Alan's Wine Blog

Ongoing Adventures in the World of Wine

Belle Tour Merlot

Country: France

Region: Pays d’Oc

Grape: Merlot

Vintage: 2012

Classification: None

Where: Marks & Spencer, Walworth Road

When: 3 December 2013

Why: For a midweek evening at home

How much: £7.99


What the labels says: “A vibrant and full-bodied red wine with flavours of plum, raspberry and liquorice. The grapes are harvested from a number of the Bonfils family’s own vineyards and the wine is made using both modern and traditional techniques, depending on the fruit quality of the harvest. A wine with great balance and character for enjoying with good food and friends. This wine is a great match with game and poultry dishes such as duck breast or chicken casserole.”


How it looks: Dark, opaque and mysterious

How it smells: Fruity, like ripe musty plums and raspberries.

How it tastes: The initial fruity sharpness is a surprise, but it quickly calms down to a dark, liquorish aftertaste which lingers for a while on the tongue with a distinct burnt-rubber bitterness. The tannins are subtle, leaving a not unpleasant soft velvet coating in the mouth.

Conclusions: This wine is darker and more full bodied than I usually chose, but I enjoyed it none the less. That liquorish taste takes a bit of acquiring, but this wine is quite different to anything I have tasted recently. It could stand up well to some strong food flavours, maybe some pongy cheese, but I quite enjoyed it all by itself!



Château Gressina Côtes de Bordeaux Blaye

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Grape: 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2011

Classification: Appellation Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Contrôlée

Where: Marks and Spencers, Walworth Road

When: 15 November 2013

Why: For a Friday night dinner at home

How much: £8.49


What the labels says: “A smooth and supple, easy-drinking claret that is packed with ripe plum and blackcurrant fruit. Chateau Gressina is specially selected by M&S for its exceptional quality and value for money. This unoaked, Merlot-dominated blend is from the superb 2011 vintage. At is best…a lively, versatile French red such as this is made for drinking with food. It is the perfect match for red meat dishes such as beef Bourguignon, garlic-studded leg of lamb, or gilled rump steak with Béarnaise sauce and fries.”


How it looks: Earthy and dark with warm russet tinges

How it smells: Solid black fruit scents, with hints of rich treacle.

How it tastes: This wine has a sharp bite to it, slightly bitter initially which softens to balsamic vinegar flavours (not necessarily a bad thing!)

Conclusions: I was slightly disappointed with this wine. It certainly has a strong kick of alcohol on first tasting, but not much to follow it up. There are pleasant hints of blackcurrant in that initial hit, but little more – it’s taste disappears quickly on the tongue and the wine seems to have little complexity to speak of. Unchallenging and easily drinkable at best, unremarkably one-dimensional at worst.


Clos du Bois Pinot Grigio

Country: U.S.A.

Region: California

Grape: Pino Grigio

Vintage: 2011

Classification: None

Where: Winn Dixie, Dunnellon

When: 24 October 2013

Why: To drink with dinner on a ‘night in’ while on holiday in Florida. It seemed only right to select an American wine (and to be honest not much else was available!)

How much: $12.49



What the labels says: “Harvested from premier Californian vineyards, our crisp Pinot Grigio showcases seductive floral and citrus aromas followed by honeydew melon, mineral and tropical flavours.”



How it looks: Pale and silvery

How it smells: Crisp and floral, with warm orange blossom scents

How it tastes: Initial flavours are sharp and mineral, but these quickly soften out to a softer, citrus, almost creamy aftertaste

Conclusions: I have discovered that there are few things I dislike more than a bitter, over-sharp Pinot, But Clos du Bois is just how it should be. There is sharpness, but it is brief and tempered, and the smoothness which follows makes this wine a great combination of punchy acidity and soft fruitiness. Simple, refreshing and very, very drinkable.


