The gang – five highly respected journalists and wine critics, including Scotland’s Tom Cannavan – offers something different. Between them, they taste their way through dozens of wines and, since communication is their business, they consolidate the conclusions into a readable and light -hearted monthly report.
Some of the wines they have assessed and commended are unusual ones that may have crept under most people’s radars. Consider, for example, 2007 La Perla Del Priorat Noster Nobilis (£9.98, Asda), a red from an up and coming (but still little-known) area of Spain – Priorat, in Catalonia. The harsh, rocky conditions there create complex and concentrated wine, but prices are often three or four times this level. It is good, therefore, to find not just an entry-point version but one with power and, as the review describes it, “warming, slightly sweet dried black fruit and firm tannic backbone”. The assessment, however, is even-handed enough to concede that the wine is light on the underlying tingle of minerality that expensive versions usually contain.
The next two reds are from even more unusual areas. The 2010 Agricola Punica Montessu (£15.99, Armit) is a Carignano-based red from Sardinia that combines “aromatic herbs, exotic spice, dark chocolate richness and a final flourish of refreshing bitter cherry”. The 2009 4 Kilos 4 Kilos (£30, WoodWinters) is from Mallorca and a bit more expensive but is acclaimed by the gang because of its smooth, gamey components, its concentration of fruit and nutty richness.
While unusual wines are on the agenda, look at Stéphane Tissot Vin Jaune En Spois 2005 Jura, France (£49.90, The Sampler). For sure, it’s a special-occasion bottle, but a must for anyone keen on off-the-wall wine. It is an opulent and complex dry white with a cocktail of flavours running from spice to a certain saltiness. To confirm its eccentricity, it comes in a traditional clavelin (a unique, squat bottle holding 62cl, only allowed as a specially defined exception under European regulations).
Rather more orthodox, but still far from commonplace, is 2011 Cantina Rallo Bianco Maggiore Grillo (£9.95, The Fine Wine Company). This uses Sicily’s marsala grape to create a rich but dry, nutty and tangy white with flavours of apple, melon, orange and honey.
The 2009 Dry Furmint Royal Tokaj (£9.99, Majestic) is a dry wine for which both the grape (furmint) and its Hungarian region of origin are famed for luxurious sweet wines. Here, the result is a juicy and floral white with touches of marmalade and caramel-centred richness and qualities that work well with creamy sauces – though vintages vary considerably.
Finally, sticking with richer whites, the gang was impressed by 2010 L’Ecole No 41 Semillon (£17, WoodWinters). This comes from America’s Washington State and adds toasty apple and lemon touches to the weighty, textured, lanolin characteristics of well-made Semillon.
Separating the stars from the also-rans can be difficult. This is where a steer from a ‘knowledgeable friend’ like the Wine Gang is invaluable. For fuller details of the Edinburgh tasting, visit www.thewinegang.com. n