The “SALE” Tasting in Chiswick

by Charles Lea

PLEASE NOTE that whilst the following may be an entertaining read, the February “SALE” took place in February and has, therefore, finished.  Prices quoted below no longer apply, and many of the wines recommended have sold out….

On a dull February Wednesday evening, a gaggle of enthusiastic tasters assembled in the shop in Chiswick to taste their way through a healthy selection of wines from our February “SALE”.

The evening kicked off with a glass of Champagne Marie Delisle N.V. (£17.95/£14.95) – a fresh, clean, quite simple “everyday” Champagne (“everyday” Champagne – what a concept!).  Then, we moved on to Les Terrasses d’Eole’s intriguing Biso 2005 Côtes de Ventoux (£10.95/£7.95) – a Clairette/Ugni Blanc mix from Provence, surprisingly structured with crisp apple, lemon and star fruit characters.  Remi Jobard’s Bourgogne Blanc 2006 (£18.95/£13.95) from vineyards in and around Meursault really showed the quality of Remi’s winemaking and the immediate quality of the 2006 vintage – fine buttery hints, a little minerality and a clean finish.  Delicious now, but capable of ageing, perhaps, for another 4 to 5 years or so.  The haunting Pinot Bianco 2006 Schiopetto (£17.95/£13.50) showed very well – charming rounded sweet fruit – white peach, apple, very ripe apricots – showing the benefit of three years in bottle.  Our last white of the night was the fascinating and unusual Rustenberg 2006 Roussanne (£15.95/£12.95).  Roussanne is grape variety from the Rhône valley.  Always soft and aromatic, the Rustenberg version has smoky hints, a little sweet spice, with a mix of lemon meringue pie and posh custard.  An excellent accompaniment to something mildly spicy.

The reds were kicked off with the astounding value offered by theLe Mascarou 2004 Domaine des Chênes (£9.95/£6.95), a lovely, ripely fruited and mildly spiced Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre from the Côtes de Roussillon – quite Rhôney, but juicier.  Also with Rhôney leanings was the Auro Rousso 2004 Côtes de Ventoux from Les Terrasses d’Eole (£19.95/£13.95), an awesomely packaged and awesomely flavoured Syrah/Grenache aged for a year in wood – intense, sweet aromas of ripe berry fruit with a dense round sweet palate of spiced berries and hedgerow fruit.  The little dribble that made it though the tasting to be enjoyed the next day was even better, with complex spicy flavours ever evolving, suggesting that a spin round the decanter and a bit of breathing are to be highly recommended. 

We showed one of the red Burgundies in our “SALE”, the crisp Beaune 1er cru Les Reversées 2002 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol (£28.50/£21.95) – the sort of Pinot that can only ever be made in Burgundy, lightish in body, alive with brisk red berry fruit, and a sort of volatile feel that New World winemakers would run a mile from but which gives the wine such dynamic poise. For drinking soon with lighter foods, or some crusty bread and soft cheese.

Maybe the most popular wine of the night was Blumeri 2002 Schiopetto (£14.95/£11.95), a luxurious Merlot/Cabernet/Refosco from Friuli (top right-hand corner of Italy).  Sexy, velvety berry fruit with a sensually dark underbelly – like a nice claret that’s just been to Victoria’s Secret!  Also very sexy was the lovely Sicilian l’Insolente 2001 Fatascia (£24.95/£15.95)(that’s quite a reduction!), a Merlot/Cabernet with just a bit more body than the Blumeri, a really polished and serious feel, with enticing dry berry fruit and smooth tannins.

For me, the best wine of the night was one of our lovely Californian masterpieces – Blue Rock 2003 Syrah (£25.95/£16.95) from the Alexander Valley.  Such delicious and alluring smooth berry fruit, not really spicy in Rhône kind of way, and certainly not Shiraz-y at all, just persistent and refreshing fruit.  Somehow, a big wine and a soft and gentle wine all in one go.  Ooh la la!

A brace of non-“SALE” wines crept into the tasting, just for good value’s sake.  The Crater Rim 2008 Canterbury Pinot Noir (£11.50) which is an astoundingly good value New Zealand Pinot from the South Island.  Aromatic and Pinot-y, a little hint of earthy character, and easy plums and berries fruit.  Kiwi Pinot for under £12!  Wow!  And we showed a cheeky little Lebanese wine Clos de Cana 2002 Cuvée Lamartine (£12.50) from Cabernet, Grenache and Merlot vines grown high up on the slopes of Mount Lebanon.  Ripe, lightly peppered red fruits with a clean easy finish; much more refreshing, easier, and much better value than any other Lebanese wine that you may be calling to mind.

A great evening was concluded, with everybody (including us) marvelling at the quantity and quality available in the LEA & SANDEMAN February “SALE”.

For details of tastings at the Chiswick shop, you need to be on our mailing list – call 020 8995 7355 or e-mail