The latest updates from the UK's leading wine specialist
The Wine Gang (www.thewinegang) provides the UK’s most comprehensive coverage of wines available for sale in the UK. Formed by five of the UK’s sharpest palates and best-known wine commentators, the Gang is Tim Atkin MW of The Observer, Tom Cannavan of wine-pages.com, Anthony Rose of the Independent, Joanna Simon of House & Gardens and Olly Smith of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Their monthly online report on 200 wines from high street retailers is completely independent and pulls no punches.
Recently the Gang cast their critical noses and palates over the range at Majestic, and (insert your preferred blurb here).  Also, Majestic is delighted to be participating in the Gang’s first live event, a huge Christmas Wine Fair to be held at Vinopolis in London on November 7th. Over 60 merchants will be pouring 350 wines, plus the Gang themselves will be on hand to lead you through their favourite wines. Book tickets at the Vinopolis web site (http://www.vinopolis.co.uk/specialevents/christmas_wine_fair.php) – though note that members of the Wine Gang can save £7.50 per ticket booked, and annual membership of The Wine Gang costs just £19.99 from www.thewinegang.com.

The Wine GangThe Wine Gang provides the UK’s most comprehensive coverage of wines available for sale in the UK. Formed by five of the UK’s sharpest palates and best-known wine commentators, the Gang is Tim Atkin MW of The Observer, Tom Cannavan of wine-pages.com, Anthony Rose of the Independent, Joanna Simon of House & Gardens and Olly Smith of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Their monthly online report on 200 wines from high street retailers is completely independent and pulls no punches.

Majestic is delighted to be participating in the Gang’s first live event, a huge Christmas Wine Fair to be held at Vinopolis in London on November 7th. Over 60 merchants will be pouring 350 wines, plus the Gang themselves will be on hand to lead you through their favourite wines. Book tickets at the Vinopolis website – though note that members of the Wine Gang can save £7.50 per ticket booked, and annual membership of The Wine Gang costs just £19.99 from www.thewinegang.com.

Recently the Gang cast their critical noses and palates over the range at Majestic, and sampled our new vintages with a keen eye for all the wines that we have on offer until October 29th 2009. The feedback was great and it was commented that we had a lot of good stuff, fairly adventurous too, the buyers having sourced some excellent Torrontés and Pinotage amongst the more usual suspects for example.

Here’s what The Gang had to say:

French Wines

Christophe Cordier Viré-Clessé Vielles Vignes 2008 Viré-Clessé (Burgundy), France

Buttery oaky nose and a fleshy fine mineral balance. Rich flavour without being heavy, oatmeal complexity, long, clean, pure and bright lasting flavour. Very good wine, pure, impressive and will continue to develop in your cellar for up to 5 years.

Score: 92/100 − £12.99 at Majestic. (£11.99 when you buy any 2 Cordier Wines)

One of this month’s Bunch of Five Wines to lay down

Château Mont Milan Corbières 2007 Corbières (Languedoc), France

This Languedoc blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre has a little floral lift, and some gamey notes on the nose with a nutty Grenache background, and lots of zest and crunch. We like the crispness of the black fruit, combining crunch sweet fruit depth. A bargain at £4.99 when you buy two until the end of October 2009.

Score: 86/100 − £5.99 at Majestic.

Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages ‘Les Pierres Blanches’ 2008 Mâcon-Villages Blanc (Burgundy), France

Full marks for the screwcap on this zinging wine with mealy complexity and weighty texture. Balanced Chardonnay with a few oaky touches – top with pan-fried fish. Buy 2 and the price is £6.49 each which is ace value.

Score: 89/100 − £6.99 at Majestic.

Clos d’Yvigne Princesse de Clèves Bergerac Blanc Sec 2008 Bergerac, France

Herby zing with good weight and intense flavour. Citrus brightness and a twist of fennel – great with fish. £7.99 each when you buy 2 bottles.

Score: 88/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

La Galine Chardonnay 2007 Vin de Pay d’Oc (Languedoc), France

Melon aromas and a simple wine that’s quite neutral and a touch dilute. It’s simple and reasonably priced – could work well as a party wine or the base of a fruit punch.

Score: 85/100 − £3.99 at Majestic.

Chanson Père et Fils Fleurie 2007 Fleurie (Beaujolais), France

Lovely, bright cherry fruit. A little background of game and earthiness. Bold and fruity palate too, with lots of sweetness but a spicy, schisty, grilled fruit savour too. Delicious Cru Beaujolais showing the Gamay grape at its buoyant, fruity best. Buy two bottles save £4 until end October 2009 = £7.99

Score: 88/100 − £9.99 at Majestic.

