jamie goode's wine blog

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A serious Chilean wine: Viu Manent

Here's a Chilean wine I'd seek out and buy. I'm a real fan of Viu Manent, and a report of their wines will be coming soon...

Viu Manent Malbec Single Vineyard San Carlos Estate 2007 Colchagua, Chile
14.5% alcohol. From 70 year old Malbec vines. Deep coloured. Wonderful aromatic nose with fresh, complex, spicy, violetty black fruits with an appealing savoury dimension. The palate has great concentration and firm tannic structure with intense, spicy, savoury plum and blackberry fruit. Beautifully savoury, with great acidity and structure, this is destined for a long life. Beautiful. 93/100 (UK agent: Les Caves de Pyrene)

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Another packed day: focusing on Chile

Another busy day, focusing on Chile.

It began at La Fromagerie in Marylebone, with a tasting of Cono Sur's organic wines with chief winemaker Adolfo Hurtado. We had a long discussion about organics, which was very useful research material for a book chapter, and finished the tasting off with four cheeses from La Fromagerie, matched with the Cono Sur wines.

They were (clockwise from 12 in the photo below) Cabecou du Rocamador (stinky but not too wild goats cheese with a soft rind); Napoleon from Montrejeau in the Pyrenees (a lovely ewe's milk cheese with rich texture and a lovely complex salty character - brilliant stuff, a bit like a softer version of comte); Taleggio di Valbrembana (guey but textured with lovely creamy, salty character, not too strong, very pure); and La Gabietout, Pyrenees (a mix of cow and ewe's milk, creamy, buttery, gentle and a bit nutty).

The wines were really good: solid commercial style with a twist of complexity.
Then it was off to lunch at the Bleeding Heart restaurant with Grant Phelps of Viu Manent, and Doug Wregg of Les Caves (who are the agents for Viu Manent). I think the Viu Manent range is probably the best in Chile: these are serious wines with real structure, good acidity, and loads of personality. Viu Manent's Carmenere, Viognier and Cabernet all excel. Their single-vineyard Malbecs, and their Viu 1 (mostly or all Malbec depending on the vintage) are just world class. I was blown away by them. Rather amazingly, Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate recently gave the top Viu Manent wines scores in the 60s. He was wrong by some 30 points, which is a staggering margin! (See a discussion on this here.)
Below: a full table, with Tina Gellie and Grant Phelps.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another super-sleek Vinalba wine from Argentina

Some time ago I reported on the Vinalba Reserva Malbec from Mendoza that won the Decanter Trophy, and which sells for £9.99 in Majestic. I pointed out that it was delicious, a crowd-pleaser and brilliantly made - but expressed a concern that for my audience here it might be a bit too sleek and 'made'.

Well here's anothr Vinalba, this time the Malbec Syrah 2006 from Patagonia, which is similarly smooth and delicious. The good news? It's as good as the Reserva Malbec, but it's cheaper (£6.98 in Asda). This won a trophy at the 2008 International Wine Challenge, which takes some doing. It's a modern, lush wine, but it has some edges, too. I really like it. If you want to try it, rush out and buy it now, because it won't last for long.

Vinalba Malbec Syrah 2006 Patagonia, Argentina
This is a wine with a real sense of deliciousness. It is ripe, smooth, lush and pure with sweet raspberry and blackberry fruit as well as some spicy, chocolatey richness. The tannins are really soft, although there's just a bit of plummy bite on the finish. Oak is well integrated, and it's well defined and has some nice floral overtones. A deliciously rich, lush style with seductive fruit sweetness. At this price, it's one of the very best value for money wines around, and it will win many friends. Compare this with the big brands (at this price), and you'll be amazed at how much better this is. 89/100 (£6.98 Asda; 14.5% alcohol)

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Enough about the weather, and another Malbec

First ten minutes of the BBC evening news tonight was devoted to one subject: the weather. It's getting a bit boring, but the conditions here have been pretty unusual.

Found out today that I had to go and pick my son up from boarding school. It's a long drive and I wasn't looking forward to it - the Highways agency advised against non-essential travel, and on their advice I almost packed a spade. But that seemed a bit extreme, so I didn't.

