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Week 21 – Chardonnay

Tasting Notes

Will appear here!

Buying Guide

We will be heading straight to the the classic region of Burgundy. Our sub region of choice will be Puligny Montrachet. So head to the French white section and look for any of these, your choice may be dependent on how much you want to spend: Bourgogne Blanc, Macon Villages, Chablis, Pouily Fuisse, Rully, Chassagne Montrachet, Meursault or Puligny Montrachet.

Week 20 – Barbera

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Barbera D’Asti De Forville 2016 at Majestic £13.99

Emma says: “Back to red this week and what a joyful return given we are tasting Barbera D’Asti. I often pick whites above reds as wines that perk me up after a long day, but Barbera is one of those reds that has all the attributes to revive me.

The one we chose certainly didn’t disappoint. The aroma is beautiful and pure, bursting with dark cherry and floral kitschy notes, plus a sweet herbal note like fresh cut tarragon. Then to taste it is so gentle and silky in texture, giving it an easy drinking appeal, especially when compared to other Italian reds that can be heavy and tannic. Plus that purity of fruit really lingers in its flavours, the high acidity in Barbera make them taste even fresher on the palate. Yet this isn’t a simple joy like a Valpolicella or Beaujolais. Barbera at this quality level has that bit more complexity, and this wine also had a bit of oak age that brought in more mocha sweet hints, plus a spicy dimension with a liquorice bite. This week has really reminded me that Barbera should be on my list of fine and elegant reds as much as a good Pinot Noir. I hope that everyone else enjoys its expression as much as me.

And for those who want a global picture of Barbera, it does grow in other countries, normally where Italian immigrants have settled; Argentina, California and Australia to name a few.  I have tried many in Argentina and find they really need to be at the high quality end to be worthwhile. Barbera is a very vigorous vine with high acidity and so it can be used to create big volume wines that are a bit tart in flavour. But the benefit of new world Barbera when it is good, is that the fruit can have a little more power and the acidity can provide it with a good balance; even in warm climate conditions. So get exploring.

A final note is that we had this with a meal of spicy grilled halloumi and giant couscous with roast vegetables. The Mediterranean flavours and spice seemed to work beautifully with the Barbera. I often find reds fight with spice flavoured dishes so this will definitely go on my food matching list for the future.”

Andy says: “Apologies for the delay in my notes on this one, it was a busy social week. Apologies also for the ‘Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbera Ann’ email, apparently it got into some of your heads. Hehehehe.

I’m told this wine has high acidity, and I think I might now be able to detect it. Emma has always told me that it ‘makes your cheeks water’, and I’m definitely feeling that sensation with this wine. There’s a slight puckering, and then you feel it release as your mouth salivates to balance the acid.

On the tannin front, I’d say they were virtually non existent. This wine is just smooth and goes down very (too) easily, with a mild warming from the acid. My fruit vocabulary is still limited, but if pushed I’d have to say that it reminds me most of blackcurrant, especially if you’ve ever tasted undiluted blackcurrant cordial. Possibly my favourite red so far.”

Buying Guide

Barbera is an Italian grape from the North East of Italy in Piedmont where the famous Barolo reds are also made. So head to the Italian red section and look for a wine with this grape name on the label. Typically it comes from two famous villages; Alba or Asti. Either one will work to taste along with us.

Week 19 – Gewurztraminer

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Alsace Gewurztraminer £10 Marks and Spencer

Emma says: “The experience of tasting Gewürztraminer this week was a nice moment for me. It made me realise the value of the 52 Grapes experience for a so called “expert” like myself. I fell out of love with Gewurz a while ago, I’m not a fan of overtly floral styles of wine or off dry wines; so I had put this one to the back of my grape closet.

But on being forced to taste it again I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. Perhaps it was the rare, balmy, bank holiday weekend that we had in London this week. The pretty floral profile of this Alsace Gewürztraminer seemed to perfectly suit my mood. I also really liked this particular style I tried, it had a fresh rose aroma and crisp lychee fruit flavour that lingered nicely with a ginger root twist that brightened it up. It wasn’t fat and oily or too confected as many styles I’ve tried in the past. Not amazingly complex but I I found further dimension in its fruit flavours with a creamy peach interior and candy floss sweet twists from its off dry style.

