One of the pleasures of being at our house in the Languedoc is diving into the cellar and fishing out old, overlooked bottles.
We normally open at least three on the basis that only one is likely to have survived. Last night it was this amazing 23 year old bottle from Sylvain Fadat of Domaine d’Aupilhac which was better than it had any right to be for its modest price tag and the fact that it was only his third vintage. I can’t remember what we paid for it but it would certainly have been well under £10.
There’s no back label so I can’t tell you exactly what the grapes were either but the current 2013 vintage is a blend of mourvèdre, syrah, carignan and grenache - in that order. The ageability is almost certainly due to the mourvèdre according to Doug Wregg of Aupilhac’s current importers Les Caves de Pyrène, a view that gave my husband particular satisfaction as he said it tasted to him like old Bandol.
The colour as you can see was still extraordinarily vivid - it was hardly faded - nor was the gentle, sweet, mellow, plummy fruit. And, more surprisingly still, it was only 12.5% in those days. (The current ABV is more like 14%-14.5%). Considering the conditions in which we keep our wine - not even a proper cellar but a dark, former kitchen with a dirt floor on the ground floor of an old village house its survival in such good condition was nothing short of miraculous*.
The current 2012 vintage is available from les Caves at Pyrene at £12.35 plus VAT (£14.82) or, if you want to sample an older vintage, Terroir Languedoc has the 2000 vintage for £11.95 and the 2006 for £10. You can also buy it direct from the domaine for €14.70 (£10.84 at the current rate of exchange). They have old vintages too.
(What did we eat with it? I’m embarrassed to say nothing grander than a vegetarian pizza we had so little hope of any of the wines being drinkable but it wasn’t a bad match. In an ideal world some roast or grilled lamb would have been a better foil.)
*although the website does say it will age from 4-20 years.
Brunello di Montalcino is normally way out of my price bracket but this own label bottling from Berry Bros & Rudd is such good value, it’s hard to resist.
It was selected by the company’s Italophile wine buyer David Berry-Green and comes from the Mantengoli family’s La Serena estate in Tuscany which is organically cultivated.
It comes from 2009 which was a hot vintage which has produced a powerful full-bodied wine of 15%, an ABV with which I don’t normally feel comfortable but it’s so beautifully balanced you don’t feel the heat. Apparently the estate didn’t make a riserva wine in 2009 which gives this wine the benefit of the estate's best fruit. It would obviously be excellent with red meat, especially lamb, but is graceful enough to go with game*. It's drinking perfectly now but you could keep it for several more years.
The individual bottle price is £26.95 - but if you can run to a case of six that currently brings the cost down to £21.36 a bottle. The next cheapest Brunello on the BBR list is £37.50 and most are a great deal more which underlines what a bargain this is.
*For more Brunello pairings see here.
It’s always a bit hairy doing a live food and wine pairing if you haven’t had a chance to have a run-through first - and even if you have some variable, usually the food, invariably changes.
So I was hugely relieved to find the both the wine and the cheese I showed at the Three Wine Women session with Kate Goodman and Jane Dowler at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival yesterday evening struck sparks off each other.
The wine, which was supplied by local Manchester wine merchant Hanging Ditch (thankyou, guys!) was a lush sauvignon blanc from Boutinot called Mon Vieux Hell’s Heights and comes from 535 metre high vineyards in South Africa’s Banghoek district which lies between Stellenbosch and Franschoek. It’s not as herbaceous as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with more of a tropical fruit than a gooseberry character and is very rich and textured thanks to being aged in oak for 6 months and left unfined. At 14.5% it’s quite high in alcohol but doesn’t seem at all heavy or cloying. For the price (Hanging Ditch is currently offering it for £12.50 a bottle or 3 for £30) it’s a real bargain. Other stockists are already on to the 2014 vintage which I haven’t had the opportunity to taste but which has picked up several medals - check wine-searcher.com for prices.
I paired it with a rich crumbly Vernieu goats cheese log from Booths and that was perfect but it’s also recommended with spiced seafood, octopus with parika, pasta arrabiata with clams (sounds good!) and “rich oily mediterranean dishes”
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.