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The Underestimated Supermarket

Following last week’s review of the M&S wine offerings for summer, today’s post does much the same with Morrisons.

It must be a frustration for that company’s capable team of buyers that the rest of the wine press seriously under appreciates the wine they source and the great value they are often able to secure.

By contrast, having at one stage been the only wine writer commending Lidl’s offerings for example, I sometimes feel a bit of a missionary – but that is the thing about MidWeekWines.

We strive hard to tell you about good options wherever we happen to find them.

Also today are the usual Best of the Rest (from Aldi  and from the Co-op who are also the focus of Sunset Corner) as well as a Top Tip about healthier drinking tactics.

Use the pictures next to the description of a wine to help you find it quickly on a crowded display.

Magic Bullet Selection

Verdeca is a little known grape variety now largely confined to Italy’s Puglia region and more often used in blends than appearing in its own right – but this example makes a convincing case for more solo performances.

Enjoy in particular the softness and depth of 2018 Masseria Pietrosa Verdeca (£6.50 – instead of £8.25 until 21 May – at Morrisons and 12.5% abv) where apple and pear fruit is bathed in gentle acidity but given complexity by touches of spice and nuttiness.

As regular MidWeekers will know, the “Magic Bullet” choice (like its equivalent in the medical profession – effective solutions without side effects) is especially noteworthy because it tastes good without the disadvantage of costing a lot.

Sauvignon with more depth for your bucks

Here is another well made sauvignon from the Yealands Estate stable that offers rather more depth than most entry point versions – but, admittedly, at a slightly higher list price.

Clean and herbal, 2018 The Best Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£8.25 and 12.5%) delivers gooseberry and green apple fruit with nippy acidity and a contrasting green pepper depth.

Sticking in the New World

To me, this Argentinean chardonnay (from one of the higher parts of Mendoza) is a slightly better option than its Chilean equivalent from Casablanca and fully justifies the pound or so extra it costs.

Relish the savoury edged, apple based texture in 2017 The Best Uco Valley Chardonnay (£8.50 and 13%) and the good lemon centred acidity that gives it verve and vitality.

 Rosé for summer

I counted at least nine rosés from Southern France (with prices from £6.75 to £18) in the Morrisons range but this was the one that attracted me most with cinsault, syrah and grenache among its components and a gram and a half of residual sugar.

With ripeness yet good acidity too 2018 Moonlight & Rose Coteaux D'Aix en Provence Rose (£10 and 13%) offers nicely balanced support to its raspberry, cherry and cranberry fruit and the gentle hints of clove that accompany it.

Switching to reds

Were it not for the current promotion, this delightful red from Sicily’s increasingly popular nerello mascalese grape would have been the magic bullet choice and it remains an excellent alternative to, say, nero d’avola.

Soft and textured 2017 The Best Nerello Mascalese (£7.50 and 13%) brings us cherry and blackberry fruit with good acidity, limited tannin and herbal influenced savoury depth.

Now for New World pinot

The cool and damp coastal region of San Antonio in Chile has developed astonishingly given that vines have only been planted there for just over 20 years but nowadays it is gaining admirers with its sauvignon, syrah and, in this case, pinot noir.

2016 Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir (£9.50 and 14%) has mellow cherry and raspberry fruit (with just a few touches of plum), lively acidity, gentle tannin and cinnamon spiciness – great value at under a tenner.

 Back to Europe for our last red

Its limited production area makes it hard to get modestly priced wines from Spain’s Priorat region with its distinctive slate soils and intense, minerally red wines – so snap this up while you can.

 A soupcon of cabernet joins the more traditional garnacha and carinena (often called mazuela here) in 2016 The Best Priorat (£10.00 and 14.5%) to bring us red wine with smooth raspberry and mulberry fruit, firm tannin, good acidity and a backdrop that adds suggestions of mocha and clove to the customary minerality.

Finally to Fizz

I have often enjoyed this, in effect, “blanc de noir” champagne, led by the often overlooked meunier (but with 40% pinot noir too), so was delighted to see it win silver in the International Wine Challenge.

Understand why Adrien Chopin Champagne (£18 and 12%) did well by savouring its soft, fresh apple fruit, good mousse and biscuit edged depth – great champagne for its sub- £20 price label.

