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:
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!
Last Monday saw the Idiom wine tasting event at our city branch in Leadenhall, hosted by family member and producer Roberto Bottega. For those not familiar with this offering, Idiom are one of South Africa’s most recently celebrated and award-winning winemakers. Their wines have won top awards at the latest Decanter trade magazine competition and this was a wonderful opportunity to sample the wines and meet the man who knows them best.
To begin the evening we started by comparing the 2009 and 2011 viognier. Two contrasting styles meant a leap from a broader richer fruit to a lighter zestier and younger version showing the typical viognier characteristics of peach and apricot.
Then moving swiftly onto the reds, in both the sangiovese and zinfandel, we discovered the sangiovese showed a wild fruit very reminiscent of those from Italy, but richer and softer, while the zinfandel beguiled the party of attendees with its savoury aromatics of fresh rosemary and mint with a rounded rich black fruit on the palate and a wonderful freshness and length to finish.
With barely enough time to savour the deliciously rare and succulent sirloin steak prepared by the butchers of Leadenhall located directly opposite, we moved seamlessly onto Roberto’s latest offering of barbera and nebbiolo. Both reflected Roberto’s passion for all things Italian, in keeping with his Italian family roots. Each wine showed the unmistakable traits of their Mediterranean origin; cherry and liquorice, tobacco and lozenge, the Barbera unique with its freshness, a personal favourite of Roberto’s.
Onwards and upwards to the prestige blends of the house, the standard bearers of the firm and the wines winning accolades both here and at home. First came the Bordeaux Blend, firm but supple enough to allow the rich plum merlot fruit to come to the fore, while the Cape Blend, replacing the merlot with pinotage, that notoriously unpredictable grape, filled the palate more broadly splitting opinions as ever between the guests.
And then came the surprise, an unreleased pinot noir, two in fact, a 2010 and 2012, first to try being the oldest. An interesting offering, these are both experimental bottlings trying to pin down the elusive qualities of the earthy yet ethereal grape of Burgundy. The 2010 showed signs of maturation, maybe a hint of rubber, while the 2012 positively sang with poised fruit, perfect extraction and vibrant freshness, this will be an interesting one to watch, if it ever graces our shelves here at Amathus.
With a further offering of ribeye steak from our friends and neighbours the butchers at Leadenhall the evening came to a close. A good time was had by all. Lastly, came the vote for everyone’s favourite wine which threw up the usual conflictions and good humoured debate. All in all this was an enlightening evening hosted warmly and personably, we look forward to more of the same.
The wines are available in store and online for you to enjoy!
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.
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 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.
“Water of life” – every country has one; whether it is the French Eau-du-Vie, the Scottish whisky or the Scandinavian Aquavit. Wait, what exactly is aquavit I hear you ask? Aquavit is produced from a high strength spirit, from a range of base materials including grain or potato, and macerated (that’s a technical word for added ingredients infused with the base spirit) with caraway, cardamom, star anise and fennel along with other ingredients. The spirit is then left for a period of time to develop, is watered down to strength, and then bottled and enjoyed!
Our hosts for tonight were: the producer from Facile & Co bringing a punsch made from Jamaican rum; our very own David Adamick from our Business Development team; and Jonas from Scandinavian Kitchen, beautifully pairing our samples with their culinary delights.
Facile Punsch is made from rum, Batavia arrack and blended with citrus peel and other secret ingredients. It has a golden amber appearance with an intensive nose of apricot, coffee and chocolate and works wonderfully well with Scandinavian Kitchen’s homemade orange and chocolate brownies. Delish! This great liquor can be a substitute for rum in a number of cocktails.
The evening then proceeded onto a flight of five Aquavits, which David proceeded to take us through in great detail, starting off with the most traditional style first. The Aalborg Taffel is a clear spirit that has strong nose of caraway that delivers on the palette a clean, crisp finish with warming flavours. This aquavit is best served ice cold and we enjoyed it with canapés of herring in a curry sauce, that was simply charming.
The next aquavit on show was the Aalborg Jubilaeums. The Jubilaeums was created to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the distillery; this aquavit has seen some sherry cask aging that provides a light mahogany colour. With citrus hints and dill on the nose, Jubilaeums opens up into a rounded mouthfeel with hints of orange peel. With this we enjoyed small bread rounds with smoked salmon that matched the aquavit beautifully.
Next up was the OP Anderson aquavit. Like Jubilaeums, it also has seen some aging in sherry casks but is paler in colour. Again notes of dill and caraway, yet it is a little sweeter and has a crisper acidity that matches spicy food beautifully. With this was a cured beef and small taste of horseradish sauce.
