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Thursday, 24 September 2020

The Copper Crew - Canned Wine

A new canned wine from The Copper Crew

A winemaker, a management consultant and an academic decide to start a canned wine business just as the country goes into lockdown.

No, it's not the opening line to a joke, it's the story behind three ginger-tops who named their business after their hair colour.

The wines are sourced from South Africa and are ... well, really very pleasant.

So far there's a white (Chenin Blanc) and a rosé, with a red to follow.

Why canned wine? Why not?

Does all wine have to come in a bulky 75cl bottle? I don't think so.

The packaging looks great; it's sophisticated and iconoclastic. And certainly distinctive - even before you consider that pretty much every bottle of wine on the shelf looks virtually the same.

This is a product that is probably not after the wine-bottle market; it's more about pick-up-and-drink, or take-on-a-picnic. An alternative to canned G&Ts.
In the interests of a full review, I try it first from the can - as it's intended to be consumed - and then from a tasting glass to assess the wine on its own merits.

From the can it tastes fine and I would happily take it on a picnic or - as we are in Cambridge - a lazy river trip. It's a lot less bulky than a bottle and glasses and at 25cl is a sensible portion size. It's ripe and fruited in an easy-to-enjoy way, but still a decent wine - neither alcoholic fruit juice in a can, nor something overly complex that does not benefit from the packaging.

I think they've got everything right here; the wine tastes exactly as you would hope based on the format and the presentation.

The wine comes in cases of 6, 12 or 24 bottles with free shipping on larger orders and a per-can equivalent price of a little over £4. I find this a little toppy for the inherent quality of the wine, but sensible from a business perspective. Moreover, I suspect it's rather better value for the quality than other small-format alcoholic drinks.

The Copper Crew Chenin Blanc 2019 (25cl can) ripe yellow stone-fruits, some aromatic herbs, florality, white pepper and pleasant freshness with a slightly mineral edge. Technically well-made and deliciously enjoyable.

With plenty of ripe fruit, it works well as an easy-drinking sipper; match with picnic foods such as pork pies, chicken drumsticks and cold cuts.

The Copper Crew Rosé 2019 (25cl can) ripe, delicate soft red-berry fruits with some grapefruit and lime zest; supple and substantial with some gently creamy leesiness.

A little more food-friendly than the white, match with quiche, salads and picnic or bbq foods.



Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Cream Sherry and Burgers

An unexpectedly successful food match - Cream sherry is not just for trifles

The best discoveries are often happy accidents - here's how I discovered that Lustau M&S Rare Cream Sherry is actually a great match with burgers.

In our house, we divide evening meals into "wine food" and "beer food". Wine food is fish, steak, casserole and roast meats; beer food is spicy, oily, studenty foods like chilis, curries and burgers.

On a Sunday evening, with some previous-days' leftover bottles all finished off, I felt in need of a glass of something to go with my main of burgers in buns.

With no beer in the fridge and reluctant to open a bottle of wine just for the odd, unlikely-to-match glass, I looked in the cupboard at bottles-on-the-go to assess my options - gin, whisky, PX or Cream Sherry.

Gin might have worked but would also likely have earned me a disapproving look: "Moving onto spirits already, dear?"; peaty whisky and PX were definitely out, so I plumped for a glass of Lustau M&S Rare Cream Sherry - we have around half-a-dozen bottles after it was marked down in-store to something less than cost-price, so I felt under no obligation to keep it back "for best".

And the strange thing was - it worked. From the initial "Yeah, that's not actually terrible", I went through "Hmmm, OK actually" to "Yes, this is a match that works" and then "Why has no-one thought of this before" to "But why is this actually a good match?".

