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Don’t Blanc Bordeaux Whites

I’m by far not the first and most definitely will not be the last bacchanalian commentator to rail at wine consumers for their ignorance of the glories to be found in a bottle of Bordeaux Blanc.

Just picture the hordes of dry white junkies up and down the country pulling corks and wrenching screw caps, then guzzling the contents as they squint down at labels smeared with names like Marlborough or Sancerre. All the while totally oblivious that of Bordeaux’s two heavyweight white grapes Sauvignon Blanc is one.

Yes, there’s plenty of Semillon about (less Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris) and some producers like to chuck it in oak to add body, texture and depth. But that formula of razor sharp acidity, cracking citrus, crunchy minerality and fabulous food friendliness apply to so many.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 18.39.01I first came to love BB about 3.5 years ago while celebrating with my girlfriend (now Mrs DnE) at the Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair. On the recommendation of the sommelier, I ordered a glass of Clos Floridene 2008 from Graves to pair with my haut cuisine chicken dish. The match was tremendous and the wine? Near perfect. So smitten with it, I marched straight out and bought six bottles of the 2010, of which I still possess two (Berry Brothers & Rudd are currently stocking the 2011).

As if being wonderfully complex and a superb food wine wasn’t enough, good Bordeaux Blanc can also age incredibly well. Yet another reason to discover some for yourself.

Good BB is also exactly the kind of wine you want to bring along to your wine geek friends dinner parties. Makes you look like you very much are in the know.

If you are a regular reader/watcher of my blogs/vlogs then you’ll know that I am a big fan of the Wine Society and they deserve much applause for stocking a stellar range of BBs.

I recently tasted a few and here’s a run down.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 18.43.36Bel Air Perponcher Reserve Bordeaux Blanc 2014

Fresh tart lime, crunchy green apple, bold acids. Some creamy apricot on the finish. Tart green machine. 86/100 – £8.50

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 18.43.27Chateau Martinon Entre-de-Mers 2014 

Jazzy lime, firecracker smoke, fresh gooseberry, gum clenching acidity, fine green apple. Very classy and super value. 89/100 – £7.50, but sadly at writing was out of stock.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 18.43.47Chateau Reynon 2013 

Viscous yellow, nose of flint, yellow melon, grassy herbs and waxy pear. Quite smoky, raw Bramley apple, chewy acids, electric acidity, searing lime juice, vibrant, pure, focused mineral and long razor sharp finish. Just got better and better in the glass. Scrumptious. 91/100 – £10.50 ps Same owners as Clos Floridene but almost a 1/3 of the price of CF. 

To avoid showing too much favoritism or if you don’t do the Wine Society then here’s some other options to consider.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bordeaux Blanc  – Medal winning on currently on offer at £6.00

Aldi’s Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc – Another medal winner and a snip at £4.99

Dourthe Reserve & La Grande Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc –  A bigger brand but both are well regarded. Reserve from Majestic £7.49 (buy six mix) and GC from Waitrose £8.99

M&S Bordeaux AC Sauvignon Blanc £8.50

Despite the winter coming on, it’s a dynamite wine for the festive period. As an aperitif, seafood platters, tangy cheeses, and the Chateau Reynon killed with Mrs. DnE’s roast chicken last weekend.

So what are you waiting for? Till some pillar of the wine writing establishment cracks under the strain of trying to turn the general public onto this most underrated yet splendid value fine white wine and chains themselves to a stand of NZ Sauvignon Blanc at your local Waitrose? Spare them from such a shameful fall from grace and pick up a bottle or two.

It’s a win win win. You’ll be expanding your wine horizons, supporting the underappreciated producers of white Bordeaux and maybe just maybe saving someone’s career.

Mr Vine Tasting 6

With the autumnal weather as unpredictable as Richard Hemming’s dress sense, we gathered for our Mr Vine’s September panel tasting at Winemakers Club near the Holborn viaduct. A somewhat revered site as was the original Oddbins in a former life. So it was under the musty moody railway arches of this new-ish wine bar/shop/events space that we set about sampling a new batch of wines. Intriguingly four out of five of the winners were Italian, this time out. But each one different and dancing to its own beat. 

First place: Luigi Maffini ‘Kratos’ Fiano 2014 (Campania, Italy; 13.0%; £14.50, WoodWinters)

Some say the white Fiano grape will be the next big thing in the UK, and classic examples like this one show why. It’s an intense and persistent wine, with no-nonsense apple, pear and apricot aromas and a herbal twang. Starts off subtle, but finishes with a fresh, dry, mineral edge and a burst of flavour. You could drink this all night and not get bored. 90 points.

NN verdict – Certainly worthy of the top spot.

Second place: Tenuta Mara ‘Maramia’ 2012 (Emilia-Romagna, Italy; 13.5%; £41, WoodWinters)

This is the first vintage from this ambitious new biodynamic estate. They only make one wine, and no expense is spared; they even serenade the Sangiovese vines with Mozart. Who knows if that makes any difference, but the care and effort the take really shows through; this is a genuinely fine wine that really speaks of its origin. Autumnal aromas like dried leaves and truffle spill from the glass, alongside red cherry and dark chocolate. It’s lively and tangy, robust yet refreshing, ethereal but long in flavour. It has a high price for sure, but this is delicious and has real substance and interest. 91 points.

