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NYE - a round up of the last ten days in the Vaucluse

What a place to spend Christmas and New Year in! We came with friends who have returned to London for New Year and the only disappointment has been the lack of snow on Mont Ventoux on Christmas Day. Never mind; a delicious capon and all the trimmings that all four adults demanded from their own childhoods made up for this. The weather has been reasonably kind too - whereas it is barely above freezing at home, we have seen temperatures of up to 17 degrees (although it was minus seven on the mountain so, perhaps, not such a bad thing there was no snow). The wines I have tasted from 2009 have been exceptionally good. I don't remember 2007 being any better. Critics who have suggested this is, perhaps, only a four star vintage compared with the 2007's five stars may be right of course. I can only judge it by what has passed my lips and, given the quality of the estates I have been fortunate enough to befriend over the years, I won't be passing these up either personally or pro

Domaine Bressy-Masson - the end of a long, hard week!

My final professional stop of the trip, Domaine Bressy-Masson is one of the superstar estates in Rasteau (the others are Soumade and Coteaux des Travers ). Marie-France Masson is handing over the winemaking to her son, Paul-Emile but still likes to welcome visitors. Not many wines to taste today as only one Rasteau made in 2008 (Souco d'Or) and too little Gloire in 2009 to be worth tempting me with apparently (a shame as this is one of my favourite Rasteau wines). We started with a wine I have rarely considered properly. A CDR at more or less the same price as Christophe Coste's excellent Domaine de la Charite would be, at best, duplication in most vintages. However, Marie-France's 2009 Cotes du Rhone , a blend of 70% Grenache with 20% Carignan and 10% Syrah and no oak has a strong, fruity nose, good body and structure with a long finish. More Rasteau than CDR and very full for the appellation. This will be a lovely wine to enjoy over the next three or four years. The

Domaine de la Charite and Chateau Capucine

Christophe Coste was barely 20 when we first met. He had recently taken over his grandfather's estate, Domaine de la Charite , in Saze, to the west of Avignon where he made some good wines from the Cotes du Rhone and Villages appellations. Now, his village, Signargues, has been promoted to a named village, he is president of the sydicate, he is married to Sandrine with whom he has two young daughters and he now makes a dozen or so wines including one from a recently acquired hectare of old-vine Grenache in the Gallimardes sector of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Not a bad decade! If all that isn't enough, Christophe made the only wines outside Chateauneuf in 2008 which I can honestly say I would be happy to stack my own cellar with. His 2008 CDR Villages Signargues "Bastien" is packed with kirsch and garrigues, very full with great texture and length. A superb wine for the difficult vintage. Even better, the 2008 CDR Villages Signargues "Cayenne" is more or les

Back in Rasteau: Domaine des Coteaux des Travers

Robert Charavin of Domaine des Coteaux des Travers is one of the people I have been working with since I started up and we have got to know each other quite well in that time with only one thing getting in the way: his non-existent English/my lousy French. This time, I met with his new assistant Lucie who does speak English (although she charmingly pronounces grapes as "grap"). Two big developments: first, Rasteau is now a Cru alongside Gigondas, Chateauneuf etc so it no longer needs to include Cotes du Rhone Villages on the labels. An interesting development because (a) Cairanne still can't do this even though it has a longer history of top tier wineries (apparently it has missed the boat and won't be able to apply now for a couple of years) and (b) there will, inevitably, be some confusion with the vins doux naturels which are also simply AOC Rasteau. The sensible thing will be for VDN producers to mark this clearly on the bottles but, as I undestand it, there

After a break, Domaine de Cristia

Arriving at Domaine de Cristia this afternoon, Dominique called to say she had a stinking cold and would not be able to see me which was a great shame as meeting up with her is one of the highlights of my visits. Baptiste was there though and his cousin Emmanuel (which gave me an opportunity to speak French even though it became apparent he spoke very good English). Not many wines from 2009 to taste as virtually everything has been sold now and the 2010s are mostly still fermenting. However, there were wines to taste and what wines! We began with the 2009 Cotes du Rhone Vielles Vignes "Les Garrigues" , a big brother to the Vieilles Vignes VDP Grenache I enthused about last Easter. This also is pure Grenache from a new vineyard (for Cristia; it is planted with 50-year-old vines) so, whereas the rest of the Cristia production is now certified organic, this wine has just started the conversion process. Bottled in September, it has a youthful nose with some oak evident but les

