Category: Rosé Wine

A taste from New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards

My first taste of the 2015 vintage came from Marlborough, New Zealand, from the Marisco Vineyards. I tasted through part of the Marisco portfolio at The Merchant’s Tavern with owner and winemaker Brent Marris.

Wines at the Marisco tasting at The Merchant's Tavern

Wines at the Marisco tasting at The Merchant’s Tavern

Having tasted through a whole bunch of mostly okay, occasionally mediocre, 2014 vintages from other parts of the world this year, the 2015 from Marisco made a refreshing change. It should come as no surprise really – Marris has been in wine all his life.

Brent’s father, John Marris, had been one of the first contract grape growers for Montana (now Brancott Estate) in Marlborough. Following in his father’s footsteps, Brent went on to study oenology and made wines at Oyster Bay before creating Wither Hills. In 2003, on the 300 or so hectares of land on the banks of the Waihopai River, Marris established Marisco vineyards. Wine must run in the blood as his eldest daughter is also studying oenology with a view of joining the family business in the future.

But back to the wines. We tasted through 14 dry wines before dinner and three sweet wines with dessert from The Ned, The King’s Series and the Craft Series. There was also a Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc. For ease, I’ve divided the tasting notes into their respective brands, followed by the sweet wines, rather than in the order tasted. There are a lot of notes and some stories too so brace yourself and read on.

Marisco brands

Marisco brands – yes, I’ve started scribbling on the page before taking this photo

The Ned

The Ned, named after the mountain which overlooks the Marlborough region, was the first wine brand created at Marisco vineyards. Marris wanted to make the stripped-back style of Sauvignon Blanc that first made Marlborough famous. And in the beginning, he worked exclusively with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

We started with The Ned Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, a tank sample which will be bottled in July. It’s apparently Marris’ first attempt at rosé at Marisco and it’s made with Pinot Noir grapes grown specifically for this wine. It’s a very dry style, and at times a little hot on the palate, with vanilla and red fruit notes. It offered nice structure though and was generally quite elegant.

The Ned Pinot Grigio 2014 (sold as Pinot Gris in New Zealand) had a sort of onion-skin blush to its hue, which was apparently achieved purely through viticulture. It was a light, crisp and delicate wine with lychee notes coming through. I also tried a tank sample of The Ned Pinot Grigio 2015, which, with its slightly pinker hue, was much fresher with a crisp apple nose and a citrusy profile.

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2014 had a sharp peppery nose and hints of tomato vine on the palate. There was nice acidity but also a certain roundness to the wine. The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2015 had a slight foxiness about it before opening up to jalapeño peppers and a much more mineral-based palate.

The first red wine came in the form of The Ned Pinot Noir 2013, a cool-climate style Pinot Noir with a slightly spicy palate. There was a delicateness about it with notes of strawberry and vanilla over the gentle tannins. It’s a very likeable wine and I preferred it over the 2014 vintage. The Ned Pinot Noir 2014 was hotter on the palate with more tannins coming through. The fruit felt riper though and with great intensity, finishing with a slight hint of vanilla on the long finish.

Hartley’s Block

The Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc 2014 came in the middle of the tasting and was the only wine from the brand. It was quite rounded for a Sauvignon Blanc (in contrast to the occasional sharp acidity) with a light, peppery palate and delicate nose.

The King’s Series

The King’s Series is a celebration of the Marris family name in the 12th and 13th century – De Marisco. Initially the family was in favour with the king but later, over the generations and as a result of piracy, they became a thorn in the king’s side. These were different kings obviously. Each of the wines in The King’s Series plays on this history of the Marris family – although it doesn’t literally translate into the style of the wine. Or does it?

The first wine we tried in The King’s Series was The King’s Thorn 2013, a lychee-rich wine with a short finish and perhaps in need of a little more acidity. The King’s Favour 2013 came next. It had distinct farmyardy notes with a very delicate palate, lots of minerality and notes of apple and lime. I’m not sure if it was because of the name but I really liked this one. The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2012 (sold in the USA as The King’s Bastard) was a very light, citrusy Chardonnay, fermented and aged on the lees (with the yeast) in barrel.

On to the red wines we tried The King’s Wrath 2013. It was a herbaceous red wine with more prominent oak notes coming through and slight hint of development.

