Sophie B.

Hi All

A couple of weeks ago, Vinotopia, who are based in idyllic country town of Tetbury in the Cotswolds, had their Grand Summer Tasting.

They are based about 50 minutes from home, the tasting started at 6:30 for only 2 hours, so it was a case of leaving the office early, rushing home for a shower, change of clothes and then blasting down the motorway. (obviously at the national speed limit of 70mph!!)

It was a beautiful evening when we arrived to a fabulous venue. Its an old railway Goods shed that was built in 1889 & was used until 1964 when the branch line was closed. It pretty much lay unused for decades.


By 1996 British rail was trying to dispose of the site and this dilapidated building, with uncertainty still surrounding the rail lands, HRH Prince Charles took an interest in their future (as he lives down the road at Highgrove House). He invited British Rail, Tetbury Town Council, Cotswold District Council and the Feoffees to meet to try to find a mutually agreeable solution. The parties met the Prince at the old station yard, then gathered at the nearby Royal Oak pub, where BR agreed to sell the rail lands to the Feoffees – a charitable Tetbury organisation dating back to the 17th century.

The now stunning redevelopment of the Goods shed Arts Centre

So I arrive about 5 minutes before the start of the tasting & had a quick chat with Jeremy and Andy from Vinotopia, they assured me that there were some extremely interesting wines there this evening. Not only wine but also some great local food companies too, with artisan breads, cheeses & wonderful savoury pastries too.

Glad to arrive early within 30 minutes it was packed out

So in my hand, was this evenings bible with 51 wines & 6 gins. I quickly scan through and then spend 5 minutes hopping from table to table seeing what is a must do tasting before I start. After going to lots of these kinds of tastings I now understand that you can get held up and miss something you really wanted to taste, so I now always spend a quick 5 minutes to make sure this does not happen. Looking across the tables I see quite a lot of wines I have either purchased or sampled before so this increases exploring time although there were some wines I needed to revisit. I decided to go around the room whites first then reds.

So it was Rob from WHEN IN ROME “wine boxes” on Table 1,  whom I have communicated on twitter quite a bit but never met. Now before you say OMG wine boxes… these are all from craft winemakers, not designed to be aged in a cellar but are very good quality and extremely quaffable wines. If you lived in Italy these are the wines you would take your containers down to the local producers to get refilled. They come in 2 size boxes 2.25L which is 3 bottles and 5L which is equivalent to more than 6 regular bottles.

  • Cortese DOC Piemonte- Produced by Franco Roero whos family have made wine since 1894.
  • 100% Cortese Grape  COR-TAY-ZAY I like they put this on the box so people know how to say the grape variety
  • This wine is steely crisp, with citrus and rock hard green apples! Everyone should have one of these in their fridge. It lasts 6 weeks once started. Well obviously not in my fridge….. but maybe in someone’s fridge that is almost tee total.


  • Refosco – IGT Venezia Giulia – Produced by The Martincigh Family. In between the Alps and the Adriatic. Wine has been produced on all their 20 hectares since roman times.
  • 100% Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso REH-FOSS-KOH
  • its full bodied plum, sour cherries and raspberry blast, with a dry nutty almond finish
  • Refosco has been produced in North East Italy for over 2000 years and was the favourite tipple of Emperor Augustus’ wife Livia, whose long life (she died at 86, when life expectancy was 30) has been attributed by historians to her drinking habit. Could just see myself in the Colosseum quaffing a great big jug full of Refosco while some poor sod is getting eating by a Lion below!

Table 2 is a mix of Greece, France, Italy & Spain. A brief review of 2 wines… so so different!

  • Assyrtiko Voila- Crete. 2016 Fermented in Steel tanks.
  • 100% Assyrtiko
  • Platinum in colour, Stone fruit with some spice on the palate, which leads to a crisp, mineral yet rich mouth feel. This wine is a real star! Amazing Value.



  • Saint-Aubin- Henri Prudhon “LE BAN” France 2014
  • The domaine was established by Henri Prudhon who was born and raised as a vigneron in the village of Saint Aubin since his birth in 1921. He and his wife, Marguerite, combined forces upon their marriage in 1945, putting their small vineyard holdings together to form the Domaine Henri Prudhon. Monsieur Prudhon was a force in his village, serving for many years as the Mayor of this lovely hamlet set just to the west of Puligny and Chassagne along Route Nationale 6. Their son, Gerard, born in 1949, joined the family enterprise and it was Gerard who decided, in the early years of the 1980s, to begin bottling the wines of the estate rather than selling off the fruits of their labors to the local negociants. Gerard, too, maintains the family’s interest in the affairs of the village, being elected multiple times Mayor of Saint Aubin. Gerard’s two sons, Vincent and Philippe, have now taken over the direction of the domaine, working under the watchful eye of Gerard who has instilled in his children the deep respect for the finest of Burgundian traditions. (History from Vinotopia website)



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  • 100% Chardonnay
  • I have this wine at home and its super value, as its neighbours are Puligny vineyards. It is full on ripe fruit on the nose, with nutty and toasty tones too. On the palate there is a zippy freshness of the fruit then rounded creamy texture but beautifully balanced by fresh acidity.

