Weekend break with cheap wine

On a recent short weekend break to Calais France I managed to pick up the odd bottle or two which ended up causing me no end of problems with the boot of my car, this was mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t shut it.

Now this was my first so called ‘booze run’ and we went with four other wine lovers but instead of returning the same day we decided to make a short holiday of it  and stayed in the Ibis Calais Tunnel Sous La Manche hotel which was central to most of the discount wine and hypermarket stores.  Before checking into the hotel we decided to stop by a few shops to pick up some essentials, Piduo, Majestic Wine and Calais wines were duly visited and we did manage to pick up a sandwich and a packet of crisps for lunch.beer dispenser

Settled in we visited the local Shopping mall Cite Europe which had a very nice selection of bars and restaurants and decided on the 3 Brasseurs for our evening dinner, which boasted a Micro Brewery for the beer lovers in our party. I stuck to the house red which was surprisingly good but the others opted for beer and promptly chose a 3 litre beer dispenser which was placed in the centre of the table and a4 beers ‘Pallet de degustation’ which is four small taster samples of their four main beers. Food was good, drinks were excellent, everybody was happy !

Montreuil(600 x 337)
Montreuil -Sur-Mer

The next day we had a day out visiting the medieval town of  Montreuil Sur Mer the setting for Les Miserables and which just happened to be the location for the French Wine Society shop. Armed with my list I scoured the shelves but out of 12 bottles I had  listed they only had one in stock, which was a real shame, still ended up with more than one bottle though, so left pretty happy.

When we got back to Calais we made straight for the big Supermarket Auchan for yet more wine and managed to fit in a little food shopping as well.

It was a lovely weekend made all the better by good company and a car full of cheap wine, all of it pretty good and far to many to mention, so here’s a couple to start with………………

TorresEsmerelda(337 x 599)otravidaviognier(337 x 599)Torres Esmeralda 2013 (Calais price – £4 a bottle)

Big fan of this Spanish white, a delicious blend of Moscatel 85% and Gerwurztraminer 15%.

Unusual blend and an unusual taste, not for everyone but I really enjoy it. Bright straw like colour, heady perfumed aromas of tropical fruits including peaches and honeydew melon, very floral with honeysuckle and jasmine. Bright acidity on the palate, fresh and slightly sweet although not cloying. Again flavours of peaches, lime zest and roses.

This is lovely chilled, great with lightly spiced food or equally as good on it’s own. Only 11% so very easy to drink, perhaps a little too easy and I only paid £4 a bottle !

Otra Vida Viognier 2013  12.5% (Calais price £2 a bottle)

Another bargain and would you believe at £2 a bottle (offer in Calais wine was 3 bottles for £6) and part of the CyT Trivento group.

This is a very pleasant everyday white that was recommended to me by one of our group and what a surprise it was. This was on the tasting station at the store but wasn’t chilled and despite the fact that it was warm it had something about it which prompted me to pay the extortionate price of £6 for three bottles. Nicely chilled at home this was a lovely clear pale golden colour with aromas of Peaches, apricots and creamy vanilla. refreshingly dry and crisp on first sip with an incredibly long creamy finish. This was brilliant value at £2 and I now wish I had bought more.



Torres Esmeralda – My Rating 7.5/10 Corks



Otra Vida – My Rating 8/10 Corks (for brilliant value at £2 a bottle)


A hugely entertaining Malbec Masterclass

Graffignalogobuddha bar 16I enjoy writing about wine, I’m certainly no expert but what have is a real passion for drinking the stuff (very important) and learning as much as I can in the process. It certainly has its rewards and I have been lucky enough to be invited to some wonderful events meeting wine makers, writers, critics, as well as other wine geeks.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Graffigna, Pernod Ricard UK’s leading Argentinian Malbec, asking if I would like to attend an evening at the Buddha Bar in Knightsbridge London which was the venue for a ‘Malbecs of Argentina Masterclass’ in partnership with Decanter and Riedel.

buddha bar 11Buddha bar1


On arrival we were greeted with a chilled glass of Graffigna Torrontes, accompinied by some wonderful Canapes. The Torrontes seemed to be well received by all, pale yellow in colour with perhaps a hint of green, very hard to see as the venue was pretty dark.

Very perfumy on the nose, full of rose petals and lime. That perfume floweriness continued in the taste, lovely and soft and fantastic with the asian food being handed out in quantity.

