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Two Tanners blind

nebbcond

We shared a red and white blind tasting on Friday, Richard supplying the white while I delivered the red. Both wines, it transpired, were purchased from that wonderful wine company Tanners of Shrewsbury, where good knowledge of the wines they sell is really evident and greatly appreciated.

Richard had decanted the white wine which, when in the glass, assumed a light yellow colour, beautifully clear and bright (some wines do stand out in this respect) with some viscosity, but not much. The nose wasn’t particularly strong but its lemony freshness dominated quite a complexity of aromas. There was a slight caramel hint to the bouquet.

In the mouth, there was still plenty of acidity which balanced the quite ‘oily’ weight of the wine. The flavours were certainly tropical – pineapple, peach, apricot – but the distinctive notes were that of white stone fruits. This was a lovely sipping wine – and at 14.5% ABV deserved to be treated with some respect. It would last for ages in the glass and keep changing; Richard will confirm the taste later in the evening.

The wine was Rostaing’s La Bonnette Condrieu 2010, from a vineyard directly north of Condrieu village itself. The books state how this area – and its Viognier grape – has gained popularity since its near extinction in the 1960s, when only 30 acres were being planted, to the 405 acres of 2011. The wine is meant to be drunk young as, I suppose, its freshness is a beguiling part of the experience. A lovely wine.

[Richard, yes, delicious wine which continued to improve during the evening. Very typical viognier. Our second wine by Rostaing and another winner – actually both bought at the same time. Condrieu is never cheap, so £35.]

Richard: I took notes on the red, a Langhe Nebbiolo by Bocchino. Tasting it blind I found the nose recognisable but couldn’t place it. Annoying since I’d drunk this wine before, also bought from Tanners at the same time as Geoff. And we’d tasted a few Barolos at a recent WS Italian tasting in Brum (Tanners describe our wine as a ‘Barolo lookalike’). Brown rim, rich warm savoury on both nose and palate, full with a slight hint of alcohol. Some tannin giving structure. Excellent wine from an underrated region, which I’d buy again.

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Two for the price of one

pala

This wine has been consistently well-reviewed by wine critics for both for its quality and price – so we thought we’d add our two penn’orth. Richard and I bought a bottle each and tasted them separately, posting two blogs on the same page. There was no collusion or fore-knowledge of our opinions.

Geoff; Colour was bright, clear, lightish red with a slight pink rim. Some viscosity was evident. The nose was vey perfumed and smelt of sweet red fruits, like a summer berry cocktail. Dominant smell was that of strawberries. Acidity was present. The palate was dry after the initial attractive sweetness, not particularly long but it had a good weight in the mouth. The acidity, particularly after chilling, was obvious and gave it a structure. I think the fruit was more loganberry than anything else but you could choose any red fruit and be right.

Overall, it wasn’t a complex wine and I disagree that it would beat a Burgundy at the same price. I wouldn’t buy a Burgundy at 8.99 and expect it to compete. It’s a different wine. This German wine is a crowd pleaser, slightly sweet and very distinctively perfumed – I wouldn’t want my red Burgundy to have those characteristics. Okay, unchallenging and made for its market is my summary.

[Richard: I saw a good review of this and forwarded the link to Geoff as he often buys from M&S. I never bother looking as too often in the past recommended wines have not been stocked in our local branch. However on the way to Under Pressure, the best coffee shop in Sutton Coldfield, we called in to M&S and there it was, £10 reduced to £8.

Drunk last night, with pizza. I wasn’t expecting much – certainly not something comparable to a ‘top Burgundy’ as the back label risibly claims but it wasn’t bad. Much better than another German pinot tried last year. Decent varietal nose, some spice, fruit and oak on the palate, reasonable length. Easy to drink and perfect for mid-week.]

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Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

ws Our wine pilgrimages? First Jerez, in sunny southern Spain. Then the Alsace slopes of the Vosges mountains. And now? Stevenage under lowering Hertfordshire skies. Just off junction 7, to be exact. What bathos, I hear you say (Or was it “What’s bathos?” In that case, look it up.) Ah Stevenage. A designated new town in 1946 and the country’s first traffic free shopping area. Birthplace of such luminaries as Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young and Lewis Hamilton. Or, for the more literary, environs of ‘Rook’s Nest’, the house described in E. M. Forster’s ‘Howard’s End. But you knew that, anyway. It’s the home of …. The Wine Society. Fronting a busy dual carriage way and proclaiming, in the burgundy colours of the WS, it’s amazing that Richard and I missed it on the first drive up the road. But we did. Just to prolong the anticipation. And we were there. Removing shoes and headgear, lowering our eyes, (there was a slight genuflection from R. or was it a wince, thinking about his ‘investments’?), we shuffled forward and were received, welcomed even, by a lay member who explained the floor-plan. I bit my lip and resisted the question “Do you stock Echo Falls?” So, we were let loose to wander and wonder. Stocks reflect what’s in the printed list (not the on-line list) and there’s plenty of those lists around. Divided into countries, it also featured the WS’ own label, a bin-end section and a Vintage Room. There was also a free enomatic sampling machine and one where you could buy a card (more expensive wines from about 70p a taste). Most of the gazers were male and middle-aged; their wives looking bemused and long-suffering of their husbands’ obsession. They’ll probably ask the question on every wife’s lips “Do you need any more wine?”. Any children there looked bored as they glanced up from the Play Station. One man conducted a business lecture, glass in hand, on his mobile while we danced around him. He was obviously ‘working from home’ that day. Good points? Very obliging and knowledgeable staff (thank you Conrad) was my abiding memory. Suggestion? It might have been better to put all the bin ends on shelves rather than leave them in rows of boxes. Oh, and if you want to visit, check the printed list and if your wines are not on that, pre-order and collect.

