Saint-Émilion, Message in a Bottle

A very interesting account of how St. Emilion, one of my favourite places in France and amongst my favourite wines, came about; it’s history and what makes it great today.


This story tells how the history of Saint-Émilion, the UNESCO World Heritage wine region located in Bordeaux France, provides travel inspiration.

st emilion

The History of Saint-Émilion

In the 8th century a monk from Brittany fledsouth on his way to Compostelle for protection from persecution for his faith. Not an easy journey, the monk delayed along the way to rest and hide in a cave near the Dordogne River where he attractedhigh admiration fromarea citizens as he was said to have performed miracles. Other monks began to approach him, and the energy and influence of his presence grew. After his death and eventual canonization, religious sites were erected in his name; perhaps the most famous is the Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion .

Saint Émilion–a monk whose name represents heritage, faith, integrity and history — had settled himself in an area where vines grew plentiful. The vineyards were first established by the Romans…

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Kauri Tree Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014.

It’s summer and you fancy something light, crisp and citrus to go with your seafood salad on a hot day, what better than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Hawkes bay. This is exactly what I was thinking when I picked up this Kauri Tree Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Sainsbury. Not only that but at 12% alcohol it is relatively light on alcohol too. I really like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc so I was looking forward to this one nicely chilled:-

Kauri Sav Blanc

Bought from: Sainsbury.

Price: £6.50 (on special offer, full price £8.00)

Producer: Lismore.

Winemaker: Alan McCorkindale.

Agent and bottler: Off Piste Wines

Closure: screwcap

Region: Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Vintage: 2014

Alcohol %: 12.0

Colour/appearance: very pale with a greeny tinge.

Bouquet/smell/nose: Lychees, lemon, gooseberries.

Taste/Palate: Lemon, citrus and gooseberries with just a little acidity. Crisp.

Remarks: My hopes and expectations for this wine were fulfilled; a very pleasant summer wine with citrus tones which you could drink on it’s own or with food – Tuna or other seafood perhaps with some delicate spices mixed in. Drink now or store for up to a year. Go out and buy some before winter sets in 😉


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Château Simard Saint Emilion 1996

My choice of this wine was influenced by several factors:-

  • I have never had a twenty year old wine before.
  • I have visited 11th Century village of Saint Emilion on several occasions and fell in love with the place. I have probably walked past the vineyard where this wine originates without knowing (I am lead to believe that it is fairly near the centre of St. Emilion.
  • I already love St.Emilion wines – a bit softer than from other parts of Bordeaux, probably because of the higher proportion of Merlot in the blend.

I was feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation before opening this one. I had read reviews of this wine dating back ten years that said “ready to drink now” so I was concerned that it might now be past it’s best. You won’t get this kind of wine at Sainsbury or Tescos (or any other supermarket for that matter, which for those of you who have read my reviews before will know I do most of my wine shopping, as I mostly review good value for money wines rather than great wines) . No, this one I bought at Majestic where you can buy “good value for money” wines but they also offer better quality wines, and a fuller range.

I decided to open this wine on the evening of August 6th 2016. Majestic recommended that I decant it which makes a lot of sense given it’s age it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a cast. I decanted it an hour before it was due to be consumed; it turned out that there was only a slight residue but it also gave it a bit of time to breathe:-

Simaud St Emillion

Chateau Simard Saint Emilion A.O.C. 1996.

The Château Simard story is quite an interesting one. This wine was made by Claude Mazière – the owner. Claude had a simple approach to wine making, preferring to hand sell one vintage at a time to his loyal local customers. After his death in 2008 the vineyard was run by the Vauthier-Mazière family and was managed by Alain Vauthier (Claude’s nephew), co-owner of Château Ausone, one of only two “Premier Grand Cru Classé A” top St. Emilion top growths. After Alain Vauthier took over in 2008 he “modernised” the way that the vineyard, wine production and marketing took place and the wines that were still cellared at Château Simard were able to reach a wider audience. Production of Château Simard continues:-

Chateau Simard Brochure

Price: £11.99 as part of six mixed bottle deal at Majestic. Full price £13.99.

Vintage: 1996

From: Saint Emilion, Gironde, Bordeaux, France

Alcohol concentration %: 12.5 (abv)

Colour: Browny red

Nose/Smell/ bouquet: Cedar, Ripe plums (slightly prunes if I’m honest)

Palate/Taste: Cedar/ Cigar box/ tobacco/ spice/pepper/spice

Finish: Long complex finish with very soft trace of tannins.

Further comments: I enjoyed it, my wife thought that it needed food but I could drink it on it’s own – we have different things that we like in a wine. Many people on Majestic’s website think that it is past it’s best, and yes it probably has seen better days but I don’t think that it is too far gone; there is still lots of fruit, cedar and spice flavours in there and it’s age imparts a softness which is pleasant whilst retaining a complexity not always found in this price bracket. Buy it and drink it now while stocks last.

Majestic’s Chateau Simard page and reviews.