 NN verdict – Was totally enamored of this bonkers despite its higher price tag.

Third place: Luigi Maffini ‘Kleos’ Aglianico 2012 (Campania, Italy; 13.5%; £14.00, WoodWinters)

Another winner from expert winemaker Luigi Maffini, this time from the robust red Aglianico grape. It has baked blackberry, blueberry and stewed plum fruits inlaid with cigar tobacco and cinnamon. In the mouth it has real presence and texture; it’s full-bodied, savoury and very dry. It’s a big black bull of a wine that needs hearty food to be best appreciated. 89 points.

 NN verdict – That Maffini was back and though not as interesting as his Fiano still a solid bronze.

Fourth place: Le Fonti Sangiovese 2012 (Tuscany, Italy; 13.0%; £9.89, Cadman Fine Wines)

There are two Sangioveses to bring to your attention this month; this one may not have the brilliance of the Tenuta Mara, but then it is less than a quarter of the price. It’s like a beginner’s guide to Italian Sangiovese – expressive cherry and herbal notes, crisp acidity and an elegant lightness of touch. Not the most concentrated, but it’s very decent for under a tenner. 87 points.

NN verdict – A bit out of balance for my palate, but the group thought it a solid showing.

Fifth place: Domaine Baron Sauvignon Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2014 (Loire, France; 12.5%; £8.99, Cadman Fine Wines)

Sauvignon Blanc can be samey, but this one from the Touraine is more luscious and interesting than the norm. It’s relatively ripe, fruity and opulent for a Loire Sauvignon – fans of New Zealand examples will get it immediately. Plenty of grapefruit and green pepper with a hint of smoke; not the most subtle, but very enjoyable. 88 points.

NN verdict – I really enjoyed this wine. Possessed character and of a sense of place.

Mr Vine is a free iPhone app that helps you discover and buy the kinds of wine you like from a marketplace consisting of over 1,000 wines across a dozen different independent UK wine shops. Each month, a panel of five drinks experts (Richard Hemming, Helena Nicklin, Matt Walls, Zeren Wilson and me) meet up to taste a selection of wines available via the app in order to sniff out some gems. We score the wines out of 100, provide a tasting note and – perhaps most importantly – pick our top five of the night. These won’t necessarily be the highest scoring, just the wines we feel most excited about bringing to your attention.

For more info on the app and how it works, check out mrvine.co.uk.

 

 

Mr Vine Tasting Number 5

Yes that totally tubular (bottle shaped) tasting team of Matt Walls, Helena Nicklin, Zeren Wilson, Richard Hemming MW (that’s right Richard Hemming is now a Master of Wine. An amazing achievement!) and yours truly were at it again. Tasting wines for the good of those independent vino-loving masses for the Mr Vine App. If you haven’t downloaded it the IOS version is available here.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.29.48First place: Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs NV (Champagne, France; 12.5%;

£26.09, Cadman Fine Wines)

This pure Chardonnay Champagne is grown on Grand Cru rated sites and the quality really

shines through: brioche-scented exuberance, full and rich on the palate with a lovely soft

fizz. Very easy drinking while keeping its class and character, this isn’t the driest Champagne,

but it’s beautifully balanced and could easily compete with many big brands. 90 points

NN verdict – Loved this stuff. Just my kind of bubbly.

 

Second place: Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico 2012 (Tuscany, Italy; 14.0%;Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.33

£14.50, Cadman Fine Wines)

Mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this Chianti is

somewhere between modern and traditional in style. It has detailed cherry, herb and leather

aromas alongside coffee bean and tobacco leaf. Bright, vibrant and expressive this wine has

a lovely sense of harmony and warmth. It engages the brain as well as the tongue. 91

points.

NN verdict – I sometimes overlook Chianti because I have had them so many times, but a good Classico (such as this is) is a thing of real beauty especially with food.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.49Third place: Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand;

13.0%; £12.15, Cadman Fine Wines)

This estate was built on the site of New Zealand’s first winery, dating back to 1873. If you’re

suffering from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc overload, this wine reminds you of what makes

the style so special. It smells of freshly cut grass, fresh gooseberry and guava but has a

sense of restraint; the flavours are pronounced by the wine remains elegant. Lovely round

texture, a long, concentrated finish and wet foliage freshness. Very well priced to boot. 90

points.

NN verdict – Hands down one of the best Malborough SB I have had in recent memory.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.16Fourth place: Château Bel-Air La Royère 2008 (Bordeaux, France; 14.0%; £19.35,

Cadman Fine Wines)

Unpretentious, old school claret with much to love: ripe and fruity, with spicy cedar, tobacco

and blackcurrant. This blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Malbec from Blaye has plenty of

stuffing and tannic heft to keep it going for another five years or so, but is at a lovely stage

to drink now – harmonious and complex but still with youthful power. Bordeaux lovers will

lap it up. 91 points.

NN – This wine really made me smile. Everything good mature Bordeaux should be.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.31.07Fifth place: La Torricella Barbera d’Alba 2011 (Piemonte, Italy; 14.0%; £15.99,

Red Squirrel Wines)

Black cherry and cola on the nose, alongside coffee and cocoa – classic Barbera. Lovely

concentration and a satin-soft, dry finish. A generous yet serious wine that’s just crying out

for rigatoni with meatballs. 89

NN verdict – I wasn’t blown away by this but a solid wine none the less.

