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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Virgin Wines - the Reds

A range of reds from Virgin wines

If you want to try a range of reds that are both typical and demonstrate the breadth of what a red wine can be, you could do worse than try these from Virgin Wines.

From the freshness of the Loire Cab Franc to a fortified port-esque Malbec via the Rhône and a Sicilian passimento made from partially-dried grapes.

Domaine Lame-Delisle-Boucard Bourgeuil Cuvee des Chesnais 2015 (£9.99) fresh raspberry leaf and cherry fruit with pepper, spice and minerality.

Good and good value.

Fresh enough to sip slightly chilled on a hot day or match with lightly-smoked salmon fillets.

Chateau Cambis Cotes du Rhone Villages 2014 (£10.99) light and fresh Rhône, with elderberry fruit, liquorice, pencil shavings, dried green herbs and fine, firm tannins; lacks fruit-plumpness, a little basic.

Drink with red meats, such as burgers or roast beef.

Eghemon Passimiento 2015 (£15.99) prunes, figs and baked red berry fruit with spice; strong, concentrated, sweet and intense, cut through with freshness. Good underpinnings.


Drink as an after-dinner sipper or match with darker game and aged cheeses.

Familia Zuccardi Malamado Malbec 2014 (£15.99) port-style fortified Malbec from Argentina. Herbaceous, figgy-raisiny, sweet and powerful, with dried plums, black fruits and savoury roasted spices.


Like ruby port, it will match with mature cheeses, dark chocolate, Christmas puddings and mince pies; or darker game.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Crisp White and Big Red

Crisp white, big red from Virgin Wines

Crisp White and Big Red is a classic combo - you can't go wrong with it; the white as aperitif and with fish or mozzarella starters, followed by the red with a main of beef, lamb or venison.

The white here is a Sancerre-esque Loire Sauvignon - more mineral than aromatic, it is a classy Old World classic; the red is baked, Spanish and a touch blowsy.

Domaine Denis Jamain Les Fossiles Reuilly Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (£14.99) steely, mineral citrus fruit with precision and finesse. Substantial and persistent with excellent underpinnings. Good.

Pizo Garnacha 2015 (£9.99) big and alcoholic with plummy, somewhat baked dark and raspberry fruit and cocoa, liquorice and spice. The fresh, mineral core just about holds it together. Fine tannins.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Low Alcohol Wines from Tesco

Three low-alcohol wines from Tesco - Sauvignon, Garnacha rosé, Tempranillo

I'm not sure, if I'm honest, that I can quite see the point of low alcohol wines - they are something of a needless halfway house between a decent bottle of wine (of which you may drink half a glass if you need to consider your alcohol intake) and non-alcoholic substitutes such as iced tea, elderflower cordial or even - amazingly - water.

But if you must have low alcohol wine, then you want it at least to taste nice, even if it does not taste completely like wine.

These three from Tesco are de-alcoholised wines from Spain with some sweetness added back to maintain balance; there is a white Sauvignon, a Garnacha rosé and a red Tempranillo.

They taste pleasant enough - off-dry and fruit-forward; I've had worse full-strength wines. There's nothing actively wrong with any of them, which is probably no mean feat.

And they are apparently proving popular with consumers of low-alcohol wines.

A technical note - low-alcohol here is around 0.5%, which is almost nothing. No-alcohol is 0.05%, which really is nothing.

Priced at £3 per full-sized bottle, they are notably cheaper than even the most basic normal-strength wine.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bastions of South Africa - Virgin Wines

Two South African Bastions V wines from Virgin Wines

South Africa has the world's oldest soils - winemaker Marinda Kruger-Van Eck says "the wine must express where it comes from, you must be able to taste the soil [then] the quality of the grapes and lastly hopefully something from me as the winemaker."

Both these wines have New World fruit ripeness with a European sense of restraint. Both are well made and enjoyable; the Shiraz is the more interesting of the two.

Bastions V Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2016 Tropical citrus and desert apple with some limey zip and minerality. Balanced and clean with good underpinnings. Rounded and pleasant, rather like the girl next door.

Drink as an aperitif; match with starters or white meats.

Bastions V Western Cape Shiraz 2016 inky pencil shavings and spice with dark damson and black cherry fruit. Fresh and mineral with fine tannins. Darker and more intriguing; rhone-esque. Good.

Match with red meats, such as steak or venison casserole. Or drink with cheese.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Wines For Summer: From Vineyards Direct

Three picnic wines via From Vineyards Direct

Just like bank holiday weekends and planning a barbecue, some things seem destined to bring on bad weather; these summer wines arrived just as the long hot summer broke and gardeners rejoiced in the deluge of rain.

When the good weather does return and you need some summery wines, here are three via From Vineyards Direct.

They are all easy-drinking and thoroughly enjoyable - with plenty of freshness, they will both match with picnic foods or drink on their own on a hot day.

Finca Tempranal Selección Airen 2015, Spain (£7.95) fresh, citrussy baked and tropical fruits, pineapple and mango with pithy lime zest and sweet spice.

