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4+ Reasons to Leave the Sauvignon on the Shelf This Week

Words and liquid make the case for sampling the joys of riesling plus a classy Bordeaux blend from somewhere other than Bordeaux. 

Sales figures do not lie – sauvignon blanc is hugely popular in the UK.

Its merits are well documented and self-evident, but – as I regularly argue – more people should give riesling a try as a welcome change.

  • It is a more versatile grape with a wider range of flavours and aromas than sauvignon.
  • While both grapes offer high acidity, riesling’s is often the more balanced of the two.
  • And, better still, it is currently great value for money.

But, perhaps my words are insufficient, so do please consider some liquid evidence.

The featured bottle from Sainsbury’s should convince a jury of taste buds about the case for trying riesling.

Its companion red is a delightful “Bordeaux blend” – but made 7500 miles from Bordeaux.

Enjoy the way it integrates the qualities of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

To me, the result clearly does “exceed to sum of its parts”.

Adopting my traditional format, images and, where possible, hyperlinks accompany the assessments of the wines.

But let’s start with that riesling

2021 Sturmwolken Riesling (£7 – instead of £8 until 17 October – at Sainsbury’s): 

Winemaking in Germany’s Pfalz region is changing rapidly with grapes like pinot gris and, even, pinot noir now gaining traction there.

Simultaneously, the old fashioned, bland versions of the mighty riesling are being replaced by modern, attractively dry options like this.

Textured, without even a whiff of those trademark kerosene aromas, it exhibits delightfully smooth apple, melon and apricot flavours.

Its associated tongue tingling, sherbet-like prickle of lime acidity adds to the appeal and helps explain why riesling has been featured here two weeks running.

And then move to South Africa

2022 Stellenbosch Drive Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (£6.65 – instead of £7.65 until 27 October – at the Co-op): 

South Africa’s Stellenbosch region has been greatly influenced by Bordeaux winemaking techniques and the grape varieties used there.

Here is a classy Fairtrade illustration of those similarities with a lovely Bordeaux style blend – and currently at a discounted price.

Dark in colour with (classic claret) leafy aromas, it is centred around herbal damson, loganberry and bramble favours.

These are ably supported by lively acidity, carefully judged tannin and accompanying suggestions of mint, vanilla and cedar.

A Quick Word About Promotions.

I am hearing that Ocado have a “Big Wine Sale” that runs until tomorrow (17 October).

It takes the (now) customary format of “Buy 6 and get 25% off” and details can be found on this page of the retailers website.

One point to note though is that, for the first time, the promotion’s 800+ bottles include some of the M&S wines they sell – 19 of them I understand.

As ever – and I am sure Eddie is already shouting this at the screen – do check the small print before pressing that “Buy Now” button.

Where the “eyes” do not have it.

Lidl have re-introduced its Chateaux Noir experience at three different venues over November.

The start point for the experience is that what we see plays as big a part in our conclusions about wine as smell and taste do.

But, the thinking goes, some of those visual inputs are less than helpful.

They concern the familiarity of labels and how much is on price tickets or the till receipt.

Lidl research suggests, for example, that over half of UK wine drinkers prize familiarity and  “stick to what they know”.

Yet another large proportion of those drinkers default to wine “on offer”.

Equally, the same research seems to show that 1 in 4 people are convinced that better quality is usually the preserve of premium labels.

But how to tackle that?

So, Chateaux Noir strips away the visual element to concentrate exclusively on taste and smell.

Guests progress from a ‘palate cleansing tunnel’ into a blackout tasting room.

There, staff with night-vision-goggles serve a range of Lidl wines – often allowing comparisons to big brand rivals.

Finally comes the “lights up” big reveal about what you actually chose when pre-conceptions are removed.

The idea is to encourage wine drinkers to become more experimental based on the only question that really matters – “Do I like it?”.

Given their current wine range, Lidl are well placed to conduct this exercise.

MidWeekers already know from Lidl’s Wine Tour promotions, that great tasting wine is not restricted to premium brands or to hefty price tags.

So where and when?