Left to right, Patricio & Federico

After a glass or three of the Torrontes we were all ushered into a private room for the main event. Acclaimed wine critic Patricio Tapia and Graffigna wine ambassador Federico Lleonart were the South American double act presenting the ‘Malbecs of Argentina Masterclass’. Between them they gave us a brief history of Argentinian Malbec explaining all the main wine-producing areas. The talk was both entertaining and informative and helped by the five wines we were given to taste along the way.

1- Etchart Malbec 2013 (Salta) Unoaked, entry level, bright acidity, spice and ripe dark fruits 14%

2- Graffigna Centenario Malbec 2013 (San Juan) touch of French oak, tannic, spice, dark berries, floral 14.5%

3- Chateau de Gaudou Malbec 2013 (Cahors, France) Blended with Tannat, little harsher, vegetal, acidic, 13%

4- Catena Malbec 2013 (Mendoza) Peppery spice, Blackberry, blackcurrant, Vanilla, elegant, 13.5%

5- Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011 (San Juan) Elegant, ripe dark cherries and blackcurrant, more complex, 14.5%

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Cabernet glass on left, Riedel Malbec glass on right.







All of the wines were different and enjoyable,  the Catena and both the Graffigna’s  were the stand out wines for me and it was nice to taste the French Cahors for contrast.

During the final tasting we were asked to compare the same wine (Graffigna Grand Reserve)  in a standard Cabernet Sauvignon glass and the new Riedel Malbec glass to see if we could notice a difference. I must admit I was sceptical about this but I was happy to be proved wrong and I was. The Malbec glass definitely had more intense aromas and taste the wider Cabernet glass which was fairly muted on the nose.

In the words of Federico ‘What makes this glass perfect for Malbec? The wider bowl and the narrower rim heighten and concentrate the aromas, particularly the red and black fruit notes. As you sip, the narrow rim directs the wine to the center of the tongue, targeting specific taste buds and sensations.’ I must admit, I agreed 100%

After the hugely entertaining Masterclass, we were served a Steak dinner and served the wine of our choice, mine was the Graffigna Grand Reserve 2011 , generously, two full bottles were left on our table along with Graffigna Centenario Reserve 2013 and a Etchart Malbec 2013, all were polished off.

Buddha bar4buddha bar 18














A big thank you to Graffigna, Decanter, Riedel and Pernot Ricard for the generosity. fantastic night, fantastic guests, great venue and even got a Riedel Malbec glass as a gift to take home.

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Buddha Bar 3

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru 2008

DomaineLarocheChablis(337 x 599)France 12.5%

I must admit I don’t drink enough Chardonnay but I hope to remedy this, especially with the better weather on its way.

So it’s time to fill your fridges with a selection of quality whites and you may well find that every now and then you come across a wine that you drink and don’t want it to finish, this brilliant Burgundy just happens to be one of those bottles.

I actually bought this a little while ago when Tesco were discontinuing some of their fine wines, there were only two bottles left in store that were both priced at £13, if there were more I would have cleared the shelf.

On pouring I had a feeling this was going to be good, a deep golden colour showing a little age, with a delightful nose of apples, pears, almonds, all if you can imagine, drenched in honey and cream.

A fresh and lively taste full of crisp green apples and ripe pears, steely minerality and a hint of oak, followed by more complex layers of tropical fruits including ripe bananas and peaches all capped off with a delicious creamy finish that lasted a week.

Paired this with a delicious roast chicken and it was a perfect match. This really was pretty good and if anyone can find a bottle treat yourself you won’t be disappointed.

8.5corksMy Rating 8.5/10 Corks

If you can find it around £20+



A perfect summer wine

FinestPouillyfume(337 x 599)Better weather on the way, so get those garden furniture sets out, pop up the Gazebo, clean the barbecue and get down to your local Tesco for the perfect summer wine, the Tesco Finest Pouilly Fume 2013 at a fantastic offer price of £7.99 until the 24th April 2015, so my recommendation is you snap some up some of this lovely Sauvignon Blanc while you can.

If you want a dry unoaked, tongue tingling refreshing drink on a hot summers day look no further than this bottle from the Loire valley. Beautifully fresh and crisp with a light bright straw like colour.  My only negative is that it’s pretty much lacking on the nose which was muted and very hard to pick out any distinguishable aromas.

The taste is where this wine really comes into its own, bright citrus flavours of lemon and limes which certainly packed a punch, it’s taut full of texture and it is very very dry but with nice minerality and steely finish.

