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Monday, 30 May 2022

Lesser-Known Grapes from Tesco

Two lesser-known grapes from Tesco

I've said it before, but I rarely drink the same wine twice; I'm so busy trying new wines, that I don't often go back to ones I've had before.

For me, the endless variety of wine, the new countries, grapes, production methods and styles are all part of the fascination.

In practice, however, many people like to stick with something they know, have heard of or have tried before.

This summer, Tesco's buyers have pulled together a collection of new and interesting alternatives-to-the-usual that will work well with picnics and barbecues.

Albariño from Rias Baixas is perhaps more up-and-coming than brand new kid on the block; it has been around for a while now and can be considered a logical next step for Sauvignon Blanc aficionados with its botanical aromatics, citrus and and peachy fruit.

By contrast, Passerina is rather more obscure; it is grown in Marche in Italy, but its origins remain obscure. It is named after the bird that feeds on the grape. Stylistically, it is a classic Italian white, fruited yet food friendly and similar to Soave or Alsace Pinot Gris.

Tesco Finest Passerina, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo 2021 (£7)

Made by the Citra winery, founded in 1973, in Abruzzo.

citrus, stone fruits and florality; fresh, broad and generous with peachy fruit, citrus and some warming sweet spice; supple and harmonious.

Thoroughly enjoyable and Good Value.

Drinks nicely on first pouring

A versatile food wine, match with picnic or barbecue foods, such as chicken, hummus or grilled fish.

Tesco Finest Viñas del Rey Albariño, 2021 (£9.50)

Rias Baixas is a cool, damp region of Atlantic Spain, just north of Portugal; the DO here dates back to just 1980.

aromatic citrus, cut grass and grapefruit pith, honeysuckle and stone fruits; fresh and mineral with apricot and mandarin fruit, zippy lime marmalade, white pepper and lemongrass; expressive, fresh and elegant.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Drinks nicely on first opening.

Match with goat's cheese, parsley-and-ham terrine or monkfish in a herby broth.


Where next?

If these wines have piqued your interest to explore further, here are some more suggestions. 

If you like the Passerina, consider the Botte de Conti Pecorino, Terre di Chieti from Lidl.

If you want to explore Albariño and other bracing whites from both Spain and Portugal, then check out these Iberian Atlantic whites: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: The CWB 3-Way Iberian-Atlantic-Off

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Four French Rosés For Summer

Four rosés for summer

Some people make the mistake of having rosé in the summer.

Others know better and drink it all year round.

Either way, summer is rosé season and International Rosé Day is on 11 June.

Here are four well-made and inexpensive rosés from France - look away now, label snobs; there is nothing from Provence here, but that just makes these wines better value.

La Belle Angèle rosé 2021 (£8.99 / £6.99 mix six, Majestic)

A Vin de France made with a blend of grapes including Grenache and Cinsault from both the Languedoc and the Gers in the South of France. Aged for just a few months in vats means this wine is fresh and full of strawberry bon bon flavours and floral aromas, as well as being a pretty, delicate pink colour.

La Belle Angèle was a famous muse for many of the French Impressionist painters in the Belle Epoque renowned for her beauty and joie de vivre. 

raspberry and redcurrant fruit, white pepper, saline minerality and good underpinnings. Rounded and elegant.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with barbecues, salads or just sip outside in the garden.

Abbotts & Delaunay, Fleurs Sauvages, Pays d’Oc, Grenache rosé 2021 (£9.99 / £8.99 mix six, Majestic)

A new wine from the Abbotts & Delaunay Collection. Thanks to the work in the vineyards that respect the soils and the vines, healthy, concentrated grapes can be harvested whilst respecting the wild flowers (fleurs sauvages) and other wild life that surrounds them.

