Summer Lovin’

IMG-20170907-WA0000I’ve had a bit of a lucky streak recently. First, the lovely people at Majestic chose my Question for their monthly Wine 999 feature, winning me a lovely mixed case (worthy of its own post – stay tuned!). And then I also got given this bottle of white, which went straight in my fridge to be enjoyed as soon as the sun made an appearance on a late summer evening.

Now it’s not one I’d probably have picked out myself, but if you’re after a fresh, zingy, tasty and affordable white, the Torres Vina Sol a pretty safe bet. It’s a Spanish white, reminiscent of a crisp NZ Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre. Along with fresh citrus on the nose, there are subtle fruity flavours that round it off nicely. Serve slightly colder that you normally would for a white – proper fridge temperature benefitted the tangy nature.

Definitely drinkable on it’s own, it’s also a good choice with the classic seafood / rice / fish options.

Good news – it’s widely available from shops including Tesco, Sainsburys and Majestic. And it’s easy on the wallet too – coming in at under a fiver if you pick the right offer.

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Inspiring Italian

20170327_164422-01Yes, I’ve got an admission to make. I *might* have drunk this whole bottle of delicious, zingy Italian white before thinking to take a picture of it while there was still any left. I guess that’s the problem when a white knocks your socks off after a rather hard day at work.

Now I freely admit I don’t know much about Italian wines full stop, and I actually got this bottle as part of a mixed case, rather than deliberately choosing it.

To me, none of the words on the label really meant much, so I thought I’d give it a go with a pasta dish and see what happened.

Think of the crisp mouthwatering flavour of a really good NZ sauvignon blanc, add in a decent whack of unoaked French chardonnay, and then imagine a twist of a lovely citrusy Viognier and you should be getting close to the flavours this white from the Veneto region offers.

I loved that fact it’s light, but got enough punch to hold its own against the chilli and crab in my pasta dish, as well as being infinitely drinkable all on its own.

Sadly, this particular bottle from Naked Wines is now out of stock (don’t worry, I’m petitioning for more!) but in the meantime I’m going to be trying this bottle from Majestic Wine, which comes from the same region.

And I’m definitely keen to try out some more Italian wines. If you’ve got any suggestions where to start, I’m always open to ideas!

 

 

Jargon-buster: Tannins

ProfilePicWine jargon can seem like a foreign language. “Would Madam like a glass of the 2008 vintage Shiraz, an excellent example of the terroir with heavy tannins and a lovely nose?”

Firstly, people who talk like this are usually doing it to show-off. But it can be useful to know what some key phrases mean, either to understand what people are getting at, or to be able to show-off yourself …

So, in that spirit: tannins. I’m guilty of talking about tannins in some of my posts, because they are fundamental to your experience of drinking a lot of wines (especially reds).

All wines, both white and red have tannins. But usually we only talk about them in red wines, as the tannin level in white wines is much lower.

Tannins make the wine taste dry – imagine cotton wool in your mouth, or the taste and experience of stewed tea.

They come from either the grape skin, or oak barrels, or both. Because red wines are fermented with the skins, this automatically leads to more tannins. Wines with a high tannin content often improve over time, with the tannins becoming softer and the wine tasting smoother. This is a good tip if you want to buy wine to lay down – high tannins = good preservatives and a wine that you can drink at an older age.

If you want to try a red wine that is likely to have a high tannin content, go for something like a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo. For a lighter wine with a lower tannin content, Pinot Noir or Merlot are good ideas. Happy drinking!

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Mistletoe and Wine (The Whites)

Christmas – unapologetically one of my favourite times of the year. The presents, the food, and of course the wine. I had the great pleasure of not working on Christmas Day this year (unlike last year), so was determined to really enjoy the lovely wine that was on offer over the festive period. Here are the highlights (and no, I promise I didn’t drink them all myself!).

 We enjoyed this Chilean Sauvignon Blanc courtesy of my Uncle who is a member of The Wine Society. It was a great light, lunchtime drink which went very well with our smoked salmon, freshly baked bread and general eating up of leftovers. I’m not usually a big one for South American wines, but this was very good. For similar options try this Sauvignon from Waitrose, or this Taste the Difference bottle from Sainsbury’s.

Ah, back to my old favourite and all-time best bottle of white wine (in my humble opinion!). This New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is produced by Bill and Claudia Small for Naked Wines, and is quite simply gorgeous. You can see me harping on about why I love NZ Sauvignon here, but this one – to me at least – is the best example I’ve drunk. Worked brilliantly with traditional turkey.

Now I didn’t get to try more than a few sips of this Marsanne Viognier, as I was driving home after lunch. But from what I did have, it was a very nice, if different white. A more rounded and fruity offering than a traditional French Viognier, the Marsanne grape has a pear-like flavour and is richer and darker than other more commonly drunk whites. Give examples like this one from Majestic Wines a go with pork or turkey.

