Welcome to the penultimate Josh’s Wine List of the year. This week is my ‘Best of the Supermarket in 2019’ with ‘Best Outside the Supermarket’ next week.
Reflections on supermarket wines in 2019
I’ve made nearly 30 recommendations for supermarket wines this year. The biggest cohort is at Tesco – where I attended their press tasting this year. After that, M&S, Waitrose & Lidl all fight it out for joint second place.
At the most broad level, the safest bets with supermarkets seem to be the stuff baring the supermarket’s own name (Finest, Taste the Difference etc).
Aldi & Lidl remain best value, and if you want to spend £7 or less, a punt there is always better than at the others. Waitrose really has the best at the top-end mostly thanks to the much deeper £10 and up selections.
I want to make it to more press tastings next year, it gives me a much better steer generally of entire ranges at once (hint hint, PRs!). And they work out in follow-ups too. In the recent Tesco buy six, get 25% off deal, I ended up rebuying many of my favourites from the tasting. We in fact went through three bottles of Faugères, which is such a decent house food red. And we’ve still got a bottle of Finest Viré-Clessé 2016 in the fridge just waiting for Christmas.
Asda, Aldi, and Co-op were hugely under-represented, even if I did love what I found in each.
Overall, I’d have liked to feature more supermarket wines than I ultimately ended up reviewing. And feel that its usually the supermarket wines that you dear readers end up telling me you tried. Is this still true?
This issue is a long one, I’ve implanted the reviews from previously in the year. Each supermarket has its own section with the choice highlights in each. Enjoy.
2019 in the supermarket
- I was put off trying Carta Rojo (£5.50 from Sainsbury’s). It’s from Jumilla in Spain but is dressed up to look like a Rioja. Imitation wines aren’t worth the bottles they sit in, but there’s a disservice here. This is a monastrell (or what the French call Mourvèdre). It’s peppery, a little gaminess, and gentle red fruits. It evokes end of season pheasant legs, slowly stewed in red wine.
- I’ve mentioned the Georges Dubouef Fleurie (available at Sainsbury’s, ~£10) before. I tasted the most recent vintage of it recently and think it’s been a return to form for supermarket red. Silky, spicy, red fruits. Soft tannins and the overly sweetness I’ve found in some years has gone. Well worth purchasing at the moment.
- In the supermarkets this week, I tried Sainsbury’s Languedoc Red (£7). Once this had been open for a few hours, it found a really nice balance to it. It’s full of black cherries and pepper and a very decent, affordable red that’s widely available.
- Comte de Senneval Champagne (£11 from Lidl) remains my favourite sparkling wine under £20. We bought a few cases at Christmas and still have some left over. This smells of lemons and biscuits, and it doesn’t have that cheap, aggressive bubble to it that a lot of cheaper plonk does.
- Lidl white strikes again. La Croix Doree Languedoc (£6.99) is a wonderful white for the summer. Pear, mint, white pepper and oaky vanilla hang in this smooth and rounded white.
- I’d not had a Chilean Gewürztraminer before I tried Lidl’s Valle Central (£7.49) this weekend. This white was fragrant and aromatic, but for me defined a little by its residual sugar and slight sweetness on the tongue. Most wines are dry so it’s quite interesting to get one with just a dash of sweetness so you can see what you think.
- “Forever on search of affordable pinot,” reads my Instagram bio. Here is the answer. Pinot Noir Jean Cornelius (£7.49 from Lidl) is, quite simply, delicious. Like a lot of cool climate pinot, this conjures up frosty mornings and mountains of fallen leaves. Brambles, red cherries, structure. The best sub-£15 pinot I’ve had all year.
- Chardonnay fans should check out Bonaterra from Waitrose (£12.49). This has a really surprising depth to it and a great way to explore warmer climate chard’. Honey, tropical flavours, with a butteriness that oaky chardonnay fans will love. If you’re used to drinking cooler climate chardonnays and want to see a great tropical display - this is a great start pointing.
- Vionta Albarino (£13.99) has a great body to it packed full of pears, lemons, and something nodding towards tropical.
- Elsewhere from Spain, Nauta Monastrell (£12.49) is top, top value. This is straight up oaky, deliciousness: liquorice, violet, vanilla, and black pepper cling to blackcurrant in harmony. It’s beautiful to look at and there’s some dried fruits hanging around in there as well.
