A favourite tasting this. People like to taste wines they can find easily, that they can afford, wines which represent value and they are interested to see if the cheaper prices are truly on a par with other wines they might buy. Can they justify buying wine from either discounter with their head held high? It surprises me that people seem to be embarrassed, ashamed even, if they admit to buying wine from Lidl or Aldi. I don’t have that problem and will happily tell anyone who’s interested that my everyday Champagne (because, believe me, there is such a thing) is Aldi’s. If there were an everyday Albariño it would be Aldi’s, too. I’m not sure I want ‘special’ everyday and it seems many others don’t either. As for the results of this tasting, we all found it interesting but as people seem to confuse the two stores incessantly I’m not sure it will make a blind bit of difference to the buying habits of those who attended other than they will probably buy more wine from both stores. Every single wine was thought to represent fantastic value.
Aldi won 4 of the 6 pairs and 58.7% of the total votes
Champagne Lidl – 18 Aldi – 5
I was surprised that the Lidl Champagne was as rich as it was. If I had been served the wines blind I would have thought the Lidl wine was the Aldi and vice versa. The Lidl Champagne had some bottle age as evidenced by the cork being compressed while the Aldi one didn’t. Lidl’s did indeed have richness but it had a slight bitter finish. The Aldi one was softer, lighter with a lingering freshness. Everyone liked them both but obviously there was a clear favourite.
Albariño: Lidl – 3 Aldi – 20
The score says it all. Aldi’s is lovely! They were quite different – Lidl’s is peachy and textured where Aldi’s is zesty, salty and minerally. I’m a fan of Rías Baixas Albariño, especially Aldi’s style – consequently I wholeheartedly agree with the group’s score.
Chardonnay: Lidl – 6 Aldi – 17
I was surprised that there were so many votes for the Lidl Chardonnay as for me it’s blousy with a flatness about it, rather old school Aussie Chardonnay. The Aldi one is crisp, fine and defined.
New Zealand Pinot Noir Lidl -17 Aldi – 6
Actually these were both pretty good. I’m not surprised the Lidl one came out top as the style is more on the sweet fruit spectrum and less savoury than the Aldi one. Both are great value Pinots.
Spanish Red Lidl – 7 Aldi – 16
Despite the Lidl wine being a Rioja Reserva against Aldi’s Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, it didn’t cut the mustard. It felt like it was trying a bit too hard. Aldi’s Antiguo was smooth, typically smoky, easy and would be loved by Rioja drinkers.
Malbec Lidl – 6 Aldi – 17
Lots of people found it hard to choose between these to. Not me! The Lidl Malbec seemed quite dilute by comparison to Aldi’s which had masses of fruit, flavour and spice.
Those of us who attended the Wine GB tasting at the end of April may have spotted Liz Sagues modestly selling her book. She was doing so at the expense of going round tasting from the 30 odd exhibitors, sacrificing the chance of tasting up to 200 English and Welsh wines. But she’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt and written the book.
I was unaware that she had written what turns out to be the definitive guide on wines from GB and its industry, and speaking to other winos it seems I’m not the only one. With an English tasting coming up, I thought I’d better buy a copy to ensure that my knowledge was up-to-date especially as things have been moving at an alarmingly but excitingly speedy rate.
The title suggests that this is a book, as every good wine book should be, as much suited to the enthusiastic amateur as the professional. It deals with the history and the terroir and the dodgy climate keeping the vine-growers on their toes, but most importantly it’s about the people. More than anywhere else in the world Liz Sagues’ words, ‘People make wine’ are true. She goes on to say, ‘The final liquid reflects most of all the individual personality of the person who makes it.’
Her writing is easy and informative; enthusiastic without being gushing. It’s a book you can dip in and out of, with well laid out chapters and sub-titled paragraphs. It’s a vital book for those who want to know more about this burgeoning business of English* wine and immensely useful for those of us who present tastings on the subject both of which, I suspect, are a fast-growing number. The photographs are plentiful and beautiful, and if it weren’t for the jumpers, shawls and gloves of some of the subjects, you might easily believe they were stolen from a wine book on France or Italy.
*Liz explains that this term includes Welsh wine and distinguishes English from British wine.
The RRP is £16.99 but it is a little less on Amazon.
