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A New Vintage (2023) Italian White plus Nicely Matured Rioja

This time of year is always an interesting one as we await the arrival of the first wines from the previous autumn’s northern hemisphere harvest.

However carefully you study weather and vintage reports, nothing is quite as revealing as what is inside the first bottles to arrive.

The good news is that the first example I have reviewed is very promising indeed.

Obviously, pinot grigio from Northern Italy is not an infallible indicator of results right across Europe.

Nevertheless, this is an impressive version with sufficient texture and energy to help encourage PG sceptics among wine drinkers to think again.

Its companion today is red wine where immediacy is not the priority.

Rioja has a well-established maturation and classification process for red wines and this illustration shows how well that can pay off.   

Once again, pictures are included where possible to make it easier to track down the wine in question.

First that pinot grigio

2023 Irresistible Pinot Grigio (from £6.50 at the Co-op and 12%):

This Italian outrider for Europe’s 2023 vintage is really tasty and a good omen for what is to come.

Especially pleasing is the way it provides the vivacity and complexity that (being tactful) is not always obvious in Venezie pinot grigio.

Its orange blossom aromas lead us nicely into light bodied, melon, peach and tangerine flavours.

Support for that backbone comes from its accompanying fresh lime acidity and bold hints of something tart like greengage.  

And, then, the Rioja

2018 Extra Special Marques del Norte Rioja Reserva (£9 at Asda and 14%):

Reserva is, of course, the next-to-top category in Rioja and involves at least three years aging.

This is a Decanter Silver award winning example of the genre that is well worth £9 (it is a Reserva after all) – but, even better,  it does sometimes come on offer.

Dark with oaky aromas, it provides rich bramble, plum and cherry flavours.

These are successfully coupled here with lively acidity, firm tannin and suggestions of vanilla, clove and cocoa.

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Dave Cronin

Hi Brian
I remember when the ‘Marques de Norte Rioja’ first appeared on the shelves a few years ago and there was so much fuss around it, winning lots of awards, and rightly so.
It’s a very classic style, a little old school, but more importantly, it tastes like a Rioja should, I’ve bought it many times over the years.

Brian Elliott

Agree with that analysis. There are one or two Rioja houses that seem to have the price/quality balance exactly right (including this one) and shrewd supermarket buyers have ensured that they are well represented on UK High Streets.

Paul Davies

The Asda Rioja never fails to impress and the Coop PG looks good.As you are temporarily abridged and gave the green light for suggestions,here is my take on a wine I enjoyed this weekend.
2023 Stonedance Granite White Piekenierskloof South Africa The Wine Society 12.5% £8.95
This is an accomplished well balanced blend of mainly Chenin Blanc with some Grenache Blanc and Palomino.The latter two grapes and a subtle use of wood in the Palomino adds welcome layers of complexity,but does not obscure the refreshing peach and nectarine flavours. A long and satisfying stony finish that is true to the title of the wine.
Exclusive to TWS, good value and deserves to be a winner,but if not,then at least a place in the fridge door.

Brian Elliott

Not tried that (yet) Paul but intrigued by the use of palomino. All in all, it sounds like a great value option and well worth adding to any purchases from The Wine Society.

Eddie Walker

Hi Brian …

It interests me a lot as to how certain wines get a bad press somewhere along the way and their provenance gets trashed!

Might go hand-in-glove with a rise in popularity of such wine. It may be that by jumping on the mass-production bandwagon, and a desire for market share no matter what the compromise, it all gets coupled with a drop in quality to satisfy that demand, and then the brickbats fly.

Trying to avoid any soft-target, generalisations here I’ll suggest Oz Chardonnay back in the day, never a favourite of mine, along with cheap Beaujolais, and probably some Prosecco too more recently.

And of course any Liebfraumilche, Blue Nunn and Piat D’Or we might mention! Likely some truth about what I mention here, without wanting to appear snobby about this.

But figuring here as well has seemed to be Pinot Grigio though I’d allow for the fact that with even cheaper-end wines being better manufactured especially in Italy, Pinot Grigio is getting a better press all round, and now no way deserving of its criticism. Its status has improved no end. And that pleases me!

It also pleases me that this is the second week running you have recommended a Pinot Grigio with this Irresistible Venezie Co-op bottle. For me your choice of the Morrisons Abruzzo Sorso last week that I got for an astonishingly cheap £4.30 provided as good a mid- week aperitif as we might hope for. Really enjoyed its citric freshness but some depth of character as well, drunk with salty black, wrinkly Greek olives out of a bag, from Lidl.

Coupled with buying the Calvet Cité de Carcassonne Carignan at Morrisons as well for only £6 the trip there was completed with lovely pieces of beef rump steak for not a lot of money either. My son’s mother was happy at the weekend!

So it’s a Co-op tomorrow for your today’s bianco and while I’m there a bottle of that really delicious 2020 Irresistible Salice Salentino you flagged-up a few weeks ago.

Brian Elliott

I sense that two factors come together to cause the Whirlygig of fashion you describe. As you suggest, increased popularity pushes demand up – until it exceeds current supply. Only one of two things can happen then – prices rise or quality falls – and it is the latter that eventually gets the baby thrown out with the bathwater.
Equally though, as anything grows more popular, so the snootier end of that particular market starts disparaging it. It could, perhaps, be driven by a need to demonstrate their superior discernment.
On the Co-op point – some lovely wines on their shelves but their complex organisational structure frequently means that price do vary from store to store.

Eddie Walker

Thank you for that insight Brian. That ”complex organisational structure” at Co-op you mention unfortunately stretches to the idiosyncratic nature of their website too, ( compared to the more structured, comprehensive and accurate offerings on-line from the likes of Sainsbury’s, Asda and especially Waitrose). Some we win and some we lose, literally at Co-op. It’s a nightmare at times locating what we need to look at if for no other reason than this postcode lottery they have for identifying which store stocks what bottles! Without it we are lost for knowing if shopping trips will actually be productive. BUT …. I got what I wanted at one store and happy I am about that. Just to say they still had that Pinot Grigio advertised on the shelf with a £1 off using a Co-op card even though the offer finished on the 10th according to the very, very small print. The staff though very kindly honoured the deal anyway. Result!!

Brian Elliott

Glad you got the necessary result but, as you say, it is not without difficulties.

Micky Lorraine

Hi Brian i have been following your weekly emails, love the wines you recommend. but was in aldi’s got some lovely S/B from N ew Zealand for £3.99 insted of £9.99 loaded up. keep up the good work.

Brian Elliott

Hi Micky and always especially good to hear from first time participants in the Comments section. Glad to knowr that my selections work for you and pleased you found some bargain priced Sauvignon. I don’t always hear about those offers as they emerge, so it is really helpful when MidWeekers use this space to alert other subscribers to what they have found. Many thanks for doing so.

Eddie Walker

Hope someone might pick up on this who could enjoy a classy French red that won’t necessarily jump out at us ! Morrisons somewhat ideosyncratic discounting process is being very selective with only some bottles being offered at £18 for 3 … but fortunately includes the Calvert Cite de Carcassonne . That’s a 25% saving Without having to buy the usual 6 bottles.
Can’t speak more highly of it and now have a shedload on the shelf. … for fear of it disappearing too soon!!

Brian Elliott

Tried some again the other day, Eddie, and it remains good, typical Southern France red. Great value on this promotion.

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