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