Amathus City saw another scintillating evening of spirit tasting last night with the showing of Chateau de Laubade Armagnac. The evening was presented by Denis, third generation of family owners and keen supporter of the sustainability and drive for quality shown there.
Indeed he took great pains to stress the respect of the environment the Chateau shows through its vineyard management, regaling us with stories of shepherds from the Pyrenees who feed their flocks over the winter periods on their lands, thus providing a natural source of fertilizer that has seen them reduce the use of conventional fertilizers by up to 25 times. Theirs is a policy of a low use of precautionary treatment to their vines which they apply only when strictly necessary. He also spoke of instances where the planting of trees has been undertaken to drain areas prone to flood and an endeavour to foster newly planted oak trees in a bid to be self-reliant with cooperage.
The spirits themselves range from the young more floral and fruity armagnacs to elegant bottlings from the Hors d’Age upwards which display greater spice and liquorice.
We can’t recommend these products highly enough, they are a must try and we carry the full range here at Amathus City.
One last plug again for the forthcoming Amathus wine fair for this Friday to coincide with the Lord Mayors show of switching on the Christmas lights, there will be lovely wines to try and plenty of entertainment too, so don’t miss it.
Last night saw our Masterclass of Grof Degenfeld Tokaji wines hosted by the lovely Eszter, direct from the region itself. After a brief introduction covering the history and general background of the region of Tokaji and the Grof Degenfeld estate in particular we plunged into tasting the wines. Points of interest include the fact that the Degenfeld winery has been certified as 100% organic since 2012 and claims to be the first in the region to have achieved this accomplishment. It now applies a less mechanical approach and has banned the use of pesticides to replace them with more recognisable household items such as baking soda and Fennel extract.
Tokaji, the world’s first ever classified wine region became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2002 and has an exceptional climate of alternating periods of fog and heat. It is through these conditions that the noble rot or fungal growth called botrytis can thrive, helping to shrivel the grapes while feeding from the sugary water and increasing the levels of sugar to water ratio. This results in the intensely sweet juice that eventually ferments into the unctuous sweet wines we are more familiar with today.
Increasingly we can find these grapes fermented as dry wines, and last night we had the pleasure of trying Degenfeld’s full range. The most predominantly grown grape in Tokaji is the Furmint, a flinty citrusy, variety with a racy acidity, ideal for the production of sweet wine but a curiosity in itself. This is followed by the Harslevelu, a fuller and fruitier grape, reminiscent of Auxerois from Alsace. Blend these two together when fully infected by noble rot and you have the great Tokaji; ‘the wine of kings, the king of wines’. More favourably drunk in its home environment is the subtly off dry muscat Lunel, instantly recognisable as the only grape variety to produce wine that actually tastes of grapes! Again with a deft touch of freshness this is best consumed as an aperitif wine.
And so to the eagerly awaited Sweet wines or Aszu as it is known in Hungary. These are measured in levels of sweetness and intensity by the puttonyus system. This refers to the number of containers or ‘puttony’of sweet wine pulp that is added to a single barrel of fermenting grape must. And this in turn explains what makes Tokaji sweet wines so exceptional with such consistent levels of rich sweetness and refreshing degrees of acidity. Nowadays these wines spend shorter periods in oak casks and more time maturing in bottle. This helps preserve the youthful fruit character that develops and intensifies the longer it is left intact. We sampled the 5 and 6 puttonyus from 2004, both divine in their own ways; the 5 for its freshness and rich apricot tones and the 6 for a powerful fig and sultana intensity.
These are agency wines of Amathus Drinks and are a staple line in our ever growing and impressive range. We highly recommend you try these especially if you search something new or different. So here’s to seeing you all soon.
Last evening, we were thrilled to welcome StefanoMarello to Amathus City and get introduced to the great history and the background of Porto Cálem.
Cálem was founded in 1859 by Antonio Alves Cálem and remained in the family for four generations. Interesting fact: 1859 was also the year when Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species”. The history of the company is strongly associated with trade in Brazil – they were selling wines in exchange of exotic food with their own fleet. The logo is reflecting the history of the brand. Nowadays, their main cellar attracts more than 150,000 visitors per year.
Stefano talked about the greatness of the Douro Valley and gave us more information about the climate and the soil of Quinta de Arnozelo; the crown jewel of the company. Covering an vineyard area of 100 hectares and an excellent microclimate, it enables Calem to produce high quality port wines. He explained that the climate is Mediterranean with rain and severe snow in certain areas with temperature that can fall below -3 or -4oC. Summers are usually long and hot and temperatures can reach 40-47oC. It was very interesting to learn more about its soil, Schistose. As Stefano explained, you are not able to dig a hole with your hands and plant the vine but you actually have to break the rocks, plant the vine and reconstruct the vineyard. The soil is very poor in nutrients and doesn’t retain much water – this is excellent for high quality port production, as the plant is in hydric stress and tends to extend its roots in the ground in order to survive. The resulted grapes are small in size but highly concentrated.
