• John’s Monthly Wine Recommendations: July

    White Wine

    Tesco Finest* Picpoul de Pinet, £7

    Tesco Finest* Picpoul de Pinet

    Tesco Finest* Picpoul de Pinet

    From the Languedoc in Southern France, named after a region which specialises in this unusual wine. Picpoul means ‘lipstinger,’ referring to this unusual grape’s amazing ability to retain a crisp, refreshing acidity even in the warm Mediterranean climes where white wines are uncommon.

    Pinet was awarded its own sub-appellation for this variety, thanks to the high quality vines in vineyards perched on the limestone plateaux overlooking the sea. Zingy flavours of fresh citrus, pear and a soft minerally character with crisp acidity make this an ideal alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

    It's great to drink on its own, or as an accompaniment to seafood or rich dishes. We love it with our Friday night fish and chips!

    Red Wine

    Domaine du Colombier Chinon. Sainsbury's, £7

    Cabernet Franc is a little known red grape variety, and one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is often a minor blending component in the wines of Bordeaux. However, in the Loire it really shines, taking well to the cooler climate. It produces the delicious, fragrant wines of the towns of Chinon and Bourgeuil.

    Aromas of raspberry, redcurrant, violets and a characteristic ‘pencil shavings.’ It is often termed ‘the Frenchman’s wine,’ as it is popular in local bistros where it is quaffed happily by the litre. Most of it is intended to be enjoyed young, fresh and fruity. In good vintages, some serious ones like this can also be produced which can age a few years to develop a more complex, savoury nose.

    An excellent value, complex wine with lots of flavours.

    Domaine du Colombier Chinon Sainsbury's

    Domaine du Colombier Chinon Sainsbury's

  • John’s June Wine Recommendations

    White Wine

    Tesco Finest* Swartland Chenin Blanc, £6.50

    Tesco Finest Swartland Chenin Blanc

    Tesco Finest Swartland Chenin Blanc

    50km north of Cape Town, lies the Swartland region. It has a Mediterranean climate with dry hot summers and temperatures ranging between 25 and 35⁰C. Also cool wet winters. This is a great climate for bringing out the mouthfilling tropical and stone fruits of Chenin Blanc. Has a lick of vanilla and toast, thanks to restrained touch of oak. Excellent value.


    Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Rosé D'Anjou, £5.10

    As it is getting a little more warm and summery, I thought this month I would throw in a bit of the pink. This classic wine is made in the Loire from Cabernet Franc, the native red grape variety. There is sometimes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in too. Medium dry in style, it has refreshing flavours of red berry fruits and a leafy/herbaceous crispness. Great with grilled foods like BBQ'd salmon or lamb.

    Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Rosé d'Anjou

    Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Rosé d'Anjou

  • John’s Wine Picks for April

    White Wine

    Sainsbury's TTD Greco Di Tufo, £8

    Sainsbury's TTD Greco Di Tufo

    Sainsbury's TTD Greco Di Tufo

    From Campania in Italy, the favoured wine region of the ancient Romans. This is made from the Greco grape, named after the Greeks who were first thought to have brought this variety with them to southern Italy. Greco Di Tufo is a region which has been awarded its own designation specialising in it, thanks to the grapes performing well on the limestone plateau ('Tufo') here. A rich textured, yet fresh, crisp and aromatic white with floral aromas and notes of herbs and spices. Lovely stone and exotic fruit flavours on the palate. Great with rich, creamy pasta or seafood dishes.

    Red Wine

    Marques De Riscal Rioja Reserva. Majestic Wine/Sainsbury's, from £13.99

    So many mid range Riojas available, at a variety of prices. Yet this one remains consistently good with every bottle I've had. Complex and satisfying, thanks to berries from older vines and the wine spending 26months in American Oak barrels. Luscious, ripe red fruits and a long, savoury finish of balsamic, chocolate and spice. Fantastic with charcuterie, hard cheeses and anything grilled.

    Marques De Riscal Rioja Reserva

    Marques De Riscal Rioja Reserva

  • Best Buy Wines 2016

    Which? Magazine Best Buys 2016

    Aldi Veuve Monsigny Champagne. Best Buy & Great Value

    Aldi Veuve Monsigny Champagne. Best Buy & Great Value

    The magazine invites industry experts, like Oz Clarke this year, to blind taste various festive products.

    We Concentrate on the Wines

    Two other Champagnes had slightly better scores than this Aldi one. However at £9.99 a bottle it is a fraction of their price & incredible value! Whilst buying a couple of bottles ( for research purposes of course) we saw  customers loading several bottles of this into their trolleys. So get your skates on if you want to have some over Christmas/New Year. Aldi Veuve Monsigny Champagne, £9.99 Scored 78%

    The Other Two Best Buy Champagnes:

    Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut Non Vintage, £30 Scored 80%

    Sainsbury's Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne. Non Vintage. £20 Scored 79%

    Prefer Prosecco?

    "Fragrant on the palate & nose..." The best buy Prosecco was:

    Co-op Prosecco, £6.99 Scored 74%

    Winter Red Wine?

