Once again, the team at Laithwaites sent out samples of wines were mostly new listings in their extensive portfolio. The 10 wines reviewed below were some of the more interesting, featuring some off the beaten track wine regions like the Portugueuse islands of the Azores, and unfamilar grape varieties like Spanish Albillo and Italian Torbato from the island of Sardinia. There were also a couple of special parcels, including 13-year-old Premier Cru Chablis and nine-year-old Rioja.
It’s obvioulsy a very select group this, a little more expensive and certainly more esoteric than the bulk of the catalogue, but it proved once again that there is plenty of interesting stuff within Laithwaites vast range. As always, there are ‘mixed dozen’ discounts on most wine prices.
(2023) Albillo is a grape variety that's hard to pin down, having numerous synonyms and variants, all usually just called 'Albillo'. It's found in various regions of Spain, here in Cigales. It is moderately aromatic, a little glimpse of something floral among crisp citrus and apple. The palate has nice texture, presumably some lees ageing having built that through the mid-palate, and it's a wine with tang and flavour. Enjoyable on its own or withfish or perhaps seafood risotto or pasta. £13.99 as part of a mixed dozen.
(2023) A dry Riesling from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, it has punchy lime and green herbs on the nose, just a lovely hint of beeswax too. Delicious palate, riven with that pure lime flavour and acidity, but a little oiliness to the texture adds weight and authority. It's dry, but not austere, with delightfully bold fruit and crispness to the end.
(2023) Torbato is a real speciality of Sardinia, this example pale gold in colour and with a nose of straw and orchard fruits, nutty apple and ripe pear to the fore. There's a confit lemon hint of richness and sweetness initially on the palate, and a surprisingly full texture. Flavours are punchy, hinting at the tropical but with a blast of grapefruity acidity making sure the finish is clean and crisp.
(2023) Yes, you read that right: a 13-year-old Premier Cru Chablis from one of the top domaines, which has recently been released. The nose has a subtle greengage and citrus character, and an also subtle but undeniable hint of flintiness in the background. In the mouth it really is lovely, defying its decade plus of age with pristine fruit and finely etched acidity. Still feeling quite youthful, but with the weight and hint of honeyed maturity. £37.00 as part of a mixed dozen.
(2023) Not many wines from the Azores make it the UK shelves, but here's one, a blend of Arinto, Verdelho and Terrantez - the latter two being grapes also found on Madeira. Very gently honeyed and mineral, it's a 'quiet' nose, but appealing with ozone and citrus comeing through. In the mouth it is dry and relatively full-bodied, with a searing underripe apple acid core. However, the grapefruity intensity of the mid-palate is there, and the wine is quite long, concentrated and really quite intense, and very interesting.
(2023) From Falernia, the leading light of the Elqui Valley, way up on the fringe of the Atacama desert in Chile. This is relatively cool-climate country, and here there are notes of rhubarb and beetroot, a certain peppery character over the red and black fruits. The palate bursts with sweet, ripe and plump berries and red plum, little jammy notes of blackcurrant melt into espresso and spicy chocolate too, perhaps some American oak here adding extra sweet nutmeg spice. Bags of personality in a relatively plush and up-front style.
(2023) Another parcel of mature wine that's nine years old, it's Rioja, but made from Graciano, with not a trace of Tempranillo. There is an earthiness and sense of leathery maturity in this sample, a little leafy and cedary character rather than forward fruit. In the mouth it does reveal more black fruit, but still that leathery note and a background of charry oak. Some black cherry fruit and acid comes through as this opens more in the glass. Quite intriguing this, coming good with a bit of air which suggest decanting perhaps.
(2023) An organic Cabernet Franc from Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux on the eastern edge of the Bordeaux region, it spent six months in older oak barrels. The surprisingly light 12% abv helps give elegance to the nose, with a buoyant fruit character and delicate florals, a little Beaujolais-like for me. In the mouth it is smooth and medium bodied, quite silky really and pleasingly easy to drink. Tannins are sweet and supple, acid is pert but gentle, and the wine drinks very nicely. £17.99 as part of a mixed dozen.
(2023) From the 'Cru' of La Clape in the Languedoc, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Breezy, crunchy, bold red fruits in the nose are appealing. Raspberry and garrigue lift. In the mouth there is bags of fruit, again it's the juicy, buoyant red fruit that drives this, though a sandy weight of tannin and plucky acidity does add a serious note. Quite spicy in the finish, this is a double thumbs up at the mixed dozen price of £12.99
(2023) Four Bordeaux varieties in the blend here, led by 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Blackcurrant on the nose, some eucalypt/menthol notes, and a smoothing sub-frame of the barrel. In the mouth it flows with really sweet, ripe black fruit, the 23% Malbec perhaps adding to the plush depth of the mid-palate. Tannins are suede-like, acidity is rounded but present, and the touch of vanilla and spice into the finish pleases. Mixed dozen price is £16.99.