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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.”

Sunday, 1 August 2021

The CWB International Chardonnay-Off

Five Chardonnays from different climates, terroirs and countries

Chardonnay is arguably one of the greatest, most versatile grapes there is.

Easy to grow in a wide range of conditions, its inherent elegance and relative neutrality mean it can match with a wide range of foods; it can also take a large amount of wine-making, from aging on the lees or in bottle to the addition of old or new oak and secondary fermentation.

There are very few wine-making regions that don't or can't grow Chardonnay, so the range of styles is very wide.

You will pay a few pounds more for a well-known region, such as Burgundy or California; lesser-known / up-and-coming regions such as Languedoc and Spain can represent better value for money if you are prepared to go off the beaten track.

Here are five to look out for:

The Classic - White Burgundy

Louis Latour 2019 Montagny 1er Cru La Grande Roche (£25 / £21, Majestic)

Montagny is the appellation for four villages at the southern end of the Côte Chalonnaise; Premier Cru wines are made from classified vineyards representing around 2/3rds of plantings.

This single-vineyard Chardonnay sees no oak at all. 

delicate florality with hints of sweet spices; peach, yellow plums, pear and hazelnut with lime marmalade, melon, pineapple and some vanilla; full, supple and rounded with a hint of salinity. Sophisticated, elegant and flawless.

Very Good.

An accomplished wine, match with rich Burgundian foods such as asparagus, rabbit galantine, trout with almonds or sheep's cheese

The Minor Classic - Maconnais

Domaine de la Creuze Noire Macon Fuisse 2020 (£14, Cheers, Flagship)

Mâcon-Fuissé is a region of southern Burgundy around the village of Fuissé in the centre of a natural green amphitheatre, near the limestone-rich hills of the rock of Solutré.

The limestone soils are very similar to that of Chablis but, being further south, the climate is much warmer giving more fruit and richness in the wines. Aromas and flavours of tropical fruit, hazelnut, and lemon, backed with slatey minerality.

restrained nose; ripe lemon curd with peach and some zippy lime; full and supple with perfectly ripe and rounded fruit. Very adept and elegant, technically flawless. Initially correct-but-reserved, like a shy accountant at a dinner party; with extensive aeration it transforms into something much more rounded and adept with more personality.

Good; improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Highly versatile, will match with - and not overpower - a wide range of foods; white fish, creamy mushroom sauces, white meats, medium cheeses.

The Modern Classic- Languedoc

Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche Chardonnay 2020 (£10.95, Cheers)

I have long been a fan of Languedoc in general and Calmel & Joseph in particular; well-made, technically adept wines that are complex enough to to be serious yet also easy to enjoy. For years Europe's "wine lake", Languedoc has successfully reinvented itself as a go-ahead region of innovation and quality.

The climate is typically Mediterranean, warm and sunny with low rainfall; the grapes are picked at night, in two passes. The first harvest is done at a relatively early stage in maturity, to keep freshness in the wine. Then 15 days later a second harvest is done, for concentration and varietal aromas.

The wine is aged for 3 months in oak before bottling; it has a Mundus Vini Gold Medal.

expressive, complex and toasty with honeysuckle and sweet spices; ripe orchard fruits, apricot and white peach, aniseed and vanilla; savoury toasted notes and touches of grilled hazelnut; elegant freshness and a touch of salinity. Full, supple and rich.

Very Good; drinks nicely on first pouring and will age. Good Value.

Match with roast pork or meaty white fish.

A bit of Yee Haw - California

Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2019, Russian River Valley (Waitrose, £17.99)

From the cooler (by Cali standards), foggy Russian River Valley in California's Sonoma, this Chardonnay has plenty of New World fruit and substance with sweet oaky spice - it's a serious and sophisticated crowd-pleaser.

ripe orchard fruits, citrus, honeydew melon and pineapple with creamy, oatmealy leesiness. Lush and rich; very adept and harmonious. Easy-to-enjoy Burgundian style, albeit turned up to 11.

Good.

A versatile wine; drink as an aperitif or match with seafood or white meats.

The Unusual One

Enate Chardonnay 234, Somontano, Spain (£12 - £14, Daniel Lambert, indies)

An area in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Jancis Robinson describes Somontano as "another Spanish wine region worthy of international attention". More specifically, she characterises it as a small and growing region, potentially one of Spain's most exciting, even if much of its produce tends to be fashioned in the image of international classics.

She singles out producer Enate, saying that they make some fine reds and whites from imported grape varieties. Tasted blind, you'd be forgiven for having no idea where this wine comes from; it has a warm-climate topicality and breadth, but with a European complexity and elegance. It hints at the perfumed richness of Alsace with the waxiness of the Rhône.

Floral and aromatic with tropical citrus fruits and toasty leesiness; pineapple, melon and passionfruit with fennel, ginger and warming sweet spices; savoury, leesy and waxy with just enough freshness to hold everything together.

Very clean, pure and long.

Good.

Match with rich, Alsace-style dishes such as pork with creamy sauce or mature hard cheeses.

Miquel Hudin writes about Somontano here (£): The state of DO Somontano for 2021 · Hudin.com

Liz Gabay contributor Ben Bernheim writes about assessing French regional styles of Chardonnay here: Chardonnay - Limoux to Chablis regional styles - Elizabeth Gabay MW