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Wine from Bibendum, UK

by Tom Cannavan, 03/00

I belong to the Wine Advisory Group for a large Scottish institution, and this was a tasting on their behalf of wines from UK merchant Bibendum. Bibendum are a well established fine wine dealer, whose original retail shop in London expanded into a successful mail order and now Web business. At the same time the agency side of their business has grown, and they represent and distribute wines from a really good range of producers, from "everyday" to serious fine wines. Wines are sold on a 6 bottle per wine minimum order. Some of the wines can also be found in other retailers. The tasting was not blind, and prices are quoted excluding Value Added Tax.

Sparkling

Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Première Cuvée NV - £16.67
Pale to medium gold. Bubbles are small and densely-packed, rising in an even stream. This has a beautiful nose: fantastically rich and toasty with lots of herbs and baked apple pie aromas, as well as peachy fruit and hints of darker, caramel notes. Some old wine character here, it has a richly-foaming mousse and good structure. Long, savoury and elegant, this is a cracking NV Champagne. Highly recommended.

Whites

La Serre (France) Chardonnay VdP d'Oc 1998 - £4.08
Pale gold colour. Soft, attractive nose of nut and peach. Clean and crisp, this is nicely put together with peachy fruit, refreshing acidity and a little bit of style and length. Very sound commercial stuff.

Ca'Bianca (Italy) Gavi Alice del Colle - £5.42
Gavi is a wine that's both trendy and invariably rather expensive. This is a nice example, with a pale, almost transparent colour and a subdued nose of flowers, herbs and plenty of citrus fruit. Quite full and rich on the palate, the lemony flavours continue and it finishes crisp and clean.

Deakin Estate (Australia) Colombard 1999 - £4.25
Medium gold/straw colour. Pungent, leafy, herbaceous fruit on the nose: quite nettly and powerful. On the palate a really orangy element dominates the fruit, with savoury acidity and good length. Really a very flavourful Colombard with plenty of character (normally something of a contradiction in terms).

Terre di Ginestra (Italy) Catarratto 1998 - £4.58
Catarratto is the grape (I had to ask). Quite a light, but bright gold colour tinged green. Very fat, oily, rich and pungent fruit on the nose. Nectarines and orange. Lots of sweetness too as it strikes the palate before a pillow of tangy fruit and crisp acidity freshens the whole picture. Lovely.

Ceps de Sud (France) Viognier VdP d'Oc 1998 - £4.38
Fabulously perfumed nose, just loaded with sweet peach and apricot aromas and a floral note. Lots of fruit on the palate too. This also has plenty of body and alcohol, but not overly so: a fine example of commercial but classy wine-making.

Springfield Estate (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc "Life from Stone" 1999 - £5.42
Named because the vineyard land was cleared by moving hundreds of tons of huge boulders from a rock-strewn hillside. The "Special Cuvée" sauvignon from this estate was an absolute star of a tasting I attended last year, and this little brother is a very nice wine, if not in the same class. Pale straw colour and fine, aromatic nose. This is pungent with tropical fruit emerging from a nettle and herbal first impression. On the palate lots of gooseberry and tart fruit notes as well as zipping acidity and fine ripeness. Pure and long in the finish, a lovely Sauvignon.

Lawson's Dry Hills (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 1999 - £6.50
Wonderfully pungent, powerful nose: a real blast of greengage, gooseberry and grapefruit. There's a mass of crunchy, leafy fruit and plenty of citrus too on the palate. Sweet, candied tropical nuances lift the palate and it finishes with crisp acidity. Another very good Sauvignon in a typical Marlborough style.

Reds

Ceps de Sud (France) Old Vine Mourvèdre VdP d'Oc 1998 - £4.00
Medium/pale crimson colour. Big, swaggering barnyard nose. Packed with plum, chocolate and black cherry fruit. Bitter/sweet on the palate with dusty fruit and tannins, but great ripeness. Bags of character at the price.

Terre di Ginestra (Italy) Nero d'Avola 1998 - £5.08
Very dark but vibrant purple. Good fruit again here: plenty of raspberry and strawberry softness, very bright and lively. There's an influence of oak on the palate, quite charry, with black coffee flavours, chocolaty texture and drying tannins.

Deakin Estate (Australia) Shiraz 1999 - £4.25
Bright, zingy crimson/purple. Pale rim. Big, juicy bramble jelly and sloe-fruited nose. Palate is crammed with creamy berry fruit, soft tannins and balanced acidity. An absolutely delicious glugging wine.

d'Arenberg (Australia) "d'Arry's Original" Shiraz/Grenache 1998 - £6.04
Nice glossy dark crimson colour. Cream, berries and lovely deep cherry fruit on the nose. Lots of chocolaty depth to blueberry and damsons. On the palate pepper and spice dusted over more black fruit and a nice sour acidity giving savouriness. Long and delicious.

Bouchard-Finlayson (South Africa) Galpins Peak Pinot Noir 1998 - £12.38
The last time I tasted this was a barrel sample, with the winemaker. Now, 9 months later and bottled it has a fine, pale, ruby/crimson colour and a nose suffused with soft strawberry fruit beneath a blanket of toasty, charry oak. There's a real ripeness of fruit on the palate without being at all jammy, and there are layers of toasted and earthy flavours too. Very nicely balanced, perhaps one best drunk whilst young and fresh.

Jean Lionnet (Rhône) Côtes du Rhône 1997 - £6.96
Lionnet is a good maker of Cornas, and this wine is said to contain a large percentage of syrah de-classified from that appellation. It has a very rich ruby colour and a distinctive syrah nose of pepper, earth, wood-smoke and herbs. The palate is quite opulent, with fat fruit, but there is structure too with fine tannins and good length. Probably worth the apparently high price for a Côtes du Rhône.