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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.

Friday, 1 July 2022

Six Centre Loire Wines

Six Centre Loire wines

There's an old saw in the wine trade about punters who declaim: I never drink Chardonnay but I love Chablis.

I've heard this story many times from retailers and educators but I have never actually heard the statement uttered by anyone.

And while it may be fun to laugh at the nonsense that people say, or are reported to have said, there is actually some truth in the idea.

Chablis is, of course, made from the Chardonnay grape, so at face value the statement is nonsense. 

However, "Chardonnay" was for a long time the varietal labelling of many an overripe, over-oaked New World wine, so there can indeed be a valid distinction between a cool-climate, steely wine with "Chablis" on the bottle versus plonk from some antipodean Creek or Gully labelled as "Chardonnay".

Today's equivalent to this may well be: I never drink Sauvignon but I love Loire whites.

New Zealand Sauvignon took the aromatic potential of the great Loire grape and turning it up to 11 discovered the 21st Century's first proper darling - for a while, at least. The combination of cool maritime climates, extended skin contact and temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation resulted in a pungent expressive white with as much subtlety as Robin Williams after too many glasses of orange squash.

And just as Chablis remains the OG for Chardonnay, Loire whites have a timeless, classic complexity and sophistication this is neither as as in-yer-face and thrillingly modern as Marlborough c. 2004 nor as dated now either.
These six wines from Centre Loire - the middle section of one of France's great rivers -  show what this region can do in terms of colour and price.

Of the whites, right now, the entry-level wine from Coteaux du Giennois (no, me neither) is drinking best, but given a couple of years the more ambitious Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre will round out and become more harmonious. If you must drink them young, match with some food and give them plenty of time in the decanter.

The Quincy has a warmth and heft that demands weighty foods.

The rosé is an elegant and complex Pinot Gris while the red from Menetou Salon red is an atypical Pinot; darker, leafier and less farmyardy than Burgundy. Tasted blind, I would have guessed Cab Franc.

Coteaux du Giennois, Taste the Difference 2020/2021 £11.00 (Sainsbury’s)

100% Sauvignon Blance with some aging on fine lees.

lifted aromatics, lemongrass, mint and fresh green herbs; citrus, melon and orchard fruits with flinty, slatey minerality, leesiness and good underpinnings.

Drinks nicely on first pouring.


Match with goat's cheese or seafood starters.

Pouilly-Fumé, Domaine Chatelain 2020/2021 £16.99 (Waitrose)

100% Sauvignon Blanc from vines aged 30 - 45 years; aged on fine lees.

flinty herbaceous nose with grapefruit pith; saline mineral with citrus, melon, ripe white stone fruits and green apple; zippy lime marmalade ; elegant, concentrated and very adept.

Improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Very Good.

Match with white fish, seafood or pork terrine.

Sancerre, Château de Crézancy 2020/2021 £19.99 or £17.99 mix six (Majestic Wine)

100% Sauvignon Blanc aged on fine lees until April of the following year

flinty with stone fruits and honeysuckle florality; white peach, citrus, grass, pear, and yellow bell pepper with wet stone minerality, lemongrass, grapefruit and lime; complex with leesy, brazil nut savouriness and good underpinnings.

Improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Very Good.

Match with goat's cheese or mackerel paté salad.

Quincy Vieilles Vignes Domaine du Tremblay 2020 £14.50 (The Wine Society)

100% Sauvignon Blanc with some aging on fine lees.

baked spiced apple and lemon meringue pie; warming, weighty and viscous with dried orchard fruits and yellow stone fruit, sweet spices, creamy brazil nut, persistent savoury leesiness and saline minerality.

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

Match with weightier dishes such as roast pork or pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce.

Reuilly Rosé Les Chatillons, Denis Jamain 2020 £15.95 (BBR)

100% Pinot Gris with three hours of skin contact and five months of fine lees aging.

delicate red berry fruits, florality and savoury leesiness; fresh, citrussy, saline and supple with ripe white stone fruits, orchard fruits, melon and a touch of warming sweet spices.

Improves with aeration.

Very Good

A versatile food rosé; match with weightier picnic foods such as cold cuts, quiche

Menetou Salon red, Domaine Chavet La Cote 2020 £16.99 (Virgin Wines)

100% Pinot Noir grown on Kimmeridgian soil of fossilised oysters; aged in vats and large oak foudres.

dark translucent purple; red and black berry fruits, raspberry leaf, and spicy-savoury miso; fresh and minty-herbaceous with juicy red and black cherry fruit, soft berries and spice; concentrated and supple with very fine tannins. Very deft and accomplished.

Very Good.


Chris Kissak's review of Quincy Vieilles Vignes Domaine du Tremblay: Domaine du Tremblay Quincy Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2020 • Winedoctor (thewinedoctor.com)