Do have a look at the attached video recorded by wine maestro Charles Metcalfe giving you his tips for summer drinking…. well worth a view!
Jim Barry – McRae Wood Shiraz 2005 (Clare Valley, Australia)
As a wine blogger or rather “communicator” as we seem to be calling ourselves now I sometimes feel a certain pressure to be seen to be drinking certain types of wine. I started writing about wine so that friends and family could go and pick up wines that I recommended which has always necessitated writing about wines in places like Majestic and some of the supermarkets. As a result I tend to drink a fair few commercial wines or, as a friend in wine called them, “obvious wines”. I feel though sometimes that I really should be seen by my peers to be reviewing biodynamic Priorats or organic Pinot Blancs made on Wednesdays by blind nuns and only sold in London. Something just, well, less obvious.
I suspect Aussie Shiraz could be deemed to be “obvious”. The big fruitbomb examples certainly are and they seem to be quite out of fashion at the moment. However, as a wine it’s always been something I’ve loved, whether it be trendy to say so or not. The McRae Wood Shiraz by Jim Barry has been a loyal companion and this, the 2005 vintage, seems to have been an ever present over the years thanks to a certain degree of stockpiling on my part.
Alas this is my penultimate bottle and I’m delighted to say that as it nears double digits it’s still just as good as it ever was. Possibly better even. The years have been kind to it and there’s no immediate sign that it is now on the downward descent to oblivion. I found myself sat on Saturday evening with a glass of this over a fantastic lamb shank and all seemed well with the World….. The dark fruit notes are still very evident but it’s the luscious texture of the wine that gets me. The complexity is impressive and overall it just feels decadent. It’s not big for the sake of it but rather comes across as confident and assured. It’s no wonder the bottle is so adorned in medals.
I’ve not had many better examples of Aussie Shiraz to be honest. I just have no idea when to open the last bottle! I always feel a bit guilty when I blog about a wine I’ve had for years and end it with “sadly this wine is no longer available”. Sometimes though you just have to shout about what you like, whether it’s en vogue or not……
Sadly this wine is no longer available. Unless you rob me for my last bottle…..
Codorniu Gran Cremant Cava 2012
Well this was a surprise. I’ve always liked Cava but it’s a bit of a minefield. The under £10 segment of the market can be a bit hit and miss. That said, at least it’s not Prosecco…. A slightly rough and ready Cava beats an insipid Prosecco for me any day.
Thankfully, this isn’t rough and ready in any way. Made from the usual Cava grapes of Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada the wine is kept on the lees (the dead yeast cells) for at least 9 months after secondary fermentation which does great things for the taste and complexity.
I’m impressed with the citrus and apple combination on the palate. There’s more than a hint of apple pie on the aftertaste with a slight creaminess. It’s a very drinkable wine with a subtle fizz. The best thing though is that for the rest of August this is reduced to just £6.99 from its usual price of £10.49 in larger Co-Op stores. £6.99 doesn’t traditionally buy you much in the world of fizz but it certainly will do for the rest of August.
So put that bloody Prosecco down and try this instead…..
Meerlust “Red” 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Generally speaking a bad wine vintage is just that. A bad thing. From adversity though can come opportunity for the cost conscious wine consumer (or cheapskate wine blogger who wants to drink the good stuff without the associated price tag)…..
Meerlust are one of my favourite wineries in South Africa. Their wines are brutally reliable and fantastically tasty. One of their best of course is the “Rubicon” label; a Bordeaux bothering blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc which really does stand up to much more expensive examples from Bordeaux. The chaps at Meerlust are so focused on quality that in a vintage which doesn’t quite deliver the quality of fruit they need to make Rubicon they just don’t make it. Instead, the grapes which have failed this particularly high quality test are made into a lesser wine known as, wait for it, “Red”. I hope they didn’t pay too much for the marketing consultants who came up with the name…
Leaving aside the catchy name however it’s worth noting that once bottled and shipped over to the UK this wine retails for around £9.95-£11.50 a bottle. Grapes that nearly made it into a bottle of Rubicon (and would no doubt have been good enough for many other flagship wines at other wineries) are suddenly much more accessible and incredibly good value.
