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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva, 2015 - Lidl

A mature Rioja from Lidl

Age does something to a wine that nothing else achieves; a wine is not really considered "mature", let alone aged, until it is at least five years old. And not all wines are designed to last even that long.

Rioja is, like Bordeaux, Burgundy and vintage Champagne, a classic ageworthy wine; good examples have a lifespan measured in decades. As a rule of thumb, it costs about £1 per year, per bottle to store wine professionally. On that basis, this wine basically costs nothing and so is incredibly good value.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva, 2015 (£5.49, Lidl) evolved aromas of old leather, pencil shavings and gamey, mushroomy woodsiness, bramble and damson fruit, sweet vanilla spice and porty eucalyptus with a warming finish; fresh with harmonious, fine and well-integrated tannins.

Improves with aeration and drinking nicely now, but could be aged further.

Thoroughly enjoyable and Good Value.

Serve with herby beef stew, roast lamb with rosemary or rare venison steaks.

87 Bampfield points.

Also recommended by Wilson On WinePeter Ranscombe.and Brian Elliott

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Co-op Irresistible Australian Chardonnay

An elegant, well-made and good value Aussie Chardie from The Co-op

Western Australia was the first part of the country - or, rather, continent - that I loved. Five hours' flying time from what we think of when we think of Australia, Western Australia is the New New World whose wines feel like the Old World.

This Co-op Chardie shows what Western Australia does best; elegant, food-friendly, European style wines with balance and restraint. It is a lovely wine and very well priced.

Co-op Irresistible Australian Chardonnay (£7, The Co-op) ripe orchard and melon fruit, sweet spices and leesy salinity with just a touch of toastiness; full, supple and harmonious with good underpinnings. Very adept and very well-made from excellent fruit.

Drinks nicely straight from the screw-cap bottle, improves with a little aeration and has the potential to age.

Good and Good Value.

A versatile wine, match with starters, picnics, fish dishes or roast white meats.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Cimarosa South African Pinotage, Lidl

An enjoyable, inexpensive Saffer Pinotage from Lidl - and some behavioural economics

There are two good reasons to buy this South African Pinotage from Lidl:

- it's thoroughly enjoyable
- it is inexpensive and very good value

There is one really good reason to buy it now:

- South African wineries are currently dependent on exports for income, so if you ever want to drink South African again, buying a bottle or two now might just help the industry survive for another growing season.

Remember the toilet roll and flour shortages of a few months ago? It turns out the panic-buying hoarders weren't the problem at all. No, it was everyone else buying a little more "just in case" who caused the problem.

Right now, for South Africa, running out of wine stocks to sell would be classed as a good problem to have. But in any case, the point is this; if a whole load of us just buy a bit more South African wine, the effect will be much greater than a few people buying loads.

So, how about you replace just one of your other wines with a Saffer this weekend and suggest to a few friends that they do the same?

Between us all, with just a few bottles of wine bought per person but lots of us doing it, we can help ensure there are lovely South African wines to enjoy next year and for many to come.

Cimarosa South African Pinotage 2018 (£3.99, Lidl) smokey with juicy dark-berry fruits, cassis and spice; fresh, savoury and harmonious with supple, rounded and well-integrated tannins. Improves with some aeration.

Thoroughly enjoyable and Very Good Value.

A perfect barbecue wine, match with sausages and burgers.

It has 86 Bampfield points plus gongs from Decanter and the IWSC; all this for under £4! And you get a cute giraffe on the label - what's not to love?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

L&C Gin from Virgin Wines

 A new gin from Bullards Distillery, exclusive to Virgin Wines

Virgin Wines have been working with Norwich-based Bullards Distillery to produce a new gin; a London Dry, the botanicals are re-distilled with the gin and juniper for elegance.

With an emphasis is on easy-drinking freshness, additional flavourings have been limited to lime leaf and cardamom.

Using fewer ingredients means that each must complement the others and be of the highest quality - there's no room to hide.

Fortunately, Virgin's spirits buyer, Dave Roberts, and Master Distiller of Bullards, Dave Crofts, have succeeding in creating a distinctive and very elegant gin.

