There is very little not to absolutely love about this beautifully crafted, exquisite Chardonnay from the geniuses at Lyme Bay; I've been fortunate enough to try a broad range of their wines and I'm pleased to say that this is right up there with the best and well and truly lives up to the hype surrounding Lyme Bay and it's wines; It's a class act and as far as still English wines go, this is about as good as it gets.
Included in the mix is a dash of Bacchus, which despite a veritable cameo role with regards to it's percentage in the overall blend, plays a pivotal role in helping round the character of this sumptuous wine, adding a feisty acidic backbone, which acts as a steadfast platform for the beautiful tropical and citrus flavours of fresh apricot, pineapple and lemon zest to shine through, whilst also adding much needed balance to offset the buttery nature of the Chardonnay and bready notes from the lees ageing.
On the leaner side of medium bodied, dry in style, with a distinctive minerality and subtle salinity, not dissimilar, stylistically to a Premier Cru Chablis, with layers of complexity and a luscious mouthfeel, that exude elegance and mimic the archetypal characteristics of the Burgundian queen, without having to wait the best part of a decade for it to reach it's apogee. The flavour and aroma intensity are utterly captivating, leaving one salivating at the prospect of yet another sip of this wondrously, heavenly nectar; the finish is a little abrupt, but in all fairness that fits with the clarity, dynamism and precision of the wine and if I'm honest, being the pedant that I am, I'm probably picking holes in what is a metaphorical cashmere sweater!
After enjoying the highly acclaimed Domaine du Grange Neuve Monbazillac earlier in the evening, we decided to continue the trend of sweet French white wines and open this gorgeous Graves to pair with our dessert, steamed sticky toffee pudding and custard.
The most striking facet of this wine is the powerful and gripping aromas and flavours of apricot, both conserve and fresh. The bouquet is uplifting, yet refined and somewhat complex, despite the early onslaught of apricot, there is also elderflower and a lemony kick. On the palate, apricot conserve is prominent, dominating throughout the palate to the finish, which is honey clad and lengthy.
You could argue this was a little over-sweet and as such, I would suggest pairing with a dessert as opposed to an aperitif or with a cheeseboard. Best served heavily chilled.
It's been a long while since I enjoyed a sweet white wine as much as this; with it's wispy tones of toffee, sweet butterscotch and burnt marmalade, it's hard to not to be utterly enamoured with this absolute beauty from the Dordogne! We enjoyed it as an aperitif and then with some soft blue cheese, quite the pairing, if I do say so myself!
Evocative honeyed aromas flood the senses initially, yielding to some alluring citrus, with a subtle grassy background note and a mild nuttiness. In the mouth, toffee, butterscotch and marmalade mingle effortlessly, creating wine harmony and a glazing mouthfeel, that begs you to take another sip. This wine has bags of character, a linear acidity and a grippy intensity, keeping all the flavours in check wonderfully and making for supremely easy drinking; no mean feat for a sweet wine, where the majority of affordable examples end up being overly sweet and cloying and ultimately one dimensional.
Serve well chilled, around 6'c and allow to warm in the glass and enjoy!
Wine: Cabernet Franc Reserve
Variety: Cabernet Franc
Buy Now: From GP Brands
Virginian Wine is certainly not something we come across often in the UK, in fact very few people even know that Virginia produces wine - but they should. It may not have the gleaming trophy name of Sonoma and Napa, but the various wine regions throughout Virginia are producing some outstanding wines, take this beauty for example.
The nose is flooding and oozing with dark berry brambles. There’s blackcurrant, dark cherry and ripe black plum bound together with a sweet freshness on the nose, a little fresh grass and a slight toffee. Top marks for expressing some key characteristics on the smell which continue to evolve as the wine opens up.
Upon taste you’re presented with a plethora of fresh meadow berries, ripe for picking with a lovely finesse. Dark brambles, black cherry and a fresh blackberry licorice hit the mid-palate with slight tannins reaching the back of the tongue. There’s a little cedar oak element that works well alongside the freshness to cover the entirety of the palate. The tannins kick in briefly at the very end, a slight coating on the tongue as the finale of the experience.
In summary, there’s a lot to be said for Virginian wines and more effort should be made to locate and explore them. Make it your mission in 2017 to try something you’d never otherwise have thought to experience.
