Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Champagne offers for New Year’s Eve

Having gone quiet for a couple of weeks the supermarkets now seem to be having a last thrash to get our custom for New Year's Eve. And inevitably it’s focussed on champagne.

Tesco is now the one discounting Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut NV I wrote about a couple of weeks ago down to £13 from £27.99 although my husband said it was sold out earlier. (Asda has it for £17.)

Sainsbury’s has the Etienne Dumont Brut for £10 instead of £27.99 (can’t vouch for it as I haven’t tasted it but apparently it’s a huge seller for them)

Asda has Piper Heidsieck for £14 (normally £25.88) and Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir for £6 instead of £9.49 if you’re looking for party drinking.

Waitrose is advertising the very decent Duval-Leroy Premier Cru at half-price for £14.99 instead of £29.99

Marks & Spencer has got their Louis Chaurey champagne back on promotion at £15 - again reduced by 50%. Again I haven't tasted it but apparently Jancis Robinson gave it a favourable review. (Let's hope they have more supplies than they did before Christmas).

Majestic is selling Jacquart for £15 instead of £25 but if you can run to it Louis Roederer at £25 rather than £37 is a better deal (but remember you have to buy six bottles - which can be mixed - in total)

It's interesting how similar these figures are. £14-£15 certainly seems to be the magic number although Tesco and Sainsbury's are offering deals below that and I wouldn't be surprised to see someone pop up tomorrow with another under £12 fizz. (Tip me off if you spot one!)

Expect to see the next round of offers during the first two weeks of February in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last minute Christmas reds

It's funny how the supermarkets aren't pushing their wine promotions so much now. I guess research has told them that the time people are most likely to be seduced by special offers is the end of November/beginning of December. Maybe people stick to their usual shops by this stage in the proceedings. I know I do.

Anyway I thought it might be useful to round up a few last minute reds for those of you who haven't yet laid in your stocks. Slightly pricier than my usual recommendations but it is Christmas.

Tesco Finest Howcroft Cabernet Sauvignon £7.99
Not one of the Finest range currently on promotion but still decent value for a classic South Australian Cab (from the Limestone coast). Ideal for roast lamb
While you're there: Pick up the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc on a 2 for £10 promotion and a bottle of Concha y Toro Otorio Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (£5.99) one of the best value dessert wines around

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Côtes du Rhône Villages 2009 £5.99
It's hard to go wrong with Côtes du Rhône, especially the 2009 vintage and from a producer as solid as Chapoutier. Good all-round drinking over the Xmas period
While you're there: You could pick up some of the 'House' wines I reviewed here or the good current offer on their own brand blanc de blancs champagne.

Marks and Spencer Cerro Syrah 2008 £7.99
Really delicious, rich, characterful red from one of my favourite Chilean wineries De Martino. Could handle the turkey or drink with roast beef or a steak.
While you're there: Pick up a bottle of the always reliable Secano Estate Pinot Noir for the same price. And the Las Falleras Red £4.29) would make good party drinking

Chateau du Gazin 2008 Canon-Fronsac (on offer at £7.49 at Waitrose or £7.11 online up to January 4th)
Good old-fashioned claret at a very decent price. Will keep elderly in-laws happy.
While you're there: The Château Calage La Méjanelle, a lush ripe biodynamic Languedoc red is also very good value at £7.99

Estampa Estate Carmenère Malbec 2009 Oddbins £7.19 if you buy a total of 6 bottles which need not all be this wine. Normally £8.99
Another delicious Chilean red which my tasting notes say tastes of pears in red wine. Would go with most of the Christmas suspects - turkey, ham, pork or the Boxing Day buffet.
While you're there: The same estate's Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot would also appeal if you're a Cabernet fan. As would the stunning Mayu Carmenère Reserva 2007 (£8.79 on the 25% off 6 offer) though it's not in all branches. And the Cava Torre Oria Brut (£7.19 on promotion) I recommended in my Guardian column on Saturday could easily pass for champagne.

If I don't post again before Christmas have a happy one!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Chablis bargain at Morrisons

As we're getting closer to Christmas I'm going to flag up a few more expensive wines for those of you who haven't yet chosen your Christmas Day drinking.

