wine

It’s Wine Tax Freedom Day! Join the movement

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The 12th August 2019 is Wine Tax Freedom Day! So what is that? Why is it important and how can you help?

33 million people in the UK drink wine. Fact. It is now officially the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink according to most recent ONS data*, yet tax on wine has risen significantly faster than for other alcohol types over the last ten years. New movement ‘Wine Drinkers UK’ are calling on the UK Government to cut wine duty at the next budget and address a decade of unfair treatment compared to other alcoholic drinks.

Since 2010, excise duty on wine has increased by 39% compared with just 16% for beer and 27% for cider and spirits. In real terms, for wine bought to consume at home (i.e. not in bars and restaurants), this means that consumers pay £3.06 tax on every bottle of still wine (£2.23 on duty + 83p on VAT ). For a £5 bottle of wine, that equates to 61% tax! Sparkling and fortified wine have even more duty.

Why now? After a decade of unfair increases and in the light of the recent social findings over two surveys taken nationally and regionally, it’s time to address this. The lazy assumption has always been that wine is only drunk by the wealthier, ABC1 classes. What these surveys show is that wine is the drink of choice for just as many ordinary, working people (C2DE). 80% of the UK population over 18 drink alcohol and of these, 81% drink wine. That equates to 33 million wine drinkers, all being taxed unfairly highly. If you consider that the price hikes on non-UK wines are being exacerbated by the devaluation of stirling too and that this is only going to get worse, then now really is the time to act. 

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How much of a bottle price is duty? Duty on a 75cl bottle of still wine (between 5.5% and 15% ABV) is £2.23. On sparkling wine, such as prosecco and champagne, duty is even higher at £2.86. If fortified wine is your thing (between 15% and 22% ABV) then duty is even higher, at £2.98. The UK pays more tax on wine than any other country in the world. Its total alcohol duty revenue is 12.1 billion, of which wine equates to 4.4 billion pounds. In fact, the British pay 68% of all wine duties in the EU! This even takes into account the high tax levels in other northern European countries.

Who sets drinks duty and is it the EU’s fault? No. Duty and VAT is set by the UK Government, not the EU. Brexit is impacting currency rates and therefore how much it costs to import wine. Eventually, this will have to be passed onto customers. It is assumed that all alcohol duty rates increase by Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation year-on-year at the annual budget. However, the UK Government can decide to freeze or cut duty on different alcohol beverages as it wishes.  

How can you get involved? Support Wine Drinkers UK on social media by retweeting twitter messages, posting on instagram and using the hashtag #CutBackWineTax. Twitter: @WineDrinkersUK .

Who are Wine Drinkers UK? Wine Drinkers UK is backed by several wine companies, agents and merchant with support from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and wine media,.

*THE SURVEY

Wine Drinkers UK carried out two surveys with YouGov: a national survey with over 2,000 UK adults and a regional survey in 8 additional cities with over 3,200 UK adults (400 adults in each city. The total sample size was 2072 adults. The figures are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

  • Gender: male (958); female (1114)

  • Age: 18-24 (193); 25-34 (203); 35-44 (370); 45-54 (375); 55+ (828)

  • Social grade: ABC1 (1229); C2DE (843)

  • Region: A representative breakdown across all regions covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The latest ONS figures show that 20% of UK adults are teetotal, which means 80% of the UK’s population drinks alcohol.

According to the latest population data from ONS there are 52.3m people over the age of 18 in the UK, which means 41.8m drink alcohol (when taking into account 20% being tee-total).

81% of people in our nationally representative survey said they drink wine which means there are 33.9m wine drinkers in the UK.

By Helena Nicklin



How do you like your eggs? The effect of vessels on wine flavour and texture

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The world of wine is changing so quickly, people like us need to do our best to keep up. With this in mind, the three of us were intrigued to attend a tasting held last week by award-winning Languedoc winery Domaine Gayda and their importer, New Generation. 

This fascinating tasting showcased the dramatically different effects that vessels used to age wine can have on its flavour and texture. Why is this important? These days, most consumers are looking for wines that can be opened straight away rather than laying them down to age for years, so winemakers from regions with traditionally heavier red blends such as the Languedoc have had to revise their techniques. Forward-thinking Gayda have been experimenting extensively since 2012 to see which methods produce the most delicious wines that can be drunk straight away.  Here’s what they trailed and what we found.