Domaine de Mourchon: 2008 and 2009

To round off the day, I went up the hill to visit Walter McKinlay at Domaine de Mourchon . The 2009s are not being bottled until March or April but we went down to the cave after tasting the wines that are in the bottle. Beginning with the 2008 CDRV Seguret Tradition , this is fresh on the palate with good depth of fruit. No Grande Reserve was made this year so the grapes that would normally be used in this cuvee were downgraded to the Tradition (and some of the grapes that usually go into that wine went into a Cotes du Rhone) . A good bistro wine. Perhaps not the usual order but we then tasted the 2008 Cotes du Rhone which I have had in stock for about a year now. This has really come on. It is quite mineral and fresh and has spicy Syrah/Grenache fruit. A good quaffing wine for a very fair price and comparitively low alcohol (12%) for the region. As I mentioned earlier, no Grande Reserve was made in 2008 but the estate has perservered with the Family Reserve wines debuted i

Day one, third visit: Laurent Brusset

Laurent was in the cellars when I arrived at Domaine Brusset 's Cairanne home but he soon emerged smiling: pleased with his 2009s, hopeful for his 2010s too. We skipped the whites (the Viognier is sold out in any case) which we tasted together at Easter. As always, these are very good but, as with most estates outside Chateauneuf, it is the reds that shine. His 2009 Cotes du Rhone "Laurent B" is probably the most hedonistic example of this wine I have encountered. Pure, simple enjoyment: the wine has a sweet Grenache nose which follows through to the palate which is spicy, slightly smokey, deep fruited but medium bodied and not overly tannic. One to enjoy in the near term. A step up to Cairanne: 2009 CDR Villages Cairanne "Les Travers" seemed slightly muted on the nose compared with the CDR but I have enjoyed several bottles of this at home so know this is not really the case. The palate is silkier with more refined tannins but lots of peppery spice and ga

Next stop: Raymond Usseglio

Actually, it is Raymond's son, Stef, whom I see these days on my visits to Domaine Raymond Usseglio , in my experience the best of the Usseglio estates in Chateauneuf today (Raymond's father, Francis, built up the estate after his arrival from Piedmont in the thirties; he had three sons each of whom has an estate bearing his name). Winemaker here for the last decade, Stef has lifted the estate into the top tier of Chateauneuf and is a perennial favourite of consumers who, like me, don't always want blockbuster wines. That isn't to say his wines are light; rather they are elegant and stylish. His "Cuvee Imperiale" is one of the more Burgundian wines I have tasted from the appellation with seamless, pure fruit that is pure hedonism without knocking your head off! Stef's 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc , made from Grenache, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc, is very correct with good flavours of fruit and flowers and with fresh acidity. A nice wine but n

2009 tastings in Chateauneuf - first stop: Grand Veneur

Day one proper of my from-the-bottle tastings in the Southern Rhone this season. With mixed reviews - is the 2009 excellent as my earlier impressions have suggested or merely extremely good as Parker has suggested - what will today bring? To be fair, I am not giving the region an even covering: in Chateauneuf I will be visiting Domaines Grand Veneur and Raymond Usseglio, Domaine Brusset in Cairanne and Domaine de Mourchon in Seguret. All, arguably, among the very best and certainly most consistent in these villages. First stop, I met Christophe Jaume at Domaine Grand Veneur . Christophe is very tall, young and smiles a lot (he's the one in the middle of the photograph). He speaks excellent English so, whilst this visit didn't provide me with much opportunity to practise my French, at least I understood all the subtle nuances of the vintage! After we had said our hellos, we began with the tasting, starting with the whites in the relative warmth of the tasting room. 2010 CDR

Tasting in the Ventoux: Domaine des Anges

My first day of tastings was at Domaine des Anges in the Ventoux. Most of the wines tasted were from the 2010 vintage (which is looking pretty good already if these are anything to go by). At Domaine des Anges , Ciaran showed me his 2010 Ventoux Blanc which was typically fresh and fruity, a good everyday bottle for those who like a bit of flavour and varietal character in their whites (Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and a little Roussanne make up the backbone of this wine). Next up was a first taste of a new wine for this estate: pure Viognier. From the tank, it had an almost New World Sauvignon intensity but around 25% of this wine will have seen some wood which fleshes it out beautifully. Put together, this will be gorgeous; it's only a pity there is so little of it. The only 2009 I tasted - also from the tank - was a pure Grenache cuvee which Ciaran describes as his Chateauneuf. Certainly the wine has depth and length  and plenty of structure. Time will tell whether it

