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Seasonal Cellar Tasting Notes - March 2012

By Alastair Marshall, also posted in News on

The Adnams Seasonal Cellar – 12 great bottles of wine, often hidden gems, delivered free to your home every quarter. Sign up now and receive £30 off your first case which will arrive in June. As an added bonus you’ll receive 10% off any other online purchases whilst you are a member. Choose the case price that matches your budget and the mix that suits your taste (you can change this at any time once you are a member). Here is the introduction for March 2012′s Seasonal Cellar Club cases, courtesy of Senior Wine Buyer Alastair Marshall. This is followed by his tasting notes for the red and white wines included in the three different price brackets available. A new year has dawned, and the prospect and challenges of finding new and exciting wines for the three levels of mystery cases is under way. In fact it is never more than a week away, as we converge on the tasting room every Thursday in Southwold. Bottles arrive daily – some requested from tastings we may have visited abroad, and many arrive unannounced from hopeful vignerons and growers the world over, keen for their wines to get an airing with Adnams. Already this year, our palates have been introduced to hundreds of new wines, at Europe’s  most impressive organic wine fair in Montpellier, and also at the annual Loire catch-up in Angers. The charm of the former is that it is very democratically organised. Each of the 500+ growers has an eight-foot  trestle table upon which to fit in as many wines as he or she wants to have on tasting – and that’s it! No hoardings or banners, just a few leaflets and tons of unadulterated enthusiasm. Neighbouring exhibitors are rarely from the same appellation, and may have come from any one of thirteen different countries. A vinous tower of Babel, Barossa, Bekaa, Bulgaria, Bordeaux etc. but a rich source of interesting wines for your case. The charm of the Angers tasting, is that it is ALL Loire, so one can gear up one’s palate for Sauvignon one day, Chenin the next, and then maybe a flurry of Cabernets and Pinot Noir on the third. Given that 2011 has not been the easiest of vintages in the Loire, the good wines  from assiduous growers stood head and shoulders above the ‘also-rans’, where conditions might have been altogether tougher. Early February, and early days to be judging some of these wines, with their uncompromising  acidity, but I found some terrific wines which will certainly feature in future Seasonal Cellar cases – come the warmer months. This month’s offer has the usual diversity of wines and tastes on offer but, notably, a strong showing of South African wine. Perhaps it is, in part, an echo of the warm weather that they are currently enjoying that attracted me, but certainly it is the generous flavours that clinched it. Happy cork-pulling, and as ever, I look forward to hearing any comments you may have on the contents of your case. Yours sincerely, [caption id="attachment_3742" align="alignleft" width="100" caption="Alastair Marshall"]Alastair Marshall[/caption]      