I then tried a further glass with my lazy dinner of a feta cheese, avocado and grain salad. Andy was out obviously, he wouldn’t put up with that sort of dinner. But I found that it worked fantastically with salty cheese and the richness of avocado. Its sweetness and vivid fruit offered a fantastic contrast. And for that reason it would be a great one to try with Thai or other spicy dishes too.

A final note is that another type of Gewürztraminer I have recently tried and enjoyed for its similar restrained character was one from Northern Italy in Trento where it can be called Traminer. Therefore if you are a fan of this style look out for that too. Plus we will be tasting other floral styles of grapes later in our journey; look out for Torrontes and Muscat if you are a fan of this grape.”

Andy says: “I’ve now had time to taste this wine. Who’d have though that drinking a different wine each week would be this hard to keep up with?

Well, I think the only word I can use here is ‘floral’. If you’re in the UK and of a certain age, you might remember sweets (aka candy for our American friends) called Cherry Lips, that taste eff-all like cherry, but do taste like soap, and this wine reminds me very strongly of them. And that ladies and gents, is pretty much all I have to say about this wine. Those sweets were ok in small doses, and I guess this wine is too. This is not on my ‘must buy again’ list, more likely the next time I try this will be in a year or two when I read back on the notes and wonder if it really did taste like cherry lips. Note for future me: Yes it did.

I also spent most of this review resisting wondering if I could say ‘…one of the wurzt wines I’ve had’. ”

Buying Guide

Gewurztraminer is a classic grape variety of the region Alsace in France. Happily Alsace normally puts this grape variety boldly on the front label so it should be easy to identify. So we will be trying a version from there. Good alternatives regions if you find this hard to find would be Germany, New Zealand or Chile.

Week 18 – Sauvignon Blanc

Tasting Notes

Emma Says: Confession time: Andy and I decided this week should be a New Zealand Sauvignon, since it is pretty much the modern classic example of this grape. But I’m actually not really a fan of this style of Sauvignon.

To me the wines often have a clumsy expression, all upfront, with pungent aromas and tropical flavours; let’s call it a “shouty” style of wine. My preferred version of Sauvignon would come from the cooler climate areas of France in the Loire; with the famous villages Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.

To get around this problem I cheated a little. Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to have three days learning basic winemaking in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was at that time that I learnt the style of Kiwi Sauv I like.  They come from particular cooler climate spots in the region Marlborough; my favourite being the Awatere Valley. This area has very brisk valley breezes that keep the grapes nice and chilled even in the warmer months. And for me the style have that bit of elegance as a result.

So I searched the supermarket shelves and found Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon £19.99. It is actually rare to find a wine 100% from that valley. Often wineries mix a little Awatere with wine from the warmer Wairau Valley to create balance between ripe fruit and the leaner style. Onto the taste of this wine. It didn’t disappoint, the aroma had a beautiful gentle elderflower herbal note, with a hint of more tropical passion fruit adding richness. Plus underlying there was a mineral flinty hit to the nose that gives it that bit of elegance.  To the palate it is generous but not oily and fat which can be the case with Kiwi Sauvignon.  It had a dense but gentle flavour with mountain herbs, sweet lemon balm and a pithy bite that refreshed the finish. The flavours really lasted too.

I happen to know Sancerre and the Loire in general had a terrible vintage last year so prices are about to go through the roof. So if you love these styles I would say this type of premium Kiwi Sauv is a perfect alternative.

And to end a final few interesting geek facts. The reason the Kiwi Sauv styles are so distinctly bold and lively in style is a mix of climate and winemaking. The climate has high UV rays and sunlight hours, this makes the skins thick and full of flavour and aroma. Then the Kiwis tend to leave the grape to have a bit of “cold maceration” before they crush and ferment that increases the aroma concentration. Finally that bell pepper bright tropical aroma is down to a compound called “thiols” that are high in Sauvignon grapes. In NZ they really favour this and try to enhance their character by using yeasts that are specially designed to bring that out in the fermentation. And “eh viola” you have the Kiwi Sauv style.

