I have just returned from an amazing trip to Mendoza, Argentina’s most famous wine region. Stunning vineyards framed by magnificent mountains, consistently brilliant wines and inspirational people made for quite an experience (not to mention over consumption of beef and empanadas!).
The region is most famous for its Malbec grape and I tried an amazing variety of styles but all with a common thread of freshness making, what can be a dense and weighty grape, more alive, vibrant and thrilling.
However, Mendoza is not just Malbec! The other varietals I tried really stole the show for me.
On the white side, Torrontes was crisp and floral with non of that soapy character common in so many. Susana Balbo’s Crios label stood out for it’s freshness, zip and sheer drinkability and is now available with us.
Viognier made a showing at our visit to Atamisque under the Serbal label. It is a wonderful example with ripe stone fruit, lime citrus and red apple. It will be on by the glass in our Cargo branch closer to Christmas.
The Chardonnay’s under both Catalpa and Atamisque labels are serious and complex. Beautiful in weight, ripe fruit and integrated oak. Bang for buck easily better than much of the offering from classic Chardonnay regions.
For the reds, Cabernet Franc at every winery was astonishingly good. Great varietal character in each but eschewing that dominance of green notes for just a touch of herbs. We have one from Atamisque under the Serbal label.
Cabernet Sauvignon also shone. Gorgeous ripe cassis, finely structured with well integrated tannin, yet firm enough for that charred steak (and they were so good with our daily Asados!). From Lorca winery, Poetica has some age and is showing lovely development. Crios from Susana Balbo offers more vibrant fruit and red crunch.
Bonarda was the call of the day in a detour up to visit Cara Sur in Barreal, San Juan province. A tiny project from Sebastian and Marce Zuccardi and close friends Nuria and Pancho taking grapes from ancient vineyard plots and fermenting in concrete eggs in Nuria and Pancho’s garage. The result is the best Bonarda I have tried, chewy black fruits, herbaceous and pomegranate freshness. They also make an intriguing Moscatel Tinto in demijohns! Not like any other red I’ve tried with it’s exotic floral notes, you definitely need to give this a go.
On our final day blends were the focus. We visited Bodegas Bengals with their ancient vines in impossibly beautiful vineyard settings.
From this visit we have listed three of their blends going up in depth, complexity and price!
Don Tiburico is 50% Malbec together with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot and aged for 12 months in French oak. Red and black fruits are laced with vanilla, clove and cocoa. This will also be in by the glass in Cargo closer to Christmas.
Finca Libertad is more or less equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and aged for 18 months in French oak. It has a smoky, toasty note and ripe black cherry and red pepper. Dense, silky and long.
Benegas Lynch Meritage is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon together with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, a selection of the best grapes, aged in barrel for 18 months and then 5 years in bottle. This is stunning. Powerful yet elegant, beautiful in structure, ripe cassis and plum, touch mint and incredible long finish.
Overall this was the most incredible and informative trip for me and I hope we now have a selection of diverse, fascinating and ultimately utterly tasty wines for you to buy.
Wines By the Glass served in 125ml measures
2016 A Mano 4.25
Ripe stone fruit, crunch of apple and floral notes
2015 Pinot Blanc, Mittnacht 4.75
Beautiful purity of fruit, some weight yet fresh
2015 Antonio, Casal Figueira 6.00
Amazing wine from the Vital variety, dry honey and lemon rind
2013 Feitoria Tinto 4.25
Bright and vibrant with juicy berries and a touch of herbs
2016 Wien 2, Pfaffl 4.75
Lovely blend of Zweigelt & Pinot Noir, soft yet structured, red cherry and blackberry
2015 Latour de Gres, Pouderoux 5.75
Carignan with some Syrah and Mourvedre, deep and silky, rich dark fruits
2015 Gossip, di Lenardo 5.00
Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy
Crisp and dry with notes of dried fruit, rose and almonds
Le Dolci Colline Prosecco Spumante Brut (200ml bottle) 5.00
Venezia Giulia, Italy
Light and Creamy with delicate notes of lemon citrus, apple and peach
SherryPort served in 100ml
Fino, Colosia – 4.00
Oloroso, Lustau – 5.00
White Port, Niepoort – 4.50
Options to open any bottle – £6 corkage
A large range of beers – £1 corkage
A range of spirits
Nibbles: Crisps – 70p – Pork Scratchings 2.09
In the North West corner of Spain lies the magical land of Galicia. Green and rugged it is a beautiful mix of mountains, rivers, rolling hills and a stunning coastline.
