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Thursday Night Club - 13th May - The Last Chance Saloon

This week we were challenged to revisit that grape, region or wine style that you have completely written off and give it one last chance.

There are a few grapes that if I am honest I do tend to avoid as, though I can recognise the quality in the wine, there is something in the taste that I can’t reconcile with my palate. Thinking about this challenge though, I realised there was a wine region that I used to really enjoy but after it became popular, and some less scrupulous producers started cashing in on the brand name of the region, quality had taken a nose dive and I simply got bored of mediocre, over priced examples. That region is Gavi in Piedmont.

Time to revisit me thinks! I had the opportunity to try the new vintage of the Pio Cesare Gavi 2020, Piedmont and unsurprisingly for a producer of this calibre the wine was everything I had hoped it would be. Subtle yet intense with fresh lemon zest, white pear and raw almond. The palate was creamy and yet there was a lovely nervy freshness and taut mineral seam that really draws you in, and the finish was just an incredible explosion of moreish saltiness. Thank goodness the experiment worked, Gavi is once more a region that I want to drink from! ND John £17.95 (new vintage yet to be released)

The next 'wine' category is one they had never tried before, and have never been tempted to try, so taking a deep breath they plunged in to a bottle of… alcohol free wine (the bottle had been left by a dinner guest). The Eisberg Rose is neon in colour and smells like fake raspberries (calpol?). What it doesn’t smell of is wine. It is very sweet. They gave it every opportunity to improve (multiple glass sizes, aerated, decanted) all to no avail until finally they mixed it with some real white wine. A valiant effort! Alcohol free wine is a very difficult category to get right, alcohol provides texture and glycerol which balances the other elements (acids/tannins) and in its absence many try and fill that hole with sugar. If you have had a decent quality alcohol free wine do please let us know!! The Drop Shop £3.50

The next region/grape to have historically caused disappointment was the Douro and Touriga Nacional. Too often the examples tasted showed over-ripe, baked fruit and lacked structure and acidity. They explained the challenge to the guy in the wine shop in Zurich and he recommended the Passagem Reserva 2017, Douro, Portugal and (thank goodness) it is probably the best example they have had from the region. Lighter notes, with lifted floral perfume despite the inky colour. Great structure with integrated tannins and lovely freshness. Still just a hint of stewed fruit at the core of the wine. However, it is expensive for what it is. 32 Swiss Francs

Malbec! A terrible, terrible Malbec induced hangover decades ago left them permanently scarred by the grape but the time has come to get back into the saddle. The Facon Grabado 2019 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina is (drum rolls please) really good! Reminiscent of preserved cherries in port with a hint of truffle, but the beauty is that it is not over extracted or over oaked, making it a really attractive, richly elegant wine. M&S £10

The eternal optimist, there really isn’t much he doesn’t like, with the possible exception of Leibfraumilch which is thankfully, surprisingly difficult to find now we are no longer living in the 80’s. Instead he decided to flip the challenge from one last chance, to one last bottle of something special. The Dowie Doole Tintookie Chenin Blanc 2012, Mclaren Vale, Australia took the prize. An absolute beauty with pineapple, passionfruit and richer notes of rhubarb crumble, as it warms in the glass it really opens up; silken, elegant, fresh and absolutely stunning. Armit Wines £23.34

Our next drinker also likes most wines in some shape or form, so went for an opinion divider; Merlot. Generally the ones he likes are a little out of his price bracket (Petrus?!) and the cheaper ones are often disappointing. He decided to look to a cooler region rather than finding a jammy example; the Chateau St Michelle 2017, Washington State, USA but sadly it hasn’t won him over. Though the winemaking is clearly good and it is a fresh, clean example, it is bland and fairly unremarkable. Fine as a house wine or served at a wedding, but otherwise fairly pricey for what it is. Waitrose £12.99

The two choices were Kiwi Sauvignon or South African Chenin. Baring in mind the resident Saffer in the group it was a safer bet to test drive the Kiwi Sauvignon. She went for a compare and contrast between the Two Rivers Sauvignon Blanc (£15) and the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc (£25). She has tried different grape varieties from both producers before, and know they make quality wines. Though happy to give them a second shot its still not a style she would search out, preferring Sauvignon from Adelaide Hills or Sancerre. Of the two she preferred the Two Rivers as a more typical example. The Dog Point is a natural yeast ferment and is much more on the funky spectrum. Both from Salusbury Wine Store.

There is a bottle in the fridge that she opened 3 days ago and is only half way through. 3 sips today was enough. Water, it’s the closest she can get to a bottle she doesn’t want to drink! Instead she decided to highlight a wine that many still shy away from – Riesling. Feared for being sweet, but so often a stunning example of a dry, exciting and refreshing wine. The Vignoble du Reveur Vibrations Riesling 2019, Alsace. My god it is delicious! Uplifting and yet comforting. Lemon drops (reminiscent of her childhood) and honey, apple and quince, dry and vibrant. Worth every penny she paid for it too. Swig Wines £21.50

Ten years ago Chenin Blanc was, more often than not, mediocre, particularly in South Africa where the ‘cheap and cheerful’ mantra was keeping down the quality potential of the grape. However, today it is a totally different landscape and South Africa are producing some world class Chenin. The Kunye Chenin Blanc 2020, Swartland, South Africa (which mean ‘together’ in Xhosa) is a new brand and the profits go to the local communities many of whom have historically had a tough relationship with alcohol. On the neck tag you can download an e-book all about it. And the wine is as good as the project is wholesome; fresh and fruity with lovely primary notes of grapefruit. Upfront and bright, it is a lovely drinkable, unoaked expression of this grape that you can drink knowing you are making the world a little better one bottle at a time. Marlo Wine £12.00

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