Category: Favourites

Australian Tasting 2015


By J.P.Lon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Public tastings at wine merchants can be a haphazard business. As much as you’d like to get an in-depth sense of each wine and increase your understanding of a country, a region, a grape variety, or a style of wine, it’s nearly impossible to accomplish in a crowd-filled room. Judging the colour of the wine in dim lighting is difficult, and swirling wine is perilous amid all the elbows and bottles. You quickly learn to give spitters as wide a berth as the milling crowd will allow, and not to be alarmed by the crunch underfoot of an errant water biscuit. It’s not a contemplative atmosphere – nor should it be. It’s a social event and shopping excursion for most people, with a chance to taste a few wines and buy a few bottles. If most of us struggle to get more than a general impression of each wine at that kind of event, it’s fine. That’s not really the point.

We attended a tasting like that last night. Crowded, genial, full of distractions and, luckily for us, also full of good Australian wines. We made an effort to take a few notes to share.

The Whites

We have one conversation over and over again as we begin tasting white wines. You are almost always given crisp, inoffensive white wines with a touch a fruit. Always perfect examples of a style or a variety or a particular terroir. And for Daniel, always perfectly uninspiring. There’s never anything wrong with them, but he wants a wine that’s provocative and stimulating, an event all by itself, instead of one that goes brilliantly with seafood starters or is easy drinking chilled as background noise at a barbecue. I suppose I have more patience for wines that only become special with food or at a particular moment in time. You don’t drink wine under laboratory conditions: Sometimes the magic happens in the interplay of wine and occasion, wine and the flavours of foods, and wine and interaction with other human beings. The four wines below all veer, to a greater or lesser degree, towards boring him (he’s nudging me to remind you how many good basic whites he gets to sample at work) and seeming like a good summer drinking to me.

Madfish Great Southern Riesling 2014

This was our favourite white of the night. It has crystalline clarity, clean and zesty citrus aromas, and high acidity, along with mouth-watering lime flavour and very delicate hints of the aromatic and mineral qualities you would expect in a Riesling. If we had one complaint, it was that this wine didn’t exhibit those Riesling qualities a bit more strongly, but we’re prejudiced as great fans of Riesling and that shouldn’t take away from what a fine, versatile dry white wine this is.

Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Marsanne 2012

There’s something uncommon in the aroma of this wine. It has citrus and stone fruit on the nose, but also a mineral edge to the perfume similar to bath salts. The citrus and peachy flavours echo the aromas, but there’s also something honeyed and a bit herbal to it. It’s less honey than honeysuckle, with that dash of wildness and earthiness. Tahblik specialises in Rhône grapes such as Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, and claims to have the largest single holding of Marsanne vines in the world. This wine also ages well, developing additional richness and complexity.

Blind Spot King Valley Pinot Gris 2014

This wine is one of a group of Australian wines the Wine Society sells under the Blind Spot label, aiming to bring exceptional small producers in Australia out of the wine industry’s “blind spot” and into wine glasses. We very much enjoyed a Blind Spot Champagne-style sparkling wine from Tasmania at a tasting last year, and so we always try other Blind Spot wines with great interest. This is a classic Pinot Gris, with the crispness and easy-drinking qualities you’d expect. It has grapefruit on the nose with flavours of apples or pears, and less of the aromatic quality of an Alsatian Pinot Gris. While this will surely be a fine summer sipper, we couldn’t help wondering what ever happened to that Blind Spot Tasmania sparkling . . . .

Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013

Bleasdale is an Australian wine producer we particularly like. It’s rare that we don’t have a bottle of the Wise One Tawny around the house, and Bleasdale’s Sparkling Shiraz is one of our favourite sparkling reds. Had we but sufficient cash in the wine budget, we’d keep bottles of 2012 Frank Potts in our collection too. This Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is picked by hand and fermented in French oak with wild yeasts, so fans of oaked Chardonnay will love the toastiness accompanying the stone fruit flavours. This wine should age well for three or four years, and should be very food-friendly.

The Reds

Blind Spot Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2014

Blind Spot Yarra Valley Pinot Noir was a surprise hit with us both. It offers a bit of cranberry on the nose and blueberry on the palate, with smooth tannins adding structure. It’s light-bodied and elegant, and probably delicious with charcuterie.

Jamsheed La Syrah 2013

This is an Australian shiraz with cherry and bramble flavours that don’t overwhelm the slight spiciness and pepperiness. It’s elegant and restrained, with firm tannins that will stand up to bold or meaty dishes.

