Is This an ‘I Was There’ Moment? The Wines of Alheit

25 November 2018 by Richard


Is this an ‘I was there’ wine moment? I think so. I was there. I bought the first ever vintage of Alheit Cartology, the 2011. It was revolutionary to me at the time – it had such clarity; a wine with a truly authentic Cape identity. Back then, just 22 barrels were produced of this profound blend of mostly Chenin Blanc with a touch of Semillon. Thankfully, due to a diligent search for special, old vineyards around the Cape, there is a bit more of the Cartology bottling to go around these days! Today, Chris and Suzaan Alheit make a range of single vineyard white wines in addition to Cartology, wines which are already sought-after but threaten with each successive vintage to cross the line into unobtainable… It will no doubt comfort me – a little – to know ‘I was there’ at the beginning when I can no longer find any bottles for my own cellar!

Suzaan Chris

Chris and Suzaan Alheit

Alheit’s focus remains strongly on dry-farmed heritage vineyards, mostly white grapes, but they are getting very excited about new sites they have found, planting vines in wonderful, often remote, places. Consequently, they have released additional single vineyard wines this year, which are from extreme locations or just produce exceptional fruit. We have secured a minuscule allocation (6 bottles per wine) of some of these, including your last chance ever to get your hands on a bottle of Radio Lazarus:

radio_lazarus_2017 horizThis remarkable Chenin Blanc was originally a single vineyard wine, but since the 2015 vintage comes from two plots planted in 1971 and 1978. Sadly, due to an extremely dry vintage in 2018 these already low-yielding vineyards are no longer viable for wine production (these vineyards only produced 50 litres of wine between them in 2018!) making 2017 the last vintage of Radio Lazarus to be released.

huilkrans_2017 horizThe new Huilkrans bottling (named after a cliff near the vineyard that ‘weeps’ when it rains) is from a vineyard that the Alheits have worked with for some time but has finally matured enough to stand on its own. A richer, deeper style than some in the portfolio due in part to deep red sand soil over a base of red clay, this nonetheless shows great saline minerality and appetising spice notes.

la_colline_vineyard_2017 horizThe La Colline Semillon is from a vineyard planted in 1936 containing a mixture of three Semillon clones: Semillon Blanc, Gris, and Rose. The result is a ripe, citrussy style that retains great freshness and meshes beautifully with some well-judged oak. More delicately textured than the Chenins but no less intense.

So, if you love truly great wines with a sense of place and authenticity, and you’d also like a chance to say ‘I was there’ – I suggest you pick a bottle or two before I do!

Click here to browse our full range of Alheit wines.

All pictures credit Alheit Vineyards

Domaine Paul Meunier – a New Star is Born

29 October 2018 by Alex

P Meunier Vineyard

I first visited Paul Meunier just after his maiden vintage in 2014 after a tip-off that a bright, young, talented winemaker was breathing life back into former co-operative winery in a village called Centernach, just south of Maury in the Agly Valley in the southern Roussillon region. Such was the excitement during the visit that The Good Wine Shop decided to be the first and sole importer of these wines into the UK.

Over the preceding years Paul had been buying a few small prize plots of ancient vineyards in the hills surrounding Centernach and has been energetically nurturing the vines so that they can produce, fresh, refined, savoury, terroir-driven wines again. Powerful, sun-kissed darkly fruited and spicy, oaky wines are what you might expect from this district but Paul’s wines are light, pure and thrilling – the polar opposite.


In part, this could be explained by Paul’s upbringing; the son of a Burgundian vintner, so wine must be in his blood. He gained immensely valuable experience making wine across the globe for 5 years, rapidly accelerated by working vintages each year in both northern and southern hemispheres. Having completed his apprenticeship Paul fell in love with the beautiful, wild vineyard landscape in this area, the towering Pyrenes as a backdrop. He also had the freedom and energy, which sometimes only a young, highly-ambitious vigneron has, to expertly express this place in his wines.

Official recordings of vineyard plantings only commenced in 1950, so many of Paul’s vineyards are at least 78 years old and some exceed 100 years. His highest site is 350 meters and whilst the soil types vary, schists, of varying colours, dominate. Very low yields of organically grown and hand harvested Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Macabeu and Grenache Gris are naturally fermented in small, inert concrete vats, concrete eggs and ceramic amphora, all with the purpose of letting the wine & terroir express themselves.

