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Monday, 5 September 2022

The Cambridge Wine Blogger Is Dead. Long Live The Cambridge Wine Blogger

A platform alteration

I decided it was time to switch platforms, so this version of The Cambridge Wine Blogger is ending.

New reviews will appear on Medium.

You can find a link to my new blog here: Tom Lewis – Medium

Please check it out.

You can also keep up to date with my wine-related content elsewhere:

Twitter: Tom Lewis (@CambWineBlogger) / Twitter

Facebook: Tom Lewis | Facebook

Reviews on this site will stay up, but my intention is not to publish any more reviews here.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

The CWB Fizz-Off

Three non-Champagne fizzes

Let's get fizzical, fizzical*

- Physical, Olivia Newton-John (1981)

Cambridge-born Olivia, like the Bee Gees before her, went off to Australia then made it big in the US in the late '70s.

I'd like to think she would have approved of this fizzical line-up.

Nozeco (£3.25 - £4.00, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison and Co-op)

An alcohol-free Prosecco lookalike, it is made from flavoured de-alcoholised wine from Spain; it is vegan and has fewer calories than regular wine. It costs less, too.

It sits somewhere between a sophisticated elderflower lemonade and a decent entry-level Prosecco, albeit without the alcohol, and has an IWSC Silver medal.

foams enthusiastically; elderflower, orange blossom and citrussy bergamot; crisp and refreshing with lemon-lime, sherbet and florality

Well-balanced and thoroughly pleasant.

Tesco Finest Prosecco DOC (£8.50, Tesco)

Made by Cantine Maschio using selected yeasts and aged for around one month at a controlled temperature of 12-15°C to preserves the fruit aromas.

Frothy, floral and citrussy; orchard and white stone fruits, sherbet, refreshing citrus and salinity. Crisp, clean and elegant

Well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Serve as an easy-drinking, crowd pleasing aperitif or with the lightest of canapés.

Gratien & Meyer Crémant De Loire Rosé NV (£12 , Tesco)

Founded in 1864, Gratien & Meyer are one of the leading producers of Cremant (traditional method sparkling wines) in the Loire. These are produced in the same way as Champagne, but sell for much less, making them a great value alternative for celebrations and special occasions.

A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chenin, Cabernet Franc.

yeasty, biscuity brioche, creamy oatmeal and white pepper with citrus, florality and red berry fruits. Adept, with complex, savoury underpinnings.


Serve as an aperitif or match with shellfish, lighter curries and picnic foods such as hams, quiches and chicken drumsticks.

*lyrics may not be 100% correct.


Other reviews:

Friday, 26 August 2022

Southern Hemisphere Crisp White and Big Red

Crisp White and Big Red from the southern hemisphere - South Africa's Rustenberg and Chile's Montes

Crisp White and Big Red is a classic dinner combination; starting with France, you might look to the Loire and Bordeaux or Chablis and the Rhône.

Further afield, but staying in the Old World, a Riesling and a Barolo or Rioja would work equally well.

Here is a southern hemisphere / New World take on the same concept using classic (i.e. French) grape varieties; South African unoaked Chardonnay and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Chardonnay has a classic unoaked flavour profile, just with more warmth and ripeness, so think Macon rather than Chablis, even if some of the fruit has a ripe-yet-green tinge.

The Cab is similarly more fruited and riper than Bordeaux, with New World's signature cassis and green pepper.

Rustenberg Wild Ferment Unwooded Chardonnay, (£12, Tesco)

This is Rustenberg's first ever unoaked Chardonnay; the aim was to create a wine that, without the influence of oak, expresses the varietal character and generosity of Chardonnay when the finest fruit is vinified for this purpose. Lees ageing adds palate weight and complements the wine's citrus fruit profile to create a wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with food. 

Arguably the most famous wine-producing region in South Africa, the vineyards of Stellenbosch take advantage of the area's topography and vineyards sit on the lower slopes of the Helderberg and Simonsberg ranges.

From the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, this Chardonnay is hand-picked and wild-fermented, with native yeasts found on the fruit and in the vineyard, in stainless steel tanks; it is then aged on lees for 3 months for more complexity.

This wine is a blend of different component vineyards, picked at different times of ripeness, some early for freshness and some late for fruit expression. Part of the batches are crushed and destemmed and part are whole bunch pressed, each technique giving a different mouth feel to the resultant wines.

floral and heady with exotic fruits and perfumed honeysuckle; orchard fruits, yellow stone fruits, greengage, sweet spices and salinity with some rich, leesy underpinnings and mid-palate complexity.

Drinks nicely on first pouring.


A versatile food wine, match with seafood, white meat and creamy cheese dishes such as tarte flambée.

Montes Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, (£9, The Co-op)

I've reviewed Montes' oaky Chardonnay from Chile previously and been impressed - see here and here.

Would their Cab be as good, I wondered?

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most-widely planted grapes in the world, but is rarely made into a varietal wine as it often needs some rounding out from another variety, In this case, there is 15% Merlot added for plush, juicy freshness, making this a classic Bordeaux blend.

45% of the wine is aged for 8 months with 2nd and 3rd use French oak barrels.

lifted, fruit-forward blackberries and blackcurrants with nutmeg, peppery vanilla spice, pencil shavings and some woodsy undergrowth; juicy, plush and fresh with red and black fruits, coffee grounds and cocoa; supple, well-integrated tannins, mintiness and a supple texture.


Drinks nicely on first pouring but opens up with aeration; will repay some cellaring.

Match with char-grilled meats, lamb, darker game or tuna steak.

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Two Wines From New Zealand's Jackson Estate

Two wines from New Zealand's Jackson Estate

New Zealand's Jackson estate is based in Marlborough, at the tip of the South Island, an area world famous for its Sauvignon Blancs.

Jackson's website says:

Lying at 41.3 degrees south, Marlborough has about the same amount of heat as Burgundy and slightly less than Bordeaux.

In these bright but relatively “cool” climate conditions, the grapes have the advantage of a long slow, flavour-intensifying ripening period. The average daily temperatures during summer is nearly 24 degrees Celsius but clear cool nights keep acid levels high in the grapes.

Marked diurnal (day/night) temperature variations are a key factor behind the ability of Marlborough grapes to retain both fresh, vibrant fruit and crisp, herbaceous characters. The temperature contrast also helps to enhance the flavour development in the skins of Pinot Noir.

Within Marlborough viticulture has been developed primarily on sites with moderate low fertility and a noticeably stony, sandy loam top soil overlaying deep layers of free-draining shingle, as found in the viticulturally developed areas of the Wairau Valley.

These shallow, fast draining, low fertility soils help to produce a lush, aromatic ripe wine that results in vines with less vigour. The region currently has over 27,000 hectares of land planted vineyard, primarily located within the Wairau Valley.

