Mark change of seasons with springtime lamb and red wine

Piccini Orange Label Chianti review

It feels as if I’ve been waiting for Spring to spring for, well, ever since the clocks went back last autumn.

Now it’s here I’ll be greeting it with one of my favourite roast dinners,  lamb, with a glass of springtime red wine.

With Easter just around the corner next week, I’m thinking about red wine you could have with a succulent rosemary studded, or garlic infused, pinkly-tempting slice of lamb.

Whether it’s roasted or slowly braised in wine, the choice to drink with lamb has to be a red.

Aldi’s Exquisite Collection South Eastern Australia Shiraz (£5.99) scores well in the lamb taste test – it has a big fruity nose and fresh fruit flavours combined with a hint of spice and dark chocolate that red winegive it depth.

It more than holds its own against the assorted condiments – a great value wine.

By far one of the best choices for lamb has to be a Spanish rioja – or how about Minarete Ribera Del Duero, (£5.49, also Aldi) from its wine region neighbour.

Aldi is setting some terrific standards for good wines at great value, and here’s another. The vines growing the Tempranillo grape for this wine are 50 years old, and the wine is layered with cherries and red fruits.

It is soft and supple, fresh and moreish. At this price, maybe one wine bottle to braise some lamb – another to drink as you eat it? Just a thought.

To a couple of wines from the warmth of southern France, full-bodied and shouting out “spring!” from the sun-dappled rooftops. We can but dream. Chateau Sainte Eulalie, Plaisir d’Eulalie Minervois, 2011 (£8.70, www.tanners-wines.co.uk) is a blend of carignan and syrah along with fruity-rich no-holds-barred grenache. The grapes for this wine did their “growing up” on pebbly south-facing slopes in the Languedoc and jammy fruit, spicy cherries and moderately high acidity combine to say “drink me, drink me” with herb-crusted grilled lamb.Domaine de Villemajou Gérard Bertrand Corbières Boutenac review

Domaine de Villemajou Gérard Bertrand, Corbières Boutenac 2010 (Majestic, £14.99, buy two bottles, save £6 until April 29) is another sun-soaked blend of carignan, syrah and grenache and benefits from a few hours opening before reaching its drinking best. The peppery notes reminded me of a crispy, barbecued-tinged Cumberland sausage but marinaded in not-too-sweet but very fruity blackberry jam.

Work that one out.

The crispy edges of lamb, you know, the fatty scrunchy bits, and a glug of this wine. Lovely.


Also in my glass

Piccini Orange Label Chianti 2011 (RRP £7.99 at Morrisons and Sainsbury)

Piccini Orange Label Chianti wine reviewI had the simplest of suppers, pasta tossed with onion, tomatoes and freshly-torn basil.

Not exactly Masterchef but quick enough when time needs to be devoted to writing a wine column.

Traditional sangiovese and up to 5% of ciliegiolo make up the blend of this chianti which has ripe red fruit and soft tannins.

It was a decent example of chianti on its own, but raised its game with the bowl of Italian food with a sprinkling of parmesan.

It should also match well with a quickly grilled lamb cutlet.

Published in the Liverpool Post March 23, 2013 

Mother’s Day, Fairtrade and something sparklie

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner Wachau review

THAT time of year again. Mother’s Day around the corner and could that sunshine be hinting at spring in the air?

It goes without saying you should be looking to treat mum this weekend.

As it’s still Fairtrade Fortnight how about a bottle of sparklie, pink of course.

The Co-operative Fairtrade Sparkling Rosé 2012 is lively from the top to the bottom of the glass with loads of strawberry and bright summer fruits. Very drinkable.

At £6.39 (reduced from £7.99 until March 12), it’s not too expensive if little piggy banks need to share their resources for mum’s special day. Plus, communities in South Africa making this wine for the Co-op – who strongly champion Fairtrade – will benefit.

Meantime, as the sun shone this week, albeit with crispy cold edges, I was excited that Spring is only two weeks away. I already have eyes on my first wine to sip out in the garden, with or without scarf and mitts.

Contero Brachetto d'Acqui 2012 wine review
Contero Brachetto d’Acqui 2012

Contero Brachetto d’Acqui 2012 is a red Italian fizz with whispers of raspberries and black fruit running through it – a delicious wine with an “mmmmm” treat factor and an abv of just 5.5%.

It is made in Piedmonte in north Italy – also the home of Moscato d’Asti – from the black-skinned Italian grape Brachetto and is a lovely new sweet wine to discover.

The 2012 vintage has an RRP of £17.99 (£10.99 per half bottle) and can be ordered through Vinea in Liverpool (0151 707 8962) or bought online from The Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com). I would normally be dismissive of a wine with such a low abv but once tried, well, I’m glad to say I did. One glass is not enough.

Think of the treat factor then move on to the diet factor. It’s a trend that continues to grow – wines specifically made for the “low alcohol” and “diet” market. I rebel against what I see as these “contrived” wines.

McWilliams HarmonyAustralian winery McWilliam’s has launched Harmony, a range of wines at 8% and 9% abv endorsed by Weight Watchers. Both are £6.99 in Sainsbury until March 26.

If you’re a WW dieter, you’ll want to know that there’s two points per 125ml glass.

I pestered girlie friends to try Harmony Semillon Sauvignon Blanc with cynical old me. They liked it. They enjoyed its freshness but would have liked more of a fruity kick. For me, it lacked depth and finesse of flavour. But what do I know.?

Also in my glass … Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner Wachau (£7.39 at www.waitrosedirect.com until March 12). This is a gold medal winner from the 2012 International Wine Challenge when judges admired its aromas of “tea leaf” and “good depth of citrus fruit” on the palate.

I picked out pecks of liquorice and even a little aniseed from this Austrian wine.

It is one of several wines featured in Wine Relief as part of this year’s Comic Relief.

Oddbins, Laithwaite’s, Waitrose, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, Virgin Wines and Majestic are donating 10% of the retail price of selected wines to Comic Relief until Red Nose Day – that’s next Friday, March 15. Online retailer Naked Wines is donating 15%.

Wine Relief has raised over £4m since 1999. If you want to enjoy wine and help Comic Relief, check out the wine list at www.rednoseday.com

First published in the Liverpool Post on March 7 2013