Honourable mentions

Vinteloper ‘Odeon’ Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, Australia; 13.0%; £24.99, Red

Squirrel Wines)

Just over a thousand bottles were made of this compellingly interesting wine. Naturally

beautiful aromas of mandarin, mirabelle plum and flowers. It’s not cheap, but this is brave

winemaking resulting in a unique style that some drinkers will adore. 90 points.

NN verdict – Really felt this wine deserved to be in the top 5. Glad it got a mention.

 

Vega Tolosa ‘Icon’ Bobal 2013 (La Mancha, Spain; 13.5%; £8.99, Red Squirrel

Wines)

Bags of intense forest fruit flavour, this is a perky, juicy red that is easy to drink but has

character and makes an impact. Fantastic value for money. 88 points.

NN verdict – Again really liked this wine. Only room for 5 though…

 

Bruna ‘Maje’ Pigato 2014 (Liguria, Italy; 12.5%; £13.50, Red Squirrel Wines)

Delicate, fresh and perfumed this is a lovely example of the rare Pigato grape. Silken in

texture and perfectly balanced, this is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. 88 points.

NN verdict – A great wine to impress your wine geek friend with.

Mr Vine Tasting 4

Well, the team got together at 10 Greek Street back in June and as well as an almighty feast we managed to taste and rate some wines.

Here’s our top 5

First place: Magpie Estate Riesling 2014 (Eden Valley, Australia; 12.5%; £11.00, wine2drink)

The impressive result of a partnership between Barossa Valley winemaker Rolf

Binder and UK wine merchant Noel Young. Great fruit purity – salt, lime and orange

blossom – as well as a flinty character. Long, dry, lean and lip-smackingly fresh; a

laser-sharp thirst-quencher. Good value too. It’s even got a beautiful label. 91

points.

*This was far and away my favorite wine of the tasting. If you have been afraid to try Riesling for fear of running into residual sugar then plump for an Aussie from the Eden or the Clare Valley. Super stuff!

Second place: Calusari Pinot Noir 2013 (Viile Timisului, Romania; 12.5%; £7.50, wine2drink)

This is made by Cramele Recaş a winery in western Romania now owned by

Bristolian Philip Cox. It has classic Pinot Noir character, plenty of ripe redcurrant and

earthy cherry fruit. It’s lighter on its feet than many French Pinots at this price, and

very easy to drink. An interesting find and a good example of the quality and value

currently to be found in Romania. 86 points.

* I didn’t enjoy this Pinot as much as the rest of the panel. Found it a bit chemical but that blew off and despite it still being a bit reedy and thin is an interesting wine to be sure.

Third place: Mas de Daumas Gassac ‘Réserve de Gassac’ Blanc 2011 (Languedoc, France; 13.0%; £9.75, wine2drink)

A blend of 25% Viognier, 25% Chardonnay, 25% Petit Manseng, 15% Chenin Blanc

and 10% of various other varieties from one of the Languedoc’s best producers.

Aromas of fuzzy white peach and a heavy perfume of white flowers floats from the

glass. It has a creamy, lush mouthfeel, impressive purity of fruit and a soft, floral,

dry finish. Nicely balanced and refreshingly different. Great value for under a tenner.

89 points.

* I love the sheer voluptuousness of stone fruit on show in this bottle but there’s freshness too. A real Mae West of a wine. Mas de Daumas Gassac has a had a cult following for some years now. Not everyone is a fan, but why argue Mae?

Fourth place: Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Marlborough, New Zealand; 13.0%; £16.00, wine2drink)

There are so many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs on the market that these days it’s

rare to find one that really stands out. This one however, made by Kevin Judd,

former winemaker at Cloudy Bay, is exceptional. There’s vivid asparagus, cut grass,

aloe and gooseberry flavour, but it’s not overblown like some of its compatriots.

Fragrant, crisp, balanced and incredibly long, this is a very accomplished New

Zealand Sauvignon. 89 points.

* I don’t tend to drink NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing wrong with the wines. But perhaps at some point they just got a bit too cookie cutter. Not the case with this one. Sure the price tag is higher than your Oyster Bay but the quality and individuality of it shines through.

Fifth place: Domaine Des Cigalounes 2011 (Lirac, France; 15.0%; £11.56, Wineman)

After the two champion Liracs we had last month, here’s another on that hit the

spot. A blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, this has plenty of

blackberry, hung game and dense black cherry on the nose. It’s loaded with local

garrigue (wild herb) character which provides a herbal lift to the ripe, potent fruit. A

complete and delicious foodie wine that’s like having several courses all at once. 88

points.

* Love the names of some the Chateaus in France. Cigalounes just cries out to be the name of a whisky distillery in the Highlands or Jura. Not as good as the table-topping Liracs from our last tasting be good enough to make the top 5.

