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"Why we select the wines we do". SuperValu’s Buyer Tells How and Why.
Why we select the wines we do.
SuperValu’s Buyer Tells How and Why.
“Why we select the wines we do.” That was the theme of the eye-opening Supervalu Wine tasting, a Munster Wine & Dine event, at L’Atitude on Wednesday night.
The company's senior wine-buyer Kevin O’Callaghan was our host for the evening and he brought along 12 excellent examples from the SuperValu shelves, concentrating mainly on the bottles with the Specially Sourced stamp. “These have been sourced, tasted and approved by our wine-buying team.”
Kevin, who has been with the company for 13 years, says their aim is to make wine more accessible so “people can enjoy good wines at affordable prices”. And that was underlined throughout the evening that started with a glass of Charles Mignon Grand Cru Champagne, this one, with its intense aromas of almond and apricot. It is “a good food match, a blend of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay and, at €45.00, well priced against sparklers of comparable quality".
Soon we were on to the very affordable, a Flamants Picpoul de Pinet (12.99, 10.00 on offer), becoming ”a very fashionable wine and great with shellfish.”
Next up was the Abellio Albarino 2015 (12.99, 10.00 on offer). Kevin is very proud of this one, not least because he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines). The Albarino, with its excellent aromas and flavours, is another terrific seafood wine. And it would be my favourite of the two openers, by a long way.
We were using a points system to score the wines and I gave the Picpoul 84 points, the Albarino 92. Why the points? Kevin said it is an essential tool for the wine-buyer who could well sample over 100 wines at a session and the points system is a major help in differentiating between so many, especially at the end of a long session. So, since we were being put in the wine-buyer’s shoes, it was used on the evening! Nothing too serious though and we had quite a few laughs all through.
Next up was a “personality” wine, the Graham Norton Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Once SuperValu realised this was a serious wine - Norton was quite fussy about it - they went after the rights, especially since the comedian is from Cork. It has worked out well for all sides and Norton donates his share of the profits to charity. It is an excellent wine and, at €12.00, good value as well. And good value is something that Kevin and his team always have in mind. O’Callaghan, by the way, reckons that Sancerre is better with food than Marlborough.
And speaking of food, the L’Atitude kitchen kept us supplied with a series of top notch bites throughout the tasting, ranging from Anchovies and Pepper on toast to Ummera Smoked Duck to a Pork Meat Balls with Olives to a Black Pudding and Apple in pastry.
Chardonnay was next, the Nugan Estate Personality Dreamers 2013 from the Riverina and on offer at €10.00. A bit of a division around the tables here because of the oak, even though they don’t use new oak so the effects are muted. I liked it very much indeed.
And more oak on our mystery white, this even more muted. The lightly oaked blend (including Bourboulenc, Roussane, and Grenache blanc) had us guessing during this blind tasting. It has a fabulous textural richness and a great finish. It comes from Corbieres and well worth seeking out at €10.00 on offer.
“Is Rosé on the way out?” asked a member. “It is static, at about 4% of the market,” answered Kevin. “But we’ve brought in some drier ones, including one from Provence, with way more fruit and character”. The European ones, especially these new ones, are worth buying, he advised.
If the whites were good (and they were very good), the reds were probably better. This time we started with the blind tasting and it turned out to be a Cotes de Roussillon, a blend of Syrah (45%), Carignan (40) and Grenache. Violets prominent in the aromas, nice acidity and “made for drinking now. A summer BBQ wine!”.
He then introduced one of his favourites, the Castellani Arbos 2013 from Tuscany, 100% Sangiovese. Very approachable, easy-drinking, a garden wine, soft and luscious and a “good representation of the area and the grape”.
Kevin described the next one as “a blockbuster”. And the Pagos de Labarca AEX certainly lived up to it. Great aromas and fruit and a lot of character. Lots of oak after 18 months in it, too much for some, yet this Rioja was my overall favourite. Price is €22.99, on offer at 18.00.
On now to the Nugan Estate Alfredo Dry Grape Shiraz. Kevin admits to being a fan of apassimento (amarone style). This wine is made in that style, the partially dried grapes giving more flavour, more concentrated aromas. “Plenty of oak, full flavour, acidity, juiciness, long finish, good balance, high in alcohol but no heat.” Bring on the BBQ steak. €19.99, offer 15.00.
I gave that a 92 and the same number to the Aresti Family Collection, a blend of a selection of red varieties from the Chilean family. Kevin is a major fan: “This is as a good a structured a red wine as you can get. Equivalents will cost you €40.00. It is regularly featured in competition and the lowest score it has ever attained is 91 points.” This is priced at a more modest €25,00 and 20.00 on offer. Take note!
So what has Kevin, who started off as a 16 year old delivery boy in Galvins, in store for us in the near future. He is excited about a new Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend: “This GSM is organic and is on the way. Should be on sale in September - can't wait for it!” It is by Fleur de Anon.
“The last few years, we have been beyond the comfort zone. We hope to continue that trend and bring the consumer with us.” He certainly gained a room full of converts on Wednesday evening.
* Most of the wines had two prices, the regular and the offer. SuperValu have a series of well-flagged offer periods regularly over the year. So, if you know your favourite is likely to be among them, then you won't have long to wait to stock up.
* Next Munster Wine & Dine event is the July 7th visit to Gubbeen, a premium event. Make sure you get your reservation in on time!