Laithwaites Premiere Tasting – November 2016

As December is fast approaching, it’s high time for a quick run-down of the November offerings from the Laithwaites Premiere scheme.

black-stump-chard

The Black Stump Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio 2016, SE Australia, 12.5%, £9.49

The Black Stump Shiraz is very familiar to me and also probably to the majority of Laithwaites customers as it remains ever-present in many mixed cases and is always at the top of their bestsellers lists.  What remains a lesser known quantity to me is their white offering – a Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio blend.

Plantings of Pinot Grigio are still a rare thing to find in Australia and comprises a solid 35% of the blend here.  The name ‘Black Stump’ comes from a mythical place in the Australian outback to which locals would remark that a quality product was “the best thing this side of the black stump”.

We have a different saying here in England, so let’s see if this wine is indeed the best thing since sliced bread!

The lemon colour in the glass sparkles with a lovely golden and warming hue.  On the nose there is a broad range of aromas to pick up, a veritable compote of the warming ripened summer fruits promised by the golden colouring.

There’s touches of apricots, peach, yellow melon and pineapple, and I can also detect the green fleshiness of apple.  Visible tears (another hint towards the well ripened fruits and sugars) rounds out the full appearance of the wine.

On the palate this is a ripe and citrus forward wine, with the freshness, grassiness and florality from the Pinot Grigio working with the weight and butter creaminess from the Chardonnay.  Alongside the notable citrus you again get the full sensation of the tropical golden fruits.  A good gloopy mouth-filling weight pairs well with the lovely tangy acid that runs throughout.

A touch of spice on the finish hints to an underlying complexity and I think this wine will evolve nicely with a little further bottle ageing.  A good persistent finish, and a very nice wine.

Casa Rural 2012.JPG

Casa Rural 2012 (100% Tempranillo), Vino de la Tierra Castilla, Spain, 12.5%, £11.99

Castilla seems to be popping up a lot for me recently so I was very interested to see this bottle arrive.  Even as recently as 5 years ago La Mancha in central Spain was known as a seriously hot flat central plain good only for growing workhorse varieties, but here we are with a pure Tempranillo reminiscent of the Riojan style of the north.

Grown at high altitude to counteract the heat and aged for 6 months in American oak barrels to flesh out the palate, this wine is very interesting to view in the glass.  Most wines have a subtle difference between the central (core) part of the glass as opposed to the colour of the rim, but with this wine there was a wide distinction between the darker rim and cherry-light core.

On the nose there was light red cherry and redcurrants and a very defined florality.  Kicking off with fresh violets, this then added the vanilla from the oak ageing and moved on to the confection of liquorice.  Tertiary notes such as these are good indications of the ageing that has taken place.

For all of the power on the nose the actual body was, although medium, something of a lighter overall sensation and incredibly silky and smooth.   The blackcurrant fruits were packed to the brim and followed by the redcurrants and cherry, and perhaps even a touch of strawberry.  For all of the clean well ripened fruit this remained a light and airy wine, perfect for drinking on its own.

Lightly chewy in texture and retaining meaty and lightly leathery characters, the acid remained just less than medium and kept everything fresh.  The florality carried straight through to the pleasant and medium length aftertaste, keeping this as an entirely respectable ‘higher than average’ priced wine.

Result: It’s hard to pick a winner out of these two wines as I like them both for different reasons.  Happy that the scheme has thrown up two interesting wines instead of one, this month I’m calling it a draw.  Happy drinking!

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Laithwaites Premiere Tasting -April 2016

April may well and truly be over, but I’ve still got the two Laithwaites Premiere bottles to review, so here goes.

Laith Prem April16

First up is the Campanula Pinot Grigio which is actually already something of a best-selling white from Laithwaites, so it is great that it forms part of the Premiere range as these schemes can so often be for pushing wines that aren’t selling well.  Whilst I’m familiar with their (now unavailable) Pinot Noir, I’ve never tried any of their white offerings, so this is a good opportunity.

