(2019) Though I strenuously avoid 'tall poppy syndrom' - taking a swipe at a best-selling wine, just because it is best-selling - there is still a tendency to overlook big selling brands and wines that appear to be consistent vintage after vintage, in favour of always seeking something new. Villa Maria are synoymous with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and produce a number of different cuvées, so they do tend to the ubiquitous: it's rare to visit a major retailer and not see at least one of their wines on the shelves - and often at a promotional price. So how to honestly assess this vintage of the Cellar Selection SB? It's really very good: more in the tropical and ripe spectrum than out-and-out herbaceous, yet there is enough elderflower and pea-shoot character to pin-point its roots precisely. In the mouth the sweet, ripe fruit sits atop grapefruity acidity that is tangy and juicy, the wine has a bit of texture and mouthfeel too giving a sense of richness, and it is intense and vibrant. A model Marlborough Sauvignon, with style. £10.99 as part of a mixed six at Majestic. Watch the video for more information.
(2019) From Lodi in the northern central valley, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the blend is 79% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah and 1% of the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet. Matured for 18 months in French oak, it comes from vineyards first planted 100 years ago, and is a big fruitcake-rich style of wine, overflowing with plum, spice and plump Agen prune, the palate delivering a bucketload of fruit, all given an edge by a keen raspberry acidity, the alcohol big and powerful and the finish coated with a sheen of oak.
(2019) Made for Majestic by James Kinglake of Domaine Begude, a domaine in the Limoux region of the Languedoc. Limoux majors on Chardonnay, both still and sparkling, and I guess some or most of the fruit comes from Limoux, but in fact this is an IGP Pays d'Oc, so some or all could have come from a wider area around. Fresh and unoaked, but limpid and with a creamy richness from lees ageing, this has a lightly buttery character but lovely balance and pitch, citrus and crisp apple against lightly nutty tones and always hints of a more exotic fruit ripeness. The finish is restrained and clear as a bell, in a stylish wine that is £8.99 as part of a mixed six bottles at Majestic.
(2018) In search of a moderately-priced wine to recommend for Christmas dinner 2019, I tried various rather disappointing Pinot Noir wines at around the £10 - £12 mark, but this unpretentious Côtes du Rhône hit the spot - and is only £8.99 on Majestic's familiar 'Mixed six' pricing. Based on Grenache blended with typical local varieties like Syrah and Mourvèdre, it has a buoyant, cherry and herb-filled nose with lots of lift and brightness. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and softly approachable despite 14% alcohol, but there's a creaminess and chocolate-touched depth before that fresh red fruit character and nip of rustic tannin kick in. Gentle enough for roast turkey, but fine for goose or even roast beef if that's your festive choice.
(2018) From Aconcagua Costa, the more coastal area of this central Chilean appellation, there's a twiggy, smoky note to this and a touch of sulphur on opening too, but the palate does go on to reveal a finer red fruit character, broadening to a fairly broad base of smokiness and plum, and a decent finish.
(2018) Pinot Noir from the Pfalz and limestone marl soils (kalkmergel). The nose has some plum and cherry, maybe even a touch of raspberry, before a palate that seems rather under-fruited; against the soft oak of the background there is some sweetness and decent acidity, but it is rather short and lacking a bit of charm. I couldn't honestly recommend this, even with two pounds off in Majestic's 'mix six' pricing.
(2018) From coastal-influenced vineyards near San Luis Obispo, this is quite a buttery and ripe, 'golden' Chardonnay that's not shy on creamy oak or fruit. The palate is creamy too, lots of texture and citrus fruit moving into more tropical, pineapple and mango tones, then decent acidity to harness any excess and leave the finish clean and medium-crisp.
(2018) A blend of Grenache and Cinsault, and clearly mimicking the Provence style, this is a Vin de France, the classification that allows cross-regional blending of grapes. Pale and fairly neutral in aroma, there's a delicate, light peach and red fruit quality and a fairly obvious dollop of residual sugar. There's a sense of this being a very 'made' wine, but the recipe is successful enough to justify the £6.99 'mixed six' price in Majestic if it sounds like your cup of tea.
(2018) A very attractive bottle for this wine, a lacey rose pattern screen printed in white over the pale pink/peach wines is very attractive. And so is the stuff inside: a blend of Provençal varieties, gently floral with small firm red berry fruits, good acidity and a long finish with pert acidity giving it a brisk and savoury appeal whilst still being fruit-forward.
(2018) A classic Provence blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, the packaging is striking and appealing - especially in the glorious magnum size I tasted for this review. Note the £26.99 price quoted is for a magnum (150cl) in Majestic. As part of a mixed six, the price falls to £23.99. Also in bottle at £15.95 from Saxtys and others. It's a lovely pale salmon pink wine with floral and peach down and icing sugar aromas, as well as a cherry freshness. In the mouth lovely fruit and plenty of crisp acidity, both soft and fruity and fresh in the finish.