Well that was quite a 30th birthday weekend. Between Good Neighbour, Wine Car Boot, and The Jugged Hare I ate and drank pretty well.
Wine highlights were some of my favourite English producers: Ben Walgate’s 2017 Ortega, Will Davenport’s 2016 Pinot and Kristin Syltevik’s 2015 Oxney Classic. After that, there was Berry Brothers’ own label White Burgundy and a Californian syrah. All incredibly distinctive and delicious.
Lots of you seemed to enjoy the single-merchant focus last week, which I’m continuing this week as well with a few choice Laithwaite’s wines.
I’ve seen Laithwaite’s adverts since as long as I can remember. Way before the new wave of wine club emerged, Laithwaite’s flyers were falling out of newspapers and onto my doorstep. This week, I’ve got a few highlights that I’ve tasted recently.
McPherson’s Full Fifteen (£10.49) has a nose of apples and tropical fruits, with a very nice palate that’s full bodied and nicely textured. Buy one of these and enjoy a lot of it.
Also from South Eastern Australia, I had Moonstruck’s Chardonnay, Viognier and Marsanne (£9.99). Viognier and Marsanne make typically-southern Rhône style, and here, there was definitely a nod towards it (albeit with a tropical influence). This was reasonable, but really needed food to balance it out.
By comparison, Riversong’s Carmenère 2017 (2019 available on Laithwaites for £9.99) is instantly quaffable. Carmenère is a grape that started off life in Bordeaux but migrated south to Chile where it’s now far more commonplace. This had ripe black fruits and a bit of herby depth to it. Very drinkable for an ‘at home’ go to.
When I was 18 or 19 and first getting into red wine, I drank a lot of cheap, supermarket Chilean Cab’ Sav’. There’s something easy about it for a newbie to wine: big, dark, oaky, smoky, residual sugar, black fruits. It felt like a natural evolution from Robinson’s Apple & Blackcurrant.
In the nicest possible way, Groote Kaap Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (£10.99) immediately took me back to some of those winter moments as a student.
Unlike the old Chilean Cab’ Sav’, however, this South African Groote Kaap is far more balanced and structured. Deep blackcurrant, but not cassis. Warm and peppery, but not obnoxiously alcoholic. This is very good value & a big tip for anyone who likes hearty reds.
I wanted to dispel a few wine myths this week that I’ve heard doing the rounds over the past few months.
1. Big indents at the base (also known as a punt) mean better wine. Some logic could be explain that the bigger the punt, the more glass that’s needed, and therefore manufacturers must be willing to spend more on it. But: if we know this, then so do savvy marketing departments.
2. Netting on Rioja is a sign of quality. This stemmed from a time when counterfeiting was rife, but today is unnecessary.
3. Heavy bottles = better wine. See logic from point one.
4. Lots of medals = good thing. Anyone can start a competition and award something to someone. Though, the International Wine Challenge (IWC) and Decanter World Wine Awards - are two reputable ones worth keeping an eye out for. There are few shortcuts you can take when purchasing a bottle unfortunately. Nothing will beat researching, testing and note taking yourself.
A négociant is someone who buys grapes or wine from grape growers or winemakers, and sells the wine under their own name. Some also own their own vineyards, as is the case with many négociants from Burgundy. It stems from a time when grape growers had little access to buyers, equipment to produce wine, or space to store it.