Friday, December 31, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 31 December 2010

2009 Nicosia Fondo Filara, Etna Bianco, Sicily

Even allowing for my unashamed Sicilian bias, this is a delightful and very good white. Aromas of lime, peach and apple, then a flavour that is closer to pears with a dash of spice; medium-weight with a silky-soft texture and a fresh, bright finish. 13% abv.

£10.95, The Wine Society

2005 Château Ricaud, Bordeaux Supérieur

Nicely evolved, modern Bordeaux, perfect for drinking now. Sweet, fleshy fruit rounded out with soft oak against a background of spicy cedar and supple tannins; polished, dry finish. Good value, unlike so much Bordeaux. 13% abv.

The Wine Society.

Noval 40 Year Old Tawny Port

One of this Christmas’s most enjoyed and admired wines chez nous. Sumptuous, complex, rich yet fresh 40 year old, with flavours of spicy fudge, dried figs, coffee and candied peel. Like liquid panforte, but better. Fabulous on its own, but concentrated and complex enough to stand up to cheese, including stilton (or a particularly good Colston Bassett anyway) and dark chocolate. 20% abv.

£81.99–£85,;; Berry Bros & Rudd.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 23 December 2010

Some extra wines this week for those who are still dashing about stocking up for the festivities – and perhaps even more for those who haven’t even started.

2008 Jean Bourguignon Meursault

Good Meursault at an attractive price – all the more so when you buy two or more bottles. The fresh, tangy candied-citrus fruit is already hinting at the honey to come and the oak gives a nutty, delicately buttery richness in the background. 12.5% abv. Ready now – in fact delicious this Christmas or next.

£17.99 or £14.99 if you buy two or more bottles, Majestic

2009 Costero Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda, Chile

Bracingly fresh and mineral Chilean Sauvignon (better than a cold shower on Boxing Day morning?). It has an almost sea-salty edge to the grassy, lemony fruit and there’s just a hint of spice adding extra interest. The Leyda Valley seems to be able to do no wrong with Sauvignon at the moment. 13.5% abv.

£6.99, down from £8.74 until the end of January, Majestic.

2010 Stonebridge Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

It’s not hard to find New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at a fiver in the UK at present, but this one is better than many, though not to my taste as exciting as the Leyda (above). Crunchily fresh, herbal and nettly with ripe gooseberry fruit and a whisper of something textured and mineral. 13.5% abv.

£4.99, down from £9.99, until January 4, 2011, The Co-operative

Charles de Cazanove Champagne Brut NV

This doesn’t get points for elegance or subtlety, but it does get marks for character and ageing – and it’s at a knockdown price. Generously flavoured and proportioned with honeyed, biscuity and toasty flavours complemented by freshness. It’s 60% pinot noir and 15% each of pinot meunier and chardonnay. 12% abv.

£14.99, down from £29.99 until January 4, 2011, The Co-operative.

2009 Gérard Charvet La Réserve d’Amélie Moulin-à-Vent

I can’t keep away from these 2009 Beaujolais – not that I’m trying to. This is vivid, ripe and mouthfilling, with cherry, spice, black-fruit and mineral flavours, and it has the tannin, acidity and depth of fruit to develop over five years, if you can resist drinking it now. 13% abv.

£12.49, or £9.99 when you buy two or more, Majestic

Friday, December 17, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 16 December 2010

My nearest supermarket is Morrisons. Second closest is the Co-operative. Yes, I’ve thought about moving, but it’s easier just to shop elsewhere. To be fair, both do have some good wines, the Co-operative notably more than Morrisons, but distribution is patchy. If you’re doing some eleventh-hour stocking up at either this coming week, I hope you’ll be able to find these.

2008 Nicolas Potel Montagny 1er Cru

This wine needs to breathe to soften its sharp, tangy-lemon acidity, so decant it into a jug or pour small amounts into large glasses and give a good swirl. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got classic chardonnay from Burgundy – nutty, waxy and appley in flavour with just a touch of oak in the background. Subtle and satisfying. 13% abv.

£9.99 (until 4 January 2011, then back to £14.99), The Co-operative

2009 L’Oustalet Réserve Côtes du Rhône

Succulent, supple red Rhône, full of southern warmth and bonhomie, yet full of appetising freshness too. Ripe berries, spicy black-pepper flavours, a rich velvety texture – and great value at the offer price. 13.5% abv.

£5.99 (until 4 January 2011, then back to £10.99), The Co-operative

2010 Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Margaret River, Australia

Fresh and aromatic, lightly oaked sauvignon-semillon blend – Western Australia’s answer to white Graves. Zesty fresh herb, melon and grapefruit flavours rounded out with soft, coffeeish oak; dry, medium-bodied, nicely incisive but not aggressive. 12.5% abv.

£10.99, Morrisons

2008 Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River, Australia

An enticingly aromatic, richly fruity, dry red from Western Australia. Smoky, minty and leafy on the nose, with intense cassis fruit, dark chocolate and a roast-chestnut richness, sweetness and smokiness from ageing in oak. A perfect balance of freshness and roundness for drinking now. 14.5% abv.

£10.99, Morrisons

Thursday, December 9, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 9 December 2010

A Christmassy trio from Flint Wines, following a tasting of their wines in London last month at which I was mightily impressed, as I was last year by one of their Spanish whites, Viña Somoza Sobre Lias (Classico), a godello from Valdeorras (recommended here on 18 Sept 09).

Doyard Cuvée Vendémiaire Champagne NV

It’s always a treat to find a new grower’s champagne to recommend – new to me anyway. This is a Blanc de Blancs from five grands crus, together with the premier cru Vertus where Doyard is based, and it’s a blend of 2001, 2002 and 2004, half barrel-fermented. The oak gives a touch of straw and honey to the aromatic, fresh apple and pear flavours and a sleekness and roundness to the texture. Fine and long. 12.5% abv.

£27.95, Flint Wines

2007 Domaine André Kientzler Pinot Blanc, Alsace

More expensive than most Alsace Pinot Blanc, but well worth it – this is a very sophisticated example. Fragrant, fresh and floral, with taut, nicely concentrated apple and apricot fruit and a touch of cream. Silky textured and perfectly balanced. 12.5% abv.

£11.50, Flint Wines

2007 Cristom Vineyards Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon

It’s a bit contrary to choose this when Flint is known for its burgundies and showed a fistful of good ones, but this is so delicious and seductive – fleshier and a little less savoury than red burgundy. Very aromatic and sweet-scented, but fresh and pure at the same time, with succulent red berry fruit, supple oak and a hint of fragrant herbs. Not too alcoholic either: 13.5% abv.

£24.99, Flint Wines

Friday, December 3, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 3 December 2010

2008 Weingut Eichinger Riesling Strasse Heiligenstein, Kamptal

Terrific Austrian riesling. Heady, floral, mineral nose and a palate that combines honeyed, textured richness with piercing lemon fruit and steely acidity. Long, dry finish. 13% abv. Drink now to 2018, with fish and shellfish, things in creamy sauces and lightly spiced dishes.

£263.88 for 12, armit

2004 Chateau Lalande Borie, Saint-Julien

Another 2004 red Bordeaux this week, but a Left Bank wine which, like a lot of middle-range wines from this (largely hype-free) vintage, has evolved early and prettily. That’s not to say it’s about to start its descent: it’s in its prime and will remain there for a few years. Sweet, cigar-box spice with some savoury richness; velvet texture with a gentle nip of acidity for freshness; soft, round and plump, rather than concentrated, and everything in balance. A good Christmas wine (or Christmas present wine), though perhaps better with a rib of beef or leg of lamb than an assault course of powerful, sweet and sharp sauces and stuffings. 13% abv.

£129.41 for 6, armit

2004 Quinta do Noval LBV port

An LBV port, but not the usual commercial style. This one, although delicious now, will mature in the same way as a vintage port, throwing a sediment as it goes. It’s also a single quinta LBV: all the grapes come from the estate and are trodden in lagars, whereas previously some grapes were bought in; hence the change of name to Quinta do Noval LBV, rather than just Noval. Back to the port: kirsch, plums, ripe figs and a hint of eucalyptus on the nose; deep, rich and succulent flavours of spicy, chocolate-coated fruitcake; fine-grained tannins. 19.5% abv. Apart from with the obvious Stilton and Stitchelton, it goes brilliantly with dark chocolate. Try the red-fruit flavoured one which Rococo created specially for it.

£17.99, or £14.39 in a mixed dozen, Oddbins; also Ocado and independents.

Friday, November 26, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 26 November 2010

2010 Cono Sur Organically Grown Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile

I didn’t think I felt remotely like drinking Sauvignon Blanc in this weather, but the almost Alpine freshness of this cool-climate, coastal wine went down a treat as an aperitif in the frozen Simon household. Light, zesty and floral, with classic gooseberry-and-lemon Sauvignon flavours, a softer peach note and a streak of minerality. 13.5% abv. It’s currently on offer at £6.99 (£2 off) and at £6.74 if you buy 6 bottles, which makes it a bit of a bargain.

£6.99, Oddbins

2007 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico

Ripe, spicy and savoury aromas; fleshy, sweet, dried-fruit flavours with a savoury underpinning and soft, structure-giving tannins. An accessible Chianti at a very fair price for the quality. Drink any time over the next four years. 13.5% abv.

£11.49, selected Tesco, or £65.46 for 6 bottles (£10.91 each),

2004 Grange Neuve de Figeac, Saint-Emilion

The second wine of Château Figeac from a vintage that was overshadowed by those that went before and after but which has produced many an attractive well-balanced wine for drinking sooner rather than later. This one is certainly perfect now – mellow and supple with sweet, spicy cedar and mulberry flavours, a hint of gentle mocha and a clean, dry finish. 13% abv.

