(2017) Cabernet Franc from clay-sandy soils in the Loire Valley, and a sixth generation wine estate. Nicely translucent, deep cherry colour and a fruit-filled nose, brimming with raspberry and plum, a lovely hint of black leaf tea and gentle herbaceous character that is very appealing. In the mouth that refined, dry black fruit and herbal edge continues to delight, a dustiness to the tannins and juicy acids making this very easy to drink indeed.
(2017) Crémant, France's other sparkling wines, are gaining in popularity and it is not hard to see why with an example like this all-Chardonnay, traditional method wine from Burgundy. The nose has delicate apple pie notes of pastry and creamy ripe pear and apple, a touch of citrus but real richness. The mousse is soft and rolling, adding to the expansive and easy-drinking quality of the sweet, ripe fruit, but the acidity is there giving this elegance and really good balance into a long, poised finish. For the price of entry-level own-brand supermarket Champagnes this delivers most impressively on quality.
(2017) From Chapel Down's single vineyard on chalky soils next to the Kit's Coty neolithic monument in Kent. It's all-Chardonnay and from and excellent vintage, and partially barrel fermented. Lots of streaming bubbles and a gorgeous nose, a hint of custard cream biscuits, full and generous with ripe apple and a hint of fragrant lime rind. The palate has a full mousse, very easy and approachable sweet fruitiness, but a streaking, pithy lemon and mineral acidity. Long and delicious, but with a serious side.
(2017) The wine commemorates Tom Simpson, and English rider, Olympian and first British cyclist to don the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Sadly, he collapsed and died on the rigorous Mont de Ventoux climb in the subsequent Tour aged just 29. A donation from each bottle sold goes towards the upkeep of his memorial. The wine is mostly Syrah with a little Grenache, opening with a ripe and nicely lifted nose of red plums and violet, a bright fruit character with a hint of white pepper. In the mouth it is full, ripe and serious, a little creaminess detected on the nose giving way to a more taut, mineral-infused palate, but that gives lovely drive towards the finish.
(2017) The wine pours a healthy colour: the semi-transparency of the variety and just a little tinge of brick suggesting it has spent considerable time in cask. The aromas are firm and spicy with savoury berry fruit, a touch of green/earthy character, but really quite inviting. The palate has that firmness and tight character too: some cheaper Barolo wines are fading after too long in wood, but not this: the tannins are grippy and quite sandy, the acidity is tight and the fruit, whilst not massively rich, does have a bit of juiciness giving the whole wine a savoury, umami appeal.
(2017) Scot Andrew Norrie came across a pipe of an old Port, being sold to help with funeral expenses for an elderly Douro family, and set about helping out by establishing exactly what was in the barrel before bottling and selling it. Finally he tracked down the necessary paperwork to establish it is a Port registered in 1935 and made at famous Quinta. It's a wine with a dark colour, still some ruby at the core, and it is intensely aromatic: there is obvious age with a bit of oxidation character and brown sugar, but a beguiling mix of cherry and sweet, damp earth too. In the mouth it is generous, and sweetly rich, Agen prunes and Medjool dates, a touch of liquorice and also honey, and a long, intense finish with the curranty sweetness offset by still good acidity and a bit of tensioning alcohol. Really it's treat to taste this, and wonderful that it has been made available.
(2017) Made from 40-year-old vines of Touriga Nacional grown in the Tua valley. The wine is foot-trodden in lagar, before maturing for three months in new French oak. Vivid, bold, deep crimson in colour, there's a beautiful fragrance here, the floral top notes of violet and briary roses over firm black fruit and a touch of cedar. The palate has lots of spice, from the grapes rather than the barrels, again that firm and unwavering core of acidity and tannin, wrapped in a smoothing, tobacco and chocolate veneer. Really very good.
(2017) A blend of 60% Touriga Franca and 30% Touriga Nacional with 10% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), from the Tua Valley. It's a deeply-coloured rosé, more of a light red, with summery berry aromas and flavours to the fore, from pulpy strawberry to a nip of cherry tartness. This recently bottled sample was touch spritzy, but that does add to the refreshment value as it finishes dry with a tug of tannin.
(2017) A 15-year-old wine from the Dão doesn't come along every day, and the good news is this is an absolute beauty. A blend of the local Jaen (Spain's Mencia) and Rufete, it's a Burgundy-lover's dream, brimming with truffle and damp forest floor aromas, a touch of medicinal, herb and briar-wood, and a soft background of earthy, cedar-touched bramble fruit. In the mouth the creamy sweetness of the ripe berries is gorgeous, layered with spices and truffly, meat and herb notes, it is complex but at the same time deliciously moreish. What a treat. For more information watch my video review.
(2017) A grower family, bottling their own wines for and based in the Grand Cru village of Verzy, this is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, with 8g/l of dosage. Bottled in April 2014 I am presuming it is a 2013 base, with one third of the blend reserve wines. It was disgorged on 8th April 2016. It has a taut, fresh nose, with a little biscuity richness just showing through, some herbal touches too. Lots of fruit ripeness on the palate, the mousse quite firm, and a clean, incisive palate, pristine fruit with not too much development, and a racing fresh finish.