Rhône and Languedoc Leadenhall Master Class at Leadenhall Market

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.

The beautiful wines of Rhone and Languedoc
The beautiful wines of Rhone and Languedoc

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:

Domaine Prince: http://www.amathusdrinks.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=prince&x=-1418&y=-121&order=relevance&dir=desc

Caze Blanque: http://www.amathusdrinks.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=caze&x=-1427&y=-121&order=relevance&dir=desc

St Hilaire Prestige: http://www.amathusdrinks.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=hilaire&x=-1427&y=-121&order=relevance&dir=desc

Let us know if you have tried them already and what you think!

Presenting Rhum Agricole with Sugar Cane Kings; Clement & Rhum JM – by Nick Bell

We were delighted this week to be joined by Audrey Bruisson from Rhum Clement and Rhum J.M. to talk to us about this

Rhum JM and Clement Bottles
Rhum JM and Clement Bottles

fantastic Agricole Rhum from Martinique. Though Agricole is only around 2% of all Rhum consumed, Clement is now present in 60 countries across the world and is a world leader in production.

Clement has been producing Rhum for 125 years now, and as such they have mastered the techniques of production. This includes having their own estate grown sugar cane so they can maintain high standards from field to bottle.
In order to maintain the Rhum Agricole AOC there are specific rules to make sure that the Rhum is of sufficient quality. This includes only allowing 24 hours to pass between harvesting and beginning fermentation; and having to spend the first year of production in barrels from Limousine before transferring to Bourbon barrels. Due to the climate of Martinique there will be losses of 8-12% from each barrel every year. This in turn makes aged Rhum Agricole a very precious liquid – which the tasting definitely proved.

Clement and Rhum JM tasting samples
Clement and Rhum JM tasting samples

We were given the chance to try 7 different Rhums from their range, starting with the incredibly smooth and delicious Clement Premier Canne. After this we were lucky enough to be able to taste the first bottle of Select Barrel in the UK. This was followed by the VSOP, which had a smooth and mellow taste with a delicate roasted cocoa aroma. We moved on to the J.M. after these, and the difference was apparent immediately. The JM Rhums had a more powerful aroma and were rich with spicy, vegetal notes. We progressed from the White, to the Gold and finished with the VSOP, which was a truly intense Rhum.

We were treated after the Rhums to some incredible Ti Punch Sorbet made by Marc Woods from Rumbling, followed by a Ti Punch – a great way to spend a Wednesday evening!

By Nick Bell
Amathus Soho
Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UN

Tovaritch! Vod-koff – Battle of the Brands

Today is the Amathus Vod-koff blind tasting session and I am sat in front of a flight of 8 clear spirit samples. Knowing that they are vodka, my brain flits back and forth from previous memories of rounds of vodka “samples” whilst out with friends. However, surprisingly, this time my nose is not overwhelmed by the stench of alcohol, but instead I actually smell nothing! I lean forward to check its not water and the light citrus fumes of quality, premium vodka tickles my senses… OK, now I am ready…

Introducing the event is Eugenio from Tovaritch! Vodka. He explains that the object of today and of Tovaritch! as a brand is not to sing and shout about an amazing brand but to sit and consider it against the market leaders. It wanted to create a product that was premium and in competition with the big names; Grey Goose, Belvedere, Ketel One – but was at a lower price point.

Tovaritch! is a Swiss company but its productions are 100% Russian and are proud to claim that this has always been the case. Not widely known it has positioned itself more in the trade market with an aim to become a leading bar house vodka – offering premium quality at great value cost.

Tovaritch! translated means “Comrad” – so called main to convey their worldwide values as a company; never drink alone and socialise with your friends with Tovaritch. The bottle design uses red and silver – red in association with spirits and vodka, and a silver man to represent an image of a “Comrad” socialising with friends in a social environment.

