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The Neil Sowerby wine column

Neil Sowerby is not <i>nouveau</i> but finds untold <i>riches</i> in Beaujolais plus some Portuguese beauties

Written by . Published on June 28th 2010.


The Neil Sowerby wine column

Beaujolais is a holiday fling of a wine. Just don’t take it too seriously and you’ll be all right. But then certain charmers have hidden depths and you fall in love all over again.

They all share the same enticing deep purple colour, fruity, almost bubblegum, aroma and a slap of acidity. With the doyen of Beaujolais, George Duboeuf reckoning 2009 is the best Beaujolais vintage in 50 years.

Three bottles of Beaujolais arrived the other day just in time for summer - chill them for the garden was my immediate thought. Then I noted they were from the acclaimed 2009 vintage, they were Villages Crus and they were from Berry Bros and Rudd of St James’s, Britain’s oldest fine wine merchants. It gave a whole new meaning to the relationship.

With Beaujolais nobody gets excited about Nouveau any more. Yet only a few years ago we all waited, crystal goblet in hand, for the barely fermented grape juice to be fast-tracked across the Channel by sporty types in souped up cars.

In good years, it was the innocence essence of gamay grapes, cheering up our winters. In bad, aagh, yuck. Straight Beaujolais, properly fermented, though, is a treat, the Beaujolais Villages a step up and any of the 10 Villages crus from the granite soils in the north of the region, offer one of the most wine delicate tastes around.

They all share the same enticing deep purple colour, fruity, almost bubblegum, aroma and a slap of acidity. With the doyen of Beaujolais, George Duboeuf reckoning 2009 is the best Beaujolais vintage in 50 years, I had high hopes of the Berry Bro trio. They were realised with one caveat. All need more time in bottle to reach their true potential.

Morgon is traditionally a Cru that ages more than most Beaujolais. Morgon, Voute St Vincent, from Desvignes offer persistent spicy cherry fruit – a real stayer. At £12.50 it was the cheapest of the three and a bargain.

The Brouilly Vieilles Vignes from Dubost (£13.95) surprised me with its savoury depths, a hint of chocolate in the lingering aftertaste, while Fleurie Les Moriers (£14.95) from Michel Chignard is as charming as you expect from a Fleurie but more tannic concentration than is the norm. Give it a couple more years and it should offer strawberryish perfection. All are available from www.bbr.com and 0800 280 2440.

The (equally august) Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com) is very keen at the moment on its 2008 (“a great vintage”) offerings from Alsace, another French region offering distinctive tastes hard to replicate elsewhere. Two I particularly recommend are the Muscat Tradition Hugel 2008 and the Pinot Gris Leon Beyer 2008 (£10.95 and £13.50 respectively).

The Muscat (bone, dry note) is not as aromatically ethereal as it can be in Alsace but is a delicate, surprisingly steely white. The Wine Soc recommend it with asparagus. That should work.

The Pinot Gris is a world away from its often wishy washy alter ego Pinot Grigio. Fully dry yet with powerful fruit, it’s very much a food wine. It would be perfect with salmon and a buttery sauce. Quite lovely.

The wine writer Sarah Ahmed, ‘The Wine Detective’, presented her 50 Greatest Portuguese Wines to the trade at a recent tasting in the Lowry Hotel. Powerful inky reds left a lasting impression on my teeth, but not until I’d become reacquainted with the Vinho Verdes. This literally means green wine, referring to its low-alcohol freshness not its colour.

All of which can mean an excess of acidity but that’s not the case with a couple of examples there that you can find on the wine list of Bridge Street Portuguese restaurant Luso – Quinta do Ameal (£34, restaurant price) and Quinta do Soalheiro (£45). The zingy Ameal is made from organically grown Loueiro grapes, while the Soalheiro is more complex. To see Sarah Ahmed’s Portuguese reports, visit www.thewinedetective.co.uk.

Finally a trio of reds for barbie duty, the first a mix of Argentine and Portuguese red grapes from Argentina’s Vinalba winery.

Majestic Wine stock Vinalba Reserve Malbec - Touriga Nacional 2008 at £9.99. A seductive nose of violets and liquorice leads into a palate of smooth oaky blackcurrant. 14.5 ABV but it carries it well. An International Wine Challenge silver medallist.

The Spanish red Cruz de Piedra, Old vine Garnacha 2008 is named after the stone crosses that mark the Pilgrims’ Road to Santiago de Compostela and is made by a co-operative in the mountains between Madrid and Zaragoza. It offers oodles of ripeness and concentration.

Great Western Wines sell it at an amazing £6.45 a bottle or £60.72 a dozen, delivery free within the UK mainland (greatwesternwine.co.uk).

Equally good value, at £5.49 from Majestic, is a ripe merlot from Alain Grignon’s wine operation in the Languedoc. La Croisade Reserve Merlot 2009 is a juicy, plummy, spicy. Put some more lamb over the coals with that one.

DATE for the Diary. The Manchester Food and Drink Festival is once again hosting the Manchester Independents Wine Festival, over the closing weekend of the Festival on October 9 and 10. The venue is the iconic Engine Hall of the refurbished People’s History Museum in Bridge Street. It should offer a fascinating journey into a world of wine that exists beyond the supermarket shelves.

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