Craft Series

The Craft Series is the latest brand to join the Marisco portfolio, having launched last year, and is a more artisan selection. They were made on the principle that certain vines were showing exceptional characteristics which Marris wanted to capture. The result is a collection that’s intended to be for people who are really into their wines, know their stuff and isn’t afraid to try something new and interesting. I hope we’ll see these in the UK soon but they’re not widely available yet.

The wines came towards the end of the tasting starting with Brent’s favourite, The Craft Series Sauvignon Blanc Pride & Glory 2011. Like The King’s Favour 2013, this wine had the same farmyardy notes with apple, citrus, a hint of pepper but finished with a little lychee. It worked really well with the sea bream ceviche I ordered, which was surprisingly spicy, so I think it will comfortably work with other spicy dishes too.

The other white wine that I really liked was The Craft Series Viognier The Exemplar 2012. It was quite unusual for a Viognier in that it lacked the signature floral character of the grape variety. Instead, I got notes of sweetcorn and asparagus thanks to the barrel fermentation. It was quite a bold palate and maybe takes some getting used to – but I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked it.

The Craft Series Pinot Noir The Journey 2013 was restrained and elegant with a herbaceous character, black pepper and lots of tannin. It feels too young to drink right now but there’s potential. The 2014 vintage will apparently be divided into a feminine and a masculine wine as the parcels are so polarising.

The sweet wines

Marisco sweet wines with lemon tart and basil ice cream

Marisco sweet wines with lemon tart and basil ice cream

I’ve actually tried sweet wines from both The Ned and The King’s Series without ever realising that they’re from the same winemaker. Tasting them side by side, the difference is even more obvious.

The Ned Noble 2013 had a slight petrol note with highlights of citrus peel, tangerine and a floral quality. There was nice intensity and good acidity.

From The King’s Series, it was two vintages of A Sticky End. A Sticky End 2012 was more earthy while A Sticky End 2013 was much cleaner on the nose. Both, I felt, needed more acidity and, next to The Ned, didn’t show as well as they could have.

Tricolour: wines from Côteaux du Giennois

I mentioned briefly in the post about wine and technology that there would be a vlog coming up… Well, you didn’t have to wait too long for that because here it is:

Côteaux du Giennois

For this first vlog, I tasted a trio of wines from the French wine region of Côteaux du Giennois.

Coteaux du Giennoise wines

Côteaux du Giennois is right in the middle of France, quite close to Sancerre, and lies between the towns of Gien and Cosne sur Loire by the Loire River. As an appellation, it’s relatively new, AOC since 1998, but grape pips have been found in archaeological digs in Cosne sur Loire which suggests that wine has been made there since the 2nd century.

As in other parts of the Loire Valley, the soil in the area is a mix of flint and limestone which suggests good potential for the white wines. These are made from Sauvignon Blanc. They also make rosé and red wines from Pinot Noir, Gamay or a blend of the two.

Anyway, here are the tasting notes for the three wines:

Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A medium bodied wine with intense nose of lychee, pear, apple and citrus. Some stony minerality. A little floral note too. Don’t serve this too cold as acidity will prevail. To have with a creamy seafood dish. RRP£9.99 available from Marks & Spencer.
 Les Aupières Coteaux du Giennois Rose 2013 Les Aupières Rosé Côteaux du Giennois 2013. Light red berry nose with a little hawthorne, perhaps even rose. Slight bitterness at the end. A delicate red-style rosé wine. Enjoy with a chicken and pomegranate salad or something similarly light from the Middle East. RRP£10.99 available from Laithwaites.
 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A little vanilla coming through followed by strawberries. Overpowering farm-yardy aromas. Not one for me. RRP£12.99 available from Laithwaites.

Quinta do Portal, Celeirós

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

The winery at Quinta do Portal is impressively large (it’s capable of producing some 1.2 million bottles of wine a year) considering that the estate itself is only around 15 hectares. But that’s because the family owned estate is also part of the group that owns Quinta do Confradeiro, Quinta dos Muros and Quinta da Abelheira. Between all those Quintas, the area under vine is more like 105 hectares.

Winery, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

The man in charge of creating all those wines is Paulo Coutinho, who has been at Quinta do Portal for more than 20 years. You get the sense that he is very self-assured as he claims to be able to make any wine that he wants to.

The considerable creative flexibility that he’s been afforded has allowed him to experiment with wines that you probably won’t find on many other estates in the Douro Valley like a sparkling rosé. That rosé, incidentally, was the Super Reserva Rosé Espumante do Douro 2008, which, while a little too tart on the palate, had a nice strawberry nose with a slightly savoury finish. It’s a one-off, however.

