OK, so this isn’t quite the April we planned for, right? As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, we all imagined that the life might have that warm glow we so desperately needed after the uncertainty of Brexit.
Yes, it’s hard to get our head around just how odd these times are. The scale of this global tragedy is hard to quantify, not only because we’ve never experienced anything quite like this in our lifetime, and therefore we have nothing to compare it to, but also because every day the devastation that the virus leaves in its wake grows and grows.
I feel a bit useless at the moment and I often think ‘what can I do to help others?’… It’s then that I remind myself that all I can do is to stay at home and keep my distance from other people (and believe me, as a tactile person, I find that hard!!!)
One other thing I can do is attempt to put smiles on people’s faces. I have always loved to encourage happiness and it in turn makes me feel positive too. One way I can do this is by engaging my enthusiastic palate in order to give you some suggestions for sipping from home during this odd period in history. If we’re going to have to spend a lot of time behind closed doors, let’s embrace the good times, cook some great food and open some fantastic bottles!
In this post, I’m keen to draw your attention to some widely available wines that won’t break the bank. For many of us, work has dried up or been postponed indefinitely so spending huge amounts of money isn’t a possibility. But that doesn’t mean we can’t treat ourselves to some fantastic drops. If we’re in this for the long haul – We need drinks to make us smile! And let’s celebrate the talented wine-makers of Europe as we do…
Fizz… And ish!
A quick diversion from usual proceedings to start off with as I recommend a Prosecco. “What?” I hear you cry. “Andy, you usually tell us to steer clear of supermarket Prosecco.” Yes, I do, but when one comes along that delights my palate, I have to share. Pizzolato (£10 from The Co-Op) is organic, vegan and full of classic Italian charm. Remember when Prosecco used to taste of something? Yeah, well that’s exactly what we have here! The wine has delicate fizz which is the perfect partner to the orchard fruit and peardrop flavour that this wine harbours. Perfec t for when wine-o-clock creeps ever earlier!
Also in The Co-Op’s range is Is This It? Pinot Blanc (£8) which is from Hungary and really fun. It’s not a fizzy wine as such, but there is a slight spritz to it. It’s fresh with a little peach and honeyed undertones and a mineral finish. It reminds me of Vinho Verde from Portugal. So, if you like that style, you’ll love this. Great to start off an al fresco lunch on the patio. And let’s not forget that if you are able to spend a few more pennies, Les Pionniers Non-Vintage Champagne (£19 from The Co-Op) is a bargain. It’s delicious and has soft, playful bubbles and a brioche-like flavour which make this perfect for Easter weekend.
Lidl’s spring ‘Wine Tour’ concentrates on offerings from all over Europe. (In store, these are the wines displayed in crates next to the normal wine shelf. So give them a go!) As usual, it’s an interesting mix of wines – but get in quick because when they’re gone, they’re gone!
The white wines of Northern and Central Italy are shining examples of how low-priced wines can offer so much to the drinker. Poggio Civitelle Orvietto Classico (£5.99) is from Umbria and displays a ripe orchard fruit nose. The fleshy nature of the fruit gives this wine fantastic texture and lush summery hints when tasting. This is going to be great with salads topped with oily fish like barbecued mackerel. Speaking of drinking a glass of sunshine, if you’ve never tried Italian Chardonnay, give Corte del Drago Chardonnay (£7.99) a whirl. This unoaked example from close to the Slovenian border will woo you. It’s full bodied, really fruit-driven and on the finish it has a vibrant edge to it with hints of green apple – Perfect for barbecued asparagus. My love of Italian whites continues with Sassi Del Mare Vermentino (£7.99) from Tuscany. This is a much more mineral wine than the previous two. It’s clean, it’s lean and crisp with a hint of nuttiness. If you usually go for Pinot Grigio, put it down and try this. I can’t recommend it enough as a partner in crime for you over the Easter weekend. And just to prove that it’s not just Italian whites I’m going for, Nivei Rioja Blanco (£5.99) continues my ever-growing love of white Rioja. Sometime white Rioja can be made in a rich, buttery style but this is not an oaked version, so that’s not what you’re getting here. This is melon-fresh and is vibrant and playful. If you’re putting shellfish like prawns or scallops on the barbecue or doing seafood tapas this spring, this is the sip for you.
