Malbec World Day 2014

World Malbec Day, or Malbec World Day, or whatever you want to call it, is April 17th – today! The perfect opportunity to glug some of this joyful grape variety….

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2013, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (£8.99 The Co-op)
A gush of young crunchy fruit, very like the heady aromas in a winery at vintage time. Honest blackberry and blackcurrant with floral overtones and a bouncy, Tigger-like finish – yum! S-

Secret de Viu Manent Malbec 2012, Colchagua, Chile (£10.00 Oddbins, Bon Coeur, Wholefoods, Peckhams, Flagship Wines)
Hmmm… There seems to be some OK fruit in here somewhere, but it’s hidden behind a rather pongy/eggy sulphury shroud. Watched this over the course of several hours, and it didn’t improve…

Wine Tasting Video: Reds from the Douro & Tuscany

Vigneti Trebbio 2010, IGT Toscana, Italy (£21.50 Butlers Wine Cellar, Imbibros, Duncan Murray Wines)
Warm-hearted wine that has shed its youthful perkiness and is now entering early middle age. There’s a warm, dusty, almost Spanish feel to the ripe cherry and berry flavours, along with a hint of vanilla, but the light touch of Cola reminds you that this is Sangiovese-based. Supple, juicy and tasty wine, just on the right side of rustic. S-

Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Tuscany, Italy (£32.50 Vini Vivi)
Lovely young wine, rich and not afraid to show a powerful face, but alongside the dusty tannins, intense blackcurrant and cherry kernel fruit and vanilla-tinged oak, there are notes of herbs, fresh acidity and a cool earthy mineral note to provide freshness. Impressive now, but with its best still to come. S(+)

Cedro do Noval Vinho Regional Duriense 2009, Douro, Portugal (£16 Cambridge Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd, Ocado)
The warmth of the Douro comes through strongly in this bold but never too brash red. While it’s rounded, rich and spicy, with dark berry, blackcurrant and damson fruit, plus a touch of roast meat (from the Syrah maybe), there’s also freshness and herbiness, and no lack of tannin to balance. Intensity and complexity without too high a price tag, what’s not to like? S(-)

Wine Tasting Video: Malbec from France and Argentina

Cournon Lafleur Malbec Pays d’Oc 2012, France (£7.99 Majestic)
Simple fresh young wine, plenty of dark, violet-scented berry flavour, and the earthiness of southern France, but I’m not sure whether it’s improved by the vanilla-tinged oakiness. B

Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2012, Argentina (£9.99-£13.99 Amps Fine Wines, Hennings Wine, Alliance Wine)
A more restrained and less raisinny style than many Cobos wines, but still plenty of juicy blackberry and cassis flavours, plus the smoky edge of reduction. Young, violetty style with a spring in its step. S-

Clos de los Siète 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (£14.99 Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Avery’s)
Rich, juicy, polished style, very seductive, with the wild spicy and aromatic character of Malbec to the fore, some Cabernet firmness and a supple, heady finish. Yes, it’s a bit flashy, and not afraid to flaunt it’s smoky bacon-y oak, but this feels a little more restrained and earthy than earlier vintages. S(-)

Wine Tasting Video: Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, Slovenia & Bordeaux

Fairview Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Darling, South Africa (£9.99 SA Wines Online, Richard Granger Wines, House of Menzies, Thedrinkshop.com, Liberty Wines)
Perky youngster, clean, keen and intense with citrus, lemon grass and fynbos flavours (that’s Cape garrigue for want of a better term), only a light charred/smoky note in the background lets it down. B+

Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (£11.99-13.99 Palmers Wine Store, ND John, D Byrne, Woodwinters, Thind Wine Merchants, Wineraks, All About Wine)
Combines quite fleshy pear, guava and nectarine flavours with a sappier citrus edge, rounded yet crisp, and although it tastes good now, you feel that it still has some uncurling to do. S

Pullus Sauvignon 2012, Stajerska, Slovenia (£10.95 Winety)
Intriguing wine, less on the taut citrussy edge and more on fruits like ripe red apple, Victoria plum and rhubarb, with its more exotic elements reined in by a minerally backbone. S-

Clos Floridene Graves Blanc 2012, Bordeaux (£16.99 Co-operative Stores)
Still a pup, with the impact of smoky oak still very much present. However, there’s also a wealth of fruit – greengage and pear (fresh and tinned) – and a rich but restrained finish. Good now, better in 2016. S

Pullus Sauvignon ‘G’ 2011, Stajerska, Slovenia (£14.95 Winety)
Is there some late-harvest fruit here? There’s certainly something giving a rich, honeyed edge to the exotic rhubarb and plum flavours, and there’s also a floral elderflower, character to add further interest. Full, broad-shouldered style, but still tangy thanks to citrus acidity. S

A tribute to Michael Cox from Tony Keys & Sally Marden

Those with any interest at all in Australian wine will be well served by signing up for the various newsletters and reports from opinionated, transplanted Pom Tony Keys  – check out what’s available here.

