Sunday, 31 October 2010

Oddbins Part 2.0

Welcome to the second part of the Oddbins case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. Just a quickie this week, we've only had two bottles as we haven't had much time to relax! Two whites were sunk...

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:

Huber Riesling, Traisental, Austria 2009

This Riesling is from the Traisental region of Austria, normally associated with the Gruner Veltliner grape. The grapes are sourced from "upper slopes". 12%

The Look: A pale lemony yellow, typical Riesling.

The Smell: Slightly reticent, not giving away much but nice hints of grapefruit, citrus and some spices. D could smell "honeydew mellon".

The Taste: Lemon and lime followed by a huge fruit explosion after a few seconds. Very fresh zingy acidity. Palate cleansing. This then leads onto a lovely pink grapefruit and mineral finish. We had it with a beef stir fry (of all things) and it stood up well!

The Score: Very good Riesling. Enough said 7.5/10. Recommended.

VFM: This normally goes for £11.99, making it a bit pricey, giving a VFM = 0.63. However, I only paid £8.14 a bottle on-average after discount so the VFM increases to 0.92. Good value at £8.14. Is it worth £11.99? Hmmm, I think I'd plump for the excellent Vina Leyda Reserve Riesling from Virgin @ £9.99 if I was getting just the one, but in a mixed case at 20% off then it's worth a try.


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

Award-winning stuff here being a recent Decanter World Wine Awards Gold medal winner. Let's see if it deserves that medal... 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: Very pale, almost water-white but with a lemony tinge.

The Smell: Very fruity smell, citrus, tropical fruits, gooseberry and slight grassy hints.

The Taste: First up - a lovely burst of acidity, perfectly balanced, not the slightest bit harsh. Lemon, lime and tropical fruit bursts over the tongue. Long mineral finish. Top class.

The Score: Superb.  8.5/10. Highly Recommended .

VFM: The normal price is £14.99 making it more of a treat than value-drinking. This gives a VFM = 0.57. However, at 20% off it's £11.99 which is more palatable (VFM = 0.71) but at the case-average, even better at VFM = 1.04. So is it £6 better than the Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc at £8.99? Same score, so probably not. I think I'll have to get them both side-by-side and get D to serve them to me "blind".


Ok, so that's part 2.0 of the Oddbins case, part 2.5 should follow soon. Two great whites and so far, the Oddbins case has been great. I hope the rest are as good. We'll see shortly...

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 24 October 2010

Oddbins - Part 1

Welcome to the first part of the Oddbins case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. We had a sparkler to kick things off and that was followed by 3 reds. Here's how they went down...

Lindauer, Special Reserve Brut Cuvée, NV

A sparkling wine from New Zealand, made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Non-Vintage (NV). Embarassingly, I forgot to note the alcohol level, but sparklers tend to be around the 12% mark.

The Look: A huge suprise actually - it's PINK!!! I was expecting this to be a sparkling white (which it still is, kind of). An almost Rosé-like salmon pink. Some skin contact with the Pinot grapes has coloured this with a pink blush.

The Smell: Lovely smell of sweet biscuits or more accurately perhaps, "crumble mix".

The Taste: Strawberries and pink-lady apples! Very nice. Good acidity. Good bubbles. Neither of which were too aggressive.

The Score: Great stuff. Reasonably priced to celebrate any occassion and won't break the bank. 7.5/10. Recommended.

VFM: This normally goes for £11.99, making it good value when priced against Rosé champagne and gives a reasonable VFM = 0.63. However, I only paid £8.14 a bottle on-average after discount so the VFM increases to 0.92. Great value for money.


Bodegas Renacer, Punto Final Malbec, Mendoza, 2009

The 2008 was a Gold Medal winner at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards but they'd run out of that so I settled for the 2009. Actually 97% Malbec with 3% Cabernet Franc added to the mix. 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: A dense, dark, opaque purple with a violet rim. Also came with the most bonkers cork I've ever seen (see pic below main pic) - Bright fluorescent orange plastic. Certainly distinctive!

