The Graped Crusader

Jul 09

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.

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.

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.

Jun 11

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?……

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?……

Jun 03

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.

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.

May 14

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.

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.

May 11

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…..

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…..

May 09

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….

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….

May 02

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

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

Apr 26

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….

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….

Apr 17

M. Chapoutier Condrieu 2011 

Condrieu is very much Viognier in its poshest frock. But it’s a really posh frock mind and unfortunately the poor old wine drinker ends up paying for it…. In short it’s not a market I’ve had much of a chance to muddle about in.

However, offered a chance to sample this wine recently I, whilst trying to remain calm and composed, jumped at the chance. Really quite high in fact. I’m glad I did as it really is a stunning wine and, with apologies to the tremendous “Drink Me” Branco 2011 by Niepoort, has now become the current holder of my “Best White Wine of the Year” gong. That said, white wine season is fast approaching so it may not be a lengthy stay.

I’ve described a wine as being an “assault on the senses” before but I now wonder if I might have over-exaggerated on that previous occasion as this very much is an assault on the senses. It grabs you from your first sniff and all too soon you’re having to say good bye to the tiny bit of wine you’ve managed to save for your last drop. The nose is floral with a hint of clementine and the clementine note is strong on the palate too with a hint of marshmallow and smoky tones.

I can probably give the wine no higher praise than to say it was so good we actually paused Masterchef twice to talk about the wine. I hope that means as much in Condrieu as it does in Bromsgrove…..

Even better is that this wine has just appeared on www.Vente-Privee.com at a knock down price of £72 for 3 bottles. I can also very heartily recommend the M Chapoutier Saint-Joseph 2011 (£75 for 6 bottles) and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011 (£57 for 3 bottles) which appear in the same sale. These are fantastic wines and very good prices. Fill up quick!….

M. Chapoutier Condrieu 2011 

Condrieu is very much Viognier in its poshest frock. But it’s a really posh frock mind and unfortunately the poor old wine drinker ends up paying for it…. In short it’s not a market I’ve had much of a chance to muddle about in.

However, offered a chance to sample this wine recently I, whilst trying to remain calm and composed, jumped at the chance. Really quite high in fact. I’m glad I did as it really is a stunning wine and, with apologies to the tremendous “Drink Me” Branco 2011 by Niepoort, has now become the current holder of my “Best White Wine of the Year” gong. That said, white wine season is fast approaching so it may not be a lengthy stay.

I’ve described a wine as being an “assault on the senses” before but I now wonder if I might have over-exaggerated on that previous occasion as this very much is an assault on the senses. It grabs you from your first sniff and all too soon you’re having to say good bye to the tiny bit of wine you’ve managed to save for your last drop. The nose is floral with a hint of clementine and the clementine note is strong on the palate too with a hint of marshmallow and smoky tones.

I can probably give the wine no higher praise than to say it was so good we actually paused Masterchef twice to talk about the wine. I hope that means as much in Condrieu as it does in Bromsgrove…..

Even better is that this wine has just appeared on www.Vente-Privee.com at a knock down price of £72 for 3 bottles. I can also very heartily recommend the M Chapoutier Saint-Joseph 2011 (£75 for 6 bottles) and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011 (£57 for 3 bottles) which appear in the same sale. These are fantastic wines and very good prices. Fill up quick!….

Apr 04

Bellingham – The Bernard Series Handpicked Viognier 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa)

I presented a corporate wine tasting earlier in the week and during one of the breaks was asked to recommend a Viognier. Given this is currently on offer in Majestic and I think it’s a very good wine I recommended accordingly.

Having returned home last night I then spotted a bottle in the rack. I must admit, I was in a red wine kind of mood last night but having stuck my neck out and recommended this I suddenly felt duty bound to crack it open and check that my recommendation wasn’t an errant one…. It didn’t take long for me to realise that, thankfully, I’ve recommended a good ‘un. 

As you’d expect it’s an aromatic wine with distinct peach and floral aromas. It tastes like a pear dipped in cream and spices (I’d imagine. I’ve never done that….) whilst the finish is pretty long. It’s a classy wine which shows off very well just why Viognier should be more popular than it seems to be.

Of course, the lady I recommended this to will probably hate it now but I’m pretty sure she’ll be impressed. Bellingham’s line of wines under the “Bernard Series” label (named after Bellingham’s founder Bernard Podlashuk) are all very reliable and this one is no different.

Available currently at a bargain price of £9.99 from Majestic when you buy two bottles. Also available in Sainsbury’s for not much more….

