Monthly Archives: November 2012

Veggie to the Max!

Spicy vegetarian food and fine wine to match? Impossible surely? Well, no actually.

We were invited to a dinner party last night to celebrate the wedding of Maxine and Richard; Maxine is veggie so the rules were in place. Max, by the way, is one of the best cooks I know and has no issue cooking flesh but chooses not to eat it. More fool her! I was a veggie for 9 years myself when I was a right-on student, as was The Fish (12 years), but thankfully we are both now fully recovered. Not that it mattered on Saturday night.

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Steve and Sara took on the task and what a wonderful job they did. Sara set the scene, creating a Lebanese feel to the dining room, and Steve was our ambitious and adventurous cook. I managed to photograph most of the food and my wine comments I’m sure will get less precise as I go along. A night which starts at 7.30 and ends at 3.30 will do that to you!

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Nectarine and smoked avocado salad
Seresin Estate Chiaroscuro, 2009 (Marlborough, New Zealand)

An unusual blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay (equal split). Has a complex nose with fruit, spice and floral notes. Rich, textured and long. The wine really brought out the taste of the nectarine and vice-versa; certainly one I’ll be searching out.

Kibbeh kazzabe with green herb hummus, pomegranate & cucumber salsa, pomegranate molasses
Scalabrone Bolgheri Rosato Tenuta Guado al Tasso, 2010 (Tuscany, Italy)

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. I’m not a rose guy but this was excellent. Raspberry, strawberry and cherry with hints of wild herbs. Very refreshing and beautifully dry. A Super Tuscan rose?? Another great match with the sweetness of the molasses showing off the fruitiness of the wine.

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Lima bean tagine, green olive & herb pilav, mint and garlic labneh, crispy cinnamon onions, lemon zhug.
Massaya Silver Red, 2009 (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

Southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mouvedre… And Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet red fruits and warm spices with nice hints of oak. Lovely long finish, definitely reminiscent of Chateuneuf. By the way, everyone has to try lemon zhug at some point in their life – a spice blend of chilli, garlic, black pepper and coriander, blended with fresh lemon pulp and preserved lemon. Beautifully tart and spicy at the same time.

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Rose water panna cotta, pistachio and white chocolate fudge, strawberry & lime coulis
Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc, 2009 (Ridgeview Estate, England)

Decanter award winner in 2010 and loverly. Honey, acacia and orchard fruit. Lovely mousse, yeasty and very long. This is well worth having a look for – may be my choice for Xmas.

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Fig tart, saffron and cardamom ice cream, salted almond brittle.
Steindorfer Seewinkel Beerenauslese, 2006 (Austria)

Wine of the night for me! Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Bouvier (new one for me). So much peach and apricot and wonderful honey sweetness. Sweet, pure, refreshing and ever so elegant. More please. Now.

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Selection of (European!) cheese with date, pumpkin and pear chutney
Chateau Fontesteau, Cru Bourgeois, 2004 (Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux)

Cherry fruit and floral with nice hint if oak and graphite, well integrated. This is a very nice wine, which has benefited from a decent amount of time in bottle.

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All in all a fantastic night, fantastic food, fantastic wine and, most importantly, fantastic company. Oh, and a not so fantastic hangover!

Battle of the sexes?

Every now an then in the world of wine we come across descriptions that suggest a particular wine is either masculine or feminine in style. Across the great regions of France, some of the appellations are even pigeonholed by these terms. In the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, the wines of Volnay are often termed feminine, whereas Pommard, which is right next door, is often described as masculine. In Bordeaux, the wines of Margaux are softer, while wines from Paulliac are “fuller” and more manly, and in the Northern Rhone are the great wines of Hermitage really “girly” compared with the brute force of Cote Rotie?

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I have done this myself, especially when talking about Volnay or Chambolle Musigny (feminine) so I thought it was time to take a closer look. Feminine wines are often characterised as having finesses and elegance (see the photo from the vineyard in Chambolle). “Masculine” wines have lots of body and big tannins. This actually does a disservice to the variation within appellations, even wines made in the same vineyard! I suppose its an easy or lazy way of describing a wine so I think in future I’m going to ditch the battle of the sexes. If I think a wine has finesse and elegance, you can decide whether it is feminine or not and I will concentrate on the more important attributes of sight, aroma and taste.

