A poised and expressive rosé from Australia's Hancock & Hancock After a soggy start, there are signs of it actually being a bit summery now; good rosé need not be a purely light, sipping, outdoors affair but a bit of warm sunshine helps.
This is a serious rosé and is priced accordingly; it is made under the auspices of Australia's Robert Oatley whose wines I've always found impressive.
The packaging is distinctive and a screwcap always comes in handy for picnics. Robert Oatley Hancock & Hancock Grenache Rose 2018 McLaren Vale (£14.95, Cambridge Wine Merchants and other independents) salmon-pink with pithy grapefruit, zippy-zesty thick-skinned yeastiness, raspberry, pomegranate and sour cherry fruit, sweet spices and florality; fresh, elegant and saline-mineral. Textured, poised and expressive.
Drink as an aperitif (in good weather) or match with grilled chilli prawns, spicy dishes or charcuterie.
A heavily-extracted southern Italian red from Laithwaites
Laithwaites is the greasy take-away of wine, the slutty pizza of plonk; heavy-handed, unsubtle and lacking in finesse.
Sometimes, simple-and-uncomplicated is what you want; fish and chips on the beach, Friday night curry, Pret sandwich at your desk.
But - and here's the rub - there's a difference between being uncomplicated and being inelegant. Coco Chanel's LBD is uncomplicated and fabulously elegant. Bernard Manning's comedy act is unsubtle and brash.
Imagine you've made a pot of tea and served everyone; there's now a few teabags sitting at the bottom of the pot in their stewed, dark brown juices and you fancy another cup. You put the kettle on, pour over some boiling water and squeeze the last few drops of flavour out, then add a generous dash of milk hoping for the best.
That's your Laithwaites wine - thick, heavy and extracted all the while claiming to be "sumptuous", "powerful" or "velevety". These are all euphemisms for "unsubtle and extracted".
In the words of Doctor Evil, Laithwaites are not quite elegant enough; they're semi-elegant, quasi-elegant, the margarine of elegance, the diet Coke of elegance, just one calorie, not elegant enough.
Extraction does for a wine what the bass drum does for rock music - it gives you a hit of something substantial that you feel more than hear or taste. But it needs to be used judiciously or it soon becomes dull and repetitive. You need to mix it up a bit with tom-tom, snare and high hat.
And this is where Laithwaites dishonesty annoys me - I've said it before, Laithwaites are a wine seller and not a wine educator, but a more honest description would be "extracted and unsubtle" rather than "sumptuous and velvety".
Granted, they'd probably sell fewer wines and alienate their customers, but hey.
Pillastro Primitivo 2018 (£10.99) dark-berry fruits and sweet spices; heavy on extraction, yet otherwise balanced fresh and long. Becomes tedious after more than a couple of glasses.
It's not faulty or a bad wine; it is popular with Laithwaites customers - the oenological equivalent of a greasy pizza and a best of Bernard Manning DVD.
This Sunday is Fathers' Day; a day for Dads, a day to think of our Dads and about how much we love them. And maybe even tell them (if we can).
My Dad is generally happy drinking whatever is put in front of him; I can't be with him this Fathers' Day, so I'll toast him with a glass of something suitably Dad-like. And tell my kids some dad-jokes.
Irresistible Cognac (£20, the Co-op) warming, alcoholic and spicy with some nail polish on the nose; smooth and rich, with mixed fruit, baked apple and sweet caramel.
Drink as a digestif; match with espresso and dark chocolate or a raspberry meringue.
A tasting of Indigo Wines at Cambridge's Thirsty & Hungry He doesn't have spiky hair and studs, but Sam Owens is still something of a punk; the man behind Thirsty and now Hungry & Thirsty (they also serve food), he is energetic, visionary and iconoclastic.
The Thirsty empire is not just about selling drinks, but more a social way of life and bringing people together. The wine list changes regularly and is low on classics or standards; instead there is a real mixture of places, grapes, production methods and packaging.
The consistency of Thirsty is in the quality and the style, a well-made, vibrant freshness; it is a place where you go to explore rather than simply return to the same again.
