Friday, September 5, 2014

New wine retailers and other wine trends

The wine world has been a tough place in the last six years, not least on the UK retail side. The casualty list of high-profile wine merchants and off-licence chains is familiar enough not to name them again. And yet, every month at, we find ourselves reviewing a wine from a retailer we haven’t previously listed, often more than one wine and one retailer. Sometimes they’re businesses that existed before August 2008, but often they’re ones that have been established since. The internet has, of course, facilitated many of the start-ups, but the new wine merchants aren’t all virtual. The number and quality of independent and independently minded shops opening physical doors for the first time is impressive, and good news for anyone with any interest in wine. 
It hardly needs saying that the retail scene is not all that has been transformed in the last six years. The wines we drink in the UK have changed. This doesn’t pass for market analysis, but here are ten trends that strike me:
  • Pinot Grigio’s grip on the market is as tenacious as the wine itself is feeble, but other Italian white grapes are making inroads – Fiano, Falanghina, Grechetto, Greco, Vermentino et al. Bravo.
  • Sauvignon Blanc continues to gain ground, becoming the other variety of choice for the mass market where once it was Chardonnay.
  • Oaked Sauvignon Blanc: niche, but growing. Perhaps it means that white Bordeaux’s day is about to come, especially oaked Bordeaux. I hope so. I’ve had some crackers this year – affordable ones.
  • Godello has given Albariño a run for its money: The Wine Gang reviewed two in 2008, one each in 2009 and 2010, seven in 2011, eight in 2012 and 16 in 2013. But so far, only six this year...
  • Australian Pinot Noir: yes! No question, Australia has belatedly been getting there. Chile, too, and so close to the Pacific that the vines are nearly paddling.
  • Alcohol: some welcome retrenchment from high levels in regions where it’s unnecessary and/or unsuitable. As an aside, Australian producers are now allowed to put the exact alcohol level on labels if they wish (e.g., 12.7%, instead of having to round it up to 13.0% or down to 12.5%).
  • Malbec: on consumers’ lips in the same way as Sauvignon Blanc; consequently producers beyond Argentina and Cahors are getting in on the act – in Chile, Languedoc, California, South Africa, New Zealand.
  • Prosecco continues to push Cava out of the limelight, but it isn’t Italy’s only sparkling wine. Sales of Champagne-like Franciacorta are a pin-prick, but growing.
  • Fortified wines: still declining overall, but carving a niche with food. The capital’s clutch of sherry bars was joined for six months this year by a pop-up port restaurant (Churchill’s Port House). Time for a Madeira bistrô?
  • Orange wines: made by producers of so-called natural wines from white grapes macerated and fermented with skins and pips, like red wines, especially in Georgia, Slovenia and Collio, Italy.
This is a shortened version of my editorial in The Wine Gang's September report.

Wine and food matching: promiscuity rules

With a nod to nostalgia I thought about starting this editorial: Once upon time there was a supermarket chain called Safeway. I decided not to because a) originality can be so unsettling, b) this is not about Safeway, c) it’s not even about supermarkets. You’re welcome to breathe a sigh of relief at c), especially as I’m about to go off at a complete tangent before I’ve even started – that’s the luxury of a blog. Tangent: one of my favourite, as far as I know unrehearsed, supermarket put-downs was by investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman when she was on stage picking up an award for her writing. As it was presented, she was asked: ‘What would you do about supermarkets?’ ‘Ban them,’ she said without pausing for breath. It brought the house down.  
Where was I? Yes, Safeway. Food. Wine and food matching. During the 1990s, Safeway, which was then the third or fourth largest UK supermarket chain (Asda overtook it in the second half of the ‘90s), decided to revamp its wine back-labels to make them more useful. One of the key changes was to the recommended food accompaniments. Instead of the bland catch-alls along the lines of, ‘this wines goes with fish, white meat, red meat, cheese, puddings…’, Safeway introduced more detailed and specific recommendations. So a label might suggest moules marinières or chicken tikka makhani, or lamb kleftiko. Unfortunately, far from finding this helpful, many customers were apparently put off. They didn’t buy a wine if they weren’t having one of the dishes recommended. Boeuf bourguignon or lamb and date tagine not on the weekend menu? Inner voice tells them to put the wine back on the shelf. Safeway backtracked and returned to blander suggestions.
You might have expected, with the increasing interest since then in food, eating out, cookery books, TV cooking programmes, that wine label suggestions would have moved on. A quick look at a few labels suggests nothing much has changed. These are typical: ‘lamb, pasta or casserole’; ‘a great summer aperitif, also good with Mediterranean cuisine’; ‘barbecues, picnics, all types of Asian food’; ‘rich, meaty stews’. You could swap the labels round and it wouldn’t make much difference.
As I’ve said before, matching wine and food is something that many people, even those knowledgeable about wine, aren’t confident about. And, as I've said before, it’s always worth remembering that you’re not seeking the one and only perfect match. Most foods and dishes will go with more than one style of wine. Choose according to budget, occasion, what you feel like. Dishes are promiscuous (or polygamous, or something): they can enjoy several partners, even at the same time.  
This is a shortened version of my editorial in The Wine Gang's April report

