Bordeaux 2010 Primeur Tasting

Michael and I went to my first en primeur wine tasting, arranged by Cambridge Wine Merchants, tasting 2010 Bordeaux. The 2010 is a good year for laying down, apparently, as there is ‘rich tannic structure’ in the wine, and good acidity and fruit.

The tasting was in The Kennedy Room at the Cambridge Union, which was a good room to stuffed full of wine. There was a great seelction of 80 wines:  six white/rose; three sauternes and the rest reds.

I found the tasting part really difficult. I’m not very good at spitting at tastings and this wine was too young to drink, so out it had to go. I tended to like the wines that would be good drunk younger because they tasted closer to being ready. The wines with the strong concentrations of fruits and tannins I found hard to judge and get a measure of. We tried a £50 a bottle (not expensive for Bordeaux) Châteaux Marlartic Lagraviere (Pessac-Leognan) which was intense, dark and packed full of tannins and flavours but I couldn’t tell what would happen next. So some tasting experience of the ageing process would help for next time (but maybe not at £50 a bottle!).

My favourite wine of the evening was Châteaux Marquis de Terme (margaux) which was complex and long, with some warm spice and felt very classy. It has good tannin for ageing. A case would have cost about £340, so it’s not something I would have enjoyed gambling with. On the more affordable side, I liked the Châteaux de Ricaud (Cotes de Bordeaux) which was spicy and peppery and low on tannin. I also liked the Châteaux Clos Floridene Rouge (Graves) with hints of aniseed, but Michael didn’t like this one at all.

My palate quickly got overwhelmed with all the young wine and the huge variety (that I probably tried too quickly) Our teeth were black and a we had stained hands and lips. What a sight! No wine purchased (as yet).  Great to try it though.

Wine tour of Iberia

Michael and I were at at a Tour of Iberian Wine at Cambridge Wine in Cherry Hinton

  • Cava Brut NV Portaceli, Spain. Okay, quite brut indeed. Hint of apples. Probably not pay £7.50 a bottle though. Apparently will compliment suckling pig, which is handy!
  • Monte Alina, Verdejo / Viura, 2009, Rueda. Spanish £9.50 a bottle. Lemon on the nose, green notes (neroli?). Fresh summer wine. Not for £9.50 a bottle. Not very complex flavours, but a good nose.
  • Esporoa Duas Castas 2010 Portugal £10. Sherbet nose, and more interesting and lively in the mouth. Rounder. I prefer this a lot more to the previous wine. From the South of Portugal, made from verdehlo and govaio grapes.
  • R Lopez de Heredia Rioja Crianza Rosado 2000. Vina Tondonia. £15. Lovely pale, oxidised pink colour. Smell the oak on the nose, with some savory, salty coconut. Delicate sour flavour. 11 years old and rather sour. The pink colour is ‘onion skin’ old. A bit of sherry on the nose. Apparently four and a half years in oak. A bit of a shock, but it’s growing on us. Would be a treat Michael thinks. I’m not so sure…. Nice to try for sure.
  • Cien y Pico ‘Doble Pasta’ 2007 Castilla-La-Mancha. £12. Dizzyingly deep and seductive nose, lush and rich. Sweet mint? Prunes. Powerful, spicy bucket of tannin at the moment. Would age for a few years to knock that off and it could be super. Made with Granache Tintorea, a deep inky wine. Vines are treated like bushes and are very stressed by the intense heat: as a result get small bunches of thick-skinned grapes. The wine is fermented on the skins to get out the ‘ink’ and the flavours. Great match for the jamon serrano.
  • Cedro De Noval Douro Red 2007. Portugal. £16. Quite a cone down from the previous red, more balanced but seems thin after the last red. A good, well made wine but hard to see it as a £16 wine. Douro is typically a place for small producers working with local grapes. This wine is the second wine of the house. A blend of quite a few local grapes.
  • Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva, 2001. £18. Lovely, long, complex wine. Very well made and intense in the mouth, lots of life and excitement. Leather on the nose. Silky. This is a ‘top of the crop’ Gran Reserva. Taste some wood. Well structured and complex. Changes with time—expect the tertiary flavours to come through, cinnamon and vanilla.
  • Henriques & Henriques 10 years old Malmsey. £19. Yum! We had this with Stilton and Manchego, dates and walnuts. Nutty and the 19% alcohol comes across strongly. Good with the Stilton, but the Manchego isn’t string enough to match. Good with dates too. Subtropical island, growing only six types if grapes on the island. On the nose dry fig and iodine (Joao’s description).

