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Oddbins Wine Fair, Edinburgh

by Tom Cannavan, 09/98

For the past couple of years Oddbins, the UK's best High Street wine merchant, has held an Autumn Wine Fair in Edinburgh. The Fair is a chance to taste from literally hundreds of wines in the Oddbins range, get a sneak preview of some new vintages, and meet the wine-makers: this year Marc Chapoutier was one of the stars. Afficionados of the event plan to get there as the doors open, then stop early for a leisurely lunch whilst the crowds peak, before returning later in the day. Unfortunately, due to a clash of commitments, I had less than a couple of hours to visit, and that was at the busiest time. I took a decision to skip sparkling wines (Bollinger and Billecart-Salmon were flowing very freely) and fortified wines (Port and Madeira were well represented) and to concentrate on interesting looking, less main-stream wines that were also accessible: the 5-deep crowds round Chapoutier's stand looked just too formidable. This meant I missed out on some of the big names of Burgundy, the Rhone and Australia for example, but led to some very interesting tasting indeed.

White wines

Henry Pellé (Loire), Menetou-Salon blanc "Morogues" 1997, £6.99
Brilliant start. Intense, gooseberry packed, acid-drop nose. Wonderfully vibrant fruit. On the palate, plenty of grassy, sherbety flavour with lovely citrus fruit, a pleasant chalky quality and a long, dry, tinglingly fresh finish. Beautiful, punchy, Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

Catone (Italy), Frascati Superiore 1997, £5.49
Very pale and delicate colour. Slightly almondy nose. Very fresh. Surprisingly weighty on the palate with a subtle, toffee richness beneath bracing grapefruit acidity and clean, lime fruit. Long, classy finish. The best Frascati I've tasted for some time.

Caves de Turckheim (Alsace), Tokay Pinot Gris 1997, £5.69
You get what you pay for, and this isn't a lot of money for an Alsace wine from a noble grape. Fairly grapey, musky nose. Rather light in the mouth and light on flavour. Over alcoholic and hot in the finish.

Villa Maria (New Zealand), Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1998 (Tank sample)
Gorgeous, intense, boiled-sweet nose with gooseberry and rhubarb notes. Very clean, shimmering palate of citrus and tropical fruit and sherbert. Long, pure, peachy finish. This should gain a little weight and be really delicious.

Villa Maria, Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 1997, £7.99
Much deeper, more aromatic and peachy nose with a fuller, almost honeyed richness. Intense fruit on the palate and a beautifully clean, grapefruit acidity romps in on the finish.

Casablanca (Chile), Gewürztraminer 1997, £6.49
Very classic, aromatic nose of rose petals and spice: ginger and nutmeg. Palate is bone-dry and fresh, not at all oily. Keenly balanced with tropical fruit flavours and tart acidity. A clean, sharp style midway between Alsace aromatics and a Loire dryness and acidity.

Segada (Ribatejo, Portugal), White Wine 1997, £3.99
100% Fernão Pires, this has real lemon and lime freshness on the nose and a touch of hay. Nice, sour fruit on the palate of green apples and pears. Very fresh and zippy in the finish. Modern in style and would be good with food.

Esporão Reserva (Reguengos, Portugal), White Wine 1996, £6.99
Heavy, toasted oak nose with hints of honey, caramel and freshly-baked bread. Mouthfilling, with piercing, lemony fruit, lots of yeasty, bready character and a quite rich and fat. Manages quite a good balance between the warm, spicy character, freshness of fruit and citrus acidity. Flavourful finish.

Bodegas Montecillo (Rioja), Viña Cumbrero Blanco 1997, £4.49
Pretty, floral and lemon nose with delicate boiled-sweet notes. Palate is clean and fresh, almost like a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Finish has nice, chewy acidity.

Marqués de Cáceres, Rioja Crianza white wine 1994, £4.99
Quite a deep golden colour. Oaky, slightly wild and yeasty nose of brioche and a touch of sweet caramel. Plenty of lemony fruit, a light to medium body and a clean finish.

Antonopoulos (Greece), Chardonnay 1997, £8.99
Hugely oaky, nutty, yeasty nose with deep scents of burnt rubber and burnt toast. Much fresher on the palate than the nose suggests with piercing citrus fruit, but hints of peach and ripe mango. Very complex set of flavours though more toasty oak dominates the finish. A bit wild, but full of character and interest.

