Trapiche Pure Malbec wine

Wine Press: Who needs a long weekend to enjoy some lovely wines

You wait patiently  for one celebration  to  brighten up the year and  then several  come along at  once. Happy Easter.
I’m turning my first  thoughts to Malbec,  because in case you missed  it, Thursday was Malbec World Day, the celebration (created by marketeers)  of  this grape which Argentina has made its own.
Malbec is as good a way to go as any for Easter Sunday lunch. Trapiche Pure Malbec, (£8.99,  Co-op)  is unoaked so what you get  on the vine is what you get  in the vin.
 Hence the name “Pure”.

Trapiche Pure Malbec wine

Trapiche Pure Malbec

It makes a bold  statement with aromas of  deep black peppery fruits on one level; but on another is  almost  ethereal, with flora hints as floaty as  a  wispy dandelion seed caught in a sun-glinted breeze. To taste, gutsy red and black fruits,  acidity and tannins that grab and  entice. I thought of a teenage boy growing up; all  bolshy but still  unaffected by the Big Brave World. I know, the inside of my head worries me too.
I tried another unoaked malbec wine, blended with  shiraz. Compadre  Shiraz Malbec  2011 (£8.99,  at www.virginwines.co.uk).
 Upfront brambly  fruit, woodiness, on the nose, and a glug of black  fruit which was nice but no showstopper.
 A couple of whites from Aldi’s new Venturer series might tick you over happily.
 Rueda Verdejo and Vermentino are both £4.99.  I wouldn’t suggest you  serve with Easter lunch, but  to sip with pals, or as you watch Shrek (again) then go for it. The Rueda is deep lemon with a sauvignon  freshness and   pineapple,  melon and peach. I preferred it to Vermentino,  which is cut with lemons  and pine nuts. Both at less  than a fiver, hey.
The style of pink I never want to like, but always do,  is moscato –  and Gallo  Family Vineyards Pink  Moscato  (RRP £6.99) had me pouring a little bit more,  then more.
It’s a sweetie but surprise yourself. Easter Monday in the garden, why not. It’s only 9% abv and a  nose-dip in the glass reminds me of  those strawberry cream tarts I always squash on the way home from the shops. To taste, light and refreshing, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, some lemon  too.  I like it.  There, I said it.
 Also in my glass ….  Sometimes wine around the £10-£15 price point can be disappointing. This is two or even three times more than wine drinkers would pay on average and yet the wine  isn’t  always two or three  times better. It’s a shame, because it can  put people off trying  new wines.
But Penfolds  Koonunga Hill 76 2012 (£11.99,  www.spiritedwines.co.uk) is bang on the money.  A  big, characterful  blend of shiraz  and cabernet, it’s  full of jammy  cassis   – a  mouth-filling burst  of fruit. There are  subtle,  elegant  flavours on the finish; herbs, liquorice and olives. The 14.5% doesn’t  overpower.
They say, there’s  no such thing as a  bad Rioja.  But with  a name like  Glorioso – and a crianza 2010 at that, one might expect the  exceptional.  Glorioso  Crianza Rioja 2010,  Bodegas Palacio (£7.95,  from www.winesociety.com) was pleasant with some strong redcurrant flavours in every mouthful. It cheered up my macaroni  cheese (which takes some  doing) and was still going  strong when it came to apple flan.
There was none of the heaviness one often finds with Rioja and at £7.99 The  Wine Society are ripping off  no one.  It wasn’t a stunning  Rioja. But you know what  they say …
raise a glass

Me, in the paper

This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine April 19 2014 
Liverpool Echo - South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette  Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express
McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay, 2011, Adelaide Hills

Neil McGuigan, winemaker, answers my remarkably good questions

raise a glass

The posh me. In the paper

 

 This Q&A with Neil McGuigan  formed the basis of a column on Saturday April 12,  2014

Where did you first develop a passion for wine?

My passion for the wine industry began a long time ago due to its diversity – it is a mix of agriculture, logistics, marketing, selling, running a business and much more, and it is this diversity that was very attractive for me. This passion was strengthened though, a couple of years after I started working at Roseworthy when I started judging wines. That was when I started to understand about style. I worked with my father and brother as well as three mentors in the Australian wine industry who really understood style – Robert Heskith (Adelaide Wine Show chairman); Brian Barry (a senior character in the Australian wine industry) and Len Evans ( a bon vivant of the Australian wine industry).