Tour of Iberia

These days, Spain is a major player in the world of wine. It has more land devoted to vine than any other and after years on the sidelines is really beginning to realise its potential. For a country that we associate with sunshine and package holidays, there is a surprising amount of climatic diversity. It rains in Galicia in the North west almost as much as it does in Manchester. So as well as producing some amazing rich, spicy reds, it is also capable of some of the most food friendly, thirst quenching white wines around, from grape varieties like Albarino, Viura and Verdejo. Portugal too has a treasure trove of its own grape varieties. We stock the delicious wines from Esporao which manage to combine Portugese character with new World modernity. All in all, Iberia is a pretty exciting place for wine these days and we’d like to share a few of our favourites with you.



Curry Hinton

Fun night tasting wine at Cambridge Wine Merchants in Cherry Hinton, matching wine with curry. The wine was from Cambridge Wine and the curry was from Inder’s Kitchen, a Cambridge-based internet delivery service.

We tried the following wines:
Nibbles: Riesling goes well with the spicy “shredded wheat and rice crispies”. Mont Rocher doesn’t work. The curry spices flattened the Pinot Gris.
The food started with Spiced cumin potato cake: The Pinot Gris went very nice and accented the coriander and spices. The Riesling overpowered it. I also liked the Mont Rocher with this. It had forward fruit, quite light and pretty smoky in flavour. Goes well with potato cake, which was smokey with the cumin.

Lamb Rogan Josh: Carignan and Rielsing work well. The lamb makes the Pinot Gris seem rather bitter.

Lovely vegetables in creamy sauce. Goes well with the Riesling.  Ok with the Mont Rocher. Pinot Gris, not the best.

Inder’s Home Style Chicken Curry with Mustard Seeds. South indian dish packed with lovely whole spices invl. star anise and dried chilli., a lovely smoky sauce. Beautiful with the Hugel Gentil, which accentuates the flavours. The carignan went well with the chicken with the stronger spice of hot peppers.

Rice spiced with cardamon: The Pinot Gris went well with the spiced rice (which apparently is dead easy to make according to Inder, just add the pods)

At the end of out tasting I think there a difference between spiced and curry-spiced? The Riesling was the most versatile, but the Pinot Gris went really well with non-chilli spiced foods, like the cumin cake. All the wines were good matches for some of the food, so not a clear picture. The food was lovely, so looking forward to trying some of that when we get a chance.

We followed with a  couple of glasses of Madeira: Bual and Malmsey. Both similar, Malmsey much sweeter. Bual drier that I expected. Lots of dried fruit but a bit linctus! Bit treacley, compared with the sweeter Malmsey which is lighter (surprisingly).

"Curry Hinton" tonight at Cambridge Wine Merchants in Cherry Hinton. Matching wine with curry!

4th Annual Cambridge Wine Show

Busy evening for the 4th Annual Cambridge Wine Show in the Guildhall in Ca,bridge, organised by Cambridge Wine Merchants. There were nine tables of wines—an almost bewildering, lovely selection!IMG_0359  

  1. White Wine —New World
  2. White Wine—Austria, France & Italy
  3. Champagne
  4. Red Wine—France & Italy
  5. Red Wine—Spain & Portugal
  6. Red Wine—Argentina & Chile
  7. Red Wine—New World
  8. Sweet Wine & Sherry
  9. Port & Madeira

We probably spent too much time on the white wines: I never really explored the champagnes and didn’t touch the spirits at all.

  • Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough: My favourite wine of the evening. Elderflower and grapefruit, spicy black pepper! 8/10 at £15
  • Tahbilk Marsanne 2007 Nagambie Lake: I’m not familiar with marsanne and I really liked this, which was rich, buttery and zesty.
  • Vina Arboleda Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Aconcagua: A powerful green leaf nose and gooseberry flavour. Good but I prefered the elegance of the Greywacke.
  • Gewürztraminer Classic 2008 Hugel.: A bit of lychee there, but thisfailed to deliver the floral fragrance and punch I was after. Disappointing for £15 in this line up.
  • Pouilly Fumé 2009 Le Chant des Vignes, Joseph Mellot: £15. Lovely and refreshing. Elegant.
  • Marburg Cuvée Réserve Grand Cru: £27 I liked this (others were less keen). Lovely, elegant champagne, on the lees and next door Krug apparently. The only champagne I tried tonight.
  • Volnay 2005 Louis Jadot: Disappointing.
  • Santenay 1st Cru Rouge ‘Clos Rousseau VV 2008 Bachey-Legros. The wine we all taled about. Powerful taste and smell of fenugreek! Really unusual and caused by ‘torrefaction’. The herby smell goes with time. I had to ask what torrefaction was and luckily Greg’s dad worked int he coffee business so he knew all about it. Michael really liked this wine.
  • Mas Cal Demoura L’infidele 2007: Jammy and a bit too rich. Not for me.
  • Cune Rioja Reserva 2006. Elegant, balanced.
  • Vallejo Vina Pilar Tempranillo Roble 2008, Ribera del Duero: Dissapointing. A bit young perhaps. Lorna is a big fan of wines from gere and she didn’t like this.
  • Errazuriz wild ferment pinot: £11. I love pinot noir and this gae me what I was after—a dirty nose. This is a lovely drinking wine and quite accessible.
  • Bodega Renacer Enamore 2008 Lujan de Cuyo: £20 rich, herby. Tastes of port without the fortification.
  • Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2009 Canberra: Rich and plumy. Heavy.
  • Gonzalez Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado: £17 a half bottle. Wow! This was a wonderful dry sherry. I want more. Everyone who tried this thought it was good.
  • Blandy’s 5 yr old Sercial Madeira: £14. Lovely interesting dry Madeira. Hint of sweetness on the lips. Genuinely interesting and an eye-opener for Madeira.
  • Williams and Humbert Pedri Ximenex 12yo sherry: A nice sherry but a bit one-dimensional.
  • Quinto do Noval Unfiltered LBV 2004: Rich and lovely. £19

So a great range of wines sampled over the course of the evening. There were several hundred people there and also a lovely cheese stall (cave-aged emmental, mmm!) Proceeds of the evening went to the Red Cross.


After the wine show it was on for a quick meal with Greg at Wagamamas—melamine crockery and an uninspiring menu left me disappointed. Then on for a pint at the Free Press (I have no idea why we did this, but it was fun!)


Sake Tasting at the Punter

We met up with Sarah and Jason for a night of sake tasting, not really knowing what to expect. Jason had had some bland sake in Japan, as had I (but also some lovely cloudy sake!). The evening was arranged by Cambridge Wine Merchants in the Punter Pub, where we had the fabulous sherry tasting in June. The tasting was conducted by Wakana Omija from Akashi-tai (and all the sake was from that small family company too). Wakana makes some sake during the winter, then spends the rest of time on promotion. She was great company.

We started with a plum sake spritzer with soda water, which was refreshing.

