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Last of the Summer Wine

A quick review of (largely Aldi) wines that either glance back at high summer or look forward to all that autumn can offer.

September sees large retailers starting to unveil the wines from their upcoming “Autumn and Winter Collections”.

So, the final week of August seems a good time for a final, lingering look back over our shoulders at wines originally introduced for summer but which can still play a role despite shortening days and falling temperatures.

Cross-over wines (suitable for both summer barbecues and heartier autumn fare) are also included.

Since many of you tell me that you like their eclectic range, the main focus today is on Aldi wines but, in case their nearest store is some distance from you, I have added a couple from other retailers.

My regular Discounter Discoveries features (that spotlight new arrivals in both Lidl and Aldi) will be back at the end of next month to showcase the latest additions to both retailers’ ranges.

As ever, bottle shots and hyperlinks are provided next to commendations where possible. 

An unusual grape variety for South Africa

To complement their long-standing success with chenin blanc, South African winemakers seem to be turning to varieties often associated with France’s Rhone Valley where those grapes produce distinctly savoury white wines.

The illustration of this point here involves grenache blanc.

Aromatic and rounded, 2020 Cambalala Grenache Blanc (£6.49 at Aldi and 13.5% abv) exhibits quince and baked apple flavours skilfully counterbalanced by generous helpings of savoury herbs and an evolving tangerine acidity with traces of lemon zest.

Dark horse of the family

Although grown in a surprisingly wide range of (largely European) countries, the white branch of the pinot family never really has a starring role anywhere.

Alsace comes closest (where it is a major component of cremant as well as appearing in still wines) but even there it still does not get the credit its weighty creaminess merits.

Textured with subtle savouriness, 2019 Pierre Jaurant Alsace Pinot Blanc (£6.49 at Aldi and 12.5%) could put that right with its greengage, pear and ripe apple flavours accompanied by nutty and tarragon components and pithy lemon acidity.

Counterintuitive but splendid

Instinct dictates that the nearer to the equator you go the more grapes ripen and the less acidity they contain – making for example, Trentino pinot grigio fresher and livelier than, say, versions from Central Italy.

However, many white wines from Sicily (less than 100 miles from North Africa, remember) seem somehow to retain much more acidity than you would expect and this vibrant Sicilian pinot grigio underlines that conclusion well.   

Sweet edged yet with a nutty, marzipan backdrop, 2020 Organic Pinot Grigio (£5.99 at Aldi and 12%) has textured red apple, melon and (especially) fresh pineapple flavours embellished with lively pink grapefruit acidity and hints of ginger and mace.

Cross-over reds

After the “Glorious Twelfth” a week or so back and other aspects of the shooting season opening over the next few weeks, it is time to look at wine for game dishes – and that points us first to Southern France.

I recently declared this 70:30 cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend as a Top Tip but am repeating the commendation here partly for completeness and partly because it’s damned good wine.

Rich and smooth, 2019 Pierre Jaurant French Coteaux de Beziers (£6.49 at Aldi and 13.5%) delivers soft cherry and bramble flavours supported by minty aromas and background touches of caramel, aniseed and tobacco with good acidity, but mild tannin.

And another from the Pierre Jaurant range

So inured are we to GSM based superstars that (outside Spain) we sometimes fail to see grenache as more than a supercharger for blends, but this offering from Languedoc illustrates why the variety is gaining a keen following as a solo performer.

Dark yet soft, 2020 Pierre Jaurant French Grenache Noir (£6.49 at Aldi and 14%) brings us smooth, medium-bodied plum and loganberry flavours complemented by suggestions of baking spice, juniper and mint with good acidity but, again, limited tannin.

And for a Southern Hemisphere option

In recent years, Aldi has sold several great value South Australian shiraz made by the region’s excellent Taylor/Wakefield operation and this 2019 option continues the trend and does so – again – at an unbelievable price.

Soft and medium bodied, 2019 Specially Selected Australian Shiraz (£5.99 at Aldi and 14.5%) provides smooth plum, black cherry and ripe raspberry flavours with gentle tannin but good acidity along with chocolate, aniseed and mint elements and a slightly tarry finish.   

And from other suppliers

I have been impressed by the 2020 chardonnay emerging from Chile and this example presses the point home well.

It neatly illustrates both the skills of winemaker Marcelo Papa and his team at Concha Y Toro and the virtues of lees stirring to add richness – and is superb value at just over £7.

Medium bodied and delightfully fresh, 2020 The Society’s Chilean Limari Chardonnay (£7.25 at The Wine Society and Chile: 13.5%) is centred around richly rounded melon and peach flavours combined with sharp green apple acidity and dashes of toffee, nuttiness and citrus peel influences.

And for just a tad more money

Let’s be clear few places (if any) produce pinot noir as good as top-level Burgundy.

However, other parts are creating great red wines from the variety that capture its major characteristics (adding their own localised twist) and achieving something Burgundy cannot – affordability.

Chile and Romania are certainly doing so but, given this example, Languedoc can be added to the list of skilled pinot noir producers creating – not rivals to Burgundy – but alternative interpretations of what the variety does well.

