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Another Winter Collection

Continuing our look at the wines major retailers are concentrating on this winter, today’s post has a “canter round the course” – or wine shelves – at Marks and Spencer.

Although our (coincidentally) M&S Best of the Rest choice is a brilliantly priced white, the main strength of the M&S list probably resides in its £8-£12 wines and my selections here reflect that.

Wine being featured range from a classy riesling to tawny port, with great value White Burgundy and a little known Italian red grape variety in between.

Also covered in the post are the usual Best of the Rest selections, a glance at the closing Sainsbury’s promotion and a Top Tip about an extension to the features this site offers.

Use the pictures next to the description of a wine to help you find it quickly on a crowded display.

South Africa’s King of Chenin

Few people can draw the best from South African chenin blanc as skilfully as Ken Forrester; an assertion brilliantly illustrated by this example involving deliberately low yields from grapes hand harvested from old vines. 

Rich and textured 2018 Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc (£8 at M&S and 13% abv) has quince and red apple fruit  with energetic freshness but just that extra hint of honey that quality chenin does so well.

Dull and mundane no longer

Although the Pfalz region was home to much of the dull wine exported to the UK 30 or 40 years ago, consistently good riesling was made there even then – just not too much of it!

That quality characteristic is even further to the fore nowadays with numerous good (and often innovative) examples emerging from the region – like the pleasingly soft 2018 Mineralstein Riesling (£9 and 12.5%) that impressively underpins its apple and lime fruit and overall depth with slowly evolving acidity.

Well priced White Burgundy

While Montagny (right at the south of the Cȏte Chalonnaise) may never quite match the poise and finesse of white Burgundy from further north, it can certainly provide attractively weighty and especially good value options such as this.

There is an impressive velvety mouthfeel to 2017 Montagny Premier Cru (£14 and 13%) where textured grapefruit and orchard fruit is neatly supplemented by acidic freshness and bolstered by concluding herbal touches.

And now to the reds

Here Vulture does not refer to the bird but to an extinct volcano in Southern Italy where the resulting soil seems especially well suited to the creation of excellent wine from the burly and intense aglianico grape variety.

Despite its muscular substance and the associated almost treacle hints, 2017 Aglianico del Vulture (£9 and 13.5%) has relatively soft cherry and mulberry fruit with gentle acidity and neat suggestions of cloves, vanilla and herbs.

Staying in Italy

Ripasso techniques (which essentially re-ferment basic Valpolicella with the “pomace” from Amarone production) are increasingly popular as they display flavours that get close to Amarone levels yet cost significantly less.

See those bold blackberry and cherry flavours at work in 2017 Valpolicella Ripasso  (£10.50 and 13.5%) where they are supplemented by good acidity, touches of mint, vanilla and chocolate yet surprisingly gentle tannin.

On the other side of the earth

Wither Hills make this pinot for M&S using grapes from Marlborough’s Wairau Valley where the region’s variation between day and night temperatures are not only “meat and drink” to sauvignon blanc but also give a helping hand to pinot noir – as can be seen here.

Typical pinot earthy touches appear in 2017 Clocktower Pinot Noir (£12 and 13%) but they mingle well with the backbone cherry and raspberry fruit and the cinnamon centred texture, lively acidity but limited tannin that accompany it. 

Head for the fortification(s)

All the usual Douro Valley fortified wine grape variety suspects appear in this well-priced port made by Taylors using wine that has been aged for six or seven years in oak to give the smooth gentleness that has made tawny port increasingly popular – especially lightly chilled.

Balanced yet smooth Royal Palace Reserve Tawny Port Decanter (£10 and the usual 20%) has cherry and loganberry fruit which is joined in the wine by hints of chocolate, clove, nuttiness and mint.

BEST OF THE REST

Praise for an excellent co-operative union

When talking of South West France, The World Atlas of Wine I lauded last week says that “the dominant Plaimont co-operative union has done much to rescue local vine varieties from extinction”.

This is a delightfully popular and inexpensive white made by Plaimont’s Cedric Garzuel using techniques that (successfully) extract optimal aromatics from the humble colombard grape.

The perfumed aspects of 2018 Gers (£5 at M&S and 11%) are nicely supported by lively acidity and a useful degree of texture to complement its well-defined greengage and apple fruit.

