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Good with Food: Fine with Wine

After a couple of weeks looking at the “big two” of the grocery trade, we return today to wine shelves closer to home for most of us.

Regular Midweekers will know that I have a high regard for the buyers at the Co-op – who seem as good with wine as their advertising tells us they are with food.

Here are a few stars from their range – some on promotion – and where that is the case the discounts run through until 6 March.

As usual, you just need to click on the bottle shot for an enlarged image to help you find the wine in store – so do take your phone with you when you shop.

Eco-focused and full of flavour

First up is a Marlborough sauvignon from that acclaimed eco-focused producer Peter Yealands who seems brilliant at extracting every ounce of flavour from his wines.

His 2017 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc (£6.99 – instead of £8.99 and 12.5% abv) for example combines really grassy freshness with herbal tinged white peach and tangerine fruit and firm grapefruit charged acidity.

Viognier with a savoury twist

Luckily for us, the fickle viognier grape is now mainstream in many parts of the world but few producers manage to secure those additional savoury touches that its Northern Rhone homeland does so well – but certainly not at this price!

So, relish those gentle suggestions of liquorice that make Languedoc’s 2016 Truly Irresistible Viognier (£7.49 at the Co-op and 13.5%) stand out from the crowd – although its soft and floral, creamy textured peach fruit and supporting muted lime acidity help a bit too!

A South African take on a Bordeaux blend

Skilful blending of the (relatively) early ripening merlot and the longer lasting cabernet sauvignon is no longer just a Bordeaux feature – although that region's tricky climate and soil components make expertise in doing so especially important there.

However, Western Cape producers can make a good fist of the job too, as illustrated by the light textured 2017 Leopards Leap Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (£5.49 – instead of £6.49 and 13%) where raspberry, plum and blackcurrant fruit merge with good acidity, limited tannin and an attractive backdrop of cinnamon, eucalyptus and cumin.

Another long standing Co-op favourite

Here is classic malbec – with all the characteristics we currently love so much – from Argentina’s San Juan region which is hotter, drier and a little to the north of Mendoza.

With firm acidity and limited tannin 2016 Las Moras Barrel Select Malbec (£5.99 – instead of £7.99 and 13.5%) wins many friends – a process undoubtedly helped by the depth of its plum and loganberry fruit and the vanilla, chocolate and more savoury elements that accompany it.

Mourvedre goes centre stage

No apologies for praising this Southern France red again. It is such a great value example of what skilled Languedoc winemakers like Catherine and Laurent Delaunay can do with mourvedre when it emerges from the shadow of grenache, syrah and those GSM blends.

Enjoy in particular the textured smoothness of 2015 Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvedre  (£6.69 – instead of £7.69 and 13%) and the way it wraps itself around the wine’s ripe damson and mulberry fruit and attendant hints of vanilla, mocha and olives but significantly less tannin than many would expect.

Best of the Rest

Yes that really is the price

With devaluation pushing wine prices up, something drinkable under £4 is a rarity indeed but I was rather taken with this straightforward red that is terrific value for its price point.

Typically soft and rounded 2015 Castellore Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (£3.99 at Aldi and 12.5%) has suggestions of pepper, cinnamon and graphite beneath its plum, black cherry and cranberry fruit – and behind the sharp acidity but gentle tannin that escorts it all to your taste buds.

A neglected branch of the pinot family

Having lavished praise on Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Pinot Blanc recently, I was also taken with this version from Tesco that (again) illustrates what lovely, creamy and textured wine this variety can make.

Seek out then Germany’s fresh and savoury edged 2016 Pinot Blanc von Rheinhessen (£8 at Tesco and 12.5%) with crisp acidity, apple and pear based depth in parallel with suggestions of spice, peach and honey.

Top Tips (Decanting)

Our guest contributor this week is the genial but immensly energetic PR Manager at The Wine Society – Ewan Murray, whose chosen topic is decanting.

Jane MacQuitty – who Times readers will know well – once described joining The Wine Society as “Probably the best wine move you'll ever make” and their list is certainly extensive, good value and well up the mark in quality.

Here, Ewan gives us practical advice on decanting

“Jancis Robinson defines decanting as an ‘optional and controversial step in serving wine, involving pouring wine out of its bottle into another container called a decanter.’

Each ‘expert’ has a different view on what and when to decant. Historically all wines were decanted, as before developments in clarification, it was the only way to separate wine from sediment in the bottle.

Today, there remain wines that need decanting for the same reason. If they spend time maturing slowly in bottle, then some red wines throw a sediment, especially if unfiltered prior to bottling (some flavour compounds are removed by fine filters).

What to use

Glass? Earthenware? Silverware? All very well and fancy, but any vessel can be used as long as the material is inert and it can hold the contents of a bottle while leaving a wide surface area in contact with the air. With no decanter to hand you could simply use a clean jug made of glass or plastic.

