Another Lidl Wine Tour promotion starts this morning featuring 27 different wines, almost two thirds of them under £7.
While it contains few jaw dropping wines, several bottles offer terrific value for relatively small sums of money – and I have singled out six that I think meet that requirement well.
Also today are our usual Best of the Rest and Sunset Corner friends plus a Top Tip that offers an expert’s detailed thinking on one particular New Zealand wine region.
Where they are available, use the pictures next to the description of a wine to help you find it quickly on a crowded display.
Magic Bullet Selection
Who says that Bordeaux reds have to be expensive? A host of small scale producers (often in the region’s less fashionable areas) are still producing great value, capably crafted options like this 50:50 merlot cabernet blend.
With typical twists of tannin behind its leafy bramble fruit 2017 Chateau La Tuilerie (£5.49 at Lidl and 12.5% abv) has much to enjoy bringing us soft damson and loganberry fruits with good acidity and a suggestion of baking spice.
As regular MidWeekers will know, the “Magic Bullet” choice (like its equivalent in the medical profession – effective solutions without side effects) is especially noteworthy because it tastes good without the disadvantage of costing a lot.
More great value cabernet
Probably because its climate allows the grapes to ripen more reliably, Spain can sometimes do cabernet sauvignon less expensively than other parts of the world – as this version from an area south of Madrid demonstrates.
Enjoy then the cinnamon influenced plum and blackberry fruit of 2017 Ã Cabernet Sauvignon (£4.99 and 12.5%) with its good acidity, gentle tannin and mocha influenced texture.
Staying in Spain
Partly because of its low yields and susceptibility to mildew, graciano grapes tend to be less widely used than tempranillo and garnacha in Rioja but here it gives an unusual (and rather successful) solo performance.
Mellow with hints of vanilla and clove, 2016 Laertes Rey Organic Graciano (£7.99 and 14.5%) has tasty cherry and loganberry fruit with firm tannin and a neat savoury edge but lively acidity to keep it fresh.
Moving to whites
Interesting to see how typical Rhône white grapes are being used (and very successfully) in Languedoc and here is a full house of those varieties – 25% each of grenache, marsanne, roussanne and viognier.
As a consequence of that cocktail, 2018 La Croix Dorée Languedoc (£6.99 at Lidl and 12.5%) combines savoury edged texture beneath its fresh quince and apple fruit with delightfully enlivening, crisp acidity.
Try this Vinho Verde “plus”
Northern Portugal’s Vinho Verde is currently producing some excellent white wines and this particular example is given an extra boost because 70% of the blend is alvarinho (no prizes for guessing what that grape is called over the border in Spain).
Like other classic Galicia whites, there is apple and greengage centred depth to 2018 Portal do Minho Vinho Verde (£6.49 and 12%) but – despite being 30% trajadura, a relatively low acidity grape – there is also sharp lemon and pink grapefruit freshness.
And we end on a sparkling note
Finally we come to a slightly sweet sparkling wine – containing (ironically, given the name on the bottle) just 20% Clairette but 80% from a particularly elegant and perfumed member of the muscat family – that is just perfect for undemanding, low alcohol sipping in the garden on lazy Sunday afternoons.
With uncomplicated cream soda texture Clairette de Die Tradition (£7.99 and 7.5%) has subtle apple and lemon fruit, good acidity and exactly the right smooth mouth-feel for its role as an aid to relaxation.
BEST OF THE REST
Tasty and convenient
With perfect timing, the wine range at SPAR has been updated and substantially improved just as increasing numbers of people are turning to convenience stores for top up shopping.
For a good example of what they do well, try the tempranillo based 2017 Rosa Roma Valdepenas (currently £6 – instead of £6.50 but only until tomorrow – at SPAR and 13.5%) with its soft plum and cherry fruit, firm tannin, good acidity, aroma of roses and herbal, cinnamon and black pepper finish.
Riesling’s revival continues
Along with a delightfully dry Mosel Riesling (at £7), Tesco have introduced this great value off-dry version of the same grape from further south and east that is just perfect for summer drinking.
Don’t let the “off-dry” description deter you because 2018 Tesco Rheinhessen Riesling (£5 at Tesco and 11%) counterbalances any sweetness well with a prickle of lively lime acidity that adds real freshness to its apple based depth.
Next week sees the end of the current four week promotion at M&S which actually finishes on 27 May. Here are a few of its components that may like to check out while the discounts still apply.
- Burra Brook Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz – both down a pound to £6.
- La Huasa Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot – similarly dropping a pound to £6.
- Gold Label Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – also down a pound to £6.
- Zebra View Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon – again down a pound to £6.
- Conte Priuli Prosecco – down three pounds to £9
- American Pale Ale (six pack) – half price offer at £6.
Top Tip: Look out for changing trends in a New Zealand region we used to know well.
