A selection from Laithwaites

I am guilty of rather ignoring wine supplied by Laithwaites over the years. Though I understand that ‘customer acquisition’ is fundamental to success for all wine businesses, my perception of Laithwaites was clouded by those slightly suspect ‘half price’ cases. As well as that, I rarely had an opportunity to taste their wines. All wine journalists rely on invitations to taste in order to be experience the broadest range of wines, and Laithwaites admitted during lockdown that they had failed to really engage with journalists. They launched a semi-regular programme of Zoom tastings, where journalists are sent sample bottles of a few dozen wines, then their buyers talk through them as we taste together.

24 from the current range

Having attended a few of these, the wines shown have been impressive. It stands to reason that the company would hand-pick the wines to show of course, but the tastings have been a demonstration of how Laithwaites’ huge base of suppliers and winemakers allows them to explore some interesting areas, and offer wines of extremely good quality within their portfolio.

These reviews come from such a tasting in autumn 2022, where Nick Taylor, Group Buying Director for the whole Direct Wines portfolio of wine businesses, also explained the steps the company was taking to lessen the environmental impact of its business. That covered lots of areas, from supporting its suppliers to implement sustainable practices, to bulk shipping more wine for bottling in the UK, to trialing new packaging ideas in lighweight and non-glass bottles.

Note that I have given the RRP per single bottle for these wines. For the vast majority of them, buying as part of a mixed dozen bottles reduces the price.

Sparkling and White Wines

(2022) From a winery that has been heavily involved in aiding refugees from the Ukraine conflict, this is a Charmat method wine, a white sparkling wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon. It's Brut, and opens with quite a distinct fruity yet gently herbal and vanilla-touched aromatic. In the mouth its clean and precise, the acid to fruit balance good and an intriguing fruit, rather sugar, sweetness. At the £7.99 mixed case price this arguably knocks generic Prosecco into a cocked hat.
(2022) From cousins of the famous Anselmi family, this is 100% Ribolla Gialla with fruit from the Veneto and Friuli, and is made in a Prosecco style. It's Extra Dry, so has up to 17g/l of residual sugar. It's very pear-like, juicy and nicely balanced by fine apple acidity. I don't find the Ribolla Gialla makes a huge difference from Prosecco's Glera, but it's a well-made Spumante with a hint of complexity.
(2022) A wine made from the Lambrusco grape, but not DOC Lambrusco. It is a fully sweet, deep red sparkling wine with 83g/l of residual sugar and only 7.5% alcohol. Classic chocolaty berries on the nose, with typical herbal edges that have a raspberry and pomegranate lift. Fully sweet on the palate, with easy-drinking sweetness and just the right balancing acidity. Try with a chunk of Parmesan.
(2022) There is a sprinkle of pepper, but this is mostly about pear and and nuances of more tropical fruit, hint of mango and passion fruit. Lovely fruit on the palate, creamy and full with a sweetness to the mid-palate fruit, then good acidity bracing and giving length.
(2022) Quite limey, a touch of butteriness but herbaceous notes too. The palate is just off-dry, with a real juiciness and plenty of succulent fruit, spanning nectarine and ripe lemon and lime.
(2022) Muehlforst is a liex-dit or vineyard plot. Very different from the Mosel example, very ripe with a tropical character, guava and very ripe peach and sweet melon. The palate feels off-dry, but loads of flavour and punch here, orange and such a lovely blast of vicacious grapefruity acid to finish.
(2022) An equal parts blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Zenit. Fine nose with a touch of talcum and a touch of elderflower, but only gently aromatic. Vivacious palate, lots of luscious mango and peach, but a freshness too, with a chilled watermelon and lime streak of acidity to balance. Drinks very nicely at a good price.
(2022) How interesting to taste a 2018, which had a long lees ageing, up to two years, so an unusual interpretation of Albariño. Mealy and nutty undertones but still the ozone and seaside nature of the wine comes through. Lots of citrus and zip on the palate, loads of buoyant orange and tang of grapefruit.
(2022) In an unusual square bottle, fruit comes from Franschhoek and higher altitude slopes in Darling. There's grassiness and a pea-shoot pungency to this, a little elderflower and suggestion of smoky mango fruit. In the mouth the wine has good texture and lots of concentration, the fruit intense in flavour but with a nettle-like piquancy too. It's a bold and assertive style of Sauvignon, though the final balance of acid and fruit is very good, giving an extended finish.
(2022) Golden colour and a fine Gewurz expression with the Turkish delight and old rose aromatics, ripe figgy and musky fruit. The palate is dry and lightly spicy, plenty of vibrant fruit, clean and fresh, but weighty in texture, finishing with plenty of vibrant acidity.
(2022) Really breezy and fresh, lots of ozoney freshness and cool, clean fruit that has hints of greengage and gooseberry, but linear and taut. The palate has beautiful clarity, a ripe peachy juiciness and fullness, but then a lovely blast of mineral-fresh acidity, but staying so juicy and well balanced.
(2022) Part fermented in concrete eggs, French oak vats and small barrels with wild yeasts. No aggressive herbaceousness here, instead light figgy notes, gentle vanilla smokiness and gooseberry and light pineapple aromas. Nice full palate, plenty of acidity here, pithy lemon and grapefruit cleansing the finish, in a very gastronomic style of Sauvignon.
(2022) Part wild fermentation and part-aged in French oak. delightful creaminess and toast on the nose, all crushed almond and oatmeal. Delightful fruit too, with hints of pineapple and mango, but the clean pear and citrus acidity adds a fine line, etching the sweet fruit through to the palate.
(2022) From vineyards in conversion to organic farming, this is Roussanne, aged six months in 500-litre barrels. With 14% alcohol it is a big wine, aromas have a delicacy, with some floral top notes to stone fruits. In the mouth there's loads of sweet, juicy mango and pineapple sweetness, an orangey blast of fruit and acid too. Yes, the alcohol adds a little heat to the finish, but the acid balance scythes through the ripeness and concentration.
(2022) Made from Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris, the Viognier probably marking the nose most, with a suitably wild and earthy, quite yeasty nose. The palate has plenty of sweet fruit, but also shows that dry hessian and herbal character, the acid is well integrated, lean and lemony, for a tangy finish.

