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  • All you need to know about Czech wine

    The Czech Republic was formed in 1993, after the Velvet Revolution and the split with Slovakia. The country had been under communist control for decades and during this period winemakers were forced to turn their businesses over to the state. Vineyards were nationalised and turned into huge farms designed for easier and automated harvests, quantity not quality was favoured.

    As Petr Ocenasek, a winemaker from Moravia, puts it;
    “If ten comrades tasted one wine, you would have ten different opinions. That was in stark contrast with their ideology, appealing to uniformity in all areas.”
    So, we can imagine what the wine culture was like during this period, mass produced blandness.

    However, as with most cycles of life, things tend to go from one extreme to another, people react to homogeneity with a strong push for individuality.
    Since the formation of the republic, producers have rediscovered the concept of terroir which, along with the introduction of modern winemaking techniques such as the use of stainless steel tanks and temperature-controlled fermentation, has led to an invigorated and exciting trend in winemaking.

    Okay, let’s get the techs out of the way:
    In preparation for EU membership, in 1995 the republic passed wine laws modelled on the German Wine Law. After EU reforms in 2008 the new terms CHZO and CHOP have been introduced, the former a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), the latter a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

    The most important wine producing region in the republic is Moravia, along the Austrian and Slovakian Borders. The climate is mild/continental with relatively low rainfall, on average a half to two-thirds that of Burgundy and Alsace which are on the same latitude. Warm days and cold nights mean that ripening is slowed down. Clay and sand dominate the soil. Two thirds of production is given to white varieties which yield highly aromatic, fresh and fruity wines with good acidity. The total area under vine is 17,500 ha.

    Grape varieties grown include:
    Riesling- Ryzlink Rýnský
    Pinot Blanc - Rulandské Bílé
    Muller Thurgau
    Gruner Veltliner - Veltlínské zelené
    Silvaner - Sylvánské zelené
    St Laurent - Svatovavřinecké
    Blaufrankisch - Frankova
    Blauer Portugieser - Modrý Portugal
    Pinot Noir or Rulandské modré, has also become very popular in the newer vineyards of Moravia.

    Fortunately winemaking techniques have fully recovered from the communist era. There is a group of small independent producers with a wonderfully descriptive moniker, the ‘Authentists’ or ‘Autentisté’.
    Included in this group are; Petr Kocarik, Korab, Stavek, Ota Sevcik, Dobra Vinice, Jaroslav Osicka, Tomas Cacik.
    The culture of natural winemaking has been promoted with the help of Bogdan Trojak, natural winemaker, distributor, poet and proprietor of Veltlin, a wine bar located in Prague. This establishment has become a hub for the natural winemaking scene. It’s the perfect venue for Trojak to showcase cult Czech wines. He also organizes an annual festival, Prague Drinks Wine, very much on the ‘to do’ list.

    It is said that the Czechs drink more wine than their country can produce, an apocryphal exaggeration of course. However, much of the quality wine produced is exported to neighbouring Slovakia and Austria. So we are very privileged to be able to source high quality Czech wines for our customers. We currently have three producers' wines in stock.

    Springer and Stapleton’s Orange Pinot Noir

    Krasna Hora’s Blanc de Noir Sekt Nature, Ryzlink Rynsky and Pinot Noir

    Dva Duby’s Impera Red

    All of these wines are made with thoughtful winemaking practices, highly individual and of excellent quality. We are looking to extend the range of Czech wines we stock in the very near future. The quality of these wines is imbued with the energy and vigour of the producers. It’s like being part of a new scene, when all the protagonists have something exciting to contribute, before the new thing becomes ubiquitous, stolen by marketing and competitive sales. Fortunately, the winemakers of the Czech Republic remember the bland old days, when uniformity, conformity, were the normality. It will be a very long wait to return to the bad old days.
    Na zdravi!

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    Posted by Ruth Farnon
  • New wines from Cambridge Road, Martinborough, New Zealand

    Cambridge Road Winery is set in the well known Martinborough Terrace Appellation in the North Island of New Zealand. It's a small 5.5-acre estate that is focused on natural biodynamic winemaking. The vineyard was first planted with Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes in 1986 and was previously known as the Fraser Block. The current owners, the Redgwell family, Lance, Bridie and son Aston, purchased it in 2006 and converted to biodynamics. The production is managed entirely by the family, who are committed to minimal intervention in the winery allowing the expression of the Martinborough fruit to shine through.