The reasons it works, I think, are this:

- the dish is quite sweet (ketchup, gherkins and brioche) and food-matching requires that the wine always be sweeter than the food

- burgers are quite salty and sweet wines work well with salty foods

- the burgers are strongly flavoured with a slight char that goes well with the fragrant cooked fruit, roasted spices and general savouriness of the sherry

- the high acidity cuts through the richness; the intensity stands up to the strong flavours of beef, cheese and garnishes

Put like that, there is no level on which Cream Sherry does not work with burgers; it ticks every box.

If we think of more obvious, natural partners to burgers, it's beer or Coke; beer is sharp and hoppy-fragrant with a moderately high sugar content - like sherry.

Coke is sharp, sweet and spicy - also like sherry.

The only  significant difference is that where beer and Coke finish dry (that is, despite having a fairly high sugar content, they feel acidic on the finish), the sherry remains distinctly sweet on the finish which may take a little getting used to.

If that's the case, and you find you can't get over it, then look for a slightly less-sweet style, such as Oloroso.

But next time you have a burgers, a barbecue or a fry up, forget the beers and try a dark sherry instead. You might be pleasantly surprised.



Saturday, 19 September 2020

Two Varietal Bordeaux Wines

Two Bordeaux wines that didn't get the memo

Arbo Malbec 2016, Côtes de Bordeaux Malbec
Château George 7, 2018, Fronsac

One of the very first wine facts I learnt is that Bordeaux is all about blending; that is, Bordeaux is (mostly) a blend of grape varieties and / or vineyards.

These two wines clearly didn't get the memo.

The main reason for blending is because of the risks associated with Bordeaux's marginal climate; in any given year, different grapes and plots will ripen to varying degrees, so in a cooler year you blend earlier ripening grapes from warmer vineyards to add some ripe plushness to the wine.

Making a varietal Bordeaux from a single grape variety is therefore a high-risk approach.

The Grapes

Malbec grows the length of France's Atlantic seaboard; as Côt in the Loire, an occasional blending grape in Bordeaux, star of the show in Cahors and bit-player in Languedoc.

In the 1950s, after a run of cold winters, Bordeaux winemakers switched en masse from the heat-loving, beefy Malbec to Merlot, a lighter but earlier-ripening and therefore economically more reliable variety. Both varieties are permitted in Bordeaux, but whereas Merlot has gone on to become the most-widely planted grape in the region, Malbec has declined to less than 1% of vines.

The Wines

Arbo Malbec 2016, Côtes de Bordeaux Malbec (£13.99 Avery’s)  floral with juicy dark plum, blueberry, and cassis; ripe and juicy with very gentle tannins. Reminiscent of a fresher style of Cahors.

Good.

Match with sausages or a plate of salami and cheese.

Château George 7, 2018, Fronsac (£19, Davy’s Wine Merchants) classic Bordeaux nose of  cherries and spice; youthful yet integrated and approachable, with juicy ripe cherry, kirsch and blackberry fruit,  herbaceous rubbed sage, freshness and very fine tannins. Pure, focused, harmonious and supple.

Very Good.

Drinking nicely now and will improve with cellaring.

Match with plain roast red meat, herby sausages or roast chicken.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV

A sparkling Blanc de Noirs from Chablis

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV

Think Chablis and it's all about still white wines made from Chardonnay; so this sparkling Blanc de Noirs made from 100% Pinot Noir is intriguing for its bragging rights alone.

It is not, of course, a Chablis - or, at least, cannot be labelled as such - even though the grapes are grown in Chablis.

If we think of Chablis as more akin to a southerly district of Champagne than a northerly sub-region of Burgundy, then this fizz falls into place: a slightly warmer-climate, giving a slightly fuller wine with a little more fruit.

It is aged on the lees for 24 months, so is truly a Champagne-style wine without the price tag; it is my go-to "proper fizz" when it needs to be good and I don't want to pay for the label.

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne (Private Cellar, £18.85) golden colour, fine mousse; grapefruit, orchard and citrus fruits with some creamy brioche; fine linear acidity and minerality; harmonious and elegant.

