Elvis is in the building (or at least his wines are)

I always forget how much I love Elvis Presley’s music until I hear it, then it instantly transports me back to my childhood. My parents weren’t huge Elvis fans but my dad did like to pop in a cassette tape every now and then on road trips. Well, Elvis is back and here in the UK! Well, not entirely true, Elvis wines are trying to break into the UK wine market. Yup, an entrepreneurial Swede by the name of Dan Samson has already brought “The King”  to Sweden and the Netherlands. Dan has teamed up with Signature Wines  and their Graceland Cellars range to help bring Elvis to the masses again. Actually, it’s like the Marilyn Merlot brand of wine. Neither Marilyn nor Elvis have anything to do with the wine but their visages peer out at you and if it makes your nearest and dearest Elvis fan happy, what’s the harm? The Winesleuth (me)  had the chance to speak with Dan at the recent California Wine Trade Show here in London, watch the video to see what he had to say about Elvis in the building… I have to admit, I was rather dubious when I saw the wines but on tasting them all my doubts vanished. These were not just gimmick wines but also well made wines. I sampled the Jailhouse Rock Merlot and the Blue Suede Shoes Chardonnay. Both were approachable, easy drinking wines. The  merlot was soft and fruity but had a bit of structure to it and the chardonnay, while it did have oak on it, was not too oaky and had some nice ripe tropical fruit on the nose and palate. The wines have won numerous awards in the States at various competitions so the quality is certainly there. They’re not yet available in the UK but Dan believes that they’ll retail for around £8 – £10, reasonable for a Califoria wine in Europe. The grapes are sourced from the Santa Rosa Valley, in Northern California, near Sonoma Valley and all...

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Video winetasting – Wakefield Chard from Oz

There seems to be a lot of debate in the twitterverse at the moment about free samples and whether or not we bloggers seem to “owe” it to the wineries (or PR flacks) positive reviews. And how objective are our reviews if they’re free? I don’t think I “owe” anyone a good review because they’ve given me wine. Although they’re probably banking on me writing a positive one. It may be a tough balancing act but I find that I write about wines I’ve enjoyed  as opposed to wines I’ve disliked. Why? Well, there are enough negative people out there and intelligent readers of my blog have probably already figured out what syle of wines I prefer anyway. Besides, my motto is “always looking for the good stuff”, do you really want to read about the bad stuff? If so, drop me a line and I’ll start bashing wineries and their wines left, right and centre.  I do consider myself lucky in that, since I work in the wine industry, I have trade access that other winebloggers  may not. And, living in London (which really is the centre of wine universe) I’m lucky enough to be able to attend the numerous trade tastings that seem to be constantly on the calendar.   So why am I talking about samples? Because I got one the other day, that’s why! It’s from Wakefield winery, based in the Clare Valley, South Australia. Wakefield Estate wines were the first estate grown and bottled wines from Wakefield winery and were first released in 1973. Since then they have been consistently winning national and international awards. The estate is situated in the Clare Valley on Australia’s famed “terra rosa” . Check out their website to get the full story. In the meantime, I received the ’07 Wakefield Cabernet and the  ’07 Wakefield Chardonnay. I did a bit of winetasting and cheesematching with the chard, check out the video…. [viddler id=d2973d84&w=437&h=333] And the ’07 Wakefield cabernet? I liked it, here are my brief notes: nose –  first impression, fresh – ripe, rich blackcurrants, lots of minty goodness,...

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Bruno Paillard Champagne (NV)

I attended a masterclass the other day at a new wine shop that has recently opened within the Bluebird Cafe/Restaurant complex. Bluebird, on the King’s Road in Chelsea, has been around for about 10 years but has recently undergone renovations and has now had an epicerie and wineshop added to the premises. Bruno Paillard is a small, young champagne house that has only been producing since the early 1980’s. To start a champagne house in the last 20th century was considered  madness by the Champenois but through hardwork, perservence, a dedication to selecting only the best grapes from independent growers and strict controls on the winemaking process, he has managed to produce some truly amazing, fine, delicate champagne. The house trademark of all their champagnes is low dosage (whereby bottles are topped up with sweetened  wine after the second fermentation – read more here. ) Most brut champagne has a dosage of around 12 grams per liter, Paillard champagnes have an average of 6-8 grams per liter. The philosophy behind this is to produce wines that highlight the freshness of the wines, while at the same time allowing the purity and balance of the champagne come through. The first champagne was their Premier Cuvee Brut NV (8gr/lt). The house only uses the first pressings for all of their wines to ensure that only the purest juice is used. This sample was a blend of Chardonnay, P.Noir and P.Meunier. A pale yellow in colour with tiny bubbles spiraling up the glass. Zesty and light, citrusy-floral nose with hints of orange blossoms. Clean, fresh and with a youthful appeal but not bitter as some young champagnes can be, lemon-lime flavours on the palate with a long finish. This was a definite palate cleanser but not astringent or acidic, very well balanced. (retail £33) We then moved onto the Blanc de Blanc Reserve Privee Grand Cru (6g/ltr). This champagne had spent 4 years on its lees and that was definitely evident on the nose as well as...

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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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