Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Organic wines of New Zealand

Most interesting event hosted by New Zealand Wines, expertly and safely organized by Sarah Shepherd at 67 Pall Mall in London. 

An informative way to spend a rainy morning, about 75 bottles to be tasted and some amazing surprises.

Overall, the quality of organic wines is increasing, not just in New Zealand but worldwide, as producers master the techniques. Still, a few wines today could not hide their rough edges, this is typical of less stable organic wines, and more work is to be done.

Compared to previous NZ tasting I noticed a marked improvement of their chardonnays. Sauvignon blancs remain the workhorse of NZ production and confirmed their world class quality also among this organic selection. 

Some exceptional gems stood out among the pinot noirs. Not quite the structure of Burgundy but these wines were full of complex and round fruit, they proved to be very long and, alas, relatively expensive, which I consider a sign of success in the market.

Below are my notes from a selection of all the wines tasted today.

chards and sauvignon whites...


An easy, fruity, smooth wine, good balance. RRP £24, Score 84.

Biodynamic, another easy typical pinot blanc, reminds me of Alsace brothers. RRP £25, Score 86.


No sulphites added at all to this round and complex product. RRP £23, Score 88.

A typical sauvignon blanc, balanced and moderately complex, long. RRP £25, Score 89.

Strong citrus notes give a welcome freshness to this chardonnay, well balanced by vanilla in a long finish. RRP £25, Score 90.


Another fresh chard with a unique sapid accent, which keeps on going... RRP £28, Score 88

Pineapple, vanilla, an elegant wine, complex and long, perfectly balanced. RRP £32, Score 92

... and reds: world class pinot noir

8. Felton Road pinot noir Cornish Point, Bannockburn, Central Otago 2020
Balanced and complex, needs a few years in the bottle to round a few rough edges. RRP £ 42, Score 88.

A great wine, smooth, long, powerful, complex in the extreme. Intense fruit meets elegance and structure and makes one dream of what the evolution in bottle might bring. RRP 46.50, Score 94

Another amazing wine from Felton Road, reveals immense potential in the nose and captivates the mind with a complex swirl of red fruits and chocolate in the mouth. Very long. RRP 42, Score 95

Similar to the preceding wine, but perhaps even more complex. RRP £60, Score 95

Another top pinot noir, spicy, opulent. RRP £55, Score 93

13. Burn Cottage Vineyard pinot noir, Central Otago, 2018
Similar in many ways to the preceding wine, RRP £ 53, Score 93

What an amazing tasting of pinot noirs! 

These days one is never too far away from a gel sanitizer

Organic production in NZ, image by Biogro

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Sparkling wines of Slovenia, with Glass of Bubbly of London

Thank you Marin Berovic

Today I took part in a tasting of Slovenian sparkling wines organized in London by Glass of Bubbly (Thank you Chris!) and hosted by Marin Berovic, a wine specialist from Slovenia itself.

Interesting range of wines, with a predominance of fresh and fruity bubbles over smooth and fragrant.

Slovenia confirmed itself to be a small but qualitatively relevant player in the market for sparkling wines. I mostly knew Slovenian producers on the Italian side of the border, but they are famous for their still wines.

Here below are some tasting notes.

Winery Radgonske Gorice

My favorite was their Zlata Radgonska Penine Millesimé 2008 (chard 100%), which despite its age retains an amazing freshness and could be a top class aperitif. Score 88.

The Penina Extra dry 2017 sports floral notes and as its label suggests is very fresh. I liked it when it warmed up slightly in the glass. Moderately complex. Score 86.

Winery Istenič

Their prestige extra brut 2013 is amazing, fresh attack then great balance and complexity. Score 92.

The No.1 NV is also fresh and complex with a pleasant fragrance which makes it stand out. Score 90.

Interesting sweet muscat NV at only 11,5% abv. Score 86

Winery Bjana

An excellent Cuvée Prestige 2016 (chard and rebula), with impressive fragrance, complexity and balance. Score 93.

Their Brut 2016 (also chard and rebula) is aromatic in the nose, then a fresh attack is followed by a well balanced finish. Score 89

Winery Silveri

Their best wine was a Blanc de Blanc NV, blend of different rebula (ribolla) grapes, fresh and flowery with moderate complexity. Score 86

A Brut Nature Zero Vintage collection 2011 (chardonnay and rebula) was still amazingly fresh, hard sensations still prevail despite the aging. Score 84

Winery Medot

Brut Rosé 2017. The best rosé in Slovenia (55% pinot noir, 35% rebula, 10% chardonnay) in the opinion of several tasters, complex perfectly balanced and very long. Score 93.

Extra brut cuvée 2015 (70% chard 30% rebula), another fresh wine with flowers and citrus notes, I was again surprised at the freshness of these wines despited their age. Score 90.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wines of Occitanie, with Tim Atkin MW

First in-person tasting after the pandemic, what a relief to be back in a hall with real people. Thanks to the Agency for Economic Development in Occitanie for organizing this event. More info also on the region's UK website.

Tim Atkin, MW

Intro to region by Tim Atkin, MW

Occitanie is the fusion of Roussillon and Midi-Pirenée, done in 2014, now largest wine producing region of France and by some accounts of the world.

