Thursday, 24 May 2018

London Wine Fair - familiar faces

It was our first visit to London Wine Fair but it will certainly not be our last - a superb event in the beautiful Victorian Olympia building with its intricate ironwork structure, a perfect setting that complimented the many characteristics of wine.

The size of this wine event should not be underestimated and visiting for just one day was a mere dip in a very large sea of labels, logos and glass bottles filled with delights.

Connoisseur Estates, with their extensive selection from around the world was the first stand we visited. It's always a pleasure to meet friends and meeting Jo Thompson again was a perfect start to our day, and a chance to say thank you in person for our amazing Cellier des Dauphins tasting in 2016.

Could there be a better start to a wine tasting than champagne .... for me no but before my glass of Champagne Autréau Nick discovered tempranillo wine from Bogegas y Viñedos García Figuero.

Figuero 4 Roble is the youngest of the 4 wines being in oak barrels for just 4 months; the concept continues with Figuero 12 Crianza and Figuero 15 Reserva being oaked (American and French) for 12 and 15 months respecitively. The final wine in this range is Figuero Tinus which is in oak barrels for 24 months.

Tasting notes for all the wines in this, and my following London Wine Fair posts will be from memory - true wine reviews will follow if/when we enjoy again one of the many wines we sampled. However there is so much to share as there is more to a wine than tasting notes - the history, the label, the vineyard.

Champagne Autréau's display of champagne was wonderful - from Brut NV to Cuvée 1670 Grand Cru Réserve Millesime the labels and champagne so inviting. My tastings were 1er Cru Rosé NV, Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru NV and Grand Cru Réserve Millisime - all superb, full of fine bubbles, toastiness and elegance.

We are visiting the champagne region in the summer so maybe we can include a visit to Champagne Autréau with the opportunity to try more of their delicious champange, it's always a joy to discover more about the location of a wine.

Moving on from Connoisseur Estates a visit to Rhone Wines stand was a must as Cotes du Rhone is my favourite red wine region of France and an area we have fond memories of.

Earlier this year Nick and I met Heather Dougherty at Love Wine Guildford. It was lovely to have the chance to talk with her a little more about Cote du Rhone wine, it is a superb region.

We enjoyed all the tastings from Rhone Wines: Vinsobres and Cairanne from Southern Rhone, Cote Rotie from Northern Rhone and a few more whose names I unfortunately cannot remember. The Rhone Valley, especially Northern Rhone is an area that has so much more for us to discover.

Love Wine Birmingham is at The Burlington Hotel on November 10th, we are both looking forward to this event and a chance to meet Heather again.

It was at Love Wine Guildford that we met Chris from Bolney Estates, they are an English wine producing estate on the Sussex South Downs with quite an extensive range of English wine; 4 red, 4 white and 3 rose along with four sparkling wines of which Classic Cuvée is my favourite.

But the real treat was their new vermouth Rosso - launched on the first day of the London Wine Fair it was very popular. Rosso can be drunk neat, this was Nick's tasting, perfect for after dinner with our without ice.

It can also be mixed - Fever-tree tonic, Fever-tree elderflower tonic or Fever-tree aromatic tonic all blend perfectly with Rosso. My tasting was with tonic - very very different to my expectation of vermouth with a deeper intensity, hedgerow fruits accompanied by an aromatic herbiness.

The Eighteen Acre at Bolney Estates offers a selection of food and drinks so will be a perfect stop on our way to Newhaven next week as we travel to France - without hesitation I can say a bottle (or two) of Rosso will be joining us on our travels.

I feel privileged to be amongst the first to discover this amazing drink, there were many new discoveries for me at the show but Rosso was by far top of my list.

As I mentioned before London Wine Fair had a significant number of producers and suppliers of wine and if I included them all in this post it would be a very long read - therefore I have also written

Our day ended with a return visit to Jo and Connoisseur Estates with an opportunity to re-visit St Peyre wine from Cave de Permerols from Meze, an area of France we visited last year.