Marlborough is now New Zealand’s largest wine region – producing some 79% of the country's wine. 

When combining the climate we enjoy with our soil profile this is what makes Marlborough unique and providing its distinctive flavours.

I first came across Jackson's wines a decade ago and was impressed with them then and on later re-acquaintance.

Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (£14, Ocado, Waitrose, Majestic)

Stich Sauvignon Blanc is named in recognition of John ‘Stich’ Stichbury, founder of Jackson Estate.

lifted aromatics of lemongrass, lime zest, exotic fruits and herbal murkiness: white stone fruits, melon, and citrussy gooseberry-grapefruit with zippy lime and leesy Brazil nut and cashew underpinnings. Fresh, complex and adept.


Drinks nicely in first pouring; will repay some cellaring.

Match with ham hock terrine and parsley, saltimbocca or meaty white fish in a herby broth.

Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir 2018 (£21, Ocado)

Vintage Widow is named in recognition of the families at Jackson Estate, who are often forgotten at vintage as they strive to make the perfect bottle of Pinot Noir.

soft red berries, cherries, dried green herbs and spicy, mushroomy undergrowth; supple and fresh with red fruits, spice, rubbed sage, soft-yet-firm, rounded and well-integrated tannins, toasty-grilled notes and salinity.


Drinks nicely on first pouring; can be cellared to gain further complexity.

Match with darker game, such as aromatic duck breast, venison meatballs or a mutton stew.

Friday, 19 August 2022

New York Chardonnay Show-Down

New York State Chardonnays vs the rest of the world


- Mr Incredible, The Incredibles (2004)

Crafted in New York, but inspired from everywhere, New York is a unique community of passionate producers who approach winemaking with a multitude of personalities and backgrounds—they’re not alike, and they like it that way.

Wine has been made in New York since the 17th century and its unique history of hybrid cultivars paired with an increasing amount of planted Vitis vinifera has positioned the region as one of the most diverse and resilient.

In New York wines you’ll find subtlety, depth and nuance; it’s no surprise that they’ve found a place on the global stage, alongside other great wine regions of the world.

These tasting took a look at New York’s star varieties side by side with other great wine regions of the world, exploring the common threads as well as the varied approaches to viticulture and winemaking.

New York wines

Chardonnay has a relatively long history in New York state, being one of the first grape varieties planted there and making a name for itself from the 1970s onwards, but today remains somewhat in the shadow of Riesling and Cabernet Franc.

Fox Run Vineyards, Doyle Family Chardonnay 2020 Finger Lakes, NY ($14, seeking distribution in the UK)

Founded in 1990, an hour's flight from the ocean, it has a continental climate; on the same latitude as Rioja and Tuscany, it suffers from spring frosts however bud-break is late. 8% Traminette in the blend for some "fruit salad" character; no oak or lees aging, made from purchased fruit that enjoys afternoon suns.

Easy-drinking and popular wine that does well in the restaurant trade.

citrus and orchard fruits; white stone fruits, green apple and pears; lean, sinewy, fresh and harmonious.

Well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Wolffer Estate, Perle Chardonnay 2019 Long Island NY ($32, Seeking distribution in the UK)

Based in The Hamptons, Long Island with a moderate maritime climate; milder winters, no spring frosts and cooler summers. On the same latitude as Madrid and Naples, giving plenty of sunshine for ripening and a long hang time for minerality and elegant fruit.

Small-cluster vines for even ripening, barrel fermented, canopy management and air flow reduce diseases and give long hang time. Hand picked and pressed immediately with 48 hours' skin contact, fermented in 90% new French oak with around 8 months on the lees and almost no battonage. 

bruised apple, white stone fruits and florality; orchard fruits, creamy-leesy roasted brazil nuts and oatmeal, saline minerality and orange peel; rich, complex and savoury, long and elegant.

Very Good.

Nathan Kendall, Chardonnay 2020 Finger Lakes, NY ($33, Master of Malt, Whisky Exchange, 9 Elms Wines)

West-side grapes with morning sun, 50yo vines; hand picked and foot-stomped for phenolic extraction, spontaneous fermentation in old barrels with 11m aging on lees and no stirring, partial malo

bruised orchard fruits, toastiness and florality; fresh with zippy lime, citrussy acidity and spice; saline-mineral with good texture, delicate finesse and elegance.

Very Good.


Errazuriz Wines, Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2019 Chile (£17.50, Ocado, Noel Young Wines, Hop Cellar)

Modern style, full-bodied with reductive winemaking, 45% malo, 100% old oak.

aromatic minty herbs, zippy lime and struck match; refreshing lime marmalade, gooseberries and greengage with minty vanilla, honeysuckle citrus, orchard fruits and nutty, leesy complexity.

Very Good.

New Zealand

Villa Maria Wines Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2019 (£15.99, nzhouseofwine)

Awatere Valley fruit, 100% barrel fermented, 50% wild ferment, full malo with 11 months on the lees.

struck match, fresh orchard fruits and bruised crab apple skins; fresh, linear and precise with green apple, lime zest, white stone fruits and broad savouriness

Very Good.

France, Chablis

Jean Durup, Chablis 2021 (€16, not currently available in the UK)

From the difficult 2021 vintage, no oak influence, cool climate, kimmeridgian soils.

citrus, lemongrass and rubbed sage; fresh and saline with honeydew melon, white stone fruits, lime zest and honeysuckle; broad and savoury with leesy oatmeal.

Very Good.


Image credits: Susana Kawai

Further reviews:

Susana Kawai: Food with Susi on Instagram: "Chardonnay Show Down - New York State of Wine Have you tried a Chardonnay from New York State? In a glance: The climate is continental…"

The Buyer: The_Buyer on Twitter: "Part 2 @TheBuyer11 importers debate with @NYWineGrapeFdn producers looks at the wine styles that buyers think have the most potential to do well in the UK and why the region has much to offer with cool climate, fresh, pure fruit forward, acid driven wines https://t.co/6gyKZZE5mF https://t.co/hbBn4u3RFJ" / Twitter

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Banfi La Pettegola 2021 Vermentino

A Vermentino from Tuscany's Banfi Wines via Ocado and independents

Banfi La Pettegola is a fresh and juicy example of a variety that could become a flagship grape for Italy; Vermentino is claimed to be Italy's most fabulous and fashionable wine.

This La Pettegola is an easy-drinking style, an alternative to standard white wine choices, placed somewhere between unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a throwback to Albarino, Gruner Veltliner and Godello.

It is from coastal Tuscany and thrives on sea breezes with poor soils and some altitude. Crafted from the best grapes from Banfi’s Maremma vineyards in Southern Tuscany, the vines are at around 150 metres altitude in well drained, sandstone soils.