I'm normally wary about special offers on the French classics but Morrisons has got a good deal on a very attractive 2009 Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons (****) which is reduced from £14.99 to £9.99. Great with any kind of Christmas seafood (especially oysters) it's worth snapping up at that price.

Unfortunately the Ogier Chateauneuf du Pape that was on a similar offer is back at £14.99 and I don't think is really worth buying now despite the handsome looking bottle. (The same producer's Heritages Cotes du Rhone 2009, a full-bodied blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre in an impressively heavy (though not very eco-friendly) bottle is much better value at £8.99 ****)

Morrisons also has a couple of good sweeties including the well-priced Torres Floralis Moscatel (£7.99 ***) and what must be the best-priced bottle of Marsala in the country, the Cantine Florio Liberti Marsala for just £3.99 (****) which you could sip with mince pies, pair with the Stilton or use to make a zabaglione if you felt so minded. Once you've got Christmas dinner out of the way, of course . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Waitrose Vintage English Perry

Waitrose has got 20-25% reductions on a number of their ciders at the moment bringing this refreshing, elegant perry down to an incredible £1.34 a 500ml bottle - and even cheaper on Ocado at £1.27.

Perry is often thought of as poor man's champagne but it could equally well be described as pauper's prosecco - light (well, lightish at 8%) gently sparkling and perfect for party drinking.

It's made in Herefordshire (by Westons according to

If you chilled it well and served it in champagne glasses I wonder if your friends would be able to tell the difference?

There's a recipe for a mulled version here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morgan's Spiced Rum offer

So few of my friends drink spirits these days that I rarely buy them but here's a good deal on Morgan's Spiced Rum which seems to me a good bottle to have around over Christmas - or to give as a gift.

It's on offer at £12 for a 1 litre bottle at Sainsbury's instead of the usual £16. Asda is selling the same size for £15, Tesco at £16 or £25 if you buy two bottles and Oddbins for £15.99 so you can see it's a genuine bargain.

I should point out that it's only 35% ABV but it is already spiced so you could use it to make a hot toddy or buttered rum without having to add extra spices.

Sainsbury's is also doing the same deal on litre bottles of Bell's Whisky, Gordon's Gin and Smirnoff Red Label vodka.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The curious incident of Spar's Donacella Cava

I got a press release from Spar the other day trumpeting that research had shown that the public couldn't tell champagne from Cava

Apparently they conducted a blind taste test amongst 105 wine drinkers to see if they could distinguish between Spar Donacella Cava Brut, their own label champagne Marquis Belrive, Moët & Chandon Impérial and Lansons Black Label.

"Nearly a quarter" couldn't taste the difference between Lansons Black Label and the Cava and 34% incorrectly identified Moet as the Spanish sparkler.

The results don't hugely surprise me. I conducted a similar, less extensive experiment myself recently (the results of which you'll find in my Guardian column on December 18th) but to be fair the Spar experiment actually showed that three-quarters and two thirds of the sample respectively could distinguish between Cava and champagne.

Eager to see what the fuss was about my OH dropped into our local Spar and picked up a bottle which I have to say was pretty impressive. Slightly lacking in fizz (it may have been on the shelf for a while) but attractively soft and honeyed (Rating ***) It could certainly pass for cheap bubbly.

The odd thing though was that he had to pay £8.19 for it instead of £6.79 the price the press release had mentioned. But the actual price is apparently £6.65 on top of which there's supposed to be a 25% offer which should have reduced it further to £4.99.

I raised this with Spar's PR company who told me that "individual branches have discretion on what they charge and whether they choose to run promotions - which is why your husband was charged more in your local branch. As SPAR isn't a franchise, our stores are independently owned or managed by people who live in the communities they serve, they have control over their prices. Anything we quote is a recommended retail price."

So the result of "living in the community you serve" means you rip off your neighbours? That seems a strange kind of trading to me.

