Friday, March 27, 2009


2005 Château Carignan, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
This is a wine that will keep four or five years, if well-stored, so even if you think the last thing you need at the moment is a £14.50 red Bordeaux, you could always save it for a rainy or less economically-challenged day. You’ve got the best of the old and the new Bordeaux traditions here: a cedar-sweet nose, velvety black-fruit flavours, supple tannins, freshness and balance. What you haven’t got is old fashioned dryness or modern over-extraction. If you haven’t come across Cambridgeshire-based Private Cellar before, it was founded by ex-Corney & Barrow people in 2005 and they’ve put together a good list. 13%
£14.50, Private Cellar (

2007 Asda Extra Special Chenin Blanc
You don’t get a lot for a fiver these days, but you get more flavour and personality from this Chenin from Paarl in South Africa than you do from most Pinot Grigio. The nose is fresh and lemony with a touch of tropical fruit and the palate is crisp, citrusy and soft-textured with some apricot sweetness on the finish. It's made from the fruit of old bush vines (age is important for quality) at the Douglas Green winery, which is part of the large DGB group. A good aperitif. 13%.
£4.98, Asda

2005 Bourgogne Blanc, Buisson-Battault
Basic Bourgogne can be, er, pretty basic, but this one, from a grower based in Meursault, is well above the average. It has rich, nutty, sweet-earth aromas together with a touch of fennel/celery and a full, nutty, flinty palate. A good bottle to take to a supper or dinner party, but, then again, perhaps not if you think your host won’t open it when you’re there. 12%.
£9.99, Majestic

Saturday, March 21, 2009


2006 Tim Adams Semillon, Clare Valley
Hats off to Tesco - and I certainly don’t always feel like saying that - for continuing to stock the wines of ace Australian producer Tim Adams. This one, made from semillon, is a dry, oak-aged white with a smoky, lemon-and-honey nose, rich, toasty lemon flavours on the palate and lovely fresh acidity. You can keep it in cellar conditions up to another five years or enjoy it now, either on its own or with things such as fish, salads, chicken, goat’s cheese and pasta, with or without garlic, herbs and light spices. All in all, it’s pretty food-friendly. 13%.
£9.22, Tesco (most stores).

2007 Côtes du Rhône, Belleruche, M Chapoutier
A credit-crunch alternative to red Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the ebullient Michel Chapoutier. It’s full, ripe, peppery and spicy with succulent sweet plum fruit and an appealing savoury finish. Try it with a roast, a meaty casserole or some roast root or Mediterranean veg. 14.5%.
£7.99; £5.99 when you buy 2 or more, Majestic

2007 La Sabrosita Old Vine Garnacha
A powerful but supple, easy-to-drink Spanish red made from 70-year-old vines. Although old vines don’t give very generous crops, they more than make up for it in the flavours they produce. This garnacha (grenache in French) is brimful of fragrant black cherry fruit, spice and a hint of cocoa. Bring on the barbecue. 14.5%.
£5.49, Marks & Spencer (not all stores); £59.29 per case,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, March 22, 2009: Some Tuscan favourites

I have decided to indulge myself a bit this week with some personal favourites – not finest, rarest, greatest, but wines I’ve previously passed over because they haven’t fitted the space or the subject or haven’t been available.

The spotlight falls on four Tuscans, the first three from Chianti Classico: 2005 Il Molino di Grace - fragrant, savoury, balanced (£16.50, Selfridges, 0207 318 2375; £69 per six, Goedhuis & Co, 020 7793 7900); 2006 Rubiolo, Gagliolo – perfumed and spicy (£12.95, Berry Bros & Rudd, 0870 900 4300); and 2004 Bilaccio, Il Borgheto – modern, ripe, but true (£148.41 per 12, HS Liquid Assets, 020 7371 7383). The fourth, 2006 Insoglio del Cinghiale, is from the Maremma where French grape varieties grow - in this case syrah, cabernet franc and merlot to produce a supple, richly fruity red (£15.26-£22.99, Italian Continental Stores, 01628 770110, Wimbledon Wine Cellars, 0208 540 9979, Philglas & Swiggott 020 7402 0002).

This is my last Sauce column. In future look for my wine recommendations at and and read my recipes in upcoming issues of Style. And just for good measure, here are three favourite Spring-like whites

2007 Godello Gaba do Xil, £8.99
Zingy peach, citrus and spice notes from northwest Spain’s white godello grape (Adnams, 01502 727222).

2007 Cheverny, Le Vieux Clos, £7.49
Crisp, herbal, smoky Loire white; better value than most Sancerre (Majestic; £6.99 if you buy two or more).

2008 Saint Mont, £6.49
Tangy dry white with pear, apricot and citrus flavours from Gascony (Marks & Spencer).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, March 15, 2009: Alpha male Cape reds

Women like rosé, sparkling wine and pinot grigio. Men favour big, macho reds. Right? Up to a point: the point being that men not only drink pink, fizz and pinot grigio, but recently they’ve been losing their taste for the biggest, most alcoholic reds. They still drink more red wines than women drink (and spend more), but increasingly they embrace 15 per cent abv with about as much enthusiasm as they muster for non-alcoholic beer, with the result that wine producers in areas where alcohol levels are highest (the southern hemisphere especially) need to change their practices, or go the way of the dinosaur.