Pitchfork Margaret River Cabernet-Merlot 2013

This blend was Daniel’s favourite red of the evening. It’s 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, with big, dark berry flavours on the nose and lively, juicy flavours. There’s a hint of eucalyptus or mint too, along with good acidity and considerable structure from the tannins.

Bleasdale The Broad-Side Langhorne Creek Shiraz Cabernet-Malbec 2012

Another offering from the fine folks at Bleasdale, this time a blend of 43% Shiraz, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Malbec. Ripe, almost jammy flavours of purple plum, blackcurrant, and blackberry lead into firm tannins that slowly build, a quality that can be a touch of genius when paired with food.


Famille Hugel

Wednesday I was fortunate enough to attend a staff wine tasting of Hugel wines at the Wine Society. I actually went in on my day off just for the that, which should be an indication of how interested I am in the wines of Alsace and in Famille Hugel wines in particular.

Daniel at tasting

Daniel, smiling in blue stripes at work on his day off

The Hugel family has been producing wine in Riquewihr in Alsace since 1639, which is remarkable continuity when you consider how many times Alsace changed countries and official languages during the same period (six times since 1639, by my count). The Hugel family features prominently in Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup, which, if you haven’t read it, is an collection of accounts of how the French tried to preserve cellars, vines, vineyards and the vintners themselves from the Nazis during World War II. We’ve just finished reading the book ourselves and will post a full review soon, but while many of the stories blur together in the Kladstrups’ descriptions, what happened to the Hugel family really stands out.  Two Hugel brothers were conscripted into the German army and one, once he had managed to survive the Russian front and return to liberated Riquewihr, felt he had to go back to Germany and fight again as a soldier in the French army. The two brothers were actually on opposite sides of the fighting at the same time during a battle near Lake Constance. It’s frankly the sort of thing you’d find unbelievable if you saw it in a film. If you’re interested in reading more about the Hugel family during World War II, you can read excerpts on the Hugel website or in Wine and War.

Three generations of the Hugel family were in England this week for wine tastings and to announce the rebranding of the company from Hugel & Fils to the more inclusive Famille Hugel, as well as the launch of the family’s first single-vineyard wine called Schoelhammer. Schoelhammer is made from grapes from just 30 rows of south-facing Riesling vines, and the first release is from the 2007 vintage.

Famille Hugel

Famille Hugel

The energetic Etienne Hugel, Directeur General at Famille Hugel, and his son, Jean-Frederic, took charge of the staff tasting at the Wine Society and lead us through the fascinating stories of the family, its vineyards, and the great wines they produce. It’s always a pleasure to talk with producers who are so expressive and in love with their wines and grapes. The father and son team had us nodding and laughing, all the while learning from them in a most pleasant way.

We tasted a variety of Hugel wines, each of them impressive in its own way. The tasting notes below are mine, but the links will take you to the product page on the Hugel website.

Gentil Hugel 2012 (The Society’s Vin de Alsace 2012)
This wine combines noble grapes of Alsace: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Sylvaner. The result is a refreshing wine with a crisp, lively aroma and bright, but not biting acidity. It has good length and generous juicy fruit. Blending the qualities of these disparate grapes also makes this wine a good all-rounder with food.

Pinot Gris Tradition, Hugel 2012
This wine is quite dry and the sort of wine I enjoy most when I have it with food. It seemed to me to have a slightly shorter length than the Gentil. The acidity and the aromatic qualities of this wine would pair particularly well with fattier poultry such as duck and pheasant, or with game.

Gewurztraminer Tradition 2012 (The Society’s Exhibition Gewurztraminer 2010)
Etienne Hugel called this the family’s most curry-friendly wine. In fact, anything with any sort of spice will go extremely well with this. This wine has all the characteristics you associate with a fine Gewurztraminer: the aromatic qualities, the hint of spice, the freshness and delicacy. It’s as good an example of a classic Gewurztraminer as you are likely to find.

Riesling Jubilee 2009
This is one of the most expressive Rieslings I’ve had in a while. There is so much on the nose, with a fine flintiness and acidity. It’s well balanced with ample fruit and floral aspects that promise much for years to come.

Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, Hugel 2007
Etienne Hugel says this sweet wine is perfect with blue cheese. There’s acidity to lift the wine, so it avoids being cloyingly sweet, and while full of perfume and fruit flavours, it shows restraint. The 2007 we tasted was excellent, but we also tasted a 1998 that was divine. It was almost a pity I had to leave and get on with the rest of my day off.

