Notebook – November 2017

In the first in a new occasional series of articles, Peter Ranscombe flicks through the pages of his notebook to share some of his vinous highlights from the past month.

GETTING to meet winemakers and to sample their wares at tastings is a real privilege, whether in Scotland or London or out in the vineyards.

Often, there will be wines that don’t pair with the dishes that chefs have selected for the Wine to Dine column in the main Scottish Field printed magazine and which don’t slot neatly into the topics for The Grape & The Grain drinks blog.

And so, I’m delighted to introduce a new feature on this blog, in which I’ll open my notebook and share details of some of the wines I’ve particularly enjoyed over the past month or so.

Le Soula Rouge, 2003, £20.99 (Raeburn Fine Wines)
Tucked down in Roussillon in the South-West of France, Le Soula is an organic and biodynamic vineyard run by Mark Walford and Wendy Paille. Walford recently held a tasting of his new vintages and some of his older bottles, including the 2003 Rouge, which really caught my attention. A blend of 50% grenache and 50% cabernet sauvignon, its tannins had softened but there was still a lip-smacking hit of fresh acidity, a characteristic that defines Le Soula’s older wines. Ripe blackberry and black cherry flavours were wrapped in sweeter notes of vanilla.

Joseph Mellot Quincy Le Rimonet, 2015, £65.16 for six bottles in-bond (Christopher Keiller)
Nope, not the 1970s American drama series about a medical examiner, but the lesser-known sibling to Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé at the eastern end of France’s Loire valley. This example from Joseph Mellot has intense pear and green apple aromas on the nose and then concentrated orchard fruit flavours on the palate to balance the crisp acidity. A classic Loire white, without any of the acidic austerity.

Fruity White, 2017, £5 (Spar)
Under consultant master of wine Philippa Carr, Spar is in the middle of revamping its range of wines, starting with its entry-level bottles. The “Crisp White” and “Fruity White”, both from South Africa, each impressed me, but the “Fruity White” had the edge, with its peachy flavours to balance its fresh acidity. Wines at this price-point are often dull and boring, but this one manages to incorporate a bit of texture too.

Garnacha, 2016, £6 (Spar)
As well as its Spar brand wines, the retailer has also introduced a range of varietal wines with big bold capital letters on their labels. The Garnacha – with its massive G – is just what I’ve been after, a Spanish red that offers ripe and rounded red cherry, raspberry and strawberry aromas and flavours, but without being confected like cough sweets.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Zind, 2015, £17.99 (Waitrose Cellar)
I absolutely loved Zind when we tried it over lunch in Alsace earlier this year. It’s sold as a bog-standard “Vin de France” because chardonnay isn’t listed as one of the grapes that can be used to make appellation wine in Alsace. But don’t let the label foot you; this is top-quality wine, with intense green apple and pear flavours balancing the fresh acidity and creamy oak.