£89 Seasonal Cellar Notes

The Reds

RO02 2011 Pinot Noir, Paparuda, Romania                        £5.50 Situated in western Romania, just to the east of the town of Timisoara, Cramele Reca? is a very impressive new winery on an old site. The Romans grew vines here, and records show that as far back as 1447 the Reca? vineyards were already renowned. Between 1722 and 1786, a steady stream of migrating Schwabens from Bavaria joined forces with the Romanians to build the foundations of what has become an established, quality wine-producing area. In the last 10 years, huge investments have seen the vineyards up-dated with 700 hectares (1680 acres) being replanted with the best vine stock from Italy and France. The grapes arrive at the super-modern winery which has been completely renewed with the best possible equipment for gently crushing, de-stemming, and pressing the grapes. The winery itself is a temple of stainless steel tanks, all with automatic temperature control systems for fermenting and storing the wine at the best possible temperature. Winemakers Hartley Smithers from Australia, and Spaniard Nora Iriate, between them, have worked fifty vintages. An international team, growing international grape varieties - extremely well, including a fun-sounding indigenous variety called Fuzz Ali. Maybe next time? We thought this Pinot was a classic, quaffing example, with its soft red fruits – think raspberries/strawberries, a touch of tell-tale Pinot pencil lead, pure and clean. Enjoy with veal, chicken, rabbit, or less fatty cuts of pork or beef. SR15 2010 Almuvèdre, Telmo Rodriguez, Alicante, Spain                    £6.75 Heir to Rioja's Remelluri estate, Telmo Rodriguez trained in Bordeaux and then gained practical winemaking experience at two top Rhône estates – that of Guigal and Chave. On returning to Spain, he set about improving the quality of his family's wines, but his wanderlust and entrepreneurial flair took him beyond the confines of Rioja, and his quest to create exciting, modern-styled wines saw him breathing new life into appellations like Rueda, Toro, Ribero del Duero, Bierzo etc. None of the famous, northern Spanish wine growing regions escaped his attention, and in addition to these, and very early on in his perambulatory quest to identify old vineyards in need of TLC, he discovered, in Alicante, some ancient Monastrel vines, better known as Mourvèdre in France, which perfectly suited his needs and appetite for a new challenge. From these Alicante vines, this smooth, lush-textured red was born, with rich blueberry and black cherry fruit, earthy notes and hints of pepper. This screams out for a Pot-au-feu – and don’t spare the garlic. FR67 2008 Open Now, Minervois, Hegarty Chamans, France                £7.99 Rustic and ‘funky’, this has bags of black fruit on the palate, with aromas of the wild scrub and herbs of the garrigue, exuding spicy Rhône-like warmth. Burgundian, gold medal-winning winemaker, Samuel Berger is the genius behind advertising mogul John Hegarty's Carcassonne estate, a state-of-the-art, environmentally -friendly amphitheatre of vines, facing the Montagne Noire in this untamed corner of the Languedoc-Roussillon. Organic cultivation and immaculately maintained cellars. He makes wines of great depth and character, like this barrel-aged blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Designed to accompany food, this goes supremely with grilled lamb chops with traditional amounts of rosemary. TA87 2010 Garnacha y Graciano, Rioja Vega, Spain                     £7.99 The history of Rioja Vega goes back to 1882 when Don Felipe Ugalde established a winery bearing his name, in Haro, in the heart of Rioja. In 1948, the Ugalde family became related by marriage to the Muerza tribe, another winemaking family of the neighbourhood. Both bodegas subsequently joined forces, establishing the production in San Adrián, under the name of Bodegas Muerza. Many years later, in 1983, the winery was acquired by Group Príncipe de Viana, with wineries and vines in both Navarra and Rioja, who set about modernising the winery and upgrading the vineyards. This is a delightfully juicy blend of Grenache – regarded as Navarra’s ‘signature’ variety, bringing sweet red fruit to the blend, and Graciano, one of Rioja’s top quality varieties, which is gradually losing ground to more commercial vines such as Merlot. Like Garnacha, it thrives in this hot, arid climate, and brings vivid colour and ‘warm’, purple fruit aromas to this blend, fulfilling the role that Petit Verdot does in the best clarets. Seventy, densely planted hectares of vines, on clay, chalk and pebbles, produces an abundance of small grapes, benefitting from an ameliorating Atlantic climate. Juicy red-currant/loganberry aromas with underlying plum and mulberry flavours. This is definitely one to accompany roast lamb. TA48 2009 Château Penin, Bordeaux Supérieur, France                £9.75 The Carteyron family have been making wine at this estate since 1854 and Patrick Carteyron is the fifth generation to take the forty hectares of vines in hand. The estate is fortunate to sit on soils that are basically composed of deep gravels and glacial deposits, which force the vines to work hard, sticking their roots down deep in search of water and nutrients, and in the process, delivering more complex flavours in the grapes. Enthusiasm for his subject-matter drives Patrick into making a simple Bordeaux Supérieur that punches well above its weight. As with so many wines at this level, it is important to let them breath, and we always recommend that you should decant them into a clean jug, then pour them back into the bottle at least an hour before drinking, releasing the aromas and softening the tannins. We would also suggest serving it a shade cooler than room temperature – it retains its elegance. Savoury aromas and good black fruit flavours – traditionally served with roast beef, or in austere times, slow-cooked braising steak. US27 2010 Zinfandel, Scotto Family Vineyards, Lodi, California                £9.99 The Scotto family hail from the island of Ischia in the bay of Naples. The first Scotto in the US, Dominic, worked as a caulker in the shipyards along America’s east coast, and made wine at home, having been taught by his father Salvatore. The wine making tradition has been passed down the generations to his grandson, Anthony Scotto III, who is the fifth generation to run the family wine business, along with his sister Natalie and brother Paul. Although they have vines of their own, the business is based on long-term contracts with growers, from whom they have been buying fruit for several generations. The grapes all come from around Lodi, in the heart of California wine production. Old vines lend concentration of brambly black fruit to this lively 2010 Zinfandel, which is drinking beautifully, with initial flavours of rich, ripe plums and dark chocolate, followed by vanilla and spice. The racy nose has Morello cherries and pepper with a hint of herbs. Delicious when paired with stews, roast duck or grilled meats.