Mr Vine Tasting Numero 2 & 3

As I mentioned in a previous blog I joined up with new online wine buying app Mr Vine as one-fifth of a dynamic tasting team. Well, we got together twice more after our maiden meet in March, which meant it was a spring of full of sampling and from that bevy o bottles, here be the heroes…
April is known more for it’s showers than it’s baths.
First place: Château Dereszla Dry Tokaji 2013 (Tokaj, Hungary; 14.0%; £12.34, The Oxford Wine Company)
This unusual white is bursting at the seams with honeyed apricot, baklava and rosewater flavour. Rich, ripe and lush but it remains vibrant. Totally non-mainstream and so much the better for that. A jewel of a wine. 92 points.
Second place: Château Peychaud Cotes de Bourg 2012 (Bordeaux, France; 13.5%; £10.40, The Oxford Wine Company)
Very appealing on the nose – blackberries, cedar and Havana cigars – coupled with loads of concentrated dark fruit flavour. It’s not always easy to find good value in Bordeaux but this is very impressive for the price. Considering the relatively obscure appellation it’s a thoroughbred. 88 points.
Third place: Domaine du Haut Peron Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2013 (Loire, France; 12.0%; £10.79, The Oxford Wine Company)
With fistfuls of gooseberry, kiwi and green pepper, this couldn’t be anything but Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t unanimously loved but those that did enjoy its soft fruitiness, intense fruit flavour and vibrant acidity. 88 points.
Fourth place: Weingut Josef Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Loessterrassen 2014 (Kremstal, Austria; 12.0%; £10.99, The Real Wine Company)
A good introduction to the Grüner grape. Pithy and citric with a green apple tang and a characteristic whiff of white pepper. Vibrant lime juice acidity provides plenty of refreshment through the clean, mineral finish. 88 points.
Fifth place: Weingut Martin Kohl Zweigelt Classic Red 2013 (Niederösterreich, Austria; 13.0%; £8.99, The Real Wine Company)
Wow – the first thing you notice is the lip-smacking acidity, but there is plenty of perky, crunchy red berry fruit and piquant spice underneath. The label might be rather plain but this has lots of personality for the money. Try drinking it lightly chilled – it’s a stunner for the summer! 87 points.
May is so much more than a month.
First Place: Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac Blanc 2013 (Rhône, France; 13.5%; £11.30, Nickolls & Perks) 
A peachy mélange of three much underrated white grapes from the Rhône: Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. More ripe stone fruit flavours like apricot and nectarine in the mouth give it a lovely lush texture. This would work well with fairly rich dishes but is deliciously drinkable by itself. Plenty of impact but perfectly balanced – a very successful blend. 90 Points.
Second Place: Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac Rouge 2011 (Rhône, France; 13.5%; £11.30, Nickolls & Perks)
Another generously flavoursome Rhône blend from this reliable producer, this time red: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. Rich and intense with forest berries, cigar tobacco and hung game, this is a wine in a deep red smoking jacket. It really won us over; it’s hearty without being heavy. 88 Points.
Third Place: Domaine Bourdon Saint Veran 2011 (Burgundy, France; 13.0%; £12.60, Nickolls & Perks)  
Lots of attractive, gentle apricot and peach here – there’s a touch of honey and caramel too but thankfully it hasn’t been clobbered by oak. It has a lovely, silky, rounded mouthfeel and impressive intensity of flavour. A lot of wine for the money, which is relatively rare when it comes to white Burgundy. 89 Points.
Fourth Place: Caligiore Malbec 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina; 14.0%; £10.49, Vinceremos)
There’s a lot of samey Malbec out there, but this isn’t one of them. It has layers of dark chocolate, concentrated blueberry, succulent plum and coffee bean flavour. A wine to cosy up with that’s crying out for steak – it’s a muscular Malbec that would happily stand up to a juicy ribeye. 88 Points.
Fifth Place: Bodegas Parra Jimenez ‘Parra’ Verdejo 2013 (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain; 12.5%; £6.99, Vinceremos)
Verde-who? This white grape is native to Spain and makes pungent, herbal styles of wine with loads of personality. It’s like a trek through the tropics: guava, greengage and pithy grapefruit. Not exactly subtle, but it’s a fun, sunny BBQ party wine that’s a shoe-in for lovers of Sauvignon Blanc. 85 Points.
For those of you with a keen eye, you may notice that 2nd place actually scored less than 3rd place. This occurred thanks our democratic and enlightened method of judging; in which our overall enjoyment of the wine actually trumps the average score. Pipe. Smoke. It.
And that was that as they say.
For more info go to mrvine.co.uk and/or to simply download the app go to the app store and search Mr Vine.

Aldi Revisited

It was November 2013 when I published my first (mostly) glowing review of Aldi wines and spirits. Since then I have been loyally going to their autumn/winter and spring/summer tastings. There have been highs and lows but I decided now was the time to shine a light on a few beauties that I sampled at their most recent tasting.

Sparkling

*Star Buy* – Belletti Rosé Spumante DOC / £5.99 / 11% ABV / Veneto, Italy

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.57.38 Now as I lifted the glass to taste this deep pink popper, I had already begun to cringe with the fear of how awful it was going to be. Pink fizzy drinks labelled spumante with such a small price tag are notoriously sweet, ghastly and probably responsible for some of the worst hangovers in the history of modern drinking (not a fact). But my preemptive grimace was whisked from my visage and replaced with joyful surprise as the liquid made contact with my tongue. Dried strawberry danced over my palate, rose petals hovered overhead, there was some nice tannic structure and it finished dry and clean. Made from 100%, little known native Italian varietal Raboso, this a firecracker of a fizz. Dangerously glug-able and available seasonally so stock up now!

