Thursday, 29 December 2011

Best of 2011 - My case of the year

Hi all!
2011 was a year of change. And a very exciting one!  Not every day do you go from being a professional & amateur of wine into an amateur wine professional. ;))
TippleTips had a great year too. After a hush-hush launch mid-October, the page views have more than doubled every month, reaching more than 500 page views just before Christmas. Most popular post: the Christmas Prosecco.  Tipple Tips has also just started on Twitter with a daily TippleTip and has counted at least 1 new follower every day!
To celebrate 2011 and best prepare for 2012, here is my TippleTips case of the year. Total 6-case price: £60.
!!!! SPECIAL LIMITED OFFER!!!!  Interested in getting it shipped to your door?  I will get the wines for you and ship them at request. Please contact me for conditions and details.

Key characteristics
Food to match
Price / UK merchants
2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Kiwi wine first tried at Number 18 brasserie in Wales.

What I loved about it: the hint of tropical fruits behind the classic grassy and gooseberry flavours

You’ll like it if you like: refreshing white wine, tropical sauvignon blanc

Feta cheese salad; Scampi or prawns; Chicken Caesar salad
Marques de la Concordia 2006 Rioja Reserva

A surprisingly soft & smooth Rioja. Tried it at the counter in Majestic Cirencester.
Thanks Olly.

What I loved about it: the delicate build of powerful fruit aromas.

You’ll like it if you like: Rioja, Chilean Merlot, Bordeaux

Roast beef & gravy
Tenuta Ulisse
2010 Pecorino
Terre di Chieti IGT
An Italian aromatic rococo-esque white wine discovered @ the Zurich Vinexpo ’11 with Andreas. It blew us both away!

What I Ioved about it:  the exotic and floral perfumes on the nose and the finesse on the palate; the superb bottle .

You’ll like it if you like: Papaya, white peach, white wines with floral character

I tried it on its own and it’s already very quaffable.
Italian salad or Fish dishes


2010 Valpolicella
Mamma Mia! Another Italian beauty! I haven’t tried a wine from the Allegrini famiglia that I don't like.

What I Ioved about it:  it’s light, velvety soft with juicy red fruits (cherries & berries). Dangerously easy to drink.

You’ll like it if you like: juicy cherries, berries, light smooth reds.

Had it with a home-made pizza, a little rocket salad e basta! Pouf!
Loads of wine merchants offering this wine.

Marques de Riscal 2010 Rueda
A Spanish delight. Discovered with Kerry & Alistair around a nice piece of chicken.

What I Ioved about it:  the delicate of white flowers and white fruit; a spring blossom perfume.

You’ll like it if you like: floral wines; pear, white peach

Chicken with a bit of cream or Thai chicken
Villa Caffagio
2006 Chianti Classico Riserva
Visited the vineyard after I bought the non-Riserva in Tesco and expected a factory. Most intimate and simple visit ever! AAA!

 What I loved about it: full body but incredibly smooth with gorgeous concentrated morello cherries.

You’ll like it if you like: smooth & powerful wines; black cherries
Had it at Christmas with roast beef after Chateau Méaume and everybody loved it.
Try with a beef fillet and a hint of white pepper.

Non Riserva in Tesco for £12.29

Enjoy your New Year's Eve and hope to hear from you in 2012!

Cheers! Skoll! Santé! Prost! Salud! Salute!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Wine of the week – Special Christmas Part IV – Port (Sweet Red/Portugal)

Hi all,
2 days left until Christmas! This week, Christmas dinner part four: cheese & dessert. To go with it, a good ol’ British Portuguese wine: a LBV Port at just £10 in most retailers.

What it is
Sweet red fortified wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Made from Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesca grapes.

What to expect
Appearance: Deep ruby. Thick legs.
Nose: This is a fortified wine so you will probably first get a strong smell of alcohol, especially if you deep-dive your nose in the glass. Beyond this, look for dried black cherry, hints of violet and spices (clove anybody?).
Palate: Rich, fruity concentrated black fruit (cherry and cherry stone), round and sweet, high acidity and sharp alcohol. Light underlying bitterness. Melting tannins.
Score: 7-8/10 (wine shown)
You’ll like it if you like: dark cherries, concentrated and spicy wines (Australian Shiraz).
Have it with
Your Christmas cheeseboard. The sharp alcohol and acidity will cut through creamy  cheeses and the strong taste will complement full-flavoured cheeses. Try with Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola, an aged Brie de Meaux or a Montgomery/Leicester Cheddar.
Your dessert. Maybe a bit too lightweight for a Christmas pudding but great with dark chocolate tart with a hint of fruit like orange peel, cherries or raspberries.
Where to find it
1) Majestic - £9.99 (on offer). Wine shown.
2) Tesco/Waitrose - £10.29 (on offer). Wine shown.

