Birichino Grenache Besson Vineyard 2013 Central Coast, California, USA Everything about this wine says 'you are in safe hands' apart from the back label that is a bag of unnecessary guff. That aside it looks great but unassuming with its screw cap and sketched landscape label. It is 100% old vine Grenache but still a relatively moderate 13.5% alcohol which means it is going to ooze juicy fruit but not set your brain on fire. This is the kind of Grenache I enjoy. Not too extracted, oaked or over-ripe. Juicy cherry and raspberry fruit and as it turns out does set my brain on fire. Not, however,with an attack of ethanol but via the route of being utterly delectable. Fruit. length and character. Like a flyweight with the punch of a heavyweight, it offers power but also a sex appeal that makes it one of the most delicious red wines I've encountered this year. September 2016
It is perhaps a decade now since I first came across the name Sean Thackrey. At the time, 'natural', non-interventionist wine-making seemed wacky and innovative - now it seems to be practically the norm. I recall an article that described how Thackrey would combat the wood-boring nasties that burrowed their way into his oak barrels by plugging the holes with toothpicks. This was captivatingly romantic stuff for a young wine enthusiast but did the juice taste any good? By heck it did. My first encounter with a bottle of Pleiades is one of my fondest wine memories. Grapey, and pure. Most wonderfully I didn't waste time considering grape variety, location, barrel treatment, no, none of that. Pleiades changes year on year and each year it has only one concern, being mind-bendingly delicious.
Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVII California, USA This is heavily Cabernety. Green pepper and blackcurrant. Vibrant and expressive. Depth. Balance. Class. September 2015
Sean Thackrey Pleiades XXII California, USA This is one of the Pinot orientated versions of this wine and it is utterly spellbinding. Coca-Cola, nail varnish remover, sweet cherry, wild strawberry. Totally alive and wild. Concentrated and bright. I could drink this forever and ever. September 2015
De Loach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 California, USA What a splendidly grand title for an entry-level bottling. Smart looking bottle too, but what does it taste like? This is extremely good news for a Pinot Noir at the cheaper end of the spectrum, particularly as it comes from the land of the free, home of the brave and source of some horribly overpriced wine. Purchased by Burgundy clan Jean-Claude Boisset in 2003 De Loach appear to have upped their game significantly since their Asda days. Earthy with cherry coke and raspberry fruit. Bright and cool. Smart Pinot, good value. September 2014
The old adage "Don't buy a book by it's cover" is, in my opinion, slightly flawed. After all, the job of the cover of a book is to give the potential reader a taste of what they may expect to discover inside, so to judge a book by it's cover is to be thoroughly expected. The same goes for wine. A carefully penned image of a grand Chateau; turrets, stone walls, perhaps a boat on a river and we know we are in for classic Bordeaux. On the other hand there is a moderately peculiar trend towards animal related labels. Mangy Dingo Shiraz, Ferrel Beaver Falanghina, the kind of thing that generally points the way to some sugared-up supermarket shelf hideousness. Labels on bottles of Pinot Noir from Burgundy tend to sneer at the consumer as if to say "Oui, I am from Burgundy. Try and understand me, if you dare!" which is perfect because that so often echoes the juice inside. Smart, graphic labels from Spain warn you to prepare yourself an attention grabbing modern-styled wine that when combined with a bottle that weighs a quartre of a tonne suggests that you may require a spoon to tackle the stuff and the have aspirin at the ready. Tall, slender bottles with lots of unpronounceable words like Klifftenbergenhoffspaugunder and you can be sure you are in the Teutonic embrace of the Mosel. All of which leads me onto this:
I don't know about you, but the extraordinary label slapped on this bottle of Chardonnay from Californian producer Au Bon Climat, suggests that one should prepare oneself for a serious mouth wallop. Lots and lots of oak, cream, butter, vanilla, a palate as thick as treacle, fat, opulent, flabby even, that sort of affair. But whilst it is very ripe of fruit, quite exotic, sporting a sunny personality that reflects it's origins, this juice retains a cool, crisp demeanour and a seriousness that belies the tear-inducing label. Hints of smoky oak, surprisingly restrained, tense even, the wood well-intergrated, leaving the palate subtle and nervy. Lemon fresh, with only a nod to more tropical fruit, leading up to a really quite classy, chalky finish. Quite the surprise. February 2014
As spring finally rears its happy head The Wine Badger, with all the originality of a drunken student staggering about campus in the middle of the night with a traffic cone on his head, thought he had better get his snout into some Rosé. But, what fine gems should The Badger taste? One of the great Provencal or Bandol based estates. Ott? Tempier? Perhaps an elegant Sancerre or a new world icon in the form of Charles Melton's Rose of Virginia or perhaps Turkey Flat's sexy pink from the Barossa Valley? Well, he could have done that, but the fact is that most British people seem to drink rose purely as a natural reaction to the spring sun finally appearing. Fat, tatooed, bald men start wearing shorts, when they really, really shouldn't as soon as the mercury hits 10 degrees and the streets swarm with delectable young fillies, thrust into their summer dresses from the straightjacket of winter, like the butterly from the bondage of its cocoon. It appears as if the uncorking of Rosé is all part of the ritual more than a demonstration of our love for the pink. I do not claim to hear many folk in the pub garden entering into a vigorous Siagnee versus blending debate as they throw back the Pinot Grigio blush. With this at the forefront of his mind The Badger put his reputation, not to mention the well-being of his taste buds, on the line by cracking into three of the big brands from the mighty USA.
