Straight from the tasting room: autumn portfolio tastings

Imbibe Editorial

Imbibe Editorial

09 September 2016

With autumn portfolio tastings in full swing, this week we checked out Red Squirrel, Walker & Wodehouse and Armit Wines. Spotting Germany's answer to a Sauvignon Blanc, and more than a few picks from the Cape, take a look at the best of the (grape) bunch...

Red Squirrel Wine

Champagne A Levasseur, Rue du Sorbier Brut NV, Champagne, France, £35
David Levasseur is the third generation making champagne at this tiny family grower established by his grandfather Albert. With just 4.2 hectares of vines in the Montagne de Reims national park, he produces a range of five characterful fizzes, including a blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, rosé and zero dosage. Our pick was this Pinot Meunier dominant blend (80% with 15% Pinot Noir and 5% Chardonnay). Appealing aromas of brioche, fresh apricot and orange citrus lead to a palate that reminds us of apricot tarts, with fresh grapefruit notes and a biscuity character. Really lovely stuff. JS

Scheu Aber Geil 2015, Emil Bauer & Söhne, Pfalz, Germany, £17
This white is made from 100% Scheurebe, Germany's answer to Sauvignon Blanc. No surprise the that it kicks off with zesty lime aromatics, followed by fresh, grassy, citrus notes on the palate — but without the OTT gooseberry fruit that you'd find in Sauvignon, which makes this a more versatile food wine. A good trade-up for your customers who are stuck in a Sauvignon rut. JS

Arnaio 2013, Valdonica, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy, £19
Red Squirrel has filled the Tuscany-shaped hole in its portfolio with a range of four organic wines from maverick winemaker Tim Manning. This is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Ciliegiolo, made with grapes from the highest Sangiovese vineyards in the Maremma. A lip-smacking savoury note on the nose is backed by ripe cherry fruit. There's lovely integration on the palate, with spice, plum fruit and medium tannins. A great choice for Autumn lists. JS

The White Black 2014, Albert Ahrens, Western Cape, South Africa, £38
A traditional Swartland blend, but minus the Chenin. Equal parts Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Clairette Blanc create a layered and complex white, with a creamy palate. Savoury notes vie for attention with fresh pineapple, smoky ash and a green vegetal character, all wrapped up in nicely judged oak — this is both fermented and aged in barrels, but no new oak is used. Great now, but will age too. JS

Red Squirrel Wine, 020 3490 1210, (all prices RRPs) 

Walker & Wodehouse 

Swinney Vineyards, Western Australia
Based in Frankland River, Swinney is a family-owned winery. It was established by Englishman George Swinney who travelled to Australia in 1892 to seek his fortune and settled in the area in 1922. The winery's two Tirra Lirra blends caught our eye. With more than a nod to Alsace, Tirra Lirra White Blend 2015 (£10.61) is made up of 75% Riesling, 15% Pinot Gris and 12% Gewurztraminer, resulting in an interesting apples and pears palate, with good depth of flavour and length. Tirra Lirra Red Blend 2013 (£11.38) is mainly Tempranillo (70%) with Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Grenache (10%). Its appealing fruit-forward character is backed up by some Cab tannins, making it a versatile food-friendly choice for your list. JS
Spier, Coastal Region South Africa
More New World blends from SA's Spier, which has produced two wines pitched firmly at the on-trade. Creative Block 2 Sauvignon Semillon 2015 (£7.91) is made with 85% Sauvignon Blanc and kicks off with a complex nose of mineral, lime, tropical fruit and smoke notes, followed by a creamy palate that’s initially quite minerally but has an explosive fruit finish. A good trade-up for Sauvignon Blanc fans. While Creative Block 3 Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2013 is an impressively complete blend, with no rough edges. Just 3% of Viogier is added to 85% Shiraz and 12% Mourvedre to give a violet edge to the black fruit, with sweet spice and some smokiness. This would be a perfect match for steak with pepper sauce. JS
Walker & Wodehouse, 020 7449 1665

Armit Wines 

Astrolabe, Marlborough, New Zealand
Brand new to the Armit portfolio, Astrolabe was a highlight of the tasting, not only for some signature Sauvignon Blanc, but for some Pinot Gris and Chardonnay too. Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (£12.50) was an off-beat offering, with cooked pea aromas along with some subtle barrel notes, leading to a saline element on the palate, with pithy lime notes too. A pair of Pinot Gris were standout offerings too, with Durvillea Pinot Gris 2015 (£8.75) contrasting with Kekerengu Coast Pinot Gris 2015 (POA) The former was aromatic and approachable, with stone fruit and pear aromas, while the latter proved more restrained and light on its feet, with bright citrus and green apple fruit, and a fresh finish. CC

Momento Wines, Swartland, South Africa
Winemaker Marelise Niemann was showing three outstanding wines, starting with a Chenin/Verdelho 2015 blend (£13), with the latter grape giving some structure to the Chenin, resulting in a wine with plenty of character and packed with fruit – apple and nectarine – and with no shortage of lively acidity. Tinta Barocca 2015 (£14), made with 42-year-old vines, was showing some deep cherry and blueberry fruit, along with an appealing stalky, herbal note, and some good tannin structure in support. But the highlight of the three was a 2015 Grenache (£14.95), made in an exceptionally light style – 'the opposite of what people think when they hear "Grenache",' explained Niemann. Clean, light cherry and strawberry notes opened things up, leading to more light fruit on the palate, but with elegant skin tannins too, making this a versatile food wine. CC

Armit Wines, 020 7908 0600

Tasters: CC, Clinton Cawood; JS, Julie Sheppard

All prices ex-VAT trade unless otherwise specified.


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