Actually, the journey was better than I'd feared. Just a couple of flurries of heavy snow, and in the bit of Devon I was in most of the snow had thawed. The journey back was also relatively straightforward, although it was still quite tiring driving, with a particularly crazy blizzard just before Reading.

Back to wine. I've opened another Argentinean Malbec tonight. It's the Salentein MCM Winemaker's Selection 2004 Malbec/Cabernet/Merlot. It's fresh and aromatic, but there's probably a bit too much oak imprint here: it shows itself in tarry, toasty, slightly bitter notes along with the sweet berryish fruit. £8.59 from Tesco - reasonable value, but not something I'd rush out to buy.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Great value from Argentina - can we forgive some spoofiness?

Tonight's wine is from Argentina, and it's delicious. It actually won the trophy for best varietal wine under £10 at this year's Decanter World Wine Awards. It's really impressive. But, if I'm honest, it tastes a bit spoofy. Like it was made to win awards. The colour is a little too dark, the fruit a little too sweet, the tannins a little too smooth. In fact, it almost tastes like it has been tweaked a little with grape juice concentrate, just to add a little sweetness and colour. I'm just trying to find out how the winemaker could have got the colour this dense and the fruit so deliciously sweet. I'll try to find out from the agent.

Can spoofiness be forgiven? This is the sort of wine that will be adored by people new to wine, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, very tasty in a hedonic sort of way, and I'm enjoying it. It's just that for an intelligent audience like mine, I wanted to point out my concerns: delicious, really impressive, but perhaps spoofy.
Vinalba Malbec Reserva 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
Deep coloured. Amazingly sweetly fruited, alluring nose with very ripe blackberries and a hint of blackcurrant jam. The palate is lush and sweet with ripe, dense, pure fruit and some savoury, spicy notes. Lots of impact here: a dense, full, sweet red wine with lovely purity of fruit and real flavour impact. It's unashamedly new world in style and will be sure to win lots of fans. 90/100 (£9.99 Majestic)

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Catena Malbec rocks!

Just drinking Cantena's 2006 Malbec (from Argentina's Mendoza region), which, at just over £10 a bottle (UK agent Bibendum) is a really superb value wine.

It shows lovely purity of ripe, sweet, but well-defined raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose. In the mouth, this sweet, pure fruit is joined by a bit of spicy structure. Tannins are really smooth and, while present, mesh with the fruitiness really well. Overall, it's quite an elegant wine: indeed, my view is that Argentinean Malbec at its best has more in common with Pinot Noir than it does with Cabernet Sauvignon - it's an elegant, ripe, yet expressive wine. This is sourced from four vineyards, all at altitude: Adrianna (5000 ft), Angelica (2850 ft), Piramide (3100 ft) and Nicasia (3870 ft). For the benefit of those used to metric measures, a foot is about 1/3 metre (this was a sample destined for the US market). It's 14% alcohol, and I rate it at 90/100.

Picture is a tasting I had in March at the Adrianna vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Steak at Gaucho and City Hall

Had a nice lunch at Gaucho Tower Bridge on Monday, with Trapiche's single-vineyard Malbecs.

This particular Gaucho restaurant, which, like the others, is lavishly decorated with cowhide, is in an interesting location. There are great views of Tower Bridge and also the remarkable squashed egg- or scrotum-shaped building called City Hall. Indeed, the Gaucho is part of the 'More London' development that includes City Hall, home to the Mayor of London and his recently pruned band of staff. Administrators and governing types always tend to be particularly well housed. If you are ever on a university campus, for example, and are looking for the administrative building, it's usually easy to find. Just head to the tallest and grandest construction, and there you will find them.

I always enjoy eating at the Gaucho, which specializes in huge hunks of very nice Argentinean beef, and has an extensive (if slightly expensive) list of Argentinean wines. They've got the ambience just right, and with all that cowhide there's a sense of irony that liberates you to enjoy tasty, simple hunks of meat without feeling bad.

