English Wine Beats Champagne?

I have never tried any English wine even though I live in London.  I have heard good things though, and apparently this particuliar  English “sparkling wine” is serious indeed.  I need to do some more research on this one….my review coming in the future, stay tuned…..See telegraph article below:


English wine beats champagne to win Decanter


A little known English wine has beaten world-famous champagne houses to “remarkably” win one of the most important awards in the wine industry, being named as the best sparkling wine in the world.

Ridgeview, Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs, 2006, made from grapes grown in Sussex, picked up the Decanter international trophy for sparkling wine over £10 last night.

It beat more than 700 Italian prossecos, Californian sparkling wines, Australian fizzes as well as illustrious champagnes from Charles Heidseck, Taittinger, Moët & Chandon that were submitted.

The wine, which costs £21.95, was deemed higher quality than champagnes costing nearly three times as much.

English wine has been winning an ever greater number of awards and plaudits in recent years, but this is the first time that any vintage from this country has won an Decanter International trophy.

Christelle Guibert, the tastings director at Decanter, said: “What a result. As if further proof was ever needed, this unequivocally rubber-stamps England’s membership to that exclusive club of truly world class, sparkling wine producers. Up against a clutch of Champagne’s finest, Ridgeview has produced a stupendous wine that defeated them all. It’s a truly remarkable win.”

Though Ridgeview is relatively unknown outside of the wine world, it has been steadily garnering praise. Last year it beat its better known English rivals such as Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Balfour to be crowned Best Wine in England in the English & Welsh Wine of the Year Awards. Waitrose and Oddbins, the high-street wine merchant, has stocked it for a number of years.

The Decanter judges described the wine as, “lemony, floral nose which is elegant, discreet, biscuity and youthful. Refined and refreshing palate, with lemon rind, vivacious acidity, minerality, precision of flavour and plenty of élan. Stunning.”

Ridgeview Estate is a family business with a 16-acre vineyard on the South Downs. Set up husband and wife Michael and Christine Roberts in 1995, it is now a fully-fledged family business with their daughter Tamara, their son Simon and his wife Mardi all working for the winery.

English wine beats champagne to win Decanter trophy 

Set up husband and wife Michael and Christine Roberts in 1995, Ridgeview Estate is now a fully-fledged family business
English wine beats champagne to win Decanter trophy
Ridgeview, Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs, 2006 costs £21.95

link to article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/wine/7974936/English-wine-beats-champagne-to-win-Decanter-trophy.html

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Clos de los Siete article

Here is a recent bloomberg article on one of my favorite value Argentinian reds, Clos de Los Siete.  It is widely available and always a joy to taste.  It is muscular malbec with bordeaux in mind.  If you are a light beaujolais fan, this is not for you…This wine is strong like bull, not weak like lamb…my review to follow in due course…..


‘Satan’ of Grape Consulting Blends Own High-Alcohol

 Red Wine

By John Mariani – // Aug 31, 2010 5:01 AM GMT+0100

Clos de los Siete wine. The $19 red wine, principally malbec, is from Mendoza Valley in Argentina, made by Michel Rolland and partners.

Bordeaux vigneron Michel Rolland, consultant for more than 100 wineries in a dozen countries, is blamed by some for fostering the fashion for high-alcohol cult wines like those from California’s Harlan Estate and Staglin Family. Yet a recent tasting of Rolland’s seventh vintage of the Argentine wine Clos de los Siete shows he is able to make a 21st century-style red at the top of its class. And with the 2008 vintage, he does it for only $19 a bottle.

Clos de los Siete is a blend of 56 percent malbec, 21 percent merlot, 11 percent syrah, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon and 2 percent petit verdot. It’s made in the Uco Valley south of Mendoza, Argentina’s top wine region, where malbec is the principal fine-wine grape.

Plenty of sun, high humidity and low rainfall coupled with sandy soil and clay provide ideal conditions for such varietals, and they come together in Clos de los Siete’s soft and velvety texture of the merlot, intense fruit of the syrah, mild tannins from the cabernet, and ballast and spice of the late-ripening petit verdot. The blend may change in any vintage and the wines are neither fined nor filtered — processes used to remove solid residues.

