Take the Plunge!

Last month we had an interesting conversation with a couple in our shop during an Open House Tasting. They had in their own words been “very brave” and come to sample the selection of wines we had open that day. They had wanted to visit us because they loved wine, had heard about us and we were local! However, they felt a little apprehensive not knowing what they would find! So just to reassure anyone who may feel the same, our Tastings are a relaxed and fun experience. Our aim is to make you, our customers, feel at ease the moment you step through the door and be on hand should you want to know more about the wines or events. Why not pop in and see for yourselves!

The next Open House weekend is 18 & 19 August 12 noon until 3.00pm.

“Wines for sunny days”  

Remember we open every day so grab a bottle whilst you’re out and about this Summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Holiday? Family visiting? Need something different to do?

If there is a group of you (18 yrs+) who would like to come for a Private Tasting whilst holidaying down in South Devon we would be delighted to organise that for you. Prices start at £12 per person. Just get in touch to talk through how we can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have had several events at The Stables in July, the space really does work very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available to hire for Private Dinner/ Birthday Parties/ Business Meetings / Workshops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting in France

A week in France, Wine Tasting!

Last week we visited one of our French suppliers Jean Curial in a pretty village called St Véran in the Maçonnais region of France. We import their wines direct which are great value and very popular. Phillipe, Jean’s son, took us around his
‘parcelles’ of vines in his 1957 2CV – just fantastic fun, if a little bouncy! We had an interesting lesson on appellations discovering that it is as much to do with geology as it is geography. We visited Pouilly and Fuissé, St Amour-Bellevue, all famous for their Chardonnays.

On we travelled south to the stunning Northern Rhône with regimented vineyards clinging to the steep slopes of the West bank. This is home to the world-famous wines of Condrieu, Côte Rôtie, St Joseph and Hermitage. Every inch of the terraces are planted with Syrah or Viognier grapes beautifully maintained on very precarious hill sides.

The Southern Rhône was just as fascinating with a trip to the iconic village of Châteauneuf du Pape and sampling a range wines made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourdèvre.

We would definitely recommend such a trip to anyone who enjoys wine, it’s uncomplicated and fun! The winemakers are very willing to tell their stories and are proud to pour their wines for you. We did taste some really gorgeous wines including those made by another of our existing suppliers Roger Sabon, they were a real standout!

The unusual weather pattern was a common topic of conversation with all the winemakers that we met; April was unseasonably hot and windy but May and early June has seen very heavy rain & thunderstorms and little bright sunlight. The prevailing southerly wind, the Mistral, has not appeared since the end of April so the humid conditions have sat over the valley for too long and the crops are showing signs of mildew. The winemakers are optimistic that the sun will do its magic and the vines will produce a healthy crop for 2018. Can’t wait to try them!

Phillipe & Murielle Curial

Domaine Jean Curial

Italian wines

A great opportunity to taste the riches of Italian wines

 

As our regular customers will know we love sourcing wines which deliver on flavour, price and quality; some to drink whilst young and exciting and others for laying down to mellow quietly. During our research, it has been Italy that has come up trumps with some excellent examples, so many in fact we have put together a Special Italian Shipment of our favourite wines, so everyone can enjoy our discoveries.

Italy wine has a fascinating history and has recently over taken France as the largest producer in the world. The harsh Spring frosts seen in France over the last few years has reduced yields dramatically particularly in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and this coupled with high demand from the Far East, has resulted in a squeeze on supply. Prices sadly reflect this and for many, French wines have become less affordable, and this is where the Italians can and have stepped in.

 

Wine is produced in all of Italy’s 20 regions from with well-known names such as Soave, Chianti, Valpolicella, Barolo and Montepulicano D’Abruzzo. The wines are characterful, interesting and diverse and available in many different styles. The varying effects of climate and terroir on the viticulture from the North to the South of Italy is extensive, add that to the enormous number of indigenous grape varieties grown alongside international varieties, and the picture painted is complex.