Picpoul de Pinet is a wine I have been enjoying in France for many many years, being now available in the UK it is a popular wine to accompany mussels or fish. Such a clean crisp refreshing wine from grapes grown close to the Etang du Thau it certainly matches up perfectly to produce of the sea.

Our final tastings of the day were Tohu wines from New Zealand; Marlborough and Nelson. Throughout the day we had not tasted New World wine so this was a superb end to our amazing day.

Sauvignon Blanc is my absolute favourite grape and Tohu Mugwi Reserve Sauvignon Blanc was amazing, a great full nose as expected from a New Zealand wine but then a crisp elegant wine more associated with French Sauvignon Blanc - this was my favourite wine of the show.

There is no better way to finish a wine tasting or a meal than with a dessert wine. Tohu Noble Riesling was smooth, syrupy, full of honey and fig and was perfect finale to or first visit to London Wine Fair.

Our first visit to London Wine Fair was a superb day, lovely to meet Jo, Heather and Chris again and of course discover so many new wines.

London Wine Fair - French wine, English beer, amazing art and much much more

There was just so much to see, and so many people to chat with at London Wine Fair; it really demands more than one day to appreciate all on offer.

My previous posts - Familiar Faces and West to Eastern Europe have covered many of our tastings however there were a few others beginning with Sud de France Top 100.

This stand could easily have taken a day in itself to discover all the wines on offer - I didn't have the chance really to appreciate it all. The stand had 31 white wines with Les Vignobles Montagnac being at number one; Cave de l'Ormarine Preambule placed first in the 10 rose wines; and Chateau les Bugadelles Bergerie top in the 58 red wines.

A panel of judges chaired by Tim Atkin MW reviewed and placed theses wines in this Landmark Competition focusing on wines from Occitanie. It was a delight to see some of our favourite Southern French wines in the lists, namely Paul Mas Estate Marsanne and Domaine les Yeuses Syrah les Epices.

Staying in France stand D22 was Castelnau Wine Agencies presenting some beautiful champagne from Reims. Centrally located in the capital city of Champagne Castelnau produces champagne from its 900 hectares across the region.

All of the champagnes were superb, fine bubbles, elegant flavours with fine finishes that lingered long, something I wish I could have done. Castelnau offered five bottles of fizz; Brut, Reserve, Rose, Blanc de Blanc and Millesime; could I choose a favourite? They were all so lovely but if I had to choose it would be the Reserve.

I am very much hoping Castelnau will be one of the houses we visit later this year as part of our Champagne holiday.

Our holiday is initially in Epernay where Champagne Esterlin is located on the famous Avenue de Champagne, the most expensive road in the world with its treasures in the caves beneath. Esterlin's Brut Eclat was a lovely glass of bubbles made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; I would have loved to have tried their Blanc de Blanc Eclat but unfortunately social media held more attention for Monsieur, maybe we'll get chance this summer in Epernay.

Louis Jadot and Joseph Mellot also both had great wines on offer, I am particularly found of Joseph Mellot's Sancerre. With Sud de France Top 100, Castelnau, Esterlin, Louis Jadot and Joseph Mellot I could have happily spent all day in my favourite country - France.

However home calls - English beer from Robinson's Brewery who are based in Stockport. Nick and I both enjoy a glass of beer and have toured many of the UK's breweries, however we have not ventured north so Robinson's beer was a new discovery for us both.

Light Brigade is a golden hoppy beer, quite refreshing; 5p from each bottle is donated to Help the Heroes. This beer was crafted by Iron Maiden's vocalist and Robinson's head brewer.

The other three beers we tried were all 'Tom's' - Blonde Tom, a sweet and fruity blonde beer; Old Tom Ginger, a dark oak beer with ginger and peppery notes; and Old Tom full of rich dark chocolate. My favourite was definitely Old Tom, i really enjoy a dark beer and the more chocolate the better; Nick like a more hoppy beer so preferred Light Brigade from our tastings.

