Peter Ranscombe reviews the new “Found” range of “unexpected and undiscovered” wines from Marks & Spencer.
MARKS & Spencer wine buyers Sue Daniels and Belinda Kleinig have had a busy lockdown.
This new selection features “unexpected and undiscovered” wines – lesser-known grape varieties, unusual styles, and some familiar faces in unrecognised places.
It comes hot on the heels of Waitrose’s W range, which followed a similar pattern in 2019.
Four of those bottles have since become Waitrose’s “Loved & Found” wines, including Germany’s elbling.
As with its “Classics” and “This is…” efforts, M&S’s latest line comes with smart and distinctive labels.
But, much more importantly, the liquid in the bottles once more hits the mark.
Blanquette de Limoux (£10)
Bubbles from the place that lays claim to having invented bubbles. Records show Benedictine monks at the Saint-Hilaire Monastery in the South of France were making sparkling wine as early as 1531. Bruised apple, lemon, and a lovely light floral note on the nose, before light vanilla and biscuit notes join the lemons on the palate. Crisp acidity, but plenty of fruit for balance, with a wee twist of sweetness on the finish. Not quite matching the Jean-Claude Mas example for me, but a great example for this price.
Ribolla Gialla 2020 (£7)
Think North-East Italy, think bland pinot grigio? This indigenous grape couldn’t be further away in style. Expressive green apple and apricot aromas, entwined with honeysuckle. On the palate, the green apple is joined by slightly deeper peach, and tangy lemon juice, alongside enough acidity to keep everything fresh.
Feteascã Regalã 2020 (£7)
It’s great to see feteascã regalã starting to gain more traction in the UK; the white grape was one of the highlights during my trip to Romania in 2018. In this bottle from the Cramele Recas winery, dainty lemon and floral aromas lead into much more intense lemon and peach flavours on the palate. The acidity is crisp, but there’s plenty of concentrated fruit to provide balance.
Grenache Blanc 2020 (£8)
Deliciously-savoury lemon rind and dried apricot on the nose, with just the slightest whiff of wood smoke. There’s a food-friendly grainy texture to the wine too, with a lick of butter, a peppering of red apple skin, and a richer peachy note too. Grenache blanc is the backbone of many white blends in the Rhone Valley and across the South of France, but it’s also showing real promise in South Africa, like in this bottle.
Gros Manseng 2020 (£9)
There’s a squakiness to the acidity and a waxiness to the texture of gros manseng – which hails from Gascogne in South-West France – with which I often struggle. Yet Daniel’s example tempers those textural elements with lively lemon and peach flavours, which are concentrated enough to provide balance. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re fed up with boring pinot grigio then this is a great foil, which is exactly the idea behind the “Found” range.
Moschofilero & Roditis 2020 (£8.50)
Greek wines are in high demand this spring, as we saw last month with The Wine Society’s online press tasting. Here, there’s a muscat-esque grapey note among the gerwurztraminer-like lemon sherbet and honeysuckle aromas. On the palate, there’s a surprising amount of gum-drying texture, and it’s those lemon sherbet notes that dominate. A real gem for aromatic wine aficionados, but perhaps a step too far for fans of more mainstream sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.
Vinho Verde Rosé 2020 (£7)
Surprisingly-concentrated aromas for this pink version of vinho verde, Portugal’s young and lively white wine. It’s got the tell-tale light spritz of its standard cousin, but here there are sweet raspberry jam and spun sugar notes in among the sharper blackcurrant hues. The acidity is nice and crisp, but there’s a lot more texture than you’d normally get from vinho verde, which should extend its food-matching prowess beyond shellfish and into slightly-richer dishes, like grilled sardines or even a lighter chicken curry.
Nerello Cappuccio 2019 (£7)
Trumpeted as “the first single varietal nerello cappuccio in the UK”, this Sicilian grape is better known as a blending partner. Classic Italian red cherry and cedar aromas lead into gorgeously-rounded raspberry jam and red plum flavours on the palate. Gentle, without being wishy-washy, this is a real star.
Mazuelo 2019 (£8.50)
Bright blackcurrant – straying into blueberry – and sweet vanilla on the nose lead into more of the same on the palate. Definitely enough sweet vanilla to satisfy Rioja fans, with great concentration to the black fruit flavours to provide balance. There’s enough gum-drying tannin to take on a rump or ribeye steak too.
Cabernet Franc 2019 (£10)
For me, the only dud among the dozen bottles I sampled. I’ve long been sold on the idea that cabernet franc could become Argentina’s next big red after malbec, but sadly any distinctive fruit characteristics in this example are being hidden behind an all-encompassing blanket of sweet vanilla from ten months in French oak barrels. There’s an odd burnt meat note on the finish too.
País 2019 (£9)
Chile’s país is a grape with which I struggle – often, it’s made into a high-acid red that might find a home when it’s chilled at a barbecue, but fits into few other niches. I was a bit worried when I got a slightly green note on the rather bland nose, but this example from the Indomita winery springs into life on the palate, with that green hue transformed into a pleasant herbal tone, alongside much more intense raspberry and blackcurrant flavours, with a sprinkling of spun sugar, and gentle acidity.
Xinomavro & Mandilaria 2019 (£9.50)
An accessible introduction to Greece’s sometimes demanding reds. Its high tannins are beautifully balanced by sweet spun sugar, red cherry, raspberry jam, and richer blackcurrant. The 70% of xinomavro in the blend comes from the northern Greek mountains, while the remaining mandilaria hails from the island of Santorini. They’re brought together by “the godfather of xinomavro”, Apostolos Thymiopoulos, in his eponymous winery.