A couple of times a year the giant German discounter, Lidl, offer a Premium French Wine range, where you can grab some terrific value top-end wines from some of the best French wine regions. Today, 22nd February, sees their latest offering; but be quick- quantities are limited. Below are my best value picks.
Ernest Wein Alsace Pinot Blanc AOP Pfaffenheim 2014, €9.99
Coming from the Alsace region, located on the French side of the German-Franco border, this wine is made from the Pinot family of grapes (despite the varietal label name, they are often a blend). It has a lovely weight on the palate and a refreshing citrus zip of preserved lemons; alongside stone and white fruits like peaches and pears on the long, satisfying finish.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: Gets my nod for best value wine here. Ready for drinking now, but maybe squirrel a bottle or two away in case we are blessed with a couple of sunny days this year; perfect for barbecued fish or chicken.
Roesslin Alsace Riesling AOP 2014, €9.99
As with the Pinot Blanc above, this wine has a lovely weight in the mouth, but offers much more citrus fruits- fresh lemons, limes and bramley apples. It also has a complexity to it: white fruits, fragrant flowers and some slatey minerality.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: This is a great value Riesling- fresh, fruity and fragrant. Will match the same foods as the Pinot Blanc above, but would also stand up to a mild curry or shish.
Chablis AOP 2014, €12.99
This is terrific value Chablis AOP; it hints at the attributes of top-end Chablis, but at a fraction of the price. As with all Chablis, it is made from the Chardonnay grape (don’t tell that ABC* friend of yours!) and offers steely minerality alongside mouth-watering granny smith apples. With wonderful acidity and a long length, this is terrific value.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: It is difficult to find good quality Chablis at a reasonable price but this wine certainly ticks both those boxes. Complex and elegant: a very good value wine. This is an excellent food wine and would be a perfect match for shellfish- mussels in a white wine sauce or oysters.
*ABC= Anything But Chardonnay. A popular, but grossly unfair designation towards a grape that produces some of the finest white wines in the world: white Burgundy and Champagne for a start.
Citadelle Ducyprès Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux AOP 2014, €9.99
Although Bordeaux is better known for its high quality red wines, it does produce some fabulous wines from white grapes- both sweet and dry. This wine is bone dry and comes from the northeastern Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux region. The main grape is Sauvignon Blanc, so offers a crisp herbaceous, grassy character and high acidity; but there is also a nice roundness to the body and more than a touch of peach and spice, suggesting a splash of Semillon (the most important grape in the sweet Sauternes wines).
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: An interesting alternative to all the New World Sauvignon Blancs that are so popular right now- Bordeaux is where the grape originated and this wine proves it can still make some very fine, affordable examples. Enjoy with any dish dominated by a rich white sauce: fish in parsley sauce, or a true carbonara.
Château Quattre Cahors AOP 2009, €12.99
Whilst we’re on grape origin stories, this wine from Cahors is a blend dominated by the Malbec grape. Although now better known for the powerful wines coming out of Argentina, Malbec originates in the southwest of France and was an important part of the Bordeaux blend until a severe frost there killed most of the vines in the mid-20th century. However, the nearby Cahors region persevered with the grape (although usually calling it Auxerrois or Côt) to produce solid, tannic wines with an intense bouquet.
This wine is from the excellent 2009 vintage. It has rich, heavy black fruits- blackberry and ripe cherries- as well as a nicely integrated bit of vanilla, spice and toast from the oak ageing. The 7 years ageing have given it some savoury meaty and balsamic notes. Big tannins come from the touch of Tannat grape in the final blend.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: Forget silky elegance- this is a big and bold, hearty wine. The high tannin and fruit will match perfectly with a big juicy steak or succulent leg of lamb. Although it is already 7 years old, this wine could easily age that long again and accentuate the more savoury elements. Very good value for such an aged wine.
Château de Carles Fronsac AOP 2008, €17.99
The little-known Fronsac appellation is a small region bordering Saint–Émilion in Bordeaux. It uses a similar blend of grapes to its more illustrious neighbour, but often offers superb value. This Merlot-dominated wine is still fresh and fruity, despite its age, but does show hints of its 8 years: forest floor bouquet and a balsamic touch alongside silky tannins that have smoothed out with age.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: This is an elegant, silky smooth wine. 8 years of ageing has given it a wonderful complexity and it is drinking perfectly now. It is rare to find a Bordeaux of this age and quality under €20.