Initially, I thought the 2006 Trapiche single vineyard wines we tasted were a bit obvious and made in a very modern style. But then trying a 2004 version of one of the wines with lunch, I suddenly saw what the point was. Aromatically, it was singing, and was just beautiful, with sweet, expressive, harmonious red fruits. There's something to be said for just a little patience with reds like this.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vintage time at Achaval Ferrer winery, Mendoza, Argentina - a short film

Here's a short film from my visit to Argentina in March. It's vintage time at one of Mendoza's leading boutique producers, Achaval Ferrer. We get to see the press, the winery (where wine is being racked and returned) and then a small segment of the tasting with Santiago Achaval.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Raspberries and Malbec

18 months ago I decided to plant some raspberries in the garden. I think it was a good move, although I didn't realize quite how prolific the 15 canes (three different varieties) would prove to be - we're now facing a raspberry invasion problem.

But of all the things you can grow in your garden, raspberries have to be one of the most useful. They're delicious, you eat all of them, and to buy them would cost a lot of money. Plus they are really easy to grow. Other things I'm growing this year: tomatoes, a salad crop, spring onions, coriander, basil, thyme, tarragon, courgettes. I'd love to grow more. There's something very healthy about growing stuff.

This year it looks like we have a bumper raspberry crop, and I quite enjoy spending a few minutes grazing, selecting the most delicious-looking berries and devouring them. What's interesting is that they all taste a bit different. There are some that are under-ripe, and taste a bit sharp; there are some that are a little over-ripe, and taste a bit soft, sweet and characterless. The key is picking them at optimum ripeness, where there's some sweetness, but also some acidity to keep them fresh and complex.

I guess it's very similar to wine: you should pick the grapes at optimum ripeness, where there's some fruit sweetness, but also good acidity. Easier said than done. The modern tendency is to pick late to get the sweet, lush fruit and then add acid. People have rather differing views on what 'balance' looks like in practice.

Tonight's wine: Catena Alamos Malbec 2006 Mendoza. There's lots of sweet, pure fruit here, with notes of raspberry jam backed up with a bit of spice. It's pure and focused, with really good balance. Yes, it's a modern, commercial style, but it avoids over-ripeness and doesn't taste at all forced. This is one of the wines in the forthcoming Bibendum sale, which starts early july, when it will be reduced from its normal price of £7.55 to £4.55/bottle, at which price it's great value. 86/100

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Consolation in natural wine

Had a bit of a rubbish day yesterday. Supposed to be fathers' day, but the kids were appalling (most specifically older son) and it was all a bit depressing. So I turned to wine, and specifically a rather remarkable natural wine. Suddenly, everything seemed a lot better.

Le Clos de Tu-Boeuf La Guerrerie Vin de Table FranÁais
This is actually from the 2006 vintage, and itís a wine made by Thierry Puzelat in the Loire, from a blend of Cot (aka Malbec, 70%) and Gamay (30%), with the grapes grown in the Cheverny appellation. Following Doug Wreggís advice (heís the dude from Les Caves de Pyrene who import this into the UK), I chilled it down and decanted it before drinking. Itís fantastic, life-affirmining, Ďaliveí wine. Itís aromatic with some earthy, spicy depth to the dark fruits. In the mouth itís refreshing and bright with a lovely dense, grippy, spicy earthy quality under the focused bright fruit. It finishes quite grippy, but the defining feature is the brightness. Itís a natural tasting sort of wine thatís just so easy to drink. Itís kind of like Pinot Noir, but with some edges. 91/100 (£11.75 Les Caves de Pyrene)

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Some Argentina pics


Just got back from Argentina this morning. Flight from Mendoza was delayed, so we were very tight for time making the connection with our London-bound flight that left from the international airport at Buenos Aires. This is where I was supposed to pick up my missing bag, so it was a little concerning. Fortunately the disappearing bag was safely located lying on the floor of the BA office behind the check-in desk. I was delighted to be reunited with it!

A few pics from the trip. Above, harvest at O Fournier; below, the difference between low and high-yielding Malbec.


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

More on Argentina


In a rare gap in the itinerary (an hour free before dinner), I now have a chance to blog a little more on my first impressions of Argentina. These will be just a series of bullet points, I'm afraid - I am too tired to attempt anything grander.

1. The meat here really is great, and there's a lot of it. We have eaten very well. I have probably over-eaten. You just have to.

2. Mendoza is not how I expected it to be. Prior to this visit, I'd read a lot about the effects of altitude, and how being in the foothills of the Andes was so important to moderate temperature effects. As a result, I expected the vineyards to be on slopes. But they aren't. There's such a slow gradation in altitude that the vineyards look like they are on huge, flat plateaus. Some of them are really big.

