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Yes decent £5 wines still exist but…

With pressure on family finances unlikely to lessen anytime soon, enthusiasm for budget level wines is understandable.

The bad news is that the number of them that I can recommend is falling.

Shipping costs and the value of the pound are but two reasons why those reliable wines that used to sell around £6, now cost more.

The quality of the critical mass of wines at that point or lower is heading in the wrong direction.

Consequently, I find that I reject more and more bottles when trying to select budget level wine to recommend here and in the press.

Although I have managed to find two wines under £5 today, I think further rises in average prices are inevitable if acceptable standards are to be maintained.

Of course, I shall feature inexpensive ones whenever I can but, in truth, they are becoming harder and harder to source.

As ever, a picture (and, in one case today, a hyperlink) is used to help you pinpoint the specific wine being discussed.

Today’s Red Wine Choice

2020 Castellore Chianti (£4.49 at Aldi) – 13% abv:

Sitting mid-way between traditional chianti and today’s popular lighter versions, this great value choice is softened by dashes of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

Sophisticated and complex, it is not but it is a decent everyday red at an excellent price and only a notch below its first-rate sister primitivo. 

Dark and smooth, this brings us ripe cherry and plum flavours supported by good acidity and gentle tannin within a clove, herb and milk chocolate texture.

Today’s White Wine Choice

2021 This Is Fresh and Fruity Chenin Blanc (£5 at M&S) – 12.5% abv:

For me, this mouth-watering South African white is the pick of M&S’s budget “This Is…” wine range, offering fantastic value for money.

That country has traditionally produced lots of chenin – much of it, sadly, decidedly ordinary – but with more focus on ripeness and on older vines, quality has risen rapidly.

Fresh with orchard blossom aromas, this example brings us baked apple, melon and grapefruit marmalade flavours neatly combined with lively lime acidity and a savoury (slightly pithy) finish.

Join me again on Thursday when my whistle stop tour of supermarket promotions is accompanied by the usual Sunday Best and Friday Treat features.

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Erik Burgess

Hi Brian,
Everyone loves a bargain!
Well I do.
Asda have their Extra Special Rueda 13.5% reduced to £5 down from £5.50.
It’s a very good value for money wine.

Steve Perry

You’re right about Asda’s Rueda Erik, great value at that price. Having said that, it wasn’t so long back, (perhaps a year), when their Albarino was also only a fiver. Sticking with the Spanish theme, Aldi’s Blanco Rioja is also very good, at I think, £4-49 a bottle, (not too sure, but I think MacQuitty gave it a shout in the Saturday Times week before last.

Brian Elliott

Albarino is a consistent performer (but very little of it at a fiver now). Increasingly though the focus is on “premiumisation” with double figure versions coming through – many of them truly excellent.

Brian Elliott

As you say, Erik, Asda’s Extra Special Rueda can be a great option – with very distinctive flavours. Maybe I was unlucky, but I have found that it does not age well though. Buy the youngest you can, would certainly be my advice.

Richard from Leeds

Hi Brian,
I’ve found the Aldi Chianti also improves further (like many Wines at all price points) from a decent aeration glugging & some palate prep.
There are some great bargains on clearance aisle ends at present for Autumnal stock ups i.e. 2019 Gerard Bertrand Les Aspres Reserve was on clearance at £5 at Morrisons .
Regards to all

Fred Chrystal

Agree about Aldi Chianti Richard. I’ve just enjoyed a Riserva Corte Alle Mura which was under a fiver but is now £5.99. Still outstanding value at that price. Light in texture and like drinking liquid cherries.

Brian Elliott

Right on the money there, Fred. That Lidl chianti is stardust and very much in the modern style of making chianti lighter, less dense and ready sooner.

Brian Elliott

I hear lots of praise for aeration equipment – perhaps I should do a post on it. This is a good time for clearance sales of older vintages to make room for the latest arrivals and few Gerard Bertrand wines disappoint.

Steve Perry

I should have added, Brian himself has previously recommended Morrisons own label Soave, it’s now crept up to £4-89, but personally, I think it’s bloody superb, (since reading his review I actually make a special trip to our Morrisons occasionally, just to pick up a couple of bottles, even ‘though it is on the other side of town). I’ve also just notice Morrisons are currently offering their Cape Shadow Sauvignon Blanc for £4-99, (down from £7-75). I suppose almost £8 for a South African white is not particularly cheap in the first place, but would this one be worth trying at the reduced price?

Brian Elliott

Thanks for reference to my earlier recommendation Steve. Agree that the Soave does exactly what it should at a fantastic price – well worth a cross-town trip. I have not tried the Cape Shadow but do keep us all posted if you do give it a try.