Distilled 5 times, Tovaritch! removes all impurities to create a pure vodka without flavour and is filtered 20 times and very slowly to create a smooth and quality product. It is made from organic grains which means they have not been transformed or enhanced/altered in any way. It is reduced using artisan water from melted snow, and blended with the distilled spirit to create an exceptionally pure spirit.

So now we get to the blind tasting! We are all set to the task of tasting our way through the vodkas, and this is no easy task! All the vodkas are at premium quality and only a couple stand out above the rest… (3) for its rich and vanilla creaminess, (4) for a somewhat “raw” feel to it, and (7) for its distinct floral and perfumed nose profile! We all put our heads together and comment the following:

(1) A peppery smoke on the nose and quite a warming alcohol on the throat – though this was the first one so our palates are probably just adjusting. Long finish.
(2) Quite creamy, smooth. Oily and a little sweet spice.
(3) Rich, rounded, with a creamy vanilla and a hint of citrus on the nose – otherwise very odourless!
(4) Raw tasting – quite aggressive in comparison to the previous and it has a quite a raw element to it.
(5) Quite a silky feel but in terms of flavour, very nondescript.
(6) Grassy notes and a long finish.
(7) Floral, perfumed, sweet to smell and taste – I was wondering if this had been a flavoured vodka by accident!
(8) Earthy notes such as mushroom and a long finish.

Eugenio agrees along with us that vodka is a hard spirit to compare as it is known for its neutrality and qualities lending well to cocktails; as opposed to different expressions of the spirit itself. With lots of shocks and surprises along the way, the results were revealed…

(1) Rye-based Belvedere
(2) Wheat-based Absolut
(3) Wheat-based Tovaritch!
(4) Barley-based Sipsmith
(5) Wheat-based Grey Goose
(6) Wheat-based Ketel One
(7) Grape-based Ciroc (unflavoured!)
(8) Potato-based Chopin

There certainly were some shocks in there as people realised that their favourite/house vodkas were not so hot comparibly! Also, Eugenio described how there were debates in the industry as to whether Ciroc can be classed as a vodka due to it’s base being grape, but controversy aside, it cannot go unsaid that Tovaritch! had a great response blind! It clearly matched its competitors in the field and among the crowd came in the top 2/3 favourites of the bunch – but here’s the real shock, it is not only the cheapest but is priced at almost HALF the price of others at its level of quality!!

As I head for a rather strong coffee to find my feet again, I will leave you with a link to try for yourself! Working well in many, many vodka cocktails or enjoyed on the rocks in real Russian style – here is Tovaritch! Vodka >>>

By Clare Corlett
Amathus Drinks

The World’s Most Awarded Rum – Flor de Cana! By Clare Corlett

As a keen rum fan I had been looking forward to this event all summer. As it came up to 3pm, the crowds were assembling and the anticipation was mounting. Marc Catalán, brand ambassador for Flor de Caña, introduced himself and we were off…


It was instantly apparent that Marc was passionate about rum and, more specifically, this unique rum from Nicaragua, Flor de Caña (“Flower of the Cane”). He explained that, to date, it remains the World’s most awarded rum in the market and is currently the leading brand in Central America, as well as a growing position in the UK and emerging markets. Flor de Caña is owned by the Pellas family, an Italian family based in Chichigalpa, and the rum is produced solely from their sugar mill in San Antonio, and has been for 122 years. What is remarkable and extremely uncommon is that they own this sugar mill, and do not import from outside – which means that they have complete control over the entire process, and in terms of what this means to the resulting quality… well, the rums speak for themselves!

Before I go on to tell you about the different samples, I will just take a moment to talk about the slow-ageing process that takes place. What this means, essentially, is that everything is matured and aged naturally. There is no chemicals or additives – not even caramel – added to adjust colour and there is no blending of ages to alter taste. It is this natural ageing and patience that creates the smooth, silky textures and pure flavours in all of their rums.

