Showing posts with label wine tasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine tasting. Show all posts

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Getting to know Lugana and Valpolicella wines

Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London

Onwards with my wine education, I was recently introduced to the Italian wines of Lugana and Valpolicella over dinner at the iconic Savoy Grill in London.

Lugana wines are relatively unknown in this country, but the Consorzio Lugana D.O.C. is making an effort to raise their profile here in the UK.  I was invited to a delicious meal at The Savoy Grill to get to know about Lugana and Valpolicella by UK Sommelier Association.

Lugana is located in northern Italy, in and around the territory of lower Lake Garda. It's a gorgeous place, I've seen pictures, with vineyards ringing the lake and the Italian Swiss Alps in the background. They mainly produce white wines made with the Turbiana grape, which is a variant of Trebbiano. The wine is classified into five designations, 'basic', the Superior, Riserva, Vendemmia Tardiva and Spumante.

The 'basic' Lugana D.O.C. makes up 90% of the production and gives wines that have an intense and delicate bouquet with notes of almonds, white flowers and citrus. On the palate, it is dry, fresh and refined.

Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London

At the Savoy Grill, our first course was Fresh Crab Avocado Salad with crème fraîche and was paired with various Lugana whites. I found the wines to be smooth and elegant, a far cry from your usual Pinot Grigio.

Our next few courses were matched with wines from the Valpolicella DOC. Valpolicella is also located in and around Lake Garda as well as having proximity to Verona and Venice.

The UK is one of the top markets for Valpolicella. It's commonly found in your local supermarket, but there is much more to it than that.

The wines are divided into three separate categories. There is the  Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Ripasso and  Amarone della Valpolicella.  The sweet red wines  are known as Recioto della Valpolicella. The main grapes used for the blend are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Each wine is made in a distinct style, and they vary wildly from light and fruity to dark.

The Valpolicella Classico is a blend of the three grapes and is vinified in the usual red wine making method. Ripasso is made by macerating the wine with fermented marc (grape brandy) and dried grapes that have already been used to produce Amarone and/or Recioto. Amarone is made by drying the grapes for up to 3 months before being vinified into wine. Finally, Recioto is a sweet red wine perfect for dessert.

These are gastronomic wines, mostly being strong and robust, they need dishes that can stand up to their intensity.
Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London
The second course was Steak Tartar with Caviar, slow cooked egg yolk and Parmesan cheese. It was paired with Valpolicella Classico and the Valpolicella Ripasso. The wines were real powerhouses with a long finish, smooth tannins with balanced acidity and structure.
Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London
The main was Venison Wellington with Salt Baked Celeriac and bitter chocolate sauce. It was paired with the Amarone della Valpolicella. The wine has an illusion of sweetness, being full bodied with hints of dried fruits, firm tannins and high acidity. Be careful with them because they are ka-pow!

Savoy Grill London
Black Forest Trifle with pistachio brittle at The Savoy Grill 

Lastly, we had the Recioto della Valpolicella which are the sweet red wines of the region matched with Black Forest Trifle with pistachio brittle. The dark chocolate and sour cherries of the Trifle were reflected brilliantly in the dessert, a fabulous way to end the evening.

Wines Tasted:
Consorzio Lugana
1) Lugana 2016 Bio, Az. Agr. Marangona
2) Lugana 2016, Conchiglia, Az. Agr. Citari
3) Lugana 2016, Az. Agr. Bulgarini
4) Lugana 2016, Vigneti Villabella
5) Lugana 2016, Gruccione, Az. Agr. Nunzio Ghiraldi
6) Lugana 2016, Limne, Az. Agr. Tenuta Roveglia
7) Lugana 2015, Brolettino, Az. Agr. Cà dei Frati
8) Lugana 2015, Fabio Contato, Az. Agr. Cà Maiol
9) Lugana Riserva 2014 Molceo, Az. Agr. Ottella
10) Lugana Superiore 2011 Madonna della Scoperta, Az. Agr. Perla del Garda

