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Sunday, 25 October 2020

Laithwaite's TV Advert


A TV spot from Laithwaite's wine

I have reviewed a number of Laithwaites wines on this blog. Since I used to work in advertising, this time, I thought I would review their latest advert, as tweeted by Laithwaites the other day.

The advert is above so have a watch and see what you think.

Now, what you or I might think of the advert is actually pretty irrelevant; the aim of a TV ad is, at its most basic, to resonate with the target audience for the product in the advert.

TV advertising such as this is by definition mass advertising, so the opinions of one or two people don't matter; it's all about how the great mass of people who see the advert react to it.

What is the advert trying to achieve when seen by a large number of people? Here's a slide from the great Les Binet explaining in the most succinct way I have seen how advertising works.

The text reads:

- advertising increases / maintains sales & margins by
- slightly increasing chance the people will choose your brand, by
- making the brand easy to think of and easy to buy, by
- creating positive feelings and associations, via
- broad reach ads that people find interesting and enjoyable, and 
- targeted activation that they find relevant and useful

Les' specialist subject is the Effectiveness of advertising. Put simply, Effectiveness is not so much about whether you or I individually like an advert, and more about whether an advert will lead to more sales at higher prices from both existing and new customers.

The reaction from wine twitter to the advert was very positive:

- Anne Krebiehl MW exclaimed: This is actually a LOVELY advert!

- Fiona Beckett added: Clever (as did Andre Ribeirinho)

- Winemaker Nayan Gowda observed: Hats off to the creative team behind this one

So, I wondered what people in the advertising business would make of it and tweeted a question about it.

Initial responses were uniformly positive - people liked it for its playful silliness, felt the creative idea was good and that it would resonate with its target audience.

A number of people felt the creative idea did not link with the brand strongly enough; in other words, the creative idea is likeable enough, but does not by itself immediately say "Laithwaites".

Creative ideas work most powerfully when they are inextricably linked with a particular brand; Coke adverts are always about fun, enjoyment and togetherness. If you see a soft drink ad with themes of fun, enjoyment and togetherness in the story, you'll expect it to be for Coke.

Alternately, consider the adverts for The Economist magazine; these were always witty, wry and slightly superior. You always knew what to expect from an Economist advert and could spot one immediately because it fitted into a recognisable pattern.

Another way to think about the link between the creative idea and the brand is to replace the product in the advert with a competitor product and see if the advert still works. If it does work, then you have a weak advert that is advertising the entire category (here, all wine) rather than specifically for the brand (specifically Laithwaites and no other wine retailer).

As a thought experiment, imagine the advert exactly as it is but with Virgin Wines or Tesco Wines at the end. In this form, the advert would still work, I believe, so it is failing to say anything distinctive and particular about "Laithwaites wine", it's just advertising "wine".

This would be OK if Laithwaites were the dominant player in the market; if you dominate the category (by having the largest market share), then you can advertise the category and as people purchase more in response to your advertising, you will pick up the biggest sales increase.

In the case of Laithwaites, it is not the dominant player in the wine retail market, so it has to grow by stealing market share from other players, rather than by growing the category as a whole. So the advert has to give you a reason to buy from Laithwaites rather from any other wine retailer.

To do this it has to be distinctive - not in any meaningful way, it just needs to create an association between "something" and "Laithwaites", in the same way that "The Economist" = "wry and witty".

A few commenters noted that with a series of future adverts in this style, the company could start to own the playful silliness of this advert and thereby create a distinctive brand personality.

In general, the non-Brits (who are presumably unfamiliar with Laithwaites) struggled the most to understand why this advert says anything distinctive about Laithwaites: "nice idea, but I've already forgotten the brand name" was a common reaction.

A few people went slightly further in their comments; Miguel Ferreira noted "The wine industry is quite conservative. And compared to 99% of wine ads out there this ad MIGHT be distinctive enough to stand out."

Rhubarbrhubarbr observed: "Medium is what matters here. Very direct response/‘loyalty’ driven business moving to broad reach ad activity is a good thing."

Claire Strickett thought it was good, but a missed opportunity to be more innovative: "it plays into stuffy stereotypes about wine and wine world - they're all pretending to be posh, and I'd love wine to work hard to lose its associations with being posh."