I have always been a fan of Château Brown over the years, and it isn’t entirely down to its winemaker and part-owner, Jean-Christophe Mau. The white and rosé have particularly stood out, quite possibly because there are fewer opportunities for comparison with other Bordeaux châteaux. The region only produces a total of about 9% of these styles so the good ones can easily make a mark. That’s not to underrate them though. Château Brown Blanc continues to be among my favourite whites from anywhere in the world.
Given the chance to taste several vintages of Château Brown over dinner at Clarette recently I was keen to focus my attention on the reds. Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t have chosen fish as my main course because I found myself having to taste, re-taste, having to have just one more sip of the few vintages of white which were available. Gorgeous as ever, of course, I’m delighted to report.
Fortunately, the reds were ready for tasting before dinner, a vertical aperitif. In fact, it wasn’t a straightforward vertical as the suggested order of tasting was based on the quality and style of the vintage so the richer, plusher wines from the warmer years followed those from more classic vintages. This was an usual but inspired decision. It proved that one or two vintages might have been overlooked and underrated.
The 2012 had some lovely fruit, crispness, crunchiness and smart oak. Even better was the 2008 – juicy, complex with black fruit, violets and mint, bold but seductive, drinking beautifully now but without any urgency. An equally happy revelation was the 2014 – brambly, smooth, obviously still pretty oaky but stylish, minerally and savoury. 2007 and 2011 are both lighter than you might expect from Bordeaux but it does mean that they are drinking really well now.
Of the renowned vintages, the 2010, 2009 and 2005 stood out for their luscious fruit and velvety texture. Now with some age – more obvious on the colour and nose than on the palate, the 2005 was distinctive for its exquisite elegance and balance; the 2009 for its freshness, the 2010 for its length and richness.
I hope the wines from the Graves area of Bordeaux are not overlooked in favour of wines from the Médoc or St. Emilion because they do offer, in my opinion, a purity, freshness and refinement at reasonable prices, or at least not outrageous prices. Châteaux Brown is one such example. But then I would say that because, as I’ve already admitted, I’m a fan – a Brownie!
There is a unique hospitality opportunity that might be a perfect, fun way to thank the loyalty of your clients or staff, or indeed an occasion for you and friends to enjoy. Proceeds will go to help the charitable work of Armonico Consort in creating choirs in schools in the Coventry area.
On Thursday 24th May, Armonico Consort is premiering a new programme titled “Oz and Armonico Drink Again!” in the historic Old Grammar School in Coventry. A table of ten will cost £290 (a discounted rate), or individual tickets are £34.50 (plus booking fee). This will include all wine tasting, music and narration by writer, wine critic and broadcaster, Oz Clarke.
Tokaji Amethyst Furmint 2016 – £4.99 – Astonishing price for a crisp, fresh, mouthwatering, dry white
Les Hauts d’Oriet Grenache Blanc 2016 – £5.99 – Refined, scented, delicious, dry white Rhone
Cepa Lebrel Rioja Rosado 2016- £5.49 – Rather good, dry rosé from Rioja. Even better with food.
Tour de Castres Graves 2013 – £9.99 – Fine, scented red Graves. Pricey but still great value.
Vinsobres Domaine Croze-Brunet 2015 – £7.99 – Impressive, flavoursome red from the Rhône
Camino Nuevo Joven Ribera del Duero 2016- £5.49 – Juicy, perfumed, dry, just so gluggable.
Agramont Gran Reserva Navarra 2011 – £6.99 – Lovely, mature, complex Spanish red
Tokaji Edes Szamarodni – £7.99 50cl – Wonderful value for a tasty, luscious sweet white from one of the best sweet wine producing regions in the world. If you like Tokaji, buy as much of the 2013 vintage as you can.
This was a tasting to live long in the memory. All the wines were tasted blind and included in each flight a wine from 1982, 1985, 1988 and 1989 though not necessarily in that order. The Grand Cru Classé wines certainly stood out, and generally the better the cru, the better the wine, which really is how it should be. However, some of the lesser crus with lower price tags to match definitely acquitted themselves extremely well against their more expensive neighbours.
