(2017) The recently launched 'Max's' range from Penfolds is of course an homage to Max Schubert, the first Chief Winemaker for Penfolds, and the man who created Grange. As is usual with so many of Penfold's premium wines, fruit is sourced widely across South Australia, and the wine is aged 24 months in older American and French oak barrels, with about 10% in new French oak. It's made to be accessible early, but it is still a wine with a bit of grip and structure, the plush blackcurrant and blueberry aromas framed by sandalwood and vanilla, before a mouth-filling palate of sweet fruit but with a bittersweet twist of liquorice acidity and tight, grippy tannins as well as a touch of alcoholic heat. A few years in the cellar will do this no harm.
(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) A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the north of Spain, that goes through an alcohol removal process to leave it low in calories and alcohol at just 0.5% abv. Though the back label says that process preserves the "full aroma and flavour," I have to say that's a bit of artistic licence. It has a soft raspberry and strawberry pulp aroma, and the palate is pleasantly fruity in a spritzer style, like a dash of soda has been added to a regular rosé. Perfectly drinkable and probably one of the better non-alcoholic wines on the shelves, but the process certainly changes the character of the wine.
(2017) The giant, family-owned Torres company produces an excellent range of wines, from cheap and cheerful, to serious fine wines. The popular Viña Sol brand is always good value, and this rosé is a good summer choice. It's not in the fashionably pale, Provence style, but a rather deeper and more red-fruited wine, with ripe and welcoming notes of cherry and soft summer berries, and a delicate floral touch. In the mouth it has sweet and ripe red fruits, but finishes dry, a clean citrus acidity and touch of spice giving gastronomic as well as sipping-in-the-garden credentials. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2017) A very familiar Wine of the Week, a stalwart of Brown Bros' range and deservedly popular. It blends two grapes, Orange Muscat and Flora (related to Gewurztraminer) which are harvested late for extra ripeness, then the fermentation is stopped at 10.0% alcohol, leaving residual sugar behind. It is definitely sweet, but feather-light and not heavy or cloying: this is a wine to match with fruity desserts, not sticky toffee puddings, where the bright tropical fruit, vivacious acidity and elegant balance comes into its own. Delightful and stuff in half bottles, and widely available. Watch the video for more information and more food-matching ideas.
(2016) Named after Anges Seifried, this is a gorgeous dessert wine, fully luscious and sweet with 172g/l of residual sugar. The grapes were hand selected in several passes through the vineyard, including fruit shriveled and raisined by natural dehydration. There's that fat waxiness of ripe Riesling, a candied fruit quality, and plenty guava and lychee-like exoticism too. A big limey core of acidity keeps things fresh on the palate, despite the slippery glycerine texture and full on peach and mango sweetness. A lovely wine, long, composed and full of sweet flavour.
(2016) From the Co-op behind the Sieur d'Arques brand, this Chardonnay shows a little age to the colour, and quite a lot of oak. There's a chance this sample is not perfect, for what's in the glass feels fruity, oaky, but just a little tired. I'd reserve judgement until tasting again.
(2016) In many ways an archetypal mid-week wine, creamy and fruity enough for sipping on its own, with enough rustic chunkiness to match a broad range of dishes. A blend of Bordeaux's Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but from the Languedoc region in the south of France, it has bold cherry and black berries, a touch of cream and spices, and a balance finish. Not special, but useful at its price (and look out for offers, which are quite common on wines like this). Watch the video for more information and food-matching suggestions.
(2016) The Symington family have been farmers and winemakers in Portugal's Douro Valley for generations, and table wines play an increasing part in the business. This organic blend of Touriga Nacional with a handful of other varieties if wonderfully aromatic, a real potpourri of spices and flowers, vivid cherry fruit and exotic Sandalwood. In the mouth it has plenty of fruit too, red highlights and deeper black fruit notes, a nicely roughening hint of tannin and fine balance in its medium-bodied format. Watch the video for food-matching ideas and more information.
(2016) Focused on dry wines rather than sparkling, Devon's Lyme Bay vineyard has burst onto the scene spectacularly with its first two vintages, picking up a clutch of major awards. This top white cuvée is an unusual blend of Seyval Blanc, Bacchus and Pinot Noir, aged on the lees but without oak. It's a hugely piquant wine, overflowing with zesty aromas, hints of the English hedgerow and preserved lemon. It reminds me instantly of Japanese food strangely, blending sweet and sour, pickled and fresh flavours in the mouth, real fireworks with a terrifically punchy line of acidity to dry and extend the finish in a most tantalising way. Superb stuff, and watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.