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The Wine Blogger 2013 Roundup – Wines of the Year
It’s the time of year for round-ups, top tens and best ofs, so we thought we’d ask some of the wine bloggers who’ve written about us over the past twelve months for their favourite wines (Roberson or otherwise) of 2013. In no particular order, here’s what they said… 2012 Domaine Bernard Gripa, ‘Les Pins’ St Péray Chosen by Matt Walls of Matt Walls Wine Blog (@mattwallswine) We drank a bottle of this white Marsanne/Roussanne blend whilst on holiday in the Rhône this summer. Drove directly to the domaine for a case the following day. It smells of freshly cut pears and flowers. It’s full-bodied, but with loads of vitality; long, pure and clean. No excess fat – an example of just how fine and fresh St Péray can be when in the right hands. Champagne Billecart-Salmon Rosé, Non Vintage Chosen by Vim of 12×75.com (@12×75) I was given a bottle to taste recently and decided to take it along to one of our ‘7 Word Wine Review’ evenings in London so everyone could try it. It proved to be one of the highlights of our evening and seemed to be universally loved by the group of tasters. The wine has small, elegant bubbles and a flavour of delicate peaches with strawberries and raspberries, with a whiff of fresh brioche. It had just the right amount of sweetness to confuse and delight at the same time – should you have it as an aperitif, or with dessert? Maybe both… and then later on, have some more! Azienda Agricola Vittorio Graziano, Lambrusco “Fontana dei Boschi” 2010 IGT Emilia Chosen by Nathan Nolan of Mr Drink ‘N’ Eat (@MrDrinknEat) I was entranced by this wine, it literally had an emotional persona to it. A funky skunky nose (in a nice way). On the palate wild sour dark fruits wrestled around with zip zing acids and fresh tannins, but with a very mature fruit finish. Chateau Phelan Segur 2004 Chosen by Wendy Narby of Insider Tasting (@insidertasting) The surprise when tasting this wine blind at a dinner at the Chateau was to discover the vintage. I loved the pure fruit, elegant tannins and great length from a vintage often offhandedly labelled as ‘Classique’. Big mistake to be put off by this description, the wine is a beauty. Situated in between classified growths of Saint Estephe, Chateau Phelan Segur produces very accessible wines (price as well as style) with an elegance that belies the appellation’s reputation for robustness. There’s nothing wrong with classic. Heinrich St. Laurent 2009 Chosen by Colin Smith of Grapefan’s Wine Adventures (@grapefan) My standout wine in 2013 was an Austrian red which I came across on the shelves of Waitrose. Austria is perhaps better known for its white wines made from the Gruner Veltliner grape but this 2009 red, made from the St Laurent grape by Weingut Heinrich Hartl, was beautifully soft, supply, fruity and perfectly balanced. It showed that despite having a reputation for making great whites the Austrians can make wonderful red wines also. Celler de Vermunver Genesi Varietal 2010 (100% Carignan) Chosen by Simon Woolf of The Morning Claret (@simonjwoolf) One of the most outstanding Carignan dominated wines that I discovered on a trip to the Priorat and Monsant regions in Spain. Perfectly demonstrates the freshness and elegance that these wines can have – no mean feat with 14.5% alcohol. The 2010 has inviting aromas of mint, eucalyptus and dried herbs, vibrant cassis fruit and refined, grippy tannins. Already very drinkable, but should have a great future too. Oaken Grove Benham Blush 2012, Oxfordshire, England Chosen by Joanne Randell of perfectfridaywine (@perfectfriwine) Produced from Pinot Noir and Bacchus grapes grown locally to me, near Henley-on-Thames in the Chiltern Hills and bottled by Stanlake Park, Berkshire, I discovered wine quite by accident during an English tasting that I ran for my monthly wine tasting group. Surprisingly dry and crisp, with strawberries and cream, yet another English wine triumph that gives provencal rose a run for its money. Savagnin, Badoz, Côtes du Jura, France 2007 Chosen by Brett Jones of Brett, the Wine Maestro (@thewinemaestro) Gold. Sherbet lemons, lemon meringue pie, dry, bright with a fine depth. Little hints of yeast, great with concaillotte, a local young cheese… Local Jura grape variety made in the oxidative Jura style, but with bags of fruit. Also good with hard cheese (Comté) and light curries. Jura is a very special area in the east of France, about 50 miles east of Burgundy, renowned for Vin Jaune which must be aged in barrel for a minimum of 6 years 3 months without being topped up – thus made in an oxidative style. This wine is made with the same variety as used in Vin Jaune, Savagnin, and is also not topped up. A good introduction to the Jurassien style! Pecorino, the grape variety Chosen by Andrew Barrow of Spittoon (@wine_scribbler) Less of a specific wine, more a grape variety. For some reason, perhaps the trips I’ve been on to Rome and the wine country in Italy, I’ve really grown fond of decent Italian white