The Whites

FW02 2011 Colombard, Producteurs Plaimont, Gascony, France            £5.75 This is a very well-established and old favourite of Adnams. We cannot quite recall which was the first ever vintage that we shipped from this progressive growers’ co-operative in Gascony, but we suspect it was possibly the 1982 or 1983. At that time, the cellars were marshalled by their inspirational director André Dubosc, who only officially retired three or four years ago, but still beards members of the Plaimont office staff at weekends in their boulangerie – keen as ever to know what’s going on at his winery! Historically, Colombard and Ugni Blanc were grape varieties that were only ever really used as the base wine for locally distilled Armagnac, but with the change in wine-making techniques – primarily the use of stainless steel and the ability to control the temperature of the fermentation - over-night, they were able to make Colombard into an extremely appetising, fresh and crisp dry white wine, with flavours of pears and green apples. At that time, thirty years ago, this was revolutionary, and a revelation. Very good as an aperitif, or with salad niçoise, or shell-fish. LW18 2010 Touraine Sauvignon, Paul Buisse, Loire, France                    £6.99 Paul Buisse has 15 hectares of vines close by the pretty town of Montrichard on the banks of the River Cher. He has established not only his own wine cellars, dug deep into the chalky cliffs, but has also developed a thriving negoçiant business, dealing in wines from all over the Loire Valley. The Sauvignon he makes for us, comes from his own vineyards, and is deliciously typical of this grape. It is very versatile, and can be enjoyed as an aperitif, or with fish pie or fresh goat cheese. Crisp, fresh, light and appetising, with the varietal, tell-tale aromas of elderflower, with a touch of gooseberry and scrunched currant leaf, but little of the up-front, tropicality and exotic fruits which characterise the Sauvignons from New Zealand. IW52 2010 Purato, Cattarrato & Pinot Grigio, Feudo di Santa Tresa, Sicily            £7.50 The Feudo di Santa Tresa estate in Sicily has around 50 hectares of vineyards. The careful selection of the clones and rootstocks, along with low density of the plantings (5000 - 5500 vines per hectare) means cultivation techniques can be simple, while at the same time strictly controlled. The natural quality of the vines and grapes is so exceptional that the estate feel find it best not to intervene more than is absolutely necessary. Pinot Grigio, we all know and many love, is here combined with Cattarrato, which turns out to be the most widely planted white grape variety in Sicily, and once upon a time was a major contributor to Europe’s wine lake. Times, fortunately, have changed, but as with any over-production, quality wouldn’t have come readily. Here we are talking much smaller production of eco-friendly wine that is not only made from organic grapes, but the packaging is 100% recycled paper, 85% recycled glass, 100% recycled cardboard and 100% pure vegetable ink. Happily, the wine tastes good too! Soft ripe fruits with appetising dry finish. Drink with light canapés and/or pasta salad. SA33 2011 Chenin Blanc, Phambili, Wellington, South Africa                £8.75 In response to Government initiatives to democratise the South African wine industry, eighteen formerly disadvantaged workers at the Wamakersvallei Winery in Wellington have established a separate trading entity, the INKQUEBELA PHAMBILI EMPOWERMENT