Lucy's Vin Cognito drawing .jpg

Taking cognisance of Vin Cognito

If I told you a story about Jancis, an alleyway, a hatchet, a hooded stranger, and garlic on a foul dark night, you might think that I was flailing at an attempt to write a particularly poor piece of Mills and Boon-like wine fiction.

If I told you that it was one half of the story behind Vin Cognito, you might still think I was making it up.

Someone called James first popped into my inbox in early 2016, very politely asking if we might add Vin Cognito as a stockist for a couple of wine reviews just published. He emailed in, a couple of weeks later, with the same request. And then again a few weeks later, muttering something about not being a stalker. (Don't they all say that?) The thing was, all the wines he was emailing me about were stunning wines. I became quite curious about Vin Cognito. I went to have a look. Excellent website: quirky, witty pages I didn't need to be on some kind of mood-altering substance to navigate, not overcrowded, overflashed or overjava-ed. Real information. Stories. Beautifully written. Real enthusiasm. Some of the wine descriptions were more like emails from a friend who'd just discovered something amazing and couldn't wait to talk about it. Like this one:

'When my nine-year-old daughter comes back from holiday camp, she's so over-excited that she can't talk quickly enough and tries telling three or four different anecdotes at the same time. It's endearing but thoroughly confusing (why was there a canoe in the dormitory?). I don't know where she gets it from.

'We've been waiting nearly six months for this wine to arrive from Australia and we're incredibly excited to say that it is finally here and it's made from Aglianico, which is mostly found in Campania today, but originally came from Greece [not true according to our co-author José Vouillamoz – JR], and the guys who make it, Alpha Box & Dice, are really cool and hilarious, but deadly serious too, and they commission artists to design a new label each year and the vineyard is farmed biodynamically and the wine tastes amazing because it spent four whole years in barrel and there's a canoe in the dormitory.'

I bought some wines. Fell a little bit in love. Wondered who exactly James Bloom and Lucia Sabine were, these two people I knew only by a stick drawing (see above, in black and white because the colours didn't show up well on the website), stockist emails and a rather glorious taste in wine. So when James invited me to the annual Vin Cognito tasting, I thought it was time to meet the merchants behind the mask.

It would be good at this point to say that incognito became cognito, and to share the deep insights I gained at the tasting. But the wines were so absorbing that I spent about four hours with my nose buried in a glass and my teeth blackening with each step forward. I had tasting notes (see below), but apart from being able to tell you that both James and Lucia were charming and had migrated from Swig, I was still in the dark. Then James delivered some wines, and as I was (almost) the last in a long round of deliveries, I managed to persuade him to stay for a cuppa.

He blames Jancis for everything.

But I'll let him tell the story in his own words.

'I used to work in the film business as a focus-puller (titter ye not! That's an actual job!), but started to find the fragmented lifestyle increasingly frustrating, as it meant I could never plan to do anything regularly (learn an instrument, book a holiday, take a course), so I decided to do something for myself and started a wine course at the WSET, refusing to take jobs on days when the course fell. At the same speed as I was falling in love with the world of wine, the film production companies were falling out of love with me ('Sorry, I can do Monday and Tuesday, but not Wednesday, because I'm studying Nebbiolo on Wednesday'). One dark and stormy night, I was on my way to my WSET Advanced exam and I turned into Garlick Hill, a narrow cobbled street near Vintners' Hall, and bumped into Jancis. I apologised and explained that I was rushing to my exam and she, making a measured retreat from this shadowy figure (we were outside a pub called The Hatchet), wished me good luck and asked me to let her know how I got on. When I received my piece of paper saying I had passed, I heard her words echoing in my head, so I took her up on her kind offer and to my everlasting gratitude and surprise, she invited me over for a drink (a Riesling, I think, but I was too nervous to note down which) and a chat about opportunities within the wine trade. That led to a meeting with the owner of Swig and a job offer, so I went from being a focus-puller to a wine merchant overnight.'

