Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A few recently enjoyed Loires – Forez, Savennières, Chinon, Vouvray

2010 Savennières, Domaine du Petit Métris, 
Joseph Renou et Fils  

Lovely richly textured Savennières from Joseph Renou et Fils, a 30-hectare domaine based in Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné. 2010 is a wonderfully well balanced vintage. From Byrnes of Clitheroe £12.99. 

2011 Baronnie Madeleine, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil 
Rich and powerful – 14.5% 
no alcohol burn but plenty of concentration 
but a little OTT? 
From one of Chinon largest and leading producers  
2013 Les Grives Soûles, Vouvray, Domaine Perrault-Jadaud 

Very precise, crisp, quite austere still young Vouvray Sec from very promising young estate – Domaine Perrault-Jadaud. Here is a previous post on Jim's Loire on the domaine.

2015 La Volcanique, Côtes du Forez, Cave Verdier - Logel

Juicy and very attractive young 2015 Gamay from Odile Verdier and Jacky Logel (Cave Verdier-Logel) in the Côtes de Forez – the appellation just to the north of Saint-Etienne and the most southernly of the Loire. Cave Verdier-Logel is a now long established – since 1992 when almost all the production came from the Cave Co-opérative. Odile and Jacky were pioneers. 

I enjoyed this at the RSJ Restaurant with Tom King when Jérôme Billard (Domaine de la Noblaie, Chinon) was over in London.     

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Considering downsizing.....

 Keddlestone Hall, Derbyshire 

There comes a time in many of our lives when one considers whether it would be sensible to downsize – to move into less expansive accommodation. With that in mind we had a look at Keddlestone Hall near Derby. 

 A modest entrance .....

 Details of one of the pillars – fluted after construction

 A view over Capability Brown's garden plot 

 Two youths cavorting in a classical landscape 

 One of Michael Gove's ancestors?

 Informal dining 

The house had some attractive features but may be a little cramped for our needs, so we will probably keep looking.....

Friday, 29 July 2016

Mouchão: Portugal’s Tondonia

Scenes from the winery 

(This post was originally published on Les 5 du Vin on 12th July 2016)
Last Thursday (7th July 2016) we headed out from Lisbon to the Alentejo for a day visit to the fabled Mouchão estate. Normally the Alentejo in summer is hot and dry. Instead on Thursday we were met with heavy rain lit up by impressive flashes of lightning. We were shown round by David Marques Ferreira, who has been estate manager for the past three years. CRM and I had met David at last December's Adegga Wine Market in Lisbon.
David Ferreira 
David Marques Ferreira
Established in the 19th century Mouchão is the oldest estate in the Alentejo – the other side of the River Tejo. The 1000 hectare estate is owned by the Reynolds family, who in the 19th century, were the leading producers of cork. At the end of the 19th century they decided to diversify  into wine and in 1890 planted their vines – they have 38 hectares with no intention to increase the area under vine. They chose to major on Alicante Bouschet, a teinturier  variety, which remains Mouchão's signature grape variety. David Ferreira –Alicante Bouschet is "our body and soul". The winery was built in 1901.
"Alicante Bouschet gives us more than just colour," David Ferreira explained. "We get big tannins and freshness. Our vines are at 200 metres altitude, which is high for the Alentejo. Some of our vines are at 300 to 400 metres, so we get freshness and acidity. This helps our wines to age well – the 1954 is still good".
"Although we have a variable geology, sand and clay is the basis, so we retain moisture during the hot summers," Ferreira continued. "The estate is between two rivers – hence the name Mouchão. We are very much in the middle of nowhere".
"We work very traditionally here – limiting production, hand picking, no destemming, wholebunch  fermentation, foot treading in lagars and a manual press etc.We mainly use old vats of 5000 litres and prefer French oak with malo in barrel but also use some Brazilian wood. "
A barrel from the time when the estate was confiscated 
and run by the local cooperative 
The estate remains in the Reynolds family, which is now into the seventh generation. However, there was a ten-year interruption of ownership following the 1974 Revolution. The estate was confiscated and the wines were made by the local cooperative and sold under the co-op's name. It was returned to family ownership in 1985.
"The vineyards were in a poor state," explained Ferreira. "Nothing had been planted and existing vines had not been maintained. We nearly lost our Alicante Bouschet!"
We tasted five wines:
2015 Dom Rafael Branco – blend of Antão Vaz and Arinto 7.69€
Still very youthful and tight in the finish but with attractive pineapple and grapefruit notes. Good value.
2013 Dom Rafael Tinto – blend of Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Aragonez 8.99€
This spends one year in a mix of large vats and small barrels and then a further year in bottle. As Mouchão's entry level red, I think this elegant wine is stunning value! It has lovely velvety texture, herbal and spicy notes, structure and acidity. Really a steal at 8.99€ and will clearly age well over the next few years.
Dom Rafael Tinto-2010
2012 Ponte de Canas – Alicante Bouschet (40%), Touriga Nacional,Touriga Franca, Syrah 16€
Unlike the other Mouchão wines this has a small percentage of Syrah that gives this wine additional freshness and edge. The 2012 already has attractive texture and powerful fruit but ideally it needs several more years in bottle to show its best.
Over lunch we had an interesting discussion with David over Ponte de Canas  as he indicated that the current name used on the label may not make it sufficiently clear that Ponte de Canas was actually a wine from Mouchã0.
We suggested that Mouchão ought to be part of the Ponte Canas name and suggested Ponte Canas de Mouchão or Ponte de Mouchão citing that. for instance, Château Latour uses Les Forts de Latour. Clearly the name is under discussion, so we may see a change in the future.
2011 Mouchão – 85% Alicante Bouschet, 15% Trincadeira 35€
We were privileged to be the first to taste the 2011 grand vin, which will be released soon.  Naturally this deep coloured wine is still very young and tight in the finish but it has a lovely warm spicy aromas and an opulent texture.
2011 Vinho Licoroso – 100% Alicante Bouschet 19€
This is Mouchão's version of Port – made in the same way using grape spirit distilled at the winery to stop the fermentation and fortify the wine. Very concentrated with long rich cherry and prune fruit.
The still 