The Smell: Initial smell is smoky, leathery, black cherries, blackcurrant and almost Bordeaux-like hints (no doubt coming from the Cab Franc which I didn't realise was blended in until writing this). After a while, more fruit was dispalyed especially blackberry.

The Taste: Spicy, plummy and black cherry-like taste. Warming i.e. warms the chest! Balanced acidity. Not too harsh but fresh. Some tannin present. And a decently long finish. After an hour or so, much more blackberry and sweet black fruit was evident.

The Score: The more we had the better it became. Developed into a stunner 8/10. Recommended

VFM: Normal price of £9.99 yields a VFM of 0.80 but at the case average price VFM = 0.98. Very good value, either way.


Villa Wolf, Pinot Noir, Pfalz, 2008

This one was actually off (volatile acidity). I swear that it changed in front of my eyes, fine one minute, faulty the next! But more than likely, my palate didn't immediately pick up on it. A shame, we were looking forward to German Pinot (or Spätburgunder as they sometimes call it, which translates to "Late Burgundian".

No score unfortunatley.


Craggy Range, Block 14 Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, 2008

Ever so slightly pissed off that I ordered the 2007 but the 2008 came. 2007 was superb for the Hawke's Bay area of NZ. 2008, in all honesty, I know nothing about. Anyway, this is from the Gimblett Gravels area, the spiritual home for New Zealand Syrah (never called Shiraz here for some reason). 13.4%

The Look: The bottle is majestic! Class oozes from the label and colour scheme. The wine itself a super-dense, completely opaque purple. Only a very slight lightening at the rim to a violet colour.

The Smell: Straight from opening it exudes a peppery, spicy scent mixed with dark fruits such as blackberry, blueberry, plum and something floral like violets or lavender. D says "Soap and sweetcorn" - I agree with the "soap" possbily coming from the lavender/violets but "sweetcorn" I couldn't smell! :)

The Taste: Right this bugger wasn't cheap so I was determined to write as detailed an account as possible. The bottle was left open for an hour before tasting:

The first thing you notice is a striking, vibrant acidity.

This then flourishes into black fruit across your tongue - blackberry, blackcurrant and slight hints of blueberry.

Then it delivers a spicy, peppery after-kick.

Mouth-feel is very smooth. Some tannin evident.

Lovely long finish. 

There are hints of Aussie Shiraz at the fruit end, but more complexity and the peppery-ness (if that's even a word) sets it apart. Absolute class. After an hour or so even more fruit, aroma and spice came out.

Still a bit young.   With time, the remaining tannin will integrate seamlessly and the vibrancy of the acidity should fade slightly giving even more pleasure. The bottle says it's capable of being aged up to 7 years from bottling date (so 2015 effectivley). I'd say in 2 years it'll be at its peak, but hey, I'm no expert!

The Score: Absolute class. Delicious. Damned expensive.  9/10. Highly Recommended if you've got 20 sheets burning a hole in your pocket! If this was £12 a bottle I'd be out robbing Grannies to pay for a case. At £18.99 is it worth it? Phooo, tough decision. I'd like to say yes, and I think I'm going to...Yes it is worth it, but not very often. Once a year treat I think.

VFM: Normal price of £18.99 yields a VFM of 0.47 which is immaterial really, this is a treat, not value for money drinking. The case price averaging out to £8.14 eases the pain a little giving VFM = a whopping 1.11.

So, that's the first part of the Oddbins case done. 3 out of 4 recommended (one highly) and one faulty. Not a bad start at all. We'll be getting stuck into some whites this week, so as ever...

Speak to you soon.



Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Oddbins - What I chose...

After our recent Oddbins tasting we decided to go back and get a case. Oddbins offer 20% off a mixed-case of any 12 (or more) wines, plus your ticket price back if you attended any of their tastings. (NB: Single ticket i.e. £10 back if you spend over £75, but couples-ticket i.e. £15 back if you spend over £100).