Why I work in the wine trade

This email came in today - very nice to receive something like this!  Hi, I am brand new to your site, having found it whilst looking for something else: and I must say that it is one of the best wine websites I've come across so far. There is an excellent selection of wines of a type that you just don't see in the supermarkets and at competitive prices to boot! I just like the layout and the user-friendly way it works, plus you give more in-depth details about each wine.  Well done, I am already telling my friends about you.

By Appointment Wine Dinner last night

Started with Michel Rocourt 's superb Premier Cru Champagne which was extremely well received. The extra bottle age (over most NV Champagnes available) contributes to the wine's complexity and the softness of the mousse, it was generally agreed. With the goats cheese starter, Jonathan Maltus ' "Pezat" Blanc seemed an obvious choice with its Sauvignon lemony zing and was a far better food match (though not necessarily a better wine, of course) than the Givry Blanc from Michel Sarrazin , a far softer wine with its subtle oak ageing. The main course of lamb was the time to bring out the big guns: first a 2004 Rioja "Amenital" from Miguel Angel Muro (Oz Clarke has just rated it his 9th best wine for 2011) which has lovely forward fruit and good acidity and tannins so very much a wine for food. I was slightly nervous about the 2004 Cahors "Le Cedre" from Chateau du Cedre , thinking it would be far too young still. In the end it was a fa

Italian wines

For some reason, all orders received today have been for Italian wines. Very strange. All the reds have sold one way or another and I even had an enquiry about a wine I haven't stocked for some time. Having tasted most of the Italian range quite recently, I realised there was one I hadn't: Marco Maci's Copertino 2001 "Duca d'Antene" . A recent bottle of the 2004 "Fra Diavolo" was big with sweet, slightly raisined fruit, exactly what I want from a Primitivo (or, come to that, a Zinfandel) but the 100% Negroamaro "Duca" should offer something quite different. Time to pull the cork? Actually it's only ten past five so I am getting ahead of myself! In the words of an indifferent Hollywood actor, I'll be back.

Pre-Christmas Wine Tasting Evening at By Appointment, Norwich

From http://www.byappointmentnorwich.co.uk/littleexcuses.htm   ... on Friday 19th November 2010 ' This is going to be an informative as well as a very enjoyable fun evening where you will get the chance to try some lovely wines and indulge in some delicious food' James Bercovici from the Big Red Wine Company based in Mildenhall, has very kindly agreed to come and show us some fabulous Big Red Wines from the Rhone as well as a selection of white and red Bordeaux / Burgundy and Rhone wines.  To accompany these spectacular French wines there will be a delicious three course dinner, cheese and coffee.   This evening is priced at £59.95 per head and includes everything.

A bottle of Mourchon

I really can't see the 2005 Grande Reserve from Domaine de Mourchon getting any better than it is now. The tannins have fully integrated and the wine is now like a thick, plush velvet chocolate bar only better because it's wine, not chocolate. It wasn't really the right wine to go with the Thai curry I had made but it went surprisingly well. That said, the rest of the bottle, enjoyed after the meal showed what this wine really can do. 2005 was undoubtedly a great vintage but some of the wines were quite hard initially and I would include the Mourchon wines in this group - the 2005 Tradition seemed almost impenetrable until it was about four years old (then it all sold out, of course!). The oak ageing of the Grande Reserve always helps to make it a little more accessible in its first flush of youth but this wine shut down to the point where, at a two day tasting this time last year, it wasn't until day two that I was happy showing this to anyone. I think you have to

