Honest Grapes Taste Lab Kit: An unboxing and review.

I was lucky enough to try one of the first Taste Lab Kits created by the wine-loving and scientific brains behind HonestGrapes.co.uk. This video sees me unbox the kit, try it out and give my thoughts.

Have you got one? Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Hats off to Honest grapes by the way who have already taken feedback and made it even better since this was filmed!

Silvaner: Franconian wine queen of grapes!

WineTouristMagazineSilvaner? What?!  Franconian what?! I hear you, but bear with me.

If you’re into cool German whites, then Silvaner is a grape to know about; it’s the ultimate insider’s choice. if Riesling is king, then Silvaner is queen – the Franconian wine queen to be precise! Here’s a little video I made for WineTouristMagazine.com. You can see more on Franconia (AKA Franken) now on their site…

Cin Cin

WB x

Semillon – British Tennis Player of Wine Grapes!

Andy Murray or Tim Henman? Who am I getting at here? Semillon is the British Tennis Player of wine grapes…

Mr Vine panel results for May. Our top five!

Mr Vine logo winebirdOne particular merchant cleaned up in this tasting, taking podium for places one, two and three! Here are our top five, all picked because they deserve your attention. Let us know what you think…

Join us at Taste of London this Friday for a live tasting panel with the team! Details here.

1st place: Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac Blanc, Rhône, France. 2014. £11.30 from Nickolls & Perks.

A peachy mélange of three much underrated white grapes from the Rhône: Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. More ripe stone fruit flavours like apricot and nectarine in the mouth give it a lovely lush texture. This would work well with fairly rich dishes but is deliciously drinkable by itself. Plenty of impact but perfectly balanced – a very successful blend.

2nd place: Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac Rouge, Rhône, France, 2011. £11.30 from Nickolls & Perks.

Another generously flavoursome Rhône blend from this reliable producer, this time red: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Rich and intense with forest berries, cigar tobacco and hung game, this is a wine in a deep red smoking jacket. It really won us over; it’s hearty without being heavy.

3rd place: Domaine Bourdon Saint Veran, Burgundy, France. 2011. £12.60 from Nickolls & Perks. 

Lots of attractive, gentle apricot and peach here – there’s a touch of honey and caramel too but thankfully it hasn’t been clobbered by oak. It has a lovely, silky, rounded mouthfeel and impressive intensity of flavour. A lot of wine for the money, which is relatively rare when it comes to white Burgundy.

4th place: Caligiore Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. 2013. £10.49 from Vinceremos.

There’s a lot of samey Malbec out there, but this isn’t one of them. It has layers of dark chocolate, concentrated blueberry, succulent plum and coffee bean flavour. A wine to cosy up with that’s crying out for steak – it’s a muscular Malbec that would happily stand up to a juicy ribeye.

Cin cin!

WB x

When Mission E2 met Corney & Barrow

CBlogoNot all wine tastings are created equal. MIssion WinebirdWednesday night saw an intimate tasting for ten people to showcase a selection of Corney & Barrow’s wines. The location was Mission E2 on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green; an establishment that is dragging that part of London up almost singlehandedly. The food was to die for and pitched perfectly for both the red and white wines. Crunchy arancini, cod fingers, amazingly cheesy croquettes… Mmmmm.

With just thirty wines to try, it was easy get a good overview of the range without feeling overwhelmed and one thing became clear: Every wine had enough quality and character to properly earn its place on the list, having beaten numerous similar wines on style and price points. Here are some that stood out:

Sparkling wiston pinkWhile the Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Champagne (NV & 2007) is always a treat, it was so lovely to taste the Sussex-based, Wiston Estate wines again. The Wiston Estate Rosé 2011 is pale and elegant and tastes like wild strawberries in a creamy, choux bun (£35.95). The Wiston Estate Brut 2010 is properly sexy too: rich and fleshy with a touch of brioche about it and a lovely, chalky finish (£32.95). Both were much more interesting and delicious than many Champagnes I’ve had at similar prices.

Whites Herri MinaFor a light white, the just off-dry James Hardwick Riesling 2013 by Muddy Water from New Zealand is exactly what you need with mildly spiced dishes and a great example of friendly Riesling (£16.95). The Jurtschitsch Gruner Veltliner (Gruner Veltliner is the grape) is a seriously refreshing, bone dry, spiced-apple scented wine with real character (£15.95). It was the bargainous Masseria Bianca Fiano 2013 (Fiano’s the grape) that caught my attention however, for its tropical fruit and drinkability. A steal at only £8.95. My favourite white of all was the wonderfully quirky ‘Herri Mina’ (say it loud and say it proud!) by Jean-Claude Berrouet from France’s Basque country. A total antidote to the tried and tested grapes you know, this was smoky and tangy, tropical in a guava kind of way with a long finish and classy, mineral note. It’s £13.95 but I would happily pay more for that.