Another point of interest here is the fact that this wine is from Hungary and not, as you may well initially expect, from the Pinot Grigio stronghold of northern Italy.  There’s a good historical reason for the grape making the journey to Hungary, dating back to when the King of Naples’ daughter married the Hungarian King and he became a great patron of her Italian roots, culture, arts and science.

Named after the bluebells that grew around the vineyards, this wine is produced by winemaker Gábor Laczkó in the northern central village of Etyek, some 50 kilometres from Budapest.  This Pinot Grigio was ‘commended’ at the International Wines & Spirits Challenge 2015.

Laith Campanula

Campanula Pinot Grigio 2014, Dunántúl, Hungary, 12%, £8.49

The wine is a light pale lemon yellow in colour with inviting golden hints to the rim.  The nose is pronounced, strong and intense, with clear green apple flesh, citrus, some cream and a whiff of spice.  The depth of the nose is suggestive of a nicely weighted palate, and this is indeed what you receive.

On the palate the fresh green flesh notes last throughout, and are added to with apple pips and pear.  There’s prominent lemon and lime and a mouth-watering acidity that means the overall sensation is fresh and more-ish.

The end palate is rounded out with a slight woodiness to match the ripe fruit, and the finish is all about the fresh apple and cream texture.

Overall this is a very nice white, and well crafted, but at £8.49 a bottle, it might just be a touch expensive.

Next up is a Spanish red blend from Extremadura, which is towards the south-west of the country, bordering Portugal.  The label tells us that the ‘Silver Route’, of which the wine takes its name, was the principal trade route used by the Roman Empire.  Cutting Spain north to south, the route allowed the Romans to move localised specialities such as wine and the famous iberico hams, to different parts of the country to trade for other materials.

The Extremadura region has deep red soils, and the Tempranillo (70%) and Syrah (30%) used for this bottling are from old vines based in Badajoz, just south of Merida.  From the combination of using the naturally spicy Syrah grape, a hot Spanish climate, and the intensity that comes from the concentrated lower yields of older vines, I’m expecting this to be a punchy wine.

Laith Silver Route

The Silver Route 2014 Tempranillo/Syrah Blend, Extremadura VdT, Spain, 14.5%, £8.99

The bottle looks great with the silver design setting off the dark colour of the wine superbly.  The kaleidoscope label is carried across to the top of the screw-cap which is a nice touch and shows a good bit of thought and care for the overall design.

In colour this a nice deep youthful purple colour, and the strong ripe fruity nose greets you well before your nose reaches the glass.  This is still a youthful intense, slightly confectionate black fruit-forward wine, with warmth and spice, and a definite nod towards currant fruit puddings.

For all that you detect on the nose, the palate is surprisingly not over-powering and has a medium weight, but it is crammed full of flavour.  Initially it is rich and spicy with dark fruit cake notes alongside bitter dark cocoa, and coffee.  You also get the hit of the ripe black fruits as well as a little light grainy (chalky) tannin.

A fresh medium acid keeps this gliding across the palate, but the overall sensation is quite moody and dark, with the fruit playing second fiddle to the more complex secondary notes such as the cake and cocoa.  This is the character of the wine, more than the complexity, but this is still an enjoyable easy drink.

The length is medium and really makes the most of the chocolate.  I like this one for the price and it gets an overall thumbs up.

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #4 – Toro Loco Superior 2014

I first heard of Toro Loco in 2012 when it managed to scoop a prestigious IWSC (International Wines & Spirits Challenge) Silver medal.  That’s no mean feat by itself, but when you consider that Toro Loco is the Aldi own-brand Spanish offering and priced at the crazy low price of £3.49, the win was all the more special.  It’s no wonder that journalists were queuing up to publicise the ‘find’ (you can read more on the triumph here) and very soon it was ‘out of stock’.  Astonishingly the wine remains at the same £3.49 price-point in 2016.

