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The best wine bargains from Lidl’s summer sale

Published in The Irish Times, Saturday 10th June, 2017

Lidl launches its Italian wine sale next Monday. It is more modest in scale than their annual autumn French wine sale, which usually includes plenty of  top Bordeaux at very attractive prices. There are 28 wines included in the offer, some of which are already in stock. Almost all are very inexpensive, the vast majority less than €10, with only two pitching in at more than €15. The white wines are all refreshing, lightly textured and unoaked, and will make decent budget summer drinking, although some seemed to be rounded off by a few grams of residual sugar. I am not a fan of this, but I know many of you are. As well as the white wine below, look out for the fresh tropical Falanghina Sassi del Mare (€7.99), and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano (€9.99) with its layered pineapple and red apple fruits, balanced by a reviving acidity. If you are planning a refreshing summer cocktail, you could add some pomegranate juice (and maybe a few seeds) to the Pinot Grigio Rosé Spumante (€10.99).

As for the red wines, I can see the ripe, rounded Cannonau di Sardegna (€7.99) being popular when the barbecue comes out, or you could go for the grippier Rosso di Montalcino (€8.99) with its dark cherry fruits. I won’t claim that the Barbaresco below will compete with any of the top Nebbiolo from the region or neighbouring Barolo. However, it is a very drinkable bottle of wine. My favourite wine, however, is the Chianti Colli Senesi Medici Riccardi. From one of the best subregions of Chianti, the 2015 vintage (2014 was on sale until recently) is a wonderfully light, elegant wine with plenty of succulent fruit. It will go very nicely with pork, chicken and lighter red meats in the coming summer months.

While on the subject of Chianti, I recently tasted an excellent range of wines from Castellare, one of the top estates in Chianti Classico, the subregion that is home to almost all of the great Chianti. Castellare has never gone for the rich and powerful style of wine, preferring lighter, more refreshing, food-friendly wines. Quality has always remained high, and prices reasonable compared with many of their rivals. Their Chianti Classico 2014 is excellent, and the importer is waiting for stocks of the equally good 2015. I would also look out for their superb I Sodi di San Niccolo 2012 (Wines on the Green), the very best wine from the same producer; at €66 it may seem expensive, but it is far cheaper and superior to many of its ‘Super-Tuscan’ rivals. In recent weeks I have also enjoyed the Rocca delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti  2014 (JNwine, €14.99) with its supple light savoury dark cherry fruits.

Müller Thurgau 2016, Südtirol Alto Adige 13%, €9.99

Rounded ripe apple and pear fruits, with good cleansing acidity. Lovely summer drinking.
Stockist: Lidl

Chianti Colli Senesi 2015 Medici Riccardi 13%, €9.95

Clean refreshing red cherry fruits, good acidity and pretty good length for a wine at this price.
Stockist: Lidl

Lightly fragrant nose, smooth elegant summer fruits with a pleasant savoury finish.
Stockist: Lidl

Chianti Classico 2014, Castellare di Castellina 13.5%, €22.99

An excellent sophisticated harmonious wine with elegant ripe dark cherry fruits, a refreshing seam of acidity and a lingering finish.
Stockists: Wines on the Green; 64 Wines; Fresh; Kelly’s, Clontarf; McCabe’s; McHugh’s.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Monteraponi Baron’ Ugo 2014, Chianti Classico, Organic

Monteraponi Baron’ Ugo 2014, Chianti Classico, Organic

DSCF7168Monteraponi Baron’ Ugo 2014, Chianti Classico, Organic

12.5%

€34.50

Delightful fresh light Chianti with smooth dark cherry fruits, good minerality and a soft easy finish. Not a wine that will age, you would imagine, but drinking beautifully now.

We drank it with grilled lamb steaks with spinach and hummus.

I am told that the single vineyard Baron Ugo is usually bottled as a Riserva and retails for around €70. 2014 was not a great vintage, so Monteraponi downgraded it to a Chianti Classico and halved the price. A great label too, but apologies for my poor photography.

€34.50 from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.

 

Posted in: Top Drop

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Day Two in Tuscany

Day two started with a quick breakfast in Montalcino before heading off to Chianti Classico.

Fèlsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico

This is a large estate, some 470 hectares, although vineyards cover a small percentage of that. It is located right on the southern border of Chianti Classico, and is therefore one of the warmest parts of the DOCG. The wines are typically bigger and more powerful. The reflective Giusseppe Mazzocolin was in charge here for over thirty years, and it was he who showed us around. His background was as a history teacher and he has a keen interest in the past and local traditions. Fèlsina was acquired by his father-in-law in 1966, who asked him to run the estate. He arrived in the late 1970’s.

