This was a tasting to live long in the memory. All the wines were tasted blind and included in each flight a wine from 1982, 1985, 1988 and 1989 though not necessarily in that order. The Grand Cru Classé wines certainly stood out, and generally the better the cru, the better the wine, which really is how it should be. However, some of the lesser crus with lower price tags to match definitely acquitted themselves extremely well against their more expensive neighbours.
These are my tasting notes and therefore only my opinion. Overall, the three favourite wines of the 12 tasters (I was the only woman) were wines 3,12 and 9. Mine were 3, 10 and 8 and 9 joint third.
1. Château Potensac 1985 Médoc Cru Bourgeois
The aromas were at first very mature but at the same time incredibly expressive – forest floor, cedar, musky, minty with hints of Christmas spiciness. On the palate it was smooth, light (from age) delicate and elegant. The length was gentle and pleasant. However…….as one might expect from a Médoc of this age, which strictly speaking, and despite its Cru Bourgeois classification, had no right to be this good, it fell apart quickly in the glass.
2. Château d’Issan 1988 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé
3. Château Léoville Las Cases 1982 St. Julien 2ème Cru Classé
Typical old classic Bordeaux aromas of cedar, pencil shavings, iodine with a delightful datey Madeira edge. I could have continued to enjoy smelling this for several hours. Amazingly firm, rich and long with, to me, perfect balance. The pruney fruit, the bold tannins, the savoury flavours were completed by the dignified acidity. A seriously classy wine.
4. Château Lynch Bages 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé
Aromas of dried fruits, coffee and liquorice with a slight bitter edge. Still bold in structure and with noticeably powerful tannins, savoury rather than sweet fruit. Unbelievably, I suspect this would benefit with a bit longer in the cellar.
5. Château Batailley 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé
Prunes and treacle aromas on the nose, which I found very appealing, mingling nicely as they did with cherry fruit. This was gentle on the palate, smooth and elegant with some still lush fruit and soft tannins.
6. Château Labégorce Zédé 1988 Margaux Cru Bourgeois
Very badly corked – a veritable stink bomb.
7. Château Beaumont 1982 Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois
My note said that it was standing up well. Now I know what it is, I have to give it huge credit for standing up at all – a petit château, a favourite of the Mercian, competing well alongside the big boys. It was without doubt much less complex than most of the wines, but its pruney, figgy nose and palate of light tannins and silky texture and even its lasting finish are to be admired.
8. Château Lagrange 1985 St. Julien
So powerful I felt it must be a Pauillac and 1989 – wrong on both counts. It appeared much younger than its age (would that I could claim the same characteristics) showing a red fruit, porty nose with the ubiquitous cedar. There were meaty, smoky, tarry flavours on the palate, a classy lasting finish – a truly memorable wine.
9. Château Pichon Lalande 1982 Pauillac 2ème Cru Classé
Black fruit, eucalypt, black olive, charcoal, cassis – incredibly complex and enticing. Amazingly the fruit on the palate was still lusciously sweet with delightful hints of spice on the long, caressing and gentle finish. This was undoubtedly classy and serious. What was confusing was that the following wine was three years younger but looked ten years older – GCC will out!
10. Château d’Issan 1985 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé
Kirsch cherry aromas, undergrowth, leather on the bouquet. I loved the balance and softness of this wine; the fruit was luscious, the acidity lively, the tannins long and elegant, graceful to the finish. A very smart wine which I thoroughly enjoyed.
11. Château Meyney 1988 St.Estèphe Cru Bourgeois
Alongside the other wines, this seemed rather simple, short and a bit disappointing. I’d like to think that had it been tasted without its superior cousins it might have been more appreciated. The nose came across as vanilla cream and the palate lacked acidity, was gloopy and short. It was the only wine, corked wines excepted, I didn’t rate.
12. Château Angélus 1989 St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé (now Premier Grand Cru Classé A)
Although I did get this as a very serious wine, I would never have put it on the right bank. What do I know? I have had the privilege of tasting Angélus a few times (one day I might actually drink some) and can appreciate its quality but it is not a wine gives I find easy. My notes suggest a classy wine; on the nose were coffee, roasted nuts and liquorice. Powerful, savoury flavours with high acidity and a long complex finish.
