With the Independent currently telling us about the debut of Asda’s Christmas TV commercial this week, now is perhaps a good time to look at wines the retailer has to offer.
Since Asda’s pattern of promotions is somewhat unpredictable, there is limited scope for me to feature their wines on this site – which is a pity.
Here, however, is a quartet I judge to be great value for money which, I suggest, you should seriously consider.
Also featured today is the usual Best of the Rest and a Top Tip about, possibly, the classiest sparkling wine you may never have heard of – still less considered buying.
As usual, click on any of the bottles shown below for an enlarged image to help you pinpoint the wine on a crowded shelf.
Magic Bullet Selection
With a name that means “black bitter”, wines from the negroamaro grape are predictably dark and savoury and are often used in blends but this stand-alone version from Puglia is not only tasty fare – but also terrific value for money.
Soft and rich, 2016 Wine Atlas Negroamaro (£5.68 at Asda and 14%abv) has nutty black cherry and prune fruit with firm acidity, limited tannin and suggestions of baking spice, liquorice and dried herbs.
My “Magic Bullet” section steals that term from the medical profession who use it to signify something that delivers benefits without side effects. Here, it means wine that tastes good and makes you look savvy but avoids the side effect of costing a lot.
Only just missed Magic Bullet status
As a total opposite to six syllable wine labels (I didn’t say German did I?), here is a wine that has a mere six letters to its entire name.
Relish the (presumably riesling derived) sharp lime acidity of Kakapo (£5.07 in Scotland – but it may be a little cheaper on a rollback elsewhere and 13.5%) and see how it gives added life to the wine’s remaining components – that are centred around floral, mango and nutmeg elements and suggestions of fresh green pepper.
Sticking with good value whites
For another well priced southern hemisphere white, head for South Africa’s Paarl region which may be warmer and further from the ocean than Stellenbosch but, as we see here, can still deliver tasty chenin blanc.
See what I mean by sampling the firm acidity and apple influences of 2017 Extra Special Chenin Blanc (£5.50 and 14%) with its backbone melon and white peach fruit, mineral edged texture and touch or two of ginger.
Finally to some bubbles
Just to get you further into the festive spirit after watching Asda’s “Bringing Christmas Home” advertisement, here is a reliable prosecco that will give you a healthy £2 (or thereabouts) discount right through into 2019.
Opening with an active, creamy mousse, Fillipo Sansovino Millesimato Prosecco (£8 – instead of £9.98 until 2 January and 12%) develops apple, lemon and peach fruit components that are given freshness by crisp grapefruit zestiness yet still have savoury cream soda elements sitting in the background.
BEST OF THE REST
Languedoc scores again
Note the textured, savoury, nutty depth in 2017 Languedoc Blanc (£6.50 – instead of £7 until 2 December – at SPAR and 13%) and the way it meshes with the white peach, quince and orange fruit yet still uses grapefruit acidity to keep things fresh and lively.
Hugely successful experimentation
Here is what they have done with a medley of Italian varieties some of them comparatively little known (the acidic raboso for instance).
The result, in 2018 Bautismo Italian Blend (£6.99 at Majestic when part of a mixed six and 12.5%) is red wine with rounded plum and loganberry fruit, good acidity, modest tannin and a savoury background that slowly acquires touches of cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate and, finally, an edge of sweetness.
Tip: For a different take on Italian sparkling wine, try this little known option – with several reasons that make it special. Janet Harrison from the Fizz Club and the Cracking Wine website tells us why.
“Franciacorta is the ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to fizz in the UK – one of those things you hear about then it keeps ‘popping up’ in conversation (every pun intended).
I attended a fantastic Franciacorta tasting in London earlier this year which was a modest affair in terms of producer numbers but made a great impact on me in respect of the quality of the wines.
So let’s look at the details
For a start, how do you pronounce it? Frahnch-ah-cort-ah by all accounts, using a quick Google search or listen to it on this website.
Franciacorta is produced in the province of Brescia (Lombardy), close to fashion capital Milan and I’m sure they quaff a lot of bottles at their after-show parties.
Grapes for Franciacorta are grown in strictly controlled areas and the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) declared vineyards have certain permitted grape varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pino Bianco. Sounds a bit like Champagne you say? Well yes, it is.
They even have a ‘blanc de blancs’ equivalent with the quite spectacularly named Satèn, made from Chardonnay and the seriously underestimated Pinot Blanc grape.
How does it differ from Prosecco
Franciacorta is always made using the traditional ‘Champagne’ method but what is staggering is the length of lees ageing most of them undergo – 2 years is not unusual and most I tried at the official tasting were considerably older than that. Another surprising discovery is that they add very little sugar (in fact a lot I tried had zero dosage). Prosecco this is not.
Here’s the challenge
So how do these delightful and quite seriously priced sparkling wines differentiate themselves on the already burgeoning shelves of bubbly? I think the producers fully appreciate the need for educating consumers about their wines but once you do learn more and meet the people behind the label, it is quite easy to fall under their spell.
But, in a nutshell, if you like Champagne, you’ll love Franciacorta – give it a try, you have my permission. However, searching for the wine in the shops and supermarkets can be a little more difficult.
- A good resource for Franciacorta facts is their generic website.
- Not always readily available, but stunning wines and equally stunning bottles are depicted on the Ca’ D’Or website .
- More local to home: Bat & Bottle Wines, are a lovely husband and wife team who only work with very special Italian producers. Their exclusive partnership with Majolini is worth exploring and (for Franciacorta) not too expensive. Contact Emma Robson: email@example.com or visit their website.
- Tesco Franciacorta: For those on a budget who might want an entry level Franciacorta to try, the Tesco Finest Franciacorta is a good call.”
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