Recently, following a failed attempt to get there in May, I visited the home of the two great red varietals of Italy, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Brunello de Montalcino and Barolo. Despite the miles in between the two towns and the crazy late night driving along the Mediterranean curve near Genoa, I had a fabulous time visiting both towns. They are held in so much admiration in the wine world of Italy and indeed the whole world and this reputation is growing every day.
After the most delightful night in Siena watching the people in the main square and not going un-noticed was the lovely sight of young people not looking at their i-phones but talking to each other enthusiastically! Wow it would be lovely to see a bit more of this in London. But what a city and Square this place is: I love the way it is hidden up and above the town so that if you did not know there was a beautiful city with the most amazing panoramic square that is beyond belief in terms of atmosphere and feel. Do go if you have never been.
( Manzone Single Vineyard wines above the highlight of which is “Il Castelletto 2011”, the small vineyard around the Castle)
I skipped Chianti the next morning and headed to the smaller yet to me, far more individual grower of the best the Sangiovese can offer in Italy, Montalcino, which received its DOCG status in the 1970’s. Another beautiful little hillside town, as many wine towns are, Montalcino is located about 20 miles south of Siena on the small road to Rome! It took be about 2 hours to find ” Terralsole” and the vineyard of Mario Bollag and his lovely wife Athena, since the signs are very difficult to follow and no one knows the vineyard when asking! Its not surprising since when I eventually do get on the right road its down the end of a gravel track of about 3 miles, as seems to be nearly always the case!
( The view from Monforte D’Alba across to Serralunga D’Alba and below the cellar at Manzone)
As Athena shows me around the house and cellar ( Mario is tasting 2012 vintages before blending with some of his consultants or friends) she explains to me that Mario was the black sheep of a prominent Basle family in Switzerland and he was an artist who studied at ” Ballata” in Florence in the 70’s. He fell in love with wine as well as art and worked his first vintage in Montalcino in 1990. However ” he wanted a bigger palate” so he bought the land we were walking on in 1993 as well as some land called ” Fonte Latta”, meaning “milk fountain”, since legend has it that if you were short of breast milk for your baby you drank the water from this fountain and the milk would flow. In 1995 he started planting the vines up here and built the house I stood in which was built from scratch.
Mario uses 600 litre barrels of French oak from Alier,for his wines and somehting about 220 litre wines and they are nowin the second year of conversion into Organic status. They also have higher elevation vineyards here in Montalcino which means the grapes are far more expressive and these vineyards are called ” Pian Bossolino” up to about 410 metres.
What I like about this whole set up is the clear passion for producing some of the most individual Brunello’s that one could possibly wish to find. They are up there in price too mind you but the quality and precision behind the winemaking is wonderful to witness. Mario also does not release his wines too early. Their present vintage is 2006; 5 years ageing in barrel and two in the bottle.
We tasted some 2012’s wines that were at present single vineyard wines. His Reserva 2012 was very soft and elegant, the Trio 2008 was a blend of grapes from other countries, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Syrah and velvety too. The 2013 ” Milk Fountain” was out of the barrel as well as the 2013 ” Pian Bossolino” which is a special cuvee of “Sangiovese Grosso”. The last wine we tasted was my personal favourite and was called ” Anata” and was a blend of the two vineyards and is clearly going to be an excepttional vintage, very bright and light.
(Mauro with his delightful father Giovanni)
Following ” Brexit” I felt pretty numb so it was probably a positive idea to a have trip planned to Corbiere, Jurancon and Gascogne planned for this week; let the dust settle whilst I am away. However despite my awful use of the French language all I could hear on most radio stations on the drive from Toulouse to Pau yesterday were the words ” Brexit” so clearly its made its mark here in Europe also.
Onto the wines, well with a little bit of Brexit too! I am always on the outlook for great wines at very competitive prices but none more so than now and in the months and years ahead. With this in mind I have been planning a trip to Corbiere for a long time. Corbiere is in very poor part of France but possibly one of the most undiscovered and beautiful in its very arid, rocky and barren way.
“Domaine La Bouysse” have been making Organic wines for three years but they have been making wine here for three generations. The abandoned and derelict Cooperative in the centre of the village of Saint Andre de Roquelongue is testamount to the past history and the development of the wines here in this region over time. The Tramontane wind from the west thats swoops across the Atlantic was kicking up quite a storm as I approached the town sweeping over the escarpment of the same name. La Bouysse is the name of the mountain, well escarpment, pictured below that protects the vines on the property and emphasises the ruggedness of the region. It really is hard country down here. I have been following this wine region for over ten years and after many visits to this unheralded wine area it was time to import some wines from here myself.
I tasted the following wines at the vineyard ( pictured above)
Domaine La Bouyysse “B” range: a range of wines that really do excite the palate yet that are are at an “entry level”. Their white is made from Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat Petit Grains. Its a really different wine with some herb and savoury notes and perfect for summer drinking. Their rose is made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Its dry with that lovely slightly Provencal Pink colour so would go down well in the UK with the rose market. The Bouysse ” B” red consists of Merlot, Syrah and Carignan and is juicy and easy to drink.The Carignan wines are over 80 years old, planted by the grandparents of Delphine, who has been busy in the warehouse all morning as we taste the wines, so this certainly helps the makeup and smoothness of this wine. So three great wines that would sell well this summer and beyond at sensible prices.
