Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
To say I am a little bit obsessed with wine is a bit like saying that the Pope is a little bit Catholic or that Wayne Rooney is a tad overpaid. To this end Mrs. SF (who I am proud to say I have converted to love all things oenological in nature) has been saying when are you going to write about some wine on the blog. So, not one not to do as I am told, here it is.
I love wine. I love the variety offered by different grapes, regions and countries and even between vineyards only sometimes yards apart. l love the amazing range of tastes and smells that can be wrenched out of a humble grape. I love the process of how it is made and how doing little things differently has a massive effect on the end product. I love how a wine can change over time, be it years in the bottle , an hour after a bottle is opened or even from merely giving the glass a swirl. I doff my cap to the geniuses that make the good stuff and wish I was one of them. A good wine makes me happy, a badly made one makes me angry, as it is a sad waste of the grapes used in it.
This love of wine comes from my Father who knows more about wine in his little finger than I could ever hope to and who (with my Mother) made sure my sister and I grew up drinking first wine with water and then wine with certain meals.
As a treat to myself, a while back, I had a temperature controlled wine room (more a large cupboard really but room sounds swankier) built in the house where my babies (bottles of wine to anyone else) now slumber in peace out of the sun and at a perfect constant temperature. It is also good place to stand to cool down on a hot day 🙂
I have, however, (since I have had it and can see all the racks in it) developed a form of wine OCD (Mrs. SF calls it being anal) and can’t abide an empty hole in any rack for more than a day or so. The wine merchants and auctioneers I buy most of my wine from assure me that is perfectly normal and I shouldn’t worry about it at all!
So the other night, when I noticed a single gap in two of the racks I could not rest until they were filled.
To fill these yawning, carvenous holes (they are in my mind) entailed buying four rather than two bottles (well I have to have spares) and to this end I bought a couple of bottles from M&S (who have a interesting range of Greek, Turkish and Balkan wines at the moment – more on these in a later blog) and two from Aldi.
Many of my friends think I only buy expensive wine, but I am up for a bargain as much as anyone and wine is no exception to this. I despise badly made wine, be it cheap or expensive (particularly if it is expensive as they have no excuse), but good value, good wine I am all for.
Both Aldi and Lidl have been winning plaudits from the press for their wines. Neither seem to engage in the standard supermarket practice of saying a wine was £10 and is now only £5 (when anyone who know about wine knows full well it is and always has been no more than a £5 bottle of wine). Anyone who falls for this and thinks they are getting a bargain has, I am afraid to say, been taken for a sucker. If only for seemingly not doing this, Aldi and Lidl should be applauded.
So I took myself off to Aldi to see what was on the shelves and picked up a bottle of red and a bottle of white from their “The Exquisite Collection” Range.
Now, to me, use of terms similar to “exquisite” in any retail environment usually denotes something that will be far from it (I am thinking certain sofa companies here, where the product in question looks like I designed it using random coloured crayons, whilst blind drunk), but I have heard good things about the range so put this concern to the back of my mind.
So these are the bottles I bought and what I thought of them
Argentinian “The Exquisite Collection” Uco Valley Malbec – 2013 – £5.99
Whilst Malbec grape originated in France (where it is know as cot or auxerrois and was used in the once famous black wines of Cahors) it has really found its feet and become a star in Argentina. It is known for being a full bodied wine with sweet black fruit to the fore. When it is good it is a really good reliable wine. It goes very well with beef (the Argies know their beef), especially a nice piece of steak. This is probably why it is so popular in the UK.
In term of the Aldi example, first impressions were a bit hmmm. The colour of the wine was lighter than a lot of Malbec I have drunk, no doubt due to the high altitude of the Uco Valley, and on opening the nose was very restrained. At a push I would say there were faint aromas of blackberry, but not a lot really to excite. On tasting the wine (even using an aerator) it was very firm and taut and not very enjoyable.
