Lockdown Tipples - Wines to try at home

Wine Tasting

Choosing wine in a supermarket can seem daunting. With such an enormous selection, where do you start? What do you look for? Our friends at Le Verre Gourmand, who we work with to supply our wines in the Alps, have put together an easy guide to choosing the basics and to give you some inspiration to try a few new wines whilst in lockdown. 

Remember when tasting your wines, to follow these steps...

Look at the colour, smell, taste and then swirl the glass for the aromas to come through then smell and taste again. Enjoy!

 

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc

The ‘go-to’ white wine for many around the world and a pretty standard household name. Sauvignon Blanc’s biggest success in recent years has undeniably been in New Zealand. Its heartland, however, is the Loire Valley in Northern France. Sancerre, at the very eastern end of the Loire, is the pedestal of Sauvignon Blanc. Although the same grape, the styles are very different. 

Thanks to the cooler climate, Loire Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and very dry with overriding notes of lime and a flinty, stoney character. In warmer years, it can be a bit fruitier with white peach and apricot aromas coming through. Emphasis, however, is certainly on crisp and vibrant acidity. Kiwi Sauvignon is explosive and fruity compared to its French cousin. The wine jumps out of the glass with lots of mango, passion fruit and peach flavours.

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are at the upper end of the price bracket for a French Sauvignon. Look out for wines more simply labelled Loire Sauvignon Blanc for a cheaper wine in a similar crisp, ultra dry style. Menetou-Salon, next-door to Sancerre on the map, offers good value wine, very similar to Sancerre. 

Marlborough is the go-to region for fruity New Zealand Sauvignon, but how about trying the lesser known regions? Canterbury and Central Otago produce crisper styles with more emphasis on that citrus and flinty flavour.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay

This grape unfortunately still gets bad press, even though it’s the most widely planted white grape variety and the main ingredient in some of our favourite wines. It’s without a doubt the most versatile white grape - cool climate? hot climate? oak? fizz? Chardonnay can do it all. 

One big reason to love Chardonnay - Crémant is now gaining popularity in the UK as an alternative to Prosecco (are people finally getting bored of this fruity fizz that has dominated the sparkling aisles for the last decade?). Crémant is made in the same way as Champagne. To get the bubbles it goes through a second fermentation in the bottle which gives off the CO2 fizz. The bubbles are finer and more delicate than those in Prosecco, it has both the fruitiness of easy-drinking fizz combined with the nutty complexity you’d find in Champagne. What’s not to like?

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

Supermarkets own brand upgrade Crémants eg. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference.

‘Blanc de Blancs’ - usually 100% Chardonnay blends that are elegant, vibrant and can even be kept in the cellar for a year or two. ‘Blanc de Noirs’ - made from 100% black grape varieties and usually richer and fuller-bodied.

As a general rule, the more expensive the wines of the region, the more expensive the Crémant. Eg. Burgundy Crémant is quite pricey, whereas Jura and Alsace Crémants tend to be better value.

 

 

Riesling

Riesling

Riesling is capable of producing world class wines with enormous complexity, from bone dry to lusciously sweet and fizz too. But, like Chardonnay, it too suffers a hangover from the 80s and 90s. A lot of people still associate Riesling with the sweet and nondescript white splosh their elderly relatives drank. But rest assured, it’s a thing of the past.

Although it is quite a fussy grape and needs specific climatic conditions to thrive, the variety of styles Riesling can produce is enormous. Its heartland is still Alsace, in eastern France and Germany, but Riesling now thrives in other countries, Australia being a leading example. It can have a wide spectrum of flavours from fresh citrus and sharp green apple, to ripe apricot and honey, to wax, petrol and wet slate depending on the origin, style and age of the wine.

Dry German Rieslings tend to be fresh and citrussy with lots of acidity, freshly cut grass and blossom aromas. Sweet styles still have vibrant acidity, but are combined with delicious apricot jam and honey flavours. With age, Rieslings develop wax and even petrol aromas - sounds bizarre, but this gives the wine an intensely complex character, one that is unique to Riesling. One of the reasons to love it! 

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

‘Trocken’ means dry and will usually be on the bottle label on German and Alsace wines if the wine is dry. This is a safe bet if you don’t want to be caught out with a sweet wine. 

