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Friday, 24 September 2021

Three Wines for #InternationalGrenacheDay

Three Grenache-based wines for #InternationalGrenacheDay

Historically a blending variety, Grenache is starting to make a name for itself more as a front man than merely dance-at-the-back hanger-on. Think New Kid on The Block gone solo.

Grenache is a widely-planted, sun-loving grape from the Mediterranean; somewhat counter-intuitively, it is reducing in quantity just as it is increasing in quality. The reasons for this are varied, but mainly because Grenache can be both a prolific producer of inexpensive fruity quaffers (for which demand is declining) as well as something much more sophisticated and complex when properly handled.

Fruity and thin-skinned, Grenache is not generally a wine for oaking or aging; as a varietal wine, it tends to be pale, fruity and ripe with high-ish alcohol. For this reason, it is often blended with some Syrah for colour and Mourvèdre for tannins.

Here are three Grenache / Grenache-based wines for #InternnationalGrenacheDay - or just any coolish, late summer evening.

Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2018 (£17.99, Wine Direct, Latitude Wine Merchants (Yorkshire), Amazon, Vagabond, The Specialist Cellar, Cambridge Wine Merchant, Australian Wines Online, Frazier’s Wine Merchants, Flagship Wines, Richard Granger, Voyageurs du Vin, House of Townsend, Vinotopia)

100% Grenache from Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, a lighter-style Grenache showcasing bright Barossa Grenache at its best. It has bags of flavour and character yet easy drinking for those who might ‘prefer white’, as well as being food friendly with lighter foods you might normally have with a white wine to richer style dishes that work with a typical red. 

pale in the glass, almost Pinot-esque; wild strawberries, leather, complex oaky spice and herbaceous, minty sage; fresh red berry fruits, eucalyptus, sappy, savoury and warming-spicy.

Drinks well on first pouring and continues to improve with aeration.

Good.

Match with spare-ribs or pork pie; will work well with mushroom based dishes

Delicious on its own as an aperitif. Try it served lightly chilled.

Torres Salmos 2017 (£21.99, Fareham Wine Cellar, Vinvm, Rannoch Scott Wines, Winebuyers, Hedonism Wines, Sandham Wine Merchants)

Garnacha, Cariñena, Syrah blend that pays homage to the monks of the intrepid Carthusian order, who arrived in Priorat in 12th century, renowned for its steep impoverished rocky slopes of black slate-like ‘licorella’ soils, which gives the wines its ‘graphite’ or mineral character. ********** 

dusty, dried sour cherries, tarry black fruits, plums and forest berries with toasty / grilled flavours, licorice and anise, leather and sous bois, cedar, cocoa and spices; supple, harmonious and well-structured. Complex, concentrated, inky and long.

Very Good.

Still very youthful at four years; needs several hours' in the decanter or several years' cellaring to show its best.

Match with plain roast red meat - or venison when mature.

Vidal-Fleury Vacqueyras 2018 (£27.99 from Wadebridge Wines, Great Grog Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market, TheDrinkShop.com)

50% Grenache, 45% Syrah and 5% Mouvedre matured for 18 months in both tank and foudre from the oldest continuously operating winery in the Rhône.

dark fruits, fresh cherries, florality, complex spice and cassis; red and black fruits, violets, mint and dried green herbs with rounded, plush tannins; fresh, full, supple and savoury with excellent underpinnings and a gentle-yet-firm grip.

Very Good.

Needs some aeration and will repay cellaring.

Match with roast leg of lamb with sage, rosemary, and thyme, or mature cheeses.


***

More on Grenache from WSET:

Understanding grapes spotlight on Grenache | Wine & Spirit Education Trust (wsetglobal.com)

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Tesco Finest Speyside Single Malt Whisky

A versatile Tesco Whisky

Whisky is, in (over)simplified terms, distilled beer; it is made from gains of barley that are malted to create sugars, then brewed to create alcohol, distilled for concentration and finally aged in casks for complexity and colour.

The original purpose of whisky, like all northern European spirits, is as a store of energy to survive the long, harsh winter.

High in alcohol and acidity, slightly oxidative and often with a touch (or more) of smokiness, whisky is made to last.

It matches well with many typically wine-unfriendly foods; think hot-smoked salmon, mince pies, chocolate and robust spicy dishes, from haggis to chili or curry.

There is very little whisky cannot cope with - except light and delicate foods; it is intense by its very nature, so positively demands old-school strong, sweet-savoury calorific foods that would overpower most table wines.

At 40% alcohol, it is around twice the strength of sherry or Madeira, and almost three times that of a table wine, so is more to be sipped than glugged.

Some people will suggest you add water or even mixers; personally, I prefer to sip it neat.

If you need an excuse to get some whisky in now, British Food Fortnight is from 18 September – 3 October in 2021; but, it makes a great drink in all but the hottest of weathers.

Tesco Finest Speyside Single Malt Whisky (£23)

floral and delicate with apples-and-pears fruit and roasted spices; citrus, pineapple and sweet vanilla with a well-integrated oak, good underpinnings and a persistent, harmonious finish.

Very Good.

A versatile whisky, sip as an aperitif or match with smoked fish, spiced dishes or mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Three Côtes du Rhône Wines. And A Book. And Some Food.

Three Côtes du Rhône wines - plus a book by Matt Walls. And Some Food.

The Rhône is one of France's great wine regions - or two of them to be exact. For in practice, the Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône are distinct regions that share little more than a name and a river.

The North, running from just south of Lyon to Valence produces a mere 5% of the wines of the combined region. Arguably the most prestigious and quite possibly the most expensive.

The city of Montélimar marks the gateway to the vast, geologically diverse Southern Rhône which covers a greater distance east to west than from north to south.

Where the Northern Rhône has a continental climate with cold winters and the strong, cold Mistral wind, the South is Mediterranean with milder winters, hotter summers and less rain.

The North is mostly Syrah, with some Viognier plus Marsanne and Roussanne, from a handful of appellations; the South permits 19 grape varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape alone and plenty more elsewhere.

If Rhône wines have a single, unifying feature it is substance; it is one of the warmer vineyard climates in France and produces dark-fruited, fleshy reds and rich, generous, hedonistic whites.

I have loved the wines of the Rhône for many years, sufficiently so to take several holidays there.

However, the true expert on the Rhône is Matt Walls who not only lives in the region but has also written a book, covering extensively appellations,  producers, history and terroir.

Matt gives an introduction to the region and his book in this podcast, introduced by Joe Wadsack‎Wine of the Times Podcast Series: Living the Wine Dream - Moving to the Rhône to write a book about wine – does it get much better? on Apple Podcasts

For a deeper dive, the book is available here: Wines of the Rhône | Infinite Ideas (infideas.com)

The Côtes du Rhône appellation is the most widely known sub-region and is a great starting point for getting to know the wines better. Especially with some regional food.


Three Côtes du Rhône wines

Domaine Maby, Cotes du Rhône, Variations, 2019 

elderberries, plums, blackberries and blackcurrants with cool mint and some spice; fresh and supple with lifted ripe, juicy red fruits, sour cherries, dried green herbs and peppery spice; harmonious, inky, supple and substantial with good underpinnings.

Very Good.

Match with char-grilled red meats.

Chateau de Montfaucon, Cotes du Rhône, 2017

dusty-spicy garrigue with blackcurrant and dried berry fruit; fresh, juicy plum and dark berry fruit, minty green herbs; perfectly ripe, rounded and well-integrated tannins with a gentle firmness; complex and savoury.

Very Good.

Match with darker game, such as rare venison steak.

