PETER’S CURRENT TOP 6
LAST TASTING – 25TH APRIL 2019
1. M&S CAVA BRUT
2. BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY, 2017
M&S CAVA BRUT, £7.00
You’ve got to feel sorry for Cava – in amongst all the excitement about Prosecco, it seems that Spain’s flagship sparkling wine has been forgotten. Yet Cava has more in common with Champagne than Prosecco, with the second fermentation – the one that adds the bubbles to the wine – taking place inside the bottle instead of inside a big tank under pressure. And it’s a crying shame that Cava is being ignored because there’s some fantastic value to be had.
Tonnes of lemon and red apple on the nose leads into fresher green apple and lemon flavours on the tongue, which nicely balance the crisp acidity. It’s a blend of the three traditional Cava grape varieties – 60% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo and 10% Parellada – and is made of a mix of wines from 2016 and 2017.
Cava is a traditional aperitif – it’s got all the classic acidity you need to get the party started – but I wouldn’t say “no” to some salted almonds to nibble alongside a glass of these bubbles.
BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY, 2017, £9.00
Drinkable white Burgundy for under a tenner? Yes please! M&S has lowered the prices of many of its wines, which makes this classic even better value. I’ve always been a big fan of its entry-level Burgundian whites and this example from Alain Pierre at the Vignerons de Buxy co-operative in the Cote Chalonnaise, to the south of the Côte d’Or continues that winning streak.
Plenty of aromas of fresh apricot and lemon and then richer apricot and lemon curd notes charging through on the palate, along with a spread of butter. Only 1% of the wine used in this blend spent any time in oak barrels, so this is no fat vanilla monster. Instead, it’s fresh, balanced and superb value.
We’re in classic roast chicken territory here, but if you’re looking to impress the new neighbours with a chilled glass in the garden then you won’t go far wrong either.
CANDELILLA ALBARINO, 2018, £9.00
Tucked away in the north-west corner of Spain, Galicia is the region that sits on top of Portugal. On the Portuguese side of the Minho river, you have Vinho Verde made from Alvarinho; on the Spanish side, the same grape is known as Albarino and forms the backbone of the Rias Baixas region. The Martín Códax co-operative was setup in 1986 and has a great reputation for the quality of its wines, including this example from winemakers Katia Álvarez and Luciano Amoedo.
What I love most about good-quality Albarino is the salty tang you get on the finish and that’s here in spades, sitting alongside apricot and lemon rind flavours. The wine has been kept on its “fine lees” – the dead cells left over from the yeast that fermented the sugars in the grape juice into alcohol – which helps to build-up the roundness of the wine in the mouth and stop the acidity from becoming too sharp.
Galicia is famed for its seafood and so this is a perfect example of that old adage “What grows together goes together” – reach for some oysters, mussels or maybe even those comedic-looking langoustines.
LA DAME EN ROSE, 2018, £6.00
You don’t have to head straight to Provence if you want a rosé from the South of France. Regions all along the southern coast produce pink wine, including in the Languedoc, and often offer better value than Provence, which has almost become a brand name in itself. Labelled as “Terre du Midi” – a new “indication géographique protégée” (IGP), the classification that replaced the old “vin de pays” country wines – this is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and the little-known Ganson Chenanson.
Stonkingly-good value here people. Six quid gets you lemon, raspberry and redcurrant on the nose, with plenty of red fruit on the palate to balance the crisp acidity. There’s also a delicious blackcurrant-focused savoury note too. Lots of flavour for relatively-little cash.
If the sun ever stays out for longer than five minutes and you fire up the barbecue then this is a versatile favourite with salads or charcuterie, but with enough freshness to stand up to a chargrilled chicken thigh.
EL DUQUE DE MIRALTA RIOJA CRIANZA, 2015, £10.00
I was seriously impressed with M&S’s new trio of Rioja, starting off with its Crianza (12 months in American oak and then a further six months in the bottle) before progressing through Reserva (20 months in oak and 12 in bottle) and Gran Reserva (24 in oak and 36 in bottle). The Crianza and Reserva in particular hit the spot for me, offering the traditional Rioja tastes without succumbing to a vanilla pod-full of oaky flavour.
Roast meat, dark chocolate and wood smoke mingle together on the very expressive nose, with equal intensity on the palate, where the sweet and smoky notes are joined by fruiter cranberry, blackcurrant and blackberry. There’s enough tannin here to handle food, but they’re really well-integrated, making this more than manageable as a glass on its own.
Lamb, lamb and maybe a bit more lamb, especially if it’s a chop under the grill or a leg that’s been slow-roasted in the oven.
FAIRTRADE ZEBRA VIEW CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 2018, £7.00
A staple part of the M&S stable for donkey’s years – or should that be zebra’s years? – this Fairtrade wine from South Africa has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when I’ve forgotten wine for a dinner party and had to pick-up a bottle at short notice. Made by Willie Malan and Ben Snyman at Overhex in the Swartland, this example can give entry-level cab sav from anywhere in the world a run for its money.
There’s a touch of wood smoke in amongst the blackberry, blackcurrant and violet on the nose, with those juicy black fruit flavours being joined by black cherry and vanilla on the palate. There’s enough tannin and fresh acidity to provide balance. And that warm, glowing sensation is coming from the fact that it’s Fairtrade and not from any imbalance in the alcohol level.
Go big or go home – it’s time for those black fruit flavours to collide with a juicy slice of roast beef or a sizzling Scotch rump steak.