Not all wines age beautifully, most are not designed to but if you are lucky enough to have a cellar-full, store them well and you could be in for a treat. Try do not to be in the hapless position of the chap below.
The annual VDP* Grosses Gewäches** tasting in Wiesbaden is a remarkable event – an unrivalled opportunity to try the latest vintage of Germany’s top dry wines, accompanied by levels of organisation and service that could probably only be encountered in Germany. This year, we were tasting whites from the 2016 vintage and reds from 2015 – very much a privilege to attend.
Compared to the ripe, very accessible 2015’s, the 2016’s offer a return to a cooler, more classic vintage. Levels of acidity are high but are more than balanced by extract and, in the majority of cases, intensity of fruit. The Rieslings from the Mosel are marked by crisp fruit and laser-sharp purity – not always easy to taste now, but with great promise for the future. I only tasted a limited number but enough to find stunning wines from Van Volxem and Nik Weis – St Urbans-Hof in particular.
The Nahe Rieslings also looked strong, not surprisingly showing more weight and ripeness of fruit. I particularly liked the line-up from Dr Crusius – wines that are classically-styled and highly expressive, giving every indication that they can be enjoyed earlier than many others. For those looking for wines to lay down, the selections from Kruger-Rumpf, Dönnhof, Emrich-Schönleber and Schäfer-Fröhlich were all outstanding. I was also struck by the admirable consistency and top quality of the wines from the Felsenberg vineyard in Schlossböckelheim.
Rheinhessen was also of high quality. There were predictably strong showings from Keller and Wittmann, and it was refreshing to find beautiful Rieslings from three producers new to me, KF Groebe, Kühling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier. I tasted a limited selection from the Pfalz, where Knipser excelled, alongside a fabulous flight from the Forster Kirchenstück vineyard, including a 2015 ringer from Reichsrat von Buhl that some saw as the wine of the tasting.
I didn’t get round to tasting the Rheingau, largely because I was distracted by a sensational flight of Franken Rieslings which showed tremendous depth of flavour and character for the vintage. Rudolf Fürst, Horst Sauer and Rainer Sauer all stood out.
2016 also looks an excellent vintage for Franken Silvaner, led by particularly fine offerings from the Sauer estates and Michael Fröhlich, and highly consistent wines from the Am Lumpen 1655 vineyard in Escherndorf.
Curiously enough though, the revelation of the whites for me was the quality of the Weisser Burgunders. Generally they were less austere than the Rieslings whilst still showing admirable vitality and freshness. They struck me as perfect for relatively early drinking and highly versatile with food. Highlights were the wines from Knipser, Messmer and Bernhart in the Pfalz and a wonderful, oaked, Burgundy-style 2015 Gips Marienglas from Gerhard Aldinger in Württemberg. Not surprisingly the Chardonnays were reminiscent of Burgundy too, with especially strong efforts from the 2015 vintage offered by Bernhard Huber and Dr Heger.
Given the warmth and ripeness of the 2015 vintage, I had high hopes for the Spätburgunder and tasted all of these. Overall the vintage was not as consistent as I had hoped: many wines, especially from Rheinhessen (a sensational Morstein 2014 from Keller excepted), Pfalz and Württemberg, were either a little simple or betrayed levels of extraction or oaking that somehow stifled the natural spring of the variety. As Pinot Noir producers around the world will testify, balance in wines made from this grape is often tantalisingly out of reach. My conclusion is to stick to the proven high achievers and, if necessary, to pay the extra. In the Pfalz, Knipser and Philipp Kuhn are both producing attractive, highly flavoursome wines. For those looking for more age-worthy wines, those of Friedrich Becker have a strong following. In Franken, there is little reason to look beyond Rudolf Fürst, a genuine master of Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir. In Baden, there were some beautiful wines from Huber, Dr Heger and Franz Keller. A new name on me, Ernst Dautel, stood out in Württemberg and, last but certainly not least, there was a spectacular showing from Meyer-Näkel and JJ Adeneuer in the Ahr. There is no doubt that the best of these 2015’s merit a place at the top table of international Pinot Noir.