    Lance Redgwell spent years crossing the globe working in vineyards, sailing, and building ships, and eventually found his way back to New Zealand and settled in Martinborough to start making wines his own way.

    Martinborough is one of the three sub-regions in Wairarapa (Maori for ‘glistening waters’). Acclaimed Pinot Noir, vivid Sauvignon Blanc, poised aromatics and elegant Syrah are all produced here. With a climate and soil profile similar to Burgundy, it’s no wonder Martinborough has excited the wine world. In fact, the region has just begun to settle in global wine terms, it's no longer a flurry of exciting vineyards going in with uncertainty. Though there is still plenty of room for exploration, today we can identify regional style and winemaking techniques, and clearly talk about what Martinborough wine is all about.

    But Lance Redgwell didn't come to fit into this vision of Martinborough. He's here to show us what else can be done on these terraces. Take, for example Naturalist, his Petillant Naturel, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, a true Kiwi ode to the many brilliant natural sparkling wines coming out of France. Cloudy, loaded with bright fruit and a bit of spice. Great on its own or paired with finger foods at your next dinner party!

    His Pinot Noir is fascinatingly simple (on the outside!) with a hand tied tag - the wolf and the moon - meet La Luna Pinot Noir. From relatively young vines - averaging 30 years it's biodynamically produced and crafted without any filtration. Indeed, wild Pinot without masking that true Pinot character we so obsess over. Brilliance in its dark purple with a flamboyant nose of violets, forest, crushed berries and damson. Straight-up fruit on the palate with some truffle and five spice.

    Two New Zealand wines definitely worthy of your attention!

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    Posted by Jana Post
  • Californian Central Coast Wines - Jackhammer & Lompoc

    This week we will be visiting miles of coastline, sunny hills and relaxing wineries of the Central Coast Wine Country - introducing our latest American wine arrivals.

    Too often forgotten or dismissed as ‘flyover’ between San Francisco and LA, this fairytale stretch of California coast is packed with wild beaches, misty redwood forests where hot springs hide, and rolling golden hills of fertile vineyards and farm fields. Top vintners have transformed the Central Coast into one of the state’s premier wine regions. Santa Barbara in the south is dubbed the 'Pinot Noir paradise', as coastal fog filters through the east-west oriented Santa Ynez Valley to create one of the state’s most diverse wine growing regions. Some 42 varietals reflect the rich diversity of growing conditions here.

    Jackhammer is a partnership between Stephen Dooley and Sandy Garber. They have been friends and business associates since they met at Chalone Wine Group in 1987. They have collaborated on many projects over the years. Sitting together in the fall of 2011 sipping on glasses of Central Coast Pinot Noir, they hatched the idea for Jackhammer Wine Company. They realized that there just wasn't enough good, inexpensive Pinot Noir available -at least, not that actually tasted like Pinot Noir. And so the project began. With all family members intimately involved, from financial management to label design - everything is done in house by the family team.

    While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay continue to enjoy massive success in the premium segment of Californian wine, the efforts at the more affordable end of the spectrum have tended towards the ripe and simple. What Jackhammer planned to do was to create a brand that specialised in sensitively farmed and vinified Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, that was elegant and varietally pure. The result is Jackhammer, a set of wines that combines stellar value for money with the balance and complexity that is so often lacking.

    Their Chardonnay is unoaked, sourced from cool climate sites, vinified and aged in stainless steel tank and the result is crisp wine full of steely minerality. Pear, apple, and citrus flavours with nice acidity gives a mouth-watering finish. Drink this while it’s young and lively.
    And if you are cooking food then try a nice bit of grilled cod; delicious!

    Their Pinot Noir comes from fruit grown in Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and is aged for 11 months in used French oak barrels, to give a wine that is silky and supple with crunchy red berry fruit. Succulent with earthy, savoury notes and long, smoky finish.
    It's beautiful now but also could drink over the next few years.

    Lompoc Wine Company source grapes from their neighbouring vineyards across the Santa Rita Hills. This wine is produced by the dream team behind Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi Wines. As a 'bought-in fruit wine' it's far less expensive than many of their other wines, it is outstanding value.

    The Pinot Noir has got a superb concentration with red and black cherry flavours and savoury tinge. Lovely long, complex finish. Delicious to drink on release but certainly good enough to improve over 5+ years. Try it with game or roast meats.

    Now is the perfect time to try some great outstanding value Californian wines.

