"Drink Me" Branco 2011 - Niepoort (Douro, Portugal)
I’ve had quite a few wines recently which have been just “nice”. You know the sort; perfectly drinkable yet instantly forgettable. To be honest it doesn’t make for particularly good blogging fodder. Even the greatest wordsmith in the World would struggle to do much with “yeh, it’s quite nice I suppose, what was it called again?”.
And then I had my first sip of this. Wow. What a wine. I’ll admit, it caught me totally off guard. I was expecting a pleasant glugger but what I got was something altogether better. The nose is fairly melon and apple dominated whilst the palate ends on a lovely toffee apple note, but nicer than the actual toffee apple taste. God, where’s that World class wordsmith to help explain that?… There’s a smooth creaminess to the wine, reminiscent of a quality white Burgundy. The slight smokiness on the palate brings everything together very well.
Having taken the time to look the wine up I noticed that Jancis Robinson no less was also particularly impressed with this wine, labelling it as the stand out wine from a day long tasting of Portuguese wines. High praise indeed.
The wine is made up of a blend of the usual white port grapes being (in no particular order) Côdega de Larinho, Rabigato, Gouveio, Dona Branca, Viosinho etc. In short it’s a bit of a “field blend” lovingly treated in the winery by Portuguese wine legend Dirk Niepoort and made into something altogether most impressive.
So good in fact is the wine that I’ve not even mentioned the incredibly eccentric label. It certainly catches the eye. You just don’t get enough synchronised swimmers on wine labels….
Hands down this is by far the best white wine I’ve had this year. Granted it’s early days but Niepoort would be advised to clear a space on their awards shelf for potentially the least significant award they’ll ever win. This is going to take some beating…
Available from SH Jones for £13.99 and worth every penny and then some.
Richard Kershaw - Richard’s Cape South Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (South Africa)
Naked Wines’ policy of enabling high profile winemakers to start making wines for themselves and not an employer seems to be going well. One of their latest “signings” is former Mulderbosch winemaker and Master of Wine Richard Kershaw. On paper it’s a wise move from Naked, and you know what? It tastes pretty decent in the glass too….
This is the first of Richard’s wines made for Naked that I’ve tried but the signs are good. It’s a lively, zippy little number with appealing acidity and citrus / elderflower notes. There’s a slight hint of blackcurrant leaf too and, despite being an SA Sauv Blanc it actually reminded me of some of the Saint Clair Sauv Blancs with its slight tropical element.
All in all an interesting, and crucially, easy drinking wine. The wife put it well, “this is nice, buy more of this”. Best not to argue I suppose….
Available from Naked Wines for £9.49 for Angel customers.
Dandelion Vineyards - Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale 2011 (McLaren Vale, Australia)
I wonder how many other people were drinking Shiraz blended with Riesling on Saturday night. Not many I’d hazard a guess. It’s fair to say it’s an unusual blend but there’s nothing wrong with that.
I first really came across Dandelion Vineyards at a tasting years ago when I got to chat to Zar Brookes (one of the owners and married to winemaker Elena) about DV and their philosophy. Fun and quality seemed to be the key words. When I asked Zar why they’d added Riesling to Shiraz in this blend he simply said “why not”. He then left the tasting to go and get his haircut quickly. Again, “why not”?….
My wife expressly asked for a fun winter red on Saturday and once I’d spotted this in the rack it became a simple choice, mainly as that’s exactly what this wine is in my view. I’ve enjoyed a few DV wines in the past but this was the first time since the tasting that I’d tried the Lion’s Tooth.
The wine has a really luscious nature,
It coats your mouth with lovely multi-layered Black Forest gateau flavours. It’s a very giving wine with a long finish yet it’s by no means overdone. Everything is in harmony. The Riesling only accounts for 5% and a cynic could question whether it adds anything, but hey, why the hell not eh?…
This wine has a few years ahead of it in my view. Available from Slurp for £10.95.
Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV (Champagne, France)
Everything I say about this wine could be entirely biased and unreliable. How’s that for an entry to a wine review?…
The reason for my honesty is that this was the first bottle of wine myself and the wife have shared undisturbed since the birth of our son 14 weeks ago. As a result it was such a wonderful experience that it could probably have tasted like something made by Gallo and it would still have received a good review….
In all seriousness though, this was a lovely wine. And that’s coming from me who can’t seem to shake the feeling that anything pink and wine based is to be treated with severe suspicion. The red fruit notes with a slight brioche hint appealed and the slightly creamy texture worked a treat. It’s a splendid fizz which tastes even better when the baby monitor is as quiet as a mouse. Despite being a relatively recent addition to the Veuve Clicquot stable it looks like this is here to stay.
Even better though is that for a limited time this wine can be purchased in a range of rather swanky looking gift boxes from various department stores and fine wine retailers. Surely that’s got to be better than getting home to your loved one on Friday night with some limp Texaco Garage flowers and a discounter Dairylea Dunker……
Billecart-Salmon - Extra Brut Champagne (Champagne, France)
I recently reviewed the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs from Billecart-Salmon and in doing so remarked that, so far as I saw it, they were one of the Champagne houses who tend to fly under the radar to an extent. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks this as various people got in touch to say how much they like Billecart-Salmon for that very reason. Whilst that certainly appeals to me, I mainly like them because their wines are frankly brilliant (and a little bit because they seem a little mysterious unlike the bigger more visible marques).
I was offered a chance to sample the Extra Brut (something I’ve recently had recommended to me a few times) so, not wishing to miss out on another taste of superb Champagne happily accepted. It’s a chore I know….
This is Billecart-Salmon’s first attempt at a zero dosage Champagne (i.e. no sugar is added to the wine after disgorging). Obviously they’ve nailed it. The blend of grapes stands at 45% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% of Chardonnay. I was surprised at how rich the wine is giving the lack of dosage action. There’s a definite brioche note on the nose and a slight hint of honey on the palate.
The main impression (as with the Brut Sois Bois and Blanc de Blancs) is one of elegance. This is a classy wine and drinks as a classy wine should. At a retail price of around £40-45 this may be more expensive than the non-vintage entry point but it does also make more of an impact.
Arriving at a dinner party clutching a bottle of this would mark you out as someone of distinction. Plus you can then regale your dining companions with some quality banter about Champage dosage or indeed the lack thereof in this case. They’ll never invite you back but still…..
I heartily recommend this as something perfect for a special occasion. Available from numerous retailers including Champagne Direct who seem to come in cheapest at £39.95.
Yalumba - Old Bush Vine Grenache 2012 (Barossa Valley, Australia)
If you’re into your austere, classical red wines then to be honest you might as well stop reading this now. There’s nothing here for you….!
Grenache is definitely under appreciated amongst the wine drinkers that I know well. It’s known for being a good blending partner, giving Shiraz/Syrah for example a good fruity kick. I suspect when people are enjoying their Rhone wines they’re probably enjoying Grenache without even knowing it thanks to the intracies of French wine labelling. It does seem though that people are reluctant to plump for a wine when Grenache is very clearly the solo performer.
It’s a shame really as in the right hands Grenache is a wonderfully comforting red wine. This is a very good example being instantly good fun and enormously drinkable. The stewed red fruit flavours leap out of the glass and there’s a slight herbal note to it as well. It’s not especially complex but, as I’ve said before, you don’t always want that.
Break out of your comfort zone and give this a go. Currently on offer in Co-Op stores for £9.99 (a pound cheaper than usual)….
McManis Family Vineyards - Petite Sirah 2011 (California) - £9.99 from The Wine Society
There’s nothing wrong with simple things. Take my Sister for example. She’s not a bad person just because she asked if February 15th is the extra day in February during a Leap Year. Similarly a simple approach in a wine can sometimes be just what you want.
This, for me at least, is a straight up winter midweek wine and a jolly good one at that. It has unabashed notes of dark berries and chocolate and is perfect for sitting on the sofa unwinding after a day at work. Deeply complex wines are wonderful when you have the time and the inclination to admire and appreciate them. Sometimes however an honest, pure and straightforward easy drinking wine is just the ticket.
Whilst on paper it is a muscular Californian red it does have good poise and balance too. It’s not big and flavoursome for the sake of it. It’s not that often you get to enjoy a California red for under £10 in the UK, particularly when it’s as tasty as this. Another very good wine from The Wine Society for under a tenner…
Saronsberg Viognier 2010 (Tulbagh, South Africa)
We didn’t manage to make it to the reportedly picturesque Tulbagh region whilst on honeymoon in South Africa a while ago which is a shame, as recently I’ve had a run of awesome wines from the area.
This, as you’ve probably guessed, is another from star winemaker Dewaldt Heyns at Saronsberg. Not that my praise of this wine is going to do much for its reputation given it’s already won a gold medal in the IWC 2012, a gold Michelangelo medal in 2011 and a place in the 2012 list of the Top 100 Wines from South Africa. Heady praise indeed….
