Rights of spring

Bertie Eden at his biodynamic vineyard in La Livini�re in the Minervois
Bertie Eden at his biodynamic vineyard in La Livini�re in the Minervois
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Spring seems to have sprung remarkably early this year and while there is every chance that we will get thrown back into winter, it makes sense to gather a few bottles together for springtime drinking.

With the green shoots of spring flowers appearing a lot faster than those of the economy, price is still very much an issue and there are some great bargains around so I have selected some good drinking wines at affordable prices.

I have also chosen a couple of more expensive bottles which will be perfect for those occasions when, in more extravagant days, you might have gone out to a restaurant, but instead decide to cook at home. With restaurant wine list mark-ups averaging 300 per cent you can afford to splash out on a bottle of wine to drink at home and indulge your tastebuds by trading up and still save money.

£5 and under

Now that the Chancellor is using his “duty escalator” to increase the price of still wine above the rate of inflation it is becoming more difficult to limbo under the £5 mark but Tesco has a handful of wines under a fiver. The pair of Zalze wines from South Africa, a Chenin Blanc and a red blend made from Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier both offer great flavours at a terrific price.

Normally £6.99, they will be at just £4.99 until April 3. The Chenin 2011 has pineapple and guava fruit, with a crisp, clean finish, perfect to go with fish starters or pork while the Shiraz-based red is full of bramble and mulberry fruit with just a sprinkle of spice. They are made by the same team who make the excellent Kleine Zalze wines on the up-market wine and golf resort just outside Stellenbosch.

Tesco also has Torres Viña Sol 2011 from Spain on offer from £6.99 to £4.99 until April 3. Made from the crisp, fresh, fruity Parellada grape, Viña Sol is a terrific wine to team up with light, creamy pasta and rice dishes or with seafood. While you are checking out the Tesco shelves, pick up a bottle of Yali Merlot 2010 from Argentina. With ripe, raspberry and plum flavours and smooth, soft tannins this is a terrific weekday suppertime wine.

A new set of offers has started at Waitrose bringing the price of St Hallett’s Poachers Blend 2010 down to £4.99 until 10 April.

This is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling from the Barossa in Australia and it provides crisp citrusy flavours with tropical notes that make it a perfect spring wine.

£5 to £6.50

Step over the £5 mark and another range of wines becomes available including the rather good Dourthe Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from Bordeaux (£5.99 Waitrose until April 10). Bordeaux Sauvignon differs from New Zealand in that it is snappier with more citrus and less tropical fruit and this one has a definite streak of minerals. Enjoy it as an aperitif while the sun shines or team it with fish or goat’s cheese.

This time of year is also good to go back to Beaujolais since those light, fresh, juicy flavours combine well with all kinds of foods from a roast chicken to a mild curry.

Waitrose has the crunchy, raspberry-filled Château La Forêt Beaujolais 2010 at £6.39 until April 10. Made from grapes grown on 35 year-old vines the wine has more complexity and depth than most yet still manages to be refreshing and delicious.

Thinking of light fruity flavours, head to Tesco for Brancott Pinot Noir 2010 from New Zealand at just £6.29 until April 3. This used to be known as Montana but was changed to Brancott possibly to avoid the Americans being confused by its origin but the quality and flavour hasn’t altered. Packed with juicy cherry fruit, its light juicy flavours go well with salmon, chicken, and lamb as well as a suppertime slice of cheese.

£6.50 to £8

For this kind of money you expect well-made precise flavours and that is what you get in Marks and Spencer’s Tierra y Hombre wines which come from the startlingly beautiful Indomita winery perched on a hill in Chile’s Casablanca Valley.

The investment has not just gone into the shiny glass cladding of the building which reflects the vineyards but also into top-notch winemaking facilities.

The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 is now at £6.99 until April 7 and provides crisp, lime-shot flavours with top-notes of guava and a sprinkling of herbs. Equally good is the partner Pinot Noir 2011 which combines cherry fruit and just a hint of French oak to make it suitable to partner red meat and game.

M&S will give you an extra five per cent or 15 per cent discount when you buy three or 12 bottles respectively.

Porcupine Ridge Shiraz seems to be a favourite amongst readers so head to Majestic where the 2010 vintage is down to £6.99 until 23 April. Winemaker Marc Kent tells me that he could make a lot more money selling this wine in other markets but he likes seeing his wine on the UK shelves so it only seems polite to buy lots of it. It will keep well over the summer for drinking with barbecues and grilled meats but won’t come to any harm if you forget it for a while. I recently found a bottle of 2008 vintage and it had mellowed wonderfully.

Sainsbury start the next set of offers on Wednesday which sees the price of the excellent Prosecco Conigliano go down to just £7.99 until April 17. Sales of Prosecco are increasing rapidly as we all fall for the light floral aromas and exuberant fizz of this wine.

£8 to £10

Last summer I visited Bertie Eden at his biodynamic vineyard in La Livinière in the Minervois region of the Languedoc where he makes a terrific Syrah 2009 for Waitrose.

Normally priced at £12.99 this is well worth its money but until April 10 it is priced at just £9.99 and so it is a genuine bargain. Big and bold with deep colour and aromas, it has dark plummy fruit and layers of spice, ending clean and silky, perfect to drink on any chilly spring evening. Snap this up and enjoy it, but it won’t come to any harm for the next 18 months or even longer.

This is also the time to take a detour to Majestic for Martin Codax Albariño 2010 from Rías Baixas in northern Spain. With delicate honeyed peachy notes and a crisp finish this tastes of the sunny days ahead. Try it with a tomato and herb salad and start to think of sunshine.