30 wines from Marks & Spencer, summer ’14

High Street stalwart M& has been a little up and down in terms of its wine offering, but the most recent range tasting of lines for summer and autumn 2014 proved to be full of really good wines, with some imaginative buying from off the beaten track places, showing that M&S is actually one of the leading lights amongst the big multiple retailers. Still the vast majority of wines are ‘own label’ meaning they are exclusive to M&S, though at least it is now much more common for the packaging to also reveal who the winemakers are behind the labels. Here’s a run through of just some of my favourite wines from the tasting.

White wines

Chavy Chouet, Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières 2010, France
Cox’s pippin and almond, the nutty and open, nicely oxidative quality is charming, with the palate as tight as a drum, all shimmering mineral acidity and dry apple fruit. Apple cores and pithy lemon, but such natural, unforced concentration and massively tight, shimmering acid into a long finish. Could cellar well, but unfortunately in limited availability. 93/100. £38.00 Snake

Snake + Herring, High and Dry Riesling 2013, Australia
From the very cool Great Southern region of Western Australia’s in the Porongurup Range, this has a lovely sense of mineral precision, with tight wax and floral aromatics and a huge thrust of bone-dry, pithy lemon and lime. A nutty, apple core quality of fruit persists, staying focused and cleanly, precisely delineated into a long finish. Mouth-watering stuff with juice and nervy intensity. 90/100. £15.99, Marks & Spencer

Domaine Pierre de Préhy, Chablis 2010, France
A little bit of stony, earthy funk, a little bit of terroir authenticity here with the fruit really blossoming on the palate: such lovely peach and nectartine hints of tropicality, a big orangy thrust of acidity and a mid-palate that is taut and fine. Long, dry, apple and nutty notes with good balance. 90/100. £14.49

Marks & Spencer, Single Block Series S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2012, New Zealand
Wow – like sticking your head into a bowl of freshly podded peas, this has such a blast of herbaceous, pungent vivacious character, with the palate streaking through, slashes of lime and orange and a fabulous zestiness. Model stuff from Yealands Estate, world class, and Marlborough close to its best. 92/100. £13.99

Marks & Spencer, 6285 Margaret River Chardonnay 2013, Australia
Made for M&S by Larry Cherubino of Robert Oatley Vineyards, there’s a lovely oak quality, with cream and hazelnut, and plenty of orchard fruit beneath. Fine quality, the glistening core of acid is delightful, and gives the wine so much energy, life and poise. An exemplar of the new Australian Chardonnay and gorgeous to drink. 90/100. £12.99, Marks & Spencer

Paul Cluver, Ferricrete Riesling 2013, South Africa
From Elgin, this off-dry Riesling has only 10.5% abv. Ferricrete is the soil (clay over shale) on which the Cluvers grow the grapes for this wine, which is waxy and herby, but deliciously fruity and flavoursome too. There’s no shortage of refined, acid-etched clarity and purity, the flavoursome sweet apple and the floral edged finesse, all in perfect balance. 90/100. £12.99, Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer, Alaia Txakoli 2013, Spain
Ozoney and bright, this ais all about lift and freshness – not about obvious fruit, but about seaside freshness and breeziness, apple and sherbet arriving on the palate, and there is very nice balance with a hint of sweetness and still that lovely juicy, fresh-cut apple fruitiness. Delightful shimmering stuff, that finishes dry. 89/100. £11.99 Riesling

Charles Smith, The Honourable Riesling 2013, USA
From Washington State. Lovely nose, all talcum powder and downy nectarine skins, the freshness and gentleness combine beautifuly. Filigree stuff, the charming gentle fruit is dry but elegant and gentle, caressing the mouth with its sherbet and gently peachy flavours and fresh apple acid cut. A delight, barely off dry. 90/100. £11.99

Marks & Spencer, Saumur Blanc Les Epinats 2011, France
Not terribly distinctive, though the aroma is bright and clean, edgy, dry and mineral flavours come through. Not sure it quite pushes through with total conviction – not quite mineral sharp, not quite ripe and flavoursome. Falling somewhere between two stools? 86/100. £9.99

Château Moncontour, Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013, France
Peach and citrus, a push-me-pull-me nose that swings from savoury to sweet and is quite tantalising. The palate is off-dry – decisively so – with a lovely balance of apple and shimmering, light, floral-edged fruit. Fine and balanced finish, almost Kabinett suyle, and delicious for light fruity desserts. 87/100. £9.99

Marks & Spencer, Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2013, France
Gooebery ad elderflower, that classic cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush writ large, with plenty of ripe, zesty citrus – kumquat and grapefruit. Thrilling stuff wth delicious acidity and length. Really very nice style, vigour and punch. 88/100. £8.99

Marks & Spencer, Caleidoscopio Pinot Grigio Fiano Albariño 2013, Spain
Nice peach and apricot fragrance, with freshness and life about it, good acidity and deliciously bright and light in character. A nice blend, showing some of the honey and herbs of the Albariño and nice citrus crunch. 86/100. £7.99

Marks & Spencer, Loretto Trebbiano 2013, Italy
Bright confectionary notes, a boiled sweet, sour plum character, with a generous palate, the apple and pear fruit is bright, the candied lemon acidity is taut but not aggressive,and it finishes with some length and refinemenet. 86/100. £6.49

