Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 21 December 2011

1988 Hugel Alsace Riesling Vendange Tardive, France
This 23-year-old, late-harvest riesling was one of the joint highest scorers, with 94/100 points, in The Wine Gang’s November report It’s a fascinating, food-friendly wine, not least because it doesn’t actually taste sweet. It has honey, beeswax and apricot flavours and a rich, almost oily texture, which all indicate noble rot, but the lemon and lime intensity, the petrolly mineral notes and zesty, crystalline acidity make it taste little more than off-dry (12.5% abv).  
To prove the point, at The Wine Society’s annual festive dinner in London last week, at which the wines of Hugel were matched to the cooking of Emile Jung (3 Michelin stars when he was at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg), it was served with zander and mousseline of pike with crayfish tails in a riesling sauce. (I know what you’re thinking: what a tough life I do lead. Thanks, it’s nice to be appreciated.) You could also drink it as an aperitif or with a hard cheese such as Cheddar or Parmesan. Etienne Hugel said that the reason Hugel still has stock of this (The Wine Society shipped it only recently) is that the vintage was overshadowed by the more showy 1989 and 1990 vintages. The other wine served with the zander-pike-crayfish dish was Hugel’s 2005 Riesling Jubilee – a brilliant match. It's not currently on the Society’s website, but you can order it by phone (01438 741177; code AL6301, £22 a bottle).  
Another useful (and delicious) discovery was pinot gris with artichoke, a veg which can be so tricky with wine. The 2005 Hugel Pinot Gris Jubilee (£11 for 37.5cl; 14% abv) was seamless with the artichoke which accompanied pressed duck, ceps and celeriac purée. The 2009 Jubilee Pinot Noir, also served, was particularly good with the bird itself (the Society has bought this wine but isn’t listing it yet – it has plenty of time to go).

A few more festive treats.
2007 Caiarossa, IGT Toscana, Italy
If you haven’t bought your red for the goose or turkey yet, this lush, velvety Tuscan would do the trick, although you could equally well serve it with beef or venison (I had it with beef cheeks braised in red wine with shallots and chestnuts). Or put it aside for Christmasses to come. It’s cabernet franc and merlot (half the blend), with cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, alicante, syrah and petit verdot from biodynamically cultivated vineyards in the hills behind Cecina. Apart from being fleshy and supple with soft tannins, it’s fragrant and spicy with fresh blueberry fruit and touches of herbs and chocolate (14.5% abv).
£39, Berry Bros & Rudd

2010 Atalayo do Mar Godello, Monterrei, Galicia, Spain
Godello is probably never going to make waves like albariño – there’s far less of it planted for a start – but it’s a dry white to look out for. This one, from old vines fermented with wild yeasts and aged on its lees for two months, has a light spritz and mouthwatering saline freshness, citrus peel, peach and apricot fruit, creamy texture fruit and lemon/lime finish (13% abv).
£10.99, Virgin Wines

2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut, Champagne, France
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at how good this vintage Veuve is, but I was. The honeyed, toasty nose leads into a palate that balances freshness with sweet, elegant fruit, rich, spicy, toasted-hazelnut flavours and fine, appley acidity. Perfect now, but with years in it (12% abv).
£45.29, selected Sainsbury’s, and Ocado; £48.88, Fortnum & Mason

2010 Blind River Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Dark, full and rounded with succulent, sweet cherry, plum and raspberry fruit, a satin-smooth texture and a more savoury, nutty, spicy character that, given some age, will probably become more gamey. 
£14.99 if you buy any 2 bottles of New Zealand Wine (otherwise £18.74), Majestic

Sunday, December 18, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 18 December 2011

As usual the Co-op, or The co-operative, as it brands itself, has some very good Christmas offers. Below are four of the reds; prices valid until January 3 inclusive.

2006 Marqués de Valido Rioja Reserva, Spain
Attractive, mature, soft-textured Rioja with sweet, spicy fruit set against savoury, smoky, meaty, notes and nutty, slightly resiny oak. 13% abv.
£5.49 (down from £10.99)

2009 Château Brassac, Bordeaux Supérieur, France
Easygoing, modern-style, Merlot-dominated Bordeaux. Ripe, smooth black fruit with a soft, dry, cedary edge; clean and supple. 13% abv.
£6.99 (down from £11.99)

2005 Château Saint-Paul, Haut-Médoc, France
Nicely dense, harmonious cru bourgeois with textbook blackcurranty fruit, savoury, spicy, cigar-box flavours and modulated tannins. Balanced and well sustained. Perfect now, but it’ll be on form for another three or four years. 13% abv.
£9.99 (down from £14.99)

2010 La Grange St Martin Côtes du Rhône Réserve, Rhône, France
Rounded, juicy, peppery red with an undertow of spiced hot-chocolate. Made largely with fruit from their own vineyards by the Perrin family of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate Château Beaucastel. £13% abv.
£5.99 (down from £10.99)

