Tesco wines sweep the board and win Own Label range of the year

Tesco amontillado award-winning wines 2015

It should be written in law, the Magnum Charter, that every weekend a girlie has to have a glass of bubbles. I know Prosecco is the “in thing” as far as sparklies go, but hey, a glass of Champers is still my sparkle of choice.

You can’t beat it, layers of flavours and aromas that you don’t get with a glass of simple-drinking Italian prosecco.

Tesco finest* Vintage Grand Cru Champagne (£24.99) has swept the board at the International Wine Challenge, winning both the IWC Great Value Sparkling Under £25 trophy and the IWC Great Value Champion Sparkling trophy.

It’s a delight, with fresh red apples and buttery brioche on the nose; a never-ending fizz and zesty apples to taste, with a dip of cream. It’s a blanc de blancs style, which means it is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

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The vintage champagne is just one of the Tesco wines that have led the way for the retailer this year. The IWC has awarded Tesco the title of Own Label Range of the Year to reflect that 98% of its wines won a medal in the 2015 competition. Its the fourth time in five years Tesco has won.

It would be rude of me not to try some of the other gold medal winners.

Tesco finest* special selection Amontillado (£6, 50cl) is great value for a champion sherry; it has a spicy nose of burnt sugar (think the crunch of crème brulee, but without the crème brulee), orange rind and walnuts, and to taste dried fruits with an uplifting finish. Sherry isn’t just for Christmas. Create a platter of hams, cheese, olives and pull-apart bread, sit outside and enjoy the flavours of Spain. (Once you’ve opened it, drink the sherry within seven days; don’t keep it for the carol singers).

Tesco finest* Chablis (£9.99) is a classic Chablis. Aromas of green fruits float above the wine, then to taste green apples balance on a knife edge. The soil in the region was once a seabed and fossilised oysters add a distinctive minerality which cuts through the wine and tingles the tastebuds. It also means this wine is great with seafood.

Tesco finest* Dessert Semillon (£6.79, 37.5cl) is one of my secret loves. This Australian sweet wine is a consistent winner for Tesco. Special growing conditions cause a “friendly” rot, noble rot, to change the grapes so they become raisiny on the vine. The resulting wine is, to me, one of life’s luxuries. This has citrus aromas, embraced by honey and peaches; to taste, apricots and a good burst of citrus which balances the sweetness.

Tesco finest* Sancerre (£11.99) is intense and can taste a bit too acidic if drunk on its own. But a cold, crisp glass sipped while I tucked into a plate of paella after a heavy day at work was a revelation. It had strong aromas of citrus fruit and the flavour worked well with the chicken and seafood.

Also in my glass

Some spritzy things low in price and low in alcohol. Sainsbury’s Winemakers Selection Elderflower Lime & Mint Fizz (£3, 4%abv) is a pretty mint green sparkle with a popper topper which makes it feel special. A brushed hedgerow of elderflower takes centre stage, lime adds a zesty spike, and mint finishes the flavour trio.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Perisecco® Cucumber (RRP £3.99,Tesco, 5.5%abv) is described as “delicate floral elderflower with a hint of cucumber”. Sweetness isn’t the word I’d use to describe elderflower or cucumber, but this was sweet.  Aromas of elderflower pop up but I struggled to find a hint of cucumber freshness.

Published in the saturday extra magazine August 8, 2015

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

Wine Press: Roast beef, wine and National Yorkshire Pudding Day

National Yorkshire Pudding Day wine

Who would have thought there is a day devoted to the humble yet wondrous Yorkshire Pudding. I love a Yorkshire pud, even better, I love its traditional accompaniment of beef.

So when someone told me that tomorrow, Sunday, is The Day to celebrate Yorkshire puddings (always the first Sunday in February apparently) it seemed a good enough reason to look at red wines to enjoy with beef. A tenuous link perhaps, but my brain works like that.

I cooked a beef joint in half a bottle of red with lots and lots of onion, carrots and celery. It was unctuous, slow-cooked, melting beef. I nestled the sauce in a crunchy Yorkshire (well, two actually) with the humdinger heat of a horseradish huddle spooned alongside. Now that was a challenge for any red.

I taste tested as follows. (I did two sittings to be honest. I ate beef and Yorkshire pud on two consecutive nights. That’s what I do for you.)

Extra Special Malbec 2014 (ASDA, £7) is a ruby red from Mendoza, Argentina, with 13% abv. Plums rise out of the glass, with a breeze of heather and some herbs. There’s no running away when it comes to the horseradish test; and the savoury beef and soft veg merged with the wine into a fruity, onion sweet, spice kick.

Extra Special Malbec 2014, Asda and Limestone Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Aldi
Extra Special Malbec 2014, Asda and Limestone Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Aldi

The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Cabernet Sauvignon (Aldi, £6.49, 14% abv) A deep red, so deep you can’t see your fingers through the glass. The Limestone Coast chardonnay is a winner with some of my friends, but what of the cab sav? There’s a menthol hum above the rim, with lots of squeezed blackcurrants, herbs and pepper. To taste, the dark fruits blend and melt with the beef and burst delightfully with the horseradish.

McGuigan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon
McGuigan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon

To one more cab sav, another from Australia, and McGuigan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon (RRP £8.49 Tesco, Sainsbury’s, 12.5% abv). A lighter red than the Aldi cab sav, as clasping fingers can be seen through a red haze of wine and glass. The aromas of black fruits helter skelter through upfront spicy pepper, as feminine florals float alongside. Blackcurrant bastes the beef with soft fruity notes and acidity excites with the horseradish.

Réserve des Tuguets 2010 AOC Madiran
Réserve des Tuguets 2010 AOC Madiran

Réserve des Tuguets 2010 AOC Madiran, Plaimant Producers (£11.99, Tesco) There’s three grapes here. Tannat, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc are blended in the foothills of the Pyrenees to produce this wine which won a bronze at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards. I expected oomph, a flash of French Musketeer bravado. If the previous three wines were defiant T-shirt ripped teenagers, this wine is in its twenties, quieter and wearing a three piece suit. With the beef, yes, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours are perfect; with the horseradish, it was overpowered.

Crikey. It’s a challenge to keep eating and drinking, but someone has to.

Also in my glass … Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc (sold widely, various prices, including The Wine Society £11.95, and Majestic £15.99 – £11.99 on a buy any two offer). Craggy Range won the New World Winery category at the prestigious Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Wine Star Awards a few weeks ago.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc
Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc

It’s a sauvignon blanc with a difference. Grapes have been fermented in French oak, aswell as stainless steel, and then the wine was matured for five months before bottling. There is the fresh lime citrus spike on the nose familiar to sauvignon blanc, but with a floral lift and lots of tempting tropical fruits. To taste, a meringue of limes and more tropical fruits with a creamy, and flinty, finish. Delicious.

Published in the saturday extra magazine January 31, 2015

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