Instantly this wine makes a good impression with a full onslaught of smoky peach and apricot flavours hitting your palate. The slightly oily texture works well too. It feels like a posh wine right away. I’d love to tell you I paired this with a perfect food match but we just polished it off sat on the sofa. It seemed right at home….
At only £13.99 from Adnams online this feels like a bit of a snip. It’s drinking beautifully at the minute but I would happily recommend leaving it for another few years. If you’ve got too much money in your pocket this is also available in Selfridges for £16.99. I’ve not had a better South African Viognier to be honest…. If I’d only had a few more that sentence would really mean something!
I’m a blogger, not your Mum…..
I received a slight narky, albeit comical, email recently accusing my blog of “glamorising drinking” and “encouraging drunkenness”. I was a little taken aback by this. Of late I’ve had very little time to do much blogging, so if anyone has been only drinking when they’ve been reading my blog posts then they’ll have been having a very sober time indeed…..
The main point though is that this accusation is absolute nonsense. I’ve had a little look back through some recent posts just in case I might have unwittingly encouraged someone to drink so much they lose their mind but I can’t see much evidence of it. I tend to blog by pouring a small glass, using Winesave to preserve the rest (but then I forget to ever return to it) and then quickly taste the wine usually listening to some really sad old man / middle of the road music as I go. Is that glamorising drinking? If anything this seems a rather sad way to consume wine….
The email from this irked individual (let’s call her Mrs Prude) did get me thinking though. Is it really the job of wine bloggers to encourage sensible drinking? Or, is this really the job of the people actually making and selling the wine who have the budget and probably more of the responsibility? Looking at it another way; is it our job to even ensure we’re not actively encouraging booziness? I’m not sure even this is up to us although I’d never of course encourage someone to down a bottle of wine in one go.
From my point of view I comment specifically on whether a wine is good or not and, if it is good, what food it might go with or what situation it might be good in. Saying something goes well with fish, or perhaps pairs well with a lazy evening on the sofa listening to Counting Crows is a far cry from encouraging someone to get plastered. If someone reads my blog and decides that my review of a classy Pinot actually means “go and drink 8 bottles of this instantly” then that’s their problem not mine. I even go so far sometimes to recommend wine is not even drunk, having tipped a Gallo wine as a decent frozen drive fixer in the past…..
So, Mrs Prude, thanks for your email but I suggest you crack open a decent bottle of wine (see me for tips) and relax a little. Responsibly of course…..
Gigondas 2012 and Limoux 2012 (The Exquisite Collection, Aldi)
If the papers are to be believed then everyone in this country is beating a regular path to Aldi, wooed by the keen pricing and availability of night vision goggles and smoked salmon in the same aisle….
The wine section has certainly been growing both in size and quality. They often had a few rogue wines cropping up in wine competitions amongst the medals, this is now on the rise.
These two caught my eye as being good Christmas fodder. Rhone reds are flexible with foods and tend to be crowd pleasing. A safe choice perhaps but rarely offensive and it’s a similar story with lightly oaked Chardonnay.
The Gigondas is priced at £9.99 which I do think might be a bit much for a new to Aldi bargain shopper. The wine though is lovely. It’s elegant and poised with dense dark berry flavours and a spicy kick. A good winter wine.
The Chardonnay at £6.99 is definite Christmas party fodder. I like the pear notes and slight butter flavour. A bit of a bargain really.
I know it’s not a particularly trendy place to be wine shopping but credit where credit’s due; Aldi seem intent on upping the quality and on this basis they seem to be doing so….
Christmas Wines 2013
Seriously? It’s Christmas again? And what a Christmas this one looks like being with myself and the wife having a 2 month old baby to look after. Clearly I won’t be drinking much wine myself but it’s only right that I recommend what everyone else should be drinking. So in time honoured tradition (well, for the third year anyway) here’s my recommended Yuletide drinking list from readily accessible retailers:
The cheap as chips Turkey friendly red:
I love a drop of red wine with my Turkey and many piles of stuffing and usually I find that a Pinot Noir is just the ticket. The “Extra Special” Pinot Noir from Asda of all places is perfect for a big family meal. It has a lovely bright red fruit character typical of a Pinot from Marlborough in New Zealand and at only £9.50 a bottle it’s perfect for bulk purposes. An easy drinking red this made for Asda by the highly rated Wither Hills winery and deserving of its recent bronze medal in the Decanter Wine Awards. This’d go well with any festive bird (of the poultry kind) you cared to pair it with.
