Wine Review: Cuvée Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

Guy Charlemagne is one of the more underestimated champagnes I have encountered. A grower champagne house situated in the village of Mesnil sur Oger. It is basically next door to the much more well-known Salon and Delamotte house and while it cannot brag with being in business for as long, they still do have a respectable history of having been in business since 1892. One of my favorite grower champagnes and looking at their current production ofapproximately 130 000 bottles per year they seem popular among others as well.

Their motto is ‘Quality is my truth’ and to me it often comes through in their wines. We had the pleasure of picking up seven bottles of the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs from the lovely vintage 2008. This specific cuvée is not made every year so only the best vintages will have it and it only uses grapes from Mesnil sur Oger and Oger with its limestone soil.

It is a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is vinified in thermo regulated stainless steel and it has a small dosage of 6 grams per liter. Aging between 3 and 4 years in the chalk cellars of Guy Charlemagne.

The color is golden yellow and it has very fine and persistent bubbles. The nose of this wine just blew me away and it was, at least to me, very different from many other Blanc de Blancs I have tried. It has clear tones of candied fruits with notes of apple, oranges, pineapple as well as dried raisins and toastiness. The taste is full and creamy with brioche, bread, candied ginger and the finish is long with fresh acidity and mineral.

Lovely to drink now but should be even better if saved for some years. Not sure what the recommendation of the producer is but I would expect it to age very well for at least 7-10 more years. Enjoy it with some Jamón Ibérico or foie gras or just on its own.

I would rate it as a 4.5 in quality. It is truly a great Champagne and looking at value for money it is fantastic. I managed to secure these for 400 SEK (~€43) per bottle but these days you would end up paying at least €50 but to me that still means it deserves a 5 in value for money rating. So if you find this make sure to buy it and then decide whether to save it or drink now.

Get Ready to Sample

Back to a cooler climate for a change (not me, but the blog). Its time to write about my favorite wine shop in London. The Sampler is everything I want from a wine boutique. They have a large selection with some emphasis on small producer sparkling, they have an abundance of tasting machines, and they serve snacks. I love having snacks with my wine.

The sampler has two locations in London. The original one is in Islington and then the one we mainly visit (and the one this post is about) is in South Kensington, just a stone throw away from the tube. This branch is slightly more spacious and I also feel that the staff has been very attentive and knowledgeable. The set-up is that they sell over 1500 wines. It is a wide range of wines from “cheap” (below £10 per bottle, not talking about bag in box here) and up to high-end wines. They are not really aiming for the big brands but rather more unique or interesting wines which makes it a really great place to find new things.

At all times they have at least 80 wines ready to sample in the tasting machines. To use the machines you just need to buy a card that can be carged with money (at least £10), a bit like an Oyster card (public transport). After topping up you can insert the card in the machine and press a button to sample the wines. There are three different sizes of tasters so it is great if you want to sample a lot of wines without getting too tipsy. There is usually also a few really rare and expensive wines in the mix, so this is a great way to sample some things that you may never dream of buying. Sometimes I just want to see what (if anything) I am missing out on.

The Sampler also serves some nibbles like charcuteries and cheeses and there are seats to sit down and enjoy a full glass (or glasses). They also arrange some tasting events with specific focus on type of wine, region or matching. For example I recall they had an event on best wines to match with chocolate. Mmmm! Thinking of the Sampler makes me want to live in London again.

The selection of wine is also very interesting and I have found a lot of my favorites and new favorites here. They are especially good with grower champagnes and US red wines, some of my favorite categories. Despite being a great shop prices are also reasonable and this makes the Sampler my top wine shop in London. There are of course many other good places with nice wine and tasting possibilities, like my new hangout on Charlotte street, Vagabond. Check out the review here. However the Sampler was my “first love” in London, so it will always have a place in my heart as one of the favorites (unless they screw it up with bad service someday). So if you are wondering where to go browsing (and tasting and buying) in London for wines, this is my top recommendation.

