Thursday, September 16, 2021

Sparkling wines of Slovenia, with Glass of Bubbly of London

Thank you Marin Berovic

Today I took part in a tasting of Slovenian sparkling wines organized in London by Glass of Bubbly (Thank you Chris!) and hosted by Marin Berovic, a wine specialist from Slovenia itself.

Interesting range of wines, with a predominance of fresh and fruity bubbles over smooth and fragrant.

Slovenia confirmed itself to be a small but qualitatively relevant player in the market for sparkling wines. I mostly knew Slovenian producers on the Italian side of the border, but they are famous for their still wines.

Here below are some tasting notes.

Winery Radgonske Gorice

My favorite was their Zlata Radgonska Penine Millesimé 2008 (chard 100%), which despite its age retains an amazing freshness and could be a top class aperitif. Score 88.

The Penina Extra dry 2017 sports floral notes and as its label suggests is very fresh. I liked it when it warmed up slightly in the glass. Moderately complex. Score 86.

Winery Istenič

Their prestige extra brut 2013 is amazing, fresh attack then great balance and complexity. Score 92.

The No.1 NV is also fresh and complex with a pleasant fragrance which makes it stand out. Score 90.

Interesting sweet muscat NV at only 11,5% abv. Score 86

Winery Bjana

An excellent Cuvée Prestige 2016 (chard and rebula), with impressive fragrance, complexity and balance. Score 93.

Their Brut 2016 (also chard and rebula) is aromatic in the nose, then a fresh attack is followed by a well balanced finish. Score 89

Winery Silveri

Their best wine was a Blanc de Blanc NV, blend of different rebula (ribolla) grapes, fresh and flowery with moderate complexity. Score 86

A Brut Nature Zero Vintage collection 2011 (chardonnay and rebula) was still amazingly fresh, hard sensations still prevail despite the aging. Score 84

Winery Medot

Brut Rosé 2017. The best rosé in Slovenia (55% pinot noir, 35% rebula, 10% chardonnay) in the opinion of several tasters, complex perfectly balanced and very long. Score 93.

Extra brut cuvée 2015 (70% chard 30% rebula), another fresh wine with flowers and citrus notes, I was again surprised at the freshness of these wines despited their age. Score 90.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wines of Occitanie, with Tim Atkin MW

First in-person tasting after the pandemic, what a relief to be back in a hall with real people. Thanks to the Agency for Economic Development in Occitanie for organizing this event. More info also on the region's UK website.

Tim Atkin, MW

Intro to region by Tim Atkin, MW

Occitanie is the fusion of Roussillon and Midi-Pirenée, done in 2014, now largest wine producing region of France and by some accounts of the world.

Predominantly red wines (70%) with 25% of whites and 5% of rosé and sweet, the latter currently increasing.

About 3000 growers, many in cooperatives, and 700 negociants. Strong Catalan presence.

Syrah is the most recent successful arrival, began about 50 years ago to improve blends but later became established on its own.
Grenache and merlot are also popular, more merlot here than in Bordeaux.

Reputation lags behind reality: quality has been going up steadily in the region, while quantity is down similar to the global trend.
Blends on average are very successful, better than single varieties, especially for whites. Plant quite a bit of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc but can not compete with Burgundy or Loire even if prices are lower.

Detailed notes below, comments and scores are by Marco of AIS Brussels Club and not by Tim Atkin.

Master Class 1: Great Whites of Occitanie

1. Laurent Miquel, Albarino IGP Aude 2020, alvarinho 100%
Old house, founded in 1791, near Beziers. Steel fermentation, aged on lees, vines planted in 2010. Screw caps, a novelty here.
Floral nose, fresh attack, citrus, crunchy, an excellent Summer glass. Mod complex and length.
Could use some time to get a bit rounder but it is meant to be drunk fresh.
Score 92.

2. Domaine La Voute du Verdus, la Valise Blanche IGP Saint Guilhem le Désert 2020, carignan blanc 100%
Rare grape here, NW of Montpellier. Light oaking. "Lutte raisonnée" approach, not organic but least possible intervention.
Mod fresh complex aromas in the nose. Slightly woody, good structure, can feel phenolics, tannins.
Score 90.

3. Domaine Paul Mas, Réserve languedoc Blanc AOC 2020, vermentino, marsanne, grenache blanc and viognier
Steel fermentation and wood aging.
Smooth wine, mod length and complexity.
Score 88.

4. Chateau Puech-Haut, Tête de Beliér, AOC Languedoc 2020, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier
North of Montpellier, inox fermentation and wood aging with batonnage.
Excellent balance, mod complex and length.
Score 86.