Terra Firma, Cotes du Rhône, 2017 

lifted, slightly stewed dark berries, peppery spice, leathery-mushroomy sous bois and herbaceous aromas; fresh, juicy red and black berry fruits, cassis, mintiness and a supple, inky texture with rounded, well-integrated tannins. Very harmonious and adept.

Very Good.

Match with roasted red meats, such as rosemary and garlic lamb.




Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Viognier - A Deep Dive Around The World

Detailed tasting notes on four Viogniers from around the world

A recent tweet by WineMatcher Fiona Beckett on foods to match with Viognier had me digging out an earlier post on this peachy-apricotty tropical sun goddess of a grape.

From obscurity bordering on extinction just a few generations ago, it has now travelled around the world.

Here are four Viogniers to try with Fiona's food recommendations of mild creamy curries like kormas or spicy south-east Asian curry or spicy dishes with a hint of peach or apricot.

If you haven't tried Viognier before, it may well be unlike anything else you have tried - in a good way.

Viognier is originally from the northern Rhône, so it likes a warm climate; it is relatively high in alcohol and low in acidity, so it is rich, plush and hedonistic.

There is no real "adjacent" grape variety to Viognier; Gewuztraminer has a similar high alcohol / low acidity profile, but is much more floral, perfumed and exotic. Viognier shares warm-climate Chardonnay's breadth and affinity for oak and lees-aging, but its flavour profile is more peachy-spicy.

The ripe-yet-dry wines of Alsace, especially Pinot Gris, may be the closest overall match to Viognier, and Marsanne has the same rich waxiness, but if you are new to Viognier, there's a chance that neither of these wines will be adequate reference points either.

My own experience of Viognier was relatively limited until I tasted my way through these wines; I'm still not 100% sure I could spot one blind now, but I have certainly gained an affection for its ripe, peachy richness.

The Yalumba punches above its weight for quality, while the Latour shows the sophisticated oaking you would expect from a Burgundy House. The Guigal is elegant, rich and sun-kissed, while the Viu Manent shows a little more freshness.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2020, (£9.49 Majestic, Asda, Morrison’s, The Co-op) 

All Yalumba Viogniers are fermented using wild yeasts which add extra character and complexity to the wines. 

white flowers, white pepper and stone fruit; waxy yet crisp with peach, apricot and pineapple fruit, some grapefruit and lemon pitch; honeysuckle and minerality with good, savoury underpinnings.

Match with spicy and rich dishes such as a Sri Lankan vegetable or chicken curry.

Good.

Louis Latour Ardèche Viognier 2018, (around £15 from Dickens House Wine Emporium, Il Vino, Worsley Wines, winedirect.co.uk)

planted on steeper hillsides, 30% aged in French oak barrels from Latour’s cooperage in Beaune, giving the wine a roundness and slightly spicy edge. The remaining 70% is matured entirely in stainless steel

yellow fruit, blossom and a touch of sweet spice; ripe stone fruits, marzipan and honeysuckle, rich, complex and rounded with very god underpinnings; long and savoury.

Very Good.

Match with duck terrine with chestnuts, lighter game or middle eastern dishes with a spiced, creamy almond sauce.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône White 2019, (£12-£14.75, Tesco, North & South Wines, Clifton Cellars, Amps Fine Wines, Amazon) 

A blend of 60% Viognier, with Roussane, Marsanne and others; the average vine age is 25 years.

floral with peach, orchard fruits and sweet spices; dense and concentrated with peachy fruit, fennel honeysuckle, white pepper and a savoury, waxy sappiness; very long and complex with excellent underpinnings.

Good.

Match with rich dishes such as roast pork or creamy curries

Chile Viu Manent Secret Viognier 2018 (around £14, Great Grog, Chester Wine and Beer, Albury Wine Store, La Zouch, The Wine Chambers, Flagship Wines) 

From the Colchagua valley, which has warm days, cool nights and moderating breezes; the wine is fermented with native natural yeasts and vinified in stainless steel. Up to 15% of this blend can be ‘other varieties’ which vary each year depending on weather conditions. 

gently floral with slightly musky orchard fruit; pineapple, white peach, pear, white pepper, ginger and sweet spices; fresh, clean and sappy with good underpinnings.

Good.

 A versatile food wine, match with white-meat stews, turkey, grilled chicken, meaty fish, such as sea bass, poached salmon and tuna or a seafood risotto

Sunday, 12 September 2021

The CWB Co-op South American Red-Off

Two South American reds from The Co-op

Either side of the Andes, Chile and Argentina and synonymous with South American wine and are its two biggest producers.

For reds, Chile's signature grape is Carménère (historically confused with Merlot, which it somewhat resembles); whereas, for Argentina it is the heat-loving Malbec.

These two South American wines from the Co-op represent an exploration of what these countries can do beyond their most well-known varieties.

Syrah is a warm-climate grape originally from the Rhône, whereas Cabernet Franc tolerates a wider range of climates from the somewhat chilly Loire (where it produces fresh, vibrant wines) to warm-climate Languedoc where it is bigger and fuller.

Leyda Valley Syrah, Chile (£10)

A fresh and juicy cool-climate Syrah grown just 4km away from the Pacific Ocean and produced by multi-award winning winemaker Viviana Navarrete.

floral, bubblegum nose with baked dark fruits, cocoa and spice; juicy, slightly stewed blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry fruits, minty eucalyptus and generous extraction with ripe, rounded tannins; fresh and savoury.

Improves with aeration.

Good.

Match with char-grilled red meats or charcuterie. 

Brazos Cabernet Franc, Argentina (£9.50)

Made by Familia Zuccardi, a family-run winery in Mendoza region of Argentina, dating back to 1968.

red and black fruits, eucalyptus, clove and peppery spice; red and black plum, black olives, grilled notes and lifted cool mint with spicy oakiness: generously extracted and slightly port; firm, slightly drying tannins

Thoroughly enjoyable in a rough-and-tumble sort of way

Match with hearty foods such as rustic pâté or crostini with tapenade.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

J Vineyards ‘J California Cuvée NV’ - Californian Fizz

A New World, Traditional Method fizz from California's J Vineyards and Winery

Until relatively recently, if offered the choice of a fizz from a warm-climate New World country, I would have most likely politely declined.

An MW-led Champagne tasting at the now-defunct Alimentum a decade ago taught me that California simply cannot do the sort of elegance that Europeans take for granted

But that was then.

Times change and so do wine regions; elegance, nuance, complexity, freshness and a sense of place are now the watchwords in many New World regions instead of mere heft and fruit.

These days, California is less Metallica's well-produced, technically-sophisticated but full-on Thrash Metal with its twin lead guitars, multiple solos and 8-minute songs


And more Jeff Buckley's sensitive, considered singer-songwriter-guitarist vibe, with nuance, subtlety and sensitivity, deploying a broader range of styles and a more adaptable approach:


For a more formal analysis of California and West Coast wines, see this much more considered piece by Nicolas Quillé, MW https://www.linkedin.com/posts/nicolasquille_the-vast-majority-of-north-american-wines-activity-6843165050430193664-sT3c

J Vineyards ‘J California Cuvée NV’ (£23, Tesco) 

California's J Vineyards was founded in the cool-climate Russian River Valley of Sonoma by Judy Jordan in 1994; the vineyards offer the ideal climate for growing expressive, world-class sparkling wines. Marked 96 points at the Decanter World Wine Awards, J Cuvée 20 Brut NV has an elegant mousse and a complex palate.

It is a blend of J’s best cool-climate vineyard sites, notably from the Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and Mendocino County. A non-vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, using 7% reserve wine, the grapes were hand-harvested and placed as whole clusters, without destemming, into the press.

