Category Archives: Red wine

Carmen Nativa Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Carmen Nativa Cabernet Sauvignon 2005I was meaning to blog about Waitrose’s wine sale, in which they knocked 25% off the price of every single bottle of wine on their website, but then I got so excited actually shopping on it that it never really happened. I was half-tempted to buy a bottle of 2003 Penfolds  Grange, reduced to just (just!) £112.50 a bottle, £60 less (per bottle!) that what the normally reasonable Wine Society are charging, but then I spent not much more than the price of that bottle on 18 other ones.

They must have been absolutely inundated with orders, but 48 hours later mine arrived. I’m quite excited about everything I got, which is just as well because I was starting to become a little jaded with my rapidly emptying “cellar”. Now comes the good bit: drinking it.

We start in the Maipo valley, Chile, and an interesting organic wine made using only natural, wild yeast. Wine Spectator loved it, considering it worth 91 points. “Dark and structured, with loamy tannins carrying a delicious mix of mint, tobacco, currant paste and fig sauce flavors,” they said. “Long and rich on the finish, with classic Maipo character. Drink now through 2012. Tasted twice, with consistent notes.” And mine for £4.49 a bottle. £4.49! It’s a tenner at Tanners!

I’ve never had fig sauce. Or currant paste. But I see what they’re getting at with the dried fruit, particularly fig. And the tobacco’s there, sure enough – I’m sure, and I know this doesn’t sound much like a positive, that I can taste a bit of ashtray. Strong tannins and good acidity and it absolutely reeks – pongs – of varietal character. You could name the grape variety from 15 metres. It’s a well-made wine, it looks and smells great. It just has a tinge of green, unripe, new leather to it, when you want it to be completely worn in. Maybe another year in bottle?

And apparently boffins from a Turkish university analysed a bunch of wines in 2004 for antioxidants and healthy phenols and found Nativa’s Cab Sauv to be the healthiest wine there is. It’s practically medicine.

All the same, a stonking start from my friends at Waitrose. Let’s hope they do the same promotion next year, when (given what they’re saying about the 2004) I might just get a bottle of Penfolds Grange. Someone liked the look of it, anyway – they’re sold out now.


Banrock ‘n’ Roll

With perfect timing, just as I’m obsessing about the EOS Petite Sirah, the wine society puts it in their January clearance at £7.50 a bottle, down £1.50. Consider my boots filled (just four bottles as part of a mixed case, but I’ll always find a new wine to obsess about).

In other news, I picked up a bottle of Banrock Station Shiraz Mataro 2008. Heaven only knows what quantity they make this stuff in – everyone sells it, most of them for very little money (it’s three for a tenner in Sainsbury’s at present), and you can also get it in boxes – but I found it surprisingly pleasant. Nothing mind-blowing, but really not bad at all and excellent value for money at that price. Worth sorting myself out with a few bottles for cooking, taking to friends’ houses and other not very special occasions. The 2007 won a gold Decanter award last year and Jane MacQuitty has recommended it pretty much every year for the last decade, so it’s clearly got something of a following and to be honest I can see why (I can’t normally with high-volume wines). So, a good week then!

Juan Gil Albacea 2006

Now this is much more like it. 100% monastrell from Jumilla, a denomination in Murcia in the south of Spain. This costs £7.99 at Virgin Wine, which seems to be the only place in the UK to offer it. At 14.5% it’s quite alcoholic, and you can pick that up on the nose, but it’s not in the least offputting, combined as it is with a deep, warm, inviting fruitiness. Not overbearingly tannic, with plenty of dried fruit and forest flavours, this has everything you need to help you through a cold, dark night. It’s a couple of years old, and must have spent at least six months in oak. I’m guessing this, because the winemaker’s website ( doesn’t mention this particular wine and Virgin fill their site with gushing prose that, on reflection, doesn’t really mean very much.

Of this they say: “Rich, lush, multi-layered coffee and chocolate dusted berry flavours sound like a nice cocktail to you? For us this old-vine classic tasted like an established icon wine. But it’s from new kids on the block who just happen to have drop-dead brilliant vines at their disposal.”

I’d say that at £7.99 it’s pretty good value, and at a pound less it would get a pretty hearty recommendation, but I’ve very much enjoyed having a couple of glasses.

Mont Tauch Fitou

So I picked this up in Tesco’s the other day, reduced from £5.99 to £3.99 in their wine festival promotion. I was a bit narked because I was after the Tesco’s Finest Fiano, but that one’s been recommended in too many newspapers and seems to have sold out – you can’t even buy it online. Anyway, I’d seen this one reviewed by Jamie Goode a couple of months back – not that I memorise everything he writes, but it has the kind of label you remember – so I thought I’d give it a go.

They say: Mont Tauch Fitou maintains all the character of Fitou with a fruit driven modern approach and a complexity derived from the mix of terroir and grape maturity. It’s made of carignan, grenache and a little syrah from the villages of Tuchan, Paziols and Villeneuve. They also suggest that it’s best served with a carpaccio of muntjac.

Sadly there were no diminutive deer passing, and it was 10pm when I unscrewed the bottle, so I had it on its own. Something of a mistake, I fear – this is a good, honest, simple wine that is crying out for some good, honest, simple food. If you’re planning to stew some beef or, yes, venison or eat anything with lots of rosemary I’d reckon this would be a bargain accompaniment. But it wasn’t quite assured enough to press my end-of-evening buttons on its own. A peasant wine for peasant food (which is by no means a criticism).

The Mont Tauch cooperative have got to be pretty busy – they say they supply Asda, Booths, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco, Waitrose, Majestic, Thresher and Shepherd Neame and Youngs pubs. They’re very popular with the wine critics; it would be interesting to try one of their more expensive Fitous by way of comparison – Majestic stock one at nearly three times the price, Fitou L’Exception 2005 (£10.99), and Waitrose have Fitou Les Quatre at £8.99. Two more for the shopping list…