The whole day was pure enjoyment for us - a superb chance to meet old friends including two members of the Majestic Guildford team, and a great opportunity to meet new producers and make new discoveries. It was a day full to the brim with wine as these photos show.

One stand at London Wine Fair just took our breathe away, it was amazing. Not a wine, not a label, not location or producer but an artist; an artist who paints using wine!

Edgar Lizarazu Shiosaky was born in Bolivia but moved to Japan in 2001 to develop his painting. Painting with wine as a medium that needs extra care and the canvases have to be treated with a UV fixative.   Edgar's work is so intricate and once finished needs keeping away from sunlight which could bleach his work. It was amazing to watch him at work, a very different aspect of wine.

London Wine Fair - west to eastern Europe

London Wine Fair has wines from all over the world, from countries well known for wine producing and some lesser so. We decided to focus on European wines as this is an area of the world we are more likely to visit.

Currently we are considering a holiday in Portugal, in particular the Algarve. This so it was no surprise that stand L23 CVA - Comissao Vitivinicola do Algarve caught our eye. What a superb collection of wines from this southern Portuguese region.

John Crook from Grace Wines was very passionate about his Portuguese wines available here in the UK online. Two white, one rose and two red, the simple yet very effective label made these wines stand out from the others on display.

Of the five Grace Wines my favourite was Dialog with it's minerality and dryness, however I did also enjoy Grace Branco with it's tropical fruit and pear flavours

Quinta da Tor are located in Loule in the centre of the Algarve and offer wine tasting tours which are always an exciting part to our holidays. At the show we tried three of their wines including an amazing Syrah at 17%. At this strength I was expecting a more fortified taste and a very heavy wine, such a surprise when it was smooth and more like the Syrah 14% wine we know.

Leaving Portugal and travelling geographically north east into the Northern Navarro region of Spain we visited Bogegas Manzanos' stand with their eye-catching bottles of Siglo wine. Bogegas Manzanos had four Siglo wines which we both enjoyed the tasting, however our choices were split.

 Siglo Tempranillo in its hessian cover is a wine we have enjoyed previously at a Spanish bar in Cardiff and actually have a bottle at home. We both liked this wine but we differed on our second tasting - Siglo Crianza Edicion Oro. I quite liked this gold fabric clad wine and didn't find it too tannic at all.

Our third Siglo was Crianza Seleccion in a Burbury style cover. This for me was too tannic but Nick enjoy it, as he did the final wine Siglo Reserva in a bright pink cover. It is always interesting to try the same wine but with different ageing and equally as interesting to see how we all differ in our tastes and preferences.

Before leaving the stand we were invited to try another wine - a rose wine Las Campanas. What a colour in the glass, so vibrant it was almost florescent. 100% Garancha it was full of floral notes, a dense flavour and a lovely long finish.

Across the border into Italy we discovered two great wine producers, very different in style and age. Ferro 13 is a contemporary brand with its own quirkiness of wine from Northern to Southern Italy. All their wines have 'attribute' labels; The Boss, Nerd, Hipster, Hacker, Gentleman, The Lady and Hashtag.

Federico was very passionate about his wines and rightly so as they all had great character. Hashtag being Sauvignon was lovely but my favourite was The Lady, a Pinot Grigio wine. Each wine has a personality with character and style and is cleverly linked to music and a movie. The Lady's song is Champagne Supernova bu Oasis and naturally its movie is 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. I loved everything about Ferro 13 - one I'll be looking out for from now on!

Our other Italian tasting was the complete opposite to Ferro 13 - two older Italian men, one of whom spoke very little English but was obviously very passionate about his wine. Monte Solaio wine has traditional style labels all depicting the beautiful chateau at the heart of the vineyard. The whole atmosphere at stand P20 was good wine, good olive oil and the enjoyment of life.