Cheap, everyday Italian wine

Asked recently about the development of Marco Maci 's IGT Salento "Luce Barocca" from the 2007 vintage, I realised I hadn't tasted this wine recently although I have had both the "Fra Diavolo" 2004 (Primitivo) and the Copertino "Duca d'Antene" 2001 (Negroamaro) from this estate in recent weeks and was impressed by both. The Fra is getting more interesting every time I taste it with its sweet, brambly fruit and underlying tar. The Duca is one of the best straight Negroamaros I have had at this price point, very stylish, sweet and sour and no hard edges at all. So, what about the Barocca? The issue raised concerned a slight spritz in the glass when it was first released. Maybe, but (a) that is a sign of low sulphur use (unless, of course, the wine is refermenting which certainly is not the case here) and (b) that was two years ago so, surely, it has gone by now? The only way to answer the question is to crack open a bottle, of course. Well,

Oz Clarke's 250 Best Wines, 2011 edition

Four in this year! Oz clearly has good taste (especially bearing in mind the majority of the 250 is reserved for wines available from supermarkets and multiples). Two in the top 100 and two in the specialist sections. At Number 9 in Oz's Top 100 is Miguel Angel Muro's 2004 Rioja 'Amenital' . He writes "2004 is a classic vintage for Rioja: dark, ripe, rather closed in, promising long life. Well, this is dark but it isn't brooding and introspective. The fruit's darkness is the darkness of real ripeness, so ripe that a heady plum blossom scent shimmers on the surface of the wine. It does have some tannic toughness but not nearly enough to interfere with the pleasure and it's the fruit acidity that provides the backbone to the wine. You don't usually get that tingling acidity in modern Rioja but here they've used 20% of the Graciano grape in the blend (along with the traditional Tempranillo) to prov

Chateau du Cedre 2009 - tasting from the barrel with Pascal Verhaeghe

The day of the 25th Fete des Vins at Puy l'Eveque in the heart of Cahors, a wine fair which has never impressed me as much as it should so I am off to Chateau du Cedre, one of the region's greatest estates and one which I am very proud to work with. This morning saw my second visit to Chateau du Cedre for a meeting with Pascal Verhaeghe, winemaker extraordinaire. Pascal is extremely charming and clearly loves his work; it was a joy to be in his company, even more so because we had some truly great wines to taste. I came away wondering why anyone would want to spend £180 on a dozen bottles of, say, Chateau Le Crock, when the same money will buy "Le Cedre", let alone over £700 on, for example, Rauzan-Segla when "GC" costs under £400. No accounting for taste it seems, unless depth of pocket has anything to do with it, of course. It was a fascinating tasting: the regular cuvee is superb with the 5% each of Merlot and Tannat contributing well without detr
"For something very unusual with your dessert, a Rasteau Rancio, a Madeira-like, fortified Vin du Naturel made from 100% Grenache, deliberately oxidised to give it a nutty character, fabulous stuff, available at The Big Red Wine Company at £14.95. Would pour nicely over a vanilla ice cream. Happy summer drinking!" From The Whistler blog

Wine Merchant of the Month - again!

Wine Behind The Label has decided to make us Wine Merchant of the Month again! That's two months in a row. Wine Behind The Label is one of the most complete guides to wines and winemakers produced in the UK. Regions are introduced and estates are rated along with their wines with a brief overview. You can be fairly sure that any wine in the publication is worth checking out and, conversely, that any winery not included has been omitted for a reason. Needless to say, almost all the people we work with are in the book. If you want to join and get 10% off, click here.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2008: a mini-horizontal

With some in the press talking the vintage down, what is 2008 really like? Sandwiched between the glorious 2007 and possibly even better 2009 vintages, 2008 was always the ugly duckling but are comparisons with 2002 justified? Not at all if this trio is anything to go by. All three were tasted separately at the domaines around Easter but I wanted to compare them and only a mini-horizontal tasting would achieve this. One thing about all these wines: in top vintages, all these estates make prestige cuvees; in 2008 they started to make these wines but decided the economy and the reputation of the vintage rendered this self-defeating so blended them back into the "Tradition" cuvees. This gives the wine the potential to be much better than it would otherwise be. With no other criteria to go by, the wines were tasted according to alcohol strength so at 14%, Raymond Usseglio was first up. This wine has changed the blend over the last few years from a straightforward GSM blend (