Dinner at Asia’s #1

I must admit I came to the visit at Nahm with high expectations as it, with spot 13, is the highest ranked Asian restaurant on the top 50 restaurants in the world (and consequently also ranked number 1 on the top 50 list for Asia). Perhaps I should have known better as I am not always in agreement with the list makers at the Worlds 50 best restaurants (still cannot get that Dinner is number 5, yes a good restaurant but not really the top class to deserve such a spot).

Nahm is at the entrance floor at the Metropolitan hotel in Bangkok. The building has a distinct 70s feel to it but when walking into to the restaurant it looks very nice as the first thing I saw was the nice seats outside. We were unfortunately not seated there but if we would go again I would make sure to ask for a seat on the terrace up front. The decor inside is nice but also a bit boring, it could basically be an upscale hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. What gives away that it is either Asia or the US is the AC being cranked up so much I wish I brought more clothes. I have never really understood the need to lower temperature to 18 or so when it is 30 outside.

After being seated and handed menus we were asked about drinks. After quickly browsing the wine selection (pretty decent) and price level (as most places in Thailand a bit of a joke, for example a glass of champagne was around €35) so we opted for cocktails instead. The list was fairly extensive but surprisingly not that exciting for me or S. I opted for their twist on a Moscow Mule, a Strawberry Mule with vodka, strawberries, fresh ginger and ginger ale. Very refreshing and not sweet so would fit well with the dishes to come. S selected the ginger martini, also very fresh but they should really work on the presentation as it was just dull.

On to the main reason for the visit: the food. Australian born executive chef David Thompson together with head chef Prin Polsuk heading up this place are doing traditional Thai food with some slight twists. The menu was very extensive and split into six sections as well as a separate dessert menu. It had canapés, salads, soups, relish, curry and stir-fry/steamed/grilled. There is also a tasting menu offered for 2200 THB per person and that features a selection of canapés and a choice of one dish from each section as well as dessert.

Browsing the menu we quickly grasped that it would be a better option to just order what we wanted from the a la carte instead of taking a tasting menu. Trying to discuss the menu with the staff was however nearly pointless as their level of English was just not sufficient. We could not really get any information on how many dishes should be ordered and despite repeating several times that we did not want anything from the relish section it was repeatedly pushed by the staff.

Since we got nowhere with asking we just picked dishes that we thought sounded good and hoped it was not too much. We choose the following dishes:

– Grilled Mango Salad with Pork and Sour Leaves
– Coconut and Chicken Soup with Deep Fried Garlic,
– Green Mango and Chilli
– Wild Mushroom and Ginger Soup
– Duck Curry with Banana Peppers and Shallots
– Grilled Pork Cheek with Smoky Tomato Sauce
– Stir-fried Wagyu Beef with Charred Onions, Oyster Sauce and Thai Basil

We were informed that it would all come approximately at the same time as it is for sharing. We checked if there was an option to not have all at the dishes at once as food will go cold but not an option. I know that it is pretty typical but still prefer getting a few dishes at a time to be able to eat food while it is at least warm. The food did indeed arrive almost all of it at the same time. Only dish that took longer was the Pork Cheeks that arrived around 15 minutes later than everything else. We were served rice by a waiter walking around with a big bowl. That is of course fine but the problem is that the rice tends to need to be refilled and the waiter was not really attentive so often could be without refill of rice for 10 minutes with all the food on the table. Not a big issue but at a restaurant with ambitions that is not really good enough.

If I look at the food, all of it was good but not at all spectacular in any way. The Mango salad was decent but not really anything I would want to order again, pork was very tough to chew as well. The wild mushroom and ginger soup was also a fairly boring dish, did just have some taste of ginger and the mushrooms were barley noticeable. The other soup, coconut and chicken, was however very nice, pleasant roundness and a proper sting of spiciness. It was also good for warming me up in the cold restaurant.