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Volnay is from Volnay and Pommard is from, well Pommard!

The truth behind this post is that it gave me the opportunity to open two fantastic bottles of wine from the superb Burgundy domaine of Hubert de Montille. Hubert was the real star of the wine documentary Mondovino, which looks at the globalisation of wine styles. If you are a wine fan then order a copy as it is a really interesting, and often very amusing and frustrating watch. The domaine is now run by Hubert’s son and daughter, who both feature in film.

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So a Friday night with The Fish and the in-laws. A beautiful dish of slow cooked partridge prepared by Den and some great cheese sourcing from Jan, and away we went…

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Domaine Hubert de Montille, Les Pezerolles 1er Cru, Pommard 2001 (The Wine Society £49.00)

Very light crimson colour for Pommard but the nose is very interesting indeed. Autumnal with lots of musty leather, sweet spice and sweet red fruit. Raspberries and red currants on the palate with a deep smokey, cigar-like finish. Not super-concentrated but very sweet and refined – I was surprised to find this vineyard is on the Beaune side of Pommard as it is actually very reminiscent of Volnay. Was an excellent accompaniment to the partridge but I do wish I had decanted and given the wine a couple of hours to really open up. Top notch stuff indeed. 92 points

Domaine Hubert de Montille, Les Taillepieds 1er Cru, Volnay 2001 (The Wine Society £46.00)

Oh yes, this is very exciting! Very pale, almost rose look in the glass but the aromas are incredible. Strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, mushroom, truffle and undergrowth. Very sweet fruit on the palate with lively acidity and such freshness. Nicely integrated oak, and dashes of leather and sweet (vanilla?) spice. Warm, long, concentrated and sumptuous. Tannins are prominent but silky. This is my kind of wine and wish I could afford to drink it every night! 96 points

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My wine hero

Before you read any further, there is something you need to know. Jez is my wine hero. Jez is also my pusher. He started me on the light stuff, got me hooked, and is now reaping the rewards. I don’t mean any if that of course, because Jez is what all of us wine lovers need. An independent wine merchant who cares. Someone who listens, who’s advice you cherish and appreciate.

I first walked into Wine and the Vine, situated in Battler’s Green, near Radlett, about 4 years ago. It’s a really inviting and friendly show room, although sometimes a bit cold… Temperature-wise! The first words after “hello” were “can I offer you a taste?” And that’s how it started, with a taster of the fantastic Don David Torrontes from Argentina. I walked out of Jez’s shop that day with a dozen wines, half of which I would never even have dreamt of lifting off a supermarket shelf. I also walked away without paying – at the time there was no credit card machine (there is now) – instead he gave me a piece of paper with his bank details printed on one side. I was hooked.

Tasting wine is brilliant. You try things you may not have ever considered, or ever heard of. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday Jez offers 6 wines to anyone who comes into the shop. It’s an eclectic mix and I always end up taking home a couple of bottles which weren’t on my mental list. You can’t do this at the supermarket! Don’t get me wrong; they have their place, but they are soulless. Your independent guy has soul. Your independent guy has personality. Your independent guy is there for you.

I’ve had some of the best wines I’ve tried from Jez. Because he listens. He understands what I like and can make informed recommendations. Jez introduced me to Burgundy via a stupendous bottle of Nicolas Rossignol Volnay 1er Cru En Chevret 2006. Not only that, when I told him I was going to Beaune last February, he helped arrange a visit with Nicolas via one of his suppliers. This is why your independent wine guy is so important – you will learn so much and get so much in return.

Please use your local merchants. Talk to them, listen to them, and most importantly of all, cherish them. They are the heroes of our wine world.

Jez Grice
Wine & The Vine
Battlers Green Farm
Common Lane
Radlett
Hearts
WD7 8PH

www.wineandthevine.co.uk

I’ve only recently started keeping tasting notes, so here is a selection from some recent visits to Wine and the Vine. The selection suits all pockets and all styles. There are a couple of expensive bottles below but there is plenty of choice under £10! If you live nearby please pop in and say hello… And enjoy your tasting!