Just one final thought. Both wine professionals and the public, in the UK at least, have become conditioned to thinking of white wines in terms of whether they are dry or sweet – and anything in the middle is condemned to a Room 101 scenario where the word “medium” is strictly forbidden. The wines in this VDP tasting are Grosses Gewäches and therefore, by definition, dry. However I was struck by the fact that the words dry or sweet featured relatively rarely in my tasting notes and, when they did, were attached to the less successful wines. The best German wines (and I would make the same argument for Alsace) have a natural balance and mouth-watering fruit quality that over-ride any notion of dryness or sweetness. If somehow these wines could be served more often in fine dining environments, without prejudice or preconception, I am sure that they would find favour with a new generation of wine drinkers.
*Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweinguter (VDP): The oldest association of wine estates in the world (founded in 1910), strictly dedicated to producing premium quality wines only. The VDP counts many of Germany’s most respected wineries amongst its 200 members.
**Grosses Gewäches (First / Great Growth): A quality level in all German wine regions excluding the Rheingau, where it is named “Erstes Gewäches”. A “Grosses Gewäches” wine must have been grown in certified vineyards and can only be produced by a VDP member winery. Always vinified dry, red wines may not be released before 1st of September two years after the vintage, white wines not before 1st of September of the following year. In each wine region, there are only a few grape varieties permitted for producing “Grosses Gewäches” wines.
The following wine merchants are good sources of German wine:
Argentina is and always has been a red wine country, yes?
Wrong. As recently as the 1980’s, 90% of the country’s wine was white.
Argentina is all about Malbec, of course……
Wrong. Under 20% of the country’s current grape plantings are Malbec.
Argentina is a hot country so the wines are high in alcohol and low in acidity.
Wrong. The country has many vineyards in higher altitudes and in the cooler south which produce wines with perfect freshness and vitality.
The success of Malbec in export markets has transformed the country’s wine fortunes.
Wrong. Over 70% of Argentina’s wine production is still consumed locally.
Being in the southern hemisphere, presumably it is drier in the north and wetter in the south?
Wrong. The influence of the Brazilian rain forest means that actually there is more rainfall in Salta in the north than in Patagonia in the south.
Drip irrigation is better than flood irrigation – surely?
Wrong, at least in some circumstances: flood irrigation can help vines develop broader root systems, prevents soils from becoming too salty and protects against phylloxera.
In February, I was fortunate enough to join 40 other Masters of Wine on a week-long visit to Argentina…….and it certainly threw up plenty of surprises. The country’s wine industry has had something of a roller-coaster ride over the last 40 years. In 1978, wine consumption peaked at 90 litres a head per annum – mainly of white wine, often mixed with water or soda as a long drink, and starting at lunchtime. Since then, as soft drinks and beer have become more popular (and the siesta is less likely to be taken), wine consumption has plummeted so it now stands at nearer 20 litres per head. And in the 1980’s alone, the country lost 40% of its vineyards as there was no market for their grapes. Add to the mix rampant inflation and a highly unstable political environment and it is not hard to imagine that life has been tough and unpredictable for wine producers.
And yet we found a wine industry that is dynamic, youthful and sophisticated. The current government commands the respect of business people; viticultural and winemaking practices are advanced and, in areas such as the use of unlined concrete vats, leading the world; and although domestic wine consumption may have declined, it is now constant at a level that creates business confidence and permits a growing focus on exports. On our visit many of the country’s leading wine producers cooperated for the first time to deliver a high class programme of vineyard visits, seminars and tastings. Given how young many of the vineyards in newer areas are, there is every reason to believe that Argentina’s best wines lie in the future.
The white wine tastings confirmed the view that the country’s most exciting grape is Torrontes. The highish alcohol levels that the grape naturally achieves give the wines pleasing texture, whilst modern winemaking preserves both freshness and the grape’s famed perfume. The best examples come from the Calchaquí Valley in Cafayate and would normally be consumed within 12 months of harvest. Mind you, we were treated to a 1992 Torrontes from Bodegas Etchart which had retained outstanding balance and depth of flavour, suggesting there may be more to the grape than is generally understood. Some examples are barrel fermented with, on this evidence, mixed results; and Torrontes blends look highly promising.
Very old pergola-trained Torrontes at El Esteco, Cafayate.
Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Gewurztraminer are all grown in Argentina and are quite capable of producing good, aromatic dry whites. Many of the whites, however, lacked the sense of place of Torrontes, a wine style that is genuinely distinctive. As with many of the Chardonnays, one feels that the international white grape varieties will sell more easily on the domestic market than in the highly competitive international marketplace. Mind you, Argentinian producers are excited about some of the newer Chardonnay sites being planted and we did taste some outstanding examples – the White Bones and White Stones Chardonnays from Catena’s ground-breaking Adrianna vineyard in Gualtallary are genuinely world-class. Possibly because white grapes so often have to be picked before full ripeness in Argentina to retain freshness, I felt too many of the whites were just rather simple – my impression was that it was the white wine blends that offered the complexity and potential for premium pricing that will be essential if Argentina’s exports are to be profitable. Lastly a mention has to go to the LagardeSemillon 1942 that we drunk with dinner on the final evening – apparently a legendary wine in Argentinian wine circles, still bright, superbly balanced and invigorating, and a welcome reminder that age-worthy whites are possible in hot climates too.
Malbec dominates Argentina’s red wine exports (56% by volume, 63% by value) and we tasted examples from all over the country; as Paul Hobbs explained “Malbec is like the Chardonnay of red grapes – it is easy to grow”. At the lower price points, Malbec can be somewhat hollow but it offers good colour and a warming palate that currently appeal to international markets. From newer vineyards, like Mendoza’s higher altitude sites in Paraje Altamira, Gualtallary and Uco Valley, lower yields and thicker-skinned grapes (the higher UV at altitude produces thicker skins and the diurnal temperature shifts result in increased levels of polyphenols and aromatic compounds) are producing wines of great perfume and intensity – and, not surprisingly, inky deep colours. These came in a range of styles and we tasted highly polished, oaked examples from producers such as Achaval Ferrer, Norton, Terrazas de los Andes, Cadus and Viña Cobos. My personal favourites, not least because they felt like original styles, unique to Argentina, were the wines made all or in part in concrete eggs/vats. The principal exponents of this style appear to be Altos las Hormigas and Zuccardi, both of whom are producing wines of stunning purity of fruit and freshness.
The producers were keen to demonstrate that Argentina is much more than a one-grape red wine producer. We tasted some excellent Bonarda, pure in fruit and often well-priced – and useful to the grower, is because it can be high-yielding and often ripens at different times to Malbec. Tempranillo,Petit Verdot, Tannat, Syrah and a new grape on me, Cordisco, were all sampled at different times. However the grape they are most excited about is Cabernet Franc – plantings have increased from only 90 ha in 1990 to over 900 ha today. My own view was that the grape was more exciting in blends than as a single varietal (possibly reflecting a certain Bordeaux bias!) and most of my favourite reds included Cabernet Franc in the blend. Indeed, with reds as with whites, I tended to find greater complexity in the blends – and the Doña Paula 969 blend of Petit Verdot, Bonarda and Tannat, fermented and aged only in concrete eggs, was arguably the best value wine tasted during the trip.
As indicated above, we were treated to some remarkable old bottles at dinner on our final evening – for which we owe special thanks to Andrés Rosberg, President of the Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers. The Angelica Zapata Alta Malbec 1995 suggested it still had many years ahead and the Fond de Cave Cabernet Sauvignon 1986 was a class act. However, I found the most complex wines to be two beauties from Weinert, who have a long-standing reputation for producing age worthy reds – a Malbec Reserva Especial 1977 and a Cabernet Sauvignon Estrella 1994. It is to be hoped that Argentinian producers continue to hold back stock of their top vintages so that such experiences can be repeated in future.
The youthfulness alluded to in the introduction applies as much to some of the wine regions as to the younger winemakers who are experimenting and pushing the boundaries. Gualtallary provided a high percentage of stunning wines – 2,200 ha is now planted there, ranging from 1200 to 2200 metres in altitude, and the only constraint to further growth is the availability of water. Indeed the the issue of water supply and irrigation was a constant thread throughout – as Alejandro Nesman (Achaval Ferrer) told us – “In Argentina, irrigation is part of a vineyard’s terroir”. Patagonia is also clearly a region to watch, with the Old Vines Merlot from Riccitelli (my favourite producer of the week, based in Lujan de Cuyo), the Cincuenta y Cinco Pinot Noir from Chacra and the Cabernet Franc from Del Rio Elorza standing out.