Made from 100% grenache grapes coming from the Hérault plain and the Aude to create a wine which is fresh, pale Provence pink and bursting with strawberry and raspberry aromas with a touch of minerality.

delicate red berries and florality; crisp, fresh and saline-mineral with soft red fruits; elegant, harmonious and refreshing.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Serve as an aperitif on a sunny day in the garden or match with sushi or a warm chicken salad.

Calvet rosé d’Anjou 2021 (£8, Ocado)

Lower in alcohol at 11% making it good for summer drinking, this rich salmon coloured rosé comes from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley and is made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Grolleau and Gamay grapes grown on clay/schist and clay/limestone soils.

expressive strawberry, raspberry and redcurrant flavours with watermelon, green apples, white peach and fresh citrus; hints of hazelnut and mint.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Refreshing and light enough for an aperitif, a great barbeque wine, match with seafood or quiche.

Fleurs de Prairies, AOP Luberon, 2021, £8, Morrisons - or £2.25 for a 1/4 bottle)

Made from a blend of 45% Syrah, 46% Grenache, 5% Vermentino, 4% Ugni Blanc grown in clay and limestone soils on the slopes of the Luberon in the southern Rhône Valley which is becoming increasingly popular for its rosés.

This pale pink wine comes in a pretty bottle decorated with the fleurs de prairies or the wild flowers; lavender, poppies and sunflowers which carpet the Luberon in the South of France.

sweet strawberries, rose petals, citrus and tropical fruits with white pepper and mint; saline and mineral.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Ideal as an aperitif accompanied by a platter of Proscuitto and Mozzarella.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Supermarket Crisp White And Big Red

An Austrian Crisp White from Morrison's and Big Red from Lidl

Bordeaux was my first oenological love - we had taken a weekend break to northern France in the car and decided to bring back a few bottles with us. They cost the equivalent of a few pounds each and I had plucked them off the shelves pretty much at random, but back home every bottle we opened was at least thoroughly enjoyable if not rather better and I realised that I actually liked wine (or French wine bought in France, to be specific) a lot more than the generic UK-brewed beers and lagers I had previously consumed.

Not long afterwards, I took on a high-travel role that saw me visiting Vienna most months; to fend off the boredom of endless evenings with just a newspaper's business pages for company in one of the world's great cities, I started eating (and drinking) at slightly better restaurants and developed a taste for Michelin-quality food and high-end Austrian wines.

It's easily done when the company is paying for you.

So, Austrian Gruener and red Bordeaux remain my go-to for a brace of enjoyable wines to accompany a meal.

I met Markus Huber a couple of times at various tastings and was impressed by the quality of his wines - for Morrison's to get his wine and stock it at around £7 is no mean feat.

This purchase was a chance find - I happened to be in Morrison's and it happened to be marked down by a few pounds; I now wish I'd bought more, but I can say that of many wines in my makeshift cellar and I still have more than I can get through.

The Lidl Bordeaux was recommended by Richard Bampfield MW; I have reviewed it previously, but the 2017 now has a bit more bottle age and can be viewed with some perspective.

I bought  a case each of the 2016 and 2017 when they were on special offer; the '16 is the better vintage but the '17 being lighter and fresher is ready for drinking sooner (on this tasting, it will still benefit from a few more years).

I decanted the red around an hour before the meal; with hindsight, this was too little. It can take (and will benefit from) several hours in the decanter to soften the tannins and allow the fruit to come to the fore.

The Gruener was chilled and aerated; it shows well on first pouring and doesn't require decanting, but  it does improve greatly with more air.

Morrisons The Best Gruner Veltliner 2019, Niederoesterreich (£7.50, Morrison's)

citrus, orange blossom and honeysuckle, stone fruits, white pepper and crushed slate; crisp and fresh with lemon-lime, pineapple, fresh yellow stone fruits and orchard fruits; white pepper, minerality and some dried green herbs.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

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

Lidl Saint Emilion Grand Cru (£11.99, Lidl) 

bramble fruits, plums cherries and pencil shavings with oaky spice; soft and supple with cherry fruit coffee grounds and spice; firm, slightly grippy tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

89 points from Richard Bampfield for the 2016 vintage.

