Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas (and what we're drinking)

Merry Christmas everybody (or Nadolig Llawen to those speakers of my native tongue!). I hope you have a cracking day.

D and I prepared our own little pre-Christmas dinner on Thursday, full roast turkey with all the trimmings. We started with Heidsick Gold Top Vintage 2004 (£20 at Majestic Wine) while preparing the dinner and had an amazing Nicolas Potel "Les Charmeuses" Puligny Montrachet Veilles Vignes 2005 (about £33 at Virgin Wines) - absolutely superb.

I'm driving to get my son later on so will probably lay off the booze until later (I may have a glass of my parents' Bucks Fizz (with Tesco Finest Cava instead) :)

Tomorrow's dinner (full-on Turkey again) will have Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2008 and probably another bigger red to follow.

I'll add the tasting notes at some point, but now, to open presents!

Cheers all!

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Wine Investment - The Complete Novice Way

*Disclaimer* - you really should seek sound, professional financial advice before investing. Investments can go down as well as up. This is not a recommendation to invest all that you have in wine, it is purely our story!

I mentioned in my welcome post that D and I had put all our savings into wine. Well it’s true. In June of this year we put about £7,780 into wine. Every penny that we had saved up during the last few years.

If you don’t want to read my house price rant then skip the next paragraph…
We are looking to buy a house in a few years. House prices are ridiculous. In my opinion the true value of a house is about 2 to 3 times the average salary. Historically, that’s what they’ve been. Currently, the average salary in the UK is somewhere around £25,000 yet the average house price is around £246,000; nearly 10 times the average salary. The people responsible for inflating house prices should be hung. I don’t know how anyone around my age, earning around average salary or below, who did not get on the housing ladder years ago, will ever get on there! With only £7,800 in savings we don’t really have an option right now with Mortgages as they are. Many lenders are asking for 25 or 30% deposits, meaning that we need at least £45,000 deposit to get a £180,000 home, and a further £15,000 or more to furnish it. That’s £60k before we start! That is going to take a very long time. At this rate, I’m going to be at least 40 before we can get a mortgage. Then we won’t be able to get a 30-year one because I’ll be more likely dead than working at 70 years of age, after all the booze and cigarettes I consumed in my teens and 20s!

So Why Invest in Wine?
The majority of ISAs and savings accounts are currently giving under 3% interest. Inflation is running at nearly 5%. So in real terms, our money is dwindling by about 2% every year. Great. So what are we supposed to do? Desperate times call for desperate measures…

…So, in the hope of getting a better return than any ISA or regular saver account, we opted to invest in wine. Well, I did, and managed to get D alongside too. Wine has performed better than most other investments over the last 10 years, so we thought we’d give it a go. What have we got to lose? Nothing, apart from £7,800 of “hard-earned”. Oh, and about 3 years of additional saving if it goes wrong!

What is Wine Investment?
Basically, buying wine to sell on in the future, for profit, rather than buying for drinking. Buying wine early, often at initial release from the winemakers (called En Primeur) through an agent such as a wine merchant normally gives the best initial purchase price. However, some wines do drop after initial release and are better bought later on at auctions. Wine is viewed as a medium to long term investment, meaning it takes about 5-10 years before any decent returns can be had, although some may move quicker than that. Long term is good for us because we have a long time before we can save enough for a house deposit!

The mechanics of it are quite simple: Wine is produced in finite quantities. The finer the wine the more desirable it is and the greater the demand in the first place. Over time, some of it inevitably gets drunk, meaning that the quantity dwindles, cutting the supply and driving demand (and hence price) up.  Additionally, most fine wines appreciate in quality with age, up to a certain point, meaning that they will become even more desirable as time goes by.

Can Anyone Do It?
Well yes. As Myself and D have demonstrated. BUT, the more money you’ve got the better return you’ll get. Our £7,800 is peanuts in this arena. Most of the Bordeaux First Growths approached £10,000 a case this year. Yes, you did read it right, 10 Grand for 12 bottles of wine! The old adage of “How do you make a small fortune in wine?...Start with a bigger one!” certainly applies but it shouldn’t deter. If you've got £2,000 you should see a decent return. If you've got £20,000 then the "World is your Lobster [sic]"!
A couple of points worth noting are:

Get your money ready, decide on which wines, contact your merchant, purchase, done. Well not quite. Two years after the wines have been released they usually get bottled and shipped to your merchant’s storage facility (if they have one) or a location of your choice. Keeping them at your merchant’s storage normally costs between £10 and £15 per case per year, but should prove worthwhile. There are specialist storage companies for wines if your merchant does not have their own storage facility.

What Wines Should You Invest In?
The top 30 or so Bordeaux Chateaus, along with some selected Burgundies, Rhone, Italians and to a lesser extent some New World wines (California, Australia), are normally considered “investment-grade”. The best performing are often Bordeaux wines, notably the First Growths and equivalent St. Emillion/Pomerol wines from the Right Bank. The First Growths do very well. Cases of Lafite Rothschild do very well indeed. The 2000 vintage was released at £2,200 and now sells for upwards of £25,000. That’s an 1100% (yes, eleven-hundred percent!) growth in 10 years. Imagine you bought 5 cases in 2001 for £11,000, you’d now be sitting on £125,000!!! However, coming back down to planet Earth again, not all Chateaus or vintages yield those sorts of gains. In fact, Lafite is almost alone. Selected Chateau from lesser growths (the 2nds, 3rds, 4ths and 5ths) can also do very well but often not to the same extent. On the back of the high prices of the 2009s, even the “second wines” from the First Growths have done very well. Carruades de Lafite, Petit Mouton, Pavillon Rouge, Forts de Latour, all good investments in certain vintages.