Did you know
> Port is the child of the 17th Century trade wars between France and England. With the prohibition of French wine imports in England, traders turned to Portugal. With the Portuguese wines arriving in poor condition in England, merchants decided to add brandy in the barrels during transport than before transport and then during the wine fermentation.
> Ironically enough, France is now the most important export market for Port or as it’s called there ‘Porto’.

> Port is made by adding brandy to a fermenting wine and then matured it in wooden casks, usually in Vila de Nova de Gaia. Depending on the ageing process, you will find 3 big categories of red Ports. Here is a short summary of the key styles and characteristics:

> The region where Port is produced also produces gorgeous reds and near the heartland of a gorgeous dry white: Vinho Verde!
Example of a lodge where the Port matures for up to 40 years
Have a Very Merry Christmas!
Cheers! Santé! Salud! Salute!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wine of the week - Christmas Special III - Bordeaux (Red/France)

Hi all,
10 days left until Christmas! This week, Christmas dinner part three: a roast beef. To go with it, an easy-drinking good value Bordeaux 2007 from Chateau Méaume @ £7.99.

What it is
Red Bordeaux Supérieur from Chateau Méaume, located only 15kms from Saint Emilion and Pomerol areas. Made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

What to expect
Appearance: Deep ruby colour
Nose: Subtle mix of vanilla, ripe plum and a touch of cedar.
Palate: Very soft and smooth from start to finish: very fresh, fruity attack (plum juice flowing), soft texture with darker fruit flavours building up gently before medium tannins let go softly. Fine balance between fruit and acidity.
Score: 8/10 (wine shown)
You’ll like it if you like: plums, vanilla, lighter fruity reds (e.g. Bardolino, Valpolicella, Tempranillo), other ‘softer’ Bordeaux e.g. Margaux, St Emilion, Pomerol.
Have it with
The Christmas Roast beef: a beautiful Red wine glazed roast beef. Yum!
Where to find it
1) Majestic - £7.99 (when you buy 2). Excellent value and very difficult to dislike.
2) Sainsburys - £7.49 (1/2 price) Lussac Saint Emilion. Probably a bit fuller but decent alternative for the price. Similar offer in Waitrose.
3) Tesco - £13.79. Chateau Lapelletrie Saint Emilion 75Cl. Merlot dominated.
Did you know
> Bordeaux produces a fair amount of wine with about 700 million bottles a year. 89% of Bordeaux wines are red but you can find some gorgeous dry whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon), sweet whites (Sémillon) and even Sparkling.
> The first wines from Bordeaux date back from 48AD when Romans established vineyards for their occupying soldiers.
> Bordeaux is an ideal place for growing vines: its soils are heavy in calcium, its climate benefits from the drainage of the Gironde, Garonne and the cooling, tempering influence Atlantic Ocean.
> Claret is an English term to describe the Red Bordeaux. The term is derived (deformed?) from vinum clarum or clairet, a dark pink wine exported from France to England in medieval times. If Claret has become synonym for red Bordeaux, Clairet is sold as a rosé and still exists in Bordeaux.
> ‘Bordeaux Supérieur’’s authorised yields are lower vs. normal Bordeaux. This should normally result in a further concentration of sugar and flavours in the fruit.
> Cabernet Sauvignon, the star grape of the Bordeaux region, is now proven to be a crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The crossing happened naturally in the vineyards that planted both in the old days.
> Best recent vintages in descending order: 2005, 2009, 2001, 2003 and 2008.
> Chateau Méaume has been British-owned since 1980!
Bordeaux is a very very vast topic so very happy to answer any question on the topic!
Otherwise, try
Cheers! Santé! Salud! Salute!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wine of the week – Special Christmas Part II – Viognier (White/California)

Hi all,
If you’re not aware, the countdown to Christmas has started. This month, I have selected a sparkling, a white, a red and a sweet wine to best accompany the traditional British Christmas meal.
This week, Christmas dinner part two: the roasted chicken/turkey. An obvious Christmas meal so I went for a more original wine choice: a Viognier. Let me explain.

What it is
Aromatic dry white wine made from Viognier grape. Wine shown is from California although Viognier is a well-known French delicacy.