As breathtaking is the scenery, so are the wines. We have just returned from a tour across the region taking in Rais Biaxas, Ribeiro, Ribeiro Sacra and Valdeorras visiting the tiny artisinal producers that lavish our shelves and represent so much of what Galicia is about.
Albarino is most well known variety of Galicia and key to the Rias Biaxas region. Trico was our first stop, a four plot domain specializing in Albarino with a capacity to age. From 2009 vintage to the 2015 we tasted through citrus, apple, tropical, saline, mineral, honey and beeswax in these beautifully structured and lengthy wines.
Our other Albarino hails from large terraced vineyards on the banks of the Minho river, Quinta de la Erre. Whilst their Albarino is sold young they are also protagonists of aging Albarino and tasting back through four vintages shows just how this grape develops much more weight and complexity with age.
The idea of ageing Albarino is alien to many consumers and other winemakers in the region but with good vineyard practice low yield and minimum intervention in the winery wonders can happen.
With the climate in the region producing much rain and humidity another alien practice is biodynamics. Luckily there are always crazy individuals ready to challenge what many think is impossible and create something stunning. In the Ribeiro region we visited two such individuals. Bernardo has a variety of plots on terraces steep up the hillside. A mix of 30 or so varieties, we lost count whilst trying. He follows a mix off biodynamic practice with the ethos of permaculture. Making the wine in his garage with absolutely astonishing results.
Chan se Lus Blanco 2015 is textured with perfumed layers of peach, apricot, nettle and dry honey – just stunning!
The 2015 Tinto is bottled with no sulphur and is an extraordinary wine, vibrant and spiky at first, settling in the glass quickly with amazing depth and elegance.
Look out for these in the near future.
Juan tends his grandmothers old vineyard at the side of the house he now lives in. Beautiful pergolas of Brancelleo, Caina Longo, Souson and Espedeiro provide cover for the chickens to run under. Again, a protagonist of biodynamics and minimal intervention, Juan is challenging the boundaries of what can be produced in this region with stunning results, His wine As Furnias is funky yet elegant with gorgeous depth of gentle bramble, figs and plums. The 2015 will be arriving with us very soon.
This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the wines of Bioca in Valdeorras. This domain is the retirement passion of Maria Teresa and Celestino Naveira. The winery is nestled in an ampitheatre their Godello grapes looking out to the slopes of Mencia. They were the only winery we visited to have picked and the juice sitting in the tanks ready for fermentation was beautifully vibrant and zesty. Over a long lunch we had the 2016 Godello that had a weight of stone fruit balanced by lime zest and a saline edge, brilliant. It was paired with a local aged and tangy sheep’s cheese and the match was perfect. We continued with the 2015 Mencia which is juicy bramble laced with herbs and spice – a superb accompaniment to a lush shoulder of pork. Needless to say we didn’t want to leave.
Not long ago, Portugal was only known for its beautifully crafted fortified wines (Ports) and less so for the easy, quaffable white wines of the north (Minho) or juicy reds of the Dao, Bairrada or the Alentejo. Nowadays this has been rectified, most of wine drinkers having met with the delicious Vinho Verde or similar white wines of the Minho and neighbouring Douro valley. With indigenous grape varieties that abound in the Portuguese vineyards there are certainly some great examples to try, and today we are focusing on 3 summery, fresh , inviting wines that you’ll love to try.
First comes from Minho, the greater area in the north of the Douro that encompasses the Vinho Verde too.
Leira Seca, Fernando da Rosa 2016 is a beautifully crafted blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura, crisp and balanced citrussy notes with a warm stone fruit feel on the nose , approaching the palate with gorgeous ripe fruit and continuing with a lemony vibe that just springs Summer into mind. Paired with some seafood risotto and it will make your day!
The second wine we thought about today is the well known Vinho Verde , but today there are so many to choose from, luckily we have a pretty special example in Clip, Vinho Verde 2015 which is a 100% Loureiro wine. This grape variety, although found in many Vinho Verde examples, is seldom seen on its own, so it is no surprise that the flavour is bolder, richer, full of melon, touch of grapefruit and bursting with a citrus oil that keeps bringing you to try more. Both the nose and the palate are dominated by the ripe melon feel and it does not disappoint on the freshness level too. Less spritzy than its “greener” cousins, a delight it is nonetheless ! Pair this with your garden, sunshine provided!
