Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Wines of the Year 2011 (WOTY 2011)

Hello all!

Wow, it's been 12 months to the day since my previous WOTY 2010 post and time has flown. It's that time again, where we reflect on the gems that we've slurped since January.

Here are this year's top wines, all scoring 8.5 or above:


Coming first, has to be the superb Pol Roger Brut NV (9/10). Expensive it might be, normally going for about £35+ but I think this was about £28 on offer, so keep your eyes peeled. My words at the time were "A deep straw-yellow with pale lemon highlights. The nose was pure Brioche; sweet baked bread and toasty too. Big, aggressive bubbles pop and fizz in your mouth, melting away to bright, zippy, zingy orchard fruit; think a crunchy, juicy Cox Apple with a sweet, toasty flourish. A long, delicious finish screams class". 

In the value stakes, the top champers has to go to Piper Heidsieck Brut NV (8.5/10). This was £17.99 on offer at Co-op although rarely seen for under £20 now. This I described as having "Lots of bready/biscuity tastes but absolutely stuffed with fruitiness, from citrus zing to Cidery orchard fruit. A long, delicious finish leaves a great taste in the mouth and a tingle from the popping and fizzing bubbles. Superb". This was closely followed by the Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage NV (8.5/10) at £20 on offer from Morrisons; richly coloured, with an awesome biscuit and toast nose. Delicious flavours of candy apple and strawberries with sweet toffee. 


The only one to score a 9/10 was the Martinborough Vineyards Te-Tera Pinot Noir 2009. Pure silk mouthfeel, whole gamut of red and dark fruits and oak that doesn't kill it. Sweetness rounds off the palate but plenty of acidity to balance it. Think of a summer berry cheesecake! Mmmmm. About £15.99 from Majestic.

In joint second are a brace of wines scoring 8.5/10. The first was a "luxury" purchase from the Wine Society; Chateau Les Ormes de Pez, 2001 (£27.50). Beautiful, mature Claret, lots of blackcurrant and black cherry, lovely cedary notes, vanilla and a violet perfume. Still life left in it too - must get some more! Before Oddbins closed down, we managed to attend a tasting and sampled the Plunkett Fowles, Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, Shiraz, 2008 and quickly bought a couple of bottles (one is still ageing with us). Almost perfect combinations of blackberry, peppery spice and bitter dark chocolate hints. Fruit forward but the complexity to back it up. Classy as ....
Another bit of class, but superb value, came via Joseph Drouhin, Chorey Les Beaune 2007 (£14.99 from Waitrose). Not a good year at all in burgundy but this defied convention; vibrant red fruits, cherry, raspberry and strawberry with smoky hints. Viscous, creamy texture, perceptible acidity and tannin, excellent balance. Lastly, a wine I realised lately that I'd reviewed twice this year, faring better the 2nd time around; Vidal, Gimblett Gravels Syrah, 2008 (£11.99 from Waitrose). This was typical Hawkes Bay Syrah, cool black pepper spice, lots of blackberry and plummy dark fruits, slight violet and a long finish. Delicious.


Leading the whites this year was, surprisingly, the Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2008. My words were "from grapes grown in the Mendocino and Lake Counties and about £9.99 from Majestic. It might have been the several glasses of other wines we'd had before this talking but, this was good! Deep, bright gold in colour it smelled of lemonade, vanilla and peach. Awesome complexity on the palate with toasty, yeasty bread and pure peach nectar. I'd like to re-confirm this at some point but my pissed score is...I'm fairly sure... 9/10!". All the following deserved their 8.5/10 scores: Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (about £16 from the Wine Society) was excellent; Ripe gooseberry, grapefruit, with a hint of green pepper. Classy, bright, mineral and very fruity with a modicum of restraint. The Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2009 (£11.99 Majestic) was awesome. Complex smoky, yeasty, meaty aromas couple with citrus, tropical and grapey fruits and a flinty mineral finish. The Vergelegen Chardonnay 2010 was almost identical (£8.99 Majestic); Awesome smells of honeyed fruit, mint leaves, nutty and creamy, stony fruit and D could smell mown-grass. On the palate it displayed that smoked ham and cheese characteristic of a good barrel-aged Chardonnay (like Applewood smoked cheese!), the sweetness of ripe peach and a slight lemon zing. Effortless drinking and great complexity.

So there we have them! The top wines of 2011. I wonder what's in store for 2012.

Thanks for your support over the last year - here's to another great year filled with nice wine at a nice price! I'll be writing a couple of quickies over the festive period so stay tuned.

As always, speak to you soon.



Monday, 21 November 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Waitrose Part 2

Hello All,

Welcome to the 2nd part of the third installment of my look at the supermarket shelves for value wines, this time finishing off the Waitrose wines with the whites. As I said last time, we were lucky enough to catch the 25% off sale which meant we could spend a little more and grab bargains.

So, on to the wines...

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Domane Wachau, Terraces, Gruner Veltliner, 2009

£8.49 before discount (£6.37 after!). Probably the best known region for Gruner is Wachau, on the banks of the Danube. We've not had Gruner for a while so this caught my eye. 12.5%

The Look: Shiny, crystal-clear pale lemon.
The Smell: Like pear-drop sweets, slight marzipan, tropical fruits.
The Taste: Voluptuous texture, very creamy. Nicely balanced; lots of fruity apples and pears, tropical fruits, pineapple, pina colada, refreshing acidity but just off-dry. Was great with garlic & thyme chicken, dauphinoise potatoes and sprouts! Slight minerality too, heightening the interest at the end.
The Score: Very nice and a good food wine. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £6.37 after discount, this is great value; VFM = 1.16

Villa Maria, Private Bin Gewurztraminer, East Coast, 2010

£9.99 before discount (£7.49 after!). A favourite brand of ours, Villa Maria have a cracking range of wines. The Private Bin label, albeit the entry-level, provides wine of  great flavour for the price. We'd not had the Gewurz before so fancied giving it a go. 13%

The Look: Pale lemon with greeny hints.
The Smell: Lychee, "Turkish Delight", quite floral with slight tropical and coconut whiffs, again, pina colada!
The Taste: Very similar to the nose; quite full bodied but lacking a bit of acidity. Went well with a stir fry but had an annoying bitter finish and certainly wasn't gluggable; a bit heavy.
The Score: A "Marmite" wine I think, love it or hate it although we fell slightly in the middle. Disappointing given their other wines in the range. 6/10.
VFM: At £7.49 after discount, this is still reasonable value; VFM = 0.80

Cave de Lugny, Macon -Lugny, Les Charmes, 2009

£8.99 before discount (£6.74 after!). From the large co-operative Cave de Lugny, this is their top plot; "Les Charmes", in the Maconnais region of burgundy. 100% Chardonnay and unoaked. The village level wine "Macon-Villages" recently won a Decanter award for best white Burgundy under a tenner so I thought this might be worth a look. 13%

The Look: Pale lemonny yellow with a water-white rim.
The Smell: Very reticent; not giving much away. Slight whiff of peachy/apricotty fruit and some toast and nuts on a big sniff.
The Taste: Pleasing, creamy texture, enough acidity, bone-dry finish. Very restrained and mellow with some melon, peach and a citrussy finish. Lacking a bit of flavour and there was some citrus peel bitterness at the end.
The Score: It won't overpower your food but sadly lacking some depth of flavour. 6.5/10.
VFM: At £6.74 after discount, this is numerically good value but I probably wouldn't buy again, maybe plump for the award winner (and the cheaper one of the two!); VFM = 0.96

Well, after a mind-blowing start with the reds, the white choices left Waitrose down slightly. Co-op is still the one to beat in our eyes!