Chateaux Noir starts in London on 10-11 November, moving to Glasgow on 17-18 November and, finally to Liverpool 24-25 November.

Its MC will be Richard Bampfield, Lidl’s resident Master of Wine.

Obviously for over-18’s only, tickets can be bought via this Eventbrite site and cost £5 plus a £1.13p booking fee.

All proceeds go to the NSPCC.

The next post (on Thursday) reveals suggestions on how to get ahead of the curve with a pair of delightful but lesser-known grape varieties.

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14 Responses

  1. Hi Brian
    Nice to see Riesling featured again we tried the Sturmwolken from Sainsbury’s last week and I agree that it is an excellent alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoyed its fresh zesty apple and stone fruit, however my partner does take issue on the kerosene aroma as she did get a whiff from our bottle. We have got the Thornicher St Michael from Lidl to try this week looking forward to that.

    Thought I would also mention the Austrian Markus Huber Gruner Veltliner also from Sainsbury’s which I definitely recommend with spicy food.

  2. Ha ha Brian … you know me too well!!! A long one here if I may be allowed.

    First off, just to say that Sainsbury’s Sturmwolken Riesling is very nice. Re-buy it when there’s a deal every time. Looking forward to having the Stellenbosch Bordeaux blend when I can easily get my hands on it at a Co Op that stocks it.

    Ocado’s online sales service is one I’ve never previously engaged with. Certain discount deals are available on many products including wine, but to start with the base price of almost all what they offer is comparatively more expensive than elsewhere.

    There seems to be some excitement in Ocado’s own promotional stuff about this ”first time” for M&S wine appearing within a 25% off, buy 6 bottles. As you say19 bottles only, so personally I’m yet to be convinced that it is in any way exciting or especially significant.

    Being pretty expensive in the grande scheme of all things retail we can do better on value shopping than using them. Reviews on exclusive looking organic beef steaks for instance, suggest they don’t impress everybody!!

    BUT … in amongst it all apart from M&S wine the 25% off deal applies to a lot more of their range and what caught my eye was they were advertising both the Romanian Zana Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc! That red has sound provenance here amongst this group and with yourself Brian. I want some!

    The base price is more than Sainsbury’s want at £8.50, but 25% off will make it £6.37. Currently Sainsbury’s is discounted from £8 to £7 for a single bottle. My Sainsbury’s still hasn’t got any Pinot Noir in stock AND doesn’t have the white at all, yet.

    Ironically Ocado are currently showing the Zana PN as out-of-stock with them too! I deduce from this its widespread popularity and quality. Hopefully I can stock-up with it at some point.

    But after making an Ocado order at the weekend for some De Kyper Apricot Brandy that WAS reasonably priced, cheaper than Amazon by nearly £4, I still probably won’t go back to them for any small saving I could even get on the Zana PN. Why?

    Well they don’t offer the online facility, as does Asda for instance, to disallow substitutions. You don’t have to accept any substitution they make, giving it back to the driver, but who wants to stand on the doorstep doing this. Certainly allowing any alternative wine selection for me on delivered orders, I just don’t do from the get-go!

    Their charging policy for plastic bags is very strange. If you get 20 items they charge 20 x 10p for the bags!! I thought bag charging was supposed to be a disincentive for ever requesting them in supermarkets? Ocado are throwing them at their customers in gay profusion.

    To get our attention they have a taster of 25% off our first order and free delivery, plus a £1.99 free exclusive Ocado tea towel or wooden mixing spoon! And yes the small print and detail again, a maximum discount of only £20 on any order but most significantly the purchase price of any alcohol in making up the order is disallowed from that deal!

    So I guess Ocado is not for me …. cheers Brian .. friends ..

  3. Hi Brian.Your comments on Riesling v Sauvignon Blanc are spot on.Riesling is so much more interesting than many ” one note” Sauvignons.I suspect a straw poll of wine writers in the press would agree.
    I am indebted to a German speaking friend who pointed out the correct pronunciation of Riesling ;which is Reece Ling- as in rhyming with Fleece.It is not RIse Ling.
    Just to show the huge range in Rieslings,I very much enjoyed the Waitrose Dr Loosen 2021 Urzinger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett with a very liver friendly 8% alcohol level,which at £15.99 is at fine wine level,but more affordable during the recent 25% off deal.

