Its now September and the wines are beginning to flow, in more ways than one. All over the Northern Hemisphere the grapes are beginning to be picked and the year of hard toil in the vineyard culminates into the anxiety and relief of the next few weeks, one hopes. Its an exciting time for the winemaker but also a worrying one. Last minute storms and rain are not in anyway a desire.
For me as the importer its also a really exciting time since there are so many new wines to look at with the change in season from summer to Autumn. Its the major change on wine lists throughout the country and whereas the focus for the last five months has been on rose and white suddenly the focus now changes to reds with the already the wonders of Grouse on the menus of top restaurants around the UK and soon in October with the shooting season the added joys of duck, pigeon, partridge and pheasant. With such delights I long to match the succulence with a juicy, honest red and this wine performs this job admirably. Its a young Tempranillo, no oak and its full of energy and delight, with plums and Autumn blackberry prevalent yet velvety soft tannins. Ribera de Duero is fast becoming one of the most exciting red wine regions of Spain and with this wine you can see exactly why. It oozes class and value at £12.45 per bottle, available here in the Whirly shop on Ritherdon road, SW17 8QD so do pop in soon and give it a whirl!
October: new wines! So many to choose from but has to be the Post referendum wines out of the barrel from Corbiere! So two wines but heh they are both a real joy!
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)
The Aperitif bar has been open for a week now and although the weather has been against us in the first week with a great deal of running outside to rescue menus from the rain and hail, its been a positive start with an excited reaction from customers and locals, so thanks so much for that.
The Menu for this week is below! This week we introduced some Iberico Salami de Bellota and Locally baked Foccacia from the Elephant bakery in Streatham served with the wonderful olive oil from Velenosi in Marche that I import together with their very individual wines like the LaCrima.
I have changed the wine list this week and added the very unusual Willespie Margaret river White 2011 ( blended with their four main white varietals, Verdelho, Semillon, Sauvignon and Riesling), the Ribas Blanc 2012 from the oldest winery on Mallorca, over 300 years old now as well as the Perusini Ribolla Gialla 2014 from the glorious white wine region of Friuli in North East Italy that borders Slovenia and Austria. Stunning wine, so very fresh and clean with a citrus finish mixed with a little wax from the lemon skin! I look forward to welcoming you soon to the Aperitif bar and if you are interested in buying wines by the case the ex vat wholesale price list is now updated on this website. I can offer free delivery to you if you are a local SW postcode! Lastly the “Wine of the month” page will start again in May with some new wines from Gascogny that I am importing this week! Stunning Strawberry rose that will soon be served in the Aperitif bar very soon at around £1.95 for a 75 ml tasting glass, so not in anyway expensive! Enjoy Whirling!
Whirly Wine Aperitif Bar
Prosecco – Lemoss NV. Ca di Rajo, Treviso
Casal Garcia NV, Aveleda, Vinho Verde
Château Molhière, Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Côte de Duras
Ribas Blanc, Prensal Blanc-Viognier, 2012, Mallorca
Graziano, Chenin Blanc 2011, Mendocino
Perusini, Ribolla Gialla 2014, Friuli
Stefano Lubiana, Riesling 2010, Tasmania
Château Molhière, Cabernet Franc 2013, Côte du Duras
LaCrima di Morro 2014, Veleuosi, Marche
Shiraz-Viognier 2003, Cobaw Ridge, Macedon Ranges
Merlot 2010, Château Les Graves de Viaud, Côte de Bourg
“ Organic” Locally baked Foccacia with Velenosi Olive oil
Iberico Salami de Bellota ( 60 gms)
Arbquina Olives (75 gms) Frutos Secos ( 100 gms)
Salted Catalan Almonds (75 gms)
( Mr Whirly and Benn from Queensland, Australia on the opening day last week!)
I am delighted to announce that Whirly Wine’s will be opening an ‘Aperitif’ bar at the Whirly Wine shop in April 2016. We have successfully applied for a variation of the license and as soon as Spring has officially arrived, we will launch the new project. We aim to make Whirly Wine’s far more accessible to our local customers, by allowing you to taste the wines before actually buying them ( 75ml and 125ml glasses will be served).We will be looking to change the wine list every week, offering wines that suit the climate as well as newly arrived wines from the various countries Whirly Wine’s carefully sources from. In time we will also be offering a fine array of cold foods that have been carefully selected to compliment the wine.
We are in the process of creating the outside seating area at the front of the shop. Ideally we would like to have some old French bistro collapsable style tables and chairs but they are difficult to source. If anyone has anything fitting the description that they no longer want, do let us know!