Wine: The Father Blend
Winemaker: Peter Franus
Variety: Syrah / Shiraz Blend
Buy Now: From Virgin Wines
An abundance of dark ripe cherries, plum and brambles hits you on the nose, brought together with a dash of dried raisins and prunes. There's a slight dusting of dark cocoa powder with a little damp earthiness to finish off the nose.
On the palate, an exuberant burst of black brambles and licorice, fresh yet sophisticated with a touch of tannins that roll off the tongue. More of that dark cocoa powder comes to play with a small amount of white pepper spice. The spice gradually fades into a fresh and inviting finish as the tannins begin to disappear and a burst of lively fresh fruits linger.
Wine: 1er Cru Classe Sauternes
Winemaker: La Tour Blanche
Variety: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle
A beautiful golden hue shines through the glass, glimmering in the light with shimmers as it catches the sun. The colour is a tribute to this incredible region that I've been fortunate enough to spend a good amount of time in this year, visiting some incredible producers, La Tour Blanche being one of them.
The nose gives you immediate notes of fresh straw and hay with a vibrant honey oozing from the glass. Light notes of honeydew melon and pineapple draw from the background before being countered out by a sweet lychee and raisin finish that lingers.
On the palate you are immediately greeted with that fresh agave honey, appeasingly fresh as it hits the front and middle of the tongue. Light tropical notes come to light on the mid-palate as that musky sweet apricot glaze we have come to associate with Sauternes so well makes its presence known. This is a delightful example of one of the most quality winemaking regions in the world that deserves the reputation it has gained. A stunning wine that has so much to offer and should be enjoyed at all times of the year, not just Christmas.
and uplifting nose, oozing with glazed honey,
Wine: Ars Collecta 456
Tirage Date: May 2008 (Aged for 90 months)
Variety: Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonay (45%), Xarel·lo (10%)
Price: Around £150 in select restaurants only
Only the best years see's this limited production wine produced and to that point there are only 800 bottles in existence each year. Left to age for over 90 months, this really is a one of a kind Cava. The magic is drawn from 3 different vineyards spread throughout the whole of Spain, offering different climates, terroirs and unique local elements to each vine and grape that ends up in the bottle. But where does the name come from? 456, in this case is the number of times the vines are harvested to ensure unparalleled quality in each and every bottle.
There's an incredibly sweet yeasty aroma on the nose, like a fresh brioche from the bakery. A bouquet of stone fruits oozes from the bottle; nectarines, apricots and peaches with a light and breezy floral finish.
As expected, the palate is simply divine. Exuberant with yeasty undertones, lovely floral notes and even a little redcurrant and gooseberry. Absolutely ripe with flavors, apple, pear, nectarine, apricot all combined with a marvelous minerality and freshness. The finish is long, robust and carries a beautiful balance of acidity and sweetness. A spectacular Cava that is in incredibly limited production from the 12th oldest family company on the planet, dating back to the 1500's.
Wine: Laventura Rioja Tinto
Variety: Tempranillo 85% | Garnacha 10% | Mazuelo 5%
Perfect Pairing: Spicy Chorizo Dishes
On the nose there’s a robust perfume of violets and sour cherries, held together by dry damp earth and a slight marzipan. This is a very elegant wine based on the nose, which would support the fact it comes from vines that have aged for over 100 years. As it opens up the sour cherries soften into more rounded black and red cherry flavors and even a little wet gravel on the nose.
Upon your first taste a rich and spicy pepper coats your tongue, this is a fiery Rioja and it takes no time in justifying its presence. on the front of the palate, delicate cherries and red currants fade into a bittersweet dark chocolate on either side of the tongue, that black pepper spice still lingering. This is the perfect wine to compliment spicy red meat dishes or anything that has chorizo as a component. It is robust, powerful and from the moment it hits your palate makes its presence will and truly known.
Wine: Blanc De Noir
Winemaker: Jenkyn's Place
Variety: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Pinot Meunier, Disgorged Feb 2015
In my opinion this is arguably one of the best Blanc de Noir's in England from a delightful family winery in North Downs, Hampshire. The Father and Daughter duo have been creating some exceptional wines since 2004, with the Blanc de Noir gaining a solid reputation for itself.
