Friday, 30 December 2011

Seven Deadly Zins 2008: Surprising depth and decent at the price

I've just opened a bottle of this to have with dinner tonight. It was a Christmas gift brought back from the US. I hope the flight has not affected it too much.

The 'tasting notes' (sales copy) claims:

"Notes of sweet plums and pepper dominate the nose while flavors of blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and black pepper pack the palate from start to finish. The silky-smooth tannins hold the wine together and deliver a soft, fruit-driven experience."

That's overselling it in my view. The reality, as so often, has elements of the above, but not all of them.

One definitely picks up the plums, raspberry and a hint of black pepper. The tannins are smooth, in that they are not really there :). But in my experience (which is very limited), that's par for the course with many of the younger wines from the USA.

The wine seems to retail around $10-16 a bottle. And at that price, I'd say it's worth drinking.

There's enough depth and length to push it miles ahead of the usual Gallo brothers stuff one finds in this price range.

I know I'm not sounding overly enthusiastic. I should say, despite the silly name, it's got enough about it at the price to beat most other competitors if you are looking for something strong and smooth.

I still believe Mouton Cadet '08 to be a better, more finessed bet as a mainstream wine in the same price range, but for a reasonable American night in (hard to do given the over pricing of US wine), this is worth exploring, if the notes suits your tastes.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Cuvée Spéciale Médoc 2006

I bought a mixed case of various Rothschild wines from Laithewaites a few weeks ago.

So far I'd only tried the Amancaya Gran Reserva Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, which is a nice smooth Argentinean. Nothing too special and lacks any real bite but very quaffable.

Tonight I opened the Barons de Rothschild Lafite Cuvée Spéciale Médoc 2006.

An hour after opening it's really impressive. Lovely smooth blackcurrant with a lengthy finish and not a hint of tannin. Classic Medoc, if still very young.

I'm not sure how much it is per bottle when not in a mixed case of 15 for £160 but I'm guessing it's pretty good value. Recommended for any Bordeaux fan.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Château la Rivière: An worthy experiment under £20

Château la Rivière is a corker of a drinking merlot. It's not my favoured grape, but sometimes it can be really quite good, as long as one does not over pay.

Adnams, a UK retailers with impressive ethical credentials to boot, has some excellent offers on Château la Rivière right now.

At £18 a bottle, it's not the bargain of the year, but if you are looking to experiment with a fine drinking merlot at under £20, it's worth trying a bottle for sure.

Claret Les Sources Fronsac 2005: An £8 gem of a wine

I'm not sure where you find this wine online, but Claret Les Sources Fronsac 2005 is worth noting.

Here's the 'closest' web link.

At just £8 a bottle in the UK it's a delicious, powerful tangy right bank bargain.

Being right bank merlot is clearly dominant.

At the price it's clearly a gem. The long, nearly-tannic-but-not finish follows a deceptively mellow and aromatic nose and some big smooth raspberry fruit in the middle.

I tried what you might call the big brother of this wine on Monday, Château la Rivière. I'll post separately on that.

Mouton Cadet 2008: Silky and poweful

I tried Mouton Cadet this week for the first time in years.

It could be as long as a decade since I've tried it. As a more 'mainstream' shop wine I've instinctively avoided it.

However I found myself on the right side of a couple of glasses of the 2008 this week in a hotel bar in Brussels. I'd imagine it ages well as a Graves wine, so am now looking forward to the earlier years.

I'd definitely recommend the 2008 at the price. Prices vary from £8 to £11 a bottle, perhaps depending on whether you want the reserve or not.

Here's one source to buy it from.

That website linked above says it tastes thus:

Nose: Both dense and elegant, opening on ripe fruit, especially blackcurrant and strawberry. A wine of great class and character.

Palate: A massive attack sustained by well-rounded, remarkably textured tannins. Great overall harmony between forward fruit and a high quality structure. Fine tannic length and an elegant finish.

That seems an accurate assessment from what I can remember. It's 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc.

More merlot than I would usually like, but I did enjoy the powerful deep smoothness of this wine.

It may not suit the terroir/geography, but I'd love to try this wine with a little more Cab, just to see how it works out.