Domaine Les Yeuses ‘Les Epices’ Syrah 2007 Vin de Pay d’Oc (Languedoc), France

Lots of schist and a slightly reductive character, but the rich, rounded and quite meaty, gamy fruit comes through as does plenty of spice. Powerful and chunky tannins give lots of grip, but an inherent fruit sweetness really powers through. One to match with a steak from the char-grill. Buy two bottles save £4 until end October 2009 = £6.99.

Score: 89/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

One of this month’s Bunch of Five Wines for Autumn Drinking

Delas Côtes du Rhône Saint-Esprit 2007 Côtes du Rhône (Rhône), France

A Syrah/Grenache blend with bright, punchy fruit of raspberry and strawberry and a little cream. The palate is dry and savoury, with lots of juiciness and a keen edge of cherry acidity. This is lovely, with very good life and freshness, and the discount price of £6.99 (when you but two until end October 2009) makes it a steal.

Score: 89/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

Château La Croix de Gay Pomerol 2002 Pomerol (Bordeaux), France

In the midst of earthy, cedary oak is some really solid, really ripe blackcurrant fruit at the core of this wine. Full and ripe in the mouth, this has a flattering mid-palate smoothness and sweetness of fruit and delivers a convincing Pomerol blast of hedonism. Maybe not a wine to cellar for several decades, but balanced, delicious and gorgeous for drinking now and over the next 10 years.

Score: 92/100 − £30.00 at Majestic.

Domaine Jomain Puligny-Montrachet 2006 Puligny-Montrachet (Burgundy), France

At this price, we felt that this wine could deliver a touch more. Sure it’s got sexy toasty almond and nutty complexity, creamy texture and some peachy flavour. But the layers could be more in evidence and the length could be more impressive. Good wine, but you’re paying the price for the name of Puligny-Montrachet.

Score: 89/100 − £19.99 at Majestic.

Murets de Gouts 2007 Côtes du Marmandais (South West), France

From the Côtes du Marmandais this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec with the local Abouriou grape. It is quite gamey and earthy, with an animal quality to its red fruits. Savoury and lean on the palate, with juicy spice and a food-friendly appeal, this is rustic and a bit old-fashioned, and needs grilled lamb to do it justice.

Score: 85/100 − £5.99 at Majestic. (£4.99 when you buy 2 or more bottles)

Champagne Ruinart Brut NV Champagne, France

Lovely almond and creamy aromas along with appetizing freshness. The palate is imbued with creamy complexity with a softness to the texture and a nutty edge. Good quality fizz and an absolute steal when you buy two bottles – the price goes down to £29.99 each. Wowzers.

Score: 92/100 − £45.00 at Majestic.

Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne, France

Savoury, toasty aromas with some good complexity. The palate echoes the nutty notes of the nose and there are some brighter notes to the finish. Pure Chardonnay with a creamy mousse and definitely worth thinking about if you buy two bottles since the price comes down to £39.99 per bottle.

Score: 91/100 − £60.00 at Majestic.

Spanish Wines

Muga Rioja Blanco 2008 Rioja, Spain

Pricey for what’s on offer but buy any 2 Spanish wines and the price drops to £7.49. It’s modern Rioja with an oaky twist which is rather heavy on the nose. The palate is brighter and lively enough but we’d love to see more length and fruit to really show off what white Rioja can do.

Score: 87/100 − £9.99 at Majestic.

Marqués de Riscal Rueda Blanco 2008 Rueda, Spain

Grapefruit peel ping! There’s a roundness to the body with herby vibrance and a subtle aromatic edge. It manages to be dazzling without being aggressive and is a delightful match with prawns marinaded in fresh lime juice.

Score: 88/100 − £7.49 at Majestic. (£5.62 when you buy any 2 Spanish Wines)

Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea 2001 Rioja, Spain

A stalwart of Majestic’s shelves, this has a lovely nose, with a slightly volatile character that is typically old-fashioned Rioja, but then the earthy, animal sweetness of fruit comes through, and the palate gives savoury, meaty flavours that retain plenty of bite and keen acidity. There’s punch and grip in the finish of this too, making it food friendly and suggesting a reasonably long life ahead.

Score: 92/100 − £30.00 at Majestic.

Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero 2006 Ribera del Duero, Spain

100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) aged in a 50/50 blend of French and American oak, this has a savoury, bold, quite structural appeal with black, edgy fruit and just glimpses of something earthy and savoury in the nose. The palate doesn’t have huge weight or texture, but there’s a juiciness and a spicy, creamy infill of oak that adds a big, plush finish. Impressive in the end, with lots of power and muscularity at its core. Buy any two Spanish wines save 25% until end October, so £12.74 equivalent.

