Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Book review: The Chinese Wine Renaissance (*****), by Janet Wang

Ms Wang at the LWF 2024


The Chinese have been making wine since the days of the Silk Road and they have a rich, yet little known wine culture. Their now thriving wine market is entwined with thousands of years of fashion, poetry, and art, and offers a window into the country's vibrant history and legendary tales.

This well-researched book offers a taste of China through a wine journey, setting the rise of grape wine against the fascinating backdrop of Chinese culture. In an accessible and comprehensive tone, this guide covers the relationship between Chinese philosophy and wine, the renaissance of grape wine in modern China, the different varieties of Chinese wines, how to pair them with Chinese food and explores wine etiquette and customs.

As wines from China are spreading to our shores and our tables, this book is an essential companion for all wine lovers interested in exploring new flavours while expanding their cultural horizons.


An essential book to begin to understand the role that wine has played in Chinese society for centuries. We start from mythology and archaeology, up to the economy of today and the evolution of taste among consumers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Meet the producer: Navarro Lopéz, Ciudad Real, Spain

A family-run enterprise for over one hundred years, Navarro Lopez has blended tradition and innovation and carries forward the best of Rioja wine making through its presence pretty much all over the world. Below are my tasting notes from a selection of wines that I received for review.

Elegancia 2019
Tempranillo 100%
The name says it all, this is an elegant wine
Paired with Chinese bamboo shoots, pork belly and brown rice.
Score 90

Chinese bamboo shoots and brown rice for an "elegant" pairing"

Vina trebolar 2022
Graciano, tempranillo, syrah and garnacha
A wine of stature, with plump structure, perfectly balanced, where the fruit has given space to secondary flavors. I can only imagine tertiary notes would develop in time but this bottle is ready now.
Score 94

Imperio Gran Seleccion 2019
Tempranillo 100%
This is a delicate tempranillo, this seems to be a recurring feature in Navarro Lopéz wines, a wine that tiptoes to your palate rather than exploding in your mouth. It is elegant and at its peak now. I think that its perfect structure could only suffer from prolonged bottle aging.
I paired it with braised duck legs and soya bean sprouts.
Score 91

Viña Valoria 2013
tempranillo 100%
A truly top notch tempranillo, with all you might expect from that and more. An intense aroma of ripe red fruits leaves you ready for enjoying a perfectly balanced and complex mix of secondary and tertiary flavors. 36 months in American oak confer a smooth elegance to this majestic wine. Great length. 
I paired it with shredded slow cooked pork accompanied by red peppers and a touch of spring onions for freshness.
Score 95

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Meet the producer: Clos Mont Blanc, Catalunya, Spain

This post is the result of a meeting with Clos Montblanc of Catalunya at the online fair organized by Onvinum in February 2024 and I am grateful to the producer for the samples received which I tested and paired as noted below.

Unic 2022

Chardonnay 100%
A mellow chardonnay, round and balanced. I paired it with tomato sauce pasta with Spanish tuna and the moderate structure of both food and wine went well even though I would have liked a bit more acidity.
Score 83

Xipella 2023

An eclectic blend, Xipella makes for an honest straightforward wine that will go down well with a wide range of food pairings and consumers. This wine is balanced, moderately long and ticks all the boxes for a pleasant drink that is perfect now with the coming of Spring. It does not strike me for its freshness or for its complexity and this is why the first work that came to mind was straightforward. I paired it with spaghetti and mussels and it was a successful marriage in that both wine and food proposed medium structure and the moderate acidity did not overwhelm the sapid flavor of the seafood.  Enjoy it without thinking too much about it! Score 87

Xipella 2019

Carinena, cab sauvignon and syrah for this well balanced wine with a nore of ripe red fruits, and a palate with notes of chocolate. Well rounded tannins, long finish. I paired with Chinese oily tofu and it worked well, both dishes offering moderate structure and the gentle tannins contrasted amicably with the oiliness of the tofu. Score 90.

