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Neil Sowerby’s September Wine Picks

Upmarket Lidl, rich reds and a late rosé scenario

Written by . Published on September 8th 2014.

Neil Sowerby’s September Wine Picks

Smashing Soave At SaluttTHIS column tends towards supporting the independents. Check out my recent toast to Salut in Cooper Street. This new wine shop/wine bar looked even more inviting on a return visit.

The Lidl promotion runs in all 600 UK stores and is seen as the start of an increased concentration on quality in Lidl’s wine range.

Topping £20 for a bottle of Soave was a swig in the dark, but Vigna Turbian Soave Classico 2011 was worth it, the fresh crunchiness of the Trebbiano grape combining with the complex creaminess of Garganega to create a wine of fascinating depths.

Transferring my attention, then, to a supermarket chain that has rarely won plaudits for its wine range is something of a culture shock. Aldi regularly now gets name-checked for its bargain bottles… but Lidl? It’s always been difficult to find anything decent among its pile ’em high generics. So when the German-owned outfit launches a £12m Bordeaux promotion you have to take notice.

Two Lidl Clarets

The wines on offer from this month cost an average £8-10, more than the usual spend, with the exceptional unclassified Chateau Sociando Mallet the most expensive at £25.99. They didn’t send me that one, but I did find a couple of Clarets that I’d happily serve at a dinner party (if any of us still hosted such a thing).

Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Château Larcis-Jaumat 2012  (£12.99) was the most immediately attractive, Merlot-driven with lots of toasty oak, but it would repay putting away for a couple of years. The family-run Château Laborde 2011 (£8.99) comes from vineyards not so far away from St Emilion. It’s spicier, more rustic than the Larcis-Jaumat.

The Lidl promotion runs in all 600 UK stores and is seen as the start of an increased concentration on quality in Lidl’s wine range. Look out for the wooden merchandising crates and the 40-page booklet, introducing Bordeaux and the rest of their upgraded French wine selection. One has just arrived with the Sunday Times. The Marcilly white Burgundies are attractive and the Domaine de la Curie Musscadet Sur Lie is a refreshing example of a neglected appellation for just £5.99.

Wynns Coonawarra CabernetUpmarket Waitrose, in contrast to Lidl, has a lauded wine list, in-store and online. Wynns ‘Black Label’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 costs £15.99 from selected stores and Waitrosecellar.com. Coonawarra, with its ridge of fertile ‘terra rossa’ soil – clay and sand overlying moist limestone – produces pedigree Aussie Cab that isn’t pretending to be Bordeaux. The Black Label is only ever made from the top 20-25 per cent of Cabernet fruit in any given year and the 2008 vintage was matured for seventeen months in French and American oak. It’s a vibrant purple in hue, reeking of dark fruit, but doesn’t overpower the palate and finishes long, as you’d expect. A toothsome treat.

It’s a big red that doesn’t feel big. Marques de Casa Concha Carménère 2011 (Wine Direct £11.95) does. As autumn suddenly starts to push summer over the side I thought I’d give another Chilean (14.5 ABV) bruiser a chance. I was pleasantly surprised. Concha y Toro winemaker Marcelo Papa has reined in the oak and returned to a fresher style for this often meaty late-ripening varietal. The result offers delightful aromas and tastes of plum, cherry, pepper and chocolate. It will handle big, spicy dishes.

Go to Southern Rhone is often my reflex action for affordable quality reds. Highly recommended is Le Torrent du Trignon’ Domaine La Haute Marone Sablet Côtes du Rhône Villages 2012. It’s the latest product of a decade-old collaboration in the region (Sablet is my lead picture) from Cheadle-based merchants Boutinot. Named after a mountain stream, it’s a blend of 80 per cent Grenache and 20 per cent Syrah, only partially matured in oak. It’s ripe, savoury and supple, perfect accompaniment for lamb or duck. Expect it to be widely available this autumn.