Moulin de Gassac, Guilhem Rosé 2016, Languedoc (£8.95) red berry fruit, minerality and good underpinings. Good.

Domaine de Marcé Cabernet 2014 Touraine, Loire Valley (£9.95) leafy raspberry fruit and green peppers with pencil shavings and spice. Fresh and poised.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Entries now open for The Daniel Pontifex Scholarship 2017

Wine Australia and The Daniel Pontifex Memorial Trust are offering a rising star of the UK hospitality industry a trip to Australia to learn more about the trade and explore the country’s renowned food and wine culture.

The scholarship, which has been running since 1998, recognises and celebrates the efforts and enthusiasm of tomorrow’s leading hospitality professionals. The award commemorates Daniel Pontifex who died in a car accident during his employment at Kensington Place Restaurant in London.

Daniel had previously worked in Adelaide in Australia with Shaw + Smith’s Michael Hill Smith MW who, along with Daniel’s family, went on to initiate the scholarship in his name.

Each alternate year, a scholarship winner from the UK and Australia respectively is invited to experience the hospitality sector in the contrasting country. The trip provides them with direct access to influential industry leaders and offers first-hand insights into the international world of food and wine.

The Daniel Pontifex Scholarship was last awarded in the UK in 2015 to Quinby Frey who works at Cambridge Wine Merchants.

Quinby Frey, now Sales and Accounts Business Development Manager at Cambridge Wine Merchants, said:

“The day after I returned from Australia I hosted a wine tasting into which I ‘sneaked’ a couple of the wines that I’d had during my trip. It was a delight to share with customers the stories and places that I’d visited, and the enthusiastic customer response was heartening.

I have completely loved how much I now have to discuss about Australian wine with customers since my trip and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see customers step out of their wine comfort zones and embrace Aussie wine.

I learnt far more spending four weeks on the ground than I have in my last four years as a merchant and I am thankful for the amazing opportunity given to me to develop my knowledge further.”

Alessandro Marchesan, past scholarship winner and 2017 panellist, said:

“It was one of the best experiences of my life. The opportunity to travel around Australia’s best wine regions, to meet and work with the best winemakers and to have some working experiences in some of the best restaurants boosted not only my knowledge but also gave me great confidence to carry on with my career.”

Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia Head of Market EMEA, said:

“We look forward to sharing Australia’s vibrant food and wine culture with the winner and helping to develop their career with this unique experience.”

To enter, applicants are invited to submit a short essay (500-750 words) explaining why they believe they are a suitable candidate, together with a short resume.

Applicants are expected to have a strong interest in wine and may work in any area of hospitality.

Submissions should be made by email to laura.jewell@wineaustralia.com by Friday 29 September 2017.

Interviews will be held in October in London and the winner’s trip will take place in 2018.

The winner of the 2017 scholarship will be selected by a panel of leading wine and hospitality professionals including Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia; Michael Hill Smith MW, Shaw + Smith; David Gleave MW, Liberty Wines; Alessandro Marchesan, Zonin UK; and writer and Chef-Consultant Rowley Leigh.

The winner will receive funding towards travel, insurance, accommodation and expenses.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

English Wines for Christmas At Waitrose

English Wines for Christmas At Waitrose

I've been through a number of English wine phases - I have always (mostly) enjoyed them, but it has never resulted in an unqualified devotion to patriotic oenology.

English wines' main challenges are climate, price and range; and that's before you factor in awareness and branding issues.

My advice to people wanting to try English wines is generally to go for the fizz - at the top end it can be much better than equivalent-priced Champagne.

Lower down, still whites can be thoroughly enjoyable, yes there are occasionally interesting (pale) reds and if you seek it out, you can even find a dessert wine.

Waitrose stock a total of 110 wines from England and Wales, many of them available only locally (within 10 miles of the vineyard).

At this Christmas tasting, there were English Wines of all styles and all were thoroughly enjoyable. A couple were even rather Good.

Here are the ones I enjoyed most.

Furleigh Estate Dorset Coast Special Reserve, NV elegant, Champagne method sparkler, mineral and autolytic. Good.

Leckford Estate Brut, 2013 finer and more elegant, still youthful; will gain complexity with age. Good.

Winbirri Bacchus Reserve, 2015 typical aromatic Bacchus hedgerow aromas and freshness; atypically substantial.

Stopham Estate Pinot Gris, 2015 floral and fresh with gooseberry and ripe pear fruit. Think restrained Sauvignon.

Also consider:

Litmus Element 20, 2012 deft and mineral with an intriguing cidery tang.

Bolney Estate Pinot Noir, 2015 very light, fresh Pinot with gentle cherry fruit; think Alsace rather than Burgundy. Deftly made with an appropriately gentle hand.

Denbies Noble Harvest Ortega 2014/15 sweet, botrytised English sticky with beeswax and honeycomb. Fades quickly, though.