Pinks chateauevequeEveryone will have their favourite style of rosé wine from the sweeter, dark pinks from the likes of Spain to the pale, saline pinks of coastal Provence. If yours is the latter, you’ll love the Château la Tour L’Eveque 2014 from Provence for its subtle red fruit and creamy, savoury-salty finish (£10.95). If you prefer a more disco dancing, fruity little number with flashy red fruit, then the Merlot rosé by Eradus in New Zealand is your man (£12.50). Both are BBQ ready!

Reds laurageThe reds were mostly over £20, but luckily, they tasted it. The chocolatey Chocopalha Reserva 2010 from Portugal is made with the same grapes that go into Port and was something rich and different to be savoured. The volcanic Passopisciaro 2011 from Sicily was intriguing in another way with its light colour, tangy acid and surprising power. The wine that most impressed me however was the L’Aurage Bordeaux 2011. I’m not normally a fan of Claret (red Bordeaux) unless it’s Chateau Pétrus or similar but this was really tasty and good value at £28.95; all cedar and red fruit with a lovely, meaty twist. Yum!

Sweeties lishaHave you ever tasted mango sorbet? Lusciously sweet and indulgent but seriously refreshing too? Well, that’s a bit like what Nelson’s Noble Late Harvest Semillon from South Africa tastes like and I love it. It doesn’t have the fustiness of Sauternes; just clean and clear, glorious honeyed fruit. A triumph by female winemaker Lisha Nelson in Paarl. £12.95 per half bottle. To see more of Corney & Barrow’s range, go to www.corneyandbarrow.com.

Cin Cin! WB x

Tempranillo: Mysterious Cowboy of Wine Grapes!

Find out why Tempranillo is the mysterious cowboy of wine grapes in Winebird’s latest video…

Mr Vine panel results for April. Our top five!

Mr Vine logo winebirdSo, last month, we launched the Mr Vine App to bring you top recommendations from independent merchants and to make buying those wines with your phone easy peasy.

Here are the top picks from our panel tasting in April as voted for by me, Nathan Nolan, Richard Hemmin, Matt Walls and Zeren Wilson.

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1st
Château Dereszla Dry Tokaji 2013 (Tokaj, Hungary; 14.0%; £12.34, The Oxford Wine Company)
This unusual white is bursting at the seams with honeyed apricot, baklava and rosewater flavour. Rich, ripe and lush but it remains vibrant. Totally non-mainstream and so much the better for that. A jewel of a wine. 92 points.
2nd
Château Peychaud Cotes de Bourg 2012 (Bordeaux, France; 13.5%; £10.40, The Oxford Wine Company)
Very appealing on the nose – blackberries, cedar and Havana cigars – coupled with loads of concentrated dark fruit flavour. It’s not always easy to find good value in Bordeaux but this is very impressive for the price. Considering the relatively obscure appellation it’s a thoroughbred. 88 points.
3rd
Domaine du Haut Peron Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2013 (Loire, France; 12.0%; £10.79, The Oxford Wine Company)
With fistfuls of gooseberry, kiwi and green pepper, this couldn’t be anything but Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t unanimously loved but those that did enjoyed its soft fruitiness, intense fruit flavour and vibrant acidity. 88 points.
4th
Weingut Josef Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Loessterrassen 2014 (Kremstal, Austria; 12.0%; £10.99, The Real Wine Company)
A good introduction to the Grüner grape. Pithy and citric with a green apple tang and a characteristic whiff of white pepper. Vibrant lime juice acidity provides plenty of refreshment through the clean, mineral finish. 88 points.
5th
Weingut Martin Kohl Zweigelt Classic Red 2013 (Niederösterreich, Austria; 13.0%; £8.99, The Real Wine Company)
Wow – the first thing you notice is the lip-smacking acidity, but there is plenty of perky, crunchy red berry fruit and piquant spice underneath. The label might be rather plain but this has lots of personality for the money. Try drinking it lightly chilled – it’s a stunner for the summer! 87 points.
Download the Mr Vine App for free for the iphone here!

A little taste of Sussex: Kingscote Estate Vineyard

As it’s English Wine Week, I thought I’d share a few shots I put together during a recent visit. They’ve also just launched a cookery school. More on that very soon…

The launch of Mr Vine: a brand new wine App.

