On members' forum we have been having a discussion
of good wines under £10 that are available in British supermarkets and high street stores. It reminded me of the one wine in that category that I tasted this year that I don't feel I have brought to your attention quite as enthusiastically as I should have done.
I first tasted The Pilgrimage Mencía 2006 Bierzo
at the end of June when the wine department of giant supermarket Tesco was showing off its latest acquisitions and it positively leapt off the table for its brilliance of conception, execution and - what's that thing again? - ah yes, taste. It's absolutely delicious and I can only assume that the reason it hasn't been raved about far and wide is because at £6.99 it's more expensive than the bottom-feeding shoal of £4.99-ers but in fact it falls into that £6-10 ($12-20) bracket that I feel often offers the best value of all: you pay for superior wine rather than for transport, packaging, duties and taxes. It was one of the wines I highlighted in my list of recommended Tesco wines here
but I felt at the time that I ought to be touting its virtues rather more obviously.
As those familiar with the exploding Spanish wine scene know, Bierzo is a small, recently fashionable wine region in north west, Atlantic-influenced Spain. Here wines are refreshing and tend to be quite a bit lighter than those made in Mediterranean-influenced regions to the east. This wine is just 13.5% alcohol, for example, and the wine's balance of soft, mulberry fruit, clear-cut acidity and brilliant texture is hugely distinctive. Bierzo was put on the map by the Palacios family of Priorat/L'Ermita fame via their Corullón wines (from £24 a bottle chez Corney & Barrow in the UK). Its uniquely refreshing yet intriguing character depends on the local grape Mencía, so fragrant it was for long mistaken for Cabernet Franc, and on the local terroir, granite/schist on the slopes and alluvial clays and stones on flatter ground. The hillside vineyards' fruit is presumably much more expensive than that grown on the flat but there seems to be some schistous 'sucking stones' flavour and texture in this wine, made with a very gentle hand by talented British Master of Wine Norrel Robertson, who is based in northern Spain and regularly turns out underpriced bottlings for UK retailers.
According to the website
of the brand owner Guy Anderson (creator of Fat Bastard Chardonnay), 2006 was a particularly good vintage in Bierzo with notably ripe, forward fruit. Only a small proportion of the fruit was given a few months in oak but the rest is unadorned, ready-to-gulp fruit. Many will realise that the wine is called The Pilgrimage because Bierzo is on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, along which so many scallop shell images are to be found, Santiago being Spanish and St Jacques (of coquilles
fame) French for St James.
For the moment it is sold only in 434 Tesco stores at £6.99 but early next year it should be available in the US from this importer:
Well Oiled Wine Company
1 Loudoun Street
SW Leesburg, Virginia 20175
Tesco have since introduced a Galician white sister to this red, The Pilgrimage Godello 2006 Bierzo, also £6.99 from Tesco and made from the signature white grape variety of Valdeorras nearby. It's just 12.5% but I don't think it's such a good buy. Norrel Robertson MW did the blending rather than the winemaking at Bodegas Adria, and it seems altogether more muted. A good buy at £5.99 perhaps.