Lucia, without a penchant for Hollywood drama, is more of a purist. Speaking French and German, she left university already loving wine and dived into WSET (earning a distinction for her diploma) and then straight into the arms of Swig, where she remained for eight years. She may not blame Jancis, but brains, determination and remarkable vision at a young age (not much over 30 when Vin Cognito started) put me in mind of a certain other woman in wine.

Vin Cognito started in 2014, online only, just Lucia and James, based on a mutual conviction that some of the best wines 'don't know how good they are', which of course means that many wine drinkers don't know some of the best wines. James goes on to add: 'that necessarily involves wandering off-piste, because a wine from a lesser-known region or grape variety won't always know where to pitch itself in relation to the market and that's where great value can be found'. I can attest to the fact that the portfolio, while sporting the obligatory Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pomerol, leans off centre, more towards maverick, without being relentlessly radical. The list includes natural wines, biodynamic and organic wines, and plenty of experimental wines, but these are very obviously wines meant to be drunk for pleasure rather than admired for the ideologies behind them. I asked about the tasting notes. I'd found myself browsing the wine list simply for the joy of reading the tasting notes. 'We're unafraid to use every linguistic weapon in our arsenal (sometimes all in the same sentence), because wines can be full of character and very little can be conveyed through sclerotic data. If you meet someone for the first time and want to describe them to your friends, you don't talk about their shoe size, you talk about their sense of humour or their passions, yet far too many tasting notes talk about shoe size. We try to inject a little humour wherever possible, not just because we like a giggle, but because when you laugh, you acknowledge a truth and that's a good way of hooking a thought on someone's metaphorical hat-rack. I did warn you!' (He did warn me. I ignored it. I've finally met someone who can outblether me.)

If you're into alternative grape varieties, wine with soul, drinking dangerously off-piste, and reading the oenological version of Calvin & Hobbs, Vin Cognito might be a good place to look.

Below are my tasting notes on the 54 wines I tasted in May of this year. They are grouped by colour and presented in the order in which they were lined up and, therefore, obediently tasted.


Papagiannakos, Kalogeri Malagousia 2016 PGI Attiki Elderflower, lime zest and stone scented. Salty, zesty and lots of lime. Super-refreshing. A Margarita substitute for those who don’t like tequila! Long finish. GV (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2019
£13.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Hannes Storm, Wild Air Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Smells of green coriander leaf and seed. Lots of tender green herbs on the palate with a creaminess in the very centre. High acidity, intensely citric bones. There is a green bell-pepper bite on the end. Elegant, discreet – so very unlike most shouty New World Sauvignons. (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2019
£16.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Claude Riffault, Les Desmalets 2015 Sancerre Delicate nose, just a smidgeon of white peach. Seems a little hesitant and unfocused to begin with, and then pulls through, fine and direct and tense. All on the finish. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2020
£23.50 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Auntsfield, Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough Classic Marlborough: vibrant tropical fruit, mown green grass, passion fruit. Crystal-clear citrus and gooseberry on the palate. Very direct and classy with a dry, crisp finish. GV (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2020
£13.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Manuel Formigo 2016 Ribeiro Treixadura, Palomino Fino, Godello, Torrontés, Albariño and Loureira. Green guava nose. Etched and sharp on the palate, as if cut out of green glass. Bony, a little stony, lime and verbena. If you need a wine for ceviche, this has to be it. (TC) 12% Drink 2017-2019
£11.50 Vin Cognito 16 points

Suertes del Marqués, Trenzado 2015 Valle de la Orotava Listán Blanco. Cordite-smoky with a strong pungency. Long and exciting, redolent of wild, windswept, lonely stretches of beach: seaweed-strewn, iodine and salt and rust and wet shells on the foam. Very direct. Determined and angular and striding out. It gave me goosebumps. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2022
£19.95 Vin Cognito 17 points

