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Wednesday 11 January 2012

Weekly Wine: Something Old, Something New

New Year means New Year's Resolutions. I know you're probably still hungover from Christmas, but now is a great time to resolve to try and make different wine choices instead of going for the same-olds: not only are you full of New Year fervour, but there's also a ton of wine sales on crying out for some of your pennies.

I've harped on about 'trying something different' before (ahem, okay, a lot), but sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. My advice is: start with what you like, and work from there. Here are a few popular names, along with an idea of where to go to find something similar.


Beautiful, classic Sancerre. Zingy sauvignon, refreshing and mineral and oh so sophisticated. The downside is its also often oh so pricey. The trick is knowing the lie of the land: the Sancerre "appellation" (legal area of vineyards) in the Loire region is bordered/a stone's throw away from some lesser-known appellations that produce similarly smashing vino but aren't able to pile as many pounds onto the pricetag.

One of my favourites of these is Menetou-Salon. You'll find it in most wine shops, but one that I'm keen on is by Domain du Manay from Majestic. It's £9.99 if you buy 2 bottles. Yes, some Sancerres sell for not much more than that, but I'd say this beats Sancerres that are much further towards the pricier end of the scale.

White Burgundy

If you're a fan of the creamy Burgs that you can easily spend over a tenner on (and which don't seem to last more than five minutes in our house), it can be an expensive habit. Keep your peepers peeled for something that has been carefully aged in oak from a reputable New World producer (I'd tend to veer well away from big brand names).

I've been a fan of Wither Hills in New Zealand for ages - their Marlborough Sauvignon is to die for - and they have a very French philosophy that focusses on getting the wine's character from the terroir (vineyard conditions) rather than just during the production process. The Wither Hills Chardonnay has minerality, as well as citrus and stone fruit character, which is more akin to a Burg than the tropical chardonnays you get in Aus, plus it has a very delicate use of oak that make this pretty special for £9.99. You can grab a bottle from Ocado.


We love a good sweetie with dessert, but the popular ones tend to dominate the market and can be cheeky with what they charge. Sauternes is one of the best-known names and worst culprits.

Like Sancerre, you've got to do a wee bit of geography homework on this one: just across the river from Sauternes is the tiny appellation Sainte Croix du Mont, and they make delicious, delicate sweeties that work well with a whole range of puds (just take your pic from the Domestic Sluttery archives!) You can buy Chateau La Grave from this region from The Wine Society for £9.50 for a (full) bottle, which is less than what you'd pay for just a half-bottle of most Sauternes.


Pretty much everyone loves this, right? Smooth, mellow, red fruits and delicate spice from time in oak: it's a classic for a reason, and the perfect food wine. But - as I've babbled about before - there's all the labelling: Crianza, Reserva, and with these classifications come added brownie points that mean you have to pay a little bit more too. Budget-wise, good Rioja isn't always an every-day treat any more.

So break it down: what makes Rioja great? The grape - generally Tempranillo in the majority - and the fact that Rioja is one of Spain's best, classified regions of production. A quick look nearby can find hidden treasures: Ribera Del Duero is fantastic, comparitively young wine-producing region not a million miles from Rioja (though not exactly next door).

The region hasn't had as long to build a reputation, but even Tesco is on the ball: their Finest Altos de Tamaron Ribera Del Duero Tempranillo is currently £34.20 per six, which is something daft like £5.70 a bottle. That's around half what you'd pay for a decent Rioja, and well worth a try.


Ah, Claret. Our go-to when we want something a bit spesh. Yeah, you can get some decent ones for £7-9 a bottle, but we'd probably spend almost double that for real quality. If you've pushed the boat out at Christmas you might want to be a bit savvier, so look for that same smooth, balanced quality elsewhere.

Again, 'terroir' is where its at in Bordeaux, but it's also important to note the grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon for power and acidity, Merlot for fruity softness) and the production (most of the good ones see some oak, so they can mellow over time and become more complex).

The Left-Bank of Bordeaux is where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, and you'll find delicious blackcurrant and cedary goodness. Argentinian producers Catena make a Cabernet Sauvignon much more in line with these classic characteristics, but it's only the equivalent £11.50 a bottle (a case of six is £68.99) from Eclectic Tastes.

What new wines have you discovered recently? Tell us in the comments, or pop over to our Twitter or Facebook pages for a natter.

(Image by Keith Williamson)

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