The wine hails from Utiel-Requena, in the province of Valencia on the mid-eastern coast of Spain.  Using leading red Spanish grape variety Tempranillo alongside a healthy helping of another local variety (Bobal) this is a wine that wants to highlight it’s Spanish roots.  The name Toro Loco translates as ‘Crazy Bull’ (hence the label bull/corkscrew design) and was chosen to personify the essence of Spain, from the local custom of bull fighting to the ‘living-life-to-the-full’ ethos of its residents.

When I first heard about Toro Loco back then I went straight out and bought a bottle to see if the fuss was justified.  I wasn’t disappointed and, having purchased it a couple of times since, this tasting was a great chance to re-visit the current vintage on offer.

Aldi Toro Loco

Toro Loco Superior 2014, Tempranillo (75%) & Bobal (25%), Utiel-Requena, Spain, 12.5%, £3.49

The wine is bottled under screw-cap and is a youthful vibrant clean purple in colour with a fine watery white rim.

The nose, whilst being full of character, is fairly restrained and is more about the thoughtful reflection of a local style, rather than the ‘in-your-face’ blockbuster style.  I can pick up a good array of both primary and secondary aromas from the dark black cherry fruit, stewed prune and raisin, to bitter black chocolate, woody notes and floral vanilla.

After the nasal sensation, the medium body that follows has a surprising lightness of touch.  Once again you get the upfront hits of black cherry and sour plum, but this is closely followed up with a typical Spanish vanilla creaminess and a touch of pepper spice.  The fruits are succulent, ripe and juicy and the fresh acid drives an uplifting palate.

At the same time this wine manages to show sophistication and blends in darker touches and a medium tannin level which grips the inside of your mouth.  There’s a decent layering of bitter chocolate, leathery tones and tobacco which all add together to create a deep multi-layered flavour sensation.  The length is equally impressive and retains the bitter chocolate from the mid-palate.

In the spirit of delivering a balanced review, if I had to make one criticism about this wine it would be in regards to the lighter weight delivering so much character, and when I tasted this wine the following day a lot of the deeper mid-palate tones had started to disappear, almost as if too much had been forced in too soon (remember that the vintage is less than 2 years old at this point).

Clearly this is nit-picking, and on the day of opening this wine was as good as any in terms of being a fine food match.  It’s worth remembering that drinking wine with food is an inherent part of Spanish culture and over time they have created a balanced wine style that suit the local flavours.  I can imagine this wine pairing well with a whole host of tomato based meals, tapas dishes, stews and much more.

As a last thought, I simply can’t believe there is any way that this can be produced for £3.49 a bottle – it simply defies logic.  There are numerous costs that every bottle of wine has to bear including transportation, retailer mark-up, and packaging & labelling.  On top of these are the hefty VAT and Duty costs imposed by the Government which can easily make up 50% of the overall price on a standard bottle of wine.  Estimates show that on a £3.79 bottle of wine only about 15p actually goes on the wine itself, and that runs the whole process from growing the grapes, to harvesting them, to the final production.  To get all the above depth from 15p seems unbelievable, almost unreasonable.

It was sold out the last time I went to get it, but trust me, I’ll be buying it again very shortly if I can get it.  I may even ‘trade up’ to the Toro Loco Reserva, which sees additional ageing in oak and adds Garnacha and other international grape varieties (Merlot and Shiraz) to the blend.  As the premium offering for the brand, it still comes in at a very modest £4.99

Toro Loco is truly a gem of a wine and one that you don’t want to miss.

With thanks to Aldi UK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend 2016

Last weekend saw the approximate one year anniversary of me discovering and joining the Tesco Wine Community which, despite being a one-of-a-kind promotional tool for Tesco, sadly closed last August.  That, however, didn’t stop a core number of us staying in contact and organising a weekend away to do what we do best – talking about and trying new wine.  For me it was a wonderful and fitting way to celebrate the anniversary, by meeting in person some of the people I’d been chatting to online for some time.

