Monday, June 6, 2011

Virgin Wines tasting

Another press tasting to report. This time it was one put on by Virgin Wines, who have the tag line ‘Life’s too short for boring wines’. So are their wines exciting or is the wine drinker's life too short to order from Virgin?

The tasting was very friendly and informal, with plenty of time to mull over the wines on offer. There were 40 odd wines on parade and they were grouped by recent special offers, featured producers (although the latter do not seem to be on the website yet) as well as wines featured in case selections, such as ‘Discovery Club’, which is designed to introduce members to ‘off the beaten track wines’.

First thing to say is that there was a nice range of wines on offer and the producers featured made a refreshing change from standard supermarket selections. Of the marketing promotions the Can Rafols Gran Caus 2001 looks amazing value at the offer price of £9.99 (even at £19.99 full price) and the Zinio Garnacha Rioja 2009 was a very nice young wine, full of fruit (offer price £8.75). However, the 2009 Chateau des Cedres Bordeaux rouge (offer price £8.99) did little for me and just reinforced my belief that cheap Bordeaux seldom works (although at £13.99 at full price this is getting to mid-range).

Of the featured wines, I was impressed by the reds from De Martino, especially the single-vineyard offerings of La Aguada 2008 and La Cruces 2007 (both £17.99). While a little more pricy these were packed full of ripe fruit with well integrated toasty oak. I was less overwhelmed by the 2011 De Martino Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99) but there were a few note-worthy Sauvignon Blancs on offer from Levin Winery of Loire: an entry level wine at £11.99 that was very enjoyable with unusual fruit flavours, and their ‘Mr L’ which, while appealing, was a little steep at £23.99. The Levin Rosé 2009 (£11.99) was blackcurranty and very refreshing but the Madame L Gamay 2009 seemed very overpriced at £23.99.

To me though the stand out was the selection of German Rieslings. These were from Losen-Bockstanz and Ulrich Langguth, both of the Mosel. There was a good Eiswine from the latter (not cheap at £29.99) and some well priced Spätlese (Wittlicher Lay and Wittlicher Portnersberg 2009s) from the former (£9.99). A 2003 Riesling Spätlese Piesporter Goldtröpfchen (£15.99) from Ulrich Langguth had fantastic petrol notes. Also good was the Langguth dry Spätlese Enricher Ellergrub 2007 at £14.99.

A bit more hit and miss was the Discovery Club (£79.99 a case) selection. Like so many of these mixed cases available there were one or two good wines, but bulked out with some far from exciting offerings. In the Discovery Club case most were rather unexciting, but at £6.66 a bottle maybe that’s all you can expect. The El Primer Picado 2009 stood out with plum and well integrated oak and the Carnival Padthaway red Blend 2008 was decent. The First Class Discovery Club case (£99.99 a case) certainly had better wines and surprised me with a decent mid-price Bordeaux in the shape of Chateau Roc de Pellebouc. The Vina Leyda Sauvignon Gris was also very appealing and had a wonderful nose.

Overall I think there are some good wines on offer here, although there are some that disappoint. I’d certainly give the wines I mention a go, and as long as you avoid a few overpriced and average offerings, Virgin Wines are certainly worth a close look.

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