Summer whites – If we ever get a summer !

Lasmoras&BonterraA nice chilled glass of white wine sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, not quite, this is England remember. In between dodging showers or being blown away in a mini hurricane we Brits brave the elements at any cost, it’s coming up to the middle of July and the weather still shows no sign of improving.

Two recent whites I’ve had on the rare good days are the Surprisingly good ‘Finca las Moras’ Pinot Grigio 2015 from the Co op and a Californian ‘Bonterra’ Chardonnay 2013 bought on offer from Waitrose.

Let me say I’m a big fan of wines from the Co op even my smaller local store has a fantastic selection often discounted and occasionally finding a real gem.

First the Argentinian  ‘Las Moras’, although far from being a gem it’s still a pretty good Pinot Grigio and I can’t remember the last time I said that even though I don’t generally drink a lot of it. Bought for £6.99 (regular price) from my local Co op, light golden straw colour in the glass with pronounced aromas of pears and tropical fruits. Pears again dominant in the taste with a hint of oranges and peaches, dry with a slightly sweet finish and utterly delicious.

A Californian Chardonnay next but a little bit more disappointing than the Pinot Grigio. Rich golden colour with an intense nose of Lemon curd and apple pie. On first sip it had a fairly creamy texture bit like vanilla custard, pineapple evident with a hefty dose of oak but the finish was slightly on the harsh side. I was a little let down by this it just seemed a bit unbalanced but by no means bad.

Left a little of the Chardonnay to taste 24hrs later and  it was much more approachable with that harshness on the finish softening giving a much better mouth-feel.

Looking out of the window as I’m typing this, yes, it’s still raining and blowing a gale.


Las Moras Pinot Grigio

My Rating 7.5/10 Corks



Bonterra Chardonnay

My Rating 6/10 Corks

Your wine friendly local Co op

Linda Mora MalbecThe local Co op, great if you need a quick loaf of bread, some milk or butter but what about a nice red, a chilled white or a celebratory fizz. It may not be everyone’s first stop when looking for a bottle of wine although judging on what I have bought recently maybe it should be.

I regularly use my local Co op for those forgotten essentials and I regularly find myself heading down their wine aisle. It’s not a big shop by any means but it does have a brilliant selection of wines, anything from a cheap midweek quaffer’s to premium fine wines.

The other day I popped in for a French stick and came out with an Argentinian Malbec. It was the strangely named ‘Linda Mora’ which sounds more like a singer songwriter. The multiple award stickers plastered over the bottom of the bottle may have swayed my choice but as it turned out it was inspired and at a reasonably priced £6.99 a bottle.

Vibrant cherry red colour in the glass with heady aromas of ripe, rich dark plums, raspberries vanilla and smoke. On first sip it was quite sweet bordering on being jammy with the dark plummy fruits dominant, there was a touch of cinnamon and vanilla. There were tannins but fairly mild and a lovely smokiness about it.

Maybe be a bit of a fruit bomb to some but I really enjoyed it with my burger and chips and for £6.99 I would say good value, they also had a Linda Mora Shiraz which I will be going back for at some time.

Coop wines1Check back to one of my previous posts about another couple of delicious Co op reds which I thoroughly enjoyed on the recommendation of Wine Writer Jamie Goode…Co op Double

So next time you need some butter or a loaf of bread and you have a Co op near you grab a bottle as well you may be pleasantly surprised.



My rating 7.5/10 corks


Fantastic Co-op double

Coop wines1We have a small store close by which we use for bread, milk and the odd things we forgot in our main weekly shop. I always wander down their wine section  and occasionally buy the odd bottle of wine which on the whole, so far, have all been pretty good.

I used to get some nice bargains in my local Co op on some of the better quality wines sometimes even getting them for less than half price but recently they seemed to have become a little more savvy in their pricing now only offering one or two pounds discount, still a discount is a discount.

Spotted these two wines after a little prompt on Wine writer Jamie Goode’s blog in his article about the latest Co op press tasting where he listed around 7, in his words ‘Nice affordable wines’.

Firstly the Cotes du Rhone ‘La Grange St. Martin’ 2014. This had a fairly muted nose but there was some berries and a hint of smoke. The taste is where this really shone, fresh cherries, bramble fruit, bright acidity, ash, white peppery spice and a savoury finish. Held up well on second day showing more savouriness, an altogether delicious bottle for £6.99.

Secondly the Trapiche Pure Malbec 2014, this is an unoaked Malbec hence ‘Pure’ on the label. Shared this bottle with family and friend. Very dark in colour, blackberries, blackcurrants and dark cherries on the nose. The first sip hits you like a sledgehammer, intense fruit, dry, mild dusty tannins but it’s the cherries that really come through and caused one of our tasters to cry out ‘Wow ! that’s really fruity, very nice !’ and it was, hence the bottle emptied pretty quickly. A little more expensive at £8.99 but worth every penny.

