Prosecco isn’t the only sparkling wine to get you through the summer

There’s supposed to be a Prosecco shortage heading our way this summer. Girlies everywhere are buying in bulk in a blitz mentality as their favourite sparkling wine could disappear from shelves.

But never mind Prosecco, cast your thoughts beyond its pretty, simple flavours.

There’s another Italian fizz I love much, much more than Prosecco … Franciacorta.

The wines are made in the heart of Lombardy and are produced in exactly the same way as champagne, and that’s the bit that makes it so much sexier than Prosecco.

If this was an Italian flavour footie penalty shoot-out, it would be Franciacorta 5; Prosecco nil.

Here’s one… DOCG Franciacorta Brut’Animante’ Barone Pizzini (£19.99, www.vintageroots.co.uk).

It won a gold medal at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2015 and is blended from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot bianco. It has a delightful freshness, but in surprising contrast has extra layers of complexity, a bit of toast, and a hover of honey.

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Also from Vintage Roots is another from the Barone Pizzini’s organic vineyard – DOCG Franciacorta Satèn (£23). Satèn wines must be made only from white grapes chardonnay or pinot bianco. This wine is 100% chardonnay.

It tinkled in my ear prettily (yes, I listen to wine) and brioche, hazelnuts, cut apples and a whimsy of stone fruit excited the senses.

Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer Franciacorta NV (£19.99) isn’t available in all stores, but if you see it, grab it to enjoy its green apple aromas, stone fruits and a crush of buttery biscuit base.

Have a mooch round independent wine merchants to spot a Franciacorta; one you may find is a delightful range from Bellavista (online, there are several to choose from at www.slurp.co.uk and www.thedrinkshop.com).  I’m a huge fan.

The night I drank Franciacorte with the CEO of Barone Pizzini
Silvano Brescianini from Barone Pizzini
Silvano Brescianini from Barone Pizzini

 

To a couple of sparkles new this summer. McGuigan Frizzante (on offer as I write – £19.99 for three bottles at amazon.co.uk) which  is from award-winning McGuigan Wines. The foil topper looks all set for a cork-popping … but when you remove it there’s a screwcap holding back the gentle little bubbles from south eastern Australia.

McGuigan Frizzante bottle
The McGuigan Frizzante bottle looks set to pop (or does it?)

Frizzante wines are shimmering sparklers – they’re not packed with bubbles, but they tickle and float away like a leaf on a stream. Flavour-wise, there’s soft lemon and fresh apple from the semillon grape which are very refreshing. This was a gentle first drink on a summery afternoon before I opened some cava …

… which was this one. Codorníu Cuvée Barcelona Brut (RRP £12.99, Sainsbury, Waitrose) is made in the same way as champagne but with native Spanish grapes. The bottle is as pretty as a picture (I’d like to pop a candle in it) with a golden “silk-screen printed design” which doffs a cork to Codorníu’s Art Nouveau-style winery in Barcelona.

The cava grapes have worked their magic to deliver a commended in Decanter’s 2015 awards. There’s tinned pear (you know, those really juicy ones with the syrupy juice) on the nose, with apples and cream dreaming along in the mouth.

Also in my glass …

The annual 31 Days of German Riesling promotion is in full swing this month  (www.31daysofgermanriesling.co.uk).  It is organised by Wines of Germany and is a much-deserved shop window for this wonderful German white wine.

I tried Cliffhanger Riesling 2013 (RRP £9.49, Tesco) from the steep slopes of Mosel. If it’s a barbecue you’re having then this flint-edged citrus bite of a lemon and lime wine will cut through the fattiness of a sausage.

I tried it with a “what have I got, what will I cook” mix of scrunched baked chicken, chilli and lemon-squeezed, coriander-laced couscous. Bloomin lovely.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 11, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

 

Asda’s new Wine Atlas range is ‘passport to discovery’

I’m always urging you to step out of your wine comfort zones; why stick with the pinot grigios of this world when there are SO many delicious grapes?

Now Asda has the same message. Master of Wine Philippa Carr has created a range of 17 wines, hailed as a “passport to wine discovery”.

The retailer has launched Wine Atlas to give people the chance to discover wines from lesser known regions. It wants to target shoppers who are “wine explorers”, those “willing to give new wines a try” and people “who need some inspiration to help them branch out from their usual go-to wines”.

Top marks to the label designers. Each colourful, almost Great Gatsby-style label, represents the origin of each wine and tells the story of the grape.

It would be wrong of me to ramble on without putting my glass where my mouth is, so I’ve tried some for you.

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Wine Atlas Marsanne 2014 (£5.47)

Where’s it from? Pays d’Oc, France, right next to the Mediterranean.

There’s huddles of stone fruit and zesty citrus, delightfully fresh and a good tastebud temptress, but with feather softness.

Wine Atlas Bobal 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from?  Utiel and Requena in Valencia, in Spain.

This wine needs a good whirl in the glass to get things going. The aromas are sparky and peppery with liquorice, red fruits and mocha; but the flavours (in my humble opinion) didn’t deliver the temptations of the nose.

Wine Atlas Touraine Sauvignon 2014 (£5.97)

Where’s it from? The Loire Valley, France.

There’s no doubting this is a sauv blanc with the expected aromas of grapefruits, limes, and lemons. The flavours linger and the acidity is mouthwatering. This isn’t a rattle-your-senses head-banging New Zealand sauvignon blanc, the citrus wakes up your senses elegantly without thrashing them against the wall.

Wine Atlas Côtes De Thau 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from? It’s on the French Med again, near to the appellation of Picpoul de Pinet.

Citrus thrills and tumbles, and there’s stone fruits too, from a delightful blend of sauvignon blanc, grenache blanc and vermentino.

Wine Atlas Grillo 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from? A wine co-operative in Menfi, Sicily.

I passed a friend a glass. She had a think, confusion fluttered across her brow, then she said “that’s different”.

And so it is. There’s lemony citrus, but there’s dried herbs too; and some green pepper skins. Definitely worth a try for a fiver, even if it’s the second glass before you decide whether you like it.

Wine Atlas Côtes du Roussillon (£5.47)

Where’s it from? France, the foothills of the Pyranees.

A nice spicy wine, made from a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah. A trio of grapes guaranteed to give a peppery sprinkle of fruity spice, but smothered with a French suntan. Easy to drink, with an aftertaste of cherries.

Wine Atlas St Chinian 2013 (£5.97)

Where’s it from? It’s an appellation in the Languedoc in France.

Yowser. More of my favourite red grapes; grenache, carignan and syrah. They’d be the noisy, cheeky ones at the back of the class in Grape School. A ruby red wine, with memories of red fruit but a fair bit of pepper, herbs, damp leaves, and a wet hedge. You think I’m mad, but I really liked it.

All in all, give a High Five to Asda. But put your glass down first.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 4, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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