My favourites wine is the 2015 Côtes du Roussillon Blanc made from Macabeu and Grenache Gris planted in, or before, 1950 from a 269 meter high, rugged, black schist site near the neighbouring village of St Paul de Fenouillet. It is bright with generous stone fruit flavours, a stony salinity and perfect poise and presence.

The debut 2014 vintage of the red Cotes du Roussillon Villages is carefully assembled from vineyards in the villages of St-Arnac, Lesquerde, St-Paul and Maury. Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Lladoner Pelut (aka ‘the hairy Grenache’), Macabeu come from 10 to 100 years old vines grown at elevations from 130 to 300 meters. It is delightfully low in alcohol, especially for this part of the world and it has great elegance, refined red fruits, crunchy acidity and a note of schist. Comparisons have been made with Premier Cru Cotes de Nuits Burgundy – high praise indeed.Paul Meunier Grapes

From a single vineyard of 100% Grenache Noir planted in 1981 at 200 meters on a 0.58 hectare plot of windswept black schist is Paul’s Maury, a Vin Doux Naturel, that has a sweet, yet grippy port-like quality with a generous level of alcohol, aided by a light fortification. I believe he is doffing his hat to the vintage port houses as I established that part of it is made like port, part like a traditional Maury. It is my choice as an alternative to port this Christmas and is a more moderate, in terms of both alcohol and price.

Rave reviews from Jancis Robinson have followed but there are absolutely no signs of the dreaded DSAS – ‘difficult second album syndrome’. The opposite in fact as the current releases seem to point to stardom.

Intrigued? Click here to browse the range of wines from this great estate.

As an interesting post script, Napoleon disapproved of the Occitan language, which was widely used then, and renamed Centernach, ‘Saint Arnac’. Amusingly, Paul points out that there is no such Saint and that when spoken in French the word arnaque means a swindle! Paul understandably prefers to use the original spelling…

BYO Podcast – Episode Four: Pinot Noir

12 December 2017 by Alex



Episode four of our monthly podcast focuses on the profound and capricious Pinot Noir grape. For the uninitiated, ‘Bring Your Own’ is a podcast and video web series (in conjunction with Bottled Films) about wine and the people who make it, made by the people who drink it. Each episode has a theme centred around a wine region or style, and takes the form of a free-flowing, informal, and educational conversation.

Today’s session takes a look at Pinot Noir and some of its most famous expressions in Champagne and Burgundy. We’ve gathered a group of wine lovers to share bottles from their own cellars and to chat about what makes the grape so interesting, and the wines so memorable. We were lucky to be hosted by the great team at Kitchen Table and Bubbledogs in Central London for the filming of this episode. Tucked in the back of Bubbledogs on Charlotte Street, Kitchen Table is one of the most exciting restaurants in London, led by owner/Chef James Knappett. You can find them online at

Follow us on social media, @BYOPodcast and share or rate this episode.

Please subscribe to the podcast to make sure you catch all future episodes: here

Enjoy, follow and subscribe on social media @BYOPodcast.

You can now support the project through our new Patreon page,

The Wines:

Champagne Jacquesson Dizy “Terres Rouge” Rose Extra Brut 2009
Ulysse Collin “Les Maillons” Blanc de Noirs 2012
Domaine Bizot Vosne-Romanee 2014
Domaine Claude Dugat Gevrey Chambertin 2009

Find our host and guests online:

Derek Morrison @DerekDecanted
The Good Wine Shop –

Dan Roznov @ChampagneSpy Peter Crawford @Alavolee Alavolee –
Christina Rasmussen @ChristinaRasmussen_

Producer Profile: the Champagnes of Marie Courtin

30 June 2017 by Alex

This month as part of our Grower Champagne Month celebrations, we were lucky enough to taste the full range of Marie Courtin Champagnes. This small Champagne producer is owned and run by Dominique Moreau, granddaughter of Marie Courtin who tended the vines herself when the men in the family were fighting in World War I, while many other families abandoned their vines altogether.