Bellingham – The Bernard Series Handpicked Viognier 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa)

I presented a corporate wine tasting earlier in the week and during one of the breaks was asked to recommend a Viognier. Given this is currently on offer in Majestic and I think it’s a very good wine I recommended accordingly.

Having returned home last night I then spotted a bottle in the rack. I must admit, I was in a red wine kind of mood last night but having stuck my neck out and recommended this I suddenly felt duty bound to crack it open and check that my recommendation wasn’t an errant one…. It didn’t take long for me to realise that, thankfully, I’ve recommended a good ‘un.

As you’d expect it’s an aromatic wine with distinct peach and floral aromas. It tastes like a pear dipped in cream and spices (I’d imagine. I’ve never done that….) whilst the finish is pretty long. It’s a classy wine which shows off very well just why Viognier should be more popular than it seems to be.

Of course, the lady I recommended this to will probably hate it now but I’m pretty sure she’ll be impressed. Bellingham’s line of wines under the “Bernard Series” label (named after Bellingham’s founder Bernard Podlashuk) are all very reliable and this one is no different.

Available currently at a bargain price of £9.99 from Majestic when you buy two bottles. Also available in Sainsbury’s for not much more….

Apr 01

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Mar 31

Taste The Difference - Limoux Chardonnay 2012 (Sainsbury’s)

To be fair to Sainsbury’s this is a lovely wine. I’m sometimes guilty of turning my nose up at own label varietal wines which can all too often be bland “tick box” wines. No nose turning needed here though, if anything a second bottle wouldn’t hurt….

The wine is made by the steady pair of hands that is Jéan-Claude Mas of Domaine Paul Mas. 60% of the grapes are barrel fermented and I love the overall creaminess which leads into a toasty apricot infused palate. It’s wonderfully easy drinking and is up there with some of the better Languedoc Chardonnays that I’ve had.

Which of course makes this a good time to announce that until 8 April this wine is 25% down from its usual retail price of £10.99 at a mere £8.24. At that price it needs a no brainer sticker on the bottle….

Taste The Difference - Limoux Chardonnay 2012 (Sainsbury’s)

To be fair to Sainsbury’s this is a lovely wine. I’m sometimes guilty of turning my nose up at own label varietal wines which can all too often be bland “tick box” wines. No nose turning needed here though, if anything a second bottle wouldn’t hurt….

The wine is made by the steady pair of hands that is Jéan-Claude Mas of Domaine Paul Mas. 60% of the grapes are barrel fermented and I love the overall creaminess which leads into a toasty apricot infused palate. It’s wonderfully easy drinking and is up there with some of the better Languedoc Chardonnays that I’ve had.

Which of course makes this a good time to announce that until 8 April this wine is 25% down from its usual retail price of £10.99 at a mere £8.24. At that price it needs a no brainer sticker on the bottle….

Mar 25

Altitude By Duorum 2011 (Douro, Portugal)

It’s a tricky time of year for wine drinking this. Is it spring yet? Is it winter? Do I fancy a hearty red or should I brush off the summer whites and see what’s in stock?

In the end I went in the middle last night with a red which I was hoping would feature some bright fruit notes, wouldn’t be overly heavy and ultimately would be fun to drink. Turns out I nailed it….

This wine is the result of a partnership between two heavy weights of the Portuguese wine industry; José Maria Soares, the genius behind Barca Velha (a particularly posh Portuguese red wine) and oenologist João Portugal Ramos. The wine comes from the Upper Douro close to the Spanish border. The wine itself is a blend of native Portuguese grapes and is aged in barrel for 12 months.

The result of all this is a wine which impressed me more than I necessarily expected it to. Being a Monday I wasn’t expecting a “weekend quality” wine but this might even be worthy of Sunday evening drinking. Such high praise….

The appeal of Portuguese wines shows no sign of slowing down and with examples like this it’s not difficult to see why. I’ve already declared a Portuguese white wine to be the best white I’ve had so far this year (the Drink Me Branco 2011 by Niepoort) and whilst this wine isn’t in danger of taking the same accolade amongst red wines it’s certainly not that far off.

With its initial nose of violets and hints of sour red stewed fruits on the palate this is a super wine deserving of being treated properly and decanted around an hour before serving. The good line of acidity in the wine would make this an absolute belter alongside a rustic red meat based stew.

Available for £12.99 at Laithwaites and heartily recommended….

Altitude By Duorum 2011 (Douro, Portugal)

It’s a tricky time of year for wine drinking this. Is it spring yet? Is it winter? Do I fancy a hearty red or should I brush off the summer whites and see what’s in stock?