How do you fortify?
The main question on Port-making was regarding the fortification. Stefano showed us pictures of the spirit being blended with the wine and informed us that the they use an odourless, flavourless, spirit made from distilled wine with a 77% ABV. The spirit is not adding any organoleptic characteristics to the resulting product. Many of our guests asked why the ABV is so specific and we were told that this is the ideal value as it kills all the yeast, so any higher values wouldn’t bring additional advantages.
Interesting fact: The first Port wines were dry but the producers had to add brandy in them so the product would stay safe during its trip from Portugal to England.
How does port age?
Stefano gave us detailed information about ageing and how the different styles of port are made. They use stainless steel vats, barrels and wooden casks. Our guests were surprised to hear that the average age of wooden vats is 62 years old in the winery, meaning that there are casks over 100 years old. The growers use to say that in that way “the new wines acquire all the experience from the previous wines”, meaning that the wood becomes an integral part of port-making without adding any flavours. We also talked about the “Angels’ Share”: Due to evaporation, a part of the production is lost every year.
We started the tasting with the NV White & Dry, which was very refreshing and with lemon and citrus aromas. You can enjoy it chilled as an aperitif or use it in a cocktail. Stefano highly recommends adding tonic, lemon juice and maybe some mint leafs. We tried it and it was delicious! You can enjoy it with fresh salads, light fish or pasta.
Moving on to the Fine Ruby, we all enjoyed the concentrated fruity aromas and the intensity of strawberry and cranberry notes. Very elegant and smooth. We paired it with a richly flavoured Camembert. The next one was the Cálem LBV, the most celebrated port style in the UK. It demonstrated rich cherry and blackcurrant aromas and firm, well-integrated tannins. It paired really well with milk chocolate and you can also enjoy it with strongly flavoured chesses, meat and fruits. A very popular pairing is Black Forest.
The Tawny 10 and 20 year old were the next to come; heavenly notes of nuts, caramel and toffee filled the room as we started swirling our glasses. The Colheita 1983 (aged Tawny Port made with grapes from a single vintage) gave out very concentrated hazelnut and almond notes with elegant caramel aromas. We paired them with almonds but you can also have them with caramel-based desserts, tiramisu or even foie gras and pâté. What a treat!
The Vintage 1983 was just superb. For 30 seconds, the room got a bit quite and we were all trying to indulge the amazingly concentrated jammy fruit, aromas of chocolate and raisins, the elegant mouthfeel and the very long finish. Once tried with blue cheese, we all agreed that this is an excellent pairing! Dark chocolate and meat dices would also be greatly complimented by the Vintage 1983.
We were particularly happy when we asked who wanted a refill and our guests pointed out their favourites.
We would like to thank our dear guests for their excellent company and Stefano for a very informative and yet engaging Master Class.
Last Night we had the pleasure to entertain Benedicte of agency wine labels Cazes, Domaine de Prince and St Hiliare. Fresh from the valley and Plateaus of the Costieres de Nimes and neighbouring Languedoc regions with wines in tow, we were whisked briefly but deftly through the evocative delights of what the very South of France has to offer.
We started with three precise and carefully crafted whites first of which was an unoaked Chardonnay under the label of Cazes. The hidden citrus fruits of such an understated variety simmered gently beneath a clean minerality and a tongue curling crispness. Often slated and sniffed at, clean chardonnays such as this one only enhance an otherwise awkward reputation. This was followed by a small batch production of Costieres de Nimes white under the label of Domaine de Prince. With mostly Grenache blanc in the varietal blend the very typical flinty notes dusted a bruised and light peach-like fruit. And bringing up the rear for the whites was the Cotes du Rhone St Hiliare blanc. Rounder and somewhat broader the Southern Rhone blends of Marsanne and Rousanne were given width with the inclusion of Clairette and Viognier. Clairette is closely linked with wines from the south east corner of France and can seem a clumsy grape when used alone, but marry it to a blend and the best of the berry fruit comes to the fore giving this wine an aromatic lift.
And so we turned to reds. The partner to the Cazes chardonnay was a Cabernet Sauvignon. Bottled as a single varietal but grown in a generally temperate climate, Cab sav, as we so fondly name it can express its typical character of cassis as did this offering. This was followed by the brother to the Cotes du Rhone blanc a peppery and coffee-like red while the evening was ended with Domaine du Prince which echoed the cotes du Rhone’s espresso and blackberry notes on a more brooding and smokier level.