Red and Rosé Wines

(2022) Is this a light red or a very dark pink - it's hard to say. A nice hint of bloodiness to the plum and redcurrant fruit. The palate has a very nice savoury red fruit, herb and and lightly earthy and meaty savour.
(2022) A nice pale colour and a gorgeous nose, so aromatic, suffused with coffee, peppery spice and rose-hip over cherry-ripe red fruit. On the palate it has a surge of sweet, succulent ripeness, quite mouth-filling and very juicy, then a tightly-focused phallanx of plum-skin acidity and creamy tannin extends the finish beautifully.
(2022) Mostly made from Montepulciano, there's a ripeness and keen berry-fruited nose, the palate then brimming with sweet black fruits; ripe plum and sweet ripe cherries, a hint of sweetness. There's a chocolate-coated cherry sweetness here, 15g/l giving a ripasso-like character.
(2022) Bloodiness and gamy notes to the nose here, a dry earthy minerality over the tobacco-infused red fruit. The palate is very dry, very savoury. There's a brightness to the acidity and leanness to the tannins, it is spicy and a touch leathery too. Quite a serious gastronomic style that needs food. I wondered if the slight lack of fruit indicated this sample was not 100% sound.
(2022) Mostly Syrah with Grenache and Carignan from he IGP Val de Montferrand, and relatively high altitude vineyards. There's a fresh, tobacco smoke and slatey/herbal character on the nose. That gives a very crisp character, matching with a sleek black fruit on the palate. Dry with a little chewy bite to the palate through tight tannins and acids. Nicely done.
(2022) A side project from a winemaker at Casella (Yellowtail and other brands), 60% Durif. Big, powerful aromatics, crammed with aromas that are jammy and fruity, high-toned and spicy. The sweet black fruit on the palate is plush, and there's a dollop of residual sugar too, adding to the smooth, crowd-pleasing creaminess and sweetness that this wine is all about. You'll love it or hate it.
(2022) Made by Gabriel Meffre, this is led by Grenache (60%). There's a meatiness here, a light game character over herby black fruits. The fruit is very pure and quite plush on the palate, well balanced and intense, with very good concentration. Long and classic, excellent fruit ripeness.
(2022) A very different South African expression of Mourvèdre, only 12.5% alcohol from very cool vineyards in Tulbagh. Light, buoyant, almost Cru Beaujolais-like, the palate filled with a sweet and creamy red fruits, spices and delicious length. Beautiful and delicate, floral-touched character but there is an earthiness and savoury structure too. Lovely.
(2022) From vineyards bordering St Emilion, this is 80% Merlot, some of the vines over 50 years old, and the wine aged in both clay amphora and different sized barrels. Smooth and fruit driven nose, edged with bloody and gamy notes. The palate has a layer of polished oak over spicy black fruits. Good length here, finishing with spice, fine tannins and balancing acidity.

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