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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Virgin's Late Summer BBQ Wines

A range of barbecue-ready wines from Virgin

Nothing, it seems, guarantees the rain like a bank holiday and getting the barbie out - it's late summer now and the heatwave feels like a distant memory.

But wait - apparently we are due an Indian summer that will last for weeks if not months.

So here is a range of barbie wines from Virgin that come in twos - whites, rosés and reds - and should cover all eventualities.

Australia claims three spots with a Chardonnay Semillon, a rosé and a cool-climate Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula; northern Italy has two classics, a Pinot Grigio and a Barbera, with a Californian white Zinfandel rosé.

Happy drinking!

- Brio Pinot Grigio, Italy (£10.99)
- The Anvil Chardonnay Semillion, Australia (£9.99)
- Big Top White Zinfandel Rosé, USA (£7.99)
- 16 Little Black Pigs Rosé, Australia (£8.99)
- Mr Noir Pinot Noir, Australia (£11.99)
- Anello Piemonte DOC Barbera, Italy (£9.99)

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Co-op Spain-Off

Two Spanish wines from The Co-op

Rioja and Ribera Del Duero are the two greats of Spain - its Medoc and St Emilion, Napa and Sonoma, Barolo and Chianti.

Rioja's fame is well-established; Bordelais winemakers moved to Rioja in the 1800s to avoid the onslaught of phyloxera, bringing their barrels and oaking techniques with them, and the rest is history.

Ribera del Duero's fame is much newer; barely known until the 1980s, it still is not a household name yet produces wines of amzing freshness, intensity and colour due to a fierce continental climate and high altitude.

Rioja's wines are oak-aged, brambly and mellow; by contrast, Ribera del Duero is focused, energetic and vibrant.

Both these Co-op wines are great examples of their style - an aged Rioja and a vigorous Ribera del Duero.

- Marques De Valido Gran Reserva Rioja 2009 (£12.99)
- Viña Arnáiz Ribera del Duero (£8.99)

Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Orchard - Grantchester

Grantchester's Orchard Tea Garden, just outside Cambridge, is something of a local institution.

A short and pleasant stroll from the edge of town by the river takes you through Grantchester Meadows to The Orchard.

The "Tea Gardens" are just what they say - a garden, with an orchard where you can sit with tea, cakes and light meals.

On a sunny summer's day, it is one of the nicest places to be in Cambridge; it's not bad in winter either, even if you have to sit inside.

The Orchard has been around for well over 100 years - it dates back to a time when students would punt up the river, moor and take tea and cakes. As The Orchard's website explains: The Orchard was first planted in 1868. One late spring morning in 1897, a group of Cambridge students asked Mrs Stevenson, of Orchard House, if she would serve them tea beneath the blossoming fruit trees, rather than as usual on the front lawn of her house, unaware that they were starting a great Cambridge tradition.

The students enjoyed their rural tea and word spread around the colleges. Very soon the Orchard became a popular upriver resort with students walking or cycling along the Grantchester Grind and through Grantchester Meadows, or by punting upstream on the River Granta.

Those who have taken tea at The Orchard include poet Rupert Brooke, author Virginia Woolf, economist Maynard Keynes and philosopher Bertrand Russell as well as Alan Turing (inventor of the computer), Ernest Rutherford (split the atom), Crick and Watson (discovered DNA), Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist,  cosmologist and author) and HRH Prince Charles (future King of  England).

Some visitors, however, are less welcome.

Late last Thursday, two men smashed in the door of the Orchard, stealing staff tips and about £500 of alcohol. This would be disappointing enough, but the damage done was around 10 times this amount at £5,000.

That's a big headache for a small local business, so in the words of food writer Tim Hayward: Go! Spend money.Don’t let the hoodied little shits win.

Well, precisely.

So, please, whilst the sun is shining (or even when it's not), do take a trip to The Orchard and spend a few pounds there on tea and cakes and help a local business keep its head above water a difficult time. You'll miss it when it's gone.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Kleine Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc

A full and expressive Chenin from South Africa's Kleine Zalze

Chenin is most closely associated with France's Loire and is something of a hidden gem or enthusiast's wine - little know and overlooked by the mainstream, it makes some delicious wines with high acidity and ageing potential.

In the New World, Chenin is South Africa's most widely planted white grape and produces riper, fuller and more fruit-forward wines, but still with plenty of freshness.

For those interested, Bush Vines (aka Gobelet) is a reference to how the vine is maintained and pruned, rather than a reference to ruggedness or rusticity - see this article by Wine Doctor Chris Kissak.

Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2017 (£10, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose) ripe peach and pineapple fruit, fresh and crisp with good aromatics, white pepper and minerality. Adept, supple and full.


Perfect for sipping, it will match with spicy foods such as chilli prawns or a seafood Thai curry.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Les Collines de Laure Rouge

A full and spicy red Rhône from Jean-Luc Colombo

Jean-Luc Colombo is a relative newcomer to the Rhône, moving to Cornas in 1982 and making his first wine in 1987.

Named Collines de Laure, this wine is essentially a de-classified Cornas made from younger vines; darkly spicy, expressive and characterful, it is ready for drinking at a much earlier age, and priced more keenly, than a fully-fledged Cornas.

Cornas is a red wine appellation of the Northern Rhône that had somewhat fallen out of favour, but has seen a restoration of interest since the 1980s; the vineyards are on steep granite, resulting in one of the darkest, most inky Syrahs from the region.

This wine has a silver medal from the Sommelier Wine Awards.

Jean Luc Colombo Les Collines de Laure Rouge 2016 (£14.20, independents, Harrods) plums, prunes and small ripe red fruits with a spicy backdrop; good acidity and fine tannins make for a supple and harmonious wine. Rich, generous and adept.

Very Good.

Drinking nicely now out of the bottle with a few swirls in the glass, it will also age.

Match with darker game, such as venison steak, or shavings of mature cheddar.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

La Belle Angele Rosé 2017

A summery, Belle Epoque-inspired rosé from Badet Clement, available at Majestic

Another day, another southern French rosé .

The weather is perfect right now for drinking rosé in the garden - and this Belle Angele is full enough to match with barbecues and picnic foods.

At other times of the year, it will also work with heartier foods, such as chicken or prawn stir-fries.

La Belle Angele rosé 2017 Grenache/Cinsault (£8.99 or £7.49 mix six at Majestic) raspberry and redcurrant fruit, white  pepper, saline minerality and good underpinnings. Rounded and elegant.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with barbecues, salads or just sip outside in the current heatwave.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Domaine Montrose 2017 - Top 100

A Top 100 rosé from Sud de France

Provence is the classic home of rosé - the style I most associate with the area is soft and gently fleshy. Master of Wine, and author of Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution Elizabeth Gabay notes that this style is essentially that of an entry-level négociant rosé, made from a blend across the region.

The Montrose, she notes, aims to be Provençale in style and is more like the terroir-driven wines of La Londe or Pierrefeu.

At under a tenner, it represents good value for the quality; a blend of Grenache noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it is very well made with plenty of southern French substance and characterful mineral linearity.

Domaine Montrose, 2017, Côtes de Thongue (Justerini & Brooks, £8-£9.99) red berries and soft red fruits, with a mineral freshness; textured, elegant and characterful.

Good and Good Value.

Works equally well as a garden sipper during the heatwave as with picnic foods and even spiced dishes.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

A complex, dense and ageworthy South African Cabernet from Kleine Zalze

South Africa's Kleine Zalze dates back more than three centuries, but it is the estate's most recent history that is most relevant.

Owned and run for the past 20 years by Kobus Basson, Kleine Zalze has built up a reputation as one of the leading family wineries in South Africa and one of the most-awarded wine producers in Stellenbosch.

 This adept Cabernet shows what the estate (and the country) is capable of.
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (£16.35 independents) dense, ripe dark berries, balsamic, oaky, peppery spice and cigar box; black cherry, cassis and plum fruit with a dense, muscular core of firm, assertive tannins. Complex, fresh and mineral.

Youthful and primary, it will benefit from decanting and repay cellaring.

Very Good.

Match with roast red meat and darker game.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Cider-Off

A cider-off  with two entry level ciders from Bacchanalia

For a change, we tried a couple of entry-level ciders. These two are very different in style.

The Crones is more of an expressive crowd-pleaser; the Angry Wasp, more focused and hipster.

Angry Wasp on paper, technically the better cider. Cloudy yellow; sharp, crisp, grapefruity and rather neutral with a touch of musky appleskin. Somehow, a little thin.

Either it's an acquired taste or it needs more time to fill out with age.

Crones pale amber with musky apple skin and yeast aromas. Complex bitter roasted and brown apple flavours balanced with sweetness and citrussy acidity. Plenty of interest going on - enjoyable, even if it doesn't hang together completely harmoniously.

Match either of these with pork dishes - stews, roasted, with cream and mustard or in cider sauce.