I HAVE always been fascinated by books about wine, and, on looking through a catalogue recently, my eye was caught by Prosecco Made Me Do It. Was this about someone who had murdered his or her partner in a drunken frenzy? It turned out to contain “60 seriously sparkling cocktail recipes that are light, fizzy and fun.” This is a book that I am not going to add to my wine library, however: if a wine is worth making, it is unlikely to be improved by having some alien substance added to it.
Of course, as with any rule, there are some honourable exceptions. The Burgundian aperitif the Kir is a mixture of the white wine Bourgogne Aligoté and Crème de Cassis blackcurrant liqueur. Here, the natural acidity of the wine is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the liqueur. Buck’s Fizz is an enjoyable drink, but its taste appeal is scarcely lessened by the use of almost any sparkling wine rather than Champagne.
On the other hand, there is one booklet that has just appeared and that I shall be using, and it costs nothing. This is 100 Awesome Wines 2018, an annual selection of generally available wines that have particularly pleased the members of the Association of Wine Educators. If you would like a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The wines are classified by price bracket and colour, and range from £3.99 for a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2016 from Lidl, to the Domaine Tempier, Bandol 2014, which is £24 from the Wine Society. Also included are some recommended sparkling wines, sherries, and sakes.
One of the disadvantages of this booklet is that, as it appears only annually, not all the wines might be available for all the following year. Among the suppliers, most of the high-street chains and supermarkets are represented.
On my own recent search along the wine shelves my eye has been caught by an old favourite, Pata Negra Gran Reserva 2008 (Aldi £6.29) from Bodegas Los Llanos, one of the best producers in the Valdepeñas region of central Spain. To have a wine of this age and quality at such a price is a bargain. Made 100-per cent from Tempranillo grapes, and aged in barrel to full maturity, this is a wine to snap up
Also from Aldi, I can recommend its Lot Series Te Haupapa Central Otago Pinot Noir from New Zealand (£8.99). For white-wine drinkers, I suggest the Exquisite Collection Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc (£5.49). This comes from a coastal region in Chile where the cool climate gives an extra zing and freshness to the wine.
Waitrose’s range of rosé wines bears witness to their increasing popularity, and I would suggest a bottle of the Côtes de Provence Esprit de Buganay 2016, from the leading producer Gilardi, at £7.99, rather than the normal £10.99. Let us hope that we have the weather to justify the resurgent rosés.