Wine writer Natasha Hughes picks out her favourite wines from four of this summer’s smaller London wine tastings and suggests food pairings to match
The Independent Winegrowers’ Association, Portugal’s Top White Wines, London, 3 June
Quinta de Covelha’s Covela Escolha, Minho, 2006 (£9.95, Corney & Barrow)
A tank-fermented blend of Avesso, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, this is a real fruit salad of flavours, with exotic fruit, peaches and limes all jostling for attention. Despite the 13.5% alcohol, the wine feels balanced and fresh, and finishes with a tingle of minerality. I’d be mighty tempted to try this with baked sea bass stuffed with herbs or griddled scallops.
Filipa Pato, Ensais FP, Beiras 2007 (around £9, Clark Foyster Wines).
Filipa is the daughter of Bairrada’s most celebrated producer, Luis Pato. The winemaking talent clearly hasn’t skipped a generation because she’s turning out some lovely wines, including this creamy-textured blend of Arinto and Bical. There’s plenty of pleasant peach and pink grapefruit aromatics on the nose and palate, along with a touch of white flowers, a creamy texture and just a touch of oak on the finish. This would be a winner with a plate of fresh sardines, Thai seafood salads and prawns cooked in garlic and chilli.
Stone, Vine & Sun, London, 5 June
There’s a lot of overpriced Sancerre out there, so if I was looking for a good Loire Sauvignon at a price that won’t cause a nosebleed, I’d probably be searching in appellations like Quincy and Menetou-Salon. Or, rather, I’d let Stone, Vine & Sun do the searching for me, because they’ve come up trumps with a Quincy 2007 from Chevilly (£9.50). It’s got all the bracing acidity you could want from a Loire Sauvignon, along with a seam of minerality and a good depth of citrussy, herbaceous fruit. Just the ticket to accompany a risotto of green peas and herbs.
I think Beaujolais is an under-appreciated region, especially when it comes to finding versatile, food-friendly wines. Domaine Georges Viornery’s Cte de Brouilly 2006 (£8.95), with its floral perfume and cherry and raspberry fruit, underpinned by the slight crunch of tannins and juicy acidity, would go down just as well with chargrilled salmon or tuna as it would with a simple plate of charcuterie.
If you’re stocking up on wines for your autumn/winter list, you might want to take a look at Franck Balthazar’s Cornas, Chaillot 2004 (£19.50). It’s got oodles of blackberry fruit, tinged with black olives, spice and a touch of meatiness. Lovely depth and grip, along with a subtle hint of oak. This represents very good value from an often pricey appellation. It also makes me long for the first meaty stew of winter: perhaps a daube de boeuf with black olives, cooked in a sauce made from red wine and garrigue herbs.
Yapp Brothers, London, 18 June
I find good ros irresistible at this time of year, and one of the best I’ve tasted recently is Pierre and Fabienne Ferrand’s Chateau de Ligr Rosé, Chinon 2007 (£8.90). The pale pink wine is made from Cabernet Franc with just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, which gives it wonderful crunchy flavours of violets, redcurrants and a pleasant hint of green capsicums. It’s got a trace of residual sugar (less than 3 grams per litre), but it also has crisp, zesty acidity and a bone-dry finish. A really pleasant summer food wine to accompany salads and light seafood dishes.
Everyone deserves to enjoy a good Chteauneuf-du-Pape from time to time, so I think Claire Michel’s Le Vieux Donjon Rouge 2006 (£25) is worth a look – or even a taste. There’s a lot of depth and complexity to this wine, which shows notes of lavender and herbs, along with plenty of smoky red fruit. The silky texture contrasts nicely with the grippy tannins. This is a full-bodied, powerful wine with a haunting, elegant finish. If the examples of the 2000 and the 1995 (both shown at the tasting) are anything to go by, this wine should age nicely – if you can keep your hands off it that long. If not, I’d match this now to a lamb tagine or even a good steak.
New Wave Spanish Wine Awards, London, Tuesday 8 July
Bodegas Terras Gauda’s O Rosal, Rias Baixas 2007 (£12, Les Caves de Pyrene) is a classic Albario, showing intense flavours of ripe apricots and lime, along with a twang of minerality. It has a rich texture and vibrant, cleansing acidity. A versatile food wine, its classic pairing would be with oysters, mussels and the other components of a plateau de fruits de mer, but I think it would also work a treat as an accompaniment to the diverse flavours of tapas and could even take on the punchy flavours of a Thai seafood salad.
Celler Cal Pla’s Mas d’en Compte 2006 (£18.50, Burridges of Arlington Street), a relatively rare white from Priorat, is a complex, multilayered wine with nuances of almonds, peaches, orange zest and herbs. Based on Garnacha Blanca, with the addition of a bit of Picapoll, Pansal and Maccabeo, and aged in oak, this is a full-bodied, fleshy wine that needs food to show at its best. I’d be tempted to team it with white meat rather than fish – think porchetta or chicken stuffed with sage.
An example of lesser-known DOs coming to the fore was provided by Tomas Cusine’s Geol 2006 (trade price £16.50, Indigo Wines), a blend of Garnacha and Syrah from the small appellation of Costers del Segre. At 14.5%, the alcohol was fairly hefty, but it was cloaked in dense, spicy raspberry and tayberry fruit. There was a fair bit of oak present too, but it was well integrated into the body of the wine, which also showed lively acidity and pleasantly firm tannins. This is a mini-Priorat for those who don’t want to shell out for the wine equivalent of a designer label. I’d save this wine for autumn, when it would be most at home with duck cooked in a fruit sauce.
It would be remiss of me to write up a Spanish tasting without finding at least one Rioja to recommend, and CVNE’s Contino Via del Olivo 2005 (£44.99, Hatch Mansfield) really stood out for me thanks to is effortless elegance. This isn’t a cheap wine, but its class shows in its layers of gentle strawberry fruit, enhanced by touches of leather, spice and vanilla. A silky texture and equally silky tannins completed the picture. As for a food match, I wouldn’t struggle to find anything more complex to accompany this wine than a classic dish of roast lamb that would allow it to shine like the star it is.
Natasha Hughes is a freelance food and drink writer who writes for Decanter, Wine & Spirit, Delicious, Off Licence News and Traveller, as well as the wine website www.wine-pages.com.