It was at this point also clear that the we had way too much food, 3 or 4 dishes to share between two people would had been enough. Not sure why the staff could not manage to say anything despite asking several times. The Duck Curry had also sounded exciting but it turned out to be a very plain curry with meat that was chewy and not really tasty. The stir-fried beef was very good, nice texture of beef, good balance to the spiciness. My favorite dish was the pork cheeks or rather part of the dish. They were supposed to be grilled but only part of them appeared to be. Some were almost charcoal like while others were barely grilled at all. Lovely taste to the ones that were grilled properly but too poor execution for the full dish to be a success.

The food was in a sense pretty decent but I expect more from a restaurant that is this highly regarded and that charge well above the average Thai prices. Service was also poor, language skills were not good enough and there was a general lack of attention. The restaurant was not nearly full and there were lots of staff wandering around but still very difficult to get service. We ran out of drinks half-way through dinner but did not manage to get the attention of anyone so ended up not ordering any more drinks. When we finished the mains it was almost impossible to get anyone to bring us first the tea menu and to then take orders. It also appeared to come as a total surprise that after eating we want to pay.

Of the ‘fine dining’ restaurants we visited in Bangkok Nahm was clearly the worst. That is not saying that it was bad but I would not return while I would happily return to Issaya Siamese Club and Gaggan. Price for two was still decent, way too much food, cocktails, water and tea ended up with a bill of around 5 000 THB (approximately €130-140).

Wine review: Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reseva Brut

With snow piling up and temperatures hitting minus degrees in the Nordics, who wants to read about Thailand all the time? No one! Luckily I saved up a few juicy wine reviews for posting in between the sunny reads. Cellers Carol Valles is a producer we checked up on in Cavatast last October. They were recommended to us by some friends who live in Barcelona (and are serious about cava), and they did not disappoint. So we picked up a few bottles from the Cavatast store to enjoy home in Sweden at a later date. One of these bottles, Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reserva Brut was opened with friends over Christmas holidays and rated by the Winecurious.

The cava is a mix of the familiar grape-trio: Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo plus Chardonnay. It is said to be aged minimum 60 months and the dosage (how much sugar is added) is 5g. I am a fan of zero-dosage wines as I feel sugar is often added to hide something in the taste. But hey, sometimes thats what is needed for perfecting the taste. So I will not be prejudice.

The look of the bottle was not something I would necessarily go for, if I would just look solely at the label. Perhaps the aim was to make it look classic or traditional, but to me it looks a bit cheap, it just does not scream quality. However, its what is inside that counts. The color of the wine is intense gold and the bubbles are very small. The wine has a scent of cinnamon, honey and apple, almost like an apple pie or cake. Mmmm! The taste is of yellow apples and cinnamon with some yeast and sherry. Sounds a bit weird for a cava, but it was not at all overly sweet. It was actually a perfect winter cava. Or I could just skip dessert some day and have this instead.

Quality-wise I would give this wine 3.5 points. It’s not for every occasion, but correctly matched it can be a wonderful companion for a dinner. Value for money takes the score a tiny notch down to 3 points. The price in Spain was around €16-18 at Cavatast. It isn’t very expensive, but not a real “bargain” either. I tasted a few other wines from Carol Valles and I actually thought they were much better (note that the tasting took place at Cavatast after several glasses of wine), or at least more my style. So I am intrigued to taste the other bottle we have waiting in the fridge and comparing it to this one. Anyhow, if you run across wines from this producer, give them a try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Lunching at the Club

When planning for our trip to Asia, we did not have much fine dining in mind. However, after looking at the prices for tasting menus at some of Bangkoks hot spots, we changed our mind. An eight (8) course lunch at Issaya Siamese Club set us back only 1500 bath (below €50), so it felt impossible to pass by. After a sweaty walk (45 min in the scorching mid-day heat) we arrived at Issaya Siamese Club. A beautiful green garden surrounding a colonial style Thai villa. Looking at the pictures one could almost think the building is in the middle of the field with no signs of the concrete jungle on the other side of the walls. As we were hot from the long brisk walk, we opted to sit inside. The terrace looked nice as well.

