December 7th: Denbies Redlands 2014

Denbies Redlands 2014 review

“Wine Advent Calendar December 7th: Denbies Redlands 2014

My dad used to say that he didn’t forget anything, but sometimes he just didn’t remember. I know what he meant. Let me explain.

My reasoning behind this advent calendar countdown is in part to give a Christmas nod to wines I’ve tasted in my wanderings and haven’t written about; and to give a heads-up to samples I’ve received but not  reviewed elsewhere.

This week a reader of my print column emailed me.  Yippee. I have at least one. Nicola (that’s her name) was asking where she could buy an English red wine as she’d drawn a blank.

Nicola said she had wanted red as Christmas presents because that’s what her family drinks. No problem, I said, and began to search for good red wines to help her out.

Then Denbies Redlands 2014 popped up in the searches followed by a #doh from me. I remembered I was sent this wine last Christmas when it launched into Waitrose, but I ran out of print space and kept the bottle  for another time to  review.

Here we go. This is that time.

Denbies Redlands 2014 review
Denbies Redlands 2014

Denbies Redlands 2014

What is it: It’s an English red wine.

Where’s it from: Denbies Wine Estate is based in Dorking,  Surrey. Find out about the estate here.

I’ll tell you some more: I’d suggested to Nicola that she might prefer a white wine. In England and Wales whites can be fabulous. Our climate is changing and the growing conditions for our grapes are improving. In parallel our wine making skills and investment are also on the up.

I’ve never been a fan of English reds. Saying that, the lovely but temperamental pinot noir grape, which prefers cooler climates and goes into a massive sulk if it gets too warm, is our second most planted grape variety behind chardonnay. Have a look at some stats from the English Wine Producers  here.

The Denbies team has said they are “passionate about England’s Denbies Redlands 2014ability to produce first class still wines” and they “have worked hard in the vineyards and winery over the past ten years to push the boundaries”.

The grapes: Pinot noir is half of this wine’s blend, with rondo and dunkelfelder having an almost even split of the remainder.

What of the taste? I’m just off to open the bottle. I’ll be back.

Denbies Redlands is a ruby red and you can see your fingers through the wine in the glass and read words on the other side. It has jammy aromas, a bit like Beaujolais, with a hint of savoury creeping in at the back. It tastes of red fruits and cherries with some spice. Tannins aren’t overpowering and the acidity is good.  Pinot noir does its thing here. It is a wine which doesn’t posture and pose bossily but the fruit flavours disappear quickly and it feels a bit “manufactured”.  I’m left wanting some more personality.

The small print: Denbies Redlands 2014 is 12% abv and is screwcap. It is £12.99 in Waitrose and can be bought online here.

As an aside: I sent this list of 2016 award-winning English reds to Nicola and guess which wine I spotted there. Yes, Denbies Redlands 2014 – a Decanter silver winner. 


Malbec wine has its day on the world stage

Portillo Malbec 2011 wine review

JUST as we’re all getting over the buzz of International Carrot Day – you missed it? – we’re heading headlong into World Malbec Day to celebrate malbec wine.

Wines of Argentina, which promotes the image of Argentine wines abroad, organises  the  day in tribute to the malbec grape, which  it has adopted as its own. April 17  is the  third World Malbec Day.

In truth, malbec wine is originally from Bordeaux (south east of Bordeaux, Cahors is famous for its  long-lasting ‘black wines’, a pronounced malbec blend).

So OK,  we don’t send each other cards on World Malbec Day, but it’s a good enough excuse to talk abut these deep plummy wines.

To get in the south American mood I didn’t dance any tangos, but I did make  chimichurri sauce as a spicy blanket for a grilled steak. Parsley, garlic, chillis, shallots, lemon. Oh, go Google it and enjoy the tingle  tipple  tastes.

 First up is Portillo Malbec 2011 (at Majestic, £9.99  –  buy two  bottles and save £6 until April 29, that’s   £6.99 each). This malbec wine was declared Best Argentinean Malbec under £10 in the Decanter 2012 awards. Judges described it as “pure and elegant”.

Portillo Malbec 2011 wine review
Portillo Malbec 2011

There’s plummy notes, cloaked in a supple, tempting layer of vanilla with blackpepper spices  playing palate ping pong.  I had put too much chilli in my sauce, but the Portillo embraced the combinations.

Tesco Finest Argentina Malbec 2012  (£6.99) had bilberries and beckoning blackberries on the nose and a floral lift, perhaps violets. It is still a young wine, not quite settled in itself.

 Like those old school discos with girls on one side of the room, boys on another, you just sense that with a little aging, interesting things might happen.

Fincas del Sur Malbec 2011 (£12.99 was not perturbed by my sauce-steak combo  but rejoiced in the flavour match.  Ripe tannins,  packed bunches of plums and a frizzling of malbec spice  bring an elegance to this Mendoza wine.

Finally, let’s pop over the border to Chile and  Viu Manent Secret Malbec 2010 (£11.99, My first taste seemed familiar. Here in a glass was my sister’s fruitiest home-made blackurrant jam. A berry-fest with spice and soft, velvet,  fruits.

Also in my glass
I’ll  tempt you with a white if you don’t like reds. It’s only fair. Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne Viognier 2012 (£5.75, is a blend of two grapes both familiar and important in the Rhone, but here in a wine from the Languedoc.  Six months spent on the lees  adds another layer  of interest over marsanne’s  fruity freshness  and the   luscious peach flavours from viognier.