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Neil Sowerby's February Wine Faves

Plus your chance to win a signed copy of Oz Clarke’s Bordeaux book

Published on February 8th 2012.

Neil Sowerby's February Wine Faves
I LOVE it when wine writers wear their heart on their sleeve.
Take Oz Clarke, a long-time champion of New World wine, often at the expense (and its top-end expense is one of its drawbacks) of traditional Bordeaux.
In the opening chapter of Oz Clarke’s Bordeaux (Time Warner, £25, see competition below), entitled 'Why Bordeaux Matters', he writes: 'I feel like a man explaining to his friends why he clings to a clearly unsatisfactory love affair, telling them that through all the buffets and blows, disappointments and distress, he still loves this wayward, headstrong, selfish mistress, and the very thought of her brings a smile to his lips and warmth to his heart.'
As a novice wine lover at much the same time as Oz I fell in love with claret, too, but a whole world of alternatives was already opening up and nowadays I rarely order Bordeaux, red or white, when dining out, while broaching the ancient bottles of the stuff in my cellar is a disconcerting lottery.
It seemed appropriate then that the contentedly untrendy Manchester’s St James’s Club should be the venue for a Bordeaux tasting hosted by Hanging Ditch’s ebullient Canadian, Mark Dent.

Some hefty salmon goujons preceded an equally hefty hunk of altogether tastier beef with Stilton and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire  completing the dinner.
The cheese was accompanied by a bold Sauternes with nigh on a decade of bottle age.

Ch Rayne Vigneau 2003 (£25, Hanging Ditch) had oodles of botrytis character from its honey and pineapple nose to a lingering barley sugar and lemon curd stickiness with a compensating slash of acidity. Gorgeous stuff.
Of the dry whites my table companions preferred Chateau des Antonins 2010 (£10) for its crisp Sauvignon-dominated freshness. I instead went for the Esprit de Chevalier Blanc 2008 (£25), the second wine of Domaine du Chevalier from Pessac-Leognan and sharing some of that acclaimed white’s combination of creamy oak, smooth fruit and uncompromising minerality.
Of the Hanging Ditch-stocked red Bordeaux on show I most enjoyed the confusingly titled Ch Barrail du Blanc St Emilion Grand Cru 2007. It’s the antithesis of all those austere tannic Grand Cru clarets I recall. From a tiny three-hectare property on light well-drained soils comes this generous, fruity offering. Charm and character in a glass for a bottle price of £17.50. 
Hanging Ditch and Spanish specialists Evuna at the opposite ends of Deansgate have been offering me blind dates with unfamiliar grapes –  the white Godello and the red Mencia, both from north west Spain. 

In the rich and intensely peachy 2009 Godelia Godello y Doña Blanca (Hanging Ditch, £17.50) from high altitude vines in Bierzio is blended with the even less well-known Doña  Blanca grape, while Evuna’s Pazo de Monterrey (£12) is 100 per cent Godello. Think a softer Albarino, still minerally but with lots of citrus, too.

Hanging Ditch charge £22.50 for their benchmark Fefinanes Albarino, from the original Albarino producer back in 1928; the family’s modern winery is based in their 17th century palace. The 2010 vintage is worth every penny, full of finesse, honey and minerality.

Evuna source a lovely accessible red from Monterrey –  Sila Mencia (£12) with typically juicy cherry and red currant flavours coupled with zesty acidity and a velvety oak texture.
The Godelia Barrel-aged Mencia 2008 (Hanging Ditch, £18.50), a red stablemate of the Godelia white from Bercio, is a sterner variation on the Mencia theme, sourced from vines up to 80 years old. The wine was aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels but the black fruit retains its edgy acidity.
By the ways there's no shame in celebrating Valentine’s Day with a half-price sparkler. As long as  you don’t tell... and it’s delicious.
The Co-op have a couple on special offer for all you bargain romantics. Marques de Sierra Negra Brut Cava NV  is down from £11.99 to £5.99. Veuve Monnier from £26 to £13 until February 14. The former is toasty, appley and refreshing, the latter a light but succulent champagne with a fine beady mousse.
Personally I’d splash the cash for either of the Billecart Salmon standard cuvees, among the most reliably beguiling bubbly around (and from a Champagne house still owned by the original family).

The more expensive Brut Rose would be my choice. A bouquet of rose petals and brioche, delicate, persistent bubbles and refined fruit on the palate make it the drink of lurve. I drank it recently at Harvey Nichols, where it costs £60 a bottle. Trek out to Cheshire chain Corks Out and you might catch a special offer I spotted on their website – down to £46.99 from £56.99.

BORDEAUX is regarded as the world capital of wine, renowned for its deep, smooth reds, dry, gentle whites and delightfully sweet dessert wines. This month Manchester Confidential is giving away signed copies of the essential guide, 'Bordeaux: The Wines, the Vineyards, the Winemakers' by Oz Clarke.
This witty and readable guide looks at why producers worldwide still look to Bordeaux for inspiration when making great red wines.
The region is brought to life by Oz with his evocative descriptions and personal anecdotes, accompanied by stunning photographs and maps.
Oz turns his spotlight on each of the famous Bordeaux wine areas (including St-Emilion, Pomerol, Margaux and Pauillac) and also recommends hundreds of affordable, modern Bordeaux châteaux, recommended by style and price.

There are TWO PRIZES in total: one signed hard-back book each (retailing at £25) for two winners.
For your chance to win, answer this question: 

'Which of the following is a type of red wine grape variety grown in Bordeaux?'

1 Chardonnay
2 Cabernet Sauvignon
3 Sauvignon Blanc
4 Sémillon
How to enter: Email neils@theconfidentials.co.uk with BORDEAUX WINES in the subject field and the answer to the above question. Please include your name, address, postcode and telephone number.  Deadline for entries is 19 February 2012. Entrants must live in mainland UK.   
Cheers To Bordeaux 2012 – wine holidays in thee region: visit here for details.

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Simon WoodsFebruary 9th 2012.

Is it the sub or Neil who can't spell Sauternes?

EditorialFebruary 9th 2012.

It's the pixie of missing s. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Simon WoodsFebruary 9th 2012.

Neil does look a bit like a frustrated pixie....

Neil SowerbyFebruary 10th 2012.

Simon, comments like that could be dangerous for your elf

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