August 31st, 2013
I have an American colleague, of French origin, who given his own bodyweight in Sancerre would happily sit on his sunny balcony and drink it nonstop in a frenzied Loire-athon. He does admit that other wine regions in France exist but they are either over-priced or under-qualitied. There are no wines produced from outside “l’hexagon”.
I share an interest in French Sauvignon Blanc and the Loire is the pinnacle of how to convert the grape into astonishingly bright, juicy, sunny, flavours.
It seems ages since people seriously contemplated that new fangled New Zealand upstarts like Cloudy Bay might put the Loire Valley out of business. The subtleties of the wines of the French region are rarely found in Marlborough. I love many kiwi zingers, but grapefruity zinginess, if overdone, can test ones mouth ulcers to the limit . Built by Domaine Serge Laloue, Exhibition Sancerre is zingy in a gooseberry bush kind of a way, but without the cat piss. Very refined and priced to go at £12.95.
August 17th, 2013
Sometimes, something grabs you about a wine: the aroma, the château, the winemaker, the flavour. In this case, my balls were tickled by the price: Just £3.29 – a bottle of wine for the price of a pint of beer. Yes, that’s what I thought, have I woken up in the 1970s? Am I the new Doctor Who’s new assistant?
With aromas of Ribena, Fairy Liquid and white pepper, this is a confected, and far from perfect wine. But, if you are on to your third bottle in the middle of a liquidised summer barbecue, and you don’t want to waste any of your favourite wines on the neighbours, it will float your boat. And you can stock up with cheap beefburgers from the Aldi freezer cabinets, add several bottles of this rosé and still entertain your whole street for £25. Get onto it for the August Bank holiday weekend!
August 11th, 2013
I really don’t see the need for super heavyweight wine bottles. Why create unnecessary and excess baggage when exporting cases around the world? I feel the same way about alcohol. What’s the point of more than 13% unless it really adds value to the flavour of a wine? Finally, over-elaborate marketing to increase the price. I don’t like that in any field. Please just be honest and stop using flowery self-indulgent language on the back of the bottle.
Although quite tasty, this wine breaks all three barriers in Spades, putting in doubt the authenticity. One of the beauties of the arrogant diffidence of the French is that they rarely, if ever, fall into these traps. So, I’m going to leave it alone. If you feel the need for waste, you can remit £29 to The Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites) and they will send you a bottle.
July 31st, 2013
Like many British winos, I’ve got a blind spot. And what is worse, based on 1990s cheap Pinotages, almost a distrust of South African red wines. This wine proves me right, and also proves me wrong. A bit like sucking a raspberry teabag off a hot brick, it’s fruity, tannic, earthy and juicy like a southern Rhone. However, drink on and by the third glass there is a hint of rubber in a condom sort of way. It’s is the sort of unusual flavour that many people like – I sometimes taste it in Monastrell/Mourvèdre for example.
In fact not a Pinotage, but a blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah, this wine is not for me, sorry, but I can appreciate the quality and attention and love decanted into the bottle, so I’d encourage you to give it a go and form your own opinion. Stocked by the Wine Society and Majestic at around 12 British Pounds, it is not a risky experiment.
July 9th, 2013
If the temperature in the north of England exceeds 20ºC (about 68ºF), we declare an immediate heatwave. Our local council issues emergency supplies of sunscreen and an army of ice cream vans is deployed, much in the same way that road gritters are when it snows. Absence rates at work soar and air conditioning units fail as they finally make a diffident, laboured switch from heating to cooling.
I write this in West Yorkshire, where temperatures today headed towards 30ºC/86ºF. Panic stations.
Half of my current worklife is spent in Florida where, at such temperatures, people reach for their woollen socks, and fur coats sell faster than beach towels.
In either geography, one thing to remember is that wine rises in temperature almost as quickly as mercury. That cheeky young Claret, opened at 16ºC, hits 25 in ten minutes of hot sun. A zingy Sauvignon Blanc, carefully crafted by Jane Hunter, or one of her countrymen, turns flat and lifeless, worthless, unless kept below 10 degrees. So, what can we do?
I recommend chilling any wine much cooler than serving temperature, and pouring in small measures. A barbecue at Wino Towers last weekend saw my Rhone red in an ice bucket for the duration of the afternoon. (OK, I lied, it took two bottles to last the full afternoon).
Try to keep your glasses out of direct sun and above all, drink as quickly as possible. At least this will make you forget how bad warm wine tastes.
June 30th, 2013
I used to buy a case or three of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc a year and always Jane Hunter featured in the centre. But zingy cat piss can only bring on so much excitement, and the last couple of years have seen almost zero feline urolagnia staining the Wino doorstep.
