Escorihuela Gascón 2018 – Meg & Familia Gascón.

I’m always looking to expand my knowledge of Argentine wine. It excites me. It’s rare that I’m left disappointed with a bottle and I think the diversity of the growing conditions from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south make for some truly interesting and distinctive delights. Tonight I’m tasting a couple of 2018s from Escorihuela Gascón.


Escorihuela Gascón is the oldest winery in Mendoza city, founded in Godoy Cruz in 1884. Miguel Gascón moved from Spain in 1880, establishing a winery and 42 acres of vineyards four years later. Throughout the 20th century, the producer has remained at the forefront of the country’s identity in the wine world and is one of its 10 most important exporters. They have vineyards in Almero and Altamira (El Cepillo). The former is located in Luján de Cayo, which receives a cooling influence from the winds that descend from the Andes. The soil consists of water-retaining sandy loam. The latter consists of alluvial soil, with sandy loam in the lower reaches and a rocky profile at the higher levels. There is an emphasis on minimal intervention winemaking and the company produces wine from a variety of grapes, including Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.


This is made in the Agrelo vineyard from 100% Malbec and is aged for a relatively short period of 4 months in French and American oak. This produces a fresh and fruity style of Malbec with a medium nose of red cherry, strawberry, blackberry, black pepper, earth and a hint of clove. It has a deep ruby appearance and in the mouth it has medium plus acidity and body with nice rounded tannins and a medium plus finish. Plenty of plump primary fruit here, true to the nose, but also with some black plum, blueberry and a degree of minerality along with the grape’s signature peppery spice attack. I can really sense the cooling influence in this wine. It’s great to try this style of Malbec for a change, as I tend to see the big hitters more often. It’s a more approachable example that I think would be appreciated by a wide audience.

Score: 3.25/4


Beautifully presented

This is a blend of Malbec (60%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) with the former being sourced from the El Cepillo vineyard and the latter from vineyards in San José, Tupungato. I can’t find information regarding the ageing period but it’s evidently much longer than the Familia and takes place in French oak exclusively (80% new and 20% old).

The aromas emanating from this wine truly seduce you. It’s like Christmas in the desert. It has a deep ruby colour (darker than the Familia) with flashes of purple and a pronounced nose of sweet blackcurrant tart, baked black cherry, liquorice, smoke, vanilla, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, dark chocolate, leather, treacle, dates and menthol. There is so much going on here. The fruit, spices and heat sit in perfect balance. You know a wine is going to be good when you slowly close your eyes and luxuriate for a while after the first smell.

When you taste it, you are not let down in the slightest. The grandeur of its smell is deftly supported by the complexity of its taste. It is full bodied with grippy tannins, high acidity and a long, dark, sleek finish. Blackcurrant, red sour cherry, black plum, mint, vanilla, smoke, black pepper, burnt caramel, butter, coffee, toast, cinnamon and herbs. Everything is in this wine. Everything. I’m quite floored by it. It’s big on the alcohol but there is ample flavour and structure to stand up to this. It’s a majestic beast and probably the best Argentine wine I’ve tasted.

Score: 3.75/4

In summary, these are two wonderful wines. They are both very different in style, with the Familia being fresh and fruit-forward and the Meg exhibiting a far more secondary and tertiary profile. The Familia is a shining, solid example of really good Malbec. It’s playful and yet you have to take it seriously due to it’s bold fruit and peppery, earthy attitude. I need to have this with cassoulet and crusty bread tout suite, quite frankly. I think they are both drinking well now but whereas the Familia would benefit from being enjoyed within the next five years or so, the Meg will continue to develop and sing for years to come (fifteen years at least possibly). I can see that tertiary element really building well and the tannins will fall out nicely. I would say it’s less food friendly than the Familia but roast rosemary lamb and glazed veg wouldn’t go a miss. Personally, I’d like it simply with some good music. I’d love to get another bottle to put away for a while….possibly even until next Wednesday.

