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Latest Pick of the clicks

More on-line shopping seems a permanent (not just pandemic) development so, if that’s what suits you (or you are thinking about it) here are options from established online operations that I can recommend

Although pubs and restaurants seem to be steadily moving back towards “the way things were”, increased online shopping has now become a permanent feature. 

One downside in respect of wine though is that it denies you the chance to make direct comparisons between two or three neighbouring bottles on a retailer’s shelves.

My regular Pick of the Clicks feature is designed to help make decisions (quandaries) like that unnecessary by providing firm steers towards some – for me – stand-out options.

So, here are a dozen or so wines from established online operations that are choices I can recommend as currently drinking well.

Since major retailers figure here most weeks, “Pick of the Clicks” puts its focus on suppliers I do not often cover – and on their wines in the £6 to £12 range.

As before, pictures appear next to commendations as this helps to ensure that you are ordering the correct wine.

In addition, there is a bonus item at the end which looks at a whisky and wine cross-over.

Starting very gently

Legitimately, winemakers in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region celebrate the vibrant freshness of their white wines. Nowadays, though, attention also focusses on the actual grape varieties being used – like the aromatic loureiro on display here.

Soft with a long finish, 2020 Vila Nova Loureiro (£9.50 at NY Wines and 11.5%) delivers undemanding pear and ripe melon flavours combined with delicate lemon acidity, appealing sweet edges and touches of nuttiness, green herbs and caramel. 

An alternative to Marlborough sauvignon

With shortages of New Zealand sauvignon blanc likely this year, do try this as an alternative. Its producer – usually associated with the South of France – uses the (helpfully flexible) Vin de France classification to create this Loire-like sauvignon.

Grassy and slightly herbal, 2019 Trois Calices Sauvignon Blanc(£9.99 at Virgin Wines and 12.5%) offers us green apple and gooseberry flavours partnered by firm lime acidity and other citrus elements that include traces of grapefruit pith and of orange. 

Another established Loire grape – but from South Africa

Although (too?) often relegated to merely a source of sparkling wine in the Loire or brandy in South Africa, never underestimate chenin blanc’s ability to create sensationally good still wine – as this Western Cape version reminds us.

Soft with a long, savoury finish 2020 Citrus & Vine Chenin Blanc (from £6.49 at Laithwaites and 13%) brings us apple, melon and peach flavours with good lemon-based acidity supplemented by a creamy viscosity embodying subtle hints of nuttiness and of honey too.

Staying in South Africa

Fusing innovation with the traditional, this attractive white wine uses South Africa’s classic chenin blanc’s red apple and slightly honeyed characteristics as its foundation but skilfully blends it with the more savoury white grenache that does so well in Southern France.

Textured and vaguely saline, 2019 Billy Bosch Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc (£9.99 – at Virgin Wines but shortly moving to the next vintage and 12.5%) provides interesting orchard fruit, greengage and green pepper flavours supported by sherbet lime acidity, touches of herbs and a citrus peel background. 

Switching now to reds

By reducing volumes come 2021’s harvest time, Europe’s recent severe frosts will inevitably push wine’s (already rising) prices up further.

The pain of paying a little more is eased, however, when the quality is as good as that displayed by this (deeper and darker than usual) Italian merlot.

Smooth with figgy depth, 2018 Il Cascinone Soliti Merlot (£10 at WoodWinters and 14.5%) provides vanilla influenced damson and black cherry flavours embellished with savoury spices, sage and mocha elements, good acidity and firm (but balanced) acidity. 

Moving from Italy to France

Traditional claret was often elbowed aside in favour of new world fruit-driven alternatives when regular wine drinking expanded in the UK 40+ years ago but modern Bordeaux (like this) exhibit styles that demand renewed attention.

2018 Chateau Lary Tagot Bordeaux (£7.95 at The Wine Society – but selling fast – and 14%) is centred around soft, medium bodied plum and raspberry flavours that are supported by good acidity and limited tannin but attractive aniseed, toffee and woodsmoke components too. 

Now to South America

While several grape varieties (carmenere, tannat etc) have successfully migrated from Southern France to South America, none have acquired the star status there that malbec enjoys. 

