To complement the gallery of Celebrity Chefs on television and elsewhere, the idea of celebrity winemakers is gaining traction.
For example, Majestic recently commissioned selected winemakers to create “signature dish” wines for them.
As with top chefs and food, the results are designed to illustrate how the touch of a genius transports the finished product miles beyond the mere sum of its ingredients.
Here are two such wines I particularly enjoyed but, when considering prices, remember Majestic’s mixed six policy – which applies to the lower price quoted here – and its different pricing arrangements that apply in Scotland
As well as those (and other) suggestions from Majestic, I have my regular Best of the Rest feature and a rather special top tip unwrapping the mysteries of claret.
As usual, click on any of the bottles shown for an enlarged image to help you pinpoint the wine in a crowded display.
Let’s start with Australian Shiraz
Kevin O’Brien is a long-haul Majestic supplier from South Australia’s McLaren Vale – an ideal grape growing area between the mountains and the sea – and his patch (Kangarilla Road) is often considered home to that region’s most elegant wines.
Enjoy then the medium textured, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit in 2016 Winemaker Series Shiraz (£8.99/ £11.99 and 14.5% abv) with its nippy acidity, limited tannin and ancillary suggestions of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla.
Then a South African Maestro
In South Africa, Marc Kent shot to fame with his Chocolate Block wines and he is the architect of this particular Winemaker Series special – which is shiraz led but also embraces cabernet and cinsault.
There is a European savouriness to 2016 Winemaker Series Swartland Red (£9.99/ £12.99 and 14%) which integrates well with the wine’s big, black fruit, clove and espresso flavours and the firm acidity and tannin that underpin them.
But there’s everyday wine too
There is classic, nippy acidity to 2017 Majestic Loves Sauvignon Blanc (£5.99/£6.99 and 12%) which sits very comfortably with the wine’s zippy gooseberry and pink grapefruit backbone and the grassy, white peach depth that embellishes it.
A typical taste of Southern France
Textured with a sweetish clove and vanilla finish, 2015 Petit Perdigal Rouge (£6.79/£7.99 and 14.5%) has damson and loganberry fruit, sharp acidity, firm tannin and hints of mocha, liquorice and white pepper.
Best of the Rest
Getting the use of oak right
Here is an attractive chardonnay with judicious levels of oak that are absolutely spot on – and, because it hails from the less familiar Central Coast region of California, it is “wallet friendly” by American wine price standards.
So, savour the rich, creamy melon and apple fruit in 2015 Ghost Vines California Chardonnay (£6.49 at Aldi or online and 13%) with touches of almonds and caramel yet still exhibiting sufficient lemon based acidity to keep everything fresh and lively.
Amarone techniques go south
Importing techniques for drying (and intensifying the flavours of) grapes destined for amarone – appassimento – Puglia has (deliciously) created similar effects here from a blend of negroamaro, merlot and primitivo.
The concentrated prune and black cherry flavours come through clearly in 2015 Rosso Puglia Appassimento Ca'marrone: (£6.50 – instead of £8.50 until 18 September at Tesco and 14.5%) and are appealingly amplified by sweet edged, liquorice richness.
In a world where fruit forward Southern Hemisphere style wines seem to dominate, I am often asked what is so special about Bordeaux. This, then, is my nine step by step guide to finding out.
- Mosey down to Waitrose and acquire a bottle of 2014 Château Pey La Tour (£7.49 – instead of £9.99 until 3 October – and 13%) – or use waitrosecellar.com. [Once it has opened out, this is a particularly good example of what the region does well].
- Open the bottle and pour its content into a jug (from an appreciable height) and then back into the bottle [No need for fancy decanters but this wine will benefit from help to open up and, thus, reduce any intrusive effect from its tannins].
- Pour a glass and absorb its aromas [Bordeaux is too far north for some varieties to ripen fully every year but they compensate by providing leafy, slightly vegetal aromas like walking through a wood in the rain in autumn].
- Taste the wine and note the savouriness of its texture which varies between graphite and other mineral elements [this is further compensation for any lack of ripeness in the fruit].
- Savour the soft, smooth, blackberry fruit on display in this particular example and the vague figginess that sits behind it.
- Be alert to the acidity [that tickles the sides of your tongue] and the way it counterbalances the residual tannin [the stuff that can coat the inside of your cheeks].
- Try it with food [work the wine and food together in your mouth at the same time] and especially food with a bit of fattiness [rib eye steak is a good option which has more marbling than, say, fillet – the reason, incidentally, you cook it a stage further than fillet steak; medium instead of rare for instance].
- Cork up the bottle and try some again tomorrow [unlike short haul wines, it could be even better after 24 hours].
- Decide whether you enjoyed the experience. If you did you may be a potential claret convert; if not (no problem) you are probably a confirmed fruit forward red wine drinker but one who deserves full marks for trying something different.
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