L&C Limited Edition London Dry Gin (£41.99, Virgin Wines) aromatic, citrussy and botanical with lifted cardamom on the palate; zesty, fresh and inviting. Balanced, harmonious, elegant and long.


Serve as an aperitif, ideally neat. In the Garden. On a sunny day.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Lustau Sweet Sherries at Marks & Spencer

A brace of reduced-price Lustau sweet sherries from Marks & Spencer

I feel conflicted about this in many ways; sherry is one of the world's great wines, yet for all the talk of a revival, it is still ridiculously undervalued. The darker and sweeter the style, the more undervalued it seems to be.

These Lustau sweet sherries are selling at what must be below-cost prices, which is a shame not just for the producers now but also for the future of sherry generally; that said, they represent a great short-term bargain for the consumer, so it would be churlish not to buy them. I bought a rucksack full of bottles and then went back for more.

At their full prices, these sherries are good value; at these levels, they are basically being given away.

Yes, I know sweet dark sherries are for vicars and maiden aunts. but really, these are absolutely lovely wines; sweet and expressive with an aged complexity.

M&S Rare Cream Sherry (£5 for 75cl, reduced) fragrant blend of oloroso and PX with mixed fruit, roasted nuts and spices, caramel and toffee with complex savouriness and delicious sweetness cut through with a linear freshness; very harmonious.


Match with sticky toffee pudding, chocolate truffles, blue cheese or just sip slightly chilled at the end of a meal.

Recommended by Tom Cannavan here.

M&S Rare Pedro Ximenez (£4 for 37.5 cl, reduced) made from sun-dried grapes, intensely sweet and stickily viscous-unctuous; raisiny, figgy, candied-peel, Christmas-pudding roasted sweet spices and long, complex, saline savouriness with just enough freshness to keep it all in check.


Sip as a pudding-in-a-glass; match with clotted cream ice cream or Christmas pudding (depending on the season).

Recommended by Olly Smith here.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Mission La Caminade, Cahors 2017

A fresh and elegant Cahors Malbec from Intermarché

Mission La Caminade, Cahors 2017

I've been impressed with all the local wines we bought in Cahors on holiday last year; this one continues in much the same vein. Lighter and fresher than you might expect, it evokes a minor right-bank Bordeaux from a warm year.

The second wine of Chateau La Caminade, it is technically very well made and drinking nicely now with some aging potential.

Mission La Caminade, Cahors 2017 (€5, Intermarché) juicy black cherry and dark-berry fruit with red plums and savoury olives. Focused and fresh with rounded and well-integrated gentle tannins,


Drinking nicely now and can be aged.

Match with red meats.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Adler Grüner Veltliner Alto Adige, Lidl

A classy Italian Grüner from Lidl

Adler Grüner Veltliner Alto Adige, 2018, Lidl

Gruener is Austria's signature grape and little found outside the country; New Zealand does some and now, it seems, so does Südtirol.

Südtirol was formerly part of Austria and is culturally more Austrian than Italian; it is, however, a long way from the Wachau where Grüner does best.

Prices for Austrian Grüner have been rising since I first fell in love with the grape 20-odd years ago, so to find a good example below a tenner these days is quite something.

This wine is part of Lidl's Wine Tour and gets a score of 91 from MW Richard Bampfield; it also gets a nod from Tom Cannavan, with good reason.

Adler Grüner Veltliner Alto Adige, Lidl (Lidl, £8.49) fresh and citrussy with green apple and lime marmalade, herbaceous, minty rubbed sage and white pepper; well-structured, textured and linear with saline minerality and good underpinnings.

Improves with some aeration and will age.

Very Good and Good Value.

A versatile food wine, match with a range of starters, picnic foods or white meats and meaty fish.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Domaine Roc de Chateauvieux, Touraine

A very well-made and awarded red Touraine from Intermarché

Domaine Roc de Chateauvieux, Touraine, 2018

This is the last of the wines we brought back from the Loire last year; I had a good feeling about it (it has a gold medal from Macon).

