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Wine Words 3

This week, 2 terms that are often banded about & can get a bit lost out of context.  They also both happen to describe tactile elements of the wine, the focus being on how it feels rather than tastes.  Although the two, of course, are inextricably linked..

 

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Unctuosity | ˈʌŋktju’ɒsɪti |

 

Refers to both taste & texture of the wine – a rich thickness that coats the glass & the inside of your mouth upon consumption.

 

Like: a naughty caramel sauce

 

For example: “There are 10,000 cases of this perfect sweet white Bordeaux. The 2001 Yquem reveals a hint of green in its light gold color. While somewhat reticent aromatically, with airing, it offers up honeyed tropical fruit, orange marmalade, pineapple, sweet creme brulee, and buttered nut-like scents. In the mouth, it is full-bodied with gorgeously refreshing acidity as well as massive concentration and unctuosity. Everything is uplifted and given laser-like focus by refreshing acidity. This large-scaled, youthful Yquem appears set to take its place among the most legendary vintages of the past, and will age effortlessly for 75+ years.”

Robert Parker reviewing Chateau d’Yquem 2001

 

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Attenuated mouthfeel | əˈtɛnjʊeɪtɪd maʊθ’fiːl |

 

A wine that behaves in a thin & closed manner once in the mouth. This is often from tannins & can make for a good structure for a wine to mature around.

 

Like: not quite ripe banana

 

For example: “Christmas fruitcake, truffle, cured meats and sweet earth along with black currant notes make for a complex, noble bouquet. In the mouth, some of the vintage’s tell-tale angular and astringent tannins give the wine a slightly attenuated mouthfeel, but there seems to be plenty of concentration, medium to full body, and lots of minerality. My instincts are that this wine is going through a relatively closed, difficult, ungracious state, but I like its potential. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2026+.”

Robert Parker reviewing Gaffelière 2006

 

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  • Top 10 Wine Cheeses

    Cheese & wine; Wine & cheese.. such long-timers, you’d be hard pushed to know which one to put first. And for good reason. These old pals enjoy an honest & mutually-beneficial relationship where, if the right match is made, both sides strive to compliment & bring out the best in each other.  However, get it wrong & all sort of rifts break out, of varying levels of palate-bashing intensity. True to relationship form, there are no rules or set patterns: sometimes opposites attract, sometimes like-for-like bond.

    Read on for our top 10 cheeses & their liquid soulmate (& some analysing of their chemistry)..

     

    Brie

    This creamy staple of any cheeseboard worth its biscuits is actually the most generous in terms of wine match; not a picky oozer. And it meets its match with the ever-obliging, equally as fickly-allied Riesling which dances its way through the cream & makes you want more. Of both. Works particularly well with a younger brie; if you’re feeling like going old, why not try a good old fashioned Chablis?

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/brie-de-meaux
    or http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/brie-de-melun for a bit more maturity.

    Brie, known as the Queen of Cheeses, has enjoyed many a regal endorsement over the years & used to be a necessity if paying tribute to the King; any other cheese simply wouldn’t do!

     

    Comté

    France’s biggest cheese produced. And for good reason; this delicious salty, nutty & well aged (preferably.. go for 24 months if you want the crystalline crunch!) cow’s cheese is the perfect accompaniment to a glass or 2. In fact it needs something with a bit of punch. And it should come as no surprise the best contender comes from the same region. A vin jaune from the Jura slips down a treat; it is both oxidative & intense.. in fact the 2 work so well together, I would argue they actually bring out respective bests.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/comte-destive

    Comté was one of the first cheeses to benefit from protected origin status, having been assigned its AOC (Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1958.

