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A full and spicy Gewurztraminer from Alsace's Vins Paul Schneider

One of things I love about driving holidays in Europe is the opportunity to pick up some really great wines for just a few euros - in some cases from areas that do not always get good representation in the UK.

With its neat, timbered villages bedecked with hanging baskets, Alsace is an intriguing mixture of French gastronomy and German kitsch. As a rule of thumb, the further down you go on the Alsace wine route, the prettier the villages and the better the wines.

South of Colmar, Eguisheim is one of the later stops on the routes des vins; centred around a small square with a fountain, the village is essentially three very colourful concentric circles.

As you enter the village, on your right is the cellar door of 4th generation independent winemaker Vins Paul Scheider.


Gewurztraminer La Cuvée de Claire, 2016 - Vins Paul Scheneider (c. €6, cellar door) ripe yellow stone fruit, pineapple, sweet spices, florality and beeswax; fresh and mineral with hints of late-harvest character. Rich, full and savoury with excellent underpinnings. Will improve further with age.

Very Good.
Match with rich Alsatian dishes, such as tarte flambée or coq au Riesling.
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An award-winning Cockburns port from The Co-op

Sweet and strong, port is an indulgent round-off to a meal.

Ruby ports are the most affordable of all styles; full of vibrant youthful fruit, spice and eucalyptus, they are almost a dessert in themselves and will also match with chocolate-and-cherry-based desserts

Cockburn's Special Port (£12.99) sweet, red-berry fruits, spices and warming eucalyptus; substantial, harmonious and mellow.
Good.
Match with dark chocolate or chocolate torte.
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A typically blowsy Spanish red from Bujanda via Laithwaites

It's no secret that I am not generally a fan of Laithwaites wines; brash, obvious and unsophisticated. And that's just the advertising.

Copa Real / Cop-a-feel is a bit like someone's bit on the side - desperate for attention and hoping you won't ask too many questions.

Fur coat and no knickers.

There's lots going on up-front (too much) but it can't deliver on the promise.

Copa Real 2014 (£7.99) lifted oaky spice, with liquorice, baked red berry and bramble fruit and fine tannins. Mellow but not harmonious - alcoholic and drying on the finish.

Avoid.

Match with strongly-flavoured foods, such as spicy sausages or a stew, to mask the poor finish.
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A light, delicate and drinkable Mosel Riesling

This review is rather pointless - if you already like the delicate, racy fruit-and-minerality of Mosel Rieslings, you don't need me to convince you.

If you don't, a single review is unlikely to have you swapping over from your glass of Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio.

Light, delicate and floral, this is a perfect summer sipper for a heatwave.

Von Der Leyen Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay Riesling Kabinett 2016 floral, citrus and ripe yellow fruits with beeswax, minerality and zip; light, deft and elegant. Will age.

Good.
Best for sipping in the garden on a hot day; match with light fish dishes.
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A good-value, classy fizz from The Co-op

On a good day, a well-made Prosecco can outperform a mediocre Champagne and will give you much better value for money.

Adding fizz to a meal turns it into an occasion - this Co-op Prosecco is an award-winning crowd-pleaser that is easy on the wallet.

Co-op Irresistible Prosecco Special Cuvée Brut £7.99 light, crisp, fresh and citrussy with orchard fruit and a good mousse. Deft, elegant and refeshing.

Good and Good Value.

Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.
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A classy New World Chardonnay from Waitrose

Chardonnay comes in a range of styles from lean-yet-compelling Chablis to buttery, oatmealy New World chardie.

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

Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2016, Russian River Valley (Waitrose, £17.99) ripe orchard fruits, honeydew melon and pineapple and creamy, oatmealy leesiness. Lush and rich; very adept and harmonious.

Good.
A versatile wine; drink as an aperitif or match with seafood or white meats.
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A textbook New World Chardie from Majestic

Back in the '90s, New World Chardonnay meant ripe fruit with sweetly spicy oak; this cool-climate Californian Chardonnay is exactly what a New World chardie should be - ripe, pleasing and easy-drinking yet also sophisticated, balanced and restrained.

It's bigger and fuller than an Old World / Burgundian Chardonnay, so don't take Chablis as a reference point for "cool-climate"; but by the standards of the heavy, alcoholic monoliths the New World has produced, it is decidedly restrained.

Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Central Coast (Majestic, £13.99) supple and generous, with baked apple and ripe stone fruits; deftly oaked with freshness and good underpinnings.

Will age.

Good.

A versatile food wine, it will match with creamy pasta dishes, chicken and mushrooms or meaty white fish.
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A port and Prosecco from the Co-op

The best meals, like great films, have a brilliant begining and ending, as well as being good in the middle.

My go-to for turning a meal into an occasion is to start with fizz and end with something sweet.

There are occasions and there are occasions; it's not always a significant birthday or anniversary. So if you have a mixed group of people, or your reason for celebrating is simply that it's the weekend and the sun is shining, then a good Prosecco to kick off and a decent ruby port to finish will keep even the most discerning palates satisfied.

With more fruit and ripeness than Champagne, Prosecco is a crowd-pleaser with bubbles - and what's not to like about sweet cherry fruit, warming spices and minty eucalyptus as you kick back at the end of a meal.

Both these wines from the Co-op are well-made, enjoyable and affordable. And don't just take my word for it - both have a Decanter World Wine Award Silver Medal

- Co-op Irresistible Prosecco Special Cuvée Brut (£7.99)
- Cockburn's Special Port (£12.99)
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A enjoyable and sophisticated cool-climate Californian white

When you name a wine Pinot Gris, as opposed to Pinot Grigio, you are immediately suggesting the big, full and ripe-yet-dry style of Alsace as your reference point (as opposed to the lighter, crisper Pinot Grigio style).

This Californian Pinot Gris has all the hallmarks of an Alsace wine - perfumed and floral, yet dry and balanced.

It's not stereotypically brash in a US sort of way, but it is Big and Expressive with lots of fruit - Vin Diesel rather than Vincent Van Gogh.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley (Great Western Wine, £17.95) expressive, perfumed and floral with white flowers, ripe pear and sweetly-spiced baked apple and ginger fruit. Fresh and rounded.

Substantial and well-made; ready for drinking now but will improve with age.

Good.

Match with big foods, such a seared scallops with pancetta, Thai fishcakes or gravadlax.

Tom Cannavan also makes it his wine of the week.
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Three "cool-climate" whites from California

If Californian wines make you think of big, oaky, monolithic, more-is-better pantechnicons, the good news is that the New World is also learning the value of subtlety, elegance and freshness.

There's still plenty of easy-drinking fruit, but it now comes with a more sophisticated and restrained freshness.

Not so much Die Hard, more The Fifth Element.

These three Californian whites are easy to enjoy, but also accomplished and adept; priced in the mid-teens, they represent reasonable value.

From left to right:

- Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Central Coast (Majestic £13.99)
- Frei Brothers Chardonnay 2016, Russian River Valley (Waitrose, £17.99)
- MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley (Great Western Wine, £17.95)
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