Barbera to weep over and sauv/sem that inspires a Song and Dance – two of several new treats from Laithwaites

24 Sep

Apparently wine buyer Anne Forrest wept when she first tasted Paolo Monti’s Barbera 2007, one of the new Italians showcased by Laithwaites this week at their autumn tasting.   I was awash in spontaneous smiles myself when someone mentioned this to me, as I had happened on the bottle almost by mistake.  I was drawn to the Italian tasting table by Monti’s much pricier Barolo; I’m a  big fan of this beefy nebbiolo,  though I have to approach it with caution, as a couple of glasses has more than once put me under the table.  However, although the Monti 2005 was suitably grand and austere, for me it was eclipsed by the two years younger Barbera d’Alba.  Rich, seductive and everything fine red Italian wine can be at its best, this was one of the rare wines I could immediately appreciate completely without having to wait and see how it might change with a plate of food.   Worth every penny of £21 for a special treat.

Also in the easy to love category was the appropriately named Song and Dance Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2010 from Margaret River, a steal at £8.49 per bottle.   These sauv/sems from Western Australia have long been a favourite of the Wanderers, who discovered them in Perth,  yet seem to be strangely under-valued in the UK.   Generally more approachable than many of the pure semillons from Hunter Valley which sell for a similar price, and surprisingly more redolent of that taste of honey which characterises semillon.

Other notables at the tasting were the Misson Estate Jewelstone Cabernet/Merlot blend from Hawke’s Bay which beat Chateau Lafitte and Latour in a recent blind tasting in Hong Kong, and which Laithwaites expects to sell its limited 2009 stock of in “one day flat”, according to the buyer.   And although I arrived too late to taste the ports, which were already being packed up as I left the tasting, it was a lovely surprise to learn that Christiano Van Zeller, who with his sister inherited  Quinta do Noval before selling out to a syndicate in 1993, is still making port under the Quinta do Vale D. Maria label.   It brought back happy memories of four days getting deeply into port morning, noon and night with Christiano on the Noval estate about 20 years ago, and his own 2003 vintage is one we look forward to tasting with some Christmassy treats down the line.

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