Our wines of the week

(by peter & susie)

Two wines this week, each serving a different purpose.

The first caters for those who feel they might have overdone things slightly over the festive period, and are in need of a little temperance in January.

Torres Natureo Muscat ’10’ is a de-alcoholised wine with an ABV of 0.5%. It sells for around £5.99 in Waitrose, Booths, Partidges and Soho Wines. (But check the label carefully as some stocks are still from the previous ’09’ vintage.)

Given the increasing interest in lower alcohol wines on the part of health-conscious wine drinkers, producers all round the world are falling over themselves to make palatable wines with ever-lower ABVs.

But the quest to produce low alcohol wines is not an easy one. Harvesting early is possible, but it can result in green or sour flavours. Techniques to remove alcohol from wine – such as used in this instance – can help but tend to work best for whites (reds can end up tasting hard and angular as a result).

What’s more, if you remove alcohol from wine, it doesn’t just reduce hangovers: it also removes much of the flavour, texture and body that makes wine the magical drink it is.

So what of the Torres wine? Well, it’s better than the previous ’09’ vintage, which was a bit soapy and vapid for our liking. This one is more appealing, with those classic dusty grape aromas of Muscat as well as faint hints of honeysuckle and herbs. On the palate, it’s something of a Houdini of wines – the flavour vanishing as fast as you taste it – and that’s when you miss the alcohol and body.

But it’s clean and tangy – maybe a little bit sour, in a green-appley way – and it’s good to see the wine improving on its previous vintage. Ultimately, it’s more palatable than a lot of other low-alcohol or soft-drink options out there for the wine lover. (Rating: 3/10)

On the downside, I can see no reason at all why this wine is sealed with a cork – surely its fresh, early-drinking style is ideally suited to screwcap?

In addition, there is a risk that this wine is being misunderstood by retailers. When I was in Waitrose filming recently, I noticed the bottle on the shelf – not with other white wines, as it clearly should be, but languishing in between the sherries and Stone’s ginger wine (see picture, above).

Now, which wine drinker in search of a tasty but low-alcohol drop is going to be looking there?

The other wine this week is the Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, 13.5% (Liberty Wines).

This is the new project of Kevin Judd – the British winemaker who helped established the iconic Cloudy Bay brand – and it’s seriously impressive.

There seems to be a new breed of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc emerging now, and it’s great to see. Less of the overt pungency and palates propped up by sickly sweetness or confected oak. More of the restraint, food-friendliness, and textural elegance. We’d put the likes of Craggy Range and Dog Point in this category – and now Greywacke too.

This wine shows subdued greengage and peas on the nose, in a deliberately restrained, mineral and grassy style. The palate is spritzy and quite raw, typical of a young wine designed to improve. It’s layered and complex, with real minerality. An ambitious style, aiming for palate texture and depth rather than pure aromatic power. Just a hint of sweetness – are they playing around with some oak here? – but overall very elegant, complex and foodie.

Delicious with Susie’s honey-and-mustard glazed gammon joint with mashed potatoes, spiced apple sauce and sprouts. (Susie: 7/10; Peter: 7.5-8/10)