Week 49 – Cabernet Franc

We tasted: Saumur Cabernet Franc, Nicolas, £9

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week we are on to the lesser known but classic wine style that is 100% Cabernet Franc, originating from the Loire region in France. I found a Saumur in our trusty local Nicolas wine shop, a great place for searching out random regional French wines.

I’m interested to see how this one goes down with Andy, I suspect he would be more a fan of the Argentine Cabernet Francs I’ve tasted in recent years that have the generous rich fruit profile more similar to their Malbecs.

As for the French version it couldn’t be much further up the opposite end of the spectrum from the juicy fruited new world Cab Francs. At work I’m known to be a bit of a lover of “leaf” which means I can handle and even appreciate my red wines when they have some green or even vegetal flavours; probably thanks to drinking all my Dad’s Bordeaux as a kid. This means I have potential to love a pungently herbaceous red like a Loire Cabernet Franc. Whilst others may hate it.

As a grape Cabernet Franc produces bunches with lots of small thick-skinned berries which give it strong tannins and is why it is often used to muscle up a red blend; for example with Merlot in St Emilion. It’s also naturally high in acidity and has a lovely purple fruit perfume. The leafy notes can be accounted for because it has a naturally high level of “pyrazine” characters which create that herbaceous character particularly in cool climates. It is also proven to be a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon when partnered with Sauvignon Blanc, which explains why Cab Sauv also picks up those greener notes. This makes it a characterful grape which sometimes people think therefore is best to be blended so it becomes more approachable.

Onto the wine we tasted, I was really pleased it was a “classic”. Upfront I got a heavy waft of fresh cut green peppers, with a smoky dark edge along with crunchy black fruits, it really did explode from the glass. To taste it wasn’t too grippy and taught on the tannin which can be the case with this wine. The fruit flavours were ultra fresh, just like tasting black berries of the bush and there was an elegant mineral graphite bite to it. The herbaceous flavours did linger on the finish, but like I said, I’m actually in favour of a dose of that in reds provided it is in good balance to the fruit.”

Andy says: “The first thing to note about this wine was the burst of fruit when tasting, which after a second rapidly faded, figuratively falling of a cliff in your mouth, changing to a more earthy flavour.

I don’t think I’ve experienced such a rapid change in taste in any wine before. Colour wise it was a nice vibrant purple. I agree with Emma saying it’s not too grippy. Tasting again a few days later, the fruit has faded and the change in taste in the mouth doesn’t happen anymore, and there is a vanilla like after taste.”

Buying Guide

Cabernet Franc is a grape that is either used as a minor part in blends like in Bordeaux or as a grape alone. On its own it is most known in the Loire region, with wines like Saumur or Chinon. But it is also starting to travel well and there are now many countries in the world testing out Cabernet France with some great results such as Argentina or California. We will be staying true to its original homeland and looking for a Chinon.

Week 47 – Gamay

We tasted: Beaujolais Nouveau 2018, Marks and Spencer, £8

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I couldn’t help but smile when we opened the bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. There is something about this type of wine that spells pure joy to me.

Plus it is a great for beginners to learn how to start describing wines. It is bursting with aroma and flavour that have lots of characters reminiscent of childhood. People often note a bubblegum character to the aroma and it also has a good burst of cherry fruit flavour, almost like cherry cola. Nouveau style wines are definitely not on the complex spectrum of the styles made from Gamay, but I would put them firmly in the crowd pleaser category.

We tasted Beaujolais Nouveau for our wine, Andy was cross with me all week when he realised I scheduled our tasting a week later than Beaujolais Nouveau day. My excuse is that we normally taste on a Tuesday or Wednesday and given the first legal day to drink it was Thursday then we’d be breaking the law in the name of 52 Grapes.

The 2018 vintage is being heralded as pretty special with lots of ripe juicy grapes due to the warm summer. And having tasted this wine on many good and bad years I can attest that this is a great year to be drinking it Nouveau. It is ripe succulent and tasty.