We'll be taking a break from the Supermarket Sweeps now until after Christmas when the bargains will be much needed due to the drained bank account and feather-light wallet. Still to come will be Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda (if I can find one near here) and quite possibly Lidl and Aldi! So keep an eye out in January.

We'll be starting to ramp up our bottle price over Christmas and should hopefully have some luxurious treats to review soon.

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 14 November 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Waitrose Part 1

Hello All,
Welcome to the third installment of my look at the supermarket shelves for value wines, this time the fantastic wine section of Waitrose. We popped to the local Waitrose in Malvern and as luck would have it, caught the end of the 25% off sale. There was a great range of wines, but we found that the most interesting stuff was between about £10 and £15 quid, so although not technically sticking to the £60 mark, we weren't far off; 6 bottles for £62.44 before discount but £46.83 after!!! And that's what it's all about, catching the bargains while you can, so I won't apologise too much. We also picked up some Champagne for Christmas - it would have been rude not to! Keep an eye out for their 25% off offers which happen every couple of months.

So, on to the wines. Reds first...

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Stonier, Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, 2009

£12.99 before discount (£9.74 after). From the much-lauded Mornington Peninsula, a very cool climate region of Victoria in Australia where the proximity of the ocean cools the vines. I've been wanting to try this for quite a while so it was a good find. 13%

The Look: A dark ruby core with strawberry red and lipstick highlights.
The Smell: Cherry, black fruit, strawberry, spice and some leathery complexity.
The Taste: Very bright acidity, fresh red fruit, cherry and raspberry. Smooth tannins with some grippy feeling on the aftertaste. Very nice. High acidity will help it age well.
The Score: Probably not everybody's cup of tea given the cool-climate acidity, but a good wine nonetheless. I liked it. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £9.74 after discount, this is decent value; VFM = 0.77

Vidal, Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, 2008

£11.99 before discount (£8.99 after). From the, again, much-lauded Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay on New Zealand's North Island. Famous for it's spicy Syrah but lots of Cabernet & Merlot blends do well on the stony soil  there too. 13%

The Look: An intense, dark, plummy black/purple.
The Smell: Intense nose of black pepper, blackberry, ripe plum and other dark fruits. Some violets.
The Taste: Awesome. Much like the nose, peppery black fruits, blackberry and plum etc, pleasing acidity, some tannic grip with a long finish. This rivals Craggy Range and Trinity Hill Syrahs costing about £6 or £7 more!
The Score: Intense flavour bomb of cracked black pepper and dark fruit. Well worth it. 8.5/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £8.99 after discount, this is a serious bargain. Great flavour intensity for the price. VFM = 0.95

E. Guigal, Cotes du Rhone, 2007

£9.99 before discount (£7.49 after). We had the 2009 from Majestic not that long ago and really enjoyed it so it was interesting to find this one with a few more bottle-years behind it. 2007 was a superb year in the Rhone so this held much promise.  14%

The Look: Mid-purple, translucent, to a strawberry rim.
The Smell: Black cherry, plum, spice, gentle vanilla oak and developed raspberry and blackberry too.
The Taste: Delicious. Spicy plum and dark fruits, lovely vanilla notes with smooth integrated tannins. Plenty of acidity keeps it fresh and there's plenty of fruit. A good life ahead of it yet, easily keeping for another 3-5 years, if not more. 
The Score: Great, and plenty of ageing left in it which is nice to see at this price. 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £7.49 you can't go wrong, this is a bargain.  VFM = 1.07

Wow. What a start from Waitrose. Three very nice wines indeed. Yes, they're a little pricier than the Tesco ones, or even some of the Co-op ones, but after 25% off they really are competitive. I'd gladly drink these three again on a regular basis.

Waitrose might just pip the Co-op? We'll see next time with the whites. Until then...

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 31 October 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Tesco Part 2

Hello All,
Welcome to the second installment of my look at the supermarket shelves for value wines, this time Tesco Part 2. Last time we looked at two whites and a Rosé, this time, three Reds and a lovely Port! Total spend was only about £55 for seven bottles. So, let's see if the reds can do a bit better...

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Kleine Zalze, Shiraz-Mourvedre-Viognier, 2010

£6.99. I remember seeing this a while back in Decanter, and as far as I can remember it had a good review so caught my eye. Made in a cool climate region a few miles from Stellenbosch it was keenly priced too! 14.5%

The Look: Intensely dark, opaque black-plum, almost no rim just a slight fade to violet.
The Smell: Awesome smells of blackberries, sweetness, think dark berry cheesecake or a blackberry and apple Nutrigrain bar!
The Taste: Pow! Intense blackberry hit, violets, good fresh acidity, slightly chewy tannins and a great long finish. Some peppery spice and warming but not overly alcoholic - handled well.
The Score: Delicious, punching well above its weight. 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £6.99 this is a serious bargain. Great flavour intensity for the price. VFM = 1.14

Tesco Finest Crozes Hermitage, 2008

£8.29. Crozes Hermitage is a region in the Northern Rhone in France famous for Syrah (Shiraz) based wines. Normally up to 15% of the white grapes Roussanne or Marsanne can be added but this didn't specify so I'm assuming 100% Syrah. Normally dark fruits and a peppery spice are evident. High hopes for this... 12.5%

The Look: Purple core with a ruby rim and completely translucent.
The Smell: Nose is reticent, faint whiff of berries and slight oak but not much else.
The Taste: Disappointing. Light bodied, limp, insipid and tasteless. Slight spice but mainly very mild hints of red fruit, none of the dark fruit and black pepper I was expecting. Smooth tannins but bitter.
The Score: Not worth the IWSC Bronze sticker on the bottle in my opinion. 5.5/10.
VFM: At £8.29 this is overpriced in my opinion. VFM = 0.66

Tesco Finest Valpolicella Ripasso, 2009
£6.99. Valpolicella Ripasso is Valpolicella passed over the leftover lees from making Amarone (strong flavoured wine made from dried grapes) to give it extra flavour and colour. Interesting and it caught my eye at this price. 13.5%

The Look: Dark purple/ruby.
The Smell: Sweet cherries, oaky and leesy with some mild spice too.
The Taste: Very bright cherryade taste, plenty of acidity, refreshing for a red, some vanilla hints. Good accompaniment to a tomato based pasta sauce, but thin tannins and sadly became a bit of a chore to drink. After the second glass it was all acidity and no fruit.
The Score: Started well but soon became undrinkable.  5.5/10.
VFM:   Better value than the Syrah at  VFM = 0.66 but one I would not purchase again.