My favourite region however was Cafayate, a place I have long wished to visit; an unexpected bonus was the remarkable drive through the Aconquija range to get there. Greener than I had expected, Cafayate in the Calchaquí Valley only produces 2.5% of the country’s wine production, but seems to me to be the region most naturally suited to viticulture: rain falls over the mountains to the East ensuring adequate water supplies and clouds form over the mountains in the west around 3.00pm, cooling the temperature and lengthening the growing season. It also has the low rainfall typical of all Argentina’s wine regions, leading to a dry, relatively disease-free environment ideal for organic grape growing. Both reds and whites are highly successful and, with the admirable Colomé pioneering high altitude vineyards in the area, other producers such as El Esteco, El Porvenir, Domingo Molina and Finca Quara are now producing wonderful results.
My calicata is bigger than yours…the most impressive calicata of the trip at El Esteco, Cafayate.
It will be clear from the above that this was no ordinary visit – we were spoilt rotten. This meant that we did not taste much in the way of mainstream wines and so there was little discussion about this sector of the market. Argentina is not a cheap place to make wine – water supply is not guaranteed in all areas, yields are not as high as elsewhere in the new world and many of the new vineyards are in rocky, alluvial soils which must be costly to prepare for planting. So it is hard to see how Argentina can compete profitably internationally in the bulk sector. However, on this evidence, the country is well placed to offer a diverse range of wines at more premium price points, probably over £10 in the UK. With genuinely distinctive wine styles, market leadership in Malbec and Torrontes, and an advanced programme of GI approvals in place, the foundations look good. The 2018 vintage looks like a good one too so it is to be hoped that Argentina is blessed with fair winds on the political and economic front in order to make the most of the commercial opportunities that they have created for themselves.
With huge thanks in particular to Wines of Argentina, Duncan Keen from Peñaflor, Madeleine Stenwreth MW, Paz Levinson, Joaquin Hidalgo, Alejandro Iglesias and Andrés Rosberg for organising and managing a wine trip of a lifetime.
Here’s a handy (virtual) booklet of great value wines as selected by members of the Association of Wine Educators (AWE) – wines they use in their classes and tastings as well as buy to drink and enjoy themselves at home. I’m a long-standing member and current Honorary Secretary of AWE and this li’l brochure is my baby, the 2018 being its 4th edition.
There are submissions from over 30 highly-respected wine professionals which gives the brochure gravitas as well as a wide variety of styles from different grape varieties, countries and stockists. Use it as a guide to buy the types of wines you love possibly at a better cost/quality ratio than you do already or use it to source something new.
My choices may not be the most easily available but they are definitely worth seeking out. For Brum-dwellers head to Loki for one of them. Many of my esteemed colleagues, however, have made life easy for you and chosen wines from Majestic, Aldi, Waitrose, Lidl and others. I applaud their choices and can’t wait to try some (or all) of them.
You can download the brochure here for free and then keep it on your phone for when you go shopping.
Thanks to our advertisers who help to make the brochure possible:
Pinot Grigio with attitude! The bottle might suggest this is German but actually it’s from Alsace in northern France. They do Pinot Gris really well there. Made by one of France’s most respected co-operatives, Cave de Turckheim, this has enticing honeysuckle aromas, hints of honey, too. It’s silky smooth with a just off dry finish. And International Wine Challenge judges love it.
Food match: Thai food, stir fry, salmon fillet
Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2014 Famille Perrin
If you like Châteauneuf du Pape you will love this. Made by a family with Châteauneuf pedigree (they make the much sought after Château de Beaucastel), the Perrins know this terroir and how to grow the very best grapes from it. This is a £15-£20 wine at a tenner, punching well above its price point. Exquisitely aromatic – red fruits, herbs – and a combination of being both fruity, from the Grenache grapes, and robust and spicy thanks to the addition of Syrah.
Food match: Peppered steak, spicy sausages, chilli con carne
Muga Rioja Rosado 2015
Waitrose £7.99 (usually £9.99)
Rosé (or rosado in this case because it’s Spanish) is now popular all year round. But in the summer months sales naturally increase, whatever the weather. Muga is a top name in Rioja, both their reds and whites are some of my favourites of the area. Their rosado is no different. Made from Tempranillo, this has strawberry and mango aromas, a red apple flavour and mouth-watering crispness – quenching and satisfying.
Food match: Tapas of almost any description. It’s versatile!