What to expect
Appearance: Deep Lemon-Gold.
Nose: Delicate perfume of almonds, dried apricots, honey and flowers.
Palate: Full bodied with almond/walnut flavours to start with and then a refreshing taste of white peach and dried apricots. Ever so slightly syrupy texture but not cloying at all. Low acidity (think a bit flabby). Not overpowering despite high alcohol. Dry with a little zest of citrus on the finish.
Score: 7/10 (wine shown)
You’ll like it if you like: Dried apricots, almonds, aromatic whites e.g. Gewurtzraminer; Riesling; dry Muscat; Verdejo; Fiano.

Have it with
Your guests during Christmas dinner. Yes to the roast Turkey or Chicken. But with a bit of twist: Honey-glazed Turkey or Almond sauce Chicken.
N.B: Because the wine is full bodied and aromatic, you want to ensure that your dish has got a reasonably rich texture and also an extra touch of spices to your dish. Hence the almond sauce or the honey glazing.
Which means it will also go perfectly with creamy leeks and roasted root vegetables. Would also go nicely with your Christmas cheeseboard! (Comté, Montgomery Cheddar, Mild & creamy goat cheese, Taleggio).
If you’re a veggie, this would go perfectly with a nut roast and vegs!
Also would go very nicely with ginger-butter cream lobster or lime & garlic king prawns.

Where to find it
1) Oeno (Cirencester) - £11.50 (wine shown). Would recommend the Cotes du Rhone @ £9.50 which is as good and a couple of pounds cheaper.
2) Sainsburys - £7.99. Elegant Frog from Rhone valley.
3) Tesco - £8.29. On offer until 03/01.
4) Waitrose - £8.29. Same wine as Tesco. Not on offer but same price.
4) Majestic - £35. Very fine wine and not crazy pricing for a Condrieu. Condrieu is meant to be the fines expression of Viognier so why not get the best for Christmas. 

Did you know
> The origins of the grape Viognier and its name are not very clear. Some believe that ‘Viognier’ stems from the roman pronunciation of the greek word ‘Gehennae’, which means ‘Valley of hell’ and could potentially refer to the difficulty of growing the grape.
> In the mid-1960s, Viognier was nearly extinct in France and it took 20 years for the variety to expand again.
> Viognier’s traditional heartland is the Rhone valley in France (south of Lyon) where the Mistral wind cools down the otherwise Mediterranean climate of the area. Condrieu, a tiny stretch of land in the northern part of the Rhone, is the finest AOC for Viognier. With prices to match. Viognier can often be an essential part of the white Cotes du Rhone wine blends as well as in the Vin de pays d’Oc.
> You can find Viognier from California (wine shown), Chile, Argentina, Australia and even from Japan!
> Because it is a variety that is both very aromatic and difficult to produce, Viognier is often blended with other grapes like Roussane and Marsanne in France or Chardonnay (France/Chile) or Chenin Blanc (South Africa). Australians also use it to soften their powerful Shiraz.
> Viognier’s skin is rich in phenols, which is meant to have a great health effects: anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory. Hooray!

Cheers! Santé! Salud! Salute!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wine of the week – XMass Special – Prosecco (Sparkling/Italy)

Hi you,
If you’re not aware, the countdown to Christmas has started. For Christmas, I have selected a sparkling, a white, a red and a sweet wine to best accompany a Christmas meal.
This week, a fruitier and more affordable alternative to the sacred Champagne with a very affordable and elegant example from Waitrose: Prosecco. Should I mention it’s half price @ £6.49 until next Tuesday?
What it is
Sparkling white wine made from Glera grapes in the Veneto region of Italy, less than 60miles from Venice.

What to expect
Appearance: Very pale lemon colour, thin bubbles, light foam.
Nose: Delicate perfume of apples and pears with a hint of peach/vanilla.
Palate: very soft and foamy with a nice crunchy acidity perfectly balanced with elegant and slightly sweet fruit notes (apples & pears). Felt like biting in a Granny smith apple, just a bit more refreshing.
And all that for only 11% alcohol so it shouldn’t go straight to your head like Champagne sometimes can...
ELEGANT SPARKLING WHITE WITH DELICATE NOTES OF APPLES AND PEARS. Not overwhelmingly Prosecco and easy to drink. Very safe choice for a Christmas first drinks.
Score: 7-8/10 (wine shown)

