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More from Piedmont

I gave in to the pressure from Piedmont (actually the pressure all came from me: I couldn't hold out any longer!) and have wines from Crissante Alessandria and Filippo Gallino en route (what's the Italian for "en route"?)

Alberto Alessandria's family makes some superb Baroli. I was particularly struck by the 2007 Galina which seems quite modern in style but I think that has more to do with the vintage. Also, I was intrigued by his 2006 Roggeri, a typically tannic example but with some superb fruit. It needs time. However, in some ways, the star of the tasting was his 2007 Barbera  "Ruge", an astonishingly complete wine (I have never tasted Barbera like this before, hence it being the star wine for me) with superb ripeness and low (for Barbera) acidity.

Filippo Gallino is head of a family based in Roero, just across the Tanaro River from Barbaresco, and the third main region for Nebbiolo based wines. However, it was their 2009 Barbera which came across as …

Piedmont dinner at the Lido

We arrived at the Lido at around 7pm ostensibly to help get things ready but everything was under control. It was good to finally meet Birger who was there with the winemakers, Enrico Nada and Fabrizio Battaglino who were accompanied by Alberto Alessandria. This was very welcome as Alberto had sent me a box of his wines to try when the shipment arrived for tomorrow's dinner (I admitted to Enrico and Fabrizio that I thought Alberto's Barbera even better than theirs - but, then, it retails for over £20 so it should be!).

There were ten on our table so it was always going to be lively. Enrico and Fabrizio introduced the wines, bringing a touch of live theatre to the evening. Two whites to start, quite different but both very good. Which went better with the wild mushrooms on sourdough toast? Probably the Roero tonight but if they had been creamier, then I think the Langhe Bianco would have taken the prize. With the main course of osso buco with mashed potato and spinach, I was pl…

Last night at the IOD

I have never been tempted by offers of membership of the IOD (Institute of Directors) in the past (although, as a sole trader, this wouldn't apply to BRW) but on arrival there yesterday afternoon, I understood why some find it hard to resist. I saw only the restaurant area but it is a luxurious setting with paintings bigger than most houses' walls. We had been allocated a generous space for tasting wines and enjoying them with dinner afterwards. I don't think any of us realised, though, that 30 wines in an hour with a bit of socialising was never going to happen.

I started with good intentions. I began with the whites: first Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero Arneis then the equivalent wine from Filippo Gallino followed by Nada Giuseppe's Langhe Bianco. The first two were quite similar in style (as was to be expected): very precise and well-defined whereas the Nada has another layer thanks to the blend with Sauvignon and Favorita. Not necessarily any better but different.…

Wine Deal

The Deal Wine Tasting Society is less than ten years old but forty-odd members crowded into the Landmark Centre on Deal's High Street last night for a tasting of Rhone wines. Perhaps it was the sudden drop in temperature but, certainly, everyone was up for a bit of winter warming.

The evening got off to a start with club secretary John Howard introducing me and informing the group that BRW is ranked a five star merchant by wine-searcher (which is news to me, albeit good news, of course).

Two whites to start with: Domaine des Anges, Ventoux 2010 Blanc has a sweet attack but a crisp, dry finish, just what I want from a fruity Rhone white. I had to include at least one DDA wine because John's wife Barbara is the cousin of Janet Swan who, with her husband Malcolm, bought the estate in 1973 and still lives there now. Next was the fragrant Viognier-rich Domaine de Mourchon, CDR 2010 "La Source" with notes of tropical fruits, honey and peardrops. One to drink on its own, we…

Piedmont dinner at the Lido - the menu is revealed

I have been sent the menu for the dinner next Wednesday:


Starter: Wild Mushrooms on Sourdough Toast
Main: Osso Bucco with Mash Potato and Spinach (veg alternative - Homemade Leek and Denhay Cheddar Sausages) Cheese: Cheese with Biscuits and Quince Jelly Dessert: Almond Zabaglioni with Vanilla Pears

Now we just need to work out which wines to go with each course!