At 14.5 percent alcohol, Clos de los Siete might bolster the characterization of Rolland as an advocate of reds whose deliberately overripe fruit, high alcohol, and long aging in oak produce “fruit bombs” that win medals in competition. Many critics, myself included, decry such wines as often being out of balance, headache-inducing and closer to Port than red wine.

‘Satan or Savior’

A New York Times article on Rolland was entitled “Satan or Savior: Setting the Grape Standard.” In the 2004 documentary film “Mondovino,” Rolland is shown advising clients to use a technique called micro-oxygenation that can help tame tannins and soften wines.

“That movie is all crap!” Rolland bellowed in a phone interview. “In some European wineries micro-oxygenation is helpful, but you don’t need it in New World wines because there is so much sun to build up the sugars.”

Rolland has six formidable partners in Argentina, including Rhone Valley vigneron Catherine Pere-Vigne and Benjamin de Rothschild, owner and chief executive officer of LCF Rothschild Group. With such resources he was able to switch traditional Argentine “parral” trellising and pruning methods to traditional systems used in Bordeaux. Drip irrigation keeps the vines “stressed,” to allow the bare minimum of water. Grapes are all handpicked, and the wines aged for 11 months, 70 percent in new French oak, the rest in vat.

U.S. Market

Of the property’s 850 hectares, 430 are currently planted. This year the output is a hefty 50,000 cases exported to 57 countries, with 30,000 going to the U.S. Rolland thinks 100,000 cases is possible, noting “We will follow the market as to future production.”

Rolland and his partners are aware they may have a big winner on their hands with Clos de los Siete, which means that consistency is key.

“In many ways it is more difficult to make 50,000 cases than 10,000 because you have to take care of everything before blending,” he said. “With small production, a winemaker has the luxury of selecting from many parcels of grapes and wines; with big production, you have to get the best on a large scale right away. And with global export, the labels cannot have any variance or mistakes about what’s in the bottle.”

Rolland chose Argentina because of its terroir, labor costs, and the open-mindedness of the New World. And he loves the sunshine, which builds up the sugars that convert into 14- plus percent alcohol.

“When you have that much sun, you don’t need or want to manipulate the wine to have more alcohol,” he said. “It’s the natural way of the fermentation.”

Controversy may yet swirl around Rolland and his methods, but Clos de los Siete proves that he can make a serious red wine to rival cult wines 10 times the price. At least he can with 50,000 cases. When Clos de los Siete gets to 100,000 cases, things should get interesting.

(John Mariani writes on wine for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Clos de los Siete Winery

The Clos de los Siete winery in Argentina. The state-of-the-art winery, owned by vintner Michel Rolland and international partners, annually produces 50,000 cases for export to 57 countries.

Michel Rolland

Michel Rolland, partner and winemaker of Clos de los Siete wines in Argentina. Terroir and sunshine make consistency key to the production of its 50,000 cases annually.

Clos de los Siete

Clos de los Siete wine. The $19 red wine, principally malbec, is from Mendoza Valley in Argentina, made by Michel Rolland and partners.



Putting the screw on wine corks

There has been much debate over screwcaps vs the traditional cork.  I have to admit a wine does seem more legitimate with a real cork, especially if you are in a nice restaurant with a client for example.  Having the sommelier open a screwcap bottle just doesn’t feel right in my book.   However from a business perspective I assume its much cheaper and I don’t see screwcaps going away any time soon no matter what these sommeliers in France and cork makers from Spain/Portugal try to do…  see video here:
Putting the screw on wine corks

27 August 2010 Last updated at 11:03 Help

It has created great debate among wine lovers for years as the screw top has steadily grown in popularity, replacing the humble cork.

Now Sommeliers in France and cork manufacturers in Portugal and Spain have launched a multi-million-dollar campaign to save the wine cork and persuade wine lovers to shun the increasingly popular screw cap.

David Chazan spoke Guy Woodward, Editor of Decanter Magazine and Marco Pelletier, Chief Sommelier at Hotel Bristol.

Le Froglet Shiraz wins Gold?

I stumbled across this article, and remember orginally watching this on the show Dragon’s Den a few months ago.  Originally I have to admit I agreed with the Dragons, and didn’t see the appeal to buying a plastic glass of wine sealed like a juice drink. Now I was in Marks and Spencer’s yesterday, and saw the Le Froglet glass on the shelf on my way home from work!  Will this appeal to commuters? I guess it could as long as the wine isn’t a disaster.   Apparently the wine isn’t all that bad according to Decanter, although I seriously have my doubts.  There is only one way to find out….Review to follow.  I wish I had come up with this idea?!!!

