Some of the most exciting wines in Europe right now are coming out of Spain as this glorious white from Suertes del Marques in Tenerife proves.
I came across it by the glass in Lyle’s in Shoreditch last week. It’s really fruity but in a delicate way, lush without being blowsy and just a lovely partner for food, particularly the plate of calçots, Burford Brown egg and buckwheat with which it was recommended.
Apparently it’s based on old vine Listan Blanco (better known as Palomino Fino according to Jancis Robinson et al’s Wine Grapes) grown on volcanic soils between 350 and 500 metres above sea level. The wine is aged for 10 months in 500 litre casks. Given the soil it’s not entirely surprising that it reminded me of Assyrtiko but has a white Bordeaux-style elegance this Greek wine lacks.
If you, like me, want to get your hands on some it’s imported by Indigo Wine but you can buy it over the counter for £22.70 a bottle from Theatre of Wine in Greenwich and Tufnell Park and for £21 online from Vintrepid (enter launch15 at checkout for 15% off.) Save some for me!
Those of you who read the Guardian will have spotted that I’ve devoted this week’s column to independent wine merchants but here’s a slightly different business model from a firm called Dashing Wines which bills itself as offering ‘estate wines at everyday prices’.
Instead of holding regular stocks they select a range of wines every two months which get shipped direct from the producer which obviously keeps costs down
The current offer which ends on March 30th (with wines shipped during the week beginning April 20th) includes selections from Bordeaux and south-west France and Spain. I tried some of the Spanish ones and picked out this absolute bargain monastrell (mourvèdre) from Castilla which is selling off the site for £47.70 a case of six or £7.95 a bottle + £4.95 delivery if you order fewer than 12 bottles*. With its smart contemporary label it looks a lot more expensive than that.
Interestingly I discovered that the winemaker had spent time in Chile, Argentina and New Zealand - and it does have that new world generosity of fruit and polish but without being at all jammy. The vines are grown at 700m which lends a real freshness to the wine. The vineyards are in organic conversion.
Unusually for Spain the oak isn’t overdone - the wine was aged on its lees in French and Hungarian oak for 4 months which adds richness rather than tannin.
A generous full-bodied (14.5%) red to take you through these last nippy days of spring and into the barbecue season. I’m not a big one for the term 'lipsmacking' but this wine certainly is.
If you’re a fan of Bailey’s you’ll be unable to resist this ridiculously moreish Irish cream liqueur at a fraction of the price.
Having not tasted them side by side I can’t highlight the exact similarities or differences but I certainly don’t think you'll find yourself shortchanged by the creamy, slightly caramelly flavour which makes me think of the condensed milk I used to have as a kid.
At only £3.99 for 70cl (Bailey’s is selling for about £12 a litre this weekend but is normally £19-20) it’s a ridiculously good bargain. Perfect both for St Patrick’s Day and a present for your mum. Result!
Giving your mum a bottle of cider for mother’s day might seem like being a bit of a skinflint but this award-winning product from Cornwall is something entirely different.
I rediscovered it on a recent trip to Cornwall when I visited the cidery and vineyard and met Polgoon’s owners Kim and John (below).
It’s really a sparkling apple wine* flavoured with fresh raspberry juice to make an absolutely delicious fresh-tasting (7% ABV) alternative to rosé champagne and sparkling wines. You could drink it on its own but I quite fancy it with something like Eton Mess or a milk chocolate and raspberry cake like this one. Served chilled in a champagne flute.
It costs £14 direct from Polgoon which is ironically not much cheaper than champagne - and in fact some supermarket champagnes will undoubtedly be cheaper - but it is a unique product.
You can also buy it from wine merchants and good delis around Cornwall. Contact them for other stockists.
Polgoon also makes a range of English wines of which I was particularly impressed by the 2014s which should be bottled in the next month or so. The 2013 Seyval Blanc and Bacchus which is already available is very pretty too.
*Aval is the old Cornish name for apple.
Every Fairtrade Fortnight I seem to end up bleating about the quality of Fairtrade wines so I thought this year I would give it a break. And then I found - too late for my Guardian column - a couple of better than average examples in Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range.
I wouldn’t get over excited - they won’t blow you away - but they’re decent, more than fairly priced and some at least of the proceeds will go towards Fairtade projects.
The first is the Taste the Difference 2014 Wild Valley Fairtrade Chenin Blanc (13.5%) a smooth dry white from the Wellington region of South Africa that would make a useful after-work white and a good partner for light chicken dishes and creamy pasta sauces. And it’s only 98 calories per 125ml glass (Sainsbury’s now usefully putting calorie content on their own brand wines).
And the second Sainsbury’s TTD Fairtrade Carmenère 2013 (14%) from Chile which is typically lush, ripe and fruity - a little soft for my taste but I might well be in a minority on that. A good red to drink with a lamb curry or other spicy lamb dish. Or with sausages.
Both are £6 until March 25th which I think you’ll agree is a bit of a steal. I’d have willingly paid the full £8 for them.
The Co-op also has a large selection of Fairtrade wines of which I’ve most enjoyed the Argentinian wines in the past. The vintages are different but here are my recommendations from last year.