Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lidl & The Wine Odyssey

Last night involved sampling the wedding wines for the upcoming nuptials of BE and also a family dinner for my lovely mother-in-laws XXth birthday (Hi G! -Am I still in the will?). The night ended up with pints of Guinness and a battered sausage but that's another story.

Anyhoo - we started off the party (hosted by Herself's sister SB) with the Lidl Grand Cru St Emilion. This was OK, a little unrefined but pleasant enough, although if you are a Bordeaux fiend like me then this will probably not be your bag, but hey, your mileage may vary. It goes for about €9.

We then moved on to the Lidl Montepulciano which I reviewed previously here. Everyone loved it, it was possibly better than before, big and bold and is still only about €6 - go buy some.

A quick spin across town and we were re-tasting the wedding wines, I'm not sure what we would have done if they hadn't been up to par, but luckily they were.

The white - Chapelle d'Alienor 2005 proved to be oaky and unusual, but nice. It'll make a nice change from the usual Sauvignon Blanc.

The red - La Fleur d'Armens - 2006 was very tannic initially, although it had been open (but not decanted) for an hour. The tannins softened after a few minutes and the fruit came through. This should be a good match for the beef. GG drinks a bottle a week and swears by it so...

Next: Bought a Rasteau Cotes Du Rhone Villages on special offer for €7-99 in Dunnes tonight, will drink tomorrow and revert.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lidl Vacqueyras

The last time I bought an expensive Lidl wine (that time also by accident) it turned out well, this time I also lucked out. As previously mentioned I have had some lovely Vacqueyras of late, and I wanted to compare this wine with its Tesco equivalent.

Name: Lidl Vacqueyras AOC
Year: 2007
Price: €12-99
Notes: A warm, fruity, well balanced wine with an incredible finish. This was less "Rhone"-ish than the Tesco version, less cherries, more forest fruits (phew! - got that in). It's not cheap at €12-99 (for a Lidl wine), but it is worth it. It confirms a theory of mine that if you buy something expensive in a "cheap" shop, you tend to get quality.

Rating: 7/10 - definitely worth a punt.

Lidl Baturrica Tarragona 2004

The last time I bought this wine, the 2002 vintage, it had a different label and a very different taste. The writing was on the wall with the different label but in the interest of bloggers integrity or some crap like that I figured I'd try it again and the results of the Lithuanian jury are now in...

Name: Lidl Baturrica Tarragona
Year: 2004
Price: €6-49
Notes: An entirely different wine to the last time, in fact apart from the name on the label, I don't see any connection to the last wine. This tasted cheap, fruity and unpleasant, I tried to drink it but on Sunday nights I like to drink something nice and have some smelly cheese with it and I couldn't face drinking this and this alone.
Rating: 4/10 - if you like this style of wine, like a cheap badly made Aussie Shiraz, this Buds for you.

After we poured this down the sink we cracked open the Lidl Chianti, it was fine; perfectly drinkable but nothing special, not very Chianti like, then again what do you expect for €5-65?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lidl Wines - Again

Back to Lidl on the Grange road tonight, as promised to get some more of their cheap, I thought, wine and I was also out of beer so I thought I'd reacquaint myself with my old friend Grafenwalder.

I bought two new Lidl wines and one I'd had before - the Tarragona (with a new label). The two new wines are a generic Chianti DOCG, could be nice and a Vacqueyras, which I could not see a price for but was worth a punt as I have had some lovely examples of this and lately. This turned out to be a lot more expensive than most Lidl wines but I have made that mistake before and it turned out OK.

The prices were as follows:

Chianti DOCG - €5-65
Tarragona Reserva - €6-49
Vacqueyras AOC - €12-99

We'll probably drink the Vacqueyras over the weekend - review to follow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ogio and Milano

Just back from Milano (the pizza place not the city), where for the first time ever, I reckon the pizzas weren't great. Herself's was burnt and mine was slightly undercooked. The staff however were as good as ever and we only paid for one pizza. We had a lovely Barbera D'Alba with the pizzas; one thing I always liked about Milano (Pizza Express in the UK) is that you can eat cheaply and well and the wine list although short, is well priced and everything I've had from it has been good. The Montepulciano is a favourite of mine and can be had for €23-95 I think.

Anyway, on the way home from Milano we stopped into Tesco for some essentials and I noticed this wine on special offer - 50% off - €5-99 reduced from €11-99. It's a primitovo from Pugia, the "heel" of Italy. I have had good experiences with Primitivos before. They are not subtle but are typically fruity, spicy in-your-face wines that deliver lots of flavour for a moderate outlay.