Some whites

Andeluna Torrontes 1300, 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (£10.75)

I tried this in a shop and it was beautifully aromatic – just goes to show how much bottle variation there can be. Grapefruit and a hint of citrus, some floral notes. Pithy grapefruit, lacking freshness. no length. Disappointing. 80 points

Dopff Au Moulin Gewertztraminer Reserve 2010 (£15.99)

I opened this straight after the Torrontes and wasn’t disappointed. Honey, nectarines and spice. Very aromatic. Spicy, full bodied, nectarines and eastern mystery. Lovely, with a hint of sweetness. 20 minutes later the Turkish delight tastes great! 89 points

Domaine Botti Saint Veran 2009 (£12.85)

St Veran is one of my go to communes for value white Burgundy and this wine is no exception. Honeydew melon and pink apples on nose and palate. A dash short on acidity but very tasty and lovely almond and cobnut finish. 88 points

Some reds

Pierre Naigion Hautes cotes des Nuits 2007 (£18.65)

We drunk this when we were doing our Burgundy vs. Oregon tasting (see post). Very good structure and flavour for the price. A hint of brick on the rim and a nose which offers sweet morello cherries and a whiff of smokeyness. Light bodied and the fruit from the nose is there in the mouth, along with that lovely damp forrest floor vibe. Not a wine of great length but certainly one of charm. 89 points

Andeluna Malbec 1300, 2011, Uco Valley, Argentina (£10.75)

Lovely example of Malbec – drink with or without food. Spicy, peppery and velvet smooth. Tannins are forefront but not obtrusive, good acidity and deep black concentrated fruit. Excellent. 90 points

Chateau Langoa Barton 1999, St Julien (£61.85)

My introduction to top quality Bordeaux. Black currant and cassis, I now understand pencil shavings. A bit of greenness, peppers and eucalyptus – lovely nose. Lovely freshness and cassis, with graphite and a slightly herby touch. Fresh, lively, lovely integrated tannins. Lacking a bit of concentration – not quite delivering on the promise but good length and delicious. 93 points

Nicolas Rossignol Aloxe Corton 2010 (£27.25)

We actually visited Nicolas the day after this wine had been bottled and he had already sold out so get your hands on a couple of these quickly! This is a beast! Deep and brooding, concentrated nose. Leather and damp leaves, almost pruney and olive-like; smells very evolved for 2010. In the mouth it’s almost northern Rhone in intensity. Plums, very dark fruit and massive concentration. Unexpected, big, big wine. This is going to be amazing in a couple of years. Was even better the following day (how did it last that long in our house??) 94 points

Discount wine revisited

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I went shopping in Waitrose and M&S when they were running their 25% off promos. In those few weeks I’ve had a chance to open a few of the bottles, and must admit, I have been really impressed with what I have drunk. It’s also fair to say that a couple of these wines are well worth a buy at full price… Although I’m sure there will be another per-Xmas bonanza coming our way.

But seriously, if these guys do run a similar deal then get down there quick… It will certainly add to you Xmas enjoyment.

Here are the notes I made on six of the wines; all highly recommended by me… and The Fish! (Prices are RRP/25% off)

Whites

First Press Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2010. (Waitrose £16.99/£12.74)

Overripe melon in a lovely way. Supercharged fruit, lovely brioche waft and a note of nuttiness. Not as wild on the palate but a lovely appley streak of acidity. Nutiness comes through after a while in the glass. Delicious. 90 points

Maison du Tastelune, Chassagne Montrachet 2008 (M&S £30.00/£22.50)

Beautiful nose of white peaches, honeysuckle and a dart of vanilla oak. I could smell this wine for hours! Clean and fresh with a little bit of weight, peachy, spicy and long. Very fresh with lovely acidity but still plenty of Chassagne weight. This comes with a heftyish price tag but will brighten up your Xmas. Love it. 92 points

Felsner Moosburgerin Gruner Veltliner, Austria 2011 (Waitrose £11.49/£8.62)

Pears, veering on pear drops with lots of white pepper nose. Lovely and warm on the palate, very spicy with a lovely bite, a whisp of acidity and beautiful long finish. 89 points

Reds

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Villalta Amarone Classico I Communali, Veneto 2008. (M&S £25.00/£18.75)

