(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.
(2018) Noval's late-bottled vintage Port comes from a single vineyard and, unlike cheaper LBV's, the unfiltered wine will cellar and improve over many years - though its long ageing in cask also means it will drink well from the day of release. This is much more vinous, cherry-scented and immediately dark and firm on the nose compared to the Muscat tasted alongside, though it does have some little violetty floral aspects. On the palate the stripe of liquorice and rasp of plum skins, as well as quite definite tannins, all gives an edge to the sweet and juicy cherry fruit and cocoa richness of the wine. A beauty and on offer at £17.95 for a full bottle in Ocado until 1st January 2019. Use the wine-searcher link for other stockists. Watch the video for more information.
(2018) A blanc de Noirs from Bordeaux, using typical grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this rosé crémant is made in the traditional method with a second fermentation in bottle. Pale peach in colour, there's a fine strawberry sherbet character on the nose, just a little echo of creaminess too. In the mouth the sweet ripeness of the summer berry fruit is very pleasing, an orangy tang of acidity adding a gentle but precise freshness to the finish.
(2018) A brut Prosecco, so drier than many and lower in sugar, hence the very modest 63 calories per 100ml, so less than 100 calories in a decent 150mm serving. It is foamy and frothy, with a crisp apple and lemon sherbet nose, the palate noticeably drier than many Proseccos, with plenty of lemony bite, but still enough pear and apple fruitiness to please fans of Italy's most popular fizz. Note that offers seem to abound on this: at time of review down £8.99 in Budgens, £9.99 in Ocado
(2018) The rosé version of Eisberg's alcohol-free fizz is made in Germany like it's Blanc counterpart, from de-alcoholised rosé wine blended with grape must. It is fruitier than the white, small red berry fruits aromatically and in flavour, a pulpy strawberry sweetness and even if no more residual sugar, certainly a sweeter impression thanks to lower acidity perhaps. It's enjoyable and in many ways more convincing than the white version, a distant family relation in style to some pink moscatos perhaps.
(2018) A sparkling drink, like the duo from Eisberg, made in Germany, in this case from grape must infused with green tea. The result is actually very quaffable, frothy and bright aromas and flavours, plenty of sweetness, but the green tea just giving an earthy, herby, slightly umami character to sit beneath the froth and sweetness into a nice balanced, fresh finish. A good alternative to a light sparkling wine for the driver or tee-totaller.
(2018) This Crémant is made from an alliance of Cabernet Franc and Semillon - certainly an unusual blend of unexpected varieties. Made by the traditional method, it is also on offer at just £8.99 from Ocado until 1st January 2019 - a big factor in making it my choice. Crisp, sherbetty and instantly light and appealing, it could not be more different from the Larmandier-Bernier Champagne tasted alongside, akin to a rather serious Prosecco, with a little more yeastiness, but bags of citrus and apple fruit and a long, clean finish. Dry, not lean or mean, but tightly-drawn, it is a fine inexpensive fizz for the party season at its offer price. One of my two sparkling wine picks for Christmas 2018, watch the video for more information.
(2018) Selected grapes from the Uco Valley in Mendoza are hand-picked from high altitude vineyards for this bottling, which is aged in French oak for 18 months. Though aromatically not a million miles from the standard Malbec in the range, there is an extra ounce or two of concetration evident, a touch of spice and chocolate from the oak and with swirling a lovely violet lift to the aroma. In the mouth the wine is a much more seductive proposition, the creamy sweetness of the ripe black fruit melting into the vanilla and spice of the oak, more refined tannins for sure, and a nicely balanced finish where some pert black cherry acidity pushes through.
(2018) By all accounts there is a recent surge of interest in France's 'other' sparkling wines, the Crémants from Burgundy, the Loire, Alsace and various other regions, made by the traditional method and normally priced substantially lower than Champagne. This from Alsace is composed mostly of Pinot Blanc and aged nine months on the lees in bottle before disgorgement. Pouring a pale green/gold with a lively mousse, this has baked apple and pastry aromas, a sense of richness, and a touch of lemon peel. On the palate it's pretty straightforward, but it has a fine stone fruit juiciness and ripeness, a bit of weight and creamy texture and a generous finish with the acidity elegantly balanced against the fruit and touch of toastiness.
(2017) Moët et Chandon created their Argentine operation in 1959, so have a 60-year record of making sparkling wines here in Mendoza, this a traditional method blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It's a delicious and elegant wine, reminding me of some Franciacorta 'Saten' wines, dominated by creamy, fuller-bodied Chardonnay fruit and with a silkiness to the mousse and texture. Add a soft but persistent acidity and it's a classy Champagne lookalike at a very decent price on Majestic's promotional offer of £13.49 when you buy six (at time of review).