Tesco Special Reserve Port, NV
£7.82. I hadn't spent my total of £60 and was looking for something else when this caught my eye. A great price even if it turned out a bit nasty, but I doubted that with this being made by the famous Port conglomerate; Symington Family Estates. 20%

The Look: Deep dark opaque purple, slight violet rim. Much like Port surprisingly!
The Smell: Sweet, raisiny/curranty berries with mild woody spice. Lovely smell.
The Taste: Deliciously full of sweet, raisiny, warm fruit. Very nicely integrated, not overly sweet or alcoholic. Dangerously drinkable - we had sore heads to prove it the next day! 
The Score: Cracking NV Port and a bargain to boot! 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM:   Superb value Port. VFM = 1.10

So, in summary, Tesco didn't quite do as well as Co-Op, but then again the majority were own-brand wines and on the whole a fair bit cheaper. Still, the Riesling was great, as was the South African blend and the port. Not too bad.

Next time, the fantastic wine section of Waitrose!

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 24 October 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Tesco Part 1

Hello All,
Welcome to the second installment of my look at the supermarket shelves for value wines, this time Tesco. Any large Tesco now has a reasonable array of wines, but what caught my eye were the Tesco Finest range (which made up the majority of my purchases). They're priced keenly and had some interesting grapes and regions on display. Also, you get 5% off any 6 bottles purchase in store. I managed to buy 6 bottles and a bottle of Port for about £55. So, let's see if they were any good.

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Tesco Finest, Tingleup Vineyard Riesling, Great Southern, 2009

£8.68. This is from Western Australia's Great Southern region. The 2010 vintage just recently won the Decanter Regional Trophy for Australian Riesling under £10, so I was hoping this would be good too. On the light side, at 12%

The Look: A pale gold colour with greeny hints.
The Smell: Great smell, really fresh with a burst of lime juice, some minerals and spice.
The Taste: A huge burst of fruity, fresh limeade, very zingy acidity. Lovely.
The Score: Quite simply, a great Riesling 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £8.68 this is a bargain and great value at VFM = 0.92

Tesco Finest, Picpoul de Pinet, 2010

£7.29. Picpoul de Pinet describes both the grape and the region from France's southern Languedoc area. An interesting variety and not often found on supermarket shelves, but it's gaining some fans.  12.5%

The Look: A pale straw colour with greeny hints.
The Smell: Smells very grapey, slightly floral with what I thought was elderflower. I could pick up something like pear drops after a while too.
The Taste: Nice refreshing acidity, grapefruit, grape juice, elderflower on the taste too. Crisp but with a discernible bitterness at the end, like the aftertaste of a hoppy beer. The tang was a bit too much after a while.
The Score: Not bad, but the bitterness detracted from the enjoyment, so sadly, can't quite recommend. 6.5/10.
VFM: At £7.29 this is still a bargain, and if you haven't tried a Picpoul then I'd give it a go. However, there are better out there. VFM = 0.89

Tesco Finest, Cotes de Provence, Rosé, 2009

£7.99. Provence in France makes some very serious Rosé. Some would say, the best in the World so I was excited to see this at this price. Notoriously food friendly rather than overtly fruity, I was hoping for good things. 12.5%

The Look: Salmony pink with copper-orange tints.
The Smell: Very reticent with all but the faintest whiff of red fruits, although I couldn't pick anything particular out.
The Taste: The good points: good food wine, pleasing balance, no overpowering flavours, some hints of red fruit and a caramel hint. The bad: Bitterness. They seem to have extracted all of the magnificent colour from the skins, but all of the bitterness too and none of the flavour from the grapes. Didn't want to finish the bottle.
The Score: All the seriousness of Provence, none of the charm. Avoid. 5/10.
VFM: At £7.99 I would not but this again, despite a reasonable value of VFM = 0.63.

So, in summary, a brilliant Riesling, a mediocre Picpoul and a Rosé to avoid. The full spectrum then!
I wish I'd have plumped for the Montes Alpha Chardonnay or Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc. Oh well, maybe next trip...

Next time; the reds and the port!

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 10 October 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - The Co-operative Part 2

Hello All,
Welcome to the second part of my new series, where I'll be rummaging through the supermarket shelves in search of quality wines for a reasonable price. The remit is; 6 bottles for a grand total of £60 or less. This week, still with the Co-operative, but reds. You can read part 1 here, where the whites had a particularly good start. Can the reds keep up? Let's see... Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

The Magnificent Wine Company, Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

£9.49. Magnificently named also! This hails from the Columbia Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Washington State. This was chosen on the basis of the the cool-ish climate of this region. Ah, who am I trying to kid, the attractive bottle artwork did it for me! 13.5%

The Look: A deep black/purple, fading to a slight tawny rim, almost completely opaque.
The Smell: Initially, pure blackcurrant fruit and some cedary/oaky woodiness, but developed a complex nose of plum, leather and coffee bean while maintaining the blackcurrant fruit.
The Taste: Slightly austere at first with grippy tannin, some blackcurrant fruit and slight bitterness but then flourished into dark fruit, mocha, softer tannin but still with some grip, plum and some spice. Enough acidity to balance it out too. On the back of that, I'd decant for an hour or two before hand if we had it again.
The Score: Good stuff, complex, plenty of fruit and some bottle-age complexity. Lovely. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £9.49 this is still good value at VFM = 0.79

Yalumba, Bush Vine Grenache, Barossa Valley, 2008

£9.99. A household Australian brand, Yalumba make an extensive range of wines, from entry-level £6 wines to classy £50+ wines in the heart of the Barossa Valley, a region more well known for its Shiraz, but Grenache is making headway.  14.5%

The Look: Dark purple core, dark ruby rim, translucent.
The Smell: Vanilla, raspberries and spicy dark fruit with some oak influence.
The Taste: Spicy red fruits, raspberry and cherry in abundance, vanilla and a long finish. Warming, with oaky sweet fruit but acidity to balance it.
The Score: Great. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £9.99  this is  good value at VFM = 0.75.

