andrewcferguson

writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Tag Archives: wine recommendations

Andy’s Seasonal Sluggers 2017

Confession time first. I’d love to tell you this blog is the result of tireless research: slurping and spitting through hundreds of hopefuls, until finally, finally, boiling everything down to four recommendations. But I’d be lying: we have a marvellous little woman to do all that bit for us.

Step forward Jane MacQuitty, wine writer for the Times. We found some years ago that, aside from a few faults (overuse of the adjective ‘burly’ to describe any red wine of heft; suspiciously keen on ‘new wave’ Spanish, especially riojas, which we’ve found means the wine’s not kissed the oak for nearly long enough) she is a damned good spotter of a decent wine at a decent price.

So, let’s raise a glass to Jane, and long may her liver hold out. In terms of which glass to raise:

Let’s start with a white: Wm Morrison Special Selection Godello, £8 or currently £6 each if you buy 2, has a label that looks like this –

– but if you’re a traditionalist when it comes to wine labels, don’t let that put you off! From north west Spain, it’s a bit like an Aussie sauvignon blanc, with lots of tropical fruit oomph. And Obama was snapped drinking Godello last year, so drink it if only to remember a time when we had an American Pres worth looking up to.

Reds are more our thing though. Aldi has the best of them: first up is 2016 Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir, Wairarapa – everything you’d want in a NZ Pinot Noir, to my way of thinking, at least at that kind of price. Astringent raspberry and all that. Great with lamb chops, and I’d imagine it would slip down well with roast chicken, or even turkey!

Exquisite New Zealand Pinot Noir

Great stuff. The winner for sheer heft though is 2016 Cairanne, Domaine de la Belle Estelle, Rhone – Aldi 7.99  – another MacQuitty find. This not a wine to take lightly: it’s 14.5%, a big beast of a thing that shoulders its way down your throat. But oh, it’s quality! Any of the extended Wright family reading this: this is what you’ll be downing at the forthcoming Diamond Wedding beano in a couple of weekends’ time. The Godello’s the white.

Cairanne

Last but not necessarily least 2015 Animus Douro, Vicente Faria Aldi £4.99  – cheap, and very cheerful. We’ve struggled to find good Portugese reds in the past – they’ve always promised much, but failed to deliver – but this is really good glugging stuff. Best thing for a fiver I know of in any of the supermarkets at the moment. Give it a go.

Animus Douro DOC

…and that’s it, really. The daily musical advent calendar thing is kind of taking up my blogging time at the moment, so I hope this gives you the essentials. Drink up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two Cariñenas

I should really start this wine recommendation, as indeed I should preface all my wine recommendations, with ‘I know what I like.’ In other words, I have no formal qualifications whatsoever as a wine expert. All I can claim is a limited and partial knowledge and interest in the topic, gleaned from years of highly motivated research.

Despite this, friends and colleagues, when we’re out somewhere serving the stuff, will almost invariably pass the wine list to me, saying, ‘Andrew, you know about wines, what do you think?’ What they really mean is, ‘Andrew, you seem to drink a lot of wine, so you should have it worked out by now, surely, ya lush?’

They may have a point on the quantity, although, dear reader, I’m not generally to be found on the floor of the bar at the end of the night grabbing at legs. Not these days anyway. I almost always drink responsibly (the Sambuca Shot Incident at Christmas being the exception that proves the rule) and so should you. Thing is, lightweight that I am, when I do drink anything at all I’ve found that wine, and red wine in particular, is the thing my system seems to tolerate best, particularly along with food.

Anyway, enough about me and on with the wine, I hear you say. Fair enough, dear reader, fair enough. Today’s lesson concerns a little-known wine region of Spain called Cariñena, which is geographically located a few miles south of the city of Zaragoza, and roughly half way on a line between Madrid and Barcelona. Baking hot in summer, freezing cold and harrowed by a wind called el cierzo in winter, the region is not without its challenges for its wine growers, even if it’s been cultivated here since Roman times.

However, despite its never having reached the upper echelons of La Liga in terms of Spanish wine regions, it’s one which I’ve always found, when it comes to supermarket reds, is a sure bet for a decent bargain. It’s a bit like a South African region called Robertson: although I know virtually nothing about South African wine regions, I know to grab a bottle from Robertson any time it appears because it’s always been a cracker.

So far as Cariñena is concerned, on the other hand, I know a wee bit more from my travels in Spain: that corner is between the big producing regions of Rioja and Catalunya, and like its neighbours, Campo de Borja and Calatayud, is a bit undervalued as a result. It’s not sexy like other northern areas like (especially) Ribera del Duero, and it’s not even got the industrial scale that other lesser regions like Castilla-La Mancha have.