     

    Crottin de Chavignol

    If you’re going to go regional, stay regional.. wine & cheese are certainly no exception to this rule. Both ‘of the earth’, origin-specific products compliment each other like holly & ivy. For a taste of the Loire, try a fresh goat with a chilled glass of Sancerre & summon the magic carpet.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/crottin-de-chavignol

    Goats are not indigenous to France, they were herded over during Moorish invasions, so we’re effectively nibbling on a little bit of history with each mouthful of Crottin. (& sup of Sancerre)

     

    Aged Gouda

    Despite the conventional strong cheese-strong wine approach, sometimes ying & yang makes for wonderful palate-harmony. Try a softer red, like an Austrian Blaufrankisch – delicious & bursting with ripe fruit; it has enough structure to hold its own & yet gracious enough to not compete with old Gouda’s intensity.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/gouda-boerenkaas-4-year

    Dutch town Gouda became notorious for its weekly cheese-weighing competition; the old ‘waag’ (weighing house) is now a museum dedicated to.. cheese!

     

    Époisses

    For a cheese from France’s biggest wine-making region, this stinky gooey cheese washed down with a brandy made from pinot noir skins is surprisingly tricky to match (but being Burgundian we felt it couldn’t be missed off the list). Thankfully red burgundy does step up to the mark, but not your finest fare as you might expect. Go robust & rustic; a Beaune villages or a Beaujolais is needed to wash the lingering goo-goodness down. And it works!

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/epoisses

    So pungent is the aroma of a mature époisses, it is allegedly banned from public transport in France.. feels a bit cheesist.

     

    Camembert

    This reassuringly rich & creamy cheese comes in many guises, often baked as a starter & infused with all sorts of spicy, nutty, fruity additions. The BEST news about this bloomy rinded number is that bubbles (be they champagne, cava, prosecco or whatever cremant takes your fancy) are the perfect companion. The acidity cuts through the cream & the fizz plays a merry textural game. (not that we needed an excuse)

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/camembert-fermier

    Camembert’s luxuriously creamy nature has inspired many an author & artist: Salvador Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ was concocted after some hearty gooey servings at dinner the night before..

     

    Stilton

    A powerful, salty & yet creamy cheese.. sounds like hard work for any wine to form a lasting relationship with. Until, that is, you have a glass of port in your hand. Stilton & port is one of those amazing couples; born in completely different parts of the world; strong, independent & even willful at times. Yet put them together & they just make sense. (Recommended even to those who wouldn’t naturally be drawn to either)

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/colston-bassett-stilton

    Stliton’s legally protected recipe requires 78 litres of milk to make one 8kg round of crumbly goodness.. Given that it can only herald from 1 of 6 dairies, that’s some busy cows!

     

    Manchego

    Tapas bars always have a sensory mouthful trick or 2 up their sleeve, & pairing a historic cheese with a historic tipple is just that.  Manchego is about as origin specific you can get, made in Spain’s La Mancha region soley from Manchega sheep’s milk. Its flavour profile moves gradually from tangy to nutty to sweet, but always with a mark of acidity.. Sherry, with its rich & complex flavours, & varying levels of oxidization harmonises perfectly with the cheese in a way that once you taste the 2 together, there’ll be no going back! Funnily enough they both happen to be from the same part of Spain…

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/manchego

    Manchego is extremely fortifying & nutritious, with a higher proportion of proteins than meat.. straight to the cheese course!

     

    Cheddar

    Often over-looked in all its ubiquity, our humble home-grown cow’s cheese has many guises & is well supported by a red Bordeaux, (which surprisingly few cheeses are) especially the older & more interesting it gets. Hard, aged cheeses need bold wines that aren’t going to be completely dominated; arguably a bold red needs the same food-wise.. reassuring to know all those gift-hampers got it right!

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/keens-cheddar

    Cheddar was actually first discovered by accident: a forgetful milkmade left a pail of milk in Somerset’s Cheddar caves..

     

    Tomme

    This mountain cheese seems simple enough on the outside, but can be complex – with varying balances of fruit, nut, acidity & mushroom depending its exact origin & age. Alsacian gewurtzstraminer (especially with a Tomme d’Alsace) works well whichever way the mountain tolls on the day of eating. Its delicate balance of sugar & acidity brings out the best in the cheese & vice versa.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/tomme-de-savoie

    Tomme actually means small, roundish cheese, hence why it’s always followed by its origin; useful for wine pairing too, as fate would have it..

     

    So there we have it: 10 pairs we feel justifiably go the distance. However, tastebuds are an individual bunch, so why not experiment at home.. if nothing else you’ll drink well & be left with quite the cheeseboard!

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  • A guide to.. Labels – Burgundy

    The role of a label is ostensibly product information.. & no more so in the world of wine where they hold a wealth of what can be very precise (& potentially confusing!) information. They can also be beautiful & alluring, especially by dint of what is held within the glass. A personal touch & marker of origin.

     

    And here’s where things get complicated; a wine’s origin is like an in depth astrological chart with all sorts of names, classifications & acronyms. What means what. & where. & how? And of course, there is no such thing as a standard. Wouldn’t sit well with all things vinous allure.

     

    We will do our best to demystify area labels with some regular overviews as to what it all means. Starting with the most famously complex of all..

     

    Burgundy, France

     

    For an area that predominantly uses 1 white grape & 1 red (chardonnay & pinot noir respectively), the Burgundy or Bourgogne region is alarmingly complicated. Delve a bit deeper & you soon see how this wonderful wine-growing area is brimming with subtle nuances: soil, slope, compass point, altitude; you name it, that makes up its complex terroir system & dramatically effects the end product. In fact, SO important is the appellation (specific area the wine comes from) that often there is no mention of what grape the wine is at all on labels; geographical origin really is paramount.

    For ease (& hopefully clarity!) of explanation we will aim to go through things systematically, but this doesn’t always hold true as there are no rules!

     

    Producer name:
    (ie Aubert de Villaine, Jean Grivot, Domaine Leroy)

     

    This is generally at the top of the label & is whoever made/owns the land on which the wine was made. This can be a ‘maison’ or cooperative, where growers have passed on their grapes.

     

    Village:
    (ie Beaune, Gevry-Chambertin, Meursault)

     

    This is (as the title might suggest) the village or town that the vineyards sit around. If it is just the name of the village & there is no mention of any other classification (Premier Cru or Grand Cru), then it means that it’s contents are of high quality, but not classed into the two superior categories. Which brings me neatly onto..

     

    Classification:
    (ie Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Villages)

     

    Because of the dramatic changes in soil type & climate, the exact position of a terrior creates very big differences in the end result; namely its quality & therefore how it is classified. The three main distinctions are Grand Cru – the crème de la crème with 32 allocated terroirs; Premier Cru – top but not quite Grand Crus with over 600 allocated; and then finally ‘Villages’ which is still classified & origin specific fare, just not deemed to be in the same league as the other two. Villages are also not necessarily all from one vineyard..

     

    Vineyard:
    (ie Domaine de la Romanée Conti – Grands Échezeaux, Domaine Leflaive – Chevalier-Montrachet, Comte de Vogüé – Chambolle Musigny)

     

    However IF the wine is from one specific terroir, which it definitely will be for Grand & Premier Cru wines, the vineyard will (most likely) be detailed next. Burgundy is a bit of a patchwork quilt of terroir-specific ownership, so one producer will bottle under lots of different vineyard or terroir names.   However, much of burgundy’s grapes are sold on to negociants (like Maison Bouchard Pere et Fils who then bottle cooperatively & distribute the fare under their own brand.

     

    Appellation:
    (ie Chablis, Cote de Beaune, Beaujolais)

     

    Burgundy or Bourgogne is an enormous area, thankfully sub-divided into 6 appellations, or areas: Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, Beaujolais, Côte de Nuits & Côte de Beaune. Each appellation makes distinctive wines depending on soil, climate & predominant grapes. For example, Chablis in the Auxerre region right in the north is predominantly Chardonnay, cooler & a more mineral soil; Maconnais right down in the south-east is predominantly Gamay, warmer, flatter & mainly sandstone-based soil.

     

    Appellation Classification:
    (ie. AOP, IGP, Vin de France)

     

    By law, all French wine has to be classified, so the appellation classification will be found on every label. Unless it’s illegal which I’d probably steer well clear of. Appellations are divided into 4 different classes: “Appellations d’Origine Protégée/Contrôlée” (denoted AOP, since 2009 or AOC) which is highest classification & applies to most areas; ‘Vin Delimité de Qualité Supérieure’ (VDQS – the waiting room for AOP, only applies to a very small number of areas); Indication Geographique Protegée (IGP) or Vin de Pays (increasingly being replaced by former – from a given region, ie Cote d’Or but less strictly regulated); finishing off with ‘Vin de France’ (formerly ‘Vin de Table’ – the most basic classification – both titles do what they say on the tin; a “French wine” needs no further introduction!)  In Burgundy producers will often put the appellation or village name in the accreditation too, so “Appellation Beaune Contrôlée”, for example.