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Felsina Berardenga

The property has an ageless, tumbledown feel; there has been no attempt to prettify the interior or exterior, giving it a genuine character that I loved. The wines were pretty good too. Mazzocolin is a big fan of Sangiovese. ‘It has the purity, the freshness, the drinkability; never too sweet, never too easy to drink,’ he says. ‘I love the acidity. There is something very Italian about Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo and Aglianico. If you like acidity you will like Italian wines.’ He is not worried abut climate change. ‘Sangiovese is an adaptable grape and can take more heat. It remains true and unique. It always has its own intensity.’

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Giusseppe Mazzocolin

Fèlsina is in the process of making safe an old house amongst the vineyards, once lived in by Benedictine monks. However, Mazzocolin does not want to restore it and start welcoming guests. ‘We are not hoteliers; no agritourismo here. People would come in their cars and drive everywhere.’ He says with a slight distaste.

The ‘I Sistri’ Chardonnay (€29.99) had a very attractive distinctive beeswax/honey character and excellent pure fruit; the Chianti Classico 2014 was an attractive light refreshing wine. We then tasted three single vineyard wines, Rancia, Fontalloro and Colonia, all very different in style, followed by several mature vintages of Fontalloro, a 2003 Chianti Classico and an excellent Vin Santo. The 2006 Fontalloro was wonderful elegant fresh and grippy, the 1998 corrupt and meaty, still retaining some savoury tannins. Both were excellent, as was the 2012 below.

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Vin Santo

Like many estates in Tuscany, Fèlsina make an olive oil. We had a fascinating tasting of four separate varieties before trying the final the final blend.

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To Try:

Fontalloro 2012, Chianti Classico Riserva, Fèlsina Berardenga
14%
€63

Quite delicious already, with an open-knit structure, soft ripe cherries and blackcurrants, refreshing on the palate and nice length. I cannot see it lasting as long as the two wines above, but very seductive now.

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Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico

Paulo de Marchi is a cultural historian and self-confessed dreamer who also makes some of the finest, most elegant wines of Tuscany. His father bought the Isole e Olena estate just as Italy was about to go through a very turbulent period. Up until the 1960’s many farmers worked as share-croppers, farming a few hectares of forest, olive groves and vines, often interspersed, with a few animals wandering around too. A percentage of their crop went to the land owner, often an absentee. As Italy went through a post-war boom, huge numbers of agrarian workers deserted the country, seduced by the possibility of a better life working in the cities, as promised on newly arrived TV sets. In the two hamlets of Isole and Olena, de Marchi explains, there were 120 people, a priest and a school in 1956. By 1964, there were 14 people left. Di Marche has gradually renovated the entire estate over the last forty years. The wines are now amongst the finest in Tuscany. As David Gleave explained, although his vineyards are at roughly the same height as Fontodi nearby, they have a lightness due to the different aspect of most of the vineyards, and the winds that come in from the west. ‘With Sangiovese, you always have to balance acidity and tannins,’ says de Marchi. ‘I want ripeness but I want real freshness too.’ De Marchi was celebrating his 65th birthday the day we visited. His son Luca is currently working on another project in Piemonte, where de Marchi bought back the historic family estate. The results so far have been spectacularly good.
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Paolo de Marchi

The Chianti Classico here is distinctive and very good. We tried the 2013 and 2014; I preferred the first. We then tried three vintages of his amazing Cepparello, a 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscan. The 2006 was exceptional, but the current 2012 and 2013 vintages showed real promise. I would love to have both in my cellar. The 2008 Syrah Collezione Privata was another star, as was the 2006 Vin Santo, a wine that sells out quickly every year.

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To Try:

Cepparello 2013 IGT Toscana
14%
€88.99

Still showing some new oak, but a beautiful silky-smooth wine with good acidity, a well-integrated tannic structure and delicious ripe dark cherry fruits. Lovely wine.

Lessona DOC 2010, Proprieta Sperino
14%
€64.99

Couldn’t leave this out, one of my favourite wines, from the far north of Italy, the original de Marchi family home region. Made from Nebbiolo, this is a stunning silky wine with delicate rosehips and red summer fruits.

Fontodi, Chianti Classico

The Manetti family bought Fontodi in the Panzano region of Chianti Classico in 1969. They had been running a terracotta factory in nearby Ferrone for centuries (and still do). Apparently Manetti moved the family here when the two sons were schoolboys. Giovanni Manetti describes it as a huge culture shock for him and his brother. They started out sharing the reponsiblities for the winery and the factory, but Giovanni eventually took over the wine side while his brother (who has a house on the estate) runs the terracotta business.

