Time for the latest Laithwaites Premiere wines now and, after a good year in the scheme, this is the first time that I’ve received a wine that I’m already familiar with. When you’ve found a wine that you know you like it’s easy to enjoy it, forgetting about the mechanics, so I welcome the opportunity to critically evaluate it again.
First we head over to Spain and the north-west central region of Rueda which is known mainly for white wines, including their speciality grape Verdejo. A nicely warm continental climate gives the vines hot sunshine during the day and, when twinned with the high altitude of the plantings, cool temperatures at night allowing the grapes to fully develop their aromas and flavours.
Tesoro de Castilla Verdejo 2015, Castilla, Spain, 12.5%, £7.99
In the glass this is a pale lemon colour with subtle golden green hints. The nose is full of waxy lemon citrus, white florality (reminiscent of a lily) and has a good level of intensity to draw you towards it.
The palate has a good medium weight with a waxy oily quality much like a Chardonnay. The first fruit hit is the generous lemon and lime citrus followed by a touch of grassiness. By law some Verdejo’s (not labelled as Rueda Verdejo) can include as little as 50% Verdejo in the blend with the rest topped up with either Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo (Viura), and this can account for the SB like grassy qualities. In this case though the wine is 100% Verdejo and so it is down to mere grape similarity.
The acid is well balanced with the fruit creating a juicy, gloopy, almost voluptuous mouth-feel. There’s a tangy fruity end to the palate which lasts for some time, and even perhaps a small amount of tannin.
The wine is clearly all about the core citrus fruits and I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Having conducted some research on the Laithwaites website I found that this wine has scored slightly less than 2 stars out 5. Added to this was the fairly low price-point of £7.99 (when compared to other Premiere offerings) and I was ready to treat this as a fairly academic review. When reviewing a wine I usually conduct it based on my initial thoughts from the first appearance, returning to clarify my views with a glass later in the day or even in the following days.
Imagine my surprise then when I was fully about to start my third glass without writing even the first line of a tasting note. I tasted this on a gloriously warm day which perhaps worked to the wine’s advantage, but many of the lower starred reviews had commented on an unbalanced acidity of which I saw no sign at all. A good bottle and one which I would happily purchase again.
Il Papavero Primitivo 2014, Puglia, Italy, 14%, £8.99
Primitivo (aka Zinfandel in the US or Tribidrag in Croatia) is a spicy plummy grape from Puglia in southern Italy. This bottle is a Laithwaites customer favourite (me included) so it is no surprise that I have enjoyed it on many occasions. I do find it odd that it forms part of the palate-expanding Premiere scheme when it is so widely recognised, and perhaps Laithwaites could have included the equally well-rated, but not so best-selling white or rosato from the range.
If the map view of Italy is shaped like a boot, then Puglia is situated at the heel of the boot. The land here is flat and rolling and one respected wine academic once described it to me as ‘the heel without the hills’.
Care has gone in to the presentation of the bottle with the label (highlighting the English translation of ‘Il Papavero’) depicting a poppy. In the glass this is a dense, dark (but not quite opaque), ruby purple.
The nose is forthcoming and full of ripened black cherry, pepper spice, brambles and vanilla, and feels warm, velvety, rich and rewarding. Nestled amongst the vibrantly youthful fruit there are also tertiary characters lurking and I could detect leather and tobacco.
The Palate, like the nose, is rich and fresh and full of black cherry, pepper spice and meaty characters. The overall palate feels complex yet smooth and mellow, and thoroughly impressive at this price-point.
There’s also the Italian hallmark of high acidity (allowing the wine to be enjoyed with the local cuisine of tomato and meat dishes) but it counterpoints equally with the richer meatier aspects of the wine. A pleasure to drink.
Verdict: A tough one this month as the Il Papavero absolutely has the upfront complex qualities, but there’s kudos points for the hidden charms of the Tesoro de Castilla, so I’ll call it a draw.