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit:  www.gaydavineyards.com

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit: www.gaydavineyards.com

Same grape, vineyard, vintage and fermentation

To do this experiment, the domaine took exactly the same wine (100% Syrah from 30 year old vines in the south-east facing, Col de la Dona vineyard in Roussillon, harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel) before transferring it into nine different vessels and left for nine months. Here’s what they used and the effects we tasted on the wine in practice:

Stainless Steel Tank (1500 litres)

Considered to be the benchmark for a neutral sample. Result expected: Clean, bright fruit and lean texture.

Terracotta Egg (700 litres)

The most amount of oxygen exchange expected due to porosity of the material. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: a more oxidative style with overripe fruit and juicy texture.

Concrete Egg (1600 litres)

Inert and cool with little oxygen exchange. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness, minerality and aromatics.

Plastic Egg (High density polyethylene egg - 1000 litres)

Plastic but with oxygen exchange to mimic a new oak oak barrel (17 mg/l per year oxygen transmission). Liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness and aromatics with perhaps a wider, more lush texture from the extra oxygen.

Oak Foudre (v large barrel -2000 litres)

Oxygen exchange and a good amount of lees and liquid movement allowed. Result expected: ripest fruit with noticeably creamy texture.

Oak Barrel 500 litre (1 year old)

Half the size of a foudre and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: subtle oak flavour and marked tannic structure with some creaminess from oxygen exchange.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (1 year old)

Half the size again and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: more noticable oak flavour and heavier tannic structure.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (3 years old)

As above but after two more years of use. Result expected: less oak influence in terms of flavour, but a creamy structure because of the oxygen exchange. 

Sandstone Jar

The material and shape of this jar allows for the least amount of oxygen exchange and movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: reduced flavours (a bit stinky and sulphurous), savoury notes and less fruit. 

Conclusions

The differences were clear, but there we certainly some surprises. The most perfumed, pretty aromatics came from the eggs, especially the plastic one with its oxygen exchange system. The large oak barrel gave a wine that felt it had developed too early; that was overripe and lush, but would probably not go on much longer. The traditional stainless steel felt less fresh and round in comparison to the eggs, highlighting that these new vessels really do have a great place and purpose in modern winemaking. The more classic vessels - the smaller oak barrels -gave the most classic result of slightly spiced, textural wines with open, ripe fruit, but they still felt that they would be best tasted after a bit more time.

All in all, this was an incredibly interesting experiment that made most people in the room rethink their preconceptions about which materials do what to wine. It’s worth noting however that this was a big, ballsy Syrah and the results will be slightly different with other grape varieties. It’s all about choosing your vessel according to desired style. As Gayda winemaker Vincent Chansault says, it’s just like pots and pans for cooking. You chose one over another to add a certain nuance to your dish. With wine, it’s just the same.

Taste the Syrah

Syrah plays a large part in Gayda’s top wine: Chemin de Moscou

  • Try Chemin de Moscou 2015 RRP £29.95 from Amazon

See more about Domaine Gayda

See more about New Generation Wines

By Helena Nicklin

The Wine Society: Top picks for Spring & Summer 2019

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As wine writers, we get invited to a lot of press tastings, where we are lucky enough to try many of the wines on offer from various merchants, clubs and supermarkets all at once. One tasting we are always happy to go to is that of The Wine Society: a national institution that despite being founded in 1874 has moved seamlessly with the times to offer genuinely fantastic examples of key grapes and styles of wine as well as hand-picked, lesser known wines from places you may never have heard of (but that will blow your mind). The best bit? As The Society is owned by its members, there are no obligations to place huge margins on the wines, so everything you taste punches well above its price tag as the buyers have the freedom to buy the best. With wines from £5 all the way up to iconic, more collectible bottles, this is where to come to learn your wine basics by tasting through their benchmark styles before moving on to expand your palate, happy to do so as you know and trust their choices.

Here’s our pick from yesterday’s press tasting:

SPARKLING

Crémant de Jura, Domaine de Montbourgeau, France, NV. £14.50

Fabulous, classy, Champagne-style bubbles (traditional method) with loads of tang and flavour. Made with 100% Chardonnay and ridiculous value. 12%

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2012. £39

Proper, seriously good, 100% Chardonnay Champagne with all the trimmings: brioche, apple-skin, peaches, rainbows...

Alfred Gratien Brut 2006, £42

If you’re into aged vintage Champagne with a slight funky edge, you will adore this. Rich, round and a touch nutty, there’s so much going on.