Anyway, if you can pick up this bottle at £4.99 - or even £5.09 which would be a 25% on the original trading price of £6.79, go for it - it's a good deal. It was on promo at £5.49 back in September which is also fine. But there's an ocean of cut-price Cava out there so I wouldn't pay any more than that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Les Crouzes Old Vines Carignan 2009

I'm taking a punt on this offer at the Co-op a) because I'm interested in Carignan and b) because it's currently reduced to £4.19 which is worth a gamble of anyone's money. Indeed the fact that our local branch had sold out any suggests that it's well worth drinking. (As indeed my predecessor at the Guardian Victoria Moore, who wrote last year about the 2008 vintage, suggests)

I would have gone to another branch to pick one up but the top temperature in Bristol yesterday was -2°C which wasn't a great incentive to leave the house.

In the absence of a tasting note here's what the Co-op says about it:

“Crouze” is an ancient word which refers to small caves hidden away in remote valleys. Often containing water, they are sometimes used to irrigate nearby vineyards. This particular cuvée has come to the fore almost by accident - originally intended as a blending component, it stood out in a blind tasting and instantly impressed as a single style in its own right. Given the average age of the vines (c. 40 years) and the ripeness achieved, the juicy and full-bodied nature of the wine should come as no surprise. Cherry red, with intense berry aromas and a hint of vanilla on the nose, it boasts a velvety, full-flavoured palate and a lingering finish which certainly belies its price."

I doubt if it's that velvety and lingering at this price, or indeed at its normal selling price of £5.19 but it should certainly hit the spot in this icy weather.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Six more Sainsbury’s buys under a fiver

Here, as promised, are six more Sainsbury's buys which are well worth snapping up on the current '25% off if you buy 6 bottles' deal which I've just heard now lasts until December 10th

Crozes Hermitage Cave de Tain 2007 down from £8.49 to £6.49 or £4.87 when you buy six or more bottles
I haven't tasted this characterful Northern Rhone syrah recently but the 2007 vintage was a good one and the Cave de Tain is normally reliable so at this price it's got to be worth a punt.****

Domaine du Colombier Chinon 2008 down to £4.49 if you buy 6
Fresh-tasting light Loire red. Great with seared salmon or tuna ***

House Dry Rosé, Chile. Already worth snapping up at £3.99, this promotion brings it down to £2.99. Light, fruity and, as the label says, dry. **

House Chianti - Normally £3.99 (£2.99 if you buy any 6 wines) Chianti is rarely drinkable at this price - perfect for that takeaway pizza or a cheap pasta supper **

House Red Wine £3.49 (£2.62)
Perfectly decent vin ordinaire of the kind you buy from a local French co-op. Ideal for mulling. **

House Claret £3.79 (£2.84)
Light 'lunchtime' claret. Terrific with bacon and eggs. (Seriously. Try it!) **

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good champagne buys from Sainsbury’s

You do have to wonder what kind of margins supermarkets are putting on their wine - and food - if they can afford to keep running these 25% offers but take advantage!

The one I’d definitely snap up is the offer on Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs (*****) an elegant all-Chardonnay champagne which has been made for them for a while by the reputable house of Duval Leroy. It’s normally £16.99, currently reduced to £14.99 and down to £11.24 if you buy 6 or more bottles (which needn’t all be champagne).

There are also offers on Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut NV down from £24.98 to £18 or £13.50 when you buy six or more, Lanson Black Label for £16.12 (normally £29.49) and Tattinger at £17.91 as part of a purchase of 6 (though I have to say I’d never pay the full price of £33.88 for it). None of them significantly better than the Blanc de Blancs IMHO.

The offer lasts until December 7th (now extended to December 10th FB)

I'll be highlighting more Sainsbury's deals tomorrow

Monday, November 29, 2010

Six good buys from Oddbins

Oddbins is the latest to run the 25% off if you buy six deal - not quite as good as it sounds as their prices are on the expensive side, designed for their normal discount of 20% if you buy a dozen. Still it does bring some wines down to a very affordable level

Usual price first, 25% off price in brackets

Pinot Grigio Frunza 2009 £5.99 (£4.49)
Romanian Pinot Grigio wouldn't be top of my drinking list normally but this is a really appealing off-dry white more in the Alsace Pinot Gris mould than vapid cheap Pinot Grigio. Good with mild Indian curries I would guess

Angosto White 2009, Valencia, Spain £8.49 (£6.37)
A deliciously aromatic blend of Verdejo, Moscatel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that's nicer than any of those grapes (at this price) individually. Brilliant aperitif or party wine.