The latest addition is a range of wines from Indigo, a multi-award-winning importer with a reputation as one of the UK's most interesting independent importers of quirky, artisanal wines. With a particular strength in Iberia, they champion small producers who practise low intervention approaches.
My highlights were:
Dão Branco (Alvaro Castro, Portugal) bright and fresh Portuguese white made from indigenous varieties with zesty citrus and a mineral finish
Soplo (Rafael Cambra, Spain) fresh, perfumed Garnacha with touch of earth and leather
Dajoar (Andreas Bender, Mosel) off-dry with a playful sweetness that balances out the crisp acidity. This is beautifully bright and fresh, with plenty of green and yellow fruits, great intensity and grip on the mid- palate and a long mineral finish
7 Fuentes (Suertes del Marqués, Tenerife) a blend of several plots, all on volcanic soils, and its main component is the wildly aromatic Listán Negro, followed by a small amount of Tintilla (aka Trousseau), juicy and refreshing
Newly-created and based in the Languedoc village of Montblanc, Maison Bruno Andreu has been in existence for only one vintage so far.
The eponymous former marketing manager of Château La Condamine Bertrand decided to set up on his own in late 2017 and established Maison Bruno Andreu in January 2018, buying and renovating a winery.
The red, Elixir, has won a TOP 100 medal; the Sauvignon is more New-world style.
Aromatic Sauvignon (Champagne & Château, ANZAC; £9 - £12) aromatic, pungent and zesty with ripe tropical and yellow stone fruits; clean and expressive, Marlborough-esque, with good underpinnings.
Match with antipasti, white fish in a herb broth or drink as an aperitif.
Elixir (Elegant Wine, £12 - £16) baked black fruits, cocoa, black olives and gingery spice; fine, firm tannins. Long, with a dense core. Improves with extended aeration. Good. Match with roast red meats.
A(nother) mixed bag of wines from Laithwaites A bank holiday weekend meant a trip up to my parents'.
Over the course of three days, we ate, drank and caught up with each other over various meals. The kids had put in a special request for fish and chips and a curry and there were home-cooked meals as well, so we ended up trying quite a range of drinks.
Some were better than others.
Mum has a fondness for Laithwaites wines that I've never quite understood; Dad's generally happy with whatever's put in his glass.
I have to confess to a certain amount of eye-rolling about Laithwaites wines - they are usually not terrible, just rather dull. in that sense, they conform to Rory Sutherland's definition of a brand as being a guarantee of non-crapness.
My complaint is not so much that the wines are mediocre (they are) or that they are oversold (they are) or overpriced (they are). No, it's the whiff of dishonesty that irks; the slight-of-hand, the knowing-yet-confidential references, the casual mentions of high-priced / high-scoring wines, the almost-religious belief in the most tenuous of connections.
Domaine Bisconte 2017, Cotes du Roussillon AOC (£12.99 plus delivery) the best of the three and highest rated by Laithwaites customers (4.3/5); dark fruits, garrigue herbs and spice; fresh and mineral with very fine tannins. Deft, harmonious and accomplished.
Match with roast red meat or darker game.
Viña Tarapacá Malbec Shiraz 2018 (£10.49 plus delivery) gets a lowly 3.0/5 from Laithwaites customers; confected and jammy, aiming for a bigger-is-better style.
Castelo do Vinteiro 2016, Douro DOC (£10.49 plus delivery) voted 3.5/5; dark berry fruit and fine tannins; on the plus side, it's fresh and balanced.
A mature Medoc from Cambridge Wine Merchants Mature red Bordeaux is something special; age does something to a wine that nothing else quite achieves.
Maturing wines can become an expensive business if you put them in storage or even buy your own wine fridge. It is not for the buy-open-drink crowd.
I inadvertently carried out not just one, but several aging experiments with this wine bought on special offer for under a tenner at Cambridge Wine Merchants in 2010.
The first was to buy two cases and drink them over the following decade; youthful and grippy even at five years, it has - like all of us - softened and mellowed with time.