Also tasted, were the ” Floreal” rose from AOC Corbiere, 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, again with that lovely very light pink colour as well as the Carignan 2014, made from the 80 year old vines, that needed a little more time and some air so I must remember to re-taste again today since its in my little Fiat 500 ready to go again. Their wines are also made up of grapes from another appellation, Boutenac, which is about 10 miles north and this wine has to have at least 50% Syrah in its makeup.
( Ann Marie, head of sales and marketing at La Bouysse with the escarpment of the same name in the background and the view of La Bouysse from the other side, heading to Limoux)
La Bouysse are a small vineyard, only 120,000 bottles in total so they fit Whirly wines profile very well indeed. I already have a small parcel of their Viognier reserved, which is sold out apart from this small amount so now its up to Mr Whirly to get the wines over from here and into the Whirly shop. I expect that to happen in the next week or two.
From this little village close to Narbonne I had a 90 minute drive to Limoux, a wine region that even more so remains undiscovered but makes some of the most exciting yet unheralded wines in the south of France. On the way I drove up the Gorge de L’Orbieu, which wound its way up to around 600 metres then down the other side to Limoux and past the remains of Chateau Durfort, one of many Cathar castles built here one thousand years ago. The picture below is of the Chateau D’ arques a few miles down the other side of the Gorge de L’Orbieu.
At Limoux, I had already spotted a vineyard I would like to visit, having crossed its path the day before on my way to Lagrasse over and around the country hills and forests that are full of deer and wild boar. Limoux is famous for its status as ” AOC Limoux Blanquette de Limoux” and ” AOC Cremant de Limoux”. I drove with as much speed as my Fiat 500 would allow up the windy road behind Limoux to ” Domaine de Fourn” where I quickly tasted two wines, the “Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Noire 2013”, made from 90% Mauzac, 5% Chenin and 5% Chardonnay, hand picked and matured in bottles for 15 months in the cellar. Very, soft and elegant and a truly delicious wine. I also tasted the “Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Ivoire 2013″ made from 90% Mauzac and 10% Chenin. Another exquisite wine, possibly slightly sweeter than the Carte Noire but with another really delicate flavour and mousse. I was really surprised by the quality of these wines and I shall look to import some small parcels very soon.
From Limoux I had a three hour drive to Pau via Toulouse in order to get there in time for the Spain v Italy match. I shot back onto the autoroute just north of Castelnaudry ( famous for its Haricot beans for Cassoulet) and drove as rapidly as my Fiat 500 would allow me to this city close to Tarbes and Lourdes. Why you might ask was I heading here? Well, just south of here is Jurancon, a region whose wines I have always loved and yet never had the chance to visit. The next morning, after England had failed so awfully against Iceland and the French were loving there own little double edged meaning of ” Brexit”, I spent about 50 minutes driving to this little Appellation that specialises in Gros and Petit Manseng varietals. Only 50 since I had a meeting in Eauze in Gascogny at 1pm and it was already 10am. I found some wonderful Jurancon wines from Camin Larredya and Clos Thou, that are on either side of a vallye from each other and yet which were so so different. I tasted the La Part Davant 2015 Jurancon sec at Larredya that was very expressive and exotic in terms of fruits on the palate. At Clos Thou I tasted the Jurancon sec Cuvee Guilhouret that was so, so different from the Larredya, more minerally and textured and not so full of fruit. Why were they so different? I have no idea since I had to visit Tariquet in Gascogny, wines that I have already imported but I shall let you know their makeup and why they are so poles apart once the wines are in the shop in SW17.
Next wine tour Piedmont and Tuscany, 10th-13th July, visiting Brunello and Barolo as well as other vineyards.
( the view across the valley from Camin Larredya to Clos Thou and the woods in between)
“Mr Whirly” is presently in Gascogne on a “Whirlwind” wine tour of South West France looking for exciting wines from the smaller producer that really do “punch above their weight” at a sensible price. With the outcome of “Brexit” ( sorry to bring politics into this post!) and the fall in value of the £ this is clearly a priority over the next month and possibly years, who knows? I am in the middle of writing up my notes on this trip and this shall be posted on this website by end of play today, Wednesday 29th June.
Anyway onto happier things, tasting wines this week!! Below are the wines we shall be tasting, please double click on the link below and it will come alive!. Please do let me know if you can make it wont’t you since last week was the best attended so far with 12 people attending so we might need to stagger the bookings this week.
Good Afternoon this showery Tuesday Afternoon.
Last weeks tasting went down was very well received so I am keen to keep the weekly Thursday Whirly tasting going every week throughout the summer and get more people involved.
Below are details of this weeks wine tasting, please double click on the flyer to see full details of the wines we are tasting this Thursday.
