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I have been tasting like a demon this week as London's spring tasting season resumes after a peaceful (for me) April dedicated to the rival wine competitions, the International Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards. I will of course be reporting in detail on these tastings. The most impressive retailer's tasting this week was that organised by the small independent group Lea & Sandeman. It can't have been easy to have survived and even expanded in a market dominated by supermarkets and their massive retail power and of course they live and die by their selection, in the hands of Charles Lea and Patrick Sandeman.
One of the novelties in this week's tasting was a range of varietal (NB correct usage!) wines made by the Portugal-based Australian winemaker Peter Bright for the Terras d'Alter label. Find out more about Terras d'Alter at www.terrasdealter.com.
It was interesting to compare pure, 100% examples of Verdelho, Viognier, Alvarinho (the Portuguese name for the Albariño of Galicia) and the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet. They, like the red blend of Syrah, Afrocheiro and Petit Verdot, are all priced at £8.95 by the single bottle or £8.25 if a dozen bottles are bought in Lea & Sandeman shops. (Wine-searcher briefly showed Superquinn in Ireland as a stockist this morning. They may get new stock in future.)
Peter Bright has been in Portugal since 1982 and is very much a product of the Australian wine technology school. As with all of his wines, this range is very clean and well made, if more technical than soulful. For my palate, the Verdelho was head and shoulders above the others, suggesting that this variety really is superior, or at least that it is extremely well suited to wherever in the Alentejo it is planted for this wine. Alentejo, cork country, is of course pretty hot, so for white wines you need a variety that retains its acidity well, which is exactly what Verdelho does. My tasting note:
Firm and pungent with fantastic acidity and race. What a great grape variety this is! No hurry to drink this. GV 16.5 Drink 2011-13 13.5%
I have since seen the technical specification, which tells us that the residual sugar is just 1.2 g/l, so it's bone dry, and acidity is a crisp 5.5 g/l. It is pure fruit and I would suggest it as a very suitable example of the lemon, depth and class of this variety. Funnily enough, there were also examples of Verdelho from Riverina in South East Australia at both Sainsbury's and Laithwaite's tastings this week but they were a bit soft and smudgy and had none of the firm raciness of this Portuguese example - and Verdelho is of course most closely associated with the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Unlike most dry white varietal wines, I don't think there is any hurry to drink this one, which would make a refreshing aperitif but should also go well with chicken and especially fish dishes, adding its very own squeeze of lemon.
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