As is customary for traditional method sparkling wine production, the second fermentation occurred in bottle. The wine was aged on the yeast for a minimum of 24 months, developing deeper complexity as it aged.

The wine has the elegance, finesse and complexity of a European fizz, but just a little more ripe fruit, making it an easier, earlier drinker.

ripe orchard fruit, biscuity brioche and florality; lemon curd, yellow stone fruit, ginger snaps and sherbet. Full, generous and supple with a fine mousse. Ripe fruit and easy-drinking.

Good.

Match with pork belly or king prawns.

****

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Three Côtes de Bordeaux Reds

Three red wines from Bordeaux's more-ambitious but better-value sub-appellations

Bordeaux has long been one of my favourite wine regions; if I had to drink the red wines of just one region, it would probably be Bordeaux. It pretty much has everything:

- fresher, plumper Merlot-based wines
- fuller and gripper Cabernets
- lighter wines in cooler years
- bigger, riper wines in hotter years
- easy-drinking wines for early consumption
- complex and ageworthy wines for laying down
- from everyday wines to some of the world's most expensive

There is very little that Bordeaux cannot do; it is one of the great food-friendly and versatile wines.

Here are three wines from lesser-known regions that offer a glimpse of above-average Bordeaux greatness without the price premium of bigger names.

Château Carignan 2015, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux (Oddbins £17.50)

Château Carignan has an extraordinary history; it was given to one of Joan of Arc’s right-hand men, Jean Poton de Xaintrailles. Today, fantastic, full-bodied reds are made in this Cadillac-based estate. This is a floral and fruit-forward wine yet with a decent amount of age adding a savoury undertone. Notes of damson, violet and black cherry are prominent, layered with flavours of sweet spice and cigar box. 

complex aromas of coffee grounds, soy and dried sour cherries with graphite, old leather, minty green herbs and sous bois; dark berry fruits, spiced plum cake, toasty oak and menthol with ripe, rounded and firm yet well-integrated tannins. Sleek, elegant and adept.

Very Good.

Match with roast beef or lamb with rosemary and garlic,

Château Pré Lalande, Cuvée Terracotta, 2016 Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux (Majestic £16.99 )

Based in the Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, biodynamic producer Château Pré Lalande have aptly named this wine ‘Teracotta’ for the vessel it is aged in. Matured in amphorae, this is a modern and approachable Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

dark berry fruits and inky graphite; vibrant ripe, juicy blackcurrant, blackberry and plum with cherries, pepper, coffee and savouriness; supple inky texture with very well-rounded and integrated tannins. Very harmonious.

Very Good.

Fresh and fruited, match with grilled meats or charcuterie.

Château Puygueraud 2018, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux (Laithwaites £14.99)

A blend of Merlot in majority with Cabernet Franc and a touch of Malbec, this is the top wine of Château Puygueraud. Fruit is sourced from the plateaus and the clay-limestone slopes overlooking the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation.

Earthy with tobacco leaf, herb, liquorice and wild cherries; plush with ripe, slightly stewed blackberries, damsons and cherries; cocoa, spice and minerality; concentrated, with fine, slightly grippy tannins.

Improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Good.

Match with rare roast beef.

****** 
More info on Côtes de Bordeaux: 

An epicentre of modern winemaking With significant innovation being implemented in wineries and vineyards across five diverse appellations, it’s time to discover the exciting and great value wines of the Côtes de Bordeaux.

Tucked away next to some of the most famous appellations in the world lies the fourth largest AOC in France. Côtes de Bordeaux may not be the first Bordeaux appellation to spring to mind, but it is a region on the rise, worthy of exploration.

Although the appellations are spread across the right bank of Bordeaux, they share similarly hilly landscapes, hence the name ‘Côtes.’

Created just 12 years ago in 2009, Côtes de Bordeaux is made up of five different appellations including Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux and most recently, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux which joined the group in 2016. 

The union of these great regions has created a dynamic and exciting larger area where modern, fruit-forward reds, refreshing whites and delicious sweet wines can be found. Around 10% of Bordeaux are wines are from Côtes de Bordeaux, which counts over 950 producers, many of whom are young winemakers producing modern style wines.

Each appellation has its own unique terroir and regulations producing an array of exquisite wine styles. Cadillac and Castillon are solely dedicated to making red wines, many of which are fruit-forward and approachable in their youth, while the Blaye appellation is renowned for both crisp, fresh whites made from Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon and reds.

In Francs and Sainte-Foy, luscious sweet wine is also produced alongside the reds and dry whites. Discover the wines of this fascinating region with these 6 wines, each from a different Côtes de Bordeaux appellation.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Three Summer-Holiday Wines from Tesco

Three "summer-holiday" wines from Tesco - classics from France, Italy and Spain

My idea of a perfect summer holiday involves getting in the car and driving to France, Italy or Spain for sunshine, outdoors living and lovely food and wine plus a bit of exploring and cultural history.

Since that was never really a serious option this year, I spent time with he family discovering new parts of our home country, even if they are more famous for their beers, rainy weather and seal rather than sun-kissed beaches, yachts and dusty lavender scents.

However, being unable to drive to sunnier climes doesn't have to mean no foreign-holiday vibes; you just need to be more imaginative about arranging it all from home. And be prepared to eat indoors.

France

The Loire is home to impressive chateaux and is an easy top-over on the way south from Calais.


Tesco Finest Pouilly Fume 2020 (£13)

temperature controlled fermentation for aromatics, followed by 6-12 month fine lees ageing for savoury complexity

aromatic and musky-pungent; fresh gooseberry, melon, white stone fruit and citrussy lime with creamy minerality; intense adept and concentrated.

Very Good.

Match with a goat's chees tart starter, herby pork terrine or white fish in a parsley broth.

Italy

Gavi is made from the Cortese grape in Italy's north west region of Piedmont, a region which includes the city of Turin and the foothills of the alps, where there are truffles and game to be found.

Think of Gavi as akin to an entry-level white Burgundy and you won't go far wrong - a versatile, and food-friendly relatively neutral wine.

Tesco Finest Gavi 2020 (£8.50)

This wine sees some old oak and has a little lees aging for complexity.

floral and citrussy; apples and pears, white stone fruits and sherbetty citrus freshness with good underpinnings and savouriness. Clean, pure and elegant.

Very Good and Good Value.

Match with a range of starters, meaty white fish such as sea bass or roast pork; also lighter game such as guinea fowl or partridge.

Spain

High-altitude oak-aged Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. Local foods here include roast veal or lamb, roast suckling pig, morcilla (black pudding), roasted meat with wine, ox steak with garlic, chorizo omelette and rabbit.

Tesco Finest Ribera Del Duero, 2019 (£12)

darkly fruited, oaky spice, pencil shavings and florality; inky, intense and concentrated yet very fresh and structured; ripe dark berry fruits, liquorice and sweet vanilla spice; fleshy yet with a muscular core.

Very Good.

Match with char-grilled red meats, roast lamb or grilled portobello mushrooms


*****

Further reviews:

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Four Late-Summer Wines

Four late-summer wines from France

Four wines for a later-summer garden party, barbecue or just an expansive meal with friends.

All of these wines are easy-drinking yet sophisticated and will match with a range of foods.

On arrival

La Maison du Crémant Prestige Brut, (£14, Sainsbury’s)

Made by respected Burgundian producer François Martenot, this Crémant de Bourgogne, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Aligoté, was featured in Decanter’s Top 25 Crémants with 91/100 points.

aromatic and floral, with white flowers, orange blossom and fresh; fresh citrus, crisp apples-and-pears, white stone fruit and leesy brazil-nut creaminess; elegant and complex

Good.