£108 for 6 bottles,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 19 November 2010

2008 Louis Latour Grande Ardèche Chardonnay, Coteaux de l’Ardèche

The latest vintage of an old favourite – medium-bodied, well-balanced chardonnay made by burgundy negociant Louis Latour in the Ardèche (south west Rhône). Buttered-popcorn with a hint of fennel on the nose; a fresh, lightly buttery, nutty palate with crisp peach and lemon-peel fruit and a hint of aniseed. 13.5% abv.

£8.99, Majestic.

2008 Boas Vinhas Dão, Portugal

Dark and full but not hefty, with succulent berry and damson fruit shot through with vanilla and chocolate, meaty and mineral notes. Add a touch of currant-leaf freshness and a rounded, velvety feel and you’ve got a great example of the value to be had from Portuguese reds. It’s a blend of touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and tinta roriz (aka tempranillo). 13% abv.

£7.99, The Real Wine Company.

The two wines below aren’t on the UK market, but do what you can to get hold of them. Available from wine shops in Languedoc at €12.50–€15: visit or email

The address is Domaine de Gaure, 11250 Rouffiac d’Aude, and it’s off the D118 between Carcassonne and Limoux.

2008 Château de Gaure Oppidum, Limoux blanc

A barrel-fermented chardonnay with 15% chenin blanc and 5% mauzac. Aromas of toast, honey, lemon and straw, and almost a hint of sherry, yet completely fresh; full, round and honeyed on the palate with vibrant orange, lemon and apricot fruit and a mineral core. Complex, fresh and finely balanced. 13.5% abv.

Château de Gaure Pour Mon Père, vin de table rouge

A 2008 blend of 65% carignan and grenache (average age 60 years) with 35% syrah and mourvèdre (average age 25 years) from the Latour de France zone of the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages appellation. Deep in colour but not thunderous and opaque; fresh, spicy, sweet and mineral on the nose, with rich blackberry fruit, crisp black pepper and nutty notes on the palate. Concentrated, but not extracted; long, polished and complex. 13.5% abv

Friday, November 12, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 12 November 2010

2009 Cornarea Arneis, Piedmont

I haven’t had a better Arneis than this and certainly not one as aromatic. It has a perfume of white peach, fresh pear and lemon oil and a mouthwatering intensity of flavour; elegant, medium-bodied frame with alpine-fresh acidity to finish. 12.5% abv. Delicious on its own but would also go well with shellfish and other fish. The 15-hectare Cornarea estate overlooks the town of Canale and was planted in the 1970s by the Bovone family who still own it. As well as the Arneis, there’s an equally elegant Nebbiolo.

£15.95, Berry Bros & Rudd.

2007 Benjamin Leroux Bourgogne Blanc

This looks expensive for Bourgogne Blanc but it’s not for the quality. Expressive, rich-textured and supple with a central core of firm acidity and flavours of walnuts, lemon and apple. 12.5% abv and sealed with a screwcap. This is Benjamin Leroux’s first vintage under his own name: the normal day job is manager-winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand.

£16.95, Berry Bros & Rudd.

2009 Villa Taurini Barbera Piemonte

Good value Piedmont Barbera with nicely chewy, juicy cherry fruit fleshed out with oak and spice and with a touch of acitity to keep it fresh. Modern style but true-to-type and well-balanced. 13.5% abv.

£6.99, Tesco

Friday, November 5, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 5 November 2010

Three wines from from Oddbins’ recent tasting, one of which is being shown – yes! – tomorrow at The Wine Gang Christmas Wine Fair at Vinopolis (TicketSoup:

2009 Angosto White, Valencia, Spain

Fresh, aromatic, unoaked white made from an idiosyncratic quartet of grape varieties – verdejo, moscatel (petits grains), chardonnay and sauvignon blanc in equal quantities. Sounds like a kitchen-sink creation, and may be, but it’s ended up being more than the sum of its parts. Spicy, fresh grape aromas with sweet tangerine fruit and appetising acidity on a dry finish. 12.5% abv. A good aperitif.

£8.49, or £6.79 in a mixed dozen, Oddbins.

2009 Monte La Sarda Garnacha Viñas Viejas, Bajo Aragón, Spain

Juicy, young, unoaked garnacha made from low-cropping old vines grown at high altitude. Raspberry perfume and lush raspberry fruit on the palate, crunchy black pepper, a pinch of mixed spice and a dry, clean finish. Medium-full but not hefty, ripe but not jammy, 14.5% abv. Really good, honest wine – grapes, terroir and nothing else.

£7.49, or £5.99 in a mixed dozen, Oddbins

2007 Kuru Kuru Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand

I was going to recommend the 2008 Whirlpool Reach Pinot Noir from Tasmania, because it’s always cheering to find a good pinot at under a tenner (mixed dozen price, £8.79, or £10.99 a single bottle, Oddbins), but Oddbins is showing this very smart New Zealand number at The Wine Gang Christmas Fair tomorrow, so how could I resist? It’s from Tarras Vineyards and a single vineyard on north-facing slopes in Bendigo; it’s all wild ferment and aged for 10 months in French oak barrels (a third new); and it’s a wine of mouthwatering clarity and precision with supple, toasty oak fleshing out sweet, strawberryish fruit and delicate spice; long and elegant. 14% abv. There’s a good 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc too (£10.99, or £8.79 in a mixed case).

£18.99, or £15.19 in a mixed case, Oddbins.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wines of the Week 29 October 2010

Quelle surprise! All three wines are being shown at the Wine Gang Christmas Fair on 6 November at Vinopolis in London, TicketSoup: . And they’re all red and Rhônish – must be something to do with the darker evenings once the clocks go back tomorrow.

2008 Dolines de l’Hortus, Coteaux du Languedoc

Full and ripe, but beautifully elegant syrah/grenache blend made at the excellent Domaine l’Hortus 25km north of Montpelier. Aromatic blueberry fruit, stony syrah flavours, supple texture and a fine, dry finish. 13% abv. (Worth noting that Berry Bros & Rudd sells the excellent Bergerie de l’Hortus, a blend which includes mourvèdre, from the same stable).

£9.49, Laithwaites

2007 Domaine des Saumades, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

A very fragrant, stylish 100% grenache Châteauneuf from an excellent vintage. Herb-garden scents, cherry and dark chocolate flavours and a backbone of fine-grained tannins with a balance of delicate acidity. Delicious now or anytime over the next seven years. 14.5% abv.

£20.40, Berry Bros & Rudd.

Being shown on the Sopexa stand at The Wine Gang Christmas Wine Fair.

2007 Mayu Syrah Reserva, Elqui, Chile

Smoky and gamey with sweet, fresh raspberry fruit, lots of Rhône-like crushed black peppercorn flavours and well-balanced rich, chocolaty oak. Great value. 14% abv.

£8.97, Asda; £11.24, or £8.99 if you buy 2 or more from November 2nd, Majestic

Being shown on the Wines of Chile stand at The Wine Gang Christmas Wine Fair.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

WINES OF THE WEEK 22 October 2010

Wines of the Week 22 October 2010

Three wines from Waitrose, none of which, as it happens, is being shown at the Wine Gang Christmas Fair on 6 November at Vinopolis in London, but Waitrose has got a cracking line up for the Fair. Here's where you get tickets: TicketSoup . End of this week's shameless plug.

2007 Vincent de Vignaud Pouilly-Vinzelles

Unoaked white burgundy of impressive purity. Nutty, creamy, lightly buttery and honeyed flavours around a core of freshness and – courtesy of six months lees ageing and stirring – a fine, silky texture. The vines (chardonnay) average 25 years and are on clay and limestone. 13% abv.

£13.99, Waitrose

2008 Château de Bouissel Fronton Classic

Good on Waitrose for introducing a Fronton, one of the many fascinating wines from southwest France that are hard to find in the UK. This is a red (there’s no white Fronton, but there is rosé ) made from 50% of the local négrette, the minimum required by the appellation, and 25% each of syrah and malbec. It’s the négrette that gives the deep, inky colour, together with red berry and tobacco aromas and a chewy, medium-full palate with cherry fruit, hints of spice, leather and charcoal and some lightly grainy tannin. It’s unoaked, unfiltered and unfined, so you’re getting an authentic taste of Fronton terroir. 13% abv. I once had dinner with a group of Fronton producers in a local fish restaurant. Their choice. No idea why. Red Fronton doesn’t go with fish, but it does go well with red meat.

£8.99, Waitrose (about 60% of branches) and

2008 La Bastide Blanche Bandol, Provence

Another imaginative red from Waitrose. It’s very young for Bandol and deserves to be put away for anything from two to eight years, but it’s certainly drinkable now if you don’t mind a bit of chunky tannin and some acidity alongside the smoky, rich cassis fruit, spicy nutmeg and black tapenade flavours. Aged in oak barrels (small and large), but there’s too much else going on for the oak to intrude. 14% abv. Good with powerful meat and game.

£12.99, Waitrose and

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WINES OF THE WEEK 15 October 2010

Three wines from Sainsbury’s autumn tasting, all of which are being shown at the Wine Gang Christmas Wine Fair on 6 November at Vinopolis in London. Yes, another shameless plug for our brilliant event.

2004 Taste the Difference Vintage Champagne

Classy chardonnay-based vintage champagne at a non-vintage price. Seductive brioche, honeycomb and almond macaroon flavours layered with taut lemon fruit, a lightly creamy, chalky texture and fine acidity. Made for Sainsbury’s by long-time supplier Duval-Leroy.

