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a selection from Friarwood Wines

by Tom Cannavan, 08/06

Friarwood wines have shops in London and Edinburgh, and trade online at www.friarwood.com. Friarwood is an independent merchant that has been trading since 1967, and many of their wines are imported by them for their retail customers, and large wholesale business, which supplies hotels, restaurants and other independent merchants.

This selection of wines from Friarwood was tasted over the past couple of months. The tasting was not blind.

Clifford Bay Estate (New Zealand) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Clifford Bay's 2004 delivers a knock-out blow of that ultra-characteristic Marlborough style, with masses of herbal, green bean and asparagus pungency, and very vivid, tightly-packed tropical gooseberry fruit aromas. The palate has a rush of fruit sweetness, with more tropical nuances of guava and peach, but a lime-streaked vibrancy too. The acidity is well-judged, with a lemony and quite mineral, pithy, dry quality, that is not too jarring against all that ripe fruit. This wine has moved on the 2005 vintage online. £9.95

Clifford Bay Estate (New Zealand) Marlborough Riesling 2004
On my trip to New Zealand earlier this year I really enjoyed the Rieslings that I tasted as a counterpoint to the steady stream of Sauvignons Blanc. That was especially true of the Rieslings from Central Otago and Marlborough, particularly the cooler sub-region of the Awatere Valley, the source of the fruit for this screwcapped wine. With around seven per cent Botrytis grapes going into the blend, the nose has a hint of marmalade and honey, but waxy lime aromas, a whiff of Paraffin and floral, lighter aromas dominate. On the palate it is quite weighty, with a touch of a waxy, pear and apple skin richness, loads of searing lime fruit and acidity, and just a hint of residual sugar that adds a little fat and texture before a long, tantalisingly just off-dry finish. Very nice drinking this, and delicious for summer. £9.95

Pascal Desroches (France) Reuilly Blanc 'Les Varennes' 2004
As a lovely counter-point to the New Zealand Sauvignon, this wine from the Loire has an almost transparent colour and a much more nuanced and delicate nose, with floral and sherbetty, orangy aromatics. On the palate it is crisp, yet gentle and refined, with a lovely rosewater and fine, delicately lemony fruit quality and beautifully balanced acidity. Very discreet and food-friendly. Pay your money and take your choice betwen these two utterly different, but equally expressive Sauvignons. £9.50

Domaine Bassac (France) VdP Coteaux de Murviel Rosé 2005
From a biodynamic and organic wine estate in the Languedoc, this is another unusual blend that contains Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the more expected Cinsault and Syrah from this region. It has a pale, salmon pink colour, and a delicately floral and herb-tinged nose, with fine, ripe strawberry and lighter fruit notes. On the palate this has a very nice light red wine fruity character, with a roughening hint of tannin and lovely , soft, earthy tones to the sweet fruit. The acidity here is delightful too, being fresh, crisp and mineral, but integrating nicely with the fruit. Good length too, in a delightful rosé. £6.50

Oreades (Spain) Tempranillo 2002
From Navarra in northern Spain, 40% of the wine was aged in French oak barrels and it is 100% Tempranillo, the main grape of Rioja. It has a really lovely nose, of currants and dried herbs, redcurrant fruit and tiny, aromatic violet notes. On the palate it is juicy and fresh, with a great core of raspberry and cranberry fruit, a gentle lick of spice and toast, gentle tannins and fine acidity. This is a little beauty and a bit of a steal at the price. £5.50

Festivo (Argentina) Malbec 2003
This wine comes from the same team that brings you the much-praised Clos de la Siete label, vinified at Bodega Monteviejo where Michel Rolland is consultant. Though I personally thought that wine rather overly tannic and powerful, there is an ephemeral floral and rose-hip edge on the nose of this bottling, even though it has a bruising 14.3% alcohol. There's a solid underpinning of bramble and mulberry, spicy fruit. On the palate it has plenty of tannin, but it is chocolaty, rounded and so full of thick, supple fruit that it remains balanced. Acidity is rather lost under all that heft, but it is there into a leathery, rich and spicy finish. £6.50

Domaine Ferraton (France) Cotes du Rhône 'Samorens' 2003
From the hot 2003 vintage, this wine from an excellent Rhône producer is intensely spicy on the nose, with a load of nutmeg and pepper, and an earthy, soft fruit quality. On the palate more of that spice and a cedary, quite gamy quality comes through. There is a nice little grippin edge of tannin, and although acidity is somewhat lacking, it makes up for that with a liquorice and cherry-skin edge to the fruit to give a racy appeal. Very good indeed. £7.15.

Domaine Lardy (France) Fleurie 2004
This was my first experience of the Fleurie, a Beaujolais 'Cru', from this producer. It has a very nice pale ruby colour, and a nose just filled with soft, creamy, strawberry fruit, with a little firmer suggestion of a leafy, herbal, chicory edge. On the palate that herbal - perhaps even slightly green quality - continues, but surrounded by enough creamy, soft fruit and a gently drying background of tannins and acidity. Very good. £9.25

Bodegas Altanza (Spain) Rioja Reserva 1999
Based in In Fuenmayor, in the heart of the Rioja Alta, Altanza was a new name to me. Indeed the wine is thoroughly modern in style, with the brightness and depth of fruit on the nose allowed to dominate, whilst oaky notes in thebackground are smoky, charry and savoury, suggesting new French oak and less of the old American barrels that are more common in some traditional Riojas. The palate has a very full, ripe blackcurrant fruit that is bold and chewy, with spice and tobacco undertones and a mellow, warming finish of coffee and plum. Balanced and long, this is very stylish. £12.15