 

Within the Italian wine laws, DOCG is the highest quality classification followed by DOC and IGT equivalent to Vin de Pays in France. Other commonly used terms are Classico which acknowledges “that wines have been made solely from the original classified land and includes many of the best wines from the area” and Riserva meaning “wines have higher alcohol levels and longer ageing minimums stipulated by the appellation laws” (WSET)

 

Italian producers are a passionate and flamboyant bunch and their continued investment in modern winemaking machinery and techniques has paid off handsomely along with improved vineyard management. The greater understanding of “green harvesting” or crop thinning and accurate temperature control in the winery, has given their wines freshness, replacing the baked jammy stewed fruit tastes of the past.

 

Interested in delving into the delights Italy can offer? Then please do get in touch to find out more about our Special Italian Shipment (min. order 6 bottles)

2018 BRINGS NEW WINES & A NEW EVENTS ROOM

 

Goodness where did 2017 go! Our wine business had another good year continuing to grow organically and we are enjoying meeting lots of local people, some of whom just enjoy drinking wine and some who wish to learn more about the fascinating subject.

 

The main news in the wine trade at the moment is not surprisingly the effect the exchange rate is having on the price of a bottle of wine but also the impact of the devastating frosts that hit the Bordeaux area and other European regions a year ago and the subsequent 30% drop in yields. Last Autumn we also witnessed many vineyards and wineries in California, Portugal and Northern Spain being destroyed by wildfires. But what we are constantly hearing is that although volumes are low, putting pressure on prices everywhere, the quality is high and in many regions grape varieties, Grenache, Syrah particularly, loved the conditions of the hot summer with just the right amount of rain.

 

We have been spending the early part of this year travelling to  several Trade Tastings sourcing such wines to find the best examples of the new vintages.  Our aim is to increase the number of wines in our portfolio that deliver great flavour whether it be full-bodied or delicate and which still offer great value.  We are particularly focusing on Italy and Spain where producers continue to challenge the French by bringing exceptionally well-made wines to the market. We can’t wait to show-off these new wines in our forthcoming free tastings.

 

Back in Devon we are looking forward to the end of May when we will be opening our newly converted Stable Events Room formerly an old barn. It is in a charming location with wonderful views up Blackpool Valley. There is a large kitchen perfect for outside caterers and a pretty upstairs room suited to all kinds of functions from Wine Tastings & family celebrations to corporate days. So if you think it is just what you are looking for, come and see how lovely it is just call us first to sort out a convenient time.

01803 770737 or email: wines@michaelsuttonscellar.co.uk

 

Wine for the Christmas season

It is well-known that food and wine consumed together can make the perfect partnership or end in a messy divorce! The ultimate goal is to succeed in providing more enjoyment than if the two had been consumed separately. Quite a tall order when we all have different sensitivities and our preferences vary so much.

That said the majority of people prefer their wines to have an attractive balance between fruit and acidity and will undoubtedly appreciate the generosity of any wine shared.

 

A great idea for keeping visitors happy over the festive period is to have some fun with a mixed case of wine. Fizz to mark the start of the festivities, red and white wine to comfort you through the meal and for something a little different, a well-chilled Tawny Port to enjoy with the Christmas pudding. If you need to look busy to avoid kitchen duties before your visitors arrive, double decant the red wine into a decanter to let it breathe and then pour it back into the bottle so people know what they are drinking! The wine will love being aired and the compliments will flow soon after!

 

Why not experiment this Christmas by offering both a red and white wine with the turkey. A well-rounded chardonnay is a delightful accompaniment, its rich creaminess and sweet spice notes can really enhance the mild and let’s be honest, often dry white meat. For the red winelovers there are lots of great wines that will match beautifully with the traditional Christmas lunch from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône or their southern hemisphere counterparts. Do try to avoid a wine that is too young or too tannic as it will be at odds with the leanness of the turkey.

2017 harvest – will it produce a good vintage?