We will keep you informed about the opening day but please feel free to pop in and discuss your thoughts with Mr Whirly and his rascal dog Dash!
I have some lovely Easter wines here in the shop too so please come down and have a chat about what wines you would like to go with your Easter lunch! My top suggestions would be some Veyovis Verdejo from Rueda at £10.95; lovely Spring wine, full of verve and freshness! Also lovely for Easter would be the Domaine Prevote Sauvignon Tourraine 2014 at £10.75; stunning SB at a lovely price, really zingy and full of energy but not in anyway flowery! For reds try some Perusini Refosco 2014 at £16.75 from one of the most exciting wine regions in Italy, Collio in Fruili. This wine has great acidity and is fruit led but in a very restrained way and would be be a perfect accompaniment to a shoulder of lamb for your Easter Sunday lunch. Lastly if you think some fizzy would kick off your day well I have good stock of the Lemoss Prosecco NV from Ca di Rajo in Treviso at £8.99. This wine is going through a second fermentation in the bottle, is slightly cloudy and unfiltered and tastes like a well made cider from Calvados, full of fresh apples and yeast. Its well worth a whirl!
So please do pop in for a chat in the coming days and let me know what you plan to eat and I shall try to match some Whirly wines for your special lunch or dinner.
The shop is open Good Friday from 11.30 am to 5pm and Saturday 26th March from 11am to 5pm. The shop will be closed Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Thank you for your continued support and a very Happy Easter to you all!
The first Whirly Wine tasting on 25th February went down a storm with my wholesale clients! These included ‘Hakkasan Restaurants‘, ‘The Palmerston‘ in Dulwich, Balham’s ‘Lambert’s‘ and ‘The Exhibit‘, ‘The Hood‘ Restaurant on Streatham High Road and ‘The Begging Bowl‘ in Peckham.
The outstanding wines of the day were the Willespie Margaret River Red 2010 and White 2011 and Jean Michel Sorbe’s Quincy 2014. But to be honest, all 20 wines shown on the day were showing extremely well.
Don’t worry if you missed out, Whirly Wine’s is constantly sourcing exciting, individual wines from small producers from all over the world consequently we will be hosting another trade tasting at the end of the summer.
Here is the list of the wines tasted:
Bernard Remy NV, Allemant: “ Carte Blanche”, NV Brut: £18.30
“ Lemoss” Vino Frizzante Bianco, Non Filtrato, Ca di Rajo, Treviso: £7.50
“Domaine de Prevote”, Amboise. Sauvignon Tourraine, “ Les Tonnes Barils” 2014: £8.95
Jean Michel Sorbe, Quincy, Cher sur Loire 2014: £15.00
Luc Percher, Cour- Cheverny, Loire, VSIG Blanc, Organic and Bio ,“ Racines” 2010: £13.25
Villa de Puppi, Friuli, IGT Venezia Giulia, Sauvignon Blanc 2014: £11.90
Luc Percher, Cour- Cheverny, Loire sur Cher, Organic and Bio, VSIG Blanc 2012: £11.90
Veyovis, 100% Verdejo, Rueda, 2014: £9.45
Perusini, Friuli Colli Orientali, Friuli, Pinot Grigio 2014: £13.50
Perusini, Friuli Colli Orientali, Friuli, Ribolla Gialla 2014: £13.60
Lillypilly, NSW, Australia, “Tramillon’ 2014: £10.30
Villa de Puppi, Friuli, IGT Venezia Giulia, Taj Blanc ( 100% Fruilano) 2014: £11.95
Graziano, Montevolpe, Redwood valley, Mendocino, USA, Tocai Friulano 2013: £13.45
Willespie. Margaret River, Western Australia, Margaret river white 2011: £11.90
Graziano, Redwood valley, Mendocino, USA, Chenin Blanc 2011: £13.40
Luc Percher, Cour- Cheverny, Cher sur Loire, “ Mosaique” 2011: £13.25
Zivo, Eola Amity Hills, Willamette valley, Oregon, USA, “ Whole cluster Project ” 2009: £32.90
Perusini, Friuli Colli Orientali,Friuli, Refosco 2013: £13.95
Cobaw Ridge, Macedon ranges, Victoria, Australia, Shiraz- Viognier 2003: £25.00
Meloso, de calvo Arroyd, Tempranillo 2014, Ribera de Duero: £9.20
Graziano, Montevolpe, Redwood Valley, Mendocino, USA, Sangiovese 2010: £13.75
Willespie, Margaret river, Western Australia, Margaret River red 2010: £11.90
Velenosi, Marche, Italy, “Rosso Piceno Superiore” 2010: £24.75
Passing Clouds, Bendigo, Victoria, Graeme’s blend 2010: £15.95
Willespie, Margaret River, WA, Cabernet 2001: £45.80
Spring Mountain, Napa, USA, Organic Napa Cabernet 2009: £65.00
Graziano, Montevolpe, Mendocino, USA, Late Harvest Tocai Fruilano 2011: £16.45
Lillypilly, Leeton, NSW, Fiumara 7: £16.25
I have always loved Barolo. To me its always been the epitome of Italian Winemaking; the “Creme de la Creme”, “The Parsons nose”, The knob-end of the baguette” ( there’s no other way of saying it!). I have thought this since my first visit to this part of Piedmont, on my Ducati 900ss on my way down to see my twin David, who was dancing near Livorno, in 1994. It’s the typical and yet beautiful little hillside town as many wine based towns are in Italy. In fact the vineyards have to be located on the hillside to qualify as a Barolo.