A few of you might want to know what Nouveau means. It is basically a wine where the grapes have just been picked, quickly made into wine and released just as soon as it is deemed ready to drink, about two months later. It also has a special method used on it called carbonic maceration that I described in our glossary of terms. Basically the tank of grapes is sealed shut rather than left open as it ferments, plus it contains whole rather than crushed grapes. This enables the grape to start to ferment inside its skin and gently explode as the pressure in the tank rises from the growing carbon dioxide gas. This process extracts a very soft form of tannin from the grape which is why it is so delicate and also builds all the vibrant cherry-ade aroma and flavour. The reason it is mean to be drunk young is that those characters fade quickly and then the wine becomes dull. So drink up – this wine isn’t one for the cellar.”

Andy says: “I remember quite liking Beaujolais Nouveau last year, so was quite looking forward to this week. I wasn’t disappointed.

The aroma hit me like a (very small) train. ‘I know that smell! It’s, umm, oh damn what is it?’. I just couldn’t think oh what the very distinctive smell was, but eventually it came to me. It was the cough sweets, Cherry Tunes, complete with a hint of menthol, too. I was always a big fan of those, so instantly liked the wine.

Taste wise, there wasn’t much for me. Emma notes a cherry cola taste, but she doesn’t drink Coke, so I think she’s lying. I however do, and didn’t get that at all. Tannin wise, there was next to nothing. This is a very easy drinking red wine, and I think you should try it.”

Buying Guide

Gamay is the grape that makes the more famous wine Beaujolais, which comes from the Burgundy region of France. We are trying it just after Beaujolais Nouveau week. That is the first week that the latest vintage of wine is legally allowed to be sold. The wine only finished fermenting a few weeks before. Gamay perfectly suits that because it is fruity and upfront making it a pleasure to drink young. We will be seeking out a “Nouveau” but may try one of the posher villages like Fleurie or Morgon that are also made from this grape and have a bit more age.

 

Week 45 – Merlot

We tasted: Filia de Grand Mayne, M&S, £23

Emma says: “And the big judgement commences. For once we have managed to strike gold and have a lovely bottle of St Emilion Grand Cru at home; a welcome break from scouring the shops for our weekly grape.”

It is also a rare thing, it is Andy’s wine. Normally wine collecting is my thing and he sticks firmly to hoarding a veritable mountain of spirits.

The wine we have is a “second wine” which is a relatively new thing in Bordeaux. It means a well known Chateau has selected out its best fruit for its top wine which you pay top dollar for. Then it produces a second wine with the fruit that don’t quite make its first selection. Normally you get great value for money from these wines since they have the first class winemaking of the top wine but cost a fraction of the price. And as Bordeaux Chateau prices have risen over recent decades many people have resorted to buying these second wines that don’t break your bank balance quite as seriously. Mind you they still all cost over £20 a bottle so either way they fall into my “special” wine territory.

Wines of the right bank are typically a bit more easy going than the Medoc (left bank) wines that are Cabernet dominant. The merlot fruit being dominant in the blend you can find that there is a rich berry fruit nose and supple easy going palate. Typically these wines are blended with a little Cabernet Franc to add a structural element plus a nice herbaceous character.

Our wine is from 2011 which means it has a decent bit of age. And I was pleased to find it really came through on the aroma. It has a lovely soft shoe leather character, along with tobacco and a sweet fragrant plummy character typical of Merlot. The vintage was quite cool and not one of the best but pleasingly this has given it a sweet herbal tinge in a pleasant way. To taste it was supple and silky in texture, in fact it felt beautifully smooth. It opened out in layers of flavour that started with cassis and plum fruit and developed to sweet licquorice, coffee bean, clove and that earthy mocha that comes with age. I’m so pleased that we got a wine that really shows that Merlot can be complex, it isn’t as structured as a Cabernet but that gives it an elegance and finesse that definitely elevates above an average wine.

Andy says: “I find it much easier to describe wines that are full of big, bold flavours. ‘It smells like an old, muddy boot, and tastes like the inside of the finest cherry pie you ever had.’

This wine though, is soft, delicate and refined. I don’t have the palate nor the food tasting experience to discern anything helpful. If pushed, I would say dark fruits, like cherry. On the nose there is a soft leather aroma, and the tannins are soft and supple, giving a light grip that lessens with a long finish.

I suspect this wine is much better than I am able to tell.”