And now for something completely different:
2011 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Superb new vintage from Kevin Judd. Tinglingly fresh, juicy elderflower, herb and lemon flavours with a mouthwatering saline, mineral character and a fine chalky texture. Great length and presence. Just one criticism: a bottle weighing 727g when the average is abut 500g. This wine is far too good for a macho, heavy bottle.
£15.99 from independents (Swig, Taurus Wines, The Secret Cellar and many more)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 7 December 2011

Two of the wines I tasted from The Wine Society’s Small Wonders 6-bottle case of reds from around the world have already run out and been replaced by others, so if you want a case – and I highly recommend it – you’d better be quick. It costs £89, which is great value. One of the replacements, 2008 Katnook Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, I haven’t tasted, but here are brief notes on the the other five. All can be drunk now, but there’s no hurry over any of them.

2004 Château Ampélia, Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France
Cedar, cocoa, spice and black fruit. Dry, soft but structured, polished and fresh on the finish. Perfect for drinking now and over the next two or three years. 13% abv. 

2007 Lanzaga, Rioja, Spain
Lovely cherry perfume and fruit on the palate, with liquorice, spice, chocolate and vanilla. Supple and fleshy, but with a firm central core. Impressive modern Rioja that will provide a good five years of drinking pleasure. Made by Telmo Rodriguez. 14% abv.
(£14.95 by the bottle)

2009 Mount Koinga Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Fragrant red berry and bergamot nose with honeyed redcurrant fruit on the palate and refined chocolaty richness. Pure and clean-edged. A single-vineyard made for The Wine Society by Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock. 13.5% abv.
(£17.70 by the bottle)

2007 Meandro do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal
The second wine of Quinta do Vale Meão, and very good it is. Deeply scented with violets and black fruit and touches of black olive and liquorice. Full and concentrated palate with dark fruit, chocolate and black pepper underscored by oak. Long, silky, supple. Drink any time over the next five years. 14.5% abv.
(£16 by the bottle)

2009 Mascarello Dolcetto D’Alba, Bricco, Piedmont, Italy
Full, succulent dolcetto packed with plum and cherry fruit and sweet-earth and undergrowth notes underpinned by fine, grainy, dry tannins. From the top of Mascarello’s Monprivato vineyard. Drink over the next three or more years. 14.5% abv.

Friday, November 18, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 18 November 2011

2010 Forrest Semillon, Marlborough, New Zealand
The first Forrest semillon for ten years. Normally, they get so little of it they blend it into the sauvignon blanc, but the 2010 semillon was exceptionally ripe and aromatic, so they kept it separate, fermenting 10% in old oak and all the rest in tank, and keeping it all on its lees for six months. The result is a full-bodied and nutty wine with ripe peach, fig and gooseberry fruit, a leesy richness to the texture, a touch of vanilla, and zingy acidity. Well worth the wait and the effort. 14% abv.
£14.99, Adnams

2011 Las Mulas Sauvignon, Central Valley, Chile
From the organic San Luis de Alico vineyard. Smoky, slightly flinty aromas and a vivid, grassy palate with hints of pineapple sweetness and mint. Lovely bite and freshness.
£8.99, Waitrose and

2009 Domaine de Mourchon Tradition, Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret , France
In this vintage I prefer the unoaked Tradition, Domaine de Mourchon’s original red, to the more expensive, older vine, oak-matured Grande Réserve and Family Reserve Grenache. The latter pair, made from very low yields (around 20hl/ha and 15hl/ha and vines aged 60–100 years), are impressive in a monumental way, but just a bit too ripe and alcoholic for my taste. There’s also a 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape but I won’t be tasting that for another month or two. Apparently the 2010 vintage is back to normal.
The 2009 Tradition, made from two-thirds grenache, a quarter syrah and a tenth carignan, all aged around 40 years and vinified and matured in concrete vats, has an alluring perfume – floral notes, blackberries and a fleeting whiff of ripe apricot. The palate, with its blackberry and black pepper flavours and hints of clove and licorice, is ripe, fleshy and smooth, but framed by soft, grainy tannins and enough acidity to give life and freshness. 14.5% abv. Drink over the next four years.
£12.99, Averys.
The Big Red Wine Company, which stocks the entire Domaine de Mourchon range, doesn’t have the 2009 Tradition yet, but does have the the 2007 (£11.25) which was very good when I tasted it a couple of years ago and should still be.

2009 Viñalba Malbec Syrah, Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina
An 80:20 Malbec Syrah blend, half of which was aged in French oak for 12 months. The oak gives polish and a fine, smoky, toasty edge to the dark, concentrated, beautifully fresh fruit and the spicy, more savoury flavours. 14.5% abv. Very good value. 