These wines are available at Fine Wines Direct (Cardiff):




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Domaine Du Seuil 2017 (Red) & 2019 (White)

Ahh, what a pleasure it is to escape the dreary confines of the current surroundings and head to beautiful Bordeaux for this evening’s wines. Well, mentally anyway. I’m tasting Domaine Du Seuil.


Based in the southern end of Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers, on the right bank of the Garonne River, Nicola and Sean Allison’s Chateau Seuil is based in Cadillac Côtes De Bordeaux. The business was established in 1988 by Nicola’s parents and the estate has since also ventured over the river to the Graves. Being Bordeaux, the climate is maritime and the soil consists of gravel, limestone, clay and molasses. The average age of the vines is 30 years, the grapes are hand-harvested and the wines are organically made.

2017 Cadillac Côtes De Bordeaux

This is a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend (akin to the left bank) with Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Franc completing its composition. Ageing takes place in French oak for 12 months.

This has a deep ruby appearance and a medium nose. It has an element of graphite (presumably thanks to the Cabernet Franc) with dark fruits appearing quite dominant, as you’d expect with a cab-led blend. Also on the nose are notes of blackcurrant, black plum with demerara sugar, forest floor, clove, cedar and black pepper. There is also a hint of tomato stalk. In the mouth, there is prominent blackcurrant, vanilla, red cherry, mint and black pepper with the malolactics providing a slightly buttery character. Smooth, supple mouthfeel. Medium plus acidity, powdery tannins and a medium plus body with a medium finish. Initially slightly closed, it benefited from being decanted for 20/30 minutes.

Score: 2.75/4

2019 Bordeaux Blanc

This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with the emphasis on the latter, which provides 80% of the blend. Some barrel fermentation takes place.

This is awfully nice! The Semillon’s character takes centre stage, providing softness and a rounded profile. It has a pale lemon appearance and the nose is strongly floral with tinned peaches and cream, red apple, tangerine and cut grass following through. In the mouth, there is lemon juice, crisp green apple, pineapple, mango, grapefruit, milk and salt. The length is good, I’d say medium plus with a medium body. I think good old fish and chips would be perfect with this or even paella. It’s got summer written all over it but I’m more than happy to drink it now!

Score: 3.25/4

In summary, I enjoyed both wines with the white having the edge. I thought the balance between the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was well judged and it had good structure, thanks in part to the barrel fermentation.

Despite Cabernet Franc contributing only 5% of the blend in the red, I felt it made its presence known and the wine was all the better for it. A hearty dish, such as pasticcio, would work wonders alongside this wine. It’s perfectly suited to the time of year. When the skies turn dark, drink something darker!

These wines are available from Fine Wines Direct (Cardiff):




Album: Mansun – The Dead Flowers Reject (Released 29/08/20)

2020 has been a year of very few certainties but there was no doubt in my mind that the first instalment of this year’s ‘Record Store Day’ on the 29th August would provide something very special indeed: ‘The Dead Flowers Reject’ by ‘Brit Pop legends’ Mansun (a term I loathe as I feel it undermines their integrity). It’s not new in the sense that it’s newly written material, rather a collection of songs that were recorded around the same time as their 1998 masterpiece ‘Six’, now housed neatly in a nicely presented, limited edition white vinyl release (courtesy of cracking independent label, Kscope). For Mansun fans, this is a real treat. The band split up in 2003 and there has never been a glimmer of hope in terms of a reunion so any new release will always be welcomed with open arms.

For a start, I love the artwork. The flowery flamboyance of the front cover’s text set against the minimal, wooden-effect background is simple yet really effective.

As stated on the back cover, this collection could effectively be seen as the follow up to ‘Six’. Now….I hold that album in extremely high regard. A desert island album if you will. It’s a stunningly immersive suite of music and I’ll always be arrested from the opening strains of the eponymous first song through to the closing chaos of Being A Girl. So, while I had very high hopes for this release, it was up against some pretty stiff competition. Then again, having preconceptions about music (or anything else) never did anybody any favours so I just poured a glass of wine and settled in.

