Helen Coburn outlines what distributor Searsons has to offer retailers on its latest list
Apr 13 2012
Tasting events became quite thin on the ground during 2011 so it was very encouraging to be hit with quite a rush of them this spring. Even better, the price quality ratio being offered by many importers has significantly improved across many ranges - a response, no doubt, to our troubled times.
Searsons was one of the first to show its list and, as usual, it hit the ground running. The catalogue was more than averagely useful, highlighting special value wines, best deals, keen prices for bulk buys, and best of all, suggested retail prices. A picture collage makes it easy for retailers to compare and contrast the various offers. Among the special deals are several I’ve drunk in real life, as distinct from tastings, and noted as good. One is Berticot Cotes de Duras Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (€11 retail) which has decent weight as well as well defined flavours. Another is Borsao Black Label Garnacha 2010 (€9.65 and see above) which is great with shepherd’s pie as well as classier red meat dishes. At €13.20, I think Zenato Valpolicella 2009 is a bit pricey, but, according to Charles Searson, there are some attractive discounts on the table, indicating margins of 30% on larger buys. Some non-professional wine drinkers have praised this wine to me recently, so it’s worth inquiring about, as one that goes down well. The 2010 vintage should be available soon.
Starting at the top, as it were, Searsons was offering several champagnes with the emphasis on value. Champagne de Nauroy is in fresh style with tasty green apple and citrus flavours and is priced at around €36; it’s being promoted as a house sparkler, with some special deals and would make an ideal wedding bubbly. Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee is €50 and is dry, with very subtle toasty notes and a long citrussy finish. Personally, I would far prefer it to the rosé, which costs €28 more - but then a lot of people are prepared to pay a premium for pink. Jeio Cartizze Prosecco de Valdobbiadene isn’t what you’d call a value bottle, being €38 for what a lot of people regard as an easy drinking category. Thing is, though, it bears more than a passing resemblance to recently disgorged champagne; it’s elegant stuff but surely hard to sell at this price, even if it’s worth it.
Searsons is a good place to find off-beat wines and there were several in the line up this year. An old stand by is Chateau de Navailles Jurancon Sec 2010 (€14.75) which showed exotic tropical pineapple and peach notes with a hint of toastiness. Domaine Mabileau St Nicholas de Bourgueil 2010 (€16.75) had fresh blackcurrant, cherry and berry flavours with decent structure. Cave de Tain Marsanne 2010 (€11.50), from southern France, had succulent touches of honey with a hint of toasted hazelnut - don’t overchill this. Diemersfontain Wellington Pinotage (€20) is not cheap and especially it’s not cheap for South African pinotage. Even less so is its trade-up bottle Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Pinotage (€28). Yet the first is very elegant despite its ripeness and the second is well structured with beautifully integrated fruit and spice. Neither wine shows that low acid clunkiness which marks so much cut price pinotage. It’s tasty stuff - I’d try asking Mr Searson for one of his deals.
At mid price, stand out wines included a brace of Italians from Marche producer Velenosi. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2010 (€13) is very enjoyable and quite ripe for its style, while Rosso Piceno Superiore 2008 (€13) has smooth black fruit and tannins and is drinking really well now. Devils Corner Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir 2009 (€17.50) from Tasmania, has nicely concentrated summer fruits and, despite a premium price, is good value. Heartland Shiraz 2009 (€19), which uses grapes from two cooler climate Australian regions, is loaded with elegant plum flavours, showing just a trace of savouriness and delivering on its price.
Searsons has always had a good range of sweet wines and this year I actually started the tasting with these rather than leaving them to the tired palate stretch at the end. It was worth the trouble of doing them justice. Chateau de Navailles Jurancon Moelleux 2007 (€23) had a lovely herb and floral sweetness with a hint of honey; I’ve never tried it with food but somehow panna cotta came into my head. Oremus Late Harvest Furmint Hungary 2008 (€21) had a wonderful balance of sweetness and acidity, with lovely marmalade and honey flavours. Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese Austria (€15 quarter bottle) was luscious and honeyed yet with fine balancing acidity - and what a fantastic idea to have a quarter bottle, with just enough for two. Perfect for those who sometimes open a full bottle of dessert wine only to have half of it left behind, mouldering quietly in the fridge for ages, till it finally goes down the sink.