Runner Up – Philippe Michel Cremant du Jura 2012 / £7.29 / 12% ABV / Jura, France

Showing rich biscuit and lemon zest this Aldi stalwart deserves all the plaudits it continues to get year after year from wine critics. Consistency and value are the watchwords here from this champagne method sparkler. Hailing from the mountainous region of south-east France not far from the Swiss border, it’s certainly worth having a few bottles of this “Blanc de Blanc” (100% Chardonnay) knocking about for that Tuesday night when only bubbles will do.

White

*Star Buy* – Lot 02 Tasmanian Chardonnay 2013 / £9.99 / 12.5% ABV / Tasmania, Australia

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.47.16As I have mentioned Aldi excel in the lower price brackets, but often I’ve felt that when they’ve tried to go glam the wines lacked the class and finesse of bottles at the same price point stocked by other retailers. But the winds of change do blow with their “The Lot Series”. I was extremely impressed with this excellent example of oaked Chardonnay. Round and generous but bursting with tart Granny Smith apple, layers of aromatic acacia wood and tingling apple skin acidity. A bouncy joy of a wine. The wines of Tasmania really are starting to turn some heads. Literally a world away from the Australian continent, with a generally cooler climate which allows “Tassie” winemakers to craft their own unique identity. The focus is on top quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; not to mention probably producing the best sparkling wines ‘Down Under’.

Runner Up – The Exquisite Collection Rias Baixas Albariño 2014 / £5.99 / 12.5% ABV / Rias Baixas, Spain

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.58.16This racy, minerally, sea salt crusted gem of a grape that loves the rugged ocean swept coast of north-west Spain has been on the rise for a good few years now. A popular wine list alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or equally fashionable Picpoul de Pinet, Albariño (Al-Ba-Reen-Yo) can command some hefty prices both down the gastro pub and in the wine shop. But what continues to be one of Aldi’s strengths is that they are good at getting solid wines from well-known regions at very reasonable prices. Their own label example from the Galician heartland of Rias Baixas has that characteristic high acid, saline, stone fruit element as well as being pure and clean with a lime juice finish that makes you mad for toasted almonds, green olives and another sip. Again it’s a seasonal offering so get a dozen while you can.

Honourable Mention – Pierre Bonnet Vouvray 2014 / £5.99 / 12% ABV / Loire, France

I love of the wines of the Loire, they really do it all. Stunning dry whites with laser-like acidity made from Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. Crunchy red fruit, green pepper and graphite etched reds from Cabernet Franc. But they also produce cracking, good value fizz and sublime dessert wines too. The region of Vouvray in the Touraine district is dedicated almost solely to Chenin Blanc and is famous around the world for it’s sensational sec (dry), demi-sec (semi-sweet) and moelleux (sweet) versions of this somewhat unsung darling of white varietals. Pierre Bonnet’s wine has lovely pear, lime and lush lemon curd. The texture is a touch creamy but clean and finishes with a hint of dry white flowers.

Red

*Star Buy* – Lot 3 Pezenas 2013 / £9.99 / 14.5% ABV / Languedoc, France 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.46.49Aldi’s Lot Series comes up trumps again with this sun-baked blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and just a squirt of Carignan. I have visited the Languedoc a couple times and it’s an unspoilt wine and food lovers playground. The reds do tend to the boozier end of the spectrum, but they have bags of finesse and class too. Pezenas (name of the commune in L’Herault department of Languedoc-Roussillon) pops with perfumed violet, that shows dark fresh fruit, a meaty texture and underpinned by a fine grey slate structure. Certainly one to decant a few hours before and have with friends over a hearty Gallic inspired meal.

Runner Up – The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Cabernet 2013 / £6.49 / 13.5% ABV / Limestone Coast, Australia

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 16.00.14I cannot recall the last time I recommended a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, let alone an Australian one. That said don’t go out and buy a lottery ticket. The Limestone Coast has within it’s boundaries the almighty Coonawarra region and is responsible for producing 1/3 of Oz’s quality wines, which are often awarded top honours. The nose has a lovely earthy red berry note to it. Upon swishing it around my gob, what struck me right away was the texture. Chewy and fleshy with gorgeous juicy raspberry, blackberry and hit of menthol. It finished slightly gamey with a long inky cassis finish. Went pretty well with my homemade lasagna and was ” the best vegetarian lasagna I have ever eaten” according to my lovely wife. As part of their core range, it should be easier to track down and track it down you must.

Honourable Mention – Toro Loco Bobal Merlot 2013 / £4.49 / 13% ABV /Utiel-Requena, Spain

No Aldi review would be complete without a sub fiver bottle and it’s from good old “Crazy Bull”; whom I have recommended before. There’s ripe dark cherry, generous warming mouthfeel and a nice spicy bite on the finish. Bobal is a varietal native to Utiel-Requena (Valencia) and the main component in nearly all Toro Loco wines. Fitting really as the name Bobal is derived from the Latin “bovale”, referring to the shape of a bull’s head. Great spag bol or sangria wine for tapas.

