The French, The Spanish and the Not-So-Great Pig

Having just gone public with my blog (when I say public I mean having actually coughed up my blog address to people that actually know me) I’m feeling a modicum of pressure today. Not least because I have no doubt that any factual or grammatical errors will be repeated back to me within minutes. This is also going to be my first entirely wine-based post – yes it really has taken me 5 posts to finally get to the point…

Albariño really is a fantastic wine and we are slowly starting to see more of it available in the UK. It comes from the Rias Baixas region in Galicia and is immensely popular both locally and in the rest of Spain. As with so many other wines this goes brilliantly with the local cuisine which is seafood and shellfish. The one I’ve tried today is Sainsbury’s Albariño from their Taste the Difference range – although I bought it in Sainsbury’s Local for £8.49 it is available from bigger Sainsbury’s at £7.99 (more fool me). Pale lemon in colour this wine has an unbelievably fresh nose of lemon-sherbert, peach and stone fruits. It is medium bodied, retains the stone fruit flavour on the palate but with a much more apply character. It is given structure by it’s stoney minerality, fresh acidity and an ever so slight spritz. It is often said that Albariño is a great alternative to Chardonnay but I know that will put a lot of people off. It has more body than you’d expect for a wine with otherwise delicate flavours and is definitely one worth trying if you haven’t before. 

Today was a great reminder of how you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Just as I often do judge books by their covers I have been known to buy wines just because they have a really good label. Gran Cerdo is a sort of new-age Rioja by which I mean it is from the Rioja region, uses Rioja grapes (Tempranillo and Graciano) but due to it’s maverick wine-making techniques, it cannot legally call itself Rioja. It’s name means Great Pig – to explain this better I have to read you the back of the bottle which is totally brilliant: “Gran Cerdo is a great wine dedicated to the bank executives that denied loans to us on the basis that wine is not a seizable asset. One day, these greasy and sweaty corporate suits will find that the best things in life cannot be impounded.” Genius! I love it! But at this point I have to very very sadly admit that Gran Cerdo was not one of the best things in my life today. Deep (almost opaque) ruby red with a very closed nose but a hint of plums. The palate was a real disappointment with almost no fruit, incredibly overripe tannins and a fairly unpleasant bitterness from the oak. The main problem is that it lacks balance. I really really hope that this will improve with a bit of bottle age but I doubt it. While it will definitely be more approachable with some barbecued red meat I really wouldn’t bother.

The third wine of the day was more successful than the second. The Vacqueyras Domaine de la Curniere 2010 is from Marks and Spencer for £11.99 a bottle. Not cheap I know but I am cooking beef wellington for the in-laws tomorrow and so need something a bit posh to go with it. Dark ruby red in colour with a surprisingly ripe nose or plums, raspberries and a bit of spice. This is a full bodied wine with flavours of black pepper, black fruits and a hint of menthol supported by supple tannins. This definitely needs food (and I will report back how it goes with the wellington) and would also be excellent with any slow-cooked winter stews. To be honest it is probably a little early to be drinking it and will certainly improve with a bit of bottle age.

Please wish me luck with the beef wellington – I have £30 worth of fillet steak sitting in my fridge and if it goes wrong it’s going to be a really expensive disaster!