You’ll like it if you like: Green apples and pears; light sparkling cider; Vouvray; Orvieto; light Champagne.
Have it with
Your guests on Christmas day as a first drink.
Otherwise, with aperitifs e.g. Prosciutto & Grissini or Salmon appetizers.
Where to find it
1) Waitrose - £6.49 (Wine shown) - HALF PRICE until 06/12/2011. Not your typical forward overtly fruity, slightly sickly Prosecco at very decent price. A good buy!
2) Majestic - £8.49 to £13.99. On offer until 5/12. Would suggest going for the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry NV Italy
3) Tesco - £8.99 (down from £9.99 until 03/01/2012)

Did you know

> This week’s example is a DOCG (Denominazione d’Originata Controllata e Garantita). DOCG is reserved to the finest Italian wines (less than 30 wine zones can claim it) and is the highest, most rigidly controlled designation an Italian wine can carry. It is therefore meant as sign of quality, although a IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) can easily outrule the quality of a DOCG. In a nutshell, indication of quality but to take with a pinch of salt.
> The Prosecco mainly comes from Veneto but also from the neighbouring region of Friuli. The sub-region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene has been a DOCG since 2009.
> Prosecco is produced differently to Champagne. When producing Champagne, a still wine is first produced and then re-fermented in the bottle for a few months. This is known as the ‘méthode traditionnelle’ ou ‘champenoise’. With Prosecco, the still wine first produced is then refermented but in a large stainless steel tanks and then rebottled. This the method ‘Charmat’ or ‘tank transfer method’. This partly explains why Champagne is more expensive than Prosecco.
> You can have spumante and frizzante wines. Spumante are the fully sparkling wines and frizzante less so.
> Most sparkling wine sometimes are labelled either as ‘Extra Brut’, ‘Brut’ or ‘Extra-sec/Extra Dry’ or even ‘Demi-sec/Riche/Semi-dulce’. These indications reflect the level of sweetness of the wine and goes from very dry (‘Extra brut’) to sweet (‘Demi-sec’). The wine shown is Extra Dry which means off-dry.
> 150 million bottles of Prosecco are produced every year.

The last thing you’ll need is obviously your best ‘tux’ for the evening or as we Froggies say: ‘se mettre sur son 31’.
Stock up for Christmas, have a sneaky preview of  Prosecco and let me know what you think of this week’s wine.
Any recommendation on main course (I was thinking Turkey, maybe) for Christmas pretty welcome.
Cheers! Santé! Salud! Salute!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Wine of the week - Fiano (White/Italy)

Hi all,
Let’s bring some summer back in the UK!! Love, warmth and value on the menu with this week’s wine. Direction Italy again but for a white this time.

What it is
Dry white wine made from the Fiano grape, which originates from Campania, in the south-west of Italy (Naples area).
What to expect
Intense lemon-green colour i.e. sunshine
Pleasant perfumes of almonds with notes of honey and apricot on the nose.
On the palate, it is very aromatic with refreshing and subtle aromas of apricots, peach and honey. The honey-like texture gives the impression of a sweet wine but the zingy almond-lemon zest relatively long finish reminds you it’s not.
Score: 7/10 (wine shown)
You’ll like it if you like: Alsacian Muscat; Torrontes; light Viognier; Chenin Blanc.
Have it with
A creamy chicken dish e.g. Chicken, Lemon & Broccoli risotto.
Otherwise, it would go nicely with a mild goat cheese or a fresh summer fruit salad.

Where to find it
1) Waitrose - £4.99. On offer!!  Pretty good value for this much better than average wine! And bonus: it’s Fatto con Amore i.e. ‘made with love’!!
2) Tesco - £6.99 On offer! 2 for £12 until 14/12/2011
3) Majestic - £25 - A different category of Fiano praised by Majestic customers.

Did you know

Fiano is believed to be the grape at the origin
of the ancient Roman wine Apanium.

> Fiano is believed to have been used in Roman times to create Apianum. This wine was indeed created by a grape called Viti Apiana i.e. ‘Vine of the bees’ for it attracted bees a lot (and still does!). This vine is now believed to be affiliated with the Fiano grape.

> The Fiano grape is relatively thick skinned and small, which means relatively low yields. That is probably why it nearly disappeared before making a comeback in the last few years as a cult grape, with the help of the Mastroberardino family.
> In Campania, where it originates, you will find the Fiano d’Avellino DOCG which is meant to be the best expression of the wine. There, it best grows on volcanic soils in altitude. It can also be found in Western Sicily and in the McLaren Vale in South Australia.

Next week is the first of December which will mean that I will focus mainly on Christmas and New Year wines.
Until then enjoy some sunshine with Fiano!
Feedback, complaints, suggestions & questions very welcome!