This week I review three contrasting wines, a South African Chenin Blanc, a Chilean Chardonnay and a rather nice Spanish Monastrell.
Firstly the Chardonnay from a new range launched by Morrisons called the Head Honcho which also includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, these are all the sole property of Morrisons. Aimed primarily at the younger market with its bright eye-catching labels and its simplified consumer friendly wine description on the back, not to mention the price which is around £6.
The Head Honcho Chardonnay 2015 is an entry level wine so I didn’t expect anything special, nothing to dislike but nothing to write home about either. Heady aromas of tropical fruits, pineapple, peach and mangoes, there was also a noticeable buttery nose.
Taste wise it had bright tropical fruits, touch on the sweet side which was almost slightly artificial. Did I enjoy it? well, it was OK but I do think a lot of people will like it.
Next, the South African Zalze Bush Vine Chenin 2016 which was a wine selected by a member of our wine club ‘Cuvée Reserve’ for our monthly tasting in which we all take a turn at selecting a widely available bottle up to £10 to discuss and give our views.
Initially I probably had this chilling for too long and the aromas were a little muted, but as the glass warmed up the nose became pretty full on with tropical fruits especially ripe pineapple, guava and peaches .
The tropical theme continued in the tasting with the pineapple dominating but with some lemons and limes in the background giving it a fresh, crisp and bright hit in the mouth almost zingy. Although fairly dry, there was a hint of sweetness as well which was appealing.
Overall thought this was pretty decent and probably worth the full price, I will say that it was even better 24hrs later as I had a little drop left, the flavours were more intense almost like a fresh fruit salad with a touch of cream. I also think that this would probably be even better aged for a little longer.
Lastly, the Mo Salinas Monastrell 2013 and definitely my favourite, from the Alicante region of south east Spain, which had a some what rustic charm about it. Made mostly with Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) with a splash of Garnacha and Cabernet.
Chilled this for about ten minutes as I often do with my reds. In the glass is was a deep purple with a nose of ripe bramble fruit, some smoke and a savoury, slightly earthy smell. On tasting this was medium bodied, with bright dark fruits, some spice, liquorice, hint of oak. There was a hit of acidity giving it a fresh mouth-watering feel and it had moderate but noticeable tannins.
Nothing to complex but a very enjoyable bottle that I would certainly buy again and I have no hesitation in recommending if you want a fairly inexpensive midweek red.
Have you tried Orange wine ? no, neither have I until now and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I can see people pulling faces at the thought of wine made with oranges but fear not the term only refers to the deep amber like colour.
Orange wine is made from white grapes in this case Grenache Blanc in which the skins are left on during fermentation (as in red wine) causing this orange like colour. Be warned though this wine is not for the fainthearted and is very different, its robust in style, weighty, fairly tannic with a slight sourness.
The wine I tried was the ‘Fides’ ( Roman word for trust or to have faith) and is made by the Bosman family vineyard situated in the western Cape of South Africa.
I must admit when first poured I was surprised at the deepness of the colour almost like a glass of cider and it had intense aromas of dried orange peel, nuts, ripe tropical fruits and what I can only describe as furniture polish (not as strange or uninviting as it sounds) .
Taste wise it was fairly intense and had a weighty creaminess about it, there was that tropical ripe fleshy fruit along with almond nuts and over ripe apple, there was also a hint of oak and pronounced tannins.
As I said earlier, maybe not for everyone, it is very different and at 14% a little on the hefty side a little expensive at around £14 but I loved it and would recommend you try it, maybe when it’s on offer though .
South Africa takes on Bordeaux with this powerful beast of a wine from the Stellenbosch region, named in honour of John Xavier Merriman who revitalised the Rustenberg farm in 1892 after it suffered badly due to the Phylloxera crisis and went on to establish Rustenberg wines.
A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
This is an impressive looking bottle and even more impressive when poured and you stick your nose in the glass with it’s powerful and heady aromas of blackcurrants dark forest fruits, cloves, wood (quite pronounced pencil shavings) and smoke.
On first taste it’s a bit of an intense untamed beast, rich, full flavoured, dark fruits, pine needles, oaky, liquorice, cloves. Slightly savoury but it’s the sheer power of the dark fruit and wood that dominate.