Chris Carr felt the advert could have gone further to be more distinctive and memorable: "it's a fun take on the no doubt insight inspired aspirations of average wine drinkers. But I think the execution keeps it in forgettable territory. Could have taken it further into the fantasy of a wine cellar perhaps."

Saturday, 24 October 2020

On Virtual Wine Tastings

The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed
William Gibson, interviewed on Fresh Air, NPR (31 August 1993)

The pandemic has changed many things unrecognisably in the short term, but the long-term reality will prove not to be quite as disorientating, I predict.

The hot take on this pandemic is not that it has "changed everything", but that it has - merely - vastly accelerated pre-existing underlying trends, especially in the area of "digital".

I had been routinely chatting to my parents on video calls for years before Manchester went into lockdown. And as behavioural economist Rory Sutherland has pointed out, what really killed off Concorde was video-conferencing. That is, the benefit of shaving off three hours from a flight to New York was rendered obsolete by the ability to speak to someone there face-to-face without leaving your office.

With mass international travel proving all-but-impossible at the moment, wine PRs and trade bodies are finding new ways to bring the sights, sounds and flavours of a region to writers and buyers. We are learning together how to adapt to this new way of doing things and some innovations will surely become habits that stick even after we have found a cure and / or vaccine.

There is an observation about creativity that imposing limitations leads to more innovation; essentially, if you don't have as much freedom, you have to be cleverer. This has certainly proven to be the case with virtual press trips. Over the past 12 months or so, I have attended various trade tastings virtually and the level of innovation and creativity has increased noticeably with time.

Here is my (very personal) review and guide to what I think works best and where to go next:

KWV Facebook Live (November 2019)

Organised by Mike Turner pre-pandemic, this was a chance for UK press and trade to chat, taste and spend some time with winemaker Izele van Blerk and Chief viticulturist Marco Ventrella in real time from the other side of the world to South Africa.

Innovative at the time and well-organised by Mike, perfectly fine but something of stepping stone. Think Ford Model-T or Blur's Leisure.

Gallo Fine Wine Virtual Tasting with Edouard Baijot (May 2020) 

My first lockdown virtual tasting: Edouard Baijot MW, Gallo’s head of fine wine for EMEA led a tutored tasting of five super premium Cali wines from Gallo's portfolio.

This was run as a virtual masterclass with a small number of participants, all tasting together and discussing the wines.

Again, perfectly fine - replicates the tasting experience but does it online.

Côtes du Rhône Villages - Roaix and Laudun (August 2020)

Virtual and immersive with a tie-in podcast, this was a real step-up in creative thinking. Three wines from the Rhône along with a picnic-hamper box of local foods to eat with them which I had planned to try later but which mysteriously vanished on evening they arrived - along with some of the wine. Sitting in the garden on a hot summer's eve.

The really immersive touch was the bunch of lavender which instantly took me back to lazy summer holidays with rocky mountains and winding country roads.
Wines of Chile masterclass & tasting hosted by Tim Atkin MW (October 2020)

This was a two-part masterclass on 16 Chilean wines by Tim Atkin MW with each producer zooming in to be interviewed by Tim and talk about their wines.

For me, this really showed the potential for virtual masterclasses - with around 60 attendees and each wine being presented by the winemaker, this would not have been possible without holding the event online.

The set-up played to its strengths - Tim is deeply knowledgeable about Chile, has a flawless palate and is a great interviewer. There was discussion of terroir, climate, geology; in short, highly educational and showcasing the range and quality of the country with memorable human stories.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore docg Virtual Trade Trip (October 2020) 

The most wide-ranging of the virtual events, this was a two-day trip and tasting of Prosecco Superiore; although all done over zoom, it was a deep and highly experiential dive with talks on the soils, history, grapes and culture of the region. A talk on local gastronomy had us all comparing comments on how hungry we had started feeling, videos gave us a strong visual overview of the region and its terroir and outside broadcast talks made us feel almost as if we were there.

This was all followed by a tutored tasting of five wines, again with zoom links to the producers in their wineries, cellars or vineyards.

Virtual recommendations

Another feature of lockdown without the customary summer holiday in Europe is no opportunity to bring back some inexpensive local wines in the car, so I have been watching out for recommended wines in the UK.