The grapes are gently pressed, destemmed and fermented entirely in temperature controlled stainless steel to preserve the fresh, floral and fruity character of the wine. It then spends three months on lees for a more complex texture and finish. 

Also known as ‘Rolle’ in Provence, it is used as a component in the fashionable white and rosé wines of the South of France. High in phenols, it can be made in a fresh, saline style, or with a creamier, richness, depending on how the wine is handled in the cellar.

La Pettegola's name has a double meaning. The coastal seabird that gives its name to this wine is the redshank, ‘la Pettegola’ in Italian. The bird’s chattering call gives a second meaning ‘the gossip’, so it is a wine for gossiping over.

Banfi La Pettegola 2021 (£16, Ocado, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, Penistone Wines

floral, mint and garrigue herbs, pear drops and white pepper; ripe yellow stone fruits, grapefruit, peach kernels, leesy-savoury cashew and Brazil nut; textured full and supple.

Drinks nicely on first pouring and opens up further with some aeration.


Drink as a summer sipper or match with canapés, seafood, grilled chicken or roasted vegetable salads.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Two Rosés from Tesco

Two Provence rosés from Tesco

Provence is to rosé as Champagne is to fizz; the standard against which all other wines are judged - for better or worse.

As a result, Provence rosés can command a significant price premium, especially if they are celebrity endorsed; however, the good news is that these two are keenly priced, albeit you do pay a little extra for the Studio's star credentials vs the Tesco own-label.

And a note on the power of branding for those who think it is all about the liquid inside the bottle; I offered these around the table in the garden on a sultry summer's eve. "Anyone want want some Brangelina wine?" I asked.

"Ooh, Brangelina wine, yes please, I'll have some of that!" said Mrs CWB, grabbing the bottled and enthusiastically filling up glasses for herself, her sister and the other ladies around the table.

In that context, a tasting note is somewhat redundant here - this is an enjoyable pink from a sun-kissed part of France made by a glamorous Hollywood power ex-couple and that's all you really need to know.

Tesco Finest Provence Rosé (£9)

This elegant and refreshing Provence Rosé is carefully sourced from picturesque vineyards that spend the year basking in the Mediterranean sun. Delicious stone fruit flavours are balanced with notes of fresh strawberries and redcurrants to create this crisp, delicate and dry wine with its signature pale pink colour. Pairs perfectly with seafood and antipasti.

red berry fruits, delicate mint and watermelon; white stone fruits, conference pears and red berries with white pepper, sweet spices and a leesy richness; broad and harmonious with good underpinnings

Drinks nicely on first opening.

A summer sipper, it will match well with picnic foods or cold cuts

Studio by Miraval (£12)

Blend of equal parts Cinsault, Grenache, Tibouren and Rolle (aka Vermentino); all the varieties are vinified by direct pressing.

The Cinsault and Tibouren in Stainless steel vats. The Grenache & Rolle are partially vinified in tulip-shaped concrete vats with a rounded bottom. This ovoid shape gives rise to a natural convection movement that suspends the lees creating the same effect as a batonnage and gives the wine a lot of structure.

very pale, slightly toasty; soft red-berry fruits, citrus and white fruits, white pepper and leesiness with saline minerality; elegant and pure.

Well-made and thoroughly pleasant.

A pleasant sipper, match with picnic food.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

The Regional Wines of Louis Latour

Four regional Burgundies from Louis Latour

Maison Louis Latour is a family-owned business, one of the most highly regarded in Burgundy. They have been making excellent value wines in a similar style from their vineyards in regional appellations very successfully for many years.

While prices for top Burgundies have increased steadily for many years now, these regional wines are more affordable.

The Ardèche Chardonnay and Bourgogne Gamay have plenty of easy-drinking ripe fruit; the Macon-Lugny and Terrasses Pinot Noir are more classically elegant.

Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2019 (from £12, Ocado, Bon Coeur Fine Wines)

Louis Latour arrived in the Ardèche in the late 1970s, as they looked outside of Burgundy to find alternative sources of high quality, everyday priced Chardonnay. They pioneered the planting of Chardonnay vines here, in what at the time was a relatively unknown area. Attracted by the hillside clay limestone rich soils, a consistent climate, abundant sunshine to perfectly ripen the grapes and a drying Mistral wind eliminating the risk of rot, all proved Ardèche to be the perfect place. Today, they have 350 hectares of vines under contract to local growers.

The grapes for Ardèche Chardonnay are treated as if they were grown in the prestigious vineyards of the Côte d’Or and vinified Latour’s winery in Alba. Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2019 is a fresh and appealing wine with considerable depth of flavour.

stone fruits and florality; orchard fruit, apricots, honeysuckle and sweet, slightly toasty spices; leesy brazil nut and good savoury underpinnings. Adept and harmonious


Serves as an aperitif; match with poultry, fish, and charcuterie.

Macon-Lugny Les Genievres 2020 (£17.99, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, Hennings Wine, House of Townend, North and South)

Mâcon-Lugny Les Genièvres, one of Louis Latour's best-selling wines, is from the top vineyards in the Mâconnais region. Mâcon-Lugny was introduced by Louis Latour, with the support of the successful Lugny cooperative, offering a very respectable alternative for a white Burgundy. Lugny is in the most southerly part of the Mâconnais where it borders Beaujolais, on land at 235-380m elevation, with limestone soils and the advantage of warmer days which gives the wine a refreshing, but riper fruit profile.

This is 100% Chardonnay, made without the use of oak, and produced from grapes grown in Les Genièvres vineyard on the northeast side of the village.

stone fruits, melon and honeysuckle; ripe pears, white peaches and melon with creamy-leesy oatmeal and spice; complex, broad and saline; very elegant.


Perfect with smoked salmon or simple grilled fish but with enough depth to work with a delicious plate of charcuterie or a simple pasta dish.

Louis Latour Bourgogne Gamay 2020 (From £16, Ocado, Majestic, North and South Wines, TheDrinkShop.com)

Bourgogne Gamay became a new regional appellation in 2011, a place that sits between the northern heartland of Burgundy and the sprawling Beaujolais vineyards to the south. Whilst technically part of Burgundy, the lighter, fruitier Gamay used in the wine must come exclusively from the best ‘Cru’ villages of Beaujolais Crus, which are situated on the granite hillsides in Northern Beaujolais. Louis Latour’s approach is to produce a wine which focusses on fruit and freshness with consistent quality, whilst still possessing the attractive characteristics of Burgundy.

On the nose this wine is more immediately fruity than a traditional pinot noir. Its light, crisp juiciness also makes it and a fine chillable red.

red and black cherries, violets and roasted spices; supple and inky with ripe cherry fruit, savouriness; good underpinnings and rounded, very fine tannins.