Le Froglet Shiraz wins gold
By: Rebecca Hubbard
Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010 2:10 pm
Le Froglet Shiraz wins gold

Le Froglet Shiraz hit the headlines last month when high street retailer Marks & Spencer launched its hugely successful cup-a-wine range, brainchild of Dragon’s Den reject James Nash. The sealed plastic glasses of red wine proved an instant hit and to keep up with the demand they have since been rolled out to all M&S stores nationwide.

Now the bottled version of the same wine has been awarded a gold medal at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards – the most influential wine competition in the world – cementing its position among the top wines in the world. 

The French red was entered into the internationally renowned competition alongside 10,983 wines from around
the world. It was judged by the best palates in the business before being awarded a gold medal.

Describing the Marks & Spencer Le Froglet Shiraz 2009 Decanter’s Editor Guy Woodward commented: “‘It’s a great value find. It has a lovely leather and bramble fruit nose. It’s fragrant and complex, with lots of dark fruit and savoury chocolate. The plastic glass version is a great idea, but given the bottled version is screwcap, won a Gold medal and works out cheaper, if I was going alfresco I’d probably buy a bottle and take my own glasses!”

M&S winemaker Belinda Kleinig, added: “We are delighted with the success of Le Froglet Shiraz, not only has it proved a huge hit with our consumers but it has impressed the Decanter judges as well. The bottle version is now an award-winning wine and the glasses are proving hugely popular with our customers. There really is no stopping the little frog!”

Full article here: http://www.fmcgnews.co.uk/le-froglet-shiraz-wins-gold-cms-896

Related article: http://realbusiness.co.uk/sales_and_marketing/le_froglet_another_dragon_blunder

Champagne best served like beer, say French

I never knew there was Champagne “pouring etiquette.”  Yikes….I am a wine buff, but certainly not a wine snob.  I actually always pour it like beer…check out the article by Decanter Mag:

Champagne best served like beer, say French

August 13, 2010
by Rebecca Gibb

French scientists have discovered the secret to keeping the fizz in a glass of Champagne: pour it like a beer.

A new study reports the best way to pour Champagne is in a ‘beer-like way’ with the glass held at an angle.It reveals the sparkling wine remains bubbly longer when poured in this way rather than pouring straight into the glass and waiting for the mousse to settle before topping up.However, Tom Stevenson, chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards’ Champagne panel, said: ‘Pouring Champagne like a lager is a seen as a really naff way to serve it. You would not see a sommelier doing it in a million years.’

‘Pouring it like the sommeliers do, does you a favour by letting the free CO2 escape from the glass so the bubbles don’t get up your nose,’ he added.

The research also discovered that Champagne served at lower temperatures retains its fizz. At higher temperatures, carbon dioxide is lost more quickly.

‘The beer-like way of serving champagne has much less of impact on its dissolved CO2 concentration than the champagne-like way of serving, especially at low champagne temperatures (4 and 12 °C). The beer-like way of serving champagne is much softer than the champagne-like one,’ the study said.

The report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry was led by Gerard Liger-Belair, a professor at the University of Reims and author of Uncorked: the Science of Champagne.

Enraged or inspired by what you’ve read? Have your say on the Letters page of Decanter magazine by emailing editorial@decanter.com.–>


2002 Dom Perignon release

Last week saw the release of 2002 Dom P.  My inbox was flooded with offers and retailers selling for about 420£ for a 6 pack.  Looks fair in price, but I need to do some more research first before buying any “champers” for investment.  I guess Dom P would probably not be a bad place to start though.  I just don’t see enough growth potential for me to invest yet.  I personally prefer Tattinger Comtes de Champagne at this level, and is actually a little cheaper. Below is a recent posting on Liv-ex about the wine which I found interesting: 

Spotlight on… Dom Perignon   Dom 1996

Owner: Moët & Chandon
Colour: White
Standard blend: Pinot Noir (45%) and Chardonnay (55%)
Other wines: Dom Perignon Rose, Dom Perignon Oenotheque

History Dom Perignon is one of the world’s most sought-after prestige cuveés. Produced by the Moët and Chandon champagne house, the vintage wine takes its name from a celebrated Benedictine monk whose experiments with bottle fermentation and blending methods in the 17th century contributed greatly to the rise of sparkling wine. 