Of course, some producers don’t believe in dinosaurs, but most have seen the light - which brings me to South African reds, a favourite of many an alpha-male. In recent years, the Cape has produced some of the most bruisingly alcoholic and tough wines, partly, it has to be said, because of viticultural and climatic quirks (including virused vines and high temperatures). But a new generation is making changes - not a moment too soon in my view, but then I’m only a woman. Try the three below.

2004 Meerlust Red, £9.99
A Cape take on a ripe, velvety Saint-Emilion (Handford Wines, 020 7589 6113;

2007 Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards Raptor Post, £11.50-£12.99
A succulent, peppery blend of syrah and cabernet (; Delilah Fine Foods, 0115 948 4461).

2005 Lammershoek Roulette Rouge, £11-£11.65
Rich cherry-scented, Rhône-like blend (Bintwo, 01841 532022; Bowland Forest Vintners, 01200 448688).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, March 8, 2009: Pinot Noir - getting better all the time

If tasting Australian chardonnays recently reminded me how good they can be, tasting pinot noirs from Australia reminded me how hit and miss they are - and how much better this fashionable, food-friendly red variety has become in some other countries. Australia’s handicap is that its traditional regions are mostly too warm to produce elegant pinot and there are only a limited number of new cooler sites at higher altitudes or closer to oceans.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has plenty of suitable areas and has developed a style, or styles, of its own, with the emphasis on purity and sweetness of fruit and seamless texture. The results are not like red burgundy (the original pinot noir wine) with its more savoury flavours, but most are not trying to be and that’s their strength. Better still, prices are stable, because so much pinot noir has been planted that more comes onstream with every harvest.

The other rising star is Chile, on a limited scale but with some notable bargains - and it’s rare for the words bargain and pinot noir to come together.

2008 Secano Estate Pinot Noir, £6.99
Fresh, supple, cherry-scented Chilean. Great value (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Tasmanian Pinot Noir, £7.99
Cool-climate Aussie with rose and raspberry fragrance (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Felton Road Pinot Noir, £26.99-£29.30
Not cheap, but stellar New Zealand pinot (Averys, 0845 8630995; Laithwaites, 0845 194 7755; Berry Bros & Rudd, 0870 900 4300).

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, February 22, 2009: Loving Chardonnay

A tasting of 20 Australian chardonnays last month reminded me of two things: how much I like chardonnay and miss drinking it as often as I used to and, secondly, what good winemakers the Australians are. Come to think of it, make that a few more things, because it also demonstrated how Australia’s signature style has evolved from fat, buttery and oaky to crisp, elegant and polished and how, in a not unrelated development, alcohol levels have come down from the highs of a few years ago, mostly to a more balanced 13-13.5%.

Finally, if less positively, the tasting reminded me how expensive decent Australian chardonnay has become. The cheapest was £6.99 (McWilliams Hanwood Crisp Chardonnay, stocked by Tesco) and only one other was under a tenner (ignoring some optimistically low prices given on the day). The other 18 wines went from £11-plus to £45, with five over £20.

This wouldn’t matter for Australia if we didn’t have so many other countries’ chardonnays on offer and if so many people hadn’t fallen in love with other grape varieties. But if, like me, you’re still a chardonnay drinker, here are three to try.

2006 Shelmerdine Chardonnay, £11.49
From Australia’s Yarra Valley: toasty, concentrated and fresh (Oddbins).

2006 Coralillo Chardonnay, £9.99
From Chile’s San Antonio region: cashew nut richness and candied peel zing (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Taste the Difference Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, £7.99
Stylish, fresh, nutty and smoothly textured (Sainsbury’s).

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, February 15, 2009: Stock up now while you can

Towards the end of 2008 the big supermarket buyers were promising - or threatening, depending on your view - that the wines on the shelves this year would be even more dominated by new world countries, with France, Italy, Spain and the rest of Europe squeezed out to make room. The reason, of course, was (and is) the strength of the euro, making Europe’s wines 20% more expensive to Britain’s importers than they were 12 months earlier.

But that was before the dollar’s dramatic rally against sterling, a rise which not only hikes the cost of California wines but of Chilean and Argentine wines too, because most importers buy them in dollars. So that leaves Australian wines (no longer flavour of the month), South Africa (in with a strong chance this year) and New Zealand (also in with a chance, partly thanks to overproduction of its fashionable sauvignon blancs and the likelihood of price falls as a result).

For wine drinkers, the outlook is clear. Supermarkets will prune their ranges and a lot of prices will go up. Painful as it might be, now is a good time to stock up for the year.

2006 Château Le Chec, Graves Blanc, £9.75
Toasty, creamy, fresh and stylish (Adnams, 01502 727222).

2006 Olivier Fichet Terroir de Burgy, Mâcon-Villages, £8.50
Buttery, nutty, apple-scented; great value white burgundy (Stone, Vine & Sun, 01962 712351).

2006 Tinto da Anfora, £6.49
Ever reliable Portuguese red with ripe blueberry fruit and spicy oak (Sainsbury’s).