Nutbourne Vineyards, Sussex, England

I was looking for somewhere to take my Grandfather on a May afternoon, and I could not resist making it a vineyard. I knew very little about Nutbourne Vineyards before visiting but it transpired to be a gorgeous spot on the South Downs.  The wines are not to be scoffed at either with Nutbourne producing a full range of wines from English sparkling to a still Pinot Noir. The quality of English sparkling wine seems to rise year on year and Nutbourne were among seven UK producers receiving Gold Medals at this years IWSC competition.

Nutbourne Vineyards was founded in 1980, with a new modern winery completed in 2010. The wine is currently made by ex-Chapel Down winemaker Owen Elias, who has a host of awards in his name, including quite a few whilst at Nutbourne.  The wine shop and tasting room are based around a disused mill with covered seating and the opportunity to walk between the vines. The member of staff that served us was courteous and knowledgeable making the visit a very enjoyable afternoon. Nutbourne Vineyards also provide guided tours/tastings of the vineyards and winery with prior reservations for a cost of £15.

Wines Tasted: Nutty Brut 2013, Sussex Reserve 2014, Bacchus 2013/2014, Chardonnay 2013, Hedgerow 2013, Nutty “Wild” N.V., Pinot Noir 2014

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The range of wines at Nutbourne – the illustrations on the labels are gorgeous.

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Côte de Beaune Burgundy

Burgundy is best known for two major grape varieties – Chardonnay, responsible for the white wines, and Pinot Noir for the reds. Burgundy is divided into a patchwork of appellations, some making white wine, some making red and some split between the two. The wines tasted below are both from the Côte de Beaune (towards the south of Burgundy) and are both made from the less characteristic grape variety in their respective appellations.

Savigny-lès-Beaune is located South of Corton hill, and north of the village of Beaune. This is an appellation I identify with pretty, elegant red wines, and the appellation produces approximately 85% Pinot Noir.  When I saw a white Savigny-lès-Beaune reduced to £6 as a bin end wine at Gauntleys I took the plunge, despite my fear that the wine may now be beginning to tire.  At this price point although the wine is fading it is hard to go wrong.

Chassagne-Montrachet is  famed for its proximity to the Grand Cru vineyard Le Montrachet, home to some of the greatest Chardonnay in the world.  Whilst Le Montrachet produces only white wine, Chassagne-Montrachet produces approximately two thirds white wine, and one third red.  Whilst I have been tasted white wines from the appellation this was my first opportunity tasting the Pinot Noir and it sure did impress.

Savigny.jpgJean Michel Giboulet, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy 2004.

The colour of this wine has a gorgeous golden hue and is clear with tartrate crystal deposits in the bottle. This is a dry wine and the fruit has faded substantially.  The Nose is muted with echoes of Chardonnay and some richer nutty aromas. This has high acidity and a long reasonably intense mineral finish. There is not really much fruit found on the palate either although there is a note of stonefruit kernels. I think this would be better 5 years ago but it works as a wine for food and a dry digestif/aperitif. What has not faded are the minerality and precision on the finish which set this apart from the younger, lesser wines.

Conclusion: For the price I’d still take this fading bottle over cheap over-oaked new world stuff especially to accompany food.

Score: 85-86/100 as it is- but it’s faded so not really a fair test.

ChassagneMontrachet.jpgBachey Legros, Les Plantes Momières Vieilles Vignes, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy 2009

This wine was served over dinner, and had been bought back from a trip to Burgundy. From some research online it appears that the vineyard is situated below the  “Abbaye de Morgeot” Premier Cru, and the plot of Pinot Noir vines used for this wine were planted back in 1946. The age of the vines, quality of the site and careful vinification have made the best of low yields to produce a high intensity of flavour, rich tannins, and a pure expression of the terroir.

This wine was superb. Ruby in colour and throwing a thick sediment. Aromas of stewed raspberry dominate the nose with the slightest vegetal nuance suggesting bell pepper. The palate is dry and showed cherry and raspberry on the palate with capsicum underlying. This leads to a spicy finish with salinity and minerality giving length and persistence. The wine has moderate (+) silky tannins leaving the mouth dry whilst high acidity gives focus. There was a slight green nature to this evoking grape pips/stalks which I found pleasing.

This is a powerful wine yet it is most definitely feminine in nature. I felt this wine was not so far from the Grand Cru Chambertin I recently reviewed but on a shorter evolution with less weight and intensity.

Day 2: By now this wine was tasting boozy and rich with the tannin continuing to give structure. The aromas were intensifying and starting to get almost animalistic in nature with increasing complexity verses the more fruit driven presentation on day 1.

