Is it worth paying more? Tasting September 2022

We served two wines each of four different styles, one at around £10-12 and one at over £30. The wines were served blind and attendees asked which they preferred.

Group A – Chenin Blanc

  1. Ken Forrester Reserve Collection Chenin Blanc 2020

An elegant, zesty, oaked white wine with flavours of tropical fruit, caramel and honeycomb.
Ken Forrester was the early champion of Chenin Blanc in South Africa believing that this overlooked grape could make truly great wines to rival those of Europe. Selecting fruit grown close to the ocean in the lee of the Cape’s majestic mountains he crafts this blend, aging a portion of the wine in French oak barrels to develop complexity. Best enjoyed chilled it will keep for 3 years from purchase.
Country:  South Africa                                                                    Region: Stellenbosch
Dominant Grape: Chenin Blanc                                                  Alcohol Level: 13.5%
 Vintage: 2020                                                                                     Price: £ 12.00

  • Domaine des Baumard, Savennières , Clos St Yves 2018

Intense aromas of green apple, honey, apricot and white flowers with a subtle smokiness. Clean and bright
Country: France                                                                Region: Savennières, Loire
Dominant Grape: Chenin Blanc                                   Alcohol Level: 13% 
Vintage: 2018                                                                     Price: £32.95

The group voted 10 to 4 in favour of the less expensive South African wine.

Group B – Viognier

  1. Viognier Grès du Trias, Coteaux de l’Ardèche, Vignerons Ardéchois 2020

‘The most food-friendly wine you’ll find’ was the view of Sebastian Payne MW, and his fellow Wine champions tasters agreed. With honeyed, elegant, aromatics to the fore, with a spicy, full palate, this southern French winner would be perfect with a chicken or vegetable korma.
Country: France                                                                Region: The Ardèche
Grape: Viognier                                                            Alcohol Level: 14.5%  
 Vintage: 2020                                                                     Price: £9.95

  • Condrieu, Cave Merlin 2019

Delectable unctuous viognier with vivid citrus fruit, and fabulous in 2019. François Merlin learned his craft with Georges Vernay and René Rostaing, and over 20 years has accumulated a wide spread of smallholdings including a plot above the famed Château-Grillet.
Country: France                                                                Region: Northern Rhône
Grape: Viognier                                                            Alcohol Level: 14%  
 Vintage: 2019                                                                     Price: £30

This time everybody identified, and preferred, the more expensive Condrieu wine

Group C – Syrah / Shiraz

  1. d’Arenberg The Footbolt McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019

It’s not hard to imagine why this is d’Arenberg’s best-selling red wine when you taste it. This is a great full-bodied McLaren Vale shiraz, with bags of ripe red and black fruit, a pinch of pepper, savoury notes and rich texture. This is a 5-star Australian blockbuster at an affordable price. Foot trod part way through fermentation, then aged on lees in new and used French oak for 12-18 months.
Country: Australia                                                            Region: McLaren Vale
Dominant Grape: Shiraz (Syrah)                                 Alcohol level: 14.5%
Vintage: 2019                                                                    Price £ 12.50

  • Saint-Joseph Rouge, Domaine du Tunnel 2016

Stéphane Robert owns several plots in Saint-Joseph and weaves their fruit into fine, polished wines. Here he shows off the excellence of the 2016 Northern Rhône vintage in the form of a dark, granitic and brooding Syrah.
Country: France                                                                Region: Northern Rhône
Dominant Grape: Syrah (Shiraz)                                 Alcohol level: 13%
Vintage: 2016                                                                    Price: £30.00

The group preferred the less expensive Australian wine by a majority of 12 to 2; however most recognised that the Saint-Joseph was the more expensive.

Group D – Valpolicella blend

  1. ‘No.1’ Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Azienda Agricola Fratelli Recchia, 2019

Often overlooked for Amarone, Ripasso offers a very drinkable, balanced alternative. Made in the Ripasso style, deep dried cherry and cranberry notes add to the velvety, bramble fruit fresh flavour, with undertone of dark chocolate and spice from maturing in oak.
Country: Italy                                                                                     Region: Veneto
Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella                                                      Alcohol Level: 14.5%    
 Vintage: 2019                                                                                     Price: £13.99

  • Alpha Zeta, Amarone della Valpolicella, 2018

The fruit for this decadent Amarone wine comes from vineyards in the hills outside Verona, in the Valpantena Valley.  Selected Corvina and Rondinella grapes are hand harvested in mid-September and left to dry in specially ventilated rooms until the end of January. Once they have lost about 40% of their natural weight the grapes are destemmed and crushed. The resulting wine is matured in oak for 24 months and transferred in concrete tanks for final filtration before bottling.
This Amarone is deep and intense on the nose with aromas of dried cherries and blueberries and notes of spiced autumn fruit compote. On the palate it is powerful, with a lovely balance of ripe tannins and spiced, concentrated savoury cherry fruit character. A touch of woodsmoke completes the long finish.
Country: Italy                                                                                     Region: Veneto
Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella                                                      Alcohol Level: 15%     
 Vintage: 2018                                                                                     Price: £30

The group unanimously preferred the Amarone and this was the only group where most said they would probably pay the extra to get the better wine.