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Saturday, 29 January 2022

Two Tesco Wines for Valentine's Day

Two Tesco wines for Valentine's Day - pink fizz and Spanish red

Pink fizz is perhaps the most traditional wine for Valentine's Day and spending a few extra pounds on a good Champagne shows you really mean it.

Of course, the reality is that Valentine's falls in the middle of winter when the weather is hardly suited to sitting in the garden and you are more likely to want a steak than a salad for your evening meal

So, here are two wines from Tesco that cover both bases - a good, well-made rosé Champagne to serve as an aperitif or with starters.

Then, a very sophisticated and food-friendly Spanish red to match with a wide range of wintry comfort foods.

Both wines drink nicely on first pouring, but open up with a bit of air, so don't be afraid to open them ahead of time.

The Established Classic - Champagne

If you are buying fizz, whilst there are plenty of good ones around from all over the world, you do need a reason for it not to be Champagne.

And if you are making a gesture, very few people will object to it being that famous northern French fizz.

The Modern Classic - Ribera Del Duero

Ribera Del Duero could be the best Spanish region you've never heard of; whilst Rioja is perhaps the country's most famous red-wine area, Ribera Del Duero is higher and cooler with a harsher, more intense continental climate that results in a structured, concentrated freshness.

The grape is the same as Rioja's - Tempranillo - and geologically the region follows the Duero river that becomes Portugal's Douro, the home of port.

Tesco Finest Premier Cru Brut Champagne Rosé (£23)

a blend of Chardonnay for fruit and elegance with Pinot Noir for colour and weightiness.

red fruits, florality and toasty, yeasty brioche; fresh, ripe, soft red berry fruits, savoury brazil nut and almond and fresh, citrussy sherbet with a fine mousse.


Serve as an aperitif or match with seafood starters, lighter prawn curries or salmon dishes.

Tesco Finest Ribera Del Duero, 2019 (£12)

darkly fruited, oaky spice, pencil shavings and florality; inky, intense and concentrated yet very fresh and structured; ripe dark berry fruits, liquorice and sweet vanilla spice; fleshy yet with a muscular core. Well-made, sophisticated and enjoyable.

Very Good.

Match with char-grilled red meats, roast lamb or grilled portobello mushrooms


 Further reviews: Joanna Simon on the Ribera del Duero: www.joannasimon.com

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Duorum Vinteiro 2019 - Aldi

A white wine from Portugal's Douro region, at German discounter Aldi

Also reviewed on my new platform here: Duorum Vinteiro 2019 — Aldi. A white wine from Portugal’s Douro… | by Tom Lewis | Oct, 2022 | Medium

Portugal's Douro region is best known for producing port and, increasingly, red table wines from port grapes. Whites from the region are something of a niche interest.

Where port is big, alcoholic and sweet, this Douro white is clean, lean and refreshing, the sort of wine for sipping in the garden on a hot summer's day or for serving as an aperitif.

Made from a blend of grapes, it includes some Rabigato, part of the Muscat family which gives just a hint of grapey florality.

It also comes highly and widely recommended:

Charles Metcalfe: Vinteiro, Portuguese White Douro 2019 - YouTube

Paula Goddard: Top Ten Aldi wines - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Elegant, well-made and versatile, it is a wine you can keep coming back to for refreshments rather than one that makes a big splash on first impression.

Fresh and mineral, it would also stand up to deep-fried fish or a seafood stew

Douro Vinteiro, 2019 - Aldi (£5.99)

orchard and white stone fruit, white flowers; fresh and citrussy with floral aromatics, melon fruit, slatey minerality and a whiff of white pepper; lean, tangy and well-made.

Thoroughly pleasant.

A versatile food wine, match with summer picnic foods, mixed seafood or fish and chips.

Friday, 14 January 2022

Less-But-Better January

Two superior classic wines from Tesco for Less-But-Better January

What do you do after Christmas and New Year?

Dry January.

Try January.

There are plenty of options for anyone wanting to mix things up a little at the beginning of a new year

Whatever you choose to do, or not do, this month, there's much to be said for having less-but-better wine; it's an opportunity to try something different-yet-superior, without the pressure of ensuring that the assembled masses of family remain happy and content with wines they find familiar and reassuring.

Here are two wines from Tesco that are superior classics - well-made in a familiar style and great food matches.

Chardonnay is arguably the world's greatest white grape; its spiritual home is Burgundy but Western Australia's Margaret River makes it in a cool-climate European style; vines were first planted in the region in the late 20th century, so it is very much the New New World.

Chardonnay grows in a wide-range of climates, from chilly Champagne to sunshine-in-a-glass outback; cool-climate Chardonnay with a bit of new oak shows florality and vanilla spice.

Aristocratic Barolo is Italy's answer to Pinot Noir; from the Piedmont region of North-West Italy, it is made from the Nebbiolo grape and produces a red-fruited, juicy and fresh wine with earthy, hedonistic aromas.

Tesco Finest Brooks Road Chardonnay (£15)

Made from premium Chardonnay grapes grown in Margaret River, one of Australia's most celebrated wine regions.