Spirits

*Star Buy* – Maynard’s 1990 Colheita Port / £14.99 / 20% ABV / Douro, Portugal 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 15.45.38Maynard’s is Aldi’s flagship port producer and this 25-year-old vintage tawny (Colheita is the term used to describe a vintage tawny) is absolutely dreamy. There’s coffee, gingersnap biscuit, cigar leaf, rich Medjool date, dry fig and finishing with English Breakfast tea tannins. Delicious. I defy anyone to find a fortified wine of this age and quality under £15. Oh, and if you happen to, do send me a sample 😉

 

Runner Up – Goccia D’Oro Limoncello / £7.99 / 25% ABV / Italy

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 15.59.32I am sure many of you who ever have been on holiday in Italy have at one time or another been sat “digesting” after an epic meal and the host/hostess of that particular carb kingdom has brought over a frosted bottle with contents that resembled runny custard. Small shots are poured out and the viscous yellow liquid is sipped or chucked down in one depending on who has drunk the most vino rosso. I have had some wonderful (often homemade) Limoncello in such establishments and had some that did more harm than good. So it was with some trepidation that I sampled this product new to Aldi’s range. Perhaps not as cold as it could have been but it ticked the boxes. Tart, creamy, yummy out of the freezer after dinner, cold melted lemon curd digestive drinky drink.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 16.04.20Honourable Mention – Caversham Cream Sherry / £5.25 / 18% ABV / Jerez, Spain

Recommending cream sherry!? Me? Looks that way.

So in addition to the normal number strewn white linen tables bedecked with bottles, the had put on a spread of Mozer Roth chocolates and sweetie booze pairings. Well, far be it from me to swan by such a spectacle without (in the name of science) testing their suggestions. Of the ones on offer by far my favourite was the Caversham Cream and almond milk chocolate match. The nutty edge in the sherry picked out the nuggets of nut and the smooth texture of the milk chocolate mingled happily with that of the “cream”. Easiest dessert in the world and you can feed 8 for under a tenner.

Looking at the rest of Aldi’s spirit range on the tasting literature you might be forgiven for thinking you had accidentally been given a list of military grandees; so many medals!

Still a big fan of their Oliver Cromwell Dry Gin (£9.99), Highland Black 8 Y/O Scotch Whisky (£12.99) has a permanent place on my “sideboard” and Ballycastle Irish Cream (£3.99) is a blooming bargain and stands up to bigger brands of that ilk with charm.

It’s not all love songs and roses though. An area that Aldi still needs to improve on is their beer and ciders. Very disappointing. Step it up guys!

While you may not always be guaranteed to get exactly what you want on a trip to Aldi, they certainly have enough good stuff in their ranges that it will never be a wasted trip.

Check out Aldi’s Wine Cellar range yourself.

 

 

Who is Mr Vine?

A very good question and I shall answer it thusly…

Mr Vine is a brand spanking new (launched this week) free app that helps you discover, order and drink a new realm of wines that you are unlikely to have ever come across going to the supermarket. The reason for this is that Mr Vine is an online marketplace with over a 1,000 interesting wines across all budgets that are all brought to you by a dozen or so different independent UK wine merchants (and growing).

Setting up the app is easy. It just requires a few taps to plug in your preferences and then Mr Vine does all the heavy lifting, suggesting a stack of wines that fit your criteria. The layout is   simple and clean with a focus on ease of use. You see the image and price of the wine, then just a click takes through to a short description and the option to order. Nice. Orders are placed in-app and delivered to your door. Sadly it’s currently only available on IOS, but fear not non-Apple people! It will soon be launched on Android as well; you can download the IOS version here.

Now you must be asking yourself ” This is all very nice Nate but why are you plugging this app? “. ” What are you getting out of the deal? ” How cynical of you! You don’t know me at all! I may just be doing it because it’s a tale I want to tell, like all of my blogging/vlogging.

Seriously though, I am involved with the app. “How came someone of your narrow talents to this” you guffaw? Well, I’ll have you know that my dear pal Matt Walls (acclaimed auteur, serious scribe and vino virtuoso) asked me to join his merry band of tasters some months ago. Sworn to secrecy on pain of excommunication I joined a highly accredited wine loving panel that features Richard Hemming, Helena Nicklin, Zeren Wilson, the aforementioned “M” Walls and moi. “Crack team” I hear you mumble. Indeed!

As with all great ideas, they must have come from somewhere. That somewhere is the grey matter of fine wine trader Charlie Martin and former retail director at Majestic Greg Jones, who had a modern vision for getting great wines to ever more selective and curious consumers.

Each month the plan is that we’ll be locked in a room with a bunch of bottles which we’ll taste blind, scoring the wines out of 100, and each of us providing a tasting note. Last but not least we’ll argue, intimidate and threaten our way to picking our top five of the night. Now these may not necessarily be the ones that scored highest; an expensive, classic wine might get a high score, but we might want to champion others that we feel are great value for money or doing something that little bit different. Too right!

Normally we’ll be given a theme, tasting a selection of wines available via the app. At said tasting, the finest offerings should rise to the top in their particular style with us shouting out the best examples. All of wine, of course being available from our fine independent wine shops.