A fitting end to a charming evening and don’t forget we have all these lines on sale here at Amathus Drinks Leadenhall and all surprisingly good value.
If you fancy learning more about the wines we tasted, visit the links below:
We had the pleasure of Lorenzo Marolo, visit us from Alba, Piedmont, Italy and we wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for him to host a master class and talk about his father’s products. Lorenzo talked about the producers who supply them with the pommace (skin and seeds of grapes) and the distinctive single distillation production method they use in their pot stills. They also distil at a lower temperature to achieve the characteristics and flavours they want.
The first grappa we tried was the Brunello made from Sangiovese with almond and cherry like aromas and a gentle spice finish. We then tried the lightly aged Monriondo made from Barbera which had notes of sherry, honey and light nuttiness.
We then tried the two aged grappas of the Barolo 12year, and then the Barolo 1983. The 12 year made from Nebbiolo had vanilla notes, cacao, honey and spices, whilst the 1983 had been finished in a variety of Armagnac, Sherry and Oak casks that gave a stewed fruit and vanilla aromas and tasted of rich plum, chocolate and spice.
The next couple to sample were the Moscato, and the Moscato Apres. The unaged Moscato was very aromatic with a floral nose and quite herbaceous with hints of sweetness and spice on the palate. The Moscato Apres had aromas of candied fruits, raisins and a touch of caramel on the palate, gentle spices and some citrus fruits.
We lastly tried the Milla, a Camomile liqueur, and the Chinato. The Milla had lovely fresh Camomile aromas with notes of honey and naturally herbaceous. The Chinato, aged in Barrique Barrels, used Barolo wine to give the cherry, plummy and fruitful flavours with hints of fig and tobacco. We had the pleasure of a Manhatten using the Chinato and a Rosemary Sour using the Moscato, both which were excellent and showed that grappa can be used in Cocktails more often.
On the hottest day of the year so far, what’s needed is a splash of Rum, and that’s what we got at theFlor de Cana Masterclass at Amathus, Wardour Street, on the 17th July! Hosted by Marc Catalan from Flor de Cana, we were refreshed with a complimentary cocktail called a Macua which was a concoction of Flor de Cana 4yr white, fresh lime, orange, and the addition of Goji juice which hit the spot!
Marc talked about the background and origins of Flor de Cana and how it has grown to be the biggest Rum in Central America! It is still run by the family and independently owned, and what was really interesting was that it is the only Slow-Aged Rum in the world. Slow Ageing means that it has to be naturally aged, no additions and does not blend different ages together.
We sampled the 4yr White and the 4yr Gold with some Mango ice-cream, both rums would be great in Cocktails with their range of flavours. We then tried the flagship 7yr with some dark chocolate, which really worked well as the cacao and vanilla notes really came through.
The final Rums we tried were the Centenario 12yr, a wonderfully aromatic Rum with a delightful taste with hints of prunes, chocolate and a gentle hint of spice. And lastly, the Centenario Gold 18yr, a delicate and sumptuous Rum reserved for a special occasion because as much as 80% of the original rum in the barrel was lost to the Angel’s Share! Lucky Angels.
A great evening sampling some fine rums and looking forward to mixing some Cocktails.
Friday 14th June saw our Whyte and Mackay whisky tasting working in conjunction with the build-up to father’s day on the following Sunday and it went down a treat. On tasting were Isle of Jura 10 year old and the peated Superstition along with Dalmores 12, 15, 18 years old and the King Alexander premium bottling.
The charming Kai hosted the event outside our city shop in the charismatic surroundings of Leadenhall Market where there were no shortage of willing tasters. Curiosity turned immediately to the Dalmores, all blessed with a rich fruity character due mainly to the various cask finishes. The King Alexander being finished with no less than 6 but judging by sales it was the 15 year old that stole the show. This bottling spends its last 3 years in three different Sherry casks and it is thanks to this that the palate broadens and finishes with a lush and smooth length.
Isle of Jura 10 year old is a perennial favourite for many but it was the lightly peated non age specific Superstition that won our hearts here at Amathus. Though opinion divided over the richness and suppleness of the Dalmores versus the quirky assemblage of the Superstition, this whisky finishes in a curious harmony that suddenly gives an impression of good value.
All said and done the votes fell in favour of the Dalmores in general. The tasting wound up ending a very successful day and whisky sales reflected the trend. We hope those of you who managed to drop by and sample discovered something new and interesting.
Thanks to all who came and tried, and if you missed out we have the next tasting with Flor de Cana rum on 17th July, 12pm-2pm! Don’t miss out!
