I’VE always loved Marks & Spencer clothes, and once in a while I indulge in Marks & Spencer cookies and biscuits. I’ve seen some bottles of wine on display in the racks in some Marks & Spencer stores but I’ve never given them a second look – until recently, when Marks & Spencer, through its PR company Visions & Expressions, sent an invitation for a wine tasting event with Marks & Spencer wine expert Chris Murphy to celebrate 40 years of wine at Marks & Spencer.
Forty years of wine – and I never thought of giving them a try? How uncultured of me!
So, off I went to the Marks & Spencer wine tasting event at the Presidential Suite of Fairmont Hotel in Makati City with my husband Raff, last November 11, 2013. Was delighted to find my wine drinking buddy, F&B World’s editor Marilen Fontanilla, and sat beside her and another good friend, Interaksiyon.com’s Francine Marquez and husband Peter Marquez, and together we met Chris Murphy, Marks & Spencer’s wine expert who started the M&S Wine Club some 30 years ago.
Marks & Spencer actually first launched wines in 1973, after a year of feasibility studies and work on the ground, both in Baker Street (which was the original M&S Head Office) and in the vineyard. The original range consisted of eight wines, four sherries and a small range of traditional ales, it went out to 12 stores initially. The first range of wines was an eclectic mix, yes, but it turned out to be such a success that it was rolled out very quickly – and the rest, as they say, is history. All 40 years of wine history tucked into a successful brand.
During the wine tasting last month, in celebration of 40 years of wine at Marks & Spencer, we got to sample 12 wines: six reds and six whites. Surprisingly, Chris Murphy made us start with the reds instead of the usual route that other wine tasting events take, which is whites first then reds. Oh, it’s going to be exciting starting with reds for a change.
The reds that we sampled:
- Secano Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (Php750) – a dry, medium-bodied wine from Chile produced by Vina Leyda. It’s a generously fruity, beautifully smooth and aromatic Chilean red wine that delivers plenty of soft, ripe cherry, strawberry and plum flavors and has an elegant, fresh finish.
- Domaine de Fontsèque Corbières 2010 (Php995) – a powerfully fruity and concentrated yet well-balanced red from the warm south of France. This full-bodied wine that makes use of mixed red grape varieties, has a rich aroma with generous flavors of blackcurrant, brambles and some spicy, smoky hints on a lingering finish. It is produced by Gerard Bertrand, a qualified winemaker who used to play for the French rugby team.
- Hunter Valley Shiraz 2011 (Php1,195) – a premium, full-bodied Shiraz produced by the Tyrrells Family Winery in Australia’s warm, sunny Hunter Valley, which is north of Sydney on the east coast and is world famous for its ripe, generously fruity Shiraz. It has juicy, lingering flavors of blackberries and plums and hints of spice, pepper and toffee.
- Marqués del Romeral Reserva Rioja 2007 (Php1,295) – a rich and mellow premium Rioja with a garnet red color. This dry, medium-bodied wine has lots of ripe red-berry fruit and subtle vanilla and toast undertones with a long and smooth finish. It comes from Spain and is produced by Bodegas Age using Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grape varieties.
- Renato Ratti Nebbiolo Langhe 2010 (Php1,495) – named by winemaker Pietro Ratti after his father, who used to run a wine university during his lifestime, this distinctive and elegant red comes from Piedmont in morth-west Italy, which is the home of the renowned Nebbiolo Grape. It has plenty of fresh raspberry and strawberry fruit, a fine full aroma and a refreshing finish with a slight hint of bitter cherries.
- Gum Adelaide Shiraz 2011 (Php1,695) – a remarkably well-balanced premium Australian Shiraz with a rich purple color and plenty of ripe blackcurrant, with underlying notes of black pepper, chocolate and mulberry. Produced by Starve Dog Lane Winery, it’s a dry and full-bodied wine made from 100% Shiraz.
The white wines that we tasted:
- Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Closiers 2010 (Php2,350) – a stylish, intensely flavored and full-bodied red wine with engaging scents of ripe red berries, cinnamon spice and crushed black pepper. From France, it combines Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault grape varieties, and has a palate that’s beautifully structured with smooth tannins, a hint of creamy oak and a long elegant finish.
- Vin de Pays Du Gers 2012 (Php295) – a light, dry white wine combining Colombard and Ugni Blanc grape varieties. Marks & Spencer has worked closely with winemaker Patrick Azcue in the Gers region of South-West France to produce an exceptionally fresh, aromatic example of dry white wine with the succulence of green apples and kiwi fruit.
- Picpoul De Pinet 2012 (Php795) – a delightfully fresh, clean tasting and zesty dry white wine produced by Caves de Florensac of France using 100% Picpoul De Pinet, one of the oldest grape varieties grown in the Languedoc region of France.
- Clocktower Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Php1,495) – an innovative and exciting New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which combines vibrant, lively flavors of fresh gooseberry, juicy lemon and tropical fruit with a crisp, mineral edge. An elegant and sophisticated dry white wine that’s light and refreshing.
- Moscatel De Valencia 2012 (Php450) – a truly refreshing sweet wine produced by Bodegas Schenk of Spain. This dessert wine, made from 100% Moscatel grapes, was created by winemaker Pablo Ossorio and has a scent of green grapes and peaches and a luscious, ripe flavor.
- Oudinot Brut NV Champagne (Php3,495) – a dry and elegant champagne with a crisp mousse and fresh lemon fruit undertones produced by the House of Oudinot in Champagne, France, using 100% Chardonnay grapes. Refined with a clean citrus flavor, it is fermented as a still white wine.
At the end of the wine-tasting session, we all picked our personal favorites, and mine were the Marqués del Romeral Reserva Rioja 2007 among the reds, and both Moscatel De Valencia 2012 and Oudinot Brut NV Champagne for my whites.
These wines – and more! – are available in all Marks & Spencer stores.