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A Seriously Undervalued Summer Wine

While the private equity guys muse over the most durable shape for Majestic’s High Street presence, it seems to be “business as usual” inside its stores.

A number of promotions will be in force there during August and I have picked out four wines with special prices that I think justify a closer look.

The first three are available for £7.99 – instead of £11.99 – in Scotland and when part of a “mixed six selection” elsewhere; the final one is individually priced.

Three of the prices quoted are valid until 5 August while the fourth runs through the whole of the month.

Naturally today's post also includes your old favourites like Best of the Rest selections, Sunset Corner (alerting you to “must end soon” discounts) and a Top Tip (New Zealand’s 2019 Harvest Report).

As usual, where pictures are available use them to find the wine concerned quickly in the crowded displays that are normal in most UK retailers.

But first that unsung summer hero

Summer whites need to be especially versatile – to suit light lunches and afternoons in the garden just on their own, in ways that are seldom demanded at other times.

Freshness, tropical fruit flavours and even an edge of sweetness are all on the “must have” list for this type of wine.

Made from a variety often overlooked, 2018 Viñalba Selección Torrontés (£7.99 until 5 August at Majestic and 13% abv) from Argentina’s Uco Valley meets this need well exhibiting floral, pear, peach and orange fruit, pink grapefruit acidity along with hints of savoury and sweeter spices.

A more traditional South American White

No one can claim that chardonnay ever gets overlooked even allowing for the varied forms its adaptability allows it to take – and here is a version on the oaky end of the spectrum without being dominated by barrel influences.

Smooth and textured 2018 Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay (£7.99 until 2 September and 13.5%) has peach and ripe melon fruit, gentle citrus peel acidity, a long creamy finish and, of course, hints of butterscotch and caramel derived from that contact with wood.

Speaking of tradition

Devotees of new world reds do not always warm to wines like Bordeaux that their parents traditionally loved, but where climate and latitude mean variable ripeness between years and flavours less driven by fruit components.

For example, in 2016 Chateau Recougne Bordeaux Superieur (£7.99 until 5 August and 14.5%) – as well as quite firm tannin – there are classic graphite touches that add a mineral centred substratum to the wine’s subtle cherry and plum fruit and accompanying touches of chocolate, mint and coffee.

Finally, back across the Atlantic

Even after DNA confirmed it as “primitivo from somewhere else”, Californians still regard zinfandel as their own (with some justification given the grape’s susceptibility to terroir differences) but here is a good everyday example of what American versions, typically, taste like.

Soft but medium bodied, 2017 Definition Zinfandel (£7.49 instead of £9.99 until 5 August and 14%) has rounded plum and blackberry fruit with good acidity, limited tannin but appealing suggestions of aniseed and baking spices.

BEST OF THE REST

A bit more like it used to be

For hundreds of years, the caves in its Central Italy homeland were used to induce botrytis in grapes (but after – not before – picking) and, consequently, Orvieto became famous for sweet wines.

Nowadays most of its white wine is dry but the great value 2017 Contralto Orvieto Classico (£5 at Sainsbury’s and 12%) is unmistakably medium-dry with honey influenced, ripe pear and red apple fruit and hints of baking spice although modest pink grapefruit acidity provides important balance.

A European option for New World wine fans

Enthusiasts of New World reds sometimes struggle to love the savoury elements and, often, reduced ripeness of French wines but this guy has proved surprisingly popular with subscribers who instinctively seek reds from the other hemisphere.

Perhaps the attraction lies in the comparatively light texture of 2016 Côtes du Rhône Villages (currently £4.99 at Aldi but soon reverting to £5.69 and 13.5%) or the pronounced raspberry and blueberry fruit yet both components are supported by savoury elements as well as good acidity, gentle tannin and suggestions of clove and pepper.

SUNSET CORNER

The current Morrisons promotion ends next Tuesday (6 August) and contains a wide range of price reductions – so a look in store may well pay dividends.

Here are four own label wines that form part of that promotion and which you might like to consider.

  • Morrisons The Best Uco Valley Chardonnay (fresh orchard and citrus fruit with savoury edged depth) which is down from £9 to £6.50 until Tuesday.
  • Morrisons The Best Western Australian Chardonnay (good fruit with smooth butterscotch undercurrent) which is down from £8 to £7 until Tuesday.
  • Morrisons The Best Gran Reserva Rioja (award winning Rioja with intense elderberry fruit and mineral undercurrent) which is down from £12 to £11 until Tuesday.
  • Morrisons The Best Prosecco (reliable version with lemon and apple fruit and a good mousse) which is down from £8 to £7 until Tuesday.

TOP TIP

This glimpse of the 2019 New Zealand harvest will hearten many about quality and reassure white wine drinkers – although pinot noir prices do look set to rise.

After a wonderfully warm 2018-19 summer in New Zealand, winemakers are expecting exceptional quality wine.

However, once again, the vintage was smaller than anticipated with inevitable consequences for availability and, hence, prices.

Naturally, that broad brush conceals several variations.

First, the good news, production in Marlborough is likely to be about the same as in the last two years.

Since roughly three quarters of the country’s wine comes from there (and three quarters of New Zealand’s grape harvest is sauvignon blanc) prospects for Marlborough Sauvignon look relatively stable.

Another piece of good news (especially for the diversity of New Zealand wine) is that the 2019 riesling harvest is well up – about 25% higher than in both 2017 and 2018 but still not back to the levels of 2014 and 2016.

Brace yourself though for the bad news.

2019’s pinot noir harvest is down by over 20% on the previous year and seems likely to be the lowest in volume terms since 2015.

Given the exceptional quality of New Zealand pinot and the consequent high level of demand, that seems almost certain to push prices up.

Since Burgundy is already very expensive, this is dismal reading for pinot fans but Eastern Europe may offer a glimmer of hope.

The quality emerging from that part of the world is improving rapidly and some entry point versions are both sound and great value.

Perhaps, then, the medium-term prospects are not totally gloomy even if pinot fans will need deep pockets this year and next. 


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Comments

2 Comments

Dave Cronin

Hi Brian, Nice selection as usual, especially the Torrontés, although I don’t drink a lot of it but when I do I always enjoy it, it’s usually a crowd pleaser in this weather mainly due to its hint of floral sweetness which makes it very easy to drink.
Love oaky Chardonnay and Chile do it very well, for the price I’ve been impressed with other Santa Rita wines so will give this one a go.
Now to Bordeaux Superieur, I’m still searching for a good one that’s reasonably priced, most I’ve tasted have been a bit of a let down, maybe this will be different.
Thanks for the Top Tip, good news about NZ Riesling, not so good about Pinot, my wife will be pleased the Sovee’s are remaining stable.

Salud and drink well
Dave

Brian Elliott

Thanks Dave ……… That Bordeaux does have those classic vegetal and graphite touches that not everyone loves but it is a good and well priced example of the genre


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