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Rioja bargain

2012 Mas de Victor Rioja Graciano, Spain
This is down £3 to £5.99 until 29 April and is well worth snapping up, not least because it's an opportunity to try one of Rioja's minority grapes on its own, the aromatic Graciano. It's essentially a young wine, but a few months in French barrels have added some nutty oak and a bit of depth and polish to the spicy, sweet berry fruit. Gentle tannins and some appetising acidity bring it to a neat finish. 13.5%. 88/100.
£5.99, Sainsbury's

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The bee's knees

If this tasting note looks suspiciously familiar, it probably is. When I wrote it up as one of my wines of the year, I put the wrong vintage. Mea culpa. This is it with the correct vintage and I'm very happy to be revisiting it.
Domaine of the Bee Les Genoux 2011, Côtes Catalanes, France
A field blend of old-vine Grenache Noir, Carignan and Grenache Gris. Perfumed, sweet, supple, majestic, delightfully precise and fresh (despite 15% alcohol). Utterly seductive.
Order direct from 

Monday, January 27, 2014

The glorious Mansengs

Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng and their support cast of Petit Courbu and Arrufiac, in Pacherenc du Vic Bihl and Saint-Mont, south west France.
These notes and recommendations are prompted by a tasting I gave last week to some MW students and for whom the quality and styles of the Manseng-based whites, dry and sweet, were a revelation. As one of them tweeted afterwards: “still thinking about the Mansengs. Such an underrated duo. Time to stock my cupboards before the world finds out”. My sentiments exactly. I fell for the two Mansengs in the late 1980s when I came across Jurançon and haven’t looked back.

Gros and Petit Manseng 
The Mansengs are aromatic, thick-skinned, high-acid varieties. Neither has large berries but those of Gros Manseng are larger – hence the name – as are the bunches themselves. Gros Manseng is also higher yielding and there’s more of it planted (almost three times as much in 2009, according to Wine Grapes). Petit Manseng has thicker skins and produces more intensely flavoured, concentrated wines which have greater finesse and dry on the vines more readily in the autumn to produce, intensely sweet, luscious wines with thrilling acidity.

Gros Manseng: aromatic, intensely fruity; quince, tropical fruit, grapefruit; sometimes spice; medium-high to high acidity. 
Petit Manseng: aromatic, intensely fruity; distinguished from Gros Manseng by apricot, or sometimes white peach, and sometimes floral aromas; quince, citrus; high acidity. 
Petit Courbu: citrus, floral notes, ripe fruit; high acidity. 
Arrufiac: delicate aromas, suppleness; can have a subtle citrus-pith bitterness.

Dry (sec) Pacherenc du Vic Bilh
Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl is the white wine, both dry and sweet, of the Madiran red wine region, although much less white wine is produced. Traditionally the dry wine is Gros Manseng-dominated, with Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu supporting it and very occasionally a little Arrufiac, but Petit Manseng-dominated wines have gained ground. The wines from Château Laffitte-Teston and Château Aydie, below, both contain more Petit Manseng than Gros.

Château Laffitte-Teston Ericka 201, £12.15, The Sampler
Domaine Capmartin 2012, £12.50 Great Western Wine
Château Aydie d’Odé Aydie 2011 (available elsewhere in Europe;

Sweet (moelleux) Pacherenc du Vic Bilh
Predominantly Petit Manseng, usually with some Gros Manseng and sometimes some Petit Courbu, but sometimes 100% Petit Manseng,

Saint-Albert 2011 (Cave de Crouseille), £13.95 for 50cl, Corney & Barrow
Folie de Roi 2010 (Cave de Crouseille, 64350 Crouseilles; 
Château Arricau-Bordes 2010 (Le Chai, 64350 Arricau Bordes; email
Château Aydie 2010 (
Domaine Laougué, Tradition 2011 (

Saint Mont blanc
All Saint-Mont white wine is dry and is a blend of three of the following four varieties: Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Petit Courbu and Arrufiac. (and all white wine producers must have 20% each of the last three in their vineyards). In practice most blends are predominantly Gros Manseng with some Petit Courbu and Arrufiac, a variety which has made a comeback from near extinction in the 1980s. Less white wine is produced than either red or rosé – a shame. Almost all wine is produced by the co-operative Producteurs Plaimont which pretty well created the appellation in 1981 (a VDQS elevated to PDO in 2011).