£23.99, Sainsbury’s

2009 Taste the Difference Crozes-Hermitage

Textbook young Crozes – smoky, stony, peppery aromas and a meaty, savoury palate with crushed black-peppercorn flavours contrasting with sweet red-berry fruit and gently chewy tannins. You can drink it now (red meat, game, Manchego…) but it’ll be good for five years if you take care of it. A word of warning: there’s another Crozes-Hermitage in Sainsbury’s at the same price, but it’s 2007, it’s not Taste the Difference and it’s not made by M Chapoutier – and it’s not as good.

£8.49, Sainsbury’s

2009 Taste the Difference Barossa Shiraz

A wine that does what it sets out to do – ie deliver lots of ripe, briary, blackberry fruit and autumnal spice flavours wrapped around with vanilla-scented, toasty oak. Full and comforting – just like the sort of casserole it goes well with. Made by Toby Barlow at St Hallett.

£7.99, Sainsbury’s

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Nearly time for the The Wine Gang’s second annual Christmas Wine Fair – and certainly time to scoop up a ticket from TicketSoup

Vital statistics:
It takes place at Vinopolis in London SE1, right by Borough Market, on Saturday 6 November. There are 2 sessions: 12–3pm or 4-7pm. Just choose your time. Tickets are £20
There’ll be more than 600 wines open for tasting, from the tiniest of independent retailers to the giants of the high street, and many of them have been rated Gold, Silver and Bronze by The Wine Gang. Just wander round, glass in hand, stopping where you like.
Free Wine Walks: the five of us – Olly Smith, Anthony Rose, Tom Cannavan, Tim Atkin MW and me – will take you to taste some of our favourite wines.
Masterclasses from some of the great winemakers of the world at the giveaway price of £10 per ticket. Book them at the same time as you buy your ticket for the fair itself. The four, two in the morning, two in the afternoon, are:
1) Understanding Pinot Noir & Sauvignon with Dr Damian Martin of Ara, NZ;
2) The Sélections Parcellaires of Maison M Chapoutier with Michel Chapoutier, of the Rhône;
3) Languedoc, the Rubik’s Cube of Wine with Jean Claude Mas of Domaines Paul Mas. Languedoc;
4) Champions of Chenin Blanc with Ken Forrester of South Africa.

See you there.


Friday, October 8, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 8 OCTOBER 2010

Not many new wines at the autumn M & S tasting, but some good stuff all the same.

Okhre Natur Cava Brut, Penedès
Bone-dry cava made from the indigenous varieties xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada grown at 700 meters. That trio of grape varieties can so easily be a recipe for terminal dullness, but this is crisp and vivid with rich and lasting apple and pear flavours. 12% abv. Great value.
£9.99, Marks & Spencer.

2009 Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Beautifully aromatic – roses and jasmine with a hint of bergamot and spice; fresh, pure raspberry and cherry fruit, with oak in the background giving polished smoothness and extra depth; clean, positively bright finish. 14.5% abv.
£13.49, Marks & Spencer.

2009 Popolino Rosso, Sicilia
You can’t complain at anything that tastes half-decent at this price. Easygoing, cheap pizza red, though it doesn’t actually need food. Fresh and soft with earthy cherry fruit and a food-friendly dryness. If you’re counting, it’s made from 70% nero d’avola and 30% sangiovese and is 13% abv.
£4.99, Marks & Spencer

Friday, October 1, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 1 OCTOBER 2010

2009 Paul Mas Vermentino, Pays d’Oc
Another good wine from Jean-Claude Mas’ Languedoc vineyard empire. It doesn’t give a lot away on the nose – that’s vermentino for you – but there’s plenty to it: fresh lemon-peel flavours with a touch of green olive and herbs, a smooth, lanoline texture and a lively, dry finish. 13% abv and food friendly.
£7.99, or £5.99 if you buy 2 or more, Majestic

2008 Château La Dournie, Saint-Chinian
An excellent follow-up to the 2007 which I recommended back in July of last year. The 2008 has the same mouthwatering stony, smoky smell and taste, with scents of the garrigue and spicy, sweet berry fruit – all beautifully modulated and balanced. It’s a syrah-dominated blend with carignan and grenache grown on schist. 13% abv. La Dournie has been handed down from mother to daughter for six generations, with Véronique Etienne currently at the helm.
£7.99, or £6.99 if you buy 2 or more, Majestic.

2008 Domaine Les Yeuses, Les Epices Syrah, Pays d’Oc
Expressive, pure Syrah in Crozes-Hermitage style. Smoky and briny aromas with flavours of crushed black peppercorns and fresh raspberries, supple tannins and a dry refreshing finish. 13.5% abv. The vineyards are on limestone hills close to the Mediterranean in the Thau lagoon area and the estate is one to watch. It’s been in the Darde family for several generations and the two brothers now in charge are doing good things.
£8.99, or £6.99 if you buy 2 or more, Majestic

Friday, September 24, 2010


Some gems for celebrating International Grenache Day, which is today.

2007 Domaine Saint-Gayan, Côtes du Rhône-Rasteau
Big, ripe, peppery, grenache-dominated southern Rhône red, with a fistful of stony, spicy, nutty flavours set against succulent, sweet raspberry and cherry fruit and ripe tannins. 80% grenache, 12% syrah and the rest mourvèdre and cinsault. 15% abv. If you’ve got good storage, you’ll be able to enjoy it over seven or eight years.
£10.50, Yapp Brothers

2008 Domaine of the Bee, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
A powerful, rich red with intense black-fruit aromas, edged with sweet garrigue herbs and smoky oak. The palate is rich-textured with fresh black-pepper, dark chocolate and coffee-bean flavours, together with a mineral note and the sort of underlying acidity that give the wine essential freshness but which will also keep it going for years to come. The 2008 is the second vintage of this roughly 50:50 blend of grenache and carignan (grenache over 50 years old and carignan over 80) from the Maury area of Roussillon. 14.9% abv. It’s produced by Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, better known as the global wine director of Laithwaites (next step interplanetary director, presumably), but it’s nothing to do with the day job and he’s selling it himself.
£20, £18 if you buy 6, £16.67 if you buy 12,

2003 Domaine Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
The quality and character of this mature white châteauneuf may owe more to its old-vine roussanne than its 50% grenache blanc, but nevermind: it’s a terrific wine. Rich, honeyed and perfumy with quince, citrus and herbal flavours and a long, dry finish. 13.5% abv. It’s no on the Wine Society’s website, but it’s in the October–January list (ref code C-RH240710 which will be with you shortly, if it isn’t already.
£21, The Wine Society

If you want a white châteauneuf to lay down, I recommend 2009 Domaine de Nalys Les Dix Salmées, which has a youthful herby nose, fresh peach and quince on the palate and lots of depth and freshness. It’s just over half grenache and just over a quarter bourboulenc with clairette and a smidgeon of roussanne. 13.5% abv. It’s perfectly drinkable now, but will develop much more within a couple of years. Laithwaites showed it at their tasting in London this week, but it’s not on the website yet. It’ll be £17.99 any time now.
And a reminder that Noel Young Wines still has the lovely grenache blanc-based 2009 Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire, Côtes du Roussillon (£10.49) which was a Wine of the Week here on 30 July.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 17 September 2010

2009 L’Empreinte de Saint-Mont
I love the purity and clarity of these manseng-based dry whites from southwest France. This one – three quarters gros manseng, 10% petit manseng and 15% petit courbu – has a smoky, mineral nose with piercing passionfruit and citrus flavours which fill out on the mid-palate. It finishes on a sustained note of tangy acidity and minerality. Like most Saint-Mont wines, it comes from Les Producteurs Plaimont. 13% abv.
£12.99, Adnams

2009 Château Grange Cochard Morgon Vieilles Vignes
I can’t resist another 2009 cru Beaujolais – not that I’ve recommended any since the beginning of June. This has an exotic, floral, red-fruits perfume and a palate that combines supple, sweet fruit with savoury, mineral flavours, ripe tannins and a long finish. 13% abv. Drink any time over the next eight or nine years. It’s made by a couple who gave up St Albans for Beaujolais. Not a difficult choice, I imagine.
£13.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

2007 Rippon Central Otago Pinot Noir
More burgundian than many a burgundy, but then Nick Mills (owner-winemaker) has worked in Burgundy and the vines are all more than 15 years old and on their own roots. It has a wonderful fragrance – roses, cherries, strawberries, a touch of vanilla – and exceptional definition to the fruit on the palate against a background of subtle oak and a fine, silky texture. Elegant and expressive from start to finish. 13% abv. Watch out for the new single-vineyard 2008s early next year.
£25.50, Lea & Sandeman

Friday, September 10, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 10 September 2010

Three wines from an almost dud-free selection of 48 put out for tasting in London yesterday by the six members of the Bunch – Adnams, Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Lea & Sandeman, Tanners & Yapp Brothers.