Dry with complex notes of stone fruits and vanilla oak with an elegant minerality and a classic, balanced lengthy finish.

floral, honeysuckle with white stone fruits and vanilla; melon, white peach and orchard fruits with zesty lime curd, savoury, creamy complexity and cool, minty menthol; saline, mineral and long. Very adept and well-made.

Very Good.

Improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Match with fresh seafood, pasta or grilled fish.

Ascheri Barolo D.O.C.G (£23)

The Nebbiolo grapes, from La Morra, Verduno and Serralunga d'Alba, are harvested in the first half of October and fermented in stainless steel tanks for about 2 weeks. After 6 months in stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged in oak for 22 months, followed by an aging in the bottle of at least 12 months before releasing. 

fragrant and floral with cherries, dried cranberries, red berry fruit and old leather, spice and woodsy sous bois; fresh and supple with ripe, dried red berry fruits, cedar, aromatic black tea tannins and menthol; long and harmonious with firm yet very fine tannins.

Very Good.

Drinks well on first pouring but benefits from aeration and will age.

Match with darker game, such as venison or duck, also lamb shoulder with rosemary.


The Ascheri is also reviewed by Paula Goddard who calls it a "top-notch Italian Barolo ... a nice example": Ascheri Barolo 2017 review - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Jatone Cognac

A brandy from Ukraine - and some holiday plans

If you had two weeks to visit Ukraine, where would you go?

A neighbour's daughter, over from Berlin to see her parents for Christmas, asked us for some advice on visiting the largest country in Europe.

Ukraine has been easy to visit for many years now - after winning the Eurovision song contest one year and needing to host it the next, they opted to allow foreign visitors to enter the country for up to 90 days visa-free, despite the lack of reciprocity from western European nations.

It was, I believe, a smart move as tourists from wealthier neighbouring countries coming to visit is rarely a bad thing and the money they spend on hotels, entrance fees and dining out and can be reinvested in maintaining and developing historic sights, ancient cathedrals and all the sorts of things that foreign visitors like to see generally.

For me, greater freedom of movement is generally a win:win all round.

On the back of the visa decision and the opening up of Kyiv's hotel development market, budget airlines also started flying between the UK and the Ukrainian capital making it easily accessible.

With two, possibly three weeks to spare, Alexandra had asked what should she see in Ukraine and what should she avoid.

Over tea and mince pies, we established that she was quite adventurous, so we suggested:

- a week in Kyiv to see orthodox churches, monasteries, Soviet-era memorials, the holodomor museum and so on; she was also planning a day-trip from Kyiv to Chornobyl, which struck me as brave if Romantic

- from there, a couple of days exploring the Carpathians, the forested mountain range between Ukraine and Poland / Slovakia / Hungary / Romania

Also consider other cities close to the Carpathians:

- Kamianets-Podilsky, the former capital with a mediaeval fortress on a natural island formed by a river

- Chernivtsi, larger, buzzier and closer to the Carpathians

- Ivano-Frankivsk, formerly Polish as well as Habsburg, also a former capital

To avoid:

- Crimea, part of Ukraine, but now occupied by Russia, is off-limits and Eastern Ukraine, richer and more industrial, is less exciting and more unstable the further you go

- Odesa, on the Black Sea Coast, is historically significant (the Potemkin Steps are iconic), but it is a working port, mostly charmless and a long way from anywhere else

- there are plentiful beaches on the southern Black Sea coast, but this was to be an exploring trip, not a lazing one

Travelling overland back to Berlin would afford her the opportunity to take more locally-sourced presents than a flight would allow, so some Ukrainian brandy is a must for its longevity-to-rucksack-space ratio.

Jatone Cognac V.S.O.P

raisins, sultanas, cooked mixed fruit, caramel and spice; citrus, custardy sweet vanilla, bonfire toffee and roasted Christmas spices with dried figs and prunes; warming and persistent.

Expressive more than elegant; thoroughly enjoyable.

Drink as a nightcap or match with dark chocolate, mature hard cheeses or sticky toffee pudding.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

The CWB Co-op Southern Hemisphere Chardonnay-Off

Two southern hemisphere Chardonnays from The Co-op

Oaky Chardonnay might be a bit Bridget Jones, but it is one of the world's great grape varieties and styles.

It all started with white Burgundy and Chardonnay's affinity to new oak; a relatively neutral grape, it is fresh, savoury and food-friendly when made in a cool-climate; oak-aging adds to the flavour profile and complexity.

The reason New World Chardonnay went out of fashion was more to do with too many overripe, over-oaked versions than any inherent weakness and, increasingly, the New World is making it in a cooler, more restrained, gently oaked Burgundian style.

Just without the price tag.

The Hidden Sea recycle 10 plastic bottles from oceans and rivers for every bottle of wine sold; if that isn't a reason to drink their wines, I don't know what is.

You won't find too much technical information about the wines on their website, but there's plenty about their ambition to remove plastic from the oceans and how they are going about it.

It may be something of a cliche but passion is the best brand.