Chinese oily tofu with spring onions and asparagus

Inici 2018
garnacha negra 79%, cab sauvignon 21% in organic production
An elegant wine, perfectly balanced, complex and long. A rare gem with less than 3000 bottles produced.
Score 92

G de Gourmand 2021
A fruity and fresh wine despite the old vines (30+ years), almost delicate. I paired it with pizza.
Score 86

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Taylor’s & Fonseca Port Chocolate pairing with Vinte Vinte Chocolate

Presented at the LWF 2024 by Pedro Martins Araújo, Master Chocolate Maker of Vinte Vinte, part of the Fladgate Partnership, and João Vasconcelos the UK Taylor's Port Market Manager. 

Port has a tradition of pairing with cigars, cheese and  chocolate, and it is to the last that today's session at the LWF was dedicated.

The suggested tasting technique is to let the chocolate melt in your mouth then drink the wine.

20/20 Chocolate is today's partner that provided all the samples paired to the port selection. The name is meant to be an homage to latitudes where cocoa is produced, and they started their business in the year 2020! 

Here are my tasting note:

1. Taylor's chip dry white port
Paired with 20|20 White Chocolate
1st white port made, in 1934.
Late fortification, let ferment longer, resulting wine is dryer. Their original goal was to compete with dry Sherry, but that is gone by the wayside now and chip dry (origin of this name unknown!) has no need to compare itself with competitors. Oxidative style, the wine is left in oak barrels to develop nutty style. 
Malvasia is the predominant grape. Great contrast of sweet choc and dry wine. Moderate intensity, balanced.
Score 88
Rrp 18

2. Fonseca Bin 27 reserve ruby, large oak barrels 3 to 4 years 
Paired with 20/20 dark chocolate 70%
Raisin plums, a few sharp corners in this ruby.
Score 86
Rrp 18

3. Taylor's LBV 2019
Paired with 20|20 dark chocolate 58%
Round smooth polished 
Cinnamon molasses. An excellent value port.
Score 90

4. Taylor's 10yo tawny 20 20 
Paired with 20|20 milk chocolate 35%
Pair by concordance, sweet choc and sweet wine
Very well balanced, long complex 
Score 92 
Rrp 20

5. Taylor's vintage 2003 since 1692!
Paired with 20|20 Grand Cru Dark Chocolate 70% Mexico Finca La Rioja 2019
Grand cru dark chocolate 
Intense nose of ripe fruit 
Very complex, long perfect balance 
Score 94
Rrp 90

6. Taylor's 50yo tawny Golden Age 
Paired with 20|20 Limited Edition Dark Chocolate 65% Peru
Gold color by aging in cask 
Change every year to clean old barrel, Port hates new wood! 
Angel share takes up to 98% over the decades! 
Highest altitude cocoa farm in the world in Peru 
Rrp 225 gbp 
Score 96
2000 bottles per year roughly

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Meet the producer: Penafiel, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Second tasting of Penafiel wines for the Roving Somm, see my previous notes here on this blog. This second lineup is even more impressive than the first, and it is once more led by the exceptional Silencio de Miros. 

Thank you to Onvinum for making the introduction on the occasion of the online wine fair of February 2024.

See tasting notes below.

Alba de Miros 2022
Albarino 100%. A fresh breath of Spring in this wine that offers floral notes and pineapple in the nose and a balanced and moderately complex palate. Good length. I happily paired it with steamed mussels. A wine with no pretensions that stands up very well in its category. Score 88

Miros de Ribera Reserva 2019
Tempranillo 100%
I would call this an upper middle class typical tempranillo with full elegant body, round structure. This 2019 is ready but will still evolve for a few years. I paired it with baked lam. Watch the alcohol content, it is a strong wine indeed!
Score 90

Miros Roble 2022
Complex aromas of red fruits. A powerful expression of the tempranillo variety. Hard sensations prevail, probably needs some smoothening in the bottle for another couple of years.
Score 88

La Casa de las Locas 2022
Albariño 100%
This was an amazing albariño, intense nose, powerful structure, with complex floral notes and good length. I am used to think of this grape as a relatively easy one, but this wine challenged this taster to focus his full attention to discover its many nuances.
Score 93

Silencio de Miros 2019 
Top of the line Penafiel , this harmonious Silencio de Miros 2019. tempranillo 100% from their most prized parcel of land at 1000 meters above sea level. Nine months in French oak, this 15.5%abv comes in a beautiful wooden box.

