Mac Forbes “Blind Spot” Shiraz Cabernet 2010 (Grampians, Australia)
Lovely wine, shocking label.
Probably not enough of a blog. I’ll go on…. Mac Forbes is a bit of a winemaking legend so it’s a coup for the Wine Society to sign him up to produce this line of wines for them at the budget end, probably not something Mac’s particularly used to. At £7.95 this is a good wine indeed.
Shiraz Cabernet is a bit of a classic Aussie blend and I really like this one. It’d make a superb BBQ wine, though you will of course have to take it to another country. Summer has been and gone….
I like the bright fruit characters of the wine. It has an appealing freshness and long red fruit finish. It’s an easy drinking bargain of a wine and I reckon the other wines in the Blind Spot would be worth a shot too.
Sadly this vintage is no more at the Wine Society but the 2011 is in stock here http://www.thewinesociety.com/shop/productdetail.aspx?section=pd&pl=&pd=AU15461&pc=&prl= - sadly the label remains. Something of a blind spot in the whole package there chaps….
A trio of reds from Lidl
Well, it’s been a day of contrasts so far…. just as I was looking into these wine samples from Lidl an invite to the inaugural Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards dropped through the letter box.
I’ll confess that Lidl wouldn’t be my first port of call when looking to stock up on wines. I actually implement something of an embargo when it comes to buying wines from supermarkets, save for an odd trip to Waitrose. I think this is partly due to an element of snobbery on my part combined with a suspicion that lots of supermarket wines are made to hit a certain price point and not to satisfy the winemaker’s passion for winemaking. However, as a wine blogger it’s no use just blogging about niche wines from your favourite indie wine merchants that most of your readers will never come across, hence I was happy to accept these samples from Lidl.
The reds I was sent were the Fleurie 2011, the Saxa Loquuntur Rioja 2010 and the Chianti Riserva 2009. Clearly Lidl are committed to having the classics covered in their range and whilst I didn’t sample anything beyond these three they also have a St Emilion, CdP and a Medoc in the range. Like I say, the basics are covered! A great thing about these wines of course (ignoring the actual quality for a minute) is that they allow a newcomer to wine to explore different wine styles at low cost in order to find his or her preference.
First up the was the Fleurie at a price of only £6.49. I should really declare at this point that the wines of Beaujolais do very little for me and I don’t tend to get particularly excited about them. This though isn’t bad at all. There’s a slight spice to the light raspberry notes and it’s a quite moreish wine. The finish isn’t particularly long but as a summer glugger this is pretty decent.
Next up was the Chianti at a retail price of £5.99. The nose is immediately impressive with sweet red fruit notes leaping from the glass. The wine has a slightly sweet initial character with the expected red fruit notes and a slightly herbal finish. I like the soft texture and its acidity is just what you need to cut through food. I only wish Lidl had sent me a pack of salami to go with this…… A pretty decent wine all round though possibly lacking slightly in impact.
I finished with the 2010 Rioja which will set you back the princely sum of £6.99. This is a really fruity smile inducing wine! I like the really lively strawberry and raspberry notes and the freshness of the wine. This is very refreshing for a red and particularly drinkable. The oak notes are subtle but pleasant. This is my pick of the bunch.
Whilst I’m unlikely to be making Lidl my wine merchant of choice I’ve been impressed with the quality of these three wines. Not only are they great for establishing an awareness of the basic key wines they’re also excellent party fodder where value is crucial and people just want something fun to drink.
With 4 Masters of Wine (including Richard Bampfield) helping to shape the Lidl range they are clearly a retailer to watch for decent wine on a budget….
Macario Montoya “Sin Fronteras” Tempranillo 2009 - Shenandoah Valley, California
No honestly, this is a Californian Tempranillo….. I’ve not done much research but this is not a common grape in California as you might expect. The figures vary but it seems around 960 acres of Californian wine country has Tempranillo growing on it. In May 2012 I was lucky enough to visit a small plot making us this acreage.
Macario Montoya told us how he’d always wanted to try out Spanish grape varieties in California and the guys from Naked Wines arrived as if on cue to hand him a pile of money to do just that. This is the result. I should probably confess that when in Napa with the guys from Naked Wines and tasked with picking my top 6 wines we tasted to bring home this didn’t make my shortlist. However, it’s definitely benefitted from a little time in my spare room….
