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Waveney Hospice Care charity fundraising tasting.

Fifteen wines turned out to be a few too many for this event, probably because I was asked (at the last moment) to make it a tutored tasting. The Beckers ' Crémant d'Alsace (out of stock) impressed, as always, as a better-than-most-champagnes-at-half-the-price. Good yeasty character and elegant mousse. The white Rioja Reserva from Bodegas Hermanos Laredo is very much a wine for people who like the flavour of oak although I am convinced this will soften in time leaving the fruit (quite sweet and robust) to shine. The two reds from Marco Maci both impressed: the Barocca is a light red that doesn't knock you off your feet but has a lovely elegance and surprising length - it keeps going long after most wines in the same bracket have disappeared without making any great impression. This one, however, has a lot of food friendliness (it went pretty well with most of the tapas that was being served alongside the tasting) probably because of its apparent (but certainly nor un

The Reform Club Wine Pool dinner

To start, a couple of white wines then with the starter(!), Mas de Daumas Gassac , Vin de Pays de l'Hérault 2001 is showing spectacularly well with lots of brambly fruit. Definitely Cabernet but quite plummy at the same time, it fills out the mouth with a lovely warm fruitiness and has quite a dense structure: a meal in itself. With lamb (the main course) the Bastide Blanche , Bandol 2000 "Estagnol" started out a tannic brute when opened and decanted a couple of hours beforehand but by the time it was served it had softened a lot allowing the fruit to come forward (it makes me want to try the "Fontanieu" again to see how it's shaping up). It has that elegance that mature, ripe French Mourvèdre does so well. The high point of the evening wine-wise, though, has to be Beaucastel ' s 2000 Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape , very rich and complex: an experience rather than a myriad of flavours and structural elements. With the trio of desserts, the for

ASDW's second wine tasting

The second ASDW tasting arrives. As usual, I seem to be the only merchant interested in trying others' wines! There is a good Gattinara from one of my colleagues and another has some palatable Australian wines (don't get me started!). Of my own line-up, the Roussannes from Domaine des Anges and Raymond Usseglio came through superbly as I rather suspected they would and I found Xavier Vignon 's "Lili" has really come together: a few months ago the Viognier was knocking everything else out of the picture but today it was working in real harmony with the Roussanne element, the Marsanne providing a good spicy backbone. The real stars for me were Domaine de Cristia 's 2003 Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape , big and beefy and just beginning to drink well now and Luigi Einaudi ' s stunning 1999 Barolo from the Cannubi vineyard, all oak and fruit to start with but with coffee and chocolate emerging throughout the day (the better-priced 2003 Barbera was rath

Il Molino di Grace Chianti

Having been busy putting together a new BRW list as well as a new restaurant list and getting ready for the ASDW tasting tomorrow, there has been too little time to sit back and ponder a wine so we have deliberately stuck to the vin ordinaire - or, at least, as ordinary as it gets round here. Tonight, though, with everything just about up-to-date and an Italian meal looming I have been persuaded that a bottle of Il Molino di Grace 's Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 is called for. Pouring a glass on opening it, I am immediately struck by its exquisite perfume. This has to be tasted... real substance to it, quite inky. Probably too heavy for the chicken but who cares? This is one of the best Chiantis around.

Raymond Usseglio 2003

Time to start thinking about the ASDW tasting next week - I want to put out some of the same wines as last time for the new faces but need some new ones for everyone. Given the 2001 is not at its peak (see 19/10/2006), I opened a bottle of the 2003 Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape from Raymond Usseglio . This is more like it: big, gutsy, typical 2003 except that it is in balance with great Ch â teauneuf fruit dominating the huge wine. Alcoholic, yes, but not overtly so.

Red and white Chateauneuf - at lunchtime!

Lunch with friends in London; a good opportunity to try out Raymond Usseglio 's prestige Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape 2005 Blanc , a pure Roussanne called, inspiringly,  "Roussane Pur" ! It is a stunning wine and would have gone very well with the rich, creamy pasta we ate had it lasted long enough. Everyone agreed it was very reasonably priced (£24). My host invited me to rummage around his cellar for something else whilst he cooked and, slightly embarrassingly, every bottle was bought either from me or with me on holiday a couple of years ago. In the end I decided to go with the 1999 Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape from Usseglio to keep the theme going (and because he had well over half a case left to my three or four bottles). This is a wine which was great when I first tasted it with Raymond back in January 2001 and again back home a couple of weeks later but when the stock arrived a month or so later and I dutifully took a case out of bond and tried it (all part of the job) I was