Many attendees had met each other at previous Tesco winemaker events, but a rented house in Stratford-Upon-Avon last weekend marked the first time that a concerted effort had been made to bring together a wider group of us from all over the south of England.  Added to this, each attendee was bringing wines that they rated highly and wanted to present in the best possible light, so it was set to include a stellar list of top quality examples.

CR Wend Table

What follows isn’t an account about what transpired, or even a looooooong list of tasting notes – in order to preserve the relaxed atmosphere none of us were taking them.  I will however, as the one who took lots of photos of the bottles as they came and went, try to draw together a list of the 30 wines that were tasted as part of the weekend (including a few not available in the UK and shipped across from Germany).

I appreciate that a simple list of wines may make curious reading for some, but for 10 people in particular, it will remain a document of a wonderful weekend with great wine, great food and above all, great company.

And so, in no particular order:

Sparkling wine

We covered a good number of the sparkling bases here, with an example from each of the major categories:

  • Cono Sur sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, 12%
  • I Duecento Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5%
  • Freixenet Extra Vintage 2013 Brut Cava, Spain, 11.5%
  • Louis Delaunay Brut NV Champagne, France, 12.5%

White wine

Our white wine selection comprised:

  • Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
  • Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
  • Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
  • Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
  • Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
  • Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
  • Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
  • The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
  • Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%

CR Wend German

Red wine

All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain.  Our full selection comprised:

  • Arjona (unoaked) 2014 Rioja (100% Tempranillo), Spain, 13.5%
  • Club Des Sommeliers, Morgon (100% Gamay) 2014 Beaujolais, France, 12.5%
  • J Opi 2014 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5%. This wine was decanted to bring out the rich flavour
  • Marques de Riscal Finca Torrea 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 14%
  • Cháteau Hervé Laroque 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), Fronsac, France, 13%
  • La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
  • Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
  • Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
  • Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
  • Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
  • Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%.  A rare opportunity to try this wine.
  • Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
  • Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
  • Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
  • Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%

CR Wend Lineup

Thanks to Clare for organising what proved to be a successful event, and one that is already mooted to be taking place again next year.  Cheers!

CR Wend Table 2

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What’s in a name?

The name of a grape variety will undoubtedly tell you something about what you’re drinking.  In its simplest form this could be as straight-forward as “I like Chardonnay, I’ve had Chardonnay before”, or it could be as intuitive as a name like Feteasca Neagra, which may highlight that it’s likely to be from an Eastern European country.

The names of many common varieties actually contain hidden clues as to their history or as to how they are grown and, whilst it is highly likely that it won’t affect the pleasure of drinking the wine, if you’re interested in deepening your wine knowledge these simple hints can help you to understand the wine a little more.  It can even give you hints about other facets of the wine (for example, whether a grape is thick or thin skinned).

Here’s my top 5.

Spain – Tempranillo – Spain’s premier red grape has a few synonyms, but is commonly referred to as Tempranillo.  The first part of the name (Temp) derives from the Spanish word for ‘early’ (Temprano), therefore highlighting that it is an early ripening variety.  The French word Temps means ‘time’ which is also a signpost that time is a critical factor when growing this variety.  What this means in terms of the final wine is one that is lower in alcohol due to less grape (ergo sugar) ripening time, and higher in acidity (when balanced against the unconverted sugars).

Italy – Primitivo – Like Tempranillo, this variety has other synonyms (Originally known as Tribidrag in Croatia, and well known as Zinfandel in the US), but the Italian grape name refers to Primo, which means ‘First’ in that language.  This again refers to the fact that this variety is one of the first to ripen, and will develop characteristics based on sun exposure.  More technically the Latin word primativus means ‘first to ripen’ and so Primitivo is almost a direct translation.

