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Waitrose wines

by Tom Cannavan, 11/2010

If you are lucky enough to have a Waitrose store within striking distance you will know that their wine range really is a cut above all of the other supermarkets, both in diversity and quality. The facts are hard to argue with: with 1200 wines listed and an average of 700 in stores, the range dwarves their competitors and covers price points and obscure appellations of the world rarely seen outside of specialist wine merchants. This report on 20 wines is timed to coincide with the start of a one week sale in Waitrose stores and Waitrose online, with 25% off ALL wines that runs November 4th - 11th. Minimum purchase six bottles.

sparkling wine

Waitrose, Brut Special Reserve Vintage Champagne 2002, France
100% Chardonnay made by Regis Camus of P&C Heidsieck and wonderfully crisp, pungent, focused nose. Flooded with gently Brazil nutty, clean fruit, but lovely piercing freshness. Terrific acidity, the palate broadening out into a hazelnutty and apple hint of richness, but the clarity of the acidity and the tight framework pushing through into an elegant, deliciously focused finish. 92/100. £27.99, (224 branches).

white wines

Chat-en-Oeuf, IGP Pays d'Oc 2009, France
60% Grenache Blanc, 30% Marsanne, and Roussanne with a touch of Rolle (Vermentino). Fairly subdues nose, but nice ripe apple fruit comes through, more of the exotic fruit character too and a bit of real oomph with succulent fruit and a touch of spice. Delivers a lot at a low price. 86/100. £4.99 (233 branches).

Plantagenet, Samson's Range Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Australia
A blend of 47% Semillon, 46% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Riesling, 2% Chenin Blanc and 2% Viognier. Some pungent, herby, dill-like aromatics but mostly a melange of lime and more tropical fruit. The palate has lovely definition, a sparkling acidity giving length but the sweet fruit melding and folding nicely into the finish. 88/100. £7.99 (173 branches).

Cave de Beblenheim, Alsace Riesling Grafenreben 2008, France
Fairly subdued citrus nose, a touch of dry, underripe apple fruit. Very nice acidity, the palate shimmering with a light, a fantastic balance and focus with the dry finish just enlivened by glimpses of a sweeter, more exotic fruit at the core. Long, poised and delicious. 88/100. £8.69 (201 branches)

Viña Leyda, Garuma Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Chile
Five percent of the blend was fermented in old barrels, but the nose retains fabulous green bean, almost austere aromas of piercing fruit and herb quality, the palate hinting at tropical sweetness but then the torrent of acidity sweeps through. Fireworks and fabulous. 90.100. £9.99 (206 branches).

Leitz, Rüdesheimer Rosengarten Riesling Kabinett 2009, Germany
Delightfully, delicate, subtle yet precise nose, with confit lemon character and an underlying nectarine sweetness. The palate is just a smidgeon off dry, with lovely balance, the long, shimmering finish balanced between sweet fruit, a lime zest and cleansing, salty acidity. 10.5% alcohol. 92/100. £10.49 (216 branches).

Domaine Naudet, 2009 Sancerre, Loire, France
Vines are 20 years old for this wine which is grassy and herbal, but also an underlying sense of ripeness. Pithy, dry, a great grapefruity tang extending the finish with fabulous length and precision. Plenty of fruit but intellectual structure too and needs food. 90/100. £12.49 (224 branches).

Loimer, Riesling Terrassen 2007, Austria
Part fermented in 2,500l old neutral casks, this is quite waxy, nettly and pungent on the nose, with lots of vivacious Riesling character. The palate is zesty and riven with fantastic, crystalline clarity of fruit and mineral acidity. Like a glacier shockwave in the mouth and absolutely delicious. 94/100. £17.99 (online and 3 branches)

Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune du Château 1er Cru 2007, France
From 20- to 25-year-old vines, vinified and spending eight months in oak. Plenty of nutty, sesame seed oak nicely integrated with Cox's Pippin fruit and a lovely clarity about it: juicy, apple fruit but some minerality and lots of knife-edge balance. 92/100. £25.49 (46 branches).

red wines

Castillo La Paz, Tempranillo/Syrah 2009, Spain
From La Mancha. this blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Syrah comes from a 60-year-old, unirrigated vineyard and is matured in oak for three months. Sweet, fruity, abundantly raspberry and cherry-ripe nose leading on to palate with really good fruit and some bold, assertive tannins and juicy acidity. Well made, tangy and spicy with some length too. 87/100. £6.49 (212 branches).