The Chinese, with their booming economy and lots of new-found wealth, are voracious buyers of the top wines, Lafite especially. At the time of our buying, not many 2008 wines were left (apart from the dregs), but, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on Lafite, released at £1,850 a case, or Mouton, released at about £1,800, then you would now be a winner. Recently, Lafite put the Chinese symbol for 8 on the bottle and Mouton used a Chinese artist (Xu Lei) for their label. On announcement, both prices shot up. Lafite up nearly 20% overnight from £8,500 a case to £10,000 and Mouton has since risen to about £6,000. That’s how much the Chinese can affect the market. Many of the investment people believe that the Chinese demand will spread to the other First Growths in time. They could be good buys. Also, it tends to be the “lesser vintages” (2004, ‘06 and ‘08) that seem to have shown the most growth in terms of return on investment (basically percentage price increase), and if timed right, can be picked up much cheaper than the “great” vintages (2000, ‘05, ‘09 etc.).

Robert Parker, the American wine critic also plays a large part. His scores have a lot to do with both the initial release price of the wine and its potential investment performance. 100-point Parker-rated wines are almost sure-fire winners!

What Was It Like?
Let’s get this out of the way first: The merchants have enormous mark-ups. It almost feels like you’re being ripped off. For example the 2009 Lafite was released to merchants at €550 a bottle. That’s about £466 per bottle or £5,600 a case. It retailed at around £13000! That’s a mark-up of £7,400 or 232%! Ridiculous! The killer is, if you sell it onwards through them in the future, they’ll also take 10 to 20% of your profit too! At the Fifth Growth level, mark-ups may not be so extreme, but they are similarly greedy. Pontet Canet for example, was released to the merchants at €72 a bottle, translating to about £730 a case. It was sold to consumers at about £1,200 per case.

With only £7.8k, we obviously had to make do with some of the lesser wines, but still hopefully wines with good investment potential. Anything with a good reputation, good parker points and activity on the secondary market is a reasonable “punt”. There are many merchants offering En Primeur sales and back-vintages of investment-grade wines. Advice from one merchant didn’t actually turn up anything suitable for my budget. They advised against many wines and said to concentrate only on ones with a very healthy secondary market. They also advised to concentrate on the 2009 vintage alone as it would be the one most desired and talked about in years to come. Most were very expensive* and not available in full cases of 12, only 6-packs, due to their huge customer base and large number of pre-orders in this fantastic 2009 vintage. I don’t know why, but I was put off by the idea of a 6-pack; I wanted full cases of 12 (although research does show that a 6-pack is not frowned upon, or regarded as any less valuable than half a case of 12, give or take a few quid. It was more of a personal choice).

[*2009 was a great year in Bordeaux and the Bordelais knew it! Touted as the best for 30 years, or maybe even ever, the En Primeur release prices were several percent higher than the current market prices of the 2005s (the previous “great” year) which had been appreciating for a few years and were physically available. However, looking back at other “great” vintages with some years behind them, 1982 and 2000, several wines are worth a mint! The question is, will the 2009s appreciate as well as these, or better, or were they released at too high a price?]

Another merchant was more accommodating, stating that any wine could be re-sold through them and was “fair-game”, albeit with a substantial commission – they didn’t add! I decided to go with these in the end as they did have wines I liked the sound of, available in cases of 12. Also to split the risk a little I chose not to invest everything in the 2009s, choosing one case from 2002 and one from 2003. What if the 2010 vintage, or the next, or the one after that is better than 2009? Will the value of the 09s plummet? Who knows. Best to spread it out a little then?

However, I will praise both merchants’ salespeople for having patience with a novice. I bombarded them with “what if?” questions, to which they were quick to reply, informative and not once did they get pissed off! On the one hand they have clients spending hundreds of thousands and there they had me, humming and hawing over whether one case of Pontet Canet or Lynch Bages would be the better bet!

It got addictive. Very addictive. I spent many nights glued the PC pouring over prices, growth rates of previous vintages, Parker points and any information I could get my hands on. It was getting too much. In the end I had to man-up and decide.

What Did I Choose?