This needed air and would benefit from decanting for a couple of hours which I should have done, although it did mellow slightly with time in the glass. This would also perhaps be even better if layed down for a couple of years and you will find you may have to lay down after drinking it.
I absolutely loved this wine, loved its raw brooding power and rich complex taste and have no hesitation in recommending it and if you’re a fan of Bordeaux wines give this a go you won’t be disappointed.
Over the last week I have been to two very different but very enjoyable wine tastings, the first was the annual ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting 2016’ and the second was a ‘Cuvée Reserve Tasting Weekend’
Cuvée Reserve is an online wine forum in which I and a group ex Tesco Wine Community members got together to continue the online friendships we had built up over the 3 years or so that TWC had been running.
The ‘Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting’ was a London trade and press show in which I was kindly given an invite to. Cuvée Reserve was a weekend away in Stratford-upon-Avon with a group of 10 friends who all share a passion for wine.
The Wines of Portugal Grand Tasting
Held at the Royal Horticultural halls in London where over a hundred producers were showcasing their wines. A big thank you to Brian Elliott of MidWeek Wines for inviting me on his behalf.
Not knowing a great deal about Portuguese wine what struck me most walking around tasting was the fabulous array of good quality affordable wines a lot of them in the sub £10 bracket.
The whites in particular impressed me especially the delightfully fresh and zingy Alvarinhos and one that stood out was the Muros de Melgaco 2014 Alvarinho from the vineyards on the south-facing hillsides of the Vinho Verde region, high in acidity and aged for 6 months in French oak. Dry, tasting fresh and very elegant, full of tropical fruits and a hint of honey and in a lovely looking bottle. This was probably one of my favourite whites of the day.
Other whites that impressed were the Quinta da Calcada Branco 2014 , Covela Edicao Nacional Avesso Vinho Verde DOC 2014 and the Vale Do Homem Loureiro 2015 all very good examples of fresh and bright wines from the Vinho Verde region.
Most of the reds were powerful beasts hailing from the Douro and Dao regions, a lot of these were dark and brooding high in alcohol and utterly delicious among the highlights was the excellent Quinta do Perdigao Touriga Nacional 2009, showing dark cherries and plums on the nose. Lovely structure. Dark ripe plums to taste and bitter dark chocolate with some spice on the long finish.
Others of note were the Valmonte Reserva Touriga Nacional 2010 and the Sao Matias Reserva Tinto 2011
Amongst the best value wines under £10 was the Opta Range (all around £8) all were fresh & bright tasting, I was quite impressed with their Opta Dao Rose 2015 (not being a big fan of Rose) but this had Raspberries and strawberries in abundance with a nice floral hit perfect for a summer picnic. I gave their Opta Dao Branco 2015 the big thumbs up as well. Most of the range was 13% alcohol.
Special mention for the Fonte do Ouro 2014 made from Encruzado & Arinto again around £8 this a pale green colour a lovely minerality and full of apples, pears and peaches.
Also very good value was the Terra de Lobos range.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (white) Perfumed floral and lots of tropical fruits made from Fernao Pires and Sauvignon Blanc.
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Rose) Crisp with strawberries and a Little toastiness, balanced acidity
Terra de Lobos 2015 (Red) Rich tasting, spicy
Big Shout for the Falcoaria 2014 white wine, this was seriously tropical, a little toasty and extremely nice, big 5 stars from me, again around £8.
Didn’t taste a lot of fizz but I must say the Almeida Garrett VEQPRD Beira Interior Brut Natural super Reserva 2010 seriously impressed, very biscuity and toasty and lots of fizzy bubbles, not cold enough but still tasted pretty good. Apparently rated 91 Points by Jamie Goode.
Finally one last white that I found just as I was leaving was the seriously impressive GURU 2014 made from the Rabigato, Viosinho, Codega de Larinho grapes an explosion of orchard fruits with a hebal twist, not particularly cheap at around £15- £20 but for me worth it.
So a brilliant days tasting that left me impressed by the quality and more importantly value for money of these great Portuguese wines.