These are my tasting notes and therefore only my opinion. Overall, the three favourite wines of the 12 tasters (I was the only woman) were wines 3,12 and 9. Mine were 3, 10 and 8 and 9 joint third.
1. Château Potensac 1985 Médoc Cru Bourgeois
The aromas were at first very mature but at the same time incredibly expressive – forest floor, cedar, musky, minty with hints of Christmas spiciness. On the palate it was smooth, light (from age) delicate and elegant. The length was gentle and pleasant. However…….as one might expect from a Médoc of this age, which strictly speaking, and despite its Cru Bourgeois classification, had no right to be this good, it fell apart quickly in the glass.
2. Château d’Issan 1988 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé
3. Château Léoville Las Cases 1982 St. Julien 2ème Cru Classé
Typical old classic Bordeaux aromas of cedar, pencil shavings, iodine with a delightful datey Madeira edge. I could have continued to enjoy smelling this for several hours. Amazingly firm, rich and long with, to me, perfect balance. The pruney fruit, the bold tannins, the savoury flavours were completed by the dignified acidity. A seriously classy wine.
4. Château Lynch Bages 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé
Aromas of dried fruits, coffee and liquorice with a slight bitter edge. Still bold in structure and with noticeably powerful tannins, savoury rather than sweet fruit. Unbelievably, I suspect this would benefit with a bit longer in the cellar.
5. Château Batailley 1989 Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé
Prunes and treacle aromas on the nose, which I found very appealing, mingling nicely as they did with cherry fruit. This was gentle on the palate, smooth and elegant with some still lush fruit and soft tannins.
6. Château Labégorce Zédé 1988 Margaux Cru Bourgeois
Very badly corked – a veritable stink bomb.
7. Château Beaumont 1982 Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois
My note said that it was standing up well. Now I know what it is, I have to give it huge credit for standing up at all – a petit château, a favourite of the Mercian, competing well alongside the big boys. It was without doubt much less complex than most of the wines, but its pruney, figgy nose and palate of light tannins and silky texture and even its lasting finish are to be admired.
8. Château Lagrange 1985 St. Julien
So powerful I felt it must be a Pauillac and 1989 – wrong on both counts. It appeared much younger than its age (would that I could claim the same characteristics) showing a red fruit, porty nose with the ubiquitous cedar. There were meaty, smoky, tarry flavours on the palate, a classy lasting finish – a truly memorable wine.
9. Château Pichon Lalande 1982 Pauillac 2ème Cru Classé
Black fruit, eucalypt, black olive, charcoal, cassis – incredibly complex and enticing. Amazingly the fruit on the palate was still lusciously sweet with delightful hints of spice on the long, caressing and gentle finish. This was undoubtedly classy and serious. What was confusing was that the following wine was three years younger but looked ten years older – GCC will out!
10. Château d’Issan 1985 Margaux 3ème Cru Classé
Kirsch cherry aromas, undergrowth, leather on the bouquet. I loved the balance and softness of this wine; the fruit was luscious, the acidity lively, the tannins long and elegant, graceful to the finish. A very smart wine which I thoroughly enjoyed.
11. Château Meyney 1988 St.Estèphe Cru Bourgeois
Alongside the other wines, this seemed rather simple, short and a bit disappointing. I’d like to think that had it been tasted without its superior cousins it might have been more appreciated. The nose came across as vanilla cream and the palate lacked acidity, was gloopy and short. It was the only wine, corked wines excepted, I didn’t rate.
12. Château Angélus 1989 St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé (now Premier Grand Cru Classé A)
Although I did get this as a very serious wine, I would never have put it on the right bank. What do I know? I have had the privilege of tasting Angélus a few times (one day I might actually drink some) and can appreciate its quality but it is not a wine gives I find easy. My notes suggest a classy wine; on the nose were coffee, roasted nuts and liquorice. Powerful, savoury flavours with high acidity and a long complex finish.
Not all wines age beautifully, most are not designed to but if you are lucky enough to have a cellar-full, store them well and you could be in for a treat. Try do not to be in the hapless position of the chap below.
The annual VDP* Grosses Gewäches** tasting in Wiesbaden is a remarkable event – an unrivalled opportunity to try the latest vintage of Germany’s top dry wines, accompanied by levels of organisation and service that could probably only be encountered in Germany. This year, we were tasting whites from the 2016 vintage and reds from 2015 – very much a privilege to attend.
