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Red Nose wines 2011

by Tom Cannavan, 03/11

lenny henry In 1999 Jancis Robinson and her husband founded Wine Relief, an offshot of the Comic Relief charity that encourages wine retailers to donate some of their profits to the appeal. In turn, we can donate painlessly by buying a bottle or two of wine before red nose day on March 18th. Below are my notes on some of this year's crop, all of which will generate 10% of their purchase price directly for the charity. At the bottom of the page is a full list of participating merchants. Drink well and give generously.


Waitrose Cava Brut, Spain
11.5% abv. Lots of small bubbles and a refined aroma of apples, a touch of custard and some herby notes too. On the palate this has a fair bit of sweetness; it seems sweeter than Brut, but then that gives it a very easy-drinking softness and this stylish wine has length and a lovely, pin-sharp acidity in the finish. This offers very good value. 86/100. £6.99, Waitrose.

Kiki, Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2009, New Zealand
12%. Let's face it, making sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in the prime Marlborough region is not something the world would have seen had it not been for a huge grape glut since 2008 and the need for winemakers to get creative. What we have here may have been born of necessity, but what fun it is: the nose is clean and citrussy, with just a hint of tropical, mango-like fruit. The herbal aspects of Marlborough SB is quite subdued, and a small proportion of barrel-fermented Chardonnay adds a little creamy, mealy touch. On the palate it has a buoyant personality with plenty of keen-edged lime fruit and acidity and despite a touch of easy-drinking residual sugar, a basically dry finish. Surprisingly successful this. 86/100. £10.99, Virgin Wines.


The Devil's Peak, Limited Edition Chenin Blanc 2010, South Africa
13%. Western Cape. There's a touch of honey and honeysuckle floral character here, as well as a hint of vanilla (from some barrel ageing), but the crunchy apple fruit is the driving force. On the palate quite a full texture and plenty of apple again, a hint of residual sweetness and sour lemon acidity pushing through. 86/100. £7.99, Virgin Wines.

Southbank Estate, Hawkes Bay Pinot Grigio 2009, New Zealand
14%. Interesting to note Southbank have chosen to call this Grigio rather than Gris, which I tend to think of as sending out a styling clue. It is pertly aromatic on the nose without being gripping, with some pear, apple and little hints of more pineappley ripeness. On the palate there's a fair bit of sweetness here, which sits slightly awkwardly against the acidity for me. 82/100. £7.99, Majestic

Knappstein, Handpicked Riesling 2010, Australia
12.5%. Clare Valley. A gentle, waxed lemon nose has a little hint of something mineral and salty too, teetering on the paraffin character that some love more than others in their Riesling. On the palate this is dry, with a lovely sense of smooth, limpid clarity to the lemon and apple fruit and acidity. Quite a full texture, the pithy, drying finish keeping it sharp. 87/100. £8.99, Majestic.

Ken Forrester, Chenin Blanc 2008, South Africa
13.5%. Stellenbosch. The Cape's Chenin maestro Ken Forrester is a byword for quality and consistency and this beautifully-pitched example (once a little sulphur blows off) has some toast and gravel complexity (from partial barrel fermentation), a certain slatey smokiness and a suggestion of exotic fruit layered on the apple aromas. On the palate it is wonderfully crisp yet full-flavoured and textured, with a hint of honey and vanilla sweetness swept up in the lemony acidity of the finish. 88/100. Buy two at £6.99 each until end May, Majestic.

workhorse chenin Ken Forrester, Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2010, South Africa
13.5%. Alluring nose here, the quality hints of toast and brioche evidence of a little French oak influence, over abundantly ripe apple fruit. On the palate this is focused and terrifically decisive: the fresh, juicy apple tang of the fruit and the lemon zest sharpness of the acids is just teased into softness by some creamy, nutty but very delicate and floral oak influence in the finish. Fabulously stylish. 88/100. £7.49, Marks & Spencer.

Journey's End, Honeycomb Chardonnay 2009, South Africa
13.5%. There's plenty of French oak influence here from six months ageing, with loads of charry toast and vanilla. On the palate the ripe fruit is sweet and mouth-filling, the Ogen melon and apple joined by plenty of fresh acidity, that melds nicely with the creamy oak in a Chardonnay with plenty of class and a very drinkable style. Long and would cellar for a couple of years. 89/100. £9.99, Marks & Spencer.

Champeteloup, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2009, France
12%. The grape of Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, needs careful handling to give it real expression, and here some lovely mineral, Oyster-shell character sings out. Beneath, there's some tangy but ripe apple and lemon fruit. On the palate this is sharp and crisp, with a bit of apple skin bite to the acidity and a nice, long, fish and seafood-friendly finish. 86/100. £5.99, Waitrose.

Cono Sur, Viognier, Chile
13.5%. An attractively crisp yet exotic nose, with peach-down perfume and a tiny hint of honey. On the palate this is richly-textured, with a big, very sweet-fruited palate showing lots of luscious nectarine and ripe pear, and a bright tangerine and lime-like acidity. Punchy and packed with personality. 88/100. £7.99, Waitrose.

