Tag Archives: Marks and Spencers

Friends and neighbours

Geoff and I live on the same road and we take turns to host wine tastings. Usually the wines are tasted blind so we have no idea what to expect. This most recent tasting – with the wine below, by remarkable coincidence, featured wines from the same region, made within a few kilometres of each other, not that I picked up on this.

‘Not pinot’ I confidently exclaimed. Certainly the colour – a pale clear red – was typical but the nose with lots of strawberry and raspberry led me to think it was a differently vilified southern French variety. In the mouth, rather firm and tannic, lacking complexity and without the flavour the vivacious smell led you to expect. But certainly moreish. Needless to say the wine was pinot. Perhaps I’ve tried too many New World pinots recently…

As you can see, quite a classy bottle. I leave Geoff to explain the geography.

[Geoff: Aloxe is the first Cote de Beaune village you come to driving south; it sits underneath the hill of Corton. Traditionally the wine has been thought of as having a fine bouquet but rather robust on the palate and I would say that is what we found. This wine was one of several different Burgundies I bought from M & S after they had been considerably reduced – to clear stocks – from the normal retail of £35. At full price it would definitely not have been VFM, as Richard’s description implies. It was good with some rich flavoured boeuf bourgignon, however.]



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Right grape, wrong country

With it’s distinctive white pepper aroma Syrah is an easily identifiable grape. This wine was so peppery – in the taste as well – that I thought it must be French. However, had I pondered a bit longer I might have identified a rather bright character, with no heaviness, which would point away from the Rhone with its high temperatures towards, say New Zealand. And so it proved (Quarter Acre 2011, Hawke’s Bay, from M&S). A very nice wine with an easy to drink, tempting, spicy taste, if a little short. Recommended.

[Geoff: this wine scored well in the recent Decanter awards, hence my purchase (£15). I liked its bold peppery smells and taste – as R. points out. Can see it being a ‘crowd pleaser’ and good value. Very enjoyable.

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Right place, wrong grape

This wine had a grassy nose I felt sure was cabernet franc from the Loire. It wasn’t. The taste was silky and textured but I couldn’t get a distinctive grape. I was pretty sure it was New World/Australian but couldn’t get any closer – my knowledge of Australian wine regions is rudimentary at best.

In fact a cabernet sauvignon but one which, for me, lacked classic CS characteristics. Good wine though – recommended. The M&S webpage (£90 for 6) says there is 20% Merlot which may account for my puzzlement.

[Geoff: I bought this because of the reputation of the Margaret River area for Bordeaux blends. I wasn’t disappointed and expected the forward-fruity style. What was attractive to me was the edge of unripeness/herbaceousness (Richard’s “grassy”) that saved it becoming too plump and sweet (my issue for with Oz wines). A good wine, well made and easy to drink – if a little lacking in complexity.

Aah, the search for complexity – the curse of the wine buff.]

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Wonderful discovery


Full marks to Marks and Spencer! Currently their wine range is the most imaginative on the High Street: there are no branded wines repeated ad nauseam; they haven’t got dozens of Proseccos; and their shelves create interest at all price levels. And they stock en rama sherry, which I’ve never seen outside of a specialist wine merchant – and rarely there. We tasted their 50cl Lustau offering (£10) with the Byass’ Tio Pepe en rama from the Wine Society. The Lustao was freshly opened whilst the TP had been opened a week; both were nicely chilled

Briefly, en rama, is fino wine that has undergone minimal filtering and fining, and has all the attributes of a young wine. Light in alcohol (circa 15% ABV) it is very refreshing whilst maintaining the oxidative notes of the sherry style.

As expected, both wines were bright but pale lemon in colour. On the nose, the Lustau had more lemon zest notes than the TP, probably due its freshness, but the latter still had the lovely acidity of the light sherry. Richard found the Lustau more direct and pungent in flavour but the thought the TP was “very, very long” and developed slight apple flavours in the mouth. We are talking very marginal differences here; both wines were excellent and, with the accompanying octopus in oil and smoked mussels, we were transported back to the wonderful bars in Jerez.

We really recommend the Lustau en rama. If you’re not a member of the WS it’s the best opportunity to get some wonderful wine easily and at a low price.

[Richard: both lovely wines with the TP holding up well despite the exposure to air. My sherry drinking has dropped off a bit recently, especially since Equipo Navazos got so expensive but this was a terrific reintroduction. At £15 (bottle size equivalent) the Lustau is good value as well. I doubt however if all M&S branches will stock it – ours came from New Oscott which is a specialist food store. Not on the M&S website either.]