There were again flavours of blackberry (but unripe and slightly bitter fruit) and some spice on the palate. It was very restrained with any flavour hard to discern. There was also a strong hit from the alcohol (it is a bruising 14%) which caught the back of the throat a bit and this overpowered any fruit flavours that had been fleetingly in evidence.
Mrs. SF hated it and I can’t say on my initial taste I was particularly keen, but I thought I would persevere and left it in the glass for a couple of hours (I doubt many people would have the patience to do this). After this time the nose was a more pronounced blackberry and it was much less disagreeable to the palate . The taste was a more riper black bramble fruit, with some sweetness. There was still an alcohol burn but is was less pronounced. It, however, still wasn’t up to that much.
I left it overnight and had a glass the next day and alas it hadn’t improve much and tasted a bit dull and flat. It might have benefited from being decanted at the start but I doubt it and I suspect not many people will be prepared to do this or open it and leave it for a couple of hours.
In summary, I wasnt that keen on this wine. It did improve with being open for a while, but still wasn’t great. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t awful and the price is pretty good at £5.99. I have, however, had much better malbecs, some of which were not that much more in price. Majestic sell Alamos Malbec (from Cantena – a very good producer) for £9.99 (and usually have offers on for it at around £7.99 mark) and I definately prefer it to this. I would pay more rather than buy this again if am honest .
Albarino Rias Baixas “The Exquisite Collection” 2013 – £5.99
Spain is known for reds and if asked most people associate Spanish wines with red from Rioja (some maybe also Ribera del Duero). As for whites, people are usually at a bit of a loss and at a push may say sherry (that great value and very underrated white wine), but otherwise are likely to be stumped. Spain does, however, have an abundance of good white such as the very trendy godello, the Basque txakoli (fabulous on a pintxos crawl in Donostia/ San Sebastian), verdejo and, of course, white rioja (such as that from Lopez de Heredia – Vina Tondonia and, my current favourite, Remelluri).
Perhaps the most well known of Spanish white (outside of Rioja) is Albarino (the wine has the same name as the grape), which comes from the Rias Baixas area (abutting the border with Portugal) of Galicia in the far North West corner of Spain. Galicia is known for its abundant seaford and Albarino is a fabulous dry white wine to drink with seafood, particularly shellfish.
Aldi’s offering is made by Martin Codax, a large but respected producer whose wines I have tasted (and mostly enjoyed) before.
On pouring the wine, it has virtual no colour (a hint of apple green maybe) and on an initial sniff there were pleasing pear aromas which intensified when the wine was given a vigorous swirl. I was thinking at this point, this is looking promising.
On my initial taste it had pleasant stone fruit flavours (apricot and peach), with a nice citrussy back note. This intensified with more slurps. It was pleasantly mouth coating and had a good length on it, meaning that the taste persisted on the palate.
It is a easy drinking dry wine and is nice on its own. It would also be great with some scallops or any seafood (bar from may be tuna). It went very well with my home smoked salmon .
As you can probably tell, I like this wine and for the price (£5.99) I think it is a bit of a steal. My usual choice of Albarino Terras Gauda is a minimum of £12 ( it is tricky to get anything up to much below the £10 mark) and whilst this is not as good as the Terras Gauda wine, it is a very enjoyable and an eminently quaffable bottle of wine . It also got a thumbs up from Mrs. SF who is quite picky in terms of the whites she drinks.
The Malbec was, for me, a bit of a dud, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the Albarino which was a very nice, easy drinking white at an excellent price for the quality it offered. I will be buying more.
Both are screw tops which shouldn’t put you off one little bit, as they are fine (if not better than cork) for wines like these that are not built/intended to age.
On the strength of the excellent Albarino I will be taking a further look at Aldi’s “The Exquisite Collection”. I have heard good things about the Gavi di Gavi.
The Albarino is not stocked in large amounts by Aldi and when it’s gone it’s gone. So best be quick if you want some.