Buying Guide

Poor Merlot got a bad reputation after the iconic wine film “Sideways” put it down. It is a soft fleshy grape which means it can make simple wines without massive structure. But you can’t forget that some of the most expensive wines in the world in Bordeaux (St Emlion/Pomerol) are made mostly from this grape. So this week we are heading right to its heartland of Bordeaux to seek out one of those and see if we can put it to the test.

Week 43 – Tannat

We tasted: Pisano Tannat, M&S, £10

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Today kicked off with a full morning of judging Albarino wines from Spain and Portugal. Then into an afternoon of mulling over Beaujolais samples. Finished off by approving a few Champagne blends. Yes, this is the type of day all my friends tell me is my job. However the honest truth right now, is that I spend a disproportionately higher time updating spreadsheets.

If you are jealous thinking of how I’ve spent today then I can tell you by 11am my teeth were starting to sharpen with the gradual build up of Albarino acidity. By lunch time my senses were so confused I couldn’t decide if I was hungry and felt a little giddy. I promise you that even the most hardened wine taster finds a day of tasting a bit of a mountain to climb. The traditional way to refresh the senses is a cold beer or G&T. Sadly they aren’t included in 52 Grapes so I had to settle for a big bold red in the form of Tannat.

Tannat is a grape I have tasted most from its adopted country of Uruguay. I visited three years ago and fell in love with the country which has beautiful pasture land scenery and coastal sweeps of sparkling sand. The landscape is far more lush than the desert scape of Mendoza which brings to the wines a fresher lighter style. Its winemaking history is as long as Argentina but it hasn’t become quite as famous. And like Argentina the original birthplace of its famous grape is France; but for Tannat it is the region of Madiran. I met and tasted a large array of producers there but one of my favourites was the Pisano family whose wine we are tasting tonight. The large family of Italian brothers showed us around their winery which has a wonderful rustic charm, including tasting cellar filled with empty bottles of wines from around the world the brothers have consumed together. They are so passionate about their wine I regularly get an email to check in to see how they are doing and offer help even though they are the other side of the world. And I have really felt you can taste that passion in their wine.

They had a challenge with me tonight, my senses were tired and a big heavy red is not the natural cure for that. But I was pleased to see it had that charm I expected. The fruit is dark and brooding at first but starts to open out to fragrant red berry fruit. There is a decent note of milk chocolate on the aroma and taste which comes from a tasty hit of oak but the luscious plum and cherry fruit soak it up well. This is a full bodied red with rich tannin but the skill of their winemaking shows through in how smooth it feels, leaving the fruit tasting succulent without any raw grip on the finish. The moderating influence of rain in this country has also left a freshness that comes through as a menthol twist at the end. There is also a savoury edge to Tannat which I like and sets it apart from Malbec but I think this is a wine that would have definite appeal to people who are stuck drinking that wine and looking for a new adventure.

PS other producers to look out for in Uruguay are: Bouza, Garzon, Juanico, Pizzorno.”

Andy says: “Having researched this grape for the newsletter, I was looking forward to checking that the tannins in a Uruguayan version are soft.

I’m happy to confirm that they are – and I’d opt for ‘velvetty’, from my secret tannin descriptor site. After opening and smelling, I was a little hesitant as the wine smelt a bit farmyardy and possibly a touch closed, and the first taste wasn’t that great. But, as has often happened in the last few months, after a few minutes in the glass it greatly improved.

But, it didn’t improve enough to blow me away. I’ve learnt over the year that I like smokey, silky, reds like Rioja. So whilst I will have no trouble finishing the bottle, and to be honest I’ll have not trouble drinking more in the future, it won’t be at the top of my list.”

Buying Guide

Tannat is a kindred spirits of Malbec given it heralds from France (in Madiran region) but has travelled to South American and found its true home in Uruguay. If you can find a version from France or Urguauy it will be good enough. However we are going to try a Urugyuan version to taste it in its newest form.

Week 41 – Pinotage

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Houdamond Pinotage, £13, M&S

Emma says: I entered this week’s grape tasting with a determination to keep an open mind. Often people ask me what my favourite grape or wine is, few ask if there is a grape that I really can’t stand. I’m afraid to say that previous experience has told me that Pinotage is the only one. However the lovely people I work with who (some feel the same way) have told me that Houdamond Pinotage will be the wine to convert me. So here we go…

The reason I’m not a great fan of this wine is likely to be that I’m super sensitive to an aroma and flavour that is quite often found in South African wines. Some call it burnt rubber but I find it a bit of a dungy stink and ashy taste. If you don’t detect the same in your tasting then feel lucky, each of us have differing sensory perceptions and can be sensitive to certain things. It seems I’m particularly alert to these characters.

