Every so often, a supermarket takes pity on us and gives a generous wine discount for a limited period. They play their cards close to their chest and details emerge only shortly beforehand with veiled threats to excommunicate any press who don’t play ball. Some offers are more anticipated than others, but Waitrose’s 25 per cent off any six bottles or more (until this coming Tuesday) really is an offer not to be spurned. And if you don’t have a store near you, the discount also applies to any 12 bottles bought at waitrosewine.com.
I suppose I should have learnt by now that in any attempt to pacify the rain gods, the words most to be avoided are barbecue, rosé and picnic, adding for good measure flaming June, and Lord’s Test. Despite sunshine at the time of writing, it’s generally business as usual, i.e. grey skies, by the time of publication. At least when the sun comes out you can go online and search.
Which wine country today has the greatest capacity to confuse, irritate, reward, inspire and delight? Got it in one: Italy. It’s not really surprising for a country of 20 different wine regions with its head in the Alps and foot in the Mediterranean. To add to that confusing diversity, Wine Grapes (Allen Lane, £120) a scholarly new work co-authored by Jancis Robinson MW, tells us that Italy leads the world in the number of its commercially produced native grape varieties: 377 compared to France’s 204 and Spain’s 84.
I had high hopes for the new Vin de France designation when it first burst enthusiastically onto the scene like a newborn puppy four years ago. A new rule letting producers blend wine from different regions and put the grape variety and vintage on the label gave French producers a chance to say goodbye to plonk and compete with New World brands. According to Valérie Pajotin, who organizes the awards competition, ‘Vin de France should be viewed as the classification to bring new drinkers into French wine’. Does it do what it says on the tin?
After a topsy-turvy year in the vineyard, the question exercising the mind of Bordeaux and its customers is whether the 2012 vintage is a silk purse crafted from a sow’s ear. On two counts. Firstly was the weather good enough to make 2012 saleable en primeur, i.e. right now, before the wines are bottled in two years time? And if so, are prices attractive enough to have us reaching for our silk purses?
2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Riesling, Barossa Valley, Australia
Big brother to the Jacob's Creek's Riesling, this Australian dry white wine has an equally inviting floral aromatic character but with a shade more intensity of lime-zesty fruit than its sibling. It is both moreish and refreshingly dry at the same time. £7, down from £9.98, Asda
It’s no surprise that the tasting of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s latest release at Corney & Barrow’s Tower of London offices took place in hushed tones. Yes, there’s the reverence accorded to what the wine exchange Liv-ex calls ‘the new darling of the fine wine trade’, recently awarded number one spot in its Top 10 global fine wine brands.
If there's any truth in the notion that a wine merchant can't compete with the supermarkets on value, the idea has been knocked firmly on the head by The Wine Society.
Regular readers will already know that the once-in-a lifetime membership fee of £40 for access to the non-profit-making Wine Society is the best wine investment since Château Lafite before China discovered it. So it proved at the spring tasting last month when it showcased one of the best under-a-tenner ranges on the market.
I wonder if Easter had something to do with the fact that my dentist told me she had just discovered PX. This unique Spanish sweet wine discovered me a while ago, which is why I went to see my dentist. PX, or Pedro, short for Pedro Ximénez is one of the darkest, richest, stickiest wines in the world and by rights shouldn’t exist as a wine at all. Oozing with viscous sucrosity, it’s the perfect blending sweetener, in small doses, for cream sherry and sweet oloroso.