Conclusion: This really is a top drawer wine.  I wish I was successful enough in choosing Burgundy that I got hold of wines like this – I feel a trip to Burgundy is in order.

As I wrote in my notebook at the time (after a few glasses I hasten to add):  “Rather bloody superb.”

Score: 93/100

Learning Point: Red Chassagne-Montrachet may not be as famed as it’s white siblings but is well worth seeking out a good example.

Wine at the jazz club.

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The Late Show, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Soho, London

I was keen to write a review of the below wine, but it would be difficult to do so without giving the context. As wine accompanies food, so it is also a great partner to all manner of social occasions. Complimenting the setting is confined by the often frustrating combination of the venue’s wine list and the depth of your pockets. The wine list at Ronnie Scott’s has a reasonable selection although there was nothing that really jumped out at me as a “must try”.  Regardless our choice of a 2012 Bordeaux was a decent wine and good value given the location.

We were here for the music, not the wine, so it is only appropriate to pay homage to the 82 year old Cameroonian Saxophonist who led his superb band through 90 minutes of exceptional jazz.  Below is Manu Dibango’s 1972 hit: Soul Makossa to accompany the review below.

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Chateau Mayne-Vieil, Fronsac, Bordeaux, 2012

This wine is tannic, young,  traditional Bordeaux and would have benefited from more time in the bottle.  It was tightly wound and somewhat backwards at present.  On the palate this was bone dry, tight, and showed great intensity but any complexity was hidden by the dense tannin.

Fronsac represents very good value as an appellation. I can imagine having paid a lot more for Bordeaux from more illustrious appellations and have found much the same in the bottle. For a Merlot based blend this was very seriously structured suggesting quality but whether it will wine out or fall short with time is difficult to tell just now.  This would benefit from either a long decant (3-4 hours), or another 2-3 years in bottle.

Conclusion: Enjoyment depends on liking youthful, tightly wound, traditional Bordeaux. There is scope to improve if it opens up but I am not certain this will find balance.

Score: 88/100 (DT)

Learning Point: Perhaps for the setting Champagne, Cognac, or even an Old Fashioned would be a better match; but Fronsac produces solid, good-value and traditional Bordeaux.

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Given the setting and listening to the track above what would be your recommended wine pairing?  We would love to hear your suggestions in the comments section.

Some rambling & Anderra, Rothschild, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2012.

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Wandering home on Place Sablon in Brussels a few weeks ago, I noticed something rather interesting loitering in the window of Nicolas.  Nicolas, a French wine retailer with some forlorn outposts in Belgium, is often a good place to pick-up some interesting wines.  I am especially fond of this particular store for a couple of reasons. Principally because I live – as close to literally as one can imagine without quite qualifying for the use of the term – above it.  Globalization may make proximity to the grower less important – but nearness to the wine itself, ideally within arms’ length, is, of course, crucial.

Back to the wine – sort of.  A while back, a friend and I chatted about big name Bordeaux producers operating vineyards, either in their own name or as part of joint-ventures, in the new world.  Some wholly unscientific internet research leads me to believe that this trend is especially evident in South America.   So I jumped on the chance to sample a prime example of the movement.  The illustrious Rothschild version of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for ten euros?  Color me dark red with hints of leather.

A quick perusal of the classy Anderra website, reveals this wine to be a clearly commercial proposition.  This is hardly surprising, Rothschild, the man, was a banker; Rothschild, the name, is a bank – largely of the investment variety.  Making a dime and producing good wine do not always rhyme though – especially when big brand names, that will likely help sell the stuff regardless of its quality, are involved.

But the Anderra is a good wine!

R: Dark pourpre colors; a very pretty, largely-monochromatic wine with little bricking

N: Quite a small nose – some mustiness and vegetable notes & perhaps a hint of sweetness?

B: On first tasting, I may have slightly over-decanted the wine as I had expected much youthful exuberance.  It came up  a little flat and musty and I felt it had quite high acidity and was somewhat out of balance.

But on second tasting the next day (How is the wine less decanted on the next day you ask?!  Buy one of these: your cellar, liver, and whatever local baker, purveyor of coffee, or fabricator of blended fruit juices you encounter in the early mornings will thank you. NB: these posts/wines etc. are totally un-sponsored due, in small part, to our thin peel of integrity and, in large part, to no one offering us sponsorship gigs – I’m sure there are lots of other great brands out there; I just use this one.), having decanted the wine for a much shorter period of time, I was much more impressed.  Deeper dark fruit flavors held the balance of the wine well.  After the flatness of the day before, the Anderra now seemed robust and paired nicely with my garlic steak sandwiches.

A very nice and unusually interesting wine for a good price 90-91/100.

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