Andy says: I’ve been looking forward to Sauvignon week as it’s one of the few wines I can spot, because it usually smells like cat piss. Just Google “Sauvignon Blanc Cat” if you don’t believe me. If you’re a bit posher than me, then you’d say it smells of box hedge or boxwood, and if you’ve ever been near a blackcurrant tree, then that would apply too.

My initial sip somewhat knocked me back – this was very tart and sharp, and almost made my eyes water. It was also a little viscous and a little syrup-y, and whilst perfectly nice, I’m not sure I could drink too many glasses without getting a headache. Smell wise, apart from the cat piss box hedge (which wasn’t as strong as usual, as Emma had gone left field on the wine choice), I got honey suckle. I only know that as we had a honey suckle tree in the garden when I was younger.
I tried to talk wine with Emma. The conversation went thus:
“That’s just pure honeysuckle”
“Yeah it’s definitely honeyed”
“Honeysuckle, not honey”
“Yeah ok, but do you get elderflower too?”
“Yeah! I do – I knew there was a flavour there, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.”
“But it’s more of a sweet elderflower, not European elderflower”.
And that’s what it’s like discussing wine with a pro. Not only do you have to identify flavours, you have to know which sub species of a particular bush.

Buying Guide

Friday is Sauvignon Blanc day so we’re going with the theme and will be trying a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We expect you’ve had your fair share of “Savvy Bs”, and encourage you to trade up a little and try a premium version. We can then all discuss if it is worth paying that little bit more for a Kiwi Sauvignon. Look out for one from the classic Marlborough region, and potentially an Awatere Valley sub region where the coolest climate styles come from.

Week 17 – Garganega

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico 2014 – £19.99

Emma says: “In case we haven’t made this clear yet, Garganega is Soave and vice-versa. This is another of those wines where a country decides to call the wine by its region rather than the grape. The grape Garganega is held in quite high esteem by local winemakers, who would often prefer to be working with this as their grape of choice, but have found Pinot Grigio is the king of the export market.

The broad region of Veneto has slowly replanted vineyards to Pinot Grigio. Winemakers love it so much they often sneak a little bit into the blend of Pinot Grigio without declaring it on the label, this adds a little oomph to the flavour; which is entirely legal. So get into Garganega, the locals know it’s good and so should we.

We are tasting a Soave Classico which comes from the best hillside sites for this grape. It was a last minute purchase for me because Andy and I have 24 hours together in London before travelling separately for a week. Anyway, I was gazing at the shelves of a good local supermarket and could either have gone for reasonable sub £10 or a famed fine wine producer Foscarino. 52 Grapes is the perfect excuse to go pricey. I was actually hoping to find my favourite producer Pieropan because by a sad coincidence the head of their family Nino who was a pioneer of high quality Soave died last week.  I didn’t find Pieropan but Foscarino and this still seemed a fitting tribute since Pieropan’s ethos has been all about proving the quality Soave can achieve. This producer Foscarino certainly champions that. It can be a wine with incredible complexity when produced with old vines and a little age – move over Burgundy.

So to this wine. It did display what I hoped. Lets think of the typical Northern Italian white which I hated when blind tasting for my Master of Wine exams; like Veneto Pinot Grigio. They are bone dry, only gently aromatic and subtle to taste on the palate – so very difficult to detect between each other. But then if you get a good grape like Garganega and give it a little age it entirely changes. Here I get a lovely honeysuckle syrup aroma, overlaying a sorrel herby note, then gentle lime blossom, to taste there is a mild tarragon flavour giving it that herby appeal and light lemon lozenge sweetness. There is a richness and texture not typical of the simple everyday Soave that adds a dimension. This old vine concentration and possibly a producer also using lees contact to add texture. All in all it shows why I get excited by mature Italian whites as much as French. But a word of warning, this is only true of top Soave, Fruili or Collio producers where whites are typically aged to create these styles.

