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Richard Mark James' blog: wine, travel, food, BYO restaurants, craft beer, stuff like that...

02 February 2020

Wines of the moment and other strange fruits

Aconcagua vineyard from monteswines.com
Pinot Noir
Virtually the only red I've been buying in recent times (I love Pinot's silkiness and aromatic yet savoury fruit), here are my top Pinots for under a tenner. Interesting to note that four of them are from cooler climate zones in Chile.
Chile
Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2016, Aconcagua Costa: I'd seen this tempting bottle before sitting gathering dust in local WineMark stores (NI), and decided to take the plunge making the most of their '£5 off for two' rolling offer on selected wines (netting to a reasonable £8.69 per bottle, rather than an overpriced £11.19 for one). This lovely maturing Pinot comes from leading winery Montes from vineyards located to the north of Valparaiso close to the Pacific Ocean. And it's pretty classy, showing enticing signs of typical developing Pinot Noir on the nose and palate with aromatic complex sweet/savoury notes and silky mouth-feel, managing to balance weight (14% abv) with softness and freshness finishing with tasty lingering flavours.
Carmen Wave Series Right Wave Pinot Noir 2017, Leyda Valley: Made by another well-known winery, Carmen, this is also sourced from coastal vineyards but this time in the Leyda region to the south of Valparaiso. A little lighter and fresher than the Montes, this is nevertheless an attractive Pinot for the money (€10 on offer in SuperValu stores, Ireland) and fairly duck-friendly.
Root: 1 Pinot Noir 2017, Casablanca Valley (13% abv): Produced by Vina Ventisquero in the Casablanca Valley lying to the east of Valparaiso, which is considered the pioneering region for Pinot in Chile. 'Volatile' balsamic notes, light red fruit palate and again fairly fresh finish, a nice all-rounder Pinot. WineMark £9.99 / £5 off for 2.
Tierra y Hombre Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca Valley (13.5% abv): This wine appears to have become like Marks & Spencer's 'house' Pinot, since I think it's come down in price (£7?) and is sometimes available as the red in their meal deal. Aromatic soft and juicy, difficult not to like it.
Germany
Palataia Pinot Noir 2018, Pfalz: This classy concentrated Pinot has been recommended before on WW.com (previous years), and the 2018 vintage is quite rich and lightly smoky with delicious sweet/savoury style; its full mouth-feel (14% abv I think) yet fresh acidity made it a good Christmas dinner match with duck roulade (also from Marks alas!), roast parsnips etc. (definitely no sprouts though). £9 M&S

Other reds

France
Château Haut-Gléon 2016, Corbières Languedoc (60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Carignan): I remember trying some wines sometime in the noughties from this very old estate and they weren't great (cork problems among other things), but it's been owned by the massive co-op winery group Vignobles Foncalieu since 2012 that seems to have sorted out any quality issues. A blend from different sites, the Grenache comes from a plot nearer to Portel and the Syrah from near the château itself (the property sits between the wee villages of Portel-des-Corbières and Villesèque-des-Corbières) with a splash of old vine Carignan, which is matured for 12 months in oak casks. Tasty concentrated black cherry and kirsch flavours, nice maturing savoury tones too with rounded tannins and subtle integrated oak tones. Good wine for sure although it should be at €17 (in France).
L'Apogée 2015 Saint-Chinian, Languedoc (14% abv): Made from selected grapes from growers Michel Cazevieille and Sébastien Roubichou's best vineyard parcels located at slight altitude facing south-east in a sheltered spot (also Foncalieu). Mostly Syrah (85%) with Grenache noir are aged for one year in new oak barrels, and it shows with its spicy vanilla coconut coating, in that 'we want to make a flashy top wine' kinda way (with big heavy bottle to match). But there's plenty of substance on the palate with rich dark fruit, enticing developing meaty notes and well-honed tannins. Pricey at €20 but I guess that's the point being a low production limited edition wine!
Italy
Marzemino 2018, Trentino (12.5% abv): Unusual tasty addition to Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range produced by leading co-op winery Ca'Vit, Marzemino is indigenous to this part of northern Italy. Relatively light and soft with cherry berry and liquorice flavours and a hint of peppery spice. £7 on offer / £8.50.
Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017, Veneto (Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, 13.5% abv): Aromatic dried morello cherry and liquorice with balsamic edges, lovely sweet / sour smoky fruit with just a little dry grip, then softer and maturing on the finish. Lidl £7.99
Spain
El Duque de Miralta Rioja Crianza 2015 El Coto (Tempranillo, 13.5% abv): Smooth and seductive version of traditional cask-aged Rioja, the oak flavours have melted into the wine nicely along with maturing savoury dried fruit characters and quite silky mouth-feel. M&S £9.50.
Cune Rioja Crianza 2015: Similarities to above - made mostly from Tempranillo, aged for a year in oak - although feels punchier (apparently 13.5% abv) and has drier tannins on the palate, although shows some attractive smoky maturing characters and dark berry fruits. Oxidised quite quickly after opening. £10.69 Winemark or £5 off for two = £8.19 net.
South Africa
Bellingham Pinotage 2017, Stellenbosch (14% abv): This wine is always good and always good value when on offer at Tesco (£8.50-£9 I think instead of £11), offering smoky spicy tones with damson, blueberry and roast red pepper, full-bodied palate with subtle oak, fairly rich fruit, maturing meatier tones and nice twist of tannins.