I’m also impressed by a Southern Rhone White from the same supplier. Now in its fifth vintage, La Fleur Solitaire Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2013 (All AboutWine, £8.99) is poised to be its ‘best vintage yet' according to Boutinot's Kim Tidy. For the 2013 vintage the blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Viognier and Roussanne needed very little oak to underpin the natural richness. On the inviting nose it’s all spring flowers; on the palate there are interesting textures.

Roses Come In Many ShadesRoses come in many shades of pink

Hopefully, an Indian Summer will give us the chance to fit in a few belated rosés. Try Etoile de Mer Rosé 2013, Côtes de Luberon (Majestic, £11.99, Majestic – or £8.99 each when you buy two until September 29). From Provence, a typical, pale, dry, strawberryish pink, surprisingly intense and perfect for seafood or sipping in the sun (well, we can hope)

The same applies to the pick of the Co-operative’s pinks, Coeur de Cardeline Provence Rosé 2013 (£8.99, currently on offer for £6.99) with a typical onion skin look and fresh peach flavours.

An alternative ‘pretend summer’s not over’ quaffer might be a light red. Primarius Oregon Pinot Noir had been recommended to me at a price of £8.99. I found it in my local Tesco branch at an amazing £4.95. It’s earthy, oaky and full of delicate cherry fruit... all at just 12 per cent ABV.

Tesco Wine Fair 2013Busy, busy, Tesco Wine Fair 2013

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Co-operative in securing some good news in a bad year. Their Les Pionniers 2004 Brut, named after the Rochdale Pioneers who founded the Co-op in 1844, scooped the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championship Awards for greatest value champagne, best vintage Brut blend and best supermarket vintage champagne – beating more upmarket rivals including Waitrose and Moët. The £24.99 Brut was blind tasted in a competition featuring 650 different bubblies.

Judges said of the wine, developed in partnership with Piper and Charles Heidsieck: "Unlike so many own-label champagnes, its strength lies in its superior construction with components from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger adding class, longevity, and minerality to the rest of this cuvée's chardonnay, which comes from the southern part of the Sézanne region."

With a palate full of crisp apple and gentle citrus fruit and a toasty, slightly nutty finish it well deserves the acclaim.

Billecart Logo

While we are on the subject of champagne, Manchester House is joining forces with one of the region's legendary names. They are hosting a Billecart-Salmon Champagne Dinner on Tuesday, September 30 in the company of Nicolas Roland-Billecart, seventh generation of the family-owned champagne dynasty. It is executive chef Aiden Byrne's favourite champagne and he was delighted to be approached by them.

The evening begins with a tutored champagne tasting led by Nicolas, followed by a bespoke six course tasting menu devised by Aiden, paired with a selection of champagne cuvees. Tickets are priced at £195 per person. To purchase email bdm@manchesterhouse.uk.com or ring 0161 835 557

Hangingditch head honcho ben Stephenson has been on a road trip around the Californian vineyards. To hear how he went on and to taste some fascinating new wines from the Sunshine State pop along to the California Dreamers masterclass at the shop at 7pm on Thursday, September 18. Tickets are £17.50, first come, first served! Call 0161 832 8222 to book for thdsi and for the annual Hangingditch Wine Fair in the adjacent Manchester Cathedral on Friday, November 14. There are some early bird tickets still available at £20, a saving of a fiver.

Finally, a plug for one of the big autumn public wine tastings. On October 4, the annual Tesco Wine Fair will return to Manchester for two days of tastings, wine workshops and fun. It’s an opportunity for wine lovers to taste almost 400 wines from regions across the world. There are free workshops and 'wine walks', led by experts. For the first time the Fair also incorporate ‘sensory pods’ and a ‘walk-in wine clinic’ where visitors can find the answers to any questions they have about the often confusing world of wine

Tickets for the event at Central Hall 1, Manchester Central are priced at £12. Sat Oct 4, Session 1 11am-2pm, Session 2 3pm-7pm; Sun Oct 5 12pm-5pm. To book visit www.tescowinefair.com.

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Steve5839September 9th 2014.

I applaud the discount shops, but my experience of buying 6 bottles of the same wine at one time has been 3 -4 have been as they should taste and a couple have not. I mentioned this to a couple of my friends and they said they had experienced similar issues. Any anyone else?

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