Reflecting that success, Argentina’s Mendoza region now produces dozens of malbecs but in terms of value for money, I rather like this especially satisfying and well-made example.

Dark with slate influenced savouriness, 2020 Santa Rosa Estate Malbec (£9.99 at House of Townend and 13.5%) brings us rich, bramble and damson flavours partnered by suggestions of allspice, sage and chocolate with good acidity but little tannin. 

Hopping over the Andes

Its climate and terrain make Chile’s Central Valley exceptional for reliable but great value cabernet sauvignon as this nicely crafted example from a go-ahead West Country wine merchant illustrates.

With classic cabernet mintiness and graphite savouriness, 2019 Las Rocas Cabernet Sauvignon (£6.99 at Wickham Wines and 13%) delivers cherry, mulberry and prune flavours neatly built into an attractive clove, black pepper and mocha background.

Of course, California does cabernet too

Ever since it triumphed over French equivalents in a famous 1976 tasting in Paris, Californian cabernet sauvignon has been accorded real respect.

Alongside the powerful masterpieces that secured that reputation, however, California also produces enjoyable but less full (and cheaper) cabernets, and this is one.

Smooth and medium bodied, 2017 Six Poets Cabernet Sauvignon (£9.95 at Slurp and 13%) delivers soft plum and mulberry flavours coupled with good acidity, chocolate, menthol and cinnamon elements but only limited tannin.

Heading back to Europe

Carinena, an “off the beaten track” Spanish wine region south of Rioja, provides that country’s name for the grape known elsewhere as carignan but, ironically, this local red blend chooses not to use any of it.

Instead, 2016 Gran Fabrica Carinena Crianza (£6.95 also at Slurp and 13.5%) is a skilful blend of tempranillo, garnacha and cabernet sauvignon that delivers minty cherry, plum and loganberry flavours embellished by lively acidity, very gentle tannin and hints of baking spice, juniper, chocolate. 

Then over the border to Portugal

Portugal is currently a great wine option with, for instance, quality Portuguese whites at reasonable prices emerging almost daily.

However, its reds continue to steal most headlines with well-constructed blends like this one (from a well-known East Anglian wine and beer specialist).

With a minty chocolate background, 2019 Adnams Douro Red(£9.99 at Adnams and 14.5%) brings us ripe cherry and raspberry flavours combined with good acidity but limited tannin and a soft liquorice and aniseed depth. 

Meanwhile, just a little way south …

This versatile red uses Portugal’s castelao grape variety (aka periquita) that has proved to be especially successful on that country’s Setubal peninsula.

However, this example is actually from over the Tagus in Lisboa, where lighter styles of castelao are now being created.

So, 2019 Amoras de Portugal (from £8.49 at Laithwaites and 13%) brings us lingering, deep, bramble, damson and loganberry flavours embellished by balanced tannin, acidic freshness and attractive cinnamon and milk chocolate components. 

And a Bonus Item

I don’t often write about whisky these days but I know some MidWeekers enjoy a dram of good malt every so often, even if such little luxuries seldom come cheap.

So, something from Glen Allachie that combines wine and whisky caught my eye the other day. Acclaimed distiller Billy Walker has been working on whisky that has been given extra maturation in barriques previously used for wine.

Two of his offerings particularly impressed me.

One was Glenallachie 13yo Rioja Wine Cask Finish which, unsurprisingly, has slight red blush to its colour and exhibits some of those chocolate influences that one often gets with Rioja.  The underlying whisky is nicely smooth with suggestions of orange and honey built into its structure.

Alternatively, I also enjoyed the (predictable) sweet edges of Glenallachie 12yo Sauternes Wine Cask Finish with its tropical fruit, fudge and citrus pith flavours that taper nicely into a lingering biscuit style finish.

For convenience, as ever, links to a retailer have been included but – just to get things clear – I get no financial benefit from telling you about these whiskies or from anyone buying them or, indeed, buying anything else featured here.

Call in again on Monday when I reveal my latest Top Tips and outline the current promotions in major retailers.

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