A tale of two Riojas

Settled down to a bottle of Miguel Angel Muro 's 2004 "Amenital", a new-wave Rioja with a lot of sparkle about it. This is a big red wine with a lot of style. Very young, it really needs another four or five years to get properly started although it went down extremely well tonight. It has the depth of a lot of gran reservas but, whereas they are too often over-oaked for my palate, Miguel Angel has got the balance right for me: I do like a bit of oak character in Rioja (although his unoaked "Joven" makes for an excellent lunchtime red) but I the fruit must take control. A few days ago we tried Miguel Angel's Rioja 2002 "Seleccionada". I know on paper 2002 is not supposed to be as good as 2001 but the 2002 has bigger, riper fruit and more judicious use of oak, the two key flavour elements of Rioja. Clearly there is American oak here but also some French adding a certain dignity to this wine. This wine takes me back to my childhood: eating vanilla

Wine tasting dinner at the Riverside, Cambridge

Wine tasting dinner at the Riverside in Cambridge, part of the Cambridge Food Festival so I had a chance to taste half a dozen of the wines and get reactions from around 60 diners. Some really liked one white but not the other one or vice-versa so I was pleased. Better to have a strong opinion and find wines worth buying than just have a neutral reaction to everything because it's bland. Started with Liebart-Regnier's Rosé Champagne which I really like because of the slug of Pinot Noir they use to get the colour. It gives a lovely Pinot sweetness to the final wine and gives it a structure which makes it particularly good with canapés (although at my niece's wedding earlier this summer it was just as good after the canapés ran out). The starters (confit de canard or goat's cheese) came with Domaine de la Tourade's beefy, perfumed Vacqueyras and Xavier Vignon 's "Lili", the Viognier proving a particularly good match for the cheese and making

Domaine Grand Veneur, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001 "Les Origines"

What first struck me, as always, about this wine was the incredible texture of this wine. It's a cliché, I know, but it's like a meal in itself but not so heavy that you can't leave the table: roast beef with all the trimmings but no going back for more. The fruit is there, of course, but it really only sets in on the second glass (or, at least, that's how long it took me to get over the depth of the texture) and its very deep. That seems to be the mot juste for this wine. Given that there are plenty of Tradition cuvées around this price tag, it's something of a bargain to find a prestige label under £20! Or it is if the quality is there which in this case it is.

Château Lacroix, Bordeaux Superieur 2004

Always slightly apprehensive about trying out a new vintage after arrival regardless of how many times we have tasted it already prior to shipment. Rarely disappointed with any wine from Jonathan Maltus though (unlike some holiday purchases) and certainly not this time. The 2003 was one such example though: the wine was initially quite full on as you would expect from the heatwave vintage but it fell apart soon after becoming extremely disjointed. Fortunately we were still holding plenty of the 2002 so had time to wait it out which, Jonathan assured us, was all that was necessary. He was right and now the 2003 is very good. But the 2004 is a better wine with more natural balance and more classic fruit and none of the green-ness that I found in the 2003 a year ago from under-ripe tannins. This wine is not going to blow you away but it isn't meant to. Instead it will quietly impress with its lovely ripe fruit and soft tannins and understated elegance. It's good to see that Bordea

Wine and a Chinese Duck

Domaine des Sept Chemins Crozes-Hermitage 2003 Rouge. Having Chinese food tonight (a few starters plus the obligatory CDP - crispy duck pancakes, as opposed to Ch â teauneuf-du-Pape!) and for some reason I had a yearning for a red Crozes. Not the most obvious partner and when it came to it I let my head overrule this and I had a bottle of Budwar instead with the starters. With the duck I took charge and sipped at the Syrah. Not the perfect match but certainly not wrong. Those Asian spices you often find in Northern Rhône Syrah must have done their job. Duck aside, really quite a good wine which got better as the bottle was drained - it's all too rare to find good Syrah under £15-£20 let alone under a tenner.

Even Gigondas can drink well young - sometimes

Domaine Brusset , Gigondas 2003 "Le Grand Montmirail". Very young for Gigondas but Laurent Brusset always makes quite forward wines which can go the distance. And, of course, 2003 was very hot so acidity levels are naturally lower and the fruit that bit riper so, potential over-ripeness or dumb-ness aside, I was expecting something I could drink (I haven't tasted this wine for several months so anything could have happened although Brusset's wines don't generally shut down; the 1999 did though). A good, very tasty modern-style Gigondas: lots of fruit, big and heady, unmistakeably Gigondas but tannins not too forceful so ready to drink at only three years old. made me want to dig out some of the older vintages I have lurking around here somewhere. More please.