Match with charcuterie or grilled / roasted red meats.

Louis Latour Les Terrasses Pinot Noir 2019, (£15 Ocado)

Louis Latour have been growing Pinot Noir in the Var for over 30 years, creating, and producing wonderful reds from clones and rootstock imported from Burgundy. The conditions in the South of France are acceptable for this difficult grape variety with plenty of warm sunny days during the summer months and cooler temperatures at night.

The vineyards, at 500 metres above sea level, are a similar altitude to the finest Grand Crus and their southern exposure gives the grapes perfect maturity at the same time as the Grands Crus of Corton.

lifted red berry fruits, spices and mushroomy woodsiness; red and black cherries with savouriness, peppery spice, minty dried herbs and very fine tannins.


Match with ham or turkey, grilled red meats such as lamb, or salmon.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Jade Vineyard Virtual Tasting with Oz Clarke

China's Jade Vineyard with Oz Clarke of Three Wine Men

If Chinese wines are not yet on your radar, they need to be.

According to Wikipedia, wine has an ancient history in China. These days, long overshadowed by huangjiu ("yellow wine") and the much stronger distilled spirit baijiu, wine consumption has grown dramatically since the economic reforms of the 1980s. Ties with French producers are especially strong and Ningxia wines have received international recognition.

Ningxia's Jade Vineyard is located amongst the eastern foothills of Helan Mountain beside Yinchuan city. At an altitude of 1,180 meters established on a wide spread of virgin land, 15 hectares from an initial 22 hectares were selected to be cultivated as premium vineyards.

These promising fields are vital to the winery's vision of producing top quality wines. Using international standards and the highest environmental requirements, Jade Vineyards' dream is to express the vibrant characteristics of the Chinese countryside, crafting premium Jade Vineyard Chinese wines with international flair.

As one of the rising fine wine regions in China, Ningxia is attracting ever more domestic and international investors and winemakers.

Jade Vineyard, which recently completed its brand-new chateau, is one of the bold new challengers.  The estate produces 70,000 to 80,000 bottles of wine each year which have been enthusiastically received by international critics.

The IWSC gave the 2017 Hyacinth Cabernet Sauvignon 95 points and praised its harmony and “excellent winemaking”; at the IWSC 2020

Jade was awarded the “Wine Discovery 2019” Trophy. 

Jade Vineyard’s owner is Emma Ding and her winemaker is Shuzhen Zhou. 

The wines for this tasting were all international varieties in an international style; like a classic rock tribute act, these wines all clearly showed their influences.

Anyone expecting some "Chinese character" (whatever that may be) in the wines would be been disappointed, but only momentarily as all the wines were well-made from good fruit and technically impressive.

Consistency was high and if there was a family resemblance, it was all about the elegance and harmoniousness. For me the stand-out wines were the first (and only) white, an excellent Burgundy lookalike and the final red, a complex and intense oaked Merlot in the style of a top Right Bank Bordeaux.

Aria White 2019 

Classy Burgundian Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay, 13.9%, 8 months in French barrels

white flowers, honeysuckle, vanilla and sweet spices, custard and pastries, citrus; orchard fruits, melon and tropical citrus, creamy oatmeal, delicately toasted oak, brazil nut, spiciness and saline minerality; harmonious, complex, elegant and long.

Still very youthful.

Very Good.

Hyacinth 2017

Baked, aged Bordeaux blend

70% CS, 30% M, 14.6%; 10 months in SS with oak treatment

bramble fruits, coffee grounds, tomato leaf, old leather and earthiness, aged savoury complexity and oaky spice; harmonious, supple and and savoury with baked plums, soy, cocoa, coffee grounds, oaky spices and minerality; very fine and well-integrated tannins.

In good form, if showing its age.


Marselan 2020

Fresh, Loire-esque red

14.2%, 10 months in SS with oak treatment

fresh black cherries and blackberries, raspberry leaf, minty sage and spices; fresh, ripe dark berry fruits, toasty-oaky spices and very fine, well-integrated tannins with saline minerality; supple and inky very good underpinnings.

Still fresh and youthful.

Very Good.

Messenger 2017

Mature and Bordeaux-esque

100% CS, 14.2%, 15 months in French oak barrels

baked bramble fruits, cocoa and coffee grounds, oaky spice and earthy mushrooms; sweet, ripe baked bramble fruits, minty eucalyptus, fresh with very fine, harmonious and rounded tannins; savoury with good underpinnings and saline minerality.

At a peak.

Very Good.

Aria Reserve 2015


100% CS, 14.2%, 80% aged in new French barrels for 14 months

primary blackcurrants, black cherries and black olives with grilled notes, toasty spices and dried green herbs; fresh bramble fruits, savoury-leesy earthy mushrooms and old leather; inky, custardy texture, adept and harmonious with fine, rounded tannins and good underpinnings.

Ready for drinking but not yet at a peak.

Very Good.

Jiangshan Single Merlot 2019

Right-bank lookalike

100% Merlot, 18 months aging in French barrels

complex and savoury with oaky spice, raspberries, blackberries and black cherries, woodsy undergrowth and sous bois; plush, inky, dense, concentrated and fresh with dark cherry fruit, cool mint and a custardy texture; very fine, harmonious tannins.

Still primary and youthful.

Very Good.


Further reviews:

Friday, 29 July 2022

Two Provence Rosés

Two rosés from Provence

Sun is in the forecast and what better way to take your summer days to the next level than with a glass of inimitable Vins de Provence rosé?

Whether you’re enjoying an al-fresco lunch in the garden with friends, hosting a sophisticated dinner party, or celebrating a special occasion with loved ones, a bottle of refreshing Vins de Provence rosé is sure to make summer moments even more perfect.

Crisp and elegant, and always presented in a chic bottle, these premium rosés are the epitome of class and the true taste of style. Delicious as an apéritif or alongside a variety of cuisines, ranging from fragrant Asian curries to simple grilled seafood, a sip of Vins de Provence rosé will bring that little bit of Provençal warmth and sea breeze to wherever you are. 

Try a wine from each of the three beautiful appellations – Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence – to experience all the variety and sophistication that Vins de Provence has to offer.

Château Saint Maur Cru Classé, Saint M, Côtes de Provence, 2021 (£14.48, Vinatis)

Saint M from Château Saint Maur is elegant and refined, with peach, raspberry and gooseberry aromas. A well-balanced rosé, from vines that have been grown in clay limestone soil.

red fruits, florality and white pepper; saline and broad with red fruits, melon, orchard fruits, some zippy lime and brazil nut creaminess; complex and savoury.


