Archives for Wine

Armenian Wine

I was first introduced to Armenian wines a few years ago by Charles Masraff who, this spring, will be hosting a wine dinner at Condita Restaurant in Edinburgh on Thursday 21st March showcasing Armenian wines. Having become a fan of Lebanese wines since first drinking Chateau Musar back in the 1980’s, I can’t believe that Armenian wines have managed to not come onto my radar until so recently. With recent discoveries by an international archaeological team of the Areni cave unearthing wine making vessels dated at close to 6100 years old, Armenia can justifiably claim to be the oldest wine-making
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Fonzone and Ferreri

I recently had the opportunity to introduce three friends, all wine merchants, to some Italian wines that have yet to make an appearance in this country. The range of wines were very diverse but the wineries all shared something in common and that was a commitment to making seriously good wines within the context of their respective frameworks of location, grape varieties and heritage. My particular interest in the wines that we were tasting was that they all had either organic credentials or inclinations. For now I will comment on the wines from the two wineries in the south of
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Aldo Rainoldi Nebbiolo Sassella

The landscape of Valtellina reminds me of bit of some quiet corner of Scotland; remote, under-populated, criss-crossed with dry stone walls, mountainous and snowy in winter. The vineyards here are certainly off the beaten track and the climate and landscape are not what I think of as typically Italian. Summers are warm but not hot and winters are very cold: perfect for making fine, cool-climate wine. There’s a large diurnal variation in daily temperature too which helps produce grapes with good acidity as well as stylish fruit. The local grape is Chiavennasca which, outside of the valley and throughout the
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Natural and bio-dynamic wine

I recently came across a book titled “The Historic Hotels of Scotland” written by Wendy Arnold and published in 1988. The guide profiled thirty hotels that the author regarded as Scotland’s finest in 1988. One of the hotels, the author commented, had a “selection of wines, said by many to be the best in the north of Scotland”. That hotel was The Clifton at Nairn. I worked there in the early 1980’s and the wine list was a role call of all the great wine estates of France and Germany of that time with vintages stretching back to the 1960’s.The
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Northern Spain: in search of food and wine part 2

Vega is a tiny hamlet on the coast, a few houses, sand dunes and the Atlantic. Gueyumar restaurant with just one spoon and fork in the Michelin Guide looks out onto the sand dunes. The place looks fairly unassuming and the giant fish bolted on the outside wall suggests that this place might be offerering something a bit light-hearted. However, the opening page of the wine list with around seventy different Champagnes gives warning that this place is actually pretty serious about what it does. The wine list is over six hundred wines strong. In contrast to the vast wine
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Northern Spain: in search of wine and food part 1

There were three ranks of smart, white taxis outside Madrid airport, perhaps twenty, maybe thirty cars and the one that we took was driven by an aspiring Jason Bourne. By the time we reached our hotel, the location of which, our Bruce Willis act-alike had absolutely no idea, we had managed enough U-turns, over-takes and last minute lane changes, to convince us that we’d earned a large glass of wine in a setting that was hopefully tranquil. The  Hotel Quinta de los Cedros did not disappoint and in the jasmine scented garden, with Albarino to hand, my nerves settled. In
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Walker Bay, Hemel-en-Aarde, Ataraxia

Breaking ranks from the herd and doing something unexpected is often regarded, initially, as a little mad or stupid. When Tim Hamilton Russell, an advertising executive, elected to plant a vineyard where no-one had thought to grow grapes before, it certainly raised a few eyebrows and caused heads to shake. Walker Bay, in 1975, where Tim chose to plant his vineyard was practically un-known for wine-making. Apart from a few rows of vines planted around the fishing village of Hermanus, to serve for some domestic wine-making, the area was off-radar. Hamilton Russell had literally gone right off the beaten track
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Vine Trail

With a view to finding interesting, new wines from off the beaten track to add to the wine list of one of my Scottish clients, I have turned my attention to a notable, specialist wine merchant down in the south of England. Vine Trail Ltd, of Bristol www.vinetrail.co.uk   Vine Trail style themselves as “specialist importers of French wines made by pioneering, small domains.” Music to my ears and needless to say many of those domains are either organic or biodynamic. Amongst Vine Trail’s clients are Pollen Street Social www.pollenstreetsocial.com , the Clove Club www.thecloveclub.com and plenty of other restaurants,
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Portuguese Wines on the High Street

The other week I went into Lidl who have just launched a new range of 36 wines for the summer. Lidl seems to ring the changes far more often than other supermarkets and I was encouraged by my first glance along the wine shelves. From there on in things only got better. Richard Bampfield is Lidl’s key wine buyer. He’s a Master of Wine and it is impossible to be more highly qualified. Since the Master of Wine exam started over fifty years ago there’s still well less than four hundred people across the World with this qualification. I first
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Franciacorta – Italy’s answer to Champagne

After discovering so many new grape varieties on my last trip to Portugal I was eager to see what new wines I could find when I headed out to Italy to do some research. Like Portugal, Italy has hundreds of grape varieties. For now let me mention just one wine and something that can be tracked down quite easily in the U.K. For a sparkling wine that has a quality level that puts it in competition with good Champagne search out a bottle of Franciacorta. This tiny wine region in northern Italy near lake Iseo makes classy sparkling wine from
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