Mr Vine Tasting 6

With the autumnal weather as unpredictable as Richard Hemming’s dress sense, we gathered for our Mr Vine’s September panel tasting at Winemakers Club near the Holborn viaduct. A somewhat revered site as was the original Oddbins in a former life. So it was under the musty moody railway arches of this new-ish wine bar/shop/events space that we set about sampling a new batch of wines. Intriguingly four out of five of the winners were Italian, this time out. But each one different and dancing to its own beat. 

First place: Luigi Maffini ‘Kratos’ Fiano 2014 (Campania, Italy; 13.0%; £14.50, WoodWinters)

Some say the white Fiano grape will be the next big thing in the UK, and classic examples like this one show why. It’s an intense and persistent wine, with no-nonsense apple, pear and apricot aromas and a herbal twang. Starts off subtle, but finishes with a fresh, dry, mineral edge and a burst of flavour. You could drink this all night and not get bored. 90 points.

NN verdict – Certainly worthy of the top spot.

Second place: Tenuta Mara ‘Maramia’ 2012 (Emilia-Romagna, Italy; 13.5%; £41, WoodWinters)

This is the first vintage from this ambitious new biodynamic estate. They only make one wine, and no expense is spared; they even serenade the Sangiovese vines with Mozart. Who knows if that makes any difference, but the care and effort the take really shows through; this is a genuinely fine wine that really speaks of its origin. Autumnal aromas like dried leaves and truffle spill from the glass, alongside red cherry and dark chocolate. It’s lively and tangy, robust yet refreshing, ethereal but long in flavour. It has a high price for sure, but this is delicious and has real substance and interest. 91 points.

 NN verdict – Was totally enamored of this bonkers despite its higher price tag.

Third place: Luigi Maffini ‘Kleos’ Aglianico 2012 (Campania, Italy; 13.5%; £14.00, WoodWinters)

Another winner from expert winemaker Luigi Maffini, this time from the robust red Aglianico grape. It has baked blackberry, blueberry and stewed plum fruits inlaid with cigar tobacco and cinnamon. In the mouth it has real presence and texture; it’s full-bodied, savoury and very dry. It’s a big black bull of a wine that needs hearty food to be best appreciated. 89 points.

 NN verdict – That Maffini was back and though not as interesting as his Fiano still a solid bronze.

Fourth place: Le Fonti Sangiovese 2012 (Tuscany, Italy; 13.0%; £9.89, Cadman Fine Wines)

There are two Sangioveses to bring to your attention this month; this one may not have the brilliance of the Tenuta Mara, but then it is less than a quarter of the price. It’s like a beginner’s guide to Italian Sangiovese – expressive cherry and herbal notes, crisp acidity and an elegant lightness of touch. Not the most concentrated, but it’s very decent for under a tenner. 87 points.

NN verdict – A bit out of balance for my palate, but the group thought it a solid showing.

Fifth place: Domaine Baron Sauvignon Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2014 (Loire, France; 12.5%; £8.99, Cadman Fine Wines)

Sauvignon Blanc can be samey, but this one from the Touraine is more luscious and interesting than the norm. It’s relatively ripe, fruity and opulent for a Loire Sauvignon – fans of New Zealand examples will get it immediately. Plenty of grapefruit and green pepper with a hint of smoke; not the most subtle, but very enjoyable. 88 points.

NN verdict – I really enjoyed this wine. Possessed character and of a sense of place.

Mr Vine is a free iPhone app that helps you discover and buy the kinds of wine you like from a marketplace consisting of over 1,000 wines across a dozen different independent UK wine shops. Each month, a panel of five drinks experts (Richard Hemming, Helena Nicklin, Matt Walls, Zeren Wilson and me) meet up to taste a selection of wines available via the app in order to sniff out some gems. We score the wines out of 100, provide a tasting note and – perhaps most importantly – pick our top five of the night. These won’t necessarily be the highest scoring, just the wines we feel most excited about bringing to your attention.

For more info on the app and how it works, check out mrvine.co.uk.

