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.