Forte Alto, Pinot Grigio 2010, Italy
12%. From the north of Italy in the foothills of the Dolomites, there's a faint apple and dry, underripe melon character, but it is subtle. On the palate this has a nice medium-weight and a fine, juicy personality. It is dry and restrained, the fruit having some real ripeness and sweetness, but in that understated and food-friendly white fruit style, with fresh acidity. 85/100. £7.99, Waitrose.

Wither Hills, Pinot Gris 2010, New Zealand
14.0%. A small proportion of this Marlborough wine was fermented with wild yeasts in older oak barrels, which perhaps adds to the nutty, oatmeally notes on the nose, with a candy-apple fruitiness beneath. There's an attractive, delicate floral note too. On the palate this is off-dry, with a big rush of very sweet, very intense pineapple and mango fruit that is vivaciously Marlborough. The pear and apple acidity tempers the finish, playing against the sweetness, though one does feel the power of the alcohol. This would come into its own with the right food: Thai perhaps, or crepes with creamy chicken. 88/100. £9.99, Waitrose.

darkly mysterious

Loom Wines, Black Pig Shiraz, Australia
14.5%. Clare Valley. Typically big, creamy, vanilla and cream nose with lots of cherry-edged, dark bramble fruit. Big and very, very sweet fruit on the palate, which floods across the tongue with lots of keen black fruit, all given a bit of a gamy, robust earthy and spicy edge. Loads of flavour here, that little crisp cherry-skin edge adding nice freshness into the finish. 88/100. £9.99, Virgin Wines.

domaine les yeuses Domaine Les Yeuses, Cuvée Le Sirius Rouge 2008, France
13%. Vin de Pays d'Oc. Typical southerners Syrah and Grenache are joined by Merlot in this cuvée, where the bright raspberry and black cherry jam aromas are backed up by a little coffee and spice-like depth. On the palate the dry, savoury fruit has nice balance and a bit of red-meat-friendly herby depth and richness. 87/100. £6.99, Majestic

Domaine du Pech Rome, Tempranillo 2009, France
13.5%. Vin de Pays de Caux. The Tempranillo vines were planted here in 1980, 'here' being the Languedoc (I had to look the little-known 'Vin de Pays de Caux' up). The wine has a very vibrant purple colour and beautifully clean, graphite-touched nose of juicy blackberries. On the palate there's a creaminess to the texture that is very alluring, the richness of the fruit is concentrated and coats the tongue, and hints of tobacco and subtle spices marry with the ripe tannins in the finish. Really very stylish stuff. 88/100. £7.99, Majestic.

Villa Lanata, Barbera d'Alba Sucule 2007, Italy
14%. This Piedmontese Barbera has a touch of gamy character, but also a floral lift in a nose that is quite complex, with some old roses and cherry notes too. On the palate this is dry and has plenty of acidity and lean, sinewy tannin set against the crisp, cherryish fruit. This is certainly on the leaner side, with that lightly gamy, animal note adding to the savoury dryness in a wine that would be best with a big bowl of meatballs and spaghetti. 88/100. £9.99, Majestic.

Charles Back, Barbera 2008, South Africa
14%. Twelve months in French oak has given a smoky vanilla note to the nose of this wine, with a faintly animal, almost medicinal edge, but also some tight but glossy and ripe red fruits. Quite complex. On the palate the cedar and smoke-touched red fruit dominates, with raspberry and plum flavours having plenty of flesh and sweetness. The creamy tannins and the quality French oak bring coffee and toast, and the pert acidity of the Barbera leaves this sweet and fruity, but tangy and dry too. Match to meatballs in a tomato sauce for a slice of heaven. 89/100. £9.99, Marks & Spencer

Vuvuzela, Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Spain
13.5%. The idea of the noisy South African Vuvuzela being the chosen brand of a Spanish wine seems odd, but then the small type says "España - World Champions," so that clears that up! This blend from the hot plains of La Mancha has a pert, cherry and blueberry nose with a bit of floral lift and is unadorned by oak. On the palate it is very direct: juicy, sweet cherry fruit, a little herb and pepper twist, and a nicely chewy balance of tannins and acidity. 86/100. £5.99, Waitrose.

Inycon Nero d'Avola/Frapatto 2009, Italy
13%. An interesting little wine from Sicily blending Nero d'Avola with the seldom-seen Frapatto, a Sicilian native. Juicy is the word for the nose, with keen, fresh black berries and ripe black cherries flooding out, a little hint of charcoally definition too. On the palate this has a lightness about it, despite having a seem of concentrated, plum-skin and liquorice bittersweet fruit, but there's an edge and a hint of florality that gives this lift and zing. Yummy stuff for pizza. 87/100. £6.49, Waitrose.

Calvet, Limited Release Bordeaux Merlot 2009, France
13%. Lifted, kirsch-like aromas of cherry and red plum suggest an unoaked, ripe style of Merlot, with a touch of lipsticky carbonic maceration perhaps. The palate has really juicy and keen black fruit: this is flooded with those sweet and plump black fruit flavours, with modest tannins and acids giving a bit of structure in a very gluggable, lamb-friendly wine. 86/100. £6.99, Waitrose

participating good guys

Each is offering red nose wines, arranging special events or running competitions:

Also a couple of noteworthy special events: