Years ago, Avis Car Rentals differentiated itself from the (then) market leader, Hertz, with advertising proclaiming “We try harder”.
Some can discern that philosophy at work in the wine lists of Morrisons.
Often underappreciated by the snooty end of the wine press, Morrisons buyers do the basics very well with some absolute stars at modest prices.
Since we are closing in on Christmas, however, any review of their Winter List must move up from entry point wines yet we can still find plenty of great value options – some of which will undoubtedly be on promotion from time to time.
Also today are some of your old friends that, this time, include Best of the Rest and a Top Tip highlighting help from a retailer to learn more about wine.
Remember that many featured wines now have a hyperlink to the retailer’s website for all the reasons I set out down the page in a recent Top Tip.
As ever, use any available pictures to help you find the wine on a crowded shelf – which is not always as easy as it seems.
Keeping acidity under control
On any “assertive sauvignon acidity” continuum, Marlborough would probably sit at one end with Sancerre appearing at the other end.
Somewhere in between, would be examples from South Africa and Chile such as this excellent (new vintage) option made by the acclaimed Indomita operation using, here, grapes from Casablanca.
Enjoy then the grassy, herbal depth of 2019 Zarper Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva (£6 – instead of £8.25 until 26 November – and 12.5% abv) that ably supports the wine’s lemon and apple fruit and is nicely balanced with especially well-judged acidity.
Not just for spicy food
Amidst the excellent rieslings and pinot gris from Alsace, gewurtztraminer seldom gets much of a look in other than as “the ideal match for oriental food” but this version suggests that any such narrow stereotyping is a major injustice.
While the variety’s customary limited acidity is apparent in the Turckheim Co-operative’s 2018 Morrisons The Best Alsace Gewurztraminer (£8.75 and 13%), the wine’s delicate but ripe red apple fruit more that compensates – especially as it is nicely integrated with touches of honey as well as that characteristic spicy depth.
More praise for Morrisons White Rioja
I have been impressed by Morrisons entry level White Rioja in the past but this “Reserva” is even more stylish – courtesy of its several extra years in oak and the decision to reduce its viura content to 70% to make room for contributions from malvasia and white grenache.
Soft and very smooth, 2015 Morrisons The Best Rioja Blanca Reserva (£13 and 12.5%) has real depth and appealing suggestions of vanilla behind its clean-cut apple and pear fruit.
On the Home Front
Most supermarkets have an English still wine on their shelves now but this one is especially good, bringing us a bacchus led (48%) blend and made by Devon’s Lyme Bay Winery that had an excellent version in Aldi recently.
A savoury, nutty backbone gives substance to 2018 Morrisons The Best English Wine (£10 – instead of £14 until 5 January and 12%) which is supplemented by apple and greengage fruit with nippy, slightly grassy, acidity.
Now for some reds
Spain’s Jumilla region is acquiring a reputation for getting the best from the beefy monastrell grape – all of which is rather appropriate because the variety seems to have originated thereabouts.
Hitherto, though, it has been more successful (and celebrated) in France’s Rhone Valley under one of its other names – mourvedre.
Minty and medium bodied, 2018 Organic Carta Roja Pura Monastrell (£7.75 and 14%) has attractive plum and elderberry fruit, good acidity and hints of aniseed but only limited tannin.
The Devil rides in
The Diablo legend is pretty well known and “Devil’s Cave” wine is one of the mighty Concha Y Toro’s most successful “variety exclusive” brands but this slightly more expensive option is a blend (malbec and syrah in this case) and is a notch or two above basic versions.
2018 Diablo Dark Red (£10 and 13.5%) has skilfully integrated blackcurrant and raspberry fruit, good acidity, firm tannin and complex depth that seems to offer chocolate, mocha and mineral elements.
From rugby to reds
MidWeeker Jerry reminded me recently (via the comments section) that any list of brilliant Languedoc winemakers must include Gerard Bertrand – a top level rugby player who took over the family vineyards when his father died – and this reserve red tells us precisely why he is so respected.