Consorzio Valpolicella


1) Az. Agricola Montetondo - Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2014
2) Az. Agricola Meroni - Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2010 "Il Velluto"

Valpolicella Ripasso

3) Corte Merci - Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso 2015
4) Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve - Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso 2014
5) Benazzoli - Valpolicella DOC Superiore Ripasso 2013

Amarone della Valpolicella

6) Vigneti di Ettore - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2013
7) Cantina Valpantena - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012 "Torre del Falasco"
8) Crosarola - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012
9) Villa Rinaldi - Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2003 "Corpus" (my favourite!)

Recioto delola Valpolicella

10) Villa Crine - Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG 2014 

Thanks to UK Sommelier Association, Consorzio della Valpolicella and  Consorzio Lugana DOC  for the opportunity to savour such delicious and elegant wines.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

An evening sipping Loire Valley Wines with Douglas Blyde

I was invited by Gastronomy advisor and ES beverage columnist, Mr Douglas Blyde, to sample some delightful Loire Valley wine over a refined dinner at the trendy The London Edition Hotel in London.

Loire Valley wine diversity is staggering with over 800 kilometres of wine trails, it’s France’s third largest wine region, excluding Champagne.  Loire Valley wine regions include Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur and Touraine, with a number of appellations,  Muscadet and Chinon probably being the most famous.

The evening started with a comprehensive list of nine Loire wines served as aperitifs a kind of a tasting session before dinner, my favourite was the sparkling Touraine Mousseux, Monmousseau Cuvee J.M.  N.V.

Mr Blyde directed us to the basement where elegant dinner tables were set up. I love a proper dinner table, with good glasses and beautiful crockery - the evening looked promising.   As the dinner was about to start low multi-coloured lights were switched on and an excited Mr Blyde introduced the evening’s wines and food.

The lights were part of a sensorial experience; with each wine, a different colour was introduced, much to the horror of serious picture takers. Good lighting is everything in photography.  But, moving on to the wines and dishes...
 multi coloured and  light Colchester crab
The first course featured light Colchester crab, apple and coriander on sourdough toast, dressed with a light brown crab mayonnaise. This dish was paired with Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu Sur Lie, 2015,  the high minerality cut through the mayo and complemented the fresh and sharp flavours of apple and herby coriander.

The next course was fish - a perfectly cooked rainbow trout, with a light wasabi sauce, refreshing cucumber and vegetables matched with the Savenniéres, Clos de la Hutte, 2015.  This was an elegant wine, well balanced with minerality and citrus fruit, the saltiness of the fish stood up to this rich white wine perfectly.

The BBQ pork chop course topped with Spanish calçot onions apple, tomato and sage sauce was a delight to the eyes and the palate. This dish was paired with two different red wines, the 2014 Lisagathe from Château du Hureau in Saumur-Champigny had a beautiful depth, with fruity notes and a hint of spice, sandalwood and tobacco. The red Chinon Rouge, 2009, from Clos de la Dioterie had great depth, also, with prominent dark stone fruits and spice notes, in my opinion, this was the best pairing.

Dessert was savoury, and I was not complaining. I just love cheese - any kind in fact!  The selection of French and British cheeses, pear and saffron chutney with homemade mixed seed biscuits was an enjoyable end to this meal. The wines: Anjou Blanc ‘Berners Tavern’ 2015 Clas de l’Elu and Anjou Frouge ‘Berners Tavern’, 2014 Clos de l’Elu. Surprisingly the white Chenin Blanc was the best pairing for the cheeses.  


We finished the evening with a fabulous shot of Difference Coffee Jamaican Blue Mountain, served in dazzling gold cups. I need those cups and excellent coffee in my life, daily!

