THE new year got off to a good start for me, with a chance to taste arrivals from the Old and New Worlds.
New Zealand’s top producer provided two cracking red wines – from a country far more famous for its whites.
The Old World offerings, completely different in style and character, came from Bordeaux, whose vast output ranges from the marvellous to the mundane, with the latter usually to be found in French supermarkets.
Starting Down Under, the two high-quality reds are made from the famous pinot noir grape, used both for fine Burgundy and, quite differently, in champagne.
Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012 (13 per cent, £12.99, Co-op, Hailsham Cellars, www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk is beautifully made, with cherry and berry fruit shining out, touched with spice. Most of the wine went directly to French oak barrels, with a small amount allowed to spend more time in the tank, resting on the lees, before being transferred to the wood.
Possibly even more elegance, with mouthwatering, juicy cherries and a scented fruity bouquet is displayed by Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (13.5 per cent, £15.99, Majestic, Sainsbury’s, Hailsham Cellars and wwwnzhouseofwine.co.uk.
This perfumed, rich wine, soft and silky, would be ideal for game dishes, as well as pizzas and pastas. It can be enjoyed right now, in its youth.
Now to a quartet of wines from France, and my own favourite in this small group is Chateau Croix du Trale 2010 Haut-Medoc (13.5 per cent, £12.25, Oddbins). This powerful, earthy claret, comprising half and half cabernet sauvignon and merlot, cries out for roast beef or a tender steak to go with it. Flavours include blackcurrants, blackberries and plums, with ripe tannins.
La Terrasse de la Garde 2010 Pessac-Leognan (14 per cent, £14.99, Sainsbury’s) is a robust red, containing 62 per cent merlot, 33 per cent cabernet sauvignon, three per cent cabernet franc and two per cent petit verdot.
There are hints of vanilla from a year’s ageing in oak, and the wine is rich and rounded, with a soft side to its character as well, and will improve still further with ageing. It’s worth taking the trouble to decant it.
From red to white, and Chateau les Moutins 2011 Sauvignon Bordeaux 2011 (13 per cent, £8.99, Averys)a grassy, fresh, zesty wine with 90 per cent sauvignon blanc and ten per cent semillon.
Unoaked, and gaining extra complexity from being allowed to rest on the lees, it has a nice citrussy bouquet. Good for fish dishes and tasty starters.
Sichel Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux NV (13.5 per cent, £5.48, Morrisons) is a sweet white with peachy notes in its blend of 70 per cent semillon, 20 per cent sauvignon blanc and ten per cent muscadelle. Its lively, honeyed tastes would go well with traditional desserts like apple crumble and steamed treacle pud – and maybe pates as well. As someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, this is probably a wine I wouldn’t choose, but I can see its attractions, which include a cheap-as-chips price.
In line with today’s international theme, I thought I would include a new arrival from South America.
Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenere 2011 (14.5 per cent, £10.99, from independents including Hailsham Cellars, in East Sussex) was produced from grapes grown in Chile’s Colchagua Valley.
The bottle label informed me that aerial photography is used in this part of the world to ensure each grape variety picked has achieved perfect ripeness.
Carmenere, a dark-skinned grape originating from Bordeaux, does particularly well in Chile’s climate.
There are fine up-front flavours like plum and blueberry, with a touch of dark chocolate in the background and a whiff of vanilla in the aroma. A wine for meaty winter casseroles and stews.