Match with midweight dishes, such as pork rillettes, salami or roast chicken.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Two Co-Op Medal Winners

Two IWSC medal-winning wines from the Co-op

Say you need a fresh, food-friendly white plus big red to match with some red meat. Perhaps you you need them to have plenty of enjoyable fruit, but also be able to back it up with complex sophistication. But what if budget does not stretch beyond £10? Oh, and you need to be able to pop out and buy them locally, rather than have to make up a large online order? Potentially, you have quite the challenge on your hands.

However, the good news is that the Co-op has two IWSC medal-winnings wines priced around £9 that are enjoyable, sophisticated, food-friendly and kind to your wallet.

The Gavi di Gavi is a flawless, supple Italian white that you can sip in the garden, take on a picnic or match with starters or even lighter mains.

The Argentinean Malbec is plump and darkly-fruited yet fresh, perfect for char-grilled steak or barbecue meats.

Co-op Irresistible Gavi di Gavi 2021, Italy (£8.50)

Made by the Broglia family who have been producing delicate and delicious white wines in northern Italy since 1972, the first records of wine from these vineyards date from AD 972.

Despite being from a region more famous for red wines Gavi has carved out a well-deserved reputation for excellent, dry and refreshing whites.

orchard fruits, white peach, florality and sweet spices; crisp and fresh yet full and supple with baked apple, lemon curd and melon fruit and creamy toasted almond.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with soft cheese, meaty white fish or white meats.

Don David Blend of Terroirs Fairtrade 2021, Argentina (£9.00) 

From the unique wine making region of the Calchaqui Valley, this is a blend of two Malbecs from different high altitudes. One brings the fruit concentration while the other adds structure, texture and backbone.

dark plums, elderberries and blueberry fruit; with liquorice, spice and violets; black cherry fruit, black olives, cool mint full, supple and fresh with an inky texture, generous extraction and rounded tannins.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with roasted red meats, such as lamb with garlic and rosemary or char-grilled barbecue meats.

Friday, 20 May 2022

The CWB Languedoc Rosé-Off

Three rosés from reliable and innovative Languedoc producer Foncalieu

Languedoc's Foncalieu is a southern French co-operative making characterful wines in handsome bottles.

I have been a fan of their wines for a long time; they are always well-made and expressive but sophisticated.

With southern warmth, nuance and attention to detail, these are crowd-pleasing wines in the best sense; you can serve them to a wide range of people and be confident that everyone will enjoy them.

These three rosés are better value than anything you will get from next-door Provence and while they are all good on their own merits, the niche Piquepoul Noir gets a special mention for being an extremely rare grape variety that will give you extra bragging rights at the dinner table.

Le Versant Grenache Rosé, 2021 (£12, independents)

soft red fruits, delicate florality and orange blossom; red fruits, citrus, zippy lime pith and saline minerality with good underpinnings; dense, linear, concentrated and precise.


A versatile food wine, match with picnics, mezze or tapas.

Piquepoul Noir Rosé, 2021 (£11 - £15, Fine Wine Direct)

delicate red fruits; dense and concentrated with good, savoury underpinnings; citrus, lime pith, red fruits and creamy-leesy-oatmealy almond and brazil nut.


Demands food; match with seafood, quiche, tapas, antipasti or mezze.

Domaine Haut Gléon, Vallée Du Paradis, 2021 (£16.95)

lime, honeysuckle, mint and rubbed sage with citrussy, grapefruit freshness; taut, linear acidity with redcurrant fruit and saline minerality; very focused, textured and precise. 


Match with Mediterranean starters: bread with olive oil. anchovies and tapenade.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

The CWB Sauvignon Blanc Off

Two very different Sauvignon Blancs - Loire and New Zealand

Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps somewhere at the "late majority" stage in its life cycle - selling in larger quantities than ever, but a bit, well, passé for the ultra-cool urban hipsters in search of the latest thing.