The third and final suggestion is coming from revered Douro, where once only Port was the master, now there is plenty of room for more of the local, sometimes obscure grape varieties that grow together , fighting for every sand , stone and drop of water on the steep slopes of the valley.
Quinta de la Rosa, La Rosa Reserva 2015 is a craft of the land, the demanding castas (grapes) and the rewarding winemaker. A blend of mainly Viosinho, accompanied by Rabigato, Arinto and Gouveio alongside many other white varieties it brings to nose flavours of white blossom, pear, fragrant apple, green herb and a juicy lemony spritz. More body than the previous two but with lots of freshness, derived also from its mineral core, it continues on the palate with juicy pear and stone fruit, enveloped in an almost spicy citrus blend and green herb. Textured and fresh in the same time, it is a rewarding example to any kind of dish that is aromatic but also requires both body and freshness. Have this one paired with grilled Mozambique gambas (large prawns, from a once colony of Portugal) !
Enjoy the summer days while they last, come in and help yourselves with these gorgeous wines!
Last night we indulged (alongside our customers) into a superb tasting hosted at The Kensington Arms, Redland featuring some fantastic wines from Quinta do Vale Meao.The tasting was presented by Francisco Javier de Olazabal , winemaker at this esteemed estate that sits atop a granite outcrop in the Douro Superior region of Portugal.
We started the evening with a vertical tasting of 3 vintages of the Quinta do Vale Meao , 2002, 2007 and 2012. Jumping 5 years apart , the wines showed not only the potential of aging such beautifully crafted wine but also the minute differences in how the field blends were selected. The 2007 vintage was yours truly’s favourite, showing some great elements of the Douro reds (spicy and minty dark cherry and bramble ) alongside game, leather, pepper and a good solid structure. 2002 was the more developed vintage, showing some exquisite soft tannin and a very vibrant fresh fruit, still a young wine I would say, capable of aging much more. The 2012 was a rich and full bodied , still young vintage that was just peeking through the vibrant tannin and fruit structure.
Following up to the vertical tasting we had a food and wine pairing that featured Meandro Branco, a fresh and juicy white Douro style with 2 distinct vineyards blended, one planted with Arinto and the other with Rabigato. This was paired with a starter of Beetroot Cured Salmon and Salmon Mousse, and it proved to be a great match. The main course of Braised Short Rib, Onion and Carrot was accompanied by 2 different reds , Meandro Tinto, a typical Douro red with a much younger vine in its makeup, showing lots of freshness, red cherry fruit and velvety tannin (this was served slightly chilled) and also Monte Meao, a single vineyard and single grape variety (Touriga National ), style, that was elegant, poised, mineral and full to the brim of the classic dark cherry and mulberry with a hint of mint that Touriga is known for. The eagerly awaited dessert was accompanied by Vale de Meao 2001 Vintage Port, served around the table in a typical portuguese manner, where each participant would pour for themselves and then pass along the bottle/carafe. The Port was a stunner, aromatic, almost juicy but showing some great structure of fruit and spicy tones. A young Vintage port still, that can continue to develop for a couple of decades.
Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the tasting and we wish to thank Francisco, Raymond from RaymondReynolds and all the staff at The Kensington Arms for a wonderful evening !
Italy is a treasure trove for native and sometimes obscure grape varieties, although Trebbiano is not really obscure, it is certainly Italian. Trebbiano is also known as Ugni Blanc or Colombard in neighbouring France, where it is mostly used for creating the base wine for Cognac and Armagnac, with little presence as a wine varietal in Gascony and Pays D’Oc.
In it’s ancestral home, Italy, Trebbiano is grown for the great yield it possesses, though some producers, using active pruning and methods that keep the vine output at a consistent level, have managed to bring out the best from this workhorse grape variety. We have always stocked a few examples of it, mostly from Italy, sometimes a regional French Colombard making its way to our shelves too.
Currently , our offering includes Trebbiano Rubicone, Vinvita, Italy , which is the example that has most freshness , starting off on the nose with clean, crisp lime and apple notes, continuing on the palate with a fresh citrus balanced by a touch of apple and stone fruits. The finish is zesty, inviting the drinker continuously for another sip of this well balanced wine.
Another producer, Trebbiano D’Abruzzo, Caldora, Italy has chosen to go even further with the pruning in order to keep the yields lower, creating a slightly richer, juicier varietal, where persimmon fruit, pear and a touch of spicy lime intersperse on the nose. Palate is somewhat richer too, slightly creamy, showcasing the citrus fruit on a medium-long finish.A good pairing for white pasta and delicious with grilled oily fish.