South America – Tannat – Well at home in the south of France, and now ‘the’ grape in Uruguay, it is thought that the name of this grape comes from the word tanat, a local French dialect meaning ‘coloured like tan’.  It is therefore quite coincidental that the berry is known to produce austere wines deeply coloured and, similar to its name, very high in tannins.  This one fact allows you to draw several further conclusions about the grape, including that it is a thick skinned variety that gives a lot of its character to the finished product.  This in turn tells you that it is better suited to a warmer climate in order to allow the grapes to ripen fully, and that it makes a better blending partner rather than being served up as a single variety wine.

France – Cabernet Sauvignon – OK, so it doesn’t really tell you much about the finished product, but with this variety name-checking other grapes varieties, it does indeed hint to it’s history and parentage.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, although these lighter characteristics will not tend to show themselves in the final wine.

South Africa – Pinotage – A bit more oblique than the fairly obvious parentage mentioned above, but South African grape Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (which was then known in the country as Hermitage).  The warmer SA climate needs to be taken in to account, giving a wine that is fresh as well as fragrant, and Pinotage seems to have inherited the fussy growing issues of Pinot Noir, ensuring that it is a troublesome variety to grow.

There’s obviously plenty more references out there if you look – from anything ending ‘Noir’ telling you that it is a red grape (never take anything for granted!!), to Gewurztraminer speaking of its north Italian origins.

Have fun looking!

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Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva 2001 – Review

One particular bottle that I have been really looking forward to trying for some time is the Bodegas Faustino I.  It’s a wine that comes with impressive critical acclaim and, with the ease of the availability of other wines in the full range (V, VII, for example), it represents something that is within touching distance, and yet has remained elusive to me until now.

Wine is a product that is inherently limited, but in the main isn’t sold on a ‘Limited Edition’ basis.  I’ve tried many English wines that, when you see the low thousands of bottles produced each year, you feel truly honoured to be able to taste them at all.  The Faustino I is clearly labelled with the edition number of 226,400 bottles produced for this vintage and, with the full clarity that this is no small production run, it was still absolutely interesting to me that I was tasting bottle 39,797 and bottle 39,856 (not on the same day I might add!).  I’ve often been interested in small facts like this, and I do think it really helps towards the ‘artisan’ element of the production, even if some production volumes are what others would consider ‘industrial’.

With both the Gran Reserva 2001 and 2004 available to me at this time (both rated as ‘Excelente’ vintages), I opted for the older 2001.  Not only was this vintage slightly smaller than surrounding vintages, I also noted that it was likely to age longer than the ’04 (due to damp conditions that year), and would therefore represent more of a longer term trajectory.

I was also swayed by the inclusion of a neck brace on the bottle proudly proclaiming that this wine was a Decanter ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2013, scoring 19.25 points out of 20.

Pic Faustino

Bodegas Faustino, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja, Spain, 13.5% (~£18)

Before we get to looking at the wine itself, the first thing to discern is the care that has gone in to the bottle appearance.  The frosted glass is adorned with a completely distinct label – a 1641 portrait of Dutch merchant/trader Nicolaas Van Bambeeck by revered artist Rembrandt.  This particular portrait was chosen in order to symbolise the family’s passions for both art and commerce.

When looking at the wine in the glass, it was a dark and opaque dense cherry red in colour, clear with almost no hint of a lighter rim.  On the nose there was an immediate hit of dark chocolate, and sweet notes of spices and cloves.  The red cherry fruits then came to the fore, brushing alongside wood, vanilla, giving an incredibly full, layered and vivid nose.  At once, this wine was serious, intense, and inviting.  The literature for the wine confirms that they put an immense amount of focus on berry grape selection in order to preserve that quality of grape, and overall composure.

The initial palate was given over to the cherry fruits (both black and red), although my immediate view was that the fruits were just slightly over-ripe, almost confectionate and sweet, which isn’t something that appeals to me.  This wasn’t a negative for the wine however, as it still forged a good strawberry line, and held that ‘creamy’ texture that you can find in a good aged Rioja.  Subtle integrated acid and a light tannin kept it moreish and pleasant, whilst touches of dark chocolate and bitter characters brought up the rear.  The palate is absolutely still all about the fruit as opposed to the tertiary characters, and it’s a testament to a 15 year old wine that the fruit can remain such a pivotal point of the focus and be so rounded, full and velvety smooth.