Rosé

Spain
Campo Viejo Rosé 2018, Rioja (Garnacha, 13.5% abv): Deft winemaking makes this tasty red-fruity rosé seem light, aromatic, fresh and crisp, which it is, while you don't really notice its full-on mouth-feel and weight, so have it with food rather than pure quaffing (fish and chips, cheese, risotto, roast veggies, cured hams). £8 Tesco, Sainsbury's.
Torres Viña Sol Rosado 2018, Catalonia (Garnacha, Carinena, 12.5% abv): Another consistently worthwhile dry fruity rosé from you-know-who (they make a few different styles), its refreshing aromatic raspberry and strawberry flavours work quite well with spicy food. £7-£8 Waitrose, Wineflair (on offer), Asda (used to at least?).
Monte Plogar Cariñena Rosado 2018, Aragón (Garnacha, 13.5% abv): Not the most spectacular rosé in the world, but a tasty mouthful for the price. Big and fruity, it went well with different Chinese dishes (seafood, duck, spicy noodles etc.). £5.99 Lidl.
France
Fat bastard Rosé 2018, Languedoc (Syrah, Grenache, 13% abv): Probably refers to the chubby wild boar in the middle of its bright swirly label, although all these wines are apparently named after a particularly chunky sample that christened the range. Well-made Med style rosé combining zesty dry palate, aromatic rose petal and red fruits and a little weight too. £8.69 Winemark.
Touraine Rosé 2018, Loire Valley, Pierre Chaimier (Gamay, Cabernet Franc, 12.5% abv): Another good Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' wine, this light-ish aromatic style of Loire rosé is quite crisp and dry compared to the sweeter Anjou Rosé. £7
Oriel Luberon rosé 2018, Provence (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, 13% abv): Again southern France comes up trumps with this fruity, dry yet fairly full-bodied foodie rosé. £7.50-£8.50 Tesco.
USA
Plow & Press California Shiraz rosé 2018 (Syrah, 13% abv): Deeper coloured style, very fruity and juicy with refreshing off-dry finish; proper rosé rather than like alot of that cheap sweet California stuff. Aldi £7.99 / €9.99.

Fizz

Catalonia
Cava Brut Nature 2016 (Chardonnay, Xarel-lo, Macabeu, Parellada, 11.5% abv): Made by Marqués de Monistrol (part of United Wineries) for Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range, this very dry yet mature Cava ('Nature' meaning not sweetened like regular so-called Brut styles) has delicate yeasty notes alongside almond and apple flavours. Good value quality fizz, sometimes on offer for £7.50-ish or £9 full price.
Prestige Cava Brut (Macabeu, Parellada, 12% abv): A relatively new, dearer Cava at Marks - or did they just change the label and put the price up? - but it does taste superior to the old red label one from memory, being a little richer and toastier with nutty and crisp finish. £10 M&S.

