A red refresher course with Lidl

An evening of red wine tasting gave Peter Ranscombe an appetite for exploring more of the discounter’s core range.

LIDL’S “Wine Tour” promotions are an addictive wee gimmick – every eight weeks or so, the supermarket chain releases a couple of dozen wines in limited quantities – so when they’re gone, they’re gone.

The set that came out at the end of May had some excellent whites – especially from Italy and Spain – at some excellent prices and they seem to have struck a chord, certainly judging by the number of people who read my review.

For me, the only downside of the regular promotions is that they often overshadow Lidl’s core range of wines, which is in store all year round and offers equally-impressive value for money.

That’s why it was good to take part in Diana Thompson from Wine Events Scotland tonight for an online tasting that featured red wines from the grocery’s core range.

Thompson was joined by Richard Bampfield, one of three masters of wine who taste and score Lidl’s wines, and Chris Scott, who Thompson described as “Mr Lidl in Scotland”, thanks to his role in marketing the wines north of the border, including when he runs the supermarket’s table at her Fizz Feast in Edinburgh each autumn.

Her online tastings have become a weekly feature of lockdown for many wine fans, and it’s good to see her varying the format.

Tonight’s taste of Lidl’s red has given me an appetite for re-exploring the range, especially over a barbecue or two…

Baturrica Tarragona Rioja Gran Reserva 2014 (£4.99)
“If there’s a better value red wine in the country then I’d love to find it,” said Bampfield as he introduced the blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot from just south of Barcelona. Lots of red cherry, blackberry, cinnamon and light vanilla on the nose, and then a healthy kick of fresh acidity on the palate, balanced by more black fruit and vanilla. It’s fresh and fruity, and incredible value for a fiver.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva Rioja 2015 (£5.49)
Lidl’s own-label Cepa Lebrel range is always good value and its “reserva” incarnation is no exception – a classic Rioja nose of wood smoke, damp earth, cedar and spun sugar gives way to a much fruitier palate full of black cherry, blackberry and vanilla, with a bitter dark chocolate twist on the finish. Textbook stuff, with enough tannin to sit alongside roast lamb.

Carles Priorat Crianza 2016 (£7.99)
I remain to be convinced about the Priorat from the latest “Wine Tour”; having tried it for a second time, I still find the vanilla flavours to be unbalanced. It’s a shame, because there are some lovely dark fruit flavours buried in there, along with enough tannin to serve alongside a steak. It’s a step-up in price, but I reckon the Co-op’s Cop de Ma Priorat is a better introduction to the region, especially when it’s reduced from its standard £13 price tag down to £11.

Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2017 (£10.99)
A grand cru wine from the village of Saint Emilion for just over a tenner is stonking value and this example still has some way to go. It would be fine with food right now, but giving the grippy tannins a year or maybe even two to knit into the rest of the wine would be beneficial. It’s got the classic Bordeaux wet dog, cedar and black fruit aromas, and then it becomes much more expressive on the palate, with concentrated milk chocolate, blackberry and blackberry flavours, plus a twist of dark chocolate on the finish. Lunch in the neighbouring area of Cotes de Castillon was one of the highlights of visiting Bordeaux with Bampfield and Lidl back in 2016.

Winemaker’s Selection Barossa Valley Shiraz (£5.99)
Classic dark chocolate, wood smoke, mint, blackberry and black pepper aromas on the nose, with ripe tannins, fresh acidity and warming alcohol on the palate. Bampfield pointed out the gamey or meaty note he always finds in shiraz, which he characterised as “liver” in this instance; getting all those flavours and textures for £5.99 certainly gets my vote, especially given the wine’s excellent balance.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.