£8.48, Asda

Monday, November 14, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 14 November 2011

Having missed a few weeks while getting Gourmet off the ground and preparing for The Wine Gang wine fairs, I'm now throwing a few mid-week wines in. Dudley & de Fleury is well worth a look if you're after some well-chosen wines from small, family-run French operations. The focus is on the south of France, but they venture into other areas and countries too. Below are some highlights from last week’s tasting (sadly, Fanny Sabre-less – don’t ask). I didn’t like everything, especially not the bretty, volatile Garsinde from La Grange de Quatre Sous, and prices are highish, but mostly the wines are all about quality and individuality. Many people will know of Domaine Jones (below) but, for those who don't, it's the tiny (3.3ha) estate established in 2009 by Katie Jones, ex sales and marketing director of the Mont Tauch wine co-op. The vineyards are in Maury and Tuchan and the wines from her debut vintages are incredibly impressive (aka delicious).    

Froment-Griffon Brut Tradition NV Champagne, France
Champagne made from a high 85% pinot meunier at a tiny, family run co-operative in the premier cru village of Sermiers in the Vallée de la Marne. Lightly honeyed, peachy fruit, soft textured and well-rounded with a zippy, fresh finish. A crowd-pleaser, but well made and by no means run-of-the-mill.

2008 Virgile Joly Rouge! Coteaux du Languedoc, France
Organic, unoaked blend of syrah (50%), grenache (40%), cinsault and carignan. Juicy, raspberryish fruit with peppery, smoky flavours, soft tannins and a clean, dry, fresh finish.  Don’t serve too warm.  

2010 Domaine Jones Dry Muscat, Vin de France
Fragrant, grapy and gingery with perfumy white-peach fruit. Refreshing and dry and more substantial in the mouth than you might expect.
2010 Domaine Jones Blanc, Vin de France
Grenache gris with a smidgen of muscat. Rich but effortlessy fresh dry white with mineral, peach and citrus flavours. Delicious.
2009 Domaine Jones Rouge, Vin de France
Old-vine grenache with a touch of carignan. Sweet, but fresh, pure fruit with nutty, mineral and pepper notes and fine tannins.

2009 Lucien Lardy Fleurie Les Roches
Beautifully scented, pure red fruit and rose petals. Rounded and silky but with mineral length and fine tannin. Quite pinot noir-like. Could become burgundian with age.

2010 Gonard et Fils Viré-Clessé
Quite creamy and ripe, but with good acidity and lots of mineral, citrus and apple alongside the riper apricot. Structured and textured.

Friday, November 11, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 11 November 2011

2009 Louis Jadot Marsannay (Blanc), Burgundy, France

Fresh, creamy nose with malty, light buttered Brazil-nut oak. Full, but quite tight and mineral on the palate with a creamy texture and zesty acidity. Fermented and aged for 14 months in French oak barrels. Eminently drinkable now, but will benefit from another year. 13% abv.

£17.99, or £15.99 when you buy 2 or more, Majestic

2010 Howard’s Folly Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, Portugal

From the subregion of Monção e Melgaço where Vinho Verde is allowed to be 100% alvarinho. This is David Baverstocks first white under the Howard’s Folly label, and very good it is. Ripe, sweet citrus and olive oil aromas. Intense, vibrant palate, with dried apricot and really zesty lemon fruit and a mouthwatering, slightly salty, sea-breeze finish. Good acidity and substance. Will take a bit of age. 13% abv.

£12.95, Hercules Wine Warehouse (

2009 Domaine des Crès Ricards, Alexaume, IGP Mont Baudile, Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc, France

I’ve recommended this new red before (if not here, then in House & Garden or Gourmet), but I tasted it for a second time recently and was impressed again. Very spicy on the nose with some crisp black pepper, perfumed berries and an attractive hint of Carignan leather. Full, smooth, clean palate; spicy, nutty, slightly chocolaty and honeyed, with deep, blackcuranty fruit. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Carignan grown in soils with large Chateauneuf-type pebbles and it’s a Jean-Claude Mas wine. 13.5% abv.

£9.99, Majestic

2007 Viña Mayu Syrah Reserva, Elqui Valley, Chile

I must have recommended this Chilean syrah in the past too but, again, I re-tasted it recently and it deserves another mention. Sweet, ripe and blackberryish on the nose with a welcome herbal freshness and the vanilla and chocolate of oak. Weighty but fresh on the palate, with a savoury combination of pepper, smoke, tar and liquorice in harmony with sweet, fresh, red fruit and evident but not overpowering oak (60% of the wine was aged in new and used French barrels for five to eight months). 14% abv.

