Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Wine of the week

Fitou l'Exception 2006, Cave de Mont Tauch - £10.00 (or buy 2 for £9.99 each) at Majestic

There was a time when Fitou was all the rage - around the mid-nineties I think. Much of it was supermarket own-label stuff and its popularity then probably had something to do with the disappearance of a previous source of bargain reds, namely Bulgaria. We always need a suppy of decent, cheapish red wine - and for a few years, Fitou was it. French, but mercifully easy to pronounce, rustically easy to enjoy - that'll do nicely.

After its brief day in the sun, however, Fitou faded from view as we transferred our affections (what fickle serial monogamists we are) to the "sunshine in a glass" provided by New World wines. Fitou has not stopped being produced, of course, and the Mont Tauch co-operative has been quietly toiling away over the years, turning out vast amounts of wine from a mind-boggling 1950 hectares of vineyard owned by 250 different growers.

Not all of it is worth seeking out, by any means, but I was quite taken with this one, made from grapes grown in the best vineyard sites. It's a blend of carignan and grenache with a little syrah. Carignan is an often-despised variety, accused of adding nothing but colour, alcohol and rusticity - but older vines give an inky, spicy character too. This is not all about the black, spicy fruit - it has plenty of that savoury, herbal aroma of southern French garrigue, which seems unique to wines from Languedoc and Roussillon. Great for a dark, late Autumn evening and some suitably hearty food - wild boar sausages would be just about perfect.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Wine of the week

Loacker Atagis Gewurztraminer 2008, Alto Adige - £16.95 (2006 vintage) from www.greatwesternwine.co.uk

Alto Adige is a bit of a conundrum; technically part of Italy, but essentially German-speaking; a disconcerting mix of Tyrolean alpine scenery, dotted with palms and fig trees; an area where Muller Thurgau is taken seriously as a grape variety, instead of being derided. It's hard to know what to make of it.

The varieties grown in this region are, as you might expect, not typically Italian: alongside Pinot Grigio sit Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Reds are traditionally made from the local varieties Schiava and Lagrein, though some Pinot Noir is making its mark.

Rainer Loacker's wines, however, are a soothing balm to confused minds. He was the first grower in this region to become organic and biodynamic, using only homeopathic remedies to treat his vines since 1979.

Gewurztraminer, though usually made as a dry wine here, can become rather fat and flabby in Alto Adige's hot summers. This version though, has great precision and freshness which reins in the variety's broad lychee and rose petal fruit. Alto Adige will never be a low-cost production area and Loacker never a maker of cheap wines - but there's a uniqueness here which is worth paying for.

By the way, just in case you were wondering - yes, they are part of the same family who own Loacker Wafers, beloved of UK coffee shops.