Friday, March 24, 2023

Taste Uruguay: a unique walkaround in London

At the iconic 67 Pall Mall we had the opportunity to participate in a unique trade tasting dedicated to Uruguayan wines that was organized by Southamericanwineguide.

Uruguay wine is mostly associated with Tannat, a variety which has been planted there for centuries with great results. However the oenologic landscape has evolved and there is now a large range of options to choose from. Over 6500 hectares are planted with cabs, merlot, syrah, viognier, and albarino, among others.

Selected Tastings

Below are my favorites from the walkaround tasting that was available sadly for too short a time, 90 minutes, to fully appreciate what the participating producers had to offer.

Castel Pujol Folklore Naranja (Rivera) 2022
A smooth orange wine which tasted on the light side despite 13.4%. Score 84

Albarino "Sobre Lias" (on the lees) Maldonado 2022 
The lees confer fragrance and elegance. 12.5%. Score 86

Singular Pinot Noir Clon 777 2020 (Maldonado)
A balanced, complex and long wine. 14.5% Score 90

Austros 2015 (canelones)
Smooth yet structured wine. 15%. Score 90

Barbera 2020 (canelones)
A light barbera. 13% Score85

Estival 2022 (canelones)
Balanced and complex. 14% Score 90

Alcyone NV (canelones)
Tannat 100% sweet wine. 16% Score 92

As they put it, this is a "back to the future" project. Anfor is inspired by the ancient Georgian traditions, dating back as much as 8000 years by some estimates. The best Muscat Ottonel bunches are left for 7 days to develop carbonic maceration, after which they are foot stomped and moved to amphora where they are sealed for 4 months and left in the open during winter. 8.5% Score 89

Santiago Degasperi of Proyekto Nakkal

Friday, March 17, 2023

Meet the producer: Valquejigoso, Madrid, Spain

The Valquejigoso estate is located 45 km south of the capital of Madrid. We had a chance to meet the producer at the 2022 online fair brilliantly organized by Onvinum, a new Spanish platform to bring together producers, buyers and educators.

The Valquejigoso Domaine was bought by the Colomo family in February 1986. From 1992 the domain, previously known as a hunting cottage for the European aristocracy, was transformed into a winery. The first vines were planted in 1997. Very well-known French nurseries participate in the project like Renoux - based in Bordeaux - as well as other French teams who came to share their experience in the "fork" vine planting method, an ancient method which requires a painful manual work.

Blend of cab sauvignon, merlot, tempranillo, negral and syrah taken from 21 plots, no less!
It is the only wine we tasted of this producer. An intense nose with complexity and length. Also well balanced. I paired it by concordance with with a vegetarian pizza, both food and wine of medium structure. Drink now or wait a year or two.
Score 90

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Sangiovese day in London

Massive and very informative tasting organized by Hunt and Speller in London, this event brought together over 100 producers of sangiovese from Tuscany, of course, as well as Romagna, Umbria, Marche and Basilicata. We learn a lot from the booklet distributed to the participants as well as from a masterclass dedicated to sangiovese from the Romagna region.

Today there are over 65,000 hectares of sangiovese planted in Italy, about 10% of all vineyards in the country, and it is therefore by far the most popular variety. It is featured in 112 DOC and DOCG as well as 88 IGT (indicazione geografica tipica, roughly the equivalent of the French vin de pays).

Its history goes back a long way: first mentioned in the XVII century, the name means "the blood of Jupiter", and it is attributed to monks from Romagna. Recent DNA research proves sangiovese is a cross of Ciliegiolo, a Tuscan variety with which is now frequently blended, and the almost extinct Calabrese di Montenuovo.

While sangiovese is mostly known because of Chianti and Brunello, it is the only variety planted on both sides of Apennines, originally by monks. Quality wines mostly to be found on hills. It is in Romagna that we find the oldest vines of the country, sangiovese plants that are over 90 years old.

Originally and for a long time sold in bulk, in the 1970s some producers began began bottling, looking for quality and enjoyment and not just calories and nourishing.

Now there are about 6000 ha of sangiovese in Romagna, mostly on clay soil. Prices still quite low but edging up as quality and recognition improve.