5. Château des Estanilles, Vallongue AOC Faugères 2020, marsanne, roussanne, vermentino
FLoral aromas, vanilla, persistent minerality.
Perfect balance, complex and very long.
Score 94.

6. Château Rives-Blanques, Dédicace AOC Limoux 2019, chenin blanc 100%
Barrel fermented, batonnage.
Fresh and mineral, mod complex and length.
Score 88.

7. Mas de La Devèze, Pandore AOC Côtes du Roussillon 2019, maccabeu, grenache blanc
In Languedoc.
Smooth and complex, well balanced, a touch of lingering pleasant bitterness at the end. A unique sensation, unusual, surprising.
Score 93 mostly because it is so unique.

8. Plaimont, L'Empreinte SO Saint Mont 2017, gros manseng, petit corbu
In Gascony, steel and lees aging, no wood.
Fresh and aromatic nose, strong minerality, hard sensations prevail.
Might develop in time.
Score 86.

Master Class 2: Tim's Personal Picks of Occitanie

1. Calmel & Joseph, Ams Tram Gram, Quartier Libre IGP Pay d'Oc 2020, Clairette, grenache blanc, rolle (vermentino), roussanne
WHITE Intense floral aromas, round and mod complex wine, long. Could use a bit more acidity. Steel, no wood, no malolactic, on lees for 4 months.
Slight bitterness gives an original touch.
Score 89

2. Domaine Gayrard, Loin de L'Oeil AOC Gaillac 2019, Loin de l'oeil
WHITE A tad too rough, though a mod complexity can make it pleasant with succulent food, it is a bit off-putting to me.
Score 80

3. Domaine Lafage, Miraflors Rosé IGP Côtes Catalanes 2020, mourvèdre, grenache gris, grenache noir
RED Very fresh, easy wine for a pizza in the garden during the Summer.
Score 82

4. Château la Sauvageonne, Grand Vin AOC Terrasses du Larzac 2019, grenache noir, syrah, carignan noir
Hard sensations prevail, tannins predominant, sapidity.
Score 82

5. Château de Ciffre, Terroir d'Altitude AOC Faugères 2019, syrah,grenache noir, mourvèdre
Intense and captivating to the nose, of ripe red fruits, perfect balance, long and complex. A few years of aging potential, I'd love to smell the tertiaries of this wine.
The best red of the day.
Score 94

6. Cave de Roquebrun, Roches Noires AOC Saint-Chinian, Roquebrun, 2019, syrah, grenache noir, mourvèdre
A good all around wine, mod complex and long, but can't compete after n.5 above.
Score 85

7. Château Coutinel AOC Fronton 2019, négrette, gamay, syrah
Organic production, no wood.
Strong character, rough, hard sensations prevail. Tim says he likes it because as he gets older he prefer wines with harder taste, especially more acidity. I guess I am not old enough.
Score 80.

8. Domaine F. Jaubert, or du Temps, VDN AOC Rivesaltes 2002, grenache gris, grenache blanc
Fermented on skins, then 17 years in concrete tanks! Slightly fortified.
Nuts, dry figs, toasted almonds. A very well balanced, long and harmonious wine.
This is considered the white counterpart to Banyuls.
Score 94.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Meet the producer, Alpasiòn Wines, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

In the context of the London Wine Fair 2021, we have been fortunate to receive some samples from a remarkable winery in the Uco Valley of Argentina.

Alpasiòn in their own words (from their website): The people behind this project are all wine lovers who decided to make a dream come true by making honest, iconic wines together. We decided to name our inaugural release “Alpasión,” a combination of the Spanish “alma” (soul) and “pasión” (passion). The Alpasión label features the fingerprints and signatures of all of the winery’s owners as testimony to friendship for life. The winery owns 85 hectares of land and although not certified just yet, Alpasión practices sustainable organic farming to ensure the health of soils, ecosystems and people. Even part of the vineyard is planted in the shape of a giant fingerprint.

Whataboutme? Sauvignon blanc 2019
Sauvignon blanc 100%. Zesty and citrussy, fresh aromas on the nose, followed by a clean taste in the mouth. A simple yet pleasant wine.
Score 80.

Whataboutme? Malbec 2019
Easy, round and mod long, typical malbec.
Score 86

Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Ripe red fruits and plums. Excellent balance and length for this complex cab. It is still young, could age but it is good now. The best of the range.
Score 94

Malbec 2018
Easy and round, more complex aromas than Whatabaoutme? and surprisingly long.
Score 88.

