Tonic for cricketers

(by peter)

Before heading into the Marks & Spencer press tasting yesterday (top tips to follow on Saturday Kitchen, our newsletter and in these virtual pages), I tweeted the following:

“Off to M&S press tasting. Expectations high. Cricket nets this evening. Expectations lower.”

As it happens, I was right on both counts.

The M&S showing was strong, as usual, with highlights being white Loire, red Italy, some Antipodean beauties of all hues, the Chilean range, Champagne, top white Burgundy – even a South African Barbera.

Disappointments included some insipid Argentine wines, boring basic Ozzies and lacklustre Prosecco. Plus a dearth of sweet wines to taste – we’re always desperate for those to match with the many fantastic puddings that come our way on Saturday Kitchen, and there simply aren’t enough on the high street. Suggestions, anyone?!

And as for the cricket…let’s just say at least there’s still time to get the eye in before the season starts in earnest.

But, as is the nature of these things, the cricket session came with a silver lining. In this case, a delicious supper (beef stew) and some very fine wines to accompany it.

Henriot rosé brut, 12% – elegant pale salmon hue; red fruits on the nose, quite understated with some background richness. Inviting, quite friendly. On the palate the bubbles are super fine and the style works well in an easy-going, harmonious way. Not as austere or ultimately satisfying as many of the wines from this stable, but a very decent wine nonetheless. 7.75/10

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998 Blanc de Blancs, 12% – we were lucky enough to taste this fairly recently (see our indulgent blog of October 12th) and my opinion hasn’t changed much in the interim. It’s a serious, tight-knit fizz with super fine bubbles and a very elegant, fine Chardonnay poise to it. One for the connoisseurs. Still young. 8.5-9/10

McHenry Hohnen Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Margaret River, 12.5% – expressive citrus and peas nose, not overly in-your-face, which is nice. Herbal, wax and grass character. A nice blend of SB and Sem characters. On the palate it’s juicy, full of white currant fruit with herbal notes. Fresh, crisp, well balanced. Persistent and versatile. 6.5/10

Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 – this had aged fairly elegantly, showing a bordelais-style tobacco and bell pepper edge to it. In comparison with the Pez, however, it lacked a bit of overall integration and harmony, coming up a bit prickly on the tannin/acid balance. But still an elegant, impressive New World Cab, very drinkable. 7/10

Château de Pez 2005, Saint-Estèphe – (with apologies for the grainy iphone pic above) very young but very approachable. Fine, silky tannins and tight-knit black fruit. A nice marriage of tradition and modernity. Some good peppery hints. On the palate it’s smooth textured and a very good match for beef stew. I’d keep this a few more years yet, but then I prefer a more mature style of Bordeaux. For those who like their wines young and vibrant, this drinks very well now. 7.5/10