Scottie Gregory dines out on Tesco

Next time your friends ask you for a Tesco tip, don't just give them a list of wines... make their mouths water with Scottie Gregory's accompanying food pairings: 

I cheekily took the opportunity of a delightful lunch in the garden, one Sunday, at the kind invitation of some dear friends, to take along three of the bottles. I knew that two other wine buffs would be there, so it would be good to get other opinions. 

I took along two sparkling wines, Tesco Finest English Sparkling NV and Gratien and Meyer’s Cremant de Loire Rosé NV, plus my favourite rosé, Mirabeau Pure.

Tesco's Finest English sparkler made by award-winning producer

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Tesco’s Finest English Sparkling is a good entry point for English sparkling wine and at £19 a bottle will not break the bank. It is produced at the award-winning Balfour Hush Heath Estate in Kent. It is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic grapes of Champagne.

It produces a great mousse that lasts. It has the characteristic brioche nose shared by many champagnes.  It also shares the lemon and apple notes in the mouth that is so typical of English sparkling wine. There is a hint of pineapple and the overall effect is crisp and dry and very long on the palate.

Anchovies, quail eggs and sautéed padrón peppers

We drank this along with dishes of anchovies, quail eggs and sautéed padrón peppers and it was a perfect for cutting through the oiliness of the anchovies and the creaminess of the quail eggs. One of my favourite food combinations for English sparkling wine is with a creamy goat’s cheese such as Rosary Ash and this would go well with that.

Gratien and Meyer Cremant de Loire Rosé NV was also tasted before our lunch. It is pale salmon pink made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.  It is made in the same way as champagne so it is a bargain at £12.  This Cremant de Loire has a wonderful nose of summer flowers. I detected rose and geranium but my friends said that they could, in addition, smell French Marigold and elderflower. On the palate delicious notes of raspberry, no doubt from the Pinot Noir, and peach and apples. We drank this with the pre-lunch snacks and unexpectedly, it really enhanced the dish of Padron peppers. I know however from experience that this fizz is a great accompaniment for smoked salmon blinis.

Mirabeau's gastronomic rosé dreams fulfilled

Finally, that day we opened a bottle of Mirabeau Pure (£15). I must confess this is my favourite affordable rosé and there is always a bottle or two on my wine rack. I am so pleased that Tesco is stocking it. If you do not know the story (apologies if you do) Stephen and Jeany Cronk sold their house in South West London and headed to Provence to realise their dream: to produce some gastronomic rosés. Twelve years on and the fairy tale has come true. It is such a credit to them as to how much they have achieved in such a short time.

Investing in regenerative viticulture 

Their range of rosés are all delightful and several have won prestigious awards, but even more impressive is that 50% of all profits of La Réserve, their first single-estate rosé, produced at Domaine Mirabeau, is funding “The Regenerative Viticulture Foundation”, a UK based charity that Stephen chairs as a Trustee. The Regenerative Viticulture Foundation will bring together practitioners, researchers and leaders in regenerative agriculture and viticulture and work with experts in the fields of science, farming and communications. The Foundation will support and enable viticulturists to make the transition from conventional or organic farming to Regenerative Viticulture and to create a database of evidence and a platform for advice, support and education concerning regenerative viticulture.

Isle of Wight olives and olive oil

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But to get back to Pure. My friends voted it the star of the day.  The verdict was that the nose was of summer fruits, pink grapefruit and white spring flowers.   On the palate, we noted peach, melon, strawberry and raspberry panna cotta. It was creamy but so perfectly balanced with a citrus acidity and great minerality.   We drank it with a starter of burrata, with Isle of Wight tomatoes olives and olive oil. It complimented the creamy cheese, but Pure is so universal the challenge would be to find anything Pure did not compliment.

Versatile rosé for a wide array of dishes

This Sunday I prepared two main courses for my guests, a Bouillabaisse (monkfish, halibut, langoustines, prawns, scallops, squid, mussels and clams in a broth made of celery, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, saffron, bay, parsley, fish stock and white wine) and a chicken tray bake (with fennel, orange, garlic, thyme, olive oil) for those who are seafood averse and Pure matched both brilliantly. Pure is a great aperitif too, so no food matching required! 

The next day we tasted Tesco Finest Vinas del Rey Albarino. This packs a punch far above its weight as it is as good as several Albarinos I have tasted at double its price (£8.50). It is produced in the Rias Baixas which is where the best Albarino is grown in northern Spain. The cooling Atlantic breezes ensure that the grapes ripen slowly, producing intense flavours.

You would be forgiven if you were persuaded that this was, on the nose, a sweet wine as the first aroma that greets you is honey and apricot but with a hint of pink grapefruit. On the palate you note all three, but the whole is perfectly balanced with acidity, crispness and minerality making it a dry but fruity wine.

Albarino with sea bass in Mediterranean herbs

We drank it with sea bass initially sautéed at slightly higher heat to crisp the skin and then gently, in salted butter with a mix of Mediterranean herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme) with red bell peppers, onions and garlic.  They were perfect together, with the crispness of the Albarino cutting through the buttery fish sauce. I have been drinking Albarino for 20 plus years and I felt this represented such value for money, that I went out the next day and bought three bottles.

The penultimate wine I asked to taste was Tesco Low Alcohol Garnacha Rosé (£2.75). I have been buying two of Tesco’s excellent zero alcohol wines this summer, Nozeco and Freixenet Rosé Sparkling Wine and I wanted to see if a still wine was as good as the sparkling versions. This is a sweet wine tasting of raspberries and strawberries. It got the thumbs up from my elder granddaughter who described as “Yum” and from friends who can never manage a dessert wine because of added alcohol intake during a meal. I served it with Oswaldo Oliva’s recipe for Tres Leches Cake, which one would think from the ingredients would be over the top in the sugar stakes but is quite amazing. A sponge cake is soaked in a mixture of full cream milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk, with a shot of rum and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. The matching of the wine and pudding was one made in heaven and the wine tasted medium dry when confronted by the cake. It would be well matched with any fruity dessert.

Closing out with Swartland Rosé Shiraz

Finally, I tasted Tesco Finest Swartland Shiraz (£7.50). This had an earthy, damson, peppery nose and on the palate damson, blackberry, cherry and mint, as well as that earthy quality. It is delicious, but much lighter than a full-bodied Ozzy equivalent, which makes it particularly suitable for summer drinking in hot weather. This wine would go well with barbecued meats, especially pork and lamb, but it would be a great match for vegetarian dishes particularly those made with aubergine such as parmigiana. 

I really enjoyed tasting a selection of Tesco supermarket wines. It shows that good wines can be found on supermarket shelves and over the years I have discovered some real gems at Tesco.

Scottie Gregory August, 2021

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