A Taberna do Paulo
Rua 1 de Maio, 28 | Santo Antonio de Alcorrego
After the tasting we all drove to nearby small town of Santo Antonio de Alcorrego to the brightly decorated A Taberna do Paulo where we had a very enjoyable lunch featuring three different types of migas – plain, with tomato, and with coriander – accompanied by small lamb chops.
Our visit to Mouchão reminded me of Tondonia in Haro (Rioja). It has the same sense of calm and great respect for tradition.
Ferreira summed up – "We say Mouchão is Mouchão!"
An update: 29th July 2016
Following our visit we found a bottle of 2007 Ponte de Canas Mouchão in a local restaurant on the edge of Campo d'Ourique for 29€. The staff had a little trouble finding it but it proved to be worth the hunt as it was delicious – good concentration, spice and with good acidity to balance. Ready to drink now but clearly has a number of years ahead.    


Jim Budd

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Some Portuguese treats

Relaxed dinner by the Tagus at Atira-te ao Rio
(This post was originally published on Les 5 du Vin on 26th July 2016.)

Portugal remains a treasure trove for good value wines in all three colours with many from their storehouse of native grape varieties. It is also possible, for those prepared to take a punt, to find some remarkable old wines at bargain prices.
How long this will last is perhaps now a question worth asking for, in 14 years of coming to Lisbon during July, I can never remember a year when Lisbon has been so full of visitors. It seems that many have now discovered the attractions and value of Portugal's capital. It is a hot destination and not just because it was 37˚C yesterday up from 36˚C on Sunday.
IMG_1923 (1)
2015 Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, Pingo Doce own label 3.98€
Anselmo Mendes is a Vinho Verde specialist making a whole range of wines from this northern Portuguese region including a very fine single vineyard Alvarinho that I cited last week. This own label from supermarket Pingo Doce is at the other end of the scale. It does, however, offer both plenty of flavour and just amazing value. This Alvarinho that has both texture and a clean refreshing acidity – ideal as an apéro or with some grilled prawns, for instance.
2009 Dona Berta Vinha Centenária, Reserva Branco
Dona Berta – a quite opulent Douro white made from a range of grapes: Códega do Larinho, Rabigato, Viosinho, Gouveio and Malvasia Fina. We enjoyed this at at Pedro's Garrafeira Alfaia in the Bairro Alto. There is no wine list, so either you tell Pedro what sort of wine you would like to drink or you choose it from the shelves.
2014 Arinto dos Açores sur lies, DO Pico, Açores, António Maçanita     
Another of Pedro's choices, this is a rare Arinto from the Azores. Only 1600 bottles are made of this precise, saline and mineral wine. It was a fine foil for the sea bass baked in salt that Pedro's wife cooked for us – what a treat!

Sea bass cooked in salt


Some golden oldies

IMG_1922NV Terras Altas Dão, José Maria da Fonseca 
In last Tuesday's post I mentioned a couple of old wines that we had bought from the Garrafeira Nacional in the Mercado da Ribeira at Cais Sodre. We bought eight as these bin ends, offered at 5.95€ each – buy three, get the fourth for free. It was such a compelling offer that we bought eight on the basis that if a few were undrinkable, they would still have been good value.
To date we have drunk and enjoyed five of our eight bottles, so feel that we already have had a bargain. Last Friday night we dispatched a further three. Firstly came the quite deeply golden NV Terras Altas Dão, José Maria da Fonseca. We have no definite information about this white wine. José Maria da Fonseca no longer make a white from the Dão. It is, however, thought it may well have come from the 1960s. Although it naturally had some oxidation, it was certainly still complex, clean and precise with some touches of dried honey. 


A pair from the Ribatejo – Dom Hermano 1985 Reserva and 1980 Garrafeira  
It was fascinating to taste this pair of Dom Hermano reds from the Casa Agricola Herd. de D. Luis de Margaride in Almeirim. Both were in good shape with 12.5% alc but the 1980 Garrafeira, with a production of 50,000 bottles, had considerably greater length and complexity than the 1985 Reserva. The 1980 Garrafeira was bottled in November 1984, while the 1985 Reserva bottling was in March 1987.