Laithwaites Premiere Tasting – September 2016

Thanks to welcoming a new addition to my family in the last four weeks my Laithwaites Premiere September review comes in the dying hours of the month.  Better late than never though, here are my thoughts on the current bottles, and they’re both ones which I have never tried before which is always a treat.

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Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Mendoza, Argentina, 11%, £10.49

Interestingly enough the literature which I received with the wine was referring to the 2015 vintage as opposed to the 2016 (an incredibly young wine) which is what I am tasting today.  It also stated that the alcohol level was 13%, whereas the bottle label describes it as just 11% which is a bit of a difference.  A quick internet search does indeed show that the literature is wrong and this wine is positioned at the lower alcohol point.

The vineyards that the grapes are sourced from are located at the characteristically high levels you expect from Argentina; some 1,000 metres above sea level.  The constant sunshine but reduced temperatures of the high altitude ensures you have well ripened fruit whilst retaining the lighter floral characters of gently ripened grapes.

In colour this is lemon yellow with green-gold tints. The nose is light, fresh and bright with green apple and pear flesh, citrus lime, watermelon, grapefruit, and a touch of cream.

The wine has a full rounded gloopy body that is filled with flavour.  Alongside the lime citrus and cream from the nose there is a full on dollop of gooseberry that melds with the green flesh of apple.  The acidity is crisp and well balanced against the lighter profile of the wine and the end palate has a lovely dash of zippy zinginess to keep things juicy and lifted in to the good length finish.

This is a pleasant little number which is full of flavour but delicate at the same time, and you need to be careful not to over-chill which would kill some of the subtler nuances.  The £10.49 price tag is just a little over and above what I’d expect to pay for this, but it’s a good example of New World meets Old World Sauvignon Blanc.

I can imagine this would pair very well with fish, but I had fish for dinner last night, and it’s steak for me tonight.  What better time then to move on to the red selection!

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Cuvée du Vatican Réserve de l’Abbé 2014 Cótes du Rhone, France, 14%, £9.99

Well known for its power and full flavour this Rhone wine (comprised of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah) comes with the suggestion of giving it an hour decant ahead of drinking.  Always looking for a good taste comparison I decided to do just that, but also to take a glass straight out of the bottle to gauge the difference.  Now that summer has died out and there are a lot less flies about I’m happy to get my decanter back in to commission.

Happily the bottle supplied matches the one I was expecting and, sure enough with a little air time, the raw flavours and hollowed out mid-palate spread and expanded in to a rich finish.

A dark brambly purple in colour, the nose of this wine is full of Syrah spice and the crunchy black fruit from the Grenache.  There’s also hints of pepper and cloves, blackberry, redcurrant and a nice warmth from the alcohol.

On the palate there is the instant hit of black cherry and berry alongside a medium chalky tannin.  The mid-palate adds spice, bitterness, dark chocolate and prune, and the overall sensation is quite brooding with traits of meat, tobacco and leather.

A fresh acidity sears through the top of the palate, nicely cutting through the darker notes of the wine and the fatty elements of my steak.  Even after a bit of decanting this wine still retains a ‘rustic’ profile, but paired with the food it is well balanced and in character.

At the £9.99 price-point this one sits about right for me value-wise and, whilst both were well structured wines, on that point it ensures that the red wine comes out top of the two Laithwaites Premiere offerings this month.

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Laithwaites Premiere March 2016

Another Laithwaites Premiere tasting now, taking a look at the bottles they select each month, in a bid to get the regular wine purchaser out of their comfort zone and trying something new.  As usual there’s one bottle of white and one bottle of red, falling anywhere in the £7.99 to £12 price bracket.

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Da Silva Amoras 2014, Lisboa VR, Portugal, 12.5%, £7.99

Laithwaites became ‘Portuguese Wine Importer of the year’ in 2010, so it’s no surprise that they’re promoting unique wines from that part of the world.  At £7.99 it’s certainly not one of the most expensive offerings from the scheme, so a ‘try-before-you-buy’ tasting is good news.

The first thing that’s great about this wine is that it is from the ‘Santos Lima’ family estate, owned by the da Silva family for several generations, which ensures a serious attention to detail.  Secondly, they have access to the long sunny Portuguese days and perfect growing conditions that comprise “slopes, soil and breezy conditions close to the Atlantic”.

On a third note, this wine was also a treat for me as it comprises a blend of four very different and unusual grape varieties – Fernao Pires (30%), Arinto (30%), Vital (30%) and Moscatel (10%), two of which I’d never tried before.

Each of the grapes plays a clear part in to the final palate, with the Fernao Pires providing the weight and spice, the Arinto giving the crisp citrics, and the Vital and Moscatel providing the grapey characters.

In colour the wine is an almost luminous golden yellow, both clean and bright and evocative of its youth.  What the nose has in the depth of flavour, it seems to unfortunately lack in its intensity. All the scents are there, but the wine is quite closed and I felt that you really needed to search to find them.  Usually this ‘closed’ nature could be down to over chilling the wine, but this wasn’t a factor in this case.

This is a mid-weight wine, creamy with a low-key but present acidity, making it both crisp and refreshing.  The citrus comes primarily from lemon and to a lesser extent lime, but both apples and grapes are the heavy hitters.  Whilst the green notes are offset by the yellow fruits, the palate is quite dark, almost sour.  When you consider that the ‘grapey’ aspect should only come from 40% of the blend, this is quite interesting.

Whilst showing a bit of a tangy after-taste, it has a good long length which manages to retain the musky fruit.  When looking at the online comments for this wine it appears that it is a bit of fence-sitter, with as many liking this as disliking the final product, but I enjoyed it and would potentially purchase in future.

Inca Tree Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%, £10.49

With this wine sitting in the top part of the price category I was initially hopeful (most recent Premiere examples have peaked at the £9.99 bracket).  As many will know, Malbec is the French originated, but Argentine adopted grape variety, so a wine of this variety in this country (and at this price) should be top notch.

The bottle is well presented, with the image of the Jaguar (almost evoking that of the Ram on the 2000 Mouton) on the label to pay tribute to local folklore, where the animal is sacred and elusive.

In the glass this is a nice deep youthful purple, and the nose hits you even before you get to the glass which is always a good sign of complexity.  The first impressions of the nose are of sweet red cherry, plums and damsons.

Whilst the body was medium, the high acid actually kept the overall sensation fairly light. On the first day I tried this wine the fruit disappeared pretty quickly on the mid-palate, leaving only a spiciness rather than the fruit.  In lieu of a satisfactory tasting I decided to give this wine another go on a second date and it was well worth it.  Keeping the wine the extra day allowed the mid-palate to fill out with plummy fruits, and this melded well with the aforementioned spice and warmth.

So, decanting is definitely recommended for this wine but, even when doing that, I’m not sure I would put in the +£10 bracket.  There was a distinct complexity missing for me that would elevate it to anything above the £8 level and I was perhaps doing more than I should have, trying to coax something out of it.  It’s clearly a wine that is all about primary fruit and upfront exposure and, based on this tasting, is not something I would buy again.

So the Premiere story this month seems to be the cheaper white wine turned out to show better than the more expensive red.  Interesting stuff.

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