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All white on the night

Neil Sowerby distinctive merchant Smithfield Wine and trips round the globe for summer whites

Written by . Published on August 12th 2010.


All white on the night

Confidential Wine’s a big supporter of local unsung heroes. And the arrival of an attractive new look website from Smithfield Wine (www.smithfieldwine.com) is a good opportunity to sing the praises of George and Lynn Wroblewski’s Ancoats outpost for interesting wine.

Affordable Albarino is hard to find. Cheaper examples have been atypical of what can be the most glorious accompaniment to seafood. The Society’s Brandal Albarino, Rias Baixa 2009 (£8.95) is the perfect introduction to this Galician grape with the soft white peach flavours you crave.

The pair describe themselves as “the approachable experts” on the attractive new site, but in the cut-throat world of mail-order wine selling you also have to be doing something Googleworthy and adventurous to survive. Smithfield stands out by dint of its leftfield specialities, offering a wide range of recommendable vegetarian and vegan wines as well as Fairtrade, Kosher and allergen-free.

Many wines are not suitable for veggies because they are `fined’, to improve clarity, with animal and fish by-products. A common fining agent, Isinglass (yes, there’s that restaurant in Urmston called after it) is made up of collagen fibres, usually the swim bladder of the sturgeon.

To cater for vegetarians Smithfield stock wines fined with egg albumen and Bentonite. Vegan finings include kaolin and kieslguhr (clays), plant casein & synthetic polymers.

Too right on for you? Worry not. I suggest you buy a mixed case from the Wroblewskis and check out some of their “normal wines”.

I particularly like their Australian selection from the likes of Palandri and Houghton and, if you really want to splash out, they do stock a limited amount of the legendary Penfolds Grange Hermitage (1997 vintage) at £169.40.

I’ve been travelling in Spain this summer, once with a physical visit to the Norman Foster-designed new Faustino winery in the cult red wine region of Ribera del Duero north of Madrid (of which more in a coming column), the rest of the time with a glass in my hand, in particular appreciating the ever improving quality of Spanish whites.

In the recent New Wave Spanish Wine Awards Gatley-based Boutinot, who supply many of the North West’s top restaurants, did particularly well in a number of categories.

Their Naiades 2007, a 100 per cent verdejo from Bodegas Naia in Rueda (£20), featured among the best whites over £10 thanks to its toasty nose, succulent mouthfeel and intense citrussy palate.

p>Affordable Albarino is hard to find. Cheaper examples have been atypical of what can be the most glorious accompaniment to seafood. The Society’s Brandal Albarino, Rias Baixa 2009 (£8.95) is the perfect introduction to this Galician grape with the soft white peach flavours you crave.

Rueda is Galicia’s major competitor to be Spain’s classic white region, albeit without the oddball range of grapes.

Verdejo, along with the recently-settled Sauvignon Blanc, rules here. The unoaked Tesolmos Verdejo 2009 shares the appealing zestiness of Sauvignon but with an appealing bitter twist that’s very Spanish (£7.95).

Catalunya’s whites have rarely appealed to me, but more of Verd Albera, Emporda 2009 could easily convert me. The property has been in the same family since the 12th century, but this full-bodied, 13 per cent white made from Grenache Blanc, with a shot of Muscat giving it fragrance, is very much in a modern style. Good value for £6.95. For details of the Wine Society, visit www.thewinesociety.com.

I’ll stick with some white recommendations. It is still summer behind all that cloud. Lots of Sauvignon Blanc about among Co-op special offers. Get to a store before August 17 and take advantage of a terrific reduction. Cook Straight Marlborough Sauvignon 2009, usually £10, now costs a fiver. For that you get some pungent passionfruit and grassy aromas, refreshing acidity and a lingering minerality that is most attractive.

The Co-operative Explorers Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 (down from £7.49 to £4.99 until August 17), in truth, pales beside it (though the Cook Straight is paler) but is is peach, biscuity and approachable enough to sip happily on its own.

From August 18 till September 7 the Co-op has a South African sauvignon, made exclusively for it. Fynbos Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (£4.25 instead of £5.99) has the vegetal, green pepper feel you’d expect from cool climate vineyards but tropical fruit appeal, too.

I’ve yet to taste Southern Block New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, another 2009 Marlborough example from the same tranche of special offers, but it again looks a top, fruity deal down from £10.99 to £5.49.

Chilean producer Carta Vieja is currently providing Asda’s good value summer Sauvignon. Las Rocas Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (£5.23 or three bottles for £12) is good party stuff. Hardly complex by pleasant pineapple, creamy tastes (there’s a similar deal on this winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon – similar uncomplicated fruit).

I’m not a huge fan of Australian heavyweight McGuigan’s range or usually of chardonnay/semillon blends, but the the McGuigan Hallmark 2009 example offers discreetly oaked tropical fruit that went excellently with salmon in a sorrel cream sauce. Sainsbury’s stock it for £7.49.

Chardonnay from the Languedoc at under a tenner doesn’t get any better than the Marquis de Pennautier Oc Chardonnay Terroirs d’Altitude (Majestic, £8.99). French scholars will deduce from its title cooler climate hillside vineyards. In this case grapes grown up to 250m, giving the requisite balance of richness and acidity. Malolactic fermentation and much lees-stirring confirm the ambitions of makers Lorgeril. It’s a lovely buttercup colour, heady with vanilla scents, in the mouth cream and cloves. Yes, I loved it.

Or you could try Mountain Pass Chardonnay 2008 from the Yarra Valley in Victoria. Defying Aussie stereotypes, A restrained citrussy Chardonnay with a judicious amount of French oak. It’s Smithfield’s Offer of the Month, half price at £5.50 while stocks last. You can have too much Sauvignon gooseberry attack!

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RaySeptember 3rd 2010.

Informative article. Shame nobody has bothered to respond. Good on you for promoting interesting grapes; shame on you (!) for going overboard on sauvignon blanc, a second class grape with not a lot to recommend it. Where's the riesling reccos? At least you didn't mention pinot grigio, an execrable little grape (Alsace excepted).

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