Asda La Vista

POSTED ON 08/06/2015

Having vowed not to take anyone seriously who informs me po-facedly that they’ve been on a journey, my heart sank as Master of Wine Philippa Carr introduced the Asda Spring and Summer press tasting: ‘We’ve been on quite a journey’, she announced as she introduced a new section called the Wine Atlas Wines.

In bright, shiny new labels, not only did the Wine Atlas wines promise to take me on a journey ‘from Germany’s cool vineyard’s to the sun-drenched climate of Sicily’, but Asda’s core Extra Special range had also been given a facelift and the entire caboodle re-sourced or re-packaged to the tune of nearly 200 wines.

With the expectation of facelift and rejuvenation following my own journey from south to central London, I was agog to see whether the disappointments of the last couple of Asda tastings I had attended could indeed be turned on their head by one of the most experienced buyers in the business.

It was 10 years since Philippa had launched the Extra Special range to much fanfare. In more recent times, Asda has struggled to find an identity as it’s become increasingly squeezed in the no-man’s land between specialist independents and Waitrose at one end and the no-frills German discounters Aldi and Lidl at the other.

The sight of the Wine Atlas labels was a promising start. These brightly painted poster-style labels are powerfully eye-catching images but what about the liquid inside? The 2013 Wine Atlas Saint Chinian, £5.97, headed up a trio of colourful Southern French reds with liquorice spice and succulent dark cherry fruit.

The 2014 Wine Atlas Feteasca Regala, £45.97, is a joyfully zingy, fresh apple and and pear Romanian dry white, the 2013 Wine Atlas Marzemino, £5.97, a genuine North Italian discovery for its sweet cherry fruit etched with savoury, barbecue-friendly freshness. From Spain, the 2011 Wine Atlas Cigales Tempranillo, £5.97, combines deliciously juicy smoky oak and strawberry fruit.

Perhaps even more important for Asda is its Extra Special range because this is the core range of what Philippa describes as ‘affordable classics’ by which the entire supermarket offering stands or falls. And at this tasting it was standing tall and proud.

Aside from the toasty, mouthfilling Extra Special Louis Bernard Premier Cru Champagne, £19.95, there’s a full-flavoured, buttery 2014 Extra Special Chardonnay, £5, a crème frâiche-rich Extra Special Chablis, Domaine de la Levée, £11, and ripe, peachy Extra Special Viognier, £5, with the variety’s floral lift.

From Sicily, the Extra Special Fiano, £7.50, delivers stonefruit flavours and zip while the Extra Special Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, £5.98, is rich in passion fruit, herb and grapefruit zest and zing. I had been on a journey, and so it was that I returned to South London, face duly lifted, spirits rejuvenated.

Something For The Weekend 6 June 2015

Night In

2014 Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Sauvignon Blanc

This Kiwi sauvignon blanc from Yealands stood out from the crowd for its tropical guava and nettle fragrance, its passion fruit and gooseberry zing and balanced fresh citrus-zesty aftertaste. £7, down from £8, until 9 June, Sainsbury’s.

Dinner Party

2013 Maretti Langhe Rosso

This stylish oak-matured blend of barbera and nebbiolo is a mouthwatering North-West Italian rosso whose vivid sour cherry fruitiness is framed by the perfume and spine of barolo’s nebbiolo grape in an excellent value blend. £11.99, buy 2 = £8.99, Majestic.

Splash Out

2013 Domaine Jean Monnier et Fils Vieilles Vignes Meursault

A smartly-crafted Côte de Beaune white burgundy whose complex aromas of peachy fruit and subtle oak toast lead you into a glassful of opulent stonefruits underpinned by delicately nutty oak and superdry balancing freshness. £29.99, Waitrose.

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