Onto the wine in question. The first aroma was a dark, brooding prune with a molasses richness which was quite attractive, it was followed by a bit of boot polish which I don’t mind and then that very distinct earthy dung note, but not too bad. So a good start. To taste it was nicely supple, with fluid tannins and a blueberry , plum flavour with that caramel sweetness and a strong coffee note. But then after about a second or two I felt that earthy, burnt rubber and bitter character, plus a raw alcohol burn start to emerge and that was it for me.  I struggled to finish the glass which Andy can attest is a very rare thing.

Sorry South Africa since I know this is your trademark grape. I hope Andy feels differently.”

Andy says: “I didn’t have too much time to taste this wine as I was busy fighting with a blocked dishwasher drain. It won, but there will be a return battle tonight, when I will be armed with a drain snake.

I actually don’t mind it and don’t detect the rubber that Emma does. The first thing I did say was that there was quite a rough alcohol burn. To describe that further, it’s that harsh feeling you can get from a really cheap whiskey, compared to a more expensive one which will be smoother.

Taste wise, I’m still not getting all those fruits, but I did find it quite pleasant, almost blackcurrant-y, and quite easy to drink.”

Buying Guide

Pinotage is the red grape that has come to define South Africa. Its parents are a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault but it really tastes nothing like either of those grapes. The search this week should be quite easy since most big shops stock a Pinotage if they have South African wines.

Week 38 – Negroamaro

We tasted: Domodo Negroamaro 2017, Majestic, £9.99

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Negroamaro is one of the lesser known reds of Italy. It comes from the Southern area of Apulia where it can get very hot so you have to expect a rich red, potentially with a bit of that raisin richness that comes from ultra ripeness. I’m not naturally a fan of big reds so I haven’t been expecting much this week. But I am hoping we get a real taste of these unique grapes that make Italy such an interesting country to explore for wine.

First the colour of my wine is ultra dark, almost opaque which often happens with warm climate reds because the anthocyanin that come from the skins accumulate a bit more with warm climate grapes. I can also see those strong tears that come onto the side of the glass, also a common feature with sugar ripe grapes made into wine.

The aroma matches my first impression, the fruit is rich and baked, lots of prunes, raisins and liquorice notes. To taste it is fleshy, with that ripe fruit profile, mixed with molasses and mediterranean herbs like oregano and tarragon. There is a fair bit of tannin giving it a grip that is typical of Italian reds, but it is also quite quaffable because the alcohol is surprisingly low at 12%.

I’m not quite sure how they managed that with all these ripe fruit flavours, I suspect some winemaker wizardry has gone on. I don’t think this is going to be the Negroamaro that converts me but it was certainly inoffensive and I’d be happy to serve it to friends at a party.

Andy says: “Fairly lame post from me this week, as once again I had very little time to actually taste this wine.

I don’t get any of the flavours Emma mentions, but she is quite a bit posher than me so we’ll put it down to that. As she said, it is an inoffensive drinkable red, and something I’d expect to be given in an average Italian as a their house wine.

Hopefully I’ll get to taste it again and add some more to this.”

Buying Guide

Negroamaro is a black grape from the south of Italy, especially the region Puglia and Salento. We will be looking for a 100% grape blend from these areas. Some large supermarkets do stock this grape but you may need to look in specialist stores.

Week 35 – Cabernet Sauvignon

We tasted: Chateau Blaignan Medoc 2012 £14.50-9.67 on save 1/3 now

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week Andy really held me back. I was ready to crack open a fine bottle of Bordeaux for our Cabernet experience. One of those really pricey bottles that I’ve saved for a “special” occasion. Since I never seem to find a grand enough moment to fit opening one, I thought 52 grapes might fit the bill. But no, Andy was my kill joy, he said we needed to find something similar to what other readers might be drinking. Do I sound bitter?

