Friday, January 3, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: I Can Handle January, As Long as Downton Abbey Makes Wine

January 2014 will arrive a little less painfully in my Winey Little World. Oh yes, I will still be dealing with the after effects of The Winey Son returning to school and the current effects of the Winey Daughter gearing up for senior midterms (our misguided school district schedules them for two weeks AFTER Christmas break..go figure). I will be starting to look at the normally gorgeous Christmas decorations festooning our home as evil dust collecting tchotchkes. I will be a little weary of the scent of evergreen and peppermint. And I will be totally over the end of the year reviews that hit us on big and small screens, in print, on line and on the radio. Move on already.

So what makes this January a bit more palatable? DOWNTON ABBEY RETURNS JANUARY 5th!!!

Yup, I'm one of them: a Downton fanatic. It was bound to happen, given the fact that I love all things England: we spent our Winey honeymoon there 29 years ago; I will read any and everything written about the Royal Family, with a special fondness for those wacky Tudors; I have an odd desire to get to know Jane Austen as my BFF and if you need any more proof: I got married in a Laura Ashley wedding dress. (It was the 80's, though.) And yes, the following little funny just might apply to me:

Now, if one epic, PBS-produced, Anglophile worshipping television series can make me look forward to another dreary old January, can you imagine the utter euphoria I experienced when I saw the following:
DOWNTON ABBEY WINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am usually a somewhat prudent shopper, but upon seeing this, I whipped out my credit card faster than the Dowager Countess could cut you down to size with one of her infamous quips. "Stop whining and find something to do."  "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit." And soon two bottles of Downton's finest arrived on the steps of my Winey Manor (ahem) House. (You can find the wine in the US on If you want to find it in store, World Market stores would be your best bet - but call ahead. You'll pay in the $15-17 a bottle range.) 

According to the labels, "When Mr. Carson pulled a bottle of wine from the cellar for Lord and Lady Grantham, one could be assured it was a fine French Bordeaux, the wine of choice amongst the British nobility in Edwardian England." Bordeaux (France's largest wine growing area) wines are usually red. In England, they are referred to as Claret. Bordeaux is famous for its renowned wine producing Chateaus, and the Downton Bordeaux hail from "the famed Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, France by Dulong Grand Vins, a family-owned vineyard with more than 130 years of winemaking experience."

So enough about the pedigree here, they had me at "Mr.Carson" anyway. Let's talk about the wines. 

Lady Edit Crawley, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
The Claret is definitely a
 "Lady Edith" wine
Downton Abbey Bordeaux, Claret, 2012 FranceThe Downton Abbey Bordeaux Claret  (2012, 13%, France) is a blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. On the nose, you get raspberry. So you start out thinking Merlot..but when you taste it, you get Cabernet. The first tastes that came to me were lots of anise (OK, licorice, but anise just sounded more Edwardian), followed by sour cherry and blackberry and a hint of pomegranate arils. The anise overpowered it all. So did the oaky, dry finish. Very tannic, very sour on the lips and tongue. For all the tannins though, I would still call this a "bright" tasting wine (not my term, the label said that and for once I agreed with a wine label adjective). It wasn't thin and woody, like some dry reds can be.  Not fruit forward by any means, though. I would definitely pair this with food instead of sipping it on its own. In fact, I discovered that pairing this with Godiva chocolate is an amazing taste experience. Wow. But for more substantial meals, go with any hearty beef dish or stew.  I'm going to go ahead and call this wine a "Lady Edith". Very refined, very dry, rather sharp around the edges and definitely best enjoyed in the company of others and not one on one. (She scares me.) Would I buy it again? Um, well, not for the taste. For the novelty of the Downton name, sure, but again, Edith scares me.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
Definitely an Anna.....
bottle shot of Downton Abbey Bordeaux BlancThe Downton Abbey Bordeaux Blanc (2012, 12%, France) is a different taste altogether. A bit of background first. Most Bordeaux Blanc falls into two categories: light and zesty or rich and buttery. The Downton Blanc falls into the light and citrusy category and is a blend of 70% Muscadelle and 30% Semillon Blanc, two of the most planted white grapes in the region. The other Bordeaux Blanc grape you'll see used extensively is Sauvignon Blanc. (In fact, most Bordeaux Blancs contain some Sauvignon Blanc, so this one is unusual.) You also need to know that Sauvignon Blanc, which today brings to mind New Zealand, originated in Bordeaux. So they have dibs on it. Which makes total sense when you get a whiff of this wine. Tropical fruits, kiwi, white grapes make up the nose on this one. The taste is tart and juicy at first sip, with lime and white grapefruit flavors with a touch of minerals to give it some sip. Very much like a Sauvignon Blanc, especially when it finishes on a lemon note, very tart and very crisp. This would pair well with salads or shellfish but would be wonderful on its own. Thus, this wine is going to be called an Anna wine (very likeable, lively and easy to be with) with a hint of Mrs. Patmore (there is that lively tartness to it, after all!!).                                            

Mrs. Patmore, Downton Abbey, PBS miniseries
...with a bit of Patmore for fun!
So obviously, the Blanc was my favorite of the two. I'd buy it again, even if it didn't have the Downton name attached to it. But, if it ever came time for me to sit down to dinner at Downton, above and/or below the stairs, I'd never say to to the Claret. It just isn't done, my dears. It would upset the Dowager. And I for one, am never, ever going to upset the Dowager Countess.

Downton Abbey, season 4, premiers in the colonies (aka The United States), Sunday, January 5th at 9 pm on your PBS station.  I suggest pouring a glass of either of the above, settling in next to a roaring fire with or without doggies at your side and start the year off in real style. 


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  1. I'm waiting eagerly for the premier tomorrow!

  2. I am obsessed with Downton Abbey. Season Four was AMAZING!. You can watch it online if you do not want to wait. I watched it here...

    Enjoy :)

    1. Tami, I never know if I should skip ahead and watch it all, or look forward to enjoying it one week at a time :) Tough decision, isn't it?

  3. Yay I can't wait to watch it. LOVE that show.

  4. I'm a big Downton fan, too! I think they've done a wonderful job on this season so far.

    Coming over from SITS Girls!

  5. January 2014 will arrive a little less painfully in my Winey Little World - I hope 2015 does too :)

    1. It will!! January 4, 2015....season 5 starts here in the USA!


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