We started of by ordering some cocktails (we are on holiday after all) to cool us down. The list was several pages long with thai influenced drinks. Reading the list made me even more thirsty. I went for the Pandan Cooler with good old ginger and some pandan leaf. It looked great and tasted even greater. They even took the time to make a little origami fish for me to swim around in the glass. How cute is that! For the love of God I cannot remember what M had, but it looked as well as tasted great. I could have went through the whole list, but it was perhaps too early in the day for that. For food, we chose the set menu with 8 dishes to share. It wasn’t the traditional one dish at a time menu, but rather a real Asian meal with food arriving when it was ready, some dishes at the same time, but clearly in three steps: appetisers, main and dessert. In addition we were served a lovely three piece “greeting from the kitchen” (amuse bouche) and some (take-away) marshmallows for an extra dessert. A casual 10 course lunch, nothing out of the ordinary (LOL).

So what kind of food did we have? The amuse bouche was a lovely trio: tuna tartar with Thai spices and chili, a lightly fried and battered shrimp with tamarind and aubergine and chicken with rice omelette. For starters we had banana blossom and palm heart salad with crispy shallots and roasted peanuts, slowly cooked ribs and grilled beef with fresh herbs and vegetables in charred birds eye chili vinegarette. After the starters, we got a small raspberry sorbet to freshen us up and to cleanse the pallate. For mains we were served some lovely lamb shank with massaman curry, volcano chicken (they set the chicken on fire) and tiger prawns with house pepper mix and holy basil. As a side we were served a lovely smoky multigrain rice in hot pot. The dishes made a wonderful combination. Ok at this point I was stuffed with dessert still to come. Luckily goodies go into a separate stomach, and the jasmine pannacotta in pandan leaf was also quite light. I was able to stuff it all in.

The service was really what made the final difference when considering how to rank the restaurants we visited in Bangkok. Perhaps we got some extra attention because the restaurant was not very full that day, but regardless of that we felt very welcome from the minute we walked in. The head waiter took some extra time to chat with us about the food also taking an interest in where we were from and what our preferences were. There was nothing pretentious or overwhelming about the wide smile we encountered every time a dish arrived at our table. If something could be improved in the service it is little things, for example clearing the empty plates briskly after we were done. This felt like the only thing in the way of Issaya getting a Michelin star (can’t comment on the consistency of food though, perhaps I have to visit again). All in all, I very much enjoyed our lunch at Issaya. It was the first ‘real’ restaurant we visited in Bangkok so it has set the expectations for the coming restaurants rather high.

Coffee Bar review: One Ounce for Onion (Bangkok)

It is a great feeling that it is Monday again and that means that it is time for Coffee Monday! This week featuring another coffee bar review from Bangkok. On a back street off Ekkamai 12 there is a small laid back cafe called One Ounce for Onion, it shares the space with a fashion store called Onion. It has a few seats inside and around 20 or so outside. The focus is on high quality specialty coffee, from local roaster Brave, but they also do cold beverages, snacks, pastries and some light dishes. I was actually due to publish another review but this place got my all excited as I loved the vibe, staff, coffee and food so I just felt a need to share this first.

The space is nice and cozy, it is just perfect to lounge for a while. On weekdays it appears pretty relaxed but understood from staff that it is a bit crazy on weekends. The offer free wifi so also possible to sit and do some work, browse or such as well. I was taking my time there and did not really get any complaints from staff so appears to be fully acceptable to do just that.

They had six different beans to choose from for filter coffee on my visit. They also use a blend for the espresso based beverages so no lack of choice. I opted for a honey processed coffee from Chiang Mai. A lovely cup, one of the best local beans I had. The nose had hints of chocolate and nuts. These also came through in the flavor but there also a clear mix of berry like acidity and hints of orange. Great cup and excellent execution. After also sampling a macchiato I am convinced that these guys (and girls) really know their coffee. They are one of the top spots in town. However, I had not realized that the competition was this tough in Bangkok so they do not really make it to number one, but they are clearly in my top 5 (a top list will follow when all the cafes have been reviewed).

