Wine Review: Mr P Knows Pinot Noir

I confess. We bought the bottle because of the label. It was stylish and moderately funny (we giggled about the name. I know, childish). That is what caught our attention in the first place. Then there is of course the aspect that Pinot Noir is not that commonly grown in South Africa. We had something “professional” to place the purchase decision on. But yeah, it was the label. Successful marketing from IONA Vineyards, a family venture in Elgin, close to Cape Town.     Continue reading “Wine Review: Mr P Knows Pinot Noir”

Wine review: Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2013

I will not repeat the story on Kloof Street and Mullineux as I have written more about it in a previous review of the Kloof Street Swartland Rouge, read it here. What can be said about this Chenin Blanc is that it is not your run of the mill entry level wine. The vines used for this are over 40 years old so this is actually really interesting wine for this price level.

The Kloof Street Chenin Blanc is reminiscent of a Loire Chenin Blanc, or at least that was part of how it was described to me by the knowledgeable sommelier at Monvinic where I sampled it, and I can see what they mean. It is pale straw yellow in color but the nose was a bit strange to me, it had notes of ripe pear and apricot but also a bit of wet granite. There was however a scent that somehow was a bit stale about it, and at first I thought something was off about the wine. With some air it did however disappear but I was almost on the verge of checking with the sommelier if it corked. The wine is fresh and clean on the palate with dry pineapple and mineral but combined with a nice creaminess.

Despite my initial hesitation the wine won me over when it had some air. It rates as a 3.5 for quality and price wise it will set you back between €13-17 and that is decent value for money so also there a 3.5 rating. Pleasant, drinkable and would consider having it again.

Wine bar review: Monvinic, Barcelona

Monvinic is a lovely wine bar located in the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona. It looks really sleek and classy from the outside and the feeling is the same when entering. The entire place is designed by interior designer Alfons Tost and it does feel like it is a fitting design for an upscale wine bar. I must however say that while it looks nice the chairs at the tables are not very comfortable so I always prefer squeezing together in the sofa instead.

There is an extensive wine library along one of the walls and it is from what I understand fine to browse the books. I have never really found a reason to do it as I have most of the wine books I want at home. While the books are impressive the reason to come here is the wine list. The wine list by the glass is constantly changing. Most of the time there are around 30 wines available by the glass and several hundred more by the bottle.

The list by the glass is a nice mix of both Spanish and International wines. There is usually three different sparkling wines, around 10-15 reds and whites respectively and then some sweet wines as well. The wine list is presented on tablets (not iPads but some other brand) and that is of course nice but I do wish they would have made better use of the technology. There is very limited information on the wines and the producers and it would be so easy to have something more there when they have the tablets. The use of tablets does however make it very easy to change and update the wine list and that means that they sometimes change the wine list by the glass during the evening.

All the waiters serving are also trained sommeliers so it is always possible to get knowledgeable service. Or I would rather say that it should be. At times Monvinic gets very busy and it is then sometimes not possible to really get the attention of the staff. It did not really use to be like that but since the Wall Street Journal piece on Monvinic it does seem like the place also draws in more people (and to some extent more the people that want to appear to be interested in wine). I would recommend coming either a bit earlier (before 19) or a bit later (after 21.30) to get the best service. The wines are usually interesting and the prices by the glass are decent. What i really like is that it is possible to order half-glasses. It gives a good chance to sample more wines and since many of the half-glasses are around €3 it does not have to be very expensive.

Recently I sampled some interesting wines from South African Mullineux (the white Kloof Street as well as the red Mullineux) as well as some great sparklings. Amongst them an Italian sparkling, Faccoli from Francacortia (if this was a blind tasting I would have picked it as a Champagne) alongside some, while not bad, more disappointing champagne from Pehu Simonet and cava from Albet i Noya. The international selection is pretty impressive but I would actually have expected more from the Spanish wines. There are however some interesting local wines there and I have on previous visits sampled lovely wines from Castell D’Encus (they make some lovely unusual Spanish wines in the Pyreenes, their Acusp is 100% Pinot Noir and the Ekam is a 100% Riseling).

Monvinic also serves food and while the quality is pretty good I must say that prices are rather steep for it. The food is a mix of set tapas menus and some larger dishes. I often struggle to find any set menus I like (as they usually contain something I do not want/like) and as I have come with the purpose to sample some wine I do not want a full main course so prefer to eat elsewhere. All in all I do however love popping into Monvinic for a few half-glasses, some wine talk with the sommeliers and then head elsewhere for dinner. It is without a doubt one of the best wine bars in Barcelona. I may not agree with the Wall Street Journal that it is the best in the world but it is clearly a good place for a glass or two.

