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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