I bought several bottles of a Portuguese red on the back of a video tasting by Charles Metcalfe - and I routinely tune into Tom Cannavan's Wine of the Week, sometimes just to listen to his soothing Scots burr.

Where next?

Between them, these tastings have all provided a mixture of cultural immersion, technical knowledge, inspiration and discussion / banter.

Several of these events would have been impossible for me to attend in person; I have a day-job outside wine, so after-work tastings in London are entirely possible but press trips less so. However, doing a masterclass in my lunchtime or even fitting in two consecutive mornings are completely possible.

This is my very personal list of what makes for a good virtual press trip or tasting:

- chatting with other participants, either discussing the wines or commenting in the chat section; as a writer, hearing what other people think, comparing impressions and just being sociable is an important part of telling the story of a wine. For me, the stories are actually more important than the technical stuff. I want to know "why" you made the wines you do more than "how".

- twitter and hashtags can be especially useful; when information is coming in thick and fast, tweeting soundbites serves a secondary purpose of highlighting key points to come back and focus on for a write-up. Chat sections of zoom do the same but are lost when the session ends unless the organisers save key comments and issue them to participants.

- immersion; again, this helps with the storytelling. In Europe at least, wine is an intrinsic part of a cultural landscape that includes geography, geology, climate, gastronomy, geopolitics and religion. For me, winemaking is best understood as part of a dynamic ecosystem of agriculture and character, and it is only on full acquaintance with all these factors that the deep history of a wine can reveal itself.

Food and drink is how wine makes sense, so matching local foods to the wines will always enhance the appreciation. And creative touches like lavender or, as I saw elsewhere, a spotify playlist of national music help bridge the physical distance between a desk and screen at home and the winemaker's vineyard or cellar.

Serving and portion sizes merits some consideration.

In general, a 5ml sample is enough to form an impression and write a brief note. However, this depends on the wine being served under just the right conditions to show its best; when was the bottle opened, was it decanted, at what temperature, were the wines all pre-poured etc.

Screw-capped 100ml bottles with stuck-on labels provide a decent enough amount to taste, re-taste and then come back to maybe over dinner in the evening with some food. They do not seal hermetically and prone to leaking, but are OK for tastings of numerous wines where it is simply not practical to send umpteen bottles to dozens of attendees.

Full bottles are more suited to deeper dives, as (if you are like me) they provide the opportunity to see how a wine develops over time. They also helpfully replicate the experience of anyone who buys the wine to serve at home, allowing for the addition of comments on ideal serving temperature, level of aeration and helping with a drinking window assessment.

AOB: DIY tastings

One final, tangential, observation. Lockdown is causing all of us to spend more time in front of screens and less time socialising in person which is not good for anyone's wellbeing.

Over the course of the last six months, I have organised and / or attended virtual wine-tastings with colleagues, friends, neighbours and an MW student.

If you are thinking of doing something similar, here is a quick guide to the different approaches, and don't forget to support your local wine merchant if you want them to still be there when this is all over.

And if you are feeling more ambitious, there is Dan Kirby's approach to online wine tastings, a virtual Secret Santa:

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Zuccardi Valles Torrontés 2019

A floral Torrontes from Argentina via Cambridge Wine

Zuccardi Valles Torrontés

Torrontes is pretty much unique to Argentina; it is a naturally-occurring crossing of two other grapes, Muscat of Alexandria (itself an ancient variety) and Mission, a grape introduced from Spain to the western coasts of the Americas by Catholic New World missionaries for their sacramental wines, also known as Criolla.

There are actually three different Torrontes grapes; Torrontés Riojano (the most common) as well as Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino.

The grape does well in the cool, dry and windswept Salta region of northwest Argentina.

Its flavour profile is always floral and aromatic with high alcohol and low acidity. If you are looking for other grapes to compare it with, think Gewurztraminer or Muscat.

Is it Argentina's signature white grape? Argentina expert, Wink Lorch, argues that historically Chardonnay always produced the finest whites in Argentina and likely still does, but that Torrontes is the most original.

And it is this originality that makes Torrontes a love-it-or-loathe, Marmite type of wine; it is expressive, floral and strongly flavoured, full-bodied and waxy. This makes it something of a tricky food match, so drink as an aperitif or serve with rich, spiced Asian-style foods such as a coconut-based curry.

