Surely no one can doubt that inflation and alcohol tax changes are pushing up average wine prices.
Disheartening as this is, it could be a gentle reminder that tasty wine and a slightly higher price tag are probably permanently linked now.
Being honest, tempting as their prices often are, bargain wines are increasingly bedevilled by declining quality.
I will always feature reliable inexpensive wines whenever possible, but can I also suggest a “less but better” approach?
After all, spending a little more per bottle but slightly reducing volumes could be cost-neutral.
The real reward comes from the treasure trove of flavour, complexity and overall quality than abounds in carefully chosen parts of the £10 to £15 price band.
I fully understand that not every purchase can be an indulgence, but let’s not rule out a well-deserved Friday Night treat or a quality bottle for a traditional Sunday lunch.
Just such a wine can often elevate those occasions to major events of celebration and appreciation and fully justify not buying quite as much wine as before.
That potential celebration, coupled with possible health benefits, are merely two advantages of a “drink better but less” stance.
Here are three selections that offer bottled proof of the flavour upgrades just such a policy can provide.
The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays or web pages.
2021 Bariloche Malbec (from £11.49 at Laithwaite’s and 13.5% abv):
Often switching to a less well-known area can provide that step up in quality without excessive cost.
Here, a move away from Mendoza lends credence to the idea.
Patagonia is south of most Argentinian wine growing areas but, despite its semi-arid climate, the region has a rising reputation for vibrant, minerally, fruit centred malbec.
Illustrating that point, Laithwaite (justifiably) seem to regard this Patagonian version as a gateway to quality malbec.
Perfumed with enticing raspberry aromas and soft tannin, its centrepiece is medium bodied plum and loganberry flavours.
These are attractively integrated with baking spice hints, a subtle savoury background and carefully balanced acidity.
How neighbours can diverge.
Next up is another switch away from an iconic wine area.
White Burgundies from Cote D’Or differ appreciably from those produced in Mȃcon.
Versions from Côte d'Or are renowned for their complexity as well as for the mineral and oak influences they often contain.
That sophistication (coupled with their prestigious reputation and production levels far below demand) keeps their prices high.
Many options cost £50 upwards.
However, less expensive options can be found in Mȃcon – to the south of Côte d'Or – although they too are seldom at single figure prices.
Since it is slightly warmer there, Mȃconnais wines are often softer and riper with a greater focus on fruit elements.
But, unlike Côte d'Or examples, Mȃcon whites normally see little or no oak.
Consequently, oak derived smooth, complex, creamy or toasty influences are less common there.
Stainless steel tanks, however, do have a major role to play in the Mȃconnais.
Being a neutral vessel, stainless steel does nothing to diminish or overlay the natural crispness and fruitiness of the wine within it.
Thus, the area’s famed fruit flavours and freshness both shine through brightly.
Many feel that those characteristics, coupled with the approachability and price factors, amply compensate for any reduced complexity.
Here is a good example.
2022 Louis Jadot Macon-Villages (£15.85 at Ocado and 12.5%):
The point about fruit components come over clearly in this version but there remain smoothness and vague toffee hints despite the absence of oak.
White gold in colour and perfectly balanced, it provides soft melon and cooked apple flavours combined with a trace of peach.
Additional contributions come in the shape of vibrant grapefruit acidity and a mellow, creamy texture..
Sunday Best Bonus
2022 White Burgundy, Cuvée Mallory Talmard (£14.49 at Adnams and 13%):
As a little extra today, here is an alternative Mȃcon white – and one with slightly different features, yet it is equally impressive wine.
Medium bodied, this brings us a slightly more savoury edge by virtue of slate and saline twists.
All that builds on a flavour foundation containing orange, nectarine and green apple elements and lively lemon acidity.
An Update from Eddie
“A drama on TV recently, set in the Piedmont in Italy in the 1930s, informed a hotel customer enjoying a glass of bubbly they thought to be Champagne, that it was in fact ”Prosecco … produced locally!”. Made me laugh …
The Denominazione for Prosecco is in fact very specific, from the Veneto, a largish area north of Venice, including Treviso, and Friuli Venzia Giulia.
It was hardly known to us Brits until a few short years ago but has become a bit of a go-to for those wanting a glass of fizz!
Its main caché has always been as a part of the Bellini cocktail, mixed with peach purée, as found in Harry's Bar in Venice, if you have enough money to buy one there!!!
Given the considerable variation in quality I personally stick to the DOCG locations considered to be best production areas of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
I like them a lot including the rather newest addition that is the rosé.
Interesting to note that it was only in 2020 that the rosé version appeared with a proportion of Pinot Noir
It is blended with the traditional prosecco grape (originally called that but now known as glera).
But what happens this week?
On Sunday August 13th Prosecco gets its own National Day – a development that says something of what its production means to the economy there.
To celebrate, Morrisons tells us that they have a promotion, starting on August 13th, that runs until the 5th September, with reductions of up to £2.50 a bottle when we buy 3 of any of these Best Proseccos!
[Thanks Eddie, really helpful stuff as ever and, of course, you covered the Laithwaite promotion in the Comments section to Monday's post Editor.]
My next post (on Monday) contains terrific recommendations of Top Tips for you in the weekly feature of the same name.
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