BEST OF THE REST

Great value Rhone style white

White wines from the Rhône Valley in particular seem to be a breed apart – distinctively different and often with unusual savoury elements.

Here, though, Languedoc offers its own take on a classic Rhône grape – marsanne – and, in doing so, has produced delightful white wine at a great price.

Textured and predictably savoury 2018 Exquisite Collection Marsanne (£5.99 at Aldi and 13%) is centred around mellow but aromatic pear and quince fruit with a certain spiciness yet a tropical fruit undercurrent too.

No, I didn’t expect that grape variety either

The unexpected part of this is the main grape variety – sagrantino – which is a little known Italian grape now being used in parts of Australia (Victoria in this case) and, here, given a helping hand from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.

Dense, rich and smooth, 2017 The Unexpected Red (£5.75 – down £1 until 14 May – at the Co-op and 14%) has floral plum and blackberry fruit, good acidity, firm tannin and touches of clove; great value at under £6.

SUNSET CORNER

This is the feature where I call attention to wine promotions that are about to end so you can drop into the store and see what takes your fancy.

Today, the focus is on the Co-op discounts that conclude next Tuesday (14 May) and here are a few highlights from that promotion that you might like to consider.

The first price shown here is the discounted one, the second is the normal price with (obviously) the last column showing the difference.

Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) Available nationwide 7.50 9.50 2.00
Oxford Landing River Crossing Shiraz/ Oxford Landing River Crossing Chardonnay (Australia) Available nationwide 6.00 8.00 2.00
Muriel Tempranillo Rioja (Spain) In selected stores only 6.50 8.50 2.00
Coeur de Cardeline Rosé (France) In selected stores 7.00 9.00 2.00
Cop de Ma Priorat (Spain) In selected stores 11.00 13.00 2.00
Tuna Club Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc (Spain) In selected stores 6.00 8.00 2.00
Fruit Orchestra Chenin Blanc Viognier (South Africa) In selected stores 6.00 8.00 2.00
Scalini Prosecco (Italy) Available nationwide 7.50 8.50 1.00
Stellenbosch Drive Shiraz Fairtrade/ Stellenbosch Drive Chardonnay Fairtrade (South Africa) In selected stores 5.75 6.75 1.00
Les Jamelles Syrah (France) Available nationwide 6.25 7.25 1.00
The Unexpected Red (Australia) Available nationwide 5.75 6.75 1.00
Trapiche Pure Malbec (Argentina) Available nationwide 7.00 8.00 1.00
The Interlude Pinot Noir (Australia) Available nationwide 6.00 7.00 1.00
Château Capitoul (France) In selected stores 7.00 8.00 1.00
Trapiche Varietals Sauvignon Blanc (Argentina) In selected stores 5.50 6.50 1.00
Beefsteak Club Tempranillo (Spain) In selected stores 7.00 8.00 1.00
Albacea Jumilla Monastrell (Spain) In selected stores 9.00 10.00 1.00
RAW Airén Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc (Spain) In selected stores 7.00 8.00 1.00

Remember though:
All these wines are “subject to availability” and prices may change – the “in store price” is the final word.
Minimum pricing laws mean that what you pay may differ slightly in Scotland.
These details are for information and, unlike commendations elsewhere on this site, are not necessarily endorsements for the products. That said, the Fruit Orchestra, Les Jamelles and Interlude Pinot Noir are all good options.

TOP TIP

Top Tip; For sensible drinking start at the beginning 

Although I disagree with spirits, beer and wine being lumped together when sensible drinking is being discussed, I am not into “alcohol damage denial”.

Undoubtedly, excessive alcohol can indeed create serious health problems.

It is interesting too to hear researchers saying that the younger generation do actually like alcohol but are less happy about its effect.

So, to keep volumes under control, I am going to question an age old custom that many of us currently enjoy – the aperitif.

Its problems centre around the alcohol level many of them contain.

Sherry, for example, is an excellent accompaniment to tapis but it may be too vigorous a start to a full meal containing its own wine partners.

Much the same applies to white port and vermouth.

Spirits are even worse with higher alcohol levels and the capacity to anaesthetise taste buds anyway – hardly the ideal start to flavoursome meal!

