Tesco Simply wines are simply what they say on the vin

Tesco's Simply wines: Tesco Simply Chianti wine

We all have our eyes peeled for a bargain, but when it comes to wine, it’s a gamble buying a bottle for under a fiver. But to be honest a fiver is sometimes all we want to spend.

The Tesco Simply wines range has a selection of well over 20 wines in the range covering all wine styles, and many of them are under a fiver.  I’ve often perused them, picked them up, read the labels, put them down. Finally, this week I’ve tried a handful.

Tesco Simply Merlot wine review
Tesco Simply Merlot

Simply Merlot (£4.20) is a shout-at-the-TV-why-am-I-watching-X-Factor wine which was pleasant enough with aromas of fresh plums and a silky sip of red cherries. It’s not outstanding, but it’s a reliable merlot which ticks you over on a Saturday evening.

Tesco Simply Chianti wine review
Tesco Simply Chianti

Simply Chianti (£4.89) is a blend of sangiovese grapes  with other red varieties from the hills of Tuscany in Italy.  I glugged this into a glass jug a few hours before we tried it with Sunday lunch.

If you don’t own a decanter, try a simple trick of pouring the wine out of the bottle, into the ugliest jug you own, then back again into the bottle with a steady hand (and a funnel if you have one).  This brings the wine into contact with the air, releases the aromas and allows the flavours to develop.

Lunch had been made quickly so I could watch my footie team on a rare TV appearance.  (We lost. Badly.)  I looked to the wine for consolation. On the nose, there’s fresh and dried cherries with a hiccup of spice. To taste, acidity and a spiky tickle at the back of the throat are more prominent than the cherry fruit flavours, and it felt thin and a little “tinny”.  Sniffing this wine is more enjoyable than tasting it.

Tesco Simply chardonnay wine review
Tesco Simply chardonnay

Simply Chardonnay (£4.49). What it says on the vin … it’s simple chardonnay from California.  “Ripe pineapple and mango” the bottle declares.  I couldn’t find any … but it did have a zesty citrus finish which tempted you to have another unassuming slurp fairly quickly.

Tesco Simply sauvignon blanc wine review
Tesco Simply sauvignon blanc

Simply Sauvignon Blanc (£4.75) Sometimes sauv blanc can leap out of the glass; its aromas and flavours tackling your senses to the ground and then rolling them in a mound of freshly mown grass, your arms flailing as you try and keep hold of the glass.  Not so this wine.  A sauv blanc from Chile, it’s understated on the gooseberry and grass aromas; the acidity is fairly flighty in the mouth; but the flavours dissipate into a watery lime trickle quite quickly.

Breaking News: I thought I’d done on the Simply wines when I wandered to the wine aisle to see if another caught my fancy. Simply Malbec (£4.49) clinked home with me and I thought it the best of the lot. A midweek on-my-own bowl of spicy meatballs and pasta went down a treat with this plummy, pepper-sprinkled gluggable wine from the south of France.  Bursts of spice and fruit, decent acidity, and one I’ll buy again.

Also in my glass …. Clefs du Pontif Marsanne Viognier 2013, IGP Pays d’Oc   (£8.99 a bottle, from www.averys.com, or buy three and save £6) . A blend of marsanne (60 per cent)  and viognier (40 per cent)  from  the Languedoc. I’m a fan of both of these grapes, so when I find them together, I’m happy.

Clefs du Pontif Marsanne Viognier 2013, IGP Pays d’Oc
Clefs du Pontif Marsanne Viognier 2013, IGP Pays d’Oc

The fermented juices were aged on the lees – that’s the dead yeast –  for several months which adds a little creaminess to the blend. There’s peach and apricot lifting from the glass, and creamy apricot to taste. I expected a little more depth and zest, but still enjoyable.  

Published in the saturday extra magazine October 4  2014 

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

Sun-kissed winning wines from Languedoc-Roussillon

Vilarnau Brut Gaudi Sleeve

TO celebrate the British Open last weekend I opened some wine. That is the closest affinity I have to golf. I didn’t even have a British “open” it was a French “open” with wines from Languedoc-Roussillon.

It is the most prolific wine-making region in the world. Yes, there are some mass-produced so-what wines, but there are lots which are good value sun-in-a-bottle delights.

Sud de France Top 100 wines
Sud de France Top 100

I was interested when the good people of Sud de France Top 100 contacted me and told me about their competition which is now in its second year. The Top 100 team do exactly what it says on the tin … find 100 of the finest wines from the region.

Over 650 wines were narrowed down to 100 during a rigorous blind tasting by a UK panel of industry experts, chaired by Tim Atkin.

White wines led the way: 40% of the Top 100 were white, even though they only account for 13% of the region’s production.

Says Isabelle Kanaan from Sud de France Développement: “Languedoc-Roussillon is an extremely diverse region, with talented winemakers producing every variety of wine; but is best known for its reds.

“It is fantastic to see that the Top 100 has helped highlight the overwhelming quality of Languedoc-Roussillon white wines, which are deserving of as much praise and attention as the region’s outstanding red wines.”

So there you go. One third of the Top 100 wines are available in the UK. I tasted two of them.

Paul Mas estate Marsanne wine review
Les Domaines Paul Mas, Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013

Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013 Top 100 Awarded (Majestic wines for £8-10). These grapes are grown in rolling hills just a few miles from the Mediterranean.

I love marsanne. Some of this wine was aged in oak barrels, so what you get is lots of stone fruits on the nose, apricots, pears and some vanilla from the oak. To taste, firm, juicy and creamy stone fruits.

Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 wine review
Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012

In a higher price range is Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 Top 100 Awarded (available from Majestic wine for £20-25) from Coteaux du Languedoc la Clape. La Clape was once an island and grapes grown on the limestone here have a distinctive character.

So much care has gone into this ruby red delight; syrah, grenache and mourvedre grapes are hand-picked, fermented separately and then aged in new barrels for up to 16 months. Only the best are then blended into this wine. There are spices and dried and fresh red fruit, hints of muskiness and brittle wood. A rounded burst of spicy fruit on the palate.

Look out for the Top 100 sticker on bottles in stores near you. You can also check out more details at www.suddefrance top100.co.uk

Also in my glass … Cor blimey, we’ve had some warm weather. So I opened bubbles. First up, the most beautiful bottle I’ve seen in a long time … if you like the Catalan architect Gaudi.

You can admire lovely Gaudi-style blue and pastel swirls on the sleeve of Vilarnau Brut NV Cava (£11.49, stockists include Ocado, The Oxford Wine Company, Cambridge Wine Merchants and TheDrinkShop.com) while enjoying its all-round prettiness.

Vilarnau Brut cava review
Vilarnau Brut cava

It has apples, pears and some lemons with a steady stream of delicate bubble and is from the very reliable stable of Gonzalez Byass.

Codorníu Brut NV (RRP £9.49 at Tesco and Sainsbury’s) has its own limited edition, a gold-wrapped bottle sleeve featuring a print of Barcelona’s key landmarks. Codorníu has won several awards over the years for its cava. For under a tenner you get a fizz popping with citrus and flowers.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 26,  2014