3. The quality of the wines we have experienced has been very high. We have only visited a few producers, but I now have a list of perhaps a dozen wines that I have felt to be truly world class. That's really encouraging.

4. Whites lag behind reds. I don't mind Torrontes, but it's not my favourite variety. The Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay is pretty good, and the Catena Alta Chardonnay is lovely; we also had a very impressive Dona Paula Sauvignon Blanc today. But it's the Malbecs, the red blends, and the Cabernets that excel here.

5. Of all the really good wines we have tried so far, our afternoon visit to Achaval Ferrer confirmed to me what I suspected from previous tastings: these are stunningly elegant expressions of Malbec. Mind you, the Catena Adrianna is up there (it's fantastic) and the top Terrazas wine isn't far off.

I think my sore throat is improving - last night I thought I was going to die, although dinner at a really smart tapas place in Mendoza (The Winery) revived me a bit. Fortunately this bug that is attacking my throat has left my nose alone: it would be horrible to travel all this way and then not be able to taste the wine.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Gestos Malbec: cheap and good

I'm hesitant to describe a £6 wine as 'cheap', because for many people that's quite a bit of money, and you'll just think I'm some loaded snob. But, let's face it, £6 isn't a lot for a bottle of wine these days. Maybe I should use the less loaded term 'affordable'. Well, here's an affordable Argentinian wine that has quite a bit going for it, including a really attractive label design that attempts to communicate the concept of terroir to the drinker. On the back label it says: 'Gestos made from earth, altitude, climate and grape giving wines their own soul and character'. It's nice to see terroir being used in the marketing of new world wines.

Finca Flichman 'Gestos' Malbec 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
An equal blend of grapes from 1100 m and 700 m, this is a deep coloured wine. The nose shows raspberry and blackberry fruit with a savoury, spicy overlay and some coffee and tar oak overtones. It's quite tight and reductive. The palate shows nice fresh red fruit character with a bit of plmmy bitterness and some spicy oak influence. It's a savoury wine with some depth, and drying, grippy tannins on the finish. Yet there's some ripeness and charm here also. It's not the most refined wine you'll ever drink, but for the price, there's a lot going on here, and it is tremendously food friendly. Would be perfect with a big Argentinian rump steak. 87/100 (£5.99 Majestic, Stevens Garnier)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Tasting at Bibendum

Hsien Min, a wine chum and fellow Man City fan, was in town on a visit from Singapore. So we grabbed a bit of lunch and then headed over to a mini-press tasting at Bibendum. Forty or so wines on show in an informal setting. The highlight for me was Catena's Alta Malbec 2004. This is concentrated, extremely refined and has lovely structure. It's not terribly new worldy, which I think is usually a good thing. This is a wine that I reckon will age gracefully. It might lose out in a blind tasting of Malbecs because it isn't the most assertive or spectacularly aromatic, but it is pretty grown up and sophisticated.

Bibendum are one of that rare breed of merchants with a decent blog.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Clos de los Siete 2006


New vintage of this rather controversial wine. Why controversial? Well, anything with the name Michel Rolland on the label is bound to stir up a bit of discussion, and this wine has been criticized in past vintages for being just too sweet, too ripe and too much everything.

I don't mind it. In its style, which is a distinctly new world one, the 2006 is a very good wine. I'd take it over any of Chile's icon wines, for example, and, at £10.99 (with discounts available at both Majestic and Oddbins), it's good value for money. Here's my note:

Clos de los Siete 2006 Mendoza, Argentina
A collaborative project by seven producers under the banner of Michel Rolland, this is a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Very dark in the glass, this is not a shy wine: it's 15% alcohol, and the grapes are picked quite late, by hand, before undergoing a cold pre-ferment maceration. The dominant feature here is sweet, lush, dark fruits. The oak, which gives a spicy sheen, is very much in the background. There's some structure here, with grippy tannins hiding under the sweet fruit, and overall the wine is savoury in character. My verdict? While this is clearly a modern, new world-style red, with its tannic structure it retains balance, and if you can get over the alcoholic heat, then this is a great companion to the usual Argentinean fare of large quantities of steak. Although it's not my favourite style, this is a wine I'd happily recommend to people who are new to wine because the sweetness of fruit makes it so accessible, and it offers great value for money. 90/100

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Argentina, again

I seem to be covering Argentina quite a bit of late. Today was the Argentinean trade tasting at Lords, which seemed quite well attended. I caught a seminar on terroir and Malbec, which was presented by Philippe Rolet of Alta Vista.

