Thursday, April 23, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 24 April 2009

2008 Lagar de Cervera Albariño
The latest vintage of what is always one of the best albariños: textbook peach aromas and flavours with youthful tangy grapefruit notes and a mineral spine. Perfect with seafood. I’d drink it this summer or next, although some people like albariño when it’s developed a slighty fatter, nuttier character. I wish this wine was cheaper, but you’re never going to get really cheap albariño, partly because it’s fashionable, including in Spain where they haven’t got huge numbers of interesting white wines, but also because production costs are relatively high in the Rías Baixas region with its small, hilly vineyards. It’s also a bit of a one-off. Apart from godello, of which there is even less planted, there’s nothing else quite like it and little planted outside northwest Spain and over the border in Portugal. In fact, there’s even less worldwide than was thought now that the Australians have discovered that the variety they’d started planting as albariño is savagnin, which comes from the Jura region of France. Whoops! 12.5%.
£11.75-£15.49, Jeroboams; Laymont & Shaw

2006 Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine, Lirac
On the ‘if it’s easy to pronounce it’ll be popular in the UK’ principle, Lirac should be everywhere. Admittedly, it’s not a very big appellation, but even so I’m surprised not to see it more often, especially as it has such a famous neighbour, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This one is spot on: medium-full, with a peppery, spicy, stony character alongside the fragrant, crunchy red berry flavours. It’s not a wine to put away for a long time, but there’s no reason not to keep it three or four years – and by that time the stockist, Montrachet, might have a website. 13.5%.
£10.50, Montrachet Fine Wine Merchants

2006 Doña Dominga Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
Nobody could pretend that this red from Chile's Colchagua Valley is a little light luncheon wine at 14.5% alcohol, but for all its warmth, weight and flavour it has freshness. Together with the sweet, ripe cassis, the spicy sweet-earth, smoky black olive, and dark chocolate flavours and the supple tannins, there’s a refreshing note of currant leaf – enough to lift the wine without giving it a green edge. Good with duck, meaty casseroles, roasts and barbecues, and not bad with cheeses such as manchego and parmesan. 14.5%.
£9.99, Waitrose

Thursday, April 16, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 17 April 2009

Assero Bio Brut
This is a dry sparkling wine made from airén, Spain’s most boring grape variety, in the largely undistinguished La Mancha region in central Spain - which just goes to show that if you know what you’re doing you can occasionally make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – or if not a silk one, then a very nice crisp cotton one. It’s light-bodied and as fresh as a breeze, with crisp, lime-juice flavours and a soft clean finish. 11%.
£8.99, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen

2007 Reuilly, Château Gaillard
I’m not sure how much longer M&S will have this vintage and it’s not in all stores, but you can order it online. Reuilly is one of Sancerre’s hangers-on, but sometimes it outshines more expensive Sancerre. Step forward Château Gaillard. There’s a wonderfully refreshing purity and intensity of flavour - green, herby and mineral, bone dry and yet with the sweetness of properly ripe fruit. 12.5%.
£9.99, Marks & Spencer

2003 Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva, Navarra
Bodegas Julián Chivite is Navarra’s biggest and deservedly best known producer: the Gran Feudo wines are reliably enjoyable, while the more expensive Colección 125 range includes a plush red and a fine barrel-fermented chardonnay. But back to this week’s red. It’s based on tempranillo (the Rioja grape) beefed up with 20% cabernet sauvignon and merlot and it’s been aged in oak (hence the Reserva designation). The result is medium-bodied and well-rounded, with plummy fruit and a touch of cassis and soft, spicy, chocolaty oak. Try it with the Sunday roast or some herby sausages. 12.5%.
£7.19, Waitrose

Friday, April 10, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 10 April 2009

2007 Tesco Finest Yarra Valley Pinot Noir
Tesco’s Finest range is a bit hit and miss, but some of the wines, like this Australian pinot noir, hit the bullseye. There’s evident oak on the nose, but less than in many New Zealand pinot noirs and it’s balanced by sweet, fresh, red cherry and raspberry fruit and a suggestion of rose petals. The oak also contributes a savoury, almost burgundian flavour and adds some textural richness, which can’t be bad. All in all, a smart pinot noir, made for Tesco by De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne.
£13.49, Tesco (357 branches)

2007 Camel Valley Bacchus Dry
Bristlingly fresh and zesty dry white from Cornwall - everything English wine should be. Sorry I‘m not able to arrange slightly better weather for the Bank Holiday, but this will cheer up the view as you sit inside looking out at the cloud and rain. It has crisp, sappy, floral fruit and a herby, slightly smoky mineral edge. Ideal as an aperitif, but it would go well with shellfish, other simple fish dishes, asparagus or salad.
£10.95-£11.95,; Great Western Wines,

2007 Poggiotondo Cerro del Masso Chianti
This is modern Chianti, with a deep colour and a degree of suppleness from ageing in French oak barrels, but it’s Chianti through and through – medium-bodied with cherryish fruit and an almondy, spicy patisserie character. It comes from outside Empoli (roughly halfway between Florence and Pisa), from the family estate of Alberto Antonini, a red winemaker and consultant of world renown. The 2007 has only just come in, so you may find your local Waitrose is still on the 2006, which is also good, though I think the 2007 just has the edge. I shall be tasting the first Poggiotondo white soon and will report back.
£7.59, Waitrose, including

Must try harder…
Tesco with its Big Kahuna White, a £4.99 chardonnay from Australia with a shrill pineapple and toothpick flavour. It’s in 223 stores (yes, 223 too many).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 3 April 2009

2005 Point West Touriga Nacional
A warm, earthy, medium-full Portuguese red with slightly dusty vanilla-oak, sun-baked berry fruit and a touch of liquorice. It goes well with pork (roast with fennel and paprika or with mustard and honey-coated chops, for example), but it’s generally meat-friendly and, as it’s neither tannic nor acidic, you could also drink it on its own. A bit of background: it comes from Portugal’s western Estremadura region (hence Point West) and from one of the world’s great red grapes, touriga nacional. You don’t hear much about touriga nacional because its main claim to fame is as a component of port, but there’s a lot of interest suddenly from growers thinking about global warming around the world, because it’s well-adapted to high temperatures. One to watch out for. 13%.
£6.99, Oddbins; Morrisons

2007 Vesevo Greco di Tufo
Fresh and sappy with pears, herbs, cress and white pepper – and that’s only the nose. The palate is brimful of apple, pepper, candied citrus peel, apricot and a freshening twist of currant-leaf. But there’s nothing OTT about this dry Italian white: it’s medium-full, dry, zesty and perfectly balanced. I can’t stress too much how underrated Italian white grape varieties are – dreary pinot grigio excepted. This greco (of Greek origin, but it’s been in southern Italy for the last 2500 years) comes from Avellino in Campania’s Irpinian hills, so it’s from a long way south and yet it’s one of the last regions in Italy to harvest, thanks to the cooling breezes from the Bay of Naples and the altitude (over 450m). Tufo refers to the volcanic ash soil and Vesevo is the old name for Vesuvio. 13%.
£10.99, Majestic; Liberty Wines,

2007 Carrasviñas Verdejo
Appetisingly leafy and fresh, opening out into peach and pineapple fruit flavours, a crisp, yet rounded, medium-weight palate and a soft, breezy, lemony finish. Spain doesn’t have the same wealth of white grapes as Italy, but it, too, is discovering that white wines can be more than mere warm-ups act for the serious business of reds. If you want a reference point, think of the verdejo grape, grown in Rueda, as Spain’s answer to sauvignon blanc. 13%.
£7.50, Great Western Wine,