A recent family holiday to Crete provided a perfect opportunity to improve my knowledge of a part of the wine world that was totally new to me. Apparently phylloxera only reached Crete in the 1970’s so there has been considerable replanting since, much of it with international grapes. Not to put too fine a point on it, I avoided these wines for the most part: I was far more interested in tasting Crete’s indigenous grapes – and these did not disappoint.
Assyrtiko is widely planted and looks just as exciting here as on Santorini. Not too dissimilar is Vilana which has restrained aromatics but can show exciting minerality and persistence on the palate. Arguably the most exciting of the local grapes is Vidiano which produces highly expressive whites with bold, apricot-scented aromatics and more than a passing resemblance to Viognier. Plyto almost became extinct but thankfully survived – the beautiful example made by Lyrarakis was undoubtedly one of the vinous highlights of my week. No Mediterranean island would be complete without their own variation on Muscat and the Muscat of Spina makes some fine, aromatic dry whites.
Amongst the red grapes, Liatiko looks particularly exciting – pale in colour, savoury and earthy, it reminds me of a friendly style of Nebbiolo. Many of the local reds are blended with Mandilari which adds colour (rather than finesse, I suspect….) to Liatiko and Kotsifali; the latter looks especially promising and is blended with both local grapes and, often, Syrah.
The couple of rosés I tasted were sound rather than exciting – one would imagine that there is the potential for a really top class dry rosé here if they had the confidence to try it.
Overall, it is the dry whites that currently look the most exciting prospects, as one would expect from the exceptional limestone-based soils encountered in much of the island. Tasting notes on the wines I tasted/drunk follow below:
Diamantakis Vidiano Assyrtiko 2016
Highly accomplished blend, presumably oaked, beautifully done. Only blend of these two grapes that I tried but, on this evidence, highly promising. High class wine.
Strataridakis Moscato Spinas 2016
Dry Muscat is hard to make without a note of bitterness, and this one is really well executed. Just off-dry, bright aromatic expression, a lovely, scented aperitif. Very fine.
Muscat of Spina
Dourakis Lihnos Vidiano 2016
Bright, peachy aromatics, lifted. Juicy, fresh and appetising with good length – seems to be an excellent expression of the grape.
Dourakis Rizitis 2016
Made from the Vilana grape, this is bright, refined and mouthwatering – a delightful and highly versatile dry white.
Lyrarakis Psarades Vineyard Plyto 2016
Simply stunning wine. Wonderful combination of fruit and florality on the nose. Good body, intense and structured, yet with no heaviness. Unique and memorable.
Titakis Impetus Vidiano Malvasia
Attractive, scented dry white – pleasant enough but the Malvasia seems to mute the usual Vidiano aromatics.
Idaia Winery Vilana 2016
Impressive wine, Chablis-like in style both in terms of the slight reduction and the overall, predominantly mineral expresson. Fine, delicate fruit, textured, understated and with a stoney, crisp finish.
Vilana – Crete’s white star
Rhous Winery Skipper Vidiano Plyto 2016
Excellent nose, but I found it less satisfactory on the palate – not the cleanest, possibly because of the alcohol. And the Vidiano was less expressive than usual.
Douloufakis Femina 2016
Floral and spicy, evident Muscat notes. Off-dry, fruity, beautifully done in its style – very moreish and very Mediterranean.
Manousakis Winery Nostos Assyrtiko 2016
Stunning. Great aromas of lime and wet stone. Bold, assertive palate, textured and with a dry, herb-scented, mineral, even slightly tannic finish. Top class example of both the grape and of Cretan know-how.
Karavitakis Klima Vidiano 2016
Fabulous stone-fruit, Viognier-like aromatics. Creamy, ripe and full-bodied. Initially I worried that it lacked acidity, but it finishes fresh enough. It certainly showcases Vidiano’s spectacular flavour. Would still prefer to see just a touch more crispness on the palate.
Vilana Fumé 2014
I wish I had got round to the second bottle of this. I felt the oak was too strong and that the resultant oxidation got in the way of the wine’s freshness. Flavoursome enough but unexciting – and this bottle at least seemed to be old-fashioned in style.
Klados Winery Great Hawk Moscato Spinas / Vidiano 2016
Pungent, spicy, expressive nose. Dry and spicy, seems to lack purity of flavour. Not convinced this brings out the best of either grape, but maybe it is just an acquired taste – probably very good with some of the local food.
