Freixenet and Mia range looks to the younger market

Freixenet Mia Sparkling wine

I HAD a rotten day  the other day and  was in need of comfort.

I stood in a supermarket  aisle in front of something  which declared itself to be fresh and crisp. I wasn’t in the fruit and vegetable section. It also had  “sparkling”  on the label. I  certainly wasn’t near the   household cleaning  products.

Crikey no.

It goes without saying I was in the wine aisle; just as well as this column is about wine and not furniture  polish or kiwi fruit.

After some pondering my  eyes drifted towards Mia  Light & Crisp (£9.75, Asda).

It’s  a very pretty bottle, but I’m not normally  tempted by girlie things.  I  was interested because a  couple of years ago I met  the ambassador of the  Mia range, Gloria Collell, when I visited the parent company Freixenet in the heart of cava country  near Barcelona.

At that point, Gloria  had been developing two simple fruity still wines, Mia – Signature  No.1 (red, tempranillo  grapes) and Mia –  Signature No.2  (white), a  blend of  the cava grapes  macabeo, xarel-lo  and parellada.

Gloria is a stylish,  classy  woman, with  a determination  clear for all to see, but also elegantly feminine, in that effortless way of    continental ladies. Gloria developed her Mia still wines with modern women in mind, but was also staying close to her roots Freixenet Mia Sparkling wineusing Spanish grapes.

It’s difficult not to be  won over by wines when the person who has created  them  is enthusing and  tasting alongside. So I saw the sparkling  Mia  on the supermarket shelf and thought “Gloria.  What’s she up to now?” Freixenet introduced two  sparklers to the Mia range to appeal to younger wine  drinkers after research   showed a  trend for  drinks  such as fruity ciders.

There’s  two sparkling  Mia wines, Mia Light & Crisp (11.5%  abv, the one I bought) and  Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato (7% abv).   Freixenet wants them to appeal to the “young  consumer’s palate”.

So my wine. It is a blend  of  macabeo and airen –  which, believe it or not, is  the world’s most widely  planted white grape.

There’s apples and pears   on the nose,   citrus  reminiscent of a cava, and a lemon  aftertaste.

I wasn’t  blown away, but I wasn’t  disappointed.  If Freixenet have laid claim to a  particular marketplace then  I can  see girlies drinking  this Mia.

So Freixenet will  have done their job.

Gloria Collell, Mia wines
Gloria Collell, Mia wines

But I had chatted over a  fascinating  lunch with  Gloria while tasting amazing cavas with style and depth;  they are the  kind of wines I  would love Gloria to  make for me.  I am, after  all, a modern woman.   (No sniggering at the  back please.)

 Also in my glass
By contrast, a  classy Champagne, and by  further  contrast, a dull  pinot noir.

Champagne  Bruno Paillard  Brut Premier  Cuvée (RRP   £44.99, Selfridges, lokiwine.co.uk and www.spiritedwines.co.uk).   Bruno Paillard is considered by some to be “Champagne’s  best kept secret”. Only the finest  grapes (a classic blend of  pinot noir,  pinot meunier   and chardonnay)  are  selected. Brioche on the  nose, but with an understated  subtle  elegance; think Audrey  Hepburn. A fizz which fizzed longer than most and  apples to taste, cut through  with some minerality.

Morrisons Pinot Noir (£4.99) Sometimes I wonder if it’s  me. Described as  “brimming with fresh  raspberry and cherry  flavours” I found this  thin  on the fruit and dry and  dull on the palate, with not much of an after-taste.

If it is me, then by all  means let me know.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 5, 2014

Rioja wine, its a glorious taste of Spain

Marqués de Griñón Tempranillo 2010

THE sun surprisingly came out at the weekend and so did the Rioja. I blinked and the sun was still there … if only I could say the same about the Rioja.

A glorious taste of Spain; the signature red wine of the country. It is so elevated that Rioja was the first wine to be granted the superior Spanish classification status.

The Spanish DO (Denominación de Origen) system is the equivalent of the French AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) – but there is a higher status in Spain, DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada).

Rioja was granted the status when it was first introduced in 1991, due to the region’s record in consistently producing top-quality wines.

The Rioja wine region lies in the north of Spain and takes its name from the Rio (river) Oja.

It is divided into three regions: Rioja Alta (concentrated fruity, velvety wines), Rioja Alavesa (firm character) and Rioja Baja (best for blending).

Rioja has a varied range of soil and topographical features. The Cantabrian Mountains provide shelter from the influences of the Atlantic Ocean, but also protect the vineyards from severe winds. Temperatures vary as do the soils, ranging from chalk to iron, limestone and clay.

Now it doesn’t seem as simple to say a glass of Rioja does it! All the taste permutations of soil, air, wind, mountains and varied temperatures combine into this taste of summer; the memory of a Spanish holiday or tapas treat.

A wine which is young and fruity, or aged and velvety.

Tempranillo is the signature grape and occupies more than 75% of the region’s vineyards.

Yes, it is joined along the journey in blends, but it is the thin-skinned tempranillo grape (meaning ‘little early one’ as it ripens two weeks before garnacha) which thrives on the clay and limestone-based soils of the best vineyard sites.

It is often blended with garnacha which brings along spicy body and high alcohol.

Other grape varieties which find their way into Rioja can be mazuelo (also known as carignan) for colour, tannin and aging and graciano (morrastel) for fresh flavour and aroma. Cabernet Sauvignon peeks in now and again.Marqués de Griñón Alea Tempranillo 2010

But the mainstay of a tasty Rioja is its oak aging. Time in an American oak barrel adds the yumminess that is coconut and vanilla.

Rioja can appear in four styles.

Joven: Wines in their first or second year which keep their fresh fruitiness. Crianza which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in casks. Reserva: Selected wines of the best vintages that have been aged for a minimum of three years, with at least one in casks. Finally, Gran Reserva which have spent at least two years in oak casks and three in the bottle.

Back to my north Liverpool garden and the surprise, the sun, the wine.

Beronia Tempranillo Rioja Especial 2010 (£11.99, from Waitrose and selected independents. Bronze at the 2012 Decanter awards) This was smoky, chewy liquorice to taste with mocha, chocolate and vanilla on the nose. Deep, deep red and incredibly moreish.

Marqués de Griñón Alea Tempranillo 2010 (£6.99, Tesco, Morrisons). From the Rioja Alta region, this wine had smoky red fruits on the nose; but a little spicy harshness which could do well with maturing.

Altos de la Guardia Tempranillo 2008 (£8.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) A delight? I think so. Winner of a silver at the 2011 International Wine Challenge. Silky, spicy, autumn plum sunshine and an oaky nuttiness.

First published in the Liverpool Post, September 6th 2012