Montes Reserva Chardonnay, Chile (£8)

ripe tropical pineapple and melon fruit, toasty vanilla oak and creamy brazil-nut savoury leesiness. Fresh and mineral; supple, harmonious and well-made.

Good and Good Value.

A versatile food wine, match with herby sausages, roast chicken or wiener schnitzel.

The Hidden Sea Chardonnay (£8)

aromatic floral with musky melonskin and some sweet spices; ripe peach and apricot with butterscotch, creamy brazil nut and a hint of toasty oak; fresh and saline-mineral with good savouriness. Very well made and harmonious.

Drinks well on first pouring and further improves with aeration.

Good and Good Value.

Another versatile food wine, match the freshness to cream cheese starters, white fish or plain roast white meats.

Where next?

If you like these wines and want dive deeper into Burgundian Chardonnay, look at:

The CWB International Chardonnay-Off - Chardies from all over the world: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: The CWB International Chardonnay-Off


Note on pricing:

The Montes Chardonnay is reduced from £8 to £7 until February 1st 2022.

Hidden Sea mission:

The Hidden Sea Chardonnay is part of The Co-op's vegan range and suitable for anyone doing Veganuary.

This is their story:

We exist for socially conscious consumers who love great tasting wine, and want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. We remove and recycle 10 plastic bottles from oceans and rivers for every bottle of wine we sell.


Because we want to leave the world better than it was when we came in, and our wines carry a heritage born from the sea. 26 million years ago, South Australia’s incredible Limestone Coast was submerged by a vast ocean that was home to a thriving marine ecosystem.

A series of dramatic ice ages caused the ocean to recede, leaving the area rich with deep limestone deposits containing majestic marine fossils. Ancient mineralised relics, and an extensive museum of marine life, now lay buried beneath the alluvial soils of this World Heritage site.

One of these relics is the fossilised remains of an ancient whale which contributes to the rich, fertile soil in our vineyard. It also provides a natural and unique filtration system - perfect for growing the grapes that produce our award-winning wine.

So that’s our story.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene - The OG

Six wines from Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG

#1 child returned from university and announced she was interested in learning a bit about wine, so we started with some Prosecco lessons.

Prosecco DOC is the basic stuff, whereas the DOCG region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene is higher up the quality scale.

What is the difference between DOC and DOCG? The extra "G" stands for garantita, as if somehow the DOC classification is not quite as reliable.

In practice, it's not so much the words used as the hierarchy that matters; the DOCG is higher than DOC in the same way that an A** is higher than an A*.

Within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG classification, there are further distinctions and sub-divisions, but if you only remember one thing, it's this: look for the "G".

Pretty much all Prosecco is made by the Charmat method of fermentation in tank - this is quicker than in-bottle fermentation, meaning that the wine is less expensive to produce (and buy).

Whilst a shorter second fermentation gives less savoury complexity to the wine, the fresher flavours match better with the local cichetti.

Moreover, the second fermentation is only part of the equation, the part that makes the bubbles. Fruit selection and ripeness, blending and the initial vinification all play a part in the overall quality of the final wine.

However, it seems not everyone has gotten the DOCG memo; expat winemaker Jonathan Hesford wondered what there is to learn in a Prosecco lesson, while wine-writer Jamie Goode referred to Prosecco as "cheap plonk", albeit later explaining he was joking and had actually recommended one in his newspaper column.

BORGO COL Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut Rive di Follina 2020 (Looking for importer)

a steely rive wine: extra Brut

very small producer, just 9ha biscuity with citrus, white stone fruits and brioche; supple, rounded and elegant with orchard fruits


ADAMI Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut Rive di Farra di Soligo “Col Credas” 2019 (Astrum Wine Cellars)

extra Brut rive wine

family producer, from a stony, breezy area white flowers with brioche, gingerbread and sea-spray; sappy white stone fruit, conference pear and green apple; fresh and tangy with persistent saline-minerality.


CARPENÉ MALVOLTI Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza 2020

delicate, floral and herbal; green apple and orchard fruits with fresh citrus and some brioche complexity; subtle and sensitive with a gentle mousse and acidity


These four wines were all non-rive assemblages with a soft broadness

MALIBRAN Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut “Ruio” 2020 (Vinhuset Nofra)

from gentle, rolling hills, single-vineyard wine

broad with an almost exotic fruit character, almost peachy roundedness, salty; a classic Conegliano style, plumper and more mouthfilling

IL COLLE Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Millesimato 2020 (Looking for importer)

family company dating back to Venetian traders, organically-farmed and uses a cut-the-cordon method for on-the-vine passito character

orchard fruit and melonskin; plush, broad and peachy with tropical citrussy freshness; aromatic, floral and tropical with pear fruit; clean, precise and very elegant.


BORTOLIN FRATELLI Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry “Rù” Millesimato 2020

18g/l of residual sugar with fruit from both Conegliano and Valdobbiadene

delicately floral with camomile; white stone fruits and orchard fruit; weighty and saline, fresh and citrussy; finishes dry and mineral


Will match with slightly richer foods than the lighter, drier wines; think creamy risotto, soft white cheeses or mushroom-and-cream pasta.