‘Armand’ commends a red bargain, and the blue bottle
Exquisite Collection Malbec 2015
First of all, a confession: I am a huge fan of wine from South America, so this month’s column is biased. Aficionados [Here we go. Ed] have long been into the wines of Chile and Argentina, with their cool climate and high-altitude vineyards producing wines of extreme purity and freshness. The good news is that the explosion of quality in the 1980s and ’90s, along with increased availability of wines from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, has forced the old classic vineyards in Europe to raise their game in the production-quality stakes. But there is some wonderful terroir in South America, especially in the foothills of the Andes, and some of the biggest names in Europe have been investing in vineyards on the other side of the Atlantic for some time. After all, good grapes produce good juice, as this cracking little bottle proves. If you eat steak, you should be drinking Malbec, and Argentina has long been the flagbearer for New World expressions of this dark-skinned grape. The Uco Valley, source of the grapes for this bottle, is a good sub-region within Mendoza, and the long growing season and huge differences between daytime and night-time temperatures contribute to a lovely nose full of fresh black fruits. The mouthfeel is balanced, with gentle tannins and a satisfying clean finish. Whilst not overpowering, this will stand up well to a rib-eye steak, but won’t swamp a piece of fillet. This is very definitely a food wine, and would complement any red meat. There is lovely elegance in the structure, and it’s an absolute bargain at around £6 a bottle. It is, in fact, one to buy by the caseload.
Aldi at £5.99 per bottle
Seasoned drinkers may thumb their nose at the fact that we’ve got Bombay Sapphire this month. But I’m urging them to revisit this oft-derided gin. After all, it got me off Gordon’s in my (relative) youth, and into new and unexplored gin territories. Yet despite the ever growing gin-collection chez Armand, there is always a bottle of Bombay to hand, and I will regularly sample it. There’s something comforting and expected about it. It’s reliable; and always going to produce a smile – like the “Appointments” section in the Church Times.
As something of a newcomer to the scene – the first batch having been distilled only in 1987 – Bombay uses ten different botanicals in order to flavour its spirit. It has a slightly lighter taste than many of its competitors, much of which is down to how it is distilled. Some may find its lack of a fierce juniper kick to problematic; but I rather enjoy its smooth, almost easy-drinking nature. That’s not to say it’s boring, far from it; but because of its slightly lighter aroma it’s best used with a premium tonic to give a kick, and should be garnished with a slice of lime. It makes a perfect aperitif G&T. High time it was rediscovered.
Widely available at around £20 per litre