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Sunday, 10 December 2017

When In Rome - Barbera

A Northern Italian Bag-in-Box wine  from When in Rome

To people of a certain generation, Bag-In-Box wine is associated with bulk generic plonk for house parties - but, like prawn cocktails, pork pies and facial hair, there's nothing so "out" that it can't be rendered hipster with some ironic functional packaging, bold typeset and upmarket distribution.

When In Rome specialises in Italian made from small independent producers; the brand launched last year and is now available at Waitrose and Harvey Nichols and independent wine merchants at £25.99 per 2.25 litre box (equivalent to three bottles that will last up to six weeks).
Barbera - DOC Piemonte raspberry and red plum fruit with sour-cherry freshness, some woodsy-earthiness, spice and fine, gentle tannins. Deft and well-made; far too good for spilling on the carpet at a suburban house-warming.

Good - and Good Value.

Match with rich dark meats, mushrooms and roast dinners.

The full When In Rome range includes:
  • Nero D’Avola - IGP Terre Siciliane
  • Pinot Grigio - IGT Venezia Giula
  • Barbera - DOC Piemonte
  • Merlot - IGT Veneto
  • Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso - IGP Venezia Giula
  • Rosato - IGT Venezia Giula Beneventano
  • Falanghina IGT
  • Sauvignon - IGT Venezia Giula
  • Dolcetto - DOC Piemonte
  • Marche IGP Bianco (Verdiccho)
  • Marche IGP Rosso

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Virgin Wines for Christmas - Brouilly

A Beaujolais Cru from Virgin Wines

At Christmas you need a range of wines for all occasions - this juicy and gluggable Brouilly (the largest Cru in Beaujolais, situated around Mont Brouilly) is perfect for lunchtimes or afternoon tea, say with cold cuts on Boxing Day.

With trademark Beaujolais freshness, drink this either as a warm-up to bigger wines with your Christmas roast or as a pick-me-up to refresh palates after a day of Christmas pudding and mince pies.

Domaine Les Roches Bleues Brouilly 2016 juicy black cherry and raspberry fruit with lifted spice and freshness. Substantial, mineral core with very fine tannins and good length. Pure and adept.

Good and Good Value.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Martini Prosecco

Prosecco from Martini - available at Ocado

It's an oversimplification - but not necesssarily and unhelpful one - to say that Prosecco is a poor man's Champagne. In the same way that a two-seater Fiat is a poor man's Ferrari.

There is enjoyment to be had, perhaps fewer tears and certainly a lower price.

This Martini Prosecco is a perfect fizz for everyday drinking over Christmas or to keep handy in case of unexpected visitors.

Martini Prosecco (£6.99, Ocado) light, very fresh and mineral-citrussy-sherbety; elegant, well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Good Value.

Drink as an aperitif, with light starters or cold cuts - it is fresh enough to cut through a wide range of foods.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Two Bordeaux Wines for Christmas

Two special Bordeaux wines from Dourthe for Christmas - available from The Wine Society and the Co-op

Christmas is a time to try out some better-quality wines - with good food and good company. These two Bordeaux, a mature red and a sticky, cost a little more but come with  impeccable credentials, are good value for the money and won't disappoint.


Château La Garde 2010 Pessac-Leognan (£23, The Wine Society) classic mature Bordeaux, with cassis, red plum fruit, spice and cedarwood; fresh and mineral with very fine tannins and a firm, muscular core. Drinking nicely now, will continue to improve for many years

Very Good.

Match with a Christmas roast, Boxing Day cold cuts or a beefy stew.

Château Roumieu 2014 Sauternes (£12.99, Co-op - half-bottle) apricots, honeysuckle blossom, beeswax and candied lemons; sweet tropical fruits, sherbet, acacia honey, Sicilian lemons and overripe peaches with some musky beeswax. Long, sweet-sour-savoury and complex.

Very Good.

Match with crème brûlée or lemon torte.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Most English Fish & Chips

The most English fish & chip shop - with an English wine list

The mark of many a classic wine region is a traditional food match: Muscadet and seafood, Chianti and bistecca alla fiorentina, mature Rioja and manchego.

Add to that, English wine with fish and chips - light and crisp, English wine is a great match for our traditional dish,

Now, Olley's Fish Experience of Herne Hill, South East London has launched the most extensive English wine list of any fish and chip shop in Britain.

