Does this sound familiar? You’re in the supermarket and want to pick up a couple of bottles of reliable wine, nothing fancy, while you’re there. With a budget of £6 and only a couple of minutes to spare, you’re looking for surefire, good value wines. Get ready for supermarket wine sweep. Here are my hot tips for good value, reliable wines from the aisles.
First things first: avoid the big names (you know what I mean: Blossom Hill, Gallo, Hardy's and the like). I know, I know, it's tempting when you're in a hurry to go for the familiar, but please resist! All that advertising and promotion doesn't pay for itself you know, so there is just not that much money left to spend on the wine at around a fiver a bottle.
What's the region that offers the most reliable, good value wines at this price? Top of the list has to be Chile, so I’d head here first.
Concha y Toro is the largest winemaker in Chile, but they have respect in the wine trade for producing quality wines from the bottom to the top of their range. One of their star bargains is Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s on offer at Sainsbury's for just £4.49 until 20th May and at Morrison’s for £4.44 until 8th June. This is a great price for a delicious red, with plenty of juicy, ripe black fruit and a hint of dark chocolate. Just the thing for summer barbecues. There’s a Sauvignon Blanc in the Casillero del Diablo range (£4.49 at both Sainsbury’s and Morrisons), but you don’t need me to tell you to buy it – the stuff just flies off the shelves all by itself, as we can’t seem to get enough of this variety. If you fancy a bit of a change and are a fan of oak, try Casillero del Diablo Limari Chardonnay 2007, £5.99 at Sainsbury’s. Yes, it’s oaky, but there’s plenty of fresh, juicy fruit, courtesy of the cool climate of the Limari Valley. Still within the Concha y Toro stable, their Sunrise Merlot 2007 is on offer at £3.99 at Waitrose until 3 June: very decent summer glugging.
Over on the other side of the Andes, there are bargains to be had in Argentina. Malbec has become that country’s signature grape and it offers plenty of dark, brambly fruit with soft tannins. Tesco have Argento Malbec, just sneaking in under £6 at £5.99.
Leaving South America behind, there are still plenty of reliable performers in Australia – as long as you steer clear of Oxford Landing/Hardy’s and the like. Peter Lehmann is a large-scale producer in the Barossa Valley, known for his big, beefy Shirazes. If this is your thing, then go for it by all means – but in the summer you might find Peter Lehmann Semillon more refreshing: crispy, textured fruit. Just the thing for people who don’t fancy Chardonnay, but can’t stomach Sauvignon Blanc either. And it’s £6.15 at Tesco, a little over the budget, but rules are there to be broken.
What about the Old World? Can Europe really not compete in the reliable bargain category? Yes it can, but we’ve been at this wine-making lark so long that things have got, well, complicated. There are countless well-made, interesting and well-priced bottles available from all over Europe: the trouble is we lack the kind of big brand names which have helped New World wines win such popularity in our hearts and wallets. However, to try and level the playing field a little, I will give an honourable mention to Sicily. They’ve been making wine here for centuries, of course, but have seen a revolution in vine-growing and winemaking here in the last decade. They’ve adopted New World techniques to make consumer-friendly wines from Italy and Sicily’s own wide range of grape varieties, many of them not too expensive either. The label of Casa Mia Fiano 2007 (£5.15 at Sainsbury’s) tells you squarely that this is aimed at “the ladies”. Despite that, the Fiano grape can’t help but make attractive wine: ripe and perfumed. Waitrose have a veritable bargain in Trinacria Rosso 2007 for £3.79. Made from a trio of indigenous grapes, it’s soft and plummily fruity.
Finally, should you have time to do a bit of swatting up before you go (easy if you’re shopping online) don’t forget to consult www.quaffersoffers.co.uk. This useful little site lists all the wines on offer at supermarkets and High Street merchants, so that you can check out the best deals before you go shopping. Or, if you are very organized, you can search for your current wine favourites and see which supermarket has them on offer currently and thus make sure you buy them at the best price. Some wines are always on offer somewhere, so this can really save you money.
Now just put on your running shoes and see how long it takes you to bag a bargain!