1st Growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002 – £2900. Massively overpriced at the merchant when compared to auction prices, but with very good provenance. I was advised that this would be a better bet than Haut Brion and that it wouldn’t hang around long for under £3k.
I (stupidly) passed up a 6-pack of (5th Growth) Chateau Pontet Canet 2009 at £450 with Berrys only then to purchase a case of 12 elsewhere for £1150. With a Parker score of 97-100 and a lot of interest in this highly regarded Chateau, this might prove to be a good buy.
On the back of the high demand for the 2009, I also purchased a case of Chateau Pontet Canet 2003 for £600. I was advised that the high price of the ‘09s would renew interest in back vintages. This one has 95 Parker points.
I then got a 6-pack of (5th Growth) Chateau Lynch Bages 2009 from the first merchant (out of guilt from pestering their advisors!) – 94-96+ Parker points and a reasonable performer historically with the 2000 selling for £1600+. I topped that up with a full case of the same from the other merchant at £1040. If it takes off, we might be drinking the 6-pack in our new house in 10 years time!
I went slightly up-market from there to (2nd Growth) Chateau Montrose 2009 for £1350. Again, a potentially perfect score of 96-100 could make this one a winner.
Finally, that left me with about £300 which I spent on the (Cru Bourgeois) Chateau Sociando-Mallet 2009, 90-92+ Parker points. In all honesty I bought this one with the possibility of drinking in mind. A modest investment at the most, but the 2000 does go for £400+ so it could be ok. In hindsight though, I wish I’d have gone for the second wine of Montrose (La Dame de Montrose 2009) or Pichon Lalande (Reserve de la Comtesse 2009) for about the same price, both described as the finest ever made!

So that was it, all our money spent! I was tempted by some other wines but simply didn’t have the cash:
-         Château Talbot 09 at £400 a case (the 2000 trades at about £600).
-         Château Grand Puy Lacoste 09 at £575 a case (the 2000 and ’05 are about £800)
-         Château Beychevelle 09 at £595 a case, apparently popular with the Chinese due to the dragon on the label (the 2000 is about £1000)
-         Chateau Pavie 08 at £1200. The 2003 had a similar score and is £1700.
So I will keep an eye on these, if only for the masochistic pleasure of saying to myself, “See, I told you so. You should have bought some of them you…”.

What does the future hold?
It’s now 6 months on. Far too early to tell yet, but out of morbid fascination, if we were buying them now, we would have to pay about £9,000 in total. However, that’s not to say we’ve made £1,200 profit – if we were to sell now and take a 20% hit on commission we’d actually be out of pocket. There might be some positive price movement in the summer of 2012, when the wines actually get bottled and shipped out to our merchants (i.e. they actually become physically-available entities rather than “futures”). Also, as the years go on, Robert Parker will re-score the wines from time to time. If the points go up the price might go up. Alternatively, if the scores go down, the price may follow! The Pontet 2003 is nearing its drinking window, so hopefully that should provide some modest short term gain. It will be interesting to see if the exceptional interest in Lafite spreads to Mouton and it experiences the same gains as certain other back vintages, as it too approaches its drinking window.

The 2010 vintage looks to be a stunner too. Will we buy any? If I get a bonus this year, I may try and get a case of Pontet Canet or Lynch Bages, otherwise no. If it's another "great" year, prices will be high but the investment potential might be there too. Keep an eye out for Parker scores and release prices in June/July 2011 and decide for yourselves.

I’ll let you know how ours are doing every now and then. Who knows, in 5 or 10 years we could be laughing all the way to the bank (to have them laugh right back at us as we agree to pay them lots of money, every month, for the next 25 years to live in a building that we can call home, subject to us not losing our jobs, getting ill or affecting our ability to earn in any way).

Or, we’ll be crying into very expensive wine.

Either way, Woo Hoo!

As always,
Speak to you soon!



Sunday, 19 December 2010

Wines of the Year!

Hello and welcome to the Wines of the Year special 2010, or the very catchy acronym WOTY 2010! I say "wines of the year", but in truth the Blog has only been running since August. However, I plan to make this an annual thing around this time of year, so I thought I'd start now! In a nutshell, it's a collection of the highest scoring wines, how much they are and where to get them.

Without further ado, the top 5 scoring wines from 2010 were:

 Craggy Range, Block 14 Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, 2008.

This one really was a treat. £18.99 from Oddbins. Absolutely superb. Loads of black fruit, peppery after-kick, smoothness and class. 9/10.

Value for money was pretty poor at VFM = 0.47 but again, this was a treat and not for "value drinking".

Villa Maria Reserve, Clifford Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2009

Gold medal winning Sauv Blanc in the recent Decanter awards. Thoroughly deserves that. It was £14.99 from Oddbins but now down to £9.99 so be quick. 8.5/10 Bursting with lemon, lime and tropical fruits with zesty acidity and a long mineral finish. Top notch.

Value for money was VFM = 0.57 at the original price but at £9.99 it's more palettable at VFM = 0.85.

Villa Maria Private Bin, Riesling, Marlborough, 2009

Only an entry-level wine for this brand, but it punches way above its weight! £7.99Majestic Wine. A big hit of peach, apples and some lemon/lime citrus. 8.5/10 from

Superb value, VFM = 1.06.

Vina Leyda, Reserva Riesling, Leyda Valley, 2008

Another Riesling. Again, excellent. £9.99 from Virgin Wines. Really fresh with a zingy acidity. I could pick out pink grapefruit, lime and exotic fruits or pomegranate on the finish. It has that herby/minerally edge to it as well which brings a bit of complexity. Stonking stuff. 8.5/10

Good value too at VFM = 0.85.

Esk Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2009

Beautiful effort for the price. £8.97 from Laithwaites. Loads of tropical fruits, lemon and lime, purity, good acidity and very refreshingly drinkable. Superb 8.5/10.

Great value at VFM = 0.95.

