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Wines in the press - November 4-6

Published:  08 November, 2011

The Guardian
Sometimes it's good to discover a wine that's quite straightforward and uncomplicated, says Fiona Beckett.

Pinot Noir or Chardonnay can manifest itself in so many different ways, you never know quite what to expect, but Malbec is pretty well always going to be a gutsy, full-bodied red, she adds. It's one of the recognised grape varieties in Bordeaux, but its heartland is in Cahors and Argentina. You can also find it in Chile and the Loire, where it's known as Cot. The other bonus is that it's reasonably priced, she says. Beckett particularly likes Nieto Senetiner Reserva Malbec 2010 (£8.45, Grape & Grind in Bristol), or Rigal's The Original Malbec 2010 (£7.67, Asda), which comes from but is not labelled as Cahors. Malbec also lends itself well to a blend, says Beckett, an art that the Argentinian producer Domaine Vistalba seems to have mastered particularly skillfully with its savoury, Rhôneish Viñalba Malbec Syrah 2009 (on offer at Asda £6). The grape has a natural affinity with steak, roasts and barbecue, but will rub along happily with any full-flavoured meaty or veggie dish.

The Telegraph

It is approaching the time of year when people who normally wouldn't spend more than £8 on a bottle consider paying £20 for something they can wrap up and put under the tree, says Victoria Moore. Supermarkets refer to this as "gifting". But it's a retail paradox that those who perhaps need most advice when it comes to choosing fine wine often find themselves gazing blankly at shelves of expensive stuff in a supermarket, the place that offers them the least, she adds. The transition from everyday drinking to the more expensive stuff is smoothest at upmarket Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Apparently Waitrose sells a lot of Amarone and Barolo and around 300 bottles of Chateau Musar from Lebanon, per week. What isn't always possible is for a giant corporation is to deal with artisan or boutique winemakers with very small production. Some get around this by allocating more exciting, carefully chosen wines to their flagship stores. Tesco manages the logistical nightmare by shoving the bulk of their fine wine offers online. Sainsbury's, has recently reported a huge 47% rise in the sale of fine wine - which was probably partly down to the fact that they have just renovated their range. But if you want expert advice, you probably need to pay a visit to your independent merchant. It's more fun, too, says Moore.

The Sunday Telegraph
Waitrose's wine buyers must be enjoying the awards season. They picked up the best supermarket gong from the 2011 International Wine Challenge (IWC). Susy Atkins was keen to see if she agreed. Yes, Waitrose has many high-quality wines, arguably more than the other supermarkets, she says. It's own-label Champagnes, are all delectable. But high pricing gave some nasty jolts, in particular among Burgundy and Tuscan reds. She thinks a simple Prosecco at £12.99 is just silly. Meanwhile, quite a different wine business, Artisan & Vine, picked up the award for best small independent merchant at the IWC. Kathryn O'Mara's inspiring Battersea bar, shop and online specialist is just three years old, yet it has encouraged many to try two lesser-known categories including English wines and 'natural' wines, says Atkins.

The Financial Times

Every now and then a wine style comes along that seems to capture the imagination of wine geeks and the international sommelier mafia. Jancis Robinson MW, sees increasing signs of a similar force behind sherry, particularly raw sherries. More and more restaurant wine lists now offer a range of sherries by the glass, London is almost awash with sherry and tapas bars, and producers are now offering wines for connoisseurs rather than the old mass market brands. Sherry "fanatic" Jesús Barquín and friends' Equipo Navazos initiative of selecting particularly fine individual casks or butts of sherry to bottle in their numbered La Bota range is one of the key locomotives of the sherry fad. Its wines are not cheap, but they are great by any standard, says Robinson. We are also seeing a wave of sherries deliberately bottled en rama or raw - direct from under the bready flor yeast that protects light, dry sherries from oxygen and keeps them fresh - but with the difference that the wine is not chilled to stabilise it nor filtered to clarify it, so tastes much more alive and interesting, says Robinson. In May 2010 González Byass celebrated its 175th anniversary by bottling 175 cases of a Tio Pepe Fino En Rama which sold out in two hours. The plan is to now have one autumn bottling each year of its four new Palmas sherries to complement the spring Tio Pepe En Rama bottling. I do hope top-quality sherry is here to stay, she adds.