Serve as an aperitif or match with canapés; the freshness will also stand up to roast chicken or fish and chips.

Amuse bouche

Ormarine Conchylia Picpoul de Pinet 2020, (£9, Marks & Spencer)

Ormarine, in partnership with Maison Jeanjean, is the leading producer of Picpoul de Pinet which is the perfect match with oysters, and it happens to be the start of the wild native oyster season on 1 September so a great time to enjoy a dozen with a glass of this Picpoul: 

aromatic with white flowers and sherbetty citrus; lemon-lime, stone fruits and passion fruit with a supple, saline zing; harmonious and adept with good underpinnings.

Good.

Match with seafood, especially oysters, white fish or white meat, such as pork.

To start

La Belle Angèle Sauvignon Blanc 2020, (£9.99/bottle or £8.99 mix six, Majestic)

La Belle Angele was the muse of many Impressionist painters in the Belle Epoque. This Vin de France from Badet Clément is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, aged on the lees for about a month.

expressive with fresh gooseberry and grapefruit; ripe tropical fruits, florality, zippy lime and gooseberry, leesy minerality and expressive aromatics. Rounded with good underpinnings.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with pork and herb terrine or carbonara with generous parsley and ground pepper.

It will shortly be the first ever bag in box white win available at Majestic as part of their new BIB range £24.99/2.5litres and £19.99 mix six.

Mains

Les Jamelles Syrah 2019 (£7.25, Co-op)

Another wine from Badet Clément and their best selling brand, this Pays d’Oc wine is made from 100% Syrah grapes grown on 20 year old vines.

wild berries, dark fruits and spices; fresh dark berry fruits, spice and grilled flavours; inky, supple and juicy with rounded tannins and a touch of cool mint.

Good.

Match with roasted red meats, char-grilled steak or barbeque foods

Thursday, 2 September 2021

The CWB Tesco Pink-Off

A Tesco Pink-Off between England and France

Think pink and chances are, neither England nor the Loire is what first springs to mind.

But, with the popularity of rosé rising, everyone is keen to get in on the act. Even northerly climates.

If you reckon England is all about traditional method fizz and Sancerre is just flinty Sauvignon, get with the program!

Both regions now do pink wines - and do them very well.

Tesco Finest English Sparkling Rose Brut (£21)

Made by award-winning Hush Heath Estate, this refreshing pink sparkling wine is produced in the traditional method, hand harvesting grapes to make a pale coral coloured wine, with wild strawberry and citrus flavours, balanced with a vibrant acidity.

A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, cool fermented and aged on the lees for over a year to give a toasty, brioche note. 

white flowers and marzipan with brioche; fresh and sherbetty, citrussy with delicate redcurrants, alpine strawberries and red cherries; fine mousse and minerality; clean and harmonious with good underpinnings.

Good.

Serve as a garden-party aperitif or match with creamy cheeses, oily fish or seafood canapés.

Sancerre Rose (£12)

Made from Pinot Noir, picking is done early in the morning, when the temperature is low, to protect all the Pinot Noir aromas. The grapes are gently pressed and the juices are then fermented at low temperature to preserve all the aromas revealing the subtlety of the terroir. It is bottled in the Spring following the harvest to keep the flavours.

white pepper, red plum and cherry fruit; citrus, tropical fruits, florality and aromatic lemongrass; stone fruits and red berries with zippy gooseberry and grapefruit; good savoury concentration, underpinnings and length.

Very Good.

Match with seafood starters or picnic foods such as quiche and cold cuts.

*****

Further details:

English Fizz - History

Hush Heath Estate, situated in Kent, dates back to 1503. At the heart of the property is a Tudor manor surrounded by 162 hectares of perfectly manicured gardens, vineyards and apple orchards. Forward thinking Richard Balfour-Lynn planted first planted vineyards on the property in 2002.

Today, Hush Heath's 15 hectares of vineyards and 8 hectares of apple trees are meticulously and sustainably managed by a family of viticulturists.

Nestled among the rolling hills, within The Garden of England, the Hush Heath vineyards enjoy quiet serenity and a favourable microclimate supporting optimal ripening conditions for our prized grapes.

Our vines and wines benefit from our outstanding soil; deep Wealden clay, unique to our corner of Kent, which provides dense structure in our wines and vibrant, lively acidity.

Sancerre Pink

Nestled in the heart of the Sancerre appellation, the Domaine Fournier Père et Fils winery goes back generations of winemakers since 1926. The Finest Sancerre Rosé comes from Pinot Noir vines aged between 10 to 30 years.

Sancerre, in the Loire Valley, is incredibly well known for its Sauvignon Blanc wines, but Pinot Noir is also grown here and made into delicate rose wines like this Finest Sancerre Rose.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Last of The Summer Wines - New Zealand, Australia and Italy

Three Summery wines from around the world

The Great British summer is something of mixed and changeable thing even at the best of times. Here are three wines that are fresh enough for all but the hottest of days while also being substantial enough for the sorts of foods we need when the weather is less benign.

If you think you are all done with kiwi Sauvignon, it's time to think again; yes, this  is a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand - but not as we know it.

Plus there's a red from the rocky slopes of Tuscany and a Shiraz with its own temperature control label from Australia.

Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Sauvignon +, 2019, (£18.99 Wine Direct Hay Wines TheDrinkShop.com)

2019 Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Sauvignon + is an incredible New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but not as we know it. A blend of three different vineyards, organically produced and fermented spontaneously with natural wild yeasts in a combination of tanks, old barrels, and clay amphora and with a touch of skin contact. 

This is top class wine on a par with some of the finest French sauvignons and at a fraction of the price. Beautifully focused with concentrated palate, balanced with salinity and acidity. Vibrant and bursting with flavour of ripe melons and passionfruit, and utterly delicious.

The “+” in this Sauvignon + is for the tiny amount of Riesling and Pinot Gris is added to the blend.

florality, lifted aromatics, green apple, lime zest and spice; ripe stone fruits, melon and fresh pineapple, lemon and lime with creamy brazil nut leesiness, a touch of struck match, salinity and a pebbly minerality. Harmonious and adept; concentrated, complex and very long.

Very Good+.

A versatile food wine match with white meats, such as lighter game, pork and fowl.

Banfi Col di Sasso 2019, (£13.99 Great Grog Bon Coeur Fine Wines Wine Direct, TheDrinkShop.com)

Banfi Col di Sasso 2019 is a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Its name translates as the ‘Stony Hill’ because the grapes come from some of the rockiest slopes on the Banfi estate. This wine is one of the best known and loved Banfi labels around the world, and is often referred to as a baby 'Super-Tuscan'.

The Cabernet Sauvignon imparts bold flavour and body, while the Sangiovese adds zesty fruit and structure. 

cherries, tobacco, old leather and spice; fresh, juicy sour cherries, soft red berry fruits, raspberry leaf, graphite and red plums; low tannins and a raspy acidity; savoury, concentrated and long.

Very Good.

Demands food; match with pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil, pasta tossed with a classic Tuscan ragù and Parmigiano Reggiano or griddled chicken, prawns or steak.

Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2019, (£13.99 Robertson Wines Wine Direct North & South Wines)

Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2019 is a multi-award-winning Shiraz straight from the heart of Clare Valley.

Wakefield is one of the most highly esteemed cool-climate producers in Australia and their Estate Shiraz is made from grapes grown on the famous terra rossa soils from the Taylor family’s vineyard where the average vine age is 10 to 30 years.

Wakefield suggests serving this delicious red a few degrees lower in temperature than usual. On the label is a unique, touch activated, temperature-sensitive gauge that indicates when the wine is at the perfect serving temperature. 

elderberry, blackberry and black plum fruit with liquorice and graphite; sweet, ripe juicy black fruits, cassis and porty menthol-eucalyptus with oaky vanilla spice, plentiful rounded tannins, inky texture and extraction; long and savoury with good underpinnings.

