Manchester wine expert Nick Fildes kicks off his new DesignMyNight wine column by choosing his three favourite wines now being poured in Manchester's bars. So see what he has to say about these lovely tipples from the shores of Santorini, Tuscany and... Gloucestershire (yep, really!), and check them out for yourself next time you're out and about.
il Bruciato, Tenuta Gaudo al Tasso, Bolgheri, Italy, 2011
How much: £15 for half a bottle
This isn't your standard Tuscan wine. Think Tuscany, think Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano (which is making a bit of a comeback) and of course, the famous Sangiovese grape that goes into making half of these wines. However, since the mid-1990s, a handful of producers are beginning to churn out a style of wine affectionately known as SuperTuscans. Sangiovese takes a back seat and lets Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and in the case of this wine, Syrah, do the driving. Here we have a serious wine for people who are willing to push the boundaries.
Upon opening this wine (Thank you Katie), we were greeted with a thick, concentrated aroma of strawberries, cherries and raspberries with a touch of spicy clove. So far, so good. We opted to decant this wine, just to let it open up. This proved a glorious move, as the youthful dark ruby red colour of the wine was rather delicious. So much so, I became hungry.
On the palate, it was a joy to behold. An initial blast of rich fruits followed up beautifully with soft tannins, balanced nicely on the backdrop of the acidity, which makes a subtle appearance alongside tannins and summer pudding. Lovely and full, rich and attractive. After a few more swirls and slurps, the wine really began to open up and then the serious stuff made an appearance. Is that a bit of herbal aroma? A hint of the vegetal? Wood? Is that a plum I can smell? All these aromas and tastes began to fill the glass.
As you can imagine, I was rather enjoying the wine by this point and attempting to come up with a few new ways of describing wines, spurred on by pal who gets tired of the same old waffle. Descriptions for a new wave of wine drinkers. Then it flashed into my consciousness, if this wine was a celebrity, it'd be Christina Hendricks. Not that I'm accusing a Hollywood A-Lister of smelling slightly vegetal. Far from it. This wine is a stunner and ticks all the boxes in terms of class, appearance, taste and pocket.
So with all this in mind, I bet you're wondering how much this set me back. Bearing in mind it is a half bottle of SuperTuscan (which can get rather expensive), I was amazed that it only set me back £15.00. Again, yes it is only a half bottle, but that is serious value for money.
Gaia Wild Ferment, Assyritiko, Island of Santorini
How much: £39.95
If you think of Santorini as being a beach holiday destination, you'd be right. If you think of Santorini as being an island that has the ability to produce cracking wine, you'd be right. Here we have a brilliant example of how hostile terroir can produce sublime wine. On a family holiday, when I was 5 or 6, I distinctly remember burning my feet on the hotter than the surface of the sun, sand. This is volcanic sand, very dark in colour, which retains the heat from the sun. When I visit again, I shall wear shoes. Ok, a bit of history now. It's 1500BC, the volcano of Santorini, Thera, has just erupted. A tsunami is currently on its way to Northern Egypt, about to wipe out a half of its shoreline. Fast forward 3500 years, after the dust had quite literally settled, we have a fertile island, made up of porous, volcanic soil. On the slopes of Thera and the surrounding hills, vineyards have began to pop up. The farmers have realised that the ancient vines located on these slopes are incredibly lean. (Think - if a vine and its roots have to work incredibly hard to burrow through the porous soil just to have a drink, these vines are going to be mean, lean and fit).
With all this in mind, here we have the Gaia Assyritiko dry white wine, potent and intense. I'd been meaning to taste this wine for a long time, but just never got round to it. Then, I had the opportunity to taste it whilst doing a wine class at Bakerie. The "students" were bowled over by this one. The initial aromas of zesty citrus and elegant toasted oak, followed up by a lovely, rich mouthfeel. Crisp acidity balanced harmoniously with fruit, honey, nutty flavours and minerality ("Minerality" has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Think - licking a pebble and enjoying it). This is a great food wine. All kinds of seafood, salty or freshwater, would go wonderfully with this.
So, here we have a class wine. A wine that will be the subject of conversation for a while. Think of it as an Aegean Puligny Montrachet for only £39.95.
Coleridge Hill, Three Choirs Vineyard, Gloucestershire, 2011
How much: £19.95
BOLD STATEMENT ALERT - I think English white wines are up there alongside out continental neighbours, in terms of class and taste. I love them. Most of the ones I have tasted offer what I would call a taste of the English countryside, with flavours like elderflower, nettle, apples and pears. Lovely, crisp, dry white wines.
Coleridge Hill, brought to us by the lovely people at the Three Choirs Winery, was first introduced to me at Sam's Chop House, an Mancunian institution at which I used to work, moving through the ranks over the years, finally becoming a sommelier under the Jedi-like tutelage of the legendary George Bergier. George and myself re-wrote the wine-list for the company which as you can imagine, was hard work, having to taste all these new wines. Actually, it has just been acknowledged with an Award Of Excellence 2013 by Wine Spectator, a proud moment for us, as you can imagine. One of the first wines that we both agreed had to go on this list, was this. Another thing I love about English wine is the use of curious grape varieties, most of which are indigenous to certain parts of Germany and northern France, well suited to the cool climate. Here, we have a blend of Phoenix, Madeleine Angevine and I believe a smidge of Huxelrebe. Upon your first taste of this wine, you'll be greeted with a soft floral aroma, elderflower and nettles. As I said before, a very English smell. On the palate we get the same sensations as well as fresh peaches and apples. It all blends together perfectly to produce an elegant, lively and fresh wine that retains a delicate and fine personality. Delightful to quaff on a hot summers day (which is unfortunate as I'm writing this in October) or as an aperitiv before a meal.
Sam's, rather generously, serve this wine by the glass as well as by the bottle, which is music to my ears. A bottle will set you back £19.95 which, quite frankly, is a steal. Failing that, you can buy this wine direct from the winery's website, along with all their other lovely tipples.