The last example, one of my favourites, coming from sunny Sicily, Tendoni di Trebbiano, Centopassi, Italy is a completely different style than the previous two. Using very old vines, perhaps the oldest in central Sicily, and putting it to rest in barrels, creating a superb, slightly oxidative wine. Full of dried fruits and nutty notes, aromatic cooking herbs and honeyed truffle, releasing its pleasurable flavours layer upon layer. Quite rich on the palate, it delivers a sherry like experience from a fresh, almost full fruity palate and finishing off with a bold nutty edge. Walnuts, almonds, pecan and even a touch of smoke all create an everlasting finish. Have this one with smoked trout or some good Asiago and kalamata olives!
Visit our stores for these wines and we hope you enjoyed reading about them.
Earlier this week we were invited to host a tasting for the Bristol Wine Circle, a lovely group who meet frequently to share their passion for wine.
They tasked us to show them a range of ‘interesting wines’, always like a challenge!
First was to narrow this down to just ten. We choose all our wines for interest and purpose, however some are just a little more obscure and unusual. This is what we chose:
2015 Emmenz-moi Au Bout du Terret, Clos du Gravillas
Unusual to find a single varietal Terret Gris but here it is from the dynamic couple at Clos du Gravillas in the Cote du Brian, Languedoc. Dry, elegant and savoury, a perfect aperitif or partner to shellfish. Use as you would Muscadet.
2015 Reto, Ponce
Spain is such a fascinating wine producing country that we featured three wines from it. This Albillo de Albacete is the work of Juan Ponce in Manchuelo. Organic farming and minimal intervention add to complexity of this weighty, textured white with a nervy citrus edge.
2016 Gumpoldskirchner Tradition, Johanneshof Reinisch
Now into Austria, Thermenregion just south of Vienna and one of our favourite producers Johanneshof Reinisch. This is a terrific blend of Zierflander and Rotgifler, both native to this region and not really found elsewhere. A rich start of ripe fruit gives way to more honeyed and savoury notes with a dry finish. Great with rich, fatty foods.
2012 Ribolla Gialla, Ronchi di Cialla
Ribolla Gialla is an ancient variety found here in Friuli, NE Italy and across the border in Slovenia. I find it racing with acidity in youth but, with some age, the fruit fills out and perfume notes are enhanced. Stunning wine!
2014 Roussanne, Stolpman
This fickle variety can make some of the world’s most stunning wines however it is stubborn in the vineyard and winery so few are made! Here it is transported from it’s home in the Rhone Valley to the Central Coast of California with stunning results. The oak is beautifully balanced but ever present, layered with tropical, green apple and lime citrus fruit.
On to the reds…..
2015 Zweigelt, Johanneshof Reinisch
A crossing of Blaufrankisch and St Laurent by Fritz Zweigelt, this is Austria’s most planted red variety. It is a great introduction to this country’s wines capable of producing a wide range of styles. Here it is full of juicy, dark fruits, touch of spice and fine tannins, a very versatile wine.
2015 Adiado, Casal Figueira
Casteleo in it’s funkiest form! From the lovely Marta of Casal Figueira, a tiny estate in the hills of Lisbao producing this brilliant and an outstanding white Vital. Expect crunch, herbs and farmyard!
2014 7 Fuentes, Suertes del Marques
We are now whisked off to the island of Tenerife to taste the native Listran Negro blended with a touch of Tintilla (Trousseau) cultivated on volcanic soils. Deep brooding fruit with a touch of smoke!
2010 Schioppettino, Ronchi di Cialla
Once thought to be extinct, Paolo and Dina from Ronchi di Cialla fought for the recognition of this ancient variety from Fruili. Thank goodness they did, it is just wonderful in a delicate and elegant way. Light cherries and truffle, mushroom and perfumed violet.
2014 T. Amarela, Envinate
Tinta Amarela or Trincadeira to give it it’s proper name is native Portuguese and usually found there. This little beauty, however, hails from a tiny vineyard plot just over the border in Extremadura, Spain. Wonderfully perfumed nose leads to a dense yet vibrant palate that is layered and long. Only a few hundred bottles made, be sure to grab one whilst you can (and before we do!).
All these wines are produced organically or biodynamically with minimal intervention in the winery. It is not why we chose them, even though they are practices we believe are important, we chose them because they taste damn fine!