It’s a subtle wine but it shows the classic Tempranillo character. There are only very slight oak notes here and it’s quite nice getting to experience the Tempranillo flavours beyond their oaky cloak. There’s a slight smokiness and dark berry element to the wine. The alcohol burn is ever present in the background giving a slightly rustic feel to proceedings.
All in all it makes you wonder why there’s not more Tempranillo in California. Maybe they’ll get bored of growing Cab Sauv one day….
This is no longer available from Naked Wines but I’m sure there’ll be later vintages to come.
Famille Bougrier - Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2011
I’ve never licked a pile of shaved lemon rind but thanks to this wine I probably don’t need to now. I have a fair idea of how it tastes….
It’s not just about the lemons in this wine though, it’s got a good smack of gooseberry about it too and a general hint of floral notes…
The wine is made by Frank Chatelain and is fermented in steel tanks. It gives a certain minerality to the wine. This even impressed my Mum who’s usually bordering on militant when it comes to her “Marlborough only” Sauvignon stance. It must be good!
At £10.49 a bottle from M&S this is a decent wine which went down very well indeed with the group tonight. Stock up!
Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Mendoza, Argentina)
The last time I tried this wine back in 2011 it was the flavours of mint that I was most effusive of. Funny how things change as having just tried my last bottle of this it’s not minty at all. Either the wine has just continued its development or I was absolutely plastered when I last tried this. Both seem entirely plausible to be honest.
Drunken wine blogging aside this wine does still impress. It’s certainly in its old age. If it were a person it’d be considering a Honda Civic right about now. The nose has become a little muted but the palate is still pretty lively. Notes of cigar and coffee now dominate slightly but the pepper and dark berry notes that I recall are still present.
I purposefully left a bottle of this for a while in order to be able to sample it over the course of 5 years or so. It’s continued developing really well. I’d be a little hesitant leaving it much longer if I had any left. Sadly this was the last one.
Only thing is, I quite miss the mint notes of the wine in 2011. Maybe I should have had two bottles that night……
Hahn Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - Central Coast, California
I knew at roughly 9:10am this morning that it was going to be a wine night tonight. You sometimes have days like that…. Not often so early in the day admittedly….
I’ve been steadily increasing my consumption of Californian wines since an excellent trip to Napa last year. Problem is that they don’t typically lend themselves to Tuesday evening drinking. The premium real estate prices and cult status of Californian wines don’t often result in bargain bin prices.
Now admittedly I didn’t actually buy this wine, it was a free sample, but at a retail price of £12.99 it’s the kind of wine that could just about justify Tuesday evening drinking. On a pretty bad Tuesday….
It has a really soft and open texture right out of the bottle needing no time to mellow like some Calfornian Cabernets that can take most of the week once open to depart from their linear nature. The dark fruit notes blend really well with a slight spiciness which altogether add up to a decent wine. No it doesn’t have the class of a premium Napa Cabernet but you don’t need to sell a kidney to buy it either.
Available from Spirited Wines: http://www.spiritedwines.co.uk/hahn-cabernet-sauvignon-2010.html
Seven Springs - Young Vines Pinot Noir 2011 (Hermanus, South Africa)
This wine completes my Seven Springs set. I’ve now tried all of their original line up since having met English owner Tim Pearson back in 2011. I’d been impressed by the whites (a Sauv Blanc and oaked and unoaked Chardonnays) and the Syrah showed very good promise too. Next up was the often fickle Pinot grown on vines only a few years old.
Given the youthful nature of the vines here the wine already shows a lot of character. It’s a clean wine with a refreshing line of acidity running through it and the nose is wonderfully perfumed with classic Pinot scents. The palate is subtle but effective with bright red fruits and a very slight creaminess in the background. To be honest this is a more complete Pinot than I expected and I wonder if Tim too was a little surprised with how well the wine turned out!
Seven Springs recommend giving this an hour before drinking and it certainly does open up in this time. As an initial attempt at Pinot this shows real potential. The acidity would make this an excellent food wine.
As I’ve said before when reviewing wines from Seven Springs; I’m genuinely looking forward to trying the next vintages having finally completed the set. The success story goes on!
Available online for £13.95 from www.bijoubottles.co.uk and in store at Loki Wines in Birmingham.
