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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Fizz and Fortified - From The Co-op

A port and Prosecco from the Co-op

The best meals, like great films, have a brilliant begining and ending, as well as being good in the middle.

My go-to for turning a meal into an occasion is to start with fizz and end with something sweet.

There are occasions and there are occasions; it's not always a significant birthday or anniversary. So if you have a mixed group of people, or your reason for celebrating is simply that it's the weekend and the sun is shining, then a good Prosecco to kick off and a decent ruby port to finish will keep even the most discerning palates satisfied.

With more fruit and ripeness than Champagne, Prosecco is a crowd-pleaser with bubbles - and what's not to like about sweet cherry fruit, warming spices and minty eucalyptus as you kick back at the end of a meal.

Both these wines from the Co-op are well-made, enjoyable and affordable. And don't just take my word for it - both have a Decanter World Wine Award Silver Medal

- Co-op Irresistible Prosecco Special Cuvée Brut (£7.99)
- Cockburn's Special Port (£12.99)

Friday, 29 June 2018

Cool-Climate California: MacMurray Pinot Gris

A enjoyable and sophisticated cool-climate Californian white

When you name a wine Pinot Gris, as opposed to Pinot Grigio, you are immediately suggesting the big, full and ripe-yet-dry style of Alsace as your reference point (as opposed to the lighter, crisper Pinot Grigio style).

This Californian Pinot Gris has all the hallmarks of an Alsace wine - perfumed and floral, yet dry and balanced.

It's not stereotypically brash in a US sort of way, but it is Big and Expressive with lots of fruit - Vin Diesel rather than Vincent Van Gogh.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley (Great Western Wine, £17.95) expressive, perfumed and floral with white flowers, ripe pear and sweetly-spiced baked apple and ginger fruit. Fresh and rounded.

Substantial and well-made; ready for drinking now but will improve with age (as a footnote, a week after originally opening this bottle, the last drops were still in tip-top condition; this has some serious aging potential - if you can wait).


Match with big foods, such a seared scallops with pancetta, Thai fishcakes or gravadlax.

Tom Cannavan also makes it his wine of the week.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Cool-Climate California?

Three "cool-climate" whites from California

If Californian wines make you think of big, oaky, monolithic, more-is-better pantechnicons, the good news is that the New World is also learning the value of subtlety, elegance and freshness.

There's still plenty of easy-drinking fruit, but it now comes with a more sophisticated and restrained freshness.

Not so much Die Hard, more The Fifth Element.

These three Californian whites are easy to enjoy, but also accomplished and adept; priced in the mid-teens, they represent reasonable value.

From left to right:

- Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Central Coast (Majestic £13.99)
- Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2016, Russian River Valley (Waitrose, £17.99)
- MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley (Great Western Wine, £17.95)

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Abbotts & Delaunay Sauvignon Blanc Fruits Sauvage 2017

A Sauvignon Blanc from Languedoc - available at Majestic

Think of French Sauvignon Blanc and the Loire or Bordeaux first spring to mind; it is also grown, even if much less commonly, in the warmer climate of Languedoc.

As you might expect then, this wine is weightier than a Sauvignon from further north, while it also has a characteristic Languedoc expressiveness and is technically well made.

Abbotts & Delaunay Sauvignon Blanc Fruits Sauvage 2017 (Majestic, £9.99 or £7.99 mix six)  weighty yet fresh and expressive with citrus, tropical guava and passionfruit and a persistent leesiness. Aromatic and rich with a hint of pungency.

Match with goats cheese or white fish in a herb broth.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Elephant in the Room, Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2017

An unashamedly Big Aussie Red from Majestic

First, a question:

a) if you've got it, flaunt it
b) less is more

If you answered b), then look away now.

Elephant in the Room wines describe themselves as "proudly large in scale and expansive in flavour ... created to give consumers exactly what they want – full bodied and mouth-filling wines that deliver maximum pleasure."

If this antipodean wine were a band, it would be AC-DC; if it were a comedian, it would be Paul Hogan. Bombastic, attention-grabbing and in-yer-face, it views subtlety the way a Neanderthal views a woolly mammoth.
That is not the same, however, as lacking in sophistication - give it a several hours in the decanter for the oak, spice and dark fruits to settle down and its finer qualities become much more obvious.

Elephant in the Room, Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2017 (Majestic, £13.99 / £10.99 Mix Six - until at least August) expressive and perfumed with sweet, ripe dark-berry fruit, violets and toasty-oaky spice; behind lies a dense, complex core with fine tannins.


It is not especially food friendly, but will match with darker game such as duck or venison.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Co-op Irresistible Gavi

An Italian white from the Co-op

Gavi is made from the Cortese grape in the Gavi area of North West Italy; this hilly region at the foot of the alps is food-and-wine country, home to rich dishes made from game and truffles.

With citrus, fruit and minerality, Gavi is not dissimilar to Chardonnay and shares Chardonnay's versatile food friendliness.

Co-op Irresistible Gavi 2017 (£8.49) ripe-yet-fresh orchard and stone fruits, with florality and a wiff of white pepper. Substantial, with excellent underpinings and no rough edges.

Good and Good Value.

 Match with Mediterranean starters, pasta with creamy sauces or fish dishes.

Also, winner of the International Wine Challenge’s Great Value Wine award.

Monday, 11 June 2018

A Nice Bottle Of Chianti

Villa Longobardi Chianti from the Co-op

I've had more poor-value and disappointing Chiantis than I care to remember - so this enjoyable,  sub-£10 Co-op Chianti stands out as a great find; it scores highly for drinkability, value and typicity.

What more can you ask for?

Villa Longobardi Chianti 2016 (£8.29, reduced to £7.29 from 23 May until 12 June inclusive) cherry and plum fruit, oaky spice and good underpinnings with freshness and fine tannins.

Match with beef dishes or pasta sauces.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Artemovskoye White Semi-dry, 2015

A pleasant and unassuming off-dry fizz from Ukraine's Artwinery

If you consider Champagne the only "proper" fizz, then look away now.

There are plenty of other fizzes apart from Champagne - they all do different things and occupy different price points.

Ukraine's sparkling wines are at their best enjoyable, inexpensive sparklers with plenty of character.

Artemovskoye White Semi-dry, 2015 a blend of Riesling, Aligote, Pinot and Chardonnay grapes and has a year's ageing on the lees plus some further bottle age. Plenty of aromatic and floral zip, with lemony-sherbet fruit, a bit of leesiness and a pleasantly off-dry finish to round off any rough edges.

What's not to like?

Drink as an aperitif or with match with starters such as mozzarella or seafood.