THIS week I have been tasting through soft juicy reds to go with our Easter lamb – here is my pick of the top ten. It’s no surprise to see grapes like pinot noir and tempranillo featured here, as their soft, smooth palates go so well with spring lamb, but I have also included some new, surprise, finds.
Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere 2011 (£4.99, Aldi)
Well done Aldi for sourcing this very quaffable bargain. With rich berry flavours and a succulent, sweet mouthfeel, there’s plenty of fruit for your money. It’s made in Maule in southern Chile, the land of co-operatives.
Tesco own label South East Australian Shiraz 2010 (£4.59, Tesco)
I regularly match this wine against pricier shiraz – and it often fares remarkably well. It comes from the engine room of Aussie wine – the Murray-Darling basin – so nothing fancy here. I have to admit that it barely resembles a shiraz at all with its light colour and soft tannins, but it is very soft, extremely quaffable and could wow less discerning crowds.
Aurora Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (£8.99, Vinos wine shops, Edinburgh)
A surprise find. It does taste very young with vivid plummy fruits, but it has ripeness, balance and freshness – with a moderate 12 per cent alcohol. It hails from Brazil’s largest winemaker from vines grown in Serra Gaucha in the south of the country. Brazilians are fizz-mad – so there is plenty of pinot noir grown to make sparkling wine – but this shows there could be interesting potential to match Chile’s success with this grape too.
Vinalba ReservADO Malbec 2010 (£9.99 each for 2 bts, or £10.99 bt, Majestic Wine)
This must be the best-value, best-made malbec on the market. With intense plummy fruits, a fat, juicy succulent palate and a very velvety texture, this has scored highly in our tastings time after time. When people hear the price, they often gasp in amazement. Well done Vinalba – it is not surprising that this winery has been winning so many awards of late. STAR VALUE BUY
Beringer Founders Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (£8.99 each for 2 bts, or £10.99 bt, Majestic Wine)
At £8.99 this is a good buy for a Californian cab – that is if you like the lusher, fruit-forward style of cabernet with plenty of cassis and spice for your money. Most of the fruit comes from the hotter central Californian vineyards, but they add in a little north coast fruit to freshen the blend. Predominantly made from cabernet sauvignon with a little petite sirah and cabernet franc – matured for eight months in both American and French oak.
Saperavi 2009 Pheasant’s Tears (£12.49, L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline; Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk)
One of the funkiest wines I have tasted recently. The forest fruit aromas and wild savoury flavours of the saperavi grape were very well received at our recent tasting. Fermented in clay vessels lined with beeswax and buried in the earth, this wine has been made here for 8,000 years. This would be a fascinating bottle to liven up your Easter meal. Serve it to your wine-loving friends and ask them to guess its origin.
Stonier Pinot Noir 2009 (£12.99, Waitrose)
Mornington Peninsula just south of Melbourne is classy territory for pinot noir, but many wines here are getting far too expensive. Brian Stonier was one of the first to plant vines in 1978 – and the winery still makes astonishingly good value pinots. Tasted blind you would barely think it was Australian – it is more like a fine beaujolais cru with its lively delicacy and lightness of touch which is rare in Aussie pinot noir.
Rully Rouge en Guesnes 2009 Vincent Dureuil-Janthiel (£17.99, Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
For best value red burgundy, head to this charming village in the Côtes Chalonnaise. The youthful Vincent Dureuil-Janthiel uses organic and biodynamic methods to create some of Rully’s best reds and whites. A charming fruity softly tannic example of pinot noir off the beaten track.
£25 AND UNDER
Dog Point Pinot Noir 2010 (£25, WoodWinters, Bridge of Allan and Edinburgh; Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com)
An outstanding winner at our tastings – time after time this is picked as the favourite. Marlborough-based Dog Point is run by ex-colleagues who met at nearby Cloudy Bay. Always consistently good: beautifully made showing the ripe fruit forward style and sheer class of Marlborough pinot. A touch pricey, but all good New Zealand pinot is nowadays.
Bagus 2005 Bodegas Lopez Cristobal (£23.99, Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
The premium wine from a wonderful small winery in Ribera del Duero is a real find at this price. So many wines from this region are ridiculously overpriced. This is worth every penny. Warm red berry fruits, beautifully balanced soft tannins, a fine acidic thread and its velvet smooth palate makes it so moreish. If you are a rioja fan – you will love this tempranillo.