This sounds like a pretty good discount and for the majority of bottles it might be, but, certain things are more expensive to begin with. For example, Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc has a particularly high markup at £14.99 before discount (£11.99 after). This can be had for cheaper elsewhere, for example: £13.49 at New Zealand House of wine ( (or as low as £10.79 if you buy 2 bottles) and at Slurp ( for £12.49 if you're only after the one.

So, bear in mind that any permanent discount is more of a marketing trick and the wines are probably marked up sufficiently to cover it. However, the range at Oddbins is nonetheless very good, so we got stuck in...

Taking my own advice for picking a mixed case (see here:) we chose the following: (prices shown are before discount!).

1. Sparkler – Lindauer Special Reserve NV, £11.99. A sparkler from New Zealand made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

2. Rose – Benchmark Rose 2008, £8.49. A Rose made by Grant Burge in South Australia from 100% Shiraz - hopefully giving it full colour and flavour.

3. The “off the wall” one – Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2007, £18.99. Yes I know. I really pushed the boat out on this one! Lately the wine press have been banging on about New Zealand Syrah (it's always called that, not Shiraz as the Aussies do) and especially from the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke's Bay. Being a Shiraz/Syrah lover I really had to see what all the fuss is/was about...

4. Something for the cellar (or wardrobe) – Domaine Chantegut Vacqueyras 2007, £14.99. 2007 was a superb year in the Rhone. Never had a Vacqueyras before and its blend of Grenache and Shiraz, along with the "good year" should give it the ability to age and develop complexity.

5. Old World White #1 – Huber Riesling 2009, £11.99. We are Riesling lovers. Austrian - never before tried so I thought we could give it a go...

6. Old World White #2 – Adriano Gewurztraminer 2009, £15.49. We actually ordered an Alsatian one for £11.99 but this turned up, which hails from the Italian side of the Alps. Should be "fresh"!

7. Old World Red #1 – Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2007, £10.99. Again, new territory here having not tried German Pinot before. This hails from the Pfalz region.

8. Old World Red #2 – El Furioso Tempranillo 2007, £6.49. Coming from the fashionable Castilla y Leon region. 100% Tempranillo (i.e. the Rioja grape) but not oaked.

9. New World White #1 – Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009, £14.99 . The requisite NZ Sauv Blanc. Recent Decanter World Wine Awards Gold Medal winner and I am dying to get this down my belly!

10. New World White #2 – De Bertoli Vat 7 Chardonnay 2008, £9.99. From the Riverina area of New South Wales. They may be a "mega Brand" but should be a big, fruity, creamy Chardonnay nonetheless.

11. New World Red #1 – Casillero del Diabolo Pinot Noir 2009, £7.49. Again possibly a mega-brand (they are stalwarts of the supermarket shelves) but, if it's nice then it's one hell of a bargain. I've had the Cab Sauv before and enjoyed it so why the hell not?

12. New World Red #2 – Familia Zuccardi Reserva Bonarda 2007, £8.99. I saw the Familia Zuccardi advert in a recent Decanter so this caught my eye. Bonarda is one of Argentina's "other" red grapes next to Malbec, but by no means far behind. Some good stuff is apparently coming out of there so I thought I'd give it a look...

So that's it. After the discount £97.70 spent, £8.14 a bottle on average! Not bad seeing as most bottles are well over a tenner! There are (hopefully) some beauties in there, so we're really looking forward to drinking and reviewing them.

Oh...I was a bit naughty here...I also got...13. a bottle of the Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2009 (£7.99 after discount) because the 2008 recently won a Decanter World Wine Awards Gold Medal so I wanted to see what the fuss was about, albeit a different vintage

Oh, and I was naughty again and bought a bottle of...14... the superb Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2008 that we had in the tasting and loved. (£13.59 after discount!). I'll put this away for a few years if I can resist the temptation to open it. That might be a big "if".