2011 was one such year when Rubicon got a year off and the mighty “Red” came to the fore. For £9.95 (from the Wine Society) this is a very impressive wine. It blends power and precision beautifully with dark berry flavours combining with leather and cigar notes. Whilst drinking very nicely now I’d be keen to see how this had aged in 4 or 5 years. I suspect it’d age very gracefully indeed.
So there you have it. Whilst there might not have been any Rubicon from the 2011 vintage there instead comes the opportunity to snaffle up some very quality wine at a bargain price.
Available for £9.95 from the Wine Society.
Folding Hill “Orchard Block” Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago, NZ)
I’ve said it before and I’m about to say it again, in print no less, but in the summer months (or any months really) if you’re going to drink red wine I don’t think there’s a much better option than good New Zealand Pinot Noir (cue howls of derision from Beaujolais lovers up and down the land)….
Having made that bold assertion I’m now going to make another. I don’t think there are many better examples of New Zealand Pinot Noir than this. Right, that’s enough assertions for now. On to the wine….
Folding Hill are located in Bannockburn within the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. Obviously Central Otago is a bit of a hot bed of excellent Pinot and Folding Hill have settled in very nicely indeed. The “Orchard Block” Pinot is their flagship wine but they also make a very good yet cheaper Pinot which sits beneath this.
The Orchard Block 2010 retails at £31.50 online with thesampler.co.uk. Yes that sounds a lot and yes that would buy you a bottle of Champagne but I’d urge you to buy a bottle of this instead. The wine is full of brooding red fruit notes which combined with the hint of toastiness leave you feeling very satisfied indeed as you work your way through the bottle. For the £31.50 you’re sampling one of the top level wines from the region. Trying to do the same thing from one of the classic European regions tends to involve a bank loan. I trot this reasoning out fairly frequently but in my view it’s a real plus point for New World wine in general.
If £31.50 feels a lot then their other Pinot (currently the 2011 vintage) is available for £19.50 from thesampler.co.uk and that’s a splendid wine too. Just not really splendid like this one…..
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Hunter Valley Bottle Aged Semillon 2006 (Australia)
I noticed this wine being recommended by a few reliable winos (Paola Tich and Nayan Gowda). Seeing them tipping any wine makes it worth checking out. When it’s a supermarket wine you’d be a bit of an idiot if you didn’t go and pick a bottle up.
I love Semillon but you don’t see an awful lot of it on the shelves. Therefore kudos for Sainsbury’s for stocking not just a Semillon but one which is bottle aged, thereby allowing the wine to get near to its peak. What Semillon is sold in the UK is probably drunk way too young so being able to buy a ready aged wine is a great opportunity. You’d normally expect to pay a bit of a premium for this but at only £8 (I think it might be £10 down South) we’re well into bargain territory here.
The wine is packed full of character with toasty lemon notes and a long complex finish. It’s honestly a lot of wine for £8.
In fact, I’m off to buy a few more bottles over the weekend. In my book that’s a bit of a thumbs up…..
Byron Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2009 (California, USA)
This wine has helped temper my disappointment at the fact that the Holland v Argentina semi final hasn’t (as yet) been the goal fest that Brazil v Germany was last night. Maybe it was too much to expect another 5-0 half time score line.
Anyhow, the wine. Well, it’s very good. When drinking Californian wines in the UK the price is useful for context. This is £16 a bottle (from Highbury Vintners). That’s probably mid-low for the market given the test inducing mark up in the UK for Californian wines. The nose smells like burnt brown sugar with the palate tasting like you’ve licked a box full of apples that have been left next to a bonfire (and dipped in butter - the apples, not the box). Clear enough?
So. If that sounds like something you’d like to drink I suggest you buy a bottle.
The Beer Anorak glass - a little review…
I’m not sure I’ve ever actually reviewed a wine glass, let alone a beer glass but you can’t live in your comfort zone forever can you?!
As many people willl hopefully by now know Jamie Goode (wine writer and wine judge) and Daniel Primack (of Eurocave UK and glassware expert) have recently formed “Beer Anorak”, a blog featuring their reviews of, well, beers (mainly craft ales). Not content with that though they also decided to design their own glass. As you do.