Well, it’s excellent isn’t it? Opening track ‘What It’s Like To Be Hated’ kicks off with a sleazy, distorted bass line and a groovy verse which dives willingly into an infinity pool of typically lush and devastatingly melodic Mansun magic in the chorus. It’s washy and warm and instantly memorable. Quite the moodsetter.

This leads seamlessly into the jaunty, straight-talking, terse charm of ‘GSOH’. It’s a short-lived, tongue-in-cheek song and serves as an effective segue to the spiky, distorted lead guitar intro of ‘Been Here Before’. This could easily take up residence amongst the songs of ‘Six’. It opens up wonderfully and the guitar sound that precedes the verses is immediately identifiable, commanding the song with confidence along with the impossibly effective chorus harmonies. I love the dark cadence of the closing chords too.

‘When The Wind Blows’ starts portentiously with eerie keyboard notes and then bleeds disarmingly into a loungy, dreamy verse with a ghostly, hypnotic drum beat. The bass meanders mournfully like a sad drunk lost in the night. I could listen to this part of the song on repeat for quite some time. It’s peak Mansun. The chorus then jolts you from the reverie, exploding with Paul’s authoritative vocals, declaring “I’ll still love you when the wind blows through”.

‘Can’t Afford To Die’ is a bendy, metallic, dancy, catchy number with a really hooky, radio effect chorus and a verse that all parts of your body can shake to. Lovely, ethereal vocal effects in the verses and my word, the melodies in the chorus…the band were an authority in this regard. I was instantly there with them and I shivered my way through. How did they keep coming up with this stuff? This song is so, so cool.

‘Church of the Drive Thru Elvis’ is a chilled out, acoustic affair. Almost claustrophobic in its closeness and sense of intimacy. The songs have been pretty pushy up to this point so a change of pace provides a nice dynamic shift. The background plucked notes in the latter stages are a lovely touch too. The apathetic lyric “You’ll take life better than me” is beautifully delivered.

‘I Care’ opens with a dreamy phaser which surrenders to airy slides in a comfortable lull which then completely morphs into an upbeat, mid-tempo chorus and repeats the theme already established in punky, rocky fashion before retreating to the calm elegance of the verse. It’s quite a juxtaposition throughout the song that works well.

‘King of Beauty’ showcases both the gripping androgyny and spitty attitude of Paul Draper’s voice. It’s littered with gorgeous effects throughout and wailing wahwah guitar notes. I like the downscale build-up to the chorus and when it booms in it strikes me as a song that I could have easily lost myself in if I had ever been lucky enough to have seen them live. *sigh*

‘But The Trains Run On Time’ has a feeling of The Cure or even Duran Duran about it. It shimmers darkly. I think it might be the sleek nightclub swing of the bass line, the occasionally atonal guitar notes and the prominence of the vocals in the mix. It’s a pretty hypnotic and addictive song.

‘Check Under The Bed’ is a straight-to-the point rock song with strong, lifted vocals and a climbing, driving bass line. The bass in general is the focal point of the song for me. It’s awesomely groovy and roomy and serpentine. Ah, here come the shivers again. Love the dancy hi-hat rhythms tucked into the chorus too amongst the deftly delivered melodies. I also like the brief breakdown towards the end which makes you think that the song might be over before treating you to a final refrain.

‘I Deserve What I Get’ is quite an experimental track. It has a weird and wonderful feel. Plenty of strange noises and effects here but it’s definitely quite catchy. It strikes me as a band trying new things. I love it when they go experimental.

‘Railings’, the closer, provides a suitable finish to the record. Rainy day piano notes pepper the verses and the reflective lyrics suit them perfectly. The choruses stand tall and proud before crashing back down as quickly as they erupt until the latter stages of the song send you down a river of beautiful noise.

It will take several more listens before I properly get to grips with this but it’s clearly a great collection of songs. There is a ‘Six’ feel running through parts of it without it ever being too Sixxy. It’s definitely its own thing and holding a new release from this band is something rare and incredibly exciting.