Extra Dry White 4yr
This is the only 4yr white rum on the market! Crystal clear in appearance, (achieved through filtration with charcoal) it is extremely light-bodied with a delicious exotic taste of coconut and subtle hints of vanilla. Smooth enough to enjoy alone but also a great base for some tasty cocktails.

Gold 4yr
In essence, this is the same as the Extra Dry without the charcoal filtration. In reality, this transpires into a smooth tasting and more vanilla dominating taste, with that coconut profile making a more subtle appearance. Very silky texture.

Grand Reserve 7yr
A clear mahogany coloured rum, perfectly balanced and it said to make the “perfect rum and coke”! Defined vanilla and dark chocolate flavours and a wonderfully smooth finish that lingers in your mouth.

Centenario 12yr
Moving more into the realms liking to a fine brandy – this would be for those partial to a neat tipple topped with ice or water.. It is reddish-amber in colour and a semi-sweet, chocolate aroma with notes of caramel and nougat. These follow through onto the palate with some wooden characters from the 12 years ageing in barrels.

Centenario 18yr
Of every barrel roughly 80% of the original contents is lost by evaporation through these 18 years. This gives you an idea of the fine quality, concentration and finesse of what we are about to taste… pure amber with notes of almonds and chocolate. This is a melt-in-your-mouth, silky rum, oozing with finesse and sophistication. A rum worthy of no contact than that of from glass to mouth…

Floridita & Meza Food

Along with these great rums were some light bites provided by Floridita and Carom @ Meza. These were devine. There were mini lamb samosas… lobster pastries… pork belly… tasty doritos… and finished off with an amazing strawberry sorbet and puree. Just recalling these makes my mouth water. Check out the photo if you don’t believe me! Yumm…. (see below for website information).

To end a great tasting of rums and Cuban and Indian infused delicacies, came some cocktail ideas of what can be done with Flor de Caña. For a list of ideas please see here

Clare Corlett
Amathus Drinks

With special thanks to Floridita and Meza for the fabulous food and venue for the afternoon tasting!!

An Introduction into Alsatian Wine with Etienne Sipp, by Lucy Rundle

Louis Sipp Wines Master Class with Etienne Sipp
Louis Sipp Wines Master Class with Etienne Sipp

Our host for this indulgent evening was none other than Etienne Sipp, the great, great grandson of the founders of the original Sipp vineyard, Louis and Louise. Etienne possesses all the qualities you would wish for from a wine-maker: a background in chemistry, extensive wine knowledge and an even greater passion for his subject, excellent English coupled with French charm, and a wonderful sense of humour.

Aiming for purity, authenticity and elegance in his wines, Etienne Sipp uses organic farming methods to bring out the very best in the fruit, the vineyards being awarded full certification by ECOCERT for the 2008 vintage. Louis Sipp is considered to be amongst the very top of the 1000 wine producers in the Alsace region. Wines from the area are often described as aromatic as they have such distinctive fruit aromas and flavours, such as lychee in Gewurztraminer, which combine beautifully with delicate rose petal fragrances.

These unique tastes and aromas often match very well with spicy food, so on this occasion our tasting menu was provided by The Red Fort, a sophisticated Indian restaurant in the heart of Soho, known for its Mughal Court cooking.

We started things off with a pop – a lovely, refreshing Louis Sipp Crémant d’Alsace. This sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is perfect as an aperitif.

Murgh Tikka Chicken from The Red Fort
Murgh Tikka Chicken – The Red Fort

Then came the Louis Sipp Riesling “Nature’S” 2008. This was the first vintage to be certified organic, and produced this fresh, lively Riesling, showing stone fruit on the palate and gentle, floral aromas on the nose. The ‘Nature’S’ range was created especially to demonstrate the result of organic wine production methods in the finished product. Etienne says this means ‘the fruit is laughing’ and if the wine is anything to go by, happy fruit makes great wine!

