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The Bridge from Supermarket to Indy

Today, we stray away from Supermarket wine - but not the High Street - to look at a selection of impressive wines from Majestic. In addition, there are a couple of Best of the Rest wines and a new feature on wines for slightly more sophisticated occasions - and this feature has been dubbed "Sunday Best Wines"

Under the imaginative and unconventional guidance of Rowan Gormley, Majestic is becoming very quick on its feet – both managerially and in the wines sold – nevertheless they continue, very effectively,  to span the gap between supermarkets and “indy” wine merchants.

Here are a few of their current offerings that I consider great examples of wine from their particular home regions – and, of course with MidWeek Wines, to be good value for money.

This week’s other content includes two more “Best of the Rest” wines plus a new feature on special occasion bottles; it replaces our Top Tips this time.

Back though to our headline recommendations, remember that Majestic’s pricing policies changed a while back with single bottle prices introduced (the higher of those shown below) and significant discounts (the lower price shown) kicking in when you buy six bottles in total.

Follow the link to Majestic’s “T&C’s” to see how their mixed six policy works and the different pricing arrangements that apply in Scotland.

 As usual, click on any bottle for an enlarged image to help spot the wine on a crowded display.

 First New Zealand Pinot Gris

 Anyone doubting how good New Zealand pinot gris can be need only sample this version from Marlborough which has both pinot grigio ripeness and delightfully fresh acidity.

Interestingly, that ripeness injects a perception of sweetness into 2017 Russian Jack Pinot Gris(£8.99/£10.99 and 13% abv) but, as the wine warms up, that is counterbalanced by touches of sherbet citrus acidity that neatly underscore its textured red apple, pear and nectarine fruit.

Nipping Back to Australia

Because so many German emigres headed for South Australia, the Clare Valley has been hugely successful with the riesling variety associated with those early settlers  – helped of course by suitable climatic conditions and skilled winemaking.

Enjoy then this top end coming together of all those factors in the form of the zippy yet substantial 2015 Jim Barry The Lodge Dry Riesling (£10.99/£14.99 and 12.5%) with lime and green apple fruit combined with touches of parsley, jasmine and white peach hobnobbing, naturally, with that classic suggestion of kerosene.

Switching now to great value red

Once again we see that stepping outside Spain’s main areas – to Carinena in this case – we can unearth great value well matured wines like this – which is an absolute star at this very modest price point.

With surprisingly bold fruit and acidity for six year old wine, 2011 Marques Tertiaro Gran Reservado (£7.99/£8,99 and 13.5%) has delightful floral cherry and loganberry flavours, touches of clove, vanilla and cocoa with a graphite edge but only modest tannin.

A successful production technique heads south

Appassimento techniques involve drying grapes to concentrate the flavours – and sometimes sweetness – by reducing the water content. As well as parts of the North West (think Amarone), other regions of Italy are also using this technique as this Sicilian red illustrates.

See the results of the process in the depth and intensity of 2016 Nero Oro  Nero D’Avola Appassimento (£8.99/£9.99 and13.5%) and its effect on the wine’s vanilla and chocolate imbued red cherry and raspberry fruit.

A really big Tuscan

Raise a glass to the Super Tuscan heroes that forced legislative changes and allow “international” varieties (cabernet and merlot in this case) to be blended with Sangiovese twenty or so years ago.

That hard-won change now gives us the delightful nutty and textured 2015 Parcel Series Sant’antimo (£9.99/£14.99 and 15.5%) centred around plum and black cherry fruit, supported by suggestions of nutmeg, vanilla and jalapeño with a bold acidity that helps to mitigate the alcohol driven heat.

Sunday Best Wines

Most subscribers will recognise that the MidWeek Wines website’s “core business” is entry point wines.

It has become the “go to” site for inexpensive, great value wines of above average quality for their price – and sometimes substantially so.

There are, however, times when the occasion, or the company, calls for something even more sophisticated – and for which, naturally, we will dig a little deeper.

So, here is a new monthly column offering ideas for any such event. Its name – Sunday Best Wines – seeks to distinguish it from (but underline its connection to) that core business.

Selection criteria mirror those used for main site recommendations and with a similar objective – helping you to buy with confidence and thus significantly reduce the prospect of disappointment.

Gavi with depth

Cortese grapes in Piedmont are especially noteworthy for the delicacy and style they bring to the wine they produce but -almost by definition, many suggest – that means they are lightly textured.

Here though is a wine that “squares that circle” because 2016 Le Colombare Gavi di Gavi (£16 at selected Sainsbury’s stores and 12%) has crunchy conference pear depth yet compromises neither that classic apple centred crispness, delicacy and poise nor the lively lemon centre acidity.

Getting more like them next door

While quality Burgundy may be a stretch even for special occasions, there can be distinctly Burgundian aspects to a number of serious Beaujolais wines – especially those from the granite influenced northern end of the region where the Cru Beaujolais are located. Here is a good example from one of them – Moulin a Vent.

