Push­ing the bound­aries

TRAIL­BLAZ­ERS: Su­per­mar­ket wine buy­ers are look­ing fur­ther afield in search of new flavours, writes Chris­tine Austin.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

N re­cent weeks the ma­jor su­per­mar­kets have opened hun­dreds of bot­tles for the press at their Spring Tast­ings and on your be­half, with­out a care for my tooth enamel, I have sipped and slurped my way through them all. This is an op­por­tu­nity to take a snapshot of the shelves, to re­view what the buy­ers have been de­vel­op­ing and to find out whether they are hit­ting the right notes for flavour and value.

Clearly the buy­ers at Marks & Spencer have been push­ing the bound­aries of their buy­ing trips to come up with a wine from Ja­pan. I have been tast­ing Koshu wines for sev­eral years, won­der­ing whether their del­i­cate flavours have a place out­side specialist restaurants. Now M&S have put Sol Lucet Koshu 2013 on the shelves at their largest 70 stores, and if it isn’t at your lo­cal store you can or­der it on the M&S web­site. Koshu (pro­nounced co-shoe) is the grape va­ri­ety, part of the Vi­tis Vinifera fam­ily, so it is a true wine-pro­duc­ing grape and is pre­dom­i­nantly grown around the town of Kat­sunuma in the main grape pro­duc­tion area of Ya­manashi.

This is a chal­leng­ing re­gion for grapes with high rain­fall, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the typhoon sea­son, so much that some pro­duc­ers even adorn their bunches of grapes with pro­tec­tive hats to keep the rain off. But this pink­ish-coloured grape va­ri­ety is re­mark­able when made into wine. Crisp, clean, del­i­cate and fra­grant, it is the per­fect match to Ja­panese cui­sine. Think of the flavours of nashi pears, with a hint of flo­ral aro­mat­ics of Ries­ling and a creamy har­mo­nious fin­ish and you have some idea of the flavour of this grape. At £12.99 this is hardly a bar­gain buy, but M&S are to be con­grat­u­lated for be­ing the first ma­jor re­tailer to put Koshu in the UK mar­ket. If you like sushi then this is def­i­nitely the wine to pour along­side.

M&S has also blazed a trail to the vine­yards of In­dia and now has three wines sourced from Nasik, 100 miles north­east of Mum­bai. This is a fairly new ven­ture for the re­gion, kick-started by a for­mer en­gi­neer from Cal­i­for­nia’s Sil­i­con Val­ley and now with 700 hectares un­der vine, Nasik has be­come In­dia’s largest wine grow­ing re­gion. What I like about this trio of wines is that they have been as­sem­bled to suit UK tastes, and so are miss­ing the usual slug of su­gar that is nor­mally part of an In­dian wine blend. Jewel of Nasik Sauvignon Blanc 2013 has lifted, cit­rus fruit and a good weight of flavour; the Zinfandel Rosé 2013 has ripe straw­berry fruit and just an edge of sweet­ness while the red, my favourite, is a Tem­pranillo Shiraz blend with ripe cherry fruit and a touch of spice. At £6.99 these are well worth a try.

Other high­lights from the Marks & Spencer range in­clude a fresh-tast­ing, crisp ap­ple style of English White Lily 2013 (£9.99), sourced from the chalky, south-fac­ing slopes of the North Downs in Sur­rey and an English red wine, Bol­ney Es­tate Lin­ter’s Red 2012 (£12.99) made from Rondo grape. This is a sur­pris­ingly deep-coloured, wellflavoured grape with juicy red-berry fruit, which could eas­ily stand 30 min­utes in the fridge for sum­mer­time drink­ing.

An­other new ad­di­tion to the shelves comes from the de­light­ful re­gion of Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake just over the US bor­der in On­tario, Canada. South­brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (£15.99) is bio­dy­nam­i­cally farmed and cer­ti­fied or­ganic and this wine brings deep cas­sis notes with bright fruit and sup­ple tan­nins.

Just in case you are think­ing that the

CHRIS­TINE AUSTIN This pink­ish-coloured

grape va­ri­ety is re­mark­able when made into wine.

M&S range is all new wines from strange and far-flung places, it isn’t. There are still plenty of good wines at ev­ery­day prices to en­joy, in par­tic­u­lar the herb and min­er­als, crunchy white Mar­ques de Alar­con Blanco 2013 from Castilla in Spain (£7.99) and the chunky cherry flavours of Loretto San­giovese Ru­bi­cone 2013 from Emilia Ro­magna (£6.49).

The Co-op has faded from my tast­ing hori­zons for a year or so, and since their main tast­ing clashed with the mega-event ar­ranged by Waitrose I thought I would miss them again. How­ever they ar­ranged a sec­ond event and in the calm of their Lon­don of­fices just one other writer and I worked our way through 60 of their wines.

I was pleased not to have missed them. This is a range that is well-cho­sen, well­priced and the buy­ers haven’t had to head off to odd cor­ners of the earth to find them.

Among the whites In­domita Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Chile (£7.49, on of­fer at £6.49 un­til June 3) is stacked with bright, crisp, green goose­berry fruit, al­though I would be tempted to buy the Co-op’s own brand Truly Ir­re­sistible Leyda Val­ley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 at £6.99 for its zesty style and clar­ity of flavours. There is a gen­tle, apri­cot-tinged Les Jamelles Viog­nier 2013 (£6.49) from the Langue­doc but un­til June 3 the Co-op’s Truly Ir­re­sistible Viog­nier 2013 is down from £8.99 to £6.99 and it packs more weight and smooth, el­e­gant fruit.

Even if you have never shopped for wine at the Co-op be­fore it is worth find­ing

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