Back in the day, our first experience of New Zealand wines was probably with those from Gisborne – the first land on the planet to see the sun every morning!
Nowadays, it has fallen behind Marlborough and Central Otago in importance so I asked New Zealand specialist and successful wine author Rebecca Gibb MW to tell us what is happening there.
Here, in an extract from her excellent book, she reports on the current position.
“Standfirst: In this excerpt from The Wines of New Zealand, author Rebecca Gibb MW considers Gisborne's title of Chardonnay capital and wonders if so-called alternative varieties might provide a brighter future for this East Coast region.
Gisborne is the self-proclaimed ‘Chardonnay capital of New Zealand’ and there were once signs erected celebrating its dedication to this non-aromatic white variety.
There are efforts to keep it on the map: a group of local producers has created a Classic Chardonnay group dedicated to marketing their rich barrel fermented Chardonnays, which should “melt even the coldest heart”.
However, it is no longer the country’s most important Chardonnay producer by volume – that title now sits with Marlborough.
The reason for this is that a large number of Chardonnay vineyards have been uprooted since 2009 when the New Zealand arm of Pernod Ricard pulled the plug on many grape growing contracts due to a decline in Chardonnay sales.
Fellow drinks giant Constellation also reduced its intake of Gisborne fruit the same year.
From 1084 hectares out of a total 2083ha in 2010, Chardonnay represented just 620ha of Gisborne’s 1246 hectares in 2017.
It is still the most planted variety making full bodied, round Chardonnays with ripe stone fruit that are enjoyable in youth. The wines are softer and richer than offerings from the cooler climes of the South Island.
Styles vary dependent on price point from simple, fruity, and unoaked to savoury, barrel fermented styles with wild yeast and lees work adding complexity.
The region is also known for producing Chardonnay destined for large volume sparkling wine brands including Lindauer, which was sold by Pernod Ricard to Australasian drinks company Lion.
Aromatic whites are collectively the most important wines after Chardonnay.
Pinot Gris, which is also used by Lindauer to make a carbonated sparkling wine is now the second most important variety in Gisborne.
It is an early ripener so can get to the winery before heavy rains arrive but with its naturally compact bunches and thin skins, the variety needs to be carefully managed in the vineyard to avoid any splitting and subsequent fungal disease.
Generally fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures to preserve freshness and aromas, the wines are full bodied with soft acidity. From dry to sweet and everything in between, they offer ripe red apple fruit, pear and spice aromas.
Its Alsatian bedfellow Gewürztraminer has a long and successful history in Gisborne’s warmer climes, achieving heady, floral, voluptuousness.
It has been in the Gisborne palette of varieties since the pioneering Bill Irwin of Matawhero imported and planted virus-free Gewürztraminer in the early 1970s and was soon winning recognition around the world.
It is a rather difficult variety to sell with its distinctive personality and naturally low acidity but in the Ormond area it has found a home, making premium and super-premium wines, which are popular in China.
This being New Zealand, it's inevitable that Sauvignon Blanc will make an appearance. It covers 120 hectares (2017) of Gisborne’s fertile land making full rich, tropical styles that are less piquant and racy than the cooler South Island examples.
This is not what you should come to Gisborne to drink, however.
What makes Gisborne really bloody interesting right now is its seemingly ever-growing band of alternative whites.
The country’s biggest vine importer and nursery, Riversun is based in Gisborne so they have have a lot of options for experimenting with new varieties and clones close to home and a white Spanish variety seems to be settling in nicely.
Since its first vintage in 2012, Coopers Creek’s Bellringer Albariño has been a hit. Grown by former design engineer Doug Bell and Delwyn Bell, the variety is well suited to a maritime climate that is damp.
Its home in Spain, Rias Baixas, receives 1800mm of rainfall annually making Gisborne look positively arid.
The resulting wines are scented, full bodied yet fresh whites that are a dead ringer for Spain’s best.
It’s not just Albariño that should renew interest in Gisborne. Millton Vineyards has been a long-time supporter of Chenin Blanc and has taken it to new heights on hillsides in Gisborne, making complex, ageworthy examples. It also excels at sumptuous Viognier.
Meanwhile, Spade Oak produces a rare Petit Manseng and TW Wines produces taut, long-lived Verdelho.
The Bells have been growing a range of alternative varieties including Fiano, Lagrein, Marsanne and Vermentino as part of a trial with the Gisborne wine growers’ association and the local polytechnic.
While the results shone in the glass, the trial has now come to an end and many of the varieties have been pulled out, replaced with economically viable alternatives.
While it’s a shame to see them go it has prompted others to plant some of the varieties; James and Annie Millton have planted Vermentino as a result of the trials.”
Signed copies of Rebecca's book can be purchased through her website: https://rebeccagibb.com/shop/wines-of-new-zealand-buy-the-book/
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