Despite not having a theme we all got together a little while back to hear from our creators, take a few promo shots and get our palates warmed up for the big tastings to come.

Here are the results:

First place: Côte Mas Piquepoul Frisant 2013 (Vin de France, 12.0%, £9.95, Soho Wine Supply)

This refreshing fizz made from the increasingly popular Piquepoul grape has bags of grapefruit, lemon and green apple flavour and was something of a revelation. The saline finish is very moreish and just begs you to take another sip. For under a tenner, this must be one of the best sparklers on the market. 89 points.

Second place: Stag’s Leap Petite Sirah 2009 (Napa Valley, USA, 14.1%, £25.00, Soho Wine Supply)

Luxurious and velvety, brooding and smoky. This is an intense, concentrated wine with flavours of blackberry, coffee bean and black cherries. The overall impression is punchy and polished, but it retains a sense of elegance and balance. Beauty and the beast all wrapped up in one. 91 points.

Third place: Boroli Quatro Fratelli Barbera d’Alba 2011 (Italy, 13.5%, £13.99, Soho Wine Supply)

A lovely, classic Barbera: bright and perky, with pure, crunchy red cherry and cranberry flavours. Versatile and highly drinkable, this just cries out for some good Italian food. Thirst quenching and juicy. 89 points.

Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2014 (Franschhoek, South Africa, 12.5%, £10.99, Hard to Find Wines)

This rose-gold coloured white is made from the same grapes commonly blended in Champagne. It’s fairly weighty, with deep apple and melon aromas and a silky texture. Clear, clean and just a little bit different. 87 points.

Clos des Menuts Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2009 (France, 13.5%, £19.20 Nichols and Perks)

Serious stuff: this is classic claret, with strong black fruit and a gamey, savoury, smoky character. It’s pretty dry, but with some soft, sumptuous fruits and a slightly furry texture. Deserves to be drunk alongside a plate of something meaty. 87 points.

For more info on the app and how it works, check out mrvine.co.uk

Mr Vine Tasting Team Photo

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 13.53.37

 

 

Two Majestic Spring Whites

There was a bit of a false start a few weeks back, but upon arriving back in London yesterday after a lovely Easter weekend in the North East it felt like spring had sincerely come. To celebrate, I thought I would recommend a couple superb white wines that I recently tasted from Majestic.

Majestic Wine despite increasing online competition continues to do an excellent job providing good wines at fair prices. We got a a blindingly good Cremant de Loire for a our wedding

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 16.16.24The first was from excellent Kiwi producer Marisco Vineyards. I was introduced to this Malborough superstar at a Majestic tasting a few years back and liked their Kings Thorn Pinot Gris so much I matched it with some fish and chips in a video tasting. Many people may know them for producing the good value The Ned range, especially the Sauvignon Blanc.

But this time round it was one of their chardonnay’s, specifically The Kings Legacy 2011 that had me impressed. This £14.99 wine comes from grapes at two sites (older vineyards from the Wairau and younger from Brancott) and is aged on the lees (yeast) for ten months in French oak with the help of mostly wild yeasts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 16.09.41What comes out is top class and has a purity that I would expect of a Grand Cru Chablis. Crisp green apple, richer hints of stone fruit and some richer nuttiness. But super clean, balanced and defined. Mrs. DnE and I had it with a pork loin with an apple celery brandy and mustard sauce to mark our six month anniversary. The combination was superb and if any wants the recipe for the pork post a comment and I will try to recall what I did to make it so tasty.

The second wine was nothing short of a revelation and it was a Muscadet.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 16.10.09Now I know what you are thinking but this ain’t no ho-hum wallflower of the Loire. Partially aged in oak and given some time to mature Muscadet Le Pallet 2009 blew my flipping doors off. Produced by Les Dix du Pallet, which ironically is a co-op of 10 growers based in Le Pallet, a ‘cru’ village in the southeast between those famous rivers Sevre and Maine.

The nose gave off whiffs of french patisserie; baked and biscuity. But then there was tropical pineapple, ripe white melon, fragrant buttercup, toasted almond and waxy lemon. 

My first sip seemed to set in motion some sort of sensory Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I was zapped by laser guided mango, pummeled by popping passionfruit, my breath frosted by mineral crispness, stung by slivers of cedar, needled by hints of pine and then finally warmed with a sensual spicy lick of white pepper. The finale was a bit of a nod to Diana Rigg, but the wine was sublime while that installment of 007 was merely sub. 

I was spent. What a tremendous wine and on at for an amazing £9.99 right now. 

If you won’t take my word on these two bottles being real beauties then take perhaps Decanter might sway you. Both won gold and the regional trophy in 2014 at their prestigious yearly wine awards.

Kings Legacy 2011

Le Pallet 2009

Leithaberg Wines Austria at its best

Leithaberg meant absolutely nothing to me a few months ago. No idea what/where/who it was. Never heard of it.

That was until an email invitation dropped into my inbox courtesy of Dillon Morall PR. Thanks Victoria and Allison!

