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Wine Finds

Wine of the week: El Bombero Gran Reserva 2009 Carinena

Wine of the week: El Bombero Gran Reserva 2009 Carinena

If I saw this wine on a supermarket shelf I wouldn’t pick it up. There’s the name for a start, which sounds like something a marketing department has invented

The old fashioned red and gold label and the fact it’s not a rioja wouldn’t do much for me either.

It also comes from Laithwaite’s, a retailer which has never overly impressed me with its range or pricing

But I’d be wrong. This is a cracking bottle of wine made from garnacha (aka grenache) from the far less fashionable Cariñena region. Despite its age it’s still gorgeously plummy and at £8.99 an absolute steal for a gran reserva which has to be aged for at least 5 years. It’s the perfect wine for a traditional Sunday roast beef (or lamb) lunch and would make any rioja-lovers in the family very happy.

The only thing I’d say is that the advice on the label ‘drink by December 2017’ might be a tad over-optimistic given most domestic storage conditions - I’d be inclined to drink it by Christmas - or the new year, at the latest. Also I’m not sure you need to decant it as they advise. It was pretty good poured straight from the bottle.

Laithwaite’s by the way has just been nominated Merchant of the Year and Online Retailer of the Year by the International Wine Challenge so maybe I’m wrong on that front too. But if you do buy some of the El Bombero beware pushy follow up invitations to buy ‘half price’ mixed cases. And I tried another couple of wines in their range by which I was much less impressed.

PS The other wine I was thinking of making my wine of the week - and might have done if I hadn’t featured them last week is the Charles de Fère Brut Premium Vin Mousseux which is currently on offer at M & S at just £7. It’s a really attractive soft sparkling wine which looks very much like champagne at a casual glance. Perfect for weddings it struck me, if you want an alternative to prosecco.

Fresquito Vino Nuevo de Tinaja

Fresquito Vino Nuevo de Tinaja

If you want proof of how adventurous a wine retailer Marks & Spencer has become you only have to try this unusual Spanish white made from Pedro Ximenez, which is more usually used to make a sweet syrupy style of sherry.

This is altogether a different animal - pretty well bone dry and nutty with a touch of fino sherry about it it though it actually comes not from Jerez but the neighbouring denomination of Montilla-Moriles. The word Tinaja refers to the traditional earthenware jars in which the wine is aged (also pictured on the label) which accounts for the slightly oxidative - for which read deliciously nutty/almondy - style

Although I personally love it I’m aware it won’t be to everyone’s taste* but it would be a great wine to drink with tapas - as they also point out on the label - especially jamon iberico and (I reckon) olives and anchovies. Normaly £9 a bottle, it’s currently on promotion at £7 which is a steal.

* if you like fresher, fruitier whites like sauvignon blanc, for example

‘Meli Melo’ 2013 and 3 other good wine finds from Yapp

‘Meli Melo’ 2013 and 3 other good wine finds from Yapp

One of the problems of recommending a wine that most people can only buy online is that they generally have to buy a case - either of that wine or others they haven't a clue whether they’ll like or not.

So if you’ve been enticed by the two rosés I recommended from Yapp in this week’s column in the Guardian here are 4 other wines that might make up your dozen.

Top of my list at this time of year would be the 2013 Meli-Melo (£10.95) from Domaine Roquemale in the Hérault which is made from Alicante Bouschet - a grape that is undergoing a bit of a renaissance. It’s organic - as are many of the wines I’m attracted to - though vibrantly juicy rather than funky and at just 12%, perfectly suited to summer drinking. The perfect wine for a picnic.

I also love the 2014 L’Arpenty Chinon (also 12% £13.50) from the Loire which has all that typically scrunchy fruit of the Cabernet Franc grape - like a handful of freshly picked raspberries and mulberries, leaves and stalks as well as fruit. It’s a wine you could easily serve chilled with fish - seared tuna would be perfect,

The Loire was one of the two French regions on which Yapp built their reputation and so you can trust them with a wine I haven’t seen for a very long time, Gros Plant. At one time it was almost unbearably acidic but just like neighbouring Muscadet it has immeasurably improved in quality. The Domaine de la Mortaine 2013 (£9.75) they stock is whistle-clean, bright and sharp as a squeeze of lemon and would be perfect with oysters and other raw shellfish. If you like the Basque white wine Txacoli you’ll love it. If you're more of a chardonnay guy - or gal - you may not.

And finally an exuberant red from J.P.Boisson, 'Le Petit Caboche’ 2013 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (£9.50 13.5%), an exotically dark, spicy blend of Caladoc, Syrah, Marselan and Grenache Noir that would be great with a grill or a lamb tagine. I haven't tasted the new 2014 vintage but they have a 15 for the price of 14 case offer on it at £133 which would bring the price per bottle down to £8.87.)

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614

Planeta Eruzione Bianco 1614

One of the most interesting things that’s happening in wine at the moment is how big producers are pursuing new areas and old grape varieties and Planeta is no exception

It now has vineyards all over Sicily including the on-trend slopes of Mount Etna.

This deliciously crisp aromatic white however is not allowed to use the E-word (as at 870m the vines are grown higher than the 700m limit permitted by the DOC) but both the name and erupting volcano on the label clearly indicate its origin. It’s made mainly from the local (to Etna) carricante though there's also a 5% dash of riesling. The ABV is 13.5%

I drank it yesterday at Wright Bros Soho with Alaskan King crab but it would be good with any kind of raw or lightly cooked shellfish or with raw vegetable dishes. (Planeta, whose food pairing recommendations are unusually inspiring, also recommends fish soup, fish cooked in salt, marinated swordfish and pasta with cuttlefish and peas.)

You can find it online for £17.14 from a rather splendid-looking site called Made in Sicily which also sells all kinds of Sicilian food products though the minimum order is six bottles. Great Western Wine of Bath has the 2013 vintage for £18.50* and Chester Beer and Wine for £19.25. Planeta puts the ageing potential at 7-10 years though I think I'd prefer to drink it young and fresh.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the 1614 date on the label, it was the beginning of the longest continuous Etna eruption which lasted 10 years. Given the amount of investment in vineyards in the area let's hope there's not a repeat ...

* Less 5% if you buy 6 bottles or 10% if you buy a case.

I lunched at Wright Bros as a guest of Planeta.

Cider Find: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider

Cider Find: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider

A departure this week - a cider not a wine - and an American cider at that. I tasted it in Oddbins at the end of a wine tasting and was really blown away by it

It comes from Cincinnati Ohio, its called Angry Orchard and proudly trumpets that it’s gluten free (isn’t all cider?).

It’s not like a traditional English cider - I’m pretty sure it’s not made from cider apples but it has a really deep appley flavour. 'Crisp apple' describes it perfectly but don’t think Granny Smith.

Hard cider doesn't mean that it's solid - it's simply what they call cider in the US.

Angry Orchard also has a great website with some nice cocktail and cider pairing suggestions (they match it with cider-braised clams but I think it would be really great with Genevieve Taylor's overnight pulled pork recipe I’ve just posted).

Oddbins is selling it at £2.25 a bottle or 3 for £6. Perfect for this lovely summer weather.

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