Monday, July 31, 2017



This is a delicious, delightful fruit bomb backed up with tannins and a firm acid spine. It even has flash packaging that can be deceptive. Not here. The wine is probably even better. Very highly recommended as I've grabbed a few.

5/5 rating from me  
£4.99 from Lidl  

This is probably the best budget white EVER!

In the 40 [yes I started young] odd years I've been raving about wine I can't recall a better budget white than this. 
It's from the south west of France not too far from Portugal's Vinho Verde. It's probably a Lidl controlled brand and it's probably mostly colombard.  And if it was VV it would be as good as I've tasted. It has a crisp dry lifted vibrancy that absolutely dazzles - you'd think it was bottled yesterday. A truly outstanding wine that I would recommend to anyone.
NB This is one that Lidl regularly feature as one of their £2.99 weekend promotions. Which means it's usually sold out very quickly on a Saturday morning

5/5 rating from me
£2.99 from Lidl on promotion
£4.29 the rest of the time

A really difficult wine to score

With a minimalist front label that had the three magic words of clare, valley and riesling we were drawn to the back label for more information. Made by Pikes!! Oh happy day. You don't see many OZ rieslings in the UK and this has been one of my favourites for many years. 

Sadly it was a disappointment and the back label description was way off. It was one of those glycerol laden rieslings that have never enjoyed much of a market that I could find. Of its style it's a perfect example. It may be flavoursome but it's certainly not crisp and fresh. And where the back label author got the idea of "an uplifting hint of sweetness" is beyond me.

2.5/5 rating from me  
£13  from Marks and Spencer

The Beer of the Year ... So far

How could I resist a beer with a name like this. It's been brewed using five different hops and combined outstandingly with some serious malt. A beautifully balanced beer that is nudging perfection.

5/5 rating from me
500ml bottle

4.6% a/v
£1.49 from Home Bargains 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sainsbury's Winemaker's Selection Alvorada Vinho Verde

This is a perfectly pleasant little drink and scores a bit higher with the price. It's dry, won't offend but just lacks the crucial zing. No spritzig either.
Alcohol is a lunchtime appropriate 9% and I can't find a vintage anywhere.
The Vinho Verde hunt continues!

3.5/5 rating from me 
£3.75 from Sainsbury's while the 25% off sale is on [regular £5]  

Do you want the good news or the bad?

Well here's both. The bad news is that the superb 2011 vintage of this is just about sold out. The good news is there is still some stock of it along with the 2013 which is sharing the shelves in some stores. The even better news is that the 2013 is a cracker. Still a little quirky but far more depth of colour and fruit with encroaching dustiness in the background. It gets even better with the price down from the regular bargain £4.85

5/5 rating from me at a ridiculous £3.64 from Sainsbury's while the 25% off sale is on  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Brancott Estate 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

JUST £5.06 from Sainsbury's for a short time only.
Yes, Sainsbury's have this on promo for £6.75 at the moment. They also have a 25% off sale running which brings the price down to a crazy £5.06 

Back in the day this used to be called Montana. While the name and the style has changed* the price is about the same as it was 20 years ago. It's one of those high profile, well made wines [think Oyster Bay, Ned, Villa Maria, Matua] that you should always look out for when it's  being specialled. The promo price for these brands used to be around £6. Nowadays, with the fall in the value of the pound, £7 looks like a good deal which I saw at Tesco a couple of weeks ago. This price really is crazy

4.5/5 rating from me 
* the 2016 is a bit of a blast from the past with far more herbaceous character than I've seen for awhile. There's still tropical fruit but expect a bit of grass as well.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I'm looking for much more from this grape

Sainsbury's "Taste the Difference" Salento 2015 Primitivo

I'm looking for a lot more complexity and grunt from Primitivo than I found here. The outstanding Gypsy Jack from Langhorne Creek raised the bar way too high for any competitors I've tasted so far. While this is a perfectly pleasant red that won't offend please don't use this as a benchmark.

