Even if there’s still a bit of a chill in the air, a glass of something refreshing and uplifting might help convince us that spring is just around the corner.
If you like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, try Aldi’s Gavi at £5.49 from their Exquisite Collection. Fresh and citrusy, yet slightly creamy, this is such an easy drinking, versatile wine based on the Cortese grape from Piedmont. It regularly wins prizes, including bronze medal in last year’s International Wine Challenge (where I’ve been a judge for the past 18 years – it’s tougher than it sounds, let me tell you, and we do spit!). The Gavi is gorgeous on its own or with any number of dishes, but grilled fish or pasta carbonara spring to mind. It would also be great with buttery, lemony roast chicken. Nearest branches are in North Finchley and Hatfield.
Whereas the Gavi has a fairly neutral style, Austria’s main grape variety Grüner Veltliner has a more distinctive personality. Zesty fruit with a lively pepperiness and tangy acidity makes it great for food and it’s particularly happy with Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines. If you fancy something stylish to accompany that takeaway, look no further. Weingut Markus Huber, Taste the Difference Grüner Veltliner 2013, £7.50 from Sainsburys.
A particular favourite red is a supple, aromatic Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France produced by one of the region’s best producers, Filliatreau: Saumur-Champigny, Croix de Chaintres, £11.99 (Waitrose). It has juicy raspberry fruit with an appetising earthiness and is fresh and palate cleansing. Charming and gluggable, yet it has enough going on to be thought provoking. It’s just the job for steak and salad, duck, or new season lamb, but a traditional partner to charcuterie. On warmer days (oh, the thought) it can be lightly chilled. At the bottom of this piece is a picture of their amazing estate with troglodyte buildings alongside the river Loire (and they kindly let me use the photo).
Another red ideal for this time of year is Chianti – refreshingly aromatic and hugely appetizing. Chianti is quite a broad area, but if you stick to the Chianti Classico zone between Florence and Siena, you’ll find some of the best examples and you can’t do much better than Fontodi and their Chianti Classico 2011, £17 (The Wine Society). Fontodi is based in the town of Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico and produces generous, satisfying wines with a real sense of luxury (and in quite a different league to the raffia wrapped bottles in old fashioned trattorias). Another great choice for lamb, particularly slow roasted leg or shoulder with plenty of rosemary or thyme and a touch of garlic.