  4. Hats off to your partner, I didn’t pick up those aromas (and I was looking for them) so she must have a finely attuned sense of smell – but I think all three of us are at one about the attractive quality on display with that riesling. Thanks too for the heads up on that gruner.

  5. Thanks Dave. I will try to get more details of this to go in to Thursday’s post. Makes that riesling even more attractive, n’est-ce pas?

  6. Sadly, I suspect that the said straw poll among most UK wine drinkers will get a different result.
    Good reminder, though, about the pronunciation and about that Waitrose version. Unbelievably, it is almost 20 years since Ernst Loosen was selected as Decanter’s “Man of the Year” and his skills with riesling remain as strong as ever.

  7. The reaction to a slight kerosene smell in Riesling is interesting. Over many years attending tutored tastings, I have come to recognise that a slight petrol whiff is likely to be a good indicator of a quality Riesling, and expect it to taste good. Similarly a farmyard like nose lifts my expectation of a Burgundy/Pinot Noir. Cats’ pee a good old world style Cab Sauvignon, and raw green pepper indicative of a typical Cabernet Franc.
    Conversely, very early on in my wine enjoyment “journey”, a wine merchant passed around a glass of a corked wine. The musty smell has vividly stayed with me ever since – I can immediately detect a corked wine. And a glass with a whiff of fireworks, I have learnt, is not an interesting smell leading to pleasure, but a sign of sulphur, which may or not clear with much swirling. At a tasting of rare wines a glass of very old German Riesling was opened and poured. Within a couple of minutes the colour of the wine deepened considerably, and the nose rapidly changed from slight fruitiness to rich caramel. The wine was “dying” in front of us. So a caramel nose, when not expected, to me, indicates a dead wine.
    Perhaps I have brainwashed into thinking which smells are “good” and which are “bad”? But what I have also learnt is that a refreshing touch of , say, petrol, that lifts my heart, quite often has the complete opposite effect on my drinking companion! Each to their own, I get nauseous if I get even the fainted whiff of peanut in any food.

  8. I love Riesling but I find it a really hard sell.
    Agree with you 100% Richard, I really like that petrol aroma, and notice it much more on aged Rieslings, unfortunately, it does put lots of people off, my wife included. Same again for Barnyard, forest floor smells etc, for me good indicators for a good wine, even if it appeals less to some. Saying that there are lots of Rieslings out there, that are bright and fresh with no sign of petrol/ oiliness, but just the mention of Riesling to some conjures petrol notes, which is a shame.
    Don’t get people started on Pinotage and burnt rubber !!

  9. Terrific stuff Richard – thank you – and, as your final sentence says, reactions to different aromas is very much a personal thing. The kerosene issue is a difficult one. However much scientists tell us that it is no more than a result of riesling grapes having more carotenoids than other varieties, many people are repelled by it.
    That gives me a problem writing about a bottle of riesling. Do I mention kerosene and risk deterring folk from a well-crafted wine or do I ignore it and incur displeasure by not managing expectation.
    No easy answer to that any more than there is to the leafy vegetal aromas on Bordeaux reds – sometimes it is the precursor of a delightfully balanced option with those autumnal touches adding complexity to well-judged fruit components. At other times, it is an outrider for the excessively green wines where any fruit elements are almost completely overshadowed. Hard to tell from nose alone.

  10. We seem to be saying broadly the same thing Dave – just pressing the “send” button at the same time. As for your pinotage point, I guess that is pretty much a universal “no-no” but, happily, seems much less prevalent now than it was.

  11. Yes she has very attuned sense of smell, like you I didn’t pick it up. Great to see so many comments no doubt we will all on on the lookout for other bargain Rieslings.

  12. So it’s not just “men’s eyes” that are substandard (can never find anything, however obvious) but “men’s noses” too!

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