The British are renowned for talking about the weather at every opportunity if only as part of a polite greeting. But it seems we have little to complain about, so many parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions which devastate lives and livelihoods.

 

The wine community is full of comment as the 2017 grape harvest is well underway. Although picking is 10-14 days early, due to a pleasingly warm June, it has been a particularly complicated growing season in Europe, notably France & Italy, with late frosts in April, extreme temperatures in mid-Summer and hailstorms in August.

 

Encouraged by a mild March the vine shoots and buds emerged early, only to be decimated weeks later by widespread frosts. Despite the desperate efforts of vineyard managers, lighting fires between the vines to keep temperatures from dipping further, many hectares were lost. The result has been that yields are reportedly down as much as 40% in France and 25% in Italy compared to last year. In South America where grapes were harvested in April/May, yields were also down due to extreme heat, drought and wildfires but most Southern Hemisphere producers agree that 2017 will be remembered for excellent ripeness and impressive concentration.

 

But what does all this mean to the wine lover?

It is too early to say yet but the 2017 harvest in Europe also, with tiny yields and glorious ripeness, could potentially rival some of the greatest vintages of the 20th century.  Nothing is certain until the wine begins to show its paces in the Spring but, as night follows day, low yields and high quality mean price rises. The challenge for independent wine merchants like ourselves, who are not restricted to wines only available in large volumes, is to find good value even if it means that we have to go to lesser-known vineyards.  Those who do choose to fork out a little more on wine from the classic regions can, in due course, expect to be rewarded with 2017’s of character and excellent quality.

Pale & steely or dark & exotic – what’s your favourite Rosé?

A refreshing glass of rosé wine is undeniably the epitome of the summer drinking; thirst-quenching, delicate and versatile. Somehow being offered a glass of pretty pink wine lifts the spirits and relaxes the soul and the shoulders!

But what about the colour? We all know that part of the enjoyment of drinking rosé is delighting in the colour which is the reason why it is sold in clear, often beautifully shaped bottles. The enticing colours vary between the palest steely pink to the dark richer shades of pomegranate. All rosé wine comes from red grapes and the depth of the colour is dependent on how long the red skins are allowed to lie on the grape juice. This period determines both the colour and the delicacy of the final wine. In the EU, only Champagne can be made by blending red and white wine to produce a rosé.

Does the colour make a difference to the quality? It is the grape variety and vinification techniques used to make the wine that determines the colour difference and it is the skill of the winemaker and the terroir that defines the quality. However, the popularity of a paler pink rosé definitely seems to be a global trend with the Provence rosés setting the benchmark.

Rosé can be produced in 3 different ways: many vineyards, particularly in France, plant red grapes specifically for making rosé. Most of the common red grapes Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache and Gamay are used to make rosé.  In the first example the grapes are grown purely for making a rosé wine. After picking, the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice for a just a few hours before fermentation occurs.

The second technique known as the Saignée method typically used by producers in Bordeaux. In this case whilst a red wine is being vinified a small quantity is “bled” off to make into an intensely flavoured rosé. Knowing the optimum time to do this is tricky and needs an experienced winemaker.

The final technique used to make rosé which incidentally is not permitted in the EU (except for making pink champagne), is known as the Blending method when a small amount of still red wine is added to white wine. New World producers use this method for making high volume, fruity inexpensive rosés.

We all know that rosé is a perfect apéritif but it also stands up well to food. For summer salads and cold meat platters go for the lighter styles. Darker rosés that are dry rich and full of cherry and pomegranate flavours will match well with more robust fish dishes and spicy foods and most offerings from the barbecue.

Don’t be afraid to pay a little more for a well-crafted rosé as you will be rewarded with a wine of depth and character.

Rosé is best served at around 7°C to get the full enjoyment of the flavours which is held back if it is too cold. If you haven’t got time to chill a bottle properly avoid the old ice-cube trick as this will dilute the wine too quickly but have a bowl of frozen grapes in your freezer ready drop into your glass.