Our final wine is the furthest east geographically - a wine that was recommended by Chris at Bolney Estates and rightly so as it was superb. Very striking labeling again in a style we have seen becoming more and more popular these wines were from Domeniul Coroanei in Romania.

Minima Morralia is a range of wine with each wine having a black and white image of someone's face and a virtuous name.

Honesty - oaked and unoaked Viognier, Tamaioasa Romaneasca

Honor - Feteasca Alba, oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris

Hope - Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, oaked Cabernet Sauvignon

Gratitude - Cabernet Sauvignon

Respect - Cabernet Sauvignon, Marselan

Devotion - Syrah, Cabernat Sauvignon, Marselan 

Romanian wine is fairly new to both of us, having tried just a few at various tastings. It was so interesting to learn about these striking wines, for me Honesty stood out but they were all very good wines.

Our London Wine Fair virtual trip across Europe certainly produced some surprises - some of which we hope to experience in reality as we travel more and more in time.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Icmeler Sea Star and Turkish Wine

We love Sentido Sea Star hotel in Icmeler, Turkey and it seems they love us too as we were again greeted like family not guests. It was lovely to see some familiar faces amongst the staff, especially Melis, Sercan, Sal and Mehmet.

Our previous three visits have been in October but as we missed going last year we decided to book early and see what Turkey is like in May - as beautiful as ever is the answer. You can read about our 2016 and previous holidays by following this link

This year we decided to try more of the Turkish wine but before my reviews here's a few highlights from our amazing stay at Sea Star.
My sofa for the week - I couldn't ask for a better view 
Turkish coffee with Turkish Delight - I loved this set so much we walked
a mile to a kitchen shop - there is now a set at Maison Hearnden
We took a taxis boat to Marmaris - bit of an adventure as it was a choppy day
Hubby enjoying our taxis ride
Turkish Night - delicious food including this superb kebab,
a huge joint of lamb, and of course baklava for dessert
Looking down from our balcony on a la carte night -
the reserved tables are top side of the pool 
Every mealtime is special when you dine here 
All Inclusive at its best - 24 hour and a
minibar in the room 
Pirate Party Ship cruising by 
A huge thank you to all the staff at Sea Star - we had an amazing holiday and will be returning soon.

So ..... Turkish wine ..........

As returning guests there was a bottle of Kulup and dishes of nuts/fruit in our room when we arrived - it's a lovely welcome. We have had this wine before and on previous years have found it more enjoyable when chilled.

Kulup Kirmizi Sek Sarap is a dry red wine made from Merlot and Alicante Bouchet grapes. At 12% it is light for a red and was a young wine being a 2016 vintage.

In the glass it was a light red with tawny edges, it looked very inviting in the Turkish sun.

Aroma wise we both picked up a sawdust smell, rough sawn wood in a saw mill was the image I had. There was a little fruit but nothing specific and a hint of organic/earthiness but not as strong as Cabernet Franc's aroma.

Lovely light tannins with plenty of plums in its flavour. A medium bodied wine with a lengthy finish holding a little spice. Our welcome wine was very much enjoyed - thank you.


Our first supermarket Turkish wine was Buzbag Klasik 2016 - at today's exchange rate just over £5. A wine blend of Okuzgozu and Bogazkere grapes; the first giving the wine its acidity and the second its tannins.

Okuzogzu is pronounced 'Oh-cooz-goe-zue', its fruit resembles a dark round bulls eye, hence the name. It's high in acidity yet low in alcohol with a delicate softness.

Bogazkere means 'throat burner' - not an appealing name for a wine. This grape has high dense tannin, similar to Tannat, however the tannins do balance out with age giving it a complex dense flavour.

Combining these two grapes produced a superb dry red wine which we really liked. A deep red colour with a strong red currant aroma that had a background of spice.

Buzbag's flavour was full of dark fruits and I was expecting full tannins, surprisingly they were light and more to the front of my mouth. It was quite acidic causing our mouths to water but in a very moreish way. It was a little thin in depth which is understandable at only 12.5%.