Score: 8/10

Tasting: Bodegas Carrau – Tannat 2018 & Petit Manseng 2018

I was excited to try these two Uruguayan wines, produced by Bodegas Carrau. Whilst I have previously enjoyed several Tannats from the country, I have been keen to explore them further and my experience of Petit Manseng extends only to its contribution in French blends so it was interesting to experience a varietal example from an entirely different location. Break the bread and pour the wine…


The Carrau family initially planted vines near Barcelona in 1752 and made the move to Uruguay in 1930, establishing the Santa Rosa winery. They acquired their first vineyard in Las Violetas, roughly 40km north of the capital, Montevideo. Interestingly, they are credited with introducing the traditional method of sparkling wine production to the country at this time. It was in 1976 that Bodegas Carrau was launched with the aim of bringing Uruguayan wine to the international market, focusing on the re-invention of classic European grapes. They also acquired the Colón winery in the capital, initially built in 1887, to further expand their operation and raise the profile of their country’s wines. Tannat is their flagship wine but they produce an array of varietals, including Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Marzemino and Merlot.

Petit Manseng Tradicion 2018

The grapes are hand harvested and aged in French oak for 10 months.

The wine has an attractive pale gold appearance and a medium intensity nose, filled with notes of honey, white melon, elderflower, peach, apricot and banana. It immediately strikes me as a sunshine smell.

In the mouth, it is full bodied (not surprising, given its 14.5% strength) with a supple, unctuous mouthfeel and a generous finish. The same stone and tropical fruits are present but there are also notes of bruised red apple and ginger. It’s off dry and luscious but there is just about enough acidity present to provide balance and structure

I like this wine a lot. It immediately presents itself as originating from the Southern Hemisphere. It tastes and smells warm but the fruit isn’t at the mercy of the alcohol and it’s not flabby or overripe. Well chilled, it is perfectly enjoyable on its own. However, it struck me as being a good partner for blue cheese and luckily I had some in the fridge so I tested that theory with great results, serving it less chilled.

Score: 3.25/4

Tannat ‘Las Violetas’ 2018

The grapes are also hand harvested and aged in French oak for 18 months.

This has a medium ruby appearance and a medium plus intensity nose with notes of sweet red cherry, strawberry, violets, cedar and black pepper.

In the mouth, it is medium plus bodied with bright acidity and a medium finish. There is quite a primary fruit profile to this. It’s approachable with the same mix of fruit as on the nose but also raspberry, blackberry, a hint of vanilla, a touch of sourness and a vein of minerality. It’s surprisingly rather quaffable and fresh compared to its heavy, dark, French cousin. I assume it’s been grown at a fairly high altitude. I think it would work wonders with gamey dishes and even a balmy barbecue.

Score: 2.75/4

It was very interesting to sample some more Uruguayan wine as its presence in the UK is still comparitively scarce. I was impressed by the Petit Manseng’s complexity and surprised by the Tannat’s delicacy, given its reputation for being quite austere. I’m beginning to realise that this country needs far more attention (in the UK at least). I must go in search of further delights from this fascinating place!

These wines are available from Fine Wines Direct (Cardiff):




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Tasting: Dehesa La Granja 2012 & El Vinculo Crianza 2015

I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting of Alejandro Fernández wines at Fine Wines Direct (Cardiff) previously and remember being very impressed by their complexity and longevity. Being some time ago, however, it almost feels like I’m tasting these for the first time this evening but with the knowledge that I’m definitely in for a treat!

Dehesa La Granja 2012


Dehasa La Granja, purchased in 1998, is one of the four bodegas of legendary producer Alejandro Fernández. Given exclusively to Tempranillo, its 100 hectare vineyard area lies within the greater 850 hectare farm estate (which also undertakes livestock farming, producing olive oil, goat cheese and chickpeas). Uniquely, the estate boasts a 3000m² network of subterranean, 18th century tunnels which provide the home for the cellars. Located in Castilla y León in the region of Zamora, the climate is continental with hot, dry summers and very cold winters. The average age of the vines is 25 years, planted on a soil of clay, sandstone and limestone at altitudes of between 620 and 750 metres. The wine is aged in American oak barrels for 24 months and, as with all of the family’s wines, receives no fining or filtration prior to bottling. It is a vino de la tierra wine.