With high acidity low tannins and cherry flavours, it is somewhat Pinot-esque. I find rather prefer it to red Burgundy costing several times more.

The blend is undisclosed, but may include Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and others.

Domaine Roc de Chateauvieux, Touraine, 2018 (Intermarché, c. €5) red and black berry fruit, plums, sour cherries, florality, herbaceous rubbed sage, spice and savouriness; vibrant, fresh and supple with an inky texture and gentle, very fine tannins.


Match with roasted or grilled red meats, such as lamb chops.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Mola Touro Blend, Aldi

An enjoyable and good value Portuguese red from Aldi

MOLA Portuguese Touro Blend

With little prospect of a European driving holiday to replenish my wine stocks this summer, my lockdown routine has become:

- local indies for interesting wines
- discounters for inexpensive quaffers

This Portuguese red from Aldi was recommended by IWC Chairman Charles Metcalfe in this video here.

All you really need to know is that it is very enjoyable indeed - and it gets better with some air.

If you really want a bit of technical info, it is from the Península de Setúbal and is a blend of the indigenous Touriga Nacional and Aragones with the international Syrah (which does well in Portugal).

MOLA Portuguese Touro Blend, 2018 (£5.49, Aldi) red fruits, black cherries, blackcurrants, plums, spice and porty eucalyptus; fruit-forward, full and fresh with rounded, well-integrated tannins; very well-made and very adept.

Thoroughly enjoyable and Good Value.

An easy drinker, it works well for picnics and barbecues - think burgers in buns and spicy sausages

It also comes recommended by Brian Elliott: https://midweekwines.co.uk/undiscovered-portugal/

Thursday, 9 July 2020

La Pelerine Bordeaux Blanc 2019

A classy and well-presented white Bordeaux

La Pélerine, Château de Fontenille, Bordeaux, France 2019

This is a handsomely-presented wine, I think. I have discussed the label (at some length) elsewhere but the summary is that the wine lives us to the promise of the packaging.

Here, we concern ourselves with the contents.

I will skip the vast array of technical data on the back label - it's available here if you really need to know.

It is a Sauvignon / Semillon blend in a classic, restrained Bordeaux style. As to the price, it's pretty much what I would expect for a wine of this quality.

La Pelerine Bordeaux Blanc, 2019 (£24.95, Red & White) stone fruit, lemon-lime citrus and melon with leesy-toastiness, honeysuckle and some sweet spice; full, supple and textured, waxy-yet-fresh, with saline-minerality. Poised and harmonious; very well-made, adept and elegant with a long finish.

Very good.

Drinking nicely now and can be cellared.

A substantial and versatile food wine, match with creamy past dishes or white meats.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Tollot Beaut Bourgogne, 2011

A mature Burgundy from Cambridge Wine Merchants

Tollot Beaut Bourgogne, 2011

I have been looking for a Burgundy to like; after a couple of false starts, I think I may have found it. Maybe it's the effect of time and oaking, but it rather reminds me of a mature Bordeaux from a lighter year. Which is perhaps why I like it.

There is some interesting evolution and it is drinking nicely now, but you could keep this for a while and see it develop further.

It is one of Cambridge Wine's recent parcels of limited stock destined for the restaurant trade and sold at something of a discount to market price; a cost-effective introduction to mature Burgundy.

Tollot Beaut Bourgogne, 2011 (£17, Cambridge Wine Merchants) some bricking and evolved aromatics; red berry fruits, oaky spice, freshness old leather and sous-bois with savouriness and fine tannins


Drink with darker game or salmon.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

A Tale of Two Wine Labels

Two distinctive wine labels assessed

Let's start with a bit of marketing background; branding works by making your product slightly more memorable so that consumers are slightly more likely to buy it in preference to other, competing products.

A clear, distinctive brand message is more effective in making your product memorable than a bland or incoherent message. Single messages are better recalled that multiple messages.

A Coke looks different from a Pepsi and, faced with a binary choice, you may decide to pick one over the other. This may be because you perceive a difference; that difference may be intrinsic (you may prefer the taste) or extrinsic (you may prefer the look & feel or the statement the product makes).