Steve Perry

Good morning Brian, some very interesting comments on your latest post. Referring to the Aldi Castellore Chianti, my “go to” cheap red, although still Italian, has always been Aldi’s Castellore Primitivo Puglia, although the 2019 version has recently been replaced by the 2021 vintage, (and the price appears to have jumped from under a fiver to £5-49. I don’t actually drink much red wine at all this time of year, preferring dry white or rose, but would you say overall, the Chianti would be a better buy.

Brian Elliott

Obviously, chianti and primitivo provide different wines and each will have its aficionados but my straight answer would be to stick with the primitivo. That is subject to the 2021 matching the quality of the 2019 (and I have not tried the new one yet) but still holds good despite the price rise you mention. Only a personal view though – others may disagree.

Chris Barclay

Brian, I agree with you and I’m do not find similarities between chianti and primitivo as I struggle through my 2021Castellore Primitivo from Aldi. I’m hoping to attract tasting notes from other members as I personally found the 2021 Castellore Primitivo not to my palate. I’m aware that Vivino rate the 2021 at 4.1 and the 2019 was fabulous, which means Castellore do make some great wines. I realise that Primitivo can be anywhere from dry to sweet however the 2021 to me is very sweet and all I can find is some Cheddar in my fridge whereas it really needs a very strong Gorgonzola!

To my palate the Primitivo grape has low tannins and acidity so why make it sickly sweet? I’m using several drops of fresh lemon juice per glass and it improves matters a lot.

We had Spag Bol today and opened some chianti instead. It was the one that Fred Crystal recommends above and I rate that wine in the low 90’s and now costing £6.49 in Lidl. Unable to rate the Castellore Primitivo as it’s just not for me.

Brian Elliott

Fair enough Chris. There is indeed a tendency to make reds sweeter – hence my residual sugar “warning” in the post. The style is popular though (hence the Vivino rating) and I accept that retailers do have, in Alan Sugar’s words, to “smell what sells”. I do try to give a steer about sweetness levels when making recommendations though.

Eddie Walker

Hello Brian

Leaving aside any detailed thoughts on the Aldi bottle(s) mentioned (because we’ve been there by exchange of emails already!), can I pursue instead what might be, in the case of many cheaper-end wines discussed in your blog pages, the matter of that mentioned re. aeration and other treatments that could be applied to get the very best out of our purchases especially under that constraint of price.

I have used for years a Savisto aerator. I found initially that with heavily sulphured wines that I inadvertently bought, aerating did disperse unwanted tastes and smell. Eventually buying slightly more expensive stuff the sulphur problem wasn’t there as much. But nevertheless the aerator came into its own with bigger reds especially Malbec, younger CNdeP and Gigondas and something like Sagrantino’, where ”tannin attack” can be an issue when first opened. Of course before there was these useful small aerator units we could easily aerate by decanting, and often I would open early, decant, and maybe put the wine back in the bottle and leave it until required with our meal.

A thing of interest then …. How do we square buying stuff in restaurants for immediate consumption that clearly would benefit from aeration, leaving a couple of hours to breath, or even leaving open for 24 hours, that we can do at home when we know that can be a benefit.

But just to say I had half a bottle of the Sainsbury’s Santodino Sangiovese Appassimento full price £10 for tea Sunday, that didn’t need any kind of ”treatment”. 24 hours later it was still ok-ish, but no longer. So it’s not a given that leaving/aerating all stuff will always be needed. Or can help cheaper bottles at all!

Best as ever ..

Brian Elliott

Thanks Eddie – yes I know you are a great fan of that primitivo so I guess your advice to Steve would have been the same as mine. As for aerators, I guess I am been steered into a post on them! Give me a week or two though … Brian

Chris Barclay

You are a brave man Brian stepping into the ring on a controversial such as aerators, Will I need to go and get my Nutri Bullet out ? Will it be double decanting? Will it be a Riedel snake? Thank goodness you can be diplomatic however you are dealing with a “Hornets Nest!

Brian Elliott

It remains a medium term project Chris but I note your cautionary tone. I remember an episode of “Yes Minister” when Sir Humphrey commended Jim Hacker on a “very brave decision” – Whitehall-speak for “don’t do that whatever happens!”.

Brian wakefield

Hello Mr Elliott
Good to have your knowledge of wines. As a former Tesco wines and spirits manager I know that there are good value wines still available in most supermarkets.

Brian Elliott

Good to hear from you Brian and welcome to the Comments Section. Yes, there certainly are good value wines available on most High Streets but I guess the problem is that the ratio of them to the chasing pack is changing. In addition, their prices are being conveyed upwards by a combination of general inflation and revised alcohol duty. Do, please, shout up with any that you recall from your BWS days or have subsequently found. Subscribers love to hear about bottom shelf wines with unprepossessing labels that turn out to be absolute gems.

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