Melonix Vin de France NV

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This Melonix NV white possesses all the best qualities that I associate with natural wine.

Firstly you are stuck on the nose by fresh fennel & lemon cough drops. The palate is rich(but not overly) golden orchard fruit that woven through with honeycomb, fine minerals and subtle wild herbs.

What I like most about this wine made by Jo Landron with natural yeasts but without sulphur, fining or filtration is that it tastes alive. A quality lacking in so many wines on the shelves these days. 8/10
Available through Caves de Pyrene.

“Bobby on the Wheat” Pale Wheat Ale


By the Horns Brewing based in Wandsworth is relatively new addition to London’s ever mushrooming craft beer scene. I recently tried their “Bobby on the Wheat” pale wheat ale.

Now wheat beer is a bit like marmite and Morris dancing in that it can starkly divide public opinion. I eat marmite from time to time & am a big fan of wheat beer when it’s well made. Morris dancing however not offensive, doesn’t excite me regardless of how skilfully it’s performed. This “Bobby…” is a good attempt though.

Nose of malty, yeast honey & confected lemon. Palate hits 1st w/ lemon peel then richer lemon meringue cuts in finishing on a lovely savoury coriander seed note.

Though you may disagree with their London kitch naming By the Horns have produced a very acceptable wheat beer here.

Casa Silva Reserva Viognier 2010

Casa Silva Reserva Viognier 2010- Viognier for Grown Ups
From the Colchagua Valley in Chile, I had this bottle a few months back and only just found the tasting note in a pair of my jeans that had been washed. Thankfully I had written them on a Moose themed notecard of very sturdy fabrication. They read the following:Opaque
Ns-Unripe Mango & Almond blossom
Pal- Ultra lean dry mineral lime, white nectarine, almond. Quite fine. Green. Taught lime leaves. White.I imagine the “white” wasn’t simply stating the obvious and that I had simply become distracted by something at dinner.For me this is more serious Viognier, not just a peach and flower blossom punch in the mouth. It’s classy and well made as most Casa Silva wines are.  £10-12
Stockists Incl:

Marananga Dam-Old Vine GMS 2008


Barossa Valley, Australia, Marks & Spencer

M&S deserve big kudos for getting David Powell of Torbreck fame top make this Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah blend for them.
This is as good a red wine as I have tried this year and spent ages just smelling it.
It’s true Auzzie big bold but is perfectly weighted & so nuanced.

Verdict: A class act from first sip to the last drop. 9/10


Eye-Dark Forest Purple

Nose- Black liquorice, raspberry gummies, melted milk choc, cayenne pepper, gingerbread, turkish delight 7 purple basil

Mouth- Tart fruit, venison jus, savoury rosemary, rabid balckberries, white spice, smoky blackcurrant & great acidity

Food:Cajun steak, game pie or all on it’s own

Price: £12-14

Goose Island “Lolita” Raspberry Belgian Style Ale

Rather special this oak aged Lassie.

Rust red and very still in the glass. Nose of autumn orchard & pickled cabbage. Sweet & sour raspberries on the palate. After opening up a bit hints of wood mushroom & dried raspberry emerge.

Beautifully balanced & complex. A serious beer that aches for simple roast chicken, sausages or stinky creamy cheese. 8.5/10

9% abv & available from Beers of Europe @ £14.99 per 650ml bottle

Voyager Estate Winemaker Dinner

Despite not knowing Voyager Estate wines very well when I got the invite last fall, the omens were promising as it was being held at Vinoteca, one of my favorite wine bar/shops in London.

The Vinoteca empire has expanded of late but this Masterclass dinner with Steve James was in the fabulous cellar dining room at the original venue in Farringdon.


Now most folks would agree that to be a great winemaker you must make great wine. No argument there. But I would say in addition to that, they also must be a consumate communicator. Whether their audience be hardend wine writers, skeptical bloggers or their adoring fans the ability to express themselves with insight, knowledge & passion for me is of vital importance.

Steve James is one of such winemakers. He has an easy way of speaking, is warm, articulate and uses his hands a lot when he gets to talking about the terrior in beautiful Margaret River, Western Australia. Steve been heading up the team at Voyager Estate for 14 years now and they are crafting some cracking wines out there. What impressed me was how quietly confident he was with what they are producing and what better way to demonstrate that than standing them up against the best in class from 3 other labels.

We tasted their 2009 Chardonnay first from along with Kumeu River Mate Vineyards from New Zealand. The Voyager Estate won out for me with its flinty, smoky green melon nose & clean bright citrus, fresh fleshy oak & creamy cashew nut palate.


We also tasted two recent extreme vintages of Voyager Estate Chard. The hot difficult 2008 & 2006, their coolest on record, with very low yields. The ’06 definitely fared better showing green olive & cedar sauna aromas w/ fresh granny smith, peppery oak & good length on the palate. Sadly the ’08 was a bit of a jumble. Lumpy in places, flat & flabby in others. However not unpleasant.

Next was the turn of mighty 2010 Shiraz and this time it was matched up against Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier from Canberra in New South Wales. Again for me Voyager Estate won the day, there was simply more harmony and subtlety to it. Smelling very perfumed of black liquorice, blackberry juice, dried fig, dates, cocoa & on the palate it was sleek, firm, subtle damson plum, hints of leather & blueberry. Very good indeed. Their Shiraz really comes into its own after a few years in bottle as the 2009 & 2007 vintages showed. Complex, earthy, spicy, ripe, gamey and totally divine. Brought to my mind good Cote Rotie or Hermitage.

Finally we came to the darling blend of Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot.  The 2008 vintage, this time squared off against Wynns Connawarra John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia. Yet again I found myself preferring the Voyager Estate for its nuanced nose of green pepper, peppermint, smoky lead & truffle leading in the mouth to meaty, dense, wonderfully weighted, gravelly minerals, dark fruit & a clean finish.