    Another one from Aldi, "A decent winter red... big fruit flavours..."

    Aldi Exquisite Collection Argentinian Malbec 2016 , £5.99 Scored 76%

  • Ten Alternative White Wine Varieties for you to Try

    Chardonnay lost its charm? Another glass of Sauvignon Blanc seems boring? On a Pinot Grigio purge? Let us suggest a few alternatives to those wines you’ve come to love. Try something new. There are also a few that are a bit different, just for fun!

    Like Sauvignon Blanc? Why not try….


    Vermentino is a white Italian variety that is found in Sardinia, Tuscany and Liguria. Despite the often scorching summer temperatures, it makes a lovely crisp, refreshing highly scented wine with lots of citrus tang. The best examples come from hillier sites where the nights are cool, preserving freshness and flavour. In Sardinia, where the heat is tempered by constant sea breezes- the wine picks up a sort of sea saltiness. Like many other Italian wines, often an absolute bargain as they aren’t fashionable. Brilliant with many a seafood dish.

    Burdizzo Vermentino, ASDA (£5.75)

    M&S Vermentino Di Sardegna (£7.50)

    M Signature Vermentino, Morrisons (£6)

    Picpoul de Pinet

    This is a somewhat strangely refreshing, almost Sauvignon Blanc like variety. This is in spite of its origins in the Mediterranean climes of the Languedoc in southern France. Its name literally means ‘lip-stinger!’ referring to its thirst quenching acidity. It has a fantastic aroma combination of apple, citrus, pear and orange blossom. Great for washing down seafood platters from the bountiful Med. and consumed by the gallon by thirsty tourists.

    ASDA Picpoul de Pinet Blanc Sec, (£5.37)

    Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet, Majestic, (From £7.49)

    Tesco Finest* Picpoul de Pinet, Tesco, (£6)


    The signature white of Galicia in north west Spain, but also the main varietal of Vinho Verde of Portugal. Rias Baixas is the main producing region in Spain, which you often see on labels in the UK. The Spanish style is slightly fuller bodied in comparison to the spritzier Portugese- but both are dry wines, with a similar delicate, floral, peachy aroma and an attractive lemon colour. They are usually always unoaked in style too, as oak would obliterate such delicate flavours. Great with all kinds of foods.

    Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Albarino, (£8)

    Tesco Finest* Albarino, (£7)

    M Signature Albarino. Morrisons, (£8)


    Many English still wines are produced from specially bred, rather obscure German varieties that can resist our somewhat wet, windy climate. This is the major challenge to grape growing in the UK. It’s not necessarily that we don’t get enough warmth- because in many places in the south east we do! (This is why many British vineyards are based on sunny south easterly facing slopes). However many of these, unfortunately, do not make fantastic wine.

    Bacchus is by far the most promising. Largely displaced in its homeland Germany thanks to warmer climates, it quite happily thrives in the south of England. It produces an aromatic, green-floral wine with Sauvignon Blanc style citrus and gooseberry flavours. With much softer acidity than many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs it is worth a try. And you will be supporting the still youthful English Wines industry.

    These wines do tend to be at the dearer end on the table wine price list at the moment sadly, as much is still produced in small quantities. Often our very unpredictable weather limits how much can be made each vintage!

    Lamberhurst Estate Bacchus Reserve, Chapel Down. M&S, (£13)

    Chapel Down Flint Dry. Waitrose, (£9.99)

    Like Pinot Grigio? Try….


    Verdejo is the main variety of the up and coming white wine producing Rueda Valley, which neighbours Ribera del Duero in northwest Spain. This formerly rather obscure grape has been a blending component of many Spanish whites. It still does make blends here, labelled ‘Rueda’ – named after the principal region for this grape. However, at least 75% has to be made up of it in the blend if labelled this way. It usually makes a harmonious partner to Sauvignon Blanc.

    Recent advances in wine making technology have allowed it to really shine as an excellent quality, standalone wine. It is a bit fuller textured than the more fashionable Albarino, and provides more obvious stonefruit and citrus flavours. This makes it a more pleasing one to quaff on its own, being a bit less delicate than its Galician neighbour. A great food partner too, usually a fraction of the price, being less well known and marketed than Albarino.

    Nekora Rueda Verdejo, M&S (£9.99)

    Marques Riscal Rueda Blanco, Majestic Wine (From £6.99)

    M Signature Rueda Vedejo, Morrisons (£6)

    Enjoy Chardonnay? Give these a go….


    Viognier hails from the northern Rhône Valley in France, where it is responsible for one of the only white wines produced there- Condrieu. Its enticingly silky, rich texture and attractive stone fruit perfume have won it many fans in the Languedoc, and New World countries like Chile and Australia. If you’re looking for a change from Chardonnay, and don’t like oaky flavours this is a good one to try. Its fruity characters mean that it doesn’t need the oak treatment to shine.