Just in time for a lovely weekend heat wave as July gets under way, we had our Summer Wines blind tasting event at Amathus Soho! With a trio of whites, two pairs of rosé (one with bubbles!) and a trio of reds to tickle our taste buds – we were eager to get started and get tasting!
Round one was the trio of whites, carefully picked by Amathus’ Wine Buyer, Sarah Knowles. “These are all aromatic wines, and don’t worry – I am not going to make you guess the grape varieties on these – this round is about what you taste in the glass” begins Sarah. The first was a zesty lemon and citrus nose with a hint of elderflower, and to taste there was fantastic acidity and a delicious white pepper spice note too! The second had a warmer nose – almost baked apples – and the taste was softer on the palate but there was this delicious “stony” minerality there too. At this point Sarah explained that she had picked these three as they all had something more than just fruit on their taste profile. The first being spice and the second being minerality – so we all delved into the third to try and decipher what this one might show… It was more yellow in colour and there was a lovely smell of orange blossom and peaches on the nose that followed through to mouth along with apricot and tropical notes; and that extra taste, which you couldn’t miss, was an almost salty quality to the wine!
Whilst tasting these we had a delicious piece of smoked salmon sushi – that went unbelievable well, especially with the final white!
Revealing the wines; we discovered the first was Ewald Gruber’s Gruner Veltliner from Austria, the second was an Italian white Gavi di Gavi from producer Il Poggio, and the third white was a wine from Spanish producer Agro de Bazan and was the Equita Ambar made from albariño grapes!
Round two was two pairs of rosé wines, one still pair and one sparkling.
Sarah told us first to look at the colour of the rosé wines. “Rosé doesn’t need to be pink,” she explained, “this is a decision that is made from the producer himself that chooses when to take the skins away from the juice. The long the skins are in contact, the pinker the resulting wine and also the more tannins and body there will be.” The first rosé was very pale, almost salmon, and smelt of strawberries and cranberries. The taste was light and refreshing, and surprisingly dry. “Rosé is becoming more sophisticated. It is largely drunk in France as a serious wine, and the preconception of rosé being just for women is starting to lift in the UK.” The second was much darker in colour and there was a smoky note on the nose that intrigued us all – and a smell that we would be well familiar with by the end of the tasting. Again there were cranberries on the mouth, that smoky note remained and there was a slight (pleasant) bitter note too, like aperol almost.
With this first pair we enjoyed a piece of chicory with pecorino cheese on top- and surprising for a rosé but the second rosé was incredibly paired for this little nibble.
The next two rosé wines were unmistakably sparkling. “You can tell from the bubbles, the quality of sparkling wine. Fine, persistent bubbles (i.e. they are moving for a long time) means the great quality wines – and it was clear these were both in that category. The first had notes of brioche, vanilla, toast and strawberry, a luscious round mouthfeel and a satisfying and tasty finish. The second sparkling again showed notes of brioche but was more complex as, again, that slight hint of smoky/farmyard smell was present. Slight softer in the mouth and a longer finish, and paired beautifully with a large rip strawberry to taste alongside!
Revealing the still wines; the first was a rosé from the Provence region in France from producer Chateaux de Nestuby – a blend of grapes including Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache and several more. The second of the still rosés was from a French producer that produces New Zealand wine in Marlborough, Georges Michel, and is 100% pinot noir (hence the smoky notes).
Revealing the sparkling wines; Both of the sparkling wines were from Champagne in France; the first was from Claude Renoux in Epernay, and the second was Louis Martin Grand Cru rosé from Bouzy – and was predominantly pinot noir based (again, those smoky notes – we sensed a theme!)
Sad to be moving on to our last set of wines, we progressed to the trio of reds. Unusually though, the first of these was slightly chilled! Intrigued we picked this up and started the tasting. Notes of blueberries, cherries and a hint of black pepper, this was a delicious red wine that was smooth, soft and low tannins – which is why it works chilled. The second red wine had an incredible cherry aroma, was much higher tannins and bigger bodied, filling your mouth, and had a lovely long finish. It was one we would all agree would go superbly with a summer BBQ and went very well with the selection of cured meats that appeared on the table! The third one had an unmistakably different colour, with tints of orange and brown. We picked up the wine and there were notes of strawberry, cranberry, leather and undoubtedly that lovely earthy, farmyard smell – this has to be a pinot noir!
Revealing the wines; the first was from Beaujolais made with the gamay grape from producer Manoir du Carra, the second was an Italian valpolicella from Le Ballerine, and the third – of course – a pinot noir from New Zealand and another from Georges Michel!