Partida Creus, SP 2015 Penedès SP = a near-extinct grape variety native to Catalonia called Subirat Parent (also known as Alarije). Unfined, indigenous yeast, unfiltered. Cloudy pale yellow in appearance. Smells a bit like home-brewed lemonade. A bit yeasty and a trace of hop-flower bitterness but soused in a delicious citrusy, lemony juiciness. A dollop of cream cheese on fresh, warm sour-dough bread. If you like natural wine, you’ll find this immensely drinkable, even thirst-quenching. (TC) 10.5% Drink 2017-2018
£22 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Azores Wine Company, Arinto dos Açores 2015 Pico Reserved on the nose. Wrapped up tightly on the palate as well, but showing a mineral carapace – not unlike sucking on lemonsoaked gravel with a side of samphire. Hint of cream and aloe, some wild honey, but very dry. Long and addictively interesting. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2022
£28.50 Vin Cognito 17 points

Werlitsch, vom Opok Morillon 2013 Steiermark 100% Chardonnay, organic certified. Destemmed fruit fermented with natural ambient yeast and aged in three-year-old barrels of various sizes for two years. Unfiltered. Smoky vanilla pods and then by almost shocking contrast, stingingly high acidity and flavours of dill and cornichon cut across the palate. Earthy, yet creamy, yet lean – it made me think of a bowl of sweetly nutty Jersey Royal potatoes tossed in sour cream, lemon zest and garnished with chopped capers. Glorious food wine. (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2022
£24.50 Vin Cognito 17 points

Patrick Piuze, Terroir de Fyé 2015 Chablis Smells of oat bran and cream and honey. Such a beautiful Jacquard-complex weave of tight citrus, soft white fruit, cream, flint and chalk. Lingers with the weightlessness of a cashmere scarf, edged with tight lines. (TC) 12% Drink 2017-2024
£25 Vin Cognito 17 points

Lothar Kettern, Pirat Riesling trocken 2013 Mosel RS 7 g/l. A cloud of aroma rises from this glass: lime leaf and elderflower and jasmine. Really racy. Piercing acidity, piercing focus. Honeyed without sweetness, lime-zested, fine spun but far from fragile. Soaring flavours on translucent wings. Absolutely delicious. GV (TC) 11% Drink 2016-2022
£16.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Geyerhof, Urgestein Grüner Veltliner 2016 Kremstal Organic. Very young and straight backed – like a child at piano lessons, feet not quite touching the floor, stiff with uncertainty, with wanting to please. Lime cordial and soda for now, hint of white pepper on the finish. I’d wait at least a year, best two, before this relaxes into musicality. (TC) 12.5% Drink 2018-2022
£14.95 Vin Cognito 16+ points

Decelle-Villa Chardonnay 2014 Bourgogne All hand-picked fruit. No bâtonnage. Natural yeasts. 12 months in oak, of which 25% was new. Green-melon aroma with very light toast. Mouth-filling silkiness, clotted cream at the heart, crisp citrus bringing definition and line. Glittering sharpness and just a burnish of toast. Real depth for a humble bourgogne. GV (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2021
£19.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Muxagat, Os Xistos Altos 2014 Douro Rabigato from high-elevation, biodynamic, schist vineyards. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in large oak casks, then aged in a mixture of new French oak and concrete eggs. Bold, rich nose of brûléed pineapples and something expensive – subtle, top-class oak. Texture of brocade, golden citrus, cashew sweetness, yet sharp-cut acidity. Crystals and cream. Warm allspice on the end. Long and firm. (TC) 12% Drink 2017-2022
£25 Vin Cognito 17 points

Cooperativa Santo Isidro de Pegões, Selected Harvest 2016 Setúbal Arinto, Verdelho, Antão Vaz and Chardonnay. Three months in French and American oak. Pâtisserie and lemon curd. Soft, tangy passion-fruit brightness that spreads easily over the palate. A dab of vanilla cream. Easy and friendly and charming. VGV (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2018
£9.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Ch de Campuget, 1753 Viognier 2016 IGP Gard Tropically exuberant nose. Properly good acidity and freshness. Peaches and summery flowers. A little short on the final delivery but great balance to that point. (TC) Drink 2017-2018
£12.95 Vin Cognito 15.5 points

Melaric, Les Fontenelles 2014 Saumur Certified organic. Wild yeasts, aged in barrel, minimal sulphur additions. Absolutely glorious nose. Chamomile and meadow flowers, beeswax and candied lemon peel. Reverberates, shimmies across the palate, all light and energy and lemon marmalade. Wild with life. Tinged with peach-kernel bitterness. Thrumming. Layers and taffeta. How much soaring loveliness can you tuck into a mouthful of wine? (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2018
£27.95 Vin Cognito 17.5 points