The Echo Falls White Zinfandel 2011 is sourced from two seperate blocks of Biodynamically farmed Zinfandel with the addition of between 5-10% of old vine Grenache depending from the vintage. Yields are kept to an absolute minimum and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered or "This fruity rosé brings a feminine, cheeky charm to the table, making it the ideal accompaniment to girly get-togethers."
Echo Falls White Zinfandel NV 11% abc. Strawberry bootlace and Turkish delight aromas. Bubblegum and marshmallow too. Like drinking pink coloured Sirop de Gomme. April 2013
Blossom Hill white Zinfandel NV California, USA Robinsons Summer Fruits cordial. Boiled sweets. Insipid. Sugary. Cloying. April 2013
Gallo family Vineyard Grenache rose 2011 9.5% The most wine-like of the three. A bit of raspberry fruit and something quite medicinal. Strepsils. Quite sweet, but with acidity. April 2013
What a great grape Mourvedre is. Capable of producing intense, brooding, red wines as well as medium-bodied, juicy numbers. Also, fresh, fruit, dry pale rose and strawberry coloured/scented deeper, sweeter rose. And that's before one considers some of the truly sweet versions produced from its alias Monastrell in and around central Spain. Added to which it is wonderfully controversial. The 'Is it Brett? Is it terroir? Or the characteristic of the grape?' argument that surrounds the occasionally animalistic flavour profile of Mourvedre based wines will probably rage on forever. But whatever your take on this, from the funky, farmyard wines of Southern France to the fruit laced beauties of Australia and the sometimes rustic, warming wines of Jumilla, Yecla and Alicante in Spain, there is something for everyone. Then there's the Rhone, Bandol and Provence, just think of the great names associated with the grape; Tempier, Ott, Beaucastel! With The Gin ferret in town and armed with few couple of fine botts of Mourvedre we got thoroughly stuck in.
Domaines Ott Chateau Romassan Rouge 2005 Bandol France 60% Mourvèdre, 15% Cinsault, 15% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Wow. Aromas of a farm. Wet hay, manure spread on the fields and horse bottom. The fruit is largely hidden but blackurrant and cherry flavours develop with time in the decanter. Not rustic, displaying a surpringly light touch, very drinkable but so very funky indeed. March 2013
Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre 1998 Barossa Valley, Australia From reputably the oldest Mourvedre vineyard in the world. Sweet raspberry fruit and cherry liquour. Lemon sherbet and sweet citrus zest. Soft and svelte in the mouth, some liquorice comes through on the palate which is sweet of fruit. Excellent length and whilst quite light an effortless concentration and depth of flavour that truly old vines seem to conjure up. Displays none of the funky aromas oft associated with Mourvedre, just a lingering note of aged leather. Quite captivating. March 2013
Cline Cellars Small Berry Mourvedre 1999 California, USA The fruit for this wine comes from a single acre of 100 year old Mourverdre vines. An absolute blast of menthol and eucalyptus tears at your olfactory senses. There's liquroice and dark, sweet plum fruit wrapped up in this absolute delight of a wine too. Probably at the peak of its powers, the tannins are polished by time and the acidity fresh. March 2013
Telmo Rodriguez Al Muvedre 2010 Alicante, Spain Earth and underbrush, the fruit is quite jammy but the wine does not suffer for it. Quite rustic, good depth of dark berry flavour with a quite pronounced note of clove. March 2013
Last weekend The Wine Badger celebrated his and Mrs. Badger wedding anniversary by scampering off for a weekend away to one of the South East's prettiest fishing villages, Rye. Unsurprisingly fine wines were quaffed and tasty dishes guzzled as we revelled in the freedom of a couple of days away from the two Badger cubs. The first night we dined at The George Grill and, always on the look out for a wine list error, The Badger was immmediately confronted by a little gem. UK wine merchant Roberson are currently offering Ridge Geyserville 2008 at £36.95 and there it was on a restaurant wine list (in a hotel too) at a paltry £40. Not cheap, I grant you, but keeping in mind the occasion and the lack of hefty mark-up that had been afforded the rest of the wines on the list it was impossible for The Wine Badger to keep his grubby paws off it.
Ridge Geyserville 2008 California, USA Liquorice, sherbet dip. Sweet raspberry and dust. Intense, yet fresh on the palate. Sweet cherry, a little boozy, but so, so soft. Chocolate. Excellent concentration. Long, but requires better grip. A naughty treat. October 2012