I'll be honest, even I don't drink that much Sauvignon these days.

And that's not because I don't like it. 

I do like Sauvignon; I like its crisp freshness, its aromatics and minerality; I like the way it responds the places it's grown in and the way it is made. It is a wonderful grape.

Yes, it's cool to be down on Sauvignon for being synonymous with "generic pub white", but when it's well made with character and individuality, it is a refreshing, complex and food-friendly mouthful.

Sauvignon's classic regions are the Loire and New Zealand; and it traditionally makes very different styles of wine in each region.

Loire Sauvignon is where it all started with that steely-flinty-smoky thing, while New Zealand is the new classic with its aromatic, zesty and tropical vibe.

Ultimately, it's a Old World palate vs New World aromatics distinction.

Both these wines are equally good on a technical level, so it really comes down to personal preference.

The Old World One

Domaine Jacky Marteau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2019 Touraine AOC (£15 / £13, Avery's)

Touraine is situated next door to the Loire's Central Vineyards which includes renowned Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. Touraine Sauvignons tend to be much better value.

Domaine Jacky Marteau is a fourth generation estate founded by Gérard Delaunay, the current owners' maternal great grandfather. Passed down the line, it has been run since 2010 by Rodolphe Marteau and his sister Ludivine.

Their vineyards on the left bank of the river Cher are ideal for Sauvignon. Picking at the peak of maturity and cool fermenting in stainless steel vats ensure lovely ripe fruit with super charged freshness.

gooseberry, grapefruit and citrus with nettles, cut grass, flintiness and a hint of white pepper; full and supple with green apple, grassiness, elderflower and melon fruit; deft and elegant with good savoury underpinnings.

Drinks nicely on first opening, but improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.


Match with seafood or goat's cheese.

The New World One

Smith & Sheth CRU Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (£17, Tesco)

Smith & Sheth Cru Sauvignon Blanc, from Wairau, New Zealand, is made by Steve Smith MW, one of New Zealand wine’s most respected figures, and Brian Sheth, an investor and wildlife conservationist with a strong love for New Zealand.

They share a passion for fine wine and seek out the finest grapes from exceptional vineyards, crafting wonderful wines which show a sense of place, subtleties, and precision. 

Cru Sauvignon Blanc is made using the best grapes from two vineyards in Marlborough. A combination of machine and handpicked fruit, from mature vines grown in rocky soils around the town of Renwick is blended with biodynamically grown grapes from the cooler clay hillside of Churton vineyard.

Fermented at cooler temperatures in stainless steel, with a small portion wild fermented in oak.

gently pungent with lifted aromatic lime, grapefruit, grassiness and lemongrass with exotic fruits and pebbly sea spray; fresh lime juice, gooseberry, white stone fruit, guava, white pepper and citrus with linear acidity and saline minerality; concentrated, precise and complex.


Match with asparagus and goats’ cheese, meaty white fish, such as halibut, monk fish or bbq roasted prawns with a salad.


The Smith & Sheth CRU is also recommended by Joanna Simon, who says:

A cracking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; crackling with energy, flavour and texture. From a mature vineyard on gravelly soils around Renwick and a biodynamic vineyard on cooler, clay slopes in the southern valleys.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

The CWB Meta Aussie Viognier-Off

Four Viogniers from Australia's Yalumba - and what buying each one says about you

Viognier is a heat-loving, low-acidity peachy-apricotty grape whose spiritual home is the northern Rhône; Helena Nicklin describes it as the sun goddess of the wine world..

By the 1970s it was in danger of becoming extinct with just a little over 10 hectares in Condrieu, but it has staged something of a come-back ever since.

Australia's Yalumba adopted Viognier as their signature white in the Barossa Valley in the 1980s, after seeing its potential as an alternative to premium Chardonnay.