Kooyong, Beurrot Pinot Gris 2016 Mornington Peninsula Bit dumbstruck to begin with. Not smelling of much. But quite pretty on the palate, slightly peachy and something a bit like a slice of fresh wholemeal bread. Gently floral. Juicy. I’ve got a brilliant elderflower, broccoli and nectarine salad that this would be the perfect match for. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2020
£18.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Castell del Remei, Oda 2014 Costers del Segre Chardonnay, aged in new oak, and Macabeu, equal time in new oak and stainless steel. Fascinating nose: crushed juniper, smoky, dukkah spice. Long and determined and sophisticated. Tastes of Lebanese pickled lemons, salty, tangy, dried oregano. Striking structure. Such a noble bearing, almost as if carrying itself with pride. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2021
£15.95 Vin Cognito 17 points

Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy, Grésy Chardonnay 2014 Piemonte 22 months in new French Allier oak. Good ripe fruit on the nose with a singe of oak. Lots of pear and apple fruit with both richness and freshness, although it lacks the frisson of excitement that distinguishes so many of these Vin Cognito wines. You can get more interesting Chardonnay for £28. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2021
£28 Vin Cognito 16 points

Eden Road, Maragle Chardonnay 2015 Tumbarumba Hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed, natural-yeast fermentation in French oak barriques, 80% new. Matured in barrels for 12 months and racked via gravity to tank for six months prior to bottling. Beautiful fruit, carefully but seamlessly integrated into the oak, much as a violin soars through and with the sweet, deep notes of a cello. Golden-apple sweetness and yellow peaches, spice and smoke, an undertow of butterscotch adding richness. Substance and delivery and persistent length. (TC) 12.6% Drink 2017-2022
£34.95 Vin Cognito 17 points

Alheit, Cartology 2015 Western Cape 86% Chenin Blanc, 14% Sémillon. The Chenin comes from parcels in the Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary, False Bay and Botrivier; Sémillon from the old La Colline block in Franschhoek. Bush vines. Natural yeast. Wild, gloriously wild – sipping this wine is the liquid equivalent of running through a ripe barley field in the early light of dawn when the dew is still spangling the green-gold and there’s a smell of chamomile flowers in the air. Beeswax richness and the sweetness of poached pear, a touch of curry leaf, fennel, the lightest bite of bitterness. So full, brimming with life. Utterly unspittable. (TC) 14% Drink 2018-2025
£29.50 Vin Cognito 17.5 points

Honorio Rubio, Añadas Edición Limitada NV Rioja A blend of 10 barrel-aged vintages of Viura from 2007 to 2016. Smells of apricots steeped in sherry and pecan nuts. Beautiful nose! Apricot kernels and walnut shells and just a dab of glue. Very very savoury with glamour and freshness. Fascinating. Changing in the glass, mercurial, captivating. (TC) 13% Drink 2018-2028
£28.50 Vin Cognito 17.5 points


Dom Pinchinat, Rosé 2015 Côtes de Provence
Organic. Very very pale. Smells of crushed raspberry leaves. Wild alpine strawberries and borage flowers. Delicate flavours brushed against the palate like a watercolour painting. (TC) 14% Drink 2016-2018
£13.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points


Hush Heath, Manor Pinot Noir 2015 England From Kent. Super-pale red. Wine gums on the nose. Very juicy and light, slightly sweet but with a gorgeous tang. Cherry juice! So sappy. Chill, drink all summer long. Where’s the smoked-duck salad with redcurrant salsa? (TC) 11% Drink 2017-2018
£18.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Gladstone, 12,000 Miles Pinot Noir 2014 Wairarapa Mushrooms, truffle and compost and lots of brilliant red tarty-sharp fruit. A rub of tannins. Not overly complex but it’s certainly very drinkable! GV (TC) 14% Drink 2016-2019
£14.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Frank John, Kalkstein Pinot Noir 2013 Pfalz Biodynamic (Demeter certified), spontaneous fermentation and malolactic. Aged in 225- and 500-litre oak barrels for two years. Unfiltered. Real purity of red fruit on the nose. Folded layers of flavour on the palate with gentle spices and an edge of orange peel and nutmeg clad in pliant, silky tannins. But persistently running through it all, that vein of pure, translucent red fruit reflected back from the nose, defining the whole wine. Soprano elegance. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2022
£44 Vin Cognito 17 points

