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Neil Sowerby’s March Wines Choice

Emphatic food friendly whites dominate the palate this month

Published on March 12th 2012.

Neil Sowerby’s March Wines Choice
IT’S not every day you get to go wine tasting with the entire Tottenham Hotspur squad. Sadly, as we arrived, Glenn Hoddle’s (yes, it was that long ago) on-tour boys were just leaving to limber up for their friendly with THE Kaiser Chiefs. The Leeds band of that ilk had yet to release an album. 
The North West Spring Wine Fest 2012, is to be held in the appropriately Italianate setting of St Peter’s Church, Ancoats, Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6. 
Still for a while we had the historic Cape wine estate of Vergelegen to ourselves. The landscape, the 18th century gabled homestead yoked to a state of the art winery and the wines, of course, were all just glorious.
At a recent encounter in Leeds the whole range confirmed its position as one of South Africa’s best. Stand out was the Vergelegen V, a cabernet sauvignon dominated blend like a lush super claret but with softer tannins and an eternal aftertaste. You’ll pay over £50 for this beauty – if you can find it.

Sunshine, wine and South AfricaSunshine, wine and South Africa

At £20 cheaper, from Majestic, the Vergelegen Red 2004 is a more than acceptable substitute. Again a blend, made only from grapes from unirrigated vines in the Rindekop vineyard, it is matured in 100 per cent new oak barrels for 24 months before release. All that oak, so evident on the nose along with cassis and a certain leatheriness, is beautifully integrated with its ripe blackberry fruit. One for the venison casserole.
Its Stellenbosch stablemate, the Vergelegen White 2009 (Majestic, £26) is another accomplished take on a Bordeaux style, mixing three quarters Semillon and a quarter Sauvignon Blanc with some fermentation and maturation in new French oak to give rich, complex style.
Majestic have racier more acidic Vergelegen white on special offer from Majestic at £10.61 – their Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Stellenbosch, which contains some bought-in grapes. It’s a special favourite of mine. Gooseberries, figs and a refreshing grassy quality are underpinned by a firm food-friendly minerality.
Semillon is a grape rarely found in South Africa, but Vergerlegen have some and in exceptional years produce a limited amount of Reserve Semillon. Berry Bros stock the 2008 vintage (£16.85, www.bbr.com). It is attractive now with lovely aromas of lemon peel and beeswax and like its Australian cousins will grow with bottle age into something more rich and strange.
The Vergelegen terroir is unsuited to South African white staple Chenin Blanc, which in expert hands yields some wonderful dry to off-dry whites. One I heartily recommend is the William Robertson Chenin Blanc 2011 (£7.50), which lovely perfumed nose, a well-balanced peach and apricot palate with just the right acid balance. Spring in a glass.
It is stocked by Turton Wines at Bromley Cross near Bolton, perhaps the most eclectic merchants in the region. Worth checking them out at www.turtonwines.co.uk 
Alongside the Robertson I tasted the breathtaking Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc 2011, (£12.50, www.newgenerationwines.com) perhaps the best South African sauvignon I’ve ever encountered. It's organic, whole-bunch fermented in old casks using natural wild yeasts by Rudiger Gretschel, the country’s only certified biodynamic wine producer. It’s full-bodied and yet full of subtle complexity, grass melons, pears, butterscotch even. Such an antidote to that in-your-face Marlborough style.
Hanging Ditch stock its astounding sounding big brother, the Reyneke Reserve White 2009 (£25), which puts the Sauvignon into 80 per cent light toast French oak barrels to create a very complex take on the grape. It costs £25. I’m saving up.
I’ve always regarded Jeffrey’s Grosset’s Clare Valley Rieslings as Australia’s finest examples (Reserve Didsbury stock their slatey, hugely promising Polish Hill 2010 at £23.50) but rising superstar Larry Cherubino is giving them a run for their money on the evidence of his Ad Hoc Wallflower Riesling 2011.

Ad Hoc photograph we preparedAd Hoc photograph we prepared

The Western Australia winery has just scooped an amazing double by being named Australian Winery of the Year 2011 in James Halliday’s Wine Companion and Australian Producer of the Year 2011 in Matt Skinner’s Wine Guide. I can see why.
The Wallflower was, naturally, reserved to start but opened out wonderfully at a Room restaurant lunch the other day. It’s pure refreshing citrussy fruit with that customary liminess blossoming into a spicy, tangy complexity. It’s £35 on the Room wine list. You can buy it (or order it) at half that price from Spirited Wines on Deansgate, who carry a couple of Cherubino’s reds, too.
Finally, another complex, minerally white that’s good with a range of foods, Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2007 (£21.95, Corks Out www.corksout.com). Red Chateauneuf  hogs the limelight, but ignore the white version at your peril and like the red it can benefit from some bottle age. It gets nuttier and more minerally. Even new you can almost taste the big pebbles in the vineyard. As well as the great herby peachiness of youth.
Yapp Brothers (www.yapp.co.uk) were the importers who first opened my eyes to the glories of Rhone wines and they are still a prime source via mail order (their Wiltshire base is a prohibitive distance away). Surprisingly, and by sheer chance, only one Rhone was on their table at the recent Specialist Importers Trade Tasting at the Bridgewater Hall.
This was more than compensated for by the likes of Chateau Simone Palette 2007, Provence’s answer to red Bordeaux that is at the same time unique (£33). But since White has somehow become the colour of this column I’ll recommend instead a Yapp white from clifftop vineyards in the same region.



Cassis, Clos Sainte Magdeleine Blanc 2009 (£18.25) is from the top grower in a tiny appellation, much of which services the fish restaurants in the resort clinging to the seafront below (Cassis is the town, same name but nothing to do with the famous blackcurrant liqueur).

The Clos Sainte Magdeleine smells citrussy with a strong whiff of pine. Yet it hardly prepares you for the complexity of the bone dry wine to come, its fine peach fruit marrying well with a strong herbal tendency. A standalone, individual wine like the Simone. Vive la France.

ADVANCE notice of The North West Spring Wine Fest 2012, to be held in the appropriately Italianate setting of St Peter’s Church, Ancoats, Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6.
Participating wine specialists include Hanging Ditch, The Bakerie, Origin Wines and Spirits, Tour de Belfort, Pacta Connect, Harvey Nichols, Fyg Deli and The Co-operative. Food will come from independent cheese makers and other artisan suppliers.
Over three sessions, the Fest aims not only to showcase a first class bounty of fine wines and independent merchants, but to also explore the relationship between Manchester and wine and what this much loved tipple means to its inhabitants. Accompanying it will be walking tours of this historic area, once known as Little Italy.

Inside St Peter'sInside St Peter's

You can follow Neil Sowerby @AntonEgoManc

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Sara Swales shared this on Facebook on March 13th 2012.
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