I really hadn't noticed until writing this that 4 out of the top 5 are from New Zealand! That's a pretty impressive statistic and testament to the quality of wines coming from there. The Chilean Riesling was also a suprise.

The Best of the Rest...
Despite not scoring quite as highly, there were some superb wines that I feel I should mention on the basis of quality or value. These were...
1. E. Guigal Cote du Rhone 2006 - £9.99 from Majestic Wine (or as low as £6.79 at the moment when you buy two). Generous black and red fruit, cherry finish. Great spicy Syrah blend. 8/10.
2. Chateaux Musar 2002 - £17.99 from Majestic Wine. A taste of Bordeaux via Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. A treat, but well worth it every now and again. Plenty of life left in it with vibrant acidity, great blackcurrant and black cherry flavours. 8/10
3. Abbot's Vale Chardonnay Viognier 2008 - £5 (as part of mixed case) at Tesco. Super-smooth apples, peaches, mellon and cream. 8/10
4. Andrian Gewurztraminer 2009 - £15.49 from Oddbins. A lovely burst of fruit, tangy, tingly acidity. Smooth mouthfeel drenched in lychee, peach and reminiscent of elderflower-wine. 8/10
5. Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2009 - £9.99 from Oddbins.Spicy, plummy and sweet blackberry and black cherry. Lovely. 8/10
6. Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2007 - £12.99 from Latihwaites. Again, smoky, spicy plums with blackberries and cherry. Plenty of life left in it. 8/10.

Again, New World leading the way with 4 out of the 6. Two Argentinian Malbecs and an Aussie Chardonnay Viognier. I'm classing Lebanon as New World but that feels wrong somehow for an ancient civilisation! Anyway, the Old World had some greats in the form of the Guigal Cote du Rhone and the Italian Gewurz.

Honourable mentions...

We've had some wines outside the formulaic "mixed case of 12" reviews. Two really stood out. They were:

Edgebaston, The Pepper Pot, 2009. - £12.99 from Oddbins. A blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat from South Africa.  Absolutely stunning, spicy, meaty, peppery black fruit. An enormous mouthfull of flavour. Excellent 8.5/10. Not cheap but worth every penny!

Vina Mayu, Reserva Syrah, 2007. - £11.99 from Majestic Wine. A (Decanter) Gold medal winner again here and thoroughly deserving of it.From Chile's cool-climate Elqui Valley. 100% Syrah. Again, absolutely stunning, spicy, smoky, blackberry and blackcurrant with pepper. A sweet and long finish. Excellent 8.5/10. Again, not cheap but worth it!

So there we have it; the best wines from 2010.  I can thoroughly recommend any of these to give great drinking pleasure over the festive period. It'll be a tougher job sifting through all the wines next year, but one I'll relish!

As always...

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 12 December 2010

Majestic Wine - Final Part

Welcome to the third and final part of the Majestic Wine case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. A quick summary of what I chose can also be found here:

We've had some crackers in this case and I must admit, I've been very impressed by the quality to price ratio of most of the wines. Let's see if the case finishes in style...?

You can now follow my Tweets at!/WineBlogFrugal

By the way, for any new readers unfamiliar with my blog, please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit or read my introduction here:

E. Guigal, Côtes du Rhône, 2006

Guigal is one of the Rhone's most famous producers.The name attracts some serious money for prestige wines such as Cote Rotie or Condrieu. This entry level wine certainly comes from a good stable. 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: A deep, dark red with opaque purple lowlights and ruby highlights. Very slight hint of age with its brick-red tinges.

The Smell: Smells great, spicy, slightly smoky, peppery, dark forest fruits and plums.

The Taste: The first taste is bright, acidic, spicy and some good tannin, slightly restrained fruit with a cherry finish. With food (Morroccan Lamb) and after a little while it opened up with much more red fruit, cherry, redcurrant and even raspberry hints. Lovely spice.

The Score: Superb for the money. 8/10. Highly Recommended.

VFM: At £9.99  a bottle this is good value at VFM = 0.8. However, if you're quick there's an offer on at Majestic now for get 2 for £6.79 each!. 


Maraques de Caceres, Rioja Blanco, 2009
White Rioja here using the Viura grape. This brand is a supermarket stalwart for its red Riojas but I must admit, I'd never seen the white until now. 12.5% alcohol.

The Look: A plae yellow with some straw colour.

The Smell: Lovely and aromatic, honey, sweetness, some citrus and flowers.

The Taste: Taste is quite retrained, not a lot of flavour. Acidity was too harsh to pick out much fruit and it left a bitter aftertaste (although I do think I served this a bit too cold, which may be unfair). Quite minerally but unfortunately spoilt by the harshness.

The Score: This was ok. Nothing more. 5.5/10.

VFM: At £7.99  a bottle this is reasonable value; VFM = 0.69.

Lawson's Dry Hills, Pinot Rosé, Marlborough, 2008
This is the first Rosé from the producers who started the winery in 1992. Ripe pinot and plenty of skin contact ensures a deep colour. 12% alcohol.

The Look: Very intriguing - more orange than red, a rusty, vivid sunset type colour.

The Smell: Initially a bit reticent (straight from the fridge) but given time to warm up a bit it displayed lovely sweetness, strawberries and raspberries.