£9.15, Asda

Friday, October 28, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 28 October 2011

Continuing from where I left off, below are some of the reds at under £10 from the annual tasting of The Bunch, a group of six independent merchants whose slogan is ‘for wines less ordinary’ – a fair claim. There’s also another Symington single quinta port – one that wasn't at the London tasting, which is why I forgot to include it last week. First, though, something else I failed to mention last week: the Spanish white wine taste-off in London between two estates – the all-Albariño wines of Pazo de Señoráns (Rías Baixas) and the wines of Can Ràfols dels Caus in Penedès. Each showed 11 vintages going back to 1996. I gave my equal highest scores to three wines: 1996 and 1999 Pazo de Señoráns Seleccion Añada ­– thrillingly fresh on the nose, deep and complex on the palate; and the 1999 Can Ràfols dels Caus, a wonderfully, rich, intense and steely 100% chenin blanc from a single vineyard. So I gave my highest scores to the two oldest wines and one that was only a little younger. Who says Spanish white wines don’t age?

1999 Quinta da Senhora de Ribeira

Lovely single quinta port that can be drunk any time over the next 15–20 years. Fragrant, intense and densely flavoured with black fig, cassis, violets, spices, a touch of eucalyptus and ripe, rounded tannins. When a Dow’s vintage is declared, this quinta’s wine goes into it.

£65, The Wine Society.

2009 Gonnet, Ventoux, Rhône, France

Perfumed, ripe and spicy with juicy, raspberryish fruit. A sort of baby Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the family that owns Font de Michel. 14% abv.

£7.50, Adnams

2010 Domaine des Filles de Septembre Tradition, Côtes de Thongue (IGP), Languedoc, France

Youthful, juicy, spicy, earthy Mediterranean red with a herby garrigue accent and some carignan grip and dryness. 14% abv.

£8.50, Yapp

2009 Domaine Camp Galhan, Les Pérrassières, Duché d’Uzès, (IGP) Languedoc, France

Full-bodied, full-flavoured, warm, spicy, grenache-based red with succulent fruit and balancing dry tannins. 14% abv.

£9.50, Yapp

2010 Bodegas Monteabellon, Avaniel, Ribera del Duero, Spain

Richly fruity, unoaked tinto fino (aka tempranillo) with flavours of chocolate-coated, wine-soaked cherries, a minerally, peppery undertow and some useful ripe tannin in the background. 13.5% abv.

£9.75, Berry Bros

Friday, October 21, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 22 October 2011

Wines of the Week resumes its normal, erratic service today, at the end of a week when, maddeningly, I had to miss the tasting of 2009 Grands Crus Bordeaux in London, but made up for it by attending the Symington family’s tasting of single quinta vintage ports from seven of their 26 quintas. It was a tasting that demonstrated the longevity and quality of these single quintas and their very different and distinct characters.

We started with all seven 2006s: there wasn’t a weak link, but the star was the dazzling Quinta do Vesuvio which, without question, has 50+ years ahead of it, if anyone keeps it that long, and we went back to an absolutely glorious 1950 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. Three bottles of the 1950 were opened for this London tasting which means the Symingtons now have only three bottles left. They would have had four, but someone dropped one a couple of weeks ago when it had been brought up from the cellar for the joint MDs (Team Sym?) to taste for the first time… Glad it wasn’t me. The other five quintas are Dow’s do Bomfim, Warre’s da Cavadinha, Graham’s do Tua, Dow’s Senhora da Ribeira and Cockburn’s dos Canais.

Berry Bros & Rudd has the 2006 Quinta do Vesuvio at £82.

Back to earth. Below are brief notes on some of the whites from The Bunch’s annual tasting last month. I had no voice and the mother of all colds, but worked my way through a respectable number of wines, including the two dozen on the Under-£10 table. Overall the latter was an impressive group – and varied, too, despite the fact that more than half were French, all 11 of the whites were European and all but two of the 13 reds were European. I’ll cover some of the reds in the next installment.

The Bunch is a group of independent wine merchants, the membership of which has changed a bit over the years, but currently the six are: Adnams, Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Lea & Sandeman, Tanners and Yapp Brothers. Long may they survive and, even better, flourish.

2010 Petite Gasconne Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne (IGP), France

Vivacious, juicy, light white with zesty peach and apple fruit. Made (and wisely screwcapped) by the excellent Producteurs Plaimont co-operative group. 11.5% abv.

£6.49, Corney & Barrow

2009 .COM Branco, Estremoz, Portugal

Sappy Portuguese white with herby lime flavours, good weight in the mouth and a fresh finish. It’s made from indigenous varieties with a little viognier by Tiago Cabaçao and it really is called dot com. 13.5% abv.

£7.50, Adnams

2009 Château Grinou, La Combe de Grinou, Bergerac Sec, France

Delightful semillon/sauvignon blanc blend with aromas of elderflower and fresh minted peas. Gives similarly priced white Bordeaux a run for its money. 12% abv

£8.29, Corney & Barrow

2010 Domaine Félines Jourdan, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

Apples, herbs, and a zesty, salty, mineral freshness. Textbook Picpoul from this consistently good estate. 13.5%.

