There have always been seriously good high spots in the 400 or so wines in successive M&S wine lists.
What sometimes seemed lacking however was a structure giving cohesion and linkage between the component parts – a bit like an orchestra without a conductor.
The “This Is” collection of £5 wines I reviewed recently was a big step in the right direction though – especially as it focussed on price points where M&S was not strong.
That has now been followed up by the distinctively packaged ‘Classics’ range of wine costing between £7 and £12 with an initial focus on 18 predominantly Old World wines.
Those will be supplemented by a second wave of mainly New World wines in September.
But all this goes much further than a mere exercise in organising and consolidating a wine range.
Based on considerable benchmarking, M&S winemakers, Belinda Kleinig, Sue Daniels and their colleagues have worked to three higher level objectives:
- First – obviously – providing new, great value options that fully meet customers’ expectations.
- Also capturing the quintessential style of each wine they have chosen to highlight – hence the name “Classic”.
- And, by combining both those aspects, to encourage more folk to trade up from entry level wine.
Here are four wines from the range that I think do all three things rather well.
Starting in France
Amidst the huge marketing success of New Zealand sauvignon, it is worth reminding ourselves of the charms (and different characteristics) of Loire Valley versions.
This sauvignon from Touraine not only illustrates those characteristics well but does so at a gentler price point than Sancerre or Pouilly would.
Aromatic yet with classically subdued apple and white peach flavours 2019 M&S Classic No. 32 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (£8 at M&S and 13% abv) combines grapefruit acidity with grassy, herbal touches and a vaguely savoury background that, together, successfully capture the subtle sophistication Loire sauvignon does well.
Then to Germany
The Pfalz region has transformed itself from a wine lake of high volume but relatively mundane fare into a land of inventiveness and experimentation but has done so without compromising the “day job” – creating tasty, complex and accomplished riesling like this.
With a freshness and depth even riesling sceptics will love, 2019 M&S Classic No. 2 Mineralstein Riesling (£9.50 at M&S and12%) has an intense apple and tropical fruit spinal column supplemented by lively lime acidity, a spice and sherbet depth and all-round delicacy and intricacy.
Slipping back to France for a red
Massive in area, Languedoc’s Corbiéres region is a good choice for this type of collection because it does well with the grape varieties that prosper this far south but seems to add extra intensity to the red wines created there.
2019 M&S Classic No. 11 Corbiéres (£8 at M&S and 13%) provides dark and juicy plum, mulberry and red currant fruit with good acidity, firm tannin and a background of herbs, chocolate and baking spice. An excellent example!
And, finally, to Spain
With its extra maturation time, Rioja reservas are usually significantly smoother than “newly minted” versions but sometimes that can be at the expense of the brightness of its fruit components.
Here though – and despite being five years old – the brightness of the wine’s tempranillo and garnacha backbone shines through radiantly.
With rose centred aromas and bold acidity, 2014 M&S Classic No. 21 Lomas del Marques Rioja Reserva (£9 at M&S and 14%) also delivers cherry and strawberry fruit with firm acidity and hints of black pepper, mint, cocoa and cinnamon.
If push came to shove, this Rioja would be my top choice from this quartet – good as the others are.
Drop back on Monday guys for a look at what is new among High Street promotions and the latest TopTips.
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