Moscatel is the other grape that Coutinho liked to play with. We tried a Moscatel Galego Branco 2013, a slightly tart and savoury wine that’s otherwise classic in the moscatel category. Quinta do Portal also had a Colheita rosé, the Colheita Douro Rosé 2013, which was fresh, aromatic and crisp with plenty of strawberry notes and a very dry finish.

The aforementioned three “fun wines” were what Coutinho later introduced into cocktails. In fact, he was one of the strongest advocates for wine cocktails that we met on the trip.

Wines, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

To more serious wines, we started with a Douro Branco 2006, a well rounded wine with notes of honey, melon, lychee and a fresh, creamy finish.

Switching to one of the few sweet wines (that’s not port) in the Douro Valley, we tried the Late Harvest 2009 – honeyed nose, white fruits and a hint of Botrytis on the finish. A second sweet wine, which we tried later, was the Moscatel do Douro Reserva 2004, a floral but nutty and raisined wine that’s slightly oxidised.

With the reds, we started with a Grande Reserva 2007, a fresh, violet-forward wine that’s backed with blackcurrant and a little taste of iron. The still-evolving Touriga Nacional 2001 had a hint of mushroom and leathery overtones though there was still plenty of fruit.

Finally, finishing with a small round of port, we started with a 20 year old tawny. It felt a little one-dimensional but had good acidity to counter the sweetness. The 1999 vintage port, meanwhile, had developed with mushroom notes, a hint of chocolate and a smoky savouriness.

Famille Bougrier Rosé d’Anjou 2013

Famille Bourgrier Rosé d'Anjou 2013The wine: Famille Bougrier Rosé d’Anjou 2013

The producer: Famille Bougrier

They say: Since 1885 and five generations, Family Bougrier selects the most beautiful raisins from our best terroirs, to offer you the nicest wines. We wish you great pleasure with our Loire Valley Wines. Very nice, fresh rosé with a vivid colour. Red fruits aromas very persistent. To drink chilled just for fun during the summer but as well with any spicy or Asian food.

We say: Light salmon blush hue. Bags of strawberry notes with a touch of sweetness. Fruity, but reserved enough to be elegant. Light and delicate but a little hot on the palate at times.

Try with: Couscous salad with pomegranate and parsley

Price (RRP): £8

Available from: Oddbins

Additional notes: –

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 浅三文鱼橘红色。草莓味为主。带一点甜味。果味较强但足够的优雅。酒精度有时感觉较高。

中餐搭配: 草莓拼盘

Spotlight on: Baden and Württemberg

The winelands of Baden and Württemberg reminds me a little of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

View to Bodensee, Baden-Württemberg

Like the Languedoc-Roussillon, Baden and Württemberg lie to the south of the country. And like the Languedoc-Roussillon, they also border a large body of water – Lake Constance, or Bodensee as it’s known locally. Both of these factors make the regions warmer than some of their northern counterparts and the wines in turn are a little higher in alcohol.

But that’s where the similarity stops because although together the regions are part of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Baden and Württemberg are considered separate wine regions under German legislation. (It’s worth noting here that they have been grouped in this case because I visited both regions in the same journey.) What’s more, with some exceptions, Baden and Württemberg make use of an entirely different set of grapes to Languedoc-Roussillon and to each other.

(Read about Baden and Württemberg’s distinctive food here)

Grape flower buds close up, Baden-Württemberg

Baden is more Pinot focussed with the majority of wines made from Spätburgunder (Pinot noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) but Müller-Thurgau and Gutedel (Chasselas) also make an appearance. Württemberg, meanwhile, uses Trollinger, Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier), Lemberger and Spätburgunder. Germany’s best known grape variety, Riesling, is also utilised but certainly not as much as in other German wine regions.

What’s been most interesting for me has been the fact that neither of these two areas seemed to produce sweet wines. Again there are exception here but on the whole, many of the producers tended to make a rosé wine for serving with dessert. It’s something that’s worked out well while there are German strawberries in season but it makes me wonder what they do the rest of the time.

Without further ado, here are the places I’ve visited in Baden and Württemberg (You can read my short guide to wine travel in the Bodensee on Yahoo):

Collegium Wirtemberg


Weingut Markgraf von Baden

Weingut Wöhrwag

Winzerhof Gierer

Riberach, Belesta

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

The entire idea of Riberach is loveable; a once gargantuan winery in the heart of Roussillon that’s converted into a boutique hotel and winery, split almost equally down the centre by a gastronomic restaurant.