Torres, Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon, Penedes, 2006

£7.99. You may remember that we're fans of Torres. They produce a great range of wines at very reasonable prices (but also some high-end stuff). The flavour per £ is almost unbeatable. Nice bit of bottle age on this one, being a 2006, coupled with the Torres name meant I had to try it...Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Tempranillo, this is aged in oak and given a bit more special treatment than their entry-level wines. 14%).

The Look: Deep black-purple, plum rim, opaque.
The Smell: Delicious smells of dark berries, vanilla, oak, some black cherry and a mild woody spice.
The Taste: Mouth-filling texture, slightly furry tannins, soft, with lots of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Warm with creamy vanilla. Despite the age it still needs a year or two to soften the tannins and I wonder if it has enough acidity to cope, but it was nicely integrated by the second glass and by the last it was delicious. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £7.99 this is great value VFM = 0.94.

So, in summary: A little on the high-end of this budget series, but still, EVERY bottle was under £10 and EVERY bottle was a recommended wine. That is something. The thing that struck me about Co-op's reds was the average bottle age. Lots of wines are fairly mature, with a good bit of bottle age lending complexity. Good on them. Their storage must be sufficient; not a faulty bottle in sight among these six, or the previous visit for some reds.

If you're after something a little more extravagant there were some Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux bottles from 2003 and 2004 (Chateau Senejac 2004 £15.99), some 2004 Petit Verdot from the US and a host of others. In the whites there were some attractively priced Chablis and Burgundy plus some Muscadet sur Lie that I might just pick up next time I'm there.

Overall a superb performance from the Co-op. This will be the one to beat...

Next time; Tesco!

As always, speak to you soon!



Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - The Co-operative Part 1

Hello All,
Welcome to the start of my new series, where I'll be rummaging through the supermarket shelves in search of quality wines for a reasonable price. The remit is; 6 bottles for a grand total of £60 or less.
First up is the The Co-operative, starting with 3 whites. I've stated before that I've been impressed with the range at The Co-op. Walk into any decent sized store and you'll be faced with an array of wines, from your basic £3 plonk to very decent bottles upwards of £15. I relished returning to our local store to search for bargains for this series...and I think I found some:

Trio, Reserva Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio/Pinot Blanc, 2009
£7.49. I picked this because we know the Trio name (it was responsible for a brilliant red that became D's favourite wine for a spell) and it was an intriguing blend that I've not encountered before. Owned by the giant brand Concha-Y-Toro, this comes from the Cassablanca Valley in Chile. 13.5%
The Look: A pale gold with greeny hints.
The Smell: Great, complex nose. Yeasty and nutty, biscuity and some Chardonnay evident, akin to a blanc-de-blancs champagne. Creamy.  
The Taste: Initially, you get a smoky, toasty hit, the texture is smooth and full. Something like figs or dried fruit dominates the palate but with a citrus peel, bitter (in a good way) zing to it. There's definitely mineral complexity and a honeyed/peachy/tropical fruit that I couldn't put my finger on. After reading the label it said "pineapple" - which is probably about right, thinking about it in hindsight! 
The Score: I'm guessing that extended lees ageing or oak influence is used to garner the complexity. Really good wine, a surprise at this price point. Superb. 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £7.49 this is superb value VFM = 1.07

Nicolas Potel, Givry, 2008
£9.99 (down from £14.99). A little bit of class here. White Burgundy from revered producer Nicolas Potel and using Vieilles Vignes ("Old Vines"). We drank his Puligny Montrachet 2006 with our turkey last Christmas and it was immense, so I thought this might be decent. 13%

The Look: A deep straw yellow with lemon highlights.
The Smell: Vanilla, citrus and some spice. Lovely. 
The Taste: Buttery, oily-smooth textured, plenty of lemony citrus giving pleasing acidity. A vanilla thread runs through it lending complexity and leaving a delicious lemon-curd aftertaste. A heady, warm peach flavour developed later on.
The Score: Great stuff. Would probably age well too. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £9.99 offer price this is good value at VFM = 0.75, however, less so at the full price so act fast! 

Villa Maria, Private Bin Pinot Grigio, 2010
£8.99. Ah, an old familiar friend; Villa Maria. The Private Bin series can always be relied upon to give great punchy flavour for reasonable prices.  Good bang-for-the-buck, as they say. I've not had this varietal before from them, but, I was sure this wouldn't let the side down...13.5% (I think, or could be 14%).

The Look: Pale lemon with a watery-white rim.
The Smell: Great array of smells; pear-drops, "fruit salad" sweets, some sort of marzipan/cinnamon-like whiff and "Apple Sourz".
The Taste: Really fruity, good fresh acidity, pears, apples, grape juice, some spice, and something that reminded me of a Malt-Whiskey!!! .
The Score: No pretence, just good, easy-drinking wine done well. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £8.99 this is very good value VFM = 0.83.

So, for the first part, a grand performance by The Co-op. Proving that, for this supermarket at least, there is good value at £10 and under. This might just be the one to beat!

Next time, the Reds!

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 19 September 2011

The Search For Our House Champagne

Hello all.

When funds permit, we love a bottle of the old fizz! Nothing plucks us away from the stark, and sometimes depressing, reality of a shared house more than a flute of champers. Always drunk in style...be it leaning on the recycling bin outside, holed up in our room or on the decrepit furniture where we eat!

Our favourite so far has been Piper Heidsieck Brut NV (8.5/10) especially when it's on offer from the Co-Op at £17.99. Awesome flavours of citrus and orchard fruit combine with a biscuity/bready complexity giving a long finish augmented by the lively fizz. However, now and again we like to to extend our search through the myriad of brands to see if there's a "Piper-beater" out there. [For the un-initiated, Brut means "dry" and NV is "non-vintage" - a blend of several wines from various years]

Here's some we've quaffed lately...

The Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV was a gem. A pale white-gold with a watery rim this exuded whiffs of Chardonnay fruit with a honeyed fragrance and a biscuity sweetness. In the mouth it had bright citrus and tropical fruit but with the toasty, sweet biscuit hints on top. Refreshing acidity leaves you with a mouthwatering citrus zing leading to a long sweet Gala-apple finish. The fine bubbles are not too aggressive either. Towards the end it tended towards toast and marzipan. Great stuff 8/10 Recommended. Normally about £33 but can be had for about £25 on offer.

The Pol Roger Reserve NV was, quite simply, awesome! A deep straw-yellow with pale lemon highlights. The nose was pure Brioche; sweet baked bread and toasty too. Big, aggressive bubbles pop and fizz in your mouth, melting away to bright, zippy, zingy orchard fruit; think a crunchy, juicy Cox Apple with a sweet, toasty flourish. A long, delicious finish screams class! Superb, 9/10 and Highly Recommended! I've seen it at about £28 on offer, which is sadly rare, the norm being £33 to £35.