Good and Good Value (within its category).

Drinking nicely now and can also be aged.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.

If this wine piques your interest, Frankie Cook reviews another Simonnet-Febvre here.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Montes Reserve Chardonnay - The Co-op

A wonderful throwback Chilean Chardie from The Co-op

Montes Reserve Chardonnay, Chile

I kind of miss the 80s and 90s - to be honest, I rather miss 2019.

Anyway, the era of the Terminator, yuppies, Ladettes and Girl Power also gave us Big Oaky Chardonnay.

Yes, like all things, it eventually got a bit out of hand, but in its heyday, it was great.

Good Oaky Chardonnay is full of ripe fruit, butterscotch and spice; it's as easy to enjoy as one of Arnie's catchphrases.


Zig-a-zig ah!

Montes Reserve Chardonnay, Chile, (£8, The Co-op) ripe tropical pineapple and melon fruit, toasty vanilla oak and creamy brazil-nut savoury leesiness. Fresh and mineral; supple, harmonious and well-made.

Good and Good Value.

A versatile food wine, match with herby sausages, roast chicken or wiener schnitzel.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Durup Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2018

A Premier Cru Chablis from Durup via Tanners and Palmers

Durup Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume

First things first - at just about two years from harvest date, drinking a Premier Cru Chablis feels like oenological infanticide. It's little more than a barrel sample at this stage and, despite drinking very nicely, a long way from being the wine it has the potential to become.

It's like seeing Daniel Radcliffe's screen test for Harry Potter or being in the crowd at a Quarrymen gig; you might well be in the presence of greatness, but you may not necessarily realise it at the time.

Chablis is one of the great wines of the world; there really is nothing else quite like it, due to its combination of soil type, climate, aspect and winemaking. If you were looking for somewhere to make wine now, you wouldn't choose Chablis. It's too high risk and too much hard work.

But the best wine is often made in the most marginal areas and the challenges of Chablis are also its greatness.

I love Chablis - for both its incomparable style and its taut, linear focus. Yes, it's completely illogical, but the difficulty in making it is also part of what makes it so great.

And as you move up the quality scale to Premier Cru and Grand Cru, the lifespan and years to maturity also increase.

Durup Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2018 (£26.50, Tanners, Palmers Wine Store)  golden green with a restrained nose of white flowers and honeysuckle; fresh orchard and white stone fruits, lime marmalade, honey, white pepper and minerality; supple, concentrated and long.  Very elegant and poised.

Improves with aeration and, whilst drinking very nicely now, will continue to improve with cellaring.

Good

Match with young white cheese, smoked mackerel pâté or pork rilettes.

Some further Chablis food matches from Fiona Beckett.


Friday, 4 September 2020

Winemaker's Selection Barossa Valley Shiraz - Lidl

A benchmark Aussie Shiraz from Lidl - it even has a bit of age

My local Lidl is proving to be a plentiful source of inexpensive easy-drinking wines; and if that were not enough, they also score well for typicity. That is to say, they taste how they should, given where they come from. In other words, they have a sense of place, which is what wine is really all about.

Barossa Shiraz is something of a benchmark style; thick, stewed sweet dark fruits with chocolate, leather and minty, porty eucalyptus, subtle it is not. It is, however, easy to understand and enjoy.

It's the equivalent of Bruce Willis in a blood-soaked, sweat-stained muscle vest, toting an Uzi in a truck - or Jason Statham if you are British.

Yes, there are expensive Barossa Shirazes, hot-climate Aussie wines with aspirations; but given their expressive, exuberant nature, to me they have always made more sense as easy-drinking quaffers.

Winemaker's Selection Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2017 (£5.99, Lidl) baked dark fruits, cassis, black olives, spice, leather and minty eucalyptus; fresh, full, supple and long.

Thoroughly enjoyable - improves with aeration and will age further.

Match with barbecue food - burgers in brioche or posh dogs in buns.