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Flying solo


Last Saturday I had the very great pleasure of opening a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2012 from Roland Rapet. M & S were selling them off relatively cheaply and I had bought some in a mix with other Burgundies and some claret. When M & S do this there are bargains to be had because they also throw in 25% discount for 6 wines; this cost about £15.

PV is a village west of Aloxe-Corton and thus one of the most northern of the Cote de Beaune. It produces both red and white wines and represents good value for money – if that epithet can be applied to Burgundy wines at the moment. However, speaking personally, I’d rather have one of these bottles than two wines of average quality.

The colour was pale yellow, very slightly green, beautifully clear with some viscosity showing. The complex smell was lemon and quince, pungent, concentrated and slightly smokey. The abiding impression from the palate was one of power. The very long dry finish came after the lemon/lime mid-palate and a rich quality that was balanced by the acidity. Freshness, finesse and full of flavour were all the ‘fs’ I could think.

The white Burgundy characteristic I struggle with is ‘hazelnuts’. I could never apply it to Burgundy I had drunk – until I bought and tried some green hazelnuts (cobnuts). And there it was, that Burgundy note. So, roasted hazelnuts are not applicable but fresh nuts are. The PV had this quality. A superb wine from a good vintage.

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“Champa … Ooops, sorry, a metodo classico.”


Franciacorta is a small region that sits between the wine saturated area (mostly Pinot Grigio and Prosecco) of north-east Italy and the more up-market (?) north-west Italy, of Barolo, Gavi and Barbera fame. DOCG (gained 1995) status can only be used for sparkling wine made in the classic method and this has kept the quality at a good level. We just don’t see a lot of it in the UK so when M & S halved the price to £9.50, I grabbed the last three bottles.

‘I Due Lare’ – Franciacorta DOCG is 100% Chardonnay made by the Gatti family near Lake Iseo. Its appearance is a deeper than average lemon colour with an obvious mousse. The nose had that ‘old cellars’ whiff – slightly yeasty – but with a cooked apple undertone and a hint of honey. Lovely! The apple taste persisted on the palate which was dry, long with clean almond finish. I loved the richness of flavour that is missing from many sparkling wines and cheaper champagnes and it knocks spots off Prosecco. A bargain!

[Richard: just the wrong side of dry for me – not really a ‘brut’ –  but Angie loved it. Clearly well made with lots of flavour and length. Lasted well into the third day and certainly better than most (all) proseccos I’ve tasted.


As it happens we were in M&S Tamworth yesterday – where the Franciacorta came from – and I actually found some more reduced wines. Usually, by the time I get there, all the 50% off stuff is gone, with only a ‘sold out’ notice on the shelf label. These were both about £16>£8.

The one on the left is our third Canadian recently. Bright, slightly sweet Cabernet, easy to drink (12%), well balanced, lacking in complexity, very attractive – but not worth £16.

The Land of Hope is a South African pinot, tasting, as they often do to me, as if a dollop of Pinotage has been added to the blend. Slightly tarry and smokey, with lots of grip and persistence. Pretty good and we both preferred it to the Southbrook.]

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Change of venue, claret for a change.


I don’t taste enough claret so, because of a quick change in venue on Sunday, I opened and decanted a bottle from Marks and Spencers, their Chateau St Paul 2011. This was a cru bourgeois from the Haut Medoc, with 13% ABV. Opening it so shortly before drinking did not show it at its best but we thought the decanting might soften it a wee bit.

The Cru Bourgeois  appellation is granted – after a very bureaucratic process – two years following the vintage. It represents the respectable middle ground between the more aristocratic Medoc’s crus classes and the paysan quality level. It’s the suburbs between the inner city and landed gentry. It’s the Audi A3 driver – unspectacular, conventional and safe.

And that sums the wine up, really. Deep red with a slight pink rim in colour and Richard picked up a scent of violets on the undeveloped nose. The palate was thin, drying and of medium length. It had a savoury quality and was still structured by tannins. and it symbiotically accompanied a piece of roast beef.  I disagree with M & S’ description of it having a ‘silky’ texture – the mouth feel was too thin for that epithet. Would I re-buy? No, but it’s not a poor wine and at £7.50 it’s what would you expect from a France.

Fact file – Cru Bourgeois 2011 status was awarded to 256 chateau, i.e. 28 million bottles which accounted for 30% of the total Medoc production. They produce a lot of wine down there!

It developed a fruitier palate 24 hours later but still light in style

[Richard: Thanks to Geoff for inviting me round (our kitchen is being done up). 2011 was not a great claret vintage – too cool in the summer months – and the lack of ripeness was evident here. But if you like the style then it’s not a bad price although a similarly priced 2009/10 would be doubtless be a better wine.]

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