For your cellar: Great wines you should be trying. March/April 2009

Drinks: Wines

A look at some of the best wines around


020 7722 5577

Estapor Venir Mezcla Tinto 2007, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico £8.34

What they say: A wine which will surprise and delight those unfamiliar with the concept of delicious Mexican wine. A blend of Petite Syrah (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Barbera (20%) and Zinfandel (20%).

What we think: A quirky choice, but this spicy little number really delivers with layers of rich black fruit and well integrated tannins. A natural fit for Mexican restaurants, but would make an interesting addition to any list… Arriba! JS

Loredona Monterey County Syrah Rosé 2007, California, US £6.57

What they say: Part of the Delicato portfolio, this is a blend of Syrah and 24% Zinfandel from San Bernabe AVA, one of the coolest growing regions in California.

What we think: Pure strawberry fruit with a lick of blackberry leaf. Soft, supple and intensely gluggable without ever being overworked. A crowd-pleaser for summer and the flute bottle should certainly attract the lay-deez. CL

Wither Hills Rarangi Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand £10.54

What they say: A wine of classically ripe herbal, gooseberry and citrus aromatics, with a dry mineral palate full of ripe melon, tropical fruit layers, with intensity and texture supported by an elegant and refined acidity.

What we think: From a cool vineyard right near the sea, this has more dialled down aromatics than most Kiwi Savs (gunpowder, peapod and capsicum) with better persistence on the palate that should make it easier to match with food. CL

Liberty Wines 020 7720 5350

Avignonesi, Cortona Sauvignon Blanc, Cortona, Italy £8.62

What they say: The fruit for this wine came from the La Selva and La Lombarda estates, located in the Cortona DOC at an altitude of 300m. The blend includes 15% Chardonnay.

What we think: An elegant and fresh wine, with attractive grapefruit flavours and an uplifting streak of acidity, this will go well with delicate fish dishes. JS

Li Veli Orion Primitivo 2005, Salento, Italy £7.22

What they say: Montepulciano-based producer Avignonesi also owns the Li Veli estate in Salento that comprises 35ha of bush-trained vineyards, which are planted with traditional Puglian varieties.

What we think: An intense nose with aromas of ripe red and black fruits, tobacco and spice, is followed up by a full-bodied, savoury, dark fruit palate that’s smooth and long. Dark and brooding, this offers plenty of bang for your buck. JS

Mas La Mola Blanco 2007, Priorat, Spain £15.25

What they say: A blend of Macabeo and old-vine Garnacha made by Jordi Masdeu and Imbibe regular Alessandro Marchesan of Zuma, who aim to produce wines which have a unique regional personality.

What we think: An aromatic tropical fruit nose leads to a full-bodied palate with more tropical fruit: pineapple and guava, plus apricot. There’s a subtle creaminess, but crisp acidity means this will pair nicely with rich white meat dishes. JS

Mentzendorff 020 7840 3600

Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana, Jerez, Spain £7.50

What they say: Matured in solera in casks of American oak in the sherry town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Pasada Pastrana is dry, light and crisp but well-rounded.

What we think: Rich and pungent, but with an underlying freshness. Like opening the window on an apartment by the sea that’s also next to a cheese shop. Brilliant, brilliant complex wine of superb depth and real food-friendliness. Gargantuan finish. CL

Domaine Langlois-Château, Saumur Rouge 2006, Loire, France £5.62

What they say: A fruity red wine with a beautiful structure. Let yourself be charmed by it as a young wine or enjoy its full potential after several years of ageing.

What we think: A past winner in the Sommelier Wine Awards, this domaine knocks out reliably good Loire reds. Pretty, pure red fruits with some violet top notes and a firm, minerally core. Mid-weight at most, with fresh acidity, it’s an immensely gluggable, versatile food wine. CL

Moreno Wines  020 8960 7161

La Bascula The Gauntlet Monastrell 2007, Yecla, Spain £12.29

What they say: Finishing fermentation in our American oak barrels, it has power and finesse, a true, finely crafted iron fist in a velvet glove.

