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April’s Sunday Best Selections

Today’s “Sunday Best” post highlights three terrific Australian special occasion wines, an uncannily Bordeaux-like South African red and that’s just for starters

Today it is time for our regular feature that strays well beyond this website’s “core business” (identifying great value wines for informal everyday drinking) to look at more expensive wines.

Once in a while, most of us have a special occasion that calls for wine as special as the event – and which inevitable means prices that reflect that distinctiveness.

As most subscribers will know, we call our feature recommending wine like that our “Sunday Best” collection – a slightly old-fashioned name I know but it does accentuate the points of difference from mainstream “MidWeek Wines” activity.

Last call for burly reds

Apart from their (sparing) use with barbecues, summer usually means we leave heavy duty reds behind and move to lighter versions; high alcohol and hot weather are very poor bedfellows.

Before we leave sturdy reds though, there is just time to enjoy this excellent shiraz from Langhorne Creek made there by the Willson family – Scottish émigrés who named this version after their original hometown.  

Dark and dense, 2017 Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz (£14.99 at www.greatgrog.co.uk and 14.5% abv) has textured cherry and ripe plum fruit, soft tannin, good acidity counterbalanced by a touch of sweetness and background flavours of cinnamon, chocolate and peppercorns.   

Staying with robust fare

Can’t leave intense reds without paying tribute to this exquisite Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch that brilliantly captures those slightly green aromas and graphite background that seem so typical of claret country but so elusive outside it.

While not cheap, wine of this quality from, say, Bordeaux itself would attract a much higher price.

Enjoy then the heady cocktail of aniseed, cola, nuts and cocoa that 2013 Glenelly Lady May (£33.25 at www.frontierfinewines.co.uk and 14.5%) allows to mingle with its intense bramble and plum fruit, good acidity, skilfully balanced tannin and very long finish.

Before we leave reds altogether ….

Because of its blending excellence in Rioja and the Southern Rhone, we tend to overlook how good – and different – grenache can be all on its own, but some parts of the new world need no convincing.

So, back to South Australia we go for the aromatic yet smoky 2018 Samuel’s Collection Barossa Bush Vine Grenache (£16.99 at www.houseoftownend.com) and 14.5%) which has earthy raspberry and cherry fruit, orange influenced acidity, controlled tannin and clove, chocolate and black pepper elements too.

Rosé is for summer though

As hearty reds begin their hibernation until autumn, minds turn to the joys that rosé can bring to summer, especially those delicate versions from Provence.

Gracing many summer lunch tables surely will be the pale but lively and fresh 2018 Le Grand Cros Rosé (£24.76 for a magnum at Berry Bros. and Rudd and 12.5%) and the subtle red currant and crab apple flavours it brings to the party supported, as they are here, by hints of clove and of savoury herbs.    

Now for a white based “home run”  

Despite its gloriously appropriate name, the bacchus grape is not especially well known.

Originally from Germany (with riesling and silvaner ancestry) it is rapidly becoming the best still white wine grape being grown in England – particularly in the experienced hands of skilled winemakers like those at Bolney.

Note, however, that despite being from the same vintage, there are substantial differences between these two wines – courtesy of a combination of terroir, winemaking techniques and possibly picking time.

The flavours in 2018 Bolney Lynchgate Bacchus (£14.99 from the vineyard – www.bolneywineestate.com and 12%) centre on green apple and melon fruit with pronounced pink grapefruit acidity and a long finish containing quince elements as well as suggestions of white pepper.

Its sister wine though, 2018 Bolney Estate Bacchus (£17.99 from the vineyard – www.bolneywineestate.com and12.5%) is smoother (having had some oak fermentation) but the fruit is riper – more pear and gooseberry perhaps – but still with firm acidity along with a certain grassiness. 

Finally to fizz

I have spoken before about the work of Adelaide Hill’s Bird in Hand operation (where Kym Milne MW plays an important role in the winemaking) and here is the sparkling wine made there from pinot noir.

There is very subtle pink tinge to 2019 Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir (£11.99 – instead of £15.99 until 14 April at Waitrose and 12.5%) which also delivers light, floral strawberry and red currant fruit,  biscuit and cream soda background, sharp orange based acidity and hints of spicy sweetness.

Doing things by halves

In these days when spirits need to be lifted but it cannot be done in company, allocating the task to half bottles of champagne is surely a sound strategy.

Just over a 175ml glass of champagne for each of two people is an ideal way of putting sparkle into even social distancing and isolation.

So, let Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve (£22.14 for a half bottle at www.vinatis.co.uk and 12%) do the job for you and luxuriate in the finesse and delicacy it brings to the wine’s apple, lemon and peach fruit, pithy orange zestiness, vanilla texture and fine yet very active bubbles

Back on Monday guys with a look at what is on promotion next week and with two (kindly priced) top tips for you to enjoy as well.  

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for continuing with your wine notes, Brian. When the Wine Society paused their operations – and my outstanding order, I topped up my reserves via our local Majestic. Hadn’t used them much in recent years, but good service via email and their local delivery van. About a 7 day backlog. Particularly enjoyed their 2017 Mon Plaisir Cabernet Franc. The WS have now sorted out safe practices in the warehouse, so my o/s order has been resurrected and will reach me eventually. Have also used Averys and Mr Wheeler Wine, pleased with both, are they are still delivering. Not very comfortable going into supermarkets at the moment, but continue to note your recommendations, thanks!

  2. Hi Richard and good to hear from you. Thanks for the tips on retailers you have found reliable – I am sure that will help other subscribers. As you say, supermarkets are a bit of a problem area currently but I will keep pinpointing good value options there for us to use once we are free of the present benign form of House Arrest. As a great fan of cabernet franc, I am pleased to hear that it proved to be “your pleasure” too – getting good versions can be a problem though.

  3. Just to mention that new customers that sign up for the Bolney Estate email news get 10% off their first order. At £18/bot., that is worth having! I ordered some of each Bacchus and will report back idc..

  4. Hope you enjoy the wine Jerry – I was impressed – and thank you for the heads up on that discount

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