Very Good.

Match with red meats, such as with a grilled rib-eye steak.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Two Wines From Daniel Lambert


Two wines from Daniel Lambert - Austria and Loire

I've been reviewing my way through a series of Daniel Lambert wines and comparing them (very favourably) with more widely available bottles.

I left these two until last as they are a bit off-the-beaten-track, but also very food friendly and pair well together.

Unlike a standard Crisp White and Big Red pairing, such as Chablis and Rioja, the white here (a Loire from Quincy), is a little fuller and more rounded, while the red (a Viennese Zweigelt-Pinot blend) is lighter and fresher. So, they are perhaps rather more like a pair of good Burgundies - only much cheaper.

Domaine Valéry Renaudat Quincy 2019 

Based in the hamlet of Reuilly, Valery Reneaudat has a clean, fruit-driven style. Quincy, in the Centre Loire, and is one of the warmest parts of the region, giving a rich fullness to the wines which are 100% Sauvignon and intended for early drinking.

floral and citrussy with zippy, tangy lime and a whiff of white pepper; ripe, slightly baked orchard and white stone fruits with fresh green herbs and some sweet spices. Rich, full and supple.

Drinks nicely on first pouring.

Good.

Match with goat's cheese, scallops or roast pork.


Weingut R&A Pfaffl Wien.2, 2019

A blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir from Vienna.

expressive with complex cherries, toasty-oaky spice and woodsy undergrowth; juicy dark fruits, black cherries, plums and elderberries, vanilla and toasted oaky spice with soft red fruits and tobacco leaf; full, supple and elegant with gentle, very fine and rounded tannins.

Good.

Match with darker game such a duck breast, venison steaks or wild boar sausages.

**** 
Further reviews:


Domaine Valéry Renaudat Quincy

Lots of elderflower perfume and bursting with juicy citrus right across the palate and through to a firm satisfying finish. Full of the lime-green energy and vivacity of spring. Delicious Quincy. A wine that makes you want to get out into the garden and plant things.

Tamlyn Currin 16.5 / 20

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Kinsbrook Pinot Gris

An unusual Pinot Gris from England's Kinsbrook

Think of English still white wines and it tends to be obscure Germanic or native varieties that come to mind; anything that can tolerate England's cool, damp climate.

Pinot Gris, the grape of warm, dry Alsace is certainly not high up on the list and yet that is what the founders of Kinsbrook have planted in their vineyard near the South Downs between Brighton and London.

The full history of the winery is below, but suffice it to say that in 2014, the Beckett family established the 40-acre vineyard with largely self-taught Joseph Beckett the youngest vineyard owner in the country.

With no small amount of vision and ambition, they have made a really lovely wine that manages to be several things at once:

- technically impressive (really well made from good quality fruit)

- unusual, if not unique (great for bragging rights)

- lovely to drink (delicious!)


Kinsbrook Pinot Gris, 2020 (£20)

Aromatic with delicate herbs and white flowers; ripe pear and white stone fruit with gooseberry, cantaloupe melon and freshly-cut grass; honeysuckle, some sweet spices and a touch of minerality. Very adept and elegant, very well-made.

Drinks well on first opening, but rounds out with some aeration; will gain complexity with age.

Very Good.

Light enough for a summer sipper, match with young cheeses or seafood.

Stockist details here: Stockists — Kinsbrook Vineyard







***** 
From the Kinsbrook website:

Kinsbrook Vineyard was founded by the Beckett family in 2014. At the core of the company’s ethos is the importance of family.

Our range of still and sparkling wines are named ‘KIN’ because we honour interconnectedness, both with our family and our customers. After all, the best wine is the wine shared with those we love. Everything we do is in line with our true passion for our nation’s fine wine and food, our appreciation for our land and our roots and the celebration of all that it means to be Kin.

‘Kinsbrook Vineyard has been built ‘from the ground up’ by the third generation of The Becketts. We are a family-run Sussex Vineyard whose goal is to produce premium wines using innovation and meticulous attention to detail.

At the heart of each bottle is our devotion to the English countryside and our unwavering desire to seamlessly translate the fruit from the field into your glass.’

At 27 years old, Joseph Beckett is the youngest vineyard owner in the country. In 2014, after finishing University, Joseph and his family decided to invest in the English wine industry. His first négociant wine, created by award-winning winemaker Dermot Sugrue, was bottled and placed on lees in 2015 whilst Joseph created his ten year plan.

Almost totally self-taught, Joseph plunged himself into setting up his vineyards with the tools he had at hand. The first vineyard was planted in May 2017, with further sites planted in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

With qualifications from Plumpton College and his WSET Level 3 under his belt, he has an insatiable desire to keep learning.

Joseph visited Auckland in 2016 which allowed him to witness first-hand the immensity of the wine tourism on offer in New Zealand. Truly struck by its success and its scale, Joseph came to realise that there was huge unlocked potential in British wine tourism.

He resolved to dedicate his life not only to the production of premium wine, but to the creation of an all-encompassing, shared experience around it.

We have a total of 44,500 vines so far, across three sites.

  • The Orchard Site was the first vineyard to be planted in May 2017. In the 20th Century, the field was used to grow apples and pears to make English cider. The site is made up of 19,500 vines. 

  • The Pension Field was planted second, in 2018. This field is our smallest block with only 3,500 vines. It is solely Pinot Meunier.

  • ‘Picketty 1’ was planted the same year, with 12,500 vines.; a further planting of 9,000 vines took place at ‘Picketty 2’ in 2019.
The 40 acre site will continue to expand through the years as Kinsbrook grows in size. This vineyard is to become our main site devoted to local and national Wine Tourism. 

The three grapes traditionally used to make a cuvée (blended) sparkling wine are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We have planted these three varieties, along with Bacchus, Pinot Gris and Précoce (early ripening) Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Warm Weather Wines from Familia Torres. And Some Spanish Food

Summer wines from Spanish producer (with vineyards in Chile) Torres

Here are some wines to have on standby this summer from Familia Torres; bubbles, crisp white, aromatic white, barbecue reds, rosé and something sweet.

The  accompanying food was from Brindisa, my "winnings" from a world cup sweepstake in which I drew Euro champions Italy. It consisted of tapas foods, such as olives, almonds, chorizo, cheeses, breadsticks and jamon.

A perfect set of simple but delicious tapas-style food for matching with a range of wines.

Everything here was very enjoyable indeed and good value.

Estelado Rosé, Chile (£13.99 Thedrinkshop.com, VINVM, Vivino, Soho Wines)

Miguel Torres Estelado Rosé is one of Chile’s most innovative sparkling wines. Made entirely from Pais, Chile’s oldest grape variety. Planted by many small farmers, the variety was long forgotten, and undervalued until Torres rediscovered it for making quality wines.

Made using the traditional method with second fermentation in the bottle.

pale pink with fresh wild strawberries, redcurrants and yeasty brioche; elegant and mineral; very pure and clean.

Good.

Serve as an aperitif or match with light starters such as shellfish.


Vina Sol 2020 (£7.50 Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda and Co-op)

Made from Parellada (with a touch of Garnacha Blanca), the white grape traditionally used to make sparkling Cava wines, here it shows beautifully as a still wine.

The grapes are cool fermented in stainless steel for fresh fruitiness.

aromatic and citrussy with white pepper and lime zest; fresh and lemony with white stone fruit and a persistent minerality. Very harmonious and adept.

Good.