2008 Domaine Vincent Dampt, Chablis 1er Cru Les Lys
Stellar premier cru Chablis from Vincent, son of Daniel and grandson of Jean Defaix, which is a good start in Chablis life if ever there was one. Vincent has also worked with Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet and done a stint in Marlborough, New Zealand. The nose is quintessence of Chablis with nutty, sour-cream richness set against stony minerality and tingling freshness. The palate is creamy and textured, with ripe fruit – hints of apricot and apple – and intense, penetrating, lime-like acidity. Great length and presence. 13% abv. Drink from now until 2018.
£18.59, Corney & Barrow

2009 & Co, Hawkes Bay
Having gone on about wine names last week I shall say nothing about this one except that I haven’t got it wrong: it is called ‘& Co’ (without the quote marks). As that’s all it says on the front label, I suspect it’ll be displayed more often with its back label on view. The bottle also has a crown-cap. The wine is the first release of an intriguing and delicious New Zealand sauvignon blanc from organic vines planted on calcareous gravels in Hawkes Bay in 2003 and 2004. It’s very aromatic with a varietal grassy note but with exotic notes of spice, passionfruit, smoke, honey and honeysuckle too. The palate is full and ripe, but structured, with a Graves-like smokiness and fresh finish. 13.7% abv. A propros of nothing, I reckon the winemaker Gabrielle Simmers has the wine world’s longest legs.
£12.95, Lea & Sandeman

2008 Castello di Argiano, Sesti Grangiovese, Toscana
The Sesti family of Castello di Argiano – not to be confused with Villa Argiano - make this from sangiovese that hasn’t made it into the Brunello or the Rosso di Montalcino. It’s supple and succulent, with fruit that is both sweet and savoury, a spicy tobacco character and an attractive, dry finish. It’s not hugely concentrated or complex, but delightfully honest, thoroughly Tuscan and thoroughly sangiovese. 13.9% abv. Viticulture and winemaking follow the phases of the moon, but not Steiner-inspired calendars and biodynamic practices, which Giugi (Guiseppe) Sesti, a world authority on ancient astronomy, thinks are misconceived.
£12.90, Tanners

Friday, September 3, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 3 September 2010

2009 Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Grenache Rosé, McLaren Vale
I’m not entirely convinced by the idea of naming wines after pets, mother-in-laws, girl friends etc, but perhaps that’s sour grapes because I’m never going to have a wine named after me. Anyway, Mrs Wigley the cat: R.I.P. Mrs Wigley the pink grenache: very much alive and perfectly proportioned. Medium-deep pink and packed with juicy cassis and strawberry fruit, currant-leaf freshness and a touch of nutmeg. Good weight, without being big, and nicely dry. Goes well with lightly spiced, pan-fried prawns, parma ham and chorizo, and fruity, saffron-flavoured couscous – and no doubt other things. 13% abv.
£9.99, Stevens Garnier

2008 Ad Hoc Straw Man Sauvignon Blanc, Pemberton
Medium-bodied, beautifully elegant Sauvignon from ace Western Australia winemaker Larry Cherubino. Unmistakeable Sauvignon aromas of grass, lemon and elderflower, carried through on to the palate with an additional tang of lime-zest and gentle chalkiness. Lovely balance and still zippy and fresh. 12.5% abv.
£13.99, or £12.59 in a mixed case, The Vineyard (Dorking, Surrey)

2008 Passa Pequena, Douro
A junior red from Quinta do Passadouro at less than a third the price of the fabulous 2007 Reserva (£30). This obviously doesn’t have the concentration, complexity and staying power of the vigorously youthful Reserva, but it does have the mouthwatering Douro combination of perfume and sweet raspberry fruit with savoury, mineral flavours. Add in the softly chewy tannins and it’s ready for drinking now. 13.5% abv.
£8.49, Laithwaites

Friday, August 27, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 27 August 2010

Millione, Vino Frizzante Rosé
Don’t buy this if you think wine should always be a drunk with rapt attention and accompanied by serious note-taking. Do buy it if you want to help raise £1 million to build 20 community-run primary schools in Sierra Leone. For every bottle sold, £1 goes to the project. And do buy Millione if there are times – sunny bank holidays, perhaps – when you just want something vaguely vinous and easy to drink – something fresh, pink, light-weight, lightly sparkling and on the sweet side of medium-dry. Millione is 11.5% abv and doesn’t need food, but you could drink it with something spicy.
£7.99, Laithwaites; and, soon, if not already, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

2007 d’Arenberg The Olive Grove Chardonnay, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills
A rich, oaky style, with cashew nuts on the nose and a smoky, dark chocolate oakiness to the palate, but with the richness perfectly off-set by the freshness, intensity and persistence of the fruit. 14% abv. Great value at the current offer price.
£6.99 on offer (down from £8.99), Sainsbury’s.

2009 Undurraga TH Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley
Polished pinot noir from Leyda, Chile’s answer to New Zealand’s Central Otago region. Sweet, fresh cherry and raspberry aromas, lovely purity of fruit, subtle oak and a bright, persistent finish. 13.5% abv. TH stands for terroir hunter, by the way, not the winemaker, who is Rafael Urrejola.
£11.95,The Wine Society.

Friday, August 20, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 20 August 2010

2009 Gladstone Vineyard Pinot Gris, Gladstone, Wairarapa
I was hoping to recommend Gladstone's splendid, mineral 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, but Great Western Wine is not moving on to the 2009 until the end of the year. This Pinot Gris, one of New Zealand’s best, is a more exuberant wine – spicy and floral with succulent, peachy fruit, a gentle nutty flavour and citrus freshness. 14.5% abv.
£13.95, Great Western Wine

2009 Mas des Mas Corbières
Just in time to catch this new wine from Paul Mas before the promotion finishes at the end of the month. Very much a modern style of Corbières -– deep in colour, rich, ripe fruit, mocha oak flavour and round, friendly tannins – but true to its terroir in the heady aromas of the garrigue. A blend of syrah, grenache and carignan from low-yielding vines. 14.5% abv.
£7.99, reverting to £9.99 at the end of August, Majestic.

2006 Torres Celeste Crianza, Ribera del Duero
A supple, velvety Ribera del Duero from Torres, Spain’s most famous wine-producing family. Spicy, coffeeish oak and black fruit on the nose; blackberries, graphite mineral notes, smoky oak and soft, but structure-giving tannins on the palate. It went a treat with roast lamb and potatoes cooked with smoked paprika. 13.5% abv.
£11.49, Noel Young

Friday, August 13, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 13 August 2010

2009 Domaine Cheveau Mâcon Solutré-Pouilly, Sur Le Mont
Mâcon with real polish and elegance: fresh, creamy, waxy and slightly nutty on the nose; nutty complexity with a light touch of spice and fresh apple on the palate; long, perfectly balanced, fresh and delicious now. 13.5% abv
£13.95, Caviste

2005 P J Druet Bourgueil, Les Cents Boiselées
Beautifully matured, complex, medium-bodied Bourgueil: spicy fruitcake, cedar, leather and mineral aromas and a velvety, dry palate with mellow fruitiness, spicy-cedar and mineral notes. Ready now, but will last another five years. 12.5% abv.
£14.99, Handford Wines

2008 Ermita del Conde Tinto, Castilla y Leon
This is a tempranillo, with 5% merlot, from vines – a lot of them 100 years old – growing high up (900m up) in the province of Burgos just outside Ribera del Duero. It’s full-bodied and ripe with a vanilla and chocolate richness, but retains a wonderful red berry and sweet-cedar freshness. Concentrated, polished, elegant. 14% abv.
£20, Hanging Ditch

Saturday, August 7, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 6 August 2010

Three really good sparkling wines this week
Chozas Carrascal Cava Brut Nature Reserva
Elegant, sophisticated cava with flavours of lemon, marzipan and honey and mouthwatering freshness. It’s a chardonnay/macabeo blend and has no dosage (ie no sugar added at the end): the depth and ‘sweetness’ come from the maturation – a small percentage in French oak and then into bottle for the second fermentation and 15 months on the lees. 12% abv. A much better bet than most cheap champagne.
£12.50, or £20 for two, Hanging Ditch

2005 Tesco Finest Alsace Crémant d’Alsace Riesling
Textbook riesling flavour, freshness and definition – ripe Granny Smith apples, lime and a hint of petrolly minerals, with fine, soft bubbles produced in the same way as for champagne. Dry, but not remotely austere; a crowd-pleaser in fact. Good as an aperitif, but also a winner with lightly spicy dishes. 11.5% abv.
£8.99, Tesco

Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut Cava
Chardonnay-based, matured for 15 months and a big step up in quality from Freixenet’s mass-market, black-bottled Cordon Negro. Pale and refined with fine bubbles, zesty lemon and peach fruit and a delicate nutty-straw note. 11.5% abv.
£14.99, Waitrose

Friday, July 30, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 30 July 2010

2009 Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire, Côtes du Roussillon
Not for nothing called Cuvée Centenaire: the vines that produce this rich, yet steely, dry white are at least a century old. They're mostly Grenache Blanc with about a fifth Roussanne, and home for the last 100 years has been dry, stony hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean. The 2009 has ripe, juicy, greengage, herb and citrus flavours with a touch of honey, a hint of oak and a long mineral finish. 13.5% abv.
£10.49, Noel Young; £58.50 for 6 bottles, Bibendum.

2009 Fiano Fremendo, Sannio
From Sannio in Campania, northeast of Naples, a medium-full, dry white with spicy herb, pear and lemon flavours and balancing acidity. Food-friendly, but also a good stand-alone wine. 13.5% abv.
£8.74, or £6.99 when you buy 2 or more bottles, Majestic.