The flashy fizz:
Sometimes you just need to look a bit flash and produce something to leave people silently appreciating your impeccable taste. If you need to make such an impression then the Billecart Salmon Cuvee Brut Sous Bois Champagne is a pretty decent place to start. In such a predicament clearly you can’t rock up with a bottle of Lanson or Möet that you could have easily picked up from your local Esso garage on your way round. This is more of a thinking choice. It is sadly also a good deal more expensive, but then you did say you wanted to make a good impression didn’t you?! The wine is made up of all three of the Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and is vinified in oak, giving it a lovely toasty character. This has flavours of toast, toffee and cream and it comes across as being thoroughly decadent. Perfect for a festive aperitif! Available from corksout.com for £65.99. If you can look passed the psychedelic wood effect label this wine is a winner!…
The bulk fizz:
Obviously you’re not going to be drinking the above fizz if you have 20 relatives around so you may well need something impressive yet wallet friendly to appease the masses. The Taste the Difference Vintage Cava Brut 2011, which is £9.99 at Sainsbury’s is an excellent value fizz which recently won a medal in the International Wine Challenge. It tastes like a much more expensive wine and in my view good Cava is a better all rounder than Prosecco (and more of a thinking man’s choice too). You can’t have too many of these in your fridge!
The safe as houses white for your Turkey:
We’ve always had Chardonnay with Christmas dinner, it just seems to fit and works just as well with the turkey as it does with all the trimmings. The Blason de Bourgogne St Veran 2010 from Sainsbury’s impressed me when I tried it this month and the smoky character backed up with apple notes would work very well over Christmas Dinner The renegade white match for your Turkey: Bored of Chardonnay and in need of a change? Or just feeling a little rebellious this year? If so the Bellingham Bernard Series Roussanne 2013 from South Africa and available for only £7.99 in Sainsbury’s this month is a fantastic wine with all the right characteristics to become best buds with your turkey dinner.
The elegant red to mull things over with:
My reference to “mull” here is to that down time after the Christmas meal where everyone finds themselves in something of a comatose state. I like a hearty sipping red at this time on Christmas Day. I’m not suggesting for one minute that you attempt to mull this wine as that would really ruin it…. The Leyda Reserve Syrah 2011 from Chile (or Majestic if you don’t fancy the drive to Chile) is awesome and is thoroughly deserving of its Decanter Wine Awards gold medal. At present it’s down to £6.99 if you’re buying two Chilean wines and at that money you won’t find many tastier wines. Not half bad with cheese either…
The dessert wine to wow the masses:
We tend to have a mixture of desserts at Xmas, ranging from the usual gooey chocolate mess through fruit based desserts to the obligatory Christmas pudding. One wine they works brilliantly with all of them is the Andrew Quady Black Elyssium Muscat 2011 from Majestic. At only £9.99 right now if you buy two American wines (and why wouldn’t you?!). It’s a great price for this lovely wine and it always seems to be a talking point. It goes with chocolate based desserts particularly well…
Wines you absolutely should not drink. Ever:
Earlier in the year I was sent some wines by Gallo to change my perception of their budget wines. They did not. Please see here for further details. These may be good for de-icing the drive I suppose…. http://thegrapedcrusader.tumblr.com/post/63164286114/gallo-family-summer-white-and-summer-red
So that’s it. Happy Christmas to everyone and see you all in the New Year…..
Oliver Zeter - Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 (Pfalz, Germany)
This will come as a shock to some of you, but sometimes the Germans can be really precise. Honestly…. This wine proves a wonderful case in point.
My friend Daniel Primack (of Around Wine - the wine accessories emporium to end all emporiums) has been preaching of late about the importance, or desirability, of “tension” in a wine. This has it in spades. Think of the tension in a game of Buckaroo just before the donkey bucks (don’t pretend you haven’t played it). This is the vinous equivalent of that poor donkey’s final moments.
The precision of this wine is impressive with wonderfully crisp red berry notes with an elegantly handled smattering of oak. The finish is long and satisfying. It’s all just so well poised and very fruit driven.
To be honest it’s a joy to drink. The only slight issue might be the price. At £25.55 you’d have to really want to try it to turn down an awful lot of other excellent Pinot Noirs. Unless of course you really like a bear on a wine label. And so you should.
Ignoring the price though this is one of the most impressive wines I’ve had in a while. Plus I’ve finally been able to mention Buckaroo in a wine blog. Everything really is coming together…..
Available from Red Squirrel Wines right here: http://www.redsquirrelwine.com/collections/pinot-noir/products/oliver-zeter-pinot-noir-reserve-2010
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