The Taste: Again, initially vague but after a while it bloomed into a pleasing, bright, mouthful of strawberries, sweetness and a hint of smokiness. Some spun sugar or caramel on the finish too which was a bonus.

The Score: Very good Rosé. 7.5/10. Recommended

VFM: At £9.99  a bottle this is pretty good value; VFM = 0.75.

So, there we have it: 11 bottles polished. A cracking result for Majestic; I will most certainly be returning to get more in the near future. 3 Highly recommended, 5 recommended and the remaining three weren't that shabby, considering the price.

So, Christmas is fast-approaching. Keep your eyes peeled for Wines of the Year, What we'll be drinking over Xmas, Wine investment the novice way and anything else I can fit in!

As always...

Speak to you soon.



Wednesday, 8 December 2010

1000 Hits!!!

A benchmark has been reached! Thank you all for taking the time to view my Blog, I hope you have found it to fulfil its promises!?

I shall be continuing with even more fervour now until the next benchmark (10,000 hits!).

One thing remains though to make it even better: Comments! I had envisaged a more interactive experience if I'm honest, so please people, feel very free to post comments, questions, agreements, disagreements or anything you deem relevant.

Thanks again for your support!

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 5 December 2010

Majestic Wine - Part 2

Welcome to the second part of the Majestic Wine case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. A quick summary of what I chose can also be found here:

We had to catch up on the whites this week after devouring three reds last week, but threw in a cheeky red and a Cava also. And there were some beauties...

You can now follow my Tweets at!/WineBlogFrugal

By the way, for any new readers unfamiliar with my blog, please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit or read my introduction here:

Villa Maria, Private Bin Riesling, Marlborough, 2009
The "Private Bin" series wines are the entry level wines for this brand. This Riesling comes from vineyards scattered amongs the Wairau and Awatere valleys of Marlborough on the North East coast of New Zealand's South Island. 12.5% alcohol.

The Look: A very pale wine with lemon highlights and almost water-white at the rim.

The Smell: Quite restrained at first but this was straight from the fridge and pretty cold. Did develop smells of lemon/lime, sweet apples and maybe some melon or peach.

The Taste: Wow! A big hit of fruit and lively, refreshing, acidic "tanginess". Green apples, peach and  a lemon/lime citrus burst. Pleasing in the mouth and gorgeous! The only thing (and this is a very slight thing) that lets it down is that after the 2nd or 3rd glass, the acidity did start to become a little mouth-puckering and grated slightly. However, with food I think this would not be noticeable.

The Score: I dont use the term lightly; this is a kick-ass wine. Only £7.99? Really? Sssshhhh don't tell anybody and we can snap it up before the price rises... 8.5/10. Highly Recommended.

VFM: At £7.99  a bottle this is fantastic value; VFM = 1.06. This is what it's all about, great tasting wine at a great price. Bravo.


Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi, Monte Schiavo, Italy, 2009
From the hilly Marches DOC area of Italy on the Adriatic coast. The "Classico" on the label suggests it is from one of the oldest districts of the region. 13% alcohol.

The Look: A pale yellow with straw-coloured hints. Almost water-white at the rim.

The Smell: Very similar to a Sauv Blanc, citrussy, slightly grassy with a herby/minerally edge to it.

The Taste: A nice, fresh acidity. Good balance of fruit with abundant nectarine, grape-juice and grapefruit. Lovely. Went well with our bacon-wrapped Cod fillets wiht Rosemary. Not incredibly long, More "minerally restrained" than a "fruit bomb". A very good, food-friendly white or equally at home on its own.

The Score: Good stuff, plainly and simply. 7.5/10. Recommended

VFM: At £7.49  a bottle, again, this is GREAT value VFM =1.0.


Neblina, Carmenere, Central Valley, 2009
Valle Central , as the Chileans say, is directly across the Andes from Argentina's Mendoza region. A real bargain wine here (£5.99), let's see if it's any good... 13% alcohol.

The Look: A deep, plummy purple turning to a bright lipstick red at the rim.

The Smell: Smells smoky and meaty with lots of plum character. Also faint hint of violets/floral whiffs.

The Taste: Very much like it smells; spicy, smoky plum. Fairly bright acidity, some decent tannin. All in all, quite well integrated. Not a bad drop. D said "very drinkable". 

The Score: Very good for the price!. 6.5/10.

VFM: At £5.99  a bottle this is again gives great value at VFM = 1.0


Codorniu, Seleccion Raventos, Cava, NV
A traditional Champagne method sparkler here from the Catalan region (I've just returned from Barcelona and criminally, didn't try any local Cavas whilst there!). This particular cuvée is to celebrate 125 years of Cava-making .11.5% alcohol.

The Look: Pale straw-yellow with greenish highlights.

The Smell: Smells citrussy, with cakey-sweetness. Champagne flutes are not the best for smelling - I should have used my tasting glasses!

The Taste: Taste is citrussy-fresh, good acidity, fine bubbles. Some apples and pears and a long finish that is biscuity or cakey. Can definitely pick out the Chardonnay..

The Score: Very good. Better than some £20 Champagnes we've had and this is only £6.99 Cava!. 7.5/10. Recommended

VFM: At £6.99  a bottle this is again gives superb value at VFM = 1.07. A great (and much cheaper) alternative to Champagne.