3/5 rating from me 
£6 from Sainsbury's

Colinas de Uruguay 2016 Albarino

I love Uruguayan red wines and believe that they provide some of the best value in the world. So it was with some anticipation I twisted the screwcap off the first Uruguayan white I can recall coming across. It's a beauty, full of a heady mix of fascinating fruit flavours and lovely texture. For me this defines this grape variety so do yourself a favour and grab a bottle. It might just be the most exciting dry white you've tasted in a long time.

5/5 rating from me
£7 from Sainsbury's

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hurry for this 3 for £12 offer from Tesco

Tesco have a really interesting wine range. 
This is one of their many own labels which I wouldn't worry too much about at its regular £6 asking price. But they currently have a 3 for £12 offer [ending 15/5] which elevates it to a must buy if you're looking for an every day Marlborough sauvignon blanc 
5/5 rating from me at this price 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Four Bargains from HOME BARGAINS

Home Bargains is a Poundland/$2 Shop type outlet with the most random little booze section I've ever seen. I picked out these four and I can enthusiastically recommend the lot.

Stella Cider? Who would have thought? Not only that it's an Elderflower flavour. If you like this style you will love this one. It's a little bit sweet but chill it right down with heaps of ice and you'll cut through that sweetness.
Not my type of drink but the quality at just 99p gives this a 4.5 rating.

Marstons EPA is one of those full of hop flavour mid strength beers [3.6% a/v] that we should be drinking Down Under.
Just £1.09 for a 500ml bottle makes this another 4.5 rating.

Greene King IPA Reserve is an outstanding beer. Gloriously bitter with the perfect balance of malt and hops. 5.4% a/v £1.49 for 500ml and 5/5 rating from me.

Sadler's Peaky Blinder is a black IPA . It's deep rich and inky. A combination of 5 different malts and 5 hops. It's a complex treat that's a meal in a 500ml bottle. 4.6% a/v. £1.49 and 4.5 rating.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Vina Maipo 2016 Classic Series Chardonnay

A front label description of "A smooth wine with tropical fruit flavours" gives the game away here. There's not much acid so this is a soft, drink NOW proposition. All the way from Chile it's an easy drinking, style that will neither offend nor excite. At the price it's good value.
3.5/5 rating from me  
£5.00 from Sainsbury's

This label deserved a better wine

This ticked a few boxes for me as I picked it off the shelf. I liked the label, the back label read well, it was a new grape variety for me and it comfortably fits in most people's budget.
Unfortunately the contents didn't match the description or the quality of the label. Maybe it should have been consumed a year earlier but it was quite developed and austere with no discernible fruit to grab hold of. If I was still retailing I'd like to get rid of this fairly quickly.

Mondelli 2015 Terre Siciliane Grillo
2/5 rating from me 
                                             £5.25  from Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's "Taste The Difference" Wild Valley Fairtrade 2016 Chenin Blanc

This one's from Wellington in South Africa. While I'm a huge fan of SA efforts with this variety, I just felt this one fell a bit short of my expectations. It's a very pleasant dry white that no one will take offence to. I'm just being picky looking for something a bit more definitive.

3.5/5 rating from me 
£6.00  from Sainsbury's

Torres 2016 Vina Sol

This has to be one of the most quaffable dry whites I've ever encountered. Unwooded, dazzling fruit with a crisp acidity.A welcome alternative for sauvignon blanc drinkers and will also satisfy chardonnay fanciers. This is a long established, well known label in the UK although I didn't encounter it until the very impressive 2015 vintage. This is every bit as good. The variety is most likely parellada so that's another one you can tick off the tasting

5/5 rating from me 
£6 from Sainsbury - although look for it on promotion for under five quid

Pure dazzling fun in a bottle

On one hand this is a simple, straightforward example of how Vinho Verde should be. Crisp, dry, clean fruit and a dash of tongue tingling spritzig. On the other it's a benchmark showing how dangerously drinkable this stuff can be at such an affordable price. Fortunately it's only 9% a/v and that's part of its charm. Perfect for a lunchtime quaff. Very highly recommended as an introduction to the vinho verde style.

Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Vinho Verde
Probably 2016
5/5 rating from me 
£5.00  from Sainsbury's

I really wouldn't bother with this one

There's nothing wrong with this wine but nor does it have "all the hallmarks of classic Marlborough sauvignon" as the back label claims. It's perfectly pleasant but there are far better wines to be had at, or below, this price.

Glenridge Point 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
2.5/5 rating from me 
£6.50 from Sainsbury's

Carta Roja 2011 Monastrell Syrah

This is a lovely aged Spanish red fading in colour but still packing a charry mouth puckering punch. It's leathery and savoury. Not for everyone but should be 3 times the price. 

4.5/5 rating from me 
£4.85 from Sainsbury's

Shopping Treats in the Azores

For me one of the treats of travelling is wandering around local supermarkets. Forget the centre aisles where all the processed rubbish is. I'm talking about the fresh food. The vegies, the meat, the seafood and of course the booze. Plus it's always fun deciphering the deals.
We found an outstanding one in Horta about halfway between the port and the hospital where we picked up this beauty. We wanted 2016 and we wanted something we'd never tasted before. This is a dazzling dry white at the quality end of vinho verde.

5/5 rating from me   6.5 euro 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Most Wanted 2015 Albarino

The first Albarino I ever tasted was a weird and wonderful 2013 effort from Stanrock in New Zealand. It polarised opinion. 90% hated it, 10% thought it was the best white they'd ever tasted. That didn't surprise me and I like wines that get that type of response - although 50/50 would be better.
This is nothing like that which is probably a good thing for the makers and distributors. It's just not so exciting.
Albarino [aka Alvarinho in Portugal] is a white wine variety popular in the north western corner of the Iberian peninsula. This is a pretty mainstream effort that will appeal to most dry white drinkers.

12.5% a/v
3.5/5 rating from me 
£7 from Sainsbury's

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Portugal, The Azores, Sao Miguel

March 2017
We booked this tour online through Green Zone Tours. It looked far more interesting than anything our cruise ship was offering, it would just be the two of us and we could escape our fellow passengers for a few hours.
We were met by Filipe as planned at the Cruise Ship Terminal and off we went in his four wheel drive. Through the winding streets of Ponta Delgada along the coast road to a spectacular outlook over the Monastery Rock, sea and countryside. Next stop was the little town of Sete Cidades at the base of the crater. From there it was a minute or so to the two lakes that dominate the landscape and an explanation of the mythology surrounding them.
Then the real fun began as Filipe and the 4WD earnt their money climbing to the top of the crater's rim. It was a narrow dirt track with the occasional hazard of a farmer's tractor coming the other way. At each stop to admire the view the thought was "how much higher can we possibly go?" The answer was: right to the top at a knee trembling, wind howling 850 metres. 
The views were worth the climb but with sheer drops either side of the track for most of the way there was relief that the return trip was in another direction with a more gentle decline. The final bonus was a detour around a huge mist enshrouded lake edged with azaleas before a rural drive back to town. 
This was one of those occasions where reality far exceeded advertising hype. A glorious route through one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet was enhanced even more by Filipe. He was a charming, knowledgeable and erudite guide and fortunately a very skilful driver. He explained at the beginning that he didn't prattle non-stop like some but would point out everything that mattered and we should ask whatever we wanted. It worked a treat.
This was an outstanding 3.5 hour trip, great value and highly recommended. I don't know whether you can ask for Filipe but I'd give it a go.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Turkish Delight

Over the years there's been an understandable lack of necessity to bring wine to our place. So many samples from suppliers, so many left overs from tastings. That's all changed in retirement so we thank Hilary and Glynn Genin for their regular contributions to our shared dining.
LIKYA 2011 Kalecik Karasi Malbec Dry Red Wine
This is a cracker they brought back from Turkey especially for us. It's a blend of a local variety with our old favourite malbec. It's definitive Mediterranean with a rich sun drenched intensity that with six years in the bottle was drinking at a superb peak. Yet another variety to add to my tasting list [over a 1000 to go] and a 5/5 rating from me for so many reasons.

