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

McGuigan Frizzante sparkling wine in a glass

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

 

Sun-kissed winning wines from Languedoc-Roussillon

Vilarnau Brut Gaudi Sleeve

TO celebrate the British Open last weekend I opened some wine. That is the closest affinity I have to golf. I didn’t even have a British “open” it was a French “open” with wines from Languedoc-Roussillon.

It is the most prolific wine-making region in the world. Yes, there are some mass-produced so-what wines, but there are lots which are good value sun-in-a-bottle delights.

Sud de France Top 100 wines
Sud de France Top 100

I was interested when the good people of Sud de France Top 100 contacted me and told me about their competition which is now in its second year. The Top 100 team do exactly what it says on the tin … find 100 of the finest wines from the region.

Over 650 wines were narrowed down to 100 during a rigorous blind tasting by a UK panel of industry experts, chaired by Tim Atkin.

White wines led the way: 40% of the Top 100 were white, even though they only account for 13% of the region’s production.

Says Isabelle Kanaan from Sud de France Développement: “Languedoc-Roussillon is an extremely diverse region, with talented winemakers producing every variety of wine; but is best known for its reds.

“It is fantastic to see that the Top 100 has helped highlight the overwhelming quality of Languedoc-Roussillon white wines, which are deserving of as much praise and attention as the region’s outstanding red wines.”

So there you go. One third of the Top 100 wines are available in the UK. I tasted two of them.

Paul Mas estate Marsanne wine review
Les Domaines Paul Mas, Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013

Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013 Top 100 Awarded (Majestic wines for £8-10). These grapes are grown in rolling hills just a few miles from the Mediterranean.

I love marsanne. Some of this wine was aged in oak barrels, so what you get is lots of stone fruits on the nose, apricots, pears and some vanilla from the oak. To taste, firm, juicy and creamy stone fruits.

Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 wine review
Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012

In a higher price range is Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 Top 100 Awarded (available from Majestic wine for £20-25) from Coteaux du Languedoc la Clape. La Clape was once an island and grapes grown on the limestone here have a distinctive character.

So much care has gone into this ruby red delight; syrah, grenache and mourvedre grapes are hand-picked, fermented separately and then aged in new barrels for up to 16 months. Only the best are then blended into this wine. There are spices and dried and fresh red fruit, hints of muskiness and brittle wood. A rounded burst of spicy fruit on the palate.

Look out for the Top 100 sticker on bottles in stores near you. You can also check out more details at www.suddefrance top100.co.uk

Also in my glass … Cor blimey, we’ve had some warm weather. So I opened bubbles. First up, the most beautiful bottle I’ve seen in a long time … if you like the Catalan architect Gaudi.

You can admire lovely Gaudi-style blue and pastel swirls on the sleeve of Vilarnau Brut NV Cava (£11.49, stockists include Ocado, The Oxford Wine Company, Cambridge Wine Merchants and TheDrinkShop.com) while enjoying its all-round prettiness.

Vilarnau Brut cava review
Vilarnau Brut cava

It has apples, pears and some lemons with a steady stream of delicate bubble and is from the very reliable stable of Gonzalez Byass.

Codorníu Brut NV (RRP £9.49 at Tesco and Sainsbury’s) has its own limited edition, a gold-wrapped bottle sleeve featuring a print of Barcelona’s key landmarks. Codorníu has won several awards over the years for its cava. For under a tenner you get a fizz popping with citrus and flowers.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 26,  2014