I had a girlie night out on Saturday. It started as a girlie night in and then for a few hours it was a girlie night out and then a girlie night back in.
I’d taken some red wines as a bit of a treat; an inexpensive treat too. A couple of Aldi wines came in at less than a tenner.
My girlie friends are used to me saying, as we raise our glasses, “swirl!!!” “smell!!!” “sip!!!”. I don’t bother when we’re drinking lager, as that would just look silly.
I shouted my catchphrase on Saturday night. It was late, we’d been out, and we were back in. We swirled and sniffed. We knew we liked the wine (Aldi’s Venturer Nero D’Avola, £4.79 )and we all said “cherries”, and someone said “earthy”.
Now we’re all grown up. For five minutes we talked about the wine. Why we liked it; whether it was nicer than one we’d had last time; where it came from; what it tasted like. Would we have it again?
I couldn’t remember much than that to be honest, so I’ve reprised the evening and for less than £15 bought the Nero D’Avola again, along with Aldi’s Venturer Costiere de Nimes and Aldi’s Venturer Old Vines Garnacha. (They’re all £4.79 at the moment).
Nero D’Avola is Sicily’s signature grape. Despite upwards of 40 degree heat, the vines manage to produce grapes which deliver punchy wines. The purple labelling Aldi has clothed this wine in complement the dark red cherry aromas and dried twigs. Some menthol and green peppercorns too. (Go on, sniff. It’s a Scientific Experiment). The tannins aren’t bad. Not too dry; and the wine delivers an earthy taste with black cherries.
Costiere de Nimes is from the southern Rhône Valley. Rounded and fruity; berries and brambles sprinkled with some dried mixed herbs (metaphorically, obviously) and black pepper. It’s fruitier than the others, with the aroma of a summer pudding far away, just out of reach … you can’t grasp it but you know it’s there somewhere.
Old Vines Garnacha. Upstanding in its golden Aldi livery; like a soldier’s uniform from the High Chaparral (everyone under the age of 40 looks that one up.)
We’ve had Sicily, then France, now we have grapes from Spain; grapes grown on old vines no less. Old vines don’t produce as many grapes as in their younger days, but the fruits are more concentrated and flavour-packed.
Here we have jammy fruit … cherries and strawberries, really concentrated like those little cubes of jelly before they dissolve. An acidic buzz leaves your mouth watering, with just a dab of tannic dryness.
Such fun. I love my Scientific Experiments without a Petri dish in sight.
Also in my glass
This girlie, as you know, likes a sparklie and one of my favourite discoveries in recent years is brachetto d’acqui, a delightful deep pink wine from Piedmont in Italy. I’ve tried a handful of these, the latest Araldica Brachetto d’Acqui Il Cascinone 2011 (£10.99, www.virginwines.co.uk)
It’s only 5% ABV and if you don’t like wines with the slightest of sweetness, then by Jove this may not be for you.
I once went picking strawberries and managed to squash most of them on the way home. This wine reminds me of that day and the fresh fruity juice that was left.
Newly-picked strawberries, freshly squeezed. But hey… it has the extra treat of bubbles, a gentle frizz, not an extravagant sparkle. You could think Lambrusco, but this has style. I love it.
This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine September 27, 2014