Friday, 31 October 2008

Sud de France 'Festive Wines' Tasting in London

Two days in London this week at the Maison Languedoc Roussillon in Cavendish Square. This is a relatively new venue (opened in June). And it is the 'window' in Central London for food and wine from the South of France. It is a great place and hopefully we can host some interesting wine tastings during 2009.
I was involved in organising a 'Festive Wines' event. We had some fascinating sparkling wines from Limoux...the first place to make sparkling wine in France. It was a good opportunity to try a selection of these wines from large and small growers. The Domaine Antech Cuvee 'Doux et Fruite' 2007 (Blanquette de Limoux) was amazing. It is a sparkling wine made in the 'Methode Ancestrale', which means that the first fermentation is stopped by chilling the juice and left on lees during the cold winter months. The secondary fermentation is then started in the Spring with the addition of yeast. It seems a very natural way to produce a wine..working with the seasons. However as Francoise Antech-Gazeau said, it is a very difficult process to manage and also to maintain the stability of the juice without letting rogue yeasts start an uncontrolled fermentation!
The wine was made from Mauzac grapes, which is virtually unique to Limoux and small areas of Gaillac. It is a tricky grape to grow and vinify as it is prone to oxidise easily and loose the flavours. This wine was an amazing medium sweet sparkling wine with a clear 'green apple' fresh style, but also with a depth and slight biscuit richness. The pleasant shock for me was the alcohol level at 6%. This was a very good wine and certainly one that I will be buying for Christmas. A very good aperitif wine.

The other sparkling wine that really stood out was the Chateau Rives-Blanques, Blanquette de Limoux 2006. This was a totally different style. A really classy wine made from 90% Mauzac and 5% each Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The wine had an excellent mousse and medium biscuity rich nose. However the palate was defined by its elegance and the perfect balance between tight structured acidity and beautiful rich harmonious fruit. A wine that is very good value from this well run wine estate that adheres to sustained agriculture principals.

There were some interesting dessert wines from mainly muscat grapes (but also Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Ugni Blanc) and then there was a great selection of older and amazing Vin Doux Naturels. These are fortified wines mainly from the Roussillon area near Perpignan. The key grape varieties being Grenache Noir, Carignan and Maccabeu.
I adore the 1969 Mas Amiel, Maury, which is a great example of a perfectly balanced aged Maury wine. I always think of this wine being a cross of old Madeira and aged tawny port....but it is unique. This is ideal for an unusual gift for someone who is 40 years old next year!!!
But surely the most interesting wine at the tasting were the two older wines from Domaine de la Coume du Roy. It is not often that you get the chance to taste some wines from 1925 and 1932! Agnes Bachelet travelled over to London with her young son to show him the sights and for everyone to taste these incredible wines. The wines had lost their red/brown colour and were nearer to dark cognac colour. The nose on the 1932 Maury initially had evident alcohol and I thought that it might be a tricky wine to taste. However on the palate the wines really danced! The 1932 had a smooth rich caramel smooth texture and still lively acidity. Whilst the 1925 seemed perfect. The wine had a smoother nose and an excellent balance of rounded creamy textured caramel palate. This wine lasted for a long time on the palate and exudes class.
These wines are still ageing in large oak barrels. Agnes draws off a small amount for bottling whenever she needs some stock!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Languedoc Versus Bordeaux at Vin Neuf

I recently did a wine tasting at a very good wine merchants called Vin Neuf Wines in Stratford upon We selected some smart Languedoc wines and compared them to some smart Bordeaux wines. The Languedoc wines ranged in price from £5-£12, whilst the Bordeaux wines were £12-£30.
There is no doubt we are in a financially 'interesting' time in the UK after various stockmarket collapses and bank failures and impending doom and gloom. So guess which wines were the most popular????????????
Yes, the Bordeaux wines.
Undoubtedly the wines were very good, however I think that there is a stronger message that even in hard financial times people generally look for quality wines that they know about and understand rather than exploring slightly lesser known areas such as Languedoc.
The customers were generally knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but I was slightly shocked(and happy) about the support and resulting sales for the higher priced wines.
Here are the wines that we tasted:
from Languedoc...
Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier 2007 £6.99
Domaine La Prade Mari Carignan 2007 £5.49
Element Syrah Cabernet 2007 £5.99
Domaine La Prade Mari 'Conte des Garrigues' 2005 £12.50

from Bordeaux....
Chateau Haut Ballet 2005, Canon Fronsac £14.00
Chateau Haut Maurac 2003, Cru Bourgeois Medoc £12.95
Chateau Jean Faure 2005, St.Emilion Grand Cru £29.50
and as a bit of an oddity/novelty:
Mas Amiel 10 year Old Maury £19.95

It should be an interesting if challenging Christmas sales period ahead!!!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Autumn Vines

Fantastic colours in the vineyards. Every small area of vines seems to be a different shade of green, yellow, golden, brown.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


We live just outside an amazing village called Aigne in the Minervois. The Church is at the centre of the village and the houses are built in a snail shape around the Church ...originally to defend the Church.
1000 years of history.
Nothing seems to change around here. It has a humble charm and very slow pace of life.
The frenetic energy of the grape harvest has just come to an end. And now the vineyards are filled with men in bright orange jackets proudly holding their rifles. Yes 'La Chasse' has started.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Chateau Jean Faure 2005...Buy Now

This is a great write up in the November edition of Decanter magazine.
If the words are hard to see on the left...