Mr Vine - logo image 2Today sees the launch of Mr Vine: a brand new wine App that was created to make buying wine that you know you’re going to like both easy and mobile. As well as offering personalised recommendations and helping you discover new wines, Mr Vine allows you to buy bottles from UK independent merchants with just a few clicks on your phone. You can also build your own profile to keep track of what you’ve tasted and share your discoveries.

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Some wine friends and I have been working behind the scenes as a crack panel of wine judges to give honest opinions on hundreds of wines. We put forward our favourites at every meeting and you can find them here on the Partners In Vine recommendations blog. My other panel-tastic friends are Richard Hemming, Zeren Wilson, Matt Walls and Nate Nolan.

Mr Vine - press image 7The App is currently available on the App store for iphones only, but is coming soon to Android. Download it here!

See more on mrvine.co.uk.

Photo by travelblog.org

Photo by travelblog.org

Jura – France’s smallest wine region – managed to pretty much elude me for much of my wine life. I think I always confused it with that bottle of whisky you see behind the tills at the Coop, but it’s nothing like that. Instead, think of the Jura as an antique shop that’s been there forever, but you’d never noticed it before. Once inside, it’s full of curiosities and has an earthy smell of creaking furniture and ancient stone. Some things are instantly attractive and have transcended time and others are just that little bit too.. well.. of another era.

Jura WinebirdHere are some quick and dirty Jura wine basics:

Where?

80km east of Burgundy on the low, western hills of the Jura mountains. It’s cool, damp and very rocky with plenty of clay and limestone. Together, this means wines that have high acidity and a characteristic, earthy minerality – like licking an ancient church wall. In a good way.

Jura wine styles to get to know

The Jura is famous for ‘oxidative’ wines, i.e. wines that have been deliberately exposed to oxygen while in the barrel and this gives them a characteristic taste…

clavelin winebird

The ‘Clavelin’ bottle used for all Vin Jaune wines

Vin Jaune: The Jura is most famous for its very particular Vin Jaune, which means ‘yellow’ or ‘golden’ wines. They must be aged for a minimum of six years and three months in old barrels and their particular nutty, stone-like flavour comes from the fact that they’re made in a similar way to Fino Sherry, where space has been left in the barrel for oxygen to come into contact with the wine and it grows a ‘flor’ type of yeast. Unlike Fino however, these Vins Jaunes have not been fortified with grape spirit and they maintain a stingingly high acidity. They can age for years, starting out with citrus flavours and a stony, saline tang, becoming more earthy, mossy, viscous and mineral with age. The searing acidity remains and they are beyond bone dry! Savagnin is the only grape that can be used for Vin Jaune and they must be bottled in the distinctive ‘Clavelin’ bottle which holds 62cl. If you like Fino Sherry, you’ll love this. 

Vin de Paille: This ‘straw wine’ is made using grapes that have been dried for three to four months before being pressed, fermented, then matured in oak for two to three years. It’s sweet and it’s thick and unctuous. If you like Ice Wine, you’ll love this.

Crémant de Jura: Sparkling white and rosé wines made using the ‘traditional method’ (like Champagne) with Chardonnay being the most important grape (Pinot Noir is often also added). These are generally fine like Champagne, but often with more fruit and a little softer.

Other white and red Jura winesChardonnay is the most widely planted white grape and is used for more ‘normal’, i.e. non-oxidative styles of still white wines. Savagnin is the other key white grape variety and is used for both normal and oxidative wines. The red wine are usually made using single grape varieties, with Troussard, Poulsard (aka Ploussard) and Pinot Noir being the big three. All reds are usually fairly light in colour with lots of tart, crunchy red fruit.

Want to try some? Head to The Sampler in London (thesampler.co.uk) and try the full range by Domaine Badoz. 

FACT! If the wine says ‘Château-Chalon, it can only be a Vin Jaune. It’s an appellation in its own right.

FACT! There are two AOC appellations that make all styles of wine mentioned above: Arbois and Côtes du Jura. If it’s from L’Etoile, it can only be white wine, including Vin de Paille and Vin Jaune.

Say Cheese!

Jura make some fabulous cheeses that you may well already know and love. These wines love milky Morbier, the golden, nuttiness of Comté, the delicate blue of Bleu de Gex Haut-Jura and the oozing deliciousness of Vacherin Mont d’Or.

Have you tasted wine from Jura? Let me know your thoughts!

WB x