Walkaround tasting

Isole e Olena

2020 Chianti  Classico
Fruity, can feel the alcohol. Score 88

Cepparello 2019 IGT
Olena's battleship, powerful wine still young, with a complex and long finish. Score 90

Interesting story that of Isole and Olena, recently sold to a larger group.

Castello di Vecchiomaggio

Chianti Classico Guado Alto 2021 
A wine to be drunk young, fruity and straightforward, like a Chianti of the good old times. Score 90

Chianti Classico Riserva 2021
A sublime chianti with elegance, finesse, length and yet a strong personality. Score 92

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2020 Le Bolle
Ready, strong structure, complexity and length, a classic in the true sense of the word. Score 93


Poggio Cerrino 2017 Brunello
Structured, still hard sensations prevail, need time. Score 92

Poggio Cerrino 2015 Brunello
This vintage is ready now. Score 93


Brunello 2018
Balanced and ready. Score 88

Brunello Riserva 2016
Old vines, complex. Score 91

Brunello Riserva 2012
Balanced and ready, very complex. Score 93

Brunello 2007
At its peak. Score 92

Tenuta Buon Tempo

Brunello 2018
Native yeasts only, large wood vat and French oak for 3 years. Score 92

Brunello 2015 Riserva
Ready now, a full, elegant complex wine, one of the best I tasted today. Score 94


Chianti Rufina Riserva 2018 vecchie viti
A round wine, their entry product falls easily in the space of excellence. Score 92

Chianti Classico Tenuta Perano Rialzi 2018
Round, complex and long. Score 94

Brunello Castelgiocondo 2018
A harmonious wine, a top Brunello. Score 96

Brunello Ripe al Convento 2017 Riserva
The best today, this wine has it all, intensity, complexity, length, balance. Score 97


Brunello 2014
Round, smooth, elegant. Score 93

Cava d'Onice

Rosso di Montalcino 2020
Blend from 11 plots, large Slavonian vats. Score 88

Brunello 2018 Colombaio
Only half an hectare of young vines: need to wait for this one. Score 90

Brunello 2015 Riserva
Pronto, mineral, sapid. Score 94

Tasting of wines from Nova Scotia, Canada

Masterclass by Sarah Drake, Flint Wines


You may not have heard of wines from Nova Scotia, on the eastern coast of Canada, and neither had I before I was invited to this tasting, a first in London, by Westbury Communication. Ontario, yes, British Columbia, yes, Prince Edward County, yes, but Nova Scotia? And yet it is there that wine was first made in Canada, in the XVII century. The first winery was planted at Bear River in 1611. The second winery was established at Petite Rivière in 1633. One would have to wait over two and a half centuries, until 1980 for the first commercially viable winery to start operations at Grand Prè under pioneer Roger Dial.

Wine production in Nova Scotia, like for the rest of Canada, was inhibited by prohibition in the early part of the XX century, and there were dry areas until 1980s where there was a legal need to hold a plebiscite to make wine. Despite these difficulties, altogether, 63 varieties are grown to produce 2,500+ metric tons of wine grapes (2021) over 485 hectares.

Nova Scotia is the home of a typical Canadian grape, the Arcadie Blanc, a hybrid crossing that was produced in the 1950s. It now makes for some 30% of all wines in Nova Scotia. 

There are now 35 wineries, and another couple of dozen growers who sell their grapes to them, all in all a small number for a population of 1m people. The geographical location is somewhat isolated which does not help with trade in general and wine trade in particular. In Canada each province is like an independent country, limited exports from one to another.

Climate difficulties are predictably severe, in March 2023 they just had frost at minus 25 Celsius, and lost almost all harvest. Harvest, when it does happen, is a long process because of the slow ripening of the berries at this latitude. Picking bunches from the vines usually starts in September and it can go on until well into November.

25% of production goes to sparkling wines, not surprising given the high levels of acidity resulting from the cool climate. Outside Canada export to many countries but small quantities. A rising share of production is consumed by local youth, who like some of the very low alcohol drinks that are even sold in cans to please soda drinkers.