Wines with spit-roasted lamb

Saturday started as a baking hot day in the high twenties - not ideal for the morning after the night before, especially when the party hasn't even started yet! A very leisurely walk around the Barton Mills Scarecrow Festival for the benefit of the children who had spied opportunities for us to part with some cash in the ice-cream vans and bouncy castleswas followed by an ever more relaxed afternoon with the fire being lit around 1.30pm. The lamb was stuffed with different marinades and put on the spit around 2pm being turned diligently by college friends Saki and Adam under my insistent but only occasional supervision whilst others turned up from time to time and needed help erecting tents. Beer was the drink of choice at this point. We did eventually - inevitably - move onto wine as the evening approached with the first glasses being filled with Domaine de Cristia 's VDP Grenache from 2009 but tasting so advanced for a wine only seven months old. This wine astounds me - it

Organic wine from Domaine de Cristia

Domaine de Cristia has gone entirely organic - almost! There are some new vineyards which are "in conversion" (it takes three years of bureaucracy to gain Ecocert status) including the plot of old-vine Grenache that goes into the incredible Vieilles Vignes Grenache, a vin de pays, that would put many Chateauneufs to shame. This wine was first produced in 2009 from 60-year-old vines so, when I tasted it only four days after the bottling, the grapes had only been off the vine for around six months. Quite incredible. There are two other notable exceptions to the organic range from Cristia: the Cristia Collection range of negociant wines which are adequate but not in the same league as the estate wines and, more lamentably, the red Chateauneuf itself. The failure of this wine to be classed as organic is purely down to bureaucracy: when Dominique and Baptiste applied to Ecocert, they had to provide all the plot numbers they wished to convert to organic status. They asked th

Usseglio mini-vertical

Having tried the 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Raymond Usseglio with the Canterbury Wine Tasting Society recently, I wanted to have a proper taste so opened a bottle on Sunday night. It seemed much less evolved than the Canterbury bottle - the only explanation I could think of was that, whereas the Canterbury bottle came from stock, this was one Stef gave me when I visited him at the domaine a few years ago. A different batch, perhaps? As a comparison, I nervously opened the 2006 last night - if the 2005 was a little too youthful, how would the 2006 come across? Nothing to worry about: this was Usseglio at its most glorious best. Looking back at my notes for the 2006 on the website, they still ring true: "One of the most impressive young wines I have ever tasted, Stéphane showed this to me alongside his superb 2005. It is even better! The depth and purity of fruit is incredible. The wine is very concentrated with a nose that draws you in for more. Tasted alongside the very

Beaucastel 1997 - my last bottle

Jill has a ridiculous idea that we should refrain from wine this week - she clearly has not thought this out properly (the London Wine Trade Fair is this week!) - so something special is required: in this case my last '97 Beaucastel. This was prompted in part by several comments about the current "difficult" phase of the 1998. Brick red tones and fading a little towards the rim. The nose is surprisingly fresh though although secondary fruit is emerging, quite earthy with plenty of spice. Drinking well now but I really don't think there's any hurry to finish this one.

Election 2010: what has our world come to?

So, after nearly a week of blissful limbo, we have a government, the first Conservative lead one for thirteen years and the first coalition since the second World War. Gladstone must be turning in his grave. Without wishing to be partisan, I have some serious misgivings about this coalition. There are some very obvious problems with the new power-sharing agreement: First, the provision for the LibDems to abstain on budget - and some other - resolutions leaves the Tories with 308 out of 593 voting MPs (ie. 650 less the Libs), a majority of 23. Second, the 55% of MPs required to dissolve Parliament before the end of the proposed five year fixed term requires 358 to vote for it but there are only 342 non-Tories, 16 short of the 55% needed. Just a couple of examples of a mathematical stitch-up. So, if the LibDems abstain from voting on something they disagree with, the Tories still get their way. This smacks of un-democracy. I gather this also applies to all things nuclear.