  • McGuigan Wines is based in the Hunter Valley, what makes that area so special for growing grapes and creating wines?

It is a unique grape growing area – it can be humid and sometimes wet during the summer, but in my opinion it makes the best wines in the world!Neil McGuigan Glass (2)

  • You have won International Winemaker three times, which is an extraordinary achievement. How does that make you feel – and does it make you set your aspirations and standards even higher?

Absolutely! Winning it has been wonderful for the business, but it is just the start. We want to continue to work hard and increase the quality level each year – our aim is to make better wine today that we did yesterday. For us, wine is the hero.

  •  Are you excited about any new wines you are developing … can you let us into any secrets?

I am very excited about lots of new things. At McGuigan we are embracing new varieties and styles and making fresher whites and more voluptuous reds.

  • How important is the UK market to McGuigan – have our tastes changed, and our expectations of quality?

It is constantly evolving and we evolve our wines to suit this change.  In my view, Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. Australia lost focus on providing flavoursome but refreshing Chardonnay, but now we have got that right.  Aussie Chardonnay is a fantastic drink.

  •  What is out of fashion; what is in fashion in the world of wine?

Back in fashion – Chardonnay that is rich and flavoursome, but refreshing.

Out of fashion – high alcohol reds, 14.5% abv and above

  • What would you like to be in fashion?
McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

I would like Semillon to be in fashion. The reason? I think it is probably the most food friendly and refreshing white wine to come out of Australia. We have crafted Semillon into a delicious and inviting style, called The Semillon Blanc under our Classic range, which we think is delightful.

  • It can be really confusing for someone wanting to find out more about wine. Bottles and bottles in merchants and supermarkets can be quite daunting. What would you say to someone wanting to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to wine? Could there be a natural progression say, for a lover of sauvignon blanc to try another variety?

Consumers must be confident in their own palate. Their palate can’t be wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – tell people what style you like so you can get recommendations on alternatives. Look at the taste descriptors on the bottle labels and think about what you like and don’t like to give you an idea of what to try. Our bottles have a QR code on the back which, when scanned, can help to give a good understanding of the wine, along with a tasting note.

 

  • There are so many grapes grown in Australia which are also grown across the world – but what sets these following Australian varieties apart from others grown say in France, or elsewhere in the New World.

What we’re able to do in Australia is keep and show the purity of the fruit and varietal differentiation thanks to our climate and techniques in the winery that help us to retain characteristics and flavour.

  •  On to tasting wine; what would you say to people who maybe feel a little embarrassed by twirling a glass, sniffing, swirling, savouring? Does it really make any difference to enjoying wine?

I recommend that people focus on the wine as soon as it goes into the glass for 10 seconds – look at the colour, have a sniff, have a taste – this will help you to form a memory and relate it to the grape variety. Then just enjoy the wine in your glass!

  •  Once a red wine is opened, what would be the sensory checklist for someone to really appreciate that wine.

Before we start on senses, something to remember – if your wine is a screwcap, then you can be pretty sure that the wine is fresh. If it is a cork closure, you just need to be aware that cork can impart a character to the wine.

Look – at the colour, make sure it is not too brown (for red wine)

Smell – it should be pleasing to your senses

Taste – hopefully the wine exhibits the variety indicated on the label and it is flavoursome and enjoyable for you!

 

  • McGuigan wines use screwcaps …. why is that and does it make the wine taste better by the time it reaches the UK all the way from Australia?

We use screwcaps to give the consumer a more consistent product. For a winemaker, screwcaps give us an arguably more refreshing product.

Some quickfires; quick responses.

Wine in the sun: Semillon Blanc

Celebration wine: Taittinger Comtes 2004

Favourite variety: Shiraz

Family: I’m travelling at the moment, so would say ‘love them and miss them when I am on my travels’

Steak: Well done, with McGuigan Handmade Shiraz

Australia: Home, and my family

Food and wine combo: Oysters and Hunter Valley Semillon

 

Memoro Rosato Vino d’Italia NV

Wine Press: Neil McGuigan’s wine-tasting tips

BY THE time you read this I will have enjoyed a Girlies’ Night In, with yours truly  in charge of  a wine-tasting challenge.

Other entertainment was to be one Girlie playing tunes on her ukulele.

My plan: To disguise  all bottles in tin foil and to ask the Girlies questions, including guessing the grapes. I will have given tips beforehand, not least to stock  up on hangover cures.

