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Neil Sowerby's June Wine Column

Taut or flabby? Wine reviews and Damson MediaCity hosts Almudena Alberca Dinner

Written by . Published on June 17th 2013.

Neil Sowerby's June Wine Column
ONE of the pleasures of a wine show is encountering exhibitors beyond the usual suspects or suddenly twigging that even one of those usual suspects offers treasures you have neglected.
Jean Bousquet Fortified Malbec 2009 (£13.99) is a luscious riot of chocolate, plums, figs and marmalade.
Cue, from the North West Wine Fest, Dusty Road Wines and Spirited Wines. The first, a Cheshire-based specialist importer from small growers in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Loire Valley regions, was a revelation; the second, trading out of the old Nicolas shop on Deansgate I had always associated with that chain’s tired take on French wines – unfairly as it turned out. 
 Joahannah, left, meets ad grower

Johannah, left, talks terroir with a grower 

Dusty Road owner Johannah Ashton-Sykes, started the business in 2012 “out of a passion for finding wines that are truly from the heart”, in her words. She enrolled in intensive masterclasses and then took a 3,000 mile road trip around France to buy from source. 
The southern reds were uniformly excellent but I was especially pleased with two Loire whites. Menetou Salon is the overshadowed neighbour of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, but in the hands of Isabelle and Pierre Clement its Sauvignon grapes yield a fresh citrus and passion fruit gem called Domaine de Chatenoy (£15.35, the pale rosé at the same price is equally lovely).

 Spirited Wines, Deansgate

Spirited Wines, Deansgate 

Sweet Vouvray hides its light under the proverbial bushel, too. Domaine de Galiniere, Vouvray-Moelleux (£17.62) is only produced in exceptionally hot years and harvested at the last moment. I loved its mingled aromas of quince, peach and wild flowers and delicate mouthfeel.
To see Johannah’s range visit the Dusty Roads website. She offers mixed cases and there’s free delivery on 12 bottles or more to UK mainland addresses.
I’d met the Spirited Wines Manchester branch team (plus an ebullient Burgundian who ran Chester) at a New Zealand wine dinner at the Lowry Hotel, which alerted me they had ploughed away from the old Gallic rut. 
Spirited owner Benoit Thouvenin, once of Nicolas, bought the French chain’s shops outside London in 2010 and expanded their range of wines from Europe and the New World. More at Spirited Wines here.
At the North West Wine Fest, held in St Peter’s Church, Ancoats, I sampled two of their Greek wines – from Domaine Gerovassiliou near Thessaloniki.
Their white Malagousia 2011 won silver at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012, while its red stablemate, Avaton 2011 scooped bronze. Both cost £15.90.
Malagousia  is an indigenous Greek grape. Fermented in new French oak barrels, the wine shows creamy peach aromas and a full, exotic palate, with a dash of white pepper on the finish.
The Avaton is a blend of Mavroudi, Mavrotragano and Limnio, the oldest attested Greek grape variety (It was mentioned by Aristotle). Together, with the help of malolactic fermentation in oak tanks and  up to 18 months’ ageing in new French oak barrels, they make a dark ruby, spicy blackberry-laden red. Fascinating unusual stuff.  
There was an unusual arrival, too, at Hanging Ditch
Tio Pepe 'En Rama' is a fino sherry like no other, hence the offer of advance reservations at £17.50 a bottle (2 for £30).