£8.95, Berry Bros & Rudd; and even more tempting £7.75 from The Wine Society

2010 Terras d’Alter, Terra d’Alter Branco Reserva, Alentejo, Portugal

Another great value Portuguese white. Vibrant, fresh pear, apple and herb aromas and flavours and pithy acidity. Made by Australian Peter Bright. 13.5% abv.

£9.95, Lea & Sandeman

Friday, September 23, 2011


Normal service will resume for Wines of the Week shortly, but in the meantime here’s something to fix in you diaries: The Wine Gang Christmas Wine Fairs In London and Edinburgh ­– the tasting events of the season. We’ve got a brilliant line-up of wines and exhibitors at each, together with sit-down Masterclasses with great speakers and great wines and the inimitable Wine Walks led by the five of us – so that’s Tom, Anthony, Jane, David and me let loose in the hall at pre-ordained times with a gaggle of followers visiting stands to taste favourite wines – everything from the great classics to the fascinatingly quirky. As for the Masterclasses, they’re a bargain, which is why Bollinger was an instant sell out. Sorry about that, but it still leaves Michel Chapoutier, Yalumba icons and Bodegas O Fournier in London, Chablis (including grand cru), the gems of Chile, magnificent Malbecs and hidden Portugal in Edinburgh. Once you’ve bought a ticket for the relevant fair, you can book any or all of them. The Wine Walks are free (because we love doing them): all you need to do is sign up on the lists on the day.

You can get all the details and buy your tickets for London here and for Edinburgh here, but these are the vital statistics:

Saturday 29 October 2011, 12 noon to 6pm, Vinopolis, London SE1.

Saturday 12 November 2011, 12 noon to 6pm, The Merchants’ Hall, Edinburgh.

Earlybird tickets, £15; full-price tickets £20.

London Masterclasses, £15. Edinburgh Masterclasses, £10.

Once you have a ticket, you can come and go during the day, so, if you want to nip out to Borough Market, get lunch or whatever, you can.

There will be more than 600 wines open for tasting in London – and last year the average price per bottle across the 600-plus was not far short of £14. That’s how seriously our exhibitors take visitors to The Wine Gang events. In Edinburgh there’ll be 300 wines priced from £6 to £80. As I say, that’s how seriously exhibitors take you – and us.

You can see the complete list of exhibitors here but, to give you a taster, exhibitors at both include The Wine Society, Majestic, Waitrose and M&S, generic bodies such as Wines of New Zealand and Wines of Argentina and producers such as Blason de Bourgogne, Yalumba and Concha Y Toro. In London, we also have the likes of Lea & Sandeman, Armit, Liberty Wine and Corney & Barrow. In Edinburgh we’re welcoming Valvona & Crolla, Great Grog, Lockett Brothers and House of Menzies among others.

You don't have to be a member of The Wine Gang to come to our Wine Fairs, but it helps! Join here

Thursday, September 1, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 1 September 2011

If anyone thinks that Portuguese white wines start and finish with Vinho Verde, they’ve got a treat in store. Portugal is terribly underrated as a white wine producer. These two are from The Wine Society, but they’re not the only good ones they have – nor the only good Portuguese whites out there. The Sauvignon is a new one from the south west and gives the Loire a run for its money. All we need now is some good weather.

2010 Herdade do Esporão, Verdelho, Alentejo, Portugal

Very floral and perfumy but also smoky; ripe and fairly full-bodied, with an exotic smokiness, lime-cordial intensity and satisfying, refreshing acidity. Delicious. Made down in the south from estate-grown, unoaked-verdelho by Sandra Alves, under the eye of David Baverstock. 13.5% abv.

£8.50, The Wine Society

2010 Dão Sul, Cabriz, Dão, Portugal

Sweet citrus, spice and herbs on the nose and mouthwatering, stony-mineral, smoky, herbal flavours with tangy acidity. Medium-bodied. Very restorative. A blend of malvasia fina, encruzado, cerceal branco and bical (just as you thought). 12.5% abv.

£6.95, The Wine Society

2010 Sensas Sauvignon Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne, France

Really aromatic sauvignon from the Gers – all gooseberry, grassy, herbal aromas with vivid gooseberry fruit on the palate, a nicely chalky texture and a zesty finish. It’s an Alain Grignon wine made by Xavier Roger, a native of the Loire, a region where they know a thing or two about sauvignon. 12.5% abv.

£7.49, Majestic

Saturday, August 6, 2011

WINES of the WEEK 6 August 2011

I didn’t get round to any recommendations last week. I’d like to say I was on holiday, but I was submerged by work. Not just writing and tasting but cooking, including a full-blown Christmas dinner – stuffed roast goose, then Christmas puddings (two of them) – which we ate on one of the hottest days of the year. Still, they do it in Australia. If you’re wondering where you get a goose in the middle of summer, I called Harrods. Ultimately it came from Telmara Farm in Essex and at 6.9kg, it was a whopper. Very good it was too.