Lovely sweet, intense cherries and even raspberries on the nose. The cherries carry on through and there’s also an elegant bitterness of almond, with a fine tannic structure. The finish is decent in length and I do like this wine a lot. I’d buy another bottle at the promo price for sure. 90 points

Brazi Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, Manteca 2009 (Waitrose £12.99/£9.74)

Lovely dark purple colour but surprisingly light texture in the glass. Blueberries and chocolate on the nose, like a Starbucks muffin, with some tobacco smoke. Blackberries and blueberries on the palate, grippy tannins and a hint of oak and spice but not overdone – like treacle toffee. Nice and subtle for a Zin, bargain at the under £10 price, value at £12.99. 88 points

Walter Clappis, The Hedonist Shiraz, McLaren Vale 2010 (Waitrose £12.99/£9.74)

I haven’t enjoyed a decent Aussie Shiraz for a while… Until now! Inky black with chocolate, black pepper, blackberries and black cherry nose. Concentrated and intense, blackberries, black cherry, cocoa, spice from nicely integrated oak and a dash of liquorice at the end. Bold, powerful, delicious. Palate delivers what the nose promised. And long. De-bloody-licious! Michelle – get to Waitrose and buy this at full price… You won’t be disappointed! 92 points

From the sublime to the (not so) ridiculous

OK then, lets give Tesco a go. After the amazing Leoville-Barton tasting earlier I the week I thought I’d go to the farthest extreme and taste some “cheap” or “bargain” wine from the UK’s biggest supermarket, and the biggest supplier of wine to the UK consumer in volume (definitely) and value (probably).

Me and The Fish hate shopping at Tesco. It reminds me of an awful amusement arcade full of families screaming at each other. Having said that, we often use the Tesco Express at the end of our road as it is very convenient, you know what you’re getting and you know the price will be decent. But we needed some ingredients for Sunday dinner so went to the Tesco supermarket in Rickmansworth. It wasn’t fun, but it was interesting.

The wine section is actually very well put together with three distinct sections. The first is for offers, the second is arranged by colour & country, the third is fine wine. In between the sections there are also some “have you tried this” sections with useful advice on different grapes, growing areas and food matches. Well done, tick! By the way, the fine wine section had a really good selection, including a M Chapoutier Cote Rotie 2009 for about £30… But that’s not what we’re here to discuss today!

We went to the offers section, and I was looking for a 3 for £10 offer to lambast… But nothing so incredible to be found. Even that crappy Italian Dino rubbish was at £9.99; I wonder how many bottles they sell at that price?? It was in this section, however, that The Fish spotted the “Simply” range at £4.79 a bottle. Now this is a great idea. Tesco has taken the New World direction and “simply” put together a range of varietally named wines. If anyone watched “Chateau Chunder”, the programme on BBC4 earlier this week about the growth of Aussie wine, they will recognise the importance of this simple strategy. So we decided to go for 2 of these to try on a Sunday afternoon.

We chose the Spanish Garnacha and the German Riesling. And this is what I thought:

Simply Garnacha 2011

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The label on the Garnacha reads: “Made from sun ripened Garnacha grapes, this fruity red is medium-bodied, full of spicy bramble fruit flavours and juice red currant notes.”

Very young and purple in colour with a very attractive nose. It’s like a cocktail of stewed black fruits and just a hint of spice. On the palate there’s some black currants and maybe even a bit of dried morello cherry. Unfortunately that’s where the good bit ends and the alcohol starts to burn and overpower everything. You would think the ABV was upwards of 14%, whereas its actually 13.5%. This is by no means a bad wine and you’ll find it hard to get a Cotes Du Rhone as good at this price. Me and The Fish enjoyed a couple of glasses on Sunday afternoon and I threw the rest into my oxtail braise! 83 points

Simply Riesling 2011

“An authentically German Riesling, with well balanced flavours of green apples and citrus fruit with a juicy finish”.

