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The Hills are Alive with … Tasty Wines

Nicely crafted, but branded, malbec and a less well known pair of grape varieties from Southwest France lead the Top Tips parade this morning.

I was musing the other day how high ground such as mountains and wine often go together.  

Some wine areas (Italy’s Piedmont and Spain’s Somontano for instance) even suggest so in their names.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised – after all, one side of a hill offers shelter while the other can precipitate badly needed rainfall.

Both aspects are valuable to vines.

Also melting snow on big mountains is often the source of essential irrigation.

Important, too, is the big gap in day and night temperatures usually found at higher altitudes.

That is normally crucial in preserving the acidity for which many wines are noted.

It was today’s Top Tip selections that led to those peripheral thoughts, because both are relatively close to mountain ranges.

For the white it is the Pyrenees while, for the red, it is of course the mighty Andes.

Enough geography for now, though, let’s examine how those wines taste.

As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.

Let’s start with the European example.

2021 Taste the Difference Jurançon Sec (£7.50 – instead of £9 until 4 June – at Sainsbury’s and 13% abv):

Wines from Southwest France made with petit manseng and gros manseng grapes would not top many people’s “most wanted” list.

However, never underestimate the region’s ability to produce attractive, floral offerings with energetic acidity and tropical fruit hints.

In this example, it delivers golden coloured wine with underlying richness and a foundation of textured greengage and red apple flavours.

Completing the picture come support from honey and peach traces enlivened by sharp grapefruit and tangerine acidity. 

And then to the red

2023 Trapiche Vineyards Malbec: (from £7.99 in Majestic and 12.5%):

Argentina’s Trapiche brand acquired a deserved reputation for impressive and reliable wines and maintained it despite the legendary Daniel Pi moving on.

Here, for instance, it offers us an entry-point malbec centred on rich cherry and plum flavours with a concluding savoury twist.

That provides a good illustration of exactly how inexpensive malbec should taste and, as a bonus, also contains fresh acidity, sage and dark chocolate touches and firm tannin.

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5 Responses

  1. Morning Brian, and as ever enlightening stuff.

    I too have a fondness for that Jurançon from Sainsbury’s especially when I’ve had it on a double dip! Terrific value for something a little off piste that has been as cheap as £5.60.

    As ever I count it as an evocation of times past when travelling south of Bordeaux in more salubrious, under-subscribed holiday destinations in Gascony, that folks might never use for holidays unless they do the car tripping-around/camping thing.

    The run through down to the Pyrenees was always a joy central, or more to the coast, and hanging a right to the west eventually along the Costa Verde and foothills of the Cantabrians had me researching what was available up on those oft’-misty slopes there, that wasn’t Rioja.

    But a most favourite location in Spain, that although nowhere near as high as the Chilean ranges that are attracting so much attention these days for grapes grown at altitude, we spent some time away from the coast of the Daurada in the north east near Tarragona driving around the Montsant and checking out where Priorat came from. Talk about high, windswept, wild and quiet!! But drop down from those hills to Vandellòs i L’Hospitalet de L’Infant on the coast and shop at the Lidl there and here was the exact same bottle of Priorat that they were selling in my local Lidl back home!! Bingo!!

    Speaking of Lidl, I’m looking forward to Thursday and what you will offer in the way of opinion on the new Wine Tour, Italian, starting this week. I see there’s a Rosso di Montefalco on offer. Hope you will comment on another, to me, evocative bottle, from south of Perugia.
    Ciao bella …

  2. Yes, it is good when Memory Lane stretches all the way to the Mediterranean. Website work permitting, I should be here on Thursday with a Lidl review but my Italian focus this time is more on the whites – and there is also a presentable Assyrtiko that I have not seen in the literature.

  3. Every 1000 feet increase in altitude reduces temperature by 2°C and increases UV solar radiation by 10%.Think of Mount Etna.
    But don’t forget the wind.Too much wind is bad for the plants,( e.g.it can make droughts worse) but good air circulation is vital for the health of the vines as good gusts can blow away pests,reduce humidity and vine diseases and by mixing the air reduce radiation frosts.It can also moderate excessive heat.
    Some winds are famous like the Cierzo wind that flows through the Ebro valley and Rioja and has generally positive effects.
    Mountain ranges usually have cleaner air and a healthier environment as they are further away from population centres.
    In fact some wineries celebrate the wind.Think of Trivento- the Three Winds.

    1. Did you know that Spain is a very high country with an average altitude of 600 metres above sea level and is second only to Switzerland in terms of Europe’s highest countries.?
      Fascinating details like this are to be found in a very recently published “Simply Spanish Wine- a practical guide for wine lovers” £12.99 paperback from Amazon by Matthew Desoutter and Ben Giddings,two British entrepreneurs who have an online business selling Spanish wines to residents in Spain.Worthy addition to the library of anyone who likes Spanish wines- cheaper Kindle version out soon.
      Their website simplyspanishwine.com contains entertaining and informative details of recommended wines.I have not been disappointed with any of their recommendations , some of which can be bought here in the U.K. in our independents,others direct from Spain.

      1. Really interesting stuff in that, and the previous, comment Paul. Thank you for providing it.

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