Le Passé Authentique 2010, 2011 (Producteurs Plaimont), £9.99, Waitrose,
Le Faite 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011,  (Producteurs Plaimont), £17.00–£18.95,  Weavers of Nottingham, Portland Wine, Bordeaux & Beyond
L’Empreinte de Saint Mont 2010 (Producteurs Plaimont), £13.29, Adnams Cellar & Kitchen
Les Vignes Retrouvées 2010 (Producteurs Plaimont), £10.99, The Smiling Grape Company
Les Hauts de Bergelle blanc 2011 (Producteurs Plaimont), £7.99, Majestic 
Saint-Mont 2011, £7.99, Marks & Spencer

postscript: Petit courbu

Château Montus makes a dry Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh from 100% petit courbu, vintages of I’ve liked very much in the past, but for which I don’t have a sufficiently recent tasting note (Highbury Vintners and Hennings list the 2010 (£25­–£26.50).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wines of the Year

Champagne house of the year - Charles Heidsieck
There have been some notable Champagne moments recently, including Salon 1999, Roederer Cristal 2004, Krug Grande Cuvée Richesse (2000 base), Dom Ruinart 1993, Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1995 and Oenothèque Rosé 1993, Pol Roger Chardonnay 1998, Bollinger Grande Année 2004 and Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru Ambonnay, but Charles Heidsieck gets the gong for impeccable quality throughout its range, from the non vintage Brut Réserve to the Blanc des Millénaires 1995. It gets a gong for value, too. 
UK stockists of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve include Haynes Hanson & Clark and Eton Vintners. HH&C also has the vintage 2000. Berry Bros & Rudd and Bordeaux Index have Blanc des Millénaires 1995. is promising a full range, including Blanc des Millénaires 1995, from 24 January.

Chardonnay of the year - Greywacke Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough
Kevin Judd is deservedly renowned for his Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, but deserves at least as many accolades for this complex, concentrated, fine-boned Chardonnay. 
UK stockists include Divine Fine Wines and The Wine Company.

Riesling of the year – Rippon Riesling 1992, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago
21-year-old Riesling of astonishing freshness, length and complexity from a winery famous for its super-sleek, burgundian-style Pinot Noirs. Candied citrus peel, peppermint, honey, vanilla, crème fraiche and wet stones, among other flavours. Also a candidate for mature wine of the year.
No stockists, but Lea & Sandeman has the 2011 vintage in the UK.

Newcomer of the year - Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2012, Tasmania
Almost unnervingly understated at first, but then the intensity and purity of the Chardonnay themselves – and stay. Australia’s answer to Chablis. A debut wine from new owners (Shaw & Smith) of a mature vineyard.
UK stockists include Hedonism Wines.

Mature wine of the year – Torres Mas La Plana 1981, Penedès
The cork was completely saturated and came out reluctantly in two parts – but the wine was in perfect condition: deep, solid colour, showing surprisingly little age at the rim; fragrant, ripe, sweet fruit; mocha and spice; rich, velvety layers around a meaty frame. Cabernet Sauvignon at its long-lived best (tasted 20/12/13). 
UK stockist: Fine & Rare Wines. Roberson has the excellent 2007 if you're thinking longterm.

Young red of the year - Andrea Oberto Barolo Vigneto Albarella 2009, Piedmont 

Whoever said Barolo was a difficult wine? This is ideal for cellaring into the next decade and yet deliciously drinkable now. It may well close up, but for now it's fragrant and fresh, and at the same time deeply sweet, chocolaty and meaty. 
UK stockist: Lea & Sandeman.

English wine of the year - Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009, West Sussex
A Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier blend (55%, 26%, 19%) from an exceptional vintage in England. 
UK stockists include Berry Bros & Rudd, Eton Vintners, Hennings, Jeroboams, Lea & Sandeman and The Wine Society. 

