Like Sir Richard Branson, the folks who started Perth’s Exel Wines in 2009 feel that a recession can be a good time to start a new enterprise.
Admittedly their business is slightly insulated from Europe’s travails because one of its elements is sourcing top-quality wines and whiskies for less economically battered customers in the Far East. Another part includes a website open to everyone, but a major target for operations manager Russell Wallace remains the restaurant and retail trade of Scotland. Accordingly, he is particularly proud of their neat and attractive shop in Perth’s South Street. To optimise quality and price available there and throughout the business, Wallace sources many of the more unusual wines direct from producers.
This review starts with the reds and opens with the story of a Bordeaux wine luminary, Professor Emile Peynaud, who – to the incredulity of his claret-obsessed peers – helped the Guibert family create Mas de Daumas Gassac some 30 years ago in the then hopelessly unfashionable Herault. Not only has that wine now become regarded as the first growth of the Languedoc, but it has also been joined by some entry-point siblings. One of those is 2011 Moulin de Gassac, Premier Selection Red (£8.44) – a warm and robust syrah-led blend with attractive cherry and redcurrant fruit and a finish that emphasises the spicy touches so typical of that grape variety.
The same money will secure 2008 Heredad Ugarte Mercedes Eguren Shiraz/Tempranillo, a 50:50 partnership of those two grape varieties. It hails from Rioja Alavesa – the smallest and coolest part of the Rioja region – and delivers textured black cherry fruit and a long, menthol-centred finish. Interestingly, although its tannins are pretty firm, unusually they are most evident at the outset and fade.
Moving 1,000 or so miles east, we reach the centuries-old Biscardo estate, near Verona – a region that is home to the celebrated ripasso wine-making method. That technique re-passes basic valpolicella over the skins and other debris left after fermentation of the region’s flagship amarone to give extra depth, colour and flavour. The success of this is can be judged from the dense, nutty and pronounced savoury cherry flavours of 2009 Biscardo Valpolicella Ripasso (£13.61), which, despite all that depth, retains the region’s fresh acidity.
The final red, 2009 Welgegund Pinotage (£21.68), is the perfect riposte to those who decry South Africa’s pinotage grape. Although not cheap, the quality is exceptional – from the minty, forest fruits nose, through complex, intense plum and blaeberry fruit to the smooth violet and liquorice finish.
I’m also impressed by a delightful white burgundy, 2010 Maison Champy Macon Villages (£9.90), which starts with attractive, fresh, lime-based acidity that leads into a long, sophisticated finish with vanilla and minerality.
The 2011 Moulin de Gassac Premier Selection White (£8.44) draws all Languedoc’s lively pear and quince fruit from its unusual grape blend. Terret is recognised for its acidity and minerality, both manifesting themselves clearly in this multi-faceted, forward white.
More unorthodox is 2009 Heredad Ugarte Mercedes Eguren Sauvignon Blanc (£8.44), which is unusual for a sauvignon because it is an older vintage and relegates those trademark lemon flavours to a walk-on part. Instead, it centres on a clean, herby acidity with hints of fennel and concludes with an unexpected hint of sweetness and a vestige of minerality. Conventional sauvignon blanc this is not.
It is great to see such diverse and distinctive wines available in Perth – suitable for toasting the restoration of its city status.
2011 Gran Familia ‘Privada’ Rueda, Sauvignon Blanc Verdejo Spain, 13 per cent
A new wine from Scottish winemaker Norrel Robertson MW, who provides a gentle, easy-drinking white that combines the green-apple-centred acidity of sauvignon with freshness and the hints of orange of verdejo. £5.99, Co-op
2008 Ursa Maior Crianza Rioja Spain, 13.5 per cent
Tasty wine can turn up in less obvious places, so full marks to Spar for this great fruit-driven rioja in which the tannin has been worked through, leaving substance, acidity and ripe blackcurrant and bramble, vanilla and tobacco flavours. £5.99 (down from £7.69), Spar
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Friday 24 May 2013
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