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Wines in the press - October 20-24

Published:  25 October, 2011

The Guardian
If a winemaker has a big personality, it shines right through the range, says Fiona Beckett.

In a world full of big brands, it's easy to forget the individual. Take Ken Forrester, a larger-than-life South African winemaker whose top wine, The FMC 2009 Chenin Blanc (£21.25, AG Wines) is often compared to great white Burgundy. However, he also makes great value own-label wine for Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Beckett particularly likes the "smooth, peachy" Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2011 (£7.99 M&S). She says another is José Manuel Ortega, a hyperactive, heavily bearded ex-Goldman Sachs banker who pulls off the incredibly tough feat of making top-quality wines in the Ribera del Duero, Maule in Chile and the Uco Valley in Argentina. The Maule 2008 Alfa Centauri Red (£26.95, Butlers Wine Cellar, Brighton) is the wine that appeals to Beckett most and like Forrester he also makes a range of more affordable wines under the Urban label, such as the Urban Uco Tempranillo 2010 (£8.50) which Beckett says knocks spots off many Riojas at the price. There's also former philosophy student Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, who is one of the most inspiring people Bekett has ever heard talk about wine. His gloriously ripe, brambly Zinfandel blend Lytton Springs (14.5%), which is made in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, is one of the all-time California greats, she says.

The Telegraph

Victoria Moore explains why you might have bought a bottle of wine you thought you loved and felt disappointed because it didn't taste as good as the last one. There are a 1,000 reasons why this might happen. The more processed and industrialised a wine is, the more likely you are to find uniformity, she says. But one reason is timing. Wines develop, which can be a good thing or, on occasion, a very bad thing. Cheaper wines don't have the power to last the year and need to be on shelf before the next vintage comes along otherwise, you can feel them flagging after six months. There were a couple of those at the recent Asda press tasting, she adds. "This is completely shagged," as one of Moore's tasting colleagues put it of the Asda Corbières 2009 France (£3.56). Moore says the 2010 of the same wine, by contrast, looked really good - but it was an as-yet unbottled tank sample, due to arrive some time before Christmas, so Moore says she'd want to taste it again in its finished condition before recommending it.

The Independent

Anthony Rose is talking about New Zealand's Craggy Range. If you don't know it, get acquainted, he says. "I can't think of another wine company that's managed to roll Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire and Rhône styles into one harmonious group of wines so successfully." Based in North Island's Hawkes Bay, it brings "star quality" to both Bordeaux- and Rhone-style reds. It's in these two styles that Craggy Range excels, says Rose - Bordeaux for the cranberry bite and blackcurrant juiciness of the 2009 Craggy Range Te Kahu, (£15.99, Majestic). Growing on the same well-drained Gimblett Gravels soils in Hawkes Bay, the Rhône's Syrah is proving itself in a spicy, cool-climate contrast to Australian Shiraz. The 2009 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah (rrp £20, Flagship Wines), is an "excellent" example of the Crozes-Hermitage like, blackberry-fruit elegance that the Gimblett Gravels brings.

The Financial Times

Bidding is always fierce at the annual Cape Winemakers Guild auction, for the giant 18-litre bottle filled with a special blend of the best wines of the most recent vintage produced by members of South Africa's top vintners, says Jancis Robinson MW. This year's winning bidder, Czech wine merchant Zdenek Lang, declared he was leaving the prize with the guild, to be opened only when the first black winemaker is elected as a member. Seventeen years after the creation of the rainbow nation, there are still pitifully few black or mixed race winemakers, says Robinson. A report last month, "Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa's Fruit and Wine Industries" by a Human Rights Watch researcher, drew the world's attention to some scandalous tales of living conditions on a handful of (unspecified) wine and fruit farms on the Cape, she says. Farm and vineyard owners were supposed to have cleaned up their act. Many of them have, but there is still room for improvement. According to Su Birch, chief executive officer, Wines of South Africa, says: "There is one way to end all this. It's to get our house in order. But we can't do it all at once."