Cards on the table, guys.
As a judge for People’s Choice Drinks Awards and a sponsor of one category, some would say I have skin in the game.
Nevertheless, as someone not involved in the inner workings of the Awards, I am impressed by the innovation and style that Janet Harrison and her team are exhibiting.
For those unfamiliar with the process, initial selections are made by – and for – people who drink “everyday wine”.
Yes, MidWeekers, that means people pretty much like you and me.
How are things grouped?
Categories eschew the “New World red Wine over £10 from international grape varieties” formula of many competitions.
Instead, classes reflect the occasion when you might drink the wine – “Night In”, “Celebration”, “Outdoors” etc.
This year the helpfulness has gone up a notch with the “Easy to use wine finder” facility.
How does that work?
Award categories have been distilled into eight broad “occasions” and you simply click on one of them that suits your current quest.
Up then pop details of a group of wines that impressed during judging along with where you can buy the wine and the judging comments.
Follow this link to see the group of award winners that, for example, would work well with Christmas lunch.
This does seem a very useful option that subscribers would like to know about for buying Christmas wines
Properly, I receive no financial benefit from featuring the service – I am happy to play Santa’s Little Helper.
To help in my more traditional way, this week I have looked at three of the wines that appear on the system, and here is what I found.
The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays.
First up is an unusual red
2020 Paso-Primero Tinto (from £14.95 via the link on the site) and 13.5%.
This is made in the often over-looked Somontano region north west of Barcelona by growers, originally from Shrewsbury, who have used a five-grape blend of international grape varieties.
Typical of organic wine when done well, there is a real brightness about this wine’s appearance even though it is dark in colour when in your glass.
Those positive first impressions are confirmed when you dig into its ripe strawberry, plum and (especially well defined) blackcurrant flavours.
Further support is provided by its opening fruit centred aromas, mild tannin, vibrant acidity and suggestions of mint, baking spice and oregano.
Here, People’s Choice judges show how good they are at spotting quality even when it comes in an unusual and unexpected form.
Next, staying on these shores
2018 Black Chalk Classic (around £35 from the suppliers listed on the link and 12%)
English sparkling wine is getting so good that champagne producers must be looking worriedly over their shoulders.
This is made from sparkling wine’s holy trinity of grapes (chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier) neatly enriched by lees derived depth.
While not cheap, this version – from near Andover in Hampshire – is the real deal for a quality addition to your Christmas drinking.
Soft and beautifully balanced, it brings us pithy grapefruit, apple and white peach flavours with just the right lemon-based acidity.
Also in evidence are hints of orange and vanilla, a creamy texture and bubbles that dance on your taste buds despite seeming restrained in the glass.
Safely home to port
Booths 20 year old Tawny Port (£21.50 for 50cl at E.H. Booth and via that link – and 19.5%)
Smooth with inviting raisin aromas, it features delightfully clean tasting nutty, apricot and cherry tart flavours enlivened by fresh orange based acidity with skilfully balanced sweetness and just a trace of cinnamon.
Tawny port usually sits behind vintage port in the fortified wine hierarchy, but recent changes have given it a, deservedly, higher profile.
Nowadays, it often has sufficient acidity to work – lightly chilled – as an aperitif as well as an “end of meal” drink and this example is particularly suitable for that pre-dinner rȏle.
Tawny port is, of course, matured in barrel not bottle and, thus, loses colour but does gain attractive nutty and dried fruit favours from the wood.
This is a great option if you have not tried tawny port recently.
Finally a word about the Bargain Buys category that MidWeek Wines sponsors.
You only need to look at the “Comments” this month on this site to see that the most recent winner (Romania’s Atlas Feteasca Regala) is still winning high praise.
Here you see me after presenting a winner’s award to Cramele Recas, the winery that makes it, and this link takes you to the relevant People’s Choice webpage.
A great option for Christmas party wine.
Friday Night Treat
2021 Old Vines Carignan, Coquille de Terre (£8.49 at House of Townend and 12.5% abv):
Back in the day, carignan (originally Spanish by the way) was the “go-to” grape for bulk wine from Southern France.
With old vines and low yields, however, it can produce delightfully soft and flavoursome red wine, like this, without losing its regional identity.
Nutty with liquorice influences, this example has smooth raspberry and prune elements with balanced acidity (but little tannin) and suggestions of aniseed within an otherwise savoury finish.
Here is a luxury Australian red that is noticeably different in approach to the style we often expect from the Barossa Valley.
It is young, unoaked and puts shiraz in third place in this variant of the classic Rhone blend, behind grenache (over 60%) and mourvedre (called mataro there of course).
Aromatic and smooth, it brings us smoky raspberry, plum and blackcurrant flavours coupled with good acidity, controlled tannin and hints of cinnamon, herbs and milk chocolate.
Fairly quiet on the High Street promotions front at the moment but two existing sets of deals do come to an end shortly.
One is the Waitrose “25% off when you buy 6” arrangement which finishes on 15 November.
The other is the long running offers at Morrisons which are due to conclude on 13 November.
My next post (on Monday) contains terrific recommendations of Top Tips for you in the weekly feature of the same name.
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