Cuvée Reserve Wine Tasting Weekend at Stratford Upon Avon
Pick a place and a time, get ten people who love wine together in one place, get them each to bring a selection of wines and some food and you have got yourself a hell of a weekend and that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
We are all ex members of the Tesco Wine Community (TWC) where for three years or so we spent time online talking wine with some of us having met at various activities and events. So when Clare Hearnden who runs ‘Cuvée Reserve forum’ suggested a ‘Wine Tasting Weekend’ in Stratford -Upon-Avon the ten of us jumped at the chance. Clare found us the perfect location and perfect house, within walking distance of Stratford town centre.
The weekend was a real hit with everyone, very informal and friendly with some fantastic wines to drink. For the first night everyone brought along a selection of buffet food and the wines began to flow. The second night Clare kindly cooked a meal and more wine flowed.
All in all a fantastic weekend with good food, good wine and best of all good company, hopefully to be repeated again and again.
Alongside a clutch of Sparklers including Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir from Chile, Prosecco, Cava and Champagne, our white wine selection included:
Denis Dubourdieu 2010 Clos Floridene, Grand Vin De Graves (blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 47% Semillon, 3% Muscadelle), France, 13%. A nice chance to try a rare white example of Graves
Symbiose La Grande Olivette, Cuvee Florence, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cótes de Thau 2014, France, 12%. Piquepoul is something of a recent trend in the UK, so this was an interesting one to try
Karl Pfaffmann 2013 Weissburgunder, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%. The first of three wines sourced exclusively from Germany and rarely seen in the U.K.
Karl Pfaffmann 2014 Riesling, Trocken, Walsheim, Pfalz, Germany, 12.5%
Randersackerer Ewig Leben 2013er, Albalonga Auslese, Franken, Germany, 11%
Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14%
Alvi’s Drift 2015 Chenin Blanc, Worcester, South Africa, 13.5%
Calvet Reserve 2013 Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 12.5%
The Cup and Rings 2013 Godello Sobre Lias, Monterrai, Spain, 13%
Ara Single Vineyard 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%
All the wines supplied were kept undisclosed to the other attendees prior to the day, and so it is interesting to notice the heavy red bias towards Spain. Our full selection comprised:
La Cantera Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo based blend), Carinena, Spain, 13%, (from magnum)
Ermita de San Lorenzo 2008 Garnacha based blend, Rioja, Spain, 14%. Another one for the decanter
Mayu Syrah Reserva 2011, Elqui Valley, Chile, 14.5%. This wine was again decanted to allow the rich flavours to mellow
Piccini Memoro 2010 (Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero D’avola, Sangiovese blend), Regional blend across Tuscany, Basilicata, Veneto and Sicily, Italy, 14%. Decanted, but perhaps needed more time to open fully.
Cháteau Valfontaine 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) Bordeaux, France, 12%
Stobi 2011 Petit Verdot Barrique, Tikves, Macedonia, 14%. A rare opportunity to try this wine.
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2007 (Tempranillo), Rioja, Spain, 13.5%
Les Vaucorneilles Cuvee Nathan 2005, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 13.5% (Blend of Gamay, Cabernet and Cot)
Vox Populi 2012 Bobal, Utiel-Requena, Spain, 14%
Laurent Miquel L’Artisan 2014 (Syrah, Grenache), Faugeres, France, 13.5%
I do enjoy Sauvignon Blanc although not as much as my wife and daughter and I do enjoy the zippy intense flavours of a New Zealand Marlborough ‘Sovee Bee’ (as my daughter calls it) but occasionally I just want something a bit less in your face.
I picked up this Stonehaven 2015 in my local Co op, any regular readers will know I’ve bought quite a few bottles of wine recently from this store and on the whole they have all been very good and this is no exception.
This bottle is from Cape point vineyards and made by Duncan Savage ( a Sauvignon Blanc specialist) situated near Cape town in South Africa.
In the glass, don’t expect aromas to leap out, this is fairly subdued although there is some grassiness. The taste is where this shines, it has an elegance about it, dry and crisp with grapefruit and limes but with maybe a touch of mango but it’s that tropical edge that makes it shine and stand out as something slightly different.