Time Out Food & Drink Awards for 2011

Congratulations to The Lido Cafe in London's Brockwell Park for scooping this award. A great ambience is well supported by superb food and, of course, a fabulous wine list.
I am looking forward to the Piedmont dinner there later this month with Enrico Nada (of Nada Giuseppe) and Fabrizio Battaglino and half a dozen of their excellent wines:

Fabrizio Battaglino, Roero Arneis 2010
Nada Giuseppe, Langhe Bianco 2010
Nada Giuseppe, Dolcetto 2010
Fabrizio Battaglino, Roero "Sergentin" 2009
Nada Giuseppe, Barbaresco 2007
Fabrizio Battaglino, "Bric Bastia"

Fabrizio Battaglino's 2009 Roero

Having - at last - got round to ordering some of Fabrizio Battaglino's wines, I have done what I always do: opened a bottle to celebrate. Having opened the Roero Arneis and Bric Bastia for an Italian-themed meal with friends at the weekend, it is the turn of the (red) 2009 Roero "Sergentin".

This has really developed since I tasted it at the estate only a few weeks ago. Clearly in need of time to open up but some breathing should do the trick (I will report back later if I remember!). There is a hint of the barrel but overall the impression is one of really delicious fruit. I would be interested to taste this alongside the same vintage of a Barolo or Barbaresco as I think it would perform extremely well. That said, as a Roero, it really is a different expression of Nebbiolo.

Quite plummy fruit and the flavour of the barrel is more apparent than I have noticed before but not in an obtrusive way. This wine exudes class and, whilst it would be somewhat masochistic of me to …

An Italian themed meal

Some friends who spend a lot of time in Piedmont came over last night. Having forgotten it was International Grenache Day, I had planned an Italian-themed meal even going so far as to make pomodoro al forno (three hours in the oven) and a chocolate panforte. Oh, and some chocolate almonds (I had blanched around 200 almonds the previous evening: TV schedulers take note: you really need to put something interesting on!)


We started with two whites from Fabrizio Battaglino and Nada Giuseppe, both excellent. Fabrizio's 2010 Roero Arneis was more poised and clearly defined; Enrico's 2010 Langhe Bianco "Armonia" more exuberant. Both were quite distinctive and, for once, I couldn't say I enjoyed one more than the other. Fabrizio's wine was  used as an aperitif whilst Fabrizio's lasted until we sat down to eat so that may have had some bearing on it (would the pure and focused Arneis have worked so well with the flavoursome first course, I wonder?).

With the simpl…

Bordeaux Dinner at By Appointment

I will be presenting a selection of Bordeaux (and other) wines at By Appointment in Norwich on 7th October.

The current line-up is:

Pre-dinner: Michel Rocourt, Champagne "Non dose"
Starter of mackerel wellington with a red pepper pesto: Pezat Blanc and Pezat Rose
Main course of lamb: Pezat Rouge 2005 and Chateau Teyssier 2006
Dessert of lemon curd tart with raspberry coulis and spiced mascarpone/cheese course: Domaine Berthoumieu's sweet Pacherenc wines (Charles de Batz and Symphonie d'Automne)

Post-script (Monday 10th October):

The Rocourt was extremely well received with even those who professed to disliking un-dosed Champagnes admitting they enjoyed this one, probably due to the extended ageing of this wine. It was enjoyed both on its own and with a turnip and vanilla veloute. With the mackerel, the white was well received but the rose was, on this occasion, too soft to cope with the fish (and, perhaps, it was subdued by the white). The two reds served with the la…

Chateauneuf 2009 in Decanter

I can't remember which upcoming edition of Decanter will feature the results of their Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009 tasting but it seems our friends have done rather well with seven high scoring wines between them. No reviews yet, only star ratings.

Raymond Usseglio picked up four stars for Stef's brilliant new cuvee, "La Part des Anges", a 70% Mourvedre wine which is as exotic as it is original. This is only the second vintage for this wine which was first made in 2007 (no 2008, obviously) and named after the portion of the barrel which evaporates (the angels' share). Stef has re-interpreted the expression and has given them the very best he has to offer in terms of both viticulture and vinification. A great wine that needs time.

Domaine de Cristia must have submitted all three cuvees as they all picked up some good scores. We enjoyed a bottle of the 2005 last night so I am looking forward to the even better 2009s being ready.