Light in body but with typical pinot earthiness, 2020 Paul Mas Reserve Pinot Noir (£8.75 at Morrisons and 13%) offers us raspberry and rose hip flavours coupled with little tannin but firm acidity and a cola, mushroom and beetroot background.

Drop by again for Monday’s regular post that reveals my Top Tips on sound purchases for the Bank Holiday (outside Scotland of course) and tells you what supermarket promotions are in place.

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12 Responses

  1. I’ve bought the Pierre Jaurant Alsace Pinot Blanc a number of times. Such great value and lovely, very drinkable wine (but I am an Alsace fan!) I often have it with spicy food and it goes particularly well with salmon, with some chili heat. I’ve not yet tried the Sicilian Pinot Grigio, for precisely the reason you mentioned (maybe lacking in acidity) but will give it a shot, thanks Brian.

  2. Following on from my enthusiasm the other week for the Jaurant Beziers we had a bottle the eve’ before last, here self-catering on holiday. It had been standing in a rather warm kitchen area for several hours and the first tasting didn’t deliver its best characteristics. I slipped a frozen bottle sleeve over it, put it on the table, and 30 minutes later it was back to its very best when we shared it, around 15’C. I’ve taken to doing this with almost all reds of late. If the bottles were coming out of a proper cellar I doubt this would need to do this. A personal preference of course but it does work well for us here . But I will pick up a bottle of the Sicilian organic Pinot Grigio next week, and although I am no fan of most Oz reds I’ll give that Shiraz a try if it’s as good as you say. As soon as you mention ”unbelievable price” I’m in !!!! Cheers as ever Brian ….

  3. I think you will be surprised by the vibrancy of that pinot grigio – fresh pineapple I thought. The beauty of that pinot blanc is that it has charms that will delight many people who are not (yet) Alsace fans.

  4. That’s a good tip Eddie – “room temperature” as recommended in so many books on red wine dates back to the days before widespread central heating and, consequently, can be too warm for red wines to show at their best.

  5. Lots of good ones here Brian. Tasted the Pierre Jaurant Grenache Noir recently and I must say for the price it’s excellent as is the Pinot Blanc, not tried the Coteaux de Beziers (next on my list) when I visit Aldi again, might pick up a bottle of the Shiraz as well.
    Like the sound of the Marcelo Papa Chardonnay, always impressed by his wines.

  6. Thanks Dave. As you say, Marcelo Papa has been an excellent architect of Concha Y Toro wines especially at the higher end and this great value white reflects the same skilful touch. I think the Beziers will impress you too – it adds ripeness to the qualities classic Bordeaux blends usually provide.

  7. Aldi used to do a Pinot Grigio del Veneto, organic and same labelling as the Sicilian one, which we thought was much better. By comparison we found the Sicilian one disappointing, though the switch was a few months back and I forget the precise details.

  8. Have now tried the Oz Shiraz Brian and thoroughly enjoyed it. As decent as it was I guess it’s unlikely that I’ll ever find it at a reduced/advantageous price in Aldi. OK, £5.99 is not a fortune and I bet you would tell us that in fact this Shiraz is possibly worth half as much again …. they have under-priced it! I do have a problem that involves enjoying a bottle of supermarket wine in the price range around £6 to £7, that is competing with a whole raft of other bottles, similar price, still yet to be tried, tested and hopefully enjoyed. Plenty of them at Aldi still to go at, so it’s a longer process to work through the card and then unlike finding an £8 bottle at Sainsburys/Asda/Tesco that is going to be £6 on a 25% deal … that I know I like it and will likely stock up with multiples … I can’t very often get my Aldi bottles on the same deal. Except the Beziers is down to £5.99 just now. What has disappointed me most in the last year at Aldi is losing the £4.49 Carcassonne Carrignan, that I always stocked up on, every visit, for everyday casual drinking of a superior bottle at such a value price. Rustic yes but hugely evocative.
    For me currently the Aimone at £4.99 and the Toro Loco Superior at £4.29 are about the best shelf bottles of red for under a £fiver most anywhere …. But are we not blessed being able to get such value and quality here, from all over the world, regardless a single bottle carries such a heavy duty penalty?

  9. Hi Jerry …. I remember an earlier version but still felt this one deserved the nod as it manages to deliver the acidity so many examples from elsewhere lack – which is somewhat unexpected for wine produced that far south.

  10. We certainly are blessed with great value wine available at very modest prices. Sadly, I don’t know how much longer that can last. Already I am seeing a discernible reduction in quality levels for “entry point” wine and the averages price of wine I am comfortable recommending seems likely to go up. I am planning a web post with my thoughts on why later in the year but, meanwhile, a gritting of teeth and raiding of the piggy bank may be in prospect.

  11. Ha, that might be why we weren’t so keen!
    Meantime, the Feteasca Regala Romanian white reduced to £4.79 also from Aldi (which I think you might have recommended, recently?) is absolutely superb, complex and much better than either 🙂

  12. Agree that this white is superb and well worth much more than its current Asda price. I have indeed recommended it in the past in both its Asda form and the one in the “Found” series at M&S.

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