Wine Press: Spring wines in the garden … well, once the rain stops

Spring has sprung and yippee!! I want to spring into the garden to celebrate. Well that might be a bit optimistic. When I had a practice run with spring wines in the garden last weekend my finger ends were numb in five minutes.

I clasped a glass of hearty red through slippy mittens and imagined what it would be like if the sun was shining and the icy wind dipped. I’m no weather girl, but I doubt you’ll have any better luck in the spring sunshine stakes this week as  the wind lashes the rain against our windows. Here’s a clutch of outdoor reds to, well, to clutch, as you wait for warmer weather.

Journey's End Kendal Lodge Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon
Journey’s End Kendal Lodge Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon

First up, a couple from M&S. Journey’s End Kendal Lodge Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2012 (£8 from £10 until April 6) is a vibrantly juicy huggable red. Go for it, try it in the chilly garden if you dare. I did; and a very pleasant companion too. A glass of bold berries, and some oozing plums which were pestled and squeezed with cream and soft vanilla, all finished with a sprinkling bite of spice.

Frares Priorat 2013
Frares Priorat 2013

Frares Priorat 2013 (£11 from £13, M&S, until April 6) is a no-nonsense red from grapes grown on the extraordinary slopes of Priorat in northeast Spain. This vintage won a silver at last year’s International Wine Challenge. It is a juicy young fresh tumble of easy-drinking fruits with brambly berries, liquorice, and a brush of herbs.

Sangre Toro 2014
Sangre Toro 2014

Sangre de Toro (RRP £7.99 from Tesco, Waitrose and Asda) is so-called as Torres’ tribute to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine otherwise known as ‘son of the bull’. It is chokka with velvety, ripe fruit, with toasty notes embraced by flavours of blackberry jam. A very scrummy and warming wine.

How about early spring garden whites; I’m not suggesting bright, squeaky and citrussy choices; let’s save those until the warm weather is here.

Chateau Thivin Clos de Rochebonne 2013
Chateau Thivin Clos de Rochebonne 2013

Beaujolais-Blanc Clos de Rochebonne Château Thivin 2013, (£14.57 Christopher Piper Wines) Yes, they make white Beaujolais too. This is 100% chardonnay and the grapes are fermented in old barrels and kept on the lees for eight months. This makes for a creamy mouthfeel, alongside aromas of apricot and blossoms in bloom.

Concha y Toro Terrunyo Los Boldos Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Concha y Toro Terrunyo Los Boldos Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Concha y Toro Terrunyo Los Boldos Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (£13.95, www.slurp.co.uk) is a hand-on-hips “look at me” sauvignon blanc which has typical statements of gooseberry, grapefruit, but with a level of complexity, elegance and substance which raises it above other knife-edge, sometimes shrill, sauvignon blancs. Great for gardens, chilly or otherwise.

Garden pinks? Well, we can dream can’t we? You can’t do better than to sink into a garden chair with a blush of a sunshine pink; listen to the birds sing; see the sun glint off your glass. OK, I’m a few weeks ahead of this dream. Pour a glass and watch The Voice from the comfort of your Saturday sofa.

Lindauer New Zealand Sparkling Rosé NV
Lindauer New Zealand Sparkling Rosé NV

Lindauer New Zealand Sparkling Rosé NV (Co-op, £9.99) is a sparkle with a spring (see what I did there) in its step and is a blend of pinot noir, and pinotage. It has had bottle fermentation, so has been in contact with the lees to add a rich yeasty nose. It’s a really nice strawberry creamy fizz with zesty bubbles.

A light, light pink, Waitrose Provence Rosé (£8.99) is crisp, dry, and enjoys a good chill. Don’t think in-your-face sweet strawberries and red fruits; think subtle hums of red fruits from this blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 21, 2015

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

A peek inside Laura’s world … the life of a wine buyer for Co-op wines

I’d love to be involved in the creation of wine and not just sit at the “consumer end” opening a bottle and enjoying the contents. Don’t get me wrong, I love that bit. I really love that bit.

Laura Stafford, wine buyer for the Co-op
Laura Stafford, wine buyer for the Co-op

Laura Stafford is a wine buyer for the Co-operative and I’ve spoken to her about her work and our shared love; sharing our love of wine.

Laura says she was “in the right place at the right time” when a role as a buyer came up, and a couple of qualifications later (from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and Laura is in a role she loves.

I asked what inspires her.

“I love the end to end aspect of my job, it’s all hands on. It’s the pride in seeing the whole process through.”

Laura will taste, test, and consider different blends during her visits to winemakers. Laura says: “Then suddenly you hit THE moment when you have found the right blend and it’s really satisfying.”

When sourcing a malbec in Argentina, Laura was hugely influenced by the region. That is reflected not just in the wine, but in the label.

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
Laura’s mood board which inspired the malbec label

Laura explains: “There was a really colourful town, very rustic, murals on the wall, bright chalky colours, and it really showed the spirit and the character of Argentina. I thought, how can I live and breathe that through this wine?”

Laura shared a mood board with a design company back home and the result is a colourful but simple label.

Says Laura: “I talked with the design team about making it friendlier and easier to understand. Malbec goes with meat and it is full of raspberries and plum. The rewarding bit is seeing it on the shelves.”

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura describes The Co-operative Argentine Malbec (£4,99) as clean and honest; there is just enough tannin and a good amount of spice.

Laura says: “I really encourage people to step a bit beyond the boundaries.

“I love the friendliness that needs to come from wine. Take away the scary factor; ignore the snobbery; ignore people who hold the glass in a certain way. Don’t be scared about wine. I want to make wines friendly and approachable. All of it, the whole package; from the wine to how we evolve the labels.”

Laura and I sipped and talked about Co-op wines.

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio
Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio (£6.99) is 100% pinot grigio, Laura explains that the warmth of the climate gives bolder fruits which are slightly tropical. I found a tutti frutti hot pot of pineapple, lemon and honeyed apricot.

I asked Laura what people could try that’s different if they are stuck in pinot grigio world. She says: “Try chenin blanc. It is a really drinkable style, with a little bit of acidity. The fruit isn’t as big and bold as chardonnay, or as acidic as sauvignon blanc.”

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka
Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka (£4.79) is another pinot grigio, but this time blended with a local grape variety, Királyleányka (40% of the blend). It is pronounced keer-a-lee-en-ee-ka. It’s definitely easier to sip than to say! It is sherberty, lemony and has sweet floral notes.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir (£7.99) is from Chile. Laura suggests you pop this wine in a fridge for half an hour, or pop in an ice bucket for a chilled summer garden wine.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir

This will bring out the red fruit and redcurrant characters. This wine smells of snapped twigs and palma violets, with blueberry and cherry flavours. Really lovely.

The upshot? I’m actually jealous of Laura Stafford.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 14, 2015

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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