The food assortment is not huge but what they do they do really well. The eggs, sausage, bacon with asparagus and tomatoes was awesome. The pastries also very good (not really up to the level of Size S) but still tasty.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4.5
Ambiance and service: 4.5
Food: 4
Vs average local competition: 5

Wineweek 10: Bangkok Edition Vol. 2

Greetings from sunny Koh Samui! Its nice and hot here, feels much warmer than in Bangkok (temprature is actually pretty much the same). I guess it is the humidity in the air that really makes the difference, and it makes me crave for some cold, dry and sparkling even more. It was to be expected, but the selection of wine here on the island is even worse than in the Capital, obviously. However, in such a sauna, beer tastes almost as good. So we have stocked up with some local and local-ish (read: Asian) beer to keep the thirst at bay. I actually prefer to have my beer from cans. Like Coka Cola, it just tastes better from aluminum, or what do you think? But back to Bangkok for a while, the island edition is coming up next week.

We were so overly excited to find a decent wine bar in Bangkok, that we published a review immediately. You can find Ms review on the @494 at the Grand Hyatt here. We were equally offput by a Romanian sparkling wine we bought at the store, that we posted a Wine warning. A Wine warning will be issued when a wine has the look of something drinkable, but majorly disappoints when tasted. Some wines you already know will not be good, like many bag inbox, so you just have yourself to blame if you put it in your mouth. But the devious wines that manage to trick their way into my glass, they are the ones that will get a Wine warning.

What else did we do in Bangkok this week? We went to some very interesting restaurants. We had not planned for much fine dining, but it was much easier to reserve a table in the Bangkok top spots than one could have thought. We picked three interesting restaurants from the Asias To 50 -list (2015): Nahm (#1), Gaggan (#3) and Issaya Siamese Club (#31). The restaurant ranking lists are a bit tricky, and we found ourselves disaggreeing heavily (with the list, not eachother) on which one should come first. We will write some separate reviews on all of them, but I think it is worth mentioning here how we placed our votes.

Ambience:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Food:
1. Issaya Siamese Club/ Gaggan (50/50 vote)
3. Nahm

Service:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Issaya Siamese Club was a beautiful, unique and very customer oriented restaurant that was very strong in quality produce and talented cooking. The only minus could be that it was hard to find, but perhaps we can only blame ourselves trying to be very Scandinavian and walk there (google maps really let us down). Gaggan is a restaurant doing Indian fusion (or progressive Indian as they call it), a style of food that has failed me many times. With a chef who used to work at the famous El Bulli’s food lab they do a bit of hokus pocus but still with focus on flavors and that it should taste good. There is an Indian twist, but not too forceful to take the focus off the culinary experience. This is very hard to achieve, so thats why M and I disaggreed on the first spot for food in our ranking. Nahm was good, but nothing that stood out from a good hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. Service in general lacks behind Europe and the US, but perhaps it is also how we want to be served compared to what the local culture considers valuable.

As I mentioned before, the lack of wine would perhaps be compensated by some refreshing cocktails. In general, I must say I was a bit disappointed at many bars we looked at. Even the Speakeasy on the rooftop of our hotel, The Muse, that was supposed to be one of the best in town was very average. I guess they ranked it based on the view. Cocktail list consist mainly of Mojitos, Martinis and the occasional Sex on the beach. This is what I can get at the local pub, equally boring and poorly made. I guess I was hoping for some nice fruity Daiqiris and a lot of stuff with lemongrass and ginger. But the three restaurants mentioned above did not disappoint in this area either. Gaggan had several pages of drinks under the title Mixology (yes a lot of smoke and dry ice) and Issaya walked the extra mile in both fresh ingredients and look of the cocktails. So we cast aside the wine lists and had some coctails together with our food. I am not a huge fan of the concept, but especially with some spicy Thai cuisine, a fresh cocktail works better than many wines.

