(Photo © Jean-Marc Puech)
I’ve noticed that the wine department in some Tesco-Lotus
branches has really been getting a make-over recently and there’s an
increasingly good selection of wines on offer.
Best of all, the young ladies on duty leave you to browse
in peace. In my case, it’s probably because I give them my “evil eye” as
soon as I arrive. After that, they keep their distance and stare at the
floor. The other day, I was browsing through the wines in another
supermarket, when a young uniformed lady approached me clutching a bottle of
Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon. “Chilean Red,” she bleated helpfully. I
was tempted to say, “Sorry, but I’m looking for a Swedish Green.” But of
course, I didn’t.
Château Piarrinne, AC Madiran 2008 (red), France (Bt. 449
Madiran wine comes from the village of the same name in Gascony,
down near the Pyrenees in the South West of France. These wines are often
quite concentrated, high in tannin and unlike most modern wines, actually
improve over several years, assuming that you’ve got somewhere to store
them. A good Madiran is rather similar in style to quality Bordeaux.
It’s a very dark red, almost purple wine with a rather oily appearance. I
mean that as a compliment, by the way. It makes the wine look more inviting
and helps create the little “legs” that sometimes appear inside the glass
when you swirl the wine around. And I honestly hope you do swirl it around,
for this gets the air into the wine and helps to bring out the aroma which
is rich and full, with blackcurrants, cherries and spices. You might pick up
some oak and herbs too. After a time (probably about twenty minutes) a faint
reminder of mint and chocolate emerged. It was worth waiting for.
The wine has a soft mouth-feel, very supple tannins and 13% alcohol content.
It’s full-bodied, with a good balance and a decently long, dry and herby
finish. It’s a real “food wine” and would make a good partner for game or
assertive cheeses. The Tannat grape makes up most of the blend. This grape
is normally found in the South West of France and is noted for its high
tannin levels, so it’s usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and its
vinous cousin Cabernet Franc to tame the taste. Madiran wines are often made
by soaking the Tannat grapes with their seeds. Wine made this way is very
high in polyphenols, which (so I am told) block the production of a protein
that constricts blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of blockages and heart
attacks. It has been noted that the people of Madiran have a very long life
“Plaisir” Vin de Table (red), France (Bt. 279 @
Here’s a real cheapie and if you’re on a tight budget it’s worth
a try. It’s a typical knock-it-back wine that wouldn’t be out of place in
any French workers’ café. It must be the cheapest vino in town.
It comes from the South, but the bottle gives neither the year nor the name
of the grapes. Under French wine law, a wine labelled “Vin de Table” doesn’t
have to, but I’d guess Grenache is in there somewhere. There’s a vague hint
of cherries, herbs and black fruit on the aroma and the wine is soft on the
palate with a nice little “bite” to the taste. The finish is a bit thin but
honestly; it doesn’t really matter because this wine is not for swirling,
sniffing and pontificating about. It’s the kind of thing you buy in France
in plastic bottles.
For me, this wine brings back warm memories of the South of France in the
long balmy days of many summers ago; stopping around lunchtime at a country
shop to buy a hunk of local cheese, a freshly-baked baguette and a bottle of
simple refreshing wine, just like this one. By the way, don’t assume that if
a particular brand of red wine is agreeable, the white equivalent will be
equally so. It isn’t.
Being a European, I tend to drink wine with every meal except breakfast, for
even the most basic fare is enhanced by a glass of decent wine. I know my
three dogs would agree. They would be extremely miffed if they didn’t get a
glass of wine with their pork bones and Pedigree Chum every night. Honestly,
I’d never hear the end of it.