Dominique farms a tiny 2.5ha in the village of Polisot in the Cotes des Bar region of Champagne. After many years of being somewhat overlooked, these southerly terroirs (Polisot is closer to Chablis than to Reims, for example) are home to some of the most exciting Champagne growers of all. The Marie Courtin vineyards are planted almost entirely to Pinot Noir, with a miniscule 0.5ha of Chardonnay. The vines are farmed according to fully organic and biodynamic principles, an approach which – although on the rise – is still very rare in the region. The philosophy here has always been ‘one grape variety, one vineyard, one vintage’, in stark contrast to the emphasis placed on blending by the vast majority of producers in the region. The yields are kept very low in order to ensure perfectly ripe fruit and Dominque adds no sugar at bottling – all the Champagnes are Extra Brut.

These wines have a pure and uniquely vibrant character which has to be tasted to be truly understood and bear little relation to the mass-produced, heavily worked Champagnes one often encounters.

Marie Courtin Bottles


From a vineyard with younger vines, this Pinot Noir is full of sweet spice character and bruised apples. The tension between generous texture, laser-like acidity, and stoney minerality creates an extremely moreish yet cerebral Champagne.


100% Chardonnay from Dominique’s tiny parcel. This shows more delicate structure than the Pinot-based wines, and some slightly more exotic notes of ginger. Driven by ripe green apples and citrus fruit, there is a refreshing, chalky texture here.


Efflorescence is in many ways the flagship cuvee here. This is made from Pinot Noir vines that are around 40 years of age. Smoky and intensely flavoured, Efflorescence shows an intense red fruit character that is reinforced by the fuller body of the wine. The breadth of flavours and aromas here is impressive.


Concordance is made from a special selection of grapes from the same vineyard as Efflorescence, and uses no additions of Sulphur at any point in the winemaking process. There is a real ethereal quality here, which is somehow more intense aromatically than the Efflorescence but also more elegantly structured on the palate. The same could be said about all the Champagnes from this address, but Concordance really feels like a living, breathing organism, changing slightly with every sip!

Producer Profile – Fabio Motta

1 November 2016 by Alex
Fabio Motta

Young winemaker Fabio Motta

After studying agriculture, Fabio Motta went to work at the Michele Satta winery in the beautiful Tuscan coastal area of Bolgheri. After working here for five years and marrying Michele’s daughter, Fabio acquired 4 hectares of his own vineyards. Planted to Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, these vineyards are now nearly 20 years old. Fabio believes that ‘a good wine grower lives and works close to the earth, humbly’, his role is as a facilitator, allowing the land, the weather, and the grapes to shape the wines. In an area like Bolgheri with its large, aristocratic estates, this approach is as refreshing as it is unusual.

Fabio Motta’s range includes two excellent ‘Super Tuscan’ reds, ‘Le Gonnare’ and ‘Pievi’:

Fabio Motta, ‘Le Gonnare’, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

Gonnare Bottle ShotThe clay rich soils of Fabio’s vineyards are particularly suited to Merlot. All grapes are destemmed before being fermented with wild yeasts. The wine then ages for 18 months in French barriques, one third of which are new. The wine ages for a further one year in bottle before release. This full and gutsy red incorporates 15% Syrah alongside the Merlot and shows enticing spicy, herby complexity with plenty of well-rounded tannin. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has recently awarded 96 points to this vintage of Le Gonnare – second only to Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s Masseto (which carries a three-figure price tag!): “This is the first Bolgheri Superiore ever produced by young talent Fabio Motta. He used 85% Merlot and 15% Syrah to make his 2013 Bolgheri Superiore Le Gonnare. In terms of an inaugural wine, this red blend hits all the high marks. This is a delicious rendition that showcases the soft and elegant side of Merlot with the sassy spice and savory notes of Syrah at the back. Pretty mineral etchings give the wine definition and focus. The combination is beautiful. Only 3,500 bottles of this biodynamic wine are produced. Congratulations” – Monica Larner, the Wine Advocate, October 2016.

Fabio Motta, ‘Pievi’, Bolgheri Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

FMotta PieviA blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Sangiovese. Fermentation of each variety is done separately with only natural yeast in 33 hl. oak barrels. The cap is pushed down manually twice a day and delestage is used to let the must breathe. Fermentation takes two weeks for each variety, after which time the wine is blended. Malolactic fermentation takes place in second and third year barriques. The wine is aged in barriques of the same age for 12 months before bottling without fining or filtration. Notes of fresh red fruits, interwoven with balsamic notes and a rich minerality. The tannins are ripe and silky and the balance between alcohol and acidity creates a fresh and fragrant mouth feel.

