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Sunday Best Wines

Once in a while, only something a little bit special suits the occasion properly - that is precisely where our Sunday Best selections come in.

Wednesday is when we stray beyond this website’s “core business” (identifying great value wines for informal everyday drinking) to look at broader pictures.

Sometimes doing so involves taking a closer look at a specific grape variety or region or, as today, examining wine beyond what marketing people would call “entry point” fare.

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

What better name then to distinguish wines that match those special occasions from “MidWeek Wines” than to use a slightly old-fashioned term and call today’s collection of them our “Sunday Best”.   

Where one is available, a hyperlink will take you the retailer’s web page about that particular wine.

When two hemispheres meet

A while ago, that ace winemaker Kym Milne MW was kind enough to write a guest piece on this site so today it is nice to be able to speak of wine where he is a major player – Bird in Hand in Australia’s Adelaide Hills.

Although the estate there has been affected by December’s bush fires, it does not seem to have come off as badly as some neighbouring properties where, heartbreakingly, entire wineries have been lost.

The wine itself is a lovely chardonnay reflecting the masterful use of oak resulting in a classy glassful that could be dubbed “Australian panache meets Burgundian finesse”.  

Smooth and sophisticated, 2018 Bird in Hand Chardonnay (£12.99 at Majestic and 13% abv) has apple and white peach fruit with lively lime peel acidity, delightful balance, a long toffee and vanilla finish and just the mildest whiff of oak.  

A major surprise

I have never been an enthusiast of oak with sauvignon blanc – to me, the whole idea of sauvignon is its vibrancy and assertiveness, so smoothing all that down with oak seems somewhat counter-productive.

Talk about eating (or perhaps drinking) your words – this barrel fermented version from one of New Zealand’s newer regions or sub regions (North Canterbury) – is magnificent.

Mellow and smooth yet still with excellent acidity, 2018 Greystone Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc (£15.99 at Waitrose Cellar – the online service – and 13%) has beautifully rich pear, pink grapefruit and evolving peach fruit with background flavours as diverse as bell pepper and savoury spices.   

And another barrel fermented white

Few have done more to shine an international limelight on Argentina’s torrontes grape than Susana Balbo and here she has created a limited edition version of the variety.

It uses grapes from what is actually a prime malbec area – the Agrelo part of the Luján de Cuyo region, south of Central Mendoza – but, frankly, it is superb (and, once again, it is barrel fermented).

Aromatic and smooth 2016 Torrontés Signature Susana Balbo (£19.99 at www.houseoftownend.com) has spicy apple, grapefruit and peach fruit with tangerine acidity, pithy but savoury texture and a delightfully long finish.

Now for a red

I have long been a fan of Ramon Bilbao wines – an inventive producer of excellent modern Rioja.

Here the winery has produced a 50:50 blend of tempranillo and garnacha from old vines growing in higher altitude vineyards and, to me, it is quite different in style to conventional Rioja – lighter in texture yet very intense in flavours.

Enjoy, then, 2016 Ramon Bilbao Vinedos de Altura (£15.50 at www.greatwesternwine.co.uk and 14%) with its raspberry, cherry and plum fruit, good acidity, suggestions of mint, cinnamon and orange peel and firm – but not intrusive – tannin.   

Sticking with Iberia

Crossing the border into Portugal, we head for the Douro Valley and for a long-standing port shipper – Kopke – who (like many fellow port producers) are now putting major efforts into still wines but with the grape varieties used for port.

In this case, the varieties used are touriga nacional and tinta roriz (aka tempranillo of course) with sensational results.

I was hugely impressed by the dense and dark 2017 Kopke Reserva Tinto (£16.99 at www.mitchellswine.co.uk and 14%) with its black cherry, blueberry and prune fruit, mild acidity, long finish, gentle tannin and nutmeg and baking spice influenced texture.  


On the subject of promotions (of a different sort to usual) I am pleased to tell you that this site is now risen to 19th position in the Top 50 UK Wine Blogs as compiled by Feedspot. If you are not familiar with their regular emails do pay their website a visit – there is something for pretty well everybody there.

Meanwhile, thank you for your support for the site – it would not be anything like as successful without the fantastic levels of engagement that our terrific group of subscribers provide.

And next time

Right, folks, back on Friday with a couple of wines to make this weekend’s welcome transition from February to March that little bit more enjoyable.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Brian
    Agree with you with oaked Sauvignon Blanc, although when you find a good one it just works, I’ve tried some pretty decent barrel fermented Sovee’s and with the right amount of lees/oak it adds a bit of weight and texture so long as it still retains that fresh acidity which is important. Another excellent oak aged Sovee is also from New Zealand the Elara (Waimea) which is worth a try.
    I’ve also always enjoyed wines by Ramon Bilbao although I’ve not tried this one, I’m a big fan of Garnacha and when used blended it give a softer fruitier style to the wine, without losing that intense flavour.
    Nice selection !

  2. Thanks Dave. I am glad we seem on the same page about oak and sauvignon and I will seek out that Elara. I am withyou too on the softening effect of garnacha on tempranillo.

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