Sticking with budget offerings, I’m really impressed with the value for money at Aldi at the moment. Here are a few that are new to their range. An easy drinking star on their shelves in my opinion is Castellore Italian Pecorino (£4.99) from Central Italy. It has a fresh nose, as if you’re standing in the vineyard taking in the fresh air wafting over the vines. There’s ripe apple and pear on the palate with balanced acidity. My tip is not to serve it ice cold. Let the flavour develop by letting it stand outside the fridge for half an hour before tasting. Believe me, it’s worth it. This would be great with barbecued chicken thighs and salads full of garden herbs. A real treat in the range is Forza Delle Natura Unfiltered Sicilian Catarratto (£4.99) from Sicily. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s cloudy – It’s supposed to be! There’s a lemony hint on the nose, not dissimilar to a blonde beer. This leads to a beautiful balanced taste, a little peachy but with a hint of that blonde beer coming through. It’s delightful. It has great texture and a saline finish. It’s not for everybody, but it’s the perfect bottle for that afternoon sunshine in the garden.
I love a bit of pink – Not just in the summer but at any time of year, but good quality low-priced pink can be hard to find… But I’m still all over the Coteauux d’Aix en Provence Rosé (£8.50 in Morrisons) with its delightful mellow strawberry charms, typical of the region. But there’s a new kid on the block. It’s Pierre Jaurant LanguedocRosé (£5.99 from Aldi) gives me exactly what I want from a rosé in springtime. It has a vibrant wild strawberry nose, and tastes of ripe summer berries on the palate with a hint of white pepper. The finish hints at a dash of sweetness. Serve it chilled down and you’ll fall for real character.
Co-Op has a couple of cracking reds that won’t break the bank. A classic red for when the days become warmer is Pinot Noir as it’s light and fruity, and can be served chilled as well. Co-Op’s Romanian Pinot Noir (£5.50) is a great example for the price. Blackcurrant and liquorice dominate here with a hint of violet on the finish. Intriguing and fun. You’ll love it!
Their Old Vine Garnacha (£5.35) has always been a favourite of mine when looking for
a low-priced red that doesn’t taste low-priced! This wine is from a co-operative in Campo de Borja and is made from 40-year-old vines. It delivers juicy dark fruit flavours with a soft texture in the mouth. It’s full on but fresh, so it’s perfect for steak and burgers on the barbecue as well as the accompanying salads.
Back on Lidl’s wine tour of Europe, and once again there are some great Italian wines on offer. From the north, Piemonte Barbera 2016 (£5.99) gives hedgerow berries on the nose which continue when you sip. The blackcurrant flavour also has hints of violet and finishes with a streak of salinity. This is a really diverse wine. Great on its own or with food. Terre Siciliane Appassite (£7.99) is a delight. This jammy little Sicilian number displays a forest fruit compote-like nose. And it’s just as juicy and sunny on the palate. It’s fun and full on, but there’s a savoury edge as it develops. If the evenings get chilly, this will give you the warm hug you need during this time of social distance!But my favourite Italian offering is Squinzano Rosso Riserva (£5.99). This amusingly named wine owes its name to a nearby town and I love it! The wine has an old school charm about it. It’s from Puglia, the heel of Italy and is made primarily from Negroamaro grapes. It’s brimming with ripe fruit but is surprisingly restrained. It has that beautiful cherry-like flavour that I associate with how wines from this area used to taste when I first realised that I liked them! There’s a herbaceous quality too which hints of the summer to come. It’s not over-jammy and finishes on a savoury note, like a little twist of freshly-ground black pepper at the end.My final offering from Lidl is a fantastic German red. Alte Vogtei Zu Ravensburg Baden Spätburgunder 2018 (£8.99) is a great example of German Pinot Noir. This wine has a slightly funky, dare I say farmyard-like smell. But don’t let my description put you off! It’s certainly not a fruit-driven or sweet on the nose. However, on the palate, it’s got a fresh, berry-like flavour. It’s light in body and has soft tannins so it could be chilled down if you fancy.
Over to Aldi again, and one of its star reds in my opinion is Baron Amarillo Spanish 80-Year-Old Vine Red Blend 2016 (£6.99). This wine is from Valencia and has an inviting spicy nose with a fresh menthol twist. The structure of this wine makes it great for roast lamb on Easter Sunday. Its gentle, spicy liquorice flavour develops into a more savoury flavour. Added to this, the wine’s structured tannins make for a really warming sip.
So, hopefully you have some reasons to kick back, forget about cleaning those cupboards and relax during lockdown. Yes, I wanted to recommend some great wines for you to drink, but most importantly, think of this post as me checking in on you.
Feel free to say hi back. The best way to get in contact is on Twitter or Instagram. I’m @TVSAndyClarke
Keep smiling, stay safe, look after each other and be happy.