The captivating Pedro Urbina with his very special wines

A few years ago, we had a phone call from a friendly Spanish winemaker named Pedro, who happened to be in the area and wanted to pop by and share with us a few of his aged Riojas.  Not wishing to be rude (or indeed miss an opportunity), we agreed to meet with him.  Trouble was, Pedro was flying home and could only spare 10am Friday morning, particularly grim because it was the morning after a family wedding…!

Years ago, a 10am tasting after a night on the town would not have daunted me.  But 25 years in the trade and you really start to feel it!  Suffice to say, this was one tasting I wasn’t looking forward to.

And so it was, a couple of Alka Seltzer and here we were, at the beginning of a fabulous new trading relationship with the most charming of winemakers.  Pedro rocked up (he is a bit of a rock star to be fair) with his basket of goodies and, well, the rest is history.

Boy, were we impressed and stunned with excitement.  Pedro Urbina has an impressive handle on the English language – one of those people in life that you simply like to sit back and listen to.  He has a simple manner and within moments of meeting him, we were captivated by his angle on winemaking in the Rioja region.  Pedro is the current winemaker in this old family winery – he may be young, but he certainly knows what he’s doing.

The Urbina family enjoy a unique stance on Rioja wines, preferring to keep them in their cellars for considerably longer than most Rioja producers, releasing only when their wines begin showing real maturity.

That day, Pedro brought with him a selection of his older wines, very old to be precise.   In all my years in the wine trade, I had never experienced such old Riojas.  We started with a 2008 Crianza.  2008!!!  Most Crianza in today’s market is 2018!  It was a golden/brick colour, to be expected given its age, yet deliciously fresh as a daisy on the palate.

Next was a 1999 Crianza – yup nigh on 18 years old, fruit-driven with vanilla tones and once again fresh and zippy.  Then came my favourite – a 1998 Reserva Especial.  Its colour was almost orange, its flavours gamey and herbaceous in one.  The wine had complexity and sure enough, every sip took on a different angle.  Pedro suggested pigeon as a food accompaniment.

We followed this with a 1996 Gran Reserva.  This wine had spent significantly longer in tank before barrel age and bottling.  It was noticeable how much more depth and weight there was here.  Beef was the food suggestion here or a very tangy Cheddar.

Finally, Pedro’s ‘piece de resistance’, the 1994 Gran Reserva Especial.  He had enjoyed this himself the previous night with truffle-infused cheese.  Exquisite, enough said.Bodegas Benito Urbina Rioja Gran Reserva Especial

A few years on and we still have stocks of the 1994 Gran Reserva and the ’99 Crianza, whilst the ’98 Reserva Especial has been superceded by the 2006 vintage – I find myself jumping up and down whenever I mention the 2006!

Make no mistake, Urbina wines are something very, very special.  Always top of the class and hugely respected across the wine trade.  What more to say than thank goodness for Alka Seltzer!

If you’d like to learn more, be sure to join us live in conversation with the maestro himself on Thursday 8th October 2020 for a Lockdown Live! special event.

Details about the event are available HERE>

Mention Chile these days across wine industry experts and you’ll find buckets of respect for what this country has achieved.

Chief Winemaker Meinard Bloem at Casas del Bosque

It’s true, Chile has been producing wine since the Spanish conquistadors pitched up in the 1600s, tempted by just how perfect the growing conditions were for making wine.  Surrounded by the Andes on one side, desert in the north and the Pacific on the west, it proved an ideal land for growing, well, just about anything.  In recent years, it’s been regularly reported that if, hypothetically, all of the Chilean farmers of all crops came together, there would be a strong argument for certifying Chile as a nation 100% organic, such is the limited need for pest control and the like.  That’s quite a statement to make and whilst it unlikely to be achievable on paper, in practice it’s worthy noting that, overall, Chile likely produces the most wine with the least chemical intervention.

Casas reds

A brace of perfection!

Our good friends at Casas del Bosque are no different and we are proud to have listed them within our portfolio since Hannibal Brown was founded back in November 2012.

We were charmed initially by the Carmenere Reserva.  Not so long ago, this grape variety was widely confused in the vineyards with Merlot, but for the fact that it presented a consistently more robust characteristic.  For those less familiar with this varietal, it’s worth remembering that Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina (and I defy anyone reading this to have never heard of the latter!).

Such was our intrigue that we researched Casas del Bosque more thoroughly, introducing Syrah Gran Reserva (aka. Ribena on steroids), the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and more recently the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Casas del Bosque don’t do blends – they prefer their wines to reflect true single varietal characteristics and they are masters at optimising the fruit and purity in each and every one of them.