Fortified wine of the year - D’Oliveira Terrantez Madeira 1977  
Wonderfully perfumed – like an old leather handbag filled with lavender sitting on a beeswax-polished floor. Flavours of spicy fruitcake and dark chocolate coated walnuts. Intense and very long with lovely acidity. Medium dry.  
UK stockist: Berry Bros & Rudd.

Vintage of the year – 2010
A bit of a daft category this, but I’ve had so many great 2010s this year and from very different parts of the world. To name three reds: 
Domaine of the Bee Les Genoux 2010, Côtes Catalanes. A field blend of old-vine Grenache Noir, Carignan and Grenache. Perfumed, sweet, supple, majestic, delightfully precise and fresh (despite 15% alcohol). Utterly seductive. 
UK stockist: 
Ornellaia 2010, Bolgheri, Tuscany. A cool, late vintage (the complete opposite of 2009), producing a wine of tremendous clarity, definition and silkiness. The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 4% each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  
UK stockists: Armit, Berry Bros & Rudd, Four Walls Wine Co and Hedonism. 
Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010, Pauillac, Bordeaux. A wonderful combination of precision and opulence.
UK stockists include: Fraziers Wine, Roberson and

Tasting of the year  - Quinta do Noval and Nacional vintage ports
A vertical and a horizontal tasting, in London in September, of the same six vintages of Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Nacional – 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2011. I gave my top scores overall (95+/96) to Nacional 1997 and 2011, but my top-scorers among the non-Nacionals were also 1997 and 2011.
UK stockist of Quinta do Noval 1997: Private Cellar.

Retailer of the year – The Wine Society
For the breadth and depth of its range, across-the-board high quality, outstanding service, low prices and transparency in everything. Two examples of the brilliant value: Viña Zorzal Graciano 2011, Navarra, £6.75, and Clavesana Dogliani Dolcetto 2011, Piedmont, £6.95., +44 1438 741177

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Magnums for Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the rest

I was asked by a member of The Wine Gang to recommend some magnums – still whites and reds up to £40 each – for birthdays in December. Such a good idea. Magnums always looks the part and are my favourite size for entertaining (though I don't buy them nearly often enough). They're also a good volume to choose if you're cellaring wines. A shame, then, that more wine merchants don't highlight them in any way on their websites. After trawling through my tasting notes for a couple of hours, I came up with the list below. As it made me want to buy some straightaway for Christmas/Thanksgiving, I thought I'd pass them on. If you're not in the UK, or want to look for other UK stockists, use

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2008, £30

Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay 2011, £25.20

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay, Auckland 2009, £48.30

Duorum Colheita, Douro 2009, £27.50

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2010, £23.60

Domaine du Poujol Podio Alto, Coteaux du Languedoc 2010, £35.90 (a grenache/mourvèdre/syrah/cinsault blend which I haven’t tried, but I've enjoyed all the other wines I've tasted from this estate, so I'd take a chance with my own money on it)

White (the Chablis and the 2 Leflaive burgundies could be kept)
Domaine Jacques Rouzé Quincy Villalin 2012, £26.30

Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre 2012, £31.45

Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis 2012, £30.15 

Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2011, £39.30

Olivier Leflaive Frères Rully 1er Cru Vauvry 2010, £38.10

Olivier Leflaive Frères Auxey-Duresses 2010, £39.20

Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2007, £38.60

Château de Lionne, Graves 2010, £28.70 – not ready, but a good present

Château Cambon La Pelouse, Haut-Medoc 2009, £42.90 – again, will improve

Lea & Sandeman Bordeaux 2009, £19.95

Tenuta Monteti Caburnio, Tuscany 2009, £28.50

Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir, Patagonia 2011, £42.95

Bodega Ruconia Tubal Rioja 2008 (technically a Crianza), £28.95

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hundreds of amazing wines to taste

Just look at these. They're just a handful of the hundreds of terrific wines to taste at The Wine Gang Christmas fairs in November. Just get yourself a ticket  – only £12 if you do it now and use the special discount code TWGWEB40 on  – and get yourself to Bath, London or Edinburgh, or join all three.

