September's WineUncorked newsletter - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

September's WineUncorked newsletter

img 1869English sparkling wine made with the Charmat method has arrived and is causing quite a stir - well in wine circles. But are actual consumers actually taking any notice of Harlot Brut NV sparkling (£15 The Wine Cavern), its rosé version (£16) and Prince Charmat (£15 Tesco)?

These English equivalents of Prosecco and are designed to appeal directly to the drinkers of this highly popular Italian fizz, so says Emma Clark, Marketing Manager at MDCV the manufacturers of Harlot, "Having worked with the award-winning design agency, JKR, we researched the Prosecco drinker, their drives, ambitions and wants. From this Harlot was born."

But MDCV aren't the first to use the Tank Method (another less romantic name for the Charmat way of adding bubbles to wine which does actually use a large stainless steel tank rather than decant into individual bottles as is used in Champagne). Divergent Drinks came up with Fritz, and now the supermarket version Prince Charmat, before the provocatively-named Harlot was launched.

The Charmat method however is, lets not beat about the bush, an industrial method of making fizz and it’s been used successfully in Italy to make Prosecco and now in Kent to make Harlot Brut Charmat of England - a quaffable fizz made with the same grape varieties used to make Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) but with the addition of the Bacchus grape variety that English wine growers have made their own.

And it’s got many of the English sparkling wine makers backs up because it is seen as diluting the brand of quality English sparkling wine. The majority of English fizz is made using a method identical to that used to make Champagne (renamed the Classic Method), and often identified as the premium way to make sparkling wine – it is essentially a more expensive and fiddly way of adding bubbles.

Charmat wines, because of their large-volume method of manufacture, can sell for half the price of more traditional image methode champenoise sparkling wines - which not only includes Champagne but Spanish Cava plus Australian and South African fizz.

The new English versions, selling at £15-£20 a bottle, straddles the price range of cheap Champagne and more expensive Prosecco and is up to half the price of the Classic Method English wines (Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV is £30 at Waitrose, while Nyetimber Rosé is £41).

But what about those names? Harlot is a brand that is about "taking control and changing the narrative. We believe that Harlot should not be seen as gender specific and more as a representation of someone who is inclusive and not defined by name, race, gender or sexuality", says MDCV's Emma Clark.

It is difficult to get past the brand name – one which harks back to an identity given to women and their profession, a profession many did not want. There has been attempts to recapture the word harlot and "push boundaries" - there's The Modern Harlot and Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion but both websites seem to be moth-balled plus there's the popular TV programmes Harlots, Killing Eve and Fleabag which Marketing Manager Emma Clark uses in her defense of the use of Harlot as a brand name.

So are we being asked to assume that Harlot's consumers do not associate the term harlot with Harlot? Or has the expected wine buying demographic (18-45 year-old Prosecco drinker) not come across this word with its associated definition? Or does harlot have a new meaning for this age group - a term of affection perhaps?

But when you come to taste the wine you find it tastes more like Babycham (the sparkling pear cider drink which was the ‘in’ thing for women to drink in the 1950s and 60s) rather than sharp and lemony Champagne and Classic Method English fizzes. Harlot may be marketing itself as a radical choice but it harks back to an older idea of what to drink. Which doesn’t stop it being tasty, if a little expensive.

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Latest wine reviews 

Harlot Brut NV Charmat of England

£15 The Wine Caverns

three stars

 

This is the English equivalent of Prosecco in that it has been made with the Charmat method to make sparkling wine. It’s very pleasant – a slightly sweet apricot edge is balanced with lemon sherbet and lime flavours. There’s also some pear and liquorice too. Which makes it taste a bit like the pear cider Babycham.

 

Prince Charmat English sparkling

£15 Tesco, Majestic

three stars

 

Another of the new breed of English sparkling wines made with the Charmat method. At £15 a bottle, Prince Charmat (yes they had to get it in the name on the bottle label but wouldn’t we rather have seen Prince Charming, aka Adam and The Ants hit from 1981?) is expensive for what it is - a pleasant floral tasting fizz with added toasted apple ring fruitiness. There’s even a hint of rose water too. So nice enough.

 

19 Crimes 2020 red

£8 Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons, Majestic

four stars

 

This Aussie red is a blend of various grape varieties, which I can’t tell what they are as the label doesn’t give that information. Which is part of the branding of this ’19 Crimes’ wine – it’s name, and association with the nineteen crimes that could get you transported to Australia, and the label that comes alive if you point your mobile phone at it after downloading the app, is more important than what’s in it. Which is a shame as the wine’s cherry and butterscotch flavours are extremely tasty and become even more so when matched to a dessert of vanilla ice cream that’s been topped with a grating of dark chocolate. Heaven.

 

Taparoo Merlot 2020

£3.99 Tesco

five stars

 

A new value addition to the Tesco range selling at just £3.99 – and it’s great tasting too. Spicy plum and dark chocolate muffin flavours with a hint of black coffee. Nicely balanced and quaffable.

 

Folkington's Earl Grey tonic water

£3.60 8x150ml cans (equivalent to 45p each) Ocado, 

four stars

 

Came top in the review of tonic waters as one to mix with wine to make a spritzer. Flavoured with Earl Grey tea, this tonic water has the expected perfume of crystalized orange that comes from the oil of bergamot in the tea. The flavour is like cold tea with a slice of lemon.

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Latest articles 

No butter and no lemon: Top Ten tasty no-extreme Chardonnays

The phrase 'anything but Chardonnay' is still occasionally uttered out loud but more often than not it's just 'I don't like Chardonnay'. But it doesn't have to be this way. If you've tried a white wine made with the Chardonnay grape in the past and it tasted either sickly buttery, or the extreme opposite, a drink that was so sharp and lemony that it almost took your teeth enamel with it, then rest assured not all Chardonnays taste like this - the Chardonnay grape is so versatile that it can taste pleasantly fruity too.

 

Review: Tonic waters - plain and flavoured

Tonic water no longer tastes just plain and fizzy it now comes in a range of fruity and floral flavours designed to be drunk on its own or as a mixer with gin (makes the classic gin and tonic) or with wine (to make a wine spritzer). There's been a corresponding boon in companies making it and so the choice is no longer just Schweppes but the likes of Fever-Tree, The London Essence Co and Folkington's. Fifteen of the top plain and flavoured tonics are reviewed and rated.

 

Book Now: NEW Autumn 2021 Online Wine Appreciation courses

I'm tutoring two more 5-week online wine appreciation courses starting September 21st and November 9th tasting wines from around the world where you'll learn more of the fundamentals of wine. These evening class hobby courses will allow you the opportunity to sip and learn online and are primarily for Buckinghamshire residents and cost just £51.

 

Wine Q&A: Do I need a special wine glass to taste wine?

It's a fundamental question - do I need a special shaped glass to taste wine like the pros? Find out here along with How many wine glasses do I need for a tasting? Plus How to swirl wine in a glass without spilling it, and Do we spit wine out?

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More wine reviews and educational articles follow in our next newsletter. In the meantime let us know what you think of the wines you've been quaffing recently or ask us your wine questions: Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as @wineuncorkeduk

 

Cheers!

 

paulasig

 

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About WineUncorked and its editor, Paula Goddard Read more