Mr Vine July Panel Tasting – the results

ChampagneBonville_NVThis was the best panel tasting yet. Normally we select the five wines most deserving of your attention, but this time round we were compelled to add a further three ‘honourable mentions’ that were so good it would be criminal to miss them off the list. We held the tasting at MASH Steak near Piccadilly – if you’re into wine, you should check out their list, it’s exceptional.

First place: Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs NV (Champagne, France; 12.5%; £26.09, Cadman Fine Wines)
This pure Chardonnay Champagne is grown on Grand Cru rated sites and the quality really shines through: brioche-scented exuberance, full and rich on the palate with a lovely soft fizz. Very easy drinking while keeping its class and character, this isn’t the driest Champagne but it’s beautifully balanced and could easily compete with many big brands. 90 points.

Second place: Fattoria Le Fonti Chianti Classico 2012 (Tuscany, Italy; 14.0%; £14.50, Cadman Fine Wines)
Mostly Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this Chianti is somewhere between modern and traditional in style. It has detailed cherry, herb and leather aromas alongside coffee bean and tobacco leaf. Bright, vibrant and expressive this wine has a lovely sense of harmony and warmth. It engages the brain as well as the tongue. 91 points.

Third place: Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand; 13.0%; £12.15, Cadman Fine Wines)
This estate was built on the site of New Zealand’s first winery, dating back to 1873. If you’re suffering from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc overload, this wine reminds you of what makes the style so special. It smells of freshly cut grass, fresh gooseberry and guava but has a sense of restraint; the flavours are pronounced by the wine remains elegant. Lovely round texture, a long, concentrated finish and wet foliage freshness. Very well priced to boot. 90 points.

Fourth place: Château Bel-Air La Royère 2008 (Bordeaux, France; 14.0%; £19.35, Cadman Fine Wines)
Unpretentious, old school claret with much to love: ripe and fruity, with spicy cedar, tobacco and blackcurrant. This blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Malbec from Blaye has plenty of stuffing and tannic heft to keep it going for another five years or so, but is at a lovely stage to drink now – harmonious and complex but still with youthful power. Bordeaux lovers will lap it up. 91 points.

Fifth place: La Torricella Barbera d’Alba 2011 (Piemonte, Italy; 14.0%; £15.99, Red Squirrel Wines)
Black cherry and cola on the nose, alongside coffee and cocoa – classic Barbera. Lovely concentration and a satin-soft, dry finish. A generous yet serious wine that’s just crying out for rigatoni with meatballs. 89 points.

Honourable mentions

Vinteloper ‘Odeon’ Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, Australia; 13.0%; £24.99, Red Squirrel Wines)
Just over a thousand bottles were made of this compellingly interesting wine. Naturally beautiful aromas of mandarin, mirabelle plum and flowers. It’s not cheap, but this is brave winemaking resulting in a unique style that some drinkers will adore. 90 points.

Vega Tolosa ‘Icon’ Bobal 2013 (La Mancha, Spain; 13.5%; £8.99, Red Squirrel Wines)
Bags of intense forest fruit flavour, this is a perky, juicy red that is easy to drink but has character and makes an impact. Fantastic value for money. 88 points.

Bruna ‘Maje’ Pigato 2014 (Liguria, Italy; 12.5%; £13.50, Red Squirrel Wines)
Delicate, fresh and perfumed this is a lovely example of the rare Pigato grape. Silken in texture and perfectly balanced, this is a great alternative to Pinot Grigio. 88 points.

Mr Vine is a free iPhone app that helps you discover and buy the kinds of wine you like from a marketplace consisting of over 1,000 wines across a dozen different independent UK wine shops. Each month, a panel of five drinks experts (Richard Hemming, Helena Nicklin, Nathan Nolan, Zeren Wilson and me) meet up to taste a selection of wines available via the app in order to sniff out some gems. We score the wines out of 100, provide a tasting note and – perhaps most importantly – pick our top five of the night. These won’t necessarily be the highest scoring, just the wines we feel most excited about bringing to your attention.

For more info on the app and how it works, check out