Latitude, a wine and spirits shop based in Leeds city centre, hosted its 2nd Birthday Portfolio Tasting recently at Anthony's Piazza. I was lucky enough to attend, as part of my job with Leeds Guide magazine. Here are some of the standout wines, for me at least.
Tapiz Malbec 2009 (£9.99) went down nicely, no surprise given I'm a sucker for a good Argentinean Malbec. The aroma is a big hit of berries with a hint of smoke, while in the mouth it's a comfort blanket of Christmas cake and ripe berries. Certainly a decent option if you have a tenner to spare on a hearty red, although there are so many good Argentinean red wines on the market at this price or even less at the moment.
Desiderius Pongracz 2001 (£18.99) is a really interesting sparkling wine. It's dedicated to the Hungarian refugee of the same name who played a major part in putting South Africa on the wine map. It offers white pepper on the nose, followed up by a fresh twist of lemon and lime on the palate. A kind of dry, lemon sherbet quality to it. Makes for an interesting alternative to Champagne, especially at this price level.
Talking of interesting wines, this next one's downright weird, but in a good way. Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc (£11.99) will certainly divide opinion – largely in terms of people who like asparagus, and those who don't. That's because it really does taste quite strongly of asparagus, with a bunch of green, grassy herbs thrown into the mix. I thought it was really good; others won't. And even if you're a big fan, it might well be a wine that you'd just have one or two glasses of. It'd be interesting to try it while eating asparagus, as it's a vegetable that's notoriously difficult to match with wine. Might just be asparagus overload though.
As an interesting aside, I didn't drink enough of the Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc to know whether it makes your wee smell funny. Just in case you were wondering. Thinking about it though, asparagus making your urine smell is a subject worthy of a post in its own right. Some people find it happens; others don't. What I do know is it's a bit embarrassing when you say to someone, 'Isn't it weird how your wee stinks after you eat asparagus!' and they look at you like you're a mentalist. Maybe some people can't smell the chemical in their wee? Or maybe asparagus makes some people's wee smell, but not others? Either way, it's a bit like Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc: some will get it; others won't.
Finally, I was well impressed with Domaine Mas Barrau Cabernet Franc (£7.99), which is produced by Eric Monnin in the Languedoc. If it was a blind tasting, I'm pretty sure I'd have guessed this was Chilean Carmenere, so I'd have looked a bit silly given that it's French and Cabernet Franc. Anyway, its nose is interesting and tricky to pin down. Green peppers, I think, but maybe with tangerine and clove, or a hint of liquorice? On the palate it's a similar story, with a strong green pepper flavour and a sprig of something leafy. Basically it's quite green tasting, like a lot of Chilean reds. But it's French. And it's all in balance and just on the right side of ripe for me. It might well be even better in a year or two. Extremely good value at this price, and a good choice for people who usually drink New World but want a French gateway wine.