Monday, 21 March 2011

Laithwaites - Mystery Case

Hello All.

I've always been a fan of these. Don't ask me why, because I don't really know. Logic tells me that I should avoid paying for wine when I haven't got a clue what it is. However, whether cleverly marketed by means of words like "Surprise", "Mystery" and "Discovery", or whether the bargain-hunter in me is hoping to scoop the ever-elusive £600 case,  I still seem to buy them fairly regularly.

So what the hell is a Mystery Case I hear you ask? Basically, it's a collection of random bottles put into a case for £69.99 (or £59.99 if you're buying any other 12 bottles with it). Often made up of Bin Ends (when they tidy up the leftover bottles in cellars) but you can find some of their regular range plonked in as well. You can get mixed (6 white, 6 red), all whites or all reds. See the Website for more details here:  Each case promises a "Bargain" with savings of £17 guaranteed, although I've always been a bit suspicious of those figures (we'll examine it at the end of the case). Including delivery, and assuming you're not buying 12 other bottles it works out at £6.42 a bottle. Not bad at all. 

You can get some lovely bottles. You can get some not-so-lovely bottles. It really is a gamble, but we've been fairly lucky so far and had some nice ones. Anyway, you're always covered by the 100% guarantee from Laithwaites - if you don't like it or it's off, email them and they'll send you a voucher, usually for more than the wine was worth in the first place. Cool beans.

Anyway, what were the first four like...

A.R.H. Family Vineyard, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Australia, 2009
Made by the Hickinbotham Family and named after Prof. Alan Robb Hickinbotham, apparently one of the founding fathers of Australian wine. Matured in a mix of French and American Oak. A big one at 14.5%.

The Look: Unsurprisingly; a deep, dark, nearly opaque, plummy-purple with a violet rim.
The Smell: A lovely mix of blackberry, blueberry, violets, spice and chocolate.
The Taste: Loads of blackberry fruit.  Chocolate and spice. Smooth mouthfeel from the integrated tannins. Delicious. It doesn't say what the blend ratio is but I'd guess it's the majority being Shiraz and a small amount of Cab, say 85/15 at a guess?
The Score: Very fruity, but at the same time refined, complex and classy. 8/10Recommended!
VFM: This is normally £7.99 so the £6.42 case-average works well in our favour. At this price VFM is exceptional at 1.25

Solar de Coteba, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Mancha, 2008 

Made in Castilla-La Mancha in Spain from 40 year old low-yielding vines. Reasonably high altitudes (600m) allow cool nights to counterbalance the blazing sun and produce concentrated flavours and aromas in the grapes. There is a small percentage of Tempranillo in the blend, apparently, but labelled as varietal Cab Sauv.13.5%.

The Look: A dark, inky-black/purple, not fully opaque and with a ruby-red rim.
The Smell: Very nice - Oaky, spicy blackcurrant and blackberry. Some vanilla.
The Taste: Warm and spicy with lots of fruit and creamy Cassis. A "mouthful" feel to it. Bright acidity.  On the verge of being too "hot" - needed a bit more restraint.
The Score: Very nice, but just too big for its structure to handle, too much alcohol apparent. Just misses a recommendation at 7/10
VFM: This is normally £6.99 so the £6.42 case-average gives us a small saving. At this price VFM is albeit very good at 1.09

 And on to the whites...

Les Vertus d'Antan, Colombard-Gros Manseng, Cotes de Gascogne, 2008 

Made in Gascony, south of Toulouse. Here Colombard grapes are often made into wine to be distilled into Armagnac. However, this one has been blended with the little-known Gros-Manseng which should add freshness, spice and florality at the fairly low alcohol level of 11.5%.

The Look: A deep gold colour.
The Smell: Citrus, grapefruit and spice on the nose. Very aromatic!
The Taste: Very bright lemon/lime zing to start, followed by a grapefruit-like bitterness. The acidity is very strong, leading to a "spritzy" mouthfeel but there are no bubbles in this! Mouth-puckering, but refreshing.
The Score: Nice, but a little overdone on the acidity. 7/10
VFM: This is normally £7.49 so the £6.42 case-average gives us a reasonable saving. At this price VFM is again very good at 1.09

Visionario, Bianco delle Venezie, 2009

Made in the delle Venezie IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) which signifies quality but is less strict than the DOC/G rules. Venezie encompasses many regions in Northern Italy including Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. An undisclosed white blend here at 13%.

The Look: A pale, medium yellow.
The Smell: Sweet toffee-apple, floral, hints of grass and tropical fruit.
The Taste: Slightly off-dry with lots of fruit-character, peach, apple, toffee. A bit sweet but balanced by the acidity. Very gluggable but a bitterness on the finish let it down.
The Score: Chill it fiercely and swig it back. Not bad at all 6.5/10
VFM: This is normally only £5.99 so we've paid a little more for it this time around. However, still very good value at VFM =  1.08. saving.

So, there's the first four. Not bad at all. Nothing mind-blowing, but a very good Shiraz and some perfectly good wines for the price.
Part 2 next week. Bring it on...

As always, speak to you soon!



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