Although the Covid-led surge in overall online retail sales has abated, their proportion of total sales (26% in August 2021) remain substantially higher than they were just two years ago (18.4%).
Many see a similar upward trend in the wine trade and the potential price rises we discussed last week could see online operations boosted further by folk buying in bulk.
Online purchasing does, however, mean you are unable to inspect wine labels and use their content to aid buying decisions.
Fear not, though. My Pick of the Clicks feature aims to provide some of that missing background and, better still, offers an independent assessment of the wine itself.
Here then are a half a dozen or so wines from reputable online suppliers that I currently rate.
Deliberately, supermarkets are excluded as this site gives them masses of exposure most other weeks.
As before, pictures appear next to commendations where possible as this helps to ensure that you are ordering the correct wine.
Perfect shellfish wine
Probably because it is from prime oyster country, Languedoc’s picpoul de pinet is a perfect seafood wine and, with two excellent harvests behind it, there are good reasons to seek out impressive examples like this guy.
Smooth yet nicely rounded, 2020 Bain de Soleil Picpoul de Pinet (£9.95 at Slurp) exhibits vivid greengage and ripe melon flavours enlivened by sharp lemon and lime acidity yet engagingly supplemented by saline elements and just the merest touch of spice.
Moving to the West
Gascogne in South West France often wows us with colombard and ugni blanc based wines but it is not the most obvious place to look for chardonnay.
Nevertheless, this example is hugely successful, striking just the right balance between acidity, fruitiness and texture.
Floral and smooth, 2020 Hornhead Chardonnay (£8.99 at House of Townend) provides juicy melon and red apple flavours with pithy citrus acidity and supporting coriander, oregano and pie crust elements.
And a Southern Hemisphere version
Admittedly, being from the (relatively) cool state of Victoria helps, but the winemaker has still worked hard here to create wine that contrasts sharply with some Australian chardonnays of yesteryear.
The least attractive of those were excessively ripe and alcohol charged with a heavy reliance on oak but, here, you have light, bright, unoaked and fresh white wine.
2020 The Listening Station Chardonnay (£8.25 at www.woodwinters.com) delivers clear-cut apple and subtle apricot flavours built into a slightly pithy depth and energised by lime centred acidity.
Now for some reds
Much of Southern France and Spain once regarded grenache as merely a “power additive” to bolster blends, rather than as a solo performer.
That has changed significantly because we now know better – as this excellent example from Languedoc reminds us.
Smooth but deceptively light in colour, 2020 La Loupe Grenache Noir (£9 at Wickham) brings us aromatic cherry, red currant and all-round summer fruit flavours that are accompanied by chocolate and allspice elements with mild tannin, good acidity and a long finish.
Moving on to Italy
Once again the heel of Italy triumphs with well-made but great value red wine.
Here, the local negroamaro grape is at work in an unblended version that is actually soft enough not to need the partners often introduced to curb the variety’s legendary sturdiness.
Soft and ripe, 2018 Salice Salentino Riserva Vallone (£7.95 at The Wine Society) delivers loganberry and prune flavours embellished by fresh acidity (but minimal tannin) and appealing suggestions of nutmeg, mocha and mace.
Heading to South America now
Famously, when carmenere arrived in Chile from Bordeaux it was often mistaken for merlot.
That confusion is fully resolved now to the extent that the grape has become Chile’s signature red, providing tasty, distinctive wines like this.
Dark and smooth, 2019 Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Carmenere (from £7.49 at Majestic) brings us rich plum and fig flavours complemented by gentle acidity and limited tannin along with hints of green pepper, star anise and caramel, all built into a vaguely mineral texture.
And on to Australia
Steve Grimley is not just a capable winemaker, but he also owns a few (you guessed it) black pigs which are the inspiration for this label and, indeed, the similarly named range of other South East Australian wines Virgin sell.
Dark with minty aromas, 2020 16 Little Black Pigs Cabernet Sauvignon (£9.99 at Virgin Wines) provides us with full, damson and mulberry flavours partnered by good acidity, balanced tannin and attractive suggestions of clove, toffee and red pepper.
So there you have it. Seven wines under £10 that are unlikely to disappoint and from seven different online suppliers.
See you again on Monday with my usual look at current promotions in major retailers and an outline of the latest Top Tips.
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