This really makes you want to taste their Vintage wines and with the 2000 available for about £45 to £55 my heart says yes, but the wallet, sadly, no...for now.

At a half-point above Piper, it's the winner on taste, but for the overall value, I think Piper remains on the throne!

The Veuve Clicquot Brut NV was reticent at first (possibly too cold) but soon came into its own! A sweet, baked-pastry nose with some herby fruit. The fine bubbles effervesce quickly to give way to an amazing array of tastes, headed up by fruitcake, orchard fruit, slight citrus, complex biscuity/apple crumble with zippy acidity and a long finish...Classy and delicious. 8/10 Recommended. Again, this is normally around the £33 mark but keep those eyeballs peeled for offers, I think we bought at £25.

Three delicious Champagnes, any one of which we would gladly drink again! We found a Piper-beater in score but not in value. The search must continue....

Next time, the Supermarket Sweeps; Six for Sixty begins in earnest!

As Always, speak to you soon.



Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wine Society Recommendations - Part 2

Hello All,

Welcome to Part 2 of some recommendations from the Wine Society. You can find Part 1 here:

Three whites and only one red this time, as it turned out we'd had some faulty red bottles, but duly refunded, so top marks there.

Some time soon I'll be starting the Supermarket Sweep Six for Sixty series so keep posted for that, despite a slight fly in the ointment: The Decanter World Wine Awards Issue! If you want to know what's good in the Supermarkets, in all likelihood, it'll be described therein. It had slipped my mind that the issue would coincide with my planned start date.  I don't really want to just re-iterate what they have recommended as good, so I will try to remain as impartial as I can. One or two overlaps might occur if I really fancy something, but I'll try to avoid simply plumping for what they rate and hopefully cover different ground. But hey-ho.

Anyway, without further ado, the Wine Society whites...

Clos La Coutale, Cahors, 2009 
Cahors, the famous "Black Wine" from south-west France, the spiritual home of Malbec, renowned for its deep, dark colour and teeth-staining quality! Predominantly Malbec, although this one has some Merlot blended in. ...13.5%
The Look: Well, not quite black, but a deep plummy purple core leading to a pinky/purple rim.
The Smell: Super fruity, jammy smell.
The Taste: Great fruit, blueberry, black cherry yoghurt, violets and oak. Very tannic so needs a while to soften but delicious.  
The Score: Great stuff. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £7.95 this is very good value VFM = 0.94

Les Chailloux, Sancerre, 2009 
Probably the most well-known area of the Loire valley for growing Sauvignon Blanc. More expensive and exclusive than Touraine and arguably Pouilly-Fumé, it normally shows in the price, although I'm inclined to challenge that...13.5%
The Look: Very bright, sprightly yellow-green.
The Smell: Herby, grassy, minerally, citrus fruits and slight grapefruit zest.
The Taste: Fresh acidity, zingy citrus fruit with a mineral edge and some bitter grapefruit on the finish. A hint of tropical fruit creeps through. Good body, length and smooth texture.
The Score: Restrained and classy. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £12.50 this isn't cheap, but it is Sancerre, and it's good. VFM = 0.60

Plantagenet, Riesling, 2009 
From the Great Southern area of Western Australia. Owned by an Englishman, Plantagenet have a great reputation and make some premium wines. Cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks keeps this fresh. Fairly light at 11.5%
The Look: Bright! Pale lemony yellow. 
The Smell: Bright! Very citrussy nose.
The Taste: There's a theme here...Bright! Very bright, fresh, zingy acidity, lime and grapefruit. We had it with spicy enchiladas and it cut through perfectly.
The Score: Delicious, fresh and zingy 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £12.95 this is fairly steep, but a cut above your average £7 supermarket Riesling. Still, not bad value at VFM = 0.62.

Gavi La Battistina, 2010 
Named after the town of Gavi in Piedmont, this region is often dubbed "Italy's answer to White Burgundy" and also, embarrassingly, my mother's pet name for me! Made with the Cortese grape. 13.5%
The Look: A medium lemon yellow.
The Smell: Lovely smells of honey, peach, slight citrus zing and a floral hint too.
The Taste: Really zesty on the palate with very fresh, zingy acidity, hints of grapefruit, lime, spice and a green apple hint too.
The Score: Great, although not very Burgundian this one! 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £7.95 this is cracking value VFM = 0.94

So there we have it, an end to the Wine Society wines for now, no doubt returning in the future, but as I alluded to earlier, I'll be concentrating on the Supermarket Sweep series next. That will probably take us up to the run-up to Christmas, and then it'll be balls-to-the-wall with wine treats!

As always, speak to you soon,



Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Que Syrah, Syrah...Failed

Hello All,

This bank holiday, our customary wine-off didn't materialise, so we decided to set up something a bit special at home. We geared ourselves up for an awesome blind taste-off of two wines from one of our favourite regions and grapes; Hawkes Bay Syrah. Bottle covers, Riedel glasses and numbered place mats at the ready, D poured out mine blind and I returned the favour...

Two superb wines from the 2008 vintage, Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Syrah and Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an awesome fail...

The first wine didn't show well. The nose was every so slightly hot on a big sniff, hinting at oxidation. Despite the underlying redcurrant and berries with a white-pepper, it was slightly vinegary. Intense dark purple at the core it faded to a violet rim but no hint of oxidised brick red or tan. Was it faulty? It became riper and fuller after a while but still, the feeling that it wasn't right nagged.

The second wine was clean. Slightly lighter core with a delicious smell of blackberry crumble, red fruit and pepper. Smooth silky tannin and some oak hints but the flavour really wasn't doing much for us. We both preferred wine 2, coincidentally having poured Trinity Hill into each other's second glass. I incorrectly identified wine 1 as Trinity Hill as I knew that had a cork (vs. the screwtop on the Craggy), purely due to there being a greater probability of spoilage, and couldn't recognise the usual lushness associated with Craggy.

We were dumbfounded. A previous 9-pointer, the Craggy was certainly not showing well. We enjoyed the Trinity Hill but something was still amiss. Neither gave us the intense experience we normally associate with these wines. So what was it? I think I know...

Mood, disposition, call it what you will, but we were both absolutely knackered. We'd had a long weekend, just driven back from North Wales for 3 hours, overdosed on junk food, our mouths tasted like toilet brushes and we both hadn't felt well the previous night. We were nearly falling asleep on our noses watching the DVD with the wines in hand. Our senses were dulled. I've previously read about the Biodynamic debate, fruit days and leaf days and whether it is simply mood or circumstance only, but never really paid it any mind. Our wines normally taste great no matter what day it is and we'd never experienced any mood/tiredness related incidents, apart from the obvious cold/flu affecting your smell, and hence taste. Until now...£36 worse off...