Christophe Coste's Chateau Capucine wa…

Treloar white: Terre Promise

Wow, Domaine Treloar's "Terre Promise" is serious stuff. I - stupidly - took the bottle from the fridge and poured but, like any really good white wine, this made it far too cold. After a few minutes and some appreciative swirls, the wine started to open up, slightly disjointed at first (hey, it's only been in the bottle a couple of months) but then really together, integrating the fruit from the different grapes with the subtle oak. There's something weird and exotic on the finish I can't quite place but it only serves to make me want to come back for more. It's one of those wines you just know is going to be even better in a few years time - or just tomorrow night.

Note: the next day, the nose reveals more liquorice character. It promises a good future development in the same way as Mas de Daumas Gassac's white or one of the top old-vine Roussanne Chateauneufs.

Bordeaux dinner at the Lido

The wines of Chateau Teyssier featured heavily at a Bordeaux-themed wine dinner which took place last night at the Lido Cafe in London's Brockwell Park sponsored by the CIVB (Bordeaux promo body).  There was a three course meal with appropriate wines as follows:
Seafood starter with Pezat Blanc and Rose Lamb with Lacroix, Pezat Rouge and Chateau Teyssier Cheese (to help mop up the reds) Peach tart with Rieussec Sauternes
Note: Pezat is, in effect, the second label of wines from Teyssier, comprising a range of high quality generic Bordeaux wines (all three colours). Lacroix is the everyday winem from the same stable. The actor and comedian Frog Stone presented the wines for us and, as always, she did a great job. The wines were on top form - Pezat Rose, Pezat Red and of course that amazing Sauternes proving the most popular.
Food pairings also worked really well - so, an all round success. There will be another Bordeaux-themed dinner soon, this time at By Appointment in Norwich on 7th…

Domaine Treloar - here at last

Jon Hesford's wines arrived in London a few days ago and today I got my hands on them at last. TNs posted over the next few days:

One Block 2009 14% ABV. Composite cork.
Rich and sweet with a good mouthfeel and quite tannic. This has a good balance between sweet fruit and structure. Presumably quite old vines to achieve this level of concentration (or is this a Roussillon thing?). Almost over-ripe, reminiscent of a 90% Grenache Sablet I had around 10 years ago which, when left to age a couple more years was more Chateauneuf-like than many Chateauneufs! Texturally, there is a suggestion of old oak but no toast here, just pure, ripe fruit. Will be better in 6/12 months (note: over the following two nights it evolved but only very gradually) and will drink well until 2016.

Three Peaks 2008 13.5% ABV. Composite cork. Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre/Carignan.
Quite a meaty nose at first (the fruit appeared only after 24 hours!) but the palate is very fruity and quite oaky too (in harmony with t…

Domaine Joblot visit

Having stayed very near to Givry last night, I was able to slip in a quick visit to Clos Saloman before my 10.30 appointment with Jean-Marc Joblot. Here I tasted the 2009s from Montagny (white - very aromatic) and Givry (red, a Premier Cru with excellent fruit and good structure, almost as good as the 2005).

When I arranged the Domaine Joblot appointment, this really was the last day Jean-Marc was prepared to see me as the harvest will be started on Thursday! Incredibly early and still lots to do. Still, he was generous with his time and proved a good communicator. Of course, he knew nothing about me so we discussed my interests in wine and knowledge of the wines of Givry in particular (I have been following the wines of Domaine Joblot for over a decade so knew something of what today's tasting would have in store. Fortunately, Jean-Marc agreed that the other two Givry estates I know well, Clos Saloman and Michel Sarrazin are both excellent producers; the man who is the undisputed…

Piedmont dinner at the Lido - 26th October

Both Enrico and Fabrizio are going to be in London during half-term week for a posh dinner at the IOD but we have lined up another meal where they will be presenting some of their wines for only £40 for a three course meal including the wines.
The Lido Cafe in Brockwell Park is a hidden gem in south London (near to Dulwich). If you are interested, contact the Lido to reserve a place - info@thelidocafe.co.uk or call  020 7737 8183
The Lido Cafe
Dulwich Road
Brockwell Lido
London
SE24 0PA

Fabrizio Battaglino visit

Satellite Navigation will be the making of Fabrizio Battaglino. His family estate is tucked away from the rest of the world so you would need an incredibly detailed map to find him - he did offer to come to meet me and bring me back to the estate but I was determined to try on my own.