Keen to try out their creation I sat down recently with three different glasses and a few ales. Truth be told I’ve had worse evenings…. Two of the glasses I’ve used for craft ales for a while, my old trusty Spiegelau beer glass and the Olly Smith glass by Zalto which is intended as a universal wine glass but works well with craft ale. For the purposes of variety I then decided to add a traditional pint glass too.
For the beers I decided to stick to beers I’m used to drinking to aid my experiment. The first was the Beavertown Gamma Ray (an American pale ale which I’ve been drinking lots of late) and then also a Brewdog Punk IPA on the basis that it’s a bit of a stock ale (thanks to its easy availability) and I know the taste well.
The pint glass was very quickly discarded. The ale seemed limp compared to the others. One down. Next to go was the Olly Smith glass which for some reason seemed to mute slightly the flavour of the ales and just doesn’t sit as well in your hand when filled with beer as the others do. It took me a while to then determine that on balance I’d pluck for the Beer Anorak glass over the Spiegelau. The flavours are more pronounced (without being overly so) and it feels great to hold. It also looks brilliant. I don’t understand quite how but the ale looked much more vibrant in the Beer Anorak glass too.
There is a price difference, The Spiegelau glasses retail at £30 for 4 whilst the Beer Anorak glass will set you back £25. Given how pricey properly good craft ales can be though surely it makes sense to treat them to the best possible vessel to find their way to your mouth and increase your enjoyment of them.
The Beer Anorak glass is therefore heartily recommended. Available from www.aroundwine.co.uk.
Meerlust – Pinot Noir 2011 (Stellenbosch, SA)
I’m fast becoming of the opinion that Saturday night is not a night for taking a wine gamble. Thursday night? Absolutely, Friday night? Perhaps…. Saturday though is just too important. It is without doubt a time to pick a wine you trust and consign the experimental Macedonian Merlot back to the wine rack…
Which pretty much sums up how I was feeling on Saturday when I spotted this lurking in my wine cave. Pinot is perfect for this time of year when you’re already beginning to get a little tired of all the white wine you’ve been drinking but still wanting something light yet fruity. The bonus with this wine is that it’s made by Meerlust who have always been in my view of utmost reliability. They can provide my Saturday night wine anytime….
This is a fantastic South African Pinot which is easily deserving of its price tag around £19-£21 with most retailers (SA Wines Online stock this for £19.79). I loved the vibrant red fruit notes, hint of creaminess and smattering of savoury elements which all combine to make a very pleasant glass of Pinot indeed. This would age happily in my view well through to 2017 (patience pending)….
Anyway, back to planning my Wednesday night wine. What did I do with that Macedonian Merlot?……
Oldfields Orchard – Discovery Cider
With apologies to cider bloggers for muscling in on their turf but I thought I’d spread my wings a little and venture into things all things apple.
As a Worcestershire resident I’ve become a fan of Hobson’s ales over the years given they’re not that far away and make, well, really good ale. They’ve also ventured into cider making in a collaboration with orchardman (I’ve never used that word before) Geoff Thompson of Oldfields Farm which has inspired me to venture (briefly) into cider blogging. In my defence this cider is intended to be enjoyed like a sparkling wine which brings things back into my usual comfort zone a little more…
The interesting thing about this cider is that it’s made from pink Discovery apples. These aren’t usually used for cider as being eating apples they’re not the most flavoursome. Given however that this is intended to be enjoyed like a sparkling wine the subtly of the cider actually works quite well. It’s not a punchy flavour but in the right time and place I don’t think you want or need it to be.
This is a restrained and refreshing cider capable of being happily consumed with food (it went very well with scallops) or just as an aperitif. At only 6% abv it’s suitable for many situations.
And there was me thinking cider could only be consumed by the pint glass full of ice…..
Available from Tanners Wines.
Vent Del Mar – Garnacha Blanca 2012 (Terra Alta, Spain)
It’s well publicised that I’ve never been especially fond of Spanish whites. Well, it’s been publicised by me. I highly doubt whether anybody else has been writing about it…. However, of late my increasing liking of Portuguese white wines has given me hope that I just might be able to get on board with a Spaniard of the Blanca variety.
