Recently Tasted

The Top 100 Most Popular Wines of 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, what better way than to review the wines that customers ordered most of in 2015.  This is the ninth year that one of the US's largest online wine retailers has published their top 100 list and it is based on sales of wines from the first eleven months of the year.

There are plenty of great wines on the list this year, although some are already sold out.  You can check out the full list here: 100 – check out the list here.

Three of my favorites on the list are below:

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Currently on offer at $11.99, this is a bargain basement thick red, packing a punch at 14.5% alcohol.

Check it out here

Faustino 1 Gran Reserva 2001

An absolute gem of a wine - classic Spanish and fifteen years old!  Time to drink it up! has it for under $30, which is below the national average price of $34 so snap it up whilst stocks last.

Check it out here

La Marca Prosecco NV

Get your sparkle on with this cheap and cheerful Prosecco.  Highly available in most major supermarkets around the country and available online at for $13.99.  What's not to like right?

Check it out here


Non Alcoholic Wines Taste Test

In the spirit of trying out alternatives to that nightly glass of wine, I went in search of dealcoholised or non alcoholic wines at my local Fred Meyer.  There were two that I had heard of and researched online - Fre and Ariel.

Both stated on the label that they were under 0.5% alcohol, which was encouraging, and I couldn't wait to get home to open them up and be dazzled.  I tried the Fre wine first, since it was cheaper (about $6) and I knew less about it than Ariel.

Fre dealcoholised

Here's the description of Fre 2012 Red Blend on their website:

"Fre Red Blend offers a deep ruby color and ripe, black cherry scented aromas. Smooth and rich, it offers plenty of bright, grape, and cherry fruit with an intriguing smoky flavor. Fre Red Blend ends with a long, fruity, lingering finish. This alcohol removed wine is delightful on its own or paired with salmon, turkey, chicken and ham dishes, as well as pasta, pizza, and grilled meats."

Color wise they were spot on, but unfortunately that's where the similarities ended.  There was no long lingering finish, just a rather awkward bitter aftertaste, and the first mouthful was insipid, although there was a hint of cherry.  I cut my losses and went on to the bottle of Ariel, which was 50% more expensive at $9.  My hopes were high.

Ariel dealcoholised

Sadly those hopes were dashed when I poured my first (and last) glass of Ariel.  It was surprisingly similar to the Fre Red Blend, not pleasant to drink, watery, pruney, some cherry and a bitter finish.

Ariel's website describes this Cabernet Sauvignon wine as:

"Offering aromas of black currants, cherry, blueberries and chocolate, with soft tannins and a dry finish."

But it didn't cut it for me.  Turns out that alcohol in the wine is kind of an essential ingredient to making a wine that you would want to drink.  I'm sorry Fre and Ariel - I really wanted to like you, but you were just not anywhere close to being a good alternative.  I'll stick to coconut water on my wine nights off.

2009 DeLille Cellars Doyenne Aix

Aix delille

Superb wine drinking perfectly right now.  So glad I waited three years to try this.  It's a big wine - 14.9% alcohol, with a deep, dark, squid ink color.  The Syrah style blend is heavy but it works.  This wine packs a punch and is a big mouthful.  There is a ton of fruit - strawberries, blackcurrent and good tannins.  Overall a very solid structure that will hold up for another few years.

I paid around $30 for it a few years ago and it retails now around $40 so quite a good investment too.

Caymus Vineyards 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon


You'll either love it or hate it.  It is a polarising wine, which is surprising, given that it costs around $70 a bottle.  For that price you'd think you'd be buying something great.

Well many do, but many don't.  Spend 5 minutes on the Cellar Tracker reviews of this wine and you'll find plenty of fans and plenty of haters.

"The ladies like it."
"A hot sweet mess."
"Easy drinking and pleasant on the taste."
"Another overblown fruit bomb that was again too sweet, too rich, too cloying."

Personally I'm with the last reviewer - I did not like it one bit.  One glass of it left be wanting to rinse my mouth out with cold water and go brush my teeth.  It is so sweet that you could mistake it for dessert wine, so dark in color you could mistake it for Welch's grape juice.  Just not good, with or without food.

It's just under 15% alcohol as well so a couple of glasses of this prune juice will send your alcohol unit count skyrocketing.

I've tried plenty of Cabernet Sauvignon big Napa wines and this was the most disappointing yet. What a total waste money.


OK maybe I was a little harsh.  I put this bottle of Caymus in the fridge overnight and tried it on day 2 and it had mellowed out.  A lot of the heat and sweetness I'd objected to had disappeared and it was much more drinkable.  I squeezed out a last glass on day 3 and it was even better.  I still wouldn't buy it again though.

