Thursday, May 28, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 29 May 2009

2005 Clos Lapeyre Vitatge Vielh Jurançon Sec
This is not the easiest dry Jurançon, but patience is rewarded. Give it time in the glass and drink it with food – preferably something with some richness and a salty, lemony tang (I had it recently with an organic chicken baked with olives and wafer-thin slices of unpeeled lemon). It has an enticing smell of honeysuckle and apricot with a touch of vanilla cream (from the oak used) and just a faint whiff of fino sherry. The flavours in the mouth are similar, but powerful, dry and dense with grapefruity acidity. Have I made that sound delicious? I hope so, because it is. It comes, incidentally, from a vineyard planted in the 1940s with the three grape varieties, gros manseng, petit manseng and courbu, mixed up (complantés). 13.5%.
£13.75, Les Caves de Pyrène

2008 Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica
This is the kind of wine that often gets overlooked, or rather underestimated at a big tasting. It’s water-white and doesn’t give away much on the nose, although what there is – a delicate jasmine-like perfume – is worth having. The palate is both piercingly fresh and nicely rounded, with straw and pears, lemon and herbs. It’s not a wine that shouts, but you can’t ignore it either and you wouldn’t want to. Try it with fish, including shellfish. 13%.
£8.90, Les Caves de Pyrène

2007 Wirra Wirra Church Block
The first vintage of this Australian red was 1972 and it’s much loved on its home territory. If you think that means it must be full-bodied, richly fruity, oaky and high in alcohol, you’re dead right. But wait: there’s more to it. The blueberry fruit has a lovely brightness, the oak gives flavours of coffee and chocolate, but they don’t dominate, the tannins are unobtrusive and there’s a real freshness and cleanness to the finish, which they say is thanks to McLaren Vale’s cooling sea breezes. The blend is cabernet sauvignon (just over half) with shiraz and merlot. And it’s a winner with meat – beef, lamb, pork, liver, kidneys. Wheel it out as soon as you’ve warmed up the barbie. 14.5%.
£9.99, Waitrose

Friday, May 22, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 22 May 2009

Champagne Benoit Lahaye, Grand Cru Brut
This combines some lush pinot noir aromas of sweet red berries and peaches with delicate nuttiness and dry mineral notes, giving a champagne that has real interest and style at a modest price. I’ve deliberately chosen from the bottom end of Vine Trail’s champagne list, but I highly recommend trying others (there are several under £30 and nothing over £44). They’re all from independent growers, rather than big houses, which is no guarantee of quality – far from it – but Nick Brookes (Vine Trail) has done an excellent job of finding some of the region’s finest. I’m leading a tour to Champagne next month (thank you for asking: it’s with Specialtours), so this has got me in the mood. Actually, I’m always in the mood for champagne. 12%.
£22.95, Vine Trail

2008 Les Hauts de Médian Petit Verdot
This is such good value - a red Vin de Pays d’Oc packed with blackcurrants, violets and freshly ground black pepper; succulent and smooth, yet fresh. It’s produced by the extensive Vic family, who own something like 300 hectares (don’t quote me) of vineyards in Languedoc, and it has Aurélie Trebuchon’s name on the label. But don’t be fooled: she’s married to a Vic. Look out for the name Preignes, which the family also uses, and investigate other wines from Stone, Vine & Sun. It’s a very good little operation. 13%.
£6.95, Stone, Vine & Sun

2008 Cabernet Franc Rosé
Give me a little bit of sunny weather and I’ll give you a rosé – not that drinking pink wine is the summer-only habit it used to be (which is a good thing because last year we didn’t have a summer, as I may have mentioned before). This pale salmon pink number is Italian through and through, despite the French grape variety and the word rosé, not rosato. It comes from the far northeast, the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, and is made for M&S by Bidoli which also does M&S’s stylish red Friuli merlot (put that on your shopping list, too). Back to the rosé: it’s an elegant dry style with a raspberry perfume and a flavour of blackcurrants and currant-bush leaves – the latter giving a fresh lift to the flavours. Not a complex wine, but delicious on a sunny bank holiday (fingers crossed). 12%.
£6.99, Marks & Spencer

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WINES OF THE WEEK, 15 May 2009

2008 Mullineux Syrah
This syrah is from South Africa’s Swartland district, an area north of Cape Town which traditionally produced chunky, rather rustic reds. Not this one. It’s a northern Rhône style red, with perfumy, smoky, black pepper aromas, refined black fruit, smoke and herb flavours and a lovely silky texture. You can drink it now, but it’s not a wine that’s going to fall apart soon – not that I say that with knowledge of previous vintages, because there aren’t any. This is the debut vintage for Mullineux Family Vineyards, although Chris Mullineux is well-known as the winemaker who put Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards on the map. 13.5% alcohol. There’s a fine dry chenin-based white as well.
£16.50, Berry Bros & Rudd

