JWL Issue #114: Fuller-bodied Supermarket Reds

October 6, 2020

October boxes are landing on doorsteps as we speak. What is there this month? A Croatian white, and a Hungarian cabernet franc. It's a real joy to send both of these out.

Croatia has to be one of the least known European wine regions, and it's a delight to find this white for you to taste.

As for the cab franc – this is one of my favourite grapes and I've been wanting to send one out since day one.

It's not too late to sign up – use the code JWL20 for £10 off your first two boxes if you sign up today.

Virtual tasting of the October box this Wednesday

We've got our first ever customer virtual tasting this Wednesday. Arm yourselves with your October boxes, tune into our YouTube Live and taste away. Sign up to get the event invite here. Note – the original time was incorrectly set at 7pm, we in fact will begin at 8pm.

Join our wine tasting panel

We've just kicked off a new part-time role at Wine List. We're looking for someone to join our tasting panel – someone who doesn't hold any wine qualifications. With our focus squarely on making learning accessible, we want to double down on this by inviting a member of the public to taste with us.

Wanna tote bag?

We'll be sending our totes out to new customers over the next week. We've now used up this entire allocation and will be shipping soon. Watch this space for the future, as we'll be creating a series of tote bags – each limited run – over coming months.

Why learn about wine?

I was asked a fundamental question recently, which is – why should I learn about wine? When you can find top-rated wines so easily these days. I covered this a little in a blog covering my journey with learning about wine.

Taste

Fuller bodied reds

With the wet weather setting in, we again turn our eye to reds at the fuller bodied end of the spectrum.

M&S Classic Claret (£7) is probably the best sub-£10 Bordeaux red I've tasted this year. This is dry, with a plummy nose, smooth tannins softened by some oak ageing.

Carlos Lucas Portugese Dao 2018 (£5.99 from Aldi) is a real rich treat. There's warming spices, and dark aromas of black berry and plum. The tannins and acidity are both noticeable and provide good structure to what could have been a really heavy wine.

If Italian reds are more your thing, then pick up Castellore Italian Negroamaro Primitivo (£5.99 fro Aldi – though note there's a similarly titled £4.99 variety that isn't as good). This has black fruit in abundance, with big grippy tannins that will dry your mouth and scream out for food.

Learn

Why is there not a wider selection of half bottles available?

Like many things in wine, half bottles have a somewhat fractured reputation. Immediate connotations of discount plonk, overpriced at rail station shops, and roadside service stations spring to mind.

But there should be a lot of joy to the half bottle. They're ideal for dinners for two when you might want to try two different wines with a meal, but not drink two bottles. And considering we're all drinking less as a nation, it seems they'd be a logical step.

In fact, half bottles have been declining. Sales reported by some wineries show a gradual decline over the last few decades. And the rise of Coravin has been noted as another knell in the half bottle coffin. Sure, half bottles aren't as good for ageing wine – but how many of us age that much wine anyway?

One of the other major factors is cost and impact on the environment. It costs almost as much to produce a half bottle as it does a full. The environmental cost of sending half bottles around the world is higher per ml. And for distributors, the margin is lower per square foot of storage space. All in all – the odds are stacked against the smaller formats.

But we think this is all quite unjust. For us one of the greatest joys of smaller formats is the ability to taste a wider variety of wines. (My personal ideal would be to have six different glasses, rather than one bottle, most of the time).

It's something we're paying attention to over the coming months and considering with what we recommend in the future.

Are half bottles or smaller formats something that interest you? Let us know as we'd love to discuss.

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