What we think: Blimey! Somebody certainly got some American oak for Christmas. Luckily 14%-worth of Monastrell can hold its own against all those bourbony flavours of vanilla and spice, but this needs some seriously spicy, richly sauced meat dishes to tame it. Handle with care. RW

La Bascula Selection Casta Diva Moscatel 2006, Alicante, Spain £16.69 (50cl)

What they say: Aged in various types of oak barrel, the wine has an extraordinary subtlety and complexity with flavours of orange peel, raisin, honey, fig, nutmeg, spice and mystery.

What we think: Unrestrained aromas of apricot, tangerine and pear waft from the glass. It’s fresh and not over-sweet, delicate and really rather fine, with nutmeg and a lingering, balanced finish of pure barley sugar. Impressive. RW

All wines featured here are available only to the on-trade and small independents. Prices quoted are single bottle, ex-VAT unless specified.


Ars in Vitro 2005, Tandem, Navarra, Spain £8.49, Novum Wines, 020 7820 6720

What they say: Spicy black fruits on the nose followed by herbs and black olives. Loaded with rich, spicy, dark and red berry fruits, violets and cherries on the palate, with a long finish.

What we think: Elegant Merlot/Tempranillo blend with beautiful plum/violet poise and balance and great versatility. Classy stuff. CL

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia £9.70, Berkmann, 020 7609 4711

What they say: This Cabernet boasts wonderfully vibrant varietal aromas of cassis, peppermint and cloves, and a very composed, sophisticated structure, with well-judged oak and pinpoint balance.

What we think: Typical wafts of mint and eucalyptus, with luscious black fruits and a dusting of sweet oak. For all the ripeness, this is not at all confected and has a good punchy heart to it. CL

Hunter’s Pinot Gris 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand £7.95, Laytons, 020 7288 8860

What they say: Hunter’s Wines is headed up by Jane Hunter who has won an OBE for services to the wine industry and this wine is already picking up a few awards of its own.

What we think: Thanks to its exotic off-dry palate with hints of spice and honeysuckle and a big burst of peach on the finish, this would be a really fab match with a variety of Asian dishes. JS

Javier San Pedro Randez 2007, Rioja, Spain £4.95, Great Western Wine, 01225 322800

What they say: On the nose, the wine is open and the primary aromas of fruit and flowers predominate. On the palate, the wine is well balanced, powerful and with backbone. It has a long, well balanced finish, full of primary aromas with hints of liquorice. A ‘fruit driven’, young red wine with no oak ageing. 100% Tempranillo grapes.

What we think: Soft and creamy cherry fruit with a lick of spice. A crowd-pleasing name with a bit of personality that’s excellent for the money. This has great commercial potential. CL

John Duval Plexus Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2006, Barossa, Australia £12.75, Liberty Wines, 0207 819 0333

What they say: A fragrant, spicy nose, combining a range of red fruits and subtle oak characters. On the palate, the wine is an attractive blend of red and black fruits with a variety of spices. Ripe, fine tannins and good concentration provide structure, length and a seamless balance.

What we think: Lots of fruit on the nose and palate – good blueberry and blackberry with some sweet spice, and all lifted by pine and euchalyptus notes. Concentrated, powerful and not a little bit feisty. CC

Mount Dottrel Pinot Noir 2006, Central Otago, New Zealand £11.04, McKinley Vintners, 020 7928 7300

What they say: Named for a peak in the Pisa Range which overlooks the vineyard, this is a classic Central Otago Pinot Noir which boasts an intensity of complex flavours that reflect the vineyard terroir, with the tempering influence of French oak.

What we think: Offering layers of spicy cherry fruit and an underlying mineral earthiness, this is a great food wine that would shine with lamb and duck dishes or anything with earthy mushroom flavours. JS

Terrazas de los Andes Afincado Tardío Petit Manseng 2004, Mendoza, Argentina £10.97/37.5cl, Moët Hennessy UK, 020 7235 9411

What they say: Aromas of mature and tropical fruits integrated with dry fruits and notes of white flowers. Of great volume, soft and complex with great aromatic persistence. Perfect balance between the level of sweetness and acidity resulting in something both intense and fresh.