Moving on from Nouveau

Now that we seem to have left behind the “Beaujolais Nouveau” mania (with the downward quality spiral its demand and urgency created) serious but “wallet-friendly” versions from the region are becoming more common – although few can rival the value on offer here!

Behind its enticing fragrance, 2018 Raoul Clerget Beaujolais (£5 at Morrisons and12.5%) has juicy raspberry and red cherry fruit with sharp acidic freshness and a soft, light texture containing attractive cinnamon components. 

SUNSET CORNER

The current promotion at Sainsbury’s draws to a close shortly (29 October) and so, too, will the pretty wide range of price reductions it contains.

To take advantage of the current discounts, pop into your local store and have a browse among the shelves.

Although many of the reductions are of branded wines, here are a few others I have enjoyed in the past and which form part of the current promotion:

STOP PRESS: I notice that Yealands Sauvignon Blanc (reduced by £1 to £7) is on this list and I sampled the 2019 Vintage yesterday.

It is superb – soft grapefruit and white peach backbone with zesty tangerine acidity and lemongrass, eucalyptus and green pepper complexity.

If you can get that vintage, it is well worth doing so even if you pay the full £8 list price.

TOP TIP

Look out for the hyperlinks, they could provide more information and even make your life a little easier.

Picking up on a suggestion from the ever-helpful Ewan Murray at The Wine Society (and after an experiment last week) I have added a new facility to posts on this site.

Hyperlinks (usually shown in maroon or blue) now grant a direct route to the specific wine on its retailer’s website.

As well as providing more details about the wine, this link has other advantages.

First it will give you a wine’s current availability and price (both of which can change very quickly) – and will also update those details for wines recommended a while ago.

Remember though that something shown as unavailable on the website may still be in some physical stores – it may simply mean that you will have to hurry and that the prospect of disappointment is greater.

In line with something I am frequently asked, it should also make it simpler to buy recommended products online – which is, obviously, helpful as increasing numbers of shoppers migrate from bricks to clicks.

When you want to return to this site, just click the back arrow

If there is no hyperlink (and coverage does vary between retailers), it almost certainly means that the wine was not shown on the website when the post was written – but may still be in physical stores.

To make things absolutely clear to those with suspicious minds, though, I get no financial benefit from links like this at present.

Frankly, however, I would not rule out creating “affiliation links” in the future in very much the way that Martin Lewis does for Money Saving Expert – which seems to me a reasonably ethical approach.

I particularly like his decision to add a specific mark to anything that is subject to an affiliation arrangement.

All this is for the future though – but hosting and compiling websites is no longer cheap neither, in particular, is protecting them (and, by extension, you) from those increasingly sophisticated cyber villains.

While I am ready to give my time to telling everyone about good wine, the danger of running at a financial loss is rather less attractive.

Affiliation seems a better potential way of covering the inevitable costs than turning the site into a subscription service or introducing those pop-up adverts that irritate the hell out of most people. 

However, any such changes are a long way off yet (and I will tell you as soon as any are in prospect) but I do feel it is right to keep my loyal band of subscribers and web site users in the picture.

Meanwhile, just get on with enjoying the benefits of the new hyperlink facility and, above all, enjoying the wine it should make even more accessible.


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Comments

2 Comments

Bob Johnson

I always enjoy your weekly review of the latest offers. Please keep up the excellent work. It’s a world away from the Land Reg. and much more fun! I am a Wine Society member too as is my son and I can honestly say that we have never had a any cause for complaint about any of their wines, although the marketplace is usually less expensive for similar quality.
I am travelling to SE Asia next month with my friend Dianne for a trip to Myanmar and we may struggle to find a decent bottle of reasonably priced wine. Any thoughts?
Regards
Bob

Brian Elliott

Hi Bob., great to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. As you have discovered, you will not go far wrong with The Wine Society.
Myanmar is tricky – although the World Atlas of Wine I commended recently speaks of two producers. Red Mountain Estate seems to be French influenced and has been going about 15 years. Myanmar Vineyards has been going a bit longer and both are based in Shan State. They may be worth looking out for although – in all honesty – I have not tried wines from either of them. I was intrigued to discover, however, that in Thailand they use elephants in the vineyard and wonder whether other Asian countries do the same. Whatever happens though, have a great trip ….. Brian


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