He presented three single vineyard Malbec wines, from roughly similar altitudes, in three different vintages. The goal was to show consistent differences between the vineyards. The wines, from 2003, 2004 and 2005, were all fantastic, and all three vineyards seemed to have their own individual stamp.

But beacuse this was a 'generic' tasting, the rules were that the wines had to be shown bagged (blind). Politics. However, it was clear from the corks that these were Alta Vista's single vineyard wines, which made the bagging process rather pointless.

Chatting later to someone, their comment was that the wine business in Argentina is very political. 'Imagine Italy', they said to me, 'but ten times worse!'

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Malbec and meat - a heavenly marriage

Did you know that the annual consumption of beef by an adult in Argentina is 68 kilograms? Incredible. Someone has worked out that this equates to a seven ounce steak each, every day.

Today I was one of the judges at the finals of the Malbec Made for Meat competition, held at the Gaucho, Piccadilly. The Gaucho is a wonderful Argentinean restaurant which also has a wine shop attached to it, Cavas de Gaucho. [Pictured are fellow judges sitting opposite me: Victoria Moore has her mouth full, Anthony Rose is reaching to select the perfect match, and Peter Richards is jotting down his.]

Our task was to taste 14 wines (the finalists) blind with three different meats: pork, lamb and beef, assiging a score to the quality of the match ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (sublime). It was an interesting exercise, and even more so because there was a steak and Malbec masterclass sandwiched in the middle of the proceedings.

In this masterclass, Gaucho beef expert Ryan Hattingh showed us the different cuts, discussed their merits, told us how to prepare them best - and then we got to eat them. There was loads and loads of steak to munch, and it was lovely. Each of the five different steaks were then matched with a specific Malbec, and the pairing was brilliant in all but one of the cases.

I came away from the session full of meat, and impressed by how well Argentinean Malbec and steak works as a pairing. Malbec and rare Patagonian lamb also works well, but perhaps not as spectacularly, and Malbec and pork is merely an adequate match in most cases. A full write up on the beef and Malbec masterclass will follow promptly on the main bit of the site.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Procrastination, and wild rock rocks!

One of the features of the broadband internet age is that there are now 1001 ways to procrastinate. Never before has it been so easy to put off doing proper work by hopping over to check the BBC news site, or waste time on facebook or flickr, pick up emails yet again, or just generally arse around on various blogs and internet sites.

At least in the age of dial-up it cost money to stay online, and getting online was a mild hassle so you just collected your messages a few times a day. 'Always on' connections make this sort of discipline difficult. I find that to work effectively, it takes me perhaps five minutes to get in the zone, and maybe another 10 to function really efficiently. So if I'm continually replying to emails, or browsing, then it's much harder to achieve the state of maximum productivity. So I'm going to make a pledge to procrastinate less over the next month. [Heck, now this is beginning to sound like one of those awful 'work more efficiently in the information age' blogs...]

Back to wine. Last night, watching City record their their second successive victory of the new campaign on Match of the Day, I opened a Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005. And Wild Rock rocks! (see the tasting note below)

Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2005 Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
From the Craggy Range stable, this is a blend of Merlot and Malbec from the Gimblett Gravels of Hawkes Bay. It's really impressive: a lovely, well balanced red in a Bordeaux mould. Attractive nose of dark fruits - ripe but still fresh, with a minerally, gravelly edge. Dark, almost brooding palate shows a lovely savoury edge to the spicy dark fruits. Some grippy, spicy tannins on the finish, together with just the faintest hint of animal character, complete this satisfying wine, which is not at all sweet or over-ripe. In its focus and depth, it reminds me a bit of some of the leading Margaret River reds from Australia. 90/100 (£9.99 Waitrose, on offer at £7.49 from 3-30th September 2007)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A big Malbec and a Black Tower

Three days without rain now. Looks like we're going to get a summer (of sorts) after all. And two rather different but quite interesting red wines to report on.