You can tame its exuberance by chilling it right down, but then you lose all that distinctive personality - which you may or may not consider a good thing. Wine educator and entertainer  Lee Isaacs, a firm supporter (but possibly a little biased), says "Everyone loves Torrontés. Fantastic variety."

If it's not your thing, you are not alone; here's what Master of Wine Rod Smith has to say:

Torrontes is truly an abhorrence of a wine. Straight from the anal glands of beelzebub, covered up with the perfume of toilet duck and old lady’s pot pourri. It tastes like throwing up after eating your body-weight in parma violets. Only not as nice as that sounds.

Zuccardi Valles Torrontés 2019 - Salta, Argentina (£14.25, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Ann et Vin, Red Bottle)  floral and aromatic with lychees and rose petals, ripe yellow stone fruits, orange peel, sweet spices and minerality. Weighty, yet deft and harmonious; very well-made; rounded and supple with good underpinnings.


Saturday, 17 October 2020

De Bortoli All Rounder Dry Botrytis Semillon 2002, Riverina - Majestic

A curious aged dry, botrytised Semillon from Australia via Majestic - and a shawarma

The Food

Inserting myself into a twitter conversation between some friends, I learnt that National Shawarma Day was October 15th.

I then had to look up Shawarma and discovered it is the "elephant's leg" of urban kebab shops, a vertical rotisserie of marinated spiced meats of which thin slices are shaved off as it cooks then, most commonly, placed into a pitta bread along with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and onions along with a generous slug of chilli sauce for the post-pub crowd.

With lockdown making foreign travel all-but-impossible this year, we have created a sense of travel for the family by having occasional "holiday meals" at home; one weekend it was Teutonic - wurst, sauerkraut and beers; a Spanish evening featured pintxos with sherry and we transported ourselves to Italy with crostini, spaghetti pomodoro and tiramisu.

A middle eastern-themed evening had been long in the planning, so this was my opportunity to make it happen.

Former-chef-now-itinerant-winemaker Nayan Gowda gave me a few pointers about how to prepare the meat: at its most basic, it is tenderised slices of meat, marinated with herbs spices, garlic and lemon juice or wine vinegar and grilled.

The meat cooks best when there is some fat; I had opted for chicken breast so added a generous slug of olive oil to a marinade of za'atar, salt and garlic and red-wine vinegar before skewering, grilling and slicing thinly to serve with chips, salad, pitta bread, chili sauce and tzatziki.

The Wine

I had bought a case of the De Bortoli All Rounder Dry Botrytis Semillon a few months ago and felt it would be a good match here - the savoury complexity of an 18-year-old botrytised wine with spiced meat.

It turns out that the wine is also a little off-dry which sweetens up the bitterness of the za'atar spices.

The wine itself rather reminds me of the mask that Salieri wears in the film Amadeus - on one side is a smiling face, but when the wearer turns around, a frowning face is revealed. This wine starts off with rich, ripe welcoming sweet-wine aromas and flavours but has a more austere finish with fresh acidity, roasted spices and minerality.

The other analogy is a dry Madeira, which also has a high sugar content, but acidity so sharp that it finishes dry. Or a dark sherry with just a touch of added sweetness. As to flavour profile, it tastes just like a Sauternes - after all, it is a botrytized Semillon.

A bonkers wine, then, but a wonderful one also.

De Bortoli All Rounder Dry Botrytis Semillon 2002, Riverina (£13, Majestic) kerosene, diesel and botrytis on the nose giving way to dried apricots, orange marmalade, dried hazelnuts and lanolin. Begins off-dry but finishes dry; harmonious, fresh and complex with honeycomb, dried yellow stone fruits, candied pineapple, tropical citrus, roasted spices and nuts.

Very harmonious and mellow, perhaps its only shortcoming is that it is all over just a bit too quickly

Good and Good Value.

Fresh enough for an aperitif, match with Andalusian foods such as roasted almonds, jamon iberico with bread and oil and slices of Manchego.

It tastes a lot younger than its 18 years and a lot more expensive than its £10 multi-buy price.

