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Chardonnay – but surely not from there!

One of the joys of the world of wine is the readiness of many within it to be innovative without losing a respect for the traditional.

Hence, winemakers in, say, Tuscany can respond to customer preferences by making red wine that is less dense (or ready sooner) than previously.

Nevertheless, they still preserve the herb, tomato and cherry flavours that have characterised sangiovese grapes since time immemorial.

Moving elsewhere, we look today at a white wine that exhibits a decades-old, traditional style despite using a grape variety that has only been permitted in its region for a few years.

Alongside it, is a red from an Eastern European grape that only recently rose to prominence here, but which has been shrewdly blended this time with a long-standing favourite (shiraz).

Nevertheless, it still reflects the fingerprints of both constituents.

Do, however, see what you think.

When doing so, remember that pictures and, where possible, hyperlinks are provided to help you find the wine being commended.

Friday Night Treats

It’s that grape again

For good quality reds at attractive prices, Eastern Europe is currently a good option – and many feel that Romania leads the way.

Here we have a wine from the excellent Cramele Recas producer there that blends the increasingly impressive local feteasca neagra grape with the slightly more robust shiraz.

Soft with only very modest tannin, 2019 Nonius Feteasca Neagra Shiraz (£9.95 at Slurp and 13.5%) features floral raspberry, cranberry and cherry flavours.

Those characteristics are coupled here with gentle acidity and suggestions of nutmeg, cinnamon and milk chocolate to create a super summertime wine.

Footnote: While ordering from Slurp, also consider the excellent damson, menthol and blackcurrant centred 2019 Il Faggio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (£10.95 and 13%).

Sunday Best

New, but with traditional elegance

Chardonnay has only been allowed in white wines from Rioja for 15 years so a varietal (as opposed to a blend) is still pretty rare.

As one might expect in Rioja, oak plays a part in the production of this wine, as do other long-standing smoothing or enriching techniques such as battonage.

The result brings us traditional white wine characteristics and nicely illustrates how the careful use of oak can enhance what is in your glass without overpowering everything else it contains.

Oak fermented and nicely rounded, 2020 El Coto 875m Finca Carbonera Rioja Chardonnay (£18.95 at Vinotopia Wine Merchants and 13%) delivers smooth pear, peach and melon flavours.

These are enlivened by good lemon acidity and given sophistication and elegance by a pie-crust texture and pleasing buttery hints.  


On Going Options

The current Waitrose promotion remains in force until 9 August and has its usual extensive range of wines on offer.

Fuller details are available on the retailer’s website which can be accessed via this link.

As I said last time, recognising that this really is High Summer, this promotion includes reductions on 15 or 16 rosés with the resulting prices ranging from £5.99 to £14.99 (a £4 drop, in that case, on UP Ultimate Provençe Rosé).

Farewell to other promotions though

The most recent Tesco promotion came to an end earlier this week and details of its replacement should appear in this slot next week.

This week also saw the expiration of the last Co-op promotion.

Fear not though, its successor deals include today’s Star Buy (below) and £2 reductions on favourites such as Finca Las Moras Barrel Select Malbec and The Ned Sauvignon Blanc.

Other recent promotions.

The big news at Morrisons is the extensive multi-buy options available in those parts of the UK where such deals are permitted – and these are attention grabbing in two ways.

First, they include 25% off when you buy three or more of around 80 of its premium (“The Best”) wines.

Secondly, word is that this particular (“The Best”) part of the promotion may run on into September but do check to make sure.

There are, of course, also shorter time-scale UK wide “money off” deals which apply until 16 August – as do some parts of the multi-buy offers.

The latest deals at Sainsbury’s end a little earlier (on 9 August) but include around 50 wines from their premium range (Taste the Difference).

Among those price reductions are £1 or so off three of the Discovery range that is beginning to attract attention.

The specific wines affected this time are mencia, godello and lambrusco.

Star Buy from Promotions

Although pinot noir from Romania can certainly offer some great value choices, cooler parts of Chile represent another venue to watch.

And this example from the Co-op, which is currently on promotion, offers astonishing value for money.

Vibrant yet perfectly balanced, 2021 Irresistible Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir (£7 – instead of £8 until 16 August – at the Co-op and 14%) is certainly well worth seeking out.

It exhibits smooth raspberry, plum and rose hip flavours supported by good acidity, limited tannin within a eucalyptus, cocoa and herbal texture.

As ever, though, remember that some Co-op promotions can vary from store to store.

See you again on Monday with my usual look around the “everyday wines” market to pinpoint the Top Tips I find there.

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Dave Porter

Sainsbury’s have 25% off wine and fizz for the next 4 days.

Brian Elliott

Thanks Dave., I had not caught up with that one, so pointing it out really is helpful to other subscribers. Do keep us all up to date on any promotions you unearth.

Brian Elliott

As I said to Dave, giving everyone on the site the heads up on “Buy 6 Promotions” etc is a real assistance. Here is the website link for anyone following this up.

Chris Batchelor

Just a heads up that Tesco’s Clubcard 25% discount on 6 or more doesn’t expire until August 1st. Said to be on selected wines, but the range seems pretty extensive.

Alan Burrell

Thank you again Brian for finding yet more gems for us to try, in the current economic climate it is increasingly difficult to find good value that doesn’t compromise quality. For a sobering read as to an additional reason why wine prices are heading up with little chance of a return to ‘normal’ pop over to The Guardian ( yes – I know!) where Daniel Lambert recounts his decision to move himself and family to France in order to preserve his UK wine import business.
We can draw our own conclusions.

Brian Elliott

Daniel is an excellent wine merchant so it is good that we shall continue to see wines he deals with here in the UK. Many in the trade feel that wine pricing here has been low for too long and so, as you say, we are unlikely to see prices dropping back drastically, even when “work arounds” have been established for all the various factors causing problems at the moment.

Richard Wyndham

Yes, the current Morrison’s offer is excellent. Their Rioja Blanco (which David Cronin recommended a few weeks ago) can be bought for £5.81 if you buy (mixed) 3 of their The Best wines. Whilst I love a crisp white wine with fish, for a dish with a creamy sauce or mayonnaise I think a more rounded white with a touch of oak hits the spot. So I always like to have a few bottles of this Rioja to hand. They also do a Rioja Blanc Riserva at £12.50 (before 25% discount) but my branch doesn’t stock this. I have seen some rave professional reviews of this, comparing it with fine white Burgundy!

Brian Elliott

A really useful supplement to today’s piece Richard – thank you. Several supermarkets now have toothsome white Rioja but, all credit to Morrisons, they were probably the first to “crack that particular nut” well.

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