Chateau Lauduc Classic 2008 £8.49, Bordeaux (£6.37)
Attractive basic, slightly old-fashioned Bordeaux of the 'lunchtime claret' genre. Would please older rellies. ***

Primitivo Vini del Sole 2009, Puglia £8.99 (£6.74)
Dark warm, porty red - perfect for this cold weather. Would be good with a cheeseboard. ***

Estampa Estate Carmenere Malbec 2009, Chile £8.99 (£6.74)
An unusual blend but full of soft autumnal fruit - almost like pears in red wine. Can imagine it going well with veggie mains with mushrooms or roast butternut squash ***

Los Pecadillos 'Glotonia' DO Montilla-Moriles £9.99 (£7.49) Not in all branches
Wickedly sweet lush Pedro Ximenez from Montilla rather than Jerez. Pour over vanilla ice-cream (Glotonia means gluttony apparently!)*****

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wolf Blass Cabernet for under a fiver

Asda is currently selling the 2008 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon for £4.48, half their usual price of £8.97 - which is great news if you like the intense cassis flavours of South Australian Cab. (As you can probably guess from that it's not totally my cup of tea)

Actually it's great news for you and Asda, less good for Wolf Blass who I understand from a former supermarket buyer friend, is powerless to prevent this kind of discounting and not so good for the image of Australian wine which has already taken a battering.

Should supermarkets do it? I guess while they can they will but it seems hard on a decent producer who will then struggle to get a fair return on their wine and must be tempted to reduce the quality. So maybe not so good for Wolf Blass fans in the long run?

* If you're not near an Asda, the dreaded Bargain Booze (surely the government wants to do something about store names like that?) seems to be selling it for £5.99. And it's £7.49 from Wine Rack which suggests that Asda's original selling price is higher than it need be.

Rating (at this price): ****

Friday, November 26, 2010

Good M & S port offer

Marks and Spencer has got a good offer at the moment on its Finest Reserve Port which is reduced from £10.99 to £7.99. It's made for them by David Guimaraens of Quinta da Roeda.

Finest Reserve aka Vintage Character port is the rather vague category between basic Ruby Port and an LBV. It can frequently be a bit coarse but this is really well made - warm, ripe and brambly and not too jammy or 'hot' (i.e. obviously alcoholic). It has been aged in oak for three years and is suitable for vegetarians. Totally Christmassy.

Rating: ***

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cheap supermarket wines + more cut-price bubbly

The Guardian has a feature today written by wine writer Peter Grogan on cheap supermarket wines. It includes some good tips though we'll have to agree to differ on The Whale Caller which didn't appeal to me at all.

Supermarket champagne and sparkling wine offers also seem to be in full flow. Tesco is offering half price deals off Mumm (down to £14.99), Lanson (£14.49) and Taittinger (£16.99) while Sainsbury's has reduced the price of the very decent Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top to a remarkable £11.99. Obviously you have to take the scale of the discount with a pinch of salt - the original selling prices are ridiculously inflated - but they're still useful reductions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Undurraga Brut: perfect party fizz

If you're one of those who actually doesn't much like champagne or champagne-like sparkling wines snap up the current offer at Majestic on Undurraga Brut from Chile (12.5%) which is selling for a knock-down £4.99 instead of the usual £9.99.

It's peachy rather than citrussy and fruity rather than yeasty which makes it a great party drink for those who find champagne too sharp or acidic. Excellent for Christmas parties.

Rating: ***

Monday, November 15, 2010

A cheap Chateauneuf substitute

Given the current 20% discount on the Rhone at Majestic I tasted my way through half a dozen reds at the weekend and came up with 3 to recommend (not a bad hit rate). One you'll have to wait until my Guardian column of December 4th to discover (sorry!), another is brilliant but, even at the discounted price, beyond the price limit I've set myself for this blog* and the third would make a very decent substitute for a Chateauneuf on the Christmas table for short-sighted relatives who don't look at the label too closely.

