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Neil Sowerby's May 2013 Wine Column

Mr Bouquet & Hints puts his nose to the bottle

Published on May 9th 2013.


Neil Sowerby's May 2013 Wine Column
 
THE only time I’ve ever enjoyed Wimbledon was when rain stopped play and Cliff Richard took centre stage on Centre Court for a communal sing-song. The sheer rock n’ roll of that moment (in 1996) still lives with me.
An attractive example of Argentina’s signature white grape. tropical fruit aromas, ripe pineapple and white peach flavours, the package is all there.
 
Of course, I only saw it on telly. I’ve never been invited to SW19. But this year I feel a part of this annual orgy of new balls and overpriced strawberries – if only vicariously. Those good sports at Lanson Champagne sent me two bottles, of Black Label NV and its Rose stablemate, dressed up in little tennis shirts that double up as wine coolers. I’ve christened them Andy and Laura.
 
Lanson are celebrating 25 years at the Championships (running this year June 24-July 7). Hence the widely available Wimbledon-themed neoprene jackets in white or purple for the Black Label and pink for the Rose, that will keep chilled bottles cooler for longer.

Mixed double of cutsy tennis shirtsMixed double of cutsy tennis shirts 

My samples weren’t allowed to warm up. The Black Label was honeyed and toasty on the nose with lots of ripe fruit and a lively citrus finish, while the pale salmon Rose had scents of rose petals and rounded delicate fruit on the palate. Shop around and you can find either for under £30 a bottle.
 
Meanwhile back at Wimbledon past champions will also be awarded bespoke magnums of champagne from the Lanson Vintage Collection corresponding to the year of their win. Perhaps a case of the ‘96 for Sir Cliff, too?
 
All of which brings me to affordable alternative sparklers the summer that is peeping shyly over the horizon. A sudden desire for sparkling Vouvray led me to Château Moncontour Vouvray 2010 (Marks and Spencer £10.99). I don’t know what effect the vintage has, but this chenin-blanc based dry fizz from the Loire, produced by the Méthode Traditionelle (formerly known as Champenoise), offered ripe flavours of orchard fruits and honey.
 
Spend a little more online with the legendary Yapp Brothers (click here) and you get another example that’s up a notch. The simply titled Vouvray Mousseux Brut from the Aubert family who’ve been making wine in the area for nearly two centuries, has a slightly peachy, slightly yeasty nose, a lively mousse and a juicy Granny Smith crunch. Quite gorgeous for £13.95.
 
A quite different sparkler on the Yapp list is an oddity in the modern wine world. For a start  Domaine Achard-Vincent Clairette de Die Tradition NV is only 7 per cent alcohol and it sparkles only softly. It’s a gentle, summery, sherberty tipple – to accompany cake perhaps, walnuts or strawberries (at normal prices). Muscat dominates the grape blend and the only big note is its whack of elderflower on the nose. The price for this unsung Rhone treasure is £15.95 a bottle and it’s well worth it.

GrapesGrapes 

If you fancy tasting more from the Yapp roster the team are coming up to Manchester for the next Three Wine Men event at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9. Among top merchants coming up are Armit and Avery’s of Bristol and there’s a strong food presence. For more detail and to book tickets visit here.
 
Before that at St Peter’s Church, Ancoats on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25, there’s a more homegrown event – the North West Wine Fest Roadshow, which has already visited Alderley Edge. It’s a joint venture between the Big Indie Wine Fest (part of Manchester Food and Drink Festival and now in its 5th year) and North West Spring Wine Fest (now in its 3rd year) – and its aim is to showcase the region’s independent retailers. 

St Peter's, AncoatsSt Peter's, Ancoats

 
Among these will be Tour De Belfort from Hale, Cheshire-based Corks Out, Origin Wines of Wigan, Cape Kleinof Stockport and from central Manchester: Hanging Ditch, Bakerie Tasting Store, Spirited Wines and Harvey Nichols. For details of times and to buy tickets visit click here. 

The Bakerie Tasting Room is holding its own Spring Wine Fair at the shop behind Bakerie’s Lever Street eaterie, over the weekend of May 10 and 11. There’ll be more than 40 wines to sample. Ticket sales are advance sale only from Bakerie Wine Store or by phone 0161 236 9014.

