Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France 2022 (£13.33, or £12 as part of a 6-bottle mixed box, wickhamwine.co.uk) Trends in wine are as cyclical as any other product, although a single spin of the wine world’s fashion wheel seems to take somewhat longer than the Mark Cavendish-at-full-pelt chip second it takes for clothes and music to move from new to beyond the pale to sophisticated retro. For example, it took a while for the wine trendsetters to get around to rescuing the reputation of the sparklingly fruity, fresh 1970s and 1980s favorite “nouveau” wines from Beaujolais. But thanks in large part to the natural wine scene – which has championed the window-diaper drinkability (or glou-glou as the French have it) of wines made with the same carbonic maceration winemaking technique that gave (and gives) Beaujolais nouveau its simple fruitiness – nouveau has become trendy again in the last decade. And Domaine Bel Avenir’s entry from this year’s harvest brings a luminous burst of berries to remind us skeptics why it was so popular in the first place.
Errazuriz Estate Reserva Merlot, Curicó Valley, Chile 2021 (£9.99, or £8.99 as part of a six-bottle mixed box, majestic.co.uk) Grape varieties are particularly susceptible to fluctuations in fashion. Chardonnay is the obvious example: a huge hit when the first buttery, tropically fruity Australian and California versions appeared in the 1980s, it suffered a fierce critical backlash in the 1990s and 2000s, despite being responsible for some of the best white wines (white burgundy, champagne) in the world. The red equivalent may well be merlot, which for a period in the 1990s and early noughties was the soft and fruity red of choice, but never recovered from the reputation it received (or was perceived to receive) in the 2004 wine. theme film, Sideways. All this seems a little silly when you taste a full-bodied and plummy example like Errazuriz’s, which shares many of the qualities of wines made from the grape variety that has replaced merlot in many drinkers’ repertoires, malbec, but with somewhat more depth and a satisfying grainy texture than you usually found at this kind of price.
Faustino I Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2010 (£17, Tesco) One aspect of wine fashion that we all perhaps feel we should be able to rise above is the packaging. We know deep down that there is no causal connection between poor wine production and ugly labelling. We can even argue, as more than a few importers have told me over the years, that a bad label in some cases implies good winemaking, since it suggests that the winemaker was too busy out in the vineyard or in the cellar to worry about something. as trivial as packaging. Still, that first impression is very hard to shake, and the appearance of the bottle plays a much more significant role in what we end up drinking than we care to admit. Certainly, in my case, the frosted glass, gold mesh and Rembrandt detail of the Rioja brand Faustino’s gran reserva has always felt appreciated, a slightly tired old tapas restaurant, a small duty-free shop circa 1983. But wine inside, discovered I recently, is really very good: classic, deeply flavored, coconut-infused, tasty Rioja. Is it fashionable? Who cares? It’s absolutely delicious.
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