I am very excited that the new wines from Alain Normand, that arrived today from Macon will be showcased this week. These wines are very much his heart and soul wines: he has nurtured these small plots of land on the hills and gullies surrounding the hamlet of “La Roche Vineuse” for many decades and they really do show off his skilled winemaking and quality of fruit that his vines produce, oh so beautifully. Macon is the “workhorse” of Burgundy and therefore it does not get the credit it deserves. But in terms of quality and price Macon offers something that its more illustrious and famous appellations just north of here cannot come close to competing with. His red is a Gamay ( being so close to Beaujolais he is able to grow this grape) and I shall be serving this fruit driven, summer wine slightly chilled this week. It rocks let me tell you! His White is the staple white grape of Burgundy however, Chardonnay, but unlike most wines from Burgundy its not oaked and therefore very fresh and easy to drink.
Please book in advance by calling me on 0208 672 2572 from the hours of 11 a to 7pm over the next few days and I shall book you in for this weeks Whirly Thursday tasting, which promises to be fun and also informative!
Don’t forget its fathers day this weekend!
I also have some lovely wines for mixed half cases and full cases of wines, or indeed and single bottles, so please come in and talk to me soon to discuss what your partner and indeed you both might like to share over lunch on Sunday! In this week are some really special wines from all over France ( Cote de Gascogne, Cote de Bordeaux, Cote de Duras, Macon and Champagne) so there will be a lovely choice of 10 new wines to chooses from as well as over 130 wines already in the shop, hand picked and tasted by Mr Whirly for you to enjoy! See you soon!
The Ritherdon road street fair proved a great success for all the shop holders on Sunday 22nd May. It was fabulous to see it so well attended; apparently about 4,000 people turned up to see the street in its prime with the bunting flowing from shop to stall to shop, what a colourful and exciting sight it was. Above is a shot of the Whirly wine shop with the new Aperitif bar ( serving 14 wines by the glass chosen from Mr Whirly’s carefully sourced list of 140 wines that he imports) and the even newer Ice cream stand in full flow! ( serving top quality Gelato and Sorbetto: salted caramel, Lemon, Vanilla, Raspberry, Mango and Chocolate at the moment). Do pop down soon, the little ones can have an ice cream whilst the adults have a little glass of rose in the sun! ( more photos will be added soon).
Talking of rose, some new wines arrive soon including a lovely rose from Chateau D’Azur in Bandol, to me the epitomy of Provence rose ( google Domaine Tempier and you will gist of what I am hinting at here) and also slightly further north in Provence the beautifully rounded and soft ” Harmonie 2014″ from Chateau de Majouliere near Villecroze which is one of the most beautifully rounded and soft Provence reds I have ever tasted ( Grenache and Syrah) and a vineyard I discovered on my travels in the south of France over 10 weeks in the summer of 2011. Also new in soon are some really lovely summer wines from “Domaine Tariquet” in the Gascogne that will be wines that hit that vital £8-10 mark in the shop. A lovely summer strawberry rose, a Vermentino and Colambard white which is a delightfully easy drinking wine for the Aperitif bar this summer; also some lovely un-oaked Chardonnay and a Reserve white that has been oaked a little. Top value wines and wonderful quality at the same time which fits in what I am trying to achieve at Whirly wines. Also in are two more rose’s from Molhiere in Cote de Duras ( to go with the existing wines here in the shop, their very dependable Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot-Cab Franc red. Chateau Pierrail in Cote de Bordeaux will also soon be showcasing their new 2015 rose as well as their unique and popular Sauvignon Blanc and Gris 2015 and some easy drinking, soft tannin Bordeaux reds, new wines for the list here in the shop. Lastly, from Macon ( yes some Burgundy for the shop shelves!) and the very talented winemaker Alain Normand in La Roche Vineuse, I have four new wines: his La Roche Vineuse red and white which are wines he has built his reputation on and are very much his pride and joy ( Chilled Gamay for the summer and some clean fresh Chardonnay, un-oaked) as well as some Pouilly Fuisse 2014 and some ” Roc de Solutre” Pouilly Fuisse 2012 ( did you know Pouilly and Fuisse are two separate villages?) So very soon these wines will start to feature on the Aperitif bar list as well as on the shelves, I am hoping my mid June so I look forward to welcoming you and whirling with you soon!
One other thing, I would like to start the Thursday tastings again, beginning with a tasting on the 9th June and then bi-weekly after that. I shall very soon post details on this first tasting so please keep an eye out for it in the coming days. The cost will be only £15 per person to taste 4 wines and I will need a minimum of ten people to make it work.
As soon as the new wines are in I shall look to post them on social media sites as well as on this website.
Looking forward to seeing you at the shop for an ice cream and glass of wine very soon.
We are looking forward to seeing you all next weekend for this great event where there will be many events for the children as well as adults: children’s entertainers, live bands and at the Whirly wine shop we will be launching a new product focused on Children (as well as adults) so do come down and find out what it is! I promises you won’t be disappointed! I shall also have a chef friend creating some street food which I shall be matching with one of my wines so there will be much activity outside the shop. The aperitif bar will be open too so you can taste 15 wines by the glass and I will personally guide you through the choices! See you next Sunday if not before!