The London Wine Fair (May 20-22), a slightly bigger proposition, will showcase a range of vintage wines from the legendary Lebanese producer, Chateau Musar. Our own Mark Addy pub on Bridge Street has pulled off a major coup by securing eight of these, including three making their debut, for a special Chateau Musar Dinner on Wednesday, May 15.
 
The wines will be introduced by Ralph Hochar, from the Musar dynasty and be coupled with eight small dishes created by head chef Robert Owen Brown. Outstanding young chanteuse Lucy Hope will accompany the feast with a selection of French songs.
 
The whole thing costs £60 and starts at 7pm. Call 0161 8324080 to book click here and see what wines and dishes you’ll be getting.
 
Just along the Irwell, the Lowry Hotel hosted a vertical tasting (ie same wine, range of vintages to compare) of Aviator, the flagship red of New Zealand winery Alpha Domus. The vineyards are in Hawkes Bay on the North Island. 
 
They have only been producing for 20 years, the last decade under winemaker Kate Galloway (pictured main image above), but their meticulous attempt to meld the best of New World and Bordeaux in a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend is paying off on the evidence of the eight bottles we tried. They even uprooted all their pinot noir crop so they could concentrate on cab, merlot, cab franc and merlot. 
 
Thankfully they have stayed loyal to Kiwi staple, sauvignon blanc – theirs is a food-friendly, subtle version, a world away from Marlborough’s tropical bruisers. But it is the reds that are the big deal, from the syrah called Barnstormer, the cab-merlot delights of Navigator ... and, of course Aviator, only made in the best harvests, from hand-picked grapes and given a lot of TLC in the winery. The eight vintages we tasted ranged from rare and complex examples from the ‘90s to 2009 and 2010, both tannic beasts with decades of development ahead.
 
The Aviator you are most likely to find at North West merchants is the 2007 with its concentrated almost sweet fruit, licks of vanilla and chocolate and beguiling eucalyptus notes (our host, Paulus from the Ham family who own AD, said a clutch of eucalyptus trees planted near the vines might have contributed – now that’s what I call terroir).
 
Wine shops which may stock some of the reds range include Spirited Wines on Deansgate, Manchester, The Vineyard, Ramsbottom and Barrica at Samlesbury near Preston. Expect to pay around £30 for the Aviator 2007, £15 for Navigator and Barnstormer and £13 for the Pilot series, sourced from grapes across New Zealand. Portland Wine of Hale just stock AD’s Wingwalker Viognier at £15.
 
The wines all share distinctive labels bearing a biplane. It’s in tribute to pilots who trained on de Haviland 'Tigermoth' biplanes at a nearby airfield. Hence, too, the aeronautical names of the wines. 
 
Provencal pinks can be a delicate delight and I was taken with the Co-op’s special offer Mas de Cardeline Côtes de Provence Rosé 2012 (down to £6.99 from £8.99 until May 14), a blend of grenache and cinsault with an ethereal  strawberry leaf scent.
 
Grenache in infinitely more sturdy form features in another Co-op snip. South Africa’s Zalze Shiraz Grenache Viognier 2011 (down from £7.99 to £5.49 until May 14) smells plummy and spicy and the dark fruit, well-integrated with its oak, finishes long and savoury.
 
Viñalba Selección Torrontés (Majestic, £9.99, buy 2 save £4 until September 2) is an attractive example of Argentina’s signature white grape. tropical fruit aromas, ripe pineapple and white peach flavours, the package is all there.
 
One last tasting for your diary – John Booth Wine Merchants is a Heaton Moor-based, shopless operation that has a loyal fanbase far beyond the Stockport area, especially for its regular tastings. The latest features South African wines, including some Boutinot stalwarts. It’s at 8pm on Tuesday, May 14 at Kro Bar, Heaton Moor. Tickets are £10. For more details visit here. They also organise group wine trips to Southern Spain.
Finally, congratulations to Gatley-based wine importers Boutinot for winning Sommelier Wine Awards' Merchant of the Year for the fifth time in a row.

The competition is judged by prominent sommeliers, restaurateurs, and hoteliers and all submissions are tasted blind. In total Boutinot picked up 106 golds and silver awards.

Established over 30 years ago the company has a portfolio of over 1,000 wines and is the exclusive UK agent to 150 producers from around the world. It also  owns vineyards and produces wines from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Alpha Domus springAlpha Domus spring


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