After a lot of trial and error to learn how to get the best out of the grape, Yalumba now makes a range of Viogniers from the entry-level Y Series up to the very serious Virgilius.

All four wines have a family resemblance - they are picked late for character, with freshness and contrast provided by phenolics from skin contact and little to no fining to maintain flavour and complexity.

The more ambitious wines are fermented in old oak with some lees aging; made somewhat oxidatively but with high phenolics, these wines have the potential to be aged. The 2003, for example, is sealed under screwcap and has hardly gained any colour.

They are all Good to Very Good wines, so to an extent, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

The cheerful one

Olly Smith recommends the Y Series Viognier, saying: Peachy and bright as honeysuckle, this is as good as Viognier gets for under £10.

Retailing at well under £10, this is complex and gastronomic beyond its price point. Buy this if you want something inexpensive but sophisticated.

The packing is nicely distinctive, but to me, the wine is better than appearances would suggest - the label says fulsome cheeky chappie, but its so much more than that

If you need to make a good impression and want to avoid the supermarket/entry-level vibe, I'd be tempted to put this into a smart decanter - it will benefit from the aeration in any case.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2021 (£8, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s)

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

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


The smart supermarket one

Yes, it's still a supermarket wine, but it's from those bastions of middle-class Britain, Waitrose and M&S, so your colleagues and neighbours won't judge you if you serve it as a "house wine".

It looks smart and it's organic, too with wild yeasts and a commitment to biodiversity leading to better pest control.

This would be fine to bring along to a barbecue or informal garden party, but refer to it as a "Viognier" and serve it from a decanter if you want to quietly impress the sort of people who would raise an eyebrow at supermarket Australian wine.

Yalumba Organic Viognier 2021 (£9.99 Waitrose, Marks & Spencer) 

delicate white flowers, ginger and jasmine with apricot; creamy, rich and long with fresh apricot, almonds, bright stone fruits and sweet spices. Full and supple with good underpinnings.


The sophisticated middle-child one

This is actually my favourite of all the Viogniers here, but it risks being overlooked, being neither under £10, nor eye-wateringly priced.

The fruit is from old vines in Eden Valley, where Yalumba first planted Viognier; it is fermented with wild yeasts in some old oak and put into a cold room which prevents malolactic fermentation and therefore maintains freshness. It spends 10 months on the lees with battonage, resulting in a more open and earlier-drinking wine.

Only available from independent wine merchants, neatly presented with what could be taken for a European chateau on the front, it cites a European-style place of origin in an elegant script; you could easily put this sophisticate on the table at a dinner party and not feel the need for any explanations.

Samuel’s Collection Viognier 2018 (£16.99, Vinvm.co.uk, Flagship Wines, Taurus Wines) 

fresh apricots, ginger, saffron and fresh white flowers; stone fruits and freshness with savoury, leesy underpinnings, toasty sweet spices; deft, supple, full and complex.

Drinks nicely on first opening, improves with aeration and can be cellared.

Very Good.

Match roast pork, Moroccan tagine and spiced couscous, or falafel and baba ghanoush wraps.

The super smart one
At £40, this wine makes a statement even before you crack open the screwcap. Yes, it's good, but then for £40 you would expect it to be good.

Priced like an Old World wine and equivalent to 5 bottles of the already-very-good entry-level Y Series, it's hard to make a rational case for this wine.

But wine is never about being rational and Tom Cannvan picks this one out for special mention.

Is it a statement of intent, a price anchoring device, or a European-style wine at European-style prices? Probably a bit of everything.

It comes in an important-feeling weighty bottle with an embossed label and a script that flourishes elegantly like a monarch's signature.

Tom describes it as peachy, with a twist of confit lemon; full texture and a taut core of acidity.

To be absolutely honest, right now I'd rather take two-and-a-bit bottles of the Eden Valley over one of the Virgilius. But with potential future in-laws or a new boss to impress, this restrained and complex wine would make the right statement.