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WHITE CLASSICS

The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018. £14.50

Yes, you can find some cheaper Albariño, but this is the best version we have tasted for ages. Crisp and citrus with a chalky kick and tropical, peachy note. Gorgeous.

Contino Blanco, Rioja, Spain, 2017. £20

A very well put together white Rioja that is fresh, floral with buttery, pineapple notes right now, but will also age beautifully. Made by a tip top producer.

Jacques Saumaize, Macon-Vergisson Sur La Roche, Burgundy, France, 2017. £12.95

Quite simply, a beautifully fresh and youthful, unoaked Chardonnay with tonnes of fruit.

Soave Classico, Calvarino, Pieropan, Italy 2016. £18

Soave can be boring but Pieropan’s is the icon. Incredible texture, floral aromatics and ripe fruit. Summer in a glass.

WHITE ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Quinta de Calçada Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal, 2018. £9.50

Another gorgeous Albariño but from Portugal this time. Saline and citrussy with great texture. Say its name out loud for extra enjoyment.

Pepe Mendoza, Moscatel, Macabeo, Airen & Alicante blend, Spain, 2018. £11.75

(Available from July) A happy, summery wine. White flowers, oranges and lemon cream with the lightest touch. Huge drinkability.

Szolo Tempo Tokaj Furmint, Hungary, 2017. £14.95

Hungarian Furmint is a grape to look out for if you love refreshing, crisp whites with an off-dry element, like this one. Perfect with mildly spiced thai food.

Blackbook Winery, The Mixup, England, 2018. £18

Properly quirky, this one! And made in London to boot by this exciting new winery. 50:50 Bacchus and Ortega grapes. Sweet, grassy nose but dry palate. Very textural. A great food wine. Gloriously different and unique.

PINK

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Corent Côtes d’Auvergne, Saint-Vernay, France, 2018. £9.50

Did you know that Corent must always be rosé and always made from the Gamay grape? This dark pink wonder is all tangy, wild strawberry with a subtle, savoury note. In between a Provençal and Tavel style. Delicious and great value.

Domaine Alzipratu, Fiumesecco Rosé, Ile de Beauté, Corsica, France, 2018. £14.50

A crazy Corsican name, this easy-to-love pink is made from the local Sciaccarellu grape and it has an incredibly soft, round palate with charming peach and melon flavours.

RED CLASSICS

El Pacto, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2016, £11.50

All those classic Rioja flavours, but with a particularly fresh acidity and lovely herbaceous note. Not overblown. Infinitely moreish.

The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, France, 2015. £23

This Margaux shows why this Bordeaux appellation is so sought-after: positively regal with silky, dark fruit, classic, Cabernet features and a seamless, mineral core. Gorgeous plum and violet notes too.

The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie, France, 2018. £10.50

Beaujolais is back and it’s better than ever. This Fleurie has all the hallmarks that make the appellation famous: perfume and light-bodied silkiness, but it’s a million miles away from the soapy styles of yore. Crying out for charcuterie.

Langhe Nebbiolo A Mont, Paolo Conterno, Italy, 2016 £18

This wine is just how you want non-Barolo nebbioo to be: ethereal and earthy with subtle violets and rose. Utterly beguiling.

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RED ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Carignan, Chile, 2016. £8.95

Chilean Carignan is getting really good. Tangy and refreshing, it’s got a moreish, chewy texture and strawberry jam notes.

Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere, Italy, 2017. £9.95

Rustic, but with charm, this is earthy and fruity with fairly high tannin. A bit like a fruitier Nero D’Avola. Made with Gaglioppo grapes from Calabria.

Duché d’Uzès, Les Perrasieres, Domaine Camp Galhan, France, 2016. £10.50

If you’re a fan of Syrah form the Northern  Rhône, you will love this. Tonnes of thyme, rosemary and violets on the nose and a silky, plum fruit texture. Great value for great Syrah.

Kardarka, Maurer, Serbia, 2017. £14.50

A Serbian wine, no less! Kadarka is the grape and makes wines that are really light in colour and bright red. The flavour profile is so interesting: rose petal and figs, with a viscous, licorice and caramel finish. Definitely worth a taste and only 11% abv.