So let this be a warning; Mood/tiredness/feeling under the weather can seriously affect your perception of a wine and ruin, what we envisaged to be, a momentous occasion.

Oh and to top it all off, our errant dog smashed the Riedel glasses. B@$£^&d.

I have to repeat it, purely because we were so looking forward to the wines. This time, I'll make sure we're in peak (drinking) condition!

Taking faulty bottles back...

The Craggy was certainly faulty in the end. By the following morning it had developed an oily, shiny film in the bottle and smelled horrendous. Being from the now defunct Oddbins, I could not take it back for a refund. I have absolutely no qualms about taking back a faulty bottle, but some people look down on that. Why? If you bought a steak and it went mouldy before the use-by date, would you not take it back? Fair enough, if you kept it out in the sun then it's your own fault, but if you kept it in the fridge, you should at least expect it to meet the date, and hopefully surpass it.

This leads on to the question of storage. "Ah but not keeping your wine in a cellar is like keeping your steak in the sun". Fair point. But, not many people I know have a cellar, and certainly can't afford to have one built into their homes. Storing bottles on their side (for cork closures anyway) and in a cool, dark part of the house (under the stairs, or in a cool cupboard) should suffice for a good few months of storage, at the very least. How long have the merchants/supermarkets/distributors been keeping them upright in boxes in their storerooms/warehouses, how hot did they get in the van/on the boat etc. Yes it could be my storage, but the vendors need to pull their bloody fingers out too!

My next investment is going to be a wine cooler cabinet for long-term storage so that I can minimise the number of off bottles that may be down to me. That way, I will have even less qualms about returning faulty bottles. I believe the majority are faulty on purchase, and that way, I can prove it!

Anyway, here's to a more positive tasting next time...


Speak to you soon,


Monday, 15 August 2011

Wine Society Recommendations Part 1

Hello All,
Welcome to some recommendations from the Wine Society. We're currently swigging our way through another case so should have part 2 sometime soon too. A quick on this week, so without further ado...

Greywacke, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

This is made in Marlborough by ex-Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd. Good pedigree then...13.5%

The Look: A crystal clear, watery-white with very slight lemon tinge.
The Smell: Great smell of gooseberry, grapefruit and candied lemon-peel.
The Taste: The first thing you notice is the modicum of restraint! It doesn't blow your head off like some Marlborough SB's. Superb taste, ripe gooseberry, hint of green pepper, grapefruit. Refreshing and bright with a mineral seam.
The Score: In a word: Stunning. 8.5/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At £14.95 this isn't really a "value" bottle in the VFM sense (but still half-decent VFM = 0.57) but when you compare it to Cloudy Bay at £22+, it's a steal.

Vina Leyda, Las Brisas Pinot Noir, 2009

From one of my favourite producers; Vina Leyda, made not far from the coast where the ocean breeze (Las Brisas) cool the vineyards. 14% .

The Look: Deep blend of purple and ruby. Quite dark for a Pinot - giving a clue to its full body.
The Smell: Intense smell of raspberries and strawberries with a sweetness akin to cheesecake.
The Taste: Full-bodied, ripe, heavy texture, warm, silky and juicy. Very ripe raspberry and cherry hints with a chocolate/caramel sweet undercurrent. Slightly hot and slightly bitter at first but that fades. Darker fruit emerges with time and a leathery texture is maintained. plenty of acidity too.
The Score: Nice Pinot on the heavier side but just shy of a Californian fruit bomb and more robust than Burgundy. Middle ground. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £10.95 this is certainly not cheap, but is pretty reasonable value for money (VFM = 0.68 )

Domaine Raynier, St. Chinian, 2009

<span class="b">Saint Chinian, Domaine Raynier, 2009</span>
From St. Chinian in the warm Languedoc region of France, a blend of Carignan and Grenache. Some over-zealous recycling means that there's no photo of this. Apologies, but this is courtesy of the Wine Society's website. 13.5%

The Look: Deep purple with ruby highlights.
The Smell: Raspberry and cherry whiffs with some woody spice in the mix too.
The Taste: Plenty of red fruit and raspberry(you can pick out the Grenache) followed with hints of spice. Good fresh acidity and some good tannin. Quaffable but food-friendly too.
The Score: Delicious, fruity and balanced. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £5.75 this is a bargain! Cracking value for money (VFM = 1.3 ) and food friendly tannins make it a versatile, value drop.

Again, good stuff from the Wine Society. I'll be back soon with part 2. Time to get cracking...

As always, speak to you soon,



Monday, 1 August 2011

Happy Birthday to Blog!

Hello all!

Yes, Wine Blog for the Frugal is one year old today! Well, ok, tomorrow, but I normally post on a Monday. I can't believe it's been 12 months since my initial post!

Firstly, I'd like to say a mega thank you for your support. Anyone who's stopped by for a look, commented, or indeed followed - you have spurred me on to continue and I really appreciate it!

Secondly, I'd like to  give a little insight as to what's coming up in the near future. Over the coming months I think I'm going to go back to my roots a bit. Taking a look at the average bottle price, it seems to have been climbing steadily over the past year, possibly as a result of my desire to try more and more wines and find "better" ones. The initial ethos was to find value for money, and although that remains central to almost every bottle I assess, I feel that I may have lost sight of that slightly. Yes, we all like a treat, but not everybody wants to spend £12 on a "value" bottle of wine for everyday drinking.

Also, I recognise that not everybody wants to buy a whole case at a time (although I highly recommend that) from my usual merchants and websites. Many of you will simply pop to the supermarket on the way home and grab a bottle or two. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, although I feel that better value for money (quality to price ratio) can be had online or in the dedicated wine stores. However, I am aware that I have avoided the supermarkets on the most part (apart from the Co-Op reds feature a little while ago and the initial Tesco Direct case) as a matter of principle. This might be interpreted as snobbery and the antithesis of what I was trying to achieve in the first place.

So, starting fairly soon, I'm gonna head off to several of the major supermarkets and pick out six bottles of what I think should be good, taste them, and let you know whether they're worthwhile or not. I think most supermarkets' range of wines have improved over the last 12 months so it'll be good to get out there and see what's around, and whether they're much cop. The total spend is going to be £60 or less per trip, so that's an average bottle price of £10 or less. I can't guarantee that every bottle is going to be under £10, most will be certainly, but the total spend I can. If I see something potentially great for £15 then I'll get two £7.50 bottles to cover the difference. I will avoid the Mega-Brands, you won't see any Gallo or Wolf Blass (you can do so much better for the money) unless it's something unusual, and I will try to make it a good mix. I haven't quite decided on the format yet, whether it's going to be three reds &; three whites, or two of each plus some Rosé or Sparkling and something "different", or I'll just wait and see what catches my eye. What I have decided is the title: "Supermarket Sweep: Six for Sixty". Catchily alliterated, no?...."I'll get me coat"...