 

We have five rosés at various price points on sale one of which was recently recommended by the Food and Wine writer Fiona Beckett. She said of the Bodegas Julián Chivite Las Finças “this should be a gastronomic rosé and it is. Clean, crisp and incisive with mouthwatering acidity, it could almost be a white.”  Try with prawns, fresh crab, langoustines, and gravalax all readily available locally just like our wine!

Come and try our rosés at our next FREE WINE TASTING on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th August. Corks out 11.30-3.00pm. All welcome

Don’t forget we are open daily for you to buy wines and we offer FREE DELIVERY in the South Hams. Keep up to date with all our events by joining our mailing list, just email us your details.

 

 

 

Autumn Sherry Drinking

We enjoyed a very informative evening with Tim Holt from the sherry company Barbadillo. He came to talk to a lively group of customers in our cellar about how different sherries are made and how to match them with food. We all learnt a great deal from his presentation and from questions from the drinkers. We all retired upstairs to our office for some bowl food and a chance to try the 8 different sherries again. We finished the evening with some Dartmouth vanilla Ice-cream and Pedro Ximenez poured over it. A perfect end to such a fabulous evening!

Summer drinking & En Primeur

Summer seems to have arrived at last with warm settled weather, which can encourage impromptu gatherings with family and friends. In Dartmouth we were very lucky at the recent Music Festival to be blessed with wall to wall sunshine for 3 glorious days. Dozens of music-lovers sat around on an array of colourful rugs surrounded by many other like-minded people. Food and wine were being handed around from well-stocked picnic baskets as everyone soaked up the sunshine and the sounds coming from the bandstand. This tranquil scene reminded us of how lovely it is to share a bottle of wine with friends whether in a stunning setting like the River Dart or in our own back gardens.

Why not be prepared for such occasions by topping up your wine rack with wines for lazy picnic days and sizzling barbecues. Elegant whites match perfectly with summer salads and fish, punchy reds compliment any grilled food and our versatile Provence Rosé can be drunk anytime of the day.  Not to mention a refreshing glass of Prosecco or sparkling Rosé that gets any gathering off to a great start.

On a completely different subject we are expecting our list of En Primeur wines for sale shortly, if you are not already on our mailing list please do get in touch so you don’t miss out on a fabulous opportunity to buy 2015 Bordeaux, which everyone is very excited about, and other events and offers from Michael Sutton’s Cellar.

Come & taste new arrivals

We received wonderfully positive feedback from both our Open House events and our first Tutored Tasting evening. Tasting wine in either forum is interesting, thought-provoking and masses of fun. Discussions broke out in all directions about people’s likes and loves; taste is a very personal sense which lends itself to expressing opinions and understanding the complexities of different wines.

Over the last month or so we have attended tastings in London and Bristol to find new wines to complement our existing cellar list. As a result we have chosen some delicious, good value contenders which we will be featuring at our next set of Open House Days – Saturday 21st May, Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th May.

For those of you who are new to this website these tastings at Riversbridge are informal and fun. Just drop in between 11.30 and 2.00pm and enjoy a range of red, white and rosé wines. If you are out of the area rest assured you can order directly through the website and we will do the rest. We offer free delivery throughout the South Hams.

Our next Tutored Tasting evenings are 27th May “Bordeaux and its cousins” and 8th July “Australian Wines”. Booking is essential so do drop us an email which is easy from the Contact page.

Meanwhile our Master of Wine, Anthony Barne who guides us through our wine buying, has recently visited Bordeaux tasting the 2015 vintage. As I’m sure you are all aware last year’s harvest was received with much enthusiasm compared to recent years. The wine-writer Jancis Robinson said in the FT “2015 is not the vintage of the century but it is pleasing to taste – a modern version of 1985.”  We will keep you informed of our recommendations to buy En Primeur.

Do remember we are open most days, just give us a call/email beforehand and we will make sure we are here to welcome you.