By Helena Nicklin





A Super Tuscan Rising Star: Tenuta di Biserno

We’re massive fans of Italian wines and Tuscany in particular holds a special place in our hearts. Helena Nicklin heads to a lesser known part of the region to get to know a very exciting wine producer…

If you’ve tried the finest wines from Tuscany, chances are that they’ve been touched by the hand of the most famous wine family in the region, if not the country: Famiglia Antinori. All those beautiful names - Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Massetto, Solaia, Tignanello - have been blessed with the Antinori magic and most of them still are. But this is not a story about the famous Tuscan region of Chianti, where wine tourism mechanics move like well-oiled machines. This is about another coastal Tuscany; a part that’s still rugged, still being discovered and gorgeously authentic called the Maremma.

What’s more, it has already formed a reputation for making wines that breaks the rules but in doing so, have created fine wines to rival the very best in the world. We’re talking about the Maremma, which is coastal Tuscany. It’s an area that splits into three sub regions: Upper, Central and South, but it’s the Upper or ‘Alta’ Maremma where the very best wines are being made. Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Massetto – yes, but there’s a new kid on the block steaming through the ranks and it’s made by Lodovico Antinori’s team at Tentua di Biserno in Bibbona.

From Bolgheri to Bibbona

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Marchese Lodovico Antinori came across what would become the Biserno Estate (Tenuta di Biserno) back in 1995. Located in the Alta Maremma, just north of Bolgheri in Bibbona, the area boasts wild, sweeping landscapes, pine forests, hilltop castles and stunning views all the way down to the Tyrrheniansea. Most importantly however (for the wine in any case), the combination of this climate, cooled by the sea breeze with the unique soils of the area made the Marchese sit up and pay attention. At the time, he had been looking for land with which he could extend his beloved Ornellaia vineyards, but he soon realised that the terrain was much hillier; much stonier than it was at Ornellaia and so would need to be a separate project with different grapes. In a surprising move that some might say is a sad regret for the family, Ornellaia was sold (a long story for another time), but this now meant that Lodovico could devote time to pursuing a new story in this incredibly exciting, undiscovered terroir on just the other side of the fence.

The Birth of Biserno

In the midst of the vines, the lemon trees and olive groves and with a gorgeous infinity pool, sits the Biserno guest house. Originally destroyed in 1850, it was rebuilt in the 1950s and while not open generally to the public, the eight bedrooms can available for exclusive, prearranged visits, which can include wine tastings, personal tours of the region and cooking classes on request. Tiziana, the in-house chef buys fresh produce daily from the local market and makes food with stunning simplicity with the lightest of touches. It is the vines and the wines however that demand even closer attention.

The Biserno wines

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49 acres of vines were planted at Biserno between 2001 and 2005. The clay element of the terroir particularly led Lodovico to plant Bordeaux varietals; Cabernet franc, then some Merlot with, interestingly, a generous dollop of Petit Verdot and a smattering Cabernet Sauvignon. Within these 49, there is a patch of 6 acres, which stands above the rest and is home to the star wine of the Tenuta’s stable: Biserno ‘Lodovico’.

Just like Sassicaia at the very beginning of the Super Tuscan story, Bibbona does not have its own DOC, so all wines, no matter how great, can only be called IGT (Indicazione Geographica Typica). This may change as it did for Sassicaia (Sassicaia was only granted its own DOC in 2013) but to be honest, they may not even want that. A DOC means rules after all – and we all know that Bolgheri didn’t get where it is today by following those! Here’s a look at what Tenuta di Biserno produce and where you can find them:

The Tenuta di Biserno wine range

Rosé - Sof A brand new rosé, named after Lodovico’s 21 year-old daughter Sofia who came back from travels demanding they make a dry pink. It’s made with more or less 50 % Cabernet Franc and 50% Syrah. 2017 is the first vintage and it has a very pretty, vibrant pink colour with a refreshing prickle of CO2. On the palate, bright red fruit settles to soft, strawberry cream and a saline finish.

£24.50 from Corney & Barrow and by the case at Champagne & Chateaux

Red - Insoglio del Cinghiale (The wild boar’s hideout): Always mostly Syrah (it’s the only red Biserno wine with Syrah in it). Made to be released a year after production and meant for immediate drinking. The 2016 has a lovely purple hue and a typical Syrah garrigue character; herbaceous and violet-scented with bramble fruit a touch of smoked meat. There’s a cool, saline seam running through it too, which appears in many of the Biserno wines.

