Welcome to the latest installment of #TWSTaste. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin …
… and then we’ll start again at 7.30 for the keeno earlybirds with our latest Bin Series wine, Bin #003 Ribolla Gialla …
… and then again again at 8 o’clock with the official #TWSTaste wines!
First up at 8pm will be …
Blackbook Winery, The Mixup 2018 £18
Blackbook was born of a love of three things: cool climate pinot noir and chardonnay; the English wine industry; and London. They are an urban winery located in a railway arch in Battersea, a stone’s throw from Battersea Park in south London.
The grapes are sourced from growers within hours of the city, carefully selected for their well-located vineyards and high quality grapes. Their ethos embraces a single fundamental goal: “to make bloody good wine”. They endeavour to bring the hard work of the vineyard owners to the forefront by creating a range of single vineyard wines that showcase the quality and potential for making world-leading still wine here in England.
The winemaker is Sergio Verrillo. Here he is in our St Evenage dining room after a recent lunch with buyer Freddy Bulmer.
There’s a profile on the-buyer.net by Harry Crowther from last year, which includes this snippet:
“Aamerican born Sergio attended Plumpton College in 2010, where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in oenology. During his studies, Sergio harvest-hopped between hemispheres, spending time in Southern France, Sonoma, Burgundy, South Africa and, most recently, New Zealand with Ata Rangi – I guess you can start to see where the interest in Pinot and Chardonnay has been nurtured.
“Sergio told me that after a boozy night at Brixton’s O2 Academy with his partner Lynsey, the concept of Blackbook was born:
“ “We pride ourselves on buying fruit exclusively from the UK, unlike other urban wineries who often buy from overseas.” ”
They have two focal varieties, chardonnay and pinot noir. While they love these varieties, additional grapes are sourced annually to produce experimental releases that keep them on their toes! Sometimes they are even added to their range if the creations work.
This is their experimental wine for 2018. A blend of two aromatic white varieties, bacchus, and ortega, the grapes were grown at Redhill Farm Estate in Kent, just 35 miles from the winery.
They are hand-picked and sorted in the vineyard, then fermented separately and using indigenous yeast. The bacchus was fermented and aged in steel tank on lees and the ortega was destemmed and fermented on skins for 25 days. The ortega was pressed to burgundy barrels. Both wines underwent full, natural malolactic fermentation and aged for a total of 6 months on lees.
They say: “The Mix-up is a textural and aromatic wine lending itself to rich ripe stone fruits, hints of elderflower, cinnamon, clove and almonds. Unfined and unfiltered.”
We say: “A real curiosity, made by an American winemaker in London! This 50:50 blend of bacchus and ortega, partially oak fermented, partially on skins, has aromas bursting with notes of curry spice, herb, lardo and green grass and a textured, intricate palate. Completely weird, completely wonderful and a delicious advertisement for this sought-after urban winery.”
And now on to the red …
Chateau Ksara Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 £16.95
Chateau Ksara is the oldest and largest winery in Lebanon, and with over 150 years of experience it is not surprising that their wines win awards every year.
Winemaking actually began in Lebanon a staggering 5,000 years ago, and the Christian faith even cites Jesus’ ‘'water to wine’ miracle happened here. This rich winemaking history means it is not surprising that it is Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that hosts the ancient Roman temple of Bacchus – Roman God of wine – rather than other more famous wine-producing countries.
In fact, Chateau Ksara has fittingly religious roots: it was founded by Jesuit monks in 1857, who brought the winery through the first 120 years of its existence, only relinquishing control to local businessmen in 1973. It was these monks who discovered the stunning underground caves that are still used to store Ksara’s wines and that are part of the reason it is such a popular visitor attraction for wine lovers worldwide. The monks were also responsible for producing Lebanon’s first dry red wine.
At the end of the First World War, the French were mandated to govern Lebanon as part of the Versailles peace talks. This meant an insurgence of French soldiers and civil servants whose palates were not used to the traditional sweet raisin-based wines of Lebanon, so the monks began to plant more French varieties such as carignan, muscat and ugni blanc, setting them in good stead for the Rhône and Bordeaux varieties for which they are now famous.
Incredibly, the chateau didn’t miss a single vintage during Lebanon’s war-ravaged years towards the end of the 20th century, and in 1993 it began planting cabernet sauvignon and syrah – the two varieties that now make up their ever-popular Réserve du Couvent wine.
Their vineyards are all in the central and western Bekaa Valley (Lebanon’s premium wine-production area) which gives them unique advantages: the surrounding mountains protect them both from the sea and the desert, and produce a microclimate of cool nights and hot days. At 1000m altitude, Ksara’s Mediterranean climate of rainy winters, mild springs, and hot, dry summers is assisted by a natural irrigation: water reaches the vineyard from melting snow on the mountains. French oenologists have assisted in guiding the chateau since 1974, and in the past decade they have helped introduce more modern vinification techniques and wire-trained vineyards, building on the already remarkable quality of their wines.
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from selected grapes from the best plots. Grapes are manually harvested, destemmed and vatted, with fermentation at a temperature of 28°C. The wine is pumped over several times and daily tastings are performed in order to let the grape variety express its best characteristics. After 15-20 days, the free run wine is separated from the press wine and malolactic fermentation takes place. Matured in French oak casks (50% new) for 12 months.
They say: “Dense robe, deep purple-red, a spicy nose with pepper and notes of ripe red fruits. In the mouth, it has power and length. The firm tannins confer to the wine cedar note; still young, this cabernet of long conversation has just started to seduce.”
We say: “This special cuvée comes from a single vineyard in the Bekaa Valley planted to cabernet sauvignon. It is fine, cedary and succulent with beautifully balanced tannins and length.”