Champagne became a favourite of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour in the 18th century, and its imperial popularity and status soon saw it shipped to England, Spain, Eastern Europe and America. It was during this era of rapid expansion that Moët and Chandon purchased the vineyards of the Abbey of Hautvillers, the setting where Dom Pierre Perignon had once investigated the possibility of making sparkling white wines from an assemblage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

In 1921, Moët and Chandon produced the first vintage of its super cuvée – Dom Perignon –  though it was not released until 1936. Since then, the champagne has come to enjoy extraordinary brand recognition, alongside other quintessential luxury cuvées such as Cristal and Krug. Dom Perignon winemaking is currently overseen by chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy.Dom Perignon 2002 

In March this year the 2002 vintage received  96 points from Antonio Galloni of the Wine Advocate – the brand’s highest WA rating since the 1996 (RP 98). Galloni describes the latest vintage as “at first intensely floral, with perfumed jasmine that dominates the bouquet. With time in the glass the wine gains richness as the flavors turn decidedly riper and almost tropical.”  More redolent, however, were Parker’s comments on his bulletin board: “2002 DP…..call your bank…line up the truck…September 2010 release…” The latest vintage is described by winemaker Richard Geoffroy as “very approachable and inviting, more open than previous vintages at the same stage thanks to the ripeness of the fruit.” It is currently available on pre-release at £420 per 6x75cl case. 

 Market Trends 

Dom Perignon vintages have seen robust price appreciation over the past few months, with a number of recent vintages posting gains of more than 6% year-on-year. The 1995 (RP 94; £800) in particular has seen a strong push upwards, having risen by 24% since July 2009. Despite a similar Parker score, the wine is double the price of the 2000 (WA 94), which is trading at £380 per 6x75cl case. With a rating of 18.5/20 from Jancis Robinson, the 2000 certainly looks good value Two of the most celebrated Dom Perignon vintages of the last decade are the 1996 and the 1990. The 1996, which received 98 points from Robert Parker but only 95 from his colleague Galloni, is trading at £900 per 6x75cl case – up from £730 in July last year. And whilst the 1996 edges ever closer to £1,000 per case, the 1990 (RP 96) has already broken through this barrier, and is up 7% year-to-date. The table below shows the current prices of recent Dom Perignon vintages. 

Dom Perignon 
  All prices are in GBP and are for 6x75cl cases stored in bond. All scores from erobertparker.com. 



Delicious California Wines Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune: Review

Delicious California Wines Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune: Review

By Ryan Flinn – // Aug 9, 2010 5:01 AM GMT+0100
Hall Winery Spending an afternoon in a Sonoma Valley vineyard sipping from a heavenly $450 bottle of Verite 2007 La Joie is hard to beat. Shelling out a tenth of that for something just as memorable is even better.

I recently sampled some of California’s most sought-after – – and priciest — cult wines. Among the highlights were a 2006 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($250) and the La Joie, both of which received perfect scores from Wine Enthusiast magazine and uber-critic Robert Parker. All were delicious — and unaffordable to the average wine drinker. To find bottles that could stand in for their pricier counterparts, I asked sommeliers, vintners and fellow connoisseurs for recommendations. The wines had to be limited production, made with grapes from the same farms that cult producers use, or have a famous winemaker attached to the project. Plus, cost as close to $50 as possible.

Petra Polakovicova, wine director at San Francisco’s Epic Roasthouse, offered me several excellent choices. She first poured me a 2007 Fisticuffs Napa Cabernet ($25), made by highly regarded winemaker Jeff Smith, who’s better known for his Hourglass label ($125). Fisticuffs sells for $65 at the restaurant, and less than half of that in shops.“It’s very well balanced, velvety on the palate and doesn’t overpower you,” Polakovicova said. Coffee Flavor

Another wine she recommended was the 2006 B Cellars Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) from Kirk Venge. This bottle presented ripe raspberries, sharp tannins, nice acidity and a roasted coffee flavor on the finish. A bigger pour was a 2005 Bridesmaid Proprietary Red ($45), which displayed black fruit, smokiness and a tight structure with ample tannins.