TRUST, as a genuine, empowered business within the wine industry. In total, eighty-seven people, including dependants, stand to benefit from this project. Phamibili means ‘Moving Forward’ in the local Xhosa language. All profits from their activities are distributed amongst the workers and their families in accordance with objectives laid down by the Trust. Our over-riding objective, however, is to find wines that we feel like, and best represent an area and a grape variety, which many Fair Trade wines fail to do, so we are very pleased that the Phambili wines cover all the bases that we could hope for. Wellington is at the heart of the Western Cape Winelands, 75 kilometres north east of Cape Town and ten kilometres north of Paarl, and lies at the foot of the Groenberg hills. This beautiful landscape spawns some excellent wines, and this Chenin Blanc is lively, crisp, zesty and fresh as well as being full flavoured; a grape variety well-suited to South Africa – where it was formerly known as ‘Steen’. A wine for quaffing. TA96 2010 Wolf Trap, Franshhoek, South Africa                        £8.75 A farm was first set up at Boekenhoutskloof in 1776 by French Hugenots escaping persecution in Europe. In 1993 the farm was bought by a group of enthusiasts who restored the vineyards and farm buildings. Plantings of Rhône grape varieties soon followed. According to the well-respected US wine journal, The Wine Advocate, Boekenhoutskloof is the only outstanding South African wine estate! Winemaker, Marc Kent, is renowned for taking a less conventional approach and his wines are always exciting, even when he sets out to make a wine like Wolftrap, which is supposed to be 'simple'. A blend of 67% Viognier, 19% Chenin Blanc and 14% Grenache Blanc The Viognier grapes are sourced from a dry-land vineyard in Malmesbury, the Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch and the Grenache Blanc from the Piekenierskloof near Citrusdal. The Chenin and Grenache Blanc were barrel-matured in French oak, after which the Viognier was blended back and the wine was cold stabilized, filtered and bottled. Fruit blossom, spices and almond flavours, followed by a well textured palate with weight. Suprisingly complex, with citrus and greengage flavours; a fascinating combination. Drink with spicy sea-food, or cold pork, ham or chicken. TB21 2010 Garnacha Blanca, Las Colinas del Ebro, Terra Alta, Spain            £8.99 The Terra Alta or "High Land" is well named, with vineyards at between 400 and 600 metres above sea level. Cold winters and hot, dry summers combined with strong winds and poor soils provide a wild, extreme wine making environment. It is the largest Denominaciòn de Origen in Catalonia and is a region that is just beginning to realise its massive winemaking potential. This wine was first produced in 2006 and is made from one hundred year old Garnacha Blanca vines. The fruit was hand-picked, de-stemmed and lightly crushed prior to pressing. The must was cold-settled and a portion of must that had been macerated with the skins for 12 hours was added prior to fermentation in stainless steel tanks, for additional complexity. Medium straw-colored with aromas of spring flowers, white peach, and melons. On the palate it is exceptionally concentrated, mouth-filling, and vibrant with plenty of spicy fruit, good depth, and a fruit-filled finish; fresh, herby, enticing dry white. Drink as an aperitif, or do as the Spanish might and enjoy with bruschetta and jamón serrano, salad, soups or grilled fish.  