Fine fino

Fine fino 

'En Rama' is taken from the heart of a selection of the best casks from each of the four ancient Tio Pepe soleras, where the conditions in particular 'butts' (sherry barrels) have resulted in an enhanced growth of 'flor', the particular flowery growth of yeast on the surface of the wine which gives exceptional finesse. It’s bottled unfined and unfiltered, making it yeastier, breadier, slightly fuller flavour in its freshest condition.
That was the spiel. Hanging Ditch’s Sophia (main picture at the top of the page) opened a bottle just after its arrival and I got a sip. Lovely stuff, but not infinitely superior to the normal bottling. Note if you get hold of a bottle, Tio Pepe recommend you drink this delicate beast within three months of its early April bottling.
Hanging Ditch’s regular wine masterclasses veered off into the world of sake recently but they are back on track with a formidable Vergelegen tasting hosted by the South African winery’s supremo Andre von Rensburg on Tuesday, June 25. For the chance to taste eight Vergelegen wines, including the flagship red, Vergelegen V 2007 tickets cost £17.50 a head. Ring 0161 832 8222 to book.
I expect Paul Boutinot is spending more time these days at his South African wine operation now he has handed over control of his Gatley-based wine importers. There’s no sign of any dip in quality among their latest release of Southern Rhone wines crafted by their resident winemaker there, Eric Monnin. It helped that the 2010 vintage, their first since buying their Cairanne vineyard, is an outstanding one, aiding Eric in his quest for minimum intervention and use of wild yeasts.
Boutinot Fide et Arte ‘La Côte Sauvage’, Cairanne, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2010 is a silky, ripe, finessed red where exotic spice meets seasoned oak.
Boutinot Fide et Arte ‘Les Coteaux Schisteux’, Séguret Côtes du Rhône Villages 2010 from a single vineyard in the neighbouring village of Seguret is savoury, almost gamey, with a marked complexity from low yields, old vines, wild yeasts and a mixed maturation in three-year-old oak barrels and new demi-muids.
La Côte Sauvage 2010 costs from £13.99 and Les Coteaux Schisteux from £12.50. Nearest stockist for both is the multi-awardwinning D Byrne of King Street, Clitheroe
One of my favourite London wine merchants, Lea and Sandeman, stock a Cairanne red of their own that similarly enforces that Rhone Village’s claims for full individual appellation status.
Cairanne Cotes du Rhones Villages Domaine Romain Roche (£14.50, case price £12.95), from the 2011 vintage, is fascinatingly different from the Boutinot example, darker richer, spicier, perhaps from the presence of 120 year old Grenache vines blended with Carignan and Syrah. Romain Roche’s father Marcel has around 30 hectares of vines, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, and has always sold his grapes to the co-operative, of which he is president. Romain wanted to make his own wine and after studying oenology in France and the New World, has been able to rent 15 hectares of his father’s vines to start his own domaine. One to watch. 

Cairanne Rhone vineyard

Cairanne Rhone vineyard 

The Bakerie Tasting Store in The Hive off Lever Street in the Northern Quarter is a particular favourite wine source. I popped into its generous spring wine fair (along with a hen party, don’t ask).
Stand-out white was the Romain Bouchard Chablis Le Grand Bois (£18.99), fresh and round with that distinctive pebbliness under the intense pineapple acidity.  From the reds it had to be the Meinklang Konkret Sankt Laurent 2009 (£29.99) from Austria, which I have championed before.
From biodynamically grown Sankt Laurent grapes – related to Pinot Noir – Meinklang use 'Konkret', a new method of vinification in 9-hectoliter concrete egg-shaped vessels (main image above). Extremely fine pores allow a controlled supply of oxygen to the wine while it is 'incubated' in the egg for up to 12 months. It’s silky, intense and spicy.
Another Bakerie stalwart is Argentine organic specialist Jean Bousquet. Tasted for the first time, his Jean Bousquet Fortified Malbec 2009 (£13.99) benefits, as the best sweet wines do, from good natural acidity. Otherwise it’s a luscious riot of chocolate, plums, figs and marmalade.
Representatives from a Fairtrade-accredited winery in a remote part of Argentina journeyed all the way to The Co-operative’s new support centre in Manchester to say a personal thank you to the food retailer and its customers.
Famatina ValleyFamatina ValleyAlejandra Gordillo, Roberto Mantovani and Walter Carol from the La Riojana wine co-operative in the Famatina Valley, met the retailer’s Fairtrade team to update them on a project where sales of The Co-operative Food’s Fairtrade Argentine wine range have largely helped to build a much-needed secondary school.
The Co-operative sells a market-leading range of Fairtrade wines, and was the first retailer to stock Fairtrade wines from Argentina back in 2006. They currently stock five Fairtrade La Riojana wines. I tasted three of them and was most impressed by their Bonarda Shiraz 2012 (£4.99)  Bonarda, with its black cherry flavours dominates the blend, which has a food-friendly acidity perfect to accompany steak or pizza. I preferred the taut, floral Torrontes Chardonnay 2012 (£4.99) to the slightly flabby Pinot Grigio 2012(£6.49).
A couple of events not to miss. Damson MediaCityUK is hosting an exclusive Almudena Alberca Wine Dinner on Wednesday, June 26, where the Spanish winemaker of that name will introduce her range of wines that are served in most of Spain’s 3 Michelin star restaurants but are not commercially available in this country. The wines will accompany a menu created by Damson executive chef Simon Stanley. Tickets cost £29.95, and are limited. Advance booking is essential. Call 0161 751 7020.
Reserve Wines Summer Festival is always a jolly affair. This year it’s being held in a venue new to me, The Parsonage, Stenner Lane, Didsbury, M20 2RQ on Thursday, July 4. Tickets enabling you to taste the 150 wines, champagnes and spirits from the West Didsbury merchant cost £20 per person. To book your place ring 0161 438 0101. To see how the Parsonage has been restored go to take a look at this site about the lovely old house.
 Old Parsonage, Didsbury

Old Parsonage, Didsbury

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GordoJune 18th 2013.

good one this Neil

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