Took a chance on this bottle of ‘Sovee Bee’ as it was on offer at Sainsburys, my wife and daughter tend to like most wines from New Zealand as do I and the fact that it was only £5 on offer it found its way into my shopping basket along with the few groceries I only went in store for in the first place.
‘Sovee Bee’ as regular readers will know is what my daughter calls Sauvignon Blanc and as much as I try not to I often end up finding myself referring to it in the same slightly annoying but at the same time slightly addictive way.
The name Kauri refers to the tallest tree found in the north island of New Zealand sometimes reaching up to 50m high.
Before I get into the review a quick fact about Hawkes Bay New Zealand, which is situated along the east coast of the north Island, it was given its name by Captain James Cook in honour of Admiral Edward Hawke who defeated the French at the battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759.
Anyway, so much for the history lesson, what’s the wine like to drink ? well, to be honest not as good as I thought it might be considering it had a ‘International Wine Challenge’ award plastered on the side of the bottle.
Not much in the way of aromas, a fairly muted nose with a whiff of citrus and a little cut grass. Taste wise, again a little disappointing, a bit more tropical than the nose suggested and some smokiness but it had a slightly bitter finish.
Far less intense than a lot of Marlborough Sovees (sorry !), nothing to really dislike but then again nothing to recommend it, for £5 it’s OK, not sure I’d buy it a full price.
Sometimes referred to as the Gina Lollobrigida, this unusual shaped bottle of Verdicchio caught my eye whilst browsing the supermarket shelves and it quickly found its way into my basket.
Verdicchio is an Italian wine from the central eastern Marches region and gets its name from the word ‘Verde’ meaning green relating to the yellowish-green like colour of the grapes giving the wine a slight green like hue.
This particular Classico dei Castelli di Jesi 2015 I picked up at Sainburys, it’s part of their ‘Taste the Difference’ range for £6 which in my opinion is very good value for what turned out to be a very nice wine.
It’s different and perhaps not to everyone’s taste and certainly a food wine. It had mixed opinions around the dinner table where I loved it but my wife and daughter thought it was a little weighty for their palates.
In the glass it showed a straw like yellow with a tinge of green, aromas of peaches (think peach schnapps) jumped out along with grapefruit. Taste wise, yes it did have a weighty texture which was full of peaches with a creaminess, herby (not the car) and a finish of almonds giving it an almost bitter finish which was not unpleasant.
For £6 I thought it was worth every penny and paired brilliantly with our pasta dinner.
Doesn’t seem like long ago I was at my local Majestic in Ruislip for their summer tasting, now with the nights drawing in it was time for another visit in-store and another excellent event. Majestic really do these tastings well, their staff are all friendly, always accommodating and nothing was too much trouble.
The tasting normally runs from 6.30pm -8.30pm but when my friend and I arrived at around 6.15pm there was already a few people gathering. We were told that around a hundred were arriving which seemed rather a lot compared to other events I have attended, in the end probably around forty or so turned up over the course of the two hours, still quite a big turn out.
We were given a tasting sheet listing all the wines to be tasted and we were offered a chilled glass of Prosecco to start the evening off with. Looking around the whites were all chilling nicely in large ice buckets on the tasting counter and the reds were positioned at various points around the store. The wines on show were, in no particular order
Whites – The Astronomer Australian Chardonnay, Toledana Gavi, Jackson Estate Grey Ghost Sauvignon Blanc, Pouilly Fume and an Alsace Gerwurztraminer.
Reds – Chateau Tour Haut Caussan Medoc 2006, Ciabot Berton Barolo 2011, Ben Marco Malbec, Astronomer Shiraz and the Definition Beaujolais Villages.
All good in their particular price range but I must say I was impressed with the JE Grey Ghost and the Barolo although both a little on the pricey side, not that the other wines were bad it’s just those two stood out.
The evening was another hit and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, I didn’t buy any of the wines on show but I did buy 6 bottles including a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc, a Godello, Monastrell, Mencia, Beefsteak Malbec and a rather lovely Italian Tasca Regaleali made with local Inzolia, Greciano, Caterratto and Chardonnay.
There’s nothing better than a glass of top class fizz, unfortunately all reasonable Champagne weighs in with a hefty price tag, what comes a close second is finding fizz at a rock bottom price which actually tastes pretty good. Following on the back of a recent review for another cheapy Louvel Fontaine comes this Louis Chaurey Champagne from M&S at a very affordable £16 a bottle.
I picked this up at our local fete where I won it in a raffle so it basically cost me £5 in tickets, even more reason to enjoy.
After my recent venture into the world of Sabrage (slicing off the top of a Champagne bottle with a Sabre) I must say I was tempted to open it with, maybe not a sabre but a large kitchen Knife but I decided against it.
When opened, the conventional way it was extremely frothy ( lively Mousse /effervescence) calming down into a stream of small but not tiny bubbles.
I found it hard to distinguish much in the way of aroma, maybe a hint of lemon rind and cherries. On first sip this tasted full of citrus fruits including crisp green apples and lemons giving it an enamel stripping tartness which I found refreshing. Again as in the Louvel Fontaine not much in the way of toastiness but there was a slight floral flavour which added to the appeal.
Ok, this is not a fine Champagne but it hits the spot for a mid-week venture into fizz without breaking the bank and I quite happily drink it again.
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 .
Two hundred years ago officers of the French cavalry under the command of Napoleon would celebrate victory in battle by opening a bottle of champagne but instead of searching around in their saddlebags for a corkscrew they would simply slice the top of the bottle off with a sabre. This is the art of Sabrage in which a swords edge meets with the top of the bottle, the annulus, along the seam which is the weakest point just below the cork.
This proud and dashing tradition has now been revived and can now be performed by any budding dragoon under the tuition of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or (Club of the Golden Sabre) founded in France in 1986 in which the UK branch was formed in 1999. The society hold various events around the country in which everyone attending can have a go at sabering a bottle of Champagne to become a Subreur the entry rank and the first step in the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or other ranks as you go up the chain are Chevalier Sabreur, Officier, Commandeur and Grand Commandeur.
On the 16th of August 2016 I was kindly invited to such an event at Smith & Wollensky a classic American steakhouse in the heart of London run by Operations director Nathan Evans who also happens to be a Grand Commandeur of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or. The evenings event was sponsored by Champagne house Perrier-Jouét supplying bottles of their Grand Brut for sabering.
On arrival we were asked to sign a disclaimer whilst being offered a glass of Perrier-Jouét Champagne. Men in green cloaks which signifies seniority in the society were already busy setting up, arranging tables with suitably chilled bottles of Champagne and a big heavy curtain in front to catch the bottle top as it flies from the neck. The Grand Commandeur Nathan Evans introduced himself and gave us a quick history of the art of Sabrage ending with the immortal words “the only thing you can do with a sabraged bottle is drink it !”.
Introductions over Nathan then gave us a quick demonstration slicing the top of the bottle with elegant ease as the cork still firmly in the neck shot off with a loud pop into the curtain with enthusiastic applause.
Soon after it was our turn, we were called up two at a time aided by Senior members Nathan Evans and David Herbert. Suddenly the room was filled with excitement as loud pops like gunfire filled the room as bottles were sliced with golden sabres as guests became Sabreurs after successfully hacking off the top of the champagne bottles, Sabreur being the entry rank after the first successful slicing. After completion we were presented with the top of the bottle in a velvet pouch along with a Sabreur certificate.
I was lucky and hacked off the top of the bottle first time, probably due to the fact I was relaxed having finished a couple of glasses of champagne before hand. The secret is to find the seam in the bottle and run the sword along the bottle in a smooth action with the blade not leaving the bottle hitting the annulus (the rim below the cork) and make sure to follow through as you would in a golf swing.
As the evening continued we were treated to a selection of fantastic seafood including Oysters, lobster, crab and prawns as well as Smith & Wollensky’s famous aged cured steak, all washed down with the fabulous Champagne (see below for tasting notes).
Fabulous venue, fabulous hosts and a fantastic evening had by all, many thanks to Smith & Wollensky, Nathan, David and of course Perrier-Jouét.
Perrier – Jouét Grand Brut Champagne.
Pinot Noir/Meuneir and Chardonnay
A light straw colour, lively mousse with a steady stream of fine bubbles.
Yeasty on the nose, slightly oaky with a hint of crisp apples and pears
Taste – dry, full flavoured, slightly flowery with citrus fruits, brioche, pear and green apples
When I first came across this bottle at a Majestic tasting my initial thought was it’s just another celebrity endorsed mass produced bottle of plonk, well, I couldn’t have been more wrong, this was a sheer delight and generally well received by everyone who tasted it.
Viewers of Graham Norton’s chat show will normally see him within reach of a very large glass of white wine in which his tipple of choice is normally Sauvignon Blanc. So with the help of guys from Invivo, Co founder Tim Lightbourne and winemaker Rob Cameron who transported 6 different samples of Sauvignon Blanc from their New Zealand Marlborough growers to London where Graham Norton joined up and helped in the blending process creating his very own bottle.
The label itself looked strange at first until you realise that it is actually quite clever with the emphasis on the GN (Graham Norton) and it definitely stands out.
In the glass the aromatic aromas hit you straight way filling the room with tropical fruits, grass and passion-fruit, stick your nose in the glass it will make your eyes water it’s so intense. On first sip this tasted fresh and zingy, the tropical fruits are evident especially passion-fruit along with sharp limes and lemons. A little hint of freshly cut grass and a little herby thing going on in the background make this a refreshingly delicious glass of wine and at £8.99 bit of a bargain I’d say !
Now my wife and daughter are big ‘Sovvy Bee’ fans especially from New Zealand and they both liked this a lot and I must admit I enjoyed it and I’d say it’s probably one of the better Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted recently, Nice one Graham !.