Wine Press: Fairtrade Fortnight and a sparkling nod to the Oscars

Mirabeau Côtes de ProvenceRosé 2013

IT’S Fairtrade Fortnight.  I want to embrace  wines which carry the Fairtrade stamp of approval and are born out of such a worthy cause; but I do so with  mixed results.

The Fairtrade Foundation (www.fairtrade.org.uk) explains it has  several missions; “better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world”.

The Co-operative sells 52.5% of all Fairtrade wine  in the UK. It has also been recognised as the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine by  the foundation.

It has 17 own brand Fairtrade wines and to mark Fairtrade Fortnight is offering 20% off some of them  until March 11.  Here are three.

The Co-operative Fairtrade Argentine Malbec 2012 (£6.79 from £8.49)  This is a full-bodied but not especially typical Malbec. There’s  too much tannin, which coats the palate like melted chocolate – but without the sweetness. Decanting  makes it smoother and it was delicious with a hearty   tomato pasta sauce. There are notes of raspberry and vanilla and a peppery spice that  work well with food.

The Co-operative Fairtrade  Malbec review
The Co-operative Fairtrade Malbec

Co-operative Fairtrade South African Chardonnay 2013 (£4.79 from £5.99) An early taste of spring with a wine that’s cool and crisp with a lemon aftertaste.  You can imagine adding a few  chilled bottles to a picnic basket or enjoying it on a   summer’s evening. The weather’s not up to outdoor drinking yet, but bear the wine in mind for when the sun is shining.

The Co-operative Fairtrade Cape Sparkling Rosé  2013 (£6.39 from £7.99)  This has barely  discernible fresh strawberries and floral notes; a fizz that dies down quite quickly. To taste, dried red fruits and a fizzle of acidity which disappears almost as quickly as the bubbles in the glass. Needs a good chill, as indeed do I.

Over to Sainsbury’s, the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products. All of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference South African wines are now Fairtrade.

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (£6.99) has won a silver at the International Wine Challenge. It doesn’t have knock-you-over kiwi-style aromas but there’s subtle gooseberry and limes on the nose which are reflected on the palate. A tickle of acidity, together, with the fruit flavours  leave a  medium lingering finish.

  • Fairtrade Fortnight continues until March 9

Also in my glass

Just recently a video trended on social media of Stephen Cronk opening a bottle of wine using a wall and a shoe. Not a corkscrew in sight. His wine Mirabeau Côtes de Provence Rosé is sold by Waitrose (£8.99).  It’s the pink of an English-rose  teenage girl, blushing at the thought of her first crush. The aromas are strawberry punnets on a summer breeze, poached pears with a zizzazz of citrus. Strawberries and red fruits liven in the mouth with an acidity which balances perfectly.

Toast Oscar winners with Pongracz Sparkling Rosé (£10.99, a saving  of 25%  until March 9, at Morrisons stores and www.morrisonscellar.com).  It is made in South Africa in the traditional way (like Champagne). A fine bubble tinkles  after the excited pouring fizz dies down. There’s fresh strawberries, strawberry shortcake, brioche and rhubarb crumble on the nose. Fresh red fruits and strawberries bedazzle on the tastebuds as a good balanced acidity whooshes everything along.

How the Morrisons wine taste test tool can help your choices

ONE MAN’S nectar is another man’s poison. That may be a saying or perhaps I made it up.

When it comes down to enjoying wine – and I’ve said it here before – the bottom line is personal taste.

Who knows how much money is spent by Mrs Bloggs buying a wine her husband Joe says is fab – only for Mrs Bloggs to disagree and hit him over the head with a wet copy of the Liverpool Post.

With this in mind, when Morrisons wine entered the online wine market a few weeks ago with www.morrisonscellar.com, the chain included an interactive “taste test” tool developed with Bibendum. It aims to help people buy wine to match their tastebuds.

The retailer proclaims: “Having analysed the wine-buying habits of 10,000 UK wine drinkers, Morrisons discovered people need help choosing wines with confidence they know they’ll love when they open the bottle. With our unique taste test we’ll help you find the wines that your tastebuds will delight in.”

I had to give it a go. It would have been rude not to. To take part, you click on the Morrisons Taste Test questions directly, or follow a video hosted by a “cheeky chappie” no doubt chosen because of his “normal bloke” persona. Either way the questions are the same.

Your favourite hot drink; soft drink preferences and how, if and when you add salt to food. You make your choices, then you’re graded within one of four flavour profiles – Sweet: 0-3; Fresh: 4-6; Smooth: 7-9; Intense: 10 -12.

I was Smooth. The only time in my life, possibly. I’m a Smooth 7.

Cheeky Chappie is on a video clip explaining the science. People have a different number of tastebuds. Those with fewer tastebuds are “non-tasters” so they need bold, intense flavours. People with many tastebuds are “supertasters” and they prefer sweet or floral wines.

Then there’s people like me, in the middle, who have a penchant for fresh, smooth, wines.

Is the proof in the pudding – perhaps, but instead of pudding I tried some “Smooth 7” wines as indicated on the site. Science says you can go up or down a level and still be happy. Here goes.

  • Macon-Verze 2010 (£8.99) Described as “a beautifully balanced, melon- and citrus-tinged hefty French Chardonnay”. Well I don’t go for “hefty” chardonnay but by accident or design this was spot on for me. Lightly honeyed with good acidity and hints of pineapple.
  • Irony Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (£19.99). A Smooth 100 Per Cent. Morning fog helps the pernickety pinot noir grapes develop in California but once in the glass juicy notes of strawberries and raspberries punch with fruity clarity.
  • Novas Viognier (£9.99, Smooth 7). I love viognier; this one is from one of the most prominent organic and biodynamic estates in Chile, Emiliana. Peaches and almonds mingle in creamy heaven. I think I’m still on course with my Smooth 7s … unless …
  • Spy Valley Envoy Chardonnay 2009 (£17.99) “elegant citrus and flint” says the website. Spy Valley is so-called because of a satellite monitoring station nearby. I wish I could say it made me feel out of this world, but chardonnay fermented in barrels – in this instance for a year, with lees stirring – is not my favourite thing. Saying that, there’s no disputing the elegance of this nutty, creamy wine which won a silver at the International Wine Challenge in 2011.

It’s just not suited to my tastebuds. Ah. How fickle we are.

 This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on January 11 2013