Obviously we made it there and, once installed, spent some time getting to know Fabrizio and his mother who was exceptionally hospitable (when the children eventually got bored of our conversation, they went to play outside; next thing we heard them playing in the house above our heads which was quite warming to hear on the grounds that our children have only a handful of words in Italian and Signora Battaglino seems not to know any English at all).

The tasting began with the white, Fabrizio's Roero Bianco 2010. Roero is a fairly young region next to the Barbaresco zone and its reds are based on Nebbiolo too but for the whites, the local Arneis variety is used. The fruit is not dissimilar to a southe…

Tenuta Serradenari visit

Gabriella Spallino billed Serradenari as the highest vineyard in Barolo and, certainly, our old camper van didn't seem to enjoy the journey up the hill as much as it might have done. We had lunch in La Morra before the visit so most of the work was done. It is a shame that just behind the vineyard are all the telephone masts of the region but Gabriella explained that, as the highest hill around, Serradenari had little alternative but to host these. Still, the estate looks the other way, across the valley (an ocean floor in prehistoric times) towards the Alps. A stunning view.

We spent an hour walking (hiking) around the tiny estate which includes vineyards planted to Nebbiolo (of course) and Barbera but also Pinot Noir (Gabriella clearly has a passion for this variety and hopes, one day, to produce a world class mono-varietal Pinot) and Chardonnay grafted from vines in Meursault which already makes a fabulous wine with an Italian twist (I enjoyed it sufficiently to buy some for my…

Nada Giuseppe visit

Having arrived in Piemonte yesterday afternoon, we agreed it would be better to visit Enrico this morning when we had had a chance to freshen up from our journey (we had been travelling - slowly - for five days to get here from Cahors). Probably a good idea.

Enrico is quite young (the right side of 30) and confident. He speaks good English (which bodes well for the forthcoming tasting dinners in London) and clearly knows where he wants to take the family estate. Enrico has plans to capitalise on his father's successes (Giuseppe began bottling the wines back in the 1960s, just before Barbaresco received DOC status and built the estate from there).

One thing immediately struck us: the overwhelming friendliness of this family. Enrico sat us down at the family table and we chatted about ourselves, our businesses and our interest in wine. It was a good half an hour before we even thought about opening a bottle. By the time he was pouring the first wine, his white Arneis, called Armonia…

Chateau du Cedre visit

Pascal Verhaegue began by introducing us to another vistor, one of the writers from the Revue du Vin de France, then we all piled into his car for a quick tour of the vineyards to see the two distinct terroirs which make up the estate: chalky, sometimes sandy soils giving finesse to the wine and clay soils with galet stones providing the power. These are blended together in the final wines.

Back in the cellars, we tasted the component parts from the 2010 vintage, first for Chateau du Cedre, then for "Le Cedre" and finally for "GC". After each cuvee was tasted in components, Pascal put together an approximate blend of the finished wine which, in each case, was greater than the sum of its parts. The sandier soils did, indeed, offer refined characters and the clay more powerful ones which, at this stage, were more attractive (they stand up better to the oak). The difference between the wines is, essentially, vine age although the first cuvee does include a very small …

Domaine des Anges' new wine: "Seraphin"

In stock at last, the new Chateauneuf lookalike from Ciaran Rooney. 95% old-vine, tank-aged Grenache (the label says 100% but who's counting?) with 5% Syrah from the cask. It's a wine that needs some bottle age to shine: just now the slightly shy nose has youthful qualities such as candy sweets which really need to take on some secondary characters. On the pallet, there is more to interest just now: a well-structure wine with lovely tannins and sweet, red berry, quite spicy fruit. The finish is good:  more of the same really but, as with the nose, I think there is more to come with a bit more age. This is really good news because, frankly, the wine is rather nice right now.

