“Great Value Wines for this summer”
I’ve been having a rummage around supermarkets recently to see what wines they have on offer, not something I do very often, I must admit. The reason is not that the wines aren’t worth investigating but simply that most of the supermarkets never seem to vary their range. They also, out of necessity, tend to just deal with wines that are made in bulk. There’s no reason why wines made in large amounts can’t be good but sadly they often aren’t. Torres is a reliable name to look for, so is Cono Sur, though that said a Cono Sur pinot noir on special offer recently at Sainsburys whilst cheap, was not to my mind, what pinot noir should taste like.
The other week I went into Lidl who have just launched a new range of 36 wines for the summer. Lidl seems to ring the changes far more often than other supermarkets and I was encouraged by my first glance along the wine shelves. From there on in things only got better. Richard Bampfield is Lidl’s key wine buyer. He’s a Master of Wine and it is impossible to be more highly qualified. Since the Master of Wine exam started over fifty years ago there’s still well less than four hundred people across the World with this qualification.
I first tried the red wine of the Dao region in Portugal back in the 1980’s. The right ingredients are there to make good wine; climate, grape varieties and terroir but the wine-making has frequently been lack-lustre sadly. Now though Portugal is really getting its act together and I think this is the country to watch for raising its game when it comes to offering good wine. Lidl’s Dao Torre de Ferro 2013 is just £4.79. I drank it with a BBQ rib-eye steak and was really surprised by how good it was. It had loads of character, fruity, earthy and a hint of spice.
Next up an Alvarinho Vinho Verde Nobre Colheita 2014 at £5.99. Vinho Verde comes from north Portugal, the vineyards run up along the border with Spain where the Alvarinho grape becomes, in Spain, the Albarino grape and nowadays commands twice the price of Vinho Verde. Admittedly Vinho Verde from Portugal can often be less fine than a Spanish Albarino but I’d say that the Spanish have for the moment got the upper hand on marketing and image and Vinho Verde is seen as cheap whereas Albarino is seen as chic. Well, at £5.99 the Lidl offering was great value, still just ever so slightly petillant or prickling nicely on the tongue, suggesting that the wine is so fresh that it’s only just finished fermenting. The wine was dry but bursting with apple fruit and so refreshing. What a bargain!
The second red wine I tried was a Saint Joseph Cru de la Vallée du Rhone 2012. At £8.99. This comes from a fairly large wine making region the Rhone valley and is made from the syrah grape. I was expecting a full bodied, slightly peppery, rich and moderately tannic wine that would be ideal with a red meat dish. The wine was okay but it was a bit disappointing compared with many of the other Saint Joseph wines that I have drunk. Admittedly at nine quid it’s keenly priced for what it is but to be honest I’d rather have paid more and got more.
The fourth wine I tried was a Douro Branco Azinhaga de Ouro 2014 at £4.79. White wine from the Douro is not common over here and I was surprised to see it in a supermarket. I tried some white Douro wines when I was in that region a few years ago. The region is noted for Port first and then perhaps for big, beefy red wines which are also made from port grape varieties. I was surprised to find white wines and because it was so hot when I was there, I imagined the white wines would be heavy, rustic and over alcoholic. The ones I tried weren’t; they were fresh, clean, well made with good acidity and great length and character. So I approached this Lidl £4.79 offering with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The wine is good, amazing value and lovely to drink. I preferred it to the Vinho Verde, it had bags of lemony fruit, good acidity and more length and weight than the Vinho Verde. If I was tasting it blind I would have given it a higher price tag and I think Lidl have done themselves proud with offering wines like the Douro white and Dao red which by supermarket standards are somewhat off the beaten track.