Match with salmon tartare or fresh Greek salad

Domaine de Valdition, Vallon des Anges, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, 2021 (£12.93, Vinatis)

Located in the Alpilles area, this winery covers 240 hectares of breath-taking countryside. From these organic vines comes a stunning pale rosé, which is highly complex and has plenty of minerality. 

delicate red fruits, grapefruit and hints of fennel; saline with white stone fruits, melon and lime; broad and textured.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Serve as an apéritif, or match with sushi, marinated fish or prawn skewers.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Two Vasse Felix Wines at Tesco

A Rhône-style red and Bordeaux-blend white from Western Australia's Vasse Felix at Tesco

There are many things that make Vasse Felix a special place; these two wines, Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz and Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, owe it all to the incredible environment and climate of Margaret River, family ownership, treasured heritage, and priceless vineyards.

Dating from 1967, Vasse Felix is the founding wine estate of the Margaret River region in the furthermost southwestern corner of Australia. The secret to the region’s distinct wines is down to its Mediterranean climate, warm dry summers and a maritime influence from the massive ocean which borders Margaret River on three sides and brings a cool sea breeze which preserves the fruit flavours and aromas.

Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz and Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc are made from fruit grown in Vasse Felix’s four Margaret River vineyards, then vinified and bottled within the modern, state-of-the-art winery, overlooking Wilyabrup Brook.

With summer comes lighter, crisper whites and Margaret River’s classic blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is a great wine for this time of year.

Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2021, (£12, Tesco)

Vasse Felix Classic Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, introduced in 1987, is zesty, fresh and crisp and could easily become an everyday favourite.

Made with organically grown fruit and fermented with organic and wild yeasts, from Vasse Felix vineyards which are now certified organic.

restrained nose of passionfruit, gooseberries and tropical citrus with some florality and white pepper; fresh and supple with ripe stone fruits, melon, pineapple, candied lemon peel and sherbet; waxy and broad; very elegant and harmonious.

Drinks nicely on first pouring; opens up with some aeration.


Fresh enough for an aperitif and a versatile food wine. Match with lemony roast chicken, hot smoked salmon, pork rillettes or a green Thai curry.

Vasse Felix Classic Shiraz 2020 (£12, Tesco)

First made in 1990, it is now one of the most popular red wines for all occasions in Australia. It’s known for its delicate and sophisticated fruit-forward style and is the epitome of modern elegance.

Wild fermented, this modern, medium bodied wine is deep and true to its unique environment; there is also a drop of Malbec in the blend.

black fruits, dried green herbs and violets; juicy ripe blackberries, blueberries and black cherries with oaky vanilla spice, an inky texture and some leathery-earthy savouriness; supple, ripe and well-integrated tannins; fresh and long with very good underpinnings.

Drinks nicely on first opening with plenty of fruit to the fore; becomes more interestingly savoury and harmonious with aeration. Will repay some cellaring.


Match with grilled lamb chops and harissa.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Wines from Crete - the Overview

Wines of Crete - the overview

If asked, I would have, until recently, confidently asserted that Crete is not a wine-producing island. And I would have been completely wrong; it actually makes a wide range of excellent wines from mostly indigenous grapes.

In my defence, I think I was once told about the no-local-wines-in-Crete by someone who had been there on holiday, but clearly he was not paying attention.

Crete's winemaking history dates back around four thousand years, with the Phoenicians and the Egyptians trading wine on the island; later, the Ottomans suppressed wine-making under their rule and the modern Cretan wine industry dates from only the 1990s.

With four PGI areas spanning the entire island and up to 35 native grape varieties, Crete has a complex and diverse oenological culture. All these factors makes it difficult to pinpoint a particular "Cretan" wine style or characteristic.

In practice, the common features of Cretan wines are:

- its indigenous grapes, many of the whites thick-skinned
- the warm (not hot), dry climate
- late ripening with freshness maintained, due in part to diurnal variation from the cooling effect of the White Mountains
- the effects of elevation, from sea level up to 2.5km on the island

Historically, many of the grapes were blended into sweet wines, so Crete itself is having to rediscover the character and potential of its grapes; after experimenting with more easily recognisable international grapes, Crete is now focusing on its indigenous varieties.

A snapshot of Crete

50% of Crete is at an elevation of more than 500m; it is the oldest inhabited part of Europe and most rivers flow only after rainfall. There is snow on the mountains from November to May and this provides most of the water needed for agriculture (including 30 million olive trees).

Phylloxera arrived on the island only in the 1970s and many of the vines are still on original rootstocks.

Cretan wine production is still highly fragmented; there are around 50 significant producers on the island, with no single dominant player and only a few small co-ops.

Crete in context

Once an ancient civilisation, now just a small sub-region of an obscure country, oenologically-speaking; how to understand and approach Cretan wines?

With 4 PGIs and around 35 native varieties, there is no immediately obvious jumping-off point, such as Robola for Kefalonia or Assyrtiko for Santorini.

Rather, it make more sense to think of Crete as somewhere like France's Languedoc, as Christos Ioannou suggests, describing it as one of the most exciting wine regions in Greece; an ancient warm, dry and sunny wine region with varied terroirs and indigenous grapes, yet newly-revived and still discovering its full potential.

So don't expect to find a Cretan equivalent of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Barossa Shiraz; there are no local takes on international styles. 

You will find whites, rosés, amber wines and reds; they will be well-made and very elegant; the styles and flavour profiles with be both familiar-enough and yet at the same time subtly different, like a tune you think you've heard before yet can't quite place.

The names of the grapes will most probably be completely unfamiliar, so until you know your Vidiano from your Thrapsani, you will likely need a quick chat with the sommelier or a decent tasting note to establish how it will best work with food.

Full tasting notes of 8 wines to follow.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The CWB Franco-Spanish Production-Method-Off

Four production-method wines from France and Spain, via Co-op and M&S

A friend recently asked me for some advice on arranging a wine-tasting; beyond the usual basics, I suggested it might be interesting to have a theme, such as a grape, region or other feature of the wine.

I have done themed tastings around aged Bordeaux, Iberia and the Americas as well as production method wines (i.e. wines whose character derives more from the they they are produced than from grape varieties).

For this line-up, I pulled out one of my own purchases to compare fizzes from France and Spain as well as two different types of sherry.

With a few exceptions, production method wines tend to be from either very cool climates (Champagne or England) or very hot climates (Andalusia, Douro, Madeira).

When asked about my favourite wines, my standard answer is: mature wines, production method wines and cool-climate wines. Essentially, I really like older, cool-climate wines that taste of something more than mere primary fruits.

All of the wines in this line-up are defined by their production method - for the fizz, it is secondary fermentation in bottle on the lees, which provides a food-friendly leesy complexity (as well as the bubbles).

