It has long been the received wisdom that convenience stores' high operating costs (and smaller buying power than supermarkets) help neither the price of their wine nor, sometimes, its quality.
SPAR, however, set out to break that mould and charged ex Asda wine supremo Philippa Carr MW and the incredibly enthusiastic Matt Fowkes (ex Majestic) with the task.
Two simply labelled, modern style and great value ranges have resulted from their labours – one priced at £5 and the other at £6.
The lower priced one is identified by wine style while the £6 “Letter” range focuses on the grape variety.
The images (which, as ever, enlarge if you click on them) show you how this has been done.
Starting with sound everyday white
There is lively, if undemanding, orange and red apple fruit to 2017 Fruity White (£5 and 13% abv) with a vaguely saline depth but a fresh, lingering mouth feel that is impressive at this price point.
And a red to accompany it
Smoothness is indeed apparent in 2016 Smooth Red (also £5 and 13%) which adds to the appeal of its ripe blackcurrant and black cherry fruit and the savoury edged twist of tannin that accompanies it.
Moving up – but only by a pound
It starts with the 2016 Pinot Grigio (£6 and 12%) from Pavia which represents an authentic example of those gentle tropical fruit and soft floral characteristics that make this variety such a massive seller.
A two region Pinot
Exactly as you would wish from entry point pinot noir, however, there is fresh, acidity-charged cherry fruit behind 2016 Pinot Noir (£6 and 12.5%) with a gentle, spicy background and a hint of tannin. Nothing elaborate just simple, light and conventional.
Tempranillo fights back
Smooth yet subtle, 2016 Tempranillo (£6 and 13%) has good acidity and limited tannin but also delivers attractive raspberry and red cherry fruit embellished with a suggestion of spice.
Yes – Northern Hemisphere shiraz
With energetic acidity and a creamy texture 2016 Shiraz (£6 and 12%) hits the spot well – aided by attractive blackberry fruit and those touches of milk chocolate that shiraz does so well.
Back to something traditional
2010 Rosa Rojo Gran Reserva Valdepenas (£6 – instead of £9 until 1 January – and 13%) has classic, floral cherry and plum fruit, suggestions of cinnamon and chocolate and good – smoothed out – tannin.
I do enjoy the silky apple, lemon and gooseberry fruit of 2016 Fern Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£8.50 – but look out for discounts next month – and 12.5%) with its sweet edge made particularly lively by some underlying nettle influences.
BEST OF THE REST
Great value South African chardonnay
While medium bodied in texture, 2017 Co-op Fairtrade Chardonnay (£4.99 instead of £5.99 until 21 November – at the Co-op and 13.5%) offers an extensive flavour range that includes orange, white peach and mango embellished by crisp, zesty, citrus acidity, sweet spices and lemon curd depth.
…And impressive Rioja for the same price
If that white was staggering quality for a fiver, how about this crianza – the level just below reserva – which provides nicely made red wine and has a similar price tag.
With concentrated cherry and blackberry fruit 2014 Rioja DOC Crianza (£4.99 at Lidl and 13.5%) also delivers suggestions of vanilla, chocolate and pepper which all integrate nicely into a neat graphite led finish.
Why does this wine dry my mouth so much?
Today’s tip (in “Have I Got News…” style) comes from a guest publication 101 Wine FAQ’s by the entertaining and knowledgeable Simon Woods – available for £9 from www.simonwoods.com/product/101-wine-faqs or from Amazon
So, Simon says…..
“Tannin is the substance that’s to blame for making a wine chewy and bitter – and for drying your mouth out.
Most of the time it comes from grapekins but it’s also found in oak barrels, and some winemakers actually add it in powdered form to their wines as a preservative.
Some people love that chewy character to their wine. But many don’t – so what should they do?
- Don’t serve your red wines too cold. Ever noticed how that cup of tea that tastes fine when it’s hot becomes bitter and astringent when it’s cold? It’s the same with wine.
- Drink red wine with protein–rich foods. When red wine turns your mouth dry, it’s because the tannin latches on to the proteins in your saliva – making it less slippery. If there’s protein from food around, it can latch on to that instead.
- Stay away from high tannin grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo and tempranillo in favour of grenache, merlot and pinot noir.
- Look for wines from warm counties or regions. Wines from warm (not hot) places tend to have the softest, friendliest tannins (it’s to do with phenolic ripeness – covered elsewhere in the book).
- Seek out older wines. Tannins are chains of molecules and over time, they link together and fall to the bottom of the barrel or bottle – leaving the wine softer and smoother.”
If all that piques your interest, Simon’s other 100 questions could give you a great stocking filler for Christmas!
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