2010 Bellingham The Bernard Series Grenache Blanc With Viognier, Paarl, South Africa

A food-friendly 60:40 blend which manages to be fresh, savoury and quite rich all at the same time. The grenache blanc was aged on its lees in oak for five months to give depth and texture, the viognier gives some tropical fruit, but not too much, and there’s a refreshing, zesty, bitter-lemon finish. It’s ready now but will gain over the next year. 14% abv. I say food-friendly because it went well with a risotto made with a rich goose stock and fresh fennel and stood its ground with smoked venison bresaola and salamis ­– not an ethereal match with the smoky charcuterie, but more than acceptable.

£10.99, Tesco (selected stores)

2010 Citari Lugana Terre Bianche, Veneto, Italy

A dazzlingly fresh example of Lake Garda’s local white. Lemon zest and ripe mango with a salty, herbal freshness and just enough delicate creaminess to give some texture while retaining the mouthwatering zing. Summer in a glass. 12.5% abv.

£9.95, The Vintner,

2009 Domaine des Maisons Neuves Côtes de Brouilly, Beaujolais, France

A particularly luscious reminder of how good the gamay grape can be and how good the 2009 vintage was, and is. Exuberant, ripe, fresh fruit – raspberry, blackberry, plum – with touches of vanilla and other spice. Succulent and silky, but with backbone beneath all the flesh. At 14.5% abv it won’t be everybody’s idea of how Beaujolais should be, but as an expression of the gamay grape it’s delicious.

£11.50, The Vintner

Saturday, July 23, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 23 July 2011

2008 F E Trimbach Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France

Benchmark Alsace gewurz – roses, spice, lychee and Turkish delight aromas and flavours. Exotic, yes, but elegant and precise with lovely definition and acidity. Briliant with spicy food, but because it’s so fresh and fine it makes a perfect aperitif, too. 14% abv.

£11.99, Majestic

2010 Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa

Smoky, herbal and savoury with a textured mid-palate and chiselled freshness and minerality on the finish. A very good, food-friendly Sauvignon. 13.5% abv

£12.99, but £9.99 when you buy 2 or more, Majestic

2009 Notre Dame de Cousignac, Côtes du Vivarais, Rhône, France

I was going to recommend the even cheaper red Lubéron as well, but The Wine Society has run out of the 2009 – so just the Vivarais: a deep, juicy, warm and full-bodied blend of grenache (62%) and syrah (32%) with a smidgen of counoise. There’s no oak, so you get the unadulterated sweet, ripe blackberry fruit and earthy spice of vines with an average age of 50 years, growing in clay and limestone and newly converted to organic viticulture. 15% abv. Very good value.

£7.25, The Wine Society.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 17 July 2011

Four great value wines from Berry Bros & Rudd’s summer by-the-case sale which is on until the end of August, although with no guarantee, of course, that stocks will last that long.

2008 Olivier Merlin Mâcon-La Roche Vineuse Chardonnay, Burgundy, France

Delicate, lemon wheatmeal and honeyed nose. Buttery, rounded palate wth lemony fruit, a touch of honey and nutty, wheaty flavours. Nicely developed, but still impeccably fresh. 13% abv.

£119.40 per case (£9.95 per bottle, down from £13.50),

2001 Nyetimber 1er Cuvée Blanc de Blancs, Sussex, England

Coming up for a decade old and in its prime – the best English sparkling wine I’ve tasted. At the sale price, it knocks spots off most champagne at the same price. Refined and complex with biscuity, lightly buttery mature flavours, polished citrus fruit and perfectly balanced acidity. Textbook champagne-method chardonnay. 12% abv.

£299.40 per case (£24.95 per bottle, down from £32.95),

2005 JL Chave Séléction Hermitage Farconnet, Rhône, France

Perfumy and layered, with berries, spice, sandalwood, incense and black pepper on the nose and a rich, but still young and fresh palate with spicy, red berry fruit, ripe tannins and well-integrated, soft, chocolaty oak. Long finish. Can be drunk with pleasure already, but undoubtedly has years ahead of it. 13.5% abv.

£330 per case (£27.50 per bottle, down from £37.95),

2007 Château Marsau, Bordeaux Côtes de Francs, France

Deep ruby; inviting nose – spicy and fresh with sweet fruit and an attractive whiff of new oak. Supple palate with fleshy fruit, cedar and oak flavours. Stylish modern Bordeaux, but not for new-oak phobes. 13% abv

£119.40 per case (£9.95 per bottle, down from £15.95),

Friday, July 8, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 8 July 2011

2010 Barone Ricasoli Albia Rosé, IGT Toscana, Italy

Medium-bodied, fresh, well-rounded Tuscan rosé made from sangiovese and merlot. Salmon-pink with wild strawberry and redcurrant fruit flavours, the merest hint of white pepper and a zesty, fresh finish. Bags of charm. 12.5% abv.