£21.50 from Corney & Barrow and by the case at Champagne & Chateaux

Red - Il Pino di Biserno: A step up from Cinghiale and where Cabernet Franc starts to come into its own, with some Petit verdot, a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – like an inside-out Bordeaux blend. With a deeper colour and more complexity than Insoglio and with a year in oak barrels and 6-8 months in bottle before release, the 2015 had a generous, silky red fruitiness and spice amongst the brambles.

£42.20 - £47.95 depending on vintage from Corney & Barrow and by the case at Champagne & Chateaux

Red - ‘Biserno’

With Biserno, Lodovico put the wheels in motion for the next Tuscan icon wine. 2007 was the first vintage and the blend is predominantly Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet franc and Petit verdot. The left banker of Biserno, as it were. You can see the vintage variations throughout the years. We tasted the following vintages:

2007: Animal, meaty and powerful. Lots of garrigue herbs. Not shy!

2008: More refined tannins; silky, with a mineral core.

2009: A warmer vintage, shown by lots of baked fruit, blackcurrant compote. Fleshy texture.

2010: Very cool, wet year creating a very elegant and cool mineral vintage that’s drinking well already. Not typical.

2015: Surprisingly drinkable given its youth. Very strawberry up front, with fine, tight tannins and secondary notes of spice just starting to show.

£95.95 - £102.95 depending on vintage from Corney & Barrow (also available in magnum and double magnum) and by the case at Champagne & Chateaux.

Red - Biserno ‘Lodovico’

The first Lodovico vines were planted in 2012 and every year made a difference.  Helped by Michel Rolland, the Marchese always has the last say on the blend. Lodovico is generally around 95% Cabernet franc with 5% Petit Verdot. The 2013 had quite long skin contact (21-28 days) and was aged for 16 m in mostly new French oak. It showed immediate ripeness of fruit with sweet spiciness, concentration, fleshy and complexity. The production is generally small (5 – 10,000 a year) depending on the vintage and it’s only made in best years. Releases so far are 07, 08, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17.

£220-£240 from Corney & Barrow (2012 also available in magnum) and by the case at Champagne & Chateaux.

By Helena Nicklin

Once & Future Wines with Joel Peterson

Joel Peterson is known affectionately in the wine world as ‘The Godfather of Zin’. He’s the man who gave Zinfandel its iconic status in the US, having co-founded Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma back in 1976. It was from here that the expression ‘no wimpy wines’ was born and Peterson became the poster man for rich, concentrated, figgy Zinfandel wines that packed a huge, alcoholic, tooth-staining punch.

Fast forward to now however, and Peterson’s focus has shifted. He sold Ravenswood to Constellation in 2018 and has gone back to his roots, literally, to embark on a much smaller project where we gets to make tiny quantities of fine wine from vines that are often over 100 years old. Gone are the jammy, powerhouse wines made in huge quantities. Say hello to concentrated, yet fresh, lean and perfumed wines where often, only a couple of hundred cases of each are made. This new project is called Once & Future.

“I never want to produce more wine than I can physically make myself,” he tells us at a recent tasting of wines from the just-released 2017 vintage. “Once & Future allows me to get back to what I always wanted Ravenswood to be: a small project with old vines and a keen sense of place.”

Joel looks for forgotten vineyards with old vines with grapes that should have had more of a legacy than the ‘blight’, as he calls it, of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. From the sandy soils of Oakley Vineyard where 117 year old Mataro (Mourvedre) vines stands on their own roots to 129 year old Zinfandel vines in the famous Tuscan Red Hills Series soils, these Once & Future wines, while a new project for Joel, showcase a real snapshot of Californian viticultural history.

The Once & Future Wine Range

We taste through the range of six wines and it becomes apparent immediately that this is not Ravenswood mark two; these are wines in a totally different league. Grapes that traditionally have made juicy, boozy, inky fruit bombs are graceful, light on their feet and silky, mineral smooth. All are incredibly bright, supple and fresh. Still so young, but incredibly drinkable, it will be exciting to see what happens to this with a few more years of bottle age.

On the table

Coming soon to Hedonism Wines and Harrods.

2017 Once & Future Oakley Road Vineyard Mataro from Contra Costa County. RRP £56

2017 Once & Future Oakley Road Vineyard Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Teldeschi “Frank’s Block” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. RRP £48

2017 Once & Future Sangiacomo Vineyard Merlot from Carneros. RRP £56

2017 Once & Future Palisades Petite Sirah from Napa Valley. RRP £56

By Helena Nicklin

Affordable, Brilliant Bordeaux

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When Bordeaux is mentioned in conversation about wine, the striking price may be the first thought of many, closely chased by how lovely to drink those wines will be, but not really an opportunity for everyday drinking. On the whole, people also think of red wine when they think of Bordeaux, and maybe Sauternes, and certainly this latter would be expensive.