Red Wines

Château Giscours, Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours 2009, France
Classic aromas of cedar and graphite over black and red fruits, a touch of briar and sappy greenness coming through, all savoury and attractive. The palate has the same balance of fruit weight, moderate body, and a good layering of spice and tobacco in the firm finish. The final impression is fruit and spice, with good length. 89/100. £22.00

Tobiano, Pinot Noir 2011, Chile
From Casablanca, this is like walking through a damp forest, kicking up the briar and leaves of the damp autum. Gorgeous vanilla layering, and so much hedgerow and cassis fruit beneath. So much full, ripe, rich flavour licked with vanilla and juicy briar. Lovely palate, with a delicate and delicious edge of spice and pipe tobacco always intriguing and ultimately, hedonistic and subsuming. Fabulous. 92/100. £19.00 Southbrook

Marks & Spencer, Southbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Canada
Dense, crimson stuff from Ontario with lots of ripe black fruit appeal – cassis and plum with a touch of tobacco. The palate has sweetness and juiciness – this is like a big spoonful of blackcurrant jam, dipped in a pot of espresso, finishing with sweetness and still enough structure. 90/100. £15.99

Marks & Spencer, Quarter Acre Syrah 2011, New Zealand
Huge, blood-streaked, fabulously peppery stuff from Hawkes Bay, earthy but red fruit-filled too. Little rose and violet notes add so much charm. Really tasty stuff, loaded with fruit on the palate, a vanilla slick of oak adding creamy texture and flavour, and the tannins ripe and chocolaty. Marries crowd-pleasing with serious rather wonderfully. 90/100. £14.99

Marks & Spencer, Underwood Pinot Noir 2012, USA
Forward, bright and fruit-driven Pinot from Oregon, no sign of truffle or mushroom character, but plenty of sparkling cherry fruit before a hint of old furniture and polish. The palate too has delicious fruitness and weight – medium bodied, but has a silkiness of texture and a very nice ripeness and finesse to the tannins. Juicy, delicate, floral and violetty Pinot. 88/100. £12.99

Marks & Spencer, Margaret River Merlot 2013, Australia
Quite a cool, youthful character, with a certain kirsch and Bazooka Joe buoyancy (readers aged under 40 pease consult an elder). But then the enveloping ripeness and plush texture and sweetness of the fruit on the palate comes through, the tannins firm, fine and adding a drying precision, the acidity balanced and fairly soft, to give this tang and a certain gravitas. 89/100. £12.99

Plumpton Estate, Red Wine 2013, England
Vibrant crimson colour, and a dry, cherry and briar, inky but attractive nose. The palate has lovely balance, with a juiciness and plenty of bramble and cherry fruit, and well balanced. 86/100. £10.99

Marks & Spencer, Mâcon Rouge 2013, France
Dry, earthy and briary, like a bundle of twigs and bowl of cherries. The palate is all about the juicy, keen fruit: no apparent oak here, just that undeprpinning structure of the meaty, earthy, briary quality overlaid with sweet and ripe red fruits, making for a very pleasing glass of Pinot. Light and agile, if not fantastically deep or complex. 87/100. £10.49

Tapa Roja, Old Vines Monastrell 2013, Spain
A little earth and herbs added to gamy but ripe red fruits. The palate is juicy and fine, with lots of cherries and berries, and a nicely balanced finish. Modern and fruity, verging on jammy, but drinks well. 86/100. £8.99

Jewel of Nasik, Tempranillo Shiraz 2013, India
Yet another Indian Tempranillo and Shiraz blend – if only the supermarkets could think outside the box. Earthy, smoky and tobacco notes over the good red berry fruit. But it is fairly ‘standard’ or generic in flavour, penty of robust fruit, plenty of juiciness and a sweeter fruit, and a rich, robust tannin finish. 85/100. £6.99

Sparkling Wines

oudinot Marks & Spencer, Champagne Oudinot Vintage 2006, France
An all-Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, this is yeasty and nutty, but with lots of apple and herbs, a touch of nettle and a blast of orange and grapefruit. The palate has gorgeous freshness and crisp, zesty vitality and punchy character. Long and savoury, and so intense. 91/100. £31.00

Danebury, Cossack Sparkling Brut 2008, England
Punchy, pungent, very crisp and racy stuff with plenty of crunch and crispness, and a lovely fresh and vital appeal. It has great lengh, a touch of sour apple and orange fruitiness, and lovely poise and complexity. Sour lemon and grapefrtuit is the final acid punch, but deliciously so. 90/100. £23.00

Marks & Spencer, Moscato Rosé Fizz Doux NV, France
Who’d have thought it? France does Moscato d’Asti – or something like that. Fragerant, soft, cherry and berry scented stuff, with plenty of icing sugar and sherbet and plenty of summery charm, the summer in the garden delight, muscling in on d’Asti very successfully. Flowing, nicely tart and yet sweet stuff. 88/100. £8.99

Fortified Wines

Marks & Spencer, Manzanilla NV, Spain
Nutty, shellac, the whiff of the seaside, absolutely lovely Manzanilla with such a dry, chiselled palate showing bright apple juiciness and lovely balance overall. Lemony and very fine, the salty lick and nuttiness continues onto a long finish. 89/100. £7.49

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