Wine classics tasting in whirlwind of fizz and flint

In the space of two hours I tripped lightly across the globe; from Italy to South Africa, then France, southwards to Argentina and then moments later a short hop to south Australia.

Not in reality of course. I doubt even Richard Branson’s galactic gadgets could succeed in such a speedy earth-spinning trip.

Nope. I was nestled in a corner of Vinea at Albert Dock in Liverpool for the latest wine classics tasting session in my Classic Regions Wine Course. By coincidence, not by design, two styles of wines we tasted were already reclining, expectantly, in my wine rack at home and I’ll tell you about them here.

First up, Prosecco.

This is a fresh sparkling wine from Italy and, since 2009, only sparkling wine in certain areas around Veneto can be called Prosecco.

What that means, as Vinea’s Dan Harwood explained, is that production of Prosecco will reduce – in the sense that fewer places can legally label it as such – and so the price will eventually go up.

It is made in steel tanks, which means that the wine to yeast ratio is low. The steel brings in no flavour at all and when bottled under pressure all the yeast is filtered out. This leaves a pure, fresh wine full of aromas of the glera grape.

At Vinea we tasted Azienda Agricola Bellenda Prosecco 2011 (£14.99, which displayed all the distinctive notes of Prosecco; hints of pear and apple and slightly floral. It was well-balanced. Not too light, not too acidic but with a decent finish.

At home I opened La Gioiosa Prosecco Spumante DOC Treviso (£5.99, Tesco) which was great value, with pear on the nose, a good sparkle but a light finish. (By the way, spumante is fully sparkling; frizzante is lightly sparkling).

Now. To South Africa, and Stellenbosch to be more specific, which is east of Cape Town.

I’m not a massive fan of oaked chardonnay; I like my chardonnay crisp and flinty like a good Chablis. First aromas of the golden, viscous, Radford Dale 2009 Chardonnay (£17.49, Vinea) were of burnt toast, but I was surprised that on the palate hints of flint and mineral cut a seam through the creamy tropical stone fruit; so I liked it.Meerlust Chardonnay review

Back home and to Meerlust Chardonnay 2009 (£15, from produced on an estate owned by the same family since 1756.

Only five miles from the sea, the vineyards are cooled by ocean breezes allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop deep full-bodied fruit flavours. With a complex fruity but mildly toasty nose, it is rich, full and creamy with lots of tropical fruit and again, a slight hint of minerality.

Also in my glass this week … at Vinea, I had a glass of rosé from Provence – where rosé accounts for more than half of its production.

The 2010 Chateaux D’Ollieres Coteaux De Varoux, (£11.49, Vinea) had hints of pale raspberry but was understated, crisp and elegant in the style of a white. I closed my eyes and didn’t think I was drinking rosé at all.

Details of Vinea’s courses can be found at

Also on my plate this week … we had a Spanish-themed lunch of chorizo, olives and cheese and I couldn’t resist opening The Best Vina Eneldo Reserva Rioja (reduced to £6 from £9.49 until March 25 at Morrisons). Soft with lots of cherries and some vanilla, it’s a decent buy – if you hurry up. Another Morrison’s deal is Berberana Seleccion d’Oro (down to £4.49 from £8.99 until April 1) which I’m saving for National Paella Day on March 27.

First published in the Liverpool Post on March 22 2012

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