As I mentioned in this weekend’s Guardian, Lidl (or leedle as they pronounce it) kicks off its annual French wine promotion next Thursday (September 3rd). You can find my top picks on the Guardian website but here are some other good buys:
(Note they operate on a WIGIG (when it's gone it's gone) basis - each store only gets an initial allocation of a case of each wine so if you spot something you fancy get in quick.)
Le Chevalier d’Aguilar Fitou Cuvée Réserve 2013 13% £5.99
A hark back to the Fitou of the '80s. Good basic winter drinking. Can’t complain at the price
Chateau Grand Abord Graves 2010 12.5% £7.99
Probably the best of the wines I didn’t manage to squeeze into my Guardian column. Great vintage - ripe and mellow. Looks - and tastes - at least a fiver more expensive. Buy as much as you can lay your hands on (but for drinking now not laying down. It’s à point.)
Chateau Fongaban Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2012 13.5% £8.99
Another Bordeaux bargain of the type Lidl is particularly good at. Velvety and soft but still well structured it will make traditional claret drinkers very happy.
Comte du Mirail Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013 13% £13.49
If you’re the type who likes to get ahead with your Christmas shopping pick up this Chateauneuf to drink with the turkey. (But don’t worry if you miss it - there will be plenty more where that came from … )
Grand Fief de Retail Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2014 12% £5.99
Textbook, crisp, dry, slightly tart Muscadet. Perfect for oysters and other shellfish.
Fiefs des Comelias Reuilly Cuvée Prestige 2014 12.5% £8.99
If you like Sancerre you’ll love this fragrant sauvignon from the nearby appellation of Reuilly. Perfect for goats cheese or smoked salmon
Clervigny Arbois Réserve 2013 12% £8.99
Brave of Lidl to list this - this nutty, slightly sherried white won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’re a fino sherry fan you’ll adore it. Drink with Comté cheese or a tartiflette. An absolute bargain
De Marcilly Chablis Premier Cru 2014 £11.99
The same negociant but a little more expensive than the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Hautes Côtes de Nuits and Rully I recomended in the Guardian. Not as good a bargain but worth picking up if you’re a Chablis fan.
Chateau Mauras Sauternes 2012 13% 50cl £8.99
A good price for a pukka Sauternes though I’m thinking it would be better with savoury dishes (foie gras and Roquefort being the classic matches) than sweet
Monbazillac Domaine de Peyronnette 2014 13% £7.99
This lesser known dessert wine on the other hand, also from the south-west of France, is less than half the price of the Sauternes and almost as good - delicious, lush, rich and sweet. Perfect for an apricot or apple tart
Henri Delattre Champagne Brut 12% £5.99 a half bottle
Less than £6 for a half bottle of bubbly! How can you go wrong? Lay in a stash for an odd moment of indulgence. (Like a long leisurely bath….)
If you’re on holiday in the wilds of nowhere chances are your only shop - in the UK at least - is a Spar. I would at one point have said that spelled death to the chance of a decent bottle of wine but was recently sent a selection which really wasn’t half bad.
And the good news is that all are on promotion at one point or another in the next couple of weeks
The best - and the most expensive - is a 2013 Valpolicella Ripasso from Cantina Valpantena (13.5%) which is normally £10 but on promotion at £8 until August 20th. Ripassos are more intense and sweeter than basic valpolicellas - they chuck in the skins that are used for making amarone - so it’s more of a wine to drink with a steak or a stew or, better still, a cheeseboard than a plate of pasta but it would be just the thing for the sort of wet windy evening that is a regular feature of an English summer holiday.
Another good Italian buy, and the best white I tasted, was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2014 from the reliable Monte Shiavo (12.5%) which is currently £8 but goes down to £6.50 from August 21st. Ignore the naff curvy bottle - this is one of those immensely useful Italian whites that doesn’t taste of much but goes with practically everything, especially fishy pasta dishes. And is much, much nicer than your average pinot grigio.
I also thought the crisp, citrussy Castillo de la Mota Verdejo 2014 Rueda (12.5%) £7.50 reduced to £5.50 until 20/8 was decent. Another good one for seafood like fresh crab or, better still, fish and chips. You’ll like it if you’re a sauvignon blanc fan
And if you like Malbec - and who doesn’t these days? - try the M Malbec Pays d’Oc 2014 (13%) £7.50 but reduced to £6 from 21/8 which is a little soft for my taste but would still be a good drop with anything meaty. (I like their Argentinian one, the Rios de los Andes 2014 Argentinian Malbec less - it’s soupier still - but it’s only £6 at the moment and if it were the only one of the five available I would fall on it gratefully.)
