Last night, we spent a lovely evening at our local (Hale Barns) Majestic store, enjoying their summer tasting. We were warmly welcomed by the manager, Nick, who offered us a choice of sparkling French rosé or Nyetimber Classic Cuvée. Being patriotic and having tasted Nyetimber before, we chose the latter. Nyetimber is (gasp) an English producer making sparkling wines from the classic Champagne grapes, based in the south-east of the country. Fun fact for wine trivia geeks: the Nyetimber estate was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, although vines weren’t planted there until about 900 years later. The Classic Cuvée is less complex than Nyetimber’s other wines, but it’s a really pleasant fresh and citrusy wine, which can certainly hold its own against Champagne.
We then headed to the corner where the whites and rosés were being poured. The first wine was my favourite white of the evening: Léon Perdigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc, a blend of the classic Rhône grapes: Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. It had a very classy restrained peachy fruitiness and a fine balance between body and acidity.
Confession: I was dreading the next wine, St Clair Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc. After years of using Marlborough Sauv Blanc as my go-to wine because I didn’t know that I liked anything else, since I spread my WSET wings, I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to it. However, always prepared to address my fears, as long as they involve drinking wine, I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised. Although it was powerfully fruity, it was more restrained than some of the overly-aggressive SBs that have been coming out of Marlborough of late, and that the fruit lent more to grapefruit than gooseberry, making a refreshing change. It’s not going to convert me back to Kiwi SB, but it had a good try.
Next was the Killka Chardonnay, Bodegas Salentin. Although I have conquered my fear of oaky Chardonnay, I always approach it rather warily. This one wasn’t to my taste; I found that the oak dominated the fruit too much for me. If you’re a lover of big oaky Chardonnays, then it might be just right for you.
The final white was Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru from Alsace. This was more my kind of wine, with the emphasis on white fruit flavours. It was medium dry, making it a great choice for anyone who’s not keen on dry whites. It was great when paired with some of the delicious gorgonzola dolce provided alongside.
Celebrity wine alert – the first rosé was the much-fêted “Brangelina” Miraval. I’d heard a lot of good things about this and was excited about trying it. It’s a very delicate pink, that tastes closer to a white, but with subtle hints of strawberry. It was very pleasant, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity of tasting it, but I couldn’t really get excited about it.
The second rosé was completely different: Pizarras De Otero Rosé, a Spanish wine made from Mencia grapes. This was a bright Schiaparelli pink that seemed to glow in the bottle. It had powerful raspberry flavours and I think that it would make a great accompaniment for all those great British barbecues that are surely just around the corner, great British weather permitting.
Moving on to the reds, first up was Fleurie Giles Gelin. This wine is produced by pressing the grapes, rather than using carbonic maceration, resulting in a wine with more “real” red fruit flavours than the rather confected banana and bubblegum taste that lesser Beaujolais can have. Although it was light and fruity, it also had soft tannins that gave it a bit more weight and depth.
The second red was Crozes Les Saviaux (100% Syrah). This had the classic Rhône flavours of red fruit and white pepper, with nicely balanced tannins providing a bit of length.
Third was my favourite red of the evening: Le Difese Tenuta San Guido, aka a “Super-Tuscan”. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese, this was a very sophisticated combination of cedar, dried cherry, blackberry and smoky tobacco. Gorgeous.
The final wine of the evening (unless you count my second helping of the Le Difese) was P15 Malbec from Patagonia. This was smooth and rich with chocolately and plum flavours. By this point, all the other tasters had left (lightweights!), so after a repeat tasting of the Le Difese, just to make sure, and a bit more of the yummy cheese, we called it a night.
Some of my friends have said that they’re unsure about visiting Majestic, because the range of wines looks overwhelming and they wouldn’t have a clue what to choose. I always give them 2 pieces of advice: 1) look out for recommendations in papers and magazines; and 2) just call in and let the staff help you out. They’re all WSET qualified and completely unpretentious, just very enthusiastic about wine and keen to spread the love by helping you to find something that you will enjoy. They always have some bottles open and regularly hold free tastings, giving you an opportunity to try something new and possibly find your new favourite wine.
Thanks to Nick and his team at Majestic Hale Barns for a lovely evening. When our wine rack permits, we’ll be back for some of the Le Difese!