Monday, 22 September 2014

HV Wines - Nicolas Maillart Champagne


It is not so often that you encounter a small Champagne house that set halt in your tracks, where you observe and reflect, where a gentle smile appears in the corner of your lips and you feel the urge to open the bottle. When I had the chance to taste and discover Nicolas Maillart Champagne, I could not have such an opportunity to wait.

This house is truly not big they only produce 150,000 bottles out of 18 hectares of land. The house exist since 1753 and as most recoltants (harvesters) at that time, they distributed their grapes to the big houses and that during decades before starting to make their own wines. In 1965, Michel Maillart took over and he created his own brand "Champagne M Maillart" and produces about 50,000 bottles per year from de cooperative he was associated with. But in 2003 Nicolas Maillart the night generation decided to launch himself solo away from the cooperative and invested big in a new winery, new work utensils, and new ways to work the vines. Now 11 years later, he is part of the  winemakers in Champagne where we talk the most of, a young man creating a great Champagne. 

The House Maillart, has several cuvees 6 to be precise, they have also 2 other wines a Ratafia (a liquor wine)and a fine de Marne (is a spirit similar to cognac) but they are not champagnes, also not many house make these wines either.

The Platinum Extra Brut Cru, predominately Pinto Noir grape with a touch of Chardonnay and some reserve wines.
The Brut Platine Extra Brut Premier Cru,  the one I will taste so elaborate a bit later in the blog. 
Brut Rose Grand Cru, 70% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay, 52 hours of skin maceration to obtain the colour. A slow and gentle pressing using gravity techniques.
Brut Millesime Premier Cru, Pinot Noir 65% 35% Chardonnay, A single vintage champagne made only from the first press. 
Les Chaillots Gillis Premier Cru,  100 % Chardonnay, A champagne from a specific area in the cote de Blanc and from old vines. Only produces in great years with a limited quantity. 
Les Francs de Oied Premier Cru, a rarety a this comes from a specific area of old vines of the Pinot Noir ungrafted on sandy soil. Very few can offer a chanpagne like this and here as well only produce in good years and limited quantity. 

As you can see the house holds some truly stunning characters in their collection. For those who do not know this house, well you know what to do. 

Champagne Nicolas Maillart Brut Platine Premier Cru.
This Champagne is made out of 80% Pinot Noir 20% Chardonnay, of which (40%) reserve wines, matured in oak barrels, which gives a great regularity in their wines. It is aged about three year on its lees, to develop all of its richness. 

Where to buy: pretty much available in the USA, UK, Hong Kong, Europe.

Price: around €32 , £25 $41 

Visual: A light golden colour with little fine beads close packed one to another, gives this champagne, a personality. It distinguished itself from others and looks very inviting. 

Nose: Hazelnut, almonds, toasty like toasted brioche, oak, fruits, ripe peach and pears, clean layers of aromas giving it a beautiful complexity an d identity. 

Palate: light gentle and dry, crisp, fresh and seductive, i receive appels and pear and peach very faint, oak appears en rounds de champagne although it turns toward a dry champagne which doe snot give to much room for roundness. It is little sweet and performs a certain seduction. 

Conclusion: A champagne really to discover, one to put on your list. A champagne with attitude, character, and identity. It is beautifully made although some might find it too dry and not rich enough, but you have to sip this wine and let it talk to you, take a moment and le if be what it is. It is a great example of the work done between steel and oak, it is lovely enjoyable and defintely recommending. 

Score:  I rate this wine 18.5/20 85/100 

Until next please do drink responsibly, can't express enough.  

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

HV Wines: The Perfume of Wine Dominant Fruit part 9/ take 3

This part of our dominant fruits is the berry section. There are seven of them and all are very much present in many wines you will taste, predominately red wines. Many of these fruit run as front runners in wine description and are often sited in wine critics notes.



The composition of the perfumer. Cassis is the fruit of the black currant "Ribes nigrum" a shrub originating from northern Europe. Preferably in tempered climates or cold climates it is principally found in Russia and Poland, and in less numbers, France and Great Britain. We use the cassis to produce a much loved liquor "Creme de Cassis". This liquor is elaborated from the Cassis berry macerating in alcohol and sugar. La Creme de Cassis de Dijon is one of the most famous ones. It is also one of the fruit who contains the most in vitamin C.

Principal Components 


Cassis: Methyle proprionate, Eugenol, Methyle mercatopentone, Damascenone, Eugenol

Wines containing relevant notes of Cassis
Fruity and vegetal, the smell of cassis is present in many vinified grapes. Here are some of them, Aleatico, Cabernet-sauvignon, Carmenere, Gamay, Malbec, Mansois, Merlot, Negrette, Nero d'Avola, Pinot Noir, Regent, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tannat, Touriga nacional, Zinfandel......the Banyuls and the Maury are some examples of wines where Cassis makes its appearance.

