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Pick of The Bunch

The annual Bunch tasting, run by five of the best known wine merchants in the country, is one of the highlights of the wine tasting calendar not only for the quality of its wines but its brevity. It really is no pleasure ploughing your way through 200 odd supermarket wines but 40 handpicked ones are a joy. Here, in no significant order, are the ones that most appealed to me and the food I would pair with them.

Tattybogler Pinot Gris 2008, Bannockburn Creek Vineyards, Central Otago (£11.99 at Adnams though £9.99 until October 31st - if it doesn’t run out)
I must confess being drawn to this wine by the name but it’s a lovely, lush peachy mouthful - offdry, as is the often the case with New Zealand Pinot Gris. A potentially tricky food wine that I would personally be inclined to match with Thai and south-east Asian food. A good aperitif too

Forrest Estate Pinot Noir 2007 , Marlborough 10.99 Adnams (The ‘08 will be on offer at £9.99 from the 1st November to 30th December)
Same producer as the Tattybogler, impressively. A lovely fragrant wine without the sweet jamminess that some NZ pinots have acquired. A natural with all the usual pinot suspects - duck, seared salmon and tuna, for example

Prosecco di Colli Trevigiani Brut Sylvoz, Le Colture £9.29 Corney & Barrow
There’s a lot of substandard prosecco around these days but this is an exceptionally attractive one with a fine mousse and an appealing almost floral character. Like most proseccos it can be paired with fresh fruit as well as canaps and simply prepared seafood - to appreciate it at its best avoid strong punchy flavours

Chateau Mayne-Graves 2005 £7.49 Corney & Barrow
Exceptionally good value for a basic claret - refreshing, quaffable - a lunchtime claret as they say. Perfect with a cold game pie or meaty terrine or, you might be surprised to hear, bacon and eggs!

Malbec, Achaval Ferrer, Mendoza 2007 £12.49 Corney & Barrow
At the top end of the price you’d expect to pay for Argentine Malbec but quite superb - ripe, velvety, supple - beautifully crafted. Made for a steak or a good joint of beef.

Dolcetto d’Alba 2007, Giovanni Rosso, Piedmont £13.20 Berry Bros & Rudd
Absolutely textbook Dolcetto - bright, vibrant, with a delicious bitter cherry twist. It would be fantastic with those wildly indulgent dishes of eggy tagliolini with butter and truffles or with a bagna cauda (anchovy dip with vegetables) or wheel it out for a big spread of antipasti

Crozes-Hermitage Les Galets 2007 Domaine Haut-Chassis £15.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Expensive for a Crozes but not for a Rhone of this quality - I’ve had inferior Cte Rties and Hermitages. Gloriously ripe fruit balanced by pitch perfect acidity. Would be fantastic with slow roast pork or lamb, winter braises and stews. Or a steak. Anything meaty and substantial.

Vin de Pays Catalan ‘Carignan’ Domaine Ferrer-Ribire 2007 (£10.75 Yapp Brothers)
My husband and I have endless arguments about Carignan which I normally find too dense and clunky and he adores for its raw animal qualities. I love this soft dark blackberryish version (pure mure) so suspect he probably wouldn’t like it! Lovely for rare pigeon, partridge or even grouse.

Condrieu ‘Les Terroirs’ 2007 Francois Merlin (£29.50 Yapp Brothers)
One of the most exciting Condrieus I’ve tasted in recent years, hence its inclusion amongst an otherwise relatively modestly priced line up. Merlin used to work for one of the best names in the appellation, Georges Vernay and has now branched out on his own with this deeply sensual, elegant wine with its lovely peach and apricot flavours. It would be great with guineafowl with a creamy sauce or elegant top-end south-east Asian food (not too spicy)

Kumeu River ‘Mat’s Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2006 £18.90 Tanners
Kumeu makes some of the best chardonnay outside Burgundy IMHO and it is a joy to be reminded of just what this much-maligned grape can deliver (a wonderful, creamy rich, palate-filling wine). Perfect for rich seafood dishes such as grilled lobster or baked crab, roast chicken, creamy sauces, especially with mushrooms and one of my all-time favourite pairings with chardonnay, potted shrimps!

Rayun Carmenre 2008 Rapel Valley £5.99 Tanners
The best bargain of the tasting - an exuberantly fruity Chilean red with just a touch (I found) of star anise. Great drinking for late summer barbecues or Christmas parties (it would even handle turkey) or to drink with spicy dishes like chilli con carne. Lay some in!



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