If your product looks and feels like every other product in its category, then it will be inherently forgettable - regardless of its intrinsic quality.

Most bottles of wine look pretty similar and there is no real way of knowing what a bottle on the shelf is like before you try it.

The label, then, gives us certain clues as to what the wine will be like - or rather we, consciously or sub-consciously, infer certain attributes about the wine from the packaging. It suggests to us something about the values of the person who made the wine and therefore we expect the wine to live up to the implied promise of the packaging, be it traditional, expressive, conformist, classy or whatever.

On the back of a discussion about a wine label started by Dan Kirby, I was sent a bottle to try; it is La Pelerine Bordeaux Blanc, albeit you have to look pretty hard at the label to find the appellation details.

I will review the wine separately, at this stage, I will just say I liked it a lot.

Here I want to assess the packaging.

The artwork is neat and classy, visually distinctive; to me it suggests a clean, modern and well-made wine, somewhat understated and elegant. It evokes a gastropub colour scheme.

I'm less convinced by the copy - the font size is small and I struggle to read the mass of words swirling before my eyes. Gradually, I make out a few place names, but I have not yet taken the time to read them all or work out the pattern (if there is one).

There is an aphorism in French at the bottom which I find rather pointless and which #1 child (who takes no prisoners on these matters) derides as clichéd.

The back label - again I can't read it, I really need to get some glasses - is where the discussion started. Endless technical details that even the nerdiest of wine-writers would likely find excessive. Is it knowingly ironic like a Haynes manual t-shirt? Or is it signalling the level of thought and care that has gone into the wine-making?

Overall, for me this wine keeps the promise made by the label - as a thought experiment, I decided to make a mental note in advance of opening the bottle of what I thought the wine would taste like and it was spot on.

I imagined restrained and elegant, not hugely aromatic and expressive but clean and modern with flavours of stone fruits and melon with lively acidity and good underpinnings. And that's exactly what I got.

Of course, there is a risk of being distinctive for distinctiveness' sake; elsewhere in the social media forest, Nayan Gowda asked for opinions on a garish label for a a Gevrey-Chambertin that was originally posted by Christer Byklum.

Most, but not all, wine twitter (a self-selective, utterly unrepresentative group, of course) did not like it.

My view is that it is meaninglessly distinctive which is a good start. It is also provocative (as evidenced by the strong reactions). And memorable. So far, so good.

But is there a coherent strategy behind this approach - or is it just someone goofing around with 80s retro-futuristic kitsch?

For me, this sort of in-yer-face style is more suited to a new challenger brand that needs to make a big impact rather than an established classic like Burgundy.

Whereas the Bordeaux label wears its heritage lightly, here the Burgundy seems to be trying too hard and not quite succeeding. Like a dog going after a car, it chases your attention but does not then know what to do with it once it has got it.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992

A vintage Frapin Cognac from 1992 with a limited release of just 3,000 bottles,

Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992

1992 was quite a year for those of us old enough to remember it; from Bosnia to the Rodney King / LA riots via Black Wednesday and the ERM, a quick glance at the bands of the time tells you everything you need to know about how the world was feeling: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Manic Street Preachers.

It was also the year that this Frapin Cognac was born, having been distilled with its lees and some pulp, taste-tested for aging potential then sealed in 350 litre Limousin oak casks under the watchful eye of the BNIC and left to mature in Frapin's dry cellars.

In the intervening quarter century, the fiery, raw, angry young Cognac has mellowed into something that Frapin's cellar master Patrice Piveteau describes as "rich but also fresh and fruity". Those of us who stood on the cusp of adult life in the early 1990s might feel we can say something similar of ourselves. I'm not so sure that it is equally true of the world in general, however.

Frapin Millésime 26 Year Old 1992 (around £150, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange) complex nose of stone fruits, prunes, florality, tobacco and toffee; vibrant and fresh with pepper, dried orange peel and savouriness. Supple, mellow and harmonious, very elegant and adept.

Very Good.

Drink as a digestif or match with a tarte tatin.

There's a fuller review from Henry Jeffries here.