2008 Corte Giara Valpolicella Ripasso
Deep coloured, full, rounded, velvety Valpolicella, made supple by the traditional Ripasso method of fermentation. Seductive fruitcake, cherry and plum perfume; sweet dried-fruit, bitter chocolate, coffee, cherry and prune flavours on the palate.
£10.99, Hedley Wright; Noel Young.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 23 July 2010

2009 Domaine de Sours, Bordeaux Rosé
I don’t know where you are but it’s definitely rosé weather where I am, although we all know that pink wine is no longer seasonal. Or not as seasonal as it was. Anyway back to Domaine de Sours, the cheaper version of Château de Sours, in a particularly successful vintage. This is Merlot rosé at its most pleasurable: packed with really juicy strawberry and blackcurrant flavours and just a suggestion of tannin to give it a bit of backbone; medium-bodied, fresh and dry – in fact, drier than some prevous vintages have tasted. 13% abv.
£6.59, Sainsbury’s

2008 Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region
Yes, it’s also sauvignon blanc weather, although this one from the Cape is pretty serious stuff and deserves a bit of respect (go polish those flip-flops) and will be just as good in deep mid-winter. It has fresh asparagus and sweet minted-peas on the nose, a crisp, but textured palate (thanks to 6 months on lees) and salty, mineral and sweet green-fruit flavours. It’s balanced, elegant and long and wears its 14% abv lightly. I only wish it was more more widely available.

2008 Katnook Estate Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra
Founder’s Block is, as Domaine de Sours is to Château de Sours, the more affordable, more approachable version of Katnook Estate Cabernet. It’s ripe and nicely fleshy with a fresh minty, herbal Coonawarra signature, blueberry fruit, a touch of chocolate and a bit of soft, spicy oak in the background. More versatile with food than bigger, denser, more tannic Cabernets: as happy with herby roast chicken as it is with lamb, duck, beef and veggie dishes. 13.5% abv.
£9.99, Waitrose

Friday, July 16, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 16 July 2010

2008 Château d’Orschwihr Riesling Bollenberg, Alsace
Delicious, dry Alsace riesling with dazzling, honeyed apple and apricot fruit and steely, fresh acidity. Goes very well with spicy Asian food and all sorts of fish, but also makes a perfect aperitif. 12.5% abv.
£13.99, or £11.19 by the case, Oddbins

2008 Marquis de Pennautier Oc Chardonnay Terroirs d’Altitude
Polished, elegant, burgundy-style chardonnay, with lemon-butter fruit, delicate nutty oak, a touch of spice, lovely, crisp acidity and good length. 13.5% abv.
£8.99, Majestic

2009 Anakena Pinot Noir, Rapel Valley
Persuasive, aromatic pinot noir at a bargain price. It’s medium-bodied with strawberryish fruit, an attractive spicy note, a butter-smooth texture and a fresh, clean finish. Not complex, but great value. 13% abv. Serve cool in hot weather.
£7.38, The Sampler

Saturday, July 10, 2010

WiNES of the WEEK 9 July 2010

2009 Ca’ dei Frati Rosa dei Frati, Riviera del Garda Bresciano
Medium-dry rosé, but don’t let that put you off. This is a delicious, hot weather wine – vibrant, balanced and stylish. It’s from the western shores of Lake Garda and is humming with spicy strawberry and cherry fruit and soft, fresh acidity. For the record, it’s made from 60% groppello (sounds like a villain in a Verdi opera, but is a local red variety) with 15% each of marzemino and sangiovese and 10% barbera. 12.5% abv.
£15, Hanging Ditch.

2008 Castel d’Encus Thalarn, Costers del Segre
We gave this wonderful Spanish syrah the trophy for Best New Discovery in the 2010 New Wave Spain Awards. It has vivid varietal flavours – freshly ground black pepper, smoke and summer-pudding red berries – a lush, silky texture and long, fresh finish. 14.5% abv. H2Vin is a new company set up by Christian Honorez (ex Genesis Wines). Well worth investigating.

There are lots of good southern hemisphere sauvignons around at the moment. Here are two from Chile that come in just below £8 and have screwcaps to preserve their youthful vim (and save the hassle of corkscrews in the garden or on the picnic).
2009 Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc, Elqui Valley
Bristlingly fresh gooseberry and elderflower on the nose; zesty, elderflower and spicy pea-pod flavours on the palate. Medium-bodied and well-balanced. Perfect summer wine. 13% abv.
£7.99, Sainsbury’s

2009 Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc, Maule Valley
Fresh and zingy with ripe gooseberry fruit, herbal, nettle and lemongrass flavours and a touch of sweetness on the finish. Medium-bodied; 13% abv.
£7.81, Asda

Friday, July 2, 2010

WiNES of the WEEK, 2 July 2010

2009 Fief Guérin Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu Sur Lie 2009
A white that’ll hit the spot when you want something dry, sappy, yeasty and mouthwateringly fresh as an antidote to the commercial fruit-bomb wine style. There are hints of apple, pear and lime zest and the ageing sur lie (on its lees) has enriched the texture and given a delicate nuttiness, but this wine is much more about refreshment, nuance and understatement. A winner with plain shellfish, including oysters when there's an 'r' in the month. 12.1% abv.
£6.49, but on offer at £5.19 from 7 July to 3 August, Waitrose.

2009 1907 Single Vineyard Malbec, Mendoza
This is a case where it would be better if I put the vintage after the wine name, but it would be even more confusing if I did it for just this one. So, to clarify, the wine is called 1907, which is the date the vineyard, named Chiaramonte, was originally planted. It’s dark, powerful and fairly oaky at present (after four months in new French barrels), but there’s plenty of really good Malbec flavour – crushed black peppercorns, dense black-fruit and acid freshness. A great wine to have with a rare steak or magret de canard. It’s also organic and Fairtrade. 13.8% abv.
On offer at £45 for 6, (down from £60 for 6).

I tasted a baker’s dozen of The Wine Society’s own-label wines at £5.75–£7.95 recently and was impressed by the quality and value. I particularly liked the following; they’re all labelled The Society’s:
2009 Touraine Sauvignon – crisp, ripe and grapefruity, (12.5% abv), £7.50;
2009 Pinot Grigio Venezia-Giulia – leafy lemon and apricot flavours and much more flavour than most Pinot Grigio at this price (13% abv), £7.95;
2007 Corbières – aromatic, herby and spicy with sweet raspberry fruit (13.5% abv), £6.95;
2006 Rioja Crianza – mellow and cedary with soft vanilla and spice (13% abv), £7.50;
2009 Argentine Malbec – full, fleshy, vibrant and spicy with a crisp finish (14% abv), £5.95.

Friday, June 25, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 25 June 2010

2009 Cartagena Sauvignon Blanc Tres Vinedos, San Antonio Valley
Refined, elegant Sauvignon with a smoky, flinty character that could have come straight out of Pouilly Fumé, but comes instead from Chile’s ocean-cooled San Antonio region. Smoke, flint and fragrant elderflowery fruit with sappy green notes, a nicely textured mid-palate and crisp, briny finish. Medium-bodied and wonderfully refreshing despite a label proclaiming 14% abv.
£9.99, Marks & Spencer

2009 Groote Post Chenin Blanc, Coastal
A delightful and genuinely interesting Cape dry white which would cost a good deal more if it said sauvignon on the label, instead of chenin. It has a lovely smokiness and zesty freshness, flavours of grapefruit and grass with hints of honey, straw and spice and a softness to the texture (despite the crisp finish) which comes from leaving the wine on its lees for a couple of months. It’s made from bush vines planted in 1982 and is from a vintage which was cooler than average – and all the better for that. 13.5% abv.
£7.49, Bon Coeur Fine Wines

2006 Clos des Roses, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages
A Rhône-style blend of syrah, grenache, carignan and mourvèdre which is not particularly complex, but balanced, well-rounded and full of charm. It has the sweetness and freshness of red berries, the spicy character you’d expect from these grape varieties, a richer, chocolaty, roast-chestnut flavour and supple tannins. Produced by Domaine de l’Agly and Hervé Sabardeil. 13.5% abv.
£8.99, Laithwaites

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wines of the WEEK 18 June 2010

Four for the price of three this week, because one isn’t available in the UK, but it it’s a lovely wine and you can buy it online direct from the winery.

2009 Château Miraval Pink Floyd Rôsé, Côtes de Provence
Benchmark Provence rosé – pale pink with a perfumy, powdery nose, silky textured strawberry and cassis fruit, a touch of spice and a long, refined finish. It’s made largely from old cinsault vines, which give the perfume and the silkiness, with 20% grenache to add a bit of extra red fruit and spice. And in case you hadn’t guessed or are too young to know, it’s made on the Miraval estate where, in 1977, Pink Floyd recorded The Wall. 13.5% abv. Serve with sunshine.
£11.39, Oxford Wine Co, Fortnum & Mason, Hennings.

2007 Duas Quintas, Douro
The Douro makes some superb red wines, but not many reasonably priced ones. This is one of the latter. It has a deep, ripe, smoky, mineral and cassis nose and full fruit, sweet oak, velvety tannins on the palate, and a crucial mineral freshness on the finish. It’s for drinking now and over the next three or four years. 14% abv.
£8.99–£9.75, Stainton Wines, Philglas & Swiggot, Four Walls Wine Co

2006 Tenuta La Novella Chianti Classico
This is from a 12-hectare organic vineyard on a large olive oil and wine estate in San Polo in Chianti (north east of the Classico area) that has been painstakingly restored and restructured since 1996 by entrepreneur Joannis Schneider. Stéphane Derenecourt and team are consultants. The wine is very impressive: deep, and bright in colour; beautifully aromatic, with spice, tobacco, sandalwood and smoke; concentrated black-fruit and spice flavours on the palate – a feeling of richness, but with real elegance, supple tannins and a refreshing note of acidity. It’s expensive – it’s not the riserva, after all – but it is a textbook and very polished Chianti Classico. 13.5% abv.