Fermentation tank door, Riberach, Belesta

Keeping true to its historic roots, the bedrooms are converted concrete wine vats. The old doors for extracting wine can still be seen on the wall though you’d never suspect the room’s former use when inside.

On the wine side of the winery, things are much more rustic.

Racking tanks, Riberach, Belesta

The upper level is a well-stocked but small wine shop while downstairs is the actual winery. It’s also there that geothermal energy is used to power both the winery and hotel.

Substantially smaller batches of wine, made to a much more exacting standard, are made in stainless steel vats housed in the old concrete tanks before being oaked. Even the white and rosé wines are put into barrel.

The results are certainly interesting.

Still-fermenting red wine, to be rose, Riberach, Belesta

I tasted some still-fermenting tank samples of rosé and white, both cloudy and full of lees, first. The rosé had been in tank for a week with no added yeast. With a decided fizz, it was the colour of watermelon and absolutely delicious as far as grape juice is concerned. It also had the beginnings of red berry fruits showing. The white was a pale sandy yellow colour, very sweet but not quite so aromatic at that point.

In the real tasting, the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Rosé No 12 (2012 vintage) was extremely pale with plenty of strawberry and good high acidity.

The Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Synthése Blanc 2012, though ripe with green apples and citrus, had remarkably low acidity.

Much more interesting was the Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Rouge No 11 (2011 vintage). With a heady mix of red and black berry fruits and a sort of herbaceous earthiness, it had excellent structure while remaining extremely drinkable when young.

Red is certainly its colour.

Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

Domaine Haut Gléon showed all the promising signs of a good winery.

Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

It’s located in the heart of the Corbières, a region well-known for its red wines owing to the abundance of sun to ripen the fruit while the winds kept the temperature down. The vineyard also happens to be in a relatively sheltered valley creating what’s said to be a micro-climate. The valley itself is called Vallée du Paradis, with obvious connotations. Even the name, perhaps wrongly assumed, aspires to Haute Brion.

And yet Haut Gléon is in a pretty terrible shape when it comes to wine.

Young vine, Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban


The 260 hectare estate had apparently been left to fend for itself by the previous owner but has since been acquired by a collective of winemakers. And yet even under new ownership, there’s a lot to be done.

While new vines have been planted, old vines seem to have been neglected with patches left unpruned in the mid-June sun, running untamed as its wild cousins. The focus instead seems to be on the tourism side, with wine being an added bonus.

When it comes to wine tourism, the estate suddenly becomes very promising. Well appointed rooms are located at the heart of the working winery, though without any obvious means of transport to go to anywhere else. It would seem to be somewhere quite perfect for those who want to get into the centre of wine making country and had no desire to do anything else.

But back to the wines. (It’s unclear which of the wines were made before the takeover and which ones after.)

Wines, Domaine Haut Gléon, Durban

The IGP wine, Vallée du Paradis Blanc 2012, was a fresh, crisp white but also a little creamy. The more premium AOC Corbières Blanc 2012 had seriously good minerality and notes of green apples and citrus. It was also interesting to find out that the white version of the label was more expensive than the red wine.

For the rosé wines, the basic Vallée du Paradis Rosé 2012 was fresh enough with high acidity but also hinted at some tannin. The AOC Corbières Rosé 2012 was much more fruity with bags of strawberry coming through in its long finish.

For the reds, I tasted only the AOC Corbières Rouge 2009. It was still feeling incredibly young but there was good structure and plenty of black fruits.

Haut Gléon also produced an incredibly nice Vin de Liqueur Carthagène Rouge, which tasted richly of cherries. That’s one for after dinner chocolates.

Château de Pennautier, Pennautier

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

As with many grand houses that began in the Middle Ages, building of the house of Château de Pennautier happened in several stages. Given the enormous size of the building, it’s easy to see why.

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

Although the Château contains only (in the most nonchalant manner, of course) 20 bedrooms, it’s also home to a ballroom, library and themed drawing rooms that are only found in such palatial buildings. It even boasts a set of bedroom furniture that once belonged to Louis XIII, gifted to the family centuries ago.

Now the Château is part-time family residence and part-time hotel/corporate retreat/events space.

About 10 minutes gentle stroll down the well kept lawn and past the outdoor pool you’ll find the first of the vineyards but those are just for private consumption. The real vines lay elsewhere in the region.

