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Last week, I was a judge at the People’s Choice Wine Awards. This is a fantastic event and idea created by Janet Harrison. The aim is to put the consumers more directly in the judging seat: after all, they are the ones drinking these on a daily basis.
In one round, we tasted 19 hearty red wines. Hearty red wines to suit hearty meals. If you ever want to really get to know what tannins feel like: taste 19 bold, red wines back to back in the space of two hours. It is intense.
One of my biggest takeaways though was the power of the crowd. Our table was part of a boxed wine round. I’ve tasted quite a few boxed wines over the last year and am usually quite impressed with the quality.
On our table, however, all it took was a couple of people to state early negative positions on boxed wine and the tone was set. Every wine had a mountain to climb because of that crowd opinion. Some were pretty bad, but there were also a couple of delights to be found (and I’m looking forward to finding out what it is when the results come out).
I’ve had a few very good box/bag wines this year, and so next week will be giving them a feature. What do you think of boxed wines? Are they there yet in quality or is there still some way to go?
This week in Taste, I run through a few of the Bodega Soul collection*. Bodega Soul is the brainchild of Manuel Sevilla and aims to bring small, independent Spanish producers to England.
I try to make a note somewhere on every wine I can. Sometimes that’s just the odd word or a simple tick/cross system. Three ticks, in my journals, in a sign of a really great wine in that bracket.
100x100 from Jumilla is a three tick showstopper wine. This organic syrah is absurd value at £11.60. It was a real surprise when I drank it. Perfumed and aromatic, smoky red fruits. Deeply and comfortingly red. Brilliantly balanced with soft tannins and not even that alcoholic, like a lot of Spanish reds can be. A real delight.
I opened a bottle of La Casica (€7.90) with a few friends. This is heavily spiced, with black fruits and a bit of chocolate. For me it was a bit too heavy on the alcohol, and the tannins needed a bit of food to grip on to, but opinion was mixed throughout.
Oro Palido (£12.70) is a really lovely white. Vanilla and lemon on the nose with a juicy palate and a balanced body. Tropical fruits of mango and banana sit softly in the palate, this is a real delight.
Umbrezo (£11.90) reminds me of an Argentine malbec in terms of body and weight, and would be a great suggestion for anyone who likes that style of wine. Cassis-like that also made me think of the Rhône.
Salino (€9.90 from Vinissimus) is a great lesson in not judging a book by its cover. Truth be told I wasn’t expecting much from this label design, but actually the white flowers and grapefruit were the sorts of notes I love in whites these days.
A rough guide to Italian wines
Like most old-world wine, Italian wine can be confusing: often opting for regional context over grape variety. While some younger producers are doing this less so, it can still be tricky. Here’s the five biggest regions and the grapes grown predominantly in it:
- Veneto: corvina, rondinella, molinara (red), garganega (white)
- Tuscany: sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot (red), trebbiano (white)
- Piedmont: nebbiolo (red)
- Emilia-Romagna: lambrusco (red)
- Lombardy: nebbiolo (red)
- Umbria: sagrantino, sangiovese (red), grechetto (white)
- Abruzzo: montepulciano (red)
In future weeks, we will be exploring some Italian regions in more depth. What are your favourites?
Silver spoon in sparkling wine
You’ll all have heard/seen it: stick a spoon in your sparkling wine and it keeps the bubbles in there. If you really can’t finish your sparkling wine when open, invest in a proper sparkling wine stopper. Good ones costs a bit: but you won’t believe how well they work.
*Not all wines featured still available through Bodega Soul however links to current stockists as of December 2020 provided where possible.