Churton, Pinot Noir, Marlborough  (£24.50)
Ruinart,‘R’ De Ruinart Brut Champagne  (£45.00)
Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires Champagne  (£145.00)
Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Cru 'Aux Serpentières' ( £24.95)
Santa Rita, Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon  (£39.99)
Majolini, Franciacorta Electo  (£27.50)
Felton Road, Bannockburn Pinot Noir  (£25.00)

Yamatogawa Shuzo "Velvet Mist" Sake  (£58.00)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Roll up for Wine Gang Christmas Fairs 2013

Roll up, roll up for The Wine Gang's three Christmas wine fairs in London, Bath and Edinburgh – even bigger and better than last year. There'll be hundreds of terrific wines to taste, everything from the great and glittering names to the affordable off-the-beaten track discoveries that everyone dreams of finding.
There are masterclasses to die for – I'm matching the fabulous Tokajis from Royal Tokaji to the equally fabulous Rococo chocolates in London and presenting thrillingly original wines from South West France in Edinburgh.
There are free Wine Walks throughout the fairs – tasting tours of exhibitors' tables led by one of the five Gang (Tom, Ant, David, Jane or me).
In London we've got a pop-up shop, so you can not only choose your Christmas wines and presents, you can walk away with them on the day, or place your orders for delivery later.
And the rollcall of exhibitors is better than ever. I can't begin to name them, so visit The Wine Gang's events website to get all the inside info and, even more important, to get your discounted tickets, using the code TWGWEB40. If you hurry, you might even snap up the last few at £12, but I'm not promising anything.
Crucial dates: Bath - 2 November; London - 9 November; Edinburgh - 30 November.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wines for the longest day, 21 June 2013

The idea was that most of these would be perfect wines for lingering over outside this evening, but as it's scarcely crept above 16ºC here in the Lot today, I shan't be hanging around outside for very long tonight. They'll be just as good indoors.   

2012 Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc, Pays d’Oc, France
Ultra-pale, Provence-style rosé made from the pink-berried grenache gris. Strawberries and roses, then red-apple and citrus freshness. Elegant and lots of fun.  13% abv.  88/100
£8.99, The Cave,

2006 Tyrrell’s Winemaker’s Selection Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon, Australia
Could this be one of the best ever vintages of this all-time Australian classic? Bracingly fresh, intensely zesty and lemony, but just starting to show hints of the honey and toast of bottle age. No oak, of course. Give it 10 years. Or 20. 10.5% abv. 94/100
£27.50–£30, The Wine Society, The Halifax Wine Company, and others

2011 Errazuriz Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa ,Chile
From the Manzanar  vineyard, a new vineyard, 12km from the oceanPiercing freshness on the nose, but pretty, rather than pungent aromas – grass, nettles, floral. Gooseberry, herb, lemongrass and delicate saltiness on the palate. Elegant and fine. 13.5% abv. 91/100.
£11.99, Waitrose, and others

2012 Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau River, Marlborough, New Zealand
Intense lemon and elderflower fragrance, but with a spicy, smoky element. Succulent, fresh palate; long and rich, with lemon, spice and mineral flavours. 13% abv. 91/100
£12.49–£12.79, Majestic, Waitrose, and others

2011 Mâcon-Villages, Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard, Bourgogne, France
Creamy, supple and fleshy with lovely freshness and a honeyed, yet effortlessly zesty finish. From hillside vineyards in Chardonnay and Uchizy. 13% abv. Very good value. 88/100
£8.95, The Wine Society

2011 Mâcon aux Bois D'Allier, Domaine Cordier, 2011
Rich and fresh nose, nutty, savoury, crème fraiche flavours with deep, lemony fruit. Tightly packed, textured and rounded, with good acidity. 13.5% abv. 90/100.
£11.95, The Wine Society

2011 Saint-Véran En Creches, Domaine Jacques et Nathalie Saumaize
£11.50 bottle    £138 dozen     
Unoaked for maximum purity. Medium-bodied and gently mouthfilling with real zest. Delicate grassy freshness, peach and apple fruit and a briny, mineral note on the finish. Unoaked for maximum purity. 13% abv. 89/100.
The Wine Society is now out of stock of this (£11.50), but you can add it to your wish list 

2011 Casa Silva Reserva Viognier, Colchagua Valley, Chile
In previous vintages I’ve thought that Casa Silva’s Reserva Viognier has carried too much oak. The smoky, toasty oak is here again, even though only 10% is aged in oak (French) and only for 3 months, but it works, adding a layer of complexity to the intensity of the fruit (citrus, mango, apricot), clarity of the acidity and the alround polish. 14.5% abv. 90/100
£10.10, Addison Wines,, and others