Make sure you try Fabio’s wines this winter, Le Gonnare in particular is bound to be even more sought after having received such critical acclaim!

Fine Wine Focus: Chateau Mouton Rothschild

9 March 2016 by Derek

Series of bottle shots in a Mouton vertical

Personally, I have a bit of a ‘see-saw’ relationship with the top wine from Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  The prestigious First-Growth Chateau from Pauillac is responsible for some of the most profound wine experiences of my life, and also the most disappointing.  I suppose when such lofty expectations and price-tags are placed upon some wines, it is easy to be underwhelmed.

1982 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton RothschildChateau Mouton Rothschild 1982

The 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is one of the most iconic and inspiring Bordeaux I’ve had the pleasure to taste.  The legendary vintage collected many trophies, but perhaps this 100 pointer from Robert Parker is the most iconic of the class.  The wine seemed eternal.  If, as a child, you were fortunate to meet one of your sports heroes, you may recall the overwhelming sense of power and almost godliness that loomed over you in their presence.  To be so awe-struck by a larger than life character is one of the most memorable sensations I experienced as a child.  There are few times in my life since that I have been overcome with the same emotions as an adult.  Once was at the feet of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, another was after tasting the 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  (Average price £1400 per bottle)

2000 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2000

At an almost identical retail price (Average price £1,300-£1499), the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild has been lauded by many critics and merchants as a trophy worthy of lofty comparisons to its iconic older brother.  The memorable design of the unique bottle only adds to the mystique of the wine and the elevation of its already sky-high prestige.

Imagine then the disappointment when I tasted a wine that fell a bit heavily and flat.  It felt slightly over-ripened, over-oaked, and lacking the structure and tension to truly demand one’s attention. While there were plenty of appetising flavours and aromas, overall it lacked the posture needed for an impressive evolution deep into the future. Fairly or not, when a wine’s price climbs into this category, the expectations for profoundness surely climb with it.  And with this price-tag, I will recommend my clients put the money elsewhere 10 times out of 10.

So this is my personal Chateau Mouton Rothschild spectrum.  I am the proudest ambassador of one trophy and the harshest critic of another.  Between both ends I have found much pleasure and delight.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1996

1996 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

When considering relative value of this great estate, I am constantly amazed that whole vintages are often overlooked.  At about one third of the price of the 2000, the 1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£525 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) shines powerfully.  It has all of the classic, masculine aromas you would hope for including cedar, tobacco, & cooked meat; countered with voluptuous, seductive black fruits and currants all on top of a captivating structure and fine, gripping tannins.  I not-so-shyly expect the ’96 to age longer and more gracefully than the ’00.

2004 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

For even greater value, the 2004 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£399 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) flies well under the radar.  Admittedly, this is not the Mouton to lay down in the cellar for decades to come.  But for an impressive drinking experience, there are few Bordeaux First Growths which you will find at this price and perhaps none which will deliver the same pleasure or value.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2004

At Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 2004 was the first vintage under Philippe Dhalluin who persuaded the late Philippine de Rothschild to institute a stricter selection with respect to the wine. They produced far fewer bottles than had been released in previous vintages, focusing instead on the highest level of quality.  In a somewhat challenging vintage, Mons. Dhalluin crafted a great wine with restraint and uncompromised integrity by limiting what he allowed to go into their top label.

I have been shouting to anyone who will listen that 2004 is my favourite current drinking vintage of Left-Bank Bordeaux since the turn of the millennium, and this is certainly one of the best of the lot.  Dense fruits, seductive tannins, and wonderful hints of cedar and tobacco.  The wine has a bit of a forest-y character which contrasts beautifully against the soft fruit aromas and smooth but structured mouthfeel.  A true pleasure to drink now.

There is a chance you are reading this and the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is your “Michelangelo’s David”.  And I love that. I love how unique the experience is and how individual everyone’s palates are…

But it does seem like a good excuse to cook some lamb, crack open a bottle of Mouton and discuss our disagreements until the glasses are empty. Cheers!

