Ex-friend just topped up my ’99 Paulliac with Jacobs Creek Shiraz!!Ah, Thanksgiving…

So there I was. It’s Thanksgiving and we are celebrating an American holiday here in London town. I had the day off and spent most of the afternoon defrosting the turkey. Once defrosted, popped into the oven and carefully basted every half hour until a lovely golden brown. Then the sides- potatoes, stuffing, sprouts, gravy, etc. Almost time to eat. And what do we have to go along with this sumptuous feast? A variety of wines from Jacob’s Creek Shiraz for the less discerning  to a fantastic Beaujolais cru (more on that later) and a Paulliac, the Lacoste-Borie 1999. Finally time to sit down and eat. I  had decanted the Paulliac an hour earlier which should have been sufficient time for it to open up. I poured. Now, Lacoste -Borie is the second wine of the famous Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste but it is still quite good, a well made wine with finesse and elegance. The wine is composed of primarily cabernet sauvignon with merlot making up the remainder. I took a sniff –  lovely cedary, graphite aromas with subtle tobacco notes peaking through. I swished it round – nice! Supple tannins, very cassis–y notes underpinned by a toastiness that stayed on for some time. It was a perfect wine for turkey around the holidays. I was quite enjoying it, talking, laughing, eating and then I made the fatal mistake of setting my glass down for a minute. I can still recall the exact moment. It was all in slo-mo. I remember chatting to my neighbor then turning my head and  reaching for my glass. At the same moment here comes my friend with the dreaded Jacob’s Creek in hand, she was topping up her glass. It just didn’t register that she was going to top up my glass as well and before I could scream – NOOOOO! It was too late, the deed was done. Despite her repeated apologies, I found it a bit difficult to forgive her but fortunately there was still some Paulliac left. I managed to console myself with...

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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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Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz ’05 & Mendel Malbec ’06

One of the advantages of working in a wine shop has got to be customer tastings. Not only do we get to try the wines but it’s also a great opportunity to talk with our customers,  to get an understanding of what consumers are looking for in their weekly wine shop. I also love the look on people’s faces when they try a wine for the first time and discover something new. I definitely get a sense of satisfaction when they enjoy one of my recommendations. What if they like the wine and I don’t? Well,  I’ve learned to be quite diplomatic in my critiques and of course, if they don’t like it, then I let rip and steer them to wines I think they’d like. We had two wines on tasting the other day, one I loved and the other? Meh. What surprised me the most was the wine I liked was an Australian shiraz and the wine I wasn’t crazy about was an Argentine malbec. Usually my tastes run the exact opposite so it’s always eye-opening to revisit a style or grape I thought I knew and discover something totally different. I do like Australian wines but when I actually buy wine, Australia is not my go-to place. That is until the Pertaringa ’05 Undercover Shiraz came around. Pertaringa is a small boutique vineyard in the McLaren Vale in South Australia and most of their shiraz is used as a blending grape for other wineries in the McLaren Vale, hence the name “Undercover” since it’s an unbilled player in those blends. The Undercover is 100% shiraz, they’re not pullling any punches here. The first thing that hit me was ripe, red raspberries! Loads of  them mixed up with a heady creamy scent. An image of raspberry ice cream jumped into my head. Very fruity nose, I was loving the aromas coming up from the bottom of the glass. On the palate more of those ripe, raspberries but not jammy which I detest in New World...

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Katnook Estate Prodigy ’03-Shiraz

The next day was Australia’s turn. The company I work for every now and then has winemakers come in and give us a masterclass. Last week it was Katnook Estate who came in to give us a walk through their range. Katnook Estate has 330 hectares in the heart of Coonawarra and is situated in one of the remotest wine regions in Australia as well as the world. They’ve been producing wines for over 25 years from the rich red soil known as terra rosa. Although Coonawarra is best known for it’s cabernets, Wayne Stehbens, the winemaker, has branched out and wants to show just how the terra rosa of Coonawarra can produce not only world class cabs but also world class shiraz, as they call syrah in OZ. To that end, he has produced a 100% shiraz, The Prodigy. The best vintages to date have been the  ’97 and the ’03. We had the opportunity to taste the ’03. Wayne has been the winemaker for Katnook for over 30 years and his years of experience in dealing with the land of Coonawarra really shows with the Prodigy ’03. 100% shiraz, matured 50/50 in French oak and American oak, this is an elegant monster. Opening with a perfumed nose of licorice, spice, aniseed and fennel then seguing into black fruit aromas with a dash of black pepper in the balance. Full bodied and supple, there were plenty of black fruits as a backdrop to the licorice, leather and general spiciness of the wine along with a roasted coffee bean finish.  This is a fabulous wine to sit and sip, although the alcohol level was 14% it didn’t seem like it. An excellent, well balanced offering from Down Under. Afterward, we all headed down to the pub with Wayne and Simon Hill, the rep, for a couple more drinks- all in a days work. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Montes Alpha M ’05, Folly ’05, and Purple Angel ’05

I went to a Montes tasting the other day at the Bluebird Wineshop. Montes is one of the iconic wines of Chile, having been written up extensively in various publications as well as getting rave reviews in the Wine Spectator and winning numerous industry awards. I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Montes started out in 1988 and was one of the few Chilean wineries to focus entirely on import production. 90% of their production was for export and England was one of the first markets to benefit from this policy. Today they produce over 5 million bottles and export to over 92 countries, not bad for only being in business 20 years. Montes is seeking to make the varietal Syrah the flagship grape of Chile. To this end, they presented their showcase wine, the Montes Folly, so named because the general consensus at the time they planted the vines was that they were crazy to try and produce a premium wine made from Syrah. We sampled the 100% syrah ’05 Montes Folly. It opened with a full-on black fruit nose, juicy blackcurrants and blackberries predominating, with a tantalizing earthy minerality lingering in the air. It was fresh and lively, bright black cherries, morello cherries and again that earthy minerality shining through on a nicely balanced, clean, crisp wine. It didn’t have the big fruity jamminess that many people associate with new world shiraz. And to differenciate themselves a bit more from the pack, they call the grape syrah (as they do in France) as opposed to shiraz (as they do in the new world i.e., Australia, US, etc). The wine that everyone knows is the iconic Montes Alpha M. We tasted the ’05 M. Composed of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5%petite verdot, this lovely is produced from a single vineyard at low yields and aged for one year in new french oak barrels. It had a deeply fruity, intense nose, blackcurrant leaping out of the glass with new...

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