Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 5 December 2016

Adegga Christmas Market: 1st December – report on the Premium Room

As promised on Saturday my report on the Adegga Christmas Market held at the Marriott Lisbon on 1st December 2016. This report first appeared on the Adegga website.

The Adegga Christmas 2016 Wine Market

The Premium Room

This December 2016 edition was the 20t h Adegga Wine Market. Over the years the Premium Room has given those prepared to pay the additional fee (free for privileged journalists) the chance to taste some wonderful wines. Entry to the Premium Room for this edition cost 50 € compared to 15€ for a basic ticket. However, the additional 35€ was actually brilliant value giving the opportunity to experience a remarkable vertical tasting of Niepoort’s Batuta (Douro) from 1999 to 2014 as well as a short range of fascinating Ports with two from the 1930s. Just buying one of the Ports – the Burmester 1952 would have set you back 400€.

When I taste and drink wine I place a lot of importance on the texture of a wine – the mouth-feel, so in my notes on these wines you will find more comments on texture rather than trying to link flavours to particular fruits, etc.

It goes without saying that my notes and thoughts on these wines are based on tasting without food. Drinking wine with food makes a large difference – tannins and acidity that are too apparent when tasting are softened and hidden.

When André Ribeirinho asked me to write up this edition’s Premium Room tasting for the Adegga website, he kindly offered me a fee. However, I declined the fee as I didn’t want this report to be seen as an advertorial. Also I have been privileged to be invited on a number of occasions by the Adegga team to taste the Premium wines, so I am very pleased to have this opportunity to say thank you.      


1. Monte da Ravasqueira MR Espumante 2012
Ravasqueira is in the Alentejo a little to the north of Evora. This recently launched sparkling wine is made entirely from
Alfrocheiro and spends 36 months sur latte. Initially pungently yeasty, floral notes develop in the glass. This is crisp clean, apéro sparkling wine with some depth.

2. Quinta do Sibio
Samarrinho 2015
Although Samarrinho is an indigenous variety from the Douro and is often found in the region’s old vineyards, this is the only Portuguese wine made from this variety. The Quinta do Sibio in the Douro is part of the Real Companhia Velha group. The 2015 has an attractive unusual floral and citric nose with good mouth-filling texture, long finish with fine balancing acidity. This is a good example of how good the balance of fruit and acidity now is in Portuguese whites. It also strongly suggests that if other producers have access to Samarrinho it merits vinifying it on its own.  

3. Quinta da Alorna
Marquesa de Alorna Grande Reserva 2014

Alorna is an estate in the Tejo. The Marquesa de Alorna Grande Reserva is made from a blend of indigenous varieties. A proportion of the wine is fermented and aged for three months in French oak. A delicate lightly citric nose, quite opulent texture/mouth-feel, this is still quite tight in the fresh finish. Would benefit from more time in bottle. I would wait another year or so. 

4.  Quinta Maria Izabel Vinhas Velhas – Vinhas da Princesa 2014

This Douro quinta is to the east of Peso da Régua. Vinhas Velhas – Vinhas da Princesa is a blend of mainly Rabigato, Códega, Viosinho and Arinto from vines aged between 15 and 80 years. However, some of the varieties in the very old vineyards cannot be identified. 10% is vinified in stainless steel, while 90% goes into 500-litre French barrels.  

Mid lemon colour, a lightly floral nose, attractive mouth texture, touch of oak with good freshness and length. Can be drunk now but will benefit from further time in bottle.


5. Quinta dos Carvalhais Branco Especial

Carvalhais is a well-known Dão domaine in the Sogrape group. The Branco Especial is a blend of Encruzado, Gouveio and Sémillon and a fascinating blend of vintages – 2004, 2005 and 2006. Light gold colour, showing some evolution – slight oxidation but adding complexity. The Especial has a tight, austere but long finish and I would be inclined to put it into a decanter before serving.

6 Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única 2011 (double magnum)

From the good and excellent value Pingo Doce own label Alvarinho made by Anselmo through to this lovely Single Vineyard, Anselmo Mendes is the magician of Vinho Verde. Initially the Parcela Única has quite a yeasty nose, lovely restrained texture, elegant length of quite austere fruit in the very long finish.  Just beautifully balanced and one of my favourite Vinho Verdes. Where's the crab or grilled turbot?! 


7. Quinta do Portal Touriga Nacional 2000 (magnum)

The family-owned Quinta do Portal is high above Pinhão in the Upper Douro. The 2000 Touriga Nacional is still quite ruby coloured but becoming bricky at the edge, lovely herbal aromas, seductive texture with soft tannins. This is a mid-weight, elegant Douro red showing how well these wines can age. Enjoy now!

8.  Monte da
Ravasqueira Touriga Nacional 2012

Ravasqueira is in the Alentejo a little to the north of Evora. The 2012 is very youthful in colour and aromas with tannins quite present – indeed a tad dominant making this a quite butch style Douro red. Ideally the 2012 needs several more years in bottle or a big steak!

9. Quinta do Piloto Coleção de Familia 2013

Quinta do Piloto is in Palmela to the north of Sétubal. The 2013 Coleção de Familia comes from a 60-year-old vineyard and is mainly Castelão (90%) with 10% of other varieties. It has a youthful ruby colour with warm seductive aromas and mouth-filling texture with quite marked tannins in the finish. I would decant this to drink and enjoy now or keep for another couple of years before trying again. However, the 2013 Coleção de Familia is more ready to drink than Ravasqueira’s 2012 Touriga Nacional.

10. Mouchão Tonel n° 3-4 2011

Mouchão in the Alentejo is one of the great historic estates of Portugal and Tonel n° 3-4 one of its iconic wines. Unusually Alicante Bouchet, a teinturier grape, is the star variety here and Tonel is 100% Alicante Bouschet from their Carapetos vineyard. Mid-plum colour with a warm herbal nose but quite restrained. Delicately textured initially but marked power and structure soon becomes apparent. Long, quite tannic finish, needs another four or five years to show its real best.

Last July I visited Mouchão. Here is a report on the visit from my Jim’s Loire blog:


11. Quinta da Carvalhais Reserva Tinto 2011

Carvalhais is a well-known Dão domaine in the Sogrape group. The Resserva Tinto 2011 has a touch of gaminess on the nose along with red fruits with opulent seductive mouth-filling texture. Well structured with some quite marked tannins in the very long powerful finish. Decant for an hour or so or wait another two or three years. Will be a lovely bottle.


12. Casa Ferreirinha Quinta da Leda 2014
Casa Ferreirinha is also part of the Sogrape group and is their high quality Douro brand. The winemaker is Luís Sottomayor. The 2014 is a blend of 60% Touriga Franca, 15% Touriga Nacional, 15% Tinto Cão, 10% Tinta Roriz. Still youthful colour, lovely soft texture, structure and some tannins in the long finish. The 2014 has length and power but also delicacy – a fine bottle now but can certainly be kept.

13. Quinta dos Murças VV47 2012.

The long established Quinta dos Murças in the Douro with 155 hectares of vines between Regua and Pinhão was bought by Esporão group in 2008. This wine comes from vines planted in 1947 and is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. The 2012 is dark, dense, plum coloured with a rich herbal nose, mouth-filling texture, length. The powerful finish includes the frequent Douro tannic grip. It can be drunk now especially if decanted but I would look to keep this for at least another year or two before trying again.

Batuta by Niepoort – the vertical: 1999 to 2014
Batuta was born in 1999, so we were very privileged through Dirk Niepoort’s generosity in providing this vertical tasting of this Douro wine from 1999 to 2014 with just two vintages not shown – 2002 and 2006.  

Batuta comes mainly from
north-facing very old vineyards from Quinta do Carril, where the vines are more than 70 years old. Grapes also come from older vines (about 100 years old) near Quinta de Nápoles, the home of the Niepoort Douro winery. Fermentation takes place in cone-shaped stainless steel vats and wooden barrels. Batuta is aged for 22 months in French oak barrels, with 25% new oak.

This vertical tasting again brought to the fore Dirk Niepoort’s signature – the remarkable delicacy and finesse in his wines. Batuta is far removed from some Douro wines that are over-extracted with too much tannin. Some of these Batutas recalled the finesse of good Pinot Noir – little wonder that Dirk is a big fan of Burgundy.


14. 1999

Lovely spicy complex nose, complexity on palate, rich but wonderful delicacy, too. Delicious if perhaps slightly drying in finish. Would consider drinking up any bottles fairly soon.

15. 2000

Spicy nose a little less opulent than the 1999. Again delicacy, which is a touchstone of the Niepoort reds, is showing here. Has a resemblance to the sexy seductiveness of a fine Pinot Noir. A star.

16. 2001 (magnum)

Once more the warm, spicy signature aroma. Less opulent than 2000 and 1999.

A leaner colder vintage or is this an effect of this coming from a magnum? Tannins showing in finish but would be masked by food.

17. 2003

Mid plum, a little bricky at the edge, seductive mouth-feel and texture, rich wine, sweet fruit runs through. Opulent and very seductive but there is always that impressive delicacy – these Batutas are not Douro brutes!

18. 2004 (magnum)

Mid plum, red fruits, spicy nose, lovely delicate texture, length, some tannins showing in finish but ripe and well integrated. Lot of charm.

19. 2005 (magnum)
Still youthful mid-plum colour, spicy red fruits nose, sweet texture, structure in finish, complexity and length. Integrated tannins in finish. Lovely wine.

20. 2007 (magnum)

Mid plum, delicate red fruits nose, delicacy not a heavyweight, has balanced thread that runs through. Finesse over power.

21. 2008

Youthful mid-plum colour, red and black fruit aromas. The spicy notes of the older wines have been replaced here by an emphasis on fruit. Power, length and finesse.

22. 2009

Mid plum, opulent spicy nose – return of the spice! Mouth-filling texture, lovely delicate but enveloping texture. Excellent length and great balance. Lovely wine. Drink now or keep.

23. 2010

Mid-plum, quite dense colour. Seductive red fruits nose, again lovely texture, rich, quite marked tannins and structure. Can be drunk with pleasure now but will certainly keep for a number of years.

24. 2011

Mid to dark plum, some spicy texture, red fruits, touch of dried mushrooms, length, power but delicacy too.

25. 2012

Mid plum colour, warm red fruit aromas, cherries, texture leaner more restrained and without the same opulence as the 2011 and with grainier tannins.

26. 2013

Mid plum, some faint wood notes, lovely red fruits, sweet texture, very good seamless balance and length. Can be enjoyed now but certainly can be kept for at least five years or more as this vertical clearly demonstrates.

27. 2014

Mid-plum youthful, violets, quite floral aromas, youthful and vibrant, delicate but tight in finish with fresh fruit flavours of a young wine. Well-integrated tannins. Mid-weight. Fine potential. 


I increasingly find tawny and colheita Ports more interesting and complex than Vintage, unless it is very mature and the spirit has become fully integrated and sweetness calmed. There were some lovely Ports here.

28. Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994

One of the most iconic Douro Port estates sited above Pinhão in the Upper Douro bought by
AXA Millésimes in 1993. Spicy cherry nose. Spirit shows a little but some attractive cherry flavours. Length and power. The 94 needs more time with some spirit still showing through in the finish.

29. Noval Colheita 1976
Walnut colour, nutty austerity, quite austere texture and power. Touch of appealing harshness with great length – great. This is very fine and although admittedly it is 18 years older than the Vintage tasted above it reinforces my feeling that Colheitas tend to be more interesting and complex than Vintage Ports.


30. Calém Colheita 1961

Calém along with Barros, Burmester and Kopke are now part of the Sogevinus group.