     

    Bottling detail:
    (Mis en bouteille…)

     

    This will either state “Mis en bouteille au domaine” which means by a producer who owns his own land & bottles there (as the best wines are); or “Mis en bouteille par/pour..” which means the gapes have been sold to a negociant.

     

    Producer Location:

     

    This will be the address of the Domaine; good for Google Maps if you want a better idea of where a given appellation is. Especially given how complicated the whole system is!  However, true to form, the Burgundians often just give a rough village & area associated with their Domaine as vineyards can be scattered, so best look up all the information on the label for absolute precision’s sake.

     

    Alcohol Content:
    (ie. x%)

     

    A given & legality – anything between 12% & 14% depending on colour, area & grape.

     

    So, there we have it.. sometimes there is good reason for a product’s information to be complicated, especially when that end product is something as rich & rewarding as a glass (or 2!) of burgundy. And as much as label content will jump around a bit depending on personal tastes & redesign, the information required is ever-regulated so once you start to get to grips with it all, can go a long way into helping understand one of the most traditional & wonderfully complex wine growing regions the world has to offer.

     

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  • Wine Words 2

    Round 2,  time to get slightly more abstract..

     

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    Impressively endowed | ɪmˈpresɪvli ɪnˈdaʊd |

     

    Refering to a style of wine: rich, full-bodied & oozing luxury.

     

    Like: unctuous chocolate praline

     

    For example:  “This is a very strong effort from this estate, which sits just adjacent to Petrus. In fact, they sold part of their vineyard to Petrus in the early 1970s. This is a full-bodied, powerful 2006 with the oak more restrained than it normally is in a young Gazin. Copious quantities of sweet plum, fig, and black cherry fruit are intermixed with cedar and dried herbs in a medium to full-bodied, rich, long, impressively endowed style. This is an outstanding wine, with enough stuffing, structure, and density to age beautifully over a 20- to 25-year period.”

    (Robert Parker reviewing Gazin 2006)

     

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    Forest floor | ˈfɒrɪst flɔː |

     

    Earthy & alive foraging fare. So, fruit, shrubs, nuts & pinecones.

     

    Like: Mum’s best fruitcake

     

    For example: “Rauzan-Segla’s finesse-styled 2004 offers raspberry, cherry, forest floor, and dried herb-like characteristics in its deep ruby/purple-hued, medium-bodied personality. With excellent purity, freshness, and precision, it is not a blockbuster claret, but rather a stylish, elegant, accessible effort with sweet tannin. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2022.”

     

    (Robert Parker reviewing Rauzan Segla 2004)

     

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  • What is.. Biodynamic Wine

    Well, it sounds very exciting – alive & of the moment – but what is it really all about? & how much does it really differ from regular organic? Or indeed regular regular.

     

    Quite a lot, it transpires. The biodynamic movement continues to sweep through the wine industry, converting many a top winemaker along the way. And, although not without its sceptics, produces wines of critical acclaim. Even globally renowned critic, Mr Robert Parker, has adopted its methods his co-owned Domaine Beaux-Freres in Oregan. Interested piqued? Mine too.. Definitely worth digging a bit deeper.

     

    Biodynamic Agriculture is by no means a new movement: it was first introduced by a certain Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, in his lectures of 1924. Steiner’s “spiritual science” does not make for an easy read, but its essence is a simple one: of the farm – its soil, animals & plant – being one living organism, & therefore all its components being inextricably linked. Combine that with an awareness & sensitivity to astrological forces, it is easy to see why it has met with such success in the world of wine making where the end product is so dependent the minutae detail of its origin & the dedication & skill of its grower. Not to mention surrounding climactic conditions.