The older vintages of Voyager Estate Cab Sav/Merlot this time were from 2005 & 2004 with the ’04 stealing the show. Roast rabbit & plummy spiced fruit nose plunging headlong into a curiously gamey yet fresh, full, sexy(easy boy!), peppery, deep mineral & mature plum brandy finale. Super stuff!

After all that tasting dinner I had worked up an appetite and right on cue was Dinner entering stage right.


For me the Smoked Mackerel with Apple, Celery, Frisee & Horseradish was the star with the 2009 VE Chardonnay a gorgeous match as well.

I was so excited about this Roast Partridge with Celeriac puree, Beetroot & Guanicale (unsmoked Italian bacon) but sadly the bird was a bit overdone. Thankfully the VE Shiraz was on hand and really did soften the blow.

For afters I went with this Chocolate pot with strawberries which was velvety and rich and just fine on it’s own.




The night drew to a very satisfying denouement as we said goodbye to Steve. He had been a fabulous host and the Voyager Estate wines not only shone in their own right but showed their individuality and class up against some very good competitors.

A very good night indeed…

Voyager Estate Wines are available in the UK through Justerinis & Brooks

Beers for Holiday Cheers

With that festive time of year bearing down upon us robed in fairy lights I thought I would throw my paper hat into the ring and recommend a few beers that would grace any creaking holiday sideboard.

I have 4 beers from 3 of my favorite breweries in the UK, who happen to be at opposite ends of the country from each other. Which I know sounds wrong as there are 3 breweries, so how can they be at opposite ends? What I mean in my geographically challenged way is that Sharps Brewery in Rock, Cornwall is way down south and Harviestoun Brewery in Alva & Williams Brothers Brewing Co. in Alloa, are both way up north in Scotland. Still a bit foggy I know but you get my drift.

Right so getting this sleigh off the ground first is Harviestoun and their comically festive Mr Sno’Balls Copper Ale.  This is a great all rounder that makes a fab session ale at 4.5%abv. It has some biscuity spicy notes with a cozy malty caramel finish, but also shows off citrus hints of freshness from the duo of Challenger & Styrian Hops. A word of warning, Mr Sno’ Balls is very moreish and will have you reaching for more than one. It’s also a great nibbles beer for things like pork pies & piccalilly, hummus, bread  & olives or cold left over turkey & crudités (That’s raw veg & dips for the Philistines out there).

I found it at my local Morrisons for £1.89/50cl or try Harviestoun direct

Staying with my Scottish roots (seriously I am 1/4 Scottish) we move onto Williams Bros. Froach 22 Vintage Heather Ale which actually comes in a rather attractive 75cl bottle, as opposed to the sample bottle they sent me, due to Froach 22’s scarcity and high demand. This beautiful golden amber liquid spends time in ex sherry/Auchentoshan whisky cask. So you are greeted on the nose by almonds, aged wooden staves, peat & as you’d imagine whisky. Your first sip barks at your palate to pay attention, the texture is creamy, but then a complex flavour conga line kicks in with thistles, Demerara sugar, TCP, Moroccan spices, burnt caramel, dried pineapple & smoky dry salty herbs. Matured to 11%abv treat this like a fine aged sherry but keep it simple. After dinner on it’s own or with almonds or sea salt dark chocolate.

From the Williams Bros Brewery or from Beer Ritz for about £12 a bottle.

Now to Sharps. Stuart Howe their head brewer spoiled me last time I was in Rock by taking me & some friends through a massive range of their beers. These two are both from their Connoisseurs Choice stable were real highlights for me.

Checking my notes for No. 2 Single Brew Reserve 2011 that day I have simply written “Apricot Breakfast Beer (though I believe that was a quote from Stuart), dry thyme, totally delicious”. This 100% Saaz hopped stunner only comes in at 4.5%abv but is crammed full of class & character. Pale golden & cloudy in the glass, the beer is perfumed, has lovely balance of sugars & rich mouth hugging feel. Due to the exceptional yeast structure this is really a regal ale in champagne clothes. Perfect as an aperitif and with sweet smoked fish, but would be dyno-mite with your Christmas turkey, chicken or goose. Absolutely love this beer.

From the brewery £35.00 for 12 bottles at 50cl or Highbury Vintners £2.65/50cl


Last but far from least is No. 1 Quadruple Ale 2011 which marries pale, crystal & chocolate malts with 3 strains of yeast and Centennial, Hallertauer and Aurora Hops. It’s then matured on fresh Simcoe Hops which produces a unique & serious ale. Black treacle on the eye, minimal but heathy mocha foam head. Nose of Swedish salty liquorice, dark moist rye bread, kirsch & ginger snaps. The palate is immense, bold black raspberry, that salty liquorice, dark chocolate follows on and coats your mouth with a gentle lingering boozy forest fruit blanket. This is a beer to be savoured. It continues to evolve in the glass so make sure you pour it into a decent bowl shape receptacle. I’m not going out on a limb here when I say this baby could take the place of the Port with your stilton. Less hangover than Port as well as it’s half the alcohol at 10%abv

£49.99 per 12 33cl bottles  (approx £4.15 a bottle). I highly recommend buying a case and  laying a few down as this rare and beautiful beer (stored properly) will age gracefully over the next 10 years.


If you are looking for a great Xmas prezzie for that beer lover on your list then Sharps also offer a gift pack that includes a lovely cristal bowl glass and the 2 beers I have mentioned along with their seductive Honey Spice Ale in either 3(1 of each) or 6(2 of each) beer pack.

Have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!

Mr D n E