Akahashi-tai Honjozo, with opening snacks

Wasabi Beans
Sashimi skewers with soy and wasabi
Chicken Teriyaki skewer w sweet chilli sauce

Daiginjo Akashi-tai matched with Japanese mezze

Tea-smoked duck with ginger and beetroot dressing
Tempura fish with fennel and orange salad

Akashi-tai Honjozo Genshu matched with French food

Pork belly and lentil cassoulet
Wild mushroom, beansprout and spinach filo rolls
Mackerel fillet with black sticky rice, coriander and pink grapefruit sauce

Akashi-tai Genmai aged sake, with French and Japanese Food

Mussels with sake, lime and juniper
Braised beef shin with balsamic and caper sauce
Tofu with pistachio, carrot and radish remoulade

Akashi-tai Shiraume Umeshu, matched with savory and sweet options

Duck liver parfait with roast apricot
Plum and raisin strudel
Binham blue cheese and charcoal wafer
I was impressed about how the rice is polished into smaller and smaller grains, so that different parts of the rice can contribute towards the quality and flavour of the sake. The brown, aged Genmai was like a dry sherry and this is an unusual style in Japan (and not well accepted) because they prefer more delicate sake with a purer flavour and not made with brown rice.
All the sake we tried was lovely: I preferred the fuller-bodied Honjozo Genshu, and the warm Daiginjo Akashi-tai, which were both on the side of fuller flavour, rather than the lighter honjozo. So i have a bit more confidence about sake—but with one brand and with this set of notes!
From the food menu, the braised shin of beef was beautiful as was the smoked duck. The duck parfait surprised a lot of people, who thought it was icecream to match the sweet plum sake! The chef was amazing (again) in getting this prepared.

‘What to Drink with Dinner’ Wine Tasting

The RSC Sports and Social Club arranged another fun tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants last night. Probably the highlight of the tasting was the guide, Edward Kelleher, who was very knowledgeable, down to earth and fun! There were about 30 people from the RSC and guests. We tasted—


  • Prosecco Extra Dry, Beato Bartolomeo, Breganze, NV (£9)
  • Manzanilla La Gitana, Bodegas Hidalgo, Jerez, NV (£10)

A few Whites:

  • Semillon, Brokenwood, Hunter Valley, Australia, 2007 (£11)
  • Pinot Gris, Cave de Hunawhir, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, 2005 (£13.50)
  • Bourgogne, Jean Latour-Labille, Burgundy, France (£23)


  • Tinta Roziz & Touriga Franca, Altano, Duoro Valley, Portugal, 2006 (£5.50)
  • Chateau la Grandt Clotte, Lussac Saint-Emillion, Bordeaux, 2005 (£13)
  • Shiraz ‘White Lees’, Gemtree Vineyards, McLaren VAle, Australia, 2006 (£23)


  • Chateau des Tour, Sainte-Croix-Du-Mont, Bordeaux, 2005 (£11)

I didn’t find it that inspiring a collection. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by too much good wine from Majestic (thanks Michael! 🙂 ) or maybe I wasn’t in the mood last night. The sherry was great, but I know La Gitana well. The Pinot Gris was lovely and well made, and was the most enjoyable wine of the evening for me. I didn’t like the metallic semillon from Australia, too acidic and the mineral nature was too strong and reminded me of CFCs out the back of a broken fridge. The two expensive wines were good, but at half the price! The portugese wine was good value as a glugger, and at £11 a bottle I would have been happy with the desert wine. I actually bought a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir on my way out (well it was pay day!) and I hope this will be good because I hadn’t tasted it!

Amongst other things, we learned from Edward was that La Gitana is made ‘en flor’, which means that the wine is fermented open to the air and that a cap of natural yeast floats on the wine and helps reduce oxidation. The Bourgogne was a much better qaulity wine that the labeling might suggest—this is because the producers in Burgundy can only put forward a certain percentage of their beast grapes for the top quality wines and even if they have loads of great grapes, these have to go into a lower classification. Bourgogne is the lowest classification but the qaulity of this wine was better than it could have been (and thus £23 a bottle). I wasn’t convinced about the value for money! We also learned that the Pinot Gris, a medium wine, went really well with salami. The food tasting went well, and we had olives to match with the sherry (good), pate, tomatoes and cheese.

Wine Tasting at Cambridge Wine


Craig, Michael and I went down to London for Wine Plus at Olympia. For today my job title was ‘Wine Buyer’ for the Free Press, and Michael was the Bar Manager. We had some excellent wines. I was most excited about the Portuguese Taste Zone and a large exhibition of Greek Wines.