And if I were laying down bottles for my children or future grandchildren, I'd be confident of the Virgilius going the distance.

Virgilius Viognier 2018 (£40.95, Vinvm.co.uk, Flagship Wines, Soho Wine Supply) 

yellow stone fruits, leesy brazil nut sweet spice and citrus; fresh, concentrated and precise; full, supple and fresh with stone fruits, creamy-nutty underpinnings, complex, dense savouriness and toasty spice.

Drinks nicely on first opening, but needs cellaring and aeration to best show its superiority.

Very Good.

Match with Burgundian dishes, such as white fish in butter, lighter game, scallops or mushrooms.


For a more straightforward review of the wines, see Dave Cronin's non-meta write-up: Yalumba Viognier Tasting : VinoViews

Saturday, 7 May 2022

A(nother) CWB Chardonnay-Off

Three very different Chardonnays

This is not my first Chardonnay-Off rodeo; far from it, in fact.

There has been the Southern Hemisphere one, the International one, the Southern French Oaky one and the Adelaide Hills one.

Chardonnay is The Beatles of wine grapes; among both the most accomplished and most popular performers, it is the one that inspired so many others and remains the standard against which many are judged.

This Chardonnay-Off highlights the variety that this grape can show - different countries, different price points and different ages.

It is also a great food wine; match with starters, white meats, meaty white fish and creamy mushroom pasta.

Entry-level Chardonnay is a great picnic wine; with more age and complexity, match with lighter game.

All three wines here drink nicely on first pouring, but open up and improve with some aeration.

Australian Limestone Coast Chardonnay, 2021 (£5.99 / £4.49 on offer, Lidl)

Australia's Limestone Coast is a catch-all appellation for several regions within South Australia; it was once underwater and as a result, the soil is fossil-rich, hence the name.

Lidl wines are generally priced extremely keenly, so special offers like this are a good excuse to stock up, not just for immediate drinking, but also for laying down, provided you have space and can wait.

restrained citrus and stone fruit aromas with some florality; ripe yellow stone fruits, melon and zippy lime with sweet spices and creamy brazil nut

Thoroughly enjoyable and Good Value.

Can be aged for a few years.

Petaluma Chardonnay, 2020 (£16.00, Tesco)

Based in the cool-climate region of Adelaide Hills, Petaluma is one of the great names of Australian wine, producing Burgundian-style Chardonnays.

citrus, white flowers, stone fruits and complex oaky spice; fresh, elegant and poised with preserved lemons, melon fruit, pineapple pieces, sweet spices and zippy lime marmalade; broad complex and generous with saline minerality. Poised and precise.

Very Good.

Can be aged for many years.

Pernot-Belicard Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 (£17, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

Philippe Pernot and his wife (from the Belicard side) launched their own domaine in 2009, with just six hectares of vines in Puligny. They pick quite early, all by hand, with hand sorting at the cellar.

This wine was a fire-sale bargain picked up by Cambridge Wine and sold at a discount to market price.

sandy yellow with roasted spices, stone fruits, florality, and evolved musty leather; savoury-creamy toasted brazil nut, almonds and macadamia with citrus, orchard fruits and stone fruits; complex, oaky, roasted spices; fresh, complex, broad and generous.

Very Good.

Fully mature, but will remain at a peak for several more years.

Friday, 6 May 2022

The CWB Inexpensive Italian White-Off

Two enjoyable and widely-available Italian whites from Lidl and The Co-op - plus a superior indie

Italy's red wines and bubbles gain most of the headlines, but the country also makes a wide range of very food-friendly whites.

While Chardonnay may be your first thought for a "food-white", Burgundy often carries a price premium and you can find elegant, fresh savoury whites from Italy at lower price points.

Here are three sophisticated and enjoyable Italian whites that will match with many foods - two from just outside Rome and a Soave from Italy's north west.

Campogrande Orvieto Classico, (£9, The Co-op)

Orvieto in Umbria, just north of Rome, is situated inland at around 300m above sea level, meaning plentiful sunshine with cool nights to extend the growing season and maintain freshness.

The main white grapes in Orvieto are Grechetto and Trebbiano; the first is considered a blending grape, the latter something of a workhorse.

But, just as the boy-next-door can turn into a matinee idol with a scrub and brush-up, so under-appreciated varieties can become enjoyable, inexpensive quaffers in the right hands.

This wine is made by the Antinori family, purveyors of some of Italy's most famous (and expensive) wines.

delicate white flowers and orchard fruit; crisp and fresh with apples-and-pears, ripe white peach and a touch of honeysuckle richness; full, supple and saline.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with mixed starters, creamy mushroom pasta or risotto.

2018 Botte de Conti Pecorino Terre di Chieti, (£5.75, Lidl) 

Pecorino is the grape here (not to be confused with the cheese of the same name) and Terre di Chieti is the region; it is in Abruzzo, just outside Rome.

citrus, apple, stone fruits and tropical fruit with some green herbs, minerality and a touch of spice. Very adept and well-made. Improves with some aeration.

Very pleasant and Very Good Value.

Drink as an aperitif in the garden or match with with seafood, soft cheeses, white fish or plain roast pork.

It also gets a recommendation from Helen McGinn on Saturday Kitchen as a match for carbonara.

Soave Gregoris, Antonio Fattori, Italy 2018 (£10.75, Private Cellar)

Costing only a few pounds more, but selected by Private Cellar's MW buyer, this is just a little bit better in every way.

Melon, lime and white stone fruits with orchard fruits, honeysuckle and pebbly minerality. Textured, elegant and precise.


Improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

A versatile food wine, drink as an aperitif, with light starters, creamy risottos or lean white met such as chicken or fish. It is also available in magnums for those "we're gonna need a bigger bottle" occasions.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

The CWB Tesco Argentinean Malbec-Off

Three Malbecs from Tesco

Once a major grape in Bordeaux, Malbec was relegated to an also-ran in the 1950s; it continues to grown along the Atlantic side of the country in the Loire and Cahors, but its spiritual home these days is across the Atlantic in Argentina.

A thick-skinned, heat-loving grape, Malbec produces dark, inky, intense wines wines with plummy flavours. It is perhaps the heir to Aussie Shiraz, a New World grape that makes Big Reds that can take a lot of oak.

Also like Aussie Shiraz, it is capable of deftness as well as heft; in the right hands, it is plummy but not blowsy, fruited and spicy but fresh and food-friendly

The Malbecs of Argentina are an historic clone brought over from France in the 19th century that is now considered extinct in its native country. Argentine Malbec is has a deep colour, intense fruit and a plush, velvety texture.

Malbec is one of the UK's more popular grapes and is a great match for grilled red meats, especially char-grilled bone-in steaks.

Here are three Argentinean Malbecs from Tesco, all with a bit of age.

My personal favourite here is the DV Catena for its European-style fresh fruit, lower alcohol and sophisticated oaking.

Also from Catena, the Tesco Finest is a little more expressive, so think barbecue more than dinner table. With a degree more alcohol, the Vinalba is a more concentrated, bigger, fuller wine that demands rich, gamey foods.

All these wines will benefit from an hour or so in the decanter and have further aging potential.

Tesco Finest The Trilogy Malbec, Mendoza, 2018 (£12)

Produced and bottled by Bodegas y Vinedos Catena, 

From the very beginning The Wines of Catena set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza, identifying the best microclimates for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Malbec.

In addition, new techniques of cluster thinning and harvest practices were implemented to further increase concentration. 

Located by the Andes Mountains in west Argentina, the province of Mendoza is renowned for housing some of the best winegrowing regions of Argentina. The character of Mendoza wines is forged in high altitude desert vineyards irrigated by mineral-rich snowmelt from glaciers and snowfields.

