(2024) Last vintage of this that I tasted was the 2019, standing in the vineyard with Dr John Forrest. It remains one of the better reduced alcohol wines out there (in this case achieved largely by vineyard management rather than technology to remove alcohol), though perhaps it's not quite as convincing as the 2019 which I scored 88/100. Aromatics and flavours are good, but the two elements that just detract a little are too much sweetness (for me) and a slight sense of dilution, the wine fading away rather abruptly. Do not get me wrong: if you like Marlborough SB and want a wine with only 9.5% alcohol, it remains a pretty sound choice in a rather uninspiring field.
(2024) Fermented with natural yeasts and spending seven months in French oak barriques, there's a gunflint whiff of cordite, vanillin creaminess and a lovely melange of peach and orange aromas. quite luscious on the palate, the peach and nectarine flesh and juiciness is pleasing, just a smidgen of creamy, nutty oak and well judged pithy citrus acidity. Really nicely composed.
(2023) There are quite a few Australian Chardonnays at around the £10 mark in UK supermarkets, often on promotion to nearer £8, and I dare say this new brand from Château Tanunda might be one of their rank. It is, however, one of the better ones I have tasted too: only 12.5% alcohol, not too sweet, with nicely judged oaking. Aromas are of crushed oatmeal and almon, a ripe and nutty Cox's pippen fruit beneath, just hinting at something more tropical. In the mouth medium bodied and fresh thanks to that low alcohol and decent acidity, the fruit staying nicely edgy - more lemon and ripe apple than tropical - through to the finish.
(2023) It is fair to say that I am never quite as impressed by this wine as I was several years ago when it seemed a bit like a decent entry level white Burgundy with a lower price tag. Now? I don't know, it just fails to deliver much of a punch in any aspect, with a lightly mealy sheen to apple and citrus fruit and slightly short finish.
(2023) Like its Chardonnay white wine partner in Waitrose, I really did like this Shiraz on a quality/price ratio, and thought it a little bit better than a whole swathe of big brand Aussie wines that hover around the £10 mark in supermarkets. There's a hint of dry, bloody and iron-filings strictness on the nose, but that merges with copious black berry fruits and the support of some toasty and charry oak. In the mouth that sweet fruit wins through, juicy and blackcurranty, with nicely judged tannins, a brisk line of acid and warming oak to finish.
(2023) A bright, crimson coloure Grenache-Syrah blend, with equally bright and forward aromas. Black cherry and plum, some tobacco-like spice. In the mouth the line of fruitiness persists, almost like black cherry jam, while the medium-bodied format and lick of decent acidity does tighten and freshen toward the spicy, moderately tannic, but balance finish.
(2023) A few Champagne houses, notably Moët & Chandon, have launched special 'Ice' versions of their standard wine, specifically made to be enjoyed poured over ice. Following a very similar path, this from Cava giant Freixenet, is blended to be sweet and rich. Garnacha and Pinot Noir are blended and aged for a year on the lees, the wine bottled with 45g/l of residual sugar making it 'Semi-Seco', the equivalent of Demi-Sec in Champagne. Raspberry and icing sugar aromas leap from the glass, a little touch of buttery pastry from the time on the lees too. In the mouth there's definite sweetness and buoyant fruit flavour, but the acidity is really very good meaning this has balance. I think perhaps the pressure is slightly lower too, so that there is no real feeling of dilution. Good fun this - not a serious wine, but we all need a bit of frivolity in our lives now and again. Watch the video for more information.
(2023) This is a Cabernet Franc from the limestone slopes of Saumur in the central Loire that slips down very easily. There's glossy black cherry and blackcurrant pastille ripeness, but a hint of the savoury side of Cab Franc that adds a peppery, tapenade touch. It has a smoothly juicy, succulent black fruit palate, and while the acid is brisk and the tannins chalky but firm, the overall picture is really nicely balanced and the wine is so approachable. It should have broad appeal. Watch the video for more information.
(2023) Madeira is undoubtedly one of the world's great wines, but arguably one of the most overlooked. The volcanic Portuguese island of the same name lies far out into the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco. It is from here that the tradition of these wines, fortified with spirit to withstand long sea voyages, began. Madeira normally has some sweetness, and the level of sweetness traditionally follows through the four most important grape varieties in order: Sercial wines are usually the driest, then Verdelho, Bual, and finally Malmsey, normally the sweetest.
This 15-year-old example of a Verdelho wine is a glowing amber to tawny in colour. The nose has that wonderfully evocative shellac character, old polished wood with a sheen of beeswax and varnish, and a nutty walnut and marzipan depth. In the mouth this is sweet and rich, brown sugar and intense raisin and walnut flooding the palate, with marvellous bitter orange acidity biting down on the long, spicy, tobacco-infused finish. Terrific and world class wine. Price is for 50cl.
(2023) This wine comes from an ungrafted Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard planted in 1964 and farmed without irrigation. There's 15% of Syrah in the blend, the wine aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% of which were new. Tobacco spices and charry notes merge with classic blackcurrant. There is a little glimpse of something more lifted and floral. It's a big, chocolaty-dense wine on the palate, plenty of barrel component adding char and nutmeg-like spice. The fruit is there, concentrated and deep, and the wine finishes with a bittersweet twist of liquorice and pepper from tight, spicy tannins and acidity. It's big and assertive, and though it won't suit everyone, it has its place. Note this has been offered with £3 off in Waitrose quite recently. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.