And of course Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some fizz … although maybe more unusually this one was of the English variety. I’m not going to lie, I’m not the biggest fan of English wine. Usually I find it doesn’t live up to expectations, leaving me wishing I’d stuck to a French / Australian / Californian etc. But, to my pleasant surprise, this bottle from a Kent vineyard was brill. Much more comparable to Champagne than Prosecco or Cava, it was very tasty and made a great pre-Christmas lunch celebration. Interestingly, some vineyards in Kent are only 90 miles or so from the Champagne region in France, and have fairly similar, chalky soil. The smooth flavours of vanilla and buttery toast combined with the ‘pop’ of those lovely bubbles really was very enjoyable. And it might just have been enough to persuade me to try some more English wines with an open mind.

Go-To, Fail Safe, Always a Winner

20141115_195040_2You’re out of inspiration, in need of a bottle for yourself or a friend, and there seems to be just too much choice. So what do you pick? Here is my guide to your fail safe, go-to wines …

Reds

St-Emilion. Merlot is the dominant grape, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in there too. Beautiful deep colour, fruity, woody and with some flavour of spices. Always a popular choice! Also look out for the St-Emilion “satellites” such as Lussac-St-Emilion – nearby vineyards using the same grapes, offering great value.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape. High alcohol content, fruity and hearty red. The name carries a bit of a premium though, so expect to pay around £15 a bottle. But it is a sure one to impress if that is your aim!

Shiraz Viognier. A nice mix of grapes. I like this one from Naked Wines, with the hearty Shiraz being nicely balanced by the lighter flavours from the Viognier grape.

A Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Wolf Blass yellow label. Goes well with most food or on its own, and is usually easy to locate in most supermarkets.

Pinot Noir, preferably from Burgandy in France, or from New Zealand. A lighter red, that is best served slightly colder than other reds. Goes brilliantly with goats cheese or lamb, or meaty fish like swordfish.

Pomerol. A real winner from the Bordeaux region of France. Similar mix of grapes to St-Emilion, with Merlot being the dominant one in the mix. Deep flavours, dark colours – think red fruit mixed with faint tobacco and liquorice. Ages well, try to decant before drinking. Worth the bigger price tag.

Whites

NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Always a favourite! See my post on Oyster Bay to find out why.

Sancerre. A classic white from the Loire Valley in France. Sauvignon Blanc grape, full of flavour and a nice balance between fruity and sharp, crisp citrus flavours which tend to dominate in the New Zealand Sauvignons.

Petit Chablis. Dry white, a better value option than Chablis, but with most of the flavours and enjoyment! A really nice Chardonnay.

Viognier. Usually from France, but I recently tried a very nice Californian variety, and Hardy’s do a reliable bottle from Australia. Viognier is a superb white wine, pale yellow / amber in colour, with a nice mix of floral and fruity flavours. Fresh, tasty and a nice change from Sauvignon.

 

What are your fail safe wines? Tweet us @WineBlag or comment below.

A Vivacious Viognier

Having very nearly cracked and opened a gorgeous (and yes, rather expensive) bottle of Pomerol on Friday night, I came to my senses just in time and decided that actually a Californian Viognier was much more appropriate for the evening.

 

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I love Viognier – have first tried it on a family holiday a couple of years ago in France, it always reminds me of long, warm and lazy evenings by the Canal du Midi

ViognierBut it is worthy of praise in its own right, wistful memories of holiday aside, This particular bottle came from Naked Wines (more about them in another post), and is from a vineyard in California. Think smooth, fruity and tasty white. Different from a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, more fruity than a French Chardonnay.

I was being treated to a home-cooked dinner of pork loin steaks with mash and veg, and this was the perfect match. It almost has an apple  flavour – a great match for the pork.

Whereas a New Zealand Sauvignon might taste quite sharp, and even make your mouth tingle and water, this is much more rounded and smooth.

A good equivalent in the shops at the moment is this bottle from Ocado – a steal at £5.99, half-price. Give it a try with pork or chicken, and savour the tasty flavours and golden colour.

Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay

Wine: Oyster Bay New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2014

From: Sainsbury’s
Price: £8.25, RRP £11.19

Oyster Bay is a great choice for a reliable, tasty white wine. It is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and comes from the famous Marlborough region. If I’m stuck for what to choose in a supermarket or on a wine list, I always look for a NZ Marlborough.

Oyster Bay have just released their 2014 vintage, and usually you would want to pick a Sauvignon Blanc that is no older than a year (possibly two). It is a wine to drink young, and won’t get better with age.

It is crisp, citrusy and zingy. Chill it down, although always let white wine warm up slightly from fridge temperature to really enjoy the flavours. Works perfectly with fish, seafood, or on its own with a good book!

If you are looking for a bottle to take to a friends, which you know will look impressive without breaking the bank, this is a solid choice. Equally a good one to choose to treat yourself!