I later went back to Majestic "just to check" whether they still had any in stock. I walked out with another case, this time at £6.50 per bottle.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Chile Masterclass: The Reds - with Tim Atkin


A Masterclass of Tim Atkin's favourite reds from Chile

Chile has almost too much of a good thing - diverse terroirs and soil types, the effects of volcanoes, earthquakes and erosion, phylloxera-free vineyards, cooling influences from the Pacific Ocean and the Andes plus the effects of altitude from two mountain ranges.

This embarrassment of riches was all for naught as Chile pursued a Bigger-Is-Better style in the 1990s, trying to appeal to the Parkerized US market.

And then something happened.

Around 2010, a few isolated winemakers in Chile decided to put the machine into reverse and start making fresher, more elegant wines - the sorts of wines that they actually wanted to drink themselves, rather than just points-chasing Big, Oaky Reds.

Forerunners in this movement include De Martino's Marcelo Retamal and Francisco Baettig of Errzuriz.

Marcelo Retamal told his story of conversion to fresher styles to the Circle of Wine Writers in 2011; harvesting ever later and fermenting for longer with more new oak and additives like tartaric acid and cultured yeasts, his wines were becoming bigger and more full-on. And less enjoyable to drink. So, in agreement with the winery owners, he started picking earlier and intervening less in the winemaking process to create a fresher, more elegant and nuanced wine.

Francisco Baettig outlined a similar vision over dinner one evening a few years later in London, where he talked about hot years being a problem, not a blessing; lower alcohol levels; a more-European style of food wines; old oak rather than new.

Over the years since those talks, I've had as many disappointingly over-oaked Chilean wines as subtle and elegant bottles. And, to be honest, I was wondering if the country had given up on the freshness thing.

In practice, a revolution takes a long time to happen and not all Chilean winemakers are quite so progressive and forward-thinking.

But Tim Atkin's masterclass, all done via Zoom with the winemakers dialling in for each wine, showed that there is a definite movement with eight wineries from all over Chile represented.

The first part of the Masterclass is here.

The second part was all about reds.

2018 La Roncière Licantén Malbec, Licantén - Curicó (£13.95, Corney & Barrow) an unusual  Malbec blend (Malbec is just 1.7% of plantings) from a very good, dry year giving deep concentration and 10 months in new oak providing plenty of oaky spice and tannins. This needs age and was much more settled when re-tasted 24 hours later. Deep dark colour with dark fruits, florality, spice and savoury concentration. Needs age, firm, grippy but very fine and well-integrated tannins .

Very Good.

2016 Maquis Viola, Colchagua Valley (£40.00, HispaMerchants) Carmenere blend from a cold, wet and difficult year with 24 months in oak.Complex aromas with plush ripe red and black berries, woodsy, mushroomy earthiness; fresh, concentrated and supple with perfectly ripe tannins and good underpinnings.

Very Good

2018 De Martino Old Vine Series VIGNO, Maule Valley (£35.00, Enotria&Coe) Carignan blend with two years in large, neutral foundres; raspberry leaf and red fruits, red and black cherries, spice; fresh, long concentrated and harmonious with gentle, perfectly ripe tannins.

Very Good.

2016 Los Vascos Le Dix, Colchagua Valley (£45.00, Waddesdon Wine) Cabernet Sauvignon blend, old vines with 18m in oak, 50% new, from a "Bordeaux-type" year (aka cold and wet); the winery has links with Lafite and this shows in the elegance of the winemaking: complex bramble fruits and spice and leatheriness; fresh, supple, elegant and harmonious.

Very Good.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Walking Cambridge

A book of eight walking tours around Cambridge

I have made Cambridge my home for the last twenty years and explored it with my wife, children relatives and a succession of visitors.

It's not a big city (that's actually one of the things I most like about it) so I thought there was little left to learn. This Walking Cambridge guide, however, still provides plenty of history to explore.

My go-to one-liners about Cambridge are:

- it does not have all that much to see, but what it does have is world-class

- Cambridge is basically a university and a hospital with a small, fenland market town wedged in between

A key historic distinction in Cambridge is between "town" vs "gown"; it's a sad truism that the history of urban Cambridge in no way compares with the history of academic Cambridge.

You could also add a newer, third category that has emerged only in recent years - of which I am one. London-commuters are those Cambridge residents who are neither "gown" nor "town" and in many ways have the least connection with the city.

