Category Archives: Wine of the week

Cantine Carpentiere, Pietra Dei Lupi 2005

IMG_1112I am not sure why, but this wine triggered my desire to write about my wine drinking experiences again.

I came across it last year, at an Italian wine tasting hosted by Reserve Wines* and curated by Rob from For The Love of Wine. FTLOW, for short, are one of Reserve Wines’ supplier of fine Italian wines, mainly from the Puglia region. Cantine Carpentiere is one of the wineries they represent and their wines are just fantastic.

The Cantine sits at the foot of Castel del Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage site, within the Alta Murgia National Park. Have a look on Google Street View, the flora and fauna look so splendidly wild and rich. Definitely my kind of destination for a holiday.

The Pietra dei Lupi is made from 100% Uva di Troia or Nero di Troia which basically means Trojan grape, allegedly imported from troy by Diomedes whilst in exile. In this part of the world, on low rolling hills, at 450m altitude, not far from the sea but quite far south in latitude, the diurnal range (difference in temperature between night and day) reaches high amplitudes. This is generally a good thing as it prolongs the ripening period of the grape and allows it to retain freshness and biting acidity, achieving optimum balance between flavour ripeness, alcohol and acidity. The grapes are hand-harvested at the end of October, then fermented in stainless steel where the new wine stays for another 3 months before going into huge Slavonian oak casks for a bit of oxidative ageing (approx. 12 months).IMG_1113

And here’s another piece of trivia – you never know, it could come up at your next pub quiz. The pietra dei lupi (in plain English: the wolf stone) is a piece of stone locked into the wall, or cantilevered, that hangs over the wall thereby preventing predators and rodents from jumping over and entering the pen. Well, at least it used to; I reckon it’s a bit more sophisticated nowadays.

When we tasted this wine last year, I remember thinking at the time that the tannins and presence of fruit along with the bright acidity warranted further cellaring. Based on recent reports of some bottles of that vintage having failed however, I thought I’d waited long enough.

At first it was fresh and crunchy with wild strawberries and red cherries, a hint of herbs and liquorice and a touch of those tertiary aromas that come with bottle age. Very elegant but the fruit was lacking a bit. After a little air time though, it really came to its own, developing towards more bramble fruits and black cherries, with more depth and a certain brooding character. Clearly that extra year in bottle was all this wine needed to fully come to its own. I’m so glad it made it here safe and sound.

Like in all things in life, taste is highly personal. But if you extract some form of pleasure from an experience that is proportional to the attention or effort you are putting into it, then you’re a winner.  This is an elegant, but most importantly, approachable wine. It didn’t require all that much effort in order to extract all its olfactory components yet the little attention I gave it rewarded me with a comparable amount of pleasure and that’s all a wine drinker should really ask for. To me, that’s the definition of a good wine, not its price point or its name. It’s a well made wine with no arrogance but a story to tell on the label and in the glass.

*Disclaimer: I became a full-time employee of Reserve Wines in May 2014. I do not believe this affects my judgement of the wine or any other wine I taste and discuss here but you are allowed to think differently. Happy to discuss.

Bruwer Raats – Family Cabernet Franc 2010

Bruwer Raats - Family CFI discovered Bruwer’s wines from South Africa about 7 months ago following the Naked Wines’ Tasting Tour back in June. I had picked up on raving reviews from some big wine guns and when I sampled his wines at the tasting it was pretty special so I bagged myself a Dolomite Cabernet Franc to start with. The Dolomite is Bruwer’s entry level and a perfect place to start in my opinion. It’s like a lighter version of the family.

Quote from my review on Naked Wines’ website at the time “one quick pointer to how good it is is how quickly we’ve downed it despite its 14% rating. It is sooo drinkable it’s like fruit juice”.

But on Valentine’s night, which we decided to spend at home with some cured meat and cheeses, it was the perfect excuse to try something a bit more special. Continue reading

Embeleso Rioja Crianza 2010 – Italy meets Spain

DSC_0010bCork out… first taste… It’s a bit volatile, a bit harsh, the tannins are angry, they’ve been stuck in there too long… although not really long enough to age, mature and wisen. So they jump about everywhere, roaring like a young Lion, not quite ready to be in control… yet. But there is plenty of fruit hiding behind this mess. A lot of blackberries, picked at the end of a long, Continue reading

Small & Small Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011

20130723_183655_20130723184132100Finally a light, aromatic and elegant Pinot… reminiscent of a well made Haute Cote de Beaune, the lighter, simpler style of Burgundian red. It reminded Miss Mash and I of our trip to this region last year.

This Pinot Noir comes from Marlborough though and it is made by Bill & Claudia Small who supply their wares to Naked Wines (yep them again).

There were several reviews describing it as thin and flavourless on the website, which I can understand. If I dare make a little generalisation, I expect that a large majority of casual red wine drinkers in the UK think of, and like their, red wine relatively big and bold hence the success of Aussie Shiraz, Chilean Merlot or Spanish Rioja. Pinot Noir has either missed red wine drinkers’ radar, has been enjoyed in a meatier, fleshier style, or as was the case with some Naked Wines customer was found disappointing and lacking in flavour. Continue reading

Bourgueil – La cuvée du Bonn’Heure

DSC_0024bNow, this could be tricky. Telling you about this bad boy is actually too simple:

It’s a thirst wine. There…that’s all you need to know.

I could tell you it comes from a great appellation called Bourgueil in the Loire Valley and it’s made of Cabernet Franc. I could tell you that it’s light and fresh with red fruits and soft herbaceous tannins. I could dig deeper and tell you even more subjective facts about the nose and the palate etc… but I’m not gonna. You’re thirsty and you feel like red wine? Continue reading

Les Cépages Oubliés – Cinsault-Grenache Vieilles Vignes 2012

20130521_220211_20130527130807986I finally managed to squeeze some free time to tell you about one of our recent wine tales. Here is a bottle we picked up from an independent, relatively local purveyor of what looked like a careful selection of boozy poison, a savoir Tiny’s Tipple in Chorlton (the ever popular hipsterland -cum Hardy, South Manchester, that is).  Initially we were there for a European beer selection to celebrate what was my first ever Eurovision party (let’s agree my “ignorance” in this area actually adds to my credit). Shopping turned out to be quite successful in the end with a great range of beers from all corners of the quality beer making regions of the world and at a fair price considering what you may have to part with these days for decent brews.

Obviously I couldn’t help myself having a peek at the range of wines… you know, market research… Although wine was not the object of our errand, Miss Mash provided me with a perfect case of standard UK wine buyer approach Continue reading

Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2011, Christophe & Fils

IMG_20130410_183905I love a good Chablis. Problem is it doesn’t come cheap and even worse, the name doesn’t guarantee quality, as many supermarkets examples will show. So on that basis I don’t often take the risk to buy a bottle.

A bit of basics, Chablis is the northernmost region of Burgundy, pretty much in between Paris and Dijon. So we’re talking cool climate where the aspect, slope and orientation of the vineyard is key so that the vine can make the best of the available sunshine and heat.

The soil in which the grapes for this wine (and most of the best Chablis) grow is called Kimmeridgian, after the name of the village of the same name in Dorset. Continue reading