    And the beauty is, the deeper you dig, the weirder & wonderfuler it gets. In order to be certified biodynamic, growers must adhere to the strict 9 “preparations” as listed by certifying body, The Demeter Society. These preparations are specific mixes of cow manure, plants & quartz (silica), many of which are prepared/held in specific animal parts (from the humble cow horn to rather more gruesome “skull of a domestic animal”). These of the earth tinctures are then ‘dynamised’ by hand-stirring in alternate directions for an hour or so & then applied to the vines at times dictated by both the phases of the moon & positions of the astrological constellations. No one ever said cosmic connectivity was easy.

     

    It is these obscurely precise treatments, coupled with a dedication to working harmoniously with the cosmos, that differentiate biodynamic with that of organic. Whilst both practices shun the use of any chemicals, the biodynamic movement unquestionably comes from more of a spiritually holistic (& indeed mythical) school of thought. Problem with a pest? Simply catch a young virile member of said pests community; remove & burn its skin & then scatter over the affected area when Venus is in the sign of Scorpio. I did promise weird.

     

    This is, however, where biodynamic farming gathers its critics: some of Steiner’s prescriptions feeling more akin to a religious cult than holistic farming system. And whilst there is an undeniable gulf in biodiversity & soil health in between it & regular farming practice, trials between biodynamic & organic lead to inconclusive results. Or perhaps conclusively, there is no difference noted.. However the proof is, of course, in the pudding. Or in this case glass.

     

    And the glass looks a rather bountiful one, with some of the biggest estates either steadfastly flying, or experimenting with the biodynamic flag.  Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, , arguably one of the best & certainly most expensive wines in the world has been organic since 1985, & after experimenting with biodynamic methods for some time, has fully converterted as Aubert de Villaine found it “the best way to be as close to the vineyard as possible, and for the vines to be most in harmony with nature”. Staying within Burgundy, perhaps one of the most interesting cases is that of Domaine Leflaive, another wholly biodynamic estate. Family owner Anne-Claude Leflaive cited a particular terroir of older vines: riddled with disease they were advised to replant. Since the vines were considered ‘lost’, they decided to experiment, employing solely biodynamic preparations. 20 years on they are now their oldest vines & a picture of health. Domaine Leflaive went fully biodynamic in 1997 after 7 years of taste trials vs organic methods, so not a decision taken lightly.

     

    Both de Villaine & Leflaive were, however, trailing in the wake of the Loire’s Nicholas Joly. Seen by many as ‘the godfather’ of biodynamic wine, ex-banker Joly took over his family’s estate, Chateau de la Roche aux Moines, as a modern agriculture sceptic. Until, that is, he came across a book on biodynamic farming.   He made his first biodynamic wine in 1981 & the estate has been fully so since 1985. Joly is a globally published & celebrated author on the matter, inspiring both consumers & growers alike. Rather infamously he has “Nature Assistant” rather than “Winemaker” on his business card.

     

    Over 450 vineyards are now fully biodynamic across the world. And this figure continues to grow as many dabble with its ethereal ways in their quest for bottled perfection. Whilst many producers eschew some of the more “voodoo” practices (Demeter thankfully does not stipulate ALL of Steiner’s lore), the ecological harmony promoted by a biodynamic philosophy seems indisputable. Wine is a product evocative of its source; if that source is chemical & barren, one would expect it to taste so. If the source is rich & diverse, nourished & protected by only what is naturally available from that very area, then you would something rather more true to its roots.

     

    Whilst cynics may suggest the reason biodynamic methods have been so successful in wine is because it’s the one agricultural industry whose mark-ups can afford to, the success itself is harder to criticize. Be it through grower devotion, or something altogether more other-worldly, biodynamic wine tastes delicious. Whether it is any more so than its organic & less so counterparts is of course subjective, but in a world where we are increasingly aware the health of our surroundings, & indeed ourselves, biodynamic farming feels like a hearty nod in the right direction. And given that we deign to tinker with the tipple of the Gods, it somehow feels wise to keep Mother Nature on our side.

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  • Calendar Month Ahead – February

    Look for our monthly roundups of what’s coming up in the month ahead.. We see the list as ever-evolving (& aware it’s currently London-centric) so any additions are more than welcome – we look forward to growing month on month!