There is one controlled origin appellation: Tidal Bay, a unique feature in all of North America. Wines must pass a panel tasting to be labeled in Nova Scotia, if they don't satisfy the judges the winemaker has to go back and modify the wine for another try. Officially launched in June 2012, it is a crisp, aromatic white wine. The name Tidal Bay was inspired by the fact that this is home to the biggest tidal differences of water level in the world.

Overall, Nova Scotia makes quite a few good wines and some excellent ones, and while more work may be required to catch up with some other Canadian provinces, it is an interesting emerging wine region to monitor in the years to come.

map from

Selected tastings

Lightfoot and Wolfville Tidal Bay 2021
50% Arcadie blanc et al
Zesty, hard sensations prevail, apricot in the nose. RRP £20
Score 86

Planters Ridge, Tidal Bay 2021
Blend of arcadie blanc, chard et al.
A crisp aromatic wine. RRP £34
Score 88

Luckett Vineyards, Tidal Bay 2021
Blend of arcadie blanc, chard, ortega et al
Rounder than the previous wines, longer. RRP £32
Score 89

Blomindon Reserve Chardonnay 2020
Barrel fermented for a round, balanced wine with good complexity. RRP £34
Score 90

Lightfoot and Wolfville Brut 2017 sparkling
100% chard
Light fragrance, on the fresh side but mod complex and long. RRP £35
Score 88

Benjamin Bridge Brut 2017 sparkling
Wild yeast fermentation in large French oak barrels produce a fragrant wine with a slight bitter ending. RRP £38
Score 87

Blomindon blanc de blanc 2011
100% chardonnay
Balanced and fragrant, still development potential. RRP £56
Score 89

Blomindon Grande Reserve 2008
100% chardonnay
Complex,  round and long with toasted notes. Only 11.4% abv. The best wine today, and it shows how Nova Scotia quality wines can age. RRP £78

Luckett Vineyards traditional method sparkling NV
arcadie blanc 100%
Fragrant, mod complex and long. RRP £37
Score 90

Friday, March 3, 2023

Meet the Producer: Heras Cordon, Rioja, Spain

The Heras Cordón vineyard in Rioja should be better known. I have been introduced to them at an online fair organized by Onvinum in 2022. 

From their website we learn about their history. The family tradition in wine elaboration dates back to the end of the 19th Century, when they built the first cellars in their hometown, Lapuebla de Labarca in Rioja Alavesa.

During the first years, the wine was meant for local consumption; it was not bottled but primarily sold in bulk. The clients were locals and the amounts of production and consumption were rather small.

Wine production came to a halt during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. In the 1950’s, the winery was modernized and the production of Crianza wines started, with oak barrels of primarily French origin.

In the 70’s, taking advantage of the country’s modernisation, Heras Cordón Wineries and Vineyards launched its Crianza and Reserva wines into the national market. Its acceptance and growth was spectacular, in fact, the process reached its first peak in the 80’s, when the three siblings, who are currently the owners of the winery, set up a vine plantation company, becoming a national benchmark in that activity. Read more here.

Here below are my reviews of the wines they provided for tasting.

Heras Cordón Reserva 2015
Tempranillo (97%), graciano and mazuelo.
Incredible bottle this RESERVA from Heras Cordon in Rioja. The 2015 is eight-years-old at the time of this tasting and it is a marvelous feast of complex aromas, perfect balance and great length. The tannins are superbly rounded though they still offer structure. I paired it with a "boomerang" steak and it was a match made in heaven.
Score 95.

Expresión Limited Edition
Another great hit by Heras Cordon, this tempranillo is perfectly balanced, complex and long. It is ready now though still lots of fruit to show. ONly 5651 bottles came out of the cellar, grab one if you can! Score 93

Vendimia Seleccionada 2018
Tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo from old vines. Thirteen months in new French and American oak.
This  is a great wine, and looking at the main online retailers can be had for less than 20 euro. Intense ripe cherries to start, followed by smooth tannins and a complex and long profusion of secondary (prunes, mature wild berries) and tertiary (leather, chocolate) notes. Paired with aged beef. Score 94