£135 Seasonal Cellar Notes

The Reds

SY34 2009 Altano, Douro, Portugal                            £10.99 These organic vineyards are situated in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior (Vilariça), a beautiful and remote sub region of the Douro. The Symington family who own Dow’s, Warre’s and other famous Port ‘Houses’, are committed to the environmental sustainability of the Douro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they are the owners of the largest organically farmed vineyards in Portugal. This wine is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca– three of the Douro’s, and therefore Port’s, most important grape varieties, made from grapes from ‘A’ graded vineyards at their Quinta do Sol winery. The Altarno was fermented in stainless steel, and had a cool maceration with the skins to extract flavour and colour, but not too much tannin, before being aged in a mixture of used French and American oak barrels. It was bottled in December 2010. Very juicy and bursting with the flavours of Port grapes and wild flowers; full bodied plums and cherries – spicy fruit cake! This goes deliciously with pork or game casserole. TA60 2008 Garnacha ‘Las Rocas’ San Alexandro, Calatayud, Spain                £11.50 Bodegas San Alejandro is a co-operative winery with 1,200 hectares of vineyard in Calatayud, 87 kilometres southwest of Zaragoza in north eastern Spain. The ancient vineyards (vines up to 100 years old) and the long growing season in this area, attracted French consultant Jean-Marc Lafage and his team from Château Saint Roch, which is but a short hop across the Pyrenees, in the Roussillon. They were so impressed by the quality of the fruit coming into this co-op from its 350 growers, that they decided to develop their own wine, Las Rocas. If you are a seasoned, Seasonal Cellar subscriber, you will undoubtedly be aware of our affection for Grenache, or Garnacha, which is particularly well suited to the growing conditions here. Rather than the intense ripe, red fruit that we have come to expect from Garnacha grown in northern Spain, this has a little more decorum – possibly the French influence, where one can identify the cherry aromas, with raspberries, a hint of pepper and earthiness without having ones senses assailed too aggressively. Delicious with braised or slow-cooked shank, or roast leg of lamb. US33 2006 Petite Sirah, Castle Rock, Russian River Valley, California            £11.50 The Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is located in the heart of Sonoma County, fifty-five miles north of San Francisco, where the seasonal fogs which drift in from the coast during the heat of the day, along with the cooling influence of the Pacific, temper the climate and make it ideal for growing Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Petite Sirah (a hybrid name if ever there was one), is also known as Durif but both are equally as unknown as each other. The producer, Castle Rock, is a moveable feast! This is not one man and his winery, but a concept created by founder Greg Popovitch and consultant winemaker August Briggs, to scour America's west coast from Washington down to Monterey in order to seek out patches of top quality fruit at best value, and make their wines in the rented corner of some local cellar. The results, we think, are more impressive than their label, which is decidedly lackluster. A wine of power, gutsy tannins - substance and generosity with liquorice-edged flavours. No shrinking violet, this goes well with spicy meat-balls and a piquant Bolognese sauce. TB19 2009 Chakalaka, Spice Route, Swartland, South Africa                £11.75 Charles Back (best known for his Goats do Roam brand) is one of the leading lights and possibly the most innovative vintner in South African, identifying opportunities and vineyard sites, and bringing his entrepreneurial skills to fruition. He founded the Spice Route Winery fifteen years ago, having bought Klein Amoskuil, a farm in Malmesbury, which produces the grapes for his Spice Route range, in the Swartland region north–west of Paarl. The ‘signature’ style of Spice Route has always been robust, spicy red wines, rich in character and designed to enhance every occasion. This blend of mainly Rhône red varietals, represents a fusion of flavours, as does the unique, eponymous spicy South African relish from which Chakalaka takes its name. Winemaker Charles du Plessis comments on this vintage: "A larger proportion of Petite Sirah was added to the blend this year, giving the wine intense colour and structure, which will benefit the ageing potential of the wine. The 2009 was a fine vintage and the red wines generally were of very high quality.” Lovely balance of power, spice, fruit and oak, which needs robust fusion cooking, and might be a good opportunity to match with venison, ostrich or boar. AG25 2006 Syrah/Bonarda, Crios de Susana Balbo, Mendoza, Argentina        £12.50 Sometimes referred to as the "Evita of Wine", Susana Balbo is regarded as Argentina’s foremost wine-maker. Since gaining her oenology degree in 1981, she has made wine in France, Italy, South Africa, Spain, California, Australia and Chile and continues to spend a month a year in a different wine region of the world studying with local winemakers and growers. Susana makes a couple of ranges under her own name, (as well as being one of the most sought after consultants in Argentina), which are her reserve-level wines, representing the pick of the crop, and the ‘Crios’ range, which means 'offspring’ and reflects the style of her impressive and flattering range of up-front, juicy wines, for earlier drinking. The three hand tracery on the label represents hers and those of her two ‘children’. As of last year, son, José has taken over the reins as winemaker of the Crios wines – so no longer a child, having graduated from UC Davies, California. This equal blend of two of Argentina's most individual grape varieties is as original as it is excellent, made from old vines, grown at around 900 metres. Baked blackcurrant/raspberry tart flavours, with a touch of game and undergrowth. Experiment with duck, pigeon breast or guinea fowl. AR78 2008 GSM Native Goose, Cape Barren Estate, McLaren Vale, S. Australia         £13.50 Old friend Rob Dundon has turned up with a new venture and some splendid wines. Located in the renowned McLaren Vale region of South Australia, the Cape Barren vineyards benefit from the unique maritime climate of long warm summers, cooled by afternoon ocean breezes, ideal conditions for grapes destined for full-bodied red wines. This now popular mix of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre is the Australian ‘take’ on Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and shows the spice, red fruit and pepper of Grenache, Shiraz’s leaner black fruit and the chunky structural, gamey/leathery elements of Mourvèdre. Plus, unsurprisingly 15% alcohol, so to be enjoyed sitting down with a rumbustious beef casserole, red cabbage and glazed leaks. Surprisingly delicate initially, this opens-up to a full-throttled, macho Oz blockbuster, living up to expectations. Probably at its best with a roast, Cape Barren Goose!