Here's a link to Wine Searcher so you can find it wherever you are in the world.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Chateau Meyney 1989: Hard to beat for £42

Even at around £42 a bottle, this is a seriously under-rated wine.

For a 1989 wine this good, you'd usually have to pay a lot more, in my humble view.

It's not even close to being on the way out. I think this wine will drink for another decade.

The balance of fruit and age is pretty much perfect. Simply a corker. For me this is almost a perfect St Estephe (given the price). Just a perfect balance between minerality and dark fruit.

Parker gives it over 90 points, and according to this site, describes it thus:

"The 1989 Meyney is one of the finest Meyneys ever produced. The opaque, black/ruby color, a bouquet of minerals and damson plums, the alcoholic, massive flavors and the mouthcoating tannins all combine to create a sensory overload. The 1989 will prove uncommonly long-lived as well as profoundly flavored. Anticipated maturity: 1995-2020."

You may be able to buy it here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Bonnachi Brunello 2006 and Zind Humbrecht Gewurz VT 2005

I'm not sure if you'd call Bonnachi Brunello 2006 a red wine gem at nearly £30 a bottle.

For me it just slips into that category given the powerful nose, lush deep colour and big bold dry fruit with excellent tannins and that Brunello smokiness/tobacco hints.

It's classic Brunello, fast becoming a favourite wine area of mine.

The Sampler (UK) has it for £28, although in the store itself the cost is around £31.50.

Not the cheapest bottle, but with a discerning wine fan friend of mine coming around for dinner, it seemed worth the 'investment risk'.

It went wonderfully with sirloin steak. Here's where you can buy it, at least in the UK.

The Zind Humbrecht Gewurz VT 2005 we had with dessert was a stunner.

Not remotely cheap, (£40 for a half bottle) but for a white wine, it was a perfect finish to the meal:

"Gorgeous nose of honeysuckle, exotic spice, subtle lychee and tropical fruit. Full-bodied and rich yet incredibly balanced with a long finish" is how the Sampler describes it. Bang on.

Highly recommended if you want to splash out for friends. A very special wine indeed.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

My retailer of the year:

I've used a variety of online wine retailers this year.

Whilst I buy wine to lay down with Berry Brothers, for every day drinking I haven't found them to be the best value.

The Wine Society, if you are a member, is an excellent place to find well priced drinking wine.

Virgin Wines, as I mentioned, is a real disappointment., which I also used, has shut down.

My top two picks are Laithwaites for range (Los Vascos 2007 and their Rothschilds Christmas selection as highlights) and for mid-range bargains.

The Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne from their site, with 92 Parker points, is a perfect accompaniment to strong cheddar. At £11 or so a bottle, it's fabulous value, a velvet bomb of a wine. Not for the faint hearted but a stunner.

But the best value wine of the year is their Rosso del Palazzone Montalcino. It's simply stunning at the price. I've had £30+ bottles that couldn't touch this. Let it breathe for an hour or so and the bold aromatic nose, wonderful hints of slight smokiness/tobacco and elegant, ongoing finish are superb. I've blogged on it before, but having had several bottles it only get's better. At £140 a case it's my value for money wine of the year, at least so far.

Dow's Trademark Finest Reserve Port

I picked up a bottle of this yesterday at half price from UK retailer Sainsbury's.

Usually around £14 a bottle, at £7 it's a real bargain. Wine-searcher shows you the price variations.

Not the finest port you'll ever taste of course, but a lovely entry level bottle at the price, for a novice such as myself. I enjoyed the slight spice and a dry-ish finish.

Snooth gives it three out of five, which feels about right to me.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Italian Gems: "Grandi Annate" 2006 and Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008

My friend and very picky food and wine critic Ben Brown (boy is he picky), has some Italian suggestions for readers:

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montep. DOCG Ris. "Grandi Annate" 2006

Tasting Notes: Vanilla, lavender and what I can only be described as caramel. Noise is deeply intense with a fabulous tannic structure

Cost: about 50 Euros per bottle.

Begali (Veneto) Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008

Tasting Notes: Ill come back to this another time, but this was a-m-a-z-i-n-g

Cost: about 45 Euros bottle

So whether they qualify as 'gems' at those prices, is up to you.