Berry Bros. & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon blend

Vintage: 2010

Classification: Appellation Grave Contrôlée

Where: Berry Bros. & Rudd, St James’s

When: 12th October 2013

Why: To take to a dinner at a friend’s place

How much: £13.65


What the labels says: “Berry’s famous Good Ordinary Claret was first launched in 1974 and has been our best-selling wine every since. First mooted in 1986, Berry’s Extra Ordinary Claret was launched a mere 19 years later – once the concept had perfectly matured. Produced especially for us by Bordeaux legend Jean-Michel Cazes, this elegantly balanced, modern Claret is packed with juicy black berry fruits and an intense cassis finish.”


How it looks: A dark ruby red

How it smells: Bright and fruity, blackcurrants in particular

How it tastes: Fruity again, but with darker tones than the aroma suggested. The blackcurrant flavours are tinged with a subtle treacly aftertaste.

Conclusions: I tried the Berry Bros. Good Ordinary Clarinet a couple of years ago, and loved it, but this is something different. This claret has much more power; It retains those perky dark fruit flavours, but has a depth to it which makes it more complex and interesting. Ready to drink now, and great to enjoy on a dreary winter’s evening!


Tesco Finest Crozes-Hermitage

Country: France

Region: Northern Rhône Valley

Grape: Syrah

Vintage: 2010

Classification: Appellation Crozes-Heritage Contrôlée

Where: Tesco Kennington

When: 29 September 2013

Why: To drink with a hearty casserole

How much: £8.79




What the labels says: A full-bodied Rhône red with sweet, spicy, baked forest fruit flavours and a rich, smooth finish. Serve: with rich meat dishes, game and strong cheeses. Source: The Crozes-Hermitage appellation covers 11 villages around the town of Tain l’Hermitage in the Northern Rhône. The most famous area of the region is Hermitage, under the slopes of which sits the winery. Careful selection of the grapes ensure only the best quality are used. This wine can be enjoyed for up to 3 years from purchase.




How it looks: Opaque, deep red with russet tinges.

How it smells: Powerful and dark, with fruity overtones followed by a treacly richness.

How it tastes: The tartness of sharp blackberry, strong tanins, and some alcohol sharpness fading to a creamy aftertaste.

Conclusions: I suspect that I drank this wine too early. The tanins and the alcohol are still strong, despite it being three years old, and I think another couple of years might have mellowed both of these and allowed the fruity flavours to develop. But this is still a good wine, tasty but subtle. I am tempted to buy another bottle to stick in the wine rack until 2015 or so…


Le Froglet Sauvignon Blanc

Country: France

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2012

Classification: Vin de Pays D’Oc

Where: Marks and Spencers, Walworth Road

When: 3rd September 2013

Why: For dinner at home. And who could resist a wine called ‘Le Froglet’?!

How much: £6.99


What the labels says: “This juicy, easy-going, lively French white tastes of fresh melon with vibrant fruit flavour. It’s a fragrant Sauvignon Blanc with an elegant touch of refreshing acidity. This kind of easy drinking, floral white makes a heart-warming aperitif. It also works brilliantly as a match with fresh seafood and fragrant salads.”


How it looks: Pale and interesting

How it smells: Fresh and fruity, with hints of crispy green apples.

How it tastes: Bright, light, lemony tastes followed by a soft kick of an acidic aftertaste.

Conclusions: Everyone who drank this wine commented favourably. It is fairly standard, nothing amazing, but very drinkable. A good combination of fruity and sharp, with just the right amount of zingy acidity. It tastes young, and is to be drunk straight away. Definitely good value for money, and one I would buy again. A crowd pleaser!


Bidoli Pinot Grigio

Country: Italy

Region: Friuli

Grape: Pinot Grigio

Vintage: 2012

Classification: Denominazione di Origine Controllata Grave

Where: Marks and Spencer, Walworth Road

When: 7th August 2013

Why: For a mid-week dinner with friends

How much: £8.99


What the labels says: “A ripe and concentrated Pinot Grigio that is zesty and highly refreshing. Packed with vibrant flavours of lemon and lime, this is a top quality example with a deliciously long and tangy finish. The Friuli region of north-east Italy is famous for its stylish white wines. This stunning example was made for us by third generation winemaker Arrigo Bidoli, who added a small amount of of oaked wine to the final blend to lend weight and texture. A great match for seafood risotto or pan-fried sea bass.”