So, there we have the second part. Very good indeed with three great wines. Value and quality at the same time? Majestic are shaping up to be a good merchant.

Next time, to finish off the case, there remains a Kiwi Pinot Rosé, a Cote du Rhone and a Rioja Blanco. A potentially fine finish? If current form is anything to go by then yes!

As always...

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 28 November 2010

Majestic Wine - Part 1

Welcome to the first part of the Majestic Wine case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. A quick summary of what I chose can also be found here:

We Had 3 reds and a white this time.

You can now follow my Tweets at!/WineBlogFrugal

By the way, for any new readers unfamiliar with my blog, please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit or read my introduction here:

Chateau Musar 2002

Lebanon may not be synonymous with wine to most of us (sadly, most of us probably are aware of it due to the war-torn political landscape), however, wine has been abundant here for over 6000 years and is even quoted in the Bible. From fertile plots, 1000m up in the Bekaa valley, the sons of the founder (Gaston Hochar) produce a unique blend every year, although heavily Cabernet dominated. 14% alcohol.

The Look: A deep, plummy purple with brick red edges and some brown hints, nicely showing its age..

The Smell: Powerful smell. Lots of aromas. Cabernet fruit, blackcurrant and some blackberry maybe some cherry with some tobacco and sweetness. Took on more blackberry aromas after a few hours.

The Taste: Decanted and hour before drinking: Initial taste is bright red fruit, suprisingly still very acidic but in a good way! Some blackcurrant, black cherry, some tannin and some spice. Good length. Plenty of life in this yet! After an hour or two, more blackberry fruit developed and jammy black fruit.

The Score: Still tannic and young but very good indeed. It should develop nicely over the next few years. 8/10. Highly Recommended.

VFM: At £17.99 a bottle this is was a treat and not really for "value drinking". The resulting VFM  is naturally low at VFM = 0.44 but at the case average of just £8.39 it is well-worth-it! (VFM = 0.95)

Finca Las Moras, Viognier, Mendoza, 2009
From the San Juan province of Argentina, typically hotter and drier than Mendoza. A big one here at 14% alcohol.

The Look: A pale medium-yellow.

The Smell: Some peach and mellon immediately apparent with also some floral smells and maybe some grapefruit or even pineapple.

The Taste: The taste was lovely initially, smooth mouthfeel, peach, plenty of fruit and acidity. However, there was a slight bitterness on the finish, somethin akin to chewing on orange rind, which let it down.

The Score: A bit rough around the edges, but a decent introduction to Viognier. 6/10.

VFM: At £5.99 a bottle you can't really argue with a VFM = 1.0. A decent, drinkable bottle but for £2 or £3 more you could get something a bit more pleasing.

Yarra Hils, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Valley 2008

A Cabernet from the cool climate Yarra Valley in South Eastern Australia. Matured for 6 months in French Oak. 13%% alcohol.

The Look: A deep, blackish purple, opaque but lightening to a violet at the rim.

The Smell: Quite an array of aromas; blackberry jam, graphite or wet stone, currants, some toffee and violets.

The Taste: Blackcurrants, violets with some blackberries and spice. At first it seemed a bit harsh but did mellow. More complex than I first thought.

The Score: Not too bad at all. Open an hour before drinking. 6.5/10.

VFM: At £7.49 a bottle this is pretty good value, giving VFM = 0.93.

Corona de Aragon, Shiraz, Cariñena, Spain, 2008
From Cariñena in Northwest Spain. Unusual to see a varietal Shiraz with Spain on the label., so this pricked my interest... Aged in American Oak 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: A very dark purple.

The Smell: Blackberries, raisins, coffee and graphite with a slight sweetness.

The Taste: Good taste, raisiny, blackberry, spice, good tannin and balanced acidity. Better after an hour with more intense blackberry and some spice developing.

The Score: Again, not too bad at all. 7/10. Recommended

VFM: At £7.49  a bottle this is again gives VFM = 0.93. Good value stuff!

So, not a bad start to the Majestic case. A lovely treat in the form of Musar 2002 and a good-value Shiraz from Spain. The other two were half decent. I look forward to supping on the rest of them. As always...

Speak to you soon.



Saturday, 27 November 2010

Air travel stops play...

Unfortunately, my suitcase did not travel back in the same plane that I did!

This meant that the Oddbins winter tasting last night was missed. Apologies to anyone who was looking forward to that. Bloody air travel.

Anyway, normal service will resume tomorrow with part 1 of the Majestic Wine case.

Speak to you soon.



Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mild disruption of service...

Don't worry, just a temporary delay. I have to jet off to Barcelona for a week with work, but I will be returning (hopefully) on Friday the 22nd for the Oddbins Winter Tasting.

Plenty of stuff coming up in the run-up to Christmas, namely;

- Oddbins Winter Tasting write-up - hopefully some gems you can pick up for yourself or as presents.

- Majestic Wine mixed-12 review (Parts 1, 2 and 3)

- A feature on and their Christmas mixed case

- Wine Investment the complete novice way - 6 months on after dipping our toes into the wine investment market, I'll let you know how we got on.

- Wines of the Year.

- What we're drinking over Christmas

Speak to you (quite) soon!



Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Majestic Wine - What I chose

Hi there, and welcome to a quick midweek update on what I chose from Majestic wine. As usual, for a mixed-12 I followed my rules (see here:).

To be honest, this was fairly hard even following my rules given Majestic's huge range of wines. Something for every palate and pocket; they're well worth a look: . As I've said previously, they've just won the Wine Merchant of the Year in the Decanter awards (again). They seem to have good offers on "buy two bottles get £x-off " and regular 20%-off-region promotions, although if you're after something in particular, it may be a while before it comes around on offer.

Anyway, enough waffling, here's what I got:

1. Sparkler – Codorniu, Seleccion Raventos NV Cava £6.99. A seemingly good bargain here, highly rated by customers (4.5 stars).

2. Rosé – Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Noir Rosé £9.99. A Rosé from Marlborough Pinot Noir!? Yes. Should be a beauty.

3. The “off the wall” one – Chateau Musar 2002 £17.99. "A Chateau in Lebanon?", I hear you ask? Yes. Really looking forward to this one...

4. Something for the cellar (or wardrobe) – Clos de los Siete 2008 £12.99. A collaboration between famous wine consultant Michel Rolland and six other Bordeaux winemakers to explore the terroir of Argentina (hence the "Siete" or 7 - although one pulled-out and there are now six!).

5. Old World White #1 – Marques de Caceres, Rioja Blanco, 2009 £7.99. White Rioja normally goes for a lot more than this, but I thought I'd try it in search of value.

6. Old World White #2 – Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesi, 2009 £7.49.Again, another potential bargain. We wanted to try the Verdiccio grape last time at Oddbins but forgot!

7. Old World Red #1 – Corona de Aragon, Shiraz, Carinena, 2008 £7.49. Never had a pure Shiraz from Spain before and this appeared to be a bargain hailing from the "up-and-coming" Carinena region of North-West Spain. Sun drenching should give it big flavour but hopefully they've tamed the alcohol?

8. Old World Red #2 – E Guigal, Cote du Rhone, 2006 £9.99. Probably one of the Rhone's most famous producers. His Cote-Roties and Condrieus go for very serious money indeed, well above my price point, however, this entry-level village wine should provide a glimps of the majic. Well, that's what I'm hoping anyway.

9. New World White #1 – Villa Maria, Private Bin Riesling, 2009 £7.99. Having really enjoyed this producer's wines in the past I thought I'd try the entry-level Riesling.

10. New World White #2 – Finca Las Moras, Viognier, San Juan £5.99. Real bargain basement here. From the San Juan province of Mendoza in Argentina. It could be a bargain or mass-produced guff. We won't know until we try...

11. New World Red #1 – Yarra Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Valley 2008 £7.49. Cool (ish) climate Cabernet from Australia's Yarra Valley. Again, a possible bargain.

12. New World Red #2 – Neblina, Carmenere, Central Valley, 2009 £5.99. Again, another possible bargain from Chile.

So that's it for the mixed-12. As you can see there's a definite theme of bargain hunting going on, most are well under £10 so should provide value drinking at the least. This is because I had to make room in my wallet for a few Christmas luxuries and some bottles for the wardrobe, ahem, I mean "Cellar"...

I also got:

Heidsick Gold Top Vintage 2004 Champagne for £20 - bargain.
Catena Malbec, 2008 - Always been enamoured with the adverts for Catena in Decanter magazine and wanted to try it. The Zapata goes for £40+ a bottle. I was a little more modest and kept to the 2 for £8.99 (normally £11.99).
Matetic EQ Syrah 2008 - Recent gold medal winning Syrah from Chile's Organic producer Matetic. £22. *Ouch*. But I will be putting this away for a (very) special occasion.
And lastly, some Vina Mayu Reserva Syrah 2006 - again, Gold medal winning stuff here for £11.99 a bottle.

So I'll let you know how we get on with these as soon as we drink them up.

Speak to you soon!



Sunday, 14 November 2010

Oddbins - Final Part & Case Summary

Welcome to the final part of the Oddbins case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. We finish off with a Rosé, a Red and two Whites.

You can now follow my Tweets at!/WineBlogFrugal

By the way, for any new readers unfamiliar with my blog, please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit or read my introduction here:

Benchmark Rosé, South Australia, 2009
This Rosé is produced by Grant Burge and is made from 100% Shiraz.  13% alcohol.

The Look: Quite an intense raspberry red, which hopefully, you can see from the picture!

The Smell: Bright red fruit with some toffee apple and some citrus. Definitely some Pinot or Gamay hints as well.

The Taste: Quite an array of flavours - apple, strawberry, some raspberry and spice. There's a definite sweetness (off-dry) but also some acidity and minerality. There are hints of white wine - the citrus, acidity and minerality and red wine with the darker fruit and spice. A sort-of halfway house if you can't decide between either!

The Score: Good, but just shy of a recommendation. 7/10.

VFM: At £8.49 a bottle this gives pretty good value for money at VFM = 0.82.


El Furioso, Tempranillo, Castilla Y Leon, 2007

100% Tempranillo here from Spain's Castilla Y Leon region. This has undergone ageing in steel vats for 6 months rather than oak barrel.  An Oddbins' exclusive. 12.5% alcohol.

The Look: A medium ruby-red with some tawny brown and a light purple at the rim. Not opaque.