The Hugel family is set to appear in a feature article in Decanter magazine next month, if you’d like to learn more, or the Famille Hugel website is full of additional information and truly beautiful photos. You can also follow Famille Hugel on social media.

The 32nd Day of Riesling

“Rieslings were the first wines I ever loved,” the wife said as she was pouring the wine into the glasses. There followed a story about bottles of terrible wines that she and her friends pretended to like at university until this one night, in the Rheingau, when she went to a tasting of Rieslings. Rieslings became for her the wine by which all others had to be measured. Whilst my path to Riesling love may have been different, I feel much the same, and we routinely buy Rieslings when we want a white wine for holiday dinners or special celebrations. I think for most people that is the highest compliment you can give.

If you’ve missed it, we didn’t just end the month of July, but the “31 Days of Riesling.” In a fit of generosity, we’ve decided to extend that by a day and offer you a 32nd day of Riesling. To end this summer’s celebration of Riesling in style, we’re going to profile an exceptional wine, Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling 2012 from Weingut Dönnhoff.

By Jacquesverlaeken (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jacquesverlaeken (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Weingut Dönnhoff is in the Nahe, and if you are not that familiar with German wine regions, you may not recognise the name. The region takes its name from the Nahe, a tributary of the Rhine. It may be one of the smaller German wine regions, but the range of soil types and the quality of those soils for wine-growing are exceptional. The Dönnhoff family grows vines on nine sites across 25 hectares of Erste Lage, or Grand Cru, vineyards.

Oberhäuser Leistenberg — Near Oberhausen, in a small side valley of the Nahe, and the oldest vineyard held by the family. The slopes are steep and the soils are decomposed grey slate.

Oberhäuser Brücke — Also near Oberhausen, and not just the smallest Dönnhoff vineyard, but the smallest vineyard in the Nahe region. It’s across from a bridge (hence the name, which means “bridge” in German), and a microclimate created by how close it is to the river. The soil is grey slate bedrock with a layer of loess loam.

Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg  – Near Schlossböckelheim and on a steep southern slope. The soil is a  weathered volcanic porphyry soil

Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle – Near Niederhausen, and often called the best site in the whole of the Nahe. The soil is a blackest grey slate mixed with extrusive igneous rock, porphyry, and limestone.

Norheimer Dellchen – Near Norheim, on steep cliffs that rise from the river banks and terraced with stone walls. The soil is mainly slate mixed with stony precipitate sedimentary rock.

Norheimer Kirscheck – Near Norheim, on a soil composed mainly of grey slate mixed with sandstone.

Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl — Near Bad Kreuznach, on a loess loam soil with lots of small quartzite pebbles that warm up in the sun and hold the heat.

Kreuznacher Kahlenberg – Near Bad Kreuznach with a gravelly loam soil.

Roxheimer Höllenpfad  – Near Roxheim, on a steeply sloping vineyard in a small side valley on weathered red sandstone.

The Dönnhoff family came to the Nahe over two hundred years ago, and for many years their land was a mixed farm combining vines, food crops and livestock. Current owner Helmut Dönnhoff’s grandfather took the decision to specialise in viticulture. The vast majority of the Dönnhoff vines are Riesling (80%), along with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Helmut Dönnhoff told Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller that the family no longer irrigates any of their vineyards:

“We do not irrigate at all. We irrigated in the 1950s. My father and his colleagues did it for frost protection. After 10 or 15 years of doing it we realized that the wines were not better. In particular we saw that in places we did not irrigate, the wines were better. The roots went deeper, the wines were more intense. So we stopped irrigation 25 years ago.”

The vines are grown on low-to-the-ground wire frames and harvested by hand in successive passes. Helmut Dönnhoff runs the family business these days alongside his son, Cornelius.

For us, the standout quality of the Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling 2012 is its amazing balance. Lots of people comment on the wine’s minerality, a touch of slate, but Janet usually finds minerality in a wine too much and it becomes all she tastes. Not with this Riesling, though. There may be a hint of wet slate, but it’s so perfectly balanced that she barely detected it at all, nevermind finding it overwhelming. The wine has a good acidity, but for all that it still feels rich. It’s beautifully dry, but that is balanced by the surprising juiciness. That fruit is hard to pin down, but it’s a zesty citrus flavour leaning towards lime or maybe unripe green apple. There’s a slight honeyed sweetness in the finish, but there’s a mouthwatering aftertaste that leaves your juices running. We both loved it. It’s 12.5% abv and drinking until at least 2019.