For the sherries, it is the blending across years and growth of flor in the barrel which imparts a tangy dryness; in the case of Manzanilla, the flor character is more evident due to the cooler conditions where it is produced. For Amontillado, the flor is allowed to die away and the wine ages oxidatively acquiring complex roasted flavours of nuts and spices.

We started with the sherries as pretty much the perfect aperitif, matched to simple, tapas-style starters of chorizo, roasted almonds, manchego, olives and bread with home-made mayonnaise.

The fizzes were opened with a continent-hopping main course of chicken Thai green curry.

The sherries

Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla (£10.99, Waitrose, £9.50 Ocado - also in half-bottles, see footnote)

Made in Sanlucar de Barrameda, using both cooling ocean breezes and cool air current from a bend in the Guadalquivir river to grow the flor to optimum thickness and impart more flavour to the wine, Barbadillo is a family company and one of the great names of sherry.

pungent with pastry shop, camomile, almonds and hazelnuts; fresh and savoury with oatmealy leesiness, saline minerality, white fruits and white pepper; elegant and adept with very good underpinnings.


A versatile food wine, match with Andalusian tapas or any salty foods such as salamis, olives and hard cheese.

Very Rare Amontillado 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. 


Match with roasted almonds or roasted / char-grilled beef.


Champagne is the benchmark style of sparkling wine and it commands a hefty premium for the name; Spain's cava, by contrast, is working hard to match its pricing to the improved quality and cost of production.

Cava Sumarroca Gran Reserva 2017

Good cava is one of the wine world's great bargains; this one is made using the Traditional Method with three years' lees ageing for complexity by a family-owned house .

lemon peel, roasted hazelnuts, white flowers and leesiness; fresh, citrussy and poised with lemons and limes, creamy-nutty leesiness and saline minerality. Harmonious and long, very adept and elegant.


A versatile wines. serve as an aperitif, match with mixed starters or mains such as fish and chips or green Thai curry.

Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne 2013 (£27, The Co-op)

Made only in the best years, Vintage Champagne should be left at least 10 years before opening. On that basis, this one is a little young, but is showing well now and has plenty of life ahead of it.

golden sandy yellow with complex orchard fruits, bruised apple, citrus fruits, melonskin and toasted brioche; dense, concentrated and fresh with a fine mousse, citrussy lemon curd and lime marmalade, orchard fruits with red berries and savoury-leesy oatmeal, creamy brazil nut and saline minerality. Complex and long.

Very Good.

Match with lighter game or seafood-and-pastry such as prawn vol-au-vents or salmon-en-croute.


Half-bottle of the Barbadillo Manzanilla:

- Wine Society £5.95

- Loki Wine Merchants £7.99,

- Banstead Vintners £6.99

- Latitude Wine Merchants £7.50,

- Rannoch Scott £6.19

- Sandham Wines £6.20

- Vintage Cellars £6.50

- Gusto Wines £6.60

- The Whisky Exchange £6.76

- Mumbles Fine Wines £6.95

- Oxford Wine Co £7.25 

plus many other good independents.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Australia's Oxford Landing

A taste of Australia's Oxford Landing

If your budget is not much over the national average of a fiver, and you don't want to make a special trip for your wine, easily-available bottles from the supermarkets risk being a bit hit-and-miss.

The good news is that these three wines from Oxford Landing are all well-made, reliable and thoroughly enjoyable.

Oxford Landing is the name of the wine and the place in South Australia where the beautiful River Murray runs through the vast, red landscape, filling the community and environment with life, promise and affordable wines that are sustainably produced. 

Here Oxford Landing wines are nurtured from bunch to bottle using a small-scale approach with methods usually reserved for boutique winemaking, thus guaranteeing the authenticity, provenance, quality and consistency of every bottle of Oxford Landing wine.

Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (£6 from Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA)

Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc is the number one Aussie Sauvignon Blanc in the UK; its crisp, refreshing style makes it a popular choice, and at just 10.5% alcohol, it is the perfect pick for summer parties, social gatherings or just a cheeky glass after work.

This wine has been carefully made using cool fermentation with aromatic yeast strains to enhance the punchy zesty characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc. A percentage of the wine was fermented on skins to add an extra dimension of complexity.

The result is a fresh wine with zesty aromas of passionfruit, lemongrass and freshly cut hay, light-bodied and showing layers of fresh citrus and papaya flavours. 

aromatic with rubbed sage, mint and pepper; ripe, zesty, tropical fruits, with lime, grapefruit and gooseberries; crisp and refreshing with lemongrass, white pepper and some saline minerality

Well-made, food friendly and thoroughly enjoyable.

Drink as an aperitif or serve with a simple cheeseboard, some olives, dried fruit and crackers or with classic fish and chips.

Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio 2021 (£6.50, Sainsburys)

Don’t let Oxford Landing’s Pinot Grigio’s pale veneer and subtle aromas fool you; there’s plenty of flavour going on in the glass.

The wine was fermented with natural yeasts that come in from the vineyard, creating layers of flavour and richness. Following fermentation, the wine was left on its lees for 3 months and stirred weekly to impart a creamy richness to the palate.

A refreshing, medium bodied style of Pinot Grigio with lemon pith, apple skin, grapefruit, poached pear and cinnamon flavours with every mouthful.

orchard and white stone fruits, white pepper spice; weighty, concentrated, full and supple with conference pears, citrus, white peaches, leesy saline minerality and warming sweet spices.

Well made and adept; thoroughly enjoyable.

Enjoy with potato salad and a ‘green’ avocado style dressing, Asian chicken salad with roasted peanuts or tortilla chips and a spicy black bean salsa.

Oxford Landing Merlot 2020 / 2021 (£7.25, The Co-op)

Oxford Landing Merlot will take you through to the cooler end of summer months and into Autumn.  It has good depth of colour, with generous red fruit flavours of plums and cherries.

Merlot thrives under the warm Australian sun alongside the Murray River and this is a generous and succulent example of a great Australian Merlot.

blueberries, violets and spice; juicy berry fruits, cherries, dried green herbs and woodsy undergrowth; gentle tannins.

Well made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Drink slightly chilled on a hot day or match with grilled red meat, such as lamb seasoned simply with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and seared on the barbecue for a few minutes each side and served with a side order of caramelized roast vegetables, a Moroccan spiced curry or a pasta dish cooked with a creamy tomato sauce.

Monday, 11 July 2022

Wakefield Promised Land

Three wines from Australia's Wakefield at Asda

In time for summer, Wakefield Promised Land wines from South Australia, including a crisp, refreshing Pinot Grigio, a smooth, soft Merlot, and a juicy Shiraz Cabernet blend, are now available from Asda at just £9 each.

