JWL Issue #124: Best budget wines & what is pinotage?

January 5, 2021

Every January, I'm reminded of a line from an old song from my youth, 'I think new years' begin in September, spring is never a good time.' 

For a long time, I've followed that mantra. And yet, this most recent December has been one of the best. Perhaps it was the enforced social restraint, or the fact that everyone was arm-in-arm in saying goodbye to 2020.

And now it's 2021 and we have some huge plans for this year. I wanted to thank each and every one of you, whether a reader or subscriber, for joining us in this Wine List journey so far.

I wanted to share a few things with you about what to expect from us in the coming months.

1. Wine Roots goes digital

Long ago, people started asking me "where's the app?" This year, we're launching our biggest digital effort yet –we're taking Wine Roots online. Think video lessons, Duolingo-esque quizzes to help to memorise, plus the ability to discuss those lessons with other members of the community.

2. Improving your taste

Feedback we've received is that Wine Roots is too focused on how wine is made, and not enough on how to improve a sense of smell. We'll be road-testing a few new features in coming months to help answer this question.

3. Wine List Community

Back in September, we hosted our first event. Ever since, we've ran digital tastings for our monthly wines. This is just the start of what we've got planned for the Wine List Community. Beginning online and then one day soon, offline, we'll be enabling you all to get together.

4. New formats – by the glass

We love them, but 750ml bottles have their drawbacks. Their large serving makes them great to share with someone, but they aren't very useful for learning.We're launching a ‘By The Glass’ version of our subscription in February. Each month, you'll get four glasses of wine for £19 per month. All the usual learning, all the usual content, all the usual benefits – just learning via the glass instead of by the bottle.

5. Great wine, reliably delivered

We hear you. We've had some real issues with getting our boxes out to you in 2020. And for that, we are sorry. At this very moment, we are getting our new warehouse set up so that we can make sure this doesn't happen again. What to expect? Same day shipments for everything ordered before 12. Plus same-day delivery options introduced for London.

This is the future of Wine List – the very best place on the internet to learn about wine, grow your palate, taste the best wines, and meet like-minded people. Please hit reply and let us know any feedback you have at all.

Taste

Best of the budget

Christmas & New Year is a time of indulgence. As well as the health bounce-back most of us are going through this January, it's also nice to be kind to your wallet. Here are three great wines all under £8 which we love and will make fantastic house wines.

Mount Rozier Red Snapper (£7 from Sainsbury's) is full of red cherries, black pepper and a medicinal hit. It won't break the bank, and stylistically is much leaner than some of the heavy reds we've been imbibing recently.

Looking for something a bit richer? Coastal Series Pinotage (£6.99 from Aldi's Classics range) should hit the spot. Expect the same spiciness here that you taste in Red Snapper, but with some darker, jammier fruits thrown in for good measure. Interested in pinotage? Check out Learn.

Finally, I noticed an emerging selection of lesser-known grapes last time I was in Morrison's – from Sicily's nerello mascalase, through to  falanghina. The Best Falanghina (£7) is a brilliant citrus-heavy white wine. While all white wine smells of lemon a little, this one has prominent citrus fruits including some hints of orange in the background. A very good, easy drinker – just want you want for a house white.

Learn

Pinotage

Pinotage is a grape you might not know a lot about. 

The name comes as the grape is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault. Why the name I hear you ask? Well cinsualt was known at the time as Hermitage. 

Hermitage is a vineyard in the Rhone. Cinsault is one of the Rhone's available grape varieties (although you won't actually find it in Hermitage!).

Pinotage originated in South Africa in 1925. In its youth, it can often have a banana or (less favourably, nail varnish remover) aroma to it, but that does fade over time. Given its crossing, it's got a broad aroma mix including plums, black berry, smoke, graphite, cedar, and a variety of spices.

Pinotage has had a bit of a bad rep historically, and we think unjustly. The quality of the affordable end of the market is increasing, and at the upper end, there's some really great examples showing lots of age and plenty more.

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