They say “Planning Prevents Poor Performance” – but sometimes it’s better to be a bit more spontaneous. And so when my wife Jess suggested having a late-notice drinks party at the end of June, I chimed in with agreement.
Below are a few of the bottles which grabbed my attention – many of which were kindly brought by guests (you see what nice friends we have?)
A Starter For 10 – Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne Brut NV
In the run up to Xmas 2012 this delightfully light and crisp Champagne was on double-bubble reduction – I ended up paying about £11.50 per bottle which is an absurdly low amount, especially when you can pay over twice as much for a very ordinary big brand. At that price you don’t mind how many you open over the Xmas period!
The extra 18 months or so bottle age has helped add a little more funky complexity – it’s even better now, but I wouldn’t hang on to it until next summer.
The Blanc de Noirs from Sainsbury’s is great as well – especially with 25% off – and give more of a voluptuous red fruit vibe rather than citrus.
Random Light Whites
In a previous post on the Wine Society’s American Dream Tasting I mentioned Viña Litoral Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley in Chile. That time it was the 2013, but the 2012 (on the right above) shows that well made Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t fade after a year in bottle.
The Muros Antigos Alvarinho is an Albariño-beating wine made just across the Portuguese border from Riax Baixas. When showing it compared to some slightly pricier Spanish competitors at a tasting some years ago, even the Spanish attendees grudgingly admitted it was great. This is probably a year or so older than you might normally drink it, but again age has been kind. Available from Sweeney’s of Glasnevin.
This is technically a Vinho Verde, but not one of the lower alcohol types I mentioned here.
And finally, the beast in the middle – not a light white at all! This is unreconstructed oaky Chardonnay, so beware if you don’t like that style. The Montes Alpha range is great across the board (well done Liberty Wines), but in my biased opinion the Chardy is the best of the lot.
Riesling – The Prince Of Grapes
Some people remain unconverted by Riesling, but that leaves more for the rest of us. The awesome foursome hail from the steep slopes of Alsace and the southern climes of Tasmania.
The latter was the oldest and the leanest of the lot. Tazzie is generally the coolest state in Australia which has made it a perfect location for sparkling wine production. It is now spearheading the cool-climate Chardonnay revolution as Penfold’s now source the majority of the grapes for their “white Grange” Yattarna from Tasmania, and Shaw + Smith bought a fantastic Chardonnay vineyard not too long ago. Sauvignon Blanc has already found a home there, so why not Riesling?
South Pirie Riesling 2007 was lean and racy in the Eden Valley style – lime with a sideorder of lime! Can be a little bit austere for the feint-hearted, but well worth a try.
I had seen a few of Domaine Muré’s wines in the past but it was luck and happenstance that I (almost literally) fell into their outlet in the centre of Colmar last year. This Clos Saint-Landelin is from their own walled vineyard within the larger Vorbourg Grand Cru. To be honest, it was nice but would really benefit from a few more years to balance out and open up.
I’ve already waxed lyrical about Bruno Sorg’s Séléction de Grains Nobles, but here we have a pair of just-off-dry Rieslings from the Grand Cru sites of Florimont (straddling the villages of Ingersheim and Katzenthal) and Pfersigberg (located close to Sorg’s home village of Eguisheim). They aren’t sweet, but the little bit of residual sugar really balances the striking acidity and brings out the pure fruit.
A Brace Of Contrasting French Reds
A delicate Pinot Noir from Burgundy and a stonking 15.5% Malbec from Cahors provide proof that wines can really vary within the same country.
The Ladoix was quite flat for a good time after opening but eventually blossomed, showing red fruits sitting in a light crème anglaise. It’s part of the Côte de Beaune, the sourthern part of Burgundy’s heartland the Côte d’Or.
The Cahors is a recent favourite from Sweeney’s of Glasnevin (it was my wine of the night at the Mackenway French tasting). Tasted blind you would probably guess the big plum and bramble flavours were the producer of Argentina rather than south west France.
The Odd Couple
In fairness these wines aren’t a couple – just slightly off the beaten track compared to some of the more well-known bottles.
Wagner-Stempel Rosé Rheinhessen 2013 (available from The Corkscrew) has previously come close to wooing me before, but as my buddy Tara brought it round I had to give it a go. Chris – you were right, it’s lovely. I’m not generally a Rosé drinker, but more of this please!
Albert Mann’s Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives Altenbourg 2008 is a mouthful in more than one way – this is exactly how I like my Gewurz. This late harvest beauty is something you could sit and savour at any time of the year.
The Grande Finalé
Pretty bottles! Belle Epoque is Perrier-Jouet’s prestige cuvée – it almost seems a shame to open such a lovely bottle.
Dom Pérignon needs no further introduction (otherwise why are you reading this blog?), but this 1995 example showed why mature Champagne is such a treat.