Anyway...along with the supermarkets I'm going to keep up; my Icons series, our search for our house champagne, other recommendations, and general wine-related stuff until Christmas where we'll probably have a damn good splurge and push the boat out. We're also glugging our way through some more wines from the Wine Society so should cover those soon too.

I hope you'll stay with me...and thanks again for your support.

As always, speak to you soon.



Monday, 18 July 2011

Majestic Wine - Recommended Whites

Hello all,

Welcome to the second part of the Majestic recommendations, if you missed last week's Recommended Reds then you can find it here:

We've had some superb whites lately from Majestic and it's worth keeping your eye on them for 20%-off offers that they regularly do. What made these stand out was the added dimension of complexity, either from lees-aging, barrel fermenting or just plain old good winemaking! There's so much more than just fruity plonk from a damn-good white wine, and I think Majestic carry a good range for very little money, in the grand scheme of things. If you're not keen on whites then I suggest you give some of these a try; hopefully they'll change your mind...

Anyway, without further ado, here are the best we've had in the past few weeks...

First up, three great Chardonnays from around the globe:

From South Africa was the stunning Vergelegen Chardonnay 2010 (13.5% and I can't remember how much, but about £11 I think). Awesome smells of honeyed fruit, mint leaves, nutty and creamy, stony fruit and D could smell mown-grass. On the palate it displayed that smoked ham and cheese characteristic of a good barrel-aged Chardonnay (like Applewood smoked cheese!), the sweetness of ripe peach and a slight lemon zing. It developed more fruit, apricot, honey, vanilla and almond with time. Purity, balance, restraint and elegance are all fluffy wine "buzzwords" but, thinking about it, they really do make sense with this wine. Effortless drinking and great complexity 8.5/10. Very much in the same vein was the Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2009 (13.5%). Yeasty, bready smells coupled with honey, woodsmoke, vanilla and tropical fruit. The taste was immense, again smoked ham and cheese evident, "flinty" minerality, tropical fruit and some zingy citrus. Alcohol was apparent but not too overpowering and a slight bitter edge dropped it half a mark on the Vergelegen; giving 8/10. Finally for the Chardies, the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2010 was another beaut; on the nose, citrussy sharpness mingled with wet-stone minerality, nuttiness and a herby whiff of asparagus/nettles/grass. Great complexity of taste too with plenty of acidity, a lemon/lime zing tempered by a sort of meringue-like sweetness/creaminess. Tropical fruits mixed with peach along with a woody, vanilla, oaky character with an underlying minerality. Lovely 8/10.

I'm a big fan of Italy's Alto Adige region, where the whites always exude a freshness that makes  me think of the snow-covered Alps nearby. Not letting the side down was the Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio 2009 (13.5%). Lots of lemon/lime citrus zing, searing acidity (but not in the slightest bit harsh) and superb fruit purity. Great value too (this was £7.99 on offer) 7.5/10. We've not often had many wines from the US on here (which is bordering on criminal) so I thought we'd give this a shot, from the organic Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2008 from grapes grown in the Mendocino and Lake Counties and about £9.99. It might have been the several glasses of other wines we'd had before this talking but, this was good! Deep, bright gold in colour it smelled of lemonade, vanilla and peach. Awesome complexity on the palate with toasty, yeasty bread and pure peach nectar. I'd like to re-confirm this at some point but my pissed score is...I'm fairly sure... 9/10! (The handwriting was starting to waiver around this point). Hmmm, one to come back to I think. Lastly, the Torres Vina Esmerelda 2010 was again a pleasure. This was covered more in-depth in my Torres feature but still deserves a mention here. For about £8, this is superb. A blend of Moscatel and Gewurz it is really peachy and smooth, very drinkable with a long refreshing lemon/lime finish. Great stuff and great value 8/10.

So there you have it, some great whites from Majestic and for the most part, great value too.

As always,

Speak to you soon,



Monday, 11 July 2011

Majestic Wine - recommended reds

Hello all!

Majestic Wine have currently got a cracking little deal on, 20% off any two bottles from Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Italy (Oh and Beaujolais but I didn't get any of those!) so I thought I'd give some recommendations for the ones we've liked over the past few weeks. Reds this week, whites next week. Obviously this is just a small selection (we'd loved to have bought the whole lot, but funds and sense prevailed) so there's plenty more on offer, I suggest you take a look. Enjoy!

From Spain we have...

...the excellent and great value (£6.99) Sangre de Toro 2008 from Torres.  Superbly fruity with plum, blackberry and violets with some spice (8/10). Two decent Riojas in the form of the CVNE (pronounced "Coonay") Crianza 2007; (£9.99) very light weight with bright, spicy raspberry, cherry, vanilla and oak (7.5/10) and a Gran Reserva 2003 from Berberana Vina Alarde (£10.99). Delicious with that lovely mellow, smooth, strawberry flavour of aged Rioja and a creamy vanilla woodiness from the oak. (7.5/10). Last up a lovely Ribera del Duero 2006 from Emilio Morro; (£13.99) caramel, chocolate, vanilla and red berries on the nose followed up by bright red fruit, "grippy" tannins and lots of creamy blackberry - superb 8.5/10.

From New Zealand we had some beauts...

The Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2009 (£12.79) was mind-blowing! Bright, clear ruby red smelling of sweet caramel and vanilla, cherry and raspberry - like a berry cheesecake, amazing. The texture was pure silk and abundant fruit on the palate; raspberry, strawberry, redcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, the whole gamut followed by a long, dry and herby finish. First class 9/10! Another Pinot was the Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2008 (£10.79) which had a blueberry, violet and cinnamon whiff about it with plenty of bite and grip in the mouth. Blackberry and dark cherries flowed and although great at 7.5/10, paled in comparison to the Te Tera. The Craggy Range Te Kahu 2008 (£12.99) Bordeaux blend had the typical smoky plum, cherry and blackcurrant of its Cab, Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc grapes. Smooth tannins and lots of black fruit, powerful and long, but ever so slightly hot  7.5/10.

From Italy we had...

Yes! A Pinot from Italy! And it was great! The Bacaro 2009 was £4.99!!! It smelled of blackberries and oaky spice and delivered with silky tannins, lots of dark fruit, cherry, blackberry and a long finish. With fresh acidity this could age well for a few years too (7.5/10). AMAZING VALUE!

From Chile we had...

