Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm switching the blog to The Frugal Cook!

Five blogs - as anyone could have told me - are just too much to maintain and The Frugal Cook, my budget eating blog seems a logical home for this one. Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Some unmissable wine buys at M & S

Marks & Spencer has a 25% off promotion across its in store* wine range if you buy 6 bottles for the next fortnight - great for credit crunch drinkers. Here are my top picks under £6

Los Nucos Chardonnay Viognier 2010 £5.49 down to £4.18
A light lush Chilean blend with an attractive peachy character that gives it an extra edge over basic Chardonnay. A good all rounder but especially good with creamy fish or chicken dishes and chicken salads. It’s sister (brother?) wine, the Los Nucos Carmenère Shiraz - a bright breezy red that would make excellent everyday drinking is also good (Same price, same deal) ***

Valdepomares Rioja Blanca 2010 £5.99 down to £4.49
A modern white Rioja made in a fresh, citrussy style but with plenty of complexity. Although not organic the grapes are grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Try it with fishy tapas ****

Vermentino Lazio 2010 £6.99 down to £5.24
Grab the chance to buy this elegant Italian white for under £5 - it’s the best of a very good new range of Italian whites from M & S. Great with simply prepared fish, seafood risottos and pasta dishes and vegetable-based antipasti. (The Falanghina and Fiano are also good.) *****

Corriente del Bio Pinot Noir £7.99 down to £5.99
Really good value at its original price, an unmissable bargain with 25% off, this elegant Burgundian-style Chilean Pinot knocks spots off most of its New World rivals. Frankly you’d never get burgundy of this quality for this sort of money. Perfect with duck or seared salmon or tuna. *****

Garnacha Tinto Navarra 2010 £6.99 down to £5.24
This exuberantly fruity Garnacha-based wine is typical of Spain’s fantastically good value modern reds. Great with gutsy food like sausage and mash - or beans. It could take a fair amount of spice. ****

Negroamaro 2010 £5.99 down to £4.49
A rich, brambly southern Italian red that almost tastes of liquid blackberries. Great with duck, lamb and strong cheeses, especially blues. Would go with baked pasta dishes like lasagne too. ***

Côtes du Rhône Villages St Maurice 2009 £6.99 down to £5.24
A really good example of a Côtes du Rhône - warm, generous, spicy and delicious. Great drinking with rustic bistro-style and gastropub food ****

* So far as I can make out the offer doesn't seem to apply online unless you buy 2 cases which seems a bit odd. Maybe they want you to go into their stores and be tempted

Saturday, August 6, 2011

3 good buys from the Tesco Finest range

Tesco may not be exactly flavour of the month in some quarters but for those of you who do shop there there are some good bargains. Particularly from their own 'Finest' range which regularly features 2 for £10 offers on selected wines. Here are 3 that appeal to me:

Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet (normally £7.29)
My favourite holiday wine - a crisp dry white that's brilliantly good with fresh seafood
Rating: ***

Tesco Finest Douro Reserve 2008 (normally £7.29)
A big lush brambly red from the same area that produces port. I'd say lay in for winter drinking but it's almost cold enough to drink it now. One for stews, pies and roasts.
Rating: ****

Tesco Finest Touriga Nacional 2010 (normally £7.79)
Made by the same winery (and flying winemaker) as the above but from 100% Touriga Nacional. Even more warming and spicy. Would be great with roast lamb and stronger cheeses like mature cheddar and Stilton.
Rating: ****

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tillington Hills Premium Cider

What kind of wine can you buy for £2.65? Well, you probably can find one but would you serve it to your friends? This upmarket cider, on the other hand, would look good on any table.

It's made from fruit grown on the Co-op farms in Herefordshire which surprised me as I didn't know the Co-op had any farms, let alone orchards and is a blend of Tillington Ladies’ Finger, Bulmers Norman, Mitchelin, Dabonnet and Yarlington Mill. (What great names cider apples have).

It's on the dry side of medium dry, with a classic sharp cider apple flavour and at 6% would make a great partner for pretty well anything porky - slow roast belly pork, sausages, pork or fidget pies, cold ham - a ploughman's or a chicken or pheasant casserole with cider or a creamy sauce.

It doesn't contain any concentrates, flavourings, artificial sweeteners or colourings and comes in a screwcap bottle so you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days without it spoiling. If it lasts that long.

Great drink.

Rating: ***

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Bibendum wine sale but get in quick!

I don't normally write about wine merchants on this blog, let alone London-based ones but Bibendum has got some cracking offers in its summer sale which started today.

Wines I'd pick out for credit crunch drinkers are the Argento range from Argentina which are now all under £5 - The aromatic Torrontes would be particularly worth trying at £25.09 a case of six (£4.19 a bottle), even though it's from Mendoza rather than Salta, the best region for this grape, along with the Malbec/Tempranillo (£26.48/£4.42), both from the 2010 vintage.

£4.72 a bottle is not a lot to pay for Cotes du Roussillon Villages from the much feted Agly valley, even though some of the fruit comes from over the border in Spain (maybe why it was difficult to sell?).

And £4.80 is nothing for a 2010 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the well-known producer Wither Hills though I'm not sure what they mean by 'sale stock'. (The answer is that it was labelled that by mistake. All the wines on offer are sale stock so a really good offer then.)

The only thing I'd be careful about is older vintages. 2007 Pinot Blanc from the Cave de Ribeauvillé, a co-op I admire, is a bit of a risk. And I'd be cautious about ordering 2009 rosés.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good value Rioja - to drink with lasagne!

One of the wines that did best in the What Food What Wine competition results that were announced this week was Campo Viejo's 2008 Rioja Crianza which we voted the best wine to drink with lasagne ('we' being a pretty high-powered group of industry judges including 4 Masters of wine and one of London's top sommelier)

It was the pairing that I found slightly surprising, not the wine (I'd have expected an Italian red to sneak in there). Campo Viejo has always been one of the more reliable, consistent brands and hasn't become over-priced. Currently there are some good special offers on it, according to mysupermarketwine it's £5 a bottle at Asda, £5.99 at Tesco until the 19th and £6.99 at Sainsbury's though I don't know which vintage they're featuring. And Waitrose Wine Direct has the 2007 at £4.97, also until the 19th, which means it's probably around £5.49 in Waitrose stores. Good everyday drinking and, frankly, fine for friends and family too (I'd happily drink it with a Sunday roast). Rating ****

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two Iberian white wine bargains

Inevitably this blog mainly concerns itself with special offers but here are two terrific under £5 whites from The Wine Society which looks increasingly good value against the supermarkets.

My favourite by a whisker is the Bodegas Virgen de la Sierra Cruz de Piedra Macabeo 2010 from Calatayud, a region which lies between Madrid and Zaragoza. It's fresh and lemony but with cooked rather than fresh lemon flavours and an odd touch of banana (nicer than it sounds). Quite soft - a good all-rounder for summer drinking.

The other is a crisp Portuguese white called Real Lavrador from the Alentejo, 2010 (not up on the site yet) which is made from two of Portugal's weird and wonderful local grape varieties, roupeiro and rabo-de-ovelha. That's more delicate and aromatic - almost floral but without being at all sweet. A good grilled fish wine.

What's great about these wines - apart from the price - is that they're quite different from the great mass of confected cheap whites out there. Clean, natural-tasting and moreish. Good for The Wine Society.