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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Irresistible Bio Bio Malbec 2016, The Co-op

A fresh and plump Chilean Malbec from The Co-op

I don't know always what to make of Chile; a country with huge potential, the wines are often too big and heavy-handed.

Fortunately, this Bio Bio Malbec is just the sort of thing the country can do well; a well-made Big Plump Red with plenty of freshness.

They've taken Argentina's signature red grape, balanced the New World fruit levels with Old World freshness and the result is very impressive indeed. It even a has a bit of age.

It's vegan but matches best with red meat, so you can make a nod to Veganuary with your wine choice.

Irresistible Bio Bio Malbec 2016 (£7.95, The Co-op) dark, black fruits, violets, spice, pencil shavings and liquorice; fresh, supple and savoury. Plump and inky yet focused with fine, rounded tannins. Well-made, accomplished and harmonious.

Good and Good Value.

Match with roast lamb or rare steak. If you are doing Veganuary, try it with griddled courgette and aubergine drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Ensedune Marsanne Coteaux d'Enserune

A Marsanne from Languedoc's Foncalieu

Ensedune, d'Enserune
Sit down next to me*

- James, Sit Down (1989)

Marsanne is a rich, waxy sort of grape that is tricky to grow well. It originated in the Northern Rhone where it is often blended with Rousanne and can cost serious £s.

This Ensedune from Vignobles Foncalieu is, rather like the Pinot reviewed here, a more affordable version of a cult wine; from one of the warmest and driest climates in France it took the Foncalieu team a few vintages to get it right.

Ensedune Marsanne Coteaux  d'Enserune surprisingly lightweight for a Languedoc Delicate orchard and melon fruits, waxy texture with saline minerality. Elegant and well-made.


Match with shellfish or white meat.

* That isn't really the actual lyric; it's a joke

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2016, Jean Marc Brocard

An elegant and deft Premier Cru Chablis from Domaine Jean Marc Brocard via Fraziers

If you are thinking about dry January / Veganuary, you might consider drinking less but better and eating healthier.

Less-but-better wine, with a lower alcohol content, and plenty of vegetables might well be better for you, a sustainable habit and keep your local wine merchant in business for when you want to go back.

Lots of locally-sourced, seasonal vegetables may be more difficult at this time of year, but visiting your local butcher for free-range, organic, well-cared-for meat should not be too tricky.

For lighter wines, we look to cooler-climate areas and they don't get much cooler than northerly Chablis. The Premiers Crus wines are bigger and fuller, so you can match with healthy foods like salmon or tuna.

Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains 2016 (£24.50, Frazier's Wine Merchants) orchard fruits, honeysuckle, white pepper and beeswax; rich, ripe and fresh. Saline and mineral. Deft, elegant, savoury.

Very Good and will improve with cellaring.

Match with shellfish, oily fish, goats cheese salad or pasta with mushrooms.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Palacio de Ibor Gran Reserva 1998 - Virgin Wines

An aged Rioja from Virgin Wines

Drinking older wines is something of a rare treat - aging wines for extended periods at home is something of an investment of space, time and money and individuals bottles of an aged wine are not always easily available.

My rule of thumb is that any wine that costs less in £s than its age in years is automatically good value - consider that it has to be made and stored before the winemaker sees a penny back in income.

This 1998 has all the classic hallmarks of an aged Rioja and is drinking nicely now; it will not benefit from any further aging.

Palacio de Ibor Gran Reserva 1998 (currently reduced to £14.99) old leather books, spice and liquorice, rosehip and dried red fruits; fresh, muscular, very mellow and harmonious. Long and balanced but slightly dried out.


Drink with roast red meat, especially darker game.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2004 Port

A vintage port from Taylor's at just over a decade from the Co-op

Of all the great classic wine styles, port is perhaps the easiest to enjoy with its primary fruit and pleasing sweetness.

Vintage port is for conoisseurs and / or geeks; it is the greatest style of port, has the greatest capacity for aging and takes the longest time to be ready.

Vintages are declared only when the year is considered good enough and the lifespan of a vintage port is measured in decades.

So at 14 years, this 2004 is no longer a baby and more of an adolescent, showing signs of what it has the potential to become; the fruit is still primary, but the individual components of the wine (strength, fruit, sweetness and grip) have become harmonious and mellow.

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas 2004 (£30, reduced to £28 until 21/01/19) Black cherries, cassis and redcurrrants with eucalyptus, spices and liquorice. Intense, sweet-sour, viscous and complex. Fresh, long, harmonious and muscular with a dense core. Very fine, well-integrated tannins.

Benefits from extended aeration - and it will continue to improve for decades to come.

Very Good.

Match with chocolate desserts or drink as a digestif.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Le Versant Pinot Noir 2015

A Languedoc Pinot from Foncalieu

Pinot Noir is the David Bowie of wine grapes - androgynous, hedonistic and chameleon-like. But not every Pinot can be Ziggy Stardust; some are more Alvin Stardust. Or even Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I like Foncalieu's wines a lot - I have tasted them extensively and been impressed.
This one, for me, is OK but nothing special; it's pleasant and inoffensive, technically well-made. Just kind of ... OK. But then, I'm not a Pinot-phile generally.

For under-a-tenner Pinot, this is probably about right; if you want good Pinot, why would you even consider looking below £10?

In search of an objective second opinion, I checked around to see what others have made of this wine - a "Commended" from Decanter for this vintage seems pretty much to sum it up. It does improve with aeration, so don't be afraid to stick it in a decanter.

Les Vignobles Foncalieu, Le Versant Pinot Noir 2015 (£9.95, independents) cherry fruit, some green, minty herbs; fresh and soft with slightly grippy tannins and oaky spice; technically well made.

A versatile food wine, match with roast red meat, game, salmon or tuna.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir

A Pinot from California

Pinot is a thin-skinned grape that needs a cool climate, such a Burgundy or New Zealand. In the US, it does best in Orgeon, but cooler parts of California also have a go, some successfully.

This wine has come from a distinctly warm climate and I don't find it benefits from that.

Fruit quality is good enough and the winemaking technique is deft. But it feels like damage limitation - the fruit is overripe, lacking freshness and complexity. Overbaked and overpriced.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley (Great Western Wine, £27.50) farmyardy nose, baked dark berry and bramble fruits, oaky spice and glycerol. Porty and alcoholic; soft texture and warming finish with slightly drying tannins.

The wine does has its supporters, however; the 2012 won Gold at LA International Wine Competition, the 2011 won Gold at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and wine-searcher.com gives it an aggregated critics' score of 90.