The wine has a deep ruby appearance with a pronounced aroma of baked black plum, toffee, smoke, cedar, vanilla, black cherry, leather and nutmeg. That is one hell of a nose!

On the palate, it is full bodied with high acidity, medium tannins and a generous length, boasting an intoxicating mix of blackberry, red cherry, black plum, vanilla, smoked meat, liquorice and black olives.

It has a lovely, savoury complexity and will age well for years to come. Benefits from being decanted at least half an hour before serving.

Score: 3.75/4

El Vinculo Crianza 2015


Another bodega owned by the Fernández Family’s ‘Groupo Pesquera’, El Vinculo was purchased in 1999 and is located in the Northern reaches of La Mancha D.O., in Campo de Criptana. Translating as ‘union’ or ‘link’, it is named after Alejandro’s father’s medieval cellar (and family meeting place) and the connection of the two regions (Castilla y León and Castilla La Mancha). The warmest of their four estates (still with a continental climate), the 80 hectares of vineyards are again comprised of old (25 year average), low-yielding Tempranillo vines, planted at an altitude of between 650 and 750 metres on a soil of clay and sand. As with the Dehesa, the grapes are hand harvested, de-stemmed and kept whole for fermentation. Ageing taking place in American oak barrels for 18 months, with a further 6 months minimum in bottle.


This has a medium ruby appearance and a medium intensity nose, giving notes of sweet strawberry, red cherry, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, rose and hints of earth.

On the palate it is medium plus bodied with grippy tannins and nicely balanced acidity. It has flavours of sour red cherry, strawberry, blueberry, redcurrant, buttery toast, vanilla and cinnamon. In other words, it’s rather sexy!

This is drinking very well now but it will age nicely for several years, by which time the tannins will have dissipated further (although they are perfectly manageable now).

Score: 3.25/4

In summary, I enjoyed both wines for different reasons. The El Vinculo is the more fruit-forward, approachable of the two with the oak ageing clearly giving it a generous degree of elegance and character and I think many people would find this very enjoyable (as I do). It has a lovely label too!

The Dehesi, however, is quite different. It’s a distinctive, punchy, moody wine with bold flavours and a muscular frame. I love it. Whereas the El Vinculo shows as a willing partner for food, I’ll be sure to have a cigar on standby for the Dehesi next time! I really liked the integration of the primary and tertiary aromas and flavours and it’s definitely a wine you need to take your time with….which I have no problem with whatsoever!

Both wines are available at Fine Wines Direct (Cardiff):




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White Castle Vineyard (Llanvetherine) – 01/08/20

Just outside the town of Abergavenny in South Wales, in the little pocket of beauty that is Llanvetherine, lies the bucolic White Castle Vineyard. In the words of a friend, it’s a haven of tranquility. Owned by husband and wife, Robb and Nicola Merchant, its first vines were planted in 2009 and it has garnered nothing but interest and acclaim since. When Oz Clarke is banging the drum for you, I think you’re clearly doing something right!

They purchased the 12 acre small holding in 1995, converting the milk parlour into a home, with no intention of starting a vineyard at the time. It was Nicola’s interest in other people doing so abroad that prompted them to start planting and they purchased an additional 5 acre field in 2008. This is their south-facing plot and they have also since added a 1.5 acre, north-facing plot. It’s interesting to see north-facing vines at this latitude and they are currently trialling Cabernet Franc there, which I cannot wait to experience the results of.

South-facing plot

I was given a warm welcome by Nicola on arrival while I admired the various awards and displays in the well-presented reception room. The tour was then conducted by Robb, an interesting, amiable and engaging man with a clear passion for and devotion to his craft. Following a chat about their busy time with Welsh Wine Week ( we entered the vineyard after passing through their beautiful, 16th Century, Grade 2 listed barn (which will provide the setting for their first wedding next year) and were first introduced to their Phoenix and Seyval Blanc vines. These are blended to produce their Gwin Gwyn and Sparkling wines.

