First published in The Irish Times, Saturday October 28th, 2017
It is a dark, wet Wednesday evening, when the damp seems to creep in to every bone in your body. Your partner comes in looking weary after another hard day in the office. You know you don’t drink on a Wednesday, but this evening circumstances seem to dictate otherwise. The aromas of a freshly baked lasagne or a herb-scented warming stew seem to demand that you open a bottle of red wine. And so, over dinner, you have one glass, maybe two, of a simple, easy-drinking red, and the world seems a slightly better place.
We are not looking at wines that will have you searching for superlatives, but we do want a wine that tastes of something and will offer a little interest. Most really cheap wines are fine but boring. They taste as if they been manipulated by a team of winemakers to cover over any faults, leaving a medium-bodied, slightly sweet, rounded red wine with slightly confected fruit. And they have. They are drinkable but bland and a little boring.
Sadly, post-financial crisis, most prices at the cellar door are beginning to increase a little. So whereas once you could find plenty of interesting wines at that magical €9.99, most seem to have crept up in price. This week I walked into four of our biggest retailers and bought a bottle of red wine in the €10-€13 range. It is impossible to keep up with the ever-changing prices in supermarkets, so some of these wines may cost less (or more ) by the time you read this. But all should be safely within the €10-€13 price bracket and maybe even less.
The Pinot Noir from SuperValu is light enough to drink alongside salmon or tuna, but would also go nicely with chicken and pork dishes. It featured as a party wine a few weeks back as well. The Chianti from Lidl has a little more body and would be more at home with lighter pasta dishes or pizza. You could match the Malbec with a steak but it would also drink well with lasagne or stew and other midweek dishes. The Cairanne is the most full-bodied and would be a good match for grilled lamb or beef.
On a related topic I wonder what will happen to supermarket wines if and when minimum pricing is brought in. If the selling price of a €6 bottle of wine is artificially increased to €8, will they continue to sell the same wine at an increased price and with a vastly inflated profit margin, or will they source a better wine?
In the meantime here are my wet Wednesday reds from the supermarkets. Next week, four bottles in the same price bracket from a few independent retailers.
Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Fortezza dei Colli
Smooth easy red cherry fruits with a lift of acidity to keep it fresh, a hit of vanilla and a nice bite on the tail end. Perfect with lasagne.
Cairanne 2016, Domaine de La Belle Estelle
From the southern Rhône valley, a swarthy, powerful, meaty red wine with burly dark fruits sprinkled with spice. A genuine winter warmer.
Tesco Finest Argentina Malbec 2015
13.5% €12 (€9 on promotion)
Medium to full-bodied with perfumed, juicy dark fruits, all loganberry and plums with a very nicely rounded, soft finish.
Pinot Noir La Petite Perrière 2015, Saget, Vin de France
12.5%, €10.99 (€9 on promotion or three for €25)
A very friendly, medium-bodied red with soft, sweet, succulent dark cherry fruits, finishing with a flourish.