So I didn’t open this bottle with a lot of relish. However I’m really happy to say that opening it was a nice reminder that everyday Bordeaux can be a joy. A lot of wine trade people dismiss ordinary Bordeaux as being lean and green tasting. That is because the Cabernet grapes in the moderate climate of Bordeaux can struggle to ripen and if they don’t the flavours can become bitter and leafy, plus the tannin in the grapes can also be unripe and rough. Potentially I’m just a bit immune to those flavours because my lovely dad who is the ripe old age of 91 has been drinking at least a half a bottle of Berry Bros Extra Ordinary Claret since I was born; which was a while ago. Consequently I’ve had a lot of experience with this grape!

Onto this wine which I happen to know really well because I import it for the company I work at. I’m so pleased that it really shows that definitive Bordeaux character in a good way. The aromas are heady and perfumed, with typical cassis and sweet menthol leaf, combining with leather and tobacco. Then on the taste it showed through a sense of classic minerality (pencil lead if you have ever tasted it) and fresh crunchy brambles mixing with a hint of padron grilled green peppers that defines to me the greenness that is good in Bordeaux. The tannins are a feature as you would expect in a boldly structured grape like Cabernet, they feel grippy and leave a texture on your teeth, probably a colour if I’d drank the whole bottle. Cabernet is also the grape that really encapsulates what “tertiary” characters are in wine. This term refers to the aromas and flavours that happen with age and when a wine moves away from primary characters such as fresh fruit and flowers. Cabernet has a lot of structure and acidity that soften out nicely with age and then these “other” characters evolve which also bring complexity for example: leather, tobacco, tar or pot pourri. This wine only has six years of age but ones that are much older will be become dominated by these tertiary characters more than the fruit.

On food matches do try a lump of cheese with this wine. The heavy tannin in  Cabernet reacts with protein and then they have this nice synergy where the wine softens the taste of the cheese and the protein then helps the tannins to soften so the wine is more approachable.

A final personal note is that I love Bordeaux because every time I have a sip I somehow feel closer to my Dad. I’m not sure he feels the same way or he’d be thinking about me a lot! But it is nice to have that personal connection with a wine.”

Andy says: “I was looking forward to this week as I’ve always thought I was a CabSav fan. I think I still am, but am coming to the annoying realisation that maybe not all wine is the same.

I think I’ve probably only ever had big, bold, shouty Cabs from e.g. California. Well, I know that’s not true as I’ve had plenty of Bordeauxs in the past, I guess I’ve never really clicked that they’re the ‘same’ thing. Basically, I was expecting an explosive mouthful of flavour.
My first sniff of this wine seemed salty, sort of salted caramel, and also some high tones (those aromas that, for me, get right up your nose and right into your brain), but other than that, I didn’t get too much. After a while that changed and I did get some fruit, but very hidden, definitely not ‘fruit forward’. Taste wise it was the same, it seemed a bit watery and washed out to me, but again I’m probably hankering for a big gutsy red. Emma did explain to me that it was to do with the age (we had a 2012), but I wasn’t really listening so not sure what she said.”

Buying Guide

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world famous red grape that makes wines with great structure and ageability. We are going to seek one out from the classic region of Bordeaux. Look for a “left bank” Bordeaux wine which can be identified by names like Medoc, Margaux, St Julien or Pauillac, these have the most Cabernet in the blend.

Week 34 – Cinsault

We tasted: De Martino Old Vines Cinsault, Itata, £11.99

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I’ve been looking forward to this week because I knew exactly which wine I wanted us to taste. It is actually quite rate to find a 100% Cinsault wine but I have fortunately found my ultimate one when visiting a favourite Chilean producer De Martino three years ago.

This is a family business that has been making wine for generations but the younger clan headed up by Sebastian and winemaker brother Marco are now championing a return to old traditions. Sebastian is mad about buying up long forgotten plots of vines in overlooked regions like Itata and Maule where the vines are hundreds of years old. He took me on a memorable visit in tropical downpours where we drank this wine standing under a tin roof shivering. I remember thinking if the wine tasted that good in those conditions it had to be great. So let’s see if Andy agrees.

