How important is wine labelling? Do people really buy wine based on whether or not they like the picture on the bottle? Well it strikes me that this aspect of wine packaging is probably very influential indeed and probably more so nowadays than ever before. In fact this takes me back to my early ‘wine years’ when after a long period exploring Australian reds like Jacobs creek, Oxford Landing etc I made my ‘leap of faith’ into France. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve absolutely no idea what this wine is but the picture of the Chateau on the front looks really classy. Must be good then’. Of course in a number of cases, after finding the wine distinctly underwhelming, my thoughts were more along the lines of ‘maybe Monsieur French vino maker should have spent less on the pad and more on the vines’?
So do I think a wines label is a useful part of the purchase decision? Does the label design provide any sort of ‘Top drop GPS’. In all honesty I think wine labels do have power over us in the same way as other food packaging. It seems we humans are naturally drawn to things that are visually attractive or align with our aesthetic taste. However, my advice in the wine aisle is ‘be careful’. If I’ve noticed anything it is that as wine gets cheaper the labels get more and more artistic and the wines themselves get less and less interesting. Of course this does not always hold up and, as alluded to earlier, a classy looking bottle can just as often hide an ordinary wine. Do your homework, get along to tastings and seek recommendations and you’ll uncover the gems.
So on to a wine whose colourful label drew me in like a moth to a lightbulb!! ( See, I told you!)
Well , in this instance said moth found an interesting light bulb whilst fluttering around Stratford upon Avon Aldi and it hails from the ‘Hames Valley’ in Monterey County , California.
It’s made from a rare blend of 80% Petite Sirah and 20% Petit Verdot. Discovered in France in the 1860’s the original name of Petit Sirah is ‘Durif’ after the French botanist Francois Durif who identified it in his nursery. It wasn’t until 1997 that DNA testing confirmed that it was actually a crossing of Syrah and another French grape called Peloursin. Although planted for a while in the Ardeche region of southern France it produced fairly low quality wines and thus quickly fell out of favour. Driven also by its late ripening nature the variety is now almost non existent in France. The berries are small and closely packed and result in deep, dark wines with high tannin.
Petit Verdot , which is also late ripening, is similarly French in origin and continues to be used in some Bordeaux blends. As it only ripens properly once every four years it is a minor player and rarely more than 3% of a blend. The variety is added to provide additional tannin, colour and flavour.
In Monterey county however wine makers have found a perfect little niche where both of these varieties can ripen reliably. The Monterey region enjoys long warm days and intense sunshine which allows the fruit to ripen well. The cool night time temperatures then help to maintain acidity and thus a balanced wine.
Odd Lot has a dark and brooding colour. It is rich on the palate with flavours of blackberries, damsons and chocolate. It also has some spicy notes that hint of it’s ageing in American and Hungarian Oak. It’s downside , unsurprisingly for the dominant variety, is it’s tannin. I found the tannin to be almost ‘dusty’ in nature and quite drying on the back palate. Would be an interesting wine to try after a few years in the cellar.
So a ‘not bad’ 6/10 and worth a try for something different. Would be good with a Steak, a bold cheddar or an aged Manchego. £9.99 from https://www.aldi.co.uk/odd-lot/p/013961316401000