And if you tasted a slightly less pricey Soave Classico I really hoped you found what I like to say is true of those styles. It is like taking a Pinot Grigio and making it more interesting. Just a touch more limey, zesty and herbal but still crisp and dry and refreshing. Lets start a renaissance of Garganega lovers. I know the grape doesn’t sound pretty but it tastes pretty good.”

Andy says: “It’s going to be quite a struggle to review this, as I tasted it 5 days ago and didn’t make any notes. I’ve since flown 5000 miles, been attacked by squadrons of mosquitos and have a swollen arm from an allergic reaction.

The one thing I clearly remember is the colour of the wine, which was a deep yellow, similar to what I would describe as ‘hangover p*ss’. Apparently it’s age that does it. To the wine that is. Moving swiftly on from that image, I also remember that I definitely liked this wine – bursting with flavour and at the right level of sweetness for me. Emma then informs me it’s actually ‘bone dry’, so I guess I’m tasting the richness and mistaking it for sweetness. Clearly, I’m not learning a thing.”

Buying Guide

Back to the old world and we’re rediscovering another forgotten but great white grape. More commonly known as Soave, the region in the Veneto, Italy. It has been overshadowed by Pinot Grigio but to wine lovers is the superior grape with more flavour. Try to find a Soave Classico which means the grapes will come from the better hillside slopes. We will be doing the same.

Week 16 – Malbec

Tasting Notes

We tasted:

Malbec Cahors Clos La Coutal £11.90 Nicolas wine shop

Vinalba Reserve Malbec Patagonia 2015 £13.99 Waitrose Cellar

Emma says: “For us there are two Malbecs this week, which marks the first 52 Grapes dispute. I rushed off to buy a Malbec to taste before our island holiday this week, searching out one from its traditional region, Cahors in France; not an easy task.

Then on arriving home I was told it should have been from Argentina. Although I’m convinced it was Andy who gave me that shopping instruction. I’ll be interested to see if he admits to that in his note!

But let’s not dwell on that…I’m excited about this week. First I’m a big fan of Malbec, a good thing given I’ve been a buyer of South American wines for six years.  That also means I’ve been lucky to visit Argentina that many times and to be a judge at the Argentine Wine Awards last year. The problem for me this week is how I’m going to sum up everything I want to say about Malbec within a nice succinct tasting note. So we’re taking up the ASKEMMA slot on our newsletter email with a few more of my top Malbec tips.  Another reason to be excited is it was Malbec World Day this week, hence we’ve matched up our schedule so we can all taste and celebrate that together.

First we have the Cahors, which I thought that was a really nice opportunity re-evaluate Malbec. Argentina with its high sunlight hours and cooling mountain influences brings a very particular rich fruit and fragrant style to this grape. So I was interested to see what Cahors would give in contrast; I have tasted these wines before but with without my 52grapes hat on.

I was pleased to find that the distinct violet perfume of Malbec was present in my Cahors and in an even fresher, more fragrant way than most Argentine Malbec. There is also a spicy dark plum note to it, reminiscent of star anise when I’ve used it to cook a fruit compote. On the palate it is robust in structure which I would expect because Malbec is tannic as a grape and France is that bit cooler than the Argentina. But it isn’t aggressive as I’d feared; some Cahors I’ve tasted are a bit green and tough because the Malbec grape hasn’t had the chance to ripen enough, this one is perfectly ripe. The fruit underlying is beautifully fresh, with crunchy fresh orchard plums, a herbal interior of menthol, black peppercorns and cloves. The oak is more gentle than you feel in the new world Malbec.  I felt this wine had a lot of purity and great depth of flavor which elevated it to have a dash more finesse than I’d expect of a wine bought under £15. So a strong thumbs of up for me. I’m definitely going back for more.

