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.

O’Briens Christmas Value Crackers

 

With Christmas only a week away, many of us will be suffering from significantly lightened wallets and stretched credit cards.  So, with the presents wrapped and the Turkey picked, it’s time to look for some good value wines to lighten the financial burden of the festive season.  This weekend I will conduct a Supermarket Sweep to bring you some of the best affordable wines available across the country.

After bringing you some of O’Briens’ offerings from their Fine Wine Sale last week, today I pick a selection of their best value wines to help toast the festivities on a budget.

La Rosca CavaCatalunya, €14.99 (down from €17.99)/ Craigies Dalliance 2013 (37.5cl), €4.75 (included in 6 for 5 Craft Drinks promotion)

Many of us like to start our Christmas dinner with a drop of bubbly and there are some fabulous offers on Champagne in O’Briens, such as the excellent Lanson Black Label NV (€34.99).  But to stick to a budget I recommend La Rosca Cava.  Produced in the heart of Catalunya by one of the great Cava houses, Cordoniu, it is made in the same laborious method as Champagne, so shares some characteristics with its better-known French counter-part; at a fraction of the price.  This wine is fresh, fruity, with a little bit of bready complexity.  Easy-drinking and a lovely round mouth feel from the soft mousse of bubbles, this is a great alternative to Champagne or Prosecco.

Alternatively, why not try a quality sparkling cider and support a local industry.  Craigies Dalliance 2013 is a lovely dry Irish cider, whose refreshing zest and creamy texture resembles a sparkling wine more than a traditional cider.  Made from bitter cooking apples it offers a lovely medium-light body and great complexity from 15 months ageing on the lees.  Terrific and complex, it’s time to take a good look at quality Irish ciders again.

Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc, South Africa, 2014, €10.99 (down from €15.99)/Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, 2014, €9.99 (down from €15.49)

O’Briens are offering a terrific range of styles across their value white wines this year and this list could have taken a full post by itself, but I managed to limit myself to the two wines above on the basis of greatest quality for money.

The Bellow’s Rock Chenin Blanc is my go-to everyday white wine at the moment and would still be good value at the original €15.99.  The grapes for this wine come from the cooler southern coastal region of South Africa, which keeps the natural acidity and balance in the wine.  Fresh citrus and tropical fruits give a wonderful food-friendly wine, with great balance and a long, satisfying finish.  If you are entertaining a crowd this Christmas, this wine is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

If you prefer something more classic, the family-produced Bougrier Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is a lovely, easy-drinking wine with all the hallmark flavours of a cool-climate Sauvignon.  Produced in stainless steel to retain freshness, it offers lemon, lime and grassy notes, along with some pear and enticing minerality.  A solid, good value wine.

If it was difficult to limit this post to two whites, the reds picked themselves.  This is not because O’Briens don’t have a great selection at the value end: they do.  And an honourable mention must go to Marcus Eguren’s Protocolo from Spain and Bellow’s Rock Shiraz from South Africa, but the two wines below offer unbeatable value for money.

Réserve De Bonpas, Côtes du Rhône, 2013, €10.99 (down from €14.99)/Luna Argenta, Puglia, 2013, €12.99 (down from €18.49)

The Réserve De Bonpas is a classic Southern Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.  The Grenache is dominant and offers up delicious crunchy red berries to complement the black fruit, spicy pepper and cinnamon from the Syrah.  There is very little oak and the soft, accessible tannins means this wine is dangerously easy to drink.  There are many Southern Rhône Crus selling at twice this price that couldn’t hold a candle to this wine.  Superb value.

The second red is an interesting offering from Puglia, in the far south of Italy. Luna Argenta is made from Negroammaro and Primitivo grapes, some of which are left on the vine long enough to begin to raisin. This loss of water concentrates the flavours (and alcohol) in a similar way to the Amarone I recommended last week, but at €12.99 offers superb value.  Full bodied, but silky smooth this wine is full of rich black fruits, cherries and vanilla; a delicious and very moreish wine.

 

Longview Epitome

Longview Epitome

Longview Epitome, South Australia, 2013 (37.5cl), €15.99 (down from €16.99)

Dessert wines are some of the best value, not to mention underappreciated, wines in Ireland. Labour intensive and expensive to produce, sweet wines are the perfect accompaniment to desserts and cheese boards. The sweet wine above hails from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and is only produced in favourable years from low-yielding Riesling vines, whose fruit is left hanging on the vine long in to the growing season. This extended ripening period allows the fruit build up sugars, whilst retaining the natural acidity of the Riesling grape. Rich and sweet, this terrific value wine offers honey and candied orange, overripe citrus fruits and floral notes. The luscious sweetness is balanced by a lovely acidity to ensure the wine does not feel cloying; a perfect way to round off your Christmas dinner.