Here's where you can buy them.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Collection 2011

This deal looks too good to pass up from Laithwaites UK.

3x Domaine d'Aussières 2008
3x Viña Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
3x Barons de Rothschild Lafite Réserve Spéciale 2007
3x Amancaya Gran Reserva Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
3x Barons de Rothschild Lafite Cuvée Spéciale Médoc 2006

All for less than £160. I've ordered a case, we'll see how it turns out.

I've had a case of the Los Vascos which is superb at the price (£8.99 a bottle). It's a lovely Cabernet/Syrah mix from old vines, with some Bordeaux similarities (although not as much as claimed)

The others look like excellent Christmas drinking. I'll report back in due course!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Rosso del Palazzone Montalcino 05/08 blend is incredible value

I opened my new case of Rosso del Palazzone Montalcino 2005/2008 wines last night.

They are 'baby brunellos'. Produced right next to top Brunello vinyards, but sold at much lower prices, when available via a specialist merchant.

Interestingly, the vineyard is owned by Dick Parsons, former Time Warner CEO.

In an earlier post I said I hoped these would be a delicious bargain, and I may have been right.

My view it it's a superb bargain at £11 or so per bottle.

A huge bold nose, a hint of mustiness on the palate. In the glass it looks like a 15 year old left bank claret, and drinks a little bit like it too.

It's probably a little dryer, with a hint of perfumed smokiness and a finish that just keeps going.

I've only had a couple of small glasses and it will be interesting to see how the wine is today when it's been open for a day. Jancis Robinson says it keeps well.

There's no year on the bottle. I thought I was getting six 2005 wines and six 2008's. I'm now guessing it's a blend of those two years. Having re-read the website, that seems to be the case.

However it's been done, it's a triumph at the price. Go get some, I'd suggest.

Here's where you can buy it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Virgin wine bargains for Christmas 2011?

I make this blog post title a question since I am not sure of what I write.

A friend of mine has £200 to spend on a case, nothing too light or too heavy, only with Virgin Wines UK.

Here below are the top three I picked for him out of about 10 others.

I must say not hugely impressed with Virgin wines and their selection: Search for "Cotes du Rhone-Villages" and nothing comes up!

Firmly in the lower end of the market from what I could tell.

The top wines are few and have no images, so I guess they don't sell many. Not surprising given the selection.

Moaning aside, here's what I picked that MAY be decent under £15 per bottle:

Flori Barolo 2006

Chateau du Seuil Graves Rouge 2004

Guia Real Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Haut Bages Monpelou 2010 as a bargain

I mentioned Haut Bages Monpelou 2000 in an earlier post as an excellent wine at the price.

I've made a few enquiries about the 2010.

By the sounds of it, along with lots of others Bordeaux wine, 2010 for Haut Bages Monpelou was a stonkingly good year.

Berry Brothers has cases at £140. Their view is that it has:

"...charming ripe red fruit with a Ribena modishness that's really compelling and great component parts pulled together in a neat, tidy and, above all, tasty package."

That doesn't tell one that much as a review, but it may be worth a punt.

It's so young it's hard to tell I suppose.

Even with five years or more of storage costs, it may still be worth it at the price.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The top ten of Wine Spectator's top 100

Here is's top ten of the top 100 wines of 2011.

I don't know any of them, but I imagine some are quite good value right now.

Click to enlarge the below:

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2006 hits the spot

"Come again?" I hear you say.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2006 for £42 per bottle?

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. It's hard to break it to you, but it's available at that price.

On a more serious note, it's both younger and more expensive than I like in a drinking wine.

But what a bargain! I had several glasses in late September at Lafitte itself (see pic)

It drinks older than a 2006, no doubt about it.

"Aromas and flavors of earth graphite sweet cassis cherries smoke and spice. Medium-bodied with admirable concentration soft tannin and impressive purity texture and length this powerful wine is built on an elegant framework" says this note on Exelwines.

Couldn't have said it better myself. You can buy it here.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Château Claymore 2007: A big, bold bargain

I discovered Château Claymore 2007 last week in my local gastro pub.

On the menu it was under £30. Retail it's just £14. Amazing value, in my book.

It's the biggest, boldest Saint-Émilion I can recall having.

