PETER’S CURRENT TOP 6
LAST TASTING – APRIL 2019
FINEST FRANCIACORTA EXTRA BRUT, £15.00
Italy’s flagship sparkling wine is made using the same technique as Champagne, Cremant or Cava, with the second fermentation – the process that adds those bubbles to the still wine – taking place inside a bottle, as opposed to a tank under pressure for Prosecco. Franciacorta can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Noir and local variety Erbamat, which is tipped to help the region survive climate change.
Tesco’s own-label Franciacorta is made by Sandro Cavicchioli at Castel Faglia from 100% Chardonnay. There’s a healthy intensity to the lemon, apricot and cinnamon notes on the nose, with red apple making an appearance on the palate too. It’s fresh, but with plenty of fruitiness to balance the acidity and makes for a great entry-level introduction to this under-rated region.
Nestled below the Italian lakes, the Franciacorta region is famed for its freshwater fish – and its sparkling wines are an ideal pairing.
FINEST ENGLISH WHITE, 2018, £12.00
Kudos for Tesco in going beyond English sparkling wine to join the homegrown still wine revolution too. Britain’s biggest grocer has teamed up with winemaker Richard Balfour-Lynn at top producer Hush Heath for its new English still white wine and the result is exceptional.
The blend of 33% Pinot Blanc, 33% Bacchus, 29% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir may sound on paper like it’s just what was left over at the end of the harvest, but that would be doing the resulting wine a grave disservice. If you’re into Sauvignon Blanc then you’re going to love it, with pronounced gooseberry and asparagus aromas from the Bacchus on the nose and then very ripe gooseberry joining the herbaceous flavours on the palate. Even though it’s a couple of quid more expensive, I prefer it to Aldi’s Lyme Block English still white, made by Lyme Bay down in Devon.
If you can still get your hands on any English asparagus at this end of the season then you’ve got a natural match on your hands.
TESCO AUSTRALIAN CHARDONNAY, 2018, £4.25 (Scotland: £4.69)
“South Eastern Australia” is a catch-all term for a blending zone the size of Western Europe – but with size comes consistency and this is a textbook introduction to Australian Chardonnay. It’s so competitively priced that it falls foul of Scotland’s minimum pricing rules, but don’t let that put you off.
French oak staves have been placed inside the large tanks in which the wine was made, adding a light smoky note on the nose and more of a roundness to the mouthfeel rather than any overt vanilla flavours on the palate. Instead, the dominant aromas and flavours are classic lemon and peach notes.
Throw another chook on the barbie – or use the fresh acidity as a foil for the richness of the garlic butter in your chicken kiev instead.
TESCO COTEAUX D’AIX-EN-PROVENCE, 2018, £7.00
I keep coming back to this rosé vintage after vintage because it represents such ludicrous value – and it comes in the coolest and waviest bottle you’ve ever seen. The Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence district is the most-westerly of Provence’s winemaking areas and often offers better value than the classic Coteaux de Provence.
Provence rosés are dry and light, yet this example has concentrated strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavours to balance its crisp acidity. The grapes were harvested during the coolness of the early mornings to retain freshness.
Fish or seafood would welcome this rosé’s freshness, but there’s enough structure to stand-up to some cured ham too.
FINEST MARLBOROUGH PINOT NOIR, 2018, £9.00
If you still need convincing that Pinot Noir has legs outside Burgundy then grab yourself a bottle of this pale red from Marlborough. The region may be synonymous with New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc phenomenon, but it makes respectable Pinot Noir too, even if it’s often overshadowed by more famous examples from Central Otago.
Never judge a book by its cover or a wine by its colour – the pale red hues of this Pinot Noir bely its intense red cherry and strawberry jam flavours. On the nose, it’s like sitting with a wet dog in front of the fire, with wafts of wood smoke and damp hair.
I love Pinot Noir’s versatility – from soft fillet steak to meaty fish wrapped in Parma ham, its freshness means it can handle a wide range of foods.
FINEST MEDOC, 2016, £9.00
Bargain-basement Bordeaux is seldom an enjoyable experience; cheap claret is often cheap for a reason, with out of kilter tannins or unripe green fruit. Yet Bordeaux is an important producer of everyday wine – a fact that’s often forgotten amid the clamour surrounding the en primeur tastings of famous first-growth reds.
Among a line-up of some forgettable claret, this blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49% Merlot stood out for me. The nose was fresher and more attractive than its stablemates, with black cherry, blackcurrant and cassis. That same concentration of black fruit flavours carried on through to the palate and was joined by sweeter vanilla notes. No dodgy tannins here, with ripeness and balance being the order of the day.
What would roast beef be like without a decent bottle of claret? An equally excellent match for stews too.