Tasting from the range at H&H Bancroft

I enjoyed these wines, and although at £58 (so less than £5 per bottle) the “everyday” Silver Collection case made for perfectly good drinking, I thought the Gold Collection at £99 offered exceptional quality and really impressed at the price. My notes are below, as tasted in November 2005.

The Silver Collection @ £58


J. Bouchon (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc 2004
A winemaker with a name like ‘Bouchon’ is maybe following his destiny, though this particular bottle has a synthetic stopper rather than a cork. From the Maule Valley, old vines and hand picking are declared on the label, of a wine with a touch of herbs and grassiness, and some understated melon and passionfruit aromas. On the palate it is clean and white fruited, with not a lot of oomph for those used to the exuberance of Marlborough or decisive steeliness of Sancerre, but it is clean, well-balanced and gluggable, with a juicy finish. Very good. £5.50

Domaine d’Espérance (France) VdP Pays de Landes Blanc 2004
From an Armagnac producing estate in the southwest of France, this is likely to be made from typical local grapes including Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Gros and Petit Manseng. I confess I love little wines like this, with their vibrant, juicy, un-oaked Sauvignon-like punch and verve, and wonderfully refreshing acid balance. This has some tropicality about it, with hints of mango, and a fine, lemony twist in the finish. Excellent value. £4.75

Finca La Linda (Argentina) Chardonnay 2005
Founded in 1901, the Mendoza estate of Luigi Bosca produces this wine using natural yeasts and with no oak influence. It has a fresh and quite delicate nose of gently peachy and appley fruit, with a touch of herbal quality. On the palate it is a crisp, crunchy style of Chardonnay, with lots of fresh white fruit and slightly nutty flavours, good levels of acidity and a kick of alcoholic warmth (14%) in the finish. £5.50


Terres Noires (France) Grenache Merlot 2004
This is the sort of uncomplicated, easy drinking red that I find quite refreshing in the face of so many big brands that are dosed with oak chips and look-alike wine making. It is fruity, bright and approachable on the nose, with cherry and redcurrant fruit, whilst the palate has decent fruit and balance and finishes with clean acidity and a nice spicy bite of rustic tannin. A very pleasant little wine for sipping or having with robust foods. £4.95

Brushwood (Australia) Shiraz Cabernet 2004
From Langhorne Creek, this is a typically up-front, flavour-packed South Australian red with a nose of sweet, fudge and mint chocolate suffused with a dark, berry character. On the palate the fruit is quite crisp and fresh, with a red fruit lightness suggesting raspberry, redcurrant and red plums, but a growing sensation of spice, alcohol and tannic warmth through the mid-palate. With good balance and a sense of juiciness in the finish, this is very good at the price. £5.75

Château Le Barrail (France) Médoc 2003
2003 was an extremely hot vintage in Bordeaux, but the advantage is that many of the less famous vineyards have achieved high levels of ripeness and produced comparatively “big” wines that many will enjoy. This has a big, juicy, spicy and deep-chested character on the nose, with depths of bramble and berry fruit. On the palate it has smooth, even fruit in a medium-bodied format, with a spicy lick of cedary oak and quite powerful tannins. It perhaps lacks a touch of acidity, but it is deep, resonant, and thoroughly fruity Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. £7.60

The Gold Collection @ £99

sparkling / white

Santo Stefano (Italy) Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry
In case you hadn’t noticed, Prosecco, the sparkling wine (and grape name) of the north east of Italy is currently flavour of the month, with sales growing fast and the wines appearing on fashionable wine lists up and down the country. This example from Treviso-based Alessandro de Stefani has a fresh and appealing nose, where little hints of oatmeal and bread dough mingle with crisp pear and green apple. On the palate the mousse is lively and mouthfilling, and there is a nice tension between off-dry, very ripe grape and peach fruit and a fine cut of citrus acidity. Excellent party wine. Very good/very good indeed. £7.95

Domaine Savary (France) Chablis 2002
Classic Chablis from Olivier Savary, this pale green/gold wine has a lovely nose, with hints of the vegetal, slightly cabbagy notes of classic white Burgundy, touches of white flowers and a core of apple fruit. In the mouth it is bone dry and has a mineral, schisty quality that is so expressive. This is a nuanced wine, with a searing core of lemony acidity, but just enough texture and mid-palate juiciness to make it beautifully appealing and food friendly. Good length, with a balanced finish displaying a hint of spice. Delicious and very good indeed/excellent. £9.85

Cairnbrae (New Zealand) The Stones Sauvignon Blanc 2004
I’ve really enjoyed Cairnbrae’s Pinot Gris and Riesling in the past, so this screw-capped Marlborough Sauvignon was opened with keen anticipation. The nose has that immediate Marlborough impact, with a searing core of asparagus and leafy, nettle and herbal notes intermingled with intense, ripe fruit aromas. On the palate it delivers a concentrated but tempered burst of tropical fruit – crystallised pineapple, mango and lychee – with more of that grassy, decisive herbal streak and a great slice of lemon-zest acidity into the finish. Plenty of flash, bang, wallop here, but in a controlled and nicely balanced package. £8.95


Beresford (Australia) Shiraz 2004
This McLaren Vale Shiraz comes from the respected Beresford winery and is a fine expression of typically ripe, plush American oak-aged Shiraz. There are notes of clove, eucalyptus and minty dark chocolate on the nose, with a solid base of very ripe blackcurrant and juicy damson fruit. On the palate this is massively mouthfilling and rich, with a huge, sumptuous depth of coffee and fudge richness, pepper and spice to spare, and very dense, chewy fruit. The finish has plenty of alcohol, plenty of oak, and a stripe of thick tannin in a very large scaled wine. This delivers a hell of a lot for the money. £8.75

Bodegas Lan (Spain) Rioja Reserva 1998
I have recently been on a fact-finding visit to Rioja, where there is a palpable sense of ‘mission’ in many estates to really focus on vineyard sites and fruit, the Riojanas having been for so long large purchasers of fruit, whose efforts were more concentrated in the winery than in the field. Bodegas Lan is one of the leading lights of the Rioja renaissance, and this is from their more traditional range, aged in American oak and bottle, and blend of 80 per cent Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo. It has a plummy and spicy nose, much more fruit than oak-driven, with earthy, autumnal tones of undergrowth and sweet earth. The palate has lovely balance, with plenty of creamy, sweet-toned fruit, but a sumptuous background of vanillin and a lovely finish brightened by cherry and lemon zest acidity. £10.25

Foillard (France) Morgon Côte de Py 2004
Foillard is a quality-obsessed producer from the Beaujolais Cru of Morgon who has been very widely and highly praised for producing some of the best wines of this region, from an ancient vineyard, using totally natural methods. The bottle is striking, with a thick wax covering over the cork (I pulled the cork straight through it after two minutes trying to chip it away with a knife!), but the wine is even more so. It has a beautifully refined perfume of cherry and pomegranate fruit, with herbal, coriander and spice notes, a nervous streak of minerality and some graphite and schist. On the palate it is elegant and very grown-up, with bittersweet qualities of fruit, tannin and earthy minerality, and a brilliantly focused, linear appeal that is the antitheses of bigger, blowsier wines. Outstanding stuff. £12.75