Four rubbish wines, one good one
I don't like to be negative. At the same time, a critic's job is to be critical of the bad as well as praising the good.
Last night I opened four wines, all of which depressed me. Wine should be authentic; it should be fun; it should inspire and captivate; it should make us think a bit. Sadly, there's a lot of rubbish wine out there that does none of these things.
Tonight, therefore, I played safe. I opened something I knew I'd like. I have a soft spot for Bandol, and Domaine Gros' Nore is one of the top producers. The 1999 which I'm sipping now has a haunting nose: it's sweetly fruited, but the dominant theme is a perfumed earthiness - a savoury melange of spice, herbs, crushed rocks and turned earth. In the mouth it is savoury, dense, earthy and shows a bit of tarry, spicy fruit. There's quite a bit of tannic structure and good acidity. Beginning to drink really well, and I reckon it's good for another 10 years. As with all Bandols, Mourvedre is the key grape here.
Back to the duds. Oddbins Selection Bordeaux 2006 is the best of them: I like the dark, sweet chocolatey blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. My problem is that it tastes like Australian Cabernet, with sweet jammy fruit you just don't expect from Bordeaux. Is there residual sugar here? I wouldn't be surprised. Next, Yaldara 'The Farms' Shiraz 2004 tastes like an average £7 Barossa red, with sweet fruit and disjointed acid, together with heat and astringency. Problem is that Laithwaites sell this at £18.95, a price at which it represents spectacularly bad value. It has a twintop closure. Not usually seen on £20 wines. Now Chileno knock out some decent cheapo Chilean wines. Their Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is not one of them. The vibrant fruit has distinctive herbal greeness, and the result is a bit sickly. It's cheap, though, at under a fiver, but to be honest I'd rather drink water. Finally, Kendall Jackson's Cabernet Sauvignon Vintners Reserve 2003 from California is sweet and confected, with a vanilla streak to the red and black fruits. A crowd pleaser, but at £10 I was very disapponted: it just tastes 'made'.