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Dare to Differ: Two Distinctive Wines Beyond the Obvious

After straying off the beaten path in last week’s Top Tips (with unfamiliar geographic sources of popular wines), I push the boundaries in another way today.

Even though it is holding its price tenaciously, New Zealand sauvignon blanc remains “top of the pops” in the UK – but, this week, I propose considering a different grape from that country.

Don’t stop drinking sauvignon, just use this to ring the changes sometimes.

Equally, fruit forward red wines are very much in vogue, but today’s suggestion is for something slightly different.

It turns to an area where ripening grapes can be a problem and, hence, where winemaking traditions embrace other flavours beyond fruit centred ones.

Both selected examples are currently on promotion so now is a good time to see whether they work for you.

 Adopting my traditional format, images and, where possible, hyperlinks accompany the assessments of the wines.

So, first, that New Zealand white

2023 Ara Single Vineyard Pinot Gris (£8.99 – instead of £11.99 until 27 February – at Waitrose and 12% abv): 

Popular as Marlborough sauvignon is here, many New Zealanders will steer you instead towards their pinot gris.

Its wines have a wider flavour range, can be off-dry too and, like this one, are often fuller and richer.

Perfumed with beautiful clarity, this fully justifies stretching the budget a little to relish the textured apple, peach and melon flavours at its heart.

Those are engagingly coupled with mild citrus acidity and a herbal finish that also contains pear drop sweetness and contrasting flinty background traces.

Same grape as that ubiquitous pinot grigio but a wildly different result.

Then on to a very traditional region

2022 Bordeaux Merlot (£7 – instead of £10 until 26 February – at M&S and 14%):

If you love the complex savouriness that Bordeaux does well, snap up this M&S option at its current discounted price.

The conditional there is important though – with fruit-oriented reds very popular, not everyone enjoys Bordeaux’s trademark mineral and vegetal elements. 

That said, others will warmly welcome the smooth damson, raspberry and black cherry flavours on display here and the dark fruit aromas and dense colour that surround them.

Lively acidity, gentle tannin, touches of aniseed (and the said graphite) that accompany them neatly add to the wine’s breadth and complexity.

MULTI-BUY ALERT

Asda tell me that they have a multi-buy promotion running until Sunday 25 February.

Follow this link to see the details – and the limitations that apply.


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Comments

8 Comments

Brummie Dave

Thanks for the Asda tip, Brian. Their Wine Atlas Feteasca Regala ( a grape you praised recently ) has just been reduced from £6.25 to £5.75, so the offer makes it a ridiculous £4.31.
I will be calling in later to get several

Brian Elliott

Good Hunting Dave. As was discussed at the time, that is a sound wine but at a fantastic price this week.

Eddie Walker

Morning Brian. Interesting premise, ”dare to differ” and including a Bordeaux Merlot! How times change eh? Merlot from Aquitaine being a strong go-to 30 years ago, Saint-Emilion especially, but superseded by more fleshy, fruit forward stuff from anywhere else, and likely not France either until the recent quality offerings from Languedoc came along.

Understandable in many ways the somewhat typical, more austere characteristics that describes Bordeaux red, but for me the very thing that sets such wine apart and attracts me to them, especially if we can have some perfumed Cabernet Franc in the cuvée too. Being different seems to me to actually be what makes them ”right” though obviously not for everyone. We might describe the more typical, usual ones, as almost old-fashioned.

A lot of cheaper-end claret has we know done the image no favours over recent years when the wine world is awash with such average stuff. Wall-to-wall in French supermarkets come the autumn as the producers move the older bottles out to make way!

Then the inevitable search by the enthusiasts to find that elusive cracker-jack for under a tenner. It’s fun looking but a lot of disappointment too.

So a recommendation of this M&S Merlot and I will surely go and try it, especially with a substantial mark down as is just now, from £10 to £7.

I still have have some Montagne Saint-Emilion from Asda on the shelf. On their current ”deal” it comes in at £6.20. And the Bergerac Eglise Saint Jaques at Tesco is only £6 with a Clubcard. Cheapest of this decent bunch is the Aldi Pierre Jaurant Bordeaux still at £5.29 that I feel is terrific value for what it authentically delivers.

Thanks and best as ever… salut …

Brian Elliott

Good point, Eddie, not so long ago Bordeaux merlot would have been the “go to” option not the “dare to differ” one – with reduced popularity and the appearance of lower quality options.
Hard to know which came first – high demand meaning standards dropped to meet it or a lower spec in the hope that the price reductions it allows will reverse falling sales. Or was it none of things and just fashionability moving on?

Eddie Walker

Well Brian, now I have tried it I can only say that if a visit to M&S isn’t too far out of the way for folks then it’s a very worthwhile and enjoyable purchase that I think would satisfy most people’s wine drinking requirements. Worth mentioning for me and interestingly, I enjoyed it better without food! That’s not to say it doesn’t go with some food but given the reduced, more strident typical Bordeaux tannin and nicely balanced acidity, and ripe, softness of the fruit, it’s terrific stand as a alone and very approachable.

I can see that its original £10 might make consideration less likely if money was an ”issue” when there are other £8 claret bottles on the shelf close by. But reduced to £7 seals it for value and quality. Thanks again for the heads up.

Brian Elliott

Yes, Eddie.; thank you. I consider this to be a genuine £10 wine reduced to £7. No smoke and mirrors!

Paul Davies

Just tasted the Ara Pinot Gris at the offer price.Great perfume,clear as a bell,off dry and much rounder and fuller than many PGs and a welcome change from the ubiquitous NZ Sauvignon Blanc; a lot of which I find one dimensional.Like having a piano but constantly playing just one note.A very good recommendation and well worth the small extra outlay.
PS Can many Sauvignon Blancs benefit from a good dollop of Sémillon?

Brian Elliott

Glad you enjoyed that pinot gris which, we seem agree, fully justifies paying a little more.
As for your PS – my answer is emphatically “yes”. Semillon’s lanolin style depth offers an important extra dimension.


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