One of the perks of a job in this industry is the ever-present opportunity to taste lots of great food, wine, beer and other equally delightful products. On this occasion I was invited to a tasting at my old stomping ground, The Carriage Hall, by our wine supplier Peter Bamford. First off, I must say that one of my favourite ever wines was a 2001 Ken Forrester Grenache-Syrah blend called "The Gypsy". I first drank this in 2005 at a tasting, subsequently buying a half a dozen bottles and true to my style, saving none of them - so a South African tasting was a good start. Equally, knowing Perkins and The Carriage Hall as I do, I knew this would be no ordinary tasting and hearing that it would be guided by Master of Wine Richard Kelley I really, really couldn't refuse the kind offer. My only previous exposure to a Master of Wine was taking my 3-day Wine Diploma at Tante Marie with John Downes, who like all "MW's" knew more about wine than the rest of us know about everything else put together. With a heavily pregnant wife, I decided that my "+1" could only be our resident "sommelier, wine guy/geek/pervert or weinmeister" - we do call him all of the afore - Simon Franklin.
I have to take a minute to briefly introduce Simon as he will undoubtedly make a regular appearance in my blogs. Whilst I know he will utterly hate to be the centre of any sort of fuss, I have to say that it's an absolute pleasure to work with him every day. He will also hate the below photo, which is why it's there. Simon's knowledge and passion for wine is mind-boggling and feeds my own inner-geek. It helps to keep me [in]sane. I'm certain that it won't be too long before he joins the elite class of Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers himself. Simon has his own wine blog at http://simonpaulfranklin.blogspot.co.uk - please do follow him.
After a brief introduction to Richard Kelley himself (some of which I will interweave into the below tasting notes), we embarked on our six-wine tour of South Africa.
The Liberator "Francophile" Chenin Blanc, 2012
This was an interesting choice by Peter because it transpired that "The Liberator" (a.k.a Rick) was in fact Richard Kelley. Richard lived in South Africa between 1995-2002, seeing the country and it's wine evolve post-apartheid. As well as basing his MW thesis on South African wines, Richard the"Francophile" and lover of French-style wines is a big, BIG fan of Chenin Blanc. This wine was sure to be a winner. Back to "The Liberator" for one moment - "Rick", is Richard's alter-ego. A caped crusader committed to rescuing wines becoming to a dire fate. Distressed by the amount of wine being blended away or even disposed of, Richard created this brand to give the wines a second chance. With no set formula or price point, Richard chooses only the best wines from the region to showcase. "The Francophile" is the 5th episode in his comic-book series and focuses on showing off wines in his favourite French style. Given that Richard is exhibiting his favourite grapes in his favourite style in this "episode" of The Liberator, he can be forgiven for wandering slightly off-point in not actually saving these particular grapes. Instead, he has worked tirelessly to find the best example of the style and commissioned future production to ensure its sustainability. To the wine itself - I noted a very floral nose, with a crisp, acidic green apple, citrus and mineral palate. The wine is aged in its lees for ten months, in addition to part oak and part stainless steel ageing. This gives a more balanced and subtle oaking. I must admit that I preferred the other Chenin that we tried, but then I prefer the richer style.
Vivino Score - 3.0 stars
The Liberator "Francophile" Syrah, 2012
The second of our caped crusader's latest instalments. This wine was commissioned at De Morgenzon [Afrikaans for "the morning sun"] winery. High in the cool granite soil of the Bottelary Hills,
Richard felt this would be the ideal location to represent the Crozes-Hermitage styly. The vineyard is indeed the first to benefit from the morning sun, which reflects in its dense, fruity character. The nose is strangely floral, with Richard suggesting lillies in particular. The flavour is very much plum and blackberry, with a hint of bitter coffee and a smoky, peppery vanilla finish. The dryness of the tannins balances the richness of the fruit very well. Richard was keen to ensure that the fruit in this wine was pure and naked so it hasn't seen any oak, only stainless steel and concrete tanks. For my personal taste, I felt it needed the oak.
Vivino Score - 3.0 stars
Fable Mountain Syrah, 2012
Peter had certainly given Richard a tough ordeal in his Chenin and Syrah pairings. This wine was another 5* wine in the Platter's Guide - an honour only bestowed to the very, very best. For us it was great - we were tasting some absolutely brilliant wines! Fable Mountain specialise in Rhône varietals and their high vineyard on mountainside shale encourages slow growth, which for me means big flavour. Every day the shadow of the mountain blankets the vines and keeps them cool, which allows the wine's balanced acidity. Great care is taken at every stage of the process, with a gravity-fed system to preserve quality through minimal pumping. All this adds up to a hefty price-tag (circa £40
a bottle) - well worth paying for such a delicious wine. Again, there is a floral nose and distinctly dark berry palate. Rich fruit means a big body, but the slightly higher acidity gave it a much more balanced profile and longer finish.
Vivino Score - 4.5 stars
Miles Mossop "Kika", 2013
This 100% Chenin Blanc dessert wine paired exceptionally with our treale tart, courtesy of the Perkins kitchen. Since opening his winery in 2004, Miles Mossop has affectionately named his three wines after his three children; Max, Saskia and Kika. Kika, then third instalment, was added to the collection [of wines] in 2009, and was immediately given an impressive 94 points by Robert Parker. The grapes are picked in the noble late harvest style, in three pickings, only when they are ready. The result is a heavily-honeyed wine with a nose of stone fruit and spice, and a distinct orange marmalade flavour, followed by honeysuckle flowers. For me it was just a tad too sickly-sweet, but perhaps the sugar rush could have been the treacle tart's fault.
Vivino Score - 4.0 stars
Adelina Nebbiolo, 2011
Upon careful contemplation we decided that we were still far to sober and that six wines wasn't quite enough for our table. I'm glad we did - Peter sprinted down to the wine cellar and came back beaming with this beauty. Adelina is a small vineyard just south of Clare, Australia. Although I hadn't heard of them myself, few can not have heard of their neighbour Tim Adams. Equally, it turns out that they produce the striking, edgy, quirky and bloody delicious Some Young Punks range, whose labels everyone must have noticed at some point. True to form, this label was awork of art. The wine makers, Col McBryde and Jennie Gardner set up the operation in 2002. Following a trip to Piemonte, they (as most do) fell in love with Nebbiolo. This wine had a delicate but ripe and juicy strawberry and raspberry flavour, with a liquorice and vanilla finish. I was glad that it wasn't as acidic as its Italian cousin Barolo and it boasted good tannin and length. In fact, I tried very hard to persuade both Simon and Peter that we need this wine on our list - something that I hope will still happen. Just look at that label...
Vivino Score - 4.5 stars