2008 Cono Sur Gewürztraminer
This inexpensive gewürztraminer from Chile has all the good things about the gewürz grape and none of the off-putting ones – ie its flavours aren’t over-the-top in the perfume department and it isn’t oily, heavy or over-alcoholic. In fact, it’s great value, textbook with exotic spice and lemon on the nose, ginger and candied orange peel on the palate and delightful tangy freshness. It’s just off-dry and could be brought into service with lightly spicy food or as a summer garden party wine. Anorak background: most of the grapes (85%) are from Chile’s most southerly wine region, Bío Bío; the rest are from Casablanca Valley – further north, but also cool by Chilean standards. 13.5% alcohol.
£5.99, Sainsbury’s (more than two-thirds of branches)

2005 Château de la Guimonière Anjou Sec
This is dry, oak-matured, chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, with toast, honey and straw on the nose and oak, peppery spice and sweet citrus fruit on the palate It’s quite rich and toasty, but perfectly balanced by its sustained citrus freshness. It would go well with dishes in or with cream sauces (fish, seafood, chicken, mushrooms), because it’s got the richness, but also the fresh acidity to off-set it, but it would also be a treat with a lemony roast chicken, roast pork or herby grilled fish. I thought you’d also like to know that the soils are ‘silica, phtanite, shales and sandstone’. 13.5% alcohol.
£8.99 (or £5.99 if you buy 3 bottles), Wine Rack ( has a store locator)

Friday, May 8, 2009


2008 Pikes The White Mullet
2006 Pikes The Red Mullet

These two unsual blends from the Pike brothers’ operation in Clare Valley, Australia are on offer at a tempting £5.98 until 9 June, so I’m highlighting both together in plenty of time (on 10 June they revert to £9.99 for a single bottle or £6.66 each if you buy three). The white, a blend of riesling, viognier, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc, has viognier’s heady, floral aromas and some of its creamy texture, combined with riesling’s citrus fruit and pithy lime acidity (12% abv).
The red, which rumour has it was originally called ‘red herring’, is a blend of shiraz, grenache, mourvedre and tempranillo (rumour also has it that the blend came about when the Pikes produced some lovely tempranillo grapes, but found that nobody was interested in Australian tempranillo). It has a perfumy nose of cherries and chocolate, ripe, plummy, red-fruit flavours with a touch of spice, and soft tannins – and it carries its 14.5% alcohol well. Delicious and easy to drink wines, but interesting, too.
£5.98, Wine Rack ( has a store locator).

2007 Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhône-Villages
The 2007 vintage was excellent in the southern Rhône. Inevitably that doesn’t mean absolutely everything is brilliant, but Sainsbury’s, or rather the producer Michel Chapoutier, has got this one right: lots of warm, sunny fruit flavours, lots of black pepper and spice, rounded tannins, and a stony mineral undertow which balances the sweetness of the fruit with dryness and freshness. A full-bodied, but balanced 14.5% alcohol.
£5.99, Sainsbury’s (about two-thirds of branches).

Friday, May 1, 2009



2007 Chinon, Les Bernabés, Olga Raffault
The first of the summer’s Chinons and what a good start. It’s not that I stop drinking Chinon or other red Loires in the winter, it’s just that at this time of year they seem so full of the promise of the summer to come. OK, so it never arrived last year, but we live in hope. This tastes as authentic and true as wine can - with a vivid aroma of blackcurrants and raspberries and a juicy, supple palate with a gravelly-earthy character that seems to come straight from the soil. The scientists say, of course, that grapes can’t possibly take up flavours from the soil, so I suppose I should say it seems to come straight from cabernet franc grown in Chinon, but how much duller does that sound? 12.5%.
£8.95, FromVineyardsDirect

2006 Climbing Merlot
A rounded, medium-full merlot with red fruit flavours, a leafy freshness, lightly toasty vanilla-flavoured oak and a soft dry finish. I probably wouldn’t be making this a Wine of the Week at its full price of £9.99, but at £7.99 (when you buy two or more bottles - and you might as well, as Majestic’s minimum purchase is a mixed case), it’s a good buy. This merlot is all the more surprising because it comes from Australia, a country (indeed, a continent) that has always struggled with merlot. The key here is the location of the vineyards, high up - 600 metres - in the Orange region of New South Wales, where the days are bright and sunny, but the nights are (crucially) cool. 13.5%.
£7.99, Majestic

2006 Rully, Clos du Moulin à Vent, Domaine Anne-Sophie Debavelaere
At its best white Rully, from Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise, is a very handy cheaper alternative to Côte d’Or white burgundy, but this wine is much more than just a poor relation. It’s rich and nutty on the nose and palate, but also fine, mineral and long with a crisp apple and pear fruitiness. You can drink it now – hard not to, really – but there’s no rush to finish it this year or next, provided you’ve got somewhere relatively cool and dark to keep it. 12.5%.
£13.50, Private Cellar