Legendary Rioja – Nectar of the Gods

2 March 2016 by Pippa

Hot on the heels of our hugely enjoyed (and very successful) celebration of Rioja last October, we have been offered some wonderful older – and we mean older – vintages of Rioja – from 1980 and 1978. These wines have been “liberated” from  well kept cellars – in some cases individual ones, in the region – by one of our more intrepid suppliers with whom we share a passion for Spanish wine.

The arrival of these treasures has got me thinking both of Rioja’s extraordinary staying power and what terrific value these wines offer in their advanced years. What would we have to pay for a 1980 Bordeaux? Somewhere north of £160 for a 1980 Cheval Blanc certainly.

I can’t think of another wine region in the world where such an array of mature wines is available, affordable and still drinking so well. And while Rioja has always been open to innovation and change, these historic bottles are an eloquent testament to the quality of old school winemaking. Old-fashioned techniques like co-fermenting red and white grapes are mostly now discredited, but they have given us a legacy of remarkably age-worthy wines.

Beronia 1980At the 40th anniversary tasting of Beronia’s founding, I was lucky enough to taste their 1973 Gran Reserva poured in celebration of the anniversary.  My note records the wine’s pale brick colour, the nose of bruised strawberries, polish, nutmeg, sweet spices – the flavours still absolutely vital and a joy to taste. Alas the 1973 isn’t commercially available – but I was delighted when the Beronia 5 Año 1980 arrived on The Good Wine Shop’s shelves.

Beronia, based in Ollauri, are south of Haro in the cooler, westerly part of Rioja Alta.  Mattias Calleja, the winemaker, has been there since day one. He was an early pioneer of mixed wood barrels – made with both American and French oak.  Beronia 5 Año 1980 was aged as a Gran Reserva but with 3 rather than the usual 2 years in barrel.

Also soon to arrive at The Good Wine Shop is Bodegas Lan’s, Viña Lanciano 1978. It is another aged treasure. My colleague, Derek’s tasting note reads “the ’78 Bodegas Lan seduced with its elegant evolution and yet surprising youth. While there is plenty of mature pleasure to be had, the wine is certainly not at the end of its rope. Tobacco, leather, dried fruits, dried flowers and dusty earth on the nose, but the tense structure and present tannins frame a wine that is anything but tired.  Surprising density for its age.“

Rioja vines

Bodegas Lan, are in Fuenmayor south of the Ebro river, nearer Logrono at the warmer eastern end of Rioja Alta. Viña Lanciano is one of three single vineyard wines representing Lan’s top quality production. Viña Lanciano is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Mazuelo aged for 2 years in American and French barrels.

My own first taste of vintage Rioja came in 1980 with a Reserva 904 1964 from La Rioja Alta. 24 years later the deal was sealed with a glass of 1978 Castillo Y Gay from Murrieta – a wine that had spent 25 years in barrel. Mature Rioja remains my wine of choice for a special occasion – including moments when the wine itself becomes just that – a celebration.

The Wonderful World of Whisky

1 December 2015 by Ben

With the price of some single malt Scotch reaching dizzying heights, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the best whiskies must be the most expensive….in fact nothing could be further from the truth!

Whisky lovers around the world are now routinely searching for great quality drams that offer better value and incredibly unique flavours.  This demand has been met by some seriously innovative whiskies from traditional whisky producing nations such as Canada, Ireland and the U.S.  In addition, you may have noticed English, Welsh, Swedish, Indian & Taiwanese whisky slowly appearing in shops and bars across the UK as horizons broaden. The growing popularity of these whiskies is no fluke. They’re gaining accolades from top critics and scooping up numerous awards along the way.

Excitement builds each November ahead of the publication of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, which last year famously named Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as their winner.  This year not one Scottish whisky made the top 5. The coveted top prize was taken by Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye from Canada, followed closely by whiskies from the U.S, Ireland & Japan.