They are lively, approachable, and easy to enjoy, making them superb go-to wines for easy summer socials. When it comes to cooling down this summer, a few degrees can make all the difference, especially important for wines.

“Serving wine at the right temperature not only improves the taste and aromas, but leads to a greater appreciation of individual varietals”. Sound advice from Mitchell Taylor, winemaker and third generation family member of Wakefield who adds, “As well as reaching for a crisp, refreshing white, it’s entirely possible to enjoy red wine in the summer once we factor optimum temperature into the equation.”

The key to enjoying red and white wines all comes down to temperature and Wakefield have made things easy with their innovative on-pack temperature sensor featured on the back label which changes colour depending on the temperature of the wine. By referencing the temperature guide next to the sensor, wine drinkers will know exactly when their wine is at the right serving temperature.

The wines are full of generous flavours, accessible to any wine lover, with a mix of varieties to suit any preference. 

The Promised Land wines are named after a special parcel of land ‘promised’ for sale in a handshake with a neighbour. The significance of the seahorse icon on the label dates back to the early days in Wakefield Wines history when, whilst digging the first dam on the property, the family unearthed tiny fossilised seahorses.

This extraordinary discovery confirmed the Taylor family’s belief in the promise of the land and its rich, fertile soils which have been ideal for crafting award winning, world class wines. Today, seahorses are proudly featured on our Promised Land labels as a symbol of quality. Wakefield’s commitment to seahorse extends beyond the world of wine; the Taylor family proudly supports Project Seahorse, the global experts on seahorse and marine conservation, helping to raise awareness and funds to protect the species around the world, including off the coast of Dorset here in the UK.

Promised Land Pinot Grigio 2021 

white stone fruits and white flowers; fresh and crisp with salinity, apples-and-pears fruit, good underpinnings and a white peppery finish.

Improves with aeration.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

A versatile wine, match with a summery dinner, antipasti or seafood.

Promised Land Merlot 2020

red and black berry fruits, blackcurrant leaf, pencil shavings and spices; fresh and juicy berries with an inky texture, savouriness and gentle tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with salamis, pizza or barbecued meats.

Promised Land Shiraz Cabernet 2019

red and black fruits, woodsy undergrowth and spice; fresh, with gentle, rounded tannins, dark fruits, grilled notes and spice; good underpinnings.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with grilled foods, such as bbq burgers.  

Friday, 8 July 2022

Calvet Kitchen

Six wines from France's Calvet - and the Calvet Kitchen experience

If you know Calvet's wines, it is probably for their range of easy-drinking and inexpensive Bordeaux. And if you don't, you probably should, as they are the largest French wine brand in the UK and the UK is Calvet's largest market.

But Calvet turns out to be a lot more than just Bordeaux; established over 200 years ago, the company makes wine in almost all of France's major regions.

Calvet Kitchen is a food-and-wine matching initiative to pair regional French dishes with Calvet wines; which is, after all, when French wine is all about.

With 64 winemakers in 7 regions, Calvet is a diverse business and yet all the wines here had a family resemblance that reflects Calvet's aims - an elegance and easy-drinking freshness with plenty of food-friendly mid-palate.

These wines all drink well on first pouring, but also open with aeration and have the body and complexity to stand up to food.

Loire-based winemaker Pierre-Jean Sauvion explained his approach:

- quality of fruit

- balance of fruit and freshness

- food-friendly salinity

The wines were all of broadly similar quality and, the Chablis aside, price, so preferences come down largely to personal taste.

Of the whites, I enjoyed the Chablis most, but given the price difference, the Muscadet makes a good value alternative.

Of the other colours, the CdRV was the most substantial and interesting.

The Calvet Kitchen playlist archive is here:

Calvet Kitchen | Meet Guillaume Lassevils, chef in the Bordeaux region - YouTube

Calvet Muscadet 2020, abv 12%, (£5.95-7 Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Co-op)

Grown on warmer sandy soils, resulting in more ripeness in the wine.

minty and floral with tropical fruit; fresh, rounded and saline with pear and white stone fruits

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with seafood and freshwater fish.

Calvet Haut Poitou 2021, abv 11.5%, (£10.99 Waitrose)

A new appellation to the south of the Loire around an hour from Saumur, it was created in 2011 but has a long history dating back to the 14th century. The soils are part of the same chalk limestone that runs under Champagne and moderates the water table which is key to the condition of the grapes.

Loire Sauvignon with a new world nose, but old world palate.

expressive and exuberant; gooseberries, exotic fruits and mintiness; juicy citrus, ripe green fruits and herbaceous, minty, zippy lime,

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Matches well with fresh tomato-based dishes.

Calvet Chablis 2021, abv 12%, (£20 Ocado)

Grown on chalk soils with 80% fermented in stainless steel for freshness and 20% in barrel for complexity.

stone fruits, peaches an dapricot; green apple and grapefruit, with lemon zest, fresh coriander and salinity.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

A versatile food wine, serve as an aperitif or match with starters and lighter mains.

Calvet Murmure de Rose Côtes de Provence 2021, abv 12.5% (new)

Newly-launched in the UK; night-picked for freshness with a short maceration; fermented in stainless steel for freshness.

red fruits, mint and spice; fresh, fruited and textured with red berries and salinity.

Sip as an aperitif or match with picnic foods.

Calvet Prestige Bordeaux Red 2020, abv 14%, (£7.50-£8.50 Sainsburys, Ocado, Co-op, Tesco)

80% Merlot with 20% Cabernet

red and dark berry fruits with vanilla spice; fresh with juicy, ripe and fleshy berry fruits; fine tannins and leafy, savoury, mushroomy flavours

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with red meats, such as bbq burgers or char-grilled steak.

Calvet Prestige Côtes du Rhône Villages 2021, abv 14%, (£7.50 Tesco)

Classic Rhône GSM blend

dark fruits and spices with garrigue herbs; substantial, fresh and supple with gentle tannins; harmonious and adept

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match the freshness to meaty fish, such as salmon or rare tuna steaks.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Crisp White and Big Red - Antipodean-Style

Three antipodean wines: Crisp Whites and Big Red from the other side of the planet

I've said it many times, Crisp White and Big Red is the classing pairing for almost any meal - begin with something refreshing and zippy as an aperitif-cum-starter wine before moving on to a bigger red to go with a meaty main course. It's food and wine matching 101.

In Europe, you can take your pick from red and white Burgundy, Chablis and Rioja or even a couple of Loires.

Here is a southern hemisphere version of the same pairing, with classic New Zealand Sauvignon and an unusual Australian Tempranillo.

White: New Zealand

Nelson is New Zealand’s sunshine capital where the Seifried family have been crafting their art for nearly 50 years. Today, Seifried Estate is devoted to sustainable winegrowing and producing the very best Nelson has to offer.