2009 La Croisade Réserve Merlot, Vin de Pays d’Oc
No, inexpensive merlot doesn’t set my pulse racing either, but this is much better than most at the price. It smells juicy, plummy and even slightly jammy, then on the palate it’s soft, fresh, plummy and smooth, but with a malbec-like spiciness and a hint of fresh celery that gives it interest. 13.5% abv.
£5.99, or £5.49 if you buy two or more, Majestic

Friday, June 11, 2010

WiNES of the WEEK 11 June 2010

2008 Patricius Dry Furmint, Tokaji
Excellent at its usual price of £9.99, so terrific value at 25% off until June 16. A knockout spicy nose – ‘almost chilli with apricot’, according to my notes – and a vivid, tangy palate with apricot, peach and pear and a touch of white pepper. Lovely acidity, lovely balance. You may find 2007 on the shelf: judging by the 2008, I’d have no hesitation in trying it. 13% abv.
£7.49 until June 16, Waitrose

2008 Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko
Another mouthwatering summer wine on offer at 25% off – so £7.49 until June 16. Full-bodied but fresh and sappy, with honeyed lemon-peel and spice flavours and a long, lemony, mineral finish. It comes from windswept old vines grown in the volcanic soils of Santorini, and assyrtiko is the main grape variety with a little aidani and athiri thrown in. Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri – they could be characters in an opera. 13.5% abv
£7.49 until June 16, Waitrose

2009 Longue-Dog Grenache Shiraz, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Sorry, if these puns make you groan, but you've got to admit it's easier to pronounce than Hatzidakis Assyrtiko. More to the point, it's a really good buy – a great barbecue wine with a fun label. It’s rounded and supple and packed with juicy cherry fruit and peppery spice. There’s a touch of sweetness on the finish, which perhaps doesn’t add anything (er, except sweetness) but it doesn’t really get in the way either. Drink this year. 14% abv.
£4.99, Sainsbury’s

Friday, June 4, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 4 June 2010

2009 Blind River Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Latest vintage from this young but impressive property and team in the Awatere Valley subregion of Marlborough. Intensely fresh and aromatic, with grass, lime and passionfruit and a subtle mineral note; well-balanced, very stylish. 13% abv. There’s only a limited parcel of stock, so you’ll need to get cracking if you want some, but there’s not the same hurry to drink it: it’ll still be delicious next summer.
£12.99, or £10.39 by the case, Oddbins

The 2009 vintage will go down in history as one of the greats for Beaujolais. Here are my first two recommendations, sourced by Jasper Morris who lives in Burgundy and was quick off the mark because he was already tracking down new growers and domaines in what he believes is a region in renaissance.

2009 Alain Chatoux, Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes
Sappy-fresh and fabulously fragrant, with juicy, sweet, strawberry and plum fruit, a supple, satiny texture over a fine-boned frame, and a fresh, stony finish. It comes from 50-100 year old vines growing on steep, granitic slopes at about 700m. Jasper Morris reckons the wine will stay much as it is for 10 years. 12.5% abv.
£9.95, or £8.95 by the case, Berry Bros & Rudd

2009 Jean-Paul Dubost, Moulin-à-Vent En Brenay
A heady, rich but fresh perfume, with lush, vibrant, black-fruit and blueberry flavours and a backbone of fine tannins and acidity – all in balance and beautifully sustained to a long finish. Irresistible now, but it will certainly keep a decade more and become more burgundian as it does so. 12.5% abv.
£15.95, or £14.35 by the case, Berry Bros & Rudd

Friday, May 28, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 28 May 2010

2006 Cloudy Bay Riesling, Marlborough
Majestic says it expects to have sold out of this by this weekend, but it’s still on the website, so it may be worth making a few ‘phone calls if you’re interested. Should you be interested? Well, it’s the first time a Cloudy Bay dry (or almost dry) Riesling has been sold in the UK, so if you’re a CB groupie it’s probably a must. As far as quality is concerned, there isn’t a doubt: tinglingly fresh and aromatic, with aromas of lime, spice, flowers and minerals wrapped in the honey of age. The palate is medium-weight, intense and zesty, with spicy citrus flavours and touches of wax and honeyed sweetness before a long, crisp finish. 12.5% abv. As for the price, it’s Cloudy Bay: you have to pay for the name.
£108 for 6 bottles, Majestic

2009 Badenhorst Secateurs White, Swartland
A full-bodied, rich, creamy-textured, old-vine chenin blanc with bags of flavour and vibrant balancing acidty – a mouthful of peach and citrus fruit, straw and honey, pepper and herbs. It was made by the irrepressible Adi Badenhorst (ex Rustenberg) in a fashionably old-fashioned way – whole bunches in old concrete fermenters and finished off in huge, old oak foudres. 14% abv and it carries it well. A lot of wine for your money.
£8.50, Stone Vine & Sun;

2006 Chofflet-Valdenaire, Givry 1er Cru Clos Jus
Serious but delightful red Givry, with a sweet, floral, red-berry perfume that is almost new world in style and a savoury, earthy side that could only be red burgundy; silky texture, lovely purity of flavour and polished tannins and acidity. 13% abv. You can drink it now and it will be at its peak for at least another three years. Classy burgundy for under £20.
£19.50, Stone, Vine & Sun

Friday, May 21, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 21 May 2010

2009 Domaine du Cros, Lo Sang del Païs, Marcillac
This could be one of my desert-island wines – the sort of uncomplicated but delicious red that you could drink everyday, with or without food. It goes very well with lamb – and the local aligot. It’s medium-bodied, soft and fresh, with enticing fresh blackcurrant fruit and a distinctive flavour that manages to be both savoury and sweet, combining earthy spice, minerals, graphite and smoky coffee. If you haven’t come across Marcillac before, it’s a tiny appellation in the Aveyron department in southwest France with the darkest red soil I’ve ever seen. The vineyards go up to 600m on steep, often terraced, hillsides. Lo Sang del Païs (the blood of the countryside) is made from vines about 25 years old, the domaine’s younger vines – the rest are closer to 100 years. The grape variety is mansois (sometimes minus the final ‘s’), which is better known as fer or fer servadou and is also known as braucol (in Gaillac) and pinenc (in Saint-Mont). Philippe Teulier and his son Julien cultivate about 30ha, making them them Marcillac’s largest growers. 12.5% abv
£7.75, The Wine Society; Les Caves de Pyrène.

2009 Quinta do Vallado Moscatel Galego Branco, Douro
This extraordinary, young, dry white is made from muscat à petits grains (or moscatel gallego branco), the classiest muscat, in the port-producing Douro region. It’s aromatic, full-bodied and bone-dry with bracing, youthful acidity. The aromas go from fresh grapes to ginger and lime to a powerful, minty, herbal note and it has a lingering, salty-mineral finish. Uncompromising, but very exciting. I love it. Drink with fish, seafood and salads. 14% abv.
£10, Bibendum.

2008 Land’s End Sauvignon Blanc, Elim
Medium-bodied, brisk and zesty, with ripe, spicy, green-fruit flavours, a savoury, briny flavour and a nicely textured mid-palate – the latter thanks to a tiny proportion of the wine being barrique-fermented and to 11% semillon filling out the sauvignon. These Elim vineyards, which belong to Hidden Valley in Stellenbosch, are just 17km from the ocean. 13.2% abv
£9.99, or £7.99 by the case, Oddbins.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 14 May 2010

2006 Oorain Victoria
This weird and wonderful sweet red wine from Eric Fabre’s Château d’Anglès estate in La Clape, Languedoc (see Wines of the Week, March 26) is aromatisé à l’érable naturel – delicately sweetened with maple syrup. But it’s not fortified (unlike vin doux naturel), so the alcohol is only 13%. It’s syrah with a little grenache, tastes of dried figs, rich fruitcake and spice and is rounded and velvety. It’s medium-sweet, rather than intensely sweet, and is delicious with dark chocolate (66-72% cocoa solids). The idea came from Fabre’s cousin, chocolatier Olivier Oorain.
£19.99, Essentially Wine

2004 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru
A great follow-up to the 2002 (Wines of the Week , December 18 2009). Honeyed macaroons, cream and sweet oranges on the nose; pure, chiselled fruit on the palate with biscuity, nutty, brioche richness and a backbone of fine acidity. Five years’ ageing on its lees and six months in bottle before release. Another star from this small and perfectly formed co-operative. 12% abv.
£30.99, Waitrose

2008 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Sartarelli
Light, fresh perfume – hints of lemon, peach and almond; a softly textured but briskly fresh palate with a sappy, citrus-peel flavour and a crisp finish. An ideal medium-bodied summer aperitif or something to accompany simply cooked shellfish. 12.5% abv.
£8.99 (£7.19 by the case), Oddbins

Thursday, May 6, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 7 May 2010

2009 Le Petit Salvard Cheverny
This is a brilliant cheaper alternative to Pouilly-Fumé and one of the few wines in which you find sauvignon blanc and chardonnay together. Not that there’s much chardonnay in this – just a smidgeon to give a little bit of rounder, peachy fruit to the pungent, smoky aroma and tangy lime-juice flavours. 12% abv.
£7.99, Waitrose

2007 Joseph Drouhin Saint-Amour
When good, the Beaujolais Cru are great food wines. You could drink this with all sorts of fish, meat, poultry or veg, although nothing too heavy. It has an enticing wild strawberry fragrance and flavour, a touch of spice and a mouthwatering juicy softness. 13% abv.
£8.99, Waitrose

2008 Ettore Germano Langhe Nebbiolo
There was some discussion at the Oddbins tasting about whether this was expensive. All I can say is that it’s delicious and I could drink it anytime. It’s all rose petals and cherries on the nose and fresh, perfumed and lightly chewy in the mouth. It’s not a broodingly complex nebbiolo – just wonderfully expressive of both grape variety and Piedmont. 13.5% abv.
£15.99 (£12.79 by the case), Oddbins