They certainly weren’t wrong in the official reviews that this wine has a life ahead of it, and I’d be very interested to revisit this in a few years time.  This was a wonderful wine and it didn’t disappoint.

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Laithwaites Premiere Taste Panel – September 2015

I wrote back in July about the Premiere selections from leading online wine merchant Laithwaites where, for a one-off yearly charge, they send you 2 additional bottles to try every time you purchase a case of wine.  These additions are specially picked wines by the Laithwaites team, the idea being that, because you haven’t ordered them, you probably won’t have tried them, and this promotes a good way to expanding your wine horizons.  In my first 3 months as a member I noted that the selections provided seemed firmly rooted at the £8.99 price-point, so I was pleased and interested when this months’ selections turned up with recommended retail prices set at £9.49 and £9.99.

Time to see if the extra pennies would add much in terms of the quality of these new discoveries.

LaithPremSB

Pago Centro Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – San Antonio, Chile – 13.5% abv – £9.49

A pleasing pale straw colour, with visible tears in the glass hinting at the high alcohol level from the well ripened grapes.  The San Antonio valley is coastal and so the natural heat of the climate is moderated with the cool sea air, giving a long balanced growing season.

The nose is extremely full with a myriad of fruits and fragrances vying for attention.  Alongside the grassiness that you would expect from Sauvignon Blanc is a touch of dried tropical fruit alongside apples and pears, citrus, kiwi and asparagus.

This medium bodied wine is packed with a mouth-watering acidity.  The key notes are fleshy green apple, intense lime, cream, and just a touch of oil.  The interesting thing about this wine is the way that the layers approach you – one minute you are experiencing the fresh citrus, the next is a fruit medley, and then it is back to the citrus.  This carries on throughout the finish, which is extremely long and enjoyable.

After I raved about the Tesco Finest Sancerre last month, I am now completely converted to Sauvignon Blanc around the £10-£12 price-point.  Being primarily a red wine drinker, and well aware of the fashion for Sauvignon Blanc and the (too) abundant choice in the entry level arena, it has not been something that I have gravitated towards.  The producer here is top Chilean estate Luis Felipe Edwards, who have teamed up with award winning New Zealand winemaker Matt Thomson.  Clearly winemakers from New Zealand know a thing or two about producing Sauvignon Blanc, and the team effort here and the strict selection of grapes has produced a beautiful wine.

I’m definitely going to pick up more of this.

Don Mendo Gran Reserva 2008 – Carinena DO, Spain – 13% abv – £ 9.99

From the north-eastern Spanish region of Carinena, this wine is a blend of Tempranillo (60%), Grenache (30%) and Carinena (10%).

6 years maturing in both barrel and bottle have helped to give this wine an opaque dark appearance.  The nose is an austere, dark, stewed and confected mixture, with hints of red cherry sweetness and notable liquorice, and was actually incredibly similar to the nose of a Port.

The palate is smooth like velvet, but in contrast to the heaviness of the nose, the body comes though as medium and not over-bearing at all.  Dark cherry hits you straight away, and this gives way to a slightly distracting acidity which floods the mid-palate somewhat.  The finish is of a decent length and does retrieve some of the fully ripe fruits, but I detected a slight alcohol burn (which is odd as this isn’t that high alcohol).  After the first glass I left the wine to air for an hour and came back to it.  In fairness, the acidity had dropped away, the weight had rounded out and newer flavours of dark chocolate appeared to give the wine the body it needed.  This is a wine that I would recommend to decant first, and I don’t think I saw it at its best.

In summary, I think I need to try a further bottle to fully evaluate it.  It didn’t grab me straight away, which a good wine should be able to do, but there is clear evidence of good wine-making technique.

