Last week’s Top Tip urged you to be less conservative with wine so, heeding my own advice, today we consider the new ‘W’ range in Waitrose.
This exploits the better value than can often be secured off the beaten path of – in this case – grape varieties.
Fair enough; after all, about 80% of the world’s wine comes from something like 20 grape varieties (out of the 10,000 or so around the globe).
Here, though, Waitrose has assembled an array of nine wines from unfamiliar grape varieties.
They were so unfamiliar in fact that nearly 80% of the people Waitrose surveyed had never heard of them.
Also check out our usual Best of the Rest options and “Last Few Days” promotion alert but, first, here are my top four from that “W” range of little known grape varieties.
As usual, use the picture to guide you towards the wine in store as it can often be a struggle to find what you want on crowded shelves.
Top choice for me
Cannonau is the name in Sardinia (home to this red) for grenache, and some argue that the grape actually originated there but, whatever the history, this version has a smooth depth that many versions from elsewhere are not able to match, in my book.
Aromatic but with soft tannin, 2016 Waitrose & Partners Cannonau di Sardegna (£8.99 at Waitrose and 13.5% abv) has textured raspberry fruit with citrus acidity, a liquorice centred finish and neat suggestions of juniper, toffee and cinnamon.
Almost toppling it though
Running that choice close came this version of pais – a variety well known at one stage in Chile and which is almost certainly the same as the grape known as mission.
Apparently, it was brought from Spain by Franciscans (hence the name) and the grape’s ability to withstand very hot conditions made it Chile's “go to” option (producing, frankly, pretty indifferent wine) before international varieties arrived.
Far from “indifferent” though is Maule Valley’s 2018 Waitrose & Partners Pais (£7.99 and 12.5%) which provides juicy cherry and loganberry fruit with gentle acidity and a clove, chocolate and thyme background yet which is light enough to match salmon in the way pinot noir can.
On to the whites
Apparently elbling has the same parentage (but, sadly, not status!) as riesling and is also strong in Germany's Mosel region but its low sugar content largely confines it to sparkling wine production these days.
Despite that lukewarm reputation, 2018 Waitrose & Partners Elbling (£6.99 and 11%) turns out to be a really attractive option with light, perfumed, peach and pineapple fruit balanced by pink grapefruit acidity and a tongue prickle rather like sherbet lime sweeties of old.
My final star selection.
South West France’s manseng cousins (gros and petit) are ideal sweet wine grapes but their intensity and elegance also allows them to create rich, sophisticated dry wines – especially so for gros manseng.
Nevertheless, the “small” version can also do that job as Jurançon’s 2018 Waitrose & Partners Petit Manseng (£9.99 and 12.5%) demonstrates well with its smooth, concentrated red apple and tropical fruit flavours, good acidity and greengage centred texture.
The collection also includes ….
As you would expect from the excellent Waitrose buying team, there are at least two other sound wines in this collection if – for me – they do not overshadow the four superstars I have highlighted.
One is the light textured, almost colourless but fruity 2018 Waitrose & Partners Arinto (£7.99 and 12.5%) from Lisboa that delivers nectarine and ripe apple fruit with pronounced tangerine acidity.
The other is a red – France’s warm and slightly nutty 2017 Waitrose & Partners Marselan (£6.99 and 12.5%) with its prune and black cherry fruit, minty texture and graphite influenced savoury background.
This range is an excellent idea offering modestly priced wines that taste pretty good and – although, inevitably, some choices work better than others – this is definitely not something just for the “nerdy”. So, an A* from me for the “W” range.
BEST OF THE REST
A welcome clearance sale
Majestic tells us that “last batch” signifies that this is part of a clearance sale of sound 2018 wine by the winemaker in Nelson, New Zealand just to make room for the next vintage.
Whatever the reason for its availability, the keenly priced, uncomplicated 2018 Last Batch Sauvignon Blanc (£5.99 at Majestic and 12.5%) has an attractive red apple and pink grapefruit foundation with zippy lime acidity and a hint of peach even if it is quite light in depth.
Great value Spanish red
Here is a soft, smooth red made from old vines garnacha grapes (grenache to the French) in Spain’s Campo de Borja region that is an absolute snip at this price.
Enjoy, then, the juicy plum and raspberry fruit of Co-op Old Vine Garnacha (£5.35 at the Co-op and 14%) which is ably supported by good acidity and accompanying suspicions of clove and green herbs but only limited tannin.
The current Asda promotion ends next week (on 11 September) but features discounts on a long list of (mostly branded) wines.
If you have some favourite brands, nip down to your local store to see what is available.
Options that caught my eye were reductions of £2 or £2.50 on selected Villa Maria wines and of £1.50 on parts of the Dark Horse range MidWeeker Sophie told us about in a Top Tip a month or so back.
Outside the main brands, I noted that the mellow, apple and lemon centred Pendium Prosecco drops from £10 to £8.50 and represents, to me, a reliable choice.
The list also shows £1 off the £8 price of the Saint Chinian Grenache Blanc but that is not shown in the website so treat that suggestion with caution; it is nevertheless excellent wine and well worth £8 anyway.
No post next week guys but we should be back on 18 September with thoughts on Aldi’s Winter Range.
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