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Special Edition: “The Apprentice: No Sour Grapes”

Monday, July 15th, 2013

I was on a very crowded, hot train home from Victoria Station this evening when my thoughts began wandering in the direction of wine. When one feels warm and dehydrated, it is not unusual to think about refreshment, right?

What was unusual was that I started to think about my favourite grape varieties and production regions and then I dared to compare them to the two Series 9 finalists of BBC One’s “The Apprentice.” Two business ladies are left standing: Leah vs Luisa.

I write technical reviews of wines on a regular basis, so why can’t I do a “technical” review of Leah and Luisa, so that I can come up with their counterpart grapes and then recommend some wines for audience members in either of the @DrLeahTotton or @TheLuluLife camps.

Please do indulge in either bottle when watching the final this coming Wednesday! For alternative wines, get in touch with me directly.

***Disclaimer: This is my idea of fun relaxation on a Monday night and I intend to be playful and respectful (please don’t take this too seriously!).

Finalist #1: Dr. Leah Totton

Technical review:

Clear, pale lemon. Clean, light nose, with aromas of stone fruit and nettles. Dry palate, high acidity, with crisp flavours and mineralic hints of flint or steel. Sturdy and well structured wine that shows rigour and precision. It gets straight to the point!

Based on these characteristics, Leah is a young Sancerre (based on the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety), with the potential for ageing well.


If you are on Team Leah, then I recommend you try the 2012 Sancerre Blanc by Brigitte and Daniel Chotard (stocked at Berry Bros for £16.50 per bottle). I don’t think you will regret consuming or investing in this Loire Valley jewel.

Finalist #2: Luisa Zissman

Technical Review:

Clear, deep ruby. Long legs due to high alcohol content (growing in long, hot summers). Clean, pronounced nose, with aromas of plums, cherries and spice. Some herbaceous hints. Flavour characteristics of dark berries. Shows complexity, luxury and maturity.

Based on these characteristics, Luisa is a young Australian Shiraz, to be consumed in the short-term because it is now at the height of its vibrancy. This is a ripe, robust wine packed with flavour.


If you are on Team Luisa, then I recommend you try the 2009 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz (also stocked at Berry Bros & Rudd, for £22.50 per bottle). Drink it very soon … to put this one away in your cellar for years would be a real shame.

NB: The 2005 vintage was a true show stopper for me at a wine exhibition I attended some years ago.


Special Technical Review for Neil:

Lord Sugar regretted firing Neil Clough in last week’s episode of The Apprentice and I am sure that all audience members’ hearts sunk at the words, “You’re Fired”; however, I think it’s worth a quick ode here to Neil for his excellent effort and performance.

Technical Review:

Clear, deep ruby colour. Dark concentration of colour comes from a thick skin. Aromas are dominated by black fruits with hints of tobacco/cigars and spice. The palate is dry, not overwhelming, and with a long finish (some might even say velvety).

Based on these characteristics, Neil is a “young” Pauillac wine from the 2009 vintage (one of the finest Bordeaux years), predominantly made of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a tiny bit of Merlot to soften the edges. Pauillac vines have the toughest, gravel soils to grow in but if pushed to the limit and placed in challenging conditions, they will produce excellent fruits. The best fruits in turn contribute to the most highly prized wines for long-term investment.


If you were on Team Neil like I was, do accept any commiserations and try drinking Berry’s Own Selection of 2009 Pauillac (chosen by the producer of the famous house of Lynch Bages). This is a well structured, lively – but not opulent! – wine priced at £19.95 per bottle that you can keep for a long length of time.

Maybe try drinking this Bordeaux wine while watching Leah and Luisa battle it out on Wednesday! If none of these wines take your fancy, feel free to ask me to come up with an alternative recommendation for you.

May the best candidate win … and please, no sour grapes.


Warburn Estate Shiraz Yarrunga Field Black Label 2008

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Vintage: 2008
Type: Shiraz
Country: Australia – Barossa

This wine has nice oak hints with black fruit, chocolate, vanilla and tobacco. Still quite dark, almost purple colour. Good effort.

Some Young Punks The Squid’s Fist 2009

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Vintage: 2009
Type: Sangiovese Blend
Country: Australia

This Sangiovese-Shiraz blend from the Some Young Punks winery is quite enjoyable. The bottle is a work of pulp art, one of the winery’s trademarks.

The wine has smooth tannins with chocolate and cherries on the pallet. The finish has a nice hint of herbs, which is subtle but noticeable. Drink with a hearty fare.

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Jacob’s Creek Shiraz – Cabernet 2006

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Vintage: 2006
Type: Shiraz Cabernet
Country: Australia

This bottle is typical of most mass-produced Australian reds, good flavour and easy to drink without being memorable.  Nice flavours of blackberries with a layer of oak.  I would certainly order this in a bar, as it’s easy and pleasurable to drink.

Campo Azafran Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 2008

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Vintage: 2008
Type: Rioja – Tempranillo/Shiraz Blend
Country: Spain

Overall this is a decent tempranillo that tastes OK once it has been given a bit of air.  Typical hints of oak and red berries, but overall nothing too special.  Not bad value-for-money.

Penfolds – St. Henri 2000

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Vintage: 2002
Type: Tempranillo
Country: Spain


John Duval – Plexus

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Vintage: 2006
Type: Blend (Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre)
Country: Australia – Barossa Valley

This wine is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre created by John Duval in the Barossa Valley. It has balanced flavours of red and black fruits. The understated oak on the nose is special and overall the wine is superb, hinting of southern Rhone.

It’s excellent now if decanted – but will be age very well and will taste exquisite in a decade.

Punt Road Shiraz 2005

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Vintage: 2005
Type: Shiraz
Country: Australia – Yarra Valley

An excellent vintage from an excellent vineyard. It’s made from 22 year old vines in the Coldstream area of the Valley. It has been aged in French oak, and you can tell on the nose. The Shiraz has a spicy pepper undertone coupled with strong berries for a medium-bodied wine. This wine will cellar well and is not too expensive.

Short Mile Bay Shiraz

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Vintage: 2006
Type: Shiraz
Country: Australia

We picked this wine in a bar, so the expectations were not high.  Overall, it was quite drinkable, though I wouldn’t choose this wine outside a bar and it won’t find its way into my cellar.  Good choice for a bar though.  No real stand out characteristics, it was a strong Auzzie Shriaz.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Vintage: 2005
Type: Shiraz
Country: South Australia, Australia

To me, this was an Australian red wine that stood out from the other Australian exports showcased at the wine fair.

In a glass, it looks like your typical older shiraz: deep reddish-purple colour, long legs, slight fading at the edges. What sets this wine apart is that it has a slight mossy or earthy character on its finish, which is reminiscent of the Bordeaux from Chateau Rouselle 2004. Could this be an Aussie wine that is channelling a French spirit?

Well done to Wolf Blass for choosing a great company to take to the next level.