So, when I saw a couple of bottles in Asda from the Cariñena region the other week, I reckoned they were both worth a go. They were Casa Luis Reserva, 2012 (currently reduced from £5.50 to a fiver) and Extra Special Old Vine Garnacha, 2015, reduced from a fiver to a mere £4.25. Here’s what they look like:

photo0273

Now, my finely honed drinking instincts told me the Casa Luis would be the better drop of the two. The gold string’s by no means a guarantee of quality, but the fact it was a reserva (the categories of ageing and length of relationship with the oak barrel in Spanish wine being tinto, crianza, reserva, gran reserva) suggested someone, somewhere in the winery had reckoned this one was worth the investment of time that the status requires.

However, on opening the bottle initial signs were not so encouraging: the cork crumbled half way up and I needed to execute a delicate piece of surgery with the old sacacorchos to retrieve the bottom half. On inspection, the business end of the cork didn’t appear discoloured and didn’t give off any indications of the wine being corked (I’ve read that the red end of the cork should either smell of cork, or of wine, and if it smells of anything else, it’s corked). However, I still wonder if that was the problem with this particular bottle, because very disappointingly, it was undrinkable and had to be used up in my Southern French Chicken recipe.

The only problem with the Garnacha was rather more self inflicted as, somehow, the first bottle of it managed to knock itself off its coaster and only an act of couch-borne athleticism unparalleled in Olympic history on my part managed to save some of the contents from emptying themselves onto the living room floor. As it was, there was only a limited sample left for research without getting down on my knees and sucking it out of the carpet fibres, and even I have my standards.

Fortunately, other bottles were also available from the same retailer and I can confirm that it is, in fact, a belter. The label chunters on about 45-year old Garnacha vines: for those of you interested, I do have it on good authority from Bosi, my charming guide round the fantastic Cambrico winery I posted about last year, that old vines of that kind of age produce less grapes, but much more concentrated flavours: the balance for the winemaker, of course, is between volume and quality.

For those of you less bothered with specifics, fill your boots! This is a big, bouncy, fruity red that’s good with pasta dishes, spanish tortilla, and, I’d imagine, the usual red wine staples of red meat and strong cheeses. It’s a ridiculous price for wine of this quality.

Not so good as a carpet cleaner, but, well, that’s not what it’s for, is it?

Andy’s Seasonal Solstice Sluggers!

The weather’s turning colder and darker here: so, despite the nominal tipping point of the shortest day having been reached, it’s not likely to turn into white wine weather any time soon…

So red it is! Here, drawn from Jane MacQuitty’s 50 top reds in the Times at the end of November, or, in the case of the winners, from other recommendations of hers, are the ones we’ve tracked down so far, and what we think of them:

2012 Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva, Spain, Lidl £5.49:

7/10. Damn fine Rioja. If you like it oaky, this one’s ok (see what I did there?)

2016 Taste the Difference Fairtrade Shiraz, South Africa, Sainsbury’s £6 till January 1:

5/10. Couldn’t taste the difference.

2016 Finca Las Moras Art Series Malbec, Argentina Sainsbury’s  £7:

6/10. Not that artful.

2015 Extra Special Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia, Asda, £6.98:

6/10. Not that extra special.

2015 Estevez Pinot Noir Reserva, Chile Aldi £4.79

No score yet ‘cos we’ve not tried it yet. We’ve a lot to get through! But MacQuitty’s star wine of the cheapos, so well worth a try.

Vignobles Roussellet Pinot Noir, Aldi, £4.49

9/10. I’ve recommended this before (as has MacQuitty) and I’m going to recommend it again. I’d pay twice the price for it. Honestly. but coming up on the rails:

Wine Atlas Corbieres 2014, Asda, £5.98

8/10. Terrible label for the traditionalists, great glug. Actually not that far away from the Aldi Pinot Noir geographically, as it’s also a Vin de Pays d’Oc, where the good news for non-traditionalists is that the French have relaxed their fussy wine regulations to allow winemakers to stick oak chips in their stainless steel vats. That goes against the romantic ideal of the wine laying down in hand-crafted, artisanal barrels of the stuff, but for a cheap glugger it does the same sort of job. Fill your boots with this easy-drinking, moreish, hefty yet sensitive red. It’s kind of the red wine equivalent of Bruce Springsteen.

Wine Atlas Corbieres

Enjoy! More solstician blogging in a couple of days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shome shimply shuper shupermarket wines

I describe myself on this blog as, amongst other things, ‘drinker of wine,’ but frankly there’s not been much evidence of that so far. However, I have been researching some reds for you recently, and the good news is that supermarkets have started to stock some good cheapies recently. Still a lot to get through, but in the meantime:

French Pinot Noir, Vignobles Roussellet, Aldi, £4.39

I’m not a big fan of French wine, and I took this example of the tricksy Pinot Noir grape off the shelf purely because your woman in the Saturday Times recommended it. As so often, she was bang on – it hits you with gentle raspberry first, and then enters into this long, complex relationship with the back of your throat you don’t ever want to end.

Morrisons own Chilean Carmenere, £5.99

Don’t be put off by the naff label with the big red face, this is top damson-y jammy Carmenere, which will go with just about anything.

Enjoy!