It's a big generous (14%) Côteaux du Tricastin 2009 from Delas, normally £8.49 but with the 20% discount down to £6.79 if you buy two which is a steal. A tad tarry on the finish maybe but at that price who's complaining?  You could drink it with the turkey - or a leg of pork and no-one would know you hadn't spent £12 on it. Which in my book is a result. (There does still seem to be some 2007 around which I can't vouch for so make sure you get the 2009.) Rating: ****

Wines I wasn't so impressed by FYI were the Durieu Côtes du Rhone and Jaboulet 'Les Jalets' Crozes.

*OK. You want to know anyway? It's the Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitages 2008 normally £17.49, currently £13.99. Lashings of pepper and gorgeous supple fruit. Everything a Northern Rhone Syrah-lover could wish for.  

PS No more bargains till next week. I'm off to the Lebanon tomorrow.                         

Friday, November 12, 2010

A classy Chilean cab from the Co-op

It might seem perverse to write about a wine that’s not on promotion at the moment but sometimes it’s good to know about wines that are always good value. And this elegant 2008 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua Valley which is made for the Co-op by the very respectable Luis Felipe Edwards is a case in point. It’s intensely fruity, as you’d expect from a Chilean Cab (with a lick of Carmenère) but has real elegance for a £5.99 wine. You could drink it with roast lamb, or a steak but it would actually be rather good with a chilli con carne too. Or a strong artisanal cheddar.

The only downside is that the label makes it look more like £3.99. Or perhaps I'm being unfair. What do you think?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

3 for £4 deal on Tesco Finest beers

I have to say I was rather more excited by the Tesco Finest beers and cider at their wine tasting yesterday than I was about the majority of their wines most of which strike me as being priced for Christmas reductions.

The deal doesn't include the Finest Wheat and Abbey Belgian Beers which are sold in a full size 75cl bottle and which I haven't tasted but still sound good value at £2.96 and £3.35 respectively or the Finest Cidre Prestige which at £3.99 for 365ml is actually quite pricey - but brilliant.

But it does include a stunning Single Orchard Cider (£1.49 for 500ml) made for the range by Thatchers, a scarily alcoholic (9.2% but delicious) American Double IPA from Brewdog (normally £1.99 for 330ml) and, at the other end of the spectrum, a really gingery alcoholic ginger beer from Williams Brothers at 3.8% (£1.49 for 500ml) which I think would be great with a Chinese.

There's also a Traditional Porter from the Harviestoun Brewery (6%, £1.49 for 330ml) which is strongly reminiscent of Old Engine Oil. (And that's not as dismissive as it sounds. There really is a beer of that name in their range - though one that's not particularly to my taste, I confess.)

The offer lasts until December 14th, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cheap bubbly at Morrisons

The pre-Christmas supermarket wine price war continues apace with Morrisons announcing that they're knocking 50% off the price of selected champagnes including Piper Heidsieck (£26.29 to £13.14) Heidsieck Monopole Gold Top (£29.99 to £14.99) and the much improved Lanson Black Label (£29.49 to £14.74).

On the face of it it's a good deal - they're all big names which impresses the rellies but there's always a possibility that they've been bought as a job lot and aren't the same quality as the bottles you'd normally find on the shelf. Ideally I'd check one if you're contemplating buying more than one bottle which shouldn't be too much of a hardship though obviously they may all be gone by the time you've done that. (You can apparently only buy three bottles.)

Don't worry too much if you miss out - I think we're going to be awash with champagne offers this Christmas.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Great deals on reds from M & S

These ‘25% off if you buy six bottles’ deals are getting silly. Since everyone’s doing them you can only assume that virtually all prices these days are set to allow for discounting. I heard this afternoon that M & S has a 10 day 25% off promotion from today (lasting until Sunday 14th).