Umbrella's merchants are far from a shower - by Simon Woods

Published: August 2006 in Wine & Spirit Magazine Type ASDW into Google , and when you've filtered out the pagesof the All Seasons Door & Window Company, you'll find yourself on the site ofthe Association of Small Direct Wine-Merchants - www.asdw.org.uk . The ASDW is an umbrella organisation for around 20 companies who sell wine either through mail order or the internet and in quantities that can loosely be classed as "small" - so no, the Wine Society and Laithwaites are not members. The group recently held its first press and trade tasting with a dozen or so companies showing off their wares. Though variable, the qualitywas generally high, and four companies stood out from the crowd. The first was Nick Dobson Wines, a specialist in wines from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. Two lovely reds are Bernard Santé's Moulin-à-Vent 2005, a vibrant young red with notes of raspberries, blackcurrants and violets, and Erich Sattler's 2003 Reserve Zweigelt

Wine Choice in The Week

Published: 15th July 2006 in The Week The Big Red Wine Company was recently featured in The Week magazine. Our wines were described as having "high quality and profound originality". Wines recommended were JP et JF Becker, Alsace Grand Cru "Froehn" Riesling (now out of stock), Domaine des Anges Cotes du Ventoux 2005 "L'Archange" Blanc , Domaine Brusset , CDR Villages 2003 "Vendange Chabrille" (now 2004) and Château Lacroix , Bordeaux Rosé 2004 (out of stock - now renamed as Pezat Rosé ).

Absolutely Cracking Wines from France

Absolutely Cracking Wines from France is the Critics' Choice wine tasting. Of the thousands of wines from France available in the UK, 65 were nominated by 23 of the UK's leading wine critics as their "Absolutely Cracking" choices within three price categories. In the Rhone section, Xavier Vignon's "Lili" (renamed "Xavier Blanc") was selected: "A spicy, aromatic and luscious blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier" (Susie Barrie)

My Round: Richard Ehrlich cracks two cases of oenological obsession

Published: 25 June 2006 in The Independent on Sunday Who would choose to go into the wine business? By and large, it remains people who love wine. I've talked recently to two people working in very different areas of the wine industry, and both fit that description to a T. One is a Dutch wine enthusiast named David Bolomey, whose website ( http://www.bordoverview.com/ ) I first learnt about from the excellent wine blog at http://www.spittoon.biz/ . David hasn't yet made a penny from his arduous labours. But they have certainly paid off for us wine drinkers - or for those who like to buy the wines of Bordeaux en primeur. The 2005 vintage has attracted loads of enthusiastic comment from all the people who cover this area. How do you find out what they're saying, without buying every single publication where they're published? By going to David's website. He has assembled a list of the major estates with rankings from most leading commentators. Using a sy

Four big bottles from small suppliers - by Tim Atkin MW

Published: Sunday June 25, 2006 in The Observer When the email arrived, I wasn't sure what to make of an invitation from the Association of Small Direct Wine Merchants. Had a group of vertically challenged importers banded together to stand on each other's shoulders like some vinous circus act? Or were they just referring to the diminutive size of their businesses when set alongside mail-order giants like Laithwaites and The Wine Society? I was intrigued enough to go along to their first ever tasting. The ASDW was set up last year to protest against some of the anomalies in the 2003 Licensing Act and their effect on small businesses. The organisation has since grown from seven founders to 20 members and has expanded its remit to become a trade association with its own website (http://www.asdw.org.uk/) and an appealingly amateurish newsletter, Grapestalk Most of the members are enthusiasts. By this, I don't mean the sort of people who bore you witless at parties about the C

ASDW's inaugural wine tasting

In June 2006, BRW participated in the first ASDW press tasting in London. It was well attended and we were pleased to met and spend considerable time with Steven Spurrier (who later emailed me with the kind words "congratulations on your selection") and other leading critics. We were fortunate to have been written up in the following weeks by Richard Ehrlich in the Independent on Sunday and, together with ASDW colleagues, by Tim Atkin MW in the Observer both on 25th June. Susie Barrie also featured one of our wines on Sunday Lunch Live. Other articles appeared later in the year.