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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Laithwaites - discovery and mystery

I recently invested in a number of cases of wine from Laithwaites - one introductory "Discovery" case and a couple of "mystery" cases.

The Discovery case is basically intended as a special offer for new customers - a mixture of wines with a significant discount against the list price, plus a couple of freebies thrown in; in this instance, three bottles of a basic Rioja plus a fancy corkscrew.

The mystery cases are pretty much just that - you pay £60 plus delivery and get wines with a minimum value of £90. Tantalisingly, there are a number of "golden ticket" cases worth up to £600, so there is potential for some serious bargains and superb wines.

A quick trawl through the Laithwaites website for details on the wines I had received showed that both my mystery cases were worth just a few pennies over £90, but that still represents a reasonable saving, given the cost was only £60 plus delivery. Added to that, I got an extra two bottles as a bonus for ordering two cases.

The wines in the mystery cases are all different and come with no tasting notes - however, as Laithwaites put details of all their wines on their website, it is not a big job to track each one down and get a basic description, price and sundry other details which give some clues as to what to expect.

List prices for the wines range from around £5 for a Sicilian red to £13 for a Sancerre and most of the wines come from the standard "usual suspect" regions for value wines - southern France, inland Spain, Australia. To be sure, there are not too many classic regions here, but I suspect that is not what Laithwaites are about - or certainly not their main focus.

However, there are a couple of more classy and potentially interesting wines - a Chilean Pinot Noir, a Bordeaux Superieur, a Sancerre, a Barossa and a NZ Pinot Noir.

I am slowly working my way through the mystery case wines and posting my thoughts on the Laithwaites website as I go - click here to keep up to date.

Not many Laithwaites customers seem to be doing this, as, with just a handful of reviews, I am already a "Top 25" reviewer; however, it's a great way for the company to get feedback on their wines. In fact, I am generally very impressed with how professional and focused Laithwaites is as a company - which may well be a topic for a future blog, along with some more opinion on the wines themselves.

As for the wines, in general, they have all been well made and pleasant and there certainly has not been a bad wine so far, but quite a few have been unmemorable and not ones that I would buy again. A number also do not quite live up to the billing they receive on the Laithwaites website.

Two particularly good ones, however, have been a rich Cab / Shiraz from La Mancha in Spain and a Bordeaux-style Merlot from the tiny (and high up) region of Yecla, also in Spain.

To be fair, I have started with the cheaper and more basic wines from the mystery case and it remains to be seen how well the more ambitious wines show.

Update 25/05/11: having worked my way through quite a few Laithwaite's wines, I find myself unable to face any more. They are not bad wines per se - just samey, oversold and overpriced and my initial enthusiasm has worn off.

See this posting on Laithwaites for more details on how I fell out of love with all this:



Laithwaites - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/

Gran Oristan - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/DWBase/jsp/templates/article/productDetails.jsp?productId=prod513723

Casa Virola - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/DWBase/jsp/templates/article/productDetails.jsp?productId=prod502386


  1. A friend recently brought round a bottle of Laithwaites Bordeaux Superieur (Merlot, typically £9 ?), but the 'Superieur' tag wasn't justified.

    You may wish to consider:

    The Wine Society

    There have been a number of reviews, e.g.:

    The mail-order company in a class of its own
    Observer, Tim Atkin, Sunday March 19, 2006

    I think it's now £40 to join as a one-off lifetime subscription, but I recall reading a review which suggested that Laithwaites prices were £1-2/bottle over the odds and so you'd soon recoup the outlay.

    I joined about 10 years ago (after using Bordeaux Direct for a number of years) and haven't looked back ! I've found that Wine Society reds (my range is typically £5-£8/bottle) tend to have a bouquet.



  2. An update, with further details ... the bottle labels say Laithwaite Merlot 2008 Bordeaux Superieur, 'Le Chai au Quai' 14%, and it appears to be this 'own brand' product (the web photo seems to show simply 'Bordeaux' on a similarly styled label, but the identifying details match perfectly):

    Laithwaite Merlot 2008 (bottle: £9.49)

    "Jaw-droppingly good Merlot that offers masses of lip-staining fruit and mouth-warming spice.

    Great colour, oceans of friendly ripe fruit and with its silken tannins, a structured, serious side too ... it's taken a while for us to find this dream red but now we have it's definitely love at first taste!

    Because Bordeaux's a little cooler than most vineyard regions, some of her Merlot-rich clarets can be a little too lean and serious. But with the fantastic temperatures of 2006, the vines were laden with ripe, plump fruit - perfect material to craft into this fabulous, hand made claret.

    Toasty oak and mouth-caressingly smooth flavour of plums, dark cherries and redcurrants. A big, rich glassful that's great on its own and even better with ripe cheeses or roasted meats."

    So if there's a bottle amongst your purchases, I'd be intrigued to know if it's 'Jaw-droppingly good'.

    Bonne chance !


  3. Dave

    Thanks for the comments - I am still working my way through the Laithwaites wines, but I know a couple of people who are members of the Wine Society, so I will look at that next.

    All the best,

  4. Apologies for clogging-up the blog, but I've since discovered another identically-described Laithwaite Merlot, but from an earlier vintage:

    Laithwaite Merlot 2006 (bottle: £8.99)
    Style: Medium Bodied
    Appellation: Bordeaux AOC
    Alcohol: 13.0%


    So, to recap previously:

    Laithwaite Merlot 2008 (bottle: £9.49)
    Style: Rich and Flavoursome
    Appellation: Bordeaux Supérieur AOC
    Alcohol: 14.0%


    And the label on the 2008 bottle which I tasted refers to "our addition of a tiny percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon".

    Wikipedia says: "The Bordeaux supérieur appellation covers the same geographic area as Bordeaux AOC. However, the wine in this appellation is produced by older vines. Moreover, Bordeaux supérieur wines must be raised at least for twelve month before they can be sold."

    So, different vines, different alcohol level, different year, but identical descriptive text ? I presume that this is simply accidental duplication from 2006 to 2008.


  5. Thanks a lot Tony for your so very much appreciated words on our Casa Virola Merlot as a good discovery in the mistery case you purchased from Laithwaites:
    "Two particularly good ones, however, have been a rich Cab / Shiraz from La Mancha in Spain and a Bordeaux-style Merlot from the tiny (and high up) region of Yecla, also in Spain"
    We were delighted to know you really liked our rare Merlot (and I say rare because Merlot is not so common here in Yecla)and hope you are able to come and visit our winery if you happen to come to this area of Spain. It will be a pleasure to receive you and show you also our work on other varieties, specially Monastrell, the native grape variety in Yecla.

    Hope to see you soon!