Reductive and not totally clean, with a curious, earthy note. Dry, touch of tannin on the finish.
Toplou Liatiko Mandilari 2015
Pale, almost aged colour. Lovely tertiary development on the nose, complex, flavoursome, very Italian in style with its dried fruit flavours and high acidity. Almost like a friendly style of Barolo. Distinctive, high quality wine.
Efrosini Mikri Eugeniki Liatiko 2016
Fascinating wine. Initially the pale colour and aromatics reminded me of good Beaujolais, then as it opened out, it revealed tannin and structure I would more associate with Nebbiolo. Very fine and carries the alcohol effortlessly.
Boutari Skalani Syrah / Kotsifali 2012
Deep, still youthful looking. Rich aromatics with spicy Syrah and gingery oak. Big, international style, impressive…….but not especially Cretan.
Domaine Paterianakis Kotsifali / Mandilari
Rather classy wine, reminiscent of Bordeaux/Medoc stylistically. Still youthful in colour. Classic nose, some tertiary, tobacco-scented development. Evident oak, but good overall balance. Pleasingly light.
With many thanks to Wines of Crete for ensuring that I was able to taste so many of the island’s best wines, providing excellent background information and the photographs for this blog.
Thank you to Champagne Castelnau for inviting me to their ‘new century, new design’ launch at Sakagura – what a treat.
I’ve blogged about De Castelnau before (there was a ‘de’ then, there isn’t now) about their super-stylish champagnes which have a richness and seriousness about them. The three that I particularly rate highly are the Brut Réserve, the Blanc de Blancs 2003 and the Hors Categorie – all wines with extended ageing which make you stop and think when the wine hits your palate. The wines are impressive and tasting them with modern Japanese canapés they seem very much of our time.
Until now, however, the packaging was lacking. There was very little about the presentation which would make you want to reach for a bottle on a shelf. A new design has changed that. The labels are clean, simple and suggest pleasure and fun; there’s almost a flirtatious ‘pick me’ look about them. Pick ‘em, you won’t be disappointed.
A firm favourite of mine and many others over the summer months. It’s a blend of Spanish grapes, Parellada and Garnacha Blanca grown in Catalunya in the north east around Barcelona, and available all over Spain and much of the UK, too. Once upon a time this was relatively sweet by today’s standards; now it is barely off-dry – fruity and refreshing, green apple crispness alongside an elderflower charm. At only 11.5% alcohol we can pat ourselves on the back for a healthy wine choice and feel a little less guilty if we enjoy an extra glass.
Food match: Salads, light fish and chicken dishes.
Château Guyon la Roseraie 2015
I will always recommend a great value Bordeaux whenever I can because people seem to find them hard to come by – they’re not! Here’s a particularly good example from a lovely vintage at an amazing price which is perfect for drinking now. It has the hallmark black fruit character you’d expect from Merlot grapes with a savoury finish making it ideal as a wine to have with food.
Food match: Lamb Navarin, Aubergine Bake
Dereszla Tokaji Furmint 2015
Lidl £7.99 (for 50cl)
If you love your desserts, then chances are you’ll love this wine with many of them. This is sweet but, as with all good sweet wines, it is bursting with crisp acidity to keep its honeyed sweetness in balance. People are often converted once they try real dessert wines such as this one. Tokaj (pronounced Tok-eye) in Hungary is famous for them. You probably won’t want to drink more than a small glass because it is so luscious, but you’ll definitely want to savour every mouthful of this hedonistic delight. Don’t feel cheated by its low alcohol, what it lacks in its 9%abv it makes up for in sweetness.
Food match: Lemon Meringue Pie, Cheesecake. Not a great match for chocolate puds.
Sancerre Rosé 2016
Sancerre is usually white, of course, but a little red and rosé is made in the area from Pinot Noir. This is quiet serious with red fruit aromas and lovely raspberry flavours, finishing with a delicate herby edge. A food wine but can be sipped (rather than quaffed!) on its own, too.
The next Lidl Wine Cellar will be instore from Thursday, July 27th. All the Hungarian wines are worth trying, of course, which you can check out here but these are a few of my top suggestions:
Pouilly-Fumé Les Grandes Chaumes – £9.99 – This well-known Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire is normally much more expensive. Ideal summer drinking.