Classic South Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and Seifried Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2021 from Nelson are more restrained and balanced than its famous Marlborough cousins. These wines are brimming with everything great about New Zealand Sauvignon and bursting with bright fruit, balanced by the delicate, mineral freshness resulting from sunny vineyards, on the shores of the Tasman Sea.

The Seifried family have more than 320 hectares of estate-grown vineyards across 10 properties in the Nelson region.

The vineyards relevant to these two wines are Brightwater, 15 kilometres from the coast and sheltered from the south by the Richmond Ranges. Here, the vines grow in rocks and boulders, which, although hard on the farm machinery, are key to holding the warmth of Nelson’s sun and for ripening the grapes. 

Queen Victoria Vineyard is known for its apple orchards, kiwi and hops, and the grapes grow on stony free draining soils giving the fruit clarity and varietal intensity.

Redwood Valley Vineyard is on a gently sloping, north facing clay site where the vines range from 10 to 30 years old and enjoy maximum exposure to sunlight for intensity and optimal ripeness.

Seifried Estate was established by Austrian-born Hermann Seifried and his Kiwi wife Agnes when they planted their first vineyard in the Moutere Valley near Nelson, in 1973, establishing themselves as pioneers of modern winegrowing in New Zealand’s South Island.

Hermann and Agnes still oversee the business which has grown to include the whole family. Son Chris and daughter Heidi are qualified winemakers, and daughter Anna oversees sales and marketing.

Seifried Estate wines are marketed in 26 countries around the world and 60% of Seifried Estate’s wine production and export is Sauvignon Blanc.

Classic South Sauvignon Blanc 2021, (£10.99, Waitrose)

Classic South Sauvignon Blanc is sustainably made and vegan-friendly from Seifried’s Brightwater, Queen Victoria, and Redwood Valley Vineyards.

2021 was a cooler year than normal in Nelson, with a warm run of weather just as the fruit was ripening and during harvest, resulting in delicate aromas and bright acidity. 

expressive lifted aromatics with lemongrass, lime zest, green herbs, tropical fruits, florality and white pepper; citrus, grapefruit and lime marmalade with white stone fruits, melon and pineapple; hints of spicy pungent muskiness; good underpinnings.

Drinks nicely on first opening; gains complexity with aeration.


Match with herby foods such as mozzarella with basil, tomatoes with rosemary or saltimbocca.

Also reviewed by Tom Cannavan here:

Seifried Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2021, (£14.99, Waitrose)

Seifried Estate Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes from the Brightwater and Queen Victoria Vineyards; they were destemmed and pressed immediately after harvest and cool fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain the clean aromatic fruit characters. 

2021 was a cracker vintage in Nelson, albeit the yields were devastatingly light due to spring frost, unsettled flowering weather and Boxing Day hail. 

citrus and lemongrass with minty chives and white pepper; saline and savoury with grapefruit, citrus, acacia blossom, white stone fruits, white pepper and creamy brazil nut; saline and complex.


Match with ham hock terrine and parsley or monkfish with a herby broth. 

Red: Australia

Running with Bulls is an Australian wine made from Tempranillo, the main grape variety of Rioja. It’s not a traditional variety in Australia but has proven to love it here, and with its feet firmly planted in Barossa soil, it has adapted well.

The ideal warmer climate of the region helps to showcase the stylish fruit flavours of this emerging variety and produce some promising wines such as this one.

The Hill-Smith family created the Running with Bulls collection back in 2008, unapologetically bucking tradition to produce a wine that was not only new, but brilliant. Running with Bulls is a well-priced Australian interpretation of a Mediterranean classic.

Running with Bulls Tempranillo (£8, Tesco, Co-op)

Barossa-grown Tempranillo is fermented with wild yeasts indigenous to the vineyards, followed by a wild malolactic fermentation in tank which brings out the fruity character and lovely tannins.

dark berry and cherry fruits with spice and wild herbs; juicy plums and black fruits with cocoa, cinnamon and cola; concentrated, fresh and supple with gentle tannins.

Well made and thoroughly enjoyable

Served lightly chilled as a summer garden sipper or match with a range of Mediterranean foods such as pizza, paella, antipasti or mezze.


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

The CWB Co-op Chile-Off

Two Co-op reds from Chile

Chile has always possessed great potential, but it hasn't always produced great wines. Historically, it churned out too much heavy-handed plonk that had an eye on American mass market rather than budget-conscious European palates - over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over here.

Fortunately, as people like Tim Atkin have shown, there is an increasing trend in Chile now to focus on freshness, drinkability and elegance.

These two wines show what Chile is capable of at UK supermarket prices.

The Carménère is Chile's signature red grape variety; long mistaken for Merlot, it was rediscovered only in 1994. Its flavour profile, unsurprisingly, is similar to Merlot, but somehow darker and artier with more soy, coffee and dark chocolate.

The Malbec is another Bordeaux grape that has found a home in South America, but is more associated with Argentina on the other side of the Andes.

A notes on the labels

I've long argued the the role of a wine label is to make a promise to the purchaser that the liquid in the bottle keeps. See here for more on this:

The Cambridge Wine Blogger: Costly Signalling - The Peacock Effect

Of the wines bottles here, the Bio Bio Malbec has the more elegant and interesting label, IMHO, but don't let the Carménère label put you off; it's much more adept and sophisticated than the somewhat garish  artwork on the bottle might lead you to believe.

Co-op Irresistible Carménère (£7)

From the Maipo Valley, it was awarded a Gold and Value medal at the Decanter awards, with the judges observing:

“A deliciously peppery style and a lot of wine for the price! There are attractive varietal aromas: roasted red pepper, soy, rich cassis, and a hint of mint. The palate is dense, with firm-ish tannins, yet rounded and showing a lovely freshness. Impressive”. 

soy, iodine and red meat with pencil shavings and dark-berry fruits; juicy dark berries, cherries and peppery vanilla spice; fresh, full and supple with gentle rounded tannins. Well-made with good underpinnings.

Benefits from some aeration.

Good and Good Value.

Match with a plate of salami or a pizza.

Bio Bio Malbec (£8)

Won Silver at the Decanter wine awards, with judges commenting:

“Plum and blueberry with some ginger, cedar, and dried herbs. Good concentration of fruit, some floral freshness.”

dark, black fruits, violets, spice, pencil shavings and liquorice; fresh, supple and savoury. Plump and inky yet focused with fine, rounded tannins. Well-made, accomplished and harmonious.

Good and Good Value.

Match with roast lamb or rare steak; for a meat-free option, match with griddled courgette and aubergine drizzled with balsamic vinegar.