La Grange St. Martin – Cotes du Rhone 2014


My Rating 8/10 Corks    Co op £6.99


Trapiche Pure Malbec 2014


My Rating 8/10 Corks    Co op £8.99


Three aromatic whites


Off to South Africa and Argentina for my next reviews and three aromatic whites. The first two are both from South Africa, Fire Flower an unusual blend of Chenin Blanc / Pinot Grigio and the Bellingham, The Bernard series Viognier. The third is the Territorio a Torrontes from Argentina .

Invited our South African neighbour round for a glass or two over the weekend and as usual he came armed with wines from his homeland that are both readily available here.

We opened the Fire Flower first, a blend of Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio, from the Western Cape. In the glass a bright lemon colour with a pretty intense nose of crisp fresh apples with a hint of floweriness about it. On first sip the apple crispness wasn’t as pronounced as the nose promised, more like stewed apples, the floral side was definitely more noticeable, it was very dry and there was a little greenness which I couldn’t quite make out. We all enjoyed it and for the price (on offer at £5.99 usually £8.99) a bit of a bargain.

On to the next, the Bellingham, Bernard Series Viognier 2015, which I have had before and thought it was decent and I haven’t changed my mind. This was a much paler colour, more straw like with a tinge of green but with wonderful aromas of peaches, pears and flowers (jasmine).  Lovely and fresh tasting with peaches, apricots, a little spice and touch of vanillary oak. This was a big favourite.Torrontes

The third bottle was a slight disappointment, an Argentinian Torrontes, the Territorio around £6 from Tesco.

Again a light straw like colour with a green tinge but the aromas were fairly muted hard to distinguish anything apart from peach and limes.

Taste was mostly a mouthful of lychees fairly acidic with a slightly bitter finish, needed food to get the best out of it but is was still pretty average and probably not one I would buy again.

Fire Flower                   My Rating 7/10 Corks

Bellingham Viognier   My Rating 8/10 Corks

Territorio Torrontes    My Rating 5.5/10 Corks

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 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%

buddha bar 14

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.

buddha bar 17

Buddha Bar 3

Trivento Reserve Syrah Malbec 2010

Triventosyrahmalbec(450 x 600)Argentina 14%

After a bit of a disaster with my last bottle it’s was time for something more reliable and who better to turn to than the consistently good and excellent value for money, Trivento.

The bottle I went with was the Syrah, Malbec Reserve 2010 and having already tasted quite a few of their range from the entry level Malbecs through to the excellent Golden Reserve I was hoping that this bottle would fit the bill.

When poured it was very dark purple in colour, strikingly dark actually with aromas of ripe sweet plums with cherries giving it an almost Kirsch like flavour. There was also an earthiness there, vanillary oak and some smoke. Taking a sip the dark fruits dominate mixed again with a little earthiness, the tannins are noticeable and grippy, stewed prunes come through and there’s a little smokiness in the background.

This was a very enjoyable glass of wine, full of character and some depth of flavour and although Trivento is a large commercial player and is widely available the quality of their wines for the price are very good and I have never been disappointed.

I turned to Trivento as I knew it would be reliable and the fact that it happened to be at the front of my wine rack and easy to get to but unlike my last bottle of wine which I tipped down the sink, the only time this got near the sink was to rinse the empty bottle and wash the glass.

8corksMy Rating 8/10 Corks

Various around £8


Finest Argentina Mendoza Malbec & Finest Swartland Pinotage

malbecpinotage(450 x 600)Argentina 13.5%

South Africa 14%

I’ve been spoilt lately drinking some pretty decent wines but the last couple have been a what I would call a ‘safe nice’ and the other ‘kinda nice’ but not as safe.

The two bottles in question are an Argentinian Malbec and a South African Pinotage, both from the Tesco Finest range.

The Malbec was by far the better of the two and although not a dinner party wine it was perfectly acceptable for a midweek tipple and I enjoyed it. Actually bought this a while back when it was on special offer, think I paid around £5 and at that price it was hard to be overly critical.

When poured it was a very inky and vibrant in the glass, with pronounced aromas of rich dark plums and berries. Taste wise – quite sweet, dare I say it, jammy but a nice jammy. Dense flavours of berries, plums, smooth dark chocolate, a little tannic but still with a fairly smooth taste and longish finish.

As I said earlier, this was a safe even enjoyable wine, for around £5-£7 no real complaints and even my son who is not a wine drinker nodded his head in approval when poured a glass.

Now the South African Pinotage was a little different, I know this grape is not to everyone’s liking and I’ve heard it called the ‘Marmite grape’ (you either like it or you don’t). I’m firmly in the ‘like it’ camp although this particular bottle didn’t quite hit the spot.

Not as earthy or smokey tasting as some Pinotages, this one having more of a fruitier tang to it. Lightish in colour with aromas of cherries mainly and with a slight whiff of mocha.
Quite a big mouthful of chocolate and cherries but with that tang I mentioned earlier, no real earthiness to speak of and my wife who tried it with me pulled a face on first taste and ended up not finishing the glass. I on the other hand did finish my glass followed by another couple and with food it was ‘kinda nice’ but perhaps a little too tangy for me to really give it the thumbs up.

7corksTesco Finest Mendoza Malbec £6

My Rating 7/10 Corks


5.5 corksTesco Finest Swartland Pinotage

My Rating 5.5/10 Corks