This week I have mostly been drinking wine from Puglia, Italy.
Varietals: Susumaniello; Negroamaro; Primitivo; Fiano
Lekker Wines via VivinoMajestic
I've never bought off Vivino - are they good?
Sure, I am a long time customer and it's been interesting to see the business grow over the years.
For me though it's a little too easy to spend big, as there are many high quality wines that match my stylistic taste.
There's plenty of choice so you should be able to find what you like if you know what you're looking for. I think Vivino was first conceived as a wine rating system, then came the market place and then too they became a seller themselves, in that way they are similar to Amazon as a retailer.
Certainly many of the best wines I've had, have come from Vivino.
Thanks, I'll have a browse of the wine offerings. I do know of the wine review aspect of the site, though I always thought the user reviews were pretty harsh - nothing seems to get much more than 3.9 points.
My current sources are Lidl (great if you get lucky, but also some so-so wines). And usually if you find a good one and go back a few days later to get another couple of bottles, it's all gone!
Majestic - a good average standard and free delivery over 6 bottles.
And lastly, the Wine Society - also a good average standard. £20 to join, but currently free deivery on all orders.
The rating system isn't without its flaws, you get to know and navigate the raw numbers of ratings with time. For me as a very general guide I steer clear of anything rated 3.5 or less and 4.1 and above is likely to be very good. But as with anything, it really comes down to taste. A system like this promotes what the masses prefer, which is ultimately actually a little boring akin to the term vanilla! What might be interesting to some can be jarring and weird to others.
Sure, for me:
My favourite wine shop is North and South Wines in Battersea / Wandsworth common.
Closer to you I have been here: https://goo.gl/maps/yM51dokdGqDe7EMX9 (Edit: looking at the reviews, looks like it's gone down hill since I visited in Sep '21)
And it seemed like a lovely place with a really good selection.
What are your preferred styles of wine that you enjoy Lance?
Easier to start with styles I don't like! That would be those big, berry-fruit forward Shiraz type reds; totaly one dimensional for me, but of course, loved by many.
My favourite red style/area is Bordeaux - for me a great balance of subtle fruit, tannin and often some oak. and not overpriced (yet).
With a nod to your Italian interest, I am a big fan of Barbera d'Asti, though a good one can be pretty pricey. Cheaper ones can often be somewhat acidic, which is touted as a characteristic, but I don't think it is.
A good few years ago I went to Asti on business and our local contact there took us to a great restaurant and we drank a Barbera of a good age and it was sublime.
I also like whites - I'm partial to German dry Rieslings and white Burgundy, but that is an expensive ticket and not without its pitfalls....
The Italian whites also drink well - eg, Soave, Gavi, Pecorino.
I think those wines are commercial offerings fit for drinkers rather than those actually interested in wine! Easy to coax lots of fruit flavour in very warm climates.
Bordeaux would similarly be my preferred region of France for wine but I admit I drink very little French wine as for me there is a big stigma attached that being pretence. My biggest weakness for French wine is Sauternes, ah liquid gold!
One the best things about Italy is the wines are produced more humbly and without that stigma I mentioned but it does exist more so in Toscana.
Italy however has the most diverse range, no other country has more grape varieties to explore!
I know what you mean about Barbera d'Asti (the Sainsbury's TtD comes across a little sour), the variety is however naturally:
High acidityLow tanninHigh / richly deep coloured.
High acidity is a good thing, and most Italian wines are known for that, means they work well with food! Where the acidity is sour probably means the harvest is sub par, to be expected with cheaper offerings.
I also enjoy whites, but again I'm staying mostly in Italy here, I do have real thing for Trebbiano... While it's a bit of a workhorse grape being a little austere, it can be coaxed into something interesting. There is a Trebbiano in Waitrose well worth attention grown in Emilia Romagna, I buy again and again.
Trebbiano is used to make Lugana in Veneto and known as Ugni Blanc in France it is principally used for Cognac / Armagnac brandy.
Sure White Burgundy is the creme de la creme of white wines but there is lesser know rival in Umbria well worth a look in, Castello della Sala - a perfect match for a traditional Xmas dinner.
How about Greco di Tufo?
I'll leave it there, I could go on hahaha...
Time for a re-watch. No better movie to watch while enjoying a bottle of wine. I'm unwinding with a glass of Malbec right now. Don't mention Merlot :)
After the film was released, sales of Merlot plummeted as sales of Pinot Noir increased!
There is a twist of Irony in the film though, regarding his prized 1961 Cheval Blanc.
Michael where does all the italophile stuff come from? After all, what have they ever given us other than panettone, pizza and wine?! Do you have Italian family?
