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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Familia Zuccardi Chardonnay Q 2017 - Virgin Wines

A fresh and gently-oaked New World Chardie from Virgin

Chardonnay is perhaps the most versatile of all grapes - from steely cool-climates to warm, with oak and without, sparkling and still, it covers all the mainstream styles eschewing only sticky and fortified versions.

Chardonnay is the great grape of Champagne, white Burgundy and more latterly ripe-oaky New World styles.

After becoming everyone's go-to white in the 1990s, New World Chardonnays got ever bigger, riper and oakier in a sort of more-is-better cycle.

These days, a good New World Chardonnay is often a more restrained, more nuanced affair, with good fruit expression and subtle oaking. Outside of France, Chardonnay is perhaps most associated with Australia and California, but pretty much everywhere you've heard of makes some.

This Familia Zuccardi Chardonnay is, as the name suggests, from a family-run winery and is modern, classic New World style; clean, pure and deft; Burgundian yet better value than an equivalent Burgundy.

Familia Zuccardi Chardonnay Q 2017 (£15.99) citrus, melon and orchard fruits with zippy lime zest and deft oaking. Fresh and substantial. Pure, precise and mineral with excellent underpinnings.


A versatile wine, drink as an aperitif or match with white fish or white meats

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Abbotts & Delaunay Viogner 2018

 A Northern Rhône grape in Languedoc - Abbotts & Delaunay

Native to the northern Rhône, Viognier is not an easy grape to grow; I've never quite seen the appeal of its gently floral and peachy disposition. To me, it's always been a bit too girl-next-door-with -expensive-habits.

Transported to Languedoc by Badet Clement, this Viognier is deft, harmonious and reasonably priced. Try it if:

- you like Condrieu but are on a budget
- you like warm-climate Chardonnay or Pinot Gris and want something in a similar style
- you are open-minded enough to be interested generally

Abbotts & Delaunay Viogner 2018 (£10, Majestic) floral with peachy-apricotty fruit and sweet spice; waxy, full and supple; elegant and deft.

Good and good value at £8 for multi-buys.

Match with lighter starters including white fish or asparagus in butter.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Crisp White and Big Red from the Co-op

A Crisp White and Big Red from the Co-op - Peter Yealands and Fairtrade Malbec

Crisp White and Big Red is a classic combination for any meal.

If you are doing a "four-wine" meal, you might add in fizz or sherry to start and a dessert wine to finish, but the traditional core is white with starters and red with mains.

In the Old World, you might go for Chablis and Bordeaux, Soave and Barolo or Txakoli and Rioja.

Here are two New World wines from The Co-op that work well together:

Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2018 (£9.50, reduced to £7.50 from 17 July until 13 August) fresh, pure and aromatic with cut grass, white pepper, zippy lime, minerality and tropical fruits.


Match with seafood starters, such as white fish in a herby broth.

Co-op Irresistible Fairtrade Organic Malbec, Argentina 2017 (£7.50) spicy with ripe dark fruits, fine tannins and an oaky-inky texture. Generously extracted.

Match with steak or roast lamb with rosemary and garlic.

It has an IWC Silver and the Fairtrade trophy.

Drink outdoors or in.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Virgin Wines in Cambridge - Wine Advisor Top Picks

A Virgin Wines tasting in Cambridge

I've reviewed many Virgin wines over the years and have yet to find more than the odd one I didn't completely enjoy.

In keeping with the brand, Virgin's wines tend to be lively, iconoclastic and sophisticated.

These are the top picks of Wine Advisor Ian Long with my quickly-scribbled notes - as expected, these all scored a Good.

Kuehn Cremant d'Alsace Brut Cuvee Prestige (12.99, NV, France) crisp, fresh and fruited, precise and mineral

Le Pugiliste Albarino (14.99, 2018, France) citrus and orchard fruits with am almondy texture; stylistically, more Languedoc than Vinho Verde

Walnut Block Marlborough Organic Sauvignon Blanc (13.99, 2018, New Zealand) more restrained than classic Marlborough SB, more textured and less pungently aromatic

Vickery Eden Valley Riesling (18.99, 2016, Australia) citrussy-petrolly with yellow stone fruit; like a weightier Mosel, haromious, balanced, mineral and long

Targa Rioja Organic Tempranillo Blanco (16.99, 2018, Spain) Tempranillo Blanco is a recently-discovered mutation of Tempranillo; fresh, modern and clean this is a versatile wine with citrus, lime and tropical fruits

Le Zeitgeist Malbec (1.99, 2018, France) atypical Malbec from somewhere in southern France, fresh and vibrant with a substantial core

Conte di Campiano Negroamaro Salento IGT Passito (14.99, 2015, Italy) gamey, ripely-fruited, warming and spicy with appassimento richness

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Les Jamelles Syrah 2017

A Northern Rhône grape in Languedoc - Les Jamelles

Syrah, it seems, is becoming the Chardonnay of red grapes: once a noble grape confined to a small area producing rarified and expensive classics, it has found mainstream success as an all-rounder.

Syrah is native to the northern Rhône and, like Chardonnay, the great grape of Champagne and Burgundy, was transformed from a cult hero into a superstar by Australia's warmer climate. Rebranded as Shiraz, other innovative, warm regions followed, so you now find it in California and Languedoc.