Er, plus a couple of others but I better keep those quiet, D might be reading this! Ssssshhhhhh  :)

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 17 October 2010

Virgin Wines - Final Part

Welcome to the final part of the Virgin Wines case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. The last three bottles (remember one was for cellaring) were a white and two reds...

Miudino, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2009

This Albarino comes from Rias Baixas in the North-West corner of Spain, bordering Portugal. Albarino, for me, typically has smells and tastes of Peach Schnapps. Think Archers and lemonade but dry and less sweetness. Let's see...12%

The Look: A pale lemonny yellow. Again!

The Smell: The typical smell for me of peach schnapps and maybe toffee or toffee apples?

The Taste: Tastes much the same - ripe peaches, peach schnapps but with a lovely citrus edge. Fresh acidity. Good, long, crisp finish.

The Score: Very well balanced, well-integrated fruit, alcohol and acidity. 7/10. Recommended, on the basis that if you haven't had Albarino before then you should try it!

VFM: Normal price of £9.49 yields a VFM of 0.74 but at the case average price (including discount) it gives VFM = 0.92. Good value.


The Seventh Row, Petit Verdot, Western Cape, 2010

Petit Verdot is most common in Bordeaux blends but more recently it's becomming popular as a single varietal wine, especially from the New World, often Australia, or as we have here; South Africa's Cape region. I must admit, it's my first one...14%

The Look: A dark plum-purple, fading to a violet at the rim.

The Smell: Intense smell of violets with some caramel-like sweetness. Think "Parma Violets" kids' sweets and you're close. Some blackcurrant leaf smells too. Very nice.

The Taste: Intense violet taste, sweetness, nice fresh acidity, some good tannin. "Substantial" is the word I'm looking for. Feels like there's really something in your glass. We had a glass and popped the screw-cap back on 'til the following day - it was even better then, more aroma, more fruit taste - which leads me to beleive that this needs to be opened an hour or two before drinking to get the best out of it! 


Word of warning too: This is a real tongue, teeth and lip-stainer! Be careful having this with polite company. Luckily we don't know anyone like that so polished the lot and laughed at our black mouths! I've just realised that this is possibly the longest tasting note I've ever written so I need to shut up and and score it...

The Score: Very good. It does actually make sense as a single-varietal wine. 7.5/10 And again, Recommended, on the basis that if you haven't had Petit Verdot on its own before then you should try it!

VFM: This is good value here. Regular price £7.99 giving it VFM = 0.94 or 1.0 at the case-average price.


Fabre Montmayou, Barrel Selection Malbec, Patagonia, 2007

A real gutter. We were really looking forward to this, having really enjoyed (and recommended) this producer's Gran Reserva Malbec, but - It was faulty. Volatile acidity - was very hot and vinegary in the mouth, burning the gums. A damn shame. It was refunded though, so I may get another bottle sometime.


So to sum-up the Virgin Wines case: 4 recommendations. 1 highly recommended. One absolute horror. One faulty. The rest were reasonable. Not too bad. I will probably buy from here again, but will keep an eye out for discounts rather than pay in full.

My hand-picked Oddbins choices next time closely followed by reviews. We're getting through some wine lately!

Speak to you soon.



Sunday, 10 October 2010

Virgin Wines - Part 2

Welcome to the second part of the Virgin Wines case, handpicked mixed-12 according to my rules. We really were hoping for better things after the first four. Nevertheless, we plundered into the next four. One red and three whites is how it rolled this week...

Beneficio, Single Vineyard Shiraz-Viognier, McLaren Vale 2008

The famous blend of Cote-Rotie, Shiraz Viognier. McLaren Vale in South Australia produces some superb Shiraz. The Viognier is meant to give it a "lift". This is £16.49 normally. I can't help but be excited opening this... 14.5%

The Look: A deep, dense, dark purple almost to the rim.

The Smell: Spicy, plummy, blackberry, blueberry.