I'm not entirely sure tbh Jon.
Indeed just a few humble products that haven't travelled at all haha!
I have some possible heritage which I spoke about in the Ciabatta Community Bake here.
But thinking about it, even as a young child I did develop an obsession with the profile of a Ferrari F40, I would draw it endlessly... And also the Lamborghini Countach was iconic to me...
In fact, I remember when we went to buy some games on cassette tape for our Amstrad computer and the guy just happened to have a white Lamborghini Countach in his garage! As you do! Although I think it might have been a kit car replica!
Or perhaps it was the girl of Italian heritage that once stole my heart in my teenage years that did it! 🤷♂️
In any case, here I am! I've clocked up more travel time in Italy than any other country and I'm ever progressing in speaking the language.
When it comes to food, wine and art, is there any other country that contributed more?!... I really don't think so!
Not to mention there is that always slightly out of reach godly ability to blend science and art, something Leonardo was known for.
Are you a wine drinker Jon? And do you drink much South African wines?
Was chatting to an ex South African living in California who likened our wines to drinking mother's milk - it is highly formative in influencing my own ideas of what wine should taste like.
Also, at least for me living in the wine region of the Western Cape the way I personally buy wine is quite different to you, almost never on line, often by the case at the cellar door, although from supermarkets too. And not as global, mostly local with only the odd foreign bottle.
Nero d'Avola; Valpolicella blend; Primitivo; Malbec; Frappato / Nerrelo Mascalese
Rare / not much commercial attention grape variety.
Lacrima of Morro d'Alba in Marche, Italy.
This grape variety is super interesting! A key characteristic being the very rose petal / violet aroma! It's great! First thought, beta-damascone !
This one is medium bodied leaning light with ripe grippy tannins. Good and bright acidity. Deep purple.
I would conclude all steel tank ferment indicated by very slight reductive tones and no apparent oak influence - back of the bottle confirms this in Italian.
£1.4 million? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-64865977
Won't find these wines in the local supermarket.
Orvieto White for lunch while trying to coax the sun from behind the clouds.Multi-region red blend for steak and ale pie dinner.
France, Italy, California.
Sunday roast I prepared:
Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese, Garlic and herb butter infused spatchcock corn-fed chicken. Pigs in blankets, whole mini roast potatoes:
Wine without sulphite - you are brave! Did it taste OK and was it brown?
Haha, what, no! A nice shade of purple it was! If it were brown it would be not be fit for sale! I actually picked up a second bottle during the week, it's a very pleasant drinker!
While at university there was quite a strong focus on raw and natural wines among my fellow students. It might be a modern trend but of course in some ways it's the way wine was originally. In a nutshell it could be described as minimal-intervention wine. Certainly I had some good times at the annual raw wine fair in London.
In a similar vein there is growing trend of doing away with preservatives, such not adding nitrites and nitrates (in pure form) to meat products such as bacon.
Doing away with sulphites in wine is easier than you may think especially wine red wine, since it is naturally rich in antioxidants.
With good winemaking practices adding sulphites becomes more of an insurance policy, more important for big producers with a brand reputation to look after.
Good to hear it was highly drinkable, Michael. From my brewing days I know the value of a bit of SO2. As you say, an insurance policy and if your oxygen control is perfect, then maybe you don't need it, but no room for error. And I'm afraid I have had brown lifeless wines under the guise of natural, biodynamic, etc wines.
Probably things are getting better as winemakers improve their techniques and understanding - as brewers did some years ago ;)
Too easy to drink, would never suspect a 15% abv. Alcohol is very well integrated.
Old vine Zinfandel from Lodi, California. Head trained and untrellised vines -which then I suspect this is a manual harvest!
NICE! A little bit of American history in a bottle.
South of France White blend made with Colombard and Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano).
Southern Italian Negroamaro
Romanian red blend, two indigenous varieties and a little Cabernet and Merlot
Sicily, Greece, Puglia
Michael, I could not help but notice the Fatalone at 16% abv! The first time I have seen a non fortified wine over 15% - did this come through on the taste?
For this type of wine; varietal and region, a high abv is not uncommon.
Primitivo aka Zinfandel is known for reaching high sugar levels in the vineyard and certain viticultural techniques may push that even further. Such as cane-cut dehydration or late harvest which causes the grapes to raisinate and therefore increase sugars per yield.
This one is organic and made in a natural way with spontaneous fermentation. Through repeated natural selection the yeasts become more equipped to ferment to the upper limits.
Gioia del Colle DOC Primitivo bio - FATALONE
The absolute limits of yeasts I would suggest to be under 20% abv.