    It may be the ‘Tuesday’ of the months, but February is alive & kicking in the wine world, with ample glass-more-than-half-full fare most evenings that should roll us into March nicely..

     

    Monday 2nd

    Saint Emillion Grand Cru Classe Chateaux dinner
    Oxford & Cambridge Club, London

     

    Tuesday 3rd

    Classic Fine Burgundy, Tour de Cote d’Or
    West London Wine School, Fulham

    Love Wine & Film (runs to end of Month)
    Cantina Del Ponte, London Bridge

    Decanter’s Discoveries from Greece, Italy & Bulgaria tasting
    Chandos House, London

     

    Wednesday 4th

    Grape Debate: Cabernet-Merlot Blends
    West London Wine School , Fulham

    Opus one Vertical Tasting
    Handford Wines, Kensington

    Source Food & Drink Trade Show (Until 5th)
    Exeter

     

    Thursday 5th

    Wine Beats Vol.1: Austrian Wine Revolution
    Shoreditch Studios, London

     French Independent Wine Growers
    Royal Horticultural Halls, London

     

    Monday 9th

    Grape School: Lesson one, essentials
    D’Vine Wines, Clapham, London

    Red Bordeaux drop in Tasting (runs to 15/2)
    Le Pont de la Tour, Shad Thames, London

    Vivat Bachhus, Newton Johnson Vineyards
    Farringdon EC4A 4LL

     

    Tuesday 10th

    Chateau Angelus Masterclass
    Tower Hill, London

     Ehrmann’s annual portfolio tasting
    The Music Room, Mayfair, London

     Austrian Tasting
    Institute of Directors, London

     

    Wednesday 11th

    Brunello through the 1970s
    Justerini & Brooks, SW1A 1LZ

    Fizz from Dorset
    Pont de la Tour, Shad Thames, London

     

    Thursday 12th

    2005 Red Bordeaux
    Handford Wines, Fulham

    Mentendorff Annual Portfolio Tasting 2015
    Royal Opera House, London

    Romantic Ruinart Champagne Tasting
    Bluebird, Chelsea

     

    Sunday 14th

    World of Wine experience tasting day (
    Old Bank Hotel, Oxford

     

    Monday 16th

    Grape School – Lesson two: The Big 5
    D’Vine Wines, Clapham

    Two Paddocks Wine Tasting
    Plateau, Canary Wharf

    Bandol Drop in Tasting
    Le Pont de la Tour, Shad Thames, London

    Spanish Fine Wine Tasting
    Vivat Bacchus Farringdon

     

    Tuesday 17th

    Vintage Roots Trade Tasting
    Pain Quotidien, Borough Market

     

    Wednesday 18th

    Butlers Basic Bordeaux Wine Tasting
    Brighton, BN2 9XJ

     

    Thursday 19th

    St Chinian Tasting 2015
    La Maison de la Region Languedoc-Rousillion, W1G 0PD

    Battle of the Bubbles
    The Penthouse, SW1Y 4TE

     

    Sunday 21st

    Wine Lunch
    Caledonian Club, London

     Laithwaite’s Wine Nottingham Tasting Afternoon & Evening
    The Albert Hall, Nottingham

    ThirtyFifty 1 Day Wine Course
    Brasserie Blanc, Southbank

     

    Monday 23rd

    Grape School – Lesson three: The Floral & Aromatic
    D’Vine Wines, Clapham, London

    Berry Bros Rhone 2013 Tasting
    One Great George Street, SW1P 3AA

    Liberty Wines Portfolio Tasting
    Manchester

     

    Tuesday 24th

    Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron Tasting
    Tower of London

     

    Wednesday 25th

    ThirtyFifty wine tasting Evening & Antipasti
    Brasserie Blanc, Southbank

     Explore Germany Portfolio
    Vinoteca Marleybone, W1H 5BD

     

     Thursday 26th

    Secret Wine Supper
    The Rookery, Clapham

    Spain Trade Fair
    Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF

     

    Saturday 28th

    Icons of the wine world
    Saatchi Gallery

    https://www.a-matter-of-taste.com/Event/index/3

     

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