The nose gives an exuberant burst of fresh citrus and lemon peel with freshly sliced apples and a distinct sweet toasted macadamia nut. Oozing with a spectrum of notes, you find yourself getting lost in wonder and awe taking each one in as the wine opens up.
On the palate there's a crisp and clean medium body that takes over the mouthfeel. A delightful combination of more of that fresh red and green apples, extremely well balanced citrus and a little pear. The delicate fizz enables you to truly enjoy the palate as a little hazelnut and macadamia come into play before a long, vibrant and refreshing honey crisp apple lengthens the finish.
This is without question an outstanding wine and a true pioneer and emblem of why 'English Sparkling Wines' are gaining such a solid reputation globally. One to stock up on.
A golden hue shimmers through the glass, glistening against the sunlight, pure gold, pure temptation.
Deep caramel and toffee notes trickle up your nose in a complete euphoria as if Christmas day and your birthday just arrived simultaneously in one combined moment. You think you're already in heaven then the taste hits - fresh honey dripping from the pot, honeysuckle and brown sugar swirled in rich caramel, love and wonder.
This is without question a stunning Sauternes and in my opinion one of the best available. An outright keeper and great vintage to set down.
Wine: De Morgenzon Maestro 2014
Winemaker: Carl vanderMerwe
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Buy From: The Oxford Wine Company
A deep ruby hue masks the glass with a rich complexity, this wine looks like it means serious business. The nose is swimming with cracked black pepper, a hit of campfire smoke and some serious spice. Deep thick brambles erupt from the glass as if a thick jam is cooking up.
The palate gives you a refreshing burst of meadow brambles at the forefront, which slowly emit into beautifully structured smooth tannins, a slight hit of acidity to balance things out with more of that radiant freshness shining through. Blueberries, black brambles and a little dusting of extremely dark chocolate cocoa with the tiniest hint of vanilla. The finish is well rounded, the tannins stick around just long enough to make their presence known. Look forward to trying the 2013!
Wine: Finca Allende Rioja 2009
Winemaker: Miguel Angel De Gregorio
Variety: 100% Tempranillo
This is exceptional!
Lashings of black fruit: black cherry and blackberry powerfully aromatic, with herbs, liquorice, pencil lead and cured meats rounding off an encapsulating nose.
The same black fruit is intense and concentrated in the mouth; with savoury elements adding deep and complex tertiary flavours. The palate is abound with a host of subtle nuances.
Medium bodied, with a pronounced aroma and flavour intensity, polished tannins, a linear acidity and an everlasting finish. Simply sublime and the perfect partner in crime to a special treat of Wagyu rib of beef and triple cooked chips.
Wine: Riesling Eiswein 2012
Winemaker: Weingut Kochan
Variety: 100% Riesling
Price: £25.99 **
Quite the dessert wine. Intense, elegant, perfectly balanced and packing a memorable punch! Ideal with vanilla and white chocolate cheesecake or a host of soft rich cheeses.
A sweet and powerful bouquet of baked apples, pears, white stone fruit, almonds and a beautiful honeyed aroma. The palate is intensely sweet, but not sickly or overwhelming: tinned peaches and poached pears dominate, with a nice lemony kick rounding things off. The acidity is pronounced and it needs to be to keep the flavours in check and pacify the sweetness.
Full bodied, weighty, rich and unctuous, golden yellow in colour, intense and with a lengthy finish. All round a fantastic wine, perfectly balanced, possessing great finesse and character. One to savour.
** (37.5c bottle)
Wine: Negroamaro Appassimento 2015
Winemaker: Conte di Campiano
Variety: 100% Negroamaro
A really affordable Negroamaro based Appassimento! Great extraction of flavour without being too sweet and syrupy, as is often the case with this late harvest method of ripening.
An intoxicating nose packed with powerful bramble fruit, wood spice and sweet pipe tobacco. Very fragant and subtly perfumed. The palate displays the same bramble fruit initially, yielding to robust, earthy flavours, before black cherry and plum take centre stage, finishing with a hint of cinnamon.
Full bodied and dry, with a moderate acidity and intensity; velvety mouthfeel, finely integrated tannins and a persistent finish.
