I couldn’t write a wine blog this week without first mentioning the serious fires that have affected Napa, Sonoma and other areas of California. I’m sure all readers will join with me in sending support and sympathy to all of those affected by the tragic events.
On a happier note, if you took one message from my last blog, “The Price of Wine”, it was probably that you should avoid any bottle selling at £5.58 or less. However, the wine world is not quite that simple as that, as a tasting I went to earlier this week, organised by the Bristol Tasting Circle, showed.
Our speaker was Master of Wine, Ed Adams, a consultant for discount retailer, Lidl who brought along a selection of their wines for us to taste including a very quaffable juicy Malbec for a mere £4.99 and a crisp, tangy Gavi for just 50p more. So, were these wines lucky flukes or is there some other explanation? The answer lies in the fact that Lidl, unlike most large retailers, is a private company, not quoted on the Stock Exchange and therefore with no shareholders receiving an annual dividend. As a result, their profit margins are often less than 10%, as opposed to the more usual 25%, allowing them to offer even modestly priced bottles for £1 or £1.50 less than the opposition would charge.
But, at just slightly higher prices, the real delights that Ed brought along were from Lidl’s ‘Cellar Range’ – a small, regularly changing selection. The Cellier de Monterail Rasteau (£7.99), from a village close to Châteauneuf du Pape in the southern Rhône, is a smooth, chewy black-fruit flavoured red with a delightful old rose fragrance.
Lovely though this wine was, my favourite of the night was J.P.Muller’s slightly off-dry Riesling from the Alsace Grand Cru of Mambourg.
Attractive flavours of citrus peel and ginger and a finish that went on and on – and, if you have the patience to keep it, it will improve with another few years in bottle. When Ed asked us to guess the price, the replies were between £12 and £14 – for me, the top end of that range didn’t seem excessive. The actual figure? £7.99! Surely, the bargain of the year but get in quickly as the idea of the Cellar Range is that Lidl buy up small quantities and when they’re gone, they’re gone.