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Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards 2016 Shortlist

The Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards short lists 2016 brought to you by Effi Tsournava – The Wine sinner. Effi writes a fantastic blog mostly about Greek wines.

Effi drinks wine


Since 2004, the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards have been celebrating high quality wine content creators.

For the 12th  year of the awards, the judge committee consists of the following wine professionals:

  • Charles Metcalfe, Chairman of the judges
  • Tim Atkin MW
  • Fiona Beckett
  • Sarah Jane Evans MW
  • Bill Knot

Please find the 2016 LRIWWA shortlist below:


–          Frances Andrijich

–          Leif Carlsson

–          Herbert Lehmann

–          George Rose

–          Matt Wilson

–          Jon Wyand

–          Lauren Eads

–          William Kelley

–          Emily O’Hare

–          Zachary Sussman

–          Kelli White

–          Jane Anson

–          Andrea Frost

–          Andrew Jefford

–          Yolanda Ortiz de Arri

–          Ronald Washam

–          Alder Yarrow

–          The History of Wine in 100 Bottles –…

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La Châsse Côtes du Rhône Reserve 2014.

I mentioned before that for a while I was “off” Cotes Du Rhône, well that was a while ago and now I am quite keen on the stuff. I was wandering around the wine aisles at Sainsbury recently when I came across this one; I have bought one or more bottles of it before, so I knew that it would be a “winner” but I had never bought it with a review in mind – until now:-

Meffrere C-d-R

La Châsse Côtes du Rhône Reserve.

Producer: Gabriel Meffre

Winemaker:  Veronique Torcolacci

Vintage: 2014

Grapes: Mixture of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault in varied amounts.

Origin: Southern Rhône – Gigondas, north-east of Avignon, (Vaucluse), France.

Alcohol content%: 13 (abv)

Price: £5.50/ bottle (special offer – usual price £7.00)

Colour: Deep red (touch of purple)

Bouquet/smell/nose: Strawberry, Blackcurrants, Cherries

Taste/palate: Noticable tannins with Blackcurrants and spice.

Remarks: Whilst Sainsbury state that it is ready now but will keep (up to five years), I think that it would benefit from keeping a bit longer to soften those tannins – either that or decant an hour or more before drinking. We felt that it needed food in it’s current state and it did soften after a while. After saying that, it was an enjoyable wine and would accompany Mediterranean food, mature cheese, grilled meats or a Sunday roast. You could drink it on its own but I would let it breath a bit first 😉 I thought that I got good value at £5.50 but if I saw it on for £7.00 I would be tempted to choose a bottle of something else until the price came down again. I will have more of this wine though, and hopefully at £5.00 to £6.00 per bottle.


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Food goes with Wine but which food and which wine?

The eternal question – you are throwing a dinner party or it might be a special occasion and you want to make it special! I have some idea what foods to pair with some wines but I I don’t always have the courage of my convictions – sound familiar? Well I came across this handy guide that helps me to decide and I think that you might find it useful too:-


Perhaps you are not serving food but want to choose according to the characteristics of the wine – it helps there too. It will get you started any way.

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Cuvée Prestige Vin de France.

This sort of wine doesn’t usually get a review I would imagine as it would normally fall below the radar; regarded as not worthy, but I think that it deserves a mention. I think that wines should suit the occasion and the occasion that this wine suits is when you want something ordinary and low(ish) in alcohol “on a school night” – this is a wine for occasions when there is no special occasion. It is good for having with food or snacks – sort of a glorified “Vin de Table” – it is pleasant, it is drinkable  and at £4.80 it is value for money and affordable even when it is not a special occasion:-

Cuvee Prestige VDF

Cuvée Presige Vin de France.

Price: £4.80

Retail Source: Tesco (Bottled for Tesco)

Vintage: Non – Vintage.

Winemaker: Marie Julian

Producer: Val D’orbieu

Bottled at: Jardin du Languedoc

Alcohol content %:11.5 (ABV)

Grape varieties: Val D’orbieu is Frances biggest still wine co-operatives with over 2500 members – A mixed blend for consistent results – most likely predominately the grapes of the Languedoc – Carignan, Mouvèdre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cinsaut – I guess!

Region: Maureillian, Languedoc, France.

Colour:  Deep red with a very slight brick red.

Bouquet/nose/smell: “Rhubarb and Custard sweets!” – then red berries.

Taste/Palate: Ripe Cherries/Plums, soft light tannins, smooth.

Finish: Soft smooth fruity finish of medium longevity.

Remarks: This is the sort of wine and wine price bracket that I would have normally walked past – after all, you get what you pay for with wine, right? Most of the price of the wine goes to the exchequer/Taxman, right? Well, a little while ago I was out to source wines that we a little lighter in alcohol than my usual Aussie or French reds (- which are getting stronger by the way – Global warming?) and I took a chance on this one. I was very pleasantly surprised. It is a nice if not great wine for easy, “everyday” drinking (- no, I don’t drink wine everyday but you know what I mean!) It is well worth the £4.80 that Tesco charge for it, for when it is not a special occasion 😉

Cheap and cheerful!

