I have been suffering from a rather nasty cold, which has prevented me from tasting, so a little behind in my diaries. This edition focuses on a selection of wines that have passed over my desk recently. I believe it is important to enjoy everyday wines, to provide perspective on the finer wine we enjoy. I recently had lunch with an old friend at Luca (report coming soon), who happens to be one of the world’s finest wine writers. When he is not drinking 1st Growth Claret, or sipping on DRC, he often buys a £8 bottle of white from Waitrose to enjoy. I shall be buying a bottle to write about in the next few weeks. 

Nestled in a 15th-century Catalan farmhouse, Domaine Lafage offers a panoramic vista that stretches from the Mediterranean shores to the Pyrenean foothills. With over two centuries of wine-making behind them, the estate has now flourished to span more than 350 hectares across Roussillon. Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafarge took over the estate in 2021 having studied viticulture and worked at estates around the world. Driven by a mission to showcase and elevate Roussillon’s diverse terroirs through innovative and expressive wines, they are producing some very tasty wines. 

Beyond their commitment to quality, Domaine Lafage pioneers sustainable and regenerative viticulture practices. Embracing High Environmental Value (HVE) and organic farming, the estate is a vibrant tapestry of biodiversity, experimenting with drought-resistant varietals and methods to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Their research with the Institut Agro Montpellier and the use of biochar illustrate a forward-thinking approach to preserving viticulture against the backdrop of global warming.

LAFAGE Cadireta £12.65 from Urban Grapes
Made from 15-year-old vines in the Côtes Catalanes, this is a Chardonnay that has been aged on Viognier lees. This is a process used to enhance the wine’s complexity, texture, and flavour. Essentially, the Chardonnay would have been pumped over the leftover grape skins, pulp, seeds, and other solids that were part of Viogniers fermentation.

I like how they have done this, as it adds aromatics to the nose, with a hint of apricot and spice coming through. Taste-wise it has a medium-light body with citrus notes, melon and vanilla in the background. There is a nice acidity running through it making it ideal now we are heading into Spring. 

LAGAFE Centenaire £13.40 from Vinvm
It is always a treat to taste wines that have been made from older vines, in this instance 90-100 years old. I like to think about who might have planted them, how they were harvested and how the grapes have changed flavour-wise, decade to decade. 

This is also from the Côtes Catalanes in the Roussillon region, but a mixture of 80% Grenache Blanc et Gris and 20% Roussanne. It is a nod to the Rhone Valley, a region whose wines I adore. The Grenache Blanc et Gris are close relations of the more common Grenache (as you might have deduced) but are seen a lot less frequently. As an explorer of different grape varieties, I was excited to sample this. 

It was full of citrus and tropical flavours, making it welcoming and moreish. It was fresh with a lovely spice and complemented by toasted nuts covered in honey and peaches. Old vines do not mean a tired wine. To the contrary, this was fresh, complex and very drinkable. 

Calvet Sancerre Rosé £16.99 from Waitrose
When it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day, selecting the perfect wine to show your appreciation and love is crucial. This year, I suggest celebrating it with a bottle of this Calvet Sancerre Rosé, full of elegance and finesse. As we start to feel a little warmth in the air with Spring upon us, it just seems perfect. You might be more familiar with the white Sancerre, made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, so this makes a wonderful alternative. I would suggest not serving it quite as cold though, 10-12 degrees is perfect to allow the red fruits to shine through. 

Made from Pinot Noir, this rosé embodies the delicate balance between subtlety and intensity. It has a delicate nose of red berries, and citrus fruits, along with floral notes. The palate is full of strawberry, raspberry, and a touch of grapefruit, leading to a crisp, refreshing finish. Quite delicious and coming from Waitrose, easy to find.

Roche Lacour 2020 Crémant de Limoux Brut £15.99 from Laithwaites
This sparkling wine has been a firm favourite of Laithwaites customers for years, so I was keen to try it. Made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir in the classic Champagne method, it also benefits from almost half of the wine being oak fermented, giving a wonderful richness to it.

