The last couple of weeks have passed in a flurry of tastings marked by a number of standout (and some depressingly bad) wines.
This is emphatically one of the former from an impressive tasting from the northern supermarket Booths whose buyer Victoria di Muccio manages to offer a good deal of really attractive everyday drinking with some really interesting bottles for wine enthusiasts.
I’ve always been a bit lukewarm about Argentina's signature white Torrontes but the Salta region is the place to go for it and this bottle from Colomé is an absolute cracker. Not as full-on as a gewürztraminer but weightier than a riesling, it would make a delicious aperitif and a great pairing for south-east Asian food and tricky-to-match ceviche.
The winery, which was founded in 1831, is the oldest working winery in Argentina but was bought by Donald Hess in 2001. The vineyards are exceptionally high at between 5,600 and 10,200 feet above sea level which gives the wine its fresh acidity
Booths normal price for the wine is £12 - a price I’d actually be happy to pay for a bottle of this quality* - but they’re offering a 3 bottles for the price of 2 deal until Tuesday October 4th on all wines over £10 (except champagne) which brings it down to a bargainous £8.
If you’re unlucky enough not to live in the north-west of England where Booths has most of its branches, Brook & Vine is selling it at the moment for a very reasonable £9.99 and Eclectic Tastes for £9.75.
*although it does prove, what I've said before, that supermarkets are not necessarily cheaper than the indies unless they've got a promotion on. Always worth checking!
One of the most original and inventive wine producers I’ve come across is Pieter Walser of Blankbottle in Stellenbosch, South Africa but this is his zaniest concept yet.
It’s a wine whose exact blend was determined by his brain patterns while he was tasting 21 different blending components, an experiment which followed a chance encounter with a neurologist on a plane*. (The blend was 49% chenin blanc, 17% clairette blanche, 13% viognier 13% pinot gris and 9% vermentino)
He then made another wine called Orbitofrontal Cortex following his normal procedure of choosing the from the same samples himself and came up with 34% grenache blanc, 17% fernao pires, 17% chenin blanc, 13% verdelho 11% clairette blanche and 8% semillon.
The two wines are fascinatingly different. The Limbic, which he refers to as a ‘neuro’ wine is very clean and precise - a taut, mineral white that would be great with seafood and salads. The Orbitofrontal Cortex is more Rhone-ish - much fuller and weightier and would be better suited to white meats such as roast chicken or veal. While delicious now I think it probably needs another year or so to show at its best.
Interestingly the Limbic took just a day to blend (you can see the process on YouTube) while the Orbitofrontal Cortex took a week.
If you want to compare them you can currently buy both from his importer, Swig for £22.50 each. But be quick - after last week’s brilliant Wines of South Africa tasting I’m guessing there won’t be much around.
*There’s a more detailed account of their encounter on the Blankbottle website. And if you want to know more about the role of the brain’s limbic system, something I must confess I was completely unaware of, you can find it here.
If you’re a fan of sauvignon blanc you’re going to love this fresh, aromatic Sicilian white from one of the island's best known wineries, Planeta.
Admittedly the weather in England right now isn’t quite as gorgeous as it was when I tasted it in a beachside restaurant in Ragusa in sweltering 34°C heat (below) but I still think you’d enjoy it
It’s based mainly on the island’s indigenous grecanico (70%) with 15% each of grillo and sauvignon blanc and is really quite sauvignon-like but with more of a zesty citrus than a gooseberry/elderflower flavour. It went brilliantly well with a vast array of different seafood dishes from salads to grilled fish.
The reason I’m recommending it at this particular moment is that Great Western Wine has it on offer, reducing it from its usual £13.75 to £9.95 which is an incredibly good deal. You get a further 10% off if you buy a case which reduces the cost per bottle to £8.96.
Alternatively you could split the order between the Alastro and Planeta’s very attractive, crisp rosé which is also on offer at £9.25. (That should appeal if you’re a Provence rosé fan.) The deal lasts until the end of the month.
I travelled to Sicily as a guest of Planeta.
You may not remember but back in the '70s kir was ‘a thing’ - the drink you invariably got offered in a cod French bistro or poured for your friends as a sophisticated aperitif back home.
With more glamourous cocktails and the rise and rise of prosecco it’s somewhat fallen from favour but it’s still a lovely summery drink and perfect for this time of year.
All you need is a bottle of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and one or two bottles of dry white or sparkling wine - nothing with too much flavour of its own. The traditional go to was aligoté which at that time was uncomfortably sharp - you could use something like a petit Chablis these days or, cheaper, still, a pinot grigio.
If you’re making a kir royale use a fresh-tasting rather than a toasty champagne or a cheap French crémant sparkling wine like Aldi's Cremant du Jura. (Most prosecco is in my view too sweet).
A small splash in the bottom of the glass - not too much or it will taste of Ribena, top up with wine or fizz - et voilà! Robert is indeed your oncle.
The reason I’m revisiting this is that Aldi is stocking a Crème de Cassis liqueur which has just won a gold medal in the International Wine and Spirits Challenge beating off competition from much more expensive bottles. I haven’t done a comparative tasting but can definitely vouch that it’s deliciously blackcurranty.
Cassis is also useful for adding extra oomph to a summer pudding or a blackcurrant sorbet which is a good idea as it needs drinking up relatively quickly. I suggest within a couple of weeks which shouldn’t be too hard . . .
If you’re a fan of Spain’s fashionable white wine albarino you’ll almost certainly like its Portuguese cousin alvarinho which is made just over the border.
It also tends to be slightly cheaper and more consistent in quality than the Spanish version
This one comes from Casal de Ventozela and is labelled Minho - a denomination that has the same boundaries as Vinho Verde but slightly different regulations - and is as fresh and crisp as a blast of sea air.
It costs a very fair £8.99 a bottle from Majestic on their Mix Six deal (by far the best way to shop at their stores) and would be perfect with any kind of fresh shellfish , especially clams and crab. Or a fish barbecue. (Think mackerel and sardines.)