There are a number of accounts of visits to the Weingut, and many of them make interesting reading, whether you are thinking of visiting or just thinking of buying a few bottles.  The Amateur Wino, Marie’s Blog, and Schiller-Wine are three to get you started, and they include lots of tasting notes. You might also find Englishman Alex Down’s account in his blog, The Riesling Revolutionary, of leaving his job as a lawyer in the City of London, to pursue a life in wine, a journey which led him to working for a month in the Dönnhoff vineyards. His experiences, in addition to being interesting generally, tell you a lot about the terroir and spirit of Weingut Dönnhoff.


Did you miss…

Did you miss our post on the wines of Alsace? It included tasting notes for Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Gran Cru Saering 2011, another excellent Riesling.

TdF Stage 9: All Downhill after the Grand Ballon

Yesterday’s stage did little to change the Tour de France leader board except for weeding out some non-GC people at the top of the table. And well done to French cyclist Blel Kadri on his first Grand Tour stage win! It was a tough climb to the summit for cyclists and spectators alike, but yesterday’s crowds were rewarded with a French winner for their efforts. Vincenzo Nibali still looks very comfortable in the yellow jersey, allowing Alberto Contador to cut only 3 seconds off the time difference between them.

stage 9

Stage 9 takes place chiefly in the Vosges Mountains, beginning in Gérardmer in Lorraine, where yesterday’s stage ended, to Mulhouse in Alsace. After racing up and down the Vosges for most of the stage, riders will top the final climb (the charmingly named “Grand Ballon” to finish on a plain. Nibali was quoted (and this must be in translation because he doesn’t give interviews in English) as saying, “It’s more of a stage for a breakaway rather than the overall classification riders. I won’t say nothing can happen; something can always happen, but after the final climb there’s a long way to the finish, so I don’t know… We’ll see during the stage.”

stage 9 profile

We are delighted to arrive in an important wine region, and one of our favourites. Because Alsace and Lorraine were sometimes French and sometimes German throughout history, passing back and forth several times, many white grape varieties grown more widely in Germany than France are also main varieties in Alsace. Almost all Alsatian wines are white, although a small amount of Pinot Noir is grown and used in rosé. The most popular white varieties are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Auxerrois Blanc.

Are you wondering why we used “Gewurztraminer” there instead of “Gewürztraminer,” with an umlaut? In France, Gewurztraminer is spelled without an umlaut, which isn’t used in the French language, whereas the same variety in Germany is always spelled Gewürztraminer. Feel free to use that bit of Alsatian wine trivia to impress your friends.

Alsace is a spectacular region for wine-lovers and cyclists, and we ran across a fantastic cycling and wine map of Alsace. Click the small image below to go to the website, where a much larger version is avaiable as well as downloadable .pdf version.

Alsace Wine Route

If you’d like more information about the wines of Alsace, we’d recommend looking at the information and resources on Thye’re also active on Twitter as @AlsaceWines.

The list of wines from Alsace that we love and drink regularly is very, very long. They are incredibly food-friendly and so elegant and balanced on their own that they are a pleasure to drink for almost any occasion. We’ve chosen three we recently tried and really liked to profile here.

Gewurztraminer Mambourg 2011 Vendanges Tardives Alsace Gran Cru Domaine Weinbach

When Laurence Faller of Domaine Weinbach died of an apparent heart attack in May at the very young age of 47, the wine industry mourned the loss of a talented and innovative wine-maker. She lead Domaine Weinbach’s move to biodynamic farming and travelled widely, introducing Alsatian wines in general and the subtle, precise, and elegant wines of Domaine Weinbach in particular. Domaine Weinbach is one of the few French wineries run by women, in this case, “Colette Faller et ses filles,” as is proudly displayed on every page of the Domaine Weinbach website.

