Wine tasting at home part V - supermarket sweep!

As most of the economy quakes under the strain of lockdown, supermarkets occupy one sector which is bucking the trend. Indeed, their wine and spirit isles are witnessing a particular upturn. According to the Office of National Statistics, alcohol sales in UK retailers surged a remarkable 31.4% in volume terms in March 2020. It seems UK shoppers are stocking up just as much (perhaps even more!) on white, red and rosé as they are on loo role! With that in mind, I thought I’d step into my local M&S to see what they had to offer…

Comte de Sittelle Plan de Dieu Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages 2018 (Southern Rhône, France)
The Côtes du Rhône offers the intrepid wine drinker a vast assortment of styles to discover and enjoy. In the cooler, wetter Northern Rhône, Syrah (aka Shiraz) dominates with perhaps just a dash of Viognier. The vines on the gentle granite slopes of the Côte-Rôtie produce full-bodied and spicy reds with an elegant textural character, in contrast to the more stoic wines of the dizzyingly steep hill of Hermitage. These are the high rollers of the Northern Rhône, but one should not forget Saint-Joseph, Crozes Hermitage or Cornas which are capable of producing their own enticing expressions. It’s not all red, red, red, however. Marsanne and Roussanne produce some interesting whites especially in Saint Joseph and Hermitage. As for the small appellation of Condrieu it is responsible for some of the most sumptuous and heady examples of Viognier you will find anywhere.

In the Southern Rhône, granite gives way to sandstone, limestone and clay whilst the climate grows increasingly Mediterranean as we head closer to Provence. Grenache takes centre stage with Syrah reduced to a supporting role with Mouvedre and an appearance from Cinsault and Carignan. Wines here can be powerful, rich and high in alcohol. The most famous (and the largest) Cru of Southern Rhone is undoubtedly Chateauneuf-du-Pape, its vineyards covered with large stones or ‘galets’ a known feature of the area. The Southern Rhône is also responsible for a considerable amount of bulk wine produced under the generic ‘Côtes du Rhône’ appellation. But there are also a few bargains to be had, produced from vineyards entitled to call themselves ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages’. Comte de Sittelle Plan de Dieu Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages from M&S is one of them and at £9 a bottle, (store prices vary) it’s certainly worth a look.

Tasting note
A warming Southern Rhone situated just to the north of the region of Vaucluse (Provence). Ripe and smooth with plenty of black cherries and a hint of spice!

Chateau de Crezancy Sur Les Marnes Sancerre 2017 (Loire Valley, France)
It is possibly easiest to split the Loire Valley up into four sub regions. They run East to West as follows: The Central Vineyards, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur and Nantais. It is the Central Vineyards that contain the two most prestigious appellations for the Sauvignon Blanc grape, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These districts arguably produce the best expressions of this aromatic, herbaceous, varietal, framed with bracing acidity. Names such as Henri Bourgeois, François Cotat, and of course, the late Didier Dagueneau are synonymous with these regions. Long have consumers hankered after that quintessential blend of tropical fruit and textural flinty minerality which seems impossible to reproduce elsewhere.

Top quality Sancerre (and Pouilly Fumé) comes at a price, yet bargains are also possible to uncover. This bottle of Chateau de Crezancy Sur les Marnes Sancerre from M&S was a decent find. True, it did not quite have quite the intensity of some other notable winemakers, but the classic characteristics are certainly there making for a fruity and soft, yet distinct palate with enough body to serve with or without that plate of fresh crab meat!

Tasting note
A great value and very pleasant Sancerre with fresh citrus fruit and a touch of pear and green apple on the palate accented by subtle chalky minerality.

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