This Grenache is grown relatively close to the Priorat region, home of many superstar wineries. The vines for this wine are grown at 550 metres above sea level therefore benefit from a natural acidity that I often find is missing from Spanish whites.
I found this a very drinkable wine indeed. I like the apple notes and slight nuttiness whilst the acidity does make it easy drinking and not flabby in nature. All in all it’s pleasant. I think I could find wines I prefer for £11.99 but hey, it’s a Spanish white which I enjoyed, that’s progress if nothing else. If you already love Spanish white wines then you’re way ahead of me and you need to try this.
Available from Laithwaites.
Co-Operative “Truly Irresistible” Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Leyda Valley, Chile)
Bullish move labelling a wine, or indeed anything as “Truly Irresistible”. Kind of setting yourself up for a fall. Unless of course the product you’re pedalling is full of tropical fruit notes and grassy aromas. Granted this works better when you’re pedalling Sauvignon Blanc and not something like fence paint….
At £6.99 this isn’t really even that expensive to expect great things of, yet it does deliver good, if maybe not great things. It’s a very gluggable Sauvignon pretty much tailor made for long days in the garden watching sausages gradually become less pink. It has a persistent tropical finish which appeals and I was genuinely quite surprised by how good this wine was. The Silver medal picked up in the recent International Wine Challenge looks well deserved.
Stock up, we may well get a summer this year. Having a few of these in the fridge just might set you up for it…..
Peltier Ranch - Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (Lodi, California)
So, can you get a half decent Californian Chardonnay for under £7 in the UK? You’ve probably already guessed that the answer is yes, as otherwise this would be a pitiful blog indeed.
But to answer the question for the sake of completeness if nothing else, yes you can!!
Somehow the Wine Society are knocking this out at £6.50 and it’s easily better than any supermarket Chardonnays I’ve had the misfortune to try at that price. I don’t like the fact that the wine is shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK despite having heard the supposed benefits of doing so many times. It just feels wrong to me.
But despite that it’s a pretty decent Chardonnay with a slight creaminess, apple hints and a light dash of oak. You can do a lot worse for £6.50….
Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Loureiro, Vinho Verde 2012 (Portugal)
The season is definitely changing. It’s time to put the Malbec away and get the Vinho Verde out. Summer is almost certainly on the way!
The Wine Society’s selection of Portuguese wines seems to be better every time I look at it, and the selection of budget friendly white wines from Portugal is very strong. This is a wonderful example….
The Loureiro grape often produces very aromatic wines and this is just that, the wine has a lovely floral nose whilst the palate is aromatic and floral with citrus notes and an appealing zing of acidity. Put simply this is an awesome summer wine.
At £8.75 from the Wine Society this is a bit of a bargain in my view. In fact, don’t just put the Malbec away, put away the sodding Sauvignon Blanc too and just work your way through the Wine Society’s list of Portuguese whites this summer. I will be….
Available here from the Wine Society: http://www.thewinesociety.com/shop/productdetail.aspx?section=pd&pd=PW3951
Moss Wood Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Australia)
I’d not had an Aussie Pinot for quite a while before tonight so mentally I’d been preparing the blog in my head. I was going to chastise myself for spending too much of my New World Pinot drinking allocation on Kiwi wine. I was then going to rebuke myself for ignoring Aussie Pinot because this wine was just as good as some of the recent Kiwi efforts I’ve had. But then, sadly, it wasn’t…..
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very pleasant if not good Pinot. It ticks the obligatory red fruit boxes and it does have a lovely velvety texture. The only disappointing factor for me was the slight lack of depth in the taste department. It has you in a soft arm lock taste wise but never quite extends into an impenetrable head lock.
And, sadly, at just north of £20 a bottle (from various retailers - this one came from The Secret Cellar in Tunbridge Wells) you do want something that’s going to leave slightly more of a lasting impression than just, “yep, that was nice”.
So, a nice wine no doubt, but I was really ready for it to be quite a bit more….