Friday, February 24, 2017

This is like bringing the pub back home

There is nothing quite like a draught beer. Even VB is tolerable when poured from a tap. But never have I tasted a beer like this TTL that could just as easily been hand pulled from the cellar. 
Fizz is delightfully restrained but flavour is full on. Malt just dominates the hops but only just. It's as close to perfect balance as we could hope for. No surprise then with a back label claim that "Landlord has won more major awards than any other beer, including 4 times as CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain." 4.1% a/v
5/5 rating from me 
£23.40 for twelve 500ml bottles  from Majestic 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sometimes you should trust a back label and sometimes not

... but the desire to taste two new grape varieties over took commonsense.  Mavrodaphne and Korinthiaki are indigenous to the Patras region of Greece. They've been blended to create a sweet 15% a/v red. Presumably it has had some fortification [not mentioned on the label] although it obviously doesn't have the intensity of a port Colour is murky at best, a far cry from the promised "deep mahogany, bright with crimson lights"
It's not a bad wine - in fact it could go quite well with less sweet desserts. My main complaint is that I still have idea what those two grapes taste like.
And I think the packaging is outstanding.
Nyx Mavropdaphne of Patras
3/5 rating from me 
£5.89 from Asda 

Monday, February 6, 2017

I wonder where these two come from?

Retailers all around the world have wines labelled for them. They make up brand names or simply use their own name. Which means the same wine could conceivably be on the market under many different labels. In the UK they've gone one step further:No brand and no indication of who it was made for.
But there is absolutely no mistaking their country of origin.
The Pinotage is unmistakeably South African with that earthy feral character displayed by this hybrid variety. If you like your reds squeaky clean this is to be avoided. Otherwise I recommend a try. It has a bit of grunt at 14% a/v and at just £3.89 at Lidl scores 4/5 from me
The Pinot Grigio has a little more palate weight than usual and a dash of sweetness. It's not particularly exciting but I could see it being a real crowd pleaser£4 at Tesco scores 3.5/5 from me

Friday, February 3, 2017

Might just be the Best Beer Buy of 2017

Tesco currently have a range of Sharps beers on promotion.
Normally £1.79 the offer is four 500ml bottles for a mere £6

All feature deep bronze/red colour and are an easy 5/5 rating from me.
Wolf Rock is a full on IPA that also features a fair chunk of malt. Not for the faint hearted. Sea Fury is a toned down version of that while Atlantic is a very user friendly Pale Ale. Doom Bar is one of my favourite draught ales. It's not quite as good in a bottle, but it's close.

 5/5 rating from me Betty Stogs Brazen Cornish Bitter 4% a/v Skinner's Brewery Cornwall £1.39 at Lidl [500ml] Morande "One to One" 2016 Old Vines Gewurtztraminer £6.99 from Majestic RRP: $ Our Price: $ by the doz notes: IN STOCK OUT OF STOCK

Friday, January 27, 2017

How many beers can I taste in 2017?

Well here's a start with two perfectly acceptable, but far from knee trembling, bargains from Asda.
They fall into my Category One Beer rating so are perfectly quaffable without any rave factors. Both are in the mid range alcohol category and prove that you can still have flavour at below 4%.

Banks Amber Bitter 3.8% 3.5 rating 90p 500ml bottle from Asda

Ruddles Best Proper Country Ale 3.8% 3.0 rating £1 500ml bottle from Asda