Compared to the ripe, very accessible 2015’s, the 2016’s offer a return to a cooler, more classic vintage. Levels of acidity are high but are more than balanced by extract and, in the majority of cases, intensity of fruit. The Rieslings from the Mosel are marked by crisp fruit and laser-sharp purity – not always easy to taste now, but with great promise for the future. I only tasted a limited number but enough to find stunning wines from Van Volxem and Nik Weis – St Urbans-Hof in particular.
The Nahe Rieslings also looked strong, not surprisingly showing more weight and ripeness of fruit. I particularly liked the line-up from Dr Crusius – wines that are classically-styled and highly expressive, giving every indication that they can be enjoyed earlier than many others. For those looking for wines to lay down, the selections from Kruger-Rumpf, Dönnhof, Emrich-Schönleber and Schäfer-Fröhlich were all outstanding. I was also struck by the admirable consistency and top quality of the wines from the Felsenberg vineyard in Schlossböckelheim.
Rheinhessen was also of high quality. There were predictably strong showings from Keller and Wittmann, and it was refreshing to find beautiful Rieslings from three producers new to me, KF Groebe, Kühling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier. I tasted a limited selection from the Pfalz, where Knipser excelled, alongside a fabulous flight from the Forster Kirchenstück vineyard, including a 2015 ringer from Reichsrat von Buhl that some saw as the wine of the tasting.
I didn’t get round to tasting the Rheingau, largely because I was distracted by a sensational flight of Franken Rieslings which showed tremendous depth of flavour and character for the vintage. Rudolf Fürst, Horst Sauer and Rainer Sauer all stood out.
2016 also looks an excellent vintage for Franken Silvaner, led by particularly fine offerings from the Sauer estates and Michael Fröhlich, and highly consistent wines from the Am Lumpen 1655 vineyard in Escherndorf.
Curiously enough though, the revelation of the whites for me was the quality of the Weisser Burgunders. Generally they were less austere than the Rieslings whilst still showing admirable vitality and freshness. They struck me as perfect for relatively early drinking and highly versatile with food. Highlights were the wines from Knipser, Messmer and Bernhart in the Pfalz and a wonderful, oaked, Burgundy-style 2015 Gips Marienglas from Gerhard Aldinger in Württemberg. Not surprisingly the Chardonnays were reminiscent of Burgundy too, with especially strong efforts from the 2015 vintage offered by Bernhard Huber and Dr Heger.
Given the warmth and ripeness of the 2015 vintage, I had high hopes for the Spätburgunder and tasted all of these. Overall the vintage was not as consistent as I had hoped: many wines, especially from Rheinhessen (a sensational Morstein 2014 from Keller excepted), Pfalz and Württemberg, were either a little simple or betrayed levels of extraction or oaking that somehow stifled the natural spring of the variety. As Pinot Noir producers around the world will testify, balance in wines made from this grape is often tantalisingly out of reach. My conclusion is to stick to the proven high achievers and, if necessary, to pay the extra. In the Pfalz, Knipser and Philipp Kuhn are both producing attractive, highly flavoursome wines. For those looking for more age-worthy wines, those of Friedrich Becker have a strong following. In Franken, there is little reason to look beyond Rudolf Fürst, a genuine master of Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir. In Baden, there were some beautiful wines from Huber, Dr Heger and Franz Keller. A new name on me, Ernst Dautel, stood out in Württemberg and, last but certainly not least, there was a spectacular showing from Meyer-Näkel and JJ Adeneuer in the Ahr. There is no doubt that the best of these 2015’s merit a place at the top table of international Pinot Noir.
Just one final thought. Both wine professionals and the public, in the UK at least, have become conditioned to thinking of white wines in terms of whether they are dry or sweet – and anything in the middle is condemned to a Room 101 scenario where the word “medium” is strictly forbidden. The wines in this VDP tasting are Grosses Gewäches and therefore, by definition, dry. However I was struck by the fact that the words dry or sweet featured relatively rarely in my tasting notes and, when they did, were attached to the less successful wines. The best German wines (and I would make the same argument for Alsace) have a natural balance and mouth-watering fruit quality that over-ride any notion of dryness or sweetness. If somehow these wines could be served more often in fine dining environments, without prejudice or preconception, I am sure that they would find favour with a new generation of wine drinkers.
*Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweinguter (VDP): The oldest association of wine estates in the world (founded in 1910), strictly dedicated to producing premium quality wines only. The VDP counts many of Germany’s most respected wineries amongst its 200 members.
**Grosses Gewäches (First / Great Growth): A quality level in all German wine regions excluding the Rheingau, where it is named “Erstes Gewäches”. A “Grosses Gewäches” wine must have been grown in certified vineyards and can only be produced by a VDP member winery. Always vinified dry, red wines may not be released before 1st of September two years after the vintage, white wines not before 1st of September of the following year. In each wine region, there are only a few grape varieties permitted for producing “Grosses Gewäches” wines.
The following wine merchants are good sources of German wine:
Argentina is and always has been a red wine country, yes?
Wrong. As recently as the 1980’s, 90% of the country’s wine was white.
Argentina is all about Malbec, of course……
Wrong. Under 20% of the country’s current grape plantings are Malbec.
Argentina is a hot country so the wines are high in alcohol and low in acidity.
Wrong. The country has many vineyards in higher altitudes and in the cooler south which produce wines with perfect freshness and vitality.
The success of Malbec in export markets has transformed the country’s wine fortunes.
Wrong. Over 70% of Argentina’s wine production is still consumed locally.
Being in the southern hemisphere, presumably it is drier in the north and wetter in the south?
Wrong. The influence of the Brazilian rain forest means that actually there is more rainfall in Salta in the north than in Patagonia in the south.
Drip irrigation is better than flood irrigation – surely?
Wrong, at least in some circumstances: flood irrigation can help vines develop broader root systems, prevents soils from becoming too salty and protects against phylloxera.
In February, I was fortunate enough to join 40 other Masters of Wine on a week-long visit to Argentina…….and it certainly threw up plenty of surprises. The country’s wine industry has had something of a roller-coaster ride over the last 40 years. In 1978, wine consumption peaked at 90 litres a head per annum – mainly of white wine, often mixed with water or soda as a long drink, and starting at lunchtime. Since then, as soft drinks and beer have become more popular (and the siesta is less likely to be taken), wine consumption has plummeted so it now stands at nearer 20 litres per head. And in the 1980’s alone, the country lost 40% of its vineyards as there was no market for their grapes. Add to the mix rampant inflation and a highly unstable political environment and it is not hard to imagine that life has been tough and unpredictable for wine producers.
And yet we found a wine industry that is dynamic, youthful and sophisticated. The current government commands the respect of business people; viticultural and winemaking practices are advanced and, in areas such as the use of unlined concrete vats, leading the world; and although domestic wine consumption may have declined, it is now constant at a level that creates business confidence and permits a growing focus on exports. On our visit many of the country’s leading wine producers cooperated for the first time to deliver a high class programme of vineyard visits, seminars and tastings. Given how young many of the vineyards in newer areas are, there is every reason to believe that Argentina’s best wines lie in the future.
The white wine tastings confirmed the view that the country’s most exciting grape is Torrontes. The highish alcohol levels that the grape naturally achieves give the wines pleasing texture, whilst modern winemaking preserves both freshness and the grape’s famed perfume. The best examples come from the Calchaquí Valley in Cafayate and would normally be consumed within 12 months of harvest. Mind you, we were treated to a 1992 Torrontes from Bodegas Etchart which had retained outstanding balance and depth of flavour, suggesting there may be more to the grape than is generally understood. Some examples are barrel fermented with, on this evidence, mixed results; and Torrontes blends look highly promising.
Very old pergola-trained Torrontes at El Esteco, Cafayate.
Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Gewurztraminer are all grown in Argentina and are quite capable of producing good, aromatic dry whites. Many of the whites, however, lacked the sense of place of Torrontes, a wine style that is genuinely distinctive. As with many of the Chardonnays, one feels that the international white grape varieties will sell more easily on the domestic market than in the highly competitive international marketplace. Mind you, Argentinian producers are excited about some of the newer Chardonnay sites being planted and we did taste some outstanding examples – the White Bones and White Stones Chardonnays from Catena’s ground-breaking Adrianna vineyard in Gualtallary are genuinely world-class. Possibly because white grapes so often have to be picked before full ripeness in Argentina to retain freshness, I felt too many of the whites were just rather simple – my impression was that it was the white wine blends that offered the complexity and potential for premium pricing that will be essential if Argentina’s exports are to be profitable. Lastly a mention has to go to the LagardeSemillon 1942 that we drunk with dinner on the final evening – apparently a legendary wine in Argentinian wine circles, still bright, superbly balanced and invigorating, and a welcome reminder that age-worthy whites are possible in hot climates too.
Malbec dominates Argentina’s red wine exports (56% by volume, 63% by value) and we tasted examples from all over the country; as Paul Hobbs explained “Malbec is like the Chardonnay of red grapes – it is easy to grow”. At the lower price points, Malbec can be somewhat hollow but it offers good colour and a warming palate that currently appeal to international markets. From newer vineyards, like Mendoza’s higher altitude sites in Paraje Altamira, Gualtallary and Uco Valley, lower yields and thicker-skinned grapes (the higher UV at altitude produces thicker skins and the diurnal temperature shifts result in increased levels of polyphenols and aromatic compounds) are producing wines of great perfume and intensity – and, not surprisingly, inky deep colours. These came in a range of styles and we tasted highly polished, oaked examples from producers such as Achaval Ferrer, Norton, Terrazas de los Andes, Cadus and Viña Cobos. My personal favourites, not least because they felt like original styles, unique to Argentina, were the wines made all or in part in concrete eggs/vats. The principal exponents of this style appear to be Altos las Hormigas and Zuccardi, both of whom are producing wines of stunning purity of fruit and freshness.
The producers were keen to demonstrate that Argentina is much more than a one-grape red wine producer. We tasted some excellent Bonarda, pure in fruit and often well-priced – and useful to the grower, is because it can be high-yielding and often ripens at different times to Malbec. Tempranillo,Petit Verdot, Tannat, Syrah and a new grape on me, Cordisco, were all sampled at different times. However the grape they are most excited about is Cabernet Franc – plantings have increased from only 90 ha in 1990 to over 900 ha today. My own view was that the grape was more exciting in blends than as a single varietal (possibly reflecting a certain Bordeaux bias!) and most of my favourite reds included Cabernet Franc in the blend. Indeed, with reds as with whites, I tended to find greater complexity in the blends – and the Doña Paula 969 blend of Petit Verdot, Bonarda and Tannat, fermented and aged only in concrete eggs, was arguably the best value wine tasted during the trip.
As indicated above, we were treated to some remarkable old bottles at dinner on our final evening – for which we owe special thanks to Andrés Rosberg, President of the Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers. The Angelica Zapata Alta Malbec 1995 suggested it still had many years ahead and the Fond de Cave Cabernet Sauvignon 1986 was a class act. However, I found the most complex wines to be two beauties from Weinert, who have a long-standing reputation for producing age worthy reds – a Malbec Reserva Especial 1977 and a Cabernet Sauvignon Estrella 1994. It is to be hoped that Argentinian producers continue to hold back stock of their top vintages so that such experiences can be repeated in future.
The youthfulness alluded to in the introduction applies as much to some of the wine regions as to the younger winemakers who are experimenting and pushing the boundaries. Gualtallary provided a high percentage of stunning wines – 2,200 ha is now planted there, ranging from 1200 to 2200 metres in altitude, and the only constraint to further growth is the availability of water. Indeed the the issue of water supply and irrigation was a constant thread throughout – as Alejandro Nesman (Achaval Ferrer) told us – “In Argentina, irrigation is part of a vineyard’s terroir”. Patagonia is also clearly a region to watch, with the Old Vines Merlot from Riccitelli (my favourite producer of the week, based in Lujan de Cuyo), the Cincuenta y Cinco Pinot Noir from Chacra and the Cabernet Franc from Del Rio Elorza standing out.
