Asda’s new Wine Atlas range is ‘passport to discovery’

WIne Atlas Grillo review

I’m always urging you to step out of your wine comfort zones; why stick with the pinot grigios of this world when there are SO many delicious grapes?

Now Asda has the same message. Master of Wine Philippa Carr has created a range of 17 wines, hailed as a “passport to wine discovery”.

The retailer has launched Wine Atlas to give people the chance to discover wines from lesser known regions. It wants to target shoppers who are “wine explorers”, those “willing to give new wines a try” and people “who need some inspiration to help them branch out from their usual go-to wines”.

Top marks to the label designers. Each colourful, almost Great Gatsby-style label, represents the origin of each wine and tells the story of the grape.

It would be wrong of me to ramble on without putting my glass where my mouth is, so I’ve tried some for you.

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Wine Atlas Marsanne 2014 (£5.47)

Where’s it from? Pays d’Oc, France, right next to the Mediterranean.

There’s huddles of stone fruit and zesty citrus, delightfully fresh and a good tastebud temptress, but with feather softness.

Wine Atlas Bobal 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from?  Utiel and Requena in Valencia, in Spain.

This wine needs a good whirl in the glass to get things going. The aromas are sparky and peppery with liquorice, red fruits and mocha; but the flavours (in my humble opinion) didn’t deliver the temptations of the nose.

Wine Atlas Touraine Sauvignon 2014 (£5.97)

Where’s it from? The Loire Valley, France.

There’s no doubting this is a sauv blanc with the expected aromas of grapefruits, limes, and lemons. The flavours linger and the acidity is mouthwatering. This isn’t a rattle-your-senses head-banging New Zealand sauvignon blanc, the citrus wakes up your senses elegantly without thrashing them against the wall.

Wine Atlas Côtes De Thau 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from? It’s on the French Med again, near to the appellation of Picpoul de Pinet.

Citrus thrills and tumbles, and there’s stone fruits too, from a delightful blend of sauvignon blanc, grenache blanc and vermentino.

Wine Atlas Grillo 2014 (£4.97)

Where’s it from? A wine co-operative in Menfi, Sicily.

I passed a friend a glass. She had a think, confusion fluttered across her brow, then she said “that’s different”.

And so it is. There’s lemony citrus, but there’s dried herbs too; and some green pepper skins. Definitely worth a try for a fiver, even if it’s the second glass before you decide whether you like it.

Wine Atlas Côtes du Roussillon (£5.47)

Where’s it from? France, the foothills of the Pyranees.

A nice spicy wine, made from a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah. A trio of grapes guaranteed to give a peppery sprinkle of fruity spice, but smothered with a French suntan. Easy to drink, with an aftertaste of cherries.

Wine Atlas St Chinian 2013 (£5.97)

Where’s it from? It’s an appellation in the Languedoc in France.

Yowser. More of my favourite red grapes; grenache, carignan and syrah. They’d be the noisy, cheeky ones at the back of the class in Grape School. A ruby red wine, with memories of red fruit but a fair bit of pepper, herbs, damp leaves, and a wet hedge. You think I’m mad, but I really liked it.

All in all, give a High Five to Asda. But put your glass down first.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 4, 2015

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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 

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