Cahors 2009: how en primeur should be done

What is EP all about? One of two things: buying wines which will be sold out if you don't get in early OR buying wines at prices which will only head skywards once in the bottle. Last year was Rhone 2007's turn: plenty of excellent wines to choose from but buyers went for the limited production cuvees from CDP, Gigondas etc and left the "Tradition" wines alone in the main. Why? Simply because they thought - rightly - these wines would still be available when they are ready to drink. Prices will increase a little to take account of storage charges but, otherwise, they will still be around. So, with 2009 Bordeaux etc now on the market, what should we be buying? If you have the budget for first growths, my guess is you are not reading this. If you are a mere mortal, however, I would look for the bargains which are few and far between in Bordeaux these days. This is why I was so excited when I received an email from Pascal Verhaeghe of Chateau du Cedre in Cahors off

The impact of prestige wines in the Southern Rhone

Several comments/enquiries about the impact of luxury cuvees on the quality of standard wines have been received. There are debates about this very thing with Rhone wines. My own feeling is that it can certainly be true that prestige wines are made to the detriment of the regular bottling, it is not always so.  Before elaborating, the other way to approach multiple cuvees is that used by most Bordelais: the best grapes make the main wine; anything deemed not quite up to standard goes into a second wine and so on. The Rhone works the other way round (although it must be said that inferior grapes are sold off to cooperatives, negociants or turned into industrial alcohol, at least they are if they come from any self respecting grower!). For example, in a vintage such as 2002, Rhone wines were not all good (an understatement in many cases). However, when I visited Raymond Usseglio , all ready to tell him that I would see him the following year without placing an order for the 2002

Cahors terroirs

I am told that, far from being three distinct terroirs, the alluvial zones of Cahors are now classified by as defined by Ferme Experimental Anglars Juillac as: T1 - 1st terrace T2 - 2nd terrace T3 - 3rd terrace T4 - limestone scree T5 - limestone covered slopes: limestone slope T6 - upper quartenary T7 - limestone plateau: siderolitic T8 - white marly-limestone T9 - limestone plateau Does it matter to us as consumers? The answer is almost certainly "no". Most estates claim to be in T1-3 (made up of alluvial deposits from the Massif Central) or on the causse. Altitude and soil testing are the only ways of knowing precisely where they lie. It has long been understood that the lower terraces close to the river produce supple, fruity, easy-drinking wines. The medium ones produce fleshier wines. Somewhat inevitably, higher terraces have better drainage and it is here where the soil is made of limestone scree from the plateau that the richest, most ageworthy wines are

Chateauneuf bottles

One question I am sometimes asked concerns the embossed logos on Chateauneuf bottles. There are several of these. As Chateauneuf is the birthplace of the appellation system, it is no great surprise that the community has developed other ways of guaranteeing the wines. If the appellation system guarantees where the wine comes from, the different bottles are used to indicate whether the wine is estate bottled, negociant bottled within the region or bottled anywhere else in the world (please avoid this last category at all costs!) First, and most simply, if there is no logo at all, it probably (but not definitely!) means the wine has been bottled outside the region, possibly by a negociant (but possibly a bottling company or similar). Many such wines are made from grapes or wines from estates that do not deem them to be of high enough quality to include them in their estate bottlings. These are the wines of supermarket own labels and the like. The traditional embossed coat of arms - the

Decanter's 2007 Chateauneuf tasting

The March issue has just landed through my letterbox with the results of a tasting of 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. An overhyped vintage which deserves such a lukewarm reception? I should start by stating that I find these things interesting reading. Some panellists really know their stuff and there is something to be said for a horizontal tasting on a large scale. But ... I am interested to read the views of John Livingstone-Learmonth as he probably knows more about Rhone wines than just about anyone else in the UK and those of Steven Spurrier who has an excellent palate and an open mind but, frankly, some panellists at this and other tastings should be disregarded. I mean this with complete respect but, let's face it, who would be impressed to read my opinions in such a tasting when I have a vested interest in several of the wines? Even tasted blind, I should be able to recognise these wines and I cannot entirely trust myself to be unbiased so how can I trust others? I would ex

Raymond Usseglio's "Part des Anges" 2007 - Part 2

The wine has been opened. The colour is a deep cherry red, very bright. There is more sediment than I expected but since that is (generally) no bad thing and I have a suitable funnel with a mesh to catch it, I have poured the wine into the jug to let it open up over the next several hours. At this stage the nose is more profound than I recall it being a couple of months ago - black fruit and earth dominating - but it is early so I'm going to (try to) resist temptation for a little while at least! 7pm - giving myself a pat on the back for waiting so long. One sip reveals so much about this wine: it is packed with potential. The fruit is concentrated but not too big or sweet - there is much to be gained from ten years in the bottle. There is some oak which glosses over things; I would like to see this fade away a little which, of course, it will. This will let the fruit sing out a little more on its own. But the main thing that stands out about this wine for me at this time is its t