Instead, I suggest, having a small glass of any white wine scheduled to accompany the meal – or possibly ordering a glass of white wine that can carry through to the first course.

Equally, never underestimate the attractions of sparkling water as a prelude to your meal.

It starts you off with nice clean taste buds and – with ice and a slice of lemon – its mineral background can offer a vaguely luxurious (and certainly a virtuous) feeling.

Whatever you do though, guys, do make special efforts to stay healthy – neither, I understand, Heaven nor Old Nick seem to keep a particularly good cellar!



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Comments

4 Comments

Eddie Walker

Dear Brian …as ever an informative and enjoyable piece. I wouldn’t be without reading your recommendations and column here in its entirety, every week.

Apart from having two, usually three, but sometimes even four ‘alcohol free days’ (AFD) every week to contain my enthusiasm for the grape, my practice is as you suggest to make the aperitif that which will accompany a first course, planned almost always to be an entrée that will go with a white. But mix and match why not, which is where a rosé would come into the equation and even a lighter style Pinot Noir to accompany some oilier fish or seafood pasta with tomato sauce. I prefer fewer rules in this matching up exercise to see what might come of experimentation. This drinking lark is too serious for it not to be fun!!!

Tonight for instance I pay homage to the mighty, no-frills, French steak haché (home made with Angus beef!), et frites with pan fried peppers, onion and courgette. Some 2013 Stellenbosch, John X Merriman cuvée has been hanging around in my rack seemingly forever as I’ve worked my way through a case slowly, waiting for it to develop more, trying a bottle every year or so! I put a bottle of the Sainsburys Vhino Verde in the fridge for an aperitif while I cook. The SA red is for the meat at 14.5% abv, and the Portuguese white only 10% abv.

Just a point about Morrisons apropos the Priorat you mention as a particular example. I know your readership might think £2 to £3 a bottle is splitting hairs unnecessarily. I’m like you, a self-confessed Lidl champion for many years, focussing on their pricing policy for high quality wine. I know the Priorat area quite well having holidayed on the Costa Dorada many times these last few years and driven up into that mountainous though small region behind the coast. I’ve actually bought Priorat in Lidl in Miami Playa, the same Carles Crianza available currently in Lidl’s latest Wine Tour that is only £6.99 and is highly thought of by pals of mine in the Cuvée Reserve Forum, online. As you rightly indicate the area is small, consequently somewhat exclusive and even in local stores in the district that wine is almost always at the more expensive end of all bottles at ‘entry level’, typically being more than €10.

I was thinking that Morrisons could well do themselves a favour by being a regular 25% off purchase-any-6, like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose do, as well as doing their shelf reductions that again these other supermarkets also do, that sometimes gives the customer a great ‘double deal’. It would make me want to shop more for wine in Morrisons than I already do, when I do go occasionally for other products including their very good fresh fish. The thing about Morrisons is they seem to be 25% more expensive for equivalent wine products just about everywhere, especially compared to the very excellent Aldi and Lidl ranges.

Hot-footing it to the Co-op now. I must have some of that Unexpected Red. I’m fascinated to know what is being done with that sagrantino grape in Oz!, Purchased early 2014 from Lidl priced at £9.99 but reduced to £7.99, I got the last 6 bottles of Montefalco Sagrantino Torrito del Falco, DOCG, 2009. That was 5 years ago; never to be seen again! Turned out to be not for the faint hearted!!!

Brian Elliott

Many thanks for your brilliant set of comments, Eddie, and for the kind remarks that open them. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.
As you suggest AFD’s are almost as important as what we do on the other days. Vinho Verde is a help there as is riesling and prosecco (this week’s focus by the way).
I did try the Lidl priorat you mention but felt that the Morrisons one outscored it. May be it was bottle variation or, possibly, taste bud fatigue on my part.
Do keep sharing your thoughts on these web posts …… Best ….. Brian

Tim Morris

Brian, your knowledge of wine is amazing but you are not so good on theology. Wine in heaven – of course! Psalm 23 speaks of “My cup overflows” and I am sure that the writer was not thinking of tea! Keep up the good work.

Brian Elliott

Nice one Tim. Let me be playful though. While I would hesitate before debating theology with a man of the cloth – does the psalm not refer to quantity while my reference concerned quality?


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