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March Tastings & London Wine Scene 

Written by News Aggregator

March Tastings  & London Wine Scene  

Written by Giles MacDonogh in London

A few days ago I was at the biannual Aldi tasting at Tate Modern. Did I notice they had drawn in their reins a bit?

Most of the wines shown were quite cheap. There were a few new lines but not many. The accent was on what you could buy for less money and a good handful of drinkable wines were on offer for under £4.

Then there were some good things at the other end of the scale, like their wonderful 2015 Côte des Blancs Champagne

I think the price had gone up a couple of quid? But £21.99 is still a bargain when even quite indifferent grandes marques are priced between £30 and £40.

There was a nice, concentrated Picpoul de Pinet (£7.99), a new Portuguese Encruzado smelling of rosewater. A luscious, spicy 2021 Dão Touriga Nacional (£5.99), a decent Australian Pinot Noir at £7.49 and the best buy of all: an Aglianico crying out for a big plate of oily pasta (£7.99). I regretted the passing of their best white, however, the Greek Assyrtiko. The new one with the goat on the label isn’t half as good.

The other German supermarket, Lidl, has a different policy. Its core list is small, but it contains some good things like its 2015 Corte alle Mura Chianti Riserva
(£6.49). The joy of shopping there, on the other hand, lies in the wines that appear and disappear like the grapefruity Expression de Saint Mont (£5.99) which I
have been enjoying these past few days. Next week it will be gone, but I am sure to find something interesting to take its place.

On 1 August we despairing drinkers are due to be hit by the biggest UK duty hike since the 1970s. It will increase the price of most wines by at least 80p. A falling pound and escalating prices might be why Aldi has decided to drop a notch, but you have to feel some pity for those poor importers who are still trying bravely to bring in winesfor (richer) discerning customers and restaurant wine lists. Restaurants desperate to claw back some money from what they lost during Covid have further inflated the mark-ups on their wines, meaning that a simple Picpoul they bought at a trade price of £5 will be selling to you and me for £25 or £30.

New South Wales tasting in London


Last month I concentrated on Syrah, or Shiraz as it is called in the New World. I went to a New South Wales tasting where I saw many good things.

‘Growers are increasingly looking to bring out the subtleties of Shiraz, rather than emphasize the weight and fruit of the wine; also more regions of New South Wales are veering towards distinctive styles, like Hilltops, where Cassegrain’s White Label 2021 stressed the freshness of the wine; or the 2020 Grove Estate with its quite delicate nose and pure fruit style.

“Lerida in Canberra made one of the best New South Wales Shirazes in 2019 with a peppery nose and fat, creamy blackberry fruit.”

Its stablemate had a bit of Viognier in it and was twice the price (£60). It was more chocolaty, more oaky, and more alcoholic. From Orange came Philip Shaw’s 2019 The Idiot which had a cooling aroma and a wild note that made me think a little of the Rhone Valley.


This doesn’t happen often: Australian Shiraz rarely tastes like the Northern Rhone. From the Hunter Valley the 2019 Leogate Western Slopes Shiraz was actually
slightly gamy. After a full, rich palate it showed off an impressive length. I was also excited about Mount Pleasant. They had three wines, ranging from an old-
fashioned 2019 Estate Shiraz and a couple of vineyard wines. I preferred the 2019 Rosehill. It had an aroma of roses and raspberries. The 2019 Old Paddock and Old Hill was meatier: more masculine – or to borrow an analogy from the Rhone, more Côte Brune than Côte Blonde. Brokenwood is a famous old estate. Again its
2019 Graveyard Shiraz (£200) reminded me of a Côte Brune, but out of the fleshiness came a lovely finish which made me suspect it would be worth revisiting in a
few years time.


The 2021 Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz was rich and cherry-scented while the 2021 Kiss was twice the price (£60) adding a dimension of
creaminess and a beautiful acidity.

Thorman Hunt tasting at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall

The big Thorman Hunt tasting at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall was obviously more wide-ranging. I hit the Northern Rhone running. From Yves Cuilleron there was a simple 2022 Viognier with the charm of a Condrieu and the 2021 Condrieu Les Chaillets itself, with a toasty nose, dried apricots and peaches and an opulent taste to remind you that nine tenths of the world’s Viogniers are simply a waste of time and money. Cuilleron’s Côte Rôtie Les Bonnivières was suitably elegant. There were two lovely pure-Syrah Crozes-Hermitage wines from Laurent Fayolle: the 2020 Les Pontaix was a wonderfully tarry Syrah while the 2018 Clos des Cornirets was subtly

Then there was another gorgeous Condrieu from Lionel Faury. The 2020 La Berne tasted of pears, peaches and a little bit of pepper with a fabulously juicy finish. There were two styles of St Joseph – the feminine Ribaudes and the more beefy Gloriette before the hunky, fruity Côte Rôtie Trois Brunes. The last Côte Rôtie was from Jean- Luc Jamet – Les Terrasses with an immense aroma of bacon and figs.
It was a delight to taste a series of wines from Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape including the rather peppery 2017 and the figgy 2019 Piedlong. I then
launched myself on the rest of France, finding that a certain smokiness had enhanced the Fleuries from La Madone, particularly the wonderful Vieilles Vignes. My
last stop was at Argiano in Montalcino. I had happy memories of the Brunello, and the 2017 did not disappoint. New to me was Non confunditur. The 2019
was dried figs and black olives, chocolate and coffee, and it was just £12.13 to the trade, which means not much change out of £50 ordered in a restaurant.

This month seems to have dragged a lot.


It is odd to think that I was in Durham on the first and in Newcastle on the second, enjoying the Grainger Market and grabbing a
curry on the way home from the excellent Sachinshttps dine-in , just behind the station; that a family birthday took us to one of my favourite places
on the tenth: the romantic Champagne Bar in St Pancras station, where there was a special offer on Veuve Cliquot; and that a drink with a friend and neighbour
involved a comparison between a mighty 2000 Brand Riesling from Zind Humbrecht with a delicate 2007 Abtsburg Spätlese from Maximin Grünhaus. Even in the dullest months wine provides relief, even if it comes at an ever greater price.


Written by Giles MacDonogh in London

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