Thats it for Wineweek 10. Next week will bring some more beach to the picture with posts from Samui. You can also expect more on street food, reviews from London (to keep up the focus on wine) and Ms coffee reviews. Btw. Did you know that coffee has around 1500 different tastes as opposed to wine having only 200. That my friends is why coffee deserves its own reviews. It is such an interesting subject that we have taken it as permanent part of our blog.

Tranquil Lunch at Fera

I thought I would post some more London memories this week before really jumping into the food scene in Thailand. It was such a short time in between our trips, that I really did not have time to share everything I wanted to from the UK. I must admit, we visited quite many familiar places last time (we often go for new things) but Fera was something new and exciting.

The real hype about Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridges may have passed as we had no real issues snagging a table for lunch despite poor planning (poor planning for us means not booking months in advance). We opted for lunch as we were already had our evenings full and  to be honest the lunch seemed like the best value for money. If you are on holiday who cares if you are stuffing down food at noon or later in the day – It tastes just as good. The lunch deals at starred restaurants are often much more reasonable than the same in the evening. Ok, I do have some doubts about the quality of lunch at many restaurants. After a friend of mine, who works at a wholesaler, explained what kind of stuff they sell to restaurants as “lunch” products, my lunch-life has never really been the same. However, I believe (hope) a Michelin starred restaurant would not risk it.

The design of Fera is fairly nice, it somehow brings out a calm and tranquil feel and design fits well with the focus on seasonal produce. The set lunch deal is great value at £30 for three courses. There is a choice of two starters, two mains and two desserts. We made sure to order different dishes to be able to try all of it. Looking at the wine list, I was a bit disappointed at least with the selection by the glass. The house sparkling was from Davenport Vineyards in East Sussex for £12.5 (after the success of Ridgeview and Nyetimber, English sparklings have had an somewhat unjustified ego-boost showing in their prices) and the house Champagne by the glass was a Laurent Perrier Brut for £15. Boring and expensive (to be London). The more interesting grower Champagnes, Jacques Lassaigne and Voutte et Sorbee, that I would really have liked to taste, were unfortunately out of a reasonable price range (over £20 a glass). A few years ago, I would have perhaps been ok with just cold, dry and sparkling, but these days I would rather just skip it if it doesn’t excite me. However I must say I might be quite excited of a £15 Laurent Perrier right now, as the lack of wine in Thailand is a bit excruciating.

Before the starter we were served some bread and a beautiful amuse bouche (a single, bite-sized “starter” served free). Flowers, herbs and a cheese, mmm, sounds delicious. Flavor wise it was however a bit flat and thus disappointing. The bread with the caramelized butter was however genius.

The starters offered were a lovely smoked bantam yolk with kohlrabi and a great dish with beets. Both were as almost as beautiful as the amuse but these were also great to eat. Well-balanced and felt fresh and if not innovative at least not boring. The focus on seasonal produce was clear. The mains were plaice and hen. Both lovely dishes and not very small either. At this point we started filling up a bit with dessert still to come (luckily there is a separate stomach for desserts). The apple crumble/cake was great while the chocolate dessert was a bit boring as chocolate desserts often are. Sometimes it feels as if something with chocolate is on the menu out of a sense of obligation.

Service was good but slight hick-up on bill, resulting in a wait and the addition of contribution to a charity. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against charity. But I just hate when they add that on the bill without asking (and then add service charge on top of it…). This to me brings down the marks a bit.

All in all, food was great (with some room for improvement). Next time in London I will definitely consider Fera for another visit, perhaps for an even more extensive tasting menu in the evening time.

