Fillet of Lamb with Couscous and an ASDA Exploration

Our aperitif was to sample a bottle of Macon-Villages Chardonnay, Caves de Lugny 2010. This is 13% alcohol and just £5.00 from ASDA. The label says “Crisp & elegant with apple and citrus flavours, beautifully balanced, with a hint of minerality.” It recommends sea foods, white meat and salads. I have said before that Macon produces Burgundian whites at economical prices and this confirms that judgement at what is now a remarkably low price. Obviously it’s not aCote d’Or, nor even approaching the best of the Maconnais, but at this price the alternatives are pretty awful while this is authentic and positively pleasurable. I’m glad I got two bottles and I may get more. There are cheaper Chardonnays from e.g.Chile, but for a Macon you’ll pay at least £6.49 and probably £7.49. Of other distinctive and authentic French whites you will only find Muscadet at anywhere near £5.00.

But to the main course. The fillet of lamb is grilled fiercely, but not for too long, then left to rest for several minutes. Now carve into slices about 1.5cm thick to reveal the tender pink interior and serve on a bed of couscous. Delicious.

I had two other ASDA wines to try with this. The first was specifically recommended for couscous so just had to be opened tonight. It was Asda Extra Special Minervois 2009 which is 13.5% alcohol, cost a non-negligible £6.97 and was bottled by Foncalieu (it’s always worth scanning the small print for co-ops and firms that might provide reliable value). The label says “…lovely smooth and elegant wines full of sweet ripe fruit flavours and silky tannins. Perfumed and perfect with couscous dishes or Mediterranean casseroles.” In the glass it is very dark and dense. Tasted alone D took an instant and strong dislike, thinking it badly oaked or corked – not a hint of ‘smooth’ or ‘elegant’ or ‘sweet’ or ‘silky’. I think she was severe, but it is a strange wine, very intense but short, quite tannic, probably oaked to try to smooth it out, but nevertheless quite challenging. With the food the assault was less intense but the taste thickened; it wasn’t good enough for an ‘Extra Special’ at almost £7. I can buy rather good Cote du Rhone at this price. It didn’t say what grapes were used and I found it quite difficult to untangle their tastes.

The other, also from ASDA, was Ch. de Jaux Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2008 which is 13% alcohol and cost just £5.00. It is made from 50% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre and the remainder is Grenache and Carignan. Except for the Carignan, this is pretty much a Rhone blend, though at this price it is unusual to use as much as 50% Syrah; padding out with Carignan would be more common. The label says “Chunky and savoury, yet smooth. Black cherries and dark olives mingle giving an earthy, spicy edge.” That sounds attractive to me, except for that ‘smooth’ which smacks of trying to convince non-wine drinkers that it’s just like Ribena really. The result was not bad, but somehow the peppery end of the Syrah and, perhaps the spicy end of the Mourvedre, had separated from the sweeter Syrah fruit giving two distinct taste sensations. If I was going to apply ‘chunky and savoury’ it would be to the Minervois above, and I struggled to find the ‘dark olives’. This is a bit better than basic plonk and perfectly drinkable, but the Macon-Villages we had earlier is a far better deal at this price.

Overall score for ASDA one very good-value hit, one disappointment and one clunker.

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