£66.03 for six bottles,

2010 Vionta Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain

Majestic hasn’t got a lot of this, so it’s not on the website, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a really good Albariño (from the Freixenet stable). Fragrant and racy, peaches-and-cream nose with a touch of orange oil; sweet, zesty tangerine on the palate, a creamy texture and a mineral, sea-spray finish. 13% abv.

£11.99, Majestic

2009 Viñalba Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina

I know it’s a cliché, but this rich and powerful wine manages to have something about it that’s not far off elegance. There’s dense, ripe-berry fruit and a savoury, meaty quality, but there’s also convincing freshness. And it doesn’t have the hot finish that you might expect from 15% abv. Well worth buying while it’s still on offer.

£10.99, but £8.99 if you buy 2 or more bottles, Majestic

Sunday, July 3, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 3 July 2011

A bit late this week, but last weekend I was in Paris tasting 6 decades of Penfold’s Grange and other Special Bin wines, starting with Penfolds Grange 1953 (stupendous) and the even rarer Grange Cabernet 1953 (outclassed by the shiraz-based Grange on this occasion, but it was the other way round when I last tasted both in 2003). Other highlights were the 1962 Bin 60A (dubbed ‘Australia’s greatest red’), 1990 Grange, 1996 Grange, ‘96 Block 42 Cabernet… to be continued in a full report in Decanter magazine. I’ll keep you posted when I know which issue. Oh, and the view was to die for – 7 floors up in the Australian ambassador’s residence looking straight out to the Eiffel Tower and over the Paris rooftops. Tony Bilson, from Sydney, cooked. Even without the wine, it was the best meal I’ve had this year (and one of the largest…). As I’ve said before, it’s a hard life.

Early Sunday morning I was heading back to London for a quick bag swap before heading to Gatwick to meet the rest of The Wine Gang for a flight to Croatia. We spent four days there doing benchmark tastings in Zagreb and visiting producers and wine regions. We tasted some really good wines and encountered some fascinating grape varieties – malvazia istriana, debit, graševina and gegić among the whites, and teran and plavac mali among the reds. If I find any are on sale, I’ll be recommending them in the coming weeks. If not, expect to start seeing more Croatian wines in the UK by the end of this year. The fruits of our tasting will be shown at the Croatian tasting in London in September. More details later.

On Friday, I was doing a food shoot all day for House & Garden Gourmet, our new food and wine magazine, coming out with the December issue of H&G. Yes, we work a long way ahead. And on Saturday… whatever happened to Saturday?

Coates & Seely Britagne Rosé Brut NV, England

Delightful, elegant English sparkling rose – the first release from a new producer, but an established vineyard, in the chalk downlands of Hampshire. It’s a pretty pale salmon, has lovely, fragrant raspberry fruit with a whisper of brioche in the background and zingy acidity, but not the tartness that sticks out like a sore thumb in some English sparkling wines. It’s a 65:35 blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier, made by the champagne method, or Méthode Britannique, as Coates and Seely refer to it. Britagne (pronounced brit-an-ye/Britannia) is the term they’ve coined for English champagne-style wines and they’re hoping other producers will adopt it. ‘They’ are Christian Seely, MD of Axa Millésimes, the wine-estate portfolio of Axa, the insurance giant, and Nicholas Coates, ex-banker, Hampshire resident and friend of Seely’s since their business school days in Fontainebleau.


Friday, June 24, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 24 June 2011

There’s 25% off all Waitrose wines until midnight next Wednesday (28 June) in stores and online. Here are a couple of delicious, summery Loires ­– a white and a red – and a very stylish Australian Chardonnay.

2010 Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Les Dix Arpents Chenin Blanc, Montlouis, Loire, France

Benchmark dry Montlouis from the great Jacky Blot (the name doesn’t sound at all strange in French). Wonderful clarity and definition from start to finish. Scents of jasmine, white peaches, straw and nuts; tinglingly fresh, mineral palate with intense apricot and zesty, green-apple fruit. Promises to become beautifully honeyed – yet ever dry – with age. 13% abv.

£10.49 (down from £13.99), Waitrose

2009 Les Complices de Loire, Les Graviers, Chinon, Loire, France

Aptly named Les Graviers: there’s a fresh, gravelly note alongside the sweet capsicum and summery black fruit aromas. Velvety, supple and fresh – and unoaked to show off the purity of both fruit and terroir. 12.5% abv.

£8.24 (£10.99), Waitrose

2010 Prominent Hill, Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Sleek, sophisticated Chardonnay from a single plot of organically cultivated vines, fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak and matured sur lie, with some stirring, for nine months. Nutty, wheatmeal and white flower/orange blossom aromas and an elegant, nutty, wheaty palate with a creamy texture and mineral tautness and freshness. 13.5% abv.

