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Top Tips from France and California

A potential substitute for sauvignon blanc and a modestly priced Californian red win deserved accolades as today’s Top Tips.

Welcome, once more, to the choices for this week’s Top Tips – a feature that highlights wines I consider punch well above their weight for their current price.

And there is an extra post later this week with the debut appearance of the more detailed monthly posts – these lead off with the ever-popular Discounter Discoveries which, this time, focus on new arrivals or vintages at Aldi.

As for today though, my selections come from places as different as inland California and a seriously underestimated corner of France; nevertheless, I think you will enjoy them both.

Once again pictures and hyperlinks are provided to help you make sure you are buying the correct wine.

Starting with a White

2020 Plaimont Côtes de Gascogne (£5.75 – instead of £8 until 1 March at Sainsbury’s):  

Left field perhaps but anyone seeking alternatives to Kiwi sauvignon should seriously consider guys like this from Southwest France, especially when talented producers like Plaimont are involved.

Bright and dry with lots of acidity, it has delightful lemon, grapefruit, lime and crisp green apple flavours to provide everything you want from straightforward, zesty, refreshing white wine.

And heading next for a red

2020 Extra Special Zinfandel (currently £6 instead of £7 at Asda):

Californian wines from its most prestigious wine regions can be dear but, as this tasty zinfandel (primitivo in Italy) illustrates, move out to areas like Lodi, near Sacramento, and prices start to become accessible.

Medium bodied with a gentle edge of sweetness, it brings us raspberry and red plum flavours supported by good acidity and soft tannin with hints of aniseed, vanilla and butterscotch.

Two more post this week as Wednesday sees the first of the new monthly “detail” posts that consolidates popular items like Discounter Discoveries, Sunday Best and Pick of the Clicks into one post.

The usual “offers round-up” will therefore move from Thursday to Friday just for this week. I hope to catch up with you on both days.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Matt and thanks for getting in touch. As you say, it is a great wine at it current price point and so unusual to find sound Californian wine at a modest price.

  2. Hi Brian the Plaimont is an excellent choice we discovered Cotes de Gascogne whites when in France last year and found this at Sainsburys. Agree with your assessment liked it’s fresh zesty acidity but also the softer melon notes that developed when it warmed up slightly.

  3. Hello Brian. This Californian Zinfandel looks to be interesting and you have one confirming email already above. I have in all my life rarely bought a bottle of USA wine! Have I been wrong or was it always pretty good judgement to avoid the cheaper end of things they seem to identify as ”jug wine” ? If it wasn’t cheap-ish, I wouldn’t get to buy any of it to try to find something acceptable. Does any of their stuff equate directly to European style … like, is this Zinfandel actually like primitivo or do they do something different with it from the southern Italians or is the terroir so different it always comes out ”American”? Is there a Cabernet from Lodi for reasonable money you could suggest? Sorry if I’m being a bit of a pest and demanding. Best as ever …

  4. Hi Barry and good to hear from you. South West France is an underappreciated area generally but, in respect of wine, is doing great things with local grape varieties. The guys at Plaimont are especially innovative and it is well worth looking out for wines they make.

  5. Hi Eddie ….. Obviously things (including wines labelled zinfandel and primitivo) transition and (as with malbec) styles can converge as producers on different continents learn from one another. That said, I suggest that Californian versions tend to be riper, higher in alcohol and more fruit forward while Puglia versions are cheaper and often show savoury elements that are less common in the US. I hear good reports of California’s Wanted Old Vines Zinfandel (Morrisons) and Carnivor Zinfandel (Sainsbury’s) – although later vintages of the former attract less enthusiasm. As for inexpensive California cabernet, Dark Horse versions feel pretty typical of the genre.

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