Monday, May 3, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 30 April 2010

Better late than never, I hope. No, don't ask.
2008 Taste the Difference Alsace Gewurztraminer
2008 Alsace Gewuztraminer, Cave de Turckheim

I’ve been tasting lots of Alsace wines for a food matching column I’m doing on and these two shone in their price price range. Both are from the Cave de Turckheim and have textbook gewurz aromas of roses, lychees and Turkish delight and both are clean and crisp right through to the finish. The first is more aromatic and slightly lighter and sweeter; the second is a little richer and fuller with white peach and apricot flavours. Both are 13% abv and have screwcaps.
£7.64 for the Taste the Difference, Sainsbury’s
£8.25 for the second,; £8.65, Waitrose

2006 Le Grand Noir GSM, Vin de Pays d’Oc
Very perfumy with those mouthwatering stony-mineral characters you get from Minervois (quite a lot of the fruit comes from Minervois vineyards via a group of six co-ops). Ripe but fresh-tasting with raspberryish fruit and peppery spice; medium-full, supple, nicely dry and well-balanced. 13% abv. Not particularly cheap, but a thoroughly good, versatile wine with a delightful label. The men behind Le Grand Noir are Robert Joseph (wine writer and general wine-man-at-large), winemaker Hugh Ryman (ex Jaubertie etc) and Kevin Shaw (Stranger & Stranger).
£8.95, Robersons

2008 Château de Pennautier, Cabardès
An oak-free blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, grenache, syrah, cabernet franc and malbec from south-facing, but cool, hillside vineyards in Cabardès, the only AOC in Languedoc where you’re allowed to make these Bordeaux-meets-the-Rhône blends. The winemaker used to be at Château Mouton-Rothschild, no less. Deep purple, with warm, spicy, earthy aromas, sweet, ripe black-fruit, graphite and tapenade flavours and firm, grainy tannins. Opens up in the glass, so worth decanting into a jug an hour or so before you want to drink it. Good with herby, garlicky meat, duck or beans. 13% abv.
£6.99, or £5.99 for two or more, Majestic

Friday, April 23, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 23 April 2010

2009 MIP* Made in Provence, Côtes de Provence
Slightly dotty name, but a delightful, perfumed rosé from Domaine de Sainte Lucie in Puyloubier on the lower slopes of Mont Sainte Victoire. It’s the palest of pale with cherry and raspberry flavours, a hint of ginger and apricot and a fresh, smooth, dry finish. 12% abv
£10.95, or £9.50 as part of a mixed case, Lea & Sandeman

2009 Seifried Nelson Sauvignon Blanc
Ripe grapefruit, pea-shoot and gooseberry aromas and flavours – classic and well-defined, but not over-assertive. There’s a faint suggestion of salt and minerals, a bit of chalkiness to the texture and a clean, crisp finish with just a touch of well-balanced sweetness. Well-priced sauvignon from New Zealand's Nelson region. 13% abv.
£7.99, Marks & Spencer

2007 Vincent Morey Bourgogne Rouge
It’s hard for simple bourgogne rouge to compete with the onslaught of pinot noirs from New Zealand, but this one, from Vincent Morey in Santenay, shouts burgundy and pinot noir, and does so at a fairly modest price. It has a lovely red berry and rose petal fragrance, crunchy, just-ripe, red-berry fruit in the mouth, a gentle, silky texture and a clean, refreshing finish
13% abv. £14.99,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 16 April 2010

Jacquart Brut Tradition Rosé/Jacquart Brut Mosaïque Rosé Champagne
Two labels – Tradition is replacing Mosaïque – for a fresh, rounded, fruity and thoroughly enjoyable pink champagne. Sure, you can find more complex pink champagnes, but you can also find an awful lot of less good more expensive ones. This has a scent of roses and strawberries, a creamy palate with hints of cherries and apricots, as well as red fruits, and a fresh finish. 12.5% abv.
£30, or £22.50 each for 2 or more, Majestic (from April 27 the prices change to £28, or £23 for 2).

2005 CVNE Rioja Reserva
I meant to recommend this before, but the deal which brings the price down below £10 lasts another 10 days, so there's still time. It’s benchmark stuff: quite intense and structured, but elegant, with long-lasting smoky, spicy oak flavours and a sweetness and freshness to the fruit. You can drink it now, but there’s no hurry: it’ll be good for another eight years. 13.5% abv.
Majestic, £12.99, or £9.74 when you buy any 2 Spanish wines

2007 El Camino Rioja
A youthful Rioja with juicy cherry and berry fruit, spicy, toasty flavours and a touch of caramel and chocolate – the latter flavours and the smoothness of texture courtesy of an eight-month stint in one-year-old American oak barrels. There’s nothing sophisticated about it but it’s certainly good value at the current price (reduced from £7.99). 13.5% abv.
£4.99, Oddbins

Friday, April 9, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 9 April 2010

2008 Duc de Vendôme, Saint-Mont
A medium-bodied, tangy, dry white made from distinctive local grape varieties in southwest France – perfect for the sunny, spring day we’ve got in London. Citrus, orchard fruit and a briny note on the nose; apricot, peach and a hint of creaminess on the palate, and a fresh, herbal, citrus finish. The grape varieties are gros manseng, petit courbu and arrufiac. 13% abv.
£5.24, Waitrose; £4.97, These prices are valid until 11 May. Usual price is £6.99

2009 Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Stellenbosch
Intensely fragrant with orange zest, lemon and sweet green-bean aromas and a refined, complex palate with fresh-fruit sweetness and spicy, green-edged, mineral flavours. Long, fresh and interesting. It comes from a single vineyard – Schaapenberg – four miles from the ocean. Drink over the next three years. 13.5% abv
£13.95, Jeroboams

2008 Pathway Pinot Noir, Ara, Marlborough
A fresh, supple, medium-bodied pinot, with sweet cherry fruit, a touch of cinnamon, an attractive sweet-earth character and the lightest of oak and tannin. Well-balanced and versatile with food, although you could also drink it on its own. And at last a recommendation from Morrisons. 13% abv.
£9.99, Morrisons

Friday, April 2, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 2 April 2010

2009 Reichsrat von Buhl Kellermeister Selection Riesling, Pfalz
Lemon, spice, peaches and minerals, and a delightful suggestion of strawberries. Fresh and zippy, but with lots of middle and a lingering, dry, tangy finish. If only more people in Britain knew about these versatile, food-friendly, dry German wines, or were more willing to try them. 11.5% abv.
£10.49, Laithwaites

2008 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay, Coastal Region
There’s nothing subtle about this Cape wine but, if you like a rich style of chardonnay where you can see the oak at work, this is one to try. It’s ripe but zesty, with lemon and pineapple fruit, and salted caramel, butterscotch, cashewnut and toasty flavours. Its smooth texture and touch of sweetness is balanced by a whistle-clean finish – a bit like home-made lemon curd. 14% abv.
£7.99, Booths; £8.09, Waitrose

2007 Nicolas Jaboulet-Perrin Frères, Saint-Joseph
Having been in two minds about recommending this at £30, the price quoted at The Wine Society tasting, I finally decided it was too delicious to pass over, only to discover that the tasting sheet was wrong: the price is £17. It’s still not cheap for Saint-Joseph, but it’s surely worth it. It has an enticing smell of freshly ground black pepper and crushed raspberries, a palate sustained by pure, sweet fruit, stony, savoury flavours, supple tannins and a succulent texture. It should stay the course until 2018. 13% abv
£17, The Wine Society

Friday, March 26, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 26 March 2010

2008 Château d’Anglès Classique Blanc, La Clape
A white that shows: a) just how good the white wines of Languedoc can be (and this is the cheaper of the two Anglès whites); and b) why blends can be so much more than the sum of their parts. It’s based on bourboulenc, with some grenache blanc, roussanne and marsanne, and is lightly aromatic with floral and citrus notes; the palate is ripe and honeyed with creamy, peachy fruit, but with the richness off-set by lovely citrus zing. Château d’Anglès, in its present form, is the creation of Eric Fabre who bought the estate in 2001 after 25 years in Bordeaux, eight of them as technical director of Château Lafite. If you don’t know Essentially Wine, now is the time. There are two shops, Chipstead in Surrey (blue plaque moment: I was brought up there) and Richmond, which is a rather larger and better known town in Surrey.
£10.49, Essentially Wine

2008 Fabre Montmayou Phebus Cabernet Sauvignon, Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza
Full-bodied but sleek Argentine cabernet sauvignon – and all the better for being unoaked to show off its perfume and purity of fruit. Aromas and flavours of violets, raspberries and cassis around a core of ripe yet fresh fruit and a satin-smooth texture. The vineyard altitude – 1050 metres – doubtless goes a long way to explain the finesse and the effortless way the wine carries its 14.5% abv. That, plus wines of a decent middling age (average 15 years) and the expertise of Bordeaux-born owner Hervé Joyaux Favre. 13.5% abv
£7.99, Waitrose

2008 Clos des Cordeliers Cuvée Tradition, Saumur-Champigny
I hadn’t come across the Ratron cousins' Clos des Cordeliers until I tasted this at Richards Walford’s January tasting. What a find – invitingly fresh, red and green-pepper fragrance with rounded raspberry fruit and the supplest of tannins. Medium-bodied, beautifully balanced essence of cabernet franc. 13.5% abv £9.99, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 19 March 2010