Lost of wines out there that reach levels above 15% - Amarone for instance. They often start at around 15%. I have tried one at 17.5% and its sibling at 18%, both from an organic producer.
- Late harvest Californian Zinfandels.
Red wines at this level tend to feel more port like in taste. Integration of alcohol is one aspect to judge these wines on. In the case of this primitivo, the integration was fairly decent but I have experienced better. Primitivo is very fruit forward, probably many wouldn't notice the elevated alcohol against the fruitiness of this varietal (at least at first!), for me though there was a touch of heat noticeable.
I would expect higher levels of tannin and residual sugar to help balance the heat and bitterness perception of alcohol. This particular Primi was low on tannin but there is a riserva available!
Guide to Primitivo wine (Italian Zinfandel) | Independent Wine
A good resumé of Primitivo wine; I didn't realise the grape used was the same as Zinfandel. I have to be honest and say that the big berry fruit style is not a favourite of mine!
Regarding alcohol content, up until August 2023 all still wine up to 15% abv had the same UK duty rate; this may be the reason that you never saw a bottle with a declared abv over 15% (well I never did, anyway).
From August 2023 duty rates have been simplified (alledgedly)
For a temporary period, wines of 11.5 - 14.5% abv will have the same duty rates, so I suspect that for that period we will see rather fewer 15% wines and a few more at 14.5%!
Also interesting to note that the 2017 Fatalone you linked to was 15% abv and the 2021 is 16% - climate change!
This week in wine, two Italian wines from Central and Northern Italy; Chianti Classico and a Langhe Nebbiolo both of which pair deliciously with home formulated sourdough pizza!
I've come to the conclusion that I don't like Southern Italian reds very much - too much scorched fruit for me. I think mid and Northern are more my style.
And just to add a cautionary comment on the value of wine reviews, even professional ones.
I bought this wine a couple of months ago and opened it recently. I was very disappointed with it; I found it was very acidic, lacking fruit and any freshness or vibrancy. The only way I could drink it (I don't like throwing wine away!} was to make it into a Kir.
Interestingly, I very recently chanced upon a Decanter magazine review of the same wine and they scored it 90 points. I scored it 5/10!
I guess one man's meat is another man's bone.....
I figured that would be the case and thought of you when posting about these!
In warmer climates the potential for more fruit dominance becomes greater as does the expression black fruit character (black cherry, blackberry, blackcurrant etc.) but of course many other factors come into play with regard to the final outcome such as grape varieties used and vinification practices. Indeed, prolonged heat and sunshine can lead to dried and jammy / stewed fruit flavours.
I myself enjoy the nuance of several layers of fruit, it adds to the complexity and that is a significant quality when judging wine. But of course, there are good and bad examples of this. Certainly, I'm not inclined to purchase wines from highly mechanised high-volume producers.
Taste is of course subjective and when it comes to wine, I think the need to be as objective as possible couldn't be more important. At least I was taught as much, but we can't completely eliminate the propensity for preference.
When it comes to white wines, admittedly while highly generalised and divisive, I have noticed how you can mostly divide people in two camps, that of either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. I myself am in the Chardonnay camp and have little interest in Sauvignon Blanc, except maybe for a good Pouilly Fume.
Sauvignon intrinsically has a more sour flavour while Chardonnay is rounder on the palate. In any case food pairings can make a world of difference to the enjoyment of the wine. I would probably pair the Touraine Sauvignon with Thai food to give it its best chance!
Michael, you'll soon be knowing my taste buds better than I do!
Yes, definitely Chardonnay rather than Sauvingon - the only way I could drink the Touraine, being a particularly tart example, was to use the old trick of transforming it into a Kir. However I do also like dry German Rieslings, Alsace less so.
Regarding tasting, that's a big subject. Spitting out the wine is not something that comes to me naturally and is not done in beer tasting.
I find that there are many factors that can affect the perceived flavour of the wine and it's enjoyment.
Some obvious ones like temperature and glassware - shape and thickness,fill level, but also location, sense of occasion and even residence time. Last year I bought two bottles of mid priced Chardonnay, which arrived by courier. One I drank soon after it arrived and found it disappointing; the other I drank after a few weeks and it was much improved. It sounds far-fetched, but I wonder if a wine needs a resting time after a long journey?
And then there is bottle to bottle variability - probably not too much of a factor with still wines, but definitely noticable with sparkling wines where remuage is involved.
The little known world of Portuguese sparkling wine. Hard to find in the UK, and best imported directly from Portugal Vineyards.
Raposeira is a great brand and even their cheaper green label Reserva is an excellent product.