Haute Cabriere Chardonnay / Pinot Noir 2013 (Franschhoek, South Africa)
I’m convinced that something happens to me when I taste wines at the winery where they’ve been made, or even worse, when sitting amongst the vines that have produced the grapes themselves. Wines that perhaps might be fairly run of the mill can sometimes seem much better. There you are sitting in the sun, with an incredible view and more often that not chatting with the winemaker themselves. It all adds up to the perfect condition for rose tinted tastebuds….
In November 2012 I found myself (on honeymoon) having a meal at Haute Cabrierre in Franschhoek and trying an earlier vintage of their still Chardonnay / Pinot Noir blend. It’s obviously not unusual to find these two grapes combined in a sparkling wine but it’s not that often it happens in a still wine. I really enjoyed it but wondered if the meal, the shiny new wife and the incredible views were coming into play.
I’ve not had the wine since last Friday when I stopped by the Wine Press in Stourbridge. Gone were the rolling mountains and idyllic climate and the wife was no longer new, so would the wine still impress? If ever there were ideal laboratory conditions these were surely them….
Happily, the wine did still impress. Quite a lot actually. I love that it’s just a bit different. The wine itself is approaching a rusty colour, it’s not quite pink enough to be “blush”. On the palate the best bits of Chardonnay express themselves well with a slight creaminess and minerality. Crucially though the Pinot adds a slight sweetness and fruitiness to really give the wine a pleasing finish.
So there you have it, a wine that drinks well on honeymoon or just at home in the West Midlands. How’s that for versatility?…..
Available for £10.99 from The Wine Press in Stourbridge, West Midlands.
te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - Marlborough, NZ
I love trying new and unheard of wines and one that I’ve come across recently is Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from Marlborough in New Zealand. Oh? You’ve heard of it?….
Given the sheer amount of Kiwi Sauv Blanc in the UK it always seems a brave move for someone to decide to launch another one here, but that’s just what te Pā have done. The estate is owned by the MacDonald family and is located right on the edge of the Marlborough region. See? It’s standing out from the crowd already….
My attention was drawn initially to the fact that the label seems just a bit different and the fact that the wine itself has won a few medals. After achieving a near perfect score in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards the wine then ambled off with a gold medal in the Royal Easter Show. Its pedigree certainly isn’t up for questioning.
The wine itself is in fairness bordering on a delight with a lovely line of acidity and a grassy quality. Recommending Marlborough Sauvignon as a wine blogger is a bit awkward. You want to be seen to be breaking new ground, not tramping over very well trodden ground but sometimes you just have to doff your cap. At £9.95 from the Wine Society this is a very reliable Kiwi Sauv Blanc that will delight ardent fans of the style. And let’s face it, there are plenty of them out there. To be fair, I’m happy to admit to being among them.
You can buy this wine from Wine Society here: http://www.thewinesociety.com/shop/productdetail.aspx?section=pd&pl=&pd=NZ7241&pc=&prl= and you know what? You jolly well should….
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Primitivo and Winemakers’ Selection Gavi
Anyone a fan of easy drinking good value Italian wines? Seems like a bit of a no brainer doesn’t it?
By now I’d be surprised if anyone hasn’t heard the problems over the ludicrous level of wine duty in the UK. In short, paying under a fiver for a bottle of wine doesn’t really guarantee you very much. Unless you intend to put the empty bottle to good use of course….. Savvy winebuyers can however still ensure budget friendly drinking by cleverly picking their way through the big supermarkets’ own label wines which frequently get reduced.
It’s a tricky game of course. Some own label wines are genuinely ghastly, others however are a real treat. I received samples of these two wines recently as they’re currently on offer, albeit only until 16th September. No time to waste…..
The Primitivo from Salento is reduced by 25% to £5.62. It’s easily the best £5.62 bottle of red wine I’ve had this week….. In all seriousness though, this is a decent hearty red which will sit really well alongside a pizza or pasta. They even sell those in Sainsbury’s too. It’s like I’m planning out your whole evening for you….
Whilst the Primitivo is decent I’m able to be slightly more effusive over the Gavi which I thought was very good. It has a lovely fresh character with notes of pear and lemon with a high line of acidity. A very good summer wine and while reduced by £1 to £5.50 it counts as a bargain.