These wines won’t, of course, be available in all Spar outlets - which may cause frustration but hopefully you’ll find at least one. With any luck the Valpolicella.
Those of you who have followed me for a while will know I’m not a great fan of Naked Wines but occasionally they come up with a corker that almost tempts me to sign up as an ‘Angel'.
This characterful (and by that I mean full of flavour and texture, not weird) crisp, dry white from Languedoc producer Virgile Joly is a case in point. It’s a blend of Piquepoul and an indigenous local grape, Terret Bourret and has much more flavour and finesse than your average Picpoul de Pinet. It’s the kind of wine I’d happily carry on drinking through the rest of the summer, especially with seafood. £7.99 seems a more than fair price though the notional ‘normal’ price of £10.99, were you able to buy it, would be pushing it a bit.
If you’re ordering from Naked Wines two other wines I’d go for are the 2012 Bravado red from Chilean producer Garcia + Schwaderer, a big ripe supple blend of Carignan, Syrah and Grenache that would be great with a steak (£11.99 to Angels) and the juicy bright spicy Cordero Calabria Rosso 2013 which at £9.99 may be fractionally on the pricey side but it's a perfect wine for a pizza. The 'normal' price (which doesn't make sense if you can't buy it) is £13.99 which is definitely more than it’s worth.
This, by the way, is my issue with Naked. They make it sound as if Angels are getting an exceptional deal but their ‘normal’ price is meaningless. However I know that they have many fans and that they have made it possible for a number of winemakers to start up on their own or expand their business. And should you be accepted as an Angel (there is, believe it or not, a waiting list*) you can apparently stop your membership at any time. Up to you.
* Out of curiosity I’ve signed up to see how long it will take them to accept me. At the moment there are 8026 applications ahead of me and they say mine should be processed by August 31st. I'd be amazed if it wasn't before that. Let's see!
This gorgeous fruity Austrian red ticks all my boxes. It’s exactly the sort of wine I want to drink at this time of year - light (12.5%), fragrant and juicy - the type I can equally well drink with fish as meat.
It benefits from being lightly chilled but you don’t have to. The bottle looks great on the table and is sealed with a screwcap for hassle-free opening.
I find Austria one of the most exciting wine producing countries in Europe right now and Blaufränkisch (known as Kekfrankos in Hungary) its most appealing red wine variety. Think Beaujolais if you can't quite imagine it.
The producer’s website is worth a visit too not least to find out about the Weninger Wine orchestra which plays on instruments made from materials used in winemaking. You can hear them play the theme from Hawaii Five-O on YouTube. Endearingly nutty.
Given the wine is organic and biodynamic It’s well priced at £13.99 from Noble Green Wines, £14.40 from eclectictastes.co.uk or £14.95 in London branches of Vinoteca. It’s imported by (who else?) Les Caves de Pyrène who send me a sample to try.
If I saw this wine on a supermarket shelf I wouldn’t pick it up. There’s the name for a start, which sounds like something a marketing department has invented
The old fashioned red and gold label and the fact it’s not a rioja wouldn’t do much for me either.
It also comes from Laithwaite’s, a retailer which has never overly impressed me with its range or pricing
But I’d be wrong. This is a cracking bottle of wine made from garnacha (aka grenache) from the far less fashionable Cariñena region. Despite its age it’s still gorgeously plummy and at £8.99 an absolute steal for a gran reserva which has to be aged for at least 5 years. It’s the perfect wine for a traditional Sunday roast beef (or lamb) lunch and would make any rioja-lovers in the family very happy.
The only thing I’d say is that the advice on the label ‘drink by December 2017’ might be a tad over-optimistic given most domestic storage conditions - I’d be inclined to drink it by Christmas - or the new year, at the latest. Also I’m not sure you need to decant it as they advise. It was pretty good poured straight from the bottle.
Laithwaite’s by the way has just been nominated Merchant of the Year and Online Retailer of the Year by the International Wine Challenge so maybe I’m wrong on that front too. But if you do buy some of the El Bombero beware pushy follow up invitations to buy ‘half price’ mixed cases. And I tried another couple of wines in their range by which I was much less impressed.
PS The other wine I was thinking of making my wine of the week - and might have done if I hadn’t featured them last week is the Charles de Fère Brut Premium Vin Mousseux which is currently on offer at M & S at just £7. It’s a really attractive soft sparkling wine which looks very much like champagne at a casual glance. Perfect for weddings it struck me, if you want an alternative to prosecco.