Note in particular the peony and thyme elements that linger within the raspberry and black cherry base of 2013 Chateau des Jacques Moulin a Vent (£16.95 at www.winedirect.co.uk and 13%) and which are capably supported by suggestions of firm acidity and a chocolate imbued graphite edge.

Now to a pair from Argentina   

Argentina is famed for its high altitude vineyards and for the extra dimension that height adds to the wine produced there. Tupungato – probably the highest of the high – produces some excellent chardonnay but it is on their reds that I plan to focus today with two that especially impressed me.

Savour the excellent depth and great acidity in 2015 Cadus Tupungato Malbec (£16.99 at www.hoults.com and 14.5%) with its floral raspberry and cherry fruit embellished with suggestions of chocolate and cinnamon, firm tannin and a neat concluding savoury edge.



Both Cabernets (sauvignon and franc) join the party in the long, dark and rich 2014 Zorzal Eggo Tinto de Tiza Malbec (£16.95 at www.slurp.co.uk and 13.5%) with similar cherry and raspberry components to the Cadus but less tannin and more herbal (and pimento) influences within its mineral backdrop.

Best of the Rest

Sensation: Hungry sheep improve wine

While other South African winemakers have concentrated on chardonnay or chenin blanc, Thys Louw has made sauvignon blanc his speciality – even naming this wine after the sheep that stripped leaves off his vines thus, unwittingly, hastening the ripening process.

Judge his wines for yourself with the complex and grassy 2017 Leaf Plucker Sauvignon Blanc (£6.99 at Aldi and 13%) with its apple, tangerine and lemon fruit, minty background, lime and grapefruit acidity and extra texture probably derived from some barrel fermentation.

 A monster tamed – cabernet spreads a little softness

Tucked away in the middle of South West France in Madiran – home to the tannat grape (now also grown in Uruguay) and (allegedly) one of the best red wines for your health.

Because it is high in tannin, current winemaker thinking often softens the final wine by blending in a small portion of cabernet – which has happened here.

So, there are soft edges to the meaty and rich 2015 Réserve des Tuguets Madiran (£6.50 at Tesco and 13.5%) that work well with its cinnamon and aniseed embellished elderberry and black cherry fruit and the good acidy but firm tannin that accompany it.




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6 Responses

  1. As I sit here at the keyboard I’m looking at a good six inches of snow on the scene out of my window and hoping that the Majestic delivery van will make the 20 mile trip to me this morning to drop off my latest order. I am new to Majestic. We have no branch in my town so it has never been a drop-in place for me, for wine supplies. But I have recently had £20 off a £60 spend codes, and there have been wines I really wanted to try at attractive prices. More, buy 6 gets me free delivery so I don’t have to make a 40 mile round trip if it doesn’t suit me to do that, but of course once in a while I will go in-store as well to nose around.

    Currently I’m waiting on several bottles of the Sant’antimo 2015 you describe above. At £14.99 it would usually be out of my pricing range but as a 6 bottle purchase with £20 off and no delivery costs I’m able to have this for less than half the full price. If it’s as good as you describe it, and I’m a big fan of most everything that has come my way from around Montalcino over the years, especially those budget-price Toscana’s that can’t have DOC status, then I eagerly await what I believe will be quite a treat.

    Best now

    Eddie Walker

  2. Hi Brian
    I am a new subscriber to your website and really like the layout and approach.
    Hardly any of the wine retailers give guidance on the drinking window of wines with the honourable exception of the Wine Soc. Do you give such guidance or do you only profile wines that are good for drinking now?
    I run the Nottingham Wine Club, a tasting group that meets fortnightly. We taste 6 wines with an average price of £11. I plan to run a tasting of wines recommended by you shortly.

  3. Nice Selection again Brian,
    Not tried the Russian Jack Pinot Gris (I have tried their Sauvignon blanc, which was very good).
    I do tend to like wines from Carinena, so will give the Tertiaro a go.
    Visiting Tuscanny later in the year so the parcel series is of interest to me.
    Gamay is one grape I struggle with, yet to find a bottle that really does it for me and I’ve tried a few.
    I just found a bottle of the Tuguets Madarin ( 2010 vintage) hidden away that I forgot about , might have it with a roast dinner dinner tonight

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Eddie and I am glad you have found a way to enjoy what Majestic has to offer. Let’s hope that the huskies fought their way through to your front door!

  5. Great to hear from you James and a warm welcome aboard. I am a terrific fan of Wine Circles and Groups and really pleased to hear that your local one could be featuring MidWeek Wines commendations. Do email me via the webiste if you need suggestions beyond those on the site.

    As for drinking windows, you are quite right in suggesting that selections here are chosen for immediate drinking. Indeed I reject a number of bottles I know will be good in time but still need to develop. Patience is not a common virtue!

  6. Thanks Dave – and I know from Twitter that your Madiran proved a nicely softened lunch wine.

    As for that Russian Jack, what encouraged me was its potential as a “cross over” wine for those who love Italian pinot grigio styles but have yet to discover the acidity influenced delights that labelling the variety as pinot gris usually signifies.

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