Roc Primeur Bordeaux, France 2021 (£13.99, or £11.99 as part of a mixed case of 12, Laithwaites) For obvious reasons, the pandemic was a busy time for wine online, with sales by some of the bigger players rising by as much as 300% during the various lockdowns. If many of us have now gone back to pre-pandemic ways of buying wine, it seems plenty have stuck with their online habit, just as Zooms and Teams have (for better or worse) replaced a lot of in-person meetings. Appropriately enough, the biggest player in this sector – Laithwaites – conducted its latest press tasting online, sending out samples and getting its team of wine buyers to discuss their choices via video. I enjoyed the small selection from the retailer’s 1,200-bottle range I tried at home, which included two from the region with which the company first made its name, Bordeaux. Roc Primeur is a lively very modern, youthful, fresh chillable, cassis-scented red; and Château le Coin Sauvignon Gris 2021 (£12.99) is a nicely weighted but scintillating white peach and grapefruit flavoured white.
Vino Atlantico Txakoli, Spain 2019 (£17.99, Naked Wines) Another highlight from Laithwaites (that, like most merchants, has its best prices if you buy by the case of 12 bottles (mixed or otherwise) is a really juicy red Chilean made by the talented winemaker Ricardo Baettig of Viña Morande from the currently fashionable país grape variety. Pencahue Estate 2019 (£10.99, or £8.99 in a case) has the silky feel and brightness of fruit that I associate with wines made in the egg-shaped concrete vessels that many winemakers now prefer to wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks. On the white side, I enjoyed the distinctive Lebanese combination of muscat, local variety obeidy and viognier in Ixsir Altitudes Blanc 2021 (£20, or £18.99 in a case): a headily rose-garden aromatic, peachily mouthfilling and lemon-pithy refreshing match for a feast of tahini and zaatar-spiced fresh foods. It contrasts nicely with my favourite white from a set of ‘30 under £30’ sent to me by Laithwaites’s online rivals, Naked Wines: the vivaciously brisk, intensely orange citrussy modern take on the seafood-partnering Basque classic, txakoli.
PI Saperavi, Kakheti Georgia 2020 (£20.99, Naked Wines) There’s a nice story behind my favourite red in the Naked selection. According to the Naked spiel, the company’s wine director Ray O’Connor came across it in a hidden winery in the back garden of winemakers Levan Chichinadze and Teona Omarashvili’s home in the centre of Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Made from the great inky dark Georgian grape variety saperavi, grown in the country’s main growing region, Kakheti, it’s dry, but there’s something almost black-forest gateau about it: a luxuriously sensual velvety sheen of deep dark black cherry and blackberry, all beautifully balanced by perky acidity. It’s cut-out for roast lamb, but I also enjoyed it with some very dark, almost savoury high-cocoa chocolate. Below £10, I was impressed by the easy-drinking spicy succulence of Sam Plunkett The Butterfly Effect Shiraz 2021 from Victoria in Australia (£9.99); the ‘tarte tatin in a glass’ of Loire sweet wine Domaine Des Deux Vallees Coteaux du Layon 2020 (£10.99, 37.5cl) is a lovely partner for the cheese at the end of a long and lingering summer lunch.
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