To discover more, we’re excited to be tasting the Syrah and Carmenere with Meinard Bloem, Bosque’s Chief Winemaker, who joins us for a virtual chit-chat via Facebook Live! and YouTube on Thursday 6th August 2020.   We hope you can join us!

 

The power of social media has meant that the great flying winemaker John Weeks and I are back in contact and working together again for the first time in many years.  What’s more, he’s agreed to join us at 3.30am (his time, not ours) for next week’s Lockdown Live! event, entitled Boom, Boom, Barossa! when we’ll be discussing his latest wines that have just landed.

You really don’t get more ‘Aussie’ than John… he’s never more happy than when witnessing Australia knocking ten bells out of some other poor sporting nation.  Cricket, rugby, you name it, he loves it.  So travelling the world making wine provided great opportunity to witness his teams perform on foreign turf.  I did once take a wad of cash off him when England reclaimed the Ashes, but taking a bet with John is a nerve-wracking experience.

Born in Adelaide, John spent much of his working life searching out the best wines across the world.  He’s worked in wine regions in five continents and lived in France, Portugal and South Africa, before returning to his native Australia.  He can now lay claim to over 30 vintages under his vinous belt – quite a milestone for any winemaker.  Thankfully, he hasn’t kept his adventures entirely to himself, recently publishing a book entitled The Wine Prospector (enter our COMPETITION to win a copy – see below).

John isn’t just a great winemaker, he’s a real Aussie character.  He can order a beer in 11 languages – now who wouldn’t want a friend like that?!

John Weeks joins us live Thursday 30th July 7pm for our Lockdown Live Wine & Food event.

Win a copy of John Weeks’s entertaining book ‘The Wine Prospector’

Best canapé creation to accompany these wines wins.  Simply design your canapé and create it, post a picture on Facebook and remember to tag Hannibal Brown Wines plus one friend who you think would like to join us (or enter too!). The competition closes at 18.00 (UK time) on Thursday, 30th July.

The winner will be announced during our Lockdown LIVE! chat with John Weeks, so make sure you’re watching to see if it’s you! There will be a subsequent post about the winner (showcasing the canapé) on Hannibal Brown Wines social media channels.

The competition is in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook.

 

 

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It’s Lockdown Live Curry Night – and a chance to win a bottle this evening!!!!
So crack open the Indian wine (or whatever you have to hand) and join us at 7pm for Thursday night’s vinous banter.  Discover how amazingly wines can pair with Indian food.  You can even get stuck into our delicious canape recipes here>  
It’s lots of fun, interactive and relaxed.  What’s not to enjoy?

Tonight’s Episode 2 of our virtual Spring Wine & Food Pairing – don’t forget to have a glass to hand!  Tonight, we’re covering:

Adaras Albarino with Salmon & Beetroot Tartare, followed by Castelforte Valpolicella Ripasso with Asian-style Meatballs – delish!

It’s gonna be a blast – see you later – https://www.facebook.com/events/626759497878074/

We finally pulled out the stops last week and dipped our toes into the unchartered waters of online live-streaming our wine & food event.  Our chosen platform is Facebook Live and we’re going to be back live on air this coming Thursday for Episode 2, at the slightly earlier time of 18.30 BST.   As these events are unscripted, anything can happen (and probably will), but you can be sure it will be fun, light-hearted and interactive.  We hope you will join us – this week’s wine and food pairings are :

Albarino, accompanied with Salmon & Beetroot Tartare  and

Valpolicello Ripasso, accompanied with Asian Meatballs

Check out the recipes here – and maybe cook up the canapes ahead of the event.

See you Thursday!

Doors open 6.45pm, Trinity Hall, Mansel Rd, Wimbledon.

Hot on the heels of our hugely successful Autumn Wine Event comes our final consumer event of the year….  Thursday 12th December…. yup, that’s right, 12th December, we invite you to our Christmas Wine Tasting.  Mr Johnson, we arranged this date way before you sprung your last-minute General Election on the nation, so we are going ahead, full throttle with a festive event and a touch of obligatory satire, bien sur!

