First up, hats off to one of our crew who has managed a staggering 10 days dry…as it transpired it was undertaken to win a bet to win some money to buy some wine, but a stirling effort nonetheless! Some interesting non alcoholic recommendations to come out of that period: Mother Root, a ginger drink that can be drunk straight or with sparkling water. Nanny state non abv beer, Brewdog punk and Erdinger non abv beer were all rated highly.
However, tonight is our night to indulge in our favourite beverage…
Once again the South African wine industry is under prohibition rules with no domestic alcohol sales at all. Riding to their rescue is our first wine, the aptly named Force Majeure Cinsault 2018, Swartland, South Africa. This is a gorgeous whole bunch, unfiltered, unfined wine (accounting for the slightly hazy colour) which is just bursting with character. The nose is so layered and expressive it is captivating. Lifted floral notes and tangy red cherries lead to a moreish saline finish. Dangerously drinkable and bang on trend. Clapton Craft £18
Next up we had such a curve ball none of us could figure out what it actually was! Master of Wine Tim Atkin has been tasting thousands of wines for his various wine reports, and having corovined his sample he sells the wine on for £15 per mixed case, with all proceeds going to charity. This one didn’t have a label, simply a hand written sticker with a name ‘Agricola Porto Fino Assemblage Vivendo Calyptra’. We managed to ascertain that it was from the Rapel Valley in Chile, and it was red! Beyond that it is a bit of a mystery! Tim?! It was full and fruity with a velvety finish, no green pepper spicy notes so we were hedging toward Cabernet or a Cabernet blend rather than Carmenere.
He had also opened the Adnams Rich Dessert Liqueur Wine from Samos in Greece. A rich amber colour and 15% abv it is a fortified wine made from the Muscat grape aged for 5 years in barrels. Delicious, smooth, sweet, balanced and an absolute dream with the (still) leftover Christmas pudding. £11.50 Adnams 50cl
Our next couple were reliving their Italian adventures with the lovely Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany. Snowed in in Zurich they wanted a simple, comforting dinner (pizza) and a wine that was going to deliver with no fuss. A few months ago they brought a Brunello 2014 to TNC and were really disappointed - it is a notoriously tricky and wet vintage. This time they made sure they were in a good vintage with 2015 and the wine absolutely delivered. Vibrant, crunchy cherry, beautiful freshness and tannins just beginning to mellow. The wine is currently in a really good place and just singing. Brought locally in Zurich for approx. £19
The last wine was chosen for mood and food, this wine was chosen for the opposite reason. He simply really wanted to try this wine despite it absolutely not being the dream pairing with the spicy chicken noodles! We’d had a discussion ilast year about Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone, and strolling through the wine aisle of Waitrose he saw an own label Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2018 from Veneto made by Fratelli Recchia on the shelf. A good wine, if not mega, chocolately with big, ripe berries and plums and soft tannins. It was certainly opening up in the glass and it is a really lovely post dinner red wine to relax with. Waitrose £13.99
Ex-rugby player Gerard Bertrand has made quite a name for himself making top end wines in the Languedoc region of France. Particularly known for his excellent reds, this clubber has decided to present his white, the Chateau L’Hospitalet 2018 Grand Vin from La Clape in the Languedoc. A blend of traditionally southern varieties; Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino, barrel fermented and aged. A bit of a white beast at 14.5% abv it was over-poweringly oaky in a chardonnay glass (large bowl), but moved to a more slender white wine glass and the wine immediately tasted more fresh and mineral driven. Fresh citrus, quince, nutty and very peppery with quite apparent oak, it opens up to develop a honeyed note. Possibly needs a big more age, it is definitely a wine for oak lovers. Hedonism Wines £40
This was part of a Christmas case, and on opening it, they looked at each other in complete agreement.. this is a cracking wine. The Casa Ermalinda Freitas Baia del Troia 2019, Peninsula de Setubal, Portugal is made from the indigenous Castelnau red grape and is a big, rich wine with lashings of dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla and red berries. At 15% it is definitely a winter warmer that will put a smile on the face! Laithwaites £12.99
Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2019, Washington State, USA. Another couple who managed to do 10 days dry, but buying wine is allowed! Tempted in by the Philglas & Swiggot January sale they couldn’t resist this beautiful Riesling, lots of peach fruit is balanced by a textural minerality and a fresh, pure, lime driven finish which perfectly counter balances the hint of residual sugar. Recommended with Chinese food which would have been a winner! Philglass & Swiggot currently £14.80
Finally the Domaine Anderson Carpe Diem Chardonnay 2015, Anderson Valley, California. I am always quite cautious around Californian Chardonnay, I adore the leaner styles but tend to shy away from the really tropical, ripe wines. On the nose this wine showed really ripe melon, peach and a hint of creamed corn, I took my first sip tentatively, but what a revelation the palate was! Intense yet incredibly vibrant with beautifully integrated sweet oak spices, a laser like freshness and a lovely taut minerality on the finish. A real showcase of the complex climate of Anderson Valley with thick morning fogs, steep hillside vineyards and warm afternoon sun. A real belter, it is lively, rich and has a really charming quirky personality. My partner in crime really enjoys the more tropical style as well as the leaner ones so this was the best of both worlds. Highly recommended. The Wine Reserve £28.99 when you buy 6