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Giovanni Manetti

The amiable but driven Giovanni Masetti has increased the vineyards from 10 to 87 hectares, all located in the conca d’oro, a shell-shaped basin that has some of the best exposure and soils in the region. He is fully organic and part biodynamic – ‘without the preparations, but yes to the moon’, he says. “I like to do it and it works’. The Panzano area is trying to become the first official organic region in Italy; currently there are fifty producers growing organically. The major pest in recent years has been deer who eat the grapes. ‘I put a fence around the vineyard and saved 50 thousand bottles’, says Manetti with a smile.

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The Fontodi wines are big and powerful, with excellent structure; they mature very well, and really should be aged for a few years. At home, I am working my way through a stash of 2006 and 2007 at the moment. We tasted a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir, but it was the Sangiovese wines that impressed most. As well as the Chianti below, there was the Vigna del Sorbo 2012, muscular yet somehow refined as well, with a good tannic structure, and the flagship Flaccianello della Pieve 2012, a wine with a big reputation, made from the oldest vines on the estate. This was a massive tight, foursquare wine, with a lovely fragrant nose, but will need a few years to reveal its true glory. Look out too for Dino, a wine fermented and aged in clay amphorae. As the other family business is terracotta tiles, Giovanni was in the perfect position to source all the amphorae! The wine is excellent with zippy strawberry fruits, good acidity and real length.

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To Try:

Chianti Classico 2013, Fontodi
14%
€32.99

Big, firm muscular ripe fruits; very good intensity and plenty of ripe tannins. Would benefit from a couple of years ageing, but an impressive wine.

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Giovanni then took us off to eat at the other famous establishment in Panzano, Anitca Macelleria Cecchini run by the irrepressible ‘mad butcher of Panzano’, Dario Cecchini. This is part theatre (see YouTube) with a six course all meat dinner, and an experience to be remembered. Having eaten the best part of a Chianina steer (grown by Giovanni on the Fontodi estate), we finished up with Italian military liqueur and escaped to bed.

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Dario Cecchini

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Tuscan Health Food

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Italian Military Rations

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A Weekend’s Drinking

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A few very nice bottles over the weekend mostly grabbed from my stash of ageing wine.

Domine des Anges Ventoux Blanc 2014
13.5%

A blend, I think, of Grenache, Roussanne and Bourbelenc. Good quite rich peachy white with a bracing acidity. It cost around €13 a bottle (Cases.ie and Red Nose Wines, Clonmel), and is good value at that. Sent a few months ago as a sample, which I coravined to keep fresh.


Lettre d’Eloïse Chardonnay 2013, Coteaux Bourguignons, Bertrand Ambroise

13%

Good clean fresh, well-made Burgundy with a lip-smacking wet-stone character, light oak and a zesty lemon edge. Nice wine. Imported by Le Caveau. Sells for around €20 I think.

Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2011 Wittmann
13%

I have been drinking a lot of Riesling (and a lot of Wittmann) recently. Philip Wittmann makes some lovely wines. This I bought a year or two ago, and it has matured nicely; medium-bodied with light honey, beeswax and a subtle nuttiness finishing dry. Great sipping wine while making dinner.

Moulin-a-Vent 2008, Les Trois Roches, Domaine de Vissoux
12.5%

I love Beaujolais and this is one of the great producers. I bought six bottles of this six years ago and recently started working my way through it. Delicious light soft cherry fruits. Wish I had bought more.

Fayard 2012, Côtes du Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche

14%

I am not sure what sort of a vintage 2012 was in the southern Rhône but this was a very enjoyable wine. Medium-bodied with a wonderful purity of dark fruit, and hints of spice. A world away from some of the big, dare I say clumsy, wines of the Southern Rhône. I had kept it for a year or so.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2006
14%

I bought six bottles of this and the 2007 vintage a few years back, and am both, but I think I prefer the 2006. Rich and quite powerful black fruits, cherries and blackcurrants, but with a nice refreshing streak of acidity and a good finish. Will keep for a few years yet.

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Lidl Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Lidl Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Image 1Lidl Chianti Classico Riserva 2009
€10.49

Available from Lidl.

Supple soft red cherry fruits and a tannin-free finish. Simple easy-drinking all-purpose wine.

Chianti usually falls into one of three categories; the first covers most of the cheap versions. These are acidic, scrawny, nasty and undrinkable. Then there is the second category, usually but not always from the posher sub-region of Chianti Classico. These are sublime wines, with lifted dark cherries, good acidity and plenty of tannins. They are great with red meat and game. They are also expensive; expect to pay €20 and more; a lot more for the very best. The third category covers a small group of wines that are soft and supple with lush sweet ripe fruits. They don’t taste very like Chianti, which tends to have high acidity. Nor do they have the complexity of a top Chianti Classico. But they are very gluggable on a Wednesday night. The Lidl version is a part of this grouping; inexpensive and light with very easy rounded fruits. For €10.49, you can’t really go wrong.

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