A review of five wines from Wine Hound, an online merchant established in 2007 and selling wines which are normally only available in UK hotels, restaurants and wine bars.
We tried the wines with a group of friends over a barbecue consisting of roasted kale leaves, home-made guacamole, rose harissa prawns, roasted sweet potatoes and burgers.
They felt very much like "restaurant wines"; lots of food-friendly acidity, low tannins, modest fruit expression. Versatile and without too much of their own personality, they are perfectly suited to matching with the bold flavour combinations of restaurant food by playing a supporting role.
Rather like the other necessary accoutrements of a restaurant - the decor, lighting, soundtrack and waiting staff - they are well-designed, well-behaved and blend in seamlessly.
Albarino Condes de Albarei - 2011 (£12.95)
Ripe citrus acidity, clean pure lemony fruit expression, refreshing, not especially long or complex.
Gruner Veltliner `Gaisberg` - 2011 (£14.95)
Peachy, white pepper, mouthfilling citrus acidity, good minerality - more complexity than the Albarino.
Ramon Bilbao Crianza - 2010 (£10.95)
Bramble fruit, toasty oak
Sweet ripe bramble fruit, sweet vanilla spice, long savoury palate, rounded acidity, gentle finish.
La Playa Carmenere - 2011 (£8.45)
More expressive nose - soy, coffee, elderberry, nutmeg spice
Dark berry & black cherry fruit, rounded acidity, vanilla sweetness, mouthfilling, low tannins, touch of grippy persistence on the finish
Geoff Merrill Shiraz Pimpala Road - 2010 (£10.95)
Ripe, spicy and chocolatey
Ripe bramble and dark berry fruit, sweet vanilla, mouthfilling acidity, savouriness, low tannins, long palate, smooth accomplished finish.
Overall, the wines scored highly for consistency of quality and style - they have, perhaps, more in common with each other than with the typical characteristics of the regions they are from.
It proved fortuitous that we ended up matching them with the sort of strongly-flavoured, quite challenging foods they are designed for; I suspect they might not show as well with a simple piece of fish or plain roast meat.
With six of us trying the wines, there was no clear consensus on an overall favourite, so it probably comes more down to personal preference (and the accompanying food).
For me, the reds generally had more complexity and depth on the palate and the most accomplished of these was the Shiraz.
All wines provided for review.
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Wine Hound - website, twitter