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2 Lipsmacking Alternatives to Familiar Success Stories.

Sauvignon blanc with restraint and Rioja without aging defy conventional thinking in today’s post.

Know what to do if you want remarkable Rioja or spectacular sauvignon blanc?

Of course you do, you look for aged versions of the first and head for the southern hemisphere for the second.

Well, I have a couple of alternative plans for you today.

Normally, I accept, the face of successful Rioja you see involves smooth, complex and carefully matured red wines.

However, this post’s Top Tip red heaps praise on a youthful, light, energetic and (above all) inexpensive “Joven”.

Pursuing the same “alternatives” theme, the versions of sauvignon blanc usually featured on sites like this are from the new world.

Not today though.

The white being recommended here is from a region that does great things with sauvignon but is seldom recognised for it.

Emerging then, after a suitable drumroll, is … Bordeaux.

Enjoy both wines, they are not only tasty but also well priced.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible to help you locate the bottle in question.

Starting with that Rioja

2022 Espartero Rioja Joven (£5.50 at Asda and 14% abv.):

Not much dazzles at this price, but this is a decent lively and fruity Spanish red.

Joven (as in “juvenile”) means it is young wine and without Rioja’s usual oak maturation.

Consequently, it is less complex and smooth than, say, Crianza but compensates by being lighter and fresher. 

Understandably, then, this has relatively modest texture but still offers firm yet undemanding plum, tobacco and red cherry flavours.

Despite any lightness of body, there remain attractive nutty, clove and cocoa influences at work.

Next for that French sauvignon

2021 Taste the Difference Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc (£7 – instead of £7.50 until 15 August – at Sainsburys and 12%): 

Here is a good example of the difference between southern hemisphere sauvignon and European versions.

Generally speaking, the new world prioritises richness, fruitiness and vibrancy.

By contrast, though, this example from Bordeaux showcases balance, restraint and winemaking skills in an area where ripeness is not guaranteed.

Aromatic and soft, it exhibits nicely balanced, greengage and apple flavours with a suspicion of tropical fruit in the background.

These are built into a grassy, herbal depth and supported by just the right amount of lime acidity.

See you again on Thursday when my regular Sunday Best choice returns after its summer holiday and joins forces, once again, with suggested Friday Night Treats.

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13 Responses

  1. I am old school and like old fashioned “heavy” Rioja
    I look forward to seeing one recommended in the not too distant future Brian

    1. OK Tim., try these options:

      • 2020 Chosen By Majestic Rioja Crianza (from £7.99 at Majestic):
      • 2021 Guía Real (currently on offer at £8 with Ocado):
      • 2018 Extra Special Marques del Norte Rioja Reserva (£9 at Asda):

  2. Long may Asda throw a bottle in the mix Brian that deserves a very big thumbs up. What the regular Rioja drinkers might make of this cheap-as-chips Espartero Jovan I can’t say, but I personally think it is a natural contender for best summer BBQ drinking just now as well as making it the go-to house wine for a month or two. I was amazed at the quality against price when I opened my bottle!

    On the ”deal” front Laithwaites have a 25% off buy-6 offer, with NO delivery charge, that’s almost a unique saving for them but if I read it correctly it says it applies to new customers only!

    But I do wonder if that is exactly the case. I’ve had lots of stuff from them over the years with such a condition applying, and got it no problem. They don’t turn away business! So try with the applicable code even if you are a returning customer. It discounts for me accordingly when I try!

    I’ve always enjoyed some of their range including the Radio Times Sauvignon Blanc cases they regularly offered until a year or two ago, as well as their reds, Cabalié, Black Stump Shiraz and Il Papavero.

  3. PS … just tried again with that Laithwaites code and now it won’t work!! And to be truthful there’s a lot of stuff I used to get that’s looking a bit expensive these days … offer runs until 30/09/23!

  4. I was given a bottle of the 2021 TtD Bordeaux Blanc a few months ago, enjoyed it and thought it VG value. As you say, nicely restrained, compared with the more outgoing New World examples. Afraid to say that I had approached Bordeaux Blanc with no great enthusiasm! Subsequently I have drunk Château d’Arche, Bordeaux Blanc 2020, at £14.50 from The Wine Society. This is a step up, with Semillon in the mix, and barrel ageing. Most enjoyable, and a good alternative to oaked whites from Rioja or Burgundy. It is good to go back to areas (wrongly) considered a bit old fashioned or dull, as well as trying, say, exciting new Greek wines!

  5. As a big Rioja drinker ( Reserva & Gran Reserva mainly) I have no problem with Crianza and Joven. Not tried the Espartero yet ( worth a go at £5.50), but will definitely get a bottle soon. As Eddie says if you want something less heavy, with either a little or no oak as in this Joven, for a summer BBQ it’s probably ideal (perhaps even chill it slightly).
    White Bordeaux is a little hit or miss for me, I prefer a touch of Semillon in the mix, but I have tasted the Sainsbury’s bottle and it’s ok.
    Agree with Richard on the Greek whites, so many good ones around atm, and not just the excellent Assyrtiko’s, also worth trying some Moscofilero.

  6. Thanks Eddie …. A bit more from you on Thursday to look forward to but, gentle reader, see Eddie’s later update about delivery charges.

  7. As your last line suggests, Richard, the wine scene is indeed a rich tapestry – and a Greek white will figure in next week’s Top Tip. As for Bordeaux whites, although this one was exclusive sauvignon, it is the skilled blending that so often makes the difference. A slice of semillon and a dash of muscadelle can really elevate things nicely.

  8. Thanks Dave. As Eddie suggests, that Espartero is Rioja in its summer frock with weight dialled back without losing tempranillo’s cherry flavours. I have given Tim suggestions for sturdier versions but, I guess you know most of them. As I said to Richard, blended whites from Bordeaux can be great options with – picking up your point – semillon certainly providing useful texture.

  9. Just to mention I was brought up in a naughty way as a teenager with my grandad only ever offering me Entre-Deux-Mers .. a small glass … to accompany Sunday dinner! I still like it because of the traditional cuvee of Semillon and Sauvignon but a Bergerac Blanc that is usually the same offering can be very good value as can reds from that appellation .. just a stone’s throw east of Bordeaux.

  10. If that was the extent of your naughtiness as a teenager, you have led a pretty much unblemished life, Eddie. You make a good point about Bergerac, and it is interesting to see that the region now considers itself part of South Western France (Gascony etc) rather than as a satellite of Bordeaux. Certainty, as you indicate, their prices align more closely with SW France.

  11. Hi Brian,

    Just an update from me on a) Laithwaites 25% offer. It does work but make sure you use a new email address to get the discount. I just got a couple of cases of their La Voute Chardonnay, a cut price Meursault for £12 a bottle! Fabulous for the money, nicely integrated oak. And b) Morrisons Best Reserve and Grand Reserve Rioja’s are Baron de Ley wines at daft prices. The 2014 GR is superb.

    All the best, keep up the great work, excellent as always!


  12. Two fantastic tips Jonathon. Thanks for point them out – many MidWeekers will, I am sure, bless you for them.

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