The evening was a brilliant display of the diversity of Loire Valley wines with delicious food and unexpected pairings - for me, white wine with cheese won the night!

for more information on the Loire, please visit:

I was a guest of Mr Douglas Blyde at this event  and here some words from our host:

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Pays d'Oc, wine adventure in Languedoc-Roussillon

wine adventure in Languedoc-Roussillon with Pays d'Oc

This adventure took me to back to France to learn more about wine. Not being a wine expert myself I am finding it increasingly educational and it includes many aspects of wine tourism.  You learn so much in the field, seeing the vineyards, meeting the people behind the wines and, of course, tasting the wines. You also gain an understanding of the soil (terroir) and food and wine pairings as well as getting to know new varietals and a whole new language that comes with wine education.  It's very helpful when ordering from the wine menu at any restaurant; it enables you to order what you like or choose to be adventurous by trying new or unknown wines.

It also takes the pressure off ordering or understanding the sommelier when they are explaining the wine to you - no more blank or inquisitive faces! 

History of Pays D'Oc wines 

France is one of the oldest wine producers in the world. Wine classifications were established in 1855 in preparation for the Great International Exposition in Paris; a regional appellation system was developed.   Within two years of the rating system being published, wine sales by the classified producers increased by 250 percent. With the expansion of the wine trade and export came increases in wine fraud, whereby secondary wines were labelled as superior wines, or secondary wines were blended with the wines of established producers. Therefore,  France has one of the oldest denomination systems for wine in the world, many other European systems have been modelled on it.

'French law classifies wine into four groups, two under the European Union's Table Wine group and two falling under the EU's Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) designation'
The categories are:

Table Wine: Vin de table carries with it only the producer and the designation that it's from France.

Vin de pays (country wine), Carries with it a particular region within France

QWPSR  Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region 

Appellation Controlee (AC) -  A local wine within a region

Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) Indicates a specific vineyard

Vin de Pays d'Oc comes from The Languedoc region. Blessed with an exceptionally sunny climate and located near the Mediterranean Sea, the Vin de Pays d'Oc is a regional 'Vin de Pays'  (country wine) from the Languedoc-Roussillon and stretches over four departments in Languedoc-Roussillon: Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault and the Gard. 

A luscious and natural combination of steep slopes, rugged peaks, vineyards with rocky garrigue vegetation* and the sea, the Pays d’Oc region has a Mediterranean climate which embraces the vines with its dry and windswept soils.
 *-  low-growing vegetation on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast,  dry and rugged ground with bushes of fragrant plants that grow wild such as juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender.

This region is the largest single 'Vin de Pays' and is the prime source of France's varietal wines. The majority of wines are red with a few white and rosé wines on offer. The region is the greatest vineyard in the world and the leading world producer of varietal wine grapes from other French regions such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  As the vines embrace the land from which they are grown (terroir), the grape varieties manifest themselves differently depending on the climate, exposure and soils.

Pays d’Oc’s patchwork of wine-growing areas creates an expression of these grape varieties that is unique.  Through the centuries they have produced high-quality wines that reflect the Pays d’Oc’s typicity of its geographical provenance and of the grape variety (or varieties) from which it is made. Vin de Pays d'Oc wines are labelled by the principal grape variety.

IPG Pays d'Oc

Pays d’Oc IGP - Protected Geographical Indication is a quality label that indicates that the wines have been exclusively produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon and have been accepted and approved by the Pays d’Oc Wine Producers Union.

'The label is awarded to wines that meet strict production quality criteria. The wine must also display typical Pays d’Oc characteristics. 92% of all Pays d’Oc IGP wines are varietal wines'.  The first bottles labelled Pays d’Oc were released in 1987, later to become Protected Geographical Indication wines in 2009.

Buying Pays d'Oc wines is easy just check the labels.  It is specified either front or back label.

Some of the Pays d'Oc wineries and vineyards I visited

A variety of vineyards and wineries, from small producers to co-operatives. 