The Whites

SZ65 2008 Falcoaria Blanco, Quinta do Casal Branco, Ribatejano, Portugal             £9.99 Just to the north of Lisbon, on the east bank of the river Tagus, Quinta do Casal Branco is a large mixed farm that grows tomatoes, melons, wheat and maize. They also breed Lusitano horses and raise cattle. Jose Lobo de Vasconcelos, whose family has been here since 1775, also has 140 hectares of vines. He uses a mix of local and international grape varieties to produce great value wines of real character. Casal Branco is set in Almeirim, and is the home of the Terra de Lobos and Falcoaria wines. This is a sizeable, hands-on winery which doesn’t shout ultra-modern, but which is highly practical and easy to run. The most fascinating fact of all, is that they have a resident stork, called Teresinha who lives in a large nest perched on the top of the chimney!  Falcoaria Blanco is succulent, barrel-aged and made from 100% Fernão Pires, and has a touch of lime and tropical fruit, and a little oak-edged length. A natural accompaniment to grilled white fish. SA32 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Provenance, Saronsberg, Tulbagh, South Africa        £9.99 Nestled at the foot of the mountain after which it is named, Saronsberg wine estate is a contemporary addition to the rich heritage of Tulbagh Valley, an ancient wine region situated 120 kms north-east of Cape Town. It was formed late in 2002, with the aim of producing exceptional wines that express the character and quality of their unique origin. In October 2003, Dewaldt Heyns joined as winemaker just in time to witness the final construction of Saronsberg’s cutting edge cellar and avant-garde tasting room. Harvest of the maiden vintage began on 25 January 2004 at 06:01 (Dewaldt misjudged the one minute walk from his house to the cellar), when the farm’s first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were gathered. Though equal in quality and guided by the same philosophy of fruit-driven elegance, Provenance wines represent a major departure in style from their Saronsberg counterparts, having finer fruit definition The backbone of the range is formed from vines on the slopes of the Saronsberg Mountain - a region significantly cooler than the rest of the farm, that allows for slow-ripening grapes with subtle colour and flavour attributes. Gentle vinification and a greater use of 2nd-fill oak barrels, preserves the intrinsic delicacy of all the primary fruit flavours. With its leafy, sappy aromas and clean, citrus fruit flavours, this has more to offer than just an aperitif-styled wine – we would suggest drinking this with fish risotto or sushi-style cuisine. TA31 2010  Chardonnay, ‘Promised Land’, Wakefield, Clare Valley, S. Australia         £9.99 Situated in the heart of South Australia’s beautiful Clare Valley, Wakefield has, for three generations, been the home of the Taylor family. Originally wine merchants in Sydney, a passion for wine was all part of being a Taylor, and this passion was particular strong for claret! It was this long held fascination for these European ‘greats’ which inspired the family’s foray into winemaking. Mitchell Taylor is head winemaker at Wakefield, representing the third generation of Taylors involvement in the Clare Valley, and in the family business. He is ably assisted by Adma Eggins and Chad Bowman. This 'unoaked' Chardonnay is something that we think Australia excels at, and the Clare Valley’s vast daytime/nightime temperature variation, allows the slow development of the grapes, delivering all the pure varietal flavours that so often get overwhelmed by hot-climate production; which is then further shackled by excessive barrel contact or oak chips. Pure and uncluttered by oak, this is ripe, mouth-wateringly excellent Chardonnay; a style that would undoubtedly win first prize at the local Chicken & Chardonnay Show! Now, there’s a food and wine pairing made in heaven. CW03 2010 Château Le Chec, Graves, Bordeaux, France                     £10.50 The latest vintage from this classic Graves estate. Christian Auney's pride in his estate's terroir is such that he is liable to scoop up a handful of rugged gravel and declare "Voila, le vrai Graves". His house, winery and vineyards are gradually being encircled by Bordeaux’s spreading conurbation, which has probably changed the microclimate for these 80-year-old vines. Christian’s continues to rigorously maintain low yields, and produces a wine that boasts concentrated flavours and remarkably consistent and quaffing quality. He uses Sémillon for richness and a little Muscadelle to enliven the final wine, which encapsulates the best of dry white Bordeaux, at a fraction of the price of the fanciful ‘names’ down the road in Pessac-Léognan. Aromas of vanilla oak, fresh limes, greengages and exotic fruits - terrific with roast chicken, or slow-cooked pork casserole. ML40 2006 Hochheimer Holle Kabinett, Domdechant Werner, Rheingau, Germany    £14.75 This 35 acre family estate is run by the urbane Dr Franz Werner Michel and his daughter Catharina Mauritz, whose family have owned it since 1780. Based on the edge of the picturesque village of Hochheim in the Rheingau, (which gave the generic, anglicised name Hock to all Rhine wines), the vineyards, planted mostly to Riesling (98%), are on mineral-rich, gently sloping, south facing, chalk-dominant soils. Studies have shown that 85% of the estate's vineyards are eligible for the 'Erstes Gewächs' status, which are effectively First Growth classification. This is an historic estate, making exceptionally pure, racy Rieslings in the traditional, time-honoured fashion. The bright, fresh, fruit acidity is beautifully married to elegant, grape sweetness. The ultimate aperitif wine – food might just detract. NZ33 2011 The Doctors’ Grüner Veltliner, Forrest Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand        £14.99 Yet another fine example of what the innovative micro-biologist Dr John Forrest is up to in Marlborough. His enthusiasm for producing characterful wines and growing ‘experimental’ varietals in Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Otago earmark the big man as one of New Zealand’s leading viticulturists/winemakers. Following every visit to Europe, it appears a new, obscure varietal is planted back home in Renwick, as John seeks to find the ultimate vine to suit the growing conditions on his home patch, on South Island. Besotted by Riesling, which, along with the other aromatic varietals like Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris he appears to have mastered, he has recently set his sights on Austria’s ‘signature’ variety, Grüner Veltiner. Pure, minerally citrus fruit with a spicy, pepper finish – dry, yet with a fullness on the palate. Down-under, this would be enjoyed with Pacific Rim cooking – try with a sea-food risotto. The apostrophe in Doctors’ denotes more than one doctor; as John’s wife, Brigid is also a doctor - a GP!