wines. Pecorino, the grape variety, rather than the cheese is one such. There was a great bottle in a wine bar in Rome that really opened my eyes, and back in the UK several restaurant meals and a decent under a tenner bottle from my local supermarket. It’s the combination of weight, a spicy edge (ginger) and a nutty complexity to the flavour that I adore. I should also mention that I do also like pecorino the cheese. Anselmo Mendes, Muros Antigos, Alvarinho 2012 Chosen by Robert McIntosh of Thirst for Wine (@thirstforwine) I discovered this wine, and the amazing potential of this variety, in a beautiful converted building, down the narrow streets of Melgaço. The Solar do Alvarinho is a tasting room, bar and shop dedicated just to Alvarinho and the many small producers growing it locally. The town itself is beautiful, but the wine was an amazing combination of crisp freshness you’d expect from Vinho Verde, but more luscious tropical fruit and floral aromas to give it roundness. A wonderful reason to head back to the Minho region of northern Portugal as soon as possible. Toro Albala, Don PX Double Label 1911 Chosen by Tom Lewis of The Cambridge Wine Blogger (@CambWineBlogger) With only 106 bottles made, this century-old wine dates to an almost-Victorian era when Germany and Russia were still empires ruled by royal houses. Translucent black with coffee and liquorice, there is sweet vanilla, toffee and a fragrant-floral black chocolate savouriness. Complex and harmonious with an aged mellowness, it has a vibrancy that belies its centegenarian status. Rather like Mick Jagger or Sean Connery, its youthful, rogueish charm is still present - it has an energy - but it is matched by the assurance that comes with longevity. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 2010 Bourgogne Blanc Chosen by Nik Byrne of Wine from a Tumbler (@NikByrne) I had seen a lot of recent hype about this winemaker on Instagram and Twitter, so I jumped at the chance to try this wine when I was out at a friend’s birthday lunch at The Ledbury. This is labelled as a ‘Bourgogne’, which is a generic classification, but it punches well above its weight; it’s clean, classic and classy. Roberson stocks some wines from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, though I’m sure the 2010s would have sold out very quickly. It’s great to see the ‘cheaper’ appellations of Burgundy providing excellent quality juice. Stellenbosch, The Francophile Syrah 2012 Chosen by Simon Woods of Drinking Outside the Box (@woodswine) If there’s a common thread running through the wines I’m craving at the moment, it’s that they’re refreshing and red. It’s a combination that many parts of the world struggle to get right – Beaujolais can do it, Valpolicella used to be able to do it but seems to have forgotten how. So it was a thrill to come across The Liberator “Francophile” Syrah 2012 from Stellenbosch in South Africa. Forget clumsy Cape reds, this is vibrant young wine with floral notes to its blackberry and blackcurrant flavours, a touch of spice, and the roasted note you often find in northern Rhône reds. Perhaps not a wine to chill, but definitely fresh, perky and – most importantly – very tasty.
Exclusive Recipe & Wine Match from Rebecca Seal
To celebrate the launch of her fantastic new book, Istanbul, Recipes from the heart of Turkey, we’ve teamed up with Channel 4′s Rebecca Seal to give our customers an exclusive preview of a recipe from the book, as well as (of course) two wine matches chosen by Rebecca from our range. Hünkar Beğendi: Aubergine Purée Topped with Lamb Stew This is a rich and satisfying Ottoman dish of lamb stew on a bed of aubergine and cheese, and it smells progressively more delicious as it slowly cooks, making it harder and harder to resist dipping a corner of bread into the pot! The name means the Sultan’s Delight (or the Sultan liked it), and there are two stories about its origins: one is that it was created for a sultan in the 1600s who did indeed like it; the other is that it was served in the nineteenth century Sultan’s court to Napoleon’s wife, who liked it so much she requested the recipe (the chef refused to give it to her). A salad of bitter leaves with a sharp dressing goes nicely here, or some winter greens. Serves four. For the Lamb Stew 850 g (1 lb 14oz) boneless stewing lamb (shoulder, shank or leg), cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) dice, excess fat removed 1 onion, finely chopped Pinch of salt 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tablespoon Turkish tomato paste or concentrated tomato puree (paste) 2–3 fresh tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 200 ml (7 fl oz/generous 3/4 cup) hot water 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley For the Aubergine Purée 4 large aubergines, trimmed 1 tablespoon lemon juice 30 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter 30 g (1 oz/. cup) plain (all-purpose) flour 350 ml (12 fl oz/1⅓ cups) milk 60 g (2 oz/. cup) grated kasseri, parmesan, comte or other hard cheese Salt and freshly ground black pepper Method Prepare the lamb. Brown the meat in a deep saucepan with a lid, or a deep flameproof casserole, over a high heat and in batches (if the pan is too crowded the meat will stew rather than caramelise and be less tasty). Turn the heat down to low, return all the meat to the pan and add the onion and salt. Allow the onion to soften and become translucent for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, then add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring again, for a further 2 minutes. Finally add the fresh tomatoes, dried herbs and hot water (the meat should be just covered, so add a little more water if it is not). Stir thoroughly and cover. Simmer for about 2 hours, checking frequently that the sauce is not sticking or reducing too fast – add splashes of hot water whenever necessary to prevent this. The stew is ready when the tomatoes and liquid have reduced and thickened and the meat is just beginning to fall apart. About 40 minutes before the stew is fully cooked, start the aubergine purée (don’t worry if timings over-run – the stew will keep happily with a lid on. You could even make it the day before). Either thoroughly char and blacken their skins for 10 minutes directly over a gas ring or place under a grill set to its highest temperature, and allow the skins to blacken and wrinkle, turning them regularly. (If you prefer a less smoky flavour, grill or broil them more slowly, further from the heat.) When the skins are charred, set them aside in a bowl and splash over the lemon juice. Allow them to cool and then scoop out the flesh by splitting each one down the middle with a spoon and using it to gently scrape out the insides. Pull out any large strands of seeds and discard, roughly chop the flesh and place in a colander to drain. Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan big enough to take all the milk and the cooked aubergines, over a low heat. Warm the milk in a separate pan. When the butter is foaming but not brown, add the flour. Mix well and cook over a very low heat for 2 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk, a quarter at a time, stirring to incorporate each time. (Don’t add it all at once as the sauce will become lumpy.) When all the milk has been added the sauce should be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon. If it is too thick, add a little more milk and whisk it in. Add the cheese and the chopped aubergine and cook for 2–3 minutes over the lowest possible heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir the parsley into the lamb stew and taste to check the seasoning. Spoon the hot aubergine purée in a thick layer onto a warm serving dish and top with the lamb stew, or serve as individual portions in bowls. Rebecca’s Wine Choices Vourla 2010 from Urla winery is a particularly delicious wine, given masses of structure, I think, by the Boğazkere in the blend, which is a Turkish grape known for being very rich in fine tannins. It stands up well to the richness and gentle spicing in my Adana-style kebabs, or marinated lamb kebabs, which are spicier and served with some charring from the grill. It’s also particularly good with hunkar begendi – it’s a complex and hearty dish and needs a wine with some backbone to deal with all the different flavours and textures. Another wine which goes wonderfully with hunkar begendi is Ellipse 2010 from Zélige Caravent, which works in part because of the tomatoes in the sauce. They cook for two hours in the stew so are thoroughly melted and melded with the lamb and herbs by the time the dish gets to the table, but lend a gentle tang of acidity which cuts through the richness of the aubergine. The Ellipse is a more delicate wine than the Vourla but it has more than enough depth to cope.
Sine Qua Non – An In-Depth Producer Profile
In advance of our much anticipated Sine Qua Non tasting tonight (those are the wines, pictured above) we’ve been very busy researching the estate and the wines (I say ‘we’, but really I mean ‘Mark’). In the course of this it’s become pretty clear that there isn’t much detail freely available out there at the moment (which is perhaps not surprising given the scarcity of the wines) so we thought we’d share everything we’ve found out with the world by making tonight’s tasting brochure available as a free download. If you’ve ever wished there was a bit more information on this unique producer, have a read of our (OK, Mark’s) Sine Qua Non tasting brochure. It might just be the most comprehensive document available on the estate, and it’s the next best thing to being at the tasting tonight.
The Wines of Armand Rousseau – Our Tasting Written Up
Just a quick note to draw your attention to Wine Anorak, where Jamie Goode has a very nice write-up of our vertical tasting of the great Armand Rousseau‘s Burgundies. Now that was an outstanding evening. If you like the sound of it, keep an eye out in the next few weeks for a brand new tasting schedule from us taking things all the way up to Christmas. Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.
