Tag Archives: organic wine

Ben Watson chooses organic Christmas red wines

Whether vegetarian, omnivore or hard core carnivore, this is the time of year when it seems natural to reach for the red (by the cooker) rather than white (in the fridge). The temperature outside might be almost balmy but a glass of red warms cockles of the heart other wines can’t reach.

After all these years, the whole food and wine matching business is still a bit of a mystery to me but, with reds and meat, it’s always safe to pair slightly caramelised roasts and steaks with something with a little sweetness, whether from oak or fruit; Sangiovese, Merlot or Nero d’Avola for example. At the other end of the spectrum, stews and casseroles need something a bit more earthy and robust; Carménère, Monastrell or a Rhone Syrah/Grenache fit nicely. There are exceptions to every rule and typically, turkey is one of them. Despite being roasted, the richness of the meat and trimmings outweighs the crispy, caramelized skin so I’d go with the Chateau de Lascaux Pic St-Loup or Nativa Carmenere.

So on to the wines – it’s a small list but perfectly formed.

red-wine-chateau-de-lascauxChateau de Lascaux Carra, Pic St-Loup, Syrah/Grenache (£13.99) – Pic St-Loup, in the foothills of the Cevennes, is one of the most northerly appellations of the Languedoc and makes stunning, Syrah based, Rhone style wines. When I got the gig of sorting out the Riverford wine offer, family owned (for 700 years) Lascaux seemed like the perfect partner. The original winery was an old monastery and owner, Jean-Benoit Cavalier, definitely has a touch of the priest about him but the wines speak for themselves. Isolated limestone vineyards, surrounded by wild ‘garrigue’ vegetation, produce wines with real provenance – you get to understand the concept of terroir when you taste the wines. Cuvee ‘Carra’, a food friendly blend of Syrah and Grenache, is a perfect partner for roast turkey but, once bitten, a yearly visit won’t be anywhere near enough.

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Finca Fabian Tempranillo, Dominio de Punctum (£6.99). Judging by the sales, our house red needs no introduction. If you haven’t tried it, do. For £6.99 it takes ‘bangs for bucks’ to a whole new level.

Pech Matelles, Merlot (£7.79). Sadly, Vignobles Gilles Louvet, who produced several of our French wines have gone under. Maybe they underpriced themselves but fortunately we have enough stock of their great value Merlot to see us through to the New Year. Importers, Liberty Wines describe it as ‘boasting a surprisingly deep and intense ruby-red colour. Silky and rich, it is exceptionally smooth on the palate, offering notes of red berries, cherry, raspberry and a touch of spice to finish’. What more can I say – apart from ‘tragedy’!

Biurko Gorri, Rioja Joven (£8.49). Set away from the main Rioja regions, in the one horse (if you’re lucky) village of Bargota. The Llorens family only built their winery when the local cooperative closed down and they still make wine for other growers and have a massive following in the locality. When I was there, enjoying a leisurely glass and a half with a plate of local cheese and chorizo it was suddenly all hands on deck to load up the lorry of the local distributer from Pamplona. Chalky soils add a certain snap and, dare I say it, minerality to the local Tempranillo grape that you just don’t get with the mainstream producers looking to add oak and vanilla to local grape juice. Sorry – I’m letting my anti Rioja-ism out for an airing but try it and you’ll see what I mean.

castano-monastrellBodegas Castano, Monastrell (£7.99). Monastrell is responsible for some great wines – under its French name of Mouvedre. It’s a minor, but character giving, part of Cotes du Rhone and main player in Bandol but it’s in its homeland of Mediterranean Spain that it really shines. It’s a mixed bag of intense but silky Morello cherries, stewed fruit, sweet spice etc but, you know what? When I see it, I think bangers and mash. That’s my kind of wine.

 

Nativa-carmenereNativa, Carmenere (£9.99). We wanted to focus on European wines but thought a token New World offering would be in order. It was a tough job but picking the Nativa Carmenere was easy. Like most New World wines, it’s full of flavour but, in a bigged up sort of European way. As I mentioned above, it will stand up to the most robust of stews and casseroles – cassoulets for example, but by itself it’s smooth and seductive. I can’t believe I just wrote that – better stop now while I’m still ahead. Just.