A Taste of South Africa at Handford Wines (London)

Following yesterdays review on the Kloof Street Swartland Rouge, I thought it would be nice to write something about the shop where I bought it from, Handford Wines in London. It’s a nice little wine shop in South Kensington, with an interesting selection of wines from around the world.

I mainly ended up here on my way to the Sampler (review here). It’s a cute space with high shelves bulging with wine. I get this old library feel, but instead of books, there are bottles. If I am not mistaken the shop was once occupied by wine merchant La Vigneronne. It is a short walk from South Kensington tube on the slightly charmless Old Brompton Road.

The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and happy to chat about wine. I had the pleasure of trying some interesting Canadian (!) wine from the Niagara Falls region that they were sampling. You don’t run into Canadian wine that often here in Europe, and at least I was very unaware of this wine-region before driving through (from Toronto the Niagara Falls) on a holiday trip in 2010. The Niagara Escarpment (a ridge carved by ancient glaciers) has a good microclimate with fertile soil and adequate rainfall to support vine growing. Looking back to 2010, I remember the excitement when I realized how close I was to all these boutique wineries. However, my travel companion at that time could only be convinced to visit Wayne Gretzky Estates (Finnish men!). Well, that was better than nothing. The Canadian white wine I tasted at Handford Wines was perhaps too sweet for my taste but I am always very happy when invited to try something new. It also highlights the depth of the selection they carry.

What Handford is really great for is wines from South Africa. They are numerous and there is a nice selection from different regions. In addition to the Kloof Street we picked up a Pinot Noir from Cape South Coast (the name really appealed to M: Mr P Knows). There is also a very good selection of French wines and interesting stuff from Portugal and Spain. The prices are decent but the ‘cheaper’ bottles in general seem to be worse value than bottles of £15 and above.

If you are in the area (or searching for some South African or Canadian wine) I recommend popping by. This is perhaps not on my list of top-visits for London wine-shops, but that might change if I get hyped up about South Africa. Right now my focus is on Spain and Portugal (and Champagne), but you never know what’s next. I am insatiable when it comes to learning more about wine.

Wine Review: Kloof Street Swartland Rouge Vintage 2012

An interesting little number from Mullineux Family Wines, a small wine producer in the Swartland region of South Africa. They are based in the village of Riebeek Kasteel and their range of products include both red and white wines. The wines are generally hand-crafted and try to display the specifics of the terroirs of the Swartland Region. Kloof Street is one of their two ranges, the other one being Mullineux.

I was drawn to this specific wine mainly based on the interesting looking label. It stood out when I saw it in the shelf at Handford Wines and when I started looking at wine it peaked my interest enough to pick up a bottle to take home.

It is a typical Southern Rhone blend with 83% Syrah, 13% Cinsault and 4% Carignan. Interestingly enough subsequent vintages have much more varieties in the blend (the 2013 has Mourvedre and Grenache in addition the ones from 2012). The wine has been aged on French oak for 11 months with 13,5% alcohol content and 2,8 g/l of residual sugar. The grapes for the 2012 vintage comes from five vineyards, all in the Swartland region.

The color is dark ruby red so when seeing it I expected a much heavier wine. The nose is however fairly light but clear notes of raspberry, blackberry, violet, spice and also hints of chocolate and vanilla tones. The palate is full of red and black berries but with creaminess. There is a nice spiciness and herbal character to it as well and it lingers nicely in the mouth.

Looking at the quality it is a good wine but for me it does not reach the top class. It was however pleasant to sip with the nice piece of steak we had, but I could imagine it’s also fine on its own. Quality wise I would rate it a 3.5. We paid around £12 at Handford wines in London and that appears to be the going rate (Berry Bros charge something similar) and in that price range there are a lot of good wines. So while this is not at all bad I would rather spend that money on something else so the value for money rating would be 3.

Wineweek 14: Back to Business

This week the scenery ha changed. Colorful and tropical Singapore has changed to good old grey Sweden. I tried to take some pics from outside, but they where all too depressing. Not that I don’t like Stockholm, I love it, but this time of the year is always a bit colorless (like Helsinki, where I am from). Soon February will change to March and the anticipation of spring (with all it’s disappointing cold fronts) will lighten up the town. I expect we will be facing some cold setbacks up until the end of June, it is almost a national sport to put away your winter clothes too early, but at least there will be more light. But one thing I can say makes me extremely happy to be back, is our wonderful wine collection. After five and a half weeks of mostly disappointing (bad or too expensive) wine, I am ecstatic about all the lovely bottles at hands reach. Unfortunately M caught a cold on the flight back, so we did not really have any sparkling this weekend.