My favourite region however was Cafayate, a place I have long wished to visit; an unexpected bonus was the remarkable drive through the Aconquija range to get there. Greener than I had expected, Cafayate in the Calchaquí Valley only produces 2.5% of the country’s wine production, but seems to me to be the region most naturally suited to viticulture: rain falls over the mountains to the East ensuring adequate water supplies and clouds form over the mountains in the west around 3.00pm, cooling the temperature and lengthening the growing season. It also has the low rainfall typical of all Argentina’s wine regions, leading to a dry, relatively disease-free environment ideal for organic grape growing. Both reds and whites are highly successful and, with the admirable Colomé pioneering high altitude vineyards in the area, other producers such as El Esteco, El Porvenir, Domingo Molina and Finca Quara are now producing wonderful results.
My calicata is bigger than yours…the most impressive calicata of the trip at El Esteco, Cafayate.
It will be clear from the above that this was no ordinary visit – we were spoilt rotten. This meant that we did not taste much in the way of mainstream wines and so there was little discussion about this sector of the market. Argentina is not a cheap place to make wine – water supply is not guaranteed in all areas, yields are not as high as elsewhere in the new world and many of the new vineyards are in rocky, alluvial soils which must be costly to prepare for planting. So it is hard to see how Argentina can compete profitably internationally in the bulk sector. However, on this evidence, the country is well placed to offer a diverse range of wines at more premium price points, probably over £10 in the UK. With genuinely distinctive wine styles, market leadership in Malbec and Torrontes, and an advanced programme of GI approvals in place, the foundations look good. The 2018 vintage looks like a good one too so it is to be hoped that Argentina is blessed with fair winds on the political and economic front in order to make the most of the commercial opportunities that they have created for themselves.
With huge thanks in particular to Wines of Argentina, Duncan Keen from Peñaflor, Madeleine Stenwreth MW, Paz Levinson, Joaquin Hidalgo, Alejandro Iglesias and Andrés Rosberg for organising and managing a wine trip of a lifetime.
Here’s a handy (virtual) booklet of great value wines as selected by members of the Association of Wine Educators (AWE) – wines they use in their classes and tastings as well as buy to drink and enjoy themselves at home. I’m a long-standing member and current Honorary Secretary of AWE and this li’l brochure is my baby, the 2018 being its 4th edition.
There are submissions from over 30 highly-respected wine professionals which gives the brochure gravitas as well as a wide variety of styles from different grape varieties, countries and stockists. Use it as a guide to buy the types of wines you love possibly at a better cost/quality ratio than you do already or use it to source something new.
My choices may not be the most easily available but they are definitely worth seeking out. For Brum-dwellers head to Loki for one of them. Many of my esteemed colleagues, however, have made life easy for you and chosen wines from Majestic, Aldi, Waitrose, Lidl and others. I applaud their choices and can’t wait to try some (or all) of them.
You can download the brochure here for free and then keep it on your phone for when you go shopping.
Thanks to our advertisers who help to make the brochure possible:
Pinot Grigio with attitude! The bottle might suggest this is German but actually it’s from Alsace in northern France. They do Pinot Gris really well there. Made by one of France’s most respected co-operatives, Cave de Turckheim, this has enticing honeysuckle aromas, hints of honey, too. It’s silky smooth with a just off dry finish. And International Wine Challenge judges love it.
Food match: Thai food, stir fry, salmon fillet
Vinsobres Les Cornuds 2014 Famille Perrin
If you like Châteauneuf du Pape you will love this. Made by a family with Châteauneuf pedigree (they make the much sought after Château de Beaucastel), the Perrins know this terroir and how to grow the very best grapes from it. This is a £15-£20 wine at a tenner, punching well above its price point. Exquisitely aromatic – red fruits, herbs – and a combination of being both fruity, from the Grenache grapes, and robust and spicy thanks to the addition of Syrah.
Food match: Peppered steak, spicy sausages, chilli con carne
Muga Rioja Rosado 2015
Waitrose £7.99 (usually £9.99)
Rosé (or rosado in this case because it’s Spanish) is now popular all year round. But in the summer months sales naturally increase, whatever the weather. Muga is a top name in Rioja, both their reds and whites are some of my favourites of the area. Their rosado is no different. Made from Tempranillo, this has strawberry and mango aromas, a red apple flavour and mouth-watering crispness – quenching and satisfying.
Food match: Tapas of almost any description. It’s versatile!