As in previous years Lidl Ireland are having a French wine sale this autumn, starting on 25th September. “Sale” means different things to different people – here it doesn’t mean price reductions on existing lines but rather a limited release of certain French wines which aren’t all sale all year round.
The wines come from several different regions including Bordeaux, Rhône valley, the Loire, the Languedoc and Burgundy; but of course I have chosen to focus on my favourite white wine region of the world, Alsace!
Disclosure: samples kindly provided for review
Jean Cornelius Alsace Sylvaner 2016 (12.0%, €8.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Sylvaner is often looked down upon as one of the poor relations in Alsace, though that has much to do with grape farmers being paid for quantity rather than quality – Sylvaner can produce high yields but becomes dilute and lacking in flavour. In the hands of a good vigneron it can produce good wines, though it’s more of a quaffing wine than one for contemplation.
This Jean Cornelius 2016 is a great introduction to the grape, if you didn’t know it before. It’s clean, unoaked and dry, which are all normal for Sylvaner in Alsace, despite misconceptions about the bottle shape (don’t mention the “L word”!) If you like Riesling and Pinot Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay then give this a try, as it sits somewhere in the middle of them flavour-wise – there’s a touch of apple and a touch of citrus, making it great for shellfish, subtle fish dishes or as an aperitif – went great with green olives!
Jean Cornelius Alsace Pinot Blanc 2016 (12.0%, €8.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Pinot Blanc is the great all-rounder of Alsace; it’s fruity and supple, rarely austere (which Riesling can be) but not as exotic as Gewurztraminer (see below) or its sibling Pinot Gris. In fact there’s a trick which Alsace producers can use – other grapes! Now they can’t just put any old grapes in, but a dash of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir (without skin contact of course) or Auxerrois is permitted.
Crunchy apple and pear are the key flavours here. As the wine warms a little in your glass it goes from Granny Smith to Golden Delicious, but always finishes dry and crips.
Jean Cornelius Alsace Gewurztraminer 2016 (12.5%, €7.99 (50cl) at Lidl Ireland)
Gewurztraminer – more easily shortened to Gewurz – is very different from most other grapes. It’s highly aromatic and has a distinctive exotic perfume that can divide drinkers (a true “Marmite grape”). Due to the ease with which the variety produces sugar it is often made somewhat sweet – on the listing I received this wine is described as moelleux i.e. sweet, but it isn’t classified as either Vendange Tardive or Sélection de Grains Nobles which are the Alsace terms for certain classes of sweet wines.
And on pouring this revealed itself to be a typical Gewurz – rose petals and Turkish delight. There’s a little fruit sweetness which adds to the round flavours in your mouth, but it finishes perfectly dry – in fact there’s even a little acidity on the finish, something which isn’t always associated with Gewurz.
These wines won’t set the world alight, but they are a great introduction to the wines of Alsace and are good representatives of their varieties.