New World (ie. non European) Rieslings usually tell you what to expect on the bottle and whether they are dry or sweet. Australian Rieslings from Clare Valley and Eden Valley are the benchmark for New World. They are slightly riper but still bone dry styles with apricot, peach and honey flavours. Wonderfully zesty and mouth watering wines.

 

Rosé

Rosé

We’re all aware of the popularity of Provence rosés these days, and of course - they’re delicious! But if you’re looking to try something different, then here’s a suggestion…

Tavel rosé is from a tiny area in the Southern Rhône, where the fullest bodied red wines come from, a stone’s throw from the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its deep colour comes from a longer time spent in contact with the red grape skins. Expect a dry rosé packed full of strawberry and raspberry fruit, so ripe it almost tastes sweet, thanks to the southern sunshine. Best enjoyed on a hot day in the garden with food. Try with anything on the barbecue - fish, chicken or roasted vegetable skewers. 

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

Tavel rosé is the kind of rosé you’d probably see on a shelf, take one look at and avoid like the plague. It is dark and bright pink- you’d probably assume it was cheap and/or sweet, and you’d be forgiven for thinking so. The boom of Côtes de Provence rosé has tainted the reputation of any rosé that isn’t ultra light salmon colour. But give this one a try, go on, humour us?

 

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of those grapes that divides the world. It’s a bit of a marmite wine. It is light-bodied, usually pale in colour and can be fiendishly expensive. On the other hand, it is charming and enticing and the best examples are some of the most complex wines in the world. 

Burgundy, the heartland of Pinot Noir, is pricing itself further out of the market so Pinot lovers are turning elsewhere to get their fix. And nowadays, there are plenty of options available. It’s quite a particular grape, most at home in cooler climates as it can lose the elegant and delicate flavours it is known for if over-ripe. However, in the right hands, and as winemaking globally has improved, good examples of Pinot have emerged elsewhere and they’re giving Burgundians a run for their money.

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

Languedoc-Roussillon Pinot Noir. With fewer regulations surrounding wine production, this is a forward-thinking region known for excellent value wines in France. Lots of easy labelling too- simply look for ‘Pinot Noir’ on the label without having to decipher tricky French labels and enjoy the ripe, juicy fruit flavours with the tell-tale Pinot elegance.

New World favourites in the Burgundian style - Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand and Oregon Pinot Noir, U.S.A.

 

Syrah

Syrah

Syrah is capable of producing a wide range of wine styles and is found both by itself or in blends. It certainly needs some sunshine to ripen its thick skins so you tend to find it in warm climates - its spiritual home is the Rhône Valley in France. In this region alone it is capable of producing such variety in flavour profile. In the cooler North it shows cassis, black pepper, olive and bacon fat whereas in the South it shows more dried fruit, prune, blueberry and sweet spice and has a rounder, fuller-bodied texture. Australia and California are good sources of warm climate Syrah with dark black fruit and jam flavours.

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

If you're after elegant, refined and peppery Syrah - look for Northern Rhône: Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage or Cornas.

For the very best of the best -  Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Washington in the U.S produces some cool climate, peppery Syrah too.

If you’re after full-bodied, rich and powerful Syrah - look for Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale Australian Shiraz (what the Aussies call Syrah).

Bordeaux Blends

Bordeaux Blends

Bordeaux, arguably the most famous wine region in the world, has built its success on the ability to blend grape varieties to bring out the best of each one. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are the staple grapes of the region and this combination has been so successful there that it has been copied all around the world. 

Different climates have different effects on the blend. Cooler climates such as Bordeaux give tart red and black fruit flavour and retain high acidity and high tannins. Warmer climates, such as California, Australia and Tuscany produce rounder wines with riper tannins and tones of ripe black fruit, chocolate and allspice. One thing that unites all Bordeaux blends is their affinity with oak. The flavour compounds in these varieties as well as their structure and tannin mean they hold up to heavy oak usage. Indeed, most need a significant time in oak barrels to soften.

What should I look out for in the supermarket?

Prices in Bordeaux are ever-rising for the classic châteaux and top-rated appellations. For value, look for what we call the ‘satellite’ regions -  Lalande-de-Pomerol, Fronsac, Côtes de Bordeaux. these will be on the bottle label and offer good value red Bordeaux.

Look out for Bordeaux blends from Tuscany - you get the excellence of the Bordeaux grapes combined with the excellence of the Tuscan climate. The result is smooth and silky claret coated in southern sunshine and Italian spice. Win-win.

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