Maculan (Italy), Torcolato 1996, £6.99 per half bottle
Deep amber colour. Richly honeyed nose with distinct seville orange note. Palate is intensely sweet and rich with a lovely nutty edge to sweet fig and apricot fruit. Medium bodied with a fairly long finish.

Mount Horrocks (Australia), Cordon Cut Riesling 1997, £9.99 per half bottle
The technique used here is to sever the bunches of grapes from their cordons, but leave them dangling in amongst the foliage for a time to shrivel and concentrate. It results in a wine that is clean and limey on the nose with beautiful notes of honeycomb and sherbert. Quite luscious with sweet lime-marmalade flavours, very clean and well balanced. Not terribly complex, but long and lovely.

Yves Cuilleron (France), Condrieu "les Eguets" Vendange Tardive 1996, £24.99 per 50cl
Gorgeous stuff with a lightly honeyed nose of rose-petals and amaretto. Fruit is very mellow on the nose and palate with toasted nuts, intense brown sugar and marmalade flavours and exotic floral notes. Fine length. Very delicate and really quite unusual. Excellent.

Red wines

Fetzer Vineyards (California), Pinot Noir 1996, £6.99
Rather light, strawberry fruit on the nose. Palate too is light and rather acidic, but is rounded out with spicy, vanilla oak. A little simple and short.

Fetzer Vineyards, Barrel Select Pinot Noir 1996, £8.99
Much spicier, deeper and oakier on the nose. Good, robust cherry fruit and vanilla. Again, sharp acidity and firm wood tannins. Longish finish and a little metallic. More promising than the straight Pinot.

Fetzer Vineyards, Barrel Select Zinfandel 1995, £8.49
Oaky, peppery and earthy nose. Hugely spicy and with a meaty, leathery quality in the mouth. Good bramble fruit. Dense and mouthfilling if over-oaked.

Fetzer Vineyards, Private Collection Merlot 1996, £14.99
This is a very firmly styled wine. Serious, slightly medicinal nose of dense black fruits. Firm on the palate too - nothing easy and gluggable about this merlot - with oak and tannins to the fore, but well integrated with warm berry fruit leading to a long, creamy finish. Great potential. 500 cases made.

Fetzer Vineyards, Private Collection Petite Sirah 1996, £13.99
Normally used by Fetzer to add a little complexity to their Zinfandel, only 600 cases of this varietal were made from organically farmed grapes (Mendocino). This pre-release sample shows dense, very creamy, raspberry fruit on the nose. Sweet and elegant. Lots of spicy oak on the palate and a rounded, warming personality. Crunchy fruit persists to a long, creamy finish. Very nice indeed.

Esporão Reserva (Reguengos, Portugal), Red Wine 1994, £6.99
Light berry fruit on the nose with a background of sweet vanilla and an almost minty note. Lovely sour cherry fruit with chocolatey roundness and depth. Dry and quite tannic in the finish, but good length. Excellent structure and balance.

Pegos Claros (Altenjo, Portugal) Red Wine 1993, £7.99
Distinctive, animal nose of dense, earthy forest fruits. A real toffee richness on the palate with a great dollop of custardy oak. Nice balance of tannins and moderate acidity. A distinctive, mature wine that finishes well too.

Tras-os-Montes (Aliança, Portugal) "Terra Boa" 1996, £3.99
Nice soft, berry fruit on nose and palate and some really dense, chewy character showing through.

Villard (Chile), Pinot Noir 1997, £7.99
Light, strawberry-fruited nose with fine, sweet-toffee notes. Light bodied with rather harsh tannins and high acidity. Given a year or two in bottle this could come together very nicely.

Mount Horrocks (Australia), Cabernet/Merlot 1995, £9.99
Vibrant ruby/crimson colour. Warm and inviting nose with firm blackcurrant fruit and grippy tannins. Quite tarry and dense with some cedar and spice nuances before and a long, spicy finish. Very nice stuff, drinking well now.

Villa Maria (New Zealand) Private Bin Cabernet/Merlot 1996, £8.49
Creamy, soft and smoky nose of dusty, berry fruit. Big, dry and smoky on the palate too but loads of dense, chocolate and berry fruit and very good length. Some sweet custard oak wraps the wine in a soft cloak. Decent finish.