Then we move onto the Vinalba Malbec from Patagonia. I have to mention this winery was set up by a pioneering French couple Diane and Herve who moved to Argentina in the 1980s before anyone knew the region would be a hit. And their wines speak to me of both Argentine boldness and French elegance combined. Vinalba’s main winery is based in Mendoza which is by far the largest wine region. But they have now taking up vineyards in Patagonia the cooler southern region which is a trendy emerging area for cooler climates styles of wine; so I’m hoping for some elegance here as a result. The aroma is everything I’m expecting, Malbec has this lovely parma violet note to it and then you have those ripe plummy underlying fruits. Oak is typically a feature on Argentine reds and here I can get that classic gingery sweet note that tells me it is present. I’d say the palate is where I start to feel something different from a Mendoza style of Malbec. The fruit underlying is dense and plummy but not cooked or heavy, there is also a touch of fresh raspberry to it. Then there is that typical rich texture of a Argentine Malbec which comes from the full but ripe tannins with a hit of oak; altogether providing a mouth filling and gutsy wine. This wine does have a lot of oak in the overtones of mocha and sweet spice but the powerful fruit can handle it. And that is the magic of Malbec from this area which I can honestly say no other region has been able to match yet.

Andy says: “I’m tasting this while on holiday, after just playing beach volleyball. I’m hot, sweaty, and covered in sand.

Yes, we’re so dedicated to the cause (read: poor planning) that we packed a bottle in our case. And of course, I picked up the wrong one from the rack. Apparently I’ve brought ‘the good one’, when I should have brought ‘the other one’. I didn’t know there were two.

I’m not sure Malbec is a wine best enjoyed in 26C heat, but I’m here to give it a damn good go. The first thing I noticed was the colour. It was this bright, clear, intense purple. Even the bubbles that formed from my bad pouring were purple.

On the nose, I get quite a few high notes, and a little bit of spice. I’m interested to see how this develops when we finish the bottle tomorrow. Smooth, velvetty tannins, and a warming feeling on swallowing, but the dominating factor here is the oak of which my unrefined palate thinks there is too much.”

Buying Guide

The grape chose itself this week, as this Tuesday (17th April) is Malbec World Day. This is a grape with a special place in Emma’s heart because she visits Argentina each year to buy wines. So she is going to pick one of her favourite new producers that makes wines in her favourite region called the “Uco Valley”. It’s a special area with some of the best climate conditions. Stroll to the South America/Argentina red section and try to identify a wine with the words Uco Valley and you’ll be tasting something similar to us.

Week 15 – Melon de Bourgogne

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I guess there had to be a week. To date I’ve been able to wax lyrical about pretty much every wine we’ve tasted and often enjoyed the opportunity to revisit an old grape friend I’d forgotten.

I thought this grape would be the same, as it is one of those grapes that wine people say is due a revival. I’ve seen other French native grapes like Picpoul rise to the top of wine lists and wondered why Muscadet hasn’t been given the same nudge forward. After all, in its heyday it was almost as well known as Sauvignon Blanc, if you have parents who hung out in wine bars in the 1970s and 80s I’m sure they’ll confirm that. Maybe that is why it fell out of fashion, it became that drink “your parents like”.

I’ve also heard whispers that the demise of the Muscadet region was also due to lots of grape growers cashing in during its era of popularity and producing high yielding grapes with flavours close to water. That era is well over because nowadays Muscadet producers are more likely to be shutting up shop due to low consumer demand; especially after a long run terrible harvests which drove many of them out of business. So as the going says “only the strong survive” which should mean the remaining growers are going to be quality focused and passionate about continuing on their tradition.