Light enough for a summer sipper, match with fish and chips, sushi, soft white cheeses or even spicy Thai. 

Also available in an environmentally friendly 2.25-litre bag-in-box, which will fit easily in a fridge – the perfect format for summer months.


Vina Esmeralda 2020 (£9, Tesco)

Made from a blend of Moscatel and Gewürztraminer, off-dry with expressive floral characters and tropical fruit aromas.

orchard fruits, white stone fruits, orange blossom and pear drops with tropical melon, pineapple and lychees; lime marmalade and honeysuckle; crisp, refreshing and light.

Good.

Serve well-chilled as an aperitif or with appetisers such as avocado and shellfish or melon with ham or with grilled fish.


Vina Sol Rosé 2020 (£7.99, Waitrose, Ocado)

Vina Sol Rosé 2020 is the pale raspberry pink sibling to the classic Vina Sol. Made mainly with Garnacha and Carinena, it’s fragrant and sensual, with notes of redcurrant and a lovely spicy, pink peppercorn finish.

strawberries and white pepper; delicate red berries, crunchy orchard fruits and fresh, crisp citrus; concentrated and long with good underpinnings. Fresh, delicate and balanced.

Good.

Light enough for impromptu sunny alfresco lunches; match with charcuterie and tapas, cold chicken and pasta salads.


Sangre de Toro 2019 (£7.50 Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda)

First made in 1954, this red is all about the Spanish way of life. It’s the one with a eco-friendly bull on the bottle, representing Spain’s culture. Made from native Spanish grapes, Garnacha Tinta and Carinena, selected from vineyards throughout the region, gives this red its spicy notes and delicious fruit.

black fruits, dried prunes, cherry and toasty-oaky spice with some liquorice, dried herbs and cocoa; good structure with juicy fresh acidity and very gentle tannins. Some aged complexity and savouriness. 

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with barbecue and picnic foods, duck liver pate or roasted red meats, smoky cheese, or any tomato-based dishes.


Floralis Moscatel Oro (£8.99 Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons)

Floralis Moscatel Oro is one of the Mediterranean’s most characteristic dessert wines made since 1946. Luscious, clean and crisp, with lovely honeyed and acacia flavours and naturally sweet and an unmistakable floral perfume of roses, geranium, lemon and verbena.

Floral and aromatic with raisiny cooked mixed fruits, sweetness and lemony ginger beer and verbena.

Good.

Serve well-chilled and match with almond tart, or a flaky pastry Pastels de Natas with its rich custard filling served warm or anything chocolatey to finish of a perfect summer night dinner under the stars.

*****

Tom Cannavan makes the Floralis Moscatel Oro his wine of the week, here: Review of Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro wine - YouTube

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Two Tesco Whites for National White Wine Day


National [insert name here] days are either vacuous PR puffery, a bit of harmless fun or a cynical marketing exercise depending on your point of view.

I tend towards the view that they are a good thing: no-one is forced to do anything they don't want, it provides an excuse to try something that is perhaps different and if brings new grapes and wines to the attention of people who might not otherwise have tried them, then so much the better.

Here are two Tesco wines for National White Wine Day.

Chenin's spiritual home is the Loire where it makes everything from crisp fizz to dessert wines and all points in between. The grape has also found a new home in South Africa; it is the most widely-planted grape there and has been cultivated since 1655.

The Loire is also Sauvignon's spiritual home and Sancerre can be seen as Atlantic France's answer to Chablis; a cool-climate white that is all about texture and and structure. Like Chablis, the wines are unique - and therefore carry something of a premium.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Chenin Blanc, 13.5% abv, £10.00 

yellow stone fruits, musky melonskin, and florality; lemon-lime and orchard fruits, sweet spices, savouriness and complex white pepper spice; full, supple and mineral and savoury.

Very Good and Good Value.

A versatile food wine, match with roasted pork belly slices


Tesco Finest Sancerre, 13% abv, £14.00

elderflower, citrus and florality with tropical fruits;  orchard and white stone fruits with grapefruit and zippy lime; supple and mineral.

Good.

Fresh enough for an aperitif; a versatile match with goat's cheese, salads or summery foods.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Berton Vineyard The Black Shiraz - Co-op

A Big Aussie Shiraz from The Co-op

Australia is not so much a country as a continent; it made its name as a producer of Big Ripe wines and you can still find examples in this style - if that's what you want.

Baked fruits, spice and lots of alcohol are the hallmarks of warm-climate Australian wines; easy to drink and easy to understand, they are expressive and make a statement.

The Co-op's website says: the Black Shiraz is an extreme example of a New World Shiraz with deep colour and aromas of blackberry and plum over toast, vanilla and spice. Full flavoured and intense for those who like a full throttle wine.

Another way of putting it is as big, muscular and unashamedly old school as a ute; an enjoyable blue-collar hero.

Berton Vineyard The Black Shiraz, 2020 (£8.25, Co-op)

dark fruits, cocoa, spice and menthol; ripe black and red pastille fruits, toasty-oak, sweet vanilla and mouth-watering acidity with firm grippy tannins; generously extracted, long and savoury

Thoroughly enjoyable - in a rough-and-tumble sort-of way.

Expressive, fruited and exuberant on first opening; becomes a little more savoury with aeration

No shrinking violet, this will stand up to strongly-flavoured party foods; think smoky, char-grilled meats with plenty of barbecue relish or curry house lava, such as a rogan josh.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Two Tesco Wines for International Pinot Noir Day


International Pinot Noir Day is on 18th August.

Yes, it is A Thing.

Until relatively recently, Pinot was synonymous with Burgundy - with only one or two other contenders.

These days, Pinot seems to have followed Chardonnay around the world so, whilst the prices of top Burgundies rise ever higher, new entrants at the entry level to the market allow the Pinot-curious to see what all the fuss is about.

Pinot is famously thin-skinned and difficult to grow in anything but a cool climate; however, a riper, darker, spicier style of Pinot seems to have emerged that is decidedly un-Burgundian but better value for money and no less enjoyable.

The first of these Pinots - from New Zealand's Otago, the most southerly wine region in the world - is in the riper and darker style and is an easier quaffer; the Burgundy, from the reliable producer Louis Latour, is fresher and positively demands a food accompaniment.

Tesco Finest Central Otago Pinot Noir, (£13.00)

dark cherries, spice, florality and toasty oak; black cherry and elderberry fruit, toasty-oaky spice and savouriness with earthy-truffley sous bois, cocoa and cinnamon; fresh with a good backbone and fine well-integrated tannins

Good.

A versatile food wine; match with red meat, such as rib eye steak

Louis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir, (£15.00)

dried red fruits, raspberry leaf and spice; fresh strawberries, raspberries and cranberries, savoury earthiness, some liquorice and spice; rounded and gentle, very fine tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

A versatile food wine, match with beef stew, steak with garlic butter or any roast meat.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

My Sherry Amour - M&S Very Rare Dry Oloroso Sherry

A heavily marked-down M&S dark sherry, made by Lustau

My sherry amour,

Lovely on a summer's day

- My Cherie Amour*, Stevie Wonder (1969)

At a summer garden party, a beer-drinking friend-of-a-friend observed that that every time we bump into each other socially, I seem to be drinking sherry.

Why sherry? he asked.

The obvious answer is of course: why not? But I felt something more considered was needed.

Establishing that he did not really want chapter-and-verse on sherry production, but simply a short list of reasons, I gave him this:

- sherry has very high acidity, so it is very refreshing

- it has no primary fruit flavours, so is highly versatile

- it is fortified to a higher alcohol level, so can stand up to foods

- it is aged for years in soleras so is complex, harmonious and mellow

For food matching, just go by the colour:

- paler sherries match with lighter foods, such as olives, bread and oil and manchego

- darker sherries match with roasted foods, such as roasted almonds, roast beef or roasted vegetables.

