Bellingham Bernard Series “Whole Bunch” Roussanne 2013 (Paarl, South Africa)
The supermarkets have been under fire a little of late due to their often less than honest practices in pricing wines, particularly in the mythical “50% off” bargains that are often anything but.
They do however sometimes get it right and offer excellent wines at tidy prices. In this case it’s Sainsbury’s which have got it spot on.
This lovely Roussanne is reduced from £10.99 to £7.99 during the month of December in Sainsbury’s and you’re getting quite a lot of wine for your money. I love South African Roussanne and this is a very tasty example. There’s a lot going on too with a fantastic nutty and creamy combination backed up with notes of apple and kiwi. The depth and texture make this feel like quite a serious wine although it did need a little time in the glass to wake up.
If you fancy something a little different to sit happily alongside your turkey and stuffing this could be just what you’re looking for. It’s certainty more imaginative than Chardonnay!…
Some super fizz from Billecart-Salmon
Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2010 - The Exquisite Collection, Aldi (Italy - £7.99)
Here’s a sentence you don’t hear very often: “There’s a decent Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore in Aldi”. Well, you’ve heard it now and it’s only bloody true as well….
I went in to Aldi at the weekend and, once you’ve gotten over the feeling of being in a supermarket when on holiday, it’s clear to see the appeal. I’ve always been quietly sceptical of the quality of the wines but they seem to be ticking along nicely picking up the odd award here and there. When I was offered the chance to try a couple I frankly couldn’t see the harm (save for the fact that I’m not meant to be drinking with baby number 1 due literally any second). However, this blog isn’t going to populate itself. I’m sure the baby would understand.
Valpolicella is in my view one of those rock solid wines to serve with food. You can quite happily drink it on its own but when served with something even remotely compatible (lamb meatballs and pasta is a good trick) the wine really comes into its own. The combination of crunchy red fruit flavours and zippy acidity are perfect for the dinner table.
With Christmas just around the corner and with it the need to cater to the masses a more imminent danger than the rest of the year I’d recommend you put a few of these to one side. At £7.99 it’s a bit of a snip. As coincidentally was the telescopic ladder in the next aisle over but, alas, this isn’t a ladder blog…..
Gallo Family - Summer White and Summer Red (probably from a factory somewhere, possibly in California)
I received an email a few weeks ago from Gallo’s PR firm asking me what I thought of their wines. I replied, fairly candidly, that I thought the budget end wines were generally terrible. They therefore offered to send some wines which might change my perception. What they actually did was absolutely and unequivocally solidify my beliefs. I now know with absolute certainty that the lower end wines are terrible.
I don’t generally care to write
negative reviews. When I have a shitty wine I usually prefer to put it down to experience and move on, assuming nobody really wants to read the negative ramblings of a crossed wine blogger. Such though was the seeming confidence of the PR firm in sending these absolutely pitiful bottles of wine that it seems only right to write them up.
Firstly, I hate it when a bottle of wine gives absolutely no indication of the grape. In my view this reduces wine down to a purely functional item. You might as well just label everything “white” or “red” and be done with it. Amusingly that’s exactly what Gallo have done.
Ignoring the fact that they sent out these summer wines in late September lets briefly have a look at the wines. Firstly the Summer White. It turns out after a fair bit of digging this is made from Grenache. It tastes as if it were made from a powder, or maybe a concentrated grape cordial. At only 5.5% it’s probably intended to be a Moscato typed summer glugger. Instead you get a wine that is sweeter than a room of Andrex puppies. I don’t know who this is aimed at but they must have had their tastebuds removed. If you must drink this I’d recommend doing so at the point of freezing. Any warmer and you’ll get too much of the taste.
A small part of me died a little when I placed the Summer Red into the fridge (as recommended). A larger part of me then died when I took my first sip. I didn’t think you were allowed to make wine out of cherry drops but clearly Gallo have found a loophole. Clever chaps. It’s another bracingly sweet wine which is equally hard going. I didn’t even bother to look up the grape…
All in all the wines just made me feel generally depressed that clearly there’s a big market for this type of wine. I’m astonished that Gallo send this stuff out for people to review, they should be hiding it in a very far away and dark place.
