Finca Sophenia ’06 Synthesis Malbec and Altosur Torrontes

When S. American wines are mentioned, Chile springs to most peoples minds but Argentina has been making a serious effort to compete with the Chileans here in the UK. While premium Argentine wines have made quite a splash in the US, they’re just beginning to make a dent in consumer consciousness here in the UK. I went to a tasting at the Bluebird Wineshop of the Finca Sophenia winery, based in the Tupungato Valley which is situated at high altitude in the north of Argentina. The vineyard is situated at 1200 metres and is one of the highest grape growing regions in the world. It does, however, have an excellent microclimate with 374 days of sunshine a year which allows the grapes to thrive despite the cold. Estefani Peretti, the representative from the estate was on hand for the tasting. Argentina has two varietals that really only seem to thrive their country, torrontes, a white varietal from Spain and of course, malbec, the red grape from France. Argentina has managed to take these two varietals and make them distinctly their own. When I lived in Argentina, I usually steered clear of torrontes because in my view it was a sickly sweet smelling, floral tasting wine with either no acidity to balance it out or too much.  The Finca Sophenia Altosur Torrontes ’08 exhibited none of those characteristics. It had a lovely, floral but not sweet nose with a touch of honeysuckle to round it out. I found it pleasingly dry with good acidity but not too much that it drowned out the white flowers and citrus character of the flavours. The finish was nice and long and had a lilting flowery/citrus echo. The citrus finish was what really surprised me as most torrontes have that flowery aftertaste but this one lacked that which made it a stand out. I could imagine this being a great sushi wine or even having it with spicy Thai food. The Synthesis Malbec ’07 is one of Finca Sophenia’s...

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Upcoming Bluebird Cigar and Cognac Tasting

The Bluebird Wineshop in Chelsea had become one of my favourites because of their great winetastings and Penny Johns, the manager has come up with a great list of tastings for the Autumn. This Wednesday, Sept 10th, she is hosting a Fine Cognac and Cigar tasting in the courtyard of the Bluebird Restaurant. Amanda Laden from Delamain Cognac will be on hand to conduct a blind tasting of 3 premier cognacs along with Dan Pink from Hunters and Frankau, cigar importers, who will talk us through the cigars. Dan is also bringing along a cigar roller for a brief demonstration. It should be a fun and informative evening. Tickets are still available click here for more information. I love a good Cuban cigar, I got a nice box of Montecristos in duty-free last weekend coming back from Spain, so I can’t wait for this tasting. The following week, Finca Sophenia of Argentina will be giving a tasting of their range on Friday, 19th of Sept. Monday, 22nd Sept. sees the Vidal Winery, located in Marlborough, NZ on hand and the very next day, 23 Sept. Cillar de Cillos from Ribera del Duero, Spain, will be tasting through their latest offerings and may even have a few surprise vintages to taste. For more information visit Penny, either in person – if you’re here in London, or at the Bluebird wineshop website. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Patagonian Pinot

Patagonia. Howling wolves, wind-driven snow storms over a desolate landscape and survival of the fittest. That’s what I imagine Patagonia to be like, and I’m sure you can find that out there, but it’s not all Bear Grylls and Ironman. Valle Perdido is a new winery/spa resort in Patagonia that has recently started producing excellent wines. Penny Johns, manager of the Bluebird wine shop, recommended today’s vino to me. She says it’s one of her new favs and after gulping it down, I can say I wholeheartedly agree with her. It’s another pinot noir from S. America but this time from the “right” side of the Andes, as the Argentines love to remind me. Argentina’s flagship grape is Malbec but if you scratch the surface of their viticultural portfolio, you’ll find that they are beginning to branch out into other varietals and doing a very good job of it. Valle Perdido has a state of the art facility but their philosophy is to use as little intervention as possible and let nature take it’s course. They get up at the crack of dawn to pick the grapes and use a gravity system to move the must (or juice) around the winery. This helps to preserve the aromas and flavours of the wine. The 2007 Pinot Noir was a pure delight from start to finish. Before we knew it, this little baby was gone, baby, gone. Looking at it, it was a clear, pomegrante red in the glass. A fresh, red fruit nose was the first thing I noticed. Then it evolved into perfumed raspberry and cherry scented aromas with a hint of sweet spice. Swishing it around my mouth, I found spicy red cherry, strawberry and a warm toastiness with a fruity finish. There was one last, lingering, bitter chocolate note that seemed to hang on by it’s fingertips before slipping away. The tannins were very soft, almost velvety which made for an easy drinking, medium bodied wine. An impressive example of Patagonian pinot...

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Codorniu Cava

Working for a big wine merchant does have it’s advantages. Tuesday night the company invited the winemakers from Grupo Codorniu to come down and have a chat and informal tasting with us. There were about 25 of us from various London based shops. Grupo Codorniu is a Spanish owned and operated winery group based in northeast Spain, although they do have holdings in Argentina and Napa Valley as well. Codorniu  is one of the big boys in cava production. Cava (Catalan for “cellar”)is produced the same way as champagne but can’t be called champagne because you know how those Champenois are, they’d start howling bloody murder about copyright infringement and the lawsuits would be flying thick and fast. Codorniu have been in the wine biz since the 1500’s but have “only” been making cava since  the 1870’s. They were one of the pioneers in the commercialization of Spanish sparkling wine and have recently brought in a whole new winemaking team to improve their products.  One of the changes they’ve made is an overhaul of their bottle design. Very sexy now. There’s something almost primal about the design of the bottle that compels you to pick it up, the slender neck, the way it flares out at the bottom and the sleek feel beneath your fingers. I’m not the only one who’s had this reaction to the bottle design. I’ve heard quite a few comments in the shop regarding that. Kudos to the bottle designer on that one. Back to what’s INSIDE the bottle. In Spain, the main varieties used are indigenous – xarello, macabo and parellada. Recently, they’ve started using chardonnay and pinot noir although they are again prevented by EU law from putting pinot noir on the label except for pinot rose. The Tasting: Condesa Blanca Cava is their entry level sparkling. Light and fruity, big bubbles that disappeared fairly quickly, lots of green apple and pears with a hint of nuts and toast on the finish. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was,...

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