This week’s Wine Society tasting was, as always, impressive but there’s one wine I’d urge you to buy now, despite the £16 price tag, as I suspect there isn't much of it.
It’s made from the incredibly rare Carignan Gris of which there are apparently only 2 ha in France and Katie Jones of Domaine Jones is the woman who has her hands on them.
Although related to its red counterpart* it's a delicious, characterful dry white with a marked herby edge which buyer Marcel Orford-Williams aptly recommends with “a few shellfish or maybe some mussels” (mussels would be perfect). And unlike the majority of Roussillon whites it’s only 12.5%
I’ve written about Katie Jones’ wines before. She went to France over 20 years ago to head up sales and marketing for Le Cave de Mont Tauch, the co-op in Fitou but ended up going native and becoming a winemaker. Her other white, Jones Blanc, a more typical grenache gris (£14.95 at the Wine Society) is also a great buy
* it’s a colour mutation according to Jancis Robinson et al’s invaluable Wine Grapes
If you like the style of super-Tuscans but find the prices a bit steep the Tenuta Monteti wines, which are stocked by London merchant Lea & Sandeman, are for you.
The Caburnio doesn’t even have any Italian grapes in it - it’s a blend of 55 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Alicante Bouschet, 15 % Merlot and 5 % each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. - but the Tuscany terroir shines through in its fresh acidity and sweet, supple tannins. It’s the perfect bottle to drink with some Italian style roast lamb and beans, Tuscan style sausages or even a simple steak. You can buy it from Lea & Sandeman for £14.50 or £12.95 if you’re buying a case*.
I also love its big brother, the ripe, lush, sexy 2008 Monteti (50% Petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) though at £24.50 a bottle (£19.95 if you buy a case) it’s quite a bit more expensive.
Tenuta Monteti is based in the Maremma region which is known for its more modern, fleshy reds but both these wines have real elegance and balance along with their gorgeously seductive fruit.
* which can be mixed.
If you dread pronouncing wine names and steer away from flute shaped bottles you may want to give this wine a wide berth if you see it on the shelf but put your prejudices aside - it’s well worth a try.
In fact it’s not sweet but bone dry, a racy blend of Hondarrabi Zuri, Hondarrabi Beltza and Gros Manseng (no, that doesn’t make it much easier does it?) that’s produced in a wine region called Getariako Txakolina just inland from the Bay of Biscay. (The name is Basque*)
It’s virtues are that it’s only 11% and tastes like a squeeze of fresh lemon juice which makes it brilliant with shellfish, obviously, but also more surprisingly with the powerful, punchy flavours of Ottolenghi’s food with which I was trying it yesterday, especially a dish of quinoa cakes with Salbitxada, a Catalan roast pepper, tomato, garlic and almond sauce. Like Portugal's Vinho Verde it also has a slight spritz.
You can buy it (oddly) on Amazon for £33.21 a case of 3 (£11.07 a bottle) or from independent merchants such as Corks of Cotham in Bristol for £11.99. Marks & Spencer also has one, the Alais Txakoli, for £11.99
Read more about the region and the producer on importer Liberty Wines website.
(Pronounce it Chuckle-lee*)
Only a merchant with a pedigree like Berry Bros & Rudd could consider an £8.45 bottle a ‘house wine’ but if your usual fare is classed growth claret I guess it is.
And they’ve managed to come up with three very appealing wines in their new ‘Reserve’ range. The wines come from their existing supplier, Jean-Luc Terrier who is based in the Limoux area of the Languedoc.
I particularly like the deliciously warm, juicy Rhone-ish red which is based on Merlot with a dash of Syrah and Grenache (the Syrah particularly comes through). It’s hard to think of a type of food with which it wouldn’t appeal but it would be especially good with roasts, grills, pies, sausages and robust pasta dishes.
The Reserve White, a blessed relief from pure Sauvignon, is based on the excellent chardonnay of the Limoux region given an intriguingly musky spin with some Sauvignon Blanc, Mauzac and Vermentino. I immediately thought 'fish pie' when I tasted it.
And the pale, salmon pink Reserve Rosé, mainly Cinsault and Syrah with a smattering of Grenache and Mourvèdre is refreshingly dry with far more 'bite' than the typical Provencal rosé. The ideal wine to drink with seared salmon or tuna.
I also approve of the 13% ABV of all the wines - enough to give them character without being over-alcoholic.
These are reliable, crowd-pleasing but far from bland wines that really show off what the Languedoc has to offer. Given that BBR has the royal warrant I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Queen didn’t have some in her cellar.
* Although all the wines, as I’ve mentioned, are £8.45 you pay only £7.60 if you buy an unsplit case of 12. Which is a bit of no-brainer.
With its own university brewing department (at Heriot Watt) Edinburgh is very much a beer-drinking city so it seems appropriate after spending a few days there this week that my drink of the week should be a beer
It’s actually made by 5 MSc students who collaborate each year with Stewart brewing to design, create, market, and launch a new beer. You can read about the project here.
This year’s brew is an IPA called Mutiny on the Beagle brewed with three British hops - Pilgrim, First Gold and Admiral including whole leaf hops from last year’s harvest.
It has a slightly different flavour profile from many modern craft beers - more restrained, more herbal, less citrussy. The label talks of marmalade and lime but I don’t get either strongly - maybe a whiff of Rose’s lime marmalade. It’s a very British - or rather Scottish - beer with a crisp, clean bitter finish and despite its 5.8% ABV, a refreshing session beer.
And the name? It apparently refers to Charles Darwin’s home voyage on the Beagle where he bemoans Fitroy’s obsession with hops. “I abhor the sea and all the ships which sail on it. The only thing which provokes a deeper loathing is Captain Fitzroy and his incessant quest for hops.”
At the launch the beer was apparently served with pulled pork sandwiches and mac’n’cheese which seem a couple of good pairings.
You can buy it for £3.40 from Edinburgh wine merchants like the Bon Vivant’s Companion, a really excellent bottle shop (pictured above) or £3.29 online from the Scottish Beer Shop. It also seems to be available in Edinburgh branches of Oddbins.