Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Wine Tasting - France vs Rest of the World

Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria. Thursday 02-March-2023.

An interesting wine tasting in the uniquely quirky venue of Bassenthwaite Lake Station. The venue includes replica railway carriages from the Orient Express. Not the real train but ones made especially for the movie set from the 2017 film. To quote from the history in the back of the menu: "At the age of 50, Simon and Diana sold their house to buy a replica train carriage ..."

Even if we have done the theme of “France versus Rest of the World” before (e.g. New World versus Old), it is always different because the wines are different. You get to learn something new every time and discover new wines.

The event was hosted by the owners Simon and Diana, and it is the first time I've been to tasting with a resident dog - a very laid-back black lab, Poppy.

We tasted 12 wines in pairs. Our hosts deliberately chose wines that were readily available and all around the same price. It was a semi-specified tasting in that we knew what the grapes were but we did not know which wine was French nor which country the other wine came from. The tasting price included nibbles of crackers, cheeses, bread and pate.

At the end of the evening we thought there were two standout wines: a Canadian Riesling and a Swiss Pinot Noir - partly because of the quality but also because of the unexpected origins.

We had prudently booked ourselves into the nearby Pheasant Inn for the night as neither of us wanted to stay sober and drive. Locals from Keswick or Cockermouth could taxi home but for us the public transport option stopped at Keswick and a taxi to Penrith would have been almost as much as the hotel’s winter break deal. So we had the luxury of dinner at the inn and a short walk to and from the tasting plus a full English in the morning.

The next day we drove up to Glasgow including a detour to an Aldi to buy six of each of the star wines!

Full list (notes are from the producers / vendors).

Name of wine; Shop or Supplier; Retail price; Grape; Country

Tasting notes.

0l Cremant de Bordeaux; Aldi; £8.99; unknown; France 

Dry rose with rich salmon pink hues and red fruit aromas on the nose and refreshing strawberry and vanilla on the finish.

02 Charles Fox reserve rose; Lake District Wines; £22.00; unknown; South Africa

Pale salmon in colour with beautiful persistent bubbles. Fruity aromas of red berries and spices on the nose with flavours of redcurrant fruitiness and a fresh creamy intensity and long length.

03 Kuhlmann-Platz, cuvee prestige 2021; Majestic; £9.99; Riesling; France 

Just off-dry, this classic Riesling displays ripe pear and peach fruit with a steely acidity. Clean and pure on the palate and with a citrussy freshness, it is ideal as an aperitif or great with lightly-spiced dishes, seafood or creamy fish dishes. 

04 The Falls, Pelham Estate; Aldi; £7.49; Riesling; Canada 

Off-dry but not cloying with lemon acidity to cut through the ripe nectarine flavours. Typical of the variety, it pairs well with light spiced fish or vegetables and creamy seafood dishes. The wine achieves a delicate balance that is elegant and fresh.

05 Villa Maria private bin, 2022; EH Booth; £11.00; Sauvignon Blanc; New Zealand

An iconic New Zealand wine displaying the essence of Marlborough with vibrant flavours of passionfruit and fresh kaffir lime. Intense zesty flavours and fresh acidity make it an ideal pairing for shellfish.

06 Vaux St Georges Touraine; Majestic; £9.99; Sauvignon Blanc; France 

Sandy, flinty soils bring rich minerality to this vibrant wine. Notes of citrus, elderflower blossom and a touch of cedar, its 2021 crisp acidity makes it an ideal pairing for fish or shellfish.

07 Glace & Rocher, limited edition 2020; Aldi; £9.49; Pinot Noir; Switzerland 

A light to medium-bodied wine with ripe strawberry aromas and tart red fruit flavours. 

08 Louis Latour 2020; Majestic; £11.99; Pinot Noir; France 

Both delicious and affordable, look for cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant and a savoury edge with dried flower notes. This is silky and fresh perfect with charcuterie.

09 Argentinian Malbec 2021; EH Booth; £9.50; Malbec; Argentina 

With heady aromas of raspberries, blueberries and cherries, this vibrant malbec has a smooth palate and a delicate fresh fruity finish.

10 Beefsteak Club, pays d'oc 2020; EH Booth; £8.75; Malbec; France 

Deep in colour and full-bodied wine from Languedoc in the south of France. Concentrated red berry and plum notes with a juicy, layered palate and soft tannins with a hint of warming spice on. the finish. 

11 Chateau de Pitray 2017; Majestic £8.99; (special offer normally £13.99); Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec; France 

A great value Bordeaux from Castillon, right next to St Emi!ion. This blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot creates a complex wine with ripe dark fruits, hints of earthiness, cedar and chocolate. Fine tannins make It a perfect accompaniment to meaty casseroles.

12 Ben Marco, special edition 2021; Majestic; £9.99 (special offer normally £14.99); Cabarnet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc; Argentina

Ripe, juicy, seriously concentrated. Packed with flavours of blackberry and oaky vanilla spice. Perfect with steak.  

Coda: We enjoyed it so much we immediately booked for the May tasting.

PS. If you want to see the real thing we went on the Orient Express - London to Venice for our 20th Wedding Anniversary.

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