11.24 (£14.99), Waitrose

Friday, June 17, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 17 June 2011

2010 Esterházy Estoras Grüner Veltliner, Burgenland, Austria

The sort of wine to pour as soon as you get in from work. Before you’ve even kicked your shoes off. Delicately perfumed and flavoured with white flowers, peach and lemon zest, medium-bodied and deliciously refreshing. 12% abv. Nevermind the Esterházy pedigree, the wine is made by Josef Pusch, one of Austria’s best, with Stéphane Derenoncourt as consultant.

£10.95, FromVineyardsDirect

2009 Altos d’Oliva Garnacha, Catalunya, Spain

Juicy, spicy, smooth, full red with ripe cherry fruit and crunchy black-pepper and clove flavours. Uncomplicated, enjoyable and well worth the money. It comes from low-yielding bush vines grown high in the hills above Tarragona – not quite within spitting distance of Priorat, but not far off. Ideal barbecue, chorizo, pasta and pizza red. 13.5% abv.

£6.95, FromVineyardsDirect

2007 Umberto Fiore Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy

Not so long ago M&S was selling the previous vintage of this Barbaresco (the 2005) at £9.99. It now clears the £10 barrier, but it’s good value for a nebbiolo of this quality. Authentic cherryish, dried-rose, savoury meat aromas, spicy cherry and almond fruit, fine, velvety, dry tannins and gentle acidity. All very convincing. Drink with something like steak or lamb chump chops. 13.5% abv.

£10.99, Marks & Spencer

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wines of the Week 10 June 2011

An impressive trio from Cambridgeshire-based Private Cellar.

Champagne Legras & Haas Tradition Brut NV, France

A fresh, floral, lemony champagne with a light touch of brioche and maltiness. Elegant, accessible and reasonably priced. It’s 50% chardonnay and comes from a family-owned house based in the Côtes des Blancs grand cru of Chouilly. 12.5% abv.

£24.19, Private Cellar

2010 Springfontein Estate Unfiltered Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc, Walker Bay, South Africa

A ripe and oaky nose; a rich, waxy palate with intense, sweet and sharp pineapple and lemon fruit, toasty, chocolaty oak and bright acidity. This is a young wine that is still slightly unknit, but the balance is there, the components are very good and they’re already starting to come together, to mellow and become more complex. Drink with chicken, fish and veal, including in cream sauces. 14% abv.

£12.96, Private Cellar

2004 Bordeaux by Hubert de Boüard, France

I suppose if you’re the co-owner and the winemaker of Château Angélus and consultant to others, you can get away with the slightly pretentious ‘by’ in the name, especially when the wine is this good. It’s Merlot-based and a case of clever winemaking drawing out and boosting the best of an unexceptional, though not attractive, vintage. Ripe black fruit with currant-leaf, graphite and cedar freshness, carefully upholstered with ripe tannins and the milk chocolate and vanilla flavour of oak. 13% abv. A winner with roast, slow-roast and grilled lamb.

£12.16, Private Cellar

Saturday, June 4, 2011

WINES of the WEEK, 3 June 2011

2010 Taste the Difference Languedoc White, France

Whites from the Languedoc are still terribly underrated, so it’s good to see Sainsbury’s putting one in its Taste the Difference range. This is grenache blanc-based with 20% each of marsanne, viognier and vermentino and the vines are 20–40 years old, so have some maturity. It’s oak-free but aged on its lees, which gives a mouthfilling suppleness and a creaminess to both texture and flavour. There’s a crunchy apple/pear freshness to the fruit and touches of spicy white pepper and minerals. All in all, a very satisfying, interesting dry white. 13.5% abv. Jean-Claude Mas of Domaines Mas is the man behind it.

£7.99, Sainsbury’s

2010 Bolney Estate Foxhole Vineyard Pinot Noir, West Sussex, England

The first English red wine that I can remember really wanting to drink. Pale in colour with a delicious sweet scent of raspberries and old English roses and a supple, fresh palate with a flavour of summer-pudding and fraises des bois rounded out with just a smidgen of oak. 12.85% abv. Bolney Estate is 16 hectares and was originally called Bookers Vineyard – a name is still use ­– and the winemaker is Sam (Samantha) Linter. Fingers crossed for the summer of 2011.

£11.99, and 16 branches; also from

2009 Paolo Leo Primitivo di Manduria, Puglia, Italy

A polished primitivo with purity and sleekness but at the same time an attractive, almost gravelly, grainy texture and flavour; cherry-sweet, almondy aromas and spicy, cherry-kernel flavours with a touch of vanilla. Full-bodied, ripe and layered. 14.5% abv.

£9.99, Waitrose