Given it’s still pretty warm in London right now we decided to chill our wine, which I also thought was fitting because it is quite a light bodied red which really suits being chilled. To the first smell it had that gorgeous scented dark cherry character with a hit of farmyard and smoky pencil lead, giving it a classic European charm. If I was tasting it blended I don’t think I’d ever think of Chile, but Itata is quite cold and wet which is why these wines can have a more restrained style. To taste it was just so light and elegant it sort of danced on the tongue, the tannin texture being really delicate. The fruit is slightly cassis but also with a mellow cherry flavour and a mild herbal freshness. The acidity feels nicely lifted but not sharp. To sum it up it really is a pretty wine.

Onto potential food matches, I would say this is a great red to go with food where a heavy red would dominate. The light tannins mean it would work really nicely with fish like salmon and could also work with curries. I think it would also be one to substitute for dishes that I would normally match with Pinot Noir, like mushrooms, game birds or white meats.”

Andy says: “My first sniff of this made me think of vinegar, which is never a good thing. But, the wine was fresh out of the fridge, and maybe it was a trick of the temperature as it soon blew off.

I also got a bit of leather sofa, which is a bona fide wine tasting thing to say. The first tasting was also disappointing, very thin, very light, not much to talk about at all. Downhearted, I logged in and started building this page, finding and cropping the images etc.

Some ten minutes had passed and the second taste was much different. It was full of character and full of black fruit flavours, blackberry, blackcurrant etc, even a bit Ribena-y. Lesson learned, don’t over chill your reds. This is a lovely summer drinking red.”

Buying guide

Cinsault is a red grape from France, it was often used in blends to bulk out a wine because it is high yielding. We are going to seek out a 100% Cinsault from old vines, typical countries that do this are France, South Africa or Chile. These are quite rare so we’d recommend buying any one you can find.

Week 32 – Mourvèdre

We tasted: Domain Bunan Bandol, M&S, £11.32 (down from £17)

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This heatwave in the UK has brought with it many uncomfortable experiences. Oven like conditions on the Jubilee Line, muggy offices where everyone is fighting over a USB powered portable fan, and not to mention the restless nights without air con or breezes. We just aren’t hardwired for heat in this little island.

I can now add to that list the need to taste Mourvèdre on a hot sweaty night. I arrived home off the heated pavements just swooning for a glass of something chilled and white. But no, I devised this dastardly 52 Grapes schedule so I really must drink this 14.5% alcohol beast of a red. So here goes.

Mourvèdre actually loves heat, as grapes go. Winemakers use it in a blend because it retains a good amount of acidity in heat. That is difficult in warm climates because as the grape accumulates sugar it loses acidity. On the first aroma this is definitely a ripe red, full of brooding dark fruits with a spicy and earthy edge, exactly what I expect from Mourvèdre. The fruit is plummy and sweet with a gentle perfume of fresh beetroot. To taste it is really a mouthful, the feeling is grippy but not astringent and it sits heavily on the palate with that warming alcohol really hitting at the back of the mouth. The fruit flavours are dense and there is this sort of earthy clay taste with gives it a distinct savoury expression. I also get that herbal undertone that is typical of Southern french wines a bit like dried herbs in a pasta sauce. I can really appreciate how complex this wine is, even if it wasn’t what I was feeling like drinking today.  I almost feel a little sad that I’m not sitting by a camp fire chilling in a typically cool English summer evening. This would have been the ultimate wine for that occasion.

So in summary if you love heavy, full bodied reds and haven’t tried Mourvèdre, in particular a Bandol, then please do. This is a wine that may tick all your boxes. I might have to buy another bottle and keep it for when the winter sets in.”

Andy says: “You might have noticed that our notes and pages have been appearing later and later. That’s mostly due to my addiction to Softball and playing Mon/Tue/Wed for the last 10 weeks or so.

That has severely eaten into the time available to keep things up to date. It was the same again this week, as I arrived home at around 10pm (early, actually), hot, tired, sweaty, and needing to taste a Mourvèdre. The first thing I noticed as I poured it was the lovely deep purple ink colour of the wine. I gave it a sniff (it’s what you do) and said it smelt smokey. ‘Not really’, said Emma, who then sniffed it and said ‘actually, yeah it does’. Master of Wine nil, sweaty bloke one.