My teeth hurt now as well…..
Rocca Vecchia Falanghina 2012 (Puglia, Italy)
I had a quick look back through my old blog posts recently and quite a lot of the budget priced wines that I’ve liked have come from Co-Op. So, well done them….
As the shrewd ones amongst you may have deduced, this wine is also from Co-Op and will set you back the princely sum of £6.99. At the time of writing it’s a mere £5.99.
As you’ll all of course know Falanghina traditionally comes from the region of Campania in Italy. In this case though those pesky Pugliana have gotten in on the act and pinched the grape for themselves. Falanghina tends to be a medium bodied wine almost Greco like in its creaminess. This one is a typical example with a smattering of apple notes just to keep you keen.
As is often the case with Italian whites, it’s not exactly a party in your mouth but at £5.99 (or even at its full price of £6.99) it will be a party in your wallet. It’d go wonderfully with some fresh white fish. Maybe pick some up with the change from a tenner…..
The Winery of Good Hope - Shiraz 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
There are some Saturday nights when my wine choice has been thought about for many hours before I select my weapon of choice. Usually the wine gets the proper VIP treatment; careful carrying down stairs, considerate decantering and general velvet gloves all round. Conversely there are Saturday nights when the fact that I need to pick a wine for dinner totally catches me off guard just before the food is due at the table.
Last night was one of those blind sided nights. Cue a sprint upstairs to the wine room and a frantic rummage for something that was good to go; no velvet glove treatment required.
I had an inkling this would be one of those wines. No diva attitudes in sight. Happy to be grabbed, opened and enjoyed with little time between each component.
As you’d expect for a sub £10 South African Shiraz it’s a fruit driven wine with a little complexity but not heaps. This is a fairly Rhone typed wine stylistically. Crucially it was good to go for drinking and a good deal better prepared than I was for dinner time. The wine opened out a little with time in the glass. In fairness it didn’t get all that much time in the glass.
This was stocked by the Wine Society but a spot of Googlage has revealed they no longer stock it. Sorry about that….
Oz Clarke on wine: GRAPED CRUSADER - YouTube -
Nice little piece on Food and Wine here by Oz Clarke. Well worth a watch!….
Journey’s End “Kendal Lodge” Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
There’s definitely a buzz about South African wines at the moment and, for the most part, rightly so. It’s funny how you feel an affinity for a wine region following even a brief visit and having spent two weeks vineyard hopping in South Africa in 2011 I came back with a keen interest and taste for their wines.
One thing they clearly do very well is a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot, a good case of point being this wine available from M&S. This particular example is Merlot dominant, so more of a Right Bank Bordeaux effort. In a sense though it manages to combine the best of Old and New World Bordeaux-style blends. On an initial opening the wine is slightly austere and very Old World orientated with hints of mint and only a mere suggestion of the fruitiness that is to come. Revisit the glass 30 minutes later however and it’s all change. The austerity and rigidity have mellowed and all of a sudden it’s a very fruit driven wine, whilst all the while still being Merlot and Cab Sauv based. They’re not exactly party animals let’s be fair….
At the risk of being accused of encouraging alcoholism, if you’re into your linear and austere Old World Bordeaux blends this might not be for you. You’d have to drink it very quickly (or invite round a lot of people) in order to consume it before the fruit wakes up and realises it’s meant to be on show. I on the other hand found the wine better once it had woken up a bit. The dense dark berry flavours mixed with a definite herbiness left me impressed by the wine. I’d fancy having this with a spot of duck breast but was quite happy tasting it on the sofa too. I’d certainly recommend decanting for an hour or so to ensure the wine is ready for you by the time you want to drink it.
You can’t argue with the price either. This is currently on sale in M&S for £50.94 for a case of 6. That works out at £8.49 a bottle and I assure you, the wine tastes like it cost an awful lot more than that. Available here: http://www.marksandspencer.com/Journeys-Kendal-Merlot-Cabernet-Sauvignon/dp/B008GVGU9U - you’ll have to ignore the image on the M&S website which is of a different wine, albeit also by Journey’s End.