Here at The Good Wine Shop we like to keep our ear to the ground and seek out the best offerings from the ever evolving world of Whisky.  Below are just a small selection of some of the ‘new kids on the block’ who are making a stir in the whisky world

Mackmyra Brukswhisky, 41.4%, Gävle, Sweden
MackmyraSwedish whisky may be new to most of you reading this article but for a number of years now it has been gaining a fantastic reputation internationally.  Awarded a gold medal as ‘Best in Class’ at the annual International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 2010, Mackmyra has been making waves ever since.  This is a wonderfully light and fruity style of whisky reminiscent of Speyside.  The nose is clean with light, spicy notes of Swedish peat and juniper. On the palate there are hints of butterscotch, citrus and pear.  Mackmyra is very approachable and great for those who like their whisky on the lighter side.

Nikka Coffey Grain, 45%, Miyagikyo, Japan
Nikka CoffeyNikka operate two coffey stills (both of which were imported from Scotland in 1963). They reside at their Miyagikyo distillery and are used to produce grain whisky for their house blends. This coffey still yields a greater depth of flavour than modern column stills used by other distilleries. As a result Nikka coffey grain has an exotic, fruity characteristic which has caught the imagination of whisky drinkers around the globe.  Nikka coffey grain is distilled mainly from corn and is a unique dram if ever there was one.  Whisky Advocate voted this dram as #9 in their recent 2015 whisky review with a score of 92/100. It’s a great example of Japanese whisky making at its finest.

High West Whiskey, Double Rye, 46%, Park City, Utah, U.S.A.
High WestHigh West is Utah’s first distillery since 1870 and opened its doors in 2007.  Rye whiskey has become increasingly popular over the past few years and this Double Rye certainly doesn’t disappoint.  A blend of mature 16 year old rye and a fresher, spicier 2 year old rye, High West is surprisingly light, floral and honeyed on the nose yet driven by dry and spicy, peppery flavours on the palate.  There is a small proportion of corn in the mash bill which adds some sweetness to balance the blend.  If you have enjoyed Rye whiskey in the past and are looking for something unique then look no further!

Teeling Whiskey, Small Batch Rum Cask Finish, 46%, Dublin, Ireland
TeelingIrish whiskey has been going through a bit of a renaissance in recent years, perhaps in part due to its major stylistic difference to Scotch.  Irish whiskey is mostly triple distilled and peat is rarely used, resulting in a style which is lighter and smoother in nature.  Irish whiskey is now the fastest growing spirit in the world with numerous distilleries opening in the last decade.  Teeling Whiskey, with a heritage stretching back to 1782, have recently opened Dublin’s first distillery in over 100 years.  This is a wonderfully smooth whiskey with a rich palate of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and orange blossom.  This small batch whiskey is incredibly versatile and is great for mixing in long drinks.

These are exciting times in the whisk(e)y world and we’re constantly tasting, scoring and exploring the latest arrivals on the scene so that we can offer our customers something unique.  So, the next time you’re looking to pick up a winter warmer we invite you to be adventurous and spread your whisky wings.

California Dreaming

2 February 2015 by Dave

While the days are at least starting to lengthen, we still have a few months of winter left and I find myself longing for the glorious two weeks I spent in heart of North America’s wine country last August.

While every state in the USA produces some wine and the likes of Oregon and Washington are starting to gain vinous reputations, California remains king.  If California were a country it would in fact be the fifth largest producer of wine by volume.  The style and quality of the wines vary wildly, from commercial styles produced in the huge Central Valley to the world beating (and eye-wateringly expensive) icons of the Napa Valley.

Dave tasting wines at Frogs Leap

Dave tasting wines at Frog’s Leap

During my stay I visited a couple of wineries from which The Good Wine Shop sources its Californian range.  Frog’s Leap can be found in the small sub-region of Rutherford about thirty minutes drive from Napa itself.  If you’re visiting do note it’s also spitting distance from the excellent Goose and Gander in St. Helena where some superb cocktails are served! The vineyards are totally un-irrigated, so careful and skilled management is needed to keep the vines productive.  The extra effort is certainly worth it.  The resulting wines have an uncommon elegant restraint and freshness of acidity which can often be lacking in some of the fruit bombs of the region.

On our second day in the Napa Valley we drove out to Duckhorn Vineyards. Its traditional estate house is set in beautiful gardens and has wines to match. Visitors have the option of sitting on the veranda or out in the gardens themselves whilst working through a selection of samples.  We opted for the latter and were treated to the reassuring rumble of tanks being hosed down, rather like hearing the sea in the distance. The wines themselves are more typically Californian and certainly weightier on the palate. The estate wines were stunning and age worthy, the “ready on release” Decoy range also impressed with bright fruit, supple texture and smooth drinkability.