A Day To Celebrate

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Over the past few years it has been rare that Ireland finds itself in the international news for positive reasons, but today is certainly one of them.  The first country to offer the electorate a vote over same sex marriage and looking likely to be the first country to pass that vote.  And by a landslide no less.  There seems to be a real positivity in the air, enhanced by the beautiful May sunshine: almost as rare as a positive Irish news story.  So, what better way to enjoy this beautiful and historic day than a barbeque with a few good Sauvignon Blancs from the O’Briens wine promotion?

 

Mionetto Vivo. WAS €17.99. NOW €14.99.

Mionetto Vivo. WAS €17.99. NOW €14.99.

Ok, this is cheating slightly, as Sauvignon Blanc only makes up a tiny part of this blend, but how better to kick things off than with a bottle of fizz?  Relatively light in alcohol (10.5%), this is made in the Extra-Dry style, meaning it has a little residual sugar sweetness.  Alongside this touch of sweetness is a lovely rich body with hints of pear and stone fruits.  This is a little more expensive than some other Prosecco (more fizz pressure=more tax!) but well worth it for this celebratory day.  Complex and easy drinking, this will pair up with plenty of foods- oysters or buffalo mozzarella aperitifs spring to mind.

O’ Briens Off-Licences: Was €17.99. Now €14.99.

 

Châtelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €14.99. NOW €9.99.

Châtelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €14.99. NOW €9.99.

This is a lovely dry, classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.  Dry with lovely high acidity, and fresh citrus fruits, enjoy this chilled with chicken or cheese dishes.  This is great value for under a tenner.  Excellent value for a good barbeque wine.

O’ Briens Off-Licences: Was €14.99. Now €9.99.

 

Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €15.49. NOW €12.99.

Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc. WAS €15.49. NOW €12.99.

If you prefer a bolder, fruitier style Sauvignon Blanc, the Ara Pathway from the extremely popular Marlborough region in New Zealand is certainly worth a look.  It is very aromatic with notes of cut grass and herbs, peaches and passion fruit.  It also has a lovely stony minerality adding some lovely complexity.  This is an extremely easy drinking wine and would go great with grilled white meats straight off the barbecue.

These are just a few good value suggestions to try on this historic day.  But whatever you do, enjoy your weekend and appreciate what the people of Ireland have achieved.

Happy Drinking.

HB.

M&S Bin End

Ireland has the highest rates of wine taxation in Europe.  Any bottle of wine, regardless of quality or final price is subject to excise duty of €3.19.  This tax is also subject to VAT at the standard rate of 23%, effectively making a bottle of wine €3.92, going straight to the government coffers, just for entering the country.  Every facet of wine making must then be added to this price, which is also subject to 23% VAT.

To retail a bottle of wine in Ireland for €5, taxation will account for an eye-watering €4.34!  This is why I have never recommended a bottle under €5.  Until today.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Marks and Spencer Grenache Noir 2013. Was €9.80. Now €4.90.

Shopping in Marks and Spencer in Liffey Valley yesterday, I spotted their Grenache Noir from the Rhône Valley was reduced from €9.80 to €6.40.  Deciding it was worth a punt at that price I popped one in my basket.  When I got to the till I smugly found it was reduced further- to €4.90.  Surely it was worth that?

I’m glad to say it was.  A blend of Grenache and Syrah, it is a simple, easy-drinking, every day wine with nice red and black fruit and a touch of spice.  The finish is a bit short, but better than many wines twice the price.  And although you won’t mistake this for a top Rhône wine, you won’t find another wine as good for this price.

I presume Marks and Spencer are discontinuing this wine, so at €4.90 it won’t last long.

Rating: DECENT 2.8/5

Value: EXCELLENT 5/5

Marks and Spencer Vin de Pays du Gers 2013

GERSMarks and Spencer. On Special €8.79-25%=€6.59.

Hailing from the warm, Mediterranean-influenced area of southwest France, this M&S bottling received a Commendation in last year’s Decanter Wine Awards, and it fully deserved it.  Classed as an IGP wine and made from the Colombard and Ugni blanc grapes, better known for Armagnac production, this relatively humble wine is the best value bottle I have had this year.

Unoaked, this wine is full of fresh zesty fruit on the nose- young green apples, citrus fruits and a hint of peach and pear.  And this follows through on the mouth.  Light to medium bodied, it has a lovely refreshing, crisp acidity.  Green apple, red grapefruit and gooseberry hit on first taste, followed by a more mellow finish that hints at peach and pear.

This is a fabulous, Summer wine (particularly at the €6.59 I paid) that should be drunk young and served well chilled.  Pairs beautifully with crisp Summer salad or baked fish.

Highly Recommended.