Warwick Wine Estate - “The First Lady” Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
I’ve been an admirer of the wines of Warwick Wine Estate since we visited them over in Stellenbosch in the November 2011. Whilst we were there we had their “gourmet picnic” comprising a very decadent spread brought to you and served in a luxury picnic pod. I’ve not been able to picnic since knowing that a couple of scotch eggs from Morrisons served on a hole ridden picnic blanket under the grey skies of the British summer is unlikely to even come close… we sampled a fair few of their wines that day too and came away with a very good impression of the winery as a whole.
The thing I like about the range from Warwick is that you know exactly what you’re getting and every wine has a place in the range. There’s also a real sense of fun to the wines. The First Lady Unoaked Chardonnay for example is a very reliable wine, almost treading a line between Old and New World Chardonnay styles and in my view doing it very well indeed. It’s ideal when you need a solid decent Chardonnay. There’s a clear fruitiness in the glass coming through on the nose and also on the palate where it’s all about pineapple and orange. It’s far from being too fruity to pair with food though. We set this alongside pan fried monkfish with roast potatoes and it worked very well indeed. It was even tempting enough for the wife to declare it as her “one glass of wine a week” whilst she sees out the final weeks of her pregnancy. There can be no higher accolade…..! I’d of course be equally as happy having a few glasses of this plonked in front of the tele.
The other strong factor in favour of this wine is that it’s a bit of a bargain. You can pick up a bottle of this (or rather, have a bottle sent to you) from the Wine Society for only £8.95. At that price it feels like a lot of wine for the money and, in my case, leaves me longing for another luxury picnic that I have absolutely no hope of ever recreating…..
Available here http://www.thewinesociety.com/shop/productdetail.aspx?section=pd&pl=&pd=SA7991&pc=&prl from the Wine Society.
Chairman’s Reserve Rum (St. Lucia)
I’ve had something of a chequered history with rum. I’m inclined to blame an incident on the eve of my wedding. The dinner for close friends and family was going marvellously. I then decided to present my co-best man with a bottle of very posh rum to thank him for taking on the role. It never occurred to me for one minute that he’d open it there and then. Bloody hindsight. Open it he did and the morning segment of my wedding day remains something of a mystery….
On that occasion we were drinking the rum neat over ice, as I’m inclined to do with bourbon. Obviously it needs to be a relatively decent quality but I’ve always seen it as a shame to dilute a good spirit with a mixer. A drink is only as good as its weakest component!
When the email came through with the offer to sample Chairman’s Reserve rum I, having briefly suffered some wedding day morning flashbacks, was keen to give it a go.
The brand is owned by the St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies and has been around since 1999. It’s apparently popular locally and is making a bit of a name for itself having won a Gold medal at the IWSC and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
It’s matured in American oak casks and averages around 5 years old at release. It’s not a boutique rum and at the time of writing you could pick a bottle up for £17.60 in Waitrose (usually £22.00). I liked the spiced vanilla scents coming off the rum and there’s an obvious spiced raisin finish to it on the palate. The recommended serving is with coconut water but I didn’t fancy my chances of coming across that in Worcestershire on a Tuesday evening so neat on the rocks it was. It’s a decent rum. I’ve had far better but they were also far more expensive. At around £20 this is good value and treads the delicate line of “to blend or to drink neat” with aplomb. Basically you can do either.
If you’re into your rum, would like to be, or fancy messing up your wedding day morning then this would be a marvellous place to start…..
Honeycomb Chardonnay 2012 - Journey’s End (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Firstly, relax. There’s no honey in this. Honestly, I’ve checked….
I’ve spent the night sat next to a “I don’t drink Chardonnay” militant. I’m therefore pleased that she enjoyed an earlier Chablis and also this excellent South African Chardonnay.
This is a fantastically easy drinking wine. It’s far from a boring Cherdonnay. The nose is creamy and dare I say a little on the honey side, whilst the palate smacks of almonds and apple/melon notes. The six months that the wine spends in French oak imparts a subtle oaky presence but no more.
