Lidl’s French wine promotion delivers some great bargains

red wine glass

There’s a lovely lady I work with who keeps a special diary. It’s a diary of all the really really important events that take place in the country – nay, the world – at all times of the year.

She does other things too, this lady, very important things; but to me her diary is the most important thing of all.

For instance; I can tell you that recent Very Special Events included National Curry Week and Chocolate Week. It was also National Knitting Week.  If you had a celebration, I hope you  didn’t drop any stitches.

I think there should be an all-year-round event labelled Let’s Celebrate Great Wine Bargains. I’d even bake a cake.

The reason? A few weeks ago Lidl added 48 wines to its range, from across all of the classic regions of France including Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and Burgundy.

Lidl is one of the supermarket chains really upsetting the apple cart for the Big Guns at the moment, and this new range is expected to drive people even more to the stores. The French wine promotion in the UK is worth £12m and the Lidl group have sourced 5% of Bordeaux’s yield.

Lidl wines review

Lidl’s own consultant Master of Wine, Richard Bampfield, has cast his expert eyes (well, tastebuds) over the wines … and by Jimminy there’s some great bargains.

Ben Hulme, senior wine buyer, says: “We feel confident about the launch of our new French wines. We want to aim at people who have not considered us previously. The message is ‘come and a give it a try. Pick up a few bottles and see if you like them.”

I imagine you probably will. But you’ll have to be quick as the wines are available while stocks last and not all wines are available everywhere, and even if they are, there might not be alot of them. Keep an eye out nonetheless.

The best sellers, I’m told, have appeared to be Cotes de Gascogne 2013 (£4.99) Fitou AOP 2011 (£5.99) Bordeaux St Emilion AOP 2010 (£8.99) and the surprising one which is particularly popular, the Monbazillac AOC 2011 (£7.99)

 So, in my glass, three from Lidl:

Chateau Marjosse, Lidl
Bordeaux Chateau Marjosse 2012

Bordeaux Chateau Marjosse 2012 (£8.99) A fruitful deep red, the luscious-lips red of a 40s Hollywood siren. Truckles of black and red berry fruits, some spice and a mouth-watering juicy burst of acidity.

saint emilion grand cru lidl
Chateau Larcis Jaumat 2012 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Larcis Jaumat 2012 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux,  (£12.99) Loving this.  A wave of red berry fruits from the glass, rich and inviting, then a plummy depth of  raspberries and hedgerow fruits; bound up with spice, peppering away at your senses.

Domaine de Grangerie Mercurey 2012 Burgundy

Domaine de Grangerie Mercurey 2012 Burgundy (£9.99)  Medium-bodied, just like me. OK, I lied about that last bit. A tenner’s worth of smoky-edged red fruits, but lean and subtle, elegant and a little frisky on the acidity.

Back to curry and chocolate … I left you hanging there and I apologise.  Some brief wine tips on both, should the fancy take you, though not on the same plate I hope.

Chocolate: Try and match sweetness for sweetness. Avoid tannic reds … think of dessert wines. There’s some nice cheap ones, such as an orangey-flavoured Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro (chocolate and orange … yum) which is widely available for about £7.

Curry: Beer might be best, but if you are a wine freak (High Five) then a carmenere from Chile is a good bet or with a Chinese or Thai curry, try a riesling.

This first appeared in the saturday extra magazine October 18, 2014 

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Wine Press: Chenin blanc, a grape with its heart in the Old World

Langlois Brut Crémant

I’ve been tinkering with chenin blanc in the last few days. It just came over me; I thought I’d have a tinker and here we are.

I don’t mean I wanted to change the structure of its molecules, or mess with its DNA; but just, you know, tinker.

It’s another of those Old World grapes which has been adopted by the New World; in this case, South Africa excels. Wines can be still or sparkling; dry or sweet.

High acidity, lemon-laced, honeyed, leafy, stone fruits; it can appear in a range of styles, including sweet wines from chenin blanc grapes affected by noble rot.

This grape is definitely not a one-trick pony. In France its heartland is the Loire Valley, and it is here I began my tinkering.

Think of French sparklers and you probably think of Champagne. But cremant can be a delicious wine too, made using the same methods as Champagne.

As I’m a mug for a sparkler – I’ll pour sparkling wine into very large mugs indeed, if needs must – I tinkered first with Langlois Brut Crémant  (£14, which is a bend of  60% chenin blanc, 20% cabernet franc, 20% chardonnay.

Langlois Brut Cremant
Langlois Brut Cremant

Cabernet franc is a red grape; why in a white sparkling then? It plays the same part as the pinot noir grape in Champagne.

Langlois Brut Crémant
Langlois Brut Crémant

Yes a red grape is part of a Champagne blend; but without sitting in its skins to add colour, its juice is as clear as can be.  Both play a part by adding weight and texture to the final blends. This crémant  has fairy-dancing bubbles lifted up by apple aromas; the bubbles tickle in the mouth, as balanced apple and waxy lemon flavours please and tease.

Vouvray is an appellation in Touraine, at the heart of the Loire Valley; if anywhere is chenin blanc territory, this is it. Château Moncontour Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013, (M&S, £10) is a 100% chenin blanc delight. A squeezy rush of acidic lemon wrapped in apples and pears with a slice of not-too sweetness on the finish.

Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2013,
Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2013,

Also from M&S, and a New World take on chenin blanc with Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc 2013, £8.50 (100% chenin blanc). Forrester is definitely a name to trust if you’re looking for a chenin blanc from South Africa.

Forrester Vineyards 2012 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc
Forrester Vineyards 2012 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc

Apples at the height of ripeness, soft pears and hints of apricot. A short aging in French oak has added a honeyed dimension to savour. Staying with Forrester, and Forrester Vineyards 2012 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc (£11 also from

A small number of grapes used in this wine have noble rot, which leaves more concentrated sugars and giving the wine a honeyed, creamy texture. It is also aged in French oak; and matured on the lees. Layers of complexity from the careful winemaking leads to an interesting nose of pears, honey and stone fruits, bursting in the mouth with apricots and honey.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc
Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc (£30.57 for a case of three, exclusively at Amazon). The grapes are grown on vineyards exposed to fresh ocean breezes in the Western Cape. Tropical fruit excite on the nose then clean fresh lemon-cut pineapple-tinged flavours buzz through your mouth leaving a bright juicy aftertaste. Fun too, as the label depicts a rhinoceros wearing a red jumper (not a real rhino, I hasten to add).

Also in my glass … The cheerful and reliable Viña Sol 2013. This white is widely available (Sainsburys, Co-op, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Majestic, Waitrose and independents at about £7). A fresh white bite of green apples and citrus, Viña Sol is calming when you fancy a simple midweek white.

Viña Sol 2013
Viña Sol 2013

There’s a sister wine too from Torres, Viña Sol Rosé 2013 (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, Majestic, around £6.99 a bottle). A wine the colour of summer pink rose petals, with aroma clouds of both strawberry and raspberry. In this Indian summer, a late afternoon sunshine wine before the chill sets in.


This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine September 13,  2014 

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