For me, this was what I most enjoyed about Walking Cambridge; not so much the well-documented touristy stuff that I first discovered on moving here, but the more obscure local history that gives personality and depth to the streets I walk along to take my kids to school or got to the shops.

However, any visit to Cambridge necessarily starts with the academic side of the city centre; the winding cobbled streets, the river, the Backs and the first walk does exactly that, starting outside the great gate of St John's, covering much of the Backs and ending at Great St Mary's.

But Cambridge also has a history as a city; so whilst the University is what non-Cantabridgians first think of when they hear the name "Cambridge", those of us that actually live there also exist in the physical space of Cambridge as well as in its intellectual and conceptual aura.

Appropriately, then, of the eight walks in the guidebook, only one focuses solely on the world-famous college part of town; the remainder dive deeper beyond the well-trodden tourists paths and, in the process, tell more of the history of Cambridge as a city.

So, the way you might use this book depends on your relationship with Cambridge:

- if you have not previously visited the city, then start with the University Walk for its history and the Castle Walk for its views

- if you already know the well-trodden tourist areas of Cambridge, start with one of the suburban walks: the Station to Station Walk and Mill Road To Romsey Walk both take in my part of south-central Cambridge and include almshouses, the Kett and Foster families and the David Parr House.

Author Andrew Kershman describes being inspired to walk the streets of Cambridge, spotting unusual things and finding out the stories behind them, by the view from the tower of Great St Mary's in the centre of Cambridge and, having finished the last walk, "ascending the those same 123 narrow steps and looking down to recognise Senate House, the path from Caius leading to St John's and to the south, the road to Trumpington, passing the treasure trove of the Fitzwilliam Museum."

The guide itself advises:

- Walk along pavements embedded with flowers, discover how John Hodson rose from a college servant to become a rich man, only to lose it all in a famous scandal, and find a monument erected by the deposed prince of Siam in memory of his faithful pooch.

These walks will not only take you through ancient college cloisters to reveal Cambridge’s most famous sights, but also lead you far from the well-trodden tourist path, bringing to life long-forgotten voices and telling some surprising tales.

Author: Andrew Kershman
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 978-1-902910-66-6
Format: 320 pp, w105mm x h148mm
Full colour, 9 Maps, over 400 photographs

Monday, 12 October 2020

Falling Back In Love with Chile - Part #1

A Masterclass of top Chilean wines with Tim Atkin MW

I've fallen in and out of love with Chile more times than I care to remember - I got excited about the potential, was underwhelmed by the bigger-is-better approach and eventually moved elsewhere for my oenological pleasures.

Well, Chile is back and it's looking better than ever.

The unspoken aim of this masterclass seemed to be a demonstration that Chile can do world-class, European-style elegant and restrained wines with the potential to age.

Tasted blind, these wines would have you thinking of Sancerre and Burgundy, not South America; lower alcohol levels, more freshness and elegant nuance were all here.

Tim started with a recap of Chile - the world's longest, thinnest country with cooling influences from the Andes and the Pacific, complex terroirs and two parallel ranges of mountains with vineyards at everything from sea-level to 2.2km altitude.

New information was about the level of vintage variation, a far more Europe concept than a New World one. As a result of the various influences of La Niña and El Niño, Chile has experiences significant vintage variation in recent years:

- 2016 was cold and wet (aka "European")

- 2017 was hot with fires

- 2018 cool, dry and balanced

- 2019 dry

- 2020 a dry year with early harvesting.(helpful, given pandemic lockdowns)

In practice, Chile has been moving away from US styles to freshness for many years now and factors like site, terroir and soil type are becoming key.

The world's seventh-largest wine producing country, Chile does volume (in a way), but seems much happier focusing on quality. Prices were reflective of this.

Flight #1

Casa Marin 2020 Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Lo Abarca (£19.00) smokey, saline Sancerre-esque Sauvignon with expressive, slightly pungent aromatics, tropical fruit and lime zest. Savoury, long and complex. Will age.

Very Good.

2019 El Principal Kiñe Verdejo, Maipo Andes (£9.99) rich, savoury, leesy, complex and long; a textured and substantial wine with influences of skin contact and battonage. Flavours of lemony citrus and orchard fruits and stone fruits.