I'll update later when we've made a hole in it.
Note: DNA testing has confirmed that genetically Primitivo is identical to Zinfandel.

Both of us liked this - it opened up to be a fruity, slightly new worldy red. It's not as good as something like the Protocolo but at €5-99 you can't go wrong.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tesco Finest Vacqueyras 2007

Tonight another experiment - I going to liveblog this wine from start to finish over the course of the evening. This wine is one of Mary Dowey's 100 great wines under €12, I had it once before and liked it but had not seen it in any Tesco since.

This is the infuriating thing about Tesco, they produce some cracking Finest wines at decent prices but they are often hard to find. Bizarrely I found it in Tesco Upper Baggot St which has always had a shockingly poor selection of wines, catering mostly to the pile 'em high sell 'em cheap philosophy.

I'm not all that familiar with Vacqueyras, I know that's its in the Southern Rhone and its made from mostly Grenache. The blurb on the bottle says "A full and rich red with black cherry aromas coupled with a smooth, dark fruit and lightly spiced palate", we shall see.

7-30 pm
I'm opening the bottle, I'm not going to decant it as I would normally do as I reckon most people wouldn't decant it either and I'm aiming for some verisimilitude.

9-00 pm
First sip; cherries - check, spice - check, smooth dark fruit - not so much yet. All round though this is very tasty, nicely balanced and belying its 14% alcohol. Herself says "Lovely" and "Blackcurranty". Next up - we'll try it with Cambozola and Ardrahan cheeses.

10-00 pm
Firstly - Carr's Cheese Nibbles, delicious but deadly - you can't stop eating them. The wine has opened up a little in the glass, it's a little less spicey and a little more rounded and fruity, still very nice and a worthy foil to the cheeses.

Note: Tonight's TV is just awful, we have gone from Farah Fawcett's cancer to Jim Carrey and that's probably the best thing on! New episodes of South Park are also on but... (makes whipped sound). Roll on Jonathan Ross.

10-30 pm
About to finish this off - it's just getting better, the finish is getting longer and the balance really is remarkable, if you see this in Tesco, buy it - I think it was about €12. Perhaps that's why this is never in stock, cos it's so good?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chateau Plaisance and Arthur at the Fair

I was at a Bastille day do in Donnybrook Fair last night, ate some lovely canapes, some delicious cheese and drank a surprisingly good Fleurie along with a crisp Pouilly Fumé as supplied by our hosts.

Just before we* left, much the happier it must be said, we met Arthur who told us about his friend Derek & Kathy who had bought Chateau Plaisance and were attempting to make a go of it in the shark infested waters of tradition in St Emilion. I said I would help publicise Derek and Kathy's efforts in this forum (with my huge readership!!). Arthur had written this piece previously.

Anyhoo, I couldn't resist and bought a bottle of the Pegos Claros for Herself and I to sip when I got home. I would encourage anybody who vists Donnybrook Fair to try this, it's steal at €12-99.

*Mavis, the sailing widow & I

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2002 Montagne St Emilion - Pierre Chanau

This is a first for me - I'm liveblogging - by which I mean as I write this, on my mother-in-laws laptop, I am drinking the above mentioned wine, while nibbling some leftover Cambozola. Herself's younger sister suggested I write a post on one of the wines that are in storage here at the in-laws, awaiting the return of their rightful owners from parts foreign and far-away.

To that end I had a quick rummage through the shed and pulled out this Montagne St Emilion. From looking at the vintage charts 2002 was only an OK year but this wine is a very pleasant, easy drinking example of the region. The tannins are soft and rounded, there is a little fruit upfront and there is a decent chunk of that lovely Bordeaux minerality. This wine is drinking well now and I'd advise JP, if you're reading this to drink this up asap when you come back.

I'm a big fan of the satellite appelations of St Emilion as there is great value to be had beacuse they are considered to be somewhat inferior to the St Emilion appelation itself. I don't understand this as I have recenty brought back some cracking wines from around St Emilion at bargain prices.

Anyhoo - thanks to JP for supplying the goods for tonight - and now that I know where the goods are located, I can't guarantee they will remain intact 8-)

Note: for the eagle eyed among you, I used our regular digital camera for the first time rather than the my crappy phone camera and I think the difference is clear ( even though I resized and chopped the heck out of the image)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alta Rio

After my brother gave me a couple of dozen bottles of Alta Rio (Consejo De La Alta), I promised I would finally write a review, given that I have been drinking this wine for nearly 15 years - link to site here.