How will it evolve? Difficult to tell with any debut vintage since there is nothing direct to compare with it, only similar wines made by rival winemakers using slightly different techniques. My guess is that, whilst it is enjoyable now, it really needs an extra year or two to flesh out, develop that nose, …

2009 Southern Rhone wines just arrived

For some reason it has taken much longer than usual to organise the various collections but, except for Domaines Grand Veneur and Coteaux des Travers, the 2009s are now in stock (and a handful of 2010s). The big question is what to crack open first! Tonight I am out to a barbecue so I will take a bottle or two from my own stocks to celebrate: perhaps Cristia's Cotes du Rhone "Garrigues" and Stef Usseglio's Cotes du Rhone.

Serradenari Barbera 2006

I have been wanting to try this again for a while but the bottle I had got out of stock was obscured underneath something else with a lot of wrapping so I had forgotten about it until last night when I needed something to go with spaghetti (a typical Monday evening meal in these parts).

Absolutely what I was expecting from this. Nice, deep, plummy fruit and almost searing (but not quite) acidity that sliced through the tomato better than any of the knives in our kitchen. Good depth to it, enough to match the rich sauce. I did import a different Barbera a couple of years ago which was quite oaky and very drinkable on its own but less so with food. I had forgotten how much the Serradenari one sells for; it's a good value wine.

Last night in Lakenheath

The wine tasting group that meets at the Brewer's Tap in Lakenheath asked me to conduct an impromptu tasting last night so a quick round up of some of the less expensive Rhone wines seemed in order. The Domaine des Anges rose was appropriate for the warm summer evening but, for me, the wines of the night were Domaine de la Charite's 2009 Cotes du Rhone, fresh and sweet-fruited with an easy structure that offers much in the way of versatility. The other stand-out wine for me was Domaine Grand Veneur's 2007 CDR Villages "Champauvins" which, for the first time, really did come across as a mini-Chateauneuf rather than a top CDR with potential. Perhaps it was tasting it alongside the various other wines but I was very impressed with this one.

Funny goings on at Domaine des Anges

Some irreverent answers given by Domaine des Anges' owner, Gay McGuinness to questions asked by a South African  publication:
(A) Your full address ? postal address: Domaine des Anges, 84570 Mormoiron, France; physical address: Domaine des Anges, Quartier ND des Anges, 84570 Mormoiron, France 
(B) History of the winery. Domaine des Anges is a beautiful, small, hillside estate in the Ventoux in the Southern Rhone region of France. It looks out across a large valley towards Mont Ventoux – the Giant of Provence – with spectacular views on all sides.
The estate covers 40 hectares and is overlooked by the chapel of Notre Dame des Anges and a 12th century Moorish tower, living together happily in the sunshine of timeless, historic, rural France. The total area of the vineyard is 18 ha.
There have been vineyards here since Roman times. We do not know the name of the original owner, but it is believed that he was stabbed to death by a group of Roman politicians jealous of th…

Nada Giuseppe wines now in the UK

A Danish importer who specialises in wines from Piemonte caused a whirlwind of interest in Enrico Nada's wines when he presented them at a dinner in London in March (I think). There was so much interest but no-one to bring them in so I offered to help. As soon as I did so, Enrico sent me some samples which were duly tasted.

First was the Langhe Bianco, a delightfully fresh wine, enjoyed with Ciaran Rooney from Domaine des Anges on a baking hot day in the Vaucluse shortly before Easter. We were impressed enough to move on to the 2006 Barbaresco Riserva. Quite simply, this is a stunning wine: the texture is so silky and the fruit has so much there. It is quite possibly one of the best Nebbiolo wines I have tasted. That rather clinched things for me: from that moment, Nada Giuseppe had a UK importer.

A couple of days later, other wines were tried: I liked the other (non-Riserva) Barbarescos but, for my palate, the Riserva was so superior for very little extra. I especially enjoyed th…

More tales from Canterbury

The Wine Tasting Society that meets each month in Christchurch University will be celebrating its 30th anniversary later this year so congratulations to Keith and everyone for that. I have been going along every year for the last ten or so, so they must think I am doing something right. They are a great crowd: they always want Rhone wines which, of course, I am happy to give them and they are very knowledgeable about both wine and what they want from it. That all makes my job extremely easy.