Whatever you choose, ensure it is clean and odourless. Never clean it detergent, which leaves a soapy film on the inside that can taint the wine. Just use hot water, although crushed ice and coarse salt works well and leaves no smell.

Why decant?

Should I decant this Premier Cru Chablis?

The most obvious reason for decanting is to separate it from any sediment which not only looks unappealing in the glass but can taste bitter or astringent.

To my mind, though, the more interesting reason for decanting is to allow aeration, or oxidation, speeding up the maturation of the wine and bringing out aromas and flavours. When you see people swirling wine in a glass they are aerating it – decanting is the same, only on a larger scale.

A quick note here on the difference between aeration and ‘letting it breathe’.

Many folk pull the cork a while before serving to allow the wine to ‘breathe’ before being poured. So little of the wine is in contact with the air in this process that any change is imperceptible, and I would argue that there is no point.

The only effective method of aeration is to decant – although too much oxygen can, of course, adversely effect the wine.

Enthusiasts say that young wines can be softened, rounded and generally improved by decanting. The counter-argument is that a lengthy period in the decanter can allow the wine to lose crispness and vitality, so there’s a very fine line to be drawn around what should be decanted and when.

Some experts even argue that aeration can never be beneficial. Renowned Bordeaux oenologist Emile Peynaud argued that decanting for aeration was indefensible, recommending decanting only wines with sediment and only just prior to serving.

How about this Waitrose Barolo

This may be true for some (e.g. mature Bordeaux), but what about a youthful, seriously tannic Barolo or Bandol? Often unapproachable in youth, decanting can remove rough corners.

The great news is we can all decide for ourselves. Have fun during a dinner with  two bottles of the same wine, decanting one and pouring the other straight from bottle. The differences are fascinating, inevitably splitting the jury between who likes which.

What to decant and when

It’s down to personal taste, but here are some guidelines:

The older the wine, the less aeration it will need – beware of decanting too soon. It’s best to allow too little rather than too much time, as aeration continues in the glass. Always err on the side of caution with older vintages.

For youthful wines an hour will do, but sometimes longer depending on how tannic (or ‘closed’) the wine seems on opening. Remember, you can taste a few hours before drinking to discern ‘decantability’, then put the cork back in.

If short of time, use the widest based vessel you have and give it a good swill to make up for lost time!

Tannic wines can need longer (I have experimented and spotted that sometimes decanting in the morning, or even the night before, can help), whereas more delicate wines don’t necessarily need decanting. Pinot noir is an example – traditional wide Burgundy glasses allow good aeration in the glass. But in the end be guided by your senses.

And remember, decanting is not just for reds – many whites benefit too. Old whites can need decanting just prior to serving, especially Bordeaux and Rhône. I find that younger premier and grand cru Chablis benefit from decanting.

How long can wine keep in a decanter?

This Co-op Madeira could last well in a decanter

Most wines shouldn’t be left longer than 24 hours – they  deteriorate unless they are huge tannic blockbusters (in which case they may have improved!). Madeira is the one exception – it has already been fortified, cooked, deliberately oxidised and aged, so it’s virtually indestructible!

Other fortified wines, e.g. Sherry or Port, do go off, and to my mind should be treated like normal table wines. (Port and sweet Sherry can be left for up to a week before going stale – remember Granny’s decanter that remained on the sideboard for several years, with just a tipple being poured at Christmas?!)

As for a guide on when to decant, it’s a personal thing, but we started with Jancis so let’s finish with Jancis, as she probably sums it up best:

Immediately prior to serving – red Bordeaux and Rhône over 20 years old – vintage Port over 50 years old

1-2 hours prior to serving – red Bordeaux and Rhône 5-20 years old – vintage Port 10 to 50 years old

Splash away with this Aldi Ribera

Decant ‘splashily’ for maximum aeration up to 4 hours before serving – Red Bordeaux and Rhone up to 5 years old, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, modern Rioja, Ribera del Duero, ambitious new world cabernet and shiraz, Dão and Douro reds.

White wines – white Burgundy can open up on decanting and doesn’t need to be served at too low a temperature (there is a problem with keeping decanted whites cool).

Whatever your penchant for decanting or not, the most important thing is to simply enjoy wine. The only right way to serve wine is the way you like best.”

Thanks so much Ewan for providing such comprehensive guidance and, amid all that talk of older wines, remember that The Wine Society is also bang up to the minute on its assessment of emerging trends – as its championing of this thoroughly modern but great value Beaujolais reflects.

I really rate the fresh, red cherry, raspberry and clove imbued 2016 The Society’s Beaujolais Villages (£7.50 at with nippy acidity but smooth texture too. 



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Thanks (again).
Is there an opinion on the use of instant aerators such as Decantus?

Brian Elliott

Not actually tested that myself but I was wondering about a Top Tip on aerators so will put this on the To Do list – many thanks for raising the subject

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