The penultimate aquavit was the Linie, with its wonderful history. For those of you who don’t know – Linie was traditionally maturated in cask in ships that were sent to Australia and back and is thus named due to its crossing the equator, or “line”, twice during this process. To this day Linie is aged using this exact same method! The gentle rocking of the boat coupled with the changes in temperature creates a spicy, clean and crisp taste that develops into flavours of vanilla and aniseed.
Finally, our last aquavit was the Aalborg Nordguld. It is made using real amber (fossilised tree resin) and then matured in sherry casks, and has a silky smooth mouth feel that develops into flavours of vanilla, cumin and dill with a fiery finish. A true delight of the aquavit world, traditionally served at lunch to keep the cold at bay.
Aquavit opens your eyes to a taste of Scandinavian cuisine, so the next time you’re in the Soho area – pop in and try some!
By Amathus Soho
Hammer House, 113-117 Wardour Street, London W1F 0UN
Tel: 0207 287 5769
I’ve been aware of Hammer Gin from Norway for a little while, so I was excited to recently try it. Launched within the Norwegian Market in 2003, Hammer Gin is made near Oslo, Norway by Arcus, who currently operate the only distillery in the country. The Gin’s recipe is originally from England and dates back to 1776.
Hammer uses water from springs in Hadeland near Oslo. This water is said to be filtered and purified by the sedimentary rock minerals in the air. These rock formations are estimated to be over 300 million years old. Hammer uses a double distillation process, as well as a special filtration system, to achieve the best flavours from its botanicals.
Nose: A classic London Dry; there are notes of juniper and coriander, with a little violet.
Taste: Pleasantly smooth, the prominent flavour is classic, with juniper, coriander and a little angelica at the forefront. Long dry finish from the juniper.
#2) Gin & Tonic
This is a great example of a Gin & Tonic: there were some bitter-fresh notes from the juniper and citrus, with a little pine in the mix, too. Extremely refreshing and a great way to enjoy the gin.
Very, very smooth. I used a 4:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, which achieves a nice balance. The flavour is a subtle mix of juniper, coriander and a very light hint of cinnamon on the finish. Full of flavour and easy to drink.
#4) Tom Collins
Quite tasty; it is not uncommon for a gin to be lost in a Collins, but Hammer Gin holds its own and can be easily tasted. Full of flavour, the gin works well with the citrus from the lemon juice.
#5) Gin Buck
A simple, but effective way to cool down on a hot late afternoon and a delicious way to quench your thirst. There’s a pleasant interaction between citrus juice, gin and the sweet warmth of the ginger ale. I like this an alternative to a Gin & Tonic.
#6) Basil Smash
Fresh notes of green salad from the basil went very well with the citrus and herbal notes of the gin. The lemon juice and sugar syrup add some depth to drink, but it maintains its balance nonetheless. A very approachable way to enjoy the gin.
#7) Gin Sour
This is, essentially, a compact Collins and with Hammer Gin it was tart, but it also rather rousing and would make a good pre-dinner cocktail. Exceptionally refreshing, with a finish reminiscent of fruit salad.
I was very pleased to try Hammer Gin and it is great to see such a good quality London Dry Gin produced outside of the British Isles. Any drink that is designed for a classic-style of gin, Hammer will surely excel in.
Wednesday evening was an eventful evening for Flor de Caña, with a tasting at Zenna and also a tasting at Covent Garden venue, The Hospital Members Club on Endell Street. David Adamick gives us the low down of how the evening played out…
The evening kicked off at 7:30 with an audience of nearly 30 eagerly awaiting to be educated on Nicaragua’s premium rum brand.
After going through a bit of the history of the San Antonio plantation/mill, we then went on to the beginning of rum production in Chichigalpa in 1890 and on to the emergence of the Flor de Caña brand.
We then covered the production methods of the distillery before diving into our first sample, the 4 year old Extra Dry. The 4 year old Gold then followed. The chattering and interaction swelled – the desired effect already!
7, 12 then 18 year olds in due course; people were genuinely intrigued by the progression of aromas and flavours and seemed to grasp the crucial relationship between age, complexity and refinement in rum production.
There was some really great feedback as questions were fielded toward the end of the event; we lingered to confirm our overall preference for the 12 year old. There was even someone there from El Salvador who informed that Flor de Cane is THE brand of the region!
It was a very successful event with a very convivial atmosphere – crucial stuff for enhancing people’s perceptions of rum traditions and brands.