Altitudes range from 1,000 to 5,000 feet, where the foothills rise steeply toward the Andes' peaks. High altitude means cool temperatures, clear air and more sunlight which develops flavour.

Sourced from three exceptional high altitude vineyard sites in the Uco Valley, Lunlunta and Agrelo, which produce Malbec of perfect balance, concentration and elegance, this wine goes through an extensive cold maceration for 3 days to extract aromas.

The juice is then fermented for 10 days with further post-fermentation maceration of 24 days. The wine then sees French and American oak. Barrel selection varies depending on the vineyard - First, second and third use barrels are used

dark fruits and black olives with spice, dried green herbs and cocoa; supple and juicy with cassis, ripe bramble fruits, plush rounded tannins, pencil shavings and an inky texture; spicy, concentrated and long.


Drinks nicely on first opening and improves with some aeration and can be further cellared.

Great with grilled, roasted or barbecued meat.

DV Catena Tinto Historico Malbec, Mendoza, 2019 (£12)

Catena wines are a special assemblage of High Mountain Estate Vineyards made by fourth generation vintner, Laura Catena and chief winemaker, Alejandro Vigil.

Through decades of study and exploration within Mendoza's high altitude mountain terroirs, the Catena family has identified special locations for its Estate vineyards. From the marriage of these historic vineyards merges a wine of unique character that has natural balance, concentration and a distinct varietal identity. 

This wine is made from a blend of two vineyards harvested at different times. The Angelica vineyard which is at 920m elevation with alluvial soils and the El Cepillo Vineyard at 1090m elevation.

A blend of 95% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Bonarda made to honor Don Domingo's legendary abilities as a master blender.

Domingo Vicente Catena married Angélica Zapata in 1934, giving birth to the Catena Zapata tradition. With a singular sense of passion and dedication, he devoted his life to improving the cultivation of the vine in Mendoza.

Domingo Vicente Catena, Laura Catena's grandfather, thought that Malbec could made a wine as great as the best of France. Upon his death, his son Nicolás Catena decided to honour his father by making Malbec world-famous.

This wine is made using various techniques to help enhance the extract of aromas. It is fermented using wild yeasts to increase the complexity of the finished wine. It then spends 12 months in oak barrels.

red and black berry fruits, spice; ripe, juicy plum fruit with  complex spices and cocoa powder; plush, full and supple with savoury freshness; well-made and well-structured with good underpinnings.


Drinks nicely on first opening and improves with some aeration and can be further cellared.

Savoury, fresh and versatile match this with roast chicken or turkey as well as more obvious red meats.

It has 95 points from James Suckling.

Vinalba Gran Reservado Malbec, Mendoza, 2018  (£16)

The grapes are harvested in the first half of April by hand into small trays of 20kg to prevent damage and then meticulously sorted twice in order to select the best grapes for this wine.

Cold maceration takes for 5 days followed by fermentation in temperature controlled tanks at 28° with indigenous yeast and 4 pump overs per day and a period of 25 days of maceration. 

The wines are made by Bordeaux-born pioneer Hervé J. Fabre who was the first to make single varietal Argentine Malbec after recognising the true potential of the grape.

Viñalba offers a range of beautifully crafted wines, combining Argentina's purity of fruit and clear varietal expression with the elegance and complexity which are the hallmarks of Hervé's classical background. Mendoza has become one of the most dynamic wine producing regions in the world with an enviable array of grape varieties, many of which are planted at high altitudes.

The Gran Reservado Malbec is Fabre's flagship wine, hand-crafted by winemaker Hervé J Fabre to showcase the quality that Argentine Malbec can produce.

dark and inky with cassis, black cherries, black olives and complex spices; plush blackberry, blueberry and black cherry fruit with liquorice, cool mint and florality; full and supple with concentrated intensity.


Match with lamb or darker game, such as duck or venison.

Benefits from some aeration and will repay some cellaring.