OK, this Bank Holiday feels strange for a couple of reasons… It’s on a Friday rather than a Monday, and we’re in Lockdown! It doesn’t really matter to many of us what day it is, but I’m determined to make weekends great again and to sip to smile, not to drown the worries.
I’ll be honest and say sometimes I struggle with this enforced limbo. I want to be out making great telly, hosting packed-out events and making people happy, but then I remember I have my health, a great husband and family and a nice home to enjoy… So, it could be worse, and for many, it is. So, I’m happy for now to interact at a distance and give a few drink tips along the way.
Let’s start with fizz, Cava, to be exact. I’ve long been impressed by Spansh fizz and I’d, more often than not, rather sip it than I would a Prosecco. I’ve got a couple of low-priced beauties to share with you from M&S. TheirBrut Cava (M&S £6.66) has a fresh green apple nose along with woody hints. On the palate it’s zesty and mineral but with good body. Its salinity would stand up well to salty snacks like slated almonds, crisps and dips. There is also a pink version which is delightful. Rosado Cava (M&S £6.66). I love this for the price. It has redcurrants and cherries on the nose, which continues on the palate accompanied by a beautifully soft fizz. It’s gentle, fresh and fun. So, if you’ve looking for a sparkling wine that won’t break the furlough budget, then these sparklers are for you.
Next up, rosé as the sun is shining! I am often found looking at anything on the shelves other than Pinot Grigio, but having tried Finest Pinot Grigio Blush (Tesco, £7) I was amazed to find that it’s pretty darn good! It has a promising strawberry nose, really inviting in fact. And once I sipped, I was not disappointed. It displays redcurrants and strawberries dipped in creme fraiche. It’s really fresh and gently pink in flavour with a wonderful balsamic tang on the finish which means It’ll pair well with shellfish, cured meats, cheese and salads.
One of the biggest pink bargains out there at the moment is La Dame en Rosé (Marks & Spencer, £6) which is a salmon pink blend from Terre du Midi in France. It’s delicate and has subtle strawberry notes and is currently my go-to group Zoom call drink! And brand new from the same winemaker is La Dame en Blanc (Marks & Spencer, £6) with a lovely peachy nose. It has great texture and has hints of sun-ripened southern French stone fruit – The type you get from stalls on the side of the road on a French road trip! On the finish there’s a lemon sherbet sprinkle that makes your mouth water. It’s perfect for grilled fish and salads in the sunshine.
Another absolute bargain from M&S is Raso de la Cruz Blanco (Marks & Spencer, £6). This fun and friendly Spanish whirte from the Cariñena region reminds me of Spanish holidays, and not being worried about sipping easy-drinking wines before lunch! It has a typically unoaked, youthful nose – green melon with floral hints. On the palate, it’s lemon fresh with a sprinkle of black pepper followed by grapefruit and a preserved lemon finish. It’s beautifully rounded if not ice cold, so make sure you let it have 15 mins out of the fridge before serving.
Also, if you happen to be in M&S, they have a new wine range. They’ve unveiled fifteen new wines in their ‘This Is’ range, all available for £5 per bottle. One I wanted to draw your attention to is This is Chardonnay (M&S £5). Overall, it’s pretty tropical with a smell that reminds me of buying pineapple chunk sweets as a kid (and an adult!). It has a peachy palate full of luscious ripe and sunny orchard fruit. There’s a hint of the syrup form tinned peaches here too – and that’s not a bad thing! It’s not sweet but it has a rich texture making it great with outdoor eating, like pork chops on the barbecue or even chicken thighs with pasta.
And here’s my nod to Burgundy for this session! Finest White Burgundy 2018 (Tesco, £8.75) is lovely at the price. There’s green melon and lemon zest on the nose. It’s lean, crisp and steely mineral to taste. It’s not fruit-driven but it is fresh with an apple bite on the finish. For those who think they don’t like Chardonnay, you have to try this. It would be perfect with a quiche, homemade coleslaw at lunchtime.
And before we move on to reds, I wanted to give a shout out to the Co-Op wine range. Once again, the team are focussing on fantastic examples of decently priced wine. And at this point in our lives, when we’re looking to avoid queues in big supermarkets, many city centre branches of Co-Op have no queues, and they a decent range of wine! I often miss out Sauvignon Blanc on my posts, but as it’s British asparagus season, I wanted to mention Vergelegen Fairtrade Sauvignon Blancfrom South Africa (£10, Co-Op). It’s from one of the most prestigious wineries in South Africa and has converted to Fairtrade status as part of a collaboration with the supermarket. The wine is tropical but mineral, giving more than most Sauvignon Blancs. It’s more than just grassy. It has hints of grapefruit too. Give it a try with asparagus or char-grilled broccoli and inventive green salads.
Still on the white front, Kooliburra Australian Semillon (Aldi £5.99) is a great, low-priced example this grape if you’ve never tried it. It has an inviting smoky nose which is also a little saline. It hints at the great texture and flavour to come. Yes, it has a richness, but due to its youth, it displays a greener flavour than you’d think. It’s grassy and there are even hints of leeks in there too. Great for a barbecued chicken and salads.
In Lidl’s ‘Wine Tour’ section, there a couple of French reds that are beauties! Chateau Luc De Beaumont Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 (Lidl £6.99) has cherries and damsons on the nose. On the palate it has forest fruit with dark tanins and savoury liquorice with a saline finish. There’s also a violet haze to this wine that makes it intriguing overall.
Also, their Domaine La Couquihado Côtes du Rhône (Lidl £6.49) is a sun-filled delight. Raspberry and Liquorice on the nose which is both fresh with hints of sweetness. There’s ripe hedgerow fruit on the palate with an underlying structure thanks to a little oak. Gentle tannins and white pepper in the finish make this a fabulous wine for a Sunday roast.
And if like me, you have great memories of Portuguese holidays and would LOVE to go back for some sunshine and great wine, Co-Op have a great Portuguese wine on the shelves. Vila Real Rabelo (Co-Op, £6) is a bargain sip. It’s got a savoury edge to it, making it idea for barbecued red meat. Yes, it’s rich in blackcurrant fruit but the wine’s salinity is intriguing and makes it very food friendly. It has great structure and will warm you as the evenings cool down.
These may be odd times, with no chance to plan getaways, but be patient, sip sensibly, keep happy and stay healthy.
And raise a glass to everyone out there: The key workers, those who are furloughed, our friends and families, and most importantly, ourselves. We all need support… And a glass of something decent!
As ever, feel free to say hi back. The best way to get in contact is on Twitter or Instagram. I’m @TVSAndyClarke