Seyval Blanc

The Gwin Gwyn has a lightly floral nose, with notes of citrus, nettles and hay. On the palate it is wonderfully fresh and rounded, with lemon juice, passion fruit and crunchy green apple. A perfect wine for the time of year.

We gradually climbed the gently sloping site while Robb talked us through their history and growing practices. The harvest is undertaken by hand and usually occurs around mid-October, generally beginning with the Phoenix and ending with the late-ripening Rondo. The vines are trellised and head-trained with cane pruning on a soil of sand and loam in the south-facing plot and exclusively sand in the north-facing plot. It was nice to visit when veraison was just starting to make its presence known. Fortunately, the rain abated for the duration of the visit and we were even afforded the luxury of radiating sunshine as we admired these little green spheres of promise!

Veraison on the Regent

After reaching the summit (which was noticeably warmer than the starting point) we were presented with a stunning view of the surrounding hills. Having visited the Phoenix, Seyval Blanc and Siegerrebe vines we then crossed over to the reds, namely Pinot Noir Précoce, Rondo and Regent. No surprise that the Pinot is apparently the most fickle to grow. The reds are varietally made but they have blended the 2018 and 2019 Rondo with excellent results (again…love to try this). We then descended to the relative coolness of the lower level.

It’s interesting to note that the Seyval Blanc is of French origin, while the Phoenix, Rondo, Regent, Siegerrebe and Pinot Noir Précoce hail from Germany.


In terms of vinification, their wines are fermented in stainless steel with the whites avoiding malolactic fermentation, lees contact and oak ageing (preserving their fresh, delicate profile) while the reds do receive ageing in French oak (with the Pinot Noir Précoce remaining in barrel for up to 18 months). I tasted the 2018, unoaked Pinot while I was there and bought a bottle of the 2017, oaked Pinot Reserve to taste at home. The 2018 is crisp, light and floral with juicy red cherry, cranberry and raspberry on the nose and palate. Dangerously drinkable, especially on a sundeck! The 2017 has a more feral edge. Wild strawberry, sweet dark plum and violets on the nose with hints of herbs and cinnamon. The same primary fruit but also with sour red cherry and a hint of mushroom on the palate. There is a subtle warmth given to the flavours by the oak. Lovely colour too, edging towards garnet.

2017 Reserve Pinot Noir

We then returned to the shop to taste the wines. In addition to the wines already mentioned, I also tasted the Rosé and the Regent. The Rosé blend varies depending on the vintage but this release (2018) consists of Siegerrebe, Phoenix and Pinot Noir Précoce. The Siegerrebe’s acidity is evident, giving the blend a pleasing lift. Really nice, summery notes of strawberries and raspberries with a vein of lemon and lime running through.

The Siegerebbe has an interesting nose of ginger, lychee, peach and apricot with some honeydew melon. On the palate it is light and refreshing with high acidity and a degree of minerality, along with the same stone fruit character and a hint of white pepper.

Finally, we tasted the Regent. Wow. It’s Robb’s favourite wine of theirs and I have to agree. It has great depth of flavour and a dark, seductive ruby colour. Very fruity with blackberry, black cherry and blackcurrant sitting together perfectly with hints of pepper, cedar and clove which hang nicely on the palate. I had this with steak, expecting it to be overpowered (considering its 11.5% strength) but its character rose to the challenge!

2017 Regent

As previously mentioned, they also produce a sparkling wine, made by traditional method, and a limited ‘1581’ port-style fortified wine made entirely from Regent, which has been classed as one of the top 50 wines produced in the UK. I have to try these! If it means making a return trip then so be it…

The range

After chatting to Robb further, while making my inevitable purchases, I left and decided to write a few words about my visit. I can’t think of a better place to start a blog than with this gem of a vineyard that is only an hour from home. It made me proud to be Welsh and I hope its reputation continues to grow for years to come. With quality like this, how could it not?



Twitter & Instagram: @welshwines


Also, watch this for God’s sake: