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. 


Rioja wines: Some whites and a rosé for good measure

rioja wines reviews

If you think about Rioja wines, I bet you imagine a glass of smoky red rioja with lots of vanilla and cloves and spice. Who can blame you, as 75 per cent of the wines from the Rioja region are red.  

Let’s turn the tables and try a handful of Rioja wines but not red ones … some whites and a rosé too for good measure.

Rioja wines: Aromas of a herb border

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015 (12.5% abv, £7.99 or £6.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic) This wine is produced from viura grapes – also known as macabeo which is a key grape in cava.

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015 rioja wines
Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015

The wine has apples and pears on the nose and a subtle aroma of a herb border. A good sip and there’s more apples and pears and a refreshing acidity which just takes the edge over the fruit flavours.  

Rioja wines: A white with personality

Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015 (12% abv,  RRP £10.99  This unoaked white is made from a relatively new grape variety, tempranillo blanco, a mutation of the red tempranillo grape which is the backbone of red  rioja wines.

Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015 rioja wines
Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015

I loved the shape of the bottle; a wine with personality before I’d even opened it. Once poured, aromas of green apple, citrus and floral dance together above the glass, then in the mouth it is well-balanced and fruity with a bright citrus finish.   

Rioja wines: Concentrated flavours

Contino Blanco 2014 (13% abv, RRP £25.45,,, The Wine Reserve) With one sip, you can tell this is an elegant well-crafted wine and yes, the price suggests that. It is a blend of three grapes – viura (80%) with malvasía and white grenache in supporting roles – from old vines which deliver more concentrated flavours.

Contino Blanco 2014 rioja wines
Contino Blanco 2014

It is partially fermented in French oak barrels then aged on its lees for six months.  The winemaker’s hard work pays dividends in creating a fresh, complex,  fruity wine, with a citrus nose and a good blend of fruit and spice which leave a pencil-sharp juicy memory on the tastebuds.

Rioja wines: A pink to make you think

Muga Rosado 2015 (13% abv, RRP £9.99 at Waitrose, Majestic and The Wine Society)  Mmmm.  One of the nicest rosés I’ve tried all summer. The grapes? Viura and tempranillo are back again, but the mainstay is garnacha (60%) which is never backward in coming forward.

Muga Rosado 2015 rioja wines
Muga Rosado 2015

It delivers a summer fruit compote of aromas, though not sickly sweet strawberry syrup; but clean, fresh, breezy and uplifting. Ooo there’s a subtlety of fruit tart pastry and a hint of spice too; then to taste the red fruits stir the senses alongside a squeaky acidity which keep the mouth a-watering.

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals August 2016

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