The most recent Key Notes included a large chunk about the late Michael Cox, some of it penned by Tony, while some of it was from Sally Marden another Brit who’s now on the other side of the world, although in New Zealand rather than Australia. With their permission, I’m reprinting it here…

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Michael Cox Aug 2012 300x285 A tribute to Michael Cox from Tony Keys & Sally MardenA friend and a man I respected died last week (February 20). I had known Michael Cox for three decades and though I hadn’t seen him a great deal since I moved to Australia, we exchanged the odd email on the state of the industry. Michael was part of the Clark family, steeped in the English wine trade. Matthew Clark is now owned in a joint venture between Accolade Wines and Punch Taverns but was established by Michael’s ancestor, Matthew Clark, in 1811. The company remained in private hands until 1990, when it listed on the London Stock Exchange. In 1998 it fell into the hands of Constellation Brands.

Michael worked for the family firm and spent time in Australia, returning to the UK in the 1980s, when I met him. He established Negociants UK on behalf of Yalumba the same year the family firm was listed on the LSX. He was extremely positive and helpful to what was then called the Australian Wine Bureau.

He applied for the position of director of the bureau when Hazel Murphy resigned, but lost out to Paul Henry. Later he became head of Wines of Chile. He was also Master of the Vintners’ Company and a Comendador de la Orden al Merito de Chile (Commander of the Order of Merit of Chile).

To say we shared the odd bottle or three would be an understatement. Michael liked to party and to dance. He was huge fun to be with and I cherish those memories.

The iniquitous cancer took Michael at the tender age of 64. The UK wine trade has lost one of its finest.

Sally Marden is based in New Zealand now but was friend to Michael back in the day when we were all in London (wild times). I asked her to write a few words on the man and his life, a hard task for her but a wonderful read for all:

“If Michael had been writing his own life story, I for one wouldn’t be at all surprised if it began thus: ‘It was 1951 when I was born… and it’s only half past eight now!’ This typically groan-worthy joke – or a variation thereof – used to be one of his favourite opening lines when speaking in public, an activity at which he was gifted, engaging and, despite many equally bad jokes, very, very funny.

“Much has already been written throughout the wine world of his extraordinary life, of the many professional achievements and honours bestowed, with photos showing him receiving medals or bedecked in fur-trimmed livery robes. But for so many of his friends and colleagues, I suspect that the abiding images we will carry of Michael will be altogether less formal… him balancing a teaspoon off the end off his nose at a dinner, say, or busting some of his frankly unbelievable moves on the dance floor; or even, heaven forbid, revealing to all and sundry a skimpy pair of leopardskin briefs.

“Michael worked incredibly hard and for very long hours but, my goodness, he played just as hard, too. Whatever the party, he would be its life and soul. He loved to entertain, to amuse and to charm – entire rooms full of people, sometimes – and he virtually always managed it, thanks to his self-effacing demeanour and always exemplary manners (not to mention a naughty twinkle in his eye). It will have come as no surprise whatever to any of his friends to hear that he was a key member and prime mover, so to speak, of The Semillons, a wine trade all-male dance troupe who bared almost all to raise money for charity in 2005. (And then did it all again, five years later.)

“While Chile has been Michael’s focus for the past decade, I don’t think it would be too much of an exaggeration to say Australia was his second home, for a good while at least. He lived in Sydney for three years in the 1980s, working with IH Baker, and was a frequent visitor throughout the 1990s as managing director at Negociants UK, the UK import arm of Yalumba (‘Aboriginal for great wines at cheap prices!’ as he always said), and he adored the Australian character, attitude and way of life. It was Yalumba head Robert Hill Smith who came up with Michael’s alter ego ‘formal title’, Lord Ucker, after convincing an Australian audience that his immaculately dressed and rather aristocratic-looking English colleague, Michael Cox, was in reality a titled gent, and his name was double-barreled…

“It is said that no one is indispensable, but there are some people who are exceptional, unforgettable and simply irreplaceable. Michael was definitely one of those, and his untimely loss leaves a vast gap that cannot be filled. That old quote – ‘dance like no one is watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, live like it’s heaven on earth’ – well, it might be sentimental, but Ucker probably came as close as anyone ever could to embodying all those ideals. I join with so many others in sending heartfelt condolences to his wife, Lynne, his twin brother, David, and to everyone else who knew and loved him. What an amazing guy he was…”

Wine Tasting Video: Chardonnay from South Africa, Slovenia & Australia

De Bortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay 2012, Yarra Valley, Australia (£11.99 Majestic)
Young, Mâcon-like in style, with orchard fruit, fresh and ever-so-slightly cooked, a touch of nutty uncooked cake mix and a sappy refreshing citrussy finish. A good honest glass of wine. S-

Glen Carlou ‘Quartz Stone’ Chardonnay 2011, Paarl, South Africa (£19.99 SA Wines Online, The Secret Cellar, Noel Young Wines, Winedirect.co.uk, HarperWells)
Rich, creamy nutty style, does have some citrus freshness and pineapple bite, but overall it’s just a bit overdone, with some light oxidation and a little too much buttery toffeeish malolactic character. B(+)
(retasted this late Feb 2014 with similar notes)

Pullus Chardonnay 2012, Stajerska, Slovenia (£9.95 Winety)
Clean, fresh, unoaked style, with tangy nectarine, citrus and apple flavours, honest and fruity but maybe a bit too simple. B(-)

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, Margaret River, Australia (£26-£28 Domaine Direct, The General Wine Company, Harrods, Hedonism Wines, The House of Menzies, Jeroboams, John Gordon’s, Luvians, Noel Young, Secret Cellar, Selfridges, S.H. Jones, St Andrews Wine Company, Winedirect.co.uk, Woodwinters)
Slightly old-fashioned style of Aussie Chardonnay, as in it not being afraid to show of toasty vanilla-y oak, nutty, creamy texture (from lees-aging) and quite plump peach and pineapple fruit. But it’s all handled very well, with none of those characters being OTT, and enough lemony citrus bite to counteract the richness. S(-)

Wine Tasting Video: Rioja & Ribera del Duero

Torres Celeste Ribera del Duero Crianza 2010 (£13.49 Cambridge Wines, Fenwicks, Grape Sense, Hailsham Cellars, Morrison’s Cellar, Robert & Speight, Wilks & Co, vintagemarque.com)
Boisterous young wine, with meaty berry, bramble, plum and damson-skin flavours, plenty of warm earthiness and a spicy note, partly from fruit, and partly from oak that, while prominent, isn’t too intrusive. Balanced enough to enjoy now, fresh enough to have a promising future. S(-)

Dominio de Cäir Ribera del Duero 2009 (£19.99 Harper Wells, Halifax Wine Company, Planet of the Grapes)
An even bolder juicier and plumper style than the Torres, smells fresh, ripe and spicy, with a whiff of vanilla, but when you put it in your mouth, there’s some of the dryness that comes from slightly shrivelled grapes. Good but for me they picked this just a tad late. B+

Contino Rioja Reserva 2007 (£22.99 Waitrose, Tesco, The Wine Society, Harrods, Berry Bros & Rudd)
Gentle mellow style of wine, this wants to caress rather than maul. Combines gentle plummy berry and blackcurrant flavours with citrus peel finesse, gentle tannins and great length. An effortless harmonious style that keeps you coming back for more. S+

CVNE Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 (£26.99 Waitrose, Majestic, Berry Bros & Rudd, The Wine Society, D Byrne)
I initially thought this was slightly corked, but it just needed some time to stretch after its slumber in bottle – Brad Pitt now probably looks a bit rough first thing in the morning, but he still scrubs up nicely…. As it opens up, the characteristics that had been a bit green and awkward to begin with develop into dusty, earthy herb notes, with a hint of tobacco in there, while the fruit uncurls to display its vanilla-scented strawberry and orange pleasures. Manages to be both weighty and profound, yet delicate, and thanks to the backbone of tannin and acidity has years of life ahead of it. G-

Wine Tasting Video: Sparkling Wine from England, France, Australia & Chile

Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2011, Hampshire, England (£29.99 Avery’s, Dalling & Co, Wine Utopia, Liberty Wines)
Tangy young wine, refined and elegant with cooked green apple and pear flavours, touches of slightly uncooked cake-mix (if you never spooned some out of the bowl, you’re wrong) and a crisp, nutty finish. I really like this, but I just wish they’d been able to release it a little later to give it more time to soften. S-

Simonnet-Febvre P100 Blanc de Noir Crémant de Bourgogne NV, France (£15-£16 Whole Foods Market, Forth Wines, Wine World Honiton, Private Cellar, Amazon.co.uk)
Simple, sherbetty style, crisp apple flavours but also a slightly cheesy note in the background, OK but not fine. B(-)

Tyrrell’s Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut 2009, South Eastern Australia (£16.99 www.vintagemarque.com)
Rounded and confident wine, balancing toasty, yeasty Marmite-like richness with gentle citrus and apple flavours, and adding some nuttiness on the finish. S-