Back to the wine. If you are a fan of wines with fruit that springs from the glass then be warned, this may not be for you. The aroma of Muscadet Sur lie is far from it; for me it is always the smell of a sea shore mixed with a herbal and flinty mineral tinge. And to taste if you are an avid seafood fan then you should be getting some of those familiar salty saline flavours with a light citrus bite; limey and slightly pithy. Oysters and Muscadet must be the perfect wine match for this reason. The “sur lie” bit is interesting. Lie or “lees” are the dead yeast cells that go through a process called “autolysis” when in long contact with wine. It creates the biscuity, nutty richness in Champagne and conveys a similar but more delicate flavour to Muscadet. It is also quite helpful to soften our the potential sharpness of a high acid, cool climate wine. Many white wines use “lees” for this reason, unoaked Chardonnay like a good Macon Villages has that roundness and texture for the same reason.

But I’m afraid my experience of Muscadet this time just didn’t float my boat. It made me think about how you reach out for a glass of something that suits your mood. And the night before I had bought a bottle of Macon because I wanted something with that smooth, soft peachy flavour which that gives me. I had my glass of Muscadet straight after that and it just seemed a little weak and lacking flavour as a result. Perhaps another night, a different mood and it would have been more interesting to me. After all I have tried some incredible aged Muscadet in the past that had made me remember it as more special wine.”

Andy says: “I sort of tasted this wine three times, and had three different opinions about it.

The first time was with dinner, and not with one of the recommended matches – a spicy five bean chilli. However, it seemed a perfect match to me. The wine was fruity, cool, crisp, cutting through the chilli with so much ease the glass didn’t last long at all.

The second glass, and therefore tasting, wasn’t far behind. But this time, as the chilli wore off and my palate neutralised, I liked it much less, finding it to be quite sour and limey.

The third tasting was a day or so later, and it was a similar experience. Initially I liked it when cool and out of the fridge, but I then forgot about it for about 20 mins. Tasting it slightly warmer and it was back to the sour limey version. So I guess the lesson here, for me at least, is that it how wine is served/consumed really does make a difference.”

Buying Guide

This week’s grape is more commonly known as Muscadet, which is a region in the Loire area of France. It has fallen out of fashion but is a lovely dry white. We are going to try a specific style called “Muscadet Sur Lie”. We’ll explain what that means later, but for now find the French white section and look for those words on the front label. It should be widely available.

Week 14 – Nebbiolo

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “In honour of the King of Italian grapes “Nebbiolo” I decided to crack open a special bottle this week, Pio Cesare Barolo 2009.  This is a renowned family producer that I knew would show this grape at its best. Nebbiolo can be a tricky beast because it has very bold tannins, so I was hoping that a great example would help Andy understand what I love about it.

I imagine quite a few of you have heard of Barolo before, given it is heralded as the finest of Italian reds. But perhaps you weren’t aware that the wine it is made from is Nebbiolo grapes and the name Barolo is related to the most famous region it comes from in Piedmonte, North East Italy.  A useful tip is that Nebbiolo from the neighbouring area Barbaresco or the wider region Langhe can be a great cheaper alternative, if you do like this wine but don’t want to pay the premium price tag that Barolo comes with.

Now onto the wine in question. Starting with the scent, because it really is beautifully perfumed, people describe it as smelling of “tar and roses” and I agree. The Barolo I’m tasting has a dark smoky rose hip note, with a forest floor savoury undertone and some balsamic twists from its age. Then on the palate this Nebbiolo sort of grabs you in a really nice way – sensuous again! The tannins are described as feeling like tea leaf, but in a good Barolo, like the one I’m tasting, they are tight on your teeth but somehow smooth and not raspy. The flavours have a sour cherry bite with a soft earthy undertone and a gentle marzipan note that lifts it with a hint of sweetness. This particular vintage I’m drinking was warm so the fruit is nice and weighty but some Barolo I’ve had can be beautifully mild and ethereal in how they sit on the palate.

Basically I’m trying to say it is easy to fall in love with good Barolo because it is so complex, dense and yet somehow elegant at the same time. I really hope the one you get to taste is half as good as mine.”

Andy says: “I was looking forward to this red as I thought it might be ‘the one’.