2009 Casa Silva Quinta Generación, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Off-puttingly heavy bottle, but very good wine: a selection of the estate’s best sites  and barrels; 57% cabernet sauvignon, 34% carmenère, 6% syrah, 3% petit verdot, with malo and 12 months’ ageing in French oak barrels. Big, concentrated, smoky, toasty and chocolaty, but at the same time very pure and fresh, with fine tannins and  flavours of blackcurrant, eucalyptus, coffee and soy sauce. 14.5% abv.  92/100
rrp £15.95. I haven’t found any stockists of the 2009 yet, so let me know if you sell it (anywhere).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wine of the week, 9 June 2013

More wines will follow, but here's one for now. Rolle, aka vermentino, is such a good grape variety.  
2011 Caves D’Esclans Déesse Astrée, Vin de Pays du Var
Delicately fragrant; fresh pear and apple with a twist of clove; supple and creamy; gentle grapefruit acidity and a touch of salt on the finish. Delicious. 100% rolle. Sacha Lichine is the man behind D’Esclans – both caves and château and its line of famously expensive rosés. Patrick Léon, ex Mouton-Rothschild, oversees the winemaking. 13% abv. 
I haven't been able to track down any stockists yet. Tel: + 33 4 94 60 40 40

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cahors for International Malbec Day, 17 April 2013

There’s one Argentine malbec below (the lovely Colomé), but Cahors is getting star billing because I’ve been out in the region again recently. OK, so I go there a fair bit, but malbec is, after all, Cahors’ gift to the wine world (or south-west France’s gift to be strictly accurate). That said, Cahors has a lot to thank Argentina for. Argentina’s way with malbec inspired the new generation of Cahors producers to believe in their grape variety and their wine and to aspire to quality in a way that their parents, reliant on co-operatives and négociants and dogged by low prices, did not. There are more wines made from 100% malbec than there ever were before, especially at the top end (for marketing purposes wines can be divided into three levels, starting with Tradition and ascending, via Prestige to Special). And, hell, if this new generation of Cahors producers hadn’t seen the success Argentina was having with malbec, they’d still be calling the grape auxerrois, a name which guaranteed maximum confusion, as it belongs to a better-known, unrelated white variety of Alsace.
The young growers at the helm now are much more open-minded, experimental and keen to share their experiences with each other than their parents were. There are producers experimenting with cement eggs and aphorae (Emmanuel Rybinski at Clos Troteligotte has ten 150-litre, thin clay, bung-closed aphorae). There are 100% malbec wines that have have 24 months in new oak and 100% malbec wines that see none. There are biodynamic domaines (eg Fabien Jouves of Mas del Périé). There’s a producer bottling a malbec from his estate as a Vin de France (Fabrice Durou of Château Gaudou – see below) and another making a wine from grapes picked berry by berry and put intact into the barrel so that a carbonic maceration ensues (Germain Croisille of Château Les Croisille). 
And there are white wines. How long before there is a Cahors white appellation? Not as long as you think perhaps. There were always white vines in the vineyards, but now there are wines made from viognier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sémillon and chenin blanc among others. Some are very good indeed, led by Pascal Verhaeghe’s Le Cèdre Blanc, a benchmark, barrel-matured viognier from vines he and his brother planted in 1988. Just outside the appellation borders, soil scientists to the stars, Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, have planted whites as well as malbec. Their first wines are due for release this year…

Highly recommended
2009 Château du Cèdre, Cahors, £15.95, Lea & Sandeman
Perfumed, dense, full and very polished. Exemplary.
2008 Château de Chambert Cahors Malbec, £15.99, Sheldon’s Wine Cellars
The second wine of Chambert. Rich, ripe fruit, firm but glossy tannins. Biodynamically farmed and Cahors’ largest certified organic estate.
2009 Clos Triguedina Le Petit Clos, Cahors, £8.50, The Wine Society
The little wine of Triguedina. Not very little at all. Lots of depth and black fruit savour.
2009 Château Les Croisille, Cahors, £9.99, Marks & Spencer
Depth and substance, blackberry and mineral flavours, and nicely chewy.
2011 Durou Exception Malbec, Vin de France, £6.95, Lea & Sandeman
Succulent, bright, ultra-smooth young malbec from Château Gaudou in Cahors. Great value.
2010 Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta, Argentina, £16.99, Waitrose
From Argentina’s oldest winery and some of the highest vineyards in the world (at 2300–3000m); matured and partly fermented in French oak barrels. Dark, perfumed, seamlessly rich and fresh.