Smells close to Cassis
Cassis-bud, Box tree, Cinnamon, Gloves, Strawberry, Jasmine, Mango, Nutmeg, Carnation, Grapefruit, Rosemary, White tobacco, Brown tobacco.


The composition of the perfumer. The strawberry is the fruit of the strawberry plant, of which many different species exist around the world. Often very aromatic, forest strawberry "Fragaria Vesca"  is know since antiquity. It is originally from a vast region covering North America, Europe and tempered Asia. Today you find strawberry on all continents, even though not the species the most cultivated. As a matter of fact hybrid varieties have started to impose themselves since the 18th Century. Amedee Frezier, a French scientist from the 17th and 18th Century imported from Chile strawberries from an unknown species of Strawberry into Europe.
Incredibly coincidently, one of his ancestors received the name Fraise (strawberry) after offering a plate of forest strawberries to Charles III.

Principal Components 


Strawberry: Furaneol, Butanoate d'ethyle, Eugenol, Vanilline.

Wines containing relevant notes of Strawberry  
The smell of ripe strawberries are frequently noticeable in many wines, such as Banyuls, Clairette de Die, Floc de Gascogne, Moscato d'Asti, Pineau de Charentes, Red Portos. Many grape varieties show regularly signs of strawberry as; Cabernet franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cinsault, Lambrusco, Gamay, Grenache noir, Grolleau.

Smells close to Strawberry
Apricot, Cinnamon, Cassis, Beeswax, Gloves, Jasmine, Mango, Vanilla.


The composition of the perfumer. The raspberry is the fruit of the raspberry shrub "Rubus idaeus", originally from Europe and temperate Asia. It is widespread all over Europe principally in Russia, it is also found in huge numbers in the USA.
Greek mythology give honour to the raspberry through the nymph Ida, nurse of Zeus.
When Zeus cried she would go out and  look for raspberries to comfort him, whilst she was doing so she pricked her breast on a thorn, till then raspberries where white but the blood of her breast coloured them red. The botanical name of the raspberry makes reference to the famous Nymph.

Principal Components 


Raspberry: Ethanal, Frambinone, Alpha Lonone, Hexenol, Myrtenol.

Wines containing relevant notes of Rasberry

The smell of raspberry is amongst the smells the most cited by wine critics. Here a selection of grapes where it is possible to find raspberry as an aroma. Aglianico, Bondola, Cabernet franc, Carignan, Chardonnay, Chenin, Cinsault, Freisa, Gamay, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Negrette, Nero d'avola, Pinot meunier, Pinto noir, Pinotage, Poulsard, Syrah, Teroldego, zinfandel.....

Smells close to Raspberry
Quince, Redcurrant, Grass, Mango, Blackberry, Blueberry, Carnation, Green olive, Pear, Over-ripe apple, Green apple, Prune, Violette.  


The composition of the perfumer. The redcurrant is the fruit of the currant shrub "Ribes rubrum". Originally from the tempered regions of the Northern hemisphere, it is principally cultivated in Northern Europe and Eastern Europe, especially in Russia.
The redcurrant takes on different names in function of the country and the region it is consumed. In Roman Switzerland it is named raisinet, in Canada it is often named the red cassis, so they do in Brittany. In the Loire valley as in Normandy, where they called it frequently Gradille.

Principal Components 


Redcurrant: Hexenol, Salicylate de benzyle, Geraniol.

Wines containing relevant notes of Redcurrant 
The different facets on the same time fruity and vegetal of the redcurrant can be find in many grapes such as: Carignan, Cinsault, Cornalin, Diolinoir, Doucillon, Gamay, Grlleau, Kerner, Pinot noir, Poulsard, Sangiovese, Scheurebe.....

Smells close to Redcurrant
Lemon, Lemongrass, Raspberry, Geranium, Ginger, Grass, Carnation, Green olive, Green apple, Rose, Lemon verbena.


The composition of the perfumer. Blackberry is the fruit of the common bramble "rubus fruticosus". Originally from tempered region of Europe and Asia, the common bramble can be found on all continents. We can at times confuse the blackberry with the mulberry fruit, a tree named morus, also named berry which inevitably rends it easy to confuse by.
As the raspberry, the blackberry has also its place in the Greek mythology It comes from the blood of the Titans, following their long struggles against the gods.

Principal Components 


Blackberry:  Anthranilate de methyle, Ethyle hydroxy-methylpentanoate

Wines containing relevant notes of Blackberry
Notes of blackberry are very often present in the Amarones wines. You also find it blend in the bouquet of wines made from grapes such as; Barbera, Bonarda, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Carignan, Carmenere, Diolinoir, Grenache noir, l'Humange rouge, Malbec, Pinot Blanc, Pinotage, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Trousseau.

Smells close to Blackberry
Raspberry, Jasmine, Lily, Bleuberry.


The composition of the perfumer. The common blueberry is the fruit of a small creeping shrub, "Vaccinium myrtillus". Originally from Europe , it is to be found in altitude or in the forests of Asia, Europe, North America and in Greenland.
The Bleuberry possesses a benefit action for the vision. It has the capacity to stimulate the production of Rhodopsin, a retinal pigment responsible to the sensibility of light.
It is said that air pilots during the second world war consumed blueberry so their vision would be better during night flights.

Principal Components 


Blueberry:  Myrtenol, Butyrate de methyle.

Smells close to Blueberry
Raspberry, Mango, Blackberry, Raisin.


The composition of the perfumer. There exist different varieties of raisin, but most of them comes from a drying method from the sultanates "Vitis vinifera sultanina" . Originally from Afghanistan, this raisin is produce a lot in the middle-east , especially in Turkey, as well as in Greece, Chile, China and South Africa.
Several drying methods are used to produce raisins. They are laid on racks or they are suspended hanging on wires, or left on the vines, or they are placed in ventilation rooms, or they are suddenly plunged in hot water close to 90 degrees Celsius, then dried in a hot room for about a day.

Principal Components 


Raisin:  Anthranilate d'ethyle, Cinnamate d'ethyle, Butyrate de methyle.

Wines containing relevant notes of Raisin
Sweet wines who show notes of raisins are many, pretty much all of them will show a sign big or little of some raisin presence. But we can also at times find notes of raisin in dry wines such made out of ; Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Roussanne, Viognier.....

Smells close to Raisin
Apricot, Mango, Blueberry, Peach, Prune.

Yes we are approaching the end in these series, some exotic fruits to come, then a last long spell on vegetal aromas, minerals and finally defaults, very important to know these, as that will put you aside from the pretenders.

Until next time please do drink responsibly.

Friday, 12 September 2014

HV wines: Mas Amiel "Le plaisir Blanc" 2010

I came across a beautiful discovery the other day, Mas Amiel that I know well but hadn't tasted their dry white en what a pleasant surprise it was.

Mas Amiel is based in the Roussillon part the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in the south of France, a vast and the largest wine region in France also the largest in the world, although that the country with the most vines planted in the world is Spain. The Roussillon wines will also reflect more towards a Spanish style of wines as its neighbouring Spain, but the Languedoc on the other hand has a distinctive French character to its wines. It is a region with huge variety and complexity and a region surely on the move, here as nowhere else in France will you find such a variety of different, clear and distinctive type of wine.

Mas Amiel is owned by Olivier Decelle, this gentleman also owns Jean Faure a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Chateau Haut-Maurac in the Medoc, Chateau Haut-Ballet in Fronsac. So a very ambitious man choosing good vineyards to own. Mas Amiel is an appellation Cotes de Roussillon Controle. 
Mas Amiel a wine well known in the fortified category, the process of making this wine is very unique and that makes it a wine out of this world. 
But as with all vineyards you try to think of how to expand your name and style, so the dry Mas Amiel red and white have emerged. 

Mas Amiel Blanc.
Grape Variety: Grenache blanc, Macabeu,,Roussanne, Marsanne
Analyses: acquired alcohol; 13.84%
                  residual sugar; 2.28 g/l
Soil types: Selection from slopes with acid shale soils in the mas Fredes area. These soils are very stony and light and provide good drainage, quite like sand. Significant present of surface clay at depth. Orientated south-west, soils are ploughed. 

Age of the vines: 35 to 60 years 

Yield: Average yield is 25 hectolitres per hectare with a density of 3500 to 5000 vines per hectare. 

Harvest:  Manual in general last week of August first week of September. The bunches are screend on a sorting table. 

Wine making Technics:  The fruit is pressed directly, the juice was allowed to settle at 15 degrees, then fermented in 20 hectolitres stainless steel vats, and 228 litres barrels. 
Alcoholic fermentation at 18-20 degrees. 

Aged: Aged on lees 90% in tanks 10% in barrels, used once or twice, made from oak from the Allier and Vosges regions. 

Production:  10,000 bottles.

