(2023) I'm on record as saying that pitching zero alcohol 'wines' as being just like the real thing, is a deceit; they never are. Drinks such as this begin life as wine, but the alcohol is removed by a variety of techniques. No matter how refined the system, a massive proportion of aroma, flavour and texture is also removed, and I've yet to taste one of these products that tastes remotely like the grapes or wine style it is based on. Odd Bird is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the Languedoc, and is made by the traditional method with a year on the lees in individual bottles. Removing the alcohol has left a fizzy rather than sparkling wine, with some raspberry and light herbal aromas. In the mouth it's a little bit sweet, rather thin, but it is not unpleasant. It's bears no meaningful relation to a proper traditional method sparkling wine, so is definitely not recommended as 'Champagne without the alcohol', but it is a pleasant and grown-up sparkling drink for those who choose to avoid alcohol for any reason. £9.99 as part of a mixed 12 bottles. Watch the video for more information.
(2022) From old vines grown in Petit Chablis, an area on the edge of the main Chablis vineyards, not enjoying the famous Kimmeridgean soils, but still capable of producing excellent wines in the right hands - like this one. It's a surprisingly vivacious and tangy rendition of Chardonnay, almost with echoes of a Sauvignon Blanc from the nearby St Bris appellation. racy, with notes of passion fruit and guava, it is nimble and has plenty of zip and verve.
(2022) A blned of Muscat, Obeidi and Viognier from Ixsir's high altitude vineyards in Lebanon, this is fragrant, with the Muscat component driving the floral, jasmine and talcum aromas, but there's a hint of lemon and melon rind gripiness beneath. In the mouth that Muscat character dominates again, but there's a phenolic, pithy serious bit of acidity and grip here, swinging from juicy nectarine to lemon pith, in a textural, big mouthful of wine (14.5% alcohol noted).
(2022) Quite fragrant, some herbal and wild scrubland aromas. This organically grown wine is related to Catarrato, and has crisp, dry lemon and firm underripe pear fruit that is cool and precise. Plenty of mouth-watering minerally acidity, firm with a nuance of an Epsom salts edge.
(2022) This sees a little lees ageing, the nose quite punchy and gooseberry-like, a little bit of elderflower again. The palate is very juicy, there is a bit of richness to the texture, but the mango and peachy fruit does finish with streaking citrus acidity.
(2022) Grenache Blanc with Vermentino and Marsanne from the tiny cellars of Pietri-Geraud, this is made in stainless steel and has a lovely creamy, herb tinged nose with an understated, dry fruit that touches on peach but settles on ripe pear and creamy, nutty fruit notes.
(2022) This open with aromas of small, dry red berries with a nicely developed hint of yeasty, lightly smoky biscuit character. There's an initial rush of sweetness, surely a fairly high dosage, with tart red berries and lemon adding the contrast. This finishes decisive and dry, a hint of mineral salts adding to the freshness. As part of a mixed dozen the price will be less than £27.00.
(2022) In the Languedoc, the Coteaux Cabrerisse is one of many small and less familiar IGP regions. This blends the cross-breed variety Marselan, a speciality of the Languedoc, with Merlot and Syrah. A fairly generic southern French blend nose, which means a bit of plum, a bit black berries and a touch of rustic earthiness and spice. Mouth-filling and substantial on the palate, there's a plush sweetness and some weight, though tannins are a little chewy. Quite a big mouthful, in need of some red meat protein perhaps.
(2022) From the tiny Languedoc IGP of Côtes de Céressou. The nose is rich with ripe cherry and red plum fruitiness. There's an undertow of chocolate or cocoa powder. In the mouth a similar profile of quite sumptuous, easy-going wine, focused on fruit with a soft structure, tannins mellow, acid a little more spikey, just a little spice in the finish.
(2022) 'Gentle Riot' is a brand Laithwaites have introduced for some less orthodox wines in their range - there's an orange wine, for example. This is a chunky and boisterous blend of Malbec and Merlot. That in itself is not terribly unusual, as Cahors in the southwest of France, spiritual home of Malbec, has often blended in a softening dollop of Merlot to its wines. What's a bit different here is that the wine is not vintage dated, so is presumably a blend of two or more vintages, and it's a Vin de France cross-regional blend, the Malbec from Cahors, the Merlot from Bordeaux. There's a high-toned, charry oak note and loads of plum and raspberry ripe fruit. There's nothing subtle here, the palate savoury with more plum and a liquorice and leather, tannic finish. It is a rustic and substantial wine, that will be best with the right food. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas. £10.99 as part of a mixed dozen, which is the right price for this one.