We’re planning to open the Decoy Red Blend for customers to taste in the Esher shop over the weekend of 27 and 28 February. We’ll also be sampling the Frogs Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chiswick and Kew shops will be ‘California dreaming’ the same weekend. West Londoners should get in touch with their nearest branch to see what will be open to taste.

The Wines of Portugal – Character and Quality

2 June 2014 by

Throughout my short(ish) career in the wine trade I’ve always had a soft spot for the wines of Portugal.  I enjoy the richly fruited and complex reds and whites at a fraction of the price of their equals from the rest of Europe. What I hadn’t realised, until recently, was the incredible variety of wines that this country can produce.

pic of douro vineyards

In the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to taste some wonderfully individual wines from all over Portugal that have really illuminated the sheer diversity on offer. I’ve put them all together in a case of 12 which you can buy throughout June for £175 – at a saving of £31.

One of Portugal’s historical problems has been a lack of knowledge of regions and grape varieties (very few international grapes are used here) by wine consumers. To help you discover some of Portugal’s outstanding wines I’ve put together a brief profile of several of the key areas.

Vinho Verde is one of Portugal’s more familiar regions, particularly famous for its fresh, spritzy and low-alcohol whites that are made from a variety of local grapes including Arinto, Loureiro and Avesso.  In the very north of the region the Alvarinho grape (known as Albariño across the border in Spain) gives much more full-bodied, intense whites with flavours of peach, apricot and citrus. Two to try: Quinta da Raza Arinto, Vinho Verde, 2013, Quinta do Feital Alvarinho Auratus, 2011

Portugal’s best known wine region, the Douro Valley is world famous for port but also uses the same grapes varieties to produce some fantastic unfortified wines that share port’s lush texture and rich fruit. Most reds are blends that major on Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). These produce dense, textured, full-bodied reds with rich flavours of blackberry, dark plum and liquorice. Excellent with richer red meat dishes but such is their softness that they can be very enjoyable alone. Whites from this area are rarer but just as enjoyable and tend to marry full-bodied, textured mouthfeel with wonderful perfume and acidity – almost a cross between white Burgundy and Riesling!  Two to try: Quinta do Crasto Branco, Douro, 2012, Passadouro Tinto, Douro, 2011

A map of Portugal's wine regions

Map: Courtesy Wines of Portugal

My current favourite region is the Dão. Here cold, damp, winters and long, dry but not overly hot summers combine with granite and schist soils to produce superbly balanced and elegant wines. The reds typically blend Touriga Nacional’s lush, powerful textures, Alfrocheiro’s rich fruit and structure and Jaen’s delicate, balanced aromas. The end result can often be compared to more masculine styles of red Burgundy such is the delicious elegance and perfume of the wine. For whites the most successful grape is Encruzado which can make well-balanced, full-bodied whites with an appealing mineral character that respond well to oak ageing – reminiscent of white Burgundy but a little more tropical in fruit character. Two to try: Encruzado, Quinta dos Roques, Dão, 2012, Elfa Tinto, Casa de Mouraz, Dao, 2010

Bairrada lies just to the west of Dão and uses the Baga grape to produce fairly robust, structured wines with generous flavours of blackberry and blackcurrant that can evolve to cigar, honey and spice with proper ageing.  Fans of Barolo and Barbaresco should definitely not miss these.  One to try: Vinhas Velhas Tinto, Luis Pato, Bairrada, 2010

Just south of Lisbon is the Península de Setúbal where wine styles can vary greatly and many different grapes, both native and international, are used.  Some of my favourites blend native Portuguese varietals with international grapes such as Chardonnay and Syrah.  There’s some amazing value to be had here and the wines are often a little more approachable than others so it may be a good place to start exploring the wines of Portugal.  Two to try: Adega de Pegoes VR Branco, 2012, Colheita Seleccionada Tinto, Adega de Pegoes, 2009.

Hopefully this will have gone some way towards demystifying this hugely rewarding corner of the wine world.  If you’ve been inspired do consider my Perfect Portugal Case or come in and browse our Portugal shelves.