The Taste: Much the same - peppery black fruit with some blueberry. Not much complexity. Can't detect any "lift" from the Viognier. Sadly, no real identity apart from fruity Aussie Shiraz - and you can get that in abundance (and even better than this) for £7.99 almost anywhere.

The Score: Don't get me wrong - it's good, but for the price its very disappointing. Seriously, £7.99 in most wine selling establishment could beat this. Would have been great for a Fiver but £16.49...!? Nah. 6.5/10

VFM: At full price this would get a paltry VFM = 0.39. As it is, this was £7.57 (based on the average bottle price of the case after discount) giving pretty good VFM = 0.86. If you can get a good discount try it, otherwise avoid: check out McPherson Wines; Andrew's Shiraz 2009, or The Full Fifteen 2008 instead. Much better. Much cheaper.


Vina Leyda, Reserve Riesling, Chile, 2008

Leyda Valley is a cool-climate sub region of the San Antonio Valley. Just 10 miles in off the Pacific coast and 55 miles west of the capital; Santiago. 12.5%

The Look: Not quite golden, but a lemonny mid-yellow.

The Smell: Citrus, grapefruits and a herby/minerally characteristic too. Lovely.

The Taste: This is great. 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.

The Score:  This confirms that Chile really is up there in terms of value for money. Superb.  8.5/10 Highly Recommended.

VFM: This goes for £9.99 normally (well worth it) giving a good value for money score of VFM = 0.85, but even better at the case average price (after discount) of £7.57, giving VFM = 1.12. I am going to try to seek out more of this producer's wines. They do a Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Ones to watch.

Chibet, Chardonnay, Vin Pays d'Oc, 2006

From the Languedoc region of southern France. The sun should give this more ripe fruitiness and less minerality than a Chablis or white Burgundy. Let's have a try... 12%

The Look: A real golden yellow this one. Makes a change after all the pale whites recently. Robust-looking.

The Smell: Smells of honeyed fruit, apple, citrus, spice and oak.

The Taste: Smooth, buttery, slight citrus tang with something like fruitcake or cinammon on the finish. Very nice. Oak is not overdone, neither is the acidity. Well balanced.

The Score: A good, tasty white with plenty of fruit and some complexity. You can't really ask for more for £6.99. 7/10. Recommended.

VFM: Great value here at its normal price, VFM = 1.0.

The Devil's Peak, Limited Edition Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, 2008

There is a LOT of Chenin Blanc coming out of the Cape region of South Africa, the two are almost synonymous. Can it distinguish itself...? 11.5%

The Look: Pale lemonny yellow.

The Smell: Very restrained. Not giving away a lot initially. Apple, bit of citrus and maybe some honey.

The Taste: Green apples, tangy citrus and slight honey and spice. Very drinkable and food friendly (we had it with a creamy pasta sauce). Not amazing by any stretch, but not bad either.

The Score:  A decent drop.  6.5/10

VFM: At the case-average price of £7.57 it gets a pretty good VFM = 0.86 but it's ever-so-slightly more expensive normally at £7.99 giving VFM = 0.81.

So, there's the second four! Not bad, two recommendations on the whites (one great wine), one decent drop with good value but a poor value Shiraz. Only 3 wines to go now before the case is finished (I forgot that one has to be cellared so can't be reviewed!). I'm looking forward already...

Speak to you soon.



Monday, 4 October 2010

Virgin Wines - Part 1

Right, so we ordered a case from Virgin Wines, handpicked following my rules, and using the £40 off voucher. I've posted previously what we bought (here:). I must say, my first impressions were not great! Eight days went by between ordering and delivery (which apparently isn't their norm). Then I find out that the Ridgeview 2006 was substituted for the 2007 without notice and one of the "single vineyard" wines was actually "single valley" i.e. a regional wine on the bottle. Hmmmm. However, one email later and they were quick to redeem themselves with a refund for the Ridgeview and free delivery next time.

Anyway, regardless, we tucked in...