A perfectly balanced wine with ripe red fruits that dance along with smooth tannins in a complex swirling of nuanced sensations.

I dared to pair it with slightly spicy red mullet and olives and it works out magnificently, another example where red wine does indeed go very well indeed with fish.
Score 96

Monday, May 20, 2024

Meet the producer: Tenuta Fertuna, Tuscany, Italy

Today I explored the versatility of winemaking in the Tuscan Maremma with Tenuta Fertuna.

Fertuna are pioneers in vinifying Sangiovese in all its forms: white, red and sparkling, as well as vinifying in an orange style with their newly launched Vermentino Orange wine. 

I met them at the LWF 2024.

Here my tasting notes:

Droppello alto bio 2022
Sangiovese white, similar to the results one expects from white vinification of Pinot noir. Fenuta say they did it because it was in demand in the market to make blanc de noir. Early harvest, no skin contact
Certified organic. Intense nose, Peach pear, vanilla from wood (oak grown on chalky soil to increase minerality)
Rrp 18, Score 85

Sparkling metodo classico 2019 brut
100% sangiovese
Fruity, balanced, moderately complex.
Score 86

Vermentino 2022
Apple minerality front and center.
Score 89

Vermentino orange 2022
5 days on skins to make it "orange".
Every week batonnage in open air to develop oxidation without adding sulphites.
Rrp 22 euro, Score 92

Celeo Toscana rosso 2018
50 merlot 50 cab sauvignon
Their flagship bottle, sports velvety tannins, good balance complex long,
25 days skin contact macération
Rrp 50 euro, Score 92

Meet the producer: Argentinian Malbec by Bodegas Fabre

Time for Argentina at the LWF 2024 and its most iconic grape: malbec. I never get tired of it, it is an endless sequel of great enjoyment and it seems to get better and better with time,

Pioneers in Argentinian Malbec, Bodegas Fabre, brought to life exceptional wines in some of the most extraordinary terroirs in Mendoza. Born from winemaker and owner Hervé Joyaux Fabre, who became the first winemaker to produce a premium single varietal Malbec in Argentina, Bodegas Fabre has since become a global presence with wines such as Viñalba and Alta Yari.

I joined Bodegas Fabre's husband and wife team, Hervé Joyaux Fabre and Diane Joyaux Fabre, alongside Buckingham Schenk's Marketing Director David Tromans to explore the origins, and current trends of Argentinian Malbec with four wines from Viñalba & Alta Yari.

Viñalba started making malbec in the 1990s when it bought a plot of 100-year-old vines. They have grown since, with some parcels up to 1600 masl. The also tried Patagonia, where they grow grapes but then they transport them to Mendoza to vinify. In Argentina latitude and altitude play against one another, so in the far south of Patagonia they grow grapes at lower altitude to compensate for the cooler climate.

Viñalba reserve malbec 2022, Uco valley
Tannins well structured, could benefit from some time in bottle, can't really feel the oak aging. 
Score 88 rrp 12

Viñalba Patagonia reserve 2022
200 masl only because higher is too cold
Violet, licorice, Good balance and length
Score 88, Rrp 15

Viñalba Gran reservado 2019
Mendoza, Uco Valley 
1 year in French oak 
Very intense ripe red fruit, smooth tannins long the best of the flight, superb value.
Score 93, Rrp 19

Alta-Yari Gran Corte 2022
1560masl, extreme wine making 
Blend with malbec 35% cab franc 60%and cab sauvignon 5%
Mineral spicy notes 
Needs a couple of years to smoothen tannins corners
Score 90, Rrp 25