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.