Lidl Premium French Wine Launch

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

n=5600975Coming 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

n=5600981As 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

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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

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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

n=5603567Whilst 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

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The little-known Fronsac appellation is a small region bordering SaintÉmilion 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.

Lidl Christmas Wines

Once viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, the German discounters have fundamentally changed our supermarket habits.  Not only because one can buy scuba-diving equipment and a welding torch along with their groceries, but because Lidl and Aldi bring a practical efficiency to shopping-small ranges of good quality products at a consistent and competitive price.  Their wine range is no different, where the quality is constantly improving in an attempt to entice the well-heeled through their doors.

Their bare-bones approach means they don’t offer the service knowledge or rare, niche wines offered by an independent wine specialist, but their unrivaled buying power means they can offer superb value at the budget end.  Over these next two posts I will recommend some of the best value wines offered by Lidl and Aldi.

Lidl White Wines

Cimarosa New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (€8.79)

For the past number of years New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been on the crest of a wave that doesn’t look likely to break any time soon.  Consequently, the prices have steadily increased and it is hard to find good wines under €15.  This example from Lidl is a great bargain at €8.79.  On the nose it has the typical cooler Sauvignon Blanc notes of freshly cut grass and green vegetables.  On the palate it offers a touch of passion fruit, with a lovely acidity and weight of mouth feel.  This is a lovely wine at an extremely competitive price.

Engelberg JP Muller Alsace Grand Cru AOP Riesling 2012 (€12.99)

To some the second white will be a little from left-field; a fantastic introduction to Alsace Riesling.  The Alsace Grand Cru appellation designates the prime vineyards and (theoretically) best wines within the greater Alsace region, which borders Germany in east France.  Strict quality criteria, such as grape yields and minimum ripeness levels, have to be met to qualify for the designation.  Many consumers are
wary of buying Riesling, uncertain of whether it will be sweet or dry, but it is a wonderfully adaptable, aromatic grape that should be explored and most Alsatian wines are dry (sweet wines will have Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles on the label).

This wine is dry with an enticing smokey minerality, offering soft white and tropical fruit on top of red grapefruit flavours.  There is a hint of floral and a lovely rich mouth feel with a satisfyingly long finish of pear and lime.  A delicious wine that will reward the adventurous!

There are a number of other budget wines worth an honourable mention;

Cimarosa Australian Chardonnay/Colombard 2014 (€6.49),

Cimarosa Californian Chardonnay 2013 (€6.49),

Macon-Villages AOP 2014 (€9.99),

Roessslin Alsace Riesling AOP (€9.99).

Lidl Red Wines

Baturrica Gran Reserva Tarragona DO 2007 (€7.99)

The first red is from Catalunya in northern Spain.  Made from a blend of Tempranillo (Ull de Llebre in Catalan) and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it is aged for 2 years in oak before bottling, before being cellared for at least three years to integrate the oak and smooth out the tannins.  This long oaking and ageing process produces a complex, full-bodied wine with big notes of vanilla and toast alongside more balsamic and meaty flavours.  However, like any good Gran Reserva there is also more than its fair share of red berries and blackcurrant fruits present that belies the fact it is 8 years old.  A big bold and rich wine similar to a Gran Reseva Rioja, but without the same price tag.

Chateau Sigognac Medoc AOP Cru Bourgeois 2010 (€12.99)

This Bordeaux is a lovely alternative to the Spanish bruiser above.  2010 was a great vintage in Bordeaux and this wine shows all the complexity and finesse one would expect.  Loads of black berried fruits and hint of smoke and spice, this wine has great body and good round tannins.  It finishes with a rich and long length of blackcurrants and pepper.  Delicious claret.

 

Lidl Sweet Wine

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Vidal Pillitteri Estates Canadian Icewine

 

Vidal Pillitteri Estates Canadian Icewine, 20cl (€18.00)

Icewine is one of the most fascianting methods of wine production.  The grapes (usually Riesling) are left on the vine until winter begins.  Only when the temperature reaches – C, and the grapes freeze through, are they hand picked (usually at night).  The grapes are pressed immediately, leaving behind the frozen water and releasing a small quantity of juice- intense with concentrated sugars, acids, flavours and aromas- that is slowly fermented.  Because of the lost water weight, it takes roughly ten times the quantity of grapes to make an icewine compared to a regular dry wine.  Due to these demanding production methods, icewines can be prohibitively expensive, but the Lidl example is fabulous value, despite the small bottle size.  A little glass will go a long way.

Coming from the Niagara region of Canada this complex wine has terrific apricot, honey, peach and pineapple flavours.  It’s sweetness is tempered by high acidity, leaving your mouth feeling fresh, with the long lingering kiss of honeyed fruits.  Enjoy a small glass of this with dessert.