As regular MidWeekers know, every couple of months, Lidl institute a “Wine Tour” promotion.
It normally involves one off parcels of thirty or so wines sold on a “while stocks last” basis – and that availability does vary from store to store.
A new “Tour” has just started, principally concentrating on Italy – although there are also a few wines from elsewhere (France, Portugal and Hungary).
Prices this time range from £4.99 to £11.99 (for a Rhone red) but 90% of the wines sell at less than £8.
To counter suspicions that “if it’s cheap it must be naff”, Lidl continue to use a three-person Masters of Wine panel who score the wines; the results are displayed on the company’s website and in-store.
Not only do those MW’s stake their professional reputations on the relative quality of the wines but – as lead MW, Richard Bampfield, stresses – price is never considered in making those assessments.
Having tasted most of the high scoring wines from this Wine Tour, here are my top picks.
As ever, where hyperlinks and pictures are available, they appear alongside the text to help you find that specific wine.
A variety on the march
Southern Italy’s negroamaro grape is certainly on the march, extending its emergence from merely a red wine blending partner to include this “blanc de noir” white wine option that I rate a little higher than Lidl’s MW team does.
Soft and herbal, 2019 Duca di Sasseta Negroamaro Bianco (£5.99 and 13% abv) contains straightforward pear, cooked apple and ripe melon flavours with good lime acidity and attractive caramel and almond depth.
From the shores of Lake Garda
Traditionally, wine made near Lake Garda from the lugana grape (thought to be a cousin of verdicchio) was something special – although nowadays quality can vary – but this version ticks boxes for me.
Smooth and distinctive, 2019 Giulio Pasotti Lugana (£7.49 and 12.5%) offers us quince and melon flavours supported by grapefruit pith acidity and a savoury depth that also contains hints of toffee and clove.
Best of both worlds
Here is a modern, go-ahead Hungarian winery’s interesting take on sauvignon blanc that successfully captures the intensity of new world versions yet still has an old-world restraint and reluctance to make its wine too assertive.
Viscous and sweet edged, 2020 Haraszthy Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99 and 13%) has intense nectarine, mango and red apple flavours as its foundation but livens things up nicely with floral aromas, vivid acidity and suggestions of allspice and marshmallow.
And to my favourite white
For me, pinot blanc’s unheralded status within that family is a crying shame because, handled well, it can produce lovely textured and slightly creamy orchard fruit centred wine and (like the producers of sparkling wine in Franciacorta) growers in Alsace know how make it sing.
Beautifully complex and well-crafted, 2019 Jean Cornelius Alsace Pinot Blanc Collection Prestige (£6.99 and 12.5%) delivers conference pear, peach and gooseberry flavours supplemented by firm acidity, saline depth and touches of green pepper, butterscotch and aniseed.
Over to the reds
Despite its name, there is little “sweetness” in this red from Piedmont beyond its ability to hit the “sweet spot” beloved by enthusiasts for light, fresh, unpretentious summer wine intended to be enjoyed without fuss or ceremony.
Dark in colour yet light in texture, 2019 Antica Cascina Dolcetto d'Alba Antica Cascina (£5.99 and 13%) has bright, soft, raspberry, cherry and cranberry flavours with fresh acidity, caramel, clove and vanilla elements but quite firm tannin.
Head a bit to the east
Over in Veneto, they know a thing or two about techniques that use specially dried grapes (to increase the intensity and sugar levels of the finished wine) and here is a tasty but inexpensive illustration of those processes at work.
Soft but sweet edged, 2017 Vignamatta Veneto (£7.49 and 14%) provides ripe cherry, mulberry and plum jam flavours with firm tannin, sweet tobacco and star anise influences within its concentrated richness.
Plus, of course, Tuscany
Not, however, the Chianti country you may have been expecting but a region not far from the west coast where sangiovese goes under the local name of “morellino” and where the local climate and its altitude combine to provide a different style of sangiovese.
Medium bodied with firm tannin, 2019 Casato dei Medici Riccardi Morellino di Scansano (£7.99 and 14%) brings us plum, cherry and raspberry flavours with good acidity and a background that contains clove and oregano influences.
Finally to my pick of the reds
It may seem rude to review a selection dominated by Italian wines and then give red and white top billing to wines from elsewhere.
However, this delight from Roussillon is precisely what that region does well and neatly demonstrates why it is increasingly using syrah and grenache instead of the more traditional carignan.
Amazingly smooth yet dark in colour, 2018 Bastide Miraflors Côtes du Roussillon Syrah Grenache Vieilles Vignes Terra Vitis (£8.99 and 14.5%) is centred around rich and dense plum, blackberry and black cherry flavours with good acidity and fruity aromas but limited tannin as well as mint, cinnamon and chocolate components.
Patience, my friend, patience
It was great to see this Wine Tour contain a kindly priced nebbiolo (the superstar grape behind Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco).
Over optimistic, though, to expect the youthful 2018 Langhe DOC Nebbiolo (£7.49 and 13.5%) to be ready for immediate drinking if you are to enjoy all the delights the variety can offer.
Although classic food wines like this use tannin positively (to neutralise any fattiness), a little “tannin softening” extra maturation time will do no harm here.
However, the variety’s trademark rose centred aromas, high acidity, cherry flavours and traces of aniseed and cloves are already clear enough to feel that a promising future awaits.
But if you are patient, other fruit influences (mulberry and damsons, say), tarry aromas and touches of liquorice and dried fruit should develop and self-confidentally elbow aside any (currently) assertive tannin.
Best of the Rest
This Wine Tour also includes the soft and herbal influenced 2019 Sassi del Mare Falanghina Beneventano (£7.99) which the MW team rate highly, the pale, fresh but lightly textured 2019 Giulia Pasotti Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé (£6.99) and the perfumed 2019 Duca di Castelmonte Zibibbo (£7.49) which are all a cut above average without – for me – quite matching the other wines featured here.
In addition, there is the excellent dry 2019 Vicarius Tokaji Furmint (£7.99) which will appear in next week’s follow-up post on Eastern European wines.
Just hearing that Asda are currently in the midst of a “25% off when you buy six” promotion. More details though in Monday’s post
Do drop by again on Monday when we unveil the latest Top Tips and catch up with the major retailers’ current promotions.
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