Guillaume Pinot Noir 2015 IGP Franche-Comté Pretty, almost jammy, nose. Bright vivacious fruit. A little bit of gumdrops with a bite of high acidity. Cranberry tartness and so, so fresh and energetic that you could do bootcamp on the strength of a glass of this. Needs a bit of chilling. Great for summer-ripe tomato dishes! (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2020
£17.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Meyer Family Pinot Noir 2014 Okanagan Valley Slightly stinky to begin with, but the palate immediately leaves that behind with an explosion of cranberry sweetness and a wash of sharply etched acidity. Mouth-watering, alive, crackling. Savoury, softer notes of sous bois on the finish. Gentle tannic pull. Not burgundy, but then why should it be? (TC) 13.4% Drink 2016- 2020
£24.50 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Colene Clemens Pinot Noir 2013 Willamette Valley Slightly acetone on the nose. A wine to decant? Tastes of cloves and cherries – very spicy and sweet. Cherry throat lozenges. A bit furry and indistinct. The alcohol certainly feels warmer than 13%. (TC) 13% Drink 2016-2020
£27.50 Vin Cognito 15.5 points

Rhinestones, Bow & Arrow 2015 Oregon 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Grenache. Bizarre blend! Smells of apricots and dried cherries. Gorgeous intensity and a real buzz on the tongue. Bright, ripe, dark cherry fruit and orange peel. Vibrant vitality, delicious, cheeky, lipsmacking. Huge fun. Chill? (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2020
£24.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Claus Preisinger, Puszta Libre 2015 Neusiedlersee Zweigelt and St Laurent, carbonic maceration, light extraction, not filtered. Macerated cherries and cocoa nose – liquid Black Forest gâteau. Unexpectedly sharp on the palate, as if Morello cherries were sliced with lemon and then dusted in very dark cocoa. Fresh and lightly chewy with fresh basil. Probably good with a light chill. (TC) 12% Drink 2017-2019
£15.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Fedellos do Couto, Cortezada 2015 Ribeira Sacra 100% Mencía. Inky and black-fruited. Charred wild thyme on the nose, green peppercorns, but sweet and dark on the palate, sinuously wrapped in lithe, fine-woven tannins. Hints of fresh-ground coffee, clove and star anise sifting through mouth-wateringly fresh, glowing fruit. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2023 £19.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Marañones, El Intruso Sierra de Gredos 2014 Castilla y León 100% Carignan. Smells, rather bizarrely, of fresh pea shoots! And coriander seeds. Peppery and vital and sinewy. Fresh and so interesting. Tastes of wild raspberries and sweet vine tomatoes and warm-earthy beetroot. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2021
£18.50 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Comando G, Mataborricos 2014 Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León 100% Carignan. Meaty aromas (dried game biltong) and something that reminds me of pickle juice! Challenging and very interesting: dried rosemary, cherry-plums, very slightly beery-veering-towards-mousy, but there is a depth and gutsy intensity that defies you to walk away. I couldn’t help thinking that this would go perfectly with droëwors (South African dried sausage) or cabanossi. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2020
£17.50 Vin Cognito 16 points