Highlights included the mature 2002 white Chateauneuf from Domaine Grand Veneur: "La Fontaine" is 100% old-vine, barrel-aged Roussanne and it is quite stunning. The secondary characters have taken over now and the wine is very much enjoying its (relative) old-age.

The most popular reds were probably the 2009s: Bressy-Masson's Cotes du Rhone (more like a Rasteau Village wine), Cristia's Cotes du Rhone "Garrigues" (100% old-vine Grenache aged in small barrels) and Domaine…

In the Rhone again

The excuse was a couple of weeks to sort out my year end but, inevitably, I have done no paperwork whatsoever although the tax man cannot say I have not been working.

Arrived here on Sunday and on Monday went off to Gigondas where they are working on the Caveau with the walls being held up by big metal things (my technological vocabulary could be better!). Went off to Clos des Cazaux, an excellent estate which has holdings in both Gigondas and Vacqueyras. Unfortunately, they set the pattern for what seems to be the norm down here: tell everyone how great 2008 is and get shot of it quickly. The wines were not all bad though but it was the superb Grenat Noble (a later harvested, botrytised Grenache) and Prestige (largely Syrah), both from 2006 which impressed.

At the temporary Caveau, there were walls and walls of 2008s and a handful of other vintages. For old times' sake, I tasted the 2007 Notre Dame des Pallieres (nothing to do with the VT-owned vineyard) which had a delightful el…

Wine Relief 2011

Rather late in the day, we decided to join in with the wine trade's efforts to do its bit for Comic Relief. An impromptu tasting was arranged for Friday evening and any local who looked like he or she had at least a fiver to spare was press-ganged into coming along. In the end, around 40 people turned up (it was a two hour tasting in our living room at home so there was a very friendly atmosphere) and tasted from 18 bottles I had opened.

I also put together a quiz which I thought was fairly easy and a blind tasting competition which was less so. In the end, no-one scored more than 11/20 in total so I guess my questions were trickier than I had thought (it was all multiple choice and wine-related although that did include a question about the wine the character Miles in Sideways drinks out of a paper bag - answer, Cheval Blanc).

The highlights, wine-wise, for me at least were the Baglio del Campo di Cristobello "CDC" from Sicily, a white based on Chardonnay and the indigi…

What does it mean when the press starts quoting you?

Someone just emailed me to tell me I have been quoted by The Drinks Business, a very glossy UK trade publication which has been sent to me from time to time.  The full page on Live: Budget Watch can be seen here but since these are apparently my words, I can't see a problem with quoting them here.

At precisely 12.20pm, a full forty minutes before George Osborne stood up, this was posted:

A rise in VAT is widely expected in today's budget as is yet another increase in duty. What will this actually mean? James Bercovici, of Big Red Wine, writes: "Given that VAT is a percentage and duty a flat rate, this is actually quite simple to work out. VAT is expected to rise to 20% so it is only duty that is uncertain at the moment. But it is reasonable to assume that any [duty] rise will be a percentage increase on the current £20.25 per dozen (still wines). A 5% increase will mean a 2.593% increase in the price of any bottle; a 7% increase will amount to 2.7792%. In monetary…

Fusion Wines Inaugural Portfolio Tasting

I am involved in another business with a couple of colleagues. Imaginatively, we have called it Fusion Wines (well, it doesn't really matter what it's called and I couldn't be bothered to consider any number of suggestions, most of which would have been far worse) and its raison d'etre is to sell into the restaurant trade (so come and see me in the poor house soon!).

We had our first tasting on Monday 28th February 2011 and, apart from the low turnout (considering we had invited just about every restaurant in London), it was a great success. Probably the highlight of the tasting was the newly arrived, BRW-sourced, Tenuta SerradenariBarolo 2007, a deliciously oppulent and forward Barolo from ungrafted vines in La Morra, the highest planted anywhere in the denomination. I decided against showing its older sibling, the 2006, as far too reserved (ie. a tannic brute) to be of interest at a trade tasting. Both are astonishingly cheap, though, for Barolo (don't you just l…