Very Good.

2018 Viña Ventisquero Tara White Wine 1, Chardonnay, Huasco - Atacama (£42.00) old-school techniques giving a savouriness with orchard fruits; concentrated, textured and long, with a tension between saline-minerality and saltiness

Very Good.

2018 Errazuriz Las Pizarras Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Costa (£85.00) woodsy, expressive, Burgundian nose, concentrated dark cherry fruit; fresh, structured, long and harmonious.

Very Good.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Louis Tete Agamy, Fleurie - The Co-op

Louis Tete, Fleurie

Late autumn is time for Beaujolais; a juicy, darkly fruited wine with the freshness to ease us from summer sippers to winter's Big Reds.

For some reason, I have always liked the relatively inexpensive Gamay wines of Beaujolais more than the more expensive red Pinots from further north in Burgundy.

There are 10 crus in Beaujolais; the crus are the better villages who append their names to the wine. In a case of oenological nominative determinism, the wines of Fleurie tend to be the most floral of the Beaujolais Crus.

I have tried the wines of Agamy several times before; they are always well-made and impressive so props to the Co-op for securing this one.

Louis Tete Agamy, Fleurie, 2018  (£11, The Co-op) vibrant black cherry and blueberry fruit, violets and roasted spices; supple with gentle tannins; savoury concentration and minerality.


A versatile wine, fresh enough for an aperitif or match with heavier starters, pizza, charcuterie or even game such as wild-boar sausages.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett, The Co-op

A delicious mature Mosel Riesling from The Co-op

They say life's too short for a German wine label.

All you need to know about this wine is that it's a mature Mosel Riesling.

What does that mean in practice?

Expect a dry, refreshing, deliciously drinkable citrus-sherbet flavour with some complex aged character and low-ish alcohol.

With German wines being somewhat unfashionable, I picked up several bottles of this mature Riesling for half-price. If, as a rule of thumb, you consider storage costs are £1 per bottle per year, then I paid for the storage and the actual liquid in the bottle was free.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett, 2014 Goldtroepfchen (£12, The Co-op) complex evolved nose of diesel with yellow stone fruits, honeysuckle and citrussy sherbet with lively acidity and a zippy finish.


Drink as an aperitif or sip in the garden.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Vasse Felix - Two Margaret River Classics

Two Vasse Felix wines from Western Australia - via Tesco

Western Australia's Margaret River is something of a wine paradise; with its pristine isolation, ancient lands and twin oceans, it is one of the world’s great environments for winemaking.

Vasse Felix, Margaret River’s founding wine estate, was established only in 1967 yet current Chief winemaker Virginia Willcock is now one of the country's most awarded winemakers.

The Bordelais white blend and Rhone-esque red are both well-made, faultless and classically European in style with some aging potential. The red especially benefits from some time in the decanter to allow the more complex and savoury elements to emerge.

Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (£10, Tesco) aromatic and tropical, kiwi-style Savignon. Except it's 70% Semillon. Cut grass, guava and white pepper with zippy lime, green apple and fresh, citrussy pineapple with a delicate herbal note. Poised and crisp with good underpinnings and a touch of creamy, leesy brazil nut richness.


Drink as an aperitif or match with herby roast chicken, lemon risotto or deep-fried calamari rings. 

Vasse Felix Margaret River Shiraz, 2019 (£10, Tesco) juicy and fruit-forward with slightly stewed wild raspberry, cassis, black cherry and plum with oaky vanilla spice. Supple, with rounded, harmonious tannins and saline minerality.

Gains complexity with significant aeration.


Match with grilled lamb chops and harissa.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Artesano De Argento Organic Fairtrade Malbec - Tesco

An organic Malbec from Argentina - at Tesco

Malbec is Argentina's signature red grape; recently, I've had more French Malbec than Argentinean recently and this one sits somewhere between the elegant Old World style and something fruitier and more approachably New World.

Artesano De Argento Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2019 (£10, Tesco) black fruits and spice; elderberries, dark plums and blueberries with oak and mocha; fresh, inky and vibrant with harmonious, well-integrated tannins and good underpinnings.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

A "Christopher Nolan" sort of wine; match with posh barbecue foods.