(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).
(2017) It is still relatively rare to see a single varietal Petit Verdot: one of Bordeaux's minor varieties rarely gets star billing. In Bordeaux small amounts are used to add spice to the blend, but here under the South African sun it gains extra fruit concentration, ripeness and smoothness. The colour is deep and saturated, and the nose shows plenty of spice and pepper, a clove and nutmeg character and glossy black cherry and plum. In the mouth that spiciness continues, and despite its 14.5% alcohol, it is braced by tight, fine tannins and a pert cherry pit acidity, that works against a creaminess and depth to very nice effect.
(2017) This is a dry, straight down the middle style of citrussy Riesling, but very nice done. Crisp and only lightly aromatic, its the concentrated, pithy lemon of the fruit and direct, apple core dryness that drives through the finish, not carrying any excess weight, clean as a whistle.
(2017) There have been several quite successful attempts recently to introduce a new generation of drinkers to the delights of fortified wine like Sherry, Port and Madeira. Here's a novel idea, where Croft have blended Fino Sherry with aromatic elements based on English spring water and cordials, introducing gentle fizz and notes of elderflower, mint and lemon. With only 5.5% alcohol it opens with a definite note of the Fino, nutty and saline, but also those hedgerow aromas that are very summery. In the mouth that dry Sherry nuttiness continues, a lovely underpinning to the delicate sparkle, sweeter flavours from the cordial, and plenty of citrus and mint freshness. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2017) The label doesn't list the varieties for this distinctly off-dry to medium-sweet Loire pink, but it's 60% Cabernet Franc with 20% each of Gamay and Grolleau. Quite pale in colour, it has a sweetie, cherry lips and red liquorice nose, some floral aspects, and a plenty of sweetness on the palate. Fruity and simple, there is decent acidity, but it is verging on a dessert wine for my palate and perhaps best matched to strawberry shortcake or similar desserts.
(2017) Despite bearing the legend "The botanical soft drink for wine lovers," do not expect this to taste like a de-alcoholised wine: it's very much its own thing, a lightly sparkling, herbal, bone-dry drink made from herbs, minerals, vitamins and amino acids that is certainly something of an acquired taste. On first sniff I found it aromatically odd, with pungent nettle, ginseng and chamomile 'high' floral and herb character, clove-like and medicinal. However I did grow to appreciate the fact that this is no weak wine substitute, but a fairly intriguing and grown-up alcohol-free alternative that has an under-ripe pear and citrus dryness and does keep you coming back for one more sip, even just in an effort to understand it. Certainly no shortage of character. Postscript: a second bottle tried around a month later seemed much less pungent, and was most enjoyable on a hot late May afternoon.