Dolcetto before this isn't the world's finest example of the varietal but none the less it's very good, it's typical of the grape and it's on sale right now :D
A good Dolcetto with which to get into Dolcetto wines from a rapidly improving producer.

Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans -
Berry Bros and Rudd - €13.50
Americans - Zachys - $19.99
Brits - Berry Bros and Rudd - £11.85

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Lets catch up! What have you been drinking this summer? So much has happened! Did you see the Cricket? Did you see Susan Boyle? Did you get Swine Flu? Poor Michael Jackson passed away! Worse news of all this Summer: Peter and Jordan :(


Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Cloudy Bay Wines

Date: Fri, May 8, 2009 Wine Tasting

Cloudy Bay Wines

Cloudy Bay wines are a fine way to go for Foreign Fridays and do I have the FOUR wines for you! Cloudy Bay is the most famous producer from New Zealand who set the bar for other NZ Sauvignon Blanc producers and made the varietal famous in this part of the world. Much celebrated and lauded Cloudy Bay are much more than SB these days with a range of wines including a Gewurztraminer, late harvest Riesling, Pinot Noir, the sparkling "Pelorus" and "Te Koko" an alternative SB. I spent Wednesday night at the Cloudy Bay tasting at Chelsea's Bluebird with the WineSleuth, see how we got on with our four favourites from the event.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - BORDERLINE- £13.50
Straw yellow in colour. A rich bouquet, fresh and tropical and quick to give it up too. Good acidity and freshness and continuing with a pineapple/zesty theme. Very flavourful on the palate but a touch clipped on the end. 88 Points

Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer 2006 - BUY - £16.95
Deep straw yellow in colour. A hugely fragrant wine with classic Gewurzt notes of rosewater, lychee, honeysuckle combining to create a Turkish Delight-esque nose. On the palate the wine is fat and full with a hint of residual sugar, the wine has good acidity but isn't cutting. An interesting example of NZ Gewurtz 90 Points

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - BUY - £21.69
A clear but intense straw yellow. One of the best noses I've experienced all year. Delicious notes of ginger, jasmine, herbs, butter and mandarin, smoky oak, all aligning to create, for my nose, an extracted fortune cookie nose. On the palate the wine is full bodied, luscious and creamy with citrus and orange peel notes. A long finish completes a stunning, well rounded wine of top quality. Can't recommend this highly enough and much better than the standard Sauvignon Blanc. 92 Points

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2006 - PASS - £17.35

A darker than expected ruby red. The wine is forthcoming aromatically with layers of fragrance including smoky bacon, plums and blueberry. A mid bodied wine with well ingrained tannins and smooth lingering finish. 86 Points

I'm passing the Pinot Noir simply because I think there are better priced New Zealand Pinot Noirs in this price range, on this occasion myself and the WineSleuth did not agree. In the £15-£20 NZ Pinot Range I much prefer Craggy Range and Peregrine though both of these are Central Otago and not Marlborough. I have yet to be impressed by both Cloudy Bay or Wither Hills in the Pinot stakes. A matter of taste of course.

Where can I buy these wines?
Watch the video, lowest prices outlined for each wine.

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Favourite Cloudy Bay wines, favourite producer of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir?
Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Diego Curtaz

Date: Wed, May 6, 2009 Wine Tasting

Diego Curtaz

The vineyards of Diego Curtaz lie in the north west corner of Italy in the Valle d'Aosta, a region growing in stature thanks to small producers like Diego Curtaz and the award winning style of the Valle d'Aosta's standard bearer at "Les Crêtes". 2007 was a decent vintage in this tiny parcel of Italy, in the Italian Alps and due north of the mighty Piedmont, the Valle d'Aosta shares little with its formidable neighbour, not even the grapes make it up the steep slopes to Europe's highest growing region aside from the sturdy Dolcetto. Here you will find Petit Rouge and Gamay rule supreme in the land of VdA reds.

An industrious lot, the winemakers of the Valle d'Aosta are not shy in trying their luck with a multitude of grapes and they even plant Syrah in them there hills. Today I tried three wines from Diego Curtaz, a sumptious Gamay, a complex and terroir typical Torrette and a Petit Rouge that hit me upside the head with age-old Asparagus notes that I can't forget even though I'm really trying.