Thursday night at the hotel is Wine Tasting night - as you'll see from my previous Turkish post it isn't like a wine tasting we have over here, it's a single bottle of rose wine with aperitif glasses for serving.

Dolce Vita produced by Yazgan is a rose wine made from Syrah and Kalecik Karasi. Kalecik is a small village north of Ankara; Kalecik Karasi means 'black from small castle'.

This wine had a beautiful salmon colour with glistening highlights, it's aroma had a little minerality; we both thought of white pebbles. It had peachy highlights in both aroma and flavour, quite dry for a rose with a sharp finish.

As an aperitif this was a delicious wine, I'm not sure I would pair it with food although maybe cheese at the end of a meal.


Our final two Turkish wines were Tellibag Carignan & Okuzgozu and Tellibag Sultaniye & Narince; both around £4.00, both around 12% and both with detailed pencil drawings of vines on their labels.

Carignan is one of our favourite grapes; I'm particularly like French Carignan whereas Hubby likes Carinena from Spain.

There was plenty of known wine grapes on the supermarket shelves; merlot, cabernet sauvignon to name two but we wanted to try different varieties. We chose this red as it was a grape we knew and Okuzgozu we had tried in the Buzbag.

A very different colour to the previous wines, deep crimson in the glass with scarlet edges, very inviting. I was quite surprised however with its nose, my initial thoughts were of an ashtray but not unpleasant. There was also dark chocolate and spice, both characteristics of Carignan.

A sour note hit our palates on initial tasting but this mellowed into dark damsons, cherries with that spice hoovering in the background. Very light tannins with a short finish, we both enjoyed this wine, Hubby more than me maybe.

Tellibag white wine was a blend of two more new grapes to us; Sultaniye and Narince. Pronounced 'sool-tah-nee-yah' Sultaniye in eaten all over Turkey as a fruit but often also used in wine making. It's a very easy eating/drinking grape making it very versatile.

Narince is a grape from central Turkey; its name means 'delicately'. It's grown at a higher altitude in a harsher climate, the terroir originally a river bed thousands of years ago. Narince is also an eating grape.

A beautiful pale pear colour with a floral and quince nose. On the palate there was a freshness of lemon, pear and apple with a subtle minerality. Quite a dry wine but not acidic, it had a slightly syrupy finish giving it  elements of Viognier/Chardonnay.

We had an amazing holiday in Turkey enjoying our hotel and discovering new wines - tesekkur ederim Sea Star

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Barn

Set out in the Warwickshire countryside The Barn is a family run business offering good food and a variety of beers. It was previously a micro brewery and the current owners are brewing again.

The outside is welcoming with ample parking and a wide entrance, I loved the use of pallet wood to make plant holders.
The Barn
The menu has plenty of choice and Chef was very good, making me a green salad with my steak, a beautiful meal. 

For starter we chose the baked camenbert, something I cook at home which we both love. It came with bread and three jams/chutneys; my favourite was the fig and liquorice, absolutely delicious. 
Baked Camenbert
For mains Hubby and I had steak, as I mentioned before mine was with lovely green salad with advocado, brocolli and beans. Hubby's came with a basket of chuncky chips, both steaks were cooked perfectly, more like mini chateaubriand than flat steak.

Our son ordered a burger, great choice with his Pravha beer. It was a sizeable burger too and was also accompanied by a basket of chunky chips. 

Hubby's steak
My super green salad and steak
Son's burger
 Our meals were all very filling, so much so we decided not to have one of the delicious sounding desserts, especially the bread and pudding.

It's a really relaxing in The Barn, open plan with an upstairs mezaine yet it isn't noisy and still has a personal feel when at your table.
The Barn open plan 
Beers on tap
Beer selection
 If you fancy a drive or cycle in the Warwickshire countryside I would certainly plan a lunch stop at The Barn