Wine: Nine Popes
Winemaker: Charles Melton
Varietal: Shiraz 60% Grenache 30% Mouvedre 10%
An absolute stonker from the marvellous Mr. Melton. This Barossan beauty is a wine to be savoured, it's truly world class!
The nose is alive with black cherry, damson, chocolate, vanilla and a raw earthy note rounding off the bouquet beautifully and on the palate it's more of the same, with dark berries chucked into the mix, as well as liquorice, cloves and spices. Incredibly powerful and intense, with a masculinity to rival any big red out there; think Chateauneuf-de-Pape on steroids, but with a warmer climate influence, making it immediately more approachable.
Full bodied, bone dry, deep crimson in colour, medium plus acidity, medium plus intensity and a gloriously silky finish. Pair with fillet of beef or game pie and make sure you give this wine plenty of time to breathe.
BUY NOW: From Waitrose
Wine: Angel's Share
Winemaker: Two Hands
Varietal: 100% Shiraz
Specially selected parcels from across the vales of Mclaren and Barossa, make this South Australian Shiraz one of the best value for money wines around, consistently over the last decade or so.
It's full of baked berries, vanilla and chocolate on the nose with just the feintest background note of sweet pipe tobacco. The flavour extraction is just so ripe and intense, making the palate incredibly endearing: blueberries, baked plum, mocha, subtle lavender and a dry spicy finish.
Full bodied, masculine and intense, packed with flavour, bound together with a prominent acidity, wildly intense and with more character than you can shake a stick at. Complex, diverse and just about bloody perfect!
Serve at 18-20'c, open an hour before serving and pair with any red meat for a sumptuous pairing.
BUY NOW: Click Here
Wine: Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore
Winemaker: Tenuta Chiccheri
Varieties: Corvina, Rondinella & Croatina (Undisclosed %)
This wine is special, I could tell as soon as I opened it. The bitter bouquet is marvellously magical and I just couldn't get enough of it. Black cherry, dried red fruit, liquorice and leather, all playing pivotal roles in what is a throughly encapsulating array of aromas. Intoxicating even, superbly sublime and the start of a mini wine journey that had me well and truly immersed in its story.
In the mouth it was more of the same: black and red fruit mingle effortlessly, while a pronounced acidity and silky smooth tannins dance around one another allowing the beautifully extracted fruit flavours a solid stage for them to shine from. Where the sweetness fades, the savoury elements come to the fore: aniseed, subtle liquorice and creamy sweet vanilla laden oak.
Elegant, characterful, complex and best of all, inexpensive considering the quality this offers. Enjoy on its own, on your own, in a dark room somewhere, where nobody will find you.
Wine: Slingshot Cabernet Sauvignon
Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
A deep blackberry, blackcurrant, raspberry and licorice bomb on the nose, we’re talking black cracked pepper and rich black fruits flowing from the glass. This is one of the most representative ‘Californian Cabernet Sauvignon” noses I have come across in the UK, so my intrigue levels are already peaking. Upon taste there’s that wonderful sweet glaze that covers the palate, backed by an incredible acidity and tannin base.
We’re talking raspberry compote, cedar wood, vanilla bean and an incredibly fresh backbone of ripe meadow fruits picked straight from the forest. The tannins come into play right at the finish a slight coating that gives a smooth finesse to this magnificent wine. As far as I’m concerned this is one of the top affordable Californian wines in the UK and needs to be explored.
Wine: The Diamond Rutherglen Tawny
Winemaker: Jen Pfeiffer
Varietal: Shiraz and friends...
This is absolutely stunning and one of the best New World fortified wines I've ever had. It's great on it's own, slightly chilled, but it's fantastic with rich blue cheese and its mind blowingly good with rhubarb crumble and vanilla custard!
A pungent and heavily oxidative nose of raisin, caramel and hazelnut, with some subtle perfumed background notes:strawberry, red cherry. I could swirl and sniff this for eternity, it's so welcoming and thought provoking; everything about it transports me to being curled up on the sofa in front of the fire on a desperately cold, wintry evening. In the mouth it's all about rum and raisin ice cream, with prune, dates and caramel all playing a supportive roles.
Soft, supple and syrupy, this is the nectar of the gods I tell thee! It's masculine and intense, yet has an elegant femininity. Persistent and lengthy, so so good! Truly memorable.