Raymond Usseglio's "Part des Anges" 2007 - Part 1

"La Part des Anges" (the angel's share) is the winemaker's term for the wine that evaporates out of the barrel during the elevage. It has little to do with this wine though as there is plenty left for us here. Instead, Stef Usseglio has named the wine to highlight that this really is the very best his vineyard has to offer. Too much for some, perhaps, although in true Raymond Usseglio style, it is in no way overblown. I first tasted this at the estate from barrel and was overawed by the wine. Towards the end of last year, we finally shipped the wine with the rest of the estate's 2007s. Whilst most of this cuvee (and all the "Imperiale") was pre-sold, I was pleased to have a few cases spare of this wine to play around with. I opened a bottle soon after it arrived - I know it was wrong but I just couldn't wait! My first reaction was to kick myself for being too hasty. The wine was completely closed. All I got was a mass of tannins masking a bit of b

2008 en primeur - Southern Rhone

The 2007 campaign was the most successful to date but should you buy the less successful 2008 vintage? White wines are often very good indeed so, if you like white Rhones don't dismiss them at all. Reds from better producers are decent enough but why bother? Don't forget that next year there will be the fabulous 2009s to buy and there are still some (not many) superb 2007s available, some even at sensible prices (especially standard cuvees from CDP growers - the luxury cuvees are, by and large, all gone now). There are some very good wines from including Beaucastel and, a perennial favourite, Raymond Usseglio (exceptions to the "why bother" question). My point is really that most 2008s will still be around when they are ready to drink so, whilst as an importer of these wines, I should be pushing them, as a consumer/wine lover first and foremost, I would recommend people not to buy them except for "allocated" wines. If you like Beaucastel then you do ne

Cahors wines and oak

In discussion with someone about the various levels of Cahors wines, I maintain the standard cuvees are always going to have more typicity at an early stage. But the prestige wines are more concentrated and absolutely pure Malbec which is, perhaps, why they sometimes come across as atypical. Give them time! The "Le Cedre" (and I would guess prestige cuvees from other estates, certainly Lamartine's "Expression" and Haut-Monplaisir's "Pur Plaisir") wines are typically more concentrated and oakier than their junior counterparts although, for example, the 04 is more classic than the 05. Even then, I decanted a bottle of the '04 at lunchtime (a few days ago) and by 6.30 it wasn't exactly ready (still very much enjoyed though) so don't rush into any of these prestige cuvees. The oak question seems to be quite divisive. As far as I can see, the oak barrel is a traditional means of ageing wine before bottling/consumption but in the modern era

Mas de Daumas Gassac

Having read numerous posts on a wine forum about this wine (in particular the 2000 vintage which I have been enjoying recently), I am curious to hear your views about it - no need to post if you don't want to. The 2000 has good colour for a Cabernet-based wine, just beginning to show signs of maturity. The nose is quite Cabernet too (you'd hope so, given it's 80%) with a little extra sweetness to the black and blue berries (rather than currants) and mint with some hints of the forest. Altogether a decent variation on the Bordeaux theme, clearly a quality wine and one that can be enjoyed now (as I have been) or, being quite firm and tannic still, kept a few more years. The 2001 was always an advanced wine although, as this was the first year they made the special "Emmanuel Peynaud" bottling, I have always wondered what impact this would have on the regular wine. Probably very little as quantities of the Peynaud were relatively small so, even though all the best

Happy New Year

No posts in December (except a brief one to praise Paul Strang's book on South West France which has had the inevitable effect of making me want to return this summer to check out all things I missed last year). Things got hectic - as always - and I thought people would prefer to receive their wines than read my rants. Most things went OK. There was the odd wrong delivery, of course, and always the ones that are most difficult to put right (a case of Monte Rosola's "Crescendo" delivered to Ireland in place of their "Corpo Notte" was by far the worst example) but I think (hope) everyone had the wines they wanted on their table over the holiday season. We did! We have been drinking through some of the more mature wines on the list and in our own cellar such as Raymond Usseglio 's superb 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This is everything I want a Chateauneuf to be: spicy but smooth, rich and complex but not so heavy I need a knife to slice it with. On NYE, we o