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For those of us who make New Year’s resolutions, perhaps one of them should be to celebrate wine’s diversity and try some new styles. Simon Woods offers his recommendations for 2011 in three parts.
Taste a young Hunter Valley Semillon and you wonder what the fuss is about. Pale lime green in colour, not a great deal of aroma beyond a general ‘greenness’, not that much more flavour and then an assault of buttock-clenching acidity. Yet try a mature example and… where did those flavours of almonds and lime custard appear from? How can it be so honeyed and toasty when it’s been nowhere near an oak barrel? And how can it seem so fleshy and weighty at just 10.5% alcohol?
The good news is that some producers delay release of their wines in order for them to calm down. Three to look out for are Glenguin Old Broke Block Semillon 2006 (£9.95-10.75, Bibendum, Slurp.co.uk), McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005 (£9.55, Slurp.co.uk) and best of all, the Tyrrell’s Winemakers Selection Vat 1 Semillon 2003 (£25, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, Highbury Vintners). Perfect for dressed crab.
South African spicy reds
South Africa still produces some very respectable Bordeaux-inspired reds, but much of the moving and shaking that’s been going on in recent years has involved grapes from the Rhône, such as Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. Many of the best wines tend to come from the Swartland region, where native plants and schist-rich soils impart a herby mineral character, much as the garrigue does in southern France.
A current favourite is Mullineux Syrah 2008 from Swartland (£16.95, Berry Bros & Rudd), a wine that packs in characters of ginger biscuits, violets, kirsch and plums, adds in the herby wildness, and finishes in full but refreshing fashion. Superb. Chris Mullineux used to make the wines at Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, so it’s no surprise that its Rhône-style wines – both white and red – are also excellent. The Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards The Raptor Post 2007 (£10.75, Berry Bros & Rudd) is not so much Rhône-y as Provence-styled, with Cabernet Sauvignon joining Syrah and Mourvèdre in the mix. The resulting wine has spice and herby minerality but also a bold cassis edge from juicy ripe Cabernet.
Other producers whose Rhône-inspired reds are worth seeking out include Eben Sadie, who also makes the wines at Sequillo Cellars in the Swartland, Luddite, Boekenhoutskloof and Sijnn.
I normally approach supermarket wine ranges with a fair degree of caution – except when it comes to sherry. Even the basic bottlings are very respectable, while higher up the ranges they can be quite brilliant. For example, I’ve been very impressed in the past by the sherries that appear in Tesco’s Finest selection, especially the Oloroso made by Hidalgo. However, the company is currently in the middle of revamping its range – hopefully wines of this quality will survive any cull.
Sainsbury’s also has some showstoppers from Lustau in its Taste the Difference range, most notably in the shape of the 12-year-old Amontillado and 12-year-old Oloroso. At the time of writing, they’re under £7 for a 50cl bottle, a total bargain for wines of this quality – bring on the tapas.
The Waitrose Solera Jerezana range (also from Lustau) at around £8 a 75cl bottle is also very good, with the wonderfully bracing Fino del Puerto being the pick of the bunch.
Finally, although they’re not exactly supermarket wines, the two Olorosos from Sanchez Romate in the Wine Society’s Exhibition range (both £10.95) are both brilliant. The decadent, raisiny Dulce is delicious with blue cheese or chocolate puddings, but it’s also wonderful dribbled over good vanilla ice cream!