Friday, 31 July 2015

Summer wine survival kit - part 2

The Ray Mears of wine is back. Last time I gave some recommendations for rather posh rosés; now I turn my attention to white and red wines.

Refreshing whites
Even those of you who are resolutely red wine people must find yourselves drawn to something cold and crisp at this time of year. Here are some ideas to help you explore beyond Kiwi Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio.

Hofman Weisser Burgunder Trocken 2014 - £13.95 from
Sort of familiar, soft of not. It’s not quite Pinot Grigio, but its sister (brother?) grape Pinot Blanc and it’s from Germany not Italy. Not a showy wine, but with refreshing stone fruit it has the substance to stand up to food.

Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon, Hunter Valley 2013 – around £12.49 from and independents
This is in the same mould – a light (just 11%) wine that is all lemon/lime flavours and suited to drinking on its own, but with a surprising ability to stand up to vinaigrette-drenched salads.

Château Bel Air Perponcher Réserve, Bordeaux 2014 - £8.50 from The Wine Society
Sauvignon blanc fans, it’s time to get the white Bordeaux habit. This fruity, fresh and easy-drinking example is a blend of Sauvignon blanc, with some Semillon and a little Muscadelle that says “drink me”.

Lip-smacking reds
A summer wine’s first duty is to refresh – something that is easier for a chilled white or rosé to achieve. But reds can still find a place in the summer months.

Tesco Beaujolais 2014 - £4.49
Lightly-chilled (in fact I wouldn’t recommend letting this get up to room temperature) on a sunny day, you can’t ask for more for under a fiver. Plenty of juicy, crunchy fruit and a brush of tannin make this a great Gamay for a picnic. For a taste of more “serious” Beaujolais, seek out Domaine Lagneau Régnié, “Cuvée Gérard Vieilles Vignes” 2013 - £11.25 from Stone Vine & Sun.

Bradshaw Pinot Noir 2012 - £4 from Asda
This has to be one of the best wine bargains around, in fact I think it’s almost criminally underpriced. Behind the beautiful peacock Art Nouveau-style label is a Pinot Noir from Romania with, at this price, astoundingly good, fragrant, cherry fruit. Chill lightly and drink up! 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Summer wine survival kit

I do hope that writing about wines for summer weather will not put the kybosh on any sightings of the sun from now until September.
Now and next time I’ll provide you with a handy list of wines that should see you through summer for all sorts of occasions. Use that wine rack attachment in the fridge for its intended purpose and you’ll be ready for anything. This week: pinks to quench your thirst.

Think pink
Nothing says summer like rosé and, thanks to our enthusiasm for the style there is now a wider choice to buy than ever. Cheap rosés are in plentiful supply, but some guidance on the more pricey ones might be appreciated. I had the chance to taste (blind) some rosés ranging in price from £12 to £100 and these were some of my favourites.

Whispering Angel 2014 - £16.99 from The Wine Reserve, Cobham and other independents
A lot to pay for a bottle of rosé? Somehow we seem to think that rosés can never scale the heights of truly fine wine in the same way as white and red wines. Is rosé just too frivolous? Well try this and see what you think. This Provence rosé is pale and pretty, a blend of Grenache, Rolle (aka Vermentino, a white grape) and rosé specialist red grape Cinsault. I found it to be herbal and delicate, but with presence and length.

I also rated Château Léoube, Rosé de Léoube 2014 - £14.50 from organic specialists Vintage Roots; £14.95 from; also independent merchants. It typifies the “don’t try too hard” charm of Provençal rosés and has enough depth of flavour combined with freshness to make for great balance. 

Albury Silent Pool Rosé 2014 - £15 or thereabouts for stockists including Taurus Wines, Bramley and The Wine Reserve Cobham, see
Made on the south-facing chalk slopes of the Downs near Guildford, 2014 is the best vintage yet of this organic wine. Made from classic Champagne varieties Pinots Noir and Meunier, it has lovely red fruit characters, citrussy acidity and real depth of flavour.

Williams Chase Rosé 2014 – £14-15 from The Good Wine Shop, Corks Out and Harvey Nichols, £13.50 from Tanners – also look out for magnums
This beautifully packaged rosé sounds English, but is very definitely French, from the Lubéron (Peter Mayle country for those old enough to remember him). I found a beguiling mix of asparagus and rose petal aromas with lovely freshness on the palate.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

AWEsome wines - or how to buy better wines

How do you know if you’ve paid a fair price for the bottle of wine you’re drinking?

Supermarkets, some online retailers and High Street multiples like Majestic have fed our appetite for discounts to such a degree that we no longer feel we know what the “real” price is of many of the wines we buy.

Read on and I may be able to help.

When I am not writing about wine, I am, very broadly, educating people about it. I am a member of the Association of Wine Educators (AWE), a grouping of 90 or so professional wine educators primarily based in the UK, but with members as far away as Hong Kong and Brazil.

We have just published a list of 100 AWEsome Wines (see what we did there?) – 100 wines chosen by our members on the basis of quality and value for money. These are wines that we, with our combined many years of wine buying, tasting and enjoying experience, are happy to recommend.

Quality and value don’t necessarily mean cheap – we have some bargain wines in the under £10 red and white wine sections, but also wines for more special occasions in the £10-25 bracket, as well as some sparkling wines.

Here are a few wines from the list to whet your appetites. You can download (and print if you wish) the entire list from the AWE website here:

Domaine de Mandeville Viognier, Pays d’Oc 2013, France – £8 from Marks & Spencer
M&S continue to quietly slip interesting wines onto its shelves. Viognier needs good winemaking to show off its perfumed intensity and soft, rich palate. Domaine de Mandeville introduces the grape brilliantly at a price that continues to amaze. (chosen by Kevin Ecock, Republic of Ireland)

La Grille Pinot Noir 2012, France - £8.99 at selected Majestic stores
Delicious and affordable fruity and fragrant Pinot Noir, bursting with redcurrant, strawberries and zippy acidity. Wonderful lunchtime red; light bodied, uncomplicated wine that can be enjoyed chilled. (chosen by Lindsay Oram, UK)

Hatzidakis Santorini 2013/4, Greece - £12.99 from Waitrose
Lemony, minerally, floral nose, dry with mouthwatering acidity, an excellent example of Greece’s best white grape Assyrtiko from the extraordinary volcanic island of Santorini. A perfect match for fish and seafood. (chosen by Christos Ioannou, UK)

Philippe Michel, Crémant du Jura, France - £7.29 from Aldi
100% Chardonnay, this clean, crisp, apple and lemony sparkler has great flavour and persistent bubbles. Quite possibly the best value sparkling wine in the UK. (chosen by Laura Clay, UK)

Download the full list and all your wine purchases can be AWEsome!