As I said earlier for £7.99 this is a real bargain and worth stocking up on, not the best Pouilly Fume I’ve drunk but definitely worthy of the IWSC silver medal 2014 award it won and I will be opening a few bottles of this over the next few months.


8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco £7.99 (on offer, until 24/4)

Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001

granfabrica2001Spain 13.5 %

A trip to northern Spain for my next review and the excellent Gran Fabrica Carinena Gran Reserva 2001. This is actually the penultimate bottle from a case I bought a couple of years ago and from what I remember with discount it worked out at a ridiculous price of around 4 or £5 a bottle.

A delicious blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carinena is located betweeen the fabulous area of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat and this particular bottle the 2001 is from a great vintage for Spanish wines.

Ideally I would have liked to have decanted this for a couple of hours as I have done with the other bottles but this time I took it along to a friends birthday party and we ended up opening and drinking straight away, (everyone who tasted it gave it a big thumbs up).

When poured it was pretty dark and dense in colour with the aged rusty tinge around the rim. Pretty intense aromas of ripe dark plums, cherries, vanilla spice and smokey ash.

Initially quite sweet tasting, smokiness and vanilla oak dominant, mildly tannic, a little dark fruit action but fairly subdued which left the spices and oak pretty much taking over. It did taste smooth and elegant and I like it a lot, shame I’ve only got one bottle left.

The 2006 is currently on sale at Tesco online at £36 a case of six, it’s ok but not even close to the 2001, unfortunately not sure you’ll find the 2001 anywhere now, real shame !

8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Tesco 2001?  2006 online £6 a bottle


My holiday takeaway

Trioamaronepetit&corbieresWent away for the weekend with family and friends, ended up with around 20 of us going to Elveden Forest Centre Parcs in Suffolk staying in 4 different self catering chalets/villas.

Now I’m not a particularly sporty person and being an activity type holiday it maybe wasn’t the ideal choice but while the others were swimming, playing football, riding bikes and all manner of sporting things I went armed with a good book and wine. Although it sounds like I was missing out, I assure you I wasn’t, the Parc itself is really nice set in woodland and surrounded by a lake with all manner of wildlife roaming around which added up to a relaxing holiday if you wanted it to be.

The wines I brought were a Single variety Petit Verdot from the Stobi winery in Macedonia, An Italian Amarone Valpolicelli, a French Corbieres and a Medoc Bordeaux 2000 also brought along a couple of bottles of Chilean Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Ended up drinking mostly in the chalet as I wouldn’t pay nearly £6 for a glass of wine in the bars that you could get in the local supermarket for £6 a bottle.

What were they like? well, starting with…..

Stobi Petit Verdot 2011 (8.5/10 Corks)

From Macedonia this was a big rich brute of a wine featuring the single variety Petit Verdot, dark purple in colour with bags of dark berry fruits and dense mouth drying tannins. Lovely smooth texture, slightly on the sweet side, 14% alcohol and I loved it but not for the fainthearted.

Amarone Della Valpolicelli 2010 (7.5/10 Corks)

Deep garnet colour with typically dark Raisiny flavours, rich dark cherries with dark chocolate and a slight smokiness. This will keep and mature for a few years. Alcohol 14.5 % but didn’t taste like it. lovely to drink on its own or with rich pasta meals.

Les Hauts Castelmaure Corbieres 2009 (8/10 Corks)

Very herby and rustic blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Heady nose of country wild flowers and dried herbs. tastes a little creamy with sweetish dark berries, caramel and spice. Another winner !

Grand Vin De Bordeaux Medoc 2000Medoc 2000          (8/10 Corks)

Lightish Purple colour with a rusty tinge around the rim, aromas of wood and prunes along with cinnamon. Taste wise, lost its fruit flavour although there is a little blackcurrant/Cassis with liquorice and cloves. Surprisingly this was enjoyed by all who tasted it.

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (8.5/10 Corks)

Lovely pale straw colour with intense tropical fruit aromas not exactly leaping out of the glass like New Zealand SB’s but the smell is kind of thick, not a proper wine tasting term I know but that is my first reaction when sticking my nose in the glass, there was also a little whiff of herbs and lime.

Complex flavours, mild acidity, lush & rich mouth feel but not cloying, slightly sweet, tropical fruits again, passion fruit, lychees, limes, even sweet peppers. This was a beauty, also my daughters favourite.

Out of all the wines I still thought the Stobi Petit Verdot was the stand out drink over the weekend and at price of around £12.99 at the Wine Rack chain, not particularly cheap but worth it.

Great time, great company and lovely wines,  Salud !