Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
After a fair few food posts of late I thought it was time for some wine (isn’t it always).
As people in work know I collect wine, I often get asked to recommend wine. When this happens the first thing I always ask is “well what sort of wine do you like and normally drink?” More often then not the reply comes back “ooh I don’t really know – we usually buy a New Zealand sauvignon blanc”. When I ask why they like it, the answer is “mhmmm , well it’s quite dry” and that is it. This response always ever so slightly disheartens me, not because I don’t like NZ sauvignon blanc, but more that it seems to be the default option these days. A lot of people when they look for wine seem to go no further than the supermarket shelf with NZ sauvignon blanc on it and as a result miss out on the amazing variety of wines out there.
I suspect this is because they bought a NZ sauvignon blanc once and quite liked it. Now they don’t want to go into uncharted territory for fear of buying something they don’t like.
On the subject of NZ sauvignon blanc, whilst there are plenty of excellent examples on sale, it does seem (particularly at the lower end of the price range) to have gone down the over egging the pudding route. As was the case with Aussie chardonnay in the 90s and the obsession with overly oaked wines, some NZ sauvignon blancs seem to have gone overboard on the gooseberry hit and a less than subtle gooseberry punch on the nose is the result.
The obvious alternative to NZ sauvignon blanc is a sauvignon blanc wine from the Loire Valley and I have a particular love for pouilly fume (the late great Didier Dagueneau is probably making <a href="http://www.bbr.com/products-20585-2011-pouilly-fume-silex-didier-dagueneau" his remarkable pouilly fume Silex for the Angels as I write ). This route is, however, far to obvious and not very budget conscious as pouilly fume (especially Silex) ain’t cheap. As a result I looked further afield and to non sauvignon blanc grapes in my search for alternatives.
This was probably (along with Oddbins) the first proper wine shop I bought wine from and comes with a number of plus point over the supermarkets – these being :-
● they always have a few bottles open to try;
● their staff are generally very helpful and knowledgeable (ask them for an alternative to NZ sauvignon blanc and they will point you in the right direction);
● they usually have a very wide selection both in terms of variety, country and price (I would like to see them being a bit more adventurous re regions and Countries a la M&S mind); and
● they will carry your wine to the car, if you are a lazy bugger like me.
Price wise Majestic generally have good offers for multiple purchases at any given time, but I always view their normal not on offer prices as a bit steep. Always wise, therefore, to look for the wines on offer in my humble opinion.
Some people are put off by their mininum purchase rule of 6 bottles, but to me it is a positive boon as when Mrs. SF queries the number of bottles bought I can legitimately state I had to buy at least 6, it’s the law. Seriously though, is a trip to shop dedicated to wine to buy less than half a case really worth it? While you are there and with so many goodies on display isn’t it a shame not to get at least 6 bottles.
My search took me to the Cardiff Bay Majestic store and there I picked up two of each of the three white wines detailed below (and a few others not the subject of this post).
Picpoul de Pinet – Viillemain 2013, Coteaux de Languedoc (£8.99 – multi- buy offer of £6.74 )
Picpoul de Pinet is a wine from a appellation just a few miles inland from the French Mediterranean coast. An unexpected white in a sea of red wines in the Languedoc. Until recently it was a fairly niche wine, but in the last few years it seems to have hit the mainstream big time.
It has a nice pale yellow/lemon colour to it and on the nose it is all citrus with aromas of lemon and lime. As it sat in the glass these aromas developed into lemon sherbet. Very pleasant.
On the palate the citrus fruit theme continued with a nice zesty grapefruit flavour to the fore. Not particularly sophisticated , but all in all a nice quaffable wine which can be drunk on its own or with seafood. It would be lovely with some fresh sardines grilled on the BBQ.
I liked this wine especially at the on offer price of £6.74 (it is possibly a bit steep at the normal £8.99 price). Picpoul de Pinet wines can now be found in most high street retailers, so there really is no excuse not to give it a go.
Muscadet de Serve et Maine Sur Lie 2013, Domains de la Tourmaline (£8.49 – on offer £7.21 if buy 2 or more bottles )
From the Seventies, the French Western Loire Valley staple, Muscadet has had somewhat of a bad rap based on dull overly acidic wine drunk by people wearing cheesecloth who alternated between drinking the stuff and using it to strip paint from the walls.
Times have changed and there has been somewhat of a renaissance in Muscadet production with some really rather nice stuff out there. Generally the thing to look for is “sur lie” on the bottle, which is reference to the grape must (juice, skins and all) being left in contact with the lees (the solid non soluble bits that settle at the bottom of the barrel/tank after fermentation – think seeds, bits of skin etc.). This imparts flavour to the otherwise rather boring Melon de Bourgogne grape used in Muscadet. This one was sur lie so we were off to a good start.
In the glass it is perhaps a little lighter yellow than the picpoul de pinet.
On the nose it gives off nice aromas of sharp green apples. The apple theme continued on the palate with agreeable tangy apple, back notes of lemon and a slight prickly spritz on the tongue. Whilst it lacked the minerality and saline notes of a really good muscadet, it was a pleasant enough tipple. Drink on its own or with seafood (crustaceans – prawns on the BBQ).
As an everyday wine it is perfectly nice, although a bit pricey especially at the non offer price.
Vega de la Reina Verdejo 2013, Macques de la Concordia , Rueda £9.99 – on offer at £8.49 if buy two or more bottles)
Verdejo is the principal grape variety from the Rueda region of Spain (North West of Madrid). It is often marketed as the Spanish sauvignon blanc, so in theory an ideal replacement for the NZ stuff.
In the glass it was pale straw\lemon and on the nose it has a herbaceous character that developed into cut grass. Quite nice if a little restrained.
On the palate it was nice and lemony, with a pleasant mouth feeling quality and a good length on it. Another pleasant eminently quaffable easy drinking wine. Nice on its own and great with a paella.
All three wines would in my view make perfectly acceptable alternatives to NZ sauvingnon blanc, even if as an occasional tipple rather than permanent replacements for you sauvignon blanc lovers. Other options to consider are Grüner
Veltliner (a classic dry Austrian wine – also now made in NZ – which is an execllent food wine being very versatile in terms of the flavours it matches) or a glorious steely dry Riesling. On the latter, I would recommend Aldi’s rather good Aussie Clare Valley Riesling as a good introduction to the rather wonderful riesling. Very good value and a wine that will I am sure banish any miconceptions you may have regarding this noblest of grapes.
Would I buy any of these wines again? Yes all three are perfectly nice, easy drinking wines which hold up well against similar priced NZ sauvignon blancs. To me the pick of the bunch was the picpoul de pinet.
For those interested all three of the wines tasted are stated to be vegetarian.
So why not break free from the shackles of NZ sauvignon blanc and try these alternative and tell me what you think.
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