I was tasting through a selection of their wines this afternoon and these are the ones I’d pick out under £6 (normal price first, promotional price in brackets). Interestingly - apart from the sherries - they’re all reds. I wasn’t particularly grabbed by any of the cheaper whites

Secano Estate Pinot Noir 2009 £7.99 (£5.99)
Must be one of the best Pinot Noirs around at the price - fantastic for the money

Cerro Syrah, Chile 2008 £7.99 (£5.99)
Really gorgeous Syrah - full of vivid fruit but not jammy

Las Falleras Red 2009 £4.29 (£3.22)
Cheap’n’cheerful Spanish red - perfect for pizza, pasta and parties. (Not nearly so impressed with the white)

Popolino Rosso 2009 £4.99 (£3.74)
As above, only Italian (or, rather, Sicilian)

Minervois 2008 £6.99 (£5.24)
Gutsy characterful blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan - though more typically St Chinian in flavour than Minervois

Dry old Palo Cortado £7.49 a half bottle (£5.62)
Amazing bone dry but deliciously rich sherry. An absolute must for sherry aficionados. As is the slightly sweeter Dry Old Oloroso on a similar offer but I personally prefer the Palo Cortado.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

. . . and some Waitrose wine bargains

Despite yesterday's trashing of the Whale Crossing I would recommend a trip to Waitrose this week which like every other supermarket seems to be knocking 25% off their prices if you buy six bottles (and 12 if you buy online)

Bear in mind though there may be subsequent offers that don't require you to buy as much. For example the Chateau du Gazin Canon Fronsac - a very decent basic Bordeaux - will be reduced from £9.99 to £7.49 by the current offer but from December 8th you'll only have to buy one bottles to get the same discount.

What Waitrose - and all wine retailers - want you to do during these promotions is to buy more wine and trade up to more expensive bottles. Nothing wrong with that but in keeping with the ethos of this blog here are some of the cheaper buys I'd recommend (promotional price in brackets)

Chateau Calage, La Mejanelle 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc £7.99 (£5.99) - big lipsmacking blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre

Fontaine du Roy 2009 Costières de Nîmes £6.49 (£4.87) - Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Marsalan. Gutsy Cotes du Rhoneish red.

Gran Lopez Garnacha/Tempranillo 2009 Campo de Borja £4.79 (£3.59) Robust 'winter warmer' Great Christmas drinking - good for mulling. Snap it up at this price.

Montgravel Chardonnay 2009 Vin de France £4.99 (£3.74) Not my cup of tea (more Aussie Chardonnay than French) but amazing for the price - good party drinking

Vina Costeira 2009 Ribeiro, Spain £7.99 (£5.99) Attractive aromatic white blend of Treixadura, Torrontes, Albarino, Godello and Laureira from Galicia. Good for spicy seafood dishes

Cowrie Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough New Zealand £5.49 (£4.12) Massively OTT (to me) gooseberry flavours but it you like this style it's an absolute steal.

Fetzer Bonterra Muscat 2009 £6.99 a half bottle (£5.24) Very pretty delicate sweet wine. Would be lovely with fruit salads.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why buy The Whale Caller?

"In the coastal South African town of Hermanus the Whale Caller waits on the cliffs calling for the whales to return from the Antartic waters. As you savour this rich red wine you may just catch the strains of the whale caller’s horn"

Oh yeah? On a wet evening in Watford? Pull the other one. It's this kind of guff on the back label of wines that really insults the intelligence. They're the kind of manufactured brands that do no-one any credit.

The 'rich red wine' in question is the Whale Caller Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (13.5%. No score) which is handled by Distell Europe and I would imagine is almost certainly bulk wine, bottled in the UK. It's incredibly jammy but not in a nice way with no structure or acidity. The best thing you can say about it is that it's not rubbery. And might be a bit better if you chill it.

The white - The Whale Caller Sauvignon Blanc Colombard (12%) which is a 2010 (*) - is slightly better with some lively fresh fruit though still with a slightly confected aftertaste. It's recommended with salads, seafood and chicken dishes which is fair enough and would make reasonable (student) party drinking.

What do you expect for £3.99? you might ask and it's a fair question. Asda's Vin de Pays d'Oc Marsanne for one at £3.98 has a lot more personality and the new Morrison's own brand range which is coming onto the shelves has some decent buys among it which I'll be flagging up once I know they're in. But frankly you can do better. And so can Waitrose.

* Maybe the 2009s which still seem to be in stock on the Waitrose Wine Direct website are more appealing. They're also a few pence more at £4.07

Monday, November 1, 2010

Taste the Difference Albarino 2009

Tomorrow (Tuesday November 2nd) is the last day of Sainsbury's current offer of 25% off all wines when you buy six bottles which brings their already very reasonable Albarino down from £6.99 to a bargain £5.14.