The next wine tasted was the Louis Sipp Pinot Gris “Nature’S” 2008, matched with a delicious Murgh Tikka chicken. The aromatic, pear nose and residual sugar on the palate balanced perfectly with the fenugreek and chili spices, and there was enough acidity in the wine for it to shine through, as opposed to getting lost in all those lovely spices.

Louis Sipp Gewürztraminer Nature's 2009
Louis Sipp Gewürztraminer Nature’s 2009

Louis Sipp Gewurztraminer “Nature’S” 2009 has all the typical qualities we know and love in a Gewurztraminer; an intensely aromatic nose showing rose petals and lychees, some sweetness on the palate and very moreish length! The Red Fort provided lightly spiced spinach & fenugreek patties filled with cheddar, onion and coriander which brought the best out of this delicious wine.

Next in line were two Louis Sipp Grand Cru Kirchberg Rieslings, one from 2008 and one from 1999. The latter was rich and a touch waxy, very smooth and a real treat, without the typical petrol aromas but still fruit-driven and fresh. The 2008 was livelier with a hint of green apples and a mineral note. Both will keep for a while, so ideal for adding to your Riesling collection, but no crisis if you can’t wait and drink them tonight, you won’t be disappointed by either of these vintages.

Spiced, roasted minced Devon lamb skewers accompanied the Grand Crus and were similarly subtle in flavour, again creating a great match.

Roasted rabbit was served with the Louis Sipp Pinot Noir “Nature’S” 2009. Pinot Noir is often paired with game, so this was a little different from the usual with the chili spices and tangy flavours to bring out the delicate, sweet cherry nose of the wine with its smooth, fruity palate.

We finished off with the Louis Sipp Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2007. This was extremely popular and delicious with mango Kulfi – an ice cream dessert. Etienne explained that despite being a vendanges tardives, or late harvest wine, the grapes are not picked too late so as to retain freshness and acidity, making a well-balanced, sweet wine, with good length and wonderful flavours including some refreshing, tropical fruit.

Buy your Louis Sipp here now >>>
By Lucy Rundle,
Amathus Drinks 

Eaux de Vie “Water of Life” Master Class with Philippe & Nathalie Traber

We were delighted to welcome our great friends Philippe and his wife Nathalie Traber for an evening of tasting the fantastic French spirit, Eau-de-vie, from the brilliant producer Mette. For those of you who are not fully aware of what Eau-de-vie is, it is translated into English as ‘the water of life’. By using only the purest of fruit (the producer is so fanatical about the quality of their ingredients that some are grown as far away as Madagascar!) for their distillation, the brandy is so pure and flavourful that it is becoming internationally recognised and are enjoyed all around Europe.

Founded in 1985 by Philippe’s godfather J-P Mette, J-P taught Philippe everything about distilling; from sourcing the finest ingredients to distilling the pure spirit. Philippe, along with his wife Nathalie, bought the estate in 1998. After the ingredients are distilled, through experience and a little bit of trial and error, the fruits are left to macerate from anywhere between 5 days and 6 weeks (it all depends on the sugar levels in the fruits). They now produce around 100 different flavours, and tonight we were lucky enough to sample a small selection of their range. What became apparent as the evening went on was the level of commitment by Philippe when creating his eaux-de-vie, and it’s a quality that has to be admired!

We tasted seven different bottles that Philippe had bought with him from France, all of which (and many more) are available to buy through Amathus Drinks.

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Mette Master Class
Mette Master Class

Eau-de-vie Poire Williams

The pears are picked in the Rhone valley and then sorted at the distillery so that only the purest and finest pears are used. Left for six years to age, the spirit has a pure and elegant note of pears but with a creamy backdrop on the palette. The length of flavour is sublime and like a good book, leaves you wanting more.

Eau-de-vie de Vieille Mirabelle

Aged for 12 years using the finest apricots. Floral notes on the nose then divulged into rich and intense apricots on the palette that then finishes with a soft and creamy flavour. Why not try using this in a Mirabelle martini?