Wine review: Chandon Brut (Australia)

As promised in a previous post, the review of @494, the wine at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok we are following with a review of the Chandon Brut from Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley of Australia. As I may have mentioned before I am often not a fan of Moët Chandon but they should be given credit for what they have done to develop the Australian sparkling wine industry. The Chandon Brut is part of their basic assortment from Australia. I would not characterize it as a bad wine, just not a very memorable one. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with the méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). The grapes are from various cool climate vineyards in the southern wine regions of Australia (according to Chandon from the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie, the King and Buffalo Valleys (Victoria) and Coonawarra (South Australia). I have been trying to find out what the mix between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is in the specific one I had but not been successful yet. In general the mix is around 60% Chardonnay and the remaining 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is aged on the yeast lees for 15 to 18 months and there is a small amount of dosage added. After an additional 3 months of bottle aging the wine is released. The color is perhaps best described as straw yellowish. The bouquet (nose) is influenced by the Chardonnay and is somewhat fruit driven with citrusy notes and hint of pear and nectarine. I could also sense a slight whiff of yeast but very faint. It is a dry wine but not overly so and retains a fairly nice balance with a creamy character and zest to the finish. Lacks complexity and the finish is a bit short. Nice to drink properly chilled but not at all a remarkable wine. It is however nice to enjoy cool on a hot day. While not at all a poor choice, I would not actively seek this out. However, here in Thailand this seems to be one of the better options at a reasonable price level. We had it the @494 wine bar for 349 THB (roughly €9-10). A bottle in a store would set you back around 800 THB. From what I can see online it is otherwise mainly available in Australia and Hong Kong at prices starting from €17 and up to around €25. In that price range I would rather have some very nice cava but as that is not really an option at my current destination this is a decent option. Quality wise I would give it a rating of 3 as it lacks some of the complexity I like in a sparkling wine. Looking at value for money it is a 2.5 but it is of course relative as I find it excellent value for money in Thailand (more a 4 or even a 5 compared to what else is available, see for example our most recent Wine warning ) while the rating of 2.5 is how i view it if in Finland, Sweden or the UK.

Wine Warning: Zarea Brut Nature 100 Year Aniversary Sparkling Wine

It has been a while since I have had this taste in my mouth, the taste of awful sparkling wine. Yes, I have had some bubbly that I can conclude I do not need to taste again, however, I don’t remember when was the last time that I felt like quitting after the first sip (in this instance I had a few more sips to be able to write this review). Yes my friends, I think Zarea Brut Nature is that bad. With this experience I would like to launch a new concept: the Wine Warning. A wine warning can be given to any wine that scores below 1 in quality and value for money. This is to let you know, that I would not recommend buying or even tasting this wine. Not even for curiosity’s sake.

I guess I was desperate, as the selection in Bangkok is so poor. We picked up this bottle at the supermarket just because we thought we would like to have a glass of sparkling one evening. It didn’t have to be great, but something cold, dry and sparkling. We did not want to be prejudice even though Romania is not really a country for sparkling wine. The Zarea was a Brut Nature and produced with Method Champenoise (or Methode Traditionelle as they call it), so we thought it could be ok. Price-wise, the bottle was around 600THB (~€15) at the level of the German and Belgian sparklings that could also be found on the shelf. So why not, we were curious. I will tell you why not, but first I will try to write a professional review.

The wine comes from Tarnave, a region in Romania. The grape is Feteasca Regala, a white variety cultivated mainly in Romania (Transylvania, Moldavia, Moldova), and also in Hungary and Austria. As it is a Brut Nature it indicates that there is no added sugar, however I am not sure what the actual levels are in grams.

My first suspicions surface as I see the deep yellow color of the wine. This does not have to mean anything, but the yellowness stands out. The nose has a light scent of citrus and some sweetness, and the taste is bitter with a hint of butter. The butter gives a certain creaminess to the wine, but it really doesn’t make an impression. The wine tastes cheap and I have a hard time putting my finger on the notes. I am done after the first two sips.

All in all, this was not at all a wine for me. I give it a 0,5 for quality, and 0 for value. Perhaps it is just so far from my taste, I suspect it is the type of grapes used. But I am quite sure this puts me off Romanian sparklings for a while.