Whites

Chile
Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2019: The latest vintage of this blog's popular favourite, which is a touch lighter and less 'fat' than previous versions although still has plenty of trademark Gewurz aromatic lychee and rose petal fruit with fresh finish. £7.50 Tesco.
Italy
Gaudenzio Traminer Aromatico 2018, Friuli: Delicious north-eastern Italian style of Gewurz, lighter and drier than an Alsace one say with floral grapey fruit and nice 'mineral' mouth-feel. About €9 at Lidl Ireland?
Lugana Taia Piera 2018: Continuing 'the good quality and diverse Italian white wines at the German discount stores theme', here's another lovely one from the Lake Garda region that's richer and fuller in style, more Chardonnay like although supposedly made from Trebbiano, which is usually a rather neutral tasting variety and this wine certainly is not. Aldi £6.99 UK / €9.99 Irish stores?
Adler Kerner 2018, Alto Adige (14%): Yet another one from far northern Italy this time, and at £9 or £10 in Lidl stores perhaps a bit beyond many people's eye-sight, but give it a go for a special dinner say. Made from the Kerner variety (a crossing of Trollinger and Riesling according to Wikipedia), this is fairly rich, concentrated, ripe, peachy and zesty with refreshing bite too.
Verdicchio Classico 2018, Marches (13.5% abv): Back to Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' range and this very true example of well-made modern Verdicchio (indigenous to this region of central Italy): zingy and lively with yeasty nutty characters and aromatic peachy richness too. £6 on offer / £7.
France
Viognier Laurent Miquel 2018, Pays d'Oc (13% abv): The run of very good JS 'TTD' wines continues in the guise of this perfumed apricoty peachy Viognier, made by maestro Miquel who seems to have found the knack of successfully growing aromatic white varieties in the warm Languedoc (try his Albarino too). £8, sometimes with £1 or so off.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages 2018 (13% abv): Consistently enjoyable unoaked Chardy from this well-known house from this well-known part of southern Burgundy. Widely available so look out for offers when you can get it for under a tenner.
Chablis UVC 2016 (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv): Delicious Chabbers Chardy style made by impeccable wine-growers' co-op winery offering enticing maturing oaty buttery fruit and texture, quite concentrated and still a touch of freshness on the finish. On offer at the moment for £12 at Tesco; £14.50 at Sainsbury's, although probably more recent vintages (got the 2016 at JS a while ago for about £10 I think).
Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône blanc 2018 (Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Viognier; 13% abv): Pleasing mix of juicy, crisp and dry with ripe lightly exotic fruit, nut and floral tones (banana, white peach, Brazils, honeysuckle, elderflower...). £6.50 on offer at Tesco (normally £8).
Germany
Hans Baer Pinot Grigio Trocken 2018, Rheinhessen (13% abv): Rheinhessen used to be mostly Liebfraumilch land, but how the wine scene has changed there and in Germany generally. Fans of light neutral Italian Pinot G probably won't be too mad on this rather tasty example of a more 'French' style of Pinot Gris: it's full flavoured and juicy with almost creamy yeast-lees undertones and nice dry finish. £7 Asda.
Aus & NZ
McWilliam's Markview Chardonnay 2018, New South Wales Australia (13.5% abv): Good value and wisely unoaked style of Chardy that Aus winemakers now do so well, it has some of the creamy fruit and texture you'd expect but with a zestier citrus and white peach side too. £6.99 Winemark.
Winemaker's Selection Clare Valley Riesling 2018, South Australia (11.5% abv): Recommended several times before on this blog, I recently found it in one Belfast Lidl store at £3.99! Still easily worth the full £5.99 price, but watch out for it if they're getting rid of it at that crazy bargain price.
Villa Maria Pinot Grigio 2018, East Coast New Zealand (13.5% abv): Following on from what I said above about the German Pinot G, accomplished NZ winery VM also goes for a bigger richer juicier style of PG; great wine with Thai or Chinese food. £9.50-£10.99 depending on any offers available on and off at Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Winemark...
South Africa
The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne Limited Release 2019, Bellingham Estate: Deliciously stylish white, rich and exotic with honeysuckle and peach flavours and buttery texture, not oaked though or not obviously so, full-bodied yet 'chalky' mouth-feel. Demonstrates that Roussanne can be a star grape variety in the right place and hands. £9 Sainsbury's (usually £10.25).
Hungary
Haraszthy Sir Irsai 2018, Etyek-Buda (90% Irsai Oliver grape, 11.5% abv): Nice easy-drinking crisp dry white, fresh light and Muscat like with grapey elderflower notes and zesty citrus finish. £6.99 Lidl.
Romania
Orange Natural Wine 'Made Naturally in 2019' (organic, no added yeast or sulphur, vegan wine, 13% abv): Forget shouty men in bowler hats and bright sashes, 'orange' is a trendy style of 'natural' wine made from white grapes (Chardonnay, Feteasca Alba, Sauvignon Blanc, Tamioasa Romaneasca) that are macerated on the skins like red wine, giving the rich colour as well as this one being free of added sulphites. So it probably also acquires some lightly oxidised fino sherry type notes to its aromatic Muscat-esque nose and candied citrus peel kinda twist on the palate. Actually pulls it off, this is tastefully different from its look through to the flavour. £6.25 Asda.

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