But first a slight digression about oak. Have you ever noticed that oak is very much more obvious when you open a bottle and pour it immediately, than when you've opened a bottle, poured some wine out and then let it sit (or decanted it)? I wasn't keen on the Lafage Roussillon white I reported on recently immediately after I'd opened it because of the obvious new oak, but it settled down after a night in the fridge. The Torres Gran Sangre de Toro also came across as overoaked immediately on opening, and was better some hours later. Tonight's first red also seemed much more oaky on opening than it does now, some three hours later. Why is this?

First up we have a very good Argentinean Malbec. This isn't a subtle wine: it's extracted, it's very ripe, it's quite alcoholic, and 14 months in French oak were needed to tame the tannins. If I was the winemaker I'd make some adjustments here which I think could turn this very good wine into a superb one. I'm enjoying it, still, and for the price it's good value if you're in the mood for something big.

Salentein Malbec 2004 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Very deep coloured, this inky dark wine has a full nose of ripe dark fruits, spice, some minerals and new oak. The palate is bold, ripe, spicy and quite tannic with sweet spicy oak adding a slightly confected quality. There's high alcohol evident, too. It's a big old wine with plenty of oomph, but there's some spicy complexity, too. Begging for a big steak to go with it. I'd probably have preferred this to have a touch less extraction, a little less ripeness and a bit less oak, because the vineyard is clearly an excellent one, but for the price this is very good value and if you are in the right mood, it's more-ish. 89/100 (£8.49 Tesco)

The second wine can be seen to the right of the Salentein in the picture. Yes, folks, this is Black Tower, but not as we know it. This successful German brand, a frequent guest at dinner parties in the 1970s along with its peer, Blue Nun, is back. The wine in question, in the distinctive (and appalling) tall, tower-like bottle with a mottled finish, is a red, made from Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. It's actually quite drinkable.

Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir 2006 Pfalz, Germany
Hideous bottle shape. Deep coloured with sweet red and black fruits on the nose, showing creamy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is summer pudding in a glass - blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants - with some sweetness and a juicy quality. Some residual sugar here? Astute commercial winemaking. 82/100 (£4.49 Tesco)

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Print versus online, and Argentina

Journalism: print versus online? Both are useful. I don't take a newspaper regularly, with the notable exception of the Sunday Express, which we purchase religiously from the same newsagent each week, along with a bag of sweets (maximum value 50 p) for each of the boys (they get to choose). If I do, I tend to rotate between the usual suspects: The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph. Three very different papers, but all usually containing some very good journalism. Yes, there's a political slant with each paper, but party politics is something we try to shed as we grow up.

My confession is, however, that I'm one of those sad individuals who reads newspapers the wrong way: I start with the sport. It's almost instinctive for me to flip a paper over and begin at the end. Most of the sports journalism I read is online at the BBC news site, and I've been impressed by the quality of it. Take this report on the Open golf, for example. It's written in that tight, two sentence paragraph online style, but it's a good piece. And I also admit to enjoying the BBC ball-by-ball commentaries on the test by Ben Dirs and Tom Fordyce, which are thoroughly entertaining.

Tonight's wine focus is on Argentinean Malbec. I'm writing up my notes from a mega-tasting of 50 different examples. But I've also tasted two inexpensive-yet-good Malbecs, one from Catena's Argento brand, and one from Finca Flichman. I rated both similarly, but stylistically prefer the Flichman because it's more food compatible. Both are very good value.

Argento Malbec 2006 Mendoza
This spends 3 months in a mix of French and American oak. Deep coloured, it has sweet, assertive, slightly jammy raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose. The palate shows full, pure, rather jammy red and black fruits with a rich texture. There's a spicy undercurrent to this well made, more-ish wine. Is there a bit of residual sugar here? 86/100 (£5.99 Majestic, but £3.99 if you buy two; £5.99 Tesco, Sainsbury)

Finca Flichman Mysterio Malbec 2006
Deep, spicy, plummy dark fruits on the nose. Sweet, but with a savoury twist. The palate has a good concentration of ripe dark fruits with some chocolatey richness and a savoury, spicy character from the oak. It's a substantial wine, and offers more than you've any right to expect at this price. The plummy, savoury bitterness is almost Italian in style and makes it food friendly. 86/100 (£4.99 Co-op, Sainsbury)

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