It was a fantastic evening filled with interesting facts, delicious wines, and we all learnt how to smell a pinot noir wine! With everyone staying to finish the remains of their wines and not wanting to leave a drop, it was clear that we would all be signing up to the autumn one – thanks Sarah!
On Wednesday, we were fortunate to be joined by the fantastic Andrea Martín Targa from Ron Montero to learn the history of this very special rum, while also getting a chance to try it for the first time. Started by her Great Uncle Francisco Montero Martín in 1963, this is still a family owned business in Motril, an area with a fine rum-making history.
Andrea explained to us the process of rum making, from the extraction of molasses to the distillation process, and what makes Ron Montero unique. Two of the key distinctions are their solera aging system and their use of un-charred virgin American oak barrels. We were also told of all the efforts that they go through to try and maintain the delicate balance between the flavours of the aguardiente and the oak as the rum ages. And having tasted the rums, their efforts are most appreciated!
We started with the Ron Monter Palido, which translates to pale rum, and is made using the solera system with rum aged a minimum of 3 years. It was a noticeably dry rum, and would be a great rum for cocktails. The next rum we tried was the Gran Reserva, which is made using rums with a minimum age of 5 years. This uses a higher proportion of the aguardiente, which leads to a fuller flavoured rum with strong hints of vanilla, caramel with a dry oaky finish.
The last rum we were treated to was the Francisco Montero, made to celebrate the companies 50th anniversary, and made using rums with a minimum age of 10 years. This was a stunning rum; mellow, smooth and rich, and the perfect way to end the tasting.
What with the weather being so unpredictable of late and sunshine never guaranteed, I was extremely excited about tasting some delicious fruity Argentinian wines to at least have a taste of some warmer climates… and that brings me to this delightful tasting at Amathus Soho!
Bodegas Carelli is run by a father and son team, both named Enrique, meaning that the winery is well into its third generation of Carellis! Enrique junior is hosting this event and welcomes us all warmly with a great smile and enthusiasm and leads us straight into an introduction of the Carelli’s winery.
The winery lies on 34 degrees latitude (hence the name of one of their brands of wine) and the vineyards sit on various different altitudes, which define the style of wine that they produce – the higher the altitude correlating to the better the quality. It was built in 1895 and Enrique’s grandfather bought the building in 1943. The walls are made of Adobe brick that our 1m thick to help protect the wines during fermentation. The Argentinian climate is a key player in the resulting wines; they have about 2cm of rain a year and even this is mostly hail when it occurs. The vines are therefore watered using a careful channel system from a reservoir. Intense afternoon sunshine is also a danger so they have mastered the best way to shape the vines so as to protect them; winding them in an East-West orientation. The product of the vineyards, careful vine management and magnificent wine making skills are 34 degrees and Carla Chiaro ranges of their wines – the 34 Degrees range being the first up for tasting today!
The aim of this range was to really express the fruit itself and show the quality of the grapes that can come from the Argentinian climate, altitude and great wine making of Bodegas Carelli. These wines have spent no time in oak and are young, fresh and bursting with delicious fruit. The white Torrontes showed floral aromas and flavours with hints of apricot and tropical fruits, yet had a crisp dry finish. We enjoyed this along with some mature cheese that had chilli flakes inside showing that this is a great wine to have with spicy foods! The Cabernet/Merlot rose had notes of strawberry, raspberry and red cherries but was still a dry style of rose. The balance of acidity and length made this great as a wine you could drink on its own but would certainly stand up to enjoying with some light foods. The Cabernet Sauvignon was delicious and just what you want from a drink now, fruity red – black fruits, brambles, great smooth tasting and a lovely finish! And who can forget Argentina’s claim to fame and the first of two Malbecs in the tasting; lovely fruit flavours and velvet tannins and a smooth finish; great to enjoy with the cured meats that were there to nibble on though the tasting.
The other two wines on tasting are from their Carla Chiaro range – situated at 1,100m altitude and thus a cooler region and suitable for some more complex styles of wine. The first, the Bonarda, didn’t disappoint. The first of the tasting to show some oaky notes due to gentle ageing it expressed black fruits, black cherries and fine tannins. The rich fruit flavour was balanced elegantly with hints of oak and the long lasting finish was simply delicious. Last, but not at least in any way, their 2009 vintage Malbec. Aged 12 months in second fill oak barrels, it showed a complex array of vanilla, sweet spice, black fruits; balanced perfectly with well rounded tannins and a very smooth finish.
These wines are great for an evening in with friends, or simply to enjoy with dinner – in fact, I took the Torrontes and the Cabernet Sauvignon away with me for an evening of just that! Thanks Enrique!