Alas, I’m still waiting for that big, bold, smoky red to turn up, and we’ve already covered Rioja so perhaps I’m screwed. I found this wine to have a little brown tinge, I guess maybe from its age. I’m afraid to say I didn’t get any of this amazing perfume or tar and roses – it just smelled like alcohol and bit of VA. I did get a bit of black cherry on one tasting, and I also think the tannins were smooth, but I go very little else, sorry Em!”

Buying Guide

Nebbiolo is the grape that goes into making the classic Italian wine, Barolo. Nebbiolo is the grape and Barolo is the the region. This week all you need to do is to find a decent Barolo from the Italian red section of a wine shop. This is never a cheap wine but if can be explosive in its flavour and a truly unique experience. Don’t miss this week!

Week 13 – Fiano

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Today was equal pleasure and pain when it comes to the 52grapes experience. Arriving home late from a work trip, we realised tonight was the only night we had to try a Fiano before our weekly newsletter deadline.

So I sit here bleary eyed, wishing I was in bed, but instead musing over a Fiano. Thankfully this wine has reminded me of what is so enjoyable about our project. Instead of buying one of the Fianos I have tasted before, I ventured into a small and beautiful Italian specialist wine shop, “Passione Vino” in Shoreditch, to buy a version I hadn’t tried before. And this Campanian Fiano is really unusual. It feels like a traditional rather than a modern version. Most of the modern styles I’ve tried are crisp, fresh and floral, quite straightforward and thirst quenching with mild white peach flavours. Think of Pinot Grigio with more fragrance and richer fruit flavour.

But this version is very different to that. For a start the aroma is softer, more honeyed with gentle floral notes (almost pot pourri in style). The palate is quite waxy with orange peel, sweet peach compote flavours and a white tea savoury note. It feels like a wine that would work well with food for its extra body, texture and richness in fruit. But we aren’t talking bold tropical fruit, it is altogether gentle and mild. It didn’t blow my mind but I found it interesting enough to keep going back to in order to consider its flavour palate. I think that is honestly why these small producer styles from a small specialist shop can be a fun experience. They often offer something slightly different from the mainstream styles.

And what do I mean by traditional rather than modern for Campania? Well the modern styles can be made in a very precise technical way, avoiding any oxygen contact to keep the fragrance very fresh. Traditional styles are less protective, meaning a little bit more oxygen interacts with the grape and softens out those aromas, bringing on the honeyed character that otherwise tends to come to these wines later with age.”

Andy says: “Emma was away for a night, so I took full advantage of the “Meet the new CEO” bar tab, and was a little, how do we say, jaded.

But needs must, and so I bravely ploughed into this week’s Fiano. Tasting straight from the fridge, it was crisply cold, with a slightly oily mouthfeel, quite viscous, and somewhat sweet. Remembering last week’s notes on serving temperature, I waited for the wine to thaw out a little before trying again. All the sweetness went and it became more astringent, and a touch sour. Not the worst white wine I’ve ever tasted, it was a perfectly pleasant drink, but not necessarily one I’ll rush back to either. Perhaps I need to try the modern style described above.”

Buying Guide

This pretty little white comes from the Southern Campania region in Italy. It can also be found in Australia and Sicily, but we are going to try the original. Head to the Italian white section and you can find this wine in lots of the major retailers, but, after some Googling many seem to be from Sicily. Try to get one from Campania – the area of Avellino produces the best Fiano. Sicily will do if that’s all you can find. It will be a bit more fruity and less floral than the wines from Campania.

Week 12 – Touriga Nacional

Tasting Notes

We tasted: MOB – Dao Touriga, Jaen, Alfochiero, Baja 2013 Berry Bros & Rudd £28.95

Emma says: “This week has certainly been a mission. In fact I’ll be surprised if anyone joins in. After suggesting that people find a Douro red which has predominantly Touriga Nacional in the blend our search of London showed this was nigh on impossible.

Most Douro reds have “Tinta Roriz” (aka Tempranillo) as the first grape listed on the label and by law the list of grapes in a blend has to list them in order of highest percentage. We did some pretty heavy Google searching and found this was the case almost everywhere. We were about to give up when I recalled a great wine friend, Abi, had bought me a lovely bottle for my birthday from another classic region in Portugal, “Dao”. Hey presto it is predominantly Touriga. So a stroke of luck and a big thank you to Abi.

