What makes a ‘Classic’ wine? More importantly do we still want the classics or do we want to discover the new and future classics? Well you can choose this week from the brand new Marks and Spencer 'Classic' range covering everything from Beaujolais to Bordeaux or from some wines I consider the future. Everything I have tasted in the new range is indeed typical and this is largely a good thing. I must admit I have somewhat moved on from the sweet vanilla American oak flavours of Rioja as typified in the M&S version but there is no doubt it is still authentic.
Selections this week are three from the new M&S range and three wines I consider alternative classics. I chose the three M&S wines which I thought showed the most typicity and had the best balance of flavours but my choice of future classics is more controversial. Piedmont is most famed for the great Nebbiolo based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco but the region’s second grape Barbera is also increasingly treated with seriousness, notably around the village of Asti where it gets the very best land (Nebbiolo is not included in the Asti DO). Barbera blends well with Nebbiolo (adding fruit and weight) and generally displays pleasing soft cherry fruits while retaining good acidity (sometimes too much) so is more approachable than Nebbiolo. Top examples include Pio Cesare ‘Fides’ and Michele Chiarlo’s ‘Nizza’ but there are lots of Barbera under €20 worth trying.
Argentina’s Malbec is already well established as a world classic but less is written about that country’s second most planted grape Bonarda. Bonarda we now know is unrelated to the various Italian Bonarda grapes and is in fact the little planted Douce Noir from the Savoie. It is rare to encounter a Bonarda that is not fruit driven and juicy while also retaining some freshness, especially when grown in vineyards at altitude like the Colomé below.
Finally you might wonder why I have included a Bordeaux as a future classic but this is as far from traditional Claret as you could imagine, biodynamic, natural yeasts, fermented in amphora and virtually no sulphur added so this is all about velvety primary fruits and youthful drinkability (although I suspect it will age well enough). The demand for minimum intervention wines is increasing all the time and while they will never be easy to make in Bordeaux given the climate it can be done.
Marks & Spencer
This was made in conjunction with Charles Sichel of Bordeaux’s Maison Sichel, a solidly reliable producer. As you would expect it’s mostly Merlot (60%), but less commonly has a good quantity of Cabernet Franc (30%) plus 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cab Franc adds pleasing blackcurrant leaf and graphite notes and easily compensates for the omission of oak - I really liked the crunchy black fruit flavours and that this was so unmistakably Bordeaux.
Marks & Spencer
I have come around to Gavi in the past couple of years, especially as the less expensive versions are getting better and better. This is made by one of the progressive co-operatives in Gavi who (Araldica) and made from south facing vines that average 35 years old. Chalky mineral pear and apple aromas, crisp and taut on the palate but with texture thanks to lees contact. A bargain.
Marks & Spencer
A couple of weeks ago I gave the column over to Riesling and I would likely have featured this had I tasted it in time. There’s a touch of residual sugar (8g per litre) so the finish is rounded, but this bristles with citrus-tinged salty acidity and would be a fine match for Asian flavours or sipped on a sunny day while someone feeds you grilled prawns from the bbq.
Jus de Vine, Blackrock Cellar, Baggot St. Wines, McHughs, Red Nose Wines, Dwans and via www.wineonline.ie
A grape that is not considered ‘classic’ but is treated more and more seriously by Piemontese producers, especially around the villages of Asti and Alba. Dark ruby red, black cherry aromas, fruity and ripe on the palate with grip and textured dark fruits coming through - brisk acidity on the finish but balanced by fruit.
Avoca Handweavers, Power & Co Lucan, World Wide Wines Waterford - order online via www.worldwidewines.ie
From a single plot in the Colomé vineyard surrounding the winery at 2300 metres above sea level, one of the world’s highest. Argentinian Bonarda is effectively native to the country and deserves wider fame - rich purple colour, bright ripe red fruits on the nose, soft berry fruits on the palate with pleasing juicy freshness. Supremely easy drinking, best served a little cool.
Little Green Grocer, Mannings Emporium, Vintry, www.marypawlewines.com
So Bordeaux is clearly a ‘classic’ region but few have these flavours except perhaps Ch. Le Puy - this style will be seen as classic in the future. This is amphora aged, biodynamic and natural in style with bright plum fruit aromas, soft and full on the palate with ripe edgy black fruits, grip and intensity and a delicious fleshy and textured finish.