A Visit and tasting Moulin de Gassac (Daumas Gassac)  in Aniane 

Haute vallée du Gassac, 34150 Aniane, France

Using sheep to manage grass and weeds in vineyards. It’s an efficient and cost-effective way to remove unwanted vegetation.  The sheep is removed after a certain time. If the sheep eat the vines too, that could be a problem! 

The place used to be an abandoned farmhouse nestling on the bend of a pine bordered lane. Owned by the Daumas family bought by Aimé and Véronique Guibert bought in the 70's and first harvest of red in 1978.  it is set  in the heart of a beautiful, unspoilt valley which runs the Gassac river.
A stunning setting  for a vineyard.

tasting Pays D'Oc wines at Daumas Gassac

Domaines Paul Mas in Montagnac 

D5, Route de villeveyrac, 34530 Montagnac, France
Phone: +33 4 67 90 16 10

As described by Jean-Claude Mas: “Luxe Rural” (Everyday Luxury) sums up our culture and philosophy. With the greatest respect for our rural roots, we aim for perfection. Our wines are the result of our mission to inspire real emotions.'
Wine tasting and having the opportunity to watch Jean-Claude blending the wines - very special.

Paul Mas

 Jean-Claude Mas blending wines

Beautiful lunch at Côté Mas Jean-Claude Mas showcased his wines paired with food 

 A place  for people who enjoys food, wine and beautiful surroundings. A very well decorated space with stunning views, very tasty  and well presented  dishes.

'Every lunch starts with bubbles at Côté Mas'
Delicious lamb wrap

a well cooked risotto and fresh sea bass

perfect ending : Petit Gateau

Tasting Domaine de la Provenquière in Capestang

La Provenquière, 34310 Capestang, France
Phone:+33 4 67 90 54 73 

One of the most atmospheric places I've been in a long time in France  - truly beautiful  and the best thing they have some very good wines including their white wine the P Sémillon Vermentino  -  Semillon / Vermentino grapes - Blanc 2015.

 'The main house is actually a castle, dating from the 15th century, and was owned by Jean Provenquier, Marquis de Puisserguier. In the 18th Century,  it was transformed into its present state by Paul Teissonière, Councilor of Napoleon III, who acquired it in 1860.
The Robert family became the owners in 1954. The vineyard, with an area of ​​155 hectares, is spread over three communes. ' 

The varietals allow the production of a wide range of Pays d'Oc wines, in white, rosé and red. This place is amazing!

Tasting  at  Domaine Calmel & Joseph in Montirat

chemin de la Madone, 11800 Montirat, France

 'Creators of great wines in Languedoc-Roussillon' 

What a gorgeous place for  a wine tasting! Modern and very stylish. Calmel & Joseph is located in Montirat in the Languedoc-Roussillon  only  5.6 miles from Carcassonne.

 Calmel & Joseph is located in Montirat in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region, 5.6 miles from Carcassonne. Set in an immaculate verdant area just a few miles from Carcassone this property boasts 160 hectares. They have accommodation with swimming pool, sauna and other amenities. Unfortunately, we didn't stay here - perhaps next time when in Carcassone.  We had a comprehensive tasting of Pays D'Oc wines including the Villa Blanche Marselan  part of the  Pays d'Oc wines IGP Collection.

They provide group tastings: contact to discuss requirements

Jerome Joseph co-owner of Calmel & Joseph

Villa Blanche Marselan - part of the  Pays d'Oc wines IGP Collection

The wines we tasted at Calmel & Joseph

Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles  

Chemin de Moscou, 11300 Brugairolles, France
Phone: +33 4 68 20 65 87

Harvest and sorting of their grapes are done by hand to precise guidelines.
Vinification is done by using the most updated equipment
The barrel aged wines are matured in French Oak for 9 to 24 months under controlled temperatures.
Blending is the most important process.  The vinification is done  separately to produce the best expression of the terroirs
Bottling is done in the Domaine at high standards.