However, the grand old grape of Riesling, revered by so many winos, is also widely grown in Middle Earth. Mix an awesome winemaker with awesome materials and the mouth waters. The Ruby Murray came by moped from The Sharma in Heckmondwike. Jane Hunter is widely available. My bottle was delivered by the Wine Society for £11.95.
The wine is incredibly appley. Shut your eyes and you could be eating a crisp Royal Gala. A hint of flat champagne when first opened (too cold, straight from the fridge), it evolved as the apples warmed and added nutmeg, elderflower, and cream. It is an apple strudel in a glass. Definitely worth a try if you used to like Kiwi SB and you think Blue Nun was under-rated.
May 31st, 2013
If you want to test your principles to the limit don’t join Opus Dei, simply have a daughter! My wife is Catholic but, less than impressed with man’s (and, in particular the Church Of Ireland’s) interpretation of God’s way, vowed that our darling would not be forced into a religion. What could go wrong with bringing her up to respect life and people and then allowing her to choose her own religion later in life? In a word, schooling.
There are three to choose from in our area. Two are poor to average, according to OFSTED reports, and one is excellent, but is a Catholic school and realistically requires a baptism. Decision unmade but faith tested is probably the best way to describe the current situation.
How does a winemaker cope with breaking principles every day? How to produce wine that is honest and tasty, yet can make money? I’ve long admired Chilean conglomerate Concha y Toro for making very passable wines en masse and to a decent, very drinkable, quality. Errazuriz is almost there but not quite. Take this Chardonnay, for example. It tastes fruity but a bit tinny and sharp. You can get it for about £8 from Majestic (depending on the prevailing discount scheme), so it falls in the same price bracket as CyT. But, despite the overt apple and pear flavours, this is missing a little je ne sais quoi. Errazuriz is lager in a can, compared to CyT lager in a glass bottle. I’m sure they are catching up, though.
April 24th, 2013
If you look at any wine list with a sweet section, you have a better than evens chance of seeing Beaumes de Venise. But, it is rare to see reds from this Rhone village, especially in UK and US restaurants.
I’ve been ordering a Jaboulet BdV en primeur for years. At about £10 a bottle it stinks of value to high heaven. A fresh young juicy red that goes great with spicy pork or lamb dishes and is generally best drunk within a year or two of receipt.
With ‘spooky coincidence’ written on the packing receipt, a few days before my annual Jaboulet instalment arrived from the 2010 vintage, a sample of another marque arrived. I like taste tests.
Domaine la Brune is rich, deep and devious and contains more Scary Spice than a Portuguese Douro. Went well with Lincolnshire sausages and mash. The Jaboulet is lighter, brighter faced and more fruity, in an Emma Bunting sort of way. Both wines have a creaminess often experienced by men viewing the Spice Girls in their prime…
Take your pick, or explore other BdV reds. Maybe you will find Geri or Victoria.
I paid The Wine Society £11.28 per bottle (en primeur) for the Jaboulet. The Domaine de la Brune is available from Christopher Keiller at £117.50 per case (equiv. £9.79 per bottle).
April 15th, 2013
A good test of expensive Burgundy wines (white or red) is whether they go with beans on toast.
I paid Virgin Wines £23.99 for this Pernand-Vergelesses, gulp…. If you join one of the opaque monthly payment schemes, you can make it cheaper. Personally, I’m sick of trading £20 per month for a “discount” on wines, so I have stopped all such accounts (including Virgin) and I am sticking to retailers with simple principles: Join up, look at the website, decide whether to buy, secure in the knowledge that you can nearly always find a competitor price in the event of lingering doubt.
Clearly meeting the expensive moniker, this Vallet Frères is rounder than a grapefruit, zingier than a grapefruit, and fruitier than a grape. This is important because to stand up to the shock and awe of (Branston) baked beans requires a good slug of fruit, gentle tannins and battery like acidity. Tick. Tick. Tick.
BRING OUT THE BRANSTON!
March 26th, 2013
A refreshing white wine from Galicia is no surprise, but a non-vintage one is uncommon. More unusual, but much appreciated, is advice on drinking temperature on the back label. In this case, 10-12 degrees. If you chill your white wines in a typical household fridge, that, means taking it out about an hour before drinking.
Most whites of any substance should be drunk much warmer than frigo. Otherwise differentiating between a Blue Nun and a Bâtard-Montrachet is going to reveal neither the sins of the former, nor the virtues of the latter.
Cumio, made from some blend of Treixadura and Palomino grapes, a refreshing change from tired Albariños from the same north western corner of Spain, is certainly refreshing and light – only 11% alcohol. It is also much more complex and serious than a seaside holiday seafood slurping wine. Possibly a touch over-acidic, but fruity as hell.
If you live near Manchester you can find it at the ever reliable Hanging Ditch for £12.50.