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