For £5.99 (currently on offer from £8.99) this is a steal and I have since been back for more. If you have a Co op near you and you are into Sauvignon Blanc try it, for not a lot of money you may be pleasantly surprised.
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.
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.
Opened a bottle of this South African Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010, which is one of the fairly new offerings in the latest Tesco Finest limited edition range at £14.99, ok it’s not cheap ( I did manage to get a couple for £9.99 on offer) but it does exude a little bit of class.
After ten or so days of feeling rough over Christmas with a virus drinking nothing but water I was really looking forward to getting back on the wine trail even though my taste buds were still all over the place. We decided to have a second go a Christmas dinner, although this time it was with roast beef not turkey but still with crackers, party hats and the dreaded sprouts.
This was a Bordeaux style red and a pretty serious bottle it looked too, all black and brooding with a understated touch of elegance. When poured this was seriously dark in colour almost inky black, with aromas you could smell at fifty paces. Ripe blackcurrants were dominant but there was a big whiff of meaty almost composty smells as well as burnt rubber, for me a pretty intense and enjoyable experience and I was really looking forward to my first taste.
On first sip there was a big explosion of blackcurrant and liquorice, there was some vanilla, faint mint and dark chocolate. This was fairly tight at first and needed time in the glass to really open up but after a while it turned into a very decent drink and one that will probably improve with age.
Even with my taste buds all over the place I still managed to really enjoy this, I will look forward even more now to the second bottle and hopefully really get the full experience of what is a very good Cabernet Sauvignon .
I must admit I have a little soft spot for South African wines, ever since my neighbour, who was born in South Africa introduced me to the wonders of his homeland wines. This was a few years ago now but I still remember that first sip.
The wine in question was a Boschendal 1685 Shiraz, nothing spectacular or special but there was something about it which intrigued me. I can’t remember the vintage but this was the bottle started me on my quest to discover more of what South Africa has to offer.
A few more years down the line and I’m still enjoying South African wines, so this brings me finally (I hear you all cry) to give you my thoughts on this latest bottle, Tesco Finest Swartland Chenin Blanc 2014, which I picked up at Tesco a few months back and I think it was on some kind of offer, didn’t pay a lot for it anyway.
Hailing from the Swartland region winemaker Adi Badenhorst has brought us a wine with intense fruit which bursts into life with its slightly creamy yet citrusy zing. Bright golden colour with aromas of honey, melon and nectarines.
Tasted this really chilled and the fruit flavours were really intense but still with a creamy feel. There was a kind of Sweet and sour element to it as well, starting off tasting fairly sweet but finishing with a tartness which became tarter as the wine warmed. Slightly smokey with a rich texture of over ripe tropical fruit.
I would say that this tasted better really cold, as I said earlier the sourness was more noticeable as the glass warmed up. Could probably handle spicy food but perfectly acceptable as a standalone drink and for the price of around £6.99 this is a very good wine.
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.
Not drank a lot of South African wines lately so I decided to rummage around my bottles to see what I could come up with to pair with my Steak and Chips dinner.
I actually found more than I thought I had and this bottle of Nederburg, made in the Western Cape Region was the first one to hand and being a Cabernet Sauvignon I thought I’d give it a go.
Grabbed my corkscrew before realising it was in fact a screw cap, not a good start !
When poured it was much lighter in colour than I thought it would be with very heady aromas of mainly smokey wood and roasted coffee beans with perhaps a whiff of blackcurrants, this gave me an idea of what this was going to taste like and it pretty much tasted as it smelt.
There was oak and a big hit of black pepper spice, the fruit was predominately blackcurrants with perhaps a little dark cherries. It was however pretty smooth and velvety but the fruit did come a big second to the woodiness, there was also a sweetness which for me was a little too sweet.
Overall though, it did go very well with the Steak and I did enjoy it, I also think a lot of people will like it especially with that sweetness.
Think I bought this whilst on special offer for around £6 usually £8.99. At the lesser price not a bad bottle and it does tempt me to try the others in the Nederburg range.
It is a very drinkable wine but watch out that 14.5% ABV, soon catches up with you