Looking back at the week, we started off well with a nice and anticipated dinner at Burnt Ends, a much talked about restaurant in Chinatown (Singapore). The service was very disappointing, and that was really a shame as the food was wonderful and that good food does not at all deserve to be paired with such sub-standard service.  A review will follow. We also continued our cocktail-tour at the Black Swan and 28 Hong Kong Street. Even though it was a Monday both places were full of life.

On our way back to Sweden we checked out the duty free selection at Frankfurt airport. The Champagne selection was a bit boring, but we picked up a few German sparkling wines to try out. Germany as a wine-country is developing in an interesting direction with a new generation of winemakers taking over the reins. We visited a wonderful shop, the Winery (review here), in London around New Year focusing mainly on German wines, and found ourselves drooling after Pinot Noirs and Sparklings alike.

After resting off the mild jet lag, we sat down on the couch, opened a bottle of red (Kloof Street Vintage 2012 from South Africa), and started looking into the future. It is time to get our business up and running. It’s not like we have been procrastinating, but our Cavas have now been sitting in the warehouse for enough time. It is time to get the sales going. So next week will be all about finalizing the paperwork. Also, it is only a week until M leaves for Portugal to meet some new producers (I will follow later for the weekend), so there is a lot to plan. After several months of communicating by email, we will finally be meeting our friends at Vieira de Sousa. They have a lovely range of Port wines we would love to add to our selection. Also, I am getting a bit hyped up after reading about some Portuguese sparkling wine producers. The grapes are new to me (Baga, Bical and Bairrada), but the production good old method Champenoise.

Wine Review: Pongracz Brut Sparkling Wine

Yes I know that I said that I would not be posting as often as Soile and now here I am posting almost right away after my introduction. Well, what can I say. When inspiration strikes I am just unable not to share my thoughts.

There is this ongoing debate on whether there are any sparkling wines from other regions that can compete with Champagne. There are purists, like well-known Champagne expert Richard Juhlin, who claims that even the worst Champagnes are better than what other regions can produce. I do not agree with that – there are some brilliant Champagnes but there is also a lot that is produced in Champagne that is not at all very good. Taking value for money into account there is also a lot from other regions that is more interesting than Champagne. I do however in general find that the method used in Champagne is key to making a good sparkling. I have had excellent examples of sparkling wine from other parts of France, Spain, Italy, the US, South Africa and New Zealand (and we have some interesting bottles from Germany and recommendations for Austria as well) and what unites all of them is the Method Champenoise.

With this little introduction I want to highlight one of the very good value non Champagne sparkling wines out there. It is a South African sparkling made with the traditional champagne method – in South Africa this is indicated by the Méthode Cap Classique on the label. This specific one is Pongracz Brut. I had the pleasure of having a glass or two of it when visiting the lovely Yelp Community Manager for Stockholm.

Pongracz is made with 60% Pinot Noir and 40 % Chardonnay and with 8g/l of residual sugar. It has been aged for 35 months. The name comes from the Hungarian Desiderius Pongrácz, a nobleman who fled the uprising in Hungary in 1956 and was one of the key people in shaping and developing the wine making in South Africa.

The color of it is pale yellow and a the nose of it is really pleasant. It has clear scent of bread and crisp green apples and white fruits. The first time I smelled it i was surprised and I did really think this was a more expensive wine and for a moment I was even wondering whether it could be a champagne. The flavor is full with  a toastiness to it but also clear notes of apple, nuts and mineral. The bubbles are small and pleasant. The aftertaste is fairly long and has hints of berries.

It does present some really excellent value in most markets. For those in the monopoly markets it is available in the standard assortment in Finland for €14.90 (Alko) and the special order assortment in Sweden for 111 SEK (Systembolaget). I have also seen it in the UK for around £10-12. If you are also willing to venture on the ‘party boat’ going between Finland and Sweden it is also possible to buy them at Viking Line for a mere 82 SEK per bottle. In general I am not really a fan of the ferries as I spent way too much time traveling on them when younger and going to the summer house, but looking at the selection and prices at Viking Line there are some real bargains to be had and I will probably come back in future posts on the selection on board.

I would rate the quality as a 3.5 (on a five grade scale) but in a value for money perspective this deserves a strong 4. Compared to other wines in the same price range it is really excellent. For me it still lacks something in the flavor, the nose is excellent but flavor-wise I would have wanted more full flavor to give it a higher quality rating. Still it is a lot better than many wines that cost twice as much and clearly a wine I could imagine drinking more of.