Even allowing for the need to re-try the Don Mendo, I adore the Pago Centro, which gives the ‘try a new wine’ experience a 50% success rate, and keeps me an advocate of the Premiere scheme.  I’m already looking forward to next month.

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Break the (w)in(e)ternet

Food lovers everywhere will have some knowledge of the ‘Delia effect’. This is the rushed purchasing of non-everyday ingredients that cookery legend Delia Smith has used in her recipes. Following the broadcast of her TV tutorials, literally thousands descend upon supermarkets and wipe out the entire stock of odd items such as pine nuts or glacé cherries.

Last month this phenomenon hit the UK wine world following the broadcast of popular cookery show Saturday Kitchen. As usual, a wine expert (more often than not either Peter Richards, Olly Smith, Tim Atkin, Susie Barrie or Suzy Atkins) is on hand to match a suitable bottle to the meals prepared, to which both host and guest display courteous compliments. The televised episode on the 4th July however, caused the Majestic website to crash, and led to their biggest ever online sales hour, taking 1000 orders for this particular wine. The sensational instant demand was akin to getting a top Parker recommendation mixed up with a Kim Kardashian ‘break the internet’ attempt. Three hours later, the entire Majestic stock of this wine was wiped out and they had taken back orders for a further 30,000 bottles.

So, what is this amazing wine?

   Porta 6 Bottle v2

At the beginning of 2015, Holly Ninnes (Majestic wine buyer for Portugal) added a new wine to their range – Porta 6. Hailing from the sunny hillside vineyards of Alenquer and Cadaval in Lisboa, north of Lisbon, the wine is a blend of 50% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), 40% Castelao and 10% Touriga Nacional. The 2012 spent 3 months in oak barrels and clocks in at 13.5% abv.

The wine was quickly picked out by Decanter magazine (Feb 2015) as a ‘Weekday Wine’ – an exciting and accessible wine at a decent price-point. This wine was then picked last month by wine expert Susie Barrie MW to go with the Saturday Kitchen dish of barbecued lamb, salsa verde, tomato salad, toasted couscous and fromage blanc (you can find the recipe here). Saturday Kitchen presenter and chef James Martin was clearly pleased, stating that it was one of the nicest wines he’d had in ten years of doing the programme, and had bought 3 cases of it for himself!

Majestic were then subsequently besieged with orders and ended up buying all remaining stock from the producer – some six times their original consignment. After being virtually out of stock since, the Majestic Twitter feeds have this week been chirping that it is now available again. I decided to pick up a case.

Porta 6 Vinho Regional, Lisboa 2012 Vinho Tinto, 13.5% abv

Before we get to the contents, first mention must go to the wonderful label – an original painting by eccentric German painter Hauke Vagt, giving a colourful depiction of a tram thundering around the corner of a tight rustic cobbled street. The bottle itself is fairly weighty – something which has both positive (prestige) and negative (additional cost and environmental footprint) connotations, depending on your viewpoint. When twinned with the great label, I’m erring on the side of prestige, as they seem to be mindful of a well presented package. The bottle would make a great gift – if the wine lives up to its’ reputation!

The appearance is a deep dark, inky purple. The nose is equally deep, with a big dollop of wood and vanilla combined with dark ripe red fruit, raspberries and cream. Alongside this you have a darker undertone of plum and pepper spices.

The initial palate is full of weight, with creamy fullness, vanilla and violets and followed by dark cherry and currants, spice and densely packed forest fruits. I want to highlight here the distinction of weight from power, as this wine is a lolloping, rich and creamy dream where everything flows gently in to one another, as opposed to being a hit of flavour and then dissipating.

Tannins are medium, slightly grippy, but nicely round out the mouthfeel and guide the length of the wine which is amply carried by clean ripe fruit, and built upon with touches of bitter chocolate. You also get a good reminder of the overall warmth of the palate, coming from both the alcohol content and the pleasing ripeness of the combined fruits. A refreshing acidity runs through this end palate which makes you yearn for the next taste, or mouthful of food.