Miguel Torres Chile Cordillera Brut 2012, Curicó, Chile (£12.99 Taurus Wines, Telford Wines, Winos, Saddleworth Wine Vault, www.vintagemarque.com)
Lots of flavour here – redcurrant, apple, citrus and pear – but also a savoury saline edge to add freshness. Content to be a rounded honest simple sparkler, and as such, does it’s job well. B+

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado Rosé 2012, Secano Interior, Chile (£12.49 Hoults Wine Merchants, In the Pink, Trina’s Wines, www.vintagemarque.com)
There’s a savoury, almost sandy note here alongside the plum, redcurrant and apple flavours, plus a crisp finish. B

Wine Tasting Video: Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon from Chile & New Zealand

Laurenz V Charming Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve 2012, Austria (~£19 contact Bibendum)
Fresh young stony style, tangy apple and pear underpinned with citrus freshness and an undercurrent of saline minerality. S-

Laurenz V Silver Bullet Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve 2012, Austria (~£14.50 per 50cl contact Bibendum)
Quite a full, rich style but still fresh, has the classic lentil and white pepper overtones on top of peachy flesh, with a salty briny bite to clean up the finish. S

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand (£16.99 **list of stockists at the end of the post)
This shows some of the typical Sauvignon characters – gooseberry, blackcurrant leaf, a light catty citrus edge – but it’s less about the herbaceous and fruity, and more about crispness, finesse and almost earthy mineral restraint. Sauvignon for Chablis drinkers. S(+)

Errázuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chile (£12.49 Waitrose, Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Wine Reserve)
Dumb to start with, but then opens up to show a combination of quite bold guava and rhubarb flavours and tauter citrus & green apple here. Good salty, stony mineral notes, nice wine. S(-)

**Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc stockists:
Corks of Cotham, Ceci Paolo, The Colchester Wine Company, Cooden Cellars, D Byrne & Co, Divine Fine Wines, Eton Vintners, Eagle’s Wines, Field & Fawcett, Flourish & Prosper, Great Horkesley Wine Centre, Halifax Wine Co, HarperWells.com, Imbibros, The New Zealand House of Wine, Noel Young Wines, Planet of the Grapes, Quintessentially Wine, Roberts & Speight, Satchells of Burnham Market, The Secret Cellar, Selfridges, Slurp.co.uk, Swig, Tivoli Wines, The Vineyard (Dorking), Vinology, Vin Neuf, Whole Foods Market, Winedirect.co.uk, Wine Man, Wined Up Here, TheWineReserve.co.uk, Lockett Bros, WoodWinters, House of Menzies, Aitken Wines, Fountainhall Wines, Giacopazzi, The Fine Wine Company, Valvona & Crolla

Wine Tasting Video: Four Douro reds from Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Thoroughly impressed by this quartet of reds, a major step up from when I last tried some of the winery’s wines in this video. None is in the UK so far (as far as I know), but see the end for some companies that should be able to help you source them.

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Douro Reserva 2011 (~£25)
Vigorous young wine, intense and ripe with plush, plump almost kirsch-like blackcurrant, berry and plum flavours infused with herby notes. Yes, it’s oaky, but it’s very young, and the wood is in balance with the rest if the wine, like a herb-infused Argie Malbec with a dollop of Bordeaux Cabernet. S

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Douro Reserva Classico 2011 (~£50)
Seems simpler than the Reserva to begin, with pronounced wood influence – raw, and spirity, something a find in young, modern Rioja, with a coconutty edge too. But then the wine starts to unwind, and as it opens up, you get voluptuous waves of dark fruit flavour with a warm-country herb influence and, despite the power, no lack of freshness nor elegance. Really classy wine. S+

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Douro Referencia Grande Reserva 2011 (~£50)
Not sure about this one. It doesn’t seem to have quite as much freshness to balance the intense fruit as in the previous two, and alongside the slightly raw wood tannins, there’s also a little barnyard-y brett character intruding. As it opens up, the classy dark fruit does come through, along with more of that exotic kirsch character, but this on present form is good rather than great. S

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Douro Mirabilis Grande Reserva 2011 (~£70)
(no reference to this wine on the winery web site…)

Magnificent wine, intense, fresh and perfumed, combining the herby warmth of the Douro with aromatic fruit and vitality. The smoky wood note is there but it’s all in perfect balance, allowing the rip but never jammy blackcurrant and blackberry flesh to show through. Concentrated but vibrant, voluptuous but well corseted, this is delicious. G

Oakley Wine Agencies imports some of the winery’s wines to the UK

www.winefromportugal.com has earlier vintages of all these wines