So it feels timely to share some wine-tasting tips from award-winning Australian winemaker Neil McGuigan.
I asked him what he’d say to people who  feel a little embarrassed  swirling and sniffing wine and if it really made any difference. He explains: “I recommend that people focus on the wine as soon as it goes into the glass for 10 seconds – look at the colour, have a sniff, have a taste – this will help you to form a memory and relate it to the grape variety. Then just enjoy!”
On a red, what would be the sensory checklist?
He tells me: “Before we start on senses, something to remember – if your wine is a screwcap, then you can be pretty sure that the wine is fresh. If it is a cork closure, you just need to be aware that cork can impart a character to the wine.
”Look at the colour, make sure it is not too brown (for red wine). Smell – it should be pleasing to your senses. Taste – hopefully the wine exhibits the variety indicated on the label and it is flavoursome and enjoyable for you.”
It can be daunting if you want to discover wines.Neil McGuigan Glass (2)
I asked  how Neil would encourage  someone to step out of their comfort zones. He says: “Consumers must be confident in their own palate.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – tell people what style you like so you can get recommendations on alternatives. Look at the taste descriptors on the bottle  labels and think about what you like –  and don’t like – to give you an idea of what  to try.”
McGuigan Wines  come from  the Hunter Valley, which Neil says is “a unique grape growing area – in my opinion it makes the best wines in the world”.
But I asked him what sets  grapes grown in Australia apart from  others grown  in France say, or elsewhere in the New World.
Says Neil: “What we’re able to do in Australia is keep and show the purity of the fruit and  varietal differentiation thanks to our climate and techniques   that  help us to retain characteristics and flavour.”
Neil says he is excited  about  new things at McGuigan; embracing new varieties and making fresher whites and more voluptuous reds.
But have our wine tastes changed?
He says: “It is constantly evolving and we evolve our wines to suit this change. Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. Australia lost focus on flavoursome but refreshing Chardonnay, but now we have got that  right.
“Aussie Chardonnay is a fantastic drink.”
 “Our aim is to make better wine today than we did yesterday. For us, wine is the hero.”
 In My Glass   
 Memoro Rosato Vino d’Italia NV (£9.99, Tesco). It just felt right to Memoro Rosato Vino d’Italia NVtry this wine last weekend.
We have lighter nights; it feels like summer and happy outdoor days are on the way.
This deep pink wine is a blend of four grapes from across Italy and has fruitburst aromas of squidgy ripe raspberries and cherry sauce, with juicy strawberries to taste. Yum.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine April 12 2014 
Liverpool Echo - South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette  Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

The one where I’m reminded that independent wine merchants are fantastic

It’s always nice to know that people read my wine columns. I know, because occasionally people get in touch with me.
Here is an email from Deiniol ap Dafydd, the managing director of  www.blasarfwyd.com
The note reads:
“Enjoyed your ‘Raise a Glass’ article again today, but had to smile that you were promoting Bruno Paillard through London and distant firms whilst we operate in the North Wales Daily Post area.
raise a glass

The posh me. In the paper

“We have offered the Champagne Bruno Paillard Brut Premier Cuvee as part of our 700 odd selection of wine for the last twenty years and our current price is £40.75, considerably cheaper than London.
“As part of a dozen mixed bottles it would cost £37.69!!  Beats £44.99 by £7.30 – enough to buy a cracking Ontanon Rioja Crianza here.
“Further than that we offer free delivery throughout Wales for delivery of any 12 wines – which beats the various ‘aites and ‘imes wine merchants & clubs.
“This happened a couple of weeks ago as well when the Saturday Telegraph promoted an M&S own label Gavi that was reduced from £9.99 to £7.25 – whilst our normal price is £7.15 and our case discount price is £6.61.”
Thanks for that Deiniol.
So people. Two lessons learned here.
a)
Don’t always take my word as gospel – seek and ye shall find.  I rely on several sources for my wine prices. But they’re probably not the Be All and End All even though I try my hardest.
b)
You’ve just got to love independent wine merchants. If there’s one near you  then go along and show your face.
People will talk to you. These guys have businesses to run, businesses they believe in.
It’s a totally different experience than buying wine in Rice Krispiesa  supermarket aisle, where you try to negotiate around trolleys full of Rice Krispies and Tetley Tea, whose  owners are stretching eager arms out for the pinks from Gallo et al.
Of course Indies may have wines you’ll be familiar with, but they’ll be selling wines that you won’t have seen before, very probably at great prices.
A quick glance at the www.blasarfwyd.com site and I see they are selling Welsh wines. Here’s a link.
I’m very excited.
Freixenet Mia Sparkling wine

Wine Press: Freixenet and Mia range looks to the younger market

I HAD a rotten day  the other day and  was in need of comfort.
I stood in a supermarket  aisle in front of something  which declared itself to be fresh and crisp. I wasn’t in the fruit and vegetable section. It also had  “sparkling”  on the label. I  certainly wasn’t near the   household cleaning  products.
Crikey no.
It goes without saying I was in the wine aisle; just as well as this column is about  wine and not furniture  polish or kiwi fruit.
After some pondering my  eyes drifted towards Mia  Light & Crisp (£9.75, Asda).
It’s  a very pretty bottle, but I’m not normally  tempted by girlie things.  I  was interested because a  couple of years ago I met  the ambassador of the  Mia range, Gloria Collell, when I visited the parent company Freixenet in the heart of cava country  nearBarcelona. At that point, Gloria  had been developing two simple fruity still wines, Mia – Signature  No.1 (red, tempranillo  grapes) and Mia –  Signature No.2  (white), a  blend of  the cava grapes  macabeo, xarel-lo  and parellada.
Gloria is a stylish,  classy  woman, with  a determination  clear for all to see, but also elegantly feminine, in that effortless way of    continental ladies. Gloria developed her Mia still wines with modern women in mind, but was also staying close to her roots Freixenet Mia Sparkling wineusing  Spanish grapes. It’s difficult not to be  won over by wines when  the person who has created  them  is enthusing and  tasting alongside. So I saw the sparkling  Mia  on the supermarket shelf and thought “Gloria.  What’s she up to now?” Freixenet introduced two  sparklers to the Mia range to appeal to younger wine  drinkers after research   showed a  trend for  drinks  such as fruity ciders.
There’s  two sparkling  Mia wines,  Mia Light & Crisp (11.5%  abv, the one I bought) and  Mia Fruity & Sweet  Moscato (7% abv).   Freixenet wants them to appeal to the “young  consumer’s palate”.
So my wine. It is a blend  of  macabeo and airen –  which, believe it or not, is  the world’s most widely  planted white grape.
There’s apples and pears   on the nose,   citrus  reminiscent of a cava, and a lemon  aftertaste.
I wasn’t  blown away, but I wasn’t  disappointed.  If Freixenet have laid claim to a  particular marketplace then  I can  see girlies drinking  this Mia.
So Freixenet will  have done their job.

Gloria Collell, Mia wines

Gloria Collell, Mia wines

But I had chatted over a  fascinating  lunch with  Gloria while tasting   amazing cavas with  style and depth;  they are the  kind of wines I  would love Gloria to  make for me.  I am, after  all, a modern woman.   (No sniggering at the  back please.)
 Also in my glass  …  by contrast, a  classy Champagne, and by  further  contrast, a dull  pinot noir.
Champagne  Bruno Paillard  Brut Premier  Cuvée (RRP   £44.99,  Selfridges,  lokiwine.co.uk  and www.spirited wines.co.uk).   Bruno Paillard is considered by some to be “Champagne’s  best kept secret”. Only the finest  grapes (a classic blend of  pinot noir,  pinot meunier   and chardonnay)  are  selected. Brioche on the  nose, but with an understated  subtle  elegance; think Audrey  Hepburn. A fizz which fizzed longer than most and  apples to taste, cut through  with some minerality.
Morrisons Pinot Noir (£4.99) Sometimes I wonder if it’s  me. Described as  “brimming with fresh  raspberry and cherry  flavours” I found this  thin  on the fruit and dry and  dull on the palate, with not
much of an after-taste.
If it is me, then by all  means let me know.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine April 5 2014
Liverpool Echo - South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette  Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express
Chénas Les Carrières Domaine 2011 wine

Wine Press: Young bloods can challenge perceptions of French winemakers

PICTURE a French winemaker and what do you see? A veteran. Wisps of white hair blowing in a warm breeze. Soil brushed off gnarled hands and a grape taken firmly but gently between Gauloises-stained fingers.
A face the colour of Red Rum’s saddle bags turned upwards to the life-giving sun….  well that’s what I see.
And of course it’s a ridiculous stereotype. Even in the Old World strongholds, thrusting young bloods are breaking new Continue reading
ground. Men like Paul-Henri Thillardon – 27 years old and the   creator of Chénas Les Carrières Domaine  2011.
At £14.90 from Christopher Piper Wines this is a Beaujolais worthy of a lifetime of experience.
Paul-Henri first made wine in basins in his parents’ garage at the age of 10; at the age of 15 he was given a winemaker role; at the age of 22 he set up on his own; now he  has a domain of seven hectares.

In his own words “wine brings people together”. I don’t think many of us would disagree.

Chénas Les Carrières Domaine  2011 wine

Chénas Les Carrières

His wine is a joy to drink with the worryingly easy downwards slither that decent Beaujolais guarantees.
But it’s still flavoursome and complex, floral hints more discernible than fruity flavours.
Take a bow young man.
 Côte de Brouilly Les Sept Vignes Château Thivin 2011 (£14.95 Berry Brothers & Rudd) has one of the grandest labels I’ve seen in a while. Red, yellow and statesmanlike, worthy of a banner in a medieval court.
 Côte de Brouilly is one of the 10 “crus” in Beaujolais, in other words recognised as making the best wines. This Beaujolais   is made by another young blood, Claude Geoffray, also 27.  He says his aim is to make a “living wine”  that reflects all he does; he wants it to take its time in a “rushing world”. An interesting wine; there are lots of raspberries on the nose   from the gamay grape and  to taste,  a stony edge  like wet   granite.
Continuing the French red theme but this time one from the Rhône. Every time I dipped my nose into   ‘Les Six’ Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011  I picked up another aroma.
The clue is its name. The wine is a blend of six grape varieties,  carignan noir, cinsault and counoise, together with the more popular Rhône varieties of  grenache noir, syrah and mourvèdre. They  have been co-fermented in   pairs by winemaker Eric Monnin.
So   it was no surprise my senses had to work overtime.
First there were blackcurrants; then brambles and hedges; another time there was liquorice  dipped in vanilla; then the sap of a young tree; one more nose dip found leather and dried cranberries.
 There was a tastebud sudoku puzzle of fruits, cloves and peppers.
 It’s a limited production wine (RRP £20) of  12,000 bottles, in the Boutinot Fide et Arte range  sold by  www.johnhwines.co.uk and www.cheerswinemerchants.co.uk amongst others.
 Also in my glass …   I cracked this open while watching Les Miserables on the telly: Domaine Maby Pont du Gard Rouge 2012.
 It’s a  gentle, easy-drinking red but comes equipped with some real depth.
 A syrah and cinsault blend it’s a snip at £7.50 from the Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com)  and works well with or without food. Ideal with a hearty beef stew.
 Best of all, and surprisingly, it made Russell Crowe’s singing bearable.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine March 29 2014
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In my wine glass: McGuigan Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013

McGuigan’s winemakers use grapes from south Australian vineyards for its reserve range.

The small print:

South Australia – 12% abv – Grape: sauvignon blanc – Buy: Tesco  -  Price:  £9.99  – screwcap – 2013 – Tasted Feb 23 2014 – Drink in 1 year of purchase

Food matches

Salt and pepper squid, seafood paella, green curry barbecue chicken

What it says on the vin:

Our sauvignon blanc is fresh and lively displaying vibrant gooseberry and citrus fruit flavours that are complemented by a crisp, refreshing finish.

McGuigan Reserve  Sauvignon Blanc wine 2013

McGuigan Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013

In my glass:

Wasn’t massively blown over by this wine. There was an “oomph” missing but it was, well, OK. This sauvignon blanc has a delicate  nose of tropical fruits and a crisp lemon finish.

Find out more about McGuigan wines on their website here 

In my wine glass: McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

In my wine glass: McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay, 2011, Adelaide Hills

In my wine glass: McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

McGuigan has consistently won many awards. Winemaker Neil  McGuigan  made history by being the  first person to be named world’s best  winemaker in three out of four years. John Torode has joined forces with McGuigan to create an exclusive recipe collection. I tried this wine with green curry barbecue chicken. Continue reading

The small print:

South Eastern Australia – 12% abv – Grape: semillon – Buy: Tesco, Sainsbury -  Price: £7.99 – screwcap – 2012 – Tasted Feb 23 2014

Food matches

Veggies, Thai food, Mediterranean food, chicken with creamy sauce

What it says on the vin:

At McGuigan we are passionate about trying to evolve our wine styles to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. With this in mind I challenged my winemakers to create a new wine style based on the classic Australian variety Semillon. We wanted to retain the vibrant citrus characters, naturally low alcohol and great ageing potential of semillon whilst creating a modern approachable style.

Out of the 18 great wines there was one clear standout chosen; the result is a totally new style of Semillon with lifted aromatics, texture, elegance and length. The wine is fresh, crisp and packed full of tropical fruit. – Neil McGuigan

McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2012

In my glass:

Pale lemon; creamy guava, lychee and lemon. Medium acidity which doesn’t overpower but allows the fresh tropical fruits to be at the fore. Lovely and juicy and freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice with freshly scrunched lemon geranium leaves.

  • Find out more from the McGuigan website  here 

 In my wine glass: McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay, 2011, Adelaide Hills

Rosé Royal Pinot Noir Spumante, Giacomo Montresor sparkling wine

Wine Press: A Mother’s Day wine search with mixed results

SOME people can’t  stand Mother’s Day. I  mean they love  their mum,  but they can’t stand leaving  the house  for the so-called  “treat”. Over-booked  restaurants, under-cooked  food and poor old mum  trying to pretend it’s the  best time she‘s had since  the grand final of The X  Factor.
The alternative is staying  in –  cook a lovely lunch and  break out a really nice  bottle of wine.
Research for the Big Day next week led to several  wines, with mixed results.  The Exquisite Collection  South Australia Shiraz  2012  which Aldi, ever  cost-conscious, is  selling at just £5.99.
Now Shiraz can be  confrontational; the  sort of wine that sits  there and says Continue reading
“I’m big and I’m gutsy so don’t come near unless a gulp of aggression is what you’re  prepared for”.
I found it resin-y, oily, and  tannins  overpowered “ripe  black plum fruits,  blackberries and succulent black cherries” the label proclaimed.
However, saying  that, this wine  won three awards  last year.  A silver  at the Decanter  World Wine  Awards; commended at the  International wine  Challenge. It also won a  What Food What Wine  challenge  as a   match for  lamb rogan josh.  To be fair,  a day after opening, and poured alongside   a Thai  supper  with a spicy punch  worthy of  Tony The Bomber  Bellew, the wine was a  worthy opponent.
Morrisons Signature  Chablis (RRP £9.99 at   Morrisons stores,  www.morrisonscellar.com).  How does that joke go. “I  don’t like chardonnay but I  love Chablis.” If you didn’t  know, Chablis is 100%  chardonnay. The label  declares this has crisp green  apples and soft banana  flavours.  I definitely got the  apples, but the bananas  were off my radar. Taut   sharp green apples on the  nose, but to taste it wasn’t  as crisp and linear as I’d  like.

Rosé Royal Pinot Noir Spumante, Giacomo Montresor sparkling wine

Rosé Royal Pinot Noir Spumante

The Society’s  Celebration Crémant de  Loire (www.thewinesociety.com, £11.50, or   £9.50 equivalent if you buy  six up to March 30). Loire  producer  Gratien & Meyer   this year celebrates its  150th anniversary and it is  the society’s longest  continuous supplier – since 1906 in fact. The blend is  exclusive to the society,  with chardonnay, chenin,  cabernet franc and pinot  noir.  On the nose, bright  fresh apple after an   April  shower; squeezy fresh to  taste with ahuzzah of apple  bite freshness and  lemon.
 Rosé Royal Pinot Noir  Spumante, Giacomo  Montresor (£9.45,  www.allaboutwine.co.uk).   Lovely bottle, makes me  feel all special. It is  a  pale  pink sparkling wine from  pinot noir grapes. The  wine  is kept on the lees for four months, adding complexity.  Fresh bread  aromas mingle with  dried strawberries  and cherries. There’s  a nose-tickling  sparkle with cherries to taste.
Canard-Duchêne  Authentic Réserve  Brut  (RRP£26.99,  Waitrose and www.waitrosedirect.com). Now  don’t be shocked. I  had this  Champagne with a  curry takeaway  and it was  bloomin’ perfect. Of course  I professionally “tasted” it  first for  your benefit. But  then  for my benefit   I shared  an aubergine side dish,  melting Bombay potatoes  and a lamb dupiaza. With  Champagne? It was  heavenly. Aged for three  years, it has intensity to  counteract spice; freshness to liven the palate; dried  apples and stone fruits  bring  a livening lift.
A big cheer to… the  winners of the McGuigan  Wines competition.   Ken  Owen, Gillian Massey,   Carolyn Thelwell and Maureen O’Gorman  each  win  six bottles of McGuigan  Reserve wines.
Don’t forget, McGuigan is  giving wine-loving couples   the chance to win a trip to  Australia, including  lunch  cooked by John Torode in  one of their Hunter Valley  vineyards. Go to     http://mcguiganwines competition.com for   details.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine March 22 2014
Liverpool Echo - South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner -   The Chronicle, Newcastle Teesside Evening Gazette - Birmingham  Mail Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express
ARA

Wine Press: Heralding the change in seasons with a quartet of New Zealand wines

THERE are two things  I always do as the  seasons  tick by. One is to proffer a “pinch and a punch, first of the month”, to my pal Jamie; the second is to text my daughter whenI see my first lambs in a  field. The latter went like this.
You thought I was making it up ....

You thought I’d made it up

Mummy (that’s me): I’ve seen lots of baby baa baas today.  Daughter:  Baaaaaaa. Don’t eat them!  Mummy: Oh dear,  just realised have ordered  lamb shank.  (We both have sensible careers by the way.)

My point is, I love this time of year.  I love pinot noir with my Sunday lunch. (Lamb. Sorry.) I  love sipping my  first glass of the year  in a sun-bright garden as the  birds sing. And lo! It stopped raining and all came to pass. Sharing my seasonal  joy was a quartet of New Zealand wines.

Now, metaphorically, I’ll share them with you. Continue reading

Ara Single Estate Pinot Gris 2013 (£11.99 Wine Direct). I loved this wine. I mean, really loved it.  Aromas of  pears burst out of the glass;  they  looked over their shoulders to some nectarines, saying “come on, then,  follow us”. Then at the last, a   fleck of  apple caught up, leaving a ripe  memory. To taste, imagine all those fruits in a willowing silky skirt, with a  velvet trim adding texture, weight,  balance and  softness.  If you can  imagine that, keep taking the tablets.
Ara Pathway Pinot Noir 2012 (£11.99, Tesco, Morrisons). This was the wine with my Sunday lamb and roasties. It has a fruity reticence  with  redcurrants and raspberries on the nose and vegetable tones, rather like cooked broccoli. Stay with me. To taste, light, integrated  tannins and more red fruits.  A lovely pairing, though I stayed away from any overpowering mint sauce.

Ara Single Estate Pinot Gris wine

Ara Single Estate Pinot Gris

Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2012 (£14.95 Wine Direct, Hailsham Cellars, Edgmond Wines). This wine  won the Champion Wine of the Show at the New Zealand International Wine Show. Judges said it was “exciting and fresh”.
This was my garden wine. It has subtle smokiness on the nose, together with  honeyed nectarine andpeach. To taste, fresh fruits with a vein of minerality. It’s a take-another-sip-before-you-put-the-glass-down kind of more-ish wine.
Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (£13.99 down to £10.99,  when you buy more than two NZ wines at Majestic). Aromas of tangy citrus, kiwi fruit, passion fruit and  freshly cut green peppers. There’s a  mouth-burst of gooseberries, citrus and limes. A cheek-pinching acidity  and  the fresh citrus both linger delightfully.
I settled down to watch The Essential Guide to Wine Tasting (RRP £14.99) a DVD in The Ideal Life Collection (www.stitchcombe.co.uk).  Other subjects   include  Keeping Bees and Keeping Chickens.  I chose  wine  as bees scare me and chickens always  run off to cross the road.
It is presented by wine expert Jaspar Corbett and when he said “I’m not a big fan of the  current modus which says let’s demystify wine” I was a little grumpy.
 I’m of the view that   maintaining  the  “mystery” of wine puts people off trying new ones. I’m doing Mr Corbett a disservice.  He was an interesting mentor to his  guinea pigs  TV presenter   Zöe Salmon and antiques guru James Rylands,  with chapters covering  reds, whites, New World, Old World, food  and sparklies, to name a few.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine March 15 2014
Liverpool Echo - South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner -   The Chronicle, Newcastle Teesside Evening Gazette - Birmingham  Mail Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Growing older, growing grumpier but a glass of wine helps now and again