10 Years and Counting

English Wine Walk Sussex 2012 006Why the picture of the celebratory wine glasses?  Well, it’s hard to believe but it’s 10 years since I pressed ‘Publish’ for the first Bristol Wine Blog on 28 July 2010.  At that time, I couldn’t have guessed that I would still be blogging 10 years later – or that anyone would still be reading it!  But I am and you are, so Thank You!

It hasn’t turned out quite how I imagined it would, though.  At the start, I was aiming to create a forum for those in and around Bristol to share their thoughts about wine and their recommendations for the best local buys.  But I underestimated how much wine lovers enjoy reading and talking about wine (almost as much as we enjoy drinking it!) and my hoped-for local community soon spread way beyond the city limits.  Indeed, WordPress tell me that, in the last month alone, the Blog has been read by people from more than 20 countries, so, welcome all you ‘honorary Bristolians’!

Counting back, I must have written more than 500 blogs since that first one.  Many have become out of date and so I have deleted them, but I’ve kept quite a few in the archive as they seem to keep attracting attention.  The most popular is one I posted way back in 2011 titled “Ungrafted Vines: A Taste of History”.  It has clocked up more than 2500 reads over the years and is certainly still relevant today.  It talks about the ongoing battle to combat the deadly vine disease, phylloxera, and explains why most of today’s wine comes from European vines (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc) grafted onto American vine rootstocks – a positive example of transatlantic co-operation!

And looking forward? Well, with the current pandemic, there will be fewer blogs about wine tasting events or courses and not so many mentions of restaurant meals, but my wife and I are still enjoying our wine so, what better plan for the next 10 years of Bristol Wine Blog than to go back to my original idea: to write and share thoughts about wine and recommendations for the best local buys?  And, to read your responses, of course.

Provence Comes to Bristol too!

I’m continuing the theme I began last time in my Bristol Wine Blog: that, with a thoughtful choice of food and wine, you can bring back wonderful memories of places you’ve been, even when the present situation means that you can’t stray far from home.  Today, my virtual trip brings us back from Greece to somewhere a little closer to the UK.

Temperatures in Bristol a couple of weeks ago rose above 30°C (close to 90°F for those more comfortable with that scale), so it wasn’t difficult to imagine ourselves somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean – the south of France, perhaps.  The fish markets there always have the most amazing choice of fresh fish and we particularly enjoy tuna.  So, when our local travelling fishmonger arrived this week with some tempting looking steaks in the back of his van, what else could I open to accompany them but a bottle of Côte de Provence Rosé? 

M de Minuty (Majestic, £12.99) is that beautiful, delicate shade of pale orangey pink you find in so many southern French rosés and, although the flavours are quite subtle, matching the colour, the wine is in no way bland.  It opens with an appealing, fragrant, floral nose and a real herby richness on the palate follows through – this is from a relatively warm climate and boasts 13% alcohol after all.  Made with a typical blend of local grapes including Grenache, Cinsault and the much less well-known Tibouren, this is fresh and clean with lovely crushed strawberry flavours and a long savoury finish.  Ideal for drinking on its own, well chilled, as an aperitif but with the body and fullness to accompany our tuna or other similarly flavoursome dishes.

Enjoying the combination outdoors on our terrace on a bright, warm sunny evening, we could easily imagine we were somewhere exotic.  Sadly, even though there is a move to allow travel to certain destinations soon, our own caution means that foreign trips are still on hold for the present. 

But we have our memories and tasty pan-fried tuna accompanied by a delicious Rosé from Provence help keep them alive.

Tasting Skills Tested

20200131_210228What better way to mark the final evening of the UK’s membership of the European Union than a wine tasting evening organised by the Bristol-Oporto Twinning Association? The Association fosters links and arranges exchange visits between Bristol and Oporto, the Portuguese city from whom Bristol has bought goods, particularly port, for centuries.  And, for this meeting, we also welcomed representatives from two of Bristol’s other Twinning groups, Bordeaux and Hannover.

The event was hosted by Alan, the owner of Clifton Cellars, one of Bristol’s best independent wine merchants, who brought along a selection of wines with bottles and labels concealed and challenged the group to identify the grape or region, country of origin and price of each. ‘Blind’ tastings border on the impossible, even for wine professionals like me, so I approached the evening with some trepidation – fully justified, as it turned out, even with Alan’s helpful hints!

As we discovered when all was revealed, our test began with the smooth, creamy Talmard Macon Chardonnay with its lovely ripe fruit on the palate. By contrast, the 2nd white, a Rioja, Viña Real, showed a decidedly spicy, oaky character. These were followed by a trio of reds which, as Alan suggested, were even more tricky to identify. The first, Ca’ Vittoria Appassimento from Italy, was made from partially dried grapes in the style of an Amarone, but without that wine’s usual heaviness (or sky-high price!) Next, a Portuguese red – inevitable, I suppose, given that this was an Oporto Twinning Association meeting. Vina do Mouro had the fresh, blackcurrant aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon enhancing the flavours of a blend of Portugal’s native grapes.

All too soon we had reached the final wine – a nicely balanced and satisfying Merlot-dominated red Bordeaux, Château Trébiac from the Graves region. And then it was time to add up the scores which showed that 2 members of the group had achieved more than 70% correct. As Alan himself said, the winners’ bottle prizes could not have been more well deserved.

A delicious cheese and paté buffet ended the evening – a chance to chat with friends and to try some of the wines again – obvious, of course, when you can see the labels!

All wines are available from Clifton Cellars and are priced between £12 and £15.