As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Peter Ranscombe toasts Virgin Wines’ ongoing partnership with care charity Growing Well by tasting some of the online retailer’s organic offerings.
THIS year’s Mental Health Awareness Week took on extra significance during lockdown.
Thousands of people will have become even more acutely aware of the state of their mental health while they’ve been staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
Online retailer Virgin Wines marked Mental Health Awareness Week by unveiling a seven-month partnership with Growing Well – a mental health charity that runs a training centre and an organic farm just over the border in Kendall – and The Drinks Trust, a charity that supports people working in the hospitality industry in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Growing Well helps people to recover from mental illnesses by operating an organic farm, which produces 15 tonnes of vegetables each year that are then sold through its “Crop Share” vegetable bags and local retailers and wholesalers.
Reading about the partnerships inspired me to take a look at Virgin’s organic wine selection; although I’ve attended a number of the company’s tastings, I’ve never focused on its organic range, which extends to about 30 bottles.
Here are five of the best bottles to celebrate the retailer’s partnership with Growing Well’s organic farm…
2017 Altolandon Mil Historias Organic Syrah (£13.99)
Our tale of two syrahs opens with awesome organic producer Altolanddon’s version from Spain. Winemaker Rosalia Molina picks her grapes from vineyards at a mind-bending 1,100 metres above sea level and it shows in the freshness of the acidity. Her hands-off style of winemaking retains all the brightest qualities of the organic grapes, from the blackcurrant fruit pastilles, blackcurrant jam and violet notes on the nose through to the bramble and raspberry on the palate. I got really excited when I came across this wine, having loved her bobal from the Co-operative and Scotmid.
2012 Syrah by Julia Kemper (£30)
Portugal isn’t the first place I’d naturally look for syrah but, actually, it stands to reason that the Dao region’s long sunshine hours could help this Rhone variety to excel. Julia Kemper’s example is very reminiscent of the Northern Rhone, with a feral aroma of wet fur, damp earth and roast meat alongside the brambly notes. The fruit on the palate is much fresher, with blackcurrant fruit pastilles and raspberry jam, interwoven with sweet vanilla and tangy fresh acidity.
2017 Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico (£29)
Oh me, oh my. A very grown-up white wine from Italy’s Soave region. Dario Pieropan is the fourth generation of his family to make wine and his father, Nino, was one of the producers to put Soave on the map in the 1970s. His wine leaps from the glass, with bruised red apple, ripe pear, cinnamon, apricot and a twist of tangerine on the nose. On the palate, there’s a lick of cream that joins the pear and red apple, creating a magically mix, with a crack of white pepper on the finish too. La Rocca was one of Pieropan’s first parcels to be bottled as a single-vineyard wine.
2018 Targa Rioja Organic Tempranillo Blanco (£16.99)
Bright and inviting green apple and lemon rind bring intensity on the nose, with the fruits joined by pear on the palate. The acidity is crisp, in the modern Riojan style, with just a touchy of creaminess on the finish. Winemaker Borja Ripa sings the praises of the little-known variety: “It’s a joy to get my hands on tempranillo blanco – it’s not common enough.”
2017 Chateau du Seuil Graves Blanc (£14.99)
I’m a big fan of Chateau du Seuil’s rosé but hadn’t had chance to try its white wine and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s subtler than the other two organic whites, with light wood smoke, lemon rind and apricot on the nose, and then very fresh lemon juice flavours alongside its crisp acidity. It brought back happy memories of tasting other organic whites in Bordeaux before lockdown began.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, whisky, gin and beer reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.