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Grab this Sunday Best Treat While It’s on Offer

Today’s post contains something of a paradox.

On one hand, I am urging you to spend a little more on the pinot grigio grape while, in the same post, showing you how to spend less on cabernet sauvignon.

But, let’s investigate more fully.

Pinot grigio frequently gets a bad press these days.

Lightness, blandness, scarce acidity or commercialisation are often cited as reasons for the lack of love it has to endure.  

However, that broad brush is grossly unfair to producers of top-level pinot grigio, as well as to numerous examples of the variety’s alter ego labelled as “pinot gris”.

Same grape but totally different style, as today’s recommendation reflects – and the downside of a slightly higher price.

Speaking of price, cabernet sauvignon is often recognised as dear wine.

Heavy demand, high land values in its prime sites (Bordeaux and Napa for instance) plus lengthy (and, hence, costly) aging processes all push up bottle prices.

However, skilled winemaking in less expensive locations can sometimes allow tasty yet inexpensive versions to surface, and today’s Friday Treat is one such example.

I hope you enjoy both wines.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible to help you locate the bottle in question.

Friday Treat

Cabernet Sauvignon from further south than usual.

2020 Ordinal Cabernet Sauvignon (£8.95 at Aitken of Dundee)

  • From Cȏte de Thau in Eastern Languedoc.
  • Less savoury than many cabernets.
  • Intense plum and bramble flavours
  • Good acidity but with typical cabernet firm tannin.       
  • Suggestions of baking spice, chocolate and thyme.

Cabernet sauvignon (rather than Languedoc’s more usual varieties) is the chosen grape for this option – and it pays off handsomely.

It is from France’s Cȏte de Thau region – just west of Montpellier in eastern Languedoc.

Dark, but without the savoury hints cabernet often displays, its intense bramble and red plum flavours are, consequently, nicely elevated.

These are supported by firm tannin and good acidity along with suggestions of baking spice, chocolate and thyme. 

Sunday Best

Lucky chance – just as I recommend it, the price drops.

2020 Cave de Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve (£8.99 – instead of £10.99 until 7 March – at Waitrose):

  • Pinot gris from Alsace differs from most pinot grigios.
  • It’s the same grape, but a very different style.
  • This is gently perfumed with a trace of honey.
  • Rich pear, orange and melon are its primary flavours.
  • Lime and grapefruit acidity adds zing and freshness.

As almost a mirror image of many pinot grigios from elsewhere, Alsace pinot grigio can be rich, complex and spicy – and even include mineral elements.

If you doubt me, try this excellent Waitrose version while it is on offer.  

The even better news is that Alsace pinot gris often weighs in at cheaper prices than better known options from the region (riesling and gewurztraminer for instance).

Dense but with mildly perfumed aromas, it features rich pear, orange and ripe melon flavours.

All those elements are harmoniously combined with lime and grapefruit acidity and a trace of honey that adds appealing complexity.   

Tune in again on Monday when value at budget price points is, once more, the theme of my latest Top Tips post.

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Julian Cowburn

Thanks Brian, these two look like some good choices for a treat, which we all need occasionally from time to time.

I looked at the website of the supplier of the the Cabernet Sauvignon, Aitkens of Dundee. My word, what a collection they have! Of spirits also. My guess is that they are very selective in curating a top class collection. To make it there is no doubt some achievement.

Brian Elliott

Yes I am a fan of Aitkens too and they do have a delivery service to UK Mainland addresses. Equally, though, that particular wine may be available at other indies.

Edwin Wood

Thanks for the hot tip on the Alsace Pinot Gris Brian. I recon the Alsace Co-ops have always been a reliabel source but it’s great to see this at that price. P G is one of my favourite foodie wines.

Brian Elliott

Hi Edwin and thank you for getting in touch. As you say, Alsace is strong in respect of co-operatives – initially Turckheim led the field but others have caught up fast. However, the long established family firms are also absolute stars – albeit at a little more money. Pinot gris (and pinot blanc) are indeed good food matching wines and, of course, Alsace does them both well.

Eddie Walker

Like Julian Cowburn Brian, I too was impressed with the Aitkin’s mostly original selection when I checked out their website. Something for a change that isn’t High Street supermarket. That said, the supermarkets are local and independent suppliers distant unfortunately. It would be great to be able do a click-and-collect at Aitkin’s! So it was back to Tesco earlier and a double-dip with reduced Clubcard prices then another 25% off, buy-6.
One of your contributors here the other day suggested cheap and cheerful Montepulciano that is currently £4.75, so in fact no discount off that price at all. I have one bottle to try.

Here’s a bit of a steal with that double dip, and the Mellini Chianti Governo usually £9 down to £5.62

And our old friend the Sangre de Toro £7.50 down to £4.88

But another of your regular contributors, Chris Scott Jan. 12th, mentioned in the discussion (about the rather nice Campaneo Tempranillo at Tesco) a recommendation that turned out to be the tremendous Mucho Mas that is £8 down to £6. Can’t get enough of this; it’s a cracker!

Brian Elliott

Really great to have your tips Eddie and I am sure that many MidWeekers will raise a glass to you for providing them.

Jane Perry

Really loved the Pinot Gris from Alsace. Can definitely taste the honey. Very refreshing and good value too. Wouldn’t have tried this if it wasn’t for your recommendation. Not normally a fan.

Brian Elliott

Do you know, comments like this are the ones that give me the most pleasure? Helping folk experience something they would not normally have tried is really rewarding. Thank you for telling me about it Jane.

Richard Wyndham

Hi Brian, thanks for alerting us MIdWeekers to the Pinot Gris offer in Waitrose. I popped in for a bottle, but I struggle a bit to find food matches for off-dry wines (incl Vouvray). Tried it with an avocado and beetroot starter, and carried it on to a pasta, veal with creamy mushroom sauce, main. These combos seemed to work worked pretty well. I kept a bit back, and might try that with crab cakes!

Brian Elliott

Crab cakes would also be my thinking there Richard. For off-dry wines, in general, I would normally gravitate towards spicy asian cuisine or pork dishes (where they often serve the same purpose as apple sauce). The joy of those wines though is that usually they are terrific just by themselves – no food needed.

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