Unlike Chardonnay's neutral-but-versatile character, Syrah has a strong personality of dark fruits and spice.

This Jamelles Syrah from Languedoc is varietally typical and well enough made but for me feels a little more heavy-handed and less Burgundian than previous vintages. Some people will prefer that.

Les Jamelles Syrah 2017 (£7.25, the Co-op) dark fruit, cassis, leather and spice with persistent tannins. Plenty of extraction.

Match with charcuterie and salamis.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Denbies Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2013

A classy English BdN fizz from Denbies

English fizz is now arguably an established classic; you can comfortably serve a glass of English fizz to guests at the start of a good meal and not feel the need to explain or apologise.

There are other wines with bubbles in, of course - of which some more sophisticated than others. Where English fizz excels is at the very top; crafted, complex, precise sparklers that can be as good as any you will find.

Wines this well-made and long-aged in a cool-climate are necessarily not cheap to produce or therefore buy; but they represent good value for the quality.

Established in 1986, Denbies in Surrey is now England's largest vineyard and accounts for a tenth of all UK plantings - I have historically always found their wines to be impressive.

For those with a technical interest, this is a vintage Blanc de Noirs fizz, meaning that it is a white wine made from black grapes, here Pinot Noir, with secondary fermentation in bottle and a low dosage, resulting in a weightier, more aromatic and more textured wine with some evolution at six years old.

I normally make it a principle not to drink vintage fizz until at least 10 years; this is drinking nicely now, and will improve further with aging.

Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2013 (£34, Denbies, denbies.co.uk) ripe red-berry fruits, orchard fruits and citrus with leesy, yeasty brioche and autolysis. Substantial, savoury and well-structured with linear acidity and minerality; pure, precise and poised.

Very Good; and will continue to improve with age.

Drink as an aperitif; match with meaty white fish, such as monkfish, Dover Sole in butter or soft white cheese.

Also available from Denbies is a newly-released Sparkling Bacchus at £16.95.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Chateau Vieux Garrouilh 2016, Saint-Emilion

A Merlot-based right-bank Bordeaux from Auchan

Bordeaux is a region of two halves; the left bank of the Gironde is home to Cab-dominated wines and the 1855 Classification; on the right bank, it is mainly Merlot and some of the world's most expensive wines.

In simple terms - perhaps overly simple, but still relevant - right bank wines are more about fruit and front-palate, whereas the left bank is more about tannins and back-palate.

Saint-Émilion on the right bank is a fortified village and  UNESCO World Heritage Site, so is also a tourism destination in its own right.

Chateau Vieux Garrouilh 2016, Saint-Emilion Merlot and Cabernet Franc; vibrant, ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit with and coffee grounds, damp earth and spice. Bright acidity and fine tannins. Pure, focused and intense.

Very Good.

Drinking nicely now, will improve with cellaring.

Match with rare steak or darker game.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Hardy's Voyage

Sunshine in a glass from Hardy's - at The Co-op

The New World can sometimes be something of a misnomer; Australia's Hardy's dates back to 1853 - two years before the famous Bordeaux classification of 1855, for example.

"New World" is perhaps more a style or even a mindset than an indication of vineyard age or geographic location.

These two Hardy's wines are resolutely New World and modern in style - clean, fruit-forward, ripe and expressive. More nose than palate, sunshine in a glass.

With so much ripeness and warmth, they are good for summer barbecues or winter stews. Screw-capped, they are also suitable for picnics for a general audience.

Chardonnay / Pinot Grigio (£7.25, reduced to £5.25 to 16 July) floral and honeyed with citrus, melon fruit, sweet spice and minerality.

Match with herby roast chicken or griddled calimari.

Shiraz / Mourvedre (£7.25, reduced to £5.25 to 16 July) sweet, ripe, slightly jammy dark fruits with licorice, eucalyptus and spice; smooth, ripe tannins, fruit-forward warming and porty.

Match with a rich beef stew or a spicy merguez with relish.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Belle Roche Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 - Laithwaites

A Languedoc Cab from Laithwaites

Mum seems to have ordered a case of Laithwaite's "most extracted wines" - not just big, ripe, fruit forward wines, but ones with lots of extraction too. A bit like over-stewed tea.

Sometimes you want a really strong cuppa or a heavily-seasoned stew. Me, I find that after a while, I long for something a bit lighter and less … heavy-handed.

This Laithwaites Languedoc Cab comes in a overweight bottle which is scientifically proven to make it taste better - this is not a joke, it is actually true.

It's big and Cabernet-like with lots of southern ripe fruit; so far, so standard.

The heavy bottle suggests a degree of winemaker ambition, so I consider it in more detail. It's technically well-made and my reservations are limited to stylistic issues. Checking it out on the website, I find that the winemaker is Jean-Marc Saboua, for whom I have a lot of respect.

Like a ballerina with a mohawk and day-glo socks, there is an elegance in there; it's just rather overshadowed by the look-at-me extraction. And it's not cheap either.

Belle Roche Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (£10.99) aromatic with ripe dark fruits, cassis and spice. Fine tannins and balanced acidity with plenty of extraction. No rough edges but generously extracted.

Match with winter stews.