The Smell: The initial smell was quite reticent, some red berries and cherry. Some sweetness and spice. After a few hours though it developed a lovely smell of coffee and tobacco.

The Taste: The initial taste right out of the bottle is very spicy, bright, acidic red fruit with a distinct cherry taste on the finish. Smooth in the mouth and still quite tannic. Not loads of flavour. However, after an hour or two and with food it really opened up - darkened with more black fruit and coffee with just a hint of bitterness. 

The Score: A good food wine. It may age well but check it often. 7/10. Maybe in a year or two it will have improved and get a recommendation.

VFM: At £6.49 a bottle you really can't go wrong! Great value at VFM = 1.08.


DeBertoli, Vat 7 Chardonnay, South East Australia, 2008

A barrel fermented Chardonnay here from a "Big Name".12.5% alcohol.

The Look: A pale lemony yellow.

The Smell: Quite sharp - citrus, tropical fruit, grapefruit minerality.

The Taste: Nice creamy smooth mouth feel, plenty of fruit, good acidity and a long refreshing grapefruity mineral finish. Went great with a creamy Stroganoff that D made. On the second glass it softened, creamier, more mellon and peach tastes, almost Viognier-like.

The Score: Lovely. Nothing wrong with it at all. 7.5/10. Recommended

VFM: At £9.99 a bottle this gives pretty good value for money at VFM = 0.75.


Andrian, Gewurztraminer, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 2009

I have to admit, I know little of this wine. From the Italian side of the Alps bordering on Austria. A big white at 14% alcohol.

The Look: A lovely golden yellow with light green tints.

The Smell: A powerful nose, chock-full of aromas. Elderflower, Lychees, melon, peach and some other floral whiffs. Really one of the best-smelling wines we've had for a while!

The Taste: A lovely burst of fruit, tangy, tingly acidity. Smooth mouthfeel drenched in lychee, peach and reminiscent of elderflower-wine. Exotic. D reckons "strange"! Very alluring - you want more...

The Score: Very good indeed 8/10. Highly Recommended

VFM: At £15.49 a bottle this is pretty steep. Use your 20% off wisely! Before discount gives VFM = 0.52 but at the case average of just £8.14 it is well-worth-it! (VFM = 0.98)


So that's it. Oddbins done and dusted. Out of 12 wines - 1 Corked, 3 Highly Recommended and 5 Recommended. That is a bloody good testament to their range. I'm sad to see them go because there were some great wines (we'll definitely be going back!) but glad that I had them. Next up is Majestic wine...

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 7 November 2010

Oddbins Part 2.5

Welcome to the second part of the second part (if that makes any sense!) of the Oddbins case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. Again a quickie - only two bottles this week. Apologies for the pictures, I was at the mother-in-law-to-be's for these and didn't have my camera so had to make do with the mobile.

By the way, for any new readers unfamiliar with my blog, please see my other posts over to the right and down a bit or read my introduction here:

Casillero del Dioblo, Pinot Noir, Chile, 2009

Owned by the large "Concha Y Toro" brand. Picked from several vineyards in the Cassablanca Valley. It has had some maturing in French Oak barrels for 8 months. 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: Bright raspberyy-red with lipstick-red highlights.

The Smell: Very fruity smell. Red fruit squash and an uncanny smell of "Ribena".

The Taste: Again, bright strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some spice, doubtless from the Oak-ageing. Alcohol was a little too hot and overpowering. The acidity was also maybe a little bit too harsh. We had this pre-dinner and the mother-in-law-to-be enjoyed it (not normally a red drinker) and D liked it too.

The Score: Not too bad. A tasty, fruity, value quaffer but lacking in any sort of finesse. 6.5/10.

VFM: At £7.49 a bottle this gives good value for money at VFM = 0.88.


Familia Zuccardi Reserva Bonarda, Mendoza, 2008
One of the oldest winemaking families in Argentina.Their "Zeta" Malbec blend sells fro £30+ a bottle. This is a little more affordable but hopefully from a good heritage nonetheless.Sourced from the arid Santa Rosa vineyard which is practically a desert and Oak-aged for 10 months. 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: Quite a deep plum-purple, not quite opaque but almost.

The Smell: Smells of lovely dark black fruit and some spicy Oak. Couldn't really pick out any strawberries or raspberries  (as described by the online tasting note) but the kitchen was filled with the smell of D's awesome lamb dinner cooking so maybe they were there?

The Taste: Lovely creamy mouthfeel. Balanced acidity, fruit and tannin. Strong black cherry finish with some vanilla, spice and warmth. It was great with the lamb dinner and rich gravy, it didnt lose any flavour or overpower the food. Not normally a match with lamb but for the lack of a Cabernet we had it anyway!

The Score: Good wine. Decent value. Not a lot else needs to be said.  7.5/10. Recommended

VFM: Normally £8.99 a bottle giving decent value at VFM = 0.83.


So, 8 out of 12 sunk and going strong. We'll hopefully have a bit more time to relax this week and should complete the reviews of the Oddbins case in the normal style of 4-bottles per posting. Soon I'll be ordering from Majestic Wine. No discounts or vouchers per se, but with an exceptional range of wines they have once again won the Decanter retailer of the year award - so I must take a look.

Speak to you soon.