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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No Burgundy Clones here – Viña Leyda P. Noir ’07

Last week we tried a new Pinot that arrived in the shop – Viña Leyda Pinot Noir, Las Brisas Vineyard, 2007. I like a good Burgundy any day but I keep an open mind to the New World, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. I’ve had some great stuff from New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest. There is a difference, no doubt, but I think that good producers of pinot noir in the New World do their best to stamp their own identity on the  wine rather then try and make a Burgundy clone. The Leyda pinot noir is made with fruit sourced from a single vineyard, Las Brisas. Brisas means breeze in Spanish and this vineyard is situated on the southwest slope of the estate, where there is less direct sunlight and more exposure to the ocean breeze, which keeps the grapes cool and allows them to develop slowly. When I opened this one, the first thing that hit me was a rather fruity attack to my nose and I hadn’t even poured it yet! This wine had a full-on nose of red cherries, ripe strawberries and raspberries. After a minute or so, we began to detect spicy notes and hints of bramble,wild herbs and a subtle smokiness. The wine spent 8 months in used French oak barrels, which was apparent but not overbearing. On tasting it, I thought it had a juicy, mouthwatering palate of ripe red berries, cherry and bramble with a bit of smokiness. A silky, medium bodied number with a hint of minerality on the finish. Despite the fact that the alcohol level was 14%, the alcohol didn’t assault my palate or nostrils. This wine had jumping acidity and was great on it’s own but I’m not sure if it was necessarily food friendly. I had some chicken with it and it didn’t really add anything to my enjoyment of dinner. This is a very fruity wine but it’s not subtle. And that’s the difference between Old and...

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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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