The 1961 has a delicate mid-gold colour with aromas and flavours of nuts and dried herbs, good concentration along with lovely finesse too. An excellent and delicious Port.


31. Burmester Colheita 1952
Burmester along with Barros, Calém and Kopke are now part of the Sogevinus group.

Mid burnished gold, still rich dried fruit – apricots and sultanas, great finesse and delicacy, length. A glass to sip and enjoy at the end of a good meal. Lovely!

32. Kopke Colheita 1957
Kopke along with Barros, Burmester and Calém are now part of the Sogevinus group.

Mid to deep burnished gold, sweet raisined fruit, a little touch of alcohol, quite austere finish providing an interesting contrast to the residual sweetness. Very long finish.

33. Real Companhia Velha 1938
The first of the two pre-Second World War Ports, this
comes from old vines at Quinta das Carvalhas in the Upper Douro on the south bank of the river. Mid gold colour, still quite sweet dried fruits on palate. While attractive the 1938 doesn't have the complexity and finesse of some of the other Colheitas here.

34. Niepoort Colheita 1934
Deep burnished walnut colour, concentration of sweet dried fruits, apricots and raisins allied with lovely austerity. Very long, complex finish. This has that fantastic combination of fruit and almost painful austerity that I love in old fortified wines whether they are Ports, Jerez or Madeira. 

Truly stunning – great wine!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

A return to cycling in the London area

Giant Contend SL Disc

Scott 720 Hard Tail

I recently bought a new road bike as a further part of my return to reasonably regular cycling that started with a long over due purchase of a mountain bike in January 2013. Most of my riding on the mountain bike has been in the Loire or in Scotland. Apart from a few sorties round the South Circular to Wandsworth, I have limited my Scott 720 riding to circuits round the nearby Crystal Palace Park, which only involves a brief ride on London roads – along Sydenham Hill.  

I am very pleased with my Giant Contend SL with disc brakes bought and fitted by Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace. Made from aluminium it is light, although not quite as light as a carbon frame, response and very enjoyable to ride. Obviously a road bike isn't suited to riding round the perimeter of the Crystal Palace Park, so time to venture out again on London roads after an absence of nearly 30 years.

There are obvious changes – much more traffic, larger cars and lorries, many more cycle lanes – I haven't yet been on any of the new bike superhighways in the centre of London as I prefer to head out of London rather than into it. Some of the cycle lanes are wafter-thin – probably less than a metre wide – more a sop than a realistic lane.  Little wonder that some drivers pass far too close to cyclists. Dedicated space for cyclists by traffic lights is a welcome innovation.

There is far more traffic furniture than there was 30 years ago. Traffic islands are obviously good news for pedestrians wanting to cross a busy road but often they are pinch points for cyclists. I always try to ride out in the middle going through a traffic island unless it is very wide. Otherwise it is always possible that a car or van will try to squeeze pass you, whether there is space or not.

As I a cyclist I think it is very important that I am seen to obey the Highway Code – in particular respect pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. I have always worn bright cycle clothing despite jokes about middle aged (or elderly) men wearing lycra – both to try to make sure that I am seen and that cycle clothing is much more comfortable and practical to wear if you cycle any distance. Also the seat of ordinary trousers soon wear out with frequent riding. 

Even wearing bright clothing there are occasions when a driver clearly hasn't seen me – may be because these drivers look for other vehicles and don't notice bikes. Given the huge increase in cycling in London they really should train themselves to look out for bikes.  

I also wear a helmet, which I never did 30 years ago even when doing a late afternoon 25-mile time trial on the busy A2 (London-Dover road) in torrential rain! Now I shudder to think how dangerous this was!   

Many car drivers are considerate giving cyclists plenty space when passing and only when it is safe to do so. Unfortunately there are a minority, who obviously lack patience and drive recklessly and dangerously. This includes some London buses, who certainly speed in 20 mph limits eg some 363s along Sydenham Hill. Also includes a double-decker bus who cut right across me in Croydon at the Fairfield Hall roundabout.

