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Tuesday 20 September 2011

Wine Weekly: Where To Find Value in Vino

This week, a few of you lovely ladies have been asking how much you need to spend on a good bottle of vino. It's a tricky one. So often we think the more expensive a wine, the better it is - but if you're eagle-eyed when wine-shopping you can find good quality even at the lower end of the market. You don't even need to spend over a tenner if you don't want to. Here are a few savvy hints to get the best bottle for your buck.

1. It's Not Always About What's Hot.

Exploring is fun, and in the wine world it often pays off. Yes, we know that the most fashionable wine is coming from those timeless French, Italian and Spanish names we all recognise, as well as New World countries like Australia and New Zealand, but they know they're hot too, so they can afford to charge more.

Try grabbing a bottle from a less popular country and see what you find. I'm currently loving Greece, Portugal and Hungary. The bottles might look scary because they don't list grapes or names that you often hear, but the quality is still there in most cases.

For instance, Waitrose are currently selling Tinto da Anfora 2007 from Alentejo in Portugal for £5.99 (you can see what the bottle looks like here but you'll have to pick up the 2007 vintage in store). I had a glass or two last night over dinner, and loved the dark berry fruits and spice. It was dangerously gluggable.

My latest steal and new favourite sweet treat is the Greek wine Samos Anthemis. I picked up a bottle for £11.95 from The Wine Society (you have to join as a member to order, but I think it's worth it) and utterly adored the rich, Christmassy aromas and smooth, honeyed palate. I've decided that for that price, it's definitely going to be my mince pie wine this year.

2. If They Put Their Name To It…

Most supermarkets do a selection of 'own-label' wines these days. It can seem cheap, but their buyers often spend a long time sourcing a reputable producer to work with, and want to find the best quality possible if they're going to put their own name on the bottle. It can be a good way to find a benchmark example of the region at a friendly price.

Tesco's Finest Chianti Riserva is spot-on as Chiantis go. It's typically cherry-filled with classic savouriness that makes it a smashing red for Italian food. And at £5.99 in-store until the beginning of October (normally £7.99) it's a very 'everyday' price.

I'm also a huge fan of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for £5.99. Very drinkable, very balanced, with typical knock-you-socks-off fruitiness (oh, the gooseberries and lime!) - Sainsbury's wine-buyers did a good job here.

3. Go Off The Beaten Track

If you really do want to stick to countries you know, then veer away from names you recognise to find the best value. Ex-Sommelier and awesome wine virtuoso Frances Bentley recommends seeking out the quirky: if you like Sancerre from the Loire, for instance, then Menetou-Salon is a nearby alternative at much nicer prices (for instance I'm a fan of this one from Majestic for £10.99).

Or if Spain does it for you, bypass Rioja for wines from areas like Ribera del Duero or Valdepenas. Marks and Spencer do a super Ribera del Duero with great complexity of flavour for £10.99.

4. Be Restaurant-Savvy

It's always tough deciding what to choose in a restaurant, especially with the mark-ups being so high. Super sommelier Oliver Brandenburg says the best thing to do is ask: staff love giving personal recommendations, and they should also be happy to let you try a wine before you decide. He reckons New World wines are good value if you want something fruity and consistent, and especially likes Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon at the moment.

Frances tells me the more you spend, the better the value. House wines and lower-end choices have bigger mark-ups, so if you can afford to spend an extra fiver or so it's usually worth it. Experiment with odder choices - restaurants often test quirky wines on their list to see what's popular, and Frances reckons Lebanese, Turkish and Portuguese wines are pretty hot right now. Or, if you want to be a little safer, she also thinks hidden treasures can be found in Southern French wines, plus Alsatian and Spanish whites. The key is not being afraid to ask.

You can ask me too, if you like! Send any wine questions our way in the comments, or on our Twitter or Facebook pages.

Image taken from Mikkel Juel Gregersen's photostream under the creative commons license.

1 comment:

  1. I find the Sainsbury's "House" wines very reliable. The Pinot Grigio is particularly lovely ;D


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