Green apples and citrus notes lead the way on the nose, followed by subtle hints of brioche and almonds. The palate has a vibrant acidity and a fine, persistent mousse making this an enjoyable alternative to Champagne. 

Purple Owl Pinot Noir 2022 £16.99 from Laithwaites
I love Pinot Noir, but it is so hard to find good ones at an every day, mid-week price point. This is one of them. Made in California, where the climate seems to be perfect with the heat of the sun, complemented by the cooler air coming in off the Pacific Ocean. It is jam-packed with flavours of black cherries, raspberries and hints of vanilla. It has that Pinot flavour profile that is so beautiful, with a lovely acidity running through it. It would go perfectly with a piece of salmon.  

Beaujolais-Villages 2022 Dominique Piron £16.99 from Laithwaites
Made from Gamay grapes, picked in the hilly, granite-rich soils characteristic of the Beaujolais area, this is a wonderfully light and refreshing example. The 2022 growing season presented its challenges, yielding quite a small harvest, but providing grapes of outstanding quality and concentration.

In the glass, there are aromas of fresh red fruits, notably cherries and raspberries, with subtle floral notes. On the palate, the wine is lively and well-structured, with a delightful acidity that enhances its fruit-forward profile. The tannins are supple, making it accessible now while promising potential for development over the next few years.

Kir-Yianni Assyrtiko 2022 – £15.10 from Vinvm
The Kir-Yianni Assyrtiko is a great illustration of the quality of wine from Greece’s Amyndeon region, in NW Greece. It is part of the larger Florina region and is known for its high altitude, with vineyards planted at elevations ranging from 550 to 700 metres. The combination of cool temperatures, abundant sunshine, and well-draining soils, including sandy, volcanic, and clay, creates an ideal environment for viticulture

Made exclusively from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape, this white wine showcases an elegant character with a lively acidity. The nose is full of citrus, whilst the palate is a blend of lemon, pink grapefruit, peach and apples. There is a hint of minerality, which is typical of the region. Choose this wine to broaden your horizons and explore what Greece has to offer.

Remastered Sangiovese 2022 – £8.50 from Tesco
If you enjoy a mid-week, simple and rustic Italian dinner, it seems appropriate to enjoy an equally inexpensive wine that you can happily add to the cooking pot. I particularly enjoy this as it acts as a framework, reminding me that there are wines under £10 that can be enjoyable to drink. This Italian Sangiovese is fresh and fruity, full of dark fruits such as cherry and plum and is perfect to enjoy when cooking. 

Quinta Da Pedra Alta No 3 – £18.95 from Master of Malt
White Port may not be something you drink that frequently, but I encourage you to do it more often. It is a wonderful aperitif, either straight from the fridge, over ice, or with tonic. This example not only looks modern in its presentation, but is fresh, fruity and tropical. It is made from Rabigato (56%), Gouveio (32%) and Viosinho (12%) grapes, giving lots of citrus, especially dark orange and tropical flavours. Made by João Pires & Matt Gant from vines between 15 and 26 years old and fermented by wild yeasts, it is modern and very moresome. Grab a bottle now and enjoy in the spring to celebrate the return of some warmth. 

Quinta Da Pedra Alta 2018 Vintage Port – £46.95 from St Andrews Wines
I love a Vintage Port, they offer exceptional value for money, as is so often the case when not fashionable. These are not wines just for December (I refuse to use the C word in March) but to be enjoyed all year. Once opened, they will happily live in the bottle for a few weeks, allowing plenty of time to be enjoyed. I am rather classical, so like nothing more than buying a selection of artisan cheeses and simply sitting down with quality bread (never biscuits for me) and just eat, drink and read. 

The grapes have been handpicked, hand sorted, and fermented with wild yeasts. True to tradition they have been crushed by foot and spent 10 days on their skins to develop the resulting flavours. Only 2068 bottles were produced of this port that offers typical Vintage Port notes of dark fruits including blackberries and damson, with violets, honeysuckle, some spice and chocolate. In a way it reminded me of a Black Forest Gateaux and took me back to the 1980’s.