The Awful World of Champagne Producers’ Websites
Here at robersonwine.com we spend a lot of time trying to make using our site as pleasingly straightforward as possible. But ours is not the only way. Across the Channel the French have turned the style-is-all website into a fine art. And the crème de la crème of these Masters of Flash are the Champagne houses. To visit the website of a Champagne producer is to enter a virtual world where any semblance of helpfulness or functionality has been mercilessly repressed in the name of that elusive continental quality: ‘flair’. You may go in thinking, ‘I’ll just check the alcohol content of the Brut Reserve for this brochure I’m making – shouldn’t be more than a minute’, but you will come out (usually many hours later) with the intense online experience that only a ‘luxury brand’ can provide seared into your brain forever. If you’re an aspiring Champagne producer looking to build a website to compete with the best, you may be wondering where on earth to start. Well never fear, you’ve come to the right place. I have selflessly spent many hours studying the work of the webmasters of Champagne and have distilled their art down into five simple principles. Stick to these and you’ll be well on your way to harnessing the raw power of flair. 1. Flash – The Only Language Worth Understanding In much the same way that French is obviously the world’s first language but also needs a committee to protect it from Anglicization, Flash is the best and only option for the flair-focused webmaster. Any mention of HTML 5 and the like should be stubbornly ignored. Remember that just because things move on, it doesn’t mean you can’t put a little fence around the old thing and pretend it’s not happening. 2. If it Works, Fix It Flair is fun, and you’ll want to make sure your site is packed with little tricks to make the user experience more interesting. Thinking of starting with a five minute Flash intro (if you aren’t, you should be), then why not add a little ‘skip intro’ button that appears halfway through but doesn’t work? Or better yet, have it start the whole process again. Hilarious! Remember the golden rule: if it works, you’re probably not paying enough attention to style and your flair factor will suffer. 3. It’s Better with Music While we’re at it, a word about music. Who doesn’t like music? No one, that’s who. As long as it’s loud and you can’t turn it off without ripping the plug socket out of the wall in desperation, it’s extra flair points, so go for it. 4. Absolutely No Children Champagne websites are for adults only. This cannot be stressed enough. There is a real danger that, should a minor gain access, they will be driven insane by the confusing design and transformed into a violent alcoholic. Fortunately, anybody under the age of 18 who wants to waste the precious days of their youth trying to browse a website that looks as though it’s channelling Donald Trump in a beret is obviously too stupid to tick the box confirming that they are old enough to do so. But just to be on the safe side, it’s as well to make the age verification process as tiresome as possible, with separate drop-down boxes for each digit and a list of countries including things like ‘England’ filed under ‘U’. 5. The Customer is Always Wrong People may think they are visiting your website to discover a certain piece of information, but what do they know? What they really want is to be taken on a journey, a virtual experience that embodies the luxury nature of your brand. Accordingly, don’t just stick in a menu with headings like ‘Our Wines’, ‘About Us’, and so on. Where’s the mystery in that? Instead, use words that don’t really mean anything, like ‘Essence’ or ‘Vague’. Whatever you do, you must make sure you hide all the links inside a giant image. There is nothing the user subconsciously craves more than the opportunity to move their mouse around a virtual Rococo palace, waiting for something to jump out that they can click on like a Whac-A-Mole, in the hope that one of them will somehow turn out to be what they were looking for (although of course you will have made sure it won’t be, in line with point 2 above). Work on the French language, all Flash version of robersonwine.com has not yet commenced.
Controversy in Cult California
Better late than never, I thought I’d post links to some excellent articles covering our recent tasting of Cult Californian wines on the 1st of March. Both Jamie Goode on Wine Anorak and over on his blog and Richard Hemming on Jancis Robinson’s site agree it was an interesting tasting, but, as you might expect, some of the world’s most expensive, controversial wines provoked some decidedly different reactions. In particular, Sine Qua Non’s 2006 ‘A Shot in the Dark’ divided opinion. This is a perfect wine (100 points) according to Robert Parker, who said of it: ‘…this prodigious red exhibits incredibly velvety tannins, a seamless style, and no noticeable oak (which is remarkable given the fact it spent 32 months in barrel). Dense purple to the rim with an extraordinary perfume of blueberry pie, blackberries, soy, Asian spices, and hints of forest floor and charcoal, this is a complex, rich, seamless, well-balanced tour de force in winemaking. A full-bodied, exuberant, unabashedly California Syrah, it will offer stunning drinking over the next 10-15+ years.’ It was last retailing here at £485 a bottle. At our tasting, the room was split, with some sharing Parker’s enthusiasm and others expressing similarly strong views in the opposite direction. Jamie Goode’s take on it couldn’t have been more different from Parker’s: ‘For me it was the worst wine of the night: over-ripe, and with an unpleasant roast coffee overtone…I think this is actually a poor wine. It’s not because of the ripeness and alcohol alone, because – after all – I love many Ports which are extremely ripe and have 20% alcohol. It’s because of the balance (it lacks it), the dead fruit (it’s just lacking definition), and the roast coffee character (it tastes like coffee Pinotage, which is OK if you like that sort of thing, and readily available at around £6 a bottle).’ A fascinating difference of opinion which serves to remind us of why we at least conduct our tastings – not to form a conclusive judgment on a wine but to share, discuss, question and enjoy wines we would normally have to take somebody else’s word for. Read more about this tasting by downloading the tasting brochure from the night.
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