Eau-de-vie Framboise Sauvage

The wild raspberries are sourced from France and Romania and aged for 6 years. The instant notes of raspberries arise from the glass, but deliver an almost dried plum like flavour in the mouth that develops in a spicy finish.

Eau-de-vie Marc de Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1990

Agds for a whopping 22 years and sourced using Mette’s own grapes. The flavour is like a fireball, a big whack of white peach and flowers that then slowly peters out into a sweet and delectable finish.

Eau-de-vie d’Alisier

Sourced from the forest of Vosges, it is ages from 8 years. A rich and slightly sweet taste of marzipan then develops into a rich flavour of almonds.

Spiritueux de Cacao

Using the finest cacao that is sourced all the way from Madagascar! A spicy flavour that oozes dark chocolate and cacao in the glass.

Spiritueux de Gingembre

The ginger is grown in China and Thailand and is left to macerate for 8 weeks. An engulfing flavour of ginger but with a hint of lemongrass in the finish. A perfect digestive after a large meal or why not try flambéing over prawns?

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Amathus Soho

113-117 Wardour Street
London
W1F 0UN

Tramontane: A Taste of Roussillon by Matt Smith

On a cosy warm Wednesday evening, we here at Amathus Drinks Soho were delighted to welcome our good friend Andy Cook from Tramontane wines for a truly exceptional master class. With a packed out house, Andy was ready to showcase a range of his wines accompanied by a small variety of nibbles that are traditionally associated from the South of France.

Roussillon, South West France
Roussillon, South West France

Tramontane was first established in 2008 as a jointly run project between Andy and Phillippe Gard. Between them, they have worked as far away as New Zealand and some of the finest Chateaux in Bordeaux. The main philosophy behind Tramontane is to produce top quality wines from the heart of Roussillon. With the hot days and fantastic sunshine that engulfs the South of France; it is not surprising what attracted the two to establish roots in Roussillon. The wines are becoming internationally recognised and are now consumed all over Europe, from as far as Switzerland, Germany and of course here in the UK with Amathus Drinks.

Tramontane produces wines that are traditional to the region, including reds from Grenache, Syrah Mourvedre and whites from Macabeu (that’s Viura in Spain). The south of France shares some of same wine growing traditions as Spain through Catalonia that spreads as far south as Barcelona.

Andy was a very welcoming host who has captured the heart and soul of the Roussillon region with his wines. I can wait to buy another bottle!

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Tramontane Macabeu 2010
A rich floral nose that delivers a lemon punch. Fantastic mierality on the palette with rich flavours of apples that finishes with a clean crisp finish. No oak aging. A sumptuous wine that would match beautifully with a meaty fish or chicken.

Andy Cook of Tramontane Wines
Andy Cook of Tramontane Wines

Tramontane Coillure Blanc 2010
Stunning notes of peach and apricots on the nose that tantalises your mouth. Stunning flavours of stone fruit, in particular white peach with sumptuous background notes of vanilla. This wine definitely potential to age for a couple of years!

Tramontane Grenache Noir 2010
Inviting notes of red fruits, with dried raspberries and blackberries on the nose. Supple tannins that open up into flavours of spice, a hint of vanilla and a supple acidity that is screaming out for fatty sausages or steak.

Tramontane Cotes du Roussillon 2009
Heavily based on Shiraz with a supple blend of Grenache to give the wine an red fruit driven nose. On the palette, spicy dark plums with aromatic strawberries. The bold tannins in this wine is a fantastic match for steak or stew dishes!

Tramontane Collioure Rouge 2009
A sumptuous blend of that famous Southern French grape Mourvedre, rounded off with Grenache. No oak was used during fermentation giving this wine clean, bright acidity. On the palette, spicy dark fruits that develop into hints of leather and tobacco.

By Matt Smith
Amathus Soho
0207 287 5769