[Richard: a fascinating and enjoyable experience, well worth 5 hours in the car (long queue at the A14/M6 junction on the way back), if only because Geoff was driving. Surprisingly busy but if you live in the area it must be the best place to buy wine. Interesting to see all the stock you’ve only read about. However, I wish, as Geoff suggests, that I’d pre-ordered some of the more obscure items, such as a well-reviewed Canadian pinot. I also agree about the bin-ends as, with only 10% off, it’s not worth looking through loads of boxes. The Enomatics (25l sample) offer a good selection, like a 2004 Trevallon and a 2006 Morgon (both very good). They seem to be charged out at cost so a £5 card will enable you to taste most of them. There is also a free coffee machine which was welcome after our drive, where a woman told me ‘coming here is the highlight of my husband’s holiday’. Unlike the French shop there is no handy list of recommended local restaurants so we ended up in an Asda for tolerable toasted paninis and what were, without question, the worst chips we have ever tasted.]  

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Wine and good value. Part 1.

As a precursor to a tasting of similar wines at different price points (as prompted by a follower’s comment) I list below a breakdown of retail price points and their duty and VAT elements – for still wine, 75 cls.

Retail Price                              VAT                           Duty                    VAT+Duty as % of RP

5.00                                    0.83                                       2.00                                        57%

6.00                                    1.00                                       2.00                                        50%

8.00                                    1.33                                        2.00                                        42%

10.00                                  1.67                                        2.00                                        37%

12.00                                  2.00                                       2.00                                        33%

As you pay more for your wine, the less the government take as a percentage of the total cost; the point has been made many times. This does not, however, always mean better quality wines at higher prices as there are many in the chain of supply who take their profit margins for growing, making, distributing, marketing etc. It does mean, however, that lower price points mean less is available for all those elements. One outcome may be that  economies of large scale production become important and the quality of the wine may suffer or at least become one-dimensional. Some of our forthcoming tastings will be aimed at commenting on this factor.

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Read one, get one free …. plus food

condrieucraggy

So, two wines in this review, both opened on Friday evening and gently enjoyed with some very original food – which Richard, being the chef, will describe.
Firstly, a Guigal Condrieu 2008, spotted in a Waitrose sale so not as expensive as they usually are. It was quite a distinctive pale-green, very bright with some viscosity. On the nose, there was the pronounced peach and apricot fruit aromas, quite floral and delicate rather than earthy. Typical Viognier style, you might say. The palate was a little disappointing, albeit with a heavy mouth feel, rather short, dryish but lacking in any vigour. However we both agreed it might have been better decanted or even left opened to get somewhere closer to warm room temperature. This is not a white that can be treated like the others and whipped out of a cool spot and drunk immediately. However, this wine almost needed the cool to give it some ‘backbone’ – it seemed a little soft – attenuated, Richard suggested. We decided to decant the next one.

The 2010 Craggy Range Pinot Noir circa £30 from Majestic was er … majestic. It was a clear, but deep, red with plenty of viscosity. There was no hint of purple, suggesting maturity. Initially, it was shy on the nose – the aromas there were vegetal although the longer it was opened the sweeter the nose. The palate was silky smooth, dry and delicate yet with some body giving it structure. A well-made wine which was easy to drink, it initially had some minerality on the finish but this vanished as it developed and we were left with the wonderful sweet flavours that only a good Pinot shows. This delicious wine – there are five more, thankfully – was a revelation with the food, coming up next.

[Richard, great wine and one where you are really hoping there is another glass left, even though you know there isn’t.

The food. Two recipes from Jerusalem, the new book from Yotam Ottolenghi. First cod cakes in tomato sauce. Lots of spices, like cumin, paprika and coriander in the cakes and the sauce. Mint added at the end gave the sauce a lift. If I did it again I would’t food process everything, only the breadcrumbs, then finely chop the cod and mix by hand. A decent match with the Condrieu.

Next was saffron chicken and herb salad. I like using saffron so was keen to try this. The base is a sauce made from long simmered orange segments, honey, wine vinegar and saffron. This was used to dress a salad of grilled chicken, sliced fennel, red chilli and lots of herbs. The pinot, being slightly sweet. was a good match.

Finally some cheese given to me as a birthday present. A very runny and very pungent Vacherin which went well with what was left of the Condrieu.]

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