As well as mineral edged depth 2016 Gerard Bertrand Les Aspres Reserve (£7.50 – instead of £10 until 26 November – and 14%) delivers cherry and plum fruit with lively freshness, firm tannin and suggestions of chocolate and baking spice.
Class without Classico
While Chianti Classico understandably steals many of the headlines, there are several sub-zones outside the Classico area that also handle the sangiovese grape well and Rufina is probably the best known of them.
Rufina’s climate and, especially, altitude mean grapes ripen more slowly there so they retain more acidic freshness and their wines often age more slowly – quality factors that this Riserva (meaning at least two years on oak) illustrates well.
Here, firm tannin dovetails harmoniously with cherry and blackcurrant fruit to give 2015 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva (£16 – instead of £17 until 5 January and 13%) some real class – especially as those characteristics are neatly augmented by touches of cinnamon, vanilla and star anise.
BEST OF THE REST
When coolness really is cool
Ripening activity in warm climates converts most of a grape’s natural acidity (the source of its invigorating freshness) into sugar. Cooler conditions in Northern Italy’s Trentino, however, holds back that conversion process leaving behind more acidity (and, hence, liveliness).
No surprise then to find that 2018 The Best Trentino Pinot Grigio (£6.75 at Morrisons and 12.5%) does indeed have zesty acidity to embellish pinot grigio’s characteristic floral softness and, here, its accompanying ripe orange and peach fruit.
In experienced hands
Maipo (home to this Sainsbury’s red) was one of Chile’s first wine producing areas and specialised particularly in Bordeaux varieties like merlot – so here (if you need it) is further evidence that experience counts!
2018 Taste the Difference Chilean Merlot (£7 at Sainsbury’s and 13.5%) turns out to be an especially accomplished example with smooth, light bodied, herbal, cherry fruit supported by good acidity, suggestions of toastiness and cinnamon but only limited tannin.
Tip: Do explore this latest help from a retailer that should help (particularly newcomers) to unravel some of the mysteries of wine.
Treading much the same path as this MidWeek Wines website, Aldi were troubled by research suggesting that between half and two thirds of the population feel baffled or daunted (or both) by retailers’ wine aisles.
While we on this site try to help by providing clear pointers on what to buy – and why – Aldi have taken a different approach.
They have created a training package covering how to taste wine and what is special about particular grape varieties and certain geographic regions; neatly, the complete package is called the “Aldiploma”.
It features Sam Caporn MW and comprises six online modules and video tutorials which she describes as “the perfect platform to help consumers try new things and gain the perfect introduction to the world of wine.”
The Aldiploma is available to download free and allows those taking up the training to buy an accompanying case featuring a selection of Aldi’s award-winning wines.
Since around a quarter of the population admit being too embarrassed to ask for help when buying wine, Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, feels that “The Aldiploma provides a unique and fun approach to learning about wine [and] giving customers the confidence they want”.
Understandably, commercial realities link the package to selected Aldi wines but, since theirs is not the High Street’s most extensive range, that can restrict the potential for practical “buy this to see what I mean” examples of teaching points.
That is but a quibble though; anything that helps de-mystify wine, and the sometimes elitist aura that surrounds it, is to be welcomed.
So take a look at this new facility and encourage any friends daunted by wine selection to do the same – especially as the package does seem to start right at the basics.
As Julie Ashfield says “The wonderful world of wine should be enjoyed by all and ….. visiting the wine aisle should be an enjoyable experience”.
I’ll certainly drink to that!
This is the last of the current reviews of retailers’ Winter Lists as we will feature the new Lidl Wine Tour next week (on Thursday – the day it begins – not the usual Wednesday) and then start a four-week countdown to Christmas.
Subscribe for FREE!
Do you want every review I write, direct to your inbox, absolutely free?