A girlie night and three red Aldi wines to enjoy

Aldi Venturer range UK wine review

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.

IMG_2816I 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”.

Aldi Venturer Nero D'Avola wine review
Aldi Venturer Nero D’Avola

IMG_2816We were excited. Just a couple of years ago we’d have reached for the Robbie Williams CD after tripping over the kicked-off shoes without pausing for breath.

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.

Aldi Venturer Costieres de Nimes wine review
Aldi Venturer Costieres de Nimes

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.

Aldi Venturer Old Vines Garnacha wine review
Aldi Venturer Old Vines Garnacha

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 

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

Wine Press: Provence rosé wines … who needs excuses to perk up with a pink

Let’s talk about pinks. Yes; perhaps we associate rosé wine with summertime; but as the September weather has been a pleasant surprise we have an excuse to perk it up even more with a pink.

The lightest of light pinks are those from Provence in the south of France, a region which has a wine-making history going back to the Romans. What did the Romans ever do for us ….? I bow my head in thanks.

Rosé wines are made by crushed red grape juices sitting with the skins and the pulp. The longer the contact, the deeper the pink – it can be anything from two to 20 hours. Provence pinks look as if they have class; the Audrey Hepburn of the rosé world.

I tried three Provence rosés for our shared education, all the colour of a blushing salmon. (Can they?)

Rosé wine: Grand Cros L'Esprit de Provence Rosé 2013
Grand Cros L’Esprit de Provence Rosé 2013

Grand Cros L’Esprit de Provence Rosé 2013 (about £11 from www.thesampler.co.uk and other independents) This wine is from Côtes de Provence and is made using four grapes, grenache, syrah, rolle and cinsault.

Côtes de Provence is the largest appellation in Provence and rosé accounts for about four-fifths of the wines made here. Much of it is drunk locally in the resorts along the Mediterranean, but thankfully some of it makes its way to us.

A glassy-swirl brought aromas of raspberries and flowers, a hint of spice and a background hum of tangerine. To taste, a dabble with raspberries.

Rosé wine: Domaine des Oullières Harmonie de Provence Rosé 2013
Domaine des Oullières Harmonie de Provence Rosé 2013

Domaine des Oullières Harmonie de Provence Rosé 2013 (£10.75, Yapp Brothers, www.yapp.co.uk) is from the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, the region’s second largest appellation. It is known for the intense northern Mistral winds which cool the region.

des Oullières is a blend of grenache, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. A trio not normally known for shyness, but they are certainly blushing here. They show a feminine, gentle side to their normal forthrightness, there’s raspberries and red berries both on the nose and to taste, a fleck of a feisty freshness.

Rosé wine: Saint Andrieu L'Oratoire Rosé 2013
Saint Andrieu L’Oratoire Rosé 2013 … as Teddy looks on

To my third Provence rosé, Saint Andrieu L’Oratoire Rosé 2013 (£10.99 down from £12.99, at www.redsquirrelwine.com) from the Coteaux Varois en Provence region.

This sits between the two largest AOPs. Here’s forthright red grapes again … grenache, syrah, cinsault and carignan. Sweet red fruits on the nose but with a tiny speckle of ginger in the background. A lovely buzz of chilled fruits which are naughtily drinkable.

(You can find out more about how rosé wines are made in Provence by visiting www.vinsdeprovence.com)

Also in my glass: Two autumn wines poles apart.

Just in time for the autumn months (once they arrive) Gallo has brought out Gallo Family Vineyards Autumn Red (£6.99) which is widely available. At its heart is a spicy syrah grape from northern California. It’s a gluggable confection. Rich enough to satisfy those who like their deeper reds; and smooth and mellow for those not keen on big tannic reds. Blackberry jam and spice, I’d say.

Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 Louis Latour
Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 Louis Latour

Then to a French white – Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 Louis Latour (Majestic, where it is £9.99, and several independents.) A lovely wine in my humble opinion, but it also pleased the judges of the International Wine Challenge where it won a silver award. This is 100 per cent chardonnay and some of the wine has been aged in oak barrels. The result is apple aromas with clouds of vanilla, and a buttery, creamy, nutty apple taste which is bright and fresh at the same time.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine September 20,  2014 

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