Domaine Weinbach was named after a little stream that flows through the estate and was founded by the Capucin monks in 1612. The house is surrounded by the original 9th Century monastic vineyard, the Clos du Capucin and all of the estate’s wines are now labelled with its name. During the French Revolution, the Domaine was sold as a national property, and in 1898 it was acquired by the Faller brothers. Their descendant, Théo Faller, died in 1979, leaving the Domaine Weinbach in the capable hands of his wife, Colette, and daughters Cathy and Laurence. A virtual tour of the vineyards is available on the Domaine’s website.

domaine weinbach

The Grand Cru Mambourg sits at lower altitude than Domaine Weinbach’s Grand Cru Furstentum, which means that it often sees an even greater spread of botrytis early on. In 2011, the entire harvest was done on a single day on the 15th October, relatively early, giving rise to a stunningly elegant and sweet Gewurtzraminer with incredible balance and texture. It is described as tasting of fresh and dried apricots, rose petal and caramelised orange, quince and grapefruit, resulting in a luxurious, though in no way heavy wine. It has 94g/l residual sugar and 12% abv.

Even just on the nose, it’s a pleasure to experience this wine. The aromas alone are almost worth the price. The taste of it is just sublime, with a sweetness that is never cloying. It stays lively and fresh, with the sweetness balanced by a light fruitiness. For anyone who likes sweet wines, this is definitely a one to try.

Rolly Gassmann 2012 Brandhurst de Bergheim Pinot Gris

Rolly Gassmann is located in Alsace’s Haut-Rhin village of Rorschwihr, near Ribeauvillé, with roots dating back to 1661. The 51-hectare estate (40ha in Rorschwihr, 10ha in Bergheim) is owned and run by Louis and Marie-Therese Gassmann and their son, Pierre. They ascribe generally to biodynamic principles and only export 20% of their annual production.

The commune of Rorschwihr, lies on one of Alsace’s many faultlines, giving it 21 different soil types, particularly limestone, sandstone, granite and silt. When in the 1970s/1980s the authorities wanted to combine vineyards into larger plots as part of the new Grand Cru system, the villagers, who understood the immense differences this complex soil structure creates within very small areas, objected. They insisted there should be 12 Rorschwihr Grand Crus or none at all. And so today there are none, despite the obvious excellence of some of the sites.

This is also a sweet wine, but we find hints of spice, lychee, orange peel, and even a touch of minerality. It has a very long finish. To us, it seems a good match for a curry or other spicy dishes.

Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Gran Cru Saering 2011

Domaine Schlumberger is Alsace’s largest estate with some 140ha, half of them on Grand Cru sites. The Domaine was founded by Nicholas Schlumberger in 1810, and because of the steepness of the vineyards, Schlumberger uses horses rather than machinery to tend the vines on the terraces. Within the last ten years Séverine Schlumberger and winemaker Alain Freyburger have transformed Domaine Schlumberger, bringing in stainless steel casks and a new consistency and quality.

Domaine Schlumberger

This Riesling is dominated by citrus and lemon flavours with a bit of spice and minerality in the long finish. Saering’s soil, made of marl, limestone and sandstone, brings out the best in this dry, delicate, fragrant Riesling. It’s 13% abv, drinking from now to 2023.

We found it incredibly balanced and food friendly. We hadn’t necessarily planned to try it with Mexican food, but somehow did and it was suprisingly good, and you’ll see food pairing suggestions for this delicious, versatile wine that range from Chinese dim sum to charcuterie to kedgeree.

Favourites Series: 2012 Rosé D’Anjou Famille Bougrier

2012 Rosé D’Anjou Famille Bougrier

The length of this rosé is as long as Quintana’s winning margin! It’s as balanced as his steady climb up Monte Zoncolan! They should serve this wine out of replicas of Quintana’s pink boots! Nairo Quintana’s sweat in the maglia rosa is probably the same colour as this rosé — except that, like Chuck Norris, Nairo Quintana doesn’t sweat.

I got a little over-excited yesterday when Colombia’s Nairo Quintana won the Giro d’Italia, the first ever Grand Tour win for him and the first win ever by a Colombian. We toasted his achievement with a glass or three of 2012 Famille Bougrier Rosé D’Anjou, which seemed the right colour at least, as the Giro uses the maglia rosa, or pink jersey, to mark its leader just as the Tour de France uses the famous yellow jersey.

It was one of the best rosés I’ve ever tried. It’s so light and refreshing chilled, and dangerously easy to drink. There are loads of red berries on the nose and in the mouth, and the balance is perfect. There’s no heaviness from over-sweetness or the aggressive zing of acidity or alcohol. It’s lively and crisp, and is just as pleasant to drink on its own as it would be with food.