In the glass the Riesling looks a bit like very weak lemon squash but is lovely an clear. I found it very difficult to get much aroma either straight from the fridge or after an hour in the glass; however there are some very muted hints of green apple and lime there somewhere. On the palate we have a blast of sweetness, almost medium sweet. It’s like a really sweet but juicy (homemade?) cordial of apples and limes, and its only 10.5% alcohol. This is definitely not my style of Riesling as I love the bone dry new world style, particularly from South Australia, but I can definitely see The Fish drinking this through a straw in the garden during the summer holidays! 80 points

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A musical interlude

Last night I went to watch Motörhead at the Brixton Academy… Thought you might like to know I have other interests apart from wine!! Unfortunately it meant leaving The Fish with the bottle of Chassange, and me having to drink a few pints of Tuborg. Looked awful, smelt awful, tasted awful. 49 points (and you get 50 for just turning up!)

PS. The Fish enjoyed the Chassange.

Look… A picture of Lemmy!!

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Leoville Barton vertical tasting, 12th November 2012

I turned up for this Bordeaux second growth tasting with huge anticipation following my bottle of Langoa Barton (3rd growth) the previous weekend. For those with no knowledge of the Bordeaux classification system, think of it like the football league without promotion or relegation. The classification was put in place in 1855 with four properties on the left bank of the Gironde estuary gaining first growth status, or being placed in the Premier League. These chateaux are Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Haut Brion and Margeaux. In 1973 Mouton Rothschild become the first and only property to be promoted in the classification, making 5 in the Premier league, with prices that only footballers can now afford!

There are 14 chateaux in the second growth category, of which Leoville Barton is one, 15 third growths, 10 fourth growths, and 18 fifth growths. These are the wines that will cost you a decent day’s work and the wine world generally goes wild for.

Both Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton are run by Anthony Barton, who grew up in County Kildare, Ireland. He has a great reputation in the world of wine and was voted Decanter Magazine’s man of the year in 2007. His outlook on wine is remarkably liberal and he tries to keep his prices as low as possible… In the context of top end Bordeaux wine:

“I want people to buy my wine and to drink it – that’s why I release my entire stock at en primeur time, and why I try to keep it reasonably priced.”

The tasting was organised by the West London Wine School, where I studied for my WSET course early in the year, and a great job they did. Jimmy Smith (@westlondonwine on Twitter) is a great host and oozes wine charm and charisma. 20 of us had paid £80 to taste our way through 9 vintages from the Leoville Barton back catalogue… And we weren’t disappointed. Again a bit of explanation – a vertical tasting is a number of different vintages from one wine estate, whereas a horizontal tasting is a number of different estates from the same vintage.

The selection of wines started in 1982, who some claim was the vintage that re-launched Bordeaux, and covered the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. There was a clear differentiation between the three decades, with the 80’s having lots of charm and a few rough edges, the 90’s were more polished but full of character and the 2000’s… well a bit disappointing for me; a bit overworked and obviously not enough time in the bottle to really open up to their full potential. The one standout from all of the wines however, was the pure freshness and abundance of acidity, making for a very enjoyable experience.

At the end of the night we all voted for our favourite wine and the best value (again in context!). I was with the majority on both counts here, with the 1990 coming out on top (1986 not far behind for for me) and the 1997 being the “best value” at only (???) £60 a bottle.

Going back to my previous post on “cheating”, the tasting confirmed a couple of things for me. The first is that I do like Bordeaux and will certainly look to add a few choice bottles to my collection, but secondly, it will never replace Burgundy in my heart and I would rather buy 2 bottle of Premier Cru wines from the Cote De Beaune than a single bottle of a Bordeaux classed growth wine. Oh yes, and thirdly I can’t wait for the Burgundy Grand Cru tasting in January (details at http://www.westlondonwineschool.com/product_info.php?id=286).

Below are my notes, approximate price per bottle and my scores.

1982 (£160)

Dark ruby colour with lovely bricking around the edges. The appearance was a little murky with a fair amount of sediment. The nose was deeply concentrated with dark, black berries, hints of earth and leather but very, very fresh. In the mouth the freshness was still apparent at the beginning but was a bit drying. Taste was of fairly dried fruit and with a lovely smokey and spicy finish, but a bit tough. If you have any 1982’s in your collection I would drink them up pretty quickly as they may have just tipped past their best. I did go back to the wine a couple of hours later and it had mellowed out so if you are drinking, please allow plenty of time in a decanter. 93 points

1986 (£95)

