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.
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%
One of the attractions of this bottle apart from being from Chile and the fact that it was on offer were the two award stickers on the top left of the label, one being a silver award from the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit competition) and the other a gold award from AWC (Vienna International Wine Challenge).
I have tasted the 2012 and looking back over my notes I see I enjoyed it, so what was the 2013 like, well, again I kind of enjoyed it but I can’t remember the 2012 having quite as strangely intense nose as this, think cooking a dish of fried liver on bonfire night that’s exactly what the nose was like, burnt out fireworks and liver were really prominent, muted red fruits including strawberries and cherries were there but way in the background.
Colour was very light (could see my fingers through the glass), taste was on the sweet side and a little more fruity than the nose, strawberry pastilles, candied cigarettes, smoke and a little spice, I can’t help feeling though, the taste was perhaps a little artificial.
Paired this with roast chicken and it went pretty well but I couldn’t get that burnt out firework smell out of my head or should I say the nose. Not the best Pinot Noir I’ve had, definitely not the worst, not a lot more to say.
My Rating 6/10 Corks
Various stores around £7
** Had a little drop left to try the next day, in my opinion, much better, the over the top aroma had settled and the fruit much more to the fore, if perhaps still a little sweet.
I must admit after drinking a lot of very good Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, it has been a real revelation to find a different style of SB which I have enjoyed almost as much. I think this particular bottle was a Christmas present but I can’t remember who from, maybe my Brother in Law but maybe not, memory eh, probably an age thing, now where was I ?
Oh yes, this Chilean offering (ingeniously labelled, Waitrose Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) from the Aconcagua Valley is produced in partnership with Vina Valdivieso. Back in August of 2014 I drank an excellent bottle ofErrazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from the same region and I was mightily impressed.
This bottle although not quite in the same league as the Errazuriz was still a very pleasant drink. Very light and clear in colour with subdued aromas of asparagus, cut grass and lemons. The first mouthful tasted fresh and vibrant with Lemons and limes, not as sharp as a New Zealand SB, a much more drier taste, even slightly creamy and good minerality. The finish wasn’t particularly long but saying that it was ok-ish (sorry, best word I could come up with).
If you want a different style of Sauvignon Blanc that’s not so in your face and intense than this might well do the job nicely, refreshingly good as a food wine and pleasant enough to drink on its own. I’d have no hesitation in recommending this solid SB and at around £7.99 pretty good value especially as a mid-week tipple.
Cono Sur do everyday wines very well, spend an extra eight or nine pounds and that gets you into their premier 20 Barrels range but you only have to spend an extra two or three pounds to be in their middling Reserva Especial range and it’s where I found myself with this excellent ‘Cono Sur Especial Reserva Pinot Noir 2013’.
Nice looking bottle and I must say when poured it looked very inviting in the glass, fairly dark purple colour with quite an intense nose of earthy strawberry, cherries, green peppers and cloves, smelt a little candy like. On first sip there I thought it was on the sweet side maybe even jammy, the veg side then kicked in with green peppers and mushrooms then finishing with spiciness and a little heat from the 14% although still tasting velvety, smooth and very moreish.
Forget what I paid for this, sells now for around £9, probably didn’t pay that, there’s probably a good chance I got it on special offer but I do think it’s worth full price and I would recommend it.
I seem to be drinking a lot of Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand lately and on the whole they have been pretty decent but this particular offering from Chile although very different made a real pleasant change.
This is the ‘Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011’. The first thought that comes to mind when seeing the bottle is elegance with it’s hand written label and the elegance theme carries on through the aroma and taste.
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.
Taste -Lots of stuff going on complex flavours, mild acidity, lush & rich mouth feel but not cloying, slightly sweet, tropical fruits again, passion fruit, lychees, limes, even sweet peppers.
Bought a case of this in Tesco’s recent ‘Big wine clearance’ sale and got them for around £6 a bottle, normally retailing for around £12 – £13, now I wished I had bought more as I really enjoyed this, made a real change from SB’s I’ve been drinking lately, enjoyed it more on the second day, even more intense. Top Stuff !
An elegant looking bottle with its (Vitral) multi coloured stain glass window emblem but is it an elegant wine? not quite but saying that it is still a very nice drink.
This is the Chilean Vina Maipo Vitral Syrah 2012 and is their flagship wine from a producer famed for its Syrah.
As I said earlier the bottle looks great and the wine when poured is a lovely dark purple with aromas of blackberries, dark ripe plums and a little wood smoke.
Very juicy in the mouth with a bitter sweet taste, some tannins evident along with spice and a hint of dark chocolate.
Drinking this with food it was very pleasant and went down pretty good with the steak we were tucking into, My wife and son had a glass each and they would soon tell me if they didn’t like it but they both said it was very nice, good enough for me.
If you’re looking for a decent enough everyday Syrah/Shiraz you won’t go much wrong with choosing this especially when on offer as I did.