Like all wines - and foods - that become fashionable, Albarino has shot up in price over the last few years which makes this a great deal. If you're not familiar with the grape it makes clean-as-a-whistle whites that are particularly good with seafood - less acidic than Muscadet and Picpoul de Pinet, less full-on and grassy than Sauvignon Blanc.

You can also get 25% off the Taste the Difference Crozes Hermitage I recommended the other week in my Guardian column bringing it down to £6,24 and the TTD Douro to £5.64.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pukka Pinot Grigio

I must confess Pinot Grigio doesn't really rock my boat. There are some terrible examples around and I rarely buy it but I'm almost tempted by this offer from Waitrose on the pukka Forte Alto Pinot Grigio 2009, currently reduced from £7.49 to £4.99 until next Wednesday (November 3rd). Or even cheaper if you buy it by the case from Waitrose Wine Direct (for £56.88 or £4.74 a bottle).

It's made in one of the best growing areas in Italy - the Trentino Alto Adige and apparently comes from vineyards that are managed in an environmentally friendly way and on which a minimum of pesticides are applied. It's matured - as you'd expect - in stainless steel to keep the wine clean and crisp and is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Pinot Grigio's virtue (apart from the fact that it's only 12%) is that great with Italian vegetable and fish dishes - I'd happily drink it with antipasti, pastas with light creamy or seafood sauces and risotto or with fried or grilled fish. It would be great with a fritto misto.

The label's quite fun too which makes it look like you've spent a lot more on the wine than you have. I like that.

Rating: ***

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Clare Valley Riesling bargain

I love Clare Valley riesling but it's become quite pricey. But if you act fast you can pick up a real bargain in Asda this week.

Their Extra Special range is on offer at 25% off until Sunday which brings the cost of their Australian Clare Valley riesling down to £5.98 instead of £7.98 (not that that's a bad price given it's made by Knappstein)

I'm not sure that all of it is the 2008 vintage which has acquired that seductive kerosene (yes, really) and lime character that characterises riesling from this part of South Australia - in fact in this instance it's more like lime pickle which immediately makes me think it would be good with Indian food. A selection of veggie curries and dals maybe as it's suitable for vegetarians. Or a korma, mild green Thai curry or Thai-ish prawn stir-fry.

I haven't had the chance to taste my way through the Extra Special wines recently but not all of them are this good so don't go mad on the strength of this recommendation. The 'Extra Special' Gavi is quite dull, for example. For a full round-up check out my colleague Tim Atkin's blog here.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Credit Crunch Drinking is back!

The great thing about journalism is that it changes the whole time. One moment you’re writing about student recipes, the next about beer or wine. I’ve always been one for serial enthusiasms so I’ve blogged - and still blog - about cheese and frugal eating and about odd ingredients, restaurants, books or drinks that take my fancy (Food & Wine Finds).

Credit Crunch Drinking seemed like a good idea when I started the blog back in 2008 but I was more involved in food at the time and found it hard to keep up. But I’m now resurrecting it because I’ve become the Guardian’s new wine writer (Saturdays in the Weekend mag) and have - unsurprisingly - found a fair number of my readers want to see the column focus on sub £6 wines.

There’s also a demand for wines that aren’t stocked by supermarkets - and are therefore going to be more expensive - so I’ve been giving a bit of thought about how to square the two. Not easy in 400 odd words! I also have to write my article two and a half weeks ahead which means it’s hard to let readers now about last minute promotions.

So this is where I’m going to pass on info about good buys that don’t make the column - mainly wine but also beer, spirits and cider when I come across them.

The first bit of news is that Asda has knocked 25% off its Extra Special range until the end of the month (i.e. Sunday) and that Sainsbury’s has 25% off all their wines for a week from today (until November 3rd) if you buy six or more bottles. That includes fizz - which brings their very drinkable own brand Blanc de Noirs champagne (***) down to £12.74 a bottle - and wines that are already on promotion. If you like to plan ahead now’s a good time to get your Christmas drinking sorted.