Monday, 20 June 2011

Naked Again - part 2

Hello all,

Welcome to the final part of our return to Naked Wines. As mentioned in my previous post, these were provided as a preview for their upcoming "meet the winemaker" tasting tours.

No fuss this week; straight into it...

Antoine Simoneau, Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, 2010
Made in the Touraine winery that has been in the Simoneau family for generation upon generation (since 1790!). Touraine in the Loire Valley is a source of Sauvignon Blanc considered slightly more down-to-earth than the over-hyped Sancerre and heady Pouilly-Fumé but can be a source of great value wines, when compared to those two. This is 12%

The Look: A crystal clear, watery-white with very slight lemon tinge.
The Smell: Grassy, minerally and lots of gooseberry. Slightly floral too.
The Taste: Very fresh, bright acidity with a strong burst of ripe gooseberries and a lemon/lime hint. Backed up by a savoury green pepper and mineral edge. Long tangy finish.
The Score: Not a stunner but a well-made, pleasing wine. 7/10.
VFM: At £9.49 this is on the high-side for Touraine, but still giving good VFM at 0.74. Angels would probably find the price more in line with other Touraines with their 33% off (£6.26). Really the price for this should be around £7.99 - there's a glut of other Touraines about, possibly better than this, at that price. 

Mauricio Lorca, Angel's Reserve Torrontes, La Rioja, 2010
Very little information regarding this, either on the website or the bottle other than the "passionate winemaker" and it's from Argentina's La Rioja. This is 13%

The Look: Pale but fairly deep lemony yellow with green hues.
The Smell: Intriguing smells; woody, herby, slight smoke, hedgerow and elderflower.
The Taste: Slightly smoky and sauvory on the first sip, that gives way to dry, herby elderflower, then florality, finishing with a flat, very bitter, vaguely grapefruity tang.
The Score: Lacks any sort of Wow. Interesting flavours let down by a poor, way-too-bitter finish. 6/10.
VFM: At £8.99 this gets a reasonable VFM at 0.67. Again, "Angels" would probably find the price a bit more palatable, but I would suggest better Torrontes alternatives in this price bracket with a little effort.

Domaine O Vineyards, Trah Lah Lah, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
This one was faulty so  I can't comment. Did show promise with some smoky plum on the nose but was hot, musty and bitter - faulty.

So, there we have a return to Naked Wines. Some good value wines, especially if you're prepared to commit to the Angels scheme (£20 a month for 33% cashback on purchases) but nothing mind-blowing I'm afraid. Who knows, maybe the next case will convince me that it's worthwhile...

As always, speak to you soon



Monday, 13 June 2011

Naked Again!

Hello all,

We return to Naked Wines this week, with the recent news that they are bringing the winemakers to meet the customers in a series of UK tasting tours.  They're coming to London, Brighton, Norwich, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh so if you're nearby, pop along to sample the wines for yourselves. You'll get to meet the winemakers themselves and sample their latest offerings.

Naked kindly provided some wines as a preview (remembering that "Angels" get 33% cashback off the marked price in return for £20 a month regular payment into your Angels account). We had the first three this week and the next three will follow next week. Enjoy!

Castillo de Tafalla Angels Selection Rosé, Navarra, 2010

Winemaker Benoit Dreyer returns with his "pick of the crop" rosé made from Garnacha (Grenache) grapes grown in Navarra. We've had the standard 2009 rosé before and found it to be very good. 14%

The Look: As you can hopefully tell from the photo, this is probably the most striking-coloured wine; bright lipstick-red with orange and cerise hues. Almost fluorescent in its brightness!
The Smell: Apples, some caramel, strawberry, hints of tropical fruit and some cedary/oaky wood.
The Taste: Again, very apply, like a sweet gala apple, some caramel sweetness but balanced by nice crisp acidity, some tropical hints and decent length. Certainly better on the second glass but a bitterness on the finish let it down slightly.
The Score: A decent rosé but didn't wow as much as the 2009 7/10.
VFM: At £7.99 this is pretty good value, giving VFM = 0.88, but I'm not sure the cream of the crop is worth the extra £1 over the standard Rosé at £6.99?

Borgo dei Sassi, Prosecco DOC, NV

Winemaker Alessandro Botter crafts this fizz in the winery his grandfather set up. Extra dry in style, from about 40 miles North of Venice in the Veneto region. Non-vintage and 11%.

The Look: Pale watery-white with a slight lemon tinge.
The Smell: Very aromatic, grape-juice and peaches are evident.
The Taste: Fine bubbles and lots of them! Very fresh acidity, white fruit like grapes, peaches and apricots. Lots of fruit. Slight hint of biscuit but not a great deal of complexity.
The Score: A fresh, fruity, fragrant and accessible Prosecco. Not bad at all 7/10.
VFM: At £10.49 I would suggest that this is about 20% overpriced, it lacks the minerality and elegance that you start can find in £10+ Proseccos. VFM@ 0.67 isn't terrible and with the Angel's 33% cashback it's more in line with what you'd expect to pay.

Montaria, Vinho Regional Alentejano, 2010

From the hot region of Alentejano in the south of Portugal by winemaker Antonio Ventura. This is a blend of indigenous varieties; Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet. And no, I've never heard of them either! 13%.

