Wednesday Wines – Episode 18

Episode 18 – 29th July 2020

2019 Orvieto, Italy (£6.00, Marks & Spencer).

M&S has just launched a suite of inexpensive Italian whites and they are all clean, correct and pretty accurate.  Don’t think that these are serious wines.  They are simply pleasing, cheap, dry and more diverting than endless Pinot Grigios and Sauvignon Blancs.  I will recommend a few over the next month or so in my various columns, but I felt that WW was the best spot for this insanely well-priced Orvieto.  This historic style of dry white wine used to be found in every Italian café, trattoria, pizzeria and taverna in the land, but for some unknown reason, it has fallen by the wayside.  I rarely see Orvieto in wine shops either, so thank M&S for bringing us this perfect example so we can all grab a bottle and see if it works for our palates.  The Grechetto grape has a lovely bite of citrus flavour and a bitter, herbal finish and this makes the mouth water.  Not a food wine as such, because it is pretty light and innocent, it should be deployed as the first white glass when you have either put the kids to bed, just started cooking dinner or you are waiting for your other half to turn up after a dreary commute back home.  For a quid a glass you will have no problem justifying having a glass or two to yourself to unwind and I hope that this wine will inspire you to seek out Orvietos in the future for this very purpose.

2019 Rex Mundi, Cuvée Cathare, Libérez la Bête, Pays d’Oc, France (£15.99, reduced to £14.39 each by the case, www.laithwaites.co.uk).  

It’s pretty difficult to find reliable information on this wine as most of the online blurb is rather superficial and confusing.  Apparently, it is made from old Carignan and Grenache vines and some of these vines are over 100 years old.  Also, half of the wine is aged in oak for six months.  Granted a wine called King of the World, Cathar Series, Release the Beast, needs a little explaining, so here we go.  A quick search for Cathars on the internet reveals that they were/are members of a heretical medieval Christian sect which professed a form of Manichaean dualism and sought to achieve great spiritual purity.  Instead of pursuing this religious theme into a cul-de-sac, I would imagine that Cuvée Cathare is a reference to the Pays Cathare – the region in which Catharism was strongest and this is situated around fortresses such as Montségur and Carcassonne – so this must be where the vineyards are found!  Now that this is sorted, we have to figure out the Libérez la Bête reference which I am certain has nothing to do with the super-sweary French rapper Casey’s third album of the same name.  I can only suggest that the Beast is this wine’s flavour which is, of course, why it finds its way into my Wednesday Wines.  This is a massively rich and heady ‘black’ wine.  The fruit is very ripe – it feels as inky and mouth-coating as a dense Californian Zinfandel and yet it is most similar in flavour to a Banyuls or Maury – the fortified wines found in this southwest corner of France.  Dark chocolate, coffee, prunes and liquorice are all found under the blackberry notes which are soaked into the core of this wine.  It is 14.5% alcohol, so this is another hint about this intensity and heft found on this wine’s palate.   Finally, Rex Mundi – well this is very easy to explain.  If you spend only £14.39 on an experience as theatrical and riveting as drinking a bottle of this wine, you, too, will feel like the King of the World.