Lidl Ireland’s “French Wine Cellars” promotion runs from Monday 25th March while stocks last. It’s not a “sale” as such – rather a group of seasonal wines which are available in limited quantities. First we turn our attention to the reds, with emphasis on Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.
Château Saint Antoine Bordeaux Supérieur 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
The regulations to make Bordeaux Supérieur are not that significant – slightly higher vine density, slightly lower yields and slightly higher minimum alcohol – but when was the last time you saw a Bordeaux wine at less than 10.0% abv? I remember some as low as 11.0% in the early nineties but that rule is largely irrelevant now. This is modern, approachable Bordeaux, with lots of black fruit and liquorice. There’s a touch of leather and soft tannins, but this is not austere. Would be perfect for steak, but quaffable on its own if decanted.
Baron de Portets Graves 2016 (13.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Graves in part of Bordeaux’s lower left bank, and was in fact making great wines before the Médoc was drained by Dutch engineers. The best areas of the Graves were sectioned off into a new appellation – Pessac-Léognan – in 1987, leaving the remaining area as more everyday producers. And I don’t think I’m being unfair in calling this Baron de Portets an everyday wine – it’s only a tenner after all – but it’s far better than I’d expect from left bank Bordeaux at this price. It’s seductive and smooth with lots of black fruit and a touch of red. A hint of liquorice on the finish keeps it on the savoury side.
Château Fonguillon Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2015 (13.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Although this is from one of Saint-Emilion’s four satellite appellations (there’s another in this offer which wasn’t to my taste), it’s very well put together – the full Saint-Emilion experience. Dominated by Merlot, it boasts rich plum and blackberry fruit balanced by soft tannins. Château Fonguillon is quite a mouthful (yes, in both senses), but it’s not jammy and is definitely worth a try.
Château Haut-Plaisance Montagne-Saint-Emilion 2016 (14.0%, €12.99 at Lidl Ireland)
If ever a wine had a promising name, Château “High Pleasure” would be it. And it is a pleasurable wine – fruit forward with quite a bit of oak (some may prefer to let it breathe properly before drinking). Blackberry, damson and plum are the order of the day, but fresh and with a streak of acidity. Great value for money.
Château Saint-Rémy Fronsac 2017 (14.5%, €11.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Just north of the right bank’s leading town, Libourne, Fronsac is one of the best value appellations within Bordeaux. Château Saint-Rémy has 17 hectares of vineyards which follow the normal patterns of right bank wine: 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a ripe, thick and rich red wine, though there’s no heat on the finish that the 14.5% (!) alcohol might imply. It’s not everyone’s idea of Bordeaux, but as a bridge between France and the new world it works a treat!
Clos des Batuts Cahors 2017 (13.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Cahors and its “black wines” are the original home of Malbec, though the variety is also found in Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and – most famously – Argentina. In the past Cahors wines have needed some time in bottle before drinking, but this is a very drinkable example. It’s mid weight rather than hefty, clean and full of red and black fruit. Tannins are present and correct but not too dry. This will do well at summer barbecues, if we get a summer this year…
Cru des Côtes du Rhône Vinsobres 2017 (14.5%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Vinsobres is one of the more recent Rhône areas to be promoted up to a Cru – in 2006 in fact. It still isn’t that well known which means that there are some bargains to be had. AOC rules stipulate minima of 50% Grenache and 25% Syrah and / or Mourvèdre, so expect big and bold fruit – and that is exactly what we have here. Tannins are fairly low and acidity is reasonable (the Grenache component is probably over 60%) so this is a very approachable wine. Give me more!
Dame de Clochevigne Rasteau 2017 (14.0%, €9.99 at Lidl Ireland)
This is not a terribly complex wine, but it’s juicy and quaffable – nice enough to crack open on a school night with dinner or out on the patio now that we’re getting a bit of a stretch in the evenings. The breakdown of grape varieties isn’t given, but being southern Rhône it’s highly likely to be a GSM – and given its flavour profile the emphasis is very much on Grenache.
Gigondas 2017 (14.5%, €16.99 at Lidl Ireland)
Gigondas is considered second in the southern Rhône hierarchy – after Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but doesn’t have the latter’s instant recognition – or price tags to match. This is, however, the most expensive red in Lidl Ireland’s offering, though still fairly modest by independent wine shop standards. It’s cossetting and smooth, quite a cozy wine in fact (if that term means anything to anyone). It’s not light but it does have a touch of sophistication and elegance. This is how southern Rhône reds should be, and it’s well worth the premium on the others above.