What we think: There are some vegetal and dried fruit aromas on this late harvest wine, and a bit of rose too. On the palate it’s syrupy – but only for a moment, before the crisp lemon acidity clears that away for a long fresh finish. CC

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2008, Barossa, Australia £5.51, Negociants, 01582 462859

What they say: Bright straw with green tinges, the 2008 Y Series Viognier has typically exotic aromas of jasmine, white peach and honeysuckle. The palate displays richness and texture from wild fermentation and lees ageing.

What we think: Fantastic lifted peach/apricot aromatics – skin and blossom rather than jam or pulp. Juicy and flavoursome, but rather fine, too. CL

Are you launching any wines that will be targeting the on-trade? Let us know at [email protected]


David Franz Old Redemption NV 50cl £13.24, ABS Wine Agencies, 01372 274065

What they say: A burnt umber coloured wine. The palate has a silky, rich mouthfeel that develops into hot chilli-like pepper fire with concentrated raisin sweetness.

What we think: Amazing, savoury, nutty nose reminiscent of Dundee cake. Massive attack of almonds, raisins and spiced fruit. Everlasting finish. To die for. Made in tiny quantities from barrels magically discovered in the winery. CA

Gemtree Vineyards Moonstone Albariño 2008 £11.08, New Generation Wines, 01444 248654

What they say: A deliciously zesty
and punchy wine! Pears, melon and citrus
fruits are all evident in the front to mid palate. The palate is a two-fold experience: characters of Italian Pinot Grigio pedigree, with weight and texture, and then the back palate is all racy and Riesling-like, with wonderful acidity.

What we think: Lovely and vibrant pale yellow. Fresh and bright with crisp, ripe fruit and bracing acidity. Smashing structure, with a long zippy finish. CA

Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Clare Valley Shiraz 2006 £7.99, Negociants, 01582 462859

What they say: Dense with liquorice-scented blackberry and dark plum flavours.

What we think: Outstanding value for money. Peppery nose with hints of bramble. Rich and spicy with vibrant blackcurrant and black grape flavours. Full and rich but with balance and a lovely structure. Smoky on the finish. CA

Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyards Botrytis Riesling 2006 £8.52, ABS Wine Agencies, 01372 274065

What they say: A sumptuously rich wine with a lovely mouthfeel and a crisp edge.

What we think: Lots of spicy botrytis on the nose. Fantastic slice of acidity balances the intense honeyed sweetness. Big and rich without being confected and with a finish that goes on and on. CA


CA: Caspar Auchterlonie CC: Clinton Cawood CL: Chris Losh JS: Julie Sheppard RW: Richard Woodard

Brand News


The word ‘opawa’ means ‘smoky river’ in Maori and it’s the name of the river in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, as well as the name of a new range of versatile food wines from Negociants. Opawa Pinot Noir 2007 is elegant with fine tannins and red berry fruit; while Opawa Pinot Gris 2008 has a delicate palate with lime, pear and grapefruit.

Both £7.39, Negociants, 01582 462859


Languedoc-Roussillon producer Foncalieu has come up with an entry-level trio that would make a safe bet as house wines. The La Picoutine range includes a fresh white (Maccabeu/Vermentino), a delicate, alpine-strawberry flavoured rosé (Cinsault/Grenche) and a light-bodied, fruity red (Carignan/Merlot).

All £4.23, Bibendum, 020 7722 5577


New Zealand’s Seresin Estate in Marlborough, owned by filmmaker Michael Seresin, prides itself on producing hand-grown, handpicked and handmade wines – hence the distinctive handprint on every label. New to the range are an intense and expressive Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 with taut acidity and layers of gooseberry, tropical and citrus fruit (£16.65) and the seductive Rachel Pinot Noir 2006, displaying dark berry and cherry fruit and silky tannins (£15.10).

John Armit Wines, 020 7908 0600


Wines from the Powers Winery in Washington State, and its Badger Mountain Vineyard label, are now being made available in the UK by World Wine Agencies. The Badger Mountain vineyards are 100% organic and produce a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (both 2007 vintage).
Also available is the ripe and appealing Powers Merlot 2006 and the earthier and mature Powers Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.

All £5.50, World Wine Agencies, 01608 658062

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – March / April 2009

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