Rafa Bernabe, Ramblis Monastrell 2014 Alicante No chemicals in the vineyard or winery, almost zero added sulphur. Unfiltered. A veil of acetone over the scent of bramble berries and in the backdrop, walnut skins. Rugged tannins, a little drying and rustic, red plums and bruised wood. Juniper. Very 'natural' but not overpoweringly funky. A wine that could well divide the room. (TC) 14.5% Drink 2017-2019
£11.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Le Soula, Trigone 15 NV Vin de France Roussillon vineyards. 55% Syrah from 25-year-old vines, 40% Carignan from 75-year-old vines, 5% Grenache Noir from 70-year-old vines. A blend of 10% 2015, 55% 2014, 20% 2013, 10% 2012 and 5% 2011. This smells of the soil. Slate dust and petrichor. Plums dropped on August-hot bricks. Beautifully pure, the scent of Roussillon, and on the palate, beautifully shaped red fruit. Vibrant and dense without an ounce of heaviness. Deeply garrigue-scented throughout, a woody-lavender lift on the finish. Just a brush of fine tannins. How is it possible to deliver so much flavour and complexity in just 12.5%?! (TC) 12.5% Drink 2017-2022
£18.50 Vin Cognito 17 points

San Marco, De Notari Cesanese 2014 IGT Lazio Smells of dry tea leaves and curing game. But much cheekier and livelier in the glass than the nose would lead you to believe! Bright strawberry compote flavours. Fun. Easy fruit. Sappy. This would be vacuumed up in our house! GV (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2019
£9.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Pietro Caciorgna, Guardoilvento 2014 Etna Nerello Mascalese. Fabulous nose – the smell of cool rain on hot, dry earth. Dried rose petals and then into a fistful of tannins. Sweet, confident red fruit tinged with citrus tang and crushed basil leaf. A strong sense of wet stones. Delicious cherry heart but the tannins really are soldered to the fruit! Brace yourself. Stock up on salty salumi. Chewy, savoury finish. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2022
£21.50 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Alpha Box & Dice, F is for Fog Nebbiolo 2014 Adelaide Hills 100% Nebbiolo. Estate-grown vines. 18 months in oak. So perfumed! I stood at the crowded tasting table with my eyes closed, breathing this in deeply. Giddy, heady perfume with an undertow of rooibos tea. On the palate, an exploding pinwheel of flavour: orange peel, cherries, dried apricots, coconut, cumin, sweet cigar, allspice. So much there, a wine that keeps unfolding and opening and spinning, a wine that deserves quiet attention and time in the glass. Complex and deep, long and exciting. VGV (TC) 14% Drink 2017-2023
£22.95 Vin Cognito 17.5 points

Chioccioli Altadonna, Riserva 2011 Chianti Classico My first impression was the smell of sauerkraut. Then plums, blueberries. Thick and extracted, heavy and hot. Big and a bit cloying. Chianti Classico in drag-queen stage make-up. (TC) 14.5% Drink 2015-2018
£32.50 Vin Cognito 15 points

Mad Dog Sangiovese 2012 Barossa Valley Aromas of cherry and tobacco leaves and a hint of marzipan. Ripe, full and really vibrant red fruit. There’s a layer of camphor and sandalwood and spice that traces a framework of savoury crunch around the gloriously voluptuous fruit. But it’s the fruit that shines. (TC) 13.7% Drink 2016-2021
£18.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Podere Ciona, Proprieta Gatteschi La Diacce Merlot 2010 IGT Toscana Dusty plums and crushed bay leaves dipped in chocolate. Lovely nose but cedar dominates the fruit and it’s a wee bit too green-and-mean on the palate. (TC) 13.9% Drink 2016-2020
£21.95 Vin Cognito 15.5 points

Farnese, Vigneti del Salento I Muri Negroamaro 2015 IGT Puglia Reminds me not a little of Jägermeister on the nose, with its darkly herbal notes of mint and aniseed, rosemary and cloves. Black fruit in the clutch of determined tannins. A little bit of dark cough mixture on the finish. Structured and packed with character. (TC) 13% Drink 2017-2020
£11.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Bove, Indio 2012 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Animal-fur nose, briefly, then more boldly, medicinal, cherry cough mixture and herbs. On the palate, brightness and freshness despite gloriously plush, sumptuous fruit. A strong herbal line, drawing something more woody (old, polished floorboards) in its wake. Underneath, a suggestion of dried plums. Amaretto notes on the finish. Big tannins. A lot of delivery for the price. (TC) 14% Drink 2015-2020
£13.95 Vin Cognito 16.5 points