Stock up while you can…..
Anonymous said: Is wine good for your hearing?
I’m not aware of any studies done to show that it is, unless you can somehow find some benefit between overall health benefits of moderate red wine consumption and better hearing….
Côté Mas - Vermentino 2013 (South France)
I’ve been getting quite into Vermentino over the last few years, aided by a penchant for holidays in Italy. Turns out the French have been at it too….
This is a really drinkable white with pear and floral notes plus a slight nuttiness. I’d love to provide you with a blinding food match but we drank it on the sofa on its own and it was lovely. I often think that speaks volumes….
At only £8.49 from Waitrose this is well worth a try.
Jim Barry – McRae Wood Shiraz 2005 (Clare Valley, Australia)
As a wine blogger or rather “communicator” as we seem to be calling ourselves now I sometimes feel a certain pressure to be seen to be drinking certain types of wine. I started writing about wine so that friends and family could go and pick up wines that I recommended which has always necessitated writing about wines in places like Majestic and some of the supermarkets. As a result I tend to drink a fair few commercial wines or, as a friend in wine called them, “obvious wines”. I feel though sometimes that I really should be seen by my peers to be reviewing biodynamic Priorats or organic Pinot Blancs made on Wednesdays by blind nuns and only sold in London. Something just, well, less obvious.
I suspect Aussie Shiraz could be deemed to be “obvious”. The big fruitbomb examples certainly are and they seem to be quite out of fashion at the moment. However, as a wine it’s always been something I’ve loved, whether it be trendy to say so or not. The McRae Wood Shiraz by Jim Barry has been a loyal companion and this, the 2005 vintage, seems to have been an ever present over the years thanks to a certain degree of stockpiling on my part.
Alas this is my penultimate bottle and I’m delighted to say that as it nears double digits it’s still just as good as it ever was. Possibly better even. The years have been kind to it and there’s no immediate sign that it is now on the downward descent to oblivion. I found myself sat on Saturday evening with a glass of this over a fantastic lamb shank and all seemed well with the World….. The dark fruit notes are still very evident but it’s the luscious texture of the wine that gets me. The complexity is impressive and overall it just feels decadent. It’s not big for the sake of it but rather comes across as confident and assured. It’s no wonder the bottle is so adorned in medals.
I’ve not had many better examples of Aussie Shiraz to be honest. I just have no idea when to open the last bottle! I always feel a bit guilty when I blog about a wine I’ve had for years and end it with “sadly this wine is no longer available”. Sometimes though you just have to shout about what you like, whether it’s en vogue or not……
Sadly this wine is no longer available. Unless you rob me for my last bottle…..
Codorniu Gran Cremant Cava 2012
Well this was a surprise. I’ve always liked Cava but it’s a bit of a minefield. The under £10 segment of the market can be a bit hit and miss. That said, at least it’s not Prosecco…. A slightly rough and ready Cava beats an insipid Prosecco for me any day.
Thankfully, this isn’t rough and ready in any way. Made from the usual Cava grapes of Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada the wine is kept on the lees (the dead yeast cells) for at least 9 months after secondary fermentation which does great things for the taste and complexity.
I’m impressed with the citrus and apple combination on the palate. There’s more than a hint of apple pie on the aftertaste with a slight creaminess. It’s a very drinkable wine with a subtle fizz. The best thing though is that for the rest of August this is reduced to just £6.99 from its usual price of £10.49 in larger Co-Op stores. £6.99 doesn’t traditionally buy you much in the world of fizz but it certainly will do for the rest of August.
So put that bloody Prosecco down and try this instead…..
Meerlust “Red” 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Generally speaking a bad wine vintage is just that. A bad thing. From adversity though can come opportunity for the cost conscious wine consumer (or cheapskate wine blogger who wants to drink the good stuff without the associated price tag)…..
Meerlust are one of my favourite wineries in South Africa. Their wines are brutally reliable and fantastically tasty. One of their best of course is the “Rubicon” label; a Bordeaux bothering blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc which really does stand up to much more expensive examples from Bordeaux. The chaps at Meerlust are so focused on quality that in a vintage which doesn’t quite deliver the quality of fruit they need to make Rubicon they just don’t make it. Instead, the grapes which have failed this particularly high quality test are made into a lesser wine known as, wait for it, “Red”. I hope they didn’t pay too much for the marketing consultants who came up with the name…
Leaving aside the catchy name however it’s worth noting that once bottled and shipped over to the UK this wine retails for around £9.95-£11.50 a bottle. Grapes that nearly made it into a bottle of Rubicon (and would no doubt have been good enough for many other flagship wines at other wineries) are suddenly much more accessible and incredibly good value.
2011 was one such year when Rubicon got a year off and the mighty “Red” came to the fore. For £9.95 (from the Wine Society) this is a very impressive wine. It blends power and precision beautifully with dark berry flavours combining with leather and cigar notes. Whilst drinking very nicely now I’d be keen to see how this had aged in 4 or 5 years. I suspect it’d age very gracefully indeed.
So there you have it. Whilst there might not have been any Rubicon from the 2011 vintage there instead comes the opportunity to snaffle up some very quality wine at a bargain price.
Available for £9.95 from the Wine Society.
Folding Hill “Orchard Block” Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago, NZ)
I’ve said it before and I’m about to say it again, in print no less, but in the summer months (or any months really) if you’re going to drink red wine I don’t think there’s a much better option than good New Zealand Pinot Noir (cue howls of derision from Beaujolais lovers up and down the land)….
Having made that bold assertion I’m now going to make another. I don’t think there are many better examples of New Zealand Pinot Noir than this. Right, that’s enough assertions for now. On to the wine….
Folding Hill are located in Bannockburn within the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. Obviously Central Otago is a bit of a hot bed of excellent Pinot and Folding Hill have settled in very nicely indeed. The “Orchard Block” Pinot is their flagship wine but they also make a very good yet cheaper Pinot which sits beneath this.
The Orchard Block 2010 retails at £31.50 online with thesampler.co.uk. Yes that sounds a lot and yes that would buy you a bottle of Champagne but I’d urge you to buy a bottle of this instead. The wine is full of brooding red fruit notes which combined with the hint of toastiness leave you feeling very satisfied indeed as you work your way through the bottle. For the £31.50 you’re sampling one of the top level wines from the region. Trying to do the same thing from one of the classic European regions tends to involve a bank loan. I trot this reasoning out fairly frequently but in my view it’s a real plus point for New World wine in general.
If £31.50 feels a lot then their other Pinot (currently the 2011 vintage) is available for £19.50 from thesampler.co.uk and that’s a splendid wine too. Just not really splendid like this one…..
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Hunter Valley Bottle Aged Semillon 2006 (Australia)
I noticed this wine being recommended by a few reliable winos (Paola Tich and Nayan Gowda). Seeing them tipping any wine makes it worth checking out. When it’s a supermarket wine you’d be a bit of an idiot if you didn’t go and pick a bottle up.
I love Semillon but you don’t see an awful lot of it on the shelves. Therefore kudos for Sainsbury’s for stocking not just a Semillon but one which is bottle aged, thereby allowing the wine to get near to its peak. What Semillon is sold in the UK is probably drunk way too young so being able to buy a ready aged wine is a great opportunity. You’d normally expect to pay a bit of a premium for this but at only £8 (I think it might be £10 down South) we’re well into bargain territory here.
The wine is packed full of character with toasty lemon notes and a long complex finish. It’s honestly a lot of wine for £8.
In fact, I’m off to buy a few more bottles over the weekend. In my book that’s a bit of a thumbs up…..
Byron Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2009 (California, USA)
This wine has helped temper my disappointment at the fact that the Holland v Argentina semi final hasn’t (as yet) been the goal fest that Brazil v Germany was last night. Maybe it was too much to expect another 5-0 half time score line.
Anyhow, the wine. Well, it’s very good. When drinking Californian wines in the UK the price is useful for context. This is £16 a bottle (from Highbury Vintners). That’s probably mid-low for the market given the test inducing mark up in the UK for Californian wines. The nose smells like burnt brown sugar with the palate tasting like you’ve licked a box full of apples that have been left next to a bonfire (and dipped in butter - the apples, not the box). Clear enough?
So. If that sounds like something you’d like to drink I suggest you buy a bottle.
The Beer Anorak glass - a little review…
I’m not sure I’ve ever actually reviewed a wine glass, let alone a beer glass but you can’t live in your comfort zone forever can you?!
As many people willl hopefully by now know Jamie Goode (wine writer and wine judge) and Daniel Primack (of Eurocave UK and glassware expert) have recently formed “Beer Anorak”, a blog featuring their reviews of, well, beers (mainly craft ales). Not content with that though they also decided to design their own glass. As you do.
Keen to try out their creation I sat down recently with three different glasses and a few ales. Truth be told I’ve had worse evenings…. Two of the glasses I’ve used for craft ales for a while, my old trusty Spiegelau beer glass and the Olly Smith glass by Zalto which is intended as a universal wine glass but works well with craft ale. For the purposes of variety I then decided to add a traditional pint glass too.
For the beers I decided to stick to beers I’m used to drinking to aid my experiment. The first was the Beavertown Gamma Ray (an American pale ale which I’ve been drinking lots of late) and then also a Brewdog Punk IPA on the basis that it’s a bit of a stock ale (thanks to its easy availability) and I know the taste well.
The pint glass was very quickly discarded. The ale seemed limp compared to the others. One down. Next to go was the Olly Smith glass which for some reason seemed to mute slightly the flavour of the ales and just doesn’t sit as well in your hand when filled with beer as the others do. It took me a while to then determine that on balance I’d pluck for the Beer Anorak glass over the Spiegelau. The flavours are more pronounced (without being overly so) and it feels great to hold. It also looks brilliant. I don’t understand quite how but the ale looked much more vibrant in the Beer Anorak glass too.
There is a price difference, The Spiegelau glasses retail at £30 for 4 whilst the Beer Anorak glass will set you back £25. Given how pricey properly good craft ales can be though surely it makes sense to treat them to the best possible vessel to find their way to your mouth and increase your enjoyment of them.
The Beer Anorak glass is therefore heartily recommended. Available from www.aroundwine.co.uk.
Meerlust – Pinot Noir 2011 (Stellenbosch, SA)
I’m fast becoming of the opinion that Saturday night is not a night for taking a wine gamble. Thursday night? Absolutely, Friday night? Perhaps…. Saturday though is just too important. It is without doubt a time to pick a wine you trust and consign the experimental Macedonian Merlot back to the wine rack…
Which pretty much sums up how I was feeling on Saturday when I spotted this lurking in my wine cave. Pinot is perfect for this time of year when you’re already beginning to get a little tired of all the white wine you’ve been drinking but still wanting something light yet fruity. The bonus with this wine is that it’s made by Meerlust who have always been in my view of utmost reliability. They can provide my Saturday night wine anytime….
This is a fantastic South African Pinot which is easily deserving of its price tag around £19-£21 with most retailers (SA Wines Online stock this for £19.79). I loved the vibrant red fruit notes, hint of creaminess and smattering of savoury elements which all combine to make a very pleasant glass of Pinot indeed. This would age happily in my view well through to 2017 (patience pending)….
Anyway, back to planning my Wednesday night wine. What did I do with that Macedonian Merlot?……
Oldfields Orchard – Discovery Cider
With apologies to cider bloggers for muscling in on their turf but I thought I’d spread my wings a little and venture into things all things apple.
As a Worcestershire resident I’ve become a fan of Hobson’s ales over the years given they’re not that far away and make, well, really good ale. They’ve also ventured into cider making in a collaboration with orchardman (I’ve never used that word before) Geoff Thompson of Oldfields Farm which has inspired me to venture (briefly) into cider blogging. In my defence this cider is intended to be enjoyed like a sparkling wine which brings things back into my usual comfort zone a little more…
The interesting thing about this cider is that it’s made from pink Discovery apples. These aren’t usually used for cider as being eating apples they’re not the most flavoursome. Given however that this is intended to be enjoyed like a sparkling wine the subtly of the cider actually works quite well. It’s not a punchy flavour but in the right time and place I don’t think you want or need it to be.
This is a restrained and refreshing cider capable of being happily consumed with food (it went very well with scallops) or just as an aperitif. At only 6% abv it’s suitable for many situations.
And there was me thinking cider could only be consumed by the pint glass full of ice…..
Available from Tanners Wines.