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.

A Day To Celebrate

gay flag

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.

Two Reasonable Pinot Noirs

Pinot Noir can be a very frustrating, but extremely rewarding grape variety.  I have heard anecdotal stories of grape growers pulling their hair out of their heads and then pulling their Pinot out of the vineyard.  Whether true or not, it does illustrate how difficult this variety is to grow.  This prima donna grape demands conditions to be just right- it’s picky about the location of the vineyard, it demands a cool (but not too cool) climate, the vine needs constant pruning and attention.  And then even if it does grow for you, its thin skin and tight grape clusters make it susceptible to disease and rot!  If you can get it as far as the bottle, it remains a bit of a diva- ageing in an unpredictable and often disastrous fashion!  So, at this point, you are probably asking why someone would bother growing it.  Firstly, it grows in regions too cool for other red grapes to fully ripen- New Zealand, Germany (where it’s called Spätburgunder), Canada, Oregon etc.  But more importantly, when conditions are just right, Pinot Noir can create some of the greatest silky smooth, alluring, feminine wines in the world.  It is the principal red grape variety in both Burgundy and Champagne, propelling these areas amongst the most eagerly sought-after (not to mention expensive) wines in the world.

So, let me get to the point here.  Pinot is hard to grow, doesn’t grow in many regions and is in high demand, making it generally more expensive than wines made from many other grape varieties.  So, as I mentioned in Sunday’s post, I decided to pick up these two Pinots in Tesco’s recent 25% Off Wine Sale.  They were both reduced from €15 to €10, with a further 25% off in the sale.  They would have to be pretty poor wines to not deserve a punt at €7.50!

Wave Series Pinot Noir 2013. Tesco Was €15 reduced to €10.

Wave Series Pinot Noir 2013. Tesco Was €15 reduced to €10.

The first one I tried was the Wave Series 2013 from the Leyda Valley in Chile.  Made by Carmen, this wine has been heavily promoted through the Summer- some of you may have seen their old VW camper at some of this year’s festivals.  Many in the wine industry have been enthusiastic about the potential for Chilean Pinot Noir for quite a while now, with Leyda Valley deemed as one of the areas to watch.  I’m desperately trying to find an affordable example, so this wine, usually priced at €15, had to be good value for €7.50, right?  Wrong.  Very Wrong.

The nose was nice- full of brambly black fruit, cherry, white pepper and meaty notes.  But in the mouth there was nothing other than a wave of burning alcohol.  It felt like I rubbed Vick’s on the back of my throat, hiding any fruit or spiciness that I got on the nose.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like throwing back a few shots, but if I wanted that burning sensation I would have had some of the Absynthe I bought in Poland last month!

This is a perfect example of how a wine can be terribly out of balance.  The alcohol on the label stated 13.5% alcohol, which is a lot less than many modern New World wines, but because there was not enough fruit, and tannin (the mouth drying effect of a wine), the alcohol was very noticeable.  In good wines, the alcohol will be balanced by the other components of the wine (fruit, tannin and acidity), lessening that unpleasant burning sensation.

Rating: POOR 1.5/5 (and maybe even generous at that!)

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2012. Tesco Was €15. Reduced €10.

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2012. Tesco Was €15. Reduced €10.

The other Pinot I bought in the wine sale, Oyster Bay’s 2012, was on the exact same promotion- €15 to €10 with the additional 25% reduction making it €7.50.  This wine is produced in Marlborough, a region on the northern tip of New Zealand’s south island.  Better known for its world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough seems to turn any grape it grows to gold right now and has excellent conditions for growing Pinot Noir- a cool climate, suitable soil and plenty of sunshine.  Although this is not one of the best examples from New Zealand I have tried, it is infinitely better than the Chilean attempt above, and at €7.50 was a steal.  Even at the €10 promotional price you would struggle to find a better Pinot Noir than this one.

The nose is lovely and fruity with red cherry and plum over a little hint of vanilla coming from the oak in which the wine was aged.  In the mouth, this wine is everything the Chilean above is not- a lovely balance of red fruit with light silky tannin and only the slightest hint of alcohol, despite only having 0.5% abv less.  The let down is the finish, which is disappointingly brief.

This wine would pair beautifully with pork or lamb.  Or why not try it with a nice meaty piece of Swordfish.

Rating: GOOD 3.5/5

In conclusion, although both of these producers are huge conglomerates, Oyster Bay puts absolute emphasis on the quality of their wine to drive the brand.  Wave Series, on the other hand, could do away with the marketing campaign around their VW camper van and pay more attention in the winery.  Hopefully you guys will vote with your pocket.  I know I will- as long as the New Zealand wine stays on promotion it is my new go-to Weekday Pinot.

Happy Drinking, HB.