One major result of Covid driven “lock-downs” has been the significant migration to online purchasing – including for wine.
However, with only vendors’ comments to guide you and limited opportunities to examine bottles physically, choosing which wine to buy is not always easy.
So, my regular Pick of the Clicks feature provides a firm steer on what I think is currently drinking well among established online retailers.
It assembles six or seven wines that I can recommend from retailers that folk may decide to stick with even when things open up again.
Inevitably, then, “Pick of the Clicks” posts concentrate on different suppliers to those I normally feature – but do need to nudge the price range scrutinised up into the £6 to £10 range.
As before, pictures and hyperlinks appear next to most commendations as this helps to ensure you are ordering the correct wine.
Starting with an underappreciated white.
Although often – regrettably – downgraded to merely a source of sparkling wine in the Loire or brandy in South Africa, never underestimate chenin blanc’s ability to create sensationally good still wine, as this Western Cape version illustrates.
Soft with a long, savoury finish 2020 Citrus & Vine Chenin Blanc (from £7.49 at Laithwaites and 13% abv) delivers apple, melon and peach flavours with good lemon-based acidity supplemented by a creamy viscosity embodying subtle hints of nuttiness and of honey too.
Staying in South Africa.
Fusing innovation with tradition, this South African white wine uses those classic chenin blanc red apple and slightly honeyed characteristics as its foundation.
Here, however, it is blended with the attractively savoury white grenache more frequently associated with Southern France.
Textured and vaguely saline, 2019 Billy Bosch Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc (£9.99 at Virgin Wines and 11%) provides interesting orchard fruit, greengage and green pepper flavours supported by sherbet lime acidity, touches of herbs and a citrus peel background.
I believe that the retailer may be about to move onto the 2020 version but am assured there is little variation between the vintages.
Coming back to Europe
Colombard grapes frequently appear as part of a blend, especially with sauvignon blanc but, in warmer climates, it can also be a helpmate to other varieties.
Here, though, South Western France’s slick and very competent Plaimont co-operative uses it to excellent effect all on its own.
Floral and crisp, 2019 Domaine Les Escasses Colombard (£9.25 at Corney & Barrow and 11.5%) contains textured red apple, peach and melon flavours combined with lemon and grapefruit acidity and a suggestion of green pepper too.
Now for some reds
Europe’s recent severe frosts will inevitably reduce volumes come 2021’s harvest time and, inescapably, push wine’s (already rising) prices up further.
Happily, though, the quality of this (deeper and darker than usual) Italian merlot from Scotland’s acclaimed WoodWinters operation fully justifies (just) hitting double figures.
Smooth with figgy depth, 2018 Il Cascinone Soliti Merlot (£10 at Wood Winters and 14%) offers up vanilla influenced damson and black cherry flavours embellished with savoury spices, sage and mocha elements, good acidity and firm (but balanced) acidity.
Portugal is next on the agenda.
With so many top-class local grapes, Portugal uses international varieties sparingly – although tempranillo (called tinta roriz there of course) is a notable exception.
Otherwise, though, those varieties we know so well often become, at best, minor blending partners but, here, a syrah from Alentejo is allowed out on its own.
Ripe and floral, 2019 Smart Dog Syrah (£9.85 at House of Townend and 13.5%) has cherry, plum and loganberry flavours accompanied by firm tannin and good acidity with traces of menthol, chocolate and baking spice.
Back to the new world.
Its climate and terrain make Chile’s Central Valley (and especially certain of its sub- regions) well suited to producing reliable but great value cabernet sauvignon.
This nicely crafted example from a largely undiscovered wine merchant (but one with an impressive, go-ahead online presence) illustrates the point well.
With classic cabernet mintiness and graphite savouriness, 2019 Las Rocas Cabernet Sauvignon (£6.99 at Wickham Wines and 12.5%) brings us cherry, mulberry and prune flavours with an attractive clove, black pepper and mocha background.
Finally to California.
Ever since it triumphed over French equivalents in the famous 1976 Paris tasting, Californian cabernet sauvignon has been accorded real respect.
Alongside the powerful masterpieces that secured that reputation, however, California also produces enjoyable but less full (and less expensive) cabernets like this.
Smooth and medium bodied, 2017 Six Poets Cabernet Sauvignon (£9.95 currently at Slurp and 13%) delivers soft plum and mulberry flavours coupled with good acidity, chocolate, menthol and cinnamon components but only limited tannin.
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