Restaurant Wine Mark Up - Washington State Wines at Goodmans


I've had the pleasure of being back in my home town of London for a few days this week and last night went to dinner with some friends to Goodmans Restaurant in the City.  Goodmans is well regarded as a place for great steaks, great wine and a great atmosphere.  I'd been to their Covent Garden venue before and knew what to expect.  The food was very good and the wine list is extensive, but I was shocked to see the mark ups.

I pride myself on being able to pick a great value wine from any restaurant wine list, helped by my trusty Pocket Vintages guide, which I can casually refer to.  It helped me choose a 2010 Ribera del Duero Reserva for only 50GBP.  But I was more interested in the selection of wines from Washington State.  You don't often see Washington wines on London restaurant wine lists so I was pleasantly surprised.  What wasn't so pleasing were the prices.  Take a look at the chart above.

The Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon is a $12 wine at retail - on the menu here for 45GBP.  And the Canoe Ridge Merlot from Chateau Ste. Michelle costs under $15 at retail.  That works out at a seven time mark up!

Do they think that Londoners won't know when they are paying over the odds because Washington Wines availability is a relatively recent phenomenon?  Or maybe London is bouncing back from the great recession and city boys on expense accounts just don't care anymore!


Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2012

St mich riesling

Possibly the cheapest bottle of wine I have ever reviewed, costing less than $6 from Safeway!  I've looked around and almost everywhere in Washington State, this local wine can be found for roughly the same price.

But does cheap mean bad?  Not in this case.  I admit, I was sceptical.  But this 2012 dry white wine from the Riesling grape is actually rather good.  It has the classic petrol Riesling taste, offset by over-ripe peaches and a medium to crisp finish.  Certainly not bone dry and citrusy, like a New Zealand young Sauvignon Blanc, but chill this down and serve it on its own or with chicken and you will walk away feeling like you just discovered an absolute bargain.

Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the largest wineries in Washington State and produces a wide range of wines, almost all of them consistently good for the price.  Adding a couple of bottles to the wine fridge will not hurt the wallet but will bring pleasure on a warm day.  Take heed though, looks can be deceiving - what appears to look and taste like a light dry white wine, is actually 13% ABV.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2013

I love crisp New Zealand sauvignons and Villa Maria has an excellent track record in producing easy to drink, good value wines.

This 2013 sauvignon is on the Private Bin label and does have a little more depth than the 'standard' sauvignon blanc.  It is light, fruity and zesty, very lemony when you first taste it but becomes more rounded in the mouth and ends with a good dose of passionfruit.

The 2013 is drinking well now so chill it down and enjoy with seafood, white fish or even chicken.

You can buy it from here.It's only $12.99 right now and you can also get another $10 off an order of $150 with the coupon code of AUGUST10.

Villa Maria private bin

Oh, and did you know that Amazon has a reasonable stock of wines?  Yes it's true!  The everything store now sells wine.  Amazon has a small number of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs on offer and probably the best one right now is the Mission Estate Hawkes Bay 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.

Domaine Laroque 2012

A cheap and cheerful 100% Cabernet Franc from the Languedoc region of south west France, near the beautiful city of Carcassonne.  Wines from this region are plentiful and cheap, although the area has been staging a comeback in recent years, shedding its image of mass volume, low quality and turning in some great quality wines.

For $9 a bottle, Domaine Laroque is a good value, everyday kind of wine that pairs well with any red meat.  We drank it with steak and it stood up well.  I chilled it in the fridge for a few hours and it was even better, although the tannins are soft enough that it isn't necessary to do this.  Drink it up now, since this one won't keep longer than a year or two.


Nobilo 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

This is a fresh, clean sauvignon from the famous Marlborough region in New Zealand, an area that produces some of the best value, crispest sauvignons in the world.

Nobilo is a well established brand that produces large volumes of drinkable, good value wines and this 2013 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc is no exception.

Priced at around $10 a bottle, it is excellent value for money.  My rule with sauvignon blanc, especially new world sauvignon is 'drink youngest available'.  The younger the wine, the fresher it will be and for a wine like this, that pairs well with salads, seafood and sun, the 2013 is just right.


Chateau Recougne Bordeaux 2010

One of the best value Grand Vin de Bordeaux around right now, and one of the wines regularly supplied by my local wine merchant as an entry level Bordeaux wine, costing about $13 a bottle.

This red bordeaux blend is 78% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and the heavy predominence of Merlot makes it a smooth drinking Claret that pairs well with chicken, pork and tomato based pasta dishes.  It is not quite complex enough to do justice to a decent steak - you want something more heavily skewed towards Cab Sauv for that, but for the price you can't beat this wine. The 2010 vintage is drinking very well now and as you will read on my France Wine Vintages page, 2010 was an excellent year for Bordeaux wines!  Enjoy this great value delight whilst you can.