  • Tondonia Reserva Rioja 2004 – Spain Bodegas R. LĂłpez de Heredia
  • Tempranillo (75%), Garnacho (15%), Graciano and Mazuelo (10%),
  • This is proper old school Rioja! 13 years old and its vibrant red with a slight amber hue on the edges. Berries and worn leather on the nose. Then on the palate dried berries, vanilla, spice… its rich…its soft…. its heavenly! This really is not like lots of Rioja which feels like you are chewing an oak tree, this is dry, rich, soft, rounded with firm tannins but elegantly structured. This wine will go on for at least another decade.

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Table 3 is from South America. I have had most of these wines at tastings recently and I would definitely recommend the ESTIVAL 2015 & Bodegones del Sur Vineyard Select Tannat both from Uruguay. But the star of the table was

  • Alcyone Tannat Dessert Wine Uruguay, Rio Plata
  • 100% Tannat
  • This wine hits the palate and whooossh its chocolate, vanilla, ripe cherries with spicey undertone. This is the ideal suitor for any dark Chocolate Pudding or indeed with a bar of dark chocolate! Its like a vintage port but richer, softer and less alcoholic.



Table 4 – Italy, Now I have most of these wines on more than 1 occasion. I have to sing the praises also for Gavi di Gavi DOCG Morgassi 2015, Fiano IGT Villa Schinosa 2015 from Puglia

  • Settibraccia Sampietrana 2013
  • 100% Negroamano
  • Biodynamic /Organic
  • Settibraccia = The Five Branches
  • work Deep red almost inky black in colour. The nose is like spicey cherry jam. Its a full on wine yet rich, soft and balanced, fine tannins, with a long finish.


  • Colle dei Tigli Lenotti 2016
  • Ancient hill (in italian: colle) covered with lime trees (in italian: tigli). This hill is 300 meters high on the eastern shores of Lake Garda
  • Bianca del Veneto
  • 50% Cortese, 50% Garganega
  • These grapes work beautifully in harmony together to make an outstanding value wine. Although dry, this wine gives out lashings of sweet peaches and apples. Its full bodied and super fruity.

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Table 5 – Mainly France, most of these wines I have had before but this one stood out on storks!

  • Le Fruit DĂ©fendu Blanc
  • 40% Muscat Petits Grains, 60% Grenache blanc
  • Oh boy this was a surprise, on the nose the Muscat shines through with tropical fruit, yet the Grenache Blanc blends in perfect harmony to give a bright rounded freshness on the palate. What is beautiful about this wine is the minerality of it. A sheer delight. Imagine sucking a pebble from the beach…….. Extradinary value too.


Table 6 – these were from all over the world, but I had had my eye on one wine I wanted to try the most…..

  • Iona Chardonnay Elgin South Africa
  • 100% Chardonnay
  • I had been looking forward to trying this. This high elevation, cooler climate wine is of Burgundian style, tropical fruits with lemon & limes abound from the glass. On the palate its mango, pineapple and citrus fruit, toasty brioche, biscuit and all so silky smooth. But overall its elegant and a pure enjoyment.

Oh yes the surprise of the day………….. SOPHIE B!!

Who is Sophie B………….

Sophie te’Blanche is a nickname given by those including their workers, who can’t pronounce Sauvignon Blanc on the Iona Elgin estate

The truth is I was thinking this is just another southern hemisphere SB? until I stuck my nose in the glass and took a good sniff ………. HANG ON! “wasn’t expecting this at all” Where is the overpowering Gooseberry blast. It was herby with light tropical fruit but yet much more citrus. Its elegant, complex but finely balanced fruit with mineral and then green apples, yet its creamy smooth too. It has so much going on and has a long finish to match this super palate. IMG_1475 (2).JPG

This was my wine of the evening folks and great value too!

Overall a great evening, and YES Jeremy and Andy there were some very interesting wines indeed!

Websites of producers & event organisers –


When in Rome Wine Boxes –

Assyritiko –

Henri Prudhon-

Tondonia Reserva Rioja-

Alcyone Tannat Uruguay

Settibraccia Sampietrana 2013 –

Colle dei Tigli Lenotti 2016 –

Le Fruit DĂ©fendu Blanc –

Iona Elgin Chardonnay –

Sophie te’ Blanche –


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