I'm not a huge fan of Merlot-driven wines full-stop.

As 10-30% of a mix, Merlot works well, but I have yet to be convinced that right bank Bordeaux Merlot's can compete with the left bank Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

That said, one has to keep an open mind.

A friend of mine is determined to sway my view so we'll see over time. I know I've not had that much of the good stuff. Although even the 1996 Vieux Château Certan I had recently didn't blow me away given the cost.

I know some Saint-Estèphe wines (one of my favourite areas, particularly in the south where it borders Pauillac) have a much higher Merlot content than you'd imagine for a left bank region.

Alongside my reticence about Merlot-driven wines I'm not generally a massive St Emilion fan. I often find it, well, a bit lacking in character in comparison with left bank or Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.

However, that said, the Claymore 2007 is well worth £14.

It went very very well with rare duck breast and had all the attributes you'd want for a robustly flavoured red meat dish.

Chateau Lamothe Cissac 2003: Deal of the year, if you can get it

I found this wine earlier this year at Planet of the Grapes in Leadenhall Market, London.

Actually a friend discovered it and introduced me.

Eight or so bottles later, I am very much sold on it as a red wine gem.

We were drinking the 2001 at about £25 plus corkage. It's incredible value.

Following that, I bought six of the 2003's at £25 a bottle from, which now appears to have been shut down.

This site claims to have the 2003 at £16 per bottle.

At that price, I'll be buying two cases as soon as I can.

I doubt you'll get it at that price (I haven't been able to), but even at £25, it's a gem.

It drinks like a £50-£100 wine, in my view. Both the 2001 and the 2003 are superb at the price.

It's not for the faint-hearted.

I recall it's really very robust for the region, a big nose, great tannins, a long finish, and is aging very well indeed.

Haut Bages Monpelou 2000, amazing value Pauillac

I've just discovered Haut Bages Monpelou 2000 this weekend at the Sampler in Islington, London. (Yes the image above is the 2006, but I can't find a pic of the 2000)

Online it's under £24, although in the shop I'm sure I paid about £26.

It's the second wine of 5th growth Chateau Batailley, which is a superbly reliable outfit.

That minor price quibble aside, it's a cracker for the money paid.

2000 as we all know was a stunning year in Bordeaux. I haven't seen many other wines this good at this price.

Aged nicely, it has the feel of an older wine, perhaps a 1990's.

A hint of mustiness is wonderfully controlled by the fruit and the finish just keeps going.

I've shared £50 Pauillac bottles that this compares with very well indeed.

For the price and the year, it's a real gem. I'll be getting some more of this in while I can given that it's very hard to find online.

'05 / '08 Rosso del Palazzone, Montalcino, worth exploring?

Putting in my Christmas orders a little early, I've also just ordered a case of this.

It's a mixed case of Rosso del Palazzone Montalcino 2005 and 2008 wines.

At £11.45 a bottle it looks like a total bargain. I was in Chianti country back in July and loved the Brunello wines I tasted.

An Italian wines expert I was speaking with at Berry Brother's told me the 2002 is a stunner, along with I think 2000 and 2004.

This is an entry level version. Hard to get hold of apparently as production is limited.

According to Jancis Robinson:

"It is pure Sangiovese with a hint of the warmth of this corner of south-eastern Tuscany—much lusher than the average Chianti—but without any excesses of oak or alcohol. The wines, made with oenologist Paolo Vagaggini, are aged in varying sizes of cask. I would happily drink this any time over the next two years and would pat myself on the back for having found such an honest, pleasurable message in a bottle from Tuscany."

At less than £12 it's got to be worth a punt. I shall report back in the next couple of weeks.

A potential gem from Côtes du Rhône?

I've just ordered a case of this from

It's called Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne.

It LOOKS quite it could be amazing value at £11.75 a bottle.

It even claims a 92 Parker score on the retailers website.

I couldn't find the actual wine reviewed to this level on his site, when logging in as a subscriber. Some that sounded very close had scores in the 80's and 90's, so that was good enough for me to order a case.

However, I can't believe the guys who run would say it if it wasn't true. I say this having looked at their bios on the website.

I'll report back on how it tastes when I've opened a bottle later this week.