By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 16 June 2018
Convenience stores are now vying for our attention when it comes to wine deals having recently upped their game with new revitalized wine ranges.
The leader when it comes to wine bargains is still Aldi, with Lidl close behind. The Co-op and Spar have kept a low profile up to now, but are working hard to attract new wine lovers.
Last year the world’s largest convenience chain, Spar, employed ex-Asda wine buyer Philippa Carr MW to revamp their wine range in the UK. She recently unveiled another ten new wines, exclusive to Spar, including popular grapes Pinot Grigio, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc with stand-out labelling and several interesting European Eastern wines.
The Co-op have a wider range with 320 wines, but their store ranges vary considerably. Fairtrade South African and Argentinian wine is still championed, but Co-op’s buyer Simon Cairns says smaller bottles and single-serve wine pouches are now becoming a key area, to prevent consumers turning to beer or cider. He has just introduced two new Italian red and white wines in smaller 50cl bottles. With the success of Co-op’s great value Les Pioneers Champagne (£18.99), Cairns is also expanding Co-op’s Champagne and Prosecco range – which will be available in the 18 new Co-op stores planned to open in Scotland this year.
We compared a random selection of wines from both Spar and Co-op. Variety and quality-wise Co-op took the lead in our tasting, but if you hunt carefully you can find some interesting new Spar bargains.
Romania: WILDFLOWER PINOT GRIGIO 2017 (12%)
Everything you expect from a light crisp appley example of Pinot Grigio – very easy quaffer, but lacks much complexity.
Languedoc, S France: TINO PAI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 (11.5%)
£7 Spar ***STAR BUY***
Our tasters’ favourite – a zippy clean refreshing French Sauvignon with rounded melony fruits and appealingly moderate alcohol level.
Romania: BRINDLE RIDGE CHARDONNAY 2017 (13%)
Soft citric notes on the palate with vanilla spice and sweet finis, but the aroma seems a little confected.
Veneto, Italy: GARGANEGA PINOT GRIGIO BLUSH 2017 (11.5%)
Lightweight citrusy quaffer made using Soave’s Garganega grape with popular Pinot Grigio which has been macerated to exact a little pinkness from the skins.
Romania: WILDFLOWER PINOT NOIR 2017 (12.5%)
A step up from the usual bargain basement Romanian Pinot Noir, this strawberry scented fruit bomb is smooth juicy with a distinctively sweet finish.
Rhone, France: COSTIERES DE NIMES 2016 Fontaine du Sud (13%)
£8 Spar ***STAR BUY***
My favourite from Spar’s new range, a smooth textured herby Grenache based southern Rhone ideal for the barbeque; made in a similar style to Chateauneuf du Pape – but far better value.
Romania: BRINDLE RIDGE MERLOT 2017 (13%)
Plummy soft sweet notes in this Merlot – good price, but it does lack fruit concentration and length.
Luberon, S France: LA VIEILLE FERME BLANC 2017 (13%)
The famous Perrin family from Beaucastel have been making this Luberon wine for over 40 years from a mix of unusual local white Rhone grapes. It still offers an elegant floral, white peach and nutty aperitif.
Castilla y Leon, Spain: ORGANIC VERDEJO 2017 Bodegas Menade (13%)
An organic wine made with the help of an insect hotel with 40 species of insects, two donkeys and a family of geese. Greengage aromas, melony fruits with a citrus undernote.
South Australia: THE LODGE HILL RIESLING 2017 Jim Barry
£9.99 Co-op ***STAR BUY***
You usually have to pay more than a tenner for good Clare Valley Riesling, so this is a wonderful snip – limey and citric with a hint of spice.
Veneto, Italy: CERTO MERLOT 2017 (11.5%)
£3.99 for 50 cl bt Co-op
Note the small bottle format here – very light weight soft juicy Merlot from Veneto. Easy drinking with soft tannins, but lacks elegance and depth.
Tuscany, Italy: VILLA NARDELLI CUVEE CAROLINA 2016 (13.5%)
John Matta’s Vicchomaggio sits in a dramatic position at the beginning of the Chianti Classico route south of Florence. They make modern easy drinking plummy Tuscan reds from local Sangiovese grape, here with ripe cherry aromas, mellow flavours and spicy vanilla undertones.
Campo de Borja, Spain: GRAN VISTA GARNACHA 2016 (14%)
£4.99 Co-op ***STAR VALUE***
This Garnacha is bursting with cherry fruits with a very sweet juicy fruit palate and a touch peppery. Made from 40 yr old vines grown in the foothills of the Moncayo mountains in little known Campo de Borja region, known locally as the empire of Garnacha
Bordeaux, France: CHATEAU LAMOTHE BERGERON 2012 (12.5%)
From a vineyard in Cussac sandwiched between two famous appellations, Margaux and St Julien. This Haut Medoc from an equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has mellow plummy fruits, silky tannins with classic cedar and spice notes – on offer at a cracking price compared to other retailers.
Join Rose’s New Zealand v Burgundy wine tasting & buffet at Abode Hotel, 129 Bath Street, Glasgow on Friday 13 July 7.30pm-9.30pm Tickets: £42 Book online www.rosemurraybrown.com