PETER’S CURRENT TOP 6
LAST TASTING – MAY 2019
JANSZ PREMIUM CUVEE, £17.99
Tasmania may not be the first place you’d consider when you think about sparkling wine, but the Australian island’s cooler climate lends itself to grapes retaining their acidity, which is what you want when you’re going to make bubbles. This blend is made from the three classic Champagne varieties, with Chardonnay tipping the scales at 53%, Pinot Noir at 44% and Minor Meunier chipping in with the final 3%.
A lesson in lemons on the nose, with curd and rind being joined by apricot notes. On the palate, it’s textured thanks to 5% of the wine spending time in old French barriques to build up its body, and the whole caboodle ageing for two years on its lees, the dead yeast cells left over after the bubble-creating second fermentation in the bottle.
The biscuit and puff pastry flavours in the wine send me in search of canapés, especially Scottish smoked salmon glued to rough oak cakes with some crème fraiche.
NYETIMBER CLASSIC CUVÉE, £19.99 FOR 375ML
We tend to think of English sparkling wine as being a new phenomenon, but most of the vines used for Nyetimber’s classic cuvée are 30 years old, with some younger fruit from five-year-old plants thrown into the mix too. This cheeky wee half-bottle is joined on the shelves by its bigger, full-sized brother, priced at £27.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier team up once more, with Chardonnay in the dominance. The pinots’ influence leads to a warm and generous nose full of raspberry and ripe red plum, with creamy notes and a bit of biscuit from the faster development in the half-bottle. Rich and rounded, but still with fresh acidity, this is a real treat.
I’d quite happily sup it on its own, but its mature flavours also lend it to cheese matching – perhaps some earthy Isle of Mull cheddar or savoury Parmesan?
SOUS DE SOLEIL DU MIDI CHARDONNAY, 2018, £5.99
One of the advantages of making wine in the South of France is access to a larger number of old vines – the average vine age for this entry-level Chardonnay is an impressive 40 years. For me, older vines always produce more intense fruit flavours, thanks to their lower yields – they deliver fewer grapes but those that make it to ripeness are juicier and more concentrated.
This Chardonnay’s attractive aromas are laced with pear and floral elements, which hint at the pear and red apple flavours leaping from the palate. The acidity is soft and well-balanced by the fruit, along with some roundness that comes from 30% of the wine in the blend being exposed to French oak staves.
“Give quiche a chance”, as Rimmer’s T-shirt once told us on Red Dwarf, especially if it’s filled with cheese and spring onions.
LE STELLE VERMENTINO DI SARDEGNA, 2018, £8.79
Something magic happens when Vermentino is planted on the Italian island of Sardinia – the white grape starts taking on some of the salty influences from the sea. Strange, but undoubtedly true when you taste it in the glass. Vermentino can also be found in Tuscany and along the South Coast of France, where it’s often known as Rolle.
I love this example from Waitrose, which combines lemon and sweeter lemon sherbet on the nose before launching into fresh acidity on the palate. Many supermarket Vermentinos are bland, but this is the real deal, with lemon and green apple flavours to tame the acidity, plus those salty and even mineral notes on the finish. Delicious.
It’s a must with seafood risotto, but I also love serving it with the mushroom version as well.
CUVÉE CHASSEUR PAYS D’HÉRAULT, 2018, £5.49
Vin de Pays d’Hérault from the South of France will always hold a special place in my heart – along with neighbouring Vin de Pays d’Oc, they were among some of the first bottles that made me think, “Hmmm, this wine thing’s not all that bad after all”. Simple, fruity and accessible, these are classic house wines and Waitrose has found a cracker here.
Made from a blend of 70% Carignan and 30% Grenache harvested from bush vines between Narbonne and Béziers, this is packed full of juicy blackberry and black cherry aromas and flavours that remain on the right side of ripeness and don’t slip into the confected shadows. Soft and gentle tannins round out the package.
Maybe it’s the name, but I’m thinking chicken chasseur – or equally a bit of venison casserole in the autumn.
SOUS LE SOLEIL DU MIDI MERLOT, 2018, £5.99
A 50p upgrade from the Vin de Pays d’Hérault gets you Merlot harvested around St Chinian, which my abysmal foreign language skills always makes me think of St Trinian’s, for some bizarre region. Staves of American oak are used to add a little woody element to the final blend.
Those extra pennies produce a wine with riper and darker fruit than the Cuvée Chasseur, with blackberry and black plum joined by a touch of spun sugar. My tasting notes are full of words like “gentle” and “fruity”, reflecting the family similarities with the Sous Le Soleil du Midi Chardonnay.
Time for some juicy lamb chops – or a slow-cooked beef stew.