With the potential separation of Naked Wines from Majestic, the spotlight has been firmly fixed on the former and the nimble but distinctive business model it uses.
Being subscription based and online helps Naked Wines when the future of the High Street seems very uncertain; so does its ability to secure (and, potentially, expand) its overseas operations.
Subscribers’ (called “Angels”) contributions help fund winemakers up front and in return Angels are eligible for discounted prices – indeed, it is the Angels Price that is quoted in this review.
With typical candour Naked Wines founder Rowan Gormley spells out his approach and aims in a piece on the company website.
I have picked out a few Naked Wines options within the typical MidWeek Wines price range that I found especially impressive. I hope you will enjoy them too.
Also today, Sunset Corner recommends wines from a “soon to expire” Sainsbury’s promotion, Top Tip looks at enjoyable Dark Horse wines while our Best of the Rest pinpoints another Californian red along with excellent rosé.
Where they are available, use the pictures next to the description of a wine to help you find it quickly.
Magic Bullet Selection
While big, shouty shiraz is no longer the “go to” Australian wine it used to be, there is still plenty of room for full versions like this one that clearly display the grape variety’s virtues yet remain wallet friendly.
Enjoy then the soft, aromatic bramble and elderberry fruit in South Australia’s 2018 Juicy's Shiraz (£7.99 at www.nakedwines.com and 14.5% abv) that it neatly couples with bold acidity (but gentle tannin) and suggestions of clove and eucalyptus buried within a slightly tarry depth.
As regular MidWeekers will know, the “Magic Bullet” choice (like its equivalent in the medical profession – effective solutions without side effects) is especially noteworthy because it tastes good without the disadvantage of costing a lot.
A NW Italy technique moves south
We are familiar with appassimento techniques in Amarone (where grapes are dried before fermentation to increase their concentration) but here we see it used in Puglia and with a merlot led blend – rather than with corvina as in Amarone.
Predictably intense with an edge of sweetness, 2018 Christian Patat Appassimento(£9.99 and 14.5%) has hearty, clearly defined loganberry and blackcurrant fruit with good acidity, generous depth and a cinnamon infused richness.
Now for a white
Rod Easthope is a great New Zealand winemaker and this example of his handiwork comes from a special corner of Hawkes Bay – which, unlike Marlborough, is of course in the North Island.
With the balance and complexity of significantly more expensive versions, 2017 Rod Easthope Level 185 Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99 and 12.5%) is a great buy and delivers lime and grapefruit acidity, tropical fruit depth and hints of green pepper, jalapeño and sweet pea.
It’s that girl again
The story of Naked Wines Angels rescuing Katie Jones when vandals destroyed one year’s vintage are well known and, as a continuing “thank you” Katie allows Angels to acquire this gentle and rather attractive blend led by grenache blanc but with a whisper or two of muscat.
That muscat provides the perfume and edge of sweetness in 2018 Me & Monsieur Jones Blanc (£9.99 and 13%) that merges harmoniously with its soft pear, melon and red apple fruit, gentle acidity and smooth, slightly savoury finish.
BEST OF THE REST
Let’s start off in the pink
Good to see a further switch towards more delicate, food-friendly rosé this year (often, like this from the South of France) – and you can see the trend at a glance from the paler pink colour (compared to previous years) on most supermarket wine shelves.
One especially good value option is the floral yet delicate 2018 Exquisite Collection Cotes de Provence Rosé (£6.99 at Aldi and 12.5%) which uses largely grenache to provide wine with strawberry and red cherry fruit but with appealing savoury elements too – albeit applied with a pleasing lightness of touch.
Then move across the Atlantic
Californian reds can be a tad sturdy so it is nice to unearth this example that is attractively soft and ideal for everyday drinking even though it has a bit of age to it.
Smooth with prune and blackcurrant fruit, 2015 Hang Loose Cabernet Sauvignon (£5.99 at Majestic as part of a mixed six and 13%) has toffee, baking spice, cocoa and mint touches and firm acidity but little tannin and the low-key texture common with this style and price.
Sainsbury’s have a promotion under way that comes to an end next Tuesday (2 July), so prompt action is needed if you are to take advantage of its content.
I have picked out five wines from that list that I can recommend as reliable wines at a good price – especially when the current reduction is included.
Remember though that all wines on promotion are subject to availability and that minimum unit pricing means that the prices quoted here may not apply in Scotland.
- Taste the Difference Grüner Veltliner – down from £8.25 to £7.25
- Taste the Difference Gavi di Gavi – down from £12 to £10
- Taste the Difference Bordeaux Rosé – down from £8 to £6.75
- Taste the Difference Saint Chinian Syrah Grenache – down from £9 to £8
- Feuerheerd’s Red Reserva Port Finish – down from £11 to £9.50
Tip: Take a look at these two wines from a large scale producer that are still distinctive enough to offer a satisfying glassful.
When we heard about the launch of a couple of Gallo wines, we asked one of our younger MidWeekers – Sophie Lambert-Russell – to tell us what she thought; here is her report.
“As Californian winemaker Beth Liston knows, anyone can have a great label, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
When the launch for the latest offering from Dark Horse, part of the Gallo family, was pitched at an exclusive party with a chance to mingle with celebrity guests, it seemed the perfect opportunity to see whether the wine would stand out in a crowd.
Fortunately, we were not disappointed.
The main star of the show was the 2017 Dark Horse Malbec (13.5% abv and available at several supermarkets for just £8.50).
Record rainfall, followed by one of the hottest summers in nearly 40 years made 2017 a near-perfect climate for reds in California.
This Malbec is bold, with intense flavours of plum and blackberry with just a hint of spice resulting in a plush, velvety finish.
It has been aged on oak to add complexity and balance and would sit nicely alongside lamb chops or steaks done on the BBQ.
Worth a mention too is the 2018 Dark Horse Chardonnay (also £8.50 and 13.5%).
This is a heavy-hitting mouthful of flavour, assertive yet light, making it the perfect accompaniment to a summer dessert.
The sweetness of juicy, stone fruit flavours gives way to softer, buttery notes with a smooth finish. Malolactic fermentation allows for some of the more acidic flavours to mellow out and leave behind deep, toasty flavours of oak and vanilla.
For someone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on their everyday wine, these latest offerings from Dark Horse are a solid bet”.
Editor’s Note: Respected American wine writer Jim Gordon shares Sophie’s enthusiasm for that chardonnay.
Here is what he said about an earlier vintage on the Wine Enthusiast web site.
“Dark Horse 2016 Chardonnay. Medium in body and ripe in flavour, this wine is generous and fruity, offering a good nip of acidity and attractive apple and citrus notes. Small portions of Viognier and Gewürztraminer were blended in. Best Buy. —Jim Gordon”
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