Ben’s wine blog: The wine in Spain comes mainly from the plain and by Jove we’ve got it!

Spain, once European viticulture’s poor cousin, land of Don Simon tetrapak and worse, has woken from the dead. Drive south from Madrid to Granada and you ill still see the industrial stainless steel wineries of Valdepeñas, but elsewhere, in the north and east, vine growing and winemaking has taken giant leaps forward.

Unheard of regions from Rías Baixas in the North West to Yecla and Jumilla in the South East, are fast upping the ante to compete with old favourite Rioja and sleeping giants; Penedès, Rueda and Ribera del Duero.

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A new beginning for Spanish wine

The land is cheap in Spain, and rather than grubbing up old vines it’s easier to plant new ones. Now many of the old, abandoned vineyards are being restored, and with judicious irrigation, are producing grapes with real character. It might be hot, but it’s also high. Around the south east of La Mancha many of the vineyards are 700 meters plus which makes for near perfect conditions – sundrenched days and cool nights.

We’ve been having a good look at our range of Spanish wines and have decided to start afresh. There’s so much out there to choose from, we thought it would be better to start with a clean sheet…

Sebastian’s Story

One of our favourite wines, Marsilea Verdejo, is from the mountains, 900 m above Valencia. It’s the apple of vineyard owner, Sebastian’s eye, cherished and nurtured for years before he got it off the ground. Winemaking the Riverford way.

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Sebastian’s family came back to Spain after 30 years in Germany. On their return they set up a small business and slowly started buying some of the land around them. It wasn’t long before Sebastian started planting vines, his passion for wine meant he had a clear idea about what he wanted to achieve and a dream that one day he would have his own wine cellar and a wine made by his family.

He started out making wines in his garage after studying viticulture.  Slowly the business grew, as he tended to his vineyards, in his own words, like they were his children. His respect for the plants and the surrounding countryside meant that farming organically was an obvious choice from the word go.

Sebastian’s wine is a great match for fish and poultry but works equally well as an aperitif, with crunchy vegetable crudités and tapas.  It’s described as having notes of ‘crisp green apples with soft, creamy, nutty overtones, and hints of honey’, but I’m sure you can make your own mind up.

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Ben’s blog: wine cellar overhaul – meet our new gutsy reds & classy whites

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Ben Watson, Guy’s brother, has given our wine range a good overhaul  – here’s his blog about the thinking behind the new cohort of gutsy reds and classy whites.

Good wine from good farming might sound a little trite but most organic wine is as much a product of the vineyard as milk is of a cow. Great wines are made in the vineyard and after that minimal intervention is the name of the game.

Thirty years ago winemakers were tearing their hair out and crying ‘how can we make good wine from organic grapes?’ Now, with better practises in the vineyard and improved hygiene in the cellar they are asking the opposite; ‘how can we make good wine without using organic grapes?’

So, with this in mind, and the fact that it’s a natural partner to all things Riverford, we’ve been having a good look at our wine list.

Thanks to the chancellor’s avarice value for money lies in the £8-10 bracket so that’s where we have been concentrating our efforts. Once you’ve knocked off the duty and VAT, wine for £7 or less doesn’t offer much value.

So far we’ve added six; a very classy white and red from a top producer in Pic St Loup in the Languedoc,  a lovely rosé from the southern Rhône, a gutsy medal winning Corbierès and two meat and stew friendly ‘Reserva’ reds from Chile.

Top of the pops will be a red and a white from the Marche region of Italy. Wine writers have been ‘bigging up’ Central Italian whites as the next Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc and the Saladini Pilastri Falerio, a blend of Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Passerino, doesn’t disappoint. Floral on the nose with a touch of mown grass with an apple and herbal flavours, it has good body and acidity and a slight but noticeable bitter almond finish – perfect for vegetable, fish and poultry dishes. The Rosso Piceno is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Montepulciano and spends a month or two in large old oak prior to bottling.  This is more than just good quaffing wine – it’s made for Bolognese or a hearty ragù.

Once the Italians arrive, we’re putting the new wines (minus the Chilean Carmenere and Rhone rosé) in a mixed case of six for a bargain £44.75 (20% off on deliveries from 4th November).

So far we’ve been concentrating on the winter reds. After Christmas we’ll start thinking about the whites and lighter reds …