Rioja remains one of the most popular reds in the UK, not least because of its price, and there are two bargains right now that any rioja-lover should snap up.
Majestic has 25% off all riojas this weekend which brings their gold medal-winning* own label 2009 Definition Rioja Reserva down to £8.99 if you buy six bottles instead of the ‘normal’ price of £11.99 (though admittedly it’s usually discounted to £9.99 on the ‘mix six’ deal). That’s a really good price for a nearly seven year old wine that still shows plenty of opulent ripe fruit. Unusually it’s aged in French and Caucasian barrels rather than the usual - for Rioja - French oak. One for your Sunday roast.
The other is a more unusual wine from Sainsbury’s - the Taste the Difference Graciano 2014 which actually comes from La Mancha, not Rioja, but is made from one of the grapes used in the Rioja region. It’s a younger wine - a deep, exotic, fragrant red that would work well if you were cooking a middle-eastern Ottolengi-ish lamb dish and is fantastically good value at £6 a bottle with a further 25% off from next Tuesday if you buy six. So just £4.50 - a no-brainer really.
I’ll be posting my selection of Sainsbury’s wines early next week so you can take advantage of that offer.
*At this year’s International Wine Challenge
Even if you’re into wine I reckon there’s a fair chance you won’t have heard of Savatiano a grape that's indigenous to the Attica region of Greece and which is also used to make retsina.
On the face of it it’s one of those useful neutral Italian style white wines that goes with everything - a bit like verdicchio - but in the hands of Vassilis Papagiannakos of Domaine Papagiannakos (who makes if from low yielding 50+ year old vines) it’s got a great deal of character and ages miraculously well.
As well as the deliciously fresh 2015, I tried the 2012 and 2008 which were incredibly rich and complex - more like a mature Hunter Valley semillon than anything else but with rather more weight and intensity. They proved perfect with the fishy feast we had at Kalos Gialos a beachside taverna in Porto Rafti, a lovely little unspoilt resort where many Athenians have their holiday homes. The grilled octopus was the highlight pairing.
Most UK stockists don’t have the 2015 yet but don’t let that put you off. If means the wine will be a step nearer those older vintages. allaboutwine.co.uk has the 2014/15 vintages for £9.75, slurp.co.uk for £9.95 and Kwoff the 2013 for £9.99.
Buy enough to squirrel some away. For under £10 it’s a total steal.
If you’re a viognier fan here’s a chance to buy Yalumba's excellent Y series viognier at a very good price
Make sure it’s the 2015 vintage rather than a 2014 or '13 though - they may have got a deal on older stock from the importer.
It’s a classic lush peachy viognier with quite a whack of alcohol (14.1%) but would be particularly delicious with any chicken dish with a creamy sauce or a korma (see other viognier pairings here)
You don’t expect to find a wine like this on a supermarket shelf, even in their upmarket in-store cave but that’s exactly where I discovered this delicious organic red in my friends’ local Hyper U.
It comes from the Coteaux du Salagou an appellation to the north-east of Clermont l’Hérault, is made from cinsault (currently one of my favourite grapes for everyday drinking) and at just 12% is one of those incredibly quaffable vins de soif you come across in France these days. I can’t remember the exact price but think it was around €8.
Mas des Chimères, which was set up in 1993 is run by the handsomely moustachioed Guilhem Dardé, his wife Palma and his daughter Maguelone. They recommend the Oeillade with ‘grillades’ - in other words simply grilled meat.
Frustratingly it doesn’t appear to be available in the UK (maybe someone would like to remedy that?) but you can buy it online in France from 1907.fr which sells it for €7.50 - or from the cellar door. Louis Dressner imports it in the US.
If you’re looking for a whiskey to celebrate St Patrick’s Day try to get hold of a bottle of Dunville’s Very Rare Old Irish whiskey.
It’s a cask strength 10 year old single malt with a lot of personality that strikes me as a cross between an Irish whiskey and a scotch. Served neat you notice a slight smokiness and peatiness but let down with a few drops of water it’s the fruit character that shines through - apricot and peach to my palate although one commentator detects apple Jolly Ranchers and spiced custard! There’s a lovely touch of sweetness from the Pedro Ximenez casks in which the whiskey is finished but it’s all kept beautifully in balance.
The whiskey, which has was bottled by the Echlinville distillery in Co Down, Northern Ireland’s first new whisky distillery in 125 years, was nominated Best Irish Single Malt Under 12 Years at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. I love the retro label too.