Score: 90/100 − £16.99 at Majestic.

Gran Vendema Rioja Gran Reserva 2002 Rioja, Spain

Blending 85% Tempranillo and 15% Grenache, there’s lots of creamy, rich fruit here, with plenty of sweet vanilla and a fudge-like depth. We like the warmth and richness of this, but that plush, creamy quality is balanced by plenty of fresh, vital acidity and punchy, food friendly savour. Buy any 2 Spanish wines until end October 2009 and save 25% = £6.99

Score: 88/100 − £9.32 at Majestic.

South African Wines

Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Constantia, South Africa

Grapefruit and steely bright flavours with verve, poise and mineral purity. Accomplished winemaking and a real sense of class with a finish of green pepper dryness. Very good wine and worth hunting down. 29th September – 29th October it will be £7.99 when you buy two bottles. Awesome!

Score: 92/100 − £10.65 at Majestic.

One of this month’s Bunch of Five Greatest Wines

Flagstone Winery Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Western Cape, South Africa

Bargain alert! Between 1st September and 28th September if you buy 2 bottles the price comes down to £3.97 each – make a note in your diary to buy as many cases as you can! This is pristine fresh bright and zingy wine. Tight and lean, refreshing and about as crisp as Sauvignon Blanc gets. Run as fast as your legs will carry you to the South African section in Majestic.

Score: 89/100 − £5.29 at Majestic.

One of this month’s Bunch of Five Best Value Wines

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Western Cape, South Africa

Nettly aromas and a firm balanced palate with some lasting citrus flavour. It has an appealing purity but could do with a touch more depth and complexity. Still, a good refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc and if you buy 2 bottles between 29th September and 29th October, the price is £6.74 per bottle.

Score: 88/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

Thelema Mountain Red 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa

A blend of 79% Shiraz and 21% Merlot, there’s a little beetroot and rhubarb vegetal character here, with light spiciness and focused cherry and raspberry fruit. Sweet-fruited palate, though a bit of chocolate and toast adds some depth to the silky tannin structure. Deliciously drinkable. On some complicated back-to-back offer this will be £7.49 until 28th September 2009 when you buy two, then £7.99 until end October.

Score: 89/100 − £9.99 at Majestic.

Bellingham Shiraz/Cabernet 2008 Western Cape, South Africa

Toasty autumnal berry fruit aromas and a rich dark cassis palate with some cocoa and leathery almond notes. If you buy 2 the price is £4.99 each which is a steal for a seasonal sip.

Score: 87/100 − £6.65 at Majestic.

Zalze Pinotage 2008 Western Cape, South Africa

This has ripe red cherry and plum fruit set against a touch of creamy, toasty oak. The palate too is creamy and sweetly fruited – no sign here of Pinotage’s tendency to a bitter finish, and it has just the right zest and grip to match barbecues and grilled meats. On offer on a buy to for £4.79 each deal until end of October 2009.

Score: 86/100 − £6.39 at Majestic.

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Elgin, South Africa

Fruity ping on the nose and a very pure and lean, bright palate. Zesty fresh with lasting crisp flavours and impressive purity. Elegant and fantastic value if you buy 2 – the price comes down to £9.74. A refreshing beauty.

Score: 91/100 − £12.99 at Majestic.

Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2007 Western Cape, South Africa

Plusher and riper than the good value Zalze Pinotage, this has a lovely mulberry fruitiness. We like the spicy lick of intensity and quality French oak on the palate, with the bold, fresh fruit staying sweet and focused. Hints of meaty concentration and seamless length make this a model, modern Pinotage. Buy two at £6.74 each until end of October 2009.

Score: 89/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

Argentinian Wines

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2009 Cafayate (Salta), Argentina

Fragrant and floral wine with a clean, pure and brisk aromatic lift. Lemony with aromatic complexity and some good zing in the tail. £6.99 when you buy two bottles and well worth seeking out to taste something a bit different and uniquely Argentinian.

Score: 89/100 − £7.99 at Majestic.

Lorca Torrontés 2008 La Rioja, Argentina

Blimey. Possibly the most intensely floral scented wine in the world. If you’re a fan of flowers, sniff this bad boy. Aromas and flavours are laced with lime marmalade, elderflower and lychee with a soft texture and aromatic edge. Match with coriander infused shellfish.

Score: 88/100 − £7.49 at Majestic. (£6.99 when you buy 2 bottles)

Bodega Benegas Libertad Vineyard Malbec 2007 Mendoza, Argentina

What a contrast between this and the lighter, but perhaps more elegant, Amalaya Malbec blend from Colomé (£8.99, 91-points). It has a big, meaty, polished leather and vegetal nose, with layers of complexity including black fruit, smoke and an animal savouriness. The palate has lovely grip and finesse, with sweet red cherry and violet florality and finesse showing through. Grippy, big and brilliant. Buy 2 bottles save £8 until end October = £13.99 each.