We started the day at about 11 with a tasting of French Wines from the Loire at the French Discovery Lounge. This was fun, but I enjoyed browsing the wines more, there were in excess of 100 from all parts of France available and the choice was fantastic. The staff were from a Wine Making Degree in the south of the UK, and it was interesting chatting with them.
We spent a good 20 mins with a very helpful man from Indigo Wine, Ben Henshaw. We tried some nice wine from his selection. Sadly I lost my notes.
pedro ximenez reservaHighlight of the new taste experiences today were four wines from Alvear in the south of Spain in the Pedro Ximénez range. There were also lovely sherries and we started with an impressive Fino en Rama de Añada: “En Rama” means that it is unblended and has not been filtered to enhance its individuality. It is the first “single vintage” Fino in modern history (apparently). We also tried the Pedro Ximénez Añada, Solera, Cosecha ad Reserva which wines that get darker and darker through the range made from dried raisins. By the time we were tasting Reserva it was like syrup of figs, but gorgeous. Must try and get some of these, they are very luxurious and unusual.
For the Greek Wines, I tried some from Domaine Sigalas and from Ino Wines. I was more attracted to Ino wines are they produced more of the varietals: Savatiano, Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Mavrodaphne. The Mavrodaphne was very nice (as usual) and the man behind the stand, Nick, was the same person who did the wine tasting in Cambridge about a year ago. He might be contacting Craig to do a tasting at the Free Press, which would be fun. He’s a Greek Wine evangelist (he’s also Greek).
Has some lunch in a pub close by Olympia and a bit of a rest (with beer amazingly for one of us), then headed back for more tasting!
Craig introduced us to Australian Margaret River wine, from Arlewood. The Semillon was lovely and smokey and the Deviation Road Pinot Noir was very good too.
At 5.15 we went to one of the highlights of the day: Be A Free Spirit with Cheese, Patricia Michelson from La Fromagerie in London was matching fantastic cheeses with spirits in unusual combinations. This finished me off for alcohol as there were nine lovely and generous spirits to match the nine cheeses:

  • Perry, paired with, Pont L’eveque cheese from Normandy
  • Lustau Oloroso Sherry, paired with Parmigiano Reggiano 3 Year Reggio Emilia
  • Madeira, paired with Tomme de Corse Corscian cheese
  • Jamaican Vintage Rum, paired with Explorateur, Ile de France (gorgeous full fat extra creamy cheese)
  • Valvados, paired with Livarot from Normandy
  • Glenfiddich 15 Year Whisky, paired with Doddington Wooler from Northumberland (a great cheese, 2 years old) and a bit like dutch mature cheese
  • 15 Year old Armagnac, paired with Dry Charolais from Burgundy
  • Marc de Bourgogne, paired with St Marcellin aux Marx de Raison Isere/Dauphine
  • Grappa Nosiola, paired with Gorgonzola Naturale, Picenza from Lombary (a lovely cheese)

The spirits were arranged by Will Smith, Sommelier at Arbutus and were all very nice. This was a really impressive tasting, all the glasses out in the style of a high-class restaurant with lovely long platters for the cheese. I was very impressed

We tried some lovely wine from Denbies Wine Estate in the UK; The women behind the counter were especially lovely as we were a bit rambly by then having drunk more than we ‘spat’. The Redland Pinot Noir/Dornfelder was good, as was the Greenfields Cuvée. They are the biggest wine producers in the UK, based in Dorking and I feel a visit coming on when we are down that way in the late summer next year.

We headed towards the rum stands on the way out. Craig had been looking forward to this all day. I preferred to veer across the passage to the stand of Jean-Paul Metté where we ‘smelt’ some really wonderful Eau de Vie D’Alsace: cinnamon, fruits and garlic! (for cooking). The Marc de Gewurztraminer was especially lovely.

Jean-Paul Mette

So we staggered out about 6.45 and bravely walked to Earls Court after missing the silly train from Olympia to there. All the trains from King’s Cross were cancelled because of signal failures and we ended up standing all the way home on a slow train from Liverpool Street, swaying for several reasons!