Grand Malbec 2017
A wine that must wait, the tannins are still aggressive. Excellent potential, the fruit is there, so is the complexity. To drink in 3-4 years at least.
Score 90.

Grand Cabernet Franc 2018
Ripe fruit and plums. An opulent wine, very well balanced, which is not always easy with a cab franc. Deserves a wait, at least 3-4 years.
Score 90

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Meet the producer: Achaval Ferrer from Mendoza, Argentina

Achaval Ferrer (image from their website)

A producer from Argentina who is proud of carrying on a long, ultra-centenary tradition of wine making. Many vines are ungrafted, that is they were not touched by phylloxera and therefore had no need for grafting as most of the rest of the world.

In the works of Jevgenijs Suscinskis, who guided my tasting a few days ago and whom I would like to thank here, grafted vines give you a picture of the vineyard, ungrafted ones give you a movie! A film that does not last two hours but perhaps two centuries!

Here is the result of the tasting, very efficiently organized by MyOnlineFair:

Mirador 2014
malbec 100% from old vines, some  are 70-year-old plants on own roots.
A well balanced, dark ruby, round wine with lots of energy to offer.
15 months in french oak but one does not feel the wood much, excellent freshness is still there.
Score 89.

Bellavista 2014
malbec 100% from old vines, some up to 100 years old. 
Unfiltered and unfined it shows slight deposit. Violet black and red fruits emerge in the nose make for a fresher malbec compared to the previous one. Clearly this has further aging potential. This is an expensive bottle, around 100 Eur per bottle retail. Definitely worth it!
Score 95

Mendoza malbec 2018
malbec 100%
An interesting, moderately complex blend from grapes from different altitudes. A wine where the producer tries to offer the most typicity for the variety.
Score 88. 
rrp 18

Quimera 2013
45% malbec,19% cabernet sauvignon,18% merlot 18% cabernet franc
Warm blending of grapes in oak barrels to age together, an interesting method in stark contrast with most other blends where the individual varieties are vinified separately and blended at the end, prior to bottling.
Score 88

Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
cabernet sauvignon 100%
A majestic witn with long and perfectly balanced finish, due in large part, no doubt, to the 30 to 40-year-old vines from which it is produced. The wine was still excellent even after the bottle had been opened a few days (and closed after each tasting with vacuvin), long and balanced, even harmonious.
Score 93.

One word about pairing these and other Argentinian wines. Of course you will read all over the place how they go well with local food, especially famed beef from the pampas. Which it does, but this is very restrictive for the huge potential offered in these bottles.

At Jevgenijs' suggestion, I tried a pairing some of these wines with mildly spicy southern Chinese food and was very pleasantly surprised. The moderate body and smooth finish contrasts the mild (I repeat mild! Nothing can pair with very spicy food!) spices of Hunan cuisine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Sherry: a remote guided tasting with Diatomists

Today, as part of the London Wine Fair 2021, which had to be run online because of COVD restrictions,  Marco Carnovale of the italian Sommelier Association hosted a guided tour of Sherry wines with Thomas and Antonio, of Diatomists, a wide importer of Sherry to the UK. Below is a video of the tasting. 

As they explain on their website: Diatomist is the name given to those who master the art of diatom arrangement. Diatoms are single cell algae that create complex glass shells around themselves. 5 million years ago Jerez was under water which explains the unique and exceptional soil rich in diatom fossils.

These hidden microscopic marvels are essential for the vines to thrive in a hot climate with dry summers and sporadic heavy rainfall. The soils’ porosity locks in the moisture providing essential water reserves for the vines to thrive during the long and sunny growing-season. In fact, the quality of the soil can be quantified by its diatoms.

We tasted three wines: 

A fresh and fruity sherry to be enjoyed with a meal of light structure. Score 88

A more complex wine that may easily hold its own alone or be paired with a substantial meal of fish or white meats. Score 90

A rich and powerful sherry, intense in color, aroma and taste. Perfectly married with dessert or enjoyed alone. Score 94

Any further information contact Antonio and Thomas at

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Meet the producer: Azienda Felline, Manduria, Puglia, Italy

Master Class at the London Wine Fair (online) 2021 with Gregory Perrucci of Azienda Felline, Manduria, Italy.