Predominantly red wines (70%) with 25% of whites and 5% of rosé and sweet, the latter currently increasing.

About 3000 growers, many in cooperatives, and 700 negociants. Strong Catalan presence.

Syrah is the most recent successful arrival, began about 50 years ago to improve blends but later became established on its own.
Grenache and merlot are also popular, more merlot here than in Bordeaux.

Reputation lags behind reality: quality has been going up steadily in the region, while quantity is down similar to the global trend.
Blends on average are very successful, better than single varieties, especially for whites. Plant quite a bit of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc but can not compete with Burgundy or Loire even if prices are lower.

Detailed notes below, comments and scores are by Marco of AIS Brussels Club and not by Tim Atkin.

Master Class 1: Great Whites of Occitanie

1. Laurent Miquel, Albarino IGP Aude 2020, alvarinho 100%
Old house, founded in 1791, near Beziers. Steel fermentation, aged on lees, vines planted in 2010. Screw caps, a novelty here.
Floral nose, fresh attack, citrus, crunchy, an excellent Summer glass. Mod complex and length.
Could use some time to get a bit rounder but it is meant to be drunk fresh.
Score 92.

2. Domaine La Voute du Verdus, la Valise Blanche IGP Saint Guilhem le Désert 2020, carignan blanc 100%
Rare grape here, NW of Montpellier. Light oaking. "Lutte raisonnée" approach, not organic but least possible intervention.
Mod fresh complex aromas in the nose. Slightly woody, good structure, can feel phenolics, tannins.
Score 90.

3. Domaine Paul Mas, Réserve languedoc Blanc AOC 2020, vermentino, marsanne, grenache blanc and viognier
Steel fermentation and wood aging.
Smooth wine, mod length and complexity.
Score 88.

4. Chateau Puech-Haut, Tête de Beliér, AOC Languedoc 2020, roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc, viognier
North of Montpellier, inox fermentation and wood aging with batonnage.
Excellent balance, mod complex and length.
Score 86.

5. Château des Estanilles, Vallongue AOC Faugères 2020, marsanne, roussanne, vermentino
FLoral aromas, vanilla, persistent minerality.
Perfect balance, complex and very long.
Score 94.

6. Château Rives-Blanques, Dédicace AOC Limoux 2019, chenin blanc 100%
Barrel fermented, batonnage.
Fresh and mineral, mod complex and length.
Score 88.

7. Mas de La Devèze, Pandore AOC Côtes du Roussillon 2019, maccabeu, grenache blanc
In Languedoc.
Smooth and complex, well balanced, a touch of lingering pleasant bitterness at the end. A unique sensation, unusual, surprising.
Score 93 mostly because it is so unique.

8. Plaimont, L'Empreinte SO Saint Mont 2017, gros manseng, petit corbu
In Gascony, steel and lees aging, no wood.
Fresh and aromatic nose, strong minerality, hard sensations prevail.
Might develop in time.
Score 86.

Master Class 2: Tim's Personal Picks of Occitanie

1. Calmel & Joseph, Ams Tram Gram, Quartier Libre IGP Pay d'Oc 2020, Clairette, grenache blanc, rolle (vermentino), roussanne
WHITE Intense floral aromas, round and mod complex wine, long. Could use a bit more acidity. Steel, no wood, no malolactic, on lees for 4 months.
Slight bitterness gives an original touch.
Score 89

2. Domaine Gayrard, Loin de L'Oeil AOC Gaillac 2019, Loin de l'oeil
WHITE A tad too rough, though a mod complexity can make it pleasant with succulent food, it is a bit off-putting to me.
Score 80

3. Domaine Lafage, Miraflors Rosé IGP Côtes Catalanes 2020, mourvèdre, grenache gris, grenache noir
RED Very fresh, easy wine for a pizza in the garden during the Summer.
Score 82

4. Château la Sauvageonne, Grand Vin AOC Terrasses du Larzac 2019, grenache noir, syrah, carignan noir
Hard sensations prevail, tannins predominant, sapidity.
Score 82

5. Château de Ciffre, Terroir d'Altitude AOC Faugères 2019, syrah,grenache noir, mourvèdre
Intense and captivating to the nose, of ripe red fruits, perfect balance, long and complex. A few years of aging potential, I'd love to smell the tertiaries of this wine.
The best red of the day.
Score 94

6. Cave de Roquebrun, Roches Noires AOC Saint-Chinian, Roquebrun, 2019, syrah, grenache noir, mourvèdre
A good all around wine, mod complex and long, but can't compete after n.5 above.
Score 85

7. Château Coutinel AOC Fronton 2019, négrette, gamay, syrah
Organic production, no wood.
Strong character, rough, hard sensations prevail. Tim says he likes it because as he gets older he prefer wines with harder taste, especially more acidity. I guess I am not old enough.
Score 80.

8. Domaine F. Jaubert, or du Temps, VDN AOC Rivesaltes 2002, grenache gris, grenache blanc
Fermented on skins, then 17 years in concrete tanks! Slightly fortified.
Nuts, dry figs, toasted almonds. A very well balanced, long and harmonious wine.
This is considered the white counterpart to Banyuls.
Score 94.