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Avery's Project Winemaker

by Tom Cannavan, 02/12

bottles Avery's Project Winemaker series of wines are made by members of the Avery's senior team like Buying Director Emma Roberts. They travel to wine regions around the world where they have good relationships with growers and producers, to select vineyard plots and oversee the whole production of a wine for the series in tandem with the winemakers. Writing for the Avery's blog, Emma says "From concept to launch Project Winemaker takes a surprisingly long time. Recognising which growers and vineyards will give us the best fruit and working with the winemaker on harvest dates, vinification process and how we plan to age the wine is the first stage. Following harvest we re-assess and then anywhere between 3- 12 months later we finalise the blend and at this stage can confirm when we will bottle and ship the wine to the UK - which in itself can take anywhere between 2-8 weeks."

So clearly there is a big investment in these wines - much more so than some own-label wines I suspect, where a buyer will taste a range of ready-made samples and slap a label on the one they can secure at a suitable price. So far the series has included wines from various regions of France, Australia, South Africa and Chile, but at the end of last year Emma's travels continued as she headed for California and Washington State in search of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines are reasonably priced, mostly around the £8.00 - £10.00 mark, and offer extremely good expressions of both the grape varieties represented (they tend to be single-varietal wines) and the regions concerned. The template is generally for fresher, more elegant styles, but still with plenty of fruit, easy drinkability and typicity. It is a very successful and interesting range for sure, and a different sort of animal from many other own-label wines.

white wines

Project Winemaker Pays d'Oc Sauvignon Blanc 2010, France
This Languedoc Sauvignon is partly aged in large (500 litre) barrels from Seguin Moreau. It has a really lovely nose, the vanilla and gently floral delicacy of the oak melding with quite ripe, slightly tropical fruit suggesting mango and necatrine, but with a citrus freshness too. On the palate this balances ripe, juicy stone fruit flavours with the little herby and lemony cut of the Sauvignon, the oak fading into the background but adding a subtle texture and richness. Balanced acidity keeps the finish fresh. An unusual and very successful style of Sauvignon Blanc, and well priced. 88-89/100. £7.99, Averys

Project Winemaker Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010, Australia
The Adelaide Hills has become a hotspot for cooler climate styles of Chardonnay in South Australia, the little bit of elevation dropping a few degrees of average temperature from vineyards on the flat. This wine is lightly oaked, and offers nicely vanilla and brioche-licked aromas of fresh pear and apple, with just hints of more tropical fruit beneath. On the palate the wine delivers full fruit sweetness: with 14.5% alcohol this is short on neither texture or impact, the oatmeal and custard richness of the oak and texture sitting very nicely beneath the crisp fruit and elegant apple acidity of the finish. Lovely with some pork and cinnamon-apple stuffing. 89/100. £9.99, Averys

Project Winemaker Limoux Chardonnay 2010, France
The Chardonnays of Limoux in the Languedoc are relatively scarce on UK wine shelves, but quality of wines, especially from a clutch of small producers (the local co-op is responsible for the vast majority of production) is extremely high. This barrel fermented and aged wine comes from selected vineyard parcels and has a nose that is at once pretty and rich. Subtle white flower and hazelnut notes join juicy orchard fruits. On the palate the oak ageing and lees stirring adds an oatmeally, limpid weight, but the citrus acidity streaks through with lime at the core, the flesh of the mid-palate building all the time. A fine, expressive Chardonnay with savoury appeal but precision too. 91/100. £14.99, Averys

red wines

Project Winemaker Clare Valley Old Vine Grenache 2010, Australia
grenache From dry farmed and seriously elderly bush vines (80 to 100 years old), this 14.5% ABV red was aged only in older oak barrels in order not to overwhelm the aromatics. The nose does have a very appealing, lifted and light nose of cherry, kirsch and wild, herb-strewn hillsides - very Roussillon in many way. On the palate it is medium-bodied but has great concentration. The fat black fruit fills the mid-palate, but there's a twist of liquorice and a firm, charcoally bite too with powerful spice to the tannins and a crunch to the acidity that leaves it big and slightly hot in the finish, but full of personality. 89/100. £8.99, Averys

Project Winemaker Adelaide Hills Merlot 2010, Australia
From the relatively cool Adelaide Hills, often the source of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this lightly-oaked Merlot has cedar and spice on the nose, a touch of lifted green herbs and floral notes, and juicy plum fruit. The palate is fairly lean in style, despite a fairly hefty 14.5% alcohol, as grippy tannins and acidity, and a certain spiciness, are set against the fruit. There's spice again in the finish in a wine that doesn't fall into the soft and soppy Merlot trap, and which has the structure and serious edge to make it a fine match with lamb or venison. 88/100. £8.99, Averys

Project Winemaker Mourvèdre 2010, South Africa
A Wine of the Week before Christmas, the Mourvèdre is a grape rarely seen on labels as a single variety, as it is often parts of a southern Rhône-style blend. The aromas here are classically meaty and deep, with plenty of dark bramble fruit but some spices, leather, old polished wood and little floral nuances too in a quite complex profile. The palate delivers a big, substantially meaty and full mouthful, with a stripe of grippy tannin and a little softening edge from ageing in large oak barrels. Robust, chewy, but not without sweet fruit ripeness and charm, it's a lovely wine. 89/100. £8.99, Averys

Project Winemaker Minervois Carignan 2009, France
Having raved about some of the serious styles of Carignan now coming out of Chile and France, it is good to see this historically less important grape being fashioned into something a bit special here. From vineyards in the Minervois that are up to 105 years old, the fruit on the nose has a lovely lifted 'garrigue' note of herbs and wild flowers, some gamey underpinnings and a solid core of ripe black fruit. On the palate the sweetness and ripeness of that fleshy bramble and black plum fruit comes through, with gentle support from the oak and that sinewy, gamey character, and the acidity nice and brightly focused. A lovely wine with complexity and savoury depth. 90/100. £9.99, Averys