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.