The Famille Bourgrier Rosé d’Anjou is a blend of Grolleau Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc. Rosé d’Anjou is made from a majority of Grolleau, a variety primarily grown in France’s Loire Valley and not permitted in very many appellations. It’s horrifying to think that Robert Parker has actually advocated ripping out all the Grolleau vines and replacing them with Gamay and Cabernet Franc, because while there may be some poor examples of Grolleau-based wines out there, this one suggests to me that it doesn’t have to be that way.

English Wine Week at the Enomatic

Enomatic Wine Dispenser

We paid a visit to our local Enomatic wine dispenser to celebrate English Wine Week. It’s a machine I have used before, but Janet hadn’t. It’s a brilliant machine really, but it can be a little difficult to get used to. Janet managed somehow to dispense an English white right into the sleeve of her jacket. I suppose if you’re going to be wet to the elbow during a tasting, you could do worse than Three Choirs Midsummer Hill.

Janet had actually never tasted any English wines before, and so perhaps came to the tasting with fewer preconceived notions of what was going to be on offer. We started with the sparkling wines, and unfortunately tasted the one we ended up liking best first. The 2010 Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé was truly delicious: salmony pink, crisp, and missing that aggressive hit of acid you so often find in English wines, whether sparkling or still. Tasting this one first probably made it harder to like the two sparkling wines that followed, which were still both very good. The 2011 Ridgeview Bloomsbury had a more typical level of acidity. Janet said to her it was like getting to the centre of a sherbet lemon, harsh but not unpleasant (especially if you like sherbet lemons, as she does). The 2009 Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée was less biting, but still had a bit too much acid for our tastes after having tasted the Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé.

Some of the still white wines were available to taste in two vintages, which was a treat. When we tried the Three Choirs Midsummer Hill 2012 and 2013, they both had a grapefruit aroma and flavour, but the acidity was markedly less in the 2012, which has had time to mellow a bit. The same was true of the Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2010 and 2011, with the 2010 being noticeably smoother, and tart without the intense burst of acid, whereas the 2011 was quite grapefruity again.

We didn’t rate the rest of the English still wines very highly. The 2013 Chapel Down Bacchus was almost completely colourless and was acidic again, but with more gooseberry than grapefruit flavour. The 2013 Three Choirs Rosé has a crisp, but somewhat generic light berry flavour, perhaps lightly strawberry. The 2013 Three Choirs Stone Brook was a bit nondescript in flavour.

We also tasted some of the non-English wines that were featured. For summer barbecues, the 2013 De Martino Gallardía del Itata Cinsault would be absolutely fantastic, and would be excellent chilled. It had a light colour, good length and a nice bit of pepper at the end that just made you think of sausages and burgers and blue skies. The 2012 Silbador Carmenère was rich and spicy and you could hardly imagine anything better with a steak. The aroma of the Society’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo immediately evokes Italy, or at least the best Italian reds you’ve drunk in your life. Janet thought it was fabulous, which I thought a little strange because there were quite perceptible tannins and she usually dislikes that. In this case the tannins were so balanced that the end result was not mouth-drying, but rounded and rich.

The wines we liked less on the day were the 2011 Brouilly Pisse Vieille Durand, which was a very light wine, as you’d expect from Beaujolais, but just didn’t fare well against the other wines we were tasting at the time. Janet said I actually winced at my first taste of the 2012 Hilltop Corvinus Hungarian Red, athough she said she could easily drink a glass or two, and the 2012 Cabardès, Château de Pennautier was quite oaky, smokey, and cedary, and although not to our palates, it’s a fantastic wine with plenty of depth and character.

We were delighted to see sloe gin available for tasting as well. We make it ourselves every autumn and are quite proud of the results, although the commercial bottle for tasting was, to be quite honest, nearly as good. Delicious, sweet and smooth, with that amazing fruity flavour you get from the sloes and none of the taste of the gin at all. Our latest batches of sloe gin have some bottles made with gin and others with vodka, simply to see if the kind of alcohol makes any difference at all.

In the end, it was a great selection of wines from England and elsewhere that we were lucky to try. If we had been buying last night, we would have been happy to take home bottles of Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé, Chapel Down Pinot Blanc 2010, and Three Choirs Midsummer Hill 2012 for our English Wine Week celebrations (and probably 2013 De Martino Gallardía del Itata Cinsault, 2012 Silbador Carmenère, and the Society’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for other summer occasions). Oh, and we might well buy a bottle of the sloe gin too, just to tide us over until ours is ready.