Description: It looks young and green, the reflection of the colour shows a warm and youthful wine, but on the nose it gives you maturity and direction, the arrival of flowers is really the first thing that appeared in this beautiful wine, Acacia and broom come to mind, but down below there is fresh flesh white fruits, pear and melons came to mind although that some citrus played the part. On the palate it scores fruits, warm and balanced. The acidity is presence but controlled, showing the skill obtained of the crafts men behind this wine. It has a finish with style en lingers on for quite some time. 

Score: I rate this wine 17.8/20 or 78/100 (rated as a good wine)

Until next time please do drink responsibly. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Wine legends: Chateau Palmer 1961 Margaux 3CC Bordeaux, France

When it really comes down to vintages then 1961 is right up there with the exceptional vintages of all time. Palmer is our Legend for this vintage as it has without a doubt propelled this Château amongst the greatest.
A legend because........
Although it was not immediately apparent, this vintage would propel Palmer in to the top ranks of the Medoc. Within two decades the prices of this third growth rivalled, and in some cases exceeded, that of the first growths. To this day it is not entirely clear why Palmer should have performed so magnificently in this vintage. But it was no fluke: the 1962 was also a great wine. The fame of the Palmer may have been amplified by the fact that the other major player in the village, Chateau Margaux, was under performing in the 1960s.

Looking back........
In 1938 this celebrated property, owned for decades by the Pereire banking family, was sold to a consortium of Bordeaux negociants, including Mahler-Besse and Sichel families, who remain co-proprietors to this day. The Miaille family, once a significant force in the Medoc, were also part of the consortium in 1961, but are no longer involved. In the 1950s Jean Bouteiller was appointed manager of the property, and he would have had responsibility for the 1961 vintage, completed shortly before his death in 1962. Pierre Chardon, a greatly respected figure who was also mayor of Cantenac, was the vineyard manager, a role inherited by his children.

The vintage........
A mild spring led to very early flowering, some three weeks in advance. But this only compounded the damage when two frosts hit the Medoc in April and May, particularly affecting the Merlot. Apart from a rainy July, the summer was very hot and dry, and drought stress delayed the harvest until the last week in September. The harvest took place in ideal conditions. The low yields led to highly concentrated wines, yet with supple tannins. The best wines, such as Palmer, were beautifully balanced and aged very well, though even the best bottles may be peaking. This was one of those vintages when there is no significant difference in quality between the right and left banks.

The terroir.......
The 55 hectare Château Palmer is a neighbour of Château Margaux and also occupies some outstanding gravel soils. Whereas Margaux is overwhelmingly Caberent-Sauvignon, Palmer has had a long substantial proportion of Merlot, much of which is planted on clay soils, but at Palmer it is planted on some of the best gravelly parcels, which explains why Palmer retains such elegance despite so much Merlot in the blend. However, in 1961, Merlot would have played a negligible role after the devastating frost.

The wine.........
There was no mechanisation in Palmer vineyards at this time, and horses rather than tractors conveyed the grapes to the vathouse. The grapes where fermented in large 15,000 litre wooden vats. The concentration of the fruits were astonishing, since the yields in 1961 were just below 12 hectolitres per hectare. The wine was aged in barriques in the usual way, but it is almost certain that none of the barrels were new.

The reaction.......
In 1995, Michael Broadbent admired its silky and harmonious bouquet accelerating like Michael Schumacher from the starting grid. Full bodied yet elegant, fleshy yet lissome. In 2000 he found the wine less deep but indescribably lovely bouquet and flavour. Perfection!

French writer Jean Paul Kayffmann marvelled that the 1961 manages to play onto two contradictory notions: delicacy and force.

British wine writer and author Clive Coates MW, wrote in 2003, Medium-full body, soft, smooth, silky and very ripe. Marvellous balance. very, very, very long ...splendid grip. Beautiful fruit quite magnificent.

Benjamin Lewin MW, wrote in 2009, fruit density is diminishing but the core of sweet fruits you get in Margaux is still there, now tinged by just a touch of acidity. A mature colour now, with soft fruits on the palate, an impression of mulberries, quite intense and ripe, with a supple lovely finish. A touch of tertiary development shows a sous bois on the nose. Still top notch it now exceeded by Latour.

The facts......

Bottles produced:  36,000 bottles
Composition: 52% Merlot 30% Cabernet Sauvignon 13% Petit Verdot 5% Cabernet Franc
Yields: 11.8hl/ha
Alcohol: 12.2%
Release price: 7 francs a bottle (release price to Bordeaux trade)
Price today: £1,980-£2,940, €2,376- €3,528, $2,970-$4,410

Until next time please drink responsibly

(source decanter)

Saturday, 6 September 2014

HV Wines; Vinho Verde is the next big thing?

