Dropwines Dinner

Last month I went along on a rainy sticky Monday night for a press dinner with new ish online wine company Dropwines at the Pembroke in Earls Court.

I was feeling pretty optimistic as I had been invited by the lovely Sophie McLean who’s been an industry pal for a few years now. Sophie (recently returned to the UK  after doing a vintage in industrial Riverina New South Wales) joined Dropwines this year to do comms, buying and a spot of video reviewing.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.21.28

The latter being another reason for positivity, for along with Head Buyer Richard Varney(Ex Head of Buyer for Oddbins) they were producing some of the best video wine reviews I have yet seen. Which is quite a compliment coming from me. They’re fun, intelligent, engaged, unselfconscious & short! Most of them 2 minutes and a few coppers, which is exactly what they should be in my opinion.

The food was perfectly decent but really we were there to taste the 5 wines (1 fizz, 2 whites and 2 reds) they had chosen to showcase.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.18.53

A sure fire way to impress hardened wine writers is to present something unusual, which is exactly what they did as we kicked off with Cote Mas Piquepoul Frisant NV. The fizz is made from Picpoul de Pinet, that superb white grape of the Languedoc(South France) that seems to be creeping onto every gastro pub list in London these days. Made in the Charmat(tank) method like Prosecco but instead of pear & flowers it’s fresh sea salty with tingling lime zest. A good start…

Next was award winning Bioca Godello Seleccion 2012 from a tiny region called Valdeorras in Galicia, northern Spain. An area better known for it’s Albarino (another white grape that is very popular at the moment), this Godello with it’s mojito nose, slight spritz & pine nut richness was a class act but seems to be out of stock at the time of writing.

The unusual theme continued with a Vinal Chardonnay 2012 from Levech, Northern Bulgaria. I found this wine quite intriguing with it’s subtle aromas of honeycomb & lavender, as if they were down a well. Then white melon, thistle, green cooking apple & sunflower palate. Not a wow wine but different and worth a punt as it was less than £7 a bottle.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.19.50

Our first red was The Liberator, The Francophile Syrah 2012 from Stellenbosch, SA. It’s what you would expect, peppery rocket, cassis & white pepper spice. A generous leathery, coal dusted, dark berry beast. It had some fresh acidity as well. It was nice enough but came off a distant 2nd to our final wine…

My tasting notes on Cotes du Rhone Villages, Mas de Boislauzon 2011 say it all; “Deep dirty sensual nose. Velvet, spicy, plum & brandy snap, cigar, sparkling blackberries, unctuous mouth romancing stuff”. I loved it. Is exactly the kind of wine that makes me stand up and take notice. At very reasonable £12.99 a bottle no wonder it’s currently sold out.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.20.26

Dropwines have a slick looking website (though the search facility could use some tweaking), some interesting well priced wines(on their homepage select wines are offered for time sensitive deals. Perfect for the hardened Ebay “must get a deal” generation) and fun educational tasting videos that appeal to the modern day consumer. They also have a VIP Club which offers you a discounted price on all their wines as well as free delivery for £10 a month, which could work out a good deal if you buy wine regularly.

But the online wine trade is a brutal one and you have to be savvy with likes of those behemoths Majestic & Laithwaites out there. But there is room for smart, adaptable boutique web based retailers that have done their homework & understand what wines people actually want to drink.

So will they be around in a few years time?

I hope so.

 

Vilarnau Cava, Brut Rosado, NV

Cava rather sadly has been coming off second best to Prosecco in the battle of the budget fizzes the past few years in the UK. The latter seemingly consumed by the bucket load at anything from picnics to weddings. But Cava is clawing it’s way back due in part to wine writers as well as some savvy consumers seeking out a value sparklers with a little something extra.

Now Cava’s enhanced complexity is down to the way it’s made, which is identical to the production of Champagne(2nd fermentation in the bottle). But Méthode Champenoise can only be used to refer to that most famous French fizz so their Spanish counterparts have to make do with the term Método Tradicional or Traditional Method. Prosecco on the other hand is made in the less glamorous Charmat Method or Italian Method(2nd fermentation in a stainless steel tank Method).

Finding a decent Brut Rose/Rosado fizz that won’t cost the earth is a tall order so what did I think of Vilarnau Brut Rosado NV?

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Made from the little known Trepat variety native to north east Spain as well as that most famous red Champagne grape Pinot Noir.

Eye- Dark pink, red fruits with solid persistent bubbles

Nose- Deep black Raspberry with whiffs of green herbs

Palate- Decent structure, balanced, robust, dry red berry fruit

Verdict- No faffy frilly pink sparkler this. Serious & well made. Try it.

A very standard 12% abv it is availble in a 75cl bottle from Ocado and The Drink Shop

Sipping in Slovenia Pt 1

I travelled to Slovenia this year invited by winery Puklavec & Friends to sample the wine and food of this much underrated wine producing country. My first 24 hours were spent on the Istrian coast near the town of Portoroz. We stayed at the beautiful Kempinski Palace Hotel, sampled wines from Vina Koper, Tilia Estate and ate at Solni Svet. More to come…