‘Earthy, smokey richness’ was my next phrase, which scored big points as apparently ‘earthy’ is the classic description, and one I see Emma used. I promise I hadn’t read her notes this time. There was also a touch of ‘farmyard’ to it. If you’ve ever walked through a muddy field of cows, or a barnyard, you’ll know the smell I mean. Not as strong and vomit inducing as the real life smell, obviously, just that hint of countryside. It’s known as brett, and at the right level can add an extra dimension to the wine, which it did here. The tannins were tight and grippy, but let go immediately.”

Buying Guide

Mourvèdre (aka Monastrell in Spain) is a grape variety most commonly used as a small part of a blend. We will be seeking out a Bandol from the South of France where this grape is used as the dominant grape in their styles. Any Monastrell from Spain would equally work well.

Week 28 – Carmenere

We tasted: Pintao Carmenere by Casa Silva £10 Marks and Spencer

Emma says: “I had originally scheduled the next two weeks to be South American wines to time with my annual trip to those countries. Sadly those trips were postponed at the last minute which means I’m now sitting in 30 degree summer heat trying to enjoy a ripe and rich Carmenere.

I decided to try to make the most of the unexpected situation by testing out a food and wine matching theory. Carmenere has a generally accepted spicy character that sets it apart from other grapes. I detect it a bit like spicy red peppercorns or those padron peppers you get in tapas bars. So I cooked up an Indian feast that had a spicy daal and a good dose of red chilli in everything. The test being that food matches are often based on “like for like” flavours in food and wine so I wanted to see if it would work. The truth is – NO. The effect of base room temperature, wine and food was all a bit overwhelming. So I had to leave the glass of wine to taste again later.

Back to the wine, I chose Casa Silva “Pintao” Carmenere, because I know the winery well and think they are the absolute masters of bringing the best out in this grape. In our last newsletter I mentioned that some no-so-good Carmeneres can be thin green and bitter tasting. As a winery they have taken great care to plant just the right variation of Carmenere that has the ability to ripen well in their valley Colchuagua. They took me through their vineyards last year and told me the secret of their good Carmenere was all about how they grow the grapes rather than what they do in the winery.

I was pleased that my first sniff gave a definite breeze of grilled peppers, in tandem with a pleasing note of ripe cherries and also refreshing menthol notes. To taste the fruit is really exuberant but not at all jammy, more raspberry, hints of rhubarb and orange peel with all that powerful spice overlaying it nicely. This is a full bodied red and it does leave with a warm feel in the back of the mouth. It would probably be better suited to a winter’s day but once we chilled it a little it seemed to work far better. And as a final point I love the fact this wine isn’t smothered in oak that tend to give the wine a tutti fruity confected character and a bigger grip. It means you can really taste the grape which is exactly what our adventure is all about.

Andy says: “I was on a winery tour with Emma a few years ago and was lucky enough to taste a Carmenere straight from the barrel. ‘Ooh, tastes like jalapeños!’, I said.

I can’t express enough how jalapeño-y it was. It was like a, ‘Is this made from jalapeños, or grapes?’ kinda thing. Emma then informed me that that is a classic tasting note for this wine, so I was quite happy. And I’ve been looking forward to this one to see if I had the same reaction. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I definitely get green bell pepper, so the same family at least.

Colour wise, using the handy Winefolly chart again, I’m going for medium to deep purple. Tannin wise, I’ll let you into another little secret of mine, and that’s this blog post that lists out nice descriptions. So, from that list I’m heading toward rounded. There’s not so much as a grip, more of a quick, gentle hug of the tongue.

I tasted this twice, the first time with the same meal as Emma, and it was okay but not great. The wine was too warm, I think. The second time I had it well chilled, as we’d put it in the fridge and forgotten about it for a day. Straight out the fridge it was no disaster, but it was a hot day so maybe just cold liquid was all I needed. 15 minutes later as it warmed, it opened up. On the ‘like it – don’t like it’ scale, it’s up at the ‘like it’ end.”

Buying Guide

Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina. It originated in Bordeaux, France but seems to have found a better home in Chile where it fully ripens. It is best to try an example that is a little above entry price because cheaper versions can be a bit light and green. The valley in Chile where it tends to show at its best is Colchuagua; so we will be searching out that style.