(2019) A keen price in Sainsbury's for that Australian peculiarity, sparkling Shiraz. From the reliable de Bortoli, it is aged for only around six months in tank, but these wines are not about long lees exposure: with 17g/l of residual sugar it is designed to be an inexpensive crowd-pleaser. Deep, saturated red in colour, the nose is the melange of forest berries and chocolate that one expects from this genre, the palate exhibiting more of that dark, cocoa, berry and plum fruit. The sweetness sits against quite a bitter tannin and acid framework, and for me this really needs to be matched to some strong flavoured food - try a bittersweet chocolate dessert, or maybe even a powerful Indian curry.
(2019) From an interesting collaboration between the top Pessac-Léognan estate of Domaine de Chevalier and Stephane Derenencourt, this is mostly Merlot with 30% of Cabernet Franc, so presumably from 'right bank' vineyards given that blend. It's a deeply spiced and plummy wine, offering instantly appealing depth of aroma, touched with cedary olive character, but mostly about the plummy Merlot fruit. In the mouth the silky texture, soft creamy tannins and weight of mid-palate fruit flow across the tongue, before a bright finish where pert acidity and a bit of structure pull the wine through to a long finish. Approachable Bordeaux, but more substance than many at a similar price.
(2017) From very old vines planted in 1919 on the Wendouree, made in the Clare and after four years in old barrels spends another 3 on lees in bottle. 26g/l dosage. Very aromatic and lifted, less of the chocolate of some, more floral and ripe black fruits, juicy blackberry, the palate has a touch of leather and spice, but has more than that chocolate and lush black fruitiness, the sweetness wonderfully tempered by the acid freshness and a touch of herbal character. A distinctive sparkling Shiraz.
(2016) Although sparkling red wines from Australia are not uncommon, to find one - made from Cabernet Franc - from the central Loire Valley in France is much more unusual. This is also demi-sec, or 'half dry', so after a nose of cocoa, mulberry, cassis and plum comes a just - just - off dry palate with racy red and black berry fruit and a lovely cherry-skin freshness of acidity. Unusual and at time of writing down to £9.99 as part of a mixed half dozen. Watch the video for full review and food-matching ideas.
(2011) A 50/50 blend, this blanc des noirs has a pale coppery colour and delightfully subtle toffee note, a little herbal bite and plenty of Cox's Pippin fruit. On the palate this has weight and texture, and plenty of fruit that is ripe, seeming slightly sweeter on the mid palate, but then finishing with lovely dry, savoury, waxy lemon and lime bite.
(2010) Lovely nose on this traditional method, sparkling red wine. Berry fruit is deep and rich with a more bloody, meaty, gamy depth than the still Vinhão. Quite a complex nose, little floral rose-hip nuances and lovely more of that bright cherry fruit and a touch of chocolate. On the palate the tannins are big, deep and meaty making this delightfully chewy, with the depth of cherry and chocolate, hinting at deep raisin flavours, is delicious. The acidity is perfect, but the support of those tannins and the creamy mousse adds lots of depth, breadth and substance.
(2008) Earthy, deep, a spice and cinnamon note with berry fruit. The fruit is quite grippy and full, with an edge of tannins to earthy red fruits and good acidity keeping this appearing dry yet fruity and crisp. Great fun.
(2003) What a delightfully different wine this is; 100% Cabernet Franc, deep red fizz, made by the Champagne method. The nose is deep and powerful, with wafting aromas of chocolaty, dark red fruits; loganberry and mulberry, with a little hint of jammy raspberry too. On the palate the mousse is generous and persistent, and there is a sweetness on the attack that is soon overtaken by lots of savoury, quite plummy flavours, with a base of cassis and raspberry fruit. Like a supercharged kir royale, this would be great fun for a summer garden party or, with chocolate dessert.
(2002) The leather, spice and cherry nose of this wine is quite startling at first, with a jammy raspberry fruitiness and a hint of gamy, animal quality. Lovely rolling mousse, and tannins kick in on the palate, though there's a residual sweetness too. I find this Pinotage wine a little disjointed, but it is fascinating stuff that I know others love.