I have been reading several articles on what could be the next big thing.... and by sound to be by some revues "Vinho verde" a wine from Portugal.
An interesting view as Portugal is one of these countries where quite a few do know so little about and where it is said by many to be the country with many hidden gems.

As more and more and especially women, are looking for wines with a lower alcohol content in white wine ( these days it is hard to find wines with less than 12.5 degrees of alcohol) fresher and crispier wines. So the attention has been drawn them to this part of Europe as Vinho Verde contains all that in a bottle. But many might not have heard of it for the simple reason that quality didn't match the intention and desire of the bottle.

Vinho Verde comes from the region called Minho, which is in the Northwest corner of Portugal. Its vineyards run north of the Douro river at the city of Oporto, it lays along the Atlantic coast stretching inland running up to the Spanish border formed by the Minho river. Just on the other side of the Minho lays the Spanish region of Galicia, so both areas do share very similar climates, as well quite a few grape varieties, including some key Vinho Verde varieties, Alvarinho and Loureiro, is Spain they are called Albarino and Loureira. The moderate climate of Minho is thanks to the mountains and the Atlantic influence, and here compared to the south of Portugal has plenty of rainfall crafting the land wonderfully green and pleasant.

Historically here the farmers where growing, maize potatoes, cabbages and other crops, as well as vines. There were tens of thousand growers, many with tiny plots of land, who were growing grapes, which they sold off to the local cooperatives. The vines were trained high in the air as the region is damp and wet very often, this prevent the risk of mildew and rot, but the reality was that it was not so much the quality that led to the high training system, is was more for pure economic reasons, every grape counted. Unfortunately that system tend to produce high yields and fruits of highly variable quality as it was pretty much impossible to maintain the vines.

Vinho Verde Today
Travelling through Vinho Verde today is much different indeed. The Minho is still a region of astonishing beauty, lush and green, it remains for the most part a timeless agricultural landscape, much as the Portuguese themselves, holding on to an identity. Only now the vineyards are much better organised. Yes tiny plots still squeezed into gardens and village squares, but more common now is that the vineyards are immaculately maintained and professional dedication with vines strained on wires and tended with care to ensure riper fruits. With the careful management of yields, grapes have more concentration and the quality is much higher.

Vinho Verde white grape varieties

Intense aroma, complex, fruity character (quince, peach, banana, passion fruit, litchi), floral (orange blossom and violet), dry fruits (almonds, hazelnut and nuts)

Mix between fruity flavours (orange and peach), almonds (nuts) and floral.

Fine flavour, fresh, citrus fruit notes (lemon), green apple, rich in acidity.

Rich flavour, from  fruity citrus and tree fruits, (ripe apples, and pears) to flowers (lantanas)

Elegant aromas, fruity (citrus) and floral (rose and milling) and molasses (bouquet)

Delicate flavours of mature tree fruit (apples, pears, and peaches), lowest in acidity.

What about Vinho Verde!

Vinho Verde is a light wonderful aperitif drink, alcohol content is mostly between 8.5% and 11.5%, so very attractive for wine lovers who more and more seek a lower alcohol content in a wine but still want to enjoy the quality structures of a good white wine. But the crisp fresh light style of wines makes it also a perfect match for lighter styles cuisine, Asian cuisine for example. As well some light style pasta dishes, ceviche, fish and seafood dishes.

But there is a new breed of Vinho verde which deviate  from the traditional style where the bite and freshness style sits but made with lower yields achieving much higher levels of concentration and slightly higher levels of alcohol. So Vinho verde becomes diverse and offers different seekers a choice. Barrel fermentation and lees ageing is applied as well, so turning towards more complexity, fuller and richer wines.

Also these wines have worked their age worthy approach and are seriously interesting, often made from a single grape variety. Today over 92 million litres of Vinho Verde  is shipped to 90 different export markets, so a wine truly to look out for and to try.

The next big thing?
So could Vinho Verde be the next big thing? It has certainly a profile to be in contention. Modern Vinho Verde is brimming with fruit, showing clarity, even complexity, rounded with good acids. It is a wine that many sophisticated wine drinkers will crave and enjoy. They are moderate in alcohol, matching with a great style of foods, a wine with a real history and a real story coming from a country where they make seriously great wine.

Vinho Verde producers:

Quinta de Curvos;
Casa Hortas;
Casa da Tojeira;
Casa Agricola de Compostela;
William Smith & Lima, Lda;

Portugal is our little hidden gem here in Europe, a land where wine making dates back millennia en where truth to land and soul counts and is up-most vital.

Until next time please do drink responsibly.