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.