“These are nice, lower priced wines, and people really buy them,” Polakovicova said.

Smith said Napa vintners have generally ignored lower- priced quality wines. For instance, he said, cabernet sauvignons costing less than $30 is a “wide-open” category.

full article here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-09/delicious-california-wines-don-t-have-to-cost-a-fortune-review.html

Sweet in Price, not Taste, Dolcetto Reds take hold in Piedmont

Sweet in Price, not Taste, Dolcetto Reds Take Hold in Piedmont

Dolcetto Grapes


No wine name seems more of a misnomer than Piedmont’s dolcetto, which in Italian means “little sweet one.” Piedmont does make sweet wines, like Asti Spumante and Brachetto d’Acqui, but dolcetto is a very dry red wine made from a namesake early-ripening, low-acid workhorse grape that grows easily in soil where the more refined nebbiolo does poorly. Dolcetto is sweet only in the colloquial sense of the ripeness of its grapes and softness of its tannins.

Because of its versatility, dolcetto is widely planted in Piedmont, with seven mini-appellations under the dolcetto umbrella, including dolcetto d’acqui, dolcetto d’alba, and dolcetto d’asti. Its light acids allow the fruitiness of the wine to come to the fore on the palate, so it’s easy to drink early after vinification and many bottlings are made in a light beaujolais style at a low price.

References to the grape date to the 15th century, but only in the past decade has the wine made from it acquired much of a reputation for real quality. As with Piedmont’s other commercial varietal, barbera, the region’s finest and most expensive barolo and barbaresco estates have realized that a quality dolcetto sells well in the international market if priced right.

A stunning example of how a famous barolo vintner can produce a dolcetto of such quality is Aldo Conterno’s Masante 2007 from the Langhe region, where the vineyards were established in 1969. When I tasted the wine last week I was amazed at the depth and complexity that followed the expected deep purple color. It has aged impeccably, its fruit, acids and tannins in perfect harmony, and an extraordinary value at $20 a bottle.

(There are three other dolcetto-making Conternos in Piedmont — Fantino, Paolo and Giacomo, who is related to Aldo – – but they are independent of one another.)

Tannic Backbone

Bruno Giacosa is another of the top guns in Piedmont, a region famous for its big, bold long-lived barbarescos and barolos, so I was not surprised by the tannic backbone of his Dolcetto d’Alba Falletto ($20), which Giacosa’s website describes as having a “bitterish aftertaste typical of this variety.” Up front, however, is a nice wave of fresh fruit flavors. It’s a wonderful wine to have with a saffron risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Still developing its character, even after nine years, was Pio Cesare’s Dolcetto d’Alba 2000 ($20), whose tannins remain firm but whose flavors blossomed when paired with a thick, rare rib eye scented with a little rosemary.

Five Generations

Pio Cesare goes back five generations, to 1881, and while the winery clings to traditions the family pioneered, it takes advantage of the most modern technical advances. Its dolcetto is made from grapes from several of the best terroirs in Serralunga d’Alba (the Ornato Estate), Grinzane Cavour (Cascina Gustava), and Treiso (Il Bricco Estate).

The late Pasquale Pelissero, who started making wine in his garage in the 1970s, is described on his website as a “very conservative wine producer” but open to new technologies. The boutique winery, now under his daughter Ornella’s control, makes only 15,000 bottles annually.

The estate’s Dolcetto d’Alba Cascina Crosa 2008 ($15), made in the Langhe region, has a very deep color and rich tannins. Micro-oxygenation enhances the fruit, so obvious in the bouquet. At 13 percent alcohol, this is a lovely, easy-to-drink expression of 21st century dolcettos.

Remarkable Buy

Stefano Farina, which has holdings in Piedmont, Tuscany and Puglia, makes Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba 2008 ($10), a remarkable buy. While it lacks the complexity of others I tasted, it is sturdy, with good dark fruit flavors, and it becomes looser and more interesting after a half-hour in the glass.

Dolcetto is unlikely ever to achieve the status of barolo and barbaresco, but for a dry red wine that complements the complete range of meats in summer and winter, it has come a long way at a price level that makes perfect sense right now.

(John Mariani writes on wine for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: John Mariani at john@johnmariani.com.