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Saturday, 17 November 2018

Les Grands Chemins Old Vine Carignan - Virgin Wines

An award-winning, crowd-pleasing southern French red from Virgin wines

If you need good, inexpensive wines to stock up on at Christmas time for unexpected guests - or to enjoy yourself aside from the big day, then make sure to include this sub-£10, classy and easy-drinking southern French red from Virgin wines.

Les Grands Chemins Old Vine Carignan 2017 (£9.99) bursting with sweet, ripe, juicy cherry and berry fruit with spice, violets and a supple texture. Fresh with fine, harmonious tannins.

Straight out of the bottle, the fruit dominates; with aeration, the old vine complexity becomes more obvious, so don't be afraid to decant or come back to part-consumed bottles a day later.


Match with hearty stews, roast red meat and Boxing Day cold cuts.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Co-op Christmas - Taylor's LBV Port

A Late Bottled Vintage port from The Co-op

Christmas is a time to share food with family and friends in a more relaxed setting; certain wines are more indulgent than others and port is one of the great comfort wines.

Sweet and strong, it is both easy-to-enjoy and, when well-made, complex and considered.

Ports come in various styles; LBV is port from a single vintage that is aged in oak for several years before release. This gives it some vintage port character, but allows for much earlier drinking.

Taylor's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2013 (£16, reduced to £12 until the end of January 2019) eucalyptus, cassis, dark berries and freshly ground spices; rich, sweet and warming, with ripe, juicy fruit, freshness, complexity and precision.

Drinking nicely now, it will improve and become more harmonious with cellaring.

Drink as a digestif; it will also match with Christmassy foods such as best-quality dark chocolate, mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Dragon Hills Pinot Grigio - Virgin Wines

A crisp and expressive Romanian Pinot Grigio from Virgin Wines - a perfect rack white for Christmas

Dragon. *Dragon*, not lizard. I don't do that tongue thing.
- Mushu (Mulan, 1998)

I have never really fallen for Romania as a country, but I have always loved its wines - clean, well made, precise and orderly, they seem to be everything that the country is not.

This award-winning Pinot Grigio is a perfect wine to have on standby over Christmas - smart enough to impress, but under £10 so you can afford to be generous when unexpected guests arrive.

Dragon Hills Pinot Grigio 2017 (£8.99) aromatic white flowers and white pepper, ripe apples-and-pears fruit, freshness, minerality and thick-skinned substance.

A versatile wine for fish or cheese starters, canapes or creamy pasta dishes. It will also stand up to roast pork and cold cuts.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Three Wine Men in Pictures

Another year, another Three Wine Men tasting in Cambridge

Master Distiller Will Lowe of Cambridge Distillery.
Superb aged wines from Lebanon's Chateau Musar.
New kid on the block, James Thorne of Thorne Wines.
More than just Sauvignon - wines of New Zealand
 Well-made and ageworthy, with plenty of southern fruit; Languedoc Top 100
Alpine wines from … Alpine Wines

Iconoclastic and funky - the wines are not bad either. Thirsty Cambridge.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Marks & Spencer Petit Chablis

A Petit Chablis from Marks & Spencer

Petit Chablis is a "junior" Chablis, made from the same Chardonnay grape, but grown on a different soil type.

If you want the dinner party fact, Petit Chablis is grown on denser, more-exposed, hilltop, portlandian soils that, unlike the kimmeridgian soils of Chablis, are not broken up with contain ancient sea fossils.

A well-made Petit Chablis will have the flavour profile and elegance of a Chablis, but will be a lighter, more everyday, less contemplative sort of wine - perfect as a simple aperitif.

Marks & Spencer Petit Chablis (12-) citrus and orchard fruits, honeysuckle and white flowers, white pepper; fresh, mineral, leesy and elegant.


Drink as an aperitif - or match with fish and chips.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Four Virgin Wines for Christmas Day

Four Virgin Wines for an indulgent Christmas Day

Christmas is a time for family and togetherness, spending time with loved ones. Celebratory food and superior wines add to the sense of occasion, so here are four wines from Virgin to sort your Christmas Day.

Fizz gets the party started, a dry sherry is the thinking man's aperitif, an off-dry white works with fishy starters and a mature red will complement your roast.

Senti Prosecco Extra Dry (£10.99)
Start with fizz; whether your celebrations begin at breakfast time with a Bucks Fizz or a glass of bubbles whilst the turkey is being carved, Prosecco is a great warm-up act.

Fernando de Castilla Antique Amontillado (£25.99)
Fresh and bone dry with flavours of roasted chestnuts, hazelnuts and orange peel, Amontillado is a great aperitif. Just make sure you have some olives, salted almonds, cured meats or manchego to hand as you sip this.

Clos du Gaimont Vouvray Demi Sec 2015 (£12.99)
An off-dry Vouvray will match with seafood starters, such as scallops, lobster or salmon in a creamy sauce.

Palacio de Ibor Gran Reserva 1998 (£24.99)
You don't often come across a 20 year-old Spanish Cab, so this is interesting of itself; mature reds are a great match with a Christmas roast and the gamier the better, so pair this with duck, goose or turkey.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Four Chablis Wines

Four Chablis wines

Chablis is something of a miracle - it is not easy to make wine this far north in France in a damp and chilly river valley.

All wines from Chablis share similar characteristics - they are white and made from the Chardonnay grape with high acidity, lemony-mineral flavours and a nervy, cool-climate precision.

Better sites in better years produce wines with flavours of honeysuckle and blossom that take five or ten years to become ready. Simpler wines are ready for early drinking and do not improve with extensive aging.

Like many Old World areas, Chablis has its own, idiosyncratic classification:

- Petit Chablis; grown on different (inferior) soils, this is a "junior Chablis", an easy drinker with the character of Chablis in a lighter, simpler form

- Chablis; must be grown on fossil-rich kimmeridgian soils

- Premier Cru; incongruously, the second rank of Chablis, better sites with more favourable aspects to produce riper fruit

- Grand Cru; a cluster of the top seven vineyards, a small amphitheatre facing due south with just the right angle of incline, undulation and shelter to produce grapes for the top wines

Chablis is expensive to produce, but does not command the trophy pricing of investment-grade wines, so the best value is to be found at the top of the range rather than at the bottom.

Start with Petit Chablis if you want to see what all the fuss is about, then continue to work your way up if you like what you find.

Here are four wines to try - drink the lighter Petits Chablis as an aperitif; match the richer Premiers Crus with fish or chicken starters.

- Petit Chablis 2017 (12-, Marks & Spencer)
- Petit Chablis, Louis Moreau, 2016 (12.99, Waitrose)
- Chablis Premier Cru Secher, 2015 (20-, Justerini & Brooks)
- Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains 2016 (24.50, Frazier's Wine Merchants)