Score: 92/100 − £17.99 at Majestic.

Australian Wines

Paulett’s Polish Hill River Riesling 2008 Clare Valley (South Australia), Australia

If you’re a fan of shoe polish aromas in your Riesling, this is for you. It is an engaging smell that we at Wine Gang HQ think works in small doses. The palate on this wine is much crisper and cleaner with some serious mineral purity and zesty lime freshness. Will continue to develop in cellar for at least 5-6 years.

Score: 90/100 − £9.99 at Majestic. (£8.99 when you buy 2 bottles)

Nepenthe ‘Charleston Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 Adelaide Hills (South Australia), Australia

Best known for its Chardonnay perhaps, the cool-ish Adelaide Hills has produced a Pinot with a lithe, cherry and cola character with an undertow of smoke and minty sweet fruit. The palate has a medium bodied, fresh appeal, with plenty of zest. A lively, well-focused and pitched Pinot that is easy to drink and food friendly. A very good deal on a buy two save £4 offer until end October = £7.99

Score: 88/100 − £9.99 at Majestic.

Chalk Spring Vineyard Shiraz 2006 Limestone Coast (South Australia), Australia

Some vegetal, slightly underripe character here, but that also makes it little more interesting in a peppery, savoury way. Sweet fruit on the palate is plusher and more mouth-filling than the very good Cabernet Sauvignon from this producer, and powers through to the finish with a barely ruffled surface of creamy, sweet fruit and fine tannins. Good stuff at the usual price, but at the buy two for £4.99 each deal, a must. Until end October 2009.

Score: 88/100 − £7.99 at Majestic.

One of this month’s Bunch of Five Best Value Wines

Chalk Spring Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Limestone Coast (South Australia), Australia

There’s a touch of rhubarb and green peppercorn typical of a slightly underripe style of Cabernet, but it’s not at all unattractive. The palate has good fruit sweetness, with the black berry fruits beautifuilly clear and pitched against that herbal character. Good tannins and spicy, savoury acidity in the finish. Food friendly and delicious – and at £4.99 when you buy two until the end of October, a no-brainer.

Score: 87/100 − £7.99 at Majestic.

New Zealand Wines

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Marlborough, New Zealand

We reviewed this wine (at Sainsbury’s) back in December, but on this buy two, save £6 offer the price falls to just £5.99, so it’s worth highlighting again. The nose has herbaceous, elderflower zing with hints of tropical fruit beneath. The palate is vibrant, streaking across the tongue with good acidity and a nicely pitched fruitiness that finishes with dry precision. Still worth its 89 points.

Score: 89/100 − £8.99 at Majestic.

The Long Trek Pinot Noir 2008 Central Otago, New Zealand

Ripe, sweet fruit, with a touch of gamy, earthy, slightly reductive character. Dry and savoury, with lots of grip and schisty, mineral content. The fruit is sweet and persists nicely through the mid-palate, with plenty of woody spice. Not fantastically smooth or sophisticated, but delivers good drinking, especially at the buy two bottle price of £9.99 until the end of October 2009.

Score: 88/100 − £12.49 at Majestic.

Italian Wines

Stella Alpina Pinot Grigio 2008 Alto Adige, Italy

Pear and melon aromas abound in this fresh dry northern Italian white. It’s mineral clean and very pure but for a tenner we’d love a bit more complexity. Buy 2 bottles, save £4 and it looks more appealing.

Score: 88/100 − £9.99 at Majestic. (£7.99 when you buy 2 bottles)

De Forville Barbera d’Asti 2007 Piedmont, Italy

Much more convincing than the same producer’s Dolcetto (84 points) this has ripe cherry and berry fruit with a background of coffee and spice. The palate has lots more coffee and rich, full oak and fruit sweetness. This is balanced too, however, with a herbal lift to the fruit and plenty of creamy depth and length. Buy any two De Forville wines until end of October 2009 bringing the equivalent bottle price down to £9.99.

Score: 89/100 − £12.49 at Majestic.

Villa Dante Chianti Riserva 2005 Chianti (Tuscany), Italy

This Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend has an earthy, slightly animal quality, but some savoury promise too. The fruit is quite sweet, but a slightly murky animal character muddies the picture a bit. We quite like the old-fashioned, savoury rusticity here, but can see it would not be for everyone.

Score: 85/100 − £6.99 at Majestic. (£4.99 when you buy 2 bottles)

The Wine Gang

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