This week at Chester Beer and Wines in Hoole, the focus was on Sauvignon Blanc for the whites, and Cabernet Sauvignon (or at least blends that lead with that grape) for the Reds. As usual, both the tutor, Mervyn, and our fellow imbibers were in good humour, so with a short glance at the map showing the key areas for these grapes, it was on to the tasting. First up were the Sauvignon Blancs, and, to my wife’s delight a Marlborough example, The Cloud Factory 2015 (£9). I didn’t share my wife’s excitement however, having been stung by too many cheaper NZ sauvignon blancs, invariable with the words “Cloud” or “Bay” featuring in the name. This particular bottle had the characteristic pale green-straw colour, almost translucent at the edge, and Kiwi fruit dominating the nose. On the palate it was all gooseberry and elderflower, however, and sharp acidity, although the fruit wasn’t cloying – it seemed to me a good example of it’s type and at a very reasonable price (my guess was £12). I do find that these wines peak a little later though as the acidity becomes more integrated, so I would imagine the 2014 would be optimum vintage to drink now. Next up was a South African wine, the False Bay 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (£7.50). Slightly deeper in colour than the Marlborough, it’s made from various parcels to the west of Cape Town including cold climate fruit – the crispness is discernible on the nose, although alongside some slight smokey unpleasantness: sulphur? There’s none of that on the palate, where there’s plenty of fruit and minerality too, and while it wouldn’t be my first choice, it’s good value. Last up was the Domaine Patrick Vauvy 2014 Touraine (£9.75). Quite the contrast to the Marlborough – a deeper hue again, with Green Pepper scents, and the fruit flavours replaced with herbaceous notes. Easily my favourite of the night, and the potential source of marital disputes for some time to come.
Having made our way north to France, it was time to start our journey in Red wine aiming in the opposite direction, beginning with the Duboscq Claret 2012 Bordeaux (£10.95). Not sure why this was in the Cabernet Sauvignon section as it’s 80% merlot, but it’s a good example of the regional appellation, with firm tannins and the expected flavours of plum, damson and blackcurrant, though a little fruit forward for me. The only real concern is that I don’t know what purpose a wine like this serves sandwiched between cheaper, though lesser, clarets, and far superior wines of either bank that can be had for a few pounds more. Next up was an Aussie Limestone Coast Cab, The Pugilist 2014 (£9.75). From the One Chain vineyards stable, along with the Googly chardonnay we had in a previous week, it’s a concentrated, primary, fruit driven wine. There’s not a lot of structure that suggests it will get time to develop secondary and tertiary flavours, so one to be drunk young if such wines are your thing, though they’re probably not mine. Last up was the Kaiken Ultra 2011 (£13.75), from Mendoza in Argentina. This wine is Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% Malbec, which presented something of a conundrum: I swear I could taste the distinctive malbec flavours, yet at basically trace amounts that probably shouldn’t be possible (to my relatively unrefined palate at least). Or was it terroir rather than grape variety? I’ve enjoyed many a malbec from Mendoza, and the Uco Valley in particular. Either way, an interesting wine I will have to revisit, although I will say it lacked a little acidity for me. All in all, a good week where the whites were the stars, but when the conversation is so good, who cares!