Haraszthy Sauvignon Blanc- £6.49 – lovely, dry Sauvignon which would be more expensive if from anywhere other than Hungary
Tokaji Furmint Dereszla – £5.99 – As Jane Macquitty says in The Times, “ridiculously good value”. Rather fine, dry Hungarian white.
Riesling Neuberg Pfaffl – £8.99 – my favourite of 3 very good Austrian whites in this selection. Wonderfully pure, appetising, dry Riesling.
Morio-Muskat – £5.49 – Not surprisingly Lidl are very good at sourcing German wines. This is fresh, grapey and ideal for those who do not like wine too dry.
Tüzkö Gewürztraminer- £6.99 – Another top class and top value wine from Hungary. Drier on the finish than one might expect with this grape.
The three rosés from Hungary, Germany and Duras in France are all between £5.49 and £5.99 and all really very good – especially at the price.
Brouilly Essence de Fruit – £6.99
Dornfelder – £4.99
Jekl Villányi Portugieser – £5.99
A trio of relatively light, juicy, fruit-driven reds, ideally served lightly chilled – ideal summer drinking.
Château Guyon la Roseraie – £5.99 – Better-than-decent quality everyday Bordeaux.
Bolyki Indiánnyár – £6.99 – I am biassed because I have visited this producer’s remarkable cellar built into a stone quarry. Loved him, loved his wines, even got quite excited about his quarry……
Gere Tamás Gránát Villány Cuvée – £6.99 – Fuller-bodied Hungarian red, good enough for the Sunday roast but would also work with the barbecue…..
Sparkling Tokaji – £6.99 – Highly unusual, sweet sparkling wine from Hungary’s top wine producing region. Complex and well worth a try.
Champagne Comte de Senneval - £6.99 – Half Bottles – As ever, worth stocking up on half bottles of Champagne while they are available…..
And finally a couple of sweet whites
Muscat de Rivesaltes- £8.99 – Made by one of the most likeable winemakers in the world. Drink chilled as an aperitif, as in France.
Tokaji Dereszla- £7.99 – 50cl – Beautiful sweet white, enjoy with dessert or simply on its own. An inexpensive indulgence…….
I must admit that I have had to omit many wines that I would wholeheartedly recommend – this is arguably the most exciting Wine Cellar that Lidl have put out. Just a reminder that, if you find the wines you are after are already out of stock when you visit, all stores would expect to receive fresh supplies of all the wines at least once.
This week’s recommendations come from Tesco where there’s a very useful 25% off when you buy 6 bottles. Always a good time to buy to pop a few in the cellar/larder/garage for later. These wines suit sunny weather, though are just delicious and necessary when it’s not so favourable, and one in particular should definitely make its way into your trolley for English Wine Week from 27th May 2017.
Tesco Finest Soave Superiore DOCG 2014
The perfect spring into summer wine, this is dry and crisp with just a little more body than you might expect which comes from the bit of extended ageing it has to undergo as a ‘superiore’ Soave. Stricter vine growing regulations mean that the wine isn’t just a DOC but carries the hallowed G standing for guaranteed quality. The wine is as appealing as the area is beautiful, as elegant (even, ahem, suave) and charming as the Italians who produce it. You’ll find orange blossom and almond notes when you smell it and peachy, honeyed flavours with a lingering zingy salty finish on the taste.
Food match: Fried fish, lemon and fennel pork balls or slow roast pork, creamy pasta dishes.
Nederburg 56 Hundred Pinot Noir 2015
Pinot Noir is not the easiest grape in the world. Like a toddler, it can be endearing and unquestionably lovely and lovable or it can mean and horrid because it wasn’t treated quite right. This Pinot Noir shows the grape’s lighter, more playful side. Easy, cherry fruit and summer pudding character, soft and fruity with a lively spicy edge – another great value wine from South Africa.
Please celebrate English Wine Week 27th May – 4th June (or anything else for that matter) with this top example of English fizz. Based in Kent, Chapel Down has been producing still and sparkling wines for 40 odd years and winning a good number of medals along the way. The grapes are those grown in Champagne and the method used to make the wine sparkling is also the same. The red apple and freshly baked bread aromas make you think of apple pie; the taste is quite layered with quince and herby notes along with a barely-ripe raspberry touch at the end.
Food match: Obviously great as an aperitif with canapés, light fish dishes and a tart, rather than sweet, apple pie.