Chateau Pennautier, Pennautier

No wine is mentioned until now because the wine making aspect of the property seems wholly separate to the rest of the estate. In fact, the estate belongs to an empire with five other properties making Lorgeril wines.

To taste the wines that are made by the estate, you need to go some way into the centre of Pennautier where a restaurant, tasting room and indeed some of the cellar is housed.

In the IGP category, or its Collection Fruitée, Lorgeril/Château de Pennautier made several varietal specific wines. The Sauvignon de Pennautier 2012 had some light minerality but very little fruit. Chardonnay de Pennautier 2012 fared much better with higher acidity and good notes of green apples.

The Cuvées Classique were only marginally better for me. De Pennautier Cabardès Rouge 2012 was austere and woody on the nose but rescued by some fruit on the palate. With a little age, the de Pennautier Cabardès Rouge 2010 seemed to offer much more fruit. Both, however, were high on the feel of alcohol.

Moving on to the Grands Vins, things got better. L’Esprit de Pennautier Cabardès 2010 had much softer tannins with a more palatable mix of red and black fruits. That is, in comparison to another wine made by Lorgeril – Domaine de Lorgeril Minervois La Livinière La Croix 2008 – which though offered much higher acidity was relatively restrained on the fruit.

The sweet wine, Le Rêve de Pennautier 2011, made to moelleux (semi-sweet), was at least a reasonable finish. With a fair balance of acidity and sweetness, it was an interesting use of 100% Chardonnay.

Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

Vineyard, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

If you’ve ever ridden a train from Nîmes to Beaucaire, the chances are the vineyards that you’ve spotted along the way belonged to Château Mourgues du Grès. The 65 hectare family-owned estate is spread throughout Costières de Nîmes AOP and often finds itself remarkably close to the train line.

Building, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

Undistracted by the passing trains, owner and winemaker François Collard makes full use of the varied mix of chalky, sandy and pebbly soils to create some stunning wines. But then again, he started his career at Château Lafite Rothschild.

Wine tanks, Château Mourgues du Grès, Beaucaire

Les Galets Dorés 2012 makes a good entry white wine. While simple in its citrusy notes, it’s very refreshing when served at the right temperature. The Terre d’Argence 2012 uses Viognier as the head note alongside the usual Languedoc varieties of Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache. The result is a white with surprisingly high acidity but a well rounded finish.

On the rosé, the Les Galets Rosés 2012 was showing some nice strawberry notes and while interesting, wasn’t quite for me.

The reds were the really impressive bunch. Terre de Feu 2011 was in a strange way creamy. The tannins had really softened with vanilla notes coming through hand in hand with cherry and chocolate. The Terre d’Argence 2011 was the favourite for me. Made from old vine Syrah and a touch of Grenache, the dark brambly fruits offered a seriously intense experience for the nose while restrained herbaceousness and elegance greeted the palate.

Château de l’Hospitalet, Narbonne

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

Château de l’Hospitalet is just one of the seven wine estates owned by former French rugby player Gérard Bertrand.

If you’re not a rugby fan then you might be scratching your head on this one but the chances are, you’ll probably have tried a wine from one of his estates before. They tend to be mid to high priced and pretty good quality.

At the moment, Château de l’Hospitalet is perhaps one of the most developed for wine tourism in the region. Investment has been made towards developing accommodation, restaurant, shopping and even art on-site. It also benefits from being close to the sea, though it gets pretty windy on the coast.

Sea view, Château de l'Hospitalet, Narbonne

On the wine side of things, Château de l’Hospitalet is one of the smaller estates and produces around 16k bottles per year. It’s a working number that’s set to expand as the estate grows.

The wine cellar is open for tours and tastings with seasonal staff drafted in from around the world. Case in point, the girl who led my tasting was from Wales.

The tasting started with the Art de Vivre La Clape 2012, a refreshingly acidic white. It’s citrusy but well rounded with an expressive finish.

In the same category was a rosé, also named Art de Vivre La Clape 2012. The pale salmon coloured wine was less acidic and much more fruity with strawberries on the finish.

The red in the same category, the Art de Vivre La Clape 2011, was made with the same blend as the rosé – Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The slightly older vintage displayed red fruits and smoky overtones. It still feels herbaceous and young though.

On the pricey side was the l’Hospitalitas La Clape 2011. This deep garnet number was elegant and velvety smooth with lots of blackberries coming through. It was already drinking very well but has great potential for ageing too.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...