On tasting I think this wine actually shows more about the region and the particular style it brings rather than Touriga. I imagine other tasters with a Douro wine will get a different experience. This is a really serious wine. The scent is very dark brooding with a slate-y mineral intensity, and some medicinal and herbal notes. On tasting it is taught with grippy but nicely fine tannin. The flavours continue to deliver a smoky pencil lead intensity that I normally find in good Bordeaux. There is also lovely dense, bright purple fruit which points to the warmer climate of Southern Europe. But this isn’t a bouncy, fruity, luscious sort of wine it is more on the serious side with mouth filling intensity and a complex array of flavours that appeal to those people that want a wine that lingers and brings more and more flavours as you ponder on it.

On reading about the wine it is made by three winemakers Jorge Moreira, Francisco Olazabal and Jorge Borges who are normally based in the Douro and with this joint project want to represent the true spirit of Dao with grapes grown beside Portuguese highest mountain range giving this wine that extra dose of acidity and that mineral intensity from the poor granitic soil influence, where vines bury deeply and produce wines with extra intensity. Besides Touriga this wine has other local interesting grapes in the blend, I have always particularly like Baga which is akin to Nebbiolo in its bold tannic delivery and Jaen is related to Mencia and Cabernet Franc; for those wanting geek facts.

I’m really glad I tried it. Like many Portuguese wines I find they have a distinct and unique character and feel quite sad that we don’t see them more often in our UK stores. I think it may be that with their totally different array of grape names that are hard to pronounce so they don’t make an easy sell. What a shame, we need to get more spirit of adventure back into wine. Which is precisely what 52 grapes is about and is exactly what Portuguese wines need.”

Andy says: “I’ve spent most of this week worrying about two things.

Thing one – the complete lack of availability of Touriga dominant wines in major supermarkets. We appear to have sent you on a bum steer, so if you’re reading this and still looking, just get any Douro red. It will have Touriga in it. Probably.

Thing two – A pun for this week’s newsletter title. “Touriga Nacional” isn’t exactly the most pun-able grape name in the world. Aruba, Touriga, ooh I wanna take ya… you now have the Beach Boys / Kokomo in your head. Thank me later.

We decided to have this wine with dinner. I needed something to do beforehand so had a glass of a new Malbec. It was a sample Emma had brought home, and was already open. Rude not to, right? It was full of lovely fruity flavour, but this isn’t Malbec week. You know when you haven’t got enough Ribena left to make a glass of juice, but you give it a go anyway and end up with a weak, pale pink, overly diluted homeopathic tribute act? That’s what it felt like when I then tried this week’s red.  This Dao Touriga was like drinking water in comparison to the Malbec.

But this was very much a short term opinion. I left the wine for a little time to open up and also to allow my palate to reset. The second tasting was much improved – I definitely got fruit (I couldn’t name which one though. Grape?) and a bit of smoke. Tannin wise I thought they were soft, as there was a quick light grip on the tongue that quickly disappeared, as that’s what I thought soft tannins were. Having Googled a list of wine terms, I have decided ’round’ (“A wine that has a good sense of body that is not overly tannic.”) is the best fit.

In summary, very drinkable but still haven’t found my red of choice.”

Buying Guide

UPDATE: It seems there aren’t that many Touriga led reds out there – so if you’re struggling, any Douro red will do!

Touriga is the most famous red grape of Portugal. It tends to be used in reds from the Douro region, which also makes port wines. The easiest way to find a wine made with this grape is to look for a red from Portugal made in the Douro valley. Or to look for the Portuguese red section in a retailer and check the back label for the grapes used in the blend. It is unusual to find a 100% Touriga so it’s very likely you’ll have to scour the labels and find a blend. Watirose, M&S and Aldi stock Douro reds. If all else fails a bottle of port would make an interesting option to try this week.