To see what Tesco say about it.



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Peter Lehmann Portrait Dry Riesling 2015.

I must have known that we were going to be in for some hot weather – it has been uncommonly warm here with temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees Celsius in some parts of Britain because when seeking to find a suitably refreshing wine, I remembered that I had bought this Peter Lehmann Portrait Dry Riesling 2015 on that now well documented trip to Majestic:-

Lehman Riesling

I have experienced an earlier vintage of this “marque” a few years ago. In common with other Australian Riesling it was dry, citrussy, light and refreshing. This 2015 version lived up to my expectations and it was just what was needed in the heat!

Peter Lehmann Portrait Dry Riesling.

Price:£7.99 (with six bottle + discount – Full price £8.99)

Bought at: Majestic Wines


Vintage: 2015

Area/Region/Country: Eden Valley, Tanunda, Barossa, South Australia.

Alcohol content: 11% (ABV)

Colour:Very pale yellow.

Nose/smell/bouquet: Vanilla, Oak, Gooseberries

Taste/palate:Lime, Grapefruit, Citrus with mouth watering acidity – fresh

Finish: Very dry and refreshing on the palate

Comments: A very dry and refreshing wine which was perfect for the end of a warm day. Served chilled, it can be drank on it’s own, as an aperitif or is particularly suited to oily fish and shellfish – being able to hold it’s own when paired with these foods due to the acidity cutting through (wine tip from Majestic). I just found it to be a very pleasant mouthful and if I was looking for this style of wine, Peter Lehmann Portrait Dry Riesling would be at the top of my list at £7.99/bottle.

Peter Lehmann Portrait Dry Riesling



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Beyerskloof Pinotage 2015.

I reviewed a South African Pinotage a little while ago, that was a very different, exciting  and yet polarising wine (I didn’t think that everyone would like it – I loved it) and I was rather hoping for a similar experience with this one – same grape, same country, same price band. While this wine was very pleasant and almost certainly a better known brand for South African wines including Pinotage, I didn’t think that it was quite as exciting; ironically, it would probably register well on more peoples “acceptability” scale than the other but it did not have the same character as the previous “subject”.

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2015.


Price: £6.25 (currently – including £0.75 discount).

Bought at Sainsbury.

Bottled in the U.K. at W1743 (same as yesterday’s review wine – Cheshire although Sainsbury website says bottled in a place in Norfolk.

Vintage: 2015

Area/Region/Country: Koelenhof, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

Alcohol Content: 14% (ABV)

Grape: Pinotage (Uniquely found in South Africa – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut)

Colour: Deep red to Brick red.

Bouquet/nose/smell: Alcohol astringent on nose then cherries.

Taste/Palate: Grassy, very slight smoke, rich red fruits including cherry.

Medium length finish.

Overall, a very pleasant undemanding wine – easy drinking with a good structure – I liked it. Can be drunk on it’s own or with food. It will stand up well to hard cheese, Red meats and even blue cheese. Not as exciting as the Barista that I reviewed recently but good none the less. I think that I did alright at £6.25 – well worth the money. Sainsbury advise drinking young for fruity flavours but that it will develop over the next five years for smooth rich notes – can be drunk now or can be laid down, your choice. If I was laying a wine down it would need to be a bit more distinctive than this but it will “mature and develop” if you chose to do so.

Sainsbury Beyerkloof Pinotage page.

Geniet! (enjoy!)

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The Parcel series Old Vine Zinfandel

Zinfandel is an interesting grape – also known as Primitivo, it is a variety of black-skinned wine grape. The variety is grown in over 10 percent of Californian Vineyards.  DNA analysis has revealed that it is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag, as well as to the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Apulia (the “heel” of Italy), where it was introduced in the 18th century.The grape found its way to the United States in the mid-19th century, where it became known by variations of the name “Zinfandel”, a name which is probably of Austrian origin.

I have only ever known it to come from the United States of America (and as Zinfandel that is probably true). It is a bit of an underrated grape in some quarters but I quite like it. Knowing that the best wines often come from old established vines, I was keen to try this one – “The Parcel Series Old Vine Zinfandel” from Majestic at £6.99 with six bottle mixed case discount – full price £9.99:

Parcel Zinfandel

The Parcel Series Old Vines Zinfandel.

Price: £6.99 including mixed case discount (full £9.99).

Vintage: 2012.

Region/Country: California, U.S.A.

Bottled in U.K. as so many wines are these days! W1743 – apparently, a place in Cheshire.

Alcohol content: 13.5%

Colour: Brick Red with “legs”

Nose/Bouquet/smell: Reminiscent of “Rose hip Syrup”

Palate/Taste:Rose Hip Syrup,  prunes and oak – quite pleasant but may well be past it’s best.

(Majestic say: Full bodied flavours of ripe plum and cherry with notes of liquorice, toast and spicy oak)

Finish: very nice smooth medium finish.

Overall, a very pleasant wine but it may well need drinking now. Still a bargain at £6.99

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