- Chablis’ racing acidity usually pairs it the perfect pair for oysters. The Louis Jadot Chablis 2018 (£20.99 from Ocado) is no exception, though its weight means it will hold up to some meatier fish too. This has peach and pear and lemon in abundance with medium body and long finish, not quite as mineral as I’d hoped from a Chablis: this felt more like a typical white Burgundy.
- While our house sparkling wine is Lidl’s Comte Senneval, I tried the 2013 vintage Asda Miralda Cava (£9.00) and loved it. For the price point, this is a steal. Rich, dry, with a slight lemon that verges on orange-peel in aroma. Way more interesting than most supermarket cava I’ve tried.
- Exquisite Collection Marsanne (£5.99 from Aldi) has been one of those ‘make sure you grab a bottle if you’re near the store’ wines of the summer. This has pears, vanilla and flowers in luscious abundance. This is one of those great examples of incredible value found in Aldi or Lidl. If you’re near one, check it out.
- Longtime readers will know I’m a big lover of white Rioja. The Cune Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco (£10.35 from Co-op & Booths, though currently £8.24 on offer at Waitrose) is no exception. This is rich and rounded with limes, white flowers and and a refreshing salinity to it that finish an exceptionally good value wine.
Marks & Spencer
- Lirac Les Closiers (£10) is a classic Cotes-du-Rhône. Pepper, liquorice and blackberries dominant this palate with a hefty 14.5% alcohol body to boot. At £10, it’s a step up from a lot of the supermarket CdR, but well worth the extra pounds if you love the southern Rhône.
- Journey’s End Kendal Lodge (£8 from M&S) is exactly what you want from a midweek red to drink while watching TV. The cabernet sauvignon feels dominant with tannic but slightly sweet blackcurrant as the primary aroma. But the cabernet franc reveals itself in the after taste as bell pepper and its greener side sings.
- Daniel’s Drift Chenin (£5.50 from M&S) is very good value indeed. This South African chenin is bright with some apricot aromas. Nothing too complex here, but a great day-to-day chenin to go along with some food.
- And stepping up from the chenin, but staying at M&S, Mineralstein is a corker of a supermarket riesling (£9). This has the usual limeyness you might expect from riesling, but there’s body here that brings balance, and allows you to see beyond the initial citrus hit. If doing the supermarket rounds ahead of Christmas, you’d be well placed to grab both of these.
- I tasted Tesco’s Picpoul de Pinet (£7.50) at a friends’ a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. It held a lovely texture in the mouth that having just had some high acid whites beforehand was quite nice to find some balance. Pears and a floral hint on the nose/palate made it a great quaffer.
- I’ve written about Bourgogne Aligoté before. Tesco have one on offer currently for £7.50. This is a really good, affordable display of aligoté. We drank this in Scotland in the sun, and its aromatic, saline, zappy finish went down an absolute treat.
- Tesco’s Finest Pecorino 2018 (£7) has a rich body, a grapefruit aroma, and a great acidy backbone that makes this great value.
- If you want something with a greater depth of aroma characteristics, the Finest Viñas del Rey Albariño 2018 (£8.50) is zesty and fresh with an great aroma of stone fruits, honey, apples and a touch of citrus.
- At £12, the Finest Viré-Clessé 2016 is Tesco’s best value white Burgundy. This is a rounded, buttery welcome of peach and pear, with a long and elegant finish. If Chablis is your thing, head for the £15 Premier Cru 2016 over the £12 2017. The Premier Cru really raises the bar for just £3 more.
- Chardonnay from the New World comes alive with the Finest Gisborne Chardonnay 2017 from New Zealand. At just £9, this really is a steel. Here tropical fruits gel with oaky richness and body wonderfully. The palate really comes alive.
- From the reds, the Finest Mercurey 2016 (£14), is a remarkably good cheap French pinot. Brambles and cherries, tart but refreshing. Again New Zealand shines though, the Central Otago Pinot 2017 (£13) is incredibly generous with flavour, body and length.
- The Finest Faugères 2018 (£9) was so silky and velvety that I was amazed to discover there’s no residual sugar at all. And finally, Tesco Finest GSM (£9) is a steal from South Australia. This is meaty with chewy tannins that help bite through the richness of body here. If southern French/Spanish/Italian reds are your thing, give this a go immediately.
Like what you read?
Sign up to our weekly newsletter for morning reading every Tuesday
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.