Overall, this is a great wine and one that will definitely make it on to my shortlist of everyday recommendations. It helps that it is a style that I really enjoy and will be a sound alternative to my usual staples of Argentinian Malbec and aged Rioja’s. Well worth the price.

Porta 6 is available from Majestic, currently on offer for £7.49 when you buy two bottles (£9.99 for a single bottle).

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Bodegas Beronia ‘Dos Maderas’ 2009 Rioja Reserva – Taste Panel

Wine tasting, food matching and dressing up – could there be a more interesting way to spend the evening?!

Beronia Kit

This latest taste panel comes courtesy of the fine people of Bodegas Beronia who hail from the world famous northern Spanish region of Rioja. What was supplied, however, gave more than the usual opportunity to try a wine and reel off a tasting note. Alongside the wine were several food items, recipe cards, moustache, and a traditional woollen beret, in order that you could recreate traditional Txoko (pronounced Chock-Oh) conditions in northern Spain. The preparation of food is a group activity there and friends form societies (Txoko’s) where they prepare the meal together, eat together, occasionally sing together, and wash it all down with great wine.

It was this group mentality that led to the founding of Bodegas Beronia in the Rioja Alta in 1973. Four local businessmen decided to take their get-togethers a step further, and actually make the wines themselves, with a commitment to producing Reserva and Gran Reserva wines in the traditional Rioja style. From this humble beginning, Beronia have worked their way up to be in the top 10 Rioja wineries in the Spanish market. Spanish wine giant Gonzalez Byass recognised the quality of their production early on and have invested in to the company since 1982, ensuring that Beronia delivers both tradition and innovation at the same time.

The Reserva 2009 ‘Dos Maderas’ is comprised of 94% Tempranillo, with dashes of both Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano rounding the blend out. This is then aged for 18 months in barrels made exclusively for Beronia, and comprised of two distinct types of oak. The French oak barrelheads bring touches of spice to the wine, whilst the American oak staves add seductive vanilla flavours. It is this unique ageing touch that gives the wine its name: ‘Dos Maderas’ literally translates as ‘two woods’.

The tapas selection supplied included snacking chorizo, a dried nut/fruit selection, and a tin of anchovy stuffed olives. To turn this in to a full meal to share, I took inspiration from one of the recipe cards and served lamb shank with creamy mash, asparagus, and an onion, garlic and red wine jus. All cooked, of course, whilst wearing my traditional costume! The wine was left in an open top decanter for one hour before serving.

Beronia Selfie     Beronia Bottle

Visually the wine was a reassuring assertive inky dark colour, almost opaque. The nose was amazingly powerful and full of flavour, and it hit you before your nose was fully in the glass. The aroma was like falling face first in to a blackberry bush (without the ‘ouch’!). Strong hits of dark cherry were followed by blackcurrant, and then topped up with mocha and finally refreshing vanilla and violets from the American oak.

The palate initially showed fine grained medium tannins, but when paired with the fatty Lamb, they disappeared, leaving the ripe black cherry to take the lead. There was also upfront spice from the French wood, and the full body of the wine is kitted out with blackberries, bramble, tobacco and molasses. American wood also makes its mark on the palate with a lovely hint of coconut marrying in to the vanilla tones and it’s no surprise at all that this stunning wine won a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge in 2013. The alcohol level is 14% but, given this and the amazing powerful concentration of fruit, the wine is in no way overpowering. A gentle balanced acidity glides it through, and a little alcohol warmth provides the backbone.

Wonderful stuff on its own, and it went amazingly with the fatty meat cutting through the tannin and the silky fruits matching the creamy mash. Even though this wine can easily be enjoyed now it has the backbone and fruit stamina to keep for another decade. World class.

With thanks to both Bodegas Beronia and Tesco for providing the wine, tapas selection and Txoko costume used in this tasting.

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