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January’s Pick of the Clicks

Although this week’s relaxation of restrictions is certainly very welcome, reverting entirely to “the way things were” seems unlikely.

For instance, increased online grocery purchases is probably a permanent change to the retail landscape.

Admittedly, though, many wine enthusiasts will miss the chance to inspect displayed bottles and to browse generally.

So, my Pick of the Clicks facility feature should help fill part of the resulting gap by providing firm steers towards some – for me – stand-out options.

Here, then, are a few choices in the £6 to £12 range that I can recommend as currently drinking well.

All are from established online operations but, as major retailers figure here most weeks, the selections are oriented towards suppliers that get less coverage on this site.

Although nothing is listed here unless I considered it very keenly priced, I have “gold plated” any featured wines that I feel represent exceptional value for money.

Where available, pictures and hyperlinks appear next to commendations as this helps to make sure that the correct wine is being ordered.

First a Marlborough substitute

Traditionally, Stellenbosch is South Africa’s prime vineyard, but interest is surging in areas marginally further south.

Walker Bay (home to this stylish sauvignon) is one such area, where warm summers but cool sea breezes mean grapes ripen more slowly and, thus, retain more acidic freshness. 

Rounded but with a flinty backdrop, 2020 Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc (currently £8.95 at Slurp and 13% abv) exhibits grassy lemon, melon and green pepper flavours combined with lively grapefruit acidity and sage based herbiness.

Now to a less familiar grape

Although it grows throughout Italy and beyond, I like to think of vermentino as an “island grape”.

It prospers in Corsica and Sardinia but, as this version illustrates, Sicily can also be added to that list.

Delicate and soft, 2020 Zagare Vermentino (£9 at WoodWinters and 13%) contains apple, orange and tropical fruit flavours combined with lemon and pink grapefruit acidity to enliven the almond centred, yet pithy, depth that underpins the whole package.

Northern Spain next

Albarino from Spain’s Rías Baixas region, justifiably, enjoys many plaudits.

Less well known, however, are the (often denser) alternatives like this from just across the border in Northern Portugal – where its name changes slightly to alvarinho.

Textured with “seafood friendly” saline edges, 2020 Adnams Alvarinho (£9.49 at Adnams and 12.5%) delivers fresh pear, quince and white peach flavours supported by nippy lime acidity, pithy depth and a touch or three of crunchy (rather than ripe) melon.

And for something more textured

Once largely a winemaker’s “texture adding” bit-part player in France’s Rhone Valley, the white version of grenache increasingly secures solo roles nowadays.

That is particularly true in the new world but – as in this example – also in Languedoc.

Soft and delightfully aromatic, 2020 Grenache Blanc 172, De Visu (£11.99 at House of Townend and 12.5%) contains apricot and apple flavours enlivened by sharp citrus acidity and is given depth by a nicely balanced and creamy texture plus suspicions of grapefruit-based pithiness.

Moving to some reds

We sometimes overlook the Loire as a producer of malbec (called cot there incidentally) but this terrific value red (from an outstanding recent vintage) blends the variety with cabernet franc to hugely successful effect.

Sweet edged with gentle tannin, 2019 Touraine Rouge ‘La Croix Angier', Alpha Loire (£8.95 at The Wine Society and 13.5%) offers us soft raspberry, cassis and bell pepper flavours complemented by captivating hay aromas with firm acidity built into a savoury backdrop that also contains oregano and clove influences.

Heading further south

This typical Southern France red is from Yapps – a Wiltshire based specialist in Loire and Rhone wines – and hails from the slightly unfashionable (and, hence, often good value) Ardeche area that adjoins better known Rhone regions.

Reasonably substantial with minty touches, 2019 Les Terrasses D’Ardeche Merlot Syrah  (£9.95 at Yapp and 13.5%) contains damson and black cherry flavours accompanied by modest tannin and balancing acidity but with hints of clove, sage and vanilla too.

I believe that the retailer may shortly move onto the equally acclaimed 2020 vintage.

And finally back to the Southern Hemisphere

Maule, in the south of Chile’s Central Valley, has a long history of cabernet sauvignon production.

Unsurprisingly, then, this red blend – made there by an (originally Italian) family – is very largely cabernet sauvignon; the remaining 30% is merlot.

Medium bodied with herbal and heather aromas, 2020 Santa Magdalena Balduzzi (from £9.89 at Laithwaites and 13.5%) has plum, loganberry and mulberry flavours enlivened by good acidity (but gentle tannin) and suggestions of baking spice, mint and thyme.

So good hunting among those online operations MidWeekers.

There are some great wines out there waiting for you.


The 2020 Finest Passerina I recommended in Monday’s post has just been reduced to £6 for Clubcard holders (until 14 February). Another excellent reason to head there and pick up some!

Join me again on Monday to see what Top Tips I am recommending and again on Thursday for a whistle stop tour of supermarket promotions. I look forward to seeing you then.

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Stephen Barrett

Visiting #Malta? Good local #Vermentimo to match the lovely fish!

Brian Elliott

Good point …. An omission from my roll call of islands with vermentino on which I am happy to be corrected.

Chris Barclay

Brian, I will hunt down any decent Vermentino you find. It’s a lovely grape due to its similarity to Sauvignon Blanc however without the Grass and Cat’s Pee!

Opened a bottle of Duca di Sasseta Vermentino Terre Sililiane, Sicily, 2021 for lunch today, some pan fried Salmon , chips, spinach and asparagus. From the last Lidl Italian wine tour and remaindered at £5.99 and scoring 88 Bampfield points and thank goodness it has some medium dryness to balance the fierce acidity. Herbs on the nose and a citrussy, peachy palate. I find this company makes lovely wine due to Sicilia’s climate.

I’ll chuck in some seasoning, chopped fresh tomato, creme frais, fresh basil tips and some avocado oil to dress the fish and deglaze the pan. The Mediterranean diet is the way to good digestion and health.

Brian Elliott

Agreed vermentino is an appealing, racy, early drinking white that works well with fish. Although it is widely grown throughout Italy and Southern France (where it is called rolle), it does especially well on islands (not just Sicily but Corsica and, especially, Sardinia too)..

Edward Walker

Morning Brian, and thanks as ever for your sterling efforts keeping us best informed about things worth consideration. To be truthful the ”clicks” don’t appeal to me personally more than shop-bought stuff you punt to us that I can usually get my hands on more easily even it means a bit of a drive out to somewhere. That said out of all your offerings here I do use one, TWS! And given you are recommending a Loire cuvee of Cot and Cab’ Franc that sounds very interesting I logged on last evening, bought a couple of the La Croix Angier, and in all did a £75 plus order to get free delivery!! I’d sold some kit and with the proceeds thought to treat myself to a few choice bottles. Jancis scores it 16/20 too, and I’ve gone for something very new to me in the shape of a Greek red by Metravelas. as well as a Cotes de Bourg and a Madiran that has some plaudits. So thank you for sparking my interest in doing an online order that I might say I’m very pleased they will deliver tomorrow, Saturday, that’s less than 48 hours!!!! Sante …

Brian Elliott

Hi Eddie and good to hear from you as ever. As you will appreciate, the post tries to cater for a broad range of wine lovers and that is why I include pieces like Sunday Best and Pick of the Clicks. I am glad that the last “Clicks” piece stimulated your interest though and prompted you to buy those wines from The Wine Society. I think we are both fond of Loire reds so I hope that particular purchase lives up to expectation. The others look a good mix and I trust that they too make your taste buds sing as well as you did, and I imagine still do!

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