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Sometimes the best way to pay tribute to someone you love is to drink to them

For 18 months, a motley crew of wine lovers have been logging in to zoom each Thursday night to discuss, in varying degrees of sobriety, wine. Or at least in theory it was about wine, keeping conversations on track was like herding cats.

This motely crew slowly morphed into a family. I didn’t notice it happen until my brother lost a close friend of his very suddenly at the end of last year and he told me that Thursday Night Club had been such a help during this sad time. Not long afterwards a friend of mine died very suddenly, and he was right, the support, love and utter release of an uncomplicated hour chatting about wine was a balm to a troubled and bruised heart.

3 weeks ago on Sunday, the unimaginable happened. My incredible brother, my protector and my friend was out on his bike, doing what he loved, when he was hit by a car. By the time the air ambulance arrived that beautiful heart had stopped beating. In an instant my world, and those of all his family and friends had shattered into a million pieces.

Last night we had our first Thursday Night Club without his laughing face, it was hard for us all and yet I knew it was exactly what he would want to do if the roles were reversed. Instead of finding solace at the bottom of a bottle, I found solace in my friends who also knew and loved him. It was emotional but it was exactly where we needed to be on a Thursday night.

So my wine was one I had brought specifically with my brother in mind about a month ago. I’d tried a great Chilean Cinsault one Thursday night which he had subsequently bought and loved, so I decided to experiment with some new world Grenache thinking the modern take on this grape; richly fruited yet juicy and crunchy would be right up his strasse. The Fist Full of Schist Grenache Noire, 2020 from the Swartland, South Africa made by Rieebek Cellars delivered in spades. Light in colour and body but with oodles of character and juicy fruit. Lots of bramble and spice on the nose leads to a silky palate with loads of black and red fruit, pepper, cocoa nibs, graphite and liquorice. The energy from the schist and granite soils imparts and incredible freshness to the wine and there is an almost Syrah like quality when it is first opened. As the wine opens (and into the second day) the nervy minerality and peppery-ness softens into a beautifully elegant and rounded wine. This is an absolute star and for an incredible £6.25 from the Wine Society it really over delivers.

And so to our friends. Next up was the Chateau de Saint Cosme ‘Les Deux Albion’ 2019, Cotes de Rhone, a gift from one Thursday night clubber to another and a good choice as it absolutely knocked the socks of both of them! Raspberry and plums on the nose, while the palate included hints of leather, subtle vanilla notes and a chalky minerality giving structure and freshness leading to a very long finish. It was calling for food and when paired with cheese the flavours were really enhanced. The beauty was that is was so characterful without being heavy. Absolutely beautiful and proving that there is a world of variation in the Cotes de Rhone appellation from insipid to absolutely stunning. This is the latter if you hadn’t picked that up! Golborne Wine and Deli approx. £30

The Amorotti 2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy was impressive just by label design, but the wine lived up to expectation. Again a region more known for cheap and cheerful but with some extraordinary example of what the Montepulciano grape can achieve when given the right amount of love. Case in point; the nose is rich with complex notes of herbs, nutmeg and a hint of seaweed. The colour is deep purple with loads of velvety depth, a real mouthful and an absolute pleasure. Our Glass £32

Next up we have a house that has pretty much been drunk dry (I have to give many thanks for incredible hospitality and love at a time of need and take some responsibility for this) so they were down to the wine that always gets over looked by virtue of the grape variety. Liked but not loved in the house, it is a Sauvignon Blanc. The Springfield special cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Robertson, South Africa kept SA on its winning trajectory. Although it is ‘unmistakably and unashamedly Sauvignon Blanc’ it was beautifully balanced, with a mineral elegance and though very aromatic was not tropical and was ‘quite glamorous and could hold its own in a room’. High praise indeed, and paired with crab mac n cheese I have no doubt it really delivered. Waitrose £12.99

Wirra Wirra Church Block 2017, Mclaren Vale, Australia. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot and is from a well renowned Australian producer. It is unpretentious, friendly and very drinkable with lovely rounded fruit and elegant, smooth tannins making it very approachable despite the lovely depth of flavour. Looking at an Auzzie red she thought it might be bigger and need decanting, but actually it drinks beautifully from opening thanks to the excellent winemaking and well managed tannins. She would certainly buy again. Liverpool Cheese and Wine Shop £19

Taking a time out in Porto, is not only a blessing during this crazy time as Porto is AWESOME fun, but this clubber found a little wine shop that had some really cool wines which she bought home. The Dinamica Baga by Filipa Pato 2019, Bairrada, Portugal represents everything that modern Portugal is, a cool, quirky grape made in a natural, light, crunchy drinkable and moreish style; a million miles away from the traditional port that people associate with the country. Filipa Pato specialises in minimal intervention wine making and this is delicious, especially as this clubber prefers lighter styles of red wine, this is great served lightly chilled. A cracker! Bought for roughly 25 euro in Porto

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