Here’s what I learned…

Leithaberg is one of Austria’s eight DAC’s (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) basically the equivalent to France’s AOC status.  It’s located in the east of the country getting its name from the “Leithagebirge” or the Laitha mountains that separate Burgenland and Lower Austria.  The soils are considered quite unique (mix of gneiss, mica-slate, shell/limestone, marl and crystalline), and the winemakers feel that it gives their wines that certain je ne sais what.

Austria is famed for their native Grüner Veltliner; a white grape that in the right hands can produce wines of complexity, purity and power that rival the very best Chardonnays and Rieslings. They age well to boot.

To bear the name Leithaberg on the label, the whites (most are bottled as single varietals) must be made from the aforementioned Grüner, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay or Neuberger. Red can only be made from Blaufränkish and must be aged in oak barrels.

Despite the renown of “GV” only one of the Weingut’s (Wine Estate) had one to show, with the rest preferring Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc. Vineyards are quite diverse with other varietals such as: Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Zweigelt (a spicy red of Austrian extraction), St Laurent, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

I recognised the wacky labels of one producer from a visit to Linz last year, but the rest were brand new to me.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.46.33Probably my favorite wines were from Wagentristl, run by the family of the same name since 1888, in the minute village of Grosshöflein. Fifth-generation winemaker Rudi Wagentristl runs every aspect of their ecological 12ha vineyard pretty much by himself. No small feat.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.49.26They had six wines on show all which showed tremendous balance, purity, character and shone with happiness.

Their Leithaberg Chardonnay ’13 had all the hallmarks of good southern white Burgundy; rounded tropical fruit, touch saline, fleshy fresh and clean. Entry level Blaufränkisch ’12 was very generous, fleshy dark fruit, with a spicy finish. Blau Leithaberg ’12 was more of the same but was more muscular, concentrated and flecked with graphite.

Loved Föllikberg ’12; a blend of Blau and Zweigelt. Inky ripe, luscious dark berry, rounded, full with sparks of woody spice. Dyno-Mite!

Was even more impressed with Pinot Noir Kreideberg ’12. If I had tasted it blind I would have said it was Cotes de Nuits or even a Volnay. Beautiful red fruit nose tinged with game. The palate; fresh mineral, grippy tannins, seductive spice with a sublime long and complex finish. A real show stopper.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.48.45They have the right conditions in Leithaberg to produce botrytis or noble rot dessert wines and Wagentristl Trockenbeerenauslese ’13 was a beauty. Piercing pineapple, creamy stone fruit, supremely balanced sugars with a complex feel and texture.

Rudi was a lovely guy as well which makes me all the more sad that they did not have an importer here in the UK.  Hope someone snaps them up!

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.47.47The very memorably labelled Weingut Esterházy produce a very solid range. I was particularly fond of Estoras Grüner Veltliner ’12; an exploding melon and lime firecracker of a wine and available here for £11.95. Leithaberg DAC Blaufränkisch ’11 was an iron-rich, sanguine meaty beast.

They have Bourgogne nailed with a flinty buttery smoky Leithaberg DAC Chardonnay ’12 and Pinot Noir Classic ’12 complete with ripe sour cherry and liquorice.

Leithaberg by this tasting is not a region that can produce sub £10 bottles, so Weingut Nehrer should be applauded for a few potentially good value wines. Their Blaufränkisch ’13 was like a Rubenesque showgirl; full of warm plum, cigar, winter spice, fleshy, forward and fun. Leithaberg Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) ’12; approachable, easy drinking with gentle golden fruit and creamy apple. Rounding out the trio was Leithaberg rot Blaufränkisch ’11. Plummy, inky, yet super fresh and underpinned by that complex mineral cocktail of slate, limestone and co that I had come to expect of Leithaberg “Blau”. At the time of writing Nehrer like Wagentristl, are seeking a UK Importer. Hope they find one.

Anita and Hans Nittnaus is worth a mention for Heideboden Pinot Blanc ’13; good value, bright lemony, rich melon, pure and clean. As well as an intense, focused marmalade beauty of a 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Blanc Trockenbeerenauslese 2006 (available @ Lea & Sandeman £19.95).

Now I am pretty sure that I have never highlighted what was served for lunch at a tasting of this sort. So this is a first. But so astonishing delicious and diverse was the spread from head chef Will Robertson that I must mention it. The fact that Will had spent some time living and working in Austria shone through in most certainly the best food I have ever had at a tasting.

I am drooling as I type the following: Slow roast duck with pickled cabbage on rye, pork schnitzel mustard and pickles, potato dumplings, herring with soft boiled egg on pumpernickel, smoked trout and cucumber cream on a buckwheat pancake and finally speck noodle dumpling and sauerkraut. Bravo Will, Vinoteca Soho is lucky to have you. Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.47.56Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 11.48.08

The only downside to this being a tasting and not a lunch per say meant that my professionalism kept me from just grabbing a few bottles and plonking myself down at the table. Oh, to have spent the rest of that grey and rainy afternoon gobbling up even more of those heavenly little morsels washed down with numerous glasses of those sublime wines.

It really was a fabulous tasting. Not only did I learn about a new region whose wines are so deserving of a wider audience but I was treated to a smorgasbord of Oesterreich delicacies. For that reason, it will go down as my most memorable tasting of 2014.

If Will ever does an Austrian dinner sign up right away and put my name down too!

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