2009 Domaine La Bastide Roussanne, Vin de Pays d’Hauterive
A lovely lime and floral perfume, bristlingly fresh lime and sweet-apple flavours and a rounded, smooth texture. Hauterive is in the Aude department, covering part of the Corbières area. 13% abv.
£7.99 (or £6.99 if you buy two or more bottles), Majestic

2008 Tasmanian Pinot Noir
Intensely fragrant, juicy and fresh, with black fruit as well as red berry flavours. Medium-bodied with fine acidity and just a touch of tannin. Not a complex pinot noir, but pure and aromatic and at a giveaway price. Made for M&S by Andrew Pirie’s Tamar Ridge Estates. 13% abv.
£7.99, Marks & Spencer

2007 Hacienda El Espino 1707 Syrah, Almansa
Expressive, raspberry-scented old-vine syrah from vineyards at 750m in Almansa, southern Spain. Full and round with succulent fruit, touches of spice and well-balanced oak (3 months in American and French barrels). Polished, persuasive syrah. 13.5% abv.
£8.49, The Real Wine Company

Friday, March 12, 2010

WINES of the WEEK, 12 March 2010

2008 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley
Vivid, racy Australian riesling – tangy lime, apple and peach with a hint of spice; dry, but a little less steely and mineral than you find in Clare. 12.5% abv
£9.99, Oddbins

2009 Tesco Finest Darling Sauvignon
Stylish Cape sauvignon with the sweetness and freshness of sugarsnap peas, a finely textured mid-palate and faintly salty, mineral finish. 13.5% abv
£6.99, Tesco

2008 Tesco Finest Malbec, Mendoza
Medium-full with dark, spicy, slightly smoky plum flavours, subtle oak, fine tannins and a dry, clean finish. A very well balanced, well-judged wine, made by Catena. 13.5% abv
£6.98, Tesco

Friday, March 5, 2010

WiNES of the WEEK 5 March 2010

All under £8 this week.

2009 The Foundry Grenache Blanc, Coastal Region
The white wines coming out of South Africa just keep getting more and more exciting. Chris Williams makes a terrific Viognier, but this is the first time I’ve tasted his Grenache Blanc. It’s fairly full-bodied and has a smidgen of Viognier, which gives a perfumed apricot edge to the apple, pepper and mineral flavours, but it’s a less showy wine than the Viognier, as you’d expect. There’s a little bit of oak to round it out and round it off and the finish is clean and dry. 13.5% abv
£7.95, The Wine Society

2008 Cruz de Piedra Garnacha, Calatayud
Ebullient, young Spanish red made from 60-100 year old garnacha growing high up in the Calatayud mountains southeast of Rioja. Juicy, sweet-tomato and red-berry fruit spiced up with lots of earthy white-pepper flavours; medium-full, dry and fresh. 13.5% abv.
£5.25, The Wine Society; £5.99, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen

2007 Château La Bouscade Old Vine Carignan, Minervois
This is 14.5% abv, it’s been aged in oak barrels for 16 months and it’s carignan. Sounds like a recipe for the sort of heavyweight you can stand a knife up in. It’s certainly full-bodied, but it’s perfectly balanced and if there were any rustic, grating carignan tannins they’ve have been planed to smoothness by the oak. It has a lovely raspberry fragrance and fruitness, alongside stony, mineral, spicy flavours.
£7.99, Majestic; £6.99 when you buy two or more.

Friday, February 26, 2010

WiNES of the WEEK 26 February 2010

2009 TyDy Sauvignon, Vin de Pays du Val de Loire
Great value, zingy, aromatic Loire Sauvignon – a combination of new and old worlds. Greengage and mango on the nose; ripe goosberries, nettles and a faint suggestion of chalk and minerals on the palate. 12.5% abv. Shown alongside Vacheron’s 2009 Sancerre at the SITT tasting in London this week, the Vacheron (at two-and-a half times the price) was exciting, but this didn’t look remotely shabby.
£6.95, Stevens Garnier Wine Merchants, 01865 263303

2008 Domaine Verpoix, Clos de la Chapelle des Bois, Fleurie
Just what you hope Fleurie will be: fragrant with cherries and roses, juicy, sweet strawberry fruit on the palate, a little bit of substance and texture, but not too much, the lightest of tannins and an effortlessly fresh finish. 13% abv. If you want something a little bit more structured, try the 2007 Regis Champier Brouilly (£11.99) or the Laurent Gaulthier Morgon Grands Cras (£12.99).
£12.99, Oddbins

2009 Tahbilk Viognier, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
This is fresh, ripe and lemony on the nose with just a suggestion of flowers and exotic fruit, but it isn’t strikingly viognier (which is perhaps why I like it). The palate is full, with a lightly creamy, leesy texture, ripe citrussy fruit and a really fresh, zesty finish. 14% abv.
£9.95, Jeroboams

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 19 February 2010

Having bought Lay & Wheeler last year (until then, family-owned and run), Majestic showed some of the L&W wines at a press tasting for the first time last week. There were a couple of rather stinky (bretty) wines, but overall it was a good line-up. I was particularly struck by these three reds.

2006 Domaine Pierre Usseglio Côtes du Rhône
Excellent Côtes du Rhône from a top Châteauneuf producer. Fragrant, nutty, raspberry nose; succulent fruit on the palate with savoury, stony, peppery flavours; full and dry with polished tannins. 13% abv. This is a great way to get a flavour of the domaine’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a fraction of the price, the 2006 of which would set you back upwards of £26 a single bottle.
£10, Lay & Wheeler.

2007 Gianni Voerzio Dolcetto, Piedmont
If only more dolcetto was like this – appetisingly fresh and fruity with a touch of licorice on the nose, and mouthfilling, juicy, sweet cherry fruit and softly chewy tannins. Just what the textbooks promise, but so few dolcetto deliver. 13% abv.
£14.25, Lay & Wheeler.

2004 Château Paloumey, Haut-Médoc
This is lovely, fragrant, fresh, cedar-scented Médoc with gently sweet fruit and supple, well-integrated oak. Well-balanced and perfect for drinking now and over the next three years. Martine Cazeneuve is the very hands-on (and charming) owner here. 13% abv.
£11.75, Lay & Wheeler.

Friday, February 12, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 12 February 2010

2008 The Society’s Exhibition Tasmanian Chardonnay
I meant to recommend this in the autumn, but it slipped off the radar and it’s now £1 more expensive. But who cares? It’s well worth the higher price and, as my tasting note ended with the comment ‘probably even better in 2010 and 2011’, now is the time. It’s rich and creamy in taste and texture, but off-set by intense lemon-peel acidity, together with a lovely nutty flavour and real depth and complexity. It’s made by the Freycinet winery and beats many a Côte d’Or burgundy for the money. 13.5% abv.
£12.95, The Wine Society

2008 Seresin Leah Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Very pure, very impressive and still young. This is fragrant with roses and summer berries and has a palate of sweet red fruits, savoury mineral flavours, polished oak, a fine acid structure, length and intensity. The hand on the label signifies hand-grown, hand-picked and hand-made (which includes wild yeast fermentation and 11 months maturation in French oak barrels). Drink over the next four years. Gives red burgundy a run for its money. 14% abv.
£18.99, Armit (sold by the 6-bottle case).

2007 Agricola Punica, Montessu, IGT Isola dei Nuraghi
Deep-coloured, full-bodied Sardinian red with a lush aroma of ripe raspberries and a generous, fleshy palate with spicy, liquoricy, black-fruit flavours, hints of fresh herbs and the grip of gently chewy tannins and acidity. It’s 60% carignano with 10% each of syrah, the two cabernets and merlot and it was aged in French barriques. Agricola Punica is a new agency for Armit; both sides must be feeling pretty chuffed. 14.5% abv.
£15.90, Armit (sold by the 6-bottle case).

Friday, February 5, 2010

WINES of the WEEK 5 February 2010

2007 Saint-Romain
Nutty, creamy, wheatmeal flavours with subtle, yet bright, fruit, a leafy freshness and creamy texture. Beautifully balanced, persuasive white burgundy. In fact, it’s always worth looking at any Saint-Romain because it can be such good value. I haven’t put the producer in the wine name above, because Saint-Romain and the vintage is all you see until you peer closely at the label, but it was made for M&S by Fabrice Lesne at Les Senteurs, with input from Nicolas Potel. 13% abv.
£10.99, Marks & Spencer

2007 Pedro Basta, Alentejano
Dark, dense, full-bodied, with ripe, spicy, red-berry and blackcurrant fruit and touches of licorice, chocolate and vanilla; fine chewy tannins. A red with southern Portuguese flavours, but Douro polish, from an estate – Quinta do Centro – belonging to UK wine writer Richard Mayson. You can drink it now, but it should be good for another four years. 13.5% abv.
£12.50, The Wine Society. For other stockists, go to the ‘Quinta do Centro and Sonho Lusitano’ page of

2006 Castello di Rubbia Terrano, Venezia Giulia
A youthful purple colour with a fresh, minerally smell of wet-earth, damsons and licorice; fairly full-bodied with juicy damson and licorice flavours and acidity but almost no tannin. The terrano grape may or may not be refosco (depends who you read) but, either way, the wine is from Carso in Gorizia, close to the Slovenian border, and it coped manfully with bacon-wrapped roast pheasant and slow-cooked red cabbage with apple and juniper. Many a red would have been floored by the sweetness and sharpness of the cabbage. It would also go well with charcuterie, hams, sausages etc. 13% abv. Colasanti is a small, relatively new Italian specialist with some interesting wines.
£16.80, Colasanti