How it looks: Pale, clear and bright

How it smells: Warm, woody and peachy, this wine has a punchy, fruity aroma.

How it tastes: Despite its oaky, intense bouquet, the wine itself was sharp and refreshing. There were tart notes of limes, which left a pleasant taste on the tongue.

Conclusions: I really enjoyed this wine. As I smelt it, I was imagining it to be oaky and syrupy, but in fact the taste was much more citrus. While the initial hit to the palate was more solid, perhaps due to the oaked wine which has been added to the mix, the final fruitiness was light, sharp and tangy. I liked the contrast of these two flavours, which definitely added depth to the wine. I’ve had recent bad experiences with bitter Pinot Grigios bought in bars, but this was a wine which had complex, interesting flavours without being too strong or overpowering. Delicious!


Saint Mont

Country: France

Region: Saint-Mont

 Grape: Arrufiac, Gros Manseng, Petit Corbu

 Vintage: 2010

 Classification: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée

 Where: Tesco, Kennington

 When: 2nd August 2013

Why: I was tempted by its mention of ‘less well known grape varieties’ (see below)

How much: £6.99


What the labels says: “Ripe aromas of exotic fruits combine with fresh cut apples and sun ripened apricots. Full of intriguing flavours from the less well know grape varieties. Great as an aperitif, of with roasted goat’s cheese, or seared tuna salad. A blend of Gros Masenge, Arrufiac and Petit Corbu grapes carefully selected from the Saint Mont vineyards located in the South West of France.”


 How it looks: A strong golden yellow

 How it smells: Crisp and appley

 How it tastes: Warm rich flavours, like a zesty fresh-baked apple pie, with a buttery aftertaste.

 Conclusions: This is a nice tasting wine, not too dry and with a fresh fruity taste. Very drinkable, no great surprises or anything particularly notable, I would describe it as an easy kind of wine that most people should enjoy.


Les Jamelles Viognier

Country: France

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Grape: Viognier

Vintage: 2012

Classification: Vin de Pays

Where: Co-op supermarket, Camberwell New Road

When: 22nd July 2013

Why: Simply to enjoy on a sunny summer evening!

How much: £6.49


What the labels says: “This almost mythical grape variety made its reputation in the Northern Rhône. This examples of ‘Les Jamelles’ is grown in the Pays d’Oc region around the historic city of Carcassonne. An aromatic wine, with peaches, and pears appearing on both the nose and the palate. This wine is best enjoyed chilled at 8°C and is a flavoursome aperitif. It is a perfect accompaniment with seafood or asparagus and complements fruit pie or tart”.


 How it looks: Richly coloured and golden

 How it smells: Flowery and bright, with thick fruity aromas of peach and apricot

 How it tastes: This one was very powerful, an unusual combination of tart dryness with strong floral flavours and peachy sweetness.

 Conclusions: I’ve never tasted anything quite like this. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, but after a few sips I began to enjoy its fruity floral qualities, which are so different from the drier, more subtle whites I have tasted so far. This wine certainly packs a punch, and would work well with strongly flavoured or spicy foods. It gets even better when properly chilled too.


Château le Grand Trié Blaye Côtes-de-Bordeaux

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Grape: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

Vintage: 2010

Classification: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée

Where: La Forge aux Vins, Malestroit

When: 21st July 2013

Why: Stocking up for the journey back to London

How much: €4.70

Château le Grand Trié Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

Château le Grand Trié Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

What the labels says: “Vieilli en fût de chêne”.


 How it looks: Dark and rich, with tinges of russet

 How it smells: Strong aroma of dark cherries

 How it tastes: Each mouthful started with the fruity taste of blackberries, which was quickly followed by a harder, bitter aftertaste not dissimilar to burnt rubber.

 Conclusions: Although the bouquet of this wine promised a rich, fruity flavour, in fact the reality was much less appealing. To me it seemed to lack body, and I found the strong harsh taste it left in the mouth not very pleasant. This is not a wine I would buy again.