If you want to do the food matching properly, the mantra is:

- If it swims, Fino

.- If it flies, Amontillado

- if it runs, serve Oloroso.

In my case, I had brought along a half-bottle of M&S VORS Oloroso. It had been marked down to under £2 at a local M&S branch so I had picked up as many as I could physically carry, stuffing them in coat and trouser pockets.

It is fresh enough for an aperitif, especially well-chilled, but comes into its own with some slightly charred barbecue foods, such as burgers.

At home, match it with a starter of roasted almonds and toasted ciabatta with olive oil, followed by a griddled steak.

Very Rare Dry Oloroso Sherry (£9, marked down to £1,79, 37.5cl, Marks & Spencer)

deep brown, with nuts, coffee, nutmeg, old leather roasted almonds and dried apple, apricot and prunes; charred cedarwood,  toasted hazelnuts and exotic citrus peel with fresh acidity. Complex and adept.

Good.

*OK, possibly slightly misheard

Bottle shot courtesy of Erik Burgess.

*****

The website sherrynotes give the following information on oloroso

Oloroso is aged in the absence of flor, in an oxidative way and starts from a selection of heavier, more full-structured musts than a Fino or Manzanilla (sometimes a second pressing of grapes).

After fermentation the young wines are evaluated and the ones with a thicker body will be destined for maturation as Oloroso sherry. To create an Oloroso the base wine will be fortified to 17 or 18 degrees which makes it impossible for flor yeasts to survive in these casks.

Due to evaporation known as merma (about 3-5% in volume each year), the resulting Oloroso will grow more concentrated to around 20-22 degrees.

Oloroso means fragrant and the best examples will display dried fruits, leather, polished wood and exotic spices; nutty aromas (especially walnuts), combined with polished / balsamic notes, subtle dried fruits, toasted hints, tobacco and autumn aromas. There are noticeable spicy notes in older examples. Often there are also subtle meaty hints, truffle and leather.

Though naturally dry, the relatively high strength and full body of an Oloroso (caused by glycerol) will give it an impression of roundness and even sweetness.

It may be lightly sweetened by adding a bit of Pedro Ximénez (Amoroso or Abocado sherry), but this practice is much rarer than it once was.

The classic pairing for an Oloroso would be red meat and game, but it will also be lovely with well-aged cheese. It is served around 12-16°C.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

What Drives The Price of Wine? And Who Buys What?


How is wine priced and what sort of a wine purchaser are you?

The price of wine (and pretty much everything else, for that matter) is driven by two fundamental factors; cost-to-produce and seller's margin.

Some wines are priced on a cost-plus basis, others are value priced.

Certain industries, such as airlines, are famous for the sophistication of their pricing approaches, including dynamic demand-led pricing.

However, the basics are always fundamentally the same.

Cost to produce

At its most basic, the cost-to-produce is simply the cost of making a particular wine (including selling and distribution costs as well as duties and taxes). Key variables in this include:

- the cost of the land for growing the vines

- labour in tending the vines, picking the grapes and making the wine

- cellar techniques, such as aging (requires vessels, space and time), oak (the newer, the more expensive) and lees stirring (requires skilled labour)

Another factor is the amount of grapes produced for a set area of land; some vines are naturally more prolific than others and in many areas, maximum yields are defined by regulation. Frost, hailstones and even wild boar can all reduce the amount of fruit produced per hectare.

In cooler, damper climates vines do not live as long (so therefore need replacing more often), and require more attentive care to deal with late frosts and vineyard pests. These can be some of the most expensive wines to make.

For this reason, English wines and Chablis, for example, will always be expensive to produce and this will be reflected in the price. 

Dessert wines from cool-to-moderate climates are also much more expensive to produce; late, manual harvesting, sometimes on a berry-by-berry basis and the need for botrytis brings a greater risk of disease and harvest failure.

Sauternes can often be a great bargain vs production cost, since it is expensive to produce yet largely unfashionable due to being sweet.

Land prices are driven by a combination of fashion and quality; well-appointed vineyards producing better-quality fruit will command a premium. Even more so if they are inside delimited areas that also command a premium, so you will pay more for land in AOP Pauillac vs generic Bordeaux vs vin de pays.

You will pay less for land in Languedoc-Roussillon or Cahors vs Bordeaux or Burgundy, yet may well find yourself able to produce very high-quality fruit from sites with the right combination of altitude, cooling breezes. the right aspect and good soils.


Margin

The margin on a wine depends on how much profit the seller wishes to make; wineries that invest in making themselves distinctive are able to command more of a premium than those that don't, can't or won't.

Fashion is a significant factor here; rosé has gone from deeply unfashionable in the early noughties to the insta-influencer's bottle of choice, so the entire category commands something of a premium vs the cost-to-produce.

Within the category, Provence rosé commands a further premium and a celebrity association adds more again. A well-branded celebrity Provence rosé will generally command very healthy margins for the producer.

Other super-margin wines include First Growth Bordeaux and top Burgundy as well as classic regions within Italy and California.

Unfashionable wines, be they individual producers or entire regions, may struggle to command any premium and may have to be sold at a discount; for years, sherry and entry-to-mid level German wines have been a difficult sell and therefore relative bargains.

Austrian wines are a case study in a region (rightly) going out of fashion and then gradually, but successfully rebuilding its reputation and increasing prices over time.

In principle, however, any wine can command a price premium over cost of production plus margin, provided the producer invests in effective brand-building.

Cost-plus pricing

Cost-plus pricing is the simplest to understand for supplier and consumer; you simply take your total cost to produce, say £10 for a bottle of wine, and then add your margin, say 20% mark-up. This gives you a selling price of £12 per bottle.

In reality, the system is more complex than this as there are wine producers, importers, retailers, packing and distribution costs as well as fixed vs variable costs and differing sales volumes, but conceptually cost-plus is simply cost + margin = price.

Cost-plus pricing is best suited to undifferentiated commodities where premiums are hard to command; it encourages scale and efficiency in the production process to gain share and increase overall profits.

It is not at all suited to small-scale production such as mid-level wines produced by artisan winemakers (rather than the corporate behemoths of the New World).

However, small-scale mid-level producers may find themselves in a difficult "squeezed middle", lacking the budget to invest in professional price-enhancing branding activities and therefore unable to create a meaningful distinctiveness vs more commoditised, high-volume, low-priced wines.

Mid-level producers / sellers risk getting trapped in a perception gap of simply being more expensive versions of a basic wine and constantly trying to persuade reluctant buyers to trade up.

The solution to being in this squeezed middle, however, is not education but distinctiveness; as the saying goes, the market can remain uneducated much longer than you can remain solvent.


Value-based Pricing

Value-based Pricing does not begin with the seller's cost to produce as a starting point, but with a consideration what the market will pay.

A value-based pricer will look at what people are prepared to pay for a product and set a price accordingly. High-end Bordeaux, vintage Champagne and Napa Cabs all command prices that are in no way based on their cost of production.

A large proportion of what you spend on these wines is margin to the seller; the benefits you get in return are rarity, exclusivity, bragging rights and status.

Examples of value-priced items from other sectors are Apple phones, Nike trainers and Vans clothing.


Cap-and-Collar

Some wines exist in an interesting cap-and-collar spectrum; English wine is expensive to produce but does not yet command the reputation and margins of Champagne and Burgundy. So it is expensive at the bottom and cheap at the top.

The same is true of Beaujolais, New Zealand and, to an extent, Austria.

What type of wine buyer are you? 