Diego Curtaz Valle d'Aosta Torrette DOC 2007 - BUY - €6.50
Mid ruby red, aromatically explosive with huge chunks of cherry, a black pepper note as well as a strong showing of strawberry. The wine is light bodied, low tannins and high acidity, the wine blend is complimentary and interesting leaving the impression on the finish of a well mixed cherry cordial (!!!), alcohol well ingrained. Above average and interesting. 86 Points

Diego Curtaz Gamay 2007 - BUY - €6.50
Mid ruby red with candied cherry notes, hints of violet and banana, looking like Beaujolais Nouveau until the palate which is of a high quality. Great acidity, fruity and vibrant on the palate with a shockingly decent finish. Are we in Morgon? 88 Points

Diego Curtaz Petit Rouge 2007 - PASS - €6.50
Mid ruby red with a similar profile on the nose to the Torrette with cherry, pepper and strawberries but the wine falls apart on the palate turning vegetal and plain strange, poorly balanced, uninteresting flavours and a finish that's going nowhere. 72 Points

Where can I buy this wine?
All wines available at The Cellar Door

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72 Points is one of the worst wines of the year. What has been your worst wine experience this year?

Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Balfour Brut Rose 2005

Date: Fri, May 1, 2009 Wine Tasting

Balfour Brut Rose 2005

Balfour Brut Rose is being hailed as the greatest pink fizz to ever come out of England scooping the coveted gold medal and trophy at the International Wine Challenge in 2008. It seems, within just two vintages, Richard Balfour-Lyn, the producer, has succeeded in his ambition to create the "finest Rose Sparkling Wine" in England but "comparable with the great Rose Champagnes"?

I went along to the oh so chic Bluebird club on Chelsea's Kings Road to taste the Balfour Brut Rose and speak to their wine consultant, Stephen Skelton MW about the wine, the estate and the demand for this very special English Rose.

Balfour Brut Rose is made at the Hush Heath Estate in Kent, England, a tiny vineyard currently set in just 4 hectares this is the only UK vineyard to focus 100% on sparkling Rose and is aiming to become a sparkling rose spoken in the same breath as the best from Champagne. A high aim indeed, but with men like Stephen Skelton MW working alongside chief winemaker Owen Elias and already a bagful of trophies in just two short vintages there may only be one thing to put pay to Richard Balfour-Lyn's dream of creating world class pink fizz; the good old English weather.

However, with climate change working in the favour of the estate it is now possible to grow grapes in England that were once thought impossible. Traditionally English wines have come from Germanic grapes but with summers like '04, '05 and '06 it has been possible to tease a fine expression from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meuiner (traditional grapes of Champagne) in Cranbrook, just 10 miles south of Maidstone.

The wine is obviously limited production and goes some way to explaining the price, however, comparing the £28.50 you'd pay for this sparkling rose at Bibendum to the equivalent French product; the difference in quality is immense.

Balfour Brut Rose 2005 - BUY - £28.50
A very delicate salmon pink. On the nose the wine has hints of red current and strawberries. On the palate the wine has very good crisp acidity and carries hints of red apple and raspberry. A refreshing, complex and well made sparkling rose perfect as an aperitif. 92 Points

Where can I buy this wine?
No Dice. Tiny production, but as of today the estate are signing for another 7 hectares so you may be able to get this wine in the USA in the next couple of years. In the UK you can buy this wine at the Bluebird club in Chelsea or online at Bibendum

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Favourite sparkling wine/Champagne?

Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico

Date: Sat, Apr 25, 2009 Wine Tasting

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico 2006 "Brolio" was the winner of my Saturday night Chianti Death match face off, roundly knocking out the same vintage bio dynamic effort from Badia a Coltibuono. This week I've received a few emails from folk watching the vlogs asking for a clear up on the rules in Chianti Classico and also requesting a Chianti Classico episode, as a natural people pleaser what else could I do? See Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico score a QPR busting 89 Points and impress my palate despite cutting myself somewhat ferociously with a butter knife just before the tasting.

This is on YOUTUBE today instead of Viddler. Press on the "HQ" on the player, its far better sound quality.

Very disappointing that the biodynamic wine did not fair better to my palate. This wine is lauded by the producer as a "true representative of Chianti Classico" well, perhaps I just like my sulphites but I found the Barone Ricasoli to represent my ideal of Chianti far more closely and at £7 less, please my pocket too.

Barone Ricasoli have a great website showcasing all their wines and a really interesting film intro that you can check out here - Barone Ricasoli.

Where can I buy this wine?
Americans - Laurenti Wines - $18
Europeans - Superiore - €12.40
Brits - AG Wines - £12.50

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Please leave a comment if you've tried either of these wines or have a favourite Chianti Classico to tell us about or indeed, one you'd like me to review. Favourite bio dynamic producer?

Italian Wine Blog - Wine90

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