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Wines in the press, January 13-16

Published:  16 January, 2012

The Guardian

Would you take a bottle of Australian Chardonnay to dinner with friends?

Asks Fiona Beckett. Her guess is many wouldn't - a friend recently told her it must have been 10 years since he'd drunk the stuff. The reason is simple, she says, Aussie Chardonnay used to be as "sickly as tinned peaches pumped up with lashings of toasty oak". But of all the wines that Australia produces, Chardonnay has undergone the most dazzling transformation. So, how to spot the new, more restrained style? Beckett says avoid bottles labelled south-eastern Australia and look for ones from cooler regions such as Adelaide Hills, Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley. For a more affordable one, Beckett recommends is Yering Station, Little Yering 2009 ( Oddbins, £8.50). From the Mornington Peninsula try Kooyong's Clonale Chardonnay 2010 (£17 Wine Society). From Western Australia she'd opt for Flametree Margaret River Chardonnay 2009 (£20,, which is a richer, more opulent style. It's true they're expensive, says Beckett, but if you'd buy a bottle of Champagne, Meursault or Cloudy Bay for a similar price, or if you're happy to spend £20 on a wine in a restaurant without blinking, you won't be short-changed.

The Financial Times
Is alcohol the key ingredient in your wine or a necessary inconvenience? Asks Jancis Robinson MW. For anyone with a low tolerance for alcohol, wine's active ingredient can be something to be feared rather than relished. On the other hand the occasional, recreational drinker on a budget, may well actively seek out those bottles that promise the heftiest hit. Alcohol levels in wine can range from as little as 5 % to levels of more than 16%. The creeping rise in alcohol levels is not necessarily due to climate change either. A working paper published last May by the American Association of Wine Economists, found the rise in alcohol content in wine was more likely, man-made. They cited in particular "evolving consumer preferences and expert ratings". In other words, a preference towards riper fruit, softer tannins and lower acidity. What was startling, however, says Robinson, was the difference between the alcohol percentages that appear on labels and the actual alcohol levels as analysed, of which many researchers say understate the true alcohol content by about 0.39% alcohol for Old World wine and about 0.45% for New World. It's a discussion Robinson expects to hear more of over the next few years to come.

The Independent
Anthony Rose was propping up the bar at José's tapas bar in London's Bermondsey when he was offered two red wines to taste, a Bobal and a Mencia, two relatively obscure, yet "delicious" Spanish reds. Before that he'd been to Ibérica in Marylebone, where he enjoyed a peppery La Malquerida Bobal and a Pasolasmonjas Garnacha. Continuing the tapas bar crawl, he popped into Capote y Toros, Abel Lusa's new place which sits cheek by jowl in Old Brompton Road with his Spanish restaurant Cambio de Tercio. Rose ran into Peter Dauthieu, a supplier of rare sherries, who gave him one of his single butt amontillados to try. Something is happening: it's called the tapas bar revolution, says Rose. The movement isn't yet reflected in the all-powerful off-trade where the average price of a bottle of Spanish wine is below the overall average at only £4.42. Although, he says there are encouraging signs, though, with positive developments in Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and more recently, Sainsbury's. He recommends the "wonderfully fresh and super-concentrated apple and pear", Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño, 2010, Rías Baixas (£15.99, Waitrose).

The Daily Telegraph
No one could accuse Lidl of making a fuss about its wine, says Victoria Moore. There's certainly no fancy dressing and not even any navigational help in the way of, say, country markers. Plus the most expensive still wine Lidl sells is a St Emilion Grand Cru at £12.99, but most bottles are under a fiver, she adds. The Lidl wine-buying operation, is run by a "deceptively casual" chap called Karsten Kremer, who operates out of the budget supermarket's headquarters in Neckarsulm, near Stuttgart. But are any of the wines any good? She asks. In her opinion, there's not much point in being consistently awful. Its core range is pretty small: 50 to 60 wines in Britain which are from time to time supplemented with "promotions". Moore has tried just over 40 of them, and has to admit the word "eek" has appeared a number of times on her tasting notes. Her recommendations are its Chablis 2010 (£6.99) and Cepa Lebrel Rioja Joven 2010 (£3.99), which she says are "bargains, the pair of them."