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Barrica bolsters North

Neil Sowerby goes in search of pink perfection, recommending other summery roses and whites on the way

Written by . Published on July 20th 2010.

Barrica bolsters North

International Wine Challenge (IWF) Northern England Wine Merchant of the Year is an honour that constantly evades Greater Manchester.

Harvesting was entirely by hand and the grapes were macerated using the saignée method before undergoing fermentation at a low 16C in stainless steel tanks. It tastes quite peachy with a slash of grapefruit acidity. Smashing stuff.

That’s despite the presence of a clutch of possible contenders such as Hanging Ditch, Reserve and Winos, all of whom may parade their wares at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Big Indie Wine Fest at the People’s History Museum on 9 and 10 October.

The IWF top northern merchant title has persistently gone to Byrne’s of Clitheroe, the ultimate wine lover’s Aladdin’s Cave, but this year there’s a new name on the shortlist – Barrica, already named 2010 UK Independent Wine Retailer of the Year in the Drinks Retailing Awards.

Not bad going for an operation only going for a couple of years and tucked away at the back of a huge deli/visitor centre on the A59 between Preston and Blackburn.

Classy fish stall apart, I haven’t in the past been hugely impressed by Huntley’s of Samlesbury despite its intention to be the ‘Harrods Food Department of the North’.Then I had been neglecting Jane Cuthbertson’s wine outlet there, 600 sq ft (due to double soon) featuring 700 wines, 50 bottle beers (also set to expand) and 100 designer spirits.

In truth, Barrica’s eclectic array covers most bases, including impressively the Lebanon and Alsace, but Jane’s love affair with Argentina is obvious. She’s been out to Mendoza recently and has the finest selections of Malbecs I’ve seen outside Argentine specialist Gaucho. Nearly 20 per cent of her trade is in Argentine wine, the stars coming from the biodynamic Jean Bosquet range.

Currently she has imported a curiosity discovered on her travels – a Malbrontes (£7.75), which is just “as it says on the tin”. 95 per cent Malbec red grapes combined with 5 per cent Torrontes white, which gives a floral note, at trick learned from classic Northern Rhone Cote Rotie, which tempers Syrah with Viognier.

But I was visiting primarily to sample her rosés. For summer she had up to 30 on parade. Two French examples impressed hugely. Domaine Croix de Belle’s Champ de Grillons from the Cotes du Thongue (£7.95) offered succulent strawberry fruit with a hint of spice from its 50/50 Grenache/Syrah blend.

Not quite as refreshing but more complex and suited to food, at £15.75, was Lafon Roset 2009 from Bordeaux Fourth Growth Chateau Lafon-Roche. It may sound a lot to pay for a rosé but from a nose of orange and grapefuit it unleashes a beguiling minerality on the palate, reminiscent almost of one of the great Provence rosés such as Domaine Ott. (As it turns out, the Domaine’s team acted as consultants).

Barrica is definitely worth a trip out up the M6 or as a stop-off on the way to lunch in the Ribble Valley. At weekends there are always bottles open to taste and personable workaholic Jane’s on hand to give those personal recommendations you don’t get at supermarkets.

It’s open Mon-Wed and Sat, 10am-6pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-7pm, Sun and Bank Hols 10am-5pm. Jane also runs wine dinners and tasting events. For details of those and store location, visit www.barrica.co.uk. The IWC winners will be announced on September 7.

For those who prefer their Torrontes straight, the good news is this ultra-floral aromatic Argentine white is slowly making its presence felt on supermarket shelves.Viñalba Selección Torrontés 2009 is a fine example, after a smoky nose, bursting with pineapple and peach flavours, while showing surprising elegance. Good on its own but also a fine match for ceviches (citrus-marinated shellfish dishes) or gravadalax. Sainsbury’s selected stores, £7.99.

Provencal Roses are still the benchmark for the species. At the affordable end look no further than Saint Roch-les-Vignes Rose 2009 (Majestic, £6.99) from the Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez.

It’s a blend of Grenache and Cinsault grapes, fermented at a low 160C. Salmon pink in colour, it smells floral and tastes of redcurrants.

Chateau Coussin Sainte Victoire Rose 2009 (Oddbins, £13.99), produced from vineyards nearing organic status around Mont Sainte Victoire (think Cezanne) is a much paler pink. Grenache (80 per cent) dominates with equal measures of Cinsault and Syrah.

Harvesting was entirely by hand and the grapes were macerated using the saignée method before undergoing fermentation at a low 16C in stainless steel tanks. It tastes quite peachy with a slash of grapefruit acidity. Smashing stuff.

Pick of affordable Tesco pinks, at £6.36, is Caves Saint Pierre Cotes-du-Rhone Rosé, a blend of Grenache and Syrah grapes picked at night to maintain acidity and integrity of the fruit. It smells of boiled sweets and is simple and refreshing on the palate.

Kate Thornton’s Burton Road-based Reserve Wines (www.reservewines.co.uk) held its annual Summer Wine Fair in a giant marquee at Didsbury’s Northern Tennis Club. Packed punters sampled an astonishingly fine range of wines.

Pinks were few and far between but Rogers and Rufus Grenache Rose 2009 (£9.99, very pale with a peppery aftertaste) and Boutinot’s Cotes du Rhone Cerisiers Rose 2009 (£7.99, delicate and herbal) both offered lots of upfront fruit and quaffability.

Gatley-based wine importers Boutinot run regular ‘meet the producers wine lunches. I was lucky enough to attend the most recent at the acclaimed Damson restaurant in Heaton Moor. I met Tod Dexter from the Dexter Vineyard Winery in Victoria’s cool-climate Mornington Peninsula, an engaging fellow, just like his two specialities, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

These Australian wines are premium price, special occasion bottles, well worth creating a special occasion for. Dexter Chardonnay (rrp £22.50) and Dexter Pinot Noir (rrp £25) are stocked by Bottlestop in Cheadle and Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants close to Manchester Cathedral. Both are from the 2008 vintage.

The Chardonnay offers subtle scents of lemon and oak. On the palate it is all juicy peaches and pears with a lingering finish. Equally attractive is the Pinot, quite earthy on the nose, velvety on the tongue and tasting of concentrated cherry fruit, the oak enhancing rather than dominating.

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ADJuly 20th 2010.

Good article, would have been nice to have heard about the reserve wines fair before it happened and Lafon Rochet is missing a "t".

CaractacusJuly 20th 2010.

That will change then AD.

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