The second was to store both cases under the stairs, but with one in the rack and the other in the box on the floor. The last couple of bottles of "rack" wines were faded and somewhat disappointing. By contrast, the "box" bottles have proven extremely well-preserved and show no signs of deterioration.
So it is possible to age wines at home without expensive equipment; you just need to make really sure they stay cool.
It is also both possible and desirable to age relatively inexpensive wines for a significant period of time; bear in mind 2005 conforms to Jancis Robinson's Bordeaux "rule of five", so look for 2010s or 2015s if you want to lay something down now.
Finally, the wine also picked up a nod from Tim Atkin, as well as a couple of gongs.
So, if you want to try aging wines, pick a style that is intended for aging, buy enough to be able to try one every six months or so and see how it develops over time, keep it really cool and look for critical recommendations.
This one still has plenty of life left in it and as I'm now down to my last two bottles, I'll leave it at least a year or so before I try it again.
These two are Big Brands and none the worse for it. Well-made, well-presented, easy-drinking; what's not to like? For me, the gently-oaked Chardie is the more enjoyable wine; the Shiraz I find a little fruit-forward.
Oxford Landing River Crossing Chardonnay 2017 (£8) toasty-oaky with lemon-lime and melon fruit; ripe and honeyed, saline and mineral; supple and savoury with no rough edges.
Thoroughly enjoyable and good value.
A versatile food wine, match with chicken, hard cheese or meaty white fish.
Oxford Landing River Crossing Shiraz 2017 (£8) ripe dark fruit, inky pencil shavings and spice with menthol. Fresh with no rough edges. Fruited and easy-drinking. Thoroughly enjoyable. Match with herby sausages, salami or bolognese.
Master of Wine and rosé enthusiast, Liz Gabay describes pink wine as oenology's ugly duckling well in need of a re-appraisal.
Vignobles Foncalieu is a southern French collective based in the heart Languedoc who are pioneering new approaches to wine; I have been nothing but impressed with not just their wines, but also their innovation and willingness to challenge convention in presentation, such as labelling, packaging ans design.
It may seem a moot point to judge a wine by its labelling, but scan a shelf of wines quickly and few will stand out, however good their contents; Foncalieu's wines are distinctively presented and memorable.
The first has a Boaty McBoatface of a name; the second clearly has an eye on the designer rosé market with its elegant frosted bottle and glass stopper.
Drink either of these wines as an aperitif, with aromatic starters, sushi or mixed antipasti. Griset Gris de Gris 2018 herbaceous and floral-blossomy with white pepper, citrus, passionfruit, grapefruit and menthol. Fresh, nervy and precise; mineral and linear.
Paradis Secret a zeitgeisty rosé with a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah; very pale and elegant with white stone fruits, citrus and some red-berry fruit; white pepper, zippy lime and grapefruit. Precise and linear, supple with saline minerality. Good.
A ripe and full Gewürztraminer from Alsace's Cave du Vieil Armand via Auchan Gewürztraminer is not the easiest wine to track down in the UK, but a quick search suggests that you will find a few supermarket examples as well as at your local wine merchant; I brought this one back from France.
Aromatic with exotic fruits and spices, Gewürztraminer is highly distinctive, perhaps even a bit Marmite in that you will probably either love it or loathe it.
The New World produces some Gewürz - you will find it in New Zealand and Chile - and its name purports to originate from the German-speaking Alto Adige or Südtirol (the name means "Spicy from Tramin / Termeno").
However, the spiritual home of Gewurz is Alsace where it is one of the most widely-planted grapes. This is a medal-winner with a couple of years in bottle.
Cave du Vieil Armand Medaille Gewurztraminer 2016 (Auchan) musky perfume and blossom, ripe tropical fruits, exotic spices and honeysuckle with classic rose-petal-and-lychee flavours. Aromatic and full with an oily-waxy, late-harvest viscosity yet dry on the finish; supple, fresh, adept and substantial.
Drinking nicely now and will age. Very Good. Drink with rich pâtés or gingery stir fries.