Chablis -v- Thai Food. A night of discovery…..
When I was asked to take part in the Chablis Blogger Challenge 2013 I was naturally keen to get involved. What I hadn’t expected though was to be asked to match the two wines (both Chablis obviously….) with takeaway food. Chablis? With a takeaway? Really? It somehow felt disrespectful. Shouldn’t we be treating the wines to something a bit classier?! Lucky I hadn’t already stocked up on smoked salmon and cod roe…
The more I thought about it though the more astute an idea it seemed to be. Chablis, like many French wine regions, isn’t exactly seen as having a particularly modern image, so trying to stand out and perhaps appeal to a whole new demographic can only be a good thing. Whether the demographic they’re after is the great British takeaway guzzlers is another thing but progress is progress….
Sadly after 10 minutes ploughing through Google I couldn’t find any takeaways specialising in fine fish dishes (something I’ve always tried to pair Chablis with). Clearly I was going to have to do this properly. Fish and chips were ruled out immediately, it just seemed like cheating somehow. Indian I ruled out too on the basis that it didn’t really seem fair on the Chablis. There are very few wines I think go as well with curry as a lager and I didn’t think judgements along this line would go down particularly well with the fine folk of Chablis! Chinese food bothers me in general. There’s something about boiled meat that puts me off. My only remaining option was therefore Thai. So off I trudged….
At this point it’s probably a good idea to introduce my partners in crime; the wines. The first wine was a Domaine Servin “Les Pargues” Chablis 2011 (available for £13.49 from Laithwaites: http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/Still_White_Wine/Domaine_Servin_Chablis_Les_Pargues/prod4521358). The second wine was the J. Moreau & Fils Petit Chablis 2011 (available for £71.94 for a case of 6 from M&S: http://www.marksandspencer.com/Moreau-Fils-Petit-Chablis-2011/dp/B00A822O2W). I imagine most of my readers are familiar with Chablis but by way of a whistle-stop tour there are three key facts to know: (1) It’s from the Burgundy region of France (2) It’s made only from Chardonnay (at which point someone always realises they’ve been drinking Chablis for years whilst simultaneously declaring that they hate Chardonnay) and (3) People don’t usually drink it with takeaway food. Right. Let’s move on…
The first tasty morsel out of the bag of Thai goodies was the Sesame Prawn and Chicken Toast. After a few bites and a few slurps of each wine I’d already proven that Chablis does go with Thai food. The toast worked really well with both wines bringing out the buttery notes of each wine, even when dunked in a little chilli sauce. Flush from my early success I moved on to the fish cakes (probably a bit of a cheat as there was a high probability of success here). Unsurprisingly the wines nimbly danced their way through this course. If anything the Petit Chablis worked a little better here.
Course 3 swiftly followed; the Pork and Prawn Noodles with Soy Sauce. Interestingly this dish really brought out the citrus notes in the two wines and on this occasion the Chablis fared slightly better than the Petit Chablis, albeit both performed admirably. Neck and neck heading to the last… The Last course was a Chicken Pad Thai which was an unequivocal success. In fact, this was probably the best match of the lot.
I have to say I was a little surprised by the results but was particularly impressed with the versatility of the wines. Having opened both wines on the sofa without food the Chablis was my slight favourite. However, once we’d subjected the wines to a barrage of Thai delicacies it was the Petit Chablis which seemed to cope marginally better. Both are excellent wines really showing off the region.
Either way I’ve realised that I’ve been pigeon holing Chablis for years pretty much drinking it only with fish dishes. It’s time the shackles came off and a new challenge issued. Anyone for a Vindaloo?……
Avignonesi - Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010
This wine really cries out for something like a cliche of a pasta dish or maybe a plate full of cured Italian meats. Sadly I’ve not planned ahead so I’m trying this on the sofa with, erm, nothing…. I feel like I’m disrespecting everyone involved in making this but at least it’s allowing me to focus solely on the wine…
The grapes come from 2 of the wineries vineyard properties, Le Capezzine and I Poggetti. The wine itself was aged in oak for 18 months with 80% being aged in barriques and 20% in barrels.
It’s a classy and subtle wine with, as you’d expect of a Sangiovese, oodles of bright red fruit flavours. For a 2010 it’s already quite “giving” though I did allow it an hour to breathe just to liven up a little. It’s a good example of textbook Vino Nobile. Nothing groundbreaking but then Vino Nobile isn’t really meant to be.
Obviously as an Italian red it’s absolutely crying out for a compatible meal to bring this to life. It’s a real shame I’ve only just found that pack of Salami in the fridge. Bugger….
The wine retails for around £23.99 in various retailers including Butlers in Brighton, Hedonism Drinks in London or if you’re feeling really flush, Harrods….
Jason Moore “Credence” Napa Cabernet 2010 and Mount Horrocks “Cordon Cut” Riesling 2008
The fuzziness of my head on Sunday morning was testament to the hard work I’d put in on Saturday night tasting and ultimately drinking a few red wines. Oh, and a bit of dessert wine. And a fizz. Thankfully I was able to remember that two of the wines had proven a big success.
Our first red in fact was probably my favourite red of the night, the “Credence” Napa Valley Cabernet 2010 made for Naked Wines by Jason Moore. This was one of the wines selected as “one to bring home” when I visited Napa with some of the guys from Naked Wines in May 2012. At £13.99 for Naked Wines’ Angel customers it’s decent value for Napa Cabernet and it’s bloody good too. It wasn’t just me that loved it though; my friend Milo drinks pretty much nothing but Left Bank Cabernet and he was also a fan….
I gave it well over an hour in the decanter and it definitely benefitted from it. Once in the glass it had a fantastic black fruit and spice character which went really well with our mixed meat starter for dinner. If anything it made the next red (an Argentinian Malbec that I probably should have opened a year earlier) taste a little bland in comparison. Some people will baulk at the £13.99 price tag but it’s very difficult buying Napa Cabernet of this quality for any less in the UK. Sadly it’s sold out now on Naked Wines’ site but I’m sure Jason will be sending some more over in the near future.
The second star of the night, and I’m pretty sure not just because it was the last wine, was the Mount Horrocks “Cordon Cut” Riesling 2008. I’ve honestly not had many better dessert wines. It’s absolutely beautiful. It has very condensed lemon and lime flavours with just the right level of sweetness. I’ve had this in my wine cooler for a while now. It’s made a few journeys downstairs before I wimped out and declared it (or perhaps myself) not ready yet. It’s clearly got plenty of time left in it but it’s drinking very well indeed right now.
So there you have it. Start the night with a lovely Napa Cabernet, have a few other wines in between and end with a superb Aussie dessert wine. Clearly a recipe for success…..
Wirra Wirra “Mrs Wigley” Moscato 2012, McLaren Vale (Australia)
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good serious wine and the story behind it. What was the winemaker’s intention for the wine? What was the soil type in which the grapes were grown? How long did it spend in barrel and what kind of barrel?
Let’s face it, you could spend weeks analysing a bottle of wine. Which is why, every now and then, I like to open a wine that’s just all about fun. I don’t care what the winemaker had in mind, what the soil type was or if it’s ever seen an oak barrel in its life. Often these moments come when sat in the sun in the garden and more often than not the wine in question tends to be pretty simple and straightforward. A great example being this Aussie Moscato.
Moscatos are definitely making more of an appearance on wine shelves and wine lists. I’ve had some brilliant Italian varieties but when it comes to sheer unabashed fun the Aussies seem to have it nailed. The first example to really win my heart was Innocent Bystander’s Pink Moscato. Sealed under screwcap and unashamedly pink it’s a wine that works perfectly as an appetiser, with dessert or just on its own. At only 5% abv it’s difficult to get into too much trouble with it
Wirra Wirra’s “Mrs Wigley” is very similar to the Innocent Bystander. The playful scents of rose and flavours of strawberrys win you over. Again, at only 5% it’s perfect for those more health conscious wine drinkers or just for sneaking in when you can’t really justify another full strength bottle. Its real strength though is when summer is in full swing. Which, in itself, could actually be a bit of a hindrance. Patience is a virtue though so when the weather gods deem us worthy of a summer day make sure you have some of these in the fridge. Just don’t get a bottle out when you’ve got the boys round…
£7.99 from Ocado
Jen Pfeiffer - The Rebel Riesling 2012 (Central Victoria)
Not a bad little Riesling this. We were looking for a quick glass of white before we got on to a serious red with dinner and this certainly kept us happy in the meantime. It’s a very accessible wine offering up plenty of lime notes and a slight hint of pear.
This’d be a good wine to try someone on who’s never managed to get themselves into Riesling. It’s an easy wine to enjoy and certainly proved a bit of a crowd pleaser. It’s young too and definitely has potential to age gracefully for a few years. I’d expect it to get a little more complex in time.
At £7.49 for Naked Wines’ subscribers this is pretty decent value. My only slight gripe is that it’s bottled in Germany which always makes a wine feel a bit “clinical”. I’m sure there are good economic reasons for doing so but it does always get me thinking when I see this on a label…. However, given how tasty this wine is I certainly wouldn’t let it put you off.
Chateau Montelena Zinfandel 2009 (Calistoga, Napa Valley)
My trip to Napa last year was the definite wine highlight of 2012. Whilst we spent plenty of time checking out some of the more boutique producers I really couldn’t help wanting to pop in to some of the more touristy and “obvious” spots. Having read George Taber’s book on the judgement of Paris years ago a visit to Chateau Montelena was always on the cards. Since it was already a bit of an obvious thing to so we also hired a Mustang for the journey. When in California…..
Whilst the Chardonnay and Cabernets we tasted were impressive I was quite taken with the Zinfandel. The price also particularly appealed to me compared to its illustrious companions….. And so it was that a bottle of Montelena ‘09 Zin was one of only two bottles I had room for in my 2 bottle wine travel case (the other being a Casa Nuestra Petite Sirah).
When the wife decided to do her famous lamb shanks last night it seemed only right to break out a bottle of something a bit special, and the Montelena Zin stepped up!
First impressions were certainly good. It’s a delicate Zin, quite restrained. I know which one I’d back in a fight between this and one of Joel Peterson’s Zins over at Ravenswood. However, Zinfandel isn’t all about bravado and brute force. In fact, this proved a very able food wine, something some Zins can struggle with. The chocolate and coffee notes are noticeable early on but settle down with time in the decanter giving way to more berry and herbal flavours. There’s a lovely line of acidity which pairs very well with food. It’s equally able though just on its own on the sofa.
All in all a very accomplished and polished example of California Zinfandel. I’ve had a good look but can’t seem to find it on sale in the UK. Back to Napa I go…..!
Calmel & J Joseph - Villa Blanche Chardonnay 2011 (Languedoc)
Aah, the minefield that is French wines for under £8… A path that can yield incredible rewards or absolute abject disappointment (and a quick skip over to the Australian wine shelves…).
Thanks to the whopping level of tax and duty on wines in the UK coupled with the natural premium that French wines sometimes attract this isn’t an easy price range to be shopping in. You can pretty much discount Bordeaux and Burgundy. Even the Rhone is getting a little difficult at this price. One region that is still relatively dependable though is the Languedoc.
Convenient really, as that’s where this wine is from. Love it when an intro comes together….
So, the wine. Well, it’s very good. I’m surprised this goes for only £7.99 (from Mumbles Fine Wines). It also seems to have won a gold medal and a top 10 spot in the Chardonnay du Monde competition 2012. This might sound like a made up wine competition but I assure you it’s not.
The wine looks like it should be extraordinarily oakey. It’s a real golden colour but on the palate it’s expressively fruit driven with heaps of apple and citrus notes. Any oak ageing has been carefully hidden away. If anything I’d like a touch more oak to this but it doesn’t detract from the wine. All in all it is indeed a lot of wine for not a lot of money. From France too. Well I never…..
Mairena Torrontés 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina
Another night another drinks fuelled get together. Got to love this time of year….
A useful part of this of course is the chance to test certain wines on people. Guinea pigs aren’t in short supply at this time of year!
This is a 100% Torrontés from Luján de Cuyo in the Mendoza region. It’s grown at 5,446 feet above sea level before being hand picked.
I like the freshness of the wine. It’s not as cloying as some Torrontés can sometimes become. Instead it heads down the citrus line with a lovely floral quality and as a result it is very drinkable indeed. Clearly my guests tonight agreed as they nailed this in no time and all asked where it came from. That seems like a mighty thumbs up to me. I like this and heartily recommend it. Nice looking label too….
Available from Cupari Wines for a mere £10.45: http://www.cupariwines.co.uk/store/mairena-torrontes-2011