River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Trade Secrets

August 2006

Our monthly wine update from our own connoiseur

One of the first things you learn when you join the wine trade is that it, like every other profession, has its secrets. There are wines that they drink that they don't particularly want you to. Why? Well simple laws of demand and supply, if they let you into their little secrets they'd sell more and would end up having to charge more and when you work in the trade you tend to get paid rather less than an unemployed church mouse and so such matters are important! Still, as I have left those heady, not to say hazy, days behind me, and its time to spill the beans...

In at the deep end, and Riesling. Riesling is the greatest variety in the world - this is not an opinion, this is a statement of viticultural fact and if anyone would care to counter this please address all comments to Jancis Robinson's purple pages. Riesling is not only capable of producing the most profound, intense and long lived of all sweet wines, it is also capable of creating stunning dry wines, wines with the refreshment capacity of top flight Sancere, all the complexity of fine Chablis and all at a price that makes the other wines look seriously poor value. For the greatest dry Rieslings one doesn't go to the grapes spiritual home, Germany, but across the border to France, specifically that most Germanic of French regions, Alsace. Alsace is, by virtue of the Vosges Mountains, the driest part of France and often enjoys long, warm and dry autumns - essential for variety that likes to take its time about ripening. Now these wines can get pricey, the very finest examples, Cuvee Frederich Emile and Clos St Hune by Trimbach can set you back up to £100 a bottle, but for a mere £4.99 you can get a very decent impression of how wonderful these wines can be with a bottle (or six) with the Tesco Finest Alsace Riesling. This super little wine has a beautiful fragrance of jasmine, lemons and is bursting with flavours of white grapes, grapefruit, limes and finishes with a clean, crisp almost viscerally dry finish. Pretty enough to make a sensational aperitif yet powerful enough to hold its own with fish, white meats or cheeses, it's as versatile as it is delicious.

Moving onto red wines, anyone with even a faint interest in the wines of the major regions of the world will have noticed that prices have gone soaring skywards. This irritating little fact of life is one that can be avoided if you know where to look. The key is to look for wines that come from neighbouring regions that employ the same winemaking techniques and grape varieties. So you will often see one of the wine trade merrily selling bottles of Rioja Reserva at £10 a bottle (and in the case of the Muga Reserva (Majestic) its cheap at half the price!) you will see them buying and drinking wines from Navarra, the large region that sits to the north of Rioja and whose wines are often just as good but at a far better price. Take the Malumbres Tinto, Navarra, 2004 (The Wine Society £4.75) a cracking little wine; it gives generous doses of spicy red berry and cherry fruit, touches of vanilla and lovely warm ending of fresh raspberries. Perfect barbecue wine, it gives a hell of a lot of wine for the money.

Another area whose wines have firmly leapt into the realms of the exclusively for the rich are the wines from Bordeaux. Claret, so long a stalwart of the Sunday lunch table, has recently become a wine that is firmly for high days and holidays and regrettably much at the so called affordable end is so dreary you might as well not bother. Happily though alternatives do exist and I don't mean those needlessly over extracted and increasingly unrealistically priced New World hommages. No, rather closer to home there are rafts of wines that offer good everyday claret drinking without the nutty price tag. Wines such as the Buzet Grande Tradition Cuvee Henry IV 2004 (Laithwaites £6.59), the Bergerac Domaine de L'Anciene Cuvee (www.yapp.co.uk £7.75) or the idiosyncratic Malbec based Cahors, Clos La Coutale, 2004 (The Wine Society £5.95) all take their lead from their more famed south-western neighbour.

Lastly but by no means least, Champagne. Sparkling wines used to be something little spoken of and best ignored. Mean, green and dangerous to know was often the mantra that was employed to describe the various attempts at copying the greatest fizzy wine in the world, but times have changed and no for a seriously small outlay you can get a glass of something so refined and elegant that you could be forgiven for thinking them the real thing. These wines come from all over the globe but a few of my favourites are the Duetz Marlborough Cuvee (www.everywine.co.uk £12.32) (Champagne Duetz's sparkling wine from New Zealand, which is light, crisp and refined, with delicious notes on green apple, pears and honeydew melon the wonderful Graham Beck Grande Cuvee (www.everywine.co.uk £10.33), a South African fizz I would drink over almost any non-vintage Champagne.

Well assuming the wine trade mafia don't exact a terrible revenge then they'll be more soon and do please keep the queries coming in on giles.luckett@talk21.com

Giles Luckett

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