Soave … seek out classico wines if you want the best

Tesco Finest Soave Classico Superiore review

I’M quite proud that my friends are beginning to listen to me. I know I go on about it a bit, but finally some of my pals have stopped drinking pinot grigio and are moving on to other whites.

Sauvignon blanc seems to be the fashionable choice; I’ve tempted them with viognier and picpoul de pinet; a drop of albarino and a white rioja.

One pal has said to me that she doesn’t need any frills or sophistication. As long as her wine is cold and wet that’s fine by her. Sounds like a number of towns I’ve lived in.

This week I found myself in a big supermarket chain, looking for a Soave, the Italian white. I’ll grab a bottle, I thought, while I’m here, to clink in my basket alongside the cod pieces and parsley sauce. But I couldn’t find one anywhere; wines were laid out “under £6” “under £8” and “under £10” and I thought to myself, have I got my nagging all wrong about being adventurous? Trying new wines?

Perhaps the majority of people always buy wine in their comfort zones, in the price bracket they want to afford … and as for the latter, absolutely why not. Purses and wallets aren’t fathomless pits.

But on all these price bracket shelves were the usual suspects, the pinot grigios, the chardonnays, the big brand bland conveyor belt labels. Soave can be as cheap and bland as pinot grigio, but it just wasn’t there. If I had fancied being a little adventurous in my chosen price bracket, there wasn’t anything to tempt me.

Woe, I felt, woe. I heard myself groan; though it could have been my knees.

But onwards and upwards.  I already had some Soave choices at hand. I have been “encouraged” into trying some of these wines by an Italian lady colleague, who dismayed by my nonchalant dismissal of pinot grigio and all Italian whites, implored me to try again. So here we are, and I’ll come back for more. Well, at least of the ones I tasted.

Soave is made from the garganega grape, which is grown in the Veneto region of Italy, also home to the famous red, valpolicella. It’s a white wine which, well to be honest, is produced in bulk but you should look out for those labelled as “classico” which come from the best hillside area.

 Soave Classico Leonildo Pieropan
Soave Classico Leonildo Pieropan

Pieropan is one of the better quality wineries, and Soave Classico Leonildo Pieropan (£12) is available online at The garganega grape is blended with a little Trebbiano di Soave to create a creamy mix of nuttiness, lemon bite, dry honey and some almonds. A squeaky acidic finish. (Winetrust also sells La Rocca from Pieropan, and for £25 you’re getting something with a pedigree of winning the International Trophy at International Wine Challenge for best Soave and best overall Italian White).

M&S Soave Classico 2013 review
M&S Soave Classico 2013

Over at M&S, Soave Classico 2013 ( £7.99) won a commendation at the same competition. It packs a refreshing burst of lemon into each sip, but not before you’ve aromas of peach, lemon, hints of marzipan and honey have flirted under your nose. Summer bedding flowers too. I was quite surprised I liked it so much.

Tesco Finest Soave Classico wine review
Tesco Finest Soave Classico

Finally, Tesco Finest Soave Classico Superiore (£7.99). I dipped into this expecting almonds, peach and lemons, but got so much more with a wave of honey, and on the palate richness of stone fruits and a waxy, creamy mouthfeel of more honey. Some of the wine is fermented in oak barrels, which explains the extra dimension of richness and flavour.

Also in my glass

Back to work last week after the staycation so drowned my sorrows with a weekend bubbly,   Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve (£28, John Lewis and John Lewis online). It worked.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne

I know all Champagnes are a treat, and this is in the price range where it borders on becoming a special occasion treat, but it’s worth it. A sweet apple crumble nose, with sprightly apple and lemon flavours twinkling and skipping in the mouth, but at the same time the wine is gentle, soft and silky like a puppy dog’s ears. I don’t know why I say such things either.

First published in the saturday extra magazine August 30,  2014 

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Wine Press: National Burger Day and red wines to disguise disasters

National Burger Day red wines

I MADE burgers the other day. I needed burgers for the barbie. There weren’t any in the shops. I could have flattened meatballs, but I felt sorry for them, sitting there pert and plump and perfect and expectant. I would have felt like I’d squashed a fly.

So I made some. Perfect timing too, as this coming Wednesday, t’internet tells me, is National Burger Day. (Not for the first time, I’m in fashion. I was the first in my class to get a Bay City Rollers scarf.)

I was fine making the burgers, cooking them on the new-fangled barbie kettle thing was, shall we say, frazzling.

If you want to follow my burger barbie trend I suggest you choose wines with a smoky overtone and a spicy “bite”.

The SPAR Rioja La Catedral (£5.59) won a Silver Outstanding Award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition a few weeks ago. Its intense red berries firmly flamenco with a burger no matter how burned it is. (I should know).

Over at the Co-op, some red deals this month should add spark to your sparks.

Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva 2009 (£7.99, was £10.99). Another award-winner. It picked up a bronze at this year’s Decanter awards, where judges described it as having a “voluptuous nose of raspberry, redcurrant and plum with a hint of earthiness and sweet spice”. You know that really tomatoey and spicy jalapeno pickle you can get? Gives a kiss of life to a black-rimmed burger, and partners with this rioja perfectly. American oak in the ageing process has added coconut and toffee aromas to this lovely Spanish wine. Olè.

National Burger Day: Co-op Châteauneuf du Pape
Co-op Châteauneuf du Pape

The Co-operative Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (£12.99, was £15.99). Four grapes make up this blend; grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault and the Co-op has sourced the wine from the cellars of Clos de l’Oratoire des Pape (I found a bottle online at Sainsbury’s for £20.25). The Co-op’s offering is a fruity punch of a wine with cherries and blackberries sprinkled with pepper which drinks well on its own, let alone beefed up with burgers.

wines and burgers
Château Sainte Marthe 2012

A final red Co-op thought; Château Sainte Marthe 2012 (£5.99 from £7.99) a blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre with syrah as the dominant partner. Blackberries and a savoury tone of mushrooms and woodiness greet your nose in the glass, with a dry tongue-tip finish clothed in more blackberries.

A big bolshie pairing with any burger would be an Aussie shiraz and one to glug into my glass has been The Pullhams Bin 22 Barossa Valley Shiraz (£12.99, from Virgin Wines. Though as I write I’ve spotted that it is now £9.74 a bottle). I didn’t mention the charcoaled chipolatas I served up with my burgers. Well, the Bin 22 saved my shame.

National Burger Day: The Pullhams Bin 22 Barossa Valley Shiraz, Virgin Wines
The Pullhams Bin 22 Barossa Valley Shiraz

The Virgin marketing types say it is “bonza with charred steak”. Deep red, the boxing ring flavours deliver a punch of black cherries and plums while some fancy delicate footwork flirts with grass verge herbs.

For all of the above, substitute a nice Sunday roast for burned burgers. Might be best.

Also in my glass …. Edna Valley Vineyard 2012 Central Coast Chardonnay and Edna Valley Vineyard 2012 Central Coast Pinot Noir, both at Majestic, £11.99, or £8.99 each when you buy two, until September 1.

A brother and sister from a winery in the San Luis Obispo county, California, the pinot noir is graceful with cherries and a peck of earthy pepper providing a gentle red embrace to a Friday night steak with a knife-smear of French mustard. The chardonnay is a greengrocer’s shelf of fruit with a good bite of acidity to excite those tastebuds.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine August 23,  2014 

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