Rather than just fizzy pop of varying colours, you can now choose from a range of English wines with your cod or hake. And for would-be Bond villains, there's even a red wine:

· Ridgeview Fitzrovia Sparkling Rosé (Sussex)
· Chapel Down Brut N/V (Kent)
· Jenkyn Place Blanc de Noirs (Hampshire)
· Bolney Pinot Noir (Sussex)
· Lyme Bay Shoreline - Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc (Dorset)
· Chapel Down Bacchus (Kent)
· Litmus Bacchus/Chardonnay (Surrey)
· Jenkyn Place Brut (Hampshire)
· Litmus White Pinot Noir (Surrey)

Friday, 24 November 2017

Worldwide Winter Reds

Two Worldwide Winter Reds - Western Australia's Robert Oatley and a Beajolais from Louis Jadot

From different corners of the world and different grapes, both these wines have a certain atypicity, a difference from the norm.

Beaujolais is best-known as a juicy glugger for early drinking - not a wine to age.

Equally, Western Australia's wines are more considered and European than standard-edition Blockbuster Aussie.

What both these wines also have in common is an elegance and food-friendliness to match with, for example, winter game.

Louis Jadot Château des Jacques Moulin à Vent 2013 (£18.00, Sainsburys and independents) red plum and cherry fruit with some spice and leather; fresh and juicy with tobacco leaf, fine tannins and minerality - drinking nicely now and will comtinue to improve for a few more years.

Good.

Match with darker game, especially duck in cherry sauce - or something mushroomy.

Robert Oatley Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (£13.75, The Co-op, Cambridge Wine Merchants, independents) juicy dark-berry fruit with blackcurrant leaf, pencil shavings and spice; fresh, pure and crystalline with a supple texture and a muscular core.

Drinking nicely now, will gain complexity with age.

Good.

Match the juiciness to a rare steak with plenty of garlic and pepper, be it beef, venison or tuna.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Three Wine Men in Cambridge

Three Wine Men event in Cambridge

The Three Wine Men are - in vintage order - Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin MW and Olly Smith. Their line-up for this event inclued a mixture of producers, retailers and local-to-Cambridge merchants.

I got around as many as I could and noted down my top wines.

Wines of California
"Big and bold" is the hallmark of California - my top wine was the Edna Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (£14.99, Majestic); well-made, typical Pinot with cherries and earthiness, relatively low alcohol (for California).

There were bigger, better and more complex wines on show - if high-alcohol and high prices are your thing, try Carlisle Wines Zinfandel "Papera Ranch 2013" (£39.50, Noel Young).

Bordeaux
By contrast, the Bordeaux wines showed much more Old World structure; I liked all the wines here from the complex dry white Graves (M. de Malle 2013) to the precise, mineral  rosé (M de Mangot 2016).

If you want to experience the improving effects of age on a wine for the price of a current vintage, then try the 2002 Peyrabon from Cambridge Wine Merchants.

Top wine, however, was the complex and deft Sauternes Pineau Du Rey 2012 (£11.99, Laithwaite's).

Villa Maria
New Zealand's Villa Maria have made a name as a reliable producer of well-made wines with New World fruit and kiwi freshness. In their Cellar Selection range, a varietal Sauvignon Gris 2016 (£14.05) and Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (£15.55) both impressed.

But my top wine was the layered, complex, substantial and extremely sophisticated Keltern Chardonnay 2016 (£19.50).

New Zealand
Best wine here was the amazing and somewhat legendary Greywacke Pinot Noir 2014 (£32.99, The Wine Society), a lovely, elegant Burgundian Pinot with cherries and spice.

At the other end of the price scale, Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£8.99, Co-op, Sainsbury's) is a well-made kiwi SB that really overdelivers for the price.

Alpine Wines
I've long wanted to check out Alpine Wines' range; there were two stand-out wines here:

Cicero Pinot Noir Alte Reben 2012, Graubuenden, Switzerland (£26.40) pale, almost rosé-coloured; red-fruits and farmyard, delicate yet with a structured and muscular core.

Heidi Schroeck Suesse Loewen Spaetlese 2012, Burgenland, Austria (£16.80) complex roasted stone fruits, light and incredibly fresh, almost dry on the finish.

Sud de France Top 100
Languedoc is a great source of well-made characterful wines; some sub-regions, such as St Chinian, are now beginning to establish their own local identity.

Cave de Roquebrun, Le Grange des Combes 2015, AOC St Chinian (£10 - £12.49, Majestic) floral, almost like perfumed soap, with crushed red fruits and smoke. Long and supple.

Local heroes
Cambridge Wine Merchants had an excellent white-label vintage port from 1983, whilst north-of-the-river Thirsty had two deliciously zippy-citrussy Mosel Rieslings on tap, Meierer and Mikeller.