This is far from the reality. Outside the traditionally expensive appellations there is a plethora of wines – red, white and even sparkling – that are not expensive and can be found readily in our shops and on line. The marvellous thing about these wines is that, as well as being very affordable, they represent fabulous value for money, giving great quality and are a pleasure to drink.

These wines don’t always stick to the well-known blends of the left and right banks. Malbec and Carménère can more frequently be found and in white wines, we may see Sauvignon Gris as well as the traditional Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Unlike many of the classed growth wines, that need a good few years to mature before the tannins calm down or the flavours come through a wall of acidity, these more affordable wines are ready to drink from their release and will last well, if stored properly.

Here are a few of my recent favourites white wines; they would be perfect all year around, not just for summer drinking:

Calvet Crémant 2014, Bordeaux £12.49 Ocado

 Sparkling doesn’t have to be Champagne, Prosecco or, dare I say it, English. There are many sparkling wines made all over France in the form of Crémant, including Bordeaux. This one from Calvet is light and bright with lots of orchard fruits with touches of honey and lemon zest. Perfect not only for summer but as an all-round sparkling wine at under thirteen pounds.

Châteaux de Cérons Blanc, Graves 2015 £18.95 Lea and Sandeman

 This is the most expensive of the whites I have tried recently, but still represents fabulous value and is still much less expensive than the classed growth white wines. With aromas of honey and honeysuckle, white flowers mixed with fresh pears and a touch of apricot, this is a wine to have with food. It is mostly Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc but has 10% Sauvignon Gris which adds to the complexity and brings the other two varieties into balance.

Châteaux Sainte-Marie 2017 Entre-deux-Mers £10.95 Great Western Wine

 This wine is very pale in colour, and very clean on the palate. Its subtle aromas include pears and apricot. There is a small amount (8%) of Muscadet included in the blend with the remainder being 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 22% Semillon. It has refreshing flavours and mouth feel without the acidity being too high in any way. A great value white Bordeaux that will mix with most foods.

Châteaux Le Coin 2015 £10.99 Laithwaites

 An unusual white for Bordeaux compromised of 100% Sauvignon Gris. It is full bodied and certainly a wine that matches well with most foods. I tried it with a rich smoked salmon and it worked beautifully, but I would imagine it would also go really well with a roast chicken. The texture is creamy in the mouth and very satisfying. The flavours are expansive and include lots of lemon as well as lychee, pears and touches of honey. An absolute bargain of which I’ll be drinking more in the future.

There are also some fabulous value red wines. Here are a few that will satisfy a regular red Bordeaux drinker, but not destroy their wallet. All have good density and concentration of fruit with balanced acidity and a juicy mouth feel.

For utmost value versus flavour, I would choose these reds:

Definition Medoc Claret from Majestic at £11.99.

This wine has a rich aroma and balanced palate. A little more rustic than some of the others, but I think that stylistic quality gives the wine plenty of interest, and certainly doesn’t let you down on flavour.

Three others I recently thought were particularly good value were these:

Château Blaignan 2012 £10.88 at Marks and Spencer

Château de Colombe Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 £13.99 from Laithwaites

Château Lauriol 2014 Francs Côtes de Bordeaux £13.95 Lea and Sandeman.

­By Colin Hampden-White

 

Sassicaia: The first Super Tuscan

Running parallel to the Tuscan coast in the Maremma and beginning just below Livorno, you’ll find Bolgheri D.O.C: one of the newest - and arguably most exciting - appellations in the whole of Italy. Though formed as recently as 1994, Bolgheri D.O.C has already achieve legendary status in the world of fine wine and it’s all because of one curious, fearless man and a particular wine he created that broke all the rules: Sassicaia.

A love story that started it all

The story truly began after World War One, when Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, a Piedmontese agronomist who’d fought as part of the cavalry, enrolled in the faculty of Agriculture in Pisa. He brought with him to Tuscany his beloved horse and it was through his involvement with the local thoroughbred community that he met Clarice della Gherardesca, whom he married in 1930. The two moved to Rome to breed race horses, but returned to her home town of Bolgheri after the second World War. Mario busied himself helping to reorganise the property his wife had inherited, which had become neglected during the war. The name of the property was Tenuta San Guido.