In the end I went in the middle last night with a red which I was hoping would feature some bright fruit notes, wouldn’t be overly heavy and ultimately would be fun to drink. Turns out I nailed it….

This wine is the result of a partnership between two heavy weights of the Portuguese wine industry; José Maria Soares, the genius behind Barca Velha (a particularly posh Portuguese red wine) and oenologist João Portugal Ramos. The wine comes from the Upper Douro close to the Spanish border. The wine itself is a blend of native Portuguese grapes and is aged in barrel for 12 months.

The result of all this is a wine which impressed me more than I necessarily expected it to. Being a Monday I wasn’t expecting a “weekend quality” wine but this might even be worthy of Sunday evening drinking. Such high praise….

The appeal of Portuguese wines shows no sign of slowing down and with examples like this it’s not difficult to see why. I’ve already declared a Portuguese white wine to be the best white I’ve had so far this year (the Drink Me Branco 2011 by Niepoort) and whilst this wine isn’t in danger of taking the same accolade amongst red wines it’s certainly not that far off.

With its initial nose of violets and hints of sour red stewed fruits on the palate this is a super wine deserving of being treated properly and decanted around an hour before serving. The good line of acidity in the wine would make this an absolute belter alongside a rustic red meat based stew.

Available for £12.99 at Laithwaites and heartily recommended….

Mar 21

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2010 (Bendigo, Central Otago)
I’m having a bit of a Kiwi Pinot renaissance at the moment. I found myself drinking little else a year or so ago and made a conscious effort to avoid it for a bit so as not to become a frankly one dimensional wine drinker and blogger. When I try wines like this though it makes me wonder how I found the restraint to resist….
I first came across Folding Hill when I met owner Tim Kerruish in Worcestershire a few years ago. We’d chatted on Twitter and then realised that his parents lived in a village a few miles from my home. We met up and I had the chance to sample a number of their wines. I’ve remained a fan and keen follower of Folding Hill ever since. Their small parcel premium wines should win more and more fans over the next few years.
Pinot from Central Otago has in my view been flying the Pinot flag for New Zealand (if not the New World) for a while now. Even the most ardent of Burgundy lovers would struggle to argue that some of the wines from the region are not at least as good as Burdundy standard. In my view they’re not just as good but a hell of a lot more fun…… I could drink the wines of Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Mount Difficulty day in day out and never get bored. Folding Hill now sit very comfortably amongst these stellar names. They’ve come a long way in a very short space of time given they only planted their first vines in 2003.
The wine is a lively one with bright cherry notes and a hint of chocolate throughout. Over time in the glass the wine develops a more herbal savoury note and almost meaty tones. It’s a very accomplished wine which drinks as if it has been meticulously produced. In short, it’s an easy wine to love (as Pinot should be).
This wine is available from the Secret Cellar for £20 which for me seems a bit of a bargain. If you’ve had this and loved it look out for Folding Hill’s more exclusive Orchard Block Pinot which is even better!

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2010 (Bendigo, Central Otago)

I’m having a bit of a Kiwi Pinot renaissance at the moment. I found myself drinking little else a year or so ago and made a conscious effort to avoid it for a bit so as not to become a frankly one dimensional wine drinker and blogger. When I try wines like this though it makes me wonder how I found the restraint to resist….

I first came across Folding Hill when I met owner Tim Kerruish in Worcestershire a few years ago. We’d chatted on Twitter and then realised that his parents lived in a village a few miles from my home. We met up and I had the chance to sample a number of their wines. I’ve remained a fan and keen follower of Folding Hill ever since. Their small parcel premium wines should win more and more fans over the next few years.

Pinot from Central Otago has in my view been flying the Pinot flag for New Zealand (if not the New World) for a while now. Even the most ardent of Burgundy lovers would struggle to argue that some of the wines from the region are not at least as good as Burdundy standard. In my view they’re not just as good but a hell of a lot more fun…… I could drink the wines of Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Mount Difficulty day in day out and never get bored. Folding Hill now sit very comfortably amongst these stellar names. They’ve come a long way in a very short space of time given they only planted their first vines in 2003.

The wine is a lively one with bright cherry notes and a hint of chocolate throughout. Over time in the glass the wine develops a more herbal savoury note and almost meaty tones. It’s a very accomplished wine which drinks as if it has been meticulously produced. In short, it’s an easy wine to love (as Pinot should be).

This wine is available from the Secret Cellar for £20 which for me seems a bit of a bargain. If you’ve had this and loved it look out for Folding Hill’s more exclusive Orchard Block Pinot which is even better!