As the old adage tells us, it is indeed an ill-wind that blows no good.
Certainly, the “cost of living” crisis does seem to have provided a helpful following wind for the UK’s premium discounters.
Not only has Aldi now replaced Morrisons as the UK's fourth largest supermarket overall but, last week, it retained its Drinks Retailer of the Year title.
Its compatriot, Lidl, also produces impressive fare and wins prestigious awards.
Indeed, it is Lidl that goes under the spotlight this time because its latest Wine Tour promotion starts this very morning.
Here are my highlights from the clutch of new world wines that provide the central theme for this latest “tour”.
Adopting my traditional format, images and, where possible, hyperlinks accompany the assessments of the wines.
Here’s the first of my top five
In South Africa, chenin blanc was once a grape variety produced on an industrial scale with a finesse that could also be described as “industrial”.
Not so now, as this example from Paarl (a major chenin area) illustrates.
Enthusiastic growers now create versions that have all the subtlety and style that characterised Loire Valley versions (and, with climate change, is doing so again).
Perfumed by apple blossom influences and mildly textured, 2021 Paarl Chenin Blanc (£6.99 at Lidl and 12.5% abv) brings us sweet-edged pear, apple and ripe melon flavours with clean tasting lemon and grapefruit acidity, a vague chalkiness and (presumably oak derived) nuttiness.
Staying in South Africa
Alarm bells rang when I saw mourvedre on the list of ingredients of this South African rosé as grapes with thicker skins like that can push rosés towards bitterness.
Happily, I was wrong because this turns out to be light, “drink anytime” wine with hints of tropical fruit ripeness that provide balance yet never tip over into cloyingness.
I also feel that this performs significantly better than its 84 points on the Lidl website suggests.
Clean but refreshingly zingy, 2022 Belmont Sauvignon Blanc Rosé (£5.99 at Lidl and 12.5%) exhibits fresh apple, cranberry and cooked rhubarb favours enlivened by developing tangerine acidity and supplemented by peach hints that add sweetness without the confected influences that spoil too many rosés.
Switching to Reds
Spurred no doubt by the success of Marlborough with sauvignon blanc, the more southerly Central Otago region realised that its terroir was also ideal for a classic grape variety – but pinot noir, this time.
Its strong sunlight but cold nights coupled with dry summers that reduce the risk of vine-based diseases have made the region’s prowess with pinot a major success story over the last 30 years.
Prices are longer cheap but this well priced option provides a perfect introduction to why New Zealand pinot noir has acquired such a strong following.
Floral yet with an underlying earthiness that adds a savoury twist, 2020 Outlook Bay Pinot Noir Reserve (£9.99 at Lidl and also 12.5%) delivers raspberry, blood orange and red currant flavours accompanied by balanced acidity and little tannin but with allspice and cola influences.
Next to Chile
Chile’s Rapel region is part of that country’s Central Valley and is an area well known for its carmenere (as featured here) and its cabernet sauvignon.
With its chocolate and savoury flavours, carmenere is an unusual grape with a long growing season and surprisingly small need for water – but get it right and the results can be excellent.
Note, however, that this – and the cabernet franc that follows it – both respond well to decanting.
Dark yet aromatic, 2020 Carmenere Gran Reserva (£7.49 at Lidl and 14.5%) offers us minty cassis, raspberry and damson flavours coupled with evolving acidity (but limited tannin) and suggestions of clove, caramel, liquorice and vanilla.
Colchagua Valley is actually part of the Rapel region but is itself quite varied in terrain encompassing both high ground and vineyards that almost run down to the Pacific.
This cabernet franc (cab sauvignon’s dad) from there is powerful red wine with black fruit flavours that differ appreciably from the tangy raspberry centred versions of France’s Loire Valley.
Intense and solid, this was the pick of the Wine Tour for several observers.
Dense with terrific depth, 2020 Cabernet Franc Colchagua, Chile (£8.99 at Lidl and 14.5%) contains blackberry, plum and green pepper favours built into a broadly based background that embodies chocolate, black pepper, mocha and herbal components with firm tannin and a gravelly minerality.
Two new sets of deals to report this week – starting with the Co-op who have a couple of pounds off CVNE White Rioja, Diablo Dark Red and Campo Viejo Tempranillo Rioja until 18 October.
Waitrose began a new promotion yesterday that runs through to 1 November. As ever, the list is an extensive one and I shall try to pick out something from its content to feature as Star Buy in a future post.
The “25% off when you buy 6” deal seems to have ended at Tesco but the comparable one at Sainsbury’s does not expire until 1 October. As ever, do check the small print before making any commitments and remember that these promotions end a day early for online purchases.
Join me again on Monday to see what I am I recommending as the latest Top Tips among High Street retailers.
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