£180 Seasonal Cellar Notes

The Reds

TA95 2010  Flores de Callejo, Tempranillo, Bodegas Félix Callejo. Ribera del Duero, Spain      £13.99 The Callejo family have been based in the Castillian town of Sotillo for three generations. Félix, grandson of Faustino and son of Félix, is the current head of a distinctly family business in which his son, José Félix is the winemaker, daughter Christina looks after the export side of the business, and daughter number two, Beatriz, the marketing. This is top quality Tempranillo, more commonly known as Tinto del Païs in Ribera del Duero, and Tinto Roriz in Portugal’s Douro region. The vineyards are brilliant; perched at between 850-900 metres, rich in limestone and in the best zone. Old vines are prevalent. The viticulture is organic and everything here is done by hand. All the fruit is hand-picked and transferred to the cellars in small crates, followed by a careful sorting of bunches and berries on a double sorting table. The bunches are de-stemmed and the berries put into fermentation vats whole, without crushing, and left for a cold maceration/soak at 10ºC. The alcoholic fermentation starts naturally with the skins' indigenous yeasts around five days later. The wine then spends six months in French oak to add a little backbone to this succulent, meaty, earthy combination of wild fruit, lively tannins and mouth cleansing acidity. Worthy of wild boar, game or well hung steak. AR79 2008 Native Goose Shiraz, Cape Barren, McLaren Vale, S. Australia        £14.75 Old friend Rob Dundon has turned up with a new venture and some splendid wines. Located in the renowned McLaren Vale region, south of Adelaide’s encroaching conurbation, the Cape Barren vineyards benefit from the unique maritime climate of long warm summers, cooled by afternoon ocean breezes, ideal conditions for grapes destined for full-bodied red wines. Syrah / Shiraz, as it has now become better known, has taken on something of a Jekyll and Hyde personality. This normally reserved, violet-toned, smoky-bacon scented Northern Rhône grape, has taken on an Aussie swagger, with its eucalypt nuances, and ripe, berried, black-fruit character, able to portray its two very different personae, reflecting either its northern or southern hemisphere origins. The Native Goose Shiraz harks back in style to those exciting Australian wines we were discovering in the early 1990s. Although the barbeque is still probably stowed away in the garage, this would go well with barbequed spring lamb, with plenty of rosemary and baked garlic, or maybe even a Cape Barren goose! TB20 2008 Syrah, Bodegas Clunia, Castilla y León, Spain                    £14.99 Clunia is a new project from the big Principe de Viana group of wineries. The antithesis of some of their other activities, this is the result of a small, hand-made creation. The vineyards are situated not far from the big town of Burgos, due south of Santander, and 150 kilometres west of Logroño, beside the village of Coruña del Conde. At 900 metres above sea level, the ancient Syrah vines yield concentrated fruit that is hand harvested, and collected in small baskets to avoid bruising. After fermentation, the wine goes into French oak casks for 12 months maturation. This is no shrinking violet; indeed this is quite substantial and would certainly benefit from being decanted. Deep purple with depth of warm peppery black fruit and plum flavours. Some tannins, so think hearty, full flavoured dishes when you contemplate matching this wine to your lunch or supper. TA97 2009 Pinotage ‘Bush Vine’, The Bernard Series, Western Cape, South Africa £16.99 Originally known as Bellinchamp (belle champ/pretty field), Bellingham begins its story in 1693 with Hollander Gerrit Janz van Vuuren and his French Huguenot wife, who toiled the virgin soil and planted the first 1000 vines. Centuries later in 1943, pioneer and innovator Bernard Podlashuk, acquired the farm and in 1949, five years later, he produced the first rosé. This wine bears his name. The grapes used to make this Pinotage, by winemaker Niël Groenewald, were selected from old, un-irrigated bush vines growing in ancient, weathered soils in Paarl and Stellenbosch. Low-yields ensure that each berry is super-ripe and packed with concentrated flavours, which is further enhanced by maturing the wine for 18 months in French oak barrels; 50% new, 50% second-fill. The wine has real texture in the mouth, and bags of flavour, unique to Pinotage, which include ripe black fruit, smoked meat and a hint of truffles. Full, rich, baked plums, with berried concentration and mellow oak length. Hearty meat dishes like venison or oxtail or lamb shank. RR63 2009 Séguret Grande Réserve, Domaine de Mourchon, Côtes-du-Rhône Villages     £16.99 Old vines and barrel-ageing give power and structure to this lesser known Village of the Côtes-du-Rhône. It is the location of this domaine that first impresses. Behind the beautiful World Heritage Site village of Séguret, up a track to the top of the old mountain range and with a view over the Rhône Valley that stretches as far as the eye can see, is Mourchon. Walter Mackinley sold his IT business in the mid 90s and with his wife, Ronnie, found his dream location in 1998 and built the state-of-the art winery in time for the 1999 vintage. Joined by winemaker Sebastien Magnouac, Walter added a further seven hectares to the original seventeen, and consequently needed the help of his daughter Kate and son-in-law Hugo. It is very much a family business with a philosophy of minimal interference in vineyard and winery, working as close to organic as practical. The wines from this unique location have a power and concentration that is notable, and with the vines average age of around 55 years, their wines are, ripe and rounded; just how one imagines southern Rhône wines should be. This Réserve wine will go well with roast meats, sausages or pot-au-feu. In fact anything meat-based, but nothing too refined! FR45 2006 Mas Laval, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, France                    £17.99 Much as most of the peasant-growers did after the war, Monsieur Laval senior, sold his grapes to the village Cave Cooperative, where he was also the président - a position of great importance in a small rural community such as Aniane. By the time we discovered Mas Laval, son Joël and his wife Christine had taken over the reins from father, and had made the decision to become masters of their own destiny. With this in mind, they converted their garage into a winery and the outhouses into barrel stores, and little by little, took the vinification of their grapes, literally, back in-house. Joël’s brother (we have never met this shadowy figure) tends the 20 acres of vines, and his wife manages the family, books and sales. Mas Laval is made from Syrah (55%), Mourvèdre and Grenache (15%) and some Grenache Gris and Cabernet Franc. It is aged for 18 months in one-year-old barriques. Lovely chunky richness with some supple black fruit and creamy, vanilla and liquorice. Perfect with beef stews and game casseroles.