So for many years I have been looking for some great Barolo and its only now, 15 years into commencing with Whirly wines that I have at last found some wines that I feel are deserving of such a place on my wine shelves here in SW17.
Mauro ( picture below in the Whirly shop this week) is young and a fourth generation winemaker in a little town of Monforte D’Alba, a few miles south of Barolo. His energy and excitement about the wines he showed me was obvious and I am now planning a trip to Piedmont in May for their annual wine tasting.
It did not take long for me to realise that I was tasting some special wines. Mauro had been at Cambridge university the night before tasting with one of the colleges there ( a possible clue to their quality) and he had less than a quarter empty bottles to taste. No matter, the wines, despite being shaken and not at the right temperature were very exciting and I was soon to discover that single vineyard Barolo’s are very much where its at in terms of desire and influence.
We started by tasting their Langhe Rossese Bianco 2014 from their Rosserto vineyard. This is a rare white grape rediscovered by Giovanni Manzone. This indigenous varietal was saved from extinction in an old family vineyard in Monforte D’Alba. Slightly cloudy yet full of citrus and exotic fruit’s, the wine would be a perfect wine for the new Aperitif bar this summer outside 22 Ritherdon Road.
We then tasted another wine from the DOC Langhe, their Nebbiolo ” Il Crutin” 2013 and also a DOC Barbera D’Alba ” Le Ciliegie” 2013 that were beautifully structured. These wine are great introductory wines to Manzone at clever prices. But by far the most individual and serious wines were the Single Vineyard Barolo wines with the 2011 “Castelletto” wine taking my five star award. It was to me what top Nebbiolo should be about, velvety and yet not too fruit driven with some real leather and delicate smokey fruits showing through. I also enjoyed the ” Gramolere” 2010 and this vineyards 1998 and 2007 Reserve. I found the 2009 “Bricat” a little tight and with some tannins so to me it needed anther few years in the bottle.
So In May I hope to start to work with Manzone so watch this space. I cannot wait since these wines have great presence and will shine in the Whirly shop
Sanoma reaches from the Roche vineyard in the south of Sanoma Valley all the way up to the Dry Creek valley just south of Cloverdale on route 101. That’s a journey time of around 2 hours along small country roads and generally low valley floors, with the emphasis on heat. I’ve had some wonderful drives long these lovely little roads in my old Saab 900 Turbo Convertible, that I keep in San Francisco but the roof is always down and I wish one could go a little faster to keep the oppressive heat from draining all your energy. This is premier wine country; expensive wines. Names like De Loach, Flowers, Marcassin all spring to mind with their funky and ambitious winemaking skills. The Sanoma Mountain wine area offer some of the best wines available in the whole of California with an emphasis on Cabernet and Zinfandel. Further north in the famous Russian river region, even though the vineyards are lower down on the valley floor, this is one of the coolest regions of Sanoma due to the fog and cloud cover that results from the closeness of this valley to the entrance of the river at Peaked Hill on the Pacific coast.
J vineyards is located here in the Russian river valley and its emphasis is on Pinot noir that ages consistently well over a 4-8 years.
Please look at the link below for me more detailed information on this vineyards location, topography and varietal focus.
SOLD OUT: I am hoping to re-visit Sanoma in the Spring of 2014 and look at some more of J Vineyards wines. I shall keep you updated as to my success with this.
Alc 15.0% vol
Mr Whirly says:
“ Now almost 6 years old this wine is holding up well. Some lovely Autumnal fruit of blackberries and Damson show through a tobacco and smoky haze.”