A very good 2008 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon. (£9.99) Intense, smoky, oaky blackcurrant and cedar and in the mouth it was warming, tannic (a good food wine) and had lots of dark fruit; blackcurrant, blackberry and plums but a little hot. 7.5/10

And last-up, from Oz, we had...
a respectable Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz 2009. Classic nose of blackberry, blueberry, dark chocolate and oak. In the mouth it was smooth and bright with a crunchy texture. Plenty if plum and bramble fruit with hints of coffee and mocha. Tasty 7.5/10.

So, there we have some great reds from Majestic from their current offers. Next week, we'll be polishing off the whites so stay tuned.

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 4 July 2011

Wine Investment - The Complete Novice Way - 1 year on

Hello all,

A while back I wrote about our Wine Investment so I thought it was time for an update on how things are going, with it being a year since we made our purchases. Oh and please read the disclaimer below!

*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!

As I said, D and myself are saving for a house deposit and with the pathetic rates offered by savings accounts at the moment, we opted to invest in wine. As complete novices, it was a bit daunting, but we read around the subject a lot and decided to go for it. Our goal was simple: make as much interest as we can over the next 5 years and try to beat the best ISA or Bond we could find. I think the best one we found was a 6% bond with 5-year lock-in of capital.

What did we get?
The 2009 vintage was expensive, but hailed as the "vintage of a lifetime" and "not to be missed". We were advised by Berry Bros to concentrate only on the 2009s as they would be the ones with the most re-sale potential in a few years, given the outstanding vintage. However, I didn't fancy the risk of putting it all into one vintage, "What if the 2010 vintage, or the next, or the one after that is better than 2009" were my thoughts at the time, and luckily, spurred-on by some cracking advice from Bordeaux Index, I decided to get a few back-vintages. The rest we did spend on 2009s. As luck would have it, the 2009s haven't really returned anything over a year but those back vintages...Wow, I wish I'd put the whole lot into them! Anyway, here's what we bought and what they would cost now to buy...

Ch. Pontet Canet 2009: Purchase Price (PP) then £1150, PP now £1300.
Ch. Lynch Bages 2009: PP then £1040, PP now £1250 (we also bought another 6-bottles in the first tranche from Berry's at a much cheaper £432!).
Ch. Montrose 2009: PP then £1350, PP now £1600.
Ch. Sociando Mallet 2009: PP then £315, PP now £330.
Ch. Mouton Rothschild 2002: PP then £2900, PP now £4000.
Ch. Pontet Canet 2003: PP then £600, PP now £1030.

So how well have we done?
The 2009s have increased by about 20% on average in a year. A fine return you may think, but, if we were to sell them back to the merchant we would probably be charged about 20% commission, wiping out any return. Also, the prices have remained flat almost since this time last year. Were they released at too high a price? Who knows...But, all is not lost. I think there will be a price movement next summer when the wines get shipped and become physically-available rather than lying in a barrel at the Chateau. Hopefully, this will stimulate some trading.

Well, the positive note comes from the back vintages. Pontet Canet 2003 (Parker score = 95) has been a stellar performer. Even at the merchant buy-back price of £850 it has returned nigh-on 42% in one year!!! If I'd had the presence of mind (or a crystal ball) to invest everything in this wine I'd now be a happy bunny! I'm not aware of any other investment with similar risk profiles that has done that well this year! The First Growth; Mouton 2002 (Parker score = 94) has also performed well, returning nearly 21% at the buy-back price of £3500. This proves that the high prices of the 2009s (and now 2010, but more on that below...) has had a great effect on the resurgence of the back vintage, and not necessarily the best ones. 2002 and 2003 are far outshone by 2000 and 2005 but have performed significantly better in terms of Return on Investment. If you were lucky enough to hold some of these, plus the 2004/2006 vintages then you will have made a killing lately!

So, after one year, if we were to sell up now, we would probably make about 21% return. Beat that you crappy 3% ISA! However, we're in it for the 5 year term (at least) so we won't be selling anytime soon, unless of course, the bottom falls out of the market and prices head South!

So what about this year? 
Well, this year (2010), funnily enough, was another "Vintage of a lifetime! Not to be missed! But different to 2009, more classic!". That left many people asking "How the hell...?" and whether it is climatic coincidence or sales rhetoric, there's no doubt that the critics really rate this vintage. Comparisons with 2005 are abound and contrasts and similarities are drawn against the 2009s. Release prices for the majority of chateau actually rose in 2010 (with the exception of only a few) despite the huge prices of last year. With release prices higher than any available vintage of the last 10 years (with the possible exception of the 2000 millennium vintage) it's hard to see how any short term returns can be had. Many exceeded even the high-estimate release prices of many merchants.
Did we buy any? Yes, but only one case; Ch. Pontet Canet 2010 - luckily on the first tranche (ish) for £1200. Was that a good idea? In all honesty, I don't know. The last tranche price quickly rose to £1395 but has now dropped back to about £1320 due to lack of demand. What's slightly worrying is that our merchant still has a load of the 2009 unsold and lots of the 2010 too. Is demand waning, or is the price too high? Only time will tell, I guess.

Any advice?
To anybody looking to get in now? Value is hard to find now. I would be very careful. Back vintages are catching up fast with consumers buying the (now) "underpriced" wines of 1996/2001/2004/2006. But, these may be approaching their peak. Even the once very expensive 2005 looks underpriced compared with the last two years.  If I were getting into it this year I'd have a much tougher time of picking the right wines. If all else fails then follow the sage advice of wine investment: If you've got plenty of dough then First Growths are probably a good bet. Historically they've always done well. The Chinese demand for Lafite is insatiable, and although there are signs of demand slowing, prices will probably going to continue to rise. For those of us not on City Bankers' salaries - "super seconds" and other "Blue-Chip" wines are a better bet, but the prices for these are also approaching stratoshperic. Cos, Palmer, Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages, Beychevelle, Pichons, Leovilles, etc - the usual crowd. With my personal affinity for Pontet Canet, I'd say there might be some mileage in the 2006, rated at half a point above the 2003 (at 95+) and about £200 cheaper, but on the move upwards! But hey, it's a gamble. Get good advice from a reputable merchant before buying anything and remember to sprinkle a little healthy skepticism on everything they try to sell you too!

So what does the future hold...?
Luckily we got in at a good time. We have a decent enough return to see us over the next year. However, I'm not selling my 2009s yet and we have several years to go (four, at the very minimum). It will be nice to see a rise next summer when the wines get shipped and become physically-available. Hopefully, Robert Parker will be kind in his re-scoring and things should take a turn for the positive. With regards to the 2002/2003 bottles we hold - I think I'll keep a keen eye on them. If there are signs of a negative slope perhaps it would be prudent to sell, but history says to hold onto them - in general, value goes up with time.

If you're thinking of taking the plunge - good luck

As always, speak to you soon!