Wednesday 10th May – 7.30pm
The Kensington Arms, 35-37 Stanley Road, BS6 6NP
In the upper reaches of the Douro Valley, on the rivers most dramatic meander, sits an iconic estate.
Quinta do Vale de Meao produces some of the world’s most stylish wines
from its rugged surroundings.
Bought and established by the legendary lady of Port, Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira,
in 1877, it has been the stage for many pioneering feats of winemaking and viticulture in the Douro.
It is now the 6th generation of the family, Xito Olazabal, that will be with us to host the tasting.
He will feature 3 vintages of the Quinta do Vale Meao legendary estate wine
together with his Meandro and Monte Meao wines.
A three course dinner from the fabulous team at The Kensington Arms will be served alongside.
This is a truly exciting opportunity try these most sought after wines.
Reservation is by payment prior to the event at;
Cotham 0117 973 1620; North Street 0117 963 3331: Cargo 0117 302 0038
DISTINCTIVE TASTE OF SPAIN
Wednesday 29th March – 7.30pm
The Kensington Arms, 35-37 Stanley Road, BS6 6NP
Based in the Gredos Mountains, west of Madrid, Daniel Ramos is utilising Garnacha with some astonishing results.
He’s brought to life abandoned vineyards; combines ancient and modern winemaking techniques and makes wines with minimal intervention.
Thus giving his wines multiple threads of flavour and amazing depth.
It is an honour to have Daniel here to host the evening and the team at the Kensington Arms (recently included in the Top 50 Gastropub Awards) have created a tasting menu to compliment these extraordinary wines.
Spain is producing such exciting and distinctive wine at present, especially from this part of the country.
This is a great opportunity to try it at its best!
Reservation is by payment prior to the event at;
Cotham 0117 973 1620; North Street 0117 963 3331: Cargo 0117 302 0038
Since Roman times, Madrid and its mountainous surroundings have been cultivated with grapes. The climate is continental, quite hot summers, equally cold winters and it is this stressful succession of seasons that makes the area a good spot for wine grape-growing. The growers here adapted to these slightly harsher conditions by bringing in the sturdy Garnacha, the lesser known Albillo or the ubiquitous Tempranillo, Airen and even the Syrah. The key to success here is altitude and soil. Enough height so that the hot summers get that cool breeze, good heat retention in the soil so that the cold nights give some warmth back to the vines.
We recently got on our shelves a few of the wines from this up and coming area , and would love for you to try some. The white, Daniel Ramos, Albillo Real 2014 comes from the Serra de Gredos, high up in the mountains south of Madrid. It is hand harvested from 90 year old vines, macerated for 3 days and then naturally fermented in french oak barrels. Rich and slight funky, retains a lovely balance of acidity and fruit to suit food matching but also to be drunk on its own. Lots of roasted white fruits, lemon preserve and a dry herb lingering through. Again from Daniel Ramos, Kappi Amphorae, Garnacha 2015 is harvested from 60 year old vines and then is traditionally fermented in very large clay amphorae, as probably the Romans did millennia ago.It goes through a very slow fermentation, which is key here in bringing out the flavors. The vibrant red & black forest fruits are complemented by a mixture of slight funky herbs, endemic spices and its complexity is only outmatched by the long, swirling finish. Daniel Gomez Jimenez-Landi,Las Uvas de la Ira,2014 is another stunning example from the Serra de Gredos, this one being harvested from parcels of old vine Garnacha at altitudes above 800m, a true mountain-climber. The Garnacha here is almost unrecognisable from the general characteristics of the grape. We get a beautiful, elegant wine, full of roasty red fruits, aromatic yet still subdued, complex yet direct and complemented by a just right acidity. There is still a slight rusticity, perhaps it comes with the terroir of the region, but its elegance is providing you with an almost sinful experience (of finishing the bottle in one go ). Last but not least, we have Bodega Maranones, Treintamil Maravedies, 2014 . This stunning example of Garnacha (90%) and a few other local varieties is coming through with a bold red & bramble fruit, rustic elements of spice and an aromatic herb reminiscent of the kitchens in Roman times. With a backbone of vibrant acidity and a somewhat elegant finish, it will match a great variety of meat platters or even something like a rich paella.
We recommend these wines wholeheartedly , bringing with them the flavors and even textures of perhaps millennia ago.
Come in and chat with us about them at any point in our shops .