Zalze, Shiraz/Mourvèdre/Viognier 2009. South Africa
A blend of 80% Shiraz with 15% Mourvèdre and 5% Viognier, this was a Decanter Trophy Winner despite its modest price. Twelve months in older French oak means this retains a fruity, open nose with lots of creamy blackcurrant. The palate has a bit of grip and savoury, tight structure, the very fresh acidity adding a pleasing crispness to the finish. 87/100. £6.49 (212 branches).

Waitrose, Italia Primitivo Salento 2009, Italy
From 30 - 50 year old vines, partly aged in large Slavonian casks. There's a typically ashy, quite fragrant Primitivo lift to this wine, with little floral nuances and keen black fruit. On the palate the sweetness of the fruit is beguiling, the wine retaining an attractively nimble personality, despite the pretty big tannins. A very good example. 87/100. £6.69 (233 branches).

Hospices de Beaujeu, Beaujolais-Villages 2009, France
100% Gamay from 50-year-old vines. Beautifully ripe and appealing screwcapped Bojo with a raspberry fruited nose and touches of fresh herbs. The palate too has buoyant, super-sweet fruit with a slick of tart cherry acidity and smooth tannins adding some grip. Delightful. 87/100. £7.99 (152 branches). This will also be down to £5.99 (save 25%) from 08/12/10 to 04/01/11.

MontGras, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2009, Chile
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, half of which was barrel-aged for nine months. Tight black fruit, a touch of blackcurrant and herbal, earthy tones. The palate has beautiful sweetness and focus - a great seam of black fruit running through, edged with olive and savoury meaty notes, but lovely balance and style. 89/100. £8.19 (233 branches).

Réserve des Hospitaliers, Cairanne 2007, France
Blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Côtes du Rhône Village of Cairanne. Very silky, very smooth, a raft of berry fruits and sweet but tight and muscular oak. The palate has beautiful concentration: the fruit, oak and silky tannins all combining to make a long, really satisfying and savoury wine. 89/100. £8.99 (193 branches).

Chateau Musar, 2003, Lebanon
Equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from 30- 50-year-old bush vines, 12 months ageing in French (Nevers) barriques. Typically pale colour, and typically volatile and wild on the nose with a touch of Brettanomyces too. That's why people love Musar! On the palate a raft of sweet, deliciously mocha-enriched black berries power through. This has a soft, leafy and meaty edge to it, the coffeeish sweetness and relatively soft tannins finishing with a whisper. Brilliantly Musar in its entirely individualistic, love it or hate it way. 92/100. £17.99 (233 branches).

Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5ème Cru 2006, France
Big and meaty, concentrated with little nuances of mint and game, a slick of youthful vanilla oak too. The palate has a big, drying tannin structure at this stage and a lovely cherry acidity, but the meaty substance of the fruit and underlying elegance of the balance will out. Terrific and structured to age. 94/100. £60.00 (online and 3 branches).

Quinta Vale Dona Maria, 2006 Douro, Portugal
From mixed plantings of 41 different red varieties, foot-trodden then aged in new Allier oak barrels. Massive nose, with abundant creamy, cappuccino oak, a welter-weight of plummy fruit and yet a perfumed edge that is much lighter and more floral. Brilliant fruit on the palate, really sings out with massive berry sweetness, a slick of chocolate and terrific length. How does such quality and personality get crammed into a bottle? 95/100. £19.49 (online and 2 branches).

sweet and fortified wines

Château Les Sablines, Monbazillac 2006, France
Classic blend of 66% Sémillon, 17% Sauvignon and 17% Muscadelle matured in barriques Delicious Botrytis here, with masses of glycerine-rich, lemony fruit and that barley sugar richness. Unctuously rich and full on the palate, this has weight and honey, fat, sweet fruit and delicious presence. A real head turner at a modest price, and not without herbal and tea-leaf complexity either. 89/100. 50cl, £8.15 (214 branches).

D'Oliveiras, Reserva Terrantez Madeira 1977, Portugal
Old, polished wood, fabulous concentration, something a little leafy, but glorious richness and chocolate, fat, sweet berry fruit. Still that intangible Madeira quality of cooked, yet somehow tremendously fresh and vital fruit. Hugely long, with magnificent balance and soaring, searing, elemental presence. 96/100. £55.00 (Online and 1 branch).