From the 2nd to the 29th September in M&S this is reduced from £9.99 to £7.99. At that price this is a really good wine. I insist that you tuck in….. You’ll just have to wait a few weeks if that £2 is important to you….
Saint Clair - Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum Gewürtztraminer 2009 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
The night before returning to work after a lovely holiday in the Italian sun really does need a happy wine to cheer things up. This is no time for something safe and sombre.
Thankfully I’d managed to squirrel away a bottle of this excellent Gewürztraminer which did a wonderful job of partly lifting the end of holiday blues. I’ve long seen Saint Clair as a safe pair of hands and this is another success story. The Pioneer Block wines comes from small parcels of high quality fruit which represent (in their view at least) the ideal terroir for a particular variety. They’ve clearly found a decent batch of Gewürztraminer grapes somewhere…..
I really wanted to try and avoid referring to Turkish delight when writing this review but sadly there’s no better description in my view for the scent and flavour of this wine. There’s a floral note too and the layered and textured nature of the wine make it all very drinkable. It’s brilliant to be honest. I’d say the wine has got a few good years ahead of it too.
The latest vintage of this wine (2012) is available from Majestic for £17.49 (though is on offer at £13.98 if you buy 2). You can pick up the 2009 vintage from thedrinkshop.com for £15.90.
Spending a week in Sardinia with your pregnant wife does change the drinking dynamic of the holiday somewhat. This time last year we’d have visited a few vineyards and stocked the fridge with enough Vermentino to make the local drunk blush. This year however I wanted to show some solidarity to my wife’s wine drinking hiatus (and had already struck out badly when trying the half litre carafes of house wine) so decided to tuck in to the local lager selection instead.
Ichnusa are a Sardinian brewery founded in 1912 and they oretty much have the Island sewn up! I had my first Ichnusa in Alghero on day one and was impressed with the deep(ish) yet refreshing flavour. I swiftly sampled their “Special” edition (which isn’t really all that special - I suppose “Standard” wouldn’t shift so many bottles though) but then struck gold with Ichnusa Cruda (a micro-filtered lager) which balances good citrus flavours with a deeper than usual taste. It’s not just a non-descript glugger.
Just when I was thinking I’d done the Ichnusa trilogy I stumbled across the centenary edition (pictured along with the Cruda) to mark the brewery’s centenary last year. Whilst this is again a decent lager it’s still the Cruda that impressed me the most, plus it’s pretty much half the price of the Centenary edition. If you find yourself in Sardinia I recommend you stock up (and grab a few bottles of Moretti “Zero” if you’re travelling with an expectant partner)……
Rustenberg SWB 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
This wine really takes me back to our honeymoon about 18 months ago when we tried a number of South African white blends that really impressed. Problem was, not many of them seemed to be in the UK once we’d arrived back. This particular blend is made up of Semillon (44%), Viognier (41%), Grenache Blanc (10%) and Roussanne (5%). Natural bedfellows they are too……
I like the slightly tropical fruit salad nose to this wine with an undercurrent of spicy peppery notes. The palate is indeed like licking an empty fruit salad box, in a good way of course. The peach and melon flavours sit alongside each other very well. It’s a lovely wine from a very reliable South African producer. I’m rarely without one of their John X Merriman Cab Sauvs in the house and their Rousanne is also very good indeed.
The best thing about this wine is that until July 16th it’s reduced to £7.99 in selected Co-Op stores which in my view makes it a bona fide bargain. I don’t actually know which stores these are of course so you’ll have to do some of the leg work for yourselves. I’d suggest you start with the bigger ones….
Rotes Haus - Grüner Veltliner 2012 (Austria)
A decent wine this. In fact, it smelt good enough that the pregnant wife declared it worthy of her one glass of wine a week!….
It tastes a little like licking the inside of your spice cupboard. I imagine not many people have done that but it’s an accurate representation of this wine. It’s a peppery yet slightly creamy experience and very easy drinking it is too. All in all, a decent Grüner. I reckon the Austrians are on to something….!