20 Aug 2010

Le Froglet Shiraz 2009 (£5.49, Marks & Spencer)

Le Froglet (12.5% alcohol) has won a Gold medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010. It's a pretty impressive achievement for a wine that costs just £5.49 a bottle and was tasted alongside almost 11,000 wines (it was one of 208 entries that took Gold). It's also newsworthy because you can buy it in a single-serve plastic cup with a sealed lid ("cup-a-wine"), albeit at a higher price.

So, what's it like? Well not surprisingly, it's a decent wine, very decent. On the nose it's got that nice, almost leathery whiff that some Argentinian Malbecs have, along with bags of dark blackcurrant fruit and some dark chocolate on the palate, with a characteristic Shiraz twist of spice. It doesn't mention it on the label, but the M&S website lists Grenache as well as Shiraz, so that probably explains the slightly thinner, less tannic quality than you might expect.

As an aside, given that it's from France's Languedoc region it seems strange it's labelled Shiraz as opposed to Syrah (although they're the same grape, the former tends only to be used in the New World), especially given that it's 12.5% alcohol as opposed to your typical Aussie Shiraz of 14%+. I suspect it's more to do with ongoing attempts to re-brand French wines to compete with their New World counterparts, than it is to do with the style of this particular wine.

And I'd probably differ slightly from Decanter editor Guy Woodward in that I wouldn't say it's an overly complex wine - you wouldn't expect it to be at this price - but as an easy drinking glugger for picnics or lunchtime treats or pizza nights, I think it's among the best options on the high street if you've a fiver to spend.

But I must admit I'm surprised it out-performed certain other wines in its category that are surely more complex. Sorry to keep banging on about it, but I think it all comes back to context - judges were tasting hundreds and hundreds of wines over a few days and, for whatever reason, this one came out on top. Perhaps its easy drinking quality made it stand out among heavier, spicier alternatives. Perhaps it was another reason. But I bet if the judges had a couple of glasses of Le Froglet at home, followed by a couple of glasses of certain other entrants, they might come to a different conclusion. It's not a criticism - the fact that your own wants and tastes change from one day to the next is one reason why drinking wine and beer is so interesting and so enjoyable.

Bargain alert: at the time of writing, you can pick up Le Froglet for a mere £3.74 a bottle, if you buy a case of 12 online. Now that is a bargain.

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