It is worthwhile assessing your own attitude to wine and the type of buyer you are, in order to find wines that suit your own buying preferences, as well as palate.

Aside from a preference for red or white, New World or Old, classic or edgy, your wine buying approach can be categorised in several ways:


Maximisers vs Satisficers

If you mainly just want a wine to enjoy without needing to know too much about rootstocks, clones, training methods, lees aging and so on, then you are a Satisficer; that is, someone who wants their wine to be "good enough" with minimal choosing effort. This is said to be around 85% of all wine buyers.

For Satisficers, the liquid in the bottle is just a small part of the overall experience of buying and drinking wine; other benefits may include social elements, appreciation of the packaging and a sense of inclusion as part of a commercial wine club.

If you love reading up about wine, discussing bottles with sommeliers and understanding how Portlandian soil types affect flavours vs Kimmeridgian, then you are a Maximiser who wants just the right wine for the occasion and is prepared to put in a lot of effort to get there.

Sophisticated and enthusiastic, you are representative of a minority of around 15% of wine buyers and you are likely only interested in the liquid in the bottle, rather than any extraneous factors.


Price-Sensitive or Not

The less Price Sensitive you are, the more you are willing to pay extra for the same thing. This is not about absolute wealth or the ability to splash your hard-earned cash on life's finer things. Rather, those who are Price Insensitive simply do not worry if something they want is available more cheaply elsewhere.

A Price-Insensitive buyer does not especially consider price or relative value-for-money when buying a wine; she has some money in her pocket and wants some wine - it is as simple as that.

By contrast, a Price-Sensitive enthusiast will scour the offers and discounts sections for bargains, or attend auctions in the hope of knock-down prices on high-end wines.


Conservative vs Open-Minded

Conservative drinkers will tend to drink the classics, well-known wines from reputed regions; this could be Burgundy, France or the Old World generally, but the overall aim is to choose wines that will be socially approved of and not in any way embarrassing.

It bears repeating; it is not always just about the wine itself. A conservative drinker may well be more interested in reducing her risk of social embarrassment at choosing the "wrong" sort of wine than concerned about the quality of the liquid in the bottle.

By contrast, open-minded drinkers seek out the new and unusual, be it location, production-method or flavour profile; they do not feel the weight of societal pressure to conform, so will happily champion Georgian qvevri wines, amber wines from Croatia, Japan or Israel. At any rate, they will be open to suggestions from a sommelier.

My buying style

I am a Price-Sensitive, Open-Minded, Maximiser; I would hazard a guess that that makes me one of the rarer types of wine purchaser.

I love a genuine bargain, I am interested enough in wine to read up and learn about it regularly and I actively enjoy tasting wines from countries, regions and grapes that I have not encountered before.

It's not much of an exaggeration to say that I prefer the novelty of trying a new wine to the actual quality of what is in the bottle.  In practice, years of wine tasting have taught me what a good wine is like and the sorts of wines I prefer - usually mature classics from cooler regions.

For that reason, you'll often find me picking up an eclectic mixture of quirky marked-down bottles and fire-sale classics.

Mine of course, is just one of many possible approaches; neither "right" nor "wrong", it just is. Equally valid are other approaches, such as a Conservative, Price-Insensitive Satisficer who is very pleased with her purchase of celebrity wines from a large retailer.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Tuffers' Tipples - Phil Tufnell's wine collection

A new range of wines from former cricketer Phil Tufnell, via Virgin Wines

A wine's presentation should make a promise that the liquid in the bottle keeps.

Tuffers' Tipples do exactly that.

You will probably be able to decide everything you need to know about the wines from how you feel about the presentation - in the most general sense.

If you like the look and sound of them, you will, on balance, probably enjoy them - and vice versa.

The wines come as a range of six from different countries: the whites are two Sauvignons and an English Bacchus; the reds include a French GSM blend, Spanish Tempranillo and an Aussie Shiraz.

Each bottle has a different picture of Phil and you'll pay quite a premium for the celebrity association.

The basics are mostly present and correct; freshness, aroma, fruit and a bit of savouriness. The whites have some lees aging to make them more food-friendly so they generally score better for winemaking effort than for the underlying quality of the fruit.

They are probably best served to a general audience with the whites well chilled; they will match with party foods, such as pizzas, barbecues with plenty of strong sauces or chips-and-dips.

Detailed tasting notes are below; for my money the Bacchus is the most interesting of the lot.

The whites

Sauvignon Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne, France (£11.99)

zesty and aromatic; fresh white stone fruits, melon and pineapple with pea shoots and zippy lime, some savoury leesiness.

Match with lighter curries, such as prawns with red lentils.

Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River, Australia (£18.99)

floral and tropical with white peppery spice; melon, tropical fruits and stone fruit with citrus and zippy lime zest, gooseberry and grapefruit; savoury, leesy underpinnings.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Match with white meat and herbs, such as roast pork with sage or monkfish with a herby broth.

Bacchus, Essex, England (£15.99)

floral hedgerow and delicate aromatics; citrussy sherbet, lemongrass and fresh green herbs with some complex savoury leesiness; light and fresh with some persistence.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Match with light, aromatic starters, such as mozzarella with parsley or herby cream cheese on ciabatta.

The reds

All three reds would work well at an outdoor summer party; match with smoky grilled meats and plenty of barbecue relish. The Shiraz demands robust and strong-flavoured foods.

GSM, Pays d'Oc, France, 2020 (£12.99)

overripe plums, figs and prunes with spice and menthol; freshness with baked bramble fruits, raisins and coconut-caramel.

Tempranillo, Castilla-la-Mancha, Spain, 2019 (£12.99)

spice, bramble fruits, dried herbs and damp earth; mouthwatering freshness with pastille fruits and dusty, dried cherries.

Shiraz, Margaret River, Australia, 2019 (£18.99)

spicy dark berry fruit with inky graphite; fresh and generously extracted with blueberries, milk chocolate, oaky vanilla and caramel.

*****

Notes from Phil Tufnell and Virgin Wines:


Phil Tufnell fell in love with wine over 30 years ago, on his first Ashes trip to Australia with England and has delighted in creating his own collection of bespoke tipples.

His aim? To produce game-changing wines, that leave even the most discerning of wine drinkers stumped for choice.

Phil says: “I’ve always loved wine, with a passion that goes beyond just drinking it! The whole winemaking process fascinates me, and I’ve been privileged enough to learn about everything from provenance to pressing to most importantly tasting, while working on this collection. It’s been incredibly exciting to get to know the winemakers involved, I can’t wait to continue on this journey with Virgin Wines and have everyone try this cracking selection of wines. Happy Days.”

To start the collection, a delectable Tempranillo from Castilla-la-Mancha in Spain is joined by a flavourful French duo of a Sauvignon Blanc and GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) blend.

These premium-level editions are perfect for everyday drinking and work nicely alongside the collection’s super-premium bottles: a new world Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Carefully selected from Australia; these special tipples are a nod to Phil’s cricketing heritage and 2003 I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here win.

Topping off the range is something a little closer to home; a luxurious English Bacchus expertly made in New Hall Vineyard in Chelmsford.

Echoing the same sentiments as Phil, the team at Virgin Wines are delighted to be bringing out this strong portfolio of wines with ties to Phil’s remarkable playing career.

Virgin Wines’ Head Buyer and all-round wine guru Andrew Baker says: “Phil is a cricketing legend who has genuine interest in wonderful wines but wants to have fun along the way, which is what we’re all about.

The wines we’ve sourced for this collection are made in collaboration with extremely talented, independent winemakers across the globe who have absolutely mastered their craft. We cannot wait for our customers to try them.”