They also have a beautiful restaurant serving amazing food and obviously great wines!


A wine co-operative produces and sells wine made from the grapes grown by its members. It centralises tasks such as wine making, storage, selling, and, in some cases, the bottling process. Each co-operative vinifies grapes separately from their own specific vineyards. They are later sold under different names (château, domaine) or grapes that are selected for their particular qualities or growing process' (organic) or terroir.

Tasting Vignerons du Narbonnais in Ouveillan 

 3 Rue Coluche, 11590 Ouveillan, France
Phone: +33 4 68 46 81 45

Created  in  1936,  Ouveillan  Cellar,  located  at  12km  from  Narbonne,  takes  advantage  of  an  exceptional  local  soil  which  stretches  for  more  than 2500 hectares. Today gathered under the name  of  Vignerons  du  Narbonnais, it has about  330  membersThe cheer size of this operation is incredible.

All these wines retail in the UK: Dumanet Viognier Blanc 20116
        Les Estimes Chardonnay Viognier Blanc 2016
        South Emotion Vermentino Blanc 2016

Visit and tasting Cave de l’Ormarine in Pinet    

9 Chemin de l'Amour, 34660 Cournonterral, France

This wine tasting took place in the vineyard overlook the sea and the vast greenery  of The Languedoc  and the Bassin de Thau

Pays d’Oc IGP Collection 2016

The Pays d'Oc wines IGP Collection is an exclusive list of  refined and sophisticated wines of the area; this collection defines the high-end Pays d'Oc IGP wines.  The wines are selected by a group of wine professionals. This year collection :

The white wines

« Le Prestige »
 - Chardonnay - Blanc 2015
Collines du Bourdic

« Figure Libre Chenin Blanc »
 - Chenin blanc - Blanc 2014,
Domaine Gayda

« P Sémillon Vermentino »
 - Semillon / Vermentino - Blanc 2015,
Domaine La Provenquiere

« Mas des Tannes Grenache Blanc »
 - Grenache blanc - Blanc- 2015
Domaines Paul Mas

« Beauvignac »
- Chardonnay - Blanc 2015
Les Costieres de Pomerols

« Grenache-Viognier »
- Grenache Blanc / Viognier - Blanc 2015
Mas de Madame

« Muscat sec »
- Muscat à petits grains - Blanc 2015
Mas de Madame

« Vignoble Peyroli »
 - Chardonnay - Blanc 2013
Mas La Chevaliere

« Grenache- Viognier »
Les Hauts de Janeil
Grenache blanc / Viognier 2015
Mas Janeil

The red wines

« Cuvée Nicole »
 - Assemblage - Rouge 2013

Alma Cersius
« Terra Patres »
- Assemblage -
Rouge- 2012

Calmel & Joseph
« Villa Blanche Marselan »
 - Marselan - Rouge- 2014

Condamine Bertrand
« Elixir »
 - Assemblage - Rouge- 2014

Domaine de Brau
« Pure Pinot Noir »
- Pinot Noir - Rouge- 2015

Domaine de la Baume
« Syrah - La Jeunesse »
 - Syrah - Rouge- 2015

« entre nous selon Valensac »
 - Petit Verdot - Rouge- 2014

Domaine du Grand Chemin
« JMF »
 - Cabernet-Sauvignon / Pinot Noir - Rouge- 2014

Domaine du Grand Chemin
« Clos Rogé »
- Assemblage - Rouge- 2013

« Amano »
- Syrah / Grenache - Rouge - 2013

Domaine Gayda
« Chemin de Moscou »
 - Assemblage -Rouge - 2013

Vignobles Foncalieu 
« Le Versant Syrah »
 - Syrah - Rouge 2015

Mas du Salagou
« Cinérite »
 - Assemblage - Rouge 2013

Next time: Where to stay to explore Pays d'Oc wines in style and amazing eats in The Languedoc.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Pays d'OC IGP at this trip. All views are my own.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...