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    Posted by Jana Post
  • Quintessentially Austrian Pfaffl Wien 1, Pfaffl Wien 2

    Austrian Wines are making an appearance in the UK and we have tasted some pretty interesting wines from the small Apline state.  
    First, we visited a family estate in the Southern Weinviertel region, just north of Vienna, which belongs to one of the most well recognised names in the Austrian wine business. Pfaffl is an admired producer, Roman and his wife have built up the vineyards over the last 30 years.
    To understand Roman Pfaffl's influence in the Weinviertel district, you only have to look at his nickname: Mr. Veltliner. Like no one else he has worked to convince his fellow winemakers that Grüner Veltliner has the quality to produce top wines, and that it is a unique selling point for Austria.
    The family vineyards are scattered in 10 different villages in the area, they are all made of very different types of soils and microclimates, making it possible for the Pfaffl winery to produce a number of different grape varieties and wine types.
    Here's a small selection of their wines. Both produced with the boundaries of Vienna itself, hence the name "Wien". 
    Pfaffl Wien 1 is a blend of fruity Riesling, Pinot Blanc to give the wine 'body' and the family's speciality grape, spicy Grüner Veltliner. Light in alcohol makes it a great refreshing aperitif. 
    Pfaffl Wien 2 is also a blend this time made out of popular Austrian grape Zweigelt (a cross between St Laurent and Blaufränkisch) and Pinot Noir. It's refreshing wine with finesse and complexity. 
    This might sound a little too good to be true but the Pfaffl wines come highly recommended for summer grill parties or group dinners. See you there!

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    Posted by Jana Post
  • The Premium Christmas wine selection

    It's been yet another flavourful year in Forest Wines, we hope you have tried lot of our easy drinking bottles, you know the ones you grab when dashing home in the middle of the week and you can drink with just about everything. We have been working pretty hard this year to source many of those. But now that Christmas is just round the corner, the big day needs some big flavours and these four bottles certainly offer that - here’s to you and Happy Christmas!

    Domaine du Pech pick all of their grapes by hand which is why the words "Vendanges Manuelles" are proudly displayed on the label along with the trademark picture of the ladybird that helps them control insects in their vineyard. They are situated on the slopes of Sainte-Colombe-en-Bruilhois in the very south east of the appellation.
    The wine is intensely savoury with flavoursome notes of wood smoke, leather and prune. There is a silkiness and finesse about this wine that is seen at its best when decanted for a few hours beforehand. Le Pech Abuse, is a play on words since this wine was refused appellation status because it is atypical. 

    Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Quarz from the north-eastern limits of Italy, from one of the best estates in the region. This Sauvignon is enticingly exotic in the glass, with multilayered fruit of mango, papaya, lime and red grapefruit, and herbal aromas reminiscent of lemon grass, lemon balm, mint and green tea. It also reveals mineral notes of flint combined with a hint of elderberry syrup. On the palate, the wine offers a fascinating interplay of juicy fruit aromas and delicate minerality creating a harmonious opulence with a long and impressive finish.
    Cantina Terlano is well known in Italian wine drinking circles for producing Italy’s longest lived white wines. Located in the heart of the Terlan wine-growing region and founded in 1893, it is one of the oldest Alto Adige coops. Today Terlano has approximately 100 members, farms 150 hectares and has an annual production of roughly 1.2 million bottles.

    Chinon, with its famous Château, stands at the centre of the Loire Valley and has long been famous for its light but 'structured' reds. This 25 hectare estate is based in the village of Savigny-en-Véron.
    The late Olga Raffault is a legend in the Loire Valley. She not only championed organic farming and sustainability long before her contemporaries, but her Cab Francs are also consistently delicious. The 'Les Picasse' vineyard vines are well over 50-years-old, on a steep slope that runs up from the riverbank. The wine is rustic and quite earthy, with hints of orange zest and a deep, dark cherry flavor. The tannins are soft, but present, and the mineral complexity and hint of black pepper in the finish is superb. This wine begs to be paired with food. In Chinon you'll often find it served with venison and huckleberries, but I think lamb or roast beef would do just as well.

    One of Burgundy's oldest surviving family estates, the Girard story began in 1529, when Jean Girard began cultivating grapes in Savigny-Les-Beaune. This is a fantastic Pinot Noir with mixtures of red and black fruits on the nose together with a touch of spicy oak. Splendid concentration and long, lingering after taste.

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    Posted by Jana Post