The Look: Dark red with purple and violet hues running through. Not quite opaque but nearly.
The Smell: Really great smells, especially after an hour open. Redcurrants, blackcurrants, blackberries and oaky spice.
The Taste: Lots of fruit, a hit of dark cherry, blackberry and brighter more acidic red fruit like redcurrants. Cedary notes as well. Good balance between fruit, acidity and tannin. Not infinitely long but a decent length. Ever-so-slight hotness on the finish. Good, solid, but generic fruity red.
The Score:  At £7.99 it places itself in a tough competitive environment. There's gallons of good wines to be had and this doesn't really stand out. It is, however, an unusual blend and it's worth a try. 7/10.
VFM: The VFM pops out at a pretty respectable 0.88. Portuguese wines are neglected by the majority of the wine-drinking public (I'm guilty) but not deservedly so. Next time I'll probably go for the Reserva 2009 @ £9.99 as I'm sure that would offer a step-up in taste.

So there we have it. Three solid performers this time around. All good value and even more so if you're prepared to stump-up the £20 a month Angels fee. I'll review the remaining three next week, maybe there'll be a breath-taker amongst those...?

As always, speak to you soon.



Monday, 6 June 2011

Icons - Zind Humbrecht

Hello All!

Welcome to the third installment of the Icons series - today, the biodynamic Alsace producer; Domaine Zind Humbrecht. I must admit, until recently I hadn't tried any of their wines but I have seen them lauded many times by the wine press. Current man at the helm in Turckheim is Oliver Humbrecht MW, the first Frenchman to become a Master of Wine. He is the son of Genevieve Zind and Leonard Humbrecht who created the domaine in 1959, although the family have been making wine since the 17th century! 

Their wines are revered for expressing a sense of place from the various Grand Cru and single vineyard sites, no doubt some would say, due to their fastidious vineyard practices (fully-certified as biodynamic). The top wines carry a hefty price-tag, for example a Gewurz from the Hengst Grand Cru vineyard will set you back about £40 - £60 a bottle! 

However, they do offer entry-level wines, and it is here that we'll look to see if you can get a feel for that "terroir expression" so often quoted, albeit at a sensible price. We had the entry-level Riesling and Gewurztraminer, both from 2009 and both from Majestic Wine at £11.99 each (when you buy 2-bottles, normally £14.99 each).

Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Riesling, 2009, 11.5%

The Look: A pale gold, very bright and clear with a watery white rim.

The Smell: Complex. Grapey, creamy vanilla, lots of stone fruit like peach and apricot, slightly nutty and some mineral undertones.

The Taste: There's acidity, smoothness, opulent and luxurious fruit, peach and apricot again dominating plus a long, dry, crisp citrussy finish.

The Score: Good, but not superb. I was left wondering what all the fuss was about, and didn't really get a sense of "terroir expression" apart from a slightly mineral nose. Worth a try, but for £15 I'd really have to go with something a bit fresher from the New World.   7.5/10. Recommended 

VFM: Normal price of £14.99 yields a VFM of 0.50 which is not great value by any stretch, but neither is it appalling! 


Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Gewurztraminer, 2009, 14%

The Look: A deep golden white.

The Smell: Very floral, candied-fruit type smell, VERY Turkish Delight and a deep scent. A nutty oakiness too.

The Taste: Off-dry but with plenty of balancing acidity. Smooth, full palate but very heavy and hard-drinking. Lots of florality and Turkish Delight flavours leading to a bitter grapefruit finish. Odd. Really needs food.

The Score: You need food to accompany this wine, rather than the other way around! Really heavy - we didn't finish the second glass (which is highly unusual for us!). I can't deny that it is probably well-made, just not my bag.  6/10.

VFM: Normal price of £14.99 yields a relatively poor VFM of 0.40 which, again, isn't great value.


There is a lot of Region-Snobbery as I call it associated with the Alsace, but on the evidence of entry-level wines from Domaine Zind Humbrecht, moderately unimpressed are we. The Riesling was good, but for £15? Pfft. There are bags more flavour in say, an Australian Clare Valley Riesling and signs of better "terroir expression" also coming to light. New Zealand, Chile, and don't forget Germany


With the Gewurz, in terms of personal choice, I'd much rather plump for a fresh, fruity Gewurz from the New World (Oz, NZ, Bio Bio in Chile etc.) or even better, the supremely fresh wines from Italy's Alto Adige - those to me, typify what Gewurz should be like, drenched in Lychee fruit, zippy-zingy acidity, and bone-dry. In a recent Decanter, Gewurz was described as a "Marmite" wine (love it or hate it). Actually, I'm inclined to disagree. I'd say that Alsace Gewurz is a "Marmite" wine, but the fresh, fruity, delicious Gewurzes from elsewhere have much more appeal. Region-Snobbery was again, horribly-evident in their poll, which basically implied the the only Gewurz worth its salt was from the Alsace. To the wine drinker on a budget that is absolute bollocks. Perhaps, if I was ever inclined to spend £60 on a bottle from the Alsace I may have an epiphany and eat my words. However, to encourage that sort of spend needs at least some sign that trading-up is actually worth it. I have yet to see that evidence.


My advice - for aromatics like Riesling, Gewurz and Pinot Gris - go to the New World or Alto Adige. Alsace on a budget is flat and flavourless in comparison.


As always, speak to you soon.