Freixenet and Mia range looks to the younger market

Freixenet Mia Sparkling wine

I HAD a rotten day  the other day and  was in need of comfort.

I stood in a supermarket  aisle in front of something  which declared itself to be fresh and crisp. I wasn’t in the fruit and vegetable section. It also had  “sparkling”  on the label. I  certainly wasn’t near the   household cleaning  products.

Crikey no.

It goes without saying I was in the wine aisle; just as well as this column is about  wine and not furniture  polish or kiwi fruit.

After some pondering my  eyes drifted towards Mia  Light & Crisp (£9.75, Asda).

It’s  a very pretty bottle, but I’m not normally  tempted by girlie things.  I  was interested because a  couple of years ago I met  the ambassador of the  Mia range, Gloria Collell, when I visited the parent company Freixenet in the heart of cava country  near Barcelona.

At that point, Gloria  had been developing two simple fruity still wines, Mia – Signature  No.1 (red, tempranillo  grapes) and Mia –  Signature No.2  (white), a  blend of  the cava grapes  macabeo, xarel-lo  and parellada.

Gloria is a stylish,  classy  woman, with  a determination  clear for all to see, but also elegantly feminine, in that effortless way of    continental ladies. Gloria developed her Mia still wines with modern women in mind, but was also staying close to her roots Freixenet Mia Sparkling wineusing Spanish grapes.

It’s difficult not to be  won over by wines when the person who has created  them  is enthusing and  tasting alongside. So I saw the sparkling  Mia  on the supermarket shelf and thought “Gloria.  What’s she up to now?” Freixenet introduced two  sparklers to the Mia range to appeal to younger wine  drinkers after research   showed a  trend for  drinks  such as fruity ciders.

There’s  two sparkling  Mia wines,  Mia Light & Crisp (11.5%  abv, the one I bought) and  Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato (7% abv).   Freixenet wants them to appeal to the “young  consumer’s palate”.

So my wine. It is a blend  of  macabeo and airen –  which, believe it or not, is  the world’s most widely  planted white grape.

There’s apples and pears   on the nose,   citrus  reminiscent of a cava, and a lemon  aftertaste.

I wasn’t  blown away, but I wasn’t  disappointed.  If Freixenet have laid claim to a  particular marketplace then  I can  see girlies drinking  this Mia.

So Freixenet will  have done their job.

Gloria Collell, Mia wines
Gloria Collell, Mia wines

But I had chatted over a  fascinating  lunch with  Gloria while tasting amazing cavas with style and depth;  they are the  kind of wines I  would love Gloria to  make for me.  I am, after  all, a modern woman.   (No sniggering at the  back please.)

 Also in my glass
By contrast, a  classy Champagne, and by  further  contrast, a dull  pinot noir.

Champagne  Bruno Paillard  Brut Premier  Cuvée (RRP   £44.99, Selfridges,  lokiwine.co.uk  and www.spiritedwines.co.uk).   Bruno Paillard is considered by some to be “Champagne’s  best kept secret”. Only the finest  grapes (a classic blend of  pinot noir,  pinot meunier   and chardonnay)  are  selected. Brioche on the  nose, but with an understated  subtle  elegance; think Audrey  Hepburn. A fizz which fizzed longer than most and  apples to taste, cut through  with some minerality.

Morrisons Pinot Noir (£4.99) Sometimes I wonder if it’s  me. Described as  “brimming with fresh  raspberry and cherry  flavours” I found this  thin  on the fruit and dry and  dull on the palate, with not much of an after-taste.

If it is me, then by all  means let me know.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 5, 2014

Warm yourself with glugs of Spanish grenache wines

Honoro Vera wine review grenache

WELL, what a week of snow. You may have escaped it , but if you didn’t I bet you couldn’t wait to be tucked up at home in your onesie. Don’t worry, that will be our secret.

Once the door is locked fast against the cold, is there a more satisfying way of thumbing your nose to the snow and ice outside by tucking into winter warming casseroles and glugs of peppery, juicy red wines?

It wasn’t planned this way, but two wines I’ve enjoyed most with my comfort food in the past wintry days were both Spanish, with garnacha at their heart.

The grape is known as grenache in France and is mainly found in blends in the south of the country. In both countries it is seen at the heart of luscious reds, distinctive rosés and in the southern Rhone, as a key grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

I’ve warmed to this grape, native to Aragon in Spain, over the past few months. It has matador strength alcohol and dances flavour flamencos. It makes tempting, gluggable, juicy wine; but its alcohol levels can easily lead you astray. This is no subtle cool climate grape.

Wine expert Tim Atkin – often seen on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen show – ran a masterclass at a recent Three Wine Men event I attended and he described grenache as “a very old grape which loves sunshine. If it could walk it would be the first to the sunbeds”.

My first winter warmer was Honoro Vera (£14.99, Morrisons, 14.5 abv). It’s a bold rustic red from the Calatayud wine region in Zaragoza.

The tannins were soft and it tickled and teased with sparky white pepper notes and stewed plums.

Apart from anything, it had the most beautiful artwork on the label. A mysterious eye tantalised as I sipped.

The previous vintage Honoro Vera 2010 (by producer Bodegas Ateca) won gold in the International Wine Challenge Awards. The 2011 I tried was one of the best 110 wines in the 2012 Wines from Spain Awards. Judges – coincidentally Honoro Vera wineheaded by Tim Atkin – described it as a “rich red colour, meaty, spicy, with explosive bright sweet strawberry fruit”.

(You can find a full list of the Wines from Spain 2012 awards at www.winesfromspain.com)

My second Spanish warmer: Taste the Difference Priorat (Sainsbury, £10.49, 14.5 abv) is 40% syrah, 40% garnacha and 20% carignan and has powerful black fruit on the nose, and cocoa-edged vanilla. It has concentrated fruit to taste with a juicy, sultry finish.

Priorat comes from Catalunya and alongside Rioja is one of only two wine regions in Spain to hold the prestigious classification Qualified Denomination of Origin (DOCa).

Grapes grow on old vines on steep, rugged terraces in red slatey, mineral soils known as llicorella. The soil keeps the vines warm, helping grapes to ripen. The vines fight hard to seek the nutrients they need, resulting in grapes with concentrated flavours. Together with oak aging, Taste the Difference Priorat is a rich, complex wine.

Drink garnacha with big meaty dishes; braised or roast beef; especially with big bowls of casseroled lamb. Even torn chunks of rustic bread and slithers of Spanish Manchengo cheese can make an indulgent winter wine wonderland.

This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on  February 21 2013