Saturday, October 2, 2010

M&S Autumn Press Tasting 2010

Myself and Random Aussie Bloke spent yesterday morning at the Marks and Spencer Autumn Press Tasting at their head office near Paddington, London. It was a great chance for us to try out their range, especially as M&S wines are a bit difficult for me to buy. Their Simply Food store on my local high street has shut in the wake of the credit crunch, and since I've moved offices from Liverpool St. to Fetter Lane, that cut out another 3 M&S outlets that I used to frequent.

All in all, there were 127 wines to sample. Since I only had a couple of hours to get through them (I had to go to work after!), I had to leave some out. I only tried one wine from the Wine Direct (internet shop) table, and I skipped a lot of the Italian, Spanish and lower-end French whites.

To summarize, I was impressed with the South American and South African wines, as well as the Burgundies (both white and red). Most of the Pinot Noir in general was impressive, no matter where it was from. I started to struggle during the reds (both with my palate and the clock) so I didn't spend as much time on the them as I would have liked, so there may not be many mentions there. I've also left out most of the more expensive wines, as they were mostly very good so no surprises there.

Instead of listing every wine I tried, here's a list of personal highlights. Not all of them are wines I liked, but worth a mention.
  • Chateau Moncontour Vouvray Brut 2007, Loire Valley, France. £9.99. Sparkling wine made from 100% Chenin Blanc. This is terrific for the price. Dry but not bone dry (dosage of 9g/L), it's soft, round and not too far off Champagne. I found it much more appealing than some of the other Sparkling wines on display.
  • Ridgeview Marksman Brut 2008, Sussex, England. £22.00. Made exclusively for M&S by Ridgeview, who just collected a Decanter trophy for best sparkling wine at the 2010 Decanter World Wine awards. I thought the Marksman was kind of odd though - it tasted like a dry Chardonnay with bubbles in it, making it distinctively un-Champagne-like.
  • M&S Limari Vallely Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Chile. £8.99. An interesting wine here. Smoky nose, with a pronounced capsicum note on the palate, along with the usual Sauvignon Blanc flavours.
  • Charles Back Viognier 2010, Paarl, South Africa. £8.99. A blend of barrel fermented, sur lie wine and tank fermented wine, this has outstanding flavour and a nice, weighty mouthfeel.
  • Journey's End Honeycomb Chardonnay 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa. £9.99. I thought this was fabulous, but I usually love malolactic fermentation in my Chardonnay. Notes of vanilla, cream and honey wrap a delicious fruit core. A great wine for a tenner.
  • Schug Carneros Chardonnay 2008, Sonoma County, California. £16.00. A bit pricier than the Journey's End, but perhaps slightly more complex in that it offers the malolactic butteriness but tempers it with 60% non-malolactic wine to retain acidity - and it's evident. Noticeable oak.
  • M&S Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Tasmania, Australia. £8.99. Startling grapefruit nose, peachy. Nice.
  • Vasse Felix Semillon 2008, Margaret River, Western Australia. £12.99. Smoky, diesel nose. Interesting and complex palate. Definitely not the simple, lemony type. I always find these kinds of Semillon hard to describe. Try it for yourself!
  • Val do Salnes Albarino 2009, Rias Baixas, Spain. £10.99. Flinty nose with hay (and vomit!) notes on the palate. Better than it sounds.
  • M&S Chablis Grand Gru Grenouille 2006, Burgundy, France. £42.00. Malolactic fermentation and 40% new oak. Steely in the Chablis tradition along with smoothness imparted from the oak. Delicious.
  • M&S Mersault 1er Cru Les Charmes Dessus 2006, Burgundy, France. £38.00. This (along with the Sauternes) was my favourite of the tasting. It's like drinking butterscotch. Stunning. Cheapskate that I am, I would buy this.
  • Soledo Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Central Valley, Chile. £4.99. A surprising palate of watermelon and strawberry, this is my pick of the rosés on offer.
  • De Loach Pinot Noir Maboroshi 2008, Russian River Valley, California. £21.00. Good Pinot fruit and nice structured tannins. This is my kind of Pinot.
  • Clocktower Pinot Noir 2008, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand. £11.49. Strawberry and cedery oak flavours. Really nice and good value.
  • Tejo Touriga Nacional 2007, Tejo, Portugal. £6.99. Still wines made from this variety can taste grapey and port-like (unsurprisingly as it's the main grape used in port production), but this one doesn't at all. Good value.
  • Chateau Laville Sauternes 2008, Bordeaux, France. £14.99. Stunning. This would be a candidate for a 5 star wine on my blog. Beautiful, haunting nose - I must have spent 5 minutes savouring it. Complexity on the palate changed continuously, and lingered forever. My favourite of the tasting along with the Mersault.


  1. Are M&S actually selling the Journey's End Honeycomb Chardonnay 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa?

  2. owood,

    According to the notes M&S provided, this wine's availability is listed as 'November' in 150 stores, so it may not be out there just yet...


  3. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the update! I'll be keeping my eyes peeled as it truely is a lovely wine.

    Would you recommend alternative, with similar flavours/taste?



  4. Hi owood,

    For that price range I quite like these two, both from Waitrose. I don't know about M&S though - I don't have one near me so I don't buy from the regularly.