The Whites

TB22 2010 Gavi, Tacchino, Piedmont, Italy                        £13.75 Made from the local Cortese grape, this is a delightfully complex dry white from the Piemonte region of Gavi, in north-west Italy, twenty miles north of Genoa. Luigi Tacchino has 25 hectares of vines in Castelletto d'Orba, which is perfect wine country, where the hills of Monferrato provide a natural amphitheatre which protects the vineyards from northerly winds. These conditions combine to produce fruit with the maximum possible ripeness and concentration. The grapes are hand-harvested and the wines are all made without the use of oak in order to retain freshness and allow maximum expression of the Cortese grape. Greengages and apples, with a fine, silky texture and nutty length. An excellent, quaffing aperitif wine – or equally delicious with scallops and sea-food. TB23 2010 Mas Cristine, Côtes de Roussillon, France                    £13.99 Mas Cristine is a beautiful property up at 250 metres in the hills amongst the forests, between Collioure and Argelès-sur-Mer, in south-western France, with great views over the Mediterranean coast. Philippe Gard and his partners have a long term lease on its 12 hectares which fall just outside the Collioure/Banyuls border, and into the Roussillon district. The soil is a very similar schist to their illustrious neighbours, but is mixed with more earth and the terrain is a little flatter and more readily workable. Yields are slightly higher, but still only an incredibly meagre 20 hectolitres per hectare. This is made from a blend of 50% Roussanne and Marsanne, 40% Grenache Gris and 5% Macabeu and Carignan Blanc, with around 20% aged in barriques and 80% in stainless steel tank. White peach and dried apricots. Old fashioned and fascinating. Enjoy with white meat or dark fish,  or with a bowl almonds. TB18 2009 Grillo ‘Kados’, Duca di Saralaputa, Salemi, Sicily                £14.50 The aim of the Duca da Salaraputa estate is the production of top quality, internationally-oriented wines made from grapes grown in perfect sites in Sicily. Each wine they make is the result of a what they believe to be the perfect combination of a number of variables, including soil and grape selection, skilful winemaking and, where appropriate, ageing in small French oak barrels. The Grillo grapes for this wine were grown in western Sicily near the town of Salemi. Hand harvested then fermented in small oak casks and matured in bottle for three months before release. Its full, ripe and concentrated flavours make this very much a food wine, probably best with dishes like tarragon chicken and rose veal. FW31 2008 Le Faîte, St Mont, Plaimont, Gascony, France            £14.99 By expertly bringing polished examples of the characterful local grapes of Gascony to a global audience, the Plaimont cellar has won world-wide acclaim with this wine. This, their top white cuvée, ('Le Faîte' means 'The Peak') is a partially-oaked blend of local varieties, Arrufiac, Petit Courbu and Petit and Gros Manseng. Undoubtedly greater than the sum of its many parts, this is a silky, luxurious wine; thrillingly fragrant, velvety and slightly off-dry, with exotic oak and tropical fruits on the palate. Ripe pineapple, grapefruit pith and a lingering minerality. This will stand up to all-things chicken, pork or veal. NZ24 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau, John Forrest Collection, Marlborough, NZ        £16.99 Followers of Adnams and the Seasonal Cellar will be very well aware of the Doctors’, John and Brigid Forrest, who established  this eponymous, family estate 1989, in the stony Wairau River Valley, near Renwick. Over the past thirty years, we have all become accustomed, and attached, to the lively tropical fruit tones and gooseberry aromas of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. In that period of time, we have seen this style change considerably from the early, ‘cat-pee’, sweaty currant-leaf aromas, to a more rounded vibrancy which has more in common with elderflowers, guava and other tropical fruits. We have also experienced the big brands from NZ which have generally brought the price down as well as having put the level of residual sugar up! Despite the vagaries of marketing, vintage variations, currency fluctuations etc, the Forrests have pursued their unswerving commitment to quality. We see this in their ‘every day’ Sauvignon, but typically of John, he felt the need to expand horizons, and created this Collection Sauvignon Blanc as a Sancerre-lookalike. Hand selected bunches from low yielding vines, whole bunch pressed, with some of the juice being cold settled for a long slow fermentation in tank, or put in old oak barriques for fermentation and extended yeast-lees. Aged for eight months prior to bottling, top wine scribes, Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier were both highly complimentary about it when they tasted it in Southwold in January 2012. Enjoy with a cheese soufflé or grilled fish. BW08 2006 Domaine de la Bongran, Mâcon Villages, France                £17.50 One of the world's most exciting Chardonnays - rich and golden, with honeyed depths and racy minerality; this is white Burgundy in a league of its own. Mâconnais vigneron extraordinaire, Jean Thévenet and son Gautier, make this intense Chardonnay using methods that other vignerons shun as commercial suicide. By picking their crop late, father and son risk everything in order to achieve their goal of maximum fruit ripeness’, to produce a wine of unsurpassed richness and glinting minerality. Fermentation occurs using their own indigenous, natural yeast, and one can hear vats gently exhaling CO2 for anything up to 18 months after harvest, where most wineries aim to have this over and done with within a couple of months – maximum! Aromas of jasmine and violets, with flavours of apple-pie / tarte tatin. A wine for buttery scallops or fish carpaccio. This is unequalled and delicious. Decant an hour before drinking. (The 2009 is currently available En Primeur. Please see accompanying letter, or ask for further details).

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Alastair Marshall

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