    ASDA Extra Special Viognier, France (£6)

    Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier, Chile. Tesco, (£7)

    Yalumba ‘Y’ Series Viognier, Australia. Sainsbury’s, (£10)

    M Signature Viognier, France. Morrisons (£7)


    Often blended together as they have similar flavours, and quite similar to Viognier if you get a really good one. Stone fruit, almond and sometimes toasted nuts, honey and caramel. This is not surprising, as this variety also comes from the warmer climes of the Rhône Valley, making these rich textured too.

    These varieties are responsible for the tiny quantities of white wines made in this red dominated area. Everyone assumes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage make red wines only. However, they are also permitted to make white wines from these grapes.

    Expect to pay higher premiums than for the reds though! Fortunately, the quality potential of these varieties has not gone unnoticed in the Languedoc and the New World. You can find many high quality examples from Australia, California and South Africa where these warmth loving varieties thrive.

    ASDA Wine Atlas Series Marsanne, France (£5.47)

    Exquisite Collection Marsanne, France. ALDI,(£5.49)

    Domaine Sainte Rose 'Le Marin Blanc' Marsanne/Roussanne Côtes de Thongue, France. Majestic, (From £7.99)

    Or how about something just a bit different?


    This unusual variety gets its name from a very aromatic, ‘spicy’ nature that is displayed wherever in the world it is grown. It has intense aromas of rose, lychee, Turkish delight, sweet spice and honey. Usually off dry to very sweet in style it emphasizes these lovely aromas, and makes some fantastic dessert wines with its pleasing mouth coating texture.

    The grapes have a light pink tinge to them, which gives the wine an often deep lemon, sometimes golden colour. The very best examples come from Alsace in France, but as with many other of the unusual varieties in this list, curious winemakers the world over have tried their hand at experimenting with it, and are producing equally impressive examples. In fact, one of the most widely grown grapes in this list is found in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, California, Washington, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand and Chile.

    M Signature Alsace Gewurztraminer, France. Morrisons (£8)

    Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Alsace Gewurztraminer, France. (£8)


    This is another highly aromatic wine on our list, currently being pioneered by Argentina as their signature white. It is a light yellow wine that occasionally has golden and green hues and an attractively exotic nose, similar to Gewurztraminer. However, it is a bit more restrained. The aroma is reminiscent of roses, jasmine, and geraniums. In the mouth it is pure fruit salad, sometimes with touches of honey. Its aromas suggest a sweet wine but its taste reveals a refreshing acidity.

    Viñalba Selección Torrontés, Argentina. Majestic (From £7.99)

    M Signature Torrontes, Argentina. Morrisons (£7)


    Riesling makes truly unique wines. Unlike many other white varieties it can make fantastic wines to be appreciated young, and has the potential for developing lots of additional layers of flavour if given time to age.

    It is however a very fickle and fussy grape- not liking conditions too hot or cold, too high or too flat. The steep, cooler but sloping sun trap, sun absorbing slate vineyards of sites in Germany, Austria, Alsace, Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia make world class examples at all price points- Dry and sweet. Delicate aromas of apple, citrus, stone fruit, stony minerals and flowers in youth evolve into a richer, more honeyed character.

    In some cases it has an unusual ‘petroleum’ nose unique to this variety, which people who enjoy the smell of petrol stations are sure to appreciate!

    Dr L Riesling, Germany. Widely Available, (From £7)

    Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling, Australia. ALDI, (£6.99)

    Taste the Difference Awatere Valley Riesling, New Zealand. Sainsbury’s, (£8)

  • Wine Review Roundup Week Ending 20 March 2016

    Exquisite Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. Aldi

    Exquisite Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. Aldi

    Easter is the theme this week of course

    Fiona Becket goes in search of Easter bargains. Three Aldi wines are picked out as particularly good value.

    Victoria Moore in The Telegraph selects good choices if you are serving lamb at Easter.

    The Guardian-Fiona Beckett

    Three Aldi wines:

    Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014. £5.29 some stores & online.

    Limoux Chardonnay. But this is now online only at £6..99 a bottle.

    Stellenbosch Cape Red 2015. £5.99

    A Fizz from M&S:

    Mount Bluff Brut from New Zealand. From £9.75

    A Dessert Wine Bargain from Majestic:

    Vistamar Late Harvest Moscatel 2015. Chile. From £5.49 the half bottle.

    The Telegraph- Victoria Moore

    Three supermarket wines are suggested. One is online only though:

    The Exquisite collection Rioja Reserva 2009, Spain. Aldi online only. £8.99

    Finest Côtes Catalanes Grenache, France. Tesco £6

    Thymiopoulos Xinomavro 2013, Greece. £10.50 M&S

    Her other choices are all wine club/mail order

    The Independent-Anthony Rose

    Three wines to try, night in, dinner party & splash out:

    2014 Josef Chromy Pure South Tasmanian Chardonnay. From £8.88 M&S

    2007 Rioja Reserva, Vina Ardanza, La Rioja Alta. From £17.99 Majestic

    2010 Crociani Vin Santo di Montepulciano. £19.49 half bottle. Waitrose.