This wine, which was once simply known as Alta Rio has been the wedding wine at a family wedding, the christening wine for Little Bill, as well as the go to wine for many family do's. We get it in bulk through a family connection so there is always plenty to go around.

The wine that arrived earlier this year is the Reserva 2004, whilst the two dozen I got last week are the 2001 vintage. (I think 2002 & 2003 were not great years in Rioja). I compared the two when the 2004 arrived and thought that the 2001 was fuller and more complex, whether this is a judgement on the wines themselves or merely a reflection of their relative ages, only time will tell.

Taste-wise, this a classic Rioja, made from 100% Tempranillo, ripe fruit, lots of oak and some firm tannins giving it a lovely structure, and all very well balanced.

I don't know if you can buy this in shops here, I have never seen it myself. If you do see it, its definitely worth a try even if Riojas are not your normal tipple. I suspect it would retail around €15 - €17.

Next: I keep planning to go back to Lidl and buy a few more random bottles but I keep being sidetracked. Rest assured this blog will get back to its roots and stated aims very soon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

June will be disappointed - I was. After my last post I expected this to be a big fruity monster, with a little bit of structure to offset the jamminess. What I got was oak, lots of oak and not much else. I though this might be the replacement for the Presidents selection but when I went to the website, and it appears that the Gold Label is the place where Wolfgang & co experiment. Kudos to them for trying but this one was not to my taste.

Name: Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
Year: 2006
Price: ???
Notes: As I said above, lots of oak, not much fruit or anything else. This wine is undone by its lack of balance and reminded me of a lot of Chilean Cab Savs, all oaky and tannic. If you know that style and like it you should fill your boots.
Rating: 5/10 - I doubt this was cheap and not my cup of tea at all.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wolfgang and I

My friend June called in the other night* with a bottle of Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon as a present for YHB. Me and Wolf Blass go back a long way.

When I first started buying wine as opposed to drinking it, I did as most people did and started with Australian reds. Particularly Wolf Blass reds. The yellow label Cab Sav, the red label Shiraz/Cab Sav and my personal favourite the green label Shiraz. There was also a "Presidents Selection" version of each of these, except possibly the red label, with the Shiraz version being the sine qua non of taste at the time.

The problem with the "Presidents Selection" wines was that they were nearly twice the price of the regular bottles (about 20 old pounds if I recall) and buying one in those days was reserved for special occasions, or if you were trying to get laid 8-)

I remember one evening on DNS with Herself and NOB, we opened a bottle of the red label and it was at that time one of the nicest bottles any of us had ever had. It was a big jammy monster but had an extra depth that we had never experienced from it before (or since). It was from the previous years vintage than that which was available in the shops at that time so maybe that was it, or else it was just a perfect storm of time and place.

There were many Aussie Shiraz and Shiraz/Cab Savs that we drank regularly at the time and most of them are still available; Wakefield, Wyndham Estate, Peter Lehman, Rosemount Estate etc. BE and I had a soft spot for Hardy's Nottage Hill, once making our housemate drive back to the off-licence to pick up another bottle, after we had enjoyed the first one so much. And yet these days I'd never in a million years buy a cheap new world Shiraz or Shiraz blend. How come?

My tastes have changed, simply, and the same for Herself. Given that I choose 95% of the wine that we drink this was probably inevitable. We simply find this style of wine too fruity, too jammy, too sweet. I now find this style of wine unbalanced, if you have that much fruit you have to have some structure to counterbalance it. As it happens, as you go up the price ladder the wines become much more palatable. Penfolds wines are a good example. At the cheap end of the range; the Rawsons Retreat, approx €12, another old favourite, is too jammy, but as you move upwards to the Koonunga Hill and thence into the BIN range the wines get much better. My current tipple is the BIN 389 (approx €30), expensive but big, bold, fruity and full bodied with a good balance of fruit, oak, acid and tannins.

There are some honourable exceptions, of course. D'Arenberg wines are almost universally delicious with The Laughing Magpie (approx €20), a Shiraz Viognier, standing out. I am not dissing all inexpensive New World wines, I'm sure most are made with care and attention and the style reflects what a large number of people want to drink: simple, fruity, easy drinking reds. They are just not for me...

As an exercise I may buy a couple of my old faves and see exactly how much my preferences have changed in the last few years. For now, I think I will open the Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon tonight (a screw top btw) and I'll report back soon.

* She had an altercation with a cow after leaving us and lost a wing mirror, don't ask.