 

 

Mr Vine Tasting Number 5

Yes that totally tubular (bottle shaped) tasting team of Matt Walls, Helena Nicklin, Zeren Wilson, Richard Hemming MW (that’s right Richard Hemming is now a Master of Wine. An amazing achievement!) and yours truly were at it again. Tasting wines for the good of those independent vino-loving masses for the Mr Vine App. If you haven’t downloaded it the IOS version is available here.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.29.48First place: Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs NV (Champagne, France; 12.5%;

£26.09, Cadman Fine Wines)

This pure Chardonnay Champagne is grown on Grand Cru rated sites and the quality really

shines through: brioche-scented exuberance, full and rich on the palate with a lovely soft

fizz. Very easy drinking while keeping its class and character, this isn’t the driest Champagne,

but it’s beautifully balanced and could easily compete with many big brands. 90 points

NN verdict – Loved this stuff. Just my kind of bubbly.

 

Second place: Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico 2012 (Tuscany, Italy; 14.0%;Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.33

£14.50, Cadman Fine Wines)

Mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this Chianti is

somewhere between modern and traditional in style. It has detailed cherry, herb and leather

aromas alongside coffee bean and tobacco leaf. Bright, vibrant and expressive this wine has

a lovely sense of harmony and warmth. It engages the brain as well as the tongue. 91

points.

NN verdict – I sometimes overlook Chianti because I have had them so many times, but a good Classico (such as this is) is a thing of real beauty especially with food.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.49Third place: Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand;

13.0%; £12.15, Cadman Fine Wines)

This estate was built on the site of New Zealand’s first winery, dating back to 1873. If you’re

suffering from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc overload, this wine reminds you of what makes

the style so special. It smells of freshly cut grass, fresh gooseberry and guava but has a

sense of restraint; the flavours are pronounced by the wine remains elegant. Lovely round

texture, a long, concentrated finish and wet foliage freshness. Very well priced to boot. 90

points.

NN verdict – Hands down one of the best Malborough SB I have had in recent memory.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.30.16Fourth place: Château Bel-Air La Royère 2008 (Bordeaux, France; 14.0%; £19.35,

Cadman Fine Wines)

Unpretentious, old school claret with much to love: ripe and fruity, with spicy cedar, tobacco

and blackcurrant. This blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Malbec from Blaye has plenty of

stuffing and tannic heft to keep it going for another five years or so, but is at a lovely stage

to drink now – harmonious and complex but still with youthful power. Bordeaux lovers will

lap it up. 91 points.

NN – This wine really made me smile. Everything good mature Bordeaux should be.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 16.31.07Fifth place: La Torricella Barbera d’Alba 2011 (Piemonte, Italy; 14.0%; £15.99,

Red Squirrel Wines)

Black cherry and cola on the nose, alongside coffee and cocoa – classic Barbera. Lovely

concentration and a satin-soft, dry finish. A generous yet serious wine that’s just crying out

for rigatoni with meatballs. 89

NN verdict – I wasn’t blown away by this but a solid wine none the less.

Honourable mentions

Vinteloper ‘Odeon’ Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, Australia; 13.0%; £24.99, Red

Squirrel Wines)

Just over a thousand bottles were made of this compellingly interesting wine. Naturally

beautiful aromas of mandarin, mirabelle plum and flowers. It’s not cheap, but this is brave

winemaking resulting in a unique style that some drinkers will adore. 90 points.

NN verdict – Really felt this wine deserved to be in the top 5. Glad it got a mention.

 

Vega Tolosa ‘Icon’ Bobal 2013 (La Mancha, Spain; 13.5%; £8.99, Red Squirrel

Wines)

Bags of intense forest fruit flavour, this is a perky, juicy red that is easy to drink but has

character and makes an impact. Fantastic value for money. 88 points.

NN verdict – Again really liked this wine. Only room for 5 though…

 

Bruna ‘Maje’ Pigato 2014 (Liguria, Italy; 12.5%; £13.50, Red Squirrel Wines)

Delicate, fresh and perfumed this is a lovely example of the rare Pigato grape. Silken in

texture and perfectly balanced, this is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. 88 points.

NN verdict – A great wine to impress your wine geek friend with.