From grain to grapes

As an agronomist, Mario Incisa helped the property thrive with fruit, vegetables and other agricultural products including incredible tulips that even turned the heads of the Dutch. Eventually, it was the turn of grapes. Now, growing up in a noble family, Mario Incisa had tasted a lot of wine from Bordeaux, which he loved. It was therefore only a matter of time before he turned his attentions to winemaking. Wine was already being made in the region with the local Sangiovese grapes, mostly down in the drained marshlands by the sea, but it wasn’t producing fine quality or enough quantity - a key factor in production at the time. This was not the wine Mario Incisa wanted to make; he wanted to create a fine Bordeaux - only at home, in Tuscany and to hell with what teh rules said in the D.O.C. wine guidelines for the area. He set about studying what made the wines of Bordeaux so good. Was it the grapes? The soil? The climate? Or was it something else entirely? So, off he went to stay with family friends at Mouton Rothschild (as you do when you’re a nobleman) to find his magic formula.

Friends in high places

Back in Italy after studying Bordeaux in depth, he realised that the position of his vineyards needed to be more inland, slightly higher up and on stony soil, like much of the left bank of Bordeaux. He found the perfect spot in the hills of Castiglioncello di Bolgheri: a family lookout, surrounded by forest and with a stunning view over area. He planted his first vines here at 400m above sea level, facing east and 15km away from the sandy soils by the Tyrrhenian sea. More interested in creating his own ‘Bordeaux’ than playing by the rules, Mario Incisa planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and named his vineyard ‘Sassicaia’, meaning ‘area of many stones’.

Kick-starting the Italian wine renaissance

The first vintage of Sassicaia was officially bottled in 1945, but it was not much like how it tastes today. Mario Incisa experimented for a few more years before deciding he needed help from a proper oenologist, so he looked to their cousins, the Antinori family, and spoke to their oenologist Giacomo Tachis. Together, Mario Incisa and Giacomo agreed they should make fine wines from Bordelais red grapes on this terroir and Giacomo helped to introduce modern processes he’d learned on Bordeaux to fine tune the winemaking. The rest happened impressively quickly. 1968 was Giacomo’s first vintage - and Sassicaia’s first commercial vintage - was 1968. Ten years later, Decanter Magazine held a blind tasting competition for ‘Great Clarets’ where the 1972 Sassicaia beat 33 wines from 11 countries to win its first international award. Heads were starting to turn towards this ‘table wine’ from Tuscany. Sassicaia’s fate was sealed with the 1985 vintage (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc), thanks to a stunning 100 point review from Robert Parker, who said of the wine that it frequently reminded him of a 1986 Mouton Rothschild, of all wines. Giacomo continued to work with Sassicaia, completing his final vintage in 2007. He died in 2016 and will forever be known as the man who kick started the Italian wine renaissance. Bolgheri got its own DOC status in 1983 but more recently in 2013, Sassicaia was awarded its own: DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia.

Tenuta San Guido and Sassicaia today

Today, Tenuta San Guido is run by Mario’s son, Marchese Nicoló Incisa della Rocchetta. Sassicaia is still their flagship wine, but the family wanted to produce something to that could be drunk while they waited for it to mature. Two more wines were born: Le Difese and Guidalberto.

WINES

Le Difese

‘Le difese’ are the tusks of the wild boar. This wine is their entry level label, made for immediate drinking within two or three years. The 2016 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese) is very red and black fruit forward, with lots of cassis and just enough structure and freshness to make this over deliver for the price.

£19.50 from Armit Wines

Guidalberto

Named after the Clarice’s father, Guidalberto was produced after the amazing 1985 vintage to cover market demand. Not a second wine, Guidalberto has its own identity and style, using some Merlot in the blend. The 2016 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon 40% Merlot) has a darker, blue black colour with sweet, cinnamon oak on the nose and tightly woven bramble fruit on the palate, with delicate tannins.

Find the 2015 at Hedonism wines for £29.90

Sassicaia

We tasted the 2015 vintage (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc), which had an intense, cedar and spice nose with generous blackcurrant and bramble fruit on the palate. While this wine is so you, it has an incredible drinkability already thank to is cool minearlity and super fine tannic structure.

£148.60 from Armit Wines

By Helena Nicklin

Originally written for Winerist Magazine in October 2018