The worst piece of driving I have seen while out riding was when I was coming back down the Chipstead Valley road towards Coulsdon. A small builder's truck speed past me despite me riding at around 20 mph – the road was slightly downhill – and with a line of cars coming in the other direction. The lunatic driver narrowly missed crashing into the first on-car. 

This lunatic ought to read the Highway Code on overtaking cyclists and other vulnerable traffic but unfortunately it is very unlikely that he will. It would be good to think that the Government's consideration of increasing the penalties for dangerous driving might persuade some people to drive more sensibly with consideration for other road users. 

It is obvious that some car drivers feel considerable animosity towards cyclists, which is doubtless returned by some cyclists. I am always surprised that there are cyclists who ride at night wearing dark clothing and with no lights or just a faint rear light. If cyclists jump red lights or ignore pedestrians on a crossing it is not surprising that some car drivers complain about us! 

Another difference from 30 or more years ago – I used to seek out hills and mountains to climb now it is more a question of looking for ways to avoid very steep climbs!                     

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Excellent #winelover dinner @Enoteca de Bélem

 #winelovers on a roll @Enoteca de Bélem
Wall of the Enoteca's WC 

Last night, the day after the Adegga Christmas 2016 Wine Market a group of us had an excellent and very enjoyable dinner at the excellent Enoteca de Bélemanother link here. This small enoteca opened in 2009 adding a kitchen in 2011. 

Nelson Guerreiro is the front of house and Ricardo Gonçalves rattles the pots and pans to great effect. We had a delicious 35€ tasting menu. As there are just a few tables booking is strongly advised.

2015 Reserva (Branco) Quinta da Boa Esperança

Early arrivals limbered up with this new discovery – the 2015 Reserva (Vinho Regional Lisboa – white) from Quinta da Boa Esperança. This is a blend of Arinto (60%) and Ferñao Pires (40%). We were very impressed by this well balanced white with sensitively used oak. This estate has recently been discovered by the Enoteca, who are also decidedly impressed.     

 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Quinta da Boa Esperança

 We also tried Esperança's attractively mineral Sauvignon Blanc, although as always I wonder why Portuguese producers bother with international varieties like Sauvignon Blanc when they have such a treasure trove of indigenous varieties. 

Delicate meat pie as a mise en bouche 

 Goats' cheese and apple pastries with grilled walnuts 

 2015 Verdelho Original, Azores, Antonio Maçanita 
Lovely pure, crisp precise wine from the Azores 

The rest of the wines were kindly supplied by Andre Ribeirinho. They were tasted blind. 

Brilliant octopus dish
– just perfectly cooked
dominó, Monte Pratas, by Vitor Claro made 
in association with Dirk Niepoort

2006 Charme, Douro, Niepoort 
One wine I did recognise 
or at least it was Niepoort due to its 
finesse and delicacy.
Made from a blend of Tinta Roriz, 
Touriga Franca and others
Vale de Mendiz in the Pinhão Valley   

2007 Charme, Niepoort
We should have had the 07, which is a very good Douro vintage 
but André decided that it wasn't showing well – rather short 
so substituted the 06

We tried the dominó and the 2006 Charme with the octopus dish (above) – my preference was was the Charme – the delicate red matching the dish better.  

Veal with sweet potato duchess and chestnuts
– another fine dish

2013 Abandonado, Douro, Alves da Sousa

With the meat course we had two fine wines from Alves da Sousa. Firstly the 2013 Abandonado from a Douro vineyard that had been abandoned followed by the fine 2011 Quinta da Gaivosa. I thought the softer, more opulent Quinta da Gaivosa was a better match for the veal than the Abandonado with its higher acidity.    

2011 Quinta da Gaivosa, Douro, Alves da Sousa

An amazing treat and high note to finish on: 
1941 Colheita from Kopke 

#winelover Magnus Reuterdahl 
Magnus composes another tweet...

... still on a roll......