''Top drawer St.Emilion. This has silky tannins,classic Merlot notes of ripe cherries and cedar plus subtle oak. It's fresh elegant and restrained with a long, promising finish: a wine that's testament to a great vintage.
2008-2018. Stockist Bla'' (Bella Wines)

If you want a case or two of this fantastic St.Emilion then email me straight away:

Friday, 10 October 2008


How cool is it to be 5 years old?
To quote Jasper....'How much chocolate do you think I will be able to eat at my birthday party?'

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Harvest 2008 in the Minervois

This is Mr Zen checking the sugar levels and alcohol levels on his Syrah....helped by his co workers! Unfortunately it has been a tough year for growers in the Minervois. Yields are significantly lower due to many reasons. The over riding problem is the on going drought (3 years now). However the weather has also been a bit patchy....Spring was cold and dull, so bud burst and flowering were not perfect. Summer was also a bit up and down. Mildew seemed to be a major problem in the lots of relatively expensive and time consuming spray treatments were necessary(mostly Sulphur and Bordeaux mixture). The late Summer and early Autumn season was OK with good average temperatures.
However sporadic and isolated hail storms effected some vineyards in the higher parts of the Minervois. We visited and tasted the grapes in many different vineyards throughout the area during harvest time. The grapes physically seemed smaller and the skins were denser due to the drought. The juice will be highly concentrated and in general terms it is no bad thing for the Languedoc area to produce less wine. The harvest is gradually finishing now....whilst Bordeaux is just starting! I will be tasting post fermented juice over the coming weeks and also the first 'Primeur' wines to get a handle of the quality and style of this vintage...we shall see!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Fantastic wines at Mas Amiel

Zoomed down to Mas Amiel wine estate to collect a few orders and taste some of their recent wines. These guys are making some seriously good wines. The soils are very minerally and schist based. The wine estate lies in the picturesque higher parts of the Valley d'Agly just inland from Perpignan. The vineyards are within the Maury appellation, which is essentially the area where the recent Channel 4 TV program Chateau Monty was filmed.
This area has a fabulous reputation for the Vin Doux Naturel wines (VdN's). The Mas Amiel wine estate also have a unique system of ageing their dessert wines in glass demi johns outside in an area that is exposed to excessive heat and all the elements of the weather. This produces wines that have a rancio, madeira, tawny port type character.....but they are unique! They will make a real difference on the Christmas table this year. The Mas Amiel Vintage Red is also fantastic paired with of the few wines that stands up to cocoa.

I love visiting this area of the Roussillon. It is wild and windy with fantastic views of the Pyrenees and also it is easy to make a small detour to the great beaches.......I took the boys to have a run at La Franqui.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Logan Wines

Look at to see the new label designs for these wines.

One of the frustrating realities of the wine business is that we deal with a physical living juice that usually sits in a heavy glass bottle whilst being transported around the place. As yet you can not fax or email wine (but I am sure it will happen soon!!).
I love the wines from Australia and I have worked for ten years, with a superb dedicated producer making interesting wines from a slightly lesser known,but up and coming area called Orange in New South Wales. However it takes over two months to ship these stunning wines from Sydney harbour to London docks, and then another frustrating week for the customs and local carriers to deliver to the Bella Wines bonded warehouse.
That's enough ranting......the wines are certainly worth waiting for.......
In the latest shipping container we have received:

Logan Cuvee M 2006 Sparkling £16.75 including vat per bottle.
This is the fizz. Peter Logan made this wine for his late father Mal.....who was certainly a sparkling character! The wine is a classy blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (the main Champagne grape varieties). 16 months ageing on lees adds an extra richness to a delicious fizz.

Logan Sauvignon Blanc 2008 £10.95
This is a fantastic expression of cool climate wine making. The wine is more grapefruit and passion fruit than zingy nettles and gooseberries, so it is more of a foody wine. But you can indulge on its own too. Peter Logan reckons this is his best Sauv Blanc so far but he would say that.

Logan Hannah Rose 2008 £10.95
Peter Logan makes this wine for his beautiful wife Hannah. A fascinating blend of 80%Shiraz and 20% Pinot Noir. Short (6 hours) skin contact and then delicate handling of the juice has created a very well balanced and pure deep rose wine.

Logan Cabernet Merlot 2005 £12.95
I adore this concentration of cassis flavors on this wine. The deep fruit is in superb balance with the richness of oak ageing. A wine to savour now, but also to lay down for a couple of years.

Logan Shiraz 2006 £12.95
Quality cool style Shiraz benefiting from 16 months ageing in French and Hungarian oak barrels. We have very limited quantities of this please reserve stock now.

Weemala Pinot Gris 2008
all priced at £8.99 per bottle.
Weemala Riesling 2008
Weemala Gewurztraminer 2008
Weemala Pinot Noir 2007
Weemala Shiraz Viognier 200
This range was created to reflect cool grapes from a cool climate. The aromatic varietals seem to flourish better and show more delicacy in the Orange region. The Riesling has always been fantastic. Peter Logan takes his inspiration from Rheingau German riesling...more concentration on delicate mineral styles ...rather than standard over citrus and petrol style Australian style Riesling. The Pinot Noir is a concentrated cherry style from a drought effected vintage. It is a charming easy wine.

Apple Tree Flat Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008 all priced at £7.50 per bottle
Apple Tree Flat Chardonnay 2006
Apple Tree Flat Shiraz 2006
Apple Tree Flat Merlot 2006
The Logan family have a stunning Cellar Door visitor centre and tasting room in the Mudgee area next to the Apple Tree Flat vineyards. These wines are great value and good easy drinking expressions of the area.

The Logan website is very useful for more detailed tasting notes and technical winemaking background.
These wines are available through a selection of quality wine merchants in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Please contact us directly at for details of the nearest stockist.