Chateau du Seuil, Bordeaux Rosé, 2008

A Welsh connection here - this Chateau was bought by a Welsh couple in the 80s and is now run by their daughter and her husband. The bottle is adorned with a beautiful Welsh Dragon. 13.5%

The Look: Lovely colour on this one, a deep raspberry red and ruby.

The Smell: Smells great - strawberry jam, spun sugar, toffe apples and caramel.

The Taste: The first thing you get is sweet, honeyed fruit and then and then the hit of the alcohol. There's an odd sweet/acid balance - the sweetness gives way to a dry acidity. Alcohol is too noticeable.

The Score: Not bad, not superb. Quite run of the mill Rosé. 6.5/10

VFM: This was £7.57 (based on the average bottle price of the case after discount) giving pretty good VFM = 0.86. £8.99 separately so use your discounts wisely.


Vinzelo, Vinho Tinto, Douro DOC, Portugal, 2008

From the "up and coming" appellation of Douro in Portugal. Not sure what grapes are in this exactly but it's more than likely a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz among others.  13%

The Look: This is a dark opaque purple turing to violet at the rim.

The Smell: Smoky blackcurrant and cherry. A bit of leather. Like left bank Bordeaux. Slight smell of cork taint initially but it was clean.

The Taste: Plenty of fruit, acidity and tannin. Alcohol is a little "hot". Long finish. Tastes of cassis/blackcurrant, some black cherry and mellowed to a plummy taste after an hour or so. Acidity was a little off balance and a little overdone the same as the alcohol. This might be better with food.

The Score: A bit off-balance. Too much acidity, too much alcohol. Might mellow in a few years or might turn really nasty. Hard to say.  6.5/10

VFM: Again, based on the average bottle price (£7.57) VFM = 0.86. Good value, but not really a recommendation. Actually cheaper on its own at £6.99.

Ridgeview Cuveé Merret, Grosvenor, Blanc de Blancs, 2007

English "Champagne" in all but name. Blanc de Blancs using 100% Chardonnay grapes from their Surrey vineyard and done in the Traditional Method (i.e. the way Champagne is made). 12%

The Look: A pale mid-yellow. Aggressive bubbles.

The Smell: Smells of orchard fruit, apples and pears. Some baked bread smells as well.

The Taste: Very similar to the smell, orchard fruit with some tropical hints and maybe something citrusy like grapefruit. A "fine mousse" as they say, lots of bubbles. Super-dry. Probably not to everyones' liking.

The Score: Dissapointingly, the 2007 turned up instead of the recent Decanter International Trophy winning 2006, but still, not bad at all at 7/10. Recommended, purely because it is from Britain and needs to be tried. Try and get hold of the '06 though, it's supposed to be superb!

VFM: Well at the case price of £7.57 it gets a very good value for money of VFM = 0.92, but it is £18.99 normally so use your discounts wisely, or one for special occasions only!

San Felice, Chianti Classico, Italy, 2006

The blurb says "A cut above the rest". I beg to differ... 12.5%

The Look: Brick-red with some brown tinges and an almost blood-red rim.

The Smell: A bit like a Rioja. Spicy, oaky, red fruit and cherry. Slight smell of oxidation but clean.

The Taste: At first a hit of red fruit but then an overpowering acidity followed by tannin. The bright red fruit is nice for a milli-second but then spoilt by overly harsh, horrible sourness. "Refreshing acidity" my arse - badly made wine more like.

The Score: Not good. I didn't want to finish the bottle. I even left it open for 24hrs to see if it had cooled down the following day. Still too harsh and less fruit. A poor  4/10

VFM: At the case-average price of £7.57 it gets a mediocre VFM = 0.59 but here's the joke; this is £11.99 a bottle normally. I've had better wine from a box! Total crap. Avoid. In their defence, Virgin Wines did also refund me for this bottle. The money-back guarantee says that any bottle not enjoyed will be refunded.

So, there's the first four. Distinctly average I guess. I hope the other 8 are better. We'll find out soon enough...

Speak to you soon.