We believe we owe it to you, our loyal wine followers, as well as our dishevelled government, to puff some festive cheer into this important evening.  So we’re gathering together some of our very finest wine and food pairing ideas to stimulate your tastebuds and see you through to the end of another decade.  Tickets are just £25 and are selling fast.  Book HERE>

Everyone’s heart melts when you set your eyes on these little chappies!  The reality is that these fellers are destined for intense training to become Guide Dogs that will see them transform someone’s life.  Many Guide Dogs are fully trained within two years, but the task of pairing the right dog with the right owner is not so straightforward.  Right now, there is a severe shortage of trained dogs and funding is a continual challenge.  So next month, our annual Autumn wine and food event will see us supporting this life-changing organisation.  On Wednesday 23rd October in Wimbledon, we’ll be show-casing dozens of wines with sensational food pairings, kindly prepared by celebrity chef Elliot Johnson-Paul of JP Dining.   Simply by attending this event (tickets £28), you’ll be helping us fund-raise for the Guide Dogs.  If you want to learn more about the work that the Guide Dogs do – and also enjoy wine – please do come along. 

Read more and book your tickets here> 

Ever heard of Picpoul de Pinet?  Some of you will have because there’s a fair bit of it around in the UK these days.

This glass contains…..!

Earlier this month, London played host to a series of Picpoul de Pinet winemakers who came over to showcase their respective wines and also provide a little more insight into the history and position of Picpoul in the UK market.  Entitled ‘A Celebration of the Wines of the Sea’, this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable tastings we have attended in years.  Not just because these were some of the leading wineries of the region, but also because the winemakers and key movers and shakers were happy to share their insights and objectives.

Did you know that the UK now sells a third of total Picpoul de Pinet wine production?  Albeit a small region in the south of France, this still represents an extraordinary success story and one that the winemakers are keen to protect and even grow.   It seems that Picpoul suits the British wine palate well.  ‘Son terroir, c’est la mer’ is a well known Picpoul descriptor – and a pretty accurate one at that.  Picpoul wines are often described with words like:  salty, chalky, citric, zesty and a characteristic tangy bitterness on the end palate.  It’s deliciously flavoursome and a breath of fresh air compared to the more readily available Sauvignon Blancs of this world.

One last point – our very own Domaine de la Mirande Picpoul was, in our opinion, the best in class at this gathering.  “You would say that”, I hear you shout.  And we would, it is true – but seriously, we really do believe that it WAS the best in class that evening.

If you haven’t already, give Picpoul a try – it’s worth every great-value-for-money penny and a blast with oysters!

 

 

 

The weatherman encouraged me this morning to believe that Spring really is just round the corner, with today’s weather not too dissimilar to that of northern Spain.

So it seemed appropriate to unveil the first of our consumer wine tastings of 2019…..  entitled Malbec & Masala, it’s our Spring pairing of fine wines with tempting food types using spices from around the world.  It’s hot on the heels of last year’s hugely successful Pinot & Paprika tasting.  Such was the popularity of this event, that we’ve decided to run a similar theme, albeit we are pushing the boundaries yet further – Six devilishly delicious food types paired with six artisan wines.  And a raft of other wines to taste and discover at your leisure.

For the concerned few, remember,  not all spice is hot!

We want to share the secret of wine and spice with our guests.  After all, what’s life without a bit of wine and spice thrown in?!

Venue :  Trinity Hall, Wimbledon, SW19

For more details and tickets – call us on 020 3876 8008 or click on the link HERE>

In this food and wine pairing, it’s all about the fruit characteristic of the Merlot which couples nicely with the contents of the muffin – sweet, ripe beetroot and fruity goat’s cheese.  The components sit comfortably together in an attractive, gentle way.

The touch of Mourvedre blended into this Merlot provides structure and backbone without too much grip.  ‘Smooth’ it the ultimate wine and food descriptive here and an ultimate crowd-pleaser, hence our chosen musical accompaniment:  Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik

Join us tomorrow night Friday 19th 7.30 at Wimbledon Library – Measure For Measure – it’s gonna be a blast!

The American, An Architect & A Truffle

Just 3 days to go before Measure 4 Measure throws open its doors – and we’re crazy with anticipation!  The latest, carefully crafted wine, food and music combination has been agreed…  What better ‘crafted’ wine than one that is actually namedThe Architect‘?  One of the finest winemakers in Australia today, Philip Shaw’s Chardonnay really is a piece of architectural wine perfection.

We’ve paired this wine with a wild mushroom risotto, itself dosed with a generous topping of truffle.  Together, this will be quite a humdinger of a flavour sensation.  And so our choice of music is too…. Antonin Dvorak’s ‘American’ – we think the pairing is inspired and we hope you do too!

Join us this Friday 19th October to Wimbledon Library (next door to the train station) and experience the entire wine and music discovery for yourself.  Details and tickets HERE>