Olianas, Riserva 2014 Cannonau di Sardegna Organic Cannonau, aka Garnacha. 18 months in French and Slavonian oak. Sweet, dark aromas of burnt toffee and leather and dark chocolate. Big, broad and brooding, grilled plums, molasses. Warming alcohol. A bit of a Big Friendly Giant, but with a dancing line of acidity. If ever there was a wine that could match sweet-smoky barbecue ribs in a Bourbon maple glaze, this is it. (TC) 14.5% Drink 2017-2019
£24 Vin Cognito 16 points

Alpha Box & Dice, Xola Aglianico 2012 McLaren Vale Four years in oak. Bit of VA and polished church pews and incense and a nose with all the intensity of fervent prayer. Really vibrant, pulsating energy and acidity dancing tango with strong, dramatic tannins and slashes of apricot, Victoria plum, quince and chocolate swirling like silk and colour across the floor. A wine that reverberates right through your bones. I would love to have this with eight-hour beef short ribs. (TC) 14% Drink 2017-2025
£24.50 Vin Cognito 17 points

Lafage, Bastide Miraflors 2015 IGP Côtes Catalanes Syrah/Grenache blend. Plum conserve. Rich and ripe. Structure and sweetness, bursting with delicious fruit. A wine of the sun and wind with all the intensity and concentration and balance that you’d want from Côtes Catalanes. Big hug of tannins. VGV (TC) Drink 2017-2024
£14.95 Vin Cognito 17 points

Piedrasassi, PS Syrah 2014 Central Coast Meaty and herbal, seductive aromas of tarragon and ripe blackberries. Real purity of dark fruit with a swirl of wood smoke and charred rosemary. Hint of carpaccio. Fresh, long, mouth-watering finish laced with pepper. Very very good. Rhône elegance, California sunshine. (TC) 14% Drink 2017-2021
£27.95 Vin Cognito 17 points

Abadía de Acón, Crianza 2012 Ribera del Duero Hand-harvested Tempranillo, 14 months in bordeaux barrels, two years in bottle before release. Unusual nose: tobacco, hemp seed, even the ‘herbal’ whiff of marijuana. But the palate goes off in the direction of dark fruit, almost swarthy, closely swaddled in dense tannins. Bright orange peel lifts the flavours, and then the finish comes dark again with black-olive tapenade. Quite a serious wine for its price tag. (TC) 14.5% Drink 2017-2022
£14.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Inacayal, Select Malbec/Carmenère 2013 Mendoza Black fruit and menthol with a line of smoke. The Carmènere runs a dramatically green streak through a concentration of glossy black fruit. Eucalyptus, some bitterness, and an edge of char. Comfortingly chewy tannins. (TC) 14.5% Drink 2017-2021
£15.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Viano Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Contra Costa County Eight months in French and American oak. Raspberry-leaf-tea aromas move into very sweet fruit on the palate, and lots of lean, dry tannins. A hint of warm brick on the finish. (TC) 13% Drink 2016-2020
£13.95 Vin Cognito 16 points

Woody Nook, Gallagher’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Margaret River Vines planted in 1982. Gorgeous smell – the pungent scent of early-morning, dew-damp eucalyptus, the sweet earthiness of blackcurrant and the sharp green of bell pepper. Beautiful ripe blackcurrant fruit on the palate, fine leafiness and a touch of sandalwood. Tannins and oak form a graceful corset. Emphatic, but gliding and elegant. (TC) Drink 2017-2022
£29.50 Vin Cognito 17 points

David Franz, Plane Turning Right 2013 Barossa Valley 47% Petit Verdot, 37% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon. But not at all bordeaux! This is a bit of a walk on the wild side. Smells raw and bloody, peppadews and paprika, high toned and spicy. Complex and demanding, a wine that you almost forget to taste because there is so much to bury your nose in. Gloriously intense red fruit, apricots and cranberries and dried orange peel and tea leaves. Arching acidity pulls against fine-spun tannins, setting up an almost electric tension across the palate. Lots of pliant structure weaving through a complex web of flavours. Very exciting. A real maverick. (TC) 13.5% Drink 2017-2025
£27 Vin Cognito 17.5 points