Specialists in Primitivo di Manduria. Four different wines:

1. Felline 2019, red soil

The most typical soil of this region, rich in iron. Planted mostly in alberello style. Intense aromas on the nose, warm and velvety, smooth in the mouth, powerful fruit. Moderately complex and long.
Score 89

Calcareous, porous soil, waters filters down easily, forces roots to work harder. Rich of fossils!
Again a smooth velvety wine, even more complex than the previous one.
Score 90

Terrain is soft, alluvial origins, ancient forests decomposed, which makes for a longer annual cycle, the last primitivo to be harvested usually end of september. Old vines 80+ years.
Gregory used Zinfandel grafts he bought in California to develop this "twin grape" here, experiment was successful and expanded production. Now Felline represent Italy in California each year for Zinfandel fair.
Score 90

4. Dunico 2017 (unico on dunes)
Sandy soil, on dunes by the sea. Ripen early, first to be harvested hence the name "primitivo", primo among various varieties of grapes to be ready, late August already picked.
Old wine making land, goes back to Greeks, vines grew on the soil, like big black snakes on the white sand.Up to 16% abv! Very rich and complex, difficult to grow, can not make this wine every year.
Score 92

Friday, April 30, 2021

Meet the producer: Peñafiel, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Bodega Peñafiel
On 30th April I had a chance to go through a tasting of a range of wines from this vineyard on the Duero, in Spain.

I was guided through several bottles by export manager Raúl Blanco whom I would like to thank for his availability.

Many thanks to Myonlinefair for organizing this tasting very efficiently.
Avenida Valladolid Soria, km 311, 47300 Peñafiel, Valladolid, Spain

Alba de miros 2019
Their top white, 100pc verdejo.
Two months on lees release a pleasant fragrance.
A fruity attack and moderate body and length.
I paired with with a filet of Atlantic haddock in soya sauce with steamed broccoli.
Score 88
rrp 10euro

For the following two wines I decided to try an unusual pairing, with chicken soup with Chinese spices and lettuce. The astringency of the wines' tannins contrasts very well with the liquid soup.

Miros de ribeira 2017
tempranillo 100pc, made from the best grapes of this variety.
The wine is left to evolve for 8 months in French oak barrels, then another 12 months in the bottle.
Score 93
rrp 18 euro

El prenda 2017
80% tempranillo and 20% granacha
12 months in oak
score 82
rrp 8 euro

Other wines tasted today.

Alma serena 2020
tempranillo 100pc
3-4 months in oak give a pleasant roundness, moderate length and complexity.
score 86
rrp 10 euro

El importante 2016
100pc garnacha
12 months american oak followed by 12 months in bottle
These grapes come from old vines that are 50-year-old
This wine is in the upper range of products already. It can age another few years but it is ready now.
Score 90
rrp 16 euro
Silencio de Miros, 2015
Single vineyard at 1000 meter altitude above seal level.
100% tempranillo
Acidity is strong but it is expected to smoothen out with time.
A top-level Duero with a personality to challenge the most difficult palate.
This wine has been particularly successful in the Chinese market, where it quickly sold out after it was recognized as the best Spanish wine. 
Score 95
rrp 48

the cellar

Peñafiel red lineup

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Film review: Bottle Shock (2008) by Randal Miller, ****


The build-up to the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris competition between French and Californian wines. Napa Valley's Jim Barrett (Lost Highway's Bill Pullman) has been plugging away for years with minimal success. A former attorney, Barrett runs Chateau Montelena with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine, the Star Trek prequel's Captain Kirk), who would rather do anything than assist his stern father. Bo's co-workers include Gustavo (Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodríguez) and Sam (Transformers' Rachael Taylor), who long to produce the perfect chardonnay. 

Naturally, the young men compete for the favors of the beautiful blonde (the movie's least interesting angle). Across the Atlantic, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) struggles to keep his Parisian wine shop going (cheapskate American Dennis Farina is his only regular customer). Then Spurrier conceives a contest to attract customers.


While based on a true story, the film takes some liberty at embellishing the facts with romance and family feuds, but this does not detract from it being highly instructive for wine lovers.

The title is a pun: the "bottle shock" is what may ruin a wine because of vibrations and temperature variations during protracted and unprotected transportation. It is also the result of the tasting, which shocked the wine world for what a bottle of California wine was able to produce.

The competition itself should have been given more time in the movie in my view, as it was the event that justified making the movie in the first place and changed the world of wine ever since.

Also, the movie does not make it clear that the competition was only for a few varieties, ie Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends, and as such can in no way be interpreted to be an overall match between Californian and French wines.

Finally, one can not help but notice somewhat of a pro-Californian bias in the movie, but this is perhaps inevitable given the nature of the real historical events. I would like to see a film of the 2006 rematch, which California, again, won hands down, in fact by an even greater margin.

See the book "The Judgement of Paris" which I reviewed in my personal blog.