Lovely and clear with a seductive orange rim and deep garnet core. Lots of black currant, lots on minerally earthiness and hints of pepper, smoke, clove and oak. Lovely! Amazing freshness and acidity, the pencil shavings are there on the palate (see previous post!). This wine is soft, warm and long. Fresh, fruity and beautiful balance. 95 points

1990 (£120)

Looks very young and very dark with just a hint of age starting to show at the edge. Really deep and powerful nose. Intense aromas of black currants, plums, earthiness and minerality. I smelt this for some time! In the mouth it is so fresh and has lovely grippy tannins. The fruit comes first and then the menthol freshness of mint and then the smoky, cedar kicks in. This is harmonious and the balance of acidity and tannin is amazing, with a wonderful fresh and very long finish. Can I really pay £120? Maybe for one! 97 points

1996 (£85)

Again very youthful looking. After the 1990 this is pretty recessive on the nose with only a hint of cassis fruit and some spice, herb and eucalyptus. Massive hit of acidity when you drink it and its there all the way through, although the tannins are almost too gentle so there is a slight lack of structure. This is an acidic, almost flirty wine but just slightly out of balance. 89 points

1997 (£60)

Deep, deep colour, almost purple. This is a base-y wine (The Fish likes to talk about wines in a musical manner!) with lots of oak and spice but slightly recessive fruit. In the mouth however the acid is pure, with delicate, matching tannins and a lovely light body, almost reminiscent of Burgundy! A lot more fruit than the aroma promised, which is always a nice surprise and overall a very pretty wine and ready to drink now. 92 points

2002 (£50)

Really dark ruby and big deep and dark fruit on the nose, almost liqueur like. Very powerful, maybe a bit stewed and also hints of menthol. The tannins here are pretty drying and hides the fruit. There is surprisingly good acid and the black fruit and eucalyptus does come through but is a bit harsh and closed, not one for me, even in a few years. 87 points

2003 (£94)

Another very dark appearance – definitely young but the core is really dark. Sweet smelling fruit and a hint of oak on the nose, very concentrated and deep overall. This is one of the sweetest wines for pure fruit and you can taste the sun of a very hot vintage. There is also lovely balance here and the flavour is very concentrated and powerful with a lovely minty freshness. Really fruit forward and very nice thank you very much. 91 points

2008

This is so purple it could be Ribena! Fragrant and polish on the nose, lovely sweet and fresh smelling fruit. Another fresh wine on the palate with lots of structure and big, strong tannins. Another refreshing wine with black currant fruit and lovely herbs lasting quite some time. One to keep for a few years and will get better and better. 92 points

2004 – tasted blind (£55)

I was really hoping for a wine from the 90’s as the blind option but hey-ho! Deep ruby colour and lovely sweet and deeply concentrated black fruit, almost dried on the tongue. Concentrated and tannic, but again with really fresh acidity and lots of sweet fruit. Another one that needs a bit of time and probably better value than the similar but more expensive 2003. 89 points

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I may be a flirt, but I’m not a cheat

On Monday night I’m off to a Leoville Barton vertical tasting with the wonderful guys at the West London Wine School. But the truth is I don’t really know much about Bordeaux. I’ve been there a couple of times, but I was a wine “liker” as opposed to a lover at the time. One of the best wines I’ve drunk was a Leoville Las Cases 2002. Not a great vintage but the wine was a big step up in class for me. So off I went to see Jez at Wine and the Vine and bought a bottle of Langoa Barton 1999 to at least have a benchmark for Mondays tasting.

Cards on the table time. Another reason for my lack of Bordeaux knowledge is fear. Not fear of learning about the differences between St Julien and Margaux, or Merlot in Pomerol versus Cabernet Franc in St Emilion, but fear for my bank balance! I’ve been to Burgundy twice this year and I’ve fallen in love. This love is expensive! I’m also scared of loving Bordeaux more… And cheating on my love!

Bordeaux or Burgundy… Or both?

So to the Langoa. 1999 looks to have been a reasonable vintage and the wine I felt was showing really well. Lots of black currant and creme de cassis fruit on the nose as well as some green pepper and a shimmer of eucalyptus. Really appealing. In the mouth the wine was fresh and lively with lovely integrated tannins, a lovely structure. The cassis really came though and I now understand the use of graphite and pencil shavings to describe Bordeaux wine. The win really smelled and tasted of freshly sharpened pencils! This was a lovely wine, if maybe lacking a bit of concentration, not quite delivering on the promise when I first stuck my nose in the glass. (93 points)

So now I’m interested and really looking forward to the tasting on Monday. At this stage, however, the balance may take a hit but my love remains in the East, on the Golden Slope. As I say, I may be flirt, but I’m not a cheat. Now should I open the Joseph Drouhin Volnay or Chambolle to go with that slow cooked lamb shoulder?

Shopping with 25% off

With all of the talk this week about the supermarket 25% off deals I thought it was time I got in on the act so spent some time this afternoon vigilantly scrutinising the shelves in Waitrose and M&S. Sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to visit the theme park that is Tesco in Watford on a Sunday (or any other day if I’m being totally truthful).

I spent a bit of time during the week reading some of the recommendations from Jancis, Tim, Tom et al, and pulled together a shortlist of interesting looking options and stared from there. M&S in Rickmansworth was the first port of call, where I was met with bright red point of sale material confirming that I was in the right place to save 25%. Phew. The wine sitting underneath was the £3 Pinot Grigo and Cab Sav nonsense so I ventured to the farthest reaches of the store to look at the range.

Confession time. I was planning on buying 6 wines… I ended up buying 6 bottles but only 4 wines. The reason being that I had to purchase 3 bottles of the excellent Maison du Tastelune Chassagne-Montrachet 2008. The Fish bought me a bottle of this for my birthday a couple of months back and it is an excellent example of Chassagne, with a great fat texture and lots of peach and lemon fruit with hints of nuttiness. This wine is usually £30 so £22.50 to me looks like a bargain for an appellation where you rarely get change from 30 notes. So three more wines to find. I found an M&S Meursault 2008 sitting next to the Chassagne so I’ll give this one a trial in the team too (£21.75 with the discount).

The next on my list was another favourite, the Palataia Pinot Noir 2011 from Pfalz. Another corker of a wine and under £10 usually (£9.99). Lovely silky Pinot for £7.50?? I was gutted there was only one bottle left! My last choice was a Villalta Amarone 2008. I love Valpolicella and have only recently been seduced by the deeply concentrated flavours that some time in the sun can do to the Corvina grape. At £18.75 with the discount I hope I’ve picked a winner.

My M&S slection – Trick or Treat?

So the M&S bill came to £152.99, or £114.74 with the discount. This feels like a good price to pay for the bottles in the basket but only time will tell.

Next stop Waitrose and this time lots of green signage luring me into the 25% savings. Here I had no preconceptions and decided it was 6 wines; 3 white and 3 red. So here goes. The white choices came from my online research earlier this week. Blanck Gewertztraminer Alsace 2001 (£14.99/£11.24), Felsner Moosburgerin Gruner Veltliner 2011 (£11.49/£8.62) and First Press Chardonnay Napa Valley 2010 (£16.99/£12.74). A selection of grapes I love and the prices look good so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into them.

The reds proved a little more difficult as most of the wines on my research list weren’t on the shelves. But what the hell, isn’t this the fun of shopping?? My first red choice was the Coma Vella Priorat 2007 (£23.49/£17.62). If you’ve read my Barcelona article you’ll know that Priorat is fast becoming a new obsession with me. Since coming back from Spain I’ve been struggling to find much Priorat on sale, and even less under £30 so I’m hoping I may have found a new option at Waitrose. Selection #2 is The Hedonist Shiraz McLaren Vale 2010 (£12.99/£9.74). I love the Northern Rhone spicy Syrahs and haven’t paid much attention to Oz reds for quite some time, so I’m looking forward to a silky number from the Southern Hemisphere. And last but not least, a fruit bomb from the States, Brazin Lodi Old Vine Zin 2009 (£12.99/£9.74). I often forget how much I enjoy the warm cherries and spice of Zinfandel so I’m hoping this one reminds me and sends me back for more.

Value at Waitrose?

The Waitrose bill was £92.94, reduced to £69.71 with my 25% discount.

In conclusion, I’m a sucker for what looks like a bargain. I look forward to seeing whether the Waitrose wines offer the better value for money or the extra investment in M&S pays off. Whatever, I can’t wait to get stuck in over the next few weeks.

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