Before you get too excited about this week's wine of the week you’re unlikely to be able to buy it unless you live in South Africa or Sweden but I want to flag it up because it’s the best Fairtrade wine I've tasted.
It’s a blend of Shiraz and Mourvèdre (mainly shiraz) which is made from dry-farmed grapes grown on the Papkuilsfontein wine farm in Darling, which is run by a partnership of Distell, the Black Economic Empowerment Company and a community trust and made by the Nederburg winemaking team.
It’s a beautifully structured full-bodied red with lovely ripe fruit and smoothly integrated tannins, impressively presented in an expensive (but not ludicrously heavy) bottle - a serious, proper, grown-up wine. Decanter awarded the 2010 vintage 5 stars in its 2012 wine awards - you wouldn’t hesitate to pour it for your pickiest of friends.
It sells for 115SAR in South Africa which is not cheap for the local market though at £6.39 at the current rate of exchange ludicrously good value by our standards and for 120 krone or £11.18 in Sweden which, given how expensive their market is, isn't overpriced either.
The message Nederburg is apparently getting from the UK market is that we’re not interested in paying this much for Fairtrade wine. I think that’s a crying shame. Won’t some retailer try and disprove that theory?
In the meantime if you’re in South Africa and visiting the winery I strongly suggest you buy a bottle or two to bring home.
There’s a more detailed analysis of the wine here.
After the wild winds and lashing rain we’ve endured in the UK this week my drink of the week really had to be a full-bodied red and what better choice than a Malbec?
It comes from Argentina (of course) from a long-established winery called Luigi Bosca and has all the rich, ripe fruit you look for from Malbec but with a level of elegance you don’t always find. (The fact that it’s a couple of years old now and has had time to settle down has a lot to do with it together with the fact that the vineyards are quite high up at 990m above sea level. The ABV is a relatively modest 13.5%)
All this means it’s not cheap - £15.99 is the ‘normal’ price at Majestic but there’s the usual discount if you buy two (which you’d be mad not to) which brings it down to £12.99. (Other retailers seem to stock a Luigi Bosca Malbec at around the same price but with a slightly different label which are probably not identical though similar in style. Check wine-searcher.com for stockists.)
In terms of food to go with it think beef. A steak, a Sunday roast, a beefy casserole or a steak pie would all be excellent pairings.
PS If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper red to make up the six you have to buy from Majestic, the 2011 Mas des Montagnes Côtes du Roussillon Villages is a good gutsy southern French blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan that should keep out the cold and is a great buy at £5.99 if you buy two (part of Majestic’s ‘Pick’n’Mix’ offer). One for bangers and mash . . .
If you’re a Sauvignon Blanc fan but are looking for something a little different try this deliciously fresh, elegant Chilean Sauvignon.
It comes from Paradones in the Colchagua region rather than the Casablanca or Leyda regions that Chilean Sauvignon usually comes from so there’s less citrus and more of a crisp mineral, almost saline character - the vineyards that are only 9 km from the sea. That obviously makes it the perfect partner for fresh shellfish or simply grilled fish. It’s also unusually modest in alcohol for Chile at 12.5%.
Interestingly Koyle is owned by the Underraga family who have apparently sold the wine business which bears their name and devoted themselves to this ambitious new project. The vineyards are farmed organically and biodynamically - there’s an interesting post on this vintage on Chilean wine tour operator Liz Caskey’s blog Eatwine.
The grapes are apparently harvested in three different parcels and vinified three different ways - in burgundy barrels, concrete eggs and stainless steel.
Oviously the family have aspirations for the wine - it arrived wrapped in white paper - but the price of £10.50 is more than reasonable for a wine of this quality. That can’t last so I would take the opportunity to snap up what I suspect will be a future Chilean classic.
If you want to include a Chilean red in your order try the bright breezy 2013 De Martino Gallarda del Itala Cinsault which you should enjoy if you’re a Beaujolais fan though I’m not sure I’d go along with the Society’s food recommendation of toad in the hole with it (sausages baked in in batter for the uninitiated!). A nice rare piece of tuna would suit me just fine*.
This week’s wine highlight was the Australia Day tasting which seems to get better every year. I could have picked out a whole load of interesting bottles but this came from the producer who made the biggest impact on me, Lethbridge of Geelong
Most stockists have it around £23 a bottle - £23.09 Noel Young Wines, £23.50 at Eton Vintners but I found it for £19.95 online at Quality Wines of Somerset and at allaboutwine.co.uk for £19.99. Still not exactly cheap but that’s true of almost all the better Aussie wines these days and there are plenty of pinots which would cost more and deliver much, much less.
It’s fine textured and silky with some lovely delicate red berry fruit (but by no means a fruit bomb) and with enough structure to support a good steak. Interestingly it turns out to be biodynamic as I often find the wines I most enjoy are these days (but not sulphur-free, I'm pretty sure).
If I’d been able to I might well have singled out the equally delicious Lethbridge chardonnay which doesn’t seem to be on sale in the UK yet but since winemaker (and former neuroscientist) Ray Nadeson was at the tasting in person hopefully there will be enough demand for it to make it available in the not-too-distant future.
There’s also an attractive, citrussy off-dry riesling too (Dr Nadeson riesling) of the style I’ve recommended with a Chinese New Year feast this weekend. If you live in Oz can buy it for around 30 AD (£16).
Given that it’s Burns Night what other bottle could I feature but whisky? And as I couldn’t make up my mind which one here are five!
The first is a bargain - a fragrant 5 y.o. blended malt called Glen Orrin which Aldi sells for £12.99 - not just for Burns Night but all year round. It’s deliciously heathery, floral and sweet but with quite a spicy kick - I diluted it a touch with spring water and reckon it would be rather delicious chilled.
Aldi’s award-winning Highland Black Special Reserve 8.y.o. - at the same price - is also excellent for those who like a richer, more mellow style.
Also great value I think is Cutty Sark Storm which I imagined from the presentation would be far more expensive than the £21-odd it costs at Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange (which has a shop at the back of Laithwaites in Vinopolis behind London's Borough Market though not all the whiskies it lists are available there. Master of Malt also sells a 30cl sample for £3.30.)
It contains an unspecified proportion of grain whisky - as most blended whiskies do -but has that fragrant, sweet character of a good grain whisky along with a nice whiff of peat and smoke. Dare I say a feminine whisky? This woman likes it anyway.
The next whisky Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, is of course not Scotch at all but South African and turns out to have been voted the best grain whisky in the world. It’s very attractive - sweet and vanilla-y - not bland but comfortingly smooth. Pretty hard to get hold of which of course will be a draw for the whisky geeks among you but despite that not over-expensive at £29.45 (at The Whisky Exchange)
Finally a Johnnie Walker ‘expression’ as they call it in whiskyspeak - a really handsome bottling called The Royal Route from The Explorer’s Club Collection which was released in October.
Apparently you can only buy it in ‘travel retail’ aka duty free where it sells for around $159 (£96) a litre bottle which makes it hard to buy for Burns Night unless you’re flying today. It’s not cheap but that’s what you pay for a limited edition. And at least it costs a little less than the ultra-premium Johnnie Walker Blue.
Apparently it represents the leg of the spice route between the Mediterranean and Persia (now Iran) and